Title: When Blood Reigns
Author: Barbara Custer
Publication Date: Dec. 5, 2016
Find: Amazon | Goodreads
Other Books by Author: Alien Worlds | Twilight Healer | City of Brotherly Death
Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?
Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.
Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer, City of Brotherly Death, Infinite Sight, and Steel Rose; also novellas Close Liaisons and Life Raft: Earth. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.
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In the gloom, her light cut jagged circles around three skeletal figures weaving through the door. Their bloated, pus-stained faces drooled blood and saliva, two of them bald, and the third with a hollowed-out skull. Two more figures lurched through, followed by others. All of them worked swollen, blistered jaws, their groans sounding like pebbles rattling in their windpipes.
She couldn’t kill them all, not with one hand carrying a flashlight. This was worse than the invasion at Jackson Hospital. Back there, she had daylight and the men with her. Now she only had her Maglite. She could pick them off with her thoughts, one by one, and maybe take out three, but the rest would be on her. Maybe she could sedate them with the blue ray. Then she’d step over them and run.
More walkers crowded the doorway. Alexis backed away from the door, step-by-step, stall after stall, firing the blue ray. The figures kept coming, their cadaverous faces relentless and hungry. Oh, God, the sedative’s not working! She ducked inside a stall and climbed onto the toilet seat, bracing herself against the partition panels. On the panel, her light revealed a double toilet paper holder with a shelf; above, the head rail, and then a thick pipe running along the ceiling. Her right foot went onto the toilet paper shelf. She grabbed the edge of the panel, screaming from the pain flashing through her hands, and then hooked her left elbow around the head rail. The right elbow followed, both feet on the shelf, the figures closing in on her.
Interview With Barbara Custer...
Please tell us a little something about you.
I’ve enjoyed horror and science fiction since I was in high school back in the 1970s. My favorite was Dark Shadows, the Hammer films, and years later, Stephen King. I dabbled in writing in my early twenties but didn’t begin writing in earnest until the 1990s. By then, I’d fallen in love with Stephen King’s books, and I fantasized about writing similar tales. So I began writing horror fiction straight away, and later, when my work got into the small press magazines, an editor encouraged me to submit science fiction. Most of what I write today is a cross-genre – horror and science fiction, for example, Steel Rose and now, When Blood Reigns. Night to Dawn published some of my tales before the former editor retired. I’ve been editing the magazine for the last twelve years, and I’m publishing books through the NTD imprint. When I’m not working on my projects, I enjoy a great fright flick. Sometimes I’ll try a new recipe—it never gets too warm for baking. And of course, there’s my balloon collection. Sometimes you’ll find me at the stores, chasing and being chased by Mylar balloons.
What motivated you to become a published author?
Because finances had prohibited my schooling in the early years, my writing lay dormant until I went back to college in the late 80s. My mother died in 1990, and my instructor encouraged me to try creative writing as a way to handle my grief. I sent in my first team with the horror / SF genre, and I’ve found writing very helpful in enabling me to process my grief.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
Writing those “slow” but oh, so important scenes are the worst for me. I’m a pantser at heart, and I’ve never been able to follow an outline. I gave it the college try, but the best I can manage a general sense of the plotline with a satisfying ending. For example, I wrote a scene where two men are caught dragging a woman to a zombie pit. I loved writing the drama of the rescue that followed. But then it occurred to me: what led up to her being kidnapped? Was she lured or seized against her will? Where? This is where I’ve got to try and tame the pantser in me, and write a convincing scene of what happened before the her abduction.
Pick a character from your book and describe one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses?
Let’s go with Alexis. She’s makes a true blue friend and fellow soldier—so often she’ll run into danger to save her teammates. And when Yeron is badly injured, she crawls through an underground hallway to find help, despite multiple cuts and wounds. When her travels take her to a Kryszka compound, she befriends the governor and other people there. At times, though, she lets her emotions get the better of her, and she’ll act impulsively, which almost costs her life.
What is your favorite part of your book?
I can’t say that When Blood Reigns has any one favorite part, but I get a lot of chuckles reading through the scenes that involve Johnny. Some of the things he said and did – the humor – cut through the tension between everyone holed up at the safe house. There’s also one scene I like because it speaks well of protag Alexis – when she crawls through the Kryszka’s compound hallway searching for help for her beloved Yeron despite her own serious injuries.
If you could spend a week anywhere, where would you go and what would you do during that week?
Let’s start with activities. Day 1. Go to an outlet mall. Day 2. Go for a ride on a hot air balloon. Day 3. Get a treatment at the hotel spa. I’d dedicate days 4 and 5 to rest, but on those respective evenings, I’d like to take a tour through a deserted town and look for ghosts. Day 6. Back to the spa. Day 7. Take a leisurely train (or plane) ride home. Where would I like to go? Any place or time that enables me to do these activities in a warm, dry climate.
What genre do you like to read and who are some of your favorite authors?
I favor the horror and science fiction genre. Some of my favorite authors include Jonathan Maberry and Stephen King. However, I will read other genres from time to time because I feel it’s a great way to study character behavior under different circumstances. Being familiar with different genres may enrich the characters in the genre you write.
If you could have any wish granted, what would it be?
I’d like medical science to come up with a cure for Parkinson’s, the disease that took Mike, as I’d hate to see this happen to others. I don’t want just a cure but a way to reverse the damage left by the disease. It’s a gigantic ask, but…
What are you currently working on and when can we expect your next book?
I’m working on a sequel to When Blood Reigns, but I’m still in first draft – writing goes slowly when you work a day job. So the plotline is under wraps. You can expect more zombies, renegade alien soldiers, and this time out, an introduction to new characters.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Read as many books as you can, both your genre and others to get a feel for characters and what makes them act out. Assume that your first draft will become history when revising begins. And before you send any book out for submission or self-publication, hire a good editor.
Favorite food – Italian pasta with meatball sauce. I have to use gluten free, but a good brand will taste like conventional pasta.
Person you’d most like to meet – I’d like to meet agent Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel. He understands what makes characters tick. He conducts workshops for authors. Writing the Breakout Novel helped me a lot with Steel Rose and When Blood Reigns, and I plan on using it for future works.
Favorite type of movie - one with a character-driven plot. Make me care deeply enough about the characters, and you’ll have my attention, no matter the genre. Of course, with horror or SF, the stakes go up when the monsters attack.
Favorite pastime – Going to an outlet mall. This happens when I’m on vacation, and on vacation, sometimes I check the budget at the garage (or bus station).
Something you like about yourself – I have a compassionate streak – for example, I cook meals for the Aid for Friends.
Favorite type of music – oldies, like the Beach Boys
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