Welcome to the June 2019 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

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. These items include some of the short stories that used to be on Fictionwise:
Barnes and Noble

Go here and scroll down to “Available Short Fiction” for a list of those stories with their Amazon links:
Kindle Works

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:

In case you’re a fan of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and haven’t read the essay anthology SEVEN SEASONS OF BUFFY, in which many distinguished fantasy, SF, and horror authors discuss their favorite episodes, characters, and themes, it’s still available (in both e-book and paperback) here:

Seven Seasons of Buffy

My essay in this volume, “A World Without Shrimp,” explores the trope of alternate realities in the series. There’s an excerpt below to give you a sense of how I approach the subject.

I’ve recently re-released as Kindle e-books two works originally published by companies that have gone out of business. Mundania Press (which had absorbed Hard Shell Word Factory) unexpectedly announced its closing not long ago. So I combined DARK CHANGELING (my first vampire novel, originally released by Hard Shell) and its direct sequel set over a decade later, CHILD OF TWILIGHT, into a two-novel omnibus, TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS. The books have been lightly re-edited for minor corrections and changes, nothing substantive:

Twilight’s Changelings

LOVE UNLEASHED, my Ellora’s Cave paranormal romance about a man cursed into the form of a Saint Bernard, reverting to humanity only between sunset and midnight every night, has been retitled ENCHANTMENT UNLEASHED. (It’s mind-boggling how many books Amazon lists with the title LOVE UNLEASHED.) I revised it to downplay the graphic sex level from erotic to spicy/steamy.

Enchantment Unleashed

This month I’m interviewing Maria Imbalzano, author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.


Interview with Maria Imbalzano:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I happened to be reading a best-selling novel and I grew frustrated with the author. She had told the reader the same thing within pages of each other. Being an avid reader, I knew what good writing was, and I couldn’t believe this book had made it through the publishing process and onto the bookshelves. In my naïve, optimistic world I told myself, “I can do this.”

Easier said than done, of course. I didn’t know where to start. As fate would have it, a flier came across my desk for a legal education seminar called “How to Write Your Book in 14 Days (A Lawyer’s Guide)”. I quickly signed up, thinking no one else would be there. I was wrong. The room was packed with would-be John Grishams hoping to write that blockbuster manuscript, sell it, make a fortune and retire from law.

The seminar was exactly what I needed to get started – although to this day, I have not been able to write a book in fourteen days.

What genres do you work in?

Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction

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

I plot my stories to the n’th degree. I start with developing the heroine and hero, then determine their internal and external conflicts. I then start with chapter one and blueprint each scene/paragraph by asking questions and then giving three words as answers. Although this may take a month, when I sit down to start writing the book, it practically writes itself.

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

Since my books are character driven, I’m influenced by personalities of people I know and use those traits in developing my characters – making them real. For settings, I use places I’ve either lived in (NYC, Philadelphia, the Jersey shore, Princeton) or visited. Some of my books have lawyer characters and after having practiced law for many years, I know how lawyers think. It was also easy for me to add conflict through a lawsuit or area of practice that conflicts with the hero’s business.

What effect has your career as a lawyer had on your fiction? Do any skills required for legal writing carry over into creative writing?

Lawyers are analytical, organized, and choose words carefully. When I was in high school and college, I hated creative writing. I wasn’t good at it. In law school, I loved legal writing. I understood it. I was also a crazy, mad editor of my own legal briefs, memoranda, and letters. The correct words are so important when making legal arguments. Those qualities have helped me greatly in my creative writing. I actually like to edit my work and I will spend time coming up with the correct word if I think the original word I chose doesn’t work.

How do you integrate fiction writing into a schedule with a demanding day job?

In the past, I would write at night from around 8 – 11pm and on weekends if other obligations didn’t interfere. Of course, board meetings or the kids’ activities always came first, so it took me forever to learn this craft and sign my first publishing contract – fifteen years to be exact. I recently retired from practicing law so I could now write full time. And I’m loving every minute of it.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of a four-book series, The Sworn Sisters Series. The Sworn Sisters are four high school girlfriends who are now in their early thirties. Each friend has their own story, but they are in each other’s stories as well. The first book in the series, “Sworn to Forget” (Nicki’s story) was published last July, and the second book, “Sworn to Remember” (Sam’s story) was released on May 15th. I am now working on the next book in the series.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never stop learning the craft of writing. And never give up.

What’s the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?






Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

DRINK, SLAY, LOVE, by Sarah Beth Durst. I became aware of this 2012 YA novel by reading a recent interview with the author. It has one of the most quirkily unusual premises of any vampire novel I’ve ever read. The narrator, Pearl, lives in the crowded household of her vampire family and shares the worldview expected of her kind—amoral, self-centered, and predatory. These vampires’ avoidance of killing (most of the time) springs from caution, not compassion. Since Pearl was born a vampire, not transformed like her parents and most of her relatives, she’s actually the age she looks, sixteen. In the opening scene, she and her vampire boyfriend steal a car and stop by a twenty-four-hour ice-cream shop. There Pearl drinks from the clerk, Brad, and erases his memory of the bite. In the alley behind the store just before dawn, however, she encounters a unicorn. Its horn stabs her through the torso. To her surprise, instead of dying, she wakes up in the shelter of her own home, where some unknown person had left her unconscious on the front porch. She soon realizes she’s changing. First, she becomes able to stay awake during the day and face the sun without harm. Her elders regard this mysterious development as an advantage, because they have the duty of hosting the vampire council in the near future and must provide a supply of victims as refreshments for the guests. Since Pearl can now mingle with the human population unnoticed (they hope), her parents enroll her in the local high school and task her with luring a suitable group of students into the vampires’ lair on the appropriate night. While becoming acquainted with her new classmates, passing off her cluelessness and social ineptitude as byproducts of homeschooling, she discovers more traumatic results of her change. She catches herself worrying about what humans think and feel, becoming reluctant to hurt them, and actually behaving like a nice person at random moments. To her dismay, Brad, her victim of the fateful night, is one of her fellow students. He and a perky girl named Bethany seem determined to become Pearl’s friends. The darkly humorous story takes a turn toward darker in the second half. At the climax, Pearl and the circle of friends and classmates she has reluctantly embraced cooperate to oversee the Gothic-themed prom, which Pearl has arranged to host in her family’s mansion. Now that she actually cares about her fellow students, how can she manage to keep them all from getting slaughtered in a vampire feast? Meanwhile, she has discovered that Brad and Bethany, much more than the nerdy high-schoolers they seem, are hiding a fantastic secret. A weirdly fun novel.

THEATER OF SPIES, by S. M. Stirling. Second in the “Black Chamber” alternate history series. It’s now 1916, four years after Theodore Roosevelt regained the presidency (the point of departure from our own timeline). Secret agent Luz O’Malley and Ciara Whelan, her new partner, return from the first novel. Boston-Irish Ciara, Luz’s young lover, is a largely self-taught mathematical and engineering genius. Luz, in addition to her natural gift for languages and the advantages of her upbringing as daughter of Hispanic and Irish-American parents (brutally murdered by Mexican revolutionaries) as well as her family’s friendship with “Uncle Teddy,” has, of course, all the training one would expect for a hard-core spy. She and Ciara are spending their “honeymoon” at Luz’s luxurious home in California when they receive their new assignment. By a roundabout route involving changes of identity and flights on a succession of airships, they arrive in Berlin, where they settle in a modest neighborhood under the guise of a Bavarian widow and her slightly “simple” young friend. Their mission is to investigate reports of a new German secret project. The futuristic technology, code-named Heimdall, sounds a lot like radar. Luz and Ciara make themselves familiar to their neighbors and develop a friendly relationship with the sergeant who guards the entry to the factory where they hope to find the Heimdall project. Luz also makes contact with captured Frenchwomen who perform menial chores such as cleaning in the factory. Readers won’t be surprised that Horst Von Duckler, principal antagonist in BLACK CHAMBER, survived the end of that novel and is relentlessly hunting Luz. Most of the book consists of preparation for the climactic strike, which contains enough fast-moving action to please any spy-thriller fan. My favorite aspects of the novel, however, are the relationship between Luz and Ciara, the background information about this changed world, the interaction between the heroines and the people of many nationalities and ethnic groups they encounter, the multilingual conversations and the richly varied menus (as always, Stirling excels at descriptions of food), and the many incidental glimpses of life in war-torn Europe and the culture of the United States under Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party. In some ways, this World War I is grimmer than ours. The “terror gas” of the first novel devastated France and England, and Germany is winning; they’ve already conquered Russia. With Teddy in charge, though, I trust Stirling will give us an Allied victory in the end. The conclusion of THEATER OF SPIES definitely feels more optimistic than that of BLACK CHAMBER. I’m delighted with the character of Ciara, bright, enthusiastic, and nerdy in the best way. The love between her and Luz helps to soften the character of Luz and reveal her complexity as a person, demonstrating that there’s more to her than a trained spy and killer. A few readers label her a “Mary Sue,” but in fact she has believable flaws (such as being left in the dust by Ciara’s mathematical and technical expertise), and her broad skill set simply reflects her credible experience and training; a spy without those skills wouldn’t have been sent on this mission in the first place.

IRON, FIRE AND ICE, by Ed West. This book shouldn’t be missed by fans at the intersection of the two fields of interest addressed in the subtitle, “The Real History That Inspired the Game of Thrones.” Both informative and entertaining, West goes into great detail about the nations, cultures, events, and individuals in the history of Britain and Eurasia that have counterparts in George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” saga. Sometimes West cites Martin’s explicit statements about a particular incident or character’s real-world inspiration; more often, West draws general analogies. He covers a broad period from antiquity to the high middle ages but focuses heavily on the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and Martin’s acknowledged principal source, the Wars of the Roses. I had a little trouble following West’s exposition at times, because he skips around among regions and centuries, sometimes within a single chapter. The fact that multiple persons in the same or related royal and noble houses have the same names doesn’t help. I wish the book included timelines of the rulers of each separate nation discussed in the text. There are extensive footnotes, but the bibliography is really just a checklist of titles and authors, omitting publishers and dates of publication, and the index is less exhaustive than many readers may want. In general, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to any fan of Martin’s novels or the TV series (West refers regularly to both) who’s also interested in history. You’ll probably come away with the same conclusion I did: As Martin himself has mentioned on occasion, you may think the violence in his series is extreme, but the real-life events were even worse.


Excerpt from “A World Without Shrimp”:

“Alternate realities are neat,” declares Anya in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Superstar” (4-17). Apparently the creators of the series agree, for the malleable nature of “reality” proves to be one of the Buffyverse’s central themes. Anya reminds us of the infinite variety of possible worlds and the great differences that seemingly minor changes can produce: “You could, uh, have a world without shrimp. Or with, you know, nothing but shrimp” (“Superstar,” 4-17). Or Buffy could inhabit a world with or without a younger sister.

The advent of Dawn at the end of the first episode of season five sharply draws the viewer’s attention to the fluidity of this fictional universe. The transformation of the Buffyverse by the sudden appearance of Dawn (“sudden” to the audience, not to the characters, who “know” Buffy has always had a sister) highlights the importance of the “alternate reality” theme in this series. Most television programs imitate the presumed stability of the primary world, the “real” world we live in. At most, the average series may feature an occasional fantasy sequence or It’s a Wonderful Life pastiche. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in contrast, presents several alternate reality episodes that produce major dislocations of the world as the characters know it. This recurring motif infects the Buffyverse with a fundamental instability. The introduction of a younger sister retroactively transforms Buffy’s entire family history. Cordelia wishes into existence (or possibly just reveals) a timeline in which Buffy never moved to Sunnydale. Jonathan works a spell to create a timeline in which he stars as a superhero. And the episode “Normal Again” (6-17) reveals a timeline in which Buffy is, rather than the powerful Slayer, a helpless mental patient.

Unlike most secondary (i.e., invented) worlds, the reality of Buffy undergoes frequent, unsettling alterations. All these episodes produce deviations from the “original” reality of Buffy, the world we viewers recognize as being altered when Dawn appears, which I refer to as the dominant reality, or dominant timeline. The magical transformations in the various episodes create alternate realities, worlds that resemble our own but deviate at some point in their history to generate timelines that can vary widely from the dominant one as a result of a single critical change. I use “alternate reality” and “alternate universe” interchangeably. Note, however, that the various transformed realities in the series are not all of the same type, but belong to at least two different categories. If the alternate reality exists in complete independence from the dominant timeline, I classify it as a separate dimensional plane. Alternate realities that replace the dominant one and run in the “real time” of the characters’ lives can be labeled alternate histories. I consider “The Wish” (3-9), for example, to belong to the first category and “Superstar” (4-17) to the second. As for the “demon” or “hell” dimensions often mentioned in the series, they exist on other dimensional planes but do not qualify as alternate realities in the sense being considered, because they do not conform to the model of a universe that parallels ours except for the ramifications of one critical change.

-end of excerpt-


My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at:

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