First Post of 2013

It’s a new year and while I haven’t actually made any resolutions, I have been meaning to write more blog posts instead of relying solely on Facebook for getting my face/writing out there. Honestly, Facebook makes me lazy. By posting the following article, I’m still being a bit lazy since this is an article I wrote last year for Horror Talk when promoting Plague Town. Thing is, I can’t find a link for the published article so I’m not sure if it ever went out or not. So… by way of starting off my blog with something substantial (instead of, say, a cute kitty picture), I’m gonna post it here. If you have already read it and saw the original article… er… send me a link? Thanks!

I was asked to write an article about my experiences as a female in a male-dominated genre (i.e. horror) and my perspectives on females in the horror genre, both as a novelist and as someone who has worked in the film industry. My initial reaction was pretty much “huh?” because over the last year or so working on Plague Town with my awesome-with-awesome-sauce editor at Titan, Steve Saffel, I have received nothing but support for my kick-ass female protagonist, Ashley Parker. The marketing/publicity team at Titan only confirmed the warm fuzzy glow of acceptance, not to mention (but I have to mention it) established horror authors such as Ray Garton and Jonathan Maberry endorsing the book and treating me like a peer instead of a female trying to storm their sacred man-cave (a quintessential men’s club with lots of dark wood, leather and copious decanters of booze scattered about) of horror writing’

I have been lucky enough so far not to have gotten an avuncular pat on the shoulder accompanied by “Don’t you worry your purty little head about trying to write scary stuff, ma’am. Leave that up to us brave menfolk!” Just because I haven’t experienced it, however, doesn’t mean it didn’t – and doesn’t – exist. Although I’m a long time horror addict, having become addicted to scary movies, books and stories at a very young age, I did not try to write seriously in the genre until the last couple of years. There are many awesome female horror authors who’ve paved the way before me who could probably tell you some horrific tales of their own experiences trying to break into horror and not being taken seriously. And my book straddles the genre world between urban fantasy and horror, the former which has seen a hell of a lot of strong female protagonists and authors.

The mystery genre has certainly favored men over the years, to the point where a group of female authors, sick of not being taken seriously in their genre, started Sisters in Crime as an alternative to the Mystery Writers of America after feeling MWA dismissed their concerns. SinC’s original mission statement was: “To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries.” Their revised mission statement as of 2008 is: “The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.” A slightly more optimistic statement, but it does still reflect a need to help women achieve equality. I imagine it’s much the same in the world of horror publishing.

And certainly male authors get taken a lot more seriously, regardless of genre, when it comes to attention and reviews. Just some of the stats (these taken from a Feb. 2011 article from the Guardian in the U.K.): “In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women).”

But enough of the literary world. Let’s talk about the film industry and fandom for a bit.
As a young female horror/sci-fi/fantasy fan who attended conventions, I definitely fit into the stereotype of “sexy warrior woman.” I was a fantasy goddess for the geek world, prancing around in my thigh high boots and Buffy the Barbarian leather warrior gal outfit (my character was named well before that vampire slayer was created, btw. We’re talking in the days when ComicCon was small). I sword-fought, I was pretty (although you couldn’t have told me that back in the day), and I rocked those thigh-high boots. I was happy to play my role because that was who I was at the time. After all, it was a pretty fun role to play. My saving grace was being a nice person who genuinely liked people, as much as I enjoyed the whole Red Sonja-esque identity
When I got into the film industry, I discovered looks definitely played a bigger role than talent in the low-budget sector. Boob size had started to become more important , and more and more actresses were getting their A and B cups blown up to C’s and D’s. And can I just point out the irony that when we’re measuring intelligence and academic accomplishment, A’s and B’s are a good thing? Just sayin’…
The most blatant stereotype I personally encountered was the notion that somehow blond equals good while brunette equals bad. This particular stereotype actually goes back centuries; it’s something that always bugged me in the Grimm Fairy Tales. I starred in a remarkably bad low-budget film called Princess Warrior as the evil princess Curette, warring for the Ring of Power with my blond and good sister Ovule (I did not write the script and am therefore not responsible for the names). If you were a blond in this film and playing a bad guy, the hair had to be teased into evil secretary hair to differentiate between the smooth haired good girls. Good girls wore pink lipstick. Bad girls wore red. Ovule was a pure virgin, with an honest-to-goodness “Kiss? What is this kiss you speak of?” moment written into the movie. Curette was an ass-kicking slut who liked to sleep with blue-lipped slave boys and then send them off to the mines when they failed to satisfy her. In other words, female characters penned with broad and unimaginative strokes.

When I watch films, I get sick of women being relegated to the roles of supportive spouse/girlfriend, nurturing mother, bitchy ex or someone for the hero to rescue. Yes, I’m thinking of INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2012 while I write this. If you can think of one female character in those movies that actually plays a vital and important role in saving the world, I’d like to hear about it because I sure can’t. I once got in an argument with a co-worker who insisted that Vivica Fox’s character in INDEPENDENCE DAY had to be a stripper because it meant she had “really strong leg muscles so she could kick open that door at the underpass and save her son and the family dog.” My suggestion that she be a runner or ballet dancer did not compute.

From a marketing perspective, this seems pretty stupid. There are tons of women who would love to see more strong female protagonists in books and films. The fact that Ripley is such a popular character in the ALIEN movies, along with the growing number of urban fantasies with kick-ass female characters, should give producers and publishers a hint. And consider the fact that the character of Ripley was originally written as a man, which explains why there were no hints of broad-stroke feminine stereotyping there. Sigourney Weaver took that part and made it her own (I was gonna say “made it her bitch,” but considering the topic of this post it seemed inappropriate), creating one of the best female protagonists to date. James Cameron kept Ripley strong in ALIENS, adding enough of the Momma Lion element to give Ripley yet another facet to her character yet without making her into the nurturing mother stereotype. I like Cameron for this, as well as Sarah Connor’s transformation from demure frightened heroine in TERMINATOR to the force of nature she became in TERMINATOR 2. And while yes, she was out to protect her son, by doing so she would be saving the human race, which is a much larger scope of motivation.

Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with saving a child (I’d be right there doing my best to save cats, dogs, and kids alike), but that’s not the only thing women care about. We are capable of flying alien spacecrafts to deliver computer viruses into a mothership while smoking cigars (although I’d rather eat a chocolate bar) and exchanging pithy dialogue. We don’t always have to – or want to – be the ones dispensing hugs and kisses and “Be careful while you’re saving the world, baby,” dialogue. We can brave frozen wastelands and hungry wolves to find medicine to save our boyfriends or husbands who have an infected leg wound. Not every woman may want to be the hero of the piece, but I guarantee not every woman wants to be a man’s support system 24/7, or validate his every word/move/thought/fart (although I am a sucker for the old “pull my finger” routine).

I like to think things are improving, but films and literature tend to reflect the attitudes of society, and given the current obsession with women’s reproductive rights going on here in the States, who knows what will happen next. I’m voting for more Ripleys!

Cover for Plague Nation (and my first post in, like, forever!)

Ain’t it pretty?

I have been away from my blog for months now, working on publicity for Plague Town, the first in my Ashley Parker series, and then working on the second book, Plague Nation, the cover of which you see before you in all of its eerie glory.  I loved the cover for Plague Town.  This one makes me even happier, what with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and multiple zombies instead of one.

Writing Plague Nation has been challenging.  I have, according to my sister, classic “Second Book Syndrome.”  In other words, my first book has been really well received and gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews, and I’m afraid the second book will suck and no one will like it.  I guess this is relatively normal (the fear issues, not that my second book will necessarily suck!), but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  

So… lots of second-guessing and angsting and agonizing over Every. Single.Word. Also lots of publicity work had to be done for Plague Town, much more than anticipated.  Which was lovely and fun and made me love the Titan marketing team so much that I’d marry all of them, but also took more time than expected.  I am not yet able to write for a living and have a full time day job, and I find I have this annoying need for eight hours of sleep every night in order to be functional at work and tolerable to my fellow human beings.  

Seriously, no one likes me when I’ve gone a few days without adequate sleep.  We’re talking signs against the evil eye and crosses held up to repel me.  It also has meant no spare time for blogging and a brain sucked dry of ideas for posts, like Xander in Starship Troopers.   But things are moving along now and I’m inclined to try and post once a week again and stop being such a whiny little bee-otch ’cause I am writing for an awesome publishing company (love you, Titan!) and I’m getting to write about one of my true loves: zombies!  

So stay tuned for Plague Nation, due out April 9th, 2013!  

Review – The Zombie Tarot Deck

thefool As a longtime fan of both zombies and tarot desks, when asked to review the  Zombie Tarot Deck by Stacey Graham and Paul Kepple, I didn’t have to think  twice before giving a resounding “Yes, please!”, followed by a rather undignified  “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

 I had no idea what to expect from it, but I figured that the equation of zombie  plus tarot had to result, at the very least, in something kind of fun.  What I got  when I received my review copy of the deck from Quirk is one of the coolest,  gorgeous, funny (and yet totally functional) tarot decks I’ve ever seen. To quote  the sell copy on Amazon: 

 “Imagine the celebrated “Rider Deck” infused with the horrors of Night of the  Living Dead, and the result is The Zombie Tarot—a crazy, campy interpretation  of a classic divination system.

 In this zombified parallel universe, wands become limbs, pentacles are biohazard symbols, and the Major Arcana is full of shambling corpses. Along with the 78-card deck, readers will receive instructions in a 96-page full-color book; its contents explain how to survive the zombie apocalypse and forecast your future using one of three different card layouts.” 

A very accurate description, but it still doesn’t convey just how cool, clever and beautifully illustrated this tarot deck is.  The artwork by Paul Kepple is whimsical, retro in style and chock full of in-jokes for the zombie aficionado, all the while still conveying the essence of the tried and true classic tarot suits and numbers.  For instance, the Empress (which signifies a maternal, nurturing feminine force) depicts Helen Cooper from Night of the Living Dead with her daughter turned trowel-wielding matricidal ghoul.  The Fool has a smiling  man in a business suit carrying a funereal wreath and a basket, striding towards a gravestone and a hand thrusting out of the ground just waiting to trip him up.  And the Lovers… well, take a look below.  theempress

The text is equally clever, combining the classic interpretations with specifics to help the reader survive the zombocalypse or just the perils of every day life. The Empress, for instance, reads: A feminine force to be reckoned with, the Empress embodies birth, death and reanimation. Her maternal instincts kick into high gear whenever her offspring are threatened.  She knows there’s no problems she can’t solve with patience, love, and a shovel to the back of the head. She is a nurturer, so her home is filled with both the living and the undead.  Watch where you step.

The Three of Swords, just for another example, starts out with: Oh no! Jealousy rears its ugly head–and in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, you don’t want anyone to take the phrase “Eat your heart out” literally. 

All of the text, from the rest of the card interpretations to the intro to the instructions are equally entertaining.  The card layouts include: The Beginner, The Broken Heart, The Gravestone, The Severed Head, and the Eyeball.  

Did I mention I love this deck?  

The Zombie Tarot Deck shambles out onto the streets and for sale on June 5th and is available for pre-order on Amazon here!   Don’t hesitate!  It could save your life in the upcoming Zombocalypse!

thelovers


New Guest Post at Titan Books!

That’s right!  Today at Titan Books (right here, in fact),I talk about (big shocker here) zombies and the current proliferation of the undead flesh eaters in society today.   As mentioned previously, Titan’s blog does not currently allow comments so if you have any questions/comments for me, please leave them here instead.

 

Thanks! 
Thanks!

Guest Blogging Over at Titan Books!

I know I haven’t been posting a lot on my blog the last few months (okay, fine, the last half a year), but this does not mean I haven’t been writing.   I finished the final draft of Plague Town, jumped back into spicy romance land and finished Fixation, my upcoming paranormal novel for Ravenous Romance, and then immediately did another leap onto Plague Nation, the second Ashley Parker novel, which I’m working on now.  I’ve also been writing guest posts for Titan Books’ blog and the first one went live (or perhaps “undead”) today and can be found here.  Unfortunately there is no comment section on the Titan blog (we authors do love our comments!) so if you go read it and are so inclined, I would love to hear from you in the comment section below! 

Zombies are everywhere

I remember when I was one of a relatively small fringe group of people who actually put some thought into what I’d do if the dead came back to life and started eating the living.  I had plans for fortifying my house, where to go if that failed, what my weapon of choice would be, and other assorted details.  Anytime I went anywhere, I would note the locations of possible exits and entrances, raw materials for boarding up windows/doors, and surrounding terrain to check for escape routes.   Sure, people thought I was weird, but it was fun.  And there were just enough other like minded zombacolypse obsessed folks out there that I didn’t feel lonely.  More like part of a small, select club but instead of secret handshake, we all knew the only way to put down a zombie was to shoot it in the head.

 Nowadays you can’t turn around without running into zombie savvy civilians.   While they’re not exactly the new vampire (zombies do NOT sparkle), 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. 

On one hand, this makes me happy as there is a potentially unlimited supply of books and movies for me to enjoy. And no, I don’t think zombies have ‘jumped the shark’ in terms of overstaying their welcome.  Diehards like me (pun really not intended, but acknowledged) will never get tired of them as long as at least a percentage of the new material is good.  True, there’s a lot of shite out there, but even that can be fun if you’re … well, if you’re kind of weird like me.  I hope to add to the list of good books out there with my Ashley Parker series so I’m not in any hurry to see zombies leave the spotlight any time soon.  

But I admit I kind of liked being part of that small, select club who knew what I meant when I said, “They’re dead.  They’re all messed up.” Or “Shoot ’em in the head. It’s the only way to be sure.”  

New Book is Out!!

 

 And you’d think I’d have remembered to post this on the actual day of the event…   

 

Anyway, my new zombie apocalypse/romance, Ashley Drake, Zombie Hunter (Book One: A Plague on All Houses) has been released as an eBook and I thought I’d share an excerpt.  Warning:  Not for the faint of heart!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 “Mmmm, baby, you smell so good.”

            I giggled as Matt nuzzled against me.  He did this thing where he pretended to be a dog and sniffed up and down my neck and shoulders. It tickled and he sounded like a Saint Bernard with asthma. Disgusting and cute at the same time. 

            Pushing him away, I ignored Matt’s pout, pulling my sweater back down and jeans back up, just in case there were any passerby’s wandering the woods behind campus after dark.  Not too likely, especially when the weather was chilly and overcast, plus the grove of redwoods where we’d spread our blanket was pretty much private, but you never know who might be attracted to the light from Matt’s battery-powered lantern.              

            “Pass the champagne, ‘kay?”

            Matt sulked a little, but filled one of the little flutes (glass, not plastic) he’d brought with some Italian bubbly. “It’s Prosecco, not champagne, Ash. It’s only champagne—”

            “—if it comes from Champagne,” I finished for him. “I know, I know.” It’s what I get for dating a wine snob-in-training. I usually don’t complain ’cause it means I get to taste some wicked good stuff when most people my age are still working their way through White Zins of the World.

             Matt decided he’d sulked long enough (I swear, he had a timer for his mood swings) and smiled at me. “Like the picnic, Ash?”

            I nodded. How could I not? I mean, how many college guys took the time to pack full-on picnics? We’re not talking a bucket of KFC and a six-pack. Nope, roast chicken, bread, brie, and bubbly. Bread knife, cutting board, and cloth napkins.

            Yeah, Matt had ulterior motives (he was a college boy, after all), but I’d rather be seduced with sparkling wine than Pabst Blue Ribbon.

            I took another sip and used my other hand to hide a delicate little belch that bubbled out of nowhere. Bubbly burp, I thought, and started giggling.

            Whoa, tipsy much? I probably should have had more of the chicken and bread before diving straight into the alcohol. I’m a cheap date. So sue me.

            Matt didn’t mind. “What’s so funny?” he asked, not really expecting an answer. Good thing ’cause I couldn’t stop giggling now that I’d started. Matt started nuzzling my neck again, making low growling noises that vibrated pleasantly against the sensitive skin, both tickling me and turning me on. One thing led to another and we were soon happily in Stage One of making out (i.e. hands groping under clothing, bra pushed up but still fastened, no actual disrobing, lots of hip and groin action).

            So at first I thought it was Matt when I heard a weird, low, moaning sound. I mean, yes, he was moaning things like “Oh, baby, you turn me on,” and “I swear, you make me hard.” But this noise was weird enough to finally break through my lust and alcohol haze.

            I stopped in mid-kiss. “Did you hear that?”

            “Hear what?” Matt continued stroking my hips, insinuating his hand between my thighs, stroking me through the denim. I squirmed with pleasure even as my ears strained to pick up that moaning noise again.

            Nothing except the cracking of ancient redwood branches.

            Giving a mental shrug, I turned my attention back to Matt, specifically the bulge beneath his jeans. I teased him, rubbing one hand along the outline of his erection while nibbling gently on his neck in a way I knew he liked. His free hand caressed my breasts, first one, and then the other, thumb softly flicking against the nipples, a move guaranteed to drive me wild.  We were both moaning with desire at this point, all panting eagerness to take things to the next level … when suddenly his hand squeezed my left breast way too hard.

            “Ow! That hurt, you jerk!” I smacked him on the shoulder, hard.

            “Huh?” Matt lifted his mouth from my earlobe. “What the hell did you do that for?”

            The hand squeezed again, nails digging in this time. A rattling moan sounded close to my ear. The ear not next to Matt’s mouth. I smelled something rank.

            “What the fuck? Get off me!” I shoved Matt off of me and rolled away from the moaning. The hand on my breast stayed there, accompanied by a nasty tearing noise, like the sound of a drumstick being ripped off a whole chicken.  I looked down and gasped in grossed-out disbelief because the light of the lantern showed a groddy rotted hand clutching my 34-C, ragged nails digging into the flesh. Even worse, said hand was attached to an equally gross arm … and nothing else.

            “Omigod, gross!”  

            “Jeez, babe, what is your damage?” Matt sat up, offended.

            I didn’t have time to soothe his wounded male ego. I was too busy dislodging what looked like a cheap Halloween prop from my boob. It didn’t take much effort; the thing seemed to have lost all of its oomph.  I lifted the lantern and found out why.

            The top half of what was once a young woman squirmed on the mossy ground next to our blanket. Her torso trailed off into strings of intestines and other bits of unidentifiable ickiness. Chunks of flesh were missing from her face and neck. Two spooky, milky-white eyes stared at me above a bloody hole, chewed gristle sticking out where her nose used to be. Her mouth opened and closed hungrily as she used her remaining arm to pull herself onto the blanket towards me. 

            This was seriously effed up right here. I’d just been felt up by what looked to be a zombie and a female one at that. I choked back a definitely hysterical laugh as I wondered if this counted as a lesbian encounter.

New Book Out Tomorrow!

That’s right!  After months of writing, whining and waiting, A Plague on All Houses, the first in my zombie hunter series, is coming out as an eBook with Ravenous Romance!  It will eventually be coming out in paperback with …  er … well, hopefully I’ll be able to let that particular cat out of the bag this week.

What I can share right now are the wonderful blurbs by some of my favorite authors.  Thanks right off the bat to each and every one for taking the time to read and comment on Plague.  I have first hand experience on just how challenging it can be to find the time to read someone else’s work when you’re in the middle of your own writing deadline hell, so I am truly honored and touched.  The list isn’t complete yet either. :-)  Anticipation for more blurby goodness …  yes-s-s-s-s, my precious-s-s-s-s…

Ahem. 

The blurbs:

“A PLAGUE ON ALL YOUR HOUSES is sexy, weird, creepy, over-the-top zombie goodness. Required reading for the deranged.” Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO and MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN

 Spooks, scaries, and zombies, oh my! Treat yourself to Dana Fredsti’s A Plague on all Houses, a zombie romance (don’t worry, romance between humans, no one losing body parts in the midst of–romance!) Chills and thrills for that season when you’re looking for–chills and thrills!

Heather Graham, author of Hallowed Ground & The Flynn Brothers Trilogy

 

 Dana Fredsti has created a world as familiar as our own back yard and populated it with recognizable people we care about … and zombies. But this isn’t just another zombie novel. It spans a spectrum of emotion and action that sets it above the rest. A PLAGUE ON ALL YOUR HOUSES will have you turning pages fast … and checking the locks on all the doors.
Ray Garton
, author of LIVE GIRLS and SEX AND VIOLENCE IN HOLLYWOOD


“As adorable an end of the world as you’re liable to get, Fredsti’s A PLAGUE ON ALL HOUSES is brisk, witty ultraviolent romantic gurlventure, full of zombie gore and pop culture know-how. It is, in a word, a hoot.”

Gina McQueen, author of OPPOSITE SEX and APOCALYPSE AS FOREPLAY


“Dana Fredsti’s ragtag band of movie-quoting Wild Cards makes A PLAGUE ON ALL HOUSES a delicious gore-filled zombie treat. Fredsti’s writing is razor sharp as her heroes fight off the horde while fighting their attraction for each other. Who will win? Ashley and Gabriel or the Undead outside their door?”
 

Stacey Graham – author of The Zombie Dating Guide [zombiedatingguide.com] and contributor in the anthologies Hungry For Your Love and The Undead That Saved Christmas.

“The Plague on All Houses  is a fast-moving zombie tale that reads like a blast of energy.  If you like zombie apocalypse stories, this is a must read!”

             

    — Lois GreshNew York Times Best-Selling Author of BLOOD AND ICE and ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS

 

 Psst… for those of you not in the know, Gina McQueen is rumored to be the female pen name for noted horror author John Skipp, a zombie aficionado in his own right.  But it’s just a rumor.  Right? 

And just so you know what you’re getting into with this book (written under my own name instead of my erotic romance pen name Inara LaVey):

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 T.A.  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. (A Plague on All Houses) is BUFFY meets THE WALKING DEAD with the sexiest zombie hunters alive – or undead…