(Living Dead World #2)
by Nessie Strange
Genre: Urban FantasyPublisher: Etopia PressDate of Publication: November 21, 2014Blurb:Jen MacLellan can’t get the hang of being a reaper. She’s been separated from her lover, Jack. She's also stuck with that annoying telepathic link to her ill-tempered mentor, Sam. But when reapers start disappearing back on earth, Jen and Sam are recruited to help. Can they figure out what’s causing it before it’s too late?
Jack Norris has no memory prior to waking up on the half-demon Nulcifer’s couch six months earlier. As he begins to investigate his origins, he discovers a string of past lives, tied together by a beautiful, mysterious brunette. Does she really exist, and if she does, can he find her?
Fate reunites them after Sam falls victim to the attacks on earth. As they work to save Sam, can they rekindle what was lost? Or have things become too complicated…
Sam wasn’t kidding when he said I had no idea what I was getting into. And now, as I stared Death in the face—literally—from an uncomfortable black leather executive chair, it occurred to me for the first time that I was in way over my head. Between the pinstriped suit and dark, slicked-back hair, he resembled a character from The Godfather more than a deity who ruled over the dead and dying. Death was one scary motherfucker. And he was smiling.
“Care for a drink, Jennifer?”
I shook my head, but he rose anyway, retrieved two glasses from the cabinet behind him, and filled both with amber-colored liquid. “Relax, I’m not going to bite.”
That wasn’t what I was worried about.
“Now, how long have you been with us? About six earth months?”
I cleared my throat. “Ah yes. About that long.”
“I find it intriguing,” he said. “You have been telepathically linked to one of my reapers this entire time, yet you really demonstrate no capability when it comes to this job. One would think that would give you an edge, hmm?”
“You’d think,” I laughed. OK, I sucked at it. It was only recently I’d been allowed to travel back to earth to help retrieve souls. Sam did most of the work, while I trailed behind, like one of those ankle-biting little purse dogs. What I wanted to know was why he’d insisted I do the job in the first place. I’d never asked to be a reaper. It wasn’t like I wanted this.
“The occupation listed from your most recent incarnation on earth was a mortician, was it not? So you should be accustomed to working with the deceased and the sensitivities that go along with it.”
“These two jobs are absolutely nothing alike.” Shit. I’d reacted again, lost my cool because of something he said. Now that my brain had caught up with my mouth, the fire snuffed out and with it went my nerve. I needed to learn to bite my tongue. Considering the habit crossed over with me from my last life, maybe that was wishful thinking. “Well, I mean, because when I was a mortician, those people didn’t talk back to me.”
Death studied me. “No, I don’t imagine they did.” He scrunched his lips up, his brow furrowed—the only hint of emotion I’d seen from him—but it quickly faded. “What exactly is it that’s holding you back or hanging you up? I’m just trying to understand here.”
“Well, I guess some of it is that I feel bad for them. I want to make things easier, but Sam’s all about scaring them and intimidating and manipulating them. It doesn’t seem right. I mean, we’re their first point of contact with the afterlife; why does it have to be frightening?” I was doing it again. OK, I needed to breathe. “I just... I see the fear in their faces, and it tears at me. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not me.”
“Fear makes them more pliable. Which in turn, makes your job easier when it’s time to collect.”
“But I don’t...”
He held up a hand. “I don’t like excuses, Jennifer. You may not agree with all of the methods you have been taught, but you still need to learn them and be able to utilize all of them. Years down the line, when you actually have some experience, perhaps then you can develop your own strategies. For now, as a rookie in the division without a single reaping under your belt, you are obligated to follow the instruction of your mentor. Do you understand?”Bio:
Nessie Strange is a Massachusetts native and mother of two who has dabbled in everything from abstract painting to freelance sports reporting. She also loves a good story, whether it’s reading or writing one. Living Dead Girl and Reaper Madness, the first two novels in her urban fantasy Living Dead World series, were published by Etopia press in 2014.
On the Web:
- http://www.pinterest.com/nessiestrange/Other Works by Nessie Strange:
(Novel/Living Dead World #1)
GoodReads Summery:January 2014
Jen MacLellan has hit a dead end...
Jen knows tattooed, blue-haired Jack Norris is trouble the minute he opens his front door. And being a mortician in the avante garde East Side of Providence, Jen has seen a lot. Jack has recruited Jen's teenage brother Drew to play drums for his less-than-respectable punk band, and Jen has no choice but to follow their gigs to keep her little brother out of trouble. But when Drew goes missing, she finds herself in the awkward position of asking for Jack's help. Shocked that he agrees, Jen decides she may have misjudged him. Worse, she might even like him.
But when Jen is brutally attacked, she awakens in the hospital where a Sid Vicious look-alike greets her with the news: she's dead, and he's the reaper assigned to take her away. Yeah, not so much. Refusing to leave, Jen's spirit watches helplessly as her loved ones suffer, powerless to ease her family's grief or prevent the police from accusing Jack of her murder. Desperate to help them, Jen convinces the reaper to bring her back. But reanimating corpses isn't as easy as it looks, and neither is finding a killer before it's too late...
(short story/Love Least Expected anthology) February 2015
When love drops in unexpected, the strangest things can happen. Nine short stories from sweet to sultry, full of romance, magic and love from award winning and USA Today recommended authors.
Meredith Bond (Author), Aubrey Wynne (Author), Valerie Twombly (Author), Kris Calvert (Author), Katie Stephens (Author), Nessie Strange (Author), Kishan Paul (Author), Isabella Harper (Author), Michaela Miles (Author)
Kindle Price: $0.99
(Novel/connected to Living Dead World series) TBA 2015
Guest posts by Nessie Strange
#1 From Idea to Story
I wish I could pinpoint what exactly makes an idea latch onto my brain and demand to be written. For me, it’s not always a conscious thing. While I can write with a prompt in mind, more often than not, a brilliant story idea comes at a random time. Maybe I’m standing in line at the grocery store or driving to work. On more than one occasion, I’ve woken from a sound sleep, as if a switch has been turned on inside my head and suddenly I can’t stop thinking about it. Once that switch has been flipped and a story occupies my mind, there’s a rush of creative adrenaline. It’s definitely part of the thrill from crafting a piece of fiction.
As a writer who does very minimal plotting (and mostly in my head, at that) the most exciting thing is discovering the story and getting to know the characters along the way. It’s almost like solving a puzzle, or a mystery. I admit it--during this process, I get attached to my characters. I spend a lot of time inside their heads, figuring out what motivates them. Their fears, their memories, the things that make them happy. I think you really need to know your characters inside and out. You might not write about every detail, but you need to be thinking about them, because it’s part of what brings the character to life.
Finishing a story is a rush. There’s this huge sense of accomplishment that goes along with taking a story from an idea to something tangible. I think this is because an enormous amount of mental energy is needed to write a novel. It’s not as simple as just typing words. It’s all about finding the right combination of words that convey your story properly and in a way that’s compelling. This requires a strong understanding of language, story structure, character--all part of the craft of creative writing. Like any craft, you get better at it the more you do it. Especially if you’re open-minded and willing to learn.
#2 Reflecting on Life & Being Thankful
With Thanksgiving about to arrive, I think it’s as good a time as any to reflect on life and the things to be thankful for. Like many other people, I’ve had my share of hardships. An amicable divorce turned nasty left me feeling pretty battered a few years ago. I’ve struggled financially since then, teetering between just having enough to pay my bills and rent to wondering what bill I can postpone so I can put food on the table. It was never for lack of effort. I worked full time and had a decent wage, but mountains of debt from school loans, lawyer fees and the fallout from learning how to manage my own money have always kept me treading water. Some of it was my fault, some of it was unfortunate luck and bad timing, but either way it’s a sucky, stressful situation to be in. I got frustrated with a lot of things, including my own writing, and just couldn’t seem to produce anything good for the life of me. Then I was laid off in late Spring of this year, and I thought man--is this ever going to get better?
During my time in the ranks of the unemployed I (of course) hunted for jobs, but I also took advantage of my much more flexible schedule to really focus on some writing. I hadn’t finished (or even written) anything substantial in a long time, and my first book, Living Dead Girl had already been out for six months. I wanted to finish the sequel, but needed to learn better discipline, find better motivation and get back into the groove. So I enlisted some of my writer friends to harass me into keeping up with deadlines. I would produce at least one chapter every week or face dire consequences (not sure what those were, but the threat worked) and at the end of that week I’d send them to one of my writer friends. Something really clicked. I completed Reaper Madness in just over a month, and in the process, built back some of the confidence I’d lost in my own writing.
Since then, I’ve been writing much more regularly and currently have many projects going. It took almost six months to find a job that would pay enough to support my small family. I’m still struggling financially as I begin to recover from paying the bare minimum (and in a couple cases not at all) that came from stretching my tiny unemployment check as far as I could. I won’t lie...it still sucks financially right now. But you know what? I can do this. I can make it through all of this, because I have before. I have two wonderful, smart, loving children who are both healthy. I’m healthy. We still have a roof over our heads. And even though sometimes it takes some strategic and creative juggling, I know I can pay what absolutely needs to get paid and keep them fed. I will find a way--I always do. And as I go along, I like to think I’m finding ways to do it better.
I’ve got a great family. Friends. All kinds of wonderful people in my life, both in person and online. And then there’s writing. I’m not yet at a point where I’m making a substantial income from it, but I feel like I’m only at the beginning of that journey. I’ve found people who believe in my work. People who have helped shape it up for public consumption. Writer friends who have helped me navigate social media, and marketing, and provided considerable moral support. I think for every shitty thing that’s happened, there are many more good things. I look at my life, and despite the rough patches, I’m still happy. It’s not that bad. I’m still fighting for more. I look at some of the truly horrific and tragic things that happen in this world and I know my life could be much, much worse.
I’ve had people ask how I could still go on after some of the things that have happened, but my answer is simple: I have to. For my kids, for myself. For that bright horizon in the distance. I still have so much to live for, and long ago I made the decision not to waste precious mental energy worrying about things I can’t control. I think, if I put everything in perspective, I have much more to be thankful for than not.
#3 About the Living Dead World series
When I first started writing Living Dead Girl (book 1), I hadn’t quite planned on sequels, or series. I just had this story in my head that was fighting to get out. It begins with Jen MacLellan, who’s a fairly ordinary young twenty-something woman who happens to have an unusual job: she’s a mortician. She’s kind of going through the motions with life in general--never really challenging herself or venturing out beyond the safe little bubble she’s created. Not to mention, her family takes advantage of her, and her boyfriend doesn’t appreciate her. Basically, she’s stuck in a rut. Then she meets Jack and all that gets turned upside down.
Jack is a musician. He’s a free-spirited, happy-go-lucky type guy. While he’s tattooed and can be a bit of a troublemaker (more of the wise-ass variety) he’s not really what I’d call a typical bad boy. He’s actually a really kind soul. He’s the type of guy who looks out for his friends and the people he cares most about, and with Jen, he finds a partner who has many of the qualities he lacks.
It begins as a hate-to-love, opposites attract type story. The romance between these two builds slowly, but when they do finally get together, their bond grows really strong. They complement each other. Unfortunately, once they find that happiness, tragedy strikes. While it’s harsh, and the things that happen to these characters are terrible, we learn later that this isn’t really the end of things. In this series, death isn’t final--it’s a new beginning.
Living Dead Girl is really a gateway story, because it shows this transition from regular, everyday life to death and what happens after. From book two on, we’re following both Jen and Jack on their journeys through the afterlife. The connections between the characters, as well as their history comes into light, and we learn there is a much bigger picture.
I haven’t decided exactly how many books will be in the series. There will be at least three, leaning more toward four. There is also a book coming from Jack’s POV that begins before and then overlaps some of Living Dead Girl. I look back at when I first started writing Jen’s story, and that first spark of an idea, and I never imagined how complex it would become. I also never imagined how attached I’d become to the characters. It’s funny how that works. Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you will follow along on Jen and Jack’s journey.
#4 What Makes a Good Character?
I think for fiction writers, if there’s one thing that really needs to be learned, it’s how to create believable characters. Believable characters come alive in the pages. They stir up emotions, they keep us reading, they make us care. I don’t know of any rules to give to an aspiring writer to help them determine what makes a character good, but I will give my thoughts on a few things.
It’s more than just the sum of body parts. Some people may disagree with me on this, but I think minimal is best when it comes to describing the physical characteristics. I usually pick a few basic ones when I first introduce a character, but rarely spend more than a sentence or two on it. There are a few reasons for this, the first being that long lists of physical traits are just boring to read. I think it disrupts the flow of the story any time you need to stop and assess something. Not only that, but readers will form a picture of the character on their own. Your job is to give a basic impression to guide their imagination in the right direction...not provide an anatomically accurate cardboard cutout.
Writing as the opposite gender. I’m not sure why this freaks some writers out. I’ve written from a male POV many times, and while I’ve definitely never been a man, I think I pulled off writing one reasonably well. It’s all in the approach. Don’t write to a gender, write to a human being. Not all males are the same and not all females are the same, so how on earth would we ever write ‘how a guy thinks’ or ‘how a girl thinks’? The danger is we start producing stereotypes and assigning gender roles instead of bringing a character to life. It’s flat, and boring and makes it difficult to connect to the character. Real people have hopes, dreams, things that make them happy, sad, angry, etc. They have memories and experiences that shape them, and no two people are alike. Figure out what these things are so you can have a living, breathing character who also happens to be male (or female).
Dialogue can be your best friend. Done well, dialogue will really help shape your character. It shows how they interact with other characters, how they react. It reflects tone, intent, and can help quicken the pace of a scene. The best way to learn dialogue is to be observant. Pay attention to how other people speak. Do they use contractions? Say things like ‘gonna’ instead of ‘going to’? Do they swear a lot? Pause to think? And it’s not just the words that come out, either, but their facial expressions, body language and posture matter as well. All of these things can matter when a character is having a conversation.
I think the key to creating a believable character is really to know him or her inside out. You don’t have to write about every detail in your story, but you do need to be aware of what they are. The more you get inside your characters’ heads, the stronger their presence becomes on paper.