Welcome to the February 2022 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

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Barnes and Noble

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Carter Kindle Books

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Fiction Database

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Below is an excerpt from “Werewolf Watch,” one of the three stories featuring half-vampire psychiatrist Roger Darvell and his human partner, Dr. Britt Loren, in my recently published collection DOCTOR VAMPIRE:

Doctor Vampire

My annual vampire fiction bibliography update is ready for distribution. If you’d like to receive a copy, please contact me through the e-mail address shown at the end of this newsletter.

This month, I’m interviewing mystery author Steven J. Kolbe.


Interview with Steven J. Kolbe:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved writing down stories. At first I wrote about things that happened in my day, with a healthy amount of exaggeration. Then I turned to retelling stories I’d read and seen. Finally, I started writing my own stories.

What genres do you work in?

As far as fiction goes, I write both in the literary and the mystery genres, although I’ve found more success in the mystery genre. I’ve also written a number of personal essays and articles on education.

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

I definitely outline, and I recommend my students do so as well. I’ll even write out a short chapter summary and count this almost as a draft of the novel. These are my first ideas. Then I actually draft it out sentence by sentence. Inevitably something happens, maybe it is intuition, maybe it is magic, and the characters begin to steer the ship. The first full draft is never exactly the same as the chapter summary I outlined, and thankfully so. It is always better.

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

I write a fair amount about mental health, and my own experiences with it have been a huge influence. Writers who have shaped me are many and various. Salinger is always there in the back of my head, shaping my characters and my voice. Right now I’m reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, because even though it’s long, you can’t go wrong with the Russians.

Has your teaching career affected your fiction writing, and if so, how?

Teaching has definitely drawn me closer to the fiction I love. It really is true that you don’t know something until you know it well enough to teach it. Reading A Tale of Two Cities is one thing, but going through it chapter by chapter, character by character, with a group of teenagers who don’t quite understand what is happening or why Dickens chose to include it, that right there is a completely different experience, and I’ve been blessed to have it with a multitude of poems, short stories, plays, and novels. I’d recommend anyone who is interested in becoming a writer, first consider becoming a teacher.

What kind of research did you do for HOW EVERYTHING TURNS AWAY?

I did a fair amount of research about the FBI, criminal profiling, and electricity, all of which play a part in the novel. The teaching aspects, I was able to pull mostly from lived experience, although I’ve never witnessed a major crime while teaching…at least not yet.

Please tell us about your mystery-writing course.

The mystery course I’m offering to local libraries: We go through the major aspects of a mystery novel, from suspects and alibis to characterization and red-herrings. At various points, I stop and read a portion of my debut mystery. I provide all participants with two different novel outlines to help get them started on their own projects, and usually end with a discussion of some good mystery novels and a Q&A. This summer we are planning a Kansas Library Tour, so if you’re in Kansas, please reach out and I’ll contact your local library.

What is your next-forthcoming book?

I’m currently on draft three of a sequel. It’s the same characters but a different crime. A Finnish heiress goes missing during a masquerade on Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, her father’s business partner is found stabbed to death in his apartment.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Great writers are great readers. The more you read, the more examples you can see of how to do it. Also, the world needs teachers. If you can do it, you’ll find so many rewards.

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?

Steven J. Kolbe


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO, by Seanan McGuire. Seventh volume in the Wayward Children series. The settings of previous books have alternated between Miss Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a sanctuary for children and teens who have traveled through portals to other worlds and come back to the “real” world, and some of those other worlds. Most of the students yearn to rediscover their doors and return to the magical realms they consider their true homes, though few of them achieve that goal. WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO introduces an alternative school, the Whitethorn Institute, which aims to help, or force, its students to forget their other worlds and learn to fit into this one. Cora, who became a mermaid in the oceanic realm to which she’d been transported, hasn’t been the same since she visited the Gothic horror dimension of the Moors. The sea of that world called to her, and Cora barely escaped from the dominion of its eldritch Drowned Gods. Now water, which she loves, also terrifies her. Although the walls between dimensions are supposed to be impervious, in water she constantly hears the whispers of the Drowned Gods. In desperation, she begs to be transferred to the Whitethorn Institute. She disregards Miss Eleanor’s warnings that, while it’s easy enough to get into the Institute, it’s much harder to leave. The Institute operates under a nearly prison-like regimen, which comes across as a grimly twisted mirror image of Miss Eleanor’s approach to wayward children. At the Whitethorn Institute, obedience and an outward display of right thinking are sternly imposed, enforced by demerits. Students who’ve spent time in Logic worlds have to adjust to a chaotic lack of predictability, while returnees from Nonsense worlds are caged by rigid rules. Also, there’s something peculiar about the headmaster. When Cora quickly regrets her choice, she learns Miss Eleanor was right. Nobody can withdraw just for the asking. Many of the students, those who aren’t afraid to speak up, seem to have similar regrets, and the prospective graduate held up as a shining example of success publicly recants her “adjustment.” Cora meets only one classmate who wholeheartedly wants to forget about her other world. It’s no big spoiler to reveal that Cora and a few of her new friends try to break free. In the process, they learn the headmaster’s secret and a bit about the school’s background. I was delighted that Regan, heroine of the previous book, ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELDS, plays a vital role in this story. Portal fantasy is my favorite type of speculative fiction, so I love this series. I have only two complaints about the books—they’re released only once a year, and they’re too short. Happily, at least one more is scheduled.

THE SILVER BULLETS OF ANNIE OAKLEY, by Mercedes Lackey. This installment of Lackey’s Elemental Masters series reimagines Annie Oakley as an Air Master, although the famed sharpshooter has no idea of her power or even the existence of magic and the supernatural realm until Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show tours Europe. According to Wikipedia, this tour occurred around 1890, but the story includes occasional glimpses of motorized vehicles, which I suppose could have existed, although rare, in large European cities at that time. In an ominous bit of foreshadowing, Annie speculates on whether the world would be better off if she’d “missed” when shooting a cigarette out of the Kaiser’s hand. The novel begins with one of Lackey’s recurring tropes, an abused child. Bound as a servant to a cruel couple whom preteen Annie thinks of as the She-Wolf and the He-Wolf, she’s beaten, starved, and cheated of the money her employers were supposed to send to her family. She assumes her visions of fairy-like creatures, not to mention the “Wolves” transforming into bestial shapes, are hallucinations. Immediately after she manages to flee from them, the story leaps forward several decades, as she wakes in the midst of the show’s Continental tour beside her husband, Frank Butler, to whom she talks out the horror of those memories. In Germany (recently unified under the rule of Kaiser Wilhelm) Annie and Frank meet Frida, a German “shootist” who temporarily joins the show, and her American husband, Jack. (The dust jacket blurb, by the way, includes the erroneous statement that Annie encounters Giselle, the heroine of FROM A HIGH TOWER—DAW’s second inaccurate Lackey cover synopsis within the past couple of years. Odd.) Under the guidance of Elemental Masters Frida and Jack, Annie and Frank, who turns out to be a Water Master, learn about their powers. Annie encounters not only sylphs but more powerful and formidable air elementals. As the Wild West Show travels across Europe, she gets acquainted with an aristocratic Hunt Master and his cohort of hunters. In between training sessions, Annie helps to defeat several scary creatures, including a Krampus during the Christmas season. Unlike most of Lackey’s Elemental Masters and magicians, Annie isn’t unambiguously thrilled to learn about her occult abilities. She’s apprehensive of being expected to become a hunter, a vocation that would mean an end to her present career. Her uncertainty about her future and how to handle her gifts is one thread running through the book. Another comprises subtle hints that the He-Wolf may not be relegated to her distant past after all. Until the climactic resolution of those two interwoven themes, the story consists mainly of relationship-building, lessons in magic, German local color, and details about the Wild West Show. In other words, some readers might complain that nothing much happens. I always enjoy how Lackey deals with such material, though, so the relative lack of “action” doesn’t bother me. As far as I can tell from skimming online information about Annie Oakley, the non-magical aspects of the novel are historically accurate. I also enjoyed the portrayal of her strong marriage to Frank, who offers her solid emotional support in every way and cheerfully plays “second fiddle” to his wife as the star attraction, far more accurate than his attitude as dramatized in the musical ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.

REBOOTS: UNDEAD CAN DANCE, by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin. While I faithfully buy all of Mercedes Lackey’s solo novels, whether I pick up a collaboration usually depends on the co-author. I ordered this book because I enjoyed Lackey and Martin’s two “Serrated Edge” (Lackey’s urban fantasy elf series) novels about the town of Silence. REBOOTS: UNDEAD CAN DANCE is a fun read, too, but it’s an entirely different kind of fiction—darkly humorous interstellar adventure crossed with hardboiled detective mysteries, whose cast of characters mainly comprises zombies, werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings. These are movie monsters, not surprisingly, rather than the authentic folklore variety. Zombies (nicknamed “reboots”) eat brains, although they don’t need that nourishment to survive; vampires are arrogant aristocrats who can’t stand sunlight; werewolves transform only, and involuntarily, by moonlight. Parts of the book have been previously published, and in its present form it consists of four connected novellas that could each stand alone. The first section, “Bad Moon Rising,” takes place on a spaceship. As soon as the existence of supernatural creatures went public, it became obvious that those who are virtually immortal would make ideal starship crews. Vampires command, of course. Zombies perform menial tasks, essentially acting as organic robots. Werewolves, with their preternaturally fast healing, not only work as engineers and technicians on board these ships but serve as renewable sources of blood for the vampires. In “Bad Moon Rising,” two zombies who have unaccountably retained awareness, intelligence, and memories of their human lives team up with the ship’s werewolf to revolt against the vampire command staff. I was slightly dissatisfied with this section because the hostility among the crew members reduces the appeal of even the three good guys. All actions not driven by resentment or outright hatred seem marked by, at best, indifference to others except as alliances prove useful. The interpersonal atmosphere improves, however, in the other three parts of the book, which constitute the hardboiled mystery element. There we meet other species of not-quite-human creatures, including the protagonist of the remaining three parts, a boggart named Humphrey. (Yes, Humphrey Boggart.) With the sapient zombie Skinny Jim and Fred the werewolf from the first part, Humph operates a private detective agency. They investigate cases on space stations and other extraterrestrial locales. Unlike the character-driven fiction typical of most of Lackey’s solo works, REBOOTS focuses more on plot twists and action. We do get to know Humphrey pretty well, though, and I found him the most likable of the characters. In general, I’d rate this novel as an entertaining story based on an engagingly unusual premise. Its episodic format and open-ended conclusion leave plenty of room for sequels if desired.


Excerpt from “Werewolf Watch”:

Two days later, they met to “tag-team the werewolf,” as Britt put it. The patient, Carlos Reye, offered his hand as Roger strode into his partner’s office. The young man, apparently in his early twenties, had olive skin, curly, black hair, and the characteristic lycanthropic trait of bushy eyebrows that met over the nose. Unlike Roger, who as a vampire had the same feature, Carlos didn’t minimize that anomaly by shaving between his brows. Darker crimson streaks in the rose-pink of his aura hinted at his nonhuman heritage, as did a wild tinge in his scent. His nostrils flared, as if he’d noticed the metallic aroma that signaled Roger’s hybrid nature. Since he had no idea vampires existed, of course, that oddity would puzzle him. When they shook hands, Roger noticed the other inescapable sign of lycanthropy, index and middle fingers of the same length.

“Thanks in advance for your help,” Carlos said as Britt waved him to a seat on the couch. His pulse, audible to Roger’s superhuman hearing, raced with tension. “You don’t have any trouble believing I’m a werewolf?”

“I trust Dr. Loren’s judgment.” He rolled the desk chair over to sit facing the patient, while Britt positioned herself on the other end of the couch. “She’s given me a summary of your problem, but please tell me about it in your own words.”

The young man knotted his fingers together. “I’m afraid I might be changing at night without knowing it and hurting people.”

With a light touch on Carlos’ wrist, Roger applied a subtle psychic nudge to calm him. “What makes you think that?”

“Reports of animal attacks the day after I’ve had nightmares about turning into a wolf against my will. I haven’t seen any evidence that I’ve left the house, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, does it?”

“Up until now, have you had control over your transformations?” Contrary to popular culture clichés, werewolf shifting had no connection to the phases of the moon. If a subject believed that superstition, though, the belief might have psychosomatic consequences.

Carlos shrugged. “As far as I know. When I’m awake, I can still turn from human to wolf and back at will. I go hunting in the woods—just animals like rabbits, deer, raccoons—two or three nights a week to get the urge out of my system.”

“Alone?” Britt asked.

“Yeah, except when I first started and Mom was training me. She doesn’t belong to a pack, so I’ve never wanted to get into that scene.” From what little Roger and Britt knew about werewolf packs, they might object to associating with human-werewolf hybrids.

“How can I be sure I’m not transforming in sleep?” A dimming of Carlos’ aura mirrored the strain in his voice.

“How many times has this happened?” Roger asked.

“Four over the past few weeks.”

-end of excerpt-


My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
Wild Rose Press: Wild Rose Press

You can contact me at:

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