Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter J – Just When You Thought It Was Safe

ABC ChallengeJust When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water. . . .

This article doesn’t really have anything to do with that at all. I needed a title with a J and ended up with the tag line for Jaws II. Mostly, I want to talk about books in a series.

Some authors like to write books in a series, others abhor the idea of sequels. I stand on the side of those who like books in a series. Not all my books are in series. Most notably, my sci-fi books – The Lone Wolf Series. The first three are out: Lone Wolf, Shakazhan and The Maker.lone wolf series banner 3

The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes - 200I do have books that are loosely grouped and are series-ish. Of these books, I have The Ninja Tattoo, Conduct Unbecoming, Call Me and Mirrored. These are all set in Florida and have a lot of the same people in them. Another book, associated with Conduct Unbecoming, is my romantic suspense novel, Bad Fall. Though it’s set in Ohio, it is a spin off of Conduct Unbecoming. Couldn’t really call it a series, more a continuation of the story begun therein.conduct unbecoming front cover

I like writing books in a series, or those that are associated with one another, because I like exploring the characters more in depth. A stand alone book is great, I have quite a few of these, but I don’t feel as if I can fully dive into the background of a character in a stand alone.

The character of Wil VanLipsig, in my sci-fi series, is so complex, I even wrote several short stories in order to look into his history more deeply. Things that are mentioned in passing in the series, are explored in more detail in the short stories. I am currently sharing one white lie coverof these, A Little White Lie, on my website every Thursday.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter I – Indian Summer – Excerpt

ABC ChallengeIndian Summer is my historical novel. I mention the writing of it on my April 6 post. It is written in the voice of Gabriella Deza, the daughter of the Spanish Territorial Governor and is set in 1739, a year before a major siege by the British. Gabriella is 15, but has a lot of intelligence and pluck for a girl her age. By chance, she overhears something that starts a chain of events she has no control over.

I was rounding the corner on my way to the privy when I heard hushed and hurried voices ahead of me. They seemed to be moving in my direction rapidly. It was the sound of men who didn’t want to be overheard. Urgency marked their voices.

I ducked into an alcove, pressing myself against the wall. Secluded and shadowed, I was nearly invisible unless one looked directly at me. Grateful that I wore dark clothing and didn’t carry a candle, I virtually held my breath, seeking to make no noise.

The two men stopped just a few steps past my hiding place. I knew by his voice that one of them was James. The other man I didn’t recognize. James talked earnestly, looking furtively all around him. Not, thankfully, into my hiding place.

“I’m telling yew it mus’ be tonigh’!” The other man was speaking with roughly accented English in harsh undertones.

“Absolutely not! I forbid it!” James’ cultured voice held an authoritative edge. “It’s too soon. If we move now, all will be lost! We must plan this carefully. Tell General Oglethorpe that if this operation is to be a success, he must follow my lead. Tell him I’ll signal when the time is ripe.”

“Jes ‘ow do you pr’pose ta do tha’?” His companion growled. “Ligh’ a bloody sign’l fire?”

James barely held his temper. “In point of fact, I shall. Tell them to look to the south end of the fort and I’ll signal from there, but in my time! Tell him it could be months! Be gone now before we’re seen!”

With that, he rushed off in one direction. The other man, a sailor by his rolling gait, ran in the opposite. When I was sure they were gone, I eased out of the alcove and made my way to the privy.

I puzzled over the conversation I had overheard, not knowing quite what to make of it. The fort was in danger. I had heard something very secret indeed. Admittedly, I had difficulty putting James in the role of spy. Hadn’t he been a guest in our home? Surely James was beyond suspicion?

I didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. Who would ever believe me? They would call it childish, female fantasy and ignore me. I couldn’t tell Papa, he was too ill. I didn’t think the commandant would heed me. I had to say something! But to whom?

I heard a quiet voice call my name from across the hospital room. On his cot, Manuel had woken up and was calling me. Still weak, he managed to partially sit up, but couldn’t rise from his bed. As if a bolt of lightning hit me from above, I realized the obvious one to tell was Manuel. The commandant would believe him, but would Manuel believe me?

I was a child in his eyes, a little girl with big blue eyes and a wild imagination. I had been through much today, surely he would think that this was side effect of that over excitement. I owed him my brother’s life, but he in turn owed his to James. I hadn’t made up my mind when I reached his bed.

He smiled a weak version of his familiar, winsome smile. The twinkle in his eyes he always held for mindian summere was dim, but there. He was rapidly coming back to himself. I felt a flutter in my chest that was as pleasing as it was unfamiliar. He was so handsome it fairly took my breath.

His shirt was off and he was left only in his breeches. Having dried on him, they were tight across his powerful thighs. The sun bronzed muscles rippled in his back. I couldn’t help but admire his physique. His form was classic, like a statue of Adonis. Despite his injuries, he appeared virile, powerful, brave. I felt a warm thrill when he said my name yet again.

“Gabriella?”

I walked over to him quickly and quietly, not wishing to rouse anyone in the hospital. Manuel had many cuts and bruises on his arms, neck and back, as well as bruising and rope burns across his abdomen. His head was bound in a neat bandage, his right arm in a sling. A few of his ribs were wrapped. He tried to rise as I approached.

I smiled down at him. “No, Señor Enriques, please you must not try to stand. I’ll sit and then all will be well.” I pulled a stool near him.

He smiled at me again and his twinkle was stronger. “You’ve seen me near death, stripped almost to the bone and yet you call me Señor Enriques. It makes me sound like such an old man.” He sighed, shaking his head sagely. “I hear I owe my life in part to you. I insist you call me Manuel, and I shall call you – Señorita Deza.”

He winked wickedly and I blushed deeply, dropping my head in an effort to break eye contact with him. He was so close I could feel the warmth of his attentions and smell his manly scent. It was musky like sandalwood.

He lifted my chin gently with his uninjured hand. “You helped to pull me out of the sea. For that I thank you.”

I ducked my head again and this time he leaned his head sideways to gaze up into my face.

“So, she has no kind words for Manuel, eh? Well, perhaps one day she will. Perhaps too, she’ll save a dance for him at the next ball?”

I giggled almost hysterically at that. “Señor Enri-Manuel, I fear I can’t save a dance, for I’m not yet allowed to attend the parties.”

I blushed again feeling like a child, but this time I kept my head up and looked him in the eye. A slight frown played across his face.

“Well then, we’ll do this. When you have your fifteenth birthday party, will you allow Manuel to be your escort?”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

 

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter H – He Thought He Saw

ABC ChallengeA couple years ago, for the NaNoWriMo Challenge, I decided to branch out and try something new. Not only did I decide to do a contemporary fantasy novel, I decided to write it for young adults. For me, this was a double challenge. I’d never written this genre or for this age group before. I found that I liked it, so much so, I wrote a sequel in 2014. This is the opening of the book and, I hope, it appropriately sets the scene.

The full moon seemed to follow him as he walked down the road alone. Wind whispered in the trees and dried leaves clattered in its wake. An owl hooted. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention.

The wind became voices. The leaves, the dry rattle of old bones. The sighing grew louder and Brian was able to pick out words. At least, he thought they were words, but in a language he couldn’t understand.

Picking up his pace, he glanced over his shoulder. Wispy figures gathered in the tree line around the swamp, moving slowly and steadily toward him. Brian tried to convince himself it was only his imagination, but it felt far too real.

One of the figures approached at a slow, loping run. Brian could hear the heavy, measured footfalls as it lumbered toward him. He completely lost his cool. Roaring loudly, he ran at the figure, dodging away when it grabbed at him. Chilling wind passed as the figure drifted away, dissipating as it headed to the woods on the other side of the road.

Brian ran along the center of the road, frightened by his encounter with the wraith. More of them gathered in the swampy woodland, but no others were bold enough to approach him. Hearing a twig snap to his left, Brian put on a burst of speed. With a cry of fear, he felt a shove at his back and tripped over his own feet. As he fell, he saw the wraiths grow bolder. They moved in unison, swooping toward him. Terrified, Brian lay on his belly, unsure how to combat them.

A solid form burst out of the bushes. A large dog stood over Brian, growling and barking. It took a moment for him to realize that the wraiths halted. Some tried to go a step or two further, but the dog renewed its attack. One by one the ghosts dispersed, melting into the fog once more.he thought he saw cover resized 2

Brian let his breath out slowly. The animal stood over him, but moved aside as he sat up. It was the biggest dog Brian had ever seen, broad through the chest with powerful legs and a ridge of hair down his spine. It looked silver in the moonlight.

Curious, Brian reached slowly toward it, hand out, palm up. The beast’s tongue flicked out, licking his cheek. Her warm breath convinced the boy that the dog was alive and real. She slurped him again, butting his hand so he’d pet her. Laughing, he complied.

“Where did you come from, girl?” Predictably, he got no reply. “Never mind, I’m just glad you’re here.”

He got up, dusting himself off. Leaves stuck to his body, mud caked every inch of him. Twigs and more leaves adorned his closely cropped hair. Getting his bearings, he headed toward home once more. The dog walked with him, her head under his hand. Her tongue lolled and she looked as if she were laughing at his appearance.

“You take a header into a mud puddle and see how good you look.”

The dog barked gleefully. She dashed ahead, sniffed and snorted, before trotting back to his side. She stayed with him until they reached his home. With a yip, she left him, drifting into the woods. The front door banged shut with a comforting thump behind him. Heaving a sigh of relief, Brian locked and bolted the door. He leaned against it, panting. His hands shook and he felt light headed. His heart thumped so hard in his chest, he could hear it in his ears.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

 

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter G – Goin’ Down

ABC ChallengeA few years ago, I participated in the Iron Writer’s Challenge. For those of you not familiar with it, five authors have five days to write a short piece using four random elements. The elements for our challenge were Atlantis, Flying Electric Bike, Dopplegangers and a random black and white TV show. This is what I wrote.

Wil sat on his flying electric bike, staring at the sapphire depths of the ocean. Somewhere, beneath the surface, lay their objective. Revving his engine, he prepared for the drop into the icy waters of the abyssal plain.

The rest of the platoon hovered around him, dressed in deep sea gear, multiple dopplegangers, waiting for the signal to jettison into oblivion.

It was strange to be on Old Earth. Stranger still was the Galactic Marine Corps’ interest in the place. Virtually abandoned 200 years ago, Earth had been reclaimed by nature. The few humans who remained were savages, wielders of crude weapons, hardly worthy adversaries. But something else lurked in the ocean—beings of half forgotten legends.

How they had come to the attention of the Marines, Wil didn’t know. He and his platoon were here to contain any possible threat before it could advance.

A voice crackled in his ear. “Ready, Sergeant?”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Commence drop in five – four – three. . . .”

The door opened at their feet and 32 cycles zipped down the ramp, making the 2,000 foot drop to the surface. Hovering over the waves, they were surrounded by force shields to keep the cold and pressure at bay. Still experimental, the shields were supposed to be impenetrable. Wil had his doubts.

Wil accessed the battle plans, projecting them to his platoon. The dive initiated on his command. Thirty-two cycles sliced into the water. Down they dropped, rapidly nearing their goal. Less than a hundred meters from their objective, Wil’s electrical system glitched. Instead of the detailed battle plans, he saw flickering images of an old black and white TV show. His visor was filled with a banner proclaiming “The Adventures of Superpup”. It was gone just as suddenly.

“You see that, Sarge?”

“Sure did.” Wil tapped his helmet and the battle plans filled his visor once more.

Something else caught his attention, far below and to his left. Raising a hand, he called a halt. Black as night, the water undulated around them. Wil’s raised fist was invisible, but the HALT message flashing inside their helmets, was not.

“What is that?” The same voice filled his ears.

“I’d say, that’s our goal, Corporal.”

With rapid movements, Wil and his corporal deployed the team. On his mark, they descended, surrounding an opalescent dome. As the bikes approached, a panel slid back and they were sucked in, unable to stop. They bounced around a huge tube, the suction drawing them inexorably forward.

A few minutes later, they were set down on a platform. The water drained away, leaving scattered puddles. They faced a 20 foot door, which opened slowly. A giant of a man dressed in scintillating blue robes walked out, smiling. His skin was indigo, his hair white. He held a metallic staff in one hand. The top was decorated with a single, multi-faceted diamond. He advanced to stand before Wil, bowing.

“Welcome, my friends. Welcome to Atlantis.”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

 

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter F – Finally Finished That Novel!

ABC ChallengeSo, you’ve finished that four hundred and sixty page novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scraped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.

Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. When I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. Very few of the others are historical in nature, the rest are sci-fi or contemporary romantic suspense. With that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact. It took years to finish Indian Summer because it was so hard to find the information I needed.

Sci-fi is far simpler for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far more fun than working within the confines of someone else’s.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending.

Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important.

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still hard to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and may be able to offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause far more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a Godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

 

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter E – Emma Dangerous

Today, I want to share a story that’s more serious than some of my others. This story is about a young woman named Emma who has been sexually abused by her father since she was ten years old. As a result, she has some serious emotional and drug related problems. If such issues bother you, please wait until next week. I promise to keep it light. This is the first scene from the book.

ABC ChallengeThe Rob Zombie song slammed into his brain as his eyes tried to discern shapes through the drug induced haze. His head felt like it was full of molten lava threatening to erupt through his mouth any second. He was looking for something—no someone. That’s why he came, stayed, overdid it—again.

Sammy stopped the slow, shuffling walk, leaning against the wall. Stumbling forward, he fell over downed bodies. He pawed at them before painfully levering himself upward. With a flash of recognition, he realized he had inadvertently found the person he sought.

“Emma.” He nudged her, but she didn’t respond. “Em?”

Fear gripped him as he searched for her pulse. It was slow but steady. She was only half dressed, the clothing on her lower body gone. The smell of sex lingered around her and he groaned.

“Not again, Emma. We can’t go through this again, babe. When are you gonna admit, you’ve got a problem?” I’ve got a problem too, he thought. Maybe he said it out loud. He didn’t know anymore.

Sam stood, his legs shaking, then bent over to pick her up. How many times had he done this? How many more times would he have to before she learned her lesson? Would one of them have to die for the other to get the idea that what they did was self-destructive and stupid?

“Come on, baby.”

He lifted again, his feet slipping in something. He didn’t have to look to know that it was vomit. Emma’s breath smelled vile and he knew it was hers.

“Come on,” he said again as he more or less got her to her feet.

Her top was long enough to cover the fact that her lower half was bare. Making her as presentable as he could, not that anyone would notice or care, he half carried her to the door. When they hit the outside, it was raining. It was the cold, bone chilling rain of mid-winter. He used to love the rain, but too many mornings waking in the front yard in a thunderstorm had cured him. Or maybe it was the many nights leaving parties in weather like this, he reminded himself.

“Why do we do this, Emma? We swore we’d give it up.” I did, you didn’t. Like all her promises—broken.

Had she ever kept a single promise to him? That thought kept him going as he struggled down the steep incline of the driveway. His car was parked hurriedly, nose first in the ditch. He hadn’t realized what a sharp angle he was at. The door wouldn’t stay open. Getting her in the car was going to be difficult.

Sammy set Emma down on the wet ground. She was soaked already, a couple more minutes wouldn’t make any difference. She giggled as the cold, wet ground embraced her. He backed his car into the road, leaving it running as he put her in the back seat. Driving carefully, he headed to the hospital. How often had he made this trip with her? So often that he didn’t have to explain to the ER personnel anymore. They knew the drill.

He sat in the uncomfortable waiting room chair as the orderly wheeled Emma to the back on a gurney. Head on hands, propped on knees, he hunched over. Tears warmed his cheeks as he waited for the news. It was never quite as bad as he anticipated—he could hope the same held this time. Prayer didn’t come easily to a boy like Sammy, but he tried for Emma’s sake.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

 

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter D – Driving with the Top Down

It was a lovely, sunny day in early spring of 1976. I gazed out my window with a smile, glad that the air was a balmy 50 degrees, the vast expanse of the west Nebraska sky was blue, the wind was blowing, the snow had melted. Perfect day for a drive!

The Christmas break of 1975 had been pretty grim and gloomy, sporting the worst blizzard in nearly a century. We laughingly called it Bi-Centennial Blizzard and teased one another that we were reenacting Valley Forge as we tromped around town. Cars were iced in, roads impassible, people were going to work on cross country skis. I couldn’t remember a time I had been so cold!

But today it was officially over. The weather man said it was supposed to be warm and sunny all week. Since it was Saturday morning, my friends and I decided to go for a drive. Jeff had a convertible and could be persuaded to go for a long drive given the right incentive of gas money and a Pepsi. Ever the instigator, I gave him a call.

“Jeff, hi!”

“Hi! What’s up?”

“Not a lot. I was thinking it’s such a pretty day, why don’t we get some people and go for a ride.”

“I don’t have any gas.”

“We’ll take a collection and buy some.”

He wiffled and waffled a moment, then agreed. It helped that he liked me. I could usually get what I wanted with very little effort. What I wanted was to go for a ride in his rattletrap old convertible with the top down. The car would now be considered a classic. Back then, it was a dented up old piece of crap Pontiac with faded paint and no air conditioning.

Fifteen minutes later, Jeff pulled up at my house. I said goodbye to my mother and dashed out the door with my jacket, scarf, warm hat and mittens. It might be warm standing in the sun, but riding in a convertible in 50 degree weather got cold!

Jeff’s best friend, Danny, was sitting up front. He got out and gallantly let me slide in the middle. That was another condition. I had to sit next to Jeff. We made three more stops picking up other people to go for a ride. We pooled our money, filled Jeff’s gas tank, bought him a can of Pepsi and took off to the lake about 30 miles away.

Part of the fun of driving with the top down was how many people we managed to fit into that crummy old tank of a car. Three of us up front, four in the back and three who sat on back of the back seat. Once the top was down, it formed sort of a semi-circle of metal and heavy fabric, or maybe it was vinyl. Only the very brave sat there because going sixty down a back country highway in a convertible isn’t the safest thing in the world. If our mothers had only seen us!

Once we got out of the city limits, Jeff shoved his Black Sabbath “Paranoid” tape in the tape deck. He cranked up “Iron Man” and took off. We made the drive to the lake, looped around it and headed back to town. Our celebration of spring was almost complete. The last stop was the Dairy Queen where we all sat down and had a tall, frosty glass of limeade. Nothing like freezing yourself inside and out!

I never will know why the cops didn’t stop us for doing something so dangerous and so incredibly dumb! I guess it was the luck of the insane. That may have been quite a few years ago, but I will never forget driving with the top down.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter C – Conduct Unbecoming

ABC ChallengeConduct Unbecoming is the second Teague McMurtry Mystery. A year has passed since the frightening events of The Ninja Tattoo. Teague gets a call from an old girlfriend, Aileen. She asks him to look for their friend, Nadeya, who has disappeared. Teague begins his search with the help of his friend, Jasper Waters. By strange twist of fate, Jasper finds Nadeya first.

As he approached the door, he prayed for inspiration. It was going to take some fast talking for Nadeya not to freak out and kill him. He raised his hand to knock. Rethinking his position, he moved so he wasn’t standing directly in front of the door, but slightly to the side so the thick, log wall protected him. He tapped lightly and waited for a response. The curtain over the tiny window moved aside imperceptibly. Only someone trained to be observant would have seen it.

Jasper faced the window and smiled. “I’m Jasper Waters,” he said quietly. “I’m a friend of Teague’s. You hid on my boat.”

The door opened a crack and one dark, wary eye peered at him. “I remember you. What?”

“May I come in? The skeeters are pretty nasty and they’re feasting on me.”

Nadeya took a step back, leaving barely enough room for Jasper to squeeze through. She shut the door with her foot and slammed him against the wall, one hand pulled up at an uncomfortable angle behind him. She did a thorough frisking of him, leaving no areas untouched, before letting him go. She stepped out of easy reach, eyeing him with a neutral expression.

“I just want to talk,” Jasper said, holding his hands slightly from his sides.

“You’re a cop. Why should I talk to you?”

“Because I don’t think you killed that man on the beach. We’re both friends of Teague’s, maybe we could build on that.”

“Teague has lots of friends. . . .”

“No, Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us he calls friends. You’re one of them—He told me what happened to your fiancé.”

She tightened up. Jasper took a step back, raising his hands.

“Would he share that with just anyone?”

Nadeya’s lower lip trembled slightly and she blinked hard. Jasper caught the hint of a tear in her eyes.

“He wouldn’t unless he knew I would help. You think I drop what I’m doing and run everyone out to a crime scene just cause I’m nice? Teague and I trust each other and I’d like to extend that courtesy to you, if you’ll let me.”

She stared at him several minutes, sizing him up. She gestured to one of the two chairs near the window. “Want some water or instant coffee? It’s all I’ve got.”

“Water would be good, thanks.” Jasper sat.

Nadeya got two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge and tossed him one. Jasper caught it with a grin. His left hand gripped it as he twisted it open.

“Nicely done. Now you know I’m a lefty.”

Nadeya smirked. “And you’re not armed. I could have taken your head off.”

“Yup, but I trusted you wouldn’t. And I thank you for that.”

She nodded as she opened her own bottle. “So, you’re here, talk.”

Jasper told her what he and Teague had figured out about the man on the beach. He even told her about C.L.A.D.

“What do you know about that?” Nadeya leaned closer, whispering.conduct unbecoming front cover

“Bits and pieces, nothing concrete. What do you know?”

Nadeya looked furtive. “I shouldn’t tell you. We could get in a lot of trouble.”

Jasper held his hands out, palms up. “Who am I gonna tell? Except maybe Teague. Look, the more we know about this, the better. What do you say?”

She looked away, biting her lip. “I don’t know much more than you do. They intended it as a new interrogation technique. It’s supposed to be a way to reprogram people’s minds.”

“Like brain washing?”

“Kind of. More sophisticated, but still a way to break them. I know that someone else got ahold of it though. They were using it on us!” Anger flared in her eyes.

“Us—as in you personally?”

“No. But some of our soldiers. There was a captain I heard of, they tried to kill him off in a raid, but he took out everyone who attacked his convoy. They stole his memories and gave him a fucking medal.”

“Shit! How do you know about that?”

“The subject came up as they tortured my fiancé,” she mumbled.

“Oh, Nadeya, I’m sorry.”

“I know that. Next to Teague, you’re the only man I trust.”

Jasper exhaled sharply. “That’s quite a compliment. Thank you. I know you can’t possibly feel safe here. Would you like to come to my house?”

Her eyes grew hard. Jasper pressed his lips together, shaking his head.

“I’ve got a hell of a security system. Even you would have trouble sneaking through. I’ve got a couple acres around my place so I can see trouble coming and I’m armed better than Fort Knox. I’ve got a guest room with your name on it.”

Nadeya relaxed. “And leave this luxury accommodation?”

“I’ve got more to drink than water and instant coffee. I’ll even throw in breakfast.”

Nadeya’s smile was shaky. Taking a deep breath, she tried to smile again. Tears welled before she could stop them. She didn’t trust her voice, so she nodded.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Editing, An Author’s Nightmare

cropped-lone-wolf-cover-scanned-500-x-7501.jpgI’ve spoken to a lot of authors over the last six years of radio shows. Occasionally, I ask them which phase of writing is the most difficult for them. Almost unanimously, they say Editing. Beginning the edits on The Kahlea, Lone Wolf Book 4, I am in agreement. I detest editing.

I’m not talking about reading through and tweaking the manuscript, making a few minor changes here and there. I’m talking about finding flawed passages and having to rewrite them. Or realizing that an entire storyline needs to be renovated or completely cut out. These things are like Hydras. You think you have all the references to them eliminated, only to have another one raise its ugly head somewhere else.

The Kahlea, like the other Lone Wolf books, has a lot of sub-plots and I’m trying to consolidate some and get rid of others. Why are there so many? Good question. I blame my husband. He likes intricate plots with lots of sub-text and crap going on all over the place. He would read through and tell me things I needed to add. He said it like that, “You need to add something about (wild, unnecessary random shit).”

Being fairly new at writing, I believed him and followed his requests. Finally, when he got off on some other bizarre tangent, I put my down and said No, both loudly and clearly. (Mostly loudly, I admit).

Not everyone wants to know that and it slows down the story,” I explained.

But it would make a cool sub-plot.”Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]

What he still fails to realize that all these extra details require full explanation and resolution later in the book. It takes time and a lot of pages to do that properly. My daughter said something interesting the other day. She said when she gets to a part of a book that she finds boring, she skips it. She doesn’t care if she misses details, because she can usually pick up the thread of events later. She reads my sci-fi manuscripts for me and will skip scenes in them too. However, one thing she likes about my editing is that I will take those long, boring passages and get rid of them.

You don’t leave them in there to bore me. I like that about your books, Mom. They keep moving.” High praise from my busy, easily bored daughter.

This echoes my own feeling about books. I, too, have skipped boring parts. If something doesn’t catch my interest, or keep me in the moment, I’ll flip pages until my attention is engaged again. Sometimes it isn’t. Those books are set aside unfinished, and I’m okay with that. I know people who will keep reading a bad book because they don’t want to give up on it. I look at it this way, that’s hours of my life I won’t get back and couldn’t spend on something I liked. I’m the same way with movies and TV shows. If they fail to entertain, off they go.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]As I said above, I’m working on The Kahlea. It’s easier than the first three, because I knew more what I was doing, but it’s still full of those pesky sub-plots. Some of them get developed in later books, so I can’t get rid of them entirely, but others will go in the Outtakes folder.

In today’s reading, I came across this passage and I really like it. For those who haven’t read the other books (and what’s wrong with you? Get on that immediately!) I have an alien race called the Kindred. They are short and furry, highly advanced, intelligent creatures. Their spiritual leader is The High Elder. He’s blind, but still manages to kick serious ass. I absolutely love this guy. He’s annoyingly enigmatic at times—this being one such time. He’s talking to Dr. Stanley Savolopis, whom he regards as a son, even if he’s human. Stan is experiencing a rare moment of doubt, remembering a woman he’d loved and left over forty years ago.

Stan was many things, sentimental had never been one of them. Hard nosed, stubborn, callous, even cruel and uncaring; these were all terms which had been used to describe him. He could neither refute nor deny the description. He was all these things and more.

“She deserved a better man than me.”

A tingling touched his mind, like little fingers tickling his psyche. Turning around, he saw the High Elder standing behind and to his left, touching a crystalline ashtray on the desk. His hazy eyes riveted Stan’s, looking into his soul, although the Kindred man was blind.

“Is that what you believe of yourself, my son?”

“I don’t know, Great Father. Sometimes.”

“Why?”

Stan blinked, not at first knowing an answer, not a simple one anyway. “Many reasons. Everything I’ve done, I thought I was doing something good, noble, worthwhile, important. All I’ve done is pervert, annihilate, corrupt. . .” A flood of unfamiliar emotions welled in him—predominantly doubt.

“Never doubt yourself, my son. How often have you been told that?”

“More times than I can remember. My dad used to say that to me all the time.”

“Did you doubt him?”

“No.”

“Did he doubt you?”

“Never.” Stan paused. “What are you getting at exactly?”

“Exactly? Perhaps nothing. In general, a great deal. If you want specifics, then talk to someone else. I speak in generalities. It’s up to you to supply more.”

“I guess what you’re saying is if my dad believed in me, I should believe in myself?”

The High Elder smiled with a slight inclination of his head. “To ridicule yourself besmirches his memory.”

Stan’s father had died at fifty. He’d never even seen his son become a doctor. He’d labored far too hard all his life and had worked himself to death.

“I suppose you’re right.”

A chuckled thought followed Stan’s statement. “I’m always right, except when I’m not. But I don’t doubt myself. So I can never be completely wrong.”

© 2015 Dellani Oakesauthor dellani oakes banner in red from Christina

If you enjoyed this passage, I hope you’ll check out other books in the series. If sci-fi isn’t your style, I also have historical romance, retro romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

All my books are available from:

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter B – Bad Fall – An Excerpt

ABC ChallengeFrank Atherton is the assistant director at a huge nursing facility in Ohio. He’s having a pretty bad week after a man named Ralph Penwarren arrives. The only good thing to happen all week is meeting Marka Ventimiglia, a new psychiatrist who’s just started working at the facility. They are immediately attracted. Below is their first meeting.

“Be right there!” he called. He dropped his plate in the kitchen sink and went to the door. “What’s he done now?” he asked automatically as he opened it.

It wasn’t Sue or one of the other staff members. An attractive brunette stood there.

“I’m sorry? Who did what?”

“Oh, no one you’d know. Frank Atherton. I just saw you on TV.” He held out his hand after wiping it on his T-shirt.

She smiled. “Marka Ventimiglia. Nice to meet you. I feel really stupid asking, but yours is the only room with a light on. I took a chance that someone was up.”

He invited her in. She hesitated a moment, then followed him inside.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m embarrassed to ask. I’m staying in a guest room and I’m out of toilet paper.”

“Really? No spare?” he was puzzled by that. “The girls usually put it under the sink.”

He walked to his restroom. It was quite spacious, with a tub and a separate, walk-in shower. He opened the sink and didn’t find a spare paper under there. Checking all the cupboards, he came up empty.

“That’s weird. Gimme a second.” He dialed housekeeping but got no answer, so he dialed the front desk. “Sue, it’s Frank.”

“Hi, Frank. All’s quiet at the moment. Whatcha need?”

“Dr. Ventimiglia is with me and she hasn’t got a spare roll of toilet paper. Neither do I.”

“Oh, gosh. You want me to run some up there?”

“No, you don’t need to. Is Kathy around?”

“She should be. Shall I call her?”

“I just tried. I’ll call her again. Thanks.” He dialed the housekeeping office a second time. No one answered. Puzzled, he hung up.

“I’ll try later,” he told his guest. “Do you need some immediately?”

She looked slightly uncomfortable. “As a matter of fact….”

“Please, make yourself at home. There’s a nearly full roll.” He gestured to his restroom. “Want some coffee?”

“Love some. I’m a caffeine addict. I also drink a lot of water. Hence the urgency.” Marka closed the door behind her.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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