Welcome to the January 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:

I’ve cleaned up the “Links” page on my website. As far as I know, now all the links are accurate and active:


My paranormal romance novel LOVE UNLEASHED, featuring a man cursed into the shape of a St. Bernard, aside from reverting to human form during the hours between sunset and midnight, has been re-released on Kindle under the new title ENCHANTMENT UNLEASHED (with the level of graphic sex toned down). There’s an excerpt below. (Nick is heroine Vicki’s brother.)

Enchantment Unleashed

Recently, I’ve also combined my stories from the Marion Zimmer Bradley “Sword and Sorceress” anthologies, most of which have gone out of print, into a collection called PERILOUS MAGIC. It also includes two other previously published tales, “Manila Peril” (exotic vampire) and “Prey of the Goat” (Lovecraftian).

Perilous Magic

The only one of my S&S contributions not included is the oldest one, “Sorcerer’s Pet,” from SWORD AND SORCERESS 5, because I don’t have the file anymore. If you’d like to read that story, though, you can find reasonably priced used copies of the anthology on Amazon.

Please enjoy the following interview with mystery author Jo Hiestand.


Interview with Jo Hiestand:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Probably my love of books in general. I grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes. I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies, and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. But the British pull was tenacious.
This feeling was all well and good, but I needed to immerse myself in the British countryside and villages for my books. I needed the ‘feel’ of the locations. England beckoned and I bee-lined to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of my books. Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed me into an Anglophile. The bond was made stronger when a retired Detective-Superintendent of C.I.D. and a working Detective-Sergeant agreed to read my manuscripts for police procedure accuracy and to provide investigation techniques. With everything more or less in place, I took a deep breath and wrote my first novel, A Staged Murder, which was published in 2004.

What genres do you work in?

Mainly mystery. I have two British series out. The Peak District mysteries feature a Derbyshire Constabulary CID Team, and The McLaren mysteries feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold cases on his own. I also write an amateur sleuth series set in Missouri. Those are the Linn House mysteries, and feature Rona Murray, who owns a bakery/events center in Klim, MO. She and her ex-husband, Johnny, become embroiled in mysteries. They’re not as serious as the British series.

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

I start with paragraphs of the plot, scene by scene, snippets of dialogue. As I write, something usually occurs to me, so I add that to what I’m writing in the first (or even second!) drafts or to the plot scenes. It’s a combo of structure and zaps from out of the blue.

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

By far, I’ve been influenced greatly by Golden Age mystery author Ngaio March. Then, perhaps, Josephine Tey. Nature also plays a large part in my writing, as does the ‘feel’ of places. I try to write so the reader sees or smells or hears the scene my protagonist is in. I think this brings the story alive, and the reader can experience what’s happening to my characters. Of course, the other influence has been my trips to Britain, mainly England and Scotland. I’ve used many of the places that I’ve vacationed at or lived in as locations for my stories. Physically being there and later on recalling those experiences really helps with my writing.

Would you classify your detective stories as “cozy” (along the lines of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers) or more “gritty”?

The term cozy seems to be changing from what it initially was, so I guess I’d term my amateur mystery series books as cozy. My two British series have cozy elements such as closed group of suspects, no graphic violence, occurs in a village, personal motives instead of terror or world domination… But I’d classify the two British series more as classic mysteries because the focus on the story is the solving of who, what, when, where, how and why. They could be a cozy with police procedural bits, though, instead of thrillers. And definitely not suspense.

How do you carry out research for the background of your British mysteries (e.g., on police procedures, settings, local customs)?

Wow, I’d say research is about half of my writing. I’m lucky in that I have three English police friends (in England) who answer my emails about procedure et al. Once I asked one friend what the road was like from a specific town to a specific village—I’d been there and driven it, but it was years before I wrote the book, so I wasn’t certain if the bridge was concrete or steel or if the road rose to it. He told me the specifics. One of my friends is a retired Detective Superintendent, so he was very high rank in the CID. He reads my manuscripts when they’re finished to see if I have procedure correct and if any American words have unintentionally crept in. I do a lot of online research, such as what time is sunrise or sunset, the moon phases for the month of my books, the rate of the incoming tide in Morecambe Bay, what things are smuggled into Britain… Some information I need, such as river flow rate and water depth, is lacking (or I can’t find the right place). I then email a person in what I hope is the correct agency or society or whatever, and ask. I’ve contacted employees in the Peak District National Park Authority, a nature reserve, a university professor, a castle curator… They’ve all been extremely helpful. I know I will have mistakes in my books, but I try to lessen them.
For local customs (they form the backbones of the plots of The Peak District mysteries), I was fortunate to have visited Derbyshire many times, so I know a few things. But I own some books on British customs: those come in handy to look up a majority of customs. It’s fun to discover a tradition I knew nothing about, and then figure out how I can create a mystery around it. For instance, in The Stone Hex, the custom is turning the devil’s stone. The famous event is in Devon but I have my fictitious villagers do their own version. They use crowbars and ropes to turn over a one-ton boulder once a year because to ignore it is to bring calamity upon the villagers. For Searching Shadows, the custom is watching the church porch. Again, this is a real custom in which participating villagers take assigned times to sit in the church porch at night. They’re looking for the spirits of the villagers to march past the church. The sighting of a person’s spirit foretells that person’s death within the year. In the upcoming book, An Old Remedy, I use May Day customs as the pivotal point of the plot. Some customs are really odd: how in the world did some of them start? All are real customs. Some are still practiced. Those that have fallen by the wayside are resurrected in my books!

You’ve published a book of Groundhog Day carols, which sounds like great fun. Please tell us about that.

That is a very good selling book, believe it or don’t! Copies even sell throughout the year! I love groundhogs. At a previous house I owned, a succession of groundhogs waddled up to my back deck. I started feeding them because I wanted them to stick around so I could photograph them. Again, tied in with my Peak District mystery series, I love customs. I’ve celebrated Groundhog’s Day throughout my life. I thought it was an overlooked holiday and it didn’t have any carols, at least I never heard any. So I wrote some! Actually, I wrote the lyrics. The tunes are public domain folk songs and Christmas carols. Besides the songs, I’ve also included ideas for hosting a Groundhog’s Day party: decoration and recipe ideas, as well as games suggestions.

What would we find in TEA IN A TIN CUP, your book of memoirs, and what inspired you to write it?

I’ve loved to cook and bake ever since childhood. It recently occurred to me that many of the major or fun events in my life incorporated food in some way. The more I thought of this tie-in, the more I recalled that most of the events were quite humorous. The few people who knew some of them thought they were funny and unique. So, I wrote them down and they gradually became a little book. They’re very short reminiscences, such as being bitten by a rabid skunk, making egg cups from an egg carton so the members of the Scottish folk singing group The McCalmans could eat their breakfast, baking cakes to celebrate Broderick Crawford Day (the movie/TV actor), how I met my future folk singing group members through a spaghetti fight, a visit to a gold rush-era New Zealand town where I first tasted reindeer meat… Things like that. It’s a fast, easy read.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished the second draft of the eleventh McLaren mystery, Black Moon. The editor now has it. The next Peak District mystery, An Old Remedy, should be seeing the light of day very soon, if it hasn’t already. With those in the finishing stages, I’m a lady of leisure. But I have the kernel of an idea for the twelfth McLaren book. I just have to flesh it out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think I’d say don’t stop writing. Each book sharpens your skill; you’re constantly learning how to express ideas. You learn this only through writing. Realize you’re in this for the long haul and stay at it. If you quit, you’ll never succeed, so please keep writing.

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

My website: Jo Hiestand
Other places on the web where I can be found: BookBub, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads and I have book trailers on YouTube.

Thanks for including me in your newsletter, Margaret. This was fun!


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

LENT, by Jo Walton. From what I’ve read of Walton’s work, every novel or series she’s written is different from every other. LENT follows that pattern; in fact, among fantasy novels in general, I’ve never read anything quite like it. A fictionalized life of Girolamo Savonarola, the brilliant monk who shaped the destiny of Florence for a few years in the late fifteenth century, LENT at first appears to have only two fantasy elements: Girolamo can see and cast out demons, and he receives valid revelations of future events. The story begins in 1492 and continues until his execution as a heretic in 1498. All the principal characters are historical persons, such as Lorenzo the Magnificent and Count Pico della Mirandola, a close friend of Girolamo. Girolamo aspires to transform Florence into the Ark, the City of God, the new Jerusalem. For a brief period, he almost succeeds. Then, halfway through the novel, he dies. Here’s where the book turns uniquely strange. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal the devastating truth that death reveals to Girolamo, because it would be too much of a spoiler. I can say, since it’s hinted in the cover blurb, that he lives those years over and over. Because of a magical green stone (probably jade) that he finds in the first chapter, he can now recall past iterations. Each time he dies and returns, he tries different paths to change the future from what he remembers. He has to face the sorrow of starting over every time with people who had become dear friends in past lives. He also has to decide whom to share the truth with and try to convince them of its reality without terrifying them. Girolamo is a vivid, sympathetic character, whose agony over the state of his soul is believable and moving. Walton does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the culture and mindset of Renaissance Italy, brimming with artistic, philosophical, and scientific energy while still dominated by the Church and pervaded by heartfelt belief in Christian theology.

MARVEL YEAR BY YEAR: A VISUAL HISTORY, by Cefn Ridout, et al. If you’re a devoted fan of the Marvel Comics universe and don’t mind the expense (although I found a reasonably priced used copy in good shape), check out this exhaustive, lavishly illustrated volume. It follows the company’s history all the way from its founding as Timely Publications in 1939, and the release of MARVEL COMICS #1, through 2016. Every year has a one-or-two-page spread highlighting the significant characters, plots, and magazine issues of that time span. Each annual section also includes a sidebar listing important real-world events as well as memorable movies released that year. So we get an overview of how the Marvel publications fit into the culture of the various eras through which they’ve developed. Being only a casual fan, I’d had no idea of the many different genres of comics the company had produced in addition to their superhero universe(s), especially in the early years. Needless to say, a major appeal of this massive tome for most readers will be the reproductions of covers and other illustrations from the magazines. Because the book focuses on the history of the comics, films and TV series are mentioned only briefly. Also, be warned that this thing is heavy! I had to rest it open on a flattish surface to read it without hurting my wrists. It’s worth the trouble, though. 😊

THE LAST TSAR’S DRAGONS, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. In this relatively short (180-page) novel, Yolen and her son offer a unique account of the Russian Revolution—with dragons. The tsar keeps a stable of black dragons, which he uses to exterminate Jewish communities when the whim strikes him. Unfortunately, the beasts don’t reliably discriminate among targets, perpetrating significant collateral damage, either unknown or unimportant to the tsar. The population’s only defense is to hide underground and wait for the devastation to pass; the few who possess a detection device called a drachometer have a better chance of taking refuge in time to survive. The dragons are often compared to Cossacks, the former being essentially a deadlier variation on the latter. The social and institutional contempt for Jews forms a constant background theme, so it’s not surprising that the heavy Jewish participation in revolutionary movements is also emphasized. One Jewish Marxist conspirator secretly acquires a supply of dragon eggs and hatches a swarm of red dragons to support Lenin’s uprising. Meanwhile, other major viewpoint characters include the mad monk Rasputin and the tsar’s wife. Not fully accepted by the Russian court (courtiers nickname her “German Alix”) even after years in her position and the birth of several children, the tsarina struggles to fulfill her duty as empress despite her distaste for many features of her adopted country. The only first-person narrator as well as the only invented major figure in the book, a nameless bureaucrat whose overriding goal is his own professional and personal survival, pulls the story together with his behind-the-scenes observations. His opening and closing monologues, thirty years later when he’s been condemned to death for corruption and treason, frame the narrative. Intelligent and cynical, he’d had no compunctions about switching sides when it became clear that the revolution would triumph. The story involves dragons in Rasputin’s demise and gives the deposed tsar and his family a swift, fiery death by dragon attack. To me, no characters come across as terribly likable except maybe the royal princesses and the well-meaning but not too bright tsarina. Knowing the ultimate destiny of the nation and the combatants on both sides, I felt pity for the characters rather than deep emotional engagement. The authors conclude the book with an absorbing eight-page commentary about the history behind the fiction.



Nick slowed the car on the curve just before the strip mall where Vicki worked as a veterinary technician. “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing, leaving Phil this way without telling him in advance? He doesn’t seem like the type to accept that too calmly.”

“Yeah, I know I’m taking the coward’s way out, but I couldn’t face another argument. I left a note along with the spare key he gave me. He’ll get the idea.”

“What if he comes after you?”

“To do what? He may be a jerk, like you said, but he isn’t dangerous.”

“I’m not so sure about that. He never paid much attention to anything you said. How do you know he’ll accept that you really mean it about breaking up?”

“He’ll believe I’m serious when he sees I’ve moved my stuff out, that’s what. Don’t worry about it.” Sometimes she appreciated big-brother protectiveness, but other times it felt more constricting than comforting. Since their mother’s death, Nick tended to treat Vicki as if the age gap between them were more than the actual four years. He looked more like a twin than her elder, with his chestnut hair and neatly trimmed beard still free of gray. She had hair of the same color, except for her auburn highlights, and they both had blue eyes.

“Maybe you should get another dog, just in case.”

“To protect me from the big bad beltway bandit?” she said, referring to Phil’s job with a defense contracting firm in Washington. She laughed at the idea of any danger from uptight, super-civilized Phil Garrett. He favored sarcasm rather than violence as a weapon.

“Trixie has been dead almost a year. You need a dog around the house. There are other dangers for a woman on her own, you know.”

“Come on, I don’t live in the rough part of town or anything like that.” She brushed aside the wistful memory of the old Border Collie she’d inherited from their folks along with the house.

“Annapolis isn’t that big a town. The rough part is only a couple of miles from the safe part.”

“Mom and Dad lived in that house for most of their lives and never had any trouble.” She glanced ahead at the vet’s storefront office, where they were going to pick up her paycheck before driving back to her home to unload the SUV. “Maybe you’re right about a new pet, though. Symbolic fresh start, first day of the rest of my life and all that.” If she didn’t fall in instant love with a puppy at the SPCA, the doctors she worked for could steer her toward a local breeder. Or maybe she should get a cat, which would take less trouble. Phil claimed to be allergic, so she hadn’t been able to consider a kitten before now. There were lots of things she could do now that she didn’t have to worry about his quirks.

Just as Nick turned into the parking lot, a huge, brown-and-white blur hurtled toward Vicki’s window. She let out a screech. Nick slammed on the brakes, and the thing rammed into the passenger door.

Vicki jumped out, her heart hammering, and fell to her knees beside the animal. It lay on its side, apparently stunned. Nick hurried around the car to join her. “Good grief, a kamikaze dog,” he said.

The creature was the biggest Saint Bernard she’d ever seen. When she touched its head, the chocolate-brown eyes flickered open for a second. “We have to get him into the office right away.”

“I’m not about to carry him across the parking lot. Help me lift him into the car.” After pulling out of the path of traffic, Nick shifted boxes to clear a space in the back of the SUV. Meanwhile, Vicki felt over the dog’s legs, hips, and rib cage.

“I don’t think anything’s broken.” She cradled the animal’s head and neck, while her brother handled the bulk of the weight. Together, they hefted the half-conscious dog into the vehicle.

“See, it’s an omen,” Nick said. “Practically the minute I said you needed a pet, a dog came along and threw himself at you.”

“Well, I can’t keep this one. I’m sure he belongs to somebody. He’s wearing something around his neck.”

Nick drove the car up to the vet’s office, luckily finding a parking space only two slots from the door. Vicki ran inside to ask for help. Fred, a vet tech in his early twenties with curly hair and one gold earring, was covering the front desk. Stressful though the argument had been at the time, she almost giggled at the memory of Phil’s accusation when he’d picked her up after work the other day and spotted her chatting with Fred. As Nick had implied, her young co-worker was a nice enough guy but one of the last people she’d consider fooling around with. He glanced up when the bell above the door rang. “Hi. You’re here for your check, right?”

“Yeah, but I also brought a patient. A dog ran into Nick’s car. Could you help us bring him in?”

On the way out, Fred asked, “Don’t you mean the car ran into the dog?”

“Not exactly.”

Fred and Nick lugged the animal inside. The only other patient in the waiting room was a caged cat, who hissed at the sight of the dog. When they laid him on the floor, he opened his eyes, started panting, and gave a feeble thump of his tail. Vicki knelt down and stroked his head. His tongue flicked out to brush her hand. “I didn’t want to take the time to drive him all the way across town to the emergency vet. Do you think one of the docs can fit him in?”

“I’ll check.” Fred went into the back room and returned almost immediately with the reply that Dr. Brodie, the senior partner, had a few minutes free. “Big one, isn’t he?” he said, eyeing the dog. “Might as well try to weigh him.”

When they started to lift the dog, he struggled to his feet, still panting. With Vicki’s fingers twined in his neck fur, he wobbled over to the flatbed scale. He stood quietly while they waited for the digital readout to appear. Fred whistled. “Almost a hundred and ninety pounds. You are a big one, aren’t you?”

While Nick waited out front, the two of them managed to get the dog to stagger into the examining room under his own power. Fred coaxed him onto the table, then operated the hydraulic lift to raise it to a comfortable level for the examiner. The dog’s droopy eyes shifted to follow Vicki’s every move. She fondled the black velvet of his ears and rubbed the back of his neck. “What in the world is this?” Her probing revealed a chain of fine silver links. When she worked it over his head, it turned out to be a necklace with a disk about the size of an old-fashioned silver dollar, embossed with a five-pointed star, dangling from it.

Fred stared at the thing when she held it up. “Why would anybody put jewelry on an animal?”

“I have no idea. And no collar, just this.” The dog turned his head to follow the movement of her hand and whined, as if he wanted his ornament back. “Sorry, it looks too valuable. I’d better hang onto it for you.”

-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