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.

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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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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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