Steel Rose

Cyrus Wraith Walker sketched the video for this zombie fiction tale by Barbara Custer.

Book cover by Dawné Dominique; Promo by Cyrus Wraith Walker. The woman is our heroine, Alexis.

You can view the video trailer for Steel Rose here. Credits go to Cyrus Wraith Walker and his company, http://cyrusfictionproductions.bravehost.com.

_CB header

Excerpt: Silence. Her splints flashed white against the gloom. The footsteps started again, outside the window. Kneeling beside her mother’s bed, she shone her light toward the window. A tunic-clad woman stood outside, silhouetted against the moonlit night. The flashlight kicked too much reflection off the windows to see her face, but the intruder was too short and thin to be Laurel.

The footsteps stopped. The glass shivered. Alexis could hear so much now: the quivering window, the house creaking the way her joints did in the early morning, Robin’s soft weeping from the living room.

She gazed into the ominous night and then the window shattered inward, showering the bed and Alexis with glass slivers. A look up-close-and-personal revealed the intruder’s fiery red eyes, needle-sharp teeth, and crooked snarl of hate. No, not hate… hunger.

“Oh, my God!” she hollered, and her cry betrayed her. Her ankle buckled when she tried to stand and run. She dropped her knife. The Kryszka grabbed her arm and flung her onto the bed.

Woehar is the Kryszka soldier that attacks Alexis in this zombie fiction tale by Barbara Custer.

Kryszka soldier that attacks Alexis

She groped for the screwdriver and cried out at the glass slicing her right hand. Her back and neck hurt worse. The Kryszka withdrew a cylindrical device with her free hand. It looked like a plasma gun, the weapon that Steve had described. Its power would dwarf Alexis’ piece-of-shit weapon.

Hot stabbing ripped through Alexis’ spine. Something – an invisible force perhaps – rubbed her against the broken glass on the bed. This monster was dragging out the torture before killing her. Her right hand closed around her screwdriver. Despite the razor blades of agony slashing through her wrist, she pointed its tapered bit toward the Kryszka’s face. The creature was too busy drooling over her shoulder and neck to notice. Eyes rolled back and teeth gaping, the Kryszka angled for her right shoulder. Alexis sank the screwdriver into the creature’s left eye, slick as goose shit.

Laurel Grant is the Angel of Death in Barbara Custer's zombie fiction tale.

Laurel Grant, also known as the Angel of Death

“Alexis.” Laurel sounded like she was weeping. “I’m in room 415. Something’s wrong with Bernice Mayes. She’s choking.”

“Shit!” Alexis jogged to the Surgical Trauma unit, grateful for still healthy legs. What’d happened now? During shift report earlier, someone declared Bernice Mayes stable enough for transfer to a routine care floor.

In room 415, Alexis squeezed past a crowd of nurses and peeked over Laurel’s shoulder. Mayes’s eyes rolled like those of a fear-maddened horse. Deltas of wrinkles converged on her gasping lips. Her mouth sought air and found none. The heart monitor tolled long, mournful notes, and each sound shuddered through Alexis’s heart.

A purple cap closed off Mayes’s trach tube and Alexis knew immediately what the problem was. “Laurel, get rid of that cap. She can’t breathe because you didn’t deflate her cuff.”

“What cuff?” Laurel hovered over the hapless patient, blocking Alexis’s access to the bed. “What did I do wrong?”

“The balloon on her trach tube.” Alexis nudged her shoulder. “Get out of the way.”

“Huh?” Laurel gazed at Alexis with vacuous eyes.

“Move, damn you!” Teeth gritted, Alexis elbowed Laurel aside and yanked off the purple cap. Green mucus spewed from the trach, streaking her splints.

Too late. The line on Mayes’s cardiac monitor went flat. Alexis reached for the resuscitator bag for the second time today. This time she used the elbow and palm technique straightaway.

“What happened?” Laurel wailed. “What did I do?”

Two interns rushed in, followed by nurse manager Morris. He glared at Alexis with eyes of deepest frost. “What are you…never mind. Laurel, take over and bag.”

“Huh?” Laurel’s vacant eyes turned toward the ceiling. “What did I do?”

“Morris, something’s up with Laurel,” Alexis said. “If you have a problem, call Dee.”

The senior intern started chest compressions. Even with the resuscitator wedged between her palm and elbow, Alexis paid for her efforts with white agony in both hands.

The cardiac line remained flat.

“What happened?” Laurel wrung her hands. “Oh, goodness, what did I do?”

You know what you did, shithead. Alexis winced with each breath she forced into Mayes. Someone hollered for the defibrillator. Morris wheeled the code cart toward the bed. Steve Leicht came in behind him. Laurel’s smell wafted over Alexis and she gagged at the rank smell.

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Reviews:

“Even though zombies and aliens are really not my type of read, I really did enjoy this book. It was hard getting into at first, but once I actually got interested, the action grabbed my attention and would not let go. Some of the events that happened were mind blowing especially one of the characters daily activities and.. ummmm.. crazy way of thinking, Laurel. This woman freaked me out, but I wanted to read more about her and her past. Occasionally, I would get a little lost in the writing method, but caught up, the more I read. The author has a very creative imagination. I would definitely pick up another one of her books.” Jamie Gibson

(I would give it a 4 because I did struggle in the beginning and throughout the book became lost on what was going on during a few places.)

Platinum Gives Barbara & “Steel Rose”:
4 Platinum Rings!

 ****

 Dear Barbara,

 I’m just emailing to say how much I am enjoying reading ‘Steel Rose’.  I’m practically hooked on it, carrying it around with me and reading a chapter every day.  The wonderful colour illustrations on your website, http://bloodredshadow.com/about/night-to-dawn-magazine-and-books/barbara-custers-night-gallery/steel-rose/ is an added bonus and really enhancing my reading pleasure in helping me to visualise how various characters, such as Laurel Grant and the Kryszka troops, actually appear,  Now, having just completed Chapter Five, I wanted to share some of my favourite scenes.  The first one that springs to mind is Alexis reaction when she first sees the full colour picture of corpses marching down the street.  The shock she gets and the manner in which they are described, covered with  black liquid and gashes is vividly captured and very scary too.  The other scene is when Alexis takes time off and leaves the hospital through the back alley.  That feeling of isolation and her walking alone and believing someone is following her, and then that open dumpster containing those decomposing bodies.  That fluttering towel that in fact contains blood stains and not poppy designs, and Alexis reaction.  I also enjoyed the part when Abaddon appears and literally possesses Laurel and instructs her through voices in her head, and that ‘must kill list’ she compiles before her car accident.  I also enjoy the description of the Kryszka woman who saves her, with her razor sharp teeth, and blood pouring out.  The book’s pace is really wonderful and I am already fully engrossed in it.   Thanks very much.
yours sincerely,
Rajeev.
**********

Rating: 4 stars

“This zombie novel is extremely well-written with a unique twist on the same-old, same-old that’s been coming out left and right lately. Two warnings that should be prominently displayed on the book: First, this novel is not for the faint of heart or those unaccustomed and sensitive to blood and gore, hack and slash, and deep delving into the blackened souls of the most depraved humanity (or lack thereof) has to offer. The scenes including the torture of young girls, in particular, will probably haunt me forever, and I suffered many a nightmare and sleepless night while reading this book. Second, though after I finished reading the book, I checked the author’s website to find out whether this book was part of a series, I still wasn’t entirely sure on that count after my visit. I will say that I don’t believe this novel stands alone—whether or not it’s part of a series. While I read, I was convinced this story was the second or third in a series dealing with aliens and zombies because the book simply never provided satisfactory explanations or details explain certain people (i.e., aliens), places and situations that I left the book feeling lost concerning. That said, fans of the genre will enjoy this above-average, no holds barred installment in the latest crop of zombie fiction.” ~Award-winning Author Karen Wiesner http://www.karenwiesner.com

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