(The Harvesting, #1)
Publication date: January 8th 2014
Genres: Horror, Young Adult, Zombies
It’s all fun and games until someone ends up undead.
Layla Petrovich has spent her whole life running away from her hometown of Hamletville. Raised by the town’s medium, and dubbed the “weird” girl for her fascination with swords, the last thing Layla wants is to go home.
But when she receives a desperate call to return just as a mysterious outbreak sweeps the country, Layla’s instincts urge her to go. Good thing, because the dead are rising.Layla, however, isn’t entirely on her own. With her psychic powers growing, surely everything will turn out okay, right?
Not so fast. Just when Layla believes she might survive the apocalypse, a sinister and ancient force rises from the shadows to finish mankind for good.Because the truth is, we were never alone in this world.
Begin The Harvesting Series with The Harvesting, Book 1.
“If you ever need to slice someone’s head off, this is the blade you want,” I said as I lifted a curved sword off the table in front of me. “We’ve been practicing épée and foil so far, but tonight I want to introduce you to the sabre.” The practice sabre’s curved blade reflected the orange streetlight shining in through the window. A grant from the Smithsonian where I worked allowed me to teach my two passions: ancient weapons and their arts. “The sabre is a slashing weapon,” I continued and then lunged, showing the wide-eyed and excited students a few moves. “And in general, it’s my favorite,” I admitted with a grin.
The students laughed.
“Is that why you have it tattooed on your arm?” Tyler, one of my best fencers, asked.
My hand went unconsciously toward the tattoo. The ink was a sword interlaced with other once-meaningful symbols. “That’s not just any sabre,” I said, mildly embarrassed. “Here, let me show you. I brought something special tonight.” Setting the training sabre down, I lifted a rolled bundle. I laid it down on the table and unrolled it to reveal weapons in various elaborate scabbards.
“Some are épée, foils—you can tell by the hilt—a broadsword, a claymore, a katana, a scimitar, throwing daggers,” I said, pointing, “but this, this is a Russian shashka.” I pulled the shashka from the bundle. “It’s like a traditional sabre, but has no guard. She’s light, single-edged, wielded with one hand, and good for stabbing or slashing. Not awkward in close quarters like a Scottish claymore, but it will kill you just as dead,” I said with a smile. I unsheathed the weapon and gave it an under-and over-hand spin around my head, shoulders, and back.
The students grinned from ear to ear.
I put it back in its scabbard and handed the shashka to them. “Pass it around, but keep in mind it is sharp enough to cut a blade of hair in half.” I then turned my attention to Tyler. “Now, since you’re so interested, let’s see how you do with the sabre.” I tossed one of the training swords to him.
Tyler, already in his gear, jumped up and lowered his fencing mask. “But you’re not in gear,” he said.
I shrugged. “Hit me, if you can.”
We stood at the ready, made the ceremonial bow, and began. Tyler was not overly aggressive, which is partially why he was so successful. He waited for me, moving slowly. He was smart, quick, and often tried to over-tire his opponent.
I waited, dropped my sword a bit, and let him make the lunge. He took the bait.
The swords clanged together, and we clashed back and forth across the strip. He lunged and slashed while I dodged and blocked. He was fast. I was faster. When he lunged again, I ducked. With an upward movement, I went in.
“A hit,” Kasey called.
“Man, that’s what you get for taking on a former state champ—and the teacher,” Trey told Tyler with a laugh.
Tyler pulled off the mask and smiled at me.
Just then, my cell rang. I would usually ignore it, but something told me to answer.
“Everyone pair up and start working with the training sabers,” I said and pointed to the sword rack. I went to my bag and grabbed my cell.
Before I could say hello, she spoke.
“Layla, Grandma needs you to come home,” my grandmother’s voice, thick with Russian accent, came across through static. I was silent for a moment. My grandmother lived 500 miles away, and she never used her telephone. With the exception of her T.V., she hated technology. She’d cried and begged me to take away the microwave I’d purchased for her one Mother’s Day.
“Grandma? What’s wrong?”
“Come home now. Be here tomorrow,” she said. She hung up.
I lowered my cell and stared at it. Confused and worried, I dialed her back. The phone rang, but she did not answer. I had obligations: practice, bills to pay, groceries to buy, tons of work to do, and a date for god-sakes. But my grandmother was the only one I had left in the world.
“Sorry, guys. Emergency,” I called to my students.
Disappointed, they groaned.
“Sorry. Let’s pack it up for the night.” My hands shaking, I slid the shashka back into the bundle and rolled up the weapons. What had happened? Maybe Grandma was sick. Maybe she had some problem. Or maybe she had seen something.
Meet the Characters of The Harvesting
Meet Layla Petrovich, Protagonist (envisioned as Olivia Wilde)
Family background: Layla was raised by her Russian immigrant grandmother, Vasilisa Petrovich, in the small town of Hamletville on the shores of Lake Erie. Layla’s mother ran off when she was young, and the identity of her father is unknown. Layla’s upbringing, raised by the town’s resident medium, often left her feeling ostracized by her community.
Occupation: Before Z-Day, Layla worked as a museum curator at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. In addition, Layla taught fencing classes to local high school students. All that changed the day Layla’s grandmother called and told her to “come home.”
Apocalypse skills: When ammo runs dry, it’s Layla’s shashka, a Russian sabre, which saves the day. But this is not her only skill. Grandma’s psychic foresight also ensured Layla was well armed with a Glock 17 semi-automatic, a Colt 9mm sub-machine gun, and a .44 Magnum. In addition to Layla’s physical strength, her keen intellect and budding psychic abilities help her keep her loved ones safe.
Romantic attachments: Layla left Hamletville and tried to start again, but in her heart she always pined for her first love, Ian. Her return to Hamletville brings into question these buried feelings and strange new emotions she feels for Jaime, Ian’s older brother.
Meet Jamie Campbell (envisioned as Chris Pine)
Family background: Like Layla, Jamie is a Hamletville native. He and his brother Ian grew up behind the counter of their father’s feed and lumber shop.
Occupation: Before Z-Day, Jamie did two tours in Iraq as a combat medic.
Apocalypse skills: Jamie is a handy guy to have around. He is a physically strong, a good shot, and his medical skills make him a life saver—literally. Without Jamie, many of the people in Hamletville would have died.
Romantic attachments: Jamie has been searching, unsuccessfully, for a girl with something special. He has had relationships over the years, but no one ever suited him. But when Layla returns to Hamletville, even in the midst of the horror unfolding all around them, Jamie finally begins to see what he has been missing.
Meet Ian Campbell (envisioned as Dominic Monaghan)
Family background: Ian, brother of Jamie, is the youngest of Hamletville’s Clan Campbell. Ian and his wife Kristie have been married for four years. Tragically, Kristie is bitten during the first days of the zombie apocalypse.
Occupation: Before Z-Day, Ian worked alongside his father, managing with family business: Campbell Feed and Lumber.
Apocalypse skills: Ian is good with a gun and brave to a fault. There is no job too hard or ethically vexing for Ian.
Romantic attachments: Ian’s first love was Layla. It is a love he has not forgotten. Years back, Ian and Layla fought, and Ian had a one-night stand with Kristie. Kristie got pregnant. Ian left Layla to do the right thing and marry the mother of his unborn child, but he never stopped loving Layla. For Ian, the zombie apocalypse provides him the chance at a “do-over.” Only problem is, Ian is not feeling so well these days . . . well, that’s just one of his problems.
Meet Rumor (envisioned as Lucy Lawless)
Background: Not much is known about Rumor other than she is from Eastern Europe and that she ages really, really well. In fact, Rumor may not even be her real name.
Occupation: Proprietor of the HarpWind Grand Hotel.
Apocalypse skills: Cultivating food supplies.
Romantic attachments: Rumor finds herself instantly enamored with Ian’s physicality.
Meet Cricket (envisioned as Lily Cole)
Family Background: Cricket, a carnie girl, was raised by her father in the carnie lifestyle. Cricket grew up a daddy’s girl and was crushed when her father died suddenly of a heart attack.
Occupation: Before Z-Day, Cricket was a Tilt-a-Whirl operator. She felt it was her duty to her father’s memory to live the carnie life.
Apocalypse skills: Practicality. Cricket is neither superstitious nor super-powered. Her pipe wrench and common sense helped her survive the moment of the zombie apocalypse. She also has sense enough to listen to others, including the carnival Tarot reader, Vella.
Romantic attachments: Cricket likes to play around a bit with the “Townies,” but has never really fallen in love. In fact, she never really bothered worrying about “true love” because she finds such daydreams romantic nonsense. She does, however, love her dog, Puck, with a passion.
Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, and The Celtic Blood Series. A steampunk connoisseur, zombie whisperer, and heir to the iron throne, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.