Welcome to the January 2019 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

Happy New Year!

My light paranormal romance novella “Yokai Magic,” inspired by Japanese folklore, will be published by the Wild Rose Press on January 7. Here’s the blurb:

When Val unearths a Japanese scroll and a cat figurine inherited from her grandfather, magic invades her world. The statuette, actually a cat spirit named Yuki—a yokai—enchanted into that form for her own protection, comes to life. Over a century ago, an evil magician cast a curse on her, and a wolf-like demon conjured by the curse still hunts her. Because Val is the one who broke the protective spell, that dark magic endangers her, too. She must turn for help to the last person she wants to get involved with, her former high-school boyfriend, now an officer in the Navy. Together they search for a way to vanquish the threat from the spirit realm, while facing the attraction they thought they’d long since put behind them.

The story will be on sale here:

https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/6412-yokai-magic.html

In the excerpt below, Val investigates mysterious noises in the bathroom in the middle of the night.

To begin the year, I’m interviewing self-published SF and fantasy author Peter Sartucci.

*****

Interview with Peter Sartucci:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I toyed with it from an early age, with creative writing classes in school and so forth. What actually got me started trying to do it for real was breaking my foot in four places in 1982. It was two days before the summer program at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, CO, where I was going to do a Master’s Degree. I was brand new in town, had arrived the previous evening and moved into a four-bedroom apartment in Palmer House, the grad student housing on campus. Next morning I went to the gym to get registered, and while asking directions of a student worker rolling a volleyball-pole base down the hall, he accidently dropped that massive hunk of metal on my foot. Instead of taking classes, I spent two months of the summer in bed with my foot propped on a pillow, barely able to hobble to the bathroom and back. If my new roommates hadn’t taken pity on me and fed me, I’d have starved. Instead I propped myself up in bed, put my little Silver-Reed manual typewriter on my lap, and began banging out a story. Of course it was wretched, but I still have it, just to remind me of how far I’ve come. 😊

What genres do you work in?

Speculative fiction and fantasy, with occasional dashes of romance and/or horror. Sometimes I combine all four. Madame Ymera (a secondary character in my Kirin & Terrell stories) is a no-doubt-about-it vampire who has found a tolerated niche in their world; a beta reader described her as “one of the most horrifying yet sympathetic figures I’ve ever read in fantasy”. In contrast, Will Tynford is an undeniable engineer in the Heinleinesque vein of hard-science SF.

Do you outline, “Wing it”, or somewhere in between?

I normally write toward a climactic scene or event in the story, because that’s the germ of the tale that usually appears in my brain first. When I wrote “Fire”, my Emberverse fanfiction, I had in mind the swordfight between Sam and Catron on Highway 36 at the top of the Meadowdale Ranch before the long steep descent into the Estes Valley. It took me most of three books to get to that point, but I did it. Other times I just have an idea for something, jot it down, and it sits on my hard drive for years before I realize where I should put it. Very rarely I try to outline a whole story in advance, but I usually change the tale so much along the way that outlining seems pointless. Your Mileage May Vary.

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

Many and varied. I was raised in an ordinary middle-class Italian-Irish Catholic family in New England, where the ghosts of the Yankee Puritans rest unquiet and haunt society and politics to this day. We lived inland when I was young – forest and creeks and fields and muddy places for a kid to run around it. Then we moved to the coast south of Boston where I discovered the ocean and fell madly in love with sailing ships (this shows in my forthcoming trilogy, “Shadow Divided” where about half the story takes place aboard various ships). Then I moved to Colorado to go to college and stayed – the mountain trail in “Shadow, Lion, Dragon” came from some real places I have hiked, only slightly exaggerated. People shaped me too, of course – I got a Jesuit education at Boston College High School and Regis College, it is not an accident that one of the viewpoint characters in “Fire” is a priest. As far as authors go, Poul Anderson and then Robert Heinlein were probably the strongest, but John Christopher’s “Tripods” trilogy figured in there too, and many many others. In college I met Robert Asprin’s Thieves World series and for the first time seriously tried to write some stories. I got sidetracked by D&D in Grad School and then by IFGS for several years, eventually serving as President and then later Treasurer of the national organization. I finally stopped writing LARP games and started writing stories seriously again, just in time to be introduced to Ed Bryant at Denver’s Mile High Con. He recruited me into his Northern Colorado Writers Workshop (NCWW), where I am still involved to this day. About the same time I read “Dies the Fire,” the first of Steve Stirling’s Emberverse stories, and discovered his fan web page. Kier Salmon, who ran his fanfiction site, encouraged me to write, and I was off!

Please tell us about your two series, the Wrecked World and The World of Shadow and Light.

My forthcoming novel “Shadow and Light” is a descendant of that initial story I wrote with my broken foot propped on a pillow in 1982. Its genesis was in Thieves World, but it rapidly mutated beyond that into something quite different, although if you look very closely you can see the ghost of Hanse Shadowspawn behind my character Kirin DiUmbra.

Nuts and bolts first – the World on which Kirin and his people live pours out magical power from its interior wherever there is volcanic activity. Hot springs there sometimes really do have healing properties! (Or if a malicious mage has been at them, they could be treacherously dangerous too.) A big outflow of magic (known as a ‘node’), such as may typically be found on top of a dead volcano, is a great treasure, and mages and kings will fight to control it. (If Devils Tower were in Silbar rather than Wyoming, it would be the heart of a sprawling castle and would power thousands of spells.) All this magic must go somewhere; when upwelling magic has been used, it sinks back down into the World, often through special places known as Shadows. These are metaphorical sinkholes hungry for spells and magic of all kinds. Nodes are not movable, and neither are Shadows, except that they can manifest as black mist that _reaches_ for nearby magic and drinks it. Shadows subsist mostly on the degraded rags of used magic floating in the air after use by mages elsewhere, but they will also draw on any active spells that come their way, if they can. And living beings have magic in their bodies. So Shadows are dangerous and feared, but readily avoided, most of the time. Powerful realms have many strong nodes of magic, weak ones have few or none and must buy silver or sulfur (the two substances that best catch and hold upwelling magic) from places that export it. The city of Aretzo, capital of the realm of Silbar (about the size of California and Nevada on a continent bigger than Eurasia) has the biggest node in their known world. Silbar also has mines of silver and sulfur, and live volcanos which belch out wild magic too strong for any human to use without being fried, plus vast deserts with no magic at all. Thus, Silbar also has many, many Shadows to drink all that loose magic back down again. It is a vast, sere, achingly beautiful country of soaring mountains, winding rivers, rich farms, storm-wracked deserts, and jungle seacoast, filled with power, mystery, and danger.

My main characters, Kirin DiUmbra and Terrell DuRillin DiGwythlo, are young men from very different backgrounds. Kirin is an orphaned (and presumed bastard) halfbreed abandoned in a slum in Aretzo, adopted by acrobats, and just entering adulthood. Terrell is a Prince of the Royal House that has ruled Silbar for two thousand years, with a good chance of becoming Silbar’s next king. Terrell has an extraordinary birth-feature, an upwelling of magic _inside his chest_ that is as portable as he is. But he’s not a mage, he has no spellcasting ability, so the feature that could have made him hugely powerful is instead a burden. Kirin has the opposite – a Shadow lives inside him, and he can use it to devour spells, drain stored magic, or even kill living things (like bedbugs – or men) by taking their body’s magic – which is so close to what demons are reputed to do that he fears he is one. You would have a hard time finding two young men in their world who are farther apart in status, ability, and experience. Fate throws them together in a nearly impossible situation where they desperately need each other to survive, and they discover that they can help each other cope with their unique abilities. Then they learn something else that may make them mortal enemies, and the _ real _ struggle begins.

The Wrecked World is science fiction, it had its genesis in a debate on Steve Stirling’s fan website, www.stirling.groups-io. What if an alien species, non-oxygen breathing and so immensely powerful that we have little to no basis for a relationship, visited Earth and wanted something we had?

In this series a hydrogen-breathing species of spacefarers in a giant spaceship decides to mine Earth’s surface for the only thing we have that they want – sub-uranic and transuranic substances in our nuke plants, bombs, and waste sites. They do not ask permission, and they cause considerable damage. When desperate humans find a way to strike back, we finally get their attention – and they apply what they clearly consider ‘discipline’ to unruly humanity. After their ship departs we are a long time recovering, for they also left us subject to a net of orbiting satellites that suppress certain technologies, and inflicted robots on us to work mines where rich troves of uranium and such can still be found. The robots are building stockpiles, so their masters must intend to come back. Will we be ready when they do?

“Golden Hoard” is the name of the first book set there. I wrote this one with a lighter touch, partly because the subject matter is a tad depressing – aliens have knocked us down and then kicked us, how do we get up again? My main character, Will Tynford, is a young British engineer assigned to a pioneering salvage operation in one of the badly wrecked cities of the fabled past, the mysterious and ruined New York. What he finds there will upend his world, and either give humanity new hope – or destroy us utterly.

Do you have any tips for people aspiring to write alternate history and/or post-apocalyptic fiction?

Always do your homework, unless you like being embarrassed. A-H fans are among the most knowledgeable people in fandom, and Wikipedia and other sources put the world’s libraries at their fingertips – and yours. If you are using something real, whether it be a place or a fact or whatever, get it right. When you segue from reality to something else, make sure the transition is seamless yet clear – and if you don’t know how to do that, keep reading in the genre until you see how.

Why did you decide to distribute your fiction (the story “Golden Hoard”) through a Patreon page, and how does that work?

It is an experiment, and one that has taught me some humbling things about my limits. I thought I could write a chapter a month of “Golden Hoard” and post them for my fans while also completing the final novel (“Shadow Exalted”) in my fantasy trilogy, “Shadow Divided”. But this proved to be optimistic and I’m going to have to devise some alternatives for my Patreon fans, because the real world has demanded so much time to keep my family afloat financially that I don’t have enough to work on two different books every month. So right now I’m trying to complete the third book of the fantasy before I go back to the science fiction, at which point I’ll probably flood the fans with extra goodies to make up for my delay.

What advice would you give to other creators who’d like to use that process?

Plan ahead and have a comfortable buffer of completed work ready before you ever start the Patreon. That way when illness or finances intervene, you don’t end up shorting your fans and embarrassing yourself, as I have done.

Do you have any plans for more conventional publishing in the future?

Yes, when I complete or am close to completing “Shadow Exalted”, the third book of the “Shadow Divided” trilogy. (The first two books, “Shadow Devoted” and “Shadow Confounded”, are already written.) I will be submitting the three to regular publishers for a while to see if that route works for me.

I am also going to self-publish “Shadow and Light”, the first book about my characters Kirin and Terrell, on Amazon, any day now. I have a cover and am getting all the details done, slowly. I hope to have that out around Christmas.

What are you working on now?

The final book of the “Shadow Divided” trilogy, mentioned above. Also a short story about an adventure that Kirin has with a vampire – that one’s a bit of a horror story, or maybe just a horrific story. And a short story about a young Healer in Silbar who has to solve a knotty problem that has nothing to do with either Kirin or Terrell, but a lot to do with consequences that they previously set in motion. I’m considering a short story about a secondary character in Kirin & Terrell’s story, the vampire mistress of the Red Street, Madame Ymera, and her early years, but it’ll be kind of horrific – vampires don’t have happy early years, not when they are trying to find a balance with their power. I am also considering revising a stalled novel into another Wrecked World story, tentatively titled “The Year the Aliens Came” – that’s about the kicked-down stage of the visit, with a light at the end of the tunnel (because I refuse to write something hopeless). I have been asked by a couple fans to write a fanfiction set in Steve Stirling’s Emberverse, tentatively called “Twenty-Four Tragedies and a Triumph”, but it is awfully dark, and besides, I don’t make any money from fanfiction. So I will probably do something else with that story.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. Write as often as you can but at least every week, write until it’s finished and don’t stop before that, then send it out and start writing something new. Don’t stop writing. Write!

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

Peter Sartucci, Author, and I’m on Facebook and Patreon too as Peter Sartucci. I’m moderately active on SM Stirling’s fan listserve, www.sm stirling.com, and I answer my own email, psartucci@aol.com.

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

CROSSROADS OF DARKOVER, edited by Deborah J. Ross. This, alas, will be the next-to-last Darkover anthology, followed by the final one, CITADELS OF DARKOVER, in May, since the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust has decided to stop producing both this series and SWORD AND SORCERESS. (Worse, all editions of older anthologies in both series will ceased to be published, a severe disappointment; one vital advantage of e-books is that they can remain available forever at no additional cost to the publisher.) Several familiar names from past volumes appear in the contents, including Rosemary Edghill, Diana Paxson, Leslie Fish, and Ross herself. Stories range widely over the long history of Darkover, from the Ages of Chaos to the post-Terran-contact era. A few that especially impressed me: “The Short, Inglorious War,” by Rebecca Fox, features a Terran expedition to find out whether the temple at Hali really hides weapons of vast power that should be impossible for the technology of such a “barbaric” planet. “A Plague of Aunts,” by Jane M. H. Bigelow, reminds me a bit of P. G. Wodehouse, with its funny portrayal of family conflict over an engagement between a Darkovan woman and a Terran man. In “Quevrailleth’s Sister,” Leslie Fish explores the telepathic and emotional bond forged between a Terran girl rescued from the repressive environment of her immigrant starship and the chieri whose mind touches hers across light years of space. The young heroine of “A Game of Kings,” by Shariann Lewitt, rebuts accusations of cheating at cards—with laran she doesn’t have—by proving that she achieves her wins through her preternatural-seeming mathematical talent. “Night of Masks,” by Diana Paxson, deals with the delicate quandary of a transgender Free Amazon. In “The Cobbler to His Last,” by Rosemary and India Edghill, a female Terran anthropologist travels with a group of skeptical Free Amazon guides to study the cultures of Darkover, including the rigidly patriarchal Dry Towns. Like all the anthologies, this volume would provide an accessible introduction to the world of Darkover for a new reader while also offering many delights for long-time fans.

THE LATE GREAT WIZARD, by Sara Hanover. The narrator, Tessa, a college student, lives with her mother in an old house belonging to the aunt of Tessa’s missing father. After gambling away most of the family’s assets, he vanished a couple of years earlier in suspicious circumstances. As “payment” in lieu of rent, Tessa delivers meals to the elderly and infirm. When she gets a cryptic call for help from one of her clients, reclusive old Professor Brandard, she rushes to his house. Immediately after it catches fire and burns almost completely, Tessa runs into a nude man, about her age or a little younger, who appears dazed and disoriented. She takes him home with her and soon learns that he’s allegedly Professor Brandard rejuvenated. The professor was a phoenix wizard, who had his youth restored by being incinerated. Although dubious about this claim, Tessa and her mother shelter the young man, whom Tessa names Brian and passes off as the professor’s visiting nephew. He remembers little of his previous lifetime, and his personality alternates between his new self and the old professor. In order to stabilize himself, he must perform a ritual before it’s too late. He and Tessa have help from his long-time friend, an Iron Dwarf, plus Steptoe and Remy, a man and woman with supernatural powers, allies of questionable reliability. They fight demons and other dangerous forces while discovering what actually happened to Tessa’s father. At first I expected a romance between her and Brian, but her potential love interest turns out to be a police detective only a few years older than she, who knows more about magic than she could have suspected. As far as the protagonist’s reaction to the magical events is concerned, Hanover deftly handles the balance between gullibility and bullheaded skepticism. Tessa provisionally accepts that the supernatural has invaded her life without swallowing it whole at first glance. The story reaches a satisfactory conclusion for the moment but leaves a clear sequel hook.

*****

Excerpt from “Yokai Magic”:

A screech burst from her. She stumbled backward and collapsed on the bath mat, with a jarring thump to her rear end. “What the holy hell is that?”

A hunchbacked creature about two feet tall huddled in the tub. Brick-red, naked except for a ragged loincloth of the same color, it had a mop of stringy, black hair and elongated fingers and toes with nails like claws. It was licking the tile walls with a long, sinuous tongue like a frog’s. Its saucer-like, black eyes stared at her. With a stifled “eep!” it blinked out of existence.

Trembling, Val clutched the edge of the sink and hoisted herself upright. She scurried into the bedroom and dove under the covers like a child fleeing the boogeyman.

She lay there with her lids squeezed shut until her pulse slowed to normal. I did not see that, I did not. She opened her eyes and gazed into the darkness, softened only by the night light from the open bathroom door. “What is with these crazy dreams all of a sudden?”

“You are not dreaming.” The feminine voice sounded as if it came from somewhere in the middle of the room.

Val sat up with the sheet pulled to her neck. “Who’s there?” She switched on the bedside light.

A slender, white cat leaped onto the end of the bed. The animal had emerald-green eyes and wore a red scarf around her neck. “Greetings and profound thanks for your hospitality. I assure you this is not a dream.”

Val bent her knees to keep her feet out of the phantom feline’s reach. “Is too. I must be still asleep. If not, how did you get in the house?”

Demurely seated at the foot of the bed, the cat curled her tail around her paws. “I have always been here. I was bound to the magic of the scroll, and your blood released that magic.”

“You were in the scroll?”

“I was the statue. The scroll’s enchantment locked me in that shape.”

So the figurine did walk away by itself. Perfect dream logic. “Why?”

“I was enchanted for my own protection.”

“Protection from what?” It couldn’t hurt to have a polite chat with this figment of her imagination, even if her brain had concocted the whole scene. Her mouth movements look like meows, but she speaks English. More dream logic, I guess.

For a couple of seconds, the cat’s shape wavered and became translucent. “I cannot remember.”

“Not that it matters, because you aren’t here. I’m dreaming.” The cat vanished. Val said with a shaky laugh, “See, I told you so.”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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