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

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

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

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

“Jeff, hi!”

“Hi! What’s up?”

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

“I don’t have any gas.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter C – Conduct Unbecoming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Teague has lots of friends. . . .”

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

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

“Would he share that with just anyone?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like brain washing?”

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

“Us—as in you personally?”

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

“Shit! How do you know about that?”

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

“Oh, Nadeya, I’m sorry.”

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

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

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

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

Nadeya relaxed. “And leave this luxury accommodation?”

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

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

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Editing, An Author’s Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She deserved a better man than me.”

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

“Did you doubt him?”

“No.”

“Did he doubt you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I suppose you’re right.”

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

© 2015 Dellani Oakesauthor dellani oakes banner in red from Christina

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry? Who did what?”

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

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

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

“What can I do for you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She should be. Shall I call her?”

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

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

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

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

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

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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A Little White Lie – Part 11

Originally posted on Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes:

white lie coverPenny gets the less than envious job of collecting Private Bennett.

“Corporal Bennett reporting as ordered, Ma’am.”

“Corporal?” She checked a computer file on the table. “Says here your last offense got you busted to Private again.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, reaching in his pocket for a smoke. “Forgot about that.” He pulled a chair out, flopped into it and tipped back.

Penny eyed him with curiosity. “Where in the regs does it say you act like that in the presence of an officer?”

“Sorry, the guys are kinda casual around here.” He rose again. “Please, have a seat, Ma’am.” He clicked his heels together and bowed as she took her seat across from him.

“You can sit,” Penny said as she scanned the file screens.

Bennett sat carefully, not as causally as before. He leaned over the table, hands folded, trying to see what was on the screen.

“Quite…

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Dellani’s Alpahbet Challenge Letter A – Are You Still Writing Your Book?

ABC Challenge

Are You Still Writing Your Book?

There are a variety of ways to answer this. Some of them are actually polite. I have to remind myself that most people don’t know what is necessary to write a book. They have no concept of how long it takes, but have some nebulous feeling that it should take a while. For some books, this is true. For others, not to much.

Non-writers (and some authors) have no idea that I work on anywhere from two to ten novels at once, bouncing back and forth like a March Hare on speed—400 words here, 1,000 there, until a book is complete. If the mood strikes and the muse cooperates, I can finish a book in as little as four days. Yes, I have done it—twice!

While it’s lovely that they remember that I write, it’s hard to explain that I have no idea what book I was working on the last time I spoke to them, especially if it’s been a few weeks.

I try to be polite and say, “What was I working on when we last spoke?” If they remember, I can tell them the progress I’ve made. Other times, I don’t bother, I just say, “Yes.” Then there are the times I feel like being snarky (usually depends on the person asking me) and I come up with a variety of snotty comments.

Are you still writing your book?”

No, I gave that up for Lent.”

Are you still writing your book?”

I was, but I was attacked by pirates and they stole it.”

Are you still writing your book?”

Yes.”

I suppose that the last isn’t so much snarky as it is definitive. Whatever book I’m working on, I’m still writing it. (Unless I just finished it, then I will say so.)

Not even my family knows how many books I’ve written. I used to try to talk over plots with my husband. He, kindly, asked more than once, “What are you working on?” He quit doing that after I gave him a twenty minute discourse on the plot of some book he had no idea I was even working on. It was complicated and his poor, tired brain couldn’t handle my high speed dissertation. Poor darling.

He does laugh when I tell him I have a new idea for a book. He’s even asked me, “How many is it this time?” Laughter increases when he hears the staggering number has increased by one.

I am proud to day that I managed to reduce the number last year and I am still two behind on the unfinished vs. finished. I had set myself a goal in 2015 of finishing a book a month. So far, I haven’t done that. Instead, I started three new ones. I attribute that to being somewhat tired of my other books. I needed greener pastures. However, the goal of finishing a book a month is still in my mind. We’ll see!

In the meantime, I’ll stop babbling on about this and let you go about your day in peace. Please come back next week for Letter B, an excerpt from one of my books beginning with a B!

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge

ABC ChallengeAt the beginning of April, I decided to do an Alphabetical Challenge where I posted each day, alphabetically. It was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d bring it over here. I won’t be posting daily, I think I’ll do it weekly instead. I hope you enjoy the weekly posts. I will try to have them up each Saturday starting May second.

Be looking for Dellani’s ABC Challenge! I invite you to follow Write Minds Authors as well as the Sunshine Book Show. Meanwhile, spend some time exploring these pages . Welcome and enjoy! ~ Dellani

Sea of Destiny – Part 32

Originally posted on Second Wind Publishing:

sea of destiny coverKyle plans to join Emily when she visits the faith healer. He gives her a crucifix, with special blessings on it, to take with her.

“Thank you, Kyle.” She touched his cheek, kissing him fleetingly, embarrassed by the emotions flooding through her.

Nothing in her life with Bob had prepared her for Kyle’s tenderness, his warmth, free spirited nature, his fathomless caring. He was a limitless font of love. His family was the same way, welcoming her into their circle as if she had always been there, a member of the most wonderful family in the world. Lips trembling, she held the crucifix to her chest.

A little, warm hand touched her left wrist. Mindy stood at her elbow, dark eyes searching her face in a disconcertingly ‘aware’ fashion. She was a child who had seen much more than her tender years should allow.

“Miss Emily?”

“Yes, Mindy?”

“You’re gonna…

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Here’s Jasper – Again!

Originally posted on The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes:

I posted this on my Dellani Oakes blog, but wanted to move it specifically to this page. Here it is, republished with my permission. 

conduct unbecoming front coverI first introduced Jasper Waters in a novel called New at Love (published in Fran Lewis’ MJ Magazine) He wasn’t the main hero, but he certainly was heroic. Jasper had more than a little crush on the female lead, Amanda. Even though it broke his heart, he stepped aside for Derrick.

He popped up again in Undiscovered (coming spring of 2015 from Tigearr Publishing). It’s a small part, but a helpful one. Jasper’s the kind of guy you can count on. He’s appeared in a few of my other unpublished books and I expect he will probably find his way into more. He’s a comfortable fit and the kind of guy who is very likable.

When I introduced him in Conduct Unbecoming, I had…

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Under the Western Sky – The Story Behind the Story

dellanioakes:

Danger lurks Under the Western Sky.

Originally posted on Historical Novels by Dellani Oakes:

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500As an author, I think it’s fun to explore where inspiration comes from. Sometimes, it’s a very clear cut source, other times, it’s vague and kind of hazy. Words pop into your mind and off you go.

Under the Western Sky was one of these. I heard a song by KC and the Sunshine Band that I used to listen to as a teenager, and all of a sudden, the first lines were in my head, demanding to be written down. I did so. What followed was a story I’d never anticipated, and I love it.

I grew up in Western Nebraska, though I wasn’t born there. I lived there the formative years of my life, from the time I was nine until I graduated from high school. The places in this story are real, though the events are not based on any true events. The character of Libby is, very…

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