The Hidden — Chapter 2 Cont’d — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH CH 2

 

Nate continued down the path, listening to the buzzing of the insects which heralded the last dying days of summer. As he walked, he glanced down to note imprints in the soft soil and a smile brushed his lips. Even a city boy like him could recognize deer sign when he saw it. From the looks of things, there were a lot of deer using the path.

After all, he mused, why not? Deer were abundant in this part of the country.

So much so, that farmers like Sam Burchill, the man who rented these fields from the former owner and now from Nate were constantly pressing for more lenient hunting laws to “thin the herd”.

Burchill was a large man with beefy arms and an amiable personality. When he shook hands with Nate, his grip said I am not a man to be trifled with, but you have nothing to fear if you treat me fairly and with respect. In many ways, he was like most of the area farmers — simple, but kind-hearted men who kept to themselves unless you asked for their help or their opinion.

“A deer can eat his weight in corn every day,” Burchill had educated Nate, during their meeting several days ago. “Damn things’ll eat their way through a cornfield, hop over into yer beans while bustin’ down yer fence in the process.  Then they’ll take out half an acre for desert and finish up by jumpin’ out in the road in front of yer wife’n kinds in the family pickup, causing you more grief than a bull in a china shop. What he don’t break, he shits on!”

Nate doubted it was as bad as all that and he had nothing against deer. He hadn’t had much experience with farmers, but so far, it seemed when it came to complaining, any old excuse would do.  In fact, he had hoped, by following the path as quietly as possible, to get a glimpse of a deer before it bounded off into the brush.

 

What a laugh, he thought to himself. If anyone had told me a few months ago that I’d be following a deer trail like some sort of modern-day Davy Crockett, I’d have told them they were out of their mind.

The smile left his face replaced by a look of curiosity. There was something else on the ground which made him wonder:  nestled among the deer tracks was a large boot-print heading in the same direction Nate had chosen.

Who else could have been following this path? Was Sam Burchill using the trail to inspect the corn? The thought somehow didn’t seem likely. Again he experienced a strange, uneasy feeling that he was not really alone out here.

Suddenly something big buzzed by his ear and he cringed like a child. An enormous insect, the size of a hummingbird swooped through the air and flew out of sight around a bend in the path.

“What in the hell was that?” Nate asked himself aloud as he chased after it to get a closer look. Prying apart two stalks of corn, he peered over a couple of rows until his eyes focused on the strange insect.

It wasn’t an insect – it was two! Joined together in reproductive bliss, a pair of large, green-backed dragonflies dangled from a leaf. Nate scrambled to pull his camera out of the bag slung around his neck. He willed his fingers to stop trembling as he fumbled with the connections on his 50MM lens.

“Hold on there, babies,” he soothed as he worked to install his 70-135MM zoom. “Just keep right on doing what you’re doing. That’s it, take your time, I’m almost ready… Show her what you’ve got, big guy… Hang in there…”

“Hah!” He swung the camera to his face, thumb and forefinger twirling the focus ring. As the coupling insects came into view, they leaped into the air and drifted off into the corn to continue their nuptial flight.

“Damn lightweight!” Nate swore as he began to remove the lens and then thinking better of it, he decided to leave it in case he encountered a deer… or anything else.

“Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am!” He called after them. And then to himself, he muttered, “Just a flight to the moon on gossamer wings.”

Today Zelda had taken her new Geo Tracker into town for groceries when Nate had decided to take this walk into the corn.  He had been puttering around in the flower garden in the backyard and then stepped out into the cornfield to relieve himself.

It’s my land, my field, he had thought smugly.  Nobody’s around for miles.  If’n I wants to pee, I’m agonna pee!

He had gone a few rows in and opened his fly.  There he’d stood gazing up at the stalks which were a full two feet above his head. He smiled in satisfaction as the heady aroma of urine rose to blend with the smell of corn, gypsum weed and fresh earth.  Something in the solitary beauty of the place had touched a nerve deep in his primal soul and made him long to travel deeper into the corn, following the rows west until he reached the edge of his field.

How strange that sounds:  my field…He mused.  And it was just one of several!

He ran back to the house, changed into a pair of shorts and tee shirt, opting to go barefoot so as to travel more quietly in case there were deer.  With that in mind, he had grabbed his camera bag but had paused in the open doorway.  He had debated on getting a canteen or maybe a thermos of cold water… Nah!  Never mind.  Better to travel light as possible, he had quipped.

Returning outside, he’d been amazed by how excited he felt about this adventure.  He had never been in the center of cornfield or any field and the prospect of this brush with the unknown made him feel quite alive.  His pulse raced; the world came into sharper focus than usual.  Everything stood out, crystal clear and sparkling in his vision – a living, moving, high-resolution photograph that he could walk through and touch.  Even his hearing seemed to take on heightened acuity.  The wind sang in his ears and the calling of crows from across the road was impossibly near.

At the berm entering the field, he had taken a deep breath and plunged in without a backward glance.  At a depth of five rows into the corn, he’d turned to look back, and was amazed to find he couldn’t even see the house or the buildings on his farm.  So tightly together were the plants spaced, they virtually engulfed him in a dense curtain of foliage, effectively marooning him in their own strange, alien world.

Here, the only sounds were those of the corn rustling and the insects singing.  The only smells were that of the corn and the earth.  The only light that entered was what the plants themselves allowed to filter through their broad leaves.  He’d wondered at the sheer peculiarity of it.  Time had no meaning.  It might just as easily be 1933 as 1993.  In fact, it could be anytime in the last two centuries or as long as man had been cultivating corn in straight rows and growing stalks that towered over his head.

Nate had toyed with the idea that if he concentrated hard enough and used his imagination, he could traverse the centuries.  When he stepped back out of the corn he might have traveled in time to the year 1880 and Billy the Kid or Frank and Jessie James could be waiting to gun him down.  Or maybe he would step out into the middle of a great civil war battle and General Lee’s boys would be lined up on the hillside, waiting to give vent to a blood-curdling rebel yell.  The possibilities were amusing.

He was mystified by the total isolation of it.  It piqued his sense of adventure.  He was at the same time awestruck and somewhat terrified.  The hair on the back of his arms came alive, crawling slowly up toward his shoulders and his mouth dry as a dessert tasted like the bottom of a birdcage.  Plunging ahead, he’d crossed five more rows and at a depth of ten turned and began walking west.  The leaves on the stalks, as he pushed his way along the row had a tendency to slash into his skin, leaving tiny lacerations like paper cuts.  But he found that by holding his arm out at a right angle to his body and using his forearm as a shield, he could deflect the leaves and thereby protect his face and eyes.

He had continued on for some time like this, pausing only occasionally to halt his labored breathing and cast furtive glances about his when some noise or other made him wonder if he were alone out here in the corn.  The oppressive atmosphere and spookiness of the place had just begun to make him wonder if this had been such a good idea after all when he stumbled across the path.

Fully five feet wide, it ran at an angle across the rows and on out through the field.  Almost no corn grew along its length, only occasional patches of nightshade and clumps of burdock or milkweed.  Bordering the path, stalks had been trampled and were either leaning at impossible angles or pressed all the way flat to the ground.

After his initial surprise at finding it and a bit of confusion as to what may be its course, Nate made the intuitive decision that it must be a deer trail and realized this was just too good an opportunity to pass up.  He immediately abandoned his original plan to follow the rows west and instead set off along the path to see where it might lead.

And after many twists and turns first one way and then another, it was petering out. The corn suddenly became much shorter and then ended abruptly at the west edge of the field.  Nate emerged into a clearing of such simple beauty and charm he felt totally overwhelmed.

The clearing occurred at the intersection of four cultivated tracts of land.  Before him stretching nearly to the horizon lay a bean field, its plants turning from deep green to a dazzling, golden yellow in the fullness of the late-summer days. Off to his right or northeast, more soybeans were planted but this field was much narrower than the field to the west.  It ended at the beginning of a huge tract of a wooded area, shrouded by the seasonal humidity in a hazy purple mist.  It was an extremely dense growth of forest and Nate was shocked that he owned such wild acreage.

He’d seen the plat maps, of course, and he knew there was timber on his land.  He’d even taken driving tours of the perimeter, but nothing had prepared him for this majestic stand of tangled growth.  His newly acquired property bordered the Hoosier National Forest, a vast area of natural wilderness stretching between Brown County State Park to the north and Starve Hollow State Recreation Area to the south.  Beyond this stand of timber lay miles of wooded area, this being just the very edge of that sprawling expanse of natural wonder. Nate made a mental note to someday explore those woods and maybe hike on out into the state-owned lands beyond.

Behind him to the east and south, stretched acres of ripe and tall corn, the ears bursting wide from their leafy husks, awaiting the picker.  After this to the southwest, the corn continued on out of sight, blending softly into the horizon.

These two immense acreages of cornfield were separated only by a fence row along which at intervals grew clumps of brush and scraggly trees.  They seemed to cling together like shipwrecked survivors on a shoreline of patchwork colors.  An occasional oak graced the presence of these smaller trees and here at the edge of the corn lay an entire grove of elms.  It was an island oasis in a sea of farmland.

After the clearing, which stood at the conflux of the four fields, the fence row divided the two bean fields edging the forest.

Above it all lay a boundless domed sky of deep blue, dotted here and there with clouds so white and fluffy they looked as though they’d been whipped from rich, thick cream.   The sun lay midway down the western sky, still warming the land and not yet coloring it with the amber tones of sunset.

The vastness of this land compared to the teeming city streets which bore him thrilled him in a way he could never express and it welled up inside him until he felt he would burst from happiness.

This was something he would have to share with his wife.  At the first possible opportunity, he was going to bring Zelda back here and show her why they’d come out here to the country. Yes, this was what it was all about!

A faint growl carried on the light breeze.

He spun around, scanning the stalks and the path intently.

Was there someone… there… in the corn?  Was that a movement?  His mind raced and his hands curled into balled fists.

Nate stood quite still for some time staring hard into the rows.  His breathing stilled and his heart quickened and instinctively he rose on tiptoe and pricked his ears, straining to hear what he could not hear – to see what he could not see.

In his college psychology class, they’d called it the fight-or-flight instinct.  It was a vestige of a time long ago when man was more often the hunted than the hunter. But that was in the dim past. Today all this instinct did was create chronic anxiety complexes in busy executives, too stressed out by their hectic schedules.  It was something common to city dwellers, so caught up in the rat race that they had to see shrinks to learn to relax.

None of that consciousness-raising crap for Nate Malone, thank you!  Mr. Malone has moved to the country for early retirement.  These days he spends his time wandering his broad estate and tending to the business of his land holdings.  He snickered, laughing at his fright and turned back to the clearing.

He walked toward the trees and again was somewhat taken aback by what he found there.  In the center of the clearing, someone had recently built a small campfire.  There were more of those boot prints he’d seen before.  Nate frowned and picked up a stick to poke at the dead embers of the fire.  A little wisp of smoke arose and Nate began to feel uneasy again, realizing that the fire was still warm.

Whoever had camped here and built that bed of cornstalks at the base of the tallest elm hadn’t left all that long ago.  In fact, they may still be watching, hiding in the corn.  That would explain the sounds Nate had heard and the strange feeling he’d been having all day that he was not alone.

What kind of person camps way out here away from anyone?  Nate wondered.  A hobo?  Or maybe someone on the run from the law?

Suddenly he began to wish he’d brought some form of weapon with him.  Turning slowly in a 360-degree arc, he searched as far as his eyes could reach in all directions.  It would be pretty hard to hide in the bean fields unless they were lying down.  The forest was a definite possibility…

And so was the corn…

It would be ridiculously simple for whoever made those prints to have ducked into the corn to wait and see just who was invading the privacy of his camp.

What if I had committed a crime and was on the run?  He mused. What if I was a cold-blooded killer and someone had just discovered my little hideout?  How would I react to a situation like that?   Depending upon how desperate this guy might be, I could be in real danger here.

 

Now, wait a minute, Nate.  You’re letting your imagination run away with you.  You’re probably much more in danger of being sprayed by a skunk out here than you are of being attacked by a psychopath.  No doubt, I’ve just stumbled across some vagrant’s bedding and he left early this morning, headed for town or someplace he might cadge a handout.

All the same, he decided that whoever owned this camp would not be all that pleased to welcome an unexpected visitor, so he took one more look around the clearing and headed back down the path for home.

As he followed the path back the way he’d come, he discovered little traces of the man who’d left his prints in the soft earth:  here was a wooden match, farther along he found some coffee filters, and then a popsicle stick.  All of these things supported his theory that a tramp had been the culprit.  After all, it was pretty hard to imagine a sadistic murderer blithely sucking on a popsicle while he planned his next atrocity against the poor unsuspecting public.

The closer he got to home, the more at ease he became until eventually, his spirits were soaring again. He found himself getting anxious to get back so he could tell Zelda all about his experiences and the wonderful little clearing.  By the time he reached the spot where he’d initially discovered the path, his feelings of being watched had all dissipated.  He felt jubilant and strong as he turned from the path and followed the tenth row east again to a spot he guessed to be behind his house.

Nate’s guess had been pretty good.  He stepped from the corn at the edge of his yard just about fifty feet from the where he’d entered.  As his toes sank into the soft green grass, he noticed the Tracker parked in the driveway.  Excitedly, he ran for the house.

“Zelda!” He called.  “Honey, I’m home.”  He felt he’d just lived through a great adventure.

***

So this was where the new Meat lived.

Dzhankah had been right not to attack it.  This one would be missed.  It belonged.  Had he given into his desires others would have come looking for it when it didn’t return.  Early as a cub, he had learned well his hunting ways.  He knew to only attack the strays – the ones who would not be missed.  Although he had never seen this one before, it became apparent to him that this one was part of the community – that it lived here in this house.

Meats were always a welcome addition to Dzhankah’s diet, but not if the cost were discovery.  This was the most important thing of all — they do not know of his existence.  For as much as he reviled them and looked down upon them for their simpleness, he knew that when they are aroused, they could be quite dangerous.

If they knew who had been pilfering from their herd, picking off the occasional loner or runaway child, they would not rest until he was tracked down and destroyed.  Dzhankah would not let this happen.  Not ever!

So tonight he would settle for venison again.  And tomorrow… tomorrow he would wait, he would watch and maybe he would find his opportunity. 

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The Hidden — Chapter 2: THE PATH — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH CH 2

 

CHAPTER TWO – THE PATH:

Our lives are finite, limited things, but the path that appeared in front of Nate continued on forever. He stood in fascination, gazing down its curved length. The path wandered to the left and then swept back to the right again until out of sight.

No one would be able to see him there in the corn. His brow furrowed and he scratched his head in wonder. That had been part of the appeal of this hike in the first place. No one could see him or could have known he was there. Never in his life had he been granted a luxury to be nowhere, unseen and unnoticed. Isolated from the billions of men and women who swarm over the surface of this planet.

He had always been a child of the city — the great metropolis, Chicago. Born from urbanite parents who were themselves the offspring of immigrants from one of the great cities of Europe. There were no farmers in his family tree. No country gentlemen cast their genes into the pool of his ancestors. His recent acquisition of this sprawling farm in the rolling heartland had left him overwhelmed and out of his element.

Even before the first installment of the lottery winnings arrived, he knew that the first thing he intended buying was land. Somewhere deep down inside himself, his very being longed for stability and security of land ownership.

This had nothing to do with real estate values, tax deferments or any such financial considerations. This was about being in touch with something solid – something that had permanence and could bring meaning to his existence.

City life had bestowed a blithe obduracy upon everyone he knew including himself. It was to the point that all aspects of living held a vague blandness. There were no colors left in his world, only a miasma of smoky shades of dull brown and gray. His life had become a living embodiment of olive drab. Nothing shocked him anymore or touched off the spark of life necessary to maintain human existence.

From the time Nate quit college halfway through his sophomore year and took a job in a grocery store, his life seemed to stall. At age thirty-two, everything was planned out for him with no surprises.

First, he had started out stocking shelves.  He gradually ascended up the chain of command and earned a promotion to Night Crew Supervisor. Recently, he was promoted to the post of Head of the Produce Department. But still, he was trapped in a meaningless job and a do-nothing lifestyle.

As a result, his marriage suffered teetered on the brink of self-destruction. Night after night, he dragged home to find his wife, Zelda, waiting for him. They would alternately argue about trivial things or cling in desperation to each other. They did not understand what had become of the closeness they once had shared.

At first, she had believed in him.

“Someday,” he would promise, gazing into her quiet brown eyes. “I’m going to turn it all around — to make it happen for us, somehow. You just hang in there with me ‘til then, honey. I’m going to be something… something big…”

Zelda’s gaze would soften and her eyes would become dewy as a glimmer of trust would appear. She would smile as if to say, it doesn’t matter, my dear if you do these things or not because I love you. I may not always have confidence in the things you say, but I will always love you.

At least, that was how it had been early on.  As time went on and after so many speeches or promises, the degeneration of their relationship continued, he had been noticing it took longer for that glimmer to appear in her eyes. The look of trust had devolved into something more akin to patient commiseration or even reproach, depending on her mood.

God! How he hated THAT LOOK!

Some nights, in his dreams he would turn to Zelda for something and she would fix him with THAT LOOK.  He’d wake up in a cold sweat and he’d turn to her.  Invariably, she would be lying with her back to him, snoring lightly. Her dark hair a nest on the pillow beside him. He would wrap his arms around her and pull her close.  Ignoring her soft moans of protest as she continued to sleep, he’d bury his face in her back and pray that things would be normal once again. That he would wake in the morning to a world of bright colors.  Would somehow find a way to put his life back on track before he lost the love of this beautiful woman.

He felt deep down inside that he’d already lost her respect. The idea of waking in the morning and seeing pity in those eyes was a concept he didn’t even want to consider. Not if he were going to get any sleep at all. So he would close his eyes and pray.

Eventually, his prayers would bleed over into dreams. THAT LOOK stalked him relentlessly until the morning alarm would rescue him. Bleary-eyed, exhausted and defeated, he would trudge off into his gray world once again.

Something crackled in the corn a few feet to his left, breaking his train of thought. He whipped around to look – nothing was there. Suddenly, he was struck by the knowledge that no one knew he was out there in the cornfield, all alone.  An unsettling sense of dread crept over him.

He glanced around, feeling as though someone or something was watching him. His gramma used to say someone was “walking on her grave.” It was certainly as silent as the grave out there.  It was mid-September and summer had settled in for the duration. The days were sluggish, over-confident and unmindful of the fact that autumn lay just around the corner and would soon move in to send it packing like some fat old uncle who had overstayed his welcome.

The sun beat down out of a china-blue sky, baking the ground and making the light-brown leaves of the corn curl at the tips.  What breeze there was could not penetrate the rows of corn, but skimmed overhead brushing the tassels. The leaves whispered a soft, scraping sound as they whisked together.  In his disquieted state, the whispering mocked him in small voices — exchanging sinister plans below his range of hearing.

He stopped and peered into the corn, holding his breath and straining his ears to pick out the slightest sound. But all he could hear was his hammering heart and the plants rustling.

Shaking it off, he forced a laugh. He spoke aloud to ease his nerves. “You’ve just got a case of the willies.  Truth is, it is safer out here than walking down any street in Chicago!”

Chicago! Not only were they safer from crime here, but safe from the malaise that had swept into their lives, smothering the fires of their existence.

Here, we get the chance to start all over! Nate thought to himself. The lottery winnings had been a windfall, not only financially but spiritually. At last, they would have the wherewithal to achieve their dreams. It was like being set free from a terrible prison. Confinement of a heart without dreams was more oppressive than the vaulted walls of any concrete and steel institution.

But now we’ve bought our own land of dreams.

Here was a brilliant world of colors. In the early morning dew, sparkling yellow, violet, pink, lavender and white flowers were sprinkled about the entire countryside by a bright-eyed Mother Nature. Deep greens, dappled with sunlight in the late afternoon spread like plush tapestry across their front lawn. Bright, blue skies turned azure in the evenings. And finally, as the sun slipped past the horizon, it drew curtains of golden reds and oranges along behind it.

So abundant were the colors and the air so clear in this rural utopia, it sometimes hurt his eyes. But no matter. When the brightness did overwhelm him, he would close his eyes, lean back and drink in the freshness of the air. This acted like a magical balm upon his spirit.

This setting was going to do more for their morale and their marriage than anything else his seven-odd million dollars would buy.

It was when he bought this place that he really hit his jackpot.

***

 

Dzhankah didn’t know this one — this Meat was new, but Dzhankah would follow. Follow and observe…Stalking was his specialty.

His nostrils burned with the scent of him. It was heavenly sweet and tantalizing.  The fat, succulent flesh basted with a fine coating of sweat. And underlying it all was the enticing, heady aroma of adrenaline which coaxed and urged him to throw caution to the wind. Pounce, rend and tear the tasty morsels from the bone.

Afterward, oh what a joy to lie amidst the corn rows licking the sticky, cloying blood from his face and claws. Gnawing contently on a bone, pushing it far into his mouth so that his strong molars could crack and splinter it. The pulpy red marrow exposed, ripe for sucking…

But no! Not yet. His instincts checked his actions.

Survival was patience and caution; not by being impulsive. The time to determine opportunity had not yet come. There would be a time for feasting of that he was quite sure.

Drool escaped his lips, strands dripped slowly from the tips of his protruding canines and ran down along his chin to the edge of a leaf where it stretched into a sparkling string.

He leaned forward, straining with the effort to control his hunting lust…

2017 Bio Blog — Derek Barton

JJ 2016 #2

 

Recently I noticed a trend on Youtube.com where writers were making vlogs and answering questions about themselves as well as writing rituals and practices.  So, I thought I would do this as well and even throw in some random personal questions.  You can learn a few things I do as well as learn something new about me at the same time!

I will start with the writing ritual questions first and then get down to some random and fun facts about me.

  • When do you write?  I am a night owl which is perfect for my writing as I need the quiet time to be free of distractions.  These elements help me to immerse into my writing zone.  With my day job I am fortunate that it starts later in the day and I can sleep in!  Usually, I write from 11 or 11:30 pm to 1:30 to 2am.
  • How do you review what you wrote the previous day?  There is a lot of sound advice out there on how to produce more material on a daily basis.  The best tip so far that I picked up suggests to work non-stop and do not edit until you have completed your manuscript.  I cannot say that it was easy to resist the edit bug, but Consequences Within Chaos‘s first rough draft took me three years to write (I wasn’t as serious about writing and producing as I am now).  The Bleeding Crown, my sequel’s rough draft has only taken five months… I would say that this is proof enough that it helped me crank it out much faster.
  • What song is your “go to” when you are feeling uninspired?  I prefer to listen to classical music when I write.  Nothing but instrumentals.  At first, I used Pandora, but now I like to find large blocks of “epic music” on Youtube.  I let them play in the background as I work.  Depending on the type of story or my mood this can vary, but I do not have a “go to” song necessarily.  Soundtracks from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Braveheart also have been able to motivate me.
  • What do you always do when you are struggling with writers’ block?  To avoid writers’ block and staring at a blank screen, I work up detailed outlines.  There are many benefits to outlines and developing character backgrounds.  Prepping is the key to getting into that writer zone — that moment your writing flows from your fingertips and there is no struggle to find the right word or dialog.  I have already seen the scene in my head and now I can concentrate on relaying it in the best descriptive details I can.
  • What tools do you use when you are drafting?  I used Microsoft Word like everyone else at first, but now I prefer the writers’ program called Scrivener.  It seems that there is no middle ground in opinions on it.  You either LOVE IT OR HATE IT.  I love it!  It has a great setup to store the work, organize the notes, templates for character write-ups, outlines, everything all in one file and place.  With Word, I had a million files.  Scrivener also lets you have split screening which comes in handy often.
  • What are the things you cannot live without when you are writing?  Pretty much what I have already discussed:  Scrivener has become an integral part of my work.  And Outlining a must.  Before I realized that I work best with a map of my story, I failed to complete most stories and/or lost interests or energy in the storyline.
  • How do you fuel yourself during writing sessions?  Diet Rockstars and Popsecret Homestyle Microwave popcorn.
  • How do you know when you are done writing?  For a typical writing session, I am done when my eyes are blurring and I cannot easily put a sentence together.  I strive for a certain word count (or if I am feeling energetic, I try to do a particular scene in one shot).  My goal is 750 to 1,000 words in a session but it depends on the night, the scene I am writing and my energy level.
  • How do you persevere on projects to finish them?  Again, outlines have become the “light at the end of the tunnel” for me.  However, they can be a detriment as well if you let it completely control your writing.  In some cases, writers have complained that they are too confined by the outline or they get thrown off if they have an idea that flows outside the outline.  Or if you do like I did at the end of my first book — I kept seeing how close I was and I literally blazed through the last part to just get to that “The End” statement.  It didn’t lend itself well to the story and took a lot of rewriting.  Now that I am more experienced I have a little better control of myself.  Whatever is the case, one important factor to remember is that outlines are constructs for your use, not words set in stone.  If something strikes you suddenly and it isn’t in your outline, then simply add it. See where the idea takes you in the outline.  It is much easier to amend, add or subtract from an outline than if you change your whole story, rewrote a massive amount of text to only find out it doesn’t work after all.   As you can see, I approach writing now much more on an organized, structured viewpoint (I have poured myself into reading a lot of advice books and writing craft material).  With my word counts per day and scheduling, I know roughly when I am going to be done. I would have to say that of the various stages in writing, outlining has become my favorite.  Building that foundation produces that momentum and drive I need to finish.  I know how the idea is going to end and now I just have to write it out so that I can share that fantastic story and ending with you!
  • How do you keep consistency in your novels?  Scrivener has become a large help with keeping notes and such, but I also utilize Excel charting, Pinterest for story sources and Word files for isolated notes (you can import these into Scrivener as well).  Also, I read once that if you go back through your manuscript after you write it and plot out all the events on a timeline as they occur in the prose, you will see any possible plot holes or events that happen out of order.
  • How do you handle when you are stuck in your plot?  OYYY That is so hard to get through.  I have encountered that when a question occurs to me that I haven’t determined the answer for yet or it has happened when I haven’t really fleshed out the outline enough for that part of the story.  Take a short break, move on to the next part or go back to your outline to further think of ways to move through the block.  Give yourself some distance from it so as to give yourself another vantage point to see the issue.  Also, sometimes you can hit up other writers to bounce ideas off or you can hit the internet for possible answers or options.
  • How do you come up with ideas to fill out your outline?  Pretty much the same answer as the above question.  Maybe think of a new subplot that would add to the story that you could weave into the outline?  Be careful though.  Don’t add filler or fluff just to make word counts.  Readers will see right through that.  Make the quality just as important as the quantity as well.  Filling up the outline takes a lot of thought and this is where I have had “writers’ block” and frustration, but ideas eventually come.  Some writers let their subconscious mull it over as they sleep or during the day while on their day jobs.
  • How long did it take to write your first draft and how many edits?  I already said that the first draft was three years, but it took another two years of editing, refining, reworking and adding to the story.  Then I had to determine which path I was going to take:  Traditional or Self-publishing.  I am truly happy with the self-publishing route and the entire process has been very fulfilling.  I have learned a massive amount about my writing, myself and the writing industry over the last year.  It has also enhanced my work and my techniques.  I am passing a lot of what I learned in blogs like this so you can also jumpstart your own paths.
  • How long do you wait to revise your first draft?  This time I waited over 5 weeks (it was not easy) but was way worth the “time off” to recharge, work on other projects and was a bit of an award for working so hard.  Now I am in the heart of my first edit.  Industry experts suggest 6 weeks.  It just so happened the first of the month came up during the fifth week so it felt right to start then.  The first time I didn’t take any time off after writing to wait to edit.
  • Is there a genre that is outside your comfort zone that you think would be fun to write?   Currently, I am a horror/medieval fantasy writer and I love both.  I like to write horror just a tad more but I love to read fantasy so much that I write fantasy stories for me.  I used to read an Ed McBain’s detective novels (87th Precinct) and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series has also inspired me to write in the “hard-boiled grim detective” genre.  I will be writing my Elude Novels during the NaNoWriMo Challenge this November.  I have been excited about it and so far I have gotten some really positive reactions from the samples posted online.

Now for some more personal stuff and random questions 🙂

  • Where were you born?  I am originally from a small town called Warsaw, Indiana.  I moved out to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 and have loved it for over twenty-one years!  Summer year round is amazing.
  • What is your favorite pizza toppings?  I am a huge Hawaiian Pizza fan but it doesn’t take much to please me with pizza — just throw a couple types of meat and some cheese on it and I am there!
  • If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?  I love Snow Crab Legs!  Thanks go to my wife for showing me the great wonders of crab.
  • Where have you traveled outside the country?  I haven’t done much traveling, but I have been to Rocky Point, Mexico and various parts of Canada.  I would love to see Australia and Scotland in my lifetime though.
  • Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  Why?  The two authors that really influenced me are from two opposing genres — Stephen King, of course, made me dream of being a writer — many writers and would-be writers growing up in the 80s would agree with that.  I devoured every novel or short story I could get my hands on.  In my late twenties, I started reading fantasy and that became my new obsession.  I read and collected everything by R.A. Salvatore.  These two authors definitely shaped my writing voice.
  • What do you think is the best television show created?  I am really invested in the Game of Thrones series which should not shock anyone.  My favorite before that was Dexter (you see a theme here?  Fantasy/Horror.  I cannot seem to escape this trend!).  I have also really liked Penny Dreadful, Star Trek, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.
  • What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?  I am a huge fan of racquetball, pickleball and tennis.  I also love hiking and occasionally I like to lift weights — which I need to make more routine!  Movies and video games are also a great source of inspiration and entertainment.  Absolutely love my family and spending time on the weekends with them especially.
  • Proudest moment in life?  Can’t help but say the moment when I first held Jessiena, my two-year-old daughter!  Every element of my life has led up to this wonderful little life in my hands and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!!
  • Do you have any tattoos and/or piercings?  I have a large shoulder tattoo that I am very happy with.  I designed it — it has a black Celtic knot in the center of a ring of three black, tribal dragon heads.  The knot represents the many convoluted ways you can take in life and the dragon heads represent the three aspects of my Past, my Present and the Future me.
  • Favorite holiday or time of year?  October and especially Halloween is the best for me.  It really brings out the creative side of me and I like to work up new costumes each year.  They tend to be nearly all undead but with twists or unique differences.  So much fun!  My wife is also going to dress this year (she hasn’t in a long time).  She will be doing the Day of the Dead look maybe.  Jessiena will be a tiny scarecrow.  She’s going to be so adorable!

Okay, I think that will do.  Hope this was useful and you got some helpful writing tips.  Or at least a little fun for your day!

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Halloween 2015