Whose Book Is It Anyway?

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerFor the last seven years I’ve participated in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the month of November. Every year, I’ve set myself a goal to write a novel of 50,000 words or more and every year I’ve finished early. This year was no different, except that I finished my 50,000 words by November 7. This is unprecedented. The novel was really finished by November 5, but I didn’t have 50k words and it took me two more days of writing to get to the limit in order to “win” my NaNo challenge.

Since I finished so early, my buddy, Christine Buchner, and several other helpful souls decided I needed more to do and gave me another challenge, take their random ideas and put them into a story. I might finish it by the end of November, I might not, but so far I am 22,413 words in and finding it a fun experiment.

The starting elements were:

Someone with the name Morgan—Barbara Ehrentreu

A Frisbee—Karen Vaughan

An Asian person—Devika Fernando

An ability to telepathically communicate with fish in an aquarium—Christine Buchner

Below is an excerpt from chapter one of Whose Book Is It Anyway?

Whose Book Is It Anyway?

Inspired by the authors and occupants of The Secret Garden of Thoughts

November 7, 2014

CHAPTER ONE

“Apple Bunnies,” I swore softly as I tried to shave without cutting myself. “FudgeTarts! Oh, hell! Dammit!” I nicked myself a couple times. The razor was super dull, which tells me that Grace had probably used it on her legs.

I’m really trying to cut back, truly, I am, but there are days when Fudge Tarts and Apple Bunnies simply don’t make the grade. I’ve done my best to eliminate the F-word, but it still pops up with alarming frequency. When I get really angry, there’s nothing more satisfying than setting off an F-bomb. Besides, it annoys my roommate and that’s the most satisfying of all, since she’s the one who usually makes me say it. Repeatedly, I might add. Loudly and with varying degrees of emphasis.

But today, I’m trying to be good. Today, we have company coming and I have go behave myself. I want them to like me—really like me—then maybe Grace will see me as something more than a roommate and more of a mate-mate.

Perhaps I should explain. My name is Duff Morgan. I’m 27, single, unattached and hot for my roommate who thinks that I’m only good for scrubbing the bathroom, completing the odd do it yourself project or opening jars. She does not see me as manly, marginally handsome or terribly interesting. I fell into her friend category right after she met me and I can’t seem to climb out no matter what I do.

Grace is gorgeous. Nearly six feet of woman, she’s built like a goddess. She’s got sun bleached blonde hair and dark brown eyes—like melted chocolate. Yeah—I’ve got it bad. I sound like a soppy chick flick.

One thing she does like about me, I’m six foot four. She can take me to parties as her escort and not tower over me in heels. I clean up pretty good. I have a couple suits and can manage to get through an evening without scratching inappropriately. I even know what fork to use with which course and how to taste wine. I know all this because Grace has taught me.

We’ve been roommates for the last three years. I’ve seen a lot of men come and go. Occasionally, there’s the asshole who needs a lesson in manners. Enter the six foot four roommate with big muscles and gorilla arms. I put on my crazy ex routine and run them off if they cause trouble. One guy was being super persistent. He wanted to do something kinky with a Frisbee. Never was entirely clear on what, but it upset Grace. I ran in, saved the day and got rid of lover boy. He left the Frisbee. I had it mounted in a shadow box for her last birthday.

I’m not sure exactly when I fell in love with Grace, because I think it was immediately. But I remember the day she put me in the friendship box and locked the lid. It was November 7, 2011. We’d been sharing a house for nearly six months. Her boyfriend, a perpetual asshole, had been cheating on her—pretty much from day one, but would she listen? No. It took finding them together, in my room, for her to believe that he was a douchebag who needed a beat down. It was her birthday party and the jerk had the balls to take another woman to bed—my bed! I still haven’t forgiven him. I burned the sheets. I liked those sheets.

The party ended soon after that and I was left to comfort Grace. I got her favorite ice cream from the freezer (Phish Food), put on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (her favorite movie, which I hate) and sat down with a bottle of chocolate wine.

“Duff, you’re such a great guy,” she sniffled. “You’re the best friend a girl could have.”

My heart, understandably, sank to my size 16 feet. “You deserve the best, Grace. That guy wasn’t any good for you.”

“I know. I always pick the worst guys in the world!”

I couldn’t deny that she had a talent for it. Not that they were all bad, but the bad ones tended to out number the good.

“You need someone else to pick the man for you,” I suggested.

“I do! You could help me. You have a kind of radar for bad guys. You could steer me away from them and zero in on a good one.”

Yeah. Me. But did I say it? I did not. Why? I don’t know! I have no idea why I didn’t just open my mouth and tell her I loved her. Still haven’t done it three years later. Am I amazingly lame or what? But with that, I handed her the key to the friendship box, climbed in and helped her turn it in the lock.

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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Did you pick the genre or did it pick you–Karen Vaughan

Did you pick the genre or did it pick you?

I was just thinking of this. What kind of books do you read and does it reflect on the genres you write in? For example I cut my eye teeth or reading HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW so it’s no surprise that I continued reading that and suspense thrillers. When it came to writing the mystery genre picked me.

I have been writing some form of mystery since 2005. I had a dream that screamed at me to write it down and thus DEAD ON ARRIVAL was born.

cover for doa 2008

And like a good potato chip you just can’t stop at one book. I didn’t either. I had no intention of writing a series at that point but yet another idea was brought to me by my muse. I had just performed my first stand-up comedy routine and I was bitten by that bug as well as writing.  Naturally I combined my two passions and voila I hatched DEAD COMIC STANDING.

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Meanwhile I was getting requests for more Laura and Gerry stories.  OVER HER DEAD BODY came to pass and by that time I may as well keep the series going as ideas were coming at me from all directions.

Karens final choice 6d  2011

DAYTONA DEAD came next but I needed a break from the series even though I started writing DEAD MEN DON’T SWING.

Front cover of daytona dead     2013

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COMING SOON

Last year my NaNo entry was a mystery which had been bouncing around in my brain for months so I started 101 CROSS STREET a retro mystery which I hope to publish soon as well.

101 cross street cover

Now just because my main genre is mystery doesn’t mean that I am not going to dabble with romance or romantic suspense. You’re just going to have to keep reading to find out.

I Love Dialogue! from Schooled by Love

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerEmerson Lake Palmer (sadly it’s his real name) has been dating Brooke Preston for about a week. It’s been a busy week, with one thing and another, and he really wants to get laid badly. Unfortunately, Brooke is a virgin and she has a very overprotective father. Lake has promised her father he won’t push her into anything she’s not ready for, but he dearly wishes she’d be ready sooner rather than later. One morning, before their college classes begin, they go out to breakfast.

Toby’s Restaurant is family owned and has the best food around at low prices. We ordered a pot of coffee and talked over the menu as we waited for the waitress to come back. After placing our orders, we chatted quietly for awhile, talking around what I wanted to know, but not quite ignoring it. The waitress brought our orders, and I’d made up my mind to ask Brooke outright what her dad had said.

“So,” I began, but she put her hand over mine.

“Dad had a lot to say after you left. He wasn’t mad. He was just. . . .”

“Concerned,” I finished for her.

“Yes.”

“He has every right to be. I made no pretense with him the first time we talked about our relationship. He knows where I stand.”

“Yes, he told me. What he didn’t know was where I stood. That was what he most wanted to know.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“That I’m ready to make a commitment and so are you.”

“Did that upset him?”

“Not as much as I thought it would. He actually encouraged it.”

“What? He wants us to. . . .” I lowered my voice because I’d said that pretty loud. “He wants us to fool around?” I hissed.

She giggled, blushing like crazy as the people in the restaurant went back to their meals. The waitress refilled our cups of coffee and left more cream on the table. We ate a couple minutes, then I asked her again.

“Not in so many words, but he said, Brooke, if you don’t give that man what he needs, he’s going to explode. I couldn’t believe it!”

I scooted my plate across the table and let my head fall to the tabletop. The waitress came over to check on me.

“Are you okay, honey? Is the food all right?”

My head popped up and I smiled. “The food is great. I’m boned, but the food’s fantastic.”

To prove it, I took a big bite, a gulp of coffee and chewed, much of it running down my chin. The waitress handed me some extra napkins and gave me a really funny look. The people in the restaurant stared at me again as I wiped myself down.

“I’m having a personal crisis,” I said in a friendly manner, waving to them. “Not serious, life threatening, or contagious. Go back to your meals, don’t mind me.” I waved again and turned to Brooke.

She was red in the face trying hard not to spew her coffee all over the table. After a struggle, she swallowed, her eyes glittering as she tried not to laugh.

“Am I so pathetic that your old man is telling you that I need to get laid?”

I whispered intensely, cutting my pancakes with enthusiasm and stuffed them into my mouth. I was to the point that I really didn’t know what I was doing, trying to eat, drink coffee or flip out. All three seemed viable but didn’t coexist terribly well, especially the coffee and the flipping out. I was making a terrible mess.

“Are you all right, Lake?”

“I’m manic depressive. No, probably bipolar. Or I have some sort of serious emotional problem due to lack of intimacy. Something has affected my hearing, because I thought I heard you say that your dad was condoning us fooling around.”

“He sees how hard you’re trying to respect his wishes and not take advantage of me. He talked a long time with Grady, he knows we didn’t do anything the night you came over.”

“How would Grady know? Did he stay outside the bedroom door all night?”

“Apparently, he took his duty to protect me seriously. He put a chair in the hallway and sat there all night long. He said he never heard a thing. He also told Dad that you were too damn tense the following morning to have possibly had sex.”

“God, even the security officer thinks I need to get laid. Mike said the same thing. Am I that big a wreck?”

The waitress, an older black woman, came over to check on us again. She carried a fresh pot of coffee and our bill. She heard what I said about needing to get laid and looked between the two of us. She focused on me. Smiling pleasantly, she patted me on the shoulder.

“Yeah, baby, you’re that big a wreck. You need to take this girl somewhere nice and private and have some fun before you completely blow a gasket.”

“Thank you,” I said, my pride totally trashed. “Now the waitress thinks I need to get laid too.” I said that a little louder than I intended.

Everyone in the restaurant was ogling our unfolding drama. I glanced around the restaurant at all the curious faces. There were no kids in there, mostly people my parents’ age and older. A couple college kids had just walked out. Not caring anymore, I stood up and turned around, examining them all and letting them get a good look at me.

“I assume you’ve been listening.” I smiled sweetly, letting them know it was all right even if it wasn’t. “So, are you all of the same opinion?”

“Get fucked,” an old man said with a big grin.

His wife smacked him on the shoulder, smiled politely at me and nodded. Everyone else agreed.

“We can’t go against popular opinion,” I told Brooke as I sat down. “I think we need to go have sex, honey.”

I kissed her deeply, giving her the best kiss I could. It made me tingle all over, I hoped it was having the same effect on her. The people in the restaurant cheered, whistled and clapped. One man, about my dad’s age, handed me a twenty dollar bill to pay for breakfast.

“Son, if you’re stupid enough to let this beautiful young lady get away from you, well then you’re a goddamn fool.”

I handed the waitress the money which paid for breakfast and a nice tip. Amid clapping and cheering, we walked out of the restaurant. I didn’t know if I should be humiliated or not. Brooke didn’t say a word until we got to her car. Once we were inside, she burst out laughing so hard I thought she was going to pee on herself. Tears ran down her face as she clung to the steering wheel.

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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I Love Dialogue! Indian Summer Revisited

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerI have an historical novel called Indian Summer, about a young woman, Gabriella Deza, the daughter of the Spanish governor, who falls in love with his confidential aid. They have a series of wild adventures during the spring and summer of 1739, in St. Augustine, Florida.

I love the city of St. Augustine and felt as if there were more stories waiting to be told. On a visit there, I felt another one nagging at me. I named it Indian Summer Revisited. It centers around a musician named Malin Dimas who has recently met a woman named Carina who works as a waitress at the small restaurant he’s just been hired to play for. He’s an overnight hit! He takes great pleasure in telling his disapproving father that he’s working as a musician and has been offered a record contract. He neglects to tell his sister, Tess. She calls, after having a chat with their furious father. In full fury, she gives him hell.

Malin knew he couldn’t win. Tess was in full swing and he was totally screwed. If he thought he was going to get her to understand, he was dead wrong. It was better to ride it out and let her have her fit. Once she was done, then he could get a word or two in. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like that was going to happen anytime soon.

“Tess, I need to get my stuff packed up.”

“Don’t you have servants for that, Mr. Rock Star?”

“No. I’m not a rock star, I’m just singing at a local restaurant.”

“Why didn’t you tell me, Mal? God, I had to find out from him!”

“Was he mad?” He couldn’t keep the gleeful anticipation from his voice.

“He was livid. I’ve never seen him so angry. He was all red in the face and spitting. It was a beautiful moment.” The anger in her voice subsided, changing to glee.

“He didn’t threaten you with a loaded gun, did he?”

“No. The Nora Bitch took them away and locked them up after the time I told him I was pregnant with Clay’s love child.”

“Why would you tell him a thing like that? He hates Clay.”

There was a slight pause and a snort of laughter. Malin gathered up some of his equipment.

“Okay, answered that one myself. I’m sorry I forgot, Tess. The last few days have been completely surreal. I’ve had exams, the new gig and a new girlfriend all since Tuesday.”

“Is she amazing?”

“She bypassed amazing when she rammed me in the gut with her elbow. Honestly, I can’t find words good enough to describe her. She’s symphonic.”

“Oh, I have to forgive you now. You’re in love, you prick. How dare you?”

“Am I? How can you tell?”

She repeated what he said, giving it her own twist. “Gag me now, I might throw up.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be described as symphonic? I think it’s pretty cool.”

“I’d love it, but Gary doesn’t know any words that big. He gets as far as hot and sexy and starts to drool. I’m thinking of breaking up with him.”

“Why’s that? I thought he was great in bed.”

“He’s okay. Clay was better.”

“What?”

“I’m kidding. We never got that far. Not that I wasn’t interested, but we knew you’d kill us both if we even tried it. He kisses well, though. Is he dating anyone?”

“Yeah, he is,” Malin sounded very annoyed. “I can’t believe you liked Clay.”

“Malin, I know you’re just a guy and all, but Clay is nearly as gorgeous as you. It makes me sick to say that, but my brother is one of the best looking men I know and his dumb friend is pretty jacked and hot and I’d do him in a heartbeat.”

“Tess,” Malin was getting uncomfortable. “Remember that conversation where it was way too much information?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So, we’ve reached that point again, only it’s your turn.”

“Grow up, Malin! I like sex just as much as you do.”

“Not listening.”

“I’d venture to say I’m nearly as experienced as you are.”

“Still not listening.”

“I did have a thing with your friend Benji a few months ago. He’s kind of kinky, but the things that man can do with his tongue!”

“Tess!”

“What?”

“Bye.”

He hung up, flushed and angry. He really didn’t think Tess had screwed Benji because she was always complaining that he smelled like last week’s dirty laundry. He still didn’t like hearing her talk like that and he certainly hadn’t appreciated what she had to say about Clay.

“Who was that?” Clay asked him in passing.

“That was Tess.”

“Oh, yeah? How’s she doing?”

“She misses you and your tongue.”

Clay wiggled his tongue around looking confused. “Me? What for? I thought she hated me.”

“Hell if I know. She’s in one of her moods.”

“Ooh, Evil Tess has come out. Must be a full moon.” He looked up at the sky.

“Clay, did you ever do my sister?”

“Do what? Oh, Do your sister. No. Not that I wouldn’t want to, she’s smoking hot.”

Malin gave him a black look, saying nothing.

“But in a purely virginal and totally untouchable way. I’m going over there now where no one wants to murder me.”

Sea of Destiny – Part 27 by Dellani Oakes

Sea of Destiny – Part 27 by Dellani Oakes.

via Sea of Destiny – Part 27 by Dellani OakesKyle visits Emily in the infirmary and encourages her to visit the faith healer, figuring it can’t hurt for her to try. Afterward, Dr. West reveals some secrets about Emily that shock Kyle. Emily is a very wealthy woman, the only heir of billionaire Edward Geraci, who was killed in a car accident just before her husband left her. It couldn’t be proven, but police suspected her ex-husband had something to do with the so-called accident.

I Love Dialogue! The Great Mandrake

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerDrake Mandrake is working his way through college as a comedic magician. A youthful mistake made him a father early on and now, at 21, he’s coping with being a single dad as well as taking care of his 7 year old nephew, Davy. Davy is a special needs child who’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Drake is studying special ed so that he can work with children like Davy. As a treat, Davy has been fishing with Drake’s cousins and Shelby, his daughter, has spent the day with Aunt Connie. They are now at Uncle Billy’s for dinner.

Davy ran at Drake, greeting him so enthusiastically, he nearly knocked him over. Connie took Shelby so that Drake could swing Davy onto his shoulder.

“I caught all kinds of fish, Uncle Drake! And I caught a stingray! It almost stung Uncle Billy when he unhooked it!”

“Really? Wow!”

“It was nearly six feet long! It was pissed to get caught.”

“Okay, who taught my boy a new word?” Drake asked the room at large.

His cousin, Burwell held up his hand, grinning sheepishly. “He wasn’t supposed to tell you.”

“Did you tell him not to use it in a sentence?”

“No.” He looked puzzled. “I didn’t think of that.”

“Now ya know. Davy, you don’t say pissed. It’s not a very nice word.”

“Okay, Uncle Drake.” He squirmed to get down.

Burwell caught him as he lunged off his uncle’s shoulder. He set Davy on the floor, ruffling his hair.

“He’s something else. He kept all of us hopping.”

Billy’s sons were all built on the same line as their father. In other words, upwards of seven feet tall and roughly the size of Montana. There were six of them altogether. Drake couldn’t imagine Davy running them all ragged. He supervised him fine all on his own.

“It took all y’all to keep tabs on one kid? That’s pretty damn funny. I keep track of him and Shelby, no problem.”

“Braggart.”

“Pussy.”

“Pzy, pzy,” Shelby yelled loudly and with gusto. “Sit, sit! Pzy!”

Drake shook his head, trying hard not to laugh. “Oh, God. My daughter’s gonna have the vocabulary of a redneck trucker by the time she starts school.”

Burwell laughed at him. “For once it ain’t my fault.”

“I’ll remember this when you have kids. I’m gonna teach them naughty words and laugh at your pain.”

“You got a mean streak, Drake.”

“I’ve got to, considering how much bigger you guys are. Teague’s the only one shorter and he can still whoop me easy.”

“He could whoop all of us. Even if we jumped him all at once. You should have seen him! It scared the ever loving sh. . . . poop outta me.”

“Sh, sh!” Shelby said.

“That’s right, honey,” Drake coached. “Sh, sh—Shelby.”

“Bi! Bi!”

“I guess we should have named her something easier,” Drake said with a shrug. “She can’t seem to get Shelby, no matter what I do.”

“Grow up with a name like Burwell. Took me forever to get it right. And spell it? Shoot. I was still getting help when I was in second grade.”

“You were dropped as a child, Burwell. That confirms it.”

“If you weren’t holding that baby, I’d show you just who’s getting’ dropped on the head.” He punched Drake’s arm.

“Boys, behave!” Burwell’s mother, Betty Jean, fussed.

“Yes, ma’am!” They chorused.

Dinner with Drake’s family was always crazy. He’d forgotten just how much fun they were to be

around. Once they finished dinner, Billy’s children, who had a bluegrass band, got up on the stage and played for awhile.

Afterwards Drake was persuaded to perform a few simple magic tricks. Without his cases, he was limited, but they liked the card tricks and slights of hand that he performed.

“Now I know why I can’t win at poker when you play,” Junior grumbled. “Damn. You’re probably dealing doubles and stacking the deck.”

“No, Junior, you just suck,” Drake replied.

“SUCK!” Shelby yelled amidst much laughter.

“It’s official,” Burwell said, hopping up on stage with Drake. He raised his cousin’s arm in the air. “Daddy’s mouth has officially been rated ‘G’.”

“Can’t say her own name, but can curse.” Drake stepped off the stage. “What am I gonna do with you, Miss Shelby?”

“She-be!” She yelled, kissing him resoundingly.

“You hear that? That’s the first time she’s ever said her name! Yeah, Shelby!”

“She-be! Sit! Pzy!”

“I think I’d better get my baby home before she picks up anymore bad language from y’all. You’re a bad influence,” Drake told Burwell.

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I Love Dialogue! from Full Measure #3

books by dellani oakes 1Ralan and Daphne finally meet and are immediately attracted. So much so, they give in to their passions without thinking. Ralan realizes, too late, that being with her could compromise his case, but he finds it hard to care. He also realizes he must tell his Captain, Jeff Givens, what’s happened.

Givens and Ralan went to the Captain’s office. One of the office assistants brought in coffee and a platter of bagels, donuts and pastries. Ralan thanked her, Givens more or less ignored her, though he nodded slightly in her direction as she served him.

“So, who do you think these schmucks are?”

“No idea. I’m not even sure who all the players are, Jeff.”

“Then we need to find out asap. I can’t have my best agent looking over his shoulder.”

“I always look over my shoulder.” He sipped his coffee and took a cherry danish.

“I meant more than usual. Being paranoid’s kept you alive a long time. You sure no one followed you to Ian’s?”

“No. I watched for a tail, but that means nothing. I didn’t hide my plans, Jeff. What puzzles me is how they knew I was back.”

“Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were breaking in for some other reason.”

“Armed for bear? Not a casual break in. They were after me. Maybe Daphne too.”

“Why would they think she was there?”

Ralan sipped his coffee, refusing to answer.

“Tell me.” Jeff Givens wasn’t a man to back away from confrontation. He dogged a bone better than anyone, including Ralan.

Not feeling like arguing, Ralan leaned forward, arms on his thighs. “I messed up.”

“Meaning you compromised our case by misconduct with the woman?”

Closing his eyes, Ralan nodded. Givens didn’t speak for a long time. Ralan could hear him breathing. He could almost hear the older man thinking.

“Ralan, did I ever tell you about the time I had a beautiful personal assistant I was protecting? Her boss was up to his ass in some crazy scheme and she made the mistake of doing her job and told him about some irregularities she’d found.”

The younger agent sat quietly. Jeff didn’t want a reply. Ralan waited.

“I was about your age, and they gave me this. My first witness protection as lead. We were stuck in a cabin deep in the woods. Just us two. Had some guys running patrols, but it was just us for over a week. We were bored and scared as hell we were gonna die. . . . I took that girl to bed. Damn near ruined my career.”

“What saved you?”

“I had a boss who’d been in the same situation and made the same mistake.” He paused, eyes on his desk. Glancing up at Ralan, he folded his hands in front of him. “Can you promise me this is the only time this will happen?”

Ralan looked away, unable to lie to his boss. “I’d love to tell you that, Jeff. I’m not sure I believe it.”

“Good, cause I wouldn’t either. If you’d given me a guarantee, I’d of pulled you off so damn fast your nuts would spin.”

“You could still do that.”

“I’m reserving that right,” Givens replied. “This goes no further.”

“Romy knows.”

“Who’s he gonna tell? Me? If I pull you off, I have to give a reason. Do you think I want to answer questions like that? Do you?”

“No, sir.”

“Damn Skippy, no. Keep it in your pants, Agent Hendrix. Get a hobby. Needlepoint is relaxing.”

“Yes, sir.” He stood, knowing he’d been dismissed. “Thank you, sir.”

“Kid, we all make mistakes. If I canned every agent who had an inconvenient itch, I wouldn’t have a team.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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I Love Dialogue! from Full Measure #2

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerDaphne Winstead is new in town. She meets a woman named Karen at the doctor’s office whose records she’s going over. The practice head thinks that someone is embezzling. It’s up to Daphne to find out who and how. For now, however, the city’s had the first major snow of the season, so the women get an unexpected day off. They decide to spend a long weekend at the home of Ian and Cynthia Yarrow—a multi-billionaire and his wife.

“Booya! Beat you at your own game, Mister Yarrow!” Frtiz’ British accent was strong, but sounded genuine.

“Someone give the man a cookie,” another male voice said. “Or he’s gonna explode from puffed up self-importance.”

Loud laughter ensued. It faded slightly when Karen and Daphne entered the room. They looked up expectantly. Some of the faces were familiar, others weren’t. The women rushed to her, hugging her and dragging her into the room. They tried to introduce her to everyone at once until Karen took control.

“Give the girl a chance to breathe! Let’s start with the host and his lovely wife. Daphne, my cousin Ian Yarrow and his wife Cynthia.”

A strikingly handsome man sat on a chaise lounge, his legs in some sort of odd braces. He smiled. “I’d get up, but I’m still getting used to this contraption. Welcome, Daphne. We’ve heard about little else from the girls. Glad to finally meet you.”

“Thanks for inviting me, Mr. Yarrow.”

Ian’s booming laugh warmed her. “Just Ian is fine. Or Yarrow. I even answer to hey you.” He took her hand. “Welcome. I’m glad to have another person to call friend. Honey?”

He deferred to the attractive redhead seated next to him. She was very pregnant, due pretty much any day, so far as Daphne could tell.

“I’m so glad to meet you. I hated that I missed the last girl’s night, but we were getting Ian’s brace adjusted.” She stood awkwardly, hugging Daphne. The baby kicked and both women laughed.

“When are you due?”

“Soon. About a month. Gillian’s due Monday.”

“Which is why they invited me,” a handsome dark haired man next to Reva said. “I’m Hal.”

“The token doctor,” Ian interjected.

“What they don’t know is I haven’t delivered a baby since my residency.”

“A hundred years ago,” the ginger haired Brit said, coughing.

“Don’t get cocky, squirt!” Hal said, laughing. “He thinks since he just won that round, he’s da bomb!”

“The British contingent is represented by Gillian and Fritz Heathrow-Cooper,” a pretty dark haired British woman said politely. “I’m Gillie and that ginger haired turnip is my husband. . . .”

“And hyphen,” he added. “Fritz Cooper. She hyphenated, I didn’t. What we’ll do when the baby is born, I don’t know. I can’t see saddling a little tyke with that sort of handle, can you?”

Daphne wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to get into the middle of an argument, if such it was. “I don’t know. I never had any occasion to hyphenate.”

“Sounds positively dirty when you say it like that,” Fritz said with an enthusiastic rubbing of his hands. “Oi, love! Let’s hyphenate!” He winked at his wife, nudging her ribs.

She smacked him playfully. “Cocky bugger. As to the babe, she won’t hyphenate. Her middle name is Heathrow, her last Cooper.”

“Really? When did you decide that?”

“Just now.” She looked self-satisfied.

“They’re a crazy bunch,” Karen explained. “But fun. Last, but not least, my spouse, Luc Vaughan. Honey, this is Daphne.”

“The one you’re trying to hook up with Ralan? Aw, hon, she’s too good for him.” He kissed his wife soundly. “Kidding. He’s a great guy. Nice to meet you, Daphne. What would you like to drink?”

“What are my choices?”

Gillian replied, pointing to a variety of insulated carafes. “We’ve got tea, Earl Grey. Hot chocolate, coffee and hot cider.”

“Wow, so many choices! Cider sounds fantastic.”

“Excellent choice. My idea,” Ian answered. “See, someone besides me likes it, Fritz.”

“Insane, she is. Has to be. So, you’re dating Ralan?”

“No! What? I haven’t even met him.”

“Good,” Derrick said as he walked in. “That means there’s a chance for me to sweet talk you first.”

The room exploded in laughter. They weren’t laughing at Derrick, more at what he’d said. Daphne looked carefully at the pilot for the first time. He was tall, broad shouldered, blond and handsome. Every man in the room was gorgeous. How could there be so many good looking men in the world and she couldn’t seem to find even one? Her two boyfriends in college were nowhere near this handsome. She said as much to the room full of people.

“That’s a good question, that is,” Fritz said. “Let’s ponder it, shall we?”

“Ponder this,” Derrick said, grabbing his groin.

“I had hoped,” Cynthia said amidst loud, male laughter. “That we could go the weekend without that kind of humor.”

“With this lot?” Gillian said. “It’s amazing that none of them have dropped their pants and flashed us.”

“Give us time,” Ian countered. “The day is young and I’m sober.”

“I’ve seen your tukas,” Gillian replied in a bored tone. “Magnificent,” she whispered loudly to Daphne. “Really posh. Nothing quite so remarkable as a billionaire’s arse.”

Her husband pinched her ribs, laughing. “I’ll remember that, my girl, when you want to grab mine.”

“Yours is very nice too, sweetheart,” she said in a singsong voice.

“Are you always like this?” Daphne asked, somewhat taken aback.

“Sometimes we’re naughty,” Derrick replied, grinning as he poured himself some cider.

“I love it! You’re just like my family.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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The Chosen One or the Reluctant Hero

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerI recently read an article about clichés authors shouldn’t use. It was a well written, well thought out article. For the most part, I agreed. There was one point I’d like to refute. The author of the article stated that fantasy & science fiction authors need to dispense with “The Chosen One” hero—someone destined to lead, kill the bad guy and save the world.

Here’s the thing: Nobody wants to read about the Nobody. We want the heroism, the special skills, the destiny factor. That’s part of what makes a hero heroic. No one wants to read about an insignificant peasant, unless the peasant steps up to greatness.

Where would Lord of the Rings be without Frodo? Where would the Hobbitt be without Bilbo? Where would the Narnia series be without the Pevensie children? I’ll tell you—at the bottom of a drawer, gathering dust, ignored for all time. The Hunger Games and Harry Potter books would meet the same end. Nobody wants to read about the Nobody.

That’s not to say that the hero must be perfect or of epic proportions. Even the famous heroes of yore, Hercules, Jason and Achilles, were flawed. Deeply, dare I say, Epically, flawed. Yes, they did great things, but their mistakes were equally as outstanding as their successes.

Books without a Chosen One hero aren’t likely to do well. Readers want and need someone to believe in, someone destined to lead, someone born to succeed. The problem here is not the cliché itself, but the way it is often handled. If the hero is too damaged, or reluctant, too afraid to step up, the story drags. Readers get angry with him. Some will stop reading.

I’m put in mind of the Thomas Covenant series. Here was a man who was horrendously flawed, his body ruined by disease, his life in tatters. But guess what? He’s the Chosen One! Who, less than five minutes after he arrives in the new land, rapes a girl simply because she’s there and he has to prove to himself he’s strong once more. I stayed angry with him through the entire book for that. I read several of the books in the series, because they were somewhat engaging, but his personality constantly grated. I finally gave up on them. I don’t mind a flawed character, but I don’t like a hero who’s only marginally better than the villain.

Readers don’t want fairytale princes either. Too perfect is as bad as too flawed. No one is perfect. We all have character flaws. Mr. Wonderful has to be Mr. Horrible at some point or again, readers lose interest. Make him interesting and realistic, not some two dimensional man of film.

The Chosen One, the person who, through no fault of his own, has been handed a job so daunting, no one would want it. He doesn’t want to believe he is the Chosen One, because no one in his right mind wants to do that job! He balks, he fights it, but eventually, he does what needs doing. Perhaps the belief in a higher being who has ordered this, grates with some readers. Perhaps it is because this seems to take away the concept of free will? That, I’m not sure of.

Quite often, the Chosen One reaches a decision making stage. They can fight and fulfill their destiny, or they can give up. Usually, they step up and do what needs to be done because they are Frodo, or Bilbo or Peter the High King or Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter. They choose to move forward and fight evil, not because it’s foretold, but because the alternative isn’t even an option for them.

As John McClain says in Live Free or Die Hard: “That’s what makes you that guy.”

Hooray for the reluctant hero!

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I Love Dialogue! From Full Measure

books by dellani oakes 1I’ve been having fun sharing these excerpts on my Writer’s Sanctuary blog, but I have so many, I decided to branch out. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Daphne Winstead is a young, struggling accountant who specializes in forensic accounting. When she’s hired to track and catch an embezzler at a local mental health facility, she jumps at the chance, little knowing that’s she’s stumbled into something far bigger than she anticipated. Not only has she made several people in the office hate her, she’s apparently being followed.

Daphne didn’t see it follow her to the Super WalMart a few blocks from her home. She’d decided as soon as she walked outside, she needed some warmer clothing. What she had was good for cold in Mississippi. For this far north, not far from the Canadian border, it wasn’t sufficient. She didn’t have a lot to spend, but could afford a few things. Most important was a heavy coat and a pair of boots. Snow was forecast for the coming week.

After selecting her clothing, she did her grocery shopping. She was low on milk and coffee, among other things. She picked up a deli fried chicken meal for her dinner. Walking out of the store, she searched for her car, having gotten turned around in the store. She spotted it across the lot from where she stood. She’d come out a different door from the one she came in. Taking a deep breath, she struck out for her vehicle, shivering in the gathering chill. Moisture touched her face and she glanced up at the sky as she passed a dark SUV. It sat in a parking space with the motor running.

“Snow? Really?” Daphne sighed.

The windows of the SUV were tinted, but she suspected someone was inside. Paying it no mind, she loaded her groceries and put the cart in the nearby rack. Carefully, she headed home. Not used to driving in this type of weather, she was unsure of herself. Karen had grown up here, maybe she could give her some tips.

At her apartment building, Daphne carried her groceries to her apartment and unloaded them quickly. Her chicken went in the oven to crisp, the rest in the microwave. She poured herself a glass of wine and settled in the living room with her food.

Outside, the SUV sat idling in her parking lot. A large black man sat in the driver’s seat. Beside him sat the man in black leather. Dark, brooding eyes gazed up at Daphne’s window. He couldn’t see in, but that didn’t stop him from seeing her. Right now, she was probably curled up on her couch watching TV. He wasn’t sure how he knew that, but somehow it made sense.

“We gonna sit here all night?” The black man asked him.

The other man didn’t answer right away. Instead, he twirled his finger. The driver put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot into the gloomy storm.

“What’s this girl done? She looks totally harmless, man.”

“Nothing.”

“Then why we spending our time watching her?”

The dark haired man shrugged, shaking his head. Pinching his lower lip, he gazed out the window at the thickening snow flurries.

“Well, I need a drink, dammit,” the black man said. “I’m freezing ass.”

“You’re wearing a heavy coat, the seat’s heated and the heat’s on high,” a man in the back seat said, his British accent strong.

“Shut up, man. I’m from Florida. This is fucking cold!”

The Brit and the dark haired man chuckled. “Pussy,” they said in chorus.

The rest of the trip took place in silence. The SUV turned in at Kelley’s parking lot.

“You two go in without me. I have to make a call. Get me a coffee,” he said as they got out.

“American or Irish?” The Brit asked.

“You seriously have to ask that question, what kind of spy are you?”

Laughing, the men walked off. The dark haired man made his call and joined them a short time later.

“Feeling better?” The Brit asked.

The dark haired man shrugged as his coffee was served. Thanking the waitress with a smile, he sipped it. Hot, creamy and enough whisky to stop a horse. Closing his eyes, he let the hot, stinging beverage trickle down his throat.

“You gonna tell us what this is about?” The Brit asked calmly, sipping his scotch.

“I told you. Nothing. Don’t worry your pretty head about it, baby,” he said as if he were talking to a particularly obtuse woman.

The British man punched him in the shoulder.

“Hey! You nearly spilled my coffee!”

“Oh, precious, you’ll manage,” the British man said, batting his eyelashes.

“Y’all are a couple fruits,” the black man said sourly. “Act like girls. You two gay for each other?”

“Because you’re new to the team and don’t know us,” the British man replied quietly. “I’ll let that slide—this time. Say it again, and pieces of you will go missing.”

“You ain’t right,” the driver said. “Neither of you.”

“You don’t like it, go back to Miami,” the dark haired man said.

“St. Pete,” the black man corrected. “I can’t go back. Too damn hot.”

“Temperature?” The man in leather asked.

“Cops. One too many bodies disappeared in Alligator Ally. Got suspicious.” He shrugged.

The two white men exchanged a meaningful look. Nodding, they took a sip of their drinks in unison. The black man watched, shaking his head.

“Nope, y’all ain’t right.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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