Welcome to the February 2023 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

For other reviews of older vampire fiction, posted on the fifteenth of each month, visit the VampChix blog.

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:


For other web links of possible interest, please scroll to the end.

My annual vampire fiction bibliography update, covering mostly titles from 2022, is now available. If you’d like a copy of this file, please contact me at:

Later this month, my erotic paranormal romance novella “Romantic Retreat” will be re-released. As Gail and her husband prepare for his retirement from the Navy, she’s desperate to have a long, serious talk about their future. To make that happen, she resorts to trapping him in an enchanted cottage in a pocket dimension for a day and a night. An excerpt appears below.

In this month of Valentine’s Day, I’m interviewing Stella Grae, author of erotic romance as well as other genres.


Interview with Stella Grae:

What inspired you to begin writing?

My inspiration for writing came from reading great books from authors like Steinbeck, Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and there are so many others. An excellent story can suck in its reader and evoke a strong response to the character, the presence of place. That’s what made me want to write—the power and influence words can have on my readers.

What genres do you work in?

I work in all genres—erotica, nonfiction, poetry, suspense, contemporary works—I’m even a copywriter. I’ve been writing for a long time and have had some success. At some point, I remember being frustrated with lack of success in mainstream writing and turned to erotica, as this was before it got really popular with the 50 Shades brand. As it turns out, I was pretty good at it, and I love how I can really dig into a character through sexual expression. I really enjoy writing and switching genres to suit my mood. I try not to pigeonhole myself too much because creativity (for me) has to also include diversity.

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

I’m definitely a “wing it” sort of writer. I like and seem to thrive getting caught in the moment with my characters. It sounds very bohemian, but I tend to immerse myself in the character. I like the authenticity that I get in my writing by just going with the flow. And it’s not that I don’t think about the story arc, but I don’t always commit it to paper. A lot of my planning to write is done in my head.

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

I’m definitely drawn to the classics—Steinbeck, Hemingway, and I studied Russian and French writers—the works of authors from the French Theater of the Absurd had a huge impact on my impression of writing, and on the aesthetic I wanted to create in my stories. With erotica, life experience has definitely played a great role; in fact, there’s very little that I’ve written that hasn’t been touched in some way by my experiences. I write in my blog about JUST CALL ME CONFIDENCE and how I wrote it to keep my desires in check—I wanted to remain faithful to my partner at the time and writing was a better choice than doing!

How have your careers as an English professor and an editor affected your fiction writing?

My careers as a professor and editor have broadened my reading horizons; I’ve read and enjoyed writing that I otherwise wouldn’t have picked up. I am also more aware of story arcs, conflict, character development (because I teach it), and I’m definitely a stickler for grammar! I hope that’s garnered a “favorite author” status with editors—or at least I’m not known as a needy pain in the proverbial ass.

What would you say are the main challenges in writing erotic romance?

My biggest challenge is writing sex scenes that are not too choreographed, or even too graphic. Love and sex are organic in the real world; most people want to read erotica that can let them sample another life without actually having to live that life. Writing scenes in between that are not too stilted, and that progress the plot, is challenging, too. I like to think that the story in erotica is just as important as the sex that it leads to.

Please tell us about your blog.

Bone Up is my blog and it’s going to be a fun, flirty collection of ideas about love and sex. Some things will be based on experience and some things will be based on what’s popular, what my readers want me to discuss. I hope that it’s a place where my readers, or anyone for that matter, will be free to express thoughts about the ever-changing landscape of love and sexuality.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

My next book finds my heroine of JUST CALL ME CONFIDENCE, Jenna Craig, in hot water after turning down an invitation to join a naughty group of ladies who have created a sort of cheating club. Fans of Jenna’s friend, Fielding, will be happy to see that she plays a starring role as well.

I’m also writing some poetry and nonfiction. I have a couple short stories that will be appearing in anthologies. There will be a lot of creative endeavors in 2023.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on an erotic anthology of my short stories and plugging away on the sequel to JUST CALL ME CONFIDENCE. Of course…marketing—always marketing. Gotta up my IG and Twitter game!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think the most important piece of advice I would give would be this: keep writing. Write anything. Write everything. Just write, write, write. You will produce things that are bad, things that are good, and a few things that are great. If you don’t write, you produce nothing. Practice is the path to success.

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?

Website: Stella Grae


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

CONAN: BLOOD OF THE SERPENT, by S. M. Stirling. A prequel to the Robert E. Howard novella “Red Nails,” which this volume includes as a bonus. Stirling’s novel recounts how Conan the Barbarian first meets Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, the warrior woman of “Red Nails.” While the two of them are serving together in a mercenary company, Valeria falls afoul of a priest of Set, the serpent god. After she flees for her life, the villain pursues her into the wilderness, and Conan follows in an attempt to warn her (he wouldn’t dare say “rescue” to her face). Many desperate fights, visits to exotic locales, and encounters with strange creatures ensue. Fans of Howard’s original series will enjoy the highly convincing Conan pastiche (as far as I can remember from reading a few of Howard’s stories in the distant past). As one would expect, Conan disparages the softness and corruption of cities in contrast to his barbarian homeland, rejoices in the company of willing women, respects strong, honest fighters whether friend or foe, and prefers action over contemplation. Contemporary readers will appreciate, as comparison of BLOOD OF THE SERPENT to “Red Nails” demonstrates, Stirling’s portrayal of Valeria as a stronger character than her vintage prototype. Of course, she’s already a fierce fighter in Howard’s novella, but she and Conan appear more as equals in Stirling’s tale. Lovers of fast-paced action, elaborate pulp-fantasy worldbuilding, and evil sorcery will doubtless relish BLOOD OF THE SERPENT. I enjoyed it but probably won’t reread it. Even the most ardent fan of Conan must acknowledge that he doesn’t have much of an inner life. Therefore, my main interests in fiction, character development and relationships, don’t feature prominently in this novel. The push-pull of rivalry and attraction between Conan and Valeria is fun to watch, though.

LOST IN THE MOMENT AND FOUND, by Seanan McGuire. The latest annual installment in McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series. I have two complaints about these books: They come out only once a year, and they’re too short. The novels alternate between stories located mostly in Miss Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children (or, in one case, its grim counterpart for inter-world travelers who want to forget about their adventures) and those that explore other settings. LOST IN THE MOMENT AND FOUND, one of the latter, doesn’t begin with the usual prologue about children who step through doors into other realms and come back changed. Instead, after a brief trigger-warning Author’s Note, the novel dives straight into the story. It also differs from previous volumes in that a long beginning section of the book dwells on the protagonist’s mundane life before she stumbles upon a Door. In the first scene, Antoinette, nicknamed Antsy for her irrepressible energy and introduced in an earlier novel as a girl who can find anything, is five years old when her father drops dead of a heart attack before her eyes in a Target store. Too soon, her mother remarries. Although Antsy can’t articulate exactly what bothers her, she feels uncomfortable with her stepfather from the start. As the Author’s Note says, the worst monsters can be those in someone’s own home. When she’s almost eight years old, he does something that raises instinctive alarm in Antsy. Without waiting to consider, she runs away that very night, determined to appeal to her mother’s parents for refuge. Instead, she stumbles into a mysterious “thrift store” that turns out to be something much stranger. This variation on the trope of “the little shop that wasn’t there yesterday” is run by a peculiar old woman and an opinionated magpie. The woman welcomes Antsy for her ability to find and open Doors on the premises that access multiple dimensions. The shop owner needs this help to visit other worlds in search of treasures for her collection, for a reason we don’t learn until much later. Although planning to return home as soon as it’s possible to open the Door through which she arrived, Antsy enjoys her adventures in other worlds and her exploration of the labyrinthine space of this place, bigger inside than it appeared from outside. She realizes only after a long time that she’s aging faster than her chronological years can account for. An encounter with an unexpected visitor finally awakens her to the full truth about the shop. As always, there’s more to magic than appears on the surface, and there is always a price to pay. Another enthralling addition to the series, with a fresh variation on the overarching theme of “be careful what you wish for, and Be Sure.”

DAY BOY, by Trent Jamieson. An intriguingly unusual development of the “world ruled by vampires” premise. After a war, probably global, about which we learn very little, vampires, or Masters as they’re called, dominate the human population—at least in the region where the protagonist lives, apparently somewhere in Australia, and maybe worldwide. One thing I like about this novel’s worldbuilding is the attention to viable predator-prey ratios. In the protagonist’s village, there are only five or six Masters. Also, additions to the ranks of Masters are strictly controlled. Day Boys are the human servants of vampires. The most privileged Day Boys are chosen to become Masters themselves. Others move on to adult lives in occupations such as farming. It’s never explained why they have to age out of Day Boy status when they grow up. Also, while it’s rumored there may be Mistresses and Day Girls elsewhere, we never see them. Vampire hunters exist, feared and vilified. Late in the story one tries to recruit Mark, the narrator. He’s content with his life as a Day Boy, with a Master who doesn’t abuse him and in fact seems to care about him in a way. He has friends and enemies among the other Day Boys, as well as a potential girlfriend. He himself has no family, having been bred specifically for his servant role. (The other principal sources of Day Boys, apparently, are orphans and children purchased from their parents.) As he learns more about the larger world and even visits the regional equivalent of the big city, where he encounters a subversive, illicit band of humans in revolt against the vampires, he begins to question the choices available to him. DAY BOY is an absorbing story even though set in a grim world. I hardly noticed the present-tense narrative voice after a while. In this case, the choice makes sense, because if Mark were telling his story in retrospect, suspense about whether he eventually becomes a vampire couldn’t be maintained. His perspective as a Master would be so different from how he views the world while immersed in the life of a Day Boy that the change could hardly be concealed. Although I didn’t find him particularly likable at first, the author’s skill made me fully sympathize with him.

THE DOGS OF CHRISTMAS, by W. Bruce Cameron. Although narrated in the third person from the human protagonist’s viewpoint, this novel, like the similarly structured A DOG’S PERFECT CHRISTMAS, focuses heavily on the canine characters. (Conversely, Cameron’s latest work, LOVE, CLANCY, although narrated in the first-person voice of a dog, has a strongly human-centered plot.) Josh, the protagonist, lives alone on a mountaintop in Colorado and works from home in the computer field. (I gather he writes code and creates apps, but I’m vague on that sort of thing.) He has a slightly tense relationship with his remaining family members. His girlfriend has recently broken up with him, and he has no real friends. Nevertheless, he comes across as a sympathetic character from the beginning. As we find throughout the book, he’s the type of person who accommodates others and always tries to smooth things over. His life changes instantly when an obnoxious neighbor he hardly knows sticks him with a pregnant dog, Lucy, whom the neighbor claims to be “watching” for his ex-girlfriend. Josh’s innate kindness immediately becomes obvious as he reluctantly accepts the dog in response to a far-from-subtle threat that otherwise she’ll be abandoned when the neighbor rushes off to Europe for a family emergency. Although Josh knows nothing about dogs, never having owned one, overnight he finds himself the guardian of Lucy and a litter of newborn puppies. In desperation, he phones an animal shelter and gets a scathing retort from the female volunteer on duty when he proposes dropping them off. When the woman, Kerri, realizes he’s cluelessly begging for help, not deliberately trying to consign the puppies to certain death, she softens toward him and gives him in-person coaching on how to care for his canine housemates. As we’d expect, he falls in love with Lucy and the puppies. I particularly like the scene, revelatory of his personality and rather touching, when he creates a spreadsheet to record the dogs’ names, physical appearances, and behavioral traits. Unfortunately, local law forbids anyone who’s not a registered breeder from keeping more than three adult dogs. Kerri tries to prepare him for the necessity of giving up most or all of the puppies. Meanwhile, he also falls in love with Kerri. Their relationship has ups and downs as the shelter’s “Dogs of Christmas” event looms ever nearer, when the puppies must go to new homes. To complicate Josh’s life further, his ex-girlfriend appears on the scene, hinting at reconciliation. And what happens when Lucy’s true owner shows up? Both moving and funny without being sappy, the story has a perfectly satisfying conclusion. However, I’d be surprised if any pet lover could read the novel without at least one or two tearful moments along the way.


Excerpt from “Romantic Retreat”:

“Since he switched to full-time shore duty, it’s gone smoother, of course, but yes—I really do want some ‘me time’ with my husband after all these years. No, that’s not too much to ask.” Gail giggled at the emphatic sound of her own voice. “Now, if only I could arrange for that kidnapping.” She set down the teacup with a brisk thump. “Enough of my whining. What’s the mysterious thing you wanted to show me?”

“You’re not going to believe this.” Javonne stood, turning toward the stockroom entrance. At the same instant, the bell over the front door jingled. “Oops, hold that thought.” She walked to the counter to greet the new customer.

While waiting, Gail scanned the bookshelves. Sometimes she stumbled across century-old children’s books at bargain prices here. She was leafing through a lavishly illustrated fairy tale collection whose price exceeded her usual limit when Javonne reappeared.

“I know you’re a fan of Adrian Averil,” she said.

Never reprinted and mostly forgotten, Averil had been an Edwardian artist and author known in his day for fairy tales more suited to adults than children. For his work, Gail would always find a way to stretch her budget. “Don’t tell me you’ve got another one of his books?”

“Even better.” Javonne popped into the stockroom and came out holding a package about half the size of a shoebox, wrapped in brown paper. “I picked this up at an estate sale last weekend.”

“Whose? Averil died in the 1920s.”

“His granddaughter’s. Bet you didn’t know she lived in the Shenandoah Valley.”

“No, I had no idea. It’s not like I made an in-depth study of his family. So what is it?” Gail could hardly resist grabbing the object out of her friend’s hands.

Javonne sat on one of the love seats and unwrapped the package. The layers of paper unfolded to reveal a miniature house carved from wood.

Sitting beside her, Gail took the artifact for a closer look. “No way! This is the hunting lodge from Lucinda and the Wolf Lord. It looks just like the illustration in the book. There’s the wolf’s head carved on the front door.” Her favorite of Averil’s tales, that story told of a lady imprisoned in the middle of a wintry forest in a nameless Ruritanian principality in central Europe. The house belonged to a man who wooed her ardently every night but vanished all day. At first he seduced her with a love potion, but when the potion wore off, they fell genuinely in love. Lucinda eventually discovered he was trapped in the form of a wolf by day, and of course she had to find a way to break the curse. “I knew he’d built models of places in his books, but I never expected to see one.” She fingered the doors and window shutters, which opened to reveal glimpses of the interior. “I wonder how he managed all this incredible detail.”

“He’d probably say it was magic,” Javonne said. “The man was pretty crazy, wasn’t he?”

“Eccentric, but I don’t know if he was crazy.”

“Didn’t he claim he’d met fairies and borrowed magic from them? QED—nuts.”

“Not necessarily,” Gail said, unable to resist running her fingers over the polished surface of the model. Painted snow covered the peaked roof and drifted around the perimeter of the house. French doors at the back displayed a sunken indoor bathing pool from which, in the story, the lovers had a view of distant, ice-capped mountains. “Fairies were a big fad in the early twentieth century. Even Arthur Conan Doyle believed in them.” She lowered the model to her lap, her hands cupped around it. “I’ve got to have this. How much?” She didn’t care how big a dent the price made in her mad money budget for the next couple of months.

“It’s yours. A retirement gift.”



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):


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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

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Fiction Database

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