17 January 2010

Guest Author: Zoe Archer

This week on Unusual Historicals, we're welcoming regular contributor Zoe Archer as she celebrates the release of the duology she shares with Bianca D'Arc called HALF PAST DEAD, which features Zoe's historical novella "The Undying Heart," a daring historical paranormal set during the Crimean War and in 1850s Yorkshire.

Samuel Reed had no idea magic existed, until it almost destroyed him. Thirsting for vengeance against the enemy who made him something less than human, Sam returns to England and crosses paths with Cassandra Fielding. His best friend's little sister has become a fearless woman on a dangerous mission of her own. And against all odds, she sees past what he's become, and stirs a desire he thought he'd lost forever...

"Two...novellas combine themes of love and zombies. Vintage horror, high adventure, and soul-aching romance blend in Archer's compelling 'The Undying Heart,' prequel to the upcoming BLADES OF THE ROSE series.... Readers [will] love Archer's powerful, polished tale." -- Publisher's Weekly

"Four Stars! These zombie stories stand out in a genre dominated by vampires. The two tales of lovers reunited feature strong, courageous women who won't let zombies stand in the way of getting their man. Archer's imaginative and unusual tale will have you cheering for the characters, while D'Arc delivers a creepy and pulse-pounding story of danger." -- Romantic Times


What makes "The Undying Heart" unusual?

A few things. It's set in England, in 1858, two years after the Crimean War. Our hero, Major Sam Reed, is a veteran of that war, which has become famous as one of the most messy and problematic conflicts in Europe. You've got England, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia in alliance against Russia, fighting not only each other, but tactical mistakes on a monumental scale and horrific conditions that resulted in huge numbers of fatalities from illness, not combat. Sam and his men are killed in the attack on the Redan in the Siege of Sebastopol.

Wait--Sam is killed? Isn't he the hero?

That's one of the other things that makes "The Undying Heart" unusual. Sam has been transformed into the living dead.

So he's a zombie?

He prefers the term "living dead."

Isn't that kind of…gross?

Our culture has been conditioned to think of zombies as shuffling, rotting corpses that hunger for human flesh. But that's a pretty recent development in the concept of zombies. Sam is much more rooted in the vodou tradition of the zombie: a revived dead (and sometimes not dead) person under the control of a sorcerer, or bokor. In Sam's case, the man who killed, revived and controlled him is his former commanding officer. Sam has managed to break free of Colonel Broadwell's hold, and now he wants revenge, both for himself and the men that Broadwell betrayed.

But Sam's still dead, right?

Yep. He's got no pulse and no heartbeat. He doesn't sleep and doesn't eat. He can sustain any wound except a bullet to the brain or beheading. Even though he isn't a rotting corpse, there's still something deeply uncanny about him that unsettles people on a subconscious level, so he sticks to the shadows, existing only to make Broadwell pay. Sam considers himself a monster. However, Cassandra Fielding doesn't see him that way.

Who's Cassandra?

She's a gently-born young woman who campaigns for factory reform. But she's got a secret life, far from drawing rooms and factory yards. Cassandra is also a member of the Blades of the Rose, an organization of men and women protecting the world's magic from unscrupulous men who would use that magic for their own malevolent purposes--like creating an undead army. Cassandra also grew up with Sam. Her brother Charlie was Sam's best friend, and she's nursed a crush on Sam for years. Her heart breaks when she hears that Charlie and Sam are killed in combat, and when she learns from Sam that it was their commanding officer who betrayed them using stolen magic, she, too wants vengeance. They join forces to try and stop Broadwell's plans to make more undead soldiers.

Cassandra is shocked and angry about what has been done to Sam, but she can see past the curse surrounding him to the man beneath, the man she never stopped caring for. And, trust me, Sam might not have a pulse, but he isn't unaffected by Cassandra. Far from it.

Wow--I never thought I'd read about a zombie, sorry, undead hero.

I never expected to write one! But my editor asked if I'd like to contribute to a zombie-themed anthology, HALF PAST DEAD. At first I thought I would have the hero and heroine battling zombies together, but then I thought, wouldn't it be really, really unusual if our hero was already dead? And it went on from there.

What's next? More zombies?

Not exactly. "The Undying Heart" is the prequel to my upcoming "BLADES OF THE ROSE" series, coming this fall from Kensington. The series is set in 1874-1875, and the setting are really unusual. We're talking Mongolia, the Aegean, the Canadian Rockies, and some of the more unusual parts of England. The series is paranormal historical adventure romance, which means there are lots of chases, action sequences, sexy guys in leather braces and tall boots, fearless women, magic, steampunk gadgets, superhot love scenes and thrills. If you like Indiana Jones films, or The Mummy, or Romancing the Stone, you're going to love the "BLADES OF THE ROSE." Zombies might make another appearance, but I'm not saying when or where.

One of the best parts about the series is that the books are being released back-to-back, which means that WARRIOR comes out in September, then SCOUNDREL in October, REBEL in November, and it wraps up with STRANGER in December. No waiting!

The "BLADES OF THE ROSE" do sound unusual!

They are. And they're tons of fun. Can't wait for fall!


If you'd like to win a copy of HALF PAST DEAD, featuring Zoe's "The Undying Heart," then leave a comment or question here. Maybe let us know your feeling about zombies, or try the historical angle and ask about the Crimean War! Either way, you're entered with just a comment. Void where prohibited. We'll draw a winner next Sunday. Best of luck! And thanks to Zoe for stopping by!

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