Welcome to the December 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.

Happy winter holidays to all!

My Christmas story “A Ghost in the Green Bestiary,” set in an English country manor in the 1890s, will be published as an item in the Wild Rose Press’s “Christmas in the Castle” line (release date not yet determined). Spending the holidays with her aunt and uncle for the first time since her father’s death forces Lucy to face Walter, to whom she was once almost engaged. An excerpt, illustrating an old Yuletide folk custom, appears below. (Robbie is Lucy’s little brother.)

My steamy paranormal romance novella “Wizard’s Trap,” the last of my “orphaned” Ellora’s Cave works, will be re-published by the Wild Rose Press on December 13.

Our December guest is Marla A. White, writer of fiction in several genres, including mystery and fantasy. She has a story, “The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder,” in the Wild Rose Press’s Christmas Cookies series.


Interview with Marla A. White:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Reading.  I’ve always loved reading and as the youngest of six, there were plenty of books around. Disappearing into everything from “Black Beauty” to “The Hardy Boys” to “Call of the Wild” inspired me to create worlds of my own to explore. 

What genres do you work in?

I’m kind of a weirdo, I play in multiple genres. Mystery is what I’ve written the most and maybe my first love, but I’ve also written a series of books that I would describe as contemporary or grounded fantasy. Magical things happening in the real world. And just recently I started writing a hockey romance with a writing partner, which has been a whole new experience.  

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

My writing style would be somewhere in between. I like to outline at least in broad strokes first so I know where I’m going, but nothing is ever set in stone.  I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo because it gives me permission to get messy, to write an outline where I give myself options. I write things like, “Maybe they find a body here. Or wait a few scenes, and put more of the B story here.” I feel sorry for my poor Beta readers when I ask them to read that jumble just to make sure the story as a whole works before I write the real first draft! 

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

Author influences would include Dick Francis, his mysteries set in the horse world were an obvious influence for “Cause for Elimination,” my mystery set in the eventing world that I was a part of for many years. But Louise Penny’s wonderful Three Pines books influence me to try and be better, to attempt to elevate my writing in the next book. Robert Parker was a huge part of why my dialogue reads the way it does, with a bit more of an edge than a typical cozy mystery would. 

The amazing Jim Butcher is fully to blame for my fantasy books. His Dresden books opened the door to Ilona Andrews’ series of books and Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books. I can only come up with half of the crazy monsters and heroes that they do!

But the biggest influences on my work are the things I experience in life that strike me as funny or interesting.  “The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder” was inspired both by The Wild Rose Press’s call for submissions of cookie-themed stories and my abysmal failure at baking that childhood favorite. Both events happened simultaneously and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the featured cookie was terrible?”. I knew I wanted to set it in the fictional quirky small town of Pine Cove because I’d just come back from one of my favorite places on Earth, Idyllwild. My “Keeper Chronicles” series is inspired by the fantastic, historic Mission Inn in Riverside. Even small things, like a friend riding in pink suede half-chaps (totally not cool in the very proper horse set), made an appearance in “Cause” because I like little details like that. 

What kinds of research do you do for your mysteries?

I dread the day I take my computer in for a tune-up and my guy looks at my Internet history!  I love doing deep dives on weapons, poisons, where do you have to stab someone to puncture a lung.  You know, the usual!  There’s a wonderful website, “How To Kill Your Imaginary Friends” with articles such as, “If you shock a flatline, I swear I will come to your home and beat you with a wet chicken”. One of my characters is Scottish so I have a ton of websites bookmarked to make him sound authentic, including “The Septic’s Companion” for British slang words and insults.

But I also talk to friends who are nurses about medical questions, I asked my nephew who builds boats about how to blow one up. Some day I’d love to be a member of some kind of police reserve unit to get first-hand knowledge, but right now I’m juggling enough just to find time to write!

How does a mystery author achieve the ideal of “playing fair” with the reader while not making the clues too obvious?

That’s why I need to outline ahead of time. I admire the heck out of anyone who can figure out when and how to plant clues on the fly!  I try to include at least one red herring to throw the reader off the scent.

But as a reader, I’m there more for the characters than the mystery of it all anyway. Reading the Three Pines books, I almost blow past the clues to find out the latest flaw Louise Penny has given Jean Guy!

I was really pleased when my editor was surprised at the reveal of the killer at the end of “Cause”, so that was nice. 

“Starlight” was my first cozy mystery and honestly, even the reviews that said the guessed the killer right away said they still enjoyed the book.   

How do the angels and demons in your contemporary fantasy novels resemble and/or differ from the traditional image of those entities?

My slightly goofy, quirky Gabriel is very different from traditional angels. First, he hasn’t got any wings, or a halo. He barely remembers his life before waking up naked in the desert. All he knows is that his Boss kicked him out of Heaven over some sort of disagreement. He’s just a guy with a messy mop of hair, bespoke suits, and a Scottish accent trying to figure out why he’s there. Is it to protect Abby Campbell, his charge when he was an angel, and if so from what?

“The Keeper Chronicles” aren’t religious by any means, but the plots incorporate questions of faith. Abby hasn’t believed in anything since her mother’s stroke, Gabriel questions why he’s been abandoned. Evie, who works for his brother now, becomes angry when Gabriel’s life hangs in the balance and it’s left to her, a demon, to save him because his angelic siblings are too afraid of the repercussions.  

And that’s the heart of the books – family. Oh sure, there’s action and romance, but the beating heart is the family you’re born into and the one you choose. That and Gabriel’s search for a good cup of tea.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

I’m in a bit of a holding pattern for “Framed for Murder,” the next in the Pine Cove mystery series. Hopefully June of next year?

I’ve also got the third “Keeper” book in with an editor now and will self-publish it probably early next year.

What are you working on now?

Despite the lack of a release date for “Framed,” I’ve leapt into NaNoWriMo and am sketching out the next in the Pine Cove series.

My writing partner and I have finished the first hockey romance, “Lincoln,” and are in the middle of the rough draft of the next.

And Lucifer keeps demanding that it’s time for his book now, he’s tired of his do-gooder brother getting all the glory.:D

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

One of my biggest challenges, and I don’t think I’m alone here, was finding the time to write. A long time ago I was fortunate enough to meet Janet Evanovich, another favorite author of mine, and when asked about her writing schedule, she said she got up at five in the morning to write.  I figured if it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me. I can’t swear to getting up that early every day, but I always make it my first priority before e-mails or anything else.

I mean, not before coffee, that would be insane, but everything else.

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

Thanks for asking! My website is I’m also on Facebook as MarlaAWhite and Instagram as Marlawriteswords


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE PRIVILEGE OF THE HAPPY ENDING, by Kij Johnson. A story collection by the author of one of my favorite fantasy novels, FOX WOMAN. If, like me, you read the novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” when first released as a stand-alone book, you might have reservations about the fact that it constitutes almost 100 pages of this 281-page volume. However, the other contents make it well worth buying even if you own “Dream-Quest.” In case you haven’t read that story, it’s inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, as the title suggests. Johnson approaches the Dreamlands, though, from a feminine and feminist angle. Vellitt Boe, a professor at a women’s college in Ulthar, the city famed for its cats, has to undertake a quest to the waking realm (ours) in search of a student who has eloped with a dreamer from our world. During her journey to one of the rare interdimensional gates, Vellitt spends time with Lovecraft’s protagonist, Randolph Carter, makes an alliance with ghouls, and fends off attacks from less friendly monsters. Her fish-out-of-water arrival in the waking world makes for delightful reading, and the story ends with an unexpected twist. Among other tales, “Noah’s Raven,” a bird’s-eye perspective on the Flood and its aftermath, portrays the event from a more cynical angle than the Bible does. In “Ratatoskr,” a girl sees the ghosts of squirrels all her life and helps them move on from their abandoned bodies. “Tool-Using Mimics” presents multiple alternative speculations about octopuses who mate with human partners or pose as human. Several of the collection’s shorter pieces aren’t exactly stories, consisting of lists and other clever devices instead of narratives, although in some cases hints of plots or character arcs can be inferred – for example, three “Lorebooks” for apartment dwellers, a bestiary, a stavebook, and an alphabetical dreambook; “Mantis Wives,” exploring various ways intelligent female mantises might kill their mates; crows’ skewed attempts at human-style riddles and jokes. Other than “Dream-Quest,” my favorite stories are “The Ghastly Spectre of Toad Hall” and the title novella. Johnson wrote a sequel to WIND IN THE WILLOWS that added two entertaining female characters to the classic cast, THE RIVER BANK. The Christmas-season ghost story in this collection is an equally fun pastiche, a mixture of suspense and humor, with Toad’s friends determined to rescue him from the doom of his family curse, leading to the revelation of what the ghost (a frustrated poetess) really wants. “The Privilege of the Happy Ending,” set in early medieval Britain, begins with six-year-old Ada forced by her parents’ death to live with a widowed, impoverished aunt and three wicked-stepsister-like cousins. When their village falls to the ravages of all-devouring monsters called wastoures, Ada escapes with Blanche, a talking hen. Their long, wandering quest for a safe refuge leads them to encounters with strange places and people, culminating in the revelation that Blanche possesses more magic than just the ability to speak. The omniscient narrator weaves metafictional commentary throughout the tale, reminding us that stories can branch in myriad different directions. Above all, whether they have happy endings depends on the point where we choose to cut the narrative short. I especially enjoyed Johnson’s wide varieties of prose styles in the highly diverse works, ranging from the dry, cryptic paragraphs of the apartment-dwellers’ lists to the Edwardian dialogue of the River Bank denizens and the lavishly multisensory descriptions of the exotic Dreamlands.

UNDER THE SMOKESTREWN SKY, by A. Deborah Baker. The final volume of Seanan McGuire’s pseudonymously published portal-fantasy tetralogy set in the world of the Up-and-Under. This four-part story seems written for a slightly younger audience than McGuire’s open-ended Wayward Children series. I’ll try to avoid critical spoilers, but of course that’s difficult since UNDER THE SMOKESTREWN SKY is the last book in a connected sequence. Fortunately, in the first chapter the omniscient narrator, whose voice resembles the narrator of the Wayward Children books, summarizes the highlights of the previous three novels. Readers who, like me, tend to forget details during waits for sequels will find this introduction a great help. Throughout the book, the author inserts comments about the nature of stories and their beginnings, middles, and ends. Uptight, anxious boy Avery, preoccupied with order and predictability, and free-spirited, adventurous girl Zib lived in the same neighborhood but had never met before forces beyond their control drew them to a wall between our world and the Up-and-Under. That world, ruled by monarchs of the four classic elements (Air, Water, Earth, Fire), suffers from the disappearance of an elemental queen. In this installment, Avery and Zib continue to travel along the quasi-sentient Improbable Road in the company of a drowned girl, the former Crow Girl, and a new companion, Jack, who also has a bird affinity. Their quest for the Impossible City concludes with desperate ordeals and, at the climax, heartbreaking loss followed by eucatastrophe. Secrets come to light, including the true identity of the missing queen. The characters contemplate the meaning of “impossible” and learn to bend impossibility to their purposes. Unlike Dorothy’s quest for a way home in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, the fulfillment of Zib and Avery’s search is shadowed by ambivalence. While they long to return to their proper world, they mourn the prospect of leaving the Up-and-Under forever, not to mention parting from the friends they’ve made. The narrator hints at future adventures, but of course those remain stories for another time. Zib and Avery don’t enjoy the convenience of “Narnia time,” wherein they’d get home a moment after they left. Their parents and the authorities know they’ve been missing for a month, a disappearance the children can never adequately explain. They return to their mundane lives having forged a lasting bond of friendship, Avery learning to take risks and Zib learning a bit of caution as well as respect for the differences between the two of them. Recommended for not only the ingenious plot with unexpected twists at every stage, but also the cast of sympathetic characters both human and not quite human, the enchanting and terrifying fantasy-world setting, and the narrator’s metafictional encouragement, warnings, and analysis. The Up-and-Under tetralogy is likely to thrill most fans of the slightly different approach to portal fantasy in the Wayward Children series.

THE LITERARY UNDOING OF VICTORIA SWANN, by Virginia Pye. A historical novel set in my favorite period, the 1890s. Boston-area author Victoria Swann (not her real last name), like Louisa May Alcott and Jo March at the beginning of their careers, earns decent money and enthusiastic readers with her thrillers, in Victoria’s case hair-raising adventures in exotic locales. Like Alcott and her heroine, Victoria also decides to change her focus to more realistic stories in down-to-earth settings. Her publisher, however, wants her to stick to the reliably successful formula. She recognizes the risk she’s taking, since she’s tied to a ne’er-do-well, weak-willed, alcoholic husband in a union that has become a marriage in name only. Nevertheless, her ambition to create novels about believable female characters suffering under the social ills of her contemporary society is too strong to renounce. Her new editor, Jonathan Cartwright, admires her latest book and heartily supports her endeavor. When the publisher remains adamant, Jonathan strikes out, along with his best friend, to start a fledgling company with Victoria’s book as its inaugural release. As sole support of himself and five sisters, Jonathan is taking a major risk, too. The title accurately focuses on Victoria’s “literary undoing,” as she struggles with the process of reshaping her authorial persona. How can she write the stories she feels called to create while somehow not disappointing avid fans of her romantic adventure tales and the regular advice column published under her pen name? What happens when she decides to divorce her parasitic husband, thus risking scandal if her real-life identity and a certain incident in her background come to light? A strong bond of friendship grows between her and Jonathan. It’s not much of a spoiler, however, to warn readers who expect them to fall in love that a delightful plot twist occurs instead. Satisfying solutions to Victoria’s problems, yet hard-won and believable, wrap up the story. She and Jonathan come across as strong, sympathetic characters. The physical and cultural details of 1890s Boston are vividly portrayed, obviously researched in depth, and a pleasure to read. I particularly enjoyed watching Victoria wrestle with troubles not unfamiliar to authors in the present century, such as publishers who cheat on royalties and readers who endlessly demand more books just like the previous ones, on an exhausting schedule.

For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:


Excerpt from “A Ghost in the Green Bestiary:

About four-thirty, as twilight was falling, Aunt Eunice knocked on Lucy’s door. “The mummers are here. Will you come down to watch? I’m sure Robbie would love to see them.”

Not having spent Christmas here in many years, Lucy was eager to witness that performance herself. After bundling Robbie into his coat, cap, boots, and gloves, she and her mother donned their own wraps and followed her impatient brother downstairs. When they gathered with family and servants at the top of the driveway, the flurries had stopped, covering the earlier snowfall with a fresh, thin layer. Walter, standing beside his parents, smiled at Lucy. Pulling her cape closer, she tried to convince herself that only the brisk breeze sent a shiver rippling through her.

About a dozen local boys and men, some bearing lanterns, clustered in front of the house. They wore oversize coats or heavily padded outfits to disguise their shapes, and homemade masks fashioned with various degrees of skill concealed their faces. Sacks and pillowcases had eyeholes cut in them and grotesque features painted on. One man sported a papier-mâché horsehead, and another shrouded his head in a veil of white lace. A knight in gray trousers and jacket brandished a wooden sword and wore a helmet made of a cardboard box adorned with silver paint. His crudely carved shield bore a red cross. Beside him stood a four-legged, green dragon with two pairs of boots visible beneath its sagging costume.

Robbie shrank against his mother’s side and asked, pointing at the man with the veil, “Is that a ghost?”

“No, dear.” She patted his shoulder.

“And there’s a dragon.”

Lucy whispered, “It’s two men in disguise. Everybody’s pretending. Now, just watch.”

The mummers sang all the verses of “Deck the Halls,” while the dragon cavorted to the tune, its tail dragging on the ground. Next they belted out a couple of rowdy wassail tunes, a clear hint of the festive reward they anticipated.

After the songs, most of the men drew back to clear a circle around the monster and the knight. The warrior, who was probably meant to portray Saint George, pointed his weapon at the dragon and shouted, “Yield, foul fiend!”

With a blood-curdling roar, the dragon raised its claw-tipped forearms and charged. It slashed at the knight while the latter pounded on the monster with the flat of his sword. After several minutes of hearty combat punctuated by bestial snarls and manly vows of dire vengeance, the two foes thrashed on the ground in a climactic exchange of blows. The dragon, groaning in agony, expired in a burst of gore represented by a gush of fake blood from its chest. Saint George rose to his feet with arms raised in triumph. A second later, the dragon leaped up, too, and the pair took a bow to laughter and applause.

Uncle George’s butler and footman brought forth trays of steaming mugs, spiced cider from the aroma, which they passed around to the performers. Slices of brandy-soaked, fruit-studded Christmas cake followed. Some removed the masks to eat and drink, while others simply lifted the bottoms of their cloth face coverings. When the front half of the dragon pulled off its head, Lucy said to Robbie, “See, just men play-acting.”

-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:

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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