Help Me Create a New Hunky Hero

I love writing romantic suspense, and I’m ecstatic about being able to communicate my love for all things country through my novels.
I write about country folks from small towns, where the pace of life is slower; porch swings; winding dirt roads; mountain vistas; swimming holes; spreading oak trees festooned with Spanish moss; farms; horses, dogs, cats, cows, and wildlife.
I also get to create gorgeous, strong-willed country girls and hunky, dreamy country men. And I say men because they are definitely not boys!
So far, these are the hunks I’ve created in my published and yet to be published novels:
REDNECK P.I. – Harland O’Connor – Thirty years old, six three or four, ripped, tight buns, broad shoulders, tanned, brown messed-up hair with sun-bleached highlights, deep brown eyes with long lashes, square jaw, and the hint of a smirk around his mouth. Raised on a farm in Nebraska.
                 (Pictured on the right below with his twin brother on the left)

KICK ASSITUDE – Tanner Ferrano – Twenty five years old, curly brown hair, blue-gray eyes, dark lashes, even white teeth, five o’clock shadow, deep voice. Works on a cattle farm in Alabama.

       WAY OUT OF LINE – Hal St. Clair – Twenty three years old, tall, teasing gray-green eyes, tanned, broad shoulders and firm chest muscles, unruly blonde hair. Small town Texan.
        CAPRICORN CRAVINGS – Powell Stewart – Thirty five years old, tall, big muscles, wavy brown hair, deep blue eyes with long black lashes, tanned, laughter lines, straight nose, strong jaw, five o’clock shadow, dimples, raspy voice. FBI agent. Mountain climber.
(FIRST in the Astronomy Series – to be published later this year by Soul Mate Publishing).
        THE AQUARIUS ARCANUM – Andre Rossouw – Twenty six years old, stocky build, blonde curly hair, green eyes with dark lashes, square jaw, South African accent. Farmer/engineer.
(Second in the Astronomy Series – still a work in progress.)
I would LOVE to get some feedback from ladies who love reading romance and romantic suspense to help me create my next hunky country man. I’ll give away an e-copy of Redneck P.I. to any woman who gives me new ideas I can use. Write them in the comments section of this blog.
I am excited to see what you come up with!

And any guys reading this, your turn is coming, because in my next blog post, I’ll be asking for guys’ input to help make my sassy country women more exciting.

First Page – Foul Shot – R.L. Cherry

Chicago Police detective Vince Bonelli’s life had been organized and comfortable when sexy Gina Gallo blew into it.  Like a whirlwind, she changed everything, destroying parts of Vince’s life as she drew him close to her.  Yet, while physical intimacy was not a problem for her, she would not let Vince past her mental and emotional barricades.  The question is will they survive the devils of Gina’s past and of Vince’s present?   While Vince was a cop, it is not a cop story.  While there is mystery, it is not a mystery.  While there is romance, it is not a romance.  Part suspense and part drama, Foul Shot describes how Vince found that, while his life after meeting Gina was never dull, it was often traumatic and sometimes deadly.

May 1992

Chapter 1

As Chicago Police detective Vince Bonelli picked up his gun and his star from the dresser, his girlfriend Gina came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.  She rested her head against his shoulder.  “Maybe you should cancel.”
He stopped and turned to her, breaking her embrace.  “Why?”

Gina brushed her short, black hair from around her face.  “I don’t know.  I don’t trust Frank Calmonico.”
“But this was your idea.  Meet with him so he’ll know I wasn’t behind someone taking a shot at him.”
She shrugged.  “Maybe I was wrong.”
Vince shook his head.  “Frank may be crazy, but he’s not stupid.  He’s not going to whack me in my own neighborhood, on my own turf.  Besides, he knows it wasn’t me shooting at him last night.  He’s known me since we were kids and it’s not my style.”
“I know, I know.  Still, I don’t trust anyone in the Outfit, especially not Frank.  You told me he’s a real sociopath.”
“He is and I don’t trust him either, but if Frank wanted to kill me, he wouldn’t do it at lunch.  Too many witnesses.  I’d just get gunned down walking on the street.”
She studied him for a moment, her brown eyes pleading.  “If you won’t cancel, then at least wear your vest.”
“You know I hate that thing.  It’s hot and uncomfortable.  Besides, it makes me look like a penguin.  I’ll be fine.”
She reached up and gently touched his cheek with her palm.  “Do it for me.  Besides, if you look like a penguin, other women won’t make passes at you.  After all, women are hot for Nicholas Cage.”
Vince smiled.  As if any other women would be making passes at him.  Gina was…


I’m thrilled to announce that according to the terms of my publisher’s contract for my novel, Redneck P.I., I am now able to regain all the publishing rights.

Accordingly, I have done just that, and to celebrate, I’m offering the new upgraded version of Redneck P.I.  for Kindle at 99c.

I will also offer it at the same price in other downloadable formats and will place a link here as soon as it’s done. 

Eventually the price will go up again, so get your copy now and enjoy a little bit of light-hearted fun and romance.

First Page – What’s Behind Your Belly Button?

“What’s Behind Your Belly Button?” A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and “Gut Instinct”,  by Martha Char Love and Robert W Sterling, a narrative of the maturation of sciences of psychology and neurology, introducing a new Gut Psychology to explore the psychology of intelligence of what science now calls “the second brain” or gut brain.

What’s Behind Your Belly Button?
Martha Char Love
Robert W. Sterling

This book is a work conceived out of the awareness that directions we take in life often are chosen because of the impact on us of external forces. Judgments of authorities, well-meaning counselors, circumstances, and too often crises dictate the roles we play and the characters we assume, which seldom coincide with our inner needs. Time is wasted day after day and energy is dissipated by each of us pretending that we know what is important while within us is the growing feeling of emptiness.
The experience we have obtained interacting with individuals and groups, provides us with a growing awareness that the feelings, which are ordinarily dealt with, are not pure feeling responses. These so-called feelings are instead, a mixture of thinking and feeling, we commonly call emotions. These logical feelings have a curious universality of meaning, even though these feelings are learned in totally different environments.
Seldom are any of us encouraged to learn to take action as children based on feelings. We seem to grow-up physically, schooled to “think for ourselves” about externalities that are usually only vaguely related to our Selves. If there is any reference in our education and experience to inner necessity, other than food, air, and water, it is carefully molded to conform to patterns of acceptability until only vestiges of human instincts are allowed to show. And thus we individually live in fear and guilt, angry that we must deny our organismic feelings and perform in the best way we can, caught between the feeling of need and the judgments of those to whom we want to stay close.

This book was written because of the experience we gained as career counselors trying to reach beneath the …

First Page – Awakenings from Then ’til Now

A grave price is being paid every moment of every day of the year for all the freedom America has to offer. Let us not forget those who have fought or are fighting for our nation; they are the epitome of the human spirit called freedom!


Embrace the Past, Empower the Present, Enrich the Future 

“History is a mighty dramos, enacted upon the theatre of times, with suns for lamps and eternity for a background.”
—Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)


Sharla Lee Shults

            What is life without history? Isn’t life itself history in the making? Every word we say, everything we do, becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history to be boring, think again; it is who we are, what we do, and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds, but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

            Our life’s blood stems from our fathers whose fathers’ fathers lived and died to make this country free. And their mothers endured pain and suffering beyond our imaginations. Do we just accept life and look only unto ourselves as mere individuals, or do we examine our ancestry and learn from experiences deemed successes as well as failures?

“It is the calling of great men, not so much to preach new truths, as to rescue from oblivion those old truths which it is our wisdom to remember and our weakness to forget.”
—Sydney Smith (1771–1845)
From me…
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers
Lived and died laying a firm foundation
Blood, sweat, tears, labors, even fears
Paved the way for future innovation
Generation upon generation
Of caregivers and caretakers
Ensure longevity of our nation
From carpenters to boot makers
Vivid stories and recollections
Allow us to peer into the past
Sense the emotion, discern the pain
Echoing memories to last and last
Past events dominate present-day life
Through traditions, beliefs and religions
Surviving countless ravages of time
Regardless of conflicts and afflictions
To you…
Turn the page, awaken to timeless treasures from then ’til now.
Embrace the past, empower the present, enrich the future
See yourself not as an isolated individual
But part of a thread binding life together like a suture
Begin your footsteps…

Buy now on Amazon:

First Page – The Devil of Darfur

To what lengths will a father go to save his son?
How far will a soldier go to save humanity?
During a humanitarian mission to Darfur, Ethan and several of his college friends are kidnapped by the Janjaweed rebels. With the clock ticking and unable to get any help from the State Department, Ethan’s father Peter Savage turns to his childhood friend and commander of SGIT, Jim Nicolaou. When Jim refuses to send in a team to rescue Ethan, Peter has only one option … a plan that seems foolhardy and doomed to failure.
The Janjaweed rebels are not taking hostages for ransom, but rather to be sold as subjects in bizarre and inhumane genetic experiments aimed at creating a race of super soldiers—a hybrid creature created by infusing Neanderthal DNA into human DNA. The rebels work for a shadowy character named Colonel Ming.  But in Darfur natives call him by another name … the Devil.

The Devil of Darfur
Dave Edlund

Chapter 1
Late Pleistocene Era
27,000 Years Ago
Lightning flashed again, lighting the cave entrance. A moment later the thunder clap resounded like canon fire. The adult females and children had retreated deeper into the cave, fearful of the passing storm. It was early morning and the approaching sunrise painted the eastern horizon a deep crimson purple. The two younger males who would be part of the morning hunting party warmed themselves by the fire, preparing for the hunt.
Multiple lightning bolts split the dark sky silhouetting the lone figure at the mouth of the cave. Tok was the undisputed leader of this clan. He was large for a Neanderthal, standing a full hand taller than the other mature males; he was also much stronger and heavier, weighing a third again as much.

Tok had ruled this clan for the past six winters, ever since his father had been killed hunting the wild Ice-Age boar. Like most of the large mammals of this period, the wild boar was much larger and more aggressive than any modern porcine. A large boar could weigh upwards of thirteen-hundred pounds; four to five times Tok’s weight. Combined with outwardly projecting tusks over ten inches long and four inches around at the base, this animal could eviscerate even the largest predators of the period including the short face bear and saber tooth cat.
Tok did not fear the heavenly pyrotechnic display. Like most natural phenomena that he did not understand, he simply accepted it. His mind dealt with Earthly realities—survival. And although some members of his clan were learning to create cave paintings depicting successful hunts, and to fabricate simple jewelry, Tok had no time for such abstract thought processes.
He stood at the mouth of the cave, gazing at the dark sky, wearing a warm bear-skin cape and holding his short spear. The spear was made from a young but sturdy hickory tree that he had selected for its small diameter and straight growth. Tok had spent countless hours fashioning the shaft and hardening it by rubbing and rotating the green wood in the embers of a dying fire. Finally,


Dan O’Brien – The Path of the Fallen

Welcome to the sixth day of The Path of the Fallen blog tour. It will run until July 8th and will feature excerpts, new author interviews each day, character interviews, and a casting call by the author. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this sprawling fantasy world:
Set against the backdrop of the tundra and a world desperate for hope, the journey of a young man, E’Malkai, will come to define a realm that has been broken by an evil that does not sleep. A bitter betrayal, and the inception of a war that will consume the world, forces E’Malkai to confront the past and undertake a pilgrimage that is his birthright. Follow him on his journey and be transformed. 
An interview with the characters from The Path of the Fallen:
As I sit down at my computer, I am struck by the eerie presence of someone behind me. Leaving behind the blinking cursor, I realize that the cast of my latest novel, The Path of the Fallen, are standing behind me. E’Malkai, sullen and burdened by the weight of the pilgrimage he has undertaken, stands behind the immovable figure of his Umordoc guardian, Elcites. Arms crossed over his chest, his gaze unsettles me despite how much time I have spent in his company whilst writing The Path of the Fallen. Arile, proud hunter of the north, leans against his spear and inspects the wall with a carefree look upon his face. Fe’rein, shrouded in the darkness that complements him so well, seethes with a dark mix of irritation and confidence. 
E’Malkai: I heard that you wanted to speak to us.
Me: (clearing my throat) In a manner of speaking, yes. 
Fe’rein: (glowering) What do you want? We have business left unfinished.
Me: I am releasing The Path of the Fallen, after nearly a decade hiatus, and wanted to let potential readers know a little more about it. Instead of giving them a dry summary or an adjective-laden exposition, I thought getting to know the characters might be a fun exercise. 
Arile: (not making eye contact and looking away with a bored look on his face) What precisely would these potential readers want to know about us? We are an open book (snickers).
Me: Let’s start with something simple: Describe yourself to the readers.
Fe’rein: Darkness. Death. There is little else to know. 
E’Malkai: (shifting uncomfortably behind his guardian) I do not know what to say about myself. I thought I knew what I supposed to do with my life, but there was always something missing. When I learned about the history of the Fallen and the journey my father began, I realized that I had to find out more, learn about where I came from. 
Elcites: (grunting) I am no more than what is expected of me. I guard E’Malkai. That is all that matters. 
Arile: I am the last of my people. We once could hear all the voices of the earth. The world has been broken. I can no longer hear what I once could. My people have been scattered into the winds, but I can still hear their distant voices. They speak of a new age, and of a final war. 
Me: That all sounds quite dire. You make it seem like there is only darkness and sadness. Are there no happy moments in your life, memories that give you pause and hope when you consider them?
Elcites: The day I was given my charge, when I first met young E’Malkai, was the greatest and saddest day of my life. 
E’Malkai: (looking up at the stoic look on his guardian’s face) I recall playing with my uncle once upon a time. (Pausing) The world changed, and so too did those memories. I cannot seem to look back upon the strained moments of my life and see happiness. 
(Fe’rein scoffs and crosses his arms over his chest. He clearly is not going to answer the question.)
Arile: Each day is full of happiness and sadness, joy and terror. I find grace and importance in the simplest of tasks. This day is a gift. We must not look upon it with sorrow. 
(I start to speak, but Fe’rein interrupts me, his power crawling over his skin like a swarm of frightening insects.)
Fe’rein: What makes this story any different than any of the other drivel available?
Me: That is a bit strong, isn’t it? I would like to think that my writing offers a fresh perspective on the fantasy and science fiction genre. I always try and include elements of ethics and philosophical assumptions in my novels, and this one is no different. I love to explore the elements of good and evil, as well as the murky gray area that is exposed when decisions and choices and are no longer easy. I think it captures the essence of the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, as well as being a rousing adventure tale that a reader of any age can enjoy. 
E’Malkai: How is it doing so far?
Me: It is a bit early in the game to really say much about it. I released it almost a decade ago and it was well received, but it was in desperate need of a strong editing session. Now, I feel like it accurately reflects my growth as a writer and that it has a strong chance of being pretty successful, perhaps my most successful work yet. Let’s put the focus back on you: What do you want from life?
E’Malkai: I want to set things right…
(Fe’rein stands suddenly. Elcites turns, interceding between the Dark Creator and the youth. Arile moves soundlessly behind the mion.)
Fe’rein: There is nothing to set right. I did what was necessary. They took Summer away from me. They had to pay. 
Me: (standing) It seems as though I have struck a nerve. Let’s try something a bit easier, shall we? What’s the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
Arile: (lowering his weapon) The search for truth, questioning my place in this world. Complacency weakens the mind. I value knowledge, intelligence, and logic.
Fe’rein: (sitting once more with a huff) Solitude. The power to do what I must to keep what I have claimed. Once, I valued family and love, but those times have passed. 
Elcites: My charge, my mission. 
E’Malkai: My family, the people who depend on and believe in me, even if that faith is misplaced. 
Me: Speaking of family, did you turn out the way you expected? The way your parents predicted?
(Elcites maintains his ambivalent stare and Arile inspects something deeper in the darkness of the room.)
Fe’rein: I did not know my mother and father well. I have memories of them, brief glimpses of who they were, moments in time frozen and exaggerated. I used to wonder how they would judge me, but that doesn’t matter to me any longer. I turned out the way I did because of the choices I made. My father could not have known what would fall into my path. His plan for me is irrelevant. 
E’Malkai: (looking at his uncle, Fe’rein, with sorrow) I did not know my father, but as I traveled north I learned much about the man he was and who he wanted me to be. My mother was secretive of my past, but I do not blame her. I realize now that she did not want me to die as my father had.
Me: That is quite sad. The path of the fallen began when Seth, your father, was cast from the Fallen and then ends when you return. Were you afraid of traveling north by yourself, E’Malkai? What is your greatest fear?
E’Malkai: Not being able to do what is necessary. Turnabout is fair play: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Me: A meaningful question indeed. I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was about six, I designed an entire play for my cousin’s birthday: sets, script, and little figures on Popsicle sticks. As the years went by, I found that the notion of storytelling was very attractive. This pursuit led me to writing my first novel in high school, a space opera that I published in 2002. Since then I have published ten novels and plan on telling stories until someone spreads my ashes over the sea. (Turning to Fe’rein) Fe’rein, what is your greatest regret?
Fe’rein: Beyond being summoned to this ridiculous farce, I would imagine the content of my life was the result of walking down a path to darkness. It was not sudden or abrasive, but instead incremental and engrossing. My greatest regret is taking my brother’s life. It was too late for me by then. I could only see darkness, despair. 
Elcites: (clearing his throat) What was your intent with writing The Path of the Fallen? Why did you set us down this path?
Me: I wanted to tell a very particular story: one in which the line between good and evil become blurred and the consequences of a hero’s actions mean much more than defeating the bad guy. I liked the notion of a family saga wrapped up in an epic science fiction/fantasy novel. The hero’s cycle makes for a powerful story and often answers fundamental questions about the human condition. Hopefully, my book is successful to that end. (Taking a step forward and gesturing to Arile) Arile, how do you decide if you can trust someone? Do you test the person somehow? Or are you just generally disposed to trust or not to trust?
Arile: Trust, like respect, is earned. When I first met E’Malkai, it was his naivety and simple manner that let me know that I could trust him. Generally, the test of whether or not a person is trustworthy is created by the environment, selected for by pressures that challenge a person. The idea of being predisposed to trust, or not to trust, is born of not trusting oneself. Have you written many more stories? Are we to carry on, storyteller?
Me: As the book closes, the story does not end. The path has ended, at least metaphorically, but the journey is far from over. Book of Seth returns to the beginning, giving us a glimpse of the life of Seth Armen, as well as Ryan Armen before he was corrupted. The sequel, which takes place after The Path of the Fallen, is called Breath of the Creator and weighs in on what comes next. There are several other novels with transient beings not of your dimension: a supernatural detective solving murders in San Francisco; a young man who discovers what it takes to be responsible as the world falls apart; a love story set in an epic fantasy world. (Spreading my hands wide, acknowledging all of them) This question is for all of you, what is one strong memory that has stuck with you from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Arile: I will never forget when I returned home from a hunt and found my village decimated, wiped from this earth by Umordoc. I took the long walk into the tundra, to die, but found peace and a new home. The winds have been my companion ever since. 
Fe’rein: Your question is foolish, storyteller. My childhood was a lifetime ago. I am no longer that frail boy who walked beside his brother on the tundra. 
Elcites: I do not recall my childhood. I was born on Terra and raised in Culouth. My youth was devoted to learning everything I could about human beings and their ways so that I might one day protect E’Malkai.
E’Malkai: Once I had fond memories, but now they all seem like lies meant to obscure my path. Storyteller, do you read other stories? Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning? 
Me: I have been reading A Dance of Dragons by George R. R. Martin. I have become very invested in that world, though I will admit that the pace of the narrative has slowed dramatically. I find myself undulating between being surprised and intrigued by the story and then suddenly being quite bored.
Elcites: How did we come into being? 
Me: I am assuming you are asking me about my writing process. For The Path of the Fallen I wrote it for four months straight, including Book of Seth. Generally, I like to create a living outline that evolves as the characters come to life and begin to guide the narrative. It is dependent on the world I am invested in at any given time. 
E’Malkai: Are our names meaningful? 
Me: They are not derived from other lore, if that is what you meant. E’Malkai was named as homage to the naming scheme of the tundra people. It really depends on what I am writing. For instance, The Journey has names that are quite significant in terms of their meaning. Otherwise, I like to invent names for a particular world. 
Arile: How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
Me: Success is elusive once you define it. It becomes something that you aspire for regardless of the process and the craft. I would like to think that success is writing stories that people in enjoy and connect with, even if it is negatively. I think I have been successful in a very limited way: people have read my books and enjoyed them. 
E’Malkai: Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are starting out?
Me: Write what you love and learn from criticism. The publishing world has changed. I have been writing for nearly a decade and I find that every year there seems to be a new opinion on which way the wind is blowing for fiction. Stay the course and do what you love. If writing novels and telling stories is what you want to do, then do that. 
Fe’rein: I have noticed that you ask this ridiculous question of other storytellers: What is your End of the World Playlist? Why do you ask this question?
Me: I like hearing what people think about the notion of an end-of-the-world scenario. Also, I have a zombie novella of the same name and I like having the vibes out there for it. Do you guys have anything specific that you want to say to the readers?
Arile: E’Malkai of the South will do what he must to set the world right. His story will be passed on for generations.
Elcites: The path of the fallen is filled with both adventure and sadness. Follow E’Malkai and be transformed. 
Fe’rein: I will have my day, in this life or the next. I am not evil, nor is E’Malkai good. We are merely opposite perspectives. You decide who visited more harm upon the world. 
E’Malkai: I would like to think that I have done the right thing, taken the right path. The storyteller will not give away his secrets, but he might give you a glimpse. The greater question is: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers, storyteller?
Me: I am honored for anyone to read my novel. I hope that it will foster and appreciation of reading and the arts that is slowly disappearing among children and adults alike. I love to hear back from readers, so if you would like to get in touch with me, please be sure to check out my links below.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
Stephen, Son of Gregory
The room was plunged into darkness. This was the same darkness that had fallen across the dome as day shifted to night. The underground corridor was damp and as dank as a subterranean level could be at this altitude. A light hung from the center of the room over an old wooden table, the lines of its construction splintered and worn from use.
Papers were scattered across it. 
Jagged, crimson lines were superimposed by green circles and black dots. A man sat on the shadowed side of the table, his face hidden. Only his gloved hands were visible beneath the pale yellow glow of the artificial light. 
He cleared his throat but said nothing. 
The man opposite him was Stephen, who now appeared to have a steely resolve. “I contacted him as you had wished. He was curious, but hesitant. But I believe that my words shook his foundation a bit, though his guardian was quick to have him leave. It was as if he already knew.”
“That is a possibility,” whispered the man from the shadows.
“Are the words that you spoke to me the truth?” queried Stephen, placing his clenched fists on the table and leaning forward. 
The man sighed. “There is more truth in those words than I could ever begin to explain to you, Stephen. What that man, this mockery that calls himself Fe’rein, did to us is unimaginable. We had hope and it was diminished as quickly as it was realized.”
“What can be accomplished by placing the seed of doubt into the mind of this young one? Surely there is nothing a boy can do against the might of a Creator. They are called Dream Enders in the old texts for good reason. Their power is incredible, insurmountable.”
“I cannot dispute that; however, there is one who could match a Creator, a mion, for power. He is the one who harnesses Terra, the true carrier of the energies of the Believer.”
“Isn’t that the very essence of a Creator?” 
Stephen’s voice mirrored his confusion. 
“The true source of a Believer resides within the energies of Terra. The power that is drawn from every part of this planet must be done so without personal gain, selfless in the ultimate sense. This mion nonsense that the Commerce and the Intelligence have created is nothing more than a gross perversion of what is pure. The Shaman waits for the coming of the next one, of the final one.”
Stephen turned as the outer door opened with a defiant hiss. Footfalls approached the inner door that led into the room within which they conferred. The shadowed figure remained motionless as Stephen drew his weapon. The door slid open, and a similarly dressed man entered. His trench was the same dusty color as Stephen’s. He was much younger, his wide brown eyes like that of a doe. The man’s face was a tourniquet of emotion. His mouth twisted and his eyes were glassy, pooling with tears. He faced the man beneath the shadow, his lip trembling. 
“General Marion is dead, sir.” His words were shaky. 
“And the station? Harbinger?” questioned Stephen, returning his sidearm to his holster. The urgency in his voice drew the attention of the messenger. 
“Obliterated. Reduced to space dust, sir.” 
“By the Believer,” whispered Stephen, not realizing that he had uttered the ancient blessing of the tundra. 
“Everyone is dead, even the children,” replied the youth with disgust. His lips drew into a grimace as he continued. “There is talk on the streets that the mion…” He received a stale look from Stephen and then swallowed hard, realizing that the reverent use of Fe’rein’s title was a slap in the face to the Resistance. “That Fe’rein is going to personally hunt down each member of the Resistance hiding in Culouth.”
Stephen pounded his clenched fist against the table. He stared across at the seated, shadowed figure. “This is madness. We must depart from here. We are running for our lives in their maze. Better to make them come to us than be hunted in their realm.” The young messenger shifted uncomfortably. His boots clicked on the metallic floor and Stephen flashed an annoyed glance at him. “You are dismissed, soldier.”
“There is more.” He gulped as he said the words. Stephen returned his attention to the young soldier, taking him in with an angry glance. “He––Fe’rein is coming here. He killed several members along the Avenue during the night. One of the men told him of this place,” stuttered the shaken soldier.
“Never. The Intelligence must have extracted it from his memory,” denied Stephen vehemently, shaking his head to accent his denial. 
“He has been sighted no more than a few blocks away. I believe there is a possibility that he is already here.” 
The last word resonated as the lights flickered and then exploded in a shower of sparks. Stephen moved around the table, putting himself between the door and their leader. 
“Sir, he is here,” spoke Stephen as calmly as he could muster. From above the silence was broken by strangled screams approaching like a horrendous siren. “Go now. We will hold him off until you get some distance.”
The reply was the hollow echo of the escape hatch and then footfalls as they receded into the darkness. The youth looked at Stephen with a startled, horrified expression on his face. He swallowed hard, nodding his head. 
His hand trembled as he drew his sidearm. 
Stephen looked back.
Hesitating for a moment before he charged forward, Stephen grasped the handle of the door and flung it open. He looked out with a quick jerk; only the darkness stared back at him. He waved at the youth to move through. He did so with a scared nod, his lithe figure disappearing through the doorframe. 
Stephen lowered his head, ducking as he moved through after the soldier. He found himself in the adjoining corridor, leading them parallel to the room within which madness and pain walked. Looking over at the younger man, Stephen saw his brow sweating. The younger soldier gripped the weapon with so much force that Stephen was afraid to speak as it might cause him to set it off in a panic. 
Stephen opened the door with a resonating creak that woke the youthful soldier from his fear. The younger man dashed through without as much as a go-ahead from Stephen. Disappearing into the darkness of the narrow walls, he was met with yet another long corridor that led to an opening on the surface.
He could hear his heart thudding in his chest. The breath in his lungs stung as his legs pushed him forward, running through the darkness with reckless abandon. As they neared the surface, Stephen turned. He looked back over his shoulder. The corridor was in flames. He touched the wall, recoiling as it burnt his hand.
As he moved out of the corridor, he lowered himself and stopped. The younger soldier was standing there––rigid, unmoving. The synthetic dome showed wrinkles of crimson and pale yellow in the distance, the simulation of dawn upon them. 
“What are you doing?” he roared. 
But as he looked around, he saw why. They were perched below the eastern vantage point. The point just above them allowed a view of the impending sunrise. Below them was only darkness. The exhaust port of Culouth was an expansive, haunting pit of darkness. 
A warm, stale air resonated from it. 
“We’re dead,” the youth whispered.
His lips were pale, blood draining from his face in fear. Stephen moved to console him, but stopped as he felt the heat from the corridor. Crimson and darkness melted into one as Fe’rein breached the corridor, incinerating everything as he arrived. Stephen stepped beside the youth. Backing himself into the wall, his sidearm fell from his hand. 
“I would have wished for a better death than this,” Stephen spoke, not even looking at the other soldier. The words were lost on him as the younger soldier drew his other sidearm, one in each hand now. Determination was evident in the hard line of his jaw. The glassiness of his eyes was no longer fear, but instead hatred.
“I know that something better will come.” Those were the words the young warrior spoke as he walked into the corridor. Soon, the sounds of his weapon followed. Then his high-pitched screams filled the world as his life was taken. 
Stephen rose shakily. 
Reaching down, he drew a small sidearm from a holster at his calf. He took it into his hand and moved toward the edge of the exhaust port, looking over into the darkness. The corridor melted completely away as Fe’rein appeared. His body was consumed in swirling colors of blood and death. He looked at Stephen with the eyes of the damned. 
“This is the end.” 
Stephen backed away, the heat from Fe’rein forcing him to shield his eyes. The weapon fell from his hands and onto the ground, melting near Fe’rein’s feet. He peered over the edge once more as Fe’rein raised his hand. The vortex that formed at his fingertips was frightening, a burning, cindering mass that threatened to consume him in agony. 
“We all meet an end. You will soon,” mustered Stephen with a gasp as the heat consumed his oxygen, strangling him. Smoke tendrils erupted around Fe’rein and extended far out of view, filling Stephen’s vision completely.
The energy that leapt from Fe’rein’s hands would have consumed Stephen, if the man had not already jumped into the abyss below. Curls and wisps of flame pulled back from Fe’rein as he peered over the edge as Stephen had before. He heard nothing except the echo of the man falling. The mion shrugged. The man had met his end in one form or another. 
It mattered not to Fe’rein. 
Stephen stifled a cry of pain.
He held on to the ridge of the exhaust pit. The worn steel ledge was minuscule compared to the girth of the abyss. He could feel his singed flesh and grimaced. His face and body were hidden in the shadow. 
He knew he had to get to the son of Armen. 
Reaching up, he grabbed the edge and lifted his body up with a grunt. Finding a place for his feet, he looked up into the darkness. Somewhere up there was an exit, no matter how far he would have to climb.

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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Happy 4th of July – Redneck P.I. Style

Redneck P.I. Twila Taunton meets hunky Harland O’Connor at her friend’s Independence Day party. It doesn’t go so well, but it’s what her BFF Jane tells her at the end of the excerpt that bothers her….

IT WAS HARD TO BELIEVE that it was over a year since I met Harland. I had only just arrived in Boston at the time, and started my new job, and was still hurting a lot, and was generally pissed off with life, thanks to Jimmie-Ray.
   Jane Scruggs, my BFF—best friend forever—lived in a more up-market apartment than mine. Now that I think about it, I’m guessing that my new boss, Andrew, probably paid for it, or at least he contributed to the rent. Her apartment was on the fifth floor.
   It was the July fourth weekend, and about thirty people were crammed into her living room and spilling out onto her balcony.
   Harland had arrived late and I found it impossible not to notice him. Me and all the other women in the room. They—the other women—spent a lot of time trying to attract his attention, but a couple of times when my eyes strayed his way, he looked over their heads at me and we locked gazes. There was no way I had any intention of getting involved with any man ever again, so both times it happened I tore my gaze away from him and turned my back.
   I was standing at the table dipping tortilla chips into the Mexican dip when he moved in beside me. There was something about him that made me feel him there before I saw him. He used the corniest pick up line in the world. “We haven’t met,”
   I looked him up and down, said, “Yeah and we probably won’t,” and walked out onto the balcony. To my annoyance, he followed. “Hey, what’s your problem? I was just trying to be civil. You could at least tell me your name.”
   “Why don’t you just piss off and leave me alone. If I wanted to tell you my name I would have done so long ago. There are plenty of women here who will give you their phone numbers, so why don’t you go bother them?”
   “Do I detect a Southern accent?” He didn’t wait for a response, but sighed deeply. “So much for the myth that people from the South are hospitable.”
   I didn’t say a thing. I just turned away and made like I was watching the sun setting over the city. Intermittent bangs rising from the streets below hinted at what was to come. It would be another couple of hours before the fireworks started, and we’d have a great view of them from here. There was a distant hum of traffic, and the unmistakable aroma of gunpowder hung in the air. A man and a woman from the party stood side by side, their arms draped over the balcony railing, watching the smoke from their cigarettes spiraling upward.
   After a couple of minutes I felt him leave, and I just stood there enjoying the sunset. The strange thing was that when I went back into the living room to get another beer I couldn’t stop myself from searching him out with my eyes. I was really pissed with myself when his eyes met mine again, and he gave an annoying little knowing smirk. I scowled and chugged the entire beer, and grabbed another.
   Someone had put a Norah Jones CD on and a few couples clung to one another and were swaying to the music, apparently oblivious to the limited space available. The room smelled of food, the perfume from the dozens of candles whose flames flickered softly in the dark corners, and clean but sweaty bodies.
   “Twila. I know your name now,” he said from close behind me. “You are the only woman in this room who interests me. You gonna tell me why you’re so unfriendly?”
   “It’s none of your business,” I said through clenched teeth. “Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
   “I will. But I’m gonna get your phone number from Jane and I will call you. You will find out that when I want something, I never give up. You’re the only real woman here, and I want you. You want me too, but you just won’t admit it.”
   Later, when we all went out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks, he stood close behind me. So close that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. I don’t know how many people were out there, but it was a tight squeeze, and it seemed that every time someone moved, his body made contact with mine. Despite my distrust of men, it made me feel hot all over.
   The most annoying thing about him was that afterwards, when Jane and I discussed him, she told me that it was a proven fact that people whose eyes meet despite their best efforts to avoid it, always ended up having sex.