Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Snowed" - excerpt

As an author, it's always fun to explore new ways to tell my stories. Quite often, that means finding a new voice. Most of the time, I write in third person point of view, but once in awhile I like to step into the character's shoes and use first person. This novel, "Snowed", is not only in first person, I decided to write it from a man's perspective. I hope I succeeded in capturing Mike's thoughts.

This is from the beginning of the story where we first meet Michael Reuben. It's his birthday, October 31st, and he wakes to find out that Mother Nature enjoys irony. The city has been crippled by weather and they're snowed in. If that weren't enough, Fate has an even more devastating trick to play on him....


"It's the worst snowstorm of the year!" The radio announced gleefully, waking me up.

What it fails to mention is that it's the only snowstorm of the year. Like it's some big thing, like we don't know. We live in a city where it snows from October to April. For it to be the worst snowstorm, wouldn't you expect for there to be something to compare it to? Maybe the guy meant to say, "It's the first snowstorm of the year!" That would make some kind of sense.

Or maybe, and I'm betting on this one, the guy's a moron. Soon, the phone calls, from other people like me who notice stupid stuff like that, will start up and they will have to amend what idiot boy said. I'm not calling in. I'm going back to sleep. I drive a school bus and school has been canceled by the worst (and first) snowstorm of the year.

Not that I'm complaining. Kids on a day like this, are impossible to control. You'd think they had never seen snow before. They've lived here since birth, still snow has this magical effect on them. Not a good one, just magical. It transforms even the brightest child into a complete buffoon. You can see their devious minds working, determined to figure out a way to mess up my bus, or fall under the wheels, or slide into traffic.

I was just snuggling down, going back to a blissful sleep, when the phone rang. Knowing it can't be good news on a day like this, I hesitated to answer. I can't stand a ringing phone, so I picked up, running my fingers through my shoulder length, brown hair.

"Mikey?" A shrill, nasal distinctly Brooklyn voice shouted in my ear.

"Ma?" Grumbling, I sat up. I never lie down to talk to my mother, it puts in me in a vulnerable position. "Why are you calling this early, Ma?"

"Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you...." She has a horrible voice and sings off key. Imagine Edith Bunker, only less melodic.

"Yeah, thanks, Ma."

She didn't stop. She was starting with, "How old are you?"

"Ma, please. You know how the hell old I am. You gave me life. You were there."

"Yes, at this time on October 31, 1982, I had my bouncing baby boy! Happy Birthday, Mikey."

"Thanks, Ma."

I love my mother, but this is why I moved over a thousand miles away to Cheyenne, Wyoming as soon as I had the money. I was on my way to Alaska, figuring putting the better part of two countries between us, but my car broke down in Cheyenne. I couldn't afford to fix it and couldn't afford to buy a new one at the time, so I got a job and an apartment and stayed. I've been here five years. It's not so bad if you can handle wide open spaces. I'm getting used to it – sorta. If you don't mind seven different shades of gray in the winter, with no leaves on the few trees there are, with what feels like 90 mile an hour winds and a wind chill factor of 100 below, it's okay.

The fact that I am 1,743 miles away from Kings County, New York is a decided plus. My mother hates to fly and there is no way she'll drive 27 hours just to see me. She can't stand the bus or the train either and no one in their right mind would travel with her anyway, so I'm safe. Except on my birthday and over the phone.

"So how's my little Mikey-wikey like being 27?"

"It's peachy, Ma."

"Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

"Mother, please. Do we have to start on that?"

"Your younger brother is married with three kids."

"I can't help he can't keep it in his pants, Ma. I haven't found the right girl."

"Are you sure you're not gay?" The tone was teasing, but the old bitch meant it.

Normally, such a question wouldn't offend me. Because even if I'm not married with three kids like my brother, I've gotten more tail than he'll ever get. Sweet, luscious, all kinds of sexy tail.... And I'm talking to my mother with my balls in a vice. Because even if I've gotten more than him, it's not been so much lately.

"I got to get ready for work, Ma. I got a long day with the bus. Kids got a field trip."

"I'd think you could give five minutes to your mother." She sniffled, pulling the New York Guilt Trip on me. "The woman who loves you. The woman who gave you life!" She was really pouring it on, pulling out all the stops. "Who lives so far away, she can't see her oldest son on his birthday! Her son who is almost 30!"

"Don't be adding years to my age. Twenty-seven is not almost 30!"

"Almost 30! You'll be 30 before I get a single grandchild from you. The fruit of your loins, the...."

"Ma! I get the idea." I totally hate when she starts like that. Fruit of the Loom, maybe I want to discuss with my mother. Fruit of my loins is not on the list of top 10 subjects for parental discussion.

"I called to tell you I'm coming for a visit," she said quickly and hung up.

"Ma! Ma?"

Cursing loudly, I sat there yelling at a dead phone. I called her back in a New York minute. Her tone was very smug.

"I see. Now you have time to talk to your mother."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Excerpt from "Ben Drexel"

I've been having a lot of fun writing companion novels to my sci-fi series that begins with "The Lone Wolf". Several of the characters have stories that need to be told. At the urging of my muse, I decided to write about one of my favorite characters (other than Wil, that is). His name is Ben Drexel. Another super soldier like Wil, he's from a later batch. The two of them have worked together more than once, but didn't much like each other in the early months of their acquaintance. This story chronicles that meeting.

Ben and his best friend, Ray Schmidt, became super soldiers against their will. They don't even realize what's happened to them because part of the process is to erase part of their memories. The wipe isn't holding with Ben, something that Wil had anticipated. He decides to speak to the younger man in private, calling him away from his girlfriend in the middle of the night.


They walked far from the living quarters, nearly to the perimeter fence. VanLipsig stopped, looking around him. He headed toward the spaceport, Ben in his wake. They got to a transport pad and the Colonel keyed in a sequence of numbers so quickly, Ben couldn't follow it. They teleported to a small ship.

"This is mine," VanLipsig said. "Follow." He led the way to the galley where he produced mugs of real coffee. "Sit. We need to talk."

"Yes, sir."

"You recognized me that day at the parade grounds."

"Yes, sir."

"How? You shouldn't have known me."

"I don't know, Colonel. I saw you standing there and knew I'd seen you standing like that before. Only before, you were outlined with flames and there was destruction all around."

"That pretty well describes my life, Sergeant. Be more specific."

Ben closed his eyes and moved his hands around as he spoke. "You in the middle of a room. Bombs going off outside, fires, dead people.... Lots of dead...."

"You shouldn't remember a damn bit of that," VanLipsig mumbled. "Not me, nothing."

"I wasn't hurt in a rock climbing accident. Ray wasn't injured on a mission and I'm not quite who I was before—am I?"

Colonel VanLipsig inhaled sharply, sucking in his cheeks as he thought it over. "Tell me what you remember."

"You, obviously. And a woman with dark hair. I see her sometimes when I'm with Delissa. They don't look a thing alike, but Delissa makes me feel like she does. Hot and dizzy, like I can't get enough of her. There's something special about her...."

"Forget the woman," VanLipsig said quietly. "Forget everything."

"I can't, Colonel. It keeps coming back a little like a broken pictures. I can't explain."

Wil, who knew exactly what Ben meant, nodded. He blew a smoke ring and took another puff on his cheroot.

"Kid, I'm probably the one man you know how understand completely what you mean."

"You had me wiped!" Ben rose from his seat.

VanLipsig had him by the shirt, lifting his toes off the deck before he could blink. "Sit down, son. This isn't how it's supposed to play out. The only reason I'm talking to you is that you're a loose canon running around trying to find ammo. I can't have that. I need you and your team to work with me. You may not like me much, I don't blame you if you hate my guts, but you'll do what I tell you."

"I know how to follow orders, sir," Ben said in a derisive tone. "Even if I don't agree with them or like the man giving them."

"Good. At 0800 tomorrow, you and your team will join me for target practice."

"Aye, sir. Anything else, sir?"

"You'll be briefed on the mission after I see what your men can do."

"I've got a feeling you've already seen that."

"But I want to see now."

"What's different about now?"

"You'll learn that when I decide to tell you, Marine."

"Yes, sir. May this Marine be dismissed now, sir?"

"Get out of here. Planet code is 55941."

"Thank you, Colonel."

He went back to the cargo hold and typed in the planet code into the teleporter. It cycled on and he found himself standing on the pad near the base once more. He walked back to Delissa's place and knocked, but no one answered. He realized his conversation with Colonel VanLipsig had lasted far longer than he'd realized. What else had happened up there? In his mind, he'd been there 20 minutes tops. By his watch, he'd been gone nearly two hours.

Curious and puzzled, he wandered back to the barracks and lay down on his bunk. Sleep came on him faster than usual and he didn't budge until Ray shook his shoulder.

"It's 0730, Ben. We got orders to report to the target range at 0800. Where'd you go last night?"

Ben told him. Ray nodded. That jibed with what Delissa had said.

"So, VanLipsig wants to use us rehab rejects on a mission? What's he want a bunch of mismatched, smashed up soldiers for?"

"No idea, but he was pretty adamant."

They arrived at the target range. VanLipsig wasn't there. Their team gathered around them waiting for orders. By 0910, there was still no sign of the Colonel.

"Well, First Sergeant, what do we do?" Ray asked Ben.

"He's a colonel, we wait."

"Yes, First Sergeant," Ray said with a disgruntled kick to the soil.

The grass by the tip of his boot exploded and they heard the muffled sound of a weapon fired with a suppressor. Ray jumped back then dove for cover when someone opened fire on them. Bullets came at them from every direction. They dropped to a
prone position and crawled to what meager cover there was. A couple of the men were hit, but most of them made it to the bunker unscathed. Even the wounded got there, only more slowly. The weapons fire continued until they were all inside.

Ben sniffed. Something smelled wrong. He couldn't place it, but he knew something wasn't right.

"Sergeant Drexel?"

"Yes, Parker."

"We need to get out of here, Sarge." He pointed to a flashing red light mere inches from Ben's head.

Ben recognized the smell. It was the adhesive they used to position the explosive charge.

"Out!"

"Sergeant, someone's shooting at us!" One of his men complained.

"And we're about to blow up! Out!"

He flung himself out the door, landing on his belly. The others followed him, scrambling away from the bunker, staying low to the ground. More shots rang out, this time of a heavy thumper, one of their most devastating weapons. Big chunks of earth flew in the air showering them with dirt and debris. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Running low, Ben urged them to get a safe distance from the bunker before it exploded. Less than a minute later, a flash of bright blue light and a puff of smoke appeared in the bunker.

"Flash bang? Really?" Ray was furious. He stood up, earth rupturing around his feet. "We get it, Colonel. Wanna see how fast us homeboys can duck! You gonna shoot me, just fucking shoot! I'm tired of this!"

Bullets whizzed around him a few more seconds, quite pointedly not hitting him, but coming close. As suddenly as they'd begun, they stopped.

A tall man appeared at the tree line across the field. Others emerged from hiding places, some in full sniper camouflage gear, others in fatigues. All of them carried weapons. Colonel VanLipsig walked over, lighting a cheroot as he walked.

"That was pitiful. Didn't any of you see us? Or hear us? Dear God, we made enough noise to alert the dead!"

Ben's team looked at one another, ashamed. They hadn't even anticipated an ambush. Why would they? From their own people?

A medic tended the wounded as VanLipsig ripped them a collective new asshole. When he was done, he ripped into Ben specifically—with a little bit of Ray on the side.

"Pitiful! If we'd tried to hit you, you'd all be dead!"

"Were you using live ammo?" One of Ben's wounded men asked.

"Obviously, Marine. It went through your leg, didn't it? Moron."

"Colonel, permission to speak freely?" Ben said.

VanLipsig nodded.

"Sir, this wasn't an accurate test of our knowledge. My men are the best there is...."

"No, Sergeant, my men are the best there is, or you'd be dead. Let me point out something—you are never off duty in a war zone, never off your guard. You pay attention to your surroundings or someone gets dead. Since my ass is dependent upon what you ladies do, I'm fairly certain I've got a right to do what's necessary to assess you."

"This is hardly standard protocol."

"Boy, ain't nothin' I do that's standard. I go where others can't. I pull off major miracles on a daily basis. In case you haven't figured it out, kid—I'm the evil twin of Jesus. Get your girls back to barracks. You're confined until I say so. All leave and privileges are revoked until further notice. That means you too, First Sergeant. So tell that hot girlfriend of yours she ain't gettin' laid for awhile and march your sorry ass on home."

He motioned to the men surrounding them. Without a word, they shouldered their weapons and headed back into the trees surrounding the field.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Interview with Dellani Oakes - Concerning the Lone Wolf

Second Wind: I am joined today by Dellani Oakes, author of the sci-fi adventure novel, The Lone Wolf available through Second Wind Publishing. Hello, Dellani, and welcome.

Dellani: Thank you. I am delighted to be here.

SW: What inspired you to write this novel?

D: Back when my husband and I married, people were into role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. My husband ran a game called "Traveler". Much like D and D, it was set in the distant future. He began a game with three of us, giving me the basis for Wil, Marc and Matilda. The idea grew from there.

SW: How far in the future did you set the story?

D: I chose to set my story in 3032. I wanted Mankind to have fully established itself in the galaxy. So many sci-fi stories aren't set far enough in the future to be believable. I hope that over a thousand years into the future will be far enough.

SW: Your other novel, Indian Summer, is historical. What prompted you to write something futuristic?

D: The story was nagging at me to be told. Science fiction was among my first loves when I Star Trek and Star Wars fan, so that added to the mix. Historical is interesting, but so much research is necessary to make it real. With sci-fi, as long as I don't entirely blow away established scientific fact, I'm good. It's anything goes! I love it.
was a child. I was fascinated by the universes of Andre Norton and Isaac Asimov. I'm a bit of a

SW: Tell us a little bit about your spin on the universe.

D: Mankind finally made it to the stars. Over time, several groups came to dominate the galaxy, expanding beyond the Milky Way. The first to establish itself was the Navigation Guild. They provided all interstellar transportation. Next came the Mining Guild. They explore the universe with the goal of ravaging dead planets for their gem and mineral deposits. The third group to dominate is, of course, the military. The Galactic Marine Corps is the main militaristic force.

SW: Give us a brief synopsis of your story.

D: Wilhelm VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf, is a genetically enhanced Galactic Marine. Semi-retired, he does black ops and also works for the Mining Guild on a contractual basis. Because of the enhancements given to him by the Corps, he looks like a man in his mid-twenties. He meets and falls for Matilda Dulac, member of the Galactic Mining Guild. Together, they trek the galaxy following on the heels of John Riley, psychotic and evil commandant of the Mining Guild, who is hell bent on revenge against Wil.

SW: You say Wil's been enhanced. What does that entail?

D: Even he doesn't know the extent of the fiddling that the doctors did. It was done on a genetic level and their manipulating has left him more than human. They were trying for a race of super soldiers, what they got were genetic freaks who don't age, barely feel pain and can kill with little remorse.

SW: Does Matilda know this about him?

D: No. When she meets Wil, she's actually dating his lifelong friend, Marc. He and Wil had a falling out many years ago. Marc thought Wil was dead. The attraction is immediate for both Wil and Matilda.

SW: How much older is Wil?

D: Matilda is 26. Wil looks 26, but he's really 86.

SW: That's a huge age difference.

D: Yes, but they don't see it that way. In fact, Matilda doesn't even know right away. Wil does, but he realizes that he's finally met the woman of his dreams. She's smart, sexy, as stubborn as he is, stands up to him and doesn't fold at the first sign of trouble. She completes him in ways he never knew he was lacking.

SW: Tell us about John Riley.

D: John Riley is cold, cruel, calculating and has a vendetta against Wil. He has very good reason to hate Wil. How he goes about getting even—well, can't say he takes the best approach.

SW: I trust it all works out?

D: Not entirely. The Lone Wolf ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

SW: Are you trying to torment your readers?

D: Of course not! So much happens in The Lone Wolf, I realized I had to end the book and write a second one in order to fully conclude the storyline. Besides, ending on the razor's edge will, I hope, compel readers to order Book Two—Shakazhan. I've included a short teaser from the second book at the end of the first one.

SW: Dellani, I'm really looking forward to The Lone Wolf as well as the second book, Shakazhan. I want to thank you so much for talking with me today.

D: I'm delighted to. Thank you for inviting me.



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