Friday, October 25, 2013


October is a month of nasties comin' at you. Vampires, ghouls, ghosts, Freddy Kruegar, and the host of pint-sized pixies, princesses, and super heroes invading your neighborhood and pounding on your door. 
And then there are zombies... 
My guest is zombie aficionado and author, Dana Fredsti, who wrote Plague Town about a tough and sexy zombie hunter, Ashley Parker. Ashley is also smart and sassy mouthed--reminds me of a certain author I know. Plague Nation is book number two in the series. 
Dana talks a bit about zombies in movies and history.  

I’m sure most of you probably know at least one, if not more, people like me. You know, the friend you invite to dinner who, instead of appreciating the spectacular view from that big old picture window in your living room, lectures you about the impossibility of boarding it up efficiently when the zombies come. 
Yeah, I’m that person. And it used to be there weren't very many of us; just a relatively small fringe group of people given to eye-balling his or her surroundings at any given moment, planning just what we’d do if the zombie apocalypse should happen to start right then and there.  We were like a small, select club, but instead of a secret handshake we’d all laugh knowingly when someone else said, “Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.” 
Now you can’t turn around without running into zombie savvy civilians.  Over the last few years zombies have taken over publishing, movies, television and pop culture as relentlessly as they've overrun farmhouses and malls in George Romero’s films. Even the CDC has gotten into the rotting, shambling spirit of things.  Some people are proclaiming zombies are the “new vampire” (and if, by “new vampire” they mean zombies are the currently the monster du jour for film and literature, I take their point. I don’t, however, see them taking over as romantic heroes, sparkling or otherwise).  Others state that zombies have already “jumped the shark” and are on their way out, end of story.  Not likely, says I.  People like me have been waiting a long time for enough zombie fodder to satisfy our appetites. 
Not that the concept of a zombie apocalypse is new.  There are references to the flesh eating dead in the Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest surviving work of literature.  And one has only to take a peek at a few choice passages in the bible to see that the dead returning to life is not a new theme.
Throughout history most cultures have had, if not precisely zombies as we've come to define them (i.e. reanimated corpses with a voracious appetite for human flesh), assorted critters close enough for government work: vengeful reanimated corpses called revenants (think Creepshow's  "I want my cake!" segment); nachzehrers and gjengangers (ghouls that feed on corpses, but also attack the living and spread disease); and the Norse draugr (dead Vikings who attack, eat and infect the living). 
Haitian folklore brought us the "zombi" (which translates as "spirit of the dead"), in the form of either an animated corpse or living human controlled by a Bokor (voodoo priest) after being zapped with a nasty toxic powder called "coup poudre." These zombies didn't eat human flesh, but they were still creepy.  Early movies like White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, and the '80s film Serpent and the Rainbow featured this relatively benign incarnation of the walking dead.
George Romero's 1968 release Night of the Living Dead brought us the classic (and now ubiquitous) slow, but relentless flesh-eating zombies. Subsequent films/books/games/television have since brought us more slow zombies; zombies that could win gold medals for sprinting; smart zombies (Day of the Dead); brain-eating zombies (Return of the Living Dead); shark fighting zombies (Zombie Flesh Eaters); funny zombies (Shaun of the Dead/Zombieland); pathetic zombies (Zombie Honeymoon); and sensitive zombies (Fido). And yes, oh well, Summer Blockbuster Zombies that can only be defeated by Brad Pitt.   

Reasons for the zombacalypse range from exploding space probes, biological warfare, demonic possession, tainted meat, mutating viruses/bacterial nasties, biblical prophecy, and more.  And now, thanks to The Walking Dead (AMC) and Dead Set (BBC), zombies have successfully infiltrated network television. 

And I couldn't be more delighted to invite them into my home. :-)

  • How about you? Are you a fan of Zombies? The Walking Dead?

Dana Fredsti

Sequel to the thrilling zombie novel PLAGUE TOWN.

The last thing Ashley Parker wanted when she went to college was to become a zombie hunter. But she is one of a select few who are immune to the virus. Gifted with enhanced speed, strength, and senses, she’s recruited by a shadowy organization that’s existed for centuries, its sole purpose to combat the zombie threat. 

The Zombie Swarm… The undead have been defeated in Redwood Grove, but reports of similar outbreaks are coming in. What seemed to be an isolated event is turning into a pandemic. 

Dark secrets begin to emerge, and when an unknown enemy strikes, Ashley and the other wild cards embark on a desperate mission to reach San Francisco. If they fail, the plague will sweep the nation unchecked. And the person she cares for most may die. Or worse. Excerpt (on Amazon)

"Dana Fredsti has given us something I never thought possible – a hot and steamy version of the zombie siege story...And Plague Nation is exactly what the zombie genre needed." Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Inheritance 


Dana and Pogeen
Dana Fredsti is ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. Through seven plus years of volunteering at the Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center ( in Rosamond, California, Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, been kissed by tigers, held baby jaguars and had her thumb sucked by an ocelot with nursing issues. She’s addicted to bad movies and any book or film, good or bad, which include zombies. Her other hobbies include surfing (badly), collecting beach glass (obsessively), and wine tasting (happily). Her other books include: Plague Town and Plague Nation (Titan Books, 2012 & 2013), touted as Buffy meets the Walking Dead, and a number of spicy genre romances written under the name Inara LaVey. Plague World will be out in April 2014. 

You can find Dana: Website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I was doing some research on L shaped castles and the purpose behind them. Actually, most of them look more like towers, at least the oldest ones, than my idea of a castle. J Scotland has quite a few L shaped castles but they can be found in many locations in the world, Italy, Romania, and of course in England and Ireland,

The L shape was a design for defense. The top of the tower had battlement structures and walkways built up. The walkways allowed clear pathways around the top for soldiers and weapons to be moved in any direction and a clear position to see anything coming in any direction.  The crenellations were designed to give the most protection to the archers and the gaps between were large enough that rocks and other nasty things could be dropped on the enemy below. 

The beauty of the L shape was the ability to defend the entrance door of the tower house by providing cover for the defenders from the adjoining walls. They could lay down covering fire of weaponry. The doors to the tower house were very thick and heavy. It would take a serious effort to break through the barred entrance door. The walls were very thick—some were 14 feet thick—and better able to handle catapults and cannon fire. Aside from the cannon fire the walls needed to be thick to support a tall defensive tower. Protective stone walls were often built around tower houses for added defense and offer protection to the lord's men, horses, and whatever supportive industries needed to operate the castle. The population within those walls would rival many small towns of today.  Most castles were built on high ground and some with their backs near cliffs with the ocean below. This was an added protection.

One of best views of one of these old L shape keeps is, Gleninagh castle, in Ireland. Quite impressive, actually.

Most L shaped castles were built between the 13th and 17th century and then a curious thing began to happen as things began to move from feudal kingdom life and a more secure countryside under a central ruling monarch. The barons began to ‘modernize’ them. Oh, they maintained the strong defensive structure—some kings weren’t exactly trustworthy, think King John—but they also became more manor like. More of a home and less a strictly a defense structure and this became more pronounced as the years went by.

In the 13th through the 15th centuries no self-respecting warrior laird would allow anything more than window slits anywhere on the ground floors and if there were larger window openings they were on the upper floors. Glass windows weren't common for many years. Nice solid strong wood shutters easy to shut and bar. A laird concerned with defense had no forests fancy landscaping near the outer walls—too easy for invaders to hide. Land was cleared to a good distance so there was a clear view of the surrounding area. Any gardens or flowers were in designated areas enclosed within defensive walled area.

By the late 1700’s and 1800’s many of these old L shaped castles became impressive manors. A good example of an L shaped castle so remodeled is Muchalls Castle. You can still clearly see the original L shape but no defensive tower in the center, although there is an indication when looking at the foundations that there once was one.

Another impressive castle that went through 15 years of modernization is Culzean castle. It once was a fortified L shaped tower house. In 1762 the current Earl of Cassilis decided to renovate it and make it more comfortable. He employed a young Robert Adams to update it.

Today you would have to look long and hard to see it as an L shaped Tower house. But the tale of its transformation to one of Scotland’s best-loved castles is a story for another time.

  • I can’t help but wonder, if the original lords could see their castles now, what would they think? 

Monday, October 21, 2013


Its one of those dancing with Murphy's Law days...

Isn't it funny how the value of things change through the years?

I've always had a fascination for gemstones. Aside from the sheer beauty of the stones was the metaphysical properties assigned to them both by ancient cultures and the resurgence of those beliefs in modern times. Precious gemstones have always been used in both in secular and religious rituals—Christian and pagan.

Ancients placed great value on stones that today aren't so valued. Amethyst and red sardonyx is two such gems.

Purple Sapphire
Amethyst Quartz
For instance, amethyst was highly prized and up until the 18th century amethyst was included in with the most valuable cardinal gemstones. Cardinal stones include diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Today, amethyst is relatively inexpensive, in part, because of the discovery of rich deposits of the stones in Brazil, Zambia (two of the largest producers), Austria and even here in the states. This availability relegated the amethyst quartz from precious to semi-precious category.

In ancient times there were two different types of amethyst, occidental (quartz) and oriental (sapphire). Orient amethyst is a form or a species of the sapphire family and when in the clear form (colorless) is almost indistinguishable from a diamond both in hardness and brilliance. Today the term Oriental amethyst is an illegal term among gem dealers in many countries. Instead these are considered a purple variety of sapphire.

Engraved Amethyst
Engraved Sardonyx
The other form in ancient times was from the western world and quartz family. It’s softer and has been used to make engraved jewelry and pendants. Quartz amethyst was also used to make drinking cups, wine goblets and chalices, many intricately engraved and popular because it was thought to prevent or be an antidote to drunkenness. J

Red sardonyx, or red onyx was highly prized by ancients in Egypt as well as in Rome.  Today we think of the more common black onyx but it comes in quite a variety of colors from black to reddish brown, orange, and red. This is chalcedony quartz. In ancient times it was used as a talisman of protection against evil and harm. Pieces of sardonyx were placed above doors and windows and in all four corners of the house as a grid of protection. Finding red sardonyx in large pieces was rare and hence the precious gem aspect. In fact, there is a sardonyx chalice in the National

Museum of Natural History in Washington DC that dates back to 100 BC from Egypt. Allegedly, the cup is cut from one piece of sardonyx. A Benedictine monk acquired it 1100 years later and had his goldsmiths add silver and gold to the chalice. It was used to hold sacramental wine for mass.

Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II
In Roman times soldiers carried sardonyx and their pieces were often lavishly carved with gods, goddesses, emperors, and heroes such as Aries and Hercules, to make them fearless in war and
Goddess Minerva-Roman Times
protect them from harm. Some were carved from other less expensive colors of onyx. 
(Drawing of a Roman cameo w/God of War.)

Purple Sapphires
Today, red sardonyx, like the amethyst, is relatively inexpensive.

I’m thinking if there were time travel either gem would be a good currency to have with you when traveling to the ancient world. J