Friday, November 26, 2010

Zombies And Romance?

I'll be frank; I'm not a zombie fan. I have never seen the allure of zombies. My husband loves them and is a faithful watcher of the new series, The Walking Dead. My son thinks they're on the cool list somewhere after Werewolves (which are his favorite things in his quest to find things to scare the crap out of him). They both love things that go bump in the night, the scarier the better. Me? I don’t like things that go bump in the night unless I’m armed and with a BIG snarling dog at my side, and it’s not going to go bump, it’s gonna go thump and splat. I'd rather avoid anything that wants to jump you at night, screams, rips, tears, and do anything else horror filled. Yep, I'm an oddity in my own home.

I do have friends that love anything zombie. My friend and guest, Dana Fredsti, is one of the zombie enthralled (she is also enchanted with felines which is a saving grace, lol!). Dana is a very talented writer and I totally love her sense of humor and I’ve read most of her work. I was excited for her when she told me she was asked to write a zombie themed romance book. Cheered when she got it written and did all the edits and rewrites, gushed when I saw the cover--because it really is a great cover, said yes, when she wanted to visit OVER COFFEE with it.

What should she talk about? Tell me why you were excited about writing a zombie romance—which seems to be a misnomer to me—and what drew you to write this book?

And by the way? I have and am reading book one, of the Zombie Hunter series, Plague On All Houses. Just don’t tell my guys. :-)

When Sia invited me to be her guest (okay, when I begged Sia to let me come play on Over Coffee to promote my latest book), I asked if there was any particular topic she thought would be fun for me to address in my post. She wanted to know why this particular book. As in what made me write it? Zombies and romance don't exactly go together (at least, most people don't think so). They lack the romance of vampires or even werewolves. Heck, zombies probably rank below trolls when it comes to sex-appeal when you consider the zombies at the forefront of public awareness are the shambling, rotting, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls originally created by George (all hail!) Romero and now brought to us on AMC with The Walking Dead.

Hungry for Your Love, a wonderfully creepy and sexy anthology edited by Lori Perkins, presented the zombie/romance combo in a variety of ways, depending on the taste of the contributing authors. Some stories feature love between zombies, with and without rotting body parts. Others show love blossoming amongst the zombacalypse, the things people do for love in times of great danger. My story, FIRST DATE, was an object lesson that real life events, such as a zombie outbreak (yes, I typed that with a straight face), are a better barometer for mutual compatibility than things like E-Harmony. Another writer friend of mine has a an erotic romance with a zombie hero and yes, she managed to make her leading man sexy despite the face he needs to eat brains to survive. My main quibble with the book, in fact, is I'm a zombie purist who knows the walking dead eat all the tasty bits, not just brains. Return of the Living Dead, while one of my favorite comedic horror movies, has the whole brain fixation to answer for, along with (ugh) fast zombies.

But let's just take away my zombie-mythos soapbox right here and get back to the question at hand: Why a romance with zombies?

Well, let's consider my very first date movie was the original Dawn of the Dead. Then let's admit it had nothing to do with my writing this book other than the fact I just fell in love with the whole flesh-eating ghoul mythos and have happily devoured (I'll let you decide if the pun was intended) any book or movie on the subject ever since. There wasn't a lot to choose from for many years until the success of the remake of Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland made zombies popular in a way they haven't been ... well... ever before. I know a lot of people are grumbling about the glut of zombies these days, but for someone like me who is heartily sick of angsty vampires, I say bring on the rotting goodness! So, btw, does Lori Perkins. Which brings me to how I happened to write this particular book.

On the phone with Lori sometime in the spring of 2009:

Lori: Dana, I want you to write me Buffy, but with zombies. Name the heroine Ashley.

Me: Cool! Okay!

Yes, it really was as simple as that. Lori had an idea as well as an appreciation for the finer things in life (zombies), knew I was familiar with pop culture and had a sense of humor in my writing, and that I was a tad zombie obsessed. She threw the idea to me, I ran with it, expanded on it, and created something I hope is unique amongst the now plentiful offerings in zombie literature (yes, I typed that with a straight face), and that will appeal to not only urban fantasy/paranormal romance fans (not to mention Buffyphiles), but to hardcore zombie fans as well. And as a disclaimer: the romance is between two humans. More or less. Heh.

Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter: A Plague on All Houses

Ashley Drake is just a pretty northern California co-ed with a love/hate crush on the strong-jawed, golden-haired Gabriel, her frustratingly handsome teaching assistant. But neither are what they appear to be...

In the space of one day the world has gone topsy-turvy. A viral outbreak is bringing the dead to life. Ashley discovers strength and abilities she never dreamed she had when she becomes drawn into the struggle against the walking dead as part of an elite zombie hunting unit. Her new squad leader? Gabriel, who is shouldering more than a few secrets of his own. Between fighting with zombies and fighting with Gabriel, Ashley is about to learn the true meaning of drop-dead gorgeous.  Excerpt  Excerpt #2 (not for the faint of heart)

Dana Fredsti is ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. Through her volunteer work at the Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center, Dana's had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, kissed by tigers and licked by jaguars. She's written numerous published articles, essays, short stories, screenplays, and two non-fiction books with Cynthia Gentry. She has a sequel in the works to her mystery, Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon (Rock Publishing, 2007).  Under the nom de plume Inara LaVey, she has five stories and two novels published by Ravenous Romance.

MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock Inc, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint)
ASHLEY DRAKE, ZOMBIE HUNTER: A Plague on All Houses (Ravenous Romance)
RIPPING THE BODICE, CHAMPAGNE (Ravenous Romance, as Inara LaVey)
WHAT WOMEN REALLY WANT IN BED (Quiver Press, with Cynthia Gentry)
Member, Sisters in Crime (National & NorCal Chapters)
President, SinC NorCal

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


With the holidays upon us I will be posting a short story during Thanksgiving Day and during Christmas week I will also be posting a story a day from various writers.

The story today is written by my friend, Beth Hill. She writes stories with a lot of emotional impact and I thoroughly enjoy reading her short stories. I hope you will too.

Gentle. Her hands were so gentle as she bathed him. Washing days-old, weeks-old, grime from his body. Washing, too, the burdens he’d carried for nearly sixty years. The pains of his broken body. The anguish of his brilliant mind.

She never spoke. Never whispered. Never cried.

She turned him gently, lifted his fingers, his hands, his arms. Leaving no part untouched or unwashed. She gave his body the attention he’d not allowed her in life. Not because he’d minded the attention. But because he was never with her long enough to satisfy her curiosity, her need to discover the himness of him.

I helped her move him, though his weight was less than I expected. He’d always seemed a big man to me. But that was mere memory from a child’s eyes. Though great in reputation, he was an ordinary man in build.

And yet, she treated him as if he were large in every way. To her, perhaps he was. A giant of a man in her world. A giant she’d never fully known. A giant she’d had to give up way too soon.

We dressed him in his uniform. She would have wanted to do it without my help, but she was a realist. We worked in silent unison, making sure he was perfectly turned out for his final appearance.

Other officers would pass by, looking at him, wondering what had made him the leader he was. Subordinates would salute, admiring his courage one last time. The President would offer his respects.

He wouldn’t accept looking anything less than faultless.

And she would stand by his side the while, doing her duty as he’d done his for so many years.

And no one would know the grief that had racked her when she’d finally faced it. Faced that he was gone. Faced the pitiless truth that an unseen enemy had sneaked past his defenses, had set up camp within his body, had destroyed him from within while he’d been so ably defending his country in a desert far from home and from her.

I watched as my mother brushed the hair from his brow one final time. As she kissed his lips, gently. So gently. As she closed her eyes while the attendants arranged him in the casket.

I tried to be thankful, this last week of November. Tried to list the blessings of having had this man as my example, my mentor, my friend.

But I’d lost the ability to thank God for anything this week.

I’d remember to be thankful again. Soon. But for today, today I would grieve as only a son can. Today I would stand before a grateful nation and accept their condolences.

Today I would speak the words that showed the world what I thought of my father.

Words he’d never hear.

Words I should have told him last week and last year and all the weeks and years before.

Words of thanksgiving that needed no holiday to be spoken.

She slipped her hand into mine. And squeezed. Gently.

“He knew, Thomas,” she said. “He always knew.” Her fingertips brushed the casket as the men rolled it past. Then she lifted her face to mine. “Our love was his strength. It freed him to be the man he was destined to be, fueled his steps and his thoughts and his dreams. He loved me. He admired you. And now we say our public goodbyes. As is fitting for his family.”

“Mom . . . ”

She shook her head. And released my hand.

And we followed his lead, though once again we could not follow him into battle. He would go first, as was his way. And we’d remain behind. But we wouldn’t forget. We’d never forgotten him while he was away.

I’d live as he’d taught me to, with honor and strength. And I’d think of him where he was, no longer in a desert, but in a strange land nonetheless. And soon I’d be smiling, imagining what he was doing. Just as I’d done as a child picturing him in foreign places.

And I’d be thankful for having known him, for having been touched by him, for having been loved by him.

Not always gently, but well and completely.

And I would ask God to watch over him there in his final duty station, knowing that He would. That He would make sure he knew I loved him. Knew I would be the man he raised me to be. That I would be the legacy he deserved.

That I would love fiercely.

Act wisely.

And walk boldly into both battle and peace. As he had taught me.

As he had done.


Beth Hill is a Freelance fiction editor. She loves the written word, the ability we have to create worlds and emotions with well-chosen phrases. Beth is firmly convinced that all writers can touch their readers, that they can craft marvelous stories to entertain and satisfy those readers. The articles at The Editor’s Blog are intended to help writers create the best stories they can, no matter where they are on their career path.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Reluctant Trailblazer

My guest is woman’s fiction author, Jenyfer Matthews. She has also written three contemporary romance novels, published through Cerridwen Press.

Jenyfer is an American currently live in Cairo, Egypt, by way of too many places to name. Over the years Jenyfer has been a retail clerk, a department store model, a receptionist, a teacher, a freelance newspaper columnist, a librarian, a quilter, and a full-time mother.

Considering the brouhaha between traditional publishing and non-traditional, Jenyfer has some rather well thought out reasons for going non-traditional.

I never set out to be a trailblazer in the publishing world, but I published my first three books digitally, back before e-books were cool. It seemed like a sensible idea at the time – especially since I live in a part of the world where traditional bookstores are meh at best. I don’t think that e-books will ever truly replace paperbacks, but I love the instant gratification of being able to get books online and since I travel frequently, having multiple books available to me in one small device is hugely attractive as well.

Now I’m blazing another trail in the self-publishing world. I didn’t make the decision to self-publish lightly. I went through the traditional process of querying agents and publishers first, but I was doing it at a time when the economy was in the first stages of the melt-down. Agents weren’t taking on many new projects because publishers weren’t taking on so many new projects. I heard a lot of, this is a book I would have taken a few years ago but... In the end I had enough faith in my book to take the leap and do it myself. What did I have to lose? It wasn’t giving me any satisfaction hidden away on my hard drive.

There are up sides to self-publishing: no deadlines, no genre restrictions, no word count worries. However, there is a lot of responsibility too: writing, revising, editing, cover design, proofing and copy editing. Did I mention editing? For better or for worse, independently published books are judged more harshly than traditionally published books. If you're lucky you have a good critique partner, but if there are mistakes and problems with the book it still all comes back to you.

Editing and proofing are tedious processes, no doubt about it, but I suffer from another problem: the desire to endlessly revise. Maybe it’s just a word here and there, perhaps a few lines. It’s so easy to do when it’s primarily digital and you have all the power. It’s not even that hard to make changes when the book is available in print-on-demand form – all you have to do is upload a new file. Poof! Done. It’s hard enough to resist the urge to endlessly revise when it’s a new book you’ve put out there and you notice a typo. Now imagine the temptation when you get the rights to your backlist back…

I’m getting the rights back to my first three romance books on Christmas Eve. Best. Present. Ever. It’s entirely possible I’m a bit of a control freak, but I’m truly looking forward to re-releasing them myself at much more reasonable prices. The problem? The temptation to “fix” them.

My first book was published nearly four years ago and written a few years before that. In that time I’d like to think that I’ve grown as a writer and that I’m better now than I was then. The question then is, how much should you tinker with a book that’s already been published? All of the books have received good reviews so apparently readers like them as they are. Other than updating things a bit – the hero in my first book is a corporate lawyer with neither a laptop nor a Blackberry for goodness sake! – maybe I should just leave well enough alone?

As the author and now the publisher both, I have the ultimate decision making power. I’m doing my best not to let it go to my head or to paralyze me. My *plan* is to format, proof, and perhaps update those three books a bit and then leave them alone. I hope the perfectionist in me will cooperate.

I have other stories to write after all.


Sometimes running away is the first step toward finding yourself...

Aurora has spent her entire married life transforming herself from a regular, middle class girl into the perfect society wife. Life seems perfect until she is unceremoniously dumped by her philandering cliche’ of a husband just before Christmas – and their tenth wedding anniversary.

Devastated and unable to face the social ostracism or the holiday parties, Aurora and her best friend Kat plan a trip to Amsterdam for a weekend…then decide to keep going. Aurora attempts to drown her sorrows with wine in Amsterdam and Frankfurt, finds her anger in Athens and Cairo, and reclaims her sexuality in Dubai. By the time she and Kat reach Bangkok at the New Year, Aurora is ready and eager to move on with her life.

Planned as a way to escape her pain, Aurora’s travels instead become a journey to a new sense of self and a whole new world – post-divorce. Excerpt
Buy: Amazon (kindle or paperback) and Smashwords (distributes to Apple, Sony and Diesel, etc)


Jenyfer Matthews writes books for fun. She is an American currently living in Cairo, Egypt. Aside from writing, she's married, a mom of two under ten, a decent (if reluctant) cook, an encyclopedia of random scientific / medical facts, a wine lover (but not a snob!), and a Capricorn. She loves to travel, spend time with good friends, and laugh at life's surprises. View of life - definitely half full.

You can visit her blog, Writing News & Disconnected Thoughts and her Website.