Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 6
- 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
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 manhis 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
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
"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,
"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."
"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
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
"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
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
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-
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You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter