Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blood Is Not Enough

Ellen Datlow's earliest vampire anthology, BLOOD IS NOT ENOUGH (1989), contains both reprints and new stories written for this book. As implied by the title, the anthology emphasizes not-so-ordinary stalkers of the night. Datlow introduces us to energy vampires and inhuman predators as well as more traditional vampires in unique situations.

The oldest tale in BLOOD IS NOT ENOUGH, "Lazarus," by Leonid Andreyev (published in the early 1900s), envisions the title character, after his rising from the tomb, as more undead than alive, casting a blight on everyone he meets. Datlow includes one familiar modern classic, "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes," by Fritz Leiber. The girl of the title, a mysterious model whose ad photos fascinate the public, drains life from her victims by feeding on their emotions. She may be the first literary example of vampirism as a metaphor for mass media. After Leiber's, the next-oldest story in the volume is "Try a Dull Knife," an urban horror piece by Harlan Ellison. All the other contents come from the 1980s. One of my favorites, "The Sea Was Wet as Wet Could Be," by artist Gahan Wilson, re-imagines "The Walrus and the Carpenter." The drolly grotesque beach-strolling characters from the Alice novel become a pair of humanoid aliens (as far as the reader can determine what they are) who entrap and feed on their human victims like Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter eating oysters. "Down Among the Dead Men," by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann, places a traditional vampire in a Nazi concentration camp, where his predation goes almost unnoticed amid the non-supernatural horrors surrounding him. "Carrion Comfort," by Dan Simmons, was later expanded into his horrific psychic vampire novel of the same title.

The newly written stories include works by Tanith Lee, Joe Haldeman, Pat Cadigan, Steve Rasnic Tem, and other distinguished names in speculative fiction. "L'Chaim!" by Harvey Jacobs introduces us to a club whose vampire members carefully cultivate human proteges over the long term to create special "vintages" for important occasions. "Good Kids," by Edward Bryant, explores energy draining from an unusual angle. "The Silver Collar," by Garry Kilworth, which Datlow describes as the "most traditional" tale in the book, frames a supernatural vampire lover in a Gothic setting.

Except for "Lazarus," each story is followed by a paragraph or two from the author, giving the reader insights on the story's origin and inspiration. Ellison's afterword runs for several pages, an essay in its own right.

Datlow's follow-up anthology, A WHISPER OF BLOOD (1991), fulfills its title's implications by ranging even further from the undead bloodsuckers of legend. Although packed with brilliant stories by big names in the horror field, it includes a few pieces that I wouldn't classify as vampiric even by my own very elastic standards. My favorite in this volume, the wryly humorous "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" by Suzy McKee Charnas, almost traditional compared to most of the others, stars a Jewish grandmother who refuses to move on after death and instead lurks in spectral form in her old apartment, absorbing small amounts of blood to sustain herself. "Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?" by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, strikingly different from her classic Saint-Germain series, presents a hospitalized victim being drained of not only life-energy but memories. Additional contributors include Robert Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg, Karl Edward Wagner, and Jonathan Carroll, among others. This book also includes authors' afterwords, and all but three of the stories are original to it.

Margaret L. Carter Carter's Crypt

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Prince of the Night

Jasmine Cresswell's PRINCE OF THE NIGHT (1995), set in Italy in the mid-1800s (with a prologue in 1836), has the surface appearance of a Gothic romance but morphs into (or reveals itself as) science fiction. The story centers upon Count Dakon, a member of a small group of extraterrestrials stranded on Earth, males who can breed with human females but always produce male offspring. In the prologue, he succumbs to his nearly irresistible mating compulsion with a servant girl chosen for her "unimaginative" personality, in hopes that she'll survive the experience. Even if a human woman isn't killed by her Vam-pyr mate's bloodlust, she is likely to die in childbirth. The girl in the prologue doesn't live past the first, frenzied copulation. Bitterly remorseful, Dakon vows never to mate again.

In 1859, English heroine Cordelia Hope (a symbolic name, since she represents hope for the redemption of Dakon and rejuvenation of his species) travels through Italy with her cousin, Lady Mary, to the Villa of the Three Fountains, an estate belonging to their family. Or so they believe, but everyone they meet insists the property belongs to the Count of Albion. When they arrive at the villa, they're informed that the Count never allows female visitors in his home. Naturally, they prevail upon Dakon to let them in, and of course he and Cordelia feel an instant attraction. Upon their first meeting, she has erotic, terrifying, multi-sensory telepathic visions that baffle her, although thanks to the prologue the reader has an inkling of the cause. She has always been preternaturally sensitive to others' emotions but has no idea why she reacts so strongly to Dakon. Struggling to resist the allure, she finds herself drawn to his bed as if in a trance. He displays his strong sense of ethics by rejecting the temptation to mate with her, even though she has catastrophically arrived at the very time of his periodic "cresting." Most of his fellow Vam-pyr regard killing inferior Earthlings on the same level as killing animals, a philosophy Dakon rejects. (The species has a sort of hokey name, but since linguists don't seem sure of the ultimate origins of the word "vampire," I can suspend disbelief enough to accept that it might come from an extraterrestrial source.) In addition, Dakon further proves his fundamental nobility by risking his life for his human neighbors as a covert freedom fighter in the Italian rebellion against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

PRINCE OF THE NIGHT follows the general pattern of Gothic fiction, with Cordelia a reluctant guest at Dakon's estate, enmeshed in the mystery of the villa's reclusive lord while trying to disentangle the problem of his alleged ownership of the property she thought she'd inherited. As we'd expect, she proves uniquely suited to mate with Dakon because of her telepathic and empathic gift. He tries to stay away from her, despite the agony of resisting the mating drive. As their relationship develops, complications arise from Lady Mary's personal plight and Dakon's dangerous pretense of supporting the Austrians while actually leading the revolutionaries. Over halfway through the book, Cordelia learns that Dakon belongs to an extraterrestrial species, their numbers steadily decreasing since they were marooned on Earth four thousand years earlier. However, she doesn't fully believe him until the evidence becomes undeniable. Meanwhile, the captain of the local Austrian troops becomes convinced she is a spy. This novel abounds in suspense, sensuality, historical atmosphere, and an interesting variation on vampires as aliens.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Robin McKinley's SUNSHINE (2003) begins as the first-person narrative of a young woman who works as a baker at her family's coffeehouse and has a sometimes difficult, although loving, relationship with her mother. In the opening scene, Rae (original name Raven, nicknamed Sunshine) decides she can't take the regular family Monday night movie gathering and instead drives out to the lake where her family owns a summer cabin (never used since the death of Sunshine's grandmother, the only relative on her vanished father's side she's had any contact with). McKinley writes Sunshine's voice in a rambling, chatty style that conveys tons of information about her background and daily life without making the pages of shameless exposition feel at all lumpy. She loves her baking, despite the predawn hours and odd schedules. She's fond of her stepfather, Charlie, and her half-siblings. She has a boyfriend, Mel, a tattooed motorcycle enthusiast who also works at the coffeehouse. She enjoys interacting with the customers, who resemble an extended family. She likes her eccentric landlady, who lives in the main part of a farmhouse where Sunshine rents an apartment on the third floor. We've learned all these facts about the protagonist by the time she gets to the lake. Then, on page 10, we hit the sentence, "When I was ten the Voodoo Wars started."

This novel takes place in an alternate world, similar to Charlaine Harris's and Laurell K. Hamilton's, where supernatural beings are publicly known to exist. This world's history seems to have diverged further from our own than the Harris and Hamilton versions, since some cities and countries have different names. In Sunshine's twentieth-century North America, people have apparently been aware of nonhuman creatures—collectively known as the Others—practically forever. All of them are regarded with suspicion, even angels (which are mentioned only in passing) and the occasional harmless races of demons, and many evoke outright fear and loathing. Vampires (aka "suckers") are considered the worst. At the time of the story, they control about one-fifth of the world. They have no interest in making a nonaggression pact with human governments, and even if they did, vampires have no central authority. McKinley's are what I think of as "Anne Rice vampires." They have left their humanity behind and have to make a special effort to "pass" for human. Their voices, eyes, skin, and superhumanly quick and silent movement give them away. They can drink animal blood but prefer human. They relish toying with their prey like cats and virtually always kill their victims. Sunlight destroys them, and they become more sensitive with age. Old vampires can't stand the slightest ray of moonlight (reasonably, since moonlight is reflected sunlight—this is the only work of fiction in which I've seen that premise). Very old ones can't risk exposing themselves under the open sky at all. A government department called the Special Other Forces—SOF—monitors the Others and strives to protect innocents from the more lethal ones, especially vampires. Even human magic-users are viewed warily and required to register with the government. Much of the country was devastated by the Voodoo Wars, leaving ruined cities and "bad places" tainted by magic. One bad place lies near Sunshine's family's lakefront cabin.

Since sensible people take advantage of whatever magical wards they can afford, and vampires generally avoid crowds, ordinary citizens are fairly safe as long as they stay away from dangerous areas after dark. Sunshine's solitary visit to the lake proves very unwise. A gang of vampires grabs her and imprisons her in a mansion adjacent to the tainted ground. She ends up shackled in a room with a captive vampire. The gang leader, Bo, expects the starving vampire, Con, to kill Sunshine. Con doesn't want to give his captor that satisfaction. He begs Sunshine to talk to him and keep him aware that she's a "rational creature." Although she finds him terrifying, he is the least of available evils, and they form an alliance. Recalling the seemingly trivial exercises in magic her grandmother taught her, Sunshine uses her skills to escape and get Con and herself to safety. This episode is only the beginning of her adventures. Because nobody escapes from vampires, and certainly nobody in her right mind would free a chained vampire, she decides to avoid questions by pretending she doesn't remember anything about her traumatic ordeal from the moment she reached the cabin until she made it home. However, two coffeehouse regulars, SOF agents, believe there's more to Sunshine than meets the eye. They're right: She learns her father was a powerful member of a prominent magical clan. SOF tries to recruit her. Bo remains a threat, and Con reappears in her life. Sunshine develops magical gifts she never suspected she possessed. She finds that several people she knows are more than they appear, including her two SOF friends. The division between "human" and "Other" isn't so sharp after all.

SUNSHINE beautifully portrays ordinary people more or less contentedly living their mundane lives (symbolized for Sunshine by her specialty, cinnamon rolls) while horrors lurk on the edges of their world. Although the vampire, Con, is a more vivid and intriguing character than her boyfriend, Mel, and she shares some erotically charged moments with Con, this novel isn't a vampire romance. It falls more into the category Jacqueline Lichtenberg calls Intimate Adventure, the growth of a relationship through challenges and risks. As she explains, "Instead of combat to the death on the field of Battle, the Protagonist must face trials and dangers, terrors and tests on the field of Intimacy." These trials may lead to romance (SUNSHINE hints at this outcome as a future possibility) or not. At the end of the story, Sunshine's relationship with Con is still evolving.

Margaret L. Carter

Explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

happy 4th of july

Image result for july 4th 2015 history

Enjoy your Independence Day holiday and celebrate with the ones you love!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest post with Abigail Owen

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What Kind of Shifter Are You?

Hello All! And thank you so much to VampChix for having me. I’m here promoting my latest paranormal romance release, Sarai’s Fortune (Shadowcat Nation #2).

My heroine in this tale, is Sarai Bouchard, a mountain lion shifter. Her protector is Zac Montclair, a polar bear shifter. I am fascinated by the idea of a human with the ability to shift into another form. And, let’s be honest, some of those forms are cooler than others. A falcon might be cooler than say a moose or a squirrel. 

I thought it would be fun to introduce some of the shifters that will be included in the Shadowcat Nation series of books – including a goofy quiz for you to take at the end that lets you find out which kind of shifter you would be!

Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are loners, very stealthy, excellent hunters, and athletic. They have one of the widest ranges of any land animal living in deserts, mountains, forests, jungles, and snow.

Polar Bear

Polar bears are the largest land animal in existence today. They are strong, fast, smart, and stealthy. They have incredible stamina and can swim nonstop for a week.. They are highly aggressive.


Wolves are pack animals living in tight-knit family groups that exercise a specific heirarchy. They are excellent hunters, have a strong sense of smell, and typically mate for life.


Falcons (specifically the peregrine falcon) are the fastest animals on the planet. They have incredible 
sight, are great hunters, and can be found from the Arctic Tundra to tropical rain forests.


Crocodiles are super predators with the strongest bite of any creature. They can leap their full body out of the water to snatch prey out of the air when they want. 


Mustangs are wild horses in the American plains descended from horses brought over by the Spanish hundreds of years ago. Native Americans learned to use them for warfare, hunting, and travel because of their strength, speed, and stamina.

Take the quiz and find out what kind of Shadowcat Nation shifter you are! Share in the comments. I’d love to hear. 


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Book description:

Zac Montclair’s first priority is to protect his people. With the escalating war between factions of shifters over land and resources, he has agreed to an alliance between his polar bears and the Shadowcat Nation of cougar shifters. But the treaty comes with a condition…he must accept one of their Seers into his Timik and put her under his personal protection.
Sarai Bouchard doesn’t need her supernatural gift to know that Kyle Carstairs’s obsession with controlling her ability will eventually result in her misery and demise. Her power is essential to her people’s survival, so when Kyle goes rogue, she’s sent to Zac Montclair to keep her safe. However, her visions reveal that while staying will lead to their becoming lovers, it also leads to his death. Leaving Zac will result in her own.
If Sarai can’t find a way to change the future, she will be forced to choose…save her lover or save herself.
Sarai concentrated on precise, sharp movements with as much power as she could muster. She’d only been working out for ten minutes or so. She’d started the day similarly  yesterday. She cooked breakfast, eating with the guys. She dragged George and Scott on more sightseeing trips. Today she’d decided to explore a small portion of Central Park. She didn’t try to lose them this time. When they’d got home, they’d hit the gym.
Now, Sarai tuned out Scott and George—who were sparring across the way from her—to focus on her own drills.
“How about you try that out on a man who moves and reacts.”

Sarai spun on her heel to find Zac standing behind her. He was wearing running pants and a tight tank top, which meant she didn’t need to use her imagination to picture the muscles of his arms and chest. 

They were on display. Her own personal show. Sarai swallowed.

Then she computed what he’d said. How was she going to get out of this? The truth was she couldn’t spar. Her visions messed her up. But that was a secret she had no intention of sharing with three people.

“Not really a good idea.”

He stared at her for a long moment. Then he glanced over her shoulder at George and Scott who’d stopped to listen. “I’ve got this, fellas. Why don’t you go back up to the apartment?”

There was no doubt in her mind that was a command, not a suggestion. Clearly the guys thought so too. She watched them leave the room with wide eyes.

As the door closed behind them, Zac’s hands landed on her shoulders, turning her to face them. 

“Okay, kuluk. It’s just you and me now. What are you not saying?”

Sarai had never felt this vulnerable in her life. Or this scared. This man got to her in a way no one else ever had. How was she supposed to resist that?

“Why is this so important to you?”

He moved his hands from her shoulders to frame her face, his fingers threading through the dark blond strands of her hair. “Keeping you safe is important to me. I need to know how much you can defend yourself if you have to. It will help me determine just what I need to prepare for. No surprises. Okay?”

Sarai took a deep breath. He couldn’t have meant it that way. Just the thought of being important to this big, strong man connected with the frightened, lonely little girl who’d spent her life just trying to survive. But she couldn’t think that way. She had to leave him, and that knowledge made her want to cry.

Seeing her hesitation, he brushed her cheeks softly with the pads of his thumbs. “Let me help you with this burden,” he murmured softly, his voice a hypnotic, deep rumble.

Sarai bit her lip. Sharing this with him really wasn’t that big a deal. She knew she could trust him.

On a deep inhale, she gave a tiny nod and started talking before she could change her mind. 


He gave her one of those rare little half-smiles, making her suddenly very glad she had agreed to capitulate. Thankfully, he released her and stepped back, giving her room to breathe.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeper of the King

P. N. Elrod, author of the Vampire Files, the Jonathan Barrett series, and I, STRAHD, collaborated with Nigel Bennett, La Croix of FOREVER KNIGHT, on a vampire novel, KEEPER OF THE KING (1997). In the first chapter, Dark Ages knight Richard D'Orleans, a Duke's third son with no prospects in life but to win his fortune and reputation with his sword, has reached his thirties, making him an "old man" by the standards of his vocation. He falls in a tournament, defeated by a younger knight, and in his despair encounters the mysterious, seductive Lady Sabra. A priestess of the Goddess and a child of the Hound of Annwyn, Sabra chooses Richard for a unique destiny. She converts him into a vampire, appointing him the champion of Arthur, the once and future king. Richard becomes the keeper of the king and the Lady's lance of the lake (yes, he's Sir Lancelot).

Chapter Two skips to present-day Toronto, where the man now called Richard Dun still serves the Crown in his own way. Working as a private security consultant, he sometimes assists the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on sensitive cases. He gets called in to investigate a professional assassin known as Charon, suspected of plotting to murder the Prime Minister. After Richard's bloody killing of one of the minor villains, he travels to visit Sabra, currently living in isolation as "great mother of the night" in the northern forests among a Native community, whose shaman knows of her and Richard's true nature. At the request of his "mother and lover," he transforms the shaman's daughter. Sabra then reveals the sad truth she has hidden from him—vampires are not literally immortal. Her own time is running out, transmutation into a beast of Annwyn foreshadowing her imminent death. Only one thing might save her, a drink from the Cauldron of Cerridwen, otherwise known as the Grail. The novel's story interweaves his quest for the Grail, the assassination plot, and a missing manuscript possessed by the man he killed and sought by a female investigator from Lloyd's of London. Naturally, the plotlines come together in the end, and the Grail proves to have surprising effects.

Unlike Jonathan Barrett and Jack Fleming, Richard doesn't fall into suspended animation by day. He can walk in sunlight as long as he dresses for protection against it. He shares with them the typical vampiric gift of hypnosis and uses it to lull his victims, on whom he feeds without killing. Like Elrod's other vampires, he prefers to take blood from women at the height of passion. As a fairly well-adjusted vampire should, he has kept up with the times; benefiting from the wealth of centuries, he drives a Jaguar (he owns several, in fact). While definitely a good guy, he is far from harmless, as the outbreak of his "beast" in the killing frenzy illustrates. And although superhuman, he has weaknesses. He hates flying almost to the point of phobia, for instance. And although he can recover from injuries that would be lethal to a normal man, they hurt as much as they would have before his transformation.

Richard is a strong, appealing character, who stars in one sequel, HIS FATHER'S SON (2001). He also appears—or an alternate-world version of him, not explicitly identified but recognizable to readers of the Richard Dun novels—in Elrod's new steampunk occult mystery, THE HANGED MAN. As a treat for FOREVER KNIGHT fans, the depiction of the character on the cover of THE KEEPER OF THE KING and HIS FATHER'S SON is modeled on Nigel Bennett.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cover Art reveal for next Rulers of Darkness book

I haven't read a vampire romance in awhile, but this series is tempting me back. The covers are all very well done with a consistent theme that makes it easy for readers to identify whether they belong to a series. We don't have a hard release date for this one yet, but look for Caressed by the Edge of Darkness closer to the end of the year. 

Thoughts on the new cover? ~Anna

Hardened by centuries of torture, former blood slave, Gabriel Erhard, is driven by an insatiable need to destroy his enemies. Violence darkens his battered soul, leaving no place for mercy in his world. Gabriel’s only desire is vengeance—until he finds her.

Seized by vampires, bound as a slave, and placed on the auction block, Jordan Culver is instantly entranced by the dangerous male who claims her. Jordan’s new captor vows to set her free, but his haunted gaze burns with savage desire and his wicked kiss makes her crave his touch and...complete surrender.

While Gabriel battles his enemies, he will break every sacred law to achieve his ultimate goal—uniting the Outcast Society and creating a new vampire Clan. But the distracting human with mesmerizing violet eyes jeopardizes his plans. With very soft whisper she evokes his tormented memories, testing his sanity and challenging his every boundary. Can Jordan help him overcome the miseries of his past and find a future with her?

Read the Rulers of Darkness Series

Be seduced by the first ruler of darkness, Dorian, in Caressed by Moonlight

Get swept away by Dimitri's alluring charm in Caressed by Night

Surrender to Hadrian in Caressed by a Crimson Moon

Fall in love with Falcon in Caressed by Shadows 

Dorian Vlakhos is no ordinary aristocrat. He is a vampire king, who will do anything to save his clan from complete annihilation, before an ancient curse can claim his immortal life. 

Penniless and orphaned, Victoria Kingston has nothing to bring to a marriage, yet she must shackle an unsuspecting gentleman into marriage by the end of the month or forfeit her rights as guardian of her younger sister. With the help of her dearest friend, Victoria begins her hunt, and vows to stay far away from the dark, mysterious, Dorian Vlakhos. 

After meeting the beautifully innocent Miss Kingston, Dorian had to have her. He would do absolutely anything to make Victoria his. One sweet stolen kiss would bring them together while a force, more powerful than any vampire, would bind them for all eternity, but treachery, war, and death rule Dorian’s dark world and Victoria would be fortunate to survive.

Dimitri Arsov, the last remaining pure vampire, was thought to be dead for the past four hundreds years. Now, he is back and has a score to settle with the traitor that had tried to kill him centuries ago. But as he waits for his prey to blindly step into his carefully laid trap, his overwhelming hunger for blood is triggered when he saves a beautiful art historian. 

Kerstyn Ingmar’s life was normal and straight up boring until the night she is rescued by the dangerously sexy, powerfully mesmerizing, Dimitri. Unable to resist his diamond blue eyes and intense kisses, she is drawn into his world of darkness and closer to her impending doom. 

While their desire consumes them, Dimitri is haunted by images of a bloody and deadly future. As his enemies draw near, he must find a way to save his mate from her destiny before fate destroys them both.

Consumed by madness and tormented by dark memories of blood and death, Hadrian Lucretius, King of the Validus Clan, has returned after living in self-imposed exile for nearly three hundred and fifty years. 

To maintain peace with the vampires, Eva Maldonado is offered as a sacrifice to the crazed vampire king by her father, the alpha of the Silveria Shifter Pack. Hadrian’s reputation is both legendary and lethal; he is ruthless, bloodthirsty, lusty, and soulless. When Eva arrives at the ancient fortress high in the Carpathian Mountains, she is shocked to find a ravaged man with dark burning eyes filled with loneliness and dangerous desire. 

Would she be his lover…or his prey? His savior…or his victim? Would Hadrian lure her into madness or would their perilous passion be their redemption?

Black Knight, Falcon Kenwrec is powerful, relentless, and fiercely loyal, his only allegiance – to his king. But he is torn between duty and desire when the war between the vampire clans and the Red Order hunters escalates and the enemy captures the one woman he longs to claim as his own, Sonya Rebane, Queen of the Voidukas Clan. Falcon will risk everything to save her, even if it means forsaking his king. 

After weeks of imprisonment, Sonya is stunned when the chivalrous knight that she has secretly loved from afar appears outside her cell. As they fight and struggle to elude their enemies, they must battle their overwhelming attraction for each other and their love that is forbidden. 

As every perilous moment draws them closer together, every smoldering kiss drives them to the brink of a passionate destruction. Will they be able to resist temptation? Or will their love be their ruin?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Twisted Fairytale Confessions

So, I had a lovely blog post scheduled using the multitude of information put together by the author and apparently all my work disappeared straight down a rabbit hole! Not a single word or image has survived despite my best efforts at resuscitation, I'll blame my recent switch from Mac to Windows, and to avoid the White Rabbit being even more late I've decided to put up a brief promo style post about the Twisted Fairytale Confession set in hopes that you can see the imagination, creativity, and fun for yourself, with my sincerest apologies to the author for jacking up this portion of the blog tour. These are highly recommended NA/YA fantasies with strong characters, inventive storytelling, and a fair amount of kickass behavior! The imagery alone is worth the double take and I rather enjoy the sass treatment each retelling gets from the very talented Sarah J. Pepper. ~Anna

"Evil poisons everyone. Period. Our mouths water when we sink our teeth into what we have always craved. Surrendering to our desires by biting off a delectable piece of the forbidden fruit is nothing more than a meager confession: Poison tastes sinfully sweet,"-Confessions of teh Big Apple Debutante, by blogger Miss Snow White. Genre: NA fantasy romance

Rapunzel isn't the stereotypical Damsel in Distress. Her Bad-Boy Prince Charming is a renowned mercenary, and their Happy Ending plays out like a bad movie. However, she is determined to breakout from her tower prison- love be damned-and do it in a fabulous pair of heels. Genre: NA romance fantasy
Falling in love with Alice Mae was like stumbling down a rabbit hole and seeing a magical world. Whereas, her betrayal was like tripping on a guillotine.
Heads will roll, and hearts will break, so does it really matters who reigns? Genre: YA fantasy romance

Be sure to stop by the Sarah J.Pepper Facebook page to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! Click here.

All sorts of magical reading goodness can be found by visiting Sarah's author site too!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dinner at Deviant's Palace

DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE (1985), by Tim Powers, is even weirder than his epic historical novel THE STRESS OF HER REGARD (and considering the silicon-based vampire species in that novel, that's saying something). He sets DINNER... in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, a generation after nuclear bombs devastated civilization. It comes across as a dark, dangerous place, with futuristic slang to set the tone. As the main medium of exchange, the economy bases its currency on a type of high-proof brandy. Poisonous levels of radiation linger in some areas. Mutants, marauders, and "trashmen" (makeshift cyborgs assembled from miscellaneous scraps) prowl the blasted wastelands. Deranged women called "pocalocas" dance in the streets of the city. The action centers around a private club, Deviant's Palace, notorious for drugs and perversions, and a mysterious cult run by a man named Norton Jaybush. Middle-aged, hard-boiled musician Greg Rivas, a retired "redemption" agent, gets hired by the wealthy father of his first girlfriend, Urania, to rescue her from Jaybush and his "Jaybirds." As for vampirism, the novel includes energy draining, a reddish-brown powdered drug called Blood (derived from guess what), and translucent, floating, bloodsucking monsters something like balloons or jellyfish, called "hemogoblins," which take on vaguely human shape when fully fed.

In search of Urania, Rivas tries to go undercover in Jaybush's cult. He's sidetracked by several harrowing encounters but finally makes his way to the Holy City. Fortunately, he knows ways to accept the "sacrament," a literally electrifying touch that engenders an experience labeled "merging with the Lord," without suffering its full effects. Some worshipers who endure this process too many times become the "far-gone," their individuality irretrievably lost. Subjected to an accidental overdose of Blood at one point, Rivas links with the mind of a far-gone and gets flooded by the memories of Jaybush himself. Rivas ultimately discovers the connections among Deviant's Palace, the cult, and Blood and learns the origin and nature of hemogoblins and the truth about Jaybush. It's not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the "Lord," despite his outward appearance, isn't remotely human; he's one of the most repellent alien vampires I've ever encountered. At the climactic dinner with Jaybush and Urania, Rivas manages to render the villain powerless without being able to destroy him. Rivas succeeds in his quest but doesn't win a happy ending for himself. Instead, he takes on a lifelong burden.

DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE has one drawback as an SF horror novel. In its surrealistic future California, where everything is strange and threats lurk almost everywhere, it's hard to tell we should accept as "normal" for the setting and what's paranormal. Everything is scary—and as madly creative as you'd expect from Tim Powers.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bewitching Book Tour: Town From Hell

Town from Hell
Dagger and Brimstone
Book One
T.W. Kirchner

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Horror

Publisher: Short on Time Books

Date of Publication: April 19, 2015

ISBN: 1508982635
ASIN: B00V0R61H8

Number of pages: 274
Word Count: 76,636

Cover Artist: Tony Bryson

Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old Racer and his girlfriend Arloe want to be together despite resistance from her parents. In defiance of an upcoming separation, they run away for the summer, going totally off the grid to a remote town in the Nevada desert.

The teens think no one knows where they are—but they couldn’t be more wrong. Racer’s well-orchestrated plan for freedom turns into a nightmare from hell.

Lies, deception and betrayal blur his lines of reality, and he discovers everyone in town is hiding a terrifying secret, including Arloe.

Available at Amazon

The town appeared as a dot over the hill.  Five miles max.  Anticipation overtook my shaky nerves.  We passed several road signs that promoted ‘going green’ and ‘recycling.’  Another sign boasted Winthrop’s claim to fame: Home of the World Famous Green Links Heath Food line. 
     An ancient gray truck with Nevada plates lumbered up the road.  We passed it on the left side like it was standing still.  The old dude driving the clunker stared at me through the open window, a cigarette clenched in his yellowed teeth.  Just as much smoke billowed from the cab as sputtered from the exhaust.  I wondered how the truck made it that far from town…or the old dude for that matter.  Neither he nor his truck modeled ‘going green’ with all the pollution they created.  
     Any other time, I’d have ignored his stare, but it made me uneasy, more so after the gut-wrenching incident moments before.  I reassured myself it didn’t mean anything—no different than all the other stares I’d received though my seventeen years. 
     I pulled off the highway into a run-down gas station on the edge of town, a half mile past the faded wooden ‘Welcome to Winthrop’ sign that likely would topple over in the next stiff breeze.  It didn’t surprise me when Arloe hopped off my bike and flew around the side of the mini-mart toward the ladies’ room.  She didn’t even wait to take off her helmet.  Her urgency made me laugh because I’d always kidded she had the bladder of an ant.  What amazed me was that she hadn’t asked to stop at all in three hours on the road.  For her sake, I hoped the bathroom didn’t require a key. 
     The midday sun blazed hot, yet the intense heat didn’t seem to affect the flies swarming around the overflowing garbage can placed between the two retro pumps.  As I stood up, my butt peeled in layers from the leather seat.  My jeans and boxers fused to my legs from sweat.  I’d never traveled that long a distance on my bike before without stopping, and my aching legs paid the price. 
     Even after I took off my sweltering black helmet and hung it on the handlebar of my once black, now gray-looking bike, the slight breeze didn’t give me any relief.  In fact, it was worse.  The breeze simulated a blow drier set on hot, pointed at my face. 
     A few stray flies abandoned the trash and went on the attack, buzzing around my sweaty head and biting my arms.  I hoped the attraction didn’t indicate I smelled worse than the trash.  One black fly landed on my right bicep inside of my new dagger tattoo.  My hand nicked the annoying pest, but it had already bitten me and buzzed away.  The skin around the tattoo immediately tingled and itched.  Damn.  I ran my hand across my hair.  It was sticky and wet because I sweated faster than the air could dry it.
     As I staggered toward the door to pay for a fill-up, I tried to stretch the stiffness out of my legs while I pulled areas of my soaked jeans away from my skin.  Halfway across the parking lot, the heat from the asphalt felt like it had eaten through the soles of my boots.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if they melted like crayons into a waxy puddle.
     The desert excursion proved interesting at best, so far.  My dark blue jeans had lightened by two shades of dust, my white T-shirt had darkened by two shades of dust, and sandy grit crunched between my teeth even though the helmet’s face shield had been down the whole time. 
     When I pulled open the glass door of the mini-mart, a rusted cowbell clanked across it.  The metal made an ear-splitting slap, and I expected the murky glass to shatter or at least crack, but it didn’t.  I slinked through the door thinking I’d attracted unwanted attention, but the place was almost empty.  The top of the attendant’s head showed behind the counter, but my presence went unacknowledged.  What did I expect in a town of fifty residents that boasted a twenty-foot rattlesnake fashioned from beer bottles as the main attraction?  I ducked into the first aisle.  The half-stocked shelves carried very few of the usual mini-mart snacks but a lot of the Green Links Health Food products.  A half-filled refrigerated section stretched across the back wall. 
     I walked up the second aisle before approaching the faded, red counter, covered almost entirely by paper ads and signs.  The middle-aged attendant relaxed on a wooden barstool with her feet resting on a two-foot stack of magazines piled on the floor.  She slumped over to browse through a magazine spread out on her lap.  The tabletop, portable fan behind the counter blew her frizzy hair all around.  It made an annoying click each time its blades completed a rotation. 
     The attendant ran her knobby pointer finger along the page while she read.  She must have reached the end of the article because she looked up and pushed her wire-framed, granny glasses down on the bridge of her pointy nose.  “Kin I helps ya?”
     This time, I stared.  Her dental work looked like she’d tried to stop a bowling ball with her face.  She lacked every other tooth, and the remaining few resembled gray and yellowish nubs.  She only needed a wart on her chin and a long black dress.  The broom already leaned up against the wall behind her.
     I placed a twenty on the counter.  “Yeah, I need a fill-up.”
     The attendant slid off the barstool and set the magazine down.  The legs on both her and the stool creaked and wiggled.  She tugged at the bottom of her black, oversized tee and pulled up her baggy jeans.  They hung pathetically off her emaciated frame and were frayed at the bottom where they dragged the floor.  She picked up the money, sniffled loudly, and wiped her nose on the back of her vein-popping hand.  “Which pump?”
     I gazed out the huge, front window.  The station only had two pumps, and my bike was the only vehicle around for at least a mile.  I bit my lip and choked back the smartass comment that popped into my mind.  “Pump two, please.”
     Witch Hazel pushed a gold button on the ancient cash register and the drawer barely slid open.  With the swiftness and grace of a baboon wearing a baseball glove, she placed my twenty in the drawer.  I tried to figure out how that register could possibly be connected to the pump when she enlightened me.  “Go on and pump.  Lemme know how much it comes to, and I’ll give ya your change back.”  She slammed the drawer closed.  She looked me up and down.  “You ain’t from around here, are you?”
     I wiped my forehead on the sleeve of my T-shirt, exchanging a layer of sweat for sand.  “No, how’d you guess?”
     She pointed from the cubic stud in my nose, to the gold ring through my eyebrow, and at the three tattoos on my right arm.
     I shrugged.
     She smacked her cracking lips and turned away, only to pick up the magazine and plop back on the creaky barstool.
    I’d already forgotten about the cowbell, and it smashed into the glass again when the door closed behind me.  As I headed over to my bike, Arloe came from around the corner, swinging her helmet back and forth by the chin strap.  She smiled like she’d won the lottery.
     I pushed the nozzle into the gas tank and flipped the lever, unable to hold back my grin.  “Feel better?”
     Arloe hung the bright purple helmet I’d given her on the bike’s handle and snuggled up against me.  She smelled sweet from the freshly-applied cherry lip gloss.  When she smiled, her eyes sparkled as much as her pink, shiny lips.  “Lots.”  Arloe ran her hands through my damp hair to spike it up and took a step back to admire her handiwork.  “But now I’m thirsty.  Can we get something to drink?”
      She had me so totally captivated that when the pump clicked off, I jerked.  Arloe smirked, but I pretended not to notice and replaced the nozzle.  “Sure.  Witch Hazel will hook us up inside.”
     She stared at me with her eyebrows lowered and shoved her hands in the back pockets of her acid-washed, body-hugging jeans.  “Who?”
     I shrugged.  “Never mind.  Bad joke.” 
     She gently slapped my hand.  “Racer, stop.” 
     Without realizing I’d done it, my stubby fingernails had scratched the area around my dagger tat to a bright red.  I shoved my hand in my pocket. 
     While she examined my bicep, she grimaced.  Her smooth fingers glided along my skin, but her voice had lost its sexy edge.  “Racer Roane.  You should’ve gone back to the tattoo shop.  It’s been two weeks and you’re still messin’ with it.”  She leaned back and stared into my eyes.  “Maybe it’s infected…or the ink was bad.”
     The first two tattoos never bothered me like that one had, and it did concern me.  I just didn’t want Arloe to know it.  Besides, I couldn’t do anything about it now anyway.
     Arloe pulled her silky hair back into a ponytail and swatted at a fly that attacked her face.
     I shooed the fly away and pushed a few stray strands of hair from her eyes.  “Just think, you could be in Spain taking classes right now, but you gave up the opportunity for all this.”
     She surveyed the empty desert and turned back to me, holding my calloused hands in her delicate ones.  Her eyes showed determination and a spark of renewed energy.  “No, I gave it up for you.  For us.  We’ll see Spain one day.  Together.”

 About the Author:

T.W. Kirchner is the author of the Pirates Off middle grade series and The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich young adult series. Besides writing, she loves tennis, yoga, painting and gardening.  She lives in Las Vegas with her husband, two children, and furry menagerie known as the Kirchner Zoo.

Twitter: @TinaInLV

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