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Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 34 (July 2008)

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  • margvamp
    Welcome to my newsletter, News from the Crypt, and please visit Carter s Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com), devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2 4:37 PM
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      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
      Vampires:
      www.simegen.com/reviews/vampires/vamprelm.htm

      Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romance Blog:
      http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

      Here's the link to a fascinating feature at Midnight Moon Cafe about
      the Pocket Books anthology MIDNIGHT TREAT, which includes my erotic
      vampire romance novella "Tall, Dark, and Deadly." Sally Painter,
      Shelley Munro, and I discuss the background and inspiration for our
      stories in the anthology:

      http://midnightmooncafe.blogspot.com/2008/06/midnight-brew-presents-yummy-midnight.html

      Literary Nymphs gave WINDWALKER'S MATE a rating of 4 Nymphs! They say,
      "I found this story to be a great mystery in the occult. . . .
      Margaret L. Carter has done a very creative job with this book." See
      the review at:

      http://literarynymphsreviewsonly.blogspot.com/search?q=Margaret+L.+Carter

      This month's newsletter features an excerpt from SEALED IN BLOOD, one
      of my vampire romances from Amber Quill Press. The heroine, Sherri,
      meets vampire Nigel at a science fiction convention where Nigel is
      stalking an amateur journalist who might have information about
      Nigel's missing sister, Laura. The scene below shows Laura as a
      prisoner of a cult leader who has discovered she's a vampire and wants
      her to transform him.

      No author interview this month, so I'm giving a sneak preview of a
      conversation with one of my own characters, psychiatrist Britt Loren,
      which will appear within a few months on a site called "It's My Turn
      to Talk," where authors interview their characters.

      *****

      *Therapist to the Not Quite Human:*

      I'm interviewing Dr. Britt Loren from DARK CHANGELING, CHILD OF
      TWILIGHT, and SHADOW OF THE BEAST. She's a tall woman with golden-red
      hair in a loose French twist, green eyes, and a remarkably youthful
      appearance for late middle age.

      *Dr. Loren, please introduce yourself.*

      I'm a native of the Baltimore area and received my M.D. from Johns
      Hopkins University. I've practiced psychiatry in Annapolis for my
      entire career.

      *I understand you're in a long-term relationship with a vampire.*

      Yes, but not the undead type you're probably thinking of from legends
      and movies. My partner, Dr. Roger Darvell, belongs to a nonhuman
      species living secretly among us. Or, to be more accurate, he's a
      vampire-human hybrid, an extremely rare phenomenon. His mother was a
      vampire in love with a human male. They were killed in France in the
      late 1930s, and he grew up as the adopted child of human parents, with
      no idea of his true origin until the age of forty.

      *Finding out the truth must have been traumatic for him.*

      While he had major adjustments to make, of course, I think in a way it
      was a relief to have the strange phenomena he'd grappled with for most
      of his life rationally explained. For one thing, he didn't have to
      worry that he was suffering from some obscure form of mental illness,
      a fear that had haunted him all those years.

      *How did you react when you began to suspect Dr. Darvell wasn't human?*

      I was intrigued. Already I knew him too well to be afraid he would
      hurt me. I wished he had trusted me enough to tell me the truth on his
      own, but once I confronted him, he was completely honest. Discovering
      his nonhuman heritage explained a lot, not only the restricted diet
      and the allergy to direct sunlight, but how an uptight Bostonian could
      be so incredibly sexy.

      *He has a daughter by a female vampire, doesn't he? How do you feel
      about that?*

      Isn't that my line? [laughs] Seriously, the pregnancy was produced by
      artificial insemination, although with a few complications related to
      male vampire sexual physiology. I have no reason to be jealous of
      Gillian's mother. In fact, I encouraged Roger to contribute his hybrid
      genes for the good of his species. They're not reproducing among
      themselves enough to replace the few who are killed every century. In
      effect, they're an endangered species.

      *If you don't mind a personal question, why haven't you ever gotten
      married?*

      Can you imagine the income tax bite—so to speak—with two doctors
      filing jointly? After I retire, we'll probably make it official. That
      may happen soon, considering how the practice of psychiatry has
      changed since my early years in the field. Writing prescriptions for
      psychotropic drugs just doesn't hold the excitement of Jungian
      analysis. With the blood bond we share, though, we're effectively more
      deeply committed than any ordinary husband and wife.

      *In addition to helping Dr. Darvell counsel vampire-human couples,
      you've psychoanalyzed at least one other type of paranormal creature.
      How did you feel when an apparently ordinary young female patient
      turned out to be a werewolf?*

      After keeping Roger's secret for so long, I wasn't completely shocked.
      Surprised, yes, to discover lycanthropy also existed, but not
      frightened. I knew my patient was just a confused girl who needed to
      understand her true nature. She's lucky she happened to pick me for
      her therapist. It's not likely anyone else would have recognized the
      truth about her condition.

      *What advice would you give to an ordinary human being who's
      considering a relationship with a vampire?*

      They call us "ephemerals," but don't let them get away with assuming
      they're superior just because they live practically forever and have
      certain arcane powers. They depend on us for sustenance. While they
      can feed on animals, they have to get small amounts of blood from
      human donors on a regular basis to stay not only healthy but sane. The
      ideal situation for a vampire is an exclusive bond with a single
      donor. In return, they give us immunity to certain medical conditions
      such as heart disease and most cancers. And a psychic bond with a
      vampire involves a deep intimacy you won't find in any other
      relationship.

      *Then it's true that sex with vampires is uniquely exciting?*

      Well, that's a personal matter. [smiles enigmatically] I can tell you
      in general terms, though, that the mutual sharing of blood infuses
      lovemaking with an intensity you could never imagine.

      -end of interview-

      *****

      Some Books I've Been Reading:

      THE GREAT GOOD THING, by Roderick Townley. A unique YA fairy tale
      story that begins, "Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to
      live it very often." If you like metafictional novels, don't miss this
      one (published in 2001, recently recommended to me). Princess Sylvie
      and her family, friends, and enemies know they are characters in a
      book. They sit around trying to amuse themselves while waiting eagerly
      for their tale to be read, an event that happens too infrequently. One
      day a girl named Claire opens the book, and Sylvie breaks the cardinal
      rule: Never look at the Reader. Later she explores the countryside
      outside the boundaries of the story and finds herself inside Claire's
      dreams, interacting directly with the Reader. Despite her parents'
      shock at this transgressive behavior, Sylvie can't bear to abandon her
      friendship with Claire, whose copy of THE GREAT GOOD THING was passed
      down from her grandmother, who in turn received it as a gift in
      childhood. The world of the Reader baffles Sylvie; it's a place where
      people put on new "disguises" (ages) as time goes by, and those who
      die don't come back to life like the villains inside the story. Sylvie
      follows Claire from childhood through old age and later meets Claire's
      daughter. Meanwhile, inside the tale, everything falls apart.
      Characters step outside their roles, including the jester, who
      overthrows the king. Sylvie's family and their loyal allies, exiled
      from the castle, must wander through the wilderness beyond their
      familiar lands. Through Sylvie's communication with Claire's daughter,
      an act of creation in the "real" world brings about a completely
      satisfying resolution in the world of the story. I've never read
      anything quite like this in terms of a fantasy exploration of the
      relationship among writer, reader, and work.

      MOONSTRUCK, by Susan Grant. Although set in the same universe as HOW
      TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN TEN DAYS and earlier related novels,
      this book stands on its own. The drawn-out galactic war between the
      Coalition and the Drakken Horde has at last ended in an uneasy peace.
      Along with the recently discovered and still protected planet Earth,
      the former enemies have formed the Triad. Admiral Brit Bandar,
      nicknamed "Stone-Heart," who as a young woman lost the people she most
      loved to a Horde attack, has made her military career her entire life.
      Now she's given command of a new Triad ship, on condition that she
      accept an integrated crew of personnel from all three factions—and a
      former Drakken pirate turned military Warleader, Finn Rorkken, as
      second in command. He's the only Drakken officer of suitable rank who
      isn't in hiding or imprisoned for war crimes. He's also been her
      nemesis, and she his, for a long time, though they've never met face
      to face. Not surprisingly, instant erotic sparks flash between them
      when they meet. Brit grudgingly accepts that her career depends on
      working with this man she's prepared to hate. Finn wants the peace and
      the multicultural crew arrangement to work, for the good of the
      desperate men and women under his command. This assignment provides
      them, and Finn himself, their one chance for a new start. The
      unfolding story reveals poignant emotional depths in both of these
      characters. Meanwhile, a more lighthearted subplot follows a romantic
      triangle involving Hadley, the Admiral's assistant. A few Earth
      characters provide their own entertaining perspective on the conflicts
      between Coalition and Drakken crew members. The difficulties of former
      bitter enemies forced to work together as allies have strong resonance
      for our own global situation in the mundane world. The resolution of
      the Coalition majority's hostility toward the Drakken crew members
      illustrates the need to refrain from demonizing the enemy before
      trying to understand the reasons behind his or her behavior. Once I
      accepted the premise that love affairs between officers in the same
      chain of command aren't absolutely forbidden in Grant's interplanetary
      military service, I became totally caught up in the growing passion
      between the reluctant Admiral and the flamboyant ex-pirate.

      VERY HARD CHOICES, by Spider Robinson. Long-awaited (by me, anyway—I
      wish he wrote faster!) sequel to VERY BAD DEATHS, in which the
      narrator, Russell, an aging hippie American expatriate living in the
      woods of British Columbia, joined his long-lost college roommate
      Zudie, a telepath hiding from the outside world and presumed dead, in
      disposing of a serial killer who was completely off the charts of
      sociopathy. In the new book, Russell hasn't seen or heard from Zudie
      in the years since the confrontation with the sadistic murderer, nor
      has he had much contact with Nika, the local female police detective
      who helped them. This story begins when Russell's estranged son Jesse
      comes for a visit. At the same time, the former CIA agent from whom
      Zudie has been hiding all these years has begun to suspect he's still
      alive and is trying to track him down. In a flashback, Zudie tells
      Russell about the secret government camp for people with psychic gifts
      where Zudie's beloved was accidentally killed while they tried to
      escape after discovering what their handlers had in mind for them.
      Back then, picking up people's thoughts was painful for him, but he
      could endure the presence of others as long as he kept a reasonable
      distance from them. By now, the necessary distance to avoid severe
      pain has become so great that he has to live as a hermit on a
      supposedly uninhabited island not far from Russell's home. The news
      that his old nemesis has come in search of him, putting Russell,
      Jesse, and Nika in potential danger, forces Zudie to leave his refuge
      and interact with them. The climax and resolution of the story came as
      a surprise to me, but a satisfying one. There are plenty of
      hair-raising moments along the way. The novel also contains an
      abundance of Robinson's familiar social and political commentary.
      Through the characters' dialogue, he lets the reader know in
      exhaustive detail what he thinks of the current state of affairs in
      the United States and what the country needs to do to get back on
      track. A reviewer on Amazon.com states that, for him, the book was
      fatally flawed by this soapbox dimension. Since I tend to agree with
      most of Robinson's politics (although I think he exaggerates more than
      a wee bit about how doomed we are), I didn't mind it so much as that
      reviewer did. For me, Robinson's dialogue, like Heinlein's, is always
      entertaining whether or not I fully accept his (or his characters')
      opinions. I would have been delighted if the book were twice as long.
      If you absolutely can't stand the liberal viewpoint, however, you
      might not want to read VERY HARD CHOICES, because you'd probably agree
      with that reviewer. Otherwise, I highly recommend the book, like all
      of Spider Robinson's work.

      FROM DEAD TO WORSE, by Charlaine Harris. The new installment in the
      Sookie Stackhouse series picks up soon after the vampire summit in the
      previous book, which ended in the bombing of the meeting site. In this
      novel, Sookie worries over not having heard from her weretiger
      boyfriend, Quinn. Meanwhile, she still has to deal with her blood bond
      with vampire Eric, while her former vampire lover, Bill, seems to
      regret their breakup. Upheavals continue in the lycanthrope and
      vampire communities, including a crisis in Sookie's brother's marriage
      that has an impact on the pack as a whole. Sookie meets her faerie
      great-grandfather, whose nonhuman nature explains her telepathic gift.
      I enjoyed this novel because of its emphasis on relationships, family
      and otherwise. Since the beginning of the series, which included a
      lighthearted streak amid the supernatural conflicts, these stories
      have been getting progressively darker. Fortunately, for me Sookie's
      lively narrative voice keeps the tone from descending into off-putting
      depths of gloom. I'm looking forward to whatever revelations the
      paranormal world holds for Sookie in the next episode, especially in
      view of strong hints that the were-creatures are about to declare
      themselves to the mundane public just as the vampires did a few years
      earlier.

      The Circle Trilogy: MORRIGAN'S CROSS, DANCE OF THE GODS, and VALLEY OF
      SILENCE, by Nora Roberts. Having heard a lot about Roberts' first
      foray into vampire fiction, I finally took the plunge and read the
      trilogy. In this series, vampirism is unequivocally, demonically evil.
      Since that's not my favorite approach to vampirism, I didn't expect to
      be thrilled by these books. They pleasantly surprised me. When a
      vampire queen named Lilith plots to reduce humankind in all the worlds
      to slaves and livestock, the goddess Morrigan raises a circle of six
      to defeat her: Hoyt, a wizard from early medieval Ireland; Cian, his
      brother, changed into a vampire by Lilith; Glenna, a modern witch;
      Blair, a Buffy-type hunter of demons and vampires; Moira, a scholar
      princess from an alternate-world analog of Ireland called Geall; and
      Moira's cousin Larkin, a shapeshifter capable of taking the forms of
      various animals, including a flying dragon. Over the centuries, Cian
      has overcome the savage cruelty inherent in his vampire nature and
      become, if not exactly good, at least no longer a vicious monster.
      When the power of the goddess transports Hoyt into the twenty-first
      century, Hoyt persuades his brother, although reluctant to risk his
      comfortable lifestyle, to join in the campaign against Lilith.
      Morrigan brings the group together, and they gradually learn to trust
      each other. In the second novel, they travel through a stone circle
      into Geall, where the final battle is destined to occur. Along the
      way, there's a bit of "fish out of water" humor, which I always enjoy.
      It might seem nearly impossible to pull together horror, high fantasy,
      time travel, dimension-hopping, medieval-style battles, and romance
      into a coherent, satisfying story. Happily, Roberts manages the feat
      well. Although there's no doubt of the irredeemable evil of Lilith and
      her followers, some of them have individual personalities and evoke a
      degree of pathos. Cian fully engaged my sympathy as a reluctant "good
      guy vampire" blindsided by the first deep experience of true love in
      his long existence. The members of the circle pair up, one couple in
      each book. The passion between Moira and Cian, unlike the other
      couples, seems hopeless, because her obligations as queen of Geall
      make it impossible for her to take a vampire as her consort.
      Morrigan's intervention mainly comprises the initial gathering of the
      circle and an occasional helpful vision, offering more encouragement
      than concrete information. She never comes across as a handy "dea ex
      machina" except at the very end, when the characters have thoroughly
      earned her blessing. One thing about the books, not related to the
      author's work—I dislike the front covers, especially that of VALLEY OF
      SILENCE, which strikes me as downright ugly. (The cutaway inside
      covers are more attractive.) If I hadn't known anything about the
      novels in advance, I certainly wouldn't have picked them up on the
      basis of the artwork. Lucky I had reviews and other readers' comments
      to guide me! I recommend this trilogy to all fantasy and/or vampire
      fans.

      *****

      Excerpt from SEALED IN BLOOD:

      No light seeped through the locked shutters--the sole comfort of
      Laura's imprisonment. Nevertheless, she knew when day sank to dusk.
      When her part of the earth turned away from the sun, her heartbeat and
      respiration quickened, stirring the sluggish blood in her veins. Her
      frozen limbs thawed to mere chill, and she awoke.

      Woke to stomach-wrenching hunger and burning thirst. She uncurled
      herself from the sheepskin rug and stumbled to the bathroom. Several
      times, she refilled and drained the plastic cup. The tepid water
      soothed her throat momentarily, with no promise of true quenching. She
      grimaced at her reflection in the mirror. Why hadn't Don removed that,
      if he no longer trusted her with glass? And what did he think she
      could do with broken glass that her own teeth and claws couldn't manage?

      She raked fingers through her tangled red hair. Finding the comb and
      brush to groom herself seemed like too much trouble in her low-energy
      condition. Her mouth tasted like a slaughterhouse floor. She'd used up
      the tube of toothpaste several days ago, and she wouldn't stoop to ask
      Don for anything.

      Dragging herself back into the bedroom, she huddled on the coffin lid.
      Her amusement at Don's bizarre notion of furniture had long since worn
      out; she thought of the thing as simply a convenient seat.

      The idea of rooting in the closet for a book she hadn't read didn't
      inspire her. Hugging her cramp-racked stomach, she felt herself
      drifting into a half-doze. How could she be drowsy after a full day of
      sleep? She gave her tousled head an irritable shake. How long had she
      been locked in here, anyway, with no proper nourishment and no
      companion besides her jailer? She began counting on her fingers--

      The scrape of the key snapped her awake. Damn, she'd fallen asleep
      again! She sprang to her feet, feeling the hair bristle at the back of
      her neck.

      Don stepped through the door, leveling the revolver at her.

      That gun again--as if his fear of her weren't obvious enough without
      it. Not only did he stink of fear, it shouted in the way he clutched
      the silver cross at his throat. She looked forward to disabusing him
      of that superstition by ripping the thing off his neck--but not as
      long as he had the .38 pointed at her breast.

      "How'd you sleep today, Laura? Enjoying your reducing diet?" His voice
      quavered with anger as well as fear.

      "Must you come bothering me like this every night? If you aren't going
      to let me out, just stay away."

      "That's no way to talk to your host--and I've got news you'll want to
      hear."

      "I doubt it." Fixing her eyes on his, she strove to draw him in,
      seduce him with her gaze.

      Well-practiced at this game, he stubbornly stared at her chest
      instead. "That sneaky little son of a bitch--" He sounded hoarse with
      the effort of stifling his anger. "The pictures--I was right about them."

      In spite of herself, Laura pricked up her ears at this remark. "Brewster?"

      "You got it. I trusted him, the little snake!" Don's aura smoldered
      with resentment. Still, to Laura's disappointment, he didn't forget to
      avoid her eyes. "He had one of those miniature cameras, it looks like.
      Anyway, like the paper said, he claimed he had photos of a winged
      alien. Had to be you at the Sabbat--what else?

      Laura felt a twinge of alarm. "You aren't sure? Didn't you get the
      prints?"

      "Hell, I tried," Don said with an acid grin. "Somebody else got there
      before me."

      At that, her stomach churned with more than hunger. "Someone else has
      them? Who?"

      "I think I know. I'll get them back, don't worry. Think I wouldn't
      take good care of my prize monster?"

      She gritted her teeth to hold back the retort that leaped to mind; she
      couldn't let him goad her.

      He went on. "I have to go easy, though. When I leaned on Brewster to
      find out where the pictures were, he put up a fight, and things got
      out of hand."

      It took a second for his meaning to penetrate Laura's abused brain.
      "You killed him!"

      He shrugged. "Don't sweat it. It was an accident, and I heard the cops
      chalked it up to a burglary."

      Her heart racing, she said, "You can't be sure they'll stick to that."
      Did this development necessarily threaten her? In a way it offered
      hope, for if Don were arrested, she'd be found and liberated. On the
      other hand, Don's exposure might carry the risk of someone else
      learning her secret.

      His right hand trembled; no doubt his fingers ached from gripping the
      hilt of the gun. "I didn't really come down here to talk about that.
      You know what I'm here for. Have you changed your mind?"

      "The answer is the same as last night and the night before," she said.
      "It won't change. What you're asking for just isn't possible."
      Wouldn't he ever believe that simple truth? Perhaps she should pretend
      to give in, go along with his delusion. Maybe that piece of trickery
      would win her freedom. She couldn't shift position too abruptly,
      though. "Why not forget about it and start up the Black Masses again?
      Your friends must be wondering what's happened."

      "I'm fed up with all that bull," he said with an impatient twitch of
      the revolver. "I told you, I want the real thing." After she'd faced
      him in silence for a minute, he said, "I've been thinking over what we
      talked about last night. I know you're holding out on me. There's got
      to be a reason why you won't let me have a taste of your blood."

      "Because the very idea makes me sick!" she spat.

      Bad move--she couldn't manipulate him if she lost her temper. Let him
      believe she might submit to his proposal. Not that she could ever go
      through with the act, for then her mind would lie bare to him; she
      would have no more secrets.

      After a few deep breaths, she said in a low purr, "But you want me to
      taste yours, don't you? You miss it. Don't try to lie. Your emotions
      are so clear you might as well be screaming them."

      He flushed dull red. His aura pulsed in time with the throb of his
      heart. "I don't know what you're talking about," he muttered.

      To Laura's shame, she still wanted him, too. Her loathing for him
      didn't change that. Beneath the smell of fear-sweat and cologne, she
      scented healthy male. Saliva flooded her mouth.

      He feels it, too! Use it against him!

      "Give up, Don. You're making yourself miserable for no reason. Put
      down that silly gun and take off the cross and come over here." She
      pitched her voice low, sultry. "Then maybe we can talk over
      your...request, hmm? I don't take kindly to being threatened."

      "Shut up," he growled. "You can't suck me in that way." Groping in his
      left pocket, he took out a knife and fumbled to unfold it one-handed.
      Laura couldn't help flinching. Her reaction made Don's mouth contort
      in a fleeting smile. "Right, if you won't give me that little drink,
      I'll just take it. Don't like the idea, do you?" He strode a couple of
      steps closer, pointing the gun at her head.

      Her muscles tightened. Maybe she ought to be glad of this threat; it
      brought him within her reach for the first time in weeks. All she
      needed was a second of inattention, and then--

      His harsh breathing and his heartbeat deafened her. Crouching, she
      waited for the moment when her arms could snake around his neck.
      Automatically her lips curled back from her teeth. She felt the heat
      emanating from his flesh, smelled his Scotch-flavored breath.

      The pocket knife slashed upward to graze her forearm. At the same
      instant, she grabbed his right wrist. He squeezed the trigger, and she
      barely managed to shove the barrel aside. The bullet whizzed past her
      head. Her ears ringing from the shot, she bore down upon him. Again he
      gashed her unprotected arm.

      The wound scorched her as if the blade had been red-hot. No time to
      concentrate on quelling the pain, no time to stop the bleeding. She
      felt dizzy. Blinded by pain and rage, she bit at random into the first
      exposed flesh her teeth found. Don's wrist.

      Hot blood gushed into her mouth. A surge of terror from him rocked
      her. He hadn't believed she still had that much strength. Her probing
      tongue tasted adrenaline. Fueled by it, he broke her hold and threw
      her off.

      Maddened by the abrupt cutoff--so close, so damn close!--she charged
      for the door he'd left ajar. The chill air of the outer room washed
      over her clammy skin. Her vision veiled by a red fog, she didn't see
      Don's arm raised before the pistol butt slammed into her jaw.

      She fell to her knees. When he pinioned her arms and lifted her, she
      sank her teeth into him again. The mingled taste of his blood and her
      own shredded the last of her self-control. Shuddering, her limbs as
      far beyond her command as if her spine had been severed, she could
      think of nothing but the pain and the rich, salty tang in her mouth.
      She had no power to resist when he threw her onto the rug.

      As the taste faded, it left the burning in her vitals worse than
      before. When her vision cleared, Don was gone, and she was locked in
      once more.
      -end of excerpt-


      Two fiction-related newsletters you might enjoy:

      Jewels of the Quill, a writers' group I belong to, has a newsletter
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      Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
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      My Publishers:

      Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
      Cerridwen Press: www.cerridwenpress.com
      Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
      Harlequin/Silhouette: www.eharlequin.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
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