Saturday, April 30, 2016

#AtoZ - Z is for Zombies -- Of Course!

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letter Z for Zombies – of course!

If you read this blog, you know that I am obsessed with zombies. And what’s not to love? The best part about the undead creatures is that they help us understand what it means to be human. We see all of our horrible, awful, primal traits reflected in their rotting forms. When humans are thrown into a survival situation, they often do terrible, evil things to each other to ensure they come out alive.

I’ve written several books about zombie, including fiction (Life After the Undead, Death to the Undead, and Finding Eden) and nonfiction (Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies).

Currently, I’m working on another young adult zombie series, and I’m almost done editing the first book.  

I’m not exactly sure when it will be coming out, but I’m hoping next year. I have a couple other releases that are coming out this year (not zombie books), so I want to give them a chance before releasing another into the world. I will let you know when it’s close!

What’s your favorite zombie book or movie?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

#AtoZ - Dogs & #Zombies - EXceptional Young Adult Fiction

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letters X and Y for EXceptional YA fiction 

The fun of developing a character is then finding new adventures for them to get into.

That's the case with my part-zombie girl Becca from GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

In this case, I had her not only fighting off a few full-zombies, but facing one of her biggest fears - dogs. And how better to do it than have her come face-to-snout with a cute little white German Shepherd puppy. 

When the puppy is lost, Becca has to face that fear and solve a mystery of where other dogs have been disappearing to in "Puppy Love and Zombies" by C.A. Verstraete  in the anthology, Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers.


By C.A. Verstraete
    Most of us had been too busy surviving, and trying to avoid the roaming hordes of ravenous undead, to notice something else was going on.
    Yeah, like the rest wasn't bad enough? It was, but this new thing nearly did what the mutated Z virus didn't already do—kill me.
    The morning started great when my Uncle Franco brought this beautiful, year-old white German Shepherd puppy over for us to meet. Unlike my first dog experience (more on that later), the puppy bounced around, played, barked, and most important, didn't make me afraid.
    Call it love at first lick.
    For once, I forgot all the zombie stuff that had plagued me for the past year. I threw a ball and laughed at how she ran and brought it right back. “Ooh, she’s so cute and smart! I’m going to call her Fluffy! Is she mine? Can I keep her, can I?”
    I begged and begged, though I knew my Tia (Spanish for Auntie) Imelda already loved her as much as I did. Then we heard the yells outside. My uncle's cries of “look out!” came too late. My cousin Carm opened the door and jumped back at sight of the chaos in front of our house. Our neighbor Mr. Thompson screamed, “go back in, shut the door!” as two of the zombies came at him.
    In the last few months, most of the full Zs had been rounded up and exterminated, but a few wanderers like these kept us on our toes—at least they should’ve. My uncle grabbed his gun and fired at the monsters. The excitement was too much—the puppy panicked and pulled out of her collar. I screamed as she darted out the door and ran off in the opposite direction.
    “NO-NO!” I yelled and tried to catch her, but she was gone. I would've followed if not for the strong arms of my cousin and aunt holding me back.
    “No, Becca honey, let her go,” Tia implored. “She'll come back or someone will find her.”
    “No, she won't,” I cried. “She won't!”
    And she didn't.
My aunt's friend Amelia from down the street stopped by later and let us know my suspicions had some truth to them. As a nurse, she had a way of hearing what was going on in the community.
   “Sure glad they got those creatures.” She gave a mock shiver. “The National Guard’s been doin’ a fine job of watching out for stragglers, so I can’t imagine how those two made it into town.”
   I shrugged and tried to be polite, but my heart wasn’t in it.
   Amelia reached out and patted my chin. “Oh sweetie, I wanted to see how you're doing. I saw that cute little dog of yours run by my house. I tried to stop her, but couldn't catch her.”
   She paused for a minute. The concerned look on her face did make me pay attention. Amelia was a sweet, caring lady, who also told us when she heard something we should know about. What made her even more special to me was that of all the people in our neighborhood, she’d been the only one who welcomed me back home after I’d been infected. She treated me the same as always, like she was my aunt.
   “Amelia? Is something wrong?”

   The older woman paused a second, then leaned in, and looked me straight in the eye. “At first I didn’t think much of it, but now, well, I’m not so sure. Two of my other neighbors' dogs are missing, too. One ran off and never came back. He told me his dog never went further than the house next door before this zombie thing hit. My other neighbor said her dog was in the yard and when she went to call her in, the dog was gone, and the gates were still locked.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lizzie Borden #Zombie Hunter #1LineWed - The Beginning

Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is my new book coming out this summer/fall.

For #1LineWed - 1 Line Wednesday - here's how it begins: 

NOTE: There is a historic news paragraph that begins each chapter, as well . 

Chapter One
Q. You saw his face covered with blood?

A. Yes sir. 
(--Lizzie Borden at inquest, August 9-11, 1892, Fall River Courtroom )

August 4, 1892


Lizzie Borden drained the rest of her tea, set down her cup, and listened to the thumps and the sound of furniture moving upstairs. 

And one of the creepier lines:
Then Lizzie spotted it: the worn hatchet Father had left behind after he’d last brought in the newly chopped wood. 


Every city has its secrets…

Everyone thinks Lizzie Borden murdered her father and stepmother one hot August morning in 1892 for the oldest of reasons—greed, social status, frustration… But what if she did it because she had to?

Discovering Mr. and Mrs. Borden have become zombies thrusts Lizzie into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond. Now Lizzie enters the fight, vowing to do everything she can to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown, from this horrid scourge.

But who really killed the Bordens—and why? Lizzie and Emma try to unravel the mystery, even as Lizzie faces the gallows for murder and another fear: what role did her father have in these horrors?

Nowhere in nineteenth-century Fall River is safe from these nightmarish ghouls or the evil forces controlling them.

Yet, for Lizzie, uncovering her city’s—and family’s—secrets may come at a terrible price…

#AtoZ - W is for Wrath #horror

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is W for Wrath

Today we welcome horror author Chantal Noordeloos, who shares how real life inspires her fiction. 

About the Book:
“Fatima Oni never had a chance for a good life. Born into poverty, her hopes of anything better are dashed when she’s given away as a child bride to her abusive uncle. Her days and nights become a living hell on earth, and things grow from bad to worse when Fate rips her children away from her. Can she keep turning the other cheek when faced with the ultimate loss, or will she give in to the wrath that boils inside her and take her fight for retribution to Hell and beyond?” - Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath

By Chantal Noordeloos
What on earth possessed me to start a series about human darkness? I’m not going to lie, the Even Hell Has Standards series will probably be one of the most difficult things I will ever write. Whenever I come up with these stories I cry bitter, ugly tears, curl up in a ball, hugging my own arms, and curse myself for needing to write this. I promise you, my heart is not made of stone, and I take no enjoyment out of tormenting my poor characters.

And yet… they have stories I need to tell. I think with Even Hell Has Standards—more than anything I’ve written so far—I have a point to make. So, I travel into the proverbial depths of Nigeria—from the safety of my computer and imagination—and face the reality that somewhere out there, there’s a girl like Fatima Oni, who leads a life that makes me lose faith in humanity… and I tell her story.

The whole series started with this image I had in my head of Lucifer. I won’t give too much away about his character, I’ll let you read that in the books. Through him I formed my own version of Hell, which inspired me to look into the human horrors. We all—myself included—like to write stories about monsters, ghosts, or even serial killers. I wanted to dig deeper with this series, and touch upon the taboo topics that make us uncomfortable.

The scariest part of my book? Not Hell, or any of the supernatural parts I put in it… but that I’ve based parts of it on reality. The poster I describe in the doctor’s office exists, as do the horrible conditions that some of these child mothers have to deal with. These young women have stories that set the hairs on the back of my neck on end.

My only hope is that despite the bleakness of this novelette, I still manage to entertain. No, that’s not true, it’s not my only hope. I also hope that my writing will ‘touch’ people (in the non-physical sense), and that will make them think. It’s my desire to create stories that the reader can’t just walk away from, but that will mull over in their minds and maybe even change their lives… even if it’s such a small change they barely notice it. I guess I’m just ambitious *wicked grin*

Even Hell HasStandards: Wrath is the second novelette in the series, following Pride. Each story is written as a standalone tale, but they do strengthen each other, and I recommend that if you like one, you read the others too.

* Hear Chantal narrate her excerpt or read it below. 
** Don't forget to comment to win an e-copy of Wrath. Be sure to leave an email to contact you.

Ikenna sounds faint and far away to me. The high tones of my child’s voice are muffled by the rushing sound that throbs in my ears. My heartbeat is fading, and I’m sickly aware of it. I try to lift my arms to console my son. It takes effort to open my cracked, bleeding lips—they’re a mess from when I took a fall, but the pain is nothing compared to that of my shredded abdomen—and I try to tell Ikenna to run, but only a faint rasping escapes my battered mouth.
His ten-year-old arms are so warm against my cooling skin. I feel them even through my numbness and pain. His tears run down my face; I’m hyper aware of every part of him that touches me. There is love in this child, and I need to be a mother to him now, but I can’t. My limbs refuse to move, and I am without words.
Large, dark hands the color of coal grab my son’s shoulders. Everything seems to move in slow motion as the hands pull Ikenna away from me with brutal force. I watch my boy’s arms and legs shoot out toward me—trying to hold on to me—as he’s lifted into the air. His face is filled with fright. All I can do is lie here and watch him being taken away by this man. This monster.
Instead of saving my son, I’ve made him an orphan. The people I tried to rescue him from have won. In the back of my mind, the darkness stirs. I would’ve let it win this time—giving in to the anger and the violence—but I’m dying; I’m too weak to do anything.
My vision blurs as something blocks out the sun. It’s a different man. I recognize him; he’s the one I stabbed earlier. The sleeve of his shirt is torn open. Slick blood covers the fabric and the skin underneath. To my satisfaction, I can see the wound I gave him is a mess of raw meat. Yet it’s not enough to stop him. If only my knife had found his chest or throat instead of his arm... if only I had given in to the rage I had felt at the time… if only I had shown him my wrath, just that once. If only….
Lord, I will forever be your servant, but now I wish I would have broken your rules. My darkness could have saved my son.
The man’s speaking to me, but I can’t concentrate on his words enough to make out everything he says. The world around me seems fluid, and I tread the border between this world and the next like a tightrope dancer. The sounds the man makes morph in and out of words, but I pick up just enough to get the meaning. The hatred and contempt show on his face and flow from his lips. I can almost see myself through his eyes—the bloody heap on the floor. To him, I’m barely human. To him, I’m like a dog that has bitten him; perhaps I’m worth even less. I’m only a woman, after all.
Tears run down my face, not because of what this man is going to do to me—I am not afraid, not anymore—but I cry for my son and my daughter. I cry for the life I wanted to give them but couldn’t. I cry because I failed.
My tears stir a rage in the man, and a heavy boot connects with my jaw. A blinding pain turns my vision black. I feel my teeth break, tearing my gums open. More blood fills my mouth, hot and salty, mixing with my saliva.
Inside, the darkness stirs, rearing its head against the sense of injustice that overwhelms me. I am to die for the sins of another. My death will help no one. It will leave my children doomed. My daughter will be raised by her loveless father, and Ikenna… who knows what will become of him?
I glare at the figure that leans over me. He’s speaking to me still, but I don’t care. The darkness inside is too strong now, and I respond by spitting blood into his face. Bits of my broken teeth bounce off his pockmarked skin. He shouts, kicking me in the face again. Then he takes a step back. I assume to wipe away the blood. My blood.
Within a few seconds, his figure blocks out the sun. He kicks me again, in the ribs this time, and the pain shoots through my body. Ribs crack, muscles tear, skin bruises. He kicks again, and again, but I’m fading, floating away from the torment. I have no more fight left in me; even my inner darkness is being lulled by the agony. All I can do is wish for a swift end.
The man above me lifts his foot and holds it there for a few seconds so I can fully appreciate what he’s going to do to me. I’m not shocked, not after what I’ve seen the men do to women who disobey. I’ve seen worse.
His foot rushes down onto my face. My nose breaks with a wet crunch and an explosion of agony wakes me from my lull, blinding me completely. The bone splinters, ripping through the skin, tearing it open wide. Hot blood bursts out and runs over what is left of my face. The second time his foot comes down, I feel the skin on my cheek and jaw split open, igniting another fire that threatens to overwhelm me. The third time, I feel my skull cave in under the pressure, crushing my brain. My body is dead, but somewhere in the depths of it I still exist. I know, however, it’s time to let go of this life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

#AtoZ - #Horror V is for Vampire

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways! 
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is V for Vampire

Author Margot Justes talks today about delving into the dark side with her vampire novel, Blood Art.

She says the idea came about during a pitch session. " An agent asked if I could write a vampire story, so of course I said yes. I was intrigued by the idea, and wanted to do something totally different."

It was a switch since Justes usually writes romantic suspense with romantic settings like Paris, Bath and Venice, but she decided to try it. 

"Since I've never read any paranormal stuff, I immersed myself in the genre, and started reading both urban fantasy and romance," she says. "The agent wanted art and vampires through the ages, but I did it from the point of view of one vampire, and one masterpiece. I enjoyed it so much, that I’m now writing a sequel "

About the Book:
 Leonardo da Vinci meets master vampire, Nikolai Volkov. The Mona Lisa tormented him in the past, and plays a pivotal part in Nikolai’s life in modern times, when she threatens the woman he loves above all. 
His attempt to destroy her failed, and she hid her essence in a crack in her own portrait. Leonardo da Vinci, the consummate professional, painted over the split in the wooden plank, and  ensnared  her in the painting. Mona Lisa was trapped.

Undetected, no longer corporeal, but pure energy, the evil spirit imprisoned for centuries, obsessed by the vampire she turned, gains strength and plots her ultimate revenge.

Now living in the twenty-first century, Nikolai knows she seeks escape. He must at all cost, protect Devane Redding from the ancient demon, who wants to possess him once again, and destroy his only chance at happiness with the sculptor he loves above all.

Will he succeed in keeping his hard earned freedom? Can he destroy the demon before she destroys his life, and kills the one woman who matters?  Will he even recognize the new corporeal entity that holds her energy? 

** Comment about your favorite vampire and why for a chance to win 1 of 2 ebook copies of Blood Art. Be sure to include an email to contact you.

Excerpt from Chapter One of Blood Art:

Florence, Italy 1503
“I am a vampire, Leonardo.”
“I am well aware of that fact Nikolai, but you have the soul of an artist.”
“I repeat. I am a vampire. And make no mistake—I have no soul.”
As a course for survival, Nikolai lost his soul centuries ago, but there was no reason in belaboring the point. Leonardo da Vinci was entitled to his belief.
Nikolai stood in the middle of the cavernous room and looked around him. Flickering candles cast shadows on the walls. A massive wooden desk was shoved against bare brick, one end piled with old rags coated in deep and rich colors. Leonardo's palette lay on the floor recklessly abandoned, and paint splashes had spilled onto the wooden floor, filling the wide cracks between the boards. A stale oil smell permeated the room; used candles were everywhere, surrounded by mounds of spent wax. A few books were stacked up on the floor against another wall, one on top of the other. An old wooden chair pushed against a corner, stained with crimson paint; the cushion looked like a splash of blood. A tapestry covered the wall where a makeshift straw bed lay on the floor.
“I repeat. You, my dear friend, have the soul of an artist. Vampire or not.”
“I collect art, hence our deep and abiding friendship—all due to your masterful accomplishments. I have no other such talents. At least, other than being eternal, ageless, and have an uncanny ability to amass a fortune at every opportunity. Typical vampire standards; anything I want, when I want, and how I want. Staying alive for eons does allow one to become complacent. Despite the danger, eternal existence does permit certain pleasures. And for me, the building of a sizable art collection is most gratifying, and a venture which I intend to continue through the ages.” The brusque, low voice was mesmerizing in its intensity, and hid any emotion, any visible trace of anguish. He simply stated these facts as if they were nothing, and common.
Nikolai Volkov watched as Leonardo picked up burned out candles and stray brushes he had left everywhere.
“Nikolai, you support artists that are being ignored, ridiculed. You redeem us. You recognize ageless talent. I am egotistical enough to say that in the coming centuries I will survive through my art.”
“Of that I have no doubt. Again, that is why I collect your paintings; your drawings alone are incomparable. I know you will survive. And you will increase my wealth substantially.” Nikolai turned and looked at the various paintings leaning against one of the stone walls. In the corner canvases were stacked in no particular order, and next to them wooden planks.
Leonardo's studio was plain, utilitarian, and filled with finished and unfinished works of art, all of which Nikolai coveted and wanted to own. Possess.
“Yes, I am sure I will survive, but only through my art. You have and will continue to survive through other means. Ones I do not wish to think about.”
“I have paid dearly for my survival.” Nikolai touched his cheek, feeling the ridge of the deep scar on his face. That attack had been particularly brutal. The cut went all the way to the bone, and not allowed to heal. Lucrezia Borgia told him it would mar his stunning beauty and further bind him to her, both physically and emotionally. She was wrong on both counts. He considered the scar his badge of courage and tenacity.
His surreal beauty, as she had once described it, now marred by that one scar. A reminder of torture. A memory not to be forgotten. Vampires do not scar, yet that one single scar on his body remained, as if an omen of things yet to come. Centuries of memories all held within that singular ridged cut on his face that slashed down to his very soul. The one he claimed not to have.
He was tall, over six-foot-three, with hair black as night. His eyes were as blue as sapphires and frigid as the Arctic ice. Nikolai was built hard, like Michelangelo's David, and just as cold.
The lethal combination fostered first and foremost fear from man and demon alike. And admiration, from women. All women. He never lacked for company. Yet, they all left him unsatisfied, and yearning for something he didn’t understand.
“Leonardo, will you paint a portrait for me?” Nikolai spoke quietly, staring at a painting stacked against a wall, his back to Leonardo.
“No. Not me.” Nikolai replied, his bleak smile was more of a grimace that did not reach his eyes. “This will be from memory. My memory.”
“Does she mean something to you? I assume you are speaking of a woman.”
“Yes, I was. And yes, she meant something to me.” He ran his finger along the jagged scar.
“Ah, I see. I gather she was not a pleasant memory.”
“You gather correctly.”
“I will do it for you. Tell me everything you know about her. Every single memory. Every movement. Everything you remember. Give me a perfect description of the mysterious woman. It will be my gift to you.”
“I do not wish to keep the painting.” Nikolai visibly shuddered at the thought. “You may do with it what you will. Burn it in hell for all I care.” His reply was savage.
“I see.” Leonardo replied thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. “Why do you want me to paint it?”
“To exorcise a demon. One among many.”
“Do you wish to discuss it, my friend?”
“No. Just paint the damn thing. You will be well paid.”
“No,” Leonardo replied vehemently, shaking his hand in the air. “There will be no money changing hands. I will paint it. I will not burn it; I will sell it. I do have a payment to demand of you. Once I am done, I expect to hear why I painted it. That is my demand. Do you agree?”
“Yes, damn you. I will agree to your terms. Your absurd demand.” 
--- Get Blood Art for the rest of chapter one.
** Don't forget to comment for the contest! Include an email to contact you.

Monday, April 25, 2016

#AtoZ - U is for Undead Obsessed

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letter U for Undead Obsessed

I am obsessed with zombies/the undead, and I have been since the first time I watched Night of the Living Dead. I was in junior high, and it didn’t scare me like other horror films I’d seen, but it left me with an unsettled feeling—and I loved it!

But zombies aren’t the only undead creatures I’m obsessed with. There are others—lots and lots of others.

I’m also a huge fan of slasher films. Freddy, Jason, and Mike all fit into the “undead” category because, technically, they aren’t exactly alive. And they sure as hell can’t be killed. Do you know how many films there are in these franchises? A lot! But I’m not complaining. I find them incredibly enjoyable and love to watch them.

And don’t forget about vampires. Again, undead creatures. I remember watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula and falling in love with Gary Oldman. Oh, he was amazing as Dracula. Then there was Interview with the Vampire. I think my favorite part about vampire films is how sophisticated the creatures try to be, even though they are damned, murderous monsters. I just love how these films blur the line between good and evil and make the audience questions who they should feel sorry for.

But that’s true for all horror movies that I watch. It’s supposed to be clear-cut who is the villain and who is the hero, but that’s not often the case. In slasher films, audiences find themselves seeing the world through the eyes of the killer—and sympathizing with them! In zombie films, it’s never really clear who the real killers are. Sure, zombies have destroyed the world and eat the humans, but their motives are clear. The humans are the ones who are devious and underhanded. Who’s the real monster there, huh?

You can also include movies about hauntings in this category because, well, ghosts are undead. This isn’t one of my favorite genres of film, however, but I know there are people out there who dig it. And that’s totally cool!

Who are your favorite undead creatures?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

#AtoZ - T is for Trust No One #zombies

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letter T for Trust No One

From Chapter 14 of my book Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies:

IF ZOMBIE FILMS HAVE SHOWN US ANYTHING, it’s that a zombie uprising would be swift and devastating. We would be caught unprepared, and most of us would either die or become the living dead. Civilization and life as we know it would come to a crashing halt, and those of us that are left would be standing there with our mouths open trying to figure out what happened. Survival is all that matters, and we would have to do whatever it took to make sure humans don’t become extinct.

Scientists are often to blame for the dead rising to consume the living, whether they are created by something from space or pathogens or an experimental serum. Scientists may be the cause, but they are definitely not the cure. Scientists can’t figure out how to rid the world of zombies, so they become useless. If they can’t help in the zombie apocalypse, then the next logical place to turn to is the military. After all, they are trained for situations like this—maybe not for zombies exactly, but other high-stress destructive situations—and they have weapons. But as many films show, the military is just as ineffective as science against the undead horde. They often become power hungry and corrupt. As Chapter 7 points out, the military has also had a part in the rise of zombies through the creation of biological weapons.

What zombie films do is take our trust in authority figures—science, the military, and the government—and twists it to show how degenerate these entities can be. They remind us that these factions are created and run by humans, so they are fallible and open to corruption. But the other thing zombie films point out is the determination and survivability of common folk. They show that formal training isn’t necessary when it comes to defeating the undead, but a little common sense and the ability to work with others goes a long way in ensuring the human race doesn’t go extinct.

It is abundantly clear in zombie films that the authority figures can’t be trusted. They are either the cause of or are completely ineffective at ridding the world of the undead threat. They are often power hungry and willing to do whatever it takes to be in control of everything. What this all boils down to is that humans are their own worst enemies. The system breaks down once zombies have risen. There is no more government or military, so why are we still fighting with each other like there is? Surviving should be the only thing that matters, but we can’t let go of our petty issues with other humans. We see an opening to “make things better for ourselves” and we jump to take it, not caring if we step on others in the process to achieve that goal.

This notion is apparent in every zombie film, including those where the zombies are created by magic. In White Zombie, Legendre turns his enemies into zombies so he can control them. In I Walked with a Zombie, Jessica is turned into a zombie because she was threatening to tear the family apart and needed to be controlled. In The Serpent and the Rainbow, people who oppose the leadership are turned into zombies so they can be controlled. Those with power do what is necessary to stay in control. Just because a zombie is created by other means doesn’t mean the goal of the survivors is different—they still want to be in control.

This notion becomes even more important when the world spins into chaos. Having control of your environment is important to give you a sense of purpose and meaning. If that is gone, how do you make sense of the world? How do you know where you fit in the scheme of things? The survivors in zombie films are attempting to make sense of what is happening and are trying to figure out what their role is in the new world. The problem is that they are using outdated ways of thinking. They are trying to cling to notions that existed in the world before zombies destroyed it, which could mean vying for a position they weren’t allowed to have before, and that generally involves needing to obtain power.

Friday, April 22, 2016

#AtoZ - S is for Strandville #Zombies

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

“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.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#AtoZ - R is for Romance

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letter R for Romance

(Originally published on


It seems counterintuitive. I mean, the whole reason for a zombie novel is for there to be carnage and death and destruction and blood and guts. Zombie novels exist for there to be rotting flesh and people dying horrifically. If zombies have risen, that means it’s the end of the world and the characters should be more concerned with surviving than finding love.

For the most part, I agree with all of this. That’s part of the reason I find zombie books and films so intriguing. It’s mindless. It’s escapism. It’s predictable.

But on the other hand, zombie books and films are so much more than the gore. They show us what it means to be human.

Life After the Undead follows a lot of the same tropes you find in other zombie stories: the undead have risen and destroyed the vast majority of the human population. While they are a huge threat, they aren’t the only ones the survivors need to be afraid of. Other survivors are just as dangerous.

This idea isn’t new. Night of the Living Dead, along with all of Romero’s other films, highlight this notion. Ben and Barbara are content hiding from the zombies in the farmhouse, but then they discover that there are more survivors hiding in the basement. When these folks come upstairs, that’s when things go awry. Mr. Cooper desperately wants the gun that Ben has, and he is willing to fight to get it. All thoughts of working together get thrown out the window (or left on the porch—if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what this means), and this leads to people getting killed.

The Walking Dead excels at showing how corrupt and devious other survivors can be. The zombies are dangerous and have to be avoided, but so do other humans. I mean, they are downright terrifying. At least the zombies are predictable, but the other survivors are devious and conniving and can’t be trusted.

When it comes to zombie stories, most of the time the stories aren’t about the zombies. They are merely the catalyst that thrust the world into chaos. The stories are about how the survivors cope. And more often than not, they don’t cope well. With the world at an end, this brings out the worst in humanity. There’s always a fine line between the zombies and the humans and who the monsters really are.

These are exactly the same types of themes I explore in Life After the Undead. Humans are corrupted and power hungry, and zombies are the reason the characters are in that predicament. There are survivors who take advantage of other survivors for their own gain, and there are those who fight against zombies to ensure survival.

There’s also a romance story.

What? Ewwww! In a zombie story?

I know, it seems weird, right? But there’s a reason I put it in.

First and foremost, we humans are incredibly social creatures. We have a large network of family and friends that we interact with on a daily basis. Because of the internet, we have been able to connect with people all over the world. We may not ever meet them in person, but there’s a relationship there nonetheless.

We don’t thrive well when we don’t have our social connections. Sure, not all of them are healthy or uplifting, but we have to have them. We have to be connected to other humans in one form or another.

Most zombie stories highlight these unhealthy and domineering relationships. They show how destructive and cruel humans can be. In Life After the Undead, this is highlighted by Krista’s relationship with Liet. It’s also embodied in The Families.

These types of relationships are destructive and depressing. Isn’t it enough that zombies have destroyed the world? Why do the humans have to take advantage of others as well?

I strongly believe that not everyone is inherently cruel. I believe that humans have a huge capacity for compassion and empathy, and I try to show that through the good relationships that Krista has. With all the death and destruction, Krista needs to know there are people out there who are still good, that she can have a connection with. And she gets that with Quinn and Pearl.

Krista is tough, strong willed, and completely capable of taking care of herself. She can fight zombies and stand up to her cousin, but she’s also still human. She can’t thrive without connections. Her relationship with Quinn may seem to some to be rushed and without a spark, but it’s honest. She needs someone who can be her equal and her partner, and he fits that bill. As a 17-year-old girl, Krista is still a bit na├»ve when it comes to romance and love—and yes, her world has been turned upside down by the undead—so her relationship might not start and grow the way it would in a non-zombie-infested world, but it’s still important for her humanity.

Relationships are complicated even when zombies aren’t thrown into the mix. And when you’re a teenager, they can be downright confusing. Everyone has different expectations and experiences with love and romance, and not all of them happen like they would in fairy tales. Krista does the best she can with the life she’s been given.

We all expect something different from our zombie stories, and we don’t have to like everything that happens in them. The point of stories is to make us ask questions and to give us the feels—whether those feels are good or bad. When it comes to my zombie stories, I like to explore the question of what it means to be human. And part of my answer is that my characters have to love.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#AtoZ - Q is for Quick #Zombies

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is the letter Q for Quick Zombies

When you think about zombies, do you envision them as quick or slow? Well, if you believe that the creatures are corpses that have risen from the dead, then you probably see them as slow. However, in 2002, that notion was turned completely on its head.

28 Days Later was the first film to introduce the quick zombie, and it changed the course of the genre. Not only did the undead have numbers, now they had the speed to come after the survivors. And that was incredibly scary. The slow zombies were a problem for humans because they had numbers on their side. Now they are quick and outnumber the survivors. Humanity is so screwed.

The quick zombie also drew a line in the sand with purists on one side—those who believe zombies can only be slow. They argued that since zombies are corpses and therefore rotting, there’s no way they would be able to move quickly. Romero’s zombies became the standard that all other creatures were held up to, and deviating from that trope was blasphemy.

Personally, I like both types of zombies. I agree with the corpse argument, but I think the quick zombie gets around that issue because it never really says that the quick zombies are dead. They are simply creatures who have lost their ability to think for themselves and are driven by primal instincts.

If the genre doesn’t evolve and progress, it will be forgotten. Quick zombies were the next step in zombie evolution. Who knows what the next one will be. Intelligence? Romero definitely proposed that idea in his later films...

What type of zombie do you prefer? Quick or slow?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

#AtoZ - P is for Pockets of Darkness #horror

Welcome to the 7th annual A to Z Blog Challenge in April!  
Come back daily for more exciting posts and even some giveaways!
Check out the 1000+ blogs on the list! 

Today is P for Pockets of Darkness

** CONGRATS to Jean for the book being named a Finalist for Best Paperback Original in the 2016 International Thriller Writers Awards ** 

Welcome to multi-published author Jean Rabe, who's talking horror and sharing an excerpt of her latest, Pockets of Darkness. Be afraid. Be very afraid... and be sure to comment for a chance to win a copy of one of her many books! 

Dark Days Ahead

I hadn’t started out to write a horror novel. It was supposed to be light, irreverent urban fantasy. But it kept getting darker.

And darker.

And so I’d inadvertently written a horror novel wrapped in the dress of an urban fantasy. And I’d like to do it again.

I’ve never considered myself a fan of horror fiction, though I read the occasional Stephen King. (Everyone should read the occasional Stephen King.) I’d attended the World Horror Convention once because it was less than a two-hour drive and the guests of honor were Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe, the latter of which became a good friend.

Here’s the beginning of Pockets of Darkness, available from WordFire Press.  (Contains some adult language.)

Yeah, I think I gotta write me another dark book. 

About the Book:

Bridget O’Shea is a mother, a successful business woman, an expert on antiques…and a thief, a damn good one. But when she steals an ancient relic from a Manhattan apartment, she acquires a curse in the form of a Sumerian demon. The demon wants something from Bridget, killing people she cares about to force her cooperation, and it will continue to kill unless she meets its demands. Next in the demon’s sights? Bridget’s teenage son. Bridget must learn to communicate with the demon, divine what it wants, and satisfy it to keep her son alive. But she soon discovers that mollifying a creature from the pits of hell could damn her soul and send the world into chaos. Bridget never wanted to be a hero. That’s for suckers. But now, she has no choice. She has to find a way to best the beast and keep its kin from reemerging, or . . . well, there really isn’t an “or.” She has to win.

Excerpt: Pockets of Darkness 


Elijah rocked back on the heels of his Brunello Cucinelli wingtips. He drew his collar up and fixed his gaze on the weathered sign hanging slightly askew above the door: Don’t Judge a Book . . .
By what? By its cover, the saying went.
His mind replaced the ellipsis with something more fitting: by the neighborhood it’s sold in. This was an abysmal borough, and the buildings—this one in particular—ought to be condemned. The structures were grimy shades of gray, separated here and there by darker charcoal smudges of alleys. Despite the cold wind that deadened his senses he smelled grease and dirt and the biting odor of piss.
Elijah couldn’t remember when, if ever, he’d been in a part of the city so beat down.
A siren’s wail sliced through the air. Always he could hear sirens in the city. It just seemed a little louder here, more desperate. There were other traffic sounds, too, but from beyond his line of sight—the constant shush of tires against pavement oddly snowless for the middle of January, the blat of horns. There’d been only a couple of cars trundling along in this block, more rust than paint, their occupants eyeing him, necks craning as they drifted past. Not a single cab. He’d taken one from Hudson Street, but it dropped him off five blocks to the south. He’d written the address of this bookseller wrong, transposing the first two numbers, and so he’d had to hoof it for a stretch.
Don’t judge a book by the absolute utter dump it sits in, he mused. After several minutes he had made no move to step inside.
Elijah shuddered when three teenagers swaggered past, one purposefully elbowing him to set him off balance.
“’Scuse me,” the youth laughed.
The trio stopped a few doors down and huddled in conversation; the one who’d bumped him had a flat, angry face and gave him a serious up and down. Elijah knew they were talking about him.
With any luck they’d mug him. His appearance practically screamed: Come and get me! Middle-aged white man in a sheepskin-lined overcoat, designer shoes, thick leather briefcase at his side that looked a few decades out of date, but by its bulk promising something interesting inside. He looked down at the briefcase and sneered.
Elijah wore a Rolex. He worked his arm so the coat sleeve came up to show the watch. It was 5:45. According to a placard nailed to the door, the bookseller closed in fifteen minutes.
Please come and get me! he silently begged. Dear, God, let them come and get me.
He’d been mugged a few times this month and emerged with only a handful of stitches and bruises that he’d hid beneath his expensive clothes and that had cleared up quickly. Just last week he tarried at a Brownsville subway stop in the early morning hours when some homeless looking man took the bait and beat him up. Didn’t take the watch, or the briefcase, only his wallet and the virgin wool Armani jacket he’d been wearing at the time.
He didn’t file a report with the police, not then or the times before. The hoods were only after his cash on all those occasions, and he never carried more than a few hundred. No serious damage done, no lingering wounds or scars. Didn’t muggers recognize a Rolex?
He’d tried the ploy again just two nights ago, this time braving one of the subway stops in Washington Heights. Two muscle-bound gang members with matching tats had been intent on taking him up on his unspoken offer: Come and get me. But a cop appeared on the steps, and they veered away. Tired, Elijah had called it a night.
This trio? They might prove his salvation and negate the need to enter the bookseller and shell out a considerable amount of cash. He could weather one more beating, couldn’t he?
“Come and get me you sons of bitches,” he whispered. “Come and fuckin’ get me. Come and take it all, assholes.”

** Comment to win a copy of one of Jean's books. What's your favorite horror character and why?  Be sure to leave an email to contact you.