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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

I’m thrilled to report that I’ve had a story, “Haunted Book Nook,” accepted for the anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 33, to be published this fall. It’s a mildly humorous ghost story, and the opening paragraphs are posted below.

This month I’ve interviewed multi-genre author Sorchia DuBois.

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Interview with Sorchia DuBois:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I grew up in a household of readers. We had bookshelves in nearly every room with nearly every kind of book imaginable on them. While my mom tried to steer me towards the ‘appropriate’ reading material for girls, I never connected with the sweet young ladies in those books. I soon discovered a magical place called “The Public Library” where I could check out any kind of book I wanted, so science fiction, murder mysteries, fantasies, and true crime stories came to visit every few weeks. Writing seemed a natural progression from reading. I started writing stories in first grade and kept it up as a just-for-fun kind of thing from then on. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the start, but I was constantly told how girls didn’t do that and how you couldn’t make money as a writer and that I should concentrate on more traditional pursuits. I’m sorry to say I listened to this garbage for much too long. Finally, I reached a point where it became clear it was put-up or shut-up time so I wrote my first real book and fell in with a new publisher who published it. I was hooked. Now I’m about to get the third book published, working on the 4th, with the 5th in outline.

What genres do you work in?

At the moment, fantasy and Gothic romance are my niches. I’m about to jump into murder mysteries and I dabble in science fiction but I think I will always include spooky, unsettling, and dark bits in whatever I write. Romance is an element I never thought I would enjoy. But I do. Whether romance is the main plot element or just a side story, it is a wonderful way to develop characters.

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

Something in between. I do a lot of thinking about my stories—daydreaming and imagining and running dialogue in my head—until I have a good idea of who the characters are, what they want, and roughly how they will get from page 1 to Epilogue. I’ll write a quick outline, work on character backstory for a bit, and then I just jump in and start writing. I do a little tarot reading, so I grab my cards as I begin a story or whenever I get stuck. I use them to jump start chapters and to help me define characters. One of my worst fears is to be predictable and I think using the cards helps me introduce fresh situations.

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

A primer in classics—Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allen Poe—got me started. Later writers such as Tolkien, Douglas Adams, PG Wodehouse, Donald Westlake have been major influences. These days I am woefully out of touch with modern writers since I’ve been concentrating on my own work or on colleagues in my genre, but I enjoy Barbara Kingsolver and Janet Evonovich. Of course, I revisit the past and present mystery mavens—Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, and so on.

There’s a lot of great material about Scotland on your site. Do you have a family or personal connection with Scotland? What kinds of research have you done for your novels set there?

Funny story. I’ve always been an Anglophile—You may have guessed from all the British authors in my list of influences. I often speak in awful English, Irish, or Scottish accents and I love anything Celtic. My daughter kept harping at me to read Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander series and I resisted because no youngster is going to tell me what to do. So finally, I gave in and something clicked. I knew my family was Scottish, Irish, English, and German, but I’d never done the research. Turns out, the Rosses—which are my dad’s maternal relations and his favorite line—bailed out of Scotland just after Culloden. Who knows why but I like to think they caused a lot of trouble beforehand. Anyway, after I got the connection clear in my head, I find out there are Scottish festivals all over the place and many local to my isolated hideaway. I started going to those and have never looked back. Any place where you can listen to fantastic music, watch burly men in kilts, and have whisky literally forced on you is fine with me.

A trip to Scotland is in the offing but until then, I hang out with Scottish people, listen to Scottish music, struggle to learn Scots Gaelic, attend Scottish festivals, and drink Scotch. This obsession doesn’t show any signs of going away.

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

Funny you should ask. Right now, I am finishing a Gothic romance series about a small town fortuneteller from Arkansas who finds her family tree is rooted in a haunted Scottish castle. The story started as a nice little Gothic tale but quickly developed into something of an epic quest. The series includes three main books and an anthology of short stories. Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones is the first book with Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen coming in June or July. Zoraida Grey and the Pictish Runes is the final in the trilogy and I hope to have that out by Halloween. The anthology—Witchling—should be available on my website by August.

What are you working on now?

Busy as I am finishing the Zoraida Grey trilogy, I’m also planning a nice, witchy story for December called Winter Solstice. Along with that, the next project is a murder mystery revolving around a Midwestern Celtic festival. That one is just in the planning stages but if I get myself moving, I can get it out next spring. I’m thinking about calling it Festival of Death or Celtic Carnage but who knows.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. No matter what anyone tells you. If writing is what you want to do, then quit whining and do it. I’ve met—and have been guilty myself—many people who say they want to be writers when, as the quote goes, what they really want is to have written. They don’t want to do the hard work of learning a craft and eking out words by the thimbleful until they fill a novel. The people who really, really intend to be writers will take the time to learn how to do it and that is by study, by reading the masters and not-so-greats, and by doing it yourself. You can tell what someone wants to do by the fact that they actually do it. Otherwise, they find excuses not to do it. I found excuses for many years and now I wish I had that time back. Get busy and write.

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

The website is Sorchia DuBois. There you will find a menu including how to buy books and how to sign up as a guest.

If you want to go directly to the blog—which is called Sorchia’s Universe– then Sorchia’s Universe.

Here is a list of places where you can follow me for the latest news and other bits of weirdness I find interesting at any given moment.

Twitter: Twitter
Pinterest: Pinterest
Facebook: Facebook
Amazon author page: Amazon
Goodreads author page: Goodreads
Google +: Google+
BookBub: BookBub
Instagram: Instagram

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MAPPING THE BONES, by Jane Yolen. Yolen states in her Afterword that she structured this Holocaust novel on the “armature” of “Hansel and Gretel.” The story unfolds in three stages: starving at home (the Polish ghetto to which the family has been consigned after losing their original home); lost in the forest (in hiding with partisan resistance fighters); dubious shelter in the witch’s candy house (a labor camp). Preteen twins Chaim and Gittel live in a cramped apartment with their parents, subsisting on inadequate food supplies. Chaim, who stutters, speaks in ordinary conversation as little as possible, never more than five words at a stretch. He and Gittel have developed a secret sign language. As a poet, however, he is eloquent. The family’s circumstances decline further when they’re required to share their quarters with another four-person family—a German Jewish dentist and his wife, daughter Sophie, and son Bruno. While Sophie is shy but friendly, Bruno follows his father’s lead in acting superior to the lowly Polish Jews they’re forced to live with. It soon becomes clear that the mother is mentally unstable. Faced with a life-threatening crisis, the news that they have been chosen for transport (although at this point nobody knows for sure what that means), the two families decide to escape into the adjacent forest. While I won’t go into spoiler-y detail, Chaim, Gittel, and Bruno eventually end up in a slave-labor camp working in a munitions factory. In a sense they’re better off than in the forest because at least they have beds (although no mattresses or linens) and regular meals (although meager and bad). Without writing supplies, Chaim continues to compose poems in his head and recite them over to himself to keep from forgetting them. A few gestures of unexpected kindness, even from the Polish women who supervise the children, occasionally relieve the grim atmosphere. Essentially, however, the camp is “hell,” even though its direct purpose isn’t death as in the concentration camps, a background horror that the novel doesn’t let us forget. Small acts of heroism occur, but mainly it’s all the victims can do to survive and cling to their humanity. The third-person narrative from Chaim’s viewpoint alternates with short first-person sections headed “Gittel Remembers.” And I must admit I peeked at the end to find out in advance which characters other than Gittel survive. This is a harrowing story with a core of love and hope. Some Yolen fans may be slightly disappointed, as I was upon reading the cover blurb, that there’s no fantasy content as in THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC or fairy-tale atmosphere as in BRIAR ROSE. Nevertheless, MAPPING THE BONES is a gripping, memorable novel, thoroughly satisfying on its own terms.

NATURAL CAUSES, by Barbara Ehrenreich. The latest book by the author of several works about the history of women’s treatment by the medical establishment, plus NICKEL AND DIMED (a report of her experiment in living on minimum wage) and other books on social issues. She holds a PhD in cellular immunology (according to the author bio), qualifying her to write in depth on our national obsession with the pursuit of youth, longevity, and perfect health. The subtitle, “An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer,” encapsulates the book’s theme—that we behave as if we think we can avoid death altogether if we do the right things as prescribed by the up-to-date medical recommendations of the moment. Admittedly, it came as a surprise to me that “scientific” evidence for the benefits of annual physical exams and the routine screening tests recommended by the American health care industry is, in many respects, quite weak. Moreover, not-uncommon false positives generate anxiety and unnecessary treatments. Intervention for conditions that might not cause any trouble if left alone (as with many cases of prostate cancer) can lead to effects worse than the alleged disease. The chapter title “The Veneer of Science” speaks for itself. The book explores a wide range of topics, such as the social context of death, the ways our own cells make war against each other, unproven wellness fads, and the concept of “successful aging.” While I take some of the author’s conclusions with several grains of salt, overall I found the book informative, thought-provoking, and unsettling.

THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King. Although King returns to his supernatural horror roots with this novel, the beginning of the story focuses on grimly possible horrors. Detective Ralph Anderson of the invented Oklahoma town of Flint City (smaller than the name indicates, a place where people know each other, or think they do), the principal viewpoint character, investigates the sadistic rape, murder, and mutilation of an eleven-year-old boy. All eyewitness and forensic evidence irrefutably point to the town’s popular youth sports coach, Terry Maitland, who doesn’t seem to have made any effort to hide his guilt. Ralph rushes to arrest Maitland for fear delay might give him time to flee. In fact, the police pick up the coach in the middle of a baseball game. Ralph has a personal stake in the case because his own son was coached by Maitland in Little League. Soon, however, seemingly ironclad evidence comes to light locating Maitland seventy miles away at the time of the murder. How can a man be in two places at once? Could Maitland have a double convincing enough to fool people who’ve known him for years? And what about the DNA evidence? Through skillful use of multiple viewpoints, King engenders sympathy for all sides in the case, from Ralph and his wife to the wife and daughters of the suspect and the family of the murdered boy. As it becomes clear to the reader that Maitland is innocent, we begin to realize (long before the characters, of course, because we know this is a King novel) that something supernatural or at least paranormal is going on. Then a plot twist occurs that I didn’t see coming, which I won’t spoil for you. This event torments Ralph with second thoughts and makes him even more determined to uncover the truth. The investigation he pursues with the eventual help of both the prosecutor and the defense counsel leads to a monster quite different from the creature in King’s other novel of an evil double, THE DARK HALF. It’s especially delightful that Holly Gibney, co-owner of Finders Keepers from the Bill Hodges trilogy, plays a major role in identifying, tracking, and defeating the true killer. A couple of incidents felt over-the-top to me, especially the mob scene outside the courthouse at Maitland’s arraignment. Mainly, though, I found THE OUTSIDER a memorable addition to King’s oeuvre, with sympathetic characters, suspenseful pacing, an unusual monster, and a satisfying conclusion. As in most of his books, not all the good guys make it out alive, but he makes their sacrifices count.

DREAD NATION, by Justina Ireland. This alternate history novel takes place in a world that diverged from ours when the dead rose up and walked on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The animated corpses are never called zombies, but “shamblers” or simply “the dead.” With an abrupt end to the Civil War as the country shifts its focus to the supernatural threat, society becomes very different from the United States of the nineteenth century as we know it. While slavery no longer exists, many black and Native American young people are enrolled in schools of combat to be trained in fighting the undead. Protagonist/narrator Jane McKeene, daughter of a married white lady and a black man, studies at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in Baltimore. She’s being trained to serve as an Attendant, i.e. a genteel bodyguard, but her personal ambition is to go back to her home in Kentucky. One of her classmates and her chief rival, Katherine, whom Jane likes to annoy by calling “Kate,” is fair enough to pass for white. Jane and Kate become reluctant allies and later friends. Another significant character is Jackson, Jane’s ex-boyfriend, who secretly supplies her with reading material and flirtatiously teases her, to her annoyance. The three of them become aware of an infestation of shamblers in the city, which the corrupt mayor and his cohorts deny. Despite their expertise in destroying the undead, Jane, Kate, and Jackson get transported by train to a frontier town called Summerland. Kate poses as a white lady, while Jane, as her Attendant, spends more time fighting shamblers than bodyguarding her alleged mistress. She discovers that the town’s fighters are more cannon (or zombie) fodder than true warriors and takes it upon herself to lead and train them so they’ll have some chance of survival. Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from the letters from Jane to her mother or vice versa. Flashbacks fill in Jane’s family background and early life, and we gradually learn fragmentary information about how the country changed after the undead plague ended the war. Jane, having read medical journals, believes that the shamblers were caused by an infection, but the germ theory of disease has little public credibility so far. The story is narrated in present tense, whose only advantage in my view is the resulting ease of distinguishing current events from flashbacks. I have to admit, though, that present-tense narration suits Jane’s voice. I recommend this novel as an intriguing alternate history with a bold, witty heroine and an unusual approach to the zombie apocalypse.

*****

Excerpt from “Haunted Book Nook”:

“Have you seen Joris Beechtree’s Codex of Substance and Dissolution? It’s not on the shelf.”

“No, ma’am.” Fenice’s student assistant, Milo, paused in the doorway between the anteroom and the inner chamber of the Rare Books Archive.

Fenice waved away the winged pen flitting in circles above her desk, then dodged as a glass paperweight in the shape of a cat leaped and batted at the pen. “Not that I’m in any hurry to de-animate these blasted things, but I’d like to know what I did wrong, and I’ve already looked through most of the other relevant texts.”

Milo trundled a cart full of volumes over to a bookcase and began shelving them. “How many have gone missing now? Three?”

“Four, counting Beechtree’s.” With a sigh, she scanned the high shelves that surrounded her, illuminated by the clear, warm glow of the perpetual-light globe on the ceiling. After only a month as curator of rare books in the university library, she’d become attached to this collection of scrolls and tomes and offended by any disturbance of its serene order. “Magistra Sylvaine will be inspecting us in just five days. I shudder to think how she’ll react if she doesn’t find everything where it belongs.” The head librarian had a reputation for strictness. Fenice imagined herself summarily demoted to her former job in the open stacks.

A shy smile brightened Milo’s plump face. “Maybe the ghost took them.”

“What ghost?” She picked up the glass cat, now tugging on her braid, and moved it to the far end of the wide desk. A few days earlier, she’d tried a spell to imbue an ordinary pen with an endless supply of ink. She’d succeeded in making an implement that would never need refilling, but in the process she had bestowed wings and the power of flight upon it. Furthermore, the animation spell had splashed over onto the cat paperweight.

“Some people say this room’s haunted.” He nodded toward the anteroom, presently unoccupied. “Students reading in there have felt cold spots. Little things disappear, like pens, ink, and paper. No books until recently, as far as I’ve heard.”

Fenice paused to cast a temporary magic-dampening spell on the flying pen. It dropped to the desk, and she grabbed it. “Got you!” She stuffed it into a drawer, which rattled with the flutter of wings. “Has anybody actually seen things disappearing?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then I think drafts and carelessness sound more likely than a ghost.” Not that ghosts didn’t exist, but they were uncommon enough that she didn’t expect to meet one. “It would need an anchor, either its own body or a significant object. As far as I know, the collection doesn’t include any cursed tomes that might drag restless spirits along with them.”

-end of excerpt-

*****
My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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