Kitchen Disasters

This is something I wrote for Fun in Writing Group May 28, 2014

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerAnyone who has ever set foot in a kitchen knows what potential disasters lie therein. Whether it’s from mis-measured ingredients, substitutions that didn’t quite make the grade, or an obstinate, uncooperative oven, disasters happen. I’ve had a lot over the years, but a few stand out in my mind.

One of my early disasters included my sister. It was our parents’ anniversary and we wanted to fix them breakfast and take it to them in bed. I’m not sure whose idea this was. I was only 7 and my sister was 9. Our kitchen skills were minimal. We had no idea how to fix coffee or pancakes or even scramble and egg. We decided upon toast and fresh squeezed juice.

Unfortunately – no fruit to squeeze, so we fixed ice water. That decided upon, we embarked on toast.

Our toaster was an old fashioned kind. It didn’t have a press down button or a timer. It was triangular with slotted doors on each side. It had one temperature setting—ON. To operate, you opened the door with the little knob on top, slid a piece of bread into the slot, shut the door and waited until it browned. How long you left it depended on how brown you wanted it. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop automatically.

You can imagine the disaster potential this presented for two industrious, and somewhat oblivious, children. We forgot about the toast until it was flaming. I’m not talking smoking a little, this was full on flames! They shot up, igniting a picture of a rooster I’d made with colored macaroni. It burned beautifully, blackening the wall and the calendar.

Our screams woke our parents. Our father ran to the kitchen, yanked the flaming picture from the wall and threw it in the sink. Our mother unplugged the toaster and carried it outside, depositing the bread cinders in the backyard.

I know they wanted to yell, but once they found out we’d been trying to fix them breakfast, the stopped. We were forbidden to use any kitchen implements without adult supervision—especially the toaster!

Many years later, as an adult, I wanted to bake my mother a special birthday cake. It was her seventieth birthday and wanted something more than a box cake. I had a wonderful recipe I wanted to try, so I set about gathering ingredients and mixing it up. I popped it in the oven. It smelled fabulous. I made the frosting and put it in the refrigerator, waiting for the beautiful cake to bake.

It was perfection! I poked a cake tester in a few inches. It came out clean, so I let the cake cool a little and inverted it on a plate. To my amazement, it slid out just right, not sticking to the pan. The bottom touched the plate and I heard a SLUUUURP PLOP! The inside was RAW! It got all over the table and floor before I realized what was happening. Although the outer crust was baked, the core was still liquid.

Upset, but determined, I cleaned it up and started over. I’m sure you can guess what happened. By the time the second cake came out, I was hysterical, but stubborn. I was ready to make a third attempt, but my husband put his foot down. He went to the cupboard and pulled out a box mix and handed it to me.

No more! You’re making yourself crazy! Your mother will appreciate the effort. It doesn’t have to be a from-scratch cake.”

I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. He helped me clean up the second disaster, which was nearly as bad as the first, and I made the boxed cake. Damn thing came out perfectly!

To this day, I don’t know where I went wrong with the other cake. Maybe it was a bad recipe. Maybe it was a fluke of my less than stellar oven. All I know is that, wonderful or not, I’ve never made it again. Nearly all my cakes are from boxes and I haven’t had any trouble with them.

My husband, wonderful man that he is, reminds me from time to time that I haven’t had a major kitchen disaster in years. I tell him that’s because I’ve got mad kitchen skills now.

Nope,” he tells me with annoying confidence. “That’s because you’re good enough to skirt the every day ones. That means when you have one, you’ll probably burn the house down.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 3 by Dellani Oakes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]We all like outtakes. Admit it, sometimes that’s your favorite part of a movie. Authors also have outtakes. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing outtakes from my novel, Shakazhan. This is a continuation of the same section I’ve been sharing. You can imagine, if I’ve got 3 posts from it, it must be long. That’s one reason I cut it. Though it was fun from my point of view, exploring my characters, it didn’t move the plot along. I could imagine people flipping the pages saying, “Is it ever going to stop?”

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella and Caprilla are Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

Matilda found Wil a little later, he was talking to Caprilla about the match between them earlier.

“You move like a water buffalo with a limp.” Cap shook his head. “You must learn grace, the muscles must flow like water over pebbles. Yours is water, yes, but over rocks, big fat ones.” Shaking his head, he clucked his tongue.

“Yeah, Cap. I should move like you. You’re so big, your idea of quiet isn’t to set off an avalanche when you walk. I’ll bet you anything I can move faster and quieter than you any day of the week.”

“Put your money up, Old Man. I’ll accept that wager. In fact, although it is being overly generous of me, I’ll give myself a handicap. I’ll allow you to remove those big, hulking boots you wear.”

Wil laughed loudly. Cap was quite drunk and he knew it. However, even drunk, the big cat could move more silently than most humans.

“It wouldn’t be a fair contest, Cap, you’re drunk.”

“I’ll remedy that immediately, Lone Wolf. One moment.” He ordered an Everafter, an all purpose detoxifying treatment, which Hammer supplied directly to his hand. One nice thing about a sentient ship, there was no need for food synthesizers. Cap drank it down, making a face, shuddered and stood erect.

“I’m ready now, puny human. Where shall this contest take place?”

“How about here, Cap? In front of all our friends?”

“Hmph, how shall we be judged? They will make too much noise.”

“Let Hammer monitor us, I feel sure he can.” He was given an affirmative in the form of blinking lights. “See? Hammer will keep track of us. Is that fair?”

“It is the best I can expect, I suppose. I accept. Very well, what do you propose we do for our contest?”

“How about a full series of the drills with the weapons? Each of us does the sword, staff and Banderatta?”

Caprilla bowed deeply. “That is acceptable, Friend Wil. I’ll allow you to go first.”

“I insist, Cap, you go first.” Bowing deeply, he backed from the stage. The crew members grew as quiet as they could.

Caprilla took the center of the stage, standing in his ready position. Hammer indicated he was monitoring and Caprilla began. His movements were indeed like water over pebbles. Not even his breathing made noise above the sound of a moth’s flight. He began slowly with his kata, gradually gaining speed. He was so fast, he was a blur of blue black fur and dark red clothing. His weapons spun and glittered in the light like propellers.

He struck his final pose, bowed deeply to Wil once again and descended from the stage to tumultuous applause. Wil tried not to look cocky as he stepped to the center of the stage. He had stripped to the waist and removed his boots. He moved slowly into position, standing still for a heartbeat before beginning.

He too, started slowly, but his speed increased by the second. If Caprilla had been a blur of two colors, Wil’s colors blended into one. He was nearly impossible to see. The only sound he made was the whir of his weapons in the air. Not Marc and Caprilla, nor even Matilda, could mark his speed and progress, he moved so fast and silent.

His drill was over in seconds, and he stopped in the ready position before bowing deeply to Caprilla and the rest of the crew. There was an awed silence. No one said anything, no one could even move. It wasn’t until Wil stepped off the stage that the applause and cheering began. The noise was deafening!

Hammer flashed his lights, indicating he wished to make an announcement.

“After careful deliberation, it is my decision that the human, Wilhelm VanLipsig, performed his drill 10.23890572 seconds faster than the Fellician Caprilla Mayeese. Further, it is my finding, Human VanLipsig also was 9.856% quieter than aforementioned Fellician Mayeese.”

Caprilla looked stunned, but took the loss in stride. He could tell by looking at Wil perform that he had been faster and quieter than he. Cap wasn’t displeased, in fact he was proud of his old friend for besting him a second time in the evening. When the competition was friendly and no one’s life was held in the balance, Cap was completely willing to accept defeat.

He came forward, greeting Wil as he stepped off the stage. Bowing deeply, he stood quietly for a moment before speaking. “What shall I give you for your win, Friend Wil?”

Wil clapped Caprilla smartly on the shoulder, reaching up a couple of feet to accomplish it.

“Cap, I already have the most important thing you can give me. You’re my friend and ally. No man could ask for more.”

Caprilla roared loudly. “That is well said, Wilhelm, very well said! you’re quite astute for a mere puny human.”

Shortly after, the party broke up and the two crews headed to their quarters on either ship.

As they made ready for bed, Matilda looked at Wil, as if seeing him for the first time. “I had no idea you could move like that, Wil. That was incredible.”

“You know the crazy thing about that, baby? I don’t even think that was as fast as I can move. I felt like I was holding something in reserve.” He shrugged casually.

She laughed lightly. “Well promise me something, you won’t ever move that fast with me. I think maybe you’d light a fire.”

He chuckled, taking her in his arms. “Matilda, you always light a fire in me.” His kiss was heartfelt and warm, loving and compelling. “I promise I’ll always take my time with you.”

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 2 by Dellani Oakes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]All authors have their outtakes—scenes that didn’t make the final cut. Some are embarrassments that we regret ever writing and will probably never see the light of day. Others are wonderful favorites that didn’t advance the plot. Below is one of these scenes. I love it, but it simply slowed things down. I could imagine my readers yelling at me, “Get on with it!”, so I cut it. I couldn’t seem to delete it completely. Instead, it went into a file called Cut from Shakazhan. Now, I’m glad I kept it.

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella and Caprilla are Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

For fun, they put together a demonstration from each class. The camaraderie was growing between the two disparate groups of people. Marines and Miners side by side, sparring happily and cheering each other’s success.

Matilda and Ariella took the stage. Ariella’s tawny coat shown like silk in the lights. She wore the traditional short sarong of the Kaboratta dancer.

Matilda wore the same type of sarong, and had a diminutive bikini top over her chest. Her long, dark hair was pulled tightly back in a cluster of three braids and covered with a matching bandana. Each of them wore six hoops per ear and Matilda had her bracelets in place. Their swords were in a block beside them.

They began with the Ritual of Weighing, where each of the competitors chose her weapon. Taking their stance across from one another, a sharp snap of a bongo signaled the start of the match. Matilda attacked quickly and low, going for her opponent’s knees. Ariella’s reach was longer, but Matilda’s comparatively diminutive stature next to hers, made getting under her guard easy.

Ariella swatted her away with her tail as if she were a gnat. Matilda flew across the stage, landing with a grunt. Shaking her head, she rose, taking her stance again.

The bongo signaled as before, Ariella attacked, moving in on Matilda’s exposed left side. Maneuvering rapidly, Matilda jumped for her block, grabbing her dagger as she sped by. She parried Arriella’s attack, barely avoiding a blow from her other side. Ariella had grabbed her dagger too. Matilda caught Ariella’s knife in her claws, which she had extended for that purpose.

A gasp from the crowd as Ariella extended hers, grappling with Matilda briefly before the woman moved out the of big cat’s range. The two of them slashed, kicked, and danced around the stage, hardly a sound but the bongo accompaniment and the clang of their weapons above their ragged breathing.

Ariella stooped to slash at Matilda’s legs. Matilda jumped lightly up and rolled over Ariella’s back, landing in a crouch on the other side. Back and forth they dodged and parried, swooping into an opening and back out again to avoid their opponent’s blows.

It looked as if Matilda were winning, then Ariella rushed in and got her pinned to one side of the stage, advancing, blade held ready before her, preparing for the killing blow. Matilda, calmly taking a deep breath, ran at Ariella, sprung forward and up, doing a handless cartwheel over her head, flipped as she was landing, spinning to face her opponent. Getting her feet under her, she launched herself at the large feline, knocking her down and sitting on her chest, blade ready at the throat, Matilda prepared for the kill.

Striking her blow, she didn’t notice Ariella’s dagger coming up behind her, deploying the handle blade until too late. Both blades struck home simultaneously, blood sprayed everywhere.

Gasps of horror filled the room. Wil and Caprilla leapt onto the stage, calling for doctors. Wil lifted Matilda’s limp form off Ariella’s chest, clutching her to him, covered in blood.

Caprilla gently moved Ariella, taking her in his arms, wiping the blood from her fur, looking for the wound. There wasn’t any. There were no marks on either woman, just a lot of blood.

Unable to contain themselves longer, Ariella and Matilda levered themselves upward to horrendous applause. Even Wil and Caprilla joined the laughter and clapping.

“Ladies, that was the most amazing display of skill I’ve ever seen! I congratulate you!” Caprilla kissed each of them on the hand, helping Ariella to her feet. Wil scooped Matilda up, kissing her possessively. Caprilla held Ariella close to him, not letting go. Her protests were merely a ploy. She didn’t wish release or she would’ve taken his head off.

“Don’t ever scare me so again, Ariella. I feared you dead.”

She looked slyly at him. “Tell me, Caprilla, would it matter so very much?”

“It would wound me to my heart to lose you. I’m an old fool, perhaps. It took seeing you die before me to make me realize this.”

In a rare tender moment, Ariella kissed Caprilla and rubbed noses with him showing her affection.

“All is well then, Caprilla. For I’ll never do so again, I promise. But you must also promise me something.”

“What would that be, Ariella, anything within my power.” She whispered something in his ear, making him chuckle, then guffaw. “I believe that is something I can manage, Ariella. I swear.” He held up his hand as if taking an oath.

Later, Matilda took Ariella aside. “What did you ask Cap to do?”

“It is rather something I asked him not to do. I made him promise he will no longer bed Escascia. In return, I promised not to take Cavitus or Errollic to my bed. It is a bargain which pleases us both.” She smiled happily, though to many it would look more like a snarl.

Matilda grinned, but said nothing. It wasn’t necessary. She was pleased to know that her friends were happy, that was enough.

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 1 by Dellani Oakes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]On a recent radio broadcast, I was chatting with my guests, Paula Rose Michelson and Stephen Brayton, about scenes they had to cut while editing. All authors have these scenes—those that were fun to write and read, but didn’t advance the plot. Those are sometimes hard to part with and an author has to put on their combat boots, march into the fray and hack and slash until they are eradicated.

Below is one such scene. While I really liked it, it didn’t really move the plot forward. In fact, there was an entire section that I removed or heavily rewrote because it held the story back. I hated to do it, but in rewrites, this scene, and the section following, were among the first to hit the editing room floor.

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella is one of the Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

 

Matilda loved her unarmed combat, she also was fond of the bow, she wasn’t too good at moving as quietly as she would’ve liked, nor did she handle the Banderatta smoothly. The staff to her was unwieldy, but she was getting better at it. She found that she loved kick boxing and the blades seemed to sing to her.

“You have metal in your blood, that is why you hear the blades sing,” Ariella told her. “We will work together, you and I, until we can sing a duet.” She winked.

They trained tirelessly. When Matilda perfected the use of one blade, Ariella introduced her to a short fighting dagger which went in the left hand.

“Hold it carefully, away from your face.” She pointed to the hilt of the knife. “This is the fun part.” Pressing a gem on the hilt, she deployed a small blade in the handle of the knife which could be used even if the hands were raised above the head.

“Many times this has saved me in a battle. Some swords are also made this way, but it changes the balance and weight too much. I’ve one you may try, but I don’t like it. Each person is different.” She shrugged.

After a relatively short time, Matilda was also superior with the double blade technique. Ariella had one more surprise for her.

“Today, we incorporate your kick boxing to our fighting style. It is very similar to the ancient art of Kaboratta which is often a companion to the Banderatta. I’ll show you a basic exercise which you’ll practice until the weapons flow in your hands and your body moves like water. Some people study years to perfect this. We don’t have that kind of time. We begin!”

The movements were as complicated and intricate as a ballet. Ariella moved with the grace that only a giant feline can. The muscles did seem to flow like water. After her first demonstration, she taught Matilda the steps. It took a surprisingly short time for her to get the basic movements down, even the nuances of head and shoulder position came easily. Ariella purred with pleasure.

“It is as I suspected, Matilda, you’re born to this! Yes! That is just right. No, tilt your chin thus.” She moved Matilda’s chin slightly up and back. “That is in case I do this while you parry.” She slid in quickly, slashed empty handed, barely missing Matilda’s cheek with her extended claws.

“It is a shame you have no claws, Matilda. They come in very handy in battle.”

Matilda stopped moving, thinking for a minute. “You know what? I think with a little help, we can make some for me.” She grinned. “If anyone on this ship can make claws, it’s Weiss.” Lieutenant Weiss had been chosen by Hammer, Matilda called on him later in the day, telling him her idea and setting him the task of figuring out how to do it. She saw that glitter in his eyes that meant he had sunk his teeth into the problem. He would worry it like a dog with a bone until he found a solution.

Wil had become Caprilla’s star pupil. Where Matilda could make the blades sing and dance, Wil could make the staff wail and rock. From time to time, they’d work out together, her with her swords and he with the staff.

Caprilla and Ariella would stand to the side, grinning proudly, yelling commentary as the two sparred. “No, no, Wil! You leave your distaff side open! See, she got the blade in. If it had been sharp, you would be bleeding!”

“Matilda, move your chin! Ach, girl! No, swipe with your tail! Oh, I forget she hasn’t got one! Claws, Matilda, claws!”

Weiss had come through better than Matilda could’ve hoped. She had expected claws which would be non-retractable and had even practiced with this idea in mind. However, Weiss hadn’t been satisfied with that. He wanted something she could pull in when they were not needed.

“I used some of the Kindred’s technology. They make things from this liquid metal and can shape it any way they want. It kind of moves, see. It feels alive when you handle it. The Elder showed me this. Looks like bracelets, kind of heavy, but you get used to the weight. Works on the same principle as the ship. Tell it what you want.”

To demonstrate, he focused on the bracelet he wore. A triple bladed claw about eighteen inches long shot out. Each blade had a cruel, barbed hook on the end, meant to grab and rip. The other hand, he concentrated on it again and made a set of claws exactly like Ariella’s. A short pause, the blades on both hands retracted.

“You’ll be faster at it, you’re telepathic, I’m not. For me it is a conscious effort, for you, a thought will do. Try them.” He fastened the bracelets on her wrists.

They were heavy, throbbing, warm to the touch. They massaged her wrists, giving them added strength.

“They’re magnificent!” She pointed her wrist away from him, towards the emptiness of the cargo hold. A thought later, a perfect duplicate of talons curled from her wrist, looping up and out for a full seventeen inches of solid bone. They were too heavy, but she got the idea of the control measures needed.

“I think I could really learn to like these,” Matilda flashed her crooked grin.

“If only you had a tail, you would be perfect,” Ariella purred, trilling her ‘r’

 

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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On music, muses and the writing bug.

One of author Dellani Oakes’ favorite questions to ask a radio guest is When did you know you had been bitten by the writing bug.

I was first stung during my high school English classes.  I have always loved the creative writing sections of my classes. I was kind of a loner as a kid and had a lot of time on my hands to create. I basically wrote to kill time and boredom.

Again when I was older I was on medical leave from work.  I was faced with hours of watching the afternoon soaps and staring at the four walls.  I sat down at my computer and created what came to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL. 

What did I do to feed the muse during my writing? Music. I discovered that my muse needed music to operate at full tilt. The genre of choice was and still is classic 70′s rock. Sometimes I go for one hit wonders of the 80′s depending on the story  

If I was never bitten by another bug I am glad it was the writing bug.  I am currently working on the forth book in my series and two other independent stories. So Mr. writing bug, BRING IT ON, BITE ME!

 

Fun in the Computer Age – Dellani Oakes

books by dellani oakes 1Here’s another one from Fun in Writing class. The topic was Technology Issues.

My mother will be 95 in September. I look back at the decades of her life and marvel at the technological advances she’s witnessed. Even in my own life, we’ve gone from heavy lacquer phones on party lines, to cellphones that fit in your pocket. Now, you don’t have to be home to get a call, people can reach you where ever you are.

When I was a kid, our facts came from dictionaries and encyclopedias. A computer was the size of a room and only places like NASA had them. The web was something a spider built and they were the only ones who surfed them. Now, all that can be accessed with cellphones. Technology is grand!

Technology is also a pain in the butt. If something goes wrong with a phone or computer, we’re in trouble. Rarely is it ever a do it yourself project. Time to call the technician, then watch the zeroes add to the end of the bill.

I recently had to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. (35 years ago, if I’d said I was getting new Windows, I’d have meant panes of glass – but now, of course, I mean my computer program.) Microsoft said they are no longer supporting Windows XP, so the buggers forced my hand. I was fine for about a week, then I started having on-line issues. I had no choice – time to call the tech.

I finally got my computer in for its upgrade and got it back last Tuesday. I didn’t have time to sit down and learn Windows 7, but I was familiar enough with it to do a few necessary chores. One thing I did was load up IBM Lotus Symphony, my favorite word processing program. I kept getting interrupted, so I ended up, somehow, loading it on my computer in Italian!

Fortunately, the commands are in the same configuration as the English version, so I can find my way around . My husband keeps telling me I should take it off my computer and reload in English, but I haven’t done it yet. Everything I’ve written comes up in English, so it really doesn’t matter. I’ve figured out that Nuovo is new. Salve is save and Stampe means print. Only, the dumb thing won’t print. Not because it’s in Italian, because it keeps sending me to some other program to save or print it. I’m really not sure what’s going on—which means I need to call the tech again. Which means a lengthy phone call, which means it’s probably not going to happen until I complain enough that my husband does it.

From time to time, I look back at simpler times when phones didn’t fit in the pocket, and if someone wanted to talk to you by phone, they called back until they reached you. Letters were written on pieces of paper and sent through the mail. People used typewriters to write books and erasers to correct their mistakes.

If we got bored, we read books or comics, played board games or went outside and used our imaginations to play Super Heroes. People met up with neighbors for coffee or gathered at a friend’s house to watch TV. We shared coffee and stories about our children. We talked to one another about things that mattered to us. Many a family problem was solved in the neighbor’s kitchen with all the wives giving advice.

We may talk, but often it’s about the latest TV program, not real life. We complain about our children, but don’t look for ways to help them—or get them in line. Families don’t spend the same kind of quality time together, often not even eating dinner at the same time.

A lot of those old fashioned notions are gone. I know, because I did a quick web search on technology’s impact on the modern family. It’s here on my phone. Wherever I am, I can sit down and read all about it.

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