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FRESH STORY CONTENT 9/20/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

As LLasher steadily made his way to the point where the soldiers had entered, he heard distant horse hooves pounding down the road.  He rotated on his saddle to look behind him.  He spotted another rider, it was Rivyen.
 
After the disastrous events in the castle and they had lost both King Taihven and Princess Letandra, LLasher had left with Letandra’s Aberrisc friends, Scars and Ama’yen.  On board his ship, the Corrta Da’Eale, they had headed out of the bay when they were intercepted by a ship owned by the Khestal Ezan Order.  On it had been Taliah the Blood Seeress and the Order’s Headmaster, Tal Crowan. A small, thin man with long white braided hair and a silvery goatee.
 
After Tal Crowan and Taliah boarded, they convinced LLasher that they would be able to help free Letandra from The Bleeding Crown and restore the balance of the land.  However, their efforts had been stymied by her Barrier of Storms which magically blocked any land and sea entrance as well as any magical efforts.
 
Plus, the new Ebon Queen’s own machinations. She outlawed the Khestal Ezan Order, labeling them a cult of traitors. Then the Beleardea Cult was reinstated and given powerful resources.
 
Rivyen was one of the Khestal Ezan’s strongest assets, a swordsman with his own collection of magical items. He had long platinum blond hair and a cropped brown beard.  Strange rumors said that the man was from another plane of existence.  LLasher only now remembered the two were to rendezvous along the Nestermaryn Forest Road about a mile outside of the port.
 
He stopped his mount and waited. The man caught up with him as LLasher was stepping off his own horse. LLasher said, “You did not have to–“
 
“–I grew concerned since neither you nor the Wyvernguards came to the meet.  Where are they?  Did they get to the courier?”  Rivyen inquired as he dismounted. He was always all business and focused. LLasher admired that the most in the warrior.
 
“Not yet. Inside Port Scescima, Temerryk met up with the Pontiff. I gave chase as did the ex-Wyvernguarrd, but we could not catch them before The Barrier. I ordered the two to follow after.”
 
Rivyen stared at him, his eyes wide as his features began to tighten.  He set his hands at his hips then turned to study the towering clouds.
 
“What is wrong?”
 
“You murdered those men? What were you thinking!” He growled, seething with emotion.
 
LLasher grabbed at his shoulder, turning him about. “What are you babbling about?  They are soldiers.  They know how to prot–“
 
“–YOU DO NOT CARE THAT THEY ARE MEN! YOU LABEL THEM SOLDIERS SO YOU CAN FEEL FREE TO ASK THEM THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OR INSTINCTS TO LEAD MEN!”
 
Taken aback by the sudden flare of rage, LLasher gaped back at him, could not answer him. 
 
Rivyen pressed his lips tight, pulled at his cheeks with both hands and shook his head. 
 
“I…I do not believe they will die,” LLasher stated. “If they are quick and careful, they can slip in, ambush the scout and leave.  The pontiff has surely escaped, but with some luck they can get to Temerryk. Perhaps. Why do you think…What makes you think that they will die?” 
 
“If you were capable of conjuring up that storm, do you think you would stop there?  Or would you put further protection or obstacles to prevent further trespass?  She has blotted out the lands for a reason.  Whatever she–IT is doing in there, The Bleeding Crown does not want anyone to see or know.”
 
“Alright, I see your point, but that does not mean they will be killed.”
 
“No one has ever come out of there! Even as we argue about it, they are surely bleeding, you arrogant ass!”  He launched himself up to his mount and started pulling at the reins.  “Follow!”
 
He left the ex-slaver in the plumes of the canyon’s dust.
 
LLasher was in shock but numbly followed the instruction and climbed up onto his saddle.  He secured and adjusted the hatchet bandolier across his chest.
 
When he caught up with Rivyen, the man was back down on his feet again, crouching beside the boot tracks in the dirt. 
 
“How long have they been in there?” he shouted trying to be heard over the howling fury of the storm.
 
“Not that long, but…I fear you are right as I thought they would be back out by now. I am sorry that I did not think this through.”
 
Rivyen glanced up at him. He gave no words of acceptance but nodded his chin toward the storm.  He was armed in a broadsword and a short sword combination. They did not speak again as they steeled themselves and walked into the high winds.
 
For a few yards, the wind screamed in their ears and battered at their bodies nearly taking them off their feet. Each had to hunch over and walk in an angular fashion.  Bitter chill air enveloped them.  Hard rain mixed with tiny hail balls spattered at their exposed skin.
 
Abruptly, they passed into a calmer region.  It was not the same as the inside eye of a hurricane, but more like if one found a valley that dipped beneath a raging storm between two mountains.  Icy ivory fog obscured everything, but they could hear the roar and fury above and surrounding them.
 
They were in a world of only two colors now, gray and white.  Nothing had any definition or sharp lines.  The two men stepped closer together in order to not lose sight of each other. 
 
Rivyen pointed at the ground where drops of red blood pooled and dribbled along the path.  They began tracking the droplets. 
 
“How far are we from the castle do you think we are?”  LLasher asked.
 
“I cannot tell, but I am more concerned how far away we are to the Wyvernguard men.  We should hear them, no?”
 
“I would dare not to call out.  As you said before, who knows what protections or guards she has out here for any fools such as us.”
 
A shadowy mass appeared and charged out at them.  It was a black horse, wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth.  They jumped to the sides of the path as it raced past.  It was saddled, but blood ran down its left haunch from an arrow protruding from its backside.
 
“That is the courier’s ho–” A scream cut off LLasher’s words.  It was muffled by the fog and distance.  Another closer scream of agony followed then another scream joined the first.
 
“I believe they are coming from this way!”  Rivyen shouted and grabbed at LLasher’s leather vest, hauling him along after him.
 
The road wove ahead and between several piles of rocks and cut logs. The entirety of the lands before the castle appeared to have been flattened and prepped for an oncoming invasion.  Deep trenches were cut parallel to the road and lined with spikes. 
 
LLasher tried to ignore the skulls and half-rotted heads that were impaled on the spikes. His skin crawled as he sensed the dead’s eyes were tracking their steps.  
 
Just past three large piles of boulders, a creature roared in defiance as the two invaded its territory.  It was unlike anything he had seen before.  The winged body was scaled with white, stone-like scales. It was comprised of three heads:  a broad lion’s head surrounded by a massive snake head on its left and on the right shoulder was a horned reptilian head.  The entire beast stood at least fifteen feet at its shoulder.  Under one of its massive paws was the body of a headless soldier. LLasher immediately recognized the Wyvernguard armor, but he was not sure which of the two it belonged to. 
 
How do you send a man to his death and not even know his name? He berated himself.
 
The courier’s parchment bag was pinned under the man’s legs. The two soldiers were able to overtake them at least!
 
“Go for the parcel!  I will keep it occupied. GO!” LLasher exclaimed, charging the beast with his hatchets held high.
 
Seeing the oncoming challenge, the huge beast pounced to the ground, abandoning its victim at the top of the pile.  Its feline body arched and kept low to the earth. A barbed tail swished back and forth in the air.
 
He circled away from the body and tried to keep the beast’s eyes on him as Rivyen crept carefully on the right. 
 
The creature growled and hissed, but it focused upon the glinting steel hatchets.  As it judged him, LLasher tried to determine if the creature itself had any opening or weaknesses.  This was not going to be easy. 
 
Lifting his hatchet high into the air, he cried out and lurched forward, only to feint to the left, testing its reflexes and reactions.  Both the snake head and the lizard’s snout shot out, their jaws snapping and drooling. The beast was very quick and agile.
 
Taking another tactic, this time on the left side, he threw one hatchet at the snake head as he feinted back to the right.  It dodged it easily as LLasher anticipated, but it did not expect the handful of sand he scooped into hand right after his throw.  The particles covered the three heads in a brown shroud. All three screeched as the body reared back trying to get out of the cloud of debris. 
 
He followed and swung in low with a hatchet thrust, straight into the exposed underbelly.  It struck and sank into white skin, but the wound was not deep or even long, but it could be cut. One of the paws scraped the hatchet out as the creature leaped into the air. It was not done with the two of them, but it was taking full advantage of height. 
 
Rivyen joined him with the courier bag in hand. “We have to go now.” 
 
“I am not leaving the other man.”
 
“If you do not go now, you will never leave these men!”
 
“He could be–“
 
Shaking his head vehemently, Rivyen leaned in again.  “I saw other creatures flying in the distance.  It is not alone.”  He pointed at the beast.  “WE cannot take down one of them, let alone four or five.  The other man is not here and no doubt, he has died somewhere else.”
 
“You coward!”
 
Rivyen swirled around, striking LLasher hard in the side of his jaw, knocking him onto his back in the dirt.  He spat at the Camiyaan.  “I did not put these men in here. You did!  I am not afraid of this fight, but there is no honor in dying for no reason and I have too many people counting on me to get things done.  Done right.  Lie there then and let them eat you if your honor dictates that is the right thing, fool.”
 
He marched out of sight as he went back down the road with the parchment bag under one arm.
 
Swallowing his pride and seeing the validity of the words, LLasher quickly got to his feet and ran after him. 
 
Above hidden in the gray blanket of sky, they both heard wings flapping and screeches called out and answered from other beasts in the distance.
 
“Faster!” LLasher urged.
 
The men were near where the Barrier grew furious again when a pair of the three-headed beasts landed heavily in front of them.  Growling and mewling in defiance and anticipation for fresh meat.  Behind the men, out of sight in the fog another pair of answering thuds shook the ground.
 
“Damn thee! No help for it now,” Rivyen cursed.  He tore at his shirt sleeve and ripped it back from his wrist.  On his arm was an inscribed band of bronze.  He placed two fingers on circular patterns.
 
“We have to run off the path.”  LLasher cried out.
 
“No, leaving the path is still certain death.  Give me a moment,” he snapped and closed his eyes.  “Grab my shoulder quickly!”
 
As the first pair of creatures bolted forward, a silvery light bloomed around the men and repelled the animals.
 
“How long can that hold them off?”
 
“I am not done. Do not let go!”
 
Suddenly the scene outside their silvery bubble altered and they stood on the shoreline of the Khestal Ezan Isle. 
 
Rivyen released his fingers and the magic of the bubble dispersed. 
 
“That was a nice trick!”
 
Rivyen shrugged.  “It does not have many charges left.”
 
He wanted to apologize again for bring them into the mess of the Sea of Storms, but instinct told him his words would fall on deaf ears.  The man’s point had been made and Rivyen was not the type to dwell on what could not be changed. 
 
LLasher hoped he would find a way to make it up to him and regain his standing with the man.
 
There is no way to repay those men that he had easily sacrificed.  Whatever they might learn from the parchment’s messages would still pale to the fact that their blood was on his hand. 
 
I have never taken anyone for granted before like that.  What has gotten into me?  Am I changing or am I slipping because of all the failures? 
 
He remained quiet as he followed the planar warrior again as they headed up the beach to the compound’s entrance.  His introspection continued as he analyzed his actions and thoughts.  He wondered if he really was fit to lead anyone anymore. 
 
Look what his help had done for King Taihven, the city of Wyvenshield and the love of his life, Letandra. 
 
His touch seemed to bring ruin.

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 9/3/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022



A white plume of dust trailed far behind Llasher in the chill of the air. His white and brown roan raced hard down the rocky road, its sides heaving hard from its exertion. It was a murky morning, the first rays of light unable to break through the layers of clouds overhead. He was afraid he was forcing the animal beyond its limits, but the urgency of his mission required it. 

A trio of riders ahead were outdistancing him. They were members of the Beleardea, the dangerous cult of religious fanatics, once banned from the continent. 

As one of the Camiyaan race, he was tan and lean, but he was also completely hairless.  He wore black riding clothes under an olive-green vest and hooded robe. Across his chest was a leather bandolier holstering three small, silver hatchets and attached at his belt was a coiled blue-black whip. Covering most of his face, he wore at eye level a dark blue bandana to keep out the road dust.   

One of the three riders was on a black horse and he wore brown leggings. He was  known on the streets as Temerryk, a courier. Pressed to his sides he carried a well-worn leather satchel. He was the one LLasher originally tailed in the crowds clustered on the notorious Port Ssescima Wharf.

On another horse, a gray, black-spotted mare, was LLasher’s new target: Pontiff Joman-Gregg. The afternoon before, Temerryk had met up with the pontiff and received a package, its contents meant for the new Ebon Queen. The surprise appearance of the pontiff shocked LLasher. His orders were only to subdue Temerryk in order to learn what the next moves were for the Beleardea. 

But he was not about to let the elusive pontiff escape. The unexpected opportunity was too good to pass. 

LLasher had circled around the clandestine meeting and stood among the fruit and vegetable stalls. Thus he hoped to block the pontiff’s chance to reboard his waiting ship. However, the pontiff had not been traveling alone or unprepared. Out of nowhere, a large, square-shaped man exploded from a nearby merchant stall and plowed the Camiyaan off his feet, dumping him into the waves of the Everglass Sea below.  

The brute was the third rider ahead, the muscled escort, who now rode on a brown mare next to the pontiff. 

The three were barely out of his reach. The horse chase had been ongoing all night since the docks of Port Ssescima. 

Luckily, LLasher who was familiar with the region, had been able to take shortcuts to catch up with the trio as they traveled down the Nestermaryn Forest Road. Yet the window of opportunity to catch his prize was fading as the distance to Wyvernshield grew shorter. 

Unbeknownst to his quarry, LLasher had some reinforcements placed ahead by happenstance. Ex-Wyvernguards he had placed as scouts were keeping tabs on the outskirts of Wyvernshield. He hoped they were alert enough to spot the horse chase as they approached.

He stared ahead and focused on the darkening gray skies. A ferocious funnel of clouds loomed. It spanned a distance of several miles wide and towered up from the ground into the sky almost out of sight.  Lightning flashed sporadically and large debris whirled within it. The massive tempest was called by the locals the Sea of Storms, or The Barrier, encapsulated the entire region and even by sea no one had been able to get close.  And the Barrier seemed to grow daily.

Miniature, red bird-like creatures were fixated on the unnatural phenomenon and flocked around it.  No one was sure if they only watched or if they attacked intruders as well. Since LLasher and the others lost Castle Adventdawn, months before, most of the city residents had never been seen again. Many atrocities were being accredited to Ebon Queen Letandra.  Vile crucifixions and hangings were reported the first few days after her dark reign began. The bodies had decorated the courtyards and the walls of the castle itself.  

Much like the city of Wyvernshield, LLasher’s life had changed considerably in the last couple years. He lost most of his arm during a violent encounter with the infamous Pale Mage, Auste Cros’seau. Afterwards, Princess Letandra found him lying near death and used her Mending spells to keep him alive. This had been the catalyst for his own personal transformation.  

Through her one act of mercy, she showed him how his life had been selfish and utterly meaningless.   He gave up the slave trade after his recuperation from the attack.  Later when he learned of her abduction, he became obsessed with finding a way to rescue her. He wanted her to know what she meant to him and that he was becoming a man worthy of her show of mercy.

The new queen still resided as far as everyone knew in Adventdawn Castle. Only a handful outside the Khestal Ezan Order knew it was The Bleeding Crown entity controlling everything.  

The mammoth tempest then exploded into existence on the fourth day.  

Movement broke his dreary reverie and he focused on two new riders, his posted scouts giving chase! The three Beleardea members doubled their efforts and made straight for the Barrier. Temerryk continued to clutch at his side the package. 

Suddenly the two scouts’ horses broke off pursuit, one horse rearing up, nearly throwing the rider. The other angled to the left, running in a zigzag pattern as the rider batted at something unseen in the air. 

As Llasher feared, a spot of the curtain slid aside as if brushed away by an unseen giant’s hand and a roadway could be seen inside the storm clouds.  They charged right through the fierce, swirling fog.  It did not surprise him that the evil cult had a way in unhampered. The opening sealed up immediately behind him. Dark protective sorcery in play. 

Damn! What happened? It should have been an easy ambush. 

Ahead the pair of chasing riders regrouped, then pulled up short in front of the hidden opening.  They were in an obvious debate about what to do next.

LLasher whistled and waved his arm trying to get their attention. They were too involved in their discussion.

He gave up on the idea that they would see him.  He brought the roan to a stop, rummaged frantically inside his backpack and located a small mirror.  

Angling it to catch the light, he flashed it over and over at the men. When he was about to give up on the idea, one saw him and waved back.  He immediately thrust his hand in a forward motion. The riders acknowledged him with a salute, dismounted and plunged into it by foot.  The horses were too panicked to be guided inside.  The animals by instinct knew it was beyond dangerous inside the magical disturbance.

This mission had gone south quickly, but failing would be too high of a price. This was too important to let the parcel slip through their hands as well as losing Pontiff Joman-Gregg!  He needed them to risk the Sea of Storms. Bringing up his spyglass, he watched them hesitantly creep into the whirling winds.  The expressions of dread and fear were evident on the two.  

He used the bandana to wipe away sweat and dust from his smooth face and neck. Shaking his head, his gut told him this was a bad idea.  “It is a risk we have to take!  Her horror has gone on too long already.”  His words echoed back at him. They sounded weak, petty and desperate. 

No one had ever come out of the Sea of Storms. 

Yet… No one yet

Maximizing Goals through Objectives & Key Results (OKR)! — Derek Barton – 2022

Previously in 2017, I started using a goal setting method called Bi-monthly Goals. It’s a tactic that focused on setting several goals every two-month period. At the end of the two months, you repeat the process and establish new ones. I found some early results with the strategy, my momentum and high energy bringing me some progress. However, its biggest drawback was it didn’t really determine the roads to accomplish the goals. Lofty dreams are fine, but without a set plan I was missing the marks. I quickly fell behind and I couldn’t maintain or sustain my energy to meet the objectives in the short timeframe. Basically, I would carryover unfinished goals over every two months. This cut down my momentum and enthusiasm.

Today I discovered a new method and strategy for setting goals and achieving even better success. While perusing YouTube, I found videos on OKR, Objectives & Key Results method. Developed by Andrew Grove originally in the 70s, then expanded and presented more widespread to businesses by John Doerr. It actually became the founding culture for the company executives of Google and we all see what success they have had.

What I have determined about OKR is that it cuts down the distractions, focuses on the primary motivation and gives you steps to gain momentum. Thus, success in the long term! OKR or Objectives & Key Results has three parts to it: Objectives (your primary goal desire), Key Results (how you measure your progress) and Initiatives (what steps, tools or habits you are going to use to achieve your goal).

The normal timeframe that OKRs are set for is Quarterly, but this is negotiable. If you feel you need faster results or if you find you need longer periods to acquire what you need for your goal, you can go monthly, bi-monthly or every 6 months or even annual goals.

Here is an example — remember I spoke about Google. From the TED Talk by John Doerr, he shared the story of one of their designers who dedicated himself using an OKR to creating a “browser above all other browsers.” He decided he would use the number of actual users to measure his success. His first year’s goal was 20 million users (didn’t succeed, only obtained 10 million users), but the next year he double-down on his goal and aimed for 50 million (he had more success and hit 37 million). Finally the third year’s goal, he shot for 100 million! Through the first two years, he saw what worked and learned from his results what didn’t. His efforts were rewarded by reaching 111 million that third year!

Using the straightforward approach of keeping your goal simple and on your horizon, you use Key Results to view and define your progress. Again, you will find momentum and success long term.

So with that in mind, I want to put my own goal out there and see what I can WIN with this approach.

2022 Objective: Surpass my highest production ever in one year’s time.

Key results: Publish three new novels in the next 12 months!

Initiatives: Next three months – write 300 words (at least) 5/7 days; produce 1 Fresh Content blog 3/4 weeks; complete a manuscript, edit and publish one novel (The Flight of The Dirithi)

So after the first quarter, I’ll see how I did or did not do on my initiatives and measure my overall results. This will help me see where I can improve, where I am seeing progress and where I may need to rethink my efforts, initiatives or output of time & energy.

Of course I will keep you all updated through blogs on my findings. A lot of outside factors also weigh in on your initiatives and finding work arounds and solutions to that is also a very big key to ultimate achievement.

Wish me luck!!

Blogs, Blogs & More Blogs! — Derek Barton – 2022

This blog will be my 195th blog posting since I created this site back in July of 2016. I am really proud of the body of work. But there’s a big problem with having this many.

How can you know what I’ve written in the past or where to even look? This ARCHIVES section gives you only the amount of blog posts I’ve written in that particular month.

So it took some research, some digging into WordPress’s Help section, followed up with some very quick responses from their Customer Service agents to finally find a way to organize my posts and to provide simple categories for you to read my posts and posts I’ve written years ago.

Here is the new MENU for my blogs and some of the topics you may find interesting. Of course a lot of the posts have #tags for you to search for, but this also gives you a specific place to find blogs you may have interests in.

LATEST Blog — This of course is where you’ll still find my latest, most current blog posts. For instance this months are: * Frest Content 8/11/22 (A new chapter for Wyvernshield) * New Release – The Infernal Eternal (Release notice about my new gamebook)

BLOGS: General — These are blogs about Appearances, Book Releases, Book Giveaways or General Announcements, etc. Examples: * A Humbling Sight (Post about Hometown Library showcase) * New Author Interview (An Interview I did in 2020) * New Avenues To Me (Post about Patreon & Pinterest)

BLOGS: New Content — This category is especially good if you are looking to read any new work – rough drafts for upcoming novels. Examples: * First Sneak Peek of Evade II (Chapter excerpt) * Writing Prompt #4 – Max the Most (A horror short story) * Sneak Preview Chapter from Evade (Chapter excerpt)

BLOGS: Writing Tips — Blogs for other writers who may be interested in learning more about my style and view on word craft. Examples: * Repel the Resistance (How to fight Procrastination) * Immerse Or Die (How to keep readers involved)

BLOGS: Self-publishing — Posts that give insight into Self-publishing manuscripts and what you can anticipate in the complex process. Examples: * Essential Elements to Book Covers * The Art of The Juggle (Tips on Organizing)

BLOGS: Goal Setting — Category describing some methods for making goals and how I did or did not achieve them. Examples: * 2017 Bi-monthly Goals for July & August * 2017 Nanowrimo November & December Bi-monthly Goals (Post about making goals around Nanowrimo Challenge)

BLOGS: Personal — Personal posts that give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my life. Examples: * Stroke — My Internal/External Ordeal * 2020 Bio Blog (Things about me & who I am)

BLOGS: Book Review — Mostly audiobook reviews and/or occasional movie reviews… Examples: * Audible Book Review of Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” * Audible Book Review of Stephen KIng’s “The Outsider”

BLOGS: Guest Posts — A few guest blogs from writer Adam C. Mitchell, crime noir author. * Chandler’s Ten Commandments

I hope this helps you find some old posts you may have liked before and want to reread. Or maybe you’ll find posts you may have missed or posts made before you found my site. Either way, you will discover so many posts on here that have very little views, but I hope you will find very beneficial, enlightening or entertaining!

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 8/11/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

Yes, it’s true! After nearly five years, I am revisiting and writing new Wyvernshield material for all of you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂


“It is this way, but we must hurry before this…”

A deafening clap of thunder above our heads shook the very earth we stood upon. Dark rolling banks of the storm swelled, threatened. It signaled how fast our luck had changed.

“Yes! Yes, it is this way, but we must hurry before this infernal storm worsens,” the old farmer said, waving his hand for us to hasten. He had a floppy straw hat on and a long, brown wrap-around robe with well-worn work boots of some type of leather. Stitched all over his face were deep wrinkles and frown lines.

“We are sorry to disturb you on a night as this,” Kaydaa said. Draped over her own shoulders was a thick, tattered quilt over a hooded jacket and purplish scarf at her neck. In her arms, swaddled in several furs, she tightly cradled a small bundle.

I held a dented bulls-eye lantern over my head to light the wet path ahead. My steps were sluggish, weary with the weight of my long bow, quiver and over-stuffed backpack.

Waving his hands, he dismissed her concerns. “Nah, nah, do not fret, young lassie. I am happy to shelter you and yours from this horrible rain. I do so wish the barn was in better conditions. Since my wife’s death, I have not tilled the land. My boys have taken on some of the land to support and feed me, but they have their own tools and barns so this one has fallen on some hard times I am afraid.”

We walked around the ramshackle ranch house, following a trail of partially buried, quartz stones. They led to a short stack of descending steps. My lantern illuminated a set of wide, double doors, an entrance to the horse barn at the end of the gravelly path.  I saw indeed the structure was worse for wear as it had a few, wide holes in its thatched roof from past lightning strikes.

I held my hand to my forehead blocking the rain and squinted in at the holes. “Is there a spot inside where there will not be leaks? Perhaps a stable square or an underground feed well?”

“Rhenden!” Kaydaa scolded.

The old man laughed and held his hands up showing he took no offense. He nodded his head. “Oh, yes. There is a warm stable square. And I promise I will come back soon with some dry blankets and a kettle of hot poor-boar’s soup.”

I handed him a pouch with the last pennies we had. The farmer looked pained to take them, but he dropped them inside his side jacket pocket all the same.

“You go to the east side, near the back. You will not have any leaks there. And there is plenty of loose hay and some bales you can build as a nest around your family.” He winked and nodded at the bundle in Kaydaa’s arms.

As the downpour intensified, we bid him goodbye and stood awkwardly in the gloom of the musty, empty barn.

“Family?” Kaydaa whispered then giggled softly.

“He will sell us out,” I said. “Seriously. He is desperate. This is the most logical place to head to in the area with the coming of this storm. They are sure to find us.”

She shrugged. “Not tonight. Besides, it is not his fault. He has to do what he can to survive. We will leave before the first morn light and set out a false trail.”

I grunted in response.

While I was not happy with her answer, the sudden storm had left us little options. I followed her into the shadows of the barn where we found the east corner and its promised hay. She laid her bundle down gently near her legs and the lantern. I propped our backpack at the base of a wooden support pole as I went to work on building a small stone fire pit. I could not help but watch her as she prepared for sleep.

Shaking out her long ebony hair, she untied the cloth bands keeping it braided and used her quilt to dry some of the locks. Next, she unbuttoned her jacket and removed her scarf, exposing patches of dark brown spots dotting the side of her neck and along her shoulders. Her simple beauty was compelling and captivating to me.

She was a Duradramyn. The first of her kind I had ever met.  Breathtaking even among the others of her kind. She was several years older than my eighteen years. Once a Fayalyte, a village healer. Then a slave. Now a fugitive in the eyes of the Law and Founder.

We both were.

Kaydaa laid her bedroll down, rolled up the quilt for a makeshift pillow. She glanced at me, her smile all warmth. “Peace and dreams among dreams, Rhenden.”

I smiled back at her. “Rest. I will take to bed in a few. Then before the first rays, we will head out. We dare not push it beyond that. You promise?”

“As you advise.”

She wrapped her right arm around the bundle at her side, snuggled it closer to her.

It was six months ago when everything faded to black for me. When my world evaporated like morning dew on a summer morn.

Every filament of my life washed away when the terse currents of the Leostoy River pulled me deep into its frigid depths. I remember only the way I sank deeper and deeper. It was as if the hands of the lost souls who had drowned before, were committed to bringing me into their fold. Another water-bloated corpse to join their ranks.

A numbness flooded my chest as the river water ballooned my lungs inside my ribcage. The periphery of my vision clouded and collapsed upon itself into a tightening tunnel.

Only I did not die…

My breath gone, but my consciousness sparked awake and alert. My arms and legs spasmed on their own accord, my chest heaving and straining for air. Helpless in its grip. I floated like driftwood near the gritty silt bottom of the river when I heard the roar of a mighty splash. Then a vortex of bubbles washed over me as I saw a dark shadow plunge frantically into the water coming straight at me. Upon reaching me, the swimmer clasped my shoulders in his hands, hauling with all his strength to bring me to the rushing surface.

Upon landing on the muddy riverbank, I was rolled onto my left side, and he pounded mightily on my back. Finally, a series of gasps and choking sputters cleared my lungs and throat. My vision broadened and cleared. Hot, moist air streamed back into me as life bloomed once more in me.

Exhausted and on my back, I stared straight up into the bright, cloudless sky above me. Relief and joy overtook me!

However, I had no idea at that point, my descent had not been stopped, it had only begun! My life was about to go in a drastic, downward spiral.

At least, until I found Kaydaa.

NEW RELEASE – The Eternal Infernal – Derek Barton – 2022

Hot off the press, this fun, action-packed gamebook is now on sale on Amazon! Paperback version soon to come.

You are about to join young Zack Lyons, a budding YouTube Video Blogger on a unique adventure!

What starts as a usual day of urban exploring on the outskirts of the city, quickly turns into a bizarre, dangerous nightmare in an abandoned ex-government lab. He’ll need your street-smarts, some key decision-making, and a real stroke of good luck to survive.

Enjoy this fun, action-packed tale — part story, part game! You decide what rooms to explore, what to keep on hand, and who to fight or flee!

GRAB YOUR COPY TODAY! CLICK HERE

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 7/21/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

This will be the last installment of the Dirithi story line for now. I am confident I will be adding several more chapters and adventures in this first novel and publishing it by the end of the year. Thank you all for your support and great feedback so far!

Speaking of feedback — IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO ENTER MY AMAZON GIFT CARD CONTEST!!

In gratitude for all you do for ME, I want to reward you loyal readers with a chance at winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Send me a quick email to Rivyenphx@yahoo.com and share with me your thoughts on this and or other Fresh Content Blogs. All email responders will be entered in a drawing. I will announce the winner at the end of July. Thank you again!!


8

Brutally cold minutes collected, then turned into endless, frigid hours which stretched into the hardest night of Jueneva’s life. The Abdi leatra da had chased the tribe from their mountain home out into its violent winds and pounding rains. As the night wore on, the temperatures dropped, the mighty storm’s torrents became showers of sleet and brief periods of hail.

Kei-orah, the tall, fierce warrior that had originally captured her only days ago, wrapped a thick, black fur shawl over her head and shoulders and personally led her the last steps to a wooden lean-to shelter. Since she had stepped out of the tribe’s flooded chamber and led Mealli back to them, she had gained some sort of new status.

it appeared the hasty lean-to had been a part of their backup plan or at least a backup plan to their backup plan! A slender woman, older than most of the tribe members, bent over a stone fire pit in the center of the shelter. She was working hard to strike a slick purple crystal in one hand against a white quartz-like rock in the other. A pile of pine branches sitting beneath her efforts was eventually rewarded a single spark. The tiny ember blossomed into life and a flower of flames soon followed.

Jueneva wearily scanned the group of storm survivors standing in a huddle around the pit. She counted eleven female warriors, two elderly women and three children, two were twin boys. None of the older males had made it through. Abdi leatra da had exacted a heavy toll on the tribe.

Hours later, she was awakened by sudden gusts of chill wind. Someone had pulled back the furs covering the opening and had left the enclosure of the lean-to. She stretched and rubbed at her sore cheeks. Time had been lost to her, she had no idea how long she’d been asleep. It was unsettling – she could not even recall lying down or falling asleep.

Outside, she heard the winds still blowing through the trees, however, they had lost much of their bluster as well as their rain.

“Appe ad Los reqas,” a voice called out from outside.

“Dominos soas peo prepa. Cafade!” Kei-orah commanded, her voice booming and stern.

Another voice, instantly familiar, called out, “Princess Jueneva, are you in there? Are you among these women?”

It was Boure! Her new-found friend and courtesan had somehow found them.

She leaped to her feet, wobbled a second, then bolted to the lean-to’s opening. 

The morning light was minimal and shrouded deeply by Abdi leatra da’s blanketing storm clouds overhead, but the sight before her hit her hard and fast. Four of the female warriors surrounded a tall, skeletal figure with their long spears. The skeleton had little left of its form but on it’s old bones it wore a spiked iron helmet, a dented chest plate and a pair of rusted iron studded boots. It did, however, appear unarmed.

The creature rotated its head at the sound of her sudden appearance and stared with eyeless sockets.

“Ah, good! Good, you found shelter too! I was so sure you had perished in the storm,” it chattered at her. Its lower jawbone did not quite match up with the rest of the skull and the neck sat at an awkward angle. The voice though was definitely Boure.

“What- What happened to you?” she stammered and gawked back at the bony figure.

“Oh! Yes, sorry. Remember, before you left the ruins, I told you I would not be able to leave the compound to help you. That was not quite true. As you can see,” he spread out his thin arms, shrugging. “I can move freely and affect items within the castle in my normal spectral form. Out here, I can only do so by borrowing a form and manipulating it like a marionette on strings. It is rather confusing and took some time to find remains that were intact enough to survive out in these conditions. I don’t quite know why or how it all is supposed to work. Nonetheless, I am here. You are here. So, what happened to you, how did you come to find the Truevo?”

“You mean, them? The Revie-ati?”

The skull shook its head. “Revie-ati? That means ‘the foresaken’ in their tongue,” Boure corrected her. “Did they say that was their name?”

By this time, all of the surviving Truevo tribe members had joined them, standing quietly in the soft rain, watching the exchange. The armed guards around him had lowered their weapons.

Boure turned about slowly as he scanned them. He said, “Keos braya mo. Dafve leana don Jueneva Krayhn dosde mea Madde.”

Gasps and confusion as the tribe reacted to his words.

“You can speak their language? What did you say?”

“I thanked them, of course, for saving you, your highness.”

Jueneva paused a moment as an idea came to her. She glanced at Kei-orah, locking eyes with her. “Thank you, Buore. Please tell this one – I believe she’s their acting leader at this point – that I have truly appreciated her generosity. Thank them for saving me in the forest.”

Kei-orah snapped her gaze down to her feet upon hearing his translation. Her face twisted into a grimace of disbelief and shame.  

“They did not know who I was, but had still taken me in,” Jueneva explained, embellishing the truth a bit.

“Is this Chaos or is it Fate? You managed to find one of the few existing allies to your family’s throne somehow in the middle of a horrific storm.” Boure then extended her words and wishes.

More gasps and confusion came from the tribe.

Kei-orah swallowed hard, shook her head then came to an obvious decision. She bowed, stepped forward, still keeping her eyes averted as she knelt before the young princess. “Omni dos va prima kel dor tima Truevo kon Couervere Domaica. Prestax losmo attcha meye.”

“She is re-establishing her tribe’s allegiance to the Coueryere family and their rightful rule. She is also willing to take full responsibility and any consequence you deem fit for any offense they may have caused since they did not recognize you.”

Jueneva extended her hand, lifting up the woman’s chin so she could look into her face. “Tell her, there is no offense or apology needed. It would be an honor to have their alliance. They are no longer to be Revie-ati. Indeed, Boure, they have lost almost everything in the storm. I want to invite the Truevo to live in the castle ruins with us if they would be approving.”

Even before he could finish her offer, the tribe members cheered and some broke into tears of relief or dances of joy.

“All I would ask is that with their fealty and servitude to the Throne, Kei-orah to act as my personal bodyguard and combat trainer.”

The fierce woman too proud for tears like her kin, briskly nodded her head in agreement.

“It would appear, your highness, that your hunt did in the end proved most beneficial.”

Jueneva couldn’t make out whether or not the skeleton was smiling, but she loved the sound of pride she heard in his words.

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 7/3//2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

7

Abdi leatra da came for the tribe in the late hours of the night. Or it was the early dawn hours, Jueneva could not tell as it was nearly pitch dark. Outside rain pelted down in sheets of gray rain. While emerald green lightning flashed non-stop in the underbelly of the massive storm.

Abdi leatra da she concluded meant lightning storm or a type of hurricane to the Revie-ati.

The howling winds shook the compound foundations, and the thunder clashes made the walls quake and tremble horribly.

Her wooden cage swung precariously from the ceiling. She clutched at the boards, her over-extended fingers ached unnoticed.  Her stomach grew queasy from fear and worry.

“Merrera def tollas!”

The hoarse shout came from below the wooden trapdoor of her cage. Then she felt a knock and the sound of sliding metal. The heavyset guard had returned and popped her head in to shout again, “Merrera def tollas!” Followed with a frantic wave of her hand. This time the short, javelin spear did not leave the scabbard upon her back.

There was no time to be concerned with a prisoner escape.

Through the opening of the trapdoor, she could see the chaos the storm was having upon the tribe members and the compound. Wide cracks along the floor and even up some of the walls had formed. Water flooded everywhere, flowing in from the three openings at least a foot deep.

The strong warrior women had formed a short line, tied to each other and standing nearly hip to hip. They passed food and gear along, trying to empty the compound and make thier escape. Abdi leatra da was taking their home away, if not destroying it completely.

Jueneva hurried to the opening and climbed quickly down.

Without a word, the guard pushed her at the shoulder into a small group of elderly huddled at one side of the floor trench. She felt as helpless as the tribe had deemed her to be. She was overwhelmed by the ferocity of the storm and had no experience with such weather or events.

Rain dripped from the ceiling in several waterfalls and the mud along the floor trench crumbled away several inches every minute. It was apparent their hope that the water runoff would simply go to the inner mountain river had been underestimated. The sides and the span of the trench had widened from five feet to over a dozen feet, which threatened the integrity of the stone bases along the walls.

The Revie-ati female, the hardened warrior who had captured her days before marched over to Jueneva. The woman stood tall and walked with a square-shouldered determination and purpose. She pointed a long finger into Jueneva’s chest then at another woman she happened to be standing close to. “Bfed bera don taskea, Shealda!”

Shealda nodded, did a small bow toward the woman, then she began to knot a thick loop of rope about Jueneva’s waist. She was her new apparent “caretaker”.

“!Beaaska Ket ma dos Cha!” the warrior woman screamed while pumping both fists into the air.

The others answered similarly. Then the line of tied women commenced its march out of one of the exits into the storm.

Jueneva scanned the large amount of possessions and items that were being left behind. They were giving up almost all they had for a desperate hope that they can find safer shelter while the incredible storm frenzied all about them. They even were leaving the memorial to their former leader. She marveled at their bravery. Or was simply their tenacity for survival in a deadly land?  

For the Revie-ati this appeared to be their final ditch effort to outlast the Abdi leatra da.

As her group headed to the exit, a colossal clap of thunder hit so loud, all of them pressed their hands to their ears to protect against the heavy impact. A crack expanded more along the eastern side of the cave, boulders and parts of the ceiling cascaded down in a hellish torrent. Several of the tribe had been under that portion. Rumblings all about the chamber warned of more collapses. Water and rain had doused all remaining torches and fires.

Everyone now ran blind in a panicked rush for any exit.

In a daze, Jueneva watched the whole scene play out in her newfound darkvision of gray lights. The rope around her waist grew painfully taught, someone was urgently pulling her to get out of the cavern. She stood rooted. With hardly a conscious effort, she yanked the loop up and over her head freeing herself as well as the other person, who was most likely Shealda.

She delved deeper into the cave going against the tides of flooding water and mudslides toward the new mound of collapsed ceiling stones. A hand protruded from the mud, and it clawed for purchase, trying to pull its owner out of the thick earth.

Jueneva grasped the hand and pulled with all the strength she could muster, her feet sinking into the ground. More of the ceiling gave way behind her, splashing water and rocks into her back and legs.

Finally, a loud sucking sound followed by a loud pop! marked the escape of the poor Revie-ati woman.

It was as Jueneva guessed. It was Mealli who beamed in gratitude up at her as she laid exhausted at her feet.


Thank you for reading my writing and supporting this site! In gratitude, I want to reward you loyal readers with a chance at winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Send me a quick email to Rivyenphx@yahoo.com and share with me your thoughts on this and or other Fresh Content Blogs. All email responders will be entered in a drawing. I will announce the winner at the end of July. Thank you again!!

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 6/19/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

Chapter Three

The crowd was deafening, roaring as the baseball flew high over their heads and into the rows of “cheap seats”.

“It was a homerun. Vasquez did it!” Stephanie squealed in high-pitch delight and clapped her hands.

“STEPH! DIDJA SEE DAT?” Uncle Max shouted, slurring from the effects of the large amount of alcohol consumed already.

Not waiting for her reply, Uncle Max was laughing and hooting cheers again with his two buddies. The baseball game had been as Rylund feared only an easy excuse for the adults to get drunk. Stephanie wisely made a pre-emptive strike and asked for their uncle’s debit card to pay for a Uber ride home after the third inning.

“Vasquez is the best and the cutest player on the Phillies!” She squealed again.

Rylund shook his head. “Velasquez. His name’s Vince Velasquez.”

“Oh,” she giggled. “Whoever! We’re tied at least.”

He sighed in boredom. Even before his accident, baseball was too long for him to watch, let alone now listen to his sister’s poor play-by-play.

A breeze scented with butter floated over them, his stomach growled in response. He reached out and patted her shoulder. “Let’s hit the restroom then make a run for some food. Okay?”

Stephanie’s sudden silence wasn’t surprising, and he didn’t need to see her face to know what she was thinking. Her shoulder had tightened in reflex under his fingers. To be truthful, he didn’t relish the idea of meandering among the Spectators either. Spectators was the name he gave the unseen members of the crowds that watched and sent him looks of pity. Spectators that meant well but mostly watched him struggle and were secretly grateful they weren’t him. Spectators were his version of roadside rubberneckers.

“I brought my cane, I’ll be alright – just find the first stall, I’m in an out. Simple.”

“Yeah, cuz I’m not going in! It’s—”

“You don’t need to. That’s what I’m tellin’ you. I’ll go in on my own. Stay by the doorway so we can go together to the food kiosks.”

Minutes later, he trailed behind her as she wove them skillfully through the throng of fans that milled about the stadium. Rylund heard lots of noise, most of it he tuned out as “crowd white noise”. While some people liked to “people watch” crowds, Rylund liked to eavesdrop and guess their stories. 

A cranky toddler somewhere behind them was fussing and whining about a lost toy. The mother was refusing to go back for the white wabbit. Children’s voices tended to catch his attention first – the higher pitch the voice the more they impacted his senses.

A woman to the left of them was laughing, maybe even flirting with someone as her laughter seemed too long and forced. Another younger voice interrupted hers and her words also came out sounding forced, bordering on obnoxious. A male’s lower, gruff voice interrupted now and then.

She’s drunk. Goin’ to be a cat-fight soon, he mused.

Stephanie squeezed his hand. It was their agreed upon signal for stopping. He sensed her leaning in close to him. “I will be on the left. There’s a long line for the kettlekorn. Once you get past the line, on the right is the Men’s Room. Got it?”

“Yep,” he answered and tapped out a quick series of staccato notes on the stadium floor with his cane.

The faint, tainted air of urine and bleach marked the restroom’s unpleasant location. As he neared the open archway, a silvery flash flickered in the corner of one eye.

What the—

Someone collided with his shoulder. The strike spun him to the side where he bounced off some lady’s large backside. She cursed loudly while he wobbled unsteady trying to regain his footing.

She must’ve turned to face him, noticed the cane, and her mouth audibly snapped close. He shrugged as his poor apology, headed again toward the restroom. His cheeks burned red in embarrassment.

Yet, his mind reeled, his thoughts mixed and tumbled over each other. His sight had been completely cut off ever since the night of the fire. The explosion of aquarium glass and scalding water had been the last thing he saw, and they had done irreparable damage. Thus, it had been nearly a year in “darkness”.

The term darkness doesn’t aptly describe blindness – being blind isn’t like keeping your eyes closed. It’s more akin to trying to see the room about you with your elbow. It simply doesn’t happen. Nothingness is a closer definition for being blind.

That flash… That flash! Is that a sign of…healing? He wondered, the thought nearly tripping him up again. Could he dare to have hope?

The metallic clink of a bathroom stall door signaled his quest’s end. His hands groped and found the handle. The metal was cold and sticky to his fingers. It was unlocked and he entered.

After months of healing, his body had made astounding changes to accommodate for his blindness which he hadn’t fully expected or anticipated. Of course, his sense of hearing became sharper which is often reported by the blind. However, it was also changes to his fingers. They became extra sensitive to temperatures and textures. Also, his sense of smell deepened, and he found he could discern various smells easier than before the fire. All of it was like going from a broad, wide paint brush to a fine detail brush. It was as if his brain flicked off switches to burned-out light bulbs then flicked other switches on for replacement lights.

At that moment, as he sat down upon the cold seat of the toilet, his heightened sense of smell was not a blessing. He held his breath, blocked out the various noises and echoes, and tried to not gag.

Maybe it was all my imagination. Nothing. Don’t get so excited over this.

He left the stall and worked his way to the sinks universally placed across from the row of stalls. Running water and splashing to the left and even more, maybe two more sinks going on his right. The bathroom had gotten crowded.

The fifth inning must’ve ended, and everyone made a mad dash to relieve themselves. I’m lucky the stampede hadn’t—

Another silvery wave of light floated in front of him, it expanded like a circular tear, like a blooming portal. Its edges were ragged, expanding and contracting. Through this portal, he saw a partial profile of a man as he passed by Rylund and left the restroom. He was much taller than him, a black elderly man with a graying afro. His eyes burned red and there were trailing wisps of smoke in the air. A faint, red aura encompassed him.

When the man slipped out of the Men’s Room entrance, the portal snapped close and the nothingness, the blindness returned like a cold, backhand slap to the face.

Gasping for breath, Rylund gripped the sides of the sink, his cane falling loudly at his feet.

“Kid? You okay?” a voice behind him spoke out. It had a deep bass, authoritative timbre.

He couldn’t speak yet, his legs were shaking, but he nodded he was alright, hoping to be left alone.

“You sure? You’re pale and sweatin’. Do you need help to the toilet to throw up?” Another male voice asked.

“No, no. Thanks. My-my sister is outside, she’ll help me,” he mumbled weakly.

Footsteps scampered away from him. Others came closer, crowding him. Spectators! All with good intentions, but it only magnified his state of confusion, his sense of panic building.

Rylund forced his hands free of the wet porcelain and knelt for his cane. Someone put it into his grip. He rushed through the gathered Spectators and fled to the fresh air of the stadium landing. Hugging the wall, he worked his way to the right then pressed up against the grimy wall. He gulped the air and nearly sobbed with emotion. His mind raced from a whirlwind to now a full Level Five Tempest.

He had seen someone!  His eyes had worked for a brief second. Nothing or no one would convince him otherwise. The man had been so clear and so close, Rylund could have picked him out of a police line-up.

Giggles burst from his lips, garnering him probably even more stares. Your Honor, the Defense would like to call its next eyewitness, Rylund David Faraday the Blind Boy From Southside!

A hand slipped into his. “Come on. It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”

Stephanie!

He didn’t pull away, let her take him calmly away from the stadium fans all ogling the poor blind kid. Spectators!

He knew there were looks of pity and the mournful faces of sadness. Normally, it would have devastated him. He had had bad times in the rehab center – throwing temper tantrums and ‘why me’ cussing sessions. When he felt the waves of “so-sorry-kid” thoughts overwhelm him. Made him feel helpless, tiny…disabled.

Or like the time at the mall, he tripped on an extension cord and fell headlong into a comic book display, spraining his ankle badly. He was mortified not being able to stand. His embarrassment rocketed to new levels as several strangers lifted him without asking and carried him to an ambulance. Stephanie was there at his side the whole time, but too small to really help. She later told him how embarrassed she had been as well. Her new role in their relationship hadn’t always been easy.

He knew what the Spectators were thinking, saying in their heads, the looks they were giving him and his small sister. This time, however, he was numb to it. None of it mattered. They didn’t know. Stephanie didn’t even know!

Book Review of Stephen King’s “Billy Summers” — Derek Barton – 2022

Billy Summers

by Stephen King — a Contemporary Fiction Novel

Released on August 3, 2021 — 528 pages

It’s been some time since I’ve done a book review, for that matter it’s been quite some time since I’ve read or listened to one on Audible! Anyway, I picked this up a few weeks ago, intrigued by the synopsis. See what you think…

The Synopsis:

From legendary storyteller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

You won’t put this story down, and you won’t forget Billy.

The Review:

Now for anyone who has read a few of my other book reviews, you know I hold Stephen King as one of the top echelon of modern day writers. He has been an inspiration to me ever since my teen years. Even up through today, he wows me with original stories like The Outsider and Mr. Mercedes (which inspired my own Elude Novel Series. That being said, I have to say I was underwhelmed with this novel.

I love the characters in it, the main ones Billy and Alice are a great pair and instantly feel like old friends to the reader. However, the story is all over the map, literally, and King seems to struggle with what to do with the main character. The first 240 pages could have been easily reduced or structured better to accomplish what he set out to do which was build up the main anti-hero Billy Summers and show you his vulnerability and his strengths. The book seems to really meander especially when Billy himself decides to fill up his days writing an autobiography of his own past while waiting for his target to come to town.

Don’t get me wrong — the autobiography is well done and even heartbreaking in places — but it doesn’t move the story along. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a nice little tie-in to his The Shining novel storyline that is a special treat for diehard fans (us “nerds” in other words, LOL!).

The Rating:

I found this more like a great example of a character study (at least until Alice comes into the story exactly on page 240!). The pairing of Billy and Alice is the highlight of the novel and the true heart of this tale. I give it an overall B or 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it, but I would not say it’s a priority read for your reading list. If you have other “must reads”, put them first.

By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller), EVADE Series (Parts I, II & III)  & IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella (available on Audible.com!).  Also the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (both available on Audible.com!).