Elude #5 — Derek Barton

EL #5

Dominic Witherspoon sat facing the television; an amber bottle of Coor’s Light in hand and a remote in the other. His eyes were glued to the set, but nothing registered in his mind. Shellie knew he was in a zone of thought — a loop of depression, anxiety and loss swirling end over end like one of the washing machines at his work. It had become an old habit and what one would call a defense mechanism.

Too many times, she had watched her father drop into that old lime green recliner and simply disappear. He had no answers for what plagued their lives. More and more he fell into this evening ritual as pieces of Dom slipped off and melted away. She was losing him.

A commercial for Red Apple Snapple broke her own reverie and she glanced at the television. She had been watching him from atop the stair steps near the second-floor landing. Her little hands gripped the stair banister bars and she put her face between the posts to watch.  Resembling a prisoner and like her father, her life had devolved into more of a life sentence.

He sipped from the bottle. Shellie understood that in all reality she was lucky that he didn’t do more than the one bottle each night. He would nurse the same bottle for two to three hours and then he’d fall asleep in the chair, often while watching Discovery or History specials. The drone of the narrating voice would lull him to sleep. On more than one occasion she had also fallen asleep only to be woken up in the late hours and carried to bed by Dom.

Floating up to her, the robotic voice of a news anchor stated, “…a task force combining local police, homicide detectives and state investigators are concentrating their search for Vicente Vargas in the Phoenix area, but there is speculation that he might be using resources to get back to Puerto Rico where he has family.”

Shellie was hungry, but she decided to hold off until he had fallen asleep to sneak into the kitchen. He was angry with her, but more than that, he was deeply disappointed in her. That hurt laid on her heart and pressed into her like a heavy boot standing on her chest. He had no real idea of what to be mad at her for — she had no real idea what she had done either — but it was there nonetheless.

The police had left only an hour and a half before. They had come back with a search warrant and had ransacked their house. The uniformed men had left with her laptop and her father’s HP Pavillion tower.

This had been their third visit in the last two days. The first visit was “routine”. They had knocked on their door about an hour or two since Ms. Baxter had left that morning.

Dom had been a little apprehensive opening the door to the uniformed police. It was a learned habit and a belief that one grew into when you lived in a rough neighborhood. He was originally from Chicago and his Irish father had worked on occasion for some known, shady associates.

From an early age, Dom had been taught that police knocking on the door was a bad omen. If you were doing anything illegal, then you had to be paranoid and guarded when you answered and spoke with them. If you weren’t doing anything illegal, it still meant bad news and that they wanted you to give them information on one of your neighbors or friends. And that actually could be even worse than the first outcome.

That morning, the two policemen had relayed the grim message that Ms. Brenda Baxter had died that morning in a traffic accident.

“We had some questions for you. Can we come in and discuss them with you, sir?”

“No. We can talk right here on the doorstep,” Dom had snapped a little too sharp. The pair of cops stared back at him with startled expressions.

“I… mean, no sorry. My ill mother is inside and she is resting right now. What do you need to ask me, officers?”

The first officer, Antony Royas, a Hispanic man with a thick mustache and short-cropped hair replied, “Well, there were some extenuating circumstances that we cannot go into, but could you state what was Ms. Baxter’s emotional state when she left this morning? Did she seem upset, depressed or stressed over anything?”

“Uh… well, no, not really. Why?”

“Like I said I cannot go into details, but I have to ask.”

“She died in a car accident you said. Why are there detectives?”

“Any fatalities have to be investigated per procedure. I’m sure you understand.”

Shellie had been at the kitchen table, listening in shock. Ms. Baxter had died! Part guilty relief and part fear washed over her. What would they do for a nurse now?

She had never liked the mean-spirited Brenda, but she knew how much her father had relied on her.

Officer Peter Gordon, Royas’ partner spoke up, “How about in the last two or three weeks? Was she having any financial problems or maybe was she suffering from any illnesses that you know of?”

It was Dom’s turn to stare at the pair, then he carefully worded his reply, “I am not on a personal level with my mother’s nurse so I do not know about her health, but as far as her finances, I did just offer to pay her more hourly while she takes care of my mother.”

The officers nodded and then jotted down the information in a hand-size notebook.

“I am sorry to cut this short, but I really do need to tend to my daughter’s and mother’s lunch. Is there anything else or are we done?”

Officer Gordon frowned. “Is there an issue or anything you want to tell us, Mr. Witherspoon? You seem a bit… nervous?”

Her father did not like being pressed.

“Okay. We’re done. Good day, officers.” He shut the door in their faces. This whole conversation would come back to haunt Dom, but at the time he wanted these “doomsayers” to leave him be. He had been rattled by the news and the sudden stress of having to find her replacement had already gripped him.

He rubbed his neck and shook his head.

“It’s okay, Dad. They will send someone out.” She was referring to the nurses service association.

“Uh… yeah. Eat your grilled cheese now.” He had passed by her and went upstairs into his room on the second floor to make calls from their only phone.

She guessed that he would be calling into work and trying to find someone to take his shift at Carmen’s All-Nighter Laundromat. Without Ms. Baxter, Dom would not be able to leave her and Grannie.

At times like this, Shellie especially missed her mother. Her father tried to be attentive and always provided what he could, but he was awkward with affection and emotional connections. She didn’t ever doubt his love, but actually feeling it was another story.

She had realized then for the first time that Ms. Baxter was the only other person she knew of that had died other than her mother. Both had died the same way too — in a car accident.

I don’t want to go to her funeral! He won’t go, will he? She worried. She didn’t even like me, Dad or even Grannie! All she ever did was yell at us and hog the TV when dad wasn’t aroun—

She gasped. Do ghosts come because you thought bad things about them after they died?

Shellie had bolted up the stairs and jumped onto her laptop to research it. However, within five minutes she had been lost in a series of animated Youtube videos and had completely forgotten about the car accident, Ms. Baxter haunting her and her father’s work woes.

At about 7:30 pm that night, when it had all returned like a curse.  The second visit this time was with Phoenix Homicide Detectives Dale Kenton and Jerry Pence.

“Look, it’s late, officers. I have already answered the questions by the first two. My mother is ill, can we do this another time?” Dom had answered the door and spewed out his excuses even before they could introduce themselves.

Pence had rebuked her father. His voice had been stern. “Actually, no, Mr. Witherspoon. This is a serious matter involving the death of your mother’s nurse. I would think you could take time out to help us with her death and help provide closure for her family. The woman, after all, donated her last year to care for your ill mother. It would be the most humane thing to do, no?”

The thin, white detective was dressed in a gray suit and black tie. It was pressed sharp and neat. He already had his hand-sized notebook out and had an impatient air about him.  His Irish partner was heavier-set with a trim red beard and graying, receding hairline.  Both veteran officers exuded professional confidence with a low tolerance for obstacles.

Dom sighed loudly but didn’t say anything else.

“May we?” Kenton had poked his hand toward their kitchen table behind Dom.

Again, her father sighed and muttered under his breath, but had opened the door to invite them inside.

“Go upstairs and check on your grandmother,” he’d ordered her as she stood next to the television.

Detectives Kenton and Pence had sat across the table from him and started going over some information. Their voices had been too low and garbled for Shellie to make out as she had checked on Grannie in her bedroom. The machines whirred and hummed like normal. Bright blue numbers had displayed her heart rate, blood pressure and temperature above her head. All had seemed normal.

Shellie had raced back quietly to the stairs and had been perched in her favorite spying spot to listen.

“…several of them have reported seeing a bit of a heated conversation between you and the late Ms. Baxter. You neglected to tell the officers that this morning.”

“It was just a… a… Well, it wasn’t as it appeared. She was upset with me because I ran late coming home from work. Threatened to quit.” Dom rambled on, defensively and taken aback.

“So you are saying she was angry… emotional?”

“Yes, but before she left she agreed to stay if I gave her a raise.”

“When the officers asked you about all of this, this morning, why did you keep it hidden? Per those officers, you were rather ill-tempered and unresponsive.” Kenton had pressured him.

“No! Not at all. I was just shocked to learn of her death.”

“Yet, you were present enough to keep information from them?”

“What is this all about? I know you are not digging this hard into a simple car accident. I… I am not answering anymore until you level with me or you can just leave now.” Dominic was a good man and had a keen sense of humor normally, but the stress had been wearing on him all afternoon and it was all too easy to be angry at that moment.

“Whoa whoa, let’s not raise our voices, Mr. Witherspoon. You are going to upset your family.” Kenton had warned.

Pence had then leaned over the table onto his elbows. “You seem under a lot of strain. We can be out of your hair here if you just give us what you last talked about this morning with Ms. Baxter. We are not ‘digging’ as you put it for no reason.”

“What is this all about then?” Dom insisted again.

“We can do this at the station if you would prefer,” Kenton whispered, but it had been a veiled threat.

Dom slouched in his chair. “No, I… I cannot leave my mother and daughter unattended.” He’d rubbed in anguish at the back of his neck. “She….Ms. Baxter was angry like I said when I got home. She had gotten into an argument with my daughter and she was mad that I was late.”

“What was this argument with your daughter about?”

“She found Shellie on her laptop watching videos on how to hack computers. She’s always watching videos and such. It was not a big deal, but Ms. Baxter said that Shellie hit her and that she couldn’t take it here anymore.”

The detectives had thrown sidelong glances at each other.

“Wait… What?” Dom had shouted upon seeing their expressions.

“Nothing. Go on,” Pence had insisted, trying to appear friendly.

“NO! Leave now! You won’t talk to me, I’m not talking to you.” Her father rose from his seat and had stormed over to the door and held it open for them again.

As Kenton strode past, he leaned in and whispered once again, “You can expect a call for an interview sometime tomorrow, Dom. This conversation is just getting started.”


The Hidden — Chapter 11 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 11a



Nate’s body was protesting loudly. His legs were cramping and his back, especially between his shoulder blades, ached dully, no matter which way he arranged himself on the branch. The sun had traveled past its zenith, and still, the creature in the bean field had not relaxed its silent vigil.

Nate felt helpless.

If he had just himself to consider, he would wait the bastard out — no matter how long it took. But the thing that drove him to distraction was his concern for Zelda. He kept telling himself that she was alive, which meant she was out there somewhere waiting for him to save her.  She had always depended on him, and now she must be wondering why he hadn’t come looking for her.

Restlessly, he stood up and stretched his back for about the thousandth time that day. As soon as he moved, the beast below him clambered to its feet, all attention focused on him.

“You’re burning for it aren’t you, pal?” he growled at his tormentor. Reaching up, he climbed higher in the tree. He let his legs hang down and limbered up their screaming muscles by pedaling in mid-air. This was followed by a few old-fashioned chin-ups on the branch above his head. Stopping for a moment, he gazed up at the sun and sighed. There was nothing else to do, if he were to have any hope of finding Zelda, he was going to have to climb down from this tree. He slipped the gun from its holster, broke it open and took stock of its chambers. His count had been accurate — two bullets remained.

He’d purchased the weapon while they still lived in Chicago. The man behind the counter at the gun shop insisted he buy a “wheel gun” rather than an automatic, due to its simplicity and dependability. At the time, his main consideration had actually been the price.

“Yessir,” the man had told him, with a glint in his eye. “This here revolver will shoot, reload and shoot again faster than you can pull the trigger — just slicker’n cat shit on linoleum. And, statistically speaking, a .357 will break up a fight faster than any other handgun. It’ll stop a man quicker than anything else you’re apt to lay your hands on. If you’re buying a gun for protection… well, you got the right one, baby. Uh… HUH!” His laugh had been just a little too practiced and forced to sound sincere, but Nate bought the gun anyway. There had been a rash of crime in their neighborhood, and when a gunman held up the store which he worked in, he’d decided it was time to own one.

He had taken a course to learn to shoot, and he’d discovered he was pretty much a natural marksman. The man at the pistol range said it was because he aimed with his head instead of his eyes, making the gun a natural extension of his arm. At the time, he’d tried to get Nate to sign up for target shooting competitions, but he wasn’t interested. Never before had he been more grateful for this talent than now, when he planned to put it to the test.

It was Go Time!

Having made up his mind, he moved smoothly and decisively. First, he grasped the branch on which he stood with both hands. Swinging down quickly to hang beneath it, he dropped to the next lower branch, and then on to the ground. Before his feet even touched the earth, the monster was up and charging toward him. Nate landed in a squatting position. Straightening up, he slid the revolver from its sheath and leveled it at the beast. The creature skidded to a stop as if it were on a short tether. Pawing the ground in frustration, it growled and hissed threateningly.

Nate was impressed. “You learn pretty quickly, don’t you, Brutus?” His voice was low, but it carried to the creature’s ears, as was evidenced by its answering snarl of rage.

“Now, now! Don’t get cocky.” He brandished the gun menacingly and moved along the fence row toward the forest. He figured this was his only choice of directions, the timber at least offering some form of retreat should the creature overcome its fear of the weapon.

The monster in the field followed, paralleling his course, but staying just out of range for a safe shot. Nate made it to the next grove of trees and leaned up against the bole of a large shag-bark hickory. It looked as though it had been there since God was a little boy, its branches large and gnarled with time. A vine the size of Nate’s wrist ran down the side of the tree which he took note of, should he need quick access to the lowest branch.

Patiently waiting for an opening, it sat down, eyeing him and following his every move.  Just as Nate lowered the gun to rest his arm, the thing was on its feet and advancing. Quickly, he raised the gun again and the creature retreated again to a safe distance.  He heaved a sigh and started for the next grove of trees.

This game of cat and mouse continued for some distance down the fence row, as he made his way from one stand of trees to the next. At one point a red-tailed hawk screamed high above them, soaring in slow, looping circles as it rode the air currents above the field. When he looked back down, the creature had closed the distance by several paces and was advancing stealthily.

“You sneaky son-of-a-bitch!” He yelled, startled by how quickly it had moved. He brought his left hand up to join his right in its grasp on the gun.  The ugly beast leaped to safety. Unnerved a bit, he continued on, keeping a careful watch on his pursuer. It was when he was almost in reach of his goal that all hell broke loose.

As he had passed the final trees in the fence row and was within fifty yards of the woods another beast, which appeared to be the size of a grizzly, leaped up out of the tall grass to his left and took a swipe at him. He flinched, ducking his head, and the mighty paw passed within inches of his scalp. Uttering a curse, he thrust the muzzle of the gun into the face of the slavering giant and pulled the trigger. Its face erupted like an exploding melon and the beast toppled over backward, twitching like a beheaded rooster, prepared for Sunday dinner.

Nate twisted in time to see the one that had been following him was closing fast. But, worse than this, he saw two more approaching from the other side. It didn’t take a mathematician to figure out he couldn’t split his one remaining cartridge three ways, so he did the only thing he could think of. He ran for his life again.

Heart pounding and feet flying, he raced for the woods and he had a pretty good start on all three of these beasts, but he’d seen how fast they could move. All the same, fear was a marvelous equalizer when it came to a footrace. He was closing fast on the forest, and there was a veritable mother–lode of trees to choose from. An enormous white ash stood out against the backdrop of forest tangle, its branches raw and gleaming in the sun like exposed bones. It was a giant, holding back the verdant green press of the wood with its shoulders and reaching out friendly arms to welcome him.

Snapping a fast glance over his own shoulder, he saw that he was going to make it.  He began to look for a low-hanging branch to carry him to safety.

Suddenly, he saw something that almost made him lose his footing and stop. Loping out of the forest on a collision course with him was another of these pug-ugly bastards.

Jesus wept! he thought. I’ve stepped in it this time… It’s a whole freaking nest of ‘em!

Without breaking stride, however, he aimed the gun dead-center of the newcomer’s broad chest. It was snarling viciously, its tongue trailing along the left side of its mouth, sending little droplets of slobber in its wake. Forcing himself to wait until the last possible minute, Nate squeezed the trigger and was gratified to see the beast go down in a heap, rolling over and over in the dirt.

Leaping high in the air, he tried to vault over the fallen body, aiming to sprint the last few yards to safety.  But, at the last second, as it rolled on the ground, one of its hoary legs flopped up, catching the toe of his boot. To his dismay, he found himself sailing through the air and diving head-first into the hard dry ground at the edge of the forest.

Rolling to his feet and spitting out a mouthful of dirt, he looked to see how much time his spill had cost him.  There wasn’t much doubt now, it was going to take a miracle to come out of this one, for all of the beasts were almost upon him. His old friend from the bean field lead the pack.

He charged into the brush at the treeline’s edge. Looking frantically about, he spied a large branch and made a dive for it. As he hurtled through the air, he heard the closest of these hell-hounds crashing through the undergrowth behind him. A sharp, raking pain in the calf of his leg flared as he wrapped his arms around the tree limb. He bent and peered down into the enraged face of the creature.  It was standing on its hind legs with its claws buried in his leg, and it was pulling.

Frantically, he struggled to hold on, but it felt as though the horrid thing was about to twist his leg from its socket like a child ripping the wings from a fly.  He knew his gun was useless, but he slipped it from its holster anyway, hoping to bluff the creature. In vain he thrust it directly in its ugly, upturned face, but it took no notice, continuing to drag his leg irresistibly toward its snapping jaws.

He then threw the empty gun at the rock-hard skull of the creature, but again it didn’t react or even flinch.  Scrambling he found the camping ax on his belt.  Raising it high above his head with one arm, he clung desperately to the tree with the other. When he brought it down, the blade buried itself between the beast’s evil beady eyes, and great gushing streamers of blood sprayed in every direction. Nate was splattered heavily with it as it ran warm and sticky, into his eyes and he could taste its saltiness in the corners of his mouth.

The creature, who had been snarling and gibbering, exhaled sharply and fell away. Its claws snagged briefly in the fabric of Nate’s jeans, giving him one final tug before the weight of it pulled them free and it thudded to the ground.  With his strength ebbing, he made one last wrenching effort and drew his legs up just as the other creatures reached his tree.

There was no silent vigil for these two. They leaped and snapped their frothing jaws at him, exhibiting no fear whatsoever.

And why should they?  Nate asked himself, as he gaped at them in exhaustion from his perch. I’m unarmed now — no gun, no bullets, not even an ax.

He looked down at the corpse beneath the tree. The handle of the ax protruded from its head, making it look like some grotesque unicorn.  He leaned back carefully against the trunk of the tree, trying to get his breath back. Below him the two monsters went on snarling, snapping and raking their claws through the bark, ripping off huge chunks in the process.

“This was a great idea, Natey Boy.” he chided himself miserably. “Just great.”





While Nate waited in his tree-top sanctuary, he dozed, his two keepers having settled down to keep their guard. After snarling and carrying on fiercely for a while, they fell to sniffing about the body of the one he had adorned with his ax, much the same way this beast had carried on with its mate before. Occasionally one or the other would cast a reproachful glare up into the tree and snarl. Eventually, though, they both lay down to rest.

While he slept, Nate dreamed of Zelda. In his dreams, they were laughing and loving in the yard behind the house. Both of them were nude, and he had a garden hose, spraying Zelda as she laughed, gleefully, and tried to fend him off. She looked radiant. As the light from the westering sky fell upon her face, it became a smoothly glowing sun and her hair was its corona, leaping and flashing in a magnificent aura, shining just for him. The water clung to her skin in tiny droplets, beading up on her breasts. Her skin was awash with goose bumps and her nipples stood out tautly proud against the cool air. He reached out and ran the back of his hand across her cheek, feeling its cool, satiny softness, and he longed to wrap her in his arms. He let the hose fall to the ground and stretched out his arms to her, but she was gone.

He looked for her. “Zel, where are you?” he cried. “Help me, Honey, I can’t find you!”

Turning, he saw her sitting in a tree. She had a picnic basket in her hands and a ridiculously quaint checkerboard tablecloth which was spread over a branch. She was wearing a pale yellow sundress with a broad-brimmed hat, decorated with flowers. Her skin, deeply tanned, contrasted nicely with the bright colors of her outfit, and one strap on her dress kept falling down over her shoulder.  She was alluring, as only love could see her.

Then he was in the tree at her side, the bark rough and course against his bare legs. She laughed, coquettishly and leaned against him for a moment. He was as happy as he could ever remember being. He looked at her and said with disbelief, “You’re not dead, I knew that.”

On impulse, he looked down and saw there were dogs — big dogs, they had gorilla faces, and they were staring… staring… and their eyes were hot. He could feel the heat from them.

Zelda laughed at his remark and reached into the basket. It was one of those old-fashioned creels, with a lid on either end, hinged in the middle. She pulled out a small parcel, wrapped in wax paper. He hadn’t seen wax paper since he was a kid… nobody used wax paper anymore. He told her so, but she paid no attention. She was busy unwrapping his food.

Suddenly he was ravenous. His stomach felt cavernously empty, and his mouth watered at the very thought of food. He realized he hadn’t eaten all day, and this was just what he needed.  Taking the appetizer eagerly in his hands, he thanked her and prepared his mouth for a treat.

Just then one of the dogs below shouted “Come down here,  Meat! Come down! We are sick of waiting to rip you to shreds and lick the blood from your bones.”

He looked to see the gorilla dogs, staring up at him and wagging stubby tails. Fierce, dagger-like teeth stretched beyond their thick lips, and a wild, anxious look filled their eyes.

The sandwich in his hands squirmed nastily, like something alive and slimy. Removing the top slice of bread — His mind screamed NOOOOOO!!!… DON’T LOOK AT IT!! — he saw that the sandwich meat was a decaying face. The face had been peeled from a rotting corpse head. It draped over the bread like a grotesque rubber mask for Halloween — a death mask. Flies squirmed darkly in the sockets of its eyes and its stiff black tongue protruded from purplish swollen lips. As he gasped in horror, he could feel the spinal cord, like a piece of cold, wet string, curling across the back of his hand and tickling his bare leg.

Nate screamed in revulsion while Zelda laughed, hysterically. When he looked, he saw that her neck was broken and her head hung crazily at an impossible angle to her body.

“You didn’t REALLY think they’d let me live, did you?” Her mocking voice echoed hollowly, sounding as though it came from a cave somewhere deep underground. The last of her words were garbled as blackened blood flowed from her mouth.  He shrunk away from her on the limb. Out into space, he sailed, his arms scrabbling desperately for a purchase on the tree, as the gorilla-dogs snarled triumphantly: “YES, That’s it! Come on down so we can eat you! Come on down Natey Boy!”

Lurching violently, he was yanked into wakefulness by a strange sense of vertigo. When he opened his eyes he realized that he WAS falling. In his sleep, he had leaned too far and was toppling from his perch to a horrid fate below.

Clumsily, he jammed his hands into the side of the tree, and at the last second, averted disaster. He shook his head savagely, trying to clear away the cobwebs. What a ghastly nightmare that had been! Of course, his waking hours had all been nightmare lately, so what more could he expect?

The voices of those devil-dogs in his dream had been so eerily real he could almost hear them still… “Come down, Meat! Nate, come on down.” Suddenly he snapped completely awake and his skin began to crawl as he realized that he DID still hear them. Someone was talking to him from down there… and the voice was that of his dream. With a shudder of fear and a sense of unspeakable loathing, he lowered his eyes to the ground below.

“We are sick of waiting! Come down, Natey Boy. Come down.”

2018 March & April Bi-Monthly Goals — Derek Barton

Capture 15

It is that time again to recap my progress on the Bi-Monthly goals I had for January & February and reveal what I want to accomplish this March & April.

For January & February:

** Complete the 2nd wave of edits for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by 3rd Week of Jan  —  This has been completed, but now I have a ton of writing and adding of material to bolster the manuscript.  I have two people helping me do even more in-depth editing and that is nearing the midway point.

** Start 1st wave of edits for Elude #1 — Begin by the 4th week of Jan — Started and worked up to the third scene.  I will continue this project with more intensity once the editing and additional writing have been completed for Bleeding Crown.

** Work of Cover for The Bleeding Crown — Begin by 2nd week of Jan —  This project took up a lot more time than it should have and I used it as an easy excuse to avoid writing…  The additional chapter material I have left for The Bleeding Crown is complex and will take a lot of plotting and organizing (battles, chase scene, etc!).  So far I have 12 different covers worked up but I am not happy with any of them.  I will be putting up the “favs” so far for a vote on my newsletter for this month.  Please let me know what you think!

** Complete Marketing Campaign for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by the 4th week of Jan — Started but not in earnest as I still have more research on proper marketing techniques to accomplish.  I want to advertise but I need to be sure it is the best use of my marketing budget.  If anyone has suggestions — things that have worked well for them, please comment below!

** Complete story subplot and finalize The Bleeding Crown (25,000+ words) — Begin by 2nd Week of Jan — Wrote only 8,000 words of the 25,000 I need.  This goal will definitely be carried forward and will have to be done PRONTO!

** Finalize work on Marketing Campaign for Consequences Within Chaos Audiobook — Begin by 2nd week of Jan  — The audiobook is still being worked on but the project had a setback due to some unforeseen issues.  No worries, as it is coming along and sounds great, however, I pushed this goal to the backburner until the audiobook is closer to being completed.

** Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd Week of Feb — Really happy with this accomplishment and the blog itself has been attracting a lot of attention.  If you missed it:  Essential Elements of Book Covers

** Lose 15 pounds by end of February — Lose 2 pounds a week  — UGH.  I seesawed back and forth with a few pounds both months, but overall not much success.  Damn Burger King and its 2 for $6 offer!!  LOL    I am going to change the goal focus next month.  I want to start with baby steps to ensure that I have some weight loss.  In other words, I am going to make a goal as walking a mile a night for the next 60 days which equals to 60 miles.  I know that sounds like a lot, but last year I was in the habit of walking 3 to 4 miles each night.  Then if that works, the next goal set will add some possible weightlifting or dietary goals.  This should kickstart my weight loss, but we shall see!

** Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month — Completed by Feb 15th — Done and will continue to carry this goal forward.

** Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks — Finished by 4th Week of Feb — Done and will continue to carry this goal forward.  If you are behind, CATCH UP!  Chapter 8, Chapter 9 & Chapter 10 are available…

So… excluding the Audiobook goal, I completed 6 out of 9 (67%) which isn’t horrible and getting closer to “success” (80%).

Now for the next Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Outline new chapters for subplots and additional material – Finish by 2nd week of March
  • Finish writing new subplots/additional material – Finish by 3rd week of March
  • Complete 3rd Wave of edits & send out to Beta Readers – Finish by end of March
  • Complete 1st Wave of edits for Elude #1 – Finish by end of April
  • Complete the Cover for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of March
  • Get feedback from beta-readers – Finish by end of April
  • Complete the 4th wave and final edit for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of April
  • Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd week for April
  • Walk 1 mile a day (60 miles for the two months) – Complete for both months
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month – Complete for both months
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on website every 2 weeks – Complete for both months

Thanks again for everyone’s support and interest in my progress.  I am super thrilled with the storyline for The Bleeding Crown and anxious to hear everyone’s input on it.  And Elude is also an exciting project that I cannot wait to sink my teeth in.

Let me know if you had any suggestions for marketing!  What was your experience with Facebook ads?  Any success with Amazon Ads or did you have a different source for advertising?


Capture 14


The Hidden — Chapter 10 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 10



Zelda remembered the name she’d seen on the poster in the grocery store the day before. She pictured the darling little girl’s face in her mind, her sweet smile beaming like polished silver, and it made her want to cry to think all she must’ve gone through.

“How did you get here?”

Susie reached up and touched Zelda’s cheek, hardly daring to believe she was real. She had effectively given up hope of ever being rescued. Now, although cloaked in darkness, her face filled with wonder. If Zelda could have seen, she would have thought she looked like a child taking in the sight of all those enticing packages piled beneath the tree on Christmas morning.

“One of the females brought me,” she said evenly.  Her voice was detached and remote, drifting in the dark like a single, tiny star in the middle of a black, black night. “They need slaves to help them. I’m supposed to be for Dzhankah when I get old enough.”

The child was speaking nonsense. Zelda decided she was probably in shock and had lost all touch with reality. “Honey, what do you mean ‘they’? Are you saying there are two of these creatures?” She shuddered at the very idea.

“More than that,” Susie answered. Then her voice became very sad as the star winked out, smothered by the thick black blanket of despair. “You’ll see.”

The sound of soft, stealthy movement came from the big chamber, and both of them stopped talking and strained their ears to hear. Something large was approaching them in the dark, its feet scuffling along the floor like burlap bags full of cement. The two captives clung to each other tightly, and Zelda held her breath, afraid to make any noise.

Whatever it was stopped in the doorway. Zelda could hear it making sniffing sounds, and she could smell its animal odor in the stygian darkness just inches from her.  Her skin crawled in anticipation of a heavy, wet muzzle being placed against her skin. But the creature didn’t touch her. Instead, just when Zelda felt she was about to burst, it moved on.  Its footfalls faded off into the distant, echoing depths of the cavern.

After a time, Susie whispered, “Did he… hurt you?”

“No. It went away.”

“Not that one. I mean the one who brought you in. Did it — you know — have sex with you?”

There was a pause in the darkness. “No.”

“It will,” Susie warned her. “You won’t be able to stop it.”

Zelda contemplated this. After a time, she asked: “Is there a way out of here?”

Susie shook her head, and Zelda felt the movement in the dark. “If you try to get away, they just grab you and drag you back. They can see real good down here. And there’s lots of ’em.”

“What ARE they? Where do they come from?”

“They’re the monsters under the bridge. My brother told me about them, only he just said there was one. They live down here in these caves, and the caves go on and on. They hide in the woods and the corn fields during the day. Then at night, they come back down here.” Susie scratched her nose. She was beginning to relax, a little bit, but she still held on to Zelda’s hand.

“My brother says their favorite food is little girls, but they haven’t eaten me yet, just slapped me around some.”

Zelda sat in the dark, thinking. “Where do they go when the corn’s been picked?” she asked. “And how come nobody ever sees them?”

“I think they hibernate in the winter. You know — like bears? They don’t eat people too much. At least, they don’t bring ’em back down here to eat. They live mostly off of deer and squirrels and rabbits and stuff.”

“How long have you been with them? Since you disappeared? What do YOU eat?”

“I eat what they bring me — raw meat. I got sick a lot at first, but I had to eat something. You’ll get used to it. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but it seems like a long time.”

Zelda had never heard such fatalistic despair in a child’s voice. She reached out and cradled the poor child’s head in her arms. “Well don’t worry, sweetheart. I’m going to get us out of here somehow, just you wait and see. We’ll get you home safe to your family, I promise.” She took Susie’s fingers and crossed her own heart with them, feeling like Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker.

A flicker of a smile crossed Susie’s lips, but the darkness of the cave was as deep as the darkness of her spirit and the smile was wasted. She squeezed Zelda’s hand and whispered, “I’m glad you’re here, anyway. How did YOU get here?”

“My husband and I —” Zelda stopped short at the thought of Nate. She could not reconcile herself to the fact that he was dead. What was it Susie had said? They didn’t bring the humans back down here to eat? Oh, God! Is that what happened to my husband? Did those beasts devour him?

It was one thing to be widowed, but this was ghastly. She bit down hard on her lower lip. This was not the time for grief; she would not allow the tears to come until later after they were safe. She cleared her throat.

“We were having a picnic,” she finally continued, her voice thick with emotion. “They jumped us, and they dragged me down here.”

“Will your husband come save us?” Susie asked without much hope in her voice.

“No, honey, he’s dead. I’m afraid we’re on our own, you and me.”

They huddled together in the pitch black, each lost in their own thoughts for a time. Susie thought of her brother, Doug, and how he’d probably got in real trouble for losing his little sister. It was the one comforting thought she’d had to cherish during this hellish nightmare. It wasn’t much, but she liked to return to it whenever she was alone. Suddenly Zelda interrupted her thoughts with a question.

“Susie, you say they need slaves. What for?”

“Oh, things like bringing ’em water and cleaning up the bones, things like that. Mostly, I think they’re just saving me for when I grow up. You know — to breed.”

“You don’t know that, Honey. Not for sure you don’t.”

Zelda thought for a moment.

“You DO seem to know an awful lot about these creatures, though. How did you learn so much about them?”

“They told me,” was her simple reply.


The Hidden — Chapter 9 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH chap 9


The abuse began when she was seven. Doug called it playing “Something”. That way he could ask her in front of their parents: “What d’ya want to do this afternoon, Suze?… Wanna play Something?”

Only she and her older brother knew what he meant by this. She didn’t really like it but she accepted it. Doug was six years her senior, and she was used to doing pretty much whatever he wanted. It wasn’t like he beat her or anything. He never forced her to do it — not physically, at any rate — but Doug had a way of playing on her emotions. If she refused, he would actually cry. It so amazed and frightened her to see her big brother crying that she would eventually give in. She felt sorry for him. After all, she loved Doug, as only an admiring little sister can. She wanted him to be happy, and playing “Something” always seemed to make Doug happy.

The first time they did it was in the big barn. It was a hot summer day and Doug said he had a new game to play, up in the loft. Being farm children, with the nearest neighbors two miles down the road, it wasn’t unusual for thirteen-year-old Doug to be playing with seven-year-old Susie all afternoon. In fact, their parents encouraged it and were pleased with Doug for “watching out” for his little sister the way he did. The way they saw it, most boys his age wouldn’t want anything to do with a younger child, but Doug seemed to dote on little Susie, spending hours a day with her. And she obviously loved and admired her older brother, catering happily to his every whim. Yes, her parents agreed that they were closer than any two children they ever saw.

In the beginning, it was just touching and feeling. They took turns — first he would be the patient and she would be the nurse. Then she would be the patient and Doctor Doug would have a look. It was fun! But it did make her feel funny inside. However, she didn’t like the way Doug made such a big deal about not telling their parents. Why would their parents care about some dumb game they’d play? But Doug insisted, and after she thought about it, she was impressed by the idea that he trusted her with a secret that only the two of them shared.

So she kept quiet…

And as time went on and they grew older, Doug kept asking to do more and more. And Susie grew to dislike his little games. They made her feel… dirty, like something that washed up on the beach. By now, though, she knew she was a co-conspirator in their little secret. If their parents found out, surely she would be punished as much as Doug for what they were doing.

Susie began to despise her brother.  He no longer made her feel “special” and loved when he touched her.  She had made up her mind this was going to have to stop.  Some way, some how, she was going to escape this situation.

And that’s how her life transitioned from a nightmare to a horror story.

About a month ago, she and Doug were down at “The Fort”. That’s what Doug called the new playhouse shack he’d built out of scrap lumber down by the river. Susie had been excited when he had started building it, envisioning a place where she could take her dolls and have tea parties and other such little-girl fascinations.  It was to be their special clubhouse.

But that wasn’t what big brother had in mind. He had been growing more and more worried that they would be discovered in the loft or in his bedroom late at night where they sometimes played “Something”. And their parents couldn’t always be counted on to be away from home when he was in the mood for games. What they needed was yet another secret… a secret place where they could go and their parents wouldn’t know.

There was a clearing on the bank of the river, just below the bridge, and Doug could hide the building amid the poison sumac and small scrub trees which grew there. He made a path which ran a circuitous route through the woods and down along the river, bending back at an angle, to come in from behind the shack so nobody would be likely to see it from the road and discover their little hideout.

They would ride their bikes down to the bridge, hiding them in the Queen Anne’s Lace growing thickly by the roadside. Then they followed the path from the west side of the bridge, out through the woods until they wound around and came out on the east side, just twenty or thirty yards from where they’d started. The idea was to throw off anybody that might be following them. Doug wanted to be completely and safely alone with his secrets.

They’d followed this trail dozens of times during the construction of “The Fort”.  One of Doug’s favorite things to talk about while they hiked through the murky wood was the Monster that lived beneath the bridge. It lurked there in the deepest shadows, drawn back against the wall so nobody could see it. But if you got up real close and peered way back in the darkest corner, you might just see two eyes, glowing pallidly from its grotesque face. The Monster’s favorite food was, of course, little girls.  And he was always hungry.

Susie didn’t like Doug anymore, but she did believe him. It never occurred to her this might be just another of his little mind games — that he might be playing on her childish naivete to get his jollies. She had no way of knowing that Doug, like most pedophiles, received his pleasure not only by physically abusing his victim but by emotionally dominating her as well.

There was a monster, all right, but it didn’t hide in the shadows beneath the bridge. It walked the path with her and forced her to do terrible things — things that would haunt her subconscious for the rest of her life.

On this particular day, August third, the story of the Monster had really gotten to her. She listened with rapt attention as Doug masterfully described the creature’s glowing red eyes and shaggy, blood-stained coat. He lowered his voice and growled in a chilling voice that verbally painted vivid pictures of the horror that lurked there in the shadows. He carried a stick with him, and his hands would wrap tightly around the shaft as, occasionally, he would pause and elaborate on some finer detail of his story. As Susie listened, the sounds of the forest seemed to come alive, and the shadows beside the path hid evil, hulking creatures that glared hungrily form their depths.

By the time they reached “The Fort”, she was happy to get there, and she sighed with relief when Doug slid the deadbolt over, locking them safely inside. The shack was sparse with a dirt floor, a stained mattress and a crate turned over to act as a table with a small porcelain lamp.

Doug immediately walked over and pulled out the pack of cigarettes he kept stashed beneath the mattress lying on the floor. Flopping down on his back, he propped his head and shoulders against the wall and lit up. He inhaled deeply, shaking out the match and tossing it into the corner. He tucked the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and squinted up at her through the smoke curling around his head.

He spoke around the butt of his cigarette. “Take your clothes off.”

This surprised her. Doug had never taken off all her clothes or even his.  He was too paranoid and in case his parents came home unexpectedly, they could easily hide their activities.  Now that Doug was growing older, they no longer bothered with pretending or roleplaying.  Doctor Doug no longer came to see his patient, only her nasty older brother, with the hair sprouting on his chin and various other places.

The closest they ever came these days to make-believe was when Doug made her say things to him that turned him on. Sometimes, she didn’t even know what the words meant, but she had learned not to ask questions because he liked to explain by showing her. Later she would try to convince herself she hadn’t said such things, pushing the knowledge and the words far down in her mind.  She buried a lot these days — nasty, shameful secrets buried deep like so many rotting corpses. And God help her if they ever rose from the dead to walk the hallowed ground of her consciousness.

“No!  It’s too dirty in here.”  She complained weakly.  The walls of their clubhouse suddenly moved in around her, tight and choking.

He ground out the cigarette in a silver ashtray on the crate.  With a louder command, he said, “I said take off your clothes!  Get on the mattress if you want to stay off the dirt.”

“Doug, no–“

Doug sprang to his feet and lunged at her.  He slammed one hand upon the wall above her head as he leaned in, towering over her in a threatening manner and stood so close she could smell the stale cigarette and feel the heat of his breath.  He growled in that Monster voice again, “In The Fort, you do exactly as I say, when I say and how I say it.  Susie, do you understand me?”

She sniffed and tears started to well up in her eyes.  “Dougie… you are sca–“

He slammed his open palm into the wall again over her making the shack shake and screamed this time in her face, “Do you understand the rules of The Fort?  Or do you want me to lock you outside for the Monster to eat you?  Take off your goddamn clothes now!”

Susie could only stare back at him, dumbfounded at the rage in his voice and the lust in his eyes.  When he raised his open hand intending to slap her, she nodded profusely and started unbuttoning her shirt.

He doesn’t mean it.  He wouldn’t let the Monster eat me… he wouldn’t.  She struggled to hold onto that thought and not burst out in tears of shame and fear as she still undressed as he demanded.

“We are going to add to our game today.  A little something to Something.”  He then chuckled at an internal thought, a joke at her expense.

He studied every minute movement she made.  She felt like an insect under a magnifying glass.  And the malicious tone of his voice chilled her.  Susie shivered standing in her undies.

“Take’em off and lay down.”

Turning red with embarrassment, she obeyed.  This would be the first time that he had seen her fully naked.  Something was…wrong.  Something unknown and something more to his intentions… And being struck had never been a part of “Something” before.

He yanked at his grey sweatshirt and threw it to the side of the mattress.  As he unfastened his belt and broke from leering at her, she ventured, “What did you mean by adding to the game?”

Doug ignored her as he continued undressing.  He turned his back to her as he fumbled with his jeans.  He then lit another cigarette.  When he faced her again, she saw he had the black leather belt wrapped around his fists.

“It’s time to make you a woman, Suze.”

The world around Susie shut down, frozen in the span between two heartbeats and then shattered like glass.  She finally realized what he meant and what he meant to do.  He was crossing a line, dragging her over it against her will and ending her life as she knew it.  She was too young to fully understand the ramifications of rape; she just understood on instinct that he was bent on destroying a part of her forever.  It was “Something” beyond hurt and innocence.  It was a step that could never be taken back.  She would not give him that.  He had taken too much from her.  Too much!

An animal-like instinct took control of her.  Maybe self-preservation or something else; whatever it was, it steeled her for him.  She would not react until she was ready although her body trembled in terror.  As Nate had discovered, there were some people in times of crisis that would flee or panic, others would lock up and freeze where they stood or some people that refused to be victims and fought back.  Susie Dawn Chamness was a fighter!

He placed her between his legs and stood over her, straddling her body on the mattress.

“Going to make you my little woman today.  Mine!”  Doug snarled down at her.  Then he squatted and snatched her left hand, making to tie it in the belt.

That was his mistake.  With her right hand, she lunged forward and snatched the lamp off the crate and shattered it upon his jaw.  He flew backward, knocked off balance by the strike and smashed his head on a stud in one of The Fort’s walls.

Susie didn’t wait to see the outcome.  She bolted to her feet, grabbed her pile of clothes and flung herself toward the door.

She didn’t even feel the knob of the deadbolt in her hand as she jerked it open and escaped down the path into the woods.  Numb from the terror, she felt nothing.  Her only thought was to get out — had to… had to… had to…

If Doug caught her now, he would really hurt her.  He might not even stop hurting her this time!

Seconds down the path, she heard The Fort’s door explode open and heard her brother calling after her.  His voice chased after her as she ran, running its icy fingers along her spine and snatching at the long strands of blonde hair trailing behind her.

Doug followed after her, calling her name and demanding for her to stop. Susie had one shot at losing him — she left the dirt path, plunging into the thick undergrowth of the forest and forging her way through the thicket down to the river’s edge.   She desperately pulled on her clothes and shoes before she waded on out into the river, which was no more than waist-deep at any point, this being the dry season.

It would take Doug some time to traverse the path and catch up with her.  She decided to follow the river under the bridge until she came to the other side. Once there, it would be a simple task to retrieve her bicycle and ride away.  She had no idea where to go, but she knew she didn’t ever want to see her brother again. Hot tears boiled down her cheeks, making everything she looked at swim and wriggle as she splashed her way along the river. Her face was flushed with shame and anger and her breath came in great hitching sobs.

This was a girl whose whole life was in turmoil. She couldn’t go on with things the way they were, and yet she had no idea where to turn to affect any change. With an unknown strength, she was taking the only action she could, she was running away. She intended, in fact, to keep right on running until something made sense — until she found a place where her life could be as it was in her fantasies.

The water was extremely cold, and her legs were beginning to ache. Occasionally, she would slip on the smooth gravel lining the bottom of the river, but she managed to maintain her footing, flailing her arms and stutter-stepping to regain her balance. At last, she reached a sandbar and she was able to step out of the water, warming her legs in the August sun.

The sandbar continued on under the bridge, but as she stood there, gazing into the darkness beneath it, her brother’s words came back to her and she locked up with dread. The Monster lived under the bridge and his favorite food was little girls. If she went under there, she would see its glowing eyes and it would come snarling and snapping out of the shadows.  The last thing she would do in life would be to soil herself before it clamped down with its yellow teeth.

She had had enough humiliation for one day.  So there lay her only means of escape, on the other side of the bridge on the other side of the Monster hidden in a patch of weeds by the side of the road. In a quandary over what to do, she collapsed to her knees sitting upon her haunches down in the middle of the sandbar, folded her bare arms across her chest and wept.

All the degradation and torment of the last four years of her life came out in a heart-rending rush of self-deprecation.

How could I be so stupid as to let myself be used like that? How am I ever gonna wash away his… grime?  Wash away what he has done to me?  The sins unfolded in her mind and all the buried feelings of disgust burst forth.  These were feelings and emotions a little girl her age should not be forced to deal with.

Her cries were heard.

Susie reached out and gathered a handful of water, which she brought up and splashed into her face.  As her life replayed for her, she began to feel anger.  She allowed the anger to build, leaning on the strength it brought with it. She kindled and nursed it, like a small fire, and her soul began to warm itself beside it.

She began to think along the lines of what her next move would be… should she go forward, or should she go back? Where was she to go now, home to her parents? Could she ever hope to make them understand what she’d been through? A small wisp of hope sprouted somewhere inside her. Maybe if she told her mother everything, she would not be punished too harshly, maybe her mother would understand. She would never be able to tell her father, of that she was certain.

But maybe, just maybe if I could convince Mother to forgive —


She looked up startled to see Doug silhouetted against the sky atop the bridge. He was leaning over the side with his hands on the rail, looking down on her in the water.  Blood flowed from two lacerations along his jaw and cheek.  She jumped to her feet and splashed over to the bank, where she climbed out and charged off into the woods again.

“Wait, Susie, wait right there!” he called in vain.

“Leave me alone!” she screamed over her shoulder, “I’m running away — far away, where you’ll never touch me again!”

The briars cut into her legs and snagged her clothes as she crashed through the undergrowth, but she continued on until she connected with the path again. Here she hesitated, undecided as to which way to turn. Her brother would be coming back from the bridge. She groaned a bit and then charged off into the undergrowth once again.

She had gone maybe forty feet into the woods and was just about to pause for a rest when something hit her in the back and sent her sprawling amidst a patch of may-apples. Rolling over and sitting up, she looked to see who had struck her, but to her amazement, there was no one there. She remained on the ground for a moment and listened, but not a sound could she hear, save for the calling of birds in the trees and the sound of Peepers calling brightly from the water’s edge.

Then she heard Doug’s footsteps, padding down the path and continuing on toward the shack. He was panting heavily, and he swore when he stumbled across a root. She waited for him to go past, and then rose insecurely, figuring to try the path once more, now that the way was clear.

When she turned, she was face to face with the Monster. It must have followed her from under the bridge. The poor girl hadn’t the strength to run and she hadn’t the breath to scream.  She was struck dumb, and all she could do was stand there and wait for it to eat her. Doug for once had not been lying to her.  Her life had never been a happy one and now she was to die a violent death at the hands of a horrific fiend.

The shaggy beast swayed slowly back and forth on its four legs, sizing her up.  Slowly, she reached behind her hoping to find a stick to defend herself, but before she could do anything it attacked. In two swift bounds, it was upon her, its forepaws on either side of her head and its ghoulish face snarling fiercely into hers. She whimpered pitifully and buried her face in the leaves which littered the forest floor.

Her cries were cut off and she fought for breath as it flipped her over and grabbed a mouthful of her shirt collar, carrying her by the scruff of her neck as a mother wolf would transport her cubs. It bounded off, noiselessly, into the woods; and the last time Susie ever heard her brother’s voice, it was echoing through the trees: “I’m sorry, Susie! I’m sorry! Susie, come back… If you tell anyone, you will be SOR-R-R-EEEE!!!”

Susie thought wildly of the story of Little Red Riding hood, alone in the forest with the Big Bad Wolf.  She closed her eyes and wondered how bad it hurt to be eaten.


The Essential Elements of Book Covers — Derek Barton

Book Covers Blog

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.



  • 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.



  • 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.


The Hidden — Chapter 8 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH -- Chap 8 #2


The clearing was undisturbed, dead-silent. Zelda’s sleeping bag and blanket lay where they had been the night before. The tent and campfire were as they should be, and cooking utensils and coolers hadn’t been touched. There were no signs of a struggle, not even any tracks. Everything was where it was supposed to be except for his sleeping wife.

A cold blanket of dew drenched everything and a fine mist hung low over the fields, shrouding the plants like a veil. Nate leaped to his feet and his head swam. He ground his fists into his temples and waited for the grogginess to ease. When it cleared, he stepped over to the tent and looked inside. The tent was empty. Sunlight streamed in through the nylon mesh window and puddled in a square on the floor.

Straightening up, he called her name loudly and waited. The only sounds were those of the crickets and the ever-present rustling of the corn. He wasted no time chiding himself for falling asleep, there would be time for self-recrimination later. His first concern was finding Zelda and keeping her safe.

Struggling to remain calm and think clearly, Nate bent over and picked up the hand ax, where it had fallen from his belt while he slept. Scanning the horizon, he tried to decide in which direction to search. There was no sign of the creatures from the night before, and when he thought of them, it was hard not to believe it had all been just a dream. But if the events of the previous night were a figment of his imagination, then where was Zelda and what was he doing out here in the middle of nowhere, toting a sidearm and an ax?

No, Natey-boy, they were real, all right, and what’s worse, they took Zelda right from under my nose while I slept!  His inner thoughts bore into him.

Still, he couldn’t let himself believe she was dead…or eaten.  He had to try to find her — but where to start?

His backpack lay near the smoldering remains of the campfire. He picked it up and then, deciding it would be better to travel light, tossed it up into the lower branches of a small sycamore tree. There it would be safe to retrieve later, and it could dry in the sun.  He took a few steps toward the cornfield and hesitated. If they were out there, Nate wouldn’t stand a chance in hell against them.  Better to stay out in the open as much as possible.

He started toward the woods, staying close to the fence row. All the while, he scanned the area for tracks or some sign that they’d passed this way. The thought of going for help occurred to him, but he rejected it for two reasons: How would he get back and how would he convince the authorities of his story? It was obvious that he and Zelda were in this on their own, and he was determined not to let her down.

His muscles ached from spending the night on the hard, cold ground, but he didn’t spend much time concerning himself about it. Foremost in his mind were thoughts of his wife and her safety. Nate didn’t want to even think about what life would be like without her.

It was strange, really, when you thought about it. Nate had come close to losing her emotionally in the city, and they had come way out here to find each other again. Now that he’d regained her love, he’d lost her physically. In a real sense, he felt the pain of her absence more now than he would have at any other time before this day. Squaring his shoulders and thrusting out his chin, he marched, squinting into the morning sun.

I am not going to lose you like this!

The soft call of a dove murmured through the morning air, lending a sad, haunted feeling to the day. Out in the field, a flock of crows flew up, beating their dark wings and croaking harsh epithets at each other. They seemed exasperated at his intrusion.

About half-way to the edge of the woods, he noticed something in the bean field. He was unable to quite make out what it was, but something dark was sticking up just enough to be seen above the plants. Nate blinked his eyes, rapidly, and tried to bring it into focus. But it was no use. He would have to get closer.  Which meant abandoning the fence row and the small amount of cover it afforded, but he couldn’t pass up any leads that might help him find Zelda.

The dew-covered plants soon had his pants soaked up past his knees, but his boots kept his feet warm and dry.

When he had gotten to within a few feet of the thing, he began to slow down, partly due to caution and the fear he had of discovering Zelda’s partially clad, savaged body.

At first, it appeared to be a wet grocery bag, but then he saw that it was pink and wrinkled, with tufts of hair protruding from it. He heard the buzzing of flies, and his mind pictured the corpse of his wife, her scalp ripped from her head, lying in a heap among the rows of beans. Remembering the severed head in the tree, he wavered, unable to approach any nearer. Indecision pulled at him. He couldn’t just ignore it and continue his search, knowing she might be lying out here in the sun.  He had no choice but to look.

Resigning himself to the task, he took another cautious step.  The hair on his own scalp raised when the clump of flesh moved and an unholy roar sliced through the air. Before his startled eyes, a creature like the one from the day before rose up from its hiding place in the beans and charged him. Its mouth was split wide in a hellish snarl, and it lurched forward on two legs, wielding its claws, menacingly.

Nate snatched the gun from its holster and then remembered how low he was on ammunition. He had only the four bullets remaining, and he may need them before this ordeal was over.

If I can make it to the trees on the fence row, I may be able to avoid wasting any shots!

During the siege of their camp the night before, his thoughts had turned to the partial corpse, rotting in the tree above them, and it had dawned on him that these creatures must not be able to climb. Whoever the poor unfortunate whose head had been left behind must have tried, not quite successfully, to escape using that route.

This was why Nate had been following the fence row — in hopes that, were he attacked, his theory would prove correct.  Now he was going to have a chance to find out, provided, of course, he could outrun this horrific beast.

As he spun around, however, he heard yet another growl and saw a second beast rushing at him from the direction of the fence row, effectively cutting off his escape!  This one, apparently, had been hiding in the beans as well, and Nate must have walked right past it.

Damn things were stalking me!

These were obviously more clever creatures than Nate would have guessed.  Coming at him this way, it would be difficult for him to kill both of them. By the time he got a shot off at one, the other would be on him.  It was rather like chasing down and tagging a baseball runner caught between first and second base.

This second creature galloped on all fours and moved much quicker than the first. In fact, Nate could see that, given its present speed, it would overtake him in just a few more bounds.

It was time.  He had no choice but to spend some ammunition now. Surely things couldn’t get much more desperate than this. He whirled and fired a round at the first creature. Not waiting to see the effect of his shot, he dove, headlong and attempted a clumsy somersault into the beans, kicking up a cloud of dust as he fell. His dive was at right angles to the path of the second beast, whose claws raked the side of Nate’s boot as it charged through the spot where he’d been standing. By the time it halted its rush and doubled back for another pass, Nate was already running.  The creature let out a roar of rage and gave chase.

Nate had badly underestimated the speed of these creatures. Although he believed he killed the first, placing a hollow-nosed .357 slug right through its chest, there was no way he could outrun this second creature.  It would be on him before he made half the distance to safety. And placing another such shot while on the run for his life would be beyond luck and closer to a miracle. There was no time to stop and plant himself to fire.  All he could do was redouble his efforts and run like he had never run before.

He heard a vicious scream from behind and put his head down, concentrating on which branch he would leap for if he did, through some marvel, happen to make the trees.



Zelda awoke to a nightmare. A hard, scaly paw was shoved down hard upon her mouth, covering nearly half her face and making it almost impossible to breathe. She could feel the sharp claws digging into the side of her neck, and she saw the silhouette of the creature’s face leaning over her.

She tried to struggle, but the beast was much too powerful. She was a tiny rag doll in its grasp. Straining her eyes to the left, she could make out Nate’s body lying motionless by the fire. Zelda cried out against the filthy pads of the creature’s paw, but her voice was muffled to practically nothing.

In terror, she realized that the creature had come back and killed Nate. And now it had her in its grasp. She prayed the end would be mercifully quick.

Silently it picked her up and smashed her against its chest. The dry, wrinkled skin and the tufts of matted hair ground hard and rough against her cheek.  Its pungent, animal odor revolted her and made her retch.  Rising up on powerful hind legs, the creature shuffled away from the campfire and out into the night, dragging her along like a child carrying a stuffed toy.

Out into the beanfield, it carried her, the wet plants slapped coldly against her bare legs. Tears blinded her vision as she watched the campfire growing smaller and smaller, swallowed by the darkness. Suddenly, it stopped and dropped her roughly upon the ground, removing the gagging paw from her mouth. Her jaw ached from the pressure it had exerted on it and her lip had been cut by one of its pads.

She cried pitifully for it to stop, to leave her alone, but the creature stood there in silence, staring at her from the blackness of the night. Finally, it brought its cruel face to within inches of hers and glared hungrily into her eyes. The smell or its breath nearly gagged her and she turned her face.  It reached out and, hooking one of its claws through the sleeve of her sweat-shirt and guided her arm down toward its belly where her hand came to rest on a huge throbbing lump of turgid flesh.

She lashed her arm back from it as though she’d laid her hand on a hot poker, ripping her sleeve in the process. She opened her mouth to scream but her captor brought a paw hard across her face and the night erupted in a blinding flash. The last thing she remembered before she lost her grip on consciousness was being rolled over on her belly and feeling the creature’s hot breath on the back on her neck as it grabbed a mouthful of her collar.

Sometime later, she awoke in complete darkness.  There was cold, damp stone beneath her cheek and her body ached with the aftermath of spending a long time unconscious upon a hard surface. She tried to remember where she was and what had happened to her, but she was completely disoriented. And, being in total darkness, there was nothing for her eyes to fall on to help her adjust.

Slowly, she pulled herself back from the world of the dead. She moved around, gingerly, flexing first one limb and then another. Everything seemed to be working, but where was she? And how did she get here? Suddenly, she remembered. It came back to her in a rush — the path, the monster, the clearing, Nate’s death, the abduction and the attack in the field… everything!

She sat bolt upright and hit her head on something hard. Sparks flew across the backs of her eyes and she slumped to the floor again.

With mounting horror, she realized she was in a hole of some kind.

Oh my god! The damned thing buried me alive!

Her heart hammered in her chest and a sharp metallic taste came to the back of her mouth, threatening to choke her. She reached out her hand and waved it around panicking in the darkness until she came upon a wall. Following it, she groped her way until it met another wall, about four feet along.  Continuing along this wall, she came to an open space where this chamber apparently let out into another one. On her hands and knees, she stretched her arm out into this open space, leaning out as far as she dared. In her mind, she got the feeling she was in a cave of some kind, the walls being made of hard stone, and not in a hole in the dirt, as she had first imagined. Crawling past the “doorway”, she continued to feel her way blindly in the dark.

Suddenly she touched something soft and warm — and alive! And then she felt a hand grasp her arm and hold it firmly. She cried out and tried to pull away, but the grip held fast.

“Sh-h-h-h! Quiet… it’s all right.” The voice was small and soft, like that of a child. “I’m not gonna hurt you… Shh-h-h!”

Zelda stopped struggling and listened. She could hear breathing and the rustling of clothing.

“Please?… Please?” the tiny voice whimpered. Whoever it was, drew nearer to her and folded their arms about her. She was surprised to realize, it WAS a child. Even in the dark, she could tell it was a little girl, a frightened little girl, that was clinging to her desperately, and crying. Her hands came up instinctively and stroked the child’s soft hair. It was matted and tangled, but it still held the softness of a little girl’s tresses.

“Okay… okay.” she soothed. “Don’t cry now, baby, don’t cry.” She held the little girl for a while, letting her cry. In truth, after all that she’d been through, it felt good to have someone to hug.  She rocked the child back and forth in her arms, patting her back and stroking her hair some more.  Finally, the sobs eased and the child’s stiff body relaxed a bit.

Pulling back a little, she asked, “Who are you, baby?  Do you know where we are?”

The child stopped sniffling, but she still clung tightly to Zelda’s hand. “I’m… My name is Susie Chamness, and… I don’t know where this is exactly, but it’s a bad place — real bad!”





Nate saw the branch growing nearer and nearer, and to his amazement, he grew confident that he was going to make it! With every muscle, he strained to reach the tree and climb to safety. He didn’t dare take time to look back over his shoulder to see if the thing was gaining on him. He could only assume it was about to overtake him and every precious second counted in his race for survival.

The cold, damp plants felt like hands that clutched at his legs, threatening to trip him and send him tumbling among the weed-strewn rows to meet his doom. He could hear the creature’s labored breathing close on his heels — hot and moist, on the back of his neck. Any second now, a sharp blow to the middle of his back would send him sprawling and then the beast would be on him.  Its heavy body bearing him to the ground while its talons ripped at his guts and that foul slobbering maw opened wide to swallow his face.

He reached for the low-hanging branch and leaped. Primal instinct told him that the creature was already in mid-air. His hand grasped its rough surface and he swung his legs in a “skin-the-cat” maneuver over the branch and hauled himself up into the tree. As he executed these gymnastics, he expected to feel the claws of the beast, snaring his leg and dragging him back to a horrible death by dismemberment.  Once again, the thought of the rotting remains in the tree from yesterday flashed through his mind.  He wasted no time in scrambling even higher into the tree.

It wasn’t until Nate had climbed to a perch about fifteen feet up among the branches that he paused to assess the situation. Looking down at the base of the tree, he was surprised to see the creature was not there. He turned his gaze back to the beanfield he’d left in such haste, and there it stood, glaring at him from over the body of its fallen comrade.

Apparently, it hadn’t bothered to pursue him at all, only apparitions from his imagination had chased after him.  Its main concern had been the death of its mate. Bending over the bloody corpse, it pressed its muzzle gingerly against the shoulder and nudged. Drawing back, it stared intently into the lifeless face.

Nate was reminded of the nature films he’d seem where an elephant would try to rouse the fallen body of one of its herd-mates after it had been shot by poachers. Had they not been such grotesquely ugly creatures, Nate might have been moved to sympathy. As it were, he was merely curious to witness the act.

He wondered, could these two have been mates, male and female? He knew that some animals, wild geese, for instance — and wolves, mate for life.  Could this be true of these creatures as well?

The beast laid a paw on the body of the fallen one and rocked it gently back and forth. Shifting back to glare at Nate in his tree-top perch, it roared its defiance.  Nate imagined he could hear a note of grief in that challenge, that made it seem all the more terrifying and he was glad for the relative safety of his tree.

He watched as the creature looked sadly back down at the body once more and then, walked over a few feet and squatted down in the beans. There it sat, maintaining a vigil over Nate while giving an occasional glance back over its shoulder at its mate.  The beast, however, kept its distance.

Nate had a nasty, unsettling feeling that, should he climb down for one instant from the safety of his branch, the creature would be all over him, guns or no.

How long is this to last? He thought, miserably. Then his thoughts returned to Zelda, out there… somewhere.

“Could she still be alive?” He asked aloud but doubted it.  He could only pray for the best at this point.

It occurred to him that perhaps his gunshots had attracted some attention and help would soon arrive, but then he remembered that hunting was very common out here in these wooded areas.  HIs brief hope evaporated.  No one would give a second thought to a couple of reports off in the distant fields.

Suddenly, the isolation that had so attracted him to this remote farm lost its appeal and he longed for a little bit for the company of his fellow man.  Meanwhile, here he sat, helplessly up a tree, with no way to search for his wife. It was maddening!

“GO AWAY!” He yelled at the creature, but it sat like a stone and made no move. It merely continued to shift its gaze back and forth between Nate and the dead beast to its rear. “GOOD! I hope that WAS your mate I killed, you ugly bastard!”

He leaned back against the rounded bole of the tree and said to himself, “That’s a start on evening the score,”

The creature, looking unimpressed, licked one of its paws and just waited for its moment…


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 7 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH -- Chap 7




Dzhankah wasn’t stupid. It was his hubris that had failed him. And perhaps his overconfidence.

Oh, he’d seen guns before and he was well aware of their capacity for destruction. Many times he’d seen deer hunters bring down their quarry from yards away, with just a single shot. He’d heard the report of the gun and seen the blood and hair fly from the deer as their legs buckled and they fell, kicking, to the ground. And then he’d watched as the hunters walked calmly over to claim their prize without even breaking a sweat.

But, he couldn’t understand how they could derive any pleasure from killing this way. There was no chase. There was no last-second pounce with the victim straining with every final ounce of its strength in a terror-stricken struggle for life. They never even got the pleasure of facing their prey and seeing the helplessness in its eyes as it realized it was doomed.

What excitement could there be in killing something without feeling its life-juices spraying in your face and ebbing from its body as you held it, pinned and squirming, on the ground?

Worse yet, the hunters always gutted the carcass, leaving some of the best parts of a kill behind. Whenever he witnessed this he made sure none of the entrails went to waste.  It wouldn’t be fair to the deer to be killed and then not have the honor of becoming a part of their conqueror. This was about as close to a sense of morality as Dzhankah ever came. There were some things he would not desecrate.

Yes, he knew about guns, but those that he’d actually seen had always been rifles, or shotguns — great big, long guns that made great big, loud noises. This weapon that the Meat had held out in front of him was a puny little thing. He had had no idea it could actually pose a real threat.  A popping noise and maybe a prick upon his skin and that would be the end of it. How was he to know it would roar like thunder and punch a hole in his belly big enough to place his paw in?

The prey had fired twice, in rapid succession, the first bullet missing its mark completely.  It was the second which had toppled the mighty Dzhankah like a ragdoll and done all this damage to his innards.

After he left the Meat, standing there in the path, he crawled off into the corn to lick his wounds. At first, the pain was small and dull, seemingly distant. But, as he crouched there in the dirt, straining to reach his throbbing belly with his tongue, the pain came home… with a vengeance! His entire side was wracked with a white-hot, searing flame. It sprung from inside with needle-sharp teeth, gnawing and chewing into his guts. There was no ebb and crest to it. It simply roared to life and remained at peak power, making Dzhankah want to howl in agony.  But he bit down hard on that desire and forced it back where it came from.

Dzhankah was a hunter — there would be no screams even in the face of death. His head began to spin giddily, forcing him to lie back and rest for a while.

As he shifted around between the stalks, trying in vain to make himself comfortable, he discovered the hole in his back. In his mind’s eye, he saw a deer, shot by a hunter. In its coat, there was a small hole where the bullet had entered, but when the hunter rolled it over, he exposed a gaping wound that had ripped a large portion of the deer’s side away, leaving broken ribs jutting from the mangled flesh.

And then, for the first time in his life, Dzhankah was afraid. How ironic that he, who had brought fear to the hearts of so many, should be such a stranger to the emotion. His own heart had never trembled. But now, the icy fingers of impending doom were inching their way through his guts and climbing up his spine.

He was struck with the realization that his victims had not only been dying as he devoured them, they had also been suffering as well. Before this attack on his person he hadn’t any idea what torture could be like, and therefore, he had no way to empathize with his kills. It wasn’t so much that he was ignorant of pain — he just had never given it much thought. It was somewhat akin to the way a man when he steps on a bug never stops to contemplate how the bug may be feeling.

This, then, was the main reason why Dzhankah had let himself be shot: no one had ever hurt him before. And, although he knew on an intellectual level, that he could be wounded, in his heart he didn’t believe it could ever happen to him. He was young, for his kind, and like the youth of all species, he was unaware of, and seemingly unconcerned form with his own mortality. He had been impetuous and now, as a result, he was facing death. And death was an even better hunter than he had been. When it stalked, little could deter it from its course.

But Dzhankah was nothing if not brave. He would not face death lying down. Wincing with agony, he crawled to his feet and worked his way through the corn rows with slow determination. If he were to die, he had business to finish. Bleeding profusely, he made for the clearing.




When Nate reached the clearing, Zelda was nowhere to be found. His eyes swept the area and he called her name. When there was no answer, he cupped his hands around his mouth and repeated it, only louder. Suddenly he heard her answering cry from somewhere ahead and he darted over to peer into the empty tent. When he emerged, Zelda was sprinting to him from the bean field, where she had been lying down, hiding. Tears welled up in her eyes and she made little groaning sounds as she strained to reach his side.

They embraced and held each other silently for a long time, each of them drawing strength from the other as only two people in love can do. At length, they pulled back and she covered his face with kisses.

“What WAS that thing?” she demanded to know. “Is it dead? Did you kill it?” Her face was streaked with dirt from the dry ground of the bean field. He took her arm and led her over by the fire, away from the corn.

Looking back over his shoulder, he said, “I don’t know… I shot it. But I don’t think its dead.” The corn rustled ominously in the evening breeze.

“Oh Nate, what are we going to do? We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Not now we can’t. Night’s coming on and we definitely don’t want to meet that thing in the pitch black halfway down that path.”

“Then what?”

Nate stood, surveying their situation. He looked back at Zelda and sighed, wondering what was going on in her mind. He wouldn’t blame her for falling to pieces in a gibbering heap or worse yet blaming him for dragging her out here to face this horror.  Just for a fleeting second, he thought he saw the return of THAT LOOK – the look that said, This is all your fault. I still love you, but you let me down by putting us in this situation.

He had hoped they’d left THAT LOOK in Chicago where it belonged. He searched her face again, but it was gone, apparently a figment of his imagination.

She had more strength than he gave her credit for.  Well, if she was going to be strong, so was he. They’d make it through this nightmare somehow, he promised himself. Firmly setting his jaw, he gave her one more hug and then turned to the trees along the fence row.

“Help me gather firewood,” he told her. “We’re going to need plenty to last us through the night.”




She watched him walk away and then turned to survey the surrounding corn. The idea of being out here in the dark after all they’d just experienced was not a pleasant one, to say the least, but she understood that they had no choice. Nate was right. They would need LOTS of firewood. If she had anything to say about it, they would have the biggest, brightest, most blazing fire in history.

She turned to follow him. From somewhere in the tree line, a mourning dove cooed softly settling a false sense of tranquility over the scene.

A half hour had passed, and as the last fading rays of sunset glimmered and faded to blackness, they sat huddled by the fire, alternately staring hypnotically into the flames and gazing into the corn. They talked little, each lost in their own thoughts and worries.

Whenever the night noises would startle them or make them jump, both of them would stare into the corn. Zelda’s grip would tighten on Nate’s arm and Nate’s grip would tighten on Mr. Smith & Wesson.

“I… uh… I left your backpack out there,” he murmured, reluctant to bring the scene back to mind. “But, luckily, I was in such a hurry to get out of here that I didn’t get too much of our stuff in it. We’ve still got mine, with matches, and the flashlight… And we’ve got plenty of water in our new canteen.”

He held the items up for her inspection as he listed them. She smiled when he mentioned the new canteen. She had laughed at him earlier in his eagerness to buy all the provisions they needed for this outing, calling him the world’s oldest boy scout.

Well, he’s definitely earned his badges on this trip. She thought.  Again her heart filled with love for this “city slicker”, trying his best to deal with a horrible situation and to get them home safely. She leaned her head on his shoulder and fixated on the soothing dance of the flames.

“Do you think it will come back?”  The question was barely audible.

“If it does, it’ll get another dose of this.” He flashed the gun in the firelight.

“I sure am glad you brought that.”

He smiled and patted her knee. “It was your idea. But you’re right. Somehow I have the feeling we never would have outrun that thing. Did you see the size of it?”

Zelda thought back to its evil leer. “I saw more than I ever wanted to see.” She gathered the blanket closer around her shoulders.

The night wore on and they labored to distract themselves from the nightmare that hunted within the cornrows. They continued to talk, discussing plans for the future and their life together. The threat of the creature’s attack was always there, hanging over them, but talking helped to keep it in the back of their minds where they could manage it.

Around midnight she stirred beside him and spoke: “Nate, do you think we’ll ever have… children?” She listened carefully to the tone of his voice when he responded.

“Sure, Honey,” he said, poking at the fire with a stick. “I’d like to have kids, you know that. It’s just been impossible up to now because of our financial situation. But we’ll have ‘em, one of these days.”

“When?” She raised her head to look at him.


“I mean, I don’t mean to pressure you, or anything, but I just kind of need to know, you know?” We have the money now.”

“Yes but, we’ve only just begun to experience the kind of life we’ve always wanted. Don’t you think we need some time to ourselves… to travel and such?”

She sighed, heavily. “I suppose, only…”

“I mean, kids are great, Honey, but there’s so much in life we’ve yet to do! And kids would only slow us down.”  He coughed into his hand and then said, “Kids will be great, but first things first, I have to get you out of here and back home safely!

She was silent for a while, thinking.



“Seven million dollars would pay for an awful lot of babysitters.”

He chuckled and kissed her brow.

“I mean, you know, we could get a nanny for the kids whenever we went away… and when they were big enough, we could always take them with us. It’d be fun taking our family around the world… London… Paris… Rome and the Eiffel Tower…

Her words trailed off as she drifted toward sleep.




After a time, Nate gently lifted her head from his shoulder.

“Sweetheart, why don’t you lie back here and get some sleep?” he asked, but it wasn’t really a question. “I’m wide awake, and I’ll keep watch.”

She began to protest, but he silenced her with a finger over her lips.

“Don’t worry. If I get sleepy, I’ll wake you and you can take over. Now relax and get some rest.”

Zelda patted his hand and stretched out by the fire. She was already asleep when he kissed her cheek and tucked the blanket up around her chin.

It was about an hour later that Nate noticed the eyes glowing in the light of the campfire at the edge of the corn.

It had dawned on him slowly. He sat, idly poking the embers of their fire and waiting for the night to pass. The air around him was filled with the drilling chorus of millions of insects, as could be expected from a late summer night in an Indiana field. As he gazed out into the night he gradually felt someone was watching him, and then he became dimly aware of two glowing coals floating in the air about twenty feet away. So stealthily did they appear, that at first he wasn’t even startled by them, only curious.

It took a few seconds for it to dawn on him the menace those eyes represented. He felt as though he had been drugged or hypnotized and his addled brain failed to respond the way it should. At length, though, his fuzzy mind warned him that he was in danger and he sat up straight and brought the gun out. He started to wake Zelda and then thought better of it. What if it were just a coon or something… better to let her rest.

As he stared into those red burning eyes, they remained steady and unblinking. Was it the creature? Or was it — dear God, please let it be — just some ordinary denizen of the woods, come to investigate this stranger from Chicago, with his fire popping and snapping in the darkness.

With trembling fingers, Nate switched the gun to his left hand and, keeping it trained on the intruder, picked up a small stone. He hurled it side-arm straight at the glowing orbs in the dark field, but they never even flinched. Instead, they remained steady, maintaining their unblinking vigil.

He sat still for a while, contemplating what he should do if the creature were to come charging into the clearing, snarling and roaring and snapping its jaws. His first move would be to cover Zelda, and his second would be to empty the four remaining bullets directly into the gruesome face of that misbegotten freak. And when it fell, he would take his camping ax and hack off its ugly head.

But Nate had no reason to fear the creature he’d seen on the path that afternoon because the mighty hunter Dzhankah would hunt no more.  He laid ten rows from the edge of the clearing as still and cold as the night air.




Nate had had enough of this. He was tired of being terrorized by this creature. After all, HE was the one with the gun. And hadn’t he bested this thing once already? Why should he sit, trembling by the fire? It was time to throw down the gauntlet. Still holding the gun trained on its target, he stood and tucked the ax into his belt. Picking up the flashlight, he shined the beam out into the corn and for a second he thought he saw a large shape, but it melted into the shadows.

Switching off the beam, he saw that the glowing eyes were gone as well, and he breathed a little easier. Probably WAS a coon, he thought.

Suddenly he felt, rather than heard, a presence to his right. Turning quickly, he saw the eyes again, and although he was a city boy without much experience in these matters, they sure looked to him to be too big and too far apart for a raccoon. He was about to bring the flashlight into play again when he was distracted by another pair of red dots, glowing to his left. He glanced back at the original pair for confirmation, and sure enough, there were now two pairs of eyes out there in the corn.

The two were then joined by a third and then a fourth and fifth. The field around the clearing had become a waking nightmare, alive with eyes and the stealthy rustling sounds of large bodies, moving in the night. As he slowly turned, he saw that they spread out in a circle, completely encompassing the clearing.

Shaking violently now, he flipped the switch on the lamp in his hand. To his horror, he saw the creatures, huge grotesque copies of the original nightmare from the path. His mind was raging too much and it was much too dark for him to pick out minor details, but he could see at a glance they were more of the same.  They met his gaze with subtle snarls, but did not react outright or seem surprised by the flashlight.

By God! There were so many of them. Backing up to the edge of the fire, he swept the beam of light back and forth, trying to keep them all in sight as he brandished the gun in accordance with what he saw.

The creatures merely stood their ground, shuffling about and growling softly from time to time. Their growls resembled the low grating grumble of a large stone, dragged over cement. They stood on all fours or squatted patiently. Some even stretched out on their sides, garish nightmares languishing by the campfire of his camp. All of them riveted directly upon him.  When he could bring himself to look back, their gaze bore down deep within him, searching his very soul.

He now knew he had been right not to awaken Zelda. What good would it do her to wake up now and see the horror that surrounded them? It would be far better to let her sleep in blissful ignorance of the demonic horde that encircled their camp, staring… staring… staring…

Why didn’t they do anything? There were enough of them to overwhelm him easily, despite his weapon. Had they witnessed the battle in the corn this afternoon? Was the one he wounded out there with them? Nate played the light around and didn’t see any that looked wounded, but he really couldn’t be sure.

Whatever their reason for not attacking, he hoped they would hold off until sunrise. He stood studying them for some time and then, fearing for his batteries, he doused the flashlight. Turning back to the fire, he threw on another couple of logs and settled uneasily back in a squatting position as they flamed to life. The red embers were reflected back at him from twenty or thirty places out there in the dark, and he remained alert to see if they were advancing any.

A sudden dread overcame him as the thought occurred that they may be closing the circle ever so slowly, an inch or two at a time so as to be almost imperceptible to him. Then, when they got within leaping distance they would be on him in a slashing, clawing heap. His hand longed to shine the light on them again to plot their positions, but he held off, telling himself to be calm.

Instead, he glanced at his watch, holding it up to the firelight… 3:37. It would be light in about three or four hours. Until then he would sit quietly and watch. And if one of those bastards came an inch within the circle of his firelight… BLAM! Monster Mash.

Until then, all he could do was wait.

So began the siege. Nate waited by the fire as the minutes dragged slowly by. He stoked the flames and occasionally dropped in new fuel, well aware of the fact that the fire was their only friend out here in the darkness. The monsters kept their silent vigil, and the crickets in the field droned on and on.

After a time, fatigue began taking the edge off his horror, and his senses began to dull. Occasionally, his eyelids would droop and he would catch his head nodding sleepily. When this happened, he would shake himself and move around, glancing apprehensively out into the darkened field at the red glowing embers and the horrors lurking there behind them.

Yawning, he leaned back, propping himself on his elbows. He looked up at the starry sky, cold and silent witness to the drama unfolding below. In the depths of the nearby wood, an owl hooted, impatiently, once… twice… three times and was silent. It was a lonesome, haunting sound. He closed his eyes for a moment and listened.

When he opened his eyes, the sun was shining and birds were chirping. He rolled onto his side and reached for Zelda, but she was gone.


The Hidden — Chapter 6 — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 6 v2



Damn! Nasty creatures! They found it — found that filthy piece up in the tree. It wasn’t Dzhankah’s fault. It had gotten stuck up there and there was no way to reach it.

Stupid, stupid Meats! Why did he come here again, dragging her along with him?

 Dzhankah’s could’ve hurt him before and didn’t… could have ripped the man’s entrails right out of him.  Maybe he should have. Now they’d found it and he was unsure of just what to do. Should he kill them both? Should he kill the male and take the female for his pleasure?

Dzhankah had seen her in action earlier, humping away like crazy. She obviously liked it and, after a while, she would learn to like it with Dzhankah… others had before her. Should he let them go and take the chance that they wouldn’t bring others back to find him?

Damn, this is a hard one. Oh, how he hated these creatures, they always brought problems with them. All his life he had been so careful — only taking the ones he could be certain of, and always burying any evidence like that last one’s sack of rags. And he always, always, ALWAYS rubbed out his tracks so he couldn’t be followed. He had kept the secret so well for so long — and now this. He’d spent the better part of an afternoon trying to get the rest of that meat out of that tree, but, try as he might, he just couldn’t jump high enough to pull it loose.

The beast pawed the ground in frustration, pacing back and forth in the corn. Every now and then he would reach out and savage a stalk or two, slicing it to ribbons with his long, hooked claws.

 “They will be back,” he said to himself. “They will be back and bring others to hurt me.” He stood on his hind legs and ran a scaly paw across his stubbly scalp. Looking back toward the camp, he watched Nate and Zelda head back down the path.

“There they go! And when they come back…” A shiver coursed down his crooked spine.

“But, they belong and if I kill them, others will come looking. And then they will find that other Meat in the tree. Oh… shit!”

He dropped to all fours and raced silently, as was his custom, toward the path, keeping low so as not to rustle the leaves on the corn. He still didn’t know what he was going to do with these two but, until he decided, he was going to follow them and keep them in sight. This was too important. He couldn’t allow himself any more mistakes. For the first time in his life, Dzhankah felt foolish… and afraid.



Zelda’s hand felt like it would break from the pressure of Nate’s grip. He had slung the backpack over his shoulder and was dragging her along with one hand and waving the pistol with the other. Sweat stood out on his forehead and a wild, hunted look was on his face. Every ten or fifteen feet they traveled down the path, Nate would stop and listen, waiting to hear the sounds of pursuit. Both of them would stand frozen for a moment, and then he would look at her and nod before continuing on.

The early evening sun was casting slanting shadows across the path and she found herself praying that they would be out of the corn before night fell.

Zelda reached up and touched her cheek, surprised to find tears there. She hadn’t been aware of the fact that she was crying because part of her felt detached and everything was surreal. It was like seeing yourself on a television monitor — you knew it was your face you were seeing, but the picture made you feel disjointed. Watching the screen, your movements were strange and unnatural. If someone were to put a gun to the head of the person you saw on the monitor and pull the trigger, splashing their brains all over the screen, you still wouldn’t feel a thing. That’s the way she felt.

On a conscious level she knew this was really happening, but subconsciously, nothing in this scene could touch her. The danger she was in had no form, no real power to harm her. Perhaps she would feel different if she were out here alone. But in her heart, she could never imagine anything truly bad happening to her with Nate by her side.

The two of them had never before faced an emergency situation together and she was glad to see he was holding up quite well. He was nervous, of course. Who wouldn’t be after what they’d just seen? But, happily, he wasn’t falling apart. In fact, both of them were behaving more courageously than she would have expected. Strange how a situation like this could make her see just how strong they were as a couple, and how well-suited they were for each other.

“Nate,” she said softly, touching his arm. “Nate, slow down a second. Honey, you’re smashing my fingers.”

He halted in mid-stride. “Sorry.” He offered, and he let go her hand and took her in his arms. “You doing all right?”

Nate couldn’t get the image of that face out of his mind.  Was that the man whose footprints he’d seen yesterday? If so, who killed him? Or were the footprints those of the killer? If someone were to confront them right now, would he have the guts to shoot? Was he man enough to protect Zelda from a maniac? Why, o why, did he bring her out here in the first place?

 These and a thousand other questions plagued him as they proceeded cautiously down the path.  Every nerve end called for him to grab Zelda and, flat out, run down the path as fast as their legs could carry them.  Every instinct told him to get the hell out of there and to not look back.  But his intellect told him that a head-long dash to safety could carry them right into the arms of death.

This path, with its impenetrable curtain of corn lining each side, was the perfect place for an ambush. The killer could be lurking on either side, machete in hand… or maybe an ax… or a chainsaw, dripping blood! God! How did he get them into a mess like this?

No, his best bet was to move them along slowly and carefully. And if anybody so much as poked their head out of that corn, he would shoot first and take a survey later.

A crooked smile touched his lips as a crazy thought occurred to him, Boy! Talk about your fight-of-flight instinct!




Dzhankah sat waiting in the corn, just a couple rows over from the path. They had stopped again. At this rate, he would have plenty of time to decide what to do.  Every few feet they paused and looked around, hoping to get a glimpse of him, he supposed. They stood there trembling while the man waved his weapon around and acted brave.

Growing tired of this game, he had already decided to kill them.  It was now just a question of when and where.  Obviously, he couldn’t allow them to return all the way back down the path, and yet he didn’t think it would be a good idea to try to take both of them here… There would be all that blood and, during the struggle, lots of corn would be torn up. Normally, that wouldn’t worry him, but in this case, someone was sure to come looking and it was his job to make sure they found no evidence.

Probably the best thing to do would be to scare them back down the path to the clearing and dismember them there. That way their screams would be less likely to be heard and it would be easier to cover up the mess. Both of them were calming down somewhat. Dzhankah could smell less adrenalin.

The sneeze came quite unexpectedly. A tiny particle of pollen, probably from a corn tassel or maybe a polyp of ragweed lodged in Dzhankah’s nostril and before he knew it a quick, sharp “WHEESHH!!” came spraying out of his face. Large globules of mucous flecked the stalks before him and his eye fell for a moment on a basking mosquito which struggled to free itself from one. He shook his head violently from side to side and immediately returned his gaze to his quarry.

Damn! He screamed internally. That’s done it.

Both of them were lying on the ground now, the man with his arm looped about his mate protectively.

Well, he supposed this was as good a time as any. This wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had been in the past, but he may as well get it over with. Taking a deep breath, Dzhankah stepped out into the path ahead of Nate and Zelda.


Although the sneeze sounded more like a dog-sneezing than human, it totally and irrevocably erased all questions Nate had about them being alone out here. Someone or something had definitely sneezed.

Immediately, Nate grabbed Zelda and pushed her to the ground. Throwing himself on top of her, he held the pistol out in front of him in a policeman’s two-handed grip and waited.

For a long time, there was silence.  Doubt of his own hearing crept up and as he was about to help Zelda to her feet again, he heard a definite rustling sound in the corn.

The realization came to him that he felt relieved, somewhat.  At last, he could stop straining every nerve to see who was there.  Finally, he would be able to face the villain and could take real action against the danger.

But nothing in his existence had prepared him for the horror that stepped out into the path a few short yards before them.  It was as if someone had swung a shovel with both hands into his back, hitting him right between the shoulder blades. His mouth went totally dry and his face set in a rictus of terror, hard and locked as cement. The earth around him lurched and rolled beneath his feet and the entire unfathomable scene pitched at an angle. At the same time, his vision became crystal clear and sharp, as though his entire life up to this very moment had been out of focus and someone had just set it right.

Without even knowing it, Nate had gotten to his feet, where he now stood, transfixed. His mind screamed the impossibility of what he was seeing — not in words, exactly, but in mental sound bites that repeated over and over NO! … NO! … NO!!!

 As the corn parted with a slight rustle, and with no fanfare or warning, an enormous… beast stepped out into the path. It was an animal of some kind, but unlike anything, Nate had ever seen or heard of. In fact, the idea of it being an animal was considered and rejected almost immediately by Nate’s mind. This was nothing natural.

It cannot… couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. His mind reeled at the sight before him.

There was no other word for the snarling, slobbering aberration which squatted there glaring at them with blood-red, black-rimmed eyes.

It was…. a MONSTER.

“There’s no such thing as monsters, Nate Boy.” His father’s voice bubbled up from somewhere in his past.  The words recited the lies.  “No such thing, ‘cept in your head. You’re getting too big for this nonsense now, go back to sleep.”

Oh, but there were too, he knew it. He knew it now as he had known it back then.

 And as soon as you walk out that door, Daddy… As soon as you turn out that light and close that door…

 And now, after all these years, here it was, come out of the inky shadows of his closet. Out of the gloom from under the bed, it came, scowling and staring and preparing to eat little Natey Boy allllll up!

 “Daddy!” he screamed in his head. “Daddy it’s here, come get me!” But Daddy had been lost to cancer a long time ago, Natey Boy.  Daddy wouldn’t be coming — it is only you and the Monster.

Nate stood blinking in disbelief, the .357 dangling limply at his side, as Dzhankah slowly gathered his haunches beneath himself and prepared to approach.

Zelda looked up from the ground as Nate stood above her. A shriek lodged in her throat and a tingling sensation started at the base of her spine and slithered its way up her back to dance like a hundred electric needles across her scalp.

Before them sat a creature like no other.  It was canine-like in some of its actions.  The way it loped over into the path and squatted with its tongue lolling and dripping down the front of its chin. Its mostly-hairless upper body was pink, wrinkled and covered with flaky-looking scales. Here and there were tufts of bristly hair and its sides, belly and lower extremities seemed to be covered with the matted strands.

Its black lips were snarled back in a menacing grimace, exposing uneven rows of jagged yellow teeth, accented by two-inch long canine fangs which extended down each side of its stubbly skull.  The face, nightmarishly human in some aspects, had the blackened nose and muzzle of a pug-nosed dog.  But there was nothing cute about this creature.

As the creature glowered at them, Zelda felt loathing and hatred for it in an equal amount to her fear. Instinctively, she didn’t like the way it was looking at her. The deadly intent it showed when it looked at Nate was one thing, but when it focused its eyes on her, she felt its disgusting lust and she would rather be dead.

Slowly, ominously, it rose on its hind legs. As it stood erect, its front legs hung down before it, exhibiting heavily muscled forearms which ended in huge, club-like “paws”.  Each toe tipped with a long, black claw that looked like a grappling hook. Its head was at a level even with the tops of the corn — at least seven feet, it towered above them.  Drool hung in long white streamers from its chin.  And, as it angled its head in her direction, its pointy little ears twitched forward and an evil grin tugged at the spittle-clogged corners of its mouth.

Like most predators, it watched them like a snake watches a bird, or a cat a canary. She couldn’t tell from her point of view, but if it had a tail she thought it must be twitching.

Suddenly, it growled loudly and took a step forward. The sound reminded her of heavy metal parts, thick with years of rust, grating against each other. It was a low, grumble that ended with a bubbly gurgling. She heard Nate trying to say something as he jerked her to her feet.

“Ruh—! Ruhn—! RUN! FOR GOD’S SAKE, ZELDA RUNNN!!!!!!”

It lurched forward in a roar of overwhelming rage. Zelda wasted no time taking Nate’s advice. She ran like she had never run before, arms pinwheeling, legs pumping, she bolted down the path blindly in the direction of the clearing; and she didn’t concern herself with style.

The corn on either side of her blurred and the weeds that threatened to ensnare her feet were barely noticed as her eyes locked on that magical empty space that indicated the end of the path and safety. When the shots rang out she flinched, but she never broke her stride. Zelda was beyond human considerations of wonder and worry. She was operating solely on instinct — the will to survive, and the desperate, all-consuming need to put as much distance as possible between herself and that nightmare in the corn.

Nate thrust hard on the middle of Zelda’s back to get her started running back up the path. Once he’d started moving again — once he’d unlocked his horror-stricken muscles — everything began to work smoothly.  Freed from staring helplessly at the hellish apparition, he could take action.

He wheeled back around. The creature had reduced the distance between them by half and was closing fast. Even though he had the gun in his right hand, it weighed a ton and he doubted he’d ever lift it in time to shoot anything. Now he understood why the policeman’s stance used two hands. When faced with defending your life, the specific gravity of steel obviously quadruples, and you need two hands to lift a puny revolver.

Thank God, I didn’t bring the shotgun!

The thought skimmed his consciousness as he swung the pistol up in an arc and pointed it at the center of the beast’s chest. The monster stood just a few feet before him and he stared into its insane face. Snarling and frothing, it raised its arms with its death-claws, above its head.

Nate stood like a medieval night warding off the dragon with a magic talisman stretched out before him in trembling hands. His hair hung down in his face and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, catching the light like jewels on a crown. His jaw was set and his shoulders were bunched up around his ears as he locked his elbows and squeezed the trigger. Suddenly the “talisman” reared to life and a large patch of blood splattered the creature’s chest and flew in a fine spray behind it.

The horrid thing dropped its arms and grabbed at its midsection.  It scrambled to a four-footed stance, that brought its face just inches from Nate’s. Its breath was hot and fetid and smelled like something you might scrape from the floor in a public restroom.  Its expression surpassed surprise. Nate swore that the beast looked completely flabbergasted as it brought its blood-soaked paws up before its eyes and then looked back at him. Suddenly it gave a harrowing howl of pain and melted back in the corn, leaving him standing alone in the path.

The gun dropped slowly to his side.  His legs which had been locked at the knees, melted like rubber and he collapsed, his butt coming down hard on the ground.  For a few seconds, a variety of emotions washed over him. Relief was followed by total disbelief in what he’d just seen and done. He was alive! He’d faced the worst nightmare of his life and somehow, he’d triumphed!

As what had happened sank into his consciousness, he began to draw strength back into himself and his breathing labored back to normal.

Suddenly elated, he exclaimed in a whoop and leaped to his feet. “YA-HOOOO!” he screamed. “YEAH!… KICKED YOUR ASS, DIDN’T I?!! YOU UGLY SUMBITCH!!”

He danced in a circle, waving the gun in triumph. “GO AHEAD, MUTHAFUCKAH, MAKE MY DAY!!!”

Nate gazed admiringly at the gun in his hand. “We got him, didn’t we,” he asked it. “JUST ME, MR. SMITH AND MR. WESSON!!”

From somewhere to his left, a chilling snarl erupted and his fear became icewater again in his veins. He cast an apprehensive glance in that direction and charged back up the path toward the clearing.

As he fled, in his mind, he imagined that thing coming out of the corn, holding its chest and glaring angrily at him. He could feel the monster giving chase, about to overtake him and his footsteps quickly turned to jogging. Jogging then became running, and running became an all-out dash for the safety of the clearing and the arms of the woman he loved. And all the way there, Nate swore the monster nipped at his speeding heels.