Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 60 (September 2010)
- Welcome to the September 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:
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/
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. And search the Kindle store on Amazon.com for Kindle editions of numerous novels and stories by me.
"Foxfire," my erotic kitsune romance from Ellora's Cave, is now available from All Romance E-Books here:
Hard Shell Word Factory (recently acquired by Mundania Press), publisher of my first two vampire novels, DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, has a brand new, streamlined website. This is my Hard Shell author page:
While the site is under construction, you can still buy these novels and many of my other books at Amazon.com and Fictionwise.com. Below is an excerpt from the opening scene of CHILD OF TWILIGHT, in which young vampire-human hybrid Gillian is running away from her guardian, Volnar.
A TASTE OF MIDNIGHT, a vampire erotica anthology from Circlet Press, has been released in Kindle format. It includes a story by me, not part of my regular vampire universe, one of my few male-male paranormal romance tales:
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fans: The anthology SEVEN SEASONS OF BUFFY, published by Ben Bella Books, is still available. In addition to essays by many well-known authors of vampire fiction, it includes an article by me called "A World Without Shrimp." Here's the Amazon link:
And you can even download a copy of my article by itself from the publisher for 99 cents:
This month I'm interviewing Nancy Gideon, best known for her pioneering vampire romances.
Interview with Nancy Gideon:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I've always been a storyteller. When I first saw my name in print under a fractured fairytale in my elementary school newspaper, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was always an avid reader. When I wasn't reading, I was jotting down bits and pieces of stories in a notebook but I never finished a book until challenged by a college professor I bumped into while a stay-at-home mom selling stuffed toys at a craft fair who asked, "This is what you're doing with your college education?" I went home and started an historical romance on page one and finished it. That one didn't sell but the next one I submitted did, and now, over 50 novels later, my college education is serving me very well, thank you!
2. What genres do you write in?
I've written in everything from historical and series contemporary suspense to paranormal, and even horror screenplays. I love variety.
3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
As an ADD/OCD writer, I'd always depended upon a very specific outline. I don't even go to the store without Mapquest. But when I started writing my BY MOONLIGHT shape-shifter series from an old prologue, I was into Chapter 7 before I even knew where I was going. After four books, I was still going seat of my pants as if watching a movie unfold. Since the series has gotten so complex (there are six books so far!), I've had to start keeping notes about names and places and what happens when so that satisfies my OCD cravings.
4. Did any particular sources inspire your vampire romances? How about your new shapeshifter series?
Dark Shadows launched my love of the paranormal. I'd rush home from school to tune in the campy soap opera the way some do Dancing With the Stars. Couldn't get enough of it. It inspired my interest in all things fang and fur.
5. Why do you write under several pen names? How do works by these different personae vary, and do you consider your alter egos as "different people"?
It's all me. I'm a Gemini so I'm already a split personality. Pen names came about because I wrote so fast and for several different publishers who wanted a different name to differentiate their books from the ones I was writing at different houses and within different genres. Dana Ransom and Rosalyn West were my historical names. I wrote a couple of regency historical as Lauren Giddings. I've used my own name for the paranormals and contemporaries. But it's all me, which is why my tag line is "Romance by any other name!"
6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
The first BY MOONLIGHT books came out in June, July and August and are still available. Book 4 will be out in August, 2011 and Book 5 in December 2011. They don't have official titles yet.
7. What are you working on now?
I'm in the middle of Book 5. I'm also hoping to hear on a romantic suspense that my agent is shopping around. It would be nice to take a short break from the supernatural. I also work 9-to-5 in a law office and I'm always busy there!
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
My favorite quote (coined I think from Nora Roberts) is "Butt in chair, hands on keys." You have to be actively writing to be a writer.
9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog?
My website is http://nancygideon.com where you can find out the latest, get my backlist titles, and sign up for my newsletter. I'm in the process of getting the blog up and going.
Some Books I've Been Reading:
FIVE QUARTS: A PERSONAL AND NATURAL HISTORY OF BLOOD, by Bill Hayes. This book reveals almost everything you could ever want to know about blood. It blends the history of medical science (all the way back to the ancient Greek physician Galen) with topics such as the circulation of the blood, menstruation, hemophilia, inheritance of blood types, HIV, the immune response, erections, and numerous other medical and cultural aspects of the subject. It discusses vampires, with a detailed examination of blood transfusion in DRACULA, a section I especially enjoyed. (The author's comments on nineteenth-century vampire fiction aren't completely accurate, but he displays careful reading of Stoker's novel.) I'm sorry to say, however, that Hayes falls for that long since discredited tripe about vampire legends having been inspired by porphyria. Well written and accessible but with plenty of information-dense factual content, this book would be both useful and entertaining for any writer of vampire fiction. It did leave out at least one fact I was looking for, though: How many calories does blood contain? I can't get a straight answer on the Internet; one convincing source suggests 400 per pint based on the protein content, while others, forgetting about everything except glucose, estimate much less. In Hayes' writing, I could have done with less of the "personal" content. Although, fortunately, most of the autobiographical anecdotes segue gracefully into topics of general interest, there were sections where I wished he'd curtailed some of the reminiscences in favor of additional facts. Not that those sections weren't well written, too, but I bought the book to read about blood, not the author's personal life. Anyway, it's worth reading if you're at all interested in this "vital" (so to speak) topic.
GONE, by Michael Grant. This 2008 YA SF novel begins with all the people fifteen years and older instantaneously vanishing from the small town of Perdido Beach, California. A translucent, spherical barrier apparently centered on the local nuclear power plant envelopes the town, the adjacent coast, and the surrounding desert. Sam, whose past quick action in a school bus accident has given him something of a hero's reputation, reluctantly finds other kids turning to him for leadership. Astrid, a super-intelligent, academically high achieving girl he has a crush on, becomes one of his closest associates, along with a few other teens, including his best friend, Quinn. As the story progresses, Quinn, however, becomes less reliable as resentments arise. For they soon discover that within the FAYZthe Fallout Alley Youth Zone, as they've named itmany kids have developed paranormal powers such as teleportation, healing, telekinesis, and (in Sam's case) shooting heat rays. In fact, it turns out that the powers existed before the FAYZ phenomenon occurred. Some of the "normal" people naturally become wary of the "freaks" with powers. To complicate the crisis, a group of students from nearby Coates Academy descends upon the town. At first, their leader, Caine, appears to have sound ideas and good intentions. But the more fully he takes over, with the help of the local bully Orc and his henchmen, the further the town slides into LORD OF THE FLIES territory. Moreover, there seems to be an unnatural force at work in addition to the barrier. Some animals mutate and even develop near-human intelligence and the ability to speak. And what is the "Darkness" to which the mutated coyotes owe allegiance? Grant holds together all these threads in a fast-moving plot that gives the impression he knows where the story is headed. For me, it's more of a "want to know what happens" book than a "love the characters and style" book; still, Sam and Astrid come across as decent kids trying to do the right thing in a horrible situation, and I'm rooting for them. Astrid has the added burden of an autistic little brother, who may possess the strongest powers of all. Sam's group strives to save the community from Caine's tyranny while facing the prospect that Sam, on his fast-approaching birthday, will disappear just as a few other people newly turned fifteen have. He also discovers he has an unwanted connection with Caine. By the end of the book, they've learned the probable cause of the FAYZ and how to avoid going "poof" on their fifteenth birthdays. With a projected six-book series ahead (a total of three having been published so far), the characters have plenty of other problems to solve, such as what happens when food supplies give out, the exact nature of the FAYZ phenomenon, where their powers come from, what's happening outside the barrier, and, of course, whether there's any way to return their world to normal.
INFINITY, by Sherrilyn Kenyon. A must-read for fans of Kenyon's Dark-Hunter universe, this novel begins a "Chronicles of Nick" series. We find out about the youth of Nick Gautier and how he first comes into contact with the realm of the supernatural. The only child of a single mother who works in a strip club, Nick has to fend for himself most of the time and wear thrift shop clothes that single him out for the attention of bullies. Despite his best efforts to stay out of trouble, naturally he tends to get into fights, especially when his tormentors insult his mother. She wants him to go to college and have a successful life. One night he gets mixed up in a robbery attempt, and when he stands up to the alleged friends who sucked him into that misadventure, he's rescued by a mysterious warrior. From then on, he gets drawn into the world of vampires, werewolves, and demons. Given his background, his suspicion of almost everyone's motives rings true, such as when he gets offered an amazingly well-paying job with an outlandish level of perks. He meets Acheron and other characters long-time readers will recognize. We know what Nick is getting into and what he'll eventually become, while he doesn't have a clue. A would-be tough kid with a keen mind and a good heart, he's being watched from behind the scenes by two factions that know secrets about his origin he he doesn't suspect. Only half human, Nick has the potential to turn to the dark side or resist that destiny and become a force for the light. Acheron's adopted demon child, Simi, adds her usual comic relief. The book ends with this phase of the story satisfactorily wrapped up but with much more for Nick to learn about the world of Dark-Hunters, Were-Hunters, and Daimons. Best for readers who have some prior familiarity with the series.
THE THIRTEENTH TALE, by Diane Setterfield. This beautifully written literary-fiction Gothic (published 2006) makes frequent allusions to JANE EYRE, and this story itself echoes the classic novel, with dark family secrets, the mansion they haunt, and a devastating fire at the climax. Setterfield weaves the past and present narratives together in a way that enthralled me, because stories filled with layers of the past impinging on the present are one of my favorite types of fiction. (Think of Stephen King's IT, for instance.) The primary narrator, Margaret Lea, who works in her father's antiquarian bookstore and lives her life mostly in books, receives a letter from famous but reclusive author Vida Winter, whom she has never met (or even read, prior to this point). Ms. Winter, who has always put off inquiries into her past with a dozen different incompatible stories, has finally decided to tell the truth and has selected Margaret, author of a few obscure biographical monographs, to record her story. Margaret's narrative alternates with Ms. Winter's reminiscences, which she insists on telling in order, with no questions or jumping ahead. She reveals the history of a twisted brother-sister relationship with the hinted possibility of incest, followed by the sister's death in giving birth to twin girls, Adeline and Emmeline. Vida Winter professes to be the woman "formerly known as Adeline March." Her uncle, crushed by his sister's death, withdraws into a single room of the swiftly deteriorating house and leaves the girls' upbringing to the servants, of whom soon only two remain, the housekeeper and the gardener. The twins grow up wild. We gradually learn about their childhood and youth, while Margaret does her own investigating and decides Ms. Winter is indeed telling the truth this time. But are there other truths lurking underneath? The doppelganger theme of twinship is echoed in Margaret's own family secret, a dead twin whom her parents never discuss with her. The other overarching theme of the book is "story" itself. Devoted lover of old-fashioned narratives that she is, Margaret ties up all the loose ends for us at the book's conclusion, yet without undercutting the haunting mood that pervades the whole. Tragedy and sorrow end with the laying of old ghosts (one of them literal, perhaps) and the awakening of new hope for the survivors.
THRESHOLDS, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. This YA novel reminds me of Hoffman's well-known fantasy THE THREAD THAT BINDS THE BONES, in that both books feature an outsider getting to know an eccentric family with strange powers. In THRESHOLDS, seventh-grader Maya's family (herself, her parents, an older sister, and a younger brother) has just moved to a small town in Oregon to make a fresh start, with her parents working as teachers in local schools. Maya is still consumed with grief over the recent death of her best friend, Stephanie, from cancer. Hoffman convincingly portrays a healthy, loving family and a protagonist with believable teenage problems, such as the anxiety of starting a new school where she doesn't know anyone. Maya stands out because of her flair for art; she deals with any challenging situation by drawing and constantly has her sketchbook with her. Next door to their new home stands an apartment building called Janus House. Meeting some of the odd but likeable kids from there on her first day of school, Maya quickly becomes friendly with them even though they frankly tell her they don't have much time for leisure activities and aren't allowed to talk about their home life with outsiders. Observing that they also eat strange foods instead of cafeteria meals, she decides they must belong to some kind of cult. The night before school starts, what appears to be a fairy flies into Maya's room and spends the night there. The narrative gives just enough space to her initial skepticism about the creature without belaboring the point. Little does Maya know that the residue of fairy dust on her skin is what initially attracts the Janus House kids to her. She also attracts the attention of a peculiar and apparently sick boy who forces a glowing egg upon her, assigning her the task of taking care of it until it hatches. The egg burrows under the skin of her wrist and bonds with her. She has no choice but to accept the help of her mysterious new friends, who take her home and feed her food infused with the ingredient that will enable her to nourish the egg safely. She learns that they act as guardians of portals between worlds, accessible through the hidden chambers of their building. She encounters either extraterrestrial technology or magic so advanced it's indistinguishable from technology. The genre-savvy reader won't be surprised to find out about the portals or the various species of beings Maya meets. And of course there's danger to her and the egg. She can't tell anyone else what she's learned, even her family. She often poignantly reflects on how Stephanie would have been thrilled with encountering magic, since she was the one of them who loved fantasy. By the last chapter of the novel, the groundwork is laid for sequels but without an annoying cliffhanger ending.
Excerpt from CHILD OF TWILIGHT:
The van screeched to a stop on the shoulder of the on-ramp. When the driver, a lean, middle-aged man with a pointed beard, edged over to peer at her through the passenger window, Gillian heard him exclaim, "My God, it's a kid!"
Opening the door, he shouted to her, "Get in, you're drenched already!"
Gillian climbed into the car, shrugged off her jacket, and dropped her backpack between the two front bucket seats. "Thank you for stopping, sir." She stole a longer look at the driver. He wore a fur-collared leather coat and matching leather gloves. His hair, receding in front, was curly and abundant elsewhere, gray-streaked brown like the beard. She felt indignation mingled with curiosity in the stare he gave her.
The van roared onto Interstate 64. "I'm Adam Greer. Who might you be?"
Hands folded in her lap, she kept quiet. The less she revealed the better.
"Good enoughGillian. Don't you have any idea how dangerous it is for a girl to hitchhike? Especially at night? Good Lord, I could be Jack the Ripper for all you know!"
"Impossible," she said. "He lived in the nineteenth century." Greer's answering chuckle reminded her of another of Volnar's warningsnot to take every statement literally. Fortunately Greer seemed to accept the comment as a joke.
"How old are you, anyway?"
She saw no reason not to answer that question truthfully. As Volnar had instructed her (Why couldn't she keep him out of her thoughts? What kind of independence was that?), minimizing the number of lies one had to keep track of made life less complicated. "I'm twelve."
"Tall for your age," Greer muttered.
And skinny, she could almost hear the man thinking. Gillian wondered if she'd made a mistake, if she should have claimed to be older. Yet she knew her slim, flat-chested body didn't resemble a teenager's. Better to present herself as an unusually tall pre-adolescent. She ran her fingers through her dripping red curls and sat up straight, trying to keep water off the upholstery.
Squinting through dark-rimmed glasses at the highway, shiny with rain, Greer said, "How far are you going?"
A potential trap? No, what harm could that truth do her? "To Annapolis."
He made a hmph sound of acknowledgement. "Heading in that general direction myself. I'm going to a convention in College Parkon the upper side of the Washington beltway, if you don't know the area."
"I have studied maps." The dubious glance he gave her worried Gillian. Her speech must not ring true for a twelve-year-old girl, but how could she remedy that problem when she'd had so little experience yet? *Well, that's one reason I'm here, to get experience.* "What kind of convention, sir?" Maybe she could get him to talk about himself instead of her.
Greer flashed her a smile. "It's a pleasure to meet a polite kid these days, but you don't have to overdo it. A science fiction conventionI'm scheduled to be on a panel about UFOs. I teach sociology at William and Mary, and along with more scholarly articles on the topic, I've published a few popular books on contemporary urban superstitions. Hey, there I go lecturing, as if you'd be interested. Sorry, besetting sin of us academics."
Gillian rummaged through the mental file of her nonfiction reading and came up with a vague picture of what he meant. "But I am interested, professor. Superstitions? Like alligators in the sewers of New York?"
He seemed surprised that she'd caught on so readily. "Right, and the tale of the Hook, the spiders in the imported cactus, the organ-stealing crime ring, and all sorts of wild stories that go around with nobody sure how or where they started. And other popular beliefs that don't strictly fit the urban label, like Bigfoot and UFOs full of little green men from Venus."
"There can't be humanoid life on Venus," Gillian said. "It is much too hot."
"Right you are." Professor Greer laughed. "Gillian, you're something else, as we used to say at your age." His amusement faded. "I hate to think of you out on the road alone. I've got a niece not much older than you. Listen, if you're running away, you can tell me about it. I won't turn you in to the cops."
Gillian heard sincerity in the man's voice. The deep pink halo of his aura didn't flicker. Maybe she could tell him enough of the truth, shaded with fabricated details to win his sympathy, to induce him to help her. Either that or she would have to find another ride farther up the highway, and she was so tired already. She hadn't slept all day. "I'm going to visit my father, and I ran out of bus money."
The professor radiated skepticism. "Your parents are divorced?" She nodded. "So why didn't he send you enough money to start with?"
She scrambled for a plausible explanation. One sprang to mind from the soap operas she watched as part of her education. "He doesn't know I'm on my way. I couldn't get in touch with him." She injected a tremor into her voice. "He would have contacted my mother about the arrangements, and if she knew about it" She paused, pretending to choke on suppressed tears, and watched the man's reaction.
Greer exuded sympathy. Her technique was working. A tiny thrill tingled along her nerves. *So this is what we cultivate them for!* And it wasn't as difficult as she'd feared either.
"She'd stop me. You see, her husband" Gillian covered her face with her hands, afraid to volunteer anything specific for fear of striking a false note.
"Poor kidyou don't have to go into details." His voice rough with distress, Greer reached over to pat Gillian's shoulder. A rush of warmth suffused her. For a second she felt energized despite her fatigue and hunger. She wanted more of this!
"I couldn't tell my mother about it. She'd believe my stepfather, not me." Gillian groped for the professor's hand. The touch of his fingers sparked another delightful surge of electricity.
The van swerved. Snatching his hand away from Gillian's, Greer whipped the wheel around to steer the car back into its proper lane. "God, I must be more tired than I thought! Better take a break, get some coffee. I bet you'd like a snack, too."
"I would like a glass of milk," she said.
"Fine, I'll treat you to one." He glanced at the sign coming up. "There's an exit in two miles. Oh, I forgot all about this" He dug into the pouch below the dashboard between the front seats and fished out a chocolate bar. "Be my guest."
She gave the standard excuse she'd been taught. "No thank you, I'm allergic to it."
With a shrug Professor Greer unwrapped the candy and started eating it. "No wonder I'm beat, grading exams until late this afternoon. Stupid of me not to wait until tomorrow to drive up, but I wanted plenty of time to meet with a few colleagues in the area. And a good thing, as it turned out, or I wouldn't have met you."
Gillian tensed. What did he have in mind? Could she accept help from him without compromising herself?
"I'll take you all the way to your father's. It's only an extra hour of driving time, no problem. You said he lives in Annapolis?"
Gillian decided to accept the offer. Wasn't there a saying about the teeth of gift horses? Once convinced that she was safe with her father, Greer would vanish from her life with no harm done. "Not exactly in Annapolis," she said. "Across the Severn River in an area called St. Margaret's near Route 50."
The van slowed for the exit ramp. "Have you ever been there?"
"Only once, when I was very little, so I hardly remember it. But I have studied"
He laughed, "Yeah, I know, maps. So you can give me accurate directions?"
"I believe so." She told him the street address.
"Okay, it's a deal." He peered out the windshield at the deserted, wooded county road. The downpour had changed from rain to sleet. "I wonder how many miles to civilization?"
"I don't know how to thank you," said Gillian, quoting a line she'd often encountered in books and TV dramas. She was enjoying the way she manipulated this creature so easily.
With a dismissive wave he said, "Forget it. I'll feel better knowing you're safe. You can thank me by promising not to do anything this dumb again."
"Yes, sir." Partly to divert him from his too-solicitous interest in her and partly out of genuine curiosity, she asked, "Isn't it unwise for you to pick up strangers too? Aren't you afraid?"
"Not of a twelve-year-oldno offense," he chuckled. "And I do carry a pistol in the glove compartment on these trips. Probably against some law or other."
Having read in the newspaper about armed conflict in California traffic jams, Gillian wasn't surprised to hear that the professor had a gun. "How many people have you shot?"
He burst out laughing. "None. I'm not what you'd call the desperado type" He glanced at her, taking his eyes off the tight curve he was negotiating. At that moment the tires skidded on the ice-glazed pavement. The professor spun the wheel wildly from side to side. Gillian heard his heartbeat shift into overdrive. Her own pounded out of control. The van slid across the curve and onto the shoulder. Its right front bumper collided with a sapling and rebounded.
Gillian felt her safety belt strain against her chest. Greer's panic flooded her. She couldn't gather her wits to brace against the jolting of the car. She felt the brakes catch. The van fishtailed, plowed into a leafless clump of bushes, and stopped.
Gillian's vision went dim. Something more than the wind howled in her ears. Her skin felt on fire. She leaped up, lunging against the belt and barely noticing it snap. Her bones were cracking open, her body turning inside out, her very essence boiling up from her heart and bowels.
She doubled over, forehead on the dashboard. Abruptly the burning pain metamorphosed into a convulsion of ecstasy immeasurably beyond what she'd absorbed from Greer's touch.
It ended too quickly. Her eyes cleared. Meeting the professor's dumbfounded stare, she glimpsed in her peripheral vision what held him transfixed.
She saw the tips of her wings.
What did he see? Only wings? Or also dark fur sprouting on her skin, the fangs and pointed ears of some feral creature from legend?
His terror pierced her between the eyes. Or was it her own? *This can't beI'm too youngI don't know how!* And then a still more terrible thought hit her: *He saw me change!*
She fumbled for the door handle, jumped down from the van, and launched herself into the air.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter