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Weekend Only: Dead Tropics is free!

My publisher, Permuted Press, is offering the Dead Tropics ebook free on Amazon this weekend. Nook users can send an email to to get their free copy.

“Dead Tropics is a 240 pages condensate of pure hell juice!” – Bricks of the Dead

Excerpt from Dead Tropics 2

Leaving them, I moved down the hall towards the bathroom. From the bedroom on the right, I could hear steady thumping on the door and walls. It would was an unnerving feeling, knowing there were zombies in the house with us, but, for the moment at least, we were safe.

Rummaging through the bathroom cabinet, I found a bottle of strong pain killers, prescribed for someone with back pain. It should do the trick.

That was the moment when the heat radiating through my back registered with me. Jake’s body heat burned through the thin material of my shirt. “Jake? How are you going, buddy?”

The silence that greeted me was unnerving. Frowning, I unhooked the sling. “Jake?”
My first look at Jake sent a chill right through my body. Eyes bright with fever, he lay limp in my arms. His soft skin was flushed but his lips were tinged with blue.

He’s infected. Feeling suddenly faint, I lowered myself to the floor. My heart pounded in my chest. I stared down at the baby I was cradling. His plump flushed cheek rested trustingly on my chest.
It’s not possible, I rationalized desperately, he couldn’t possibly be infected! He wasn’t bitten. It’s just a normal bug. He’s a baby, babies get sick all the time.

Every word I told myself was true. Yet I was not comforted. My head said one thing but my gut said another. I had a flashback to the moment I’d rescued him, the image of his blood coated face lingering before my eyes. What if some of the infected blood had gotten in his eyes or in his mouth?

Rising to my feet again, I pulled open the medicine cabinet’s door, searching for the bottle of children’s paracetamol I’d seen earlier. If it was just a normal bug, paracetamol should bring down the fever. In about fifteen minutes, you’re going to feel really silly when the fever goes down.

“Mum?!” Michele stood in the doorway. “Can’t you find any painkillers? Gary hasn’t stopped complaining since you left.”
I tossed the pill bottle at her before grabbing the baby medicine. “Here. Take it. I won’t be long.”
Catching the bottle, Michele continued to hover in the doorway, watching me awkwardly unscrew the baby medicine bottle with the baby cradled in my arms. “Is everything alright?”
No. I really don’t think it is. I cleared my throat, avoiding her eyes. “Jake’s a bit sick so I’m giving him some medicine. I’ll be along soon.”

With a slow nod, Michele left. I knew she sensed my distress but I guess she also recognized my need to be alone. A terrible gnawing fear hovered just beneath my veneer of calm. The thought of losing someone else…no, I wouldn’t think about it.

Carefully, I dripped the medicine into Jake’s open mouth. Eyes half closed, he swallowed unresistingly.
“Good boy.” I murmured, sitting on the edge of the bath. “You’ll feel better in no time, you’ll see.”
Oh God, please let it be so. He had to be okay, he had to.

Jake whimpered. I tightened my hold on his hot body. “Hush, it’s going to be okay. Although I’ve got to say, your timing really sucks. I bet you used to wake up and cry every time your parents were about to get frisky, didn’t you? My daughter used to do the same thing.”

I was rambling, I knew, but the sound of my voice seemed to calm Jake so I kept talking. “Don’t worry, I’m sure they didn’t mind. They would have laughed about it, just like my husband and I used to. Michele’s timing was so good that it took us another twelve years to conceive the twins!” I smiled down at him, noting the way his too-bright eyes tracked my moving lips. “No, not really, but you should see her face when I tell people that.”

Waiting for the medicine to take effect, I rocked Jake and talked. I talked about the kids, and I talked about my husband. I talked about how nervous Charles had been about becoming a dad and how enamored he’d been with the kids from the moment he’d held them in his arms. “He could rock them for hours, you know, just like I’m doing.”
A memory of Charles with a baby in each arm, happily crooning an old Sinatra song, surfaced. The expression on his face had been so contented that it had stuck with me to this day.

At some point, I became aware of Michele standing in the doorway, listening to me with an unreadable expression on her face. I felt a pang of regret, knowing that my reminiscences were painful for her. But I couldn’t stop, because if I stopped, then I would have to face the truth.

A drop of water splashed on Jake’s bare chest. I realized, dully, that I was crying. The words faltered and dried up in my throat. A sob escaped my lips. Michele straightened, alarmed. “Mum?”

I could no longer deny the truth to myself. He was dying. The sweet little boy in my arms was dying. The scorching heat emanating from his dry skin made it almost unbearable to hold him. I closed my eyes but still the tears dripped down my cheeks. “He’s infected. Jake’s infected.”
“Oh, no.” I heard Michele’s horrified whisper. “Are you sure?”

Opening my eyes, I gazed at the beautiful boy, taking in the plump cheeks, the rosebud lips, the beautiful blue eyes. Eyelids fluttering shut, he nuzzled his face into my chest and I thought my heart just might break. “Yes. I’m sure.”
Everything I’d done to protect Jake had been in vain. He’d been doomed before we even left the highway.

My legs seemed to lose their strength. Slowly, I slid down until I was sitting on the floor with my back resting against the bath. “I’m so sorry, Jake. I’m so sorry I failed you.”
Knowing Michele was watching me, I struggled to hold back the sobs without success. The pain in my heart was too deep. Sobs began to rack my body as I cuddled the dying baby.

I grieved for all Jake had lost. Family. Love. The chance to grow up.

And, as if the tears had unleashed a dam of pain I had not known I was bottling up, I cried for all the companions I had watched die. My friend, Emma. Mike, the amazing man I’d known for too short a time. My sister’s neighbor, the sweet teenager, Skye. Brent and Megan. God, the list went on and on.
How many people would I have to watch die before this was over?
Silently, Michele sat down across from me. I drew a gasping breath, trying to regain control of my emotions. It wasn’t right to do this in front on her. But looking into her eyes, I saw nothing but compassion and understanding. Reaching across, she rested a hand on my leg.

I watched Jake die by slow degrees in my arms. The virus that had lurked quietly in Jake’s system for the last few hours was rapidly taking hold now. His eyes were closed but his hot body was now clammy and rapidly cooling.

There was so much his parents would have wanted to say to him if they were here. So I said it for them. I told him how much he was loved. I told him about the first moment his father held him in his arms and kissed his soft little cheek. I told him about how his mother used to sit by his bed and just watch him sleep, awed by the amazing gift she had been given.

I talked about the dreams they’d had for him. How they’d imagined what he would be like as a teenager, all gangly and voice breaking. I talked about the man he would have become if he’d had a chance, how decent and funny and kind he would have been and how proud his mother and father would have been.

Dimly, I was aware of Michele watching us with tears sliding down her cheek. I hadn’t realized she was that attached to the baby.

Jake’s breathing slowed until I could barely detect the movement of his chest. His body grew heavy in my arms.
Knowing it was time, I brought him up closer to my face and pressed a soft kiss on his cheek. “You can go now, Jake, go find your family.”

I sang him into his final sleep with a lullaby I used to sing to my babies, just as my mother had sung it to me. It was a haunting Mauritian tune that I had always loved and one I would now forever associate with this moment.
And then, with a last gasp, he was gone. I stared at his still body for a long moment before reaching down and pulling out my stake. Poising it above his face, I waited.

“Oh mum, you don’t have to do this.” Michele’s voice broke, thick with tears.
I didn’t look at her, keeping my eyes fixed on Jake’s angelic face. “I owe him this much.”

His body twitched. My hand tightened on the stake. After a moment, his eyes opened. I had planned to drive the stake through his eye but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let that image be my last memory of him. Instead, I slipped the stake into the soft spot beneath his chin and into his little brain.
We sat in a frozen tableau for a long moment. Numb, I gazed at the plump, limp body in my arms. Michele waited with me, her face wet with tears.

Finally, I was ready. With a sigh, I slowly laid Jake down on the cold floor. Pulling a towel down off the rack, I draped it over the small body. Michele reached out and clutched my hand. I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and then pushed myself to my feet.

Every step away from Jake felt like a betrayal but I forced myself to walk out of the bathroom. I hadn’t been able to save him but I could still save my own babies. It was time to find the rest of my family.

Influencing Your Child to Read

Influencing Kids to Read

I have three children.  One loves to read, one is sporadic in his reading and another seems to put reading in the same category as scrubbing the toilet.  This lack of interest distresses me for several reasons.
Firstly, reading gives you an education which far surpasses what you learn in school.  From the pages of fiction books, I have developed a wide vocabulary, learned about history, science and specialised topics like boxing.  The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay not only taught me that there is an art to boxing but succeeded in making it seem positively romantic!  Twenty years later, I still find myself drawn to the game.  More than that, though, the book made me think about how one person can make a difference in this world.  It reaffirmed my belief in doing what is right, not what is easiest, and that hasn’t always been easy.

Secondly, books can help shape your beliefs and value system.  For instance, when I read Black Beauty as a young teenager, I was shocked by the ill treatment of animals described in it.  Ever since, I have done what I could to ensure animals are treated well, including volunteering at pet shelters and teaching my children to be empathetic towards helpless creatures.  I want my children to think about what kind of person they are and what kind of person they want to be.  If I tell them about the values I want them to live by, I’m preaching.  If they read it, however, they imbibe the lessons without even being aware of it.  Sneaky of me, I know.
Thirdly, books allow you to live more than one life.  I want my children to know what it is like to be a child wizard, a Dalmatian trying to find his 100 puppies or a little girl who wanders through a wardrobe into another world.  I want them to immerse themselves in a life where they can experience great love, sadness and horror, and still feel safe in the quietness of their bedroom.  I want them to imagine how they would feel if they were a queen awaiting execution because she’d loved unwisely, or living in a city gripped by the Black Plague.  I want them to dwell with wolves, fight with swords and fly with dragons.  Most of all, I want them to live a full life.  From a book, can come the dream, and from the dream can come the reality.  This is something they won’t discover from ipods, cell phones and television.
So, back to my dilemma.  How do I expose my children to the joys of a good book without having it backfire on me?  I’ve already done the things the experts said to do.  I set a good example by reading myself (oh boy, did I do that.  I usually have a stack of thirty books in my TBR pile); I read books to them every night till they were about ten years old; I took them to the library; I bought them books.  Heck, I even wrote a book (turns out they think that’s an incredibly nerdy thing to do).  As far as I can tell, my efforts have achieved zip.  Oh, they loved being read to, but they showed no desire to pick up a book themselves.
My oldest daughter finally fell in love with books at the age of 11.  Stuck in bed for several days, she picked up Harry Potter in desperation and never looked back.  Alas, my other two show an unfortunate robustness of health.
My approach in the face of their total lack of interest is to, firstly, limit time on their electronics in the hopes that boredom will drive them to books.  Secondly, I monitor the television shows and magazines they read in an attempt to find a genre that will prove irresistible.
Imagine my excitement when I recently saw a sign that my approach is working!  My middle daughter is currently reading a book in the Vampire Diaries series and there are another ten from the series sitting on her bed stand! I took a punt based on the tv shows she was watching and it paid off.  As this is the child who would rather scrub the toilet than read, you may appreciate the back-patting going on here.
Other parents get excited when they kid gets an A or kicks a goal; I’m not ashamed to say I get excited when I see a book in their hands.  Score!