Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 30 (March 2008)
- 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:
Please visit my website now and then to check out the many fascinating
sites on the Links page. My top page changes only when I have a new
book cover to put up, but I often add new links. Also, remember that
if you're curious about my vampire universe and the order in which the
novels and stories occur, you can find that information at the
"Vanishing Breed" link on the website's sidebar.
My erotic paranormal romance novel LOVE UNLEASHED, about a wizard
changed into a Saint Bernard, was published by Ellora's Cave in
February. I've posted the cover in the Photos section of the
newsletter's Yahoo page. There you can also see a couple of pictures
of our own Saint Bernard. The current newsletter contains another
excerpt from the novel. In this scene, the heroine, Vicki, who has
brought home a stray dog (actually the transformed hero) goes out
after dark to check on him in the garage where she'd confined him.
This month we have an interview with Jeaniene Frost, author of the
innovative vampire novel HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE. (Her first name is
Interview with Jeaniene Frost:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
Well, I've always loved to read. As a child, my parents quickly
realized that sending me to my room was a useless punishment, since
I'd just curl up with a book and be happy about it. Also, I've always
had vivid dreams. Around twelve or thirteen, I started to write them
down and make little stories out of them. What can I say? Ever since
then, I was hooked on wanting to be a writer.
2. What genres do you write in?
Paranormal romance/urban fantasy.
3. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, book two in my Night Huntress series, comes out
April 29, 2008.
4. What are you working on now?
Right now I'm bouncing back and forth between two projects. One's
about demons, the other vampires. Yes, it's impossible for me to write
something without a supernatural element in it.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
As far as any writing advice...the best advice I could give you sounds
cliche, but it's true: write. The more you write, the better you'll
get at it. Read a lot. Be prepared to revise your novel(s), because
writers seldom get anything right the first time, and revising is part
of the process. Then, once you've polished a novel, gotten a second
(or third) constructive critical opinion on it, revised, and polished
again, start agent hunting.
I have a link on my website that talks a little about agent-hunting
and some of the pitfalls:
http://www.jeanienefrost.com/q&a.html . But, in my opinion, until a
writer's finished a novel and really gone over it several times,
he/she shouldn't look for an agent. Write first. Make sure you love
it. Then jump into the publishing world :)
6. What's your website URL?
Some Books I've Been Reading:
TWIST, by Colby Hodge. An exciting, unpredictable variation on the
"vampire as alien" theme, with time travel. Narrator Abbey Shore, a
college student who studies martial arts for recreation and restores
houses to sell for income, stumbles upon a temporal gateway behind a
wall in the house she's currently occupying. (Or is this "twist" in
her life as random as it seems? That's one of the secrets revealed
deep into the story.) She finds herself in a postapocalyptic future
where she encounters Dr. Shane Maddox, whom she'd met shortly before
the discovery of the portal and felt a mutual attraction with. Why
does he now, a century in the future, view her with suspicion and
hostility? And why is he still alive and unaged? Abbey has landed in a
world where human society has broken down to the level of fighting for
survival. The Earth is overrun with "ticks," alien vampires called
Chronolotians, who feed by stealing time from the victim's lifespan.
Living secretly on Earth for millennia, they have recently begun
turning human victims into ticks in unprecedented numbers, thus
precipitating the collapse of governments and other human
institutions. Shane, although he was turned the night Abbey fell
through the portal, fights on the human side. Abbey eventually
realizes that her destiny requires her to return through the time gate
and try to change the course of history. Though this novel has more
"action" than I normally like in a story, I was enthralled by it and
found Abbey a very engaging character. The usual problem of time
travelthe paradox that if the hero succeeds in changing the past, the
future events that impelled him or her to make the attempt will never
have happenedisn't addressed, but the power of the storytelling
allowed me to overlook that technicality.
DUMA KEY, by Stephen King. While I'm not sure this novel stirred me as
deeply as LISEY'S STORY, King's latest definitely ranks high among his
recent works. This is his most extensive and in-depth fictional
transmutation of his own near-fatal accident. The narrator, Edgar
Freemantle, a self-made millionaire in the construction industry,
almost dies in a collision with a crane on a work site. He comes out
of the accident with severe head trauma and no right arm. (By a small
stroke of luck, he's lefthanded, an important plot point because he's
able to take up his old hobby of drawing.) His alarmingly violent
behavior as a result of the brain damage drives his wife to divorce
him. As an alternative to suicide, he leaves his home in Minnesota and
leases a house on a small Florida island, Duma Key. Up to this point,
the deeply moving experience of sharing Edgar's physical and emotional
pain and the frustration of his slow recovery kept me enthralled. With
King, however, we know this life-changing ordeal will be only the
beginning. Edgar begins drawing and painting, whereupon he soon
discovers talent he didn't suspect he had, sometimes almost on the
level of possessionimages flowing from him in a state of trance.
Still weirder, he feels "phantom hand" sensations so vividly that when
he closes his eyes, it almost seems as if he's painting with the hand
that no longer exists. On Duma Key he meets the Wireman, caretaker for
a wealthy old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, whose family has owned the
island for many decades. Becoming close friends with them, Edgar
gradually learns about the supernatural forces lurking in the island's
history and the tragedies of Elizabeth's past. He also discovers that
some of his paintings have a sinister power, not only to channel a
sort of clairvoyance, but even to place people who own them in danger.
King's gift for portraying layers of the past coexisting with and
shaping the present (as in 'SALEM'S LOT, PET SEMATARY, IT, and many of
his other works) is strongly displayed in this story. As one would
expect from a King novel, the protagonist eventually triumphs over
evil, but not without grave loss. The source of the evil is unexpected
and not quite like anything I've seen in his previous books. A
satisfying atmosphere of otherworldly menace hangs over the Southern
Gothic setting of the ruined Eastlake mansion in the nearly tropical
overgrown landscape of the abandoned portion of the island.
THE SECRET HOUR, TOUCHING DARKNESS and BLUE NOON (the Midnighters
trilogy), by Scott Westerfeld. In Bixby, a small Oklahoma town, each
day has a twenty-fifth hour hidden in the instant of midnight. At that
moment, time stops for everyone except five teenagers born within a
half-second of midnight: Jessica, new in town, who fights monsters as
the flame-bringer; Jonathan, who can defy gravity and fly, but only
during the hidden hour; Melissa, who reads and manipulates minds;
Dess, a math genius; and Rex, keeper of the lore. The "secret hour" or
"blue hour" is also inhabited by terrifying creatures called
darklings, which retreated into this hidden slice of time millennia in
the past, driven out of the normal world by human technology. As
usual, Westerfeld displays superb world-building; each book introduces
new surprises and twists, with horrific revelations about the past of
Bixby and the midnighters. Until about fifty years previously, the
town had a large population of midnighters. What suddenly happened to
them? The protagonists get some answers when they meet an elderly
recluse, Madeleine, the last survivor of the earlier generation of
midnighters. Rex, briefly captured by the darklings, has a harrowing
experience that leaves him not completely human. And the blue hour may
be spreading. The concept of stopping time in order to move around
while the rest of the world is frozen, of course, has a venerable SF
history. I've never seen it developed anything like this way, though.
BEASTLY, by Alex Flinn. A YA retelling of "Beauty and the Beast."
Flinn's version is unique in being told entirely from the viewpoint of
the Beast (in first person) rather than the Beauty. Kyle, the arrogant
teenage son of a wealthy, famous network newscaster, attracts the
attention of a witch who shows up at his private school. When he plays
the cruel trick of inviting her to a dance in order to stand her up,
he confirms her worst opinion of him. She changes him into a
beast-like humanoid, with the usual condition. He will stay that way
until he becomes capable of love and receives love in return from a
girl who can see past his grotesque exterior. He has a two-year
deadline. At first, Kyle behaves so over-the-top insufferably that he
seems almost a caricature, the early scenes almost funny. Once
transformed, he tries the obvious solutions, getting his shallow
high-school-queen girlfriend to kiss him (her "love," needless to say,
proves an illusion) and seeking a partner over the Internet. Gradually
we get to know Kyle better and recognize how his mother's abandonment
and his father's indifference have created his selfish, superficial
personality. Locked away in a luxurious five-story brownstone, alone
except for a housekeeper and a blind tutor, he begins to grow roses,
discovers the pleasures of books and learning, and develops a capacity
for kindness. His "Beauty" turns out to be Lindy, a
not-exactly-beautiful but attractive, bright, compassionate girl he'd
scorned as a nobody in his old life. The daughter of a drug addict,
she comes to live with him when her father offers her as a bribe to
Kyle (who has renamed himself "Adrian," so she has no idea who he used
to be) in exchange for the "monster's" agreement not to have him
arrested for attempted burglary. One entertaining feature of this
novel is the Internet support group Kyle joins, for people suffering
unexpected transformations. A prince turned into a frog, the bear
prince from "Snow White and Rose Red," and the Little Mermaid also
belong to the group. Because their chats are inserted as
self-contained units between chunks of the main story, they didn't
interfere with suspension of disbelief for me. I enjoyed them. BEASTLY
impressed me as a clever, satisfying transposition of the fairy tale
into modern urban life.
THE PRINCESS AND THE PROMISE, by Elise Dee Beraru. I've loved all her
other books that I've read, which were historical romances; as far as
I know, this is her first published fantasy novel. It takes place in
two very different neighboring kingdoms. Darius, a younger son of the
king of one country, is a carefree, womanizing warrior at the
beginning of the story. Then his father delivers the crushing decree
that all the younger sons must take cloistered vows when they come of
age, because the king is paranoid over the fear that younger sons, or
their potential sons, will challenge the heir to the throne and throw
the country into chaos. Darius is forced into the cloister under
threat of execution and tortured into accepting his vows. Being a man
of strict honor, he feels himself compelled to be true to them despite
the circumstances. Meanwhile, in the open, tolerant, egalitarian
neighboring kingdom, the Crown Princess has received a vision from the
Goddess of the man she's destined to marry. An attack by brigands
throws these two people together. Darius allows his death to be
reported to his family, while he starts a new life. Naturally he and
the princess fall in love, but his sense of honor compels him to
remain faithful to his vows to the Goddessvery frustrating to the
princess, since she has grown up with a radically different idea of
what worship of the Goddess means. Her country is portrayed as almost
a paradise compared to the harsh culture of Darius's homeland, but
their customs came across as believable to me. This is an emotionally
harrowing story with a satisfying ending. Only two details bothered
me: I was dubious of the warriors' custom of wearing their hair long
and unbound at all times, because of the hazard of its interfering
with their vision as well as giving an enemy something to grab in
hand-to-hand combat. Later in the novel, however, a cultural tradition
is revealed that explains this custom. The other discordant detail, in
which I simply can't suspend disbelief, is that Darius's initiation
into the cloister includes not being allowed to empty his bladder for
five days (while lying face-down, naked, on a cold stone floor with no
food or water). Unless he has studied yoga-like techniques of
controlling his body, of which there is no mention, that's physically
impossible. (Most people can't even refrain for urinating for twelve
hours unless they're asleep the whole time.) Well before the end of
the first twenty-four hours, he'd be lying in a puddle. The story
captivated me so much otherwise, though, that I forced myself to
ignore this problem. There will be a sequel dealing with Darius's
younger brother Volney, who also entered the monastic life
unwillingly. Available in e-book formats from Awe-Struck E-Books
(www.awe-struck.net). Get it! Read the author's non-fantasy Western
romances, too. I particularly recommend THE HUNGRY HEART.
Excerpt from LOVE UNLEASHED:
The outside door was open. *I'm sure I locked that.* "Dog? Here, boy!"
How was she supposed to call an animal whose name she didn't know?
Scanning the garage, she didn't see any sign of him, not even the
quilt he'd been lying on. Surely he hadn't dragged it into the yard
with his teeth? It worried her that he didn't come trotting in at the
sound of her voice, considering how closely he'd followed her around
inside the house.
She zipped into the laundry room for a flashlight, then walked through
the garage into the yard. "Here, dog! Damn it, where are you?" Growing
anxiety made her voice shrill. Shining the light around, she didn't
catch sight of a brown and white animal.
The bushes by the back fence rustled, though. "Dog?" She turned the
flash in that direction.
Someone called out of the dark, "Wait! Please don't look at me." A man.
Her heart raced with alarm. "Who are you? And what are you doing on
"Nobody you know. I'm sorry to bother you." He sounded vaguely
familiar but the low, hoarse tone of his voice disguised most of its
individuality. "Please don't look."
Ignoring his plea, she directed the beam at him. The light wavered
with the trembling of her arm. She saw only a shapeless lump huddled
under the quilt from her garage.
"Where's my dog? Did you let him out?" And why hadn't he barked at the
intruder? Some watchdog!
"I don't know. I'm lost."
The despair in the words dispelled some of her fear. Maybe he was only
a homeless man looking for refuge? If so, why didn't he hike the
couple of miles downtown to the shelter? It wasn't a cold or wet
night. She hardened herself against the pity that might wreck her
defenses. He could still be a thief or worse. "I'm calling the police."
"No, please. I won't hurt you." The pain in his voice made her nerves
quiver, even as its deep pitch resonated in the pit of her stomach
"This is all a mistake. I don't belong here."
"That's obvious. Why didn't you go to the homeless shelter? They might
still let you in."
"I can't." The anguished whisper brought unwelcome tears to her eyes.
"Don't be afraid. I'm leaving now." With surprising quickness, he
scrambled over the chain-link fence, with the quilt still wrapped
around him and draped over his head like a cowl.
Vicki trained the light on him but even when the cover slipped as he
clambered over the fence and dropped to the other side, all she caught
was a glimpse of the back of his head. In the shadows she couldn't see
that well enough to have any hope of identifying him if he ever came back.
And why would he? He was probably a pitiful derelict who wouldn't want
to linger anywhere near a place where he might get arrested. She
ignored the nagging insistence in the corner of her mind that his
resonant voice, even distorted by pain, didn't sound like a street
bum's. After all, educated people could wind up homeless just like
She rushed out the front gate and around the side yard to the rear,
where her lot adjoined the woods of Back Creek Nature Park. No sign of
the fleeing man. Nothing but the quilt discarded on the ground.
She called the dog, panning the flashlight beam from side to side in
the remote hope that if he'd wandered into the woods, he would notice
her and come back. She spotted nothing except a rabbit startled by her
presence and heard nothing except crickets. After zipping into the
house for the leash, she wandered up and down the sidewalk, calling
softly to avoid disturbing the neighbors. It was still early in the
evening and a retired man who lived at the end of the block stepped
outside to greet her. He hadn't seen the dog. After covering several
blocks in each direction, she headed home. Rubbing at the tears that
blurred her eyes, she squelched the idea of blundering through the
woods in search of the dog. Amid all those acres of trees, she
wouldn't have a chance. Either the dumb animal would come back on his
own or he wouldn't.
-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