Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 25 (October 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:
Be sure to visit the Links page of my redesigned website at regular
intervals. When adding new links, I'd like to think people are
benefiting from them. For instance, under the Vampire category I've
recently added vampiresandslayers.net, a blog page with interviews and
lots of news about vampires in the media, such as current TV series in
Check out my recent interview about my writing, vampire fiction, and
the perennial appeal of the vampire theme on vampiresandslayers.net.
SHADOWS OF THE HEART, a Halloween anthology from the Jewels of the
Quill, is being published this month by Whiskey Creek Press. I have a
story in it called "The Unvanished Hitchhiker," a version of the
Vanishing Hitchhiker urban legend told from an angle unlike the usual
viewpoint. The book can be ordered from the publisher at
www.whiskeycreekpress.com. An excerpt from my story appears below.
An interview with Christine DeSmet, author of award-winning romantic
suspense novel SPIRIT LAKE and many other novels and short stories:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
Books in my house on the farm. When I was little we had chores, chores,
and more chores. A "vacation" was reading a book and visiting other
places around the world. I started writing, I think, to transport myself
into magical vacations that turned out to be poems, stories, and now
later in life, novels and screenplays.
2. What genres do you write in?
I write romantic suspense, romantic comedy, mystery, paranormal,
fantasy, drama, teen adventure, and historical period pieces. That
includes novels, short stories, and screenplays.
3. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
It's a short story for Halloween. "When the Dead People Brought a
Dish-To-Pass" is my first paranormal story. It's published in the
current Shadows in the Heart, A Halloween Anthology, by Jewels of the
Quill authors and published by Whiskey Creek Press. I'm proud of the
story and it's getting good reviews. It's about a troubled young woman
who finds solace and romantic guidance when her dead relatives of
hundreds of years ago decide to give her a party on Halloween.
4. What are you working on now?
Two new stories for my Moonstone characters that will come out in
Whiskey Creek Press anthologies, a new romantic screenplay, a stage
play, and I'm finishing a revision on a fantasy romantic suspense novel.
My new Moonstone stories will feature a wedding and a death of one of
Moonstone's characters, new babies being born, more about silkie
chickens, and of course the usual funny mayhem my characters create.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just write and rewrite and write some more. Write anything you like and
keep at it. Writing takes regular "butt to chair" work. Join a group or
go to conferences to keep yourself motivated. Talking to other writers
in person is valuable for the psyche. Finally, enjoy nature. Studies
have shown that mentally and emotionally our creativity is fed by taking
walks, growing plants, golfing, skiing, photography, or whatever it
takes to get you close to nature.
6. What's your website URL?
The best place to find out about my writing and to read samples is at
the Jewels of the Quill website, www.JewelsoftheQuill.com. If you want
to find out about the writing workshops I teach for University of
Wisconsin-Madison, then go to www.dcs.wisc.edu/lsa/writing.
Some books I've been reading:
LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, by Diana Gabaldon. Next to
another installment in Diana Gabaldon's time-traveling "Outlander"
series, one of the most welcome events in fiction publishing, for me,
is a new adventure in her spin-off series about Lord John Grey, who
managed the prison in which Jamie Fraser (the Highlander hero of
OUTLANDER and its sequels) was confined after the collapse of the
Jacobite rebellion in 1745. Later this fall, we can look forward to
LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, a collection of novellas. The
present novel takes place a decade or more after the disastrous Battle
of Culloden. In the midst of preparing for a military campaign on the
Continent, allied with Prussia against France and Austria, Lord John
stumbles upon new information about the death of his father. As a boy,
he witnessed proof that his father was murdered, contrary to the
public belief that the death resulted from suicide. Now Lord John
delves into the old scandal in an attempt to solve the mystery of his
father's death. Meanwhile, he becomes involved in a love affair with
the stepson of his mother's new husband. An interesting facet of this
series is Lord John's status as a homosexual long before the concept
of "sexual orientation" was invented, when "sodomy" was a crime
(sometimes punishable by death), and men who indulged in it were
simply considered willfully depraved. Jamie Fraser, now paroled to
employment as a groom on the estate of one of Lord John's noble
friends, makes a few brief appearances. Lord John suffers from an
unrequited passion for Jamie, hopeless for several reasons: Jamie is
passionately devoted to his lost wife Claire (currently absent in the
twentieth century), he dislikes Sir John because of their prior
relationship as warden and prisoner, and he was a victim of homosexual
rape some years earlier. Over the course of several books, his
attitude toward his former captor gradually changes from detestation
to respect and eventually friendship; at this point, he unbends enough
to help Lord John with information about potential Jacobite
conspirators in England. Gabaldon's historical research, as always, is
richly detailed. Like all her books, this one provides a deeply
engaging read even when nothing terribly exciting is happening
onstage, simply through the absorbing realism of her characters,
settings, and period details. Another thing I enjoyed was Gabaldon's
afterword with notes and comments about some aspects of the history
behind the fiction.
THE OLD POWER RETURNS, by Morven Westfield. My first thought upon
encountering this title was that it referred to the Lovecraft mythos
of ancient "gods" from other dimensions. Rather, the "old power" in
this novel is the power of the Goddess called upon by Wiccans. The
book is, in fact, a vampire story, although the vampires remain in the
background for quite a bit of the narrative. It's a sequel to
Westfield's DARKSOME THIRST, but the author fills in the necessary
background smoothly enough that I had no trouble understanding the
characters and their past history. Meg and Alicia, who previously
worked together in the same company, encountered a vampire, Wesley,
who may or may not have been destroyed in an explosion at the end of
the last book. Now the two women, not having seen each other since,
both become employees of another high-tech company. Haunted by a sense
that the vampire survived and may be stalking her, Alicia seeks help
from the coven to which Meg belongs. This novel differs interestingly
from most vampire fiction in using Wiccan magic rather than Christian
symbols to combat evil. The witches teach Alicia the basics of magical
protection, while Frederick, a vampire created by Wesley, gradually
closes in upon their circle of friends by coincidentally seducing a
co-worker of Meg and Alicia. The narrative conveys a small-town
feeling about the area in which these women live (Alicia has a phobia
about driving into the "City"), so it doesn't seem unreasonably
convenient for the plot that Frederick eventually runs into Alicia
while dating her friend. Wesley appears to be a typical predatory
vampire master with advanced psychic powers. Frederick, a new vampire,
gives the impression that in life he wasn't much different from what
he is nowself-centered, pragmatic, and not too bright. Although
Westfield portrays vampirism as intrinsically evil, Frederick doesn't
seem so much evil as sleazy, an interesting character in contrast to
the dashing Byronic hero or villain found in a lot of contemporary
vampire fiction. Alicia, despite her timidity, comes across as a
well-developed protagonist, more than just a bundle of phobias.
Although the various subgroups of characters finally draw together to
banish the immediate threat, the novel leaves room for a sequel. The
author provides some notes about her writing process, mainly her
handling of the New England setting, at the end of the book. Along
with DARKSOME THIRST, it can be found at www.harvestshadows.com.
RAVENS OF AVALON, by Diana Paxson. I enjoyed this prequel to Marion
Zimmer Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON more than the others published so
far. The plight of the Celts facing foreign invasion, the heroine's
anguish and fury at the abuses she suffers from the invaders, her
relationship with the older Druid priestess Lhiannon (who disapproves
of the heroine's initially conciliatory response to the Romans), and
the background details of life in Roman Britain come across vividly
for me. The series' overarching themes of reincarnation and the lost
magic of Atlantis, which leave me cold, are thankfully (from my
viewpoint) unobtrusive in this book. It's a historical fantasy about
Boudica, the Britons' warrior queen, who leads her people into battle
after she and her two daughters are raped by Romans following the
death of her husband, a king who has made an alliance with the
conquerors in an attempt to preserve peace and protect his subjects.
The pages-long glossary of characters and places at the beginning of
the book seems intimidating, but I didn't have any trouble keeping
names straight in the actual reading of the story. The fantasy
elements, Druid magic and the real presence of the gods, including the
warrior goddess who possesses Boudica in battle, are regarded with awe
by the characters but accepted without skepticism. I'd like to have
seen more of the faerie folk, who make only a cameo appearance. Still,
nothing quite matches Bradley's original, with its magnificent, epic
re-imagining of the Arthurian mythos through the eyes of pagan
priestess Morgaine, half-sister of Arthur. Information about the whole
series can be found at www.avalonbooks.net.
THE UN-DEAD, by Joel H. Emerson. This book is framed as a posthumous
collaboration with Bram Stoker, subtitled, "The Dracula Novel,
Rewritten to Include Stoker's Deleted Characters and Events." An
introduction describes Stoker's working notes for DRACULA, housed at
the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, and explains how the author
incorporated all of the characters and incidents Stoker had considered
including in DRACULA and decided to omit. Emerson inserts adapted
excerpts from several of Stoker's other published works and also pays
homage to the classic Dracula movies, for example, in making Renfield
a solicitor who was somehow involved in the Count's purchase of
property in England. New characters include Kate Reed (whose name Kim
Newman also adopted for a character in his alternate-history
Anno-Dracula series), a "New Woman" friend of Mina; Francis Aytown, an
artist who falls under the vampire's spell; Alfred Singleton, a
journalist who writes on occult themes; and Detective Inspector
Cotford, who suspects Arthur Holmwood of murder and investigates the
vampire-hunters' dubious activities. The latter is an especially good
touch, I thought; literary critic Carol A. Senf pointed out many years
ago that the "heroes," not the Count, do most of the law-breaking in
the story. All these characters are taken directly from Stoker's
notes, as are almost all the incidents inserted into the original
narrative. Moreover, Emerson interweaves threads alluding to the Jack
the Ripper murders, which Stoker mentions in his introduction to the
Icelandic edition of DRACULA (also incorporated herein). Stoker's
epistolary style with its multiple viewpoints makes it easy for
Emerson to add new material without jarring against the flow of the
existing work. In the scenes where he actually inserts new characters
and dialogue into the classic text, he does it smoothly enough that I
believe a reader not intimately familiar with DRACULA wouldn't notice
any discontinuity. While I'm not sure most critics would argue that
enlarging the cast of characters and lengthening an already long,
complex novel exactly improves it, this is a fascinating project and a
delightful read. It's indispensable for the library of any Dracula
scholar or devoted Dracula fan. My only reservations about the
smoothness of the altered plotline concern the suggestion that the
wolf/dog escaping from the wrecked ship at Whitby is a natural animal,
not the Count himself (which strikes me as an unnecessary frill), and
the fact that the numerous hints about something strange in Arthur
Holmwood's family history are left as an unexplained enigma. The
book's most interesting feature is the list of endnotes, 199 in all,
meticulously detailing the source of every change Emerson made to the
original text. The only true defect is a pitfall of self-publishing,
the appearance of more typos than I consider acceptable. However,
there probably aren't enough to distract a reader who doesn't have (as
I do, from my day job) the eye of an obsessive proofreader. (Shame on
the author, though, for allowing the persistent misspelling of
"excerpt" to remain in the endnotes; spellcheck would have caught
that.) If you have a special fondness for the Transylvanian Count,
swoop over to Xlibris.com and order this very reasonably priced trade
HIGH NOON, by Nora Roberts. This is the first full-length novel by
Roberts I've read outside her J. D. Robb "In Death" series about
near-future homicide detective Eve Dallas. I picked up HIGH NOON
because of its police procedural thriller plot, which I thought would
certainly appeal to me as a fan of the Eve Dallas novels. It's a tale
of breathtaking suspense with warm, three-dimensional characters.
Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara, a hostage negotiator in Savannah,
meets charming, easygoing millionaire Duncan Swift while talking one
of his employees out of jumping off a roof. Soon afterward, Phoebe
suffers hostility from a police officer who defied her authority
during the negotiation. Around the time he ambushes her inside police
headquarters and beats her up, she begins to receive mysterious
threats. At first the reader will think the suspended policeman is
responsible, but it soon becomes clear that isn't the case, so I don't
think this revelation is too much of a spoiler. In the earlier part of
the book I had misgivings about her being coincidentally targeted by
two attackers at the same time, but both situations arise from her
work as a hostage negotiator, and the threads are pulled together in a
way that makes elegant plot and thematic sense. Phoebe, a divorced
single mother, has responsibility not only for her seven-year-old
daughter but also her agoraphobic mother, whose condition traps her in
the house left to Phoebe (with ironclad conditions) by the
disagreeable, controlling aunt who took in Phoebe and her widowed
mother when they had nowhere else to turn. Phoebe's past has
fascinating depths, and all the secondary characters are thoroughly
engaging. The growth of love between Phoebe and Duncan rings true, as
do her reservations about letting someone new into her heart.
Recommended. (But I will not succumb to the temptation to read every
other romance Roberts has written. Really I won't. I don't have time
to add the complete oeuvre of a new author to my stack of unread
Excerpt from "The Unvanished Hitchhiker":
For a second the air felt icy cold. With a fleeting shiver, Leah
closed the door. When she turned toward Alice, the other woman was
clutching the edge of the couch cushion like a slippery ledge from
which she was afraid of falling.
"It's nothing," Leah said, "just somebody who had the wrong address.
He left this before I could make him take it back." She held up the
cloth. A silky cashmere shawl.
"He?" Alice whispered. "A man?"
"Yes, just some guy who was lost, I guess." She sat down, watching
Alice with concern.
"No, he wasn't lost." She took the shawl and pressed it to her cheek.
"I thought with another person here it might turn out different. I
thought she might come herself this time."
"She? What's going on? Do you know this man? Were you expecting him?"
"Not him, specifically. But I knew somebody would show up. And I knew
he'd bring this." She rubbed the loosely knitted material between her
fingers. "If only I could at least keep it. But it always vanishes
overnight, even if I fall asleep holding it."
"Alice, what are you talking about?" Leah was starting to wonder if
her friend was mentally unhinged.
With a weary sigh, Alice said, "I'll tell you about it. You'll think
I'm crazy, though."
Wincing at this inadvertent display of telepathy, Leah shook her
head. "Of course I won't."
"I haven't talked to anybody about it since my husband left." She
wrung the shawl between her hands. A few drops of water trickled from
it. "You probably heard I had a teenage daughter who died."
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Joanne was seventeen. We had a fight, actually a marathon series of
fights, about the boy she was going with. I knew all along he was bad
news." Her lips tightened. "Her dad and I ordered her to stop seeing
him. I even took away the bracelet he gave her. She disobeyed us and
sneaked out to meet him at a Halloween party. He drove her home drunk.
It was raining hard. The car crashed on a curve about a mile from
here. You know the one?"
Leah nodded. Every town had at least one "dead man's curve," and the
main drag into this neighborhood had earned that nickname.
"The boy was killed instantly. Joanne fell into a coma she never woke
up from. She died on the third night after."
"I'm sorry," Leah whispered again. She couldn't think of anything
else to say.
"She took my shawl for her gypsy costume, without permission. This
one." She held up the twisted length of fabric. "Out of spite, I
think, because I confiscated that bracelet."
Before Leah managed to stifle her reaction, she knew her friend must
have noticed the look of horror and pity on her face.
"Don't worry, you won't offend me if you decide I've lost my mind. My
husband had the same idea. That's why he left. After the second year,
he couldn't handle what he called my obsession." Alice's eyes glazed
over for a few seconds. "It started on the anniversary of Joanne's
death. A strange woman came to the door with this shawl and claimed a
girl she'd picked up had left it in her car."
-end of excerpt-
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