THE HIDDEN WITHIN – Chapter #1 Excerpt — Derek Barton 2022

Hello everyone! I hope the New Year has already been treating you better than 2020 & 2021!!

Here is Chapter 1 from the new novel, The Hidden Within written by my father, T.D. Barton and I. This is the upcoming sequel to The Hidden from 2017. We sincerely hope you enjoy it. The full novel will be out in a couple months so keep your eyes open for it!!!

CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                          

Throbbing, pounding pain split Makenzie’s skull and a gnawing hunger roiled her guts. She was running noiselessly along a path through a wooded expanse. Driven by an irresistible urge that she did not understand, but had no desire to resist, she forged ahead at a breakneck pace.  At last, she paused and sniffed the heavy night air, pungent with the scent of rotting plants and vegetation lining the forest floor. Ahead she sensed the mordant smell of human flesh, coated enticingly with a sheen of sweat brought on by fear and exertion. Her prey was straining to escape, running, and stumbling blindly amongst the trees, crashing loudly through the underbrush.

While paused, she looked down at her hands and stared at the long, black claws that glistened in the moonlight at the ends of her shaggy fingers. With a snarl she brought them up and scratched at her fur-covered belly.  From deep within, she felt a blood-chilling howl building up, swelling the walls of her throat.  She was no longer Makenzie; she was something else. Something not human but dangerously primeval—savage and powerful.  The thing tilted its head back straightened its neck and let go. Rumbling out into the night, the ghastly sound reverberated among the trees and dense foliage of the forest. When at last it died down, the sound of the various denizens of the dark had been silenced. An eerie quiet had settled in and not one cricket or tree frog dared to be the first to break that silence. Finally, a lone owl hooted in the distance and the sounds of the night resumed. Chuffing out a hot breath, the beast started running again. Soon she would overtake her victim and its blood would course hotly down her throat.

From far above in the night sky, she looked down at herself and the young man who staggered along a few yards before. Dimly Makenzie was becoming aware that this was not real. Another fierce nightmare was dragging her against her will through a primordial wood in the form of a beast, primitive and feral. 

Shay-rah… Shay-rah… the name seemed to whisper on a breeze through the branches.  But when the beast cocked its long ears forward, twitching them back and forth, she realized the whispers came from within her own mind.

Silently she prayed that she would not wake up. This time please let her catch her prey. She lusted for the taste of his flesh. Not yet, she was almost there… almost… there… almost…..


The world was a shit-brown smudge, smeared across her field of vision. Makenzie wanted to shake her head to clear it, but she found she couldn’t move, wanted to bring her balled fists to her eyes and wipe away whatever this film was that blocked her sight.  But her arms lay limp and unresponsive by her side.

Groggy and frighteningly confused, she tried to call out for help; but only a strangled, weak mewling sound escaped her throat. She licked her lips and blinked rapidly. Her breathing was slow and sluggish as she drew in great gasps and released them with a shutter.

Slowly a wavering shadow began to coalesce above her and, as she continued to blink and roll her eyes, the image of a face appeared, still very fuzzy in outline but nonetheless recognizable as that of a man. Her own face scrunched up into a scowl of fear and loathing and she squirmed against the restraints that held her pinned like a specimen beneath a microscope.

It dawned on her that the man was saying something. The voice drifted in from far away and she struggled to understand the words. It sounded like “Offend me….offend me….mistake us.” The ringing in her ears was so strong as to overwhelm any sound from the outside and she felt her head would explode. No, not offend me, not that….it was… Makenzie.

That’s it: Makenzie. Yes, Makenzie….and then Ms. Jacobs. It was a name. Her name. Yes, her name was Makenzie Jacobs. Always had been. So there, that solves that. This man hovering his round black face over her was calling her name.  Okay, so now she could go back to sleep. She closed her tired eyes and began to nod off.

But the man wasn’t through. His hands grasped her arms on both sides, and he shook her, gently at first and then with a more firm and aggressive urgency.

“Ms. Jacobs, can you hear me?” he said and this time she could understand his voice more clearly. He looked away and Makenzie stared up at his stubbly chin, noticing the cleft at the point of it. She fixated on it for a moment, watching it bob and weave as he seemed to be talking to someone off to the side.

“Bring her some water, I think she’s coming around,” he said. And a female voice replied in the affirmative. “Yes, doctor,” the woman said, and footsteps echoed across Makenzie’s consciousness.

The doctor looked down at her again and his face seemed genuinely concerned, but, true to his profession, he maintained a certain aloofness, so as not to become too involved. She was merely a patient, not a person.

“You’ve been given a shot to revive you and your head should begin to clear very soon, he said. “Just try to remain calm and relax.” Makenzie thought she detected a slight Jamaican accent in his voice.

“Can you talk? Do you know where you are?”

She wrinkled her brow and coughed dryly. Try as she might, she had no recollection of where she was or what had brought her here.

All she could recall was her name and the name brought her no sense of satisfaction, as though she should be ashamed of the person it represented. Why should she be repelled by her own name? Who is Makenzie Jacobs and why was she here? Dimly she seemed to recall another name. It was something else she used to answer to long ago… What did it mean? The name whispered around inside her mind and then was gone again.

The doctor scowled and peered intently into her eyes. His breath wafted by her nose, bringing a faint aroma of sage along with it. A hand suddenly appeared; the arm attached to it leading to a white sleeve which dissolved into a blur off to the left of her vision. It was a woman’s hand, and it held a plastic cup full of water, which was brought to her mouth. She gingerly sipped the cold water, and it blessedly soothed her parched lips and raspy mouth.  After a short pause for breath, she raised her head for a deeper drink, and this loosened her knotted throat.

“I’m in a hospital,” she croaked. “Car crash…”

The doctor frowned and looked off to the side again. As he spoke to the woman Makenzie stared up at him and her attention this time was centered on a vein, an artery actually, which throbbed at the base of his throat. Again, she licked her lips, but this time not because of thirst, rather something else coursed through her, like the blood in his pulse. It was something more akin to hunger.

Or lust.

He looked down again and gave her a warm smile. The strange feeling faded away.

“Makenzie, the crash was a long while ago.” Do you remember?

She tried to set up but was still immobilized. Why was she restrained? Was she severely injured? Her mind flashed pictures of crunching metal and screeching tires and she remembered being tossed around like a ragdoll. The smell of burning gasoline seemed to fill her nostrils. Flashes of memory, disjointed and surreal, slammed through her mind. She saw glimpses of that night— swirling images that terrified her. It was more than she could handle. There was nothing there that Makenzie wanted to remember.

She screamed.

“It’s all right. It’s all right, you’re not hurt. Shhhh,” the doctor’s voice was soothing but firm. “You’re okay…okay. Please. Just relax.”

“Makenzie.”

She began to calm down, but still looked from side to side, bewildered, and upset.

“Makenzie.”

She looked the doctor in the face.

“Do you remember your parents? Their names?”

Gazing into the distance she stammered, woodenly, “J-Jillian? …. Carter?”

“Good. Very good. Jillian and Carter Jacobs.” He smiled, showing even white teeth, professionally capped.

“Ms. Jacobs, my name is Doctor Doakes. Your parents love you very much. And they’ve brought you to me, uh, to us to try to help you. Do you remember that?”

She knitted her brows. “The crash… it was…” Her voice trailed off.

“Yes, it was a terrible crash.” he said. “But that’s not why you are here.”

“Makenzie, you’ve been suffering from lapses…hallucinations…periods of violence and rage. Recently you were involved in an incident at your parents’ house. The fundraiser.  Is…any of this coming back to you?”

Again, he searched her uncomprehending face. The girl had no idea what he was talking about.

“You hurt some people and the police had to be called. Mrs. Jacobs says that you have become increasingly irrational and impossible to deal with at home and they, well we all feel it would be good if you could spend some time here with us until we can sort out just what is going on with you.”

Makenzie jerked her head sideways in a bird-like fashion and looked out the window.

“No crash. Not a hospital,” she said, and her voice sounded flat, unemotional. Quite calm now, she looked back at Dr Doakes and in a voice dripping with sarcasm she said, “I’m in a nut-house. The fucking bitch has put me away.”

Slowly she shook her head from side to side.

“So, she got what she has always wanted. I’m out of the picture. No more embarrassing outbursts from crazy Makenzie. Senator Jacobs can bury her little girl, and no one will ever know. This is what she had planned all along. Well, it’s not going to happen, I can tell you that. For once, Jillian is not going to get her way.”

Suddenly she began straining against the straps which held her to the bed. She thrashed and squirmed like a demon unleashed. Her struggles became so violent that Dr. Doakes and his nurse, Kim both stepped back momentarily startled.

“Bullshit!” screamed the agitated young lady. “This is fucking bullshit! And she’s not going to get away with it!”

“Aaaaarrrr!” she screamed and as the screams began to trail off into wails of anger they started to sound almost like the howls of a wounded beast.

Frothing at the mouth, she balled her fists so tightly that her long nails began to slice deeply into her own palms, bringing forth rivulets of blood.

“I’ll kill her!” She howled. “Aaaaa-I’ll kill ‘em both! You can’t keep me here! Do you get that assholes? You can’t! I’ll fucking kill you all!  Rip out your fucking throats! I will! You can’t stop me!”

Tightening his grip on her upper arms the doctor shot a meaningful glance at Nurse Kim, who turned and prepared a syringe. Returning to the struggling doctor she handed the sedative to him.

“Here we go again, Doctor,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “Here we go again.”

Flight Of The Dirithi #5 — Derek Barton 2021

The world before Jueneva was awe-inspiring but horrific at the same time. Her breath caught in her throat in a gasp. The skies overhead was a mottled gray with dark blue patches between the storm clouds. A charcoal blanket of ice and drifts of black snow covered the entire forest surrounding the immense castle ruins. Thin icy strands formed by wind-driven flurries resembled macabre spider webs. They stretched out from tree branch to tree branch snaring everything. The forest tree lines were more shadowy walls than landscape.

Straightening her shoulders and stiffening her back, she pulled the fur-lined jacket hood over her head. She then marched with purpose through the double doors. On her back the ivory long bow gave her some confidence and determination to find real food for her night’s dinner.

A hollow thrumming filled the air as more wind rushed among the bare tree branches. The sound was an eerie, flat whistle and set the hairs on the back of her neck on end. Instinctively, she crouched and planted her boots firmly into the snow, ready for flight.  

Silvery lightning flashed high above as the whistling raced to a crescendo. As it faded a rolling rumble of deafening thunder vibrated everything, even the ground she stood upon.

Every fiber in her begged her to rush back inside, to wait another day for the snows to pass. Nothing in the foreign landscape gave her any comfort, it stared back at her defiant with teeth bared. A dread enveloped her and she wondered if this was a sign or a premonition.

“No! I will not delay my fight one more hour, “ Her voice carrying out, building. “Backing down is not in my nature!” It didn’t matter that no one was present to hear her or witness. Jueneva needed to hear and believe in the statement. Needed to feel the promise in her words.

She pressed on after a moment and found a thin animal path twisting to and fro beneath the forest canopy. With effort she avoided touching the webbed limbs as much as possible. Other than the storm and its bizarre winds, the forest seemed devoid of life. Her frustration grew as she followed the trail. Finally, her trek came to a large mountainside with a series of tunnel mouths. The openings spanned nearly a dozen or so handwidths and spotted the mountain rock somewhat in a beehive fashion.

Jueneva crouched and peered down into the nearest hole, her eyes trying to adjust to the shadows inside. Her eyes didn’t spy any movement, but her ears picked up the soft scraping of stone. Something was approaching and it was coming fast!  She sprang to the side, laying flat against the wall.

A beast, long and low, erupted from its hive and rushed out onto the path oblivious to her presence. In her own realm, they referred to these creatures as centipedes. However the one before her had to be hundreds of pounds and its head was bestowed with a series of red antlers that grew along its back. More unusual was the appearance of a black lattice-work streaming from the antlers to the middle of its oily black body.

A harness! Who, by the Fates, would ever dare to ride such a monster?

Another shot out of its opening further left of her position and followed after the first on its multitude of tiny, clawed feet. She heard the second beast hiss and chatter seeming to call after the other. Both of the mammoth insects skidded to a sudden stop in the dirty snow and curled back to face her.

Without a thought she had the bow in her hands with twin arrows notched. Upon seeing the weapon, the first centipede hissed in obvious anger at her. It charged closer and reared up to tower over her. The second moved to its right also rising and boxing her in against the rocks.

A gray-skinned arm, heavily tattooed with red dyes, swept in and around her shoulders pressing a serrated bone blade under her chin and flat against her neck. Hot breath warmed her ear as a husky, gruff voice spoke to her ear, “Doshe mi lees tonva dess.”

She had no inkling of the words meaning as there wasn’t any emotion or inflection in the statement. Her only reaction was to let the bow and arrows drop into the snow and keep her empty hands out before her. “Easy… Easy now,” she cooed to the blade owner standing behind her in the tunnel. “We can talk this over.” She hoped diplomacy would work as she was obviously outmaneuvered and outmanned.

Her hood was yanked back suddenly, and a cold metal loop snapped shut around her neck!

Jueneva screeched, her hands clawing wildly at the manacle. She was thrust forward, but her legs buckled and she crashed to her knees. A long spear handle was fastened to the neck manacle.

Now desperate she lunged and crawled for one of her arrows on the path. As her fingers curled around it, a sandaled foot pinned her arm down. The other sandal kicked her between the shoulder blades, blasting the air from her chest.

The blade owner jerked her up by the manacle to then lean down and smile with malice in her face. Her captor was a thin but muscular woman. She had jet black braids on one side of her shaven head. The blood red tattoos ran down the whole left side of her gray body. “Doshe esca roto pemma diem.” Again no emotion in the words.

Jueneva with tears of fury and a bloody nose could do nothing but meet the woman’s stare with a gaze of fiery defiance. Another woman rode up to them on the back of a matching, giant centipede. The newcomer studied the scene before her but then gasped. She shot her hand out, pointing at the bow laying partially buried in the black snow.

Her captor kneeled and dug out the ivory bow. Her slender fingers traced along the silvery runes and patterns etched in the wood. She kept Jueneva painfully hung suspended by her neck over the trail.

Again the blade owner’s hot breath washed over her face. “Doshe modta bri freyes Coueryere.” The monotone sound of her words hadn’t changed, but the look of outrage in her eyes spoke volumes.

2020 Bi-Monthly Goal Breakdown – Derek Barton

Goal 2020

 

With the New Year almost upon us, I have been working out my upcoming goals and what I’d like to see as far as successful production for 2020.

With a lot of excitement, I am hoping to publish my new suspense/supernatural horror series, Evade! And with a lot of joy and sadness, I will be wrapping up my epic fantasy collection, the Wyvernsield Series. While this may be a “goodbye” to current beloved characters, I am already toying with a story idea with new characters beginning this time in Aberrisc!

As you know if you have been reading any of my goal planning posts, I like the bi-monthly process breakdown. This method has proven to generate the most goal success for me. I’ll be continuing the process, but this time with a larger “arching” picture in mind. I’ll be planning the entire year, broken down in two-month objectives by Work In Progress.

Overall Goal Summary: This year’s production goal is to publish four books — Evade Parts #1,2 & 3  and the last book in the Wyvernshield Fantasy Series.

Works In Progress Goals:

EVADE

January – February

  • Complete writing for Book #3 (anticipated 25,000 word count) 
  • Edit Book #1, Book #2
  • Craft Book Blurb
  • Purchase/design book covers for all three books
  • Publish Book #1

March – April

  • Edit Book #3
  • Publish Book #2

May – June

  • Publish Book #3

WYVERNSHIELD BOOK #3

March – August

  • Complete writing (March through August — anticipated word count 100,000)
  • Edit book (September through November)
  • Publish in December

April – May

  • Purchase cover
  • Write up a book blurb
  • Look into a future Set Collection of all three books

Writing goal

  • 125,000/12 mos
  • Evade Book #3 25,000 — 12,500 per month, 3,125 per week, 625 per 5 days
  • Wyvernshield #3 100,000 — 17,000 per month, 4,250 per week, 850 per 5 days

Marketing goals

  • Once per quarter do an ad (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Amazon)
  • Buy new table & cart
  • Buy banner stands
  • Find/design a book stand
  • Buy Metal Bookmarkers for new books
  • Once per quarter do a local book signing
  • Participate in one national comic convention if possible
  • Expand email list
  • Once per quarter do a giveaway
  • Donate older book versions to libraries

So this is the 2020 Plan but as they are “goals”, these are subject to change, subject to incompletion, and subject to postponement! LOL

While 2019 was a tough and emotional year for me and my family, it turned out overall a very important and rewarding year. In the end, I learned you just have to have faith all will work out and have faith in yourself that you have the strength to see it through!

I wish all of you a successful and happy new year as well!

The Fall Author Fair @ Bookmans – POSTPONED – DEREK BARTON

PHX-10-15-Lo-Res-Storefront

 

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but I just got word that the bookstore wants to push the Book Fair until after the first of the year…  😦

In the meantime, I am actively searching and making calls to see if I can obtain a different spot to do a book signing by the end of the year.

Bookman’s stated that they do want to have the book fair so hopefully this will still come together.

I will keep you in the loop.

Parts 3, 4 & 5 of Interview — Derek Barton – 2019

Interview Banner

 

For those of you who caught Parts 1 & 2 of the interview I had with Voice Actress Laura Richcreek, here are the last three sections.

PART THREE =  https://laurasvoice.com/weve-got-a-plotter/

PART FOUR =  https://laurasvoice.com/wouldnt-have-it-any-other-way/

PART FIVE =  https://laurasvoice.com/flexibility-and-gratitude/

 

Thank you again, Laura!  That was a blast and as always it is a great pleasure working with you on my projects.

Please enjoy these excerpts and have a GREAT HALLOWEEN this year!!

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The Fall Author Fair @ Phoenix Bookmans — Derek Barton – 2019

PHX-10-15-Lo-Res-Storefront

 

COME SEE ME AND GET A BOOK SIGNED!!!

The book fair will have at least 7 other Arizona local authors there for you to meet and greet.

I will also be giving away a set of all my audiobooks (Consequences Within Chaos, The Bleeding Crown, In Four Days and Elude Part One) to one winner who attends.

This should be a great time — DON’T MISS OUT!!

 

Bookmans Exchange 

11 AM to 4:00 PM

NOVEMBER 16TH, 2019

8034 N. 19th Ave.

Phoenix, AZ 85021

Phone: (602) 433-0255

https://bookmans.com

 

The Hidden — Chapter 15: CHIRKAH! — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH chap 15

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN:   CHIRKAH!

 

An ice-cold dagger of steel ripped a jagged course through Nate’s guts. His eyes spread wide as he struggled to deal with the roiling of his insides.  He felt his hands shaking and the trembling seemed to travel from the tips his fingers, coursing up his veins and through his veins until it burst out onto the surface of his skin.  Slowly he sank back against the trunk of the tree. Knitting his brows, he looked back at the beast and tried to comprehend what it had just told him.

“What in the hell do you mean by ‘breeding stock’? If one of you hairy bastards has hurt her –” His voice choked with emotion and he fell silent. His loathing of the creatures had just reached a new level, far surpassing anything he’d ever thought himself capable. The hatred threatened to overtake him completely and he felt his face warming from its effect. Just what he planned to do in retaliation, he hadn’t the vaguest notion, but the thought of one of these things touching her –that way– made him furious. So angry was he, if pressed, he would probably attempt taking on the whole pack bare-handed, despite the overwhelming odds. His eyes blazed back into Chirkah’s red glare.

“Just tell me where she is”, he demanded.

It would do you no good to know her whereabouts, Nate Malone. The voice insinuated itself inside his head, and Chirkah’s eyes narrowed perceptibly as he “spoke”.  I assure you there would be no chance of succor. Should you come down from your haven among the branches, you would be overpowered in seconds. But perhaps this would be for the better. After all, you can’t remain up there indefinitely. You must come down sometime, so why not do it now and avoid all the suffering? Before long, thirst will set your tongue ablaze and then, together with hunger, it will drive you down to us. When this happens, we will NOT be kind. The Kophet-kut are nothing if not patient. We will wait. However, we do not enjoy being toyed with; nor do we take kindly to anyone reducing our ranks by three of our fellows.

He gazed slowly about at the grisly-looking group.  There are many of my followers who would gladly exact vengeance upon you, and believe me, we know ways of inflicting injuries that kill slowly and with great pain.

Nate looked too. The horrid creatures sat around in various positions of repose. He shivered at the thought of those cruel mouths stripping his flesh from his bones. He had witnessed first-hand their capacity for ferocity as they mercilessly punished one of their own for a minor infraction of the pecking order. He could only imagine how they would deal with someone they hated.

On the other hand, should you come down now, I promise to do my best to see that your death is a quick and –relatively– painless one. Chirkah grinned again, showing teeth. The uniquely human gesture looked oddly out of place upon his savage countenance.

Nate shook his head and passed his hand over his tired eyes. His head felt stuffed with cotton, and he wanted to vomit. Listening to Chirkah’s insolent voice droning on was somehow repugnant to his very core. It gave him an odd, repulsive feeling that was the mental equivalent of having a dry wooden tongue depressor shoved to the back of your mouth, or maybe, to chewing tinfoil. He shuddered and looked back down.

“Explain to me what you mean when you say Zelda’s being held as breeding stock.” he said, striving to make his voice sound calm.”

That bothers you, does it Nate Malone? Chirkah’s tongue reached out casually and gathered in a lady-bug beetle which was trundling slowly across his cheek. Munching thoughtfully, he let his gaze meander, in a lazy arc, across the bean field beyond the edge of the woods.

Out there, the sun was blazing down, drying the plants and hurrying them along toward harvest.  Here, beneath a canopy of leaves, the shade was cool and, under different circumstances, Nate would have found it soothing. He settled back down on the tree branch, waiting impatiently for Chirkah to resume.

At last, the chieftain of the Kophet-kur looked back up at him.

In your human folk-lore, there are many things which you fear. Each generation passes along stories of beasts and goblins which await the unsuspecting victim somewhere… out there. Even you, Nate Malone must be intelligent enough to realize that these legends must have some basis in fact. Somewhere along the line, someone saw SOMETHING that inspired the telling of the tale. That tale is, in turn, twisted and exaggerated a bit more by each teller until it reaches mythic proportions. Is this not true?

“Make your point, dog breath.” Nate snarled.

Chirkah paused, glaring maliciously. When this failed to have an effect, however, he continued. My… POINT, as you put it, is simply this: Have you ever heard of werewolves, Nate Malone? Shapeshifters? Lycanthropes? Of course, you have, and you’ve always considered them to be fiction — fabrications of active imaginations, is this so?

Nate refused to answer, staring icily into the deep caverns that were Chirkah’s eyes.

Well, as I’ve said, there is some basis for truth in these stories, which have been handed down for centuries. Yes, Nate, there ARE werewolves living among you. They are the spies for the Kophet-kur. They circulate among the humans, leading outwardly normal little human lives, working and playing along with the rest of the stupid, unsuspecting creatures. They hold respectable positions in your society, working as bankers and doctors and lawyers and so forth, and never once do they give any sign of being anything other than typical human trash… Except during the full of the moon.

Chirkah turned his muzzle to the sky, his eyes clamped shut, and, after a short time, Nate began to feel dizzy. It came upon him gradually, as a ship, slowly gliding into a dock to tie up. He sandwiched his head in his hands, pressing so hard his face began to distort. Chirkah’s telepathic hold was increasing. Nate felt his own will fall away, and he had the disquieting feeling that something huge and filthy was peering into the farther-most intimate corners of his mind. The voice inside Nate’s head rang like a bell, resounding in echoes that grew and grew, threatening to split his skull, as Chirkah launched into a singsong chant. The sound rose and fell like waves thundering on a desolate, rock-strewn shore.

 

“THE MOON IS OUR BEACON,

IT GUIDES THE KOPHET-KUR.

(We sing, for the moon is our pilot.)

SING US HOME, OUR FATHERS!

WE AWAIT YOUR COMING

(We sing, for the moon is the way.)

THE FATHERS GAVE US LIFE

AND NOW THEY GIVE US HOPE

(We sing, for the moon is our comfort.)

YOU COME, OH BELOVED!

WE WAIT… WE HEAR… WE FOLLOW.”

(We sing.)

 

Along with the ringing voice of Chirkah, Nate could discern a chorus of other voices overlapping each other in a hideous chaotic, mélange of sound, layered one atop another, in similar repetitive chants. The chorus built inside him, reverberating from the sides of his skull until it spilled out in an incredible crescendo of sound. It seemed to surround him, carrying him aloft and hurling him among the uppermost branches of the trees. In his mind, he looked down from a great height and all he could see was forest below. Frantically searching for some kind of stability, he looked to the horizon where sat an enormous glowing ball of fire. At first Nate’s bewildered mind associated it with the sunset, but in a second he could see that it was something entirely different.

The vocal chorus became a drumming, low pitched buzz which emanated from the glowing orb, and it began to rotate slowly, casting brilliant white-hot shafts of light haphazardly around it. These beams of light reflected off of everything they touched, doubling and trebling in quantity and intensity as they bounced and played across the scenery. Suddenly the ball of light rose into the air and shot off into the sky. Nate could feel the heat from it baking his face, singeing the hair of his brows. As it hurtled past him, he thought he could see faces – smooth, lightly glowing faces with barely discernible features – staring out at him from various places about the sphere. The faces left him cold and empty inside, and he felt a longing to cry out to them to come back. His hands reached out involuntarily, and his mind screamed “We need you! Don’t leave!” In that instant, he felt an intense, aching loneliness that threatened to consume him from the inside, leaving nothing but a dried husk to blow lightly before the wind. The sense of loss was overwhelming.

As he stared after the departing sphere, the sky became darker and darker, until it reached the ebony blackness of midnight. The sphere continued to recede into this blackness until he became aware that he was looking at the moon, shining at him from a blank, starless nigh-time sky. The moon was comforting to him, easing the hollow void within, and he found he couldn’t pull his eyes away. He needed — was absolutely compelled to keep his mind trained upon it, because it was sending him signals — some kind of message. He couldn’t make out what the message was. It didn’t seem to be coming at him in the form of words, but rather in feelings — emotions. It was telling him something he absolutely needed to know to survive, and it was oh, so soothing! The message was filled with hope and promise and triumphant, exhilarating, lustful faith. He wanted to slobber at the mouth. He wanted to strip off all his clothing and go running naked through the woods. He wanted to howl. His throat fairly burst with the desire to open up and let all of his exuberance come rushing out in a long, loud, soul-quenching bellow of lusty defiance. Laughing out loud, he opened his mouth and howled. Again he let the sound rush from his gaping throat. And then again. Each howl was louder than the one preceding it and it felt wonderful. It was a totally liberating rush of confidence and a sense of well-being he had never before experienced. He continued to wail, letting the sound of his own voice buoy him up and cleanse his spirit.

When he opened his eyes, the sun was shining and the branch was again beneath him. Looking below, he saw that all the creatures were gathered around the base of the tree, and, like Chirkah, they were watching him closely.

The moon is our pilot, Chirkah was softly saying. He sounded tired, like someone who had just quit a trance state and was not yet in full possession of his faculties. It guides us through the night. When we hunt, the moon is by our side, helping us to keep our feet on the track. When we kill, it gives us strength, and when we hide, the moon tells us where to go and what to do.

Suddenly he snapped out of it and became focused once again.

The Fathers, when they left, gave us the moon as a guidepost, it is their means of staying in touch. The telepathic ability exists in all species bearing their seed, which includes most of the remaining creatures on this earth. There had to be a way to monitor their progress here, and so, from somewhere… out there, they send a constant signal, guiding us in all that we do. The Kophet-kur retain the greatest capacity to perceive these signals, and in turn, we attempt to return our thoughts to them. The moon is the ‘transmitter’ — the mirror upon whose reflective surface the signals are bounced and magnified. And these signals have a profound effect over all the earth: birds migrate from one pole to another, navigating in blind ignorance, in response to the effect of the moon’s influence. Dogs howl, insects, responding to the call of instinct, hurl themselves into any light that resembles the moon. The animals of the sea are drawn to the surface when the moon casts its illumination upon the waters. Indeed the very tides of the ocean are influenced by the pull of the moon. Even your own human race exhibits very erratic behavior during the times of its fullness when its power is greatest. All of these things, your scientists have searched for explanations to, but the secret is there — shining in the night sky!

Nate sensed an amount of sincerity in what Chirkah was telling him. For the first time since he’d begun this conference with the devil, Nate began to believe what he was being told. It was incredible and more than a little unsettling to think that the human race, indeed, nearly every manner of creature on earth was the product of some bizarre genetic experiment by alien creatures from another planet. It undermined all that he had ever believed in and left him feeling unstable and somehow up-rooted. His mind seemed to be floating in a deep void where everything was backward and opposite. He struggled to gain control — to shrug it off as impossible. However, the evidence that something highly unusual had occurred sat below him staring hungrily up into the tree. And, what Chirkah was saying explained many things, among them the strange effect the moon had upon the earth and its inhabitants. Here also was a possible explanation for the reports of such strange creatures as Bigfoot and the Yeti of the Himalayas; perhaps even the Loch-Ness monster sightings.

And now, Chirkah was offering an explanation to the centuries-old myths about werewolves. Could there be actual creatures who were able to assume human form part of the time, and then become something similar to these misshapen horrors when the moon was exerting its mysterious influence upon them? How could he exercise logic and reason when for the past few hours he’d been having a conversation with a monster? Everything he’d ever believed to be true in a rational, sane world was now put to question. WERE there such things as monsters? Did humans evolve naturally from apes — or were we the product of creation by a divine being? Perhaps all the stories of creation in the Bible were the result of simple, uncivilized minds attempting to explain the unexplainable. Is there a God in heaven, or does our creator traverse the skies in a miraculous ship built of strange, alien metals from another planet — another galaxy, far from our own?

Below him, Chirkah, savage, brutal king of the monsters, sat staring up at Nate as though he were aware of the conflict troubling his mind, and was waiting to regain his attention. Nate swallowed hard and felt something click in his throat. Dimly, he became aware of the first stirrings of thirst. Chirkah had been right about this, he COULD use something to drink. But more importantly, at this point, he still wanted to know about Zelda.

“So what has all this got to do with my wife?” he asked, cautiously. Slowly, Chirkah nodded, in a sage-like manner.

When the fathers left us, they made a promise to return someday; and when they do, they will select the most successful of their progeny to continue the experiments. They will teach the winning species the ways of their planet and give them absolute domain over all the remaining creatures on this one. Eventually, the chosen species will evolve into beings closely approximating the fathers. This is the way their genetic code works. After millennia, the Kophet-kur are beginning to look less like our lupine ancestors, and more like the fathers — just as humans are distancing themselves more and more from the apes which bore them. At the time of their return, the fathers will further advance this process, so that their favorites can only be guessed at, but one thing is certain: the Kophet-kur do not wish to come in second. For you see, it is a race — the Kophet-kur MUST gain the technology which has so advanced your species, thus making us the most successful. At the same time, humans are beginning to become aware of their own latent telepathic abilities, and may someday soon stumble over the secrets which, until now, are possessed only by the Kophet-kur. We CANNOT allow this to happen. To do so would be to lose all that we have dreamed of and waited so patiently for since the dark beginnings of time.

 Chirkah paused for a moment, seemingly gathering his thoughts before continuing.

This is why we take prisoners. The women of your species carry the recessive gene needed to serve our purposes. Therefore, we capture only females. Besides, the male of your species could not be forced to copulate. The bitches, however… his narrative trailed off and he nodded to one of his rank and file — an apparently pre-arranged gesture that sent this lieutenant bounding off into the brush. In a moment, however, he returned to the clearing with something that made Nate’s hair rise on his scalp and he snapped to attention, every nerve twitching.

Walking docilely before the beast, head hanging and shoulders sagging, was a human female — at least what was left of one. The woman was of indeterminate age — she could have been fourteen of forty – with matted, bedraggled brown hair hanging in her face. Mud and blood smeared every square inch of skin that was exposed, and the ragged shift she wore was so filthy he could not make out the color, even on a sunny day such as this. The woman walked, barefoot, with the air of someone who had grown accustomed to constant torture and abuse, long since abandoning all attempts at escape or hope of rescue.

She stumbled once, and the creature escorting her nipped savagely at her heel, opening up yet another wound, and bringing Nate to his feet on the branch once more. His heart went out to the poor wretch and he called to her.

“Hey!” he cried. “Hey, you! Up here… in the tree. I’m up here!” But the prisoner paid him no attention. Nate couldn’t tell whether it was because she was in a state of shock and simply beyond hearing or because she was afraid of the retribution such insolent behavior might bring from her captors. Still, he felt he should try to offer some comfort. “Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to get you out of here!” This sounded silly, considering the circumstances, even to him. Apparently, his audience agreed; for suddenly, in his mind, he heard gales of malicious laughter and, looking at the creatures sprawled about the clearing, he saw several with their tongues hanging out and their black mouths split in wide canine grins. Even Chirkah guffawed heartily at this, before giving another telepathic signal to the creature acting as guard to the helpless prisoner.

Without warning, the beast raised up and slapped the woman brutally on the side of the head, sending her sprawling. She lay on the ground, obviously stunned for a moment and then staggered to her hands and knees, where she did a most peculiar thing. Reaching stiffly around behind, she gathered up the hem of her skirt and pulled it up, exposing her bruised and battered buttocks to the air. There she waited patiently while the brute came up behind her and slowly sniffed. Nate felt his gorge rising and tried, unsuccessfully, to pull his eyes away.

The creature rose and placed his forepaws on the back of the poor wretch, digging his claws in carelessly as he went, apparently unconcerned about what damage they may do to her. From his belly protruded an enormous, pink-tipped erection which dipped and swayed as he shifted from foot to foot. The monster absolutely dwarfed the poor woman, and Nate was sure she would die should the beast carry out its obvious intentions.

As the huge, hairy creature entered her, she turned her head slowly around to look at Nate, and her hair fell from her eyes. There was horror in those eyes — a livid, unspeakable, screaming horror that would haunt Nate’s dreams forever. She made not a sound, and her face remained a stone mask of expressionless sorrow. But there was one thing more in her eyes, and when Nate saw it he wished her dead. At that moment he knew that, if he had his gun back, he would spend his last bullet not in defense of his own life, but in the merciful cessation of hers. For glistening in her eyes he saw tears — silent tears — which spilled over and coursed down her grimy cheeks and told him that she was not in shock, but rather in full possession of her senses. She was experiencing the dreadful pain and humiliating degradation of this rape by a beast so despicably evil as to defy logic.

With her gaze, she begged him to end her suffering. Her eyes pleaded with him to put an end to this nightmare — if rescue were impossible, then killing her would suffice to remove the agony she was enduring. His hand came to his mouth and he gnawed helplessly on one knuckle as he watched the monster ruthlessly battering the woman and occasionally reaching down with its dripping snout and nipping her cruelly on the neck and shoulders, sending rivulets of blood coursing down her back.

A trickle of drool inched its way down Nate’s wrist and his eyes bulged in desperation. There was nothing he could do. Obviously, this was not the first time the woman had been so used, and should he try to affect her rescue, he would be torn to shreds before he ever reached her side. There would be no point in trying, of that he was as certain as he was of his own name. He must think of Zelda. Perhaps there was still a chance to rescue her, although his hopes were rapidly fading. Still, as long as there was breath left in his body, there was always hope for a miracle. There may yet be some way of reaching her — some chance, some avenue of escape that had not yet presented itself. He could not afford to throw away her only hope by wasting his life in a useless act of kamikaze-like suicide.

And yet it clawed relentlessly into his guts that he was standing here, letting this pitiful woman be victimized sadistically and was doing absolutely nothing. The wretched creature was communicating as well telepathically as Chirkah had ever done. Nate could hear her screaming in his own mind, beseeching him to act — to do something to end this nightmare. He felt his face blush beneath her imploring eyes, and at last, he averted his gaze. Live or die, he didn’t think he would ever be able to forgive himself for his own inadequacy in this situation.

You should be watching this, Nate Malone. The insidious voice of Chirkah cut into his thoughts. You see, THIS is what we capture female humans for. The bitch you see here has born many of our children. Some remain here with us, and some have been sent out into your society, to retrieve the knowledge we so desperately require. We hope to someday have enough slaves to begin building — forges to produce metal, mills to refine and shape it. We will have mining operations, staffed by our slave-children assistants to stock us with the materials we need to make gunpowder and other weapons which we may use to overthrow the humans from their oh-so-precarious perch of power.

The woman cried out softly and Nate looked back just long enough to see fresh blood speckling the insides of her thighs.

I’m sure you have wondered, Nate Malone, how we have come to know so much about you and your civilization. The answer is simple: our spies bring us the information. In our lairs, deep beneath the ground, we have set up schools where the Kophet-kur and their half-breed ‘werewolf’ children are taught what we will need to know to conquer the world and make it our own.

Chirkah turned to look over his shoulder at the rapist. At long last, he had become still, but he remained mounted above the woman and Nate was forced to recall seeing dogs that became stuck together after mating, due to a swelling that occurs in the male’s organ. As children, this had been the source of many humorous stories and jokes. Now, however, there was nothing funny about it at all.

This is why human females are so important to us, Chirkah continued. And so valuable. It is not that we ENJOY mating with humans more than our own kind – well, perhaps there are SOME of us who do… Chirkah indicated with a nod the creature who had just performed the exhibition, and his little jibe was greeted with more cruel laughter from his constituents. They sounded to Nate like a bunch of dirty old men at a club smoker where strippers had been brought in to perform. Only these dirty old men had fangs. The rapist now sat beside the prostrate body of the woman, one leg in the air, grooming himself. The woman’s dress was still hiked up around her waist and she made no effort to correct this immodesty.

For most of us, it is a means toward an end — an end to your domination of the earth and a beginning of ours.

Nate refused to acknowledge his little play on words.

Occasionally, we capture female children and we raise them and nourish them carefully, taking as many children as possible from them until they are used-up and worthless to us.  He nodded to the woman again. This one is old and will probably bear no more children. Therefore, she is no longer of any value.

He paused long enough to pass a silent command to the rapist who reached out with a stiffened paw and flipped the exhausted woman over on her back. With one of its hooked talons it opened her abdomen from breastbone to pubic mound in a movement so swift and yet so casual as to take Nate quite by surprise. The woman was surprised too as she jerked to a sitting position and looked down to see her entrails spilling out onto the ground between her legs. She looked up, startled, and found Nate’s eyes. Just before she died, he saw a flicker of relief sweep across her face and then she collapsed, with a thud, to the trampled grass on the forest floor.

“You son-of-a—-” Nate’s curse was drowned out by the sound of trampling feet as the entire pack jumped up and rushed to throw themselves on the woman’s body. Snarling and quarreling viciously, they tore off great chunks of flesh while each vied for the best positions around the feast. Here and there, one would try to sneak off with an entire limb, but this would only result in attracting the attention of others who would then break off from the main group to investigate. Soon, there were three or four small groups of grunting, choking, slobbering beasts gorging themselves on the fresh bloody remains.

Chirkah sat, observing these proceedings, and then, almost as an afterthought, rose and slowly walked over to the scene of the carnage. As he approached, his stance became stiff-legged, and the hair on his back and shoulders stood up straight. The others made way whenever he came near, and a little path was opened for him as he neared the body. Straddling the bloody mass, he glared back at Nate, and his red-rimmed little pig eyes blazed with malevolence. With haughty grandeur, he claimed the prize as his own, and none dared defy his authority. His lips curled back to expose yellow, crooked teeth. Three-inch-long fangs flanked his chin. Each was as sharp as a dagger and curved slightly between the tip and the brown-stained base. His gums flashed a brilliant pink as he opened wide his mouth and plunged it into the corpse. With a deep, satisfied grunt he buried his muzzle and began to feed slowly and deliberately. Chirkah’s crooked spine bent and the muscles in his back bunched as he hunkered down over his royal dinner. The others either stood or squatted near-by, licking their paws, or moved over to join one of the other groups. Chirkah was left to his own.

Nate didn’t observe much of this. From the time Chirkah put his head down to feed, he averted his eyes. The woman had died bravely, and with as much dignity as her situation would allow, and Nate was determined to exact revenge upon her persecutors. Chirkah had been wrong about one thing, of that Nate was certain. This was not a race, it was a war. There wasn’t room on this planet for both human beings and Kophet-kur — one of them must go.

Nate was emotionally exhausted. His mind reeled with conflicting passions. Fear, revulsion, hatred, worry, his thoughts ran the gamut, and he was certain he couldn’t take much more. Soon the excitement swirling around inside him would overwhelm him completely and he would fly into a fit of hysteria. Or, perhaps he would just swell up and burst, exploding in a dozen different directions. He would splatter the foliage about with himself, leaving a bloody lump on the branch to mark his passing. He struggled to regain control, concentrating upon his breathing, willing it to slow down. At last his frazzled nerves began to calm, and he was able to think again. It scared him, though to think how close he had been to total collapse — shut down all systems and say good-night, Natey Boy’s had enough. With a trembling sigh, he shook these thoughts aside and began looking about the branches, searching for a way out.

His escape had now become a more important issue than just his own survival. The survival of the entire human race might well depend on his returning to tell the authorities what he’d seen here. He couldn’t be certain that Zelda was still alive. Chirkah could just be leading him to attempt a rescue. But, until he had proof to the contrary, he was going to have to play along. He had to assume she was being held somewhere near here — probably in one of the underground lairs, Chirkah had spoken of. His eyes searched for a branch near enough to allow him to move to another tree. If he could work his way from tree to tree, he might be able to search the woods for an entrance to this lair. He couldn’t imagine how he was to affect a rescue once he’d found it, but at least searching was better than just sitting here watching these bastards enjoying their blood-bath. Perhaps, after gorging themselves, the creatures would become sleepy and he could slip away into the forest. Or maybe he could come down from the tree and make his way back home for help. The only trouble with this second plan was that he knew he could never leave without taking Zelda with him.

“Well,” he muttered aloud, his eyes searching the foliage around him. “We’ll just have to come up with a plan when the time comes. One step at a time, Natey Boy, one step at a time.”

A branch the size of his forearm passed within a yard or so from the one just above his head. It appeared to be just what he was looking for, an avenue into the neighboring tree. It would be a bit dicey, but he had to try for it. He cast an apprehensive glance back at the creatures. They were too caught up in their grisly repast to notice his absence. Slowly he inched farther out on his supporting branch, easing his way along while clinging to the branch over his head. As he moved away from the trunk, the limb below his feet began to grow smaller and to sag a bit with his weight. This was not going to be easy. Nate silently wished he’d spent more time in the park as a child, climbing trees.

Now both branches were sagging and swaying in the breeze and sweat stood out on his brow. His intended, however, was growing nearer and soon he would reach a place where he might feasibly make an attempt. As he gazed longingly at the branch, trying to gauge its size and how much weight it might support, a white hot pain shot up from his right hand. Looking up, he saw a large black ant, nearly an inch long clinging to the knuckle of his index finger. The thing thrashed and wiggled as it buried its needle-like pincers in his tender flesh. With a sharp exclamation, he drew his hand from the branch and smashed it against his side, simultaneously obliterating his attacker and sending the branches providing his precarious support pitching wildly in opposite directions. In seconds he lost his footing entirely and was left hanging breathlessly by one hand, from the overhead branch. The branch yawed and swayed, sending a loud cra-a-ack! reverberating through the woods. Smaller, dead branches around him were shaken loose and fell noisily to the ground below.

Nate breathed a silent prayer that the branch wouldn’t break, as he swung there, scrabbling frantically to regain his hold with the other hand. He caught on just as another, somewhat louder crack tingled its way along the branch. Looking down, he found himself staring directly into the blood-splattered face of Chirkah, chief of the Kophet-kur, who was licking his lips and grinning broadly. Nate gasped great gulps of air as his fingers burrowed into the bark, and his legs kicked wildly in mid-air. Again Chirkah’s Machiavellian voice rang in Nate’s mind: Why don’t you just let go and COME DOWN, NATE MALONE, COME ON DOWN!

Once more, Chirkah was trying to use his telepathic powers to shock Nate into letting go. Nate closed his eyes and held on, trying to concentrate on how stupid Chirkah sounded. Like Bob Barker on ‘The Price is Right’, he thought. He smiled at this and felt himself relax a little. If the limb in his hands would hold on for just a little longer, he would be able to regain his footing and move back to safety. But his thoughts were cut short as another resounding crack rent the air and he felt the branch he was clutching let go.

 

 

The Essential Elements of Book Covers — Derek Barton

Covers

When there are hundreds of new books traditionally published or self-published on a daily basis, how will your work stand out?

When a reader scans through the Amazon or Kindle online sites and spends one to two seconds on your novel’s image, how will you keep their attention?

These are just two of the critical questions you should ask yourself and give serious thought to when it comes to your book’s cover.  The easiest way to make or lose sales depends on how you present your novel.

It is just that simple, and yet, IMPORTANT.

I have possibly two or three of my own works coming out this year so I wanted to be sure I had all the available tools and weapons from the industry at my disposal.  Thus, for the last month, I have been reading articles, documenting notes and discovering just what the professionals consider a “professional book cover”.  What were the keys to the “best” covers and what are the strikes that torpedo cover art?

Here are some of the laws or elements that the professionals have suggested and I have outlined here for you!  They are broken down into three subjects:  Overall Principles, Style and Typesetting.

Overall Principles:

  • Keep it simple!
  • Let the cover “breathe” —  keep the cover open and not crowded.   If they don’t know what to focus on, they are just going to skip past it.
  • Use no more than three different colors and include black, white, or grey.  
  • Focus on a theme or emotion.  Relate it to what your story is about.  This is your novel’s billboard after all!
  • Find good imagery.  Don’t use anything blurry or cluttered which can confuse the reader and make them move on.

 

Style:

  • Place a darkened border around the edges to make the cover POP or stand out.
  • Beware using centered text as it creates a “wineglass effect”.  This effect has become cliché and earmarked as amateurish.
  • Create an imaginary box for implied margins.  All your words, titles and names should stay within the box and not go to the edge of your page.
  • Consider “ghosted boxes” or page divisions for text.  This can help keep fonts colors from blending or contrasting with your image colors.
  • Composition – make a grid of your cover and keep in mind the placement of each itemThis will prevent clusters or odd centering issues.

 

Typesetting:

  • Limit your cover to as few typefaces as you can.  The fewer fonts you have the more simplistic, cleaner look.
  • Avoid script and calligraphy typefaces!  If the title or YOUR NAME is hard to read, then what is the point?  I broke this one myself on my first book cover version — It may look awesome to you, but if the reader cannot tell what it says, then no one will care what it says.
  • Distressed text should not have uniform letters.  If your font looks like it has marbling, be sure that there isn’t consistent marbling in each letter or it will not look natural.
  • Don’t stretch or condense words!
  • Kern your text – letter spacing.  Kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result.  It will also prevent your words from being misinterpreted.

As I stated above, these are just the most consistent laws or elements discussed when describing the fundamentals to book cover art that I have found.  There are other factors that can produce or reduce sales.  And sometimes there are “break out” covers that will not adhere to these rules and are very successful.  It all comes down to fan judgment and book sales success to really know if you scored well on your book cover design.

I truly hope that this is beneficial to your own book cover creations and if you have a suggestion or an element that you would suggest, feel free to comment.

 

2018 Jan & Feb Bi-Monthly Goals — Derek Barton

Goal #1

THIS IS MY YEAR!!  (My new mantra!)

 

It is a brand new year with a whole year of opportunity!  I am super excited by what I have planned in store for 2018.  With these bi-monthly goal blogs that I started using this last July, I have really put in a lot of work and accomplished a lot which I will now be able to share with you guys this year.

A quick recap of the year and what I finished up in December:

From July through November —

** Finalize my Chapter Outlines for Bleeding Crown
** Completed my first draft of Bleeding Crown
** Wrote 43,000 words in July
** Completed two large book giveaways (one being my Indie Book Giveaway)
** Obtained over 1500 email subscribers
** Completed a monthly newsletter every month
** Outlined the first three books of the Elude Series
** Created a NaNoWriMo Outline Prep folder
** Completed the first wave of editing for The Bleeding Crown
** Started a 2nd job for extra money for Book Project Saving and monthly income
** Posted 6 chapters of The Hidden, the collaboration I am working with my father

Completed For November & December:

**Complete NaNoWriMo Challenge: 50,000 words — HUGE WIN FOR ME!  This was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend the challenge for any writer out there.  It motivates you and their site provides a ton of information, networking and forums.  Here is their site:  National Novel Writing Month
** Start Round #2 of Editing for The Bleeding Crown
** Create marketing campaign for CWC Audio Book
** Research Arizona Book and Comic cons.
** Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of month
** Keep up The Hidden saga on website every 2 weeks

Now for 2018, I have also decided to not only break down my goals every 2 months, but I am also determining when those goals should be accomplished within the two month period.  This will help me be even more successful and organized, but it will also keep me on track.  I am using an Excel Chart Setup for this and have already broken down goals for the first half of the year on there.

For January & February:

** Complete the 2nd wave of edits for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by 3rd Week of Jan
** Start 1st wave of edits for Elude #1 — Begin by 4th week of Jan
** Work of Cover for The Bleeding Crown — Begin by 2nd week of Jan
** Complete Marketing Campaign for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by 4th week of Jan
** Complete story subplot and finalize The Bleeding Crown (25,000+ words) — Begin by 2nd Week of Jan
** Finalize work on Marketing Campaign for Consequences Within Chaos Audiobook — Begin by 2nd week of Jan
** Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd Week of Feb
** Lose 15 pounds by end of February — Lose 2 pounds a week
** Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of month — Completed by Feb 15th
** Keep up The Hidden saga on website every 2 weeks — Finished by 4th Week of Feb

By the end of this year, my hope is to be able to produce for you The Bleeding Crown (sequel to Consequences Within Chaos) by mid-2018, Consequences Within Chaos Audiobook on Audible.com by mid-2018, the first two books of the Elude (horror/action story) by the end of 2018 and the complete work of The Hidden online (and subsequently published in 2019!).

As I said, it is going to be an intense and productive year ahead, but I am so excited to share my worlds and my writing with each of you!  My wish is that for all of you as well to have a great, productive and wonderful new year!

 

Goal #2

 

 

The Hidden — Chapter 4: ZELDA — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 4

CHAPTER FOUR – ZELDA:

Zelda awoke with a terrible headache.  This “fresh country air” had done nothing for her allergies.  Nate was crazy about the idea of living out here in the sticks, though and he was so cute about it that she just had to go along.  He had insisted they leave the city and build an entirely new life.  

“It’ll be a fresh new start,” he’d told her.  “The money is one thing, but we need more than money – we need each other.”  Nate had been nearly fanatical about the idea.  Frankly, it didn’t make that much difference to her where they lived, as long as they had a chance for happiness.  But she had to admit things were much better between them since they’d left the city.  Here their life seemed simpler, less complicated.  Nate laughed more and Zelda found herself taking time to look about and appreciate her life.  She had actually planted a flower garden!

In the city, they had dreamed of a time when they could lay back and spend time together doing the things they’d always wanted.  Now, suddenly that time had come and best of all they were still young enough to enjoy it.

Throwing on a light robe, she shuffled to the kitchen to put the coffee on.  Country living was nothing new to Zelda since she had grown up on a small farm in southern Illinois.  But her ambition to be on the stage had made her quit those rural climes and move to Chicago, where she met, fell in love with and married Nate.

Back home her friends had teased her about becoming a famous movie star, but that had not been her true dream.  Ever since her first appearance in her ninth-grade production of “Oklahoma!” she’d been fascinated with the idea of being in live productions.  Acting out the lives and loves of fictitious characters who were nothing like her gave her a marvelous feeling which she was unable to achieve in real life.  

In the theater, she could live an exciting life with virtually no risk.  It wasn’t Zelda Miller out there on stage, it was a charmer in a play.  If the audience booed, it was the character they disapproved of and not her.  But she need not worry about the audience disapproving because Zelda was a natural.  She was almost always chosen for the lead role in whatever production she tried out for.  Acting came easily to her as natural as breathing or walking down the street.  

Zelda sometimes thought it was easy for her to assume the role of someone else because she had no personality of her own.  She’d never told anyone this of course — not even her parents who were so proud of her.  In fact, everyone was proud of her when she put on a good performance in the various school plays and civic productions.  They would applaud thunderously while she took her bows, and she was the center of attention for days afterward whenever she came to town for shopping with her mother.

She received lots of attention from her peers.  The girls all wanted to be her friend and the boys paid extra close attention while she spoke.  

The adults of the town were quick to voice their approval as well.  The men would exclaim, “You sure were good the other night!”  And the women would hug her and congratulate her mother saying, “You must be so-o-o proud of little Zelda! Why I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the silver screen someday.  Maybe put this little town on the map, eh?  She certainly has the looks… and the talent!”

Of course, her mother was proud of her Zelda and she encouraged her to do all she could to get into Northwestern University.  She helped her fill out the applications and she made sure Zelda spent lots of time with the Northwestern representative during “College Night” at school.  She bragged to all her friends and relatives about Zelda’s acting prowess and her prospects for a glamorous career – the kind Zelda’s mother never had.

But looking back, Zelda wished everyone could have been proud of her and given her such attention just for being Zelda – plain old Zelda Miller from southern Illinois.  What was so wrong with that?  Did she have to become somebody famous to get their attention?  

Maybe the reason she’d moved to Chicago and pursued a career in acting was not that she wanted it so much but because it was expected of her.  She couldn’t let her parents down or disappoint her teachers.  Hell, the whole damned town depended on “Little Zelda” to become the next Marilyn Monroe and give them all something to be proud of.  Well, it wasn’t fair to put that kind of pressure on a person – to make her responsible for the justification of their own existence.  

Small wonder that when the time came to prove herself in the big city, Zelda’s accomplishments fell somewhat shy of everyone’s expectations.  It was one thing to be a celebrity in a small town production, but it was something else entirely to be just one of many faces in an acting class — all talented, all sharing the same ambitions and aspirations, all competing for the lead roles.  

It was worse yet to be number thirty-seven in a cattle call with the lights glaring in your eyes and three people sitting way back in a darkened theatre passing judgment on every move you made, every note you sang.

Miss… Miller?  Is that a natural tremolo in your voice or are you simply scared to death?

Perhaps that was why when she’d met Nate, working in a local supermarket it had been so easy for her to fall in love with him and his dreams of the future.  Marrying Nate was a way of saving face, both within herself and with the folks back home.  After all, no one could blame her for abandoning her career to marry the man she loved.  

In fact, it was kind of romantic and rather noble.  She was like the heroine in the romance novels her mother was so fond of.  Poor Zelda Miller had so much potential and could have been a star, but she gave up all that glamour and fame to be Mrs. Nathaniel Malone… almost poetic really.  Too bad it was a lie.  The truth was, she’d lost faith in her dreams and herself.  Marrying Nate was the smartest thing she could have done.  

There was no use pretending she was going to make a big splash on the stage either here in Chicago or anywhere else.  The one thing her mother and all that attention back home had not prepared her for was competition – stiff competition with hundreds of other would-be Marilyns who were quite willing to do literally anything to get what they wanted.  Zelda was just not that aggressive or driven.  It was easier to change her goals than to see them through to fruition.

And she’d been happy actually.  She really did love Nate.  He was kind, gentle and so intense in his quest for a better life for each of them.  Until recently, his dreams had been enough to sustain them both.  He was full of energy and eagerness, and he had vision.   The kind of vision that you could hitch onto and let yourself be gladly pulled along.  Nate promised her the kind of life any girl would hope for:  a home and family and the kind of security that sounded so attractive to a young girl who had been thrust out into the vast, hard world alone.  

Zelda had been feeling overwhelmed and out of her element.  What Nate had offered her sounded so warm, safe and comfortable when compared to the cold cruel arena of the performing arts.  She rationalized that, even if she were to become a big star someday, everyone knows that its lonely at the top.  And loneliness was something she was too familiar with and could most definitely do without.  

So She had married Nate, and shared his vision… for a while.

One day however she had glimpsed sadness in his dreamy blue eyes.  Nate, just like her, was starting to lose faith in himself.  His confidence was slowly running down.  He was like a radio-controlled toy with a failing battery; sometimes the current would flow and he would charge ahead as though nothing was wrong while other times he would wake in the morning with no juice at all.  He was pressing all the right buttons, but nothing was happening.  The signal was dead.  That was before the lottery came along and changed their lives entirely.

After dressing, Zelda prepared a simple breakfast of poached eggs and toast.  They may be living like country folks, but she wasn’t about to start cooking like some country farm-frau, serving stacks of pancakes and such.  She called Nate in from the yard.  

Shutting the lawnmower off, he tramped through the front door looking so damn pleased with himself she had to smile.  Nate looked healthier these days and more handsome than she could ever remember.  He was spending a lot more time in the sun and it had streaked his light brown hair with flashes of golden blonde.  It fell stubbornly across his forehead, despite his constant attempts to swipe it back out of his eyes.  This habit, combined with the freckles splattered about this lightly tanned cheeks gave him a boyish charm which she found quite appealing.

“That’s it?” he asked seating himself.  “How’s a hard-working, grown man supposed to survive on a breakfast like this?”  His words were harsh, but she knew he was teasing.  Both of them had been working on trimming back their diet – low fat-this and diet-that.

“You are not a hard-working man anymore, Mister Malone,”  She ran her hand lovingly across the back of his neck as she joined him at the table.  “You’re a man of leisure… with LOTS OF MONEY!  And that’s why I love you so much.”

He took her hand and kissed it, his mouth full of breakfast.  “Well, who cares why just as long as you stay!  What’ve you got planned for today, Hon?  Just what does the wife of an independently wealthy land baron do in her spare time?”

Zelda smiled and then looked at him seriously.  “She goes shopping of course!  What good is all that money if you can’t spend it like it was going out of style?”

His laugh made her feel warm inside and she leaned across the table and kissed him.

“Good, good!  Go on into town and buy yourself something extravagant.  I’m sure you’ll look radiant in it.  Just don’t run off to Paris without me,” he warned her.

“Actually I had in mind something like groceries. We’re low on a few things.  But I might take some time to poke around some shops while I’m in town.”

“Okay, sweetie.  I’ll be working in the yard all day anyway.  So, have a good time. But first, I’ve something to show you in the bedroom…”  His leer made her feel even warmer inside.  

The town of Snyder reminded her very much of her own small hometown in Illinois, only it was not quite the mirror image of what she remembered. The bank was on the south side of the street instead of the north.  However, it was still directly across from the post office.  And the curve in Main Street was on the wrong end of town. But there was the Amoco station, right where it should be on the corner.  The Lutheran church, the one she and Nate kept saying they were going to check out one of these days was on the east side, by the highway.

Looming large over everything, its rusty tin siding providing an ominous backdrop for the rest of the buildings was the ancient feed mill. As Zelda drove past, she considered it. Surely, it must have been one of the first buildings erected in Snyder. Its pointed roof stretched high into the air, providing home and aerial playground to hundreds of swooping, careening pigeons. Driving beneath them with the sunroof down, Zelda prayed silently that none of them held a grudge against transplanted city types, moving into their little town.

Zelda decided at that moment, she didn’t like the mill. If there was one thing she could change about Snyder, it would be the presence of this hulking giant with the dark windows, looking upon the world with vacant eye sockets, staring gloomily from an enormous rusty skull.

Still, it was somewhat similar to the one in her hometown, right down to the huge, antiquated “Supersweet Seeds” sign clinging tenaciously to the side. She supposed these archaic, malevolent-looking monstrosities were a necessary evil that all small midwestern towns must endure, but it brought back memories that were not all good ones.

There were times in her past that she would rather not remember. When she left for the big city, she thought she was leaving behind all those bad times — the bad things her subconscious strived so hard to blot out. But occasionally and with increasing frequency, she found those memories coming back now that she had returned to small-town life.

One thing that was different was the new shopping center on the west edge of town where Zelda parked in front of the grocery store. She’d already browsed through the antique shops downtown and the ladies apparel shop here in the center. Now it was time to get down to business with some groceries.

As she walked up and down the aisles, examining the labels and comparing package sizes, she thought about her life with Nate. She marveled at how different things were going to be now that they had money. They would be able to travel — she’d always wanted to see Europe! Or maybe they’d spend time on cruises. But, best of all, they would have time for each other and, maybe now, they could think of having children and building a family. This was something they had been putting off until they were financially secure.

Well, you don’t get much more secure than seven million dollars, thank God, thought Zelda, whose biological clock had been ticking for some time now. Her life with Nate was becoming idyllic, but she needed to be a mother to make it complete. No matter how rosy their financial future, it was the one thing their money couldn’t buy. It was the one thing she needed above all else.

These thoughts were running through her mind as she approached the checkout-counter with her cart full of groceries. While standing in line, she spotted a poster, obviously home-made, asking the whereabouts of this child:

Susie Dawn Chamness

Age 11

Last Seen: Aug 3, 1993

Below the picture was printed instructions on who to contact with any information and a reward was offered. The picture was black-and-white, but the spirit of the little girl shone from it all the same. Her face was beaming with eagerness, and her long golden curls fairly glowed. But something deep within her pale eyes showed a hidden sadness, perhaps a longing, as though she had knowledge beyond her years — knowledge of something she would rather forget.

As Zelda stood looking at the angelic face of this child she tried to put herself in the place of her poor mother. How tragic it would be to give life to a beautiful child like this only to have her snatched away when you’d learned to love her with all your heart, as surely her mother must. This sort of thing was all too common in the city, but here in this rural community, it seemed out of place.  Zelda wondered…What could have happened to her way out here?