North Woods by Dani Ripley - Horror, Eco-Apocalypse - Outrun the horde. Survive the ice.
by Dani Ripley
Genre: Horror, Eco-Apocalypse
Publisher: Dani Ripley
Date of Publication: Jan. 26, 2023
Number of pages: 337
Word Count: 64,537
Cover Artist: Dani Ripley
Outrun the horde. Survive the ice.
Post-apocalyptic female buddy-western set against a backdrop of a sudden, cataclysmic ice age.
Hax can barely remember her real name, it's been so long since she's used it. “Hax” is a shortened version of the word Haxa – the Swedish word for witch - a nickname given to her by people afraid of her seemingly supernatural abilities: appearing out of nowhere then disappearing again just as quickly; uncannily accurate weather pattern readings; and extraordinary skill at tracking prey, human or otherwise. Or perhaps it was simply her propensity for sudden and extreme violence.
A natural loner, Hax isn’t bothered so much by the apocalypse as she is by other people. As such, she’s surprised to find herself traveling with a small group after a long solitary stint in the woods, but when a larger, more savage gang threatens her new people, she’s unable to convince the smaller group of the danger. Realizing it’s too late, she abandons them to their fate, but not before one of the younger members, Pip, sees her escape and decides to follow.
After witnessing the brutal slaughter of their fellow travelers, the two strangers set off through an icy northern wilderness to find Pip’s father, whose last known residence is a camp near the oil sands of Alberta, Canada. In order to survive, Hax and Pip will have to find a way to escape the ruthless horde of marauders still stalking them at every turn, as well as withstand extreme cold, starvation, and exhaustion. And above all, they’ll have to learn to trust each other.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to a low growl. Confused, I groggily fought my way up through thick layers of sleep to realize it was Misha. Fully awake now, I shushed him and listened. Faint footfalls crunched outside. Whoever it was, they weren’t on top of us yet, but they weren’t far away. I shook Pip awake and held a finger to my lips as she blinked up at me. Misha growled again, making Pip sit straight up in her sleeping bag.
Interview with Dani Ripley, author of North Woods
Welcome to JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder. Tell us about your newest book.
I describe North Woods to friends as a post-apocalyptic female buddy western set in a cataclysmic, sudden ice age. I’ve always enjoyed action movies and books where two people team up for an adventure, but its almost always two dudes! I loved the idea of putting two women of different ages and backgrounds together and watching how they deal with all of the troubles the ice apocalypse throws at them.
Writing isn’t easy. What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing North Woods?
Well, I was in the middle of writing something else that I was quite excited about, but this story – North Woods – bubbled up and kept calling for attention until the calls got so loud I had to set the other one aside. My best ideas always seem to come that way: I’ll start a new novel – one that I’ve carefully planned - and I’ll be several chapters in when a different story idea takes hold and won’t let go. One that’s totally unplanned. Then it digs in and sticks, mucking up the story I’ve already begun. And just like Glenn Close in the movie Fatal Attraction, it tells me I’m not going to be ignored, Dan. Then I have to set aside whatever I’ve been doing and let it come through.
Truthfully, it’s kind of a spooky process that feels more akin to channeling than anything else.
Tell us a little bit about your writing career.
In second grade one of my short stories got chosen as a runner-up in our school-wide writing contest. Even though I didn’t get a prize, my story was published with the other winners via a stapled set of dittoed sheets lovingly put together by one of the teachers and passed around to everyone. Everyone read it, and I was hooked. I’ve written stories ever since and I swear I have so many in me I could spend a hundred years writing and never get them all out.
They say Hind-sight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be?
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Just get it out onto the page.
What are you working on now?
Working on a novel that combines the supernatural and a “law and order” theme, but the material may be too sensitive to actually publish. We’ll see!
Is there a release date planned?
Not yet, but if it does get published hopefully early 2024.
Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school?
I read everything I could get my hands on, including anything my parents happened to be reading at the time; however, two childhood favorites really stood out for me in grade school (one is a trilogy so technically four). I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s trilogy: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I was also completely obsessed with a book called Dogsbody by Dianna Wynne Jones; I read that one so much the pages got tattered and the cover fell off. Before Amazon I spent years trying to find another copy!
What are your plans for future projects?
When I finish my latest novel (supernatural/law & order), I’d love to return to the science fiction novel I was working on when my latest one demanded my attention. I also have a couple of dramatic stories on my desktop right now, so lots of fun projects happening. Be sure to check out my website www.daniripley.com for updates on upcoming projects and releases.
Is there anything you would like to add before we finish?
Just that I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. Thank you so much!
You're welcome. Good luck with North Woods, and thank you for being with us today.
“Get the gun,” I whispered. “And hold onto him,” I gestured at Misha, who stared intently at the tent flap. I dug my large hunting knife out of my bag and unsheathed it. “And don’t shoot me,” I added.
“Don’t go out there!” Pip hissed.
“It’ll be ok,” I said. “You remember how to use that, right?”
“Yes, but I still don’t think you should go.”
“It’ll be ok,” I repeated, as much for myself as for her. I unzipped the flap as quietly as I could.
Misha twitched behind me, but Pip held him tightly in the crook of her left arm. In her right hand, she clutched the gun, her finger loosely on the trigger. “Be right back,” I whispered. “If you see anyone who isn’t me, shoot them.” I slipped out before she could answer, leaving the flap open in my wake.
Holding my knife in front of me, I crept away from the tent, every muscle in my body tense with anticipation. The clouds had dissipated, leaving a clear, moonlit night. I didn’t see anyone in the immediate area. Our fire had gone out. I crouched low and made my way around the smoldering pit to the check on the horses.
Dancer huffed and regarded me with huge, calm brown eyes, his scruffy coat in desperate need of brushing. I gave him a good scratch. Blitzen shook her head and whinnied, shoving her nose at me to be stroked too. They didn’t seem upset. Perhaps what we’d heard were simply sounds of the winter forest settling for the night.
Just as I had the thought, a huge arm covered in stinking fur grabbed me around my neck and a grimy hand clamped roughly over my mouth. I sputtered and backed up into what felt like a brick wall. Without thinking, I stomped down hard with my right boot and shoved my butt out as far as I could, surprising him and breaking his hold on me. I whirled around and got low, grunting like an animal and diving for his knees. I didn’t manage to knock him over, but I drove my knife deep into his inner thigh just above his knee. When I heard the solid wet ‘thock’ of its hilt hitting his flesh, I jerked it up all the way up to his groin, severing his femoral artery.
He didn’t so much fall as crumble to a sitting position on the snow. He grabbed at his leg and looked at me. I scuttled backward on my butt like a crab, putting a couple more feet between us even though I was pretty sure he was bleeding out. “Demon,” he hissed. “I know you.” I crept forward again, my bloody knife held before me like an offering. “Get away from me,” he said.
“You’re dying,” I said back. “How many of you are there?”
“All of us. We’re coming for you.”
“Yes, but how far away?” I asked, exasperated. We didn’t have time for this. I was absolutely sure he was part of a group.
“We’re everywhere,” he said, fading. The blood beneath him was turning black, growing like a cartoon shadow. “You and your little girlfriend are going to die.”
“Not before you,” I said, rising. I looked around in the gloom. The horses huffed and stomped their feet. Was it possible he’d been alone? Maybe just a scout?
As I turned to go back to the tent a single gunshot shattered the stillness of the night. I broke into a run, skidding through muddy snow, sliding to a stop just beyond the fire pit. A body lay in a heap outside the tent. It was too large to be Pip. Cautiously I approached and leaned over. I could tell it was a man, or formerly a man, but that was all. His face had been completely obliterated from the point-blank shot. I peered into the tent, saw a smoking barrel, and Pip’s pale face beyond. “Are you ok?” I asked her.
“Misha’s gone!” she cried, pushing her way out of the tent. “He ran away when I fired the gun!”
“We’ve got to go, Pip. Others are coming.” I began throwing things into my pack and stuffing them down. Gently I took the gun from Pip. Her hands were shaking.
“We can’t leave Misha!” she yelled at me.
“Pip, we have to go. They’ll kill us, or worse. Get your stuff now!”
She rolled up her sleeping bag quickly and secured it to her pack, zipping up her parka. Mine was already done and strapped to my pack. “I’ll get the horses. You stay here,” I ordered.
About the Author
Dani Ripley lives in Michigan and loves writing.
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