Friday, November 29, 2013

The Unofficial Book Blitz: The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

The Last Bastion of the Living 
Rhiannon Frater
Publication date: June 12th 2012
Genres: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction
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The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.

Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.

Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.

The Last Bastion of the Living
by Rhiannon Frater

Maria was dozing lightly when Dwayne crawled into bed with her. The fans around the bed hummed softly, and her body was cool beneath the thin sheets. As Dwayne’s naked body stretched out next to hers, she rolled over and kissed him.
“You’re awake,” he said, surprised, and wrapped his arms around her.
“You’re late,” Maria replied. She ran her fingers down over his face, feeling the light poke of his stubble against her skin.
“You got my message, didn’t you?” Dwayne asked worriedly.
“Uh huh. Dinner with the kids.”
“The twins wanted to see me.” Dwayne’s hands gently pushed her hair back from her face, his fingers gentle as always. “Even Caitlyn joined us.”
Maria knew that Dwayne’s eldest daughter was usually unavailable. She was an assistant to one of the president’s council members. “How was she?”
“Argumentative as always. I felt like I was on trial. She should have been a lawyer. It was exhausting. I just wanted to get back here and see you.”
“Just see me?” Climbing on top of him, she whispered softly to him in Spanish, knowing he loved it.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re saying, but it sounds great,” he said with a little moan as she rubbed her bare breasts over his chest and kissed his neck.
Soon he was hard and inside her and they gasped as their bodies rode together. Dwayne wrapped his fingers in her hair and kissed her deeply as they came together, perfectly matched as always.
“I like that greeting,” he finally whispered in a husky voice.
Resting her forehead against his, she smiled slightly. “Me too.”
“I should get delayed more often,” he teased as his hands slid over her hips.
Maria’s hands traced over his muscled chest lightly, the light smattering of hair tickling her palms. She could sense Dwayne tensing as his expression grew concerned.
“Maria, why are you awake?”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Okay,” he said cautiously.
Sliding off of him and tucking herself into his side, she drew a breath, then said, “I volunteered today for a new program with the Science Warfare Division.”
“What? With the SWD? Why?” Sitting up, Dwayne frowned. “Explain it to me.”
“Technically, I’m not supposed to,” Maria replied, pushing herself up to face him.
Dwayne narrowed his eyes, his gaze growing steely. It was a look she remembered from when he had once been her commanding officer. It used to terrify her, but now it just made her want to comfort him.
“Cut the bullshit, Maria. We both know the SWD hasn’t done anything effective in years. If they want you for some sort of special ops, I want to know what it is. Petra was busting her ass all day trying to find out what is up with the SWD and the secret meetings today, and she came up empty. If you know something, I want to know. Not just because it concerns you, but because upper echelon has a tendency to leave me out of the loop when it matters most to our people. We already break enough rules being together, so spill it.”
Maria shoved her hair back from her face and sat cross legged in front of him. Pulling the sheet over her legs, she took a deep breath. “Fine. Fine. It’s a big operation and it has the full support of the president. It’s huge, Dwayne. I think this is why the president is so optimistic about finally beating back the Scrags.”
“Tell me more.” His voice was like steel and his gaze was intense.
Maria hesitated, knowing that what she was about to relate would only antagonize him more. “They asked me to volunteer because I’m physically fit, unattached as far as they know, and I’m not ‘breeding stock’ and therefore, not important to maintaining our population.”
“That’s a shitty way to put it.”
“I didn’t care much for his wording either. But the really big news is this, Dwayne,” she said, reaching out to take his hand, “they think they found a way to fool the Scrags into not attacking the living. It’s like an antidote. They said even if the Scrags did bite me, I wouldn’t get infected.”
“If they swarm you, that won’t matter. You’ll die.” Dwayne’s voice was clipped, his expression concerned.
“But if they think I’m one of them...” She flicked her dark eyes up to meet his vivid blue ones. “...they won’t swarm me.”
“They never attack each other,” Dwayne admitted, realizing where the conversation was leading.
“I could walk among them, kill them, and walk away without being attacked.” Hearing the words coming from her own lips made her shiver, but the excitement of being able to fight the Inferi Scourge without fear was like electricity in her blood. “I’m going to help clear the valley and close the gate.”
“So they forcibly conscripted you into doing this.” Dwayne shook his head.
“No. It’s volunteer only. They didn’t tell me the mission until I volunteered.”
“I should have known.” He leaned back on the pillows, covering his face with one hand. “The canceled meetings, the aircraft, the SWD being involved, and you being late back from your patrol.”
Maria tenderly rested her hand his chest. “I have to do this. They’ll give me a plot of land once the valley is cleared and the gate is repaired and shut. I can pick anywhere I want. I’ll get a standard settlement deal - one prefab house and furniture.” She leaned her chin on his shoulder and stared at him. “I want out of this city, Dwayne. I want those fuckers gone. I want a life with you. Maybe we can’t have kids, but we could have a good life if those things aren’t out there.”
Lifting his hand, he settled it against her cheek. “How long?”
“The serum will give us four to six months to clear the valley. They think I’m unattached, so...”
Dwayne held her tenderly against him. “Other people will do it. You don’t have to go.”
She was silent, unsure of how to answer.
Dwayne chuckled, shaking his head. “What am I saying? Of course, you do. You’ve been going batshit crazy with the rolling blackouts and shortages just like the rest of us.” He kissed her brow, smoothing her hair back from her face. “The one thing you can’t stand is not being able to do anything.”
“Exactly. So now that I can do something...”
“Once you’re back, the divorce will be settled, the twins will have graduated from high school, and we can concentrate on us. We will get married.”
“And move out to a nice prefab house near the lake,” Maria added.
“Absolutely.” He swept her hair back from her face. “I’ll miss you.”
“I’m doing this for us.”
“I know, but I’ll still miss you and worry about you every second you’re gone.” He sighed, then asked, “When are you going to leave?”
“In forty-eight hours,” she answered, her voice catching. Rubbing her palm against his chest, she struggled not to cry. “I love you, Dwayne Reichardt.”
“I love you, Maria Martinez.” He slightly frowned. “Forty-eight hours, huh?”
“Uh huh.”
“You won’t be doing much sleeping,” he decided and dragged her over on top of him.

by Rhiannon Frater 

I’m not going to lie. I need to be honest with you from the start. The honest to God truth of the matter is that I hate/despise/loathe a lot female characters that fall under the “badass” heroine banner. I often have to suppress the deep, dark desire to give them a roundhouse kick to the face. 

Well, if I could actually manage to do a roundhouse kick. I’m not that limber. 

Though there are plenty of amazing, strong female characters that I absolutely love with all my heart, there are a smorgasbord of female characters that really rub me the wrong way. The reason for this is simple. Badass has been confused with women who are just plain bitchy, self-centered, and mean. 

I didn’t really realize how ingrained the bitchy heroine had become in entertainment until I saw a script for one of my books. The heroine uttered a lot of really mean, nasty comments in the first few pages of the script and I was stunned by how awful she came across. I spoke to the scriptwriter about the added dialog and he answered, “Oh, I added that because I wanted her to come across as a strong.” 

“Uh, strong doesn’t mean bitchy,” I said carefully. To my surprise, and relief, he agreed and those lines were removed. 

But after that event, I realized that was exactly why some heroines really rub me the wrong way. To make a woman appear strong, a lot of writers have defaulted to making her really bitchy, egocentric, and often just plain mean. It hurts me whenever I see this trope in a book, movie, or TV show. A woman doesn’t have to be a bitch to be strong or badass. 

A badass female character should be someone you can see as a friend. Someone you love, cheer for, and believe in. You understand they’re flawed, but that’s okay. As they keep working hard to overcome all their obstacles and achieve a happy ending, you’re invested in their journey. 

Even when my heroines have something exceptional about them like Vanguard Maria Martinez in THE LAST BASTION OF THE LIVING, they exist realistically in their circumstances. Maria’s military training, intelligence, and determination to accomplish her mission all contribute to her badass factor. But the power that compels her to do extraordinary things isn’t her anger at an unfair world, but her love for a man who loves and respects her. Maria not only serves The Bastion, but her own heart. She struggles with fear, suffers loss, and knows that she may lose her life in the battle against the Inferi Scourge. But victory means freedom from the undead hordes and the ability to build her life with Dwayne, the man who sees beyond her hard veneer to the women she is inside. 

My goal when writing my strong female protagonists is to create realistic women who have strengths and flaws just like everyone else does. I don’t create perfect people that have nothing bad happen to them. Or women that all the men want to be with and all other women hate. I create women who could live in our own world very easily. They could be your neighbor, friend, or family member. 

In the end, I think Maria Martinez is a badass heroine because her strength doesn’t come from being bitchy, but from being a woman willing to do her very best to overcame the most terrible odds.

Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. Her next novel for Tor, Dead Spots, will be published in 2014. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.

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