Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 24 (September 2007)
- 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:
Here's an interview with Jane Toombs, who writes in a wide range of
genres from numerous publishers, including Pinnacle, Zebra, Avon,
Silhouette, Amber Quill, New Concepts, and many others:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I don't remember any other inspiration than always knowing I wanted to
tell stories. Not verbally, but in writing. My father had a big old LC
Smith typewriter, and once I could read, he allowed me to use it when
he didn't need to. Which is why I still type with two fingers. Hard to
break that habit once you start doing it at age five. He was a
published non-fiction writer and, I realize now, must have been
pleased I was interested in writing. He critiqued all my attempts,
first commenting on something I'd done well, then telling me how to
fix what was wrong. I sold my first book, Tule Witch, to Avon without
ever taking a writing course--the result, I'm sure, of my father's
early guidance. I'm sad he didn't live long enough to see that book in
2. What genres do you write in?
I write in every genre except men's action and erotica. And, if I felt
I could credibly do those, I'd probably give them a try. But I do know
my limits. My favorite genre to read and write is paranormal.
3. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
Mundania is releasing the first book in the Far Darkness Trilogy, Fire
Griffin, any day now. It's a fantasy set in today's world and involves
symbiotes. I'm writing the second book, Weregriffin, as fast as I can.
Also Amber Quill Press is ready to release Love's Last Stand, a
historical romance set (of course) during Custer's Last Stand. And my
first Whiskey Shots: "Blood Calls To Blood" and "Moon Changers" two
dark fantasy novellas or short stories together in one ebook is due
out in September.
4. What are you working on now? Other than Weregriffin, I'm working on
a second story for another Whiskey Shots two-in-one. "It Isn't Mine!"
the ghoul story, is finished, and I'm half done with "Full Moon and
Empty Arms." Both dark paranormal fantasy with "sort of" romances.
Though I have trouble working on two novels at once, I find I can
switch between novel and short story with no problem--provided they
are both in the same genre.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Finish each book or short story you start. Every writer learns
something by finishing a book. If you find it impossible to finish,
then try to learn from classes or written how-to-write help why you're
having trouble and how to overcome it. If you have an ounce of talent
that's enough--as long as you bring to that talent a ton of
perseverance. Don't allow yourself to be discouraged by rejections. If
you're lucky enough to hook up with a critique partner or group,
listen to all comments and do your best to evaluate them, especially
if you hear the same thing from more than one critiquer--or editor. In
other word, try to improve and don't give up. Look at it this way--if
you do give up, you will never sell.
6. What's your website URL?
I also have one at BooksWeLove.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
THE OVAL PORTRAIT, by Michael Smolanoff. The author of this vampire
novel is a musician and film script writer whose erudition shows in
the many literary references in the text. The principal vampire,
Plutarch, is the classical biographer of that name, born in 45 A.D.,
with the long-range perspective appropriate to a being who has existed
for so many centuries. The title, of course, alludes to Edgar Allan
Poe's tale, which is reprinted in its entirety at the end of the book.
Accordingly, Gail, the heroine, is an artist's model whose lover,
John, obsessively paints her over and over in every conceivable pose
and style. Many of his paintings have disturbing themes, and Gail
feels controlled and exploited by him. Like the artist in Poe's story,
John in a sense vampirizes his lover by metaphorically sucking her
energy to feed his inspiration. When she meets the literal vampire
Plutarch, he appears to offer a welcome escape. He buys the painting
of Gail titled "The Oval Portrait" because he seems to recognize her
as the reincarnation of a past lover. (Since I don't care for the
reincarnation plot as used in too much vampire fiction, I'm glad this
motif isn't over-emphasized.) At first he seems plausibly generous,
ardent, and caring, but his negative traits soon reveal themselves.
With the help of her friend and therapist, Betty, Gail tries to deal
with her ambivalent relationship with Plutarch. He appears as cold,
egoistic, and driven more by aesthetic motives than any other desires,
a plausible personality for a creature who has existed as a predator
long enough to lose all touch with his humanity. This is a true horror
novel, containing violent deaths and an emotionally ambiguous
conclusion far from a "happy ending." For fans of the traditional
predatory vampire, THE OVAL PORTRAIT presents a striking portrait of
just such a character in all his uncompromising ruthlessness, with a
few intriguing surprises along the heroine's inexorably catastrophic
path. One stylistic feature that might prove distracting to some
readers, as it did to me: The narrative is written in present tense. I
don't find this technique conducive to immersion in the characters'
experience, as authors who use it seem to intend. On the contrary, its
obtrusiveness makes me feel distanced from the story (appropriate,
perhaps, to the chilly aestheticism of Plutarch's vampirism.)
Unfortunately, the text needed a second pair of eyes to proofread and
correct random lapses into past tense, sometimes for a sentence or two
in succession, sometimes even for just half of a sentence. You can
find the book at Amazon.com or PublishAmerica.com.
IVY COLE AND THE MOON, by Gina Farago. This is another true horror
novel, or at the least a dark fantasy. The werewolves in this story
hunt and kill under the full moon, whether for good or evil motives or
simply from predatory instinct. Although the ending isn't completely
tragic, happiness eludes the characters in whom we have the most
emotional investment. Ivy Cole, a young woman of Appalachian and
German parentage, has sought refuge in a small town in the mountains
of North Carolina. She uses her lycanthropic power for good, to
eliminate people who "need killing," such as the abusive husband of a
friend. Another werewolf stalks the area, though, one who seems
indiscriminately violent. The town sheriff, Gloria Hubbard, suspects
either a human homicidal maniac or someone of similar inclinations who
has trained a dog to kill for him. Ivy, with her reputation as a
gifted dog trainer, comes under suspicion. One of the sheriff's
deputies, Melvin Sanders, begins to fall in love with Ivy. Meanwhile,
the other werewolf becomes obsessed with the idea of making her his
mate. The small-town Southern mountain setting is vividly rendered,
the large cast of characters lifelike and mostly sympathetic. Ivy's
inner life convincingly portrays the personality of a woman who
embraces her dual nature as human and wolf. At first I was
disappointed to find that the origin of her lycanthropy seemed to be
the movie-cliche device of contagion through biting, a way of becoming
a werewolf unknown in folklore, but it turns out to be a little more
complicated than that. Ivy's aunt, who knows her secret, is a
disturbingly ambiguous character, and Ivy's gradually revealed past
lends depth to her story.
A DISTANT MAGIC, by Mary Jo Putney. In this historical fantasy romance
set mostly in the eighteenth century, Jean Macrae, from a family of
magical Guardians but supposedly possessing only modest powers
herself, meets Nikolai Gregorio, a former Maltese street urchin who
believes Jean's father betrayed him into slavery at the hands of
Barbary pirates. Nikolai kidnaps Jean as revenge against her family.
They intensify each other's latent magic, however, and Jean draws upon
Nikolai's power to save his ship from a storm. As they get to know
each other, attraction grows between them, and their mutual vow to
combat the evils of slavery has a surprising result. They summon from
the future an African priestess and former slave, Adia, who charges
them with the task of working to make the abolition of slavery a
reality. With the help of other adepts on Nikolai's private island
paradise, he and Jean are sent into the future. They time-jump between
important turning points of the abolition movement, meeting
distinguished historical figures and finally landing in 1807. Although
I love all of Putney's historical fiction, I did find the later part
of this novel less compelling than the tension-filled earlier phase of
the hero and heroine's relationship. The only real suspense in their
time-travel adventures, for me, was the question of whether they would
eventually get home to their own time or have to live out their lives
in the nineteenth century (and whether Adia would be stuck in what,
for her, is the past). Still, I recommend the novel and am eager to
reread the previous book in the series, STOLEN MAGIC, to get
re-acquainted with the characters from that book who show up in
important secondary roles in this one. A DISTANT MAGIC has an
interesting afterword discussing the British abolition movement and
the real people Putney has woven into her story.
THE CASE AGAINST ADOLESCENCE, by Robert Epstein. I became aware of
this book through an article summarizing its thesis in SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN MIND. Epstein, a psychologist, advances the premise that
teenagers are *not* typically lazy, incompetent, immature, and
impulsive as popular belief has it. He deconstructs the notorious
"teen brain" hypothesis widely reported in the media. To my
astonishment, the best-known experiment on which that conclusion rests
involved only 24 subjects (!) and, as described by Epstein, doesn't
even necessarily prove what the reports claimed it proved.
(Furthermore, Epstein reminds us that observed changes in brain wiring
can be the result rather than the cause of behavioral changes.) Well,
inaccuracy and sensationalism in news stories about science don't
surprise me, but this author goes far beyond debunking the "immature
teenage brain" theory. He maintains that "adolescence" as we know it
is a cultural, not a biological, phenomenon, pointing out that it
didn't exist as a concept in most of the world's societies throughout
history. He quite rightly reminds us that in preindustrial cultures
teenagers were considered young men and women, not overgrown children.
Rather than rebelling against adults, they were in the process of
becoming adults and worked alongside their elders in productive
occupations. Even today, many societies don't suffer from the teenage
rebellion, angst, and turmoil we think of as normal and inevitable;
however, when these cultures become saturated with Western products
and ideas, their young people often begin to think and act like
American adolescents. I notice some weaknesses in the way he presents
his background information. For instance, it would be easy to get the
impression that he thinks the anti-child-labor laws of the late
nineteenth century were altogether bad, which he surely isn't saying.
On the whole, though, his premises appear sound to me. Epstein
attributes our teenagers' problems to their "infantilization"
resulting from the "artificial extension of childhood." American
teenagers are subject to more restrictions on their freedom than the
average incarcerated felon. (I've read somewhere else the idea that
our treatment of children, in terms of freedoms and responsibilities,
is exactly backwards. We expect too much maturity of little kids, such
as making them sleep alone in a dark room from birth and placing them
in a highly structured school environment in kindergarten with a
curriculum that used to be postponed to first grade or later. Yet we
bar our teenagers from meaningful work, criminalize much of their
behavior with mindless "zero tolerance" rules, and stifle their free
expression in speech, clothing, etc.) So far, my reaction to THE CASE
AGAINST ADOLESCENCE is "right on, preach it, brother!" His proposed
solution, however, is more controversial. He would like to see young
people of any age (though he hints that, in practice, the
decision-making competence he considers the potential of most kids
probably doesn't begin much before age thirteen) who can pass standard
"competency tests" given adult status in whatever area they've passed
the test for. Yes, even drinking, sex, and marriage (as was the case
in most cultures throughout historyremember, Juliet wasn't quite
fourteen). He proposes a drinking license or cigarette-buying license,
similar to a driver's license and revocable if the holder breaks the
rules associated with this privilege. The permissible school-leaving
age would be lowered, with education spread out over a lifetime and
tailored to the individual's needs. In lots of ways, his utopian
vision of integrating teenagers into the adult world, with as much
responsibility they can prove themselves ready for, appeals to me. But
it won't happen, given the vehement opposition even the most modest of
his proposals would incite if anyone tried to translate them into
practical social policy. The biggest problem with his plan, to me, is
that we'd still have the intractable economic realities that underlie
the "artificial extension of childhood": Very few people can support
themselves independently without those 22 or more years of schooling
we've come to accept as the norm. And it's hard to work at a
self-supporting job while attending school full-time. Our entire
educational system would have to be re-structured. Which is one of
Epstein's proposals, but it's even less likely to come to pass than a
drinking license for high school students. At age eighteen, I would
have wholeheartedly endorsed Epstein's program. Now, having survived
the teen years of our four sons, I have a more ambivalent reaction; I
find some of his suggestions more than disturbing. Still, they
comprise a serious attempt to tackle a grave social problem. I've
rambled on at unusual length about this book because it's very complex
in its treatment of the subject, and because the issue is so
important. Try to find a copy at your public or college library. It
will stir up some uncomfortable thinking.
Since I haven't included an excerpt from my vampire novel CRIMSON
DREAMS yet, here's a snippet from the opening scene. This is a
prologue set a few years before the main action:
The first time she saw her dream-beast, she thought her date's car had
just missed killing it.
Heather Kincaid sat wedged against the front passenger door of Ted
Gaines' car, wincing every time he whipped around another curve on the
dark mountain road. He glared straight ahead through the windshield as
the car roared toward her family's summer cabin at ten miles over the
Even though she'd just turned eighteen, her parents had expressed
doubts about Heather going out alone with Ted, who had a reputation
for being "wild." But he was, after all, a cross-country star at the
local high school and son of the local storekeeper whom they knew from
years of summer visits. Heather had been thrilled when he'd asked her
out, shy bookworm that she was.
She didn't feel so thrilled now, after they'd parked at the scenic
turnoff and she'd had to bat his hands away one time too many.
Eyes flashed in the headlights, and something darted across the road.
Ted swerved, with a squeal of tires.
Heather caught sight of a second figure charging in the wake of the
deer. Man? Beast? The shape conveyed nothing normal to her brain. But
the car was about to ram it--
"Ted, stop!" She wrenched the wheel away from him, and the car veered
away from the creature.
Ted slammed on the brakes. The car screeched to a stop with a
bone-jarring jolt, and the engine stalled.
In the headlights' beam, Heather saw a hulking thing with glowing red
eyes glance at them, then lurch toward the bushes on the roadside.
Ted seized her wrist and yanked her hand off the steering wheel. "Are
you crazy? What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Didn't you see him? I think you hit him."
"What are you talking about? All I saw was a stupid deer."
"There was a man, too! Or maybe some other animal--something." She
felt lightheaded; her pulse pounded in her temples.
"You're seeing things." He started the ignition.
"Wait a minute, we have to find out if he's hurt."
"Is this some kind of excuse to get away from me?"
"No, Ted, I really saw another--" Person? She didn't know; the whole
experience had been a blur. But she couldn't just ride away. She
opened her door.
"I'm warning you, if you get out, you can just walk home."
"Fine! There's a full moon." Clutching her purse, she stepped onto the
shoulder and slammed the door. The car peeled out and vanished around
the next curve.
*Real smart, Heather,* she scolded herself. *The cabin's at least
three or four miles from here. I'll bet I won't get to go on another
date till I'm thirty.* Never mind that now; she had to find out
whether the car had really hit someone. She peered along the
embankment at the edge of the woods.
A rustle in the underbrush drew her attention. She picked her way down
the slope. As her eyes grew accustomed to the moonlight, she made out
a shape crouched under a bush.
For a second, the creature looked inhuman. A lupine muzzle contorted
in a snarl. Then the apparition melted into the face of a man with
crimson, glowing eyes.
*Ted was right, I am seeing things!* Trembling, she edged closer.
*Trick of the light, that's all.* "Hey," she called in a shaky voice.
"Are you hurt?"
The voice certainly sounded human. She glimpsed dragging movement, as
if he unsuccessfully tried to stand.
"No, you are hurt. I'd better get some help."
"No!" The snarl in his voice paralyzed her. "It's only my leg, thanks
to your quick action. The doe is right over there." She heard him drag
in a rasping breath before he continued. "Its neck is broken. Bring it
His voice compelled her. She didn't stop to question again until she
leaned over the still-warm body a few yards away. *What does he want
with the deer? And why am I doing this?* she wondered as she grasped
the animal's forelegs and dragged it closer to the injured man.
As soon as she came within the man's reach, he grabbed the animal and
shoved her away. "Stay back--not safe--" He rolled over and buried his
face in the doe's belly.
*What's he doing? Is he some kind of maniac?* In spite of his warning,
she tiptoed nearer and knelt down, trying to see what he was doing.
After several minutes, he raised his head. She saw a dark stain around
"I told you to stay back."
Heather scrambled to her feet, ready to flee. Too late--she didn't see
the man move, yet he was at her side, his fingers around her wrist.
With his other hand he wiped the--blood?--from his mouth.
"I mean you no harm. I owe you thanks for your help. Without it, I
might have lain there for hours, in pain or unconscious." He stood
firmly, as if he weren't injured at all.
*What's going on? I thought he had a broken leg.* But her fear ebbed
away and she said, "Oh--no problem. I'd better get home now."
"You'll forget all this. You imagined what you saw a moment ago." His
rich baritone vibrated beneath her diaphragm.
Now she saw his face as fully human, saw a pale young man with thick,
dark hair and bushy eyebrows. Like Ted, he was much taller than she,
but he carried himself proudly, without the slouch that characterized
Ted's posture. The man's eyes held hers captive, while his thumb
stroked the pulse point on her wrist, sending shivers up her arm.
*How did I ever think Ted was sexy?* She swayed toward him, yearning
for the caress to go on and on. "What do you mean, imagined?"
"You were confused. Go home and forget."
"I'm not crazy! I know what I saw!"
The man's free hand brushed her temple, the curve of her jaw, the
hollow of her throat. His fingers felt refreshingly cool in the humid
air. "What you saw wasn't real. You don't want it to be real, child.
Why complicate your life?"
She fought against the whirlpool sucking her thoughts into oblivion.
*It's real, and I don't want to forget!*
-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
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