We are excited to welcome back MaryJanice Davidson and celebrate the release of her 11th Undead series book; UNDEAD and UNSTABLE (available now from Berkley). We get to talk to Queen Betsy herself today and find out about the crazy new situation she finds herself in involving meeting her future self and royally messing up the timeline. Never a dull day for the vampire queen
Betsy “Don’t call me Elizabeth” Taylor
Things have gotten a little dark around here, and no one’s more pissed than me. To channel Bart Simpson for a sec, life as queen of the vampires sucks and blows.
Bad enough to get fired, have my family blow off my thirtieth birthday party, wake up dead, find out I’m an unholy denizen of the ravenous blah-blah-blah, and the boss of thousands of vampires, all of whom are capable of taking care of themselves (you’d think)…but then my friends start dying on me? And I meet my future self and not only is she a grim bitch, she hangs around with zombies? On purpose? (Oh, and in the future I accidentally—or not, I’m still vague on the details—wreck the world’s weather so every day in the future is like January in Duluth. If you’ve never been, I’m here to tell you: January in Duluth sucks.) When she’s not lording it over the few humans left in that winter wasteland? And all this is after I accidentally changed the timeline…not future me, present me. The me that’s an idiot in every timeline. Now my unmarried single best friend is hugely pregnant, people who should be around aren’t, my mother is dating—dating!—and people who should be dead aren’t. And friends who shouldn’t be, are.
And none of that—none of it!—is even the worst of it. If for no other reason than to ramp up the hideousness, I apparently kill my husband, Sinclair, in the future. What, they don’t have divorce lawyers in the 26th century? The future doesn’t have trial separations?
Not that I’ve never wanted to kill Eric Sinclair. I mean, come on. Sometimes I’ll see that smirk and know that because he’s kind of brilliant, he’s figured out something that I haven’t, or can’t, and I daydream about pitching baseballs at his teeth. Show me a wife, alive or dead, who never fantasized about strangling her beloved husband until his big gorgeous, dark eyes pop out, and I’ll show you a newlywed. Maybe. But there’s being pissed at your arrogant gorgeous rich husband when he acts like an asshat, and then there’s finding out you used him and then murdered him to help yourself.
No, dammit! I’ve put up with a lot, but I draw the line at…at…shit. What’s the term? Ah! I just wiki’d it, and it’s mariticide, killing your spouse; especially a husband killing his wife, but it goes both ways, and I’m out. Okay? I. Am. Out. I’m not gonna take even one more day of this shit! (Uh…there aren’t any minors reading this, are there? Okay, if there are, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to make allowances because I swear when I’m stressed. Or happy. Or puzzled. Or stumped. Or stunned. Or ecstatic. Or angry. Or horny. Or mystified. Or freaked out. Or grossed out. Or drunk. Or sober. Or hungry. Or full. Or giddy. Or desolate. Or pissed. Or pleased. Or jealous. Or confident.) No. I’ve had enough. Enough of all the annoying crap of being queen of the undead without any of the awesome crap (there’s gotta be some, right?) of being queen of the undead.
I’m saving my husband, I’m saving the world, and maybe even I’ll save myself. But the thing is, that last part? That’s not nearly as important to me as the first two. So I’m fixing everything. Because I didn’t want this lame gig but I have it. And if I’m stuck with it, I’m by-God taking advantage of it. I don’t care who gets hurt or screwed or dead.
Even if it’s me.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it, fate, you perfidious bitch. (“Perfidious” means “sneaky and annoying”, right?)
Former secretary; current queen of the undead
Shoe size 9.5
+ Display Excerpt from Undead and Unstable, June 2012
Minor spoilers if you haven’t read all of Undead and Unfinished, or the first 30 pages of Undead and Unstable
“So she managed to stop being evil for three seconds and begged you to help her?” Jessica was strolling beside me down the aisle, popping green grapes in her mouth. “Weird. Or a trick. Or a weird trick.”
“Tell me,” I said gloomily. “I think I like Wrinkly Me better when she’s being an imperious asshat.”
“Glad I was napping and missed it.”
Say it twice, honey. “Yeah. I sort of wish I’d missed it.”
“Nope. That’s why you get all the queen perks.” She popped another grape in her mouth. “Comes with the job.”
“Oh, perks? Is that what those are?” I reached out a hand and tumbled two cans of cranberry jelly into our cart. “Perks, my luscious white butt.”
“Don’t make me think about your butt. No, not that kind. Get the real stuff.”
I eyed the two cans rolling around with the can of sweet potatoes. “That is the real stuff.”
“Cranberries are not can-shaped. Ergo, those aren’t proper cranberries.”
I thought about running her down with the cart, then reconsidered. Probably couldn’t displace her mass with one measly grocery cart, anyway. “I’m hanging on by a thread here, Jess. A goddamn thread.”
“Oh, here we go.”
“I’ve gotta keep Zombie Marc occupied while Decrepit Me is slumming in her past for mysterious reasons she won’t explain while you’re furiously gestating, Sinclair’s hiding from me so I don’t accidentally skin him and then write on him, Nick keeps changing his name, I stupidly decided to host Thanksgiving, my mom’s dating a guy who looks like a giant baby, and I haven’t seen my brother-slash-foster son in days and don’t dare let him anywhere near the mansion right now. A goddamn thread!”
“Canned cranberries are lame.”
“Canned cranberries are the only thing I like about Thanksgiving.” I whipped two more cans into the cart. “Canned cranberries are the only thing letting me hang on to the shreds of my so-called sanity.”
“At least buy real sweet potatoes.”
“Canned sweet potatoes are real, you enormous harpy!”
She shook the bag of grapes, now half empty, at me. “Are you trying to make me body conscious? I’m creating life here.”
“Yeah, listen, that reminds me. There’s no way in heck you can be due next summer.”
“Sure I can.”
“Jessica. Seriously. Look at you—and I say this with love—but look at you. You’re huge!”
“Maybe I got my dates mixed up.” She shrugged. Gulp, gulp, and more grapes disappeared down her gullet. What the heck . . . if she didn’t care, then I didn’t, either. She probably did have her dates mixed up, what with all the weirdness that had been in our lives the last few years.
“This is the kind of thing we need to put on the spreadsheet.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Never mind, we’ll talk about it later. Because right now, I’ve got bigger problems.” I glanced at her belly. Bigger emotionally, not bigger physically, clearly . . . “Oooch over, I gotta grab a turkey.”
“Do you even know how to make a turkey?”
“God makes turkeys, not me. I know how to cook ’em, though.” I’d gone through a Martha Stewart phase after I dropped out of college. Jessica (who’d been majoring in psych at the time) explained that I was trying to control my environment since I felt so out of control after getting kicked out. I mean, dropping out.
I also knew how to make “real” cranberry sauce, but then found out the real stuff is overrated. Who wants to spend the night picking cranberry skins out of your teeth? Blurgh. A wiggly can-shaped pile of cranberry jelly was the way to go.
“Oh, come on! A Butterball?”
“It’s a turkey, Jess. We need one. And here’s a bunch of ’em.” I pawed through the frozen carcasses. “Let’s see, you’re supposed to figure on a pound per person, except the dead people won’t eat. So . . . um . . . Nick/Dick, and my mom, and BabyJon (but he’s barely onto solid foods), and you’ll eat about nine pounds, but Sinclair and Marc and Garrett and I won’t, so that’s . . . um . . .” Math had never been a go-to skill of mine. Did I forget to carry the 1? “. . . um . . .”
“Not a Butterball. At least get a fresh one. Or maybe kosher?”
“To get a fresh one would mean I would have decided two weeks ago to host T’giving, ordered a fresh one, and in general be an organized, responsible person. What, out of anything you’ve seen since we were in junior high, would suggest—”
“Right. Sorry. But Butterballs are so dry and boring.”
“Turkey is dry and boring; don’t blame the brand. Stop being a rich snob.” Given that she was rich, I almost never had to say that. Jessica lived in skinny jeans (long before they were trendy, and now again after they weren’t) and T-shirts. We used to share a duplex in Apple Valley, and shopped at discount grocery stores like Cub and Rainbow.
She could have bought a new Ferrari every month once she passed her driver’s license exam, but stuck with fuel-efficient four-doors like Toyota Camrys and Ford Fusions. The only reason she picked the mansion was because our old house had termites, and she figured a vampire queen should have a den, a basement lair, multiple guest rooms for entertaining, and a huge attic occasionally infested with zombies.
“I’m not being a snob. I’m pretty sure. I’m just trying to be super healthy for the baby.”
“Or babies.” Triplets would explain the gut. So would septuplets.
“Baby,” Jessica corrected firmly.
I grabbed a 10-pound turkey and dropped it in the cart. My cart was pissing me off—one of those sneaky carts that seem fine at first, but then you find out one of the wheels sticks, so you have to pay attention or you’ll run into—
“Sorry,” I told the thirty-something woman steering one of those huge carts that lets the parent strap both kids into a big plastic contraption hooked up to the grocery cart. Nobody asked me, but wouldn’t it be easier to just leave the rug rats in a freezing cold car while you got the holiday shopping done? “Uh, Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah, right,” she replied with the exact right amount of tired despair. Here was a kindred spirit, between the Butterballs and the twenty-foot stuffing display. Which reminded me.
“Stove Top! Oh worse, Stove Top Mushroom? Come on, Bets. Are you trying to make this the least interesting meal ever?”
“It takes five minutes and nobody gives a shit, Jessica. This is not New England. This is Minnesota, and we’ve all got more important things to do than make homemade oyster stuffing with walnuts and, I dunno, Craisins.”
“Oooh. Craisins! That sounds good.”
I was slumped over my cart, resting my chin on the steering wheel and steering with my elbows. “The problem is, I don’t have a plan. I don’t even have a plan to come up with a plan. The only thing I see ahead is nothing.”
“Yeah, well.” She’d finished the grapes and was looking around at the various food displays. She spied a baking display and helped herself to a 24-ounce bag of chocolate chips. “That’s your thing. You sort of do everything by the hair of your ass. And sometimes it even works out.”
“And sometimes people die. I just can’t get it together this time. I’m Maverick after Goose bit the big one at Miramar.”
“A Top Gun reference? Seriously?”
“I’ve lost my wingman,” I griped, struggling with the cart before it could veer and clip someone else—thank goodness for vampire strength! “And now I enjoy standing around in my tidy whities staring at my mirrored reflection as Tom Skeritt checks out my butt!”
“Oh, the humanity.”
“Why can’t that bitch just tell me? Huh? Fuck all that mysterious visitor crap. Just tell me what went wrong and how to fix it.”
“That bitch, Satan? That bitch, Elderly Betsy? That bitch, the Anti—”
“Elderly Betsy. In the movies they’re always ‘Oooh, we gotta watch out we don’t make a paradox so I’m just gonna be all cryptic and unhelpful,’ and then everyone’s mystified when things don’t work out. I should just get my hands on her, find a blowtorch or something, and get busy until she tells me how to fix everything.”
“Yeah, but effective, maybe.”
“No, gross, and also that sets you on the road to Evil Town, which I know you’re trying to avoid.”
“Let me have my dreams,” I sighed, and she left me to my morbid, torture-filled fantasies.
About the book
UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE by MaryJanice Davidson
Available now from Berkley
“If you’re fans of Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, don’t miss Betsy Taylor. She rocks” (The Best Reviews)—and she’s back once again as a vampire queen who finds herself an unlucky (but fashionable) passenger on the road to damnation…
Betsy’s heartbroken over her friend Marc’s death, but at least his sacrifice should change the future—her future—for the better. But it’s not as if Betsy’s next few hundred years will be perfect. After all, her half-sister Laura is the AntiChrist, Laura’s mother is Satan, and family gatherings will always be more than a little awkward.
What’s really bothering Betsy is that ever since she and Laura returned from visiting her mom in Hell, Laura’s been acting increasingly peculiar. Maybe it’s Laura’s new job offer: as Satan’s replacement down under. Unfortunately, the position comes at a damnable price: killing Betsy, her own flesh-and-blood.
Over Betsy’s dead body. And for that matter Marc’s, too, since he’s not quite as buried as everyone thought. Now a war has been waged—one that’s going to take sibling rivalry to a whole new level, and a dimension where only one sister can survive.
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About the author
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