Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pounding the Pavement

This was a writing prompt for a small writer's group I belong to. Each week, we meet and have a short selection to share. This was mine for June 4, 2008.

I've never really actually pounded the pavement, except with my butt. What can I say? I'm clumsy. If it's possible to hurt myself, I will.

I don't know what my first experience with pavement pounding was, but several incidents certainly stand out in my mind in rather spectacular ways. I seem to have a proclivity for injuring my feet the most, though my shins and knees refuse to be left out of the action.

When I was four, my family lived in married student housing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while my father attended Harvard. There were lots of children running around barefoot and we played outside all spring and summer. One of the boys was given a red wagon for his birthday and we were all getting rides. I was determined not to be left out and claimed my place in the front while two others piled in behind me.

I started out with my feet under me Indian style, but there wasn't enough room, so I let my toes dangle over the side. Everything was fine until we hit a bump. I fell forward, my toes dragged on the pavement and I took part of the nail and the tips of my big toes clean off.

Screaming and crying, I was carted back to my mother who cleaned and bound the wounds, administered baby aspirin and kept me inside for the next week. For a long time after that, I was confined by tennis shoes.

My first major knee involvement came at age nine when I was learning to ride a bike. The neighbors had an old, battered, dark green bike with nearly flat tires. Jane, the eldest who was four or five years older than I was, got me set up, ran me around and got me confident. Feeling empowered by my new found skill, I decided to ride around the block a few times.

Flying along, I felt the freedom the bike gave me, enjoying the sun on my face and the wind in my hair - until I hit a patch of loose gravel. The bike went one way and I went the other, down on all fours in the dirt road.

Gravel and dirt embedded themselves in my flesh, leaving a trail of grime and blood. Luckily for me, I fell in front of the same neighbors' house. Their father carried me inside and their mother, a registered nurse, cleaned me up while her daughter ran down and got my mother. To make me feel better, the dad got me a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup. It kept my mind off the fact his wife was taking stones from my knees with tweezers.

My last major escapade with pavement pounding involved my right shin. This time, in college, working summer stock at a theater in Tennessee, I was coming off stage when disaster struck.

We were doing Carousel and I was singing and dancing in the chorus. I was going to the dressing room in the basement laughing and chatting with my friends. I really was paying attention to where I was going, but I was wearing slick bottomed dance shoes.

There was a rise in the floor, a step up of about ten inches. Instead of stepping on it like I should, I missed, catching my heel on the edge of the step. The shoe flew out from under me and I fell down, grinding my shin against the edge of the concrete step.

Luckily, there were several doctors and nurses in the cast as the theater drew extras largely from the community. One of the doctors gently checked my leg while one of the nurses held my hand and tried to calm me down. It wasn't broken, but I had a gash in my shin down to the bone that went from my knee to my ankle. I couldn't even get stitches because there was no skin left.

I've done many things to myself that defy description. None of them have ever been life threatening, but all of them have been painful and of major inconvenience. I'm not quite as clumsy as I was as a child, but that's probably because I try to be more aware of what's around me. Aside from the occasional stubbed toe, I do pretty well and avoid pounding the pavement.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fragrance LIngers

Mara Cross is a successful architect who never felt she had time for love. On vacation on a tropical island, love finds her in a most unusual way.

The beach filled gradually, but nothing bothered Mara who was used to the noises of the city. Her apartment was in a loft unit downtown. It had once been a warehouse, back in the Prohibition Era. The historical society prevented its destruction and her architectural firm redesigned it into apartments for young, upwardly mobile executives. She'd liked the results so well, she bought the top floor for herself.

"Miss?" It was Julio. He was bending over her looking slightly concerned. "It's been nearly an hour since you fell asleep. If you don't turn over soon, you're going to be burned on one side and blank on the other."

Grinning at him, Mara obediently rolled over and ordered another drink. Julio brought it gladly, smiling happily as she added a handsome tip to the bill.

"I go off duty in an hour. If you sleep again, shall I wake you before I go"

"Thanks, Julio, that would be great."

She was grateful for her olive toned skin. Had she been fair skinned, she'd already have been fried. She didn't fancy tending a burn for the first days of her vacation.

Mara tipped the chair up slightly and took out her book. It was a science fiction novel she'd been hoping to read for some time, but hadn't gotten past the first few pages. She flipped back to the beginning and started reading. She was just getting into the story when a volleyball landed heavily in her lap, dropped to the ground beside her and knocked over her drink.

Mara looked up angrily and saw a man waving to her apologetically. He was medium height and build, with medium length, medium brown hair. He trotted up the beach, hand extended.

"I'm so sorry," his tone was sincere with a hint of a Southern accent. "I guess my friend hit it harder than he needed to. We haven't played in years, but he still thinks that he's the king of the spike."

He pointed down the beach to a short, squat, freckled, redheaded man in orange swim trunks. He looked embarrassed and his face was so red, it rivaled his hair.

"Sorry about that!" He called. He had a distinctive West Texas drawl.

The man next to her picked up the volleyball in one hand. "Cole Bayard," he extend the hand not holding the ball.

"Mara Cross. Who's your pal?"

"He goes by Red Gilroy. Bet you can't guess why."

Mara chuckled, glancing at the man standing over her. He was better looking up close and had a firm chin and well toned physique. His navy blue swim trunks had big, white tropical flowers on them and rode low on his hips. What really caught her attention was the tattoo on his belly just below his navel.

All she could see were two brightly colored serpent's heads intertwined, facing one another. She wondered how low the tattoo went below the level of his shorts. Shaking her head slightly, she realized he was speaking to her again. Blinking, she looked up at him, trying hard to focus.

"I'm sorry. I guess I've got a little jet lag."

Cole grinned flashing even white teeth in his tanned face. "No problem, Miss Cross. I was just apologizing again for the volleyball. We didn't mean to interrupt."

"Not a problem. Call me Mara. Miss Cross sounds too much like work. I'm here to forget the office, not burrow deeper into it."

Cole bounced the ball back and forth absently as if he were trying to make up his mind about something. "Mara, would you like to join Red and me for dinner?"

"Oh, well... I don't know... It's just...."

"I know, it's abrupt, but we know some of the less traveled night spots. I'm here about six months out of the year and Red comes down fairly often. I sideline as a tour guide. It gives me something to do to take my mind off the office." He said with a completely straight face.

"I'd like that, actually," Mara decided. She was determined to enjoy herself. Dinner in a public place sounded harmless enough.

"Super! We'll pick you up at six o'clock. Dress casually, the fancy spots are for tourists." Grinning, he saluted her and ran back down to where Red was standing.

Cole moved with easy, unaffected grace, running effortlessly through the sand. When he got back to Red, he popped the ball hard over the net. It landed in his friend's outstretched hands. Mara watched them play until they went back into the hotel together.

It was nearly one when Mara finally left the beach and went back to her room. A note had been slipped under her door. She opened it and grinned. It was covered in a sloppy scrawl.

"I continue to be sorry about the volleyball, but I'm very glad I met you. I look forward to dinner. Cole."

Friday, December 04, 2009

Car Trouble - part 2

I like dialog. One might go so far as to say I'm a conversation junkie. I like verbal exchanges, word play, innuendos, double entendre and yes, even puns. I particularly like conversations where the two main characters get to know one another.

I did a few "first meetings" not long ago, and I decided to revisit that and post a few more. This is the first part of a novel called "Car Trouble" - as yet unfinished.

The disconcerting thing about this novel is that I had car trouble myself in the exact spot that Kent has car trouble in the first chapter. Only that didn't inspire this tale, because that happened weeks after I started this story. In fact, I was driving home from a meeting planning to work on it when my tire blew.

My rescuer wasn't a hunky male, he looked more like Rodney Dangerfield, but he was friendly and efficient, getting me back on the road safe and sound.


I got out, dragging my meager possessions with me. There was more in the car, but I wasn't about to try to carry it all. Taking my other keys off the ring, I left my car key with Rosalie in the office and followed Cadence to her pickup.

"Mr. Mason, you look like a man in need of a cup of coffee," Cadence said as we hopped into her dark colored pickup.

"I do indeed, Miss Jacoby. I'm beat, but wide awake, if that makes any sense."

"I understand completely. I live on caffeine when I work this shift. I don't usually take it, just covering for one of the guys. He's out with the flu."

She pulled into an all night diner, parking out front. It was surprisingly full for nearly three o'clock in the morning. We found a booth, ordered coffee and pie and sat there awkwardly trying to find something to talk about.

I got a good look at my companion for the first time. She was an attractive brunette, probably in her late twenties or early thirties. Athletically built, she was muscular and looked stronger than some men I know. I'm no slack, but she could whoop my ass easy if I got too fresh. Her eyes were a dark hazel rimmed with long, black lashes. Dressed in jeans and a company T-shirt in day glow green, she looked very competent.

I felt even more as if I had spent the last twenty-four hours in the same suit. I was clammy and sticky, my T-shirt and underwear still damp from sitting in a too hot car while I waited for the tow truck.

"Pardon my saying, Mr. Mason, you look beat."

"Kent," I mumbled. "I am. It's been a long trip."

"Well, at least you had car trouble close to home."

"Yeah. It's been giving me serious trouble since Tallahassee. I kept having visions of getting stranded along I-10 in the middle of B.F.E. I hate that stretch of road."

"Having had car trouble along there, I sympathize. I was lucky it wasn't anything serious. I was able to fix it and got back on the road. It was creepy out in the dark though. I kept imagining someone sneaking up on me while I had my head in the engine."

"Oh, you fix cars as well? I thought you just drove the truck."

"My dad taught me how to tear down and rebuild an engine when I was ten. I've been working on cars since I was little."

"I know about this much," I held my fingers an inch apart. "Put the key in, turn it, internal combustion takes place and it moves. If one of those steps fails to happen...." I spread my hands helplessly.

She grinned, her dark eyes twinkling. "Then you call me."

"Exactly!"

"So, you're an author, huh? What kind of books to you write?"

"Crime novels, for the most part. Though I've tried my hand at other things as well. I've got a sci-fi series and even a few of romance novels."

"Romance? You aren't secretly gay, are you?"

"Why does everyone think that? Men can write romance novels too, you know. Of course, mine are more smut than romance...."

I laughed at my joke, I write mostly historical romance and they aren't very smutty. However, I can turn my hand at smut if it helps pay the bills.

"Oh, smut boy, huh?" She grinned, taking a sip of her coffee.

I sipped mine too, stinging my mouth. Gasping, I gulped my water to cool my blistered tongue. Eyes watering, I stirred my coffee and took a bite of my pie.

"I should have warned you," she looked concerned. "It's the hottest coffee I've ever had. I don't know how they do it."

"Pass it through a nuclear generator," I speculated. "Dear God, that's hot! Now that I've nearly killed myself, do you need to warn me about the pie?"

Cadence giggled, shaking her head. "I haven't hurt myself on the pie yet. Though apple... You never know with apple. They might have dropped a hand grenade in there."

"Yep, you'd never know the difference."

"Until you blew up."

"That would give it away, for sure."

"One might even say, 'a dead give away'," she smirked.

I know it's a cheesy joke, but I couldn't stop laughing. Blame it on a lack of sleep, or the fact I'd been traveling for nearly two weeks. Whatever it was, I felt like a complete idiot.
When I started to choke, I felt like a pathetic, lame, weak, complete idiot.

"Are you okay?" Her eyes held concern.

I could see myself in the window, turning red in the face, blue eyes watering, blond curly hair awry. All I could do was nod and gasp, so I did. No words came out, just gasping. Pretty soon everyone in the diner was looking at me. I could see a couple guys in the corner mentally reviewing the Heimlich Maneuver and wondered vaguely if it worked on liquid. I was pretty sure it didn't. Eventually, I stopped gasping and coughing, eyes watering like crazy. I looked like a victim of tear gas.

"Sorry," I wheezed. "Water went down wrong."

"You're a wreck, Kent."

Mentally, I was kicking myself. I liked this woman. She was bright and interesting with a similar sense of humor. Not only that, she was gorgeous. Except for book signings, I don't get out a lot and I haven't had a proper date since 1996.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Not since 2006 when I got divorced. To be specific, I was figuratively ganked in the courtroom when my wife took virtually everything I owned. I now live in a modest rental home in Edgewater when I used to have a magnificent beach house in New Smyrna. My wife has the magnificent beach home, my Porsche and my dog, Ripper.

I realized with a lurch that my companion was speaking and I hadn't heard much of what she said.

"Kent, are you sure you're okay? You don't look so hot."

"Exhausted, Cadence. Nothing more."

"Maybe I better take you home."

I insisted on paying for our coffee and pie, leaving a more generous tip than it was worth, but I felt like I should atone for the choking fit in some way.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 17

Screaming, weeping, Matilda followed the other three to the ladder, falling over obstacles in the dark, tripping on her own feet, hysterical with grief. She knew she had to get the rest of the team out, but she could hardly breathe. Panic took hold of her as another tremor, longer, deeper and more urgent shook the ground under their feet.

The other members stood by the ladder, uncertain what to do. "Up the ladder, reverse numbers!"

She had enough where-with-all to know she had to be last. Jane went first and the rest followed, hesitating over the gaps in their ranks, noticing and mourning those missing.

There was one person left, the largest man in the group. Mike delayed before going up. "You first, Matilda."

She shook her head. "By the numbers, Mike."

He forced a grin. "Yes, ma'am."

He put one foot on the ladder and the shaft began to crumble. He leapt back, knocking her aside as the soft, black dust fell over them. She had a moment of panic and she knew no more.
* * *

Matilda woke with a start, gasping for breath, the darkness thick around her. She couldn't move, her arms and legs pinned down. The weight was excruciating and she wished she had stayed unconscious. A minute or two later, she realized what had woken her.

"4-6-2, this is Base. 4-6-2, this is Base. Can you hear me?"

She moaned, her entire body felt broken.

"4-6-2, Matilda, this is Jane. Can you hear me? Mike? Answer me!" Her voice held an edge of desperation.

"It's me," Mike croaked. "Matilda is here, I can feel her next to me." He tapped her left arm.

"Can't see..." Matilda groaned.

"The tunnel fell in on you. A team is on the way. Can you move?"

"No," Matilda said after a few moments of trying.

"Negative, Base," Mike sounded less wounded than she.

After a few more minutes, she realized part of the weight on her was Mike's body. She moaned again.

The pain was incredible and she slipped once more into unconsciousness. When she woke again, she was in the Guild infirmary. Sterile white walls met a black and white tile checkerboard floor. Muted voices and the sounds of food carts greeted her ringing ears.

She could not turn her head as she was in a neck brace, but her peripheral vision showed her the bed next to her was empty. The sheets looked rumpled, so someone had been using it.

The toilet flushed and Mike hobbled out on crutches. His smile was warm and friendly, tinged with sadness. Reality struck home as she remembered Bobby's last words as he fell. Tears ran down her cheeks and she sobbed, mourning his loss and that of their friends.

"They are still looking, Matilda."

"He fell too far, Mike. I know it. Their bodies will never be found. What happened?"

She rubbed her eyes with the back of her right hand. The left was in traction.

"They hit a pocket of Essine gas when they were digging. That entire side of the mine went down. They've had to close the whole site."

"Tests and scans are supposed to be done for Essine...."

He nodded sadly. "Someone screwed up."

"I'll have their job for this!" The pain increased with her anger.

"They're dead, Tilda. Just like Bobby."

"Not just like! At least their death was quick! He fell and there was nothing I could do! Just stand there and watch!" It was then she noticed her ring finger was bare. "My ring!" Before she could get more worked up, he handed her a small plastic bag with her engagement ring. The band had been sliced and it was covered with muck and crusted blood.

"They had to cut it off, but the nurse made sure to save it. You can get it cleaned and repaired, it will be good as new." Her lip was trembling and hot tears spattered the bag, puddling in the folds and creases.

"It doesn't matter. Put it away."

He did as she asked and waited for the food cart to stop by. There was nothing left to say. No words could make her feel any better.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NaNoWriMo is in Full Swing. Are You In?

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo again and loving it. The first part of the novel came fast and furious, but the muse is now being stubborn. I have had to cut and restart a couple times. I know technically that's not something they encourage, but I knew I wouldn't ever finish if I didn't redirect and fix it. It's going more in the right direction now -WHEW! Below is an excerpt of my story, a crime/ romance blend.

The original idea came from something that actually happened to me. The character of Teague has my perspective & point of view in the incident that sparked this story. Of course, I've added to and embellished, but the basic thread here is real. I don't know what the bikers were doing, if it was a strange and oddly convenient coincidence, but it's something that stuck with me.

Teague McMurtry has recently left the Army. At 24, he's seen more blood and death than most men his age. Quite by accident, he gets involved in something strange, mysterious and deadly. Is the beautiful Vivica really what she claims, the innocent sister of a psychotic mastermind? Or is she drawing him into something dangerous and deadly? An excerpt from "The Ninja Tattoo" is below.



Early morning sun set the sky on fire, glistening off the water, momentarily blinding him. He flipped down the visor then dug his sunglasses out of the glove compartment, sliding them up his nose with one hand. He'd chosen the scenic route to work just so he could enjoy the sunrise. It wasn't often he got out this early. The river looked like molten silver shot with gold strands. The sky was a cheerful blend of rose, lavender, azure, peach and plum. The sun peeping over the horizon was tinged with red, indicating the start of another scorcher. Hot weather was not unusual in Florida, but wasn't the norm for this late in the year.

Teague McMurtry waved to the few pedestrians out at this hour. He knew some of them slightly, since many of them were his neighbors. Working the odd hours he did, he rarely saw anyone. However, since moving a month ago to his small house on Riverside Drive, his neighbors had made a point of coming over to introduce themselves. It was by far the friendliest neighborhood he had ever lived in.

The road was empty as he drove south toward his job site in Oak Hill. He had an estimate to do down there and had to be in New Smyrna by 10:00, leaving him plenty of time in between. By the time he got to the police station in Edgewater, only a few blocks from his home, he had joined a convoy of sorts. In the lead was a bronze Ford pickup. Directly in front of Teague was a guy on a motorcycle. Behind him was another motorcycle, a red Jeep and, he thought, a third bike behind the Jeep. It seemed odd since the road had been so empty before. He couldn't quite remember noticing when he came upon these others, but figured they all had the same idea, keeping out of school traffic on US-1.

The pickup was going the speed limit, which was a little frustrating. In fact, the driver went 25, then 20, 30 and 15. Teague wanted to lay on his horn, but didn't want to startle the biker, so he kept his frustration to himself. The biker didn't look any happier with the truck than he was. From time to time, he glanced behind him, trying to see around Teague's white Dodge Ram. Apparently, the motorcycles were traveling together and somehow Teague had gotten in between them.

At the turnoff for 442, the guy ahead of Teague gestured with his left arm, motioning as if he were turning. Teague slowed, anticipating the right turn, but the biker sped up, his black and white Ninja, following the truck as it continued past the intersection. Instead, the red Jeep, followed by another biker, turned right and headed up 442. This left the truck, Teague and two bikers. It seemed strange to him and he began to wonder what was going on. His overactive imagination clicked into high gear and he started imagining scenarios.

“Maybe the guy in the truck is with them and he's giving directions to the guy on the white Ninja?”

He thought that over, wondering how they were communicating. The guy ahead of him was probably about his age with short, sandy brown hair. He had on a T-shirt, baggies, skater shoes and sunglasses. He wasn't wearing a helmet and he didn't have a cellphone out. So that was probably not the case. The biker behind Teague was also on a Ninja, this one bright blue, He wore a white helmet with a dark visor. He was wearing clothing similar to the man ahead of him. What characterized them both was the fact they were heavily tattooed. What Teague had first taken as a tan or sunburn, on closer inspection, revealed itself to be elaborate tattoos on neck, arms and legs.

The road turned right, coming to a end at US-1. Stopping for the light, the man ahead of Teague leaned back on his bike, glancing at the guy behind him. He motioned to himself, indicating he was going right. Gesturing at the rider behind Teague, he pointed left. The other man nodded, giving the lead biker a thumbs up. The light changed and the fellow on the white Ninja followed the truck while the man on the blue one followed Teague. Feeling a bit paranoid, he moved over to the right lane, anticipating that the biker would go around him. It didn't even occur to him that the other man would stay behind him, but he did. He didn't ride Teague's bumper, rather stayed at least two car lengths back, shadowing him. If Teague changed lanes, so did the biker.

The hairs on his neck stood at attention. Something was decidedly weird. This man's behavior negated everything Teague had ever seen bikers do. They generally crowded until they could pass, then buzzed around the other vehicles way too fast, disappearing suddenly as they sped up. Approaching the subdivision near Oak Hill, Teague signaled his turn. The biker looked ready to follow, but continued down the highway. As Teague checked in at the security gate, the biker slowed, making a U turn, he continued back up US-1. Once he was cleared, Teague drove to the house whose yard he was landscaping. He tried to put the bikers out of his mind, but their odd behavior was so out of the ordinary, he couldn't.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Pat Bertram is my Guest Blogger!

Most how-to books on writing suggest getting the first draft down as quickly as possible so that the passion shines through. This is good advice, and I would follow it if stories came easy to me, but they never do. I worried about this (for five minutes or so), wondering if my novels would feel dry and unemotional because I approach them as a puzzle, but the only difference between my way of writing and the so-called right way is that I do my thinking as I write rather than as I rewrite.
Is one way better than another? I don’t know, but if we accomplish what we set out to do, both the logical writers and the passionate ones can end up with interesting stories that will evoke emotions in our readers. In my case, during rewrites I get rid of much of the dryness that comes from the puzzle approach. In your case, perhaps, you lose some of that freewheeling passion when you organize what you have written into a more cohesive story.

We all have to find the best way to write. I am not condoning poor grammar, typographical errors, bad plotting, ignorance of story elements, or any of those other rules that new writers rail against. I’m talking about the fun of writing, the passion, the puzzle.

Samuel Johnson remarked, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I guess that makes most of us blockheads, because we write knowing that except for a select group, there is little money to be made from writing. We need other reasons for spending so much time bleeding words.

For me, it’s the puzzle. As frustrating as it gets, I love figuring out plots, character’s motives, new ways of presenting common thoughts. Beats crossword puzzles any day.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Daughter Am I: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tangled Web covers

By leaving a comment below, vote for your favorite cover. Random drawing will be held for a free, signed copy when the book is published!

Cover #46


Cover #45


Cover #44


Cover # 43


Cover #42


Cover #41


Cover #40


Cover #37


Cover #36

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 14

Room assignments came next. Couples were housed on the first three floors, singles paired up and were on floors four through eight.

"Take a key and move on," the attendant here said. "One key per person."

Before leaving the building, they received directions to their building and then put their stasuits. These were checked and rechecked at the door. Corrections were made as needed, none too politely.

"We start Monday, Tilda," Bobby sounded apprehensive.

"Bobby, I hate this place," Matilda shuddered, clinging to his arm.

"So do I, honey. It will be all right, we won't be here all that long."

They found their room without any difficulty. James and his girlfriend, Stella, were next door. After unpacking their scant belongings in the cheerless, tile and metal room, they went to the cafeteria in the basement. Each dorm had its own to minimize exposure to the outdoors. The food wasn't too bad, at least it wasn't gray.
* * *
Monday dawned and the only difference was that the sky was a lighter shade of gray than it was at night. Darkness took on a lurid cast in the light of the orange gas lights scattered about.

Decked out in their gear, the four of them approached the mine with trepidation. They had been assigned to a team with six other people. After three weeks of training, Matilda would be taking over. She was terrified.

"I don't really see why you get to be in charge," Jane complained for the hundredth time. "I scored higher than you on the aptitude test."

"Only two points," Stella quipped, liking Jane's discomfort.

"Because," James was only too happy to be the one explaining this time, "she out ranked you on Saltulle. Foreman DuLac, remember?"

Jane stalked away in a huff. James and Stella laughed after her.
"She can have the job as far as I'm concerned," Matilda commented. "Do you know how many rules and safety regulations I have to memorize in the next three weeks?"

"You can do it, Tilda. I'll help you," Bobby told her, squeezing her fingers.

"Thanks! I can use all the help I can get!"

Their shift went quietly and they learned more about Chaxite than they ever hoped to. Getting home that evening, after dinner and a hot shower, Matilda sat down with her regulations. Bobby came in and sat across from her, gazing at her intently.

"What?" She felt flustered and confused by his look.

"We need to decide something, Tilda. When do we want to get married? There is an actual minister here, we could have a church wedding."

"I really can't think about it until training is over."

"What will be the next excuse, Matilda? We could have married on the ship, but you didn't want to. Do you even want to marry me?" His eyes filled with angry tears which he blinked away.

She took his hand in hers. "Yes, Bobby, I do want to marry you. I love you. But I want to be able to enjoy our wedding and our time together afterwards and until I get through this training, I just can't. We can get married right after as a celebration, okay?"

He smiled weakly. "Alright, I guess I can wait. I'm holding you to this, Matilda DuLac." He reached for her rule book. "Here, let me have that, I'll quiz you."

"I do love you, Bobby." They spent the next three hours studying the rules until both of them knew them by heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 11

Matilda woke on a morning six weeks later and realized not only was it her seventeenth birthday, but it was her last day on Saltulle. Her family was headed for a mining colony on Solaris in the Zapata system. She was being sent to a mining colony on Parisium and Bobby was going with her.

After three years, if she worked hard enough, she would be eligible for transfer to officer's training. That program alone took an additional three years and the most she could hope for was Commander on a mining vessel. If she were extremely lucky, eventually she would be given a Captaincy, but she doubted it. In the entire three centuries of its existence, there had been three female captains in the Mining Guild.

She dressed quickly, anxious to spend time with her family. Solaris was a long way from Parisium and she did not foresee any chance for visits. She had Bobby, that would have to suffice.

When she got to the kitchen, there was a flurry of activity. A banner across the doorway said, "Happy Birthday, Tilda!" This time her sisters had enough time to finish it and had liberally decorated it with oblique balloons and slightly psychotic clowns.

Her mother had fixed a special breakfast to which Bobby had been invited. He was sitting, tipped back in his chair, talking to her father. He stood when she walked in. His kiss was carefully platonic, although their relationship had progressed to the next level. Matilda suspected her father knew she and Bobby were lovers, but he said nothing. He liked Bobby, who was steady and reliable. They had talked about marriage, but never formalized it, leaving it nebulous. For some reason, she never felt quite as strongly about their relationship as he did.

"Happy Birthday, Tilda," he said softly, kissing her again.

"Look what we got you!" Her sisters chorused, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her to the table. A small stack of presents were by her plate. The largest was from her parents. It was about 11" x 10" and flat. It contained a holographic photo frame loaded with pictures of her family from her parents' wedding to their last big event, Amie's seventh birthday.

All of them were clustered around Amie at the end of the table as she blew out candles. Behind and to the left was Wil, seen in profile, a sad smile on his full lips. Matilda paused, gazing at the photo, for he had not been looking at Amie, but at her. She lingered over the photo for a moment, then set the frame aside to look at her other presents.

The girls had made her cards and gifts. From Amie, she had a bracelet made of stones and chunks of metal she had found lying around. Amie had no way of knowing that those scraps were worth a small fortune anywhere but Saltulle. Brigette's gift was two fold. First an autograph book all of them had signed. It also contained messages from everyone she had been able to charm in to sighing it, which was virtually everyone in the town. The other half of her gift was a diary.

"That's so you can write down all the exciting things that happen to you," Brigette said proudly.

"Thanks, girls," she hugged each of them. "This is the best birthday ever."

Bobby smiled secretively. "I'll give you mine later after we get on board the ship."

Surprised and curious, she gave him a long, appraising look.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - part 7

Matilda has discovered that there might be Trimagnite on Saltulle. She is sensitive to the elusive, toxic, liquid ore. Wil & her father have asked her to show Wil where she was when she had her encounter. Matilda has made another discovery too, she realizes that she's falling in love with "Uncle Wil".

Matilda dressed carefully but with an eye to practicality. First, comfortable jeans which fit her very well, emphasizing her slender hips and firm thighs. Her shirt was a long sleeved, plaid cotton worn over a white tank top. Gloves and helmet were standard issue. No one left them or their goggles and filter masks behind. Thick soled boots completed her outfit. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the best she could do.

Brigette tapped on her door and poked her head in. “Uncle Wil says, are you ready?”

“Be right there.” A dab of her favorite perfume behind each ear and she was ready.

Wil was waiting outside on a bright red floater cycle. He grinned widely, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“Hey, baby girl,” he borrowed her father’s nickname. “Ready?”

In reply, she hopped on the back seat of the cycle, strapped in and gave Wil the coordinates of the spot she had felt the Trimagnite’s pull the day before.

“If you feel anything at all, say so. I don’t care how dumb or trivial it seems. If your nose itches, tell me.”

“Okay, Uncle Wil.”

They took off smoothly. Wil’s cycle was heavier than the Guild’s but more powerful and maneuverable. It was also completely silent. All they heard were the stones, kicked up by as it glided by, hitting the bottom of the cycle.

“I think you’re old enough to call me just plain Wil, don’t you?”

He glanced over his shoulder at her when she did not reply right away. She nodded and was opening her mouth to reply, when they hit a patch of turbulence, a small dust devil which was easier to go through than around. Conversation was impossible and she had to throw her arms around Wil and hang on, afraid she’d fall off.

A year ago this small gesture would not have affected her, but as her body changed and blossomed, she was very conscious of her growing breasts pressed against his muscular back. It felt strange. She was aware, too, of how comforting his body was near hers. Not in the way of a child with her favorite uncle, but as a woman with a man.

The effect on Wil when she clung to him, was electric! An insignificant thing set his heart pounding and his adrenaline rushing.

“She's a child,” he reminded himself. “My friend’s child, what’s more.”

He fought for self control and concentrated on maneuvering the cycle through the dust devil. He successfully got himself under control until the wind shifted, bringing with it the scent of her perfume.

It was expensive, something he had bought for her mother, but in her peculiar way, Mary had said it wasn’t her style. She gave it to Matilda, not because Mary didn’t like the scent, but because she saw the expression of longing in her daughter’s eyes when she looked at the tiny, blue crystal bottle and experienced the fragrance.

It mixed with a woman’s chemistry and was guaranteed to smell different on everyone. Wil’s sensitive nose loved the exotic aroma and he enjoyed picking out the subtle differences between them. He suppressed a sigh of contentment as her scent wafted toward him.

“A child...” echoed in his mind.

She stiffened suddenly, as they approached the site. Still several clix away, she was experiencing something. Taking careful note of the coordinates, he stopped the cycle and turned to her.

Her face was pale and drawn, dark eyes wide with confused terror. She clung to him as if she were drowning and only he could save her. He had seen the look before on the face of sensitives. The pocket must be very close. He sniffed, lifting his head, filtering out her scent. Standing with difficulty, as she refused to release her hold, he slid away from her gently. Her hand shot out, grabbing his shirt in a vice grip, pulling the hairs on his chest. Tortured eyes sought his.

“Don’t leave me,” she gasped. “What is it? Why do I feel...?” She could not put the feeling in words.

Holding her hand, he walked a few feet from the cycle and sniffed again. There it was! The tang was unmistakable; like lemon oil, cloves and sweat with an overlay of metal. He drew a breath through his mouth, tasting the air as it traveled across his tongue.

“It’s a big one.” He went back to the cycle and she trailed him silently, wide eyed like a frightened puppy.

Wil took a sophisticated scanning device and made detailed readings of the area. Matilda sat on the sled, shivering, although it was a hot day. Absorbed in his work, Wil didn’t notice right away. He spoke to her, but she didn’t respond, and he grew concerned.

“Matilda?”

He glanced at her, immediately worried. She was going into shock. He marked the post with a guild beeper and gathered his equipment. Then he picked her up, plopped her on the seat in front of him and turned the cycle toward Mine Base One. He radioed ahead and Murdock met them personally. Wil had been friends with Murdock for years.

“What’s wrong?” Murdock's eyes held deep concern for Matilda.

Wil looked around, his penetrating gaze deterring interference from others. He leaned over to Murdock and whispered, “Trim shock.”

“Trim shock?” The other man was appalled.

Trimagnite sensitives would sometimes react badly to a pocket, particularly a large one which was near the surface.

“First time out, it’s my fault. The pocket is huge! Where’s the doctor?”

“Watson’s in his office, sober for once.”

“Let’s get her there immediately, show me.” He lifted Matilda up as if she weighed nothing and followed Murdock to the doctor’s house which doubled as an office.

The old man clicked into high gear when he heard what the problem was. “Get me a double shot of joe,” he told Murdock.

Look for Part 8 at my Word Press site: http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 5

“I’ll wake you when I come to bed,” Ed winked at her luridly.

“Very likely you will, Edmund, but don’t expect much!” She threw a dishtowel she had been taking to the wash at him and walked off, muttering all the way to her room.

“So, Tilda, tell me specifically what you felt on your way to the camp.” Her father seemed calm, but excitement seethed under the surface.

She described the sensation as accurately as she could. Wil sat quietly, smoking thoughtfully, listening with an intensity she had never seen.

“Do you remember where you were?”

“Yes, it struck me as odd, so I glanced at my position.”

“When you crossed it later, did it happen again?”

“No, just once. Why?”

Wil looked slightly discouraged. “Still moving,” he told Ed. “But it gives us something to go on. You ever thought of mining Trimagnite? You’d be good at it, as a natural sensitive.”

“No daughter of mine will ever be a Trimmie,” Ed said with finality.

“Trimmies are seriously spooky, Uncle Wil.” She shuddered reflexively.

“No they aren’t, baby, they are just like you and me. The rest of us just think they are spooky because we don’t understand them.”

“One guy I met said the walls spoke to him!”

She had met an old Trimmie in a local pub when she was twelve. He had made a terrifying impression; wild eyed, gray haired, muttering to himself about the voices.

“Maybe they did. Some people are taken that way. You felt that tingle, others hear it resonate or sing, I can smell it. Does that make us spooky too?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Honey, working that stuff is enough to make anyone a little crazy.”

She could not meet the weight of his stare anymore. Blushing deeply, she looked away. A gentle, light fingered touch from his hand brought her eyes back to his.

“Tilda, I need you to show me the spot tomorrow.”

Matilda glanced at her father for confirmation. He nodded slowly, giving his permission. “I don’t have a cycle.”

“It’s all right, I have one. We’ll fly out there after I meet with Mac.”

“Okay.”

“You’d better go to bed now, missy,” her father said firmly.

Matilda rose quickly, nearly knocking over her chair. She kissed her father on the cheek and leaned over to kiss Wil goodnight. For the first time in her life, she felt oddly self-conscious around him.

She made her way to bed, fumbling with her pajamas. Bobby’s kiss had left a memory on her lips. His face flitted before her as her eyes drifted shut, feeling his arms around her. In her dreams, however, the blue eyes turned dark and foreboding. Cute, immature teenage features took on a hard edged, lean and hungry look. Bobby’s face melted away, replaced by Wil’s.

Wil walked toward her, arms enfolding her, bringing her into his masculine embrace. Full lips pressed on hers, making her weak in the knees, and warm in all kinds of deliciously unfamiliar places. Suddenly, she was falling and he was yanked away. She reached for him, calling his name.

She woke with a start. Someone stood in the doorway. At first she thought it was her father who usually heard her nightmares and came to reassure her, but it was too tall, broad shouldered and muscular to be her father.

“You okay, Tilda?” Wil’s soft, deep voice held a note of concern. “I heard you calling my name.”

“I’m okay, Uncle Wil. It was just a bad dream.”

“Want to talk about it?” He eased into the room, thinking how furiously un-understanding Ed would be if he caught him there.

“I don’t remember it,” she lied poorly.

Wil sat on the end of her bed. “Why were you calling me?”

“It was so real...” She could not look him in the face. “I felt like I was falling and you reached out to grab me, but you got yanked away and I fell... It felt like forever....”

“I see.”

He didn’t really see at all. In fact, he had no idea how to handle this, but it seemed like the right thing to say; vaguely non-committal. She made him feel awkward and shy around her self-confidence, like a teenager on his first date. He had to keep reminding himself she was a child. He was godfather to her little sister, for God’s sake!

She was staring at him with that disconcerting expression which made him feel as if she stripped away layer after layer of his psyche.

“You all right, Uncle Wil?”

The sound of her voice startled him as he was still trying to sort out what he felt.

“Yes,” he croaked slightly, clearing his throat. “I was just thinking what this might mean. I think we’d better be extra careful tomorrow when we go out. I’ll double check the floater cycle and call up a weather report. Don’t worry, Matilda, it was just a dream.”

He leaned forward, forcing himself to kiss her on the forehead. His heart lurched uncomfortably and there were stirrings in him which no full grown woman had ever woken in him.

“Night, honey,” he reminded himself she called him Uncle Wil for a reason. Her father was his closest friend.

Part 6 http://www.myspace.com/dellanioakes

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten

This is a spin-off of my sci-fi series, "The Lone Wolf" coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. I took two of the main characters and expanded upon their backgrounds and how they were interconnected.

Wil VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf, is a mercenary, assassin, ex-Marine who was genetically enhanced at the age of 26. Since then, he hasn't aged a day. Matilda DuLac is the eldest daughter of Wil's closest friend. Though he's much older, Wil finds himself falling in love with the beautiful, self-confident teenager.
For part 2: http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com/

Tortured winds ripped through the mining camp which clung to the inhospitable cliffs and crags of Saltulle. Synonymous with Purgatory in miner’s vocabulary, Saltulle excelled in two things: providing the Mining Guild with ores and gems unavailable almost anywhere else and turning out the most experienced miners in the galaxy.

The hurricane force winds drove the blinding rain in horizontal sheets, stinging exposed skin. At times, the rain turned to sleet which could sheer flesh from bone. Scorching sun, torrential rain and gales were on the surface, the real fun started underground. There dwelt the beasts of the dark.

The beasts were subterranean cave dwellers who long ago had been driven to deep cover by Saltulle’s foul weather and solar flares. Their shaggy coats were a mottled calico of burnt orange, dirty brown and rusty red. Their teeth were nearly nine inches long, with claws of equal length and lethality. Their disposition matched their environment.

Those who encountered these formidable creatures rarely lived to tell about it. The beasts could see in the dark, and track miners through solid rock. Lightning swift attacks made them nearly impossible to kill. The miners had set traps for awhile, only to find them decimated when they checked them. Often as not, they were ambushed by the beasts for they were diabolically clever animals.

It was here that Edmund DuLac and his wife, Mary, had lived for nearly eighteen years. All three of their daughters were born on Saltulle. Matilda was fifteen, Brigette twelve and Amie eight.

Ed went through his morning routine automatically, fixing coffee and waking the girls. Mary hated rising early, but Ed’s day began at 0500 each day. He usually had to drag Matilda up too, but the other girls were early risers like their father. Ed made breakfast while Brigette made lunches for three girls and one miner, who could eat as much as all of them combined. Today was special though. The atmosphere of the small, sturdy house was charged with anticipation. Even Mary and Matilda were up for it was Matilda’s first day of work. Ed had pulled a few strings and gotten her hired as a log runner. Her training was over, now she was a full fledged Miner One, lowest rank in the Galactic Mining Guild.

Log running was a relatively safe job for a teenager, for it merely involved going from one base camp to the next and logging their hourly dig rate. This job was done by comunit most places, but Saltulle’s environment made communication virtually impossible. Special underground lines were in place for extreme emergencies such as a collapsed face or beast attack, but nothing short of life threatening condoned their use.

Matilda felt awkward in her uniform, which consisted of a khaki colored, ill fitting jump suit; heavy, steel tipped boots, safety goggles, hard hat and gloves. The gloves were more like chain mail gauntlets, articulated across the knuckles and reinforced with strips of tanned beast hide. Stronger and more durable than faux leather, they protected the miners’ hands better than metal alone.

Ed gazed at his tall, athletic daughter and grinned approvingly. Her sisters giggled at her and her mother smiled supportively. Matilda tried to smile, but her nervousness prevented it.

“My baby girl, a miner like her old man. I can’t tell you how proud I am, Tilda.” Her father clapped her on the shoulder as he would have a son. “Following in her daddy’s footsteps.” He chuckled.

Breakfast was cleared away and the two younger girls left for school, still giggling. Matilda took her lunch in its insulated thermal box and followed her father to work. She had to check in with the supervisor before starting to work.

The mining supervisor was a man who had known her father over twenty years and Matilda her entire life. His name was Ivan MacHale, but the girls always called him Uncle Mac. Today, her father had warned her repeatedly to call him Supervisor MacHale and not to slip if she knew what was good for her.

Knees shaking, hat and goggles in her hand, she was given her first assignment. Her lunch and portable computer logs packed securely in a heavy floater cycle, she followed a flashing yellow arrow on her console to Mine Base One, about twenty clix away.

The floater cycle handled like a lumbering elephant, but remained stable in all but the most severe weather. Each cycle was equipped with state of the art weather gear so she should have plenty of advance warning before a storm hit.

She was about two clix from Mine Base One when her spine tingled unpleasantly. The hair on her neck rose and her nerves jangled, making her very alert. Curious, she checked her weather report, but saw nothing unusual. It was a calm, clear day on Saltulle.

Absently, she noted her relative position on her map and continued to Mine Base One.

Part 2 is at: http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com/

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Check it out!

There is a contest at Bitten by Books and an interview with a gorgeous cover model. Check it out! http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=11150

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Among the Shine Clan - Part 11

They made love so many times, they lost count. Each time was different and better. They experimented, discovering everything they could about one another. They knew their time together was short and they were determined to use it to the fullest. Finally, exhausted, they fell asleep, not waking until noon the next day.

Jasper was pounding on Deacon's door. Despite the privacy light, he was determined to wake his brother. Deacon answered naked and angry.

"What?"

"Have you forgotten that you're expected somewhere in half an hour?"

"Shit!" Deacon grabbed a clean uniform out of the closet.

Flinging on his clothing, he realized Fiddlestix had nothing to wear but her filthy uniform. His clothes were miles too big. He tossed a robe at her, telling her to be patient.

"I'll find you something. Betsy and you are about the same size." He went down the hall and banged on Betsy's door.

After a short explanation, a sharp slap and a brief apology, he got her some clothing.

"Next time you visit, I promise to have clothes in your size for you to wear," he smiled as he watched her dress.

"You know, I didn't like you much when we first met," Fiddlestix told him. "But damn if you didn't grow on me."

"Kind of like a fungus?" He winked. "You should marry me, Hannah-Belle. I'd make you mighty happy."

"That's just the sex talking, Deacon. You don't want me. I'm a soldier, not a wife."

"I don't want just a wife, Hannah. I want someone who will stand beside me and help me lead, like my mama and grand-mama before her. Our women don't take second place, they're equal to their mates. Think about it, Hannah. The offer's open."

"Thanks, Deacon. I will."

"I'm serious," he told her, taking her hands in his. "I've never met a woman I wanted more than you. Stay with me, Hannah. Forget the Army. Stay here with me." His kiss was compelling, inviting her to forget everything else.

"I can't," she whispered. "This is who I am, Deacon."

"But you could be so much more."

Dropping the subject because he could see it made her uncomfortable, he led her to the main gathering area. It was a huge auditorium lined with benches, set up like an amphitheater. They walked to the base of the steps. Deacon held out his arm to her, walking beside her up the stairs. Her soldiers were already gathered on the huge stage, Harmony and Kaz in the forefront. Deacon escorted her to the front of the line and walked to the center of the stage.

Holding up his hands, he signaled for quiet. The chatting and whispering stopped and almost complete silence fell. Fiddlestix was impressed. She had never seen a quieter, more orderly crowd.

"We are gathered here today to honor those who came to our aid. Let us rejoice that our home is once more safe and secure!"

Wild cheering filled the room, echoing off the metal lined walls. Deacon let it continue a few moments, then held up his hands once more. Silence fell again.

"For bravery in combat and continuing to fight even though he was sorely wounded, The Fire Star goes to Corporal Walter Kazinski of the North American Army."

Kaz limped forward, one arm in a sling. His bruised face was wreathed in a happy grin. Betsy stood by his side, supporting him. Deacon put the medal around his neck. It hung from a red and gold ribbon. They exchanged a complicated handshake and Kaz stood to one side.

"From now on, Walter Kazinski also holds the rank of Guard Sargent in the Shine Clan Militia."

Fiddlestix knew that Guard Sargent was equivalent to her rank and was more than just an honorary position. If Kaz ever returned to live with the Shine Clan, his orders would be honored
and followed like any other officer's.

"For bravery in the face of the enemy and his assistance in shutting down the enemy soldiers, The Silver Star goes to Private Steven Harmony."

Harmony strutted forward and was given his medal on a blue and silver ribbon. He took his place beside Kaz.

"Private Harmony now holds the rank of Lance Corporal in the Shine Clan Militia.

"Finally, for bravery, courage under fire, tenacity, and ingenuity, the Shine Clan Golden Star goes to Gunnery Sargent Hannah Braun."

Wild cheers exploded around the auditorium as the gold and white ribbon slid over her head. The Shine Clan members were only marginally louder than Fiddlestix' own soldiers. Even when Deacon held his hands up for silence, it was several minutes before quiet descended again. When everyone finally settled down, Deacon continued.

"As an additional honor, Hannah has been awarded a captaincy in the Shine Clan Militia. Also, the Clan adopts her as one of its own. From now on, Hannah, you are a member of our family, second to none."

He extended his hand. When she took it, he drew her to him and kissed her passionately in front of the entire assembly. He held her close, whispering in her ear.

"One day, Hannah, you'll stand here as my wife."

Fiddlestix didn't know what to say. She was stunned by her reception by this clannish, secluded people. They treated her like family, called her friend, and extended the warmth and comfort of their hearts and home to her. Even among her own people, she had never been so well accepted. Tears threatened to fall. To hide them, she took Deacon's head in her hands, bringing his mouth down to hers once more. They kissed hungrily as the crowd went crazy.

Someone in the audience started yelling, "Speech! Speech!" Everyone took up the chant. There was nothing for it, she would have to say something. Deacon led her to the center of the
stage and the crowd grew quiet before being asked.

"I'm not good at giving speeches," Fiddlestix grinned rather nervously. "But I do want to thank you all for your kindness and generosity, as well as your bravery and sacrifice. Everyone here lost someone they care about. Therefore, I honor your dead by swearing to you that I will always do my best, no matter what, to protect the Shine Clan. You are my family now. Thank you!"

She stepped back by Deacon, trying to lose herself behind his massive body. He took her hand, leading her forward once more. To loud, joyous applause, he took a bow, encouraging her to bow as well. Blushing furiously, she backed up to hide in the ranks of her soldiers. They parted enough to let her into the front row, but refused to let her go any further. They were proud of her too and they thought she deserved all the praise she was getting.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Among the Shine Clan - Part 8

Deacon led Fiddlestix away from the others, turning off his communicator. Figuring he wanted a chat between leaders, she did so as well.

"You're a hell of a warrior, Hannah-Belle," he whispered.

He took her in his arms and kissed her. Shocked at first, she pushed away from him, but he held her tightly. After a moment, she realized that she didn't want to push away. She clung to him almost desperately. Warming to his touch, she matched his intensity. Most men would have been intimidated and pulled away. Deacon held her gently, but securely. Their kiss lasted less than two minutes, but left them both breathless.

"I really didn't mean for that to happen," Deacon backed shyly away a few steps.

"Me either," she admitted awkwardly.

"It was damn good though," he chuckled.

"Oh, yeah!"

"Hannah, when this is over...."

She put her hand on his lips, stopping him. "When this is over, Deacon, I'll go back to work."

"I understand," he whispered. "But before you do...." He left the invitation unspoken.

"Yeah," she agreed with a sharp nod. "You better."

Jasper whistled to get his attention. Suddenly, she and Deacon were back to business.

"It's done."

Fiddlestix looked at the schematic. "He's not here!" She frowned, looking even more carefully. "Am I missing him?"

Deacon and Jasper were looking just as intently. Harmony came up behind them, also gazing at the wall.

"He's not here," Fiddlestix grumbled. "He's not here!"

"We'll find him, Hannah."

"He could be anywhere! Oh, God," she turned wide eyes on Deacon. "The rest of the compound. He's taken the others to try a frontal attack. This was just a diversion! Dammit!"

Deacon didn't follow, so she explained. "Look. We found only three of his men. Where are the rest?"

Deacon, Jasper and Harmony gazed at the map that was zoomed in to show their immediate area.

"Where," she said, unzooming the image. "The hell are the rest?"

Red blips showed up moving slowly around the outside of the compound. One group was headed to the east, the other to the west.

"We have to get back there now," Fiddlestix gasped.

"They're on foot,"Deacon assured her. "We'll get there first. Don't worry."

"What about this lot?" Jasper motioned to the downed warriors.

"They're not going anywhere," Deacon assured him.

"Kill them," Fiddlestix warned him.

"You're supposed to bring them back, aren't you?" Harmony asked her.

"The parameters of the mission just changed," Fiddlestix said. "Take them out, Harm."

"Yes, Gunnery Sargent." He chambered a round on his heavy weapon.

Standing a safe distance from the shut down warrior, he emptied his magazine into the control panel at the base of the skull. Reloading, he moved to the other, doing the same thing.

"Is that satisfactory, Gunny?"

"That'll do," she grinned. "Let's move out, people!"

They left the wounded in the hands of the medical personnel, Kaz among them. Fiddlestix didn't stop to see how he was. She hoped he would still be alive when she got back. There was no time to worry over him now. Others needed her more.

Loading up the Jeeps took a couple of minutes, but they made up for it in transportation time. On the way, Deacon contacted the commanding officers at the other three gates, warning them what was coming.

"We want the handler," Fiddlestix told them. "Take him out, the rest will be relatively easy."

"I don't think I like how you qualify that statement, Hannah-Belle,” Deacon smirked.

"Nothing's ever easy," she grimaced. "But if we take out Livingston, it will be less difficult. Still have to tag them within a line of sight."

"True." He leaned back, putting his arm around her as Jasper drove.

"Which way, Deacon?” Jasper demanded “East or west?"

"Did we get a visual of Livingston on the scan?"

"No, sir."

"Find me a screen, littler brother."

"You got it!"

He turned right without slowing down much. Pulling up in front of a room, he left the Jeep running while Deacon and Fiddlestix jumped from the vehicle. Dashing into the room, they accessed the scanner again. Livingston didn't show up on any of the scans.

"He must be somewhere out of range," Deacon muttered, glaring at the screen as if it had done him an injury.

"Is there anywhere he could hide that's shielded? Could he be inside, but hidden?"

"Oh, God," Deacon groaned. "The cloak room."

"You've got a room for coats?"

"No, no the cloaking device. The thing that made your people disappear. That area is shielded because it has an independent power source that makes our other instruments go all wonky otherwise."

"Where's it located?"

"Shine Peak. About a quarter mile straight up."

"Can we get there from here?"

"You good at mountain climbing?"

"Tell me there's an elevator."

"There is, but if he's up there, do you really want to trust it?"

"Good point."

"Jasper," they hopped back in the Jeep. "Take us to the fire station."

"You got it, Deacon."

He swung them around in a tight arc, heading back the way they'd come.

"Saunders, it's Deacon." He spoke into his communicator.

"Go ahead."

"Have me a two man flitter set up. I'll be there in less than five."

"Yes, sir."

No questions, just instant response. No one knew what he was planning, but they didn't second guess his orders. Fiddlestix had to admire that about him as well as his people.

"We'll fly in," he told her. "Can you handle a two man flitter, Gunny?"

"Rating ten, General."

"Great. I'm only an eight. You fly."

"As the general wishes," she winked.

For Part 7: http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com/
For Part 9: http://www.myspace.com/dellanioakes

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekly Quote from Among the Shine Clan - Part 4

This is part of a continuing short story I wrote a couple of years ago. The companion story, "Fiddlestix" was given an Honorary Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. "Among the Shine Clan", though written later, is first chronologically. This story is not appropriate for readers under 14.

Fiddlestix' men looked terrified. They saw an enormous, angry man looming across a narrow, flimsy table in a room deep underground with no sure way out. What was Gunny doing? Why was she baiting him like that? Shouldn't she be negotiating? Playing nice? Maybe doing whatever a woman did to a man to make him more compliant? So far, she'd done everything except shoot him. If it was possible to verbally castrate a man, she was working on it.

Kaz, who was a short, wiry built man, swallowed with difficulty, his hands shaking. Harmony, who wasn't used to feeling small, was. They didn't dare speak. Neither man wanted to draw attention to himself.

"Suppose you share one of your theories with us," an older man with graying hair leaned over, striking a pose much like Jasper's.

Fiddlestix' eyes flickered over to him. She liked what she saw. He was slightly shorter than Jasper, lean built, but just as strong. His green eyes glimmered with humor, his lips twitched with suppressed humor.

"Yes, sir," she sat smoothly, crossing her legs elegantly. Despite her combat gear, she comported herself like a lady.

"No need to 'sir' me, Gunnery Sargent. We're the same rank. Frank Lord." He nodded at Jasper and Deacon. "Their uncle. I was by their father's side when some of those wild men cut him down."

She saw now that he carried himself carefully, as if nursing a wound. There was a tightness around his lips that spoke of great pain. He'd been wounded, rather severely, but he'd never in a million years show weakness in front of her.

"Yes, Sargent. I'd be happy to. Provided General Scott doesn't object."

Frank Lord glanced at his nephew. "He don't mind. He's just a dumb hillbilly who can't control his temper." He nodded sharply at Deacon to sit.

Fiddlestix suppressed a smile as Deacon sat without argument.

"If General McLain is who we think," she continued. "Then none of this should surprise us. In fact, it fills in a lot of gaps in his narrative. I think it's a good possibility that he sent them here to attack you. If they can get a toehold, they can wipe the whole lot of you out. There's very little defense against these guys."

"Why would he want to do that, Gunny?" Lord asked quietly.

"Like I said, he's a snake and a dumb son-of-a-bitch. He carries a grudge and he's now in a position to do something about it. Even if they don't take you all out, you're weakened and vulnerable. Then he sends me in with my people, without asking, and that would, in my opinion, constitute a warlike act. I don't take kindly to well armed interlopers on my turf. I don't suppose you do either."

Jasper's eyes twinkled, but he didn't speak. Frank Lord smiled gently, his eyes softening.

"No, I don't suppose we do."

"I didn't ask to be sent here, General Scott," she directed at Deacon. "But if I'd had my way, I'd have asked before I barged in. I would have brought no more than twenty people with me and we would have taken care of this nice and quiet."

"Why do you think McLain sent you in like this then?" Deacon couldn't keep the curiosity out of his voice.

"Slap in the face to you and a burning desire to see me cut down. He hates me. He's a dumb ass and I've told him that more than once. I used to be Captain Hannah Braun. About six months ago, he busted me to Gunnery Sargent. Only because he couldn't really take me any lower without raising a few eyebrows. There's not a man or woman on my team who hasn't had some sort of confrontation with him."

"Except Lieutenant Frieze," Harmony added quietly.

"Yeah, well, look where that sorry sack of shit's hiding out," Kaz added vehemently. "Doped up in the hospital. Coward."

Fiddlestix grinned, her eyes twinkling. "Oh, Kaz, is that any way to talk about our superior officer?" She snorted derisively.

Harmony and Kaz joined her in a short, hearty laugh at Frieze's expense.

"Superior, my ass...." Harmony chuckled.

One look at Deacon and the laughter stopped. His eyes were hard, like crystals. His face bland, dangerous.

"So, you're saying," he said quietly. "You think this whole thing was McLain's way of getting even with us and taking you and your people down? Is that it? That's your brilliant theory as to why all this transpired? My father is dead because of this! My men are dying, my people terrified. I've got a society that's falling apart around my ears and you think it's for revenge?" He leaned over the table once more, banging both fists on it forcefully.

"Deacon," Frank Lord spoke so softly, Fiddlestix barely heard him. "Sit down, son."

Deacon's glare turned to his uncle. He pointed angrily at the older man. "I'm not your son. Don't be thinking because we're kin that it gives you any kind of advantage here. I will see hell burn before I believe this is simply revenge."

He headed for the door, his men in his wake. All but Frank Lord and Jasper followed him. He hesitated at the door. Shrugging his shoulders, he tossed his long, blond hair aside. Jerking the door open, he nearly took it off its hinges. Without another word, he was gone. The silence settled in the room somewhat uncomfortably.

For Part 5: http://www.myspace.com/dellanioakes

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quote of the Week - Among the Shine Clan - part 2

(Continued from Word Press Blog http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com)

Using hand signals, she brought her people in to tight formation and sped up. She was with Kaz in less than two minutes. Looking at the screen, she saw he was telling the truth. There should be a readout of all the squad members, but the bars for the point team were blank. Not flat lined, just blank. Not even their names appeared by the bar.

"Shit! Sound off!" She growled into her headset.

For the next thirty seconds, her soldiers stated their names. She came up another three short. That made, with the point team, seven.

"What the hell?"

She was angry now. Something was happening she had no control over and didn't understand. Was it Shine Clan or the cyber unit? They weren't finding bodies, so maybe they were still alive. She didn't like it, but she didn't have to like a situation to get the job done.

"Sound off every five minutes,"she ordered.

Walking slowly, cautiously, quietly, they proceeded deeper into Shine territory. The hairs on Fiddlestix' neck were dancing with nervous energy. The feeling that she was being watched through a powerful scope increased the closer they got. She'd picked up the trail of the cyber unit shortly after the point team disappeared. They might be super soldiers, but they sucked at covering their trail. It occurred to her that they might have done it on purpose to lure them in. Her paranoia increased and she tightened security.

Five minutes later, three more of her people were gone. She called a halt. No one had seen the people disappear. It was as if they melted into the mist that surrounded them.

"It isn't possible," she muttered. "Grown people, soldiers, don't just disappear! It is not possible!"

After the next sound off, four more were gone. Stifling an angry scream, she called another halt. Anticipating that the Shine Clan had sophisticated surveillance equipment, she ordered her people to stay put.

"Set up a perimeter patrol. No one leaves for any reason. I don't care what you see or hear. Take cover and stay put. Kazinski, Harmony, you're with me. Diaz, you're in charge."

"Yes, Gunny." She responded.

"I don't give a shit what McLain says," she told Harmony and Kaz. "I'm looking for the Shine Clan leader. If I can talk to the person in charge, I'll feel better."

They kept walking and she kept talking. To the men, it seemed like she was babbling, but she was banking on the fact that the Shine Clan could hear her.

"I don't want my people hurt. We didn't come here to cause trouble. We want to get the cyber unit and go home, then everyone's happy."

Kaz and Harmony looked at her like she was crazy. They knew this, why was she telling them something they already knew?

"Gunny?" Kaz sounded worried.

"What?" She stopped babbling long enough to listen to him, but she kept moving.

"They're gone."

"What? Who?"

"The rest of them. Diaz and them. Just like the others."
"What?" She rounded on Kaz who looked at his computer screen helplessly.

"They were there a second ago, then poof! Gone!"

"Thirty people don't go poof!"

"They just did!" Kaz was worried and scared, which made him rather surly.

Feeling surly herself, Fiddlestix grabbed the computer from his hands, nearly dropping it. Aside from the three of them, there were no other life forms showing on the screen.

"Not even a squirrel! You can't tell me on this entire mountain there's no squirrels!" She stopped, lowering her gun, turning in a slow circle. "I don't know what you're playing at, but if anything happens to my people, there will be hell to pay! I promise you that! Just so we're clear, we're here to help you. Or haven't you noticed you've got a passel of crazy, cyber soldiers battering down your back door?"

"Gunny? Are you okay?" Harmony's dark face was clouded with worry.

"I know they're watching, or listening, monitoring us somehow! Come on! Show yourselves! If I wanted to cause you trouble, would I march in here like a fool? Cowards! Hiding under your mountain! Come out!"

Spinning in a low, continuous circle, she bellowed for all she was worth. Hurling insults, she castigated the landscape. Harmony and Kaz looked more and more concerned. Kaz gasped suddenly, pointing over Fiddlestix' left shoulder. She felt a tingling. Moving around so she faced the opposite direction, she kept her hands carefully away from her weapons, motioning her men to do the same. Taking a step forward, she focused on the bracken to the west, waiting.

A moment later, the bushes rustled and men poured forth. They were huge. The smallest of them was well over six feet, dwarfing Harmony, who was six foot seven. Their bodies were muscled in ways that Fiddlestix had never seen before. All of them were tall, buff and disarmingly handsome. None of them were smiling. One man stepped forward, literally toe to toe with Fiddlestix.

Over seven feet tall, he loomed over her. At six three, she was used to looking down on most of her team members. This man made her lean back, gazing at his chin. Despite her irritation and disquietude, her heart fluttered, but not from fear. He was, for lack of a more descriptive term, gorgeous. Built along the lines of a Norse god, his golden blond hair flowed down his back. A tight, narrow braid was knotted with a red strip of leather and tossed casually over his left shoulder. His crystal blue eyes bored into hers.

"I'm here," his voice was deep, husky, musical. His Southern accent was strong, flavoring his words like honey. "I can't say I much appreciate the disparaging remarks about my character, though." His lips made a firm, tight line. A steely glint flickered in the back of his eyes.

"I need to speak to your leader."

Fiddlestix folded her arms across her ample chest, blue eyes flickering around the perimeter of the clearing, taking in the opposition. She counted twenty, but figured there were at least twice that many that she couldn't see.

"About?"

"I'd like to talk to him," she made it clear she wasn't moving until he granted her what she wanted.

"Look, lady, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but do you know who you're talking to?"

A slightly shorter, man detached himself from the group behind the blond god. He was even more massively built than the other man, dark and brooding. They had to be brothers, there was a strong family resemblance. Especially in that defiant jaw. His eyes were dark chestnut brown, the other man's were a clear, vivid blue with a steely edge.

"I'm Gunnery Sargent Hannah Braun of the North American Army," she began confidently. "I demand to speak...."

"Honey," the dark haired man's brown eyes danced happily. "You're speakin' to him right now. After the noise you made in our woods, do you think anyone else was gonna come? Gunnery Sargent Hannah Braun, meet General Deacon Scott of the Shine Clan."

(For part 3, see http://www.myspace.com/dellanioakes )

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weekly Quote - from "The Lone Wolf"

"The Lone Wolf" is set in the distant future when space travel is as common as a drive to the grocery store is for us. The Mining Guild has been in exisitence for 300 years and controls much of the galactic resources. Marc & Matilda serve on a small mining vessel in deep space. Aolani is the Mining Guild's home base. This excerpt is from chapter 3. Wil is an old acquaintence of Marc's. To find out more about him, read some of my earlier posts both here and on Facebook as well as my Word Press blog (link below).

The morning alarm buzzer sounded, jarring Matilda awake. Marc was already up. His propensity for early rising and his ability to function very little of sleep often rankled. At least he wasn't giving her his morning pep talk like he sometimes did. She took her sonic shower and dressed slowly. No need to rush, they were in their mazing-run. Marc initiated it right after Wil's departure.

Marc still wouldn't tell her about that conflict. At first, he simply bypassed the issue. When Matilda pressed, he blatantly refused to talk about it. This was the first time that he'd declined to discuss anything with her and it was annoying. The hostility between the two men was palpable, electric, although somewhat one sided. VanLipsig got angry with Marc only after being assaulted. In fact, the initial attack had not angered so much as saddened him.

Matilda's mind wandered as she dressed and braided her hair. There was something so very magnetic, electrifying, sensual and frightening about Wil VanLipsig. She was tremendously attracted to him, not just because he was well built and aggressively handsome. He lit a fire in her that she didn't understand and making love to Marc had not quenched.

Her comlink buzzed, breaking into her reverie. "Yes, what?"

"Romance, you okay? You were due up here five minutes ago."

"I'm fine, Marc. Just musing."

"We need to lock the load down for transfer."

"I'll be up there in a minute." Speeding up, she trotted onto the bridge moments later.

Marc looked up, smiling as she slid to a stop a foot or so away. He held out his arms to her. Smiling shyly, she gave him a good morning hug and a kiss.

"We got some news from Riley," he commented casually.

"Oh?" She was already at her console going through her morning routine, wondering what the head of the Mining Guild could possibly want from them.

He came up to her, taking her hand in his. Her dark eyes held a question.

"What's wrong?"

"There will be a change in the ship's roster once we get to Aolani."

"Are we getting new personnel?" Her face held anticipation. New people made for a little excitement.

"Sort of."

"Marc, you're worrying me."

"You're getting transferred at the end of this run, Matilda."

"What? Where? Why? I like it here!" She threw herself into his arms, loathe to leave him. She loved it here with Marc. He was comforting, secure, safe - something her early years as a miner had lacked.

"You're assigned to the Flotilla."

"That's a cryoship! I've never done cryo! Marc, I want to stay here with you."

"And I want you to stay, Romance. But you can't turn down this assignment, baby. It's too important. Not only are you transferred, they're making you captain."

"What?" She leaned against the console, stunned. In the entire 300 years of the Mining Guild, there had been three female captains. "Me a captain? I don't understand. I don't know anything about running a ship that size."

"There's more." He took her shoulders, turning her to face him, a slow smile creased his handsome face. "I've been assigned there too. I'm going with you, baby! The orders just came in!"

Whooping, he lifted her in the air, swinging her in circles until she laughingly pounded him with her fists.

"Stop!" She demanded. "Stop, you're going to make me puke! I can't believe you're going too!"
"Me either," he kissed her. "It all seems too good to be true."

In the back of his mind, he knew that it was. Someone wanted the two of them on that ship and he was determined to find out why.

Marc and Matilda packed their few belongings while the bots and miners made the hold ready for planet fall. Their mazing-run at an end, they could see Aolani beneath them. Her golden beaches and clear blue water enticed them from space. The Mining Guild headquarters were located on the mainland in the southern hemisphere.

After landing, they took a suite at the guild hostel within sight of headquarters. It was tastefully decorated in a tropical motif in pastel yellow and blue. Marc didn't care about the color scheme. It had unlimited hot water and a king size bed. He happily made use of both while Matilda unpacked. Shortly after he finished, she also bathed, lying down beside him for a nap. He wrapped himself around her and fell immediately asleep.

To read more about Wil, visit my Word Press blog http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quote of the Week from "Bad Day"

I like the initial meeting of male & female leads in my stories. Sometimes the meetings are happy, funny, embarrassing or downright awful. The following is from "Bad Day", a work in progress. Reva Kelly is a wedding planner. One day, nothing is going right at all. Coming back from lunch, her shoe breaks, hurling her to the ground, breaking her leg. While at the hospital, her assistant & friend, Jane, waits with her in the ER cubicle. Her boss, Mr. Perrine, sends his "personal physician" (his nephew) to check on her.

There was some fumbling with the curtain and a young doctor poked his head in with a grin. "Am I in the right place? I'm looking for Reva Kelly?"

I waved, smirking sardonically. "You've found what's left of me," I grinned shyly.

He eyed me in a more than professional fashion, lingering on my broken ankle. Then his gaze drifted back up to my eyes, focusing there. "Red hair," he murmured.

"And green eyes," I countered. "And you are?"

A brown haired, sun bronzed love god, by the look of him. His eyes were a amber brown with little flecks of gold.

"Sorry, I'm Mr. Perrine's personal physician," he smirked and winked.

"You are really a doctor, aren't you?" This was from Jane. I guess she felt like I did that he looked really young.

"Of course. Doctor Hal Perrine at your service."

"You're related to Mr. Perrine?" Jane was jumping in with all the right questions before I could even formulate them.

"Yes, that's right. His great nephew. My grandfather is his older brother."

"But you are a real doctor?" Jane couldn't let that drop.

"I'm sorry, I didn't get your name?" He held out his hand to her, artificial smile on his face.

"Jane Mercer, her assistant."

"Ms. Mercer, I promise, I'm a bonafide doctor. See? It even says so on my coat." He pointed to his name tag.

"How much experience do you have?"

"Is this a job interview? I came by to be polite and see if Miss Kelly needed anything."

"And I'm very grateful," I interjected.

I don't blame him for being annoyed. I have people think I'm too young for my job too.

"Jane's concerned for my welfare, Dr. Perrine. She takes a sisterly interest in me. We've worked together nearly five years and we're very close."

I smiled sweetly at the doctor and flashed Jane a warning look. Her lips clamped shut on whatever comments she had, but her eyes spoke volumes.

Hal picked up my chart and read through it quickly, nodding and making non-committal noises as he did so. His smile was distracted as he put the file back down.

"Miss Kelly, Uncle Jake is really concerned about you. I've never seen him take such interest in one of his people before. You must be very special."

I shrugged. "No more so than anyone else, I'm sure. Though what use I'll be in a cast, I can't imagine."

"It won't slow you down that much. A little at first until you get used to it. The pain meds will make you groggy though."

"Have you had a broken leg, Doctor?" This from Jane.

"Yes. As a matter of fact, I've broken both legs at different times. Both arms within six months of each other, three ribs, my nose, one wrist and an odd assortment of toes. It's why I became an orthopedic man. After all my fractures, I had a pretty good working knowledge and thought I'd put it to use."

"Were you in car accidents or something?" Jane was amazed at the doctor's list of breaks.

"Mostly clumsy, but also I like extreme sports. I've been sky diving, wind surfing, bungee jumping, snow boarding from helicopters and I like to race dirt bikes."

"Is that how you broke your leg?" I asked, figuring dirt bikes were pretty dangerous.

He glanced away, rubbing his nose distractedly before answering. "Actually, I broke my leg once playing golf and the other time falling out of bed." He blushed, looking more than a little embarrassed. "What? It was a high bed!"

He looked so innocent, I had to laugh. Hal laughed heartily at himself as well. I liked Dr. Hal Perrine. He was handsome, funny and intelligent. Everything I look for in a man. Could I be so brazen as to ask him out? He wasn't wearing a wedding ring. What the hell, I had enough drugs in me to stop a truck.

"Hal," before I lost my nerve. "Maybe some day after I get used to the cast, we could go for a cup of coffee or bungee jumping?"

"No bungee for awhile," he tried to frown and couldn't. "But coffee sounds pretty safe. I haven't broken anything drinking coffee - yet."

I Love Dialogue from Indian Summer 2

Indian Summer is due to be re-issued on Friday, September 8, 2017. This sweeping historical novel is a must read! After her Irena's ...