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?

Everything.

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?

Well—Duuuh!

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?”

“Sure!”

“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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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter O – Organizationally Impaired

ABC ChallengeIf you’re like me, you need an intervention. No, not with drugs, alcohol or gambling, organization! My desk and files are an organizational nightmare! I’m not the most disorganized person I know, but I’m close. Being an author with O.D.D., (Organization Disability Disorder), I’ve come up with a couple very simple tricks.

Since I work on more than one story at a time, I’m juggling characters and story lines. To keep myself straight, especially with minor characters, I keep a three ring binder with sections and tabs for each story. Using the file name from the computer file, I write it on the tab. On one page, I keep a list of characters, all of them, no matter how small a role they play. On another, I keep a list of chapters and their page numbers. It’s very easy to continue writing until a story is complete, but it’s good to give the story some natural stopping or slowing places.

Every author has to do research at some point. Although I bookmark pages on my browser, it’s a horrible mess. Despite my best efforts to do better, it’s still a mile long and a disaster. To combat that, I print out the pages of research that I need, complete with the web address, in case I have to go back. These, I punch and put in another three ring binder. I keep it within reach so that I can find what I need.

I have in mind to tag the pages per story or at least per subject, but I haven’t gotten that far. That’s my goal – though it may be next year before I get it done. These are very easy things for any writer to accomplish. Even for the clinically O.D.D., there is hope!

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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Dellani’s Alphabet Challenge Letter N – The Ninja Tattoo

ABC ChallengeThe Ninja Tattoo was my NaNoWriMo novel in 2009 and I went on to publish it with Tirgearr Publishing in 2013. It is the first in my, loosely grouped, Florida series: The Ninja Tattoo, Conduct Unbecoming, Call Me and Mirrored. 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.”The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes - 200

“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.

© Dellani Oakes 2015

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