Thursday, October 20, 2016

Creating Believable Aliens

Aliens don't have to be little green men from Mars. There's no need to make them freakish constructs with tentacles and brains on the outside. Aliens need not be evil, warlike beings intent upon conquering the Earth. They can be as like humans as we wish, or as different.
My alien beings vary throughout my sci-fi series. For the most part, they are animals who took a different evolutionary path. The Fellicians, for example, are giant cats who pursued a warrior's life. At peace now, they are still warlike, so many of them became warriors for hire.
Another alien species are called Vandarans. These people are descended from the moose. They've shed their antlers, but retain retractable hooves. A very religious people, they have built their society around their god Wthra and his many aspects.
Probably the most diverse race are the Kindred. There are several groups, all serving different functions. First are the shapers. These people live on the desolate, dangerous surface of Iyundo. They have honed their telekinetic and telepathic skills. Unable to speak, they can communicate telepathically for a great distance.
Kindred are bipedal and covered with fur. Their bodies have little demarkation between torso and head. They range in height from 3-4 feet, with the exception of the ship dwellers and techs, who are often over five feet tall. Their fur is glossy and soft, their eyes large and expressive. They are a silicon based life form, rather than carbon based.
These are the craftsmen, healers, artisans, telekinetic masters. They can use their powers to kill but mostly turn their strengths to healing and protection. Next, there are the ship dwellers. These Kindred devote their lives to caring for the vast sentient ships (another fascinating race). They are able to speak, but also have well honed telepathic powers in order to communicate with their ships.
There are technicians among the Kindred. An offshoot of the Shapers, they keep to themselves. They speak and are only moderately telepathic. They sometimes dwell on the ships, but are more often transported in cryo-sleep—by preference. They are friendly, though guarded, and have little to do with the other Kindred.
Finally, we have the Klash. There are the Kindred warriors who are born and trained for battle. They speak and are strong telepaths as well as having telekinetic powers rivaling the Shapers. They are dangerous and keep to themselves by choice, only venturing out when needed.
The sentient ships are an old race—older than Vandarans, Kindred or Fellicians. They can trace their beginnings to a race of Cloud Dwellers in an area of space that was destroyed by the Kahlea, countless centuries ago. They have never told me the name of their race, so that remains a secret.
Selectively bred by the Timokuan people, they eventually grew larger and more aware. Some, like Hammer and Anvil, are the size of a moon. Others, like Styx are built for speed and maneuverability. In their resting state, they are teardrop shaped, but can alter their shape at will. They come in a variety of colors, covering the entire spectrum, though red ones are extremely rare.
These ships can do anything for their passengers, including the synthesizing of food, furniture, various atmospheres and secret rooms found only by those who want them.
The Kindred have cared for them for millennia, until the day when the Timokuan people return. Once more enlisted into service, they prove the saviors of the Shakazhan forces.
Aliens don't all speak English, as they so conveniently did in the old Star Trek series. My aliens have their native languages, but most of them also speak Galactix—the common tongue of the galaxy. Those who don't generally have translation devices. If I make this believable, readers won't question. Generally, I have my characters at least passing conversant in Galactix.
Not all aliens are humanoid, as I've discussed. Some, like the Nav Guild, look like gargantuan slugs. Others are pulled from fantasy creatures. When creating aliens, have fun with them. Use your imagination. Flip through a few books on mythical creatures. Evil or good, chaotic or order seeking, the main thing is to make them believable.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Love Dialogue from Spying on Love

Spying on Love was inspired when I was getting on a plane, heading to Kansas City a couple years ago. Brick's a unique character. Since he's an airline executive, most people expect him to be a useless “suit”. People underestimate Brick, to their peril. He's in town of his brother's funeral and finds out there is more to Stony than meets the eye—with dangerous consequences.

There was a knock at the door. Brick got up to answer. He checked through the window before opening up. It was Jeremy and he held a laptop.
Hi. Sorry to come by so late, but thought you might need this. We got what we needed off it.” He handed the laptop to Brick.
Thanks. I can sure use it. Mine died.”
Jeremy nodded, backing quickly off the porch. Brick's phone rang as he closed the door.
Brick, it's Tovah.”
Yeah? Hi. Oh, thanks for sending Stony's laptop. I've got to buy a new one....”
What are you talking about? We didn't send it back.”
I'm holding it in my hands.”
That's not Stony's. It's been dismantled. Get rid of it. Now.”
Throw it in the pool.”
Already on the move, he told David to open the door, glad that his brother-in-law didn't argue. Brick sprinted to the pool, holding the laptop like it would bite him. At the last minute, he decided that wasn't safe. Courtney's room was just above the pool. Instead, he put on a burst of speed and ran to the golf course. It was deserted this time of night. A water trap glittered in the moonlight. Brick changed direction, nearly falling. He hurled the laptop toward the water as hard as he could. He was ten yards away when the pond bulged, blowing water and mossy golf balls in every direction.
The explosion lit the night. Motion sensors, car alarms and voices created a chaotic morass around him. Ears ringing, he clawed his way up the embankment. David met him, beating him on the back. It wasn't until David pushed him into the pool that Brick realized his coat was on fire. David hauled him out. Dripping and furious, Brick moved with a purpose. He was out the door, heading to the surveillance house before David could stop him.
The team across the street was already on the move. Brick zeroed in on Jeremy. He grabbed the sandy haired man by the collar, roaring as he slammed his face into the side of the stucco house. Lucas tried to get between them, but Brick was a man possessed. He wanted to kill Jeremy, but he wanted information more. Jeremy tried to fight, but Brick was a strong man fueled by fury. Hands gripped shirt, elbow slammed across shoulders. His full body weight pinned Jeremy to the wall.
Who sent you?”
He hit Jeremy with his forearm. “Tell me! Who wants us dead?”
I don't know. You have to believe me!”
Who?” Slam. “Who?”
Stony—not dead—dangerous—Jesus, Brick! They have my wife!”
The kids are home! Did you know that? Aubra's pregnant. There are five children in that house! You could have killed us all.” He body slammed the other man once more, roaring his anger.
I'm sorry! I didn't know about the kids.”
But it's okay to kill a pregnant woman?”
Spinning the other man around, Brick punched Jeremy in the gut.
My wife,” he gasped.
Brick gut punched him again. “You'd have sacrificed ten people to help her. I get that. I'd give anything for Danai to still be alive.”
You understand?” There was a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
I understand that Danai would have gladly died to protect even one child. I wonder how your wife will feel when she finds out.”
Jeremy wilted, sobbing. “Don't you get it? She died the second that bomb went off.”
Then I'm sorry for your loss,” Brick replied coldly, letting him drop.
Colleen ran up to his side. Maverick and Tovah rushed to cuff Jeremy.
Someone kidnapped his wife,” Brick said. Looking around at the confusion, he sighed. “This is gonna be hard to explain.” He nodded at the conflagration on the fifteenth hole.
Colleen threw her arms around him, kissing him desperately. “Are you okay?”
Charred and wet, but alive. Dammit. I really like this suit.”
I'll buy you a new one, I promise.” She kissed him again.
Mr. McMillan?” A tall policeman walked over.
I'm sorry to intrude, but there are a few questions.”
Okay. Sure.”
I need you to come with me, sir.”
To the station? What for?”
Little matter of a bomb on the golf course.”
I'm coming with him,” Colleen insisted.
Sorry, ma'am. Unless you're his lawyer—”
I'm better than that.” She flashed her badge.
He became very cooperative. “Of course, ma'am. My apologies.”
I showed you mine,” Colleen said, holding Brick's arm as she pushed him behind her. “You show me yours.”
The officer handed her his identification. Glancing from his face to his ID, she took her eyes off him a second too long. Brick saw him move before she did. The officer clipped her on the side of the head and lunged at Brick. Taking advantage of the reach, Brick grabbed the officer instead. He yanked forward, pushing the police officer's arm down at the shoulder as he pulled back at the elbow. The man screamed as his elbow popped.
Colleen recovered enough to grab the other man's wrist, hitching his injured arm behind him. He howled as she cuffed him.
Nice move, McMillan,” she said with an impressed grin.
Aikido—ten years now.”
She raised an interested eyebrow.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Creating a Believable Setting

Creating a believable setting isn't as easy as you might think. Using a place you know as a backdrop, as I did in The Ninja Tattoo and Under the Western Sky is easier, but what if your action can't all be done at real locations? Time to get inventive.
By inventive, I don't mean digging out road maps to some city that fits your needs, why not make something up?
For Undercover Lover, among others, I wanted a big city, but didn't want to use NYC, Chicago or other metropolis. Why? Because I'm basically lazy and don't fancy the research. Also, if I get my facts wrong. Someone will call me on it. As I don't much like the idea of engaging internet trolls, I chose to make my own city.
This city has no name. I couldn't come up with a name that sounded credible. I hate the hokey names they give cities in soap operas (and Sunnydale was taken) I didn't want more trolls crawling out of the woodwork telling me their city has that name and X was wrong with my tale. Therefore, it is a mysterious city somewhere near Canada and west of NYC, but east of Chicago.
I created some landmarks—a magnificent art deco hotel, a newspaper, a coffee shop, mall, art gallery, museums, aquarium and other sights to see. There is no map except the one in my mind, traffic is as busy or not as I choose. Some characters live in a ritzy development near the lake, others in less pricey and prestigious areas of the city.
An architectural firm does remodels of old, historic buildings—making exclusive condos from an old department store, for example.
There are spies, thieves, billionaires, wealthy old families, nouveau riche, doctors, lawyers and rock stars.
There are upscale suburbs, low class urban areas, sleepy small towns a few miles away from the craziness of the city—idyllic, quiet, crime free, there is a lake nearby and mountains. In short, any environment I want, is available. I have all flexibility I want with none of the real life hassles.
To keep it believable, I have traffic jams, crimes,emergencies, accidents—all the things we have in real life. They aren't the focus of my story, but the bustle of the city is always there.
My sci-fi settings are even more fun. Nothing takes place on Earth. I don't use our solar system at all. Readers will not find comforting old standards like green men from Mars. Instead, meet the moose-like Vandarans, giant feline Fellicians, the stately insectoids that resemble praying mantises, sentient rock formations the size of small asteroids, and the occasional amorphous creatures who fart to communicate.
Here, there are planet names like Aolani, Saltulle, Iyundo and Shakazhan. Everything in the known universe is run from an asteroid base called Committee Home Base. Here, each sentient race is represented, overseen by a Vandaran, Chairman Aisulov.
Later in the series, I introduce another planet. This planet is home to every mythical creature our legends speak of—and many more. Dwarves, nymphs and unicorns – I've got them, Zarboni, another cat race, I've got them too. Cloud Dwellers who look like airborne whales, anyone? But I digress. I think that aliens may be the focus of another article.
Each of these races needs a specific environment. You can't put ice people in a dessert, nor can you have cloud dwellers in a vacuum. I haven't fully explored these races and their habitats, but I can. Perhaps, one day, I will.
The important message here is setting can be as important as action. If your plot takes place in the wrong setting, the story is unbelievable. Give your characters the space to run and let them.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Love Dialogue from Ben Drexel

This story hasn't got a proper title yet, I merely call it by the name of the main character, Ben Drexel. Those of you who have read Lone Wolf, will recognize the name. This book explores the origin of this fascinating character.

Trying to find something out of place that he could harangue Drexel about, VanLipsig moved about slowly. Seeing nothing of note, he made his way back to where the young Sergeant stood at attention. The entire circuit had taken nearly ten minutes. To do the men credit, they hadn't even twitched. Returning their salute, he acted like he'd just walked in the room.
"As you were."
The men sat on their bunks, going back to what they'd been doing.
Ben remained standing. He offered the Colonel a seat and a bottle of water. VanLipsig accepted both, but didn't open the bottle right away.
"Not completely hopeless, I see."
"They're good men, sir."
"I meant you, Drexel. Them, I could give a shit about. At least they're neat. It will make going through their effects simpler."
"Excuse me?"
"We don't live long," VanLipsig said without really listening to Ben. He seemed lost in his own little bubble. "Our life expectancy is the shortest in the Corps, but we keep going because it's really all we can do." He glanced up at Ben, his eye holding sorrow. "I never wanted to do this to any of you, kid. I want you to know that I had no choice. You'd come up on the radar. I kept you under wraps as long as I could.... What they've done to us isn't right, but there's no going back now."
"Us? You mean your team?"
VanLipsig's level stare told him the truth. Gulping, he turned his left arm over. A faint scar ran from his wrist to his elbow. They'd told him both his arms were broken and had to be surgically set. He knew now that was a lie.
"Those will fade soon. Your body will heal faster than ever. The reason you cracked that little fucker's jaw...."
"Because I've been turned into one of the genetic freaks."
VanLipsig's dark eye flashed angrily. He inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. "Might want to curtail that kind of language around my guys. They don't much like being called freaks."
"We are, though. All of us. I've seen the shit you guys can do, sir. You have to admit, it's freakish."
VanLipsig lowered his head. "We don't much talk about it. What we had done to us, we'd like to forget. Most of my men don't remember what happened. They know they're missing gaps in their memories and they know they were tampered with. You and I are unique, kid. We remember a lot more."
"I still have gaps. I can't remember—what's her name?" He begged for information.
VanLipsig shook his head. "I wish we could take that away completely, but you're like me. They're the freak show." He nodded at the men in the room. "But we're super freaks, you and I. No matter what they do to us, we'll remember."
"Do you remember everything?"
"Yes. Everything." He looked like he wished he couldn't. "And one day, so will you. You'll remember her name and you'll want to find her. But by that time, she'll have moved on, found someone else, forgotten you. It's better to make yourself forget, son. It hurts less that way."
"I loved her, Colonel."
"We all loved someone in our past, kid. Trust me, don't torture yourself. One day, you'll the be one sitting where I am talking to some young hotshot about accepting what he's become. I'm here to tell you, it gets no easier each time I make this speech. But it seems like there's always one or two who aren't like the rest. We stand out, we think differently, we make the hard choices. I look at you and I see myself. Ironic, I'm old enough to be your father—fuck no, grandfather." He chuckled sadly, shaking his head.
"You look my age. How's that possible? Your men look older."
"I was a prototype. They made a lot of mistakes with us and learned from them. Your group will age, but slowly. By the time you're sixty, you'll look about forty."
"How old are you, Colonel?"
Wil didn't answer. He opened the bottle, taking a swig. He smiled, raising the bottle as if toasting Ben.
"Where do we go from here?"
"From here, we train the freaks. Tomorrow, we tell them the extent of what's happened to them. We do not point out the fact their memories are altered. Clear?"
Ben nodded, shoulders sagging. He wanted to tell Ray, but he knew he couldn't. To tell his friend would put him in a dangerous position. Ben didn't think VanLipsig would kill him to shut him up, but he might if the situation were dire. Rather than test the Colonel's resolve, he decided to keep quiet.
"Light's out," Wil said as he reached the door. "Day starts at 0430, gentlemen. Be bright eyed and bushy tailed."
"Oorah, sir," they chorused, saluting.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Thursday, October 06, 2016

I'm a Contraction Junky!

I'm a contraction junky. There, I've said it! It's in the open and I can deal with it. Inherently lazy, I like contractions.
I know as an English teacher, contractions are supposed to be frowned upon. Avoiding contractions in formal writing is important. Avoiding them in informal writing makes the work sound forced and stilted.

What's the difference between informal and formal writing?
Informal writing: novels, poems, friendly letters, texts to friends, blog posts.
Formal writing: term papers, newspaper articles, speeches, textbooks. In short, anything that isn't a novel, poem, friendly letter, text or blog post.

What's the big deal with using contractions in formal writing?
The big deal is IT'S FORMAL. Think of it like the difference between dressing for prom or dressing for a casual party. You're not going to wear ratty jeans and a T-shirt to prom. Nor are you going to wear a tux to a casual party. (At least I hope not!)
In formal writing, the author does not directly address his/ her audience. There is a degree of separation not found in informal writing. One avoids the use of I in formal writing, as well as avoidance of the pronoun you. It is impersonal and usually non-fiction.
Informal writing is more about engaging the reader, involving him/ her in the story, poem, letter or text. It's a very personal involvement, using I and you freely. There is no degree of separation as the goal is to bring the reader into the writing/ reading experience.
Contractions bring in a casual sense that formal writing cannot abide. They are anathema, forbidden, to be avoided. However, people rarely speak without contractions. We generally don't say, “I am going to the store with Mona. We will not be long. We will be driving straight there and back.” Shorten that puppy as much as possible. “I'm going to the store with Mona. We won't be long. We'll be driving straight there and back.”
If I have a character who speaks without contractions, it sounds bizarre and we wonder if they're foreign or speaking in another language. People are informal creatures unless they're in a formal situation where they're trying to make a good impression. I choose to make my work approachable, easy to read and as informal as can be. It's chock full of contractions, because they rock!
Don't be afraid of contractions. They aren't spooky, nor are they wrong. They're simply there to serve their purpose and move on. Embrace contractions. You won't be sorry.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

First Meeting from The Ninja Tattoo

This isn't specifically their first meeting, but that was so short, I like to use this scene instead. Teague inadvertently ran into Vivica when opening the door at Dunkin' Donuts. To apologize, he bought her a cup of coffee, but had to rush to get to work. He did, however, make sure to drive slowly by the windows of the building so she could see the name of the business on the side of his truck.

Teague stopped at Taco Bell and picked himself up a late lunch. He ate in the restaurant, going over this plans for Scott so that the plan would be fresh in his mind when he went to the nursery. He was making a list of necessary items when his phone rang.
"Wild Gardens. Teague speaking. How may I help you?"
"So, it is you," said the cheerful female voice on the other end. "It's not every day a man buys a girl a cup of coffee and runs off without a word. I had to beg Jenny to tell me your name, but she wouldn't give me your number."
"It's right on the side of the truck," he said with a laugh in his voice.
"So I noticed as you drove slowly by. You did that on purpose, you sly devil. Peak a girl's interest and satisfy her curiosity at the same time."
"Damn, I'm good. I didn't know I was that slick."
"Sneaky, you mean. So, hit any other women with doors in the past few hours?"
"No, but I've been kissed by a beautiful, older woman."
"Ooh, I'm jealous! Tell me who she is, I'll pay her a visit."
Teague laughed, picturing this nameless, exotic beauty coming up against Daisy.
"You might give the old girl heart failure," he said. "Daisy's spry, but I think you'd scare her half to death. Why don't you just let me buy you dinner to make up for my infidelity?"
There was a short pause. She sounded somewhat surprised when she answered, though whether with him or herself, he couldn't tell. "You know, I'd really like that, Teague."
"Great! Are you free tonight?"
"You're sure not shy. Do you always ask mysterious women out right after you meet them?"
"Only the ones I hit with the door. The others have to wait the standard three weeks before I ask them out."
"Am I setting myself up to get played?" She sounded concerned.
Wanting to immediately kill that thought, Teague got very serious. The laughter left his voice and he was very quiet before replying.
"I promise, I'm not like that," he said solemnly. "I don't even know your name."
Did he hear a sniffle? Had he made the woman cry? Cursing himself silently, he waited. She cleared her throat before replying.
"That's a beautiful name."
"Thank you. So, is Teague your first name?"
"Yeah. My mom's maiden name. Originally McTeague. Dad talked her out of that, thank God."
She giggled, then laughed louder. "Fine Irish name it is," she said with a fairly decent brogue.
"Aye, so it is, lassie. So, about dinner?"
"Talk about persistent! Okay, what about dinner?"
"Where, when?" Please let it be soon, he added as a silent prayer.
"You tell me."
"I don't know your schedule."
"I work from home. I'm very flexible."
That statement could have been taken a variety of ways. Teague didn't let his mind dwell on the subtler, more risque meanings, though his heart jumped when she said that.
"Alright. Would it be presumptuous of me to invite you out for tonight? That's assuming that a beautiful, vivacious, resilient woman like you hasn't already got plans."
"Beautiful, vivacious and resilient? Baby, you aren't being presumptuous, but you are pulling out all the vocab stops. If I had plans, I'd reschedule because no other man I know can string those words together with any intelligence."
"Damn, I'm good."
His voice dropped to a silky, dark chocolate range that made Vivica shiver with anticipation. It was a voice designed to be seductive and it worked. She hadn't any plans and the idea of going out with Teague was incredibly appealing.
"I believe I can reschedule," she said. "Move a few things around and clear a window at, say, seven?"
"I can do seven. You like seafood?"
"I love swordfish," she countered.
"I happen to know a place that serves the best swordfish in the county."
"Really? Where?"
"That would be telling. See, this way, I have to come pick you up."
"I see. Handsome and sneaky."
"I'm told it's a large part of my charm."
"Oh, I thought your charm was simply your ability to run into women with doors."
Teague laughed happily, enjoying this conversation more than just about any he'd ever had. He could tell that Vivica would keep him hopping, and he looked forward to it eagerly. She gave him her address which he wrote on a napkin, putting it in his wallet before he misplaced it.
"You can find that alright?"
"I grew up here, I can find damn near everywhere."
"Good. I'd hate for you to get lost and be late."
"I'll see you at seven on the dot. You don't mind riding in a pickup, do you?"
"Why would I?"
"Some women don't like trucks."
Vivica laughed. He could picture her tossing her magnificent mane of chestnut colored hair.
"It's got four wheels and it goes vroom. I don't care. My brothers all drive trucks. As a matter of fact, I do too."
"Then I guess that's a moot point."
"Don't be so worried, Teague. You had me at 'oh, shit.'" She hung up with a laugh.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Novel Approach to Writing Novels

No one can dictate to you how to write your book. The way the story presents itself to the author is all important. How-To authors will tell you what you must avoid, shouldn't do, how you have to approach something. The fact is, they don't know any more than anyone else, they just sat down and wrote a book about it. Don't let them bully you and dictate to you how you write. Chances are good that they have broken their own edicts at one time or another.
The best advice I have ever heard came from actor, director, author, screenwriter and producer, Ken Farmer. “Just write the damn story.”
I couldn't have said it better. There is no set in stone way to approach your story. Anyone who says differently is lying to you. I read an article many years ago, when I was a mere novice. I had one book, Indian Summer, under my belt. I was beginning my Lone Wolf sci-fi series. I came across this article by a famous sci-fi author, whose name I can't remember now. He said that an author must outline everything carefully before beginning to write. An author must know the ending before beginning to write. An author must spend more time on the outlining and planning stage than on the writing itself. It was, in this author's opinion, essential to follow a carefully crafted plan.
That one article spun me into a panic of momentous proportions. I don't do any of that. I tried writing an outline once, only to find myself writing the story instead. I scrapped the outline and wrote. I don't plot and plan before I begin. I never know the ending. I hop in and hope for the best. I dispense with the long, drawn out planning stage and go for the fun part—writing.
For certain styles of writing, outlining is important. For instance, if you're writing a biography, non-fiction or a how-to book, you should probably know where you're going. I've always been more of the opinion that the outline is something you write after they paper is done, but then I never have had a conventional approach to anything.
I have been a Blog Talk Radio host since 2009. In that time, I have talked with dozens of authors and I ask them the same question every show, “Are you a plotter/ planner or do you jump in and start writing?” Surprisingly, the plotter/ planners are in the minority, though how-to authors would have us believe that theirs is the only correct and perfect way to approach the story. This offers food for thought. Which approach is the correct one?
The answer is simple, no one can tell you that. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for anyone else. I'll describe my method (such as it is) and tell you some variations I've come across.
I get a starting idea—usually an opening sentence. Once in awhile, it's dialogue. Whatever is the case, it nags at me until I write it down. If I don't, it's gone and I may never get that story back. Frustrating but true.
Once I start to write, the words flow and I type as fast as I can in order to get them down. Sometimes, a story presents itself through pen and paper. I don't argue, I just write. These are rare, but do happen. I've learned to live with it.
My stories, for the most part, come at me chronologically. I begin at the beginning and write until I reach the end. I rarely use flashbacks, though I do have them from time to time. I rarely skip from one scene to another. For me, that's a lot more work. The only time I do that is if I get a scene that's really compelling and wants to be written now. Then I pick up and continue where I left off, bringing the story to that place.
Once in awhile, I can't remember exactly where I left off. If I'm away from home and intend to write while I'm gone, I'll take a notebook with me. I might pick up a scene a bit further in the future and write it instead, then go back and bridge the gap.
I listen to music when I write. What I have playing varies, but usually it's something that provides a background and doesn't intrude. A lot of my author friends say they can't have music with words, but that doesn't usually bother me. I hear the melodies and am only marginally aware of the lyrics.
I continue typing until I finish the book, or the muse clams up. Since she's a pesky wench, she does that fairly often—hence the fact that I have nearly as many unfinished novels as I do finished ones. If she closes her mouth on one, she often opens it on another. I write on that for awhile until she clams up again.
This is my method, if it can be called such.

There are variations, the most common of which are below. I am presenting these in First Person, though they are the ways and means of other authors:

I write each scene separately, whatever interests me the most. I write notes of each on a note card and lay them out on the floor, moving them around until I get the right sequence, then I string them together.

I write chronologically, but I write different scenes, the ones that speak to me the loudest, then I weave them together.

I have to have absolute quiet when I work. I can't have music, TV, radio or any other distractions. If I do, I lose track of where I'm going with the story.

I don't like music playing, but I have the TV on while I write. I don't pay attention to it, I just like the background noise.

I listen to the radio when I write. It helps me block out other noise and concentrate on my writing.

I work on only one book at a time. If the words stop flowing, I give myself a break and do something else. When I feel the story again, I go back to it and keep writing. I can't keep track of more than one plot at a time.

These variations are endless. I have only listed the ones that I've heard more than once from other authors. I'm surprised to find that there are a few of us who constantly juggle multiple projects. I don't know if it speaks to our level of Attention Deficit or some other personality quirk. Most people I speak to work on one project at a time. There are some of us who are, apparently, gluttons for punishment and torture ourselves with more.
Write the way that feels comfortable. Allow your chaotic process to be productive and don't worry about it. Accept that the first draft will probably be terrible and live with this fact. It takes years to write an acceptable first, second or hundredth draft. Don't feel as if you need to control it all, because the fact is, you control nothing. The story chose you, not the other way around. It will control how you write, what you write and how it ends. Accept this and move on. It's much more fun when you allow yourself to relax.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.