Velda, Vivica, Victoria, Viktor

ABC ChallengeI like unusual names for my characters. Yes, I have typical things like Jack, John, Joseph or James, but I like interesting names like Velda, Vivica Victoria and Viktor.

I’ve written a lot of books – well over a hundred. Some will be published, others will never see the light of day. In all those books, I have characters. These characters need names. I’ve noticed, over the years, that I have a tendency to use the same names for minor characters with alarming frequency.

I didn’t realize how alarming until I decided to take a tally. Considering I have 113 finished novels/ novellas, and roughly 50 unfinished works (not including short stories) that’s a lot of names! I try to keep the main character names unique, but there are, apparently, some I loved so much, I used them for more than one character. At least they are in worlds which will not collide, or I’d be in serious trouble. I can change a minor character’s name, or even a main character, if I catch it before he or she has fully evolved. I’ve done that four times, that I can think of. Once a story is finished, I won’t change a main character’s name, though I have altered the names of a few adjunct characters.

To get back to my little OCD moment…. I wondered how many times I’d used certain names, so I went through my notebooks, checking cast lists, and counted. The results shocked me. I have now made myself a list of names never to use again. I’ll have to find alternatives. The list below includes only the names of those I had remembered to write down. There could very easily be a few more Bobs, Williams or Toms around, for which I cannot account. I will, eventually, endeavor to change out some of these names, because there are only so many Bobs anyone can possibly know. In my list below, I included only the names I’d used 15 times or more.

Dellani’s Most Used Names:

Cindy 15

Paul 15

Richard 15

Sam 15

Charles 17

David 17

Ed 17

John 19

James 20

Tom 20

And the top two names were (drumroll please):

Coming in at #2 Most Used Name was – William at a rollicking 29

The #1 Top Used Name was – Robert! At a whopping 32!! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know that many people named Bob.

Keep in mind, these totals include combination names like Joe Bob, Billy Bob, Jimmy Joe Bob Earl…. (I had 7 Earls, 4 Joes) I’ve made a complete list and the top contenders have a list of their own Names Never to Use Again! Meanwhile, I need to come up with alternatives…. Bother.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Under the Western Sky & Undiscovered by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI have two books that begin with the letter U and I couldn’t choose between them, so I’m going to talk briefly about them both. The only thing that these books have in common is that they are both romantic suspense, and they both begin with U. Other than that, there are no similarities at all.

Under the Western Sky is what I call a retro-romantic suspense, set in 1976 in Western Nebraska. Set in an uncertain time, sometime after a major FBI snafu at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, racial tensions are high. Libby Marshall and Bobby Menendez have just started dating. Her friend, Toni, is seeing Bobby’s cousin Ramon. One night on his way home, Ramon is caught and beaten by a bunch of white boys. Though he lives through the beating, he is seriously injured.

Unfortunately, Bobby runs afoul of the same group, only this time they’re armed with guns, not baseball bats. With the skills his father taught him, Bobby is able to fight back, but now he and his family are marked for death. With the help of some friends, they take flight into a very uncertain future.

Undiscovered is a contemporary romantic suspense, set in Florida. It was my NaNoWriMo novel for 2010. It was inspired by a dream a friend of mine, Micky Hoffman told me about. She gave me permission to use it as the basis of the story.

Someone wants movie mogul Kent Griswald dead. Although the first attempt is unsuccessful, soon the killer catches up with him. It’s up to Detectives Walter Scott and Vanessa Weinstein to make sense of the clues and find the killer before he can strike again.

Cadence Stuart is their only witness and it’s the job of Walter and Vanessa, to keep her safe. Unfortunately, Walter finds himself falling for his witness. Knowing their involvement could jeopardize the case, the two try to maintain a professional distance, but being thrown together by circumstance makes it increasingly difficult.

Although these stories have nothing in common, except for the U in the title, they are both books I’m very proud of. Oh, and they were both published by Tirgearr Publishing.

Below are a couple of excerpts from each book.

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500

Under the Western Sky:

“Are you going to go all the way with Danny?” Libby asked Toni.

“I don’t know, Libby. He’s so cute and sexy, but I mean, good grief! I can’t make up my mind. Every time I even think of doing it with him, I get this vision of my mom scolding me. The thoughts go right out of my mind. She’d be so disappointed.”

“How would she know? My mom probably wouldn’t even notice.”

“This is my mother,” Toni said patiently. “The woman who always knew when we were doing something sneaky. Remember the milk and cookie incident?”

“Toni, you fell off a chair holding the cookie jar. Didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what you were doing.”

Undiscovered by Dellani Oakes - 200

Undiscovered:

“Wouldn’t expect a music theory teacher to listen to that.”

“It might shock you to know that I also like Tool, Skinny Puppy and Iron Maiden.”

He clutched his heart as he slowed for a red light. “I might have heart failure.”

She giggled, tossing her head. “I suppose if I admitted that I play in a jazz band and jam with my cousins who have a bluegrass group, you’d faint.”

“No, I’ll only faint if you tell me you like death metal.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Not so much.”

“Good, then I don’t have to shoot you in the foot.”

“That’s always my first inclination when I hear death metal.”

“Thought it was just me.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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That’s So Cliche by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThere are “conventions” in writing. No, I don’t mean the great big gatherings of authors & their fans, though these are also conventions. What I mean are the things you MUST NOT DO if you want to be an author.

I’d love to know who decides these things. Who set the rules in the first damn place? My theory is that a bunch of frustrated, would-be writers got together and decided that they would set standards in order to hamper the creativity of others. Level the field by making it harder for the competition. Well played.

Grant you, there are some conventions that are valid. (I can’t think of any right now, but give me a little while. I’m sure there are some.) One standard that has some validity is the use of clichés. Not familiar with the word? I could give you a big, long dictionary definition, but why bother? A cliché is a phrase that’s over used. Tried and true. True blue. Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. You get the idea.

As a general rule, it’s good to avoid these hackneyed phrases. They make your work look cheap and unloved. My father would have said, “Like a whore at breakfast.” That was one of his favorite clichés.

Sometimes, it’s all right to use one. When?

Dialogue. Think about it for a moment. They are as common as the day is long. There are as many different clichés as there are hairs on your head. People think and speak in clichés all the time. There are variations depending upon geographic location. Obviously, English doesn’t corner the market on trite expressions.

Because people think and speak in clichés, avoiding them in dialogue can make the words sound stilted. Not every character will use them. Not every book lends itself to them. In these cases, the clear choice is not to use them.

Don’t be afraid to use a cliché from time to time. It’s okay—really! Tell your story the way it needs to be told. Have your characters speak in a believable fashion. Too often, we are afraid to break the mold and think outside the box. It’s not a crime. What are they going to do? Send the Grammar Police? I don’t think they have jurisdiction over clichés. Sorry. No arrests shall be made today.

As with anything, use clichés sparingly. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Shakazhan by Dellani

ABC ChallengeShakazhan is book 2 in my Lone Wolf Series. Having traveled out of the known galaxy into another that doesn’t even remotely resemble their own, the crews of Hannibal and Flotilla are orbiting the mystical and legendary planet Iyundo, when it something goes horribly wrong.

Hannibal 1350 GMT

Ben sat in his ready room, feet on the desk, cap over his eyes. Something woke him and he stood quickly, fully alert, listening. Had someone called his name? Suddenly, he grew dizzy. The walls swirled together, the floor gaped threatening to drag him under and he felt a great sweep of fear as if a million voices had suddenly cried out in terror!

Vertigo overcame him and he dropped to the floor on his hands and knees, gagging and vomiting. His vision cleared and his ears stopped ringing. Small cleaning bots scuttled around him, vacuuming up the mess. His door buzzed insistently. Calling feebly, he allowed entry.

His eyes flickered open and he saw the worried and bewildered face of Ray Schmidt. “Ben? You look like hell, buddy, what’s wrong? I heard you yell and then nothing.”

Ben saw two Rays for a moment, then realized it was Ray and Aisulov’s personal physician standing over him. Dr. Stan looked even more concerned than Ray, something Ben didn’t think was possible. He tried to sit up. A fresh wave of nausea gripped him, threatening to cut loose.

“I’m fine, really I am.”

Ray pushed him none too gently back onto the floor. “Like hell you are. Do you realize it’s been ten minutes since I walked in here and you’ve been out cold the entire time? Ben, what the hell is going on?”

Ben tried to speak, but his voice caught in his throat. The doctor handed him a glass of cool water. He sipped with caution, fearing another vomiting episode. However, it didn’t seem to disagree with him, so he drank a bit more, very slowly.

“Kind of hard to explain.”

“Try.”

Ray looked annoyed. He always looked like that when he was worried. God knows, over the years, Ben had been the cause often enough.

Ben started to nod, then decided not to. He hesitated, wondering the best way to describe what had happened. Slowly and with many pauses for questions, he told Ray and Dr. Stan what had transpired. Ray’s frown deepened and the doctor looked more placid. Ben knew that look too. Stan always looked like that when he was about to diagnose. He let Ben finish.

“That explains a lot.” Stan stood, head tilted sideways, arms crossed in front of his chest.

“A lot of what?”

“Explains why I had over thirty people fall down in a dead faint about the time you collapsed up here. Some sort of psychic upheaval has taken place. I’m guessing on planet, but can’t confirm it, of course, without a report from the landing party. Some heavy shit is going down, Ben. I’ll be back.” He turned on his heel, trotting for the door.

“Where are you going, Stan?” Ray sounded angry.

“Going to cross reference the files of the people who collapsed. See how many of them tested positive for psyonics,” he called the last as he ran down the corridor to Medical.

“I was coming to tell you something when all this went down.” Ray hesitated, not knowing quite how to proceed.

“What, Ray? I haven’t seen you look this worried since we got hit in the jungle on Viotempe.”

Ray bit his thumb, frowning deeply. Not one for diplomacy, he couldn’t find a sugar coated way to explain. “I don’t know what happened or how, Ben. The entire planet disappeared.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Road Trip! by Dellani

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.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Questions for Authors (Like Me) by Dellani

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.

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 me. 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.

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 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.

Statements I Have No Patience For:

I had a great idea for a book once. And they proceed to tell me the worst 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!

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.

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 knickers. The point I’m making is, it’s not as simple 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.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Pet Peeves by Dellani

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.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Organizationally Impaired by Dellani

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. (See Chaos in a Teacup #1 for more information on this)

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. (I know, big surprise) 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!

Just as an aside, I wrote this article 3 years ago and I still haven’t gotten my research in order.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani

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

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

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

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

“We’re in Volusia.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re looking at the downside.”

“There’s an upside?”

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

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

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

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

“Don’t want to know what?”

“How many girls you talked into doing that.”

“Country girls can be mighty obliging.”

He looked smug. She punched him again.

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

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

“We there yet?”

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

“I need to pee.”

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

“Thank God!”

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

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

“Why? What are you doing?”

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

“No, I suppose not.”

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

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes - 200

The Maker by Dellani

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

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

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

The following excerpt is from The Maker

The Maker front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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