Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Different Blood

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

This month’s interviewee is romance author Debby Grahl.

*****

Interview with Debby Grahl:

What inspired you to begin writing?

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

What genres do you work in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

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

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

Debby Grahl
Facebook
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

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

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

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

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

*****

Excerpt from DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN:

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

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

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

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

-end of excerpt-

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

In March, The Romance Reviews website is celebrating its eighth anniversary with contests and giveaways. I’m participating, and my featured day will be March 19. I’m giving away a PDF of my vampire novel DARK CHANGELING:

The Romance Reviews

The excerpt below comprises the opening scene of “Cracked Portal,” one of the fantasy stories reprinted in my collection HARVEST OF MAGIC:

Harvest of Magic

This month I’m interviewing mystery, suspense, and paranormal author Julie M. Howard.

*****

Interview with Julie M. Howard:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I started reading very early and just absolutely, completely and fanatically fell in love with stories of all types. At first, it was fairy tales and Dr. Seuss, then the Brothers Grimm, and then onto all genres, from memoir to horror to historical fiction. I was jealous from the start that people created these stories, and knew I wanted to do this too. I became a reporter and editor for a career, and so wrote lots of non-fiction per se, but my first love has always been fiction. I feel so incredibly lucky I get to spend my time writing books now. It’s the best job in the world!

What genres do you work in?

Primarily mystery, but I do have an unpublished historical fiction manuscript in my desk drawer. My first two books are mystery/suspense and the most recent book, Spirited Quest, is a paranormal mystery.

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

I start with a good outline, so I have the general plot and story arc in place. I’ll jot down some key scenes I want to cover. From there, I basically wing it. My outline changes and stretches in places, but I don’t stress out about that. Once the characters come alive on the pages, I let them direct the story.

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

One of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck. I love how he could take a serious subject and create interesting characters to teach readers about it. Good and evil. The haves and have-nots. Human frailties. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering “What is it I’m trying to say with my story?”

You’ve ghost-written a nonfiction book—what was that process like?

Ghost-writing “Making my Own Luck,” a memoir by a Hewlett-Packard executive, was amazing for a couple of reasons. First, I was able to spend time with Ray Smelek, who knew both Bill Hewlett and David Packard. He was one of the early employees with HP and later started HP’s printing business. So, from a historical perspective, the project was fascinating. I also had a great time learning how to build a story over the course of a book – quite different than writing a newspaper article. I learned a book is not just a longer story – there’s a story arc to be developed. That’s when I decided to take a couple of classes to hone my book-writing skills.

Please tell us about your Wild Crime series. Your website mentions “domestic suspense”; how would you define that subgenre?

Ah, aren’t all relationships a story of domestic suspense? Love me, don’t love me? Who’s making dinner? Will we make it to twenty years?
All kidding aside, my books take on the marriage of a woman who comes to realize she’s in an abusive relationship. Not all abuse is violent or overt. Her abuse creeps up so slowly until, one day, she starts fantasizing about killing her husband. Things get worse from there.
The series picks at the scab of a wounded marriage, and brings healing to my main character.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the last book in the Wild Crime series. This one is simply called “Wild Crime.” I hope to send it to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, sometime this spring. I’ve also started developing a new mystery series that I’ll start just as soon as my current project is finished.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up. And never stop believing in yourself. This is a competitive business, but that has nothing to do with your value and the value of the story you want to tell. Keep at it. Expect rejection. And write some more.

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

Julie M. Howard Website,
Blog

I’m also on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook: @JulieMHowardAuthor

Twitter: @_JulieMHoward

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MISTRESS OF THE WIND, by E. Rose Sabin. Book One of the Arucadi series. Kyla, a windspeaker, serves her fellow townsfolk by communing with the wind to predict weather and warn of dangers that might threaten the village. The most dire of those are mindstealers, quasi-humanoid monsters that leave their victims mindless or dead. At the age of twelve, Kyla lost her parents to these creatures. Now, as a young woman, she receives only grudging respect from her neighbors, who often express doubts that the service she performs justifies the material support they give her. Her life changes when she rescues a man who has been attacked by mindstealers and left mindless. With the coerced help of a mindstealer she captures, she restores the victim to his senses. The magnetically attractive young man identifies himself as a famous mage, Alair. He seems strangely ungrateful for his rescue and impatient to find someone called Claid. Claid turns out to be his capricious familiar, in the form of a preteen boy. As a “reward” for Kyla’s help, Alair gives Claid to her. Her troubles begin when she takes the boy home with her. Misfortunes befall her neighbors, for which they blame Kyla. It doesn’t help that Claid seems to think she’s a mage, although she insists the windspeaking gift is not magic. He keeps referring to a “chain” that binds him to Alair and expects Kyla to free him. His only redeeming trait seems to be his reverence for the books she has inherited from her father. When Kyla and Claid are driven out of the village, they go to Alair’s home. At first Kyla thinks of the mage as a cruel master mistreating Claid, although Alair repeatedly tells her the boy is not what he seems. Unwillingly fascinated by Alair, despite the fact that (according to the tradition she has been taught) a windspeaker should have no lover but the wind, she wavers back and forth between distrust of Alair and uncertainty about Claid. When she eventually leaves the valley with Claid, she discovers the outside world to be radically different from her home. They find themselves in a sort of Victorian-level, nonmagical steampunk world. Kyla gets picked up as a vagabond and sent to a Dickensian workhouse, with Claid (now shapeshifted into the form of a baby) consigned to an orphanage. Kyla makes a friend at the workhouse and eventually learns secrets of her world, her own heritage, Claid’s true nature, and the value of her father’s books. Other than a feeling that the people outside the valley are overly quick to condemn Kyla on little evidence, I found the story engaging and satisfying. The author skillfully keeps the reader uncertain, for most of the book, whether to trust Alair or Claid and which one (if either) is more or less telling the truth. While this story reaches a conclusion with no frustrating cliffhanger elements, it has a strong sequel hook.

ORIGINS OF THE SPECIOUS, by Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman. An exploration and debunking of “myths and misconceptions” about the English language, published in 2009. The first chapter begins the book with an overview of some ways British and American English differ, the reasons for the divergences, and evidence that American English may legitimately be considered the “purer” of the two. Chapter Two, “Grammar Moses,” deconstructs “rules” that are no longer valid, many of which never were, such as the taboo on splitting infinitives. Other sections expose allegedly French-based words that aren’t and tackle the supposed origins of various proverbial expressions such as “the whole nine yards.” The authors discuss changes in pronunciation and the furor over words that have been condemned as ugly innovations (even some that have been around for centuries). The text unfolds the history of “ain’t,” which fills a need with a contraction that, unfortunately, has no grammatically “correct” equivalent. Widely believed linguistic “facts” are disproved (e.g., the vulgar term for excrement isn’t an abbreviation of “Ship High in Transit”). Chapter Eight, “Sense and Sensitivity,” delves into politically correct and incorrect vocabulary. The chapter on “Sex Education: Cleaning Up Dirty Words” debunks many erroneous beliefs about words that used to be designated as unprintable. No, the F-word, actually of venerable antiquity, does not derive from “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or any other farfetched acronym. O’Conner and Kellerman advance reasons why some fights should continue to be fought, such as reserving “unique” to mean “one of a kind” (no “quite unique” or “most unique” allowed). The book supports its points with exhaustive footnotes and includes a two-and-a-half-page bibliography. Very entertaining and informative.

SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT, by Theodora Goss. A collection of thirty-one stories and poems based on or inspired by fairy tales, some reprints, most original to this volume. All these works question “What if. . .?” or “What comes next. . .?” They make the familiar tales new and strange by switching viewpoints from “hero” to “villain” or changing time and/or place to a different milieu. To mention only a few: The poem “The Ogress Queen” offers the perspective of the prince’s cannibalistic mother from the second part of “Sleeping Beauty,” the follow-up that never seems to get into children’s books and movies. “The Rose in Twelve Petals” explores “Sleeping Beauty” from a variety of viewpoints, including that of the witch who casts the “curse”; beginning in what appears to be a nineteenth-century setting, it concludes a century later, when the “prince” breaks through the thorn hedge on a bulldozer instead of a horse. The poem “The Clever Serving Maid” reflects on the exchange of identities between the princess / goose girl and her maid from the viewpoint of the maid, who doesn’t want to marry a prince anyway. In “The Other Thea,” the heroine has to visit the castle of Mother Night in the Other Country to reunite with her lost shadow. The poem “Goldilocks and the Bear” portrays Goldilocks and the young bear as childhood friends who grow up to get married, while “Sleeping with Bears,” a comedy-of-manners story, features a wedding between a human girl and the scion of a wealthy bear family. In the poem “The Gold-Spinner,” the miller’s daughter, who actually spun straw into gold on her own, makes up the tale of a strange little man to get out of marrying the king. In the story “Red as Blood and White as Bone,” set in an imaginary central European country in the first half of the twentieth century, the narrator, an orphaned kitchen-maid in a nobleman’s castle, befriends a strange woman she believes—under the influence of fairy tales—to be a princess in disguise. The “princess” turns out to be something quite different but equally mysterious, on a mission that doesn’t involve marrying the prince. A witch tells the heroine of “Seven Shoes” that she will get what she wants after wearing through seven pairs of shoes; the poem follows her through successive stages of her life to the point where, having worn out many types of shoes, she attains her dream of becoming a writer. A must-read for fans of re-imagined fairy tales.

*****

Excerpt from “Cracked Portal”:

A pale glow from no visible source etched the silhouettes of gnarled, leafless trees against a silver and steel-blue landscape. Glenys trudged through an earthbound cloud of gray mist that swirled around her bare feet and ankles. What she glimpsed of the dark sky showed neither moon nor stars. Something shrieked in the distance.

From above, a winged creature with a barbed tail swooped at her. She crouched, covering her head. The flying thing’s talons clawed her arms, and its tail whipped her in passing. Rolling away from the attack, she cast a lightning bolt at the flyer. With a shrill cry, it veered skyward. Glenys scrambled to her feet and staggered toward an oval of violet light she could barely see between the trees. Vines looped around her legs and scratched her with their thorns.

The same as the night before, she reached the violet beacon just as a hot blast of wind with an odor of charred meat hit her from behind. A high-pitched whine drilled into her skull. She glanced back to catch sight of a smoke-hued, serpentine form as big around as her own body and so long she couldn’t see its other end. It charged toward her. She plunged through the portal…

#
Glenys slammed onto the workroom floor. Sitting up, she saw by the moonlight shining through the window that she’d again landed inside the ritual circle painted on the polished wood. She brushed at her dust-streaked night shift and rubbed the fresh bruises on her knees.

I never sleepwalk, and these are definitely not dreams. I’ve been…elsewhere.

She shoved herself upright and limped into the bedroom where she’d lain down to sleep a few hours earlier. After washing her scrapes and cuts, she spread healing salve on them, augmented by a murmured spell. If nothing else, the wounds proved the reality of her experience. She stretched out on the bed, drawing slow, deep breaths to force herself to relax.

No wonder the town council of Willowford had offered her the old wizard’s vacant house during her visit. Doubtless nobody else would want to spend a night here. Why would he have cast a portal spell and left it running wild? Something must have gone wrong with his magic. Whatever it was, she’d have to fix it or cut her stay short. She’d come here to treat injuries and ailments beyond the scope of the village healer, scry for lost trinkets or wandering livestock, and predict the chances of success for harried business-folk or desperate lovers. She hadn’t counted on getting repeatedly dragged into a pocket dimension infested with monsters.

-end of excerpt-

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the February 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 annual vampire fiction bibliography update is now available. If you’d like to receive a copy of the file, you can request it by e-mail: MLCVamp@aol.com

Below is another short excerpt from my new paranormal romance novella “Yokai Magic,” which you can find here:

Yokai Magic

The current scene occurs immediately after Val’s cat, Toby, chases a barely-glimpsed, unidentified creature out of the living room.

This month I’m interviewing Australian thriller writer Stephen B. King.

*****

Interview with Stephen B. King:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written all my life, starting with poems and short stories in my youth, then I left school and got involved with the music business as a guitarist and had a ball writing songs. But then real life popped its head up, so along came marriage and children, and working for a living – a guy can’t have fun all his life, can he?

I spoke about writing a book for so long, it drove my wife nuts. Then out of the blue I heard a song, “Nevermind,” by Leonard Cohen (theme song for True Detective 2) and suddenly inspiration hit me like a lightning bolt. My wife, to shut me up, bought me a laptop, and told me no more excuses write the damn book. Now as I approach book number 10, I think maybe she regrets that.

Inspiration for stories comes in many ways. Coming up with ideas isn’t my problem, It’s finding the time to write them, then re-write them five times (my minimum) then the editing rounds……..

What genres do you work in?

Call me morbid, by all means, but the world of serial killers has always fascinated me. It must run in my family because my daughter is in her last year of university studying criminal psychology. A good friend is also a psychologist, and his wife is a renowned sport psychologist, and they have all been a good source of research.
When I write a story about a killer, I like to ‘get inside’ their head and show the reader how and why they became that way. Let’s face it, it doesn’t just happen that a ‘normal’ person wakes up one day and decides to kill people. While I don’t like to glamorize it, I do like to show the human side, and get the reader to invest in the character. If I can do that – watch out, we’re going on a roller coaster ride.
I’ve also written Thirty-Three Days, a romantic thriller using time travel. When inspiration hits, I will write anything. I’m also working up some ideas for a series of comedy stories involving a large car dealership (I work in one myself) An author, I believe, should be able to write anything, rather than get stuck in one genre – says he as he begins yet another thriller……..

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

Mostly my stories come from a spark of an idea, and for me to explore that I write it. I then write chronologically from that point on and see where it leads. Once I start I do not plan the ending, I work my way towards it, and I find that often I’m surprised myself at what I write. I also think it makes it fresher if I don’t know what’s coming.
For me, writing is all about bringing to life characters, getting the reader to invest in them, and even care for them. And, if I achieve that, then I can put those ordinary characters into extraordinary situations. My new release Glimpse Series, at its core is about desire. The effect that sexual desire can have on the marriages of the protagonists, it’s also about Pat’s desire to use her abilities on the front line of a major police investigation to catch a murderer. Also, of course it’s about the skewed desire that a serial killer has, to murder his victims.

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

Authors, there are a few: my famous namesake is right up there for putting characters you love in harm’s way. Of recent times I’ve fallen in literary love with Scandinavian writers and two are the finest authors I’ve ever read; both now deceased, unfortunately. Stieg Larsen and Henning Mankell. The former penned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and the latter the brilliant Wallander series. Two TV shows made me sit up and take notice and realize how good TV can be, a British one called Wire in the Blood, and the second was American: True Detective. A really good thriller/police procedural I think is the best there is, so I try to emulate what I like to read and see.

Your website includes an essay on why people are fascinated with murder. Could you give us a brief summary of your answer to that question?

As I alluded to in that article, I think it’s because we yearn to know why. Why would someone do hideous things to other human beings yet appear outwardly normal? In my latest trilogy, I explored that extensively with three different killers, with three different motivations and each are radically different to the other. Of course in my case, it’s fiction, but I try to get the psychology aspect as close as I can to factual because I think its important to try to show the answer to that question: Why?

What kind of research have you done for your fiction about serial killers?

I’ve read extensively, and talked to people in the field of mental health, in my attempts to try to portray sufferers in the right light. We must remember that often they don’t think they have a problem; it’s us ‘normal’ people who do. Some ailments are born from physical causes; electrical impulses short circuiting from a blow on the head as a child etc. Other problems are often caused by a series of events and the psyche has created personas to protect the sufferer – these are the most tragic of all. I read an article that said we only use 10% of our brain consciously, which begs the question: What’s the other 90% for? The human brain is capable of great good – think Einstein, Stephen Hawkins, but also great evil- Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam. Most of us thankfully live in the middle ground.

Please tell us a bit about your experience in having your work adapted to audiobook format.

So far only 1, called Thirty-Three Days. But Glimpse, Memoir of a Serial Killer is in production now. I can only say it is an incredible experience and one I would recommend to any author if you get the chance. To hear my words performed by an actor was one of the highlights of my life, which still gives me goosebumps when I think of it now. When it was finished and released, I bought a copy, and listened to it without trying to edit or find fault, and it was amazing.

What are you working on now?

There is an urban myth that the ACDC song called Highway to Hell, was written by Bon Scott (RIP) about the highway which runs between Perth (where I live) and our port city of Fremantle (where we defended the America’s cup from the first time it left America). It’s a, to use an Aussie slang term, a mongrel of a road at any time, but in rush hour, it’s dreadful. So, I’m working on a thriller called Breakdown on the Highway to Hell, about three women who go missing after breaking down in rush hour traffic…….

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice: 1….. Never give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it – you can. Rejections will come by the bucket full, but treat each one as a stepping stone to success. 2…. Write from your heart, and edit with your head.

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

All my books are available via Amazon, Goodreads, itunes etc And I always respond to comments and reviews – email me, tell me what you think of any of my books.

Stephen B King
Stephen B. King
twitter: @stephenBKing1
Facebook: @stephenbkingauthor

Thank you for hosting me, and letting me ramble on

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

IN AN ABSENT DREAM, by Seanan McGuire. The fourth book in the “Wayward Children” series, which began with EVERY HEART A DOORWAY. That novel takes place in a boarding school for children and teenagers who have returned to our reality after time spent in another world accessed through a magic portal. Each of the following books deals with the individual experiences of various characters. IN AN ABSENT DREAM stands perfectly well on its own. In fact, it’s almost better not to have read the original novel first, because that one reveals the ultimate fate of this newest story’s protagonist. Katherine Lundy is “ordinary enough to have become remarkable entirely without noticing it.” A quiet child who follows the rules and keeps her thoughts to herself, she prefers to spend most of her time reading. In 1964, at the age of eight, she stumbles upon a door in a tree. On the door are the words “Be sure.” When she enters, the door vanishes, leaving her in a long, curved hallway. Signs on the walls proclaim five rules: Ask for nothing. Names have power. Always give fair value. Take what is offered and be grateful. Remember the curfew. At last she emerges into the Goblin Market, a combination of a carnival, a farmer’s market, and a craft fair, thronged by people many of whom don’t look human. Lundy (as she decides to call herself to avoid giving away the power of her first name) quickly finds a friend in Moon, an owl-eyed girl with feathers in her hair. Moon introduces her to a woman called the Archivist, a mentor figure who impresses on Lundy the importance of giving fair value and not accumulating debts. Feathers like Moon’s symbolize what happens to people who fall too deeply into debt; if they don’t balance accounts, they eventually lose their humanity altogether. Unlike most worlds where magic portals lead, the Goblin Market allows multiple visits. Lundy goes back and forth, torn between the faerie realm she considers her true home and mundane life with her family. She loves her parents and sister but can’t imagine being content with this life. Her father, having visited the Goblin Market in his own childhood, sympathizes but of course wants her to stay in the “real” world. The “curfew” looms, her eighteenth birthday, by which she must choose to live permanently in one world or the other. This anguished dilemma remains in the foreground. Dramatic events such as her heroic battle against the Wasp Queen and the death of a friend happen offstage. IN AN ABSENT DREAM is a story of inexorable choice, with no unambiguously “happy ending” possible.

THE WICKED KING, by Holly Black. Sequel to THE CRUEL PRINCE. The prince of the first book (who wasn’t quite so cruel as he appeared) has become the king of the present novel. Whether he’s truly “wicked” remains an open question. Jude, the mortal girl brought up in Elfhame as a foster daughter by the elven warrior who murdered her parents, again narrates the story (in present tense, annoyingly). The new king, Cardan, has bound himself to obey her commands for a year and a day. He resents this obligation, of course, and she tries to exercise her power only when absolutely unavoidable. She also carefully prevents anyone else from knowing she holds this control over the king. She has enemies, one of whom tries to poison her. Meanwhile, her secret role as a spy complicates her life. Court intrigue makes every choice open to her hazardous. When the Queen of Undersea demands that the King of Elfhame marry her daughter, Jude strives to save Cardan and his realm despite her ambivalent relationship with him. Like the previous novel, THE WICKED KING highlights the perilous existence of a mortal in the elven world. The unexpected conclusion could be the end of Jude’s story, but I suspect there’s more to come.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS, by Laura E. Weymouth. This portal fantasy, like EVERY HEART A DOORWAY but with a very different approach, explores how the protagonists cope with the aftermath of returning to our world from a sojourn in a magical realm. Incidents from their life in the other world and the six years between their return and the story’s present are framed as flashbacks. (The first-person accounts, both now and then, are narrated in present tense, and, still more annoyingly, all the flashbacks appear in italics.) During a bombing raid in World-War-II London, siblings James, Philippa, and Evelyn disappear from their backyard shelter and appear in a place called the Woodlands. The lordly stag Corvus, Guardian of the Woodlands, in response to Evelyn’s desperate plea to be “anywhere but here,” has transported them between universes. Evelyn longs to stay, but Philippa wants to go home and agrees to remain for a while only when Corvus promises that no time will pass back in London. Their parents will be safe and never know the children were gone. James, eager to play a significant role in this world that he can’t in Earth’s war, gladly accepts Corvus’s invitation. Beautiful and peaceful though this country is, it’s threatened by invasion from the Empire, whose ruler demands submission and tribute from the Woodlanders, including freedom to cut down sentient trees for the Empire’s war resources. Corvus, although magical, doesn’t have the godlike power of Aslan in Narnia. The war wreaks devastation on the Woodlands before victory is finally achieved. Even so, Evelyn is happy there. When Corvus keeps his promise to send the three children (now young adults) home, James and Philippa welcome the return, while Evelyn is essentially dragged along against her will. In one important factor glossed over by Lewis in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, Evelyn suffers wrenching dislocation at suddenly being thirteen again after having grown into a young woman in the Woodlands. She has to live through the ages between thirteen and eighteen twice. (That DOES sound to me like a fate almost worse than death.) As the novel begins in the story’s present day, she’s at a boarding school as the British equivalent of an American high school senior. James attends Oxford, and Philippa has gone away to Harvard. Although Evelyn tries to fit in as her family and schoolmates expect her to, she yearns for “home” and continues to feel disconnected from her mundane life. Philippa, on the other hand, embracing normality, armors herself in “powder and pumps,” the conventional persona of a bright, attractive young woman. In Narnian terms, Evelyn corresponds to Lucy and Philippa to Susan, except that Philippa never denies the reality of the Woodlands. After almost six years back in the “real” world, Evelyn becomes close to a boy her own age and begins to feel almost at home in this universe. This change, however, feels to her like a betrayal of her true home, the Woodlands. The second half of the book, narrated by Philippa, begins with Evelyn’s disappearance. Philippa goes back to England, struggling with guilt over having, as she sees it, abandoned her sister. Her anguish over not knowing what has happened to Evelyn is vividly rendered. Is Evelyn dead, possibly by suicide, as generally assumed, or has she found her way back to the Woodlands? The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but it’s bittersweet, not an unequivocally “happy” ending.

*****

Excerpt from “Yokai Magic”:

“Way to go,” she said to the cat. “You flushed out some kind of creepy-crawly and then lost it. Now I have to spend all night worrying if it’s loose in the house.” He sat down and licked his front paws, each in turn, with his ears twitching as if he acknowledged her scolding but couldn’t bother with a response. “Best case, it was just a big, white moth. I could live with that.”

After one more scan of the kitchen and a survey of the dining room, just in case, she succumbed to second thoughts and checked the den and laundry room as well. Nothing. In the den, she did notice that the high-backed, rattan papasan chair, another souvenir her grandfather had picked up in Japan, sat in the middle of the floor instead of where it belonged. She’d taken photos of it the evening before to compare with online images of furniture of similar origin and age, in case it might be valuable enough to bother selling. Probably she’d repositioned it for better lighting and absentmindedly neglected to move it back. She shrugged at her own flakiness and tugged the chair into its usual corner.

After pouring herself a glass of Riesling, she settled on the living-room couch to watch a nature program she’d recorded earlier in the week. Toby curled up next to her with his plumed tail over his nose. She stroked him to calm herself.

Halfway through the life cycle of dolphins, she glimpsed movement from the corner of her eye. Is it back? She glanced up and located the disturbance above the fireplace. The two ivory figurines on the mantel, which her grandfather had bought in Japan, the ones she’d been seeking documentation for, twitched their limbs. The dragon spread its lacy batwings and glided to the edge of the hearth. The octopus stretched its tentacles and crept down the fire-guard screen. Toby uncurled his long, fluffy body, flexed his claws, and hissed.

Val slowly pulled herself to her feet, clutching the wing-backed end of the couch. “You see that?” she whispered. Maybe that’s what happened to the cat statuette. It got up and walked away, too.

The dragon and octopus scrabbled onto the carpet, their respective legs and tentacles clicking like a handful of dice. The cat lashed his tail and hissed again. Her breath caught in her throat. This is not happening. She flapped both hands at the animated figurines. They halted, the dragon’s wings vibrating and four of the octopus’s limbs suspended off the floor. Toby sprang at them. They both skittered up the screen to their places on the mantel.

Val collapsed onto the couch, trembling, with her face in her hands.

When her pulse slowed, she peeked between her fingers. The dragon and octopus sat in the positions they’d occupied ever since her family had bought the house. Toby jumped onto the cushion beside her and licked his tail. “That didn’t happen, right?” she asked him. He blinked at her. “I dozed off and had a really weird dream.” After her hands stopped shaking, she gulped the rest of her wine, turned off the TV, and went up to bed.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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