Tag Archive | adventure romance

2016 A Good Year for Writing

Dellani Oakes with glasses2016 stunk in a lot of ways, not the least of which were all the deaths, both famous and not. Too many taken from us too soon. There was one respect in which 2016 was kind of all right. It’s a very personal way, not something that means much to anyone but me.

For several years, I’ve made a resolution to finish a book a month. This doesn’t mean that I start and finish the book in the same 30 day period (though I do that, too). This means that I take a book I’ve been working for awhile, maybe years, and I complete it. I’ve been making this same resolution for three years now, and I’ve just made it again. I don’t always meet this goal, but I feel that if I make a concerted effort and write constantly, I’m progressing well. Of course, the new goal becomes getting them publication ready—a longer and more complicated project. (And, let’s face it, a lot less fun)

In 2016, I managed to finish fourteen books! That’s better than one a month. There were a few months I didn’t complete something, but others where I did two or more. Please keep in mind, unless it states short story or novella, these are all books 50,000+ words. That includes the ones written in 5 – 10 days.

This years list includes:

January – Author of Love

February – Tarrah (a short story)

March – As yet untitled novella

April – Ranger’s Heart & When Tis Done

May – none finished as I was editing Room 103 for publication

June – How Far is Heaven, Sierra and Food Truck Hero (which was written in 6 days)

July – Raven Willoughby: Origins, Beach Bum, Alton & Velda and Game Junkies

August – He Needed Killin’ (written in 9 days)

September – none finished

October – none finished

November – So Much It Hurts (2016 NaNo, completed in 5 days)

December – none finished

Overall, not a bad year, though I did better in 2015 (25 books), but I consider anything 12 and over, a win. I finished 14 books in 2014 as well. Though I didn’t finish any books every month of the year, I started 4 new ones. I couldn’t seem to make up my mind how to finish them, but it gives me a goal for this year. Challenge accepted!

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from He Needed Killin’

He Needed Killin possible cover photo2This is from my newest finished novel, He Needed Killin’ (not yet published). It’s only been read by one person, a lady who loaned her name to the text, Tory Copeland—cause she’s awesome (and so is the character named after her). Though this isn’t specifically the first meeting, it’s the first conversation between Dill and Haylee.

“So, RJ found you, huh?”

“Yeah. Not sure how that happened.”

“I do. Leanne, our dispatcher, told him when he called in. We asked her not to, but she’s honest to a fault, and it felt like a lie. In her defense, she thought he was genuinely worried about you. He can be damn convincing when he wants.”

“Yeah. He’s a snake.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“I worked partly in the office, then Bark needed me on the bar. I have experience, so I agreed. Good night, no serious issues. It felt great to be back around people, you know? It’s real isolated out there with only RJ for company. Once in awhile, he’d have a visitor, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to them. I saw Carla when she came up. Once in awhile, on my day off, I saw some folks.” He shrugged, shaking his head.

“How did you live like that?”

Dill chuckled, his gray-green eyes focusing on hers as he laid his arms on the table, hands folded. “Honestly? I have no idea. I had no other choice. Or I thought I didn’t.”

“What made you leave?”

Glancing away, Dill swallowed. He looked so young, vulnerable, Haylee wanted to hug him.

“He slapped me. All the time. What kind of a man slaps people?” His eyes darted back to hers. “And what kind of a man stands there and takes it? I stayed because I needed the money. Then it got to the point where the money wasn’t enough to make up for the humiliation. I’d rather work in a strip club with women grabbing my ass, than spend another second with that man. I was on my way back to the Purple Pony when I stopped here for dinner. Bark offered me a job, so I stayed.”

Haylee nodded, scribbling in her notebook. She couldn’t look at him. Tears welled in her eyes and she bit her lip so she wouldn’t cry. Mouth in a tight line, she swallowed and regrouped before looking up again.

While she wrote, Dill watched her. She was a pretty woman, firm jaw, high cheekbones, full lips. Her pale blonde hair was natural. Her body sported a light tan which was mostly tightly grouped freckles. She looked up at him again and he noticed that her eyes were a startling, penetrating turquoise, like a mountain lake. Swallowing quickly, he tried to pretend he hadn’t been staring.

“So, RJ found out from Leanne that you were here. Had he been drinking when he came in?”

“I’m not sure. I wasn’t that close. He was furious and started yelling about getting me back and exacting revenge. He gets very dramatic when he’s mad, starts to talk like a movie script. He made some threats and that’s when Joe ran for Bark. Bark came out with his rifle and told him to leave, but he refused. Shortly after that, you arrived.”

“Where are you staying?”

“Here. Bark’s got a couple rooms. It’s part of my wages.”

She nodded, scribbling notes. “Phone number?”

He rattled it off. “I took the battery out, though.”

“Why’s that?”

“RJ. I didn’t want him to track me. He’s got a program on his computer. Guess I can put it back in. Not like he doesn’t know where I am.”

“Good point. Besides, your mom might call, or something.”

“No, she won’t. She and my dad are dead.”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry!”

He wiggled his fingers to indicate that it wasn’t a problem. “They’ve been gone almost twenty years. I don’t remember them.”

“Do you have any pictures?”

“Used to. You lose things in foster care.”

Haylee couldn’t stop herself. She took his hand, squeezing his fingers. “I’m so sorry.”

Dill looked surprised and his gaze dropped to their clasped hands. Her hand was pale against his, but strong and her broad palms were calloused.

“People die,” he said calmly. “But thank you.” Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed it.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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I Love Dialogue from Marice Houston Mystery

doodle banner I love dialogueMarice Houston Mystery (working title) is a sequel to Room 103. Marice is a Deputy Federal Marshal stationed in Kansas City, Missouri. However, since a major shakeup in the Florida FBI, she and several of her co-workers have been sent to Florida to help with prisoner transport. Briefly back in KC, she receives a strange phone call, only a series of clicks and buzzes, with a distinctive beat. The sound technician, Cruz, has been tasked with figuring it out.

I got something,” Cruz announced over the phone.

What?” I sent back, perplexed.

See me in my cubbie,” he said.

Sighing heavily, I wandered to his cubbie, which is what he calls his work space. It’s small and cramped, but well lit and he has every electronic tool and gadget known to mankind. His diagnostic equipment set the budget back a very pretty penny, but considering he’s an asset to the department, and one of the best in the nation, Alvin didn’t mind finding the funds for him. Cruz met me at the door.

I knew I recognized it.”

What is it? Morse code?”

No, not even. It was a drum beat.”

A—hm—what?” I tilted my head, not sure I understood what he meant.

Drum beat.”

A for real beat? Not just something that sounds like something?”

No, it’s an actual beat from an actual song.”

And did you figure out which song?”

Yeah—kinda. Working on that. But it’s very familiar, which means it’s something I’ve heard fairly often.”

Doesn’t narrow it down much. You listen to music all the time.”

I know, but instead of all the drum beats it could be, it’s isolated to something I regularly hear. So, instead of billions of possibilities, it’s hundreds.”

Good point. Ideas?”

I looped it. Listen.”

He played the beat. Though it was done with clicks and buzzes instead of sticks and drums, I felt recognition. It was that strange, questing feeling you get when you know you know it, but it’s not quite there. Like it’s on the edge of your consciousness, but you can’t touch it. It felt like something was tapping on my forehead, above my left eye.

The door popped open and Butch walked in, opening his mouth to speak. Instead, his head turned to Cruz and started to bob. “Jingo,” he said—pertinent of nothing, I thought.

Jin-what?” I asked.

Jingo, by Carlos Santana. That’s the opening bongo solo, but I don’t think I ever heard it like that.”

You know it. Just like that?” I was slightly incredulous.

Yeah? I’m a drummer. I know my beats. I’m also a huge Santana fan and it’s one of my favorite songs.”

Okay, we’ve identified it,” I said, raising a shoulder and eyebrow in Cruz’s general direction. “Now, why? Is there something significant about the song, title, artist or beat?”

No clue,” Cruz said, fiddling some more. He set the recording clicking and buzzing, adding Jingo in an overlay. It fit perfectly. “By damn.”

Told ya. Do I know my beats, or what?”

My man!” Cruz tapped his knuckles.

But—the question remains—why? If it’s supposed to convey a message, it isn’t telling me anything.”

You have to look beyond the music,” Cruz began.

Really? You’re going to chance walking there?” I turned to Butch. “Does he have a death wish?”

Oh, Jeesh, Houston! I’m not being philosophical, I’m being honest. Listen. There’s the Jingo beat. There’s a factory whistle.”

But what do they mean?”

No clue. I can’t solve all your problems for you.”

In about ten seconds, you’re going to die,” I cautioned him. “And you won’t be able to stop me. And neither will Butch, guaranteed. So, quit pissing me off and spill.”

I do think it’s sending a message, but I couldn’t tell you what. But if you listen, there is a pause before we very distinctly hear the whistle. That sort of whistle is rare. Some factories still use them, you might find them in small cities, a noon whistle, but it’s not noon….”

Do they sound them at end of shift?” Butch asked.

Yeah, I suppose.” Cruz checked his watch and the time stamp on the recording. “Not local time for end of shift, unless it’s some place that changes shift at four o’clock instead of three. Most places go seven to three, three to eleven and eleven to seven. But some spots, like the prison go from eight until four, four to twelve and twelve to eight.”

Do any of the local prisons use a steam whistle at change of shift?” I asked him.

He was already sitting down to the keyboard. His face fell when he read the screen. “Aw shit.”

The prison where we just put China Finetti,” I stated without even looking.

Yeah. Shit. Fuck.”

I couldn’t state it more succinctly if I tried.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Cover by Suzette Vaughn

Cover by Suzette Vaughn

Bad Fall – Part 4

Bad FallFrank just met the lovely, new psychologist on staff, Marka Ventimiglia. He finds her interesting and extremely intriguing. She’s smart and funny and they seem to share the same, slightly twisted, sense of humor.

Frank reached for the house phone on top of the console TV when it rang. Startled, he answered. “Frank Atherton.”

“Do you have any idea what I’ve been doing for the last hour?” It was Kathy, nighttime housekeeper.

“Uhh. . . .”

“That man didn’t like the room! He said it was filthy! He had me clean the entire thing from top to bottom, put new sheets on the bed, vacuum, polish, scrub! I was on my knees with a toothbrush doing the tile in the bathroom! He stood behind me the entire time making comments about my skill. I’m going to kill him, Frank! I swear to God!”

She kept ranting. Frank tried repeatedly to get her attention, but she talked over him.

“Kathy— Kath— Ka— Katherine, dammit! I’m sorry!” He hadn’t meant to yell, but Mr. Penwarren had that effect on him too. “I know he’s an insufferable prick. I’m sorry.”

“Well—just so you know.”

“I’m sure the room was perfect before. He’s a jerk. Meanwhile, there’s no spare toilet paper in my room or in Dr. Ventimiglia’s.”

“What? You’re kidding! No spare paper? We always leave at least one roll—two if it’s low on the spool. I’ll be up in a second and bring some.”

“Might want to check the other guest rooms when you can. Just to make sure.”
“I’ll do that. Who the hell would take toilet paper?”

“Someone with a weak bladder and a bad case of the runs?”

Kathy giggled. She was always laughing. Having her screaming into the phone only told him how upset she’d been.

“I’ll be up in ten. Anything else you need?”

“No, I’m good. Thanks, hon. See you soon.” He hung up, turning back to his visitor. “Sorry. Had a little problem with a guest. He’s a real jerk. In fact, he’s the reason I’m here tonight instead of home—with a beer.” He flopped into the chair with a sigh.

“I hear a story in that.”

“His name’s Ralph Penwarren. His mom lives here. She fell and he blames us. Long story short, he’s going to make us as miserable as possible before he leaves.”

“My Gran would call him a pip,” Marka replied with a sly grin.

“Mine would call him a prick,” Frank countered. “She’s been married to a Marine for fifty-six years. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’d eat Penwarren for lunch.”

“Sounds like you should give her a call.”

“Maybe I will.”

They were laughing quietly over their little joke when someone knocked at the door. It was Kathy.

She bustled past Frank with several rolls of toilet paper.

“Sorry it took me so long. I dropped by Dr. Ventimiglia’s first, but she wasn’t there. I didn’t want to go in. . . . Oh, hi! I didn’t know you were here.”

“I came to see if he had a spare. That’s how he found out he hasn’t got any either.”

“All you have to do is call housekeeping. We’ll take care of it. The numbers should be on top of the TV.”

“They were. I didn’t realize there was anyone there at night.”

Kathy smiled, handing her some toilet paper. “Once in awhile someone gets up and pees the floor or spills. Most nights are pretty quiet. I inventory and fold sheets, that sort of thing.”

“Thanks for the information. I’ll be staying in a guest room for a few weeks. After that, I’ll move into a house in town. They’re remodeling. It’s not ready yet.”

“Oh, sweet! What house?”

“The cute periwinkle blue house on the corner of Florida and Fifteenth.”

“You’ll love it! My husband helped with the remodel. He finished the floors. All oak,” Kathy said. “It’s got a great view of the park and pond.”

“Yes, I saw. That and the kitchen are the two things that sold me on the house.”

“Kenny also helped with the cabinets. He’s a great carpenter. He works here part time too.”

“I look forward to meeting him.”

“If there’s anything else you need, holler. I’ll be sitting in my cave watching TV and folding sheets.” Kathy withdrew, a questioning look on her face as she passed Frank.

“Night, Kath. See you in the morning.”

“Bright and early,” she replied, winking as she left.

Blushing, Frank shut the door behind her. “God, we’ll be the topic of gossip for the next week.”
“What? Why?”
He pointed to himself, then her. “You being here in the middle of the night—”

“It’s not even eleven!”

“Around here, that’s like two o’clock in the morning anywhere else. Be prepared for it. The entire staff will know before noon and half the residents by supper.”

“I hate to think what the talk would be like if we were naked.” She paused, reddening. “Sorry.”

Frank burst out laughing. “Don’t be. I was thinking it.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 3

Bad FallMost of the TV programs may be crap, but the in-house network provides something far more interesting. Frank isn’t terribly interested in hearing about Alzheimer’s, but he certainly is interested by the new psychologist.

“After losing my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, I made it my goal to find out everything I could about this dreadful disease. I’ve studied Alzheimer’s for four years. I don’t know everything, but I’ve got some innovative ideas. I’ll be working with different groups here at Sheltering Oaks, trying my techniques. If you’d like to volunteer to be in one of my groups, or want to join up just for fun or information, please contact me.”

She rattled off her name and phone number. It also appeared in huge letters at the bottom of the screen. When she was done, she smiled until the camera faded. The name and number remained on the screen.

Frank stared at the screen until one of the facility infomercials started up. Clicking the remote, he found a cop show he liked and left it on while he ate the remainder of his meal.

Even with the drama unfolding before him, he couldn’t keep his mind off the young woman he’d seen. He’d never been so taken with a woman in his life. She was pretty, vivacious, intelligent, witty and had a voice that sent shivers up his spine. He remembered her name, saying it aloud, liking the feel of it on his tongue.

“Marka Ventimiglia.” Not pronounced exactly like it was spelled, he noticed, practicing. “Ven ti MI lee ya,” he said slowly, experimentally.

Someone knocked at his door. Thinking it might be someone about Mr. Penwarren, he groaned quietly as he stood up.

“Be right there!” He called. He dropped his plate in the kitchen sink and went to the door. “What’s he done now?” He asked automatically as he opened it.
It wasn’t Sue or one of the other staff members. An attractive brunette stood there.

“I’m sorry? Who did what?”

“Oh, no one you’d know. Frank Atherton. I just saw you on TV.” He held out his hand.

She smiled. “Marka Ventimiglia. Nice to meet you. I feel really stupid asking, but yours is the only room with a light on. I took a chance that someone was up.”
He invited her in. She hesitated a moment, then followed him inside.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m embarrassed to ask. I’m staying in a guest room and I’m out of toilet paper.”

“Really? No spare?” He was puzzled by that. “The girls usually put it under the sink.”

He walked to his restroom. It was quite spacious, with a tub and a separate, walk-in shower. He opened the sink and didn’t find a spare paper under there. Checking all the cupboards, he came up empty.

“That’s weird. Gimme a second.” He dialed the front desk. “Sue, it’s Frank.”
“Hi, Frank. All’s quiet at the moment. Whatcha need?”

“Dr. Ventimiglia is with me and she hasn’t got a spare roll of toilet paper. Neither do I.”

“Oh, gosh. You want me to run some up there?”

“No, you don’t need to. Is Kathy around?”

“She should be. Shall I call her?”

“No, I will. Thanks.” He hung up and dialed the housekeeping office.

No one answered. Puzzled, he hung up and dialed again. Still no answer.

“I’ll try later,” he told his guest. “Do you need some immediately?”

She looked slightly uncomfortable. “As a matter of fact. . . .”

“Please, make yourself at home.” He gestured to his restroom. “Want some coffee?”

“Love some. I’m a caffeine addict. I also drink a lot of water. Hence the urgency.” She closed the door behind her.

He set up a pot of coffee, pulled out the half and half and sugar packets. She came out just as the coffee finished.

Smiling, he served her, inviting her to sit on the loveseat. His laptop occupied the chair. He set it carefully on the floor and clicked off the TV.

“I’ll give Kathy a call again a minute,” he explained. “She might be on break.”
“Thanks. I’m just learning my way around. I got here yesterday.”

“I caught your show tonight. Interesting. You should get a good turn out. I’ll talk it up for you.”

“You wouldn’t believe the success I had when I was doing my clinical,” she responded excitedly. “It was amazing, the results!” She sobered slightly, catching herself before she got too crazy. “I won’t bore you with details. You’ll have to excuse me, Mr. Atherton. I get very excited about my work.”

He smiled, eyes twinkling. “I’m glad one of us can. I’m either playing nursemaid, mother or cop. I never thought I’d have a job like this. None of my duties were in the job description.”

“The director, Mr. Norton, speaks very highly of you.”

He laughed abruptly and rather rudely as he finished his coffee. “Yeah? Boy, that was lie. He thinks I want his job.”

“Do you?”

He couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. Looking surprised, he set his mug down.
“Not really. Too much schmoozing.”

“Isn’t that in your job description?”

Frank laughed, shaking his head. “I’m not a schmoozer. I’m more of an in your face kind of guy. Let me give Kathy a call.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 2

Bad FallHas Frank Atherton met his match with Ralph Penwarren? The older man seems full of bluster. What could he be after in his mother’s room?

“Don’t think that I’ll forget this.” Penwarren pointed a stubby finger at Sue.

“Sue,” Frank Atherton interjected. “If you have any trouble from Mr. Penwarren, you call me personally. Day or night. Understood?”

“Completely, Frank. I’ve got you on speed dial.” She hid a smile of satisfaction when Penwarren blanched.

“Since you seem to know where that room is located, I’ll leave you to it,” Frank said politely.

“Can I at least get help with my luggage?”

“This isn’t a hotel, Mr. Penwarren. It’s a retirement facility. We don’t have bellboys.”

“Can you—?”

Frank held his hands out from his sides, showing off his expensive charcoal pinstripe suit. “Saville Row suits do not carry luggage, Mr. Penwarren. Good night.” He nodded, backing toward the elevator.

“Asshole,” Penwarren mumbled as he went out the front door.

“Douchebag,” Frank muttered as he waited for the elevator.

Normally, Frank Atherton would have been home already, his feet up, a cold lager in his hand. However, they’d known all day that Penwarren was due to arrive. Not knowing the exact time, he’d stayed, spending the night in one of the guest rooms, just in case there was trouble. He didn’t live far, but making the drive in the cold, on potentially icy roads, in the middle of the night, held very little appeal.

Ralph Penwarren was a bully. He was also a skinflint who didn’t care enough about his mother to give her the care she needed. He visited once a year and bullied and belittled his mother the entire time.

Mabel Penwarren was a lovely, sweet natured, delicate woman in her late eighties. She endured Ralph’s behavior, but it took her a long time to bounce back after one of his visits. This one was unscheduled, due to a fall she had a week before. Ralph insisted on flying in to harangue the retirement facility, using her well being as an excuse.

Frank Atherton had met Penwarren twice before. He’d worked for Sheltering Oaks Retirement Home for almost three years in the purchasing department. His military experience had done him in good stead. He was organized, efficient and able to handle any crisis that arose. When the previous assistant manager quit unexpectedly, he’d been the logical choice to take over. He’d found out on the sly that his predecessor had left largely in part because of Ralph Penwarren.

Once in his room, Frank kicked off his shoes, loosened his tie and shrugged off his jacket. The room was comfortably warm, the heat blowing gently from wall units in the living room and bedroom. The small kitchen had been fully stocked by the housekeeping staff, minus beer, of course. No alcohol was allowed on campus as it was a church sponsored facility.

The dining room had sent up a meal for him, which he hadn’t had a chance to eat. He opened the ‘to go’ containers and emptied the contents onto a plate. Popping it into the microwave, he started the Salisbury steaks, mashed potatoes and green beans heating. It smelled good. Not a gourmet meal, but beat the crap he usually ate all to hell and back.

Frank wasn’t a cook. He ate out or fixed frozen dinners for himself. He wouldn’t starve, but the dining room meal was the closest he usually got to home cooked. Still single, he’d never even had a live in girlfriend. Overseas most of his military career, he hadn’t had the opportunity to make or maintain a long relationship with a woman. Special Ops had to be ready to bug out on a moment’s notice.

He’d gotten more than one call when he had the rare female company. Women tended not to like the fact he had to toss them out in the middle of the night so he could go on some mission he couldn’t talk about afterward.

So, he was single, unattached, bored, frustrated and horny. It was just as well he didn’t have any alcohol. The way he was feeling, he’d probably have drunk himself into oblivion.

The microwave dinged while he was donning his jeans and T-shirt. He pulled the shirt over his head and crossed the 10 feet between the bedroom and kitchen quickly. He grabbed a fork out of the drawer and went to the living room to eat. This guest room was only partially furnished. There was a TV, wingback chair and loveseat in the living room. No dining room table, but a small end table with a single lamp took up space to the left side of the couch.

The bedroom had a chest of drawers, the other end table a queen sized bed and a floor lamp. He’d scrounged the unoccupied guest room next door and pulled another floor lamp out of the closet. This, he added to the illumination in the bedroom. He turned on the dining area light and the lamp before clicking on the TV. Setting down his plate, he got himself a soda from the fridge, popping it open one handed.

“Crap,” he mumbled, hitting the remote to change the station. “Crap—crap—crap. . . . Caca en Españole.”

He continued to click until he got to the History Channel. A program on military intelligence gathering was ending. He watched until they started a program on Nazi death camps. Preferring not to see that yet again, he clicked once more.

The next channel was the Sheltering Oaks in-home station. It ran informational programs about the facility, but also interviews of residents, special guests and random strangers. An attractive young woman was talking about Alzheimer’s. She stressed keeping the brain active and suggested mental exercises to strengthen the mind.

© Dellani Oakes

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