Today, author Dan O'Brien continues his summer blog tour with a guest post on his sci-fi thriller Cerulean Dreams. Dan will be giving away a Kindle Fire and other goodies at the end of the tour, so make sure to leave a comment for your chance to win!
Welcome to the sixth 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:
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I often couch characters in the sentiments and personalities of people who are in my life. I hover over speculative fiction, so most of the events are purely fictional. There are some amusing places in some of my novels that were inspired by real events though….
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I love to write the very sad parts. I find these parts in movies tremendously interesting as well. Also, any time I get to spend time with my antagonist, I consider it time well spent.
How did you come up with the title?
My titles are born from the truncation of an entire idea into a single word, or something pithy I thought of. I have blank files of great titles that will probably never be turned into novels. This arises from a need to have a title for a book before I begin writing it.
What project are you working on now?
Some re-releases, sequels, serials, and even some all new titles. It will be a busy year.
Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
The out-of-commission tunnel was serene darkness except for dim running lights that traced a path along the exposed electrical work. They had stepped off the beaten path almost immediately, knowing that the dead body on the train and the carnage that had ensued would draw government attention soon enough.
Marlowe shook his head as he walked, muttering to himself. “Can’t be real….” He watched all around him. Sometimes faces appeared, horrifying renditions of things resembling humanity.
Often, he would look at the dark corners and see the scurrying forms that seemed to plague his every step. He felt like they were being followed every second they walked. There was something else, some slinking force that haunted their footsteps.
“It’s the Lurking, isn’t it?” he queried out loud.
Dana did not bother to stop, her long strides like miniature leaps. “You believe me now, do you?”
Marlowe craned his neck. The air moved, swirling about as if there were something twisting in the wind. He watched the darkness, bore through it with his penetrating stare and he swore he saw it.
“Something is here.”
He drew his firearm slowly, watching as the entity moved in the corner. The folds of its body were whipping like a flag in a gale: a bloated, blackened flag that was sentient. It catapulted itself forward, taking flight. It was a great raptor of shadow that descended from consciousness.
“Down,” he roared.
He pushed Dana, his body covering hers. The entity fluttered––ripples of its being undulated like waves upon a rocky shore. Marlowe fired; the discharge of his weapon smoky and the impact meaningless as the bullets passed through the creature.
Dana turned her head, pushing away from Marlowe.
“What the hell are you shooting at?” she cried.
Marlowe watched the creature recede.
It did not possess eyes. Ripples formed a dome that seemed to bob from side to side, as if watching Marlowe. He swallowed hard with his weapon tight in his hand. His gaze firm upon its departure back into the shadow.
“There was something crawling in the corner, some kind of weird thing that floated in the air.” He looked at the gaze of disbelief upon her face and shook his head. “I know what I saw. There was something there.”
Dana moved past him despite his silent, physical protests. “I don’t see anything.”
Marlowe re-holstered his weapon, clearing his throat.
“It’s gone now.”
She raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. “Of course it is. The thing that you saw that was attacking us, that I didn’t see, is gone. Vanished just like that.”
“Right,” he answered, looking farther ahead into the tunnel. She crossed her arms as if thinking. Marlowe threw his hands into the air in frustration. “I know what I saw. You said something was following us, something called the Lurking. Maybe that’s what this thing was.”
All the mirth in her mockery dissipated. She moved closer to him, her eyes very serious. “You saw the Lurking? The Lurking was here: is that what you are telling me?”
He spoke slowly for emphasis. “I saw something.”
“The Lurking,” she stated.
Marlowe shifted uncomfortably, watching as the undead wandered back into focus. Their gaze no longer seemed steeped in harmful intent. Instead, it shone of ridicule now.
They were mocking him.
“Since you know what it looks like, you tell me. It was a giant shadow that rippled in the air and seemed very intent at getting to us. You know anything else that fits the description? Because if you do that would go miles in explaining what’s going on here.”
It was her turn to fidget.
“I do not know what the Lurking looks like.”
Marlowe scoffed, his laughter soon rolling in the high ceilings of the empty rail path. “You don’t know what it looks like? You are telling me that I didn’t see anything, but you don’t even know what that thing looks like? That’s brilliant. That is amazingly transcendent, Dana. Thank you so much for that insight.”
He turned––his laughter dissipating.
“Are you coming?”
After an hour they emerged from the abandoned tunnel into a vertical shaft that crawled toward the surface. Marlowe grabbed the iron rungs of an industrial wall ladder and pulled himself up with a huff, taking each in order. Dana waited before following, her small body easily climbing the fifteen-meter shaft.
Marlowe stopped at its apex, feeling around above him for a handle. The shaft would lead them back onto the streets of Orion; back into the race against time for which they seemed so ill-equipped. He found the handle––the slime that surrounded it something of which Marlowe would rather not know the origin.
“Where are we going?” Dana’s voice seemed small from beneath Marlowe. He wrenched on the handle, the old metal giving way to his leverage. As it finally moved free, he let out a loud breath of air from the exertion.
Light shone from above; night was giving way to day. “We are going to get some answers, since I seem incapable of coaxing them from you,” he mumbled as he pulled himself through the manhole cover and onto the streets of Orion.
The sun had begun to make its presence known. The sky was filled with reaching fingers and tendrils of its grasp, the power of the day expunging the night. He sat on the street as he looked down at her dirt-marred face. She had been quiet since their exchange in the tunnel.
“Give me your hand,” he ordered.
She did so without question and he pulled her through. As she stood, he replaced the cover with a grunt. Orion was a different creature during the day. The bright signs of the night had dissolved. The effulgent lights that spoke of necessary things were dwarfed by the golden power of the sun.
Buildings seemed less majestic as the sun shone on them. Dirty on the outside, they were covered in ash and dust that could not and would not be witnessed at night. “Orion sleeps through the day. We will have to be careful,” warned Marlowe as he looked at the buildings. Their appearance seemed more like fossils rather than advanced works of art.
Marlowe felt for his weapon.
He did not see the crawling creatures.
Despite their general creepy nature, he had become accustomed to them; their absence did not bode well for his paranoia. “Orion is a city of the night. I am rarely awake at this hour. The visors regulate our sleep, make sure we are rested, watching our vitals and sleep patterns in an effort to make things more harmonious,” he spoke as he walked out into the empty streets of Orion, the lack of humanity disquieting.
He looked back at her.
The sun’s reach bounced from building to building, bringing ever-present light. “I am beginning to suspect that our sleep has something to do with all of this. I haven’t been able to piece together what has happened. That is why we are going to see a friend. To get some answers.”
Her tight-lipped stare revealed a woman who wanted to say more. “Where is your friend?”
Marlowe checked the buildings visually. Without access to the network, he would have to depend on knowing the city by sight. He pointed at a marble statue. Its beauty was disfigured by blackened lines of soot, marred by the inattention of the populace.
“That is the Barren Maiden. It was placed there some time ago. It was a gift from an artist to the city to commemorate the destruction of the world as we knew it, the infertile landscape that gave birth to Orion.”
Dana ran a hand over it, stepping past Marlowe.
“It’s beautiful,” she marveled.
Several hundred meters tall, she was only able to touch the feet of the statue. The woman stood facing west, away from the rising sun. Her clothes windblown, her hair ravaged about her perfect face. Her eyes looked toward the future. “The great matriarch of Orion at its center, we are a stone’s throw from Cerulean Dreams and the Pearl District. A place we do not want to be.”
“Why?” Her mind was still absorbed by the statue.
“Pearl District is home to OrionCorps main headquarters. My friend lives in the Portrait, just east of here. We should not linger,” he spoke. He started to walk east, past the statue and into a throng of smaller buildings that were painted mustard yellow.
Dana looked high into the smoky red clouds of the rising sun, seeing that the morning light hid the face of the woman. “What will your friend be able to tell us?”
Marlowe watched the terrain.
The ground seemed cracked, like it had hardened and split in places. He watched as the cracks crawled across the ground and up the side of the building, shattering the windows into broad webbed strokes. The running board of information that ran around the building did not glint in the morning light. Instead, its information seemed labored and slow.
He stepped closer to the running board, reading the information there. Normally it spoke of rising stocks, news and information that was pertinent to Orion. It was often nothing more than mindless advertising.
This, however, was different.
His lips moved as he read it, his neck pulsed: They are coming for you. They are right around the corner. They are going to get you, Marlowe. You can’t run from them. The Lurking is watching you. The board stopped and crackled, electricity arcing and leaping out at Marlowe.
“Marlowe,” she shouted.
He looked at her.
She stood a meter from him. “What are you doing?”
Looking back at the board, he saw that it was simply spewing information about stocks, useless numbers running and cataloguing themselves. “I was looking at the board there. It said….”
He struggled to find the words.
“Sir, do you need assistance?”
The voice was masculine
Marlowe turned and groaned.
The crisp OrionCorps uniform seemed unfettered by the morning. His face was clean-shaven, young. He hadn’t yet drawn his weapon. Dana looked from Marlowe to the youthful officer.
Marlowe tried to shake the cobwebs from his mind. The things that he was seeing were confusing him. “No, we’re fine. We are on our way home,” mumbled Marlowe and then adding, “thank you for your concern.”
Dana’s fear only intensified; she felt like the exchange was slowed. The officer stared at her again, seeing her fearful face. The fact that Marlowe was twice her age and looked like he hadn’t showered in weeks gnawed at the officer.
She was a pristine young woman.
Alarms went off in his mind. He touched the side of his temple, his visor coming out only over his left eye. The blue was not as vibrant in the light of day. “What are you doing out at this hour? Aren’t you tired?”
Marlowe could hear the man’s heartbeat, the accelerated thud of fear and anticipation mixed in a dangerous concoction. “Long night, I’m just trying to get my daughter home, officer.”
“Why is your visor up?”
His voice challenged Marlowe’s sensibilities.
Marlowe’s arm itched.
The sun brought the heat with it. The smell of the rail tunnels overpowered his nostrils and he couldn’t remember the last time he slept. The little man was getting on his nerves. “I must have shut it off early. I know the way home without it.”
The officer scrutinized Dana, his half-covered face smooth, as if oiled. “Is that your father? Are you in trouble? Your heart rate is too fast, your pupil dilations read as if you were in fear for your life. Is this man taking you somewhere you don’t want to go?”
Marlowe watched Dana. Before this night, he had only seen dead young girls, their once-perfect features distorted and mangled.
He had gotten to one of them in time.
She wasn’t dead.
Dana looked at Marlowe.
She was shaking now.
Opening her mouth, no words came out.
Her eyes were glassy and wide.
The world snapped.
Light became brighter.
The night was gone and with it the madness that had impaired him. There were no longer denizens from some horrific dream. He had the girl and nothing was going to stop him from getting answers. “Not her father,” Marlowe finished.
The officer turned, his weapon drawing with him.
Marlowe was already in motion. He grasped the officer’s hand as he tried to pull his weapon free. His startled look brought a sad smile to Marlowe’s face. He pulled the trigger, the weapon exploding against the officer’s leg.
Screaming out in pain, he fell back.
As he did so, Marlowe pulled the officer’s weapon from the holster and steadied it on his prostrated frame. The man covered his face, though his lips moved. He was using the visor to communicate.
The shot caught him along the left temple, shattering immediately any connection he had with the network and OrionCorps. The man twitched, the involuntary spasm drawing a panicked gasp from Dana as she hid behind Marlowe.
“Sorry kid,” he whispered as he placed the young, dead officer’s weapon inside his long coat and turned without another word.
Dana stood over the dead man, kneeling and touching his face where the round had impacted. She smoothed away the blood-soaked hair from his face. He had been handsome. She had not wanted him to perish like this, but he would have interfered. He would have undoubtedly complicated things.
The sun was in full view in the east, proud and strong. She hoped that the day would be better for the two of them than it had been for the young officer that morning.
Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.
Would you like to win a copy of Cerulean Dreams?
All you have to do is comment on a post during the tour. Two randomly drawn commenters will be awarded either a physical or digital copy of Cerulean Dreams.
Visit http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/ and follow the blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!
Visit http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/ and follow the blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!