Mobsters, Monsters, and Nazis

Remember the comic book days? Doesn’t this book cover remind you of those times? But this is not a comic book. It is the cover of a six-story illustrated series by Dan O’Brien and Steve Ferchaud, available soon.

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Hello from Dan O’Brien!

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Dan O’Brien and Steve Ferchaud have done it again! Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis will be a six-story illustrated series that will launch on Halloween and conclude right around Christmas. It is equal parts noir, pulp, lovecraft, and detective fiction with enough intrigue and mystery to keep you hanging on.

It is available for pre-order starting today, so be sure to grab it and let everyone know about it!

You can pre-order it for only $2.99 by clicking on the cover above or by following this link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OE781J2

 

 

Lost Socks and Leprechauns

You’re never too old to have one more adventure 
 
Brought to life by Steve Ferchaud’s vibrant drawings, this story for all ages by Dan O’Brien lets us know that it is never too late to have one more adventure. 
 
 
An Excerpt:
 
Robert Pendleton opened one eye as the light of a passing car flashed over the window, shattering the darkness into prisms. He rolled onto his back on the beat-up couch and yawned as he reached his hands up and rubbed his eyes unceremoniously.
He looked out over the darkness at the digital clock. The red digits spelled out a quarter ‘til midnight––nearly fourteen hours of sleep. He smiled and grabbed one of the cushions of the couch, burying his head in it. Just enough sleep, he reminded himself. Robert felt that anything less than twelve hours of sleep was very nearly too little.
He grasped blindly for the TV remote.
Groaning as he lifted his head, he looked at the empty table––his eyes drawn by another flash of a passing car. He couldn’t see clearly, but he knew that the remote had been there before he had fallen asleep nearly half a day ago.
“Could have sworn….” he mumbled as he pushed himself up and brushed his hand around the top of the table, finding nothing. “Where did….”
Another groan escaped his lips as he lifted his body to a sitting position and threw aside the cluster of pillows that he had gathered around himself. He reached out for the lamp, but instead knocked it to the floor with a resounding thud.
Robert muttered as he stood up from the couch, and then sank to his knees to search around in the darkness for the fallen lamp. Reaching around on the shadowed floor, shards of the broken lamp scattered like pieces of light.
He turned his head, peering beneath the large space underneath the couch and saw the reflection of the buttons on the remote. The off-gray piece of machinery was underneath the couch––only darkness lingered beyond it. He reached out as he spoke again.
“How did it get all the way down there?”
Robert flexed his hand and strained as he twisted his back to reach farther; yet, the remote remained just out of reach. He pulled his arm away with a huff and craned his neck to the side, staring underneath into the darkness below the couch.
His eyes widened as he saw the impossible: there was something beyond the remote. He shook his head and closed his eyes, whispering to himself that he didn’t see what he thought he had.
“I saw a little man,” he whispered to himself as he opened his eyes once more and nearly gasped as he did so.
The figure was closer now and he could make out the outline clearly. A tiny man rested just beyond the remote.
“What in the name of…?”
“Not here in the name of nobody, laddie. I be a friend though,” crooned the miniscule figure as he interrupted Robert and stepped forward, placing a hand on the darkened and slick surface of the remote.
A tam-o’-shanter crested his bright red hair, the shaggy mane blending perfectly into his equally crimson, neatly trimmed, beard.
A billow of whitish smoke drifted from the long-stemmed pipe that he held clenched between his lips.
Robert fell back and knocked aside the adjacent table. Rubbing his eyes, he spoke a single word: “Leprechaun.”



About the Author:
 
Dan O’Brien, founder and editor-in-chief of The Northern California Perspective, has written over 20 books––including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. You can learn more about his literary and publishing consulting business by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com. Contact him today to order copies of the book or have them stocked at your local bookstore. He can he reached by email at amalgamconsulting@gmail.com.
Would you like to win a remarked copy of Conspirators of the Lost Sock Army and Loose Change Collection Agency signed by the author and illustrator?

Simply follow the author here and here and a few winners will be randomly selected on March 20th!

Christmas Interview – Dan O’Brien

My guest today is Dan O’Brien, the author of many books. He enjoys writing dystopian novels – stories of weird situations that we probably hope will never really happen on Earth. Still, after you read them, you won’t be able to stop thinking about them.

Welcome, Dan.

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1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

I do indeed. I am thinking of moving closer to my family once again so my wife and I could spend more time with them.

2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

I did a few times when I was in my late teens and early twenties. It was kind of a sad affair.

3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

I’m not really sure what a non-traditional dinner would entail. We sometimes spend the holidays with friends if we are unable to be with family.

4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

I prefer giving gifts that are made instead of purchased. I am personally not a fan of gift-giving during the holidays because of the forced necessity. I like to give smaller gifts throughout the year.

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

Play games with my family during a holiday break. Great part of my year, every year.

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

I do not. We don’t have a fireplace and I feel like one is required in order for proper stockings.

7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

Simply the gift of family.

8. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?

I will generally give them to pledge drives or for needy families.

9. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

I write books for living.

10. What would you change about Christmas?

Nothing. Christmas is personal. The holidays are about family. I don’t really care how anyone else spends it.

11. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

Silent Night perhaps?

12. What do you like best about Christmas?

Family time, for sure.

Water

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FUR5NT6

Water – A B-Sides Story

I want to thank you for having me on your blog to promote the release of my latest publication. Water is a novella in the B-Sides universe, which follows people in a post-apocalyptic world. While each story is a standalone adverture, together they form a deeply intricate web of action, drama, and hope. Here is a brief summary of the novella:
The next installment in the B-Sides series follows a father and son living out a quiet life in northern Arizona. A strange occurrence at the border, and a series of events that turns the world upside down, plunges society into a spiral from which it might not be able to recover. Having to flee from their home with a band of unlikely friends in tow, the open road beckons. 

Can they survive? 

And here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
Tuesday
His phone vibrated as it slowly ventured toward the edge of his nightstand. Shaking and spinning, it was a ballet of electronic futility. James had left it behind; it wasn’t even an afterthought as he neared the valley of sand and heat that he had passed through only the night before. There were two reasons to live in the desert: sunsets and sunrises.
This particular morning was no exception.
The valley was formed of a crimson pastel rock that from a distance looked like the mountains at the entrance to some unknown world. But in the morning and just before the wisps of night grab a hold and smother the day, there was an explosion of colors. It was a beautiful cornucopia of blistering and beautiful art.
The sun crawled just above the sand dunes, flooding the valley in sunshine. The splashing light tumbled across the rock formations, and iridescent stones ignited the walls of the basin.
This was the part of the day James loved the most.
This was when his life felt less worthless.
There was purpose here.
The sun came into the valley each day to create this beautiful marvel, and each day he was here to witness it. The twisting serpent of the road wove in and out of the majesty of nature, until the paved parking lot of his daily grind came into view.
A grotesque sign was perched just off the road.
It read: Our Stuff.
The door of the jeep creaked as James closed it. He pulled his red vest over his black t-shirt and ran a hand through his short hair.
The parking lot was mostly empty.
A beat-up Buick had been parked there since the late 90s and had never moved. By this time, it was a makeshift homeless shelter for local transients. It was an important component of his duties for the day, driving off the homeless when they panhandled in front of the store.
Silence permeated the morning––a rare treat James relished in the early mornings. She walked in from the other side of the parking lot. A blue Honda with a dented door and missing hubcaps was parked some distance away. She was his dream girl, of a sort. She was married to––or had been, it was a strange situation to be sure––a local drunk and abuser.
Light brown hair to her chin: It was often combed over one eye, mirroring a childhood memory. There was too much eye shadow to hide indiscretions, long shirts to hide bruises.
She was a broken doll.
“Hey Violet,” James mumbled as he got closer, chancing an awkward wave.
She rarely looked up and when she did, all he was struck by was the wide eyes that looked at him in gratitude for recognizing her existence. This day, she smiled weakly. Dimples in her cheeks deepened as he got closer.
“Hello, James,” she whispered back, her voice small.
He felt protective of her.
As he neared, he smiled widely, invitingly.
“Did you bring Julie with you today?”
Julie was her eight-year old daughter who often frequented work with her mother when her father was away on a binge, or more violent than usual. James felt defensive of her as well, much to his detriment.
She shook her head. Most of the time she wore an over-sized coat with a faux fur lining and hood that was often the barrier of her hidden face.
“Her father took her today.”
James nodded absently, as he could not imagine what that man could do with a child. He could barely take care of himself. Too often, he would barrel into the store––half-drunk and yelling––and would have to be dragged out by the police. The automatic doors at the front of the store did not open as they approached.
Reaching out, James pulled them open and gestured for Violet to go first. She bowed her head, making an already smaller person even more diminutive. The interior of the store was still dark. The echo of the speakers played elevator music, water-downed versions of songs no one wanted to hear. As Violet disappeared into the aisles of the store, James turned and shut the front doors and locked them.
“See you later,” he spoke, trailing off at the end.
*
The morning passed as it often did.
The sun rose.
Heat sweltered in the desert and the fringe humanity of Miranda sought air-conditioned shelter. James was a walker, a transient employee who sauntered through the store. Seeking out customers who required help, he sometimes cleaned the bathrooms. Often, he attended to those duties that fell between the cracks of other employees. As the morning gave way to the afternoon, there was a palpable tension in the air.
Customers were more curt than usual.
People left angry.
It was not until James had the distinct pleasure of interacting with a deranged desert degenerate that he began to understand what it was about that day that was enraging people so.
“Nametag.”
James did not register the cruel tone at first.
“Nametag,” he repeated, this time drawing James’ attention. “Nametag, I’m talking to you. Turn around.”
James turned, his grimace dissipating into an even line.
It was his best attempt at a smile.
The man was a caricature of a person. His chin disappeared into his pocked neck and his bulging brown eyes seemed to be of two different sizes. Crooked teeth were revealed as he opened his mouth to speak once more.
“Hey, what about customer service? C’mon, nametag.”
“What can I help you with, sir?” mustered James.
The man’s face twisted into a sneer.
He was wearing a shirt three sizes too small, his hairy belly exposed from just beneath the dirty white shirt. Putrid breath radiated from the man. It was an odor that could have risen from a trash heap in the Mojave Desert. “Attitude? You giving me attitude now, nametag? Time like this, in a crisis and what not.”
“I’m sorry that you feel I am being discourteous…”
The man sneered again. His voice, though masculine, broke as he spoke again. “Using big words on me now, college dropout. You think you’re hot shit, selling commodities to us lower folk.”
James looked at the man in disbelief, his behavior was deplorable. “Perhaps if you can just calm down, I can help you find whatever it is you are looking for.”
The man moved in closer, the scent of body odor was overpowering. “You some kind of wise guy? Why do you think I’m here? You retarded? Don’t you listen to the news? Don’t you know what’s going on?”
James looked at him, bewildered.
“Sir, I…”
“Water,” the man spoke clearly. “Water, I need water.”
“Bottled water? Is this about the Hernandez thing? The border?” queried James, making a connection slowly, though uncertainly. “Are they peddling hysteria already?”
“Hysteria, boy, you must be living under a rock. It’s coming. That border thing’s old news. Poison is in Texas now, parts of New Mexico. They’re talking about rationing and sanctions on tap water. You believe that shit?”
James looked around the store. “I really don’t.”
It had evaded him previously.
The scampering populace of Miranda bustled about the store, arms full of plastic water bottles and greater containers. One woman had another by the hair, dragging her away from the last water bottles on the shelf. People screamed at each other, pointing accusing fingers, claiming water as their own.
“It would appear you aren’t the only one looking,” replied James, as he pointed to the pandemonium. “Best of luck to you.”
The man glowered at him as he passed by, but James could not believe his eyes. Lines were backed up, people nearly climbing over each other to get water and carry it away in the heat of the day, to survive.
He stalked over to the throng of people who had begun to congregate around the empty shelves. As he approached, the masses turned as one. Their bleary eyes and angry words were upon him before he could even speak.
“Where is the water?” one cried.
“Is there more?” queried an elderly woman shakily.
“What do we do?” screamed another.
James held up his hands, trying to calm them.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, but they continued to bicker. Each voice rose above the others. Some shoved those smaller than themselves, like a rabid mob. He raised his voice. Some mumbles remained, but most had directed their attention at him. “Let’s all calm down for a moment. I will go in the back and see what we have.”
He moved away from them, not giving them time to object or grow ever angrier. The store was packed. Never in his eighteen months there had he seen such a rush on the store. He wondered what it was he had missed to which everyone else was reacting so intensely. Pushing open the double doors that led into the warehouse, James sighed.
The madness was tangible.
It permeated the air, made it thin.
Other employees had congregated in the back, seeking shelter from the madness. Two of them talked loudly with each other. One he knew, the other was a new employee or perhaps someone with whom he had never crossed paths. The first was dressed in a style that could only be described as early fuckup. The other was the kind of person who you would not give another look, as average as they come.
An unevenly mounted nose ring, jagged teeth, and a tone that was filled with ignorance: The younger man James did not know spoke in an overbearing tone.
“This is epic. All these fucking hillbillies running around like the skies are falling in. I’m surprised the fat ones aren’t screaming Chicken Little. Epic.” He held his hands up demonstratively. “Epic.”
Average Bob watched the less-than-eloquent fellow employee with a listless gaze. “The news said it was serious though…”
“The news? You can’t trust the news, man. They are trying to pull some bullshit over our eyes. Always, trying to force your hand,” he continued to rant.
James moved past, making sure not to make eye contact, as he did not wish to engage them in some kind of rhetorical conversation. As he moved out of earshot, he could not help but shake his head at the redundant movie references that took the place of grammar and syntax. There was only the replacement of actual thought with recycled thought. It had become the repetition and regurgitation of the words of another. He was not necessarily bitter toward fan worship, but was simply irritated by the lack of thought most other people his age seemed to show. They were more content in the safety of what other people thought––more concerned with their small shell of a world and not the greater picture.
His face twisted into a scowl as he moved past racks and racks of brown boxes marked in black permanent marker with various numbers designating position, quantity, and retail-related mediocrity. As he reached the back, where normally there were pallets upon pallets of shrink-wrapped water cases, he swore.
Reaching down, he picked up the wayward bunched band of plastic that had once held the pallet in place. There were seven empty pallets, the entire back stock of what the store carried.
Where had he been?
How had he not seen this?
The voice startled him. “Pretty intense, huh?”
James rose slowly, turning to face Violet. “Yeah, wild. How did I not notice all of this water going out?”
She moved next to him, folding her arms across her chest. “You’ve been in a daze lately, moving around as if you didn’t notice anything, anybody.”
They lingered like this for a moment.
Neither spoke––nor breathed really––except in fractured, shallow breaths. Finally, letting out a burst of air and licking his lips, James shifted his feet and ran a hand through his hair. “I should check on those people out there. They were acting like fucking animals.”
Violet nodded, tucking her hands inside her sleeves.
“Yeah, my break is almost over. I should be getting back.”
James nodded again, awkwardly.
Turning away, he disappeared into the racks once more, leaving Violet to her thoughts. He shook his head and mumbled to himself in mock anger. Whenever there was a moment when he and Violet seemed to connect, they both froze, neither making a move. She was scared, but was looking for a way out.
He knew that.
He could be there for her.
Smacking a hand against his forehead, he whispered to himself angrily. “Stupid.”
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/.

Mondays with Mephistopheles: 9am – Rhys

Welcome to the fifth day of the Mondays with Mephistopheles: 9 a.m. – Rhys blog tour. It will run until August 29th 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 strange world:
Abraham Rogers has an unusual psychotherapy practice: monsters. This first installment is a session with Rhys, the IT vampire who can’t quite connect with the modern world the way he would like.
 
A few questions for the author:
Are you doing what you truly want to do?
I like to think so. I am pursuing my dreams as best I know how. I have been publishing frequently and am in a position to help other writers. I could not imagine doing anything else. As a little boy, I wanted to tell stories for a living; it seems that I have managed that in my own way.
Do you have a dream to follow?
We all have dreams, and we must be brave to follow them. I wrote a novel called The Ocean and the Hourglass with this exact idea in mind. I am following my dreams, for as long as I am able.
Are you proud of what you’re doing or what you’ve done?
Absolutely. I help people realize their dreams and share their stories with loved ones and strangers alike. I am proud to a part of the process.
How many promises have you made and how many of them you have fulfilled?

I try to make short-term and long-term promises, and accomplish them accordingly. I pass by the benchmarks and goals that are on the way to dreams that are far out beyond the horizon. I will never stop trying to reach them….

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
Abe shifted in his seat as Rhys continued. “As if after hundreds of years we only wish to brood and lust for awkward teenage girls. What about knowledge, the wonders of the universe? You humans do not think we have time to absorb the great knowledge of our time? Idiots.”
“It sounds like you think people treat you like you were uneducated. That perhaps you are prone to your baser instincts. How does that make you feel?”
“How does that make me feel? How do you think it makes me feel? Miserable. Like a troglodyte who can’t keep it in my pants. This is the merman problem all over again.”
“The merman problem?”
Rhys waved his hands as if he were a conjurer. “Women want all these myths and fairy tales. A merman is half-man, half-fish. So either they got the right equipment and a fish head, or they got a human torso and fish parts, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow…”
Rhys interrupted, becoming irritated for the first time during the session. “I’m undead. Not one of those drooling groaners, but not exactly going to be warming folks by a fire. Need a beating heart to work the equipment women are interested in.”
“Perhaps you are generalizing a bit. Not all women assume that a vampire equates to fantastical romance.”
“Find me one woman who loves vampires and doesn’t think they are those brooding and beautiful blokes with the spray-on abs. The reality is quite a bit different.”
Rhys motioned with his hand to himself.
Abe tapped the pen on the notebook in contemplation. The vampire had not been this riled in some time. There was clearly another motivation at work here.
“What happened today, Rhys?”
“What makes you think something happened?”
Abe gestured to the defensive posture and pensive––more pensive than normal––look on the vampire’s face. “Your demeanor and outburst would suggest that there was an incident.”
Rhys sighed. “Nothing gets past you. Can’t we just have a normal conversation without you confounding what I am trying to say?”
“This is my job, Rhys. I have to help you confront and move past the hurdles in your life so you can be a happy and productive member of society.”
A brief pause grew between them. It became a staring contest with the loser bearing the impetus of the narrative. Rhys rolled his eyes and tucked his feet under the cushions.
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/.
All of his books are only 99 cents on Kindle right now!
Download Mondays with Mephistopheles for free on Kindle from 8/21 until 8/25!
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The Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow

Welcome to the fourth day of The Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow blog tour. It will run until August 17th 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 strange world:

A plague has covered the land, a single word on the lips of the frightened masses: the Widow. Washing a wave of terror over the countryside and then disappearing like a thief in the night, the Widow holds a kingdom in the palm of her hand. The eyes of Chaos have settled on Prima Terra and heroes must rise. Xeno Lobo, enigmatic and cryptic, hunts the Widow, seeking an object taken from him years before. Will he be able to stem the tide of violence and horror that sweeps the land?

A few questions for the author:

When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?

Quite often actually. I am a practitioner of Wing Chun and an avid fitness enthusiast, so I am always cognizant of the sound and intensity of my breathing. I think that we become accustomed to the regulatory nature of our lives that we lose touch with basic bodily function. There is also a practical component to not paying attention to autonomic processes all the time. If we had to monitor our own breathing every second of every day, we would find we had time for little else.

What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love? 

I love writing and being a part of the process for other writers. All of my recent actions are toward this end. I am very fortunate to be involved in the very things that I love. Also, I love spending time with my wife and recently returned from a trip to the coast that was a wonderful change of pace.

In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?

I have a very precise memory that I hope holds up to the test of time. The minutia of the day will no doubt disappear, but the important moments will linger.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
The castle was an oddity in the poor country. Wicker
shacks and weathered woods that held the measly buildings together were a
drastic contrast to the smooth, carved architecture of the castle upon the
hillside. The providence of Me’lein was the most populated region this
close to the western shores––it had fallen under threat since the coming of
the Widow. 
The path leading to the castle had been plowed in the
early hours of the morning; several feet of snow had fallen during the night.
No tracks had yet graced the way. The main bay doors were guarded by a pair
of dark-garbed soldiers, their steel armor reflecting neither soul nor
compassion. Pikes––gripped tightly––rose far above them; their other hand
brandished a shield with the crest of Me’lein emblazoned across its center:
the essence of a dragon king drifting lazily into the mist. 
Past them was a hall that extended deep into the
darkness––scores of doorways and spiral staircases on either side. The
hallway narrowed toward its completion, the intricate stone walls ending in
a wooden door at its center. 
The same crest depicted all about the mighty castle was
emblazoned here as well. The door opened inward. Within was a grand hall
far taller than any manner of dragon, and darker than the depths of
underworld. But, it was lit brightly by thousands of carefully-placed
candles; at the center of the room was a brilliant white throne. The rests,
the back, and even the cushions were bleached whiter than anything should
naturally be. 
The man who sat upon it was clouded in shadow. His gaze
was that of a shroud. Bearded chin rested on closed fist, royal robes
covering his sinewy flesh. His face was contorted into a frown and black
eyes looked far into the distance, past the guests who shuffled about the
room. The congregation was a mix of all the people of Me’lein. They were
the poor and the rich, the beautiful and the desperate. 
The crowd parted as a tall man approached the throne.
His light purple hat extended far above his head and his moustache extended
down the sides of his face, past his mouth like drooping lines. He knelt
before the man upon the throne, his head bowed and his right arm across his
bended knee. 
“Rise, Gaition. What news do you bring my humble court?”
rumbled the man, his head rising from his fist and leaning against the
marble back of the throne. 
“My lord, I bring a traveler. This man says he has
killed the Widow’s beast, the Nighen. The destroyer of our lands,”
responded Gaition. His light green eyes harbored both deceit and fear.
Hands grasped one another, twisting against each other nervously. The king
leaned back in his throne and closed his eyes. His throat exposed for a
moment, the crest about his neck visible as he paused. 
“Let him in,” returned the king, departing from his
thoughts and staring ahead. 
“As you wish, Lord Verifal. He waits as we speak.”
Gaition bowed and turned from the king, his light blue robes swishing
across the polished floor. His movements were more a scurry than anything
else. Gaition gripped the iron ring that held the door in place and pulled
it forward, revealing the shadowed hallway and the solitary figure of the
hooded man. 
He walked forward, his brown hair hidden beneath the
robes once again. In his left hand, he gripped a cloth bag drawn tight with
a string. As he walked through the congregation, some members grasped their
noses, others covered their mouths. And some even became ill as the man
walked past. 
It was considered disrespectful to allow your hair to
grow longer than that of a king. Verifal’s coal black hair rested around
his shoulders, far shorter than that of the wary stranger who had graced
the hall. The stench that emanated from the cloth bag reached Verifal’s
nostrils and he rose quickly, pointing a finger at the approaching
man. 
“What manner of devilry do you bring upon my doors?”
roared the enraged Verifal, as he stepped down from his throne to intercede
in the robed man’s way. 
The man stopped in his tracks. Reaching his hand into
the bag, he produced the mangled head of the creature he had bested. “The
Nighen.” 
“You have defeated the Nighen?” queried Gaition,
astonished. His thin face was drawn bloodless, and his hand covered his
mouth at the putrid smell. 
The king looked from Gaition to the hooded stranger who
stood before him brandishing the head of the Nighen. “How did you defeat
the Nighen?” 
“Steel: the blade can defeat even the greatest creatures
of the shadow,” replied the hooded man, tossing the putrid head to the
bewildered Gaition. Wiping his hands along his cloak, he pulled the hood
completely from his face. Gaition let out a panicked scream as he caught
the head, and then dropped it unceremoniously upon witnessing the horrid
image of the deceased demon. 
“Are you a hero of Me’lein?” queried Verifal, regaining
his composure and sitting back upon his throne. 
The hooded man looked from side to side and then moved
forward, closer to the throne. He coughed lightly into his hand. “I am from
a place far from here. But I have heard of the Widow who plagues Telen,
especially the providence of Me’lein. I came to aid you in your peril, for
a price,” returned the warrior. 
“A man in pursuit of wealth, I suppose it matters not.
You have destroyed a powerful monster that has ravaged the people of Me’lein
for many moons, and would have for many more without your intervention.
What is your price?” 
“I do not desire your money, King Verifal, but rather a
trinket stolen by the Widow. I have come to kill her,” returned the hooded
warrior. Laughter echoed in the crowd and was silenced quickly by
Verifal. 
“That is a tall order for a man who looks more the part
of a beggar than a warrior,” called a voice from behind the hooded warrior.
A man approached the throne, his armor tarnished silver and his head hidden
beneath a steely skull cap. 
A sheath at his side supported a grand broadsword almost
as tall as the man himself. His dark brown eyes were hidden beneath the
confines of the skull cap, and his size was obscured by his armor. But as
he neared the hooded warrior, the size difference was evident. 
The knight was certainly the larger man. 
“Captain Uthen, this man deserves respect for destroying
the Nighen,” commented the king as he rose from his throne once
again. 
Uthen placed his hands on his hips and towered over the
warrior. The captain moved one of his hands over the hilt of his
broadsword. 
“I can see we have a problem here. Let me make it simple
for you. You will lose that arm before you can even draw that sword,”
cautioned the hooded warrior. 
Uthen’s face darkened and his lip curled in anger, the
grip on his sword tightening. The ripples of his glove made an abrasive
sound. 
“You might watch your tongue…” 
Before the man could finish, the hooded warrior’s blade
was in his hands and he had cut the sheath from Uthen’s side. Returning the
blade to his back, a smirk was planted firmly on his face. Uthen glared at
his fallen sword. Bending to retrieve it, he noticed the astonished glances
of the gathered townspeople and the bewildered face of Gaition in the
corner. He rose and met the warrior’s eyes, but did not speak. 
His gaze went immediately to his king. 
“Most impressive, warrior. You must pardon the brashness
of Captain Uthen. Many have come before the court and announced such
things. Some have turned to evil upon witnessing the power of the Widow,”
spoke Verifal. 
“I can understand such things, but I am here for that
one reason and that reason alone. This beast was merely in the way, a spawn
of the Towers of Darkness. Your captain…” replied the warrior, but was
interrupted by Uthen. 
“Pardon my inability to control my tongue. I have
witnessed the horrors of the Widow first hand and know that she can turn a
great man into nothing, no matter his skill with a blade. Please accept my
apologies,” spoke Uthen, extending his hand to the warrior. 
The warrior gripped it loosely and then let go. 
“Apology accepted.” 
Lord Verifal sighed with relief and sank into his
throne. “With that aside, I feel that introductions are necessary,
mysterious warrior. You have us at a bit of a loss. You know who we are.
But we know nothing of you, not even your name.” 
“Xeno Lobo. I am hunter from a faraway land,” replied
Xeno, his eyes roaming the gathered masses. Their attention had already
returned to their idle, individual conversations that had enraptured them
before his entrance. 
“What is this trinket you seek?” queried Uthen. 
“That is my affair and will stay as such,” snapped Xeno.
Uthen nodded, not wanting to provoke the man who had so easily disarmed
him. 
The king saw the tension and broke into the
conversation. “When do you plan on leaving for the Tower at
Sel’verene?” 
“Tonight, by the light of the moon,” returned
Xeno. 
“But the Widow’s were-beast hunts in the night,” spoke
Uthen. 
“Karian’s playthings are no concern of mine,” replied
Xeno dismissively. 
“Karian?” queried the king. 
“Who is Karian, Master Hunter?” asked Uthen. 
“The Widow, the master of the Tower of Darkness at
Sel’verene,” replied Xeno, his attention brought back to the conversation
after realizing his words. 
“You know the Widow by name?” asked Uthen. 
“I am afraid so,” replied Xeno uncomfortably. 
“This is why you go to Sel’verene?” 
“In a way, but she had taken something from me the last
time we met. I am going to retrieve it at any cost,” replied Xeno as he
moved away from the throne and paced the small area in front of the royal
seat. 
“Last time,” whispered Uthen to himself. 
“We are in your debt for killing the Nighen. If the
Widow has truly taken something from you, then we would be honored to help
you defeat her,” replied Verifal graciously. 
The townspeople whispered among themselves. 
Xeno looked at the boastful king and pondered for a
moment. “How could you possibly aid me in my quest?” queried Xeno, and then
continued. “No army can enter the windy paths that lead to the Tower, and
there is no weapon that I can use better than my own. No magical artifact
or incantation will suffice to defeat Karian, the Widow.” 
“Then what can we lend you? We wish to help you,”
pressed the king. 
The presence of the dark lord Chaos flooded the land in
shadow. The appearance of the Widow was another test of humanity, to see if
they could truly outlast the dark tides of malevolence. 
Xeno parried the question and looked around at the
apprehensive gazes of the court of Me’lein. “What of Chaos? Surely his
coming far outweighs my journey?” 
“The Widow is a part of the evil that is Chaos, and all
must be cleansed in order to restore peace across the land. Allies must be
chosen and lines draw in the sands of war,” replied Uthen with his grand
arms across his chest. 
“Indeed,” returned Xeno with equal dissatisfaction at
the options. “So be it then. Let me reside in Me’lein for the duration of
the night, and then in the morning provide me with a fresh mount and
supplies. This is how you may aid me.” 
“Very well,” replied Verifal with a grand sweep of his
hand as he rose from his throne. “Your request is granted. Gaition, prepare
the guest chambers for Master Warrior Xeno.” 
Gaition bowed and exited the chamber in haste, a
spiteful glare upon his features as he pushed past the congregation of
citizens. Uthen nodded to Xeno as the chatter and conversation of the
antechamber was restored. The vagrant warrior melted back into the surroundings,
awaiting his journey to the north.

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
BittenThe JourneyThe
Ocean and the Hourglass
The Path of the FallenThe
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/.
All
of his books are only 99 cents on Kindle right now!
Download The
Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow 
for free on Kindle from
8/13 until 8/17!
Would
you like to win a Kindle Fire?
Visit http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/ and follow the blog for a chance to win a
Kindle Fire!
 

The Journey – by Dan O’Brien

Welcome to the fifth day of The Journey blog tour. It will run until August 9th 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 strange world:
The Frozen Man. The Translucent Man. The Burning Man. The Wicker Man. The guide known only as the Crossroads, together these are the signposts and totems of the world that the being called the Lonely inhabits. Seeking out the meaning of his journey, the Lonely is a being consumed by philosophical inquiry and adventure. Filled with exotic places and age-old questions, the Journey is a book that seeks to merge the fantastical and real. Join the Lonely as he seeks out answers to his own existence and perhaps the meaning for us all. 

 
A few questions for the author:
Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? 
This is a tough question. I would not want to lose old memories because they make me who I am. Though without the ability to form new memories, I would never be able to change and adapt to the world around me.
Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first? 
In a clinical sense, yes. However, I think we learn the most about the nature of truth when we challenge rigid and unfounded ideas that drive our life. I am a strong proponent of rallying against institutional ideas to learn as much as we can about the vastness of our universe.
Has your greatest fear ever come true? 
Not yet, and I hope it never does.
Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
V
The Frozen Man
The Lonely marched into the darkness that was the tundra. The cold was all around him, though he felt nothing, neither warmth nor freezing cold. A man stood alone in the field, his features obscured.
“Why have you come to the North?” called the figure.
“I seek answers. I wish to know of the Truth.”
“Then you are the Lonely. I am called the Frozen Man.”
“Tell me of the North, Frozen Man.”
The Frozen Man was a pale silhouette defined by coal black eyes and hair. He spoke without inflection, without emotion, without feeling. “The North is a cold place, a desolate place. There is nothing here but survival. There cannot be failure, for failure is the death of the mind.”
“But how can there be success without failure?”
“There is no emotion here, no feeling. We of the North do not require emotions. Our success comes from science, not from emotions. Our accomplishments are different from all others. Ours are hollow, though we cannot see that.”
“Why are you here in the cold?”
“Cold permeates my being, my core. My body long ago ceased to possess the fire of passions, of emotions. A shell remains. This is the price I have paid to become the man I am. Though it was truly only half a life.”
The cold winds blew over the Lonely and the Frozen Man, their still forms holding strong against the elements. If there was nothing here to begin with, then against what were they truly holding strong?
“Why am I here?” called the Lonely.
“This is not your place. This place is for those who truly feel nothing. Those who have left nothing behind.”
“Then my answers cannot be found here?”
“The questions for which you seek answers can only be provided by the one who holds the keys to your creation: the Keeper of the Fates. Though he is no farther from you than you are to me.”
“I feel strange, as though I had just begun, or just ended. This place is so familiar, yet so distant. Why do I feel as I do?”
“This place is both a beginning and an end. Your presence here is a journey, one which molds you, shaping the person you will become.”
“Who am I?” spoke the Lonely.
The winds shifted yet again, but neither entity moved.
The world around them howled in silence, in the vast emptiness that was both nothingness and infinity. The Frozen Man’s features had shifted. His skin had grown paler, so much so that it was now azure.
It was the color of the icy waters of frozen lands.
“You are the Lonely,” the Frozen Man spoke.
“What does it mean to be the Lonely?” iterated the monotone, unflinching figure of the Lonely.
The Frozen Man’s face sluiced with icicles as if he were growing ever colder. “That is perspective. Your name here in the North would be of high status. To achieve a place where you require no solace or emotion would be a gift. True solitude would allow for incomparable logics and histories.”
The Lonely wrung his hands and looked down at the tattered rags that he wore. “Why do I not have fine clothes?”
“There is no need for such frivolities here. For in the North, it is your mind that is the greatest commodity. Why would any man place a material thing such as riches above intelligence? What can be gained by this?” returned the Frozen Man, his coal eyes watching the Lonely.
The Lonely looked off into the distance and saw only more tundra. The landscape about him was nothing more than a never-changing white sheet splashed occasionally with peaks and valleys of a useless existence. “To base one’s life? To give meaning?” the Lonely returned quizzically.
“Is intelligence not a grand enough reward, worthy enough pursuit?”
The Lonely shook his head, running his hands over his face. He felt for the first time that his skin was smooth, and warm. “Perhaps, but at the expense of longing and connection it may be too little of an effort for a life.”
The Frozen Man faded and then reappeared behind the Lonely. This time it stood twice the height of the smaller man. “We must all focus and commit to something. Can you think of something nobler? More important?”
The Lonely looked upon the horrific image of the giant Frozen Man. “I do not know. How can I possibly? I do not remember who I am or how I came to be here.” Then lowering his head, he mumbled. “Am I dead?”
“What is death?” echoed the Frozen Man.
The Lonely shook his head, defeated.
“To not live? Cessation of functions?”
The wind howled across them, but the Lonely could not feel the frigid touch of the gales, nor hear its mammoth cry. “To die is then to cease brain function? Is that what you believe?”
The Lonely shrugged; the act as difficult for him as it had been for Atlas. “I do not know,” he answered.
The Frozen Man nodded, crossing his mighty arms across his chest. “Then by that definition you are dead. Your body is no longer functioning in the realm from which you have come. Here you are anew.”
“Then am I not alive?” replied the Lonely, lifting his head to meet the empty gaze of the Frozen Man. Touching his skin and pressing his palms together, he gestured. “Am I not form again? Is this not a state of being?”
“What then is life?” mocked the Frozen Man.
The Lonely kicked aimlessly at the snow beneath his feet. As he did so, he realized that he wore no boots, nor shoes.
His feet were barren and his skin tan.
“I have no shoes.”
The Frozen Man did not seem surprised. “If you did not have a coat, why then would you possess foot coverings?”
“Is this all a dream?” whispered the Lonely. “How can I know that I am not dreaming?”
The Frozen Man had ceased to resemble a man any longer and appeared more as an ice creature. A gargantuan mound stood where the Frozen Man had previously and only the voice emanated from the mountain of ice. “To dream is a state in which there are concurrently literal and figurative meanings.”
“This must be a dream,” repeated the Lonely.
“A dream can be had when one is conscious or unconscious. To have a dream is to possess a wish or hope for the future to which all subsequent actions are directed. Are you asleep? Imagining this? Perhaps, but how could you tell? I would not know the answer to that question. Only you could know such a thing,” answered the Frozen Man, its voice like thunder rising from the depths.
“I have never dreamed such a dream as this. As well, I had never wished to be bound to such a place; so by your definition this cannot be a dream,” began the Lonely slowly. “However, that is by your definition and if this were a dream, then it would be based on my definitions, my wants and beliefs.”
The mound shuddered and the Lonely turned away.
A white glow struck out that was soon accompanied by a piercing whine that rose and rose yet again, until the mound dissipated in a storm of ice crystals. Removing his hand from his eyes, the Lonely saw that the Frozen Man had returned: where before it had been a pale man, it was now only the metallic exoskeleton of a robot.
Pivots and rotors of steel framed the creature.
It was now the very core of what it wished to be.
The Lonely looked upon what the Frozen Man had become. “You do not see a difference, do you?” queried the Lonely. “In yourself, when you look upon yourself. When you see yourself now it is as it has always been?”
The Frozen Man nodded.
“Flesh, humanity, emotion. These are devices and totems that hold no merit. We of the North require none of them. We are whole in our intelligence.”
The Lonely was not satisfied.
“Your intelligence cannot be complete when you see only one piece of the spectrum. To believe yourself whole by adhering only to the tenants of a pure intelligence, you neglect the aspects of other forms of intelligence. There is much more than accumulated knowledge. Can you not see that in all of your perceived wisdom?”
“By shedding all human endeavors, we can understand what makes them weak, incomplete. In our objectivity we need not experience them, only witness and catalogue,” replied the Frozen Man.
“There is not one form of intelligence greater than that of another. You speak as though the ones inferior are not worthy of your time. They are equal in the balance of things,” offered the Lonely.
The scream was like that of a thousand voices breaking upon one another. The mountains shook, the ice split at the feet of the Lonely. “Lies.”
The Lonely stepped forward, moving away from an ever-growing crack at his bare feet. “They are not lies, but perspective, true objectivity. What you look upon as truth is little more than the subjective product of your unfair judgments.”
The Frozen Man shook violently, the pistons of its joints spewed wildly. Its face, no longer masculine or feminine, contorted horrifically. “No, what you speak of is evil. Those are lies.”
“Is it evil to speak the truth?”
The Frozen Man had begun to hunch.
“The Truth is. It is without right and wrong, for morality is created by societal law influenced by perspective. Therefore information is neither evil nor good, but instead detrimental in the hands of those who do not understand.”
The Lonely nodded.
“Precisely, so what I speak is simply information that is hurtful because of what you believe. That does not make it truth or lies, it simply is.”
The Frozen Man had been reduced to little more than a dwarfish version of itself. “There are no more answers for you here. Leave at once.”
The Lonely opened his mouth to reply, but he felt a force tug upon the very fiber of his being. At first in one direction and then another, until his body was being pulled in so many directions that he felt as if he was going to be torn into nothingness. The world before his eyes was at once light and darkness and he faded.
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/.
All of his books are only 99 cents on Kindle right now!
Download The Journey for free on Kindle from 8/5 until 8/9!
Would you like to win a Kindle Fire?


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