Welcome to the May 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.”

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

My contemporary fantasy in the “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” line, “Bunny Hunt,” was published in early April. After Melanie, a professional doula, rescues a wild rabbit from a runaway dog and the animal seemingly changes into a heavily pregnant, human-size rabbit woman, Melanie convinces herself she saw only a woman in a costume. But that same night she hears a desperate plea for help inside her head. “Bunny Hunt” was featured on Vicky Burkholder’s April 13 blog:

Sparkling Book Reviews

She left a lovely 5-star review on Goodreads. (As she mentioned, the story isn’t actually a romance, despite how it’s labeled.):


There’s an excerpt from “Bunny Hunt” below. You can find the story here:
Bunny Hunt

I’m interviewing another “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” author, multi-genre writer D. V. Stone.


Interview with D. V. Stone:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve always been a huge bookworm. Several times over the years, I’d attempted to write a book, but life got in the way. Then after being laid off from a long-term job, I had the opportunity. That time it took. The book is still a work in progress, but I hope to publish it one day.

What genres do you work in?

I’m all over the board. When I began writing, I thought I would be a fantasy author. However, the first book picked up by my publisher was a Romantic Suspense. But I continue to write in multiple genres. Romance, suspense, fantasy, paranormal, mid-grade, and recently historical. My latest release is contemporary with light paranormal elements titled Sophia’s Magic Beans.

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

I found my preference is to be a pantser, aka wing it, but that doesn’t work for the second books in a series. These days my writing is the in-between.

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

My fantasy is undoubtedly based on the influences of Tolkien and CS Lewis. My Impact series, which is about EMTs and First Responders, comes from my past. I was an EMT for many years and worked in medical facilities for probably 30 years on and off.

Please tell us about your Shield-Mates series and the Mortar & Pestle series.

The Shield-Mates are independent fantasy books. Felice was the first book I ever published. Kisa was released in Dec. of 2022, and I’m working on Orsolo as we speak. The stories are about Darrian sisters. Darrians can shift, and the royal house is all big cats. The books are fantasy, but up in them are the importance of family and friends, loyalty, duty, and hopefully, the reader will enjoy my tucked-in humorous side.
The Mortar & Pestle series is a cooperative effort between seven authors who began as a sounding board for the writing process. It ended up with a series that spans time, genres, and styles but held together by a mystical Mortar & Pestle. Sea Hunter was the fourth book in the series and was based in post-WW-II. It was my first historical and a hoot to write. I loved penning Zahra and Jack’s story, which is romance, paranormal, and action/adventure

Is your Lake Unami setting based on a real location?

Northern NJ is where I call home. I live at a lake and often visit a nearby lake with a boardwalk. I’ve combined the rural areas where I live and developed the town of Lake Unami. I do mention Branchville, which is an actual nearby town.

What do you see as the major differences between writing adult fiction and writing for middle-grade readers (aside from the ages of the audiences, of course)?

Not as much as you might think. Most of my books can be read by, say, twelve and up. There are no language or heat issues though they are romance, and the violence is not graphic. I try not to talk down to my mid-graders. Kids are smart. I try to treat them that way.

What sparked “Sophia’s Magic Beans,” your “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” story?

When my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, called for the series submission, I jumped in. I wanted to go back to Lake Unami, and this was the opportunity. What’s a boardwalk without a candy store? I also dedicated the story to my son, who survived this single mom. Calliope is a single mom.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book, and what are you working on now?

I’m working on several projects. Remember Doug from Up? Squirrel! I mentioned Orsolo above from the Shield-Mates. I’m fleshing out the story now. Another hot project is a novella with some of the characters from Rainbow Sprinkles and Sophia’s Magic Beans.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t let fear hold you back. I still sometimes think, “Who do you think you are, and why would anyone want to read your books?”
Hire a professional editor. The best you can afford. It’s so important.
Covers are SO important. Same as above, get the best you can.

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

D. V. Stone
Universal link to Social Media: Social Media

Margaret, thank you so much for letting me have the space to talk about one of my favorite things. Books. My dog Hali keeps poking me to ask if she can insert her two cents?
Hali says, “Woof, woof.” (translates visit shelters and adopt pets from there. They need you.)


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE WAY HOME, by Peter S. Beagle. These two stories, “Two Hearts” (a reprint) and “Sooz” (original to this book), are spinoffs from THE LAST UNICORN, set decades after that novel. Although the volume is labeled “Two Novellas,” the much longer of the two, “Sooz,” could qualify as a short novel. When we first meet the title character of the latter, the narrator of both adventures, she’s nine going on ten. The king has sent a succession of many knights to save her village from a marauding griffin, but none has survived. Sooz impulsively decides to go on her own, with the faithful dog who’s been her lifelong companion, to appeal to the monarch himself. Setting out with only a general idea of how to find the royal castle, instead she comes upon Schmendrick the magician and his life-partner Molly Grue, both now mature and confident yet recognizable as the quirky characters from THE LAST UNICORN. For fans of the novel, it’s a delight to see what they’ve become. When they guide Sooz to the king, the former Prince Lir, they find him pathetically changed, lethargic and verging on senility. Mention of the unicorn’s name awakens him to something like his true self and reminds him of his duty to defend his people. Even a king can’t defeat a griffin easily, though; the story climaxes with a scene of dire peril, the reappearance of the unicorn herself, and a conclusion that mingles triumph with loss. Before parting, Molly gifts Sooz with a magical song she must sing only on her seventeenth birthday, when someone or something will come to her in response. “Sooz” begins with that song. She hopes to see Schmendrick or Molly; instead, she meets someone unimagined—Jenia, the sister who disappeared before she was born. Her father tells Sooz the truth: Jenia was taken by the Dreamies, as their culture calls the Fae. Shocked by this revelation as well as another that comes with it (too much of a spoiler to state here), Sooz determines to save her sister. Surely Jenia must want that, or else why would she have appeared? But what if she doesn’t want to be rescued? Soon after entering the forest, Sooz herself faces attack from ordinary human “monsters.” Afterward, she gains an unusual protector and companion, a woman of animated stone who’s seeking Death (both the condition and the anthropomorphic personification). She and Sooz develop a close bond as they travel through the phantasmagoric, unstable landscape of Faerie. The Dreamies stalk them, offering both allure and threat. When the seekers find the elusive Jenia, their danger doesn’t cease, nor is it certain until the very end whether Jenia will choose to return to her human home or embrace immortality with her Fae “family.” Beagle’s lyrical prose descriptions of the enchanted realm in all its glamour and terror are enthralling, and he does a masterful job of keeping the reader in doubt as to whether Sooz’s quest will succeed. Again he leaves us with a bittersweet conclusion.

A HOUSE WITH GOOD BONES, by T. Kingfisher. This author’s newest horror novel, a Southern Gothic incongruously set in a suburban tract house, doesn’t captivate me quite so strongly as her first three, but I’ll still reread it multiple times. A theme of return and/or reunion to find unsettling or outright shocking changes pervades this book, like the previous ones. “There was a vulture on the mailbox of my grandmother’s house.” How could any fan of dark fantasy resist an opening line such as that? Narrator Samantha (Sam) receives a message from her brother that their mother seems “off.” Since Sam has been temporarily furloughed from her job as an archaeoentomologist (a scientist who studies insects in archeological digs), she travels to North Carolina to check out the situation. Her mother owns the house where she and her two children spent an impoverished period during Sam’s childhood living with the late grandmother, Gran Mae. Upon arrival, Sam finds the usual cheerfully eclectic, cluttered décor replaced by a “sterile” ambience more reminiscent of her grandmother’s taste. The walls have even been repainted off-white. Her mother acts nervous, as if she feels watched or overheard. Sam sees the environment in terms of ecology in general and, of course, arthropods in particular. In the house’s monoculture rose garden, she immediately notices the lack of insects aside from ladybugs. This phenomenon and the flock of vultures roosting in a neighbor’s tree, however, are the least of the strangeness. For instance, a swarm of ladybugs invades Sam’s bedroom at night. We gradually learn about her childhood and her grandmother’s oddities, including strictness verging on abuse, while Sam unearths buried family secrets—literally, in one case. It takes a while to reassure herself that her mother isn’t sinking into senility, but the alternative is almost worse. She discovers her great-grandfather, Gran Mae’s father, practiced dark magic. No wonder Gran Mae was obsessed with “nice and normal.” Furthermore, the “underground children” she warned her grandchildren about turn out to be real, not imaginary boogeymen. And the rose bushes are sentient. I feel the climax, when the house collapses into a sinkhole, besieged by the underground children, requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but I enjoyed it anyway. Gran Mae’s sort-of return, however, strikes me as believably, deeply disturbing. Sam’s witty narrative voice, the vulture lady and local “witch” Gail, and the friendly gardener Phil, who grounds the whole story in the mundane milieu of a “cookie-cutter” housing development, irresistibly draw the reader into the experience. Kingfisher has an enviable talent, through Sam’s chatty yet sometimes sardonic tone, to feed backstory to the reader with never a sense of info-dumping. Amid the mainly happy ending, Sam’s unease with the idea that she might have inherited her grandmother’s magic causes the supernatural danger to linger in the reader’s mind after the final page. In Kingfisher’s afterword, she mentions her own battles with roses and the fact that this is her second novel to portray rose bushes as evil, the first being her “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, BRYONY AND ROSES. The section headings (labeled “First Day,” “Second Day,” etc.) enhance the theme with a brief description of a different rose variety for each one.

THE WITCH AND THE VAMPIRE, by Francesca Flores. I’m ambivalent about this dark fantasy YA novel. It has an intriguing alternate-world setting, and the two teen protagonists are sympathetic characters with a strong connection, even though fraught with hostility because of circumstances that destroyed their earlier friendship. On the other hand, it’s told by both of them in alternate first-person chapters—perfectly okay and an effective device for creating suspense—in present tense, not so okay (in my opinion). Moreover, the two girls’ voices read, to me, exactly the same and not very convincing as teenage-girl speech. If they were presented as writing their narratives in past tense, their rather formal language wouldn’t feel so distancing. Sometimes I had to glance back at a chapter heading—each helpfully titled with the name of the viewpoint character—to remind myself which narrator was speaking in a given scene. In this world, vampires openly exist, with hunters trained to track and slay them. Witches, whose powers fall into various categories such as flame, root, healing, and others, also help to defend the human community. The protagonists’ town is protected from the vampire-infested forest by a magical barrier. (Although the book reveals nothing about the wider world, there doesn’t seem any reason to assume other areas don’t face similar threats.) Ava, a root witch, deriving her power from contact with the earth, has been turned into a vampire by her mother. Her mother, a leader of the community, keeps her own vampirism secret and confines Ava to the house, supposedly for her safety. Ava’s abusive stepfather performs experiments on her, adding to her misery. When Ava accidentally discovers that her mother—for a reason never totally clear or convincing to me—plots to take down the protective barrier, Ava escapes, determined to reach and warn the legendary vampire queen who dwells in the middle of the forest. Meanwhile, her former best friend Kaye, a flame witch, mistakenly thinks Ava killed Kaye’s mother. On an expedition into the forest, hunter-trainee Kaye runs into Ava and captures her. Circumstances force them to travel together and cooperate, tentatively and grudgingly on Kaye’s part. She believes all vampires are irredeemably murderous and possessed by uncontrollable bloodlust. Gradually, the girls overcome their misconceptions about each other and repair their friendship. This slow process, believably complicated by mutual suspicion, impresses me as the strongest feature of the novel. Their childhood best friend, a hunter-trainee named Tristan, also plays a major role. Encounters in a human-occupied city deep in the woods enlighten them to the truth that not all mortals are heroic and good, just as not all vampires are evil. The world-building constitutes the novel’s other main strength. And like Catherine Yu’s DIREWOOD, the core of THE WITCH AND THE VAMPIRE has a fairy-tale atmosphere, with a quest through a forbidden forest.

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: VampChix


Excerpt from “Bunny Hunt”:

Melanie hurried toward the woods after the dog and rabbit. They’d already vanished into the trees, but she had Kiki’s continuous yapping to guide her.

She raced along the narrow trail. Judging from the volume of the barking, the dog hadn’t gotten far yet. Melanie sprinted toward the noise, hoping to sight the runaway around the next curve in the path. What if she chased the rabbit into the underbrush?

No need to worry about that problem until she caught up with the animals. Rounding a bend, she forced herself to a burst of speed. She didn’t see her quarry, but the yapping grew still louder. After the second loop in the trail, she almost tripped over Kiki’s leash and skidded to a stop.

Not far off the path under the trees, the dog stood with her front paws pinning the rabbit to the ground. She kept barking but didn’t move otherwise, as if she had no idea what to do with her thrashing, kicking prey. The wild animal appeared to weigh at least ten pounds, barely smaller than the dog herself.

Panting and sweating from the run, Melanie lifted her ponytail off the damp nape of her neck while she seized a loop of the leash with her other hand. If one of those kicks connected, Scott’s pet could get seriously hurt. “Kiki, drop it!”

The pup didn’t even glance at her. That must have been a command she either hadn’t learned yet or chose to ignore. Melanie gave the leash a firm jerk. Startled, Kiki tumbled off the flailing rabbit and struggled to land on all fours.

The rabbit sprang upright. Melanie retreated a couple of steps, hauling the dog with her. To her surprise, the rabbit turned its head and gazed up as if assessing her. Kiki, already recovering her balance, strained at the leash.

“Well, what are you waiting for, bunny? Get out of here.”

I’m talking to a wild rabbit. Unless maybe it’s an escaped pet? That possibility would account for how little fear of humans it showed.

Staring straight at her, it reared up on its haunches. Its amber eyes gazed at her with an expression of unnerving attention.

What’s it thinking about me? Melanie shook her head. Whoa! Now I’m giving it credit for human intelligence.

A bright shimmer dazzled her vision. When it faded, the animal was standing on its hind legs—and growing. It expanded to person-height. Kiki emitted an alarmed yip and huddled against Melanie’s leg. Melanie simply froze, her mouth gaping open.

When the glow faded, a human-size bunny stood before her. It—no, she—displayed the same cinnamon-brown fur and long ears. Her face had the general shape of a woman’s, but with whiskers, amber eyes, a button nose, and rabbity incisors. Her leg joints bent at an angle suitable for hopping. Most striking, two vertical rows of nipples, four and four, adorned the front of her body, and her belly bulged with an obvious pregnancy.

Now I’m even getting baby reminders foisted on me by hallucinations!

To cap off the impossibility of this apparition, the rabbit-woman spoke. “Thank you.” Her voice chimed like a silver bell, its echo lingering as she turned and hopped into the woods. Before she’d gone far enough for the trees to hide her, she seemingly vanished into thin air.

Fighting a wave of dizziness, Melanie sagged against the nearest tree trunk and closed her eyes. When her pulse and breathing steadied, she looked down to find Kiki shivering as if in fear. “Girl, I don’t blame you a bit.” She leaned over to pet the dog until Kiki perked up and yipped to announce she wanted to get moving again. Melanie led her back up the path toward the playground.

Her mind churned as she covered the distance at a brisk walk. Okay, get a grip. I did not see a rabbit turn into a person. I haven’t fallen down a hole into Wonderland. The actual rabbit, obviously, had scampered away while she’d been distracted, and a pregnant woman in a disturbingly realistic costume had coincidentally shown up. Not so unbelievable on the day before Easter. Maybe she’d been recruited as entertainment for the kids.

-end of excerpt-


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:

The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

My Goodreads page:

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

My Publishers:

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

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