And Finally—Z by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI thought of this story when I was driving down State Road 44 into New Smyrna. The traffic is horrible at certain times of day, particularly in the summer. I can’t remember now why I was there, rather than taking I-95. There had to have been a good reason for it, because it’s usually a drive I avoid. In any case, this story, Driving Blind, was born as I languished in traffic.

It had been an indescribably horrible day. Zenobia drove with the top down, listening to Battle Without Honor or Humanity at full volume. Her red VW Beetle zipped along Interstate 95, her sun-streaked blonde hair billowing behind her like a standard.

She pulled off at the New Smyrna, eastbound exit, slowing way down for the sharp curve. Checking traffic, she eased her VW into the flow heading toward town. At the stoplight on the east side of I-95, she slowed as the light changed to yellow. She could have driven through, but there was a motorcycle cop three cars behind her on the left. She turned down her music and waited for the light to change. The left turners eased across State Road 44 and the police officer on the motorcycle pulled up next to her.

Zenobia risked a glance at him. She couldn’t see much because of the helmet and glasses, but she saw a strong chin, broad shoulders and tanned arms covered in silky black hair. She smiled and looked away when he turned toward her. The light changed and she carefully put the car in gear, moving forward slowly in the heavy traffic.

As luck would have it, the next light was also red. Slightly frustrated, Zenobia checked the traffic to see how badly it was backed up. Another look out the front window showed the cars were thick ahead as well as to the rear. The police officer was a car behind her, but eased up once more, crowding the SUV ahead of him. The driver peeped over her shoulder guiltily, but the officer did nothing.

Zenobia felt eyes on her and looked around to see the officer staring at her. She smiled again, nervously, and flipped her hair to cover her face. A furtive glance in her rearview mirror showed the officer staring at her, smirking. He had full lips and a hint of a five o’clock shadow. Of course, with hair that dark, he probably had a shadow right after he shaved. What little she could see of his hair was so black, it had a bluish cast to it.

The light changed and the car behind Zenobia honked. Flustered, she forgot to put her car in gear. Scrabbling around, she put it in first, took her foot off the clutch but not the brake and the car stalled. More honking followed. Mortified, she got the car started, put it in gear and jack-rabbited through the intersection as the light changed to red.

Flashing blue lights and a whoop of a siren warned her to pull over. There was an abandoned driveway from a long defunct business. Zenobia rolled over there, turning off her car. She pulled out her license and registration, ready for the officer. He was busy on the radio, calling in her humiliation and probably checking to see if she had any priors or outstanding warrants. Thankfully, her driving slate was clean. She lived a steady, boring life. At 29, she lived with her parents, putting her advanced computer degree to less than great use working on the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Far from ideal, her circumstances couldn’t be helped. She’d had a lot of difficulty finding a good paying job in her field that was also close to home.

Feeling an overwhelming desire to cry, Zenobia put her head on the steering wheel. “This is the worst day ever!” she sobbed into her lap. She forced the tears down, but couldn’t keep her shoulders from shuddering.

The clearing of a deep, male voice got her attention. She looked up in the the darkest brown eyes she’d ever seen. Black eyebrows arched over thickly lashed eyes. His nose was almost too big for his face, but he made up for it by having a square jaw and a cleft in his chin. He smiled down at her.

Zenobia handed her license and registration to him. He gave them a cursory look, jotted something down on a pad with his left hand and gave them back to her.

I’m sorry about the mess back there,” she apologized quietly. “I’m still getting used to standard.”

No big thing,” he replied. His voice was deep, husky and flavored with a true Southern accent.

Are you gonna write me a ticket?” Her voice cracked making her feel even more foolish.

You okay?” He frowned, taking a step closer.

Unable to control herself another second, she burst into tears. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to get out of the ticket by crying,” she sobbed. “I just don’t know what I did wrong and I can’t afford a ticket and I’ve had the worst day ever!”

Rather than being sympathetic, he laughed. Zenobia glared at him. He laughed harder.

I’m sorry,” he gasped. “I’m not laughing at you—well, I am—but not because you’re crying. I pulled you over to make sure you aren’t having car trouble. You had such a problem at the light, I thought maybe your engine stalled. I wanted to get you out of traffic.”

You—you aren’t giving me a ticket?”

No. No.” He chuckled again. “I’m really sorry, Miss Vlachos. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Zenobia squinted up at him, surprise replacing worry. “You pronounced it right. No one ever gets it right.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Y Do I Bother? by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThere’s an invisible spot beside my sink where dirty dishes go to hide. Really clever dishes can hang out there 3 or 4 days without being detected. It’s a great hiding place for greasy pots and tomato sauce encrusted spoons, dirty plates and disgusting forks.

The most interesting thing about this invisible spot is that I’m the only one in the house who can see into it. The dirty dishes cannot hide from me. The men in my family—well, that’s an entirely different ballgame. It’s completely hidden from them. Anything to the left of the sink—at the edge of the metal lip, can’t be seen by male eyes. Something about that Y chromosome, I’m sure.

I’ve found that the Y chromosome also seems to make them incapable of changing out toilet paper rolls, voluntarily emptying trash cans or putting new bags in when they’re done. It makes them deaf to the sound of my voice too.

That Y chromosome’s a pesky bugger who really likes to get under my skin. It makes my youngest son stare at me wide eyed, wondering why I’m yelling at him for riding his bike all over town without permission.

It makes my husband say things like, “You got your hair cut? It’s going to take some getting used to.”

My middle son simply doesn’t hear me. I can say the same thing to him sixteen times and not get a response. “Why didn’t you tell me dinner was ready?” “I told you already.” “I didn’t hear you…..”

All of them, without fail, put things away in the wrong places in my kitchen. It’s got to be a Y chromosome problem. No woman in her right (or wrong) mind would put things where they do. I’m missing several things right now. Got no clue what they did with them. Mr. Y also makes them forgetful.

“Who put the potato peeler with the measuring spoons?”

“Wasn’t me,” my husband declares before I even finish speaking.

“I didn’t do it. I know where those go,” the youngest says.

“I didn’t put those up,” the middle one tells me. “Must have been Dad.”

Sometimes, based on where things are put, I can tell who did it. Each of them has a favorite wrong place for things. The measuring spoons are mixed with the peelers (husband). The ice cream scoop is put in the knife drawer (middle son). The metal bowls aren’t properly stacked (youngest).

It’s getting so bad that it takes me twice as long to fix a meal because I’m having to search for food items or kitchen tools as I go. I neaten the bowls only to have the plastic containers fall out of the cabinet at my feet. My spoons & forks are mixed up, spatulas & rubber scrapers are stuck in the wrong drawers.

Since my eldest son and his girlfriend have been living here the last year or so, the Y factor is even stronger—so much so, it even affects us two women from time to time.

The sink isn’t the only area where things can hide. Other places also harbor the occasional invisibility vortex. One day, my plastic wrap went missing and was gone for quite awhile. I finally asked the household at large where it was.

“Where is my plastic wrap?”

Blank stares.

“It’s red and has a baby on the outside of the box.”

More blank stares and not a word spoken.

I knew exactly where the box is. I’d located it in the garage where one of them left it. I just wanted to see if they’d own up to it or at the very least, bring it back inside. I bought another one, complaining loudly about the loss of the first one. It’s probably still out there.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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What Happened to the Cat? by Dellani

ABC ChallengeMy husband is a detail oriented person. As a medical professional, he has to be. It amazes me, however, what details his analytical, scientific mind will latch onto when he reads my novels. He’ll read the entire story and start demanding clarification. Some of it I’ve thought of, other things I make up, glad of my improv experience, because I honestly hadn’t thought of it.

It’s not unusual for me to make up some BS answer out of thin air just to get him to quit asking. Sometimes, if the subject really interests him, he’ll expand on it to the point where I’d pay real money just to get him to shut up.

Often, these sessions are helpful, clarifying those nebulous ideas that I hadn’t fully considered. A typical exchange:

“Have you thought about insert random weird concept?” he asks me.

“The readers don’t need to know that,” I reply, somewhat miffed.

“But it’s interesting. You could….”

“Yes, maybe, but why? It’s not the least bit important. Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Ask about the most unimportant elements?”

“I don’t do that. Now, what about…?”

He’s gradually learning not to ask what I’m working on, because ninety percent of the time it’s something I haven’t told him about. I shuffle projects and might work on a dozen different stories in a week. I love the fact that he’s interested, but I don’t always want to stop what I’m doing and explain what the book is about.

Once, in a weak moment, I told him about one of my unpublished novels where the psychotic ex-wife of the hero breaks into the heroine’s apartment, shaves her cat and duct tapes it to the hood of his car. Yes, it’s messed up, but the neighbors find the cat a short time later, call the police and take the cat to the vet. I mention in passing that the cat is at the vet’s and he’s fine. I read the passage to him, pleased with how well it came together.

NEW AT LOVE

“Someone broke into your place, Mandy.”

“My – what?”

Pale and shaking, she leaned against Derrick for support. He and Jasper helped her sit on the bench just inside the entry way.

“Why? What did they do in there?”

“They took your cat,” Jasper said quietly.

“What? Muse? Where is he? Is he okay?”

“Yeah. He’s okay. We sent him to the vet. Someone shaved him and taped him to the hood of Derrick’s car.”

“My car? Why the hell would they do that?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

Apparently, there wasn’t enough information for my husband. “What happened to the cat?” He asked when I got to the end of my explanation.

“What? Which cat?”

“Amanda’s cat, Muse. What happened to him?”

“He’s at the vet’s. I said that. He’s fine.”

“But you don’t mention him again.”

“So? You don’t even like cats. Why are you worried about the cat?”

“I was curious.”

“Forget the cat. He’s fine!”

“Whatever you say, baby.” There’s a long pause, to the point where I’m busy again and have forgotten about the conversation. “You really need to clear that up.”

“Clear what up?”

“The part about the cat….”

The point I’m making is that little details, things we forget about or think are inconsequential, can bother our readers if left unresolved. My husband, who positively loathes cats, was worried about Muse to the point that it detracted from the climax of the story. So I gave him a little more to help satisfy him

When Amanda opened the cat carrier door, Muse came out. He looked hopelessly thin in his shaven state, but rubbed against Derrick as happily as ever. Amanda looked inside the carrier.

“Where’s your friend?” she asked Muse.

The cat, as if he understood her, went to his carrier, nosing at the door, mewing softly. An answering mew came from inside the carrier.

“He made a friend at the vet’s. They were both traumatized and the little one latched onto Muse. He comforted her, wasn’t that sweet?”

She reached into the carrier, gently pulling out a small, scrawny white cat with blue eyes.

“She’s beautiful, Amanda. What did you name her?”

“Aphrodite. I couldn’t resist.”

Muse hopped into Derrick’s lap as he lounged on the couch with Amanda snuggled next to him. Aphrodite leaped prettily into her lap, turned three times and settled into a comfortable mound of white fur.

I’m not suggesting that every reader is quite so easily misdirected as my husband, but some are. Those are the people we have to satisfy by tying up the loose ends. Make sure the subplots are resolved. Give enough of an explanation that it sticks with the reader. Keep distractions to a minimum so that the thread of the story isn’t lost along the way. A few moments spent on housekeeping will prevent the inevitable question: “What happened to the cat?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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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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Shakazhan front

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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