Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Harvesting Series by Melanie Karsak

Series: The Harvesting #1-5
Author: Melanie Karsak
Genre: Horror, Young Adult, Zombies

The Harvesting #1
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.

“This is a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Most policemen use this gun. Comes with 17 rounds. You pop in the cartridge like this and…” Grandma squeezed the trigger, blasting a decorative plate with a picture of fruit on it. It used to hang in the dining room. Ignoring my astonished impression, she handed the gun to me. “Didn’t you go hunting with the Campbells?”

“Yes. I can shoot a gun, Grandma,” I said bewildered. Why in the hell did my grandmother have a semi-automatic pistol? We were standing behind the barn. She had guns laid out on the lid of an old feed barrel. I set the gun down.

“Good, good, then you’ll have no problem. Now, this is .44 Magnum, like the Dirty Harry movie. It has good stopping power. Lift up the safety and boom,” Grandma said pulling the trigger. The gun barrel let out a resounding noise, shattering Grandma’s old mantle-piece vase. “The man told Grandma this is a kill-shot gun, very powerful,” she said and set the gun down.

I picked it up, took aim at an old porcelain figurine, and fired. The smiling cherub exploded into a puff of dust.

“Very good! Ahh, here we are,” she said picking up what looked like a machine gun. “This is Colt 9mm sub-machine gun. Grandma had a hard time getting this one, but a nice man on the phone, of course he was Russian, helped Grandma get this one ordered for you. This gun can shoot almost 1000 rounds per minute. Very fast, no?” Grandma said and launched a spray of bullets toward the remaining china pieces she had set up on the fence-post. “Here, you try. Watch for kick back,” she said and handed the gun to me.

I set the gun down and took Grandma by the hands. “Grandma, what in the hell is going on? You’re scaring me.”

“Shoot first,” she said, picking the Colt back up and handing it to me.

I sighed. The gun, surprisingly, didn’t feel heavy in my hands. I held it as I had observed Grandma doing, and as every drug smuggler on T.V. had done, and let off an easy rattle of ammo.

“You see, very easy.”

I set the gun back down. “That is enough, Grandma. Please. What is happening?”

Grandma inhaled deeply and took me by the chin. She looked into my eyes then kissed me on both cheeks. “First, we’ll put guns away,” she said, picking up the weapons. “Oh, I also bought grenades. Just like on T.V.: pull the pin, throw, it explodes.”


After we had restocked Grandma’s personal arsenal, we went back inside.

“Sit down in living room. Watch T.V. I’ll make tea,” she said and wandered into the kitchen.

“But Grandma—“

“Tu-tu-tu,” she said to shush me. “You watch T.V. I’ll come in a minute.”

I flipped on the T.V. to find it tuned to the news channel. At once I saw what appeared to be a riot taking place. At first it looked like just another scene of violence, but then I started reading the crawling banner: wide spread outbreak and rioting in major US cities in the south and on the west coast. Police had instituted martial law in LA, Miami, and Atlanta. Outbreak reports were cropping up in all major US and foreign cities. Airlines had closed all international travel. The United States President has been moved to a protected location.

The T.V. buzzed with three loud chimes: the Emergency Broadcast System had been activated. The screen went blue and after a few minutes, an official looking White House spokesman appeared at a podium, the emblem of the CDC hanging behind him.

“Grandma? You should come see this,” I called to her. I felt like someone had poured cold water down my back. Every hair on the back of my neck was standing on its end. Is this what Grandma had foreseen? Is this why I was here? Did the spirits tell her something?

“At this point it appears to be a highly contagious flu-like pandemic,” the Director of the CDC was saying.

“Citizens are urged to stay inside their homes. Military personnel have been dispatched to major US cities,” the White House spokesman added.

A reporter asked why the pandemic seemed to happen almost overnight. I noticed then that the press were all wearing surgical masks.

“Incidents of flu have been steadily on the rise for the last one week which has exacerbated accurate diagnosis. The symptoms of this particular strain resemble seasonal flu at the onset—body pain, fever, and vomiting—but gradually worsen with additional non-normative symptoms,” the Director of the CDC explained.

“Non-normative? What does that mean, and how is it being spread?” a female reporter asked. I recognized her from the President’s regular Press Club. I’d seen her in person once at a downtown cafΓ©. She’d been eating a massive plate of fries.

The Director of the CDC gave a sidelong look toward the White House spokesman. “Citizens should avoid direct physical contact with the sick until we can pinpoint the cause,” the CDC Director said at last.

“Is there a vaccine or immunization?” another reporter asked.

“Until the cause is identified, it is difficult to develop a vaccine, but we are working around the clock analyzing possible contaminants,” the Director replied.

“What is the mortality rate?” someone asked.

The Director of the CDC looked uncomfortable. “It is difficult to ascertain. At this point the mortality rate appears to be 100%, but post-mortem there appears to be brain activity-”

“No further questions at this time,” the White House spokesperson said with a scowl and ushered the Director of the CDC out of the room.

Grandma sat down beside me, setting a serving tray on the coffee table. She picked up the remote and muted the T.V.

In the far off distance, we heard the alarm on the town fire hall wail. It was used to call in emergency volunteer firefighters and medical personnel or to warn of tornado. Three rings to call for help. Seven rings for tornado warning. The alarm wailed and did not stop.

“When I was 12 years old, my grandma knew I had the sight,” my grandmother began. “My mother only had the gift a little. She had good instincts, but she never heard the spirits. I was lucky. I was born with the mark of the bear,” she said, showing me the small birthmark on her knee shaped like a bear’s paw, “so everyone knew I would have the gift. But when I was 12, my grandmother sat me down in her living room and poured me a cup of tea,” she said as she poured me a cup. I noticed that she had placed two slices of a strange looking mushroom in the water. “My grandmother told me, while I was lucky to hear the spirits, there are other things in this world, some good, some evil. There exists spirits, demons, creatures who are not like us. She wanted me to see them. She wanted me to be safe from them. She said that until the great eye inside is awake, we do not see them. She said, I must awaken and see. That is what my grandmother told me as she handed me a cup of tea,” my grandma said then handed the mushroom tea to me.

I took the cup. I looked back at the T.V. and saw strange images of people in hospital gowns being shot by military men.

“Drink,” Grandma encouraged.

I did as she asked, polishing off the cup.

“My grandma loved me. She tried to protect me by making me see the otherworld. She was right. Afterward, I saw and heard spirits and those other things in this world. This has kept me away from evil and has helped me see good. Did you know there are forest spirits living right behind our house? Ehh, anyway, my grandmother loved me, so she made me see. I drank the tea then slept for almost two days. When I woke, I could see.”

My head felt woozy. Images on the screen melted into a strange haze. I reached out for my grandmother.

“You sleep now. I’ll go close the fence and bar up the doors. It has already begun,” she said.

“What has begun?” I asked drunkenly. The room spun, and I felt like I might be sick.

“The harvest.”

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.

10 Tips on Finding Love during the Zombie Apocalypse By Melanie Karsak, author of The Harvesting
Finding love during a zombie apocalypse can be tricky, but with the right guidance, even you can find a way to make your heart soar while spattered in zombie goo. After all, Glenn and Maggie from “The Walking Dead” perfected the art. In my novel The Harvesting, Layla and Jamie find a way to make things work. What about you? When it all ends, could you find a new beginning? Maybe we can learn some lessons from these war-torn z-poc survivors. But how to you do it? Let’s take a look at 10 ways to find love during the zombie apocalypse:

10) Assume that Warm Bodies was a one-shot deal. Avoid coming on to the undead.

9) If you are lucky enough to find the right person, learn how to moan like a zombie. No more “to the heavens” chortles. If you learn to moan like a zombie, the undead are more likely to ignore you and you won’t get caught in any embarrassing positions. No one wants to run from zombies with their pants around their ankles.

8) Never miss an opportunity for a “safe sex zone.” You’ve just cleared out a bunker full of zombies and there is a really cozy closet down the hall away the rest of the group. What are you waiting for?

7) Reconsider your standards. Okay, maybe you didn’t love rednecks in your everyday life, but chances are that if there is a redneck about (male or female), they’ve got the chops to make it in the z-poc. It might be time to warm up. Git-r-done, y’all!

6) Get over hang-ups about hygiene: perfume, cologne, deodorant, a toothbrush, a shower . . . all things of the past. If you want to connect with someone over a can of dog food, you need to let go of your feelings about bad-breath.

5) You will likely be dead tomorrow. If you think he or she might be interested, just make a move.

4) Do not use protection (wait for it…). Let’s set STDs aside for a moment and talk about pregnancy. Almost every movie and book assures us that if you get pregnant, your child will save humanity. The cure will be in their blood. While it would be very annoying to have a STD during the apocalypse, don’t let that crush the chance to save mankind. Don’t be selfish.

3) Examine your group. Are there any couples? No? Every story always depicts one “sweet” couple. If  your group is currently lacking this couple, you and your partner might be able to take over this stock-character/relational role. Your “too sweet to kill” love story might just save you come z-day. Go ahead and try to have a real relationship. On the other hand, if you see your partner making eyes at others in your group, run away! Getting involved in a love triangle almost certainly spells death.

2) The rules of Zombieland suggest double-tap…and so do I.

1) Learn how to make love with your boots on and the safety off.
I hope these 10 rules helped you get ready for all the zombie-lovin’ fun you can have. If you would like to learn more about how to survive during the zombie apocalypse, please check out my novel The Harvesting now available at!

Author Bio:
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.

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