Award-winning and International bestselling author Ashley Fontainne is an avid reader of mostly the classics. Ashley became a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters lurking within us are her favorite reads.
Her short thriller entitled Number Seventy-Five, touches upon the sometimes dangerous world of online dating. Number Seventy-Five took home the BRONZE medal in fiction/suspense at the 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards contest and is currently in production for a feature film.
Her paranormal thriller entitled The Lie, won the GOLD medal in the 2013 Illumination Book Awards for fiction/suspense and is also in production for a feature film entitled Foreseen.
Ashley’s decided to delve into the paranormal with a Southern Gothic horror/suspense novel, Growl, which released in January of 2015. The suspenseful Christian mystery Empty Shell released in September of 2014. Ashley teamed up with Lillian Hansen (Ashley calls her mom!) to pen a three-part murder mystery/suspense series entitled The Magnolia Series. The first book, Blood Ties, released the Summer of 2015.
Whispered Pain released in October of 2015 and Night Court released December 13, 2015.
Her newest, post-apocalyptic series, The Rememdium Series, takes an entirely new twist on the zombie genre. The story starts with several scientists working on a cure for drug addicts, in memory of loved ones lost from addiction. Their discovery has catastrophic events on the entire globe.
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Ashley: At the age of 42, I decided to return to college. My goal was to obtain a degree in science to fulfill my dream of becoming a registered nurse. I tackled the hard classes first then realized I needed a few elective courses to finish out my degree. I can only draw stick people on a good day, so art was scratched off the list. Music and theater were crossed off as well, since my taste in music is not the same as my taste for classical literature, and theater? Forget it. So, creative writing won out.
Expressing my emotions on paper is something I’ve been doing since early childhood, but it was a personal release, not anything I imagined I would ever share with anyone other than close friends and family members. That all changed after Creative Writing I & II—thanks to an incredible instructor by the name of Melody Berning.
Accountable to None was my semester project for Creative Writing II. When I turned it in to Ms. Berning in March of 2011, she encouraged me to publish it, and in April of 2011, I uploaded the electronic version on Amazon just to see if she was right: people would enjoy my writing. After a few hiccups and pitfalls, Accountable to None became an international bestseller by December 2011.
Nursing went right out the window at that point, and although I did graduate with a degree in science, a new and previously hidden passion emerged: writing.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Ashley: In eighth grade I wrote a play about a young girl struggling to find her place in the world after moving across country and attending a school full of strangers. I don’t recall the title, I just remember sitting in my room scribbling page after page in my notebook. I never let anyone read it but I did enjoy the creative process.
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
Ashley: I prefer to write and read suspenseful thrillers with twists you don’t see coming.
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Ashley: Finding the time to write! Since I work fulltime it can prove to be a daunting task.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Ashley: My fans! Knowing my stories touched the heart of another is amazing. The support of my fan base is what keeps me going on the days I’m frustrated with one aspect or another about being and author.
TDBW: What do you like least about being an author?
Ashley: One word: marketing.
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Ashley: Thirteen, and another in the final editing stages.
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Visit Ashley Fontainne’s Amazon author page for more exciting books
TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Ashley: Tainted World, the fourth and final book in the post-apocalyptic Rememdium series.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Ashley: The standalone romantic suspense novel Suicide Lake releasing May 20, 2016, and is narrated by the amazing Sara Morsey. The third book in my zombie series, Tainted Future, releases June 15, 2016, with narration provided by the equally amazing Rebecca Roberts.
Note: The movie “Foreseen” scheduled to come out this year is based on Ashley’s book “The Lie”. Watch for it! Better yet, pick up your own copy of “The Lie”.
TDBW: Which book, or series, is your favorite?
Ashley: There is no way I could pick a favorite! I love them all for different reasons.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ashley: There are way too many to list!
TDBW: Which book(s) inspire you the most?
Ashley: For personal growth and soul-soothing, the Bible is my biggest inspiration. In terms of my writing, The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite tale and the one that inspired me to write a revenge story set in modern times.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Ashley: I wish I could because I love music, but it would be too distracting.
TDBW: Any hobbies?
Ashley: Gardening, walking, and spending time at the lake during the summer. Oh, and big Sunday gatherings of family for dinner.
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
My website: http://www.ashleyfontainne.com
One of a Kind Covers: http://oneofakindcovers.wix.com/oneofakind#!portfolio/c199t
TDBW: Care to share a bit of one of your books with us?
Ashley: I’d love to! Here is the opening chapter from Tainted Cure:
Chapter 1 – The Discovery
Two Years Ago – Monday, December 20th – 6:15 a.m.
The morning started out like any other inside the cramped area he’d called home for far too long. Everett’s old body rested atop the worn mattress—which was more like a hunk of concrete with an overlay of foam—inside a room no bigger than a small SUV.
Conditioned from years of rising early, Everett stared at the dark ceiling. Without the need of an external alarm clock, Everett woke up at precisely six-fifteen, just as he’d done since high school. A twinge of stiffness in his back made him groan while exiting the cot. Grabbing what he needed from the small closet, he unlocked the gray metal door and headed to the bathroom.
On autopilot, he showered, dressed, and walked alone down the twisting hallways to the lab. Everett stopped only once on his way at the makeshift cafeteria, grabbing some black liquid masquerading itself as coffee for breakfast.
He made it to his destination. Leaning down, he let the security system scan his retina and waited for the metal door to unlock. Once inside, he donned the white lab coat hanging on the back of his chair, took a swig of tepid coffee, and then made his way over to the rows of cages.
What he saw made the room spin, thus ending the comparison to any other day.
Everett couldn’t seem to remember how to breathe. Blinking proved to be just as difficult. Mouth agape, body rigid, and his butt securely stuck to the uncomfortable chair. A random thought of the time in kindergarten when Jimmy Fassler wiped superglue in Everett’s seat popped into his frazzled mind. Hands clammy and sweat pouring from every single gland, his visual cortex struggled to digest the images beaming in from the optic nerves.
Maybe the retina scanner fried my eyes?
Everett had spent ten long, grueling, and life-altering years since his first day at the facility. Eighty-seven thousand, six hundred hours and counting from the moment he’d been blindfolded and ushered inside the ultra-secret laboratory. He still didn’t really know where he was, or even if actually in the United States. Everett hadn’t been out of the compound since his arrival. All he knew was the location was a mile underground. Then again, was that even the truth? That’s what he’d been told in clipped, hushed tones while bound, unseen hands of his colleagues—captors as he referred to them inside his head—leading the way. Considering the installation and work were classified, he could be anywhere.
Everett’s stunned mind pulled up memories of the day he’d been hand-picked by the Director of Research, Dr. Roberta Flint. Out of the blue, and reasons still rather uncertain or clear to Everett, he’d been recruited to work on Code Name: Rememdium.
When Dr. Flint first approached him, Everett actually laughed—hard—once she finished her slick presentation and made the offer. A grim smile tugged at the corners of his mouth while remembering how he’d questioned the woman’s sanity and credentials. When Everett grasped Dr. Flint was serious and the interaction wasn’t some sadistic prank, he laughed again. He’d spouted out something rude and uncalled for about the use of the Latin word for cure as the name of the project.
“Why in the world should I believe you? The project name isn’t even correct! I may be a tad rusty on my Latin, but I seem to recall the word for cure is remedium.”
“No, you are correct, we simply added our own twist for various reasons we’ll discuss later.”
“Oh, can’t wait. Listen, I can’t imagine why you’re here and spilling your guts. Thought you said Rememdium is a covert operation? The kind only men in black know about? Off the grid, Area 51 shit?”
“Dr. Berning, I assure you only five people outside of the testing facility are aware of Rememdium, including you. As a civilian, you will be granted the highest level of clearance: Top Secret. We’ve already performed an SSBI check on you, among others. You passed them all. The next step is for you to accept our terms.”
“SSBI check? Others? Non-military terms, please.”
“Single Scope Background Investigation. That’s all you need to know at the moment.”
“Yeah, that certainly cleared things up for me. So, accepting your terms? Exactly what does the acceptance entail? I’m guessing something along the lines of giving up my soul to the good ol’ U.S. Government? Maybe burning my fingerprints off too and providing me a code name like E?”
“I appreciate your dark sense of humor, Dr. Berning. However, this isn’t the time for jokes. What this means is you will no longer exist, at least as far as the outside world is concerned. Rememdium requires something beyond determination and devotion: personal sacrifice. Discovering the cure will forever alter humanity, though you won’t be able to revel in the glory once the discovery is made. None of us will. Our reward will be the immense satisfaction of knowing we helped eradicate addiction. Imagine a world without drug addicts! The ripple effect into other areas of society will be immense and far-reaching. Truly game-changing.”
“And if I decide not to accept the offer?”
“We already know what skills you possess, Dr. Berning. Your doctoral thesis and late-night blog posts on the subject matter caught our attention. You’re just as interested in wiping out addiction as we are—though for a different reason. You won’t.”
“I might,” Everett had countered.
The memory of Dr. Flint narrowing her sable brown eyes at Everett flashed by, making cold shivers run up his spine. How she’d stared at him from the other side of the table inside his miniscule kitchen like he was a meal about to be devoured. Dr. Flint’s jet black hair, beautiful face and dark eyes couldn’t hide the cold, distant look on her face. Her features almost seemed to harden, like alabaster drying in the hot desert sun.
When she spoke, Dr. Flint’s tone was ominous and downright terrifying. “We would simply find someone else, and assist you in the course you’ve considered taking many times, Dr. Berning. Plain and simple.”
Before the unscheduled—and certainly unexpected—visit by Dr. Flint, Everett had been a broken man. He’d lost his job as Director of Research Administration Services at Emory University after turning to alcohol to numb his pain from the accident. Everett worried he would never be able to get past the overwhelming loss of his entire family if he didn’t move, so he left Atlanta and returned home to Little Rock, Arkansas soon after their deaths.
He fought hard to try and recover from the loss of his wife, children, and both of his parents and in-laws a year prior, yet the sorrow overshadowed every thought.
Dr. Everett Berning’s old life ended in seconds. A driver high on methamphetamine with a blood alcohol level over 2.0, t-boned the SUV driven by his father-in-law, Bertrand. The family outing for an afternoon of shopping and bowling was over in mere seconds inside a pile of charred metal on Peachtree Avenue.
One week before Christmas.
A trip Everett begged off from because he had reports to finish before the holiday break.
After moving into the old house left to him by his grandparents, Everett filled the lonely days teaching chemistry and microbiology to students at a local technical college. It was the only job he could find after falling from academic grace. The students were more interested in posting, tweeting, sharing, and tagging shit on the Internet than learning about science. Though frustrating, Everett pushed the annoying traits of the next generation out of his daily thoughts.
With the entire group of his loved ones no longer a part of his life, Everett contemplated killing himself. Four separate times each in different ways. Every time he’d come close, something inside his mind whispered to wait. Forced his hand to remove the gun from his mouth; stopped the same hand millimeters from quivering lips before depositing a handful of sleeping pills. The hesitant voice in his mind made him pause before putting the garden hose in the exhaust pipe of his vehicle, and step on the brake pedal before going over a cliff.
The clinical side of Everett’s brain considered killing healthy tissue a waste. The emotional side craved for the last minute changes of heart to be from his deceased wife, Carol, reaching across the dimensions to stop him.
Everett’s hatred for drugs started the day his family was wiped out.
Taking up Dr. Flint’s edict to find a cure for addiction really didn’t take much persuading on her end. Even the not-so-veiled threat about killing him if he decided not to take the job wasn’t what swayed Everett’s decision.
Finding a cure—permanently, so no one else would suffer like he had—did. He’d convinced his shattered mind that’s why he was still alive, the reason he was a scientist, and why he’d been chosen to lead the charge to discover an end to the worldwide scourge of addiction.
Wits finally back in full swing Everett shook the old memories away. The time for ruminating in the past was over, for it was time to revel in the victories of the present. Soak up the elusive moment ten years in the making.
A twinge of sadness made his chest clench when he glanced at the calendar on the wall: December 20th. Exactly eleven years since his old life ended. Out of habit, his thumb found the wedding band still on his ring finger, rubbing the smooth platinum.
Sorry it took me so long. I love you all and miss each of you every day. Hope you are watching this. I’m on the cusp of making history!
Limbs working once more, Everett snatched the report sheet from the desk he’d set there twelve hours prior. His age-spotted fingers trembled as he read his notes on formula number 10,899, administered the night before to the test subject labeled the same.
The little white mouse sat quietly at the opposite end of its enclosure. Born from a long lineage of addicted rodents, bred to study not only the physical but genetic qualities of addicts, the change was downright astonishing. It was uninterested in the heroin sitting in the food dish less than ten inches away. Instead, the mouse busied itself by cleaning its whiskers.
Everett had dubbed the specimen Ultima Mus—his last mouse—because if the latest chemical compound failed, he planned on giving up. The long days, sleepless nights, and haunted dreams had drained the last ounce of strength to continue on. He already had his exit plan from the world mapped out.
Everett found his voice and shouted, “Riverside! Come here!”
From across the lab, Everett watched fellow researcher, Dr. Daryl Riverside, flinch. Everett rarely spoke and when he did, his normal tone and cadence were quiet and unassuming. He tried, but couldn’t recall, the last time he’d spoken the kid’s name.
Two months? Three?
Riverside jumped to his feet, long legs making short order of the distance between them. His tennis shoes made a strange noise on the vulcanized rubber floor while he walked toward Everett. Daryl’s unruly dark curls bounced in harmony with his steps. “What’s wrong, Dr. Berning? Did you cut your hand again or something?”
Everett laughed at the young pup’s concern for his older lab partner. “No, though I would have cut off an appendage for these results.”
Daryl slid to a stop next to Everett, his light, hazel eyes wide with shock and curiosity while staring at Ultima in the cage. He pushed the hair from his face and peered closer. “Are you saying—?”
Everett grinned so wide he thought the skin on his face would snap. The moment was the first time he’d felt happy—truly happy—in over ten years.
Grabbing Riverside by the neck, he hugged the bewildered kid tight, yelling, “Yes! We did it! Look at that! Ultima has no interest in the heroin—at all! Of course, we still need to run a battery of tests on him—see what, if any, side effects the formula might have on his organs. Oh, and we also need to run tests on the additional subjects hooked on various other drugs.”
Everett released Riverside from the hug and started pacing in front of the cages. His mind raced with a thousand thoughts while putting together a mental laundry list of the next procedures.
Daryl laughed as he patted Everett’s shoulder. “Calm down, Dr. Berning. Wouldn’t want to have a stroke or heart attack, right? What fun would it be to die before you were one-hundred percent sure?”
Everett ignored the stupid comment, excitement coursing through him. He felt twenty years younger. He scooted over to the counter and started scribbling notes. “Where’s Dr. Flint?”
Roberta Flint took a long swig of iced green tea to clear the fog inside her mind. Being so far underground interfered with her circadian rhythm. Over the years, the group of nerve cells inside her brain controlling her master clock finally calmed down, allowing some semblance of normal sleep.
Then menopause took control of her body four months ago. The onset screwed up her insides even worse than the subterranean hellhole she’d called home for over ten years. If she suffered one more bout of night sweats and hot flashes, her plan was to sleep naked on rubber sheets, a bag of ice on her head. She couldn’t begin to imagine how rough the annoying symptoms would be if she were above ground. The heat and humidity would cause her to spontaneously combust. For the first time in years, she was glad she was underground.
Though a scientist, Roberta refused to ingest man-made chemicals to ease her symptoms. The change was part of the normal progression of aging. Since she never wanted—nor had—children, Roberta didn’t feel a pang of melancholy like the majority of other females. She embraced what her mother always called “the last leg of a woman’s race” with gusto.
There were no psychologically-induced alarm bells ringing inside her head, warning her the expiration date of her eggs neared. Her lips curled in disgust at the thought of giving birth, spending every waking moment consumed with taking care of a helpless thing completely dependent upon its mother for survival. Not to mention the damage to a woman’s body as the cluster of cells grew. No man, no matter how well-endowed or loving, was worth a lifetime of servitude to some ungrateful brat. Besides, she would never let the twelve years she’d spent in med school go to waste.
Personally, she didn’t miss the cramps and torrent of blood each month, though she did miss the week or so of mood swings. Her entire career had been spent working alongside males, and all of them seemed pre-programmed to assume all women suffered from PMS. Roberta never had major shifts in mood during her cycle, though she never let anyone else in on her little secret. The false assumption she would get “bitchy” each month gave her a chance to let out some anger every three weeks if anyone got too close.
She did miss that.
Roberta would have to simply ride out the symptoms for the next few months until her body acclimated to the shift in hormone levels. She just needed to ignore the irritating side effects until the readjustment was made. She knew hormone replacement therapy was an option, yet Roberta simply wouldn’t chemically alter what nature intended.
She let out a snort of derision at the thought.
What a hypocrite I am!
Once situated in front of the computer screen, Roberta sighed. Temperature regulated, she shrugged off the previous thoughts and concentrated on the tasks at hand. She gave a quick scan of the small office. No expense had been spared in creating the research headquarters. Though missing windows, the rest of the interior was flawless. The slick construction and attention to detail hid the fact they were underground.
Technological advances were grand in terms of medical research. The equipment in the entire facility was a joy to work with—when she had the opportunity—and worth well over ten million dollars. Using the expensive gadgets excited Roberta, yet reading and typing out emails frustrated her beyond words.
Today, she had twenty-seven unopened emails sitting in the inbox vying for attention. Several of the messages were from Dr. Jason Thomas. He was her immediate superior and occasional romp-in-the-sack partner when he made impromptu appearances. A small grin made her full lips tip upward. Seeing his name reminded her over six weeks had passed since their last dalliance. A twinge of sexual heat warmed her groin.
At least my hormone levels are still high enough that I haven’t lost my interest in sex.
She clicked on the most recent email, one requesting a daily status update.
Roberta glanced at her watch and grimaced. “My, but aren’t we impatient this morning? Hmmm. Perhaps I am not the only one suffering with hormonal balance issues.”
She hit reply then reached across the desk for the phone. Surprised Dr. Berning had yet to send in his morning report, Roberta scowled. Tardiness was something she expected from Dr. Riverside, not the always punctual Everett.
The second her fingers touched the phone, it jangled. The LED indicated it was from Dr. Berning’s station.
“Good timing, Dr. Berning. I was just about to—”
“Sorry, but what I have to report you need to see with your eyes first. At this moment, I’m not sure I could stop my fingers from shaking long enough to type out a legible word anyway.”
Roberta furrowed her brow, unaccustomed to hearing any emotion other than boredom or a twinge of sadness from Dr. Berning. “Expound, please.”
“Roberta, just get down here. I’m serious!”
“Did you just refer to me as—?”
“No time for formalities! I’m too excited. We did it! We fucking did it!”
Before Roberta could respond, the line went dead. The excitement in Dr. Berning’s voice made her own heart rate spike. She stared at the email from Jason and considered shooting him a reply yet decided against it.
He’ll just have to wait a while longer. If what Everett said is true, Jason won’t bat an eye at my late response.
In a flash, she rose from the chair and bounded down the hallway toward the main lab.
It had to be true—no one at the facility had dared ever used her first name.