Kitchen Disasters

This is something I wrote for Fun in Writing Group May 28, 2014

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerAnyone who has ever set foot in a kitchen knows what potential disasters lie therein. Whether it’s from mis-measured ingredients, substitutions that didn’t quite make the grade, or an obstinate, uncooperative oven, disasters happen. I’ve had a lot over the years, but a few stand out in my mind.

One of my early disasters included my sister. It was our parents’ anniversary and we wanted to fix them breakfast and take it to them in bed. I’m not sure whose idea this was. I was only 7 and my sister was 9. Our kitchen skills were minimal. We had no idea how to fix coffee or pancakes or even scramble and egg. We decided upon toast and fresh squeezed juice.

Unfortunately – no fruit to squeeze, so we fixed ice water. That decided upon, we embarked on toast.

Our toaster was an old fashioned kind. It didn’t have a press down button or a timer. It was triangular with slotted doors on each side. It had one temperature setting—ON. To operate, you opened the door with the little knob on top, slid a piece of bread into the slot, shut the door and waited until it browned. How long you left it depended on how brown you wanted it. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop automatically.

You can imagine the disaster potential this presented for two industrious, and somewhat oblivious, children. We forgot about the toast until it was flaming. I’m not talking smoking a little, this was full on flames! They shot up, igniting a picture of a rooster I’d made with colored macaroni. It burned beautifully, blackening the wall and the calendar.

Our screams woke our parents. Our father ran to the kitchen, yanked the flaming picture from the wall and threw it in the sink. Our mother unplugged the toaster and carried it outside, depositing the bread cinders in the backyard.

I know they wanted to yell, but once they found out we’d been trying to fix them breakfast, the stopped. We were forbidden to use any kitchen implements without adult supervision—especially the toaster!

Many years later, as an adult, I wanted to bake my mother a special birthday cake. It was her seventieth birthday and wanted something more than a box cake. I had a wonderful recipe I wanted to try, so I set about gathering ingredients and mixing it up. I popped it in the oven. It smelled fabulous. I made the frosting and put it in the refrigerator, waiting for the beautiful cake to bake.

It was perfection! I poked a cake tester in a few inches. It came out clean, so I let the cake cool a little and inverted it on a plate. To my amazement, it slid out just right, not sticking to the pan. The bottom touched the plate and I heard a SLUUUURP PLOP! The inside was RAW! It got all over the table and floor before I realized what was happening. Although the outer crust was baked, the core was still liquid.

Upset, but determined, I cleaned it up and started over. I’m sure you can guess what happened. By the time the second cake came out, I was hysterical, but stubborn. I was ready to make a third attempt, but my husband put his foot down. He went to the cupboard and pulled out a box mix and handed it to me.

No more! You’re making yourself crazy! Your mother will appreciate the effort. It doesn’t have to be a from-scratch cake.”

I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. He helped me clean up the second disaster, which was nearly as bad as the first, and I made the boxed cake. Damn thing came out perfectly!

To this day, I don’t know where I went wrong with the other cake. Maybe it was a bad recipe. Maybe it was a fluke of my less than stellar oven. All I know is that, wonderful or not, I’ve never made it again. Nearly all my cakes are from boxes and I haven’t had any trouble with them.

My husband, wonderful man that he is, reminds me from time to time that I haven’t had a major kitchen disaster in years. I tell him that’s because I’ve got mad kitchen skills now.

Nope,” he tells me with annoying confidence. “That’s because you’re good enough to skirt the every day ones. That means when you have one, you’ll probably burn the house down.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 3 by Dellani Oakes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]We all like outtakes. Admit it, sometimes that’s your favorite part of a movie. Authors also have outtakes. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing outtakes from my novel, Shakazhan. This is a continuation of the same section I’ve been sharing. You can imagine, if I’ve got 3 posts from it, it must be long. That’s one reason I cut it. Though it was fun from my point of view, exploring my characters, it didn’t move the plot along. I could imagine people flipping the pages saying, “Is it ever going to stop?”

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella and Caprilla are Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

Matilda found Wil a little later, he was talking to Caprilla about the match between them earlier.

“You move like a water buffalo with a limp.” Cap shook his head. “You must learn grace, the muscles must flow like water over pebbles. Yours is water, yes, but over rocks, big fat ones.” Shaking his head, he clucked his tongue.

“Yeah, Cap. I should move like you. You’re so big, your idea of quiet isn’t to set off an avalanche when you walk. I’ll bet you anything I can move faster and quieter than you any day of the week.”

“Put your money up, Old Man. I’ll accept that wager. In fact, although it is being overly generous of me, I’ll give myself a handicap. I’ll allow you to remove those big, hulking boots you wear.”

Wil laughed loudly. Cap was quite drunk and he knew it. However, even drunk, the big cat could move more silently than most humans.

“It wouldn’t be a fair contest, Cap, you’re drunk.”

“I’ll remedy that immediately, Lone Wolf. One moment.” He ordered an Everafter, an all purpose detoxifying treatment, which Hammer supplied directly to his hand. One nice thing about a sentient ship, there was no need for food synthesizers. Cap drank it down, making a face, shuddered and stood erect.

“I’m ready now, puny human. Where shall this contest take place?”

“How about here, Cap? In front of all our friends?”

“Hmph, how shall we be judged? They will make too much noise.”

“Let Hammer monitor us, I feel sure he can.” He was given an affirmative in the form of blinking lights. “See? Hammer will keep track of us. Is that fair?”

“It is the best I can expect, I suppose. I accept. Very well, what do you propose we do for our contest?”

“How about a full series of the drills with the weapons? Each of us does the sword, staff and Banderatta?”

Caprilla bowed deeply. “That is acceptable, Friend Wil. I’ll allow you to go first.”

“I insist, Cap, you go first.” Bowing deeply, he backed from the stage. The crew members grew as quiet as they could.

Caprilla took the center of the stage, standing in his ready position. Hammer indicated he was monitoring and Caprilla began. His movements were indeed like water over pebbles. Not even his breathing made noise above the sound of a moth’s flight. He began slowly with his kata, gradually gaining speed. He was so fast, he was a blur of blue black fur and dark red clothing. His weapons spun and glittered in the light like propellers.

He struck his final pose, bowed deeply to Wil once again and descended from the stage to tumultuous applause. Wil tried not to look cocky as he stepped to the center of the stage. He had stripped to the waist and removed his boots. He moved slowly into position, standing still for a heartbeat before beginning.

He too, started slowly, but his speed increased by the second. If Caprilla had been a blur of two colors, Wil’s colors blended into one. He was nearly impossible to see. The only sound he made was the whir of his weapons in the air. Not Marc and Caprilla, nor even Matilda, could mark his speed and progress, he moved so fast and silent.

His drill was over in seconds, and he stopped in the ready position before bowing deeply to Caprilla and the rest of the crew. There was an awed silence. No one said anything, no one could even move. It wasn’t until Wil stepped off the stage that the applause and cheering began. The noise was deafening!

Hammer flashed his lights, indicating he wished to make an announcement.

“After careful deliberation, it is my decision that the human, Wilhelm VanLipsig, performed his drill 10.23890572 seconds faster than the Fellician Caprilla Mayeese. Further, it is my finding, Human VanLipsig also was 9.856% quieter than aforementioned Fellician Mayeese.”

Caprilla looked stunned, but took the loss in stride. He could tell by looking at Wil perform that he had been faster and quieter than he. Cap wasn’t displeased, in fact he was proud of his old friend for besting him a second time in the evening. When the competition was friendly and no one’s life was held in the balance, Cap was completely willing to accept defeat.

He came forward, greeting Wil as he stepped off the stage. Bowing deeply, he stood quietly for a moment before speaking. “What shall I give you for your win, Friend Wil?”

Wil clapped Caprilla smartly on the shoulder, reaching up a couple of feet to accomplish it.

“Cap, I already have the most important thing you can give me. You’re my friend and ally. No man could ask for more.”

Caprilla roared loudly. “That is well said, Wilhelm, very well said! you’re quite astute for a mere puny human.”

Shortly after, the party broke up and the two crews headed to their quarters on either ship.

As they made ready for bed, Matilda looked at Wil, as if seeing him for the first time. “I had no idea you could move like that, Wil. That was incredible.”

“You know the crazy thing about that, baby? I don’t even think that was as fast as I can move. I felt like I was holding something in reserve.” He shrugged casually.

She laughed lightly. “Well promise me something, you won’t ever move that fast with me. I think maybe you’d light a fire.”

He chuckled, taking her in his arms. “Matilda, you always light a fire in me.” His kiss was heartfelt and warm, loving and compelling. “I promise I’ll always take my time with you.”

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 2 by Dellani Oakes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]All authors have their outtakes—scenes that didn’t make the final cut. Some are embarrassments that we regret ever writing and will probably never see the light of day. Others are wonderful favorites that didn’t advance the plot. Below is one of these scenes. I love it, but it simply slowed things down. I could imagine my readers yelling at me, “Get on with it!”, so I cut it. I couldn’t seem to delete it completely. Instead, it went into a file called Cut from Shakazhan. Now, I’m glad I kept it.

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella and Caprilla are Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

For fun, they put together a demonstration from each class. The camaraderie was growing between the two disparate groups of people. Marines and Miners side by side, sparring happily and cheering each other’s success.

Matilda and Ariella took the stage. Ariella’s tawny coat shown like silk in the lights. She wore the traditional short sarong of the Kaboratta dancer.

Matilda wore the same type of sarong, and had a diminutive bikini top over her chest. Her long, dark hair was pulled tightly back in a cluster of three braids and covered with a matching bandana. Each of them wore six hoops per ear and Matilda had her bracelets in place. Their swords were in a block beside them.

They began with the Ritual of Weighing, where each of the competitors chose her weapon. Taking their stance across from one another, a sharp snap of a bongo signaled the start of the match. Matilda attacked quickly and low, going for her opponent’s knees. Ariella’s reach was longer, but Matilda’s comparatively diminutive stature next to hers, made getting under her guard easy.

Ariella swatted her away with her tail as if she were a gnat. Matilda flew across the stage, landing with a grunt. Shaking her head, she rose, taking her stance again.

The bongo signaled as before, Ariella attacked, moving in on Matilda’s exposed left side. Maneuvering rapidly, Matilda jumped for her block, grabbing her dagger as she sped by. She parried Arriella’s attack, barely avoiding a blow from her other side. Ariella had grabbed her dagger too. Matilda caught Ariella’s knife in her claws, which she had extended for that purpose.

A gasp from the crowd as Ariella extended hers, grappling with Matilda briefly before the woman moved out the of big cat’s range. The two of them slashed, kicked, and danced around the stage, hardly a sound but the bongo accompaniment and the clang of their weapons above their ragged breathing.

Ariella stooped to slash at Matilda’s legs. Matilda jumped lightly up and rolled over Ariella’s back, landing in a crouch on the other side. Back and forth they dodged and parried, swooping into an opening and back out again to avoid their opponent’s blows.

It looked as if Matilda were winning, then Ariella rushed in and got her pinned to one side of the stage, advancing, blade held ready before her, preparing for the killing blow. Matilda, calmly taking a deep breath, ran at Ariella, sprung forward and up, doing a handless cartwheel over her head, flipped as she was landing, spinning to face her opponent. Getting her feet under her, she launched herself at the large feline, knocking her down and sitting on her chest, blade ready at the throat, Matilda prepared for the kill.

Striking her blow, she didn’t notice Ariella’s dagger coming up behind her, deploying the handle blade until too late. Both blades struck home simultaneously, blood sprayed everywhere.

Gasps of horror filled the room. Wil and Caprilla leapt onto the stage, calling for doctors. Wil lifted Matilda’s limp form off Ariella’s chest, clutching her to him, covered in blood.

Caprilla gently moved Ariella, taking her in his arms, wiping the blood from her fur, looking for the wound. There wasn’t any. There were no marks on either woman, just a lot of blood.

Unable to contain themselves longer, Ariella and Matilda levered themselves upward to horrendous applause. Even Wil and Caprilla joined the laughter and clapping.

“Ladies, that was the most amazing display of skill I’ve ever seen! I congratulate you!” Caprilla kissed each of them on the hand, helping Ariella to her feet. Wil scooped Matilda up, kissing her possessively. Caprilla held Ariella close to him, not letting go. Her protests were merely a ploy. She didn’t wish release or she would’ve taken his head off.

“Don’t ever scare me so again, Ariella. I feared you dead.”

She looked slyly at him. “Tell me, Caprilla, would it matter so very much?”

“It would wound me to my heart to lose you. I’m an old fool, perhaps. It took seeing you die before me to make me realize this.”

In a rare tender moment, Ariella kissed Caprilla and rubbed noses with him showing her affection.

“All is well then, Caprilla. For I’ll never do so again, I promise. But you must also promise me something.”

“What would that be, Ariella, anything within my power.” She whispered something in his ear, making him chuckle, then guffaw. “I believe that is something I can manage, Ariella. I swear.” He held up his hand as if taking an oath.

Later, Matilda took Ariella aside. “What did you ask Cap to do?”

“It is rather something I asked him not to do. I made him promise he will no longer bed Escascia. In return, I promised not to take Cavitus or Errollic to my bed. It is a bargain which pleases us both.” She smiled happily, though to many it would look more like a snarl.

Matilda grinned, but said nothing. It wasn’t necessary. She was pleased to know that her friends were happy, that was enough.

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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Shakazhan Outtakes Part 1 by Dellani Oakes

Shakazhan frontOn a recent radio broadcast, I was chatting with my guests, Paula Rose Michelson and Stephen Brayton, about scenes they had to cut while editing. All authors have these scenes—those that were fun to write and read, but didn’t advance the plot. Those are sometimes hard to part with and an author has to put on their combat boots, march into the fray and hack and slash until they are eradicated.

Below is one such scene. While I really liked it, it didn’t really move the plot forward. In fact, there was an entire section that I removed or heavily rewrote because it held the story back. I hated to do it, but in rewrites, this scene, and the section following, were among the first to hit the editing room floor.

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella is one of the Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

 

Matilda loved her unarmed combat, she also was fond of the bow, she wasn’t too good at moving as quietly as she would’ve liked, nor did she handle the Banderatta smoothly. The staff to her was unwieldy, but she was getting better at it. She found that she loved kick boxing and the blades seemed to sing to her.

“You have metal in your blood, that is why you hear the blades sing,” Ariella told her. “We will work together, you and I, until we can sing a duet.” She winked.

They trained tirelessly. When Matilda perfected the use of one blade, Ariella introduced her to a short fighting dagger which went in the left hand.

“Hold it carefully, away from your face.” She pointed to the hilt of the knife. “This is the fun part.” Pressing a gem on the hilt, she deployed a small blade in the handle of the knife which could be used even if the hands were raised above the head.

“Many times this has saved me in a battle. Some swords are also made this way, but it changes the balance and weight too much. I’ve one you may try, but I don’t like it. Each person is different.” She shrugged.

After a relatively short time, Matilda was also superior with the double blade technique. Ariella had one more surprise for her.

“Today, we incorporate your kick boxing to our fighting style. It is very similar to the ancient art of Kaboratta which is often a companion to the Banderatta. I’ll show you a basic exercise which you’ll practice until the weapons flow in your hands and your body moves like water. Some people study years to perfect this. We don’t have that kind of time. We begin!”

The movements were as complicated and intricate as a ballet. Ariella moved with the grace that only a giant feline can. The muscles did seem to flow like water. After her first demonstration, she taught Matilda the steps. It took a surprisingly short time for her to get the basic movements down, even the nuances of head and shoulder position came easily. Ariella purred with pleasure.

“It is as I suspected, Matilda, you’re born to this! Yes! That is just right. No, tilt your chin thus.” She moved Matilda’s chin slightly up and back. “That is in case I do this while you parry.” She slid in quickly, slashed empty handed, barely missing Matilda’s cheek with her extended claws.

“It is a shame you have no claws, Matilda. They come in very handy in battle.”

Matilda stopped moving, thinking for a minute. “You know what? I think with a little help, we can make some for me.” She grinned. “If anyone on this ship can make claws, it’s Weiss.” Lieutenant Weiss had been chosen by Hammer, Matilda called on him later in the day, telling him her idea and setting him the task of figuring out how to do it. She saw that glitter in his eyes that meant he had sunk his teeth into the problem. He would worry it like a dog with a bone until he found a solution.

Wil had become Caprilla’s star pupil. Where Matilda could make the blades sing and dance, Wil could make the staff wail and rock. From time to time, they’d work out together, her with her swords and he with the staff.

Caprilla and Ariella would stand to the side, grinning proudly, yelling commentary as the two sparred. “No, no, Wil! You leave your distaff side open! See, she got the blade in. If it had been sharp, you would be bleeding!”

“Matilda, move your chin! Ach, girl! No, swipe with your tail! Oh, I forget she hasn’t got one! Claws, Matilda, claws!”

Weiss had come through better than Matilda could’ve hoped. She had expected claws which would be non-retractable and had even practiced with this idea in mind. However, Weiss hadn’t been satisfied with that. He wanted something she could pull in when they were not needed.

“I used some of the Kindred’s technology. They make things from this liquid metal and can shape it any way they want. It kind of moves, see. It feels alive when you handle it. The Elder showed me this. Looks like bracelets, kind of heavy, but you get used to the weight. Works on the same principle as the ship. Tell it what you want.”

To demonstrate, he focused on the bracelet he wore. A triple bladed claw about eighteen inches long shot out. Each blade had a cruel, barbed hook on the end, meant to grab and rip. The other hand, he concentrated on it again and made a set of claws exactly like Ariella’s. A short pause, the blades on both hands retracted.

“You’ll be faster at it, you’re telepathic, I’m not. For me it is a conscious effort, for you, a thought will do. Try them.” He fastened the bracelets on her wrists.

They were heavy, throbbing, warm to the touch. They massaged her wrists, giving them added strength.

“They’re magnificent!” She pointed her wrist away from him, towards the emptiness of the cargo hold. A thought later, a perfect duplicate of talons curled from her wrist, looping up and out for a full seventeen inches of solid bone. They were too heavy, but she got the idea of the control measures needed.

“I think I could really learn to like these,” Matilda flashed her crooked grin.

“If only you had a tail, you would be perfect,” Ariella purred, trilling her ‘r’

 

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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One of Those Days

books by dellani oakes 1It’s the perfect day to write and you have plans to finish that novel that’s been pending now for six months. You sit at the computer to write and the phone rings. It’s nothing important, but it interrupts the flow of creative energy, so you fix a cup of coffee. That accomplished, you sit back down & the doorbell rings, your child vomits, your spouse can’t find his car keys – or any number of other interruptions break into your routine.

It’s gone. The idea, the energy, the creativity, the muse – call it what you will. And your coffee is cold. After that long, imaginative string of swear words ends, you realize the day is over and you accomplished nothing.

With variations on details, we’ve all had days like this. Not much is more frustrating than getting to the end of the day with absolutely nothing on paper. Do you stay up late and work after the house is quiet? Do you sneak off to your happy place and count butterflies? Do you let it get you down, become depressed and wonder why you ever took up writing in the first place? How do you cope with days like this?

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Troubling Questions for Authors (Like Me)

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerWhy 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, 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 kumquats. 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.

© Dellani Oakes

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What’s the Point?

books by dellani oakes 2 redThat’s it! I’ve gotten to the point where all the articles and Fun in Writing items I’ve done are all used up. That means I actually have to think of something new. Oh, my! Can I do it?

What does this mean to the world in general and me personally? Am I mentally able to write something else that isn’t complete drivel? Will I, in fact, come up with something so bizarre and out there and people think I’m completely off my nut?

Conversely, will I think of something so profound, so earth moving that people think I’m totally with it, in the know? (Okay, that’s hard even for me to believe.)

How do I write about something when I really have nothing to write about? Sure, I have ideas. Are they any good? Pffft! Who knows?

And yet—I sit here typing about not having anything to say and I bet someone is reading it. Probably wondering if I’m ever going to get to the point. My question is, does that really matter? Is there a point to get to? If so, what do we do when we get there? Do we join the angels dancing on the point of the pin? And if so, do we count them and compare answers? “I got 2,476, how about you?”

Is it, instead, a Point A as opposed to Point B? And where is Point C? Is there a Point D? Are we driving in a square or a straight line? Do the points intersect or run parallel to one another. Wait! Is this geometry class now? I got lost somewhere along the way, proving that maybe the quickest way isn’t a straight line.

Maybe it’s a curvy line or a squiggly one. Could it be the line in the sand? Or lines on my face? Do we cross the line or dot the I’s and cross the T’s? Do we mind our P’s and Q’s?Where did the points go?

I think I need another cup of coffee. Then I can contemplate points and lines as well as Life, the Universe and Everything – which has got to be simpler. Point me to the coffee pot, would you?

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The Pigeonhole Effect – Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerLike the makers of movies, authors play to an audience. Our action is on a page, not a screen, but it boils down to the same thing – audience appeal. As authors, we are only successful if our work appeals to a wide range of readers. Unfortunately, our business suffers from the pigeonhole effect.

The pigeonhole effect is the tendency to park a book in a category and leave it there. If that category has a wide range of appeal, the book does well. If not, it sits there gathering dust until it’s pulled from the shelf, or the end of time (whichever comes first). The pigeonhole effect is necessary for the purpose of marketing (at least that’s what I’m told). I’m more of a mind that it’s for the purpose of setting up a bookstore into nice, neat, orderly sections.

All that aside, we’re still stuck with the problem and have to find ways around it. My suggestion is cross-marketing. Like cross-training in sports, in cross-marketing the book is presented on a variety of levels, in different categories, seeing which audience it appeals to most and go from there.

For example, my book, “Indian Summer”. It is pigeonholed into the category of historical romance. I get a wide variety of reactions to that label – most of them negative. However, if I say it’s an historical adventure, more people perk up. Historical novel gets a better reaction too. It seems that if you tack “romance” on the end, you get a lot of negativism. People who don’t read romance novels have their own idea about what they are. Grant you, some authors fall into the typical romance category, but not all of us do. I get angry now if someone makes a salacious comment about romance novel or the authors of them.

There is much more adventure in my novel than there is romance. It’s a story of spies, intrigue, love and war. Given the nature of the story, it is fit for young adult (14+) and adult readers – both male and female. The heroine, Gabriella, is nobody’s fool. She is 15, embroiled in a situation she cannot control, but rises to the occasion, outsmarting the bad guy more than once. With her help, the spy is caught and brought to justice. Not sounding quite as much like a smarmy romance novel now, is it?

Authors aren’t always given an option of how the book is marketed, but if you are, choose a variety of labels to give your work wider appeal. I write a smattering of different sub-genres. By far my favorite is romantic suspense, blending my two favorite genres – romance and mystery. Some blended categories go too far, like urban paranormal romantic suspense. I hardly know what I’m going to read. Maybe a tad less specific would work better?

What every author needs to make themselves successful is knowledge of what our fans want. How do you search for a book in a store? What appeals to you? What kinds of books do you want to see more of? What do you wish to see less of? Are there too many of one “type” of book on the market? Has it been saturated with sub-genres you don’t like or can’t understand? If you walk into your favorite bookstore, which section to you automatically head for? Why? Are there sections you avoid? If so, why? I would appreciate your feedback to my questions, or pose those of your own. Everyone has an opinion, let’s discuss them.

Dellani Oakes is an author with Second Wind Publishing and Tirgearr Publishing. Her historical novel, “Indian Summer”, is available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com or at Amazon.com. She also has two sci-fi (futuristic romance) novels Lone Wolf and Shakazhan, as well as two romantic suspense novels from Tirgearr – The Ninja Tattoo and Under the Western Sky.

To purchase Dellani’s Books.

Support Your Family Author

books by dellani oakes 2 redI just had a short conversation with a lady who is so excited that her cousin wrote a book. She can’t wait to read it and wants to give her some positive feedback and support. I wanted to cry when I heard that. For one thing, what a beautiful impulse she had – supporting the author in her family. For another thing – why isn’t my family that supportive?

This makes it abundantly clear to me that no one in my family understands (or possibly cares) what I do – with the exception of one cousin who cheers me along from time to time. She’s bought my books – which if I’d known she was paying for them, I would have sent them to her for free, because I’m so grateful to her for that small token of love and support.

My daughter has beta read a couple of my books. She’s an angel and I appreciate that. I honestly don’t know what my sons think. None of them particularly like to read and they certainly aren’t going to be interested in my books. Romance is not their thing.

My in-laws think of my writing as some sort of phase or hobby. I’m sure they don’t take it seriously. Considering how badly it’s paid so far, maybe they have a point. They don’t have a clue how hard I work for those pennies.

My husband, God bless him, has been wonderful about letting me have the time to write. He believes in me. We haven’t made a lot of money off it, but at least he doesn’t fuss at me.

I think a lot of the problem is that people think writing is easy. They assume that anyone can write. They’re sure that somehow words miraculously appear on the page for them to read and no one has to do anything to put them there. Imagination—meh. What’s that?

Anyone can write. Writing isn’t that hard. There’s no convincing them unless I force them to sit down and write a term paper or short story. I used to write my term papers the night before they were due and got A’s on all of them. None of my classmates could do that.

One year, I did the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and finished my book of 74,748 words before Thanksgiving. That afternoon, I sat down and started a new book. FOUR DAYS LATER I had another 54,067 words and a second finished novel. Grand total: 128,815 and that doesn’t include the nearly 15,000 words I cut from the first one. That would bring my total close to 143,815 words in less than 30 days.

So, when people say to me, “Anyone can write”, I tell them that. How ya like me now, hm? Think you can do that? Bet not.

I’m making a point with my rant – promise! Be like my friend who loves and supports her cousin because she wrote a book. Cheer your author friend/ family member. Buy a copy. Talk it up. Ask a book group to read it. Share their marketing posts on Facebook, Twitter, anywhere. When they get discouraged, cheer them up. When they need a lift, buy them a cup of coffee. When they lock themselves away from friends and family so they can work – give them space. If they don’t answer the phone, call back much, much later. If they talk crazy about how their characters are running amok, let them. For them, that’s real. It doesn’t mean they’re crazy, they’re just authors.

Finally, and ultimately important, realize that you’ll never fully understand, but love them.

Dellani Oakes is a slightly crazy, but mostly harmless author. She’s published five books, but her author’s brain has created many more. To purchase Dellani’s books:

Indian Summer – historical romance

Lone Wolf – futuristic romance (sci-fi)

Shakazhan – Lone Wolf book 2

The Ninja Tattoo – romantic suspense

Under the Western Sky – romantic suspense

There are also some freebies you can download by clicking here. 

Life’s An Adventure – Bring It On! by Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerLife is an adventure, or more accurately, a series of them, strung together with moments that aren’t nearly as memorable. During this quieter times, we contemplate and remember the ones that came before, going over them in our minds.

As authors, we store up these moments and save them for a story. I have a vast catalog of these memories that I have stored in my mind, some I’ve written down. Most are merely there to be plucked when needed.

For example, the old lady who deliberately ran into me with a shopping cart in K-Mart. I stood in the vasty nothingness surrounded by wide open space, but she went out of her way to hit me. I shall not forget her diatribe about how “You people down here just get in the way.” Nor shall I forget the other woman who took up for me, telling her just as loudly, “If you hate it here so much, why don’t you go the hell back home!”

I also remember quite fondly the young men I encountered in the grocery store one day. They were discussing the attributes, or lack thereof, of a variety of beers. One member of the group was constantly shot down, his choices nixed at every turn. Finally, he grabbed a case of beer and held it close to his body so they couldn’t take it away. “I didn’t spend $900 on a ticket and fly all this way to drink beer I don’t like!”

Another incident, this time with my GPS, stands out in my mind. My GPS kept arguing with me and got me quite misplaced on my way home from Tampa. I was going through Orlando (which I shall always equate with a black hole – because it always sucks me in and gets me lost). It told me to make a left when I really needed to go straight across. I should have known what I was in for when the drunk lady wobbled across the intersection in front of me and stopped by the car to stare at us while I waited for the light to change. I ended up in a part of town that no woman with two boys in the car should ever be in alone.

I realized my error and tried to find a way to turn around, but there was construction going on. There were also a series of one way streets headed the wrong way for where I needed to go. When I stopped at an intersection and saw six cop cars with lights flashing, surrounding a house a block away, I didn’t care if I went the wrong way or not. I sped away from there as quickly as possible, got myself to I-4 and headed east. When my boys asked me why I was on the interstate (they know I hate it) I replied, “I may not like I-4, but at least when I’m on it, I know where the hell I am!”

Not all incidents have been negative. The game I played with one of the special ed students a week ago, is a happy memory that will one day be commemorated. I don’t know what the child’s condition is, but he’s in a wheelchair and has impaired motor skills. His language skills are also limited, but he’s a bright, cheerful child with a fun sense of humor. He was playing with a box of markers and he handed it to me. I handed it back. We passed it back and forth a few more times, then he handed it to me as if it were incredibly heavy. I took it and collapsed, as if a great weight tugged at me. Then I made believe it could fly, lifting it high above our heads. He laughed and smiled.

The next time I passed it back to him, I snatched it away just as he grabbed it. He was surprised, but saw the humor in it and laughed loudly, throwing his whole body into it. We carried on like that for at least 10 minutes, having the best time teasing one another with the simple game. I’ll carry that memory fondly with me until the day I use it in a story.

Save up these moments that make up your day. Treasure them, hold them gently and use them to pepper your writing with verisimilitude. Life’s an adventure – Bring It On!

© Dellani Oakes

To purchase books by Dellani Oakes: The Ninja Tattoo, Indian Summer, Lone Wolf.

 

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