Mama Lona’s Man
The Straw Man Series Book One
Brett O’Neal Davis
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Number of pages: 219
Word Count: 74,000
Cover Artist: Cate Meyers
Mama Lona’s Man combines a Caribbean love story with a zombie thriller. It’s a bit James Bond, a bit “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and a dash of “Night of the Living Dead.
The leading man is a ex-Navy SEAL controlled by a witch doctor. When he meets an American girl caught up in island intrigue, they fall in love even though he’s been dead longer than she’s been alive.
Extended description from Smashwords
“Mama Lona’s Man” is a fast-moving, funny, sometimes bittersweet tale about a young woman who meets the love of her life, only there’s one hitch: He’s lost his life and become a zombie. As Rolling Stone once said about Jim Morrison, the title character of this novel is hot, sexy, and dead.
Abigail Callisto is a brilliant, troubled college student living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. When her father’s shadowy government employer sends him to the Caribbean to tamp down a pending coup attempt on the small island nation of Petit Royale, she goes along so he can also keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble. She thinks it’s a lark; she has no idea her life is about to change forever.
Petit Royale is governed by the jovial but corrupt Marcos Verriera, whose brother, Abraham, has long sought to replace him as president. Abigail’s father has operatives on the island; they tell him that Marcos has gone around the bend and is kidnapping children, possibly for sex trafficking. What the operatives don’t tell him is that they are actually working for Abraham and they are the ones actually doing the kidnapping. The children aren’t harmed, but are held so Abraham can pretend to release them and be a hero.
To try to sway Abigail’s father to their side, the operatives decide to kidnap Abigail. They drug her in the night and carry her to the gates of the presidential mansion, where they set her down. They know that Abraham’s militia is moving in that night and they want Abigail to be among those rescued. It doesn’t quite work out that way.
Petit Royale has its own special version of the bogeyman: A spectral figure known only as Mama Lona’s man. He’s a ghost who has been known to deal murderous vengeance on those who abuse children. The plan is for Abraham’s men to dispense with Marcos Verriera and blame his disappearance on Mama Lona’s Man.
Abigail is discovered by the presidential guards and brought into the mansion, where President Marcos Verriera himself questions her. He knows what his brother is up to, and he knows that having a kidnapped American girl in his house is not a good thing for him. Suddenly shooting erupts and he runs away, leaving Abigail to fend for herself. She crawls into the interior of the mansion, trying to get away, only to find herself in the middle of a gun battle between Marcos’ men and Abraham’s men.
She’s trying to figure a way out of it when something amazing happens. A man walks right through the fight, as if it’s not happening, and begins looking for Marcos Verriera. Abigail watches as he gets shot several times and not only survives but barely seems to notice. He’s a good-looking young white man, not much older than her own 20 years.
He sees Abigail, and, recognizing a damsel in distress, takes her along as he searches the mansion. Abigail is amazed to see him shot a couple more times as he makes his way in pursuit of Marcos Verriera, who has fled down a secret hallway that leads to the ocean. The man manages to catch his boat just before it leaves, and he quickly blows something in the president’s face that knocks him out cold. He does the same to Abigail, only she doesn’t inhale and only pretends to be unconscious so she can study him. He leaves her on a public beach and takes the president away.
She makes her way back to her hotel where her father is angry that she has been out, suspecting her of partying. When she tells him her story, they realize she has seen the mysterious Mama Lona’s man, something akin to spotting Bigfoot. He wants to find the shadowy Mama Lona and discover if her man really did kill the president. Abigail just wants to see him again.
Abigail cautiously opened the bathroom door. The large men were gone. A guard rushed down the hallway past her without even glancing in her direction. She heard shouts echoing off the walls. She was beginning to think she wasn’t going to get that ride home after all.
She heard what sounded like machine gun fire down the hall, coming from what she thought was the outside of the house. Looking behind her she saw that while the bathroom was large it offered no place to hide. She could sit on the toilet and try to wait out whatever was going on, or she could go deeper into the mansion and find a place to hide or a way out. Another machine gun burst, this one accompanied by the grunt of a man in pain, settled the question. She opened the door and ran down the hall, heading for what she hoped would be safety.
Having some knowledge of how the president’s house was laid out would have been helpful. After a few minutes, Abigail realized that she was just circling around a large inner courtyard where fighting was taking place. She hid behind a sizable marble column and peeked around it. The president’s guards—she recognized them from their uniforms—were arrayed against what looked like a ragtag militia, although one that was equally well armed. The militia members had no uniforms, just ratty T-shirts and stained khaki pants. The guards were hidden behind the furniture, including several overturned tables, and fired wildly through the front windows and doors. Everything was in tatters. The windows and doors were now nearly nonexistent, the drapes looked like moths the size of Mothra had eaten them and the furniture was riddled with bullets, although it was holding up surprisingly well. The guards no doubt were glad that their boss had not cheaped out on the décor.
The militia was not making much progress. One of its members would briefly appear in a window or door, get off a shot or two and fall back. The guards, for all their firing, did not seem to actually hit anything and the militia members were no better. The noise was incredible, like an indoor thunderstorm, but as far as Abigail could see hardly anybody had actually been hit yet. She was just about to try to find her way out through the back of the mansion, leaving the guards and militia men to their target practice, when something amazing happened.
One of the militia men went suddenly went flying to the side, losing his rifle in the process. He didn’t seem to be shot. It looked like someone had just grabbed him from behind and flung him into the air. A few seconds later, a man walked right through the middle of the room. The combatants were so stunned by his presence, and his audacity, that they stopped firing. He was unusual not just for standing up in the middle of a firefight but because he was the only white man in the room. He was young, about Abigail’s age, with straight, sandy-blonde hair that was a little disheveled. He wore a stained blue T-shirt and dark green pants but no shoes or socks. He seemed to have no weapons of any kind except his muscles—the T-shirt and pants revealed that he was lean and fit. Abigail was pretty sure he was also about to be dead, but still no one fired. The man stood still and gazed around the room as if in a daze. He did not seem surprised, or even particularly interested, to find himself in the middle of a small war. Not finding anything in the room of interest to him, he started to move on, heading for the doorway just to Abigail’s right. That was when one of the guards remembered that he was supposed to keep people out of the house. He stood up and fired two shots into the man’s chest.
Abigail squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to see her first dead body. She waited for the thump of the young man falling to the floor but it didn’t happen. She opened one eye; he was still on his feet. Maybe those weren’t muscles showing through his shirt, maybe they were actually the ridges of a bulletproof vest. The man walked over to the guard, who had a stunned look on his face, picked him up by his lapels and hurled him against the wall as if he weighed only a couple of pounds. The guard sagged to the floor and lay still. The man continued on his way. Another guard rose from behind his hiding place, an overturned table, and fired a shot right into the man’s back. There was no bulletproof vest—with her own horrified eyes, Abigail saw a hole appear in the front of the man’s shirt as the bullet punched through; though oddly there was no blood, just a yellowish stain. Still the man did not fall or even break stride. He completely ignored the fact that he had just been shot three times.
He stepped through the doorway and noticed her crouching behind the column. His eyes, so dead in the other room, suddenly seemed to flare to life. He seemed surprised to see her.
“You should come with me.”
He extended a hand but she just stared at it, not knowing what else to do. The firing renewed in the front room. A bullet dug into the column above her head, showering her with dust.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not real marble,” he said. “You should come with me.”
His voice was calm and even, just a little bit scratchy, and had more than a hint of the American South.
This book has quite an espionage feel to it. And it’s quite an adventure ride! Spy gadgets and trips to islands and secret meetings. It took me a little bit in the beginning to catch on to the different scenes and characters and how they play into the story together, but once I caught on, it was pretty fun. I normally don’t read the spy type stories but throw some voodoo magic and zombies in there and I’m good to go, plus I live in that tropical climate, minus the tourist island and plus a whole lot more bugs and poisonous things LOL! Zombie romance is so interesting, and the book/upcoming movie “Warm Bodies” comes to mind a little. There’s always someone who can make you a little more human!
Abby is brought to the Caribbean with her “government” working dad to try to calm down the two brothers who are rivaling for the presidency of this island. She is trying to catch her dad in action so she can figure out exactly what he does. In the process, she gets kidnapped, meets a real life zombie, saved by said zombie, learns what her dad is, finds a crazy voodoo practicing old lady who controls the zombie, and gets caught up in all the action. She’s a busy girl, ain’t she 😉 I liked Abby, but sometimes she didn’t feel real, like some of her choices and actions are mature, and then she turns a little childish…. But thats being young for you- they don’t always make the best choices. And I do wish there was just a little bit more backstory, but her past builds up. And maybe a little bit more of her dad as well, but you learn a good bit about him too. I do like that she tried to help Randy so much!
Randy is the zombie. His past and present life breaks my heart. He’s controlled and used in a way no one should ever be. And when he finally meets Abby, her reaction to him allows him to finally speak to her and open up, even if it causes him pain. And though Abby’s dad isn’t so keen on Randy hanging around, Abby wants him close. He’s scary, as he’s an unkillable zombie, but deep down he is still human and he hurts and has feelings and is miserable in his existence. I thought this part of the story was excellent. Normally, zombies are portrayed as brain eating, no feeling, heartless shells, but Randy’s controller has a little magic up her sleeve and Randy is a “special” zombie. Hate can make people do horrible things. But Randy the zombie can make anybody like him if they just take the time to get to know him 🙂
I found this story a quick read, and though the beginning had me a little confused, I’m glad I kept reading because it’s a fun one. And it’s probably because I normally don’t read that type of story. It’s unique and has its own fresh feeling to it. I would recommend this one to YA zombie fans, and those who like crime solving espionage, conspiracy type stories. You can never know who to trust. There’s a lot to figure in who is on who’s side, and if you’ve got a zombie on your side, you may have a shot at getting it back to good! A 3.5 PAWS from me! As it’s part of a series, I believe I’ll pick up book two and see where it goes! 🙂
WELCOME!! First, tell me a little about your book and why you wanted to write this particular story….
Thank you, Maghon, for this opportunity. I wanted to write a fun adventure story that would carry readers to an exotic climate and let them have a little fun there. I also wanted to write an adventure in the style of the old James Bond novels (not the movies). The first version I wrote didn’t quite hang together, and it wasn’t until I realized that the story needed to be a paranormal adventure that it all came together.
James Bond is still hot! 🙂 Do you recall how your interest in writing originated or did you always just know?
I have always liked to write. My aunt, a few years ago, gave me a story I had written when I was about five years old, about a dinosaur planet (maybe I need to get back to it and flesh it out a bit more). English, for me, was always the easiest subject and I have largely supported myself as a writer since I was in high school working on my school paper.
AWWW that’s cute! What inspired you to write your first book and what was it?
I was reading a lot of novels in my early Twenties and when the so-called “brat pack” writers started coming out, I thought, hey, I should try that. I have written a few short stories and some poetry but my real interest has always been in writing long-form stories, i.e. novels. I don’t actually remember what my first full-length book was; it has been blessedly lost to history. My first published novel was named “The Faery Convention.”
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Mostly in terms of characters, which are often at least loosely based on people I know, and I tend to choose locations based on places I’ve been. I don’t think I could have written “Mama Lona’s Man” properly without having visited Grenada, for instance.
How do you chose when/which characters die in your books?
The stories tend to chose who needs to die in the books. Actually, one impetus for writing “Mama Lona’s Man” was to create a secret-agent type character who couldn’t die because he was already dead, being a zombie (he can die, actually, but it’s not easy). So I guess in this case the story selected which character had to stay alive!
How different! 🙂 Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
They’re not super-new but Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” and Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell” were great fun.
Who do you look up to as a writer?
I admire writers who can pull me into a believable world and then make amazing things happen. I read widely and randomly and this is going to seem like a weird list, but everyone from William T. Vollman to Jane Austen to George R.R. Martin come to mind.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Not right offhand … I will wait until more reviews come in and then see if there’s a consensus that I messed up anything in particular.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
These days, just finding time to do it. I have this dream of having a writer’s shack out back where I can wander and work on a story or two all day, but that hasn’t happened yet.
What book are you reading now? Or what genre? My followers love author’s opinions!
Right now I’m reading the “Game of Thrones” four-pack I downloaded from iBooks, which is great fun. I’m also reading “The Artist who Saw Through Time,” about Charles R. Knight, whose iconic dinosaur paintings captured my imagination as a child. Cued up after that is “Ender’s Game,” which I should have read a long time ago.
Who designed the cover? And do you help with them?
A very talented artist named Cate Meyers. I met with her and we hashed out some concepts and then gradually worked our way toward the final design. So I “helped” with that. It reminds me of a sign I once saw at an auto mechanic’s shop: “Labor is $100 per hour. $150 if you watch. $200 if you help.”
HA! You have to pay to help. Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
That writing your own material can help you better appreciate the work of others. I think struggling with characters and plot can actually help you get more out of books you read and movies and plays that you see. In this case, knowing how the sausage factory works actually makes the sausage taste better.
If you could be one of your characters, who would you chose?
You know, I don’t think I would really pick any of them. I can be pretty mean to my characters sometimes. Writers delight in putting their nice, likeable characters in terrible, stressful situations. That makes for good reading but bad life, so I’ll just stay put!
Are there any books you think some of us should read, just because?
The basics from school are pretty good … Greek mythology for the stories. The King James Bible for the stories and the language. William Faulkner to see how dense language can get. Poet William Carlos Williams to see how plain and direct language can be. Comic books to see how words and images can go together.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’m reachable through my blog, so please stay in touch! If there’s anywhere you want my characters to go in the future, let me know!
Thank you so much for that wonderful interview!! 🙂
About the Author
Brett O’Neal Davis is a native of Florence, Ala., and attended the same high school as Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley. He studied journalism at the University of North Alabama and the University of Missouri, writing about music whenever possible. He also briefly “fronted” the one-man punk band Screwhead. Despite clearing $1.50 in profit on consignment sales of the band’s lone album at Salt of the Earth Records in Columbia, Mo., he turned to the slightly more stable world of aerospace and defense journalism, working today in the field of unmanned systems and robotics in Washington, D.C.
He is the author of four science fiction and fantasy novels, all published by Baen Books. The first, The Faery Convention, was listed among the best fantasy novels for 1995 by Science Fiction Chronicle, and Two Tiny Claws was named to the 2000 Books for the Teen Age List by the New York Public Library. An occasional panelist at area science fiction conventions, he also has discussed fiction writing at National Press Club events and at literary festivals, including the annual T.S. Stribling celebration at the University of North Alabama. Mama Lona’s Man is his first foray into paranormal romance, but it won’t be the last.
Thanks everyone for stopping by today! 🙂 I wish you all happy reading and as always, Later Gators!