Saturday, December 6, 2014

Donna Cook Interview

I recently had the pleasure  of meeting the well-spoken Epic Fantasy Author, Donna Cook, and she agreed to an interview here with the readers of Eye on Ashenclaw. The following is the result of that interview...

First off, tell us a little bit about you.I grew up in the cradle of the Arizona desert but relocated to Boise about 3 years ago. It was an unplanned move that ended up being exactly what I needed. I’m married to a fellow creative, artist Kevin McCain, who keeps me going when I want to quit. I have three sons and three step-daughters and a strict no-pet policy because we’re doing good just to keep up with all the people who live here. I’m a freelance book editor specializing in fiction and, of course, an author. I love to dance. I love to travel. I don’t love to cook but I do love to eat.

Tell us about your books/What genre do you consider your books?
Gift of the Phoenix
is an epic fantasy adventure. Readers and reviewers often draw comparisons to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Two very different stories, obviously, and mine has its own unique feel as well. What they have in common, though, is that big, fun, adventurous, magical feel. Who doesn’t like that? :)

When did you start writing? According to my mother, before I even knew how. My pre-writing scribbles are long gone, but the desire to write has never left me.

Why do you write? I can’t help myself. It’s playtime for grown-ups. I absolutely love inventing new worlds, new characters, new stories. Whenever I hear people talk about retiring, I think, “I’ll never retire.” I hope to spend the rest of my life playing with stories.

What would be your choice for a superpower?Either flying or invisibility. Or decisiveness.

Who is your favorite author? Several. Kate DiCamillo. Patrick Rothfuss. John Steinbeck. Rainbow Rowell. How much time do you have?

What are you reading now? I just finished re-reading These is My Words by Nancy Turner. One of my favorite books. It’s on the short list of books I’ll actually re-read.

Who is your favorite character to write? Ooooh, that’s a tough one. (I do not do well with favorites lists.) I love so many of my characters. Even the bad ones are fun to write. I’d say the character that lingers with me the most, though, is Nashua. She’s a side character in Gift of the Phoenix. I ended up writing a novella about her and plan to write more. Her stories are a pure labor of love. I don’t think they’ll have the broad appeal Gift of the Phoenix has, but I’m so drawn to her. It may be no one will read her stories, but I feel compelled to write them anyway.

Do you have a writing process? Yes. I brainstorm plot, subplot, characters, and world building in a spiral notebook. Some ideas make it to the first draft, some don’t. I don’t sweat it. The notebook stage is all about pure exploration. By the time I start a draft, I have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen, but there are always surprises along the way. I focus on big picture corrections in the second draft (plot, pacing, etc), then polish up the language in the final draft. I bring my editor in after the first draft.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author? I think aspiring authors sometimes read the answers to this kind of question looking for the magic bullet. Some new trick they haven’t heard of yet. There really isn’t a trick. Learning to write is like any other advanced skill. You must practice. You must learn the tools of your trade. So it comes down to three things: read a lot, study the craft of writing, and write a lot. For years. If you do that, there will be no stopping you.

What inspired you to pursue writing?It’s just always been a part of me. I could no more answer the question, “What got you interested in breathing?” For whatever reason, writing has always been in my blood.

What are your favorite TV shows/Movies to watch in between writing?Any movie about writing or writers inspires me. Finding Neverland, Miss Potter, Little Women, even something like Julie and Julia. Anything dealing with the creative drive.

What are your current projects? The Lost Branch is the follow up to Gift of the Phoenix. I finished the second draft and my editor gave it a green light for the final draft, which means all the story elements are solid. It’s time to look at the language. I’m currently letting that book rest before I dive into the final. I want to re-read it with fresh eyes to see if there are any opportunities I’m missing. Meanwhile, I’ve started the rough draft of a completely new story, The Crossroads. I may or may not get the entire draft done before going back to The Lost Branch. I’ve also been letting the second Nashua story rest, but have been itching to pull it back out. My Muse is fickle and secretive. I literally have no idea which of these projects I’ll be working on two weeks from now.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?Thank you! One of my favorite things is meeting readers. I adore them. I’m grateful to them. Without them my stories would feel so lonesome. Thank you, thank you for reading.

Quick Fire:Cats or dogs? Dogs
Coffee or tea? Tea
Favorite food? Mexican
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? Chocolate
What are 3 things you never leave home without? Keys, phone, notebook and pen.
Laptop or desktop? Laptop
Who are 3 famous people you would to hang out with? Kate DiCamillo, Rainbow Rowell, Maya Angelou.
TV or Movies? Movies


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wake the Dead Reviews

Hello, all! First let me preface by saying, I don't often post anything about reviews, mostly due to their subjective nature, and this being the internet and all. I would say that most commenters, posters, etc, find it easier to snipe than to praise (again, my opinion), but on occasion, we find a gem. That being said, I had to shine a spotlight on two specific recent reviews of Wake the Dead, as the author of the first really validates what I was trying to accomplish in this book and series, while the second states that the book is well done in a quiet way.

Wake the Dead Full Cover
Reviews, as I have stated numerous times, are an authors way of not only learning what the audience thinks, but on those occasions when there is something constructive in there, to learn from them.

When I read these in particular, I was both humbled and filled with joy, and appreciative of the time they spent writing and posting them. And so I say, to everyone who posts a review, and in this particular case, the two I am about to post, I THANK YOU!

The first, a 5 star, can be found here:
I have been a huge fan of "The Walking Dead", so when I started this book, I was expecting to read something along the same storyline at best, something very lame and boring at worst. What I read left me with a smile. Granted, most of these zombie-themed movies or shows will have the same tone to it (some virus causes people to die, and then re-animates them as the undead, causing havoc), but the author has given this story some uniqueness by adding a wolf in the midst, telling us that some are immune to this virus (I think), etc, which makes this story more interesting to me.

In addition to all the action, there is a decent smattering of romance - particularly the love-making scenes I thought were much bolder and intense than some I have read in these so called erotic books. I truly enjoyed those. Towards the end, just as they thought the apocalypse was over (which dismayed me a bit - I was like WTF), they realise that it isn't. I wonder what the author has in store for us next. Can't wait to start the next one. I have greatly reduced giving out 5 stars on reviews, but I can, without hesitation, dole out 5 stars to this book. I highly recommend it especially if you are a "walking dead" fan like me.
The second, a 4 star, was here:
So, when I'm feeling gloomy I cycle through Apocalypse and Zombie books. Some are same old same old, some are intense and some are quietly very good, like this one.

Anyway, I am happy to hear from the readers and like I said, the reviews are very much appreciated from every single author who takes the time to attempt this endeavor of opening your imaginations!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pamela Winn Interview

Hello all! It's been a while and I am back with another delightful interview from a fellow author. Meet Pamela Winn...

First off, tell us a little bit about you...I am a mother of 7, grandmother of 18. I have 19 books indie published. The 20th should be done this month for the NaNoWrite November. I am all about books, avid reader, reviewer and writer.

Tell us about your books/What genre do you consider your books?Tough question for me. I write preschool to novels. The children's books are fun, rhyming books that will hopefully give children the love of reading. The novels are supernatural, sci-fi, mystery, paranormal and a bit of spiritual, along with a lot of conspiracy.

When did you start writing? I always wrote poems and short stories, but the actual novel writing began two years ago and I haven't been able to stop.

Why do you write? Mostly to get sleep! At night I lay awake while the words and pictures float through my mind. Putting them on paper seems to help. I love to have my writing take readers to another place for the time it takes them to read the book. There is nothing better than taking a break and going on an adventure. When readers say I hated for the book to end I am on cloud nine.

What would be your choice for a superpower?I would love to read minds, but that may not be a great power because I may not like what I hear. I think I better go with flying. How awesome would it be to travel to places I have only read about and this would also be a great way to add new locations to the novels I write.

Who is your favorite author? Definitely Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but I also love John Steinbeck, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I find a great new author almost every day, if I find a good story then I am happy.

What are you reading now? I am asked this a lot, because I read about three books a day, when I am asked I am finished reading the book. I have been reading a lot of John Dizon, John Tucker and Angie Blake. But I have found so many new authors I love that I couldn't begin to mention them all. I get lost in a book and feel that is partly due to my vivid imagination.

Who is your favorite character to write? I love all my characters and hopefully my readers do too, I have been told that readers do feel they know my characters. I do have fun writing as the bad guy (or woman) though. I think I get to let out my evil side that way. When writing I tend to be my own characters for awhile, that is if they let me. They do have ideas of their own.

Do you have a writing process? Mostly I write down the characters and what they look like to me, ages, height and weight are a big part but also character traits and a little background on each one. From there those characters seem to decide where the story goes.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author? If you love writing do it. If you are looking to get rich and famous, I'd think twice. Unless you have a great publisher and a promoter with inside information you aren't going to be rich. You might make enough to buy the coffee or whatever you use to finish the novels. Writing has to be a passion, not be about the money.

What inspired you to pursue writing?When my husband had health problems we were told to move to a different place. He was told to get his affairs in order. Through the process of downsizing I almost had to throw out my writings of poems and short stories. That's when I decided I should put everything into book form and I became an indie author.

What are your favorite TV shows/Movies to watch in between writing?I love anything with a touch of the supernatural and am a big fan of old sci-fi and horror movies. I am watching Haven and Ressurection right now.

What are your current projects?Right now I am writing a novel for the November Nano Writing, the book is about a new type of serial killer. "The New Moon Killer" It is a pyschological suspense horror thriller.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?Thanks, Thanks, Thanks. I have been so lucky to receive awesome reviews and great feedback from readers. It is a reader's imagination that actually finishes a book. No two people come away from a novel with the same pictures in their head. I have been so touched by what my readers tell me and can never thank them enough.

Quick Fire:Cats or dogs?
I love both. Dogs are so loyal and love unconditionally, but I have to admire a cat's attitude. Their Independence and do what they want attitude is to be envied.
Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee, day or night I have one by my side.
Favorite food?
Chocolate, does that count? actual food would be biscuits and gravy.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
I'll take vanilla, but just throw in a banana, some toppings and lots of whip cream.
What are 3 things you never leave home without?
My notebook, my pen and my imagination.
Laptop or desktop?
Who are 3 famous people you would to hang out with?
Edgar Cayce, Stephen King and Nostradamus
TV or Movies?
I love movies but never seem to be able to sit down that long, old TV shows like All in the Family or Barney Miller are great.


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WAKE THE DEAD 2, Chapter 1

Hello all! I am excited to remind you that Wake the Dead 2 is available right now for pre-order and will be released on Halloween, this coming Friday,October 31st.

Please stop on over to WattPad to read WAKE THE DEAD, Chapter 1 in its entirety. It's free and you don't need to sign up for anything to read it, but if you do, please feel free to vote for my works.

(If you haven't read the epilogue to Wake the Dead, it can be found right here.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween this year and happy reading!


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It's been awhile since my last post, and that is due to real life getting in the way of my writing. But it's mostly because of my complete immersion back into the lives of Alex, Shadow and company at the Renaissance Faire in the land of The Dead Series! That's right, Wake the Dead 2 is available for Pre-Order right now & will go live on October 31, 2014!

It can be pre-ordered right here:
Wake the Dead 2

As for a special treat, I wanted to show everyone the full wrap-around cover art that Carlos Cara provided me...this is how it will be seen in its full glory on the paperback version of CreateSpace/Amazon.


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wade Garret Interview

I know it's been a while since I have had any fresh content here, but I have a good excuse...I've been writing! I've got three books going at once, the one that is taking the most time being Wake the Dead 2!

Now, that being said, I have met Wade Garret on social media and he was more than happy to share his information with the readers of Eye on Ashenclaw!

Tell us about your book/What genre do you consider your books?
The True Test for Man, is if he can stand naked before himself without blinking.
The same trail of existence for a God, however, even one created, is if when he blinks, will he change or the world?
Back Blurb: After a year of laborious solitude and a conflict brought to the doorstep of his father's house, Jak, a Southlander of meek circumstance, will come to accept the future isn't set. Through abilities unnerving to any Areht, against enemies rising in every corner of the planet, he’ll be forced to resolve his destiny as One of Five that can change the world. Such selfless transcendence isn’t easy, nor simply the heroic result of dark revelations shielded from him since childhood now exposed; rather, it's because of what’s undeniable, even to him. As all great forces collect at the spear’s tip, the truth of his purpose and the price of his existence has a cost and there's no getting around paying it.
 Overall Blurb: Jak Hartlen, 19, the son of William and Mary, will face many thresholds of flesh and mind on his road to reaping the Whirl Wind; seeds of grief and guilt only now coming to fruition.
If only they’d know what they were doing...
The Gan and their Areht who shape the world behind the scenes will hate him, because he's a threat they're not sure can be chained.
The Pillars and their Faithful who spread the world's leading religion will fear him, because his existence, once known, will challenge Ages of dogma and accepted history.
The Crimson King and its Servants who seek to return to power, destroying all that remains of The White, will hunt him, because even in death, they're not sure he'll ever bow to the Dark.
—They All Should.
For as One of Five with the power to shake the world, they’ll hollow his heart and mind through countless sacrifice and vengeful selfishness.

Now, all that said, to simplify: Genesis and The Kingdom Come Series as a whole, is my take on the Hero/AntiHero's Journey. It's a work of Speculative Fiction: gritty Steam/Dieselpunk blended with realistic, sometimes brutal Dark Fantasy—splashes of Cyberpunk and the Strange here’n’there for flavor. If you’re not a F/SF aficionado, plz visit my blog where I elaborated on definitions and how/why they work together for me and my series

When did you start writing? Sometime in Middle School. I did a little more in High School as I took my writing assignments more seriously. I really began to build my voice when I came back from college. I was Role Playing before and after this time, so I’d say I was also writing then, though I didn’t always consider torn jot-lists, flow-charts and streams of character details lost to binders I have no idea where, writing.

Why do you write? Because I have to. I know nothing else I want to do. Trust me, as a writer, I think you often wonder if it’d be easier or better to do something else; most writers are qualified to do other things. The pay’s a hundred times better with a “normal” career and there’s likely benefits, but that’s the not the point. You write because you have a story to tell. You tell it because it has to be told and your hope is people want to hear it. 

What would be your choice for a superpower? It’s a tossup between immortality and to see Time/Space without limit, forward and backward seamlessly.

Who is your favorite author? This is a trick question to ask. I don’t have one, however, I do have a list of authors, besides the Classics—which Everyone Should Know and if you don’t, google Classic F/SF and get reading—and they are: Mark Hodder, Chris Wooding, Daniel Polansky, Mark Lawrence, Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore; not including a dozen or more movie and comic writers who I also admire.

What are you reading now? Comics: Manhattan Project, Saga and Original Sin, though I tend to not read many Superhero comics, because, sadly enough, I have neither the time or wallet to get caught up in them. Finally, anything Jae Lee is working on. His art is amazing.
Books: King of Thorns, Odd Men Out, Night Shall Overtake, The Return of The Discontinued Man...then some history and political books.

Who is your favorite character to write? I have to break this down into two parts: Villains and Heroes.
Heroes: The Main Character, but often when Jak’s dialogue is balanced with characters with greater presence. The best part of the first book for me was learning the world as Jak did, seeing it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know.
Villains: Honestly, any of them and oddly enough it's because their words and motives come so easy. Is that wrong? 

Do you have a writing process? Yes. It’s called Hack’n’Slash. I don’t recommend it to the tame of heart. “If not for the damn trees you’d see the forest,” or so the saying goes. At times the path is clear. Other times, not so much. You backtrack. Reread. Erase. But then there are stents of perfect clarity. No matter what though, I love every moment my fingers are touching keys.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author? As I’ve said before. DO YOU. I don’t want to read you trying to be like someone else and you shouldn’t want to write that way; it’s not interesting and it’s being done way too much.

What inspired you to pursue writing? It was never really an inspiration. It was a gradual progression of events that led me to the fact that this is the only thing I want to do. I’m a storyteller. Part of it started with jokes, old jokes, the ones that take forever and ever to get to the punchline. Later, it moved into mimicking the fantasies I knew and loved. Later still, when gaming, I was creating my own stories....Do that enough, you eventually have to put them on paper. Boom! You’ve become a writer. It also helps if you've always loved the smell of pencils. :)

What are your favorite TV shows/Movies to watch in between writing? Well, I’m a News junkie. But when I’m not watching the news, I devour almost anything on HBO. I watch a lot of Law and Order. I like Reality Cooking shows. Of course, I record a lot of great cartoons to watch late at night: Legend of Korra; Samurai Jak and others. Movies, I tend to be really picky about the movies I watch unless they’re just hands-down awesome: If it’s a Marvel Movie, I’m seeing it and likely the Midnight Showing.

What are your current projects? Book 2 of The Kingdom Come Series and several shorts which I’m trying to figure my way through.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
If you’re reading my book. Thank you. If you’re not, well, maybe you’ll check it out after reading this interview. To readers as a whole, just keep reading but also try something new. Don’t just read the names you know, at one time, the famous were nobodies.

Quick Fire: Cats or dogs? Dogs
Coffee or tea? Coffee, though I have a favorite energy drink that’s Tea flavored....
Favorite food?  Steak and Potatoes *I can hear the onslaught of Irish Jokes coming*
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?  Chocolate. Anyone who says Vanilla is lying or was brainwashed as a child.
What are 3 things you never leave home without?  Wallet. Hat. Keys.
Laptop or desktop?  Desktop. Last laptop fragged out on me after a few months. No thank you.
Who are 3 famous people you would to hang out with?  1) Any author previously mentioned 2) Neil deGrasse Tyson 3) J.J Abrams
TV or Movies? I refuse to answer. I have to have both. 


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead! On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

CAGE THE DEAD Chapter 1!

A good portion of CAGE THE DEAD, Chapter 1 to whet your appetite. I am planning on releasing this book by end of June if all goes according to plan! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday! Now, back to editing....

Gaia and Solomon

As Gaia arrives to work that fateful day to a zoo full of visitors, including students from a nearby school, strange things begin to happen. After hearing rumors of a deadly virus being released and then news of a terrifying broadcast, she begins to witness both zoo employees and patrons dying and coming back from the dead as flesh-eating zombies. Will Gaia be able to survive the chaotic environment created by both the wild predators and the living dead?


This book contains graphic sexual content, strong language, and violence. It is intended for mature audiences. 

Chapter 1

The taste of a French vanilla cappuccino was fresh on Gaia’s lips as she peered out the window of the café, whipped cream on her nose and a smile on her face.  She squinted against the sun despite the sunglasses on her face. It was November and not the slightest chill was in the air. That alone was the reason she moved to this clime many years ago, to enjoy the year-round sun. And she didn’t mind seeing the hard bodies that accompanied the sunny weather—both men and women alike. She admitted on more than one occasion, and to Adam’s delight, that the female body was slightly more appealing to observe, what with its curves and soft edges. She wasn’t a prude, she would often say to him and he would flash her that beautiful smile that she fell in love with those many years ago.
She and Adam had just arrived to share a cup of coffee and enjoy an hour of comfort before his job took her away from him again for four consecutive days. She did not enjoy the shift work that he did, but the three-day weekends were certainly nice, even if they were Monday through Wednesday, especially in the summer months when she had coverage at the zoo and they could enjoy the beach that was less than an hour away.
In addition, she had the flexibility of seeing him at her job, where she performed her main function there as a primate specialist, and where she was pretty much left alone to do her thing, not having to report to anyone, especially on the weekends. The zoo had one or two supervisors there on Saturdays, and she and Adam would often share a romantic lunch in the reptile house since he didn’t particularly relish the smells of the primate enclosure. Or they might visit Sal’s Safari to see what specials he was running, and since the zoo wasn’t always busy those days, they did have some free time to enjoy. Gaia’s employer, Kristen, was very understanding of the visits and never gave her any grief about them. The zoo was where they spent most of their time, other than their apartment whenever they were both off, which was a rarity.
As she caught her reflection in the mirror, she brushed a hand through her short blonde locks and grimaced, believing she wasn’t at her best today, but Adam never voiced any such concerns from the time they had first started dating until now.
And neither did the animals.
She sat in silent appreciation of the wonderful animals that she had come to know these past few years. There was Rocky, the seven hundred pound grizzly; a pair of male tigers, Theo and Buster, whom she was just getting to know; Luna the Jaguar and a recent mother to a litter of three. But what made her smile most, was Molly, her mama gorilla and her babies whom they had yet to name, despite the passing of five months; and Solomon, the huge silverback papa with which she’d developed a special bond. And there was always her best girlfriend, Maye, a white-headed capuchin monkey.
The zoo was a bit on the small side, but that was the way she liked it. She had a natural affinity toward animals, which far surpassed by comparison, her comfort level when dealing with her own species.
You know where you stand with an animal, she often said to Adam, who would shake his head knowingly. Humans were less predictable and quick to disappoint.
This was her experience, being a woman of twenty-four years and never married. Adam was the last in a short line of people that understood her, through and through, and that took some time.
She sipped her hot drink and gave thought to that notion until Adam returned from the restrooms, wiping his hands on his jeans. “No paper towels in there…again,” he said with a smile. It was an ongoing joke that they shared, Gaia poking fun that they lived in a one horse town, and they would often tease Maria, the owner of the café, about just such things.
“Though the coffee is excellent,” Gaia countered. Adam pulled her in close and kissed her deeply, her eyes closing, enjoying the taste of his lips on hers.
There was hardly anyone else in the café today, except for a man that appeared to be passing through, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. He had been on the phone for the past hour, and Gaia had overheard him talking about directions out of town. There was also a woman and her children enjoying breakfast, dressed in clothing that might suggest that they were headed to the beach. It was an unusually warm day today, and so they were probably taking advantage of the nice weather.
“It’s about that time,” Adam said, pointing to his watch and tapping its face. It was close to starting time for her shift at the zoo, and he was going to drive her in today as her vehicle—an old rust colored jeep that must have had every part replaced by now, and which Adam constantly begged her to sell—was in the shop getting work done…again.
She stood, finished the coffee and tossed the empty container in the trashcan, waved goodbye to Maria and followed Adam to his prized toy, a 2006 Mustang GT, all in black with leather interior.
It wasn’t ten minutes before they arrived at the gates of the zoo, Gaia opening the door and staring out at the beautiful scene.
The zoo was busy this morning, passersby coming and going, bringing their excitable children in to observe and interact with the wildlife. The grounds were very open, atypical of a standard zoo, but more resembling a huge land with enclosures for all the animals and a staff of approximately twenty to care for it.
And take care of it they did, often sacrificing personal time and money to do whatever had to be done to keep the zoo open and profitable.
Kristen, the owner, was a very generous woman who inherited the zoo from her father, Charles, who passed away less than three months ago. And Kristen vowed to keep the place running with the help of her son and the rest of the staff, always giving of themselves early and often when it came to the animals’ welfare.
Sal’s Safari, the famous and sole restaurant on the grounds, was famous for its hearty breakfasts, soy burgers and vegetarian style platters, as well as many other dishes that might satisfy the tourists. The zoo also sported a petting zoo for children, which were the closest things resembling a traditional zoo, and a place in which she frequented.
“Sorry, hon, was just thinking of Kristen’s dad,” Gaia said as she kissed Adam gently, standing on her tiptoes and giving him a hug. “I’ll see you a bit later. I gotta go home, wash up and I’ll bring you lunch,” Adam said, smacking her on the butt as she turned around.
“You got it. See you soon,” she called over her shoulder, heading to the changing room attached to the house located near the far western side of the zoo, where she dressed into her uniform. A few moments later, she was on her way to check in Maye and gather her up for company on her shift, as she did each and every day for the past few years now, when she heard a familiar voice call to her.
“Hey, Gaia,” called Aubrey, one of the pair who watered and fed the animals. Gaia waved back and strode right past her and everyone else toward the monkey pens to get Maye.
“Looking for her?” Aubrey asked, pointing to the rather large windowpane of the restaurant. Inside, she could see the capuchin in between the glass and the draperies.
“How did she get over there?” Gaia asked, hands on hips and shaking her head at Maye.
“Well, Sal asked for her this morning. I guess he has grown fond of the little rascal,” Aubrey said with a chuckle.
“So she watches him cook breakfast for everyone, eh?”
“Well, he does feed her a ton of bananas, ya know,” Aubrey clarified, following Gaia to the restaurant that was populated with some guests as well as a portion of the staff who hadn’t started their shifts just yet.
“Heya, sweetie,” Gaia said, as the monkey hopped over to the entrance of the restaurant to meet her. And as was typical, Maye swiftly made it to her standard perch upon Gaia’s shoulder. “High five,” she added as Maye slapped her outstretched hand.
“We do have time for breakfast, I hope?” Aubrey asked, gesturing toward an open table.
“I kind of already ate,” Gaia said, drawing a narrow eyed look from Aubrey.
“And by eat, you mean, you watched Adam eat and you sipped cappuccino?”
“What’ll it be, girls?” Sal said, interrupting Gaia’s stammering response and standing over the pair proudly wearing his soiled apron.
“Right. Okay, I will get some pancakes.” As Sal began to walk away, she corrected, “A short stack, Sal!”
“What are you getting? He didn’t even ask,” Gaia said, giggling as they both knew that Aubrey got the same thing every day—a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of buttered toast.
“There’s been some weird things going on in the news today, Gaia. Have you seen it?”
“No, I haven’t had any contact with the media today, just the way I like it!” Gaia said enthusiastically, never being one to listen to the news and its numerous reports of people dying, companies going belly up, and the general malaise of society that is described all too frequently.
“It’s kind of been going on all around,” Aubrey said in a hushed tone as the food arrived.
“This is for Maye,” Sal said, handing the capuchin a pair of bananas that seemed to quiet her. “Thanks, Sal!”
“Anything for Miss Maye,”” he said with a smile as he disappeared behind the counter.
“Gaia, I’m serious! There’s something—“
“Can we maybe talk about something else? Or at least let me finish my pancakes that you made me order?” Gaia added with a brief chuckle in an attempt to defuse her curt response. Aubrey returned a forced smile and the pair ate their breakfast in relative silence.
Gaia could not help but overhear a few discussions about the sickness going around, and how the chaperones from the school were trying to keep the children focused on their fun day at the zoo instead. As Gaia listened to the conversations around her, she focused on one particular young girl talking about how excited she was to be at the zoo. It reminded Gaia of herself as a child.
Soon after the uncomfortably silent breakfast, Gaia stopped as they were exiting and grabbed Aubrey by the hand. “I’m sorry. That was really shitty of me.”
“It’s okay, Gee. I know you’ve got a lot going on with the babies. Molly and Solomon are proud parents right? Have you named ‘em yet?”
“No, I haven’t yet. Not sure what to name them yet. Waiting for inspiration, you know? Anyway, what is going on around here?” Gaia said, running after Maye, who hopped along in front of her without a care in the world.
“We’ve got a sick lion,” Aubrey called from behind Gaia, pulling her attention to regard the older woman. Aubrey had worked here for several years prior to Gaia’s hiring, and she knew both the animals and the grounds very well.
“Isn’t Doctor Friedman here?” Gaia asked incredulously, wondering where their almost-twenty-four-hour-a-day veterinarian was this day. Doctor Nancy Friedman was a wonderful doctor who lived nearby and loved animals so much that she would often spend a good portion of her free time here at the zoo. Kristen had even extended her an invitation to stay at the house, but Nancy refused each time, citing that she was more comfortable in her own lab.
The lab was set up with multiple operating rooms, with one in particular which Nancy had converted into makeshift living quarters. Doctor Freidman was a bit obsessive with regards to her lab running properly and had even had a generator put in directly beneath her lab. She was quite obsessive about her own supplies and whatnot, Gaia knew, and often heard comments within the zoo regarding opinions on how O.C.D. doctors were the ‘best ones’. It was a well-known fact that Nancy was a bit obsessive-compulsive, which had its boons and banes just like anything else. But, Nancy was fanatical about making sure that every contingency was taken into consideration.
“She is actually quite sick,” Aubrey replied, wiping sweat from her head, and replacing her hat back on her head. There was a bit more concern than usual in Aubrey’s brown eyes and Gaia could not ignore it.
“What’s going on?” she asked, continuing her journey toward the cats, specifically, the jaguar pens, to see Luna and her litter of three, the first such litter for the jaguars to date. Aubrey followed closely behind and ran ahead of Gaia to get in front of her. Nick was very excited about it and took everyone out for drinks a few days ago, which was a blast, Gaia recalled.
“Listen, something’s going on. Eddie and Kim are out sick today, and some others are working under the weather. And like I said, forty five minutes ago or so, I heard something on the news that scared the shit out of me.” Gaia stopped and stared at her, eyes widening with expectancy of said news. “What is it?! What is it that everyone is so freaked out about?”
“There are reports of people…getting sick…and well…it mentioned something about people dying.”
“That’s most definitely sad,” Gaia said, rerouting herself into a circuitous path around Aubrey.
“That’s not the worrisome part. Reports are saying that after they die…they are coming back to life.” Gaia stopped and turned on Aubrey with skepticism laced upon her features, tilting her head to the side, as she remained silent for a moment, staring at her and all around them.
“You’re shitting me, right?”
“I wish I were,” Aubrey said with a frown
“What the hell channel were you watching?!”
“Mainstream news, Gaia. It’s why I want you to come back and check in on Dr. Friedman with me,” Aubrey stated more than asked. “Gaia! I’m not kidding!”
Just then, Gaia turned to take note of a rather large crowd of people as they began running past them in a panic toward the exit. People were being trampled; both women and children alike, and the sight gave Gaia pause. She could not believe what was happening.
“Are there animals loose?” she asked, wondering what was happening.
Another crazed man ran past the two of them, “the dead are alive!”
“They must have just heard the news report. It’s on in the restaurant,” Aubrey said. “And to be honest, I’m not feeling too well either. And I’m scared.”
“It’s probably psychosomatic.”
“I appreciate that you studied psychology, but you don’t have a degree. I can do without the analysis,” Aubrey said, wiping more sweat from her brow. Gaia looked at her more closely, seeing that she did look a bit pale. “And what I'm feelin’ is real.”
 “Are you talkin’ about people dying and then coming back to life!? Are you serious?! “ Aubrey nodded her agreement and looked expectantly at Gaia “Like in the fuckin’ movies?!”
But before Aubrey could answer, she caught sight of something like what Aubrey was discussing. It was something that at one time may have been a woman—an adult woman with dark hair tied up in a bun—but was now vomiting blood. Whatever it was, it wasn’t human anymore. That much Gaia could tell.
It chased down and easily overtook an older man, tackling him and leaning over him. And then it did the unthinkable: it began tearing flesh from the man’s shoulder and neck.
“What the fuck is that?!” Gaia asked in disbelief.
It was very primal and reminded Gaia of a predator in the wild, only much more…profane. The crazed woman ran at such a swift speed that Gaia couldn’t believe it was bipedal. She became immediately sick to her stomach and felt the pancakes in her stomach making their way back up.
Aubrey pulled a pistol, aimed it and fired it at the creature as it continued to rip flesh from the elderly man pinned helplessly beneath it. A dart hit the thing in the side of the head and it turned to regard the pair of zookeepers and the monkey, and then it stood looking away from its current victim to regard them, and then ran after them with terrifying speed.
“Holy shit!” Gaia said as she ran, pulling Aubrey along with her. It was suddenly clear that tranquilizer darts had no effect on the thing, whatever it was.
“What the hell is that?!” Gaia asked, scooping up Maye and scanning the nearby area for a place to seek shelter from the insanity erupting around her. She saw a nearby washroom and decided that it was as good a place as any in which to hide.
“It looks like…a zombie,” Aubrey suggested as she ran away from it, Gaia following closely behind. Another few of the things emerged from the ticket kiosks to their left. Gaia, a bike rider and a daily visitor to the gym up until about two months ago, outpaced Aubrey quickly. Suddenly, this newest group of zombies was in between the two and Aubrey freaked. There was nowhere for her to go.
“I gotta find Adam!” Gaia yelled in a panic.
The three zombies, two in front and the one chasing behind, converged on Aubrey swiftly. But, before they got to her, a shot rang out from behind them and the trailing one fell to the earth.
The pair of women looked back to see Kristen’s son, Nick, rifle in hand, waving her toward him. He had a safari jacket on and his beard was visibly soaked.
“Oh thank God!” Aubrey yelled, making her way toward him. The two zombies, seeing Gaia now, suddenly ran toward her. She spun and raced toward the bathroom, Maye hanging desperately onto her neck, arriving at the washroom door seconds before the zombies and slamming the door shut on them. It all happened so fast that she hadn’t even gotten a chance to see where Nick and Aubrey were headed.
“Shit, Maye! What are we gonna do?” she asked rhetorically, as Maye steadied herself once more on Gaia’s shoulder. She heard the banging of hands against the door and leaned against it. The door gave slightly under their assault and seconds later, a pale hand was reaching for her. She leaned against it hard and slammed it shut on fingers, which fell to the ceramic floor. Gaia’s gaze went from the severed digits to surveying her surroundings, seeing a window on the opposite side of the room.
She had to make a break for it. She panicked, knowing that this was her only shot of getting out alive. It was a tight fit, but if she dove headfirst, she could break the glass and make it through. It would have to be perfect.
“Maye, you go!” Gaia instructed, and the monkey made its way reluctantly to the window. “Go! I’m coming!” Maye easily climbed through the window and disappeared.
“She’ll be fine,” Gaia told herself and steadied her breathing as best she could.

She released her hand from the door and her heart thundered in her chest. And then it almost stopped entirely as she felt the cold grip of a lifeless hand grasp her arm. She whipped her head round to see the gray, wide and crazed eyes of her imminent killer, and she felt her bowels wanting to give way under the fear. The zombie shoved the door wide and pulled her toward its snapping jaws.

I hope you enjoyed the sample! More later!


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead!  On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cover Reveal!

This is the cover to my next zombie novel, of which I am still working on a title. The artwork, however, is spectacular! Carlos has outdone himself again.

This book, which will be released in the next few weeks, takes the POV of a primate expert at a local zoo, named Gaia, who must endure the utter chaos that ensues when the apocalyptic event happens while she is at work. to add to the chaos, there is a school trip that same day with three school buses worth of children, parents and teachers on hand...

Enjoy the cover and look for this on sale on Amazon, aiming for June 27th!


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead!  On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wake The Dead Sale!

This Memorial Day weekend, I am lowering the price of my zombie thriller, Wake the Dead, to $2.99 for the entire weekend! If you haven't picked it up yet, now's the time!

Here's what the readers are saying...

"This is the first book I've read by Gary Vanucci, definitely not the last. Gary gets straight into the story and keeps you gripped. It`s a very similar story to The Walking Dead which I love. I can`t wait to see if there is going to be a sequel. Buy it and you won`t be disappointed."

"This book was a fun read, couldn't put it down. When I first got it, I read till 4 am. I love everything about this book and can't wait to read another from this author. All I have to say is Sex and Zombies, what else can a zombie addict ask for? Buy this book, you won't be disappointed!!"

"This is a very good read, every time you get comfortable, there is another twist or bump in the story line. You start to just hope that our hero is going to find some peace but then ... Good story line and character development. I really haven't like the living dead stories but this one is the exception - well done. And best of all, this book has an ending! Read, enjoy and store some food."

"If your a true fan of zombie eating plots. Then yes read this book. It had enough action and steamy scenes to keep me up at night. Well written, enough to give you a sense of what it would be like to live in these times. Can't wait for book 2."

"Mr. Vanucci's foray into the post-apocalyptic/zombie genre sucked me in from the first chapter. I seriously couldn't put it down. Actually, I didn't put it down until I finished it. I highly recommend this juicy, sexy, violent (it's zombies, OK?), scary, sometimes sad, and greatly entertaining story. What a great escape for an afternoon! Hoping a sequel is in the works....."


Best-selling author of Wake the Dead!  On Amazon Kindle here!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney & Carlos Cara

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2014 unless otherwise noted.