Guest Post and excerpt by Brett O'Neal Davis
First of all, I'd like to thank Cloey for this opportunity to visit with her and her readers. I did a lot of research for my book “Mama Lona's Man,” although I ended up making up quite a lot of things to suit the story. I thought it would be fun to share some of what I learned with the readers of Cloey's Book Reviews. With that in mind, here are:
The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Zombies
Number One: They didn't start eating people until 1968. Zombies originated in Vodou (or Voodoo) folklore, and referred to dead people revived by witch doctors, or bokors, to be slaves. So, for centuries zombies were just luckless slaves, kind of creepy but generally not all that scary. George Romero made them scary in his seminal “Night of the Living Dead,” although he refers to these hungry, reanimated corpses only as ghouls, not zombies.
Number Two: The first full-length zombie movie was a love story. That would be “White Zombie,” in which an evil witch doctor plots to turn a beautiful young woman into a zombie so she will fall in love with a wealthy plantation owner. This one dates all the way back to 1932 and stars Bela Lugosi as the bokor, just a year after his star turn as a certain vampire named Dracula.
Number Three: They don't have to have bodies. One type of zombie is a spirit zombie, or astral zombie, which are used to enhance the witch doctor's power. In “Mama Lona's Man,” I combined these two to create a spirit zombie who inhabits his own dead body. Gotta think outside the box sometimes.
Number Four: You don't have to shoot them in the head to kill them. Not the traditional Vodou zombie, anyway. You just need to stuff salt in their mouths, which either brings them back to life or convinces them to return to the grave. Easier said than done, for sure, but if you can accomplish it, less messy than firearms.
Number Five: They may be real. There have been numerous anecdotal accounts of researchers who visit Haiti and other Vodou-equipped areas and hear of the reanimated dead, and occasionally they even have first-hand accounts. Theories include the application of various drugs, hypnosis, and perhaps even actual black magic. Researchers wrote in The Lancet more than a decade ago (http://mindfull.spc.org/vaughan/talks/ns_assignment/Zombification.pdf) that there were probably various interpretations for the zombie phenomenon, including mental illness, learning disabilities and brain damage. Such folks are “not uncommonly met with wandering in Haiti,” they wrote, which is not very nice to say.
Number Six: They may be real and closer than Haiti. And, in this case, caused by drugs. Namely the compounds known as “bath salts,” which sound kind of nice but seem to drive people completely nuts. Such as the guy in Florida who recently chewed another guy's face off and then withstood several bullet wounds from police before succumbing. Or maybe he had just seen too many zombie movies.
Number Seven: Vampires trump zombies. At least according to Spike TV, which runs shows like “Deadliest Warrior,” which pits historical figures against each other in speculative match-ups, such as Teddy Roosevelt vs. Lawrence of Arabia, or Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot (I am not making this up). They did one episode that pitted vampires against zombies. I didn't have cable at the time and didn't watch it, but it's online and judging by the comments, the vampires won. I don't know, I like to think that my book's zombie hero, Ravinell Straw, could take Edward Cullen in a fair fight.
Number Eight: Zombies can dance. Forgotten “Thriller” already, have you? For shame.
Number Nine: They aren't really that bitey. Sure, the zombies in “Walking Dead” can easily tear through flesh in one chomp, despite having allegedly rotting jaw muscles, but in reality humans rank fairly low on the bite scale compared with some other critters. The human jaw generates 120 pounds of bite pressure. Snapping turtles generate 1,000 pounds. “Night of the Living Dead Snapping Turtles”? Yeah, you don't really want to watch that. Crocodiles, just to show off, generate 2,500 pounds of bite pressure. Just an aside here to mention that my zombie character in “Mama Lona's Man” doesn't bite anyone. He may bite the girl he loves in a later book, but only if she asks him to. That could come in a planned sequel, “50 Shades of Gray Skin.”
Number Ten: Zombies are metaphorical, sometimes. Adam Ant, of 1980s new wave music fame, just issued his comeback single, which refers to his exile from the music scene when he moved from London to tiny Dayton, Tennessee. He was dead, but not dead, and still cool. And now he's going back on tour, so his career may be revived after all. The song title? “Cool Zombie.”
Again, thanks to Cloey for letting me visit with you!
The encounter with Jake the night before had left her cranky and tired. She had hoped to stay awake and just have a normal day so maybe she would sleep well tonight but she could tell that wasn’t going to work. She could feel the sleep sneaking up on her like a black cloud moving across the horizon. Her stomach was growling loud enough to keep her awake and she needed to eat, but there wasn’t much in the house. They hadn’t gone shopping since before the Caribbean trip, and she hadn’t accomplished much of anything yesterday, so her choices were limited: ice cream, vodka and ancient green peas in the freezer; expired milk and bad eggs in the refrigerator, along with some mystery bread that had sprouted a leopard-like coating of green and blue dots. She opted for a bowl of dry cereal and starting making a grocery list.
She took the cereal to the living room so she could watch TV while she ate. She settled onto the couch, turned the TV to an entertainment news show and that’s where she fell asleep.
And, finally, there he was. She was standing in a field with lots of yellow flowers and stubby grass, a field ringed with oaks and pine trees. Low hills undulated away into the distance. He ambled up to her and she took another good look at him: tall but not too tall, in fact just a head higher than her. Thin but not too thin. He had the proper V-shaped body that men were supposed to have and he wore it well. His legs were muscular but maybe just a little short, or maybe he had a long torso. He looked athletic even when standing still, as if he might go bounding off at any moment. His sandy hair ruffled in the breeze. And then he smiled and she forgot everything else about him.
“So we are outstanding in our field,” she said. “Do you pick the surroundings of these conference calls, or do I?”
“You pick some of them,” he said, still smiling. “You seem partial to cliffs and beaches. Very dramatic. I picked this one, though. I wanted to show you what it looks like in north Georgia. This is where I’m from.”
And this is where you were dead and buried, she thought, but she didn’t say it. Why spoil the mood? No wonder she was always dreaming up cliffs and howling winds, with an attitude like that.
“So, I’ve missed you,” she said.
Almost to her surprise, he reached out and took her hand. His fingers were warm and dry.
“And I’ve missed you.”
Without having any direction in mind, they started walking, holding hands like young lovers. She expected violins to play, as it was a dream after all and such things could happen, but all she heard was the whisper of the wind and the cries of the birds. Her crankiness was gone, along with all annoying thoughts of Jake. She was fully in the present, and happy there.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been in your dreams,” he said. “It’s harder to do than I thought, especially across this distance.”
“So it was easier when I was close by?”
“Much easier. Plus there was no time difference to worry about.”
“Why was it easier when I was near?”
He didn’t answer for a few paces. She thought she knew the answer.
“When you weren’t around, it was easier for her to shut me down completely.”
She was right.
“The thing is, she’s never had any trouble shutting me down before. She controls me like a puppet. I’ve been around plenty of people before, but no one was able to break that. Until you.”
That, she did not expect.
“What do you mean?”
Randy turned to her and gave her a soft, gentle, sad smile that nearly broke her heart.
“I mean, I’ve been around people. I’ve done things to people for her. And nobody made me want to challenge her, nobody made me want to stay awake, nobody made me want to reach out … until you came along.”
She gave his hand a hard squeeze, and he squeezed back. Such life in him, it seemed.
“Why do you make me feel alive? Why do you make me want to be alive? I wish I knew.”
He stopped and faced her then, close, and she felt the breeze and knew the birds were there chirping away but they all faded to the background when he leaned slightly forward and kissed her. She had expected the bracing cold of before but his lips were warm and wet. She gave her mouth to him fully and they embraced in the field of waving flowers. Randy seemed to have trouble breathing while kissing just like a normal, alive man, and after a while they broke off. She leaned her head in the hollow of his shoulder and waited for her heart to stop racing.
“That was so different,” she said. “How can you be dead? You’re so warm.”
“It’s a trick. We’re in Dreamland. I can change things here, just a little bit. I can make them be what I want them to be, not what they are.”
“So the other night, back in Petit Royale?”
“That was me. That was the real me. This is the new, Dreamland-improved me. Which do you like better?”
“The real you. Cold lips and all.”
He laughed and they resumed walking, but now their arms hung loosely together and they bumped together more often, as if they had become drunk. Abigail felt like maybe she had.
The Straw Man Series Book One
Brett O'Neal Davis
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Number of pages: 219
Word Count: 74,000
Cover Artist: Cate Meyers
Mama Lona’s Man combines a Caribbean love story with a zombie thriller. It’s a bit James Bond, a bit "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and a dash of "Night of the Living Dead.
The leading man is a ex-Navy SEAL controlled by a witch doctor. When he meets an American girl caught up in island intrigue, they fall in love even though he's been dead longer than she's been alive.
Extended description from Smashwords:
“Mama Lona’s Man” is a fast-moving, funny, sometimes bittersweet tale about a young woman who meets the love of her life, only there’s one hitch: He’s lost his life and become a zombie. As Rolling Stone once said about Jim Morrison, the title character of this novel is hot, sexy, and dead.
Abigail Callisto is a brilliant, troubled college student living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. When her father’s shadowy government employer sends him to the Caribbean to tamp down a pending coup attempt on the small island nation of Petit Royale, she goes along so he can also keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble. She thinks it’s a lark; she has no idea her life is about to change forever.
Petit Royale is governed by the jovial but corrupt Marcos Verriera, whose brother, Abraham, has long sought to replace him as president. Abigail’s father has operatives on the island; they tell him that Marcos has gone around the bend and is kidnapping children, possibly for sex trafficking. What the operatives don’t tell him is that they are actually working for Abraham and they are the ones actually doing the kidnapping. The children aren’t harmed, but are held so Abraham can pretend to release them and be a hero.
To try to sway Abigail's father to their side, the operatives decide to kidnap Abigail. They drug her in the night and carry her to the gates of the presidential mansion, where they set her down. They know that Abraham’s militia is moving in that night and they want Abigail to be among those rescued. It doesn’t quite work out that way.
Petit Royale has its own special version of the bogeyman: A spectral figure known only as Mama Lona’s man. He’s a ghost who has been known to deal murderous vengeance on those who abuse children. The plan is for Abraham’s men to dispense with Marcos Verriera and blame his disappearance on Mama Lona’s Man.
Abigail is discovered by the presidential guards and brought into the mansion, where President Marcos Verriera himself questions her. He knows what his brother is up to, and he knows that having a kidnapped American girl in his house is not a good thing for him. Suddenly shooting erupts and he runs away, leaving Abigail to fend for herself. She crawls into the interior of the mansion, trying to get away, only to find herself in the middle of a gun battle between Marcos’ men and Abraham’s men.
She’s trying to figure a way out of it when something amazing happens. A man walks right through the fight, as if it’s not happening, and begins looking for Marcos Verriera. Abigail watches as he gets shot several times and not only survives but barely seems to notice. He’s a good-looking young white man, not much older than her own 20 years.
He sees Abigail, and, recognizing a damsel in distress, takes her along as he searches the mansion. Abigail is amazed to see him shot a couple more times as he makes his way in pursuit of Marcos Verriera, who has fled down a secret hallway that leads to the ocean. The man manages to catch his boat just before it leaves, and he quickly blows something in the president’s face that knocks him out cold. He does the same to Abigail, only she doesn’t inhale and only pretends to be unconscious so she can study him. He leaves her on a public beach and takes the president away.
She makes her way back to her hotel where her father is angry that she has been out, suspecting her of partying. When she tells him her story, they realize she has seen the mysterious Mama Lona’s man, something akin to spotting Bigfoot. He wants to find the shadowy Mama Lona and discover if her man really did kill the president. Abigail just wants to see him again.
About the Author
Brett O’Neal Davis is a native of Florence, Ala., and attended the same high school as Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley. He studied journalism at the University of North Alabama and the University of Missouri, writing about music whenever possible. He also briefly “fronted” the one-man punk band Screwhead. Despite clearing $1.50 in profit on consignment sales of the band’s lone album at Salt of the Earth Records in Columbia, Mo., he turned to the slightly more stable world of aerospace and defense journalism, working today in the field of unmanned systems and robotics in Washington, D.C.
He is the author of four science fiction and fantasy novels, all published by Baen Books. The first, The Faery Convention, was listed among the best fantasy novels for 1995 by Science Fiction Chronicle, and Two Tiny Claws was named to the 2000 Books for the Teen Age List by the New York Public Library. An occasional panelist at area science fiction conventions, he also has discussed fiction writing at National Press Club events and at literary festivals, including the annual T.S. Stribling celebration at the University of North Alabama. Mama Lona’s Man is his first foray into paranormal romance, but it won’t be the last.
For more of Brett O'Neal Davis and Mama Lona's Man check out the rest of the tour...
February 3 Guest blog
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
February 4 Interview