Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Spotlight - The End of the World Playlist by Dan O'Brien

Welcome to the second 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:

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 

This question itself is a bit difficult. There really isn’t a part of the writing process that I find difficult. Once upon a time, there might have been things that gave me fits, but I try to grow and overcome anything that becomes a speed bump to me enjoying the process.

What’s the best thing about being an author? 

Getting to tell stories for a living certainly tops the list. I really enjoy the sheer terror and excitement that comes from releasing a new novel. For better or worse, reader interaction is why we write stories in the first place.

What are you working on now? 

I have several new releases planned for 2014, among them is the sequel to Bitten, a new novel entitled Dawn, and the re-release of The Ocean and the Hourglass. There will be some serials sprinkled in as well. 

What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Learn to take your lumps and grow from them. The writing experience is different from author to author, and is constantly changing because of changes in the publishing sphere. Take what others say about their experience with a grain of salt and do your due diligence in terms of researching whatever path you take.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Track 2
Riders on the Storm

The town of River’s Bend was silent. The streets were empty, but a dull rumbling in the distance electrified the air. Tall, ugly buildings––built and never repaired years ago––waited patiently as the sun passed overhead, straining through cloud cover. 

The rumbling intensified. 

It was the sound of an engine. 

A brown-top Chevy Nova screamed into motion. Tires squealing, it wheeled around a building and smashed through the front of an adjacent, abandoned shop. Bodies flooded behind the car in a mass of ragged, wild arms and snarling, mangled faces: zombies. 

“Run, you fucking deadheads. Z-Day, baby,” spoke a man who looked as if he were an unkempt replica of a giant.

“Just drive the fucking car,” spoke the smaller man.

“But today is Z-Day…”

“Every day is Z-Day,” scolded the smaller man with a grim smile. 

Long lines of paint tagged the side of the beaten car. Upon further inspection, it was most definitely blood. Streamers waved atop the vehicle. 

Correction: those are human arms. 

In any case, they used to be human arms. Stiff and fading flesh revealed them as the arms of the zombie army, deceased. The car swerved––as if on cue––and took out a long line of running zombies. They were smashed underneath heavy tires. 

Looking in through a dusty window, two men sat in lawn chairs admiring the scene below. Kenny was large and wide-shouldered with a lopsided grin and heavy blue eyes; a buzz cut framed his massive head. 

Beside him was Dan; the brown hair at his shoulders was pulled back. Wearing a light beard splotched gray in places, his icy eyes watched the scene without emotion. 

“I love it when they run in front. Crunching them underneath is the best part.”

Dan watched with little interest. The automatic rifle in his hands was held with the precision of a man waiting for monsters to leap out from the darkness. This––to some extent––was simply an effective posture. 

“Bring them down 8th, past the parking structure. That should give me enough time.”

“Enough time?”

“To grab some supplies. The gun store and then past the lush palace.”

Kenny snickered. 

“What are you, a child? Just drag those dead fucks around the bend, and then we are out of here,” continued Dan with irritation.

A chainsaw lay next to Kenny. Just to the other side of it was a heavy shotgun that had a belt of shells perched on top of it. 

Dan carried two handguns at his waist, a long, black sheath along his back, and a variety of knives tucked neatly into sheaths. Hanging the assault rifle around his neck, he grabbed a riot shotgun and its bandolier of shells. 

“You want me to keep watch?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?”

Kenny snickered again.

“Un-fucking-believable. We are up to our balls in deadheads running around here like they own the place, and you are still cracking up like an idiot kid,” admonished Dan.

Kenny looked slightly forlorn as he concentrated on the street below, moving the remote in his hand with a deft movement. “Sorry, boss.”

“Knock that boss shit off. Just do what I said and meet me in front of Crazy Mike’s.”


“Repeat what I said.”


“You heard me, numbnuts, repeat what I said.” 

“Watch. Kill. Meet at Mike’s,” replied Kenny with a smile.

The door to the roof closed as Dan departed. Kenny continued to look down at the street below, a wicked smile on his face. 

Dan emerged from the front of the building and put on a pair of reflective sunglasses. Holding the assault shotgun in a ready position, he walked down the street. 

The streets were empty, but an eerie type of desolation that marks the end of the world hung in the air. He rounded the side of the street, leveling the shotgun to knock down whatever would come his way. 

Ignoring the sidewalks, he walked in the road. A single zombie ran out. Arms flailing, flesh and blood drooled from its open maw.

A shotgun blast caught it across the face, ripping its feet from the ground and sending it spinning backwards. The sound echoed in the empty town off the brilliant spray-painted murals littered across many buildings. 

Dan bent down to inspect the zombie. 

There was no face.

Open, dead flesh oozed a thousand putrid colors. Standing with a grimace, he surveyed the rest of the street: nothing. 

Moving forward, he walked to a building with an amber-colored window. He pushed open a dull silver door at the front of the store. A chime echoed in the store, accented by a throaty groan. 

A zombie stood behind the counter. 

Dan approached it. 

Letting the shotgun fall beside his leg, he took off his glasses. The zombie had its mouth wired shut, and dark sunglasses covered its eyes. The mesh hat on its head was a bit odd, nearly falling off the slowly decaying scalp of the zombie.

“Hey, Bob.”

Bob the Liquor Store Zombie groaned hungrily. 

“Any suggestions? The boys can be quite specific sometimes.”

Bob the Liquor Store Zombie lunged forward, but heavy silver bolts held its hands firmly to the counter. 

“We talked about this aggression, Bob. Once upon a time I might have been able to help you, but therapy is long behind me.”

Bob groaned again, though this time because Dan leaned on the counter. His heavily covered arms hid tattoos and a lifetime of scars. 

“The whiskey still next to the cooler?”

Bob groaned. This one seemed less intense, almost as if it were giving up.

“Right, in the back.”

With a smile he smacked the table and moved deeper into the darkened store; light from outside flashed in uneven beams of sunlight. Turning around halfway down an aisle, Dan waved his shotgun. “Now don’t be going anywhere, Bob. I have eyes everywhere.”

Dan rolled his shoulders as if shivering and flicked his hands like spirit fingers. Moving along the rows and rows of liquor, he passed massive gaps here and there where the effects of five years of consumption had taken its toll. The back wall once held frozen beverages, but now only empty rows of racks that had long since been plundered or destroyed. 

“Now what was it that he had wanted? JD I believe.”

Reaching forward, Dan grabbed four handles of Jack Daniel’s. As he turned, it was the groan––not the sight of Bob––that startled him. Swinging the whiskey hard, the amber liquid smashed against the side of Bob’s head, stunning it for a moment. That moment was sufficient for the shotgun to find its way in the center of Bob’s face, and then it was Bob’s face no longer. 

Looking down at what had once been Bob the Liquor Store Zombie, Dan grimaced. “Now that is a damn foolish thing to do there, Bob. We had a nice thing going.”

He stood over the zombie, his chest heaving––slowly at first and then building. The warm whiskey covered the floor, saturating both Dan’s heavy boots and Bob’s twice-dead body. “We had a good thing going.”

Dan bounced the shotgun against his leg steadily, his eyes steeling. “You motherfuckers. You motherfuckers.”

His voice was barely a whisper. 

Leveling the shotgun at Bob, he shot again. The blast lifted the body from the ground, igniting some of the whiskey in a soft flame. He did it again––this time into the zombie’s chest––nearly ripping Bob in two. He stood and watched Bob come slowly apart. It was the crackle of the radio that drew away his maniacal stare. 

“Boss?” It was Kenny. Dan continued to stare at Bob the Liquor Store Zombie. “You alright there, boss?” 

Licking his lips, Dan’s voice croaked. 

“I thought I told you to knock that boss shit off.”

“I heard shots…”

“It’s nothing. I will tell you at Mike’s. Get off the fucking radio.”

The crackle disappeared. 

Stepping over Bob, Dan reloaded––leaving behind the mess. He moved past the counter and saw the dark streaks and silver bolts that had held Bob moments before. Dan ignored the problem and pushed open the door. 

He felt the sunshine on his skin again. The sun was high in the sky, but there was nothing happy about the day. “Fucking deadheads. Never do what they are supposed to. Gotta tell them a thousand times.”

Walking down the street, he held the shotgun tightly in his grip. A big heavy sign announced a bright purple building as Crazy Mike’s. It should come as no great surprise that a redneck town like River’s Bend would have a mammoth gun depot the size of most department stores. The “open” sign was smeared with a bloody hand. The glass door was caked with brains and various zombie remains that had found its way onto the storefront over the years. 

As Dan walked to the door, he saw his reflection in the glass. “Old man,” he whispered. His long hair was scraggly, and the gray in his beard seemed to grow each day. 

The world had not been kind. 

Hitting his chest with a fist, he shook his head. 

“Can’t beat time.”

Walking through the open door of the ammo store, he turned toward the counter. As one might expect, there was another zombie. This one had on a bright orange hunting vest with a red flannel shirt beneath it. Big, black-rimmed glasses hung from its sagging face. 

And again, the jaw was wired shut.

“Bob, how’s business, you old ball-buster?” exclaimed Dan with enthusiasm. 

It looked as if Bob the Gun Store Zombie once had gray hair, as there were remnants on its diseased scalp. 

“Anything new?” 

With a big smile, he laughed. 

“Just kidding, you old bastard. Just here for the essentials, ya know.” He turned as if to move and then stopped, looking back at Bob. “Have you talked to Bob lately?”

Waving a hand in dismissal, Dan continued. “Of course not. How silly of me. Well, I have some bad news.” 

Dan paused for the drama of it all. 

“Bob is dead.”

Dan liked to think that Bob the Liquor Store Zombie and Bob the Gun Store Zombie were brothers. Not blood brothers, but by marriage. “I realize that you guys had not been speaking.”

Dan looked at Bob with genuine sorrow. “I remember, you don’t want to talk about that. I will be on my way, just wanted to give you the bad news.”

Moving farther into the store––past an overturned, stuffed black bear––Dan opened his backpack and began to deposit various boxes of shells. 

A screech erupted from outside the depot. 

It was the sound of brakes and tires. 

Returning to the front of the store, Dan paused in front of Bob. They stared at each for a moment until the horn blared again, jarring Dan’s attention. Stepping out into the open air, he looked at the heavy steel of a Ford Bronco. Apocalypse Please was scrawled in heavy red letters across the side. A wood chipper was placed in the back, and a heavy steel snow plow was attached to the front. There were two severed heads where the headlights should be. Their wide open mouths and empty eye sockets expelled blue floodlights. 

“You get what we need?” called Kenny. 

Dan threw the backpack into the Bronco and grabbed the edge of the door, opening it without a word. 

Kenny sat back into the seat and gripped the wheel. 

“What’s up, boss?”

“Had to kill Bob.”

“Bob the Liquor Bob or Bob the Gun Store Bob?”

“Liquor Store.”

Kenny turned over the Bronco, and the diesel engine roared to life. The interior was littered with various wrappers and empty shells. The Bronco was definitely Kenny’s area. 

“That’s a bummer. You get the JD?”


“What the fuck? No JD. That’s…”

“Bring it down a notch there, Jolly Green. We still have some at the house.”

“We can go right back,” protested Kenny, pointing back toward the liquor store.

“No, go home. Fuck this town for today.”


“Seriously, we have enough to last until tomorrow morning. For fuck’s sake man, just drive the fucking Bronco.”

“Whatever, dude. Let’s blow this bullshit.”

The Bronco launched into motion, burning tires and then rocketing forward. It barreled through the open streets. “We have to figure out something else to bolt down those deadheads with. They can pull out of the bolts we’ve been using.”

“Why even bother?” offered Kenny.

“I don’t particularly want to suck zombie dick, so we are going to continue to bolt them to the counter.”

The Bronco bounced along, the heavy tread of the tires almost making them seem to bounce. “Wait, check it out, check it out.”

A single zombie walked into their vision. Once she might have been an attractive woman, but now she was little more than a scabby cadaver. “Check it, Frogger with zombies, man.”

“We don’t have time for this.”

“Come on…”

“Fine, make it quick.”

Kenny smiled boyishly and slammed on the accelerator. The Bronco exploded forward, nearly lifting off the ground. Racing down the street, he turned the Bronco sideways, careening into the zombie and crushing it underneath the Bronco’s thick wheels. 

“Is that fun, or is that fun?”

“Home. Now.”

“You had fun, I can smell it.” Pulling forward, Kenny leaned out the window and looked back at the bloodstain across the asphalt. “Can’t hardly tell what the fuck that is, much less that it was some middle-aged zombie bitch.”

The Bronco pulled forward again, roaring and then subsiding as they drove into the distance. As the sun drifted down, the calmness of the town felt ominous, foreboding.

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 He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here:

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 and follow the blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Blast Tour - Outside Eden by Merry Jones

Book Blast

Outside Eden

by Merry Jones

July 25th Book Blast

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Published by: Severn House Publication Date: July 1, 2013 Number of Pages: 216 ISBN: 9780727882646 Purchase Links:


“Evil can dig in its roots anywhere and can take on many forms. Smart people know that. Kenahara.” July. Israel. Iraq War vet and graduate archeologist Harper Jennings doesn’t believe in the Evil Eye. So when Hagit—the woman assigned to show her and her fourteen-month-old baby around Jerusalem—drags the pair of them into a market to buy charms to ward off evil, it isn’t the bad luck Harper fears but the market itself. Close, dark and crowded, the place worries Harper, and when an American mand seems to be in trouble, it is only the presence of the baby that stops Harper from wading in to help. Later, to Harper’s dismay, she leans that the man she’d seen has been murdered. So when she’s invited to take part in a dig fifty miles away, while her geologist husband Hank takes part in the international symposium on water shortages that has brought them to Israel, she accepts. It will be safer away from the city and the market, she thinks. But Hagit, who’s coming along to look after the baby, disagrees. She is convinced that the Evil Eye has caught sight of Harper, and that it will follow her wherever she goes…

Read an excerpt:

All around her, women prayed, their heads bowed and covered. Some stuffed pieces of paper into small cracks and crevices between rocks. Harper Jennings stood at the Western Wall of the Old City in Jerusalem, holding her hand flat against a stone block in the structure. It felt rough, sturdy, solid. Ancient. It had kept its place for over two thousand years, outlasting invaders, empires, cultures, gods. Harper pressed her fingers against it, less interested in the bustling women around her than in the inanimate wall, its past. Who had cut the stone, hauled it, placed it there? And what had it seen—worshipers, warriors, centuries of change? How many other hands had touched it? Millions? Her hand on the stone, Harper felt connected to all of them, a chain of hands and shadows of hands, linked by a rock through ages. But Harper couldn’t linger; Hagit had the baby, and she didn’t know Hagit very well. Following the practice of the other women, she moved away from the wall without turning her back to it, a sign of respect. When she was sufficiently distant, she looked around and saw Hagit and Chloe, holding hands, waiting for her. Harper went to them, swept Chloe up, got a joyous squeal. “Did you put in a prayer?” Hagit nodded at the wall. “A prayer?” “In the cracks. Didn’t you see? People put prayers on paper and leave them in the wall.” “I saw them,” Harper tussled Chloe’s curls. Kissed her warm round cheek. “I’ll wait.” Hagit held out a pen and scrap of paper. “Go—Put it between the stones. Write down a prayer and leave it there. It’s supposed to be like a—a what do you call it? A mailbox? No--Like Fedex for God.” Harper laughed. “Even if you’re not religious, it wouldn’t hurt--”

Author Bio:

Merry Jones is the author of the Harper Jennings thrillers (SUMMER SESSION, WINTER BREAK, BEHIND THE WALLS, OUTSIDE EDEN), the Elle Harrison suspense novel THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, the Zoe Hayes mysteries (THE NANNY MURDER, THE RIVER KILLINGS, DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS). She has also written humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories.) Jones’ work has been translated into eight languages and she has been published in GLAMOUR, LADIES HOME JOURNAL, CHILD, NEW WOMAN and PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE. A teacher of writing at Temple University for twelve years, Jones has promoted her work on local and national radio and television. She is a member of The Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and The Philadelphia Liars Club. An avid sculler, Jones lives with her family outside Philadelphia.

Catch Up With the Author:


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Tour Participants:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Spotlight Tour & Giveaway! - Cerulean Dreams by Dan O'Brien

Welcome to the third 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 have a day job as well? 

I am a literary and publishing consultant, which is a fancy way of saying that I edit, format, and consult for books other than my own. I do quite a bit of marketing consulting and ghostwriting as well. You can learn more about the consulting at

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? 

I first started writing when I 6 or 7, and then completed my first book when I was 16. There were numerous little stories during that decade, but none that I would call finished. 

How did you choose the genre you write in? 

The genre itself is generally background to the book or idea that has grabbed hold. I find that I move between different genres with relative ease. I like a strong fantasy or science fiction setting, but I am by no means limited by them. 

Where do you get your ideas? 

From all over the place. I find that I will have a great idea when I am cycling. It might even find me when I have sat down for dinner. I must admit the most frustrating place to be struck by an idea is in the pool. How am I supposed to write anything down?

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Chapter III

The door to the 49th floor was unremarkable. Faded letters counted out the floor number and the metal handle was loose as Marlowe pulled it open. It was, however, what was on the other side of the door that caught him by surprise. 

“Proximity alert,” warned the masculine voice. 

Marlowe ducked his head as a metal pipe collided with the doorframe, sparks showering, as it rebounded back into the hands of the assailant. 

“Deactivate,” roared Marlowe and he rolled forward. He had dropped his weapon. As he pushed back to his feet once again, the visor had returned to its appropriate place. 

The wielder of the pipe was a head taller than Marlowe, and wider. The heavy set of his jaw was uneven. Dull eyes completed his appearance: a towering menace. “No cops,” the man-like shadow growled. 

Marlowe looked over his shoulder, seeing only more darkness. “I’m not a cop. I’m an investigator…”

The man leapt forward, swinging the pipe hard. Marlowe ducked again, just beneath it. The lunge had placed the men chest to head. The metal pipe had lodged into the wall. As the man struggled to get it free, Marlowe struck him hard in the ribs, feeling bones break beneath his strike. 

“I don’t want to hurt you, I’m just…” started Marlowe. 

The man had abandoned the lodged weapon for the moment and lashed out. Striking Marlowe across the chest with his forearm, he lifted him into the air and then into the retaining wall with a heavy thud. 

Dust sifted through the air as pieces of the wall fell away from around Marlowe’s body. The tower of a man reached out and grabbed Marlowe, lifting him off of the ground. With an easy toss, he launched Marlowe like a shot-putter. Marlowe rolled to a stop, groaning as he wiped a hand across his mouth. 

Blood flowed freely. 

“I guess he isn’t listening.”

The behemoth stormed down the hallway, his thick hands lifting Marlowe once again. This time, before he could be tossed, Marlowe struck him hard in the throat with the side of his hand. The ogre of a man faltered for a moment. As he did so, Marlowe punched him hard in the throat, a gurgle erupting.

The man fell to one knee, dropping Marlowe. 

“As I was trying to say,” began Marlowe before kicking the man hard in the face. He continued. “I’m just looking for a girl.” The man opened his mouth, but only a groan escaped. 

Marlowe reached down and smirked. “This is where it went, huh?” His weapon glinted in the sparsely lit hallway. Picking it up, he wiped his mouth with his free hand. Marlowe looked at it, shaking his gun a little and then gestured toward the behemoth. “You seen a girl around here?” he spoke. Gesturing a woman of short height, he continued. “About this tall, blonde hair. Probably looks like a kid to a guy your size.”

The man opened his mouth again. The beginnings of words were evident, but lost again. Marlowe sighed and thought very seriously about hitting him with his weapon. “You can point, can’t you?” 

The man nodded, holding one hand to his bruised throat and pointed with the other down the hall. He grunted, trying to form words. 

“When did you see her? Was it today? A week ago?” The man pointed at the ground. “Today?” Marlowe queried, crouching as he talked to the man. 

The man nodded, breathing out. 

“Thanks.” Marlowe struck him across the face hard with his weapon, knocking the man to the ground in a heap. Looking farther into the darkness where the man had pointed, he stared. “Now to find 4918.”

He held his weapon in his right hand, reading the room numbers as he passed them: 4910, 4912, 4914, and then 4916. “And here we are,” he whispered as he moved in front of 4918. 

He looked down both sides of the hallway: empty.

There was no one else on the floor except for the maniac with the pipe and whoever was behind this door. He raised his foot and struck the door until the hinges splintered and the door vaulted in. The door hung awkwardly from the frame. 

Marlowe peeked through the opening, taking a moment in case someone was on the other side of the door with serious firepower. “I have a weapon. I’m coming in,” he called, but didn’t immediately enter, again waiting in the wings of paranoia. He had been present for too many busts and stings that had gone sour. 

The first guy through the door was a target. He breathed out and ducked low through the door, plastering himself up against the wall and kicking the door mostly shut with a grunt. 

“Anyone here?” he called out. 

The small hallway of the apartment gave way into a wider, darker living room. There wasn’t a light in the place. A shuffle of feet and a faint whimper caused him to turn his head. “I’m a private investigator. I’m not with OrionCorps. I don’t want to hurt you,” he called and then hesitated before adding, “I’m looking for a girl.”

A shadow darted across the room, heading toward a broken window opposite the entrance. Marlowe was in motion, leaping over boxes strewn across the ground and grabbing the darting form by the shoulders––slender shoulders. 

She screamed, swinging her delicate fists hard and striking him across the face and chest. Bright blonde hair and half-closed blue eyes swimming in tears assaulted him. Marlowe seemed like a giant compared to her, and he was only of average height. 

“Leave me alone, I don’t want to go,” she screamed. 

He shook her. “Hey, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not here to take you anywhere, just calm down,” he spoke, his voice steady but reassuring. 

She continued to whimper, but her hands stopped flailing and settled to her sides. “They are coming for me. The Lurking is coming,” she whispered, her voice breaking mid-sentence. 

He pulled her away from his body. “The Lurking?”

“Upgrade complete.”

The visor wrapped around his face in an instant, separating his vision from the young girl to the loading screen of Cerulean Dreams. Something was wrong. He didn’t see clear skies or mountains. 

This was different. 

“What the….” 

He looked up and the skies were on fire, the ground beneath him ash and twinkling embers. A horrible thunder rolled from the distance that was only more crimson and gray. 

“Deactivate,” he commanded. 

“Voice Recognition malfunction, repeat command.”

He pressed his temple hard. “Deactivate. Log off network. Sever connection,” he commanded again, this time with greater force. 

“Disconnection of network can result in loss of privileges.”

“Deactivate and log off immediately,” he repeated in a steely tone.

The deactivation whir was different than that of the network gathering information. The pulse of its departure calmed Marlowe for a moment. The visor lowered and returned to his temple. He covered his face with his hands. Rubbing his eyes hard, turtle shells swam in the darkness. 

“What in the hell was that?” he whispered. Lifting his hands, he tried to look at the girl once more. What he saw, however, was much more than just the girl. 

The room had filled. 

Men, women, and children now stood shoulder to shoulder; gray silhouettes of what they once were. Standing, their hands rose to their faces. Their heads moved in manic, convoluted motions. Screaming and shaking, their bodies remained neutral. Marlowe backed away and the blonde girl stepped forward. 

“Can you see them?”

They moved closer to Marlowe, transporting across the room effortlessly. One moved directly in front of him, the shaking, screaming woman knocking Marlowe from his feet. “What––what,” he mumbled as he crawled away from the slinking apparition. 

It lowered too, following Marlowe. 

“We have to leave,” the girl cried.

Marlowe backed into a wall, the suddenness of it startling him. He looked at the girl fearfully and then back at the apparition as it lowered in front of his face. The otherworldly features and haunting terror painted across its features sent shivers down his spine. “What are they?”

She moved next to him, bridging the distance. She smelled like blossoms. Her blonde hair was a strange contrast as it fell across his arm. Pulling on his arm, her eyes pleaded. “We have to go, they are coming,” she whispered urgently. 

“Who is coming?” he asked, not wanting to look at the shaking, translucent figures. Then he heard the sirens. Paranoia swept over him like a rush of heat: OrionCorps. Maybe Cerulean Dreams Cleaning Crews, though neither option would instill such horror as he saw in the young girl. 

“They are coming. We have to leave,” she replied and pulled at his heavier body. 

“Hold on….” 

He hesitated. 

He did not know what to call her. 

“They called me Dana,” she spoke as if sensing his question. “And we have to go. If they catch us here, they will kill both of us.”

Marlowe struggled to his feet and then groaned as he saw his weapon at the center of the room amidst the strange phantoms. “My gun,” he croaked. His throat was dry and the need for something to drink was suddenly very strong. 

She dashed across the slick material of the floor and grabbed the gun. Shoving it into his hand, she tugged on his arm with renewed force. “We have to go,” she commanded this time. 

He looked back into the room.

The phantoms reacted to the sirens, looking out the broken window into the lights in the distance. Sighing, he grabbed Dana by the arm and pulled the door open roughly. “Fine, I’ll get you out of here. We’re going to have a talk when we get someone safe.”

She looked out into the hall. Her lithe body was barely that of an adult. She looked up into his eyes, the irises nearly clear, the azure only faint. “There is no place in Orion safe enough.”

Sighing, he looked back toward the stairwell. 

“No elevators, looks like it’s the stairs again,” he grumbled and then moved forward, the girl in tow. As he moved through the hallway, he did his best to ignore the slowly emerging forms similar to those he had witnessed in the room. 

They crawled across the walls, their jagged, uneven movements horrifying in a cerebral way. Marlowe could not bring himself to acknowledge them just yet. The brown paint on the walls was chipped in places. The flickering bulb he had passed on his way was blackened. 

“Who exactly is coming?” he spoke, his back to the girl who cowered behind him. He had expected the ogre from before to still be sitting in the hall, but he had apparently already left. “Are we talking OrionCorps, some governmental entity?”

Her voice was a barely audible, just a faint whisper. “The Agency and the Lurking. They are always searching, peering into everyone in Orion. Already they know that you are with me.” She paused, her small arms pulling him to a stop. Her eyes were wells of emotion, deep reservoirs of hidden pain. “You are now in great danger.”

Marlowe cast a sidelong glance at the wall, only to meet the dead glare of a shadowed child. Hollow eyes watched him as it perched upon the wall, head tilted like an owl. “I am beginning to get that feeling,” he spoke. His eyes locked with the apparition that had begun to pull itself from the wall, stretching unnaturally as if to reach out to Marlowe. 

A squeeze of her hand brought him back, her voice laced with urgency. “We must keep moving. They are here as a warning. Those who hunt us are already here.”

Marlowe nodded, gulping as his throat once again felt like sandpaper. The distance to the stairs was covered quickly and he pulled the door open with a sharp grunt. Dana remained a few steps behind him. Her demure figure slunk, looking one way and then the other in outright fear. 

Leaning over the rail of the stairs, Marlowe looked down. Their armor was black, the silver emblem of OrionCorps stamped on their helmets and chest. Marching around each level of the stairs, it was more than a platoon of them. 

They were out for the kill. 

Marlowe pulled away from the railing, sucking in air sharply through his teeth. He clicked his gun against the steel of the railing. “Seems like you’re in a lot of trouble, Dana. What exactly did you do to warrant a platoon of OrionCorps?”

“Not me. We are in trouble, Mr. Marlowe,” she answered. Still standing in the hallway, she held the stairwell door open. “They’re not coming for me. I don’t exist to them. They’re coming for you because they sent them. They know that they can get to me through you.”

Marlowe backed away from the railing and out the door into the hallway once more. He surveyed his options. The cadre of soldiers would be through the door in a matter of minutes. His weapon would overheat before he could down all of them. “I could give you up. Say it was all a misunderstanding, tell them…”

Her fear turned to anger, smooth, pretty features suddenly contorted. “Tell them what, exactly? You don’t have any concept of what is going on. You would turn me over and they would still crucify you. You can run with me or stay and face the consequences for something you cannot comprehend.”

He looked at her sourly, the sweet image of a scared girl gone. “What do you think I should do?” he queried, holstering his weapon and moving deeper into the hallway. 

The darkness there was quiet, except for the buzzing of the lights and the strange whispering that came from every crack and corner of the place. The haunting faces emerged from the walls en masse. 

“Run and don’t look back. Get out of Orion,” she replied. The hallway cornered again and then again, rounding out the floor; a window was beyond the stairwell door that looked out at the adjacent building. 

Marlowe looked at the window thoughtfully. “There is nothing outside of Orion,” he replied, not looking at her and instead removing his weapon from his holster once more. 

She looked at him mutely.

Her intense gaze said otherwise. 

He shot the window twice, the safety glass exploding outward. The sucking of air was a hiss as it flooded the floor. Marlowe shouted as he grabbed the girl by the arm. “When we get clear, I want answers.”

Lips pursed, she simply stared.

Marlowe shook his head and slipped his gun under his coat. “Just hang on and try not to look down,” he said as he pulled her forward into a mad dash. 


Together, they catapulted out the window. 

The world rushed at them. 

Marlowe tried desperately to keep his eyes open as the cold air rushed against his face. The heavy sound of cords firing filled the air. Thick nets exploded across the open space between the two buildings, catching the two twisting bodies. They bounced, head over feet, dislodging his grip on her arm. 

Marlowe watched as the erratic pattern of the cords flooded his vision. He stuck out his hands to try and find some kind of grip, but he was bouncing too fast, making the cords into razors. He struggled to grab a hold, finally doing so. His bloody hands firmly held the web that the cords had created. He gulped, trying to catch his breath, and looked for the girl. 

“Dana,” he called. 

The distance between the buildings was dwarfed by the gulf of gloom beneath them. He stood uneasily, stepping forward with care so that his leg would not be ensnared by the net. 

“Where are you? Dana?” he called again. 

Her voice came slow at first. “Here.”

Marlowe bounded across the net, using its elasticity to cover the distance easier. She was huddled into the fetal position, her hands covering her face. “Are you alright?” he asked, reaching down and touching her shoulder. 

She wheeled, knocking away his hands, slapping him across the face a few times before he caught her hand. “You crazy bastard, you could have killed us,” she screamed, attempting to stand upright, but only falling.

He laughed and backed away as she took another swing. “You seem fine,” he spoke with a grin. 

Looking across to the tower, he saw the shadows that were no doubt OrionCorps searching the floor. Marlowe and the girl had precious little time before OrionCorps figured out that their prey had flown the coop. Reaching down, Marlowe grabbed her hand and pulled her forward. 

“Let’s go,” he spoke, pointing to the opposite building. Fear pulled his hand back, as the building was covered in crawling apparitions. Wide mouths and soulless black eyes peered back at him.

Dana bounced out in front of him, making her way toward the phantom-covered tower, oblivious to what he saw. She had asked him earlier, in the room, if he could see them. He was beginning to wonder if they were seeing the same thing. 

The side of the adjacent building was covered in large, clear windows. Marlowe pulled out his weapon once more. Aiming it unevenly at the closest window as they bridged the distance between buildings, he opened fire. The glass shattered inward and down the side of the building, making an entrance for the displaced duo. 

The Messiah district was adjacent to Sherwood district, named for Sherwood Avenue which ran through the majority of it. From poorer beginnings, Marlowe and Dana found themselves on the threshold of more prosperous opportunities. They crawled through the newly opened window into the relative darkness of the room. 

Dana dusted glass fragments from her clothes. “What just happened? Why didn’t we hit the pavement?” she asked as she peered through the window. 

Marlowe looked back at the window, swallowing hard as the apparitions poured through the opening. “Cerulean Dreams and the 1st Congress wanted to make suicide more difficult, so they installed motion sensors on the outside of all buildings from the 2nd floor to the highest floor. When someone jumps, the sensors recognize it and launch mathematically generated nets to catch him or her.”

She scoffed and continued to dust off the glass particulates from her clothing. “Your little diversion will only sidetrack them for so long.”

“Stay where you are,” challenged a hard voice. 

Marlowe turned. 

His hand was already on the handle of his weapon. 

“Pull the weapon free and throw it toward me,” spoke the voice and then added, “slowly.”

Marlowe acquiesced with a tight smile and threw his gun toward the voice. “We have a misunderstanding here. This girl was a jumper and I went out the window after her,” replied Marlowe, turning around to gesture toward Dana. 

Only she wasn’t there.

“She was here a second ago,” Marlowe mumbled, turning to face the voice. The apparitions no longer crawled. Standing still, they filled the room––so much so that Marlowe could not help but feel claustrophobic. Their faces were frozen in a dead scream, skin gray and shadowed. There were whispering voices that had no gender, but simply spoke in hushed, erratic tones. 

The voice stepped from the shadows. The weapon in his hand was held tightly, the barrel unwavering as it focused on Marlowe. “I’m an OrionCorps officer and this is my home. I know who you are. Your description is being blared over every bandwidth. OrionCorps and Cerulean Dreams are looking for you. Raise your hands above your head. Turn around.”

Marlowe lifted his hands with a sigh. Turning, he spoke. “Sounds like I’m pretty popular. What are they saying I’ve done?”

The click of binders being removed from a belt was not lost on Marlowe. “Some kind of terrorist assaulting the network, out to get Cerulean Dreams. Doesn’t matter, you are a wanted man.”

Marlowe saw the shadow of Dana move along the side of the room. She was caring something heavy. “First time for everything, I guess. I think that you should…” The man clicked the binders hard over Marlowe’s wrists. “That hurt, man. Anyways, I think that you should put your gun down. Hand me my weapon and forget I ever came through your window.”

The officer laughed. 

“And why should I do that, criminal?”

“Because you are about to get your ass kicked by a ninety-pound girl.” The heavy sound of something colliding with bone and the thud of a body dropping announced Dana. He felt a tugging on his binders and then eventual release. 

Again, there was the smell of blossoms. 

“You almost gave me away with your bravado,” she warned, looking at the heap of the officer. His body was splayed, gun vanished in the gloom. Glass gleamed on the beige carpet; shadow cloaked the interior of the room. 

Marlowe bent down, massaging his wrists. 

He opened the man’s coat, reaching into one of the pockets. Removing a black rectangular piece of metal, Marlowe flicked it open, reading the inscription. “Lieutenant Dane Sicirio,” uttered Marlowe. Putting it in his pocket, he added, “Terrible picture.”

Dana moved forward into the darkened interior. 

Marlowe grabbed his weapon, deposited it into his holster, and turned hesitantly. Reaching down, he grabbed the lieutenant’s weapon and placed it in the wide mouth of one of his coat pockets. “Might need this later….”

“Found something,” called Dana from deeper within the dim apartment. 

The apparitions were relentless. Emanating from the darkness, Marlowe could hear them whisper––see the outline of their deformed, broken bodies as they convulsed before him. “What?”

She reemerged, the flickering lights from her hands brought out the color in her face: a portable visor, OrionCorps issue. “You might want to see this,” she responded, handing the device to Marlowe. 

As big as his palm and as thin as a sheet of paper, he held it with one hand, cupped. He ran his hand horizontally across the bottom, a green spectral trail following his finger, engaging the hardware once more. 

“News,” he spoke. 

Not as quick or reactive as the cerebral visor, the imaging took a moment, shaking and garbled as voices and faces came through. The jovial nature of the newsroom seemed unusually morose: black chair and dull gray desk. 

Even Shamus appeared as a graven, caretaker version of himself. “OrionCorps and Cerulean Dreams officials are looking for an individual who has been labeled a possible terrorist. The individual in question is a former military officer and OrionCorps captain, Alexander Marlowe.” Shamus paused and they flashed an archaic picture of Marlowe: close-cropped hair and a three-day beard. A perpetual scowl was spread across his features.

It was the picture of a guilty man. 

“He is being sought in connection with a series of murders involving young women. Bodies of unidentified women have been found dumped in the Messiah district over the past couple of months. Anyone with any information regarding the whereabouts of Marlowe, or any information that could lead to the capture and incarceration of the suspect, would be greatly appreciated and should be directed to OrionCorps.”

Marlowe’s hand flexed, crushing the portable visor. 

“Those sons of bitches,” he growled, throwing the cracked metallic device across the room. “I was trying to find out who was killing the girls. They have it all wrong.”

“They have it right where they want it,” spoke Dana. 

Marlowe brushed past her, opening the door of the apartment and looking out into the brightly lit hall. “I don’t want to hear any more of this conspiracy crap.” 

The voices came again, this time their whispers rose to a crescendo. His mind panicked. Paranoia seeped through his mind slowly, like fingers tickling his brain. 

They were after him. 

He backed away from the door. Glancing at the apparitions that hid in the shadowed corners of the hall, their visages disappeared in the light. 

“What do they want?”

“Me, dead,” she answered. “And you as well, it would appear.”

Marlowe licked his lips. Each hand was on a weapon, gently stroking the handles. 

“We need to get out of this building. We have to find a way out of the city,” reasoned Dana.

Marlowe nodded. 

His voice was low. “Right, we have to get out. Daytime would be better. No one is awake during the day. We can sneak past them in the day,” he repeated. His voice was a whisper, as if he were speaking to himself. 

“Mr. Marlowe?” queried Dana worriedly. 

Marlowe stood fast, his hands shaking a little. “We need to get out of here. I agree with you there. It isn’t safe at all, not at all. Not safe. Not safe.”

Dana placed a hand on his arm. 

“Are you okay, Mr. Marlowe?”

Marlowe laughed nervously. Smoothing his hair with his clenched hand, he breathed out. “We just need to find a way out,” he said, enunciating each syllable to try and calm his nerves. 

Dana peeked out into the hall, taking a small step and then another. Marlowe was behind her, holstering his weapon once more and looking down one side of the hall to the other. He saw the mirthless face of the phantoms that haunted his steps in the corners that the light could not reach. They watched him, waiting for something; what that was, Marlowe was not certain of yet. 

The red light of the elevator caught Dana’s attention. “The elevator would be quicker,” she reasoned as she pushed the button. 

The light changed to a throbbing yellow. 

Marlowe turned quickly to it, his brow heavy in sweat. He nodded slowly. “The elevator would be quicker,” he repeated. 

Dana looked at him and her eyebrows rose as the doors opened. She stepped in, staring as Marlowe stood there. “Mr. Marlowe, are you coming?”

The elevator was filled to the brim. Apparitions stood on top of each other, crawling, spilling from the open doors. “I’m not entirely certain there is enough room,” he managed and then gulped hard as they crawled to his feet. 

Some grabbed on his legs, staring up at him with dead eyes. Marlowe leapt back, batting at his leg. Pulling his weapon, he pointed it at the ground. “I’m not sure if it is safe to take the elevator after all,” he said slowly, the barrel of his weapon wavering. 

Dana watched in horror. Holding the doors open with her hand, she stepped out toward Marlowe. “What is wrong with you?”

He looked at her with wide glazed eyes. 

“You don’t see them?” he asked incredulously. 

She paused and smiled. Her eyes were innocent. “Of course, I do,” she answered. “But we have to get out of this building. You said so yourself.”

Marlowe took another step forward. Grimacing, he kicked at an apparition with his leg, watching as his foot passed right through it. “You see them?” he asked again. 

She placed her hands on her hips. “Yes, that is why we must keep moving. We both see them now. We are in the presence of the truth. We must flee the city or they will get us. I thought you understood this.”

Marlowe swallowed hard. Nodding, his confidence returned as he kicked off another phantom, only to have it replaced by more crawlers. “Right, right. They are coming and these people are portents of the truth. Right, right. Why are they coming again?”

“Because we know the truth,” she replied and gestured all around her. “We see the truth.”

Marlowe nodded again, biting his lip and returning his weapon into his coat. He turned to her, his eyes wide, near manic. “And what exactly is the truth?”

She spun back into the elevator and huffed. 

“We don’t have time for this.”

“Right, no time. Never enough time,” he mumbled. Looking into the elevator, the apparitions were gone. Turning around into the hall, they were there no longer. “Right, now they’re gone because we know the truth and they are coming.”

“Mr. Marlowe?” spoke Dana in irritation again. 

Marlowe stepped into the elevators as the doors closed.

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 He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here:

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Release Day Blitz - Mark of the Dragon by Bill Morgan & M.R. Polish

Mark of the Dragon
Bill Morgan and M.R. Polish

In a land of warriors and dragons, 
everything is going to change...

Countries are divided and war is raging, but none of that matters to Andra. She knows deep down that she is destined to be a dragon rider. There has never been a woman rider, but that doesn’t matter to Andra either. After her father's death, she trains harder than any man to be a worthy candidate. Even when the Aquastrian leader wants her dead, she fights back. Can she overcome traveling hundreds of miles on foot, surviving hunger, bandits, assassins and wild carnivores?

Liam is just another warrior who hopes he is worthy of the Mark of the Dragon. He must endure the long trek from Aquastra to Santerrian and avoid all people and especially those who may be hired to kill him. Meeting Andra along the way changes everything. He fights to help her and kills to protect her, but will it be enough to get them both to their dragons before it's too late?

Mysts of Santerrian World Map

Mark of the Dragon is available now on:

About the Authors:
M.R. Polish was born in Idaho, a long, long, long, maybe not that long time ago.... Writing has always been there for her. Growing up, her mind was filled with stories, some she shared and others she filed away to write down later in life. It wasn't until 2011 that she decided to publish her stories for everyone to enjoy. Her first award and when writing became more than just an idea was in the 5th grade. She won the scary story contest for the school newspaper. It is one story she still has tucked away for memories. Her teacher told her she could be anything she wanted and that she had a talant for writing, being creative and drawing people into her stories. M.R. took that to heart and continued to write, although mostly in secret until recent years. 
Now you can find her enjoying life with her family - wrangling her four kids, setting traps in the house with toys for unsuspecting victims (aka, her husband) and writing down all her crazy and fun stories. 

"Life is too short to stand by and watch everyone else live your dreams. The bigger the dream, the bigger the adventure!" ~ M.R. Polish

You can find M.R. here:

Bill Morgan is M.R.’s dad, and if she was born that long ago, You all

should shudder at how long ago he was born. He has always been
creative. As an amateur artist and an avid woodworker, he always
could see the hidden beauty in a blank piece of paper or a piece of
wood. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1986 and spent twenty years
saving lives and serving his country. He always
had stories running
around in his head, but he never tried to put them onto paper until
M.R. convinced him to do this book with her. Now he is actively
writing two additional sci-fi/fantasy novels. Hopefully she hasn’t
created a monster. Bill’s favorite thing is his family. He has a
wonderful wife, two adult daughters, four sisters, and more
wonderful nieces and nephews than you can believe. His last count
was over one hundred and he loves them all. One of his favorite
quotes comes from a movie, but it applies to writing a fictional novel
as well:
“Don’t know where we’re going, but there’s no sense in being late.”

You can find Bill here:

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