Welcome to the February 2012 issue of my newsletter, "News from the Crypt," and please visit Carter's Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com), 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:
Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romance Blog: http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/
And please visit the website of the Infinite World of Fantasy Authors: http://www.iwofa.net/
Fictionwise.com sells quite a few of my e-books as well as my short stories from various anthologies, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Sword and Sorceress" series. And search the Kindle store on Amazon.com for Kindle editions of numerous novels and stories by me.
My new paranormal romance novella "Wizard's Trap" is for sale at All Romance E-Books with a Heat Index of 4 flames:
They've also added my vampire romance CRIMSON DREAMS to their site:
Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of CRIMSON DREAMS.
This month I'm interviewing horror author Carl Alves.
Interview with Carl Alves:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I began writing when I was in high school. I was very enthusiastic about it, but not very good at the actual writing part. I came to the conclusion that I needed some more life experience if I was going to put some teeth into my writing, not to mention that in college I majored in Biomedical engineering and didn't have much time for anything else. After graduation, my wife urged me to start writing again, so I resurrected some old stories I had worked on in high school and started some new ones.
2. What genres do you write in?
My writing tends to be dark. Generally I split time between fantasy and horror. My writing definitely tends to be on the edgier side, lots of violence and fighting, lots of blood and guts, a very visceral style.
3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
I do almost no outlining, other than maybe a few sentences of very high level overview. Instead, I am constantly plotting the story in my head, working out the scenes, dialogue, characters during the writing process. My story is never far from my thoughts, and I am simultaneously thinking about the upcoming chapters of what I am writing as well as the longer term vision for the story. I like to have an idea of where I am going with the story, but also give it room to develop and evolve on its own.
4. How did you do research for your historical novel, especially with the long span of various eras it covers?
I did an extensive bit of research for the novel, some online but mostly at the library reading books about the eras I covered. What I mostly wanted to do was give the reader a real flavor for the time periods the book was set in without giving a dry history lesson. What I tried to do was mix in historical facts and cultural aspects of these time periods into the narrative without killing the flow.
5. Are the vampires in your forthcoming horror novel the traditional type, or do they have some unusual features?
The thing I like about writing a vampire story is that you can create your own mythos. There are a few very basic features that need to be included, or otherwise they wouldn't be vampires. Mostly I took the features of vampires that I think make them cool. My vampires have preternatural speed, super strength, power of seduction and feed on blood. One slightly different characteristic of my vampires is that not only do they gain power as they get older, but the really ancient ones are able to be out in the sunlight without it killing them. Sunlight will weaken them, but not kill the ancient ones.
6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
My novel Two For Eternity is out from Weaving Dreams Publishing. My novel Blood Street is due out in November of 2012 from True Grit Publishing.
7. What are you working on now?
I have a few projects that I am currently working on. The one that is furthest along is a novel about a group of kids who contact a spirit using an ouija board. In the process, they unleash a malevolent spirit upon the world and now must find a way to stop it.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The first piece of advice I have to aspiring writers is to work hard at improving your craft. It's amazing how much bad writing I see from people claiming to be writers. Grammar is important as are the conventions and rules of writing. In order to get better, writers need to write as much as they can. Have your work critiqued by other writers and more importantly, critique the work of other writers. This is a valuable way of learning what worksand what doesn't work.
The other thing that aspiring writers need to have is perseverance. You can expect to be rejected frequently. It doesn't matter if your story gets rejected countless times as long as it gets accepted once. Take rejection in stride and don't let it get you down. As long as your honing your craft and improving your writing skills, acceptance will eventually come.
9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog? Where else can we find you on the web?
My website URL is http://www.carlalves.com
I have a blog on my website at http://www.carlalves.com/blog.
You can also find me on Facebook listed as Carl Alves, on Twitter @authorcarlalves, on Author's Den and Library Thing.
Some Books I've Read Lately:
77 SHADOW STREET, by Dean Koontz. Koontz's latest suspense novel shades more into science fiction territory than most of his recent work, although this book starts out sounding like a haunted house story. It takes place almost entirely inside the Pendleton, the former mansion of a Gilded Age tycoon, now a luxury condominium complex. Residents begin to glimpse shadowy figures and, soon, more blatantly weird phenomena. A retired attorney, Silas Kinsley, discovers from his research into the building's history that these "hauntings" occur every thirty-eight years, and some people have disappeared. The narrative threads follow numerous residents of the building as they confront increasingly bizarre events. Viewpoint characters include a single mother with a lightning phobia and a preteen son, another mother with an autistic daughter, the building's chief of security, a paranoid recluse obsessed with conspiracy theories, a pair of elderly sisters with two cats, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, and a contract killer, among others. We soon discover that the entity haunting the Pendleton, calling itself the One, isn't a ghost and in fact was never human. Another watcher, more benign, calls himself the Witness. It turns out that the building rests on a space-time fault line. Glimpses of the past give way to an immersion in either an alternate dimension or a horrific future, in which the Pendleton has fallen into decay and been overrun with grotesque plants, fungi, and predatory creatures of no known species. Koontz's gift for suspense never falters in this novel, and his rather extravagant descriptive style seems more tightly focused than in his other recent books. (His language doesn't strike me as irritatingly pretentious in this one.) The one flaw, from my perspective at least, is the absence of any identifiable protagonist. Too many individuals among the plethora of viewpoint characters are given nearly the same word counts and narrative weight. Though several are strong and likable enough, I couldn't settle down and identify with any one of them for long. The closest thing to a protagonist is Winny (short for Winston), the preteen boy with keen intelligence and self-awareness but low self-confidence. Aside from the cats, no pets participate in the story, but the epilogue does include one of Koontz's trademark golden retrievers.
ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION and THINKING IN PICTURES, by Temple Grandin. A celebrated animal behavior expert whose autism enables her to get inside the minds of nonhuman creatures, Grandin discusses animal senses, cognition, and emotions from many angles in ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION. This book reveals so many aspects of this field that I was never aware of before. It includes material on different kinds of aggression, fear and other emotions, animal communication, various species' visual perception, and many other topics. THINKING IN PICTURES covers numerous aspects of autism from an autobiographical perspective as Grandin illustrates general issues with examples from her own experience. Reading Grandin's works feels like a glimpse inside the mind of a super-intelligent alien observing "normal" humanity from outside. As she herself puts it, as a STAR TREK fan she identifies with Spock and Data.
Excerpt from CRIMSON DREAMS:
Halfway out of the driver's seat, Heather stared at the dead animal sprawled on the gravel driveway in front of the cabin--a bobcat, looking like a discarded stuffed toy except for the dark blotch on the belly. With her heart racing, Heather retreated into the car, leaving the door open. She pressed her lips together and tried to slow her breathing. Dizziness rocked her.
The image leaped to life in her memory: Six years ago, a summer evening on a moonlit mountain road. A man crouched over the bleeding body of a deer. Glowing eyes.
Heather shook herself back into the present. *I imagined that; didn't I settle that long ago?*
She picked up her purse and leaned out of the open door. A flicker of movement in the side-view mirror caught her eye. A glint of red--
She squeezed her eyes shut. *No, it's not going to start again! I won't let it! *
When she nerved herself to glance around, she saw no sign of life. Removing the car keys from the ignition and digging another ring of keys out of her purse, she stood up and slammed the door behind her. She marched up to the dead bobcat. Blood still oozed over the matted fur, and no flies buzzed around it yet. A dog must have killed it, mere minutes before, probably scared off by the sound of the car. Nothing to get upset about.
Skirting the body, she walked up the two sagging steps to the front porch and inserted the key into the cranky lock. Boards groaned under her feet, as always. Dead leaves littered the porch, which needed a coat of paint. *Look at this mess! Mom will have a fit. *
No, would have had. Laura Kincaid would never see this place again. Uterine cancer had ensured that. Heather blinked away tears more of anger than sadness. *It wasn't time. I wasn't finished with her yet. With them. * Her father had outlasted her mother by less than four months. Heather recognized his "accident" as suicide, although, as a doctor, he'd been careful to make it appear otherwise. He'd left her with what their minister, a thirtyish woman with a counseling degree, called "unresolved issues."
Again Heather shrugged off the temptation to sink into gloom. The issue for this month was cleaning out this place and putting it on the market. Brooding on the porch wouldn't get that done.
A breeze followed her into the living room. She sneezed at the dust it raised from the scratched hardwood floor. A glance at the ceiling confirmed that the oval water mark on the plaster had expanded since her last visit. Mom had constantly complained about the defects in the place, ranging from the uneven floorboards and leaky roof to the hard water from the well and rust stains in the sinks and commode. Definitely no rich folks' summer cottage, just a four-room cabin--well, five rooms, if the screened-in back porch counted--with a fake Lincoln log façade. Dad had bought it early in their marriage, as soon as his medical practice began to prosper. Heather had often wondered why they'd kept the place and vacationed here every year, if Mom disliked it so much. *Who knows, maybe complaining was a form of relaxation for her. * She'd spent half of every month-long "vacation" cleaning. Everything had to be perfect.
*Including me. * With a cardiologist for a father and a professional volunteer--PTA president and chairman of countless hospital charity committees--for a mother, Heather had always had standards to meet. Honor roll was expected; only straight A's merited special notice. Her friends were subjected to a security check worthy of the CIA.
Heather took off her gold-rimmed glasses and rubbed her damp forehead. *Cut that crap, right now! You're not a kid anymore; you don't have to swallow that stuff. Time to get to work. *
She trudged back and forth from the car, carrying in a couple of grocery bags and stacks of flattened cardboard boxes. She'd brought her mother's station wagon, since her own compact was too small to transport much junk. Heather averted her eyes as she passed the dead animal, thinking, *First thing, get rid of that. *
Out back, on the screened porch, she found the shovel in its usual corner. A few hundred paces into the woods, she dug a shallow pit in the soft loam on the edge of a weed-choked ravine. Then she scooped up the carcass, which was heavier than she'd expected, and lugged it out back to bury it.
*Good, that's over, * she reassured herself a few minutes later, scrubbing her hands at the kitchen sink. *Now I won't have any more hallucinations. * On second thought, she mustn't label that glimpse in the side-view mirror a hallucination, which implied a crack in her sanity. Call it an optical illusion, a trick of light and shadow, enhanced by memories.
The kitchen faucet dripped, and the mineral stains in the sink looked worse than she remembered. Fishing a notepad out of her purse on the counter, she jotted down "Plumber." Noticing a missing handle on a cabinet as well as a hole in the window screen, and recalling the leaky roof, she added a hyphen and the word, "Handyman."
*Who's going to buy this dump? * She felt a twinge of guilt at her disloyalty. After all, her parents had valued the cabin enough to keep it for over twenty years. And Heather had enjoyed the place herself, until that summer when she'd turned eighteen. *Be honest, I kept on enjoying it, a little too much. That was the problem. * She wasn't sentimental enough to want to hold onto the cabin. She didn't need a vacation home she hadn't visited since the summer after high school graduation.
She'd had an excellent reason to renounce the mountain vacations, despite her parents' obsession with fresh air and exercise for their bookworm daughter. Her mother's peculiar about-face, forbidding her to join them on future trips ("Your father and I want some time to ourselves for a change"), had come as a positive relief, though Heather wouldn't have admitted that relief at the time. She had needed to escape the powerful allure the dreams exerted over her. The dreams she'd experienced only at the cabin that strange year, delusions so real she could touch and taste them...
Heather shook her head and brushed a tangle of auburn hair out of her face. She must not think about her dream-beast. He'd been a phantom of her imagination, and she was too old to need a fantasy lover.
Right now, she needed the phone number of a local handyman. Pausing in the living room to jiggle the fireplace damper, she wiped sooty fingers on a tissue pulled from her jeans pocket and wrote down "chimney sweep?" The cabin had a phone, since her father, as a doctor, couldn't spend a month without one, but no local phone book. She would have to visit Ted's father's store first thing in the morning, where she could get names and numbers as well as more groceries.
Nothing to worry about there, either. In the years since she'd last seen Ted Gaines, he had probably married and even moved out of town. And if not, so what? She had dated him once, during her last summer at the cabin. As a date, it had turned out a dismal failure, but they'd parted as friends, more or less.
She unloaded her laptop and plugged in the modem, resisting the temptation to check her e-mail. Never mind that a message from her on-line gaming partner, "Nightblade," would be more fun than any of the chores looming over her.
Deciding to get a little work done before supper, she scoured the kitchen sink, making a mental note to ask Ted or a plumber about stronger cleansers to obliterate the hard-water stains. Then she swept and mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors, ran the upright vacuum over the braid rugs in the living room and bedroom, and decided she'd done enough cleaning for the first day. After scrubbing the grit off her face and hands, she gobbled a sandwich at the Formica-topped kitchen table. She had saved her bedroom for an after-supper treat.
The twin bed had been left freshly made up, as usual, with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh on the chenille spread. The desk and dresser were neat, though dusty. Heather skimmed her hand over a three-shelf bookcase crammed with volumes of varying sizes and ages. These would go home with her, not to charity. The Lord of the Rings. She. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Five Ray Bradbury collections. Dozens of paperback Tarzan and John Carter of Mars adventures.
*I'm surprised Mom didn't give them to Goodwill. She always swore reading stories about "unreal" stuff was a waste of time. * She had thrown away Heather's cache of Wonder Woman comic books, bought out of her allowance, without a word of warning, a memory that still ignited a flare of resentment. *Forget that! I was twelve years old, for goodness' sake. * Heather folded a box and began piling books into it. A few minutes later she settled on the floor, her back braced against the bed, to read a library-discard edition of The Borrowers.
She finally looked up when natural light became so dim she couldn't focus on the print. A twinge of guilt assailed her for frittering away an hour or more. *Don't be silly, I've got a month, or all summer if I want to use it. * She switched on the bedside lamp and collected nightgown and toiletries from her suitcase.
Before taking a shower, she gave the bathroom a quick scrubbing. She'd found dead insects in the tub. *I'll never be a perfect housekeeper like Mom, but there are limits! * While cleaning the bathroom sink, she noticed a rip in the window screen. Another repair to add to the list. *Tomorrow, I'll think about it tomorrow. Yes, Miss Scarlett. * She giggled. She realized she must be more tired, or nervous, than she'd thought.
The hot shower made her drowsy. Returning to the bedroom wearing a translucent, powder-blue nightgown that flowed to her ankles, Heather became aware of the quiet. She heard only crickets, none of the intermittent traffic noises she could always hear from her Charlottesville apartment. If anybody decided to break in and attack her, nobody would hear her scream. *There you go again! Quit looking for trouble! *
She forced herself to concentrate on the image in the age-flecked mirror above the dresser as she picked up the hairbrush and yanked it through her hair. *I need a haircut, and my eyes look like they've got purple bruises under them. * Beautiful eyes, anyway--or so the man in her dreams had always said.
*He isn't real, remember? I came back here partly to prove that, didn't I? * She stuck her tongue out at her reflection.
Something stirred in the corner of her vision. She wheeled around. Nothing there, of course. It was just the curtain rustling in the breeze. Why did she feel as if eyes rested on the back of her neck, then? She brushed her hair with long, vigorous strokes, refusing to look behind her again. Gradually the rhythmic motion lulled her into a fatigued daze. Minutes later, another movement in the background broke her trance. She blinked. Again the glass reflected only the stillness of the bedroom, without the shimmer of mist she thought she had glimpsed. *I'm falling asleep on my feet. Nobody here but me, myself, and I.* Her eyes drifted shut, with the hairbrush suspended halfway to her head.
The brush slipped out of her grasp. A second later, she felt it drawn through her hair, in gentle, languorous strokes all the way down to her shoulders. Cool fingers alighted on the nape of her neck to lift the locks of hair and massage the tight muscles of her scalp. Alternate waves of warmth and chills chased each other down her spine. Sighing, she relaxed into the caress. *I like this dream. *
The brush stopped. The phantom hand that had held it grazed her cheek as it tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The fingertips skimmed along the curve of her neck to her shoulder, then insinuated themselves into the bodice of the nightgown. Heat blossomed in her chest. She leaned against a hard, male body, while a ghostly touch teased one of her nipples--
Her eyes flew open. The tantalizing sensations ceased. But in the mirror, a man stood behind her, staring over her shoulder. He had a pale, lean face with dark hair swept back from a high forehead. Dark, thick brows almost met over his nose and bristled like a bobcat's ear-tufts over deep-set, silver-gray eyes. When he shifted his gaze as if to meet hers in the mirror, his eyes flashed with a crimson glow. Heather screamed and spun around.
Nothing. The room was empty.
Her mind whirling, she fell to her knees and groped for the brush she must have dropped. *Of course I did, because he wasn't real.* Even if he had existed in the past, he couldn't be here now. She had fallen asleep for a minute and dreamed him. Otherwise, how could he look exactly the same as he had that first time, six years earlier? He had appeared about twenty-five then, and he hadn't aged. *Since I imagined him anyway, why should he?*
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter