Introducing Conduct Unbecoming - a Teague McMurtry Mystery
Dellani Oakes makes her home in Florida, but she grew up in Western Nebraska. Before that, she lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas. After graduating from high school, she added Mississippi. The diverse locations gave her a unique perspective on life. Always a people watcher, Dellani put that talent to use when she became an author.
Bitten by the writing bug early in life, Dellani first pursued poetry as her medium of self-expression. Soon, she moved on the song parodies and then short stories and humorous essays. Once she got to high school, it became apparent that she needed to learn to spell when she got a paper back from her English teacher, “For content: A+. For mechanics: F.” That comment changed her life, forcing her to focus as much on how she said things as well as what she said.
Dellani took up writing full time when her youngest son started kindergarten in 2002. Since then, she has published five books. She has two romantic suspense novels are with Tirgearr Publishing and an historical romance and two sci-fi novels with Second Wind Publishing. She has also contributed to several anthologies, MJ Magazine and shares her unpublished works on her blog.
Because she loves to talk to other authors, Dellani hosts two talk shows a month on Blog Talk Radio. Listen in every second Monday of the month at 4:00 PM Eastern for Dellani's Tea Time, and every fourth Wednesday, at 4:00 PM Eastern for What's Write for Me.
Armed with bravado and wonderfully supportive friends and family, Dellani has embarked on a journey of self-publication. Conduct Unbecoming is her first venture into this new, and somewhat scary, world.
Where are you from?
I was born in Tennessee, but have lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, Nebraska,
Mississippi and now live in Florida.
What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
A great story needs good conflict, a discernible opposite of the main characters. This can be in the form of an actual person, entity or group. It can also be some hurdle the hero has to overcome. With good conflict comes good characters. They must be up to the task they've been presented with, even if they don't think so themselves. Despite weaknesses, they manage to rise to the challenge and overcome it. Good plot dynamics also add to the story. No good tale can go straight up to the climax and straight down to the denouement. There have to be levels built, like steps, guiding the reader to the conclusion.
What was the hardest part of the story to write?
It was hard to keep the plot fresh and not do a rehash of The Ninja Tattoo. I didn't want the characters in hiding, as they were before. However, when I thought of a full on confrontation, the characters stopped me. Two of the bad guys were too formidable and unpredictable for a frontal assault. I would have lost all my main characters and had a slaughter of innocents on my hands. Teague was champing at the bit to take the villain head to head and I couldn't let him. Amazingly, Jasper, who is even more impetuous than Teague, talked him out of it. After that, I let them decide and I like where they went with the story.
What was the easiest part of the story to write?
The love scenes were the easiest part. I love having people fall in love and bringing them together for the first time is always kind of magical.
Was there much research involved?
Since I had already written a story with similar aspects, there was very little research involved. I did ask an author friend of mine, Seth Bailey, for advice on a rifle for one of the scenes. Though the weapon isn't specifically named, he gave me some useful information. He also told me a real sniper wouldn't be seen or miss, which was exactly what I was after.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
Dialogue, hands down. I wrote plays in college and that has stayed with me. Info dumps, back story, characterization—all this and more can be portrayed through dialogue.
When your first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
I didn't think about how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I would get these fabulous ideas and couldn't type fast enough. What I thought would take an hour to write, often took 2 or 3.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
I do celebrate a little. I keep my book files separated by Finished and Unfinished files. When a book is done, I move it from one folder to the other and do a little happy dance. Sometimes, if it's a been a real bear to finish, I'll have a glass of wine. I love finishing a book, but once it's done, the real work—editing—begins. I give myself some down time afterward, before I move on to a new project or begin my first phase of editing.
Do you have a set writing routine?
No. My time is too broken up with errands I have to run, needs of my family (buggers have to eat, after all) and all the Mom and Wife stuff I have to do. I try to get in my office by 10:00 most mornings, and put in time on my various projects. Sometimes, it's editing, other times it's setting up my blog posts. Other days, I go on Facebook & promote my books or radio shows. I try to put that off until later in the day, though, because it's easy to get sucked in.
I write or edit awhile, break for a late lunch, watch reruns on Netflix and relax, before going back to work. I take another break to fix dinner. Sometimes, I stop and watch a movie with my family, then I'm back at my computer until around 1:00 a.m. I often have to make myself go to bed. I'm not usually sleepy, but I can't allow myself to stay up all night, even though I'd like to.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Always! I have to listen to music. It keeps me going and makes me feel energized. It also serves a more mundane purpose, it provides a screen between me and the outside world. Even in my office, the sounds of the rest of the house annoy and interfere. I've learned to filter out and ignore some, but I can't separate myself from it all. Also, I have constant ringing in my left ear. The doctors can't do anything about it, so I play music to tone that down.
You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
Give me unlimited paper & pens, I'll write my own. The voices in my head won't shut up just because I'm not at my computer.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
I'm always working on something. I have several books that I've shared on my blog. I plan to get these ready to self-publish. The one I'm currently sharing on my blog, Bad Fall, is actually a companion novel to Conduct Unbecoming. The main character is mentioned in Conduct Unbecoming, and one of the villains is the same. I am also writing a sequel to Bad Fall, and it's an extension of both Conduct Unbecoming and Bad Fall. The title is A Matter of Time.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Learn grammar! I realize that makes me sound like an English teacher, which I am, but it's important. I just finished reading a wonderful book that had a great plot and held my interest, but the author kept hopping from present to past tense. There were times that she switched from first person narrative to third person in the same sentence. It was a little frustrating. Also, PLEASE learn the difference between LAY and LIE and use them right! That bugs the crap out of me. I despair of ever winning that battle, because nearly everyone does it wrong.
What made you decide to venture into self-publishing?
I love my publishers, but they are busy with other authors as well as me. I have books I really want to have published, but can't get out as soon as I'd like to. I've been afraid to do this until many of my friends encouraged me to try it. Thank you Christina Giguere, Karen Vaughan and Ethel Cook-Wilson for convincing me that I could, and should, give it a try.
Excerpt from Chapter Four
As Jasper approached the door, he prayed for inspiration. It was going to take some fast talking for Nadeya not to freak out and kill him. He raised his hand to knock. Rethinking his position, he moved so he wasn't standing directly in front of the door, but slightly to the side so the thick, log wall protected him. He tapped lightly and waited for a response. The curtain over the tiny window moved aside imperceptibly. Only someone trained to be observant would have seen it.
Jasper faced the window and smiled. "I'm Jasper Waters," he said quietly. "I'm a friend of Teague's. You hid on my boat."
The door opened a crack and one dark, wary eye peered at him. "I remember you. What?"
"May I come in? The skeeters are pretty nasty and they're feasting on me."
Nadeya took a step back, leaving barely enough room for Jasper to squeeze through. She shut the door with her foot and slammed him against the wall, one hand pulled up at an uncomfortable angle behind him. She did a thorough frisking of him, leaving no areas unearthed, before letting him go. She stepped out of easy reach, eyeing him with a neutral expression.
"I just want to talk," Jasper said, holding his hands slightly from his sides.
"You're a cop. Why should I talk to you?"
"Because I don't think you killed that man on the beach. We're both friends of Teague's, maybe we could build on that."
"Teague has lots of friends. . . ."
"No, Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us the calls friends. You're one of them. He told me what happened to your fiancé."
She tightened up. Jasper took a step back, raising his hands.
"Would he share that with just anyone?"
Nadeya's lower lip trembled slightly and she blinked hard. Jasper caught the hint of a tear in her eyes.
"He wouldn't unless he knew I would help. You think I drop what I'm doing and run everyone out to a crime scene just cause I'm nice? Teague and I trust each other and I'd like to extend that courtesy to you, if you'll let me."
She stared at him several minutes, sizing him up. She gestured to one of the two chairs near the window. "Want some water or instant coffee? It's all I've got."
"Water would be good, thanks." Jasper sat.
Nadeya got two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge and tossed him one. Jasper caught it with a grin. His left hand gripped it as he twisted it open.
"Nicely done. Now you know I'm a lefty."
Nadeya smirked. "And you're not armed. I could have taken your head off."
"Yup, but I trusted you wouldn't. And I thank you for that."
She nodded as she opened her own bottle. "So, you're here, talk."
Jasper told her what he and Teague had figured out about the man on the beach. He even told her about C.L.A.D.
"You know about that?" Nadeya leaned closer, whispering.
"Bits and pieces, nothing concrete. What do you know?"
Nadeya looked furtive. "I shouldn't tell you. We could get in a lot of trouble."
Jasper held his hands out, palms up. "Who am I gonna tell? Except maybe Teague. Look, the more we know about this, the better. What do you say?"
She looked away, biting her lip. "I don't know much more than you do. The only thing I know for sure was that it's supposed to be a way to reprogram people's minds."
"Like brain washing?"
"Kind of. More sophisticated, but still a way to break them. I know that someone else got ahold of it though. They were using it on us!" Anger flared in her eyes.
"Us—as in you personally?"
"No. But some of our soldiers. There was a captain I heard of, they tried to kill him off in a raid, but he took out everyone who attacked his convoy. They stole his memories and gave him a fucking medal."
"Shit! How do you know about that?"
"The subject came up as they tortured my fiancé," she mumbled.
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