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Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 59 (August 2010)

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  • margvamp
    Welcome to the August 2010 issue of my newsletter, News from the Crypt, and please visit Carter s Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com), devoted to my horror,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2010
      Welcome to the August 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:
      www.simegen.com/reviews/vampires/vamprelm.htm

      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/

      And please visit the website of the Infinite World of Fantasy Authors: http://www.iwofa.net/

      To read some notes about my recent trip to Scotland and Northern Ireland, look at my Alien Romance blog entry for July 15.

      The August issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS gave my erotic romance werewolf novella "Allure of the Beast" 4 stars! They call it "a steamy werewolf story with memorable characters. Carter brings out emotion in her heroine and sex appeal in her mouth-watering hero."

      The excerpt this month comes from "Heart's Desire," one of the two erotic stories in my otherwise PG-13 collection, HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES (published by Amber Quill). In this story set somewhere in medieval England, Rachel secretly goes to the village witch to seek healing for her husband, who hasn't been himself since partially recovering from a serious injury.

      I'm interviewing multi-published romance author Tracy Cooper-Posey. (Note: Tracy recently had to change her web host, but the links should work.)

      *****

      Interview with Tracy Cooper-Posey:

      1. What inspired you to begin writing?

      The original STAR WARS movie. I wrote the unofficial sequel, and had Han and Leia falling in love long before George Lucas got around to it, and in a much more satisfying fashion than George ever pulled off (but I have never, ever topped his "I love you"/ "I know" scene – damn him!).

      I didn't know then and wouldn't for another twenty or so years that what I was writing was fanfic, because the term hadn't been invented.

      After I wrote that novel, my English teacher heard about it, and made me show him. He didn't laugh at my effort, but encouraged me instead to write something original. So I wrote a science fiction fantasy romance novel, which he thought remarkable enough to have the secretaries in the front office type up in the proper manuscript format. He had connections with the publishing industry at the time and arranged for the manuscript to be read. Nothing ever came of that story, and I don't have it anymore. But the thought lodged in the bottom of my brain at that early age that if an adult thought my writing was worth that sort of fuss, perhaps there was something in it. About fifteen years, two children and two divorces later, I settled down to write seriously for publication, the seed fully germinated at last.

      *****

      2. What genres do you write in?

      I've written two erotic historical romantic suspenses (say that three times fast) under the name Anastasia Black (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/#Anastasia_Black_Books_In_Order_of), for Ellora's Cave. They were co-written with a friend of mine, Regency author Julia Templeton (http://www.juliatempleton.com/).

      We used the pen name because both our names are so damned long there wasn't any room left on the cover for the artists to put a title or an image. They didn't much like the length of the pen name when we came up with it, either, but it was at least better than both our names together!

      Apart from those two books, I always wrote under my own name – romantic suspense, contemporary romances, historical romances, historical romantic suspense, mysteries, you name it. Plus, erotic versions of those genres. After the bottom of the historical romance market fell out, I started focusing more on romantic suspense. Contemporary romance just doesn't pay all that well if you're not writing for Harlequin. Sad but true.

      So I was really building a name for myself as a romantic suspense writer. But I also wanted to write erotic paranormal romances.

      Raelene Gorlinsky, the Editorial Director at Ellora's Cave, asked me to write urban fantasy for E.C., as there weren't any authors at E.C. writing really hot erotic urban fantasy romance that featured mmf relationships (http://tracycooperposey.com/the-mmf-thing-how-to-get-it/). I was more than willing to give it a try, as I love urban fantasy. I cut my reader's teeth on hard science fiction, got into writing because of STAR WARS (http://tracycooperposey.com/abou/), and watch LORD OF THE RINGS every year around Christmas time as well as read the book, if I can squeeze it in.

      I'm also a huge paranormal fan, but not the usual fare. I adore Sookie, but I'm only just starting to catch up with the "must-read-classics" that everyone insists I read. My background is far more unusual, even exotic, going back into the original Dracula series. So what I bring to the urban fantasy table is different and I hope provides a unique read.

      But that presented a bit of a problem, because the books I'd written for E.C. to that point were the "Boiling Plain Vanilla" variety. Definitely erotic, definitely hot, but they didn't feature threesomes or male/male action. Combined with the 180-degree switch in sub-genres, it seemed sensible to create a whole new pen name for the urban fantasy titles, so that my readers wouldn't break their necks switching gears from book to book, as I intend to keep producing titles under Tracy Cooper-Posey, too.

      So I started writing erotic urban fantasy romances as Teal Ceagh in mid 2010. My seventh title comes out on June 11, BEAUTY'S BEASTS, which is the second book in the GUARDIAN BONDS series (which features gargoyles and vampires).

      I'm working on the third book in the GUNS `N LOVERS series as we speak, BLUE KNIGHT.

      ******

      3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?

      I always outline. I have to. Winging it takes too much time, because you end up backing-and-filling too much. I first started out writing as a seat-of-the-pants writer, which seemed appropriate for romance writing, but those first few years of serious writing for publication I also spent learning everything I could about technique, including reading every how-to book I could find. And I was omnivorous, and would talk to every writer I met.

      My writing took a huge leap forward in quality and speed, and my understanding of story structure leapt forward when I started studying screenwriting. There are screenwriting techniques that are invaluable for novelists, especially those who are writing plot-rich stories like suspense, paranormal, etc.

      Once your plot has been sorted out, you are free to really focus in and concentrate on the emotions and wringing everything out of each scene as you write it, instead of trying to juggle everything in your head as you move along. I know some writers can't even conceive of outline ahead of writing, but it's not at all constricting – it actually frees you up to write the ass off your scenes and blow your readers' minds out.

      *****

      4. What do you find to be the particular challenges of writing erotic romance? Do you have any specific tips for writers wanting to work in that genre?

      This is a mug's game. Don't even think about getting into it if you can resist the lure.

      Seriously, erotic romance writing can be a hell of a treadmill once you're successful. It sounds wonderful: Get your name into print writing hot sex books and make a ton of money while you're at it, get monthly cheques for doing it, and have readers rave about you at the same time, plus spice up your private love life...what's not to like about it?

      Well,

      1) You can get awfully tired of writing about sex, sex, and yet more sex after a while, and if you don't hit the very top of the best seller lists right out of the gate, you're going to be chained to your desk, having to produce at least a book a month in order to just survive.

      2) Plus you have to promote the hell out of those books at the same time, and no one is going to help you promote those books. You have to do that all by yourself, on your dime and you have to teach yourself.

      3) Until you get a seriously long backlist and some sort of name and readership, your monthly income will be spotty, so you'll be doing all this while holding down a day job as well.

      4) If you're going to aim for a NY erotic publisher you can extend this scenario by years rather than months, and you'll have to contend with returns as well.

      5) If you're aiming for NY, you'll also have to figure in getting an agent into the mix, which further extends your deadline.

      6) Your family and community could hate your work and actively reject you. If you think I'm joking, read "The Perils Of Writing Erotic Romance" (http://tracycooperposey.com/the-perils-of-writing-erotic-romance/).

      And now that I've completely deflated your ego and seriously bummed everyone out...

      Between epublishers and New York publishers there are something like 500 fiction novels published every week. You need to be cognizant of the fact that if you want to break into this industry, you're walking into a seriously competitive, over-published and heart-breaking profession.

      If none of the above has deterred you, then not so long ago I wrote a post, "How To Break Into The Erotic Romance Market In 8 Not-So-Easy Steps" (http://tracycooperposey.com/how-to-break-into-the-erotic-romance-market-in-8-not-so-easy-steps/), that you might find useful.

      And you might want to remember the two quotes I always tell myself and other writers who are working their way through this crazy industry:

      You haven't failed until you quit.
      You never know what's around the corner.

      These two facts melded together bring some of the most joyful and incredible moments in a professional author's life. If you must become an erotic author, then good luck to you. It can be incredibly rewarding, and if you find yourself writing for one of the better erotic romance publishers, you'll find yourself in the company of some of the best and most helpful and supportive authors in the industry.

      Good luck!

      *****

      5. Please tell us about the resources for authors on your website.

      My site is primarily for readers, but I manage to sneak in a lot of stuff for authors as well – it's all backdoor stuff. I've been teaching romance writing at my local university for over ten years, ran a promotion business, and a blog called ANCHORED AUTHORS (for authors with a day job) for two years, and all the articles, blog posts and resources from those sources trickle back to my site.

      * I occasionally (about once a week, if nothing else more exciting happens) write a post about writing erotic romance. If you go to the site, and scroll down the sidebars until you see all the categories, and click on "writing erotic romance" you'll get a listing of all the posts I've written on the subject. Or you can just go here for the latest listing: http://tracycooperposey.com/category/writing-erotic-romance/.

      * You can check out my Articles page (http://tracycooperposey.com/articles/). This is where all the old posts from previous blogs, lectures, interviews, articles, etc, end up. There's various categories you can scroll through that you'll find of interest from a writing perspective.

      * You can sign up for my newsletter (http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=TracyCooperPosey&loc=en_US). This is the email version of my blog, but it gets you two free novels, one of them an erotic story. This way you can keep up with the latest posts. Apart from the how-to articles, I quite often report on industry gossip and news, too.

      *****
      6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?

      KISS ACROSS TIME, an erotic paranormal romance (a time travel, actually) just came out for Teal Ceagh, with Ellora's Cave.
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/kiss-across-time/)

      DEAD AGAIN, a romantic suspense, just came out for Tracy Cooper-Posey, with Cerridwen Press.
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/dead-again/)

      BEAUTY'S BEASTS, the second in the GUARDIAN BONDS series, an erotic urban fantasy romance from Ellora's Cave that features gargoyles, demon hunters and vampires, is released on June 11.
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/beautys-beasts/)
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/#guardianbonds)

      HEART OF VENGEANCE, a medieval historical romance, is coming out on July 25 from Cerridwen Press.
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/heart-of-vengeance/)

      *****
      7. What are you working on now?

      I'm currently working on BLUE KNIGHT, the third in the GUNS `N LOVERS series, an erotic romantic suspense (a politic thriller series) from Ellora's Cave.
      ( http://tracycooperposey.com/books/#Guns_n_Lovers_Tracy_Cooper-Posey_-)

      Once I'm finished that (I'm very close), I'll be flipping over to the fourth and final wrap up book for the DESTINY'S TRINITIES series, an erotic urban fantasy romance series by Teal Ceagh, by reader demand.
      (http://tracycooperposey.com/books/#Destinys_Trinities_Teal_Ceagh_-)

      *****
      8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

      Ooops, think I've already given that! My two quotes.

      But here's some more.

      Everyone knows that the odds of a tossed penny coming up heads is exactly 50%.  But if you tossed a penny ten times, in reality, it wouldn't come up heads five times out of ten.  You'd have to toss that penny an astronomical number of times before the REAL number of times the penny ACTUALLY came up heads was even.  Various factors affect the toss — the air streaming passed the edges, the way the penny was tossed, friction from the fingers of the person tossing the penny, variations in the shape of the penny, sound waves in the air from noises nearby — so there would have to be thousands, if not millions of tosses before the outcome approached true 50%.

      The same with the publishing game.  If you want to level the playing field, and eliminate all the unfair factors that might be affecting your odds of getting published, then just HANG IN THERE.  Don't quit.  Keep writing.  Keep submitting.  Keep networking.  Keep working on all the factors you can influence as a writer.

      There's six more tips like this in my post "7 Things I Wish I'd Known About Getting Published When I First Started Writing Novels." (http://tracycooperposey.com/7-things-i-wish-i%E2%80%99d-known-about-getting-published-when-i-first-started-writing-novels/)

      *****

      9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog?

      I have a blog that IS my site. After running my own static HTML site for ten years, then teaching myself XHTML and running a static XHTML site for another 18 months, I jettisoned the static site and went pure self-hosted Wordpress blog site, which does everything for me.

      If you're just getting into writing, then I strongly urge you to get a self-hosted blog – make it Wordpress! – and make that your site. There are articles on my Article page that talk about the advantages for authors to doing this. Money is just one of them. Google will just love you, too.

      As of this morning, my Alexa ranking is 298,545, which is better than nearly every professional romance writing blog out there. Even Nora Roberts is only 245,441!

      If you search Google for either "erotic romantic suspense", "erotic urban fantasy" or "erotic paranormal romance", you'll find I'm the first or second entry (ENTRY, not page). That's the advantage of running a blog over a static site, which Google likes better, and some really basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics.

      You'll find me here: http://TracyCooperPosey.com

      Leave me a comment! I put all new authors that leave me a comment on my blogroll!

      Cheers,

      Tracy

      *****

      Some Books I've Been Reading:

      MASKED BY MOONLIGHT, by Nancy Gideon. Best known for her vampire romances, Gideon starts a shapeshifter series with this novel. New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie (nicknamed Cee Cee) has a lifelong feud with mob boss Jimmy Legere, because he ordered the murder of her father, also a cop. Yet she has an ambivalent relationship with Legere's enforcer, Max, to whom she's irresistibly attracted against her will (as you'd expect in a paranormal romance). As a child of about five, Max witnessed his mother's murder and stayed with her body in the swamp until Legere stumbled upon him and rescued him. Brought up with total loyalty to the gangland leader, Max has no life of his own. Exploiting to the fullest his ability to shift into a wolflike beast, Legere treats him more like a valued pet than a person. His only true friend is a nun, Mary Kate, also a childhood friend of Cee Cee's. Max demonstrates the essential goodness at his core by using his violent power to protect the innocent. We eventually learn that Max, in beast form, once defied his foster father to rescue Cee Cee and Mary Kate when, as teenage girls, they were kidnapped and abused by Legere's henchmen. When Max and Cee Cee begin to fall in love, their relationship violates both her professional duty and his loyalty to Legere. What will happen when he has to choose between the only "family" he has ever known and his first chance at human love? The choice doesn't come across as artificially easy for either Max or Cee Cee. Revelations of his past plunge him into dark places and push him away from Legere, yet how can she embrace a mob enforcer as her lover and still function as a cop? This is a highly emotional story, which makes Max's status as both dangerous predator and lost boy vivid and believable and his relationship with Cee Cee heart-wrenchingly poignant. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

      LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina. "Christmas won't be Christmas without any corpses." Being ethical vampires under the strong moral guidance of their father, a chaplain in the Union Army, the March girls aren't pining for human corpses, of course. They simply wish for live animals instead of stale blood. In this rewrite of LITTLE WOMEN, vampires are publicly known to exist, although regarded with suspicion by some of their human neighbors and subject to attack by vampire slayers, whose activities are illegal but a real hazard. Vampire couples sometimes form families by converting orphaned children (as in the case of the Marches), who age slowly but, apparently, do grow up. Jo longs to become a hunter of slayers and constantly works on her journals of hunting techniques, rather than on novels as in Alcott's original classic. Meg and Amy suffer from the snobbery of more aristocratic vampires. Beth still loves kittens, but her pets have a high turnover rate. A subplot involves conflict between the undead who cling to the old ways and those who advocate using modern scientific methods to defeat slayers. Laurie yearns for Jo to transform him, which she can't bring herself to do because she isn't in love with him. John Brooke turns out to have secrets not foreshadowed in the original novel, but his love for Meg triumphs in the end. Their twin babies, unfortunately, are omitted from this version; I'd like to have seen how the author would make that feature work. The whole story is handled with a light touch, except for the loss of Beth, and I had a lot of fun reading it. One of the better books of the recent "mash-up" fad that I've read.

      LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand. I read these books practically back to back on our recent group tour of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Grand's approach differs from Messina's in a couple of ways. LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN omits some major incidents from the original (such as Amy's feud with her teacher over limes), while LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES tries to get almost everything in. As a result, the werewolf novel summarizes some episodes in an almost sketchy manner in order to leave room for new plot elements the author introduces, such as Mr. March's work with war veteran amputees. Grant also treats his story more seriously than Messina does hers, with an overall darker tone. One thing I don't like about this book is the alteration in the characters of Jo and Beth, not severe but noticeable. Instead of merely hot-tempered and impulsive, this Jo seems downright hateful at moments in the early chapters. And the March family members don't have the excuse of being supernatural predators in this novel; they're human. Moreover, Jo lusts after Laurie, a major change from their relationship in the classic novel. Beth, rather than only innocent and sheltered, occasionally acts feeble-minded. Changing core elements of the prototype seems, to me, not to be playing the game properly. On the whole, though, I enjoyed how the author integrates the fear of werewolf attacks into the original plot, and I like the way the sisters and their parents, when they become aware of the truth, deal with the knowledge that the wealthy Laurences are a family of lycanthropes.

      A TAINT IN THE BLOOD, by S. M. Stirling. My favorite alternate-history author has written a near-future vampire novel! This is one of those books in which I couldn't wait to find out what happened, but also I didn't want it to end. All that's missing is an afterword; in A TAINT IN THE BLOOD Stirling doesn't include any expository appendices such as I've enjoyed in his alternate histories. I'd like to have a more systematic and detailed explanation of his vampires' biology and psychology. These superhuman predators are clearly inspired by Jack Williamson's classic DARKER THAN YOU THINK; in fact, at one point the dialogue makes a sly allusion to a writer who stumbled upon part of the truth, wrote a book about it, and was still allowed to live to a "ridiculous old age." Like Williamson's Homo lycanthropus, Stirling's Homo sapiens nocturnus species, called Shadowspawn, embodies the truth behind the myths and legends of werewolves, vampires, witches, demons, incubi, and cruel gods who demand human sacrifice. As in the classic novel, the creatures can leave their bodies and, while incorporeal, wear different shapes. They can twist probability to perform feats that look like magic to ordinary mortals. At death, if they successfully "transition," they become permanently incorporeal and much more powerful than in the "birth body." Silver hurts them, and sunlight has deadly effects on the incorporeal form. Stirling updates the concept with references to DNA and quantum mechanics. His vampires have immense capacity to control human minds and manipulate victims' perception of reality. Their sociopathic level of sadism and their reluctance, as solitary predators, to trust each other place the main limits on their power. They control the world, but covertly, having no desire for the tedium of day-to-day ruling. In personality (though not, of course, in political organization) they remind me of Stirling's equally charismatic, cruel, and irresistibly powerful Draka. Like Williamson's monsters, Stirling's vampiric beings have bred with their human prey over the millennia, so purebloods are rare, and many seemingly ordinary people have some measure of the vampires' psychic ability. Some of those who fall in the middle of the continuum, with enough Shadowspawn heritage to crave blood but not enough to gain nourishment from it, turn into deranged serial killers. Adrian, the hero, and his cruel sister Adrienne (like a tiger with human intelligence) are among the few purebloods. As part of her ongoing love-hate obsession with her brother, Adrienne kidnaps Adrian's human lover, Ellen, who until that day has no idea of the Shadowspawn's existence. Adrian has broken off from his species' predatory lifestyle and is trying to live a human lifestyle. With his old friend and mentor from the Brotherhood, a secret organization fighting against the Shadowspawn, he sets out to rescue Ellen. In the process, they get entangled in an attempt to thwart a long-term Shadowspawn plot to reduce what they see as Earth's human overpopulation. Ellen's strength as she endures Adrienne's alternate torture and seduction makes her an engaging character, while Adrian remains recognizable as a dangerous, inhuman predator even while he struggles against his darker drives. Stirling makes us understand why some people willingly come to an accommodation with the monsters and embrace the roles of "renfields" (assistants) and "lucies" (blood sources). What we learn of the Shadowspawn's biology and hidden subculture is endlessly fascinating. I want more! The author has left room for a sequel, and A CONGRESS OF DEMONS is listed on his website as forthcoming in 2011. I hope that won't be the last in the series.

      THE SEARCH, by Nora Roberts. Another skillfully plotted, emotionally absorbing romantic suspense novel, as one would expect from Roberts. What sets it apart from others is the heroine Fiona's vocation as a dog trainer and member of a canine search-and-rescue team. Sole surviving victim of a serial killer now imprisoned for life, Fiona has found peace and a new life on a small island near Seattle. When copycat murders begin to occur, the FBI suspects Fiona's attacker has found a way to mentor a student who carries on his "work." It's no great spoiler to mention that they're right and that the fledgling killer intends to repay his debt to his mentor by eliminating Fiona, the one loose end. Meanwhile, Fiona becomes involved with Simon, a woodworking craftsman who has also sought solitude on the island. He comes to her for help with his incorrigible puppy, Jaws, an unwanted gift from his mother. He gradually comes to love the dog while he and Fiona develop feelings for each other. Though Fiona's readiness to have recreational sex with someone she hardly knows (she explicitly states she's looking for a no-strings affair to end her "dry spell") turned me off, I enjoyed the growth of her relationship with Simon very much. The murder of her fiance, a police officer, by the original killer has left her wary of emotional entanglement. Simon likes his independence and takes poorly to any interference with his solitary routine, even after he begins to admit his love for Fiona. He never says anything he doesn't mean, and his bluntness often shading into rudeness lends humor to the story. Determined not to become a victim again, Fiona embraces self-sufficiency to the point of stubbornness but not to the point of stupidity. Plenty of dog-training and wilderness-search scenes gave the book its special appeal for me. One gets the impression that Roberts has done solid research. The dogs become important secondary characters. Naturally the search theme is integrated with the serial killer plot at the climax. I'm happy to report (no big spoiler here, either) that the criminal does not turn out to be a friend or neighbor Fiona has every reason to trust; I can't stand that kind of plot twist, usually farfetched as well as depressing (that's why I stopped reading Robert Ludlum).

      *****

      Excerpt from "Heart's Desire":

      Tom left home early the next morning, for an all-day job rebuilding a fence for the butcher. His absence gave Rachel the perfect opportunity to carry out her plan. Leaving Kate in charge of the other children, she set out for Mistress Susanna's cottage with a market basket over her arm. She stopped to make purchases at the fruit stall, to cover her true goal.

      The witch's home lay at the end of a tree-shaded lane on the edge of the village. Despite the isolation, on a sultry summer day with sunlight dancing through the leaves it shouldn't have seemed frightening. Yet Rachel shivered as she stepped to the door, under an overhanging oak, and knocked. Everyone knew that magic, even white magic, held unpredictable dangers.

      The half-forgotten scents of the cottage enveloped her the moment the door opened--a spicy, floral mixture like the fragrances from a noblewoman's kitchen or bower. A ginger cat stalked out of her path as Rachel tiptoed inside. She blinked for a minute, adjusting to the dimmer light in the room.

      Susanna looked no different from their previous encounter. Although old enough to be Rachel's mother, she had a luxuriant bosom and glossy chestnut hair--and all her teeth, a sign of occult power in itself.

      Rachel shivered again at the cool clasp of the witch's hand. "It's been a long time, child. Are you so afraid of me?"

      Rachel blushed. To confess fear would be discourteous when she'd come to ask for help. "Please accept this small gift, Mistress Susanna." She placed three apples from her basket on the table.

      Susanna inclined her head in thanks. "Come and sit down, my girl, and tell me what brings you here." She led the way to a pair of chairs by the open window. Her skirts rustled like leaves in a spring breeze.

      A blackbird perched on a stand next to the window. Nervously glancing up at it, Rachel took the seat indicated. The smell of the cottage tickled her nose. She couldn't decide what it resembled--cinnamon? mint? roses? It differed completely from the comfortably musty odors of her own house, so familiar she hardly noticed them. This fragrance made her lightheaded, made her heart flutter with pleasurable excitement.

      Susanna touched her hand again, making her heartbeat race still faster. "Tell me your troubles, while I fix you a cup of herb tea."

      Rachel twisted her hands together in her lap. "You know about my husband Tom? How he had that fall three years ago and almost died?"

      Lifting the simmering kettle from the hearth, Susanna nodded.

      Rachel explained the aftereffects, stammering and casting down her eyes as she spoke of Tom's lost virility. "I tried to tell Aunt Judith about it once. She just told me to continue doing my wifely duty and be thankful my man was alive. She said what happened to him was God's will."

      The witch sniffed. "Father Joseph and his devotees have a different idea about God's will from mine, that's clear. I hold that God has given us the wit to help ourselves." She handed Rachel a cup, delicately adorned with a pattern of ferns and violets. Sweet-scented steam arose from it.

      Rachel sipped the hot drink, feeling its warmth spread through her body with the first taste. Her breasts and thighs tingled, as if invisible fingers had brushed them.

      "Now, Rachel, what do you want from me? Is it only your husband's failure in bed that concerns you? You could find a lusty lad with a stiff prick to fill that need."

      Rachel turned hot at the reminder of her own sinful speculations. "It's everything." Tears stung her eyes. "I can't stand to see Tom in such pain. He isn't himself anymore. The man I married has vanished. He's like a changeling. And now he says he wants to die--" With a trembling hand, she set aside the cup for fear of spilling it. She gave way to the sobs welling up in her throat.

      Susanna's hand rested on her shoulder, then moved up to rub the back of her bowed neck. The strong, yet gentle touch sent shudders of pleasure through Rachel, in the midst of her sadness. She felt a strange confusion at this reaction to another woman.

      "It's clear from what you've said, that your Tom is too far gone for any simple remedy. Yet there is something I might try, if you'll trust me. A potion I can brew, that may give you your heart's desire."

      Rachel lifted her head and blinked through the shimmer of tears. *My heart's desire? That's too wild a promise to be true!* "The man I married?" she said. "Whole again, happy and loving the way I remember him?"

      "And more," said the witch, "if you trust me."

      "What else can I do? I have nowhere else to turn."

      "Very well." Susanna crossed the room to a locked chest, which she opened to remove a number of vials and small boxes. "I shall brew the potion. You must get Tom to drink it without telling him what you're doing. He would not accept any medicine if he knew it came from me. Men don't trust women's magic."

      -end of excerpt-

      *****

      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:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FansofJewelsoftheQuill/
      To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
      FansofJewelsoftheQuill-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

      Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Moonlight_Fantasy

      My Publishers:

      Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
      Cerridwen Press: www.cerridwenpress.com
      Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
      Harlequin/Silhouette: www.eharlequin.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
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