Sunday, October 31, 2010

And Away We Go!

It's Halloween Night and NaNoWriMo participants all over the world are watching their clocks waiting for midnight so they can start officially writing their novels. Like Halloween costumes, NaNo novels are decided on well in advance, sometimes starting as of December first.

I heard about NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, four years ago when a friend asked me if I planned to participate. I'd never heard of it before and decided to investigate. After checking out, I decided to give it a try.

My first novel, entitled "Wall of Time", is a prequel to my sci-fi series. The first novel, "The Lone Wolf", is due in December 2010. This novel gives insight on one of the minor, but very important, characters in "The Lone Wolf", explaining her origins.

My second novel, "Deserted", didn't go as planned. I started with the idea "If you were stuck on a desert island, who would you want to be stranded with?" It was a good story, but far different from what I envisioned at the beginning of the month.

Last year's novel, "The Ninja Tattoo" is one I'm the most proud of. I got the idea from it from an odd incident that happened to me on the way home from a friend's house one October morning. It struck me as so odd, I decided to put the incident in my novel and the story grew from there.

This year, I plan to write a mystery/ romance combination called "Undiscovered". The basic premise is that a young woman who is showing a condo to a couple witnesses a man running from the scene of the crime. She becomes a target of violence after the police speak to her about the incident.

Below is an excerpt from my 2009 NaNo Novel, "The Ninja Tattoo". This is the opening scene from the novel.

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. 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 early October.

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 a couple hours 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 F150. 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 slow school zone 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 Ford 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 an end at US-1. Stopping for the light, the man ahead of Teague leaned back on his bike, glancing at the man behind Teague, he pointed left. The other fellow nodded, giving the lead biker a thumbs up. The light changed and the white Ninja followed the truck while 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 at the next intersection, then 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.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

...Repent in Leisure

I wrote this for my writing group last week. Our prompt was "A Hasty Decision" and this sort of came to me the night before.

“Marry in haste, repent in leisure,” my Aunt Martha said as she fluffed my veil. “I swear, you look a treat, Sammie!”

“Thanks, Auntie M,” I said, hugging her.

I adjusted the wreath of flowers on my head, gazing at myself in the mirror. My hair was a mess, but the veil was gorgeous. Martha was making it for me from silk flowers and lace. It was lovely. My dress was still being made, so I stood there modeling it in jeans and a T-shirt.

“Just gotta ask again, Sammie. Are you sure about this boy?”

“Very sure, Auntie. RJ's fantastic. You'll love him. Mama loves him.”

“Well, just cause my baby sister likes somebody, don't mean I will.”

“He's the best. Honest!”

“Didn't you say that about what's his name? The carpenter?”

I couldn't look at myself anymore. “Yeah. But I was wrong as can be about Bobby. This is different, Auntie.”

“And you said that about that policeman.”

I sighed. She had a point. I'd said that about Tom too. Let's face it, my experience with men isn't all that great. My record relationship so far is this one with RJ. We've been dating four months and are getting married in six weeks. At least that's the plan, provided something doesn't come along to screw it up.

“My point is,” she continued. “Sammie Jean, you ain't got the best track record of any girl. You fall in love too easy. You get your heart all trampled on and then regret like crazy you ever hooked up with that lunatic man in the first place. You sure this ain't another time like the last...twelve?”

“Not twelve, Auntie. Just two.”

“Seems like a lot more than two. Didn't you almost marry that florist fella?”

I'd forgotten about Dean the florist. Good grief, I'd forgotten half a dozen men I'd dated too. She had a point, damn close to twelve. I hadn't been engaged to them all, but RJ was the third. Or was it the fourth? But the only one who'd got so far as setting a date and buying the material for a dress. Mama was sewing that, Auntie M. was making the veil. My Aunt Tessa was making the bouquets and Aunt Mamie the cake. My mama's got a bunch of sisters and they're all good at different things.

“This time, for sure! I'm really positive about RJ.”

Her eyes looked sad and I knew she was thinking of some other guy I'd said that about. She thought I was gonna back out again—like I'd always done before.

“Can't help thinkin' a man who'll propose and get married real fast—he ain't reliable, Sammie Jean. I feel like I'm wasting precious time making something for a wedding that ain't ever gonna be.”

“You're not wasting your time, Auntie. This time, for sure! I love RJ so much! He's real special. And I know I've said that a million times before, but this time for sure! Wait until you meet him. He's coming by at seven for dinner.”

“I guess we're all expected?”

I nodded, taking the wreath of flowers off my head.

“Well, I reckon I can give a few minutes.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon working on wedding plans and cooking dinner. RJ was right on time. My aunts were all in the living room waiting for him to arrive. He knocked on the door and you'd think someone lit a fire under those women. They lined up in birth order to meet him: Martha, Tessa, Mamie and my mother, Reanne. I felt like making a drum roll when I opened up that door.

RJ walked in, gave me a kiss and turned to see that room full of females. He's real good looking, dark brown hair and big green eyes. He wears a real diamond stud in his left ear. That surprised my mama some, but she didn't complain. I introduced him to my aunts.

“Wait a second,” Martha said loudly. “You're that doctor, aren't ya?”

“Yes, ma'am. Sure am! I work at the Emergency room.”

“You sewed up my boy when he cut his foot,” Aunt Tessa said with a grin.

“And you took the splinter outta my neighbor's eye,” Aunt Mamie said.

“This is who you're gonna marry?” Aunt Martha asked.

“Yup, Auntie. This is RJ.”

“Well, baby darlin'. You forget everything your auntie said and just go on and be happy.”

RJ wasn't quite sure what to think, but he took it all in stride. He charmed those aunts of mine and had them about eating outta his hand before dinner was done.

After he went home, Aunt Martha took me aside and gave me a hug. “Baby girl, you did good.”

“Thanks, Auntie.”

“I take back all the bad I said. You're gonna do just fine.”

“Thanks, Auntie.”

“One thing though, you gonna let him wear that earring?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Well then, he better get you a ring at least twice that big, or it's gonna be competition,” she declared as she walked out the door.

I sat down on the couch and couldn't stop laughing. Finally, I'd found a man that everyone loved just as much as me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview with Dellani Oakes

Second Wind: I am joined today by Dellani Oakes, author of the historical romance novel, "Indian Summer" 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: When I moved the Florida twenty years ago, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of history. St. Augustine, as the oldest established city on the east coast, holds an extra special fascination for me. I wanted to bring a bit of that history alive.

SW: Why the time period, 1739? I'm guessing that's significant.

D: Yes, it is. There was a great deal of enmity between the Spanish and British in Europe and Florida gave them another venue in which to fight. The British were constantly trying to take over the fort in St. Augustine, the Castillo de San Marcos. In 1740, they very nearly succeeded.

SW: Why all this fuss over Florida? Grant you, it's pretty country, but with the climate and the diseases the mosquitoes carried, why would anyone want such an untamed place?

D: I asked that very question too. What I found during my research was that St. Augustine was a strategic military position. The Spanish were shipping their treasures from Mexico and Central America. They used the trade routes along the Florida coast. Those waters were full of pirates as well as British warships. Imagine what the British could have done to the Spanish trade routes if they controlled those waters instead?

SW: An interesting historical twist.

D: Yes, I think I just gave myself an idea for a new novel.

SW: Now that we've established a bit of the history, tell us about the story itself. Was there really a Gabriella Deza daughter of the Spanish governor?

D: No, there wasn't. I tried very hard not to pattern her after a real person and did hours of research to find a name not common to the area. If Gabriella resembles any historical person, it's purely coincidental.

SW: Give us a brief synopsis of your story.

D: The story opens in the spring of 1739 and Gabriella is almost fifteen. After an accident injures both Manuel, her father's confidential aid, and Governor Deza, Gabriella is staying at the hospital to help care for them. She overhears a conversation between two British spies. They are talking about an attack on St. Augustine.

SW: What does she do?

D: She runs to tell her father, but he's unconscious. Instead, she goes to Manuel. However, after a brief and very embarrassing conversation with him, it slips her mind.

SW: How could talking to Manuel make her forget something that important?

D: He is nearly naked, very handsome, well built and charming. Keep in mind, she's only fourteen and he is an older man. She's so flattered that he has shown interest in her, she simply forgets.

SW: How much older is he?

D: Manuel is twenty-one.

SW: Isn't that a little old for her? She's just a child.

D: Perhaps by today's standards, but back then girls married young and their husbands were often even older than Manuel. It wasn't unusual for a girl her age to marry a man in his thirties.

SW: Does she ever remember the conversation she overheard?

D: No, but when she is sick with a fever, she reveals everything to Manuel and her father. Armed with this information, they set a trap for the spy, but by mischance, Gabriella is caught in it. She is kidnapped by the spy, escapes and is rescued by a band of friendly Indians. Now Manuel must find her and get her back. Then he has to bring the spy to justice so they can be married.

SW: I trust it all works out?

D: You'll have to read "Indian Summer" to find out. But I will say I do like happy endings.

SW: Dellani, thank you so much for talking with me today.

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

Dellani Oakes' book, "Indian Summer" is available at It is also available at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nine Questions for Matilda

It's easy to forget that in every good romance there are two major characters. Often, authors forget that each is as important as the other--cause a romance takes two, this isn't Narcissus, after all. Recently, my interview of Wilhelm Van Lipsig, The Lone Wolf, was posted by Pat Bertram. I decided that his lady, Matilda DuLac, deserves equal time. So, here is a short interview with Matilda.

Dellani: How do you learn best?

Matilda: I learn best by seeing and doing. That's the way my dad taught me to mine and the way I do everything now.

Dellani: How open are you to new ideas and information?

Matilda: Life is about learning. If I don't learn, I stagnate. I'm open to new ideas, but often want proof that they're valid before I adopt them. Assimilating new information is part of my job description. In my job, I have to have a quick mind and good memory.

Dellani: When you walk into a room, what do you notice first?

Matilda: I look around for familiar faces. Essentially, I'm shy in social situations. Professionally, I'm very confident. When I get in a group with people I don't know very well, I'm just as likely to end up by myself in a corner someplace.

Dellani: Is one sense more highly developed than another?

Matilda: My hearing. I'm not sure why, but I can hear higher frequencies than most other people. My father says it would come in handy for mining Trimagnite, but no daughter of his is going to get into that life. I also seem to have perfect pitch. Not that I can sing a perfect 'C' or anything, but I can tell when an instrument isn't properly tuned or someone is singing off key. Which is ironic, because Wil is tone deaf.

Dellani: Do you usually notice problems around you?

Matilda: It depends on what the problems are, I think. I have to admit, I'm not always the most observant person around. I do notice big things, but little squabbles, inconsistencies, probably not. If I see a problem, I deal with it.

Dellani: Would you say you're an optimist or a pessimist?

Matilda: I'm decidedly an optimist. However, you can't live around Wil without developing some cynicism. He can be a serious pessimist, though he'll deny it. I have to keep it light or he'll bring me down.

Dellani: Are you more interested in the past, the future or living in the now?

Matilda: All three are connected, don't you think? I wouldn't be the person I am without my past. I can't look toward the future without living through the now. We shape our future by who we were and who we are now.

Dellani: How do you decide if you can trust someone?

Matilda: I go on instinct and feelings. Wil tells me that's the worst thing to do, but it's worked for me so far. I may not be as paranoid and discerning as he is, but I'm pretty damn accurate. Of course, I've trusted some people that he thought I was flat crazy at the time. When it turns out I was right, he's such a baby! I believe I'm accurate because I've got strong, but untrained, telepathic abilities. I can read people without realizing I'm doing it.

Dellani: Are you a deliberate, careful speaker or do you talk without thinking first?

Matilda: I tend to blurt things out without thinking. I'm working on that.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"Lone Wolf" Update!

This just in! After a chat with my publisher, I've got a tentative release date for "The Lone Wolf" long awaited first novel in my sci-fi series. I'll keep you posted! HOORAY!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Finding the Inner Voice

When people ask me how long I've been writing, I don't hesitate to answer. I've been telling stories all my life. Since I could put words together, I've made up stories. When I got old enough, I started writing those stories down.

When I was younger, I wrote poems and song parodies. As I got older, I wrote short stories and humorous essays. Once I got into college, as a theatre major, my emphasis switched to plays, but I still wrote short stories.

As a college student, the time to write was limited. Even more so once I got to teaching full time. I had two small children, so finding a spare moment where I wasn't tending to them, grading papers or sleeping--Well, let's just say that didn't happen very often.

Once I left teaching and moved, first to Nebraska and then to Florida, I had more time to commit to my writing. I started a novel, my first attempt, and I admit rather embarrassed, I haven't finished that one yet. We won't talk about how many years ago that was. I got a great deal typed out, but of course technology's changed enough that all the files I had saved can't be read on my new system. I'm having to type it out again, editing and updating as I go. It's a long haul!

My first novel, "Indian Summer" is set in St. Augustine, Florida in 1739. This novel, too, took me several years to complete. Most of the problem was that I had chosen the wrong way to tell the story. Originally, I started telling it like diary entries, but that simply didn't work. Frustrated, I put it away and didn't look at it for years. Hidden in a drawer by my bed, the notebook gathered dust and the words were locked away--scribbles on a page.

Years later, I went through the drawer and rediscovered the pages. I read through it and decided the story still needed to be told, but most of what I'd written was useless. Salvaging the best parts, I started over. The story took a much different direction from what I intended, but the voice of the main character, Gabriella, was finally free to tell her story. And what a story it is! Part mystery, part adventure, and a dash of romance, "Indian Summer" captures the essence of the times.

Finding the right voice is important for an author. Ignoring the way the story wants to go is a sure fire way to keep it from ever being told. Listen to the inner voice, that one that nags at you when you're trying to sleep. Every writer hears it. It's that irritating compulsion to create that cannot and will not be denied forever. In order to hear it clearly, find a quiet spot, close your eyes and listen. When the words start to flow, you know you've found the inner voice.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Excerpt from "Set for Love"

Bern Cortland is a transplant from a small town in Mississippi to a big city "Up North". He's just landed a great new job as technical director at a theatre. He's just settling in when he meets Paige Russo, the leading lady for the new show. They hate each other on sight and it doesn't improve over time. He thinks she's a serious bitch and she thinks he's a blithering idiot. Unfortunately, he's having to help her move into an apartment---right across the hall from him.

Bern was several steps behind Clay when the door opened. He heard a woman's voice, but it wasn't until he got to the door that he saw who it was. His new neighbor was going to be Paige Russo. The woman he despised was moving into the apartment of his ex-lover.

Great! This proves that God hates me.

Nodding to her, he walked through the door. Tight lipped, she showed them around, telling them what needed to be packed and what was ready.

“Thought you were supposed to have everything packed up,” Bern grumbled.

“Part of moving is packing. Where did you grow up? That's what movers do.”

“When I have a job as a mover, I'll shore nuf tell ya, ma'am. Peers Massah didn't think to tell us yooz spectin us to pack up dis she-it.” He put on his lowest class Southern accent, touching his brow deferentially.

Paige frowned, forehead wrinkling. The frown turned to a pout and she stormed off, slamming the door to her bedroom.. She didn't even have the decency to be dressed!

Furious, Bern started packing up kitchen equipment. Throwing it in boxes was probably not the best approach, but he was angry and needed to take it out on something. Clay relieved him, suggesting that he move furniture instead.

“Can't break a couch,” he said to Bern.

However, it seemed you could at least damage one if you got pissed off enough, which Bern figured out when he nearly dropped it off the second floor stairway. He and three others were carrying the brown leather monster down the stairs when the hidden bed, that she hadn't told them about, fell partway out. It clipped Bern's knee and grazed his knuckles. Bruised and bleeding, he threatened to tip it over the edge. The others rescued it, driving him back inside.

“Pack her clothing,” Clay admonished. “If you actually manage to break her clothes, I'll buy you a fucking cookie.”

“Get bent,” Bern growled as he followed Paige into her room.

“Empty the dresser into the bags,” she said, indicating some pink, scented trash bags.

He picked up a bag, flicked it open and yanked out a drawer. It was full of her underwear. The sachet in the drawer smelled like her perfume, sexy, musky and dangerous. Trying to breathe through his mouth, he dumped it in the bag. Most of it missed and he spent the next couple of minutes picking up her panties, black, sheer and lacy, and her bras—the same.

“At least I can say I've been in her panties,” he mumbled, chuckling nastily as he finished filling the bag.

He completed the dresser project and moved to the closet. Paige was busy taking down dresses and skirts, all short, snug and sexy. She was also dropping shoes into a box. It seemed that she didn't own anything that wasn't designed to get his imagination rolling. She was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, her hair in a sloppy ponytail, no makeup and she was still the sexiest woman he'd seen up close and personal. She had the perfect body, flat belly, slender hips and full, round breasts. She wasn't wearing a bra, something he determined almost immediately. They jiggled and wiggled invitingly under her loose Red Sox sweatshirt.

“You a Sox fan?” He asked, trying like hell to act casual.

She shrugged. “Not so much. My dad is a fan and buys us each a shirt every Christmas. This was last year's.” It said 'Born a Red Sox Fan'.”

Bern smirked, nodding. “Where I grew up, s'posed to be Ole Miss fans. My dad went to USM instead. Worst beatings I got in my life were the days Southern and Ole miss battled it out on the ball field.”

“Baseball?” She frowned.

He chuckled. “Southern boys don't play baseball, ma'am.”

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 5

"This is Ms. Whitley. Her mother's a parishioner at St. Blase. I'm filling in for Father Charlie today." "Yeah, I h...