Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 54 (March 2010)
- Welcome to the March 2010 issue of 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:
Fictionwise.com sells quite a few of my e-books as well as my short stories from various anthologies, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Sword and Sorceress" series.
Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romance Blog: http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/
Listen to the first (of many, we hope) podcast from Broad Universe, a group dedicated to promoting women authors of fantasy and SF:
Ellora's Cave is having a tenth anniversary sale! Look for 10%-off book deals at www.ellorascave.com.
RT BOOK REVIEWS gave my short erotic ghost romance, "Sweeter Than Wine," 4 stars in the March issue. They say, "The clever plot features some quirky and delightful characters, the dialogue is witty and the sex is wild. This lighthearted ghostly romp is fun and totally entertaining."
In Issue 17 of vampire and revenant zine NIGHT TO DAWN, editor Barbara Custer reviewed three of my books. She says, "NIGHT FLIGHT left me wanting more." Of CRIMSON DREAMS, she says, "This was a great read, and a must for any vampire aficionado's library." She calls my story collection HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES "a treat for anyone who enjoys paranormal romance." To subscribe to NIGHT TO DAWN, visit:
Below you'll find a short excerpt from the opening of a story in HEART'S DESIRES, a lighthearted, sensual take-off on a classic haunted house scenario called "Storm of Passion."
Reminder: My Silhouette vampire romance, EMBRACING DARKNESS, is available as an e-book:
I'm interviewing multiple EPIC Award finalist and multi-genre author Brenna Lyons. Be sure to check out the "Advice for Authors" page on her website.
Interview with Brenna Lyons:
<What inspired you to begin writing?
I wouldn't so much say I was inspired to start writing as the muse started beating me over the head with ideas, and she did that really early. I started making up stories and reporting on events around me when I was too young to read and write. By the time I was seven, I was writing poetry. By age 11, I was competing (and winning competitions) in poetry. At 13, I had my first article in a local newspaper. By 17, I was competing essays as well. At 19, I had my first public reading.
As for inspiration for what I write about... That comes from everywhere. I get ideas from dreams, people watching, and even from playing games of what-if...both with classics and with my own work.
<What genres do you write in?
It's easier to ask what I don't write in. Grinning... I mainly write dark, milieu-heavy spec fic (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and horror) with or without a romance/erotic co-plot. I also write contemporary, historical, humor, non-fiction articles, industry articles, and poetry. Under a different pen name, I've written a non-fiction children's book.
<Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
I am a complete pantser/organic writer. I always start with a character or two, because I have a character-driven process. I have an idea of something...someplace to start. It may be a scene or a vague idea of where the story is headed. I often don't start at the beginning. I don't write linear. I don't always know what's coming next, let alone what is coming last, unless I've written the end already, but then...I may add another scene to what I thought was the end. Twists in plot will just appear on the page, which leads one of my editors to believe I have the whole thing worked out in my mind and am just drawing it out a bit at a time. I write piecemeal, put all the longhand (college ruled, gel ink, two lines of writing to a printed line, with notes and additions in the margins) work into a binder in order, fill holes, and then move to the computer, where I add about 33% to the length.
<You're a very prolific writer. How do you do it? What kind of schedule do you keep? Do you write full time?
I have anywhere up to 80 or so works in progress in 21 series worlds plus stand-alones, at any given time. On any given week, I may be working on anywhere between one and six of those. At times, I pick out four or five of the ones closest to complete and knuckle down to get them all complete and in. When that happens, my publishers will suddenly get a spate of submissions from me. Stef Kelsey (formerly the EIC at eXtasy, when I was with them, and now part owner of Mojocastle) used to call it the "Brenna Barrage." The most I have thrown at a single publisher in a month was six submissions...all of which signed.
For the first six years I was writing novels, I was working. At first, I was working 50+ hours a week and geographic single mother to my three kids (at the time, all under the age of 6). The kids literally went to work with me. Then I was working when the kids were in school, which meant a short break until my youngest was three. I worked as a sub special needs teacher in the schools until last year, when a back injury and my husband's generosity allowed me to start writing full-time.
My schedule tends to change, based on Tamer's work schedule, since it works out better for me to sleep when he does (though I sleep less than he does). My current week-day schedule is to get up at about 4:45 am with my husband and start on e-mail and writing. My children's school schedules mean start times anywhere from 6:30 to 9 am, depending on the child and any before-school extracurriculars, so I intersperse writing with getting them up and out to their respective schools, breaking up arguments, and otherwise playing Mom. While they are at school, I alternate housework, errands, water aerobics, and e-mail/marketing/writing. After school pick-ups, I handle doctors' appointments for the kids, extracurriculars, homework, tutoring, and dinner, while I sneak in some writing time. See a pattern here? Grinning... Dinner and after dinner are family time (as well as several hours of every weekend day), until bedtime. If I have a chat, spotlight, or deadline, I may work in that time period, but I try not to do that, as a rule. Some nights, I go to bed with Tamer at 9 or so. Some days, I stay up and write until between midnight and 3 am.
<How do you balance writing for several different publishers?
Ah...I teach a whole class on that. Most of it involves keeping your release dates and contractual obligations in mind. Simply put, don't bite off more than you can chew. If you have three books coming out in a particular month, and two of the publishers expect edits two months ahead, you have to plan to do two sets of edits that month...plus galleys for the other publisher, whose schedule demands a finished book earlier...plus work on the deadline you owe for another book you've contracted...and attend to the various spotlights and such you're scheduled for. It may mean resorting to a calendar to make sure you don't schedule too many things in one time period. It may mean making a choice between two or more places you may be at one time or scheduling a day so that you spend part in a chat for publisher A, part in the spotlight for publisher B, and part doing a radio interview. It may mean dropping writing time on a project you are really interested in to finish edits on the timeline. The muse may not be happy, but that's better than the publishers being unhappy.
Another major element to this is keeping publishers straight (the guidelines/style sheets, as well as timelines, paperwork requirements, and so forth) and keeping them separate. By that, I don't mean separating them on your site or similar promotions. I mean keeping publisher A's discussion out of publisher B's forums and chats, as much as possible. It's a tightrope situation. You don't want to offend the reader while you're saying, "I'll talk to you about that off list or after chat, because..." Though it's not really your fault, it's frowned upon.
<What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
February and March this year are some of my busier months. In February, I released MARKED (science fiction erom stand-alone about cyborgs) from Phaze and "Mine for the Night" (science fiction erom about a post-plague Earth) in the COUGARS anthology from Logical-Lust. In March, I'm releasing POISON, LIES, AND NO-WIN CHOICES (book two in the Bride Ball series, urbanized fairy tale erom) and THE MASTER'S LOVER (book two in the Star Mages series, fantasy erom...my only M/M story), both from Phaze. In 2010, I have release dates for everything from straight genre mythological and dark fantasy/horror through sensual and erotic romances.
<What are you working on now?
I'm in one of my knuckle-down phases, at the moment. I'm working on finishing HUNTER'S TALES (book 4 of the Night Warriors- Warriors series...vampire hunters- fantasy sensual romance) for Phaze, DOUBLE IMAGE (book 4 of the Kegin Earth-Born Lords series...alien-human rebreds- fantasy erom) for Phaze, ANOTHER MAN'S MATE (book 3 of the Kielan series...a Kegin-spin off world...psychic Earth-colony- fantasy sensual romance) for Logical-Lust, MATING SEASON (book 2 of the Xxan series...science fiction erom- reptilian alien-human cross-breeds) for LooseId, and PLAYING WITH FIRE (book two of Grellan War...superhero-style Earth colony- dark fantasy erom) for Under The Moon.
<What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A couple of things I'd suggest are...
1. WRITE the book. Don't worry about the perfect opening line or hook, the perfect market, genre distinctions... While you're worrying about all of that, you could have the book half-written. Don't worry about minute edits. You can edit poorly-written work. You can't edit the blank page.
2. Don't try to copy anyone else's writing process. The words come for you how they come for you: longhand or in the computer, quiet room, white noise, music, noise and insanity...even the number of words per day that is comfortable for you. Trying to copy someone else's process will only drive you crazy and adversely affect your output. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things. WANTING to be a pantser doesn't mean you'll be good at it. You may need more framework to your process. So try. If it works, keep it. If it doesn't, don't.
3. This is a career. Learn what the terms mean. Learn what's 'standard.' Learn to read guidelines and how to change from standard to what the individual editors and agents want. Learn what the terms mean and how to apply them.
4. Writing the book is only the first step...and it's one of the easier ones for the writer to accomplish. You have to learn to edit, to submit, to market, about contracts, about royalties... You don't just write a book, submit it, and wait for the money to roll in.
One of the hardest things to do is work with an editor. Remember, the editor is there to keep you and the publisher out of legal trouble for infringing on another's IP (intellectual property...copyright or trademark) and to make the book stronger. Sometimes, editors are wrong; don't be afraid to discuss things with an editor rather than stewing over it. Sometimes, what sounds like a huge change to you may be a small nit that is easily fixed.
5. What's the most important subject to take in school, if you plan on being a writer? ALL of them. Whatever you learn in English (grammar, preferred spellings, etc.) will change with each new edition of Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster's Dictionary or whatever resources a publisher uses, which is why there is never a real 'standard' across all publishers. You have to be able to do math to check your royalty reports. You have to know science to get it right in the books... In fact, the more knowledge you have, the richer your books will be. That applies to both book knowledge and practical experience.
<What's your website URL? Do you have a blog?
Thanks for having me here.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
WRITERS WORKSHOP OF HORROR, edited by Michael Knost. Published by Woodland Press, this anthology comprises essays by over twenty successful horror authors, including celebrities such as Clive Barker, F. Paul Wilson, and Ramsey Campbell, as well as a few interviews. The articles are presented in logical order, with advice on beginnings, middles, and endings first, followed by thoughts on various elements of fiction such as style, dialogue, setting, theme, and tone. Much of this material would apply to writers in any genre, as would Joe R. Lansdale's essay on "Cross Reading" (enriching one's work by reading in many fields, not only one's chosen genre) and Brian Keene's very useful advice on ways to make time to write regularly. Other essays address topics directly related to the craft of horror, such as the nature of fear and how to blend humor with horror. All the contributions are a pleasure to read and packed with specific examples to flesh out their general principles. Highly recommended for aspiring writers of horror and dark fantasy.
HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. Subtitled "200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid ThemA Misstep-by-Misstep Guide," this book would unquestionably take first prize as the funniest writing guide ever published. Hilariously over-the-top examples illustrate every imaginable error in plotting, characterization, dialogue, description, point of view, and other elements of fiction writing. There's also a final chapter, "How Not to Sell a Novel," on query letters, synopses, and formatting. The authors follow each ludicrously horrible example with a concise explanation of its pitfalls and how to avoid them. Sidebars go into greater detail, written straight, on such points as the fact that "it really happened" doesn't necessarily justify putting an incident in a story, the problem of isolating endangered characters in an era of ubiquitous cell phones, and traits that will infallibly make readers dislike your hero.(On mangled vocabulary: "A Test: Do I know this word? Ask yourself: 'Do I know this word?' If the answer is no, then you do not know it.") The reader, after laughing at each instance of bad writing, can console herself with, "At least I've never written anything THAT bad," while secretly pondering whether she might have been guilty of a milder version of the same transgression.
BLACKOUT, by Connie Willis. I've been waiting years for this companion book to Willis' time travel novels DOOMSDAY BOOK and TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. The premise of the series is that in 2060 historians from a research team at Oxford University travel through time, usually on solo assignments. Although the mechanism of time travel is never explained, its rules are clear. Because of the very nature of time travel, sort of like a quantum uncertainty principle, visitors from the future can't cause any critical changes in the past. "Slippage" occurs when any traveler is at risk of getting too close to an important point of "divergence." The staff at the lab back in 2060 Oxford sets up "drops" where historians arrive at and depart from their destinations in the past. BLACKOUT occurs in England during World War II, a setting for which Willis seems to have particular enthusiasm, as evidenced by TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG and several short stories set during the Blitz. The time and place are entirely convincing, packed with period details and lively characters. We see England under siege through the viewpoints of three historians, to whom the setting is, of course, even more distant and unfamiliar than it is to us. Polly, Mike, and Eileen carry out their assignments in different parts of the country in 1940. Things go wrong when each traveler finds that his or her drop won't open and the expected retrieval team doesn't show up. They're stranded in the past during the height of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Pathos, suspense, and the terror of the air raids alternate with the humor of Willis' usual witty dialogue and Eileen's struggle with a brother-sister pair of budding juvenile delinquent evacuees. Why haven't the historians been returned to 2060? Has something catastrophic happened in Oxford? Or, worse yet, has one of them inadvertently changed the future, even though that's supposed to be impossible? Willis' writing is such a pleasure to read that this was one of the rare books I literally didn't want to end. I ESPECIALLY didn't want it to end when I reached the last scene and realized it's the first volume of a two-book story! We have to wait until the publication of ALL CLEAR in October to learn whether the characters survive that cliff they're hanging from! If you can't live with that kind of suspense, wait until fall and read both books at once.
THE GARGOYLE CODE, by Dwight Longenecker. This book inspired by C. S. Lewis' THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS was written by a Catholic priest. It's more denominationally specific than the "mere Christianity" that permeates Lewis' work but still worth reading by anyone who admires its prototype. With an introduction by a guardian angel who explains the heavenly motive for allowing diabolical correspondence to be published on Earth, the letters span the Lenten season and are recommended for day-by-day Lenten reading. I can't imagine limiting oneself to a single letter per day, though; I zipped through the volume in an evening. It can be received as either a source for meditation or a fast, lively read, beginning with senior demon Slubgrip's advice to his pupil, junior tempter Dogwart. Unlike SCREWTAPE, Longenecker's version includes letters between Slubgrip and other senior demons, as well as correspondence about him behind his back. I'm happy to see a few female devils included. Two human characters suffer the attentions of the demons, a young man and Slubgrip's elderly "patient," a conservative Catholic with terminal cancer. The book's good points: With several different voices that offer conflicting angles on the events of the story, this book shows more of the double-crossing and backstabbing within the bureaucracy of Hell than Lewis does. In addition to the human drama seen through diabolical eyes, we witness the secondary plot of Slubgrip's relationships with his colleagues. We're never allowed to forget that the Devil is the Father of Lies. In the same twisted way as SCREWTAPE, THE GARGOYLE CODE presents enlightening insights into sin and human nature. About fasting, for instance, Slubgrip gloats over the prospect of tempting religious devotees into an obsession over what they're "giving up for Lent" that obliterates any spiritual benefit. The letter about sexual temptation from a female demon makes some cogent observations about tempting women through our interest in relationships rather than with images of raw sex (female humans usually react to visual pornography, she says, with either disgust, curiosity, or cool amusement). Not so good points: Sloppy punctuationit took a long time for me to stop wincing at the missing commas so I could just mentally fill them in and move on. (And where was the editor?) The female demon's slam at feminism. Of course, the diabolical viewpoint distorts everything it touches. But Lewis would have taken a more nuanced approach, in which the demon would advise her trainees to encourage the "patient" to embrace the negative aspects of the feminist movement while ignoring its lasting benefits, such as fair treatment in the workplace. I would also like to have seen romance novels that give women flawed expectations of relationships (instead of merely being dismissed as worthless, or, of course, from the demonic viewpoint, useful) contrasted with romances that model respect between men and women (which, of course, demons would want their female patients to avoid). Similarly, television and the Internet are presented simply as invitations to corruption and time-wasting. Couldn't Slubgrip have spent a few sentences warning his pupil to keep the young human male away from worthwhile programming and informative websites? On the whole, however, if you're a SCREWTAPE fan, you'll probably find pleasure and benefit in this book. You can order it here: http://www.dwightlongenecker.com/Content/Pages/Books/TheGargoyleCode.asp
Excerpt from "Storm of Passion":
Another peal of thunder crashed. Seconds later, the lightning flashed in Jane's aching eyes.
With cramped fingers, she gripped the wheel to stop her compact car from sliding on the wet pavement. Between the downpour and the lightning flashes, she could barely see where the road ended and the surrounding woods began.
A figure appeared in the glare of the headlights. A man, standing directly in front of the car. Instead of jumping aside, he raised his hand in what looked like a casual wave.
Dark hair, white shirt, dark splotches on his face and shirt--
Slamming on the brakes, Jane wrenched the wheel to the right.
The tires shrieked, and the car slammed into a tree. The crash jerked her forward against the shoulder belt.
Gulping shuddery breaths, she bowed her head on the steering wheel until her heart slowed. With a muttered "Damn," she yanked open the door and stood up on wobbly legs.
"Hey, are you all right?" She could barely hear her own voice over the wind.
Circling around the rear of the car, she slipped in a patch of mud. With another curse, she pulled herself up and used the vehicle as a prop to support her until she had a clear view of the road.
Lightning flashed again. The empty road.
Jane blinked and rubbed her eyes. A few more cautious steps brought her to the passenger side, where she took a flashlight out of the glove compartment. She scanned the roadway and the woods on either side. Nobody.
"Great--first the idiot scares me halfway to a heart attack and makes me crash, then he takes off."
She trained the flashlight on the hood. The front bumper was crumpled, and suspicious-looking fluids trickled underneath.
"Anybody here? Where are you, dammit?"
Getting no answer, she snatched the key from the ignition, then pulled her oversize purse out of the front seat and slung the strap over her shoulder.
"It was a dark and stormy night," she muttered as she started walking.
With luck, she would find help around the next curve.
"There've got to be houses not too far away," she said, still talking aloud to ward off the dark. "This isn't a howling wilderness. That guy must've popped up from somewhere." Unless his car had broken down, too.
The flashlight enabled her to stay on the pavement and out of the mud but didn't keep water from filling her shoes. Seconds later, already drenched, she rounded the curve and saw it.
"Yep, a house. Big, spooky house."
Lightning silhouetted a rambling, gabled structure with a wide porch.
"So it looks haunted. I don't care if it belongs to Dracula or the Bride of Frankenstein, as long as they have a phone."
Two fiction-related newsletters you might enjoy:
Jewels of the Quill, a writers' group I belong to, has a newsletter for fans:
For more information, visit:
To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
Cerridwen Press: www.cerridwenpress.com
Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
Hard Shell Word Factory: www.hardshell.com
Mundania Press: www.mundania.com
You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter