Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 10 (July 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
Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romance Blog:
My elf fantasy, PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS, is now available from
Cerridwen Press. You can see the cover in the Photos section of this
group on Yahoo. Kathy Samuels, reviewing for Romance Reviews Today
(www.romrevtoday.com), says, "The plot combines action, fantasy and
romance in such a way as to keep readers on the edge of their seat
waiting for whatever is going to happen next. . . . For an enjoyable
jaunt into the magic and romance of faerie, pick up Margaret L.
Carter's PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS." Valerie from Love Romances
(www.loveromances.com) says, "The reader will be captivated on the
first page and carried along on a wonderful, magical ride to a
satisfying ending that will make the reader sigh."
In my vampire series, the novella "Tall, Dark, and Deadly," which
focuses on the romance between Claude and Eloise (secondary characters
in CHILD OF TWILIGHT), formerly part of the Ellora's Cave anthology
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT 2, will be re-released by EC in
August as a stand-alone e-book. I've uploaded the cover to the Photos
page of this group.
Some books I've been reading:
THE HUSBAND, by Dean Koontz. Unputdownable suspense, like most of his
novels. This one has no SF or fantasy content. The protagonist, a
simple landscape gardener, gets a phone call from a man who claims the
hero's wife has been kidnapped and will be returned for a ransom of
two million dollars, an absurd request. Out of nowhere, the villains
shoot a seemingly random pedestrian across the street to illustrate
their determination. Scene by scene, the hero becomes more and more
boxed in, with antagonists who appear to be omniscient and who set up
the situation so that if his wife does die, he will be the obvious
suspect in her murder. I can't give any more details without spoiling
the twists and turns for the reader. The only thing about this book
that I consider inferior to Koontz's other recent works is the ending,
which I found not quite satisfactory. I don't think it's giving away
too much to mention that in the course of trying to find and rescue
his wife, the hero has to kill a couple of people and brutally assault
at least one more. The epilogue just skips ahead to the reassuring
aftermath without explaining how he manages to convince the
authorities that he committed all this mayhem in self-defense.
Nevertheless, I recommend this novel as a genuine page-turner.
VAMPS AND THE CITY, by Kerrelyn Sparks. Not so silly as the title
sounds. This novel contains a lot of humor but with an underlying
serious conflict. Heroine Darcy, a young vampire, works for DVN,
Digital Vampire Network. She wants to prove herself by producing a
reality show, a first for DVN, whose ratings among the vampire
population are falling because the shows are too imitative of ordinary
TV. In a previous book (but reading it isn't necessary to follow this
story) a master vampire fell in love with a mortal woman and therefore
had to give up his "harem" of female vampires. Totally dependent, the
newly freed women bitterly resent the prospective bride and, as a
second choice to getting their old master back, want to bond with a
new one. The reality program, "The Sexiest Man on Earth," will allow
the vampire ladies to pick a new master from the contestants. To make
the contest even more interesting, Darcy recruits several ordinary men
to compete with the male vampires. Austin, an agent of a top-secret
CIA division devoted to eradicating vampires, joins the show under
cover on orders from the vampire-hating father of the old master's
bride. At first Austin believes all vampires to be homicidal fiends.
Gradually, of course, he learns otherwise, as he falls in love with
Darcy, whom he at first assumes to be mortal. Naturally, she desires
him, too, but she doesn't think an undead woman and a living man, even
one with psychic powers, can find happiness together. Although the
successive rounds of the "Sexiest Man" competition involve lots of
funny moments, the conflict between Darcy and Austin's attraction to
each other and their respective reasons for fighting it provide
emotion and suspense. I always like fiction that presents vampires as
ethical beings with the ability to make choices between good and evil,
just like the rest of us, so I enjoyed watching Austin's progress
toward enlightenment. One after another, his erroneous prejudices
about vampires are overturned. The story does include one element I
don't usually like, the motif of "curing" vampirism, because I think
that plot device can be a cop-out from the really interesting
challenge of paranormal romance, two people of different species
learning to live together. The way it's handled in this book, however,
is convincing enough to work for me.
SMOKE AND ASHES, by Tanya Huff. The latest installment in the
adventures of Tony Foster, a spin-off from Huff's "Blood" series of
vampire mysteries (beginning with BLOOD PRICE). A former street kid,
Tony now works as Trainee Assistant Director on a syndicated vampire
detective series and moonlights, so to speak, as an apprentice wizard.
He gets his spells from a manual loaded on a laptop computer by a
sorceress from another dimension whom he met in the first novel, SMOKE
AND SHADOWS. Typically male, he hasn't bothered to read the
instructions. His affair with 400-plus-year-old vampire Henry Fitzroy,
illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has sensitized Tony to the occult
and made him a magnet for supernatural events. In this novel, Leah, a
stunt woman on the show, turns out to be the immortal handmaiden of a
demon worshiped as a god in the ancient Near East. The symbols that
form the Demongate are tattooed on her body. Her demon lord, whose
immaterial image Tony can see, draws energy from sex. A Demonic
Convergence descends upon Vancouver, and Tony, with the help of Leah,
Henry, and an annoying tabloid reporter, must banish the demons as
they appear and plug up the "holes" in reality. This book features
fast-moving supernatural adventure and snappy dialogue with plenty of
humor along the way, building up to an explosive climax. I confess I
skimmed many pages in the latter part of the story, though, because it
started to seem repetitious. In scene after scene, a demon appears,
Tony battles it, his allies (including some of the staff and cast of
the TV series, who know about the existence of the supernatural and
Tony's magic) gather around to support him, an exchange of witty quips
follows, and they argue about what to do next. Lather, rinse, repeat.
On the plus side, we see a lot more of Henry Fitzroy than we did in
the second book of the three so far published. Although his affair
with Tony has supposedly ended, the vampire prince still behaves
possessively toward his young former protegee. There are a couple of
sizzling, though brief, scenes of vampire sensuality. Nothing in the
second and third books, though, compares to the hilarious send-up of
vampire TV shows in SMOKE AND SHADOWS, peppered with in-joke
references no fan of FOREVER KNIGHT and/or BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
should miss. One small point that irritated me: I'd be happier if not
only the dialogue but the narrative voice weren't so infested with
unprintable language (language that used to be unprintable, at least).
Authentic for a former street kid, no doubt, but for me small doses of
the F-word and the S-word go a long way. How does Tony happen to end
up associating with a cross-section of people who ALL talk that way?
Nobody I know in real life does, not in the workplace or a social
setting in mixed company at any rate (and my husband spent over 30
years in the Navy). In my opinion, this form of "realism" ends up
making fictional dialogue sound LESS realistic.
HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, by Naomi Novik. The first of a trilogy one might
label "Horatio Hornblower with dragons." In an alternate history of
the Napoleonic Wars, aviators mounted on dragons support their
countries' land and sea forces. Captain Will Laurence of the Royal
Navy acquires a dragon egg from a captured French ship. For the good
of the nation, Laurence and his officers must attempt to harness the
dragon when it hatches. To Laurence's extreme dismay, the dragonet
chooses him for a partner. A position in the Aerial Corps is an
unbreakable commitment that doesn't allow any kind of settled life,
certainly not that of a landed gentleman. Laurence loses his naval
career, his father's approval, and the girl he had considered
marrying. He gains the unique young dragon Temeraire, of a breed never
before seen in England. Most aviators share a deep bond with their
dragons (not psychic, as in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, but
emotional). Dragons talk, and most have intelligence at least equal to
human. Temeraire quickly becomes the center of Laurence's life.
Laurence is an engaging protagonist, and his dragon is a fascinating
blend of naivete and untrained power. The narrative voice and the
dialogue have a formal tone fitting the Regency era setting. Another
book I've read a lot about and mistakenly almost passed up. I
discovered it to be the kind of story I didn't want to end. The next
volume, THRONE OF JADE, takes Laurence and Temeraire to China.
CALIFORNIA DEMON, by Julie Kenner. Sequel to CARPE DEMON. The premise
of this series is: Suppose Buffy the Vampire Slayer grew up, retired
from slaying, and became a suburban soccer mom? Demon hunter Kate
Connor's partner and first husband died years ago, leaving her with a
daughter. She has since married a man who knows nothing about her
occult past. In CARPE DEMON, supernatural evil reenters her life, with
demons invading her town of San Diablo, California (cute name, but in
my opinion a weakness in terms of allowing readers to take the story
seriouslywhy would devout Catholic Spanish colonists name a village
"holy devil"?). She reluctantly resumes her demon-fighting career in
secret, while trying to take care of her teenage daughter, her
toddler son, and her husband, who's running for public office. In
CALIFORNIA DEMON a new crop of demons springs up. In addition to the
combination of humor and suspense in Kate's confrontations with evil
and her frantic attempts to cover up the incredible truth, she faces
disquieting revelations about her late husband. Fun, fast-moving books
with lively dialogue. The only factor I get impatient with is Kate's
insistence on keeping her "job" secret from her current husband. Her
desire to keep her family life untouched by the supernatural and her
fear that her husband wouldn't see or treat her the same way if he
knew the truth are believable motives. Still, they don't seem to
justify a policy of secrecy that creates such a formidable tangle of
complications, including her husband's wondering whether she's having
an affair. I feel about Kate's double life much as I always did about
Superman's refusal to reveal his identity to Lois Lane and marry her.
It's not working, so come clean, already! Anyway, I do like Kate and
the premise of the series, so I'm looking forward to the next novel.
Here's the first half of a complete story, "Prey of the Goat," sort of
a prequel to my Lovecraftian horror novel FROM THE DARK PLACES (Amber
Quill). The rest of the story will appear in next month's newsletter.
It was first published in THE SHUB-NIGGURATH CYCLE, edited by Robert
M. Price (Chaosium, 1994), no longer in print.
Prey of the Goat, Part 1:
The goat reared up on its haunches, the front hooves raised
like sacerdotal hands dispensing benediction. At least, the
creature's body, whiskered chin, and tortuous horns resembled a
goat's. In place of eyes it had a pair of tentacles. It was
female, too abundantly so. It had too many teats to count,
bunched like bloated grapes.
The amulet that bore this image was copper, aged to green
streaked with sea-blue. The reverse displayed only a few
scratches that could have been letters in some non-Roman
"You got this from who?" Father Michael Emeric scraped the
discolored metal with a fingernail.
"A lawyer in Boston," said his wife, Terri. "Here's his
letter -- see for yourself. They finally completed probating my
great-aunt's estate. What's so odd about her leaving me a
"When you met her exactly once, at a family reunion when you
were about five?"
Terri ruffled her naturally curly red hair in a
characteristic gesture of impatience. "Worrywart!"
Mike smiled at the familiar charge. He had to admit the
word had always suited his personality, first as a Navy doctor,
then as an Episcopal clergyman. "This amulet -- I have a
feeling." He slid it across the study desk to her.
She said with a toss of her head, "Ever since you wrote that
research paper on the occult in seminary, you've had feelings
"This time I'm not teasing. I seriously think there's
something wrong about it."
Terri perched on the edge of the desk. "Are you forbidding
me to wear it?"
Thoughtfully smoothing his prematurely gray hair, he smiled
again at the challenge in her green eyes. "Would it do any good
if I did? Wear the thing, if you want. You're probably right;
I haven't had a valid premonition in all these years. Why should
I start now?"
She slipped the silver chain over her head, and the amulet's
barbaric weight hung between her breasts.
"Now you'll have to run along," said Mike. "I've got a
counseling appointment in five -- no, four minutes."
"As usual," she sighed. "You're getting overworked. Your
first year as rector is up next month. How about that vacation
the vestry promised you? We could drive down to Big Sur."
"I'll think about it." He clasped her hand and briefly
pressed it to his lips.
After the study door closed behind Terri, a frown creased
Mike's high forehead. His research on obscure cults, several
years ago in seminary, had made him suspect that the occult
sometimes amounted to more than fraud or delusion. The effigy on
the pendant nagged at him, suggesting a connection with one of
the less harmless varieties of demon-worship. If only he could
recall where he'd seen that goat before.
At five thirty, as usual, Mike walked across from St.
Augustine's Episcopal Church to the rambling Victorian rectory
next door. Smelling roast beef as he passed the kitchen, he
concluded Terri must have finished her women's guild meeting in
time to start dinner. Hunting through the house for her, he
found her in the library, hunched over a sheaf of photocopied
pages. The amulet, still hanging from her neck, rested in the
palm of her left hand. Deep in study, she didn't hear him walk
in. In concerned silence he stared at her.
Former cult members he had interviewed for his research had
warned him that focusing on such phenomena could draw lethal
attention from certain -- entities. He had scoffed, with less
than complete sincerity. The pendant, combined with memories of
those warnings, made his spine prickle like a nervous cat's.
*Stop that!* Mike told himself. *That goes beyond "worrywart"
Arranging his face into placid lines, he stepped over to the
desk. Terri jumped when he touched her. "Oh! -- don't do that!
Mike, look what I've found."
He glanced at the papers. "Why are you digging into that
junk I copied from the Miskatonic University collection?"
Though he suspected his assumed casualness failed to fool
her, she didn't comment on it. "I just couldn't shake the idea
that I'd seen these symbols on the back of the amulet somewhere
before. Here." She jabbed at the page with a fingernail. "What
does that mean?"
He cupped the amulet in his palm, comparing its markings
with the passage she pointed out. Yes, there were the same
symbols, buried in a passage of seventeenth-century English.
"This sign represents Shub-Niggurath, otherwise known as the
Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young." He released the
necklace and hastily gathered the pages into their folder.
"Sounds like a fertility goddess," Terri said.
"It would be more accurate to say She is a perverter of
fertility. All the Ancient Ones -- according to legend -- are
interested in organic life only to feed upon it."
Terri fingered the copper disk. "Honestly, Mike, you talk
as if you really believe in these -- these demons from another
He smiled sheepishly. "Sounds like the name of a B science
fiction film, doesn't it? Of course I don't believe in them.
But I know the people who do can be dangerous, so the thing makes
me nervous." He took her hand. "Wasn't that the oven timer I
After dinner Terri rummaged through the walk-in pantry until
she found a jar of metal polish. While Mike answered letters at
the library desk, she knelt on the rug nearby, polishing the
amulet on a sheet of newspaper.
Later, in their gable-windowed bedroom, she tried on the
ornament in front of the vanity mirror. Bending over to get a
better view of her bosom, she twisted this way and that to make
the amulet catch the light. With her sheer, ankle-length
nightgown, the necklace made her look like a priestess of some
ancient Near Eastern cult.
Mike watched in dismay as she climbed into bed and reached
for the light. "You're not wearing that thing to sleep!"
She clutched the disk. "I like it."
"No chance," he said. "This, I really do forbid. You want
to strangle yourself with that chain?"
"Oh, all right," she said with a pout. She hung the chain
over the bedside lamp and switched off the light. "Now I can see
it if I wake up. Look how it glows in the moonlight." She lay
back with a contented sigh, gazing at the amulet.
When Mike woke suddenly at three a.m., he immediately felt
something was wrong. Felt it even before he became conscious of
what had wakened him -- Terri. She lay on her back, choking,
writhing, as if trying to throw off a suffocating weight. When a
touch had no effect on her, he grabbed her shoulders and shook.
Almost a minute passed before her eyes flew open. At once the
She stared up at him. "Mike?"
"Darling, what happened?"
"Oh, Mike -- I had a dream --" Her blank stare crumpled
into hysterical sobs.
For a couple of minutes he rocked her, stroking her head,
until she regained control of her voice. "It was on a hilltop in
the woods somewhere," she whispered, her face wet against his
bare shoulder. "There was a full moon -- a bloated, orange
harvest moon like in paintings -- and a statue. An idol. That
He involuntarily squeezed her tighter.
"There were people all around, dancing. One was sitting
cross-legged right under that statue, blowing on a shrill flute.
Not like music at all, torture to the ears. I'm not sure that
one was human -- his legs looked -- furry. There was a fire,
blue and green flames. Everybody was naked. They were making
love -- no, mating -- on the ground. Men, women, animals -- all
He kissed her forehead. "Stop, Terri."
"I have to tell it, have to get it out. One man stood up
and offered a naked baby to the idol, holding it upside down by
the legs. Everybody was chanting in some language I'd never
heard before. Then he pulled the baby's legs apart -- blood
gushed all over the goat --"
She took a long, shuddering breath. "And then the statue
came to life. Mike, it was so real, like a movie, not a dream.
No fuzziness, no distortion. I felt it all, the screaming, the
flute, the cool breeze, the heat from the fire. The idol grabbed
the baby in her hoofs -- they have claws on the ends -- and took
a bite out of it. Then she threw the body to the crowd.
Everybody started fighting over pieces of it -- trying to -- to
eat it. Then the goat stepped down into the crowd. She grabbed
the first man and forced him to -- forced him into her. He
screamed. I woke up."
Mike had to fight to keep his voice steady as Terri trembled
in his arms. "It's an axiom of dreams that the dreamer always
appears as a character. Where did you come into this?"
"Oh, Mike!" she moaned. "I was the goat!"
Sternly suppressing his own nausea and fear, Mike tried to
project an aura of comfort. If only he possessed some of those
paranormal abilities some people appeared to have, so that he
could simply will her to calm down. After Terri fell asleep, he
lay awake for a long time, her sweat-dampened gown clammy against
his naked skin.
He blamed himself for introducing the occult into their
lives, on however theoretical a plane. Terri had always seemed
so strong and flexible. She'd accepted his decision, after his
discharge from the Navy, to leave his medical practice for the
ministry. She adjusted with no outward trouble to the years in
seminary, the further years as assistant in several parishes,
culminating with the rector's position here at St. Augustine's in
San Francisco. Now that the two of them were supposed to be
settled, perhaps Terri would be better off resuming her own
career as a medical secretary. The duties of a priest's wife
weren't enough to occupy her lively mind. If they could have had
a baby ©© but years of trying had produced no conception, with
infertility tests failing to reveal the cause. Now that Terri
was well past thirty, they'd given up.
Why should a woman who had flowed with so many changes crack
up over such a small thing? Unless the amulet had some objective
power? Mike believed, contrary to some schools of thought among
Christians, that telepathy, dream experiments, and Rhine card-guessing
were harmless in themselves. So-called paranormal
powers, he'd come to accept, were latent in almost everyone,
waiting to be developed by exercise. But nonhuman, immaterial
intelligences, either indifferent or hostile to humanity? He'd
previously maintained skepticism about such entities. Satan was
a symbol of Evil, not a personal being; the deities and demons of
pagans were phantoms from the collective unconscious.
Yet if they did exist, lurking at the gates between
dimensions, might they not be attracted to anyone who mentally
trespassed on that frontier? Couldn't some malignant force have
inspired the sending of the amulet?
To Mike's surprise, after dressing the next morning Terri
hung the talisman around her neck.
"I can't believe you want to wear that thing," he said,
"after the nightmare you had."
He stared blankly at her as she admired herself in the
mirror. Was she play-acting to maintain her own morale, or had
her unconscious actually swallowed up the incident?
"But you aren't really going to wear it again all day, are
you?" he said, striving to keep his voice steady.
"Of course, I love it. And I'm sure it must be valuable.
Can I use the car to go get it appraised?"
"Not today, I have parish calls." That claim was a half-lie,
since his appointments wouldn't take up the entire day. He
would just have to invent other errands to keep the car out of
her reach. Never before had he actively deceived her, and he was
shocked at how smoothly he executed the maneuver.
He considered forbidding her to wear the necklace, even
removing it by force. Such an action, though, would only deepen
the obsession -- if that was what it was. When he left her reading
the Miskatonic photocopies in the morning and found her still
doing the same when he popped in for lunch, he decided the word
"obsession" was none too strong.
That night he was wrenched from sleep again, in quite a
He found himself in the murky atmosphere of an erotic dream.
Slowly the turgid, distorted images melted, replaced by a more
familiar picture of Terri astride him. After a while he realized
that his eyes were open, and the act was real. Terri's moist
heat engulfed him as she writhed violently, staring at some point
above his head.
He grasped her hips, but to his surprise she raked his
forearms with her nails and pushed his hands away. The momentary
pain made little impression on him. Instantly the languorous
pleasure transformed into overwhelming excitement.
Terri seemed unaware of his climax. There was no break in
the rhythm of her plunging. After a few seconds the motion
started to hurt him. "Terri -- please stop --"
She didn't seem to hear. He felt repeated stabs of pain.
Again he grabbed her hips, and again she scratched at him.
Prepared, he didn't let go this time. "Terri, stop!"
She emitted a scream that sounded more like rage than
With a sudden heave, he threw her off and rolled her onto her
back. Her hands flailed up to rip at his chest. Shifting his
grip, he pinioned her sweat-slick arms. He had to hold her down
with his full weight, and still she kicked and tried to bite.
He slapped her across the mouth.
She went rigid, then lapsed into open-eyed unconsciousness.
Panting, he leaned on one elbow and stared at her mask-like face.
He turned on the light and timed her pulse. It raced and
skipped. Her skin felt fever-hot.
Scrambling into pajama bottoms, he went into the bathroom
for a wet washcloth to swab her face and neck. During this
operation her eyes closed, but otherwise she remained inert, with
none of the normal response to cold water on bare skin.
Mike's mouth went dry with fear. He shrank from the thought
of taking her to the emergency room. He was suffering suspicions
any other doctor would call insane. If Terri were possessed --
*Are you out of your mind?* he berated himself. *That may have
happened in first-century Palestine. It doesn't happen today.*
By waffling instead of taking her straight to the hospital,
he could be endangering her life. On the other hand, a less
rational part of his brain whispered, if she really were
possessed, medical attention might do more harm than good.
He glanced at the amulet, hanging on the lamp again.
Whatever the truth of Terri's condition, the sight of the thing
made him sick. He put it into one of the small top drawers of
his bureau and locked the drawer.
The idea of possession gave him a thought that should have
occurred to him before. Out of Terri's jewel box he took a gold
cross on a delicate chain, his anniversary gift to her the year
he had graduated from seminary. Tiptoeing to the bed -- though
Terri showed no sign of noticing his presence -- he pressed the
cross against her forehead.
Her eyes snapped open. Her whole body arched toward the
ceiling. She emitted a canine howl he would have thought no
human throat could produce.
-end of first part-
Two fiction-related newsletters you might enjoy:
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For more information, visit:
To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
Cerridwen Press: www.cerridwenpress.com
Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
Hard Shell Word Factory: www.hardshell.com
Mundania Press: www.mundania.com
You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter