Author Archive

Welcome to the June 2018 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 that I’ve had a story, “Haunted Book Nook,” accepted for the anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 33, to be published this fall. It’s a mildly humorous ghost story, and the opening paragraphs are posted below.

This month I’ve interviewed multi-genre author Sorchia DuBois.

*****

Interview with Sorchia DuBois:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I grew up in a household of readers. We had bookshelves in nearly every room with nearly every kind of book imaginable on them. While my mom tried to steer me towards the ‘appropriate’ reading material for girls, I never connected with the sweet young ladies in those books. I soon discovered a magical place called “The Public Library” where I could check out any kind of book I wanted, so science fiction, murder mysteries, fantasies, and true crime stories came to visit every few weeks. Writing seemed a natural progression from reading. I started writing stories in first grade and kept it up as a just-for-fun kind of thing from then on. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the start, but I was constantly told how girls didn’t do that and how you couldn’t make money as a writer and that I should concentrate on more traditional pursuits. I’m sorry to say I listened to this garbage for much too long. Finally, I reached a point where it became clear it was put-up or shut-up time so I wrote my first real book and fell in with a new publisher who published it. I was hooked. Now I’m about to get the third book published, working on the 4th, with the 5th in outline.

What genres do you work in?

At the moment, fantasy and Gothic romance are my niches. I’m about to jump into murder mysteries and I dabble in science fiction but I think I will always include spooky, unsettling, and dark bits in whatever I write. Romance is an element I never thought I would enjoy. But I do. Whether romance is the main plot element or just a side story, it is a wonderful way to develop characters.

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

Something in between. I do a lot of thinking about my stories—daydreaming and imagining and running dialogue in my head—until I have a good idea of who the characters are, what they want, and roughly how they will get from page 1 to Epilogue. I’ll write a quick outline, work on character backstory for a bit, and then I just jump in and start writing. I do a little tarot reading, so I grab my cards as I begin a story or whenever I get stuck. I use them to jump start chapters and to help me define characters. One of my worst fears is to be predictable and I think using the cards helps me introduce fresh situations.

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

A primer in classics—Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allen Poe—got me started. Later writers such as Tolkien, Douglas Adams, PG Wodehouse, Donald Westlake have been major influences. These days I am woefully out of touch with modern writers since I’ve been concentrating on my own work or on colleagues in my genre, but I enjoy Barbara Kingsolver and Janet Evonovich. Of course, I revisit the past and present mystery mavens—Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, and so on.

There’s a lot of great material about Scotland on your site. Do you have a family or personal connection with Scotland? What kinds of research have you done for your novels set there?

Funny story. I’ve always been an Anglophile—You may have guessed from all the British authors in my list of influences. I often speak in awful English, Irish, or Scottish accents and I love anything Celtic. My daughter kept harping at me to read Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander series and I resisted because no youngster is going to tell me what to do. So finally, I gave in and something clicked. I knew my family was Scottish, Irish, English, and German, but I’d never done the research. Turns out, the Rosses—which are my dad’s maternal relations and his favorite line—bailed out of Scotland just after Culloden. Who knows why but I like to think they caused a lot of trouble beforehand. Anyway, after I got the connection clear in my head, I find out there are Scottish festivals all over the place and many local to my isolated hideaway. I started going to those and have never looked back. Any place where you can listen to fantastic music, watch burly men in kilts, and have whisky literally forced on you is fine with me.

A trip to Scotland is in the offing but until then, I hang out with Scottish people, listen to Scottish music, struggle to learn Scots Gaelic, attend Scottish festivals, and drink Scotch. This obsession doesn’t show any signs of going away.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?

Funny you should ask. Right now, I am finishing a Gothic romance series about a small town fortuneteller from Arkansas who finds her family tree is rooted in a haunted Scottish castle. The story started as a nice little Gothic tale but quickly developed into something of an epic quest. The series includes three main books and an anthology of short stories. Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones is the first book with Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen coming in June or July. Zoraida Grey and the Pictish Runes is the final in the trilogy and I hope to have that out by Halloween. The anthology—Witchling—should be available on my website by August.

What are you working on now?

Busy as I am finishing the Zoraida Grey trilogy, I’m also planning a nice, witchy story for December called Winter Solstice. Along with that, the next project is a murder mystery revolving around a Midwestern Celtic festival. That one is just in the planning stages but if I get myself moving, I can get it out next spring. I’m thinking about calling it Festival of Death or Celtic Carnage but who knows.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. No matter what anyone tells you. If writing is what you want to do, then quit whining and do it. I’ve met—and have been guilty myself—many people who say they want to be writers when, as the quote goes, what they really want is to have written. They don’t want to do the hard work of learning a craft and eking out words by the thimbleful until they fill a novel. The people who really, really intend to be writers will take the time to learn how to do it and that is by study, by reading the masters and not-so-greats, and by doing it yourself. You can tell what someone wants to do by the fact that they actually do it. Otherwise, they find excuses not to do it. I found excuses for many years and now I wish I had that time back. Get busy and write.

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

The website is Sorchia DuBois. There you will find a menu including how to buy books and how to sign up as a guest.

If you want to go directly to the blog—which is called Sorchia’s Universe– then Sorchia’s Universe.

Here is a list of places where you can follow me for the latest news and other bits of weirdness I find interesting at any given moment.

Twitter: Twitter
Pinterest: Pinterest
Facebook: Facebook
Amazon author page: Amazon
Goodreads author page: Goodreads
Google +: Google+
BookBub: BookBub
Instagram: Instagram

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MAPPING THE BONES, by Jane Yolen. Yolen states in her Afterword that she structured this Holocaust novel on the “armature” of “Hansel and Gretel.” The story unfolds in three stages: starving at home (the Polish ghetto to which the family has been consigned after losing their original home); lost in the forest (in hiding with partisan resistance fighters); dubious shelter in the witch’s candy house (a labor camp). Preteen twins Chaim and Gittel live in a cramped apartment with their parents, subsisting on inadequate food supplies. Chaim, who stutters, speaks in ordinary conversation as little as possible, never more than five words at a stretch. He and Gittel have developed a secret sign language. As a poet, however, he is eloquent. The family’s circumstances decline further when they’re required to share their quarters with another four-person family—a German Jewish dentist and his wife, daughter Sophie, and son Bruno. While Sophie is shy but friendly, Bruno follows his father’s lead in acting superior to the lowly Polish Jews they’re forced to live with. It soon becomes clear that the mother is mentally unstable. Faced with a life-threatening crisis, the news that they have been chosen for transport (although at this point nobody knows for sure what that means), the two families decide to escape into the adjacent forest. While I won’t go into spoiler-y detail, Chaim, Gittel, and Bruno eventually end up in a slave-labor camp working in a munitions factory. In a sense they’re better off than in the forest because at least they have beds (although no mattresses or linens) and regular meals (although meager and bad). Without writing supplies, Chaim continues to compose poems in his head and recite them over to himself to keep from forgetting them. A few gestures of unexpected kindness, even from the Polish women who supervise the children, occasionally relieve the grim atmosphere. Essentially, however, the camp is “hell,” even though its direct purpose isn’t death as in the concentration camps, a background horror that the novel doesn’t let us forget. Small acts of heroism occur, but mainly it’s all the victims can do to survive and cling to their humanity. The third-person narrative from Chaim’s viewpoint alternates with short first-person sections headed “Gittel Remembers.” And I must admit I peeked at the end to find out in advance which characters other than Gittel survive. This is a harrowing story with a core of love and hope. Some Yolen fans may be slightly disappointed, as I was upon reading the cover blurb, that there’s no fantasy content as in THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC or fairy-tale atmosphere as in BRIAR ROSE. Nevertheless, MAPPING THE BONES is a gripping, memorable novel, thoroughly satisfying on its own terms.

NATURAL CAUSES, by Barbara Ehrenreich. The latest book by the author of several works about the history of women’s treatment by the medical establishment, plus NICKEL AND DIMED (a report of her experiment in living on minimum wage) and other books on social issues. She holds a PhD in cellular immunology (according to the author bio), qualifying her to write in depth on our national obsession with the pursuit of youth, longevity, and perfect health. The subtitle, “An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer,” encapsulates the book’s theme—that we behave as if we think we can avoid death altogether if we do the right things as prescribed by the up-to-date medical recommendations of the moment. Admittedly, it came as a surprise to me that “scientific” evidence for the benefits of annual physical exams and the routine screening tests recommended by the American health care industry is, in many respects, quite weak. Moreover, not-uncommon false positives generate anxiety and unnecessary treatments. Intervention for conditions that might not cause any trouble if left alone (as with many cases of prostate cancer) can lead to effects worse than the alleged disease. The chapter title “The Veneer of Science” speaks for itself. The book explores a wide range of topics, such as the social context of death, the ways our own cells make war against each other, unproven wellness fads, and the concept of “successful aging.” While I take some of the author’s conclusions with several grains of salt, overall I found the book informative, thought-provoking, and unsettling.

THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King. Although King returns to his supernatural horror roots with this novel, the beginning of the story focuses on grimly possible horrors. Detective Ralph Anderson of the invented Oklahoma town of Flint City (smaller than the name indicates, a place where people know each other, or think they do), the principal viewpoint character, investigates the sadistic rape, murder, and mutilation of an eleven-year-old boy. All eyewitness and forensic evidence irrefutably point to the town’s popular youth sports coach, Terry Maitland, who doesn’t seem to have made any effort to hide his guilt. Ralph rushes to arrest Maitland for fear delay might give him time to flee. In fact, the police pick up the coach in the middle of a baseball game. Ralph has a personal stake in the case because his own son was coached by Maitland in Little League. Soon, however, seemingly ironclad evidence comes to light locating Maitland seventy miles away at the time of the murder. How can a man be in two places at once? Could Maitland have a double convincing enough to fool people who’ve known him for years? And what about the DNA evidence? Through skillful use of multiple viewpoints, King engenders sympathy for all sides in the case, from Ralph and his wife to the wife and daughters of the suspect and the family of the murdered boy. As it becomes clear to the reader that Maitland is innocent, we begin to realize (long before the characters, of course, because we know this is a King novel) that something supernatural or at least paranormal is going on. Then a plot twist occurs that I didn’t see coming, which I won’t spoil for you. This event torments Ralph with second thoughts and makes him even more determined to uncover the truth. The investigation he pursues with the eventual help of both the prosecutor and the defense counsel leads to a monster quite different from the creature in King’s other novel of an evil double, THE DARK HALF. It’s especially delightful that Holly Gibney, co-owner of Finders Keepers from the Bill Hodges trilogy, plays a major role in identifying, tracking, and defeating the true killer. A couple of incidents felt over-the-top to me, especially the mob scene outside the courthouse at Maitland’s arraignment. Mainly, though, I found THE OUTSIDER a memorable addition to King’s oeuvre, with sympathetic characters, suspenseful pacing, an unusual monster, and a satisfying conclusion. As in most of his books, not all the good guys make it out alive, but he makes their sacrifices count.

DREAD NATION, by Justina Ireland. This alternate history novel takes place in a world that diverged from ours when the dead rose up and walked on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The animated corpses are never called zombies, but “shamblers” or simply “the dead.” With an abrupt end to the Civil War as the country shifts its focus to the supernatural threat, society becomes very different from the United States of the nineteenth century as we know it. While slavery no longer exists, many black and Native American young people are enrolled in schools of combat to be trained in fighting the undead. Protagonist/narrator Jane McKeene, daughter of a married white lady and a black man, studies at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in Baltimore. She’s being trained to serve as an Attendant, i.e. a genteel bodyguard, but her personal ambition is to go back to her home in Kentucky. One of her classmates and her chief rival, Katherine, whom Jane likes to annoy by calling “Kate,” is fair enough to pass for white. Jane and Kate become reluctant allies and later friends. Another significant character is Jackson, Jane’s ex-boyfriend, who secretly supplies her with reading material and flirtatiously teases her, to her annoyance. The three of them become aware of an infestation of shamblers in the city, which the corrupt mayor and his cohorts deny. Despite their expertise in destroying the undead, Jane, Kate, and Jackson get transported by train to a frontier town called Summerland. Kate poses as a white lady, while Jane, as her Attendant, spends more time fighting shamblers than bodyguarding her alleged mistress. She discovers that the town’s fighters are more cannon (or zombie) fodder than true warriors and takes it upon herself to lead and train them so they’ll have some chance of survival. Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from the letters from Jane to her mother or vice versa. Flashbacks fill in Jane’s family background and early life, and we gradually learn fragmentary information about how the country changed after the undead plague ended the war. Jane, having read medical journals, believes that the shamblers were caused by an infection, but the germ theory of disease has little public credibility so far. The story is narrated in present tense, whose only advantage in my view is the resulting ease of distinguishing current events from flashbacks. I have to admit, though, that present-tense narration suits Jane’s voice. I recommend this novel as an intriguing alternate history with a bold, witty heroine and an unusual approach to the zombie apocalypse.

*****

Excerpt from “Haunted Book Nook”:

“Have you seen Joris Beechtree’s Codex of Substance and Dissolution? It’s not on the shelf.”

“No, ma’am.” Fenice’s student assistant, Milo, paused in the doorway between the anteroom and the inner chamber of the Rare Books Archive.

Fenice waved away the winged pen flitting in circles above her desk, then dodged as a glass paperweight in the shape of a cat leaped and batted at the pen. “Not that I’m in any hurry to de-animate these blasted things, but I’d like to know what I did wrong, and I’ve already looked through most of the other relevant texts.”

Milo trundled a cart full of volumes over to a bookcase and began shelving them. “How many have gone missing now? Three?”

“Four, counting Beechtree’s.” With a sigh, she scanned the high shelves that surrounded her, illuminated by the clear, warm glow of the perpetual-light globe on the ceiling. After only a month as curator of rare books in the university library, she’d become attached to this collection of scrolls and tomes and offended by any disturbance of its serene order. “Magistra Sylvaine will be inspecting us in just five days. I shudder to think how she’ll react if she doesn’t find everything where it belongs.” The head librarian had a reputation for strictness. Fenice imagined herself summarily demoted to her former job in the open stacks.

A shy smile brightened Milo’s plump face. “Maybe the ghost took them.”

“What ghost?” She picked up the glass cat, now tugging on her braid, and moved it to the far end of the wide desk. A few days earlier, she’d tried a spell to imbue an ordinary pen with an endless supply of ink. She’d succeeded in making an implement that would never need refilling, but in the process she had bestowed wings and the power of flight upon it. Furthermore, the animation spell had splashed over onto the cat paperweight.

“Some people say this room’s haunted.” He nodded toward the anteroom, presently unoccupied. “Students reading in there have felt cold spots. Little things disappear, like pens, ink, and paper. No books until recently, as far as I’ve heard.”

Fenice paused to cast a temporary magic-dampening spell on the flying pen. It dropped to the desk, and she grabbed it. “Got you!” She stuffed it into a drawer, which rattled with the flutter of wings. “Has anybody actually seen things disappearing?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then I think drafts and carelessness sound more likely than a ghost.” Not that ghosts didn’t exist, but they were uncommon enough that she didn’t expect to meet one. “It would need an anchor, either its own body or a significant object. As far as I know, the collection doesn’t include any cursed tomes that might drag restless spirits along with them.”

-end of excerpt-

*****
My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the May 2018 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

My light paranormal romance novella “Yokai Magic,” which draws on Japanese folklore, has been accepted for e-book publication. A teaser of the opening scene appears below.

This month’s interview features fantasy and paranormal romance author Lexi George.

*****

Interview with Lexi George:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Books! I grew up in the country with no close siblings and no neighbors to play with, so books were my companions and playmates. I wanted to write the kind of stories I love, stories that provide laughter and romance and escape.

What genres do you work in?

I write Southern-fried paranormal romance as Lexi George about hunky immortal demon hunters who come to the Deep South and fall in love . . . with sassy Southern women, of course! The first book in the series is called Demon Hunting in Dixie. Each of the romances is a stand-alone story about a couple, with roaming secondary characters that float in and out of the books. The town is a character and there are lots of zany secondary characters and paranormal critters.

I also write traditional fantasy under the pen name Alexandra Rushe. The fantasy series is called Fledgling Magic and is set in the imaginary world of Tandara, where magic and monsters are real. The first book in the series is called A Meddle of Wizards. The series tells of the adventures—or, more accurately, the misadventures—of Raine Stewart, a young woman who gets sucked through a portal into another world populated by warriors, wizards, and monsters. There is an evil wizard (of course!) and Raine discovers she has powers of her own. Unfortunately, she stinks at magic and has a lot to learn.

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

I’m a plotser, a combination of a pantser and a plotter. Mostly, I make stuff up as I go, but some part of my brain is swirling while I write (the plotting part) to tie up the loose ends. It’s an agonizing process, if you can call it that!

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

I have always loved myths and fairy tales. I loved The Hobbit and David Eddings’ Belgariad series, but I’m also a big romance reader. I discovered Georgette Heyer in the seventh grade and was hooked. Oh, and The Wizard of Oz was another favorite. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones made a huge impression on me, although my voice is more funny than dark. I admire his world-building tremendously and his ability to write memorable characters . . . and kill them off. The man is ruthless in that regard. 😊

What effect has your legal career had on your fiction, if any?

I think being a lawyer has sharpened my analytical and critical thinking skills, which are assets to any writer. Also, I am a linear writer, meaning, I start at the beginning and plow to the end of the book, like an old mule. This habit, I suspect, comes from writing legal briefs. In law, you don’t have the luxury of endless drafts, because of court deadlines.

How did you go about creating your fictional town of Hannah, Alabama? Do you maintain background material such as maps, timelines, etc.?

Hannah is an amalgamation of the small town I grew up in and the small town where I presently reside. I took the river, the rolling hills, and the meteorite crater from the town where I currently live and smacked them down in South Alabama. A total fabrication, as South Alabama is flat as a flitter and has no hills. As for keeping things straight, I maintain a character bible for both series, or I would never remember it all. There are five books in the demon hunter series and a novella, and two books in the fantasy series. I’d be lost without a bible, because the worlds and characters have grown so large. When I started writing the fantasy, I sketched out a map of the world for my own use. It is pathetic. I can’t draw stick people, but it served the purpose.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?

Book five of the demon hunter series, Demon Hunting with a Sexy Ex, came out in September of 2017 and A Meddle of Wizards, book one of the Fledgling Magic series, was released January 9, 2018. Book two of the fantasy, A Muddle of Magic, comes out in October.

What are you working on now?

I am currently writing Demon Hunting with a Southern Sheriff, book six of the demon hunter series! It’s the story of Dev Whitsun, the sheriff in my small town. Poor Dev has his hands full, what with demons, demon hunters, rogue gods, shifters, and an animated statue named Jeb, who tromps around singing standards from the 1890’s at the top of his lungs and whacking bad guys with his metal peanut. Jeb encouraged local farmers to plant goobers instead of cotton, saving them from ruination, and the grateful town erected a statue in his honor. You can see, though, why a roving statue would be troublesome to my sheriff. He has a tricky job, maintain harmony between the norms and the supernatural denizens in his district.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write! Every writer has a voice, and you can’t find your voice if you don’t write. Talking about writing, plotting, outlining, color-coding, indexing, and story-boarding are all well and good, but they don’t get the job done. A story is created one word at a time. You wouldn’t expect to be a concert pianist after one lesson, would you? Or receive an invitation to Wimbleton after one afternoon on the tennis court. Writing is like anything else worthwhile. It’s hard work and it takes time and discipline. Make yourself sit down and write. Be selfish. Make time for your writing, whether it’s late at night, lunch hours, or before work. Writing is the only way to become a writer! Oh, and take craft classes or read a good book on writing. Join a critique group, either in person or on-line. Feedback is essential and so is constructive criticism. Very few good books are written in a complete vacuum.

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

You can find me at Lexi George or Alexandra Rushe.

Thanks so much for the interview, Margaret. I have loved being here!

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

IN THE FOREST OF FORGETTING, by Theodora Goss. A 2006 collection of stories first published in various fantasy venues, by the author of THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. Goss often draws upon fairy tales for her plots and, born in Hungary and having spent much of her childhood in Europe, sets several tales in her homeland. A few highlights: “The Rose in Twelve Petals,” in an alternate-history version of Europe, retells “Sleeping Beauty” with a fresh viewpoint on the motives of the witch who places the curse on the princess. “Letters from Budapest” features an artist and a sort of psychic vampire who feeds on creativity. “In the Forest of Forgetting” frames a woman’s cancer as a journey in search of her own identity through a forest where she meets a series of archetypal persons. “Sleeping with Bears” narrates a wedding between a young woman and a bear as a series of vignettes in a tone that portrays the existence of talking, sapient bears as ordinary and unexceptional, with the marriage itself presented as a rather strange cross-cultural union but not outright shocking. Three stories, “Miss Emily Gray,” “Conrad,” and “Lessons with Miss Gray,” feature the titular nanny, governess, and/or witch as an anti-Mary-Poppins who grants wishes in a uniquely skewed way. In “The Wings of Meister Wilhelm,” the young girl narrator becomes involved in her music teacher’s ambition to build a glider and fly to a legendary floating island in the sky. The mother of the protagonist of “Pip and the Fairies” became famous as author of a series of children’s fantasy stories; after her mother’s death, Pip rediscovers her own past and of course awakens to the forgotten reality of the fairy tales.

THE HAZEL WOOD, by Melissa Albert. A mind-blowing entry in my favorite fantasy subgenre, portal fantasy. Seventeen-year-old Alice’s grandmother, Althea Proserpine, whom she has never met, wrote one collection of fairy tales that became a cult classic, then withdrew from the world to her estate, the Hazel Wood (named after a line in a poem by Yeats). Ella, Alice’s mother, never talks about Althea or the father of whom Alice knows nothing. Ella and Alice have kept constantly on the move, fleeing the bad luck that seems to plague them and everyone around them. The book, TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND, is almost impossible to find; Alice got a brief glimpse of a copy before her mother took it from her. At the age of six, Alice was temporarily abducted by a mysterious, redheaded man who claimed to come from the Hinterland. Ella, by the time she receives word of Althea’s death, has married a well-to-do man with a teenage daughter, and Alice is attending an exclusive school. She even has a part-time job and a friend or two. Soon after the surprising news about Althea, Ella and her husband and stepdaughter vanish. When father and daughter reappear within a few days, refusing to discuss what happened to them, Alice’s stepfather throws her out of the house. She resolves to track down her missing mother. To do that, she feels she must find her grandmother’s home, the Hazel Wood, but the only clues to its location are in an old magazine article about Althea. Alice has to turn for help to her classmate Ellery Finch, an obsessive fan of TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND, which he actually read multiple times before having his copy stolen. On their road trip, Alice and Ellery become friends or perhaps something more, while occasionally glimpsing people who seem to step out of the pages of Althea’s dark fairy tales. Ellery tells Alice a couple of the stories, their tone and contents a blend of numinous and creepy. After discovering Ellery’s ulterior motive for coming with her, Alice does find the Hazel Wood and from there, of course, makes her way into the Hinterland. She also learns the truth about her own past. I wish Melissa Albert would write and publish TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND itself, considering the evocative titles of the stories she mentions but doesn’t elaborate on.

AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD, by Jonathan L. Howard. The title makes this sound like a very short book! Actually, it’s the sequel to CARTER & LOVECRAFT (sic), in which Daniel Carter, a descendant of Randolph Carter (protagonist of H. P. Lovecraft’s THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH and several short stories) co-inherited a bookshop with Emily Lovecraft, a mixed-race collateral descendant of HPL. They now find themselves in the Unfolded World, an alternate reality where the former city of Providence is now Arkham, and most if not all of Lovecraft’s fiction is based on fact. Worse, in this timeline the German Reich demolished the Soviet Union in an atomic bomb strike on Moscow in 1941. The Nazis still rule much of Europe, and the Cold War pits the Reich against the U.S. and its allies. The Holocaust as we know it never happened; the victims of the equivalent extermination program were Communists and other “degenerates” the West didn’t care about. The state of Israel exists on the island of Madagascar. As an oddly negative side effect of not having six million Jews slaughtered, the revulsion against racism that followed the war in our timeline never happened in the Unfolded World. Casual, widely accepted antisemitism is accompanied by prejudice against other ethnic groups. So Emily has to live with racism more blatant than in the world she’s used to. Moreover, to both Emily and Daniel, as well as Detective Martin Harrelson of the Arkham police department, the only other refugee from the folded world, it feels viscerally wrong to accept a Nazi regime as a normal, if distrusted, player on the international stage. But Carter and Lovecraft still have a living to make and a detective agency and a rare-books shop, respectively, to run. A man named Weston hires Daniel to investigate irregularities in a high-energy physics project at Miskatonic University. Meanwhile, Emily acquires a copy of the NECRONOMICON and gets drawn into its arcane lore. Daniel is plagued by eldritch dreams. They end up joining an expedition to a research base on an otherwise uninhabited island near Alaska. Crossing paths with German agents, members of the occult Thule society, British commandos (pleasantly surprised that Daniel has read the relatively obscure spy thriller series by that chap Ian Fleming), and an alien species, they play a role in averting a cosmic catastrophe. The end of the novel finds them back in Arkham, resuming what passes for normal life. I’d love to see another book in this series, and the last page of the novel does conclude with what might be a potential sequel hook.

MOTHER GOOSE REFIGURED, by Christine A. Jones. This new (2016) translation of Charles Perrault’s STORIES OR TALES OF THE PAST, otherwise known as the Mother Goose fairy tales, is preceded by a detailed introduction on the topics of Perrault’s life and times in the reign of Louis XIV of France, an analysis of “Cinderella” as one of the best-known and most popularly influential stories (especially in its “Disneyfied” version), and the roles of female characters in several other fairy tales. The main introduction is followed by “Notes on Editions, Translations, and Interpretations,” an essay on the texts and their cultural influences, as well as a discussion of the editor’s translation choices. Jones aims to make the tales fresh for modern readers by increased accuracy to the original and a faithful reflection of the witty allusions and double entendres the French audience of the late seventeenth century would have noticed. The language sounds both colloquial and sharply pointed, and the verse morals at the ends of the stories come across as slyly ironic rather than simplistic. Extensive footnotes explain why certain phrases are translated the way they are and situate them in their cultural context. We discover that Perrault’s tales don’t simply transcribe timeless folk narratives but rather address the delicate problems of young people, especially women, navigating the pitfalls of French society in that era. Unlike the Grimm brothers’ encyclopedic compilation, Perrault’s collection comprises only eight stories. They include, however, several classics in their versions best-known to modern audiences, such as “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” One device by which Jones de-familiarizes the tales is to translate their titles anew, more faithfully to the original language; thus, “Sleeping Beauty” becomes “The Beauty in the Slumbering Woodland” and “Cinderella” becomes “Ashkins; or, The Little Slipper of Glass.” The book concludes with a long annotated bibliography.

*****

Excerpt from “Yokai Magic”:

Dust and cobwebs coated the box marked, “Granddad’s mementos from Korea.” Climbing onto a stepstool, Val swept away the mess with a broom before lifting the box down. It had probably sat undisturbed on the basement shelf since her family had bought the house, when she’d been twelve years old. She lugged her find upstairs and set it on a newspaper spread on the kitchen table. Her cat leaped onto the chair next to hers and stared as if supervising the job. With a paring knife, she slit the crumbling tape that barely sealed the box top.

After pulling out handfuls of wadded-up packing paper, she came upon a pile of letters with exotic stamps and a military return address. A separately bound bundle of envelopes looked like her grandmother’s reply letters. Val squashed the temptation to start reading them on the spot. If what she needed wasn’t loose in the box, she would riffle through the envelopes. From another nest of paper, she dug out a porcelain figurine of a white, green-eyed Japanese good-luck cat wearing a red scarf around its neck. She set the statuette on the table. The next layer in the box revealed a cylindrical package swathed in plastic wrap.

What’s this? A picture of some kind? As she sliced open the wrapping, the knife slipped. The blade nicked her finger, and a drop of blood fell onto the package. That’ll teach me to use scissors next time. She dug a tissue out of her jeans pocket and wrapped her fingertip. For a second her vision blurred. What’s that about? Too long since lunch? The weird sensation faded, and she dismissed it from her mind.

To her relief, when she stripped the wrapping off the package, she found only a barely visible bloodstain on the very edge of the object inside—a Japanese painted scroll. After shoving aside the heap of mail and the porcelain cat, she unrolled the scroll on the kitchen table. It portrayed a small, red building with a freestanding, rectangular arch in front and a peaked roof. Maybe a shrine? A slender, white cat adorned with a red scarf resembling the one on the figurine sat in a demure pose in front of the gate. In the background, next to a flowering cherry tree and a sketchy outline of a stream, hovered a figure of a woman in a lavender, floral-printed kimono. She wore a scarf like the cat’s around her neck and a large, black ring on her left hand. A column of Japanese characters ran down the upper right side of the picture.

Val rubbed behind the ears of the long-haired, charcoal-and-silver tabby sprawled on the adjacent chair. “What do you think, Toby? Could I sell this for a small fortune and get the roof replaced?” Her pet blinked at her. “No, that’s what I thought.”

She sighed over the pile of mail. Sure, it would be interesting to read the letters her grandfather had written during his Army service in Korea in 1951, but would one of those envelopes contain what she was looking for? She’d hauled the stuff upstairs in search of a receipt for two Japanese ivory figurines that had adorned the fireplace mantel for as long as she could remember. Much as she hated the thought of giving them up, the websites she’d checked suggested their value would take a healthy bite out of the roof cost. She couldn’t legally sell ivory, though, without proof Granddad had owned it before the ban on possessing it had existed.

After popping into the ground-floor half-bath to bandage her finger, she returned to the kitchen to finish emptying the box. It took her a minute to notice something missing from the table. “Hey, what happened to the cat statuette?” She glanced at Toby as if he might have an answer. He leaped to the floor and strolled away, plumed tail waving. With a shrug, Val peered into the box, in case she’d replaced the figurine in it without thinking. “Not there. Then where did I put it?” She flipped through the remaining papers, although there wasn’t enough debris left to hide the object. She glanced at the floor, where she would have seen obvious shards of porcelain if he had knocked the thing off the table. “Hope I’m not losing my mind. I might need it again.” Ridiculous. If I were going to have hallucinations, I wouldn’t start by imagining random Asian artifacts. Better quit for now. Definitely way past dinnertime. She stowed the items back in the box for safekeeping and cleaned off the table, then rummaged in the refrigerator for leftovers to heat up.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the April 2018 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

Interested in horror-related artwork and wallpaper? On this site, you can find over 155,000 free eerie, enchanting horror images:
Free Horror Art

I’ve released a Kindle collection of fantasy stories, HARVEST OF MAGIC, mainly comprising fiction by my husband, Leslie Roy Carter, and me first published in the webzines SORCEROUS SIGNALS and LORELEI SIGNAL:

Harvest of Magic

One story, “Stalking Wild Magic,” has never appeared anywhere before. Like a couple of other pieces in the volume, it’s a spinoff from our “Wild Sorceress” series but can be read on its own. An excerpt appears below.

This month I’m interviewing romance and urban fantasy author Chandelle LaVaun.

*****

Interview with Chandelle LaVaun:

What inspired you to begin writing?

My cousin Candace. Almost a decade ago. We loved reading the same books—Twilight, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, JR Ward’s black dagger brotherhood—we would discuss them for hours. One day she told me she was starting to write one of her own. I was so impressed I wanted to try too. I’d always had these stories going on in my head, it was my cousin who helped me get them out.

What genres do you work in?

Right now I’m focusing on YA urban fantasy. But I also write adult paranormal romance and contemporary romance. I’ve even got an idea for Middle Grade.

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

I have extreme OCD. I outline, but they’re like mini synopsis for each scene. I write down every thought in my brain for each scene so I don’t forget it…but it’s more like guidelines. I let the story morph freely then adapt.

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

JR Ward, Cassandra Clare, LJ Smith, Rick Riordan, Kresley Cole…and my first favorite author, Agatha Christie. But mostly, I’d have to say Harry Potter. Just knowing one person’s imagination could give the world something we cherish so dearly makes me want to give it a try. I know I won’t reach her level, but if I could give a handful of readers a fun escape then I’m happy.

Has your background in art and fashion design affected your writing? If so, how?

I spent 7 years in a fine arts program; this kind of training really enhanced my photographic brain. I see my stories in vivid images in my head so when I’m describing it I can actually see it—I think this helps me give detailed descriptions. I want my readers to see it as clearly as I do. Also, I think my visual arts and fashion design background allowed me to see not only the world, but individual people through a variety of telescopes. I’ve known so many types of people and personalities, I’ve seen firsthand wild wardrobes and bold styles. All of this enhances the worlds I create.

How does the magic system in your fiction work? How did you come up with this approach?

I mixed many different types of magic… the traditional kind we see in fantasy books with spells and fun gifts. The realistic kind that some people (myself included) practice in the real world—like with crystals, herbs, and moon phases, etc. but then I also used the really fun kind where my characters can affect the elements, because this is really everyone’s wish. Lol.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?

At the end of February I released book 1 in my Elemental Magic series, The Lost Witch. Book 2—The Brave Witch—is releasing March 29th, and book 3 at the end of April. I hope to keep this pattern up through summer.

What are you working on now?

I just started book 3, The Rebel Witch, in the same series.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just like the pirate’s code, writing rules are more like guidelines. Lol. Study the genre you want to write, read as many of those books as you can. Write something that’s in your heart but is also popular in the market. And write FAST.

But honestly, my best advice is to make writer friends. I would be lost without mine, lost and insane. My career wouldn’t exist without the help of my friends Megan Elizabeth, Michelle Madow, and Linsey Hall. I’m not even exaggerating. So I highly, highly recommend finding some writer friends of your own. Go to book conferences like RWA and RT (among many, many others) and learn everything you possibly can and then make friends with the people around you! They may change your life 🙂

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

My website is ChanelleLaVaun.com
If you sign up for my newsletter you get a FREE prequel novella to my Elemental Magic series! Also, you can sign up for my review team. 🙂
Or find me:
Facebook
Chandelle LaVaun Street Team
Instagram – ChandelleLaVaun
Twitter @chandellelavaun
Pinterest.com/chandellelavaun

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, by Steven Pinker, is psychologist Pinker’s follow-up to his 2011 book THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED. In that earlier work, he demonstrated with page after page of hard facts that we’re living in the least violent period in recorded history. ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, subtitled “The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” expands that project to support the claim that human well-being has increased in virtually every measurable way since the dawn of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries. (I have to confess that I bristled a bit at the title itself, since “Enlightenment,” like “Renaissance,” was a self-designated and overstated, self-serving label meant to dismiss previous eras as centuries of benighted superstition, barbarism, and stagnation.) Contrary to the widespread belief that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket, according to Pinker this is the best time in history to be born, even in third-world nations. The headlines that give the opposite impression represent, in Pinker’s view, a distortion of the facts. After all, shocking, unusual events make the news. We never see articles headed, “No schools got attacked today.” Health, education, the spread of representative government, overall quality of life (evaluated by leisure time, household conveniences, access to information and entertainment, etc.), among many other metrics, have measurably improved. Fewer children die in childhood, fewer women die in giving birth, many diseases have been conquered or even eradicated, in the U.S. drug addiction and unwed teen pregnancy have decreased, fewer people worldwide live in extreme poverty, and in the developed world even the poorest possess wealth (in the form of clean running water, electricity, and other modern conveniences) that nobody could have at any price a couple of centuries ago. As for violence, Pinker refers in both books to what he calls “The Long Peace,” the period since 1945 in which no major world powers have clashed head-on in war. What about the proxy wars such as the Korean and Vietnam conflicts? Faded away with the Cold War itself. Anarchy and bloody conflicts in third-world countries? While horrible present-day examples can easily be cited, the number of them has also decreased. Pinker also disputes, with supporting figures, the hype about “epidemics” of depression and suicide. We’re misled by psychological phenomena such as the availability heuristic (whatever comes to mind most readily seems more common), the negativity heuristic (for survival-related reasons, negative events stick in our minds better than positive ones), and the ever-popular confirmation bias (we selectively remember and accept facts that support our already established beliefs). Even though I differ with Pinker on a fundamental worldview level—he’s a secular humanist and proud of it—I find his statistics convincing and agree with him at almost every point on the mundane, practical level. I particularly like his championship of reason over the postmodern emphasis on irrational motives and “relative” truth. Recommended for readers seeking grounds for hopefulness in the midst of today’s scary headlines.

PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS, by John Kessel. Remember Mary Bennet, one of the younger sisters in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? I always thought Jane Austen treated her rather shabbily, portraying her bookish preoccupations and attempts to share (or show off) her learning as objects of mockery rather than sympathy. In Kessel’s novel, set thirteen years after Austen’s, Mary is a young spinster fascinated by fossils. She meets Victor Frankenstein when he travels to the British Isles to create a mate for his creature. The author has to fudge the chronology to have the action of FRANKENSTEIN take place close to the time of its publication rather than in the 1790s, but otherwise he sticks to the “facts” of the two source novels. The third-person sections of the novel from Mary’s viewpoint present her as an intelligent, sympathetic character burdened by difficulty in decoding people’s reactions and navigating social situations (we might diagnose her on the autism spectrum nowadays). Other parts of the story are narrated in first person by Victor and the monster. Mary ends up following Victor to the remote island where he undertakes his second experiment. She and the male creature become traveling companions. In the process, she has to cope first with the limitations her society places on a young, unmarried woman and later with the consequences of being robbed of her money and other trappings of her upper-middle-class status. Along the way to the north of Scotland, she discovers what it’s like to be regarded as a beggar, thief, or half-mad vagrant. In Kessel’s adaptation, Victor later lies about having destroyed the unfinished female creature. She’s completed and brought to life (and inevitably named Eve), and Mary takes on the task of educating her, while her would-be mate impatiently waits on the sidelines for Mary to decide the artificial woman is ready for his courtship. Since Kessel doesn’t change the essential plotline of Shelley’s original work, we know the story has to end tragically for Victor and his two creations. Mary, however, returns home wiser and more confident. In addition to the character interactions, the historical setting, and the skillful merging of the worlds of two very different novels, another point of interest is the presentation of the science of the early nineteenth century as natural philosophers of that period conceived it.

PRINCESS HOLY AURA, by Ryk E. Spoor. You don’t have to be a fan of Magical Girl anime and manga to appreciate this book, but familiarity with the genre would greatly enhance your enjoyment. It’s a lot of fun to see the standard tropes play out in a believable urban fantasy novel. There’s humor, yes, but also suspense, danger, serious choices, and the potential for tragedy. Plus Lovecraftian eldritch abominations. One evening on his walk home from work, Steve Russ, an ordinary American thirty-something bachelor nerd working at a bagel shop, rescues a little boy from a pack of night-gaunts. Afterward, a white rat named Silvertail, actually a wizard from ancient Lemuria, tells him about the millennia-old war against enemies like those and much worse. Silvertail needs a new Mystic Galaxy Defender Princess Holy Aura to lead the Apocalypse Maidens in the current iteration of the conflict. Not willing to recruit yet another innocent teenager for this dangerous role, he asks Steve to become Princess Holy Aura—which requires a transformation into a fourteen-year-old girl. After detailed explanations and much soul-searching, Steve accepts the mission. After it ends, if Princess Holy Aura defeats the enemy and the world survives, Steve and the other Maidens will revert to their normal lives, and everyone will forget the barely-averted apocalypse, including the Maidens themselves. Silvertail promises, however, that Steve will enjoy fulfillment and success forever after. Steve has to leave behind his current life, including his friends in his Dungeons and Dragons group. Even in the first couple of chapters, I found much to like in this novel. Steve weighs about 300 pounds, but he’s not a stereotypical weakling; some of that mass consists of muscle. The D&D scenes are written by an author who clearly understands and appreciates the game; there’s not a trace of sneering condescension. After parting with his friends under the cover story of getting a better job in a distant location, Steve assumes the form of fourteen-year-old Holly. He decides to stay in that shape all the time unless reverting to his male body becomes absolutely necessary, because he wants to live into the role to avoid careless slip-ups. Silvertail poses as his father. The rat can take the form of a man when necessary, but the change requires most of his magic, so he can’t work powerful spells unless he’s in rat shape. Naturally, at first Steve has trouble adjusting to the life of not only a high-school student but a female one. Gradually, though, he becomes so used to inhabiting the Holly persona that he feels emotionally and physically uncomfortable on the few occasions he has to become Steve again. The gender-bending dimension of the story is highlighted by the use of feminine pronouns for the protagonist whenever he/she is Holly. Holly makes friends and awakens the other Apocalypse Maidens while the attacks from eldritch entities become more frequent and dangerous. To her dismay, Dexter, a teenage boy from her gaming group, attends the same high school. They become friends, she learns Dex has a magical secret identity of his own, and they start to fall in love. Because the Apocalypse Maidens and their allies and adversaries are shaped by the cultural memes applicable to their situation, the novel is full of Magical Girl tropes. The Maidens have an animal-shaped wizardly mentor, cute costumes, iconic weapons, and a catch-phrase (“This Apocalypse Maiden says you are going down!”). As the cosmic threat builds to the climactic battle, Holly and her teammates become more and more reluctant to accept the loss of their friendship and memories after the hoped-for victory. This prospect lends the story a bittersweet tone. PRINCESS HOLY AURA is emotionally engaging as well as fun.

*****

Excerpt from “Stalking Wild Magic”:

Running down the forest trail dodging arrows was not Coleni’s idea of her mission in life. She was supposed to be protected from such hazards by a platoon of guardsmen, who unfortunately lay scattered on the trail behind, having done what they were meant to do. When the guard lieutenant screamed for her squad to run before turning to face the Delmathian onslaught, Coleni had not spared a moment’s thought to question why a common soldier was giving a sorcerer officer orders.

Her quick reaction had given her the advantage of being ahead of the pack of her fleeing, robe-encumbered compatriots. They had delayed their flight from the hill they had been standing on to watch the slaughter of the troops falling under the barrage of arrows. She had lengthened her lead a little when she jerked her novice uniform robe off over her head and freed her legs from the flapping inconvenience. A glance over her shoulder revealed several other novices on the ground, having tripped and trying to fend off swords with their bare hands.

She concentrated on the trail ahead and saw it widening out, rising to join the road that crossed its path. That would make it easier to run but gave a clearer shot to the pursuing soldiers. The road led to the safety of their base camp, but she questioned whether she could reach it. The undergrowth along the trail was thinning, and she could see that the trees around her grew far enough apart for her to dodge between them. Leaping into the bushes slowed her as the branches tore at her undershift and scraped the skin of her arms and legs. Hoping to slow the armored men even more, she dashed around a wide tree in front of her, putting it between her and the crashing sound closing in on her.

When the ground fell away from a stream crossing her flight, she leaped as far as she could into the gap. The water was knee deep, and her momentum pitched her face forward. She managed to straighten her arms and push off the stream’s pebbly bottom. Staggering upright, she clambered up the slope in front of her and through the weeds along the top. The sounds behind her grew faint as the majority of the Delmathians ran down the remaining members of her squad, but she wasn’t sure how many had chased her into the wood. The babble of the swiftly running water was all she heard close to her position. She dared not move and listened for a while, wondering how long someone nearby would wait for her to make a noise. She was good at slowing her breathing, concentrating her body to stillness, focusing her mind – that was what she was trained for.

Commander Telori is really gonna be ticked off! Coleni thought, when she had her body and mind under control. This was supposed to be a simple harassment-interdiction mission easily handled by a squad of novice illusionists led by one of their own. Get in, lay a false bridge over the gully, and get out before the Delmathian patrol they were sent to ambush got there. Nothing to it, she told herself.

A bird took off from the tree above Coleni. The flutter of wings sent a nervous shock through her system. Trying to remain motionless, she reminded herself that it was a good sign that wildlife was starting to stir around her. Maybe it’s time for you to leave as well, she thought, slowly moving her head to scan the area in front of her. The chittering of a squirrel off to her left, up in a tree, drew her attention, and she saw it glancing in her direction. Somebody knows you are here.

Coleni closed her eyes and began to imagine herself as a raccoon crouched beside a stream, intent on watching the water below for her favorite prey of crayfish. Seeing none, she slowly rose to her paws and turned away from the stream. The spell Coleni released closed around hers, and the squirrel watched the brown-coated predator move off into the trees. The soft padding of its departure barely rustled the thick leaves covering the forest floor.

Coleni held the illusion for a half hour, long enough for her to clear the area. Crawling through the increasingly dense undergrowth was killing her elbows and knees, but she couldn’t risk breaking profile to stand. Once she put more trees between her and any pursuit, she’d break the spell. Then she would stop to think.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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