Welcome to the May 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

My light paranormal romance novella “Yokai Magic,” which draws on Japanese folklore, has been accepted for e-book publication. A teaser of the opening scene appears below.

This month’s interview features fantasy and paranormal romance author Lexi George.

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Interview with Lexi George:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Books! I grew up in the country with no close siblings and no neighbors to play with, so books were my companions and playmates. I wanted to write the kind of stories I love, stories that provide laughter and romance and escape.

What genres do you work in?

I write Southern-fried paranormal romance as Lexi George about hunky immortal demon hunters who come to the Deep South and fall in love . . . with sassy Southern women, of course! The first book in the series is called Demon Hunting in Dixie. Each of the romances is a stand-alone story about a couple, with roaming secondary characters that float in and out of the books. The town is a character and there are lots of zany secondary characters and paranormal critters.

I also write traditional fantasy under the pen name Alexandra Rushe. The fantasy series is called Fledgling Magic and is set in the imaginary world of Tandara, where magic and monsters are real. The first book in the series is called A Meddle of Wizards. The series tells of the adventures—or, more accurately, the misadventures—of Raine Stewart, a young woman who gets sucked through a portal into another world populated by warriors, wizards, and monsters. There is an evil wizard (of course!) and Raine discovers she has powers of her own. Unfortunately, she stinks at magic and has a lot to learn.

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

I’m a plotser, a combination of a pantser and a plotter. Mostly, I make stuff up as I go, but some part of my brain is swirling while I write (the plotting part) to tie up the loose ends. It’s an agonizing process, if you can call it that!

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

I have always loved myths and fairy tales. I loved The Hobbit and David Eddings’ Belgariad series, but I’m also a big romance reader. I discovered Georgette Heyer in the seventh grade and was hooked. Oh, and The Wizard of Oz was another favorite. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones made a huge impression on me, although my voice is more funny than dark. I admire his world-building tremendously and his ability to write memorable characters . . . and kill them off. The man is ruthless in that regard. 😊

What effect has your legal career had on your fiction, if any?

I think being a lawyer has sharpened my analytical and critical thinking skills, which are assets to any writer. Also, I am a linear writer, meaning, I start at the beginning and plow to the end of the book, like an old mule. This habit, I suspect, comes from writing legal briefs. In law, you don’t have the luxury of endless drafts, because of court deadlines.

How did you go about creating your fictional town of Hannah, Alabama? Do you maintain background material such as maps, timelines, etc.?

Hannah is an amalgamation of the small town I grew up in and the small town where I presently reside. I took the river, the rolling hills, and the meteorite crater from the town where I currently live and smacked them down in South Alabama. A total fabrication, as South Alabama is flat as a flitter and has no hills. As for keeping things straight, I maintain a character bible for both series, or I would never remember it all. There are five books in the demon hunter series and a novella, and two books in the fantasy series. I’d be lost without a bible, because the worlds and characters have grown so large. When I started writing the fantasy, I sketched out a map of the world for my own use. It is pathetic. I can’t draw stick people, but it served the purpose.

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

Book five of the demon hunter series, Demon Hunting with a Sexy Ex, came out in September of 2017 and A Meddle of Wizards, book one of the Fledgling Magic series, was released January 9, 2018. Book two of the fantasy, A Muddle of Magic, comes out in October.

What are you working on now?

I am currently writing Demon Hunting with a Southern Sheriff, book six of the demon hunter series! It’s the story of Dev Whitsun, the sheriff in my small town. Poor Dev has his hands full, what with demons, demon hunters, rogue gods, shifters, and an animated statue named Jeb, who tromps around singing standards from the 1890’s at the top of his lungs and whacking bad guys with his metal peanut. Jeb encouraged local farmers to plant goobers instead of cotton, saving them from ruination, and the grateful town erected a statue in his honor. You can see, though, why a roving statue would be troublesome to my sheriff. He has a tricky job, maintain harmony between the norms and the supernatural denizens in his district.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write! Every writer has a voice, and you can’t find your voice if you don’t write. Talking about writing, plotting, outlining, color-coding, indexing, and story-boarding are all well and good, but they don’t get the job done. A story is created one word at a time. You wouldn’t expect to be a concert pianist after one lesson, would you? Or receive an invitation to Wimbleton after one afternoon on the tennis court. Writing is like anything else worthwhile. It’s hard work and it takes time and discipline. Make yourself sit down and write. Be selfish. Make time for your writing, whether it’s late at night, lunch hours, or before work. Writing is the only way to become a writer! Oh, and take craft classes or read a good book on writing. Join a critique group, either in person or on-line. Feedback is essential and so is constructive criticism. Very few good books are written in a complete vacuum.

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

You can find me at Lexi George or Alexandra Rushe.

Thanks so much for the interview, Margaret. I have loved being here!

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

IN THE FOREST OF FORGETTING, by Theodora Goss. A 2006 collection of stories first published in various fantasy venues, by the author of THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. Goss often draws upon fairy tales for her plots and, born in Hungary and having spent much of her childhood in Europe, sets several tales in her homeland. A few highlights: “The Rose in Twelve Petals,” in an alternate-history version of Europe, retells “Sleeping Beauty” with a fresh viewpoint on the motives of the witch who places the curse on the princess. “Letters from Budapest” features an artist and a sort of psychic vampire who feeds on creativity. “In the Forest of Forgetting” frames a woman’s cancer as a journey in search of her own identity through a forest where she meets a series of archetypal persons. “Sleeping with Bears” narrates a wedding between a young woman and a bear as a series of vignettes in a tone that portrays the existence of talking, sapient bears as ordinary and unexceptional, with the marriage itself presented as a rather strange cross-cultural union but not outright shocking. Three stories, “Miss Emily Gray,” “Conrad,” and “Lessons with Miss Gray,” feature the titular nanny, governess, and/or witch as an anti-Mary-Poppins who grants wishes in a uniquely skewed way. In “The Wings of Meister Wilhelm,” the young girl narrator becomes involved in her music teacher’s ambition to build a glider and fly to a legendary floating island in the sky. The mother of the protagonist of “Pip and the Fairies” became famous as author of a series of children’s fantasy stories; after her mother’s death, Pip rediscovers her own past and of course awakens to the forgotten reality of the fairy tales.

THE HAZEL WOOD, by Melissa Albert. A mind-blowing entry in my favorite fantasy subgenre, portal fantasy. Seventeen-year-old Alice’s grandmother, Althea Proserpine, whom she has never met, wrote one collection of fairy tales that became a cult classic, then withdrew from the world to her estate, the Hazel Wood (named after a line in a poem by Yeats). Ella, Alice’s mother, never talks about Althea or the father of whom Alice knows nothing. Ella and Alice have kept constantly on the move, fleeing the bad luck that seems to plague them and everyone around them. The book, TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND, is almost impossible to find; Alice got a brief glimpse of a copy before her mother took it from her. At the age of six, Alice was temporarily abducted by a mysterious, redheaded man who claimed to come from the Hinterland. Ella, by the time she receives word of Althea’s death, has married a well-to-do man with a teenage daughter, and Alice is attending an exclusive school. She even has a part-time job and a friend or two. Soon after the surprising news about Althea, Ella and her husband and stepdaughter vanish. When father and daughter reappear within a few days, refusing to discuss what happened to them, Alice’s stepfather throws her out of the house. She resolves to track down her missing mother. To do that, she feels she must find her grandmother’s home, the Hazel Wood, but the only clues to its location are in an old magazine article about Althea. Alice has to turn for help to her classmate Ellery Finch, an obsessive fan of TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND, which he actually read multiple times before having his copy stolen. On their road trip, Alice and Ellery become friends or perhaps something more, while occasionally glimpsing people who seem to step out of the pages of Althea’s dark fairy tales. Ellery tells Alice a couple of the stories, their tone and contents a blend of numinous and creepy. After discovering Ellery’s ulterior motive for coming with her, Alice does find the Hazel Wood and from there, of course, makes her way into the Hinterland. She also learns the truth about her own past. I wish Melissa Albert would write and publish TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND itself, considering the evocative titles of the stories she mentions but doesn’t elaborate on.

AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD, by Jonathan L. Howard. The title makes this sound like a very short book! Actually, it’s the sequel to CARTER & LOVECRAFT (sic), in which Daniel Carter, a descendant of Randolph Carter (protagonist of H. P. Lovecraft’s THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH and several short stories) co-inherited a bookshop with Emily Lovecraft, a mixed-race collateral descendant of HPL. They now find themselves in the Unfolded World, an alternate reality where the former city of Providence is now Arkham, and most if not all of Lovecraft’s fiction is based on fact. Worse, in this timeline the German Reich demolished the Soviet Union in an atomic bomb strike on Moscow in 1941. The Nazis still rule much of Europe, and the Cold War pits the Reich against the U.S. and its allies. The Holocaust as we know it never happened; the victims of the equivalent extermination program were Communists and other “degenerates” the West didn’t care about. The state of Israel exists on the island of Madagascar. As an oddly negative side effect of not having six million Jews slaughtered, the revulsion against racism that followed the war in our timeline never happened in the Unfolded World. Casual, widely accepted antisemitism is accompanied by prejudice against other ethnic groups. So Emily has to live with racism more blatant than in the world she’s used to. Moreover, to both Emily and Daniel, as well as Detective Martin Harrelson of the Arkham police department, the only other refugee from the folded world, it feels viscerally wrong to accept a Nazi regime as a normal, if distrusted, player on the international stage. But Carter and Lovecraft still have a living to make and a detective agency and a rare-books shop, respectively, to run. A man named Weston hires Daniel to investigate irregularities in a high-energy physics project at Miskatonic University. Meanwhile, Emily acquires a copy of the NECRONOMICON and gets drawn into its arcane lore. Daniel is plagued by eldritch dreams. They end up joining an expedition to a research base on an otherwise uninhabited island near Alaska. Crossing paths with German agents, members of the occult Thule society, British commandos (pleasantly surprised that Daniel has read the relatively obscure spy thriller series by that chap Ian Fleming), and an alien species, they play a role in averting a cosmic catastrophe. The end of the novel finds them back in Arkham, resuming what passes for normal life. I’d love to see another book in this series, and the last page of the novel does conclude with what might be a potential sequel hook.

MOTHER GOOSE REFIGURED, by Christine A. Jones. This new (2016) translation of Charles Perrault’s STORIES OR TALES OF THE PAST, otherwise known as the Mother Goose fairy tales, is preceded by a detailed introduction on the topics of Perrault’s life and times in the reign of Louis XIV of France, an analysis of “Cinderella” as one of the best-known and most popularly influential stories (especially in its “Disneyfied” version), and the roles of female characters in several other fairy tales. The main introduction is followed by “Notes on Editions, Translations, and Interpretations,” an essay on the texts and their cultural influences, as well as a discussion of the editor’s translation choices. Jones aims to make the tales fresh for modern readers by increased accuracy to the original and a faithful reflection of the witty allusions and double entendres the French audience of the late seventeenth century would have noticed. The language sounds both colloquial and sharply pointed, and the verse morals at the ends of the stories come across as slyly ironic rather than simplistic. Extensive footnotes explain why certain phrases are translated the way they are and situate them in their cultural context. We discover that Perrault’s tales don’t simply transcribe timeless folk narratives but rather address the delicate problems of young people, especially women, navigating the pitfalls of French society in that era. Unlike the Grimm brothers’ encyclopedic compilation, Perrault’s collection comprises only eight stories. They include, however, several classics in their versions best-known to modern audiences, such as “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” One device by which Jones de-familiarizes the tales is to translate their titles anew, more faithfully to the original language; thus, “Sleeping Beauty” becomes “The Beauty in the Slumbering Woodland” and “Cinderella” becomes “Ashkins; or, The Little Slipper of Glass.” The book concludes with a long annotated bibliography.

*****

Excerpt from “Yokai Magic”:

Dust and cobwebs coated the box marked, “Granddad’s mementos from Korea.” Climbing onto a stepstool, Val swept away the mess with a broom before lifting the box down. It had probably sat undisturbed on the basement shelf since her family had bought the house, when she’d been twelve years old. She lugged her find upstairs and set it on a newspaper spread on the kitchen table. Her cat leaped onto the chair next to hers and stared as if supervising the job. With a paring knife, she slit the crumbling tape that barely sealed the box top.

After pulling out handfuls of wadded-up packing paper, she came upon a pile of letters with exotic stamps and a military return address. A separately bound bundle of envelopes looked like her grandmother’s reply letters. Val squashed the temptation to start reading them on the spot. If what she needed wasn’t loose in the box, she would riffle through the envelopes. From another nest of paper, she dug out a porcelain figurine of a white, green-eyed Japanese good-luck cat wearing a red scarf around its neck. She set the statuette on the table. The next layer in the box revealed a cylindrical package swathed in plastic wrap.

What’s this? A picture of some kind? As she sliced open the wrapping, the knife slipped. The blade nicked her finger, and a drop of blood fell onto the package. That’ll teach me to use scissors next time. She dug a tissue out of her jeans pocket and wrapped her fingertip. For a second her vision blurred. What’s that about? Too long since lunch? The weird sensation faded, and she dismissed it from her mind.

To her relief, when she stripped the wrapping off the package, she found only a barely visible bloodstain on the very edge of the object inside—a Japanese painted scroll. After shoving aside the heap of mail and the porcelain cat, she unrolled the scroll on the kitchen table. It portrayed a small, red building with a freestanding, rectangular arch in front and a peaked roof. Maybe a shrine? A slender, white cat adorned with a red scarf resembling the one on the figurine sat in a demure pose in front of the gate. In the background, next to a flowering cherry tree and a sketchy outline of a stream, hovered a figure of a woman in a lavender, floral-printed kimono. She wore a scarf like the cat’s around her neck and a large, black ring on her left hand. A column of Japanese characters ran down the upper right side of the picture.

Val rubbed behind the ears of the long-haired, charcoal-and-silver tabby sprawled on the adjacent chair. “What do you think, Toby? Could I sell this for a small fortune and get the roof replaced?” Her pet blinked at her. “No, that’s what I thought.”

She sighed over the pile of mail. Sure, it would be interesting to read the letters her grandfather had written during his Army service in Korea in 1951, but would one of those envelopes contain what she was looking for? She’d hauled the stuff upstairs in search of a receipt for two Japanese ivory figurines that had adorned the fireplace mantel for as long as she could remember. Much as she hated the thought of giving them up, the websites she’d checked suggested their value would take a healthy bite out of the roof cost. She couldn’t legally sell ivory, though, without proof Granddad had owned it before the ban on possessing it had existed.

After popping into the ground-floor half-bath to bandage her finger, she returned to the kitchen to finish emptying the box. It took her a minute to notice something missing from the table. “Hey, what happened to the cat statuette?” She glanced at Toby as if he might have an answer. He leaped to the floor and strolled away, plumed tail waving. With a shrug, Val peered into the box, in case she’d replaced the figurine in it without thinking. “Not there. Then where did I put it?” She flipped through the remaining papers, although there wasn’t enough debris left to hide the object. She glanced at the floor, where she would have seen obvious shards of porcelain if he had knocked the thing off the table. “Hope I’m not losing my mind. I might need it again.” Ridiculous. If I were going to have hallucinations, I wouldn’t start by imagining random Asian artifacts. Better quit for now. Definitely way past dinnertime. She stowed the items back in the box for safekeeping and cleaned off the table, then rummaged in the refrigerator for leftovers to heat up.

-end of excerpt-

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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