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Welcome to the October 2021 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

Happy Halloween!

My lighthearted ghost story “Desk Specter,” featuring my vampire-human hybrid psychiatrist, Roger Darvell, was published in issue 40 of NIGHT TO DAWN, which you can find here:

Night to Dawn

The opening scene appears below.

My three light paranormal romance novellas inspired by Japanese folklore—YOKAI MAGIC, KITSUNE ENCHANTMENT, and KAPPA COMPANION—have been combined into a collection titled YOKAI ENCHANTMENTS, in a trade paperback for readers who prefer hard-copy print. For those who like e-books and haven’t read all three stories yet, the Kindle edition sells at a bargain price compared to buying the novellas individually:

Yokai Enchantments

This month I’m introducing a new Wild Rose Press author, Susan Thomson, writing as S. Hilbre Thomson.

*****

Interview with S. Hilbre Thomson:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I have always enjoyed writing, whether it was poetry, short stories or essays. I think though that the inspiration to write a novel came from being an avid reader. After reading hundreds of books, I got the idea that maybe I could be an author.

What genre do you work in?

I enjoy writing suspense/thriller stories. There has to be a hint of humor, most likely snarky humor in it!
I want my characters to be people my readers can recognize either in themselves or a friend or relative.

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

I would like to think that I am an organized person, but the truth is I am not. I write like I drive; I have a general idea of where I am going, but not sure how I am going to get there. It leads to some wonderful surprises, but can be frustrating as well.

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

My mother was always reading. She favored romance, which isn’t my favorite genre, but it got me reading. In my teens I was hooked on Stephen King. The gorier the better! After that I switched to writers like Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, and Patricia Cornwell where their stories were more realistic and didn’t leave me sleeping with the lights on!

What research have you done in the course of writing your novel?

For this book, I needed to do some research in the area of how law enforcement worked together, some of their lingo, and some scoping out of areas around Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

Please tell us about your forthcoming book.

Trevor is a book about a young boy, Trevor Reed, who is being stalked by Matthew Stone. Stone is from North Carolina and has experienced trauma and loss and is looking to get his son back. He believes that Trevor is his son and will not stop until they are together again. The Reed family calls in an old friend and police officer, Joe, to help keep Trevor safe. Joe can’t let the family down but has never dealt with this before. He ends up confiding in reporter Karen, who gives some insight to Stone’s past. The story follows Stone as he struggles with what he knows is right and the reality he wants to recreate and the Reed family as they work to keep Trevor safe.

What are you working on now?

I want to take two of the characters from Trevor and build on their budding relationship. They go back to Karen’s home town to solve a cold case. That case is the unsolved crime from Matt Stone’s past.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think when most writers give this advice, they say to write a lot, and then to write some more. In the process of getting my first book published, my advice is to be open to edits! Put the ego aside and allow those who are trying to help give you advice.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Working on that now! The plan is to get them live once I have a release date for my book.

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

DOWN AND OUT IN PROVIDENCE, by Geralyn Wolf. At the time of the events narrated in this 2005 book, subtitled “Memoir of a Homeless Bishop,” the author was the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island. She decided to experience the plight of homeless people firsthand by immersing herself in that subculture. For almost a month, she lived incognito in shelters. In preparation, she changed her hair style and color, had a fake ID made, and sought advice from colleagues who worked in that field. She took $200 in cash for the month (more than some homeless people possessed, less than others), a few bus tickets, and a backpack with basic clothes and toiletries. As explained in the prologue, she made no claim to fully sharing the authentic experience of homelessness. As well as starting out with advantages many of her neighbors in the shelters lacked (e.g, good health), she allowed herself the option of going home for the night in some circumstances, such as getting sick (which she did at least once). I expected this book to resemble journalist Barbara Ehrenreich’s NICKEL AND DIMED, the account of her experiment in living on a minimum-wage income in several different American cities. Wolf’s book, however, is slanted more personal and anecdotal. It takes the form of a daily journal, from December 30 through January 24. She spent nights in shelters and most days in a community center for the homeless called Crossroads. Clients at the main shelter she slept in got food plus shuttle service between there and the Crossroads center. Wolf writes about the people she got to know, some with mental illness, substance abuse problems, or physical disabilities, and some with jobs that simply didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of a room, much less an apartment. She places great emphasis on the importance of “community and trust” among the homeless. At one point she lists positive aspects of this way of life, such as freedom from expectations, mundane tasks, responsibilities, fixed roles, and the burden of possessions. Nevertheless, obviously these features don’t outweigh the negatives. Aside from the physical discomforts and hazards, the homeless are too often not “seen,” even in churches Throughout the book, the author does insert more generally applicable, concrete information about the plight of the homeless. In the epilogue, she writes about the aftermath of her “coming out” to her fellow shelter residents and mentions what became of a few of them. She also touches upon systemic problems and potential solutions, especially universal health insurance and the need for affordable housing—virtually unavailable in many areas (including Providence) to someone working for minimum wage, even full time. Although Wolf, of course, writes from a Christian perspective, her story doesn’t come across as heavy-handed “preaching.” A moving and illuminating book for anyone interested in these issues.

HOW TO SLAY A DRAGON, by Cait Stevenson. The author, who holds a doctorate in medieval history, moderates the AskHistorians forum on Reddit. Subtitled “A Fantasy Hero’s Guide to the Real Middle Ages” and addressed in a humorous tone to “you” (the hypothetical would-be hero), it’s nevertheless chock-full of solid facts and real-life medieval events and people. The text is divided into sections titled “Preparing for Your Quest,” “At the Inn,” “On the Road,” “Hazards Along the Way,” “Winning the War,” and “Reaping Your Reward.” You’ll learn about becoming (or how to avoid becoming) the Chosen One, finding a mentor, staying clean, cursed swamps, enchanted forests, barbarian hordes, genies, dragons, unicorns (spoiler, they probably originated as distorted reports of rhinoceroses), buried treasure, kingly feasts, and many other topics. Each chapter includes accounts of interesting historical persons, such as princesses who saved themselves. There’s a selected bibliography plus a separate list of suggestions for “Further Reading.” This handsomely produced almost-200-page hardcover is a fun and educational book for readers and writers of fantasy fiction and/or roleplaying games.

FLATTERLAND, by Ian Stewart. This sequel (subtitled “Like Flatland, only more so”) to the classic FLATLAND (1884), by Edwin A. Abbott, features the great-great-granddaughter of “A. Square,” in-universe author of the original book, which reveals how he saw his two-dimensional world in three dimensions under the guidance of a mysterious Sphere. Teenage Victoria Square, living with her parents and two brothers, stumbles upon her ancestor’s forbidden work, which led to his confinement in a mental institution. Her outraged father burns the volume, but since this time period in Flatland corresponds to our 21st century, Vicki first secretly scans the whole text and later reads it at her leisure. As she records in her electronic diary, she’s fascinated by the book and finds a code in it, which she deciphers. Consequently, she receives a visit from a higher-dimensional entity called the Space Hopper, who takes her on a mind-blowing tour of the Mathiverse. Meanwhile, we get occasional glimpses of her parents’ devastated reaction to her disappearance. I liked the human (so to speak) interest of this part of the story, while not at all disappointed by the absence of the extended social satire found in Abbott’s book. Vicki’s travels explore not only the third dimension, but higher dimensions of spacetime. She learns about hyperspheres, quarter-dimensional spaces, fractals, triangles whose angles don’t add up to 180 degrees, rotating objects to produce their own mirror images, wormholes, expanding universes, and many other strange phenomena. In addition to explaining the math of multiple dimensions, the Space Hopper escorts her to the realms of the unimaginably vast cosmos and the irreducibly small quantum level. She’s introduced to the wild theories of mathematicians and physicists from Planiturth, including Alberteinstein. She meets weird creatures such as (among others) Schrodinger’s Cat, the Charming Construction entity, and twins who are different ages because of relativistic travel. While I enjoyed FLATTERLAND, it’s more complex than the original FLATLAND, and I must admit a lot of the explanations and diagrams left me more confused than informed. The novel can best be fully appreciated by math-minded readers and those interested in topology. Nevertheless, it’s inventive and entertaining, with the often baffled Vicki as our surrogate who constantly asks the Space Hopper to clarify the complications. I’ll probably tackle it again sometime in the future.

*****

Excerpt from “Desk Specter”:

“I want to find out if I’m going crazy.”

Dr. Roger Darvell scanned the new patient sitting—not lying, a largely obsolete custom—on the couch opposite his armchair. He’d positioned the chair so that the sunlight filtering through the window blinds wouldn’t shine directly into his eyes. While it wouldn’t harm him, it would cause discomfort he wanted to avoid. In her early thirties, Liza McCall was a slender woman of medium height with sepia-toned skin, her chestnut hair coiled in a braided crown. Her clean scent and rose-pink aura confirmed her physical health, and he read perplexity but not fear in the emotion she projected. Vampiric extranormal senses streamlined the diagnostic process.

“We try to avoid that term. It’s unscientific as well as counter-productive. Do you have some specific grounds for concern about your mental state?”

“I’ve started seeing a ghost.” She shook her head, projecting more confusion than in denial. “I tried to show it to my sister, and she didn’t see what I saw, so I must be having hallucinations.”

She flashed a smile. “But I don’t feel any crazier than I did three weeks ago.”

Keeping his disbelief in ghosts to himself for the moment, Roger said, “You spoke of a ghost. Only one?”

“So far.” She shrugged. “Isn’t one enough? Since I go to the same church as your partner, Dr. Loren, I mentioned it to her. She said it wouldn’t be professional for her to counsel somebody she knows socially, so she recommended you. So here I am.”

“Three weeks? Did the—appearances—start then?”

The patient nodded. “I just bought my first house and moved in a couple of months ago, but I didn’t see the ghost until three weeks ago. The house is only, like, thirty years old, and I bought it from the original owners. I looked up obituaries under their name, and nobody died while they lived there except a grandfather, who died of heart trouble in a hospital. So it doesn’t make sense for the house to be haunted.”

Steepling his hands, he said in a carefully neutral tone, “You don’t seem frightened.”

“Well, I was startled the first time. I thought, you know, how did this strange woman get into my house? But when she vanished a couple of minutes later, I had to admit to myself I’d seen her appear out of thin air. She hasn’t done anything scary or threatening, though.”

“Can you think of something that happened around then to trigger the phenomenon?”

“I bought a Victorian rolltop desk from an estate sale. Every time the woman popped out of nowhere, it was when I was touching the desk.” She twisted her fingers together in her lap. “I think I’ve got a haunted piece of furniture. Either that, or I’m losing my mind. I’d like to know which.”

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the September 2021 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

My urban fantasy elf romance PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS will soon be republished by Writers Exchange E-Publishing. There’s an excerpt below. A strange man enters the bookstore where heroine Fern works, searching for her sister, Ivy, a single mother who has recently sensed a premonition of danger to her baby son, Baird.

For fans of print fiction: My three connected Japanese-folklore-inspired paranormal romance novellas—YOKAI MAGIC, KITSUNE ENCHANTMENT, and KAPPA COMPANION—will be released together in a trade paperback collection called YOKAI ENCHANTMENTS on September 29.

This month, I’m interviewing romantic suspense author Desiree Holt.

*****

Interview with Desiree Holt:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I loved reading from the time I was 6 and had an incredible urge to write stories myself. My brain would look at people and scenes when I was out and imagine stories about them so the next natural step was to write them down.

What genres do you work in?

Primarily romantic suspense, both high heat and erotic

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

Something in between. I’m at a point where my brain needs something more than “winging it” so I do a very bare bones outline. I make a lot of changes along the way but at least I have a road map.

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

First major influence was Linda Howard, whose CRY NO MORE inspired MOVING TARGET. I wanted to create a character like her Diaz. Others are Allison Brennan and Toni Anderson.
Life experience, always, although probably more character influence. I love to make up stories about people I meet.

How do you research the backgrounds of military professions such as SEALS?

First, I am blessed and honored to have a really good friend (a best selling author himself) who was a Navy SEAL for 20 years and who is willing to answer questions for me. I also am friends with a former Air Force Special Forces veteran as well as a retired Marine Brigadier General. The rest I get from the Internet.

How do you plan a series? For instance, do you plot an overall story arc and know from the beginning what the general topic of each book will be? Or are your series completely open-ended? Do you maintain a “series bible” for each?

I do a general outline of a series so I know what it’s about (example: Heroes Rising, where all books are about SEALs medically retired looking to find a new place in society and The Phoenix Agency, about 5 men each from a different branch of the military who are all friends and start a private agency that takes on the worst of the worst). I have a bible for each series so I keep to the theme and don’t misplace my characters. LOL!

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

I am currently working on ABSOLUTE ZERO, Book #4 in Galaxy, about 4 lifelong friend, all former SEALs who started a private agency and their office is on their plane. Then I have the lead book in TEAM TROJAN, in Elle James’ Colorado Brotherhood Protectors World and I just turned in MISSING PIECES, Book #6, Guardian Security. And in January I release SHADOW DEFENDER in the multi-author Shadow SEALs series.

What are you working on now?

ABSOLUTE ZERO, Book #4, Galaxy; SHADOW DEFENDER, an as yet untitled Phoenix Agency book with several others scheduled for 2022.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t worry about mechanics as much as you do the story. That and the characters are key. Don’t try to copy another author., Have your own style. Readers are always looking for freshness. Try to write at least one page a day. And spellcheck!

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?

Here are all my links:

Desiree Holt
Facebook Page
Other Facebook Page
Twitter @desireeholt
BookBub
Blog

Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free book:
Newsletter

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

BILLY SUMMERS, by Stephen King. I wouldn’t pick up a novel on the well-worn premise of a professional hit man’s last job before retirement by any other author (except maybe Dean Koontz). Billy himself reflects on the familiarity of this trope and the fact that something always goes wrong (spoiler, it does). King, however, reliably creates irresistibly enthralling protagonists, and the narrator of this book doesn’t disappoint. In Dungeons and Dragons terms, Billy would be a chaotic good assassin. He kills only bad guys. He acknowledges, and becomes more deeply aware in the course of the story, that he isn’t a truly good person himself and that more people than he likes to admit are a mix of good and bad. Yet, despite a childhood trauma that could have warped him irreparably, he comes across as a basically nice person. He takes no pleasure in killing, aside from pride in using the phenomenal sniper skills he learned in the military, and he never murders anyone who doesn’t qualify as “bad” by any reasonable standard. The novel takes place in a small city in an unnamed southern border state, where Billy has been set up with a cover persona while awaiting the extradition of his target from California to be arraigned for murder. Since nobody knows for sure when this event will occur, Billy may have a wait of several months. In this respect the story resembles King’s time-travel novel about the traveler’s plan to prevent Kennedy’s death by assassinating Oswald. That character, too, settles into a false identity and becomes part of the community while awaiting the moment to strike, except that in 11/22/63 the protagonist has to inhabit his alter ego for years instead of months. Billy Summers performs the role of an aspiring author whose agent has supplied him with a rented house and an office, from which he’ll take the fatal shot. He knows it’s a bad idea to become close to people he meets on the job while under a fake persona, but friendships form anyway. Suspicious of the huge payment he’s offered, he establishes a second false identity, unknown to his employer, in a different part of the city. There, also, he unwillingly gets close to a neighboring family. The reader has to concentrate a bit to keep track of his three identities, four if we count what Billy calls his “dumb self.” This persona leads his employers to consider him a useful dimwit skilled at nothing except his brilliant shooting ability. In reality, he’s well-read and, if anything, of above-average intelligence. While playing the role of a beginning author, he decides to pass the time by actually writing his autobiography. The present-day action is narrated in the present tense, I suppose to enhance suspense, with the flashback passages he’s writing in past tense and in bold type (not italics, thank goodness). In tantalizing chunks, we learn how his mother’s boyfriend murdered Billy’s little sister, after which Billy killed him, and about Billy’s experiences in foster care and his eventual entry into the military and service in the Middle East. To my surprise, the climactic event of the professional hit occurs at the midpoint of the novel. The rest of the book narrates Billy’s preparations for disappearing into retirement, with the intention of possibly becoming a writer in earnest. In another surprising turn, King makes the risky choice of introducing a second major character at this point. (I don’t count Holly’s mid-book advent in THE OUTSIDER as the same kind of device, because Constant Readers already know her well from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.) Billy’s new friend, Alice, a young woman he saves from a dire plight, becomes a source of complications as he plans his escape. Unlike most of King’s novels, this one sticks entirely to a single viewpoint, Billy’s, until a few pages before the end; by then Alice has grown into almost a co-protagonist. I don’t want to reveal any further spoilers to weaken the impact of the conclusion’s emotional roller coaster. To my delight, the book does contain a hint of the supernatural, apparently included as a bit of “fan service,” since it could be omitted with no impact on the characters or plot—occasional glimpses of a spectral vision of the burned-down Overlook Hotel. BILLY SUMMERS impresses me as another can’t-miss book for Stephen King’s fans. For readers not familiar with his work, fans of crime thrillers would probably love this story.

THE KING IN YELLOW, by Robert W. Chambers. This reprint of a story collection first published in 1895 is part of the Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a series of reissued public domain works (many undeservedly obscure to modern readers) lightly footnoted for vocabulary and historical context, with introductions by distinguished authors in the field, as well as bibliographies and suggestions for further reading. This volume has an introduction by Gothic mystery writer Nic Pizzolatto. In the 1890s, the color yellow was often associated with transgression, corruption, sensationalism, and decadence, as notoriously exemplified by the avant-garde literary magazine THE YELLOW BOOK. I’m surprised Pizzolatto doesn’t mention this connection, but, then, he declares up front that he isn’t a scholar of Chambers’s work. The title refers to a sinister play by that name, which features in several of the stories. It’s never summarized, only alluded to with character names and fragmentary quotations. This imaginary drama reputedly drives anyone who reads it to disaster and/or madness. Most horror fans will recognize it as having been incorporated into the Lovecraftian mythos. Not all the contents fall into the horror category or make reference to the play, however. About half, love stories of one kind or another, are set in the bohemian subculture of the Paris artistic community. The creepiest piece, in my opinion, is the first, “The Repairer of Reputations.” Not until the end does it become fully apparent that the homicidal narrator suffers from delusions, and he may have been driven mad by reading “The King in Yellow.” In “The Mask,” a sinister occult-scientific discovery turns living creatures to stone. The narrator of “The Court of the Dragon” flees from a black-clad figure hunting his soul while his body sits suspended in trance. In “The Yellow Sign,” the insidious corruption of “The King in Yellow” is associated with the living dead. These tales produce their effects, for the most part, by subtle suggestion rather than scenes of outright horror. A gentler story, “The Demoiselle D’ys,” involves the love-enchanted narrator with either time travel or ghosts. It won’t take the genre-savvy reader long to realize there’s something other-worldly about the old-fashioned lady in the ancient mansion. Fans of classic supernatural fiction would probably find this trade paperback a worthwhile purchase just for the first half of its contents, even for readers who consider (as I did) the Paris art-scene stories less alluring, although not without points of interest.

SCANDAL IN BABYLON, by Barbara Hambly. Devoted fans of Hambly’s work will instantly recognize the cast of this murder mystery in the Hollywood silent film era as alternate-universe versions of the people in her delightful fantasy novel BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD. The principal characters—young English widow Emma, her glamorous actress sister-in-law Kitty (aka Camille de la Rose), and photographer Zal, Emma’s love interest—are their counterparts from BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD under different names. Many secondary characters even have identical names to those in the earlier novel, including Kitty’s three Pekinese dogs. Although without any supernatural elements, SCANDAL IN BABYLON is equally captivating. Emma, still mourning her husband killed in the Great War and the loss of all her own immediate family, is nevertheless deeply grateful to Kitty for rescuing her from an oppressive existence as a paid companion. Emma has gradually realized Kitty is more than a beautiful featherhead who possesses “It” but can’t act worth a darn. Aching with homesickness for Oxford, where she’d shared her archaeologist father’s academic pursuits, Emma considers southern California as exotically fantastic as Oz, from the bizarre Hollywood culture right down to the unfamiliar climate and plant life. Yet it holds a certain fascination for her, and she’s rapidly falling in love with Zal, who makes no secret of his feelings but doesn’t push her. In addition to her tasks as Kitty’s all-purpose assistant, she does part-time work as a film scenarist (apparently the silent movie equivalent of a script writer), struggling to impose some order and sense upon the extravagant plots and historical blunders. As the story begins on the set of TEMPTRESS OF BABYLON, Kitty’s latest anachronism-packed costume epic, Emma receives a letter from her one surviving relative, an aunt who’s returning from Asia with her husband and proposes to pick up Emma on their way back to England. Emma may live with them in Oxford if she wishes. Throughout the novel, this offer lingers in the back of her mind. Of course she wants to return to the world she considers home, but what about Zal, not to mention hard-drinking, drug-taking, sexually adventurous Kitty’s obvious need for a keeper? Then Kitty’s sleazy first husband, who may or may not have ever divorced her, turns up shot to death in her dressing room. To Emma and Zal, it’s obvious Kitty is being framed, rather unconvincingly at that. Who would want her accused of murder, and who else might want the victim dead? Amid the publicity ramifications, dealings with the police and a private detective on the case, connections with bootleggers and other underworld figures, and the jealous oversight of Kitty’s lover, the head of the studio, Emma, Zal, and other members of the staff run in circles trying to keep everything from falling apart while the filming proceeds more or less as planned. While she and Zal probe for a solution to the murder in between film shots, Emma has to cope with Kitty’s cheerful debauchery, difficulty in sticking to any reasonable schedule, and romantic escapades (her patron’s jealousy being fully justified). Further violent incidents make it clear that Kitty herself is a target, possibly the main one. Along the way, Emma becomes acquainted with surprisingly polite mob enforcers and a courtly, elderly millionaire also infatuated with Kitty. Madcap chases and near-misses, fascinating details about the silent movie industry and southern California in the early 1920s, and a generous sprinkling of witty dialogue make the book unputdownable. As for Emma’s own future, her choice won’t surprise the reader, even though it may surprise Emma herself. I hope this novel proves to be the beginning of a series with the staying power of Hambly’s Benjamin January historical mysteries.

*****

Excerpt from PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS:

When the front door jingled again a second later, the man who stalked into the shop didn’t act like a customer. He didn’t spare a glance for the books. Instead, he marched straight to the counter. Tall and lean, he wore sleek-fitting, black jeans with a short-sleeved, blue polo shirt. Though his long hair, tied back with a leather thong, was entirely silver, his face, pale with a hawklike profile, showed no signs of old age. Despite his grim expression, he didn’t look much more than thirty.

Fern caught herself staring into his eyes, an unusual shade of light brown that looked almost amber in the shop’s overhead lighting. She swallowed and forced out the words, “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a woman.” He pulled out a wallet and flipped it open. Glancing down, Fern saw a private detective’s license. She blinked, trying to focus on the details, but he snapped it shut before she could even make out the man’s name. “I need to speak to Ivy MacGregor. Have you seen her today?”

The abrupt tone of the question put her on guard. “Yes, as a matter of fact, she was here earlier this afternoon.” His cold gaze induced a slight wariness that kept her from volunteering her relationship to Ivy.

“Do you know where she might be now?”

“Not a clue.” Fern felt sure her attempt at a cheerfully casual reply fell flat. He would probably pounce on her lie like a cat on a wind-up mouse.

‘Then perhaps you know where she lives.” Though relentless in its persistence, his voice was almost a pleasure to listen to, like the pealing of a bell.

Fern shook her head to dispel the ridiculous image. He sounded like any other man with a melodious tenor voice. “I can’t tell you that.”

“But do you know?” His tone shifted from inquisitorial demand to smooth persuasion. “If so, it’s important that you tell me. I must find her. I need to give her a warning.” He leaned on the counter, capturing her gaze again.

“About what?”

“She is being pursued by a man who intends to lay claim to her child. He’s a relative of Adair Hunter.”

The name broke the reverie Fern was drifting into. She dragged her eyes away from the detective’s. “What do you know about Adair?”

“That he has disappeared and that his family wants the boy. They’ve sent someone to kidnap him. You must help me warn Miss MacGregor before it’s too late.” He leaned still farther over the counter, until it almost seemed he meant to grab her.

The echo of Ivy’s claim that Baird was in danger knocked the breath out of Fern. Her fingers crept to the necklace her sister had insisted she wear. She drew the chain out of her blouse and nervously twirled the Celtic cross. “I can’t help you.” Her voice sounded thin and shaky to her, with none of the determination she wanted to project.

The man straightened up and took a step back. “All right. I’ll return and talk with you tomorrow, if I don’t find her before then. If you are her friend, I’m confident you’ll reconsider your—reticence.” He wheeled around and walked briskly out of the store.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the August 2021 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

Also, all issues are now uploaded on DropBox (though some appear to have landed in sub-folders, but they’re all there), where you should be able to download them at this link:

DropBox

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

Complete Works

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

I’ve posted one of my old fantasy stories on my website, “Cold Magic,” first published in AFTER HOURS 15 (1992):

Cold Magic

An excerpt from the opening scene appears below.

Vampire and horror zine NIGHT TO DAWN, issue 40, includes “Desk Specter,” a lighthearted ghost story featuring my vampire-human hybrid psychiatrist, Roger Darvell. You can find NIGHT TO DAWN here:

Night to Dawn

Barbara Custer, editor of NIGHT TO DAWN, gave my recent dark paranormal novel AGAINST THE DARK DEVOURER a 5-star review on Amazon:

Amazon Review of Against the Dark Devourer

SEALED IN BLOOD, my light suspense vampire romance whose opening scenes take place at a science-fiction con in California, has been re-released and can be found here:

Sealed in Blood

On August 4, the Wild Rose Press will publish my new light paranormal romance novella KAPPA COMPANION, starring a young widow and her little boy haunted by a kappa (Japanese water monster) and a ghost child. Although a sequel to YOKAI MAGIC and KITSUNE ENCHANTMENT, it’s loosely connected enough to stand on its own.

My short e-book in the Wild Rose Press Christmas Cookies line, CHOCOLATE CHIP CHARM, a light paranormal romance featuring a love potion mix-up, will be released on November 16.

This month’s interviewee, Debby Grahl, also a Wild Rose Press author, writes contemporary and paranormal romance.

*****

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 screen reading software that I was able to put my stories into print.

What genres do you work in?

I love a good mystery, so in both my contemporary and paranormal romances, there’s some kind of suspense. I also enjoy ghosts and witches, so they might appear as well.

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

I write by the seat of my pants, but I do begin with the location, story plot, and character development. After that, anything goes.

In writing a series, do you typically know in advance that there will be more than one book? Do you keep a series “bible” of characters, places, etc.?

Mountain Blaze is my first series book. As of now, there will be three stories all taking place in the Carolinas. Island Heat is the second and is set on Hilton Head Island. The third will be in Charleston, SC. I have my characters and plot, but I’m having trouble with the title. I wanted A Lowcountry Boil, but discovered it’s already a cookbook.

How did you become involved with the anthologies in which you’ve had stories published?

I actually have stories in three anthologies. A Magical Fall and Fall into Magic are part of The First Coast Romance Writers series Romancing The Holidays. Sundae My Love is part of Wild Rose’s One Scoop or Two anthology. And The Stagecoach to Badger’s Drift is in A Haunted West.

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

I’ve always loved to make up stories. I’ve been so fortunate to have wonderful support from family and friends. I come from a family of artists and graphic designers. I believe that since I can’t see to paint, my talent came out in words.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

I’m hoping Island Heat will be released by next summer.

What are you working on now?

I actually have two projects, the next book in my Carolina series, and I’m hoping to reissue The Silver Crescent, a book that was published years ago by a small press no longer in business.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Learn as much as you can about the writing process and take writing classes. Trust me, I learned the hard way. My first mistake was thinking that you just write the book, send 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. Ouch! She said she marked all my writing mistakes in red. Well, most of the page was in red.

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?

Debby Grahl
Author of Mystery, Magic, and Romance
Available from Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble

Website
Facebook
Amazon Author Page
Twitter
BookBub
________________________________________
Mountain Blaze, from Wild Rose Press;
His Magic Touch, from Wild Rose Press;
Rue Toulouse,
The Silver Crescent,
Decorated to Death, a Christmas cozy mystery;
Romancing the Holidays anthology

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

FRIGHT FAVORITES, by David J. Skal. This attractive hardcover by a distinguished historian of the genre (author of, among many other books, HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC, about screen adaptations of DRACULA), lavishly illustrated with movie posters and stills, isn’t an exhaustive guide to horror films. As Skal points out, that would take up an encyclopedia’s worth of text. It’s just what the cover says, a “sampler” of thirty-one works he views as especially noteworthy, in chronological order. Apparently the book was designed as a sort of historical tribute to Halloween through the lens of horror movies. After an introductory overview of Halloween in the movies, he begins with two classic silent films, NOSFERATU and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. You’ll find the expected highlights, such as the vintage Universal monster movies and a selection of groundbreaking Hammer films. More recently, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE EXORCIST, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE SHINING are included, as well as numerous other high-profile movies. Toward the end, Skal necessarily has to be more selective, so the entries appear to reflect his personal tastes, although each movie has some claim to fame that makes it stand out among its peers of a particular decade. Each essay starts with a standardized information block listing studio, release date, running time, producer, director, writer, and major cast members. Along with brief plot summaries, Skal delves into the background, making, and cultural context of each movie. Most readers will find new tidbits of information in every chapter. Each also contains a sidebar that offers a “if you liked that movie, you may like this one” suggestion. FRIGHT FAVORITES is a don’t-miss tome for devoted horror movie fans, especially since it’s priced under $17.00 on Amazon.

LOST BOY, by Christina Henry. Another very dark spinoff from PETER PAN. Since this prequel has the subtitle “The True Story of Captain Hook,” it’s no secret who the narrator, Jamie, will grow up to be. This version of Neverland doesn’t appear to occupy an alternate dimension as in WENDY, DARLING. Although Henry’s Peter Pan brings boys from the Other Place (the mundane world) through a magic tunnel, the pirates sail freely in and out of the harbor, cruising the seas and visiting normal ports. They continually return to the island in hopes of discovering the hypothetical enchanted water that keeps the Lost Boys perpetually young. Fairies and mermaids are mentioned but not shown face-to-face; Tiger Lily’s Native tribe doesn’t exist in this version of Neverland. Jamie was the first boy Peter brought to the island and still goes with him to pick up new ones, a not-infrequent errand, since death often thins the ranks of the gang. Peter regards fighting and even killing as great fun. If things get too peaceful, he deliberately stirs up trouble. When members of the group get killed by pirates or Many-Eyed Ones—intelligent giant spiders—he soon forgets about them, as he forgets anything inconvenient to him. Although Jamie has lived on the island for well over a century and still looks about eleven years old, he has aged mentally and devotes attention to caring for the other boys, especially Charlie, a five-year-old Peter regrets having burdened the group with. A fight between Jamie and the bully of the group, a clash with the Many-Eyed Ones, and the catastrophic aftermath of an attack on the pirate camp cause the group’s precarious equilibrium to disintegrate. Jamie can no longer force himself to ignore Peter’s cruelty and love of violence for its own sake. Also, he gradually begins to remember his past in the Other Place and what really happened when Peter recruited him. Jamie and one of the surviving boys begin to grow up, a process that not only further alienates them from Peter but leads to epiphanies about the true nature of the island and Peter himself. This is a violent, sad novel, though fascinating in its approach to the Peter Pan mythos. Because we know from the first that Jamie will become Captain Hook, readers must unavoidably anticipate a tragic ending. If you can accept that inescapable conclusion, you might be enthralled with the author’s twists on Hook’s origin story and the ecology of Neverland.

JUNIPER WILES, by Charles de Lint. As de Lint discusses in his introduction, he’s regarded as one of the pioneers of urban fantasy, whose works helped to establish the subgenre. Yet what typically springs to mind at the mention of “urban fantasy” nowadays—a “kick-ass” heroine fighting supernatural evil in a present-day or sometimes nineteenth- or twentieth-century city (or an alternate-world analog of one) that harbors vampires, werewolves, witches, etc.—differs markedly from most of de Lint’s contemporary fantasies. In JUNIPER WILES, he plays with the currently dominant urban fantasy model by making his first-person narrator, Juniper, a young actress who achieved fame starring in a TV show as teenage detective Nora Constantine. After the cancellation of the series, tired of show business and uninterested in dealing with fans at conventions and other public events, Juniper came home to de Lint’s invented Canadian city of Newford. Here she returns to her first love, painting, shares a house with her brother, a musician, and hangs out with artist Jilly Coppercorn and her eccentric friends. Juniper assumes Jilly is joking when she talks about spending time in Faerie and associating with supernatural creatures. But then Juniper is approached in a coffee shop by a young man who claims to come from a universe where Nora Constantine is a real person and the adventures in the books featuring her really happened. He seems to believe Juniper is Nora and begs for her help. Readers won’t be surprised to learn that he’s neither lying nor mentally ill. Neither overly gullible nor unrealistically skeptical about the paranormal, Juniper eventually has to accept the alternate-world actuality of Nora Constantine and her (Juniper’s) own obligation to solve the murder of the ghost who accosted her. When she and her friends talk to the author of the original books, who naturally at first considers the whole tale a hoax or delusion, they learn the events surrounding the mystery originate in an unpublished manuscript. At last they’re forced to cross into the alternate reality to solve the case. This novel impressed me as great fun, and even urban fantasy fans not familiar with Jilly Coppercorn and her Newford friends would probably enjoy it.

BEYOND, by Mercedes Lackey. This latest book in the Valdemar universe stands first in the chronology of the series and will probably remain so, since it launches a new sub-series about the founding of the nation of Valdemar. I don’t know how many novels are projected in this sequence, but without much of a spoiler I can warn readers who, like me, hoped to witness the origin of Companions that we apparently have a way to go before reaching that point, maybe (with luck) in the next volume. This first book reveals how the Duke of Valdemar transports his family, his retainers, and many others under his protection to a distant new home. Valdemar, a small, unimportant, rural duchy, possesses nothing of importance except a reputation for breeding the finest horses in the Empire. Under the rule of a capricious, tyrannical emperor, Duke Kordas Valdemar wants to relocate his people to a refuge so far away the Empire and its royal mages will never find them. The Duke has carefully cultivated the façade of a simpleminded country lord with no interests or knowledge beyond his horses. He even helps to deliver foals with his own hands. He also makes it appear that Valdemar has little magic, while in fact he shelters the strongest mages in his realm—including a gaggle of crabby, eccentric old men far more powerful than they look—within the castle, where they can carry on research undetected. They construct a portal and discover a suitable location for their new country, while Kordas struggles to preserve good relations with the emperor, conceal his own true nature and goals, and misdirect the Empire’s spies. We know the huge, secret migration will ultimately succeed, of course, but plenty of obstacles and close calls maintain a high level of tension until the end. Kordas and his wife have an unusually comfortable relationship for spouses in an arranged marriage in fiction. Although not in love, they have a very warm friendship and apparently enjoy a fulfilling sex life (offstage). To avoid having their offspring “invited” to the Emperor’s court, the children have been brought up with tender care but no knowledge of their true parentage. Kordas’s young sister-in-law, Delia, the other principal viewpoint character, is infatuated with him but would never think of disrupting her sister’s marriage. Delia, who has no magic, does possess psychic talent that foreshadows the Gifts of the Heralds later in Valdemar’s history. Both she and Kordas are engaging characters; the reader enthusiastically roots for them and for the success of Kordas’s complex escape plot. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next volume, which, sadly, will doubtless be almost a year away.

*****

Excerpt from “Cold Magic”:

The vial felt like a lump of ice in Devora’s open palm. Her empty hand, clammy with sweat, mechanically smoothed her tawny hair, as if a single strand out of place might betray the ferment inside her head. Did she dare to drink, unsure of the potion’s side effects?

I dare not do otherwise. If I surrender to Tyras, my life will be worthless in any case.

Flicking dust from the vial, whose minute weight dragged at her like a lump of lead, she glanced down into the secret drawer from which she had taken the potion. The compartment held her scant hoard of magical treasures — her ceremonial knife, a couple of rings, a few scrolls. Her father had presented her with this chest, concealed niche built in, out of a playful delight in secrecy that she shared with him, rather than any serious fear of thieves. The potion was the only dangerous item in the cache, the only one Devora had never used. Her father, the late Lord Guardian, a more accomplished sorcerer than she could hope to become, had given it to her as a curiosity.

Tears stung her eyes. She clutched the vial, its chill searing her skin. How Lord Girvan would grieve if he knew what had befallen his Ward! That’s why I must do this. Tears are a waste of energy.

A rapping sounded at her door. With a start that almost made her drop the vial, Devora sprang to her feet. Hastily she fumbled the bottle back into its hiding place and snapped the drawer shut. The latch on her chamber door lifted. She stepped over to her oval mirror of polished silver and pretended to inspect her pale violet gown.

An auburn-haired boy in his late teens, younger than Devora herself, entered the room. His eyes roamed insolently over her bare shoulders. “Lady Devora, Lord Tyras directs that you meet him in the antechamber to the great hall as soon as you’re dressed.” The servant’s tone, as usual, held no respect. Tyras did not encourage his men to show her any.

“Haven’t I ordered you to wait for permission before entering my quarters?”

Ignoring the rebuke, the boy said, “I’ll inform Lord Tyras that you will be down immediately.”

Shutting the door after him, Devora felt her hand shaking with anger, another indulgence she could not afford. The servant would doubtless assure Tyras that Devora was resigned to going through with the evening’s charade, and she had to maintain that illusion. Her plan depended on lulling the usurper into complacency. Tyras, her father’s cousin, had several times asked to marry Devora. Even as a child, she had disliked Tyras, a blunt, unimaginative man who could never share her scholarly interests. She had refused him. Her father, Lord Girvan, had backed her up, well aware that Tyras, as Lord Guardian of the adjoining Ward, wanted Devora only because she stood to inherit her father’s holdings.

At Lord Girvan’s death, Tyras had shown up with his retinue to pay his respects. Once more he had asked — no, demanded — that Devora become his wife. He must have expected the rejection he got, for his “ceremonial” retainers, unmasked as armed knights, had overrun the keep. They had easily overwhelmed Devora’s guards. Her family, ruling a small, quiet Ward, devoting themselves for generations to scholarship and the theory of magic, had little experience in warfare.

When Devora had not struck him down with a bolt of lightning on the spot, Tyras had apparently decided that her magic was as useless a trifle as he had always assumed. She had feigned surrender, awaiting her chance. This evening Tyras had summoned the leading knights and freeholders of the Ward to a banquet, where he planned to announce his betrothal to Devora, sealing his lordship in the eyes of his new subjects. She counted on the celebration to keep him occupied while she carried out her plan. That diversion, however, depended on her using the potion.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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