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Welcome to the October 2019 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

Happy Halloween!

Since the publisher of my vampire novels DARK CHANGELING and its immediate sequel CHILD OF TWILIGHT (both horror with romantic elements) has closed, I’ve self-published them in a two-novel omnibus called TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS:

Twilight’s Changelings

In case you haven’t read one or both of these novels starring psychiatrist Roger Darvell, a human-vampire hybrid who discovers his true nature in the course of a very strange midlife crisis, you can now get both together at a bargain price. In the excerpt from CHILD OF TWILIGHT below, Gillian, Roger’s twelve-year-old hybrid daughter (whom he has seen only once, when she was a toddler) has run away from her mentor and faces danger from human ruffians.

I’m interviewing romantic suspense author C. B. Clark this month.

*****

Interview with C. B. Clark:

What inspired you to begin writing?

When a botched operation left me unable to speak above a whisper for a year, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. I loved the challenge and was ecstatic when I finished. Now my voice is back, and I have five published romantic suspense novels and another due out in a couple of months.

What genre do you work in?

I love reading, and I’ll read pretty well anything, but romantic suspense is my favorite genre to both read and write.

Do you outline, ‘wing it’, or something in between?

I’m definitely a pantster. I always start with the first sentence or the germ of an idea and go from there. It’s fun not knowing what’s going to happen next. The trials and tribulations of my characters keep me writing until the end.

What have been the major influences on your writing?

Like many young girls, I read the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. When I was an adolescent, I discovered a box of old romance books in my grandmother’s basement, and I devoured stories by Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart. I fell in love with romance mixed with intrigue. Later, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Sandra Brown became my favorite authors.

Has your background in anthropology and archaeology affected your fiction?

Every experience I’ve had in my life influences my writing. I spent several years working as an archaeologist in the field, and even though my stories (so far) haven’t been directly related to archaeology and anthropology, aspects of these subjects slip into my writing.

In the writing of romantic suspense, what tips would you offer about balancing the suspense and the romance elements?

It’s definitely a challenge. Some readers prefer romance with just a dash of suspense, while others like the focus to be on the suspense. The main thing is to ensure that the action doesn’t overpower the romantic connection between the hero and heroine. The story should be all about their developing relationship in the face of villains and adversity. Romantic suspense readers want an edge-of-the-seat thrill, but they also want that happy ending.

What is your soon-forthcoming work?

Healing Hearts is in final edits and will be released soon. It’s a romantic suspense, and is a story that is close to my heart. It’s set on a ranch in the Chilcotin wilderness of Central British Columbia, an area of stunning beauty, and close to where I live. As well as murder, mayhem, and romance, an environmental theme, which is an issue I’m passionate about, runs through the story. Here’s a teaser: “They must overcome their tragic pasts to find the love that will heal their wounded hearts.”

What are you working on now?

Like most authors, I have several stories brewing, and I’m in the process of filling out plot details and fleshing out the characters.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t stop. No matter what sort of sales or mixed reviews you receive, or the pressures of social media, don’t let anyone discourage you from following your dreams. Put your butt in a chair in front of your computer and write. Ignore that tiny, doubting voice inside you and WRITE. Keep writing until your story is finished, and then start the next one.

Where can we find you on the Web?

Instagram

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MAMA’S LAST HUG, by Frans de Waal. Subtitled, “Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves,” this book focuses mainly on primates, especially chimpanzees, but also touches on other animals such as elephants, dogs, etc. and stakes out a position on animal emotions in general. “Mama” was a fifty-nine-year-old chimpanzee at Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands, and the title refers to her final meeting with renowned biologist Jan van Hooff. They had known each other for forty years. The touching account of her deathbed farewell to her human friend sets the stage for Frans de Waal’s analysis of animal emotions, comparing them to similar human reactions. De Waal makes a sharp distinction between emotions and feelings. He defines feelings as internal mental phenomena we can’t know unless the individual describes them to us. Emotions, on the other hand, are observable in the form of biological changes that can be described and measured. He firmly maintains that animals have emotions analogous to our own. Topics include reading another species’ body language, “theory of mind,” the transmission of emotions from one individual to others, whether some emotions are exclusive to our own species, power and aggression, sharing, sense of fairness, and many other intriguing subjects, ending with an exploration of the nature and meaning of sentience. His earlier book ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE? is equally interesting and also emphasizes the continuity rather than division between our species and nonhuman animals.

THE INSTITUTE, by Stephen King. The secret government facility in this novel brings to mind the one in FIRESTARTER, but they’re quite different in detail. For one thing, the Institute, which has existed since the beginning of the Cold War, confines a group of children and teenagers with psychic powers rather than just one; moreover, the Institute has devised a way to make practical use of those abilities. Luke Ellis, an intellectual prodigy preparing to attend college at the age of twelve, is otherwise a normal, well-adjusted kid. He has only one other peculiarity, a touch of telekinesis on the “parlor trick” level, which he can’t control. One night a hit team murders his parents and kidnaps him. He wakes up at the Institute in Maine, in a bedroom mostly identical to his own except for the absence of windows. The other inmates, especially a teenage girl named Kalisha, bring him up to speed on life in the Institute. The inmates receive tokens for good behavior and negative consequences for failure to cooperate. They get injections apparently meant to enhance their psychic gifts, broadly divided between TP (telepathy) and TK (telekinesis). As Luke soon learns firsthand, many of the procedures amount to torture. He and his new friends live in the Front Half. Nobody knows what happens to the kids moved to the Back Half; as in a roach motel, they check in but don’t check out. On the other hand, tokens can purchase cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and other drugs from vending machines. There’s a playground, and the kids can do pretty much what they want in their free time as long as they don’t stray into forbidden territory. Luke meets a cleaning woman on the staff who seems friendly to the children. By finding a workaround for the Internet blocks on his computer, he manages to help her solve her desperate financial problem, a plot development vital to the kids’ eventual escape attempt. As people vanish into the Back Half and Luke’s powers grow beyond what he allows the experimenters to realize, he also notices deteriorating infrastructure and sloppy security. King’s usual skill in writing child characters comes through in the friendships that develop among the inmates, despite their differences. Meanwhile, we learn the background and purpose of the Institute, partly through the viewpoints of some staff members. Ultimately Luke and his friends have to face the question of which is more important, their own lives or the Institute’s alleged vital importance to the welfare of the entire world. Now to backtrack and mention an oddity of this novel: It doesn’t start with Luke. It begins in the viewpoint of Tim Jamieson, an ex-cop who ends up on a whim in a small town where he’s hired as a “night knocker” for the sheriff’s department. We get to know him intimately before the narrative switches to Luke, and we don’t see Tim again until he reenters the story to help the kids during the buildup to the climax. A strong novel with a satisfying conclusion but not without sacrifice and tragedy.

THE TESTAMENTS, by Margaret Atwood. As you probably know, this is the sequel to THE HANDMAID’S TALE, set fifteen years later. Although it doesn’t continue Offred’s story, we do get some hints of her fate. The book comprises three first-person documents written by: Aunt Lydia; Daisy (later called Jade), a teenage girl growing up in Canada with her parents, who she later learns are her adopted parents as well as Mayday agents; and Agnes, the teenage daughter of a Commander in Gilead, also technically adopted, since her biological mother was a Handmaid. After Agnes’s mother dies, her father marries a new Wife. Wanting to get rid of Agnes as soon as possible, her stepmother urges the Commander to arrange a marriage for the girl. No suitors appeal to her, certainly not the most likely one, Commander Judd, an older man with several deceased previous Wives. Agnes follows her best friend, Becka, into the only other option available to daughters of the elite, claiming a “higher calling”—a vocation to become an Aunt. Meanwhile, we see Gilead, including the odious Commander Judd, through the eyes of Aunt Lydia, who’s as politically astute, secretive, and self-serving as we’d expect from the earlier book and the TV series. In Canada, Daisy’s parents are assassinated, so that she has to go into hiding. One review says this novel is more of a “thriller” than THE HANDMAID’S TALE, a description that definitely fits when Daisy/Jade must travel into Gilead to make contact with a covert “source” who has a cache of explosive information to send to Canada. She poses as a homeless teen who lets herself get “rescued” by two of the Pearl Girls, Gilead’s missionaries to the women of “Sodom.” At the Aunts’ headquarters, she meets Agnes and Becka. Through this sequence of events, we experience Jade’s culture shock in trying to adjust to Gilead, then Agnes’s similar reaction when exposed to the outside world. We also learn more about Aunt Lydia’s background (not the same as in the TV series) and destiny, as well as the ultimate fate of Baby Nicole and what precipitates Gilead’s collapse. I found the glimpses of everyday life in Gilead and the bits of information on such matters as the recruitment and training of Aunts fascinating. I’m wondering how the TV series will handle this material; it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do a fifteen-year time skip. And how will Aunt Lydia evolve from her present TV persona into the character we see in the book? Like the first novel, THE TESTAMENTS ends with a transcript from a historical conference several generations later, long after the fall of Gilead. The speaker explains how the documents were discovered, while conceding that some scholars remain skeptical of their authenticity. Like the epilogue of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, this passage distances the reader from the story’s events and casts doubt on the reliability of women’s testimony. This conclusion, however, feels more uplifting, since in this case the speaker does believe in the reliability of the documents. The final passage of the novel, an inscription on a monument constructed after the fall, speaks for itself.

*****

Excerpt from CHILD OF TWILIGHT:

Jogging along the sidewalk, a light film of snow crunching under her sneakers, Gillian concentrated on her hope that a bus was scheduled between Washington and Annapolis tonight. She didn’t want to travel by day, nor did she relish the thought of waiting in the terminal all night.

Her path took her down poorly-lit streets lined by apartment buildings of dingy brick with the stench of garbage drifting from the alleys between them. Many of the ground-floor windows she passed were boarded up. Occasionally a car rumbled by, or footsteps reached her ears from adjoining streets. At one point a cat darted out of her way and paused to hiss at her before fleeing into an alley. Gillian momentarily considered pursuing the animal. She wasn’t used to going hungry—

When she faced front again, four human figures popped up. They had rounded the corner of a building just ahead. Gillian paused, balanced on the balls of her feet, to brush the edges of their minds. Her fear of losing control made her hesitate long enough to let two of them circle behind her before she sensed their belligerence.

Four dark-haired boys, probably a few years older than she, wearing jeans, boots, and heavy jackets. The one directly in front of her, two inches taller than Gillian and twice as broad, said, “What’s a little girl like you doing out this time of night?”

Gillian stared back at him without answering. His breath smelled like onions, but the lust emanating from him sickened her more.

“Hey, will you look at that!” The youth next to him, shorter and slightly plump, poked at Gillian’s cross. She stepped back, hissing. “Whoa, listen to her!”

“Sounds like a snake,” the larger boy said. “Built like one, too. Or maybe you’re hiding something under that coat?” He plucked at the zipper of her jacket.

With a snarl Gillian slashed her claws across his face. He flinched back and whipped out a knife. “You gonna pay for that, bitch! First I’ll take that thing around your neck, and then we’ll see what else you got for us.”

The other two breathed hot on the back of Gillian’s neck. She understood they intended to rob and rape her. She felt no fear of them—she feared her own anger. The scent of her attacker’s blood made her breathing fast and ragged.

No—I’m too young for human blood! “Leave me alone,” she said quietly, impaling him with her eyes, fervently wishing she could control him as an adult could.

For an instant the compulsion seemed to work. The youth inched backward. The boy next to him, though, remained untouched, for she didn’t know how to influence two people at once. The smaller boy tried to snatch the cross from her neck.

Gillian’s hand grabbed his arm and squeezed until a bone cracked. Startled by the sound, she let go. The leader’s knife swiped at her. The blade slashed the front of her jacket. Dodging just in time to avoid being cut, she felt one of the other boys clutch her from behind.

That violation ignited her rage. All caution consumed by fury, she lashed out. One hand ripped open the leader’s throat, while her left fist knocked down the second boy who faced her.

Whirling, she kneed the third boy in the groin, then kicked the last one’s feet out from under him. Spinning around once more, she saw the leader doubled up on the sidewalk, clutching his neck. Blood spurted between the fingers. He stared at her, wide-eyed, gurgling.

The boy whose face she had bruised tried to struggle into a sitting position. “You—what the hell—”

Their pain and fear rushed over her like cold fire, setting all her nerves aglow. Involuntary contractions rippled through her muscles. Oh, no, it’s happening again!

She peeled off the jacket and let it fall. Just in time—the transformation claimed her in an explosion of heat and electricity. Through the red mist over her eyes she saw three of the four muggers lurch to their feet and run away. The one she’d clawed watched her in helpless terror.

The surge of ecstasy faded quicker this time. Gillian set her jaw and focused on a mental image of herself in the mirror, tired, mussed, and outwardly human. With a wrench, her molecules rearranged themselves.

-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 September 2019 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

“Yokai Magic” received an excellent review from Manic Readers:

Manic Readers

The reviewer says, “This engaging tale is a great combination of contemporary challenges and fantasy elements.”

There’s an excerpt below from “Foxfire,” one of the stories in my animal-bridegroom collection BEASTS AND THEIR BEAUTIES, a contemporary paranormal romance featuring a kitsune (fox shapeshifter) hero. The heroine, Tabitha, has asked Kenji, the kitsune (whose true nature she doesn’t know yet), to help find her runaway sister, Chloe. The collection can be found here:

Beasts and Their Beauties

This month’s interview features historical fiction author Diane Scott Lewis.

*****

Interview with Diane Scott Lewis:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve always told tales, even before I could write. I’d illustrate the story and ask my mother to write the words. I wrote my first novel at age ten, a story set in ancient Rome. Later, I wrote a western, which I never completed. I had a short story (which I’ve since lost) submitted to a literary festival from my high school. I let writing go when I married and had children, but picked it up again when my children were in high school.

What genres do you work in?

Historical fiction mostly, with romantic elements. I like a love interest but weave it into the plot and try to make it ‘natural’ and not Sudden Attraction. I wrote one historical time travel, which was fun.

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

I mostly ‘wing it’. That can lead to complications. A novel that rambles, or is too long (my first efforts). I’ve tried to outline to some extent, but my characters often take over and send me in different directions.

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

All of that. I read popular historical novels and authors, to see what their style is, how can I improve on mine, etc. Phillipa Gregory’s early novels inspired me. I like Susanna Kearsley, too. Deanna Rayburn. My travels around the US inspired my current release, Her Vanquished Land. A novel set during the American Revolution. I’ve visited battlefields from that conflict.

Did your naval service affect your development as an author, and if so, how?

I love to travel; my one duty station was in Greece, where I met my husband. We had a navy reunion in Greece in June, and I’ve recently begun a novel set in 1950s Greece.

What attracted you to the historical periods you write about?

At first, I knew I didn’t want to do Victorian novels since so many were writing in that era. I chose the eighteenth century, researched extensively at the Library of Congress (no internet then), and England in the time of the French Revolution, 1780s thru 1790s caught my interest.

What kinds of research sources do you use for your historical fiction? Please tell us a bit about the “Research Links” page on your website.

At first, libraries were my go-to places for research. I was lucky to have the huge collection of the Library of Congress (we lived near Washington, DC) and the Library of Virginia. I got library loans for rarer books. Now the internet is very handy for research. I do double check the sources there.
My research links, I need to add more, are interesting sites I’ve come across in researching the French Revolution, Napoleon, and Cornwall, England. Also important links to the Eighteenth Century.

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

My just released novel is Her Vanquished Land. Here is a blurb: In 1780, Rowena Marsh decodes messages for the British during the American Revolution. When the rebels overrun her home state of Pennsylvania, she flees with her family. Are the people loyal to England welcome anywhere in the burgeoning United States? Rowena struggles with possible defeat and permanent exile, plus her growing love for an enigmatic Welshman who may have little need for affection. Will the war destroy both their lives?

What are you working on now?

My Greek story, A Spark to the Ashes, a Mary Stewart inspired suspense novel set in 1955.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Perfect your craft. Not only the creative part of style and plot, but the basics of grammar, and how to write and punctuate dialogue. Attend writers’ conferences, network with other authors, and take workshops to improve your craft.

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

Diane Scott Lewis Website
Blog

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE BIG BOOK OF CLASSIC FANTASY, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. This new anthology, a trade paperback over 800 pages long (but reasonably priced), presents tales exemplifying the broad field of fantastic fiction from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth-century advent of fantasy as a marketing genre. In chronological order of their writing, it begins with a story published in 1808 and ends, appropriately, with Tolkien’s metafictional “Leaf by Niggle.” The word “Classic” and the book’s subtitle, “The Ultimate Collection,” imply (to me, at least) that the reader should expect an encyclopedic compilation of high-profile stories that shaped the concept of “fantasy” and exerted strong influence on works that followed them. That’s not what we get. The editors, in fact, explicitly state that they often avoid well-known stories in favor of highlighting more obscure ones, partly because the familiar works are so readily available elsewhere. A college instructor wanting to assign a text that traces the mainline history of fantastic fiction and brings together the “must read” sources, therefore, wouldn’t choose this one. It includes numerous well-known tales, of course (e.g., Poe’s “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Forster’s “Celestial Omnibus,” Hawthorne’s “Feathertop,” Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market,” E. Nesbit’s “The Aunt and Amabel,” Grahame’s “Reluctant Dragon,” etc.), but many that will be new to most readers. A few, never before translated into English, or even published here for the first time, can’t have influenced the modern fantasy genre as we know it. One, Herman Melville’s “The Tartarus of Maids” (an account of the dismal working conditions of female employees in a paper mill), doesn’t even belong here, in my opinion; despite its Gothic tone, it’s in no way fantasy. A nineteenth-century omission that surprises me, by the way, is the absence of a selection from the “Uncle Remus” tales. Also, the editors’ choices are weighted more than I like toward surrealistic works. That said, the book is packed with remarkable stories in a variety of styles from predominantly Anglophone authors but also quite a few who wrote in other languages, including some non-European writers. The editors supply a summary of the author’s background and literary career before each story. Most lovers of fantasy will find many hours of enjoyment in this volume.

TRACE, by Pat Cummings. The thirteen-year-old, black protagonist of this new YA ghost novel, Theodore, nicknamed Trace, lives with his aunt in a New York City brownstone because his parents died in a car crash he barely escaped. He’s vague on how, exactly, he got out of a submerged car with closed windows, and he doesn’t want to talk about the accident or his parents to anyone, including his therapist, or even to think about them much. He also suffers recurring nightmares about the wreck, for which he blames himself (for a reason we learn well into the story). One positive feature of the novel is that it doesn’t lapse into the cliché of a cold, distant guardian who makes the orphaned hero’s life even more miserable. Trace’s Aunt Lea, retaining her hippie spirit into middle age, is an affectionate, madly creative person who opens her home to all sorts of people. Even when Trace’s grief makes him unresponsive to her, aside from everyday courtesies and earnest attempts to cause as little inconvenience as possible, he acknowledges that she’s “cool.” He does, however, have to cope with the usual new-kid problems at school. Because of his general withdrawal from life, he makes only one friend, Ty, essentially by accident. Trace’s circle expands when he has to work on a history assignment with Ty and two girls, one who makes it clear that she thinks Trace and the project are beneath her, the other a brilliant, younger student who peppers her conversation with multisyllabic words. She turns out to have a bit of psychic ability, a factor that becomes important to the plot. The group has to present a report on the 1860s; not surprisingly, Trace gets tasked with researching the race-related events of the period. In the public library, he blunders into a basement level he shouldn’t be able to access and meets the sad ghost of a little boy who, he eventually learns, died in a fire that destroyed an orphanage for black children. Trace’s investigation of the fire and the ghost leads to revelations about his own ancestors. Meanwhile, he gradually opens up to the world and learns to enjoy life again, as well as confronting instead of avoiding the loss of his parents. The novel develops into a warm and realistic (aside from the ghost) story of family and friendship with a satisfying conclusion.

OUT OF TUNE, edited by Jonathan Maberry. An anthology of original stories based on traditional folk ballads. Some are closely faithful retellings, others loosely inspired by their models. In one of my favorites, “Wendy, Darling” by Christopher Golden, the heroine of PETER PAN, grown up and about to be married, appears as the infanticidal protagonist of “The Cruel Mother.” A dark exploration of loss and grief, Seanan McGuire’s “Driving Jenny Home” retells the urban legend of the vanishing hitchhiker with echoes of “The Unquiet Grave.” Some other songs referenced in this volume include “Tam Lin,” “Sweet William’s Ghost,” “The Mermaid,” “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight,” and “John Barleycorn.” Nancy Holder combines “Barbara Allen,” Poe, and a touch of Lovecraft in “In Arkham Town, Where I Was Bound.” Additional contributors include Jeff Strand, Kelley Armstrong, Del Howison Jack Ketchum, Simon R. Green, Gary Braunbeck, and Lisa Morton, among others. Most of the tales tend toward the darker end of the spectrum, and almost all fall into the fantastic rather than strictly realistic realm. Each author supplies an afterword commenting on his or her story, the history of the source ballad, and the connection between them. Readers don’t have to be familiar with the ballads to enjoy this anthology, but the tales will appeal particularly to those who do recognize their sources.

SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, by Neil Gaiman. Wow! A graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s short story, illustrated by Collen Doran. Decades earlier, in “Red as Blood,” Tanith Lee portrayed Snow White as a vampire from birth and the queen as a good witch; Gaiman, using the same premise, created an even darker version of the fairy tale. This hardcover graphic novel faithfully reproduces Gaiman’s plot and language. Doran’s art, inspired by late nineteenth-century artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, uses mostly black backgrounds, with contrasting lush, vivid color (especially splashes of red for iconic images such as apples and blood) for the figures and objects. Characters wear exotic, medieval-style garb. The erotic scenes convey a blend of sensuality and revulsion through nudity without over-explicitness. Most of the pages teem with fantastic and Gothic details that will reward multiple viewings. The images of the nonhuman “forest folk” are especially fascinating. After the story, the artist spends several pages explaining her creative process and some of the choices she made. If you’re familiar with the original story, you won’t want to miss this lavish adaptation. For fans of Gaiman, vampires, or fairy tales who haven’t read “Snow, Glass, Apples” before, this is definitely a must-have book.

*****

Excerpt from “Foxfire”:

As soon as he reached the shelter of the trees, Kenji stripped naked and prepared to search. He would have to backtrack toward Tabitha’s house in hope of crossing the girl’s trail. Since Tabitha’s and Chloe’s should be the only human female scents in the area, finding the spoor shouldn’t pose a problem.

Tucking his clothes into the fork of a branch for safekeeping, he wondered what had possessed him to agree to this quest. He couldn’t fool himself that he just wanted to do the neighborly thing. He liked Tabitha and didn’t want to see her worried and scared. He lusted after her and wanted to make a good impression, regardless of the impossibility of a relationship. Neither of those impulses justified putting himself in the risky position of having to explain how he could find a teenage girl in the woods in the middle of the night. He groaned to himself at the memory of the lame excuse he’d given Tabitha for making her stay behind. With luck, she’d feel so relieved to have her sister safe that she wouldn’t think to ask for details right away, and he wouldn’t give her a chance to ask later. They wouldn’t see each other again except for their usual chance meetings on the trails.

Why did that prospect depress him so much? Until tonight, he’d thought he’d become resigned to his solitary life.

Naked, he crouched on all fours and willed the change.

He transformed more smoothly than when strong emotion made him shift involuntarily. Now his bones and muscles melted into their new shape with a sensuous pleasure like hot water flowing over his bare limbs. The fur that enveloped him felt more natural than skin, as if he’d awakened from a dream of bipedal awkwardness and returned to his true self, with the claws of all four feet denting the soft loam. Darkness became shades of gray and silver in the moonlight. When human, he could see in the dark better than normal people, but nothing like this. His whiskers twitched at random puffs of wind, and his nostrils flared to absorb the odors of the forest. Rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons crouched or crawled in the underbrush and tree branches. Ordinarily, he might hunt one of them for the sport even though he’d already fed on a rabbit earlier that night. Now, though, he had a job to do.

He shook his head, aware of how quickly his human purpose had escaped his mind. Getting distracted by animal sensations and appetites was always a hazard when he changed. Normally it wouldn’t matter if he let instinct sweep thought into the background. But he couldn’t succumb to that temptation at the moment.

He trotted uphill in the direction of Tabitha’s house. His ears twitched at every sound. He heard no human noises, only an owl hooting overhead and small animals scurrying out of his path. Along the way, he disturbed a doe with a pair of fawns, who bounded through the trees to avoid him. He scented the footprints of a bear, left over from at least a day ago, nothing to worry about now. At the bottom of his neighbor’s driveway, he circled, sniffing the ground, in search of human traces. His plumed tail lashed with pleasure at Tabitha’s aroma, permeating the area. He forced his mind back to the reason he’d come here. Casting a little farther from the house, he picked up the scent of another female. With a low bark of satisfaction, he followed the track downhill.

In the daytime even human eyes could probably have tracked the girl. She’d left footprints in the damp soil and broken twigs on bushes. Shortly, she’d stumbled onto one of the narrow trails and followed that in the general direction of the road. For most of its length, this trail stayed on level or gently sloping ground. Farther on, though, it bordered a steep bank on one side. That was where he heard labored breathing from human lungs. A broken thorn-bush and scuffed dirt showed where the girl had tripped and failed to catch herself. The breeze carried the scent of blood.

He edged around the spot until he reached an easier point to climb down into the ravine. He conjured a ball of foxfire to augment his night vision in the shadowed hollow. The girl lay on her back with her left shin bleeding. A flashlight, still glowing, had rolled out of her reach. An occasional whimper punctuated her rasping breaths. She didn’t catch sight of him until he’d approached close enough to touch. With a shriek, she snatched up a small rock and flung it at him. It bounced off his flank.

He growled at the sting and dodged the next stone. He couldn’t do anything for her in this shape. Extinguishing the foxfire, he clambered up the bank and trotted along the trail to its juncture with one that led in the direction of his house. Able to make good time on the cleared surfaces, within a few minutes he reached the place where he’d left his clothes. After dressing, he hurried back to the spot where Chloe had fallen. Cutting through the brush and climbing down the bank to reach the girl gave him a few scratches on arms and legs, but no discomfort he couldn’t ignore.

-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 August 2019 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

Barbara Custer included an excellent review of my Kindle book VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE in issue 36 of NIGHT TO DAWN magazine:

Night to Dawn Reviews

Also in that issue, the second half of my story “Therapy for a Vampire,” featuring Roger and Britt from DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, appears. You can read about the magazine and buy a copy here:

Night to Dawn Magazine

“Yokai Magic,” my light paranormal romance novella published in January, received a wonderful 4.5 review from Long and Short Reviews:

Long and Short Reviews

I’ve just released a compilation of five of my former Ellora’s Cave works, lightly revised to make the love scenes less graphic. All of the stories feature heroes with some type of animal traits, so it’s titled BEASTS AND THEIR BEAUTIES:

Beasts and Their Beauties

The novellas and short stories in this collection: “Dragon’s Tribute” (shapeshifting dragon); “Virgin Blood” (Rapunzel with a vampire “prince”); “Foxfire” (contemporary kitsune romance); “Lion’s Bower” (heroine becomes captive of a lion-like beast-man); “Bear Hugs” (bear shapeshifter under a curse). An excerpt from “Virgin Blood” is below.

Hope you enjoy this interview with romance author Charlene Namdhari:

*****

Interview with Charlene Namdhari:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I still can’t believe I’ve published a book. So, I have to get used to the idea of being called an author. To answer the question though, English and Art were my two favorite subjects in school. In English it was the literature and comprehension and in Art it was drawing. I guess the creativity and love for writing essays in school combined itself to make try my hand at writing.

What genres do you work in?

Steamy Romance

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

A bit of both actually. It all depends on my mood, the storyline, and when characters take on a life of their own and then dictate the twist and turns in a story.

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

My absolute favorite series growing up was Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. When I got older I moved to the Perry Mason cases. Each time I read a book I would imagine myself writing a scene or coming up with silly changes in the storyline. And when I was introduced to sweet romances, I wanted to create my own book boyfriend. I guess all this had an impact on my desire to write.

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

Undercover Affection released in May 2019 and features a tough cop and a sexy billionaire. My current WIP will hopefully release sometime soon.

Has your background in law affected your fiction?

Not really. Fiction is escapism, something people need to escape reality filled with crime riddled streets. The last thing someone needs is the dictates of actual law. Obviously a far stretch of the truth may be questioned.

What kind of research did you do for DAREDEVIL’S MISTRESS?

I’ve never been to the USA let alone on an actual ranch so I needed to research certain words and way of life on a ranch.

What are you working on now?

Book 2 of the Fire and Ice series.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t procrastinate, believe in yourself, and write, write, write, everything else will fall into place

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

Email: charlene@cybersolutions.co.za
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
Bookbub
Goodreads

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

EYE SPY, by Mercedes Lackey. I’ve been a fan of Lackey’s Valdemar series for a long time. The most recent sub-series, set in the early years of the Heralds’ Collegium as we know it in the chronologically later novels, focuses on Mags, an enslaved orphan who becomes a Herald and eventually the King’s Spy. EYE SPY and the previous novel, THE HILLS HAVE SPIES, star Mags’s children (who aren’t Heralds), as they follow in his footsteps by helping him deal with mysteries and crises that threaten the realm. The protagonist of EYE SPY, his daughter Abidela (Abi) discovers that she has a unique Gift, sensing stresses and strains in inanimate objects. This ability surfaces in a dramatic manner in the first chapter, when she realizes a bridge is about to collapse just in time to save many lives. As a result, Abi gets a much-coveted spot in the Artificers’ training college, where she finds out she enjoys math and has a flare for design and construction. While continuing her close friendship with the King’s daughter, Abi makes new friends among her classmates, as well as a bitter enemy whose influence pops up later in the story. The narrative time-skips past much of her classroom education to the point when she begins her Master Work, the design of a bridge to replace the destroyed one. Having proven herself, she joins an expedition to visit and help towns in a region that’s considering whether to request annexation by Valdemar. The narrative structure is rather episodic. Until the climactic events of the final challenge, each incident could almost stand alone, although some details provide connecting threads among the events. This novel constitutes, more than anything else, the story of Abi’s coming-of-age.

FIRE AND BLOOD, by George R. R. Martin. Set about 300 years before the “Song of Ice and Fire” saga, this book is a prequel, sort of. Not exactly, because FIRE AND BLOOD isn’t written as a novel but in the form of a history text. It begins with the career of Aegon the Conqueror, founder of the Targaryen dynasty, and his rise to power over the Seven Kingdoms. The book covers roughly the first half of the Targaryens’ domination, with a second volume to come (presumably to end with the fall of their dynasty shortly before GAME OF THRONES). Like a history text, the narrative consists more of “telling” than “showing,” although it does contain some dialogue passages and dramatized scenes. The Archmaester who recounts these events, like a real-world historian, identifies his sources, evaluates their reliability, and highlights episodes where historical memories and records contradict each other. There’s no shortage of scandalous and gory incidents. Even the longest, most peaceful reign in the covered period suffers its share of upheaval. The volume includes a list of rulers (with dates measured from the Conquest) and a family tree. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, written in a lively style that makes it almost as captivating (to a fan of Martin’s work, at least) as the novels, I confess to being confused at some points by the complex history. There are two other features I wish it contained: First, maps. Why aren’t there any maps? Second, a timeline of events, especially considering the huge cast of characters, many with the same or similar names (like real-life nobility and royalty, but they’re still confusing). Both of these items would help readers find their way again when they get lost in the story’s complexity. FIRE AND BLOOD, of course, is meant for fans of the main series; anyone unfamiliar with “A Song of Ice and Fire” would be lost from the beginning.

THE LADY’S GUIDE TO CELESTIAL MECHANICS, by Olivia Waite. This unusual historical romance, set in 1816, stars Miss Lucy Muchelney, whose astronomer father has recently died. A passionate devotee of the science herself, she had been doing most of his calculations during his last few years of life. Her artist brother thinks of her interest as a mere hobby that she, as a woman, can never do anything serious with, and he even suggests selling her telescope. Lucy receives a letter from the widow of one of her father’s correspondents, Catherine St. Day, Countess Moth, whose late husband was a famous globe-traveling astronomer. Catherine wants, if possible, to hire a protege of Lucy’s father to translate a French astronomical and mathematical treatise Catherine’s husband was scheduled to work on. Lucy travels to the Countess’s home in person to propose herself for the job. Impressed by the fact that Lucy had been doing much of the work attributed to her father, Catherine agrees to the proposition, but will the all-male Polite Science Society accept a female translator? Not surprisingly, they laugh at Lucy, so Catherine decides to finance the publication of Lucy’s proposed translation herself. Meanwhile, Lucy, although she’s heartbroken by the recent marriage of her female best friend and lover, finds herself attracted to Catherine. The slightly older Countess, at last free from her cold, domineering husband, discovers she has romantic feelings for Lucy, despite never having had a relationship with a woman before. Catherine is helped to recognize her newly awakened sexuality by the realization that her honorary “aunt,” her late mother’s dearest friend, was actually her mother’s lover. The text alludes several times to the fact that two men in the same position would be in actual danger, because male homosexual activity is a felony at this time. Since there’s no law against lesbianism, female lovers have no such problem as long as they remain discreet. (Though the novel doesn’t mention this fact, in the nineteenth century lavish expressions of affection between female friends were common enough that the polite fiction of “just dear friends” would have been easy to maintain.) The novel, however, deals realistically with the interpersonal problems generated by the differences in age, social status, and wealth between the two women, as well as the delicate situation of Catherine as Lucy’s financial patron in the translation project. The position of women in the sciences at that period is explored, with emphasis on the erasure from the public record of those educated, accomplished women who did exist. There’s also a black man from the Caribbean in the Society, whose presence highlights the position of people of color in intellectual circles in nineteenth-century Britain, much better than in the United States but still not equal in status to white men. Another entertaining feature of the story is the portrayal of Lucy’s difficulties and quandaries in translating the French text. Should she keep her version as literal as possible or expand upon the original to make it more accessible to non-specialist readers? The Society’s eventual meeting with the French author reveals a delightful surprise (delightful for the reader if not for the Society membership). Lucy and Catherine impress me as believable, likable characters, and this is an intelligent, engaging novel. I’ll probably keep a lookout for the second installment of Waite’s “Feminine Pursuits” romances.

A DOG’S PURPOSE, by W. Bruce Cameron. After watching the film of this bestseller, I read the novel almost immediately and found it interesting to note the changes from book to movie. As you may know, the story follows a dog through several reincarnations as he seeks the purpose for his existence through relationships with his various owners. (If you have a strong objection to spoilers, skip to the end of this paragraph, but I’m giving merely an outline of what you’d pretty much expect from reading a blurb for the book.) He’s first born to a stray, feral mother. After a short life ending in euthanasia, he is reborn in a puppy mill, almost dies of heatstroke in a car, and gets rescued by the mother of a boy named Ethan. Named Bailey, the dog has a long, happy life with his beloved boy. Next, “he” becomes a female German Shepherd who serves as a K-9 police dog. In the final life narrated in the novel, he spends a short time with an indifferent owner whose husband takes the dog into the countryside and abandons him. At last, he finds his way back to the place where he’d spent so many happy times with his boy and rediscovers Ethan, now a lonely, middle-aged man living on his late grandparents’ farm. The dog, now called Buddy, brings happiness back into Ethan’s life. The dog-narrator remembers all his lives, so things he learns in earlier incarnations enable him to help people along the way. The story is unashamedly sentimental, yet realistic in displaying the author’s careful research into the way dogs experience the world. The movie, while also narrated by the dog, includes direct exposure to the human characters’ viewpoints, which in the book we receive only as filtered through the dog’s often imperfect comprehension of what’s going on. The adaptation changes some plot elements, but not enough to alter the essentials of the story. For example, the dog’s first life is significantly shortened in the movie compared to the novel. The film makes the second half of his / her incarnation as a police dog into an entirely new life, in which the dog belongs to characters with the same names as those in the book but otherwise different. Finally, the movie has a more upbeat ending than the novel, though both are satisfying. Essentially, this story is BLACK BEAUTY with a dog instead of a horse. In both, the animal hero spends a long period of his early life with a loving owner from whom he gets separated, undergoes good and bad experiences with a variety of masters, and at last regains happiness with his beloved humans.

*****

Excerpt from “Virgin Blood”:

Mother Selene didn’t linger. It had been years since she had made any pretense that she and her ward got pleasure from each other’s company. Still, as Rapunzel fetched the empty baskets from the previous visit, she almost wished she could think of a topic to detain her guardian for a few minutes. Talking to the witch would be more interesting than talking to herself or the sparrows she sometime lured to the window with crumbs.

After giving her a cool kiss on the cheek, Mother Selene spoke the words that transformed Rapunzel’s hair once again into a shimmering net of gold. She descended to the ground, reversed the magic, and got into her waiting carriage, drawn by a single horse. A word of command, with no need for a hand on the reins, spurred the animal into motion. Rapunzel watched until the carriage disappeared into the woods.

Tired from her role in the ceremony, even though it drained only a few drops of her blood, she hung her ritual gown in the wardrobe and lay down, naked, on the bed. The breeze from the open window caressed her flesh, still warm from the magical energies. Her palms grazed her nipples, then stroked down over her chest and stomach to her thighs. She let her eyes drift shut.

Abruptly a voice broke into her half-dreaming state. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel!”

Her eyes snapped open. “Mother Selene?” No, the witch would have no reason to return. And the voice was a stranger’s. A deep voice that reverberated through Rapunzel like the peal of a huge bell.

“Who’s there?” she whispered. No one else ever came near the tower.

The voice called her again. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, answer me!”

She snatched her dressing gown from a chair by the bed and shrugged into it. She rushed to the window and looked down.

A tall, cloaked figure stood there, taller even than the witch, who towered over Rapunzel. It pushed back the hood of the cloak and stared up at her. Its eyes gleamed in the moonlight.

A man!

He flashed a smile. “Lovely Rapunzel, let me come up to you.”

“How do you know my name?” she called down.

“I overheard the witch speaking to you. May I come up?”

She wrapped her arms around herself. “You can’t, unless you have magic like hers. Do you?”

“Not exactly, but I can reach your window if you’re willing. You have to invite me.”

Mother Selene’s warnings raced through her mind. The outside world was not safe for young women. Rapunzel was cloistered here for her own protection. Men, especially, were little more than wild beasts on two legs. On the other side of the question, a flutter in the pit of Rapunzel’s stomach argued in the man’s favor. She told herself the excitement came from meeting someone new after all this time. She would risk any number of phantom hazards for a few hours of conversation with this stranger.

“Very well, I invite you. Come in.”

The man spread his cloak. It swirled around him like a windblown cloud. A second later, it shrank inward, and his body with it. Human limbs became wings. A huge, ghost-white owl soared up and flew in circles just outside the window.

Rapunzel’s breath caught in her throat. She backed away, one hand pressed to her mouth, the other to her pounding heart. The bird swooped in through the open shutters. It expanded to a column of dark mist, then shifted to man-shape.

-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