Archive for May, 2024

Welcome to the May 2024 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

To subscribe to this monthly newsletter, please e-mail me at, and I will add you to the list.

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

In April, my vampire romance CRIMSON DREAMS was featured in the Paranormal Romance Event at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven:

N. N. Light’s Book Heaven

The summer when Heather was eighteen, her dream beast’s nightly visits warded off loneliness and swept her away in flights of ecstasy. Now, returning to the mountains to sell her dead parents’ vacation cabin, she finds her “beast” again. But he turns out to be more than a dream. She meets Devin in the flesh, apparently not a day older.

An excerpt appears below. At this point in the story, Heather knows Devin really exists and is a vampire, a member of a naturally evolved humanoid species. You can find the publisher’s page here:

Crimson Dreams

Please enjoy this interview with YA and women’s fiction author Ally Hayes.


Interview with Ally Hayes:

Thanks so much for allowing me to discuss my latest novella, Spring Market Surprise.

What inspired you to begin writing?

I have always been an avid reader and the desire to write started when I was young and grew out of jealousy and awe that a real live person created worlds I loved.

What genres do you work in?

Mostly women’s fiction, but also young adult.

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

Not only do I outline—in longhand—I write the first draft in an old-school spiral notebook. My first edits are me trying to decipher my handwriting as I type it.

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

Truly, everything and everyone but my contemporary favorite at the moment is Kristan Higgins. She writes relatable stories and characters that feel authentic. I strive to for those qualities.

Please tell us about your Poppy Lane series and how you developed the setting. Do characters recur from book to book? Do the stories need to be read in any particular order?

The Poppy Lane series started with A Snowball’s Chance, which is part of The Wild Rose Press’ Christmas Cookie series. I loved the characters immediately and knew I would revisit them somehow. When WRP announced a spring series, Jelly Beans and Spring Things, I knew I found my chance to continue the stories and wrote two. Promposal on Poppy Lane picks up a year after Snowball and features a young adult romance. Spring Market Surprise focuses on another Poppy Lane resident and begins on a pivotal day in Promposal. Each story stands alone, but I think reading them in order makes the experience more fun.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

Spring Market Surprise just released on March 25th.

What are you working on now?

My last few books have been novellas, so now I am working on a full-length story about friends that opens at a 30th high school reunion. It seems to be taking me a long time to finish as I got used to novella length, but I’m having fun.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write what you want, not what anyone—especially on social media, says is popular. If you’re not writing what you want, you won’t enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing it, no one will enjoy reading it.

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

I’m active on Facebook and X.
Facebook Author Page


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

FANGS, by A. E. Howe. The first book in the Baron Blasko mystery series. I read this 2018 novel on the recommendation of a fellow hardcore vampire fan. First, I must acknowledge that the premise isn’t quite like anything in the genre I’ve read before. In the 1930s, protagonist Josephine travels to Romania to fulfill her father’s dying request by scattering her grandfather’s ashes in the cemetery of the village from which he emigrated. When she reaches her destination – near the Arges River, a location associated with the real-life Vlad Dracula – she meets distant relatives but discovers that the village itself has been abandoned. Nobody will tell her exactly why, much less go near the place. Finally, one local man agrees to guide her, along with a Romanian military officer who has been escorting her through the countryside. After the scattering of the ashes, they come upon an apparently deserted manor or castle. A man who seems to be a guard charges at them and gets into a fight with the officer, whereupon they kill each other. Deserted by her local guide, Josephine seeks shelter for the night in the castle. The lord of the manor, Baron Blasko, jumps to the conclusion that she’s a vampire-hunter bent on destroying him. When he attacks her, she tries to defend herself by biting his wrist and accidentally consumes some of his blood. The unintentional two-way blood exchange creates an unbreakable bond between them. They can’t hurt each other, nor can they stand being separated. (She isn’t destined to become a vampire, which requires a more complicated procedure.) Of course unwilling to stay in Romania, she takes the Baron home with her to Alabama, coffin and native earth included. Here I had to suspend disbelief a bit, considering how readily he accepts this plan. Back home, Josephine allows him to take up residence in her basement, which he remodels into a comfortable apartment, paid for by some of the coinage he brings with him. He drinks bottled blood she obtains for him and makes a pet of a bat that lives in the basement rafters. (That’s another detail I wondered about: How does he deal with all the guano?) Blasko is what I think of as a “movie vampire,” one that sleeps through the daylight hours and can’t endure the sun. He also has the typical vampiric gift of mesmerism but not the ability to transform into bat, wolf, or mist. While he accepts the restriction of consuming “dead” blood, its inadequacy as nourishment eventually becomes a problem. The feasibility of drinking animal blood, oddly, is never discussed. The mystery begins with a murder in the house across the street. Partly to forestall accusations against himself, as a foreigner in a small town, and partly from boredom, Blasko – a fan of Sherlock Holmes – decides to solve the crime. Josephine has no choice but to help and try to keep him out of trouble. The story unfolds with suspense seasoned by touches of humor, particularly the Baron’s attempt to learn to drive. The book vividly immerses us in the era of the Depression, Prohibition, racial caste divisions in the American South, and the rising threat of Hitler (only briefly touched upon, since he hasn’t become Germany’s supreme leader yet). The typical mystery cast of suspects and detectives, official and unofficial, comes entertainingly to life. I found the solution and the climactic showdown convincing. I never felt the bond between Josephine and Blasko as strongly as we’re apparently meant to, though, even toward the end after their attachment has become more than merely obligatory. However, I enjoyed the book enough that I’ll try at least the next volume in the series.

THE DARK LORD’S DAUGHTER, by Patricia C. Wrede. Any fan of Wrede’s DEALING WITH DRAGONS and its sequels would expect a new fantasy novel by her to be excellent fun, and this book doesn’t disappoint. While fourteen-year-old Kayla, her widowed (adoptive) mother, and Del, her ten-year-old brother, are visiting the State Fair, a man in a costume out of a fantasy film accosts them. When he introduces himself as Waylan, second commander of the Dark Hordes of Zaradwin, they assume he’s an actor employed by the fair. The next moment, though, he greets Kayla as daughter of the Dark Lord who died ten years earlier, and she and her family find themselves instantaneously transported to a strange world. Wrede deftly sets up the characters and their mundane background in a few vividly drawn pages before introducing Waylan and his pronouncement of Kayla’s alleged destiny. They waste little or no time in doubting the reality of the alien environment, as some authors’ characters in a similar situation might do. Nor do they spend much if any effort pondering, as the reader might, why they hear the local language as English – magic, I guess. To begin with, naturally, they’re preoccupied with how they can get home. Kayla’s mother, in particular, remains narrowly focused on that goal for most of the book, a mindset similar (as Kayla recalls) to her relentlessly single-minded determination during her husband’s final illness. Del can’t help being excited about visiting a world reminiscent of his favorite movies and video games, where he might turn out to have magic of his own. I started the novel expecting a rather lighthearted romp through a fantasy realm, and the story does include frequent humorous moments arising from the culture clash between twenty-first-century American characters and a preindustrial kingdom pervaded by enchantment. I especially like the feature that objects from the mundane world nonexistent in this one transform into their local counterparts. Kayla’s tablet becomes a monkey-like familiar with a British accent; her mother’s pink cell phone becomes a small, pink-furred, magical creature called a Messenger Mouse. Kayla meets a teenage would-be Dark Lord handicapped by his birth into a Light family and the unintimidating name “Archie.” From mildly suspicious rivals, they develop into allies and eventually friends. (He might settle for becoming one of her evil minions, but he keeps trying on more Dark-sounding names just in case.) Yet as the presumptive Dark Lady Kayla copes with high-stakes issues, some literally life-or-death, she prepares for the vitally important investiture ceremony that will decide her fate as well as that of her family and the people she gradually comes to care for. Meanwhile, she helps to get the run-down, dirty fortress into shape under her mother’s tireless direction, sneaks out at night to explore the castle and the nearby village, discovers secrets and hidden rooms, and studies to master her inherited magic. Appalled to realize the locals actually expect her to crush opposition and consolidate her power by exiling, torturing, or executing people on the slightest pretext, she struggles to maintain her Dark Lady status while remaining a morally sound twenty-first-century teenager on the inside. When it becomes clear even to her mother that they’ll be stuck in this world for months at the least, their predicament becomes seriously dire. Delightful, thrilling, un-put-downable. I do wonder whether a sequel might be forthcoming, given the loose ends that remain (such as whether they ever return to Earth and, if so, how they’ll explain their lengthy disappearance).

THE SPARROW, by Mary Doria Russell. Less recently published than I’d thought (1996), this first-contact novel nevertheless presciently foreshadows twenty-first-century technology and current events (as the author’s twentieth-anniversary afterword mentions). It remains convincing as near-future science fiction, aside from the detail of asteroid mining in 2015. It reads like a response to James Blish’s classic “Jesuits in space” story, A CASE OF CONSCIENCE (1958), yet as far as I can tell from Russell’s recorded statements, she not only hadn’t read Blish’s book but hadn’t even heard of it when she conceived hers. Capsule summary of the plot: In the twenty-teens, the SETI project detects radio signals from the Alpha Centauri system, musical broadcasts clearly of intelligent origin. Under the sponsorship of the Jesuit order, a ship constructed from a hollowed-out asteroid sets off at a high fraction of light speed to discover the source. The trip takes seventeen years one way, although reports beamed back to Earth at the speed of light arrive in a bit over four years. Thanks to relativistic time dilation, the crew of the ship experiences only six months on the journey. I admire Russell’s skill at avoiding the need for any form of hyperdrive, keeping the voyage within the possibilities of known science. In 2060, Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz returns alone in the ship, programmed by the follow-up expedition to navigate home autonomously. The sole survivor of the original mission, he’s physically, mentally, and spiritually broken. A report from the astronauts who discovered him on the planet Rakhat accuses him of prostitution and child-murder. These events unfold in achronic order, skipping between the present (2060) and the past. Chapters have place and date headings to keep the audience anchored. In the scenes of the earlier time period, the mission doesn’t leave Earth until about halfway through the book, so some readers may chafe at the slow buildup. Engrossed in the characters and the plight of Father Sandoz, I felt the narrative structure didn’t drag but, rather, generated suspense. Along with Sandoz as the protagonist, the mission comprises an ensemble cast of fully realized characters, all good people with individual quirks, flaws, and talents. As far as SF content is concerned, the sciences foregrounded are biology, anthropology, and above all linguistics, Sandoz’s specialty. How did fundamental misunderstandings make the first contact with a planet inhabited by two sapient species devolve from an optimistic beginning into catastrophe? Why are Sandoz’s hands horribly mutilated? How did his companions die? What were the traumatic experiences he refuses to talk about? Did he really commit the crimes of which he’s accused? We don’t learn the full answers to these questions until almost the end. When he recovers enough to confront a formal hearing and the report of the second expedition, he says the assertions are “true but all wrong.” Russell creates the most convincing and harrowing fictional depiction of PTSD I’ve ever read. The story arc fundamentally consists of a classic tragic plot — good intentions and vaulting ambition that produce a catastrophic outcome resulting in the protagonist’s downfall, with large-scale repercussions for two worlds. Father Sandoz’s dilemma is left unanswered: Was the mission truly the will of God, as he originally supposed? If not, it was an act of foolish arrogance. If so, then God is responsible for both the beauty and the suffering; therefore, God is “vicious.”

THE CHILDREN OF GOD, by Mary Doria Russell. Sequel to THE SPARROW. Since it’s almost impossible to discuss this novel without spoilers for the first one, I won’t reveal many specifics about the plot. In brief, a planned new expedition to Rakhat in search of commercially valuable products leads the Pope and the Jesuit Father General to believe that Father Sandoz needs to return to the planet, not only to discover the full truth about what has happened in the decades (planetary time) since he left, but also for the good of his own soul. Not surprisingly, he vehemently refuses. He has resigned from the order, rejected his priestly vocation, and metaphorically washed his hands of the whole matter. He does, however, grudgingly agree to train prospective members of the crew in the culture and languages of Rakhat, in hopes that they can avoid the disastrous errors committed by the first mission. One of the book’s most heartbreaking moments occurs when Father Sandoz, having found love and a measure of peace, is forcibly taken aboard the starship and returned to Rakhat. (This isn’t a spoiler; it’s in the cover blurb.) Meanwhile, a revolution of the low-tech, village-dwelling vegetarian species against the urban, dominant, far less numerous carnivorous species is tearing apart the planet’s society. It becomes clear to the reader and soon to the Earth visitors that this catastrophe was unintentionally caused by the first expedition. The addition of a survivor from that mission who was presumed dead thickens the plot, producing a complex, emotionally fraught story. We learn much more about the culture of the dominant Rakhat species, with extended sequences from multiple viewpoints. We discover that two of those characters presented as irredeemable villains in THE SPARROW have much more nuanced personalities and motives. Like THE SPARROW, CHILDREN OF GOD is narrated out of chronological order, with multiple timelines instead of only two. Russell’s interview at the end of this edition remarks that many readers prefer the second novel over the first, which is her favorite of the two. I agree with Russell on this point, though it’s a close call. CHILDREN OF GOD has, if not exactly a happy ending, a concluding scene of reconciliation, peace, and even serenity. I prefer THE SPARROW, however, for its tighter focus on Father Sandoz and the smaller cast of supporting characters. Anyway, I recommend reading both rather than leaving him trapped in the existential despair of the first novel. Although it would be heretical to do evil in order that good may come of it, nevertheless in the long view the sequel postulates that good can be wrested from the worst of circumstances.

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


Excerpt from CRIMSON DREAMS:

Blushing, Heather picked up her spoon. “I thought you didn’t eat food.”

“I can consume liquids,” he said, “though most of them don’t do me any good. Things like gelatin and ice cream are liquids, in a sense–that helps when I get stuck with a dinner invitation I can’t turn down. And I do get nourishment from milk.” He had poured himself a glass, which he sipped while watching Heather eat.

“What we just did,” she said, irritably sensing his amusement at the way she groped for words. “We did that when I was eighteen, when I thought I was dreaming?”

“Not like that, dear one. It’s incredibly different when you’re fully aware of me.” He reached across the table to squeeze her hand. “So much better–I had no idea.”

“But it couldn’t all have been real. Some of it had to be just dreams, fantasies. Zorro and Lancelot and all that.”

“I drew upon whatever scenes would please and excite you the most,” he said. “Manipulative–that’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? Well, yes, but I also aimed to enhance your pleasure.”

“You did that, all right.” Good grief, why can’t I quit blushing? “I remember flying. In fact, I dreamed that again recently. Now, that can’t have been real–unless you’re holding out on me. You can’t turn into a bat, can you?”

“Certainly not. Where do you think the extra mass would go?”

What little she knew of nuclear physics made Heather cringe at the thought.

“However,” Devin went on, “we can fly, in a sense. Levitate, actually–even though our bones are a bit lighter than yours, true flight is impossible for a human-size creature. And we do transform into a winged entity. The wings are needed for gliding and steering.”

“A giant bat?” Heather rubbed her eyes. “That’s even weirder.”

“Our scholars believe it’s an ancestral form imprinted on the DNA, a shape we discarded as we evolved to mimic your species in every outward respect. One of our psychic gifts involves resuming that shape. The older we grow, the better we can do it, and the longer we can maintain it.”

She swallowed a cold lump of ice cream, chasing it with a gulp of juice. “Show me. I’m tired of blundering around in a fog about what’s real and what’s not.”

He finished his milk and gazed thoughtfully at her. “What the observer sees depends a great deal on what he or she expects to see. We can project illusions of whatever monstrous shape we want to assume. But yes, I can show you–without clouding your mind.”

Her eyes challenged him. “No illusions.”

“No. You’ll see only what physically exists.”

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, visit the Dropbox page below. Find information about the contents of each issue on this page of my website:

Vampire’s Crypt

All issues are now posted on Dropbox, where you should be able to download them at this link:
All Vampire’s Crypt Issues on Dropbox

A complete list of my available works, arranged roughly by genre, with purchase links:

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):


This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store:
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

Here’s a shortcut URL to my author page on Amazon:

The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

My Goodreads page:

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

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