Margaret L. Carter
- 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:
As of today, the Pocket Books erotic paranormal romance anthology
MIDNIGHT TREAT, which includes my Ellora's Cave vampire novella "Tall,
Dark, and Deadly," reached the rank of 12 on the Barnes and Noble
bestseller list for Ellora's Cave books!
My excerpt for this issue comes from my somewhat Lovecraftian novel of
horror and suspense, FROM THE DARK PLACES. The heroine, Kate, a young
widow, is being threatened by the worshipers of alien entities from
another dimensional plane. One of the cultists kidnaps her
four-year-old daughter, Sara, who has powerful psychic talents. Using
a mental link established by Kate, their new friend Dr. Ray Benson
sets out to rescue the little girl in this scene.
This month I'm interviewing Elise Dee Beraru, author of
EPPIE-Award-winning historical romance THE HUNGRY HEART.
Interview with Elise Dee Beraru:
I. What inspired you to begin writing?
I've been writing since I was six, but I began to write book-length
fiction about 15 years ago because I felt I could write as well as the
writers I enjoyed reading. I bought a book by Yvonne McManus called
You Can Write a Romance and Get It Published and followed her advice,
not realizing she wrote short contemporary romances and the books I
enjoyed were long historical romances. This was before the
proliferation of websites, so her advice on how to obtain publisher
guidelines and how to write a cover letter were both very valuable, if
her advice on structure was less so.
II. What genres do you write in? Did you have any adjustments to make
in moving between Western romance and high fantasy?
I have written historical romance and fantasy/alternate world romance.
Mainly different research. In my Western romances I may have created
the towns where my stories took place, but I had to focus on
historical accuracy (to make sure Abe Lincoln wasn't making any
telephone calls <g>) In fantasy/alternate world romance, I was
creating a world similar to Europe at the transition from the Middle
Ages to the Renaissance, and I researched those periods to get a feel
for the technology and clothing, but I had the freedom to create my
own religions, customs and costuming without being handcuffed to
perfect historical accuracy.
III. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
My most recent release is The Princess and The Promise, an alternate
world romance set in the pseudo-medieval kingdoms of Zarbaria (which
is a little like medieval France or Germany) and Hebrun (which is a
little like Renaissance Italy would have been if the Italians had been
Jewish instead of Catholic), with a seemingly hopeless romance between
the Crown Princess of Hebrun and the second son of the King of Zarbaria.
IV. What are you working on now?
I am working on the sequel, The Surgeon and The Virgin, which features
the youngest brother of the hero of the first book and a feisty,
independent, widowed battalion surgeon. I am also establishing my own
business as a freelance editor, helping other writers make their
V. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
1. Learn the fundamentals of plotting and dialogue.
2. Do your research. The internet and library have plenty of free
resources to make sure your facts are correct. Your readers will lose
confidence in you if you make glaring historical errors.
3. Invest in a good unabridged dictionary. I use the Compact Oxford
English Dictionary, which cost me around $250 for a two-volume edition
that doesn't require a magnifying glass to read. If you're writing
historical fiction, the OED will tell you when words and phrases were
first used or when they first meant what they mean now. (For example,
"terrific" meant "inspiring terror" until the early 20th Century, when
it began to mean "wonderful.")
4. Write. You may produce a number of manuscripts that you don't
finish because they don't go anywhere, but as Nora Roberts said, "You
can fix a manuscript; you can't fix a blank page."
5. Don't be afraid to edit. Hemingway said editing your work is like
killing your children, but newer writers often overwrite or put too
much exposition and/or backstory in the first couple of chapters, only
to have to delete the chapters or move the material to later in the story.
6. Learn the market. Most publishers have guidelines about genres,
word counts and waiting time available on their websites. They will
also tell you whether they accept "over the transom" submissions or
require agents, and which editor acquires which sub-genres. Look who
publishes the kind of books you want to write. Many publishers have
special niches. Don't send erotica to Zondervan (which published
Christian romance) or a 100,000 word historical epic to
Harlequin/Silhouette (which publishes primarily short contemporary
romance except for their Mira imprint, which is by invitation only) or
a sweet romance to Loose Id, which publishes primarily erotic romance.
You will waste your time and the editor's time if you send the wrong
book to the wrong publisher. Also, find out the name of the editor to
whom you are submitting and use it in your cover letter (spelled
7. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Spellcheck can help, but it can
only go so far. If you find yourself blind to your own typos, hire a
line editor or swap manuscripts with a writing friend and line edit
each other's work. If you can't find a friend and can't hire a line
editor, try reading your manuscript aloud. Sometimes that helps you
find errors a spellchecking/grammar checking program can't.
8. There are some writers who are expert at writing to specific market
guidelines and sub-genres (such as Harlequin/Silhouette) and make a
good living writing four to five short novels per year. Others write
more "out of the box" and may need a couple of years to write the
"books of their hearts," and may need to go with small publishers with
broader guidelines. Both types of author are admirable. Neither is
easy. Neither is "superior" to the other. Find out what your process
is and write that way. Only a very few authors make a fulltime living
writing, even fewer make big money. Most of us write because we have
to write, because storytelling just pours out of our brains and we
must get it down on paper or pixels.
9. Never underestimate the power of a good cover letter. It is an
editor's first impression.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
HEART OF LIGHT, by Sarah A. Hoyt. This alternate history fantasy is
set in a Victorian world where magic largely substitutes for
technology, e.g. large carpetships for air transport of passengers.
Although most or all people seem to have the potential for magic use,
in practice the common folk have little power. Magical gifts are
concentrated among a few aristocrats. As the story unfolds, we learn
that powerful gems make this dominance possible. The British royal
family possesses one such jewel. The hero of this novel, Nigel
Oldhall, combines his honeymoon with a secret mission to darkest
Africa to find another gem, the Heart of Light, to consolidate Queen
Victoria's power. He holds a deeply sincere belief that the welfare of
humanity depends on the dominance of the British Empire over the
"lower" races. He doesn't share the secret of his assignment with his
new wife, Emily, who naturally wonders why he hasn't consummated their
marriage and instead wanders off and leaves her alone in Cairo with no
word of his plans. Since her entire knowledge of romantic
relationships comes from novels, and Nigel doesn't act a bit like a
devoted husband in a novel, she fears he has a lover in Egypt. An old
schoolmate of Nigel's, Peter Farewell, shows up at about the same time
agents of the Hyena Men, an African secret society, attack Nigel and
Emily through occult means. Emily accidentally bonds with the artifact
that is supposed to point the way to the Heart of Light. Nigel has to
reveal the truth about his quest to Emily and Peter. On their
expedition, they unwittingly hire as guides and porters a group led by
two members of the Hyena Men, Masai woman Nassira and Kitwana, a
part-Zulu man. The multiple-viewpoint structure allows the reader to
get inside the minds of all the major characters and sympathize with
their conflicting viewpoints and goals. In addition to the magical
powers of the Hyena Men, Peter Farewell turns out to have an occult
secret of his own. Reluctant admiration and attraction grow between
characters who start out as antagonists. Romantic pairings reshuffle
in unexpected ways. Characters who hold rigid views of people
different from themselves gradually break through the boundaries of
their prejudices. I recommend this novel as an unusual blend of
fantasy, adventure, and romance, with a density and depth that make me
look forward to the sequel, SOUL OF FIRE, due this month.
WICKED GAME, by Jeri Smith-Ready. One of the cover quotes praises this
vampire novel as an "addictive page-turner revving with red-hot sex."
Well, it doesn't really contain a lot of sex, although I'll concede
the label "hot" for the few sex scenes that do appear. An unusual
protagonist, Ciara Griffin, trained from childhood in deception by her
con-artist parents (both now in prison), is trying to go straight. She
gets a job at a radio station where all the disc jockeys are vampires.
It's a convenient work environment for creatures of the night. As
marketing director, she has only a short time to raise the station's
revenues enough that it can avoid a takeover by a large company that
will destroy the vampires' refuge. Smith-Ready's theory of vampirism
includes the innovative premise that vampires get mentally and
emotionally stuck in the time of their mortal lives. So each DJ's
program specializes in the music that was popular when he or she
"died." Vampires almost literally can't hear music created after their
deaths. More important, they can't master later technology. Without a
sheltered environment where they can exist as if still in the era of
their lifetime, they're in danger of "fading" into true death. Shane,
the youngest of the undead (from the 1990s), falls in love with Ciara.
When she comes to realize he and his co-workers really are vampires,
she tries to ease him into the twenty-first century, with some
success. Unlike the heroines of the vampire romances I like to read
and write, Ciara finds nothing erotic in the vampire's bite, but
that's understandable considering the way Smith-Ready portrays the act
of feeding. Another interesting feature of the novel, based in
folklore but seldom seen in fiction, is that the vampires are
obsessive-compulsive. Ciara can distract a female from attacking her
by dropping a package of pencils, which the vampire can't help picking
up and counting. When Ciara's publicity stunt of having the vampires
declare themselves as such to the outside world, an announcement that,
of course, most listeners take for an elaborate hoax, attracts the
attention of an elder vampire, Gideon, disaster looms. Gideon
disapproves of the public revelation, believing it puts all vampires
in danger. Plenty of danger and bloodshed ensue. Ciara finally has to
revert to her con-artist roots to save the day (or night).
HOUSE OF MANY WAYS, by Diana Wynne Jones. Although labeled a sequel to
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, this novel can stand alone. Knowing the true
identities of Sophie and the obnoxious little boy tagging along with
her in the later part of the story enhances the reading experience but
isn't necessary for understanding the plot. A supposedly magic-lacking
young woman, Charmain, gets packed off to the home of her great-uncle,
royal wizard William Norland, to care for the house while the elves
take the wizard away to treat him for an illness. Not only is the
cottage a mess, its doors lead to many more rooms than would possibly
fit into its exterior dimensions. Crabby kobolds tend the garden and
have strong views on what kinds of plants should or shouldn't be
allowed. (They favor blue.) A magical dog and a young man, Peter,
who'd been scheduled to become Great-Uncle William's apprentice before
the wizard got sick, appear and take up residence. Meanwhile, terrible
creatures called lubbocks prowl the countryside, and the king
desperately searches for the lost Elfgift, which nobody in the royal
family even knows the exact nature of. Jones weaves together all these
story elements into a stunning whole, in her usual inimitable way. As
one would expect from her, the narrative contains lots of humor as
well as suspense. No fantasy reader should miss this novel, even
without having read HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE first.
VICTORY OF EAGLES, by Naomi Novik. I wish new Temeraire novelsan
alternate history best described as Horatio Hornblower with
dragonswere published more often than once a year. The publisher
spoiled us with the wise decision to release the first three books of
the series almost simultaneously. In this novel, the fifth, the dragon
Temeraire has been banished to the breeding grounds in Wales, while
his captain, Will Laurence, awaits execution for treason. The worst
happens; Napoleon succeeds in invading England. When Temeraire
receives the mistaken report of Laurence's death in the sinking of the
ship on which he was imprisoned, the dragon leads his companions on a
mass exodus from the breeding grounds to fight the French without
human handlers. Laurence eventually catches up with Temeraire, and
they rejoin the aviator corps on sufferance. As one positive side
effect of the desperate situation, the authorities now can't avoid
recognizing the dragons as intelligent beings entitled to respectand
pay. The interactions among the dragons, and among dragons and their
human colleagues, present a captivating portrayal of creatures fully
as intelligent as we are, if not more, but with quirkily alien
priorities and thought processes. This novel comes across as darker
than the earlier installments. Napoleon's forces ravage the
countryside, and the grim skirmishes carried out by Temeraire's band
of dragons seem to confer little honor. Although Laurence holds to the
certainty that he couldn't have refrained from delivering the cure for
the dragons' fatal plague to the French (the act for which he was
convicted of treason), his frame of mind becomes as bleak as his
predicament. He's estranged from his father and regarded with contempt
by most of his fellow officers. The resolution of the story, however,
finally offers hope for a fresh start. Although not a cliffhanger like
the end of the previous book, it foreshadows a whole new cycle of
adventures for Laurence and Temeraire. It will be hard to wait another
year for the next one!
Excerpt from FROM THE DARK PLACES:
Ray forced himself to draw long, deep, cleansing breaths as he pulled
out of the garage and turned onto the street. He couldn't allow fear
or anger to distract him. Sara's voice entered his mind like a
distant, faint echo of a sound. He knew that only Father Mike's
trained powers, lending him strength, maintained the link; Ray knew
how easily he could lose the trail if he got distracted.
One distraction he couldn't afford was the memory of Kate's rejection,
the pain he'd felt, followed by the relief of her renewed trust. *It's
too soon to care about her in a personal way. If she knew, she'd
reject me all over again.* He expelled the inappropriate emotions with
a prolonged exhalation.
Following the thread through the nearly deserted streets, he wondered
how he would get in and rescue Sara, once he discovered where she was
imprisoned. First things first, find her. Good thing Kate didn't know
his level of inexperience. She'd suffer more doubt than she already
did, if she knew Mike was the only expert in the group.
True, Ray had spent countless hours developing his psychic skills by
exercising under Mike's direction. But practice drill was a long way
from the real thing.
He carried only one physical weapon, a silver-plated letter opener
Mike had given him. Traditional beliefs about using silver against
evil creatures had some validity. That metal did have the power to
disrupt psychic vibrations.
The song led him through the fog past the borderline depressed areas
around the church into a district that hung onto gentility. Mist
drifted around apartments probably inhabited by retirees on fixed
incomes and young couples watching their pennies; it shrouded the
dimly-lit facades of stores where such people wouldn't be afraid to
shop, even after dark. Ray followed the thread of Sara's voice to an
elderly hotel with a purple awning over the main entrance and
grapevines carved in stone embellishing the window ledges. He found a
parking space on a dark side street and approached the building on foot.
He didn't want to enter through the lobby and coffee shop. For all he
knew, the enemy might have an ordinary lookout posted there, armed
with a description of Ray and Kate. He couldn't rule out the
possibility of having been followed at some time when he'd been with
her. Not tonight, though--he would have felt it.
Circling to the rear of the hotel, he turned down an alley and found a
service entrance easily enough. He stepped inside, eased the heavy
door shut. It emitted a creak and a pneumatic sigh. He held his
breath, feeling his heart pound. Nobody here. Nothing but a concrete
stair-well, illuminated by a bare bulb in the ceiling. A door bearing
a G for "ground" faced him.
He closed his eyes, groping for the inner song that had almost faded.
*Sara, I'm here. Hang on, don't let me lose you.*
Her song answered: *Give me a boat that will carry two, and both shall
row, my love and I*. The melody seemed to float high above Ray's head.
*So it's one of the upper floors.* He started up the stairs. When he
passed the door marked "1," the temperature abruptly dropped. The
staircase felt as cold as a ski slope in January. Reeling from the
shock, he leaned against the wall, then instantly jerked his hand
away. The plaster felt like ice. He examined his palm, half expecting
to see the top layer of skin peeled off. Nothing. *Of course not, this
is an illusion. If it's the best they can do--* He chopped off the
thought, mindful of the hazards of overconfidence. Illusion or not,
the unnatural cold felt real. The threadbare sweater borrowed from the
priest provided no shield against this chill. Ray wrapped his arms
around himself, shivering, as he trudged up the steps.
Sara's voice, though faint, didn't desert him. Maybe Mike could
explain how some part of the child's unconscious mind could
communicate from the depths of a coma; Ray just accepted the
phenomenon and prayed it would continue. Already his fingers and toes
grew numb, and the cold stung his nose and earlobes. He dragged his
feet as if wading through knee-deep slush. It seemed strange to look
down and not see snowdrifts.
At the third-floor landing, a blast of wind lashed his face. The gust
carried a stink of decay that made him gag. He doubled over, clutching
his stomach and gritting his teeth against the nausea. *That won't
work either, damn you!* On top of the cold and nausea, he felt his
throat close. For a minute he had to stagger to the rail and hang on,
even though the illusory cold of the metal seared his skin. He gasped
and choked, fighting to stay conscious. Over the buzzing in his head,
he heard Sara's voice. The song had changed: *Found a peanut, found a
peanut, found a peanut just now....*
The attacking wave receded. Ray chuckled aloud, knowing his expression
probably resembled a gargoyle's grimace more than a smile. He resumed
his climb through the turgid cold. He felt he was tunneling through a
wall of fog somehow frozen solid.
Finally the icy cloud dissipated. He found himself on the fifth-floor
landing. Staring at the door, he faced a spider the size of a mastiff,
suspended in a thick web that covered the door like a cocoon.
"Another cheap trick," he said aloud. "Go back to Hell where you came
from!" He stepped forward, one hand outstretched brandishing the
dagger-shaped, silver-plated letter opener.
When the blade stabbed the spider, the thing burst into a flurry of
motion. Fangs like six-inch hypodermic needles sank into his flesh.
His hand burned with a stab of agony that forced a strangled cry from
him. He collapsed to his knees.
*So it's like the cold. Illusion or not, it can hurt.* Still, he had
to maintain the faith that it was only a phantom. The pain could do no
physical damage unless he cooperated by believing it could. Muttering
a prayer, he charged the door and groped for the latch.
He thrust his way through a viscous gel. Strands of sticky webbing
festooned his head and shoulders. Blinded, he jerked the door open and
-end of excerpt-
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Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
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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