Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 7 (April 2006)
- 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
In the middle of March I attended the International Conference on the
Fantastic in the Arts, as usual. It's always held in the same hotel in
Fort Lauderdale, and it combines all the best features of an academic
conference and a fan convention (aside from cool costumes), because
lots of editors and authors in the SF/fantasy field attend. I
participated in a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER panel that had decent
attendance and lively discussion despite being held in the 8:30 slot
(for me and many other attendees, practically the middle of the
night). Special guest was noted graphic artist Charles Vess. His
fairy-tale art is mind-blowing, as were his two slide presentations on
the artists that have influenced him.
I'm thrilled to report that ROMANTIC TIMES BOOK CLUB magazine gave my
werewolf novel SHADOW OF THE BEAST (Amber Quill Press) four stars in
its May issue, with the comment, "Carter has done a remarkable job
with this novel." They also said nice things about FROM THE DARK
PLACES (Amber Quill Press), with three stars and the praise, "This is
a taut drama in which good has a difficult time keeping ahead of the
Some books I've been reading:
ONE GOOD KNIGHT, by Mercedes Lackey. The second fantasy novel set in
Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms, a world where the Tradition shapes
major events. An impersonal yet almost sentient force, the Tradition
"wants" the fulfillment of patterns from myths and fairy tales. For
instance, a poor but virtuous girl persecuted by her stepmother will
naturally marry a prince. A princess in peril must fall in love with
her rescuer. This novel is based on the myth of Andromeda, sacrificed
to a monster for the welfare of her land. Lackey's Andromeda, one of
this author's typical bright but unappreciated young adults, is
determined not to fall in love with the knight who saves her from the
dragon, and "Sir George" heartily agrees with her. The tale has
several surprising twists (as well as one "twist" that I had no
trouble predicting, but part of the fun is watching Andromeda catch
on). Moreover, the dragon turns out to be an interesting character, too.
SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT, by Mary Alice Kruesi. I recently reread this
spinoff from the story of Peter Pan and loved it as much as the first
time. It's a shame and a mystery that this novel is out of print, but
Amazon.com offers plenty of inexpensive copies. Faye, an American
single mother newly settled in England to protect her two children
from her abusive ex-husband, and Jack, a brilliant physicist with no
memory of his first six years of life, are lively, appealing
characters with opposite viewpoints on the world. In his playful
receptiveness to the wonders of the universe, including elements most
people would call fantasy, Jack coaxes Faye to relax her deadly
serious approach to life and open herself to love. The fantasy and
romance elements are balanced, making this novel a true cross-genre
story rather than strictly a paranormal romance. It has a premise
similar to that of the movie HOOK: The ancient, reclusive lady who
owns, and lives on the top floor of, Faye and Jack's apartment
building claims to be the real Wendy from PETER PAN. Not until the
last chapter do we find out for certain whether her belief is truth or
delusion. A beautiful story that I didn't want to end.
MASTER OF DARKNESS, by Susan Sizemore, in the same series as her
novels I BURN FOR YOU, I THIRST FOR YOU, and I HUNGER FOR YOU
(separate from her "Laws of the Blood" vampire universe). These
vampires are my favorite type, another species living secretly among
us. They are principally divided into Clan, the aristocracy of their
race, who aim at peaceful coexistence with humanity, and Tribe, the
rougher, more overtly bloodthirsty group. Eden, a hunter from a family
of hereditary vampire hunters, has agreed to collaborate with a Clan
Prime on a mission. She comes across a vampire being attacked by
others of his kind and, mistaking him for her assigned partner, helps
to drive off his assailant. Laurent, a Tribe vampire with a cynical
view of the human race and of all females, decides the mistaken
identity can be useful for him and therefore doesn't tell Eden who he
really is. Of course, sexual sparks fly, accompanied by witty
exchanges and touches of humor despite the underlying seriousness of
the plot. I enjoyed it very much, especially the gradual undermining
of Laurent's exaggerated self-concept as an evil creature of the
night. The title doesn't have much relevance to the storyline; I
suspect it was suggested by the publisher for its general vampiric
MADAME BOVARY'S OVARIES, by David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash. A
tour through classic literature from the viewpoint of behavioral
Darwinism. The authors discuss the ways human behavior, especially in
sexual and parent-child relationships, serves the self-perpetuating
goals of our genes. If you're interested in evolutionary biology at
all, this book is a lot of fun to read. It works not so much as
criticism of novels from an evolutionary perspective, more as using
novels to illustrate the "selfish gene" principle.
I decided to post an excerpt from an older book this time. DARK
CHANGELING, my first vampire novel, is the true "book of my heart" and
an Eppie Award winner in Horror in 2000. This scene early in the novel
shows psychiatrist Roger Darvell at a party, sneaking into his hosts'
daughter's bedroom to feed on her. At this point, Roger thinks he's
merely abnormal but human, afflicted with a secret craving for blood.
Sylvia is another guest at the party who caught his attention earlier.
This was one of the first scenes written, long before the story
developed into its present form:
Excerpt from DARK CHANGELING (Hard Shell Word Factory):
Roger's pulse quickened at the thought of Meg unknowingly waiting for
him. Her cold virus wasn't serious enough to inconvenience him. He
never succumbed to minor infectious diseases. Moreover, her condition
would disguise any aftereffects she might suffer from the "donation."
But she wouldn't suffer; he would see to that. He would exercise
caution, rein his appetite -- and reward her with deep, peaceful sleep
afterward. Better than any over-the-counter drug.
*Oh, why don't you stop rationalizing? What you're doing is bad
enough, without lying to yourself in the bargain!*
He reached the deserted upstairs hall unobserved. Striding
silently along the carpeted floor to the dark, unoccupied guest bath,
he ducked inside and stood, listening. His hyperacute hearing
confirmed that he was alone on this floor, except for the sleeping
girl. Emerging into the corridor again, he followed the rise and fall
of her breath to her closed bedroom door. After one last look around,
he opened the door, stepped through it, and soundlessly closed it
He leaned back against the wood panel, struggling to slow his own
respiration. The girl in the bed didn't stir. The satin sheet, tangled
around her legs, left her upper body bare except for a
buttercup-yellow cotton gown, damp with sweat. Her platinum hair
spilled over the pillow. Except for an automatic precautionary glance
at the window, he didn't bother noticing any other details. Being able
to see the unconscious object of his quest was enough.
Where did he get his keen night vision? For that matter, where
did the rest of his anomalous abilities come from? For all he knew,
they might be delusions. He might be as disconnected from reality as
the narrator of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," who imagined he could hear
his victim's pulse reverberating throughout the house.
As Roger could hear Meg's pulse now.
Reality or delusion, he was past caring. The sound set his own
heart racing, and his throat went dry. Swallowing the excess saliva
that flooded his mouth did nothing to alleviate the distress. He moved
to the bedside and sat down.
He laid a hand on Meg's warm forehead. Immediately she sank from
normal sleep into a trance from which she wouldn't wake until he
released her. He planned to rouse her just enough to evoke a dreamlike
erotic response, the emotional nourishment he needed for full
satisfaction. Afterward he would lull her back into the dreaming
phase, with no memory of his visit.
As he bent over the girl, the door opened.
He sprang to his feet. Sylvia LaMotte darted in and shut the door.
They glared at each other. In his alarm Roger thought he glimpsed
a red spark in Sylvia's eyes but dismissed it as an optical illusion.
"What are you doing here?" he whispered. His heart raced, making him
lightheaded. He fought off the threatened panic. *Got to take the
offensive -- I can't let her guess what I'm up to.*
"What do you think? I assumed you wouldn't mind sharing."
"What in the name of --"
She said with a puzzled frown, "Maybe I read you wrong,
downstairs. What are you in here for?"
Passing over Sylvia's incomprehensible babbling, he said in a
more normal tone, though still keeping his voice low, "I have a right
to be. I'm not only a relative, I'm a doctor. Why shouldn't I check on
"Didn't I hear somebody say you're a psychiatrist? And what would
Mrs. Bronson think of Cousin Roger `checking' on her daughter in the
Roger's head throbbed with tension, but he fought to keep his
voice steady long enough to placate and dispose of the intruder. "I
wouldn't want to disturb Meg unnecessarily. But that's none of your
business. What's your excuse? Are you a debutante kleptomaniac,
perhaps? Or just a garden-variety snoop? Don't try to claim you were
looking for the powder room." His throat felt clogged with fear.
*She's not buying it; I can't control her.*
Her mind was no longer unreadable; its surface roiled with anger.
Yet she suppressed her rage and spoke quietly. "Deal, Roger -- let's
both go downstairs and forget this happened. I won't tell if you
won't. I don't mind keeping your guilty secret."
"I don't make deals in circumstances like this. Shall I call Mrs.
Bronson and tell her I caught you rummaging in Meg's jewelry? Which of
us do you think she'll believe?" An imperfect solution at best, for
anything that drew attention to his presence in this room risked
"Damn you, Dr. Darvell --" She scurried across the room to him,
her natural grace hampered by her narrow skirt. "I don't know what you
want, but I don't see why I should leave you alone with her when it's
obvious you're lying."
"You're in no position to speak -- you certainly aren't
innocent." Why was she gazing down at Meg instead of looking at him?
Sparing a glance for the girl in the bed, Roger noted that the trance
he'd imposed on her still held firm.
Suddenly his attention was diverted by masculine footsteps in the
hall. "Now look what you've done," Sylvia whispered.
"What I --!"
A tap sounded at the door. "Meg? You need anything?" Mr. Bronson.
Sylvia clutched Roger's sleeve in unthinking appeal. The man's voice
continued, "I thought I heard something in there. Not keeping yourself
up with the radio, are you, Honey?"
Roger heard a hand close on the doorknob. "Closet," he mouthed.
He ducked into the walk-in closet, not caring whether Sylvia followed.
She was right beside him, though, and they had the door shut before
Meg's father entered the bedroom. They listened to his puzzled
muttering as he checked the sleeping girl. After he'd walked down the
hall and descended the stairs, Roger said, "It's not safe to stay here
now. I'm leaving, and you are coming with me." Frustration displaced
his fear. Sylvia's oddities no longer mattered. She was available, and
she would damn well compensate him for what she'd interrupted.
"If I don't want to?" she whispered as they crossed to the
"I can still inform on you to the Bronsons. They know me a lot
He felt Sylvia's smoldering anger, but she docilely followed him
out of the house. She balked only when he led the way down the
circular drive to his black Citroen. "I'd rather take my own car."
His hand clamped onto her arm. "You can pick it up tomorrow. I'm
not letting you escape until we have this out." He sensed her debating
whether to fight him and rejecting the idea. Though she was tall for a
woman, he was taller and outweighed her. He shoved her into the
passenger seat, then got in on the driver's side and leaned across her
to fasten her belt and lock the door. She watched him speculatively as
she accepted these indignities. He sensed her anger yielding to curiosity.
He roared out of the driveway in a shower of gravel. Beside him,
Sylvia wedged herself against the far door, subdued by his display of
temper. After skirting the perimeter of the M.I.T. campus, he headed
north out of Cambridge. Thankful for the late-night dearth of traffic,
he didn't slack off the accelerator until they came to a scenic
turnoff on Route 1A several miles out of town. The car swerved off the
road and squealed to a stop.
Sylvia gave Roger a wary look. "Are we getting out?" She scanned
the marshland beyond the low wall of unworked stone, as if evaluating
its suitability as a refuge. Roger gripped her shoulders and jerked
her around to face him. "What is this, rape?"
"Not exactly." His inflamed thirst left him with no patience for
hypnotic seduction. He'd rely on physical force and wipe her memory
later. He came down upon her.
Her resistance astonished him. Rather than overcoming her easily,
he had to use all his strength to keep her immobilized. She kicked and
squirmed in his grasp, twisting her neck away from his mouth, her own
teeth bared as she tried vainly to retaliate. But she had no chance
against him. Pinning her legs with one knee, he bit into her throat
with a roughness unusual for him.
When her blood began to flow, she relaxed, not cooperative, but
resigned. The taste was cool and tart, not the hot richness he
expected. Despite Sylvia's residual excitement, satisfaction eluded
him. He felt no outpouring of vitality from her, only an emptiness
like his own. Baffled, he finally drew back, still unappeased.
She gazed at him, heavy-lidded, and pressed her palm to the
oozing gash on the side of her neck. "What's the matter with you?
Don't you know we can't get nourishment from each other?'
His rage dissipated by the struggle, Roger offered her his folded
handkerchief, resisting the impulse to apologize for the red flecks
staining her gown. "What do you mean, `we'?"
Sylvia wearily dabbed at her wound. "You mean you don't know?
That's impossible." Her eyes probed his.
He sat up straight on his side of the car. "What are you raving
"Come off it! With that strength, and your psychic power -- you
have it, I felt you trying to manipulate me -- and those teeth? You're
my kind. I wasn't sure until just now, because you feel somehow human,
too, but you are."
He stared through the windshield, his fingers cramping on the
wheel. He felt overheated in his suit jacket, stifled by the knot of
his tie; he envied Sylvia's lightweight clothes. "Human? What else
could I be? What do you mean, your kind?"
Again she projected bewilderment. "Maybe I did read you wrong.
You don't feel right -- but you don't feel human, either."
-end of excerpt-
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You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter