Archive for June, 2024

Welcome to the June 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.

N. N. Light’s Book Heaven included my steamy paranormal romance novella “Calling Back Love” in their May “Salute the Military” Bookish Event:

N. N. Light: Calling Back Love

My late-Victorian Christmas story A GHOST IN THE GREEN BESTIARY, part of the “Christmas in a Castle” series from the Wild Rose Press, now has a release date: September 23, 2024. Spending the Christmas season at her aunt and uncle’s country manor for the first time since her father’s death, Lucy both yearns for and dreads reuniting with Walter, to whom she’d almost become engaged. In her present financial straits, Lucy feels she’s no longer a proper match for a wealthy gentleman’s heir. How can she let Walter down gently without destroying the friendship she still treasures?
On the night before Christmas Eve, Walter tells a tale of a long-ago daughter of the household who eloped with her forbidden lover, a simple farmer. After his violent death in the mansion’s topiary garden, his spirit supposedly lingered. When Lucy’s little brother claims to glimpse the ghost among the animal-shaped bushes, she joins Walter in investigating the apparition—forcing them to face their shared past and the challenges of the future.

This month’s excerpt comes from a quasi-Lovecraftian paranormal romance novel, SEALING THE DARK PORTAL, set in late spring and early summer. Almost nothing Rina remembers about her life is true. Rather than the ordinary librarian she believes herself to be, she’s actually a sorceress who fled from another world to ours when creatures from an alien dimension devastated her home and killed her family. Now they’ve pursued her to our world, summoned by a sorcerer who plans to open a portal and invite monstrous entities from the void between dimensions to overrun this planet.

Sealing the Dark Portal

In the selection below, Rina has just returned from grocery shopping, and a persistent stray cat that has recently been hanging around defends her from a bizarre attack.

In this issue, instead of an interview, we have an overview of the Baron Blasko vampire mystery series by A. E. Howe, written by Adriana Pena, a contributor to my former fanzine THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT. (Scroll to the end of the newsletter for links to information about the zine and where to download issues.)

Here’s Adriana’s self-introduction:

I am a retired computer programmer and part time local pundit — writing about politics and society, as well as philosophical musings. My life experience and extensive reading have made me the writer that I am today. I was – and still am – a Dark Shadows fan, and, of course, a fan writer. I have written a 51-volume continuation of Dark Shadows (The Collinsport Chronicles) under the name of Maryland Rose. Also wrote several stories where I crossed Kindred the Embraced with Highlander. Which means that I have written quite a bit about vampires – as well as reading a lot about them. I found this series by browsing on the Internet and it sounded interesting. It certainly is. So please, read it and enjoy.


Review by Adriana Pena:

The Baron Blasko mysteries

The Baron Dragomir Blasko has been flying under the radar since 2018. Though the trope of “vampire detective” is well known, Blasko has not been recognized by those who like vampire stories. They are missing a real treat.

The author, A. E. Howe, is known as the writer of mysteries that take place in Florida, with a good sense of place and with three dimensional characters that readers care about. The Baron Blasko mysteries are his foray into vampire fiction, and they too have a good sense of place and three dimensional characters we care about, including Blasko himself.

The story begins with what seems a retelling of “Dracula” with a modern sophisticated character going to the wilds of Transylvania, and meeting superstitious peasants, with a story about a monster that ravaged their villages about a hundred years ago. This protagonist, Josephine Nicolson – is aware of this, because she has read about the monster’s depredations from her grandfather’s writings – but she thinks that the peasants might have magnified some disease or wild animal – a sensible enough explanation. She is not impressed by what she thinks are superstitions.

Circumstances lead her to find refuge in a dilapidated fortress, and it is here that the vampire, Baron Blasko, attacks her.

And then it all changes…

Somehow Blasko and Josephine have become bonded. They cannot hurt each other (except with words) and cannot be separated. So Josephine has to choose, either stay with Blasko in his dilapidated castle or to take him back to her town in Alabama. Guess what she chooses?

Blasko for all of his anger is quite reasonable. He accepts her conditions – which includes not attacking the townspeople but instead drink the bottled blood that she will get for him. So, off they go to Alabama. Josephine swears her maid to secrecy about what they are bringing back from their travels. Blasko is then introduced as the “cousin from Romania”

And now the real story can start.

Blasko in his new home develops a passion for reading detective stories, and then wants to put in practice what he learns. Obligingly their small town provides him with unsolved murders to investigate.

Each book is a murder mystery, solved by Blasko and Josephine, and the writer keeps you guessing to the end. The first one is a regular mystery, but the subsequent ones involve supernatural happenings: Lovecraftian monsters and a werewolf.

Fantastic elements aside, the books show a realistic view of a Depression era town in Alabama (though the author softens the racial attitudes quite a bit, to keep readers from hating several characters). The characters run true to life and so does the setting – The author even takes a dig at American exceptionalism: At one point Josephine says something like “in the US we do not have serfs” only to have Blasko muse about the conditions of black workers – – “they might as well be serfs”.

The author has some original takes on vampirism – Blasko does not turn into a bat, he just keeps a bat as a pet after he rescues it and nurses it back to health. He reflects in mirrors, but he avoids them, because when he looks at them, he sees a rotting corpse (no one else does see that). He needs to be in contact with his earth, and also with gold.

He can live on bottled blood, but it is not enough, so that every now and then he has to attack someone. He is careful when he does that, making sure not to touch the carotid, and leaving his victims alive (he also chooses someone who “deserves” it, and he can leave a hypnotic compulsion to leave their wicked ways). He is the alibi for a murder suspect, but of course he cannot tell the authorities that the suspect was being attacked for his blood and in no shape to commit any crime afterwards.

He needs a henchman, so he chooses the town drunk and uses his hypnotic powers to force sobriety on him – with the man eventually getting a job and a place to stay. He then gives him several tasks.

He is certainly arrogant and ruthless -– because he comes from the Balkans, a place where, as Churchill said, produces more history than they can locally consume. War was a constant in his growing up, and ruthlessness was what kept you alive. He comments that in the world they were living in, when he was turned into a vampire, it could be said that he was given a great gift that allowed him to protect those he cared for. He even remembers when his home was overrun and, being a child then, he had to hide to avoid being slaughtered.

He could not help being arrogant. He was a voivode, a military leader and magistrate, and he always had people to command, and due to his condition, no equals to deal with. He has a sense of duty towards his people and seeks to be fair. He can be compassionate without being maudlin. And he has withdrawn into himself and deals with very few people that he protects in exchange for allowing themselves to be bled.
We may think that he is quite depressed at this stage, and maybe this is why he jumps at Josephine’s invitation.

His relationship with Josephine changes through the books (the covers show this progression – from barely concealed hostility to mutual irritation, to collaboration, to love). She is in many ways his counterpart. Her fortune has remained intact through the Depression. As the major stockholder of the bank, (a bank where everybody has outstanding loans), she is as much an aristocrat in her domain as Blasko was in his, and like him, she shoulders the responsibility of those in need of assistance. She begins to appreciate what Blasko does, and how in the end his influence in the town is a good one, and yet she remains wary of him. It is only in the third book that she has a revelation that changes the way she looks at him, and from then on she thinks of him as Dragomir instead of the baron.

Blasko is less of a vampire than a person afflicted with a condition, and while he handles himself well, he is not comfortable with what he is. He feels shame when he attacks somebody and remembers with embarrassment how early on in his career when confronted with a murder victim, instead of reacting empathetically as he should, his hunger led him to lap on the spilled blood. He has created another vampire, and the experience did not end well, so he is quite unwilling to repeat it (maybe that other vampire will show up).

The other characters are well drawn. The town drunk turned henchman could be a stock character, but we get to know him, and recognize him as another war victim, haunted by the things he witnessed in the butchery that was World War I. Similarly, the black maid of Josephine – sworn to secrecy about Blasko’s secrets — comes first as the stereotypical Scripture quoting poorly educated woman who keeps muttering about that the Baron would kill them all as they sleep. But we get to know what strains a black woman has to endure in the Depression era South, and when she has to be grateful to Blasko she warms up to him saying that she mistook his strange ways for Devil’s ways and is quite willing to discuss relationships with Josephine on an equal’s basis. Then there is Carter, Josephine’s cousin, the scholar from Miskatonic University, who first tries to kill Blasko, and then has to ask him for help when he beings to grow tentacles (Blasko tells him that he deserves pain but not being turned into a squid).

At the end of the fourth book, Dragomir and Josephine are in love, but Dragomir is aware of the pain that awaits them in the future, and that the only way to avoid it is to transform Josephine, and that he is unwilling to do. He wonders if the Necronomicon has any answers for him. And we have to wait for the fifth book to see if there are any answers.

The writers is now thinking of the fifth book, and we should encourage him to write it.

The books are

The Baron Blasko mysteries


By A. E. Howe


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

RING SHOUT, by P. Djeli Clark. This short (slightly over 180 pages), fast-moving novel takes place in an alternate 1922 America where the classic silent film BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) had a greater impact than in our reality. As a result of its racist glorification of the “Lost Cause,” the revived Ku Klux Klan attracted a wider membership and became even more of a threat than in our timeline. Moreover, the forces of evil play a more direct role in the dark side of this world’s history. Some Klansmen get possessed by (or converted into) demons conjured by a literal wizard in a ceremony held shortly after the original release of the movie. The Black protagonist, Maryse, and her fellow demon-hunters call ordinary, human KKK members “Klans” and their demonic allies “Ku Kluxes.” In the opening scene, Maryse, a sharpshooter named Sadie, and a female Great War veteran nicknamed Chef (who had posed as a man to join the army) slaughter a band of Ku Kluxes. After this introduction to the heroines and their demonic adversaries, Maryse’s recollections fill in the setting’s warped history for the reader. She narrates in present tense, a device that doesn’t bug me as much as usual because her Black dialect softens the effect. Although a bit heavy on violent action for my taste, the novel also has plenty of atmosphere and character development. Maryse and her comrades visit a “juke joint” owned by her lover. They consult a Gullah woman with occult gifts. A science-minded friend of theirs dissects body parts of dead Ku Kluxes. In dream encounters that are more than ordinary dreams, Maryse receives cryptic messages from three women who may be the Fates or Black mythic analogues of them. A white man powerful in both the political and magical sense tries to seduce Maryse to the dark side for revenge on those who murdered her family in her childhood. She repeatedly revisits that horror in visions of herself as a terrified girl hiding from the assailants. The villain plots to use a revival screening of BIRTH OF A NATION to open a portal between Earth and a hell dimension. A provisional victory for the heroes doesn’t preclude tragic losses. The “shout” in the title refers to group chants whose origins go back to slavery times and beyond. Tales of “Bruh Rabbit” provide additional depth to Maryses’s cultural background. I especially like the device of having the story punctuated by brief excerpts from interviews with aging Gullah people conducted by one of the book’s secondary characters, a white female researcher.

THE WONDER STATE, by Sara Flannery Murphy. This novel invites comparison to Stephen King’s IT. Of course, fiction about adult characters reuniting with childhood friends in their home town isn’t uncommon. THE WONDER STATE, however, also shares with IT the trope of the one person who never left urgently summoning everyone else to return. Her message consists of only the words, “You promised.” But Murphy’s book isn’t horror, although the story includes dark elements. It’s mainly portal fantasy, except that the sought-after portal remains elusive through most of the novel. Instead of a small town in Maine, THE WONDER STATE takes place in the small town of Eternal Springs, Arkansas, in the Ozark region. I’ve never come across a premise like this one before: An eccentric architect, Theodora Trader, designed and built a group of houses with magical qualities, each one different. Brandi (the character who stayed), Jay (female, her best friend), and their companions searched for Theodora’s houses – at Brandi’s urging – and eventually found all except the final goal, the portal to another world. For instance, in the Truth House nobody can tell a lie. A promise made in one of the other houses can’t be broken. Yet another slows time for people as long as they stay in it, days or weeks inside corresponding to only hours in the outside world. Brandi, living in near-poverty with the boyfriend of her absent mother as a surrogate stepfather, after discovering the existence of the enchanted houses draws Jay and a select group of misfit friends into her quest. Disaster ensues, as one would expect, and in young adulthood all except Brandi go their separate ways. She struggles with addiction and apparently straightens out but then disappears soon after sending her appeal to Jay and the others. Realistically, although they answer the call, they don’t want to be there; all have their own lives and plan to stay only a few days. Naturally, the town’s mystery entangles them again. Like King’s IT, this novel alternates scenes from the present and the past, each chapter with a date heading. Past scenes are told in past tense and current events in present tense, a technique tolerable for me because it helps the reader keep track of which time period we’re in. One aspect of the plot baffles me – Jay’s motivation for yearning to pass through the alleged interdimensional portal. It’s understandable that Brandi, who has led such a difficult life, would feel that way; she may plausibly think any world must be better than this one. Jay, though, has no reason to be desperate enough to plunge into an unknown realm, without any assurance she could even get back. For all she knows, the portal house might open into a hell dimension rather than somewhere like Narnia. Nevertheless, the magic is fascinating, the character relationships convincingly complex, secrets and betrayals emotionally fraught, and Jay’s bond with Brandi warm and deep.

I’M AFRAID YOU’VE GOT DRAGONS, by Peter S. Beagle. At first glance, the whimsical tone of the title of this latest novel by the author of THE LAST UNICORN seems to be reflected in the book’s plot. What if dragons weren’t huge, majestic, terrifying beasts, but household pests the size of small lizards (at least as far as the characters know at the beginning)? The protagonist, Robert (a name he’s chosen for himself in preference to his long, Latinate, rather pretentious actual given name) doesn’t hunt dragons with armor and sword; he cleans them out of walls by the dozens or hundreds like mice or cockroaches. Of course, what he and his friends know at the start isn’t the whole truth, and things soon get much more complicated. The LOCUS review compares the early scenes to THE PRINCESS BRIDE, in my opinion applicable only to Princess Cerise’s hordes of suitors who throng her father’s Great Hall in classic fairy-tale style. She politely listens to each, none of whom appeals to her. That farcical situation changes when Prince Reginald wanders into the kingdom more or less by accident, not even seeking a bride. Cerise falls in love with him at first sight, while he goes along with the courtship in a spirit of amiable cooperation more than grand passion. As for Robert, after the humorous opening scene as he wakes up amid his pet dragons (whose existence he keeps secret from everybody outside his family, to maintain his reputation as successor to his late father’s dragon-exterminating business) we soon learn the depth of his distaste for his vocation. While gathering up the reptilian “pests” for delivery to the dragon market, he can hardly keep from crying. When Cerise insists her parents’ shabby castle needs to be made presentable for Prince Reginald, the only task there’s time for is clearing out the dragon infestation. After Reginald hears rumors of larger dragons a manageable distance into the wilderness, he decides to slay one in order to impress his royal father, a warrior celebrated for battle prowess in his younger days who’s now outspokenly disappointed in his son and heir. Reginald turns for guidance to Robert, the closest thing to a dragon-slayer he knows. Robert agrees to cooperate in exchange for a secret deal with Reginald’s impeccably correct, fiercely intelligent manservant to help him (Robert) become a valet for a prince or nobleman, a career he thinks he’ll enjoy far more than his inherited one. The three of them set out in search of a suitable dragon, accompanied by Cerise, who refuses to stay behind. The expedition becomes more than a knightly adventure when they discover a devastated village. Robert suspects a “King” dragon, a species thought to be extinct if not entirely mythical. Worse, the marauding dragon seems to be under the control of a wizard. The past exploits of Reginald’s father come back to haunt the party, while Robert learns secrets about himself. A bond grows between him and Cerise, and he reevaluates his ambition to become a valet. Destruction, loss, and death loom. Characters change, grow, and gain self-knowledge. Like THE LAST UNICORN, this novel segues seamlessly from bright to dark and finally to hope, with a strong conclusion that foreshadows happiness.

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



Just as Rina slammed the trunk shut, the ground shuddered. She braced herself on the car and let out a yelp. Her stomach quivered. For a second she imagined she was back in the nightmare.

No. She was still in her front yard on a sunny afternoon in Maryland. She stalked to the front stoop and sagged against the wall next to the door. The earth vibrated again. Halfway between the house and the street, a cloud of smoke appeared. The smell of acetone emanated from it.

Swallowing a lump of fear, she set down the grocery bag and fumbled in her purse for the house key, which she jammed into the lock. The cloud, wispy and pale gray at first, thickened, compacted, and darkened. It swirled like a miniature tornado. The funnel shape sprouted pseudopods, four, then six, then seven or eight, absorbing and extruding them at random. A swelling at the top resembled a head only when tusks and crimson eyes materialized on it.

Why doesn’t anybody else notice this? She scrabbled at the doorknob. Her fingers kept slipping. The thing undulated toward her, limbs stretching and retracting, multiple eyes flashing and vanishing. In daylight the creature looked nothing like a dog. Either she was losing her mind, or a monster was attacking her.

The cat sprang on it with his claws extended. As he leaped, his body melted, stretched, and re-formed. It expanded to the size of a pony, while the fur turned sleek instead of fluffy and the claws and fangs enlarged along with the rest of the animal. The plume of his tail lengthened, smoothed out, and lashed like a whip.

Rina stood paralyzed, forgetting the need to escape. A cougar. The cat turned into a cougar. If she wasn’t going crazy, this must be a new nightmare.

Yowling, the tawny mountain lion raked the smoke monster with his claws. The beast’s leg shredded but instantly re-knitted itself. The creature’s talons and jaws ripped at the giant cat, who twisted and dodged fast enough to suffer only glancing scratches instead of lethal wounds. He bit and scratched, tearing holes in the thing’s protean body, but he couldn’t seem to inflict permanent damage. Spitting and hissing, he lunged and retreated over and over. Even in her confusion, Rina could tell he got weaker with every clash.

The smoke monster contracted into a cyclone again. One limb struck out and slammed into the cougar’s flank. The blow knocked him onto the lawn. He lay there stunned.

The cone of darkness whirled toward Rina. Pressure built in her ears. Her head throbbed. Without thinking, overwhelmed by panic, she raised both hands to ward off the thing. “Get away from me!”

Bolts of electricity shot from her fingers. Involuntary sounds welled up in her throat and spewed from her mouth: “Hevatanu, halako, anasoba!” The thing crackled and shriveled. She thrust her hands toward it again, and again sparks radiated from them. The creature emitted a shriek that made her ears ring and vanished.

Panting, Rina leaned on the wall. What just happened? And why aren’t the neighbors running out here? She stared at her shaking hands and flexed her fingers.

A keening meow diverted her attention. Instead of the cougar, the cat lay on the ground in his normal shape. She forced her legs to carry her over to him. His eyes met hers for a second, then closed. She picked up the limp form and staggered inside.

-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):


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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:

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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