Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 45 (June 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/
Below is an excerpt from "Voice from the Void," one of the vampire stories in my collection HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES (Amber Quill Press). Claude, a vampire who appears in the contemporary works CHILD OF TWILIGHT, SEALED IN BLOOD, and "Tall, Dark, and Deadly," is featured in this story set in the 1890s.
"Lion's Bower," my erotic romance novelette about a maiden who finds forbidden fruit in a catlike sorcerer's enchanted garden, was published by Ellora's Cave in May.
This month I'm interviewing Judith B. Glad, recipient of EPIC's 2009 Patricia Lucas White Service Award.
Interview with Judith B. Glad:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
Oh, gosh, it's been so long ago that I can't remember. Probably learning to make letters fit together into words. An elderly aunt of mine used to scold me for telling lies long before I started school. Of course I was really making up stories, but I guess she didn't appreciate the difference. I didn't start writing seriously until I was in my late teens, and I managed to compile a pretty good collection of rejections before the demands of children and job and life made me put it aside for a while. I still wrote the occasional poem or short article, but mostly for my own amusement. The kids eventually grew up and I became a botanical consultant and did a lot of technical writing. After a few years of that, I decided it was time to see if I could write a real book, instead of short stories. About twenty years ago. I finally did. It was awful, but it taught me that I could do it.
2. What genres do you write in?
Romance. I can't imagine writing a story that doesn't have a happy ending. So far I have written historical (western), contemporary, Regency and paranormal romance, as well as several short erotica pieces. Several of my historicals have a suspense element, and I'd like to try my hand at a contemporary romantic suspense someday. Of course, Jaye Watson writes about murder, but those are all short stories and novellas.
3. Have particular authors had special influence on your writing in any of those genres?
Oh, yes, Mary Jo Putney judged my Regency entry in a long-ago Golden Heart contest and offered both compliments and suggestions. Glenn Balch, our next door neighbor, wrote YAs back in the 1940s and 1950s. He influenced me by example, showing me that a successful author has to put in a day's work just like anyone else. Robert Heinlein, who told stories that I couldn't put down, encouraged me to write what I loved (which was why I stopped trying to write SF and switched to romance). There are others, master storytellers all, who still influence me, because I strive to make my books as captivating as theirs.
4. Why did you choose to write under several different names? Do you think of your pen names as "different people"?
When I first decided to write erotica, there were relatives who would have been scandalized to know I wrote "that sort of thing." I chose to do so in secret to avoid worrying them. After a year or so, I decided to out myself, because they weren't reading my stories anyhow. I doubt they've noticed, yet.
I'm a Gemini, so of course my pen names belong to different people. Jaye Watson is a little old lady who loves thinking of new ways to kill off everyone who pesters her. She's a very dangerous gal. Annice Dare, on the other hand, is young, sexy, and really adventurous. Her major problem is that she's so busy having fun that she doesn't get a lot of writing done.
5. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
THE PORTRAIT (www.uncialpress.com/books/portrait/portrait.html) was released by Uncial Press in mid-May. It's a Regency not-quite-romance novella that's a bit different from my usual stories. My heroine wanted to tell her story her own way, so I let her, and was a bit surprised myself at how it ended.
After that, I've got a longer one due for release sometime in the fall. A STRANGE LITTLE BAND is probably best described as women's fiction, but it's (naturally) got a couple of romances in it, and a wonderfully dysfunctional family that manages to function in spite of its members.
6. What are you working on now?
Book VIII of my Behind the Ranges series (western historical romances). The working title is UNDERCOVER CAVALIERE, and it is set mostly in Paris in 1886. Yes, I know that's not 'western', but what can a mere author do when her hero insists on playing international spy? My goal is to have it ready to go to my cold readers in June.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Learn your tools. No writer worth her/his salt is going to find life easy without knowing English. I'm frequently appalled at the poor quality of writing I see in submissions and even in published books I judge in contests. Misused and misspelled words, incorrect verb tenses or forms, poor sentence and paragraph structure, and the one that always makes me grind my teeth, the overworked dependent (AKA subordinate) clause at the beginning of a sentence. For instance: Driving down the hill, the bridge was washed out. I'll let your readers decide whether the bridge was driving or not. I invite everyone to visit my webpage where I reveal other solecisms: http://www.judithbglad.com/eh.html
8. What's your website URL?
One for each of my personas:
I tweet pretty regularly at http://twitter.com/jbglad
Some Books I've Been Reading:
THE MYSTERY OF GRACE, by Charles de Lint. This feels different from the other books by de Lint I've read (though I haven't read all of them, by any means). For one thing, it's set in the American southwest rather than his typical Canadian urban milieu and has a Hispanic heroine. John meets Grace on Halloween, and they fall in love in one night. At sunrise she literally vanishes. This incident constitutes a sort of prologue, after which a lengthy flashback catches the characters up to the "present" of the prologue. Since the opening scene isn't labeled either "Prologue" or flashback, I was briefly confused about the time sequence, but I got the plot order sorted out fairly quickly. After her death, shot in a convenience store robbery, Grace finds herself in a rather bland afterlife, dull but not unpleasant, confined to about six blocks around the building in which she lived. Other people share the space with her. To begin with she angrily rejects their insistence that all of them are dead but soon accepts the truth. Why are they stuck here? Do other dead people move on to Heaven or Hell, and if so, why are these spirits an exception to the general rule? Later Grace determines to solve these questions, but at first she uses all her energy to adjust to her new existence. Discovering that the dead can cross over into the realm of the living two nights a year, on Beltane (in the spring) and Samhain (Halloween), she takes advantage of the opportunity. Finding herself corporeally present in the real world for one night, she enjoys her excursion except for the sad fact that people who knew her in life can't recognize her now. She meets John and falls in love. They reunite on the subsequent Beltane. After that, the story takes a ninety-degree turn I never saw coming. I can't say any more because of the spoiler factor, except that horror joins pathos as Grace exposes the force trapping herself and her companions in their gray town. This is a novel that will linger in your mind.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith takes the text of Austen's classic novel and, by altering some passages and inserting a few new ones, converts Elizabeth and her sisters into mistresses of the "deadly arts," trained by a Chinese master to slay the undead victims of the "strange plague" that has overrun the British Isles. The word "zombie" is seldom used; the euphemistically termed "stricken ones" are usually called "unmentionables" or "dreadfuls." The violence besieging civilized Regency society extends to social relationships as well. Ladies seem as likely as gentlemen to challenge each other to deadly duels. One of the most amusing scenes involves Elizabeth's rejection of Darcy's first proposal while using her martial arts skills to throw him around the room. His aunt, Lady Catherine, scorns Elizabeth not only for her low family connections but out of disdain for her Chinese fighting background as opposed to Lady Catherine's allegedly superior Japanese training. On the whole, I enjoyed it. I thought the author (co-author?) did an excellent job of smoothly integrating the zombie interpolations with the original text. My only reservation is that the tone seems to wobble a bit. There are passages of genuine horror and pathos, and then there are moments when the zombie element is clearly being played for sheer silliness. And I do dislike the frequent vomiting and the repeated emphasis on bedridden Wickham's "soiling," both of which seem to me incompatible with Regency style. (And if he's that disabled, how can he function as a working clergyman? That was before handicapped-accessible architecture and technology!) Otherwise, I think the tour de force is pulled off very well. The alternate-universe Regency England infested with zombies comes across as quite believable. To appreciate the story completely, of course, the reader needs familiarity (or at least acquaintance) with the original novel.
BLOODLINE, by Maggie Shayne. This new novel is almost as much suspense and thriller as romance. Serena, told that her baby was stillborn, learns from a mysteriously helpful nurse that the baby was kidnapped for the "belladonna antigen" in her blood (the chemical factor that makes it possible for a person to be transformed into a vampire). A secret order called the Sisterhood of Athena, dedicated to protecting such children, takes Serena in. Twenty-one years later, vampire Lilith wakes up under a bridge naked and bereft of her memories. She finds her way to the home of another vampire, Ethan, with whom she feels an inexplicable connection. Gradually she recovers her memory, learning that both she and Ethan escaped from the Farm, a government facility where "Chosen" children like them are subjected to a harsh training regimen to mold them into future vampire assassins. Her distrust of Ethan feels believable, not exaggerated for the sake of romantic tension, because her background gives her good reason to withhold trust and all she remembers about him at first is that he left her behind when he escaped. The reader knows their sexual and emotional attraction to each other will finally overcome Lilith's qualms, but meanwhile they have to flee from government agents intending to either return them to the Farm or kill them. They are also pursued by the Sisterhood, whom they fear as an unknown potential threat. Serena's determination to find her daughter and the reunion between her and Lilith are emotionally effective. Ethan's long-missing brother James also plays a critical role in the plot, and until almost the end of the book the reader has no more certainty than the characters of whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. While this novel leans a little too much toward the "action" category for my taste, it's still the kind of solid vampire romance one would expect from Maggie Shayne.
CHEEK BY JOWL, by Ursula K. LeGuin. My only major complaint about this collection of essays on fantasy, especially children's fantasy, is that it's too short. I zipped through it in less than two hours and wanted more. Once and for all, LeGuin disposes of the claims of "realism," a genre invented in the eighteenth century, to be the only form of literature worthy of serious attention. Her fluent and forceful prose is, as always, a joy to read. The longest, most substantive piece in the book, "Cheek by Jowl: Animals in Children's Literature," ranges along a continuum from animal biographies completely within the animal viewpoint and psychology to stories that present animals entirely in terms of human concerns. Though I agree with most of her comments, I think she's too hard on one of my favorite books, WATERSHIP DOWN. While it does disappoint me to learn that Adams misrepresented rabbit gender relations (as reported in his source material), I don't agree that (as LeGuin maintains) the novel portrays rabbit does as mindless breeding machines. The principal female characters have individual personalities, and one or two of them help to create the plan for escape from Efrafa. Also, Adams wrote a sequel, a collection of short stories, in which a doe becomes co-leader of the Watership warren (which LeGuin probably hasn't read, to be fair). Otherwise, LeGuin's meditations on her topics inspired me to one "right on!" after another.
THE LAST WELL PERSON: HOW TO STAY WELL DESPITE THE HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM, by Nortin M. Hadler. This book by a medical doctor and university professor exhaustively deconstructs the "medicalization" of the unavoidable aches and pains of life, particularly of aging, and what he calls "Type II Malpractice""the act of doing something to you very well that you did not need in the first place." Cardiology, nutritional fads, osteoporosis, and cancer diagnosis and therapy are among the subjects that fall under his skeptical analysis. He maintains that many currently popular treatments don't provide benefits anywhere near worth the risks involved. He also believes the normal human lifespan is about 85, and if we're prevented from dying of one disease, we'll probably die of something else at about the same time we would have succumbed anyway. His emphasis on socioeconomic factors and the impact of the mind on the body offers an important reminder of factors often neglected by our health care system. I do feel, however, that he skimps on awareness of the body's impact on the mind. I'm sure my reaction to, "your back hurts all the time partly because you're depressed" would be along the line of, "of course I'm depressed, consarn it, because my back hurts all the time!" Also, I question his premise that it doesn't matter what we die of if we live the same number of years regardless; from what I've heard, some fatal diseases are significantly more unpleasant than others. Still, Hadler's reminder to scrutinize carefully the risk-benefit ratio before accepting treatments that might result in a worse quality of life than the disorder they're supposed to cure provides a vital corrective to high-tech medicine's tendency to deploy every therapeutic measure the patient's insurance coverage allows. Much to think about here.
Excerpt from "Voice from the Void":
As the speaker stood on the tiger-skin hearth-rug droning on about hypnotism and reincarnation, Claude D'Arnot contemplated the gaslight's gleam on the man's bald head and gold-rimmed spectacles. "Recently I recovered the buried memories of a gifted subject who had served as a priestess in the temple of Dagon on the island-continent of Mu before its cataclysmic destruction..."
Claude, bored with the speech, let his eyes wander to the fur rug, complete with tail, paws, and head. His sympathies lay with the tiger, a solitary predator vastly outnumbered by both its natural prey and the human interlopers.
He shifted his attention to his own quarry, the medium, Violet, beside him on the divan. Flushing beneath his scrutiny, the young woman met his eyes for a second, then looked back at the speaker. Claude sensed Violet's skepticism--no wonder, considering her own role in the group--as well as her lack of interest in the lecture. *She's disturbed about something.* She radiated unease, reinforcing the message Claude read in her depressed skin temperature, erratic pulse, and shadowed aura.
*Could this be the opening I've waited for?* He'd watched her for weeks, his desire mounting, but he'd held back. He wanted more from her than a casual supper engagement. Why? What made this one different from any other human female?
The medium's friend Harriet Harmon, seated on Claude's left, showed greater enthusiasm for the saga of ancient Mu, as did the other dozen or so people grouped around the drawing room. Miss Harmon leaned over to whisper in Claude's ear, "Isn't this fascinating?"
"Indeed," he murmured, waving away a maid who hovered nearby, offering a refill of his sherry.
Fascinating drivel. Among the countless people he'd mesmerized during his lifetime, not one had dropped a hint of a previous existence. But he had joined the Esoteric Order of Leviathan for entertainment, not its intellectual resources. More importantly, these occult societies made excellent hunting grounds. Women enthralled with the supernatural could easily be seduced into "ritual blood-sharing," so long as he clouded their minds to obscure the one-sided nature of the "sharing."
Claude had dabbled in several such cults, including that unsavory young fellow Crowley's circle, and the Leviathan devotees peddled the most imaginative brand of drivel he'd encountered. As far as he could untangle the threads of their doctrine, they taught that when the Elder Gods broke through from the void beyond the stars to lay waste the Earth, their faithful servants, as sole survivors, would be transformed into powerful inhuman creatures and rule the world. Those who had died before the glorious conquest would enjoy reincarnation in similarly monstrous guise. *Why not? Sounds more exciting than a cloud-paved heaven with perpetual harp music.* All the religions practiced by ephemerals struck Claude, who wavered between deism and frank agnosticism, as equally silly anyway.
A patter of applause interrupted his thoughts. The High Archon of the Order took the speaker's place in front of the hearth. "Thank you, Professor Rinaldo, for that most enlightening presentation. That concludes the public portion of this week's convocation." He chanted a benediction in what he claimed to be ancient Sumerian. For all Claude knew, it might be; it resembled no language he'd ever heard.
The Archon, a bony middle-aged man, clean-shaven except for a bushy mustache that matched his tufted eyebrows, wore an aquamarine robe and a bronze pectoral set with semiprecious stones. A bronze circlet of similar design adorned his high forehead and abundant iron-gray hair. Though he made cryptic claims to an aristocratic bloodline, the Archon was actually a former stage magician named Matthew McFadden. Claude had satisfied his curiosity on this and other points--for instance, the medium's identity as McFadden's orphaned niece, Violet Cade--the first night they'd met, afterwards making the cult leader forget the conversation. Not that Claude disapproved of the spiritualist; as a former actor and something of a trickster himself, he could appreciate a clever charlatan.
While the maid cleared away the sherry decanters and trays of sweet biscuits, the butler ushered the guests to the front hall. Claude, along with Professor Rinaldo and Miss Harmon, had the privilege of staying for the medium's private performance, the weekly seance. During that first interview with McFadden, he'd implanted an impression of himself as a scholar of the occult who deserved a place in the Order's inner circle.
Standing, Violet said to Claude, "Will you be joining us as usual, Mr. D'Arnot?"
He heard an atypical strain in her voice. *Yes, something's bothering her tonight.* Clad in a loose, white robe, with her chestnut hair unbound, showing golden highlights in the lamp's glow, she looked ethereally delicate. Claude knew the appearance belied the facts; she managed McFadden's correspondence and financial affairs as well as any hired secretary could have. Despite her cheerful cooperation in her uncle's spiritualist schemes, in other matters she retained her innocence. Claude suspected she had no idea of the erotic symbolism of the bronze ankh pendant she wore.
Her fleeting blush, evoked by his intent gaze, stirred his appetite. He had to restrain himself from touching her by a stern reminder that he had no socially acceptable excuse for doing so.
"You know I wouldn't miss it." He said more quietly, "Miss Cade, you seem troubled. Can I help?"
Violet's aura darkened, her smile fading. "There's no need." She cast a nervous glance toward her uncle, making his farewells to the uninitiated. "There's nothing wrong."
Without directly challenging the lie, Claude whispered, "Please keep in mind, if I can offer you any assistance, simply ask."
McFadden walked over to her. "Come along, Violet. It's past time to begin the sitting."
Violet flinched, though her uncle spoke softly. "Yes, I suppose so."
*I've never seen her reluctant to participate before,* Claude thought. *And what has the man done to her?* His own indignation at the idea of her being hurt surprised him. Feeling possessive about the girl already? Not a good sign.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter