Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 72 (September 2011)
- Welcome to the September 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.
In November Amber Quill will publish ARDENT BLOOD, a trade paperback collection of my three Amber Heat erotic paranormal romance novellas, "Aquatic Ardor," "Allure of the Beast," and "Blood Hostage."
Bitten by Books gave my Lovecraftian erotic romance novella "Song from the Abyss" a great review with a rating of 4:
This issue's excerpt comes from "Newborn," one of my few vampire stories not part of the "Vanishing Breed" universe of naturally evolved vampires. This tale of the traditional undead, set in eleventh-century England, was originally published as "Mercy" in the now out of print anthology THE DARKEST THIRST. You can read the entire story in the Files section of the newsletter's Yahoo page.
I'm interviewing Laura Kaye, historian and fiction writer, also an alumna of my own college, William and Mary!
Interview with Laura Kaye:
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
Writing has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a school-aged kid, I wrote fiction for myself, and I can still see in my mind's eye the notebook in which I handwrote a paranormal retelling of The Secret Garden. In high school, not only was I on the school newspaper, but I also won a Board of Education award for a time travel story called "Peter Save the Tsar." In college, writing remained important to me, but it was there I truly began to pursue my love of history, and I ultimately went on to graduate school and a job as a college professor of history. For historians, writing is the main form of communication, and I published two books in my field of early American history. Then, three years ago, a seemingly minor head injury finally healed and left me with a new (resurrected?) interest in fiction writing. I wrote my first novelwhat became my debut paranormal romance Forever Freedin under three months. Now, the more I write, the more I want to write. The flow of ideas is, blessedly, never-ending!
2. What genres do you write in?
My first love is paranormal romance. Growing up in a family who believed in and regularly told stories about ghosts, haunted houses, angels, and evil-eye curses fostered my fascination with all things supernatural. But I also write contemporary romance, erotic romance, and women's fiction.
3. Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
I mostly wing it! Stories tend to come to me fairly well developed, and I just follow their lead. If I know there's research I ought to do before starting, I do it, and when I need to ensure I know where I'm going, I might plot out the main topic of the next few chapters on a napkin, but generally, I trust my muse to take me from point A to point Z, and know there are going to be some stops in between I totally didn't expect. And oh how I love those moments of discovery!
4. Your bio mentions listening to family stories about the supernatural. Do you believe in ghosts, etc., in real life?
Oh, the stories I could tell you from my childhood and my family history! But, yes, I totally do. I believe I've seen at least two ghosts in my life. The second story is far more interesting (and compelling, I think). I was 17 and it was a Saturday morning. I lived on the main street of a small town, and our house was the second from the intersection. Our neighbors who lived in the first house were a pair of sisters in their sixties, Ms. Patty and Ms. Betty. Ms. Betty had been in the hospital for a week or so, but when I went out through our back yard to run an errand for my mom, I saw her walking up her yard towards her house. I said "hello" and she smiled at me, and I remember thinking I was glad she was better. When I got home from the errand, I told my mom Ms. Betty was home and I'd just seen her. She looked at me for a long moment and then told me Ms. Patty had called while I'd been gone. Ms. Betty had died in the hospital that morning. I'm also pretty convinced my mom, who died nearly six years ago of a stroke, sometimes visits me and my girls.
5. What kind of nonfiction have you written? How has your training in history and archaeology helped with your fiction writing?
My area of expertise is in early American history, and I've written two books in my field. I'm particularly interested in issues of race and class in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which I hold were formative in so many ways in creating what became the United States. My graduate training at William and Mary offered a phenomenal program for studying these issues and also introduced me to the field of historical archaeology through an apprenticeship with the College Williamsburg Foundation's archaeology department. That first summer field school in the historic area of Williamsburg created within me a life-long love affair with archaeology, even if it's now been a few years since I've been out in the field.
Without question, my training as a historian and archaeologist has contributed to my fiction writing. History is at its essence about storytellinginformed storytelling, to be sure, storytelling that must be based on evidence and logic and an effort at objective interpretation of data. But, still, storytelling. Being a historian forces you to imagine what the past looked like, how it worked, how people thought, what motivated them, and why people behaved the way they did. Those kinds of imaginings are the same a fiction writer uses. Being a historian has also given me a particular knack for incorporating interesting real-life historical events and characters into my stories, as I did with the villain in Forever Freed. Antoine Laumet, the sieur de Cadillac (1658-1730), was a real life trader and administrator in New France, and ultimately the founder of the fort that became the city of Detroit. He developed quite a nasty reputation among the Jesuits, who ultimately had him thrown in jail. In my story, he doesn't die, he just becomes the undead
6. What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
This is an exciting question! I have five books releasing in 2011! Hearts in Darkness is a contemporary romance about two strangers who find acceptance and dare to find love while trapped in a pitch-black elevator. Forever Freed is a paranormal romance about a reclusive, empathic vampire who falls in love with a woman he planned to kill and her young daughter, then must fight his ancient guilt, blood lust, lie by omission, and an ancient vampire rival who threatens everything he holds dear. Both are available now and published by The Wild Rose Press.
My next two books include: Just Gotta Say is an erotic romance about a woman who lives out a particular fantasy with her three guy roommates and hopes that doesn't ruin her chance with the one she most wants. And North of Need, Book 1 in the four-book Heart of the Anemoi contemporary fantasy romance series, is about a widow and a Greek snow god who must admit that what they most need is each other before the temperatures warm and the god loses his chance to turn mortal.
While Hearts in Darkness and Just Gotta Say are ebook-only novellas, Forever Freed and North of Need are available in print and as ebooks. North of Need will also see some bookstore distribution.
7. Can you describe your vampires' nature? Are they traditional undead or in some way unusual?
All the vampires in the world of Forever Freed share certain abilities, such as supernatural strength, speed, hearing, and eyesight; they don't age; they possess the supernatural ability to heal and to charm another's will, although this is not absolute. They can daywalk, though not in direct sunlight, and they have the ability to go long periods of time without sleeping (called "trancing"). In this book, the vampires also share certain weaknesses, including exposure to direct sunlight, silver, holy water, and decapitationsurest way to kill them. Particular vampires in the story have additional gifts or talents. For example, the hero, Lucien Demarco is empathic. They story also features telepaths, mesmerizers, and healers. So, Forever Freed works within the established vampire lure while offering its own unique take.
8. What are you working on now?
I have just begun writing Book 2 in the Heart of the Anemoi series, called West of Want. The Anemoi were directional wind gods the Greeks often associated with the seasons. The western wind, associated with the Greek god Zephyros, is the wind of spring. This book will release in March 2012.
9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First, write, write, and keep writing. You can't revise what you haven't written, and you can't submit what you haven't written. Second, treat your writing as a profession, which means in particular joining the relevant professional associations related to your genre, dedicating time to writing every day, and perfecting your craft through practice, craft books, and workshops. Third, don't lose writing momentum after finishing your first book. Move onto your next project so you have something else to offer if an agent or editor asks what else you have. Fourth, find and use critique partners who are other professionally pursuing writers, not just friends or family. And, fifth, know the rules and norms for your genrebecause it's harder for new writers to get away with flouting the norms regarding word length, point of view, plot, etc., so why put another potential obstacle in your way?
10. What's your website URL? Do you have a blog? Where else can we find you on the Internet?
Sign up for Laura's Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/d9ruD
Hearts in Darkness and Forever Freed are available at all major online retailers, or use this DigiBooks Café code for a 20% discount: e3d9d10a3c - http://tiny.cc/iydy4
Some Books I've Read Lately:
THE MINDSET LISTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY, by Tom McBride and Ron Nief. This nifty reference work grew out of the online Mindset List project. In book form, it covers American population groups from the generation that turned eighteen in 1898 through every successive generation at twenty-year intervals, surveying the social, political, and technological features they considered normal for their time. For instance, the first chapter is titled, "Women Have Always Ridden Bicycles." Each chapter starts with a list of fifty such statements. The rest of the chapter consists of an essay exploring the developments that have occurred in that generation's first eighteen years of life. Thus the authors supply a breezy but informative overview of American culture from the 1880s on. The class of 2009 has the headline, "They Have Never Dialed a Telephone." The authors take the bold further step of predicting the world inhabited by the class of 2026. Some of their guesses sound plausible, even inevitable, to me, but others strike me as the kind of thing that has always been just around the corner and never materialized, e.g., "Redheads, blondes, and brunettes have always been able to change their hair color through genetically engineered 'makeover' surgery" and "When they bought their first car, they had to choose a corporate logo for their license plates." Besides being fun to read, this book would be an excellent jumping-off-point reference for authors writing historical fiction set in the twentieth century.
THE LISTENER, by Taylor Caldwell. I read this novel in my teens and for some reason recently remembered how much it had moved me. I bought a well-worn but readable copy very cheap on Amazon. I love the Internet! THE LISTENER comprises a connected series of stories about people in trouble and deep emotional distress, from all sectors of American lifepoor, middle-class, and rich; Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and atheist. (No Muslims or pagans were on the popular radar in the United States of 1960.) The premise is that a wealthy, widowed, childless lawyer in an unnamed large American city (I get the impression it's in the Midwest) uses his fortune to build an enigmatic temple-like building surrounded by serene gardens, with a caption above the door, "The Man Who Listens." People can come at any time twenty-four hours a day to pour out their hearts to the anonymous man behind the curtain. Donations are neither requested nor accepted. If a visitor wants to see the person who has been listening, he or she can push a button to open the curtain. Advanced electronic voice-analyzing technology ensures that the curtain won't open for mere curiosity seekers. Visitors include an uneducated laborer, a burned-out minister, a doctor and a teacher in similar states of mind, an Italian mother of a son entering the priesthood, a businessman struggling with a partner's betrayal, a cynic who recognizes the emptiness of his life, and many others. To me, the most effective piece is "The Judge," about a judge presiding over the trial of his wife's best friend's husband for a crime understandable in terms of justice but first-degree murder by the letter of the law. The book ends with a "bang" in a long story of a scientist whose team has discovered a force potentially more devastating than nuclear fusion. It won't take most readers long to guess the identity of the Listener, confirmed by a description late in the book of what the visitor sees behind the curtain. Caldwell uses these stories to reflect on not only the human condition in general, but specifically the state of American culture in the mid-20th century. She was very conservative, not only religiously but politically and socially. In her eyes, the country had been going to perdition in the proverbial handbasket since at least 1900. She doesn't seem to like much of anything about the modern era. If you can get past the preachy tone of many of the monologues and appreciate the stories for their characters, you may find the book well worth reading. Several of the vignettes made me cry.
THE MAGICIAN KING, by Lev Grossman. Riveting and heart-wrenching sequel to THE MAGICIANS, which was accurately encapsulated as "Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real," but with a darker edge than either of its models. As this new novel begins, Quentin and his three surviving magician friends from the tragic climax of THE MAGICIANS have become kings and queens of Fillory, the Narnia-like world from a series of books that they'd discovered to have been based on fact. Unlike Quentin and his two former classmates from the college of magic, one of the queens, Julia, learned sorcery on her own, yet she seems more powerful than any of her co-rulers. Vaguely discontented with the peace and luxury of his life as a king in Fillory, Quentin takes on the task of collecting back taxes from a distant island. In the process, he hears the legend of the mysterious lost Seven Golden Keys. In the course of a sea odyssey clearly inspired by C. S. Lewis's VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, Quentin and Julia find themselves thrown back to Earth. By the time they return to Fillory after a hazardous journey through the mundane world, they have discovered that the destiny of not only Fillory but the known universe depends on finding the Keys. Their ship's voyage takes them to the expected sequence of uncharted islands, with Grossman's skewed angle on the magical realm and, instead of a swashbuckling mouse among the company, a talking sloth who doesn't do much of anything. The climax of the story, like that of the previous book, involves danger and sacrifice leading to a hard-won victory. Parallel to the tale of the quest, the narrative interweaves flashbacks to Julia's solitary search for the secrets she was denied when she failed the entrance exam to the college of magic. The mind-wiping spell imposed on all failed candidates didn't work on her, so she was left with the agonizing knowledge of a realm from which she was barred. Tracking down an underground network of "hedge wizards" who learn magic from each other, Julia becomes amazingly powerful at terrible cost. The two plot threads twine together when Quentin can't save Fillory without the numinous power she has gained.
DEVIL'S INK: BLOG FROM THE BASEMENT OFFICE, by Jeffrey C. Pugh. In this variation on the "Screwtape Letters" approach to the diabolical world-view, Pugh answers the question, "What if Satan kept a blog?" In a more witty style than C. S. Lewis's grimly focused Screwtape, Pugh's Satan discourses on the religion, politics, and culture of the twenty-first century world with urbane delight at how humanity's folly plays into his hands. He takes pleasure in pointing out the ways in which his "opponent" brings such suffering upon His creatures that it's a wonder they continue to worship Him. The tags at the foot of each blog range from serious to frivolous to slyly funny. A glossary at the back of the book explains the most significant of these. One detail I especially like about this book is Satan's alias for Christ"the BODY" (always in caps). I found DEVIL'S INK less engaging than SCREWTAPE and most of its imitators, though, because Pugh's approach deals in generalities rather than focusing on the spiritual plight of an individual human character as a springboard for theological reflection, the way Lewis's original does. On the other hand, DEVIL'S INK does fulfill the promise of its blog format, and it offers plenty of provocative ideas. So if an intelligent, cleverly twisted series of essays on spirituality and contemporary ethical, political, and social issues appeals to you, give this book a try.
PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.
TO KISS OR TO KILL and THE STORY UNTOLD, by Jean Lorrah.
Fans of Lichtenberg and Lorrah's Sime-Gen universe have been waiting many years for new stories in the series, and here they are at last! In this distant-future world, the human species has mutated into two "larities" (derived from "polarity"), Gens, who produce selyn, the energy of life, and Simes, who don't produce a measurable amount of selyn and must replenish their supply from Gens once a month or die in agony. (Gens look like Ancientsusbut in fact our kind of humanity has become extinct.) Simes draw this energy through tentacles on their arms. The act kills most Gens. However, a few Gens are natural donors, and some Simes, called channels, can draw selyn painlessly from ordinary Gens, store it, and transfer it to ordinary Simes. At the time of Unity, when Lorrah's two books take place, Simes reluctantly accept the fact that they will inevitably outbreed the supply of Gens, causing their society to disintegrate in chaos. To survive, they must renounce the Kill and accept universal channel's transfer. The Sime territories make treaties with surrounding Gen territories and have to cope with the resulting social and political upheaval as Gens are declared citizens. At first, in TO KISS OR TO KILL, newly freed Gens become legal wards of Sime patrons. That policy makes sense for "pen Gens," who have never known any life except captivity waiting to be killed by whatever Sime happens to buy them, but the heroine of TO KISS OR TO KILL comes from a Sime family, so she would be fully capable of functioning on her own if allowed. Instead of changing over from childhood neutrality into an adult Sime, as expected, she establishes as a Gen (begins producing selyn) right before the Unity treaty goes into effect. Taken into the household of a wealthy Sime, she falls in love with his son. While struggling with her feelings for the young man, she also fights to have her right to earn her own income and live independently be acknowledged. The resemblance to the Reconstruction era after the American Civil War probably isn't coincidental. THE STORY UNTOLD, set around the same time, comprises several novellas about a Sime-Gen musical duo of legendary fame, Zhag and Tonyo. Tonyo moves from his out-territory home into the neighboring Sime territory in pursuit of his musical dream. There he meets Zhag, a channel slowly dying for lack of a suitable donor, which of course Tonyo becomes. Lichtenberg's PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE takes place over 200 years later and, as she explains in her introduction, is intended for readers with prior knowledge of the series. It's less information-dense than some of her other post-Unity novels such as UNTO ZEOR FOREVER and RENSIME, though. Reading just one of the "introductory" novels such as HOUSE OF ZEOR (the first one published), TO KISS OR TO KILL, or Lorrah's AMBROV KEON would probably be enough to get a new fan up to speed for PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE. The protagonist of this novel, a Third Order channel in the midst of intensive first-year training, with ambitions to qualify for Second Order but uncertain about his future career, gets lured into reading the Secret Boards. These amount to a fanfic site where writers post historical fiction about the wild and tumultuous times of Unity and before. It's fun to watch the characters explore the potential and face the hazards of the Internet, just being revived in their time as a shiny new toy. The protagonist becomes involved with a female channel-in-training who writes a popular series of stories on the Boards. Another writer, though, produces fiction that seems to dwell in such detail on the experience of the Kill that it could be dangerous to students' emotional stability and therefore their fitness as channels. Discovery of these stories, at the least, would mean expulsion for everyone involved. The hero and heroine have to decide whether to report the Boards to the authorities or try to handle the crisis on their own judgment. All I need to say further about these three books is that I love them.
Excerpt from "Newborn":
When she tried to scream, moist earth filled her mouth. She heard no sound, not even her own breath.
A clammy weight paralyzed her limbs. In a surge of panic, Jocelyn fought the invisible chains. Abruptly they dissolved. She heard a roar like churning water and felt herself drift upward, like a swimmer slowly rising through a murky pond. Then cool air enveloped her, and the roar yielded to the hum of insects in an otherwise silent night.
Night? Yes, a half-moon glowed through tattered clouds. But how could the cross-shaped grave markers and the belfry of the little church show so clearly etched against the gray background of sky and moor?
*Grave markers? Where am I?*
She crouched on damp sod at the edge of the churchyard. A loosely draped length of cloth formed her only garment. Her eyes darted to the nearby hedgerow, adorned with countless tiny glimmers of light. Staring, she realized the sparks on the ground were crickets, while those flitting among the bushes were moths.
Her wonder at this peculiar sight lasted only a second, obliterated by the cramps and the bone-deep chill that gripped her.
*What's wrong with me? How did I get here?* She cast her thoughts back. . . .
She remembered the birth-pangs racking her body, the heat of the sheepskin on which she lay, chafing her damp skin. Whenever she stirred in pain, the straw in the mattress crackled. She recalled the face of Gilda, her husband's sister, and the older woman's hand alternately wiping her brow with a wet cloth and rubbing her belly with a salve meant to ease the pains. Hadwin, Jocelyn's husband, waited outside.
Jocelyn remembered that her labor had dragged on, far into the night. She recalled the smoky odor of the candle and the honey-sweetened flavor of the mandragora potion Gilda coaxed her to sip. Then an uproar of men's rough shouts -- strange voices -- had burst through the haze of her travail. A sharp cry from Hadwin, guarding the cottage door. Jocelyn moaned aloud at the memory.
*He's dead!* She wrapped her arms around her chest and rocked on her knees in the dirt.
Half a dozen men had swarmed over the small room. A bearded face loomed over her, with a voice bellowing, "Help yourself to the other one, lads, this one is mine!" She had known instantly who the man must be, though she had never seen Udolf the Red before. So called for both his habits and his flame-colored beard, he led a band of masterless men, forced from their homes by the coming of the Normans.
Jocelyn knew better than to expect clemency from the outlaws. In the wavering candlelight she glimpsed three of the men ransacking the cottage's single room and loft for whatever stored food they could carry. After one glance at the corner where Gilda shrieked in the hands of two others, as still another ripped the older woman's bodice, Jocelyn closed her eyes.
Thus the stab of pain at her neck came as all the greater a shock. She writhed against the grip that pinned her arms to the cot. The hot mouth at her throat withdrew momentarily, and Udolf said, "Don't waste your strength, little mother." After that she remembered only waves of heat and cold washing over her, punctuated by the rhythmic pressure of labor pains.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter