After Life Lessons
Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering
Genre: post apocalyptic
Publisher: Lilt Literary
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000
Cover Artist: Laila Blake
Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.
All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.
Excerpt #1: Emily & Aaron
It was in the symmetry, of course. In the fifteen shocks of hair that fluttered in the breeze, as it swept a few leaves across the square. In the thirty pairs of shoes, all pointing up at the grey sky.
Emily took another step closer. She could hear her blood sloshing in her head, like she was underwater and she moved back again, turned away to watch Song. Sparrow started to fuss: even she could tell something was wrong. Very, very wrong. For once, Emily had no interest to investigate, no need to see what they could scavenge. She just wanted to pack up her children and run.
“Aaron,” she hissed. He was walking down the line of corpses, his shoulders stiff with anger, or grief, or maybe shattered faith. “Aaron!”
For the first time since their first days together, Aaron was a wall. He didn’t turn back to her, not until she was almost stomping her feet and biting her lip to keep from screaming. His gaze was blank when he did.
“They were executed.” His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she found herself reaching for him. Her hand stilled in mid-air as though she’d only just noticed that he was much too far away. The breeze stirred the hairs on her arm and she let it sink, cradled her hand around Sparrow’s tiny head in a vestigial instinct to shield her.
“How… how do you know?” she asked, voice hardly loud enough to travel across the square.
He breathed in so deep, she found herself worrying about his ribs, imagined them crackling under the strain. He shook his head, nodded towards the ground.
“Hands are bound with zip ties,” he said eventually. “Looks like they were beaten before…”
“Come back here,” Emily said again, more urgently this time. “Please, baby.”
She could have been watching a movie, or one of those terrible war reports she remembered on the news from Before, the ones she would switch off before Song had time to understand what they were about. It occurred to her, then, that Aaron could have been one of those soldiers in the reports she was lucky enough to switch away from, replace his face with Big Bird, with John Cleese.
“There’s more behind the house,” he said in a monotone. She didn’t follow his gaze. “Must have been the entire neighborhood.”
“But… why?” Emily shook her head at herself almost immediately. Annika had been right: she had gotten cocky. She had forgotten all the things she’d seen after the end, before Aaron had made her forget that humans could be a disease upon the world, far more dangerous than the dead.
She sent one long last glance at Song, then she stepped out of his line of sight, hurried to Aaron’s side as quietly, as quickly as she could. She reached for his hand, squeezed it tight.
Her eyes were drawn downward almost against her will. They hadn’t wasted bullets. She stared at a line of fifteen gaping slits in fifteen throats, like fifteen twisted smiles. “They haven’t been dead for long, have they?”
He tipped his head back and seemed to peer directly into the bare late autumn sun before he looked back at the blood at their feet. “A week maybe,” he said. “Probably less. Hardly decomposed at all.”
She tightened her hold on his hand, tugged once.
“We can’t stay here.” She enunciated every word, slowly, quietly, trying to get through to him. They had slept peacefully, less than half an hour away from this spot. They’d had no idea. “Aaron. We can’t stay here.”
He didn’t respond right away, and it made her heart pound harder in her chest. There had been a night, years before, when he’d told her he’d never really talked about his time in the desert, that he’d never seen the point, and though she’d disagreed, they’d never spoken of it again. She wanted to kick herself now.
“Aaron,” she said, voice terse. “Song and Sparrow.” He finally stirred with those words.
“Get ‘em back in the trailer,” he instructed.
This is quite a unique book. It's dystopian and is the continuation of the after affects, years after a virus changed the world into zombies. It's pretty crazy and cut throat to me. And as for the humans left alive, it takes everything to survive. And not just because the zombies are around.
This is one heart wrenching book. The writing is fantastic and though I didn't read book one, I didn't feel lost or needing something explained. There's multiple characters that tell the story so you get to see how many people are affected by everything happening. Mainly searching for Aaron's family outside of their sanctuary that's kept them alive and safe. And we meet others along the way and we learn how they unite to make it out of this alive. But not just that they are trying to figure out how to rebuild something better than what they have or had.
I really liked this one. I need to read book one now so I can see what happened "before". Over all, if you're looking for exceptional writing, a great dystopian story, and a unique and fresh take on zombies, this one is definitely a high five! 5 PAWS!!
First, tell me a little about your book ☺….
Laila Blake: After Life Lessons: Book Two is the conclusion of a 2 novel set that also includes a collection of short stories, called After Life Lessons: The Interlude. It is a Survival/Post-Apocalypse series with a Women’s Fiction bent.
While Book One focused on the grief and pain that accompanied the first few years after the end, Book Two fast-forwards a few years into time when survival is no longer the first priority for most, but when communities start to rise from the rubble. Book One focuses on the internal struggle, Book Two on the external, on rebuilding and the broader region.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated or did you always just know?
LB: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, or when writing wasn’t part of my life in one way or another. Even when I wanted to study medicine when I was a teenager, I always saw myself as the kind of doctor who write medical mysteries rather than the kind who sees a lot of patients ;).
L.C. Spoering: My earliest memory of writing, really writing, was when I was about 8, and got hold of my mother’s antique typewriter and wrote the first chapter of a book I would never finish. From then on, I was never without a notebook on my person, or attached in some way to a computer.
What inspired you to write your first book and what was it?
LB: It was the fortuitous combination of my friend Lorrie here and a hopeless career situation. After getting my MA, I’d started work in a job I hated and that didn’t pay my bills; I didn’t know what to do. It was definitely the motivational kick I needed to finish something and try to build a second career. And Lorrie, who had finished, I believe, two manuscript at that time, showed me that it was really possible, and how.
LCS: As a 30th birthday present to myself, I decided I would finally finish an entire novel. In the midst of writing, I was laid off from a job that was slowly killing me. I ended up finishing the first draft in 6 months. I’d still like to revise it-- it’s a story of a father and son and how their lives intertwine and influence one another’s.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
LB: Not so much in After Life Lessons, no. I have written other books that incorporated a lot more of myself, but this one is very much a simulation of sorts: what would happen if? The one thing that is based to a degree on what I know is the hippy survival aspect. I really enjoyed writing that; I’m a big fan. If I had the money to set it up, I’d love to move off the grid and live self-sufficiently.
LCS: I think there’s always a little of yourself in whatever you write, even if it’s not, per se, your experience. I’ve fallen in love, and been through traumatic experiences, loved and been loved-- it’s taking the universal and creating a specific experience that still rings true.
How do you chose when/which characters die in your books?
LB: I believe it happens organically, in most cases. Now, despite the genre, our books aren’t filled with dying characters, nor would we want to spoil it for anyone reading them. But suffice to say that the characters that do die, do so because we came to the realisation that they had to for the story to come to the conclusion we needed.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
LB: That’s what editing is for. And we have gone through several rounds, some containing massive changes. Maybe in a years’ time, I’ll find something I’d change, but for right this moment, I’m extremely happy with what we did.
LCS: As Laila said, there will always be something, but there comes a point when you have to step away and let be. Nothing is just as perfect as the movie in your head, but you have to trust you’ve done enough to at least convey most of it to your readers.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
LB: Writing, like learning any skill, improves in stages. Not at all for a long time, only to jump suddenly, fall a little and then stagnate again for months. Every jump is like a crazy high, and every time it falls and stagnates, I get wrought with insecurities. I figure it’s normal, as long as I don’t let the lull seduce me into stopping. :)
LCS: Rejection will forever remain difficult. I’m a people-pleaser as it is, and it’s never any fun to fall short, even if it’s meaningless in the long run.
What book are you reading now? Or what genre?
LB: I’m reading “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides and “Unspeakable Things - Sex, Lies and Revolution” by Laurie Penny. Generally, I read a lot of upmarket fiction. I especially love writers who mix genre influences with genre themes like Margaret Atwood or Haruki Murakami.
LCS: I just finished “The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta. I tend to read mostly upmarket and contemporary fiction, with the occasional YA or fantasy thrown in. In fact, I should probably finally get around to reading the third Song of Ice and Fire book now that the fourth season has started...
Who designed the cover? And do you help with them?
LB: I actually designed the covers for the series. But we have also hired out, especially for original artwork, in the past. And for an upcoming series, we are currently working closely with a designer who we hope can give them the special kick that I just don’t have the skills to provide. We hire out when we want something really unique.
If you could be one of your characters, who would you chose?
LB: Not anyone in After Life Lessons, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t do too well without the internet and modern plumbing. But our next release is an Urban Fantasy story and it has quite a few Fae with awesome abilities. I’d love to be one of them.
LCS: I have a special affection for Annika. I think she reacts most closely to the end of the world as I would.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
LB: We have a fun newsletter, which is the easiest way for readers to stay up to date on our releases. And for people who like to review, we are also always happy to give books away for free -- whether the person has a blog or not. Just shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact us on goodreads or facebook etc. We also keep a list of preferred reviewers, who get first pick of any new book.
Other than that: Make sure you’re prepared for when the zombies come! :)
About the Authors:
Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.
L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.
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