Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Guest Blog and Giveaway: After Life Lessons: Book Two by Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering

Zombies hate gender stereotypes!

Often we’re asked: why post-apocalypse? Why set books that are, at their core, stories about human emotion and interaction in such a terrible setting?

There are a variety of reasons, of course, but one of the biggest is wrapped up in our desire to explore the notion of strength and what it means. Specifically: what kind of strengths are necessary for survival?

So often, strength in an apocalypse is conveyed with muscles and guns, with military experience and grit hard enough to sand down a stone. While this is all well and good-- and, certainly, one of our main characters, Aaron, has an Army background-- we wanted to explore other strengths, those of people who never spent any time considering fighting to live, or even without wifi.

In action movies, the Strong Female Character is a badass, seemingly trained in kung fu, and unburdened by emotions. Emily is hardened by her past, but has a tenderness for her son, and, later, daughter; when the apocalypse comes down, she’s never so much as held a gun, let alone shot it. Emily is in mourning, but has a will as strong as steel.

Annika has survived on her own with a child, too, but has a deeper fear of the world outside her door. In After Life Lessons Book Two, we meet Kenzie, merely a child when the world ended, armed only with a rusty knife and a wit to match.

The majority of our characters have never gone up against more than a bully on the playground. While some, like Iago and his nomadic friends, have had a desire to live outside society, a zombie apocalypse brings about a much more level playing ground.

Take for instance Aaron, our “Army boy” as he is so lovingly called. Combat trained, he is sensitive and careful, far more hesitant than Emily in aggressive actions both in relationships and against the enemy. He lets his heart lead more than his head. But Emily has her limits, too, as she learns in Book Two: that strength and will come in a hundred different varieties, with just as many limits and issues that come to light.

Personality, more than ability, plays a big part in reaction to trauma and tragedy. We strived to create characters who did not fit the mold, but were survivors nonetheless: Characters who find out that brute strength or combat ability isn’t enough to survive, that strength is found where hardness and softness meet and balance each other out.

After Life Lessons
Book Two
Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering

Genre: post apocalyptic

Publisher: Lilt Literary

Date of Publication: April 28, 2015

Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000

Cover Artist: Laila Blake

Book Description:

Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.

Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.

All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.

Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.

Excerpt 3: Kenzie & Malachi - 966 words

“Is that a house over there?” Mali asked, and Kenzie looked where he pointed, ahead down the tracks. She felt a momentary sense of annoyance that he’d seen it first while she’d had her nose on the ground, looking for more loot. But then she shrugged.
“Kinda small for a house.”
“What kind of house did you live in?” he asked, poking her in the side before picking up his pace. Given his bum leg and the fact that he was eight hundred years old and falling apart, it just meant he moved with a more acceptable speed.
“It’s skinny, I mean,” she grumbled, stomping just a little. “Like, no bed could be in there. It’s not like I lived in a mansion...”
“You’re skinny.”
He grinned a sweet, winsome smile, but Kenzie ignored the quip and squinted into the distance. It was hard to see because of the sun, but she tilted her head this way and that, biting at her lower lip. Finally, she laughed.
“It’s a train, doofus.” But she looked far too delighted for the insult to sting.
“Really?” He shaded his eyes despite the hat on his head actually doing the job. There was a sort of impressed tone to his voice that made Kenzie straighten her back in pride.
“See? Told you if we followed the tracks we’d find something.”
This time, she couldn’t help it. She tried to keep his pace, but before she knew it, she was skipping ahead, pressing her nose against the dusty windows. They made her sneeze, but she looked with longing at the cushioned seats. They looked like heaven to her hurting ankle.
Malachi finally arrived next to her, a little out of breath. He pushed his hat back on his head to look through another window, more easily than she with his height.
“Huh,” he breathed, tipping his forehead against the glass, making an instant sort of mud with his sweat. “I wonder when they stopped using this.”
“Who cares?” she asked with the kind of childlike glee she usually hid far better. “It’s ours now.” And she whooped, once and happy, until a sound washed every hint joy from her face.
Something banged against the wall of the compartment. Kenzie jumped back, Mali on her heels. The next came muffled against the window. One rotted hand stood out quite clearly against the gloom, leaving a trace of brown slime on the glass.
They both stood still. The zombie was old, clearly, and locked safely inside the train car—the doors were shut and latches firmly in place, if a little rusted.
“Oh.” Mali looked at Kenzie with a small smile. “So that’s why this is just sitting here.”
She huffed. “Okay, maybe it’s his.” Pouting a little, she banged back against the window with a stick she’d used to swipe at the tall grass with. The zombie growled, threw itself harder against the window. It didn’t even quiver in its frame, and Kenzie couldn’t help but chuckle. “Sucks for you,” she said, eyes on the dead thing.
Mali, for his part, backed a bit further away with each new advance. “Maybe we should just let him have it,” he suggested.
“No way,” she protested, smashing the stick against the window again. “I bet he just stank up that one compartment. And where else are we gonna sleep?”
She glared at the thing as it hurled itself against the window once more, like a stupid dog when the postman was in the yard. Her smile turned something dangerous then, a cool, distant thing.
“I bet I can take it.”
Mali opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak. After a second or two, he closed it, lifted his hands, and tried again. “Are you kidding?”
“No.” And it was as though she’d only just realized that herself. She squinted her eyes at the window, watched it move like a tiger in a cage. “I’m serious. Fuckers have taken enough from me. I want that train.”
He lowered his hands very slowly. There was an expression on his face that Kenzie couldn’t quite puzzle out, but she was already so busy planning, she didn’t bother to think about it for more than a beat.
“All we have to do is be ready and lure it out,” she informed him, setting her pack on the ground in front of them. “I mean, it’s all in the surprise, right? If we’re ready, then it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
“Fish don’t generally try to kill you though,” Mali pointed out, but his voice petered away almost immediately.
“Sharks do,” Kenzie pointed out, “and, like, piranhas.” It was a silly argument, but she didn’t put any effort into it, as she rifled through her things. She found the thickest sweater she could find, then wrapped a scarf around her hands and grabbed her knife.
“Kenzie, wait a second,” Mali said. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest. He looked green.
“No.” She was louder than she had intended to be, looked angrier, too. “We have to stop just… letting them have everything. It’s just one. Look how rotted he is.” A few more of her things went flying, scattering across the ground until she found a piece of rope, and grinned, nodding to herself before she focused on Mali again. “If we want to become more… like, proactive, we gotta train somewhere, don’t we?”
The man was silent again, and she could see something like a fight on his face, like he wanted to agree with her but couldn’t, not without a struggle. She waited, hopping from foot to foot, before she sighed heavily.
“I don’t want to be scared all the time,” she told him, and, finally, Mali nodded. Like she knew he would.

About the Authors:

Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.

A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.

L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.

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