Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 71 (August 2011)
- Welcome to the August 2011 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.
Coffee Time Romance gave my vampire novella "Blood Hostage" (Amber Quill) 4 cups! The reviewer says the story "was so consuming that this reader hated for it to end" and describes the characters as "strong, with passions that explode when no one is expecting them." Read the whole review here:
The August issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS gave my Lovecraftian erotic romance "Song from the Abyss" a very nice 3-star review. They said, "Carter's newest novella is a twisted and entertaining ride to the other side of normal. Fans of the genre will enjoy this story. . . .Carter's characters are intriguing, as is their romance."
This month's excerpt comes from a fairy tale adaptation I wrote as fanfic in the universe of the Shadowspawn, a vampire-lycanthrope-sorcerer-demon species created in S. M. Stirling's A TAINT IN THE BLOOD and COUNCIL OF SHADOWS. Having read the books would enhance your enjoyment of this take on "Rapunzel" but is not required to understand the story. You can find the complete tale here:
By the way, I've also published a novelette of "Rapunzel" as a vampire story from Ellora's Cave, entitled "Virgin Blood," taking a very different approach to the premise.
I'm interviewing YA author Brinda Berry.
Interview with Brinda Berry:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
First, let me say that I am a reader. There's a reason for that famous question people ask about which book you'd take to a desert island. Of all the material things in life, books feed the soul. I can't think of anything more enjoyable than sitting down with a great book for an escape to another world. I think that I've been inspired by all the books that I love.
2. What genres do you write in?
I'm currently writing young adult fiction. My debut YA book, The Waiting Booth, is a sci-fi/fantasy. There's a bit of romance in the story. I also have a contemporary romance manuscript.
3. Do you outline, "wing it" or something in between?
I wrote my first novel (the contemporary romance) by totally winging it. The words flowed like a motion picture in my head. Shortly after that, I took a class that recommended plotting your novel. While taking the class, I plotted The Waiting Booth (Whispering Woods series). I'm now writing the second book of the series, and my method is a blend of the two. I do have this one loosely plotted as well as a third book. I'm not stressing this time if my story drifts a little.
4. What is your day job? Do you feel it helps with your writing in any way?
I work in higher education administration. My job involves data, regulations, professional development, and technology. You might say that I'm very ready for a creative outlet when I get home.
5. What advice would you give published authors for making the best use of social networking systems?
People should do what they enjoy. I'm getting a little tired of hearing people complain about social networking. You don't have to do it all. Okay. That came across a bit harsh, eh? I think you shouldn't be afraid to try something to see if you like it and if it helps you to connect with readers. Find something that you are good at using and have fun. It shows if you're not enjoying it. OR hire somebody to do some little things for you. It might be less expensive that getting those shirts ironed at the cleaners every week.
6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
The Waiting Booth (Whispering Woods series) was released by Etopia Press on July 15th. Is this where I insert a shameless plug? *grin* My book is now available on Amazon, B & N, and other fine digital resellers.
7. What are you working on now?
I'm working on Books 2 and 3 in the Whispering Woods series as well as a paranormal tentatively titled Nine.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Everyone says, "Don't give up." So, I'm not going to say that. You've heard it, and tenacity is a given. I'm going to tell you not to do it if you think it's about the money. Writing is about loving what you do.
9. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog?
I'd love to have you visit me at www.brindaberry.com. That's where you'll find my blog, social network information, and other goodies.
Some Books I've Read Lately:
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, by Ransom Riggs. I thought from the title and blurb that this novel would be quirky verging on humorous. Instead it turns out to be quirky in a decidedly dark way. Jacob's grandfather, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, tells tales about an island paradise where he grew up under the care of a "hawk" and in the company of children with magical powers who were hiding from monsters. In childhood Jacob believes the fantastic stories; later he realizes the house was an orphanage for refugees from the Holocaust, the children's "peculiar" nature is code for their Jewishness, and the "monsters" are code for the Nazis. Or are they? As a teenage misfit with an absent mother and an obsessive ornithologist father who doesn't connect well with his son, Jacob witnesses his grandfather's death. At the same moment he sees something reminiscent of his grandfather's "monsters." Though Jacob fears he may be losing his mind, his curiosity is sparked by the clues left in his grandfather's dying words and a letter in the old man's belongings. He persuades his father to take him to the island off the coast of Wales where the mysterious Miss Peregrine's orphanage was located. What Jacob finds when he explores the now abandoned house turns his view of reality upside down. The "peculiars" have much more peculiar traits than their ethnic backgrounds, and the monsters present more serious dangers than any human persecutors would. The illustrations, all black-and-white reproductions of unsettling and sometimes bizarre actual photographs collected by the author, enhance the weirdness and sheer visual appeal of this novel.
CONSPIRACIES, by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. I didn't notice any "middle book sag" in this sequel to LEGACIES, the first novel in the authors' YA "Shadow Grail" series. Spirit White, sent to Oakhurst Academy as sole survivor of a car crash that killed her parents and sister, doesn't find this school for magicians much like Hogwarts. At Oakhurst, almost everything is a test on which students are graded, whether explicitly or implicitly. Access to the outside world, including through the Internet, is restricted, and the control over students' lives extends to their diets, with prohibitions on junk food. The system promotes intense competition and subtly discourages friendships. Nevertheless, Spirit has developed a circle of friends who, at the end of LEGACIES, managed to defeat the Wild Hunt after discovering some supposedly transferred or absconded teens were actually Tithed to the Hunt. The headmaster, Dr. Ambrosius, has warned them that a magical war is looming but doesn't offer any concrete information. Spirit tries to convince her friends that driving off the Wild Hunt hasn't eliminated the danger, but they dismiss her fears until mysterious attacks openly occur in full view of the entire student body. Ambrosius, who Spirit and her friends suspect may be growing senile, brings in a group of Oakhurst alumni to train the students for both magical and physical combat. Relations among the central characters grow strained, and outside that circle Spirit doesn't know whom to trust, including the headmaster. It becomes more and more clear that the students have been lied to about vital matters; also, since the Oakhurst wards are supposed to protect against invasion, someone on the inside must have opened the way for the attacks. An inordinate number of students have disappeared, with the official explanation that they've dropped out or run away. We learn the significance of the term "Shadow Grail," and some other questions are answered, with many more mysteries left unsolved. The novel ends at a suitable point for breathing space, neither a cliffhanger nor an anticlimax.
THE VAMPIRE STALKER, by Allison Van Diepen. This YA novel uses one of my favorite tropes, a fictional character who enters the primary world. Within the "real" world of this novel, a "Twilight"-like fad for a vampire series called "Otherworld" obsesses teenage protagonist Amy and her friends. That aspect of the novel alone makes it fun to read. Eighteen-year-old Alexander, Amy's favorite character in the Otherworld version of her home city, Chicago, is a vampire hunter who lost his family to a vampire attack. His cousin James and James's "good vampire" girlfriend, Hannah, also have fervent followers. One night a mysterious attacker assaults Amy and is driven off byAlexander himself. Alexander and his vampire arch-enemy, Vigo, have accidentally passed through an interdimensional portal from their Chicago into Amy's. It turns out that the author has unconsciously drawn upon a psychic connection with Otherworld rather than actually inventing the story. Because the human population of Alexander's world is under siege from vampires, strict curfews apply there, and its social and technological development has stalled in the equivalent of the 1920s. Socially, in some respects they're even further behind, since Alexander has sometimes charming and sometimes exasperating chivalric notions about the position of women. I enjoyed the fish-out-of-water scenes and dialogue between him and Amy. Fortunately, Amy and Alexander get help from her school librarian, Ms. Parker, who proves surprisingly receptive to belief in an alleged character from a novel visiting from another world. She advances a theory of "literary physics" to account for his crossing over and the author's ability to access the alternate Earth. Will Amy and Alexander manage to defeat Vigo before he spreads vampirism in primary-world Chicago? Can they keep Amy's rebellious younger sister safe? And what will happen to their growing love for each other when Alexander has to return home? I found this book delightful, even though Vigo comes across as a typical old-fashioned, unmitigatedly evil vampire. (Hannah, at least, has chosen to exist in peace with humanity, and it's hinted that others of her kind agree with her, so Van Diepen's vampires do have free will; they aren't all like the villain of this story.)
THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. I found out about this novel, oddly, in the magazine FOOD AND WINE, which ran an article about Southern cooking in the forthcoming movie based on the novel. Stockett, writing about the time and place of her own childhood, tells a story of black maids and their employers in Mississippi of the early 1960s. Skeeter, a young, college-educated woman who wants to become a writer, gets her first job as a journalist writing a column of housekeeping tips. Since she knows nothing about cleaning or cooking, she composes answers to readers' letters by seeking advice from a friend's maid, Aibileen. Skeeter gradually has her eyes opened to the circumstances of the lives of colored "help" to which she'd previously been oblivious. She gets the idea of compiling a book of interviews with maids, which she hopes to submit to a New York book editor who has written her a couple of blunt but slightly encouraging letters. With great difficulty, Skeeter persuades Aibileen to grant interviews, and Aibileen eventually manages to get other maids to participate. It takes a last-straw local incident of racial injustice to overcome their fears, though. All of them know, and Skeeter comes to realize, that if their pseudonyms and the concealment of the stories' location are penetrated, catastrophic results will probably ensue. Loss of jobs could be the least of reprisals. Stockett tells the story in first person through the voices of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, a maid who has trouble keeping jobs because of her reputation for "sass." Skeeter, considered unattractive because of her height and unruly hair, gets constant nagging from her mother about her appearance and the possibility that she won't find a husband. Of course she has to conceal her work on the interviews from her family as well as her middle-class friends in the local women's League. In particular, everyone involved in the project is terrified of the probable reaction of Hilly, the overbearing, catty dictator of the League. A recurring plot motif focuses on Hilly's obsession with separate bathrooms for whites and blacks in the homes of white employers. Aibileen, for all the strength she displays in every other area, can't bring herself to leave the husband who intermittently beats her. Minny gets a job with a woman who not only doesn't know how to fit into local society but also has no clue about proper relations between white ladies and the "help." Her employer, Miss Celia, keeps a tragic secret from her husband, and secrets related to other characters come out as the story progresses. All these events happen against the background of the social and political turmoil of the civil rights movement. The murders of Medgar Evans and President Kennedy are highlighted, as well as the first moon launch. The narratives are written in present tense, a device I dislike in any fiction longer than a short story, but I got used to it quickly. The voices of the characters enthralled me. It might take some readers a few pages to get into the rhythm of Minny and Aibileen's black dialect, but once you do, it's mesmerizing. Stockett has a gift with prose that's a delight to read. She weaves together shocking, heartbreaking, and heartwarming incidents to compose a picture of intimate black-white relations at a critical turning point in our nation's history.
Excerpt from "Rapunzel: A Shadowspawn Tale:
Once upon a time a man and his wife lived in a cozy house on one side of a high stone wall. On the other side of the wall stood a mansion surrounded by a beautiful garden, the lair of a powerful witch, Lady Gothel. The man and woman had wanted a child for many years, but their prayers had not been answered.
Finally the woman discovered she was going to have a baby. She and her husband were filled with joy. But as the months passed, she became ill. From her bedroom window she gazed into the witch's garden day after day, growing weak and sad. When her husband asked what ailed her, she said, "If only I could eat a salad of the rapunzel growing in that garden, I would get well."
Her husband feared the witch, for the whole town knew of Lady Gothel's strength and cruelty. But he decided to risk her wrath for the sake of his wife. That night he climbed over the wall and crept to the bed of rapunzel.
The moment he began to pull up the plants, the enchantress appeared. With a wave of her hand and a magic word, she froze him in his tracks. Vines snaked up his legs and wrapped around him, until he could hardly breathe. "Thief! How dare you steal from my garden? Speak!"
At the snap of her fingers, his tongue was freed. "Please, Lady, my wife is with child and very ill. She needs a salad of rapunzel to heal her."
Now, Lady Gothel knew all this, for she had used her sorcery to place the craving in the woman's heart. Little did the man and woman suspect that the witch's brother had visited the woman disguised as her husband, so that the child's true father was a Shadow Lord. He had since fallen in combat with an enemy, and Lady Gothel wanted to raise her dead brother's child as her own. "I will show mercy and let you live," she said. "And you may take the rapunzel to your wife on one condition. When the babe is born, you must give her to me."
Seeing no other way to escape alive, the man promised. The witch gave him a basket of rapunzel mixed with other herbs best suited to nourish a child of her blood. His wife soon got well and in due time gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with golden hair and gold-flecked eyes. She and her husband prayed that Lady Gothel might have forgotten the bargain, but one night the witch burst into their house and snatched away the infant.
The enchantress carried her off to a solitary tower in the middle of a forest. The tower had no doors, only a high window. Paintings of fantastic beasts decorated the walls of the chamber, and the ceiling showed the courses of the moon and stars. The witch entered and departed through the window in the form of a giant bird. The child, whom she named Rapunzel, grew up without ever seeing any other person besides the witch. Lady Gothel fed and clothed her in luxury and tutored her in the secrets of magic suitable to her tender age. She also taught her such maidenly arts as reading, writing, music, spinning, and embroidery, for she wanted her foster daughter to be worthy of her in all ways. She had already betrothed the child to a noble Shadow Lord whose friendship she wished to keep.
She nourished the girl's half-blood gifts with an elixir red as rubies, which she brought in a crystal vial.
-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:
To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
Moonlight Fantasy, devoted to erotic romance:
Amber Quill Press: www.amberquill.com
Cerridwen Press: www.cerridwenpress.com
Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com
Hard Shell Word Factory: www.hardshell.com
Mundania Press: www.mundania.com
You can contact me at: MLCVamp@...
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter