Welcome to the November 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, 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:

My Goodreads page:

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! May we all find something to celebrate even in these strange times.

As you may know, Yahoo Groups will close permanently on December 15. This newsletter will continue to be uploaded here:


Please bookmark the page and check for new issues at the beginning of each month. Thanks! I will post a notice on my Facebook author site—address noted above—when each newsletter is uploaded. By following that page (if you don’t already), you can be sure not to miss an issue.

Below is another snippet from my werewolf novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST, recently republished by Writers Exchange. At this point in the story, heroine Jenny doesn’t yet realize she’s actually a werewolf. She thinks her memories of transformation were nightmares. The book’s page:

Here’s an interview with Sydney Winward, author of vampire romances and other romance subgenres.


Interview with Sydney Winward:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I first found my love of writing after I wrote down an awesome dream I had. I expanded on the details, and eventually, the story became a book. The book was awful! I was only twelve years old at the time. But I remember the pride of the accomplishment from writing a book, and it inspired me to keep writing.

What genres do you work in?

I mainly write fantasy and paranormal. Always romance. But recently, I’ve been veering toward historical. I just finished writing a historical fantasy trilogy, and now I’m working on a western historical for The Wild Rose Press Wylder West Series.

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

Something in between. I’ll have a vague idea of the direction of the book and what scenes I want to include in the story, and from there, I’ll wing everything in between. If I outline too much, I find I lose interest in the story. I prefer to be just as surprised and excited by what happens next as my readers.

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

During my teenage years, Christopher Paolini played a big part in my love of writing. I loved the world he created in the Inheritance Cycle and the depth of his characters. I was such a geek that when I went to an event to listen to him speak many years ago, I didn’t want to wash my hand when he shook it after haha!

I also fell in love with reading, which also played a huge part in me wanting to write my own books. Brandon Sanderson taught me there is no limit to the worlds you can create. Sarah J. Maas taught me great characters contribute to a great storyline.

Please tell us about your vampire series. How do your vampires differ from the traditional type (if they do)?

The vampires in The Bloodborn Series are closely related to traditional vampires in the sense that they don’t have a reflection, sunlight burns them, and they can’t enter a room or building without permission. I sprinkled in a bit of my own magic and lore into the world I created. Although my vampires do drink human blood, they also have their own set of morals and standards they adhere to.

How did you research witchcraft for ROOT BREW FLOAT?

Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of Charmed, the tv show. Some of my ideas came from what I learned from the witches. Other ideas stemmed from my own imagination. One thing I love about writing fantasy is being able to create my own rules in my own world.

Do you have any advice for authors wanting to start a newsletter?

I highly recommend opting into a newsletter builder promotion with Booksweeps. I got over 900 new subscribers, plenty of which interact with me and follow the progress of my books. I’ve heard of other authors who have had success with Authors XP promotions and Story Origin. You have to make sure you have good content in your newsletter that will entice readers to open the email and read what you have to say. It also doesn’t hurt to offer incentives/freebies/giveaways!

What is your latest-released or soon-forthcoming work?

My third book in The Bloodborn Series, Bloodscourge, is currently undergoing edits with my editor. It’s my favorite book I’ve written in the series, a story about Dracula when he meets Elisabeta during a dangerous time in Ichor Knell, the vampire city.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a western historical romance set in 1879, a part of the Wylder West Series with The Wild Rose Press. Here’s a rough blurb for the book:
When Sophia Meadows’ closest friend dies (the man she has secretly loved for years), a piece of her soul, and her music, dies with him. Two years later, her father arranges a marriage to a wealthy businessman across the country. Along the journey to meet her fiancé, the train gets derailed and robbed by bandits.
She seeks help at the nearest town, and upon arriving, she runs into the man who ripped her heart out with his death two years earlier. Alive and healthy.
Samuel Woods is a bounty hunter, and when one of his jobs goes south, he is forced to fake his death to protect those he loves. When he runs into Sophia during a job in the middle of nowhere, he’s floored. He has to win back her trust, and her heart, before she shuts away from him completely, and before she chooses to return to the man she’s been promised to.
As their relationship gets rekindled into something far more than friendship, Sophia finds her music again. However, the danger Samuel has feared for so long returns when the bandits kidnap her to get to him. He must stop them and finish his job, otherwise he’ll lose the woman he loves for a second time.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just keep writing. I wrote maybe something close to two million words in stories and books just for fun before I got Bloodborn published, my debut novel. I’m excited that Bloodborn is a finalist in the New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf contest! Perseverance and dedication helped me get here. Each project you finish, you become a better writer by the time you start your next project. Getting published takes a lot of time and practice!

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

Website: Sydney Winward
Twitter: Twitter
Facebook: Facebook
Instagram: Instagram
BookBub: BookBub
Amazon Author Profile: Amazon


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

A DEADLY EDUCATION, by Naomi Novik. The subtitle “Lesson One of the Scholomance” foreshadows more to follow. In fact, although the plot of this book reaches a satisfying resolution, the final lines set up an irresistible hook for the next volume. So be warned. Novik’s Scholomance isn’t the Devil’s academy mentioned in DRACULA, probably just named after it. It’s not clear where this Scholomance is located, or, at least, where its entry gate is anchored, since its interior space exists on a plane separate from the mundane realm. Wizards at this academy get a much harsher education than those at Hogwarts. Novik’s school was constructed in the late 1800s mainly for teens from enclaves, the elite clans of the magical community. Lower-status students are admitted principally to serve as cannon fodder for the protection of the elites. The mana—magical energy—of young wizards attracts hordes of ravenous monsters of various types and power levels, collectively called maleficaria, “mals” for short. Layers of magical wards protect the students, but not very effectively, judging from the frequent attacks they have to fend off. There are no teachers; scholars are self-taught, highly motivated by the goal of living to graduate. Freshmen can bring in only items they can carry under a limited weight allowance. They’re trapped inside until graduation, receiving no contact from the outside world unless a new student agrees to deliver a message. The school itself appears quasi-sentient, supplying books, food, and other necessities, but in a capricious manner. If you put something down without securing it, the object may not be there next time you look for it. Each single-occupant dorm room has a window opening onto the void, from which the resident may request items from the school and sometimes actually get what he or she needs. At the end of four years, surviving students enter the graduation hall and fight their way to the exit. The first-person narrator, Galadriel (called El), in her third year, has no friends. Although her commune-dwelling mother is a gentle, New Age witch, compassionate toward all living things, El herself has vast destructive potential but less aptitude for modest, more useful spells. Her classmates fear she is or will become a maleficar, this world’s equivalent of an evil sorcerer, although even the nicest of the students falls short of altruism. Orion Lake appears to be an exception. He infuriates El with his habit of protecting other students, even rescuing El from monsters more than once. In the opening scene, she seriously considers killing him to stop him from saving her life. (There’s no penalty for attacking classmates aside from informal ones students themselves may impose.) She wants a chance to destroy a mal herself in a flamboyant way, demonstrating her power and usefulness. Thus she hopes to win allies and get invited to join an enclave after graduation. Over the course of the story, she manages to form an alliance by other means and, though at first reluctantly, make a few friends. With Orion, she develops a fraught frenemy relationship, peppered with snarky insults, that may develop into something deeper. At the climax, the two of them join forces with other students in a grand project to change the terms of graduation. This book differs markedly from both the Temeraire “Napoleonic War with dragons” series and Novik’s two high fantasy novels. I found A DEADLY EDUCATION enthralling and can hardly wait for the next installment.

ELSEWHERE, by Dean Koontz. I like this latest novel best of Koontz’s recent thrillers that I’ve read, primarily because it’s a portal fantasy. Technically, though, it’s science fiction, since the characters travel the multiverse by means of an electronic gadget the size and shape of a cell phone, but without buttons. Single father Jeffrey Coltrane, whose wife left him and vanished seven years earlier, lives with his eleven-year-old daughter, Amity, and her pet mouse (adopted as practice for a puppy). Jeffrey supports them by restoring and selling vintage radios. Ed, a friendly but apparently deranged homeless man who turns out to be a brilliant quantum physicist in hiding from the government, gives Jeffrey a box containing the “key to everything,” warning him not to open it. Of course Jeffrey opens the box, and of course the device accidentally gets activated, sending him, Amity, and the mouse to an alternate America. It’s a dreary place under a totalitarian regime, complete with an organization analogous to the Hitler Youth. The Coltranes manage to escape back to their Earth, but their troubles have only begun. Despite Amity’s pleading to use the key to find a universe where an alternate version of her mother might enable their family to reunite, Jeffrey decrees that random jumping among universes is too dangerous to undertake for such a tenuous possibility. Nevertheless, as we’d expect, they’re forced to use the key to escape when agents of a covert government organization scour the neighborhood in search of Ed (who has disappeared) and the key. They zero in on the Coltranes, leading to suspenseful flights between our universe and another, much worse than the totalitarian America. Jeffrey and Amity find an unexpected ally and narrowly avoid capture or death several times. An alternate-universe Ed, still eccentric but mentally sounder than the one Jeffrey knew, enters their lives as a sort of science-fictional fairy godfather. Jeffrey and especially Amity are endearing characters, and their well-deserved denouement feels right, even if a little rushed. The one thing I don’t like about this novel is the antagonist. The head of the team in pursuit of the key, he’s yet another iteration of the same unbelievable villains Koontz has been creating for the past few decades. Like all the rest of them, he’s an arrogant sociopath with delusions of restructuring society to eliminate or subjugate the unfit—practically everybody—after accumulating enough wealth and power to impose his will without restraint. With boundless contempt for most of the human species, he has no characteristics outside this template unless we count the attempt to give him some motivation through the backstory of an evil stepmother (from his viewpoint, at least). He’s a caricature of a melodramatic supervillain but without superpowers. Couldn’t he be a credible, normally human bad guy working for the dark side? Wouldn’t the urgency of retrieving the key give him enough motivation without making him pure evil incarnate?

THE HOLLOW PLACES, by T. Kingfisher. Although I didn’t find this novel as mind-blowing as Kingfisher’s superb THE TWISTED ONES, it’s an excellent story that I’ll reread more than once. It combines a peculiar house with one of my favorite motifs, portal fantasy. Like the earlier novel, THE HOLLOW PLACES features a female first-person narrator with an irresistibly witty voice. However, unlike the heroine of THE TWISTED ONES, who reluctantly returns to her late grandmother’s grim house to clear out mounds of hoarded junk, newly divorced Kara finds a welcome refuge in her eccentric uncle’s Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy, where she often hung out while growing up. While other people, including her ex-husband, might consider the bizarre collection creepy, she thinks of the displays, artifacts, and stuffed animals as old friends. She gladly accepts an invitation to live at the museum, in a back bedroom adorned by her favorite taxidermy piece, an elk’s head she named “Prince” in childhood. In return, she waits on tourists and begins the monumental project of creating a digital catalog of the collection. Soon after a box of miscellany including a “corpse-otter” carving from the Danube arrives, her uncle has to go into the hospital, leaving Kara in charge on her own. Almost immediately, she discovers a hole in the wall that turns out to be much more than it initially appears. At first assuming a visitor did the damage and left without mentioning it, Kara enlists Simon, who works at the coffee shop next door, to help with the repair. Simon is a quirky character, a middle-aged, gay man who proves to be a brave and loyal friend, sticking to Kara throughout the harrowing adventure that follows. Probing behind the wall, they find more space than the building could reasonably hold. They soon run out of plausible explanations for the anomaly and come upon a mysterious door. It leads to a realm of water and fog, dotted with small islands overgrown by willow trees. Each one, it turns out, probably harbors a portal to a different realm, like the Wood Between the Worlds in C. S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW. The comparison doesn’t escape Kara, who eventually begins to think of the place as an anti-Narnia. Though eerie and desolate, the landscape doesn’t seem outright scary at first. Exploring it, though, Kara and Simon stumble upon horrors both human and inhuman. Graffiti that warn “They can hear you thinking” and “Pray They are hungry” are just the beginning. An encounter with a trapped explorer from another world is particularly gruesome. They manage to escape and get home, just barely, but Kara soon learns that walling up the hole doesn’t end the danger. The final revelation of what caused the crack between dimensions came as a surprise to me, poignant as well as terrifying. My first thought when Kara and Simon entered the fog-shrouded island landscape was of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows.” Sure enough, the concluding Author’s Note reveals that she was inspired by Blackwood’s classic story. This novel is another can’t-miss read for fans of numinous horror with a subtly Lovecraftian feel.

THE MERE WIFE, by Maria Dahvana Headley. When I learned this retelling of BEOWULF was set in contemporary suburbia, the premise didn’t appeal to me. Having read highly favorable reviews, though, I decided to give the book a chance. The characters and the author’s craft drew me in. Although you don’t need familiarity with the ancient epic to appreciate this story, awareness of the parallels adds richness and depth to a reading of the novel. It focuses on two mother-son pairs. Willa lives in a gated community named Herot Hall after the family of her domineering husband. Dana, a traumatized war veteran and former POW, grew up in the same area and came home after her release and confinement in a military hospital to find the upscale development in place of the landscape she remembers. She secretly moves into partly flooded caverns that include an abandoned train station, where she gives birth to her son, Gren. Because of her severe PTSD, she doesn’t remember how he was conceived. She brings him up in a survivalist lifestyle, totally isolated from the outside world. As a preadolescent boy, he tests his boundaries by sneaking around to investigate Herot Hall. There he meets Dylan, Willa’s son, and they become friends. Unaware of this influence on Dylan, his parents fear he’s becoming mentally ill. Unlike the slaughtered warriors in BEOWULF, Dylan doesn’t get killed by Gren but voluntarily runs away to join him in the caverns. The narrative explores the characters of both Dana and Willa in depth, revealing that Willa is almost as troubled in her quieter way. Other viewpoint characters occupy less onstage time, notably the police officer (Beowulf’s modern counterpart) with whom Willa eventually becomes involved. There are also first-person plural interludes that function in a Greek chorus mode, such as overviews by the ladies of the community and monologues by a collective voice that seems to represent the landscape itself. While I didn’t much like the present-tense narration (as usual), it does enhance the surreal quality of the novel. I was slightly disappointed by the absence of fantasy content, except perhaps the voice of the mountains (if taken literally) and the hints about Gren’s appearance (he’s never explicitly described in detail). Like the original epic, MERE WIFE is essentially a tragedy, so prepare for much sadness. Nevertheless, it’s highly effective and worth reading for its own sake as well as its transmutation of BEOWULF into modern terms.



In the bedroom Jenny fumbled the covers down and collapsed onto the sheets without undressing. The bed rocked like a sailboat in the wake of a motor yacht. She swallowed the nausea and let her eyes droop shut.

The next thing she knew, she was sitting on a wooden footbridge gazing at the moon’s reflection in a pond. A cool breeze wafted the scent of pine from nearby trees. On the bank a few yards away, reeds rustled with the movement of a drowsy bird. She panted; she must have been running a moment ago.

She trotted across the bridge, her nails clicking on the boards. A sundial sat in the middle of an artificial layout of sand, gravel, and assorted grasses. Around her Jenny saw trees, shrubbery, and marsh weeds; in the middle distance loomed a dark building. Beyond the trees she heard the subdued roar of traffic.

Her mouth tasted dry and stale. Mincing through squishy grass to the edge of the pond, she bowed her head to lap the murky water. Her stomach was a little queasy, and her head felt clogged.

A few yards away, a mallard duck flapped its wings. When its smell penetrated her senses, she began to salivate, stood with her jaws agape and her tongue out.

Her hindquarters twitched. She clamped her jaws shut on the snarl that tried to rumble out of her chest. Another nervous flutter from the bird spurred her to action.

She sprang.

A leap into the air caught the duck as it tried to launch itself to safety. Her fangs slashed a wing. Shifting her jaws for a firmer grip, she gave the bird a vigorous shake. Her sharp ears heard the neck snap.

Hot blood gushed into her mouth.

When she was done, her belly filled with a warm heaviness, she stretched her forelegs, licked her muzzle, and emitted a luxurious yawn. Picking her way through the damp weeds away from the scraps of her kill, she found a sheltered nook under a stand of trees. She curled into a ball and fell asleep.

A hard lump poked her in the ribs. Her fingers brushed damp earth and pine needles. She opened her eyes. A full moon shone through swaying branches. She rolled onto her other side. The lump under her was a root.

Oh, God, I’m really out here!

She gathered her stiff, sore legs under her, clutching the tree trunk for support as she stood up. She skimmed her palm down the front of her body. Bare skin, crawling with the chill of the night breeze.

Looking up at the building that loomed over her, she realized where she was. She had sleepwalked all the way to the Tawes Garden, behind the District Court complex near the stadium.

Her plight could have been worse; she could have crossed a major highway. She tiptoed in the direction of the massive, gray stone court buildings. Her tender feet winced at the pebbles and twigs on the ground. Dizziness made her stop and grab hold of a limb or bush every few yards. Her mouth tasted rank, and the pulse throbbed in her temples.

Jenny slinked around the corner of the building and crouched in the shadow of a tree a few feet from the sidewalk. She stared across Taylor Avenue to the parking lot and the dark bulk of the stadium. Crossing Taylor and sneaking past the stadium to the residential neighborhood presented the main hazard. Jenny knelt under the tree, trying to make herself small as a car turned from Rowe Boulevard onto Taylor. The headlights just missed her.

Then she jumped up and dashed across the street. Not much of a dash, for her weary legs could manage little more than a shuffling trot. She reached the stadium lot and ducked under the chain next to the sidewalk just as a car rounded the curve on Taylor. Jenny dove full length onto the blacktop, scraping her palms and knees when she hit the ground.

She lay gasping until the noise of the car’s motor merged with the traffic on Rowe. After a couple of minutes she dredged up the energy to stand. She stumbled from one shadow to the next into the neat rows of houses, with a pause for breath at each stage. Finally she stopped to rest in a back yard shaded with a cluster of trees.

She sat in the dark under a weeping willow, hugging her bare legs. She felt tired enough to fall asleep on the spot, despite the damp and chill.

With a sigh she pulled herself to her feet again. Only a couple of blocks to home. When she crossed the yard, a dog started barking behind the chain link fence next door. Jenny knelt behind a holly bush. Shut up, dog! she silently begged. Next door the porch light flashed on. A heavy-set man in boxer shorts leaned out.

“Quiet, Tramp!” The dog charged the fence and kept barking. “What’s wrong with you? Somebody out there?” The man clicked on a flashlight and shined it around the yard.

I’m not here. Jenny held her breath. I’m invisible.

The beam missed her. After a moment the man yelled, “Damn dog, shut up!” and slammed the door.

Jenny lost no time in making a rush for the street. With no traffic in sight, she crossed in the center of the block, away from street lamps. Sticking to the deepest pools of darkness, she crept from one yard to the next.

-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