Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 8 (May 2006)
- Welcome to 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
Another of our sons has a new babya boy, Aiden, born on April first!
He's the third for this couple, bringing our grandchildren total to
seven. I've posted pictures on the newsletter's YahooGroups page.
Because I can't find a way to change the caption for the folder, it
still says "granddaughter," but it actually includes photos of both
Cerridwen Press (www.cerridwenpress.com) will publish my elf romance,
PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS, soon. The exact date hasn't been set. You
can see the cover in the Photos section of the YahooGroups page.
The April/May issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND has an article on
"mirror neurons," the components of the human brain that enable us to
learn by copying the actions of other people. These neurons may hold
the key to how we learn language and other skills, as well as how we
develop empathy for others. This process makes society and culture
possible. The startling discovery is that these nerves fire the same
way when we think about performing an action or watch someone else
perform it as when we do it ourselves. We rehearse actions prior to
doing them, almost literally "reflecting" upon what we observe or
think about. That fact helps to explain why we respond so strongly to
a movie or play (and has some troubling implications for such
phenomena as violent video games). Researchers "found that when people
listened to sentences describing actions, the same mirror neurons
fired as would have had the subjects performed the actions themselves
or witnessed them being performed." What awesome implications for our
responsibility as authors! A snippet from this article can be read at
the magazine's website, www.sciammind.com.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
THE HALLOWED HUNT, by Lois McMaster Bujold. This is the first novel
I've read by this writer. Although it seems to be part of a series,
the story stands alone perfectly well. Lord Ingrey, who is inhabited
(not exactly possessed) by a wolf spirit, has the task of escorting
Lady Ijada back to the capital for trial. She has killed a mad,
debauched prince in self-defense during a dark ritual. In the process,
she has been invaded by a leopard's spirit. Ingrey and Ijada are
irresistibly drawn together. A tangle of political and religious
intrigue swirls around them. Ingrey discovers that a high-born distant
relative, Wencel, also bears an animal spirit. Wencel, however, holds
deeper secrets connected to the "hallow kings" of the distant past,
overthrown by a more "civilized" culture that now rules the land.
Ingrey's struggle to control his wolf complicates his acquisition of
unwanted shamanic powers and his reluctance to trust anyone, including
the enigmatic Wencel, amid all the counterplots. To make matters
worse, the gods themselves seem to be interfering directly in Ingrey's
destiny. I don't want to give too much away by revealing Wencel's
ultimate goal. We gradually come to know the truth through the eyes of
Ingrey, an absorbingly complex, intelligent viewpoint character.
Bujold creates an atmosphere of slowly revealed deep, dark layers of
past centuries, steeped in myth and blood sacrifice, culminating in a
desperate rite performed on an ancient battlefield amid a throng of
undead warriors. Gave me some genuine shudders. Moreover, the
characters work through the terror and loss to an uplifting
consummation worth waiting for.
HIGH SCHOOL BITES, by Liza Conrad. A YA novel, the first of a series
called "The Lucy Chronicles," with the premise that Bram Stoker based
DRACULA on real events. Not a new concept, but this author takes it in
a fresh direction. The "real" prototype for Lucy survived to found a
lineage of women dedicated to battling vampires, especially Dracula
and his clan. The present-day Lucy has a best friend named Mina and a
sort-of boyfriend named Vic who is descended from the vampire lord.
Lucy learns of her ancestry and destiny at the age of sixteen, from
her late mother's diary. Several Stoker experts have suggested that
Count Dracula was based to some extent on world-famous actor Sir Henry
Irving, Stoker's employer. Conrad's book takes this theory to the
logical conclusion by postulating that Irving/Dracula IS a vampire,
literally, and has been hunting Lucy's female ancestors for over a
century. Lucy's father strikes me as an interestingly quirky and
sympathetic character, with his hermit-like existence in what Lucy
thinks of as the house of the Munsters. I enjoyed Lucy's meeting with
Christopher Van Helsing, a descendant (of course) of Stoker's
vampire-slaying professor. I did have a little trouble suspending
disbelief in the plot wrinkle that Christopher's father has spent
nineteen years in the form of Lucy's family's cat (since when have
vampires had the ability to change OTHER people into animals?), but
it's a fun concept anyway. The novel's main weakness, to me, is that
Vic, whose relationship with Lucy plays a central role in the plot,
isn't a very developed character. I felt little sense of the
attraction that drew her to get involved with him in the first place
or of the horror provoked by his imminent transformation into a
vampire. (In this universe, vampirism can be either hereditary or
traditionally contagious.) HIGH SCHOOL BITES, in my opinion, is an
entertaining read but comes across as a weaker version of what it must
inevitably remind the reader ofBUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Lucy doesn't
have the physical powers of the Slayer in the Buffyverse, but she does
possess psychic abilities beyond those of ordinary girls. She even
wrecks her school's homecoming dance in her climactic battle with
Irving/Dracula (who is onstage so briefly that he doesn't come across
as the powerful threat he should be), an ending similar to that of the
original BUFFY movie. On the positive side, Conrad has obviously done
thorough research into Stoker's life, and she displays a refreshingly
detailed knowledge of the plot and characters of DRACULA.
BOYS THAT BITE, by Mari Mancusi. Another YA vampire novel. At first I
found the narrator's exaggerated teenage-slang voice irritating, but I
gradually got used to it. I got a kick out of the premise of civilized
vampires who require their potential fledglings to sign a contract,
study texts on the vampire lifestyle, and undergo months of training
prior to conversion. The narrator, Sunshine, and her twin sister Rayne
have opposite personalities. Sunny is the cautious, rule-following
sister and Rayne the wild, rebellious one. When Rayne drags a
reluctant Sunny to a Goth club, vampire Magnus mistakes Sunny for her
twin and bites her, initiating her transformation into a vampire. At
the end of one week, she'll become a vampire if she doesn't find a
cure first. The repentant Magnus offers to aid her in the quest.
Unlike Rayne, Sunny has absolutely no desire to become one of the
undead, but she finds herself reluctantly attracted to Magnus. The
author clearly has fun with satirizing vampire pop culture references,
including the Slayer, who in this book is nothing like the noble,
self-sacrificing Buffy. Several twists enliven the plot, including one
at the very end that completely surprised me (and sets up the hook for
a sequel). Another facet of the novel that surprised me was the
casual, open treatment of sexual issues. Not that there's any explicit
sex, of course; Sunny is a virgin and plans to remain so. But Rayne
isn't, and the text doesn't make a big moral point about her
precocious experience. Clearly, contrary to the impression given by
some publishers' guidelines, not all YA romance falls into the sweet
and innocent category these days.
TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD, by Elizabeth Peters. One of my favorite
authors. If you aren't acquainted with her Egyptian mystery series
starring the inimitable Amelia Peabody Emerson, rush out and borrow or
buy CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, the first book in the series, before
reading this one. I guarantee if you like mysteries, you'll be hooked.
You really need to get to know Amelia, her distinguished archaeologist
husband, and their son Ramses from the beginning in order to fully
appreciate the latest installment in their saga. Long-time fans will
be happy to hear that the individual formerly known as the Master
Criminal (I'm not giving his name, because that would be a major
spoiler for new readers) plays a prominent part in this novel. Set in
1922, TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD shows the field of Egyptian antiquities
finally getting back to normal after the upheaval of World War I, and
Howard Carter is about to make a historic discovery. Yes, this novel
deals with the Emersons' behind-the-scenes role in the opening of King
Tut's tomb. Peters, aka Barbara Michaels and Barbara Mertz (her real
name), has a doctorate in Egyptology, so her historical fiction fairly
bristles with authenticity, and her witty style and suspenseful
plotting are unparalleled.
For fans of short stories, here's the beginning of "Technical
Adviser," from my story collection HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES
(Amber Quill Press). About half of these stories involve vampires, and
two of them (not vampire tales) rate "erotic" level in heat:
Excerpt from "Technical Adviser":
The vampire waylaid Charlotte at 11 p.m. as she strolled to her car in
the hotel parking lot. No Halloween-style special effects trailed in
his wake, just a half-moon in a cloudless sky and the light breeze of
a San Diego summer night. She thought she glimpsed a bat-winged shadow
but blinked and dismissed it as illusion.
At the sight of the crimson gleam in his eyes, she thought, *Contact
He stood a few yards away, blocking the driver's door of her Honda. He
carried a book, which he held up as he said, "Miss Winters?"
By the weak glow from a lamppost a few lanes over, she identified it
as her latest hardcover release, BLOOD FROM A STONE. *Oh, just a fan.*
"I'm sorry, the book signing ended an hour ago." Why did he accost her
here instead of in the middle of a crowded convention? She fingered
the zipper on her purse, thinking about the pepper spray can inside.
"I'm not here to get a book signed. I want to talk to you about the
inaccuracies and injustice your work perpetuates."
Great! A crazy fan! "Why don't you write me a letter instead?"
"I have--several. You never answered." He took one stride toward her.
*Of course not, I don't write back to the crazies.* Charlotte reached
into her purse and clutched the pepper spray. She glanced around the
deserted parking lot. *Where are the fans when I need them?*
"You don't really want to do that." Suddenly he stood beside her,
gripping her wrist.
She met his eyes and froze. *Yes, they glow--and I never saw him
move.* "That didn't happen. You're some kind of hypnotist."
"Can't we skip this part?" He sounded wearily exasperated, rather than
He wrapped his arms around her waist. She gulped. The ground dropped
from under her. An instant later, she found herself hovering at
second-story height above the parking lot. The wind sifted through her
hair and brought tears to her eyes.
In a vertiginous swoop, he deposited her next to a white minivan about
thirty feet away. With a wry smile, he handed her purse to her. "You
aren't dreaming or hallucinating. This isn't hypnosis or special
effects. Now that we have that out of the way, you're coming home with
me so we can discuss your books."
Grabbing his sleeve to offset the tremor in her legs, Charlotte
re-swallowed her stomach. "I don't think so!" She tugged at the chain
of the silver Maltese cross she wore--a prop she always donned for
public appearances--and thrust the ornament at him.
The man burst out laughing. "That's one of the inaccuracies. Get in."
He opened the passenger door of the van. When she didn't move, he
pried her fingers from the cross, stared into her eyes, and repeated,
Her head swam. The next moment, she was seated in the van, buckling
the seatbelt. *Neat trick! This would be a great way to escape those
amateurs hounding me with the 500-page handwritten manuscripts.*
-end of excerpt-
Two fiction-related newsletters you might enjoy:
Jewels of the Quill, a writers' group I belong to, has a newsletter
For more information, visit:
To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
Hard Shell Word Factory: www.hardshell.com
You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter