Welcome to the March 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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I’m thrilled to announce that the Wild Rose Press will be re-releasing some of my former Ellora’s Cave erotic paranormal romance novellas, beginning with “Calling Back Love.” War has stolen Kirsten’s fiance Shawn from her. After he’s reported missing and presumed dead in Afghanistan, she turns to witchcraft to bring him back. Though she can’t recall him from the dead, magic can grant them one last weekend together for a proper farewell. There is no way to make his return permanent—or is there?

You’ll find part of the opening scene below.

This month, I’m interviewing mystery author Susie Black.


Interview with Susie Black:


What inspired you to begin writing?

SUSIE: As a career ladies’ apparel sales exec, I am naturally a people person who is curious about what makes people tick. I think everyday people are the most interesting subjects because everyone has a life story, and one likely that others can either relate to or be sympathetic to. I can sit in the food court at the mall at lunch time and observe the people around me and have a dozen plots that could easily become manuscripts. So, it is definitely my people watching that inspired me to write.

What genre do you work in?

SUSIE: I write in the cozy mystery genre.

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

SUSIE: Something in between. I plan the beginning and the end, but I let the characters take the story from the middle to the end I have planned. The characters have a fair amount of free rein, but they know they must do a good job to get from the middle of the plot to my ending and not change the ending without my permission, or risk my taking over, writing them out of the story, or if they really annoy me, kill them off. Nothing as lasting as a relationship based on fear. LOL.

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

SUSIE: Favorite Childhood authors: Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew series; Franklin W. Dixon, author of the Hardy Boys series: These authors got me interested in solving puzzles and in reading mysteries.
Favorite Adult authors: Joan Hess, Carolyn Haines, Anne George, Donald E. Westlake, Carl Hiaasen:
These authors tremendously influenced and helped form my irreverent, wise-cracking writing style and gave me the understanding that it is not only OK, but popular to poke fun at society, one’s industry, and colleagues by creating crazy characters and situations. These authors taught me the importance of having my voice come through in my stories.
Life experiences: My experience as a traveling sales rep in the deep southern states was a tremendous influence on my writing. It taught me to be observant, daring, to take risks, go out of my comfort zone, not be afraid to fail, always trust my gut, and be true to myself.

How have you used your experiences in the garment industry in your writing?

SUSIE: From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. The plots and premises of my stories all take place in the fast-paced, take no prisoners ladies’ apparel industry. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course.

Did you need to do any additional research for your mystery?

SUSIE: Since my characters and plots are based on the industry I am in, I didn’t need much additional research. But any additional research needed within the garment business was readily available to me at the California Apparel Mart or interviewing customers, colleagues or competitors. The lion’s share of my additional research was within the law enforcement and medical aspects of the plots. What Google researches didn’t cover, I am fortunate to have many lawyers and doctors in the family and friends who I interviewed to make sure I had used accurate verbiage and information and used it correctly.

What is your latest book?

SUSIE: DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE: As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. Like other books before it such as I Can Get it for You Wholesale and Save the Tiger, Death By Sample Size shakes out the dirty laundry of the cutthroat fashion business. But this time it’s a woman peeling back the underbelly of the apparel industry and revealing how the latest trends really get from the designer’s imagination to the store rack.

BLURB: Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?
The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.

“When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob. It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?”

What are you working on now?

SUSIE: The second book in the Fashion & Foul Play series, Closet Full of…Murder will be published this spring. The story is set in the Los Angeles wholesale ladies’ swimwear industry and tells the rise and fall of Lissa Charney, the lazy but ruthless Royal Swimwear showroom manager.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SUSIE: The one thing that is drilled into an author’s head is to only write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast, because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do. I would also advise that you keep writing, no matter what. Never stop believing in yourself or let anyone else crush your dreams, and never stop asking what if.

Where can we find you on the internet?
Social Media Links:

Website: Susie Black
Book Bub: Book Bub
Facebook: Facebook
Goodreads: Death by Sample Size
Instagram: Susie Black (@hollyswimsuit) • Instagram photos and videos
LinkedIn: LinkedIn
Pinterest: Pinterest
Twitter: Twitter


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

GOTHEL AND THE MAIDEN PRINCE, by W. R. Gingell. One volume in a multi-author series called “Villain’s Ever After,” this fantasy novel retells the Rapunzel tale with a fresh perspective on Gothel and her alleged captive. The sorceress Gothel encourages the local villagers to think she’s evil so they will leave her alone. The magic of the forest surrounding her tower misdirects would-be intruders into aimless wandering. The reader learns of her truly ethical nature and the close bond between her and her foster daughter long before the prince of the title does. When Prince Lucien, a younger son who chose the unconventional vocation of mage instead of military prowess, hears about the princess imprisoned in the forest, he doesn’t charge in to rescue her by force like all the other knights in the past. Instead, he takes the time to talk with the princess—who’s afraid of men as well as the outside world—and open negotiations with the sorceress instead of trying to kill her on sight. Unwillingly intrigued as well as annoyed, when Gothel can’t get rid of Lucien, she forms a magical True Bargain with him. Every day, each must truthfully answer three questions from the other. If Lucien tries to break the Bargain before Gothel is satisfied with his answers, he will lose both his magic and his life. The pact ends when she’s satisfied. At that point, she’ll release the princess (playing along with his belief that Rapunzel is a prisoner) and forfeit her magic to him. If she decides satisfaction is impossible, she can terminate the Bargain, whereupon she will absorb Lucien’s magic. Naturally, the more they get to know about each other, the more reluctant she is to inflict that penalty upon him. Yet she can’t afford to lose her own power. The reader gets acquainted with the two protagonists in the process of their learning about each other. Lucien’s intelligence, kindness, and self-deprecating humor entertainingly collide with Gothel’s conflict between her carefully hidden softer side and her determination to maintain the “evil enchantress” image. Meanwhile, Lucien and the reader discover the truth of Rapunzel’s traumatic past. When Lucien’s father leads a troop of knights and mages to besiege Gothel’s tower, she and Lucien must work together to repel the attack. And how can the two of them resolve the seemingly irreconcilable condition that one must end up stripped of his or her magic? These two strong characters enthralled me with the sparks that fly as their relationship deepens.

QUICKSILVER, by Dean Koontz. I like this novel, a thriller that tends more toward fantasy than Koontz’s usual science-fictional suspense tales, better than many of his other recent books. It’s not dominated by his tediously typical villain, a sociopathic, self-deluded would-be superman; one such person does appear, but as a secondary character who doesn’t take up too much space. And I must admit his extravagant lair displays a grotesquely fascinating blend of luxury and horror. The narrator, Quinn Quicksilver, a bright, well-read nineteen-year-old with an engaging voice, works as a feature writer for a regional magazine in Arizona. Found as a newborn baby in a bassinette in the middle of a desert highway, he grew up in a combination orphanage and school run by strict but kindly nuns. Although not THE Chosen One, he turns out to be one of many destined champions scattered across the world, a role telegraphed by the names of the three men who rescued him in infancy from that highway—Hakeem Kaspar, Bailie Belshazzer, and Caesar Melchizadek. Quinn awakens to something radically different about himself when two men from a shadowy federal agency try to arrest him in his neighborhood diner. Their references to his “unique” nature make no sense to him. Fleeing and acquiring a substitute vehicle from a sympathetic acquaintance, Quinn finds himself drawn by what he later learns to call “psychic magnetism” to an abandoned barn where he rescues a young woman named Bridget and her grandfather, Sparky. Retired from an undisclosed career that involved weapons and combat training, Sparky now writes romance novels under a pen name. Bridget, who has the same kind of psychic powers Quinn now begins to develop, has been waiting two years for him to show up so they can get married after settling the current crisis. He wants to view their mission as a quest with a finite goal, while she insists they have a lifetime commitment as guardians of the natural law. Throughout the book, between fights for survival against enemies both human and inhuman, the two of them exchange delightful screwball-comedy style dialogue. Their desperate flight begins when Quinn and Bridget spot a pair of men who hide alien horrors beneath human guise. (Sparky, like most people, can’t see their true form.) Along the way, naturally, this being a Koontz novel, Quinn and his companions pick up a dog, in this case a German shepherd instead of the usual golden retriever. A seer named Panthea later joins them. The monsters, Bridget explains, have invaded our world from another universe they’ve reduced to rubble, in search of new realms to destroy. Called Nihilim, they oppose their uncorrupted kin, who have planted people such as Quinn and Bridget on Earth to defend humanity. The Nihilim are almost Lovecraftian in their sheerly repulsive alienness but also echo myths of fallen angels. The climax of the story draws together the seemingly unrelated elements of the Nihilim, the billionaire sociopath cult leader, and the orphanage of Quinn’s childhood into a plausible unity. The team’s mission culminates in a satisfying conclusion, though not without grievous loss, yet leaves room for sequels. I like the fact that Quinn has no desire to become the Chosen One and that his unfolding psychic gifts don’t corrupt him.

GOOD NEIGHBORS, by Stephanie Burgis. Another fantasy novel set in an alternate England or Europe, this one apparently unrelated to either Burgis’s Harwood Spellbook Regency Britain, her Kat Incorrigible series, her new Regency Dragons series that began with SCALES AND SENSIBILITY, or the Middle-European dragon tales for younger readers. Although part of GOOD NEIGHBORS has been previously published, the story as a whole is new, apparently expanded from the first section. It takes place in a society where magic exists openly but is viewed with suspicion. After Mia Brandt and her father are driven out of their previous home by magic-haters whose arsonist attack on their house has left her father’s legs permanently damaged, the residents of their new village warn them against taking a house near the mansion of the local necromancer. Since being left alone is what Mia wants most, she ignores that advice. As a metal mage, she allows the neighbors to know about her metal craft but not her magic. Her father, an expert metalworker, has lapsed into depression. In the book’s opening novella, the necromancer, Leander Fabian, repeatedly dispatches his undead minions to shamble toward Mia’s home. She eventually realizes that he isn’t sending them to attack her. Instead, he’s tricking her into repairing the sloppily constructed undead he inherited from his predecessor. As Mia and Leander become friendly acquaintances and allies, she begins to feel a reluctant attraction toward him. This first section has a sparkling sense of fun, with any darkness kept in the background. The remaining three parts mingle more suspense and danger with the humor, romance, and society shenanigans, ultimately becoming rather dark as Leander, Mia, and her father confront a repressive anti-magic “Purity” movement that threatens their lives and those of newfound allies and friends. Mia resists her feelings for Leander, unsure whether he reciprocates, but of course the romantic tension is ultimately resolved along with their defeat of the dire threats they face together. Even Mia’s father finds love, from a most unexpected source. A delightful story with plenty of entertaining twists.

THE LOST GIRLS, by Sonia Hartl. One of the most unusual vampire novels I’ve read in quite a while. First-person narrator Holly’s story emphasizes, not the horrors perpetrated by vampires, but the horror of being one. Perpetually sixteen, she was turned in 1987. Without access to a handy fortune or the patronage of an ancient undead lord, she has to work at the minimum-wage jobs open to an apparent teenager with no documentation. For a “home,” she’s stuck with a cheap motel room. Hartl’s vampires remain frozen in the condition in which they died. Holly can’t even alter her unwisely chosen hairstyle. Damage to the body heals instantly, but wounds, scars, and blemishes that exist at the final moment of mortal life never change. Detached limbs, evisceration, even severed heads repair themselves within a minute or two. (I can’t imagine how growing a new head could work, though. How do intelligence and memory make the transition? Well, it’s magic, I guess.) Fire isn’t mentioned. Wouldn’t incineration to ashes dispose of them? Or maybe they’re flame-proof. Sunlight and typical repellents such as garlic and religious objects have no effect. The narrative foregrounds hyper-acute vampire senses with frequent analyses of how people smell and taste. On the other hand, these vampires don’t seem to have mind-control mesmeric powers. They also suffer the disadvantage of being psychically tethered to their makers. Holly has to follow Ethan, who transformed her, wherever he chooses to travel, although she hasn’t seen him face-to-face in many years. When the other two apparently teenage girls he turned and abandoned before her, Ida (in 1921) and Rose (in 1954), contact her, Holly’s equilibrium, such as it is, crumbles. Ethan had claimed Holly was the first person who had restored his capacity for love and made undead immortality bearable. Learning he used similar lines on her two predecessors obliterates whatever attraction to him she still felt despite his controlling, emotionally abusive treatment of her. Now he plans to seduce and transform a new victim, a student at Holly’s old high school. Ida and Rose, who want to destroy him before he can consummate that plan, need Holly’s help. Killing an otherwise indestructible creature involves a ritual that requires all his vampire offspring. When Holly ventures into her old school to become acquainted with the prospective next victim and try to persuade her to break up with Ethan, Holly’s past presses upon her, as if time were a sentient entity hostile to unnatural beings such as the undead. She and the new girl quickly form an attachment, although vampire conventional wisdom maintains that involvement with the living never works well. Meanwhile, preparation for the attack on Ethan encounters obstacles and dangers, since he has vampire allies on his side, too. The lifestyles of Ida and Rose make the grim fly-in-amber nature of vampire immortality even clearer than Holly’s dreary existence does, yet all three of them cherish the hope for freedom promised by the prospect of liberation from their maker’s shadow. If they succeed, they’ll face heart-wrenching loss as well as a chance at a genuine fresh start. I highly recommend this book, but it’s not perfect. For one thing, why do they always have to kill their prey? Because they don’t have the power to make victims forget, I guess, but this feature still bugs me. Why don’t they get caught? Surely not every death can be counted on to pass as a wild animal attack? More important is a flaw I can’t specify without a major spoiler. Suffice it to say that here’s a case where present-tense narrative would make sense. Or maybe the author should have chosen a third-person narrative voice. If the consequences of the destruction ritual unfold as described, Holly couldn’t be telling certain vital parts of this story.


Excerpt from “Calling Back Love”:

The leather-bound notebook lay open on the redwood kitchen table, its scrawls of black ink a mockery of Kirsten’s faint hopes. “I’ve scoured every page of Grandmamma’s Book of Shadows. I can’t find one word about what I need.” She slammed the book shut. “Not a thing about restoring life to a person killed before his time.”

“And you won’t.” Estelle shook her head, the spring of her salt-and-pepper curls punctuating the decree. “No magic can call back the dead. And even if it could, you know that never ends well. You’ve read ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ and that book about the cursed pet cemetery.”

“But I can’t leave it like this. When we talked on Skype the night before his last patrol, we had another fight about his career. I came this close to making him choose between the Army and me. We didn’t have a real goodbye. If there’s any way magic can give me one more chance, I’ll take it.” In the two months since the report of Shawn’s presumed death in Afghanistan, the memory of that argument had been eating her alive.

“When I promised your grandmother I’d mentor you in the Craft, I accepted certain responsibilities, one of which is to stop you from making reckless choices.”

Kirsten rubbed her eyes, sore from yet another crying fit just before she’d come here, and stared at her mentor with wild hope. “You wouldn’t talk about stopping me if it weren’t possible in the first place. Okay, witchcraft can’t bring the dead back to life. How about calling up his spirit so we can have one last conversation?”

“Have you ever seen me conduct a séance? Me or any other responsible witch? It’s against nature to disturb the peace of the dead.” Estelle strolled to the counter to pour two mugs of coffee. The window over the sink framed her silhouette against a serene background of sun-dappled trees, in ironic contrast to the turmoil that racked Kirsten. Her teacher’s spacious kitchen with its granite floor, exposed oak beams and aromas of drying herbs usually welcomed her with its warmth. Today it felt as bleak as the rest of the world.

“I don’t believe he’s at peace. He was blown to bits on a mountainside with nothing left to bring home.” Survivors of the platoon had reported two explosions, the second of which had obliterated Shawn. No remains had been found, not even a minute fragment, hence the “missing and presumed dead” conclusion that left him in official limbo. “We were supposed to get married after he finished this tour. The IED stole that from us. I’m not at peace with that so how can he be, wherever he is?” She shoved aside the mug Estelle set in front of her.

The older woman clasped her hand across the table. “When the gift for magic skipped your mother, your grandmother entrusted your training to me. She’d find a way to rise up and haunt me if I let you risk yourself with any such dark working.”

“There you go again, hinting at something you’re hiding from me. Well, maybe I don’t need your help. There’s got to be somebody on the left-hand path who’ll teach me what I need to know.”

Estelle’s thin face hardened, as stern as an avenging angel’s, her blue eyes turning icy. “Don’t even think that. Do you imagine for one minute the Goddess would shelter you from the consequences?”

-end of excerpt-


My Publishers:

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

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