Friday, November 29, 2013

#BlackFridayPromoBlitz, #AuthorTalk and #Giveaway-->The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

Book & Author Details:
Author: Rhiannon Frater
Publication date: June 12th 2012
Genres: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction

Synopsis:

The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive,
protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.
Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.
Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.

Excerpt:
A massive shockwave rippled through the perimeter wall, tossing soldiers off their feet and onto the catwalk, or over the wall into the Scourge horde below as one of the mobile units twisted around in one of the deeper craters and wrenched another unit completely about. The torsion between the two units sent another shudder through the perimeter wall and Maria clung to the catwalk as Ryan fell on top of her. Together, they rode the catwalk to the ground, tumbling into the mud. Maria immediately scrambled to her feet and gasped.

The steel mesh had torn free of one of the units and the Scourge were shoving their bodies through the frayed opening. The squads closest to the breach opened fire. The mesh wall shimmered as it wavered under the onslaught of the undead. The mobile units continued on their designated course to their next position, ripping another hole in the mesh wall.

“Fall back!” someone ordered as the Inferi Scourge shoved through the widening openings.

Ryan grabbed Maria’s shoulder and dragged her toward a section where the fallen catwalks formed a barrier along with some of the unpacked supply units. Lindsey scrambled to follow. The squads formed a line, shooting at the Scourge coming through the gap. For several agonizing minutes, they were successful at holding the howling creatures back.

“Tiltrotors are en route!” a voice intoned in her helmet.

Sweat poured down Maria’s face as she reloaded. Ryan lobbed several grenades toward the breach as Lindsey fired over Maria’s head.

“About that date…” Ryan said, grinning despite the fear in his eyes.

Maria slid around him into a better position and aimed at a Scourge trying to scale the fallen edge of the wall. “You’re supposed to give me a reason to live, dumb ass,” she groused.

Another soldier landed in the mud beside her and helped her obliterate the Scourge trying to scramble through another widening tear in the wall.

“This was a stupid plan!” she shouted.

“It seemed like a good one when we planned it,” the soldier answered.

It took her a full second to realize it was Chief Defender Dwayne Reichardt.

“Sorry, sir,” she said quickly.

He shook his head, still firing. “Let’s just live through this!”

The Scourge pushed further into the perimeter. Maria knew now it was only a matter of minutes before they were all dead. She tried not to hear the screams of the soldiers overcome by the Inferi Scourge. The Scourge tore at them, ripping at their body armor, trying to reach flesh so they could bite and infect. One soldier was pulled free of a group of Scourge, his armor still intact as his comrades gunned down the creatures that had attacked him.

Vanguard Stillson lobbed a grenade at a catwalk’s treads and the explosion toppled it over onto the Inferi Scourge.

They were losing ground swiftly and chaos ruled. No one was listening to orders barked over the feed anymore, but were just trying to survive. The perimeter wall attached to the city wall still stood intact with the catwalks still secured to it. Many soldiers clambered onto it, trying to escape the ground. Maria, Ryan, Lindsey and the Chief Defender started to fall back, providing cover to those trying to reach higher ground.

Rappelling ropes started to fall from the high wall. Frantic soldiers gripped the lines and climbed upward, their muddy boots slipping against the steel surface.

Maria tripped, falling on her ass, and the Chief Defender hauled her up swiftly. The Scourge were everywhere now, smashing through the clusters of soldiers, howling. Maria fired point blank into the face of one as it charged her. The Chief Defender knocked another one back with the butt of his rifle. Together they charged through the mud toward the city wall.

Ryan and Lindsey were just ahead of them and nearing the remaining catwalks when Maria saw a flash of light. A massive force slammed into her and sent her sprawling through the air. Blackness surged up to claim her, and she fought not to drown in it. Pulling herself onto her elbows, her body felt numb and her helmet was gone. Beside her, the Chief Defender struggled to get up. His armor was punctured with shrapnel and blood poured through the tears.

Lifting her weapon, Maria aimed toward the creatures trying to climb over the corpses of Scourge and soldiers the grenade blast had killed. Pulling the trigger, she felt the rifle pulsing as it hurtled bullets into the bodies of the rampaging dead.

“Tiltrotor!” Ryan’s voice screamed near her.

She kept firing, but flicked her gaze to one side to see Ryan carrying a badly-wounded Lindsey over one broad shoulder. The churning wind pulled her gaze up to the aircraft slowly descending over the fray. Beside her, the Chief Defender fell over onto his side, unable to get up. Maria grabbed his arm and shifted her body under it. Rising to her knees, she pulled him upright. He screamed. Together, they managed to get to their feet as Maria fired at the Scourge drawing closer.

Vanguard Stillson’s huge body moved through the crowd of Inferi Scourge like a rampaging elephant, tossing them left and right, shooting a few as he went. His helmet was gone and his armor was smoldering. Maria could see the shrapnel from the grenade had sliced away parts of his face. Yet Stillson kept fighting. The Scourge were so intent on him, Ryan and the others were able to skirt past the mob and head toward the aircraft.

Casting one last look at Stillson, Maria gasped as a Scourge grabbed the man’s thick neck and bit into his cheek, infecting him. Usually the Scourge abandoned a victim successfully infected with the virus and moved on to another, but this one kept tearing at Stillson, chewing and appearing to devour his flesh.

Reichardt stumbled, forcing Maria’s attention away from Stillson’s demise. Pulling her superior up to his feet again, she continued to fire at any Scourge rushing them. Around her, other soldiers continued to fall, fighting the undead to their last breath.

“Keep moving, Chief Defender,” she urged him. “I don’t want to die today.”

“Neither do I, and my name is Dwayne,” he said crisply, his voice filled with pain and determination.

“I’m Maria.”

“Nice to meet you, Maria. Now, let’s not die,” Dwayne said

“Is that an order?” Maria kicked over a Scourge and shot it in the face.

“Without a doubt,” Dwayne answered with a grin.



Purchase Links:

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Author Bio:

Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. Her next novel for Tor, Dead Spots, will be published in 2014. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets).  She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.  

You can find her online at:
Website: rhiannonfrater.com & astheworlddies.com
Twitter:  twitter.com/rhiannonfrater
Email: rhiannonfrater at gmail.com

Rhiannon's Take on her Characters and the Dystopian World Building for The Last Bastion of the Living :

Q1. What do you have to say for the Dystopian world you created?

After I finished writing my zombie trilogy AS THE WORLD DIES (THE FIRST DAYS, FIGHTING TO SURVIVE, and SIEGE) in 2009, I was done with zombies for a bit. I turned to other types of monsters (vampires, necromancers, mummies, werewolves,) writing both short stories and a few novels.

Yet, I was faced with a fandom that really doesn’t like me to stay away from the zombies for too long.

I’d been toying with a dystopian short story on and off for a year. It was one of those ideas born of a dream that felt like the great beginning to a story. This particular idea started with two characters, Dwayne and Maria, and I was instantly in love with them. I wanted to know more about them and their world. As I began to pull the internal camera back a bit to get a good view of their surroundings, I realized the story and the world was much bigger than I had anticipated. It was definitely not a short story. It was something much bigger and more challenging.

And the best part, it had a different kind of zombie called the Inferi Scourge.

I recognized I would have to immediately set this world apart from the AS THE WORLD DIES universe. It was most definitely going to be a dystopian world, but how was I going to construct it?

The title was the first thing that helped me. The Last Bastion of the Living immediately established a setting. A bastion is a fortress. I already knew the story was going to partially take place within a dying city…the last living city of humanity, in fact.

The concept is pretty simple. The last-known city of humanity is tucked into an isolated valley with a massive gate as its only entry. I knew that at some point the gate had failed and allowed the zombie-like creatures in the story called the Inferi Scourge to invade the valley, forcing the humans to withdraw into the city. But the city itself was a challenge.

Obviously, the city in the valley started out as a utopian ideal. Cut off from the world ravaged by a virus that creates dangerous undead who want nothing more than to bite and spread the virus, the valley, its resources, and the city were a shiny new beginning. So in my mind, I had to create utopia first.

So what would a city be like that was built to be the last bastion of humanity?


The walls that surround the city that houses well over a million people are high and made of steel. On the walls are massive guns called Maelstrom Platforms. The military buildings are located near the wall, while the government facilities rest near the center of the city.

Housing so many people means that they would live in flats in multi-level buildings. Because of the threat of the Inferi Scourge infiltrating the city, each building has a collapsible stairway that leads to a second floor entry. People aren’t able to have vehicles like cars, so there is an extensive subway and monorail system to ferry people across the vast city.

The valley outside the city provides all the resources the city needs to survive. Farms, ranches, a hydroelectric station next to a lake, and mining facilities are vital to the long-term survival of the city. A massive gate protects the only pass into the valley, keeping the Inferi Scourge out.

All these elements made up the New Eden, the home of The Bastion.

Once I had utopia established, I destroyed it.

The gate fails. The Inferi Scourge swarm into the valley, killing the hundreds of thousands of people living and working outside the city, and force the leaders of The Bastion to close the city gates, trapping the remaining millions inside the walls.

With the city cut off from the valley, it’s fully dependent on the resources already stored inside its walls. Soon, the subway and monorail systems shut down. Rolling blackouts become a way of life. The population grows and more prefab buildings are constructed, making the city even more cramped. City parks are destroyed to create more living space while buildings along the wall are razed to the ground to create fields. Because the city is cut off, clothes, shoes, furniture, electronics, etc. are remade, refurbished, and salvaged to make new things.

Utopia becomes dystopia.


Add in the undead Inferi Scourge howling outside the walls and the world of The Bastion came into being.

The world that surrounds my main characters is close to collapse and utter destruction. Life is fragile and they know it. The world itself creates tension in the lives of Maria and Dwayne and inspires them to great feats of bravery.

In many ways, The Bastion itself is another character in the book, rich with personality and history. World building is not always easy, but it can add so much to a tale. Especially one like The Last Bastion of the Living

Q2. How did you create your characters?

One of the biggest challenges in starting a new novel is discovering all the new characters that will inhabit the world you’ve created. I usually have the primary characters fully-developed in my head when I sit down at my computer and type in the first sentence of a book, but the secondary characters are not always clearly defined.

While writing The Last Bastion of the Living , the main characters of Dwayne and Maria were incredibly vivid in my mind. Their back stories came easily to me as I pondered the story and considered my approach to writing it. Maria’s personality and appearance was the first thing that developed in my mind when the first seeds of the story germinated in my dreams. I knew she was Dominican-Puerto Rican in descent, strong-willed, loyal, and the daughter of a soldier who died in battle and a mother who hated Maria enlisting in the military. Maria’s desire for a life with the man she loves without the threat of the dangerous Inferi Scourge (a type of zombie) was the central motivation for everything she does in the book. Dwayne was much older than Maria, a career officer, a man stuck in a nasty divorce, a father of three children (two teenagers, one an adult), and someone who has lived a hard life and knows exactly what he wants out of the rest of his years on the Earth. Together, they shared a love bond that was deep and a wellspring of strength to both of them.

But what about the rest of the people surrounding them?


My novels run like movies in my head. I watch and attempt to transfer the images in my mind to the page. I am often surprised by what I observe, but that is some of the fun in writing. A lot of times characters will make unexpected appearances in the narrative. When that happens, I have to ask the question, “Who are you?” Surprisingly, a lot of the characters just drop into the story fully-formed.
Mr. Petersen and Dr. Curran were two such characters. As soon as they appeared on the movie screen in my head, I “got” them. Though they both surprised me in little ways throughout the story, their basic personalities and motivations never changed.

But another character became much more than I ever anticipated. She originally showed up briefly with Maria in a scene that I had considered cutting. I thoughtshe was a one-off character, but the blond soldier hobbling with a cane became a vital part of the plot, much to my surprise. I gave her the name Lindsey after Lindsey Wagner (who played the Bionic Woman) and made her a veteran of the last push against the Inferi Scourge, which was the battle that left Maria and Dwayne with their battle scars. I gave her a job in the communication center of the Constabulary, not realizing how vital that position and her skills would be to the story later on.


Later, about a third of the way through the book, I realized I needed to show that big battle, which was not originally present when I started writing it. Therefore the prologue was written. Lindsey ended up with a part in that big scene along with another character named Ryan. Again, Lindsey and Ryan were created to show that Maria had friends outside of her romantic relationship, but both characters held the weight of something more than just walk-ons. Suddenly, the relationship that Maria had to both of these characters added much more dimension to her personality and her future struggles.

That’s the fun of writing. The unexpected twists and turns. Discovering new and dynamic characters as scenes unfold. Finding out that a character you thought would show up in one scene is actually a vital part of the overall plot.


 Q3. Is your Heroine as "badass" as she looks on the cover? 

I’m not going to lie. I need to be honest with you from the start. The honest to God truth of the matter is that I hate/despise/loathe a lot female characters that fall under the “badass” heroine banner.  I often have to suppress the deep, dark desire to give them a roundhouse kick to the face.

Well, if I could actually manage to do a roundhouse kick. I’m not that limber.

Though there are plenty of amazing, strong female characters that I absolutely love with all my heart, there are a smorgasbord of female characters that really rub me the wrong way. The reason for this is simple. Badass has been confused with women who are just plain bitchy, self-centered, and mean. 

I didn’t really realize how ingrained the bitchy heroine had become in entertainment until I saw a script for one of my books. The heroine uttered a lot of really mean, nasty comments in the first few pages of the script and I was stunned by how awful she came across. I spoke to the scriptwriter about the added dialog and he answered, “Oh, I added that because I wanted her to come across as a strong.”

“Uh, strong doesn’t mean bitchy,” I said carefully. To my surprise, and relief, he agreed and those lines were removed.

But after that event, I realized that was exactly why some heroines really rub me the wrong way. To make a woman appear strong, a lot of writers have defaulted to making her really bitchy, egocentric, and often just plain mean. It hurts me whenever I see this trope in a book, movie, or TV show. A woman doesn’t have to be a bitch to be strong or badass.

A badass female character should be someone you can see as a friend. Someone you love, cheerfor, and believe in. You understand they’re flawed, but that’s okay. As they keep working hard to overcome all their obstacles and achieve a happy ending, you’re invested in their journey.

Even when my heroines have something exceptional about them like Vanguard Maria Martinez in The Last Bastion of the Living , they exist realistically in their circumstances. Maria’s military training, intelligence, and determination to accomplish her mission all contribute to her badass factor.  But the power that compels her to do extraordinary things isn’t her anger at an unfair world, but her love for a man who loves and respects her. Maria not only serves The Bastion, but her own heart. She struggles with fear, suffers loss, and knows that she may lose her life in the battle against the Inferi Scourge. But victory means freedom from the undead hordes and the ability to build her life with Dwayne, the man who sees beyond her hard veneer to the women she is inside. 

My goal when writing my strong female protagonists is to create realistic women who have strengths and flaws just like everyone else does.  I don’t create perfect people that have nothing bad happen to them. Or women that all the men want to be with and all other women hate. I create women who could live in our own world very easily. They could be your neighbor, friend, or family member.
In the end, I think Maria Martinez is a badass heroine because her strength doesn’t come from being bitchy, but from being a woman willing to do her very best to overcame the most terrible odds.

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