Chaos in a Teacup – Part 11

dellani photo dark red

Last week, I started talking about unusual locations for stories, pulled from the author’s own background. I used my visit to Kansas as an example. I guess I just like off the beaten track spots for my stories.

Another unlikely location is the town I grew up in, in Western Nebraska. If you look at a map of Nebraska, you’ll see Scottsbluff. It’s the biggest city in the panhandle –which isn’t saying much, really, because it’s under 15,000 people. The city I live in, here in Florida, is a little over 20,000. It seems like a vast metropolis in comparison.

However, since I’m familiar with the city, or I was mumble mumble years ago, I feel comfortable setting stories there. One such story is my novel, Under the Western Sky. I call it a retro-romance, because it’s set in 1976. Can’t really call that historical, can you?

Libby Marshall has just started dating Bobby Menendez. They couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune time to get together, because racial tensions are at an all time high. Unbeknownst to them, a white supremacists organization has a strong presence in their small city. Their relationship inadvertently sets off an avalanche of hate-induced violence, threatening to overwhelm them and their families.

I chose the location for two reasons. One, I grew up there, and it was familiar. Two, the underlying racial hatred was real. I didn’t notice it as a teen, or a child, but looking back on it with an adult’s eye, I could see it. Bobby and Libby are from different cultural backgrounds, but they are very similar, as well. I didn’t realize at the time I was writing it, it has a very deep message about tolerance vs. hate, but I’m really proud of it. It’s another of my Tirgearr Publishing novels.

This is the first scene from the book. Like many others, it’s (very loosely) based on something that actually happened with me and one of my friends.

Libby Marshal leaned over the pool table, slender hips twitching to KC and Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 200the Sunshine Band. She hummed distractedly as she lined up her shot.

Bobby Menendez stood behind her, enjoying the view; his hands tingling to touch her.

“Touch me and die, Roberto Hermida Menendez.”

“Man! How did you know?”

She made her shot, long distance across the felt top, nearly nailing him in the balls with her pool cue when her arm drew back.

“Shouldn’t stand so close,” Danny said, across the table from her.

“Oh, man, the view!”

Bobby held his hands the width of her hips apart. He bit his lip as she faced him, a frown on her face. Her green eyes flashed at him. With a toss of her short, blonde, curly hair, she moved away from him with a glare. His dark brown eyes followed her, longing in his well-tanned face.

“View’s damn good over here, and safer,” Danny grinned.

He’d been looking down her top as she bent over to shoot. He loved the fact that it was 1976 and even in this small, conservative, western Nebraska town, girls were liberated, freeing them from the confines of establishment undergarments. The no-bra look was great! And Libby had such perky tits. Bobby could have his dangerous ass view, Danny went for tits every time.

“Boys, behave,” Toni’s father said from his office behind them.

Funny thing how Toni’s old man always had work to do when the boys came over. He would casually follow the four of them down to the pool room in the basement and sit in his workroom fiddling with some electrical components while they played pool and listened to music. He didn’t mind them coming over, but they weren’t going to be unchaperoned either.

“Yes, sir,” they chorused.

They stepped back, snapping to attention, not quite saluting. Each with military fathers, it was hard not to when he talked in that tone. He’d been fifteen years as a Marine before a shell shattered his right leg. Everyone in town called him Captain Cristo. Only the very brave called him Grant.

I always liked this scene, because it introduces the main characters, and gives a little bit of background to them, and the times when they live. It also reminds me of many long hours playing pool with my friend, in her basement. Her father, too, was watchful, and always had something mysterious to do in his workroom when we had boys over.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 10

dellani photo dark redSometimes, I ask my author guests where they are from, and how their background, or location has influenced their writing. Quite a lot, as you can imagine. I’ve noticed it in myself. The old adage, Write What You Know, is at least partially true. I would change it though, to Write Where You Know. I’m about as likely to write a story set in New York City, as a fish is to ride a bicycle. I’ve never been there, I know very little about it, and it doesn’t inspire me to create. Other authors would never even consider writing a story set in Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, or Nebraska, though I have used all these locations for my books. Why? Because I’ve lived there, or visited frequently.

My family moved quite a bit when I was young. Before the age of 9, I had lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, and finally, Nebraska. After high school, I moved to Mississippi, and lived there for 11 years, before moving to Florida. Of those locations, I remember Nebraska and Mississippi well. The others are a bit vague, because I was so young. Since those are places I know, I don’t have to do a lot of research in order to use them as locations. Since I’m basically lazy, I’d rather write about a place I’m passing familiar with, instead of one I have to look up.

You’ll notice in the locations list, I mentioned Kansas. This one puzzles people (myself included) Why write a book set in a small city in Southeast Kansas? Because, that’s where I was when I thought of it. I was in Pittsburg, Kansas, visiting my mother and sister, who live nearby, when I got the idea for a story. It was a small thing—the room number on the door of the motel owner’s apartment—Room103. It struck me as odd that their apartment needed a number. In fact, I had to wonder where Room 101 and 102 were.

I had also been toying with a story pairing up a police officer with a motel owner. My original thought was for a male cop with a female owner, when it clicked. Flip that, and make her a federal officer. Since I’d been speaking to a man who was back for his 40th high school reunion, I made the decision to have the woman back for her college reunion. She was a Deputy Federal Marshal, and her name was Marice Houston. And thus, Room 103 came to be, a fast paced romantic suspense set in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Iroom 103 front cover headed up to the office. There was a line at the coffee pot, so I got my waffle cooking and poured myself some juice. I saw Todd coming in to replenish the coffee. He threw a smile my way. I saluted him. One of the men in the line helped him set it up.

“Sorry about that. We had construction workers stay here last night and they all had huge thermal mugs with them,” Todd explained as the guests grumbled. “I got busy with checkout. It will be ready in about five.”

My waffle done, I buttered it and put on copious amounts of syrup. It’s true, I can’t be trusted with it, because I love it. If I could simply sit down and drink maple syrup, I probably would. It’s fun to lick off someone else…. Pushing that thought aside, I concentrated on my meal preparation.

“I hope you slept well,” a warm, friendly voice said behind me.

I jumped, pointing the syrup bottle at him like a weapon. Squeezing involuntarily, I squirted Todd with a long line of the golden brown liquid. Of course, it was right on the zipper. I wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go. I was trapped between his lean, hard body and the waffle iron.

Laughing, he grabbed a handful of napkins. “Well, that wasn’t the greeting I’d anticipated. Sorry I startled you, Miss Houston. Glad you weren’t armed.”

I blushed as all eyes turned on me. Taking a step back, I lost my balance, and nearly hit my arm on the waffle iron. Even with it in its protective plastic square, I could feel the heat at my elbow. Strong hands pulled me forward, against that rock hard chest.

“You okay?” His blue eyes held concern.

“Yeah. Fine. Embarrassed as hell….”

“Sorry about that.” He set me on my feet.

Everyone else chose that moment to look away, pointedly viewing the TV or the coffee urn. I gathered my food and found the corner of a table to perch with my meal. There were three other people, apparently together, but they didn’t mind sharing. The room was quite full for so early in the morning. I found out that some of the folks worked and lived there, down the end near the construction workers. Others were, like me, here for the reunion. I recognized a few of the faces, but couldn’t put names to any of them.

The room finally cleared out. I had another cup of coffee and a muffin as I watched the news. An escaped fugitive was on the loose, close to my home in Kansas City, Missouri. That was close enough to here to be unsettling. My coworkers were on high alert and everyone would be out in full force looking for him. They flashed a picture up and I stared at him, memorizing the face as I always do.

“D.W. Scrivener, thirty-four, escaped federal custody during a prisoner transfer from Mississippi. Be on the lookout for this man. If you see him, please notify the police. He is believed to be armed and is extremely dangerous. Do not approach or attempt to apprehend.” The bulletin went on from there. Soon, it cut over to a video of my boss, Alvin Ripley, talking to the head of the St. Louis field office. They were coordinating the search. I’d worked with Reggie Danvers when I did WITSEC. He was a good man, as was Ripley. I knew with the two of them in charge, things would flow quickly and as smoothly as possible.

Catching movement in the doorway, I looked over. Todd Englund stood there with two mugs in his hands, smiling. The room was empty except for the two of us. I noticed it was a little after 9:00. Breakfast was technically over.

“Want another cup? This is my own blend of lethal brew.” He walked over and I noticed he was wearing a different pair of jeans, not decorated with syrup.

“Super, thanks. This is okay….”

“But it’s motel breakfast coffee.” He shrugged, nodding. “This isn’t. I have a buddy who flies to South America on business. He brings it in for me. Black, right?”

I chuckled. “Every cop I know drinks black coffee. It’s faster.” I noticed his was dosed with cream and probably sugar.

“I used to, but it’s too hard on my stomach. Of course, if I didn’t drink six cups before noon, that would probably ease up.” He chuckled, handing me my mug.

Taking a tentative sip, I let the dark aroma waft over me. Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply. This was a cup of coffee fit for a queen! I rolled it over my tongue like a fine wine. Sighing contentedly, I heard him chuckle.

“My coffee’s good, but I believe that’s the most enthusiastic response either of us ever got.”

Looking back, I’m still surprised that such a quick moment of curiosity inspired an entire book. I’ve since written two others with Marice at the helm. I’m hoping to publish Room 203 this year. It’s set both in Kansas City, Missouri, and Daytona Beach, Florida. You’ll have to read it to find out why.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 9

dellani photo dark redThe last couple weeks, I’ve been talking about inspiration, because it’s an important aspect of an author’s life. I mentioned actual incidents, as well as music. Sometimes, the inspiration for a story comes from another story.

When I wrote a story called New at Love, I introduced a character named Jasper Waters. Jasper is a police officer, and an all around really nice guy. Since his introduction, he’s been in 14 other books. (Not all of them are published yet) He really wanted to take over New at Love and I had a tough time reining him in. I finally had to speak to him, much in the manner I did Sailfish, and explain to him that I would happily give him his own book, if he would be patient. He had to wait through a couple more, but I finally got an idea for his story.

The Ninja Tattoo focuses on Teague, who has been in the military, and done some dodgy things. Obviously, he wasn’t doing that on his own, he had friends and battle buddies who were with him. When my friend, Aileen Aroma, asked to be in my next Teague book, I made her his former commanding officer. One day, she calls him, very upset, to tell him that their friend, Nadeya, has dropped off the radar.

Considering that Nadeya isn’t exactly stable, Aileen is terribly worried about her, and asks Teague to track her down. When a dead body is found at the inlet in New Smyrna, matching the description of a man Nadeya was tracking, Teague has to get there quickly. Since he’s in Daytona, he calls his friend, Jasper, for transportation. Jasper’s boat is docked in Harbor Oaks, and he’s happy to shuttle Teague across. Thus began Conduct Unbecoming, a romantic suspense which stars Jasper.

I love this guy. He’s larger than life, friendly, kind, outgoing, fun loving and, in his own words, hits on anything with tits. Yes, he’s a player, but he dreams of being a one woman man. Of course, he’ll never admit this to anyone. I couldn’t have him settle down with an average, normal, boring woman. He needed someone interesting, adventurous, and a little frightening. Nothing quite as exciting as a woman who can kill you in a variety of ways, huh? At least, that’s how Jasper thinks. Taking his life, quite literally, into his own hands, he decides to meet Nadeya. After all, she had hitched a ride on his boat. She’s staying in a tiny cabin in a small park near the river.

As he approached the door, Jasper prayed for inspiration. It was going to conduct front covertake 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.

“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.

“Good. Get your stuff and we can go. My car’s outside the gate.”

“My car?”

“It’s a rental, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Anything in it?”

She rolled her eyes at him. Jasper chuckled.

“I had to ask. I know it’s dumb. Get your gear.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 8

dellani photo dark redAs I mentioned last week, inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Sometimes, an author is woken from a deep sleep, having to fumble around in the dark for a pen and paper to record the idea. If we don’t do so, we’ll very likely lose it. Inspiration is ephemeral, emerging from the ether, only to recede just as suddenly. If the author doesn’t capture it, chances are good, it won’t come back. To a non-author, this idea is ridiculous.

Ideas don’t just pop out of thin air!” the non-author will exclaim.

Wanna bet?” the author will reply, rather tartly, to be sure.

I imagine that artists and musicians understand this feeling. The ideas for paintings, photographs, sculptures and songs come from the same well of inspiration as stories and poems. Not much is more frustrating than having a wonderful idea, only to lose it because I didn’t have a chance to write it down. This happens quite often when I’m driving. I can’t stop in traffic to dig a pen and paper from my purse, so I have to go over and over it in my mind until I get home. Best thing to do under those circumstances, is to find a place to stop, so that the words can take over for a little while.

A song can inspire a story. Whether I be something in the lyrics, or the memory attached to it. I had decided to write a story for the City Nights Series from Tirgearr, and settled on Daytona Beach as the venue. I may live here, and find it somewhat mundane, but to others, Florida is exotic. I had absolutely no idea when it would take place, but after chatting with my amazing publisher, I decided on Daytona Bike Week as the backdrop. People come from around the world to participate in this annual event, and the area is crawling with more bikers, than there are residents, in Volusia County. It seemed the perfect way to bring my characters together for a night of excitement.

Draven Wick grew up in Daytona Beach, and still has family there. Now a famous TV star, he heads to Bike Week. While enjoying the beachside events, he sees his first love, Jamie Humphrey, modeling at a bike auction. Below is an excerpt from when he sees her again fo the first time in ten years.

One_Night_in_Daytona_Beach_by_Dellani_Oakes - 200Long, dangerous legs, an ass that wouldn’t quit, lush curves clad in skimpy black leather, flaming red hair wafted on the breeze while the rumble of a thousand Harleys filled the air. He couldn’t draw his eyes from the gorgeous redhead, whose hair reminded him of the flames on the side of his bike. Heavy metal music thrummed from gigantic speakers, banging and echoing from the sides of the nearby condos. Cameras snapped, his included, as she draped herself over the motorcycles being raffled off for charity. The line to register wound around the parking lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um, how much are they?”

“Hundred a piece.”

“You take plastic?”

“Everything but American Express.”

“I’ll take five.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“About that. God, you look fantastic!”

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

“You’re welcome. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In case you missed it, there were two songs in the beginning of that excerpt. Why I thought of having Draven do a modified strip-tease to Closer, I don’t know. It seemed to fit. Also, if you’ve ever listened to the song, it’s got some interesting lyrics.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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