Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 46 (July 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/
Barbara Custer, editor of the vampire and horror zine NIGHT TO DAWN, has put an interview with me on her blog:
I'm loving my Kindle 2. I just wish the price would drop so every reader in the U.S. could have one. I read MaryJanice Davidson's UNDEAD AND UNWELCOME on it at a considerable savings from the hardcover price. Its only drawback is that it makes impulse purchase of books TOO easy. :) By the way, my Silhouette vampire romance EMBRACING DARKNESS is available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.
On 24 July, Ellora's Cave will release my erotic ghost romance, "Sweeter Than Wine," as a "Quickie" in their Exotika line. An excerpt from the opening scene appears below.
This time I'm interviewing paranormal romance author Lori Devoti.
Interview with Lori Devoti:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I wrote some in high school, but just poetry. I honestly didn't think of
myself as a writer. In fact it kind of intimidated me. I started a couple of
things, but never stuck with them. Then I guess the timing was just right
and about six years ago I decided to really give it a try. I don't know what
inspired me to do it, except just really enjoying reading.
2. What genres do you write in?
Right now paranormal romance, urban fantasy and paranormal young adult. I
also have two contemporary romances in print, but I'm not writing any right
3. How did you come to write for the Silhouette Nocturne line?
I had the two contemporaries, but that market (romantic comedy) kind of
dried up. I loved paranormal and I loved darker stuff so I decided to give
it a try.
4. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
My latest book is an urban fantasy, Amazon Ink. It just came out with Pocket
Juno books. It's about a modern day Amazon who is also a tattoo artist and a
mother. She left the tribe ten years earlier, but as the book starts it's
obvious someone familiar with her past has found her--dead Amazon teens have
been left on her doorstep.
5. What are you working on now?
The second book in the Amazon series, Amazon Queen. The protagonist for it
is Zery, the Amazon queen who appears in Amazon Ink.
6. You've had some interesting theme months on your blog. Please tell
us about that (and where we can find the blog).
I've had two theme months so far: 30 Days of Vampires and a Full Moon of
Werewolves. I plan to repeat those and would like to add one more. I've been
toying with something targeted to writers, but haven't decided yet. My blog
is at http://www.loridevoti.com/blog and the two themes are under
categories. So, people can pull them up easily.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A bad agent is worse than no agent at all. Frequently they (editors/agents)
aren't rejecting you or even your writing but the individual project you
have sent. (Everyone gets rejected even NY Times best-selling authors.)
Don't believe what you read on the Internet. Things tend to feed on
themselves online and things appear to be huge or even true that just
8. What's your website URL?
Some Books I've Been Reading:
WIDE SARGASSO SEA, by Jean Rhys. This 1966 novel by a distinguished English novelist of Caribbean birth who apparently always thought of herself as Caribbean rather than British offers a prequel to JANE EYRE and a re-imagining of the character of Mr. Rochester's first wife, Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic. Watching a MASTERPIECE THEATER presentation of JANE EYRE sometime last year, I was struck anew by Rochester's intolerance and downright cruelty toward his "mad" wife. We have only his word for her "unchaste" and "intemperate" behavior (which sounds to me like masculine fear of woman's sexuality) and the supposition that she was insane before he dragged her from her home to a foreign country and locked her away. Rhys' novel presents the childhood of Antoinette (her middle name in JANE EYRE and her true name in WIDE SARGASSO SEA before her husband renames her), the passionate early weeks of her marriage (consummated only a month after her future husband arrives in the West Indies), and how everything goes wrong between them. Antoinette's old nurse Christophine, an obeah woman who supplies the young bride with a disastrous attempt at a love potion, plays a pivotal role in the story. Footnotes in the Norton Critical Edition highlight the elements of Caribbean history and racial tensions incorporated into the novel. This is a terribly sad book, told partly in Antoinette's voice and partly in her husband's. Rochester (who is never called by name in Rhys' text) doesn't appear as a monster; he, too, was forced into marriage without adequate preparation, and he's a stranger in an alien land in the West Indies just as his bride later becomes in England. The narrative style is elliptical, allusive, sometimes hard to follow, especially in Antoinette's stream-of-consciousness monologue that constitutes Part Three. In my opinion, a full understanding of the plain sense of the plot would be hard without knowing Charlotte Bronte's novel. I think a reader not familiar with JANE EYRE would get lost between Part Two and the brief Part Three, a gap that skips over the journey to England and the mad bride's initial imprisonment in her upstairs room, events only alluded to in Antoinette's disconnected meditations. For Bronte fans, though, this remarkable novel is well worth reading.
DEAD AND GONE, by Charlaine Harris. Since the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, which included bits of humor, this series has undergone a gradual change of tone, at least as I see it. In the last few books, it has become steadily darker. This new novel focuses on the long-awaited public revelation of werewolves and shapeshifters. At first it appears the announcement will be received at least as well as the coming-out of the vampires, if not better. Then bar owner Sam's stepfather shoots his mother for revealing herself as a shapeshifter, and Sookie's adulterous sister-in-law Crystal is crucified in the bar's parking lot, apparently for being a werepanther. Vampire "sheriff" Eric, now erotically (and perhaps romantically) involved with Sookie, figures prominently in this installment, as do the fairy relatives whose existence Sookie learned about in the previous volume. The story held me enthralled, but the reader should be prepared for violence, tragedy, and a very dark denouement.
EIFELHEIM, by Michael Flynn. Other science fiction writers have placed extraterrestrials in Europe during the Middle Ages, but this novel stands out from anything else I've read. In the present, historian Tom stumbles across allusions to a village in fourteenth-century Germany that effectively vanished off the face of the Earth. Around the time of the Black Death it was abandoned and, unlike other similar towns, never resettled. With input from his spouse-equivalent Sharon, a theoretical physicist, Tom delves into obscure documents in search of the answer to the mystery of why Eifelheim became a taboo place. The "Now" sections comprise only a fraction of the novel. Most of the story occurs in the fourteenth century, when an alien ship crashes in the forest near the village then known as Oberhochwald. The priest, Father Dietrich, a former pupil of William of Occam, makes courageous overtures to the aliens and comes to the conclusion that they are not demons but another kind of man. He gradually learns that they hail, not from a distant country, but from another star. Eventually some of the aliens seek baptism, and their group is more or less integrated into village life, although many people remain suspicious of them. They communicate with Dietrich through a box that processes the local language and slowly develops a workable knowledge of German vocabulary and grammarslowly enough that it doesn't look like another version of the basically magical "universal translator" of TV SF. The plight of the aliens is poignant and Tom's ultimate discovery of the truth deeply gratifying. Especially fascinating is the way the author's research into medieval philosophy and understanding of nature enables him to translate the aliens' experience and thought processes into terms understandable to Father Dietrich. Dietrich comes across as a humane, open-minded man without becoming a twenty-first century thinker in medieval disguise.
TAILS OF LOVE, by Lori Foster, et al. This anthology of ten love stories featuring animals dedicates a portion of its proceeds to the Animal Adoption Foundation. We encounter animals who accidentally bring lovers together, deliberate animal matchmakers (with the tales narrated partly from their viewpoints), and a werewolf "cure" story. My favorites are "Lord Hairy," a nineteenth-century Cinderella adaptation by Donna MacMeans (which I liked enough to order one of her novels for my Kindle reader), and "Danny's Dog," a poignant story by Sarah McCarty about a couple estranged by the death of their baby and drawn back together by a dog the heroine rescues. In addition to the expected dogs and cats, we meet a fortuitously matchmaking goat ("Norah's Arc," by Kate Angell) and therapy monkey ("Atticus Saves Lisa," by Ann Christopher). The two dogs in Sue-Ellen Welfonder's "A Man, a Woman, and Haggis," one alive and one spectral, add an amusing touch to this Scottish ghost story. If the combination of romance and animals appeals to you, you're sure to enjoy TAILS OF LOVE.
JULIAN COMSTOCK, by Robert Charles Wilson. Set in the twenty-second century of an America where technology has recovered to a late Victorian level after the devastating "End of Oil" and "False Tribulation" in the twenty-first century, this story is told by Adam, best friend of the title character. America, though nominally a republic, is governed by despotic Presidents who rule for life. The theocratic Dominion also wields vast power, including censorship of books and culture in general. Julian's uncle, the current President, was responsible for Julian's father's death. At the beginning of the novel, young Julian leads a precariously peaceful life out West, far from the seat of power in New York. He has an avid interest in the forbidden books and science of the Secular Ancients (us) and heretical doctrines such as evolution. Circumstances sweep him, Adam, and their ex-military mentor Sam into the war in Labrador against the European powers collectively known to Americans as the "Dutch." Julian has no desire to either lead an army or rule the country. His main ambition is to make a movie about the life of Charles Darwin. Fate, of course, has other plans for him. Even though this book is obstensibly a memoir of the life of "Julian the Conqueror" (whom the author modeled after the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate), naturally Adam's growth from a naive, small-town youth into a successful writer plays a major role in the plot. I was captivated by Wilson's skill at conveying the background of his post-apocalyptic society through the voice of a narrator to whom it's all commonplace and familiar (Adam's frequent footnotes to his text and his skepticism about the wild tales of twentieth-century achievements such as moon travel are especially entertaining), while following the absorbing adventures of his vividly portrayed characters.
Excerpt from "Sweeter Than Wine":
A man of about forty with blue eyes, devilish brows and a narrow moustache stared down from the portrait above the bedroom fireplace. He had wavy, dark hair growing almost to his collar and wore a ruffled shirt and forest-green waistcoat. "So that's Gordon MacBain," Marie Tate said. "I've been wondering what he looked like." The piercing gaze of the painted eyes stirred a flutter just below her ribcage.
"Yes, that's our ghost." Mrs. Bertelli, owner of the bed and breakfast, gestured at the portrait. With a neatly trimmed cap of silver hair, she looked about ten years older than Marie's own mid-fifties. "I hope you don't mind sharing your room with a restless spirit."
Marie laughed. She hadn't shared a bedroom with any man in the year and a half since her husband's death. Might as well start with a phantom. "Not at all. I came here especially to find out more about him." She owned MacBain's original house in Colonial Williamsburg, also operated as a B and B. He'd rented it out when he'd moved to this one at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. "He reminds me more of a pirate than a respectable merchant."
"Well, he did make most of his fortune as a smuggler during the Revolution."
Marie nodded. "And then established himself as a prosperous citizen before he had this house built for his young bride. Too bad he didn't get much time to enjoy his success." His wife, Louisa, had supposedly murdered him. "Have you actually seen the ghost?"
"Not I, but women who've slept in this room claim they've had supernatural experiencesnoises, objects moving. I haven't heard the sounds myself but I sleep on the other side of the house."
"Only women? And they just hear him, don't see him?" While Marie didn't believe in ghosts, she felt a little disappointed anyway. She liked the fantasy of meeting that flamboyant character.
"Not when they're awake." The slim older woman's cheeks turned pink. "Some say they've had racy dreams about him. That could be the power of suggestion working. I've found things out of place when nobody was around to move them, though. Also, lights blink and the TV turns on by itself." At Marie's dubious frown, she added, "Oh, don't worry, I've had the wiring checked. Not only that, he always drinks his nightcap." She pointed at a glass of red wine on the mantel.
"You're kidding." Marie smiled at the novel gimmick. She'd chosen this B and B for her weekend getaway not only out of curiosity about Gordon MacBain but also to pick up ideas for her own flagging business. Maybe what she needed to lure the tourists was a ghost.
"I'm not making it up." Mrs. Bertelli gave an emphatic nod. "Maybe it's because he's obsessed with the failure of his grapevines to produce decent wine. The winery next door is named in his honor, of course. We leave a glass of their burgundy on the mantel every afternoon and the wine vanishes whether the room's occupied or not. The couple of times I've forgotten it, I've found pillows and books scattered around the next morning. Not only that, some people report loud noises and violent poltergeist activity in the late afternoon around the time of the murder." She tapped her foot on the weathered bricks of the hearth. "We even have a supernaturally indelible bloodstain that's supposed to mark the spot where he died." Her sardonic tone hinted at some skepticism about the origin of the stain.
A violent ghost sounded less appealing than a "racy" one. Marie glanced down at the discolored blotch. "Louisa killed him here?"
"Nobody knows exactly what happened, naturally," Mrs. Bertelli said. "Before the marriage, MacBain had a reputation as a womanizer. His wife was the jealous type. That evening the servants heard them fighting, which was nothing unusual. The next thing anybody knew, Louisa jumped out that window and broke her neck." She waved at the window that offered a view of the mountains. "When the servants burst into this room, they found the master dead. He'd hit his head on the edge of the hearth, right there."
"That's quite a story."
The landlady's eyes narrowed. "All fact. It's written up in our ad leaflet." She indicated a table under the window where a stack of magazines and travel flyers lay beside a basket of fruit and a tray bearing cheese and crackers along with an open bottle of Riesling in an ice bucket.
"Oh, I'm not doubting you," Marie hastily assured her. "I'll take some of your brochures home with me and put them out for my guests, if I can leave a few of mine with you."
"Fine. Just keep in mind that it's our story." With that tart remark, her hostess headed for the door.
"Of course, I wouldn't think of poaching your legend. There's plenty of history to go around." She certainly didn't want to get on the bad side of someone who might be able to help her business. "We could use the connection to promote each other."
"You have a good point there." Mrs. Bertelli's expression softened into a smile. "I'll leave you to get settled. Have a nice evening."
When the bedroom door closed, Marie let her shoulders slump with fatigue, glad for a couple of hours to rest before her dinner reservation at the restaurant attached to the winery. She hadn't taken a weekend off since Frank's death. She'd poured all her energy into the bed and breakfast because running it had been a dream they'd shared. She suspected he'd succumbed to a premature heart attack mainly from juggling innkeeper's chores with his day job. Frank's insurance had paid off the mortgage but if she wanted the inn to thrive, she'd have to do more than pass out brochures. She needed an angle to set it apart from all the other B and Bs in the historic district of the colonial capital.
Today would have marked their thirtieth anniversary, as good a time as any to wake up and get on with her life. To include a new man? Not likely. She smiled wryly at the idea. Having enjoyed a long marriage of solid happiness, she didn't expect to hit that jackpot twice. As for a passionate fling, her fantasies ran along the lines of somebody like Gordon MacBain, a breed that was probably extinct.
What she needed right now was a snack, not a fantasy lover. She chose a peach from the fruit basket and started to peel it with a paring knife. "You can be my inspiration, Mr. MacBain," she said to the portrait. If the son of Scottish immigrants could transform himself into a rich landowner, surely she could transform herself into the hostess of a flourishing historic inn. Too bad she couldn't find the hidden stash of the smuggler's lost treasure, which tradition claimed was hidden somewhere in the Williamsburg house.
A masculine chuckle sounded in her ear. At the same instant, a gust of wind ruffled her shoulder-length hair and blew her denim skirt up to her waist.
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You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter