Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 74 (November 2011)
- Welcome to the November 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.
Sorry to be a little late this month. I hope you all had a frightfully fun Halloween.
Ellora's Cave has just published a trade paperback, NIGHT FLAMES, comprising three of my short erotic paranormal romances, "New Flame," "Night Flight," and "Sweeter Than Wine":
An excerpt from "New Flame" appears below. A zmeu is a sexually seductive creature made of flame in Eastern European legend. The mention of a "thug" refers to a burglary the heroine suffered before the story opened.
Later this month, Amber Quill Press will publish a trade paperback collection of my three Amber Heat erotic paranormal romances, "Aquatic Ardor" (undine), "Allure of the Beast" (werewolf), and "Blood Hostage" (vampire).
No interview this month, but. .. .
Speaking of interviews, don't forget that most issues of my discontinued fanzine, THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT, include conversations with distinguished vampire authors such as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Suzy McKee Charnas, Nancy Kilpatrick, P. N. Elrod, Tanya Huff, and many others. Also, I had the privilege of printing early stories by some authors who have since risen to fame in the realms of vampires and horror, e.g., Nancy Kilpatrick, Gemma Files, Yvonne Navarro, D. F. Lewis, and Elaine Bergstrom. In fact, "Fly-by-Night," a story by Gemma Files that first appeared in THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT was made into an episode of the Showtime network anthology series THE HUNGER. On this page you can find tables of contents to tell you which authors appear in which issues, as well as summaries of Catherine B. Krusberg's exhaustive book review columns, with a link to order "bundles" of issues. (They're not in precise numerical order on the distributor's site, so scroll down to see all.):
Some Books I've Read Lately:
THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED, by Steven Pinker. Pinker is one of my favorite nonfiction authors, a psychologist, author of THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT, HOW THE MIND WORKS, and THE BLANK SLATE. The first reaction of many readers may be disbelief in this book's major premise, that violence HAS declined, as the author acknowledges. He lays out in great detail examples throughout history, backed up by exhaustive statistics, to demonstrate that the contemporary world does in fact suffer from much less personal, official (such as harsh legal punishments and torture by governments), and international violence than any prior era. As a percentage of the world's population, death tolls from those causes have steeply decreased. I was mildly dubious about war, but he does have the statistics to support his position, and one can't argue when he points out that we haven't had a war between major powers in over sixty years. Conflicts between smaller nations (as opposed to civil wars) have also become less frequent. Concerning terrorism, a high-profile phenomenon whose actual death toll is negligible compared to all other forms of carnage, it, too, has been around for millennia but has declined from its historical peak. As for the reduction of other kinds of violence, Pinker is clearly right, and, equally significant if not more, our toleration of it in North America and western Europe has conspicuously decreased, not only from preindustrial centuries but even from the mid-twentieth century. He attributes this trend to several factors but most prominently to the rise of centralized governments that suppress violence within their borders through their official monopoly on the use of force. He also discusses at length the "humanitarian revolution" that began with the Enlightenment. Two chapters, "Inner Demons" and "Better Angels," explore in depth the psychological, social, and cultural factors that influence our behavior toward violent or peaceful expression. Particularly interesting to me was the section on the biology and psychology of self-control. As always, Pinker's lively, readable style of lucid exposition riveted my attention, even through 696 pages (not counting index, bibliography, etc.). The book's only noticeable weakness, to me, is in the section on the ancient world and some aspects of the Middle Ages. In citing examples of violence, the author doesn't distinguish among real life, literature, folklore, and myth. (I hope his catalog of atrocities in nursery rhymes is just kidding.) Granted, the last three shed light on what the people of a particular time considered acceptable or even admirable. But his sweeping survey of the Bible, making no distinction between violent acts approved of and those narrated with obvious condemnation (e.g., David's treatment of Uriah, husband of Bathsheba), much less showing any awareness of the whole concept of progressive revelation, is just annoying.
SNUFF, by Terry Pratchett. Another Discworld novel, and again I don't see any decline in Pratchett's wit, writing style, and plotting skill. In fact, this book could become one of my second-tier favorites in the series. It develops themes of "fantastic racism" (as Tvtropes.org calls the use of fantasy species to comment on real-world prejudice and injustice) that have become significant in several recent Discworld novels. Commander Vimes of the City Watch (also Duke of Ankh-Morpork), at the insistence of his wife, Lady Sybil, with the collusion of the Patrician of the city, Lord Vetinari, is forced to take a vacation at Sybil's country estate, which he's never visited before. The strange sounds and excessive quiet of the country and the absence of the familiar noises and smells of the city make Vimes nervous. He feels much more at home when a crime comes to his attention, the murder of a goblin girl. Of course, it's not "really" murder, since goblins are commonly regarded as vermin, and the law doesn't recognize them as people. When Vimes is framed for the murder of the local blacksmith, who has disappeared, and the young village constable tries to arrest him, Vimes takes it upon himself to solve the mystery and teach the young man to be a real "copper." The more Vimes learns about goblin culture, beginning with the surprising fact that it even exists and that the small containers in which goblin religion requires them to preserve their bodily secretions are exquisite works of art, the more fiercely determined he becomes to grant the goblins' demand for "just ice." Meanwhile, his six-year-old son, Young Sam, pursues a hobby of collecting and studying the excrement of various animals. The family meets the author of Young Sam's favorite books, educational works on the subject of "poo," who lives in the neighborhood and also happens to be a friend to the goblin community. Cutting satire on social snobbery, hypocrisy, the law, racism, slavery, and genocide, they're all here in Pratchett's inimitable style, along with some genuinely moving scenes dealing with the goblins' plight. I could have done without some of the many scatological references, but they're handled relatively inoffensively, inviting us to share Young Sam's realistic small-boy fascination with the subject, and they weren't obtrusive enough to dilute my pleasure in the book.
BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF, by Mercedes Lackey. Lackey has retold my favorite fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast," once before. That novel, THE FIRE ROSE, set in and near San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake, was the first in her Elemental Masters series. BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF takes place in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, where the Tradition steers many people's destinies into living out myths and fairy tales. Godmothers, magicians, and others who deal with magic know about the Tradition, but most ordinary citizens of the kingdoms don't. This novel combines elements of "Cinderella" and "Little Red Riding Hood" as well as "Beauty and the Beast." Bella has run her father's household ever since age ten, when her mother died, and when her father remarried she saw no reason to abandon her responsibilities. Her stepmother isn't cruel, only vain, self-centered, and hypochondriac. The younger twin stepsisters aren't mean, just rather fluff-headed. Bella enjoys learning herb lore from the local witch, "Granny," and one evening on her way home from Granny's cottage, Bella gets bitten by a werewolf. The next thing she knows, she's whisked off to the manor of Duke Sebastian for three months of observation to discover whether she has contracted lycanthropy. Probably not, since Sebastian didn't acquire the condition from a bite, but the King and Godmother Elena don't want to take any risks. Nobody, not even Sebastian himself, who's a magician, knows how the curse came upon him. He turns out to be a considerate, likable host when not absorbed in magical research, and aside from missing her family and fearing what may happen to her at the full moon, Bella reluctantly begins to enjoy interacting with Sebastian and his invisible servants and getting the manor's stillroom back into working order. Sebastian's illegitimate brother, Eric, the estate's gamekeeper, fills the role of the woodsman in "Little Red Riding Hood." At first coming across as an insufferable jerk, Eric doesn't seem so bad when Bella gets to know him. For quite a while into the book, the reader can't be sure whom Bella will end up with. The tale spins out to a variation of its Traditional ending, however. In this story nobody except the darkest of evil magicians would voluntarily become a werewolf, because that spell requires cannibalism, so lycanthropy is a true curse. Readers will root for the charming, level-headed hero and heroine somehow to win their Happily Ever After.
Excerpt from "New Flame":
Judy shook the box. No rattle. "What's this? Early Christmas present?"
She cut the tape, turned back the lid flaps, and unwrapped the bubble paper, accidentally pinching one of the bubbles. Its sharp pop made her jump. Trembling, she breathed slowly until her heartbeat steadied. Peeking into the box, she found an old-fashioned oil lamp, its glass discolored from apparent decades of use. Tucked next to it was a folded piece of paper. The note read, "Dear Judy: This belonged to Aunt Marta. Before she died, she said you should have it. Something about how you needed it, because you're the only single woman left in the family. Who knows what she meant by that (ha, ha)? She always was a character. SoMerry Christmas. See you soon. Love, Mom."
Judy lifted the lamp out of its box. The base felt too heavy for brassbronze, maybe? . . .
Experimentally turning up the wick, she felt a sudden impulse to light the lamp. Why not? Its parts seemed in working order.
She had a bottle of bayberry-scented oil stored with the hurricane lamp she kept for earthquake-related power outages. It took only a minute, rummaging through a cabinet next to the desk, to find the bottle. After pouring a small portion into the lamp, she set a match to the wick. On first try, it blossomed into a clear glow, flooding the room with the sweetish scent.
At the same moment, a bright streak flared at the edge of her vision.
She spun around in the swivel chair, ready to climb the wall. Or run out screaming if the thug had come back for seconds.
In the corner of the room loomed a pillar of fire. A six-foot column of orange-red flame, fading to indigo and violet at the edges. It undulated slowly like a candle in a light breeze.
Oh, Lord, she had set the place on fire! Her books! She leaped to her feet.
The apparition radiated none of the fierce heat expected from a blaze that size. And how could a spark have jumped from the desk to the center of the room without igniting anything in between?
While she stared, the flame's outline shifted, growing curves and appendages. It took a few seconds for her to recognize the emerging shape as the figure of a man. The fire had all but died away. She saw an apparently solid body, although it still emitted a faint glow.
The naked man, lean and graceful, stood about a foot taller than Judy. He had tawny-bronze skin, an angular, striking face. Coppery hair growing to his shoulders floated as if stirred by a phantom wind. With his every move, his muscles appeared to flow like molten gold. While she stared at him in stunned disbelief, his penis hardened, lengthened, and sprang to attention. The gleaming shaft made Judy's hands curl with the temptation to encircle it. A treacherous tingle started between her legs.
She plopped down in the chair. She'd lost it completely; she was going nuts from stress. Or else she'd fallen asleep at the desk and plunged into one ever-more bizarre dream. Either way, she wanted it to stop right now. She reached for the lamp to extinguish the wick.
A voice echoed like a chime inside her head: No! Please Do not send me away.
She looked around wildly, expecting she didn't know what. Just something that would make sense of the voices in her head. "Who's that?" she growled to the room. "What do you want?" she demanded of the figure in front of her.
I want to stay here and enjoy your world. I exist only while the lamp burns. A sigh echoed through Judy's mind. I have drifted in darkness for so many weary years
"You're not real. I'm dreamingor crazy." Yeah. Judy's logical brain had her saying stuff like that even while the intruder stood right in front of her.
You are not mad. A smile illuminated his face. The lamp called me. I have been sent to care for you. To cherish you. The man glided toward Judy. His amber eyes snared hers, then roamed downward to focus on her breasts. She became achingly aware of how her nipples showed through the clinging shirt. A fragrance like sandalwood incense mingled with the smell of bayberry from the oil.
She swallowed a lump. "Cherish?" No real man had ever used that word to her. He sure talked pretty, for an apparition.
She shoved the chair back against the desk. "What are you?" Now she could feel an aura of heat from the figure, warming rather than burning.
Your folk in the homeland know my kind as zmeu.
"What's that mean?"
A shrug, like the flicker of a candle. It is what I am. Please believe that I intend you no harm.
Definitely a weird dream, but kind of interesting. "Yeah? So what do I get for releasing you from limbo?"
My friendship. My passion. I exist only to lavish these upon you.
"Hey, not even three wishes?" She groped for the edge of the desk and pressed her fingernails against it while she tried to joke. She needed the solidity of the wood right then. "Or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?"
The manthe zmeugazed at her with a small frown of puzzlement. I can find lost treasure if needed, but that is not my purpose here. Many of your folk claimed to enjoy my companionshipyour Tante
He reached out and touched the hollow of Judy's throat with one tapering fingertip. A painless electric spark sizzled on her still sweat-dampened skin. Heat danced from the point of contact to her breasts, making both nipples tighten and tingle. She blushed and crossed her arms over her chest to hide the telltale peaks.
-end of excerpt-
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"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter