Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 63 (December 2010)
- Welcome to the December 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.
Take a look at my bio page on Novel Spot with a cool rotating book cover display:
Just published: "Song from the Abyss" from Ellora's Cave. This dark Lovecraftian erotic romance features a heroine returning to her late aunt's house four years after her aunt used her as bait in a mind-shattering ritual. When Alyce and her first love, Dean, were eighteen, he vanished without a trace. Now she discovers he has been trapped in a portal between dimensions all this time. Arcane music on a CD she finds in the house summons him back to our worldbut no longer quite human. An excerpt appears below.
My erotic kitsune romance "Foxfire" is a finalist in EPIC's e-book contest! Read all about it at www.epicauthors.com.
My humorous Lovecraftian erotic romance "Tentacles of Love" is now for sale at All Romance E-books:
Visit the "Goodies" link on my website for two newly posted free horror stories, "After Birth" and "Birthday Gift."
The ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE VAMPIRE, edited by S. T. Joshi, came out in November. I have several entries in it, including a section on Vampire Romance. It's a beautiful hardcover and priced like a typical academic tome$68.00 even with Amazon's discount. But at least you can read about it and see the cover here:
If you have access to a college library, please consider persuading them to order it.
This month we're talking with suspense and paranormal author Susan Palmquist.
Interview with Susan Palmquist:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
I was staying with one of my great aunts and her neighbor was an author. I overheard her telling my great aunt that she'd just received a royalty check for a book she'd written twenty years ago. I thought what a great way to make a living. You get paid for work you've done two decades ago and thought I'd give it a try. Little did I know about the harsh realities of the business! Of course, by the time I'd had my wake up call, it was too late. I was hooked.
2. What genres do you write in?
Romance (paranormal and romantic suspense) and mystery.
3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
It depends on what I'm working on. For my mysteries I need some type of an outline. Romances are different and the characters seem to dictate where the plot is heading.
4. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
For the first time I'll be writing under a pen name as Vanessa Devereaux. It's a novella called Mistaken Identity and will be published by Cobblestone Press.
5. What attracted you to the topic of faeries? How did you research the Irish background of your latest book?
Two things. When I was young my maternal grandmother used to leave money on the rock garden in the yard of the first house we lived at. She'd tell me to go and look for the money the fairies had left just for me. Second thing, my paternal grandmother was from County Cork and since I started writing I'd always wanted to set a book in Ireland. I've never been there but I have lots of family photos I've inherited over the years. My grandmother grew up in a small village that overlooked the sea so I used this as my setting.
6. Please tell us about your website guide to saving money, a very cogent topic nowadays.
It started as two columns I'd been writing for an online Web site. When it changed ownership I decided to start my own site and merge the two columns. It's been up and running for about five years now, way before this economic downturn. A couple of years ago it was named one of the top money sites to watch by US News and World Report and is now available on Kindle. I write two articles a week for it and a monthly newsletter on just about anything related to saving money. The emphasis is on not going without but doing more with what you've got. I'm also writing a book based on the site.
7. What are you working on now?
Two projects. First one is a romantic suspense called One Night With You. It's been work in process for about a year and my goal is to start sending it out to publishers by November 1st. The second is a paranormal novella. I haven't written a paranormal since Sleeping With Fairies and was itching to create something new.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don't get discouraged and hang in there. In the early days I thought this is never going to happen for me but if you wait long enough, it really does. And while you're waiting read every book on writing you can get your hands on. Even when you become a published writer there's still something new to learn every day.
9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog?
I have my writing site www.susanpalmquist.com, my money site www.budgetsmartgirl.com, and my new book related blog at http://writersauthorsbooksandmore.wordpress.com
Some Books I've Been Reading:
ALL CLEAR, by Connie Willis. This novel is the second half of the epic adventure that began in BLACKOUT. (Not the author's faultshe wrote the story as a single book, which the publisher divided, probably a good decision considering the two volumes add up to about 1200 pages.) For fans of Willis's previous fiction set against the background of the London Blitz of World War II (at least three short stories plus parts of TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG), this pair of books is the monumental work we've been waiting for. I'm baffled by a few comments on Amazon from readers who complain about the length and profess to find the characters uninvolving. I didn't want the story to end yet found the conclusion deeply moving and satisfying. The setting and the people come vividly to life, the "ambulance drivers, firewatchers, air-raid wardens, nurses..." and many others to whom Willis dedicates ALL CLEAR. We continue to follow three historians from Oxford of 2060 who have traveled back to England in World War II. Polly, Eileen, and Michael eventually find each other and share their fears over the fact that they can't return to their own time. The "drops" (time portals) won't open, and no retrieval team has arrived to save them. Mr. Dunworthy, their supervisor, and Colin, an eager seventeen-year-old aspiring historian with a crush on Polly, would surely come to the stranded travelers' rescue if possible. The historians have deadlines; they must escape from the past before they linger into a time period they have already visited, since it's impossible for a person to exist in two places at the same time. Worse, they find mounting evidence that they may have changed the past, which supposedly can't happen. The phenomenon of "slippage" (placing travelers days or weeks away from their intended destinations in order to protect "divergence points") has been assumed to protect the integrity of the space-time continuum. Suppose that theory has been wrong all along, and slippage is the continuum's desperate attempt to repair damage already produced? Worst of all, suppose the historians' very presence endangers not only the future of the war but the lives of every person they've met? The action jumps around in time, but with date and place headings on each chapter to keep the chronology straight, so I was never confused about the setting of each scene. Toward the end of the book we discover that some characters we thought were separate people are actually the same. While one of those discoveries is meant to be a surprising revelation, I'm not sure whether the others were, also, or I was just a bit dim. Either way, the plot twists work; I felt a sense of satisfaction when I figured them out. Despite the serious and sometimes dark tone of the story, Willis's style is still characteristically witty, with frequent moments of humor to relieve the tension. And it is definitely a serious story; as in her first time travel novel, DOOMSDAY BOOK, people we care about can die. You may shed tears of both sadness and joy at the ending.
iDRAKULA, by Bekka Black. This cell phone novel for teenagers updates Bram Stoker's classic to the twenty-first century. Told in a modern version of the epistolary format, in text messages, e-mails, and web pages (why not blogs, too, I wonder?), iDRAKULA simplifies the original novel's plot and eliminates many characters. It also twists the ending a bit to provide some surprises for the well-read vampire fan. The general outline of DRACULA is still recognizable, though. Principal characters are Mina and her best friend, Lucy; Randolph Renfield, a mentally ill classmate; Jonathan, Mina's boyfriend, an intern in a law office; and Abraham Van Helsing, a pre-med student. Arthur Holmwood doesn't appear at all, and Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris show up only in bit parts unrelated to their roles in the prototype. A Romanian Count, of course, provides the supernatural threat, and he has a daughter who seduces Jonathan. This incident isn't dramatized, though, and Count Dracula stays offstage far more than in Stoker's novel. Jonathan's isolation when trapped in the castle somehow seems even more intense than in the original as we read his increasingly desperate, unanswered e-mails and text messages, while his "electronic toys" gradually lose their battery charges. This quick, light read should be fun for any Dracula aficionado. Although it's available as a traditional book, I read it on the Kindle, which seemed an appropriate venue. My only complaint is that the type face on the web pages labeled "Mina's Browser" came out too small for me to read easily. I can only imagine how difficult those sections would be to decipher on a cell phone.
TRIO OF SORCERY, by Mercedes Lackey. This collection of three novellas features the long-awaited event readers thought would never happen, a new Diana Tregarde story! All three stories involve supernatural predators of one kind or another, and each one stars a different magical trouble-shooter. Another point of interest is their settings, each in a different decade. "Arcanum 101" takes us back to the beginning of Diana's career, as she becomes a freshman at Harvard. It's set in the early 1970s, long before personal computers made the occult researcher's job much easier. A flashback dramatizes Diana's first Guardian mission, laying to rest a nasty revenant. At Harvard she gets entangled in the case of a missing little girl and a fake psychic who may have unexpectedly strong magical power after all. In the friends she makes in her apartment building, who take the role of Scooby gang in saving the kidnap victim, Diana finds the first people her own age she can talk to freely about magic. "Drums," starring Native American detective and medicine woman Jennifer Talldeer from SACRED GROUND, takes place in 1995, when the Internet was in its infancy and cell phones were the size of a brick. She faces a vengeful spirit determined to drain the life from a woman he views as a substitute for the maiden who killed herself to escape from him. In "Ghost in the Machine," set in the present, techno-shaman Ellen McBride helps a team of programmers defeat the Wendigo, an online roleplaying game monster that has absorbed real-world magic and become sentient as well as insanely powerful. I found this story to be nonstop fun, though I suspect it wouldn't appeal much to readers without at least some knowledge of MMORPGs. (I don't play, but I've heard enough conversation about them to follow the plot.)
FULL DARK, NO STARS, by Stephen King. King's afterword calls these four novellas "harsh." I would add the adjectives "dark" and "grim." Three of the plots center on murder, and the other one involves indirect murder. None has what most people would call a happy ending, although the resolutions of "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage" leave one with a feeling that things will be all right in the long run. Interestingly, the stories' protagonists are divided equally between men and women. The first and longest, "1922," is my favorite for the relentlessly gritty period details. Wilfred James, a Nebraska farmer, sits in a hotel completing his slide into madness and writing a confession of the crime he committed in 1922. Love between Wilfred and his wife has long since eroded away, and an unresolvable disagreement over an adjacent 100-acre tract of land she inherits from her father completes the emotional break. She wants to sell the land to a corporation that will use it for large-scale hog raising and processing. Wilfred hates the idea of having the stench and gore of hog butchery fouling his land and water. I wholeheartedly sympathized with his position. And even after he murders his wife with the unwilling help of their teenage son, it's impossible not to feel for him in his desperation. Naturally, the situation keeps deteriorating until tragedy wrecks his entire life. There's a hint of the supernatural, but it's impossible to tell whether his wife's ghost is real or a figment of his mind. In "Big Driver," when a midlist mystery writer takes a shortcut home from a book signing, a road trap damages her tires, after which she's raped and left for dead. She survives and makes it home, though, and the rest of the story concerns her revenge on the rapist. Things don't go quite as she plans, either. The protagonist of "Fair Extension," on the other hand, gets everything his way. Dave Streeter, struggling with terminal cancer, encounters a roadside vendor selling "fair extensions." The identity of "Mr. Elvid" quickly becomes clear. He doesn't want Dave's soul. The price for healing and at least fifteen years of healthy life (maybe a few more) is fifteen percent of his annual income plus the transferral of Dave's pain to someone he hates. And it has to be a personal hate. Under Mr. Elvid's probing, Dave's lifelong resentment of the best friend who has constantly one-upped him in success (beginning with the "theft" of Dave's first girlfriend) boils over. Sure enough, Dave is cured, and the substitute's life slowly falls apart. The reader's initial sympathy for Dave evaporates as he enjoys years of unbroken health and success while gloating over the suffering of his "friend's" family. A nagging resentment has turned into unbridled envy and hate. We eventually realize Mr. Elvid didn't have to buy Dave's soul; he already has it. The heroine of "A Good Marriage" stumbles upon a secret compartment in the garage and uncovers her husband's horrific secret life. I won't say more about how she handles the revelation, because of spoilers, except to say that the aftermath probably isn't what you'd expect.
Excerpt from "Song from the Abyss":
Under the sound of surf wafting in through the open window, a voice seemed to whisper. It hissed words in a language Alyce didn't recognize, yet it sounded all too familiar. Almost as if she'd heard those sounds before, maybe at the age of twenty, on the night before she'd left her Aunt Cora's house for the last time.
Until today. Furthermore, it was her house now. It wasn't a monster that would swallow Alyce whole and trap her like Pinocchio in the whale's stomach. The waves did not sound like the hoarse breathing of a creature from an alien world.
"Shut up," she ordered the imaginary voice. The phantom whispers fell silent. What was wrong with her, getting spooked in such a mundane setting? Sure, she was alone in a run-down oceanfront house built in the 1880s but nothing could look less haunted than her late aunt's cluttered office. Books overflowed shelves and tottered in precarious towers on the floor. File drawers gaped half open. Papers heaped on the desk almost hid the polished wood surface. The humid air smelled like mundane dust, not the mold of ancient tomes. Yes, some of those volumes might almost qualify but Aunt Cora wouldn't think of letting her tomes molder.
If she had magically foreseen dropping dead and leaving Alyce to rummage through the house, she would probably have tidied up the place and hidden or destroyed her most esoteric materials. Although much older than Alyce's mother, Aunt Cora had seemed in excellent health, so the fatal stroke must have surprised her as much as it had her family. Actually, it was a wonder she hadn't changed her will long ago. Why had she bequeathed her estate to the niece who'd fled from this house four years previously and refused to answer so much as a Christmas card ever since?
*Most likely because I'm her only relative except for Mom, and at least Aunt Cora and I used to be close. She and Mom hadn't spoken face-to-face in a lot longer than four years.* Emails, phone calls, and holiday cards between the sisters hardly counted.
So she'd had a choice between leaving the house to Alyce, as originally planned, or willing it to some flaky cult. *I'm almost surprised she didn't do that.* Such a choice would have been typical of the woman Alyce's mother always referred to as "my crazy sister". For the hundredth time in the past few weeks, Alyce tried to dredge up a proper portion of sadness. She felt she'd long ago lost the aunt she'd loved, the one who'd treated her like a younger colleague instead of an airheaded kid, the one who'd taken her on excursions to historic sites off the well-traveled tourist track and taught her to delve into research many layers deeper than the top page of a search engine. Alyce had lost that relative four years earlier, when she'd dragged Alyce into some kind of arcane ritual.
Shaking her head and raking fingers through her hair, she forced herself to focus on the immediate chore. Beside the desk, empty cardboard boxes and a giant trash bin waited to be filled. *Got to plunge into this mess sometime. Might as well get started.*
Rustling the papers, she sneezed at the dust they raised. Her hand brushed the edge of a half-open desk drawer.
She jumped. *Now I'm hearing voices inside my head.* One voice, more accurately, and it sounded like Dean's.
*He's gone. He's been gone for seven years.*
Seven years since he'd vanished, four years since she'd fled from this house like the monster she imagined it to be. Maybe returning had triggered some kind of flashback. All along, she'd suspected Aunt Cora of secretly dosing her with a mind-altering drug on that last night. Why else would she have forgotten almost everything about those hours?
*Open the drawer, Alyce.*
She was having auditory hallucinations. Swallowing a surge of panic, she eased the drawer partway out and glimpsed a few CDs scattered among miscellaneous office supplies.
*Pick up that disk. Yes, that one on top. Take it out. You want to listen to it.*
A jolt of electricity coursed through her, making the hair on her arms and the back of her neck bristle. Her skin prickled and her nipples hardened. Closing her eyes, she drew a series of deep breaths. The alarming sensations faded.
When she opened her eyes, she realized she was holding the CD. It didn't have a label, only a date printed in permanent marker. A date only a few months before that September night four years in the past.
For a while afterward she had given herself headaches struggling to remember anything more than a psychedelic blur of sounds and colors. Finally she'd accepted the erasure of her memory as a blessing.
*Why would I want to hear anything I find in this house?* The disk, whatever it was, might revive the memories she'd decided to leave safely buried.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter