Showing posts with label Dan O'Brien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dan O'Brien. Show all posts

Spotlight The End Of The World Playlist by Dan O'Brien

Monday, July 29, 2013

Welcome to the fifth day of the The End of the World Playlist blog tour. It will run until August 1st and will feature excerpts and new author interviews each day. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this dystopian world:

The world as we knew it had ended. Deep in the mountains of the west coast, six men survived. In the town of River’s Bend, these six friends continued on with their lives as zombies inherited the Earth. As they navigated the world that had been left behind, the soundtrack of life played on.

A few questions for the author:

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? 

I would like to think I will have done everything I said I would do. But who can know such things? I aspire to deliver on every promise that I have made to myself.

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? 

The way people talk to each and the level with which we think about things critically. I think that we too often denigrate another because we have not thought much about the content of their lives. I believe books offer an opportunity to create dialogues where they might not have otherwise been.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? 

Writing, editing, and publishing. It sounds cliché to say that I do what I love, but that is the truth. I am a very rich man indeed.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Track 5
I Am the Walrus

The sound of the engine was overwhelming, and the discussion was far from tame. Instead, it had reached a fevered pitch that bordered on accusatory. 

“Are you fucking kidding me? You think that Avenged Sevenfold has no business being on a playlist for killing zombies. Are you mental, man? Have you completely lost your marbles?” argued Will.

“Your question is: What belongs on an end-of-the-world playlist, correct? In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what would I want to be listening to?”


“So you agree that the choices would be purely subjective?”

“Of course.”

“Then what exactly is the point of getting all hot and bothered because I think your little band sucks balls. I’m sorry I’m not fawning over it.”

Will threw up his hands in irritation. “What does the brilliant music critic, Kenny of Bumfuck Nowhere, believe belongs on such an auspicious playlist as one that may be the last one you listen to?”

Kenny watched the road out of the corner of his eye. 

“Anything by She Wants Revenge.”

“But you don’t want any Depeche Mode?”

“Fuck Depeche Mode, they don’t sound anything like She Wants Revenge, man.”

“You have got to be the dumbest motherfucker ever if you think that there are no similarities between their music. A fucking deaf-mute could tell the similarity.”

“So your argument is: someone who couldn’t hear the music––and couldn’t convey their opinion about said music that they couldn’t listen to––could do a better job of figuring out what good music is than I could?”


Kenny shook his head. 

“And you call me dumb.”

“Not just dumb, bordering on retarded, I swear to fucking God. Your rationale is equivalent to the guy who really believes there is a difference between hamburgers from different fucking fast food places. A Big Mac is the same anywhere, same fucking shit, different fucking day, and different fucking half-a-tard wrapping it up in crunchy paper for you.”

“I am not saying that there aren’t similarities, but I would certainly not compare them in terms of musicality.”

“Musicality? Are you a musical prodigy now? You are about as much an artist as I am a lawn gnome.”

Kenny laughed heartily. “Did I hurt the little artist’s feelings? Should we talk about those wonderfully dumb graffiti murals you plaster all over our corner of hell?”

“Fuck you. Don’t switch the subject. What makes you such a discriminatory judge of music that you can decide for everybody what constitutes good music and bad music. I don’t mock your shitty taste in music.”

“That is because I don’t have shitty taste in music.”

“What the fuck ever, man.”

“You don’t like what I got to say, then feel free to shut your fucking trap.”

“Fuck that. What about Radiohead? You wouldn’t want to have some Radiohead or Marley? You gonna sit there and look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want some Marley?”

“I am going to do exactly that. Fucking snore-fest, man. Give me ridiculous beats or give me death.”

Will turned and looked out the window. “Ridiculous. This ain’t over yet, man. We are coming back to this. You wait and see.”

Kenny laughed and shook the wheel, jarring the Bronco one way and then the other. “I’ll be waiting, poopy pants.” 


The interior of the van was not a verbal ruckus. Brandon drove. Allen sat in the passenger seat, his automatic rifle across his lap. 

Dan and Jesse remained in the back. The older brother sat on the medical bed that would serve as a medic station if necessary; Jesse had been a medical resident before all of the madness went down. 

It was a useful skill now. 

“Usual run, gentlemen,” called Dan.

“Doesn’t feel usual, boss,” replied Allen.

Jesse looked at his brother. 

“All feelings aside, grab what we have to and get out of there. No fucking around, no messing with the deadheads. In and out.”

Allen nodded grimly and Brandon stared coldly from the driver’s seat. “You want me to do what we talked about? Re-situate our dead guests?” asked Allen.

“You head to the Sports Authority. Brandon, you take an eagle locale with the .50 cal and keep an eye on things,” replied Dan.

“Right, boss,” called Brandon from the driver’s seat.

“Me and Jess will hit the library while tweedle dee and tweedle dumb hit Wal-Mart to pick up the Big Box shit.”

“And deadheads?” queried Allen.

“Try to keep the noise to a minimum and add bolts to those that are previously bolted. Kill any that have gotten loose.”

“Right, boss.”

The stereo was low and the music somber. 

“Are we expecting trouble?” 

Turning and looking at Jesse, Dan’s face was grim.


Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.

Would you like to win a copy of The End of the World Playlist?

All you have to do is comment on a post during the tour. Two randomly drawn commenters will be awarded either a physical or digital copy of The End of the World Playlist.

Visit http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/ and follow the blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Spotlight Cerulean Dreams by Dan O'Brien

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Welcome to the fourth day of the Cerulean Dreams blog tour. It will run until July 24th and will feature excerpts, new author interviews each day, and a video blog by the author. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this dystopian world:

Orion, the last city of men. Deep within the desert, a secret lay waiting. Young women found dead in the street. A corporation that controls the sleep of a populace that never sees the light of day. Alexander Marlowe seeks to unravel the mysteries of Orion as he helps a young girl, Dana, flee the city. The closer they come to the truth, the greater the danger that hunts them. Follow them as they search beyond the boundaries of everything they have ever known for answers. 

A few questions for the author:

Do you ever experience writer’s block? 

From a behavior analysis point of view, I simply remove the antecedent. This is a fancy way of saying I eliminate the possibility of experiencing writer’s block by always having multiple projects to work on, whether it is a another piece of short fiction, a consultation job, blogging, etc.

Do you work with an outline, or just write? 

A little of both. I find a living outline to be very useful for the way I write. I will have important ideas and plot points that I want to make sure find a place within the book, but I often deviate as my imagination takes over. 

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Herbert, Hugo, and Hemmingway probably had the most direct influence on types of books I like to write, as well as my attitude toward writing in general. Orwell and Bradbury helped to cultivate a love of dystopian science fiction and Lovecraft, as well as King, helped to foster a love of all things horror.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published? 

My first book was a space opera that I went the traditional route with. I queried agents and publishers in the early 2000s, right before the vanity press boom that claimed the careers of many writers. It was a relatively lukewarm experience that I am not particularly interested in re-visiting. Needless to say, it was an important learning experience.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Chapter IV

The doors opened without incident. The lobby looked far more alive than Cedars Tower. Tenants bustled about. Their voices rose, talking about this and that. About Marlowe no doubt, if his paranoid mind had its way. 

The pair seemed conspicuous immediately. 

Their clothes were dirtied. Their faces were pensive, watchful as they scanned the crowd gathered in the lobby. For a moment, Marlowe could swear that they stopped and looked at him collectively, each of them thinking the same thing: that’s him.

There he is: criminal, terrorist. 

“Monsieur,” called the manager. His bristling walk and crimson suit were both polished. 

Marlowe looked at him, his face haggard. “What?”

The manager was apprehensive, his hands clenching and posture stiffening. Undoubtedly, Marlowe had answered harsher than the man had anticipated. “We are very much abuzz here, monsieur. There have been OrionCorps all about.”

A pencil-thin moustache and placid features were set upon an unscrupulous face. Marlowe looked at him for a long moment, uncertain if he was more repulsive than the strange transient apparitions that beleaguered him. 

“Right, OrionCorps,” said Marlowe dreamily. Dana nudged him hard, giving Marlowe a hard stare. The manager followed her gaze back to the rough mug of Marlowe. “OrionCorps, exactly. I’m Lieutenant Gales,” he started, flashing the badge he had taken from the lieutenant upstairs. He felt a fog lift from his mind for a moment. “I was in pursuit of the suspect. He is in the building.”

The manager looked shocked. 

“This building, monsieur?”

Marlowe felt strange, he walked the line between wanting to laugh hysterically at the little man or smack him across the room. He settled on maintaining the lawful air. “Precisely, I was in pursuit of the suspect,” said Marlowe and then looking at Dana, he grabbed her roughly. “Then I noticed that he had accosted this young girl here and I stopped to help her. I didn’t see where he went.”

The manager looked concerned. He grabbed her hand lightly as he spoke. “I am so sorry, madam. That must have been harrowing for you.”

Dana glanced at Marlowe and then nodded slowly. 


Marlowe cleared his throat, adjusting his weapon. “I am going to bring this girl in, but I have instructed OrionCorps that the suspect is in this building. You can confirm this when they arrive. Tell them Lieutenant Gales has brought a witness back to headquarters. Can you do that for me, sir?”

The manager nodded, almost gleefully. He was enthralled to be of assistance. “Of course monsieur, it would be my pleasure. Suspect in building. Lieutenant Gales took a female witness downtown. Understood, monsieur.”

Marlowe smiled and moved Dana forward, not bothering to turn around to watch the manager. He could hear the little man delegating to bellhops and other tower staff to search the area and assume security precautions. 

As they moved through the gathered crowd, Marlowe was sure not to nudge anyone too hard or draw attention. Marlowe reminded himself that it was nothing short of a miracle that the manager had not realized who he was. 

As they pushed through the ornate double doors of the plaza, the open air was alive with the sounds of OrionCorps vehicles. The wailing sound of justice was ever-present. Marlowe breathed out, as if he had been holding his breath. “That was close, Dana. That man obviously hadn’t been on his visor lately, otherwise we would’ve been dead in the water.”

The wailing grew closer and Marlowe turned up his collar, hiding his face as a squadron of OrionCorps poured into the building. Dana watched them with a child-like awe, but Marlowe turned her attention back with a rough tug on her arm. 

“Do you think that will keep them occupied for long?”

“Long enough, hopefully just long enough,” echoed Marlowe as he turned the next corner, dragging them down a flight of dirty stairs into the rail station. The station was dark like in Messiah district. Distant, flickering lights were in desperate need of service. They stalked out of the darkness, disappearing for a moment in the light, though only to return into the shadows once more. 

Marlowe pressed forward, trying not to gawk at the frightful apparitions. He felt a mesmerizing quality from them that trapped you in their gaze. 

That was someplace he did not wish to be. 

The station was modern, electronic fixings and long runner boards changed from one advertisement to the next. Marlowe had begun to feel that it was not safe. The world seemed to be talking to him at all times: whispering, not loud enough to drown out the living world, but just enough that he knew it was there. 

“Where are we going?” Dana asked, her little frame stopping to draw Marlowe’s attention. Her small face had smudges of dirt, black soot that seemed out of place on her almost pristine features. 

Warmth passed over his face. 

At first, it was comfortable. But as the warmth grew, with it came dead eyes and pale features. Marlowe realized that the phantoms were now walking through him as they pleased. The dead had no regard for the living. “We are going to take the light rail back to my place,” he began. 

“They will be waiting there for you,” she cut him off. 

Marlowe ran his hands through his hair, sighing exasperatedly. “Right. Of course, they will be. That is the first place they are going to look…” he trailed off and then jumped as one of the strange phantoms walked right through Dana. For a moment, it was a strange mutated creature that was part beauty and part horror. 

“We need to leave Orion,” she spoke. 

Marlowe looked at the girl seriously. “You keep saying that like it’s an option. We’ll die if we leave the city. We can’t survive in the desert. Anyone who walks beyond these walls dies in that desert. We’ll have to think of something else.”

“We are dead if we stay here.” 

“Very astute answer. Not at all helpful, but very clever. I realize that we are dead if we stay. We are dead if we leave the city, but that doesn’t mean I am going to go off gallivanting into a sweltering sandstorm because you like the heat.”

The sound of the approaching light rail was a high-pitched whistle. They both looked up, watching as the bleached steel tube rocketed into the station, the windows and passengers a blur. 

“When the doors open, get on and keep moving from rail car to rail car until we find an empty one. If we can stay away from people long enough, I can figure something out,” he spoke in a low voice. 

Grunting, he scratched at his right forearm. His fingers dug at his flesh through the heavy cloth of his trench. The doors of the rail opened with a grinding squeal. Dana stepped through without hesitation, her blonde hair bouncing against her shoulders. The interior was cloaked in a scattered darkness, much like everything else about Orion. 

She turned toward him, her eyes sparkling. He couldn’t remember if her eyes had been green before. Hadn’t they been blue? “We can’t ride the rail for long. They will look for us on it,” she stated matter-of-factly. 

Marlowe nodded. Swallowing, his throat was barren and salty. “There aren’t a lot of places we can hide in Orion. We will just have to keep on the move. We will take turns sleeping.”

Marlowe placed one foot on the dirty steel of the rail and the other stayed on the ground. He watched the ground with interest. It had moved. The vibration was slight, as if a wave had passed across the ground. “I think something might be very, very wrong,” he whispered. 

Dana looked at him coldly, her arms crossed. “Worse than everything that is chasing us?” she asked sarcastically. 

Marlowe lifted his foot. A section of the concrete moved with it, a webbed imprint that was a perfect match of his foot. His face slipped to a grimace as he watched the ground bubble, pieces of it popping and sending liquid splatters against the side of the rail. 

“I think the ground is melting,” he muttered.

He placed his other foot on the ground of the light rail. The surge of steel and power as the rail started forward rocked Marlowe’s balance, forcing him to grab a hold of one of the poles that ran from ceiling to floor. They were cold to the touch. He lifted his foot––the webbing of sloshing concrete had dissipated. 

“Could have sworn….”

Dana looked out the wide windows of the rail. Her reflection was that of a beautiful stranger: bright blonde hair and gray eyes. Hadn’t they been green? Her sigh was announced with the pout of her small lips. “It is worse when you sleep. The Lurking watches us, haunting our every step, waiting for us to lower our defenses, let up,” she spoke. 

Marlowe watched the girl. “Why are they after you?”

“The truth.”

Marlowe waved his hand dismissively. 

“There must be more to it than that.”

She remained silent, her thin arms hugging herself. Marlowe pulled himself forward with the light rail pole, looking at the next car. “We should keep moving from car to car, keep in motion.”

She nodded. Eyes glassy, her little body moved out ahead of Marlowe. Moving through the hunched figures of other commuters who muttered to themselves via their visors, he watched them as they passed. Most didn’t take the time to acknowledge their passing, except one.

“Marlowe.” Her voice felt like a cold spike. 

A man had her around the waist. She wiggled against him, trying desperately to find a way to pull herself loose. Marlowe drew his weapon. The man watched, his intense eyes looking from the girl to Marlowe. The blade was sharp. The glinting edge was tight against her throat. 

“Let the girl go,” Marlowe growled. 

He took a step forward. 

The man pulled Dana up, the blade touching her skin, crimson melting into ivory. His teeth gleamed. Some were sharpened to razor points. His face distorted. What had been pale skin was now moldy like old bread. Teeth were decayed, yellow and blackened from lack of care. The cackle that erupted from the man was otherworldly. 

“The pretty one is mine now,” he crooned. 

Fingers were long and slender.

Nails dirtied and cracked. 

Marlowe blinked. 

The very act was heavy. 

He shot once, twice. The first round caught the man in the throat. Greenish blood spilled in a fine arc. Dana fell away. Her shriek fell on his deaf ears. The second shot exploded through the man’s chest.

Dana watched as Marlowe loomed over the man, his wide eyes glazed as he emptied the chamber. Each shot made the man jump, his body lifting from the ground as if pushed from beneath. 

“I think he is dead,” she whispered. 

Marlowe continued to pull the trigger. The man’s face was a haunting smile, blackened lips and bleeding gums forever frozen. The world around him seemed silent. The click of his weapon, Dana’s words, all of it was a silent symphony. 

Then the voices returned. 

Low whispering that at first climbed and climbed until there was a raging cacophony of screams that were indiscernible from one another. He looked at Dana, her lips moving, but the words were lost to him. 

It came slowly, half of the message lost. 


He looked at her strangely. “What?” he asked, splatters of the man’s blood plastered across his chest. 

Her eyes pleaded. 

“We should leave, get off of the train.”

He nodded, licking his lips again. The world had refocused. “News certainly does travel fast, this kind more so than most. Not often you have a dead demon on a train.”

It was Dana’s turn to look at him oddly. He moved around her, reloading his weapon and aiming at the metal doors. The force of the round charred the steel in a perfect circle. 

The screech of the train frightened the passengers. 

As the doors opened, Dana jumped through, Marlowe following. Many of the onlookers disengaged their visors. They watched as the blood-soaked Marlowe and an angel of a young woman departed the train and fell into the murky tunnel. Marlowe watched the walls, looking for the crawling figures. Immediately, he regretted diving so blithely into the darkness when there were things that wished to speak to him from the shadows.

Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.

Would you like to win a copy of Cerulean Dreams?

All you have to do is comment on a post during the tour. Two randomly drawn commenters will be awarded either a physical or digital copy of Cerulean Dreams.

Visit http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/ and follow the blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Spotlight Bitten by Dan O'Brien

Friday, July 12, 2013

Welcome to the fourth day of the Bitten blog tour. It will run until July 16th and will feature excerpts, new author interviews each day, character interviews, and a casting call by the author. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this dark world

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.

A few questions for the author:

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing novel? 

Marketing it. Sitting down and doing it has never been a problem for me. And with more than a dozen written, I think I can say that with some confidence. Marketing is what came the slowest, but is now something I feel like I have a good handle on. 

What do you consider your biggest failure? 

Not doing what I wanted sooner. I can hear the groans and shouts now. Yes, I realize I am only 32. I wrote my first book at 16 and was published by 20 and then gave up because there was no one waiting with a giant check. I traded in novel writing for freelance editing and copy-writing and just waited too long for my liking. Also, I never took piano lessons and I can’t ski. 

Do you research your novels? 

It depends on the novel. If there is something specific from a region, I am most definitely looking it up. Is there lore? Then I am there pouring through the pages. I spent a lot of years in academia, so research is not foreign to me. It can be very relaxing. Then again some people find speed metal relaxing, so it’s all relative. 

How much impact does your childhood have on your writing? 

A tremendous amount in terms of why I got into writing in the first place. I loved science fiction and fantasy when I was a kid. I read hundreds and hundreds of books when I was in elementary school. Had I not that voracious appetite for reading, I might have chosen a different profession.


Chapter IV

The morgue was at the bottom of the only mortuary in the town of Locke. Agent Westlake, Montgomery, and the youthful deputy made their way through the building’s darkened interior, into the bowels of a cold stone structure that could withstand the end of the world.

Montgomery smiled. “Surprised about our simple morgue, Agent Westlake?”

“Not in the slightest. It would be ridiculous to have a separate building given how infrequently violent crimes occur in your small alcove of a town. It is efficient in a way.”

“Well at least some one appreciates…” spoke Collins as they emerged in the wide whitewashed walls of the basement. Collins was wearing her characteristic bee hive, though black butterfly clips held up random, erratic wisps that attempted to free themselves from bondage. “…what I do here.”

Agent Westlake led the crowd, looking over the walls of silver doors that encased empty chambers where the departed slept in a kind of purgatory before finding a home in the earth or the hearth, as they such desired. Montgomery and the deputy hovered near the table where a white sheet covered the bumpy, uneven terrain of a body. 

“How many homicides?”

The sheriff and deputy looked over at the agent with mute glimpses. “Homicides, Agent Westlake?”

Lauren touched the cold metal of the human cabinets. “In Locke or surrounding towns. How many deaths of unnatural causes have you had?”

Montgomery shrugged. 

“One a year, maybe every two or three.”

“And now two in 48 hours. Perhaps there is something to that.”


Collins, her thick glasses decorated with rings of silver balls interlinked to form a chain, pulled back the sheet that covered the woman. “We still don’t have an identification, but what we do have is cause of death.”

Montgomery crossed his arms and the deputy scratched his head. Westlake lingered over the body as the sheet revealed what might have once been a woman. The dark hair was pulled back and laid down beside her pale skin like wet carpet. The make-up was reduced to heavy indentions in the skin from prolonged use. 

Her breasts remained a testament to their creation and construction by the hands of man. Lines along her stomach announced more cosmetic alterations. Lauren reached out and touched the pink wound; deep lacerations carved her chest cavity. 

“Did you swab the wound?”

Collins lowered her head, looking over glasses. “No, we here in the north don’t know nothing about our business. We just put the bodies in boxes up here.”

Lauren smiled at the woman, chagrinned. 

“My apologies, Dr. Collins.”

Collins smiled. The use of a formal title allowed everything to be forgotten. “We did a full autopsy, sent out for toxicology and swabbed the wound for particulates. What is it that you are looking for?”

Lauren placed her hands on her hips. “Whatever did this used a weapon. Knowing the material and construction, we might be able to limit our focus.” The sheriff coughed and Lauren looked down. “Of course, I mean the scope of the sheriff’s investigation. I am merely shadowing.”

“Couldn’t it have been an animal?” echoed the deputy, his face the very picture of absence of thought. “I mean the wounds look like they could have been from a wolf or bear or something.”

Lauren looked to Montgomery and he nodded, giving his silent approval. “If it were animal there would be other markings, not just a singular, purposeful wound. A deathblow as it was. Animals rip and drag. And usually a low chest wound would indicate knowledge of anatomy. A predator would have gone for the jugular.”

Collins replaced the sheet. “We should have the reports back in a couple of weeks.”

“Couple of weeks?”

Montgomery intervened. “Things work a bit slow up here. We have to send the reports out. Get processed somewhere else and wait for results.”

Lauren touched a hand to her mouth in thought, stepping away from the table. “Would it be a terrible insult if I tried to expedite your wait time, sheriff?”

Hands in pockets, he shrugged. “Not at all, Agent Westlake. I would say that would be a very kind thing to do. Go a long way toward that cooperation and professional courtesy you were looking for.”

Lauren smiled tightly and withdrew her cell phone from her coat. “I will see what I can do.”


Dominic McManus walked through the old farmhouse filled with barren walls and aged paintings. There was an unsophisticated smell, a sense of the rustic enhanced by the wilderness. Wood planks beneath his feet alternated in sound, creating a symphony of rhythm. The afternoon sun hid behind the gray cloud cover, creating a lining of beer-colored halos that shielded the world from luminance. 

The woods were silent, tall pines and evergreens sentinels against the night that would come and the day that followed. Dark, surreal paintings were littered about the simple walls depicting creatures roaming the night, dancing a ritual beneath the moon. The living room was home to one wide, strangled rug in desperate need of cleaning. 

Triangles and lines of muted light cascaded onto the antediluvian home. He walked the house: his home. Bare feet touching the ground, he moved with a grace unbecoming for a man of his considerable size. Nearly six feet, his wide shoulders were marked with long, thin scars of memories past. His chest was a mat of tight black hair that made an artistic triangle. 

Sweat dripped down off of him, following the contours of his strong shoulders and slender waist. His shirt was draped over one of two uncomfortable-looking beige chairs that looked as if they had been left in the rain for a century. 

His dark hair touched his shoulders, unrestrained. 

“Friday,” he whispered. 

A Labrador––the sleek color of night––bounded into the room. He knelt, running his hands across the side of the dog in broad strokes. “Good girl,” he whispered, allowing the dog to nuzzle his lightly bearded face. She was his sole companion by choice. 

Standing again, he walked to the single oak table at the center of the room, grabbing his shirt as he walked by. He pulled it over his shoulders and sat into one of the odd-looking chairs that surrounded the table, reaching down again to attend to his friend.

The house was a silent reminder of a past forgotten. He had come to Locke for simple reasons: a life unfinished. There were ghosts of the past haunting the land. That haunted him still. Each night was a journey, a remembrance. 

His kitchen was clean; no dishes in the sink. There were none of the usual signs of a bachelor. Bowls of fresh fruit, some spilled out past the rims covered the counter. There was no refrigerator, no stove. A heavy, off-white freezer lay on its side, humming softly. There was a heavy wood stove, a cast-iron pot setting atop the warm, burning embers inside. A thin string with a white packet hung from it: tea. 

Moving out into the back porch, a mesh enclosure with a single chair that overlooked the backyard and the surrounding property, he contemplated the world around him. There was a rifle on the ground just beside the chair and a wastebasket with torn off days of a calendar. Each had a circled day; every marking was a shrouded secret. 

He stood looking out upon the wilderness, knowing its mysteries. The murders had already spread through town. The word was panic. He knew more than he could possibly tell them. 

Lauren Westlake: her name intrigued him. Born to the west of a great lake, her ancestors must have been hunters or river folk. There had been something intoxicating about her. He walked her home, made sure she made it through the night. 

Things would get worse. 

The whistle of the iron kettle made him turn. He stalked back into the house. The heavy muscles of his arms flexed. Veins formed an interspersed roadmap down his bicep and into his forearm as he lifted the kettle free. 

The tea was poured. He carried the simple mug with him as he returned to the porch, looking out upon the still woods. He knew that they would not be still that night. Things would get much worse. But what could he do? What could be said that would not cast doubt upon his guise? He had come for a reason, for a purpose. That is what had to remain most important. He would have to be vigilant. 


Lauren smoothed out the map on the wall behind the sheriff’s desk. It was littered with light blue lines and no script save for some cardinal directions. The deputy leaned against the long counter of the station. The sheriff sat back in his in chair, arms laced behind his head. 

“You think there is a pattern to the attacks? I thought we needed three points to make a line. We ain’t got but two yet,” spoke the deputy as he took a drink of the stale, tasteless coffee. 

Lauren placed the last tack into the map and stepped back. “Three points would make a perfect line. But we are not looking for a line. We are looking for a connection, deputy. Until we get those toxin and particulates screens back, which by the way, I managed to shave off some time. We should have them in a couple of days. But until then, we need to see if we can’t figure out what we have here.”

“You think there is going to be another murder, Agent Westlake?” said the sheriff, emotionless.

“I believe there will be many more before all of this is said and done.”

The deputy placed down his coffee and folded his arms. “What exactly do you think is going to happen?”

“It starts out as a single murder. Looks like an animal attack. And then another. And another. A pattern emerges. Women and small children attacked, maimed in a fashion meant to look like an animal.”

Mrs. Meadows and the deputy covered their mouths, eyes wide. Lauren touched the map, spreading out the wrinkles and folds from years in a desk drawer. “Then it stops. As quickly as it came, it disappears. We have had at least three instances similar to what you have had here. The second victim is missing flesh, which is disturbing and new. We have not seen that before. In the past, there were missing organs, purposeful disfigurement.”

“You think it is the same person?” queried the sheriff, his monotone voice skeptical. 

Lauren leaned against the wall. “Doubtful. If it is, we are talking about someone who has been killing for thirty or forty plus years, a serial situation. When I took over the investigation, it had been sitting for near a decade.”

The sheriff switched feet on the desk: dirty soles, filthy souls. “I thought you were talking about a recent case. This sounds as if it might be unrelated.”

Lauren frowned. 

She had anticipated this doubt. “When I resuscitated the file from deep storage, it was because there were some strange killings in a rural area outside of a Chicago suburb. There was talk of animal attacks. Investigations produced bodies not just similar to what you have here in your sleepy town, but identical to what was sitting in those dusty case files.”

She placed her hands on the sheriff’s desk. He looked at her hands grimly. “There is a connection,” she finished. Returning to the map, she pointed at a garish red pin marked with white speckles. And then tracing a line to another tack, this one a green best suited for Christmas decorations. “We have two attacks separated by a mile, mile and a half maximum.”

“That’s a lot of woods, Agent Westlake,” whined the deputy. She did not bother to turn around. Montgomery chastised him with a reproachful glare. 

“Agreed, deputy. We need more people to cover the area effectively.”

The sheriff coughed. “What you see is what you get. I could, if it was an emergency mind you, get some extra deputies from Pine County or from over in Laketown. But that would be a while and would require an emergency.”

Lauren glared at him, her wide eyes squinting to angry spheres. “Murder is not serious enough for you?”

Montgomery grimaced, his kind of smile. “Murder is most serious, even to us country folk. But, the fact remains that Collins could not identify the weapon used in the attacks. If there was such an explanation or a connection, it would be that both looked like animal attacks.”

Lauren touched her head. 

The hangover had subsided to a dull throbbing, an angry itch that scratched at her last nerve. “What about the existing case files? What about my sudden presence here in Locke? Are these not sufficient to cause alarm? Certainly a hysterical woman would be enough.”

The sheriff looked at her with a crooked grin. “I would hardly call you hysterical, Agent Westlake,” he spoke with a slight ruffle. 

“What about canvassing the area between the two murders with the personnel you have?”

“Seems reasonable, but I am not ready to call in reinforcements. I think that you might be overshooting your mark.”

“Can we at least have a look at the Leftwich house and then patrol the area tonight?”

The sheriff stood slowly. 

He stretched out his legs as he did so. 

Lifting the mug beside him, he grinned. 

“You can ride with us.”

She thought to argue the point, ask for separate cars, one for each of them to better scout the area. Nodding with a tight smile, she motioned with her hand that she would follow. As they exited the station out into the cold open air of Locke, she realized the day had already begun to shrink away from the coming night. The feeling deep in her gut told her that the night would be a long one.

Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.

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Spotlight The Path of the Fallen by Dan O'Brien

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Welcome to the second day of The Path of the Fallen blog tour. It will run until July 8th and will feature excerpts, new author interviews each day, character interviews, and a casting call by the author. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this sprawling fantasy world:

Set against the backdrop of the tundra and a world desperate for hope, the journey of a young man, E'Malkai, will come to define a realm that has been broken by an evil that does not sleep. A bitter betrayal, and the inception of a war that will consume the world, forces E'Malkai to confront the past and undertake a pilgrimage that is his birthright. Follow him on his journey and be transformed.