Sunshine and Rainbows

I had originally written this article for The Write Room blog, but some peculiarity of my e-mail caused it not to send. Since I was out of town and didn’t have access to it, I wrote something else related to this. I think both are equally good, though this goes into a bit more detail than the other. I finally found it and decided to share it with you here. I felt sharing it on my birthday was auspicious.~ Dellani

IMAG0076As you get older, you learn to appreciate the little things: a special party celebrating birthdays and Mother’s day, Potatoes Anna which comes out perfectly the first time you make it, a piece of music that makes you laugh or moves you to tears every time you hear it. These aren’t necessarily things you notice as a younger person, at least I didn’t.

Today, I’m one step closer to 60. I don’t mention this to brag, or complain, but to give you a bit of perspective. My mother turned 96 on September 14. She didn’t marry until she was 36, had my sister at 38 and didn’t have me until she was 40. Born two weeks premature, I was only 4 pounds and 5 ounces. Had it not been for the invention of the incubator, I probably would have died.

CAM00406But I digress. I want to talk about my mother. She absolutely amazes me. Born in 1919, her life has spanned the mass production of the automobile, a telephone in every home, electric appliances, man on the moon, Desegregation, motion pictures—with and without sound, and a movie star as president. Not to mention computers, cellphones and microwave ovens. She lived through the Great Depression, WWII, The Korean War, Vietnam and countless other conflicts. She’s seen 9 decades and a new century.

Mom grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and has many fascinating stories about it. The youngest of four children, she’s another miracle of modern medicine. As an infant, she developed an infection in both ears. The doctor did surgery and scraped the infection from the mastoid bones, leaving only a small scar behind each ear. By some amazing turn of luck, she didn’t lose her hearing as a result. In fact, like me, it was extra acute. I attribute my superior hearing to her genes.

At Western Reserve College, now Case – Western Reserve, she studied to be an elementary school teacher. She made a long cable car ride there and back, in all kinds of weather. Fairly often, she took a detour, if there was a good movie in town.

I don’t know how I passed my classes,” she admitted a few years ago. “I never went. I was always at the movies.”

This is another connection we share. I am a movie junkie, and it’s one of the reasons I write.

My mother taught elementary school for several years. Once, she had her class write letters to Laura Ingalls Wilder about how much they loved her books. She wrote back to them and my mother treasured her letter for years! I remember it neatly written by hand on lined paper. Mom eventually donated it to one of the Wilder museums.

By some chance, Mom and her older sister, found out about Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky, not far mom 1 croppedfrom Harlan. The school was in need of a bookkeeper and secretary. Though neither of them had any experience, or talent, they applied for the jobs and were hired. The big move from Ohio to Kentucky, big city to small mountain community, would have been quite a culture shock. Rather than being overwhelmed by it, they embraced the rustic setting with enthusiasm and started work. Eventually, Mom became a representative for the school and drove all over the country to present a slide show (with slides she’d taken herself) and talk about the school, asking for donations. She traveled alone all over the country, as far as Orlando, Florida and as far north as New York City—before interstate highways, by the way. She drove her blue Studebaker, which she named Bonnets So Blue, that she bought with her own money before she even knew how to drive it. One of the men at the school taught her how to drive and she took the test in her new car, impressing the fellow administering the test, with her skill.

My parents met, by quirk or fate, at the Harlan bus station. They were both there to drop off friends, and decided to chat over a cup of coffee, and were totally smitten. My father was unable to join the military, due to a heart murmur, so he had pursued his education instead. He was a brilliant man, thirsting for someone to talk to who had even a slight chance of understanding him. He found that in my mother. Though 10 years apart in age, they married November 5, 1955.

Even after they married, my mother continued to work at Pine Mountain, until they eventually moved to Tennessee, where my sister and I were born. They lived near his parents while he worked toward his Masters degree at University of Tennessee. When I was three, we lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while my father got his PdD at Harvard. Eventually landing his first teaching job in Lubbock, Texas, we moved again. With the same indomitable spirit, my mother made that long move from Massachusetts to Texas.

062I was always amazed by the way my mother could find a circle of friends wherever we lived. She kept in touch with people she knew from Cleveland, Pine Mountain, Cambridge, Lubbock, Scottsbluff and Hattiesburg sending out monthly letters via e-mail, until it became too much of an effort. She always loved to read, sharing her favorite books with my sister and me as we grew up. We spent hours learning to knit, crochet and sew while Mom read Little Women, House at Pooh Corner and Alice in Wonderland. It’s because of her strong influence early in my life, that I became enamored of the written word. Because I loved to read, I made the transition to writer and never looked back.

Mom’s eyesight has faded now. She can’t knit or crochet as she used to, nor can she read. She lives a quiet life in a nursing home not far from my sister. It wasn’t an easy decision putting her there, but neither my sister, nor I, have room or the means to have her at home with us. Since she’s in a wheelchair, it makes getting around difficult.

I have hardly touched on my mother’s incredible life. She’s done so much more than I have and she gave me so much. I know that my independent spirit and optimistic view of life is due to her. She never saw the gray clouds in life, she always saw the rays of sunshine and the rainbows.


Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter W – What Happened to the Cat?

ABC ChallengeMy husband is a detail oriented person. As a medical professional, he has to be. It amazes me, however, what details his analytical, scientific mind will latch onto when he reads my novels. He’ll read the entire story and start demanding clarification. Some of it I’ve thought of, other things I make up, glad of my improv experience, because I honestly hadn’t thought of it.

It’s not unusual for me to make up some BS answer out of thin air just to get him to quit asking. Sometimes, if the subject really interests him, he’ll expand on it to the point where I’d pay real money just to get him to shut up.

Often, these sessions are helpful, clarifying those nebulous ideas that I hadn’t fully considered. A typical exchange:

“Have you thought about insert random weird concept?” he asks me.

“The readers don’t need to know that,” I reply, somewhat miffed.

“But it’s interesting. You could….”

“Yes, maybe, but why? It’s not the least bit important. Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Ask about the most unimportant elements?”

“I don’t do that. Now, what about…?”

He’s gradually learning not to ask what I’m working on because ninety percent of the time it’s something I haven’t told him about. I shuffle projects and might work on a dozen different stories in a week. I love the fact that he’s interested, but I don’t always want to stop what I’m doing and explain what the book is about.

Once, in a weak moment, I told him about one of my unpublished novels where the psychotic ex-wife of the hero breaks into the heroine’s apartment, shaves her cat and duct tapes it to the hood of his car. Yes, it’s messed up, but the neighbors find the cat a short time later, call the police and take the cat to the vet. I mention in passing that the cat is at the vet’s and he’s fine. I read the passage to him, pleased with how well it came together.


“Someone broke into your place, Mandy.”

“My – what?”

Pale and shaking, she leaned against Derrick for support. He and Jasper helped her sit on the bench just inside the entry way.

“Why? What did they do in there?”

“They took your cat,” Jasper said quietly.

“What? Muse? Where is he? Is he okay?”

“Yeah. He’s okay. We sent him to the vet. Someone shaved him and taped him to the hood of Derrick’s car.”

“My car? Why the hell would they do that?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

Apparently, there wasn’t enough information for my husband. “What happened to the cat?” He asked when I got to the end of my explanation.

“What? Which cat?”

“Amanda’s cat, Muse. What happened to him?”

“He’s at the vet’s. I said that. He’s fine.”

“But you don’t mention him again.”

“So? You don’t even like cats. Why are you worried about the cat?”

“I was curious.”

“Forget the cat. He’s fine!”

“Whatever you say, baby.” There’s a long pause, to the point where I’m busy again and have forgotten about the conversation. “You really need to clear that up.”

“Clear what up?”

“The part about the cat….”

The point I’m making is that little details, things we forget about or think are inconsequential, can bother our readers if left unresolved. My husband, who positively loathes cats, was worried about Muse to the point that it detracted from the climax of the story. So I gave him a little more to help satisfy him

When Amanda opened the cat carrier door, Muse came out. He looked hopelessly thin in his shaven state, but rubbed against Derrick as happily as ever. Amanda looked inside the carrier.

“Where’s your friend?” she asked Muse.

The cat, as if he understood her, went to his carrier, nosing at the door, mewing softly. An answering mew came from inside the carrier.

“He made a friend at the vet’s. They were both traumatized and the little one latched onto Muse. He comforted her, wasn’t that sweet?”

She reached into the carrier, gently pulling out a small, scrawny white cat with blue eyes.

“She’s beautiful, Amanda. What did you name her?”

“Aphrodite. I couldn’t resist.”

Muse hopped into Derrick’s lap as he lounged on the couch with Amanda snuggled next to him. Aphrodite leaped prettily into her lap, turned three times and settled into a comfortable mound of white fur.

I’m not suggesting that every reader is quite so easily misdirected as my husband, but some are. Those are the people we have to satisfy by tying up the loose ends. Make sure the subplots are resolved. Give enough of an explanation that it sticks with the reader. Keep distractions to a minimum so that the thread of the story isn’t lost along the way. A few moments spent on housekeeping will prevent the inevitable question: “What happened to the cat?”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter V – Velda, Vivica, Victoria, Viktor

ABC ChallengeI like unusual names for my characters. Yes, I have typical things like Jack, John, Joseph or James, but I like interesting names like Velda, Vivica Victoria and Viktor.

I’ve noticed over the years, I tend to favor certain letters for character names. The numbers below only include the main characters, or strong support characters, not the entire cast and crew of each story. It would take too much time to go through the lists, and I’m not quite that OCD.

A – 17 (2 Amanda)

B – 14 (2 Barry, 3 Ben)

C – 28 (2 Cynthia, 2 Clay)

D – 23 (2 Deacon, 2 Drew)

E – 13 (2 Emma)

F – 6 (2 Fritz, 2 Frank. The only holdouts on the repeat are the 2 girls.)

G – 10 (2 Greg)

H – 8 (2 Hal)

I – 2

J – 19 (2 Jasper, 2 Jason, 2 Jeffrey)

K – 14 (2 Kirk)

L – 10

M – 31 (2 Michael)

N – 5

O – 4

P – 6 (2 Paige, 2 Patricia)

Q – 1

R – 20

S – 20

T – 16 (4 Tom)

U – 0

V – 5

W – 4

X, Y – 0

Z – 4

I found these numbers a little surprising (Except for M, I knew I had a lot of those) What I find really interesting is that of 6 P names, I have 2 Paige and 2 Patricia. Of the F names, Fritz and Frank are very popular for some reason. I’m really not sure why. Four Toms seems excessive. I may need to go back and change a few names around.

Once a name has been given, I have a difficult time changing it. If it’s a minor character, it’s no big thing. However, with a main character, it becomes a part of him or her. I don’t think I could change their names. I have tried, but it doesn’t feel right.

I do have to be careful with minor character names. I once had a story where my characters met two guys named Mickey. That, of itself, isn’t all that unusual. I mean, think how many guys you know named Mike or Mickey—a lot, right? But not only had I given them the same name, they were brothers. Uh. . . No. I do know a family where the boys are named John and the girls are all Mary, with different middle names. But how often does that happen? (By the way, the parents were John and Mary as well. Always seemed egotistical to me.)

I was a little surprised that I had so many Z names. Likewise, W and V. I shall strive to stay away from M names from now on, but I have a feeling that I will probably keep coming back to that. I am nothing, if not consistent.

(This has been edited since its original posting. I started a few more books, finishing one, between when this was written and when I posted it. I have updated the numbers to reflect the new characters.)

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter U – Under the Western Sky and Undiscovered

ABC ChallengeI have two books that begin with the letter U and I couldn’t choose between them, so I’m going to talk briefly about them both. The only thing that these books have in common is that they are both romantic suspense, and they both begin with U. Other than that, there are no similarities at all.

Under the Western Sky is what I call a retro-romantic suspense, set in Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 5001976 in Western Nebraska. Set in an uncertain time, shortly after a major FBI snafu at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, racial tensions are high. Libby Marshall and Bobby Menendez have just started dating. Her friend, Toni, is seeing Bobby’s cousin Ramon. One night on his way home, Ramon is caught and beaten by a bunch of white boys. Though he lives through the beating, he is seriously injured.

Unfortunately, Bobby runs afoul of the same group, only this time they’re armed with guns, not baseball bats. With the skills his father taught him, Bobby is able to fight back, but now he and his family are marked for death. With the help of some friends, they take flight into a very uncertain future.

Undiscovered by Dellani Oakes - 500Undiscovered is a contemporary romantic suspense, set in Florida. It was my NaNoWriMo novel for 2010. It was inspired by a dream a friend of mine, Micky Hoffman told me about. She gave me permission to use it as the basis of the story.

Someone wants movie mogul Kent Griswald dead. Although the first attempt is unsuccessful, soon the killer catches up with him. It’s up to Detectives Walter Scott and Vanessa Weinstein to make sense of the clues and find the killer before he can strike again.

Cadence Stuart is their only witness and it’s up to Walter and Vanessa to keep her safe. Unfortunately, Walter finds himself falling for his witness. Knowing their involvement could jeopardize the case, the two try to maintain a professional distance, but being thrown together by circumstance makes it increasingly difficult.

Although these stories have nothing in common, except for the U in the title, they are both books I’m very proud of. Oh, and they were both published by Tirgearr Publishing.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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One Night in Daytona – Coming Soon!

100_0507I’m pleased to announce that I have a new book coming out in October, from Tirgearr Publishing. One Night in Daytona is part of the amazing erotic romance series, City Nights. Below is an excerpt from the first few pages of the book. I hope you’ll look for One Night in Daytona, coming October 28. I will keep you posted on pre-orders. Meanwhile, enjoy the teaser below.

Long, dangerous legs, an ass that wouldn’t quit, lush curves clad in skimpy black leather, flaming red hair wafted on the breeze while the rumble of a thousand Harleys filled the air. He couldn’t draw his eyes from the gorgeous redhead, whose hair reminded him of the flames on the side of his bike. Heavy metal music thrummed from gigantic speakers, banging and echoing from the sides of the nearby condos. Cameras snapped, his included, as she draped herself over the motorcycles being raffled off for charity. The line to register wound around the parking lot.

“I’d like to rev her engine,” one man said as he stuffed his tickets into his wallet.

“Full throttle,” the man next to him laughed loudly at their joke.

Every man there was thinking the same thing, which was the entire point of having a sexy, long legged woman straddling the chrome studded leather seat. Leaning on the handle bars, she rocked back, her chest to the sky as she arched her spine. With a quick swing of her legs, she did a shoulder stand on the seat, then lowered her feet with agonizing slowness so that the toes of her high heeled boots pointed directly at the patch of stretched black leather between her thighs.

Draven nearly dropped his phone. The man next to him let his cup of beer slide from his numb fingers. Every man in the line eyed her with fascination. Though disgusted with the behavior of the men, the women couldn’t help but stare too. They were amazed that anyone could do such antics on a motorcycle. The music continued to thrum and pound at them as they watched her routine. In a fleeting moment of coherence, Draven recognized it as Killing Strangers by Marilyn Manson. She was certainly slaying every man in the place with her sexy routine.

“Hey, buddy, your turn!” the man at the cash register called, snapping his fingers.

Draven stumbled forward, his legs having lost the ability to move without conscious thought. He fumbled with his wallet and phone, trying to slide one out and the other into the pockets of suddenly too-tight jeans.

“How many?” the man asked, all business.

“Um, how much are they?”

“Hundred a piece.”

“You take plastic?”

“Everything but American Express.”

“I’ll take five.”

“You got it.” He filled out Draven’s details, rang up the cost and scanned his plastic.

“Does the girl come with it?” the man behind Draven asked. He was old and fat, not the kind of man a girl like her would even look at once. His words might have been said in jest, but coming from his slobby, heavy jowled mouth, it was seriously pervy. The men behind the table and near him in line, gaped at him, horrified.

“That young lady is my daughter,” the man who handled Draven’s transaction growled. “So you watch what you say.”

“How’s a man let his daughter act like a hoor in public,” the fat man yelled, slamming a meaty fist down on the table.

Startled by the noise, the girl lost her balance as she rolled out of the shoulder stand. Toppling, she fell. Draven leaped toward her, covering the ten feet to the cycles, in a superhuman rush. He steadied her, helping her sit up slowly. Getting a good look at her face, he felt a spark of recognition.

“Jamie Humphrey?” He touched her cheek, brushing her hair from the corner of her full, red lips.

“Draven Wick? Oh, my God! Is it really you?” She clung to him, hugging him tightly. “How many years has it been? Ten?”

“About that. God, you look fantastic!”

100_0499Clasping his face, she gazed into his golden hazel eyes. “Thank you for catching me.”

“You’re welcome. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

Others had gathered around, watching the scene unfold. When it became apparent that the woman wasn’t hurt, the men at the desk went back to selling tickets.

“That’s not really your dad,” Draven murmured.

“Of course not. He just says that so that men will leave me alone.”

“How about fair time for the women?” a heavyset woman called from the line. “Let’s see the hunk take his shirt off!” she whooped.

Women all over the parking lot cheered and whistled. Draven cast a saucy look at Jamie. The music had changed once more, pounding out Closer by Nine Inch Nails—the unedited version, he noted with a grin. Grabbing the bottom of his shirt, he raised it with agonizing slowness as his hips gyrated to the sexy music. Jamie played it up, running her hands under the shirt, rubbing his abs and tugging on the cloth with her teeth.

More cameras snapped and the women yelled loudly, screaming at him to take it all off. As he did a lecherous bump and grind, Draven strutted around the bike. Between the two cycles, he twirled his shirt, straddling it. Riding it like a hot woman, he continued to dance. Jamie hopped up, standing behind him, she ran her hands up and down his tight abs and hard thighs. Spinning to face her, Draven roped Jamie with his shirt, pulling her close to dirty dance with him. The song ended and he spun her under his arm, dropping her into a low dip, her back arched, breasts high. Red hair tickled the pavement as he raised her with one arm. Faces mere inches apart, they tried to catch their breath. It took some time before they realized that the line was now three times what it had been. Women ringed around them, waving money at Draven.

“You grew up nice, Wick,” Jamie said, taking a step back. Her hand drifted down his chest to the top of his jeans. Eyes wide with delight, she dangled her fingers by his zipper. With tantalizing deliberateness, she touched the fabric that strained across his throbbing member.

“You keep that up, I can’t be responsible,” he whispered.

“You keep that up, I can’t be either,” she replied.

“I really wanna kiss you, Jamie.”

“On the bike,” she suggested. “I get paid a percentage of what they bring in.”

Laughing, he picked her up, putting her on the motorcycle, facing the rear, straddling the engine. Draven took his time swinging one long, muscular, jean-clad leg over the seat. Scooting him forward with her feet, Jamie wrapped her legs around his waist. Laying her back, Draven teased and coaxed her mouth, his tongue tickling her lips. With a decisive lunge, he raised his body, grasped the handlebars and kissed her. Until that moment, Jamie had thought his antics were all for show. A consummate performer, he knew how to work a crowd. But that kiss wasn’t pretending and the rock hard bad boy in his pants wasn’t a prop.

He didn’t linger over the kiss. His timing was, as always, superb. Leaning back, Draven swung his leg off the cycle, standing in one fluid motion as he held out his hand to her. The crowd went wild. The men at the table had to scramble to accommodate the line, bringing in extra help.

Draven stood near Jamie, hoping to kiss her again. Instead, everyone wanted pictures with them and the bikes. Most of them gave tips, some wanted autographs. They all wanted them to kiss. Draven worked the crowd, giving them just enough to keep them asking for more.

“Do you think any of them recognize you?” Jamie asked, her smile toothy and wide.

“Doubt it. I’m out of context.”

“Won’t they shit when they figure it out?”

He chuckled, kissing her cheek by request. “Right in their pants. You smell amazing,” he said, nuzzling her neck all on his own.

A dozen cameras clicked.

“I’ve missed you, Jamie.”

Shivering, she held his face as directed, giving him a kiss. “Me, too.”

“Seeing anyone?”

“Not really.”

They straddled the bike again, with her in front, holding the handlebars. His long, sinewy thighs clenched against hers from behind.

“Is that a yes or no? I don’t speak Biker Babe anymore.”

“No one steady.”

“Does he think that?”

Jamie blushed, turning her head to look at him. “Why all the questions, Wick? Got some burning desire to know all my secrets?”

Draven nibbled her neck, cheating the angle a little, so he was still camera ready. “I’ve got a burning desire, Humphrey, but it isn’t about your secrets.”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

Dellani’s Tirgearr Page


Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter T – That’s So Cliche

ABC ChallengeThere are “conventions” in writing. No, I don’t mean the great big gatherings of authors & their fans, though these are also conventions. What I mean are the things you MUST NOT DO if you want to be an author.

I’d love to know who decides these things. Who set the rules in the first damn place? My theory is that a bunch of frustrated, would-be writers got together and decided that they would set standards in order to hamper the creativity of others. Level the field by making it harder for the competition. Well played.

Grant you, there are some conventions that are valid. (I can’t think of any right now, but give me a little while. I’m sure there are some.) One standard that has some validity is the use of clichés. Not familiar with the word? I could give you a big, long dictionary definition, but why bother? A cliché is a phrase that’s over used. Tried and true. True blue. Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. You get the idea.

As a general rule, it’s good to avoid these hackneyed phrases. They make your work look cheap and unloved. My father would have said, “Like a whore at breakfast.” That was one of his favorite clichés.

Sometimes, it’s all right to use one. When?

Dialogue. Think about it for a moment. They are as common as the day is long. There are as many different clichés as there are hairs on your head. People think and speak in clichés all the time. There are variations depending upon geographic location. Obviously, English doesn’t corner the market on trite language.

Because people think and speak in clichés, avoiding them in dialogue can make the words sound stilted. Not every character will use them. Not every book lends itself to them. In these cases, the clear choice is not to use them.

Don’t be afraid to use a cliché from time to time. It’s okay—really! Tell your story the way it needs to be told. Have your characters speak in a believable fashion. Too often, we are afraid to break the mold and think outside the box. It’s not a crime. What are they going to do? Send the Grammar Police? I don’t think they have jurisdiction over clichés. Sorry. No arrests shall be made today.

As with anything, use clichés sparingly. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter S – Shakazhan

ABC ChallengeShakazhan is book 2 in my Lone Wolf Series. Having traveled out of the known galaxy into another that doesn’t even remotely resemble their own, the crews of Hannibal and Flotilla are orbiting the mystical and legendary planet Iyundo, when it something goes horribly wrong.

Hannibal 1350 GMT

Ben sat in his ready room, feet on the desk, cap over his eyes. Something woke him and he stood quickly, fully alert, listening. Had someone called his name? Suddenly, he grew dizzy. The walls swirled together, the floor gaped threatening to drag him under and he felt a great sweep of fear as if a million voices had suddenly cried out in terror!

Vertigo overcame him and he dropped to the floor on his hands and knees, gagging and vomiting. His vision cleared and his ears stopped ringing. Small cleaning bots scuttled around him, vacuuming up the mess. His door buzzed insistently. Calling feebly, he allowed entry.

His eyes flickered open and he saw the worried and bewildered face of Ray Schmidt. “Ben? You look like hell, buddy, what’s wrong? I heard you yell and then nothing.”Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]

Ben saw two Rays for a moment, then realized it was Ray and Aisulov’s personal physician standing over him. Dr. Stan looked even more concerned than Ray, something Ben didn’t think was possible. He tried to sit up. A fresh wave of nausea gripped him, threatening to cut loose.

“I’m fine, really I am.”

Ray pushed him none too gently back onto the floor. “Like hell you are. Do you realize it’s been ten minutes since I walked in here and you’ve been out cold the entire time? Ben, what the hell is going on?”

Ben tried to speak, but his voice caught in his throat. The doctor handed him a glass of cool water. He sipped with caution, fearing another vomiting episode. However, it didn’t seem to disagree with him, so he drank a bit more, very slowly.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]“Kind of hard to explain.”


Ray looked annoyed. He always looked like that when he was worried. God knows, over the years, Ben had been the cause often enough.

Ben started to nod, then decided not to. He hesitated, wondering the best way to describe what had happened. Slowly and with many pauses for questions, he told Ray and Dr. Stan what had transpired. Ray’s frown deepened and the doctor looked more placid. Ben knew that look too. Stan always looked like that when he was about to diagnose. He let Ben finish.

“That explains a lot.” Stan stood, head tilted sideways, arms crossed in front of his chest.

“A lot of what?”

“Explains why I had over thirty people fall down in a dead faint about the time you collapsed up here. Some sort of psychic upheaval has taken place. I’m guessing on planet, but can’t confirm it, of course, without a report from the landing party. Some heavy shit is going down, Ben. I’ll be back.” He turned on his heel, trotting for the door.

“Where are you going, Stan?” Ray sounded angry.cropped-lone-wolf-cover-scanned-500-x-7501.jpg

“Going to cross reference the files of the people who collapsed. See how many of them tested positive for psyonics,” he called the last as he ran down the corridor to Medical.

“I was coming to tell you something when all this went down.” Ray hesitated, not knowing quite how to proceed.

“What, Ray? I haven’t seen you look this worried since we got hit in the jungle on Viotempe.”

Ray bit his thumb, frowning deeply. Not one for diplomacy, he couldn’t find a sugar coated way to explain. “I don’t know what happened or how, Ben. The entire planet disappeared.”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter R – Road Trip!

ABC ChallengeWhen I was a child, we traveled a lot. Sometimes, we were moving, other times we were taking road trips. Since my family consistently lived far away from everyone else, we were the ones who hit the road every summer for our family vacation. My father didn’t enjoy making the extended trip, so my mother, sister and I hit the road.

Since we lived in western Nebraska and the family units lived in Tennessee and Ohio, we’d head east. We were able to save money on accommodations by staying with friends along the way. My mother was a sensational planner and would plot out our trip carefully. My sister and I, when we got old enough, acted as navigators—a job I eventually took over, because it was apparent fairly early on that my sister couldn’t read a road map to save all our lives.

Mom liked to try new routes and was always looking for back roads and shortcuts. She had a strong sense of adventure and wasn’t averse to going new places, enjoying the challenge of finding the way. Unfortunately, shortcuts aren’t always good. We found that out when traveling through Colorado when I was a teenager. We were on our way to pick up my friend, Charlotte, who was visiting her grandparents somewhere in eastern Colorado. From there, we were going to Boulder, Colorado to a folk dance camp on Lookout Mountain.

With great excitement, we packed up the Plymouth and struck out to the great unknown. We’d never been to this particular part of Colorado and we were all excited. Mom had pored over maps and atlases, trying to find the perfect route to Charlotte’s. She was sure she’d discovered the greatest shortcut possible, and so it seemed, until the lovely road petered out and we were stuck on some back country dirt road.

Colorado means “red” and we discovered very soon why the state bore this name. We didn’t know it had rained a day or two before—heavily. We also didn’t realize that although the red clay soil of Colorado LOOKED all right, looks could be deceiving. It was fine for a few miles, but Murphy’s Law kicked in when we were literally in the middle or nowhere. I’ve never seen so much nothing in my life!

We noticed the car was a little sluggish, not holding the road as it should. Suddenly, we were mired in nearly a foot of red mud! We couldn’t even get out of the car. The mud had us trapped. I was thinking of climbing out a window, which my mother put a stop to immediately, when we saw a tractor about a ¼ mile away. This part of Colorado was nearly as flat as Nebraska, so we were sure he could see us. We honked and waved to get the farmer’s attention.

He rumbled over a few minutes later, grinning. “You all got stuck, did ya?”

My mother explained what happened. It was from this fine man that we learned about the rain.

It’s okay, ma’am. We’ll get ya out!”

There were no other people with him. By we, he meant him and his tractor. He put a chain on us and hitched our car to the tractor. Mom put the car in gear and gunned the motor. With a little fiddling about, and lots of flying mud, we were free once more! The kind farmer went with us for a few miles until the pavement began again. He wouldn’t accept any money for helping us, merely grinned and tipped his hat. I got the feeling we’d really made his day.

The rest of the trip to pick up Charlotte, was quiet and uneventful, but my mom sat down with her grandfather and made sure she asked him what the best route to Boulder was. We made it to Lighted Lantern Folk Dance Camp without further incident, but we were shedding chucks of red mud for nearly a month after that.

We’ve had a lot of fun on our road trips, but that was the only time we ever brought the road home with us.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter Q – Questions for Authors Like Me

ABC ChallengeWhy do you write?

I dunno. Why do you breathe?

There are a lot of questions authors don’t like being asked. Why? Because we don’t always have a satisfactory answer. At least, it’s not satisfactory for the person asking the question. To us, it makes perfect sense. I’ve been asked the above question and, at the time, couldn’t really see giving the answer I first thought of (my response, also above). It didn’t seem quite the thing. So I came up with something a little better. Next time I’m asked, I’ll use it.conduct unbecoming front cover

Why do I write? Because I can’t imagine myself not writing. I can’t even think of giving it up. It’s as much a part of me as breathing. If you can stop breathing and survive, I’ll stop writing.

Where do your ideas come from?


Here’s another hard one. I can get an idea from a TV commercial, a movie, a song, a random conversation in the grocery store. I’ve even been inspired by a mud puddle. Sometimes, I get inspiration from a wild thing that happens – for example, the motorcycle convoy in The Ninja Tattoo. That was inspired by something that really happened to indian summerme. Inspiration is a tricky beast. It can creep up on an author and leave him/ her scrounging for paper and a pen in order to write it down before it escapes.

How’s your book coming?

Which one?

Some authors, like me, work on more than one book at a time. I have a very schizo muse. She hops around from story to story. Once in awhile, she allows me to finish, but mostly she keeps feeding me new ideas and doesn’t allow me to complete them. I don’t know if she’s crazy or simply sadistic. I have more stories than I know what to do with. Yes, I’ve finished some, but others, no.414BKu5bOdL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-62,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

So when a well meaning, non-author, friend asks me, “How’s your book coming?” I can’t really formulate a complete reply. I have no idea what book I was working on the last time they asked me. Generally, neither can they. Many times, they are asking simply because they don’t know what else to say. They might genuinely be interested, but that flags when I tell them the plot. Not everyone can follow my rapid fire narrative. I’m more interested in getting back to work than I am in telling them about what’s already on paper.

Some people can’t follow the plot and ask so many questions, I lose track of Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]what I’m saying and never finish. I have to keep in mind that they aren’t immersed in the story the way I am. But why ask if they aren’t going to listen? That’s not being polite, it’s wasting my time.

So, are you still writing?


Of course, I’m still writing. You’re still breathing, aren’t you? Obviously so, because you asked me the dumbest question of all. You’re wasting my time and breathing my air and I want you to go away. People who ask this question need to go sit in the Zen garden and contemplate how stupid this is. I’m awake, therefore I write.The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes - 200

Statements I Have No Patience For:

I had a great idea for a book once. And they proceed to tell me the worse idea EVER.

I thought about writing a book, but I don’t have time. If you really wanted to, you’d find time.

I think writing a book would be fun. I’m told that bungee jumping is fun too. I don’t think I want to try that, though.

You work at home. You have plenty of time to do {Insert Annoying Activity Here}. You mean all that fun writing I’m doing is going to miraculously complete itself? Hooray!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]Anyone can write a novel. Oh, really? So I guess you could sit down and write a best seller in no time? Go for it.

Are you going to put me in your book? I will if you keep annoying me. I’ll put you in my book—and kill you.

In all fairness, some people generally are interested. They’re trying to understand, but they can’t possibly understand a writer’s mind unless they are also writers. We don’t think on the same wavelength as non-writers. We aren’t wired the same way at all.

Keep the following in mind:

A conversation with a writer WILL end up in a book some day.Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500

If you do something foolish and tell an author, it WILL end up in a book some day.

You’re a complete tool, you WILL end up in a book one day, probably as the villain or a murder victim.

Remember, the next time you speak to your favorite author, ask her/ him something and really listen to the response. Don’t just ask to be polite, because it’s not, it’s a waste of their time. Writing isn’t easy, though it may look like it to an outsider. Brain surgery isn’t simple either, but a trained surgeon can make it appear easy because s/he practices. No, I’m not comparing what I do to brain surgery. Obviously, that’s like comparing grapes to kumquats. The point I’m making is, it’s not as Undiscovered by Dellani Oakes - 500simple as most authors make it look.

I think I can best sum it up like this: Authors labor and in the end, a book is born.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter P – Pet Peeves

ABC ChallengeThis is something I wrote for my Wednesday Fun in Writing Group, several years ago. The weekly prompt was pet peeves and this was born.

The therapist looked around the group steepling his fingers. Smiling ponderously he turned to the newest member. “Everyone, this is Letitia. She’s joining us for the first time. Letitia, why don’t you share with the group some of the things that make you angry.”

Letitia smiled sweetly at him. “You mean like other than smarmy psychologists with ingratiating voices and sissy mannerisms?”

His smile faded slightly as he brought his hands to his lap. “Yes, other than that.”

“Stupid people,” she said tersely.

“Define stupid,” a short, wiry, Hispanic youth across from her said.

Letitia thought for a moment. “Stupid people, hm. Can’t walk, can’t talk, shouldn’t breathe?”

He grinned, nodding for her to go on. The therapist frowned.

“Get behind them in the grocery store – Oops! They forgot something. Okay, we all do that sometimes. Once, I have no problem with. But this one lady I got behind went back three times! I wanted to choke her.”

“What did you do?” An excitable older woman to her right said.

“Next time she started to turn around, I blocked the way and told her the only way she was leaving the line again was through me.”

“What did she do?” The youth asked.

“About peed herself,” she looked smug.

He clapped and nodded. “Right on!”

“See here,” the therapist tried to assert himself. “We aren’t encouraging this kind of behavior. What Letitia did was wrong. You can’t intimidate people at he grocery store!”

“Why not?” The man next to him asked. “I think it’s great. Get what you need and get out. If you forget something, go back after you pay for the rest. Not so hard to do.” He leaned forward toward the group. “My pet peeve is people who can’t make up their minds what they want to order at a fast food place. They’ve been in line ten minutes with that huge menu in front of them. Do they look at it? No. Not until they get to the register.”

“I know what you mean, dude,” the Hispanic young man said. “I worked McDonald’s right? Got myself fired.”

“Manuel, I don’t think this is the time for that story,” the therapist interjected.

“Dude, chill, okay? So this lady, must have weighed like three hundred and change, waddles up with her chubby kids. I’m waiting while the fat broad makes up her mind how many pounds of burgers she’s gonna scarf down and her six year old starts yelling, ‘Mommy, Mommy! I want a Whopper!'” He snorted, rolling his eyes expressively. “So I said, ‘Kid, we don’t do Whoppers here, that’s Burger King.’ And he starts crying. ‘How about a Big Mac and fries?’ I’m being nice. She starts to argue with me about why can’t I give her dumb kid a Whopper? I sad, ‘Lady, I’d love to give him a Whopper, but we don’t do Whoppers at McDonald’s.’ She’s screaming by this time. So I climbed up on the counter, drop my pants and flash the entire restaurant. ‘Lady, that’s the only Whopper in the store. Okay?’ I got arrested for indecent exposure.” He shrugged, fidgeting like he wanted a cigarette.

“This is getting out of hand, Manuel.”

“Hey, ain’t my fault.” He shrugged, leaning back in his seat.

“I hate bad drivers,” the lady next to Letitia’s right said angrily. “Can’t decide what speed to go! Can’t stay in their lanes! Blinkers going for six blocks and they slow at every cross street!”

“Or tail gate on a four lane road when nobody else is around,” the older man added. “I had some guy follow me back and forth like I had a magnet on my rear. Right on my bumper. Every time I changed lanes, he did.”

“How did you handle that, Frank?” The therapist asked despite himself.

“Hit my brakes and let him rear end me,” Frank nodded happily, grinning.

He and Manuel did a high five.

“I hate when people turn and think about it,” Letitia added. “Like they start to slow down two blocks away, with the blinker on. Practically stop to turn in at the gas station. Come on, already! Get out of the road! I wish I drove a huge truck or maybe a tank. POW! I’d take ’em out!” She giggled with anticipation.

“Did you ever see that movie, ‘Death Race 2000’?” The older lady asked.

“Dude! I love that movie!” Manuel grinned.

“Well, more than once,” she admitted forcefully. “I’ve wanted to hit the accelerator and mow people down!” She put her hands up like she was gripping a steering wheel, mashing her foot to the floor. “VOOOM!”

“Marie!” the therapist was appalled. “That’s it!” He bellowed. “Class dismissed!” He got up and walked out, banging the door behind him.

“Hey, Chica,” Manuel addressed Letitia. “You rock, baby. Want to go out for coffee?”


“Yes, let’s all go,” Marie said excitedly. “I feel like stirring up trouble.”

“That’s why I love this group so much,” Frank said with a grin. “I feel so much better when it’s over.”

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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