Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 39 (December 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 the Romance Examiner, a new site for information on
authors and books in all romance genres:
My fanzine THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT is now being offered in collected form!
Identical in content to the zines as originally published, each
package contains two or three issues, depending on their length. Each
volume costs $22.00, shipping included, a distinct bargain compared to
the old mode of sale by individual issues. You can read detailed
tables of contents, including information on which issues contain
interviews with distinguished vampire authors, at the "Vampire's
Crypt" link on my website. This page also links to a summary of all
the book review columns, in case you'd like to read comments on an
older novel you're thinking of buying. Here's the ordering page on the
Also, if you haven't read my Silhouette vampire romance, EMBRACING
DARKNESS, and would like to, it can be found on Fictionwise.com either
alone or in a "Bloodlust Bundle" with another vampire novel from
Silhouette. EMBRACING DARKNESS belongs to the same "Vanishing Breed"
universe as my other vampire novels and novellas.
BittenbyBooks.com gave WILD SORCERESS and BESIEGED ADEPT each a rating
of 5 tombstones! "The pages seem to turn on their own as you walk
through the lives of Aetria and Coleni. . . . a joy to read and a
series I would highly recommend to any who truly love magic."
Don't forget the Jewels of the Quill authors have produced two
Christmas anthologies, SMALL GIFTS and CHRISTMAS WISHES. Below you'll
find an excerpt from my story in CHRISTMAS WISHES, "Little Cat Feet,"
based on the legend that animals gain the power of speech on Christmas
This month I'm interviewing Sarah A. Hoyt, author of the Shakespearean
fantasy series beginning with ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT and the Victorian
alternate history trilogy concluding with HEART AND SOUL, among other
Interview with Sarah A. Hoyt:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
It's not so much what inspired me as the fact that at the age of six I
realized it was the only career left open to me. You see, by that time
I'd been forced to give up on my two earlier aspirations. First I'd
badly wanted to be a cat. I was the youngest kid in the family, the
next youngest was 9 years older, but there were lots of cats around.
It probably makes perfect sense that I settled on the cats as the
closest thing to me. Anyway, eventually the adults caught on about my
training to be a cat. I think it's when I was rubbing my paw -- I mean
hand -- and rubbing my face. So they talked to me about it. They said
I'd never be a cat.
I was heartbroken, but then I came up with what I thought was far more
conventional an attainable -- I was going to be an angel. Only mom
said that first I'd need to die -- though frankly, once or twice when
she said that she didn't sound wholly opposed to the idea -- and
pointed out given my general character, I'd be more likely to be the
other variety, you know, with the tail and the horns and adapted to
So, by age six, I had to settle and I decided to go for something
easy. I'd be a world-famous novelist. The easy part... didn't work
QUITE as I expected so far.
2. What genres do you write in?
(Tallying on fingers) Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery. Historical
quasi biography which could sort of be romance (Plain Jane, under
Laurien Gardener, also upcoming No Other Wish But His, the story of
Kathryn Howard, under my own name.) If you count short stories,
horror. I'm sure given enough time on my hands, Romance and YA will
also stop being safe from me. Probably when the kids leave the house
in three years. I hear one suddenly finds oneself with loads of time
on one's hands.
3. Your Shakespearean fantasies could be called "secret history"
(fantastic events occurring in the background of factual history as we
know it), whereas HEART OF LIGHT and its sequels fall under "alternate
history." Did you find different research and writing challenges for
these two different subgenres of fantasy?
Well, the Shakespeare one was far more difficult, because you have to
fit in with what's known. Fortunately I've had a Shakespeare "thing"
since I was about twelve, so I already owned twenty or so books of the
-- mumble -- many I now own. However, considering there's a website
listing what the man was doing on any given day of his life (or likely
to be doing. Or at least his location) and given how many people think
they know everything about Shakespeare... well, it's a challenge. Fun,
but a lot like a puzzle. While with the Magical British Empire it was
just fun. You take your general knowledge of the time, and then you
try to make the same conditions occur via magic. ... well, okay, it's
fun if you're a total history geek. But I am, so that's okay. If I
can, I'll try to persuade the editor to let me go on with that story
line, and do the next generation in WWI in THEIR world. Kaiser Wilhelm
as a were wolf and the Red Baron as a dragon and Peter's son in the
4. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
The latest is Gentleman Takes A Chance the second of my Shifter
series. It's sort of like a contemporary "secret history." The story
centers around a diner, but through it and behind it all there's
different groups of ancient shape shifters fighting for supremacy,
control or other, unfathomable objectives which will affect the lives
of two characters, Kyrie and Tom, who are young, shifters and very
much in love with each other. (Sometimes it seems like against the
The next one under my own name will be a Space Opera from Baen books,
DarkShip Thieves. It has the MOST forceful heroine in the universe. Or
perhaps she's anti-social. But she uses her ballet skills to fight bad
guys across several worlds... It is, of course, also a serious
exploration on the meaning of freedom and humanity. But most of my
beta readers like the fight scenes. And the romantic bits.
5. What are you working on now?
Well, right now I'm finishing DarkShip Thieves, but I do have a novel
called Sword And Blood almost finished. As you know -- or possibly not
-- I've done a musketeer mystery series. Since that's now done with,
I'm taking ... a different approach to the musketeers. You see,
there's a vampire invasion and the Cardinal rules the night, while the
king and his musketeers try to keep the non vampires safe. There's
uh... nobility, love, sex, sword fights and vampires. Not always in
6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First, read a lot. I keep running into people who want to make sure
their style is "fresh" by not reading. Actually they're more likely to
make their style incoherent by not reading. There is a format not just
to the novel but to a modern novel. Reading exclusively nineteenth
century authors (I know someone who does this) will make you maybe a
good writer, but not necessarily a good writer for the twenty-first
century. The story telling was far more leisurely because they weren't
competing with TV and video games. So, read what you'd like to write.
No, I'm not suggesting you imitate ANYONE but it will give you enough
of a feel for what's out there that you won't be reinventing the wheel.
Second, be aware this is a craft as well as an art. When you're
reading those books, if you see a neat trick, a way to turn the
emotions in the scene or to back fill info without stopping the
action, take it apart. Study how it's done. Most writing books are
useless, but you might want to read a few now and then. You might find
something that helps you. If you must read only one how to write book
-- and I SWEAR I don't get a kickback from this -- buy and read
Techniques Of The Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. READ it even if you
think you know everything in it. He's really good at hitting all the
bases and he's likely to hit just the one minor thing you've been
missing. He did it for me after nine years of trying to get published.
Third, please realize that for every genuine overnight success there
are a hundred "overnight" successes that took twenty years. Do not
expect sudden fame and fortune (It's not as easy as it looked to me at
six, though arguably easier than my becoming an angel) and realize
there's an element of luck as well as of hard work. Work hard, stay in
the game, and you have a good chance of getting lucky. Well, at least
of selling well, I can't answer for your private life. On the way
there, be gracious to those beneath you on the ladder, as well as to
those above you. In this field the most bewildering and sudden career
events happen, and those positions could swap anytime. Besides, it's
just good morals to treat everyone as you wish to be treated.
Fourth, show your work to professionals you respect and who are on the
path you hope to be. When they tell you what needs fixing, believe
them. If you don't know any professionals, find people at your level
who are serious about learning. Fifteen years ago, ten friends and I
got together and -- the blind leading the blind -- started a writers'
group. We worked very hard, were very serious, read a lot and studied
techniques. I'm happy to report we are all now professionally published.
Fifth, Write, Submit, Repeat. If something is rejected do not revise
it unless the editor has asked for revisions and agreed to look at it
again. However, do send the story out again. Don't let it overnight in
the house. You're the pimp they are... the ladies of uneasy virtue.
Kick them out again to earn their keep. It takes time to get over the
rejections, but remember they are not really personal. (And the ones
that are are often misguided. I've had rejections telling me I'd never
be published -- ah!) Just... put your butt on the chair, your hands on
the keyboard. Write. Submit. Repeat. If you're working hard and
learning, eventually something will sell. And then a lot more will.
Trust me. Would I lie to you? (Well of course I would. I get PAID for
lying. That's what fiction is. But I have some self respect. I don't
lie for free.)
7. What's your website URL?
Some Books I've Been Reading:
SALVATION IN DEATH, by J. D. Robb. Compared to some of the other
novels in the Eve Dallas series, this new mystery devotes less time to
the personal relationship between Eve and her multi-millionaire
husband, Roarke, and we don't learn anything new about their
backgrounds. We do, however, witness Eve's emotional reaction to a
crime involving child abuse as part of the backstory. The mystery
begins with the death of a priest in the middle of a funeral, just
after he drinks the communion wine. While investigating the murder of
a clergyman who seems to be universally beloved, Eve uncovers the
shocking fact that he wasn't the person he claimed to be. Who stole
the priest's identity and why? Who discovered the murder victim's true
identity and killed him, and what connection does the crime have with
his past? Does the motive spring from events that happened in the
neighborhood surrounding the church many years earlier? Amid the
gripping suspense typical of this series, I enjoyed Eve's usual banter
with her partner, Detective Peabody, including Peabody's vain request
for a chance to play the "bad cop" for a change. The solution to the
mystery involves bad guys Eve can legitimately crack down on as well
as one unexpectedly sympathetic perp.
JUST AFTER SUNSET, by Stephen King. I'm always happy to see a new
story collection by King, because in most cases I haven't had the
opportunity to read many of the stories in their original venues. As
usual, I tend to find the longer works more satisfying than the
shorter ones. In my opinion, King's forte lies in the novella and
novel lengths. While this collection doesn't contain anything that
enthralls me like (for example), "The Mist," my favorite tale is the
newest and one of the longest, "N." In his afterword King acknowledges
the story's debt to Arthur Machen's classic "The Great God Pan," and,
not surprisingly, "N" therefore has a Lovecraftian feel. A nested
collection of documents reveals a psychiatrist's interaction with a
patient who claims to have stumbled upon a circle of stones that mark
a place where the barrier between worlds has grown thin. The patient's
obsessive-compulsive behavior develops as a desperate attempt to
prevent an other-dimensional entity from invading our universe.
Vintage King! Other favorites for me: "The Gingerbread Girl" centers
on a woman who takes up running as an escape from the pain of her
baby's death. When she retreats to an isolated beach cottage on a
Florida key, she stumbles into the clutches of a serial killer.
Without her gift for running, her plight would be hopeless. In
"Stationary Bike" the exercising protagonist daydreams his way onto an
imaginary road that somehow becomes real, where he clashes with the
construction crew working on the road. "Ayana" deals with an
inexplicable chain of miracle cures. In "The Things They Left Behind,"
King's 9-11 story, the narrator impossibly comes into possession of
items belonging to his co-workers who died in the Twin Towers, objects
that must have been destroyed in the attack. He eventually realizes
why some power has delivered these objects to him and what he is
intended to do with them.
BLOOD LITE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Compiled by HWA (the Horror
Writers Association), this handsome trade paperback anthology of
humorous horror tales features a star-studded cast of authors,
including Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Sharyn
McCrumb, Jeff Strand, and many others. So a fan of the genre can't go
wrong with this book. For me, "The Eldritch Pastiche from Beyond the
Shadow of Horror," by Christopher Welch, almost justifies buying the
anthology in itself: An unsuccessful writer seeks twelve-step help to
overcome his compulsion to create abysmally bad Lovecraftian fiction
and meets an ominous figure who reveals that his hopelessly derivative
stories actually serve a vital cosmic purpose.
HEART AND SOUL, by Sarah A. Hoyt. This final episode in Hoyt's
alternate Victorian era trilogy shifts focus back to Nigel Oldhall,
who now has possession of both the Soul of Fire and the Heart of
Light, gems that must be returned to their shrine in the heart of
Africa in order to prevent reality as his world knows it from
disintegrating. Posing as a wandering carpetship magician, he is on
the way to his destination when Chinese pirates in flying boats board
the ship. Red Jade, sister of the Dragon Emperor, whose family should
be ruling China's empire but instead leads a life of piracy, their
true status known only to other clans of shapeshifters, has heard
rumors of these gems that may enable her dynasty to regain the throne.
Zhang, a ruthless courtier who wants to overthrow Jade's brother, Wen,
attacks Nigel and escapes with one of the gems. Nigel and Jade
together pursue him after agreeing on a compromise between their
conflicting goals. Meanwhile, Wen's favorite wife, Third Lady, works
magic to transport both of them to the underworld, where Wen's soul is
being held captive. Only by regaining his soul can he overcome his
opium addiction and become a worthy ruler. The story alternates
between the two quests, fascinating adventures combined with
developing romantic relationships. Third Lady is a fox woman, a
species of shapeshifter regarded as deceitful and untrustworthy, but
since she is already married to Wen, their love can be freely
consummated once their shared ordeals draw them together. Nigel and
Jade face more serious obstacles to their union, since she comes from
the imperial bloodline of a people who view "foreign devils" as
inferior, and a shapeshifting dragon isn't the kind of wife an
aristocratic family such as Nigel's would approve of. Meanwhile, a
more mundane relationship arises between Hettie, a naive English miss
whose father befriends Nigel, and Adrian Corridon, an ambitious young
officer obsessed with the conviction that her father and Nigel are
part of a complex conspiracy. Peter, Nigel's were-dragon friend,
reappears to help with the mission of restoring the gems. I found the
novel enthralling and its conclusion completely satisfying.
Excerpt from "Little Cat Feet," whose protagonist is a teenage runaway
on Christmas Eve:
Just as Lauren was working up the nerve to try a door on one of the
deserted rowhouses, she heard a noise from the alley next to it. Her
first impulse was to run the other way. She definitely had no desire
to meet anybody else prowling the night, somebody who might be a
mugger or a crazed drug addict. When she heard the sound repeated,
though, she paused. A screech, no, more like a yowl. It reminded her
of an enraged cat. Another noise mingled with itlaughter.
She tiptoed to the alley and peeked around the corner of the
building. The wan glow from a nearby street lamp cast just enough
light into the shadows to reveal two dark-haired boys who looked her
age or a little older. They stood over a super-size garbage can. The
cries came from there. Definitely a cat. One of the boys held a broom,
which he kept poking into the can.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" She mentally cursed the way
her voice wobbled.
One of the guys, lean and wiry with a buzz-cut, flashed a grin at
her. "Who's asking?"
"What's in that can?" Glad she sounded a little more confident this
time, she marched up to them.
The second boy, taller and broader with his black hair in a ponytail,
said, "None of your business. Get lost. Unless you want to have some
fun with us." He made a grab for the front of her jacket.
Dodging, Lauren peered into the can. It was almost full of water.
Inside, a cat paddled frantically. An orange tabby, as far as she
could make out the color of its sodden fur in the dim light. Its cries
drilled into her skull like an ice pick stabbing her eardrums.
A flush of anger flooded her cheeks. A pulse hammered in her temples.
"Let it go!" she screamed.
The cat scrambled to the edge of the can and hooked its claws over
the rim. The ponytailed boy jabbed the animal with the broom to force
it back into the water. With an inarticulate shriek of rage, Lauren
seized the broomstick and threw her whole weight against it.
"Yo, bitch, what do you think you're doing?" The boy fought to
wrestle the broom out of her grip.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the cat scrabbling at the edge of
the can again. Meanwhile, the other boy grabbed her arm. Whirling
around, she smacked him with the bristled end. He yelled a curse and
gave her a hard shove. She staggered, and the hefty guy wrenched the
broom out of her hands and tossed it on the ground.
The cat leaped free of the can and dashed out of the alley. The thin
boy slapped Lauren across the face. With tears of pain and fury
blurring her vision, she faced the two punks, her fingers curled as if
she had claws herself.
"That wasn't nice. We had a bet," the guy with the ponytail said.
Breathing hard, she glowered at him. "What bet?"
"How long a cat can tread water before it drowns." His hand shot out
to grab the collar of her jacket. "You should pay for screwing up the
game. Let's see what you got for us." He tugged the zipper down to
reveal the sweatshirt she wore underneath.
When she tried to pull free, his friend caught both of her arms and
twisted them behind her. The pain forced a scream from her. Why didn't
somebody hear it and come to her rescue? *Here? Who am I kidding?*
The bigger boy clutched her pendant. "Yo, what's this? Real silver?"
Her heart pounding furiously, she said, "Don't touch that."
"Don't tell me what to do." He broke the chain with a quick jerk.
Lauren writhed in the smaller boy's grasp. "Give that back!" she
cried. "It's my grandmother's!"
"Yeah? What'll you give us for it?" the boy with the buzz-cut asked.
Relaxing his hold, he snaked one hand down her front to squeeze a
breast, hard, through her shirt. Her head reeled with fear and anger.
She kicked the larger boy in the shin, then wiggled around to face the
smaller one. She drove a knee into his groin. He doubled over, groaning.
*Hey, that really works!*
The hefty guy was reaching for her. She shoved the palm of her hand
into his nose. The crunching noise made her stomach lurch, but he
stumbled backward. Thank God her mom had made her practice those moves.
Mentally giving thanks for her time on the girls' cross-country team,
too, Lauren bolted for the street. She sprinted around the corner and
ducked into the next alley she came to. There, she dropped to her
knees behind a Dumpster and huddled in the deepest pool of shadow.
Unless she got super lucky, they would find her sooner or later.
Probably sooner. The snow wasn't falling heavily enough to cover her
tracks right away. Meanwhile, those jerks had her pendant. Grandmama's
pendant. Fresh tears welled from her eyes. She choked down a sob to
keep from making a noise that would give her away.
Now that she'd stopped running, the cold hit her anew. She hugged
herself and shivered while the wind spattered her with damp
snowflakes. She heard the two punks yelling to each other as they
searched along the street. Another sound cut into her misery, a low hiss.
Glancing up and rubbing her eyes with a gloved hand, she found the
orange tabby staring at her. Its pawprints lined up beside her own
footprints. With a flick of its tail, the cat paced toward the far end
of the alley.
A female voice said, "This way. Quickly, before those two catch up
Lauren looked frantically from side to side, searching for the woman
The cat trotted back to her and rubbed insistently against her leg.
"Get up! What are you waiting for? Follow me." She headed for the
alley's outlet again.
-end of excerpt-
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You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter