Welcome to the February 2020 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

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, now that the Yahoo group is useless for that purpose, 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. 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:

My Goodreads page:

Below is an excerpt from “Harvest Maidens,” my unicorn story, which appears in my collection HARVEST OF MAGIC:

Harvest Maidens

This month’s interviewee is thriller author C. J. Zahner.


Interview with C. J. Zahner:

What inspired you to begin writing?

My only sibling was eleven years older than me, and my parents were hard workers who often held multiple jobs. Frequently alone in the summer months when school let out, I began writing on rainy days when I couldn’t get outside to play with the neighborhood kids.

What genres do you work in?

While I’m comfortable writing any type of thriller, I recently wrote a women’s fiction novel on friendship. I am also writing a historical romance about the underground railroad. But psychological, crime, and paranormal thrillers are my passion.

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

I’ve winged four and outlined one. A fellow author recently recommended a book Save the Cat Writes a Novel. With the suggestions from this, I outlined my soon-to-be-published Friends Who Move Couches. I found Save the Cat invaluable.

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

My wild imagination drives my storylines. For detail, I write what I know in locations I’m familiar with.

I never read a Sydney Sheldon book I could put down, and l love Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and of course, Margaret Michell. (See the familiarity? Thrillers, women’s fiction, and historical romance.)

My life experiences also drive my writing. Readers learn much about my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. Other similar features in my novels are characters who run, suffer from epilepsy, or have family members with Alzheimer’s, all of which I know a little about.

My grandfather was the inspiration for my psychological thriller, The Suicide Gene. He was a genius who suffered from depression and attempted suicide. The hero in that story is an attorney, Giff Johnson. I based this character after my son Zak who is an attorney.

The tagline for my current book, Friends Who Move Couches, is Almost a Memoir. I explain this novel “could have been my life” if I hadn’t married my wonderful husband. The book tells the story of a gangly-charming, suburban housewife/mother who is frivolously addicted to friendship and experiences a devastating friendship loss—which, sadly, has happened in my own life.

What my readers most inquire about, however, are my premonitions. My dream-series novels, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, center around teenagers who were placed into a government program in Area 51 to develop their sixth sense. They grow up to help protect America through remote viewing. Lots of readers have asked if Project Dream is a real government program.

What kind of research do you do for your fiction?

Mostly, I write what I know. For example, my dream series explores people who have a sixth sense. I, myself, have had several premonitions in my life, including one major vision of 9/11.

For the historical romance, I researched the 1830 American era and the Pennsylvania underground railroads.

For my psychological thriller, The Suicide Gene, I read books on heredity and genes.

Your website mentions real-life paranormal experiences that have influenced your writing. Please tell us a bit about that.

There’s no better way to say this. I have premonitions that come to me as movies in my head. I’ve had several throughout my lifetime, but the one most people are interested in is my 9/11 premonition.

Beginning in July of 2001 and continuing until September, I had two visions (movies in my head). They occurred a few days a week and always between 10 o’clock and 10:30 in the morning while I was sitting at my desk at work. They came suddenly and without warning. In the first vision, I was in a building that was collapsing. I could see the gray floor boulders buckling beneath me. The second was from a plane’s eye view where I approached a city with tall buildings in Northeastern America.

Readers may read about that vision on my website (Website), watch an interview on AfterBuzz TV (AfterBuzz), hear an interview on Beyond Reality Radio (Beyond Reality), or listen to a book discussion about it on Writer’s Block (Writer’s Block). That 9/11 premonition is the basis of my series about Project Dream—the school set in Area 51 where teenagers develop their clairvoyant abilities.

What is your latest or soon-forthcoming work?

Friends Who Move Couches, Almost a Memoir, is the story of suburban wife and mother, Nikki Grey, whose addiction to friendship leads her through various comical situations. Nikki never learns. She is her own nemesis. She also suffers from epilepsy. When she experiences a seizure then shortly afterward realizes her husband has been cheating on her, she’s forced to dig deep inside herself and muster the courage to stand on her own.

What are you working on now?

Friends Who Move Couches is in the hands of my proofreader, and I am preparing for publication. I’m also editing my historical romance, Within the Setting Sun, and hoping to submit to a publisher soon. Finally, I’m debating whether to write the sequel to my friend or dream series, or begin a new thriller. All this as I plan a major life move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read, read, and read more. Listen to your editors, take as many free writing classes as you can fit into your schedule, and don’t turn your nose up to criticism. People encouraged me to write when I was young, but I was hesitant to take the suggestions of editors for fear I’d lose my voice. When I finally heeded their words, my writing took a turn for the better. I promise, young writers, you won’t lose your voice. You’ll simply clean it up.

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

Readers may find me as follows:


Social Media links:

Book Gorilla
Book Circle Online interview:
Beyond Reality Radio 9/11 Interview:

Buy Link:

Amazon Amazon


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

COME TUMBLING DOWN, by Seanan McGuire. This new installment in the Wayward Children series reveals the fate of twins Jack and Jill after the climax of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY. Spoiler: Jack slew her serial-killer sister and took Jill’s body through the doorway to the home of their hearts, the Moors—a Gothic landscape reminiscent of a Hammer horror film—to be resurrected. A person once dead and revived can’t become a vampire, so even if restored to her status as the adopted daughter of the undead Master, Jill couldn’t attain her ambition of becoming a vampire princess. As COME TUMBLING DOWN begins, it’s immediately obvious that Jack’s hope of resuming her contented life as assistant to her beloved mentor, mad scientist Dr. Bleak (who maintains the balance of power on the Moors in opposition to the Master) while regaining her sister’s love didn’t come to pass. A supernatural bolt of lightning opens a dimensional rift in the cellar of Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, and Jack’s girlfriend, Alexis, emerges carrying an unconscious body. It’s Jill’s body but inhabited by the mind of Jack, forced to magically exchange bodies with Jill, who desperately wants to be transformed into a vampire, as the Master has promised, at the next full moon. In a physical form that has never been killed and resurrected, she can fulfill her dream. Recognizing Jill as an irredeemable psychopath, Jack realizes she must not only reclaim her own body but then kill her twin permanently. She embarks on this quest by crossing over to the Moors with Alexis (rendered mute by her second death and revival), Kade (Miss Eleanor’s nephew and designated heir to take over the school when she eventually returns to her Nonsense world), Cora (who visited an ocean world to which she longs to return as a mermaid), Christopher (who communicates with skeletons by means of his bone flute), and Sumi (formerly dead heroine of the realm of Confectionary). With Dr. Bleak slain (at least for the present), Jack expects to assume his role as mad scientist of the Moors. On the way to confronting Jill and the Master, she and her allies also have to deal with the Drowned Gods of that world’s sea. After dire peril and near-tragedy, the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion. I hope it won’t be the last in the series. With a theoretically infinite number of doorways and worlds, there are surely more stories to tell.

THE POWER OF BABEL, by John McWhorter. Subtitled “A Natural History of Language,” this nonfiction work shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in linguistics and the development of languages. Although I don’t know much about the technicalities of linguistics, I had no trouble following most of the author’s explanations; he has a lucid, highly readable prose style with lots of humorous touches. He explores how the hypothetical original language morphed into the six thousand or so on Earth today. He explains at length why it’s less accurate to speak of “languages” than of dialects, which we conventionally group into larger entities we call languages, often for political, ethnic, and geographical reasons rather than strictly scientific ones. He gives extensive examples of the different ways languages change and why, while devoting a chapter to the plight of languages that have become extinct or are moving toward that fate. In conclusion, he discusses why it’s almost certainly impossible to retrieve any words from the first language that evolved into all the others. I’ve also recently read one of his later books, OUR MAGNIFICENT BASTARD TONGUE, which focuses on how and why the grammar of English has changed over the centuries. There he devotes special attention to what he calls the “meaningless do” (i.e,, the fact that we have to say “Did you finish your homework?” or “I didn’t finish my homework,” yet we don’t say “I did finish my homework” unless for special emphasis) and the present participle ending in -ing (many languages get along with a single verb form for both habitual action and ongoing action). Anyone who enjoys reading about the way languages work would love this author’s books.

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, by Harriet Reisen. I seldom read biographies, but with the release of the new movie adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN, one of my favorite books in my teens, I became curious about the life of its author. I chose the most recent biography I noticed on Amazon (published in 2010), on the grounds that the latest account would build on earlier books and explore her life and times in the greatest depth. I also read a few Amazon reviews and found Reisen’s book highly recommended. As everyone knows, Alcott based the main characters in the March family novels (LITTLE WOMEN, first published as two separate books, LITTLE MEN, and JO’S BOYS) on her own family. The trouble with biographies of authors, often, is that most writers’ lives contain little excitement outside the pages of their works. Therefore, biographers tend to hunt for connections to the works throughout the events of the subjects’ lives (e.g., Bram Stoker’s biographers trying to identify a real-life model, such as Sir Henry Irving, for Count Dracula). Alcott, however, had a fascinating life in its own right, even though not one of action-packed adventure. The biographer has the advantage of copious documentation, since Louisa kept journals throughout her life, almost from the time she first learned to write. Many of her letters are also preserved, as well as reminiscences by people who knew her. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a leading figure in the Transcendentalist movement, so that Louisa grew up surrounded by venerable intellectuals such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. Bronson, however, consistently failed in worldly terms, especially after he decided his principles didn’t permit him to work for wages. He tried to support his family by lecturing, teaching, and writing, with little success until late in life. His utopian experiment in communal living, Fruitlands, also ended in failure. Unlike the fictional March family’s genteel “poverty” (with a large house, abundant food, and a faithful housekeeper), the Alcott family often fell into real poverty. During Louisa’s first decade or so of life, they moved approximately every year, sometimes more than once in a year. Her mother was pregnant more or less annually for over a decade, on at least one occasion twice in a year. Aside from the births of the four daughters immortalized in LITTLE WOMEN, all her pregnancies ended in miscarriage or stillbirth, to the obvious detriment of her health—an exemplary case study for the importance of reliable contraception! When Louisa finally achieved fame and prosperity after the release of LITTLE WOMEN, she was able to give her family financial security and essentially supported them until she died. Unlike Jo, her literary counterpart, Louisa remained an independent spinster, although because of her family obligations she never achieved the kind of free life she really wanted. Reisen’s book told me much I hadn’t known about Louisa, such as her stint as a hospital nurse during the Civil War, her travels in Europe, and the fact that she wrote other things besides children’s books and (under a pen name) lurid Gothic thrillers. Fans of Alcott’s work should enjoy this detail-packed, lively account of her career and relationships.


Excerpt from “Harvest Maidens”:

The second bell rang just as Mali finished washing up and scrambling into her shapeless, sand-colored smock. She glanced out her room’s narrow window at the rose-tinted sky, then hurried from the dormitory to the field next to the stable, where she took her place in line with the other couple of dozen maidens. The air felt comfortably warm, even this early, and the dewy grass tickled her bare feet.

On her left stood a girl about her own age, thirteen, and on the right a blonde child no more than seven or eight. Mali remembered seeing her brought in two days earlier but hadn’t learned her name yet. The little one glanced from side to side, fidgeting and biting her lip. This must be her first day at horn harvesting. Mali squeezed her hand and gave her an encouraging smile.

The little girl’s mouth dropped open when a stable hand unlatched the broad doors and the unicorns trotted out. Mali smiled wider, recalling how thrilled she’d been at her first sight of the creatures, when she’d been not much older than her new companion. Though they had the bodies of horses, as common lore claimed, they didn’t look very horse-like otherwise. They had cloven hooves, sapphire eyes, short, wiry manes, and tufted tails. Their heads resembled those of stags except for the single horn, as long as one of Mali’s arms. In the early morning sun, their white and silver hides shone, and their horns gleamed with iridescent swirls of rainbow hues.

The herd milled around, puffing and snorting, until each animal halted next to a girl or young woman. Girls, mostly, with very few past twenty years and only two older than that. As usual, the herd slightly outnumbered the maidens so that a few had a pair of unicorns sidling up to them. Only one each chose Mali and the girls on either side of her. The floral aroma of her unicorn’s breath filled her nose. She stroked his silken coat, relishing her favorite moment of the day. If only time could stop here.

Once the animals settled down, the wizards, eleven of them today, strode into the field. Four lived in the manor at the center of the ranch, while others came in from town each morning. Mali kept her eyes facing forward instead of watching the men work their way down the row. It was bad enough to have to see the process when a wizard reached her spot in line. A gasp drew her gaze to the little girl beside her, who had obviously been watching.

“What are they doing?” the girl asked, her brow furrowing.

Mali clasped her hand again and whispered, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the unicorns.” Or so she’d been told, and she’d seen no indication otherwise. “That’s our job, to keep them calm so the wizards can do their work. Hush, now, so you won’t upset them.” She patted her unicorn, which was shifting his feet restlessly in response to the disturbance. “I’m Mali. What’s your name?”

Tears trickled down the girl’s face, but she answered softly, “Nessa.” The animal that loomed over her, a mare, bobbed her head up and down and stamped her feet.

“Pet her and make her feel better,” Mali told the child.

Nessa splayed her hand on the unicorn’s leg. “I don’t know how.”

At that moment the nearest wizard, Master Tegvan, finished with the maiden on Mali’s left side and stopped in front of her. He didn’t wear star-spangled robes or a long, white beard like mages in storybooks. Not at all ancient, probably in his thirties, he wore emerald green trousers and tunic and a neatly trimmed, auburn beard. Though he didn’t quite smile at Mali, as usual he had a less forbidding manner than most of the wizards.

After four years at the ranch, she knew her role without prompting. Stroking the unicorn’s flank, she murmured to him until he sank into a waking trance. Without the maidens’ influence, the unicorns would never allow men, even mages, this close to them. Master Tegvan lightly clasped the unicorn’s horn and muttered the cryptic words of the spell. Silver light flashed from his fingers.

The horn came off cleanly in his hand. Its glowing colors faded.

The unicorn’s head drooped. His blue eyes grew dull, and his coat turned pale gray. Though his mutilated forehead didn’t bleed and he showed no sign of pain, Mali hated this moment. As always, she could barely blink away the tears that threatened to fall.

-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