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Welcome to the November 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 U.S Thanksgiving!

Writers Exchange E-Publishing has just re-released my contemporary fantasy elf romance, PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS. Two elven princes and a half-elf baby complicate Fern’s life after the mysterious death of her sister:

Prince of the Hollow Hills

My story collection formerly titled DAME ONYX TREASURES has been republished, slightly revised and with a new bonus story, as LOVE AMONG THE MONSTERS. (If you ever tried in vain to follow my old link to DAME ONYX TREASURES, I didn’t realize it had become invalid with the closing of the original publisher. Sorry!)

Love Among the Monsters

Here’s the Draft2Digital page for purchase from retailers other than Amazon:

Draft2Digital

Below is an excerpt from one of the stories original to this collection, “Fantasia Quest.” The heroine, Carrie, and hero, Rolf, are stuck inside a computer fantasy roleplaying game. Graystreak is Carrie’s familiar, a flying squirrel. Rolf’s sword, by the way, sings movie lyrics.

“Chocolate Chip Charm,” my story in the Wild Rose Press Christmas Cookies line, will be released on November 16. How can you fix the mess you’ve made when a love potion baked into a batch of chocolate chip Christmas cookies goes horribly wrong—or maybe surprisingly right? Here’s the preorder link on Amazon:

Chocolate Chip Charm

This month I’m interviewing Ellie Gray, author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

*****

Interview with Ellie Gray:

WINTER STORM, by Ellie Gray

Q. What inspired you to begin writing?

A. I didn’t actually begin putting pen to paper until in my late teens, but I have always written stories in my head – full-blown, complete stories – it used to help me get to sleep. It just never occurred to me that I should write them down until much later.

Q. What genres do you work in?

A. I write contemporary, heart-warming romance and romantic suspense. I also write YA fantasy fiction, although haven’t yet had any of these published. I’ll get around to it someday…

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

A. I guess a bit of both? As I said in my first question, I started off by writing the stories in my head, and I still do that now. I don’t start writing it down until I have the full story written in my head. That doesn’t stop the story from changing or expanding when I do start actually writing it – quite often the characters start to become a little more vocal in terms of where they want to go!

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

A. I was one of those children who always had her nose in a book, as I’m sure most writers were and still are. I read a lot of Enid Blyton as a child – I loved those books – but quickly developed an eclectic taste in genres. As a teen I read a lot of Stephen King but also Mills and Boon which I think inspired my actual writing as that fitted my style; although I love Stephen King, it just wasn’t the type of writing that I naturally fitted into, whereas romance was. And, of course, romance always has a happy ending….

Q. When creating fiction set in the area where you live, do you tend to mention real places or “disguise” them?

A. A little of both. In Winter Storm, the little isolated village where Willow lives is called Millendale, and this is based on a real village in the Yorkshire Dales called Thixendale, so I changed the name and layout of the village to fit the story. However, for Warwick’s Mermaid, much of the story was set in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby, and I described parts of Whitby and the Abbey in detail in the book.

Q. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

A. My next book, following Winter Storm, is Love on the Nile, which has previously been published, but is now being re-released by The Wild Rose Press, with a lovely shiny new cover. As you can probably guess by the title, it is set in Egypt. Kiya goes on the holiday of a life time and meets handsome but grumpy archaeologist, Kyle – sparks fly!

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I’m working on a new romantic suspense novel set in Scotland, and am hoping to be able to release this later next year.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A. Every author will say this, but read as many books and different authors as you can. If you can afford it, go to a writer’s workshop to learn the technical aspects. It really helped me to know about the craft of writing – plot, structure, character arcs. There are plenty of books available to buy which can teach you those things too. It really makes you see things in a different light, and it helps you as you write your book because you are already looking out for those errors that editors will pick up on.

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

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

RATIONALITY, by Steven Pinker. This book by one of my favorite nonfiction authors, a psychologist at Harvard, is subtitled “What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.” Chapter Ten of the eleven chapters asks the vital question that doubtless occurs to most of us now and then while reading or watching the news: “What’s Wrong with People?” Before we get there, however, Pinker takes us step by step through the many obstacles to rational thinking that can trip up perfectly intelligent people. He analyzes the meanings of rationality and its opposite, as well as when it’s reasonable to make an apparently irrational decision. He explains the rules and application of formal logic, plus an array of biases and fallacies (which have an index of their own in the back of the book), such as confirmation bias, all-or-none causation, sunk cost, discounting the future too steeply, and many others. Even though I took a logic course in college and enjoyed it, I found some of the diagrams and formal propositions heavy going. YMMV, if you happen to be more visually-oriented than I. His exposition, however, is as lucid and entertaining as always. Also, as in most of his books, he illustrates the messages of the text with cartoons from various sources, including “Peanuts.” In answer to what’s wrong with people, Pinker maintains that it’s not that we’re inherently irrational or even simply that our brains evolved to cope with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. We can learn better. RATIONALITY exhibits the same hopefulness about humanity’s future as his earlier books THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW.

BRIARHEART, by Mercedes Lackey. This fantasy novel based on “Sleeping Beauty” isn’t part of either of Lackey’s two long-running fairy-tale retelling series, 500 Kingdoms and Elemental Masters. BRIARHEART is narrated by the endangered princess’s teenage half-sister. Her father was the king’s best friend, killed in battle, and the king married Miriam’s mother after a suitable interval. Their household is refreshingly free of typical fairy-tale step-family hostilities. Miri loves her royal “Papa,” who sensibly indulges her love of a physically active lifestyle in addition to giving her plenty of books and a proper education. Since she’s technically not a princess, she doesn’t have to endure most of a royal daughter’s duties. Far from being jealous of the baby, Miri adores her new sister. I was mildly surprised that the future Sleeping Beauty bears the name “Aurora,” a choice that would seem to violate the precaution “don’t mess with the Mouse.” Character names, however, can’t be copyrighted (although they can be trademarked), and all the details of the story differ so much from the Disney movie that it’s hard to see how even the most sharklike lawyer could find grounds for a suit. At Aurora’s christening, of course, the family’s serenity is shattered. They’ve taken meticulous care to invite all the Fae in their small kingdom. The Rules of the compact among Light Fae, Dark Fae, and humans protect the latter as long as they don’t give offense in any way—and Fae are easily offended, especially the Dark ones, who actively seek excuses to incite the human anguish and terror that nourish them. A Dark Fae unknown to anyone, human or not, shows up at the christening and tries to curse the baby. When Miri impulsively leaps to protect her sister, the evil magic bounces off. Without knowing what she’s doing, Miri blasts the attacker into oblivion. Now, with magical power of unknown origin, she has to be instructed in its use by one of the Light Fae. For non-supernatural protection, she and a few of her friends are designated as Aurora’s Companions and assigned to combat training. Miri quickly comes to enjoy her new training regimen and rejoices in her growing skills as fighter and magic-user. The acquisition of these skills takes up a large proportion of the narrative. The characters are engaging, and watching them interact is a pleasure in itself, as in all of Lackey’s fiction. Miri, although talented and well-meaning, isn’t perfect. Her impulsive reactions to the dangers that arise get her and her friends into trouble. When facing the climactic crisis, however, she makes the correct although unorthodox choice. Along the way, she meets other kinds of inhuman creatures, including a unicorn, a dragon, trolls, and the keepers of the Goblin Market, but so far the source of the threat to Aurora remains a mystery. I must warn you that (to my dismay) this book proves to be only the beginning of what will probably become a multi-volume story. At the end, Aurora is still a baby.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG, by J. K. Rowling. A fantasy directed at a younger audience than the Harry Potter series, with a seven-year-old boy, Jack, as the protagonist. He loves DP (Dur Pig, baby-talk for “the pig”), his security object since infancy, more than any other toy. In Jack’s mind, DP understands him and communicates with him on a human level. The relationship between boy and stuffed animal is portrayed as a deep emotional bond, complete with vivid descriptions of the toy’s comforting smell, which has to be renewed whenever Jack’s mother insists on a spin through the washing machine. Up until Chapter 13 (page 41), Jack’s story proceeds on a mundane track with realistic problems. His parents get divorced. Eventually his mother remarries to a nice man with a teenage daughter, Holly, who had been kind to Jack when assigned as his mentor during his first year in school. Now that they’ve become step-siblings, though, she bullies him half the time. When she quarrels with her mother and insists on spending Christmas with her father and his new family, a fight between Holly and Jack leads to her throwing DP out the car window on the highway. At that point, magic enters. On Christmas Eve, “the night of miracles and lost causes,” the replacement toy bought for Jack—CP, the Christmas Pig—comes to life and offers him a desperately dangerous chance to recover DP. Shrunk to toy size, Jack crosses over into the Land of the Lost, where the “Alivened” souls of lost things go. From the temporary holding area of Mislaid, Jack and CP travel to the districts of Bother-It’s-Gone (home of things people miss and want back) and Disposable. Constantly having to outwit the Loss Adjustors, who make sure Things don’t wander where they have no right to be, and in danger from the giant, monstrous Loser, who eats whatever Things he can catch, Jack and CP receive help from a few friendly creatures. Eventually they find their way to two other parts of the Land of the Lost, whose existence the creatures in charge of Bother-It’s-Gone and Disposable don’t want to admit. To get there, they have to risk the Wastes of the Unlamented. From resentment and active dislike of CP, Jack gradually comes to depend on and finally love him. The countries and creatures, both inanimate objects and personified abstractions such as Bad Habits and lost Hope, Happiness, Power, and many others, are wildly inventive. I get the impression that Rowling’s world-building in this more limited setting is better organized and less ad-hoc than in the Harry Potter series. Other than the character of Hope playing a somewhat dea-ex-machina role at one point, the story rigorously follows its own rules. A beautifully detailed, black-and-white, two-page spread illustration introduces each of the book’s nine parts. The age range of the book’s intended audience isn’t quite clear. On the premise that a children’s or YA protagonist should be the same age as or slightly older than the prospective reader, this story should be meant for six- or seven-year-olds. I doubt many of them would be able to read a chapter book of this length and vocabulary level on their own. As a read-aloud experience for children of that age, however, it’s perfect. It would also appeal to many older fantasy fans, including adults, provided they aren’t put off by a hero who, in the mundane chapters at the beginning, sometimes comes across as rather childish (tantrum-prone) for his age. His adventures mature him, though. On the whole, I found THE CHRISTMAS PIG highly entertaining and suspenseful, worthy of a reread.

THE LAST GRADUATE, by Naomi Novik. Prospective readers of this YA dark fantasy need to have read its predecessor, A DEADLY EDUCATION, the first volume in what’s apparently shaping up as a trilogy. To recap: Narrator El (short for Galadriel) attends a uniquely designed school for wizards in its own pocket dimension. The quasi-sentient Scholomance has no teachers, no kindly Dumbledore or even a harsh Snape, only self-guided study. Assignments, grades, and class rankings magically appear out of nowhere when students aren’t looking. They arrive as freshmen and don’t leave until graduation—if they survive the four years. They have no contact with the outside world aside from information gleaned from the annual crop of newbies. Personal possessions brought with them fall under a tightly restricted weight allowance. In theory, the school provides the necessities of life, but in erratic availability and quality. The vast, labyrinthine building is infested with mals, a catch-all name for the myriad species of supernatural creatures ravenous to eat wizards, their mana (magical energy), or both. Graduation consists of fighting through a horde of mals in the Great Hall to reach the exit portal to the real world. As THE LAST GRADUATE begins, El is a senior. She’s reluctantly falling in love with Orion Lake, a student from the privileged enclave group, enclaves being clans of wizards rich in mana, material wealth, and political connections. Orion has a reputation as a rescuer of other students, effortlessly slaying mals and actually enjoying the experience. El, on the other hand, has been shunned by her classmates for most of her school career because she’s a known high-powered maleficer, capable of lethal magic if she loses control. No matter that she’s never seriously hurt another student; they fear her dark side anyway. In the first book, however, she made a few friends with whom she developed a formal alliance. Now alliances and teamwork become all-important as seniors complete their final semester of course work and prepare to spend the last six months of the school year strategizing and practicing for graduation. Despite the interpersonal friction and the outright hostility of some of her classmates, who have no qualms about trying to murder fellow students, El trades favors and draws others into her network. Gradually she learns that it’s possible to reach out in kindness, even altruism, without getting stabbed in the back, contrary to the ingrained selfishness all students have customarily depended on for survival. As the end of senior year approaches, she concocts a mad scheme to get her entire class through graduation alive. You’ve seen those TV previews that claim “the next episode will change everything”? Well, about a sixth of the way from the end of this book, El discovers a secret about the Scholomance that changes everything. Her friendships and her determination to save those she cares about (albeit some grudgingly) deepen, as does her finally acknowledged passion for Orion, even though he often exasperates her. Although I’m not a great fan of “snark” in general, I enjoyed El’s acerbic narrative voice, a veneer over the loneliness she’s reluctant to acknowledge. To her own surprise, she ultimately becomes as much of a self-sacrificing hero as Orion. Be warned: The last line of the book leaves us dangling from a figurative cliff, and we probably have to wait another year for the resolution.

*****

Excerpt from “Fantasia Quest”:

Carrie conjured the usual floating globe. They dismounted and led the horses. Just beyond the cave’s maw, the space opened up enough to let them walk side by side. “Looks like a tunnel,” she said. “Would have been nice if the map had told us about it.”
Several paces on, a gossamer veil shimmered across the span. A web. Desiccated corpses of two birds and a bat hung in the network.

Rolf’s fist clenched on the hilt of his sheathed sword. “Damn. If the spider that spun this is hanging around, I don’t want to meet it. This has to be a surprise Zack planted for me.”

The tension in his voice reminded her of the arachnophobia he’d confessed. “I’ll get rid of the web.” Surrounded by rock, the strands could burn without endangering nearby plant life. At her arcane word, flame shot from her wand and engulfed the web. It blazed for a second, then crumbled to ash.

Graystreak volunteered to scout to the end of the cleft. When he glided back to Carrie’s shoulder, he said, “It’s a tunnel and there’s a spider guarding the other end, all right. A big one.”

His face set in a strained mask, Rolf glanced at her, then back at the web. “How big?”

“You don’t want to know,” the squirrel muttered.

“I’ll find out in a second anyway. It’s not like we have an alternative.” Rolf whispered to the horses, patting their necks and commanding them to stay put. He drew his sword and strode forward.

At his side, Carrie flourished her wand to the sword’s lyrics of a spy thriller title song about a villain with a spider’s touch. Fifty paces in, they glimpsed a multi-legged lump silhouetted against a patch of daylight at the far mouth of the tunnel. It shambled toward them with a scrabbling of claws on rock. Once inside the passage, its eight eyes glinted scarlet in the dimness.

Rolf halted, a visible tremor in his upraised sword arm. The shaggy thing in front of him looked like a tarantula the size of a pony. Venom dripped from its fangs. It headed for the bladewarden, who only stared as if paralyzed.

Carrie cast an acid dart at the spider. It shuddered when the dart sizzled in its bristle-covered torso but turned toward her only for a second before looming over Rolf. He still didn’t move.

It’ll bite his head off for all I know!

“Rolf, do something!”

He took a step backward, his sword arm frozen. Shouting his name again, she charged between him and the spider. She flung a spray of rainbow dazzle at the monster’s head, blinding it. It staggered in confusion but not before its mandibles nipped her arm. Pain stung her, brief but sharp.

She stumbled and fell to one knee.

“Crystal, no!” Rolf surged into action with a yell of rage. He sliced off two of the spider’s legs before she managed to struggle to her feet. Though he hadn’t stopped shaking, he brandished his sword between her and the monster. In spite of its temporary blindness, it scored a glancing bite on Rolf. With his mouth twisted in revulsion, he cut off a third limb.

-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

Fiction:
Vampire’s Tribute:
Contains “Payer of Tribute” and “Demon on the Hill,” in the Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.

All Vendors

 

Story collection HARVEST OF MAGIC, tales of sorcery and fantasy, with Leslie Roy Carter:

Order from Amazon

 

Nonfiction:

Welcome to the [month] 2022 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

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:

Subscribe

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 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