Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 47 (August 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/
This month I'm interviewing Michele Hauf, vampire romance author who maintains the Ultimate VampList, an extensive online bibliography divided by subgenres. Visit it at:
My erotic ghost romance "Sweeter Than Wine" has received its first review. Ecataromance.com says "the chemistry between Gordon and Marie was exciting, with special attention to detail when it comes to the arousing differences between the living and a ghost. A refreshing take on a modern day ghost story." Look for the story at Ellora's Cave (www.ellorascave.com).
H. P. Lovecraft fans: Check out the Innsmouth Free Press (www.innsmouthfreepress.com), a free online magazine devoted to HPL's Mythos. In addition to stories and reviews, they include articles from the titular newspaper about current events in and around the fictitious town featured in Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth." Right now, by the way, they're holding a "Cthulhu Haiku" contest. They gave my novel WINDWALKER'S MATE a very thoughtful review that, although not entirely complimentary, demonstrates that the reviewer read the book with respectful attention and care. I'd rather have a mixed review like that than a totally favorable one consisting of little more than a plot summary. They say "the plight of emotionally scarred Shannon Bryce will keep readers turning pages" and, "Fans of paranormal romances who have grown weary of vampires and werewolves should find much to enjoy in Margaret L. Carter's novel."
Below is an excerpt from the first scene of "The Pale Hill's Side," a story from my collection HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES, published by Amber Quill Press (www.amberquill.com). Vampire elvesor elves who are vampires. Check it out for yourself; the book, like all my Amber Quill releases, is available both electronically and in print.
Interview with Michele Hauf:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I've always `told' stories in my head, since a very young age. I didn't actually attempt to write them down until after my son was born and I was on maternity leave and didn't want to get started watching soap operas. I needed a better way to spend my time. I really liked putting words to page, and was quite determined to sell, even in the early 90s when the internet was not what it is today, and we all still went to libraries (gasp!) for our information.
2. What genres do you write in?
I've written historical romance, fantasy romance, action/adventure, and paranormal romance
3. Is there a common theme or thread that unites your works?
That word theme always makes me cringe. I know most writers go into a story having some kind of theme in mind, but I never do. But then, when I'm in the midst of the story I always think "Hmm, a lot of my stories are about redemption and starting anew and acceptance." So there you go. It's not planned, it just seems to happen that way. :-)
4. How did you come to get published by Silhouette? Any advice for
authors seeking to get "discovered" by a mass market publisher?
I initially entered the Harlequin/Silhouette `empire' by selling a Luna story (myself; no agent). It was a story I really believed in, and the guidelines for Luna had just come out. I wrote to the editor immediately, telling her that the line had actually been made just for my story. (hee) But that angle worked, and I ended up selling a trilogy to the line. From there, I moved to Bombshell, and then to Nocturne at the suggestion of the editors I was working with. My next move is to HQN! One of my Nocturnes recently got rescheduled and I'm going to add some additional stuff to the (already finished) manuscript, for an April 2010 release from HQN. I'm very excited!
How to get discovered? Well, as usual, write the best story you can write. There are guidelines out there for the various publishers and lines, but it seems to me that editors are never really sure what they want until they actually hold it in their hands. So don't be afraid to try new things, or to push the boundaries. You should push boundaries. And while writing is a creative craft, I believe that if you want to sell you really have to go into it knowing it is a business. You, as an author, are selling a product. Know your product. Know your market. Know who might be interested in what you have to sell (and if you don't know that, find an agent), and be very professional with whomever you speak to in the process of querying and sending in proposals and pitching. You can revert to your schlumpy sit-before-the-keyboard-in-sweatpants persona for the writing part. Just be smart! Know the business. And read those contracts, every single wordyes, even if you do have an agent.
5. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?
In July my Wicked Games series for Nocturne starts with THE HIGHWAYMAN. The hero is a demon slayer and the heroine a cat-shifting familiar. MOON KISSED is the second book out in September, and features a werewolf hero. The third book, HER VAMPIRE HUSBAND is the one moving to HQN, so that will be out in April 2010.
And just to really throw readers off, in September I also have a short story in Belle Books' CRITTERS OF MOSSY CREEK, which is a light romp of a story set in Georgia about a cat heist. (I know, I'm from Minnesota. But I think I pulled it off!)
6. What are you working on now?
A new series for Nocturne about Angels and Demons. Yes, I know, everyone else is doing angels and demons too. I hadn't realized that until AFTER I sold. Ah well, it's good to know they're selling. I intend to make the angels the bad guys and the demons the good guys, though, so that may be a twist.
7. Please tell us about your vampire bibliography site, the Ultimate
Vampire List. What inspired you to create it?
I started that list in...1994. When I was writing DARK RAPTURE, I collected a lot of research books on vampires. And I have a tendency to make lists. So it started as a means for me to keep track of my collection of about 100 books. Over the years it has grown to currently over 4000 titles in all sorts of categories, such as Romance/Erotica, Mystery/Action-Adventure, Horror, Manga, Young Adult, and many more. It's not intended to be a complete bibliography, but rather a shopping list of sorts that a person can refer to to see just how many more vampire romances there are to read, or the non-fiction list is great for looking up research titles. It's my baby, that list.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
That's it. Write. Because if you're not, then you're not practicing your craft, and producing pages, and learning how to construct a story and how to refine characters. Talking about writing is easy. Writing is much harder.
9. What's your website URL? Where can we find your blog, and does it
have a particular theme?
My blog is basically updates about my writing, and my life. Nothing too exciting, but I try to make it fun. And I've recently discovered Facebook is quite a lot of fun, too, so friend me if you like.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
OUTCAST OF REDWALL, by Brian Jacques. Having read several of the later Redwall novels (set in a world inhabited solely by animals, centering upon Redwall Abbey, inhabited by good mice and other good-aligned beasts), I've been consistently irritated by the moral species determinism practiced by the author. If a type of animal is defined as evil, all the members of that species are irredeemably evil with no positive qualities whatever except, perhaps, brute courage and devious cleverness. This novel, however, features a baby ferret (one of the evil species, collectively known as "vermin") abandoned by his father, a ruthless warlord, then rescued and brought up at Redwall. Here at last, I thought, I'd find some sort of nuance in the portrayal of a vermin character. To my surprise, first, the young ferret has relatively little "onstage" time, not even being born until halfway through. The main protagonist is a noble badger enslaved as a child by the warlord. He escapes and devotes his life to fighting the villain, eventually finding his way to Salamandastron, the mountain fortress ruled by badgers and garrisoned by hares (who are written as either stiff-upper-lip British officers or gallant Highland warriors). The childhood of the ferret foundling, Veil, is skipped over; after his rescue, we next see him as the animal equivalent of a young teenager, already hardened into a liar and thief. An unpardonable offense leads to his exile from Redwall (this isn't a spoiler, since it's on the jacket flap, even though it doesn't happen until the last third of the book). I was disappointed that there's almost no mention of the possibility that his having been treated with suspicion from earliest childhood might have contributed to his antisocial personality. By the end of the book, even Veil's kindhearted foster mother acknowledges that he was born Just Plain Bad. Aargh. True, Jacques is writing in the tradition of animal fables, in which the various species conform to their traditional archetypes; he's said as much in interviews. What bugs me is the inconsistency of application of this principle. Good animals can have flaws, make mistakes, quarrel among themselves, and even (in childhood and youth) be occasionally naughty. Bad animals can't have any trace of goodness. Still, I enjoyed OUTCAST OF REDWALL more than the other novels in the series I've read, because the warlord isn't quite so one-dimensional as most Redwall villains, and Sunflash the badger is an interesting protagonist. And whatever else one might say about Jacques, he's a master of maintaining several plot threads at once, and sometimes his writing style is downright lyrical. I have to admire a writer who isn't afraid to use such a rich vocabulary in a series aimed at children.
BLACK HILLS, by Nora Roberts. This novel contains the Roberts expected blend of tender, sensual romance and gripping suspense. It begins with the hero, Cooper, at age eleven being shipped off to his grandparents' farm in what he considers the middle of nowhere, exiled from his friends and all the modern conveniences of New York while his parents go on a "second honeymoon," which Coop knows to be code for working up to a divorce. Roberts captures the internal monologue of an angry, hurt preteen boy perfectly; I've never been one, of course, but I lived with four of them in succession, and the voice is right on. When Coop meets Lil, a bit over a year younger, and discovers she actually understands baseball, we'd know they were meant for each other even without the jacket blurb. We see them next at the college stage of life, when they change from best friends into lovers. Their happiness is marred by the shock of finding a dead woman in the hills. The main story begins a little more than a decade later. Lil has achieved her dream of starting a wildlife refuge. Coop, after many years' absence as first a New York cop and then a private investigator, has returned to live permanently on his grandparents' property. Lil was deeply hurt by the way he broke up with her "for her own good." But when someone shoots one of her beloved cougars, and it becomes clear the shooter is a serial killer who's stalking her, she has to accept Coop's help. I sympathized with Lil's reluctance to trust him again, while I still understood and found credible his motives for the break-up. Roberts makes it clear that they can't just pick up where they left off. Their relationship believably moves forward to a more mature level. The secondary characters, such as Lil's parents and Coop's grandparents, are engagingly portrayed, as are Tansy and Farley, two workers at the wildlife refuge who have their own love story. I'm happy to note that, for this book at least, the author's one flaw is hardly visiblethe head-hopping. Those jarring shifts of viewpoint within a single scene are much rarer here than in her other works that I've read. The characters' emotions are warm and captivating, and the details of running a wildlife rescue operation are fascinating; I'd like to have seen even more of that element.
THE CONCUBINE, by Jade Lee. Although the author's introductory note to this Harlequin Blaze romance compares it to Cinderella, it actually reminds me more of the biblical story of Esther. A kingor in this case, the emperor of China in the nineteenth centuryholds a competition to choose a new queen and a handful of concubines. Chen Ji Yue, daughter of a minor, impoverished aristocratic household, is determined to become empress in order to raise her family's financial and social status. Trouble brews when she and the emperor's best friend, Sun Bo Tao, who has the task of overseeing the horde of maidens competing for the ruler's favor, fall in love. Bo Tao has a reputation for indolent, rakish behavior, but behind the scenes he serves as the emperor's most reliable adviser. He and Ji Yue clash at first, as we'd expect in a romance, but gradually come to acknowledge their mutual attraction. If their love becomes known or, worst of all, Ji Yue loses her virginity, both of them will suffer disgrace or worse. Ji Yue has to cope with the hostility of the dowager empress and the petty sniping of her rivals, while the problems of China's dealings with foreigners from the West lurk in the background. The story is hot both sensually and emotionally. The setting and its customs are fascinatingly presented. Lee makes the characters easy for the reader to identify with while never letting us lose sight of their alien (for most American readers) culture and world-view.
CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC: DISPATCHES FROM THE UNFINISHED CIVIL WAR, by Tony Horwitz. A non-Southerner with a lifelong interest in the Civil War makes a pilgrimage throughout the South, touring battlefields, living with hardcore re-enactors, visiting museums, and interviewing a variety of peoplesome fairly ordinary, some quirky, a few downright weird. Lively, vivid, informative, this book shouldn't be missed by readers interested in the War and/or Southern culture. As a native Virginian, in elementary school history in the 1950s I was taught a viewpoint on the Civil War and Reconstruction similar to the attitudes held by many of Horwitz's informants. Still, for me the Deep South is in many ways another world, as is the whole mystique of the "War of Northern Aggression." Reading so many conversations with people who advocated the Confederacy's position, at first I kept glancing back at the copyright page, wondering, "Does anybody really still think this way? Didn't he maybe make this trip in 1965 or thereabouts?" Horwitz brings the region and its people to life, while providing copious quantities of information about the War and nineteenth-century life in an unfailingly readable style.
Excerpt from "The Pale Hill's Side":
*Do elves feel the cold on chilly nights?*
Judith McCrae tugged her thin shawl tighter around her shoulders. She'd forgotten how cool the Yorkshire downs could become after sunset on the last day of April. Critically examining her sketch of the beehive-shaped mound some fifty yards distant, she smiled at the fancy that a faerie lord might emerge from beneath the earth to carry her off. Even the country people who still called these prehistoric structures "elf-mounds" knew better; after all, the dawn of the twentieth century was only three years away.
Nevertheless, none of the locals approached this part of the moor after dark. Too many cattle had been found dead here, with no visible wounds. The rumors reminded Judith of the folk belief that elves drained milk from cows by night.
As an avid reader of Mr. Yeats' collections of Irish fairy tales, she couldn't resist making a detour in her holiday to investigate this reputedly elf-haunted site. Especially on May Eve, a very appropriate night. Now, though, the chill was quenching her enthusiasm.
The boy who'd guided her here had long since run home to bed. Judith was almost ready to do the same; she would have a tedious hike back to the village. Sketching the mound by moonlight had certainly filled her mind with enough "atmosphere" to render an intriguing article on north country superstitions that might earn her a few pounds.
The boy, Robbie--sadness shadowed her at the memory of his thin, pale face. Only fourteen years old, and unlikely to live to fifteen. As a doctor's daughter, Judith recognized the early signs of consumption in his pallor and his constant cough. His eyes had glimmered with tears and longing when he'd told her how he'd wandered here just two nights before. An elven lord, he said, had appeared on the moor and bespelled him. When Judith had asked Robbie to describe this being, the boy had stammered into awed silence. "Silver fire," was all he could say. He'd yearned to follow the elf-lord into the mound, but the creature had given him one burning touch and sent him away.
"He said I was too sickly, Miss." Robbie longed to see the creature again and would have lingered with Judith if she hadn't given him a handful of coins and ordered him to go home.
Suppressing a shiver from a gust of wind, Judith closed her sketchpad and picked up the electric torch that lay beside her on the blanket. Time to start back. As she stood up, stretching her stiff limbs, a movement caught her eye. A flicker of shadow between her and the mound.
She took a deep breath to tame the racing of her heart. What nonsense--she didn't believe in fairies. These barrows were nothing but the desolate tombs of prehistoric men. She scanned the dark slopes of the hilly moor, broken by outcroppings of rock barely visible in the moonlight. *Next I'll be seeing the ghost of Heathcliff. No more Bronte romances at bedtime, Miss Judith! *
Her fingers tightened on the torch. The sooner she returned to the inn, the better. While supernatural menaces sprang from over-fertile imagination, the real danger of robbers--or worse--might stalk here.
*Having an attack of the vapors, now?* she chided herself. She turned her back on the barrow and knelt to fold the blanket.
A man appeared in front of her.
*He didn't appear out of thin air! It's impossible!* She didn't waste time arguing with herself. Dropping everything she held, she made a sideways dash.
And nearly collided with him.
She looked up--looked upward forever, it seemed; she'd never seen so tall a man--into eyes that gleamed silver. He didn't let her run again. Cold fingers closed on her wrist.
Her attempt to struggle died stillborn. She felt dizzy. *So Robbie wasn't spinning an idle tale.* A line from Coleridge came into her head: "His flashing eyes, his floating hair--"
She was floating, and the man's--the elf's--face floated above her. *Of course, he's carrying me.* By the time she realized this fact, they had passed into the mound. Her panic flowed away like ice melting in a spring thaw. Instead, she accepted her helplessness with a dreamy languor. "Though I am old with wandering, through hollow lands and hilly lands--" That was Yeats. Judith felt a drowsy satisfaction at finding herself immersed in an adventure one of the foremost poets of the decade could only imagine.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter