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Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 6

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  • margvamp
    Welcome to my newsletter, News from the Crypt, and please visit Carter s Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com), devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3 12:19 PM
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      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:
      www.simegen.com/reviews/vampires/vamprelm.htm

      We survived January and February once more! Spring is in sight! After
      a March-like month of January, we had a cold February with one major
      snowstorm. Although a record for some parts of the East Coast, the
      snowfall in our area wasn't so bad as some we've seen here. The
      timing, on a weekend, helped with the cleanup of the roads, which
      seemed to occur promptly and thoroughly. (Well, except for our little
      street, which always seems to get forgotten until last, but we're used
      to it.) Many thousands of households in our county, however, lost
      electricity, some for several days. Our son with the new baby lost
      power for almost 24 hours. We were lucky; our electricity just blinked
      for a couple of seconds. (I always worry about that because, being on
      a well, we have no running water when the power fails.) On the day
      after the snowstorm, a Sunday, we just had to try out our almost-new,
      four-wheel-drive Honda Element, so we drove the twenty minutes across
      the river to church. Luckily, the highways were almost empty of
      traffic, and they had been pretty well cleared. Including the priest,
      the choir director, and us, the total attendance turned out to be nine
      people. Made us feel like intrepid pioneers. Or slightly crazy. <G>

      I'm delighted to report that Cerridwen Press, the non-erotic division
      of Ellora's Cave, has accepted my elf romance, PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW
      HILLS. The heroine, Fern, is left with the care of her orphaned,
      two-month-old nephew, unaware that he is half-elf and potential heir
      to the throne of the Hollow Hills. A cousin of the baby's father wants
      to take the baby from her and deliver him to his grandparents, the
      King and Queen of Elfland. An UNEDITED excerpt appears below.

      Some books I've been reading:

      CELL, by Stephen King. Not one of his masterpieces like PET SEMATARY,
      IT, 'SALEM'S LOT, or the DARK TOWER series, but a gripping story
      nevertheless. A "pulse" of unknown origin transforms all people who
      happen to be listening on cell phones into homicidal zombies. As
      civilization breaks down throughout New England (and presumably the
      continent, if not the world), the protagonist, a cartoonist who has
      just signed a deal for his graphic novel series, tries to get home to
      his family in Maine. Along the way he picks up several companions, all
      decent, likable people (in contrast to some of the major characters
      we've met in earlier King novels such as THE STAND). This novel,
      unlike the majority of King's books, is told entirely from one
      viewpoint, the hero's. It reads like a cozier, more localized version
      of THE STAND or, with its theme of technology gone wild and human
      minds taken over by an alien force, a tighter, much-improved version
      of TOMMYKNOCKERS (arguably King's only really bad novel). The
      disturbing image of cell phones turning against their users certainly
      has a timely resonance! As one might expect, violent and sad events
      happen, but there's a hopeful ending. I don't think it's giving away
      too much of a spoiler to mention my one great disappointment: We never
      find out where the "pulse" came from. I always like explanations in my
      horror novels, although I know there are many readers who prefer the
      mystery to be sustained to the end.

      FANGS BUT NO FANGS, by Kathy Love. Companion novel to her earlier
      FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES, but the books can be read alone or in either
      order, although you'll get a pleasant sense of recognition from this
      one if you read FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES first. Very funny and yet
      touching, with the heroine Jolee's struggle to rise above her family
      background, avoid her abusive brother, and keep her karaoke bar
      afloat. Christian, a formerly ruthless predator trying to regain his
      humanity (in the emotional, not literal, sense), has imposed a penance
      on himself; he lives in a trailer park, the same one where Jolee
      lives. (And he really hates those tacky lawn ornaments.) In his
      clueless but earnest struggle to atone for his past, he maintains a
      blog (to "make contact" with other people), rations his blood intake
      (from bags only), watches late-night TV from which he orders kitchen
      gadgets even though he has no use for them and only a vague idea of
      their purpose, and guides his life by a self-designed twelve-step
      program, entitled "Being Human," which he posts on his refrigerator.
      One of the funniest moments in the story is Jolee's reaction to
      glimpsing this document. She wonders whether it's wise to get involved
      with a guy who needs a list to tell him how to be human. The
      appropriately named Kathy Love (I don't know whether or not it's a pen
      name) writes excellent love/sex scenes. My reaction toward the end of
      the book, however, although I write some erotic romance myself so I
      shouldn't talk, got to the point of wondering whether we really need
      all the details of EVERY sexual encounter this couple has. I started
      to skim those scenes after a while. Of course, this is a Kensington
      Brava novel, so its *raison d'etre* is to be steamy, and Love does do
      it very well. Recommended.

      SOMETHING WICKED, by Evelyn Vaughn. A Silhouette Bombshell novel. I
      haven't bought many of these, because I don't care much for
      action-adventure. I prefer quieter, more character-centered fiction
      with lots of dialogue. This novel, however, isn't as "action-packed"
      as the other Bombshells I've seen, although the plot does move fast.
      It also has a more prominent romance element than most in this line.
      In the opening scene, the heroine, Kate, catches her sister's murderer
      in the act and puts a curse on him. Somewhat to her surprise, the
      magical talent that runs in her family causes the curse to work.
      Unfortunately, the killer lied to her about his name, causing her to
      curse the wrong man—his twin brother Ben. Now all three are bound
      together by magic. At first reluctantly, Kate delves into her family's
      tradition of witchcraft. She ends up traveling with Ben to Greece on a
      quest for a cup or "grail" sacred to the goddess Hekate. One
      interesting facet of this story is that it's almost a Wiccan
      inspirational, because Kate not only embraces her magical heritage,
      she discovers the reality of the goddess and devotes herself to
      Hekate. Kate and Ben are appealing characters whom I'd enjoy meeting
      again. The mention of other goddess cups awaiting discovery hints at
      potential sequels.

      Excerpt from PRINCE OF THE HOLLOW HILLS:

      "What are you doing?" Kieran asked.
      "Getting ready to feed him, of course. Don't you know a thing about
      babies?"
      "Very little. But I do know we have no time to waste, so please hurry."
      "You expect me to explain that to a two-month-old?" Moving to the
      living room, Fern sank into the single armchair, set at an angle to
      the couch. When she shifted Baird to a reclining position in her arms,
      he nuzzled her breast and whimpered. An ache settled deep in her
      chest. Again tears welled in her eyes, and again she blinked them
      away. To keep him safe, she couldn't let grief distract her. "Sorry,
      sweetie, you have to settle for this now." She popped the rubber
      nipple into his mouth.
      Kieran, who'd kept shadowing her, leaned against the archway leading
      to the kitchenette, watching. "He has Adair's eyes." She thought she
      heard a note of wistfulness in his voice. "How did you learn how to
      care for an infant so efficiently?"
      "Because I don't have any of my own, you mean? I've been helping with
      Baird since he was born. Ivy and I didn't have any other family. She
      needed all the help she could get."
      After watching the baby suck for another minute or two, Kieran started
      pacing around the room, glancing out the window and tilting his head
      as if listening for something. Finally, he said, "How much longer will
      this take? He cannot stay here."
      Fern sighed. "Are you harping on that again? This baby is not going
      anywhere without me."
      Kieran swooped down upon her and grabbed her shoulders. "Haven't you
      been listening to me? We're talking about this child's life!"
      She suppressed a shudder. She wasn't sure whether his firm grip made
      her stomach churn from fear or an unwelcome stirring of interest. *I
      can't be attracted to this man. My sister just died.* "I care about
      him more than you do. That's why I'm not letting him out of my sight."
      His face leaned close to hers, the deep green eyes holding hers
      captive for a few tense seconds. "Very well!" He released her and
      stood upright, flinging up his hands in a gesture of exasperation.
      "Come along, then. I have no objection to your company."
      "What? Me, drop everything and run away who knows where with you?
      You've got to be kidding."
      His cold stare turned into a frown. "This is no joke."
      "I know it isn't." Her head drooped. "Ivy and Adair are really dead."
      "Then you believe me about Adair, at least?"
      "Yes. I don't know of any reason why you'd lie about that. But as for
      some shadowy killer stalking a two-month-old baby—"
      "He's no shadow. His name is Halwyn. He is also a cousin of Adair's
      and mine." Kieran's grim tone erased any doubt in her mind about his
      belief in the threat.
      One of Adair's own relatives was trying to wipe out his family? What
      kind of weird clan had Ivy become involved with? The nipple slipped
      from Baird's mouth. When Fern tickled his lips with it, trying to coax
      him to drink the last couple of ounces, he showed no interest. "He
      must be full." She lifted him to her shoulder and patted him until he
      burped. "Good boy!"
      Meanwhile, Kieran wandered to the front of the room. He circled around
      the picture window and edged over to the door, with a glass pane
      covered by a cafe curtain. Peering around the curtain, he tensed. "Look."
      Fern tiptoed to his side, careful not to place herself in direct view
      of the picture window. His apprehension was infecting her. She plucked
      the curtain aside just enough to let her peek through the door. From
      this angle, she could barely see the driveway and a small segment of
      the front yard. A figure stood at the end of the driveway where it met
      the sidewalk. A man, she thought, but she could see only a fuzzy
      silhouette, not a sharp image. She didn't need a clear view, though,
      to know this must be Halwyn, the supposed killer. She felt the
      pressure of his stare, although from that position he would be
      watching the front of the house, not her apartment.
      "That's him, isn't it?" she whispered to Kieran.
      "Yes. We can't face him in direct combat. It would endanger Baird. I
      must escape with the child. Now."
      "Wouldn't this be a good time to call the cops?"
      "He would flee as soon as they approached, to return at some other
      time when you and the child are vulnerable. And you would have no
      description to give them, no idea of where they might search for him,
      true?"
      "You would," she retorted, still whispering, as if the man could hear
      them from his vantage point practically on the street.
      "I couldn't give them any information they could use. Halwyn has none
      of the identity papers your law enforcement relies upon so heavily."
      So if Kieran was telling the truth, his family must have come from a
      foreign country. Adair's last name had been Hunter, but he could have
      changed it from something more exotic. "Okay, how do you expect to
      escape with him standing right there?"
      "You have a vehicle. If we managed to reach it, Halwyn would be unable
      to follow, at least for the moment."
      "We?"
      "I cannot drive," he said. "Even if you were likely to lend me your
      car, which I doubt. In any case, you've made it clear you won't trust
      the baby to me. Therefore, we must escape together."
      She stared at him. "And where do you plan on going? No, skip that for
      now. How do you expect to get to the car with him standing there?"
      "We'll wait for a distraction." Kieran stepped back from the door.
      "Gather whatever you need for the baby and prepare to follow my lead."
      Shaking her head in bewilderment, Fern carried Baird to the office
      and laid him in the bassinet. Why was she even listening to this man?
      She had no doubt of his relationship to Adair, and she was willing to
      believe, provisionally, that he thought he was doing what was best for
      Baird. That didn't guarantee Kieran wasn't a complete nut, maybe
      certifiably paranoid.
      On the other hand, the stranger, Halwyn, really was staking out her
      house, and the creepy feeling that emanated from him affected her very
      differently from the exasperated confusion that Kieran inspired. Fern
      had never believed in "the Sight" the way Ivy had, but at a time like
      this the old "better safe than sorry" principle urged her to listen to
      her feelings. She cautioned herself not to mention these feelings to
      Kieran. If he got the idea she was mentally unstable, he would have
      ammunition for that custody battle she feared.
      She tucked a couple of extra outfits into the baby's bag, along with
      the few bottles of formula she had on hand. While packing, she noticed
      the sling carrier folded in the bottom of the bag. Good, she might
      need that. Next to it, she found a glass vial, not much bigger than a
      bottle of nail polish. A rubber band around it secured a penciled
      note: "Use this when you think things aren't what they seem." The
      barely legible scribble suggested the message had been written in a
      frightened hurry. Fern pulled off the scrap of paper and read the
      label underneath: "For clear sight." She shook her head sadly. *Magic
      eye drops. How typical. More New Age drivel.* After zipping the tote
      closed, she stuffed a box of disposable diapers into a shopping bag.
      With both bags looped over her left arm and her purse slung over the
      other shoulder, she picked up Baird and headed for the living room. He
      squirmed and smacked his lips without actually waking. Thank goodness
      he'd been a sound sleeper from birth.
      She paused at an end table beside the couch to pick up the phone.
      Kieran glared at her. "Now what are you doing?"
      "What do you think? Calling the police the way any normal person
      would do."
      "I told you that wouldn't work."
      "I'm doing it anyway. This is my house, after all." She raised the
      receiver to her ear and heard no dial tone. She jiggled the cradle,
      not sure what that procedure was supposed to accomplish, and wasn't
      surprised when nothing changed. Seething, she rummaged in her purse
      for her cell phone and punched 911. A recorded voice announced that
      the call couldn't be completed. She dropped the phone back into the
      purse and frowned at Kieran, who waited near the door with his arms
      folded. "Nothing's working."
      "Now will you stop wasting time and come along?"
      "Okay, just in case that guy's actually as dangerous as you claim."
      *I'm really doing this,* she thought. *Evacuating my own house on a
      strange man's word. And he's about the strangest I've ever met.* After
      snatching up her keys, she passed the shopping bag to him. "Here,
      carry this. Now what? Is he still out there?"
      "Halwyn is not likely to leave as long as you and the child are here.
      Are you prepared?"
      "As I'll ever be." She still wondered where Kieran thought they were
      going but shelved the question for the moment.
      "You aren't wearing the pendant you had in the bookshop."
      "It was bugging me. I'm not used to heavy jewelry."
      "Wear it now. You need the protection."
      "I can't believe you're into that crap, too. What is it supposed to
      protect me from, vampires?"
      His level stare delivered a silent rebuke to her sarcasm. "Please."
      "Oh, all right." She dug the necklace out of her purse and put it on.
      He opened the door halfway. "Stay behind me, as close as you can
      manage. Be ready to run."
      Fern set the doorknob to lock automatically when closed. Though she
      didn't like leaving the deadbolt unlocked, she couldn't do anything
      about that if they had to sprint for the car. The question of when she
      would see her home again flickered across her mind. She squelched it
      and concentrated on Kieran. He put on his gloves and slipped through
      the doorway, while she stuck close to him with the baby hugged to her
      chest.
      The man at the end of the driveway took a couple of strides toward
      them with his right arm raised. She didn't see a weapon, but she
      registered the posture as a threat. At the same instant, she
      recognized the man as the detective who'd questioned her at the shop.
      If he really was a detective. Credentials could be forged. Kieran had
      said the other man didn't carry valid "identity papers." Or maybe
      Halwyn had told the truth and Kieran was lying, except that Halwyn
      hadn't given her his name, a suspicious detail in itself. She couldn't
      think of a reason to trust either of them very far. Never mind that
      she had a good feeling about Kieran and a bad one about Halwyn. She
      couldn't depend on something as tenuous as instinct in a crisis like
      this.
      Directly in front of her, Kieran waved a hand in the direction of the
      watching man. From the tree overhanging the driveway, three birds
      swooped down. They flew straight into Halwyn's face. He flailed at
      them with both hands. They ignored the blows, flapping and pecking
      like winged furies out of a Hitchcock movie.
      Fern didn't have long to stare at the attack in stunned disbelief.
      Kieran reached back to grab her wrist. "Now!"
      -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
      Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
      Harlequin/Silhouette: www.eharlequin.com
      Hard Shell Word Factory: www.hardshell.com

      You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...

      "Beast" wishes until next time—
      Margaret L. Carter
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