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

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

Interview with V. C. Buckley:

What inspired you to begin writing?

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

What genres do you work in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

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

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

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

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

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

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

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

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

*****

Excerpt from “Therapy for a Vampire”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young man grimaced. “Explosively.”

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

“Yes, among other things.”

“I hope you don’t sleep in a coffin.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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