Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween!

Harlequin has scheduled a 31-percent-off Halloween sale. On Halloween, visit their website and apply this code: NEVERMORE31

For those who haven’t read EMBRACING DARKNESS, a stand-alone vampire romance in my “Vanishing Breed” universe, here’s a chance to buy the e-book at a large discount:

Harlequin

An excerpt appears below. Heroine Linnet and hero Max (a vampire, though she doesn’t know that yet) are preparing to interrogate a minion of the female vampire responsible for the deaths of Linnet’s niece and Max’s younger brother.

G. Kent (whose vampire trilogy I review below) posted a wonderful 5-star review of DARK CHANGELING on Amazon:

Amazon Review of Dark Changeling

October’s interviewee is multi-genre romance author Marie Dry.

*****

Interview with Marie Dry:

Thanks for having me over Margaret. I love talking about writing and my stories.

*What inspired you to begin writing?*

I’ve made up stories ever since I can remember. I first wrote something down at seven. Sadly that masterpiece was lost.

*What genres do you work in?*

I have one Paranormal Romance book and six Science Fiction Romance Books published. I am also working on a steampunk trilogy, contemporary romance and more Paranormal Romance Series and a Dragon Story. If it’s a romance genre I probably have an idea somewhere in a file or on my computer that will fit the genre.

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

I “wing it”. I’d love to be able to outline and shave some time off my process but that just doesn’t work for me. Any planning I do is with character development. I always have this suspicion that people that plot know things I’m supposed to know.

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

Jayne Anne Krentz is one of the biggest influences. A few of my favorite authors are Nalini Singh, Georgette Heyer, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan and of course my CP Cassandra L. Shaw and many more. The stories have always been there, I think of myself as a story teller and through good times and bad I could depend on the characters in my head to get me through anything.

*How would you describe your dragons?*

Different from what you’d expect a dragon to be and about to meet a catalyst in the form of my heroine.

*How do your vampires differ from the “traditional” type?*

They are elitist and arrogant, so not that much different from most vampires. When I write Alaina and the Vampire I will learn more about them.

*What’s your world-building procedure for alien cultures? Do you keep a series “bible” for each of your series?*

I have a rough bible for the Zyrgin Warrior series. I have an extra set of my books which I use to keep myself reminded of all the facts in the series. It’s full of post-it stickers and with relevant passages highlighted. I do world building the way I plot. By the seat of my pants.

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

Dawn of the Cyborg came out 1 September and next will be Alien Redeemed. After that I will either write the next Cyborg or Alien Rescue.

*What are you working on now?*

Alien Redeemed.

*What advice would you give to aspiring writers?*

Write every day, enjoy the writing process and learn the craft of writing. But above all enjoy the characters in your head and their stories.

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

Marie Dry

Facebook

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

GRANADA HILLS BLOOD WAR and GRANADA HILLS BLOOD LUST, by G. Kent. These two novels complete the vampire trilogy begun in GRANADA HILLS BLOOD. In the first novel, Bach, a native of Bakersfield, California, now living and teaching high school in Granada Hills, gets transformed into a vampire. He quits his job, embraces a new lifestyle, and learns of the ongoing feud between the minority of killer vampires and the generally benign majority. Bach reconnects with Annie Mosher, a former girlfriend, who aligns with the killer vampires and betrays him. He converts and falls in love with a woman named Sophie. In the second and third novels, Bach becomes more deeply initiated into the vampire world. He meets older, wiser undead and teams up with police officers who know about the killer vampires and, in a sometimes precarious alliance, fight against them alongside the non-killers. Annie reappears, her allegiance and moral stance remaining ambiguous. Some people Bach honors and cares for die. In the course of the “blood war,” he discovers the dangerously addictive quality of draining blood, especially vampire blood, in act of killing. Bach’s California milieu is permeated with popular culture, especially the movies of recent decades. Film stars are frequently name-checked and sometimes appear in person. The practice of including living celebrities as characters strikes me as legally risky, although at least the narrator doesn’t say anything derogatory about them. Johnny Depp appears as a vampire, but he’s a nice one. I admire the way this author gives his vampires several unique features. A fledgling vamp will become ill if he tries to go outside the boundaries of his territory. He also needs to consume blood from residents of his home territory. As a vampire grows older, his or her range gradually expands. Although these vampires do need blood, they can also eat and drink ordinary foods and beverages. In an intriguing innovation, mercury acts like “kryptonite” for vampires. A knife blade or a bullet coated with mercury can seriously wound or even kill one of the undead. Bach struggles with not only addiction to the kill (a not-uncommon motif in vampire fiction), but also, more unusually, with depression, personified as the “black dog” of melancholy. It bothers me that Bach so casually resorts to stealing to support himself (even if he can’t teach or coach in the high school anymore, there are plenty of night jobs he might work at). Otherwise, though, he’s a pretty decent guy. Fans of stories that explore the plight of an ordinary person adjusting to the demands of a vampire existence should enjoy this trilogy.

ALTERNATE ROUTES, by Tim Powers. This is a rich and strange work of fantasy, as one would expect from the author of THE STRESS OF HER REGARD and THE ANUBIS GATES. This latest novel reveals ghosts haunting the Los Angeles freeway system. The “currents” generated by the flow of traffic on the freeways attract the spirits of the dead. Ex-Secret-Service agent Sebastian Vickery (not his real name) is in danger from a covert branch of his former service that investigates the freeway ghosts or, as they’re officially labeled, “deleted persons.” Vickery had to leave the Secret Service when he accidentally overheard a fragment of speech the authorities didn’t want him to know about. Now he drives for a “supernatural evasion car service” (as the cover blurb puts it) disguised as a fleet of food trucks. In the first chapter, Ingrid Castine, an agent who has become disillusioned with her organization, saves his life in a gunfight. Thus begins a shared road trip along the highways of both mundane southern California and a surreal alternate dimension. The covert agents, under the supervision of Terracotta, a creepy antagonist who has rejected the concept of free will and the reality of consciousness, monitor and sometimes communicate with deleted persons. Precautions must be taken; for instance, if you speak to a ghost in complete sentences, it may be able to track you down. Therefore, a circle of three or four agents reads a message from a written script, one word per person at a time. As fugitives on the L.A. freeways, Vickery and Castine seek help from several quirky characters. Also, Vickery encounters his dead wife, who committed suicide after learning that they couldn’t conceive children (because he had a vasectomy before they met). The conventional wisdom holds that ghosts aren’t the people they appear to be, but only simulacra with their memories. Yet they THINK they are the people who died, so don’t they deserve to be treated with consideration? In addition to the spirits of the dead, the freeway also harbors the “never born,” shades of individuals who might have existed in a different reality but never lived in ours. Vickery and Castine meet one such shade, his potential daughter. When Castine drives onto an on-ramp that shouldn’t be there and instantly vanishes after passing through the portal, Vickery follows her into the other dimension to bring her back. They have to anchor themselves against the chaos of that realm by fixating on logical, immutable facts such as basic math. They each carry a string abacus and constantly remind each other (for example) that two and two equal four. At the heart of the chaotic landscape stands “the factory,” opposite to the ever-shifting unreality of that world—a site, rather, of “hyper-reality.” Similarly to the mythological allusions in THE STRESS OF HER REGARD, this novel identifies the alternate-dimension freeway Labyrinth with the maze constructed by Daedalus in Greek legend. ALTERNATE ROUTES offers a riveting combination of terror, courage, love, and fascinatingly weird science-fantasy inventiveness.

FLIGHT OR FRIGHT, edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent. A mostly-reprint anthology of horror stories featuring airplanes. It begins with an introduction by King and ends with an afterword by Vincent, and King prefaces each story with brief commentary. “About the Authors” includes a full paragraph of biographical background on each contributor. The contents range as far into the past as “The Horror of the Heights,” a terrifying adventure by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ambrose Bierce’s sardonic short-short piece, “The Flying Machine.” The best-known tale in the batch is Richard Matheson’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” about an airline passenger who spots a gremlin on the wing, filmed as a classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode. Almost all the others were new to me. This book provides a valuable historical overview of air travel as a motif in horror fiction. Naturally, I like some of the stories more than others, but they all showcase high-quality writing. Two were written especially for this volume: “The Turbulence Expert,” by Stephen King, features a man who has the covert job of riding on commercial flights, going through traumatic psychic ordeals to prevent them from crashing. “You Are Released,” by King’s son Joe Hill, told from the viewpoints of multiple passengers and crew members on a commercial jet, follows the airliner’s suspenseful quest for safe harbor after an international crisis erupts into war. My one gripe about this volume is that the stories appear neither in alphabetical order by author nor in chronological order of publication (which would be preferable). Why do so many anthologies have apparently random layouts?

*****

Excerpt from EMBRACING DARKNESS:

The door behind her swung open. Linnet jumped. In the heat of the conversation, she’d forgotten about Max lurking outside. He darted around her so fast her head spun, grabbed the young man, and shoved him onto the couch. “Linnet, lock the door,” he growled without looking at her.

Shaking, she fumbled for the doorknob, closed and locked the door, and hooked the chain. The man didn’t even try to fight off Max. Instead, he gibbered incoherent phrases that conveyed nothing but terror.

“Shut up.” At Max’s quiet command, the man fell silent. “You will be quiet and listen. You will not speak or move unless I order you to. Is that clear?” The man nodded. Though he slumped, with his arms limp at his sides, his eyes stayed wide open. “Good. Now sit still.”

Linnet couldn’t help retreating a step when Max walked over to her. “You hypnotized him somehow.” She’d never heard of any form of hypnosis that worked so fast, with no soothing chants or shiny focal objects.

“More or less.” His hands skimmed up her bare arms to settle on her shoulders.

Recalling the vertigo that swept over her each time his eyes captured hers, she said, “You tried to do the same to me. But you can’t.”

“So I’ve concluded. Very intriguing.” One of his hands crept from her shoulder to her neck. His cool fingers on the flushed skin made her shiver. “But I don’t want you to hear my conversation with our host, so—”

She felt pressure on the side of her neck. Gray spots clustered before her eyes. He’s strangling me! The gray thickened to black. With a sensation like a rapid fall in an elevator, she tumbled into the blackness.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

Happy Labor Day to my American readers!

G. Kent, author of the “Granada Hills” vampire trilogy, gave my DARK CHANGELING, vampire horror with romantic elements, a 5-star review on Amazon:

Dark Changeling Review

He says:

“The book is an absolute page-turner, and you don’t have to be a fan of the genre to delight in the hunger and intoxication. Highly recommended!”

Below is an excerpt from “Dusting Pixie,” a humorous fantasy short story in my Kindle collection HARVEST OF MAGIC, which you can find here:

Harvest of Magic

This month, I’m interviewing multi-genre author Nancy Northcott.

*****

Interview with Nancy Northcott:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve always been interested in “What if…?” That led me to writing Legion of Super-Heroes fan fiction, and people who read my stories encouraged me to create my own worlds.

What genres do you work in?

I write paranormal romantic suspense, nonmagical romantic suspense, historical fantasy, and space opera.

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

I guess I’m in between. I outline major turning points, but I give myself permission to change them if I get an idea I really love.

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

I grew up reading comic books, Nancy Drew, historical fiction, and YA romance. If you look at my bookshelf, you can see the influences of those childhood favorites.

Do you maintain “series bibles” for your various series?

This is one of those “should” things. *g* I have one for the Outcast Station space opera series because my co-author, Jeanne Adams, and I could never have collaborated on the world without one. My Light Mages do not have one, alas, and they really need one. So do the other series, but the rest aren’t far enough along to make writing the bible daunting. The Light Mage Wars are, though. I need to block out time and just do that.

Please tell us about Wayfarer, Georgia.

It’s a small town near the Okefenokee Swamp. Wayfarer is different from most small, southern towns in that the whole town loves the paranormal. It’s a very New Age place, with the Serenity’s Rainbow coffee shop, Fairy’s Table bakery, etc. I grew up in a small, southern town, and while it was somewhat annoying have everyone in everyone else’s business, the sense of community made a lot of that okay. So I wanted Wayfarer to have that.

I created the town when I wrote Renegade because I didn’t want Griffin Dare, the hero, to be totally alone. He was a fugitive from mage justice, but I wanted him to have a place he could belong. That was the seed that sprouted into Wayfarer.

What are the basic principles of magic in your Light Mages series?

It’s nature-based magic. Mages draw natural energy from the world around them. There’s only so much one can draw at a time, and the power requires replenishment. The mages’ deadly enemies, the ghouls, have magical power, but it’s dark energy. Any power they absorb goes dark.

Please tell us about some of the resources available under “Extras” on your website.

You may have noticed that I’m still working on that area. What I have posted is kind of a hodge-podge. I have tips on contest entries and conference interactions for control freaks. I also have an essay about my longstanding interest in Richard III and the controversy surrounding him. That interest inspired my Boar King’s Honor trilogy.

The next release in the Light Mage Wars, Nemesis, is set in Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia, more than it is in the Okefenokee. I have a blog post called “On Location: Nemesis” with photos of the places I visited researching that book. I hope to do posts like that for every series, though probably not for every book.

There are also thumbnail summaries of books I’ve found informative about historical periods, mostly medieval England. I’m a history geek, so I love reading about the ways people lived in earlier eras.

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

My next release is Nemesis, the next Light Mage Wars book. It’s about Tasha Murdock and Carter Lockwood, two mages who met a decade ago, when both were serving in the US Navy, but parted on bad terms. It’s set up by a scene in Warrior, the prior book in the series, where the two meet again. Now she’s a general contractor and interior designer and he’s a deputy shire reeve, the mage world’s equivalent of a Deputy US Marshal.

Duty kept them apart before. Now danger reunites them, with Carter determined to protect Tasha from the ghouls targeting her. Of course the old attraction between them blooms, but a secret in her past makes her reluctant to believe what they have can last.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a fantasy project that’s too unformed to discuss yet and on my novella for Christmas on Outcast Station, the followup Jeanne Adams and I are doing to our anthology Welcome to Outcast Station. It’s space opera, and we’ll each have a novella in it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Study the craft. Learn characterization, conflict, and structure. Learn punctuation and grammar because they help writers express ideas clearly.

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

My website is Nancy Northcott, and the blog, where I post very irregularly, is linked to the homepage. On Twitter, I’m @NancyNorthcott, and my Facebook page is Facebook.

Thanks for having me, Margaret!

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

DEEP ROOTS, by Ruthanna Emrys. A sequel to WINTER TIDE, the first book in the Innsmouth Legacy series, in which we met Aphra Marsh, her brother, Caleb, and their foster-sister, Neko (whose family, during World War II, had been confined to the same internment camp where the survivors of the raid on Innsmouth had been imprisoned). In WINTER TIDE, Aphra and the other characters developed relationships with, among others, Professor Trumbull of Miskatonic University, whose mind had spent years on a distant planet while her body hosted a member of the alien race called Outer Ones, and FBI agent Ron Spector, who sympathizes with the Innsmouth remnant and has become almost a friend. In DEEP ROOTS, Aphra and Caleb are trying to track down other survivors or people with at least some Deep One blood in order to rebuild Innsmouth. They find a young man named Freddy, part Deep One, who’s involved with the Outer Ones. In the process of negotiating the tricky interactions that result, they also run into the Mi-Go, an even more enigmatic and potentially dangerous alien species. On top of the preternatural threats, Aphra and her friends have to adjust to the unfamiliar milieu of New York. I always enjoy a good revisionist Lovecraftian tale, and this series definitely qualifies. Through Aphra’s first-person narrative, we see her people as, rather than hideous hybrid abominations, simply another race with their own customs, gods, and history of persecution. Other characters’ viewpoints also appear, and the author helpfully provides date headers to help the reader keep track of the chronological shifts. The two species of aliens, the Innsmouth folk, and agents of the federal government interact in tense but not necessarily hostile confrontations. In the story thus far, Aphra doesn’t attain her goal as she originally envisions it, but she does reach a tentative compromise she can live with.

SILVER ON THE ROAD, by Laura Anne Gilman. This 2015 novel, first in the Devil’s West series, takes place in an alternate nineteenth-century North America divided into the United States in the east, the Spanish Protectorate in the southwest (a larger area than in our history), “unclaimed lands” in the northwest, and, between the Spanish and American possessions, the Territory. A man known as the devil rules the Territory from his headquarters at the saloon/casino in the small frontier town of Flood. It gradually becomes clear that he isn’t literally Satan, the fallen angel, but he’s definitely some kind of supernatural being who drives hard but fair bargains. Sixteen-year-old Isobel has grown up in the saloon as the devil’s ward, indentured to him by her parents when she was only two. She’s comfortable in her life there, hard-working though it is, and thinks of the devil as simply “the boss.” On her sixteenth birthday, however, her indenture expires, and she must choose the direction of her future. She wants to stay in Flood, working directly for the boss, and he agrees to enter a contract with her. She becomes the Devil’s Left Hand, destined to represent him to the people of the Territory. To her dismay, the first thing she has to do is leave her home and travel around the land, learning its ways and her own abilities. The boss makes a bargain with a stranger in town, Gabriel, to act as her guide and mentor, teaching her how to survive on the road. She already knows a lot about such vital matters as using silver for protection, being careful at crossroads, and avoiding magicians, but she has much more to learn. Gabriel, born in the Territory, trained as a lawyer in the urban American east, and now returned “home,” has his own secrets. On their journey, he teaches her both mundane wilderness survival skills and supernatural lore she hasn’t previously encountered. He’s quite human, though, while Isobel’s bargain with the devil grants her preternatural gifts she must explore and learn to control. Along the way, they meet a magician, an often annoying trickster character who latches onto them as a traveling companion and sort-of ally. A strong relationship develops between Isobel and Gabriel, although with no tinge of romance, given their age difference (so far, anyway). Demons as well as other dangers prowl the Territory. Eventually Isobel and Gabriel discover a dark force rampaging and killing across the land, worse than any demon. The world-building, vividly described and often menacing settings, and strong characters make this novel well worth the attention of dark fantasy fans.

SEA WITCH, by Sarah Henning. This revisionist novel based on “The Little Mermaid” tells the tale of a girl who ultimately becomes the Sea Witch of the fairy tale. It’s set in a version of nineteenth-century Denmark where magic is real. (I assume that to be the period because, although sailing ships predominate, steam technology has been introduced.) Even though no witches have been burned in a very long time, witchcraft is known to exist and is feared and loathed. Evie, an ordinary girl aside from her hidden magical power, narrates her story in first-person present tense. (I hope this fad for present-tense narration fades away soon.) Periodic flashbacks in third-person past tense fill in the backstory. Thus we learn of the incident in Evie’s childhood when she and her best friend, Anna, almost drowned. Their mutual friend, Nik, crown prince of their small country, and his cousin, Prince Iker, succeeded in rescuing Evie, but Anna died. Although Evie is only the daughter of the royal fisherman, she is allowed to visit the castle at will and remain friends with Nik. For this reason, and because many people blame her for Anna’s death, she’s treated with suspicion and resentment. She lives with her aunt, a witch, and secretly practices whatever scraps of witchcraft she manages to learn on her own. One day a strange girl appears out of nowhere. Named Annemette, she looks to Evie exactly like a grown-up version of Anna. Annemette, however, emphatically denies being Evie’s dead friend somehow resurrected. She does have a secret, though. She soon reveals to Evie that she is a mermaid in human form, fated to die if she doesn’t win Nik’s love within four days. Evie introduces her into the prince’s circle under the guise of a baron’s daughter. While Annemette tries to exert her wiles on Nik, Evie and Iker begin to fall in love. Has the alleged mermaid told the full truth about her past and her agenda? The answers unfold with surprising and potentially tragic plot twists, changing Evie’s life in a profound way. My only minor objection (aside from the present-tense narrative) is that until late in the book the flashbacks don’t name the characters, labeling them only “the boy,” the blonde girl, and the dark-haired girl; this device strikes me as an unnecessarily confusing affectation. Otherwise, I highly recommend the novel.

THE CHANGELING, by Victor LaValle. Apollo Kagwa’s wife, Emma, commits a horrific deed, apparently under the influence of postpartum psychosis, and then vanishes. In desperation, Apollo (after a period of hospitalization to recover from his injuries) perpetrates an irrational crime that gets him sentenced to two months in prison. After being paroled, he begins searching for Emma, led on by cryptic clues that draw him into a surreal world beneath the surface of workaday reality, whose existence he never would have suspected. This much, we learn from the cover blurb. To my surprise, the novel starts with the meeting of Apollo’s parents, a mixed-race couple. His father disappears during Apollo’s childhood, leaving the boy with recurrent dreams in which his father returns for him. Apollo grows up to be a dealer in used and rare books. He marries Emma, a librarian, and they have a much-loved baby son. When the baby, Brian (named after Apollo’s long-lost father), is about six months old, Emma, sinking ever deeper into depression, is heard to mutter, “It’s not a baby.” Then things start to get strange. Apollo’s quest for the truth reveals layers upon layers of deceit and illusion. On top of the fantastic problems and risks he confronts, we aren’t allowed to forget that he and the friend who helps him have to cope constantly with the mundane pitfalls of navigating a white-dominated society as black men. Is he facing an epidemic of postpartum psychosis, a paranoid feminist cult, or a genuine changeling phenomenon? Although the story and characters enthralled me, well past the midpoint of the book I began to wonder whether it would turn out to have any fantasy content at all. Despair not, fans of fairy-tale motifs transplanted into a contemporary setting; it does. This gripping tale features characters who are flawed yet deeply sympathetic and offers a new slant on the changeling motif.

*****

Excerpt from “Dusting Pixie”:

Who would have expected magic to shed so much dust? Ardyth certainly hadn’t visualized it as a major part of her apprenticeship in witchcraft with her Aunt Zenobia. Tearing open yet another crate, Ardyth sneezed at the puff of dust that billowed from the mildewed tomes inside. She still had to unpack three of the seven boxes Zenobia had brought from the estate of an old friend of hers, the recently deceased wizard Zaddok.

Ardyth set a stack of books on the floor and paused to brush her brown curls, frizzed from humidity and stray magical energy, off her forehead. Most of the miscellaneous books and paraphernalia in these boxes would probably prove to be worthless and wind up in the cramped chamber at the far end of the attic where unwanted junk was stowed, never to be seen again. Since Zenobia’s cottage, like most witches’ and wizards’ homes, was bigger inside than out, with more rooms than the inhabitants could keep track of, there was no incentive to throw anything away. Still, Ardyth had to inspect every item one by one, no magical shortcuts, in case anything valuable turned up. Zenobia expected to find the job finished when she returned home the next day. She’d often said Ardyth had a strong mage gift but needed to learn focus, a goal these routine tasks were supposed to promote.

With a longing thought for her own experiments that languished in the workroom downstairs, Ardyth flipped through a tattered bestiary and set it aside. A gleam at the bottom of the crate caught her eye. Something under the books radiated multicolored light.

She pulled out the next layer of volumes and exposed a glowing crystal sphere. Her pulse quickening, she picked up the orb, which rested on an ivory base etched with runes and just big enough to cup in her two hands. A diminutive creature stared at her from inside the sphere. Mouse-sized and vaguely feminine, although draperies of prismatic mist swirled around its twig-thin body and concealed all details, the being had a halo of silver-blue hair that floated as if in an invisible wind.

It, or she, pounded tiny fists against the inside of the crystal and cried, “Help! Get me out!” Her birdlike voice sounded as sweet as wind chimes.

“Calm down. Who are you, and how did you get stuck in there?”

The sprite folded her arms, her silver eyes glowering. “My name is Iridia. An evil wizard imprisoned me in this arcane trap.”

“Why?” Ardyth had already learned enough about sorcery to refrain from assuming all magical beings, no matter how beautiful, were benign.

“I don’t know! Because he was evil,” the sprite retorted in an exasperated tone. “I never did anything but toil faithfully for him. Please work the spell to liberate me, and I shall reward you.”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

I’ll have a humorous story, “Therapy for a Vampire,” serialized in NIGHT TO DAWN 35 and 36 (the 2019 issues). It’s a spinoff from DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT in my “Vanishing Breed” universe but can be read on its own. Half-vampire psychiatrist Roger Darvell and his human partner, Britt Loren, try to cure a young vampire of his phobias. There’s an excerpt below.

This is a wonderful summer for fiction. This issue’s book reports highlight three novels I’ve been impatiently awaiting for months.

My August interviewee is romance author V. C. Buckley.

*****

Interview with V. C. Buckley:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I am a great observer of life, and I am very much intrigued with the uniqueness of everyone’s love story. I wanted to write about them and weave tales inspired from them.

What genres do you work in?

I work mainly in Romance, although woven into many different subgenres. I like plotting romance into fantasy and contemporary. And I like Young Adult and New Adult romances as well.

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

Both. I usually begin with an outline, but I allow the story to pull into unexpected turns and twists. I always look forward to them and often times I get pleasantly surprised at how the story comes into its own.

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

I must say that my father was one of my major influences. He was an amazing storyteller, and it was through him that I learned to tell my own and found great joy with it.

Please tell us about the background and origin of the Hanami series. How did you acquire your extensive knowledge of Japanese culture?

Hanami is the story of a tycoon’s arrogant son, who falls for an innocent and angelic looking girl in his school, but he doesn’t know she happens to be the next leader of the Yakuza and is dangerous in every possible way.

I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture. I love the food, the country and the people, and it’s one of my most favorite places to go. I’ve also dabbled into Kendo, a Japanese sword fighting sport. Through the sport, I met many Japanese nationals that have given me so much input on their genuine everyday life living in Japan, as well as their etiquette, customs and practices. Hanami still required an extensive amount of research and imagination, though, so I travelled to Tokyo for visual and sensory reference.

One review compares your fiction to manga. Are you a fan of manga and anime, and if so, what are your favorites?

Yes, I am a fan of shoujo and josei manga. When I first wrote Hanami, my intention was for it to become a manga. I very much wanted to see my characters play out their story as an illustration, but I am not skilled with drawing manga and had trouble finding someone I could collaborate with.

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

The sequel to Hanami is underway and getting ready to launch sometime in September.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a poetry book that started out as a mere emotional outlet. They are poems that were not meant to be seen by anyone else but me, and some of it is based and inspired from stories of real people and myself.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up even when it seems like there’s no hope. Accept criticism from the right people and keep honing your craft. And last of all, keep writing.

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

V. C. Buckley
You can find me on:
Instagram: @v.c.buckley
Facebook
Twitter: @vccbuckley

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

BLACK CHAMBER, by S. M. Stirling. The first volume in a new alternate-history series, with no fantasy content (unfortunately, from my viewpoint). In addition to the alternate-history premise itself, some examples of technology more advanced than existed at that time in the primary world qualify the book as science fiction. The point of departure, shown in the prologue, occurs when President Taft unexpectedly dies, opening the way for Theodore Roosevelt to run for President again. He wins the 1912 election, and with no constitutional amendment restricting him to two terms, he’s potentially popular enough to become President for life if he so desires. The Progressive Republican Party quickly transforms its vision into reality, with (among other “radical” changes) not only female suffrage but a full-fledged ERA and enforcement of civil rights for the black population. Naturally, the Great War will unfold quite differently with Teddy Roosevelt rather than Woodrow Wilson in the White House. Roosevelt, who wants the United States to come to the aid of the European alliance, is only waiting for the right moment. The action of the story takes place in 1916, with the U.S. still nominally neutral. Zeppelin-type airships coexist with airplanes and routinely make transatlantic passenger flights, although a ticket costs far more than the average person can afford. We first meet the protagonist, Luz, daughter of an Irish-American father and an aristocratic Cuban mother, about to board such a ship. Luz works for the Black Chamber, the federal government’s secret intelligence agency, more or less under the umbrella of this world’s equivalent of the FBI. (And we do meet a young J. Edgar Hoover near the end of the book.) Also, she has known the President and his family since childhood and calls him “Uncle Teddy” in private. Luz is traveling to Europe under the identity of a Mexican revolutionary recruited to help the German war effort, although in fact she’s going there to investigate a report of a new German super-weapon. In that guise, she enters a liaison, both professional and personal, with Captain Horst von Duckler, her German contact. The action begins on the flight itself, when Luz and Horst get into lethal combat with French agents. The irony of having to kill people whose side she’s secretly on is not lost on Luz. In Germany, she witnesses a test of the new weapon, a uniquely deadly and long-lasting gas. She also meets Ciara, a representative of an Irish-American revolutionary organization intent on helping Germany defeat the hated English. Having suffered a change of heart after witnessing the effects of the gas weapon, the Breath of Loki, she allies with Luz against their hosts. Nearly unrelenting suspense punctuated by explosive action scenes (written clearly enough that I could actually understand what was going on most of the time) pervades a narrative replete with fascinating details about this alternate world. The settings are vividly described, and the principal characters are engaging, even Horst, whom Luz is almost sorry she’ll probably have to kill in the end. She and Ciara, a naïve younger woman but an electronics whiz, have to maintain their covers until the last possible moment in order to thwart the German plot to deliver the Breath of Loki to the East Coast of the U.S. by submarine and disseminate it in every major port city. Luz is an interesting, sympathetic character whose motives we can understand. She comes across as a sort of hyper-efficient female James Bond, complete with an array of high-tech gadgets, yet still a fully rounded personality with a rich intellectual and emotional life. It amazes me how Stirling induces the reader to feel such a strong attachment to a trained killer. Of course, her memories of the trauma of losing her parents in a violent home invasion contribute to our reaction, as does her self-awareness; she knows what she is, and she isn’t immune to the post-traumatic aftereffects of killing. She finds herself unwillingly becoming fond of Ciara, despite the pitfalls of getting attached to anybody in her profession. I have ambivalent feelings about the world as altered by Roosevelt’s presidency. I enjoy contemplating the imagined progressive reforms and technological boom. On the other hand, the administration imposes a limitation on freedom of speech and packs the federal courts to enforce the repressive law. In any case, I could hardly bear to put the book down; I’m eagerly awaiting the next volume and hope it will star Luz and Ciara again.

LACE AND BLADE 4, edited by Deborah J. Ross. An anthology of swashbuckling tales of adventure and intrigue with touches of magic and romance. The first LACE AND BLADE (2008) promised stories reminiscent of Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and D’Artagnan. In subsequent volumes, the anthologies have widened their scope, as the editor explains in the introduction to this new one. By now, the “theme” has broadened to the nebulous qualities of “heart and wonder.” Most of the stories in LACE AND BLADE 4 would fit just as well in the same publisher’s SWORD AND SORCERESS anthology series. Nothing wrong with that, but not what I expected from having read the original LACE AND BLADE. Some pieces that adhere fairly closely to the original premise are: “At the Sign of the Crow and Quill,” by Marie Brennan, about a sword duel to the death under the auspices of two enigmatic women who aren’t quite human; “Gifts Tell Truth,” by Heather Rose Jones, an adventure of espionage and romance set in her invented middle-European country of Alpennia; and “Sorcery of the Heart,” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, in which a young woman discovers one of two men, an aristocrat and a wandering minstrel, exerting magical influence on her—but which one? Stories such as the fairy-tale-like “The Wind’s Kiss,” by Dave Smeds, and “The Heart’s Coda,” by Carol Berg, an adventure of a reclusive bard, dragons, and a narrator from a single-gender, elf-like species, have a strong sword-and-sorcery feel. Some are unexpected and hard to classify, such as “A Sword for Liberty,” set during the American Revolution from the viewpoint of a loyal aide-de-camp to General Washington. This volume contains plenty of high-quality fiction but, in my opinion, strays too far from the promise of the title to be completely satisfying. A personal quirk, maybe, but I prefer theme anthologies that stick to the theme. Most fantasy fans should enjoy this book as long as they know in advance what to expect.

EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN, by Theodora Goss. I’ve been waiting with breathless anticipation for this sequel to THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. I was delighted to find it over 700 pages long, so that the pleasure of reading it lasted more than a day or two. Again, Goss’s academic background in Victorian Gothic horror undergirds her affectionate, deeply knowledgeable re-imagining of the daughters (begotten or created) of the classic Victorian mad scientists. Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein, having formed the Athena Club, live together in Mary’s house under the care of the very proper housekeeper, Mrs. Poole, and their faithful housemaid, Alice. At the end of the first novel, Mary received an appeal from her former governess, Mina Harker (nee Murray), on behalf of Lucinda Van Helsing, another young woman whose father has subjected her to sinister experiments. Now Lucinda has disappeared, and members of the Athena Club travel to the Continent in search of her. Boarding the Orient Express, they eventually arrive in Eastern Europe, where they meet Carmilla Karnstein and Count Dracula. In this world, vampirism is an infectious disease, with which Professor Van Helsing and Dr. Seward are infecting experimental subjects in pursuit of the overarching goal of the Society of Alchemists—to advance human evolution to a higher level and achieve immortality. Some characters assumed to be dead aren’t, many people are not what they seem, and layers upon layers of secrets are revealed. The premise and the heroines are as engaging as in the first novel, and the settings and pseudo-scientific background are fascinating. Not too surprisingly, the “truth” in many cases turns out to be different from what we’ve read in Victorian fiction; some “monsters” prove to be good guys, and ostensible “heroes” are exposed as villains. Additional classic characters are added to the cast. The heroines achieve their immediate goals, but a hook for the forthcoming third novel is planted in the final pages. As in the previous book, Catherine Moreau writes the story while the other members of the club, as well as Mrs. Poole and Alice, interject their often argumentative comments, adding an extra dimension of fun to the narrative.

SPINNING SILVER, by Naomi Novik. This stand-alone novel, another book I’ve been eagerly waiting for, set in an alternate version of medieval Eastern Europe, expands upon a story that appeared in the fairy-tale anthology THE STARLIT WOOD. The protagonist, Miryem, begins her first-person narrative, linking her experience to the Rumpelstiltskin tale (the novel’s inspiration), with, “The real story isn’t as pretty as the one you’ve heard.” Once the analogies between Rumpelstiltskin and the stereotype of a Jewish moneylender are highlighted, they’re impossible to miss; he’s a grotesque “other” who cares only for gold and eats babies. Miryem’s father is a moneylender but not a very successful one. He too-readily accepts excuses for nonpayment of debts, so that his family scrapes along while their debtors prosper. Regarded with the usual suspicion by their Christian neighbors, Miryem’s family lives on the fringe of the town near the deep forest where the Staryk endanger unwary trespassers. An elf-like race, bringing unnatural cold with them, the beautiful but cruel Staryk raid human settlements, seemingly at random, for gold, ravaging and raping as they go. Their enchanted road runs through the forest at unpredictable times and places, and they forbid human hunters to kill white animals. The prints of the strange deer they ride sometimes appear around Miryem’s house, but nothing can be done except to exercise caution and obey the taboos. Miryem takes it upon herself to collect her father’s debts. With advice from her mother’s father, a rich moneylender in the nearest city, she becomes an expert businesswoman, and the family attains financial security. While her parents appreciate her intelligence and energy, they also lament her becoming harder and colder in order to succeed. Her reputation for “turning silver into gold” attracts the attention of the Staryk king. He entrusts her with Staryk silver of almost magical quality, with which she obtains the gold he craves. As often happens in dealings with the fey, Miryem’s success lands her in trouble, for the king promises to make her his queen if she fulfills his commissions. And a Staryk must always keep promises and pay debts, even though neither he nor Miryem actually wants the “marriage.” He carries her off to his kingdom of ice and silver. Miryem now becomes analogous to the miller’s daughter, ordered to transform the silver in the king’s storerooms to gold. She acts as her own Rumpelstiltskin, though, with the help of only a few Staryk servants she wins over with her kindness. A bargain with the king allows her to ask him three questions each day, in exchange for foregoing her marital “right,” which of course neither of them wants anyway. But, according to Staryk custom, debts must be paid regardless of personal preference. Meanwhile, other first-person narrators spin other threads of the plot. Wanda, a village girl hired as a servant by Miryem, grows close to Miryem’s parents after their loss of their daughter, and eventually Wanda and her brothers become almost family to the Jewish couple they initially regarded with superstitious fear. Irina, daughter of the duke who has bought the magnificent ring, necklace, and crown made from Miryem’s Staryk silver, marries the young tsar (not the Russian Czar, but ruler of a small country). He turns out to have a terrible secret. Miryem’s clever bargaining and planning ultimately bring all the characters to a meeting in which the Staryk king has to fight the tsar’s demon. The novel maintains the atmosphere of a fairy-tale world throughout, with overtones of “Beauty and the Beast” as well as “Rumpelstiltskin.” Enigmatic rules and alluring but terrible enchantments pervade the story, as well as an occasional touch of benign magic. Miryem achieves her happy ending by surmounting frightful ordeals though her own intelligence and courage. My only complaint about the novel is that the various sections are not labeled with the names of their first-person narrators. The reader has to infer each narrator’s identity from context, and sometimes it’s not instantly clear.

*****

Excerpt from “Therapy for a Vampire”:

The next evening after sunset, Roger ushered the new patient into his office, where Britt waited in the extra chair. The young vampire checked out the room with its typical décor of leather-upholstered furniture, well-stocked bookshelves, and diplomas and certificates on the wall above the desk. Closed blinds produced a lighting level comfortable for nonhuman vision. Hoping the visitor found the conventional ambience as reassuring as most human patients did, Roger wheeled the desk chair around in front of the desk to face him. “Britt, this is Franz Reiner, whom I told you about. Franz, Dr. Loren is my associate and will be participating in your treatment.”

Like Roger, Franz was alabaster-pale and taller and leaner than the average human man. He had a mane of wavy, bronze hair and, like most vampires, silver-gray eyes. Despite his chronological age, in human terms he looked about twenty-five. He stared at Britt in undisguised bewilderment and said, with a faint vestige of a German accent, “She will? But she’s an ephemeral. She knows—?”

“All about us. And you will grant her the same courtesy you show me, or this arrangement ends now.” If there’s to be any chance for this “arrangement” to improve relations between the species, he’d better get used to respecting ephemerals from the start.

Franz’s aura momentarily dimmed with embarrassment. “Oh—of course, Dr. Darvell.” If he’d been human, he would have blushed. The fact that he didn’t make any attempt to hide his emotional reactions was a favorable omen for therapist-patient trust, Roger hoped.

::Isn’t he the cutest thing?:: Britt telepathically remarked. ::Like a tame, half-grown wolf cub.::

Roger fought the urge to snarl. Not an appropriate attitude toward someone he was supposed to be helping. Obviously sensing the flash of anger, Franz flinched and bowed his head for a second in a gesture of submission. “Let’s start at the beginning,” Roger said. “Do you have any idea of the source of your phobias?”

“I know exactly what caused them. My aunt—she was my mentor—didn’t put much stock in the usual custom of protecting the young from popular superstitions by insulating us from human culture. She thought the opposite approach would work better, so she had me read Dracula at the age of twelve. Repeatedly. She thought by dissecting the book, she could immunize me against its fallacies.”

Britt said, “I take it the plan backfired.”

The young man grimaced. “Explosively.”

“So you developed fear of crosses and other religious objects?” Roger took out a pad and began taking notes.

“Yes, among other things.”

“I hope you don’t sleep in a coffin.”

Franz chuckled. “No, I’m not that far gone, but I do rest on a bed of native earth.”

Britt’s eyebrows arched quizzically. “How do you manage that?”

“The soil is zipped inside a sleeping bag, which I cover with a sheet.”

“No particular trouble with sunlight, I assume,” Roger said. Direct exposure caused discomfort to their kind but no significant harm.

“Luckily, no. That’s not in the novel, and anyway I’d been going out in daylight all my life up to that point.”

Roger didn’t bother to ask about garlic, whose ill effects were real. It caused acute nausea. “Reflection?”

“I stopped being able to see myself in mirrors. I had to switch to an electric razor.” He also confirmed that he couldn’t force himself to enter a residence without an invitation. Likewise, he couldn’t cross running water.

“Except at the slack or flood of the tide?” Britt asked, mentioning the restrictions in Dracula.

“My subconscious doesn’t keep track of tide tables. I can’t do it anytime, which gets damned inconvenient around here.” Since Annapolis was bounded on most sides by various bodies of water, he would’ve had few viable ways to reach their office. Roger’s mind boggled at the thought of the circuitous routes the unfortunate lad would have to navigate if he needed to drive in the Washington area.

“These problems have been going on for almost three decades, then? Is there any particular reason you’ve decided to seek help right now?”

Franz sighed. “Well, yes, I have a sort of deadline. You see, there’s a girl.”

“Meaning a human girl, I suppose.” Britt said.

He nodded. “Shortly after moving to Baltimore, I attended a choral performance. She was the soprano soloist. Her voice fascinated me. I cut her out of the crowd afterwards and drank from her. Then I realized that wasn’t all I wanted. I wanted to know her as a person.” That flicker of embarrassment again. “Most of our kind would think that’s rather silly.”

“Well, they’d be wrong.” Roger didn’t try to hide his annoyance.

“I figured you’d understand. That’s why I jumped at the chance when the Prime Elder suggested I come to you.”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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