Dana Fredsti Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC (Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center), Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, kissed by tigers, held baby jaguars and had her thumb sucked by an ocelot with nursing issues.
Dana Fredsti is an ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical combat (a skill she utilized in Army of Darkness as a sword-fighting Deadite and fight captain). She’s addicted to bad movies and any book or film, good or bad, which include zombies. She is the author of the Ashley Parker series, touted as Buffy meets the Walking Dead, as well as what might be the first example of zombie noir, A Man’s Gotta Eat What a Man’s Gotta Eat, first published in Mondo Zombie edited by John Skipp, and more recently published as an eBook by Titan books. She also wrote the cozy noir mystery Murder for Hire: the Peruvian Pigeon, and co-author of What Women Really Want in Bed. She guest blogs frequently and has made numerous podcast and radio appearances. She lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend and fellow author David Fitzgerald, their dog Pogeen, and a small horde of felines.
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Dana: I started writing as soon as I was old enough to string one syllable words together (around five, maybe?), and continued pretty much non-stop in one form or another throughout my life.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Dana: Heh. That would be The End of the Sun, when I first started doing that word-stringing thing mentioned above. I’ll share it with you: One day the sun came out. The next day the sun did not come out. It was the end of the sun. Please note the grasp of plot structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end, which is pretty impressive for a five year old, doncha think?
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
Dana: It’s a tossup between urban fantasy, horror, post apocalyptic, and mysteries. The Plague books combine the first three genres AND include zombies, so they were tremendously fun to write (mostly). As far as reading, pretty much the same, but I also enjoy paranormal romance, thrillers, dystopian, humor… I’ll read pretty much anything you put in front of me.
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Dana: Depends. Sometimes it’s finding the energy after a particularly busy and stressful time at my day job and taking care of our cats and dog (which includes cleaning house because when you have multiple cats and a dog, there is a never-ending amount of cleaning to do). I have to remind myself how much I love writing (when I don’t hate it, that is) to trick myself into opening the laptop and getting started. I guess that’s called ‘overcoming resistance.’ I don’t judge myself too harshly, though, because I work very hard. But if I want to continue to progress as a writer, I have to put the time in and actually write. Relaxation is important too, though, so I’m continually working on balancing all of the above.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Dana: Aside from a job that lets me work in my pajamas, I love love LOVE getting mail from my readers. It always brightens my day (especially if I get a positive fan letter after, say, reading a particularly negative review). I also love hanging out with other authors at conferences and book signings. It’s always inspiring and fun. I love the fact that I’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream of being published. I may not be earning my living at writing yet, but I’m on my way there and in the meantime, I have the satisfaction of seeing my titles multiply on the bookshelves that hold books written by me, my fiancé, and my sister. And I love reading back over something I’ve written and having it make me laugh out loud (when it’s supposed to be funny!) and just really liking my own work instead of cringing when I read it. That helps when I run into those periods where I’m having trouble with a project and feel like a big old fake.
TDBW: What do you like least about being an author?
Dana: Heh. See above for feeling like a big old fake. There are always times when I go through horrible self-doubt and wonder how the hell I’m gonna finish whatever it is I’m working on. And if I do finish, well, what’s the point because it’s gonna be crap because I’m just a big old fake. Etc, spin on, rinse and repeat.
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Dana: Two non-fiction, one cozy mystery, three Ashley parker books, three spicy genre romances, and an anthology of paranormal romance edited by me and my fiancé.
Visit Dana Fredsti’s Amazon author page for more exciting books CLICK HERE!
TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Dana: Currently I’m working on my story for the fourth V-Wars anthology, the first fifty pages of a YA science fiction series I’m co-writing with my fiancé, and the outline and pitch for a new urban fantasy series. I also have the outlines for a couple more Ashley Parker books on the backburner, a stand alone dark fantasy novel, and two other short stories for other anthologies.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Dana: Plague World was my most recent release and I’m not sure what will be the next one out.
TDBW: Which book, or series, is your favorite?
Dana: Plague World is my favorite Ashley book to date. It’s darker than the other two, but I’m very proud of how it turned out, partly because it really was the most difficult one to write. I also love my paranormal romance Fixation, written under my pen name Inara LaVey, and my murder mystery Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon, because it’s sort of like a time capsule of my life back when my best friend and I ran a murder mystery themed theatrical group.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Dana: Argh… I answer this question differently every time because I always forget names when I’m put on the spot. Also, my list would be incredibly long if I listed all of them so… the ones that come to mind first this time around are, in no particular order: Stephen King (his older stuff), Jonathan Maberry, Lisa Brackmann, Juliet Blackwell, Joe McKinney, Lloyd Alexander, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Barbara Hambly, Charles deLint, T. Chris Martindale, John Skipp. I stop now.
TDBW: Which book(s) inspire you the most?
Dana: Barbara Hambly’s books always inspire me because she succeeds so very well at grabbing my attention and taking me into her worlds. Her books remind me why I love to read and why I love to write.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Dana: I generally don’t listen to music with lyrics when I write because the lyrics distract me. This is kind of weird as I can write very well with certain movies on in the background. For music, however, I play a lot of film scores and/or world music (nouveau flamenco like Strunz and Farah, or Jesse Cook), depending on what sort of mood I’m trying to set for whatever scene I happen to be working on at the time. Plague Town, for instance, was written almost entirely with the score for Twilight playing in the background, with a few deviations to the score for the original Dawn of the Dead by Goblin. Plague Nation got Tron: Legacy, Blood Diamond and The Dead scores, and Plague World I pretty much stuck to Tron: Legacy again. For my V-Wars story I’ve got Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Under Fire, which works really well with the setting and tone I’ve chosen, and if I write the next Ashley book, I’ve already discovered the score to Pitch Black would be perfect.
TDBW: Any hobbies?
Dana: I love to read, collect beach glass (I think I could be on Hoarders with the amount I’ve picked up), surf, go wine tasting, lift weights, and walk on the beach with my dog. I also get into various crafts now and again. And honestly, writing used to be a hobby and what I did for fun and relaxation and I’m trying to recapture that attitude and love for it.
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
Dana: Not sure what else there is to tell, so I’ll let my bio say it: Dana Fredsti is ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC (Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center), Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, 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).
Oh yeah… and yes, I really WOULD go back for the cat.
My website: www.danafredsti.com – note: my website is in the slow process of being updated, but there’s a lot of fun info on it.
TDBW: Care to share a bit of one of your books with us?
Dana: Oh sure! Here’s an excerpt from Plague World;
“Son of a bitch must pay.”
Jack Burton—Big Trouble in Little China
Stavros tried to tune out the hacking coughs, snuffles, snorts and other unpleasant sounds coming from the four passengers he‘d picked up at Chelsea Physic Garden. Two women and two men, all wearing power suits and sharing what seemed to be a nasty cold.
Blow your nose, mate, he thought as one of the men gave a snorting inhalation that sounded like a walrus.
He thought about raising the window that separated the driver and passenger portions of the town car, but it seemed a bit rude. It might be taken the wrong way, and one of these corporate types would no doubt complain. So he contented himself with surreptitiously pressing the pump on his ever-present hand sanitizer, tucked into one of the cup holders under the control panel.
There was something about these wankers in their suits, fresh out of their oh-so-important meetings, and the self-importance that pumped them up. It just set Stavros‘s hackles on end. All the little slights and the condescension in their voices when they spoke to him… if they bothered to speak to him at all.
He didn’t regret skipping University. He didn‘t have any desire to do more than he was doing, but every now and then he wished he had a degree that would allow him to slap one of these posers across their over-educated faces.
Another twenty minutes on the road and he‘d be rid of them at Heathrow, so they could spread their germs in their own countries and not make an honest working man too sick to do his job.
* * *
Danny sat in the furthest seat in the back of the town car, huddled against the door in a ball of misery. He‘d been sick before, but nothing compared to this—not even the four-day salmonella marathon he‘d had in 2005. His body hurt inside and out; even his eyeballs felt as if they were going to crack in half if he blinked.
A line from the Haunted Mansion ride was stuck in his brain, something about hot and cold running chills… He had those, along with the sensation of boiling poison running through his veins and in his forehead.
“You okay, Danny?”
He opened his eyes to see Jan from Digital Media, Holland Division, eying him with superficial concern. Jan was one of those uber-competitive guys who equated the failure of his peers with personal gain. He also made it more than obvious that he lusted after Nita from R&D Sweden, whom Danny had been seeing on the sly for the last year. Jan had made a few comments at the LP meeting, hinting that he knew about the relationship.
“I‘m fine.” A wet cough contradicted Danny‘s words almost immediately.
Jan smirked with an unattractive twist of his lips that he imagined made him look wry and sexy.
“Too many late nights sampling Swedish meatballs, eh?”
If he hadn‘t felt so shitty, Danny would have flipped the asshole off. He closed his eyes instead, and drifted away on a wave of pain that faded into blackness.
* * *
Jan raised an eyebrow and smirked. Danny looked like shit. And he‘d been the first to come down with the flu at the annual LP meeting, spreading it around quickly, judging from the coughs and sniffles of many fellow attendees. This was a flu bug that would get to see the world. Maybe Jan should start calling him Typhoid Danny, so no one forgot where it started.
Oh yes, the kind of thing that could dog a person throughout their career… and perhaps even shorten it.
Jan chuckled to himself, only to have the laugh cut off by a sudden tickling in the back of his throat and nose. He sneezed violently, barely catching it behind one hand. His smugness evaporated at the sight of blood mixed in with the spray of spittle on his palm.
And then Danny went into convulsions.
* * *
Stavros frowned as he heard yet more coughing from the back of the town car. Had they never heard of Hall‘s?
The sharp note of concern in man‘s voice caught Stavros‘s attention. He glanced back to see the lanky Dutch fellow in the back shaking his seatmate by one shoulder. Blood dribbled out of the man‘s eyes, nose, and mouth, his features slack and lifeless.
Shit. He looked dead. A nasty smell hit Stavros’s nose.
The Dutchman recoiled, coughing as he hunkered back against the other side of the car, as far from his seatmate as possible. The two women in the middle seat, also coughing, turned around to see what the fuss was.
“Jan, what is wrong?” A thick South American accent matched the brunette‘s exotic Selma Hayek good looks.
“It‘s Danny. I think—” the Dutchman coughed again, a wracking, rattling sound like marbles in a can filled with phlegm.
The pneumatic blonde opened her eyes and Stavros winced as he caught sight of her in the rear view mirror. The whites of her eyes were yellow and streaked with red, a counterpoint for the almost startling blue of her corneas.
“Danny?” Her voice was weak and gravelly after all the coughing.
The man in the back gave a sudden convulsion, more foul-smelling fluid leaking from his eyes, mouth, and nose.
The Dutchman next to him vomited.
“I‘ll get to hospital,” Stavros said to no one in particular, hitting the “open” button on the driver‘s side window in an attempt to cut the thick smell of sickness—a mixture of blood, shit, and rot—which filled the car. He fought the urge to vomit, concentrating instead on finding an exit off the M4 and to some medical attention.
The nearest exit was for Brentford. Stavros didn‘t know if there was a hospital, but at the very least they‘d have a police station, someone who could help. He didn‘t care. He just wanted these people out of his car so he could take it to a car wash and get it detailed, vacuumed, aired out, fumigated, for Christ sake, and maybe snort some bleach to get the smell and possible infection out of his nostrils.
Then the bloke Danny opened his eyes. The corneas were now bluish-white, the color of fat-free milk and all the more eerie set against the red-tinged yellow of the his whites. More black fluid dribbled from his mouth, the smell thick and vile in the enclosed car.
“Danny?” The blonde leaned over the seat, relief obvious in her voice. He reached for her, grabbed her head, and pulled her over the seat back on top of his lap, teeth sinking into the soft flesh of her neck before anyone could react. Blood sprayed over the leather seats, splashing all of the passengers.
The Dutchman recoiled in horror, only to go into his own convulsions, the same black viscous liquid spewing out of his mouth.
Stavros stared in horror as the sick bloke ripped chunks of flesh from the blonde‘s neck, the other passengers recoiling I horror, fingers scrabbling for the door handles. His only thought was to get the hell off the road, out of the car, and away from whatever was wrong with his passengers. So he didn‘t bother looking in his rearview mirror when he swerved into the right lane over—directly into the path of an oncoming tanker.
Bad things happen to good people. Never forget that. The world is not always a fair place. And the dead really DO walk the earth. And let me tell you—
That part really sucks.
* * *
“How many do you think there are?”
I glanced over at Nathan as I tried to count the rotting corpses shambling toward us on the rooftop of a University of California, San Francisco medical building. Most of the figures heading our way had been octogenarians—and some septuagenarians—when they‘d died, which wasn‘t surprising, since the building held the geriatric ward. But damn, they were spry for their age.
“No idea.” Nathan took a shot with his M-4 and one of the zombies collapsed onto the roof. “But now there‘s one less rotting geezer.”
I snorted. “You know, that‘s like something Tony would say. I expect better of you. I mean, aren‘t you too old for that?”
“You‘re never too old for sarcasm.” Nathan nailed another zombie in the head with a well-placed shot. “Ah, make that two less.”
Okay, Nathan wasn‘t all that old. Somewhere in his late forties, early fifties, with one of those lined faces that made it hard to guess his actual age. He also had a “screw you” attitude toward authority that made me predisposed to like him. Well, that, and the fact he’d pulled my ass out of the fire a couple of weeks back, saving me, Lil, and two cats from becoming zombie chow. So I tended to forgive his “hermit with shitty manners” attitude.
This particular building had the only rooftop in the facility with the room to accommodate a helicopter. There were two access doors, one each on the east and west sides of the building. One of them accessed the glass-covered catwalk that led to the Center for Regenerative Medicine. The catwalk also held the James Bondian elevator that went down to the super-secret lab.
We were there to secure the roof and its makeshift helipad with a sloppy red H painted on the concrete, incoming helicopters carrying the core personnel from Redwood Grove could land safely.
Besides, when it came time to clear zombie infestations, who you gonna call? That’s right. The few, the proud… complete with enhanced strength, agility and senses.
The wild cards.
Although the enhanced sense of smell wasn’t necessarily a gift when dealing with decomposing cannibals.
“Man, this is boring.”
Tony looked at the incoming zombies with dissatisfaction. A nineteen year-old punk-ass gamer with multiple piercings—most of them empty now due to a particularly painful close encounter with a handsy zombie—he had an attitude that often screamed “Slap me, I’m a jerk.”
Nathan and I both looked at him.
“Boring?” I raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Seriously,” Tony said. “If this were a video game, it’d be all like ‘Plug a Granny’ and totally made for five-year-olds.”
“Plug a Granny?”
Nathan snorted, although whether from disgust or amusement I couldn’t tell.
Me? I had to smother a laugh. I mean, it was funny—kind of, in a sick and twisted kind of way, and these days I needed to take humor where I found it. Considering the truly fucked-up state of pretty much everything.
I mean, the Zombie Apocalypse. Who’da thunk it?
How many survivalist types were creaming their jeans at the chance to put their years of anal-retentive planning into practice, all those zombie preppers who’d had their brief moments of fame on reality TV. Most likely they were cowering in their reinforced bunkers, listening to their loved ones pounding on the door with rotting fists…
Okay, brain, that’s enough of that, thank you very much.
I gave myself a mental shake. The horror show in front of me was more than enough. I didn’t need to create another one in my imagination. Drawing a bead on a target, I pulled the trigger.
At least the movies hadn’t lied about how to perma-kill zombies. Shoot ‘em in the head. Destroy the brain. Or the stem, or the whatever-the-heck portion controlled the reptile functions. It would have totally sucked if that had turned out to be bullshit, while the rest of the zombocalypse proved to be true.
But it did work, and if you were creative, there were many ways and many weapons you could use to put them back in the grave, once and for all. Luckily for us, the more zombies we killed, the more creative we tended to get.
Thus ended the upside to the zombie outbreak.
“Why are there so many of them up here on the roof?” I wondered aloud.
As soon as I spoke, I shot Tony a look and said, “If you say ‘because this was once a very important place to them’ I will hit you.”
Tony smirked, but kept his mouth shut.
“They were probably attracted to the sound of the helicopter when it took off yesterday morning,” Nathan said as he put a round through the head of a Ruth Gordon look-alike. “Guess nothing better came along to distract them.”
My jaw tightened.
We’d survived a chopper crash, fought our way through a zombie-infested San Francisco to UCSF, and found the hidden DZN lab. We’d lost five people along the way, but we’d made it—only to be ambushed upon our arrival. Gabriel had been hustled off at gunpoint by the proverbial men in black, and I was pretty sure they were the same bastards who’d sabotaged our helicopters, plus raided and burned down our lab at Big Red.
Whoever it was, they didn’t see a problem with the spreading plague—and if our suspicious were correct, they were spreading it deliberately.
Why anyone would do that was beyond my comprehension… but then again, I have difficulty with the concept of fracking and GMOs in the food supply, so I probably wasn’t the best person to analyze the motives of psychopaths.
What really bugged me was that someone involved had a personal grudge against yours truly. When someone points a gun at you and says they, “have a present for you from a old friend,” you can bet your ass it’s not a candygram. Plus they knew my name.
That’s never a good sign.
More senior zombies stumbled through the door across the rooftop. I heard shots coming from the interior of the building, the comforting sound of the rest of our team doing their jobs. The bastards who’d ambushed us had wedged as many stairwell doors open as they could on both sides, making sure we’d have plenty of walking dead to play with.
Bastards. Did I mention that?
Luckily we had plenty of ammo. We couldn’t clear the entire medical center—it would be suicide to try—but a few floors? Piece o’ cake.
At least that’s what I kept telling myself, because my spirits couldn’t afford to sink any lower. Losing Kai had been bad enough, but when Mack died, it had ripped the heart out of our team—especially Lil, who was conspicuously absent from the current bout of zombie carnage. It was the sort of thing that typically made her dance with glee.
And Gabriel… it’d been like a punch in the gut, when that helicopter took off. And when we were told we weren’t going after him, well, I hadn’t exactly handled it gracefully. Having to cool my heels was a special circle of hell.
Right now, though, I had a job to do. A messy, smelly, and totally cathartic job.
Tony’s voice brought me back to the present—which included a frail-looking octogenarian in a hospital gown, pieces of flesh caught in its dentures and bite marks oozing black fluid from its arms. I capped it right away, the barrel of my M-4 only a foot or so away from its head. It dropped in its tracks, falling forward. The hospital gown flapped open to reveal a naked, withered, greenish zombie butt with a chunk taken out of one cheek.
I could have gone my entire life without seeing that.
Nathan eyed me sternly.
“Keep your head in the game, kiddo,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose anyone else.”
I nodded. “Yeah… sorry.”
He gave me a rare, comforting pat on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry—we’ll get him back,” he said. “Both Gabriel and Dr. Caligari.”
Nathan’s obscure but accurate film reference made me smile, but it only lasted for a moment. The same creeps who’d taken Gabriel also snatched Dr. Albert, our pet mad scientist. His vaccine for Walker’s Flu was supposed to be the next big thing for pharma. Yet because he’d ordered his ego super-sized, he hadn’t bothered with trivial details like clinical trials.
Unfortunately, his vaccine came with one whopper of a side effect. In laboratory lingo, it “reacted to a dormant variant of a retrovirus in about ten percent of the population, causing a mutation in the DNA.” At least that’s how Simone had explained it. In plain English, it turned its victims into the walking dead.
If only Dr. Albert had just stuck with prostate exams and yearly physicals. To think as a kid I’d accepted lollipops from that man. Now, however, he was our best hope for figuring out a cure. Otherwise I’d have been happy letting the megalomaniacal bastard rot wherever he’d been taken.
A new influx of zombies came shuffling through the far door, doing their best Moe, Larry, and Curly.
“What the hell?” I said. “Is Gentry herding them up here on purpose? Does he want us to get eaten?”
“It’s ‘cause you smell so tasty, Ash,” Tony said.
I flipped him the bird.
“Where are Davis and Jones when we need ‘em?” I grumbled, even though I already knew the answer.
The Gunsy Twins were two out of the original four snipers who’d survived the trip from Redwood Grove. Their shooting skills bordered on mystical, but they weren’t wild cards, and unsuited to close quarter encounters with extremely infectious enemy. So they were perched safely above the loading docks, picking off zombies with carefully placed headshots. Once that area was sealed off and we’d finished on the roof, all entrances to the DZN lab would be secured.
While I was a decent shot, thanks to my oxymoron of a liberal gun-nut father, I wasn’t good enough to keep up with the numbers pouring out the roof access. At this point, I’d infinitely prefer close-quarter fighting. I could slice and dice faster than I could aim, fire, and reload.
“Let’s conserve ammo,” Nathan said, as if he was reading my mind.
Tony grinned, slung his M-4 over one shoulder, and pulled a small but effective sledgehammer out of the loop on his belt. I followed suit, drawing my modified katana from its scabbard with what was now a fluid motion, almost as if I practiced in front of a mirror.
Okay fine, I totally did.
My faithful tanto—see what I did there?—remained patiently in its crossover sheathe over the left side of my chest.
Cool accessories? I haz them.
“Go play, children.” Nathan waved us toward the zombies. “I’ll stay here on cleanup duty.”
Tony and I exchanged a quick fist bump and dove in with enthusiasm. Blood, viscera, brain matter, and black goo flew with abandon as Tony swung Thor’s Wee Hammer into zombie skulls, with deadly results. He might be an annoying punk ass kid at times, but he was a kick-ass zombie-killing machine.
Myself, I practiced the fine art of decapitation, mixing it up with sweeping cuts and sharp thrusts through the eye sockets. We didn’t have to worry about becoming infected. Hell, Tony, Nathan and I could swallow all manner of zombie crap, and be just fine.
Blerg. Why my brain consistently came up with mental images like that, I knew not.
Oh, well, I’d wait until after I’d finished my job to page Dr. Freud.