Today I’m sharing an excerpt from WINDMILLS, the first book in my post-apocalyptic trilogy THE COLOR OF FEAR. This piece gives us insight into Valery Paz, and a glimpse into her history.
Before she stepped over the threshold, Valery Paz patted her two front pockets. The left one held the book she was currently reading, a fantasy story about a modern-day barista and a glass slipper, the right a fully loaded pistol she wasn’t afraid to use.
Yep, Uncle Dave, you’d be proud of this little Latina. Self-defense: Never leave home without it.
Wary of the street after hearing about Kwan’s encounter with the gang, she set off at a swift pace, spurred on by the damp chill in the air, her well-worn sneakers making hardly a sound. Twenty blocks along Broadway, then a right turn, then up to the attic of a small house just past Jackson Square, and she’d be home. She could sit by her tiny window and look out over the bay near the Embarcadero.
If she was lucky, and the fog held off, she might catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate.
The bridge still seemed more like another fantasy to her than reality, even though she’d seen it in clear weather, swathed in fog, and in dozens of different states in between.
She hadn’t lived in the city before the Second Holocaust. Then, she’d been the nearest thing to a Valley Girl at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, her daily language peppered with southern California slang. She’d been slated to graduate salutatorian of her class, bound for Stanford. The Second Holocaust ended the school year early.
Then it ended a lot of things early.
Her younger brother had died first, but in the twelve months afer the SH, she’d lost her mother and “Uncle” Dave too. Her parents had broken up years before, but her dad had always stopped in when his sales job brought him within shouting distance. It had been maybe a month before the SH when he stopped in before heading to southern California. She hadn’t seen him again.
She’d buried her mother and Dave, then packed a duffel bag with her dearest possessions and those her family had treasured as well. She had to go somewhere,
People came through town, heading to Colorado or New Mexico, and said San Francisco was at least providing some services to residents. Valery had some very
fond memories of the city by the bay, one visit in particular when she’d gone shopping with her mother as a young adolescent. They’d had warm sourdough bread and
shrimp cocktail from a cart on Fisherman’s Wharf and toured Chinatown, just the two of them. Her mother had bought her a new pair of shoes and a tiny cable car ornament
for their Christmas tree. A magical day.
That’s what made up her mind.
Six months now since she’d moved here, and she still sought real direction. When she was younger, she’d wanted to be a fashion model. She was tall enough, and when she only let herself eat lettuce—for a week or so—she could be skinny enough. It wasn’t like modeling scouts came through Salinas, though. And Mama wouldn’t take me to the city to try out. Not till I was eighteen.
She muttered, “Well. Now I’m eighteen, Mama. Look at me. Sneaking around the streets after dark like some matón.”
Kwan said the Enforcer had rescued her from the gang. A tendril of wistful thought wound itself around Valery’s heart. When will I have a white knight riding out to save me, huh?
Even as she wished for that person who might be waiting out there, somewhere, she shoved that idea aside.
That’s why I’m better off. I don’t need saving.
Besides, she didn’t intend to stay in San Francisco all her life.
She reached her house without incident and ran up the steps, scanning the street before she opened the door. Once she was safe inside, she triple-locked it and headed
upstairs to her room, locking the door to the attic as well. She tossed her pea jacket onto her bed, a mattress on the floor she’d dragged up the narrow steps, then lit several
candles. When everything was arranged to her liking, she rummaged through her “pantry,” a cardboard carton of cans and boxes of food she’d collected over the
last few weeks. One can called for her attention, and she took it out, cradling it in her hand. The brilliant orange of the mangoes on the Goya juice can reminded her of the
ambrosial juice awaiting her inside. She could almost taste the sweet tartness on her tongue.
She popped open the top and took a small sip, letting it roll around her mouth like the finest wine. Amazing.
She leaned down to glance out the window before settling in, disappointed that the cool, wet air had brought along a flood of fog that covered the waters of the bay. No bridge-gazing tonight. What else to do?
She plopped down on the worn blue beanbag chair she’d wrestled up the steps the first week she’d arrived. It was just like the one her brother Jimmy’d had, back in the
The loneliness was starting to get to her. She should leave. Comparing the number of survivors in the site of the SH attack, San Diego, and San Francisco, she could extrapolate
the differences between San Francisco and other parts of the country. The farther east you went, the better the chances there would be a healthier population.
Who knew? Maybe they still had fashion runway shows in New York City.
Si, chica, the models, they are very skinny this year…skin and bones…well, maybe bones without the skin…
A chill ran up her back, the black humor a little too close to truth.
So this week, I’m trying something new, after being invited by author Lisabet Sarai to join in a bit of good work! Each participating author will identify a charity they wish to benefit, and then pledges to donate a certain amount of money to their charity for each comment made by a reader.
Furever Friends is a cat rescue organization in Asheville, NC. I have fostered–and foster
failed!– for them, and in fact, have my dear Daisy Mae, Reba and Clarice all thanks to them.
Fortunately, I’ve passed on more kittens than I’ve kept to great furever homes, and I am so pleased to be able to work with Pam and Glynn Lookabill and the other volunteers.
Kitten season is coming up, however, and they will need a new influx of cash for the rounds and rounds of bottle babes, kittens and mommas that will come through their doors.
So as a result, I will donate $5 for each comment made as part of this blog hop to Pam and her group.
If you, too, love kitties and want to help out, contact Pam at fureverfriends at bellsouth dot net, and she can give you all the particulars!
Now for the entertainment part of the post, here is a blurb and excerpt from THE LOST CHORD, a YA fantasy from Dragonfly Publishing with Bee Warrick, a girl on the autism spectrum, as a heroine!
A poisonous wave is spreading disease and discord across the eleven known universes. Seven special people, known as Keys, must strike the Lost Chord in order to restore the balance. Among those Keys is Bee Warrick, an autistic teenager from Earth who has traveled between the realms for years without realizing it. Can Bee help the Conductor find the other Keys before a bitter enemy strikes the wrong chord and shatters the universes?
Halfway through, her brother Reese barged in. The tall, broad-built boy plopped down on her bright pink bedspread and dropped his football helmet on the floor, where it rolled in a circle before coming to a stop.
Bee jumped and covered her ears to protect herself from the sound.
“Hey there little SPED girl. I see Mom isn’t riding you about your homework.” He glared at her. “Must be nice to be autistic.”
“I’m not stupid like you.” Bee knew Reese wasn’t supposed to call her names. Mom had told him often enough, ever since she was little. But he never stopped, so now she called them back.
She wasn’t sure exactly what ‘autistic’ was supposed to be; she’d read about it in books. She was just what she was, not some word that started with A. Her favorite book was Songs of the Gorilla Nation, about a woman with autism who’d learned to communicate with gorillas.
At least gorillas didn’t make fun of you, she thought.
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
Reese twisted up his face at her. He had the same auburn hair as Bee, a color received from their father’s genes. She hardly remembered their father. He came and took Reese away every other weekend. He never took her. She didn’t even bother to go to the window and look at him any more.
“Bzzzzzzz,” she said, annoyed and wishing he’d go away.
“You know that’s so damn lame. Knock it off. People talk about you at school. SPED.”
Bee knew that term was derogatory by the tone of Reese’s voice, though she couldn’t understand why it was bad. ‘Special’ was something that was extra good. So special education should be something really great, like a Christmas present.
Besides she wasn’t in specials any more. Just speech. Her classes were regular, just like everyone else, and she finally didn’t have a TSS following her everywhere.
Ever since she could remember, she’d been in therapy—occupational therapy, where she’d swung in a net and glued letters on paper; hippotherapy, where she rode and cared for horses at a local farm (she’d liked that); and de-sensitizing therapy, when her mother had scrubbed her body with a surgical sponge for 15 minutes at a time several times a day (she’d hated that).
The longest had been speech therapy, where she’d struggled to learn language, a process that was short-circuited somewhere in her brain. So much didn’t make sense.
Like special education.
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Authors often agonize over whether their books will remain relevant, especially those who write young adult stories and others that use a particular setting or set of jargon to make their points. Even as I wrote the Color of Fear series, critique mates would point out the use of SoCal cadence in Valery Paz’s “Valley Girl speak,” and pop culture references in the banter of electrogeek Eddie Garrick. (It’s true, though–you can’t stop the signal.)
The series tells the story of a world hit by terrorism, and the apocalyptic plague that has wiped out most of the Caucasian population of the world. Mixed blood has saved some whites, but the majority of the survivors, especially in the hard-hit United States, are people of color. Blacks. Native Americans. Asians. Hispanics.
While those people are trying to recover and pull together the remains of the shattered nation, from out a concrete bunker in the northwest comes Bernard Ellison, the self-styled Gabriel, a ideological brother-son of the Posse Comitatus, the American Vanguard and other white nationalists. Gabriel commandeers an abandoned radio station and broadcasts to the faithful:
“How long, my friends, have those terrorists been watching and listening to our communications, so that they knew precisely when to strike? Bin Laden and his people clearly read our country’s weakness. The Universal Jihad Front that launched the Second Holocaust, they, too, understood how far our leaders had left us vulnerable. Listen to this.” He played the government spokesman’s clip Eddie had played on his show a few days before. “Does that sound like a government that can protect you, my friends? I think not!
“Without a strong, healthy government to keep those foreign devils off American ground, do you believe they just stayed home and played in the sand? How do we know they didn’t take advantage of the apocalypse to begin landing ships on our unprotected shores, spilling thousands of them out to take your wives and daughters? Will they recruit those of color who survived in this land? They are banding together, taking aim at the real Americans who are left.”
The propaganda-filled diatribe paused for a moment, then continued, “My friends discovered a nest of potential murderers right here in our heartland just last night. We’d tried to contact these rebels, to show them the truth, but instead, they returned threats and violence. They ruined a major highway!”
A note of stricken sadness came into his voice. “Now crossing our great land will be so much more difficult. Why do these people insist on destroying the world?”
At about the same time in the story, a small band of people trying to get to St. Louis, where the new capital is forming, have this conversation with a ham radio operator who’s keeping them informed of the state of the nation:
“KC-five-NXS, KC-five-NXS, this is K-two-JJB. Hang, are you there? What’s going on?”
“KC-five-NXS, yes, I’m here.” Hang settled onto the floor in front of the radio as the others gathered around. “Thanks for getting back to me. I wanted to let you know we’re going to be delayed—”
“What? I don’t think you can wait any longer, son. Word came down this morning that Gabriel’s on the move. His people set off explosives all along the stretch of I-Eighty between Omaha and Lincoln, knocking out the road. It’s impassable.”
“Cabron,” Valery hissed.
San eyed Charlie, his worst fears coming to life. Yeah, I do know what I know, fool. “We need a map,” he said.
“I got one in the truck,” Terry said, and he hurried out.
“Why would he do that?” Hang asked. “Don’t his people need to get around, too?”
“Word has it that some groups in the two cities planned to set up a blockade, aiming to take Gabriel out. Apparently he just got the jump on them. He’s celebrating on his damned station, claiming the other side was the attacker. I’m not sure how much of what he says you can believe, but we’ve got confirmation from our men on the ground that there are plenty of dead, and they aren’t Gabe’s people.”
“Whoa.” Deflated, Hang leaned back against the bookshelf where the radio sat.
“How many dead?” Marie asked.
“Reports range from just a few to hundreds, depending on who’s telling the story.”
Terry came back with the map, and they spread it out on the table. Mere inches separated Lincoln from their intended route on Interstate Seventy, inches that translated into only one hundred and seventy miles. And they still had three states to cross moving east.
Sound familiar? Does it sound like “Many sides” are at fault? How much more relevant can you get?
THE COLOR OF FEAR SERIES from Zumaya Publications and Lyndi Alexander
Xi San saved the life of a mysterious girl one night in his ravaged San Francisco neighborhood. He can’t get her out of his mind, but believes that she’s lost to him. Lin Kwan came to America to bring her scientist father Chinese medicinal herbs, hoping to stop the virus that killed most of the world’s Caucasians before it mutates to infect the rest of the world. On her way to finding him, she meets again the man who once saved her, a man she can’t forget.With a diverse group of fellow travelers, they head for St. Louis, where civilization is being rebuilt. Between them and safety, danger lurks—Gabriel, a self-styled religious leader and white supremacist, who has organized his army from Upper Midwest survivalist and militia followers, determined to take revenge for the white man.
But Gabriel isn’t their only enemy. Before they reach their destination, they will battle nature, prejudice and even those hidden among them who wish their destruction.
Book Three–ADVERSARIES Coming Soon!
After terrorists unleash a virus on the world that kills most of the Caucasian population, Lin Kwan has finally found her scientist father in America and can deliver the precious herbs he asked her to bring from China. But their reunion is nothing like she expected.
Survivalist and white supremacist Gabriel leads his army of Angels against the new U.S. capital of St. Louis, determined to punish those who lived through the horrors of the virus and re-establish whites as the ruling class. He plans to tear out the heart of the city by first destroying its heroes, then negotiating its surrender.
Xi San, Valery Paz, Eddie Garrick and the other survivors rally to fend off Gabriel’s attack, only to find their city under siege from a much more insidious opponent–the remains of the federal government bureaucracy, which insists on taking control.
And assassin Jin Piao has never been closer to his objective, now that Kwan, her father and the healing medicines are within his grasp. Will he follow his orders and kill them, to save his own wife and child?