Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 44(May 2009)
- 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:
Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romance Blog: http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/
Bitten by Books (bittenbybooks.com) has reviewed the Pocket Book anthology MIDNIGHT TREAT, by Sally Painter, Shelley Munro, and me, calling it a "delightful trio of things that go bump in the night." They describe my novella, "Tall, Dark, and Deadly," as "a very sensual tale" and "fun."
I got an Amazon Kindle 2 for my birthday! It's extremely coolweighs almost nothing and fits in my purse. Even *I* was not brazen enough to claim it will pay for itself anytime soon, because there are some authors whose books I'll always want to own in physical form, and although Kindle editions are cheaper than the equivalent print books, the difference isn't enough to make up for the cost of the device very quickly. However, now I'll be able to read novels and stories available only in e-book on this convenient handheld gadget rather than the desktop computer (or even our laptop, which isn't light enough to hold on one's lap comfortably for hours). Not only that, books sold by other vendors can be converted for the Kindle by the simple process of e-mailing the file to my designated Kindle address, at a cost of only ten cents per document. I've already loaded a couple of PDF books by that method. Below, I comment on Stephen King's novelette written especially for the Kindle.
On May 19 Ellora's Cave will release my novelette "Lion's Bower" as part of a "fruit" Quickie theme month. It's an erotic Beauty and the Beast type of tale set in a vaguely early medieval environment, with a sorcerer hero who's a humanoid cat. The opening scene appears below.
I'm interviewing versatile author Pamela K. Kinney, aka Sapphire Phelan, whose short Lovecraftian romance I review below.
Interview with Pamela K. Kinney:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I've always enjoyed making up stories or writing poems since I was eight-years-old. My first published pieces were three poems that I submitted to Hyacinths and Biscuits poetry Magazine in Los Angeles when I
was seventeen. They were accepted, published, and I got paid. Since then I've been writing and submitting.
2. What genres do you write in?
As Pamela K. Kinney, I write horror, fantasy, science fiction, poetry and nonfiction ghost books.
As Sapphire Phelan, I write erotic and sweet paranormal, fantasy and science fiction romance, with also a couple erotic horror stories published, on, "Jack" in Sinister tales Magazine, Issue 1 and a current one, "Unwitting Sacrifice," an erotic Lovecraftian horror novella in both eBook and print, published by Under the Moon. I also have published a couple of poems in a poetry anthology published by Phaze Books.
3. Why did you decide to write under two different names? Do you feel your two personae are "different people"?
When I had first submitted Crimson Promise in 2005 to its first publisher, it was an very erotic paranormal science fiction short and I thought that maybe I should use a pseudonym because of that erotic content. Now, that I had published a sweet historical romance short story, "Old Friends," and even a slightly sensual paranormal, "To Teach An Ancient God," I decided that Sapphire would handle the non-erotic too. Two names is enough.
4. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
As Pamela K. Kinney, I have Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales coming from Schiffer Publishing sometime in May 2009. I also have an article, "Don't Pet the Heads of Strange Black Dogs" to be in Withersin Magazine's July 2009 issue. What is out currently: I have a horror story each in two anthologies: Northern Haunts: 100 Terrifying New England Tales, published by Shroud Publishing, and The World Outside the Window, published by R J Buckely Publishing.
As Sapphire Phelan, there's Unwitting Sacrifice in both eBook and print from Under the Moon, and an erotic urban fantasy as an eBook, Being Familiar With a Witch, published by Phaze Books.
5. What are you working on now?
The sequel to Being Familiar With a Witch, plus a sensual fantasy with dragon shapeshifters novel.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To do not give up. Join a writer's group, keep writing and perfecting your craft and submitting. If to be a published writer is your dream, then never give up.
7. What's your website URL?
Some Books I've Been Reading:
UNWITTING SACRIFICE, by Sapphire Phelan. This is the only Lovecraftian romance I've read other than my own novelette "Tentacles of Love." Unlike my humorous-toned story, though, Sapphire Phelan's novella is a harrowingly serious horror-romance crossover. Tormented by nightmares, Lisa moves to a small town on the Virginia coast at the advice of her doctor. Unknown to her, she has been chosen for a bride by the offspring of a human mother and a Deep One god. Because the story includes scenes from the hybrid hero/villain's viewpoint, the reader knows Lisa's doom long before she suspects, especially since he has the power to alter her memories. Her plight reminds me of ROSEMARY'S BABY, in that all the people around her, no matter how kindly they behave, are in on the secret and conspiring to make her the mother of an inhuman child. When Lisa finally awakens to the truth, will she succumb to her would-be mate's seduction or manage to escape? Order from www.genreconnections.com/shop.
NEW AMSTERDAM, by Elizabeth Bear. The cover blurb recommends this alternate history with a vampire hero to "readers who like the grit of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake novels"wrong. This novel bears no resemblance to the Anita Blake series other than its setting in an alternate version of our world (and Bear's America is a lot more "alternate" than Hamilton's, whose United States differs from ours only in that magic, vampires, werewolves, etc. are publicly known to exist and must be dealt with by innovative laws and customs). NEW AMSTERDAM has no onstage sex, little onstage violence (until the climax), and nothing of what I'd call "grit." On the other hand, the blurb gets it right in recommending the book to admirers of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's historical series starring Count Saint-Germain. In 1902 of a world where the American Revolution never happened and New Amsterdam was transferred from the possession of Holland to that of England much later than in our timeline (hence retaining its Dutch name), the British Empire still rules most of the eastern seaboard, while the rest of North America belongs to Spain, France, and various Indian nations. Dirigibles transport passengers across the Atlantic, and electricity is still a new technology. Sorcery is known to exist, as are vampires. Vampirism is illegal in the Colonies but tolerated in parts of Europe. Sebastien, a vampire over a thousand years old, no longer remembers his original name, his birthplace, or most of his human life. A refined, aristocratic character (resembling Saint-Germain in that respect), he occupies his time by solving mysteries. In fact, as a "consulting detective," he comes across as sort of a vampire Sherlock Holmes. Although impatient with the protocol of "the blood," including the "courtier" system of formally claiming blood donors, he does have a network of donors, necessary for a vampire who doesn't want to become a murderous monster. He travels with Jack, his current principal donor, a young man he rescued as a boy from forced prostitution. This book, though packaged as a novel, is more of a connected series of episodes. In each chapter Sebastien solves a separate mystery, usually in partnership with Crown Investigator Lady Abigail Irene Garrett, a middle-aged professional sorceress, a strong and intriguing character. The chapters do share a developing plot thread, but all except the last couple could stand alone as short stories. Nobody who likes vampires in unusual settings should miss this elegant book.
THE MERLOT MURDERS, by Ellen Crosby. I always enjoy detective stories that include inside details about a lifestyle or an art, craft, or industry (for instance, Susan Conant's dog mysteries). This is the first book of a series that particularly attracted my attention because it's by an author from this region. It's set at a winery in Virginia, interesting to me because every summer we take at least one weekend trip to visit a few Virginia wineries. Lucie Montgomery returns home from France, where she's been living since her ex-lover crashed his car and left her severely injured and, even after her recovery, semi-crippled. Her widowed father has died in an apparent gunshot accident, but naturally rumors of murder have arisen. Lucie's brother wants to sell the family winery, a plan she vigorously opposes. As in any good mystery, lots of people have motives for wanting her father dead. The mystery comes to a satisfying conclusion, not dependent for its solution on coincidence or a villain's too-convenient confession. Despite Lucie's weakness of falling for the wrong men, she impresses me as a strong, sympathetic character. The afterwords about the history of wine in Virginia and the characteristics of Merlot provide delightful bonus reading. I'll definitely read at least one more book in this series.
JESSICA'S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE, by Beth Fantaskey. The title and cover of this YA romance imply that it will be lighthearted, maybe humorous, and the first few chapters don't dispel that impression. By the end, though, the story turns very dark, as well as far more sensuous than would have been allowed in YA fiction a couple of decades ago. Jessica, adopted as a small child by an American couple studying the folkways of a Romanian "cult" to which her birth parents belonged before the group was destroyed by a superstitious mob, meets mysterious exchange student Lucius Vladescu. He claims to be the scion of a vampire royal house and informs Jessica she is the princess of a rival lineage. At birth they were pledged to marry in order to end the feud between the two families. Jessica, of course, thinks he's a lunatic until her parents confirm the story. If she allows Lucius to bite her, Jessica's vampire nature will awaken. At first he comes across as the arrogant aristocrat she considers him to be. Gradually they become friends, and she begins to acknowledge her attraction to him. Jessica's potential human boyfriend and a female rival determined to seduce Lucius create complications. Lucius's disgruntled letters to his uncle back in Romania provide comic relief, but the story soon develops into a life-or-death situation with dangers for the survival of both vampire clans. Although the novel didn't develop the way I expected, I was strongly impressed by it and recommend it. Jessica is a vibrant heroine who doesn't melt in surrender to arrogant vampire seduction tactics. The only thing that disappointed me was the shortage of excerpts from the advice manual GROWING UP UNDEAD: A TEEN VAMPIRE'S GUIDE TO DATING, HEALTH, AND EMOTIONS. I wanted a lot more than the few quotes we're given.
UR, by Stephen King. King wrote this novelette exclusively for the launch of the Kindle 2. I won't say his fans should buy the $359 device strictly to be able to purchase the story, but it's definitely a selling point. The protagonist, an English professor at a small liberal arts college, has a fight with his girlfriend, a phys ed coach who yells before storming out, "Why can't you read off the computer like everybody else?" Soon afterward, he discovers the existence of the Kindle and decides to buy one in a vague impulse of spite and self-justification. Because of a trans-dimensional order mix-up, he receives the wrong Kindle. The one he gets is pink instead of white and has a picture of an ominous tower on the screen. This UR model gives access to literature and periodicals from countless alternative space-time continua. The professor agrees to the anti-paradox restrictions without giving the concept much thought. After all, the rules don't affect himuntil he discovers that the UR Kindle offers a subscription to future issues of the local newspaper. As any reader of folk tales and horror stories can guess, everything falls apart after he reads one of those issues. One thing I especially like about UR is the Dark Tower connection that appears in the climax, but one needn't be familiar with the Dark Tower epic to enjoy this story.
Excerpt from "Lion's Bower":
In the midst of the tangled wood a high stone wall surrounded an orchard. A locked gate barred entry. Thick vines festooning the stones, though, made the wall no obstacle to anyone agile enough to climb. Having spent her childhood scurrying after Galen, her elder brother, Diera didn't hesitate to use the vines to scale the barrier. She would risk far worse than a tumble to rescue Galen from the trap into which he'd thrown himself. She needed to hurry, for the trek from the village had taken longer than expected. She didn't want nightfall to catch her here.
In the glow of the setting sun she glimpsed tree limbs heavy with fruit. But even with her eyes closed she would have guessed the nature of the sorcerer's garden from the heady fragrance. When she pulled herself onto the top of the wall, she saw the apple trees she had expected, heavy with autumn's bounty. She hadn't expected to find pears, plums, and peaches as well, not to mention several other fruits she didn't recognize.
Sturdy limbs hung over the wall. Diera leaned sideways, grabbed the nearest branch, and swung her legs over it. Aside from snagging her kirtle and stockings on a few twigs, she clambered along the branches to the trunk and climbed to earth with no trouble. On the ground she leaned against the tree, panting, and surveyed what she could see of the orchard. The sorcerer's lair must lie at the center of the garden. She strode in that direction. The sweet, ripe aroma grew stronger with every step. To her amazement, she glimpsed flowers as well as fruit on the laden boughs of trees she passed. The cool of the early fall evening yielded to summery warmth. The air of this place must swarm with magic. Everyone in her village knew a powerful wizard had taken possession of the abandoned manor, although nobody knew what he looked like. No travelers who had disregarded warnings and trespassed on the sorcerer's land had reappeared to tell the tale. Diera's heart pounded with terror at the thought of facing him. Fixing her mind on her brother, she swallowed the fear and hurried on.
Scattered petals and fallen fruit littered the mossy ground among the trees. Bees buzzed around juices seeping from crushed plums. She noticed berries of different colors, as well as strange fruits with golden, sun-yellow, and pale green rinds with a scent whose crisp tang stung her nose. The mingled fragrances made her lightheaded as if she'd drunk too much mead. Her pulse raced faster, not only with fear. Blood rushed to her cheeks, her breasts, and the tender flesh between her thighs.
Twilight made the shadows denser and haunted her imagination with phantoms lurking behind the trees. Diera shook her head and focused on the faint trace of a path at her feet. It must lead to the manor, where she would find the sorcerer-lord and, she prayed, her brother. Her head spun with increased dizziness the farther she advanced into the fragrant center of the orchard. As she struggled against vertigo, tiny lights in the branches overhead caught her eye.
Lanterns hanging from the limbs? No, the glints of light were too small and dim. After a few more paces, she saw the source, trees festooned with crimson berries the size and shape of cherries. Like no cherries she'd ever seen, though, they shone from within like miniature candles. Their sweetness enveloped her like a cloud until she could hardly draw a full breath.
Boughs heavy with the glowing berries drooped low enough for her to reach by stretching an arm above her head. She couldn't resist plucking a bunch. When her hand closed on them, she crushed several small globes. Juice moistened her palm. The intoxicating aroma flooded her senses.
Lifting the cluster to her face, she inhaled deeply of their fragrance and bit off two of the berries. She had a split second to marvel at her foolishness, wondering whether they might hold poison, before they burst on her tongue. She gasped at the shock of their honeyed ripeness. She nibbled another, then another, longing to savor the taste but unable to stop herself from gobbling them as fast as her lips and tongue could draw them in. The juice stained her mouth, chin, and hands. The flavor blossomed like a flame in her chest and stomach.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter