Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 86 (November 2012)
- Welcome to the November 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/
Here's where you can order all issues of my discontinued fanzine, THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT, in bargain bundles of two or three issues each:
Lionheart Distribution is closing its website down at the end of November, so this month is your last chance to buy print copies of THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT. After that, I will be giving away PDF files of individual issues for free on request.
This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
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):
And now there's a shortcut URL to my author page on Amazon:
In case you'd like to get a Kindle edition of my chapbook of weird poetry, DAYMARES FROM THE CRYPT, with a lovely cover by Karen Wiesner, it's for sale at the bargain price of 99 cents:
Ellora's Cave has just published my erotic paranormal romance novella "Calling Back Love" in their "Hex Appeal" (witches and wizards) theme month. The opening scene is excerpted below. I think this story has one of my best covers yet. Find more information here:
I'm interviewing Amber Skyze, another of my fellow Ellora's Cave authors.
I hope everybody had a fun and spooky Halloween. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it this month!
Interview with Amber Skyze:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I was a stay at home mom and did a lot of reading. After awhile I grew tired of what I was reading and figured I could "do that". Ha! It wasn't as easy as I thought.
2. What genres do you write in?
Contemporary and Paranormal
3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
Somewhere in between. I usually start with a title or character. I'll know what he or she will be overcoming and then I wing it from there. J
4. What do you consider the special challenges of writing erotic romance? What background research did you do before writing BDSM?
The challenges I find is unique places and positions. I've written over thirty books each with at least three sex scenes. As far as research I have a lot of BDSM books and my hubby does a ton of online research for me.
5. Why did you decide to self-publish some of your work? Did you run into any particular difficulties? What do you consider the pros and cons of this choice?
To be honest had one of my publishers not folded I'm not sure if I would have taken the plunge so soon. I found myself with seven books that didn't have a home and I was seeing how well others were doing with self-publishing. I decided to give it a shot with those books. The pros most of the money is mine. The cons all the formatting, editing, etc is my cost. ;)
6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
I'll be self-publishing two more books, Talk Dirty to Topaz and Sliding Home
7. What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on a BDSM ménage about second chances in a marriage.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don't give up on your dreams. If seeing your work is your dream, learn your craft, write every day and go for the gold.
9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog? Where else can we find you on the web?
My website is: www.amberskyze.com
and my blog is: http://amberskyze.blogspot.com
You can also find me on Facebook Amber Skyze
Thanks so much for having me!!!!
Bringing Out the Naughty Side in You
Some Books I've Read Lately:
WINTER'S BONE, by Daniel Woodrell. Having recently watched the movie adaptation of this 2006 book, I decided to read it. I found the novel more depressing than the film, an effect slightly mitigated by the highly polished, literary writing, almost lyrical despite the grim content of some of the described places and events. In keeping with the title, winter's cold pervades every outdoor scene. Set in the present day in the Ozarks, WINTER'S BONE centers on Ree Dolly, a girl of seventeen living in grinding poverty against a backdrop of rural mountain beauty. Her father, a backwoods drug dealer like virtually all the men in her extended family, has spent a lot of time in jail. Her mentally ill mother has withdrawn from life, so Ree has to take care of her as well as the two younger children (two boys in the book, a brother and sister in the movie). She does her best to hold the family together while making her brothers go to school and teaching them such skills as hunting and cooking as well as the ethos of the mountain community. When the story opens, Ree learns her father has vanished a week before a scheduled court appearance and has posted bond with the family's house and landall they ownas security. She sets out to find and bring him back. Her inquiries of various close-mouthed relatives lead her to conclude that her father has been killed. To save the property and keep the family intact, she has to prove him dead. Everybody wants her to stop asking questions, with nobody giving her real support except her lifelong best friend, a young woman wedded in a shotgun marriage to a man who treats her as a poor second choice. The setting, aside from the natural scenery, is grungy with poverty and dirt, and most of the characters are distinctly unlikable, gruff or downright abusive to Ree and living on the wrong side of the law. Yet the story is compelling, and because the author grew up in the location he writes about, it feels painfully authentic. I can't say it has a happy ending, but it does have a good ending. Ree comes through her ordeal and prevails.
REFLECTIONS, by Diana Wynne Jones. Fans of this author and anyone interested in how a writer's mind operates will want to read this collection of essays "On the Magic of Writing." It includes a foreword by Neil Gaiman, memorial essays by two of Jones's sons, and a long autobiographical article by her, as well as footnotes, an index, and a checklist of her works (although labeled a bibliography, it's not, exactly, because it doesn't cite publishers, only dates). Jones writes about THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the value of fantasy and imagination, the origins of some of her novels, her creative process, advice to young writers, her early life, and many other intriguing topics. Her witty style keeps the reader riveted even though, as we're warned up front, the different pieces written over several decades necessarily include some repetition. Jones had a bizarre childhood as one of three daughters of eccentric, neglectful, emotionally abusive parents, a demonstration of how a creative person can overcome painful experiences and transform them into art.
IN THE TALL GRASS, by Stephen King and Joe Hill. This short piece, a collaboration between King and his son, is available only in e-book and audiobook. Its premise bears an immediately obvious resemblance to King's earlier story about an abandoned rest stop, where a monster in the shape of a car devours anybody who wanders near it. In this new story, a young man and his sister (who's unmarried and pregnant) park next to an overgrown field because they hear a little boy calling for help. The grass is so tall that a child or even a short adult couldn't see over it. Right away an ominous detail enters the picture when the protagonists hear the boy's mother urging him to be quiet because "he'll hear us." The brother heads into the field to find the boy and guide him out. Soon afterward, the sister follows. They can hear each other and the crying child, but nobody can see anybody else. As the reader would expect, the characters wander in circles without getting any closer to each other or the road that looks impossibly far away in contrast to the short distance they seem to have walked. Another layer of fear is piled on when the boy's father shows up, possessed by a hungry, murderous entity. Eventually we discover the source of the curse, a mysterious stone in the middle of the field, but not its origin or purpose. This story is vintage King horror in the classic style, with no good outcome possible.
DODGER, by Terry Pratchett. This novel set in Victorian London has no fantasy elements, although Pratchett calls it a "historical fantasy." It does have a sort of fantastic atmosphere, with hints of the numinous in unexpected places. As discussed in Pratchett's afterword, several real people appear in the story, including Charles Dickens, Robert Peel (founder of the modern British police force), and Sweeney Todd, as well as lesser-known figures. The reader can assume seventeen-year-old Dodger is meant to be the model for Dickens's Artful Dodger in OLIVER TWIST. Pratchett's Dodger (he prefers that nickname over the name foisted on him in the orphanage) lodges with Solomon Cohen, a Russian Jewish refugee who, unlike Dickens's Fagin, not only doesn't teach his young friend to steal but vehemently urges him not to. Dodger makes his living as a tosher, someone who scours the sewers for valuable objects that have washed down the drains. He has given up active thievery in deference to Solomon's wishes but can't resist the frequent temptation to pick up things that he finds "just lying around." Like most toshers, Dodger believes in the Lady, an avatar of Cloacina, goddess of the sewers, worshiped by the Romans who originally built the sewers of London. The numinous element enters the story in occasional scenes when Dodger appears to get a hint of the Lady's presence in answer to his awkward prayers. The novel begins with a dramatic scene in which Dodger rescues a badly beaten young woman from men trying to force her into a coach. With the help of Solomon, certain highborn people, and a colorful cast of London street characters, Dodger sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding the girl, whom he names Simplicity, and save her from the villains pursuing her. She turns out to be a European aristocrat fleeing from an abusive marriage. Dodger, brilliant and adaptable but barely literate and ignorant of most matters outside his local environment, saves the day while making connections with powerful people, learning more about the wider world, and accidentally becoming a public hero. The London of this book has a strong atmospheric resemblance to Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld novels, including convoluted political machinations and copious references to bad smells and the filth of the river. Sly allusions to other Dickens works besides OLIVER TWIST lurk in the text to entertain the alert reader.
THE CASUAL VACANCY, by J. K. Rowling. You could hardly find a book more different from the Harry Potter series than Rowling's first novel for adults. It's mainstream fiction with no fantasy elements whatever. (It's not even a murder mystery, which was the vague impression I got from the early announcements.) The writing style is different, more "literary," with almost none of the Tom Swiftlies the Potter books have been criticized for. It has no individual protagonist, being populated by an ensemble cast of multiple viewpoint characters, many of whom carry equal weight in the narrative. If published anonymously, this novel wouldn't be easily identified as a product of the same author who created Harry Potter. Two tenuous resemblances: The presence of an omniscient narrator in the background and a throng of quirky characters. The characters in THE CASUAL VACANCY, however, unlike most of those in the Potterverse, are quirky in unappealing ways. My dominant impression is that many of them aren't very nice and most of them don't like each other. The reader has to dig deep to find any trace of the essential goodness embodied in Harry and his inner circle of friends. The casual vacancy of the title refers to an empty slot on the parish council of the village of Pagford, caused by the sudden death of council member Barry Fairbrother. Whoever takes his place will control the decision on whether the Fields, a poor, drug-ridden neighborhood, will remain part of Pagford or return to the jurisdiction of the nearby larger town. Rivalries and scarcely buried hostilities break out in the controversy leading up to the vote for a replacement. The reader has little emotional stake in who wins Fairbrother's vacant seat, which essentially functions as a MacGuffin to provoke the characters' emotionally volatile reactions to the issue and each other. Although there is no single identifiable protagonist among the vividly drawn personalities, attention is gradually focused on several abused, neglected, or misunderstood teenagers, such as a boy who, if not quite a sociopath, seems determined to train himself to become one. These young people, unlike Harry, have nobody to rescue them from their mundane lives and introduce them to a secret realm of magic. The fate of one of them, Krystal, a bright, foul-mouthed, combative girl who struggles to care for her little brother under the burden of her mother's drug addiction, draws the plot threads together and triggers a climax that leads to some degree of reconciliation in the midst of tragedy. "Tragedy" not in the sloppy journalistic sense (very sad event) but in the strict literary sense (calamity brought upon the characters by their own flaws and disastrous choices). If this hadn't been a Rowling novel, I would never have picked it up, and I'll borrow any further mainstream fiction of hers from the library instead of buying it. Still, the characters and their plights captured my attention, and the poignant ending stayed with me.
Excerpt from "Calling Back Love":
The leather-bound notebook lay open on the redwood kitchen table, its scrawls of black ink a mockery of Kirsten's faint hopes. "I've scoured every page of Grandmamma's Book of Shadows. I can't find one word about what I need." She slammed the book shut. "Not a thing about restoring life to a person killed before his time."
"And you won't." Estelle shook her head, the spring of her salt-and-pepper curls punctuating the decree. "No magic can call back the dead. And even if it could, you know that never ends well. You've read `The Monkey's Paw' and that book by Stephen King."
"But I can't leave it like this. When we talked on Skype the night before his last patrol, we had another fight about his career. I came this close to making him choose between the Army and me. We didn't have a real goodbye. If there's any way magic can give me one more chance, I'll take it." In the two months since the report of Shawn's presumed death in Afghanistan, the memory of that argument had been eating her alive.
"When I promised your grandmother I'd mentor you in the Craft, I accepted certain responsibilities, one of which is to stop you from making reckless choices."
Kirsten rubbed her eyes, sore from yet another crying fit just before she'd come here, and stared at her mentor with wild hope. "You wouldn't talk about stopping me if it weren't possible in the first place. Okay, witchcraft can't bring the dead back to life. How about calling up his spirit so we can have one last conversation?"
"Have you ever seen me conduct a séance? Me or any other responsible witch? It's against nature to disturb the peace of the dead." Estelle strolled to the counter to pour two mugs of coffee. The window over the sink framed her silhouette against a serene background of sun-dappled trees, a mockery of the turmoil that racked Kirsten. Her teacher's spacious kitchen with its granite floor, exposed oak beams and aromas of drying herbs usually welcomed her with its warmth. Today it felt as bleak as the rest of the world.
"I don't believe he's at peace. He was blown to bits on a mountainside with nothing left to bring home." Survivors of the platoon had reported two explosions, the second of which had obliterated Shawn. No remains had been found, not even a minute fragment, hence the "missing and presumed dead" conclusion that left him in official limbo. "We were supposed to get married after he finished this tour. The IED stole that from us. I'm not at peace with that so how can he be, wherever he is?" She shoved aside the mug Estelle set in front of her.
The older woman clasped her hand across the table. "When the gift for magic skipped your mother, your grandmother entrusted your training to me. She'd find a way to rise up and haunt me if I let you risk yourself with any such dark working."
"There you go again, hinting at something you're hiding from me. Well, maybe I don't need your help. There's got to be somebody on the left-hand path who'll teach me what I need to know."
Estelle's thin face hardened, as stern as an avenging angel's, her blue eyes turning icy. "Don't even think that. Do you imagine for one minute the Goddess would shelter you from the consequences?"
"Where was She when Shawn died on that mountain?" Kirsten stood up and paced around the room, feeling she might explode if she sat still another second. "Last night I remembered something that happened when I was really little, five or six. My pet rat died."
Estelle froze, staring at her.
"Grandmamma happened to be visiting that day. I peeked into my bedroom and there she was, holding Snowy in the palm of her hand. She whispered some words and he started moving. Somehow I knew I wasn't supposed to see that so I never said anything. But I know what I saw. Mom said Snowy must have just been sick but I know Grandmamma brought him back to life."
"As you said, you were very young. You misunderstood. Your pet wasn't actually dead."
Kirsten folded her arms and glared at her teacher. "What happened to your core principles of truth in the Craft? I know better. He was dead and then he wasn't. As soon as I remembered that day, I knew magic could bring Shawn back to me."
"Your grandmother saw you crying your eyes out and felt you weren't ready to cope with death, even a pet rat's. Even then, she had misgivings about what she'd done. And a rat doesn't have the complex mind of a human beingdoesn't have the soul. It's not the same. Even if I'd mastered that spell, I wouldn't work it on a dog or a horse, much less a man."
"Followers of the left-hand path wouldn't have those misgivings. I'm serious. If you won't or can't help, I'll find somebody who will."
Her mentor sighed. "Sit down, girl. I'll probably regret this but there is one way you can have your last goodbye."
Her heart pounding, she whirled around and dropped into the chair. "How?"
"Not necromancy. I spoke the truth when I said magic can't bring back the dead, not as they were in life. I won't help you call up a ghost or a zombie. I'm referring to a spell that twists time, which is dangerous enough." She stood and headed for the door to the hallway. "Wait here."
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter