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“S” is for Strandville
First, a big thank you to Christine for asking me to be part of her A-Z Blog Challenge. I don’t know if she intended me to have “S” or if the day was random, but it’s perfect since I’m the author of the Strandville Zombie Series.
Where is Strandville?
As far as I know, it’s in my head. A quick Google search on a town called Strandville led me to Strandville Ave, in Dublin. That’s as close as I can get.
My fictional small town is nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, far from any city (and unfortunately for the residents, far from alternate medical care). The series starts at the Nixon Healing and Research Center where a brilliant scientist is researching the z-virus as a viable cure for cancer. Virus as a cure does exist and I have seen it crop up since Cure. Total coincidence, I swear.
Book one is an outbreak story featuring one of the absolute worst ways of becoming “infected,” my preferred term since we’re dealing with a lethal virus. We have a brilliant scientist gone mad, a thug to do his bidding, and a host of captive women who are unknowingly growing the offspring of the undead inside of them. Yeah, I mentioned it was bad, right?
Miranda Penton is the star of the series; strong, determined, and capable, she’s also the most likely to carry one of these fetuses to term.
Cure is the story of her attempted escape from Nixon, and the outbreak that spreads uncontrollably into Strandville and beyond. It is also free for all e-readers (iTunes, Nook, Smashwords, Kindle, and even Kobo). The story continues with Afterbirth and is going further now with Departure set to release later this year.
It’s been a blast writing medical-themed horror. With a decade of hospital experience and five years working in various private medical practices, it would be impossible for all of that time around doctors not to influence my work. The great thing about writing Cure is that the setting felt natural to me (a group locked down in a hospital with a growing horde), which has translated to the authenticity that has the books well-reviewed.
I’ve been away from Strandville while working on my medical thriller series (Fatal Reaction published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint and Fatal Intentions self-published earlier this year) and I have so missed the post-apocalyptic landscape and the dynamic characters that never cease to surprise me. Departure marks a new chapter for the Strandville survivors and hints at a new breed of zombie. What happens when the undead aren’t actually dead? Does conscience factor in when the decision is to kill or cure? What does all of this mean for our sole immune survivor, five-year-old Amelie Penton? A valuable commodity, Miranda’s daughter is the centerpiece for a story about being careful who you trust.
As part of the A-Z blog challenge I’m posting an exclusive rough draft excerpt from my upcoming release, Departure. I hope you enjoy it.
Departure excerpt © 2016 Belinda Frisch
All Rights Reserved.
The ambient quiet should have made Nolan less nervous but he couldn’t shake the feeling of a stare at his back as he cut through the woods toward the inn. Sweat rolled into his eyes, the unrelenting heat only slightly more forgiving under the lush canopy shade. His heart raced as he cast backward glances. He would have given anything to hear something other than his own labored breathing and his sneakers on the hard packed earth, until he heard breaking branches both ahead of and behind him.
“Hello? Is someone there?” A lifelong horror fan, Nolan felt stupid for even asking but he needed to hear someone respond. When no one did, he looked back, deciding he was as close to the inn as he was far from the trailhead. He slowed his pace to regain his breath, to muster his strength, and pressed on. Each sound demanded his attention, each step fraught with the likelihood that someone was out there—someone who, not a hundred yards away, made their presence known.
A girl, younger than him probably by at least two or three years, appeared from behind a large oak tree, her pale face smeared with dirt and her mouth bloodstained. Brush and twigs were tangled in her matted, long dark hair and her dirty clothes looked weathered—clinging to her frail body as though they had been soaked and dried to her shape. Nolan would have described her as feral, confused and operating on some kind of altered mentality, but not undead. Other than her disheveled appearance she looked every bit as alive as he did—not pale or particularly ghoulish, but fair-complected and with an awareness that made the idea of killing her all the more unpleasant. She stared at Nolan with one brown eye and the other white-blue, a trait Nolan took as a sign of mutation. He checked his surroundings for an exit route, finding nothing but a dense thicket of trees. His choices were either fight or run, assuming the girl intended to harm him.
Nolan decided to retaliate only if she attacked first.
“Hello?” He sidestepped to get a better look at her, the curved machete lowered tight to his side but ready. A beam of light came down through the trees, reflected off the blade, and warmed a space on his leg. “What’s your name?”
The girl whiffed the air, not moving forward or back.
“My name’s Nolan. Nolan Alexander.” He checked the girl over for bite marks or scratches, finding nothing and making him second-guess his assessment. “Can you talk?” A thick branch snapped as something too large to be a squirrel or a bird appeared behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, afraid to take his eye of the girl for too long, and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Another girl, not only a mirror image with identical facial features, the same dark hair, and mismatched eyes, but wearing identical clothing—tattered skinny jeans and an oversized pale pink T-shirt. Even their black Chuck Taylor sneakers were the same.
The girls made eye contact as Nolan alternated looking between them, wondering if and for how long they had been stalking him. Had their waiting to make themselves known been a conscious decision, an organized strike to make sure he was isolated before they attacked? The first girl twisted her head, the light reflecting off the blue eye making her look more cyborg than human. The other mimicked her, shifted her weight, and assumed a starting line position, ready to run.
Nolan took a couple of tentative steps to see what the girls would do. One moved left while the other went right in a synchronized quickstep. Nolan raised his blade, an intended threat that caused the girls to move simultaneously closer. Their wordless communication and matched speed warned of something altogether different than any infected Nolan had ever encountered or dispatched. He wasn’t only up against the mutated virus, but some sort of psychic twin connection as well.
What happens when a pair of twin infected zombies catches up with their prey? Find out soon in Departure, Strandville book three.
In the meantime, Cure and Afterbirth (see series page) are available and ready for you to read or listen to on e-book, in paperback, and available as audiobooks from ACX/Audible, narrated by the talented Julia Farmer, voice of The Walking Dead’s (video game) “Sarita.”
* Get a free copy of CURE at Amazon.
Thanks, again, Christine for inviting me to post during your A-Z challenge. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts.