Welcome to the May 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

As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, my lighthearted story “Therapy for a Vampire” appears as a two-part serial in NIGHT TO DAWN magazine. Part One was published in issue 35, and the second half will appear in issue 36 this fall. You can find out about the magazine here:

Night to Dawn

In this story, psychiatrists Roger Darvell (vampire) and Britt Loren (human) attempt to cure a young vampire of his neuroses, including a phobia of religious objects. In the excerpt below, they try to desensitize him enough to spend time in a church so he can attend a concert there.

The publisher of DARK CHANGELING (my first vampire novel, where Roger and Britt are introduced) and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, its direct sequel, has closed. Therefore, I’ve self-published both novels together in a Kindle two-book omnibus, TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS. I’ve made some minor changes and corrections, but nothing substantive, so you may not want to buy this edition if you’ve already read the books. (The little alterations do improve them, though, I think.) If you haven’t, here’s your chance to get the new, improved versions at a modest price:

Twilight’s Changelings

This month I’ve interviewed multi-genre author Laura Strickland.

*****

Interview with Laura Strickland:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I began writing because I loved reading so much. I have a wonderful elder sister who took me to our tiny branch library in Buffalo, New York every week, when I was young. Limited as the choices there were, it always felt like being admitted to a treasure trove, one from which I was allowed to choose whatever I wanted. I encountered some of my favorite children’s books there. But after I finished reading them, I always wanted more of the story. And it occurred to me that if I wrote the stories, I could make them as lengthy as I liked.

What genres do you work in?

I’m what I like to call a “genre-hopper”, which means I jump around between different styles of fiction quite a bit. My first love, and my first big break-through with The Wild Rose Press, was a Scottish Historical Romance, Devil Black. But the gods have blessed me with a fabulous editor who’s willing to take a look at whatever my fevered brain produces. I’ve written and published Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy, Historical Sagas, and most recently a series of Faery Tale Rewrites. The second book in that series, Rum Paul Stillskin, will release on May 27.

Very dear to my heart are my Steampunk Romances, set in my native city of Buffalo, New York in the 1880s. Both ground-breaking and addictive, they show no signs of stopping. I’m up to book number seven in the series, which includes gritty heroes and heroines, monstrous villains, and hybrid automatons seeking their rights.

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

I’m definitely a pantser. When I get an idea for a new story, it usually shows up as a small glimmer of light. When I give some attention to it, it expands on its own. I’m not the woman to mess with that, and in fact if I try to make an outline, or sometimes just share what’s come to me, it dies an early death. It’s as if expressing the idea removes the need to tell the story. While in the thick of writing a book, I sometimes jot down notes and possible directions the story wants to go, just so I won’t forget them later. But all too often, I can’t read the notes, when I return to them.

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

I think for a writer, a little of everything he or she experiences winds up in the writing. Life shapes us, and we shape the words on the page accordingly. As for writing influences, they have been many. Patricia Finney’s ancient Irish tales inspired my first Celtic sagas, and the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s body of work, mainly the books of his Discworld Series, showed me just what Fantasy can be. Music always inspires me greatly. I have a favorite artist for every genre. (Jethro Tull is excellent for writing Steampunk!)

What attracted you to the particular historical periods you write about?

I like the dark side, a truth that’s apparent to anyone who reads my books. The periods toward which I’ve gravitated seem to contain that glint of dark, and lend themselves well to the inclusion of black humor. To be truthful, I’m never sure what era in history may grab me next.

What kinds of research do you use in writing historical fiction?

I favor immersion. When I get interested in a period, or a story that requires research occurs to me, I read and study everything I can get my hands or eyes on. I let it all percolate a bit and imagine what it would be like to live in that time. I think what I’d need to exist, and how things would feel, day-to-day. Then when I write, the details flow naturally, and it tends to eliminate preachiness or info-dumps.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with animal rescue?

Ah, now there’s a subject dear to my heart. It seems as if I came into this world wanting a canine companion. I love felines too—in fact, I value all animals highly and will fight for them—but a dog is a requirement for me. I’ve had so many wonderful canine companions during my life. The last four have all been rescues, one adopted from an animal shelter and the other three from rescue organizations. Two of those were senior rescues, when my husband and I adopted girls who’d lost their owners very late in life. We were privileged to guide both those sweet darlings through a number of happy years and to their end-of-life experiences, with us at their sides. They’re so easy to love, and so hard to lose.

Lacy, our latest adoptee, came to us from Kentucky via a local rescue. She was picked up as a stray with one puppy, who was also adopted into a wonderful home. We got lucky, again. She’s a little angel without wings.

What are you working on now?

I’m working two projects at the same time, half way through transcribing and editing my next Steampunk, and writing a Historical Young Adult novel set in Victorian London. I enjoy both the creating and the editing.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Love what you write and write what you love. Your readers will be able to tell, and if you don’t love your story, they won’t either.

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

Web site: Laura Strickland Books
Facebook
Twitter

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE GRAVES ARE WALKING, by John Kelly. If you’re interested in the Irish potato famine of the 1840s and want to read an exhaustive, in-depth account of it, this is the book to get. It’s fairly recent (2012) and very comprehensive. From the onset of the potato blight to the aftermath of the “great hunger,” with historical background information to set the scene, Kelly covers the period from every angle in a highly readable style. Broad political and social issues as well as the human suffering on the ground receive equally thorough treatment. Narratives of individual experiences personalize the multi-year catastrophe, and quotations from numerous contemporary sources reveal the opinions and positions of people, of both exalted and modest status, involved in the complicated process of trying to mitigate the disastrous effects of repeated potato crop failures. Irish land policy as well as reliance on the potato as the only staple food crop for small farmers made Ireland far more vulnerable to those failures than other nations. Kelly emphasizes how relief efforts were hampered by the British philosophy that “dependence on government” was one of Ireland’s most serious problems. The English attempts to help the starving population while avoiding both such “dependence” and damage to British commercial interests (through provision of cheap imported food) led to ever more complex problems. Furthermore, the English view of the Irish as ignorant peasants and barbarians (plus the religious dimension of most poor Irish being Catholic and therefore suspect in the eyes of British Protestants) undermined their sympathy for the hungry masses. Two chapters explore the impact of emigration upon both Ireland and North America. Kelly concludes that although English policies did not deliberately inflict genocide upon the Irish, the ultimate result was largely the same as if they had.

POPPIES AND ROSES, by Allison Norfolk. A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” during World War I. Unlike PHOENIX AND ASHES, Mercedes Lackey’s fantastic World-War-I reframing of “Cinderella,” POPPIES AND ROSES mostly translates the fairy-tale plot into naturalistic terms, keeping the magical elements low-key. The hero, Lord David Montgomery, sent home with mysteriously unhealing wounds, has been cursed by a German hedgewitch (a woman who uses herbs and other plants in her magic spells). In a twist on the usual tale, the curse is ultimately intended for his good. The witch, whose son David killed in battle, has seen too much death and hatred to want gratuitous revenge. She sets up the curse so that David must learn to open his heart to love in order to be healed. His wounds continue to bleed but never endanger his life or even become infected. His hired nurse, Clara Prescott, temporarily removed from battlefield duty while recovering from a leg injury, is also a hedgewitch. Therefore, she believes the truth about David’s condition when he reveals it to her, and she has a chance of curing him with her specialized skills. She grew up in the village where he lives, a source of unhappy memories. After her mother’s death, Clara’s alcoholic father paid no attention to her. She “ran wild” and gained a completely undeserved reputation as the town bad girl (in the sexual sense). After straightening out her life and becoming a nurse, she hasn’t returned home or had contact with her father. David and Clara, although both scarred by their ordeals, have to learn to trust each other and regain faith in the goodness of life in general, in the context of wartime trauma and, at the climax of the novel, the postwar influenza epidemic. The magic weaves smoothly through the mundane elements of the story to lead these two strong characters into an emotionally satisfying relationship against a believable historical background.

MOCKINGBIRD, by Sean Stewart. This novel in the first-person voice of a female protagonist might legitimately be labeled magical realism rather than fantasy. The heroine, Toni, and her sister, Candy, take the supernatural legacy of their mother for granted as an inescapable part of life; the story might develop almost the same if Toni had inherited mental illness rather than unwanted magic. The book begins with her mother Elena’s funeral. We meet a cast of quirky characters and learn that Elena could see the future. Her fraught relationship with Toni is encapsulated in her epitaph: “There are some gifts which cannot be refused.” For as long as Elena’s daughters can remember, she was periodically possessed by her “Riders,” spirits embodied in a collection of puppets, dolls, etc. stored on the shelves of a cabinet in Elena’s house. In addition to the six Riders, the family is haunted by tales of an enigmatic figure they know as the Lost Little Girl. Candy has prophetic dreams that show only happy futures, while Toni gets stuck with her mother’s affinity for the Riders. After Elena’s death, leaving nothing much besides the house, the Riders, and a pile of debt, Toni decides to make a fresh start in life by becoming pregnant. She gets herself artificially inseminated, then sets out to find a father for her forthcoming child. Despite her attempted refusal of the Riders, we aren’t surprised to see her getting possessed at the worst possible moments. Meanwhile, she loses her job and discovers a previously unknown half-sister from a short prior marriage Elena had never mentioned. Toni is an actuary by profession, and her brilliant grasp of numbers and finance combine with her magical legacy to make her a unique character. Her highly individual narrative voice makes the story darkly funny where it might otherwise be painful to read. The Houston setting, in geography, climate, and culture, is vividly realized. The story reaches its climax in the midst of a hurricane, a fitting outward reflection of Toni’s inner turmoil. I’ve never read a fantasy novel quite like this and found it fascinating.

*****

Excerpt from “Therapy for a Vampire”:

Accordingly, on the following night, a breezy, pleasantly cool September evening, the two of them strolled from Britt’s condo apartment near the Naval Academy to Church Circle at the top of the half-mile, brick-paved Main Street in the heart of the historic district. They found Franz waiting outside the wrought-iron gates opening onto the grounds of Saint Anne’s, which occupied the entire circle. At least he showed up, Roger thought. That’s hopeful. “Shall we proceed?” He held the gate ajar. The nave of the church would be open, even if the rest of the building was locked. He strode up the walk to the three steps leading to the double doors of the red-brick, nineteenth-century structure. Franz, with Britt falling in behind him, had little choice but to follow.

The young man stepped inside the foyer and froze, clutching the door frame. Roger paused halfway to the inner door and cast an annoyed glance over his shoulder. “Come, now, do I have to pry your fingers loose and pull you along like a dog on a leash? You’ve touched a crucifix. Simply entering a room should be easy by now.”

“Suppose I hold your hand?” Britt said. “This building is open to the public, so you don’t need an invitation. If your unconscious mind insists you do, I’m a member here, and I invite you.”

“Okay.” Despite the strain in his voice, he managed to take a step forward and accept her offered hand. Together they walked across the foyer.

Roger opened the door to the main worship space, dim, cool, and smelling faintly dusty. The only light came from low-wattage lamps above the altar. “Gaze into my eyes and believe what I tell you. Nothing here will harm you. It’s safe and peaceful.”

Franz’s breathing and pulse slowed. “Yes, Doctor.”

“You’ll take one step inside, then return to this spot. I have confidence you can do that.”

Clasping Britt’s hand, the young vampire did as commanded.

“Well done,” she said. “Next, try two paces.”

They worked their way up, advancing and retreating step by step, until the three of them stood in the back of the church behind the last row of pews. Roger blocked Franz’s path when the patient would have withdrawn again. “Enough of that. We’ve demonstrated you can come inside with no problem. Now we’re going to walk all the way to the front.”

Franz took one more pace and froze. “What do you think is going to happen?” Roger asked, struggling to rein in his impatience. “Do you expect to crumble into a pile of ashes?”

“Of course not.” With a tremulous laugh, Franz stepped forward again, then halted. His head whipped from side to side as he took in his surroundings. His heartbeat thundered in Roger’s ears. Sounding half strangled, he whispered, “But they’re everywhere.”

“What?” Britt said.

“The pictures. Staring at me.” He squeezed her hand.

She winced. Sensing her pain, Roger said, “Relax. You’re hurting her. Remember your strength.”

Franz released a shuddering breath and obeyed.

Roger faced him to snare his gaze. “You mean the windows?”

A shaky nod.

“They’re inanimate works of art, completely harmless, as you know perfectly well on a conscious level. Don’t you?”

Another nod.

“You will come with us to the altar rail, and nothing will go wrong. Understand?”

The young vampire’s tension visibly eased under the pressure of Roger’s hypnotic stare. He took a pace forward as if heading for his execution. Roger and Britt flanked him on each side. They proceeded up the aisle past an array of stained-glass windows depicting figures such as Christ the Good Shepherd, an angel proclaiming the Resurrection, Saint Anne with her daughter, the Virgin Mary, as a young girl, and many others. In the deep shadows, they were plainly visible to the two vampires’ night vision, but not to Britt’s human eyes. Thoroughly familiar with the layout of the sanctuary, though, she pointed out a Tiffany window as they passed it. “Don’t worry, the saints won’t leap out of the frame and pounce on you. If they try, I’ll protect you.”

Franz’s surge of indignation at the idea of being “protected” by an ephemeral kept him moving. She then drew his attention to the pipe organ in the choir loft. “Eyes on the prize. Think of the music you’re going to hear.” Finally they halted at the top of the aisle, facing the altar and its cross.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
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