Thanks for letting me drop by Vampire Book Club today to talk about our upcoming release, The Isis Collar. This is book 4 in our Blood Singer series, which features Celia Graves, a former vanilla human bodyguard who was attacked and turned into an Abomination. She’s part vampire—which in Celia’s world is NOT a good thing. Vampires become feral at death, like rabid animals. They lose their sense of “self”. Whether you call it the soul, or the personality or the Ka, a vampire isn’t home upstairs anymore. No sparkles, no ma petite sexuality. Just dead and dangerous.
That makes Celia only part dead but all dangerous (because she already was before she got turned.) And because of the vampire bite something else happened to her. A lot of us have genetic heritage we don’t know much about. Lots of times it’s because there was an ancestor who wasn’t completely truthful to someone close to him. Maybe he said he was English when Irish was considered a bad thing, or called himself Slavic when Romany could get him booted out of town. Anyway, Celia’s grandmother sort of neglected to mention that she married a male Siren. In fact, he was siren royalty—brother to the Queen of queens. The vampire bite activated Celia’s blood so that other sirens knew she existed. In some ways, it’s been cool for her to get to know new members of her family. In other ways, it’s bad because she keeps winding up in the middle of politics and pressures (which are part of the problems in Blood Song, Siren Song and Demon Song, the first three books of the series.)
For book 4, I wanted to do something different. Not so much political pressures as the real sort of anxiety that happens during an epidemic. That’s one of the reasons I decided to write about zombies in Celia’s world. Okay, yes–zombies are hot news right now but that’s not why. I actually am a huge fan of medical mysteries. Love Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Kathy Reichs and the like. I watch Mystery Diagnosis, House and Dr. G: Medical Examiner on television.
And I wanted to make a medical mystery. What could be a better mystery than Celia catching a zombie plague? Yes, you read that right. A zombie “plague”. It’s a bacteria, like Ebola or Leprosy, that’s magical in nature (because it can be in her world). The bacteria kills the host, like many deadly bacteria do. But this is no ordinary bug. Once the person dies, the bacteria colony takes over the body! It can walk and interact and scratch and bite. Just like classic zombie movies except how do you kill not just the one body, but a million-billion bacteria causing the body to move? It’s VERY fun!
So what does M.Necrose do? Here’s a little sample of what you can see in The Isis Collar:
“Dr. Swanson and I were just going over the results. We’re very fortunate to have him on staff. He’s actually seen cases of M.Necrose in the field in the Sudan.”
The short, stocky doctor had a swarthy edge that resembled classic Greek, despite his surname. “I’ve been admonishing Dr. Gaetano for not taking photographs of your calf while the infection was at its peak. It’s hard to judge when the saliva, blood and tissue appear normal. But I finally found the antibodies I was looking for in your blood in this last sample. It’s just taken a little while for it to develop.”
Oh. Photographs. Yeah, that would have been handy in case there are other victims. Oops. I flinched involuntarily when something hit the wall again. Both the doctors looked at the wall and then at each other. “Okay, so what is that? The tech earlier stared at the wall like it terrified him.”
Dr. Swanson shrugged. “It probably did. Frankly, I’m appalled it’s still here.”
Gaetano let out a weary sigh. “This isn’t Sudan, Panos. The situation’s not that simple.”
The other doctor merely shrugged like it was an argument he wasn’t willing to revive. “Perhaps. But I think it would be useful to show Ms. Graves what she narrowly avoided and why it’s important she’s very open and honest about her recent interactions with people.”
The way he said it made Dr. Gaetano frown and let out a slow breath. “It’s not a freak show. It’s a person’s life, doctor.”
Swanson’s eyes were both sad and fierce. “No. It’s a person’s death, Tom. She deserves her life to mean something.”
“Um,” I interrupted. “If I have a vote, I’d like to see. I’m not easily shocked. If that matters for anything.”
Dr. Gaetano passed over my chart to Swanson with a slightly disgusted expression. “Show her if you must. But I want no part of it. I have rounds to make.” He stormed out the automatic doors with fists clenched. I risked a glance at Dr. Swanson who just shrugged.
“He’ll get over it. Tom is a clinical researcher. He hasn’t seen the things I have in the field.”
Ah. “In other words, he’s not jaded yet.” I understand that. Been there, done that, have the bloody tee-shirt.
“He’s not being realistic. But that’s going to have to change. And soon. We only have six isolation wards. If this really is the beginning of a coming pandemic, he won’t have any choice.” He turned and crooked his finger for me to follow.
Um. So no, while still in my hospital gown. “Can you give me a second? If I’m being discharged, I’d like to wear real clothes out of here.”
He really had been a doctor too long because that was apparently the first moment he noticed the gown. “Oh! I’m sorry. Of course. I’ll wait for you in the hall.”
It didn’t take me long to change, simply because I had no idea when the door might next open. I hated that I had to wear the butt-cheek revealing jeans but hopefully the only reason Dawna hadn’t delivered the clothes was because of the isolation ward. I doubt they allow many visitors. It’s not ICU. It’s even a step above quarantine. When I walked out into the hallway, Dr. Swanson was reading my chart. I didn’t know how much was in there, but I was betting there was a lot from the specialists I visited, since several of them were based out of the hospital. “Interesting reading?”
Rather than being startled or appearing embarrassed, he looked up and nodded eagerly. “Fascinating. You’ve had an interesting life. And death.”
“And life again. I’m planning to stay on this side of that coin.” That made him quirk a smile my way. “Shall we?” I motioned down the hall but he closed the chart and pointed in the other direction.
He moved into the lead since obviously I had no idea where I was going in the maze of hallways. We reached a doorway after a series of turns that left me unsure where the hospital entrance was if I had to navigate back. “The patient you’re going to see is in an advanced state of M. Necrose—where you could have gone without Mage DeLuca’s and Dr. Gaetano’s quick intervention.
I was getting a little nervous about him opening the door but instead of the doors opening, the press of a button opened a window through the door. Great. How many people had done that to me while I was sitting swinging my legs from the exam table?
That thought was swept from my mind as I caught sight of what was in the room. I say what instead of who because I had no doubt there was no who left inside the walking corpse behind the reinforced door. “My God.” I unconsciously crossed myself even though I’m not Catholic. There are some things that sort of require appealing to a higher power. “She’s not alive, is she?”
I could tell the zombie I was staring at was female simply because of the curves and tatters of the skirt covering the blackened lesions on a background of red and purple oozing skin. The eyes were white and unseeing as the zombie walked around the room, searching for . . . well, I don’t know what. “What is she looking for?”
Dr. Swanson looked at me significantly. “A victim. Someone to bite or scratch to transmit the infection. She won’t find one, of course, unless someone is foolish enough to go inside. We had to nearly restrain her adult daughter from opening the door.”
I shuddered to think what I would do if it was my gran inside that room. Would I care about the obvious necrotic skin, or would I run to her to envelop her in a hug. Scary. “Why is she even here? What are you going to do with her?”
He let out a huff of frustration. “Good question. I haven’t a clue. In Sudan, we would have lassoed her and dragged her into a fire to cleanse the infection. But since she was a patient here when she died, the hospital’s hands are tied. She’s still mobile, despite the fact there are no brain waves or heart beat. They have to worry about the family suing if they make the wrong choice about what to do. In my opinion, she should be burned.”
“But what if she can be healed, like me?” Was it just luck I was given the treatment? Would this doctor have denied me that?
“There was no saving her once she arrived. I would have moved heaven and earth for her if she’d had vital signs when she arrived. She didn’t. But the staff here has no concept of this infection. They put her in the morgue until I happened to pick up her chart and read the symptoms. I ran downstairs and managed to get the body before it became animated again. The bacteria took over once she was in this room. Thankfully, the staff who came into contact have received the antibiotic.”
It was at that moment that the corpse ran into the window, making me jump back for no reason. Just creeped out, I guess.
So what happens next? Well, you’ll just have to go out and buy The Isis Collar by Cat Adams, won’t you? And if you’ve never heard of Celia Graves’ earlier adventures in Blood Song, Siren Song and Demon Song, they’re on sale until the release of Isis! It’s a really good sale, too: only $2.99 for all formats of ebook download. Heck, that’s three for the price of one! And if you’re a print fanatic, they’re also on sale at Amazon on a 4-for-3 special. But lots of other retailers have them on sale too, so go to our publisher’s website, scroll all the way to the bottom and choose your favorite store.
We have one signed copy of The Isis Collar by Cat Adams for a lucky VBC reader. This contest is open internationally (thank the authors!) and ends on March 28. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered.