Welcome to the March 2021 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

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Barnes and Noble

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Carter Kindle Books

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My humorous vampire story “Support Group” appears in NIGHT TO DAWN 39, which you can find here:

Night to Dawn

Several vampires, some of whom you may recognize, gather for group therapy under the guidance of Dr. Roger Darvell (protagonist of my DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT). A teaser, comprising the first few paragraphs, appears below.

This month, I have the privilege of interviewing fantasy author Stephanie Burgis.


Interview with Stephanie Burgis:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I fell in love with reading at a ridiculously early age, but somehow it didn’t click with me that the books I read were written by real people until I was 7. At that point, I announced to my mom: “I’ve found something even more fun than reading. Writing!” And it really was my passion and my life goal from then onwards.

What genres do you work in?

MG fantasy and adult romantic (and usually historical) fantasy.

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

I wing it completely! 🙂 My main strategy as I write any first draft is to think: “What would be most interesting or most awkward for my main character?” And then I do that.

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

I grew up imprinting hard on not only Tolkien but Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, too, along with Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Robin McKinley, and Terri Windling. I still remember how my breath was taken away by Nalo Hopkinson’s first novel (and I’ve had similar reactions to every new novel she’s written since then)! And I was lucky enough to study with six amazing writers and editors at the Clarion West workshop in 2001: Octavia Butler, Bradley Denton, Connie Willis, Nalo Hopkinson, Ellen Datlow, and Jack Womack. All of them (and my classmates) had a huge influence on me!

What do you consider the main differences between writing adult fiction and writing middle grade or YA?

It’s really just a matter of perspective. If you dive deep into your character’s mindset, their voice will come out very differently depending on their age, their setting, and their experiences of the world. Obviously, there are some topics (romance, sex, etc.) that are appropriate for adult books but not MG, but again, those spiral from particular characters and their situations, so I really don’t have to struggle to leave them out of fiction for younger readers!

Apart from that, a lot of it really does just come down to wordcount. There’s a lot of pressure nowadays for MG novels to top out at about half the length of a standard adult fantasy novel, so stories have to be written tightly and efficiently. It’s a really fun challenge – and likewise, it’s a fun challenge to let myself spread out a bit in adult fantasy and really bring out a different kind of fun in those novels or novellas.

How do the alternate-history worlds of the Harwood series and the Shadow novels differ, respectively, from the real-world histories of Britain and Europe?

The Harwood Spellbook series is set in a world very different from our own, in which Boudicca successfully kicked out the Romans with the help of her (fictitious) second husband, a magic worker, and from then onwards, the governance of “Angland” was left to the “naturally hard-headed” women (in the form of a ruling Boudiccate) while “irrational, emotional” magic was left to the gentlemen. Also, there are trolls, elves, and more hanging about regularly!

I took a very different tack in Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, both of which I set in our real world – but with secret alchemy going on behind the scenes. Those books really came from my PhD research into opera and politics in late 18th-century Vienna and Eszterháza, and it was a lot of fun to take real-world events and characters and invent secret magical explanations for a lot of the things that they did.

How do the magic systems of the Harwood world and the Kat series differ from each other?

The Harwood Spellbook is set in a very different version of 19th-century England (or, in its case, Angland) where magic is real and inescapable in day-to-day life and has made huge changes to all of Angland’s history. The Kat, Incorrigible series is also set in the same time period, but in a much less altered version of our world. In Kat’s (far more recognizable) early 19th-century England, magic is seen as scandalous and inappropriate – really, in very poor taste – which means it’s very rarely witnessed.

Can you give us any hints about the forthcoming Raven Crown series?

This one is just a little darker than my earlier MG novels, although it’s still focused on a loving family group and has a lot of humor in it. The fantasy setting is very much based on the British Wars of the Roses, because when I was reading history books about them for fun (because I am a big geek, and also because I live in a part of Wales where many of those battles took place), I was struck by how often the rival heirs in these bloody wars were just kids – who were, of course, used as pawns by their powerful families. Some of their real adventures were absolutely wild as they had to wear disguises and flee across the kingdom at night on horseback, etc…so I started imagining a fantasy version of that kind of situation. It’s Shakespeare-inflected and full of magic, and right now it’s projected to be a duology: The Raven Heir and The Raven Throne.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

Right now, I have a fluffy Regency rom-com with pet dragons (Scales and Sensibility) being published as a serial on my Patreon ( ), and my next MG fantasy novel, The Raven Heir, will come out in America in September 2021 (and in the UK in August 2021).

What are you working on now?

I’m pretty much always working on two projects at once (one for adults and one for kids). At the moment, I’m finishing up the first draft of The Raven Throne (coming out from Bloomsbury Children’s Books in 2022) and also editing Scales and Sensibility as I publish it to my patrons on Patreon, one chapter a week.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read as much as you possibly can in as many genres as you can! Be stubbornly persistent. Find people willing to read your work and give you honest feedback (but make sure they’re giving positive as well as negative notes, to keep it useful and not just crushing). Work to revise your own work again and again and keep growing as a writer. I can’t wait to read what you write!

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence? My website is:
Stephanie Burgis

I’m also on Twitter as @Stephanie Burgis, on Instagram as @stephanieburgisinwales, and my Patreon page is:
Stephanie Burgis Patreon


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE FISHERMAN, by John Langan. I recently learned of this 2016 horror novel in a review essay, and I found it enthralling. It effectively comprises two separate stories, one nested inside the other. The frame narrator, Abe, whose wife has died of cancer, discovers fishing as a pathway out of his depression, self-neglect, and alcohol abuse. When a co-worker, Dan, loses his wife and children in a horrific accident, the two men eventually become friends as they begin fishing together. Readers would immediately recognize the book as a horror story even without the cover blurb, because Abe openly foreshadows the horror content by warning us about the awfulness of the tale he’s preparing to tell. Without the supernatural plot elements, the account of the friendship between Abe and Dan would still be engrossing. It’s a pleasure to read an author with such a command of description and characterization, not to mention grammar and sentence structure (and minimal typos – I winced only a few times in the 263 pages of text). The main body of the novel, “Der Fischer: A Tale of Terror,” however, consists of a narrative that could make a book on its own, a historical horror story taking place mostly in the early twentieth century. Ten years in the past (relative to the time when Abe writes down the events) Dan tells Abe about Dutchman’s Creek, an obscure fishing spot in upstate New York, and is evasive when Abe asks how he learned of it. They hear the long cautionary tale about the place from Howard, a chef in a roadside diner. Howard got the story from a Lutheran minister, who heard it from Lottie, a dying old woman born in Germany in the late nineteenth century. Such nested narratives are a common trope in classic Gothic fiction. One Amazon review complains about the impossibility of Howard’s telling the entire story in the hour the conversation is supposed to have taken, but Abe admits at the start that he couldn’t have learned everything from Howard at the time. He must have picked up much of the information on his own in some other way. (Besides, this literary convention carries suspension of disbelief much further in older works such as FRANKENSTEIN, whose main body consists of Victor Frankenstein’s unfolding his entire life story to the Arctic explorer who rescues him from the ice, with a long monologue by the creature embedded in that.) The past narrative, in a third-person omniscient voice, begins with the history of a rich, unpleasant man, Cornelius Dort, who invites a strange guest into his mansion in the small upstate New York town of Hurley Station. The guest, later known as Der Fischer—the Fisherman—who stays on until Dort’s death and inherits the house, turns out to be a necromancer. As in Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY (to which one Amazon review compares this book), the dead he raises come back “wrong.” Moreover, that kind of sorcery proves subordinate to his main goal, capturing an otherworldly monster, the Leviathan. When Lottie’s father, who had lost his position as a university professor in Germany for delving into the occult, leads a small expedition to the mansion to get rid of the Fisherman, they break into an alternate dimension. Back in the frame story, Abe soon realizes Dan wants to find Dutchman’s Creek because of a fixation on the possibility of the dead returning to life. The search, of course, goes terribly wrong, and Abe must leave the eldritch borderland without Dan. The denouement, years later, finally brings Abe a sort of resolution if not exactly peace. This novel does a superb job with one of my favorite themes, the horrific past casting its shadow on the present. I also like the way the terrible truth about the Fisherman is uncovered in small increments, building suspense with the promise of an ultimate shattering revelation. The book has an epigraph from MOBY-DICK and includes subtle allusions to that classic.

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY, by Alix E. Harrow. Another portal fantasy, this one about a book as a metaphorical portal and words as keys to literal gates into alternate worlds. In the early twentieth century, the January of the title, a mixed-race girl, lives in the New England home of a wealthy man as his ward while her father travels the globe to collect artifacts and curiosities for their patron’s exotic collection. She loves her father but resents his being gone so often she rarely sees him. She thinks of his employer, Mr. Locke, as a foster father. While she knows the other members of the society of rich collectors he belongs to think of her as, at most, a clever pet, she tries to believe Mr. Locke is genuinely fond of her. Occasionally odd little gifts turn up in a chest in her room, which she assumes come from him. But then a strange book appears, THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS, the kind of thing Mr. Locke wouldn’t approve of. She “dives into” the book, supposedly written by a man from a different world. It begins with the story of Ade (short for Adelaide), a nineteenth-century Midwestern girl whose life changes when she meets a boy who has come through a door that shouldn’t exist. The tale narrates her quest for him through a series of portals and dimensions, while he in turn devotes his life to seeking her. For a long stretch of the novel, chapters of THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS alternate with January’s story, as she discovers doors between dimensions really exist, and Locke and his colleagues are determined to close all they can find. Meanwhile, her friendship with the son of the local Italian grocer deepens, and her father sends a peculiar African woman, Jane, to watch over her, with whom January forms a firm alliance against Locke and his cohorts. The boy and Jane eventually rescue January from an insane asylum and join her on an odyssey across the multiverse. About halfway through the novel, we find out the connection between THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS and January’s own life. As she masters her gift for writing changes into the very fabric of reality, she also learns the truth of her origin and how her father became enslaved to Locke’s schemes. A breathtaking adventure of interdimensional journeys and self-discovery of mythic scope, with engaging characters one can’t help rooting for.

ROOT MAGIC, by Eden Royce. This YA novel set in 1963 takes place in a rural Black community on one of the Sea Islands off South Carolina and focuses on the Gullah people, who preserve their African-influenced creole language and many elements of their unique culture. In the opening scene, Jezebel and her twin brother, Jay, just short of their eleventh birthday, attend the traditional Gullah funeral of their grandmother, a venerated expert in rootwork. The root magic of the title encompasses far more than medicines derived from plants; it includes real spells and the lore of the spirit realm. The father of Jez and Jay mysteriously disappeared years earlier. They live with their mother and her brother, their Uncle Doc, also a root worker. He offers to teach the children his knowledge and skills. Although their mother takes a dim view of root magic, she allows Doc to train the twins. Intense, studious Jez writes down his teachings in a notebook and diligently practices the tasks she’s set, while Jay, although also a quick learner, takes a more outwardly casual approach. Meanwhile, Jez endures typical pre-adolescent problems at school, mainly harassment from the mean girls who taunt her as a “witch” because of her family’s involvement in the folk magic they scorn. Also, Jay begins growing away from her as he begins to spend more time with other boys in masculine pursuits such as sports. On the positive side, school also provides a sympathetic teacher who introduces Jez to Black authors. Her first solo attempt at a spell consists of a wish for a friend. The wish seems to come true when she meets a new girl, Susie, who’s happy to hang out with her. Susie displays a certain reticence, though, that hints she isn’t what she seems. Jez learns protection spells, among other magic, and needs them when the marshland where she and Jay have played all their lives proves to harbor dangerous creatures of the spirit world. Mundane hazards appear in the form of one of the book’s only two white characters, the viciously racist Deputy Collins, who harasses the family out of an irrational loathing of “witch doctors” in addition to what looks like sheer meanness. The other white man in the story, the sheriff, treats Jez’s family with courtesy and dignity, but as far as getting rid of Collins is concerned, local politics limit the sheriff’s ability to act. Collins ultimately meets a well-deserved fate, in which the enigmatic Susie plays a vital role. The landscape and culture of the setting are vividly rendered. Allusions to the civil rights movement, the optimism sparked by Kennedy’s presidency, and the mourning for his death offer glimpses of the wider world outside Jez’s community. If Jez were real, she would be only about four years younger than I, but I was a white, suburban, middle-class teenager in the 1960s. I found Royce’s portrayal of a society in the same period but so different from my own fascinating. One small point, by the way: It seems strange that a church-going woman would name her daughter after one of the most notorious villains in the Bible.

* * * *

Excerpt from “Support Group”:

“I believe all but one of our scheduled participants are present.” Dr. Roger Darvell, the psychiatrist conducting the group therapy session, checked his watch and continued, “Please, if you will, each of you begin by telling us why you’re here.” He nodded to the young-looking man in jeans and black leather jacket on his right.

“The same reason as most of you, I suppose.” The speaker ran a hair through his curly hair, chestnut with golden highlights. “To find a cure for this diabolical—compulsion.”

A fair-skinned lady with luxuriant ebony hair, the only woman present, said with a brittle laugh, “Sir Nicholas, you talk like a priest! Nature knows nothing of good or evil. I’m here because my lovers cannot seem to understand this truth.” Her haunting, dark eyes brimmed with tears, as she went on in her faintly Germanic accent, “Always they reject me when they discover my—condition. Love is so painful—my self-esteem suffers so dreadfully—”

The man on her right, equally pale and dark-haired, dressed like a seventeenth-century cavalier, said only, “Attempted suicide. Jumped into a volcano.”

The others winced.

“I, also, by walking into sunlight,” said the somber black man next to him, tall and imposing in his flowing, black cloak. “And why they will never let us rest, those monsters of greed in your golden western land—” He glared around the circle.

A man in an Inverness caped coat, leaning on a wolf’s-head cane, raised his deep-set, shadowed eyes to survey his fellow patients. “I, too, seek a cure. I’ve almost had it several times, but it always proved to be an illusion.”

“Fools!” burst out a tall, old man with a flowing mustache and a strongly aquiline profile. “You, trying to throw away your gift of immortality. And you, begging to be ‘cured’ of your powers. I am elder and greater than most of you, so perhaps your folly shouldn’t surprise me. But you, Sir Nicholas—not only scorning your gifts, but prostituting them to enforce the petty laws of these ephemeral creatures. Why haven’t you learned better in your eight centuries?”

“Just Nick,” said the young-looking man. “Maybe I’ve learned more than you have.”

“If you feel that way, Count,” Dr. Darvell asked, “why are you here?”

The elder’s lip curled in a disdainful snarl. “Your modern medical charlatans would call it an identity crisis or perhaps multiple personality disorder. Those mountebanks beyond the sunset trouble my peace, also. They have made me a warlord, a bloodthirsty beast, a defender of the faith, a cruel tyrant, a melancholy aristocrat, a romantic lover, or sometimes the butt of their crude jests on boxes of breakfast food for children. Some even take me for a sentimental idiot like you, Black Prince. But whatever I am, I chose my fate and embrace it without regret.”

The black man rose from his chair, fists clenched and fangs bared. “That gives you no right to force your condition on others, as you did to me.”

-end of excerpt-


My Publishers:

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

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