After Life Lessons: Book One
by Laila Blake & L.C. Spoering
Series: After Life Lessons
Length: 280 pages / 88.000 words
Genre: General Fiction / Post-Apocalyptic Love Story
Print Version $ 13.99
E-Book Version $ 3.99
After Life Lessons is an emotional journey of grief and tentative romance in a world infested with zombies.
A year after a devastating epidemic swept the world, Emily and her 6-year old son Song are struggling South in search of more hospitable climates. A snowstorm traps them in an abandoned gas station, where starving and desperate, they encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own, who offers them a ride to ease the journey.
The road is a long and dangerous place to travel, but it’s not only the deadly infected who pose a threat. The newly enforced proximity to another human being awakens feelings, long numbed and forgotten in a world of such abject scarcity. And that’s when the pain really starts to hit, when places thought lost prickle back to life, when hope opens them up to a new dose of devastation and heartbreak.
Eventually, they will have to fight not just for survival, but for a future together, or their broken world will swallow them whole.
This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader’s discretion is advised.
Excerpt – Chapter One
Something was dying in the flurries of snow.
Emily couldn’t see five feet of road in front of them, but the desperate howl pierced the wind. A dog maybe, or something altogether wilder. It seemed to harden every muscle along her spine, forcing her body into a more awkward pace, one hand firmly around Song’s, dragging the boy along. The wind piled snow into drifts, threw it into icy funnels that danced between the trees. Piece by piece, they had let go of their possessions, offered them like sacrifices to the snow, to earth’s gravity and fatigue. Song had long stopped complaining; he’d even stopped coughing, just hung on to her, placing a shaking foot in front of the other.
The dog howled again, and Emily forced her legs to quicken the pace. Song whined, and after a few steps, his hand slipped out of hers, and he sunk onto a pile of snow. She was aware they were going to die; that was as clear as the icicles that hung from the hard guitar-case she still carried strapped to her backpack. She could barely walk on her own skinny legs and they wouldn’t get far, but she pulled him up anyway, hefted him onto her hip. His frozen cheek came to rest against hers. He coughed, tried to lock his ankles around her waist, but his boots were too slippery, and he soon lost the strength to try again.
Emily was not far behind. With each step along the icy road, her knees shook, and even in the split second in which she slipped, she found herself utterly unsurprised, almost unmoved.
They were going to die.
Blinding pain blasted through her wrist, up along her arm when she landed—hard on her left side, protecting Song from the brunt of it—and, still, she was left impassive. The pain drove tears to her eyes, and the wind froze them on her cheek, but she hardly noticed. She struggled back to her feet, sucked in stinging breath after stinging breath, and pressed forward.
There had to be something out there, something other than the snow, the trees that formed an aisle on either side of them. Hope felt foolish—but this was logic. They were not out in the wilderness; there had to be something.
“Song please, please…” she begged, when he slipped down her thigh again, clinging to her neck like a monkey. She hefted him back up, swallowed the pain that shot through her arm, and tried to squint through the snow. Another howl filled the stillness, closer this time.
In her head, in her legs, it felt like she was running. The truth came closer to padding along on heavy feet, but it was the idea that mattered, the breath that burned in her lungs. She envisioned herself bursting through the trees to some large, well-appointed house, with food and a bathtub big enough to float in, to make it all worth it.
What she found—in the end—was a decrepit gas station, but she reminded herself, sing-song voice in her head and all, beggars can’t be choosers.
They made an inelegant entrance, crashing through the door that hung on its hinges, into a convenience store that had been ransacked long before, the toppled shelves mostly emptied, covered in dust and a fine layer of ice. Emily hauled the both of them through the tangle of wood and wire, past the cash register that lay, gaping open like a wound, on the floor by the counter. The wind whistled through the broken windows, and had it not been for the storeroom just behind the cigarette display, there would have been no point to the gas station at all, not for them.
The storeroom had only one small window and a rotting desk—no food in sight. It was cold, still, but temperature was relative—they were out of the snow, out of the wind, and she could finally set her boy on the floor, and collapse herself.
Every motion sent pain crashing up her arm, and somewhere in the back of her mind that scared her almost as much as Song’s cough and the way his cheeks were burning up the moment he was out of the wind. Biting down, she pilfered through her pack, throwing onto him whatever they had left: a few clothes, a blanket. Where was the towel she’d always used to rub him dry?
“I’m getting some snow to melt, okay? Don’t move.”
Song didn’t answer; Emily grabbed the empty bottle and struggled to her feet. She thought of fires, of tea and food as she stumbled through the store-room, cradling her arm and ducking her chin into her scarf to protect her from the wind. Kicking the door open again with her boot, she squatted down, and pushed snow into the bottle until her gloves were caked in the stuff. She was back on her feet, shivering, when something broke through her pain-addled senses.
The dog barked, once, then again—vicious, aggressive and scared. A shadow hushed through the snow somewhere far ahead. Emily stood, frozen on the spot until, in the distance, hulking shadows emerged—a soft grey against the chaotic white of the blizzard.
In the zombie genre, where most authors focus on humor and gore, stereotypical characters and predictable plot lines, Blake and Spoering bring emotional depth that takes the reader to all the right places. After Life surprises again and again with its heart and its tenderness. Do you like the story? You bet. Do you care about the characters? Absolutely. So, you want more when you’re finished? Definitely. You’re in luck. After Life is book one.
– Michelle LeJeune for Broad Magazine
“A complex and moving tale, After Life Lessons will stay with you long after you finish the last page. I guarantee you will never look down an empty stretch of road the same way again. I was quite taken with the emotional depth of the characters and the beautiful writing. The fact that this novel was created by two authors working as a team makes it even more special, since it’s difficult to meld two different minds into one “voice.” Five stars!”
– Deborah Cordes, Bestselling Author
So…Right now, all I want to do is gush about this book. It’s simply got everything going for it and then some. It has a depth of emotion, action and drama that rivals the Marianas Trench- a feat that is often difficult to portray in books of this nature, it’s mostly gore and battle but no substance, certainly not with this one. Believe it or not it’s a zombie novel with heart.
[Emily is] a stunning heroine to admire, written to perfection with flaws and bravery intertwined.
Aaron was a great complex hero, saving people and delivering supplies in order to feel useful and needed rather than for reward, often feeling a little lonely and unwanted. Sometimes he was quite stoic and pensive, reflecting on the world at large inwardly rather than rambling on to fill silence.
These two writers are golden together, one hundred percent. If you’re looking for a well written and imaginative zombie romance then this book is definitely for you.
– Nicole McCurdy for Bex ‘n’ Books
I truly wasn’t expecting this book to floor me like it did! This book changed my perception of the zombie genre all together. This book has a new take on the classic Zombie Apocalypse, one I find to be far more realistic to how people would respond during a zombie out-break. They show the true gritty emotions; fear, love, courage, regret, and compassion. This book also has a perfect balance of zombie scenes placed throughout it. It’s about so much more than just zombies, trust me.
After Life Lessons put my emotions one hell of a ride that I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from. It drained me physically and mentally, but I consider that to be a good thing. Any book that can have that much of an impact on me has to be special. This book has everything you could ever want in a novel… action, humor, romance, and sex. I could barely stumble out of my bed after one particular scene… oh the shock and horror I experienced.
– Helena Ison for Accepted Wisdom
- Soko – We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow
- Ingrid Michaelson – End of the World
- The Hoosiers – Everything goes Dark
- Ben Howard – Gracious
- Tom Odell – Another Love
- Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
- Rachel Yamagata – Duet
- Great Lake Swimmers – Stealing Tomorrow
- Vienna Teng – Drought
- Matt Hires – Out of the Dark
- Beck – Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime
- Radical Face – Welcome Home