Archive for August, 2023

Welcome to the August 2023 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.”

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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For other web links of possible interest, please scroll to the end.

My lighthearted erotic paranormal romance novella “Sweeter Than Wine,” featuring the lusty ghost of a Revolutionary War smuggler, was released on July 3:

Sweeter Than Wine

Lovecraftian erotic romance novella “Song from the Abyss” came out on July 26:

Song from the Abyss

An excerpt appears below.

This month’s interview spotlights thriller and romance author Michelle Godard-Richer.


Interview with Michelle Godard-Richer:

What inspired you to begin writing?

From the moment I learned to read as a child I wanted to write my own stories.

What genres do you work in?

I write thrillers, romance, and horror. I often blend and bend genres together.

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

I’ve been working with loose outlines and mostly winging it. Lately, I’m trying to change my process and outline in more detail.

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

My interests fuel what I write. I’ve always been a true crime buff, and my educational background helps. When writing romance, I think I draw more on life experience and what I see in the world around me. I’m also an avid reader, and I admire many different authors.

Since you have a degree in Criminology, how do you draw upon that background in writing mystery/suspense?

The thing with crime that I find most fascinating is the impact it has on all of us as a society. We all alter our behavior in simple ways like locking doors, installing security systems, and being aware of our surroundings. For those directly impacted, and those closest to them, sadly the effects are much greater and longer lasting. And I think understanding human behavior is the key to creating realistic characters that readers can identify with.

Please tell us about your time-travel-with-jellybeans duology. How did you come up with that plot? What kinds of research did you need to do?

The jellybean duology was a lot of fun to write. The idea for the first book spawned from the announcement in the Wild Rose chat room of the new line. Our President Rhonda mentioned liking time travel romance and I connected that to magic jellybeans and was off to the races. I spent as much time researching as I did writing to try and capture the mood and setting of small-town Illinois in the 1920s and 1930s. I looked into simple details like what cars existed at that time. When was the doorbell invented? Did they have handheld hair dryers? What did they wear? How did men view women’s role in society?

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

My latest book is Forward in Time with Jelly Beans, and my next book will be a horror novella releasing in the Friday the 13th Collection on October 13, 2023

What are you working on now?

I have three books on the go. The final book in the Fatal Series, a standalone domestic thriller, and the upcoming horror novella.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write what you love, embrace the writing community and all it has to offer, and have a thick skin for feedback that will help you improve your craft.

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

My website is Michelle Godard-Richer and my favorite social media platform is Instagram where I enjoy sharing books I’ve read with the bookish community. Instagram


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, by Connie Willis. Romantic comedy, road trip, and zany first-contact SF all in one novel. Willis discusses the background and writing of this book in her recent LOCUS interview:

Connie Willis: Roswell Redux

Protagonist Francie, a levelheaded skeptic, arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, as maid of honor for a friend’s wedding. She hopes she can influence the bride to break off her engagement to a flying-saucer true believer before it’s too late. The wild and crazy atmosphere of the annual UFO festival is a pleasure in itself. Wearing her bridesmaid dress (which, she later finds, inconveniently glows in the dark) and driving the bride’s SUV, Francie gets carjacked by a bona fide alien. “He” (although his actual gender remains unknown) resembles an animated tumbleweed with multiple elongated, flexible tentacles. He eventually gets named Indy, after Indiana Jones, because of his whiplike appendages. It soon becomes clear that he doesn’t intend to hurt her, only force her to drive him—somewhere. For most of the story, she has no clue where he wants to go, and he doesn’t seem certain, either. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiking self-styled con man named Wade, a UFO conspiracy theorist even more fanatical than Francie’s friend’s fiancé, a sweet little old lady devoted to casino gambling, and—after Francie casually remarks that they need a bigger vehicle—an elderly man with a luxurious RV (or, as he insists, a Western trail wagon) and a collection that apparently includes every classic Western movie ever filmed. Pop culture references abound; Indy learns English, after a fashion, through exposure to endless hours of movies. None of Francie’s companions turns out to be exactly what he or she appears, aside from the UFO fanatic, who’s every bit as nutty as he seems, unquestionably believing every alien conspiracy theory in existence, including those that originate from movies. A stop in Las Vegas includes a side trip to a wedding chapel with an Elvis-themed mock ceremony. Francie and Wade begin to fall in love, insistently encouraged by Indy. Men in Black appear on the scene. The romantic plot arc includes the typical black moment followed by a comic (in both the classic and modern senses) reversal. A thoroughly delightful story with a satisfying conclusion in both the romance and the science-fiction dimensions. The SF plot brings to mind Willis’s novella “All Seated on the Ground,” whose heroine also has to learn to communicate with extraterrestrials and figure out what they want. Although THE ROAD TO ROSWELL doesn’t attain the heights of TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG or BLACKOUT / ALL CLEAR, a second-tier novel by Willis matches or surpasses the best work of most other authors.

HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE, by Grady Hendrix. Having heard so much about this horror novel, I finally decided to read it because of the author’s outstanding vampire novel, THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES. One noticeable difference between the two is that the reader of the latter book knows early in the story that the vampire really exists; in HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE, we’re invited to hesitate between a supernatural explanation and the idea that the house is haunted only by toxic memories. In fact, we don’t get a definitive answer until the halfway point. Louise, a single mother with a little girl, gets a phone call from her brother, Mark, telling her their parents have died in a car accident. Right away, the siblings’ interaction demonstrates the longstanding resentment between them. Louise, who has made an outward success of her life, considers Mark a slacker as well as a drunk, unable to keep a job and spoiled by their over-indulgent (to him, not to her) parents. We gradually learn Mark has his own reasons for hostility to Louise. In a series of confrontations painful to read, the text explores the way brother and sister cling to opposite impressions of their shared childhood. Planning the funeral incites only the first and least of the explosive clashes between them. As much as we sympathize with Louise, little by little we start to realize Mark has some justification for his attitude, too. They fight over what to do with the house and its hoard of artwork and puppets created by their mother, who also collected dolls, I was initially disappointed to discover the haunting consists of apparently demon-possessed or poltergeist-animated dolls and puppets, a trope I consider more dull and annoying than scary. But a puppet that possesses its handlers? And holds the key to decades of buried family trauma? Wow. Their mother’s first and always favorite puppet, Pupkin, gradually develops from unsettling to profoundly creepy, spouting childish dialogue that sounds almost obscene without ever including words formerly labeled “unprintable.” The creature’s physical threat culminates in two violent, gory combat scenes, the first of which goes on far too long for my taste, becoming more tedious than horrific until its shocking outcome. But that isn’t the end by any means. The siblings’ eccentric relatives unite to help defeat the supernatural menace, while Louise’s daughter also plays a vital role. All the characters, minor as well as major, are compellingly vivid. Discoveries and revelations lead to fresh mysteries, including the question of whether even their parents’ ostensibly straightforward death means more than it appears. Aside from containing more physical violence than I like (an element that, for me, distracts from rather than enhancing the horror), HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE impressed me as gripping and ultimately satisfying.

THE SALT GROWS HEAVY, by Cassandra Khaw. Narrated by a mermaid married to a king—in present tense, perhaps justified by the way the story places her survival in doubt—this short novel deconstructs the familiar plot of “The Little Mermaid.” At the beginning of the story, the mermaid’s many half-human daughters have devastated the kingdom and devoured most of its people, including their royal father. This mermaid didn’t marry the king out of love; he captured her and took her by force. She didn’t sacrifice her voice for a chance to win him; she can’t speak because he cut out her tongue. Still, the former queen remains powerful, inhuman, cold (by human standards), and virtually immortal. Nevertheless, Khaw makes her a sympathetic character. She travels with a “plague doctor,” clothed in a black robe and masked by the skull of a vulture. The doctor, a quiet, gently sardonic presence, is nameless and apparently genderless. The mermaid shares a bond with “him” that she’s reluctant to define, even to herself. They stumble upon a village of children who make a game of killing each other under the guardianship of three “saints,” who bring the dead back to life. The three surgeons, as the mermaid thinks of them, perform gruesome experiments of human vivisection and reconstruction. The surgeons turn out to be the makers of the plague doctor, revealed as a patchwork of organs and skin like Frankenstein’s creature. At first treated like honored guests or privileged prisoners, the mermaid and her companion attempt to help the children—most of whom unquestioningly worship the “saints”—and suffer ghastly punishment for their interference. The often lyrical prose softens the scenes of extreme body horror. The mermaid’s love for the plague doctor ultimately reveals itself in both violence and self-abandoning devotion. The book includes a bonus in the form of a 2016 short story, “And in Our Daughters, We Find a Voice,” to which the longer work is a sequel. I have only one complaint about the book (aside from paying full-length-novel price for a slim volume comprising a novella and a short story, hardly the author’s fault): I want to know a lot more about the biology and life cycle of merfolk, of which we get only passing hints.

NIGHT’S EDGE, by Liz Kerin. A grippingly unusual treatment of the “vampirism as disease” trope. It takes place in a slightly altered history of our current timeline; the disease, labeled Saratov’s syndrome, surfaced in 2010, when the protagonist, Mia, was ten years old. Her first-person narrative alternates between then and now. (With both threads in present tense—why? Why not use past tense for the flashbacks?) Devon, one of the earliest carriers, turned Mia’s mother into a “Sara” in 2010. The dysfunctional dynamic among the three of them resembles a family with an abusive stepparent. Mia and her mother eventually break away from Devon, who, however, finds them again in the present. Occasional reminiscences about their pre-Sara life allow the reader to understand and sympathize with Mia’s desperate love for her mother, combined with a resentful sense of being trapped. In the present, her mother holds a night job, while Mia works by day at a bookstore. She also serves as her mother’s blood donor. Fortunately, Sara victims need to drink only about a quarter of a cup of blood in each twenty-four hour period; however, it has to be human and fresh. These sufferers display some traits of popular-culture vampires, highly vulnerable to sunlight, dormant during the day, fast and strong, with preternatural healing capacities. There’s nothing romantic or glamorous about them, though. They struggle to survive while avoiding the notice of the general population. Exposure would mean consignment to a “Sara center,” allegedly a sanctuary where they can live in safety without hurting other people, or, according to Devon, a prison under another name. At age twenty-three, Mia yearns for freedom from her constricted, secretive existence but feels guilt at the very thought of deserting her mother. Her life changes when she meets a free-spirited female musician named Jade, a barista at a coffee shop near the bookstore. For the first time in her life, Mia becomes fully aware of her attraction to other women. How can she get involved in a relationship while hiding her mother’s condition? Although Mia admits to herself she’s falling in love, is the feeling requited, or is she only a fling to Jade? When the danger of her mother’s being exposed becomes acute, does Mia dare to elope and start a life of her own? The early stages of the Sara epidemic recall the initial discovery of AIDS, including the terror inspired by victims infected with the new, mysterious illness. The present-tense chapters resonate with echoes of the COVID-19 pandemic years. Instead of universal masking as a precaution, almost all public venues require mandatory scanning upon entry to keep out Sara carriers. I found this a depressing book, for which it’s hard to imagine any kind of happy ending. Mia is a sympathetic character whose narrative voice holds the reader’s attention even though her plight is almost too heart-rending to dwell upon. Yet the final scene does offer a glimmer of hope for her future.

CLAWS AND CONTRIVANCES, by Stephanie Burgis. This fantasy Regency romance, although technically a sequel to SCALES AND SENSIBILITY, can be read on its own. A family of sisters, after the sudden loss of their parents, has been split among households of different relatives. Unlike Elinor, heroine of SCALES AND SENSIBILITY, in this new novel her sister Rose has gained a pleasant home with an affectionate aunt, uncle, and three girl cousins. Her uncle, who studies the legends and natural history of dragons, awaits the arrival of a fellow scholar, the event that helps to trigger the whole plot tangle. In this alternate version of the early nineteenth century, the real existence of dragons has recently been discovered. About the size of cats, the rare, expensive creatures have become highly valued pets, fashion accessories, and status symbols for upper-class young ladies. Unlike their counterparts in myth and legend, they don’t fly, breathe fire, or, as far as anyone knows, have magical powers. Rather than devouring hapless victims and ravaging the countryside, they’re typically docile and timid. Although a passionate aficionado of dragon lore, Rose’s uncle can’t afford one of the creatures himself. Therefore, she’s baffled when a dragon shows up in the house. Conjecturing that it may belong to their nearest neighbor, the wealthy, reclusive Sir Gareth, who has recently bought a decaying medieval mansion, she sets out for his home on foot to investigate. In the process, she’s nearly run down by a carriage transporting Mr. Aubrey, her uncle’s anticipated dragon specialist visitor. The kinds of mishaps expected in a madcap love story force Rose and Mr. Aubrey to pretend they’re betrothed. They run across and clash with Sir Gareth, whom Rose distrusts on sight. Her romantic-minded cousin Serena, on the other hand, sees him as a character from a Gothic novel. He does turn out to be a villain, but not the brooding, Bryonic type in need of redemption through the love of a good woman. Shortly, a second dragon appears almost literally out of nowhere. It seems these dragons may actually possess magic—or, as Mr. Aubrey insists, hitherto unknown abilities that must have some scientific explanation. Zany complications abound as Rose struggles to keep the creatures’ presence secret. Meanwhile, of course she and Mr. Aubrey begin to fall in love,while trying to deny their feelings, and sapphic sparks ignite between Rose’s cousin Georgianna and Sir Gareth’s mistreated niece. Aside from Sir Gareth’s truly evil schemes, CLAWS AND CONTRIVANCES is a delightful romp of suspense, romantic tension, inconvenient secrets, and misfortunes serious to the characters but funny to the reader. A happy ending, of course, bestows just rewards on all participants even when their plight seems impossibly desperate. I’m looking forward to the next installment, which will doubtless introduce us to Rose’s remaining sister.

For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires


Excerpt from “Song from the Abyss:

Under the sound of surf wafting in through the open window, a voice seemed to whisper. It hissed words in a language Alyce didn’t recognize, yet it sounded all too familiar. Almost as if she’d heard those sounds before, maybe at the age of twenty, on the night before she’d left her Aunt Cora’s house for the last time.

Until today. Furthermore, it was her house now. It wasn’t a monster that would swallow Alyce whole and trap her like Pinocchio inside the giant fish. The waves did not sound like the hoarse breathing of a creature from an alien world.

“Shut up,” she ordered the imaginary voice. The phantom whispers fell silent. What was wrong with her, getting spooked in such a mundane setting? Sure, she was alone in a run-down oceanfront house built in the 1880s, but nothing could look less haunted than her late aunt’s cluttered office. Books overflowed shelves and tottered in precarious towers on the floor. File drawers gaped half open. Papers heaped on the desk almost hid the polished wood surface. The humid air smelled like mundane dust, not the mold of ancient tomes. Yes, some of those volumes might almost qualify, but Aunt Cora wouldn’t think of letting her tomes molder.

If she had magically foreseen dropping dead and leaving Alyce to rummage through the house, she would probably have tidied up the place and hidden or destroyed her most esoteric materials. Although much older than Alyce’s mother, Aunt Cora had seemed in excellent health, so the fatal stroke must have surprised her as much as it had her family. Actually, it was a wonder she hadn’t changed her will long ago. Why had she bequeathed her estate to the niece who’d fled from this house four years previously and refused to answer so much as a Christmas card ever since?

Most likely because I’m her only relative except for Mom, and at least Aunt Cora and I used to be close. She and Mom hadn’t spoken face-to-face in a lot longer than four years. Emails, phone calls, and holiday cards between the sisters hardly counted.

So she’d had a choice between leaving the house to Alyce, as originally planned, or willing it to some flaky cult. I’m almost surprised she didn’t do that. Such a choice would have been typical of the woman Alyce’s mother always referred to as “my crazy sister.” For the hundredth time in the past few weeks, Alyce tried to dredge up a proper portion of sadness. She felt she’d long ago lost the aunt she’d loved, the one who’d treated her like a younger colleague instead of an airheaded kid, the one who’d taken her on excursions to historic sites off the well-traveled tourist track and taught her to delve into research many layers deeper than the top page of a search engine. Alyce had lost that relative four years earlier, when she’d dragged Alyce into some kind of arcane ritual.

Shaking her head and raking fingers through her hair, she forced herself to focus on the immediate chore. Beside the desk, empty cardboard boxes and a giant trash bin waited to be filled. Got to plunge into this mess sometime. Might as well get started.

Rustling the papers, she sneezed at the dust they raised. Her hand brushed the edge of a half-open desk drawer.


She jumped. Now I’m hearing voices inside my head. One voice, more accurately, and it sounded like Dean’s.

He’s gone. He’s been gone for seven years.

Seven years since he’d vanished, four years since she’d fled from this house like the monster she imagined it to be. Maybe returning had triggered some kind of flashback. All along, she’d suspected Aunt Cora of secretly dosing her with a mind-altering drug on that last night. Why else would she have forgotten almost everything about those hours?

-end of excerpt-


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

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):


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Barnes and Noble

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

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Fiction Database

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Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
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“Beast” wishes until next time—
Margaret L. Carter