The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe Ninja Tattoo was my NaNoWriMo novel in 2009 and I went on to publish it with Tirgearr Publishing in 2013. Teague meets Vivica by chance—he runs into her with a door as he backs out of the Dunkin’ Donuts. Despite the inauspicious beginning, they fall hard and fast for one another. However, problems arise and Teague decides it’s prudent to head out of town with Vivica, in order to keep her safe.

Vivica and Teague drove silently out of town. He was planning, she could tell his mind was working out how to hide them both and protect her. With decision, he made the turn west on Canal Street, heading to I-95.

“Where are we going?” Vivica asked after he turned north on the interstate.

“About an hour away, a small place called Volusia.”

“We’re in Volusia.”

“We’re in Volusia County. I’m talking about the spot on the road outside Astor. Ain’t much of a place, but it’s mighty handy if you want to go camping.”

“Camping?” Vivica said with alarm. “Seriously?”

“Ocala National Forest is up there,” he said with finality. “And I can get us good and lost in the woods.”

“I don’t want to get lost in the woods,” Vivica said.

“I don’t mean lost, lost,” he explained. “I mean like not found.”

“Can we at least have a cabin?” Vivica didn’t look pleased about roughing it.

“It ain’t campin’ if you’ve got a cabin,” Teague said, letting his Southern accent flavor the words. “But maybe we can borrow the camper and hook it up. Depends on how lost we wanna get. Good and lost means a tent in the middle of BFE.”

“Maybe now is a good time to tell you I’ve never been lost in the woods before and my idea of camping is spending the night on someone’s couch.”

“There’s an advantage to camping in the deep woods.” He raised an eyebrow, grinning at her.

“Oh? Snakes in my sleeping bag and scorpions in my shoes?”

“You’re looking at the downside.”

“There’s an upside?”

“Sure! You can scream all you want during sex—ain’t nobody gonna complain.”

She punched his shoulder, laughing. “Okay, so there’s a little upside.”

“I’m thinkin’ that’s a damn good one. Mm, sex in a tent. Haven’t done that in quite awhile.”

“I don’t even want to know,” Vivica said with a shiver of delight.

“Don’t want to know what?”

“How many girls you talked into doing that.”

“Country girls can be mighty obliging.”

He looked smug. She punched him again.

Vivica eventually curled up, putting her head on Teague’s shoulder and fell asleep. He held her close, the scent of her perfume tickling his nostrils. Thoughts of her body wrapped around his made him a little crazy and he couldn’t wait to get her to the cabin so they could make love again. He couldn’t resist kissing her forehead, wanting to do much more, but not wanting to wake her.

He took State Road 40, pulling off onto a narrow, poorly paved road that quickly changed to dirt. They bounced around quite a bit on the rutted track. Vivica roused when her pillow moved, yawning and stretching.

“We there yet?”

“Almost, sweet darlin’. About 10 more minutes. You okay?”

“I need to pee.”

“No place to go unless you fancy a bush. Don’t worry, Uncle Tack has indoor plumbing.”

“Thank God!”

They pulled up a short time later, in front of a huge, custom designed cabin. The sprawling edifice had a warm and welcoming aspect making Vivica feel at home and safe. Teague got out first, walking toward the house with his hands out, away from his body.

“Be right back. Don’t get out until I tell you.”

“Why? What are you doing?”

“If you lived out in the middle of fucking nowhere, would you be expecting guests at this hour?”

“No, I suppose not.”

The door opened disgorging six hunting dogs. Behind them, the tip of an over & under shotgun emerged. At first, Vivica thought the shotgun was held at waist level, until a man walked out. The gun was jammed to his shoulder, he held it leveled at Teague.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Maker by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe Maker is book 3 of my Lone Wolf series. Surau is a character we meet in Shakazhan—Lone Wolf Book 2. He’s been horribly disfigured by a mad scientist bent on revenge.

His face still looked semi-human, although huge curved tusks of a wild boar were grafted on his face, contorting his mouth into a perpetual snarl. His long, dark, thick, wavy hair flowed down his back, turning into a mane at his shoulders, which continued well down the middle of his back.

His own arms remained, having the hands replaced with pincers like a crab. Three other sets of appendages had been grafted onto his elongated torso. He had the hairy legs of a giant spider directly under his own arms. These were tipped in vicious talons. Below them, he had a set of spindly, brittle legs like an ant. The final set of appendages could be called neither arms nor legs, but were more like tentacles from a squid. The final touch was a giant scorpion tale. (Description from Shakazhan)

The following excerpt is from The Maker

The Maker front

Surau was hungry and tired of eating his kills raw. The Blue Devils were easy to catch and kill, but tasted far better fried or roasted. His patience neared its end.

Since leaving his prison, he had roamed around the underbelly of Shakazhan, hiding from possible pursuit. It became apparent, fairly early on, that he wasn’t being chased. He was offended because it meant they didn’t consider him important enough to search for.

The truth of it was, they had forgotten about him in the avalanche of events following his escape. The disappearance of Matilda, and Wil’s obsession with finding her, had shoved all thought of Surau from everyone’s minds.

Grumbling, he dressed and prepared his daily meal. He allowed himself one meal a day. It saved time and energy on his part. Although he had both in abundance, he felt more like a fugitive this way, and that pleased him.

His meal complete, Surau cleaned himself as well as he could in his crude surroundings. He had found a place to camp which had water and power. These spots on Shakazhan were rare indeed and he intended to stay here until something better presented itself. Since he had been here several months, the likelihood of his moving on was quite negligible.

The only drawback to his camp was the lack of anything to cook in. He had no fuel for a fire either, so he was reduced to raw meat. It was another reason he had taken to eating only once a day. Facing raw blue meat for three meals held little appeal. He found himself thinking about moving on and had taken to scouting raids, looking for somewhere to go which was better. So far, he had found nothing.

His plan for the day was to examine a set of passages a few kilometers to the east of his position. Having traveled under ground for several decades, he knew to blaze a trail as he went, so that he could find his way back later on. Surau was many things, but he wasn’t a fool.

Picking up the bones from his meal, he detoured long enough to drop them at the head of a passage leading to the Blue Devil territory. What they might do with the bones he didn’t know or care, but they were always gone when he came back. They had given up attacking him several weeks ago when it became apparent that the more raids they sent, the more of them died. Not wishing to make hunting easier for Surau, they had come to the conclusion that hiding was prudent.

After some deliberation on their parts, the Blue Devils decided for the betterment of the clan, they’d allow Surau to catch one of them a day. This individual died bravely, for the benefit of all. Generally, an older person, one who found the burden of life great, would volunteer.

Eventually, they hoped, the monster would tire of his campsite and move on. He had been there many months and still he stayed. The time had come for more overt action and so they Blue Devils, or Chimarria, as they called themselves, prayed to the Goddess of Light for help and guidance. If the Silver Lady couldn’t help them, they feared they’d soon be extinct.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Lone Wolf by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe following scene is from Lone Wolf, book 1 of my sci-fi series. Wil VanLipsig has recently reunited with his friend, Marc Slatterly, after a long absence. He’s just started dating Matilda Dulac and finds out that some very old friends, the giant cat warriors, The Fellicians, are on planet. He takes Matilda to meet them. These characters are some of my favorites, especially Caprilla and Cavitus. I think after this brief scene, you will understand why. (Some of this scene was edited out in the book)

Wil’s understanding of the Fellician language was limited. He simply didn’t have the capacity to accurately mimic their speech. Their language was very musical in nature and Wil was virtually tone deaf. The same words could have different meanings. Depending on how they were pitched and the clicks and trills accompanying them, dictated the context. It was a very subtle form of communication.

Unfortunately, if one could not properly imitate the sounds and pitch, instead of saying, “I need to use the restroom,” one would say, “I have a black asp for a penis.”

After having said that to the wrong Fellician female, Wil had given up trying to learn the language. It had taken him nearly a month to recover. A normal man would have been crippled for life. He hoped Caprilla had forgotten the incident, but he doubted it.

About five minutes later, Marc and the three Fellician males came down in the elevator. They were singing some rather ribald lyrics to an old Earth tune, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” It was something about fornicating in the mine shaft. Wil had never bothered to learn the words, since he couldn’t carry a tune.

Marc had a clear and booming baritone. Caprilla had a brasslike bass, and the other two cat men had smooth tenors. The effect was rather magical until one heard the lyrics clearly, so Matilda tried not to. She hoped the females didn’t understand. One last chorus and the others declared themselves ready to eat.

Matilda was introduced to Caprilla and his two companions. Errollic Vennistra was of the fighter Liluye. Cavitus Passhaa was Escascia’s right wing man in the Nirvelli. They were as varied as humans in looks, but the most outstanding feature was their fur. Each was a different color and the markings were subtle and unique.

Caprilla was blue-black like midnight, his markings drops of rain on water, concentric circles mottling his fur. Errollic was a tawny brown with feathery wisps scattered about on his coat. A neatly trimmed mane circled his head. Ariella looked like a Siamese, sable on fawn. Cavitus resembled a very large, Old Earth tiger. The prettiest by far was Escascia. She was pure white with silver swirls all over her coat.

Matilda wanted to stare, but felt it would be rude to do so. She didn’t know if the Fellician female would mind being admired. The fur was so soft looking, she wanted to touch it, but thought it would probably be an unforgivable breach of etiquette.

As they walked to the same restaurant on the boardwalk where Matilda and Wil had first lunched together, Caprilla noticed her looks of longing and smiled warmly. Other people would not have considered it so, but after having known Wil for even so short a time, a warm smile had taken a slightly different definition.

“You want to touch? It is all right, Lady Captain. It is something human females often want to do.” He purred softly, trilling his ‘l’. “My team and I have met many humans over the years. We are not offended by such. Please, if it would make you happy, you may touch.”

His musical voice filled her with warmth. He held out his hand, long fingered and velvety. She wondered what sort of claws these folk had, for there were none visible. His hand was warm and soft as down. The feathery fur tickled her fingers like a living thing. He bent his head over her hand, kissing it lightly. His whiskers sent a thrill down her spine. He looked into her face with his clear, blue eyes.

“Friend Wil, this is an amazing lady you have here. Were I an evil fellow, I would fight you for her.” he seemed to purr over the last word, his tongue trilling the ‘r’ seductively.

“Aw, hell, Cap. It’s not polite to kill your friend before dinner. I guess you will just have to leave her with me for now.” He chuckled, taking her by the hand. “Don’t mind him, Romance, he’s always been a joker.” He protectively tugged her closer to him.

Caprilla purred deep in his throat. “I never kid about anything, Captain Romance. I have no sense of humor.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Kahlea by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe Kahlea is book four in my sci-fi series. The people on Shakazhan have decided to explore their planet inside and out. They discovered some time ago that the planet of Shakazhan is an artificial construct, like a living ship—a space age, psychotic Noah’s Ark, full of creatures, which are the results of experiments by The Maker. Knowing they need allies from the folk below, Wil sends an exploratory force. Unfortunately, they run across something that makes them act completely out of character for a bunch of grown men and women, most of whom are Galactic Marines.

Kindred scanner skittered across the stone, sliding out of sight. Kaz started to rise, going slowly toward his device, but Mitch jumped after it, holding it out of Kaz’s reach. Cold fury filled Kaz. Keeping a tenuous rein on his temper, he stood clenching his fists. Above all else, Kaz was a professional Marine recon team member, just like Mitch. They each had a few different specialties, but they held the same rank.

Mitch outweighed Kaz by a good thirty pounds of muscle and he had eleven inches on him as well. Kaz couldn’t help sizing Mitch up as an opponent; training was automatic. Holding out his hand, he kept his voice calm and level, neither of which he truly felt.

“I’d like that back, Mitch.”

Mitch laughed, leaping away, toying with him, his device just out of reach. With a silent decision, Kaz prepared to jump him. The other Marine, so absorbed in his game, didn’t see the small man ready to spring until it was too late. Kaz launched himself at the larger man, rage twisting his features.

Anger didn’t dictate his movements. Calculating coldly, he planned exactly how to take Mitch down with minimal damage to himself and maximum results. Rushing in low, he grabbed Mitch in the mid section, grappling for a hold. Before the taller Marine could react, he was up and over Kaz’s shoulder, dropped on the hard stone floor, flipped onto his face, with Kaz’s boot in the crook of his shoulder and his arm straight up behind him. Mitch knew an Aikido pin like this would dislocate his arm, but he still struggled to get up. A twist reminded him how much damage someone could do with that particular pin.

The Kindred device wavered just before Kaz’s long, pointy nose in the hand he held rigidly before him. Mitch tried to turn over, squirm out of the pin, to get himself free. More pressure applied to the shoulder, a slight twist and shift of weight and Mitch was screaming.

“Up! Screw you, let me up!”

“Tap out, Marine!” Kaz commanded.

Mitch struggled again, giving himself more pain, refusing to tap the floor. “Screw you, Kazinski, I will gut you in your sleep! I’ll cut off your balls and wear them as a necklace while you bleed to death! You scrawny, freckled bastard!” He ended in a scream.

Kaz had nearly dislocated his shoulder, ripping muscle and damaging tendons in the process. “Tap out, you completely, stupid son of a poxed whore! Tap out!”

“What goes on here?” Ray bellowed, picking up Kaz in one huge hand, disengaging him from Mitch in one swift and incredibly painful movement.

Mitch howled as the shoulder finally popped out of the socket. Holding his limp arm carefully, he scuffled out of the way of Ray’s feet.

Kaz grew redder in the face, suspended about eight inches off the floor, held by his shirt collar. The Kindred device had clattered to the floor, forgotten.

“You two boys got a problem, Kazinski? Mitchell, go see the medic about that shoulder. Suck it up, Marine. I’ve had worse and never pissed myself.” He looked disgustedly at the floor between Mitch’s legs as a flurry of copper colored bots came out to clean it up. A jerk of his head dismissed the hulking Marine.

Setting Kaz down with an unnecessarily hard thump, Ray frowned. His handsome face contorted in anger which he fought to control. Kaz couldn’t remember a time in the entire ten years they’d served together when he’d seen the Commander this furious. Ray’s fist shot out, grabbing the front of Kaz’s shirt and a handful of the chest hair beneath it. A tug and the lanky man was face to face with his enraged superior, wincing as the hairs popped free of his skin one by one.

“Talk!” He shook Kaz.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Coming in 2018

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water. . . . by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThis 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, as well as a collection of short stories – The Lone Wolf Companion

I do have books that are loosely grouped and are series-ish. Of these books, I have The Ninja Tattoo and Conduct Unbecoming, to name the two which are published. There are many others, 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.

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 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. Look for The Lone Wolf Tales on Amazon.

For your reading enjoyment, a short excerpt from A Little White Lie, one of the 9 Lone Wolf Tales.

white lie cover

Greyling sat behind her desk. Ben and Ray sat in front of her, one on either side. Two empty chairs were in the middle. Wil waited for Penny to take one, he took the other.

Glad you could join us so promptly, Colonel.”

Greyling nodded at Penny, but said nothing. Rather, she eyed the two of them expectantly. Getting no response, she cleared her throat and continued.

I’ve gotten the four of you here because I need your help. There is a very important matter I can’t entrust to anyone else.”

The four Marines looked at her expectantly. Folding her hands in front of her on the desk, she took on the pose Wil called her matter-of-fact stance.

If you’ve paid any attention to the news vids, you know about the situation on Starflatz.”

All of them knew that there was a major coup going on. No one knew from one moment to the next who controlled the government, but it was swaying more and more into the hands of a radical leader named Aurous Aurialonus. He was a madman who was anti-establishment, anti-Committee and anti-military, although he controlled the current military in Starflatz’s major city, Gundesburg.

He’s got things in a right mess, I know that,” Ray interjected. “Is he really as nuts as they say?”

Greyling weighed her answer carefully. “No, he’s worse. He’s captured the entire royal family and he plans to kill them off one by one if they don’t acquiesce to his demands.”

Which are?”

She rolled her eyes heavenward as if saying a silent prayer. “Too bizarre to relate. His message was very garbled and not even our psychology experts can interpret it.”

Hard to acquiesce then,” Wil added facetiously.

Greyling gave him a withering look before going on. “Rather.”

So what do you want from the four of us?” Wil wanted information and now. He was a man of immediate and direct action. If there was a job, he wanted to get started on it yesterday.

You will be going in and freeing the royal family, and putting Aurialonus to the sword,” she said dramatically.

Wait a damn second,” Wil stood, leaning over Greyling’s desk. “You want the four of us, one of whom is a semi-invalid, to take out Aurialonus and his band of merry lunatics? Those people are religious fanatics, Elise. They think that Aurialonus is a god and that he and Jesus do lunch! I like playing the odds, baby, but not that long.”

Running a strong hand through his unruly brown, wavy hair, he began to pace. Greyling said nothing, watching him.

I never said it was just you four, Wil. You are making an assumption.”

Maybe it was the way you said it, Admiral, but it sounded like that’s what you were telling us,” Penny tried to smooth over the troubled waters which churned between Wil and Greyling.

An error, I assure you. There will be a team of your choosing, Colonel. Drexel and Schmidt have talents key to an operation of this nature.” The look she gave him was long and full of meaning.

Wil, feeling contrary, broke his own unofficial rule of silence. “You mean, since we’re all genetic freaks, you need us on this mission. Can’t get the normals to do it, huh?”

Greyling’s eyelids fluttered and she blanched. “They would be unable to perform up to standard, Colonel.”

What about Penny?”

Greyling said nothing. Wil felt a cold finger of doubt run up his backbone and linger at the base of his skull. The hackles on his neck began to rise, they were never wrong.

What about Penny?” Greyling said sweetly. Her smile was forced.

Penny was looking at her toes, saying nothing. A loud silence resonated around them like a gong.

You mean?” Wil was flabbergasted.

I’m a genetic freak too, Wil,” Penny said softly, still staring at her toes. “Maybe not as much as you three,” she added, looking at him for the first time. “Yes, I’ve seen some of the files, Admiral Greyling showed me.”

Not even I am able to access everything about you,” Greyling sounded disgusted as if it were a personal affront. “But enough to know you’re the ones I need here. Penny has some talents you’ll find helpful. The files will be made available to you, Colonel. You must know what your team is capable of.”

Wil nodded, still stunned by the news about Penny. He’d had no idea there was anything different about her. He had always thought he’d be able to tell, like he had with Ben and Ray, but realized that was gleaned after having worked closely with them for weeks preparing for their mission. His observation of Penny in action had been of a completely different nature.

How many more do I have at my disposal, Admiral?”

The team must be as unobtrusive as possible, Wil. No more than ten, preferably less.”

Wil spun on his heel, glaring at Greyling. “Have you any idea what you’re asking?”

I am asking the next to impossible task of putting down a rebellion nearly single handedly. I know it won’t be easy…”

There’s an understatement,” Ben contributed sotto voce. The others looked at him inquiringly. “Well, it is. There are hundreds of religious fanatics guarding a royal family who has denigrated and subjugated their people for centuries. And we’re supposed to waltz in there, release them and put down a rebellion? Really, Admiral, we’re good, but are we that good?”

You have to be, Lieutenant Commander.”

Ben blinked, she had just raised his rank from Lieutenant. Noticing his surprise, she smiled.

I have included analysis of Aurialonus done by an expert in aberrant psychological conditions, with an emphasis in megalomaniacal psychosis.”

That’s a mouthful I’d not want to repeat,” Ray quipped, winking at the Admiral.

Greyling smirked, a chuckle escaping her lips. “Well, it took a little practice to get it right.” Her demeanor changed abruptly as she went back to business. “The intel information will be available to you and your team, Colonel. I have taken the liberty of including names of possible team members broken down by specialty. I fear it’s a rather short list,” she added quietly.

They chatted a few minutes more, but Greyling could see Wil was anxious to get started. She dismissed them and ordered them to start right away, as if Wil would wait for her permission. She smiled wistfully. Was it really over forty years that she and Wil had known one another? She could still feel the touch of his lips, his hands caressing her. It had been years since she had felt a lover’s touch, but a woman in her position couldn’t really afford to let anyone too close. Love made one vulnerable.

Maybe, for old time’s sake, just once… but she set the thought aside. He wanted a younger woman than she, still vibrant, buxom, not some washed up old crone whose breasts sagged. Perhaps once this was over, but she knew that was impossible too. If all went as anticipated, this would be Wil’s last mission.

It would be a shame to lose Penny, for she had been the best aid Greyling had ever had. But word had come down from the Council, the unofficial power behind galactic government, that the super soldiers were to be weeded out, gleaned, put to the harrow.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Indian Summer by Dellani

ABC ChallengeIndian Summer is my historical novel. I mention the writing of it in an earlier 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 me 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?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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He Thought He Saw by Dellani

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.

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.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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He Thought He Saw red

Goin’ Down by Dellani

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.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Finally Finished Your Novel by Dellani

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, than 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 frequently inaccurate, and will cause far more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used worldwide, 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.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Experiment by Dellani

ABC ChallengeA senior in college, Maggie is struggling with a required freshman psych class. It’s her own fault, she’d been putting it off. If she doesn’t pass, she won’t graduate. When her professor offers here a chance to participate in an experiment, she jumps at the chance. She soon finds she’ll be paired with a man, a complete stranger. They will get “married”, and live together as a couple for the next six weeks. Tonight is their first meeting. Maggie has no idea what to expect.

A man walked in, catching her attention. He was six feet tall, lean built, with broad shoulders. His dark brown hair was cut in a sort of early Beatles style and was tossed around in such a casual way, it probably took ages to fix. He bent forward to talk to the hostess, hands in the pockets of his tan chinos. He wore a darker tan corduroy jacket and a plaid shirt that was buttoned to his adam’s apple. His expression was made difficult to read by the black framed glasses he wore. Give him a pocket protector full of pens, he’d be right out of Revenge of the Nerds.

Maggie stood as he approached the table, holding out her hand. He took it, his palm slightly sweaty, shaking it in a moderately firm grip.

“Jaeger Jeffreys,” he said by way of greeting. He pronounced his name Jay-ger.

“Margay Simmons—but you can call me Maggie.

Jaeger came around to help her with her chair. Unused to such attention, Maggie sat too quickly, flopping awkwardly onto her seat. Fortunately, Jaeger didn’t seem to notice.

“So, Jaeger,” she croaked. Clearing her throat, she took a sip of water. “Do you go by a nickname? Like Jay or Ger?” Realizing she was babbling, Maggie stopped talking and took a deep breath. Another sip gave her an excuse to stay quiet.

Jaeger chuckled. “I sometimes go by Jeff or Jay. Good friends call me J.J. You can call me any of the above, or the full handle. I answer to about anything.”

His voice was a smooth tenor flavored by a slight Southern accent that she thought was from Alabama. Maggie had a good ear for accents and could usually pinpoint where someone was from after a very short time.

“Unusual name, Jaeger.”

“Yep. Mom’s family name. It’s actually my middle name. First name’s awful.” He made a face.

“It can’t be that bad.”

“Trust me. When I know you better, I’ll share.” He took a sip of his water.

The waitress brought their soup, a delicate gazpacho with croutons. Conversation lagged slightly as they ate.

“So, Jaeger, what do you plan to do once you graduate?”

He put down his spoon and folded his hands under his chin. “First of all, my future wife can call me Jay—please. Secondly, I’m going into the family business. Dad’s an accountant, his dad was, and his dad. Going back to the War Between the States, when my many greats granddaddy was pay master for General Lee.”

“The Civil War, you mean?”

Jay shushed her playfully. “Lord, chile, don’t ever let my granny here you say that! She will shoot you for a Yankee! She calls it The Recent Unpleasantness.” He laid a thick layer of Southern on his statement.

“Yankee! I think I might be offended by that.”

Jaeger laughed, slapping his thigh. “I say all that and you catch onto Yankee? Lordy. Where you from, Maggie?”

“I was born in Tennessee, but raised in Florida. I’m as Southern as you are.”

He held up a finger, wiggling it at her. “I do beg to differ. I was born in the Appalachian Mountains, in a cabin in the Chattahoochee National Forest. I was raised in Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama. My folks were from Citronelle, Alabama—population just around thirty-six hundred. They now live in Biloxi, Mississippi. My granddaddy’s family was one of the first families to settle there in 1811. I have a family tree with so many branches, I don’t know all my first cousins and only a handful of the seconds. So, I promise you, to my granny, a girl raised in Florida—she’s a Yankee.”

Maggie bridled, sitting up straighter in her chair. It took her a moment to realize that he was teasing her. She saw an amused glitter in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before because of the glasses, but they were a dark sage green.

“Smart ass,” she muttered.

Jaeger winked. “Been called worse.”

Their entrees arrived. Maggie had opted for the coriander pork chop with a sweet potato and cooked apples. Jaeger had a steak, fries and grilled pineapple.

“I’m glad to see you’re not a vegan,” he said as he cut into his steak. “I dated a girl for awhile, only to find out she didn’t eat meat. Considering she didn’t share that fact with me when I invited her to dinner at the steak house, it was somewhat….”

“Humiliating?”

He winked, pointing his fork at her. “Bingo. I enjoyed my meal and she took a cab home.”

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, it was our third date too. Subject couldn’t come up before that?”

“You’d think so. What’s significant about the third date?”

Jaeger stopped eating, glancing up at her over his glasses. His fork and knife were poised to cut and framed his face in glittering steel.

“Um—the third date. After the third date…..” He tilted his head from side to side indicating she should fill in the blanks.

“Oh, my God! I’m dumb. I don’t—date—a lot. Like—ever?” Embarrassed, she attacked her pork chop with renewed vigor.

Jaeger’s laugh made her ears burn. She glared at him.

“I’m sorry. Just, it’s kind of refreshing to find someone who’s not jaded. You don’t know how rare that is, Maggie.”

“I suppose that could be a compliment. At least you didn’t call me naïve.”

“Now why would I do that? Being naïve isn’t a bad thing, but it implies being cut off from reality and not familiar with the bad things in life. You’re not sitting in some ivory tower, you’re out here with the rest of us, but you haven’t let the association with the bad things tarnish you.”

Maggie stared at him in silence, a bite of pork in her mouth. She had no idea how to reply to that. He’d summed up her life entirely in a few sentences. Not only that, he made her sound strong, positive and self-possessed. Everyone else treated her like a silly little child. She smiled.

“Thank you. I believe that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me in a long time.”

“Then you don’t hang out with the right people.” He concentrated on his food.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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