Welcome to the April 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. Search "Margaret Carter":
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):
This month I'm a Jewels of the Quill spotlight author. I'm giving away a copy of my trade paperback three-novella collection NIGHT FLAMES, comprising "Night Flight," "New Flame," and "Sweeter Than Wine." Go here for more information:
Below is an excerpt from "Night Flight," in which Gillian, a vampire-human hybrid, goes into heat for the first time and flees for protection to her human male friend when she's at risk of being forced to accept a mate she detests.
Some Books I've Read Lately:
THE HUMMING ROOM, by Ellen Potter. Inspired by THE SECRET GARDEN, this homage to the classic novel transplants the story to the present day on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Roo, a solitary girl whose talents include hiding, stealing, hearing the life within the earth, and a rapport with animals, hides under her family's trailer while drug dealers murder her feckless father and his girlfriend. Roo is sent to her rich uncle's home on Cough Island, so called because the mansion was originally a sanitarium for children with tuberculosis. Of course it's rumored to be haunted. Roo hears crying and a strange humming, neither of whose source she can find. She scarcely sees her reclusive uncle but comes to feel at home on the island anyway. She becomes acquainted with the local wildlife and meets an intriguing "river rat" boy. Eventually, as a reader of THE SECRET GARDEN would expect, she encounters her invalid cousin. She also discovers his late mother's ruined greenhouse and, with the help of both boys, strives to bring the plants back to life. The independent, prickly Roo is a strong character, the mansion is suitably Gothic, and the local color of the river and its islands is vividly rendered. As a fan of THE SECRET GARDEN, I was enchanted by Potter's transmutation of the story. However, I do agree with one of the comments on Amazon.com that the final crisis is resolved too quickly and abruptly, so that the subsequent reconciliation and renewal feel a little less satisfying than they should.
THE MIRAGE, by Matt Ruff. In this alternate history, the enlightened Islamic nation of the United Arab States dominates the international scene, while North America, aside from the Christian States of America in the eastern part of the continent, consists of a collection of barbaric countries and stateless regions. All of America is steeped in Christian fanaticism of various types. Israel's territory comprises part of the former Third Reich. On November 9, 2001, Christian terrorists crashed into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad. The action of the novel takes place in 2009, amid the War on Terror and the winding down of the conflict in the CSA and the occupation of Washington, D.C. The text reveals bits of the backstory of this mirror image of our world in excerpts from a Wikipedia-type site called the Library of Alexandria. Saddam Hussein is a gang lord. Osama bin Laden is a right-wing senator. The aged Lyndon Johnson, until deposed by the UAS occupation force, ruled the CSA as President-for-life. Spotting numerous other real people in their alternate-universe roles added to the entertainment for me. Russia is a theocracy as, apparently, are most of the other countries that are first-world nations in our reality. England, under the fanatical guidance of the Anglican Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury, seems to play a leading role in the crusade against the UAS. (As an Episcopalian, I had trouble suspending disbelief in this detail. Our laid-back church, home of the "via media" since the age of Queen Elizabeth I? That different in ANY reality?) Snippets of history present a plausible rationale for the rise of the UAS. How the United States degenerated into the fractured North America we see in the novel, however, is never explained. (Since the capital is still named Washington, the point of divergence must have been sometime in the nineteenth century.) What makes this warping of history more than a gimmick are the characters, especially Mustafa, a Homeland Security agent, and Amal, a female police detective. Both decent people trying to perform difficult jobs with integrity, they each have family problems that engage our sympathy. Mustafa uncovers rumors that the world they know is a mirage, a distorted reflection of a real universe in which America is the superpower and the Middle East only a collection of squabbling, backward countries. I enjoyed the explanation of how the mirage world came into existence, although the book's final scene, though optimistic, is a little too cryptic for my taste. Mustafa and Amal's world is wonderfully realized, and I'd be surprised if it didn't attract fanfic.
UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS, edited by John Joseph Adams. This anthology in tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series, clearly timed to coincide with the JOHN CARTER movie, has an introduction by Tamora Pierce and stories by lots of prominent SF authors. I bought it mainly for S. M. Stirling's contribution, about a Barsoomian expedition to Jasoom (Earth). Though the Mars novels aren't my favorite of Burroughs's works (I wish someone would create a similar anthology about Tarzan), I enjoyed most of the stories anyway. They include adventures from the viewpoints of Woola (John Carter's pet calot), Sarkoja (Carter's female Green Martian nemesis), and a couple of other Green Martian warriors. One tale transports Carter, his mate Dejah Thoris, and their Green friend Tars Tarkas to the Superstition Mountains of the American West. Peter Beagle writes about a visit by Tarzan to Mars, where the ape man and Carter clash. (I found that one disappointing, with Carter expressing very out-of-character attitudes; if it's intended to be funny, it doesn't work for me.) The book has an extensive glossary defining all the names and Martian words the reader needs to know for comprehension of the stories, informative and helpful for those (like me) who haven't read the original series in a very long time.
Excerpt from "Night Flight":
Half an hour later, she breezed into her townhouse still high on her victim's blood and passion. Just inside the foyer, she stopped short, her exhilaration flattened by an all-too-familiar metallic scent in the air. Extending a telepathic tendril, she brushed the surface of the intruder's thoughts. Only the surface; hard, smooth, and cold. Despite the blood-bond they shared as mentor and pupil, he never allowed her into the depths of his mind. Lord Volnar.
She drew the front door shut and fastened the deadbolt. She didn't need to ask how he'd got in, since he had a key. But she couldn't imagine why he was visiting, with no prior notice. Now that she was too old to need constant supervision, she saw her adviser only a few times a year, a schedule of which she heartily approved. And their last meeting had occurred only nine days earlier.
She marched into the living room, folded her arms, and glared down at the man seated on the low, sea-green sofa. In the dark room, his eyes gleamed red. "What are you doing here? I'm not a kid anymore. You can't just barge in anytime."
With a tight smile, Volnar gestured at the other end of the couch. "Sit down, Gillian."
As she did so, perching stiffly on the edge of the cushion with her hands clutching each other in her lap, his nostrils flared, and his thick eyebrows arched. Not for the first time, she observed how much he looked like Stoker's description of Dracula in the original novelaquiline profile, high forehead, iron-gray hair, thick mustache, eyebrows meeting over the nose. She knew there must be a story behind that resemblance, one he'd never told her.
"At least you could've called first."
"Pointless," he said. "You would have wasted time trying to persuade me to stay away."
"You bet I would. I don't need you hovering over me anymore. So what's wrong? I haven't done anything I can think of."
His smile widened to bare his teeth. "Why do you assume I'm here to chastise you? I have good news."
Suspicious of Volnar's idea of "good news," Gillian didn't quite relax, but she did sit back and unclasp her tightly entangled fingers. "What's going on?"
"Last time I visited, I noticed a change in your body chemistry, yourfragrance. Now it's more obvious. I'm sure of ityou're about to go into estrus."
"What?" Her heart accelerated. She drew a deep breath and willed her pulse to a slow, even rhythm. "Happy, happy, joy, joy," was not her first reaction. "That's impossible. I'm only twenty-six. I shouldn't start for another four years."
"That's the typical pattern for our species. You are not typical. You're one-fourth Homo sapiens, completely unpredictable."
"I did start needing to feed onhuman preyyounger than normal. But thisI'm not ready. Can't you do something to stop it?" She realized the silliness of that plea almost before the words emerged from her mouth.
"Stop it? Child, this is an unprecedented opportunity. With your human genes, anything is possible. You might even be fertile at your first heat. If so, we mustn't waste it."
Her throat tightened with anxiety. * Maybe he's right. The way I reacted to that policeman*
"If I really am going to be fertile a week or two from now, the last thing I want is to get pregnant. You know how I feel about that stupid breeding program of yours."
"Young lady, without that `stupid program', you wouldn't exist. I've lavished enormous amounts of time and energy on you. I expect cooperation. You know how our birthrate has dropped over the past few centuries."
"Of course I know. You never let me forget it. Human DNA is going to revive our gene pool, I have a duty to the race, yada, yada." Momentarily she wondered where she got the nerve to be rude to her adviser, the most ancient of their kind.
He showed no anger. With his power, he didn't have to squander emotion. "I never let you forget it because it's important. You can certainly spare a little of your time for the good of your people."
"A little time!" She jumped to her feet and paced around the room, fists clenched at her sides. "Eleven months of pregnancy, three or four years of breast-feeding"
"Out of a lifetime that will last for millennia. Calm yourself and think rationally. You have to mate with someone. The compulsion is irresistible. So you may as well accept my choice."
"Your what?" That couldn't mean what it sounded like.
"Unless you already have someone in mind? No? I assumed not."
Her nails dug into her palms. She flexed her fingers to ease the muscle spasms. "You're not saying you've picked a mate for me?"
"Of course. If you're capable of conceiving, we can't leave the father to chance. Since you have little or no background to base a choice on, it's logical for me to make that decision."
"Now wait just a minute!" She choked down the rage boiling up in her throat. She knew her aura must be sparking like a thundercloud. His remained as serene as ever. "I pick my own mate! Females of our species always do. You can't take that right away from me."
"You are not an ordinary female. While it's unlikely that you'll ovulate the first time, in view of your heritage"
"Damn my heritage!" Lightheaded with anger, she breathed deeply until the red mist cleared from her vision. "Those human genes you keep lecturing about come from my father, and he hates the whole idea of this selective breeding crap as much as I do. He wouldn't put up with this for one minute."
Volnar's eyes hardened. "He has nothing to say about it. In view of his human mind-set, I've allowed him an unusual involvement in your upbringing. But not something this important." He stood up, though he didn't approach her. "Don't you want to know whom I've chosen?"
"Doesn't matter, because I won't do it."
"Luciano Rossi. A good bloodline, proven fertile, but he hasn't yet sired enough offspring to cause problems with future inbreeding, if he should succeed in impregnating you."
"You've got to be kidding." A futile outburst, since her adviser never joked. She visualized Luciano, slightly over five centuries old, born in Italy, with dark, wavy hair in dramatic contrast to his vampire-pale skin. Attractive, no doubt about it, probably a ravishing success with human females.
"I know what he thinks about `half-breeds' and `lap dogs who pretend to be wolves' and contaminating the gene pool with lower life forms. I overheard him ranting about it once, not that he tried very hard to keep me from listening. I can't stand him."
"That's irrelevant," said Volnar with a dismissive wave of his hand. "It's not as if you're expected to marry each other, like ephemerals. One night and you never have to see him again."
"Yeah, well, one night is about twelve hours too long." She flung herself down on the sofa. "Why are we arguing about it? Luciano would never want me, anyway."
"On the contrary, he has already agreed."
Her pulse stuttered in renewed shock. "You asked him without even talking to me first? You" When she'd forced her emotions back under control, she said, "Oh, I understand. He wants to get on your good side. The Prime Elder favors interbreeding with ephemerals, so Luciano decides to have a change of heart. That's the only reason he could possibly have to mate with a half-breed."
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter