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Oscar Friedman’s Freakish Occurrence – Part 2

That night, the skies opened, pouring down more rain in an hour than the city had seen all year. Oscar woke twice during the night, lying awake as the rain pounded against his tenth story window relentlessly. Unable to sleep after the second time, he lay in the dark, watching the streetlights cast eerie orange ripples across his walls and ceiling. He was just drifting back to sleep when a vividly bright light filled the room, followed by a tremendous clap of thunder.

Oscar sat bolt upright in his bed, blankets and pillows scattered like fallen leaves. Every car alarm in the hotel parking lot shrilled into the dark night. Phones all over the hotel rang until bleary, angry guests woke up enough to answer them. Even Oscar’s phone rang. He picked it up, wondering why.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Friedman?” The young woman sounded terrified.

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, sir.”

“What’s wrong? Did my car get hit by lightning or something?”

There was a prolonged silence followed by a nervous clearing of the throat. “How did you know?”

Oscar started to laugh. The young lady did not join in. His mirth tapered off and another uncomfortable silence ensued.

“You’re kidding. Aren’t you?”

“No, sir. That’s why I called.”

“Um….”

“The manager said to tell you that the hotel is not responsible for damage of this kind. It’s considered an act of nature.”

“I see. I guess I’d better call the company and get a different car.”

“That’s the odd thing. The car appears to be undamaged.”

“What? How’s that even possible?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Friedman. I haven’t seen it myself.”

“I’ll be right down. Thank you.”

He dressed rapidly and took the elevator to the lobby. A huge crowd had gathered around the lobby entrance, most of them in their pajamas holding car alarm remotes. The rain was pouring just as steadily, but they couldn’t seem to make themselves go inside. A clutch of people stood around his car. The doorman handed him an umbrella and he wandered over to the front of the lot. The group parted ranks as he arrived. He recognized the manager in the center, talking animatedly with a police officer and a fireman.

“Here is the owner now,” he said, pulling Oscar forward.

“It’s a rental,” Oscar replied before he got blamed for anything. “I just picked it up this afternoon.”

“So it doesn’t belong to you personally?” The police officer flipped open his notepad.

“No. It’s a hunk of junk and I was going to return it in the morning to get something else. The GPS is borked and the alarm went off when I hadn’t even set it.”

“He’s right about that,” the manager interjected. “We’ve had to turn it off seven times during the evening. He left the keys at the front desk for us.”

“You’ll need to contact the rental company in the morning,” the cop told him. “They need to know what happened and assess damages.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, officer,” the fireman said calmly. “I used to work as a mechanic. From what I can see, there’s nothing wrong. It didn’t even damage the paint.”

“That’s weird as shit,” the cop said.

“But damn fortunate,” the fireman added. “Specially on a rental. They’ll get you six ways to Sunday on those otherwise.”

They stood around nodding agreement as Oscar checked his rented car. Aside from a little soot on the hood, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the car. Sighing heavily, he went back to his room determined to sleep more, but his rest refused to come. Instead, he lay awake with visions of the car’s demise playing in his head over and over. He finally fell asleep around four in the morning. He woke to a phone call from the hotel manager at around ten o’clock.

“Mr. Friedman, so sorry to wake you, sir.”

“Yeah?” Oscar sat up, rubbing his eyes.

“We took the liberty of contacting the rental company for you. The representative is here at the moment and would like to speak to you.”

“Thanks. Give me a couple minutes to wake up. I’ll be down.”

“The representative I on the way up and should be there any minute.”

“Shit.”

Cursing, he hung up and dressed quickly. He was just starting the coffee pot when there was a knock on his door. Oscar answered, anticipating a fat, balding man. Instead, an attractive woman in her early forties was standing there in a navy blue suit. Her skirt was flared and just above knees, revealing a shapely lower leg. Strawberry blonde hair curled below her ears, brushing the top of her collar. Knowing blue eyes held his for a moment before she spoke.

“May I come in, Mr. Friedman?”

“Sure. Knock yourself out.” He held the door for her to walk through.

He finished setting up the coffee and waited for her to speak. Standing with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his faded blue jeans, he looked rather lost and alone. The woman gave him a thorough examination before speaking. Her voice was sultry and low, flavored with a delightful accent of some kind. Oscar couldn’t place it right away, so he stopped trying.

“Mr. Friedman, the company sent me over as a courtesy to you, sir. Although I’m not overly sure what they expect me to do.”

“Neither do I, Miss ….?”

“Bond. Jasmine Bond.”

Oscar laughed rather derisively. When the woman didn’t join him, he stopped rather abruptly.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Bond. I thought you were kidding. I apologize. I imagine you get that a lot.”

“Unfortunately, my parents were way too creative with their naming. Be that as it may,

I’m curious as to what you want from the company.”

“Obviously, I want a different car. That one has been problematic since I got it. The GPS seems to be faulty as well as the car alarm. I didn’t even set it and it went off eight times last night. I figured I’d go talk to the agency today and ask for a different car. I’m going to be here all week, I need a reliable car.”

“What brings you to town?”

“Business. I’m an author. I’m here for a book signing tour. I’ve got three venues in four days, rotating with other authors under the same publisher. Would you like to see our itinerary?”

“Yes, thanks.”

He dug through his bag, handing her a crumpled sheet listing his appointed times per venue. Some were scratched through and changed.

“One of the authors got sick at the last minute, so we’re covering her times as well. So you see why I need transportation.”

“Interesting choices. Who set this up?”

“The publisher.”

“Well, the most I can do for you is examine the car and take you to the office so you can see about a new one. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Memorial Day is a busy weekend. I’m surprised we had one at all.”

“I made the reservation several months ago. Even if it’s a different kind of car, I don’t care. I need something to go from point A to point B and not get me lost in the meantime.”

She smiled, tossing her hair with a laugh. “I understand. Well, when you’re ready, we can go together and talk to Don. I’m sure he’ll help all he can.”

“Thanks. I’d like that. Um, have you had breakfast?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Breakfast. Coffee, Danish, scrambled eggs? My treat. I hear this hotel has a nice breakfast buffet.”

Jasmine Bond was about to refuse when her stomach growled. She’d gotten the call to come by here on her way to work and hadn’t had time to stop and get her breakfast. Sighing, she shrugged.

“Sure, why not?”

Oscar Friedman’s Freakish Occurrence – Part 1

Oscar Friedman sat in the hot, humid, stuffy car gazing at the dashboard with chagrin. The rented Prius had the most complicated layout of any automobile he’d ever seen. When he’d told the agent that he wanted a gas efficient model, he hadn’t envisioned a hybrid. The agent, even now, was trying to give him a lesson on how to start the car. Unfortunately, it made very little sense. He tried it himself and, with lots of intervention, felt relatively competent.

“Ever used a GPS?” The young man, who looked about twelve, asked him.

Oscar felt each of his forty-seven years as he gazed into the vacuous blue eyes. “No.”

With a patient smile, the young man explained its use. He typed in the address of the hotel where Oscar was registered. “It will give you directions there and tell you when you’ve arrived,” he said with a happy grin.

“It talks to me?”

“Yes. And it has a map so you can see exactly where you’re going and where you are. If you make a wrong turn, it helps you get back on track.”

“Great, a machine that’s smarter than I am.”

“Not exactly. It’s part of a satellite tracking system….”

“I know what it is,” Oscar said slowly. “Just because I’ve never used one – and I’m twice your age, doesn’t mean I don’t know what GPS stands for. “

“Gotcha. You’re technologically illiterate, Pops, that’s all.”

Oscar took great offense to that statement. “Not illiterate, inexperienced. In my day, you got a map or asked directions. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.”

“Yeah, well this works better.” Pursing his lips, he frowned at Oscar. “Have a great trip.” He didn’t sound like he meant it at all.

“Thanks, you’ve been a peach.” Neither did Oscar.

Shutting the door, Oscar began the complicated process of starting the car. Determined to do it without further assistance, he fumbled around, hitting upon the correct sequence entirely by accident. Putting the car in gear, he pulled out of the parking lot, following the directions of the GPS.

At first the navigation was easy. As he progressed, he found the directions more difficult, the turns more frequent. When he finally got to his hotel, which the agent had assured him was only five minutes away, fifty-five minutes later, he was furious. The hotel loomed on the horizon, but the GPS didn’t tell him that he’d arrived. He drove past it, cursing loudly.

“It’s right there!” He yelled, pointing at the hotel.

A block later, the GPS made the announcement, “You have arrived.”

“I haven’t! I have to get back to the hotel, you stupid electrical fiend!”

Trying to turn right and make a block, he saw the street was one way going the opposite direction.

“Dammit!”

In desperation, he stopped at a corner gas station and asked directions. The clerk spoke very little English, but a helpful patron got him back on the right road. Arriving far later than he’d hoped, he walked into the lobby sweating and angry after his trip. The clerk wrinkled her nose as he checked in, giving him a baleful eye as he picked up his bags and headed to his room. The cold, darkened room felt wonderful as he stripped off his sweaty clothing. Dropping it on the floor, he wandered into the bathroom for a long, hot shower. The phone was ringing when he got out of the shower. Grabbing it up angrily, he answered.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Friedman, front desk. So sorry to bother you, sir. Your car alarm is going off and has been for several minutes. The manager asks if you’d please come down and shut it off.”

“Car alarm? I didn’t even know it had one. I don’t remember setting it. Right now I’m wet and naked. I just got out of the shower. I’ll be right down.”

“Thank you, Mr. Friedman. I’m so sorry to bother you.”

“Sorry to be a nuisance. Damn car is making my life hell.”

He dried off and dressed rapidly. Grabbing his car keys and the room card, he ran to the elevator and headed to the parking lot. His car alarm was indeed going off loudly and persistently. A crowd had gathered around it. Some of the men were talking about lifting it in order to shut the alarm off.

I saw it in ‘Twins’”, one man said loudly. “You lift it at a specific angle, it shuts off. I saw Arnold lift the car.”

What angle? I’ll hurt my back I lift it too far,” his companion said.

The men stood there scratching their heads as more people gathered.

What idiot doesn’t know his car alarm is doing off?” An older lady complained. “What a moron!”

Surely the hotel called him,” her equally elderly companion added.

Excuse me, ladies.” Oscar squeezed between them. “Sorry.” He clicked the button and the alarm shut off. “I didn’t even set the dumb thing. I don’t know how that happened. Damn rentals.” He kicked the tire and the alarm screamed again, making everyone cover their ears and complain. Unfortunately, this time, the button didn’t work right away. It took three tries before it was silent once more.

The crowd dispersed, making rude comments to him as they did. With a final invective directed at the car in particular and the manufacturer in general, he went back into the hotel ready for another shower.

I’m terribly sorry,” he told the girl at the desk. “Honestly, I didn’t set it. Can I leave the remote down here? Then if the damn thing goes off again, someone from the hotel can shut it off.”

I’d hate to be responsible for that, Mr. Friedman. It is your car, after all.”

“It’s a damn rental. It’s insured. If it gets stolen, so what? Please. If it goes off at two A.M., do you want to be the one who has to call me?”

She most emphatically did not. With the manager’s permission, she placed his car keys in the pigeonhole for his room.

“Just ask for them when you leave.” She tried to smile, but it was forced.

“Thanks. I apologize for being a bother. I wish the damn thing would get stolen or struck by lightning,” he mumbled. “Then I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”

The Lone Wolf – excerpt

The Lone Wolf, first in my sci-fi series, is coming out this year from Second Wind Publishing.  He’s the hero’s first entrance to give you a little taste of what the book is like.

Slowly and with a casual air, a man entered the airlock. Nearly as tall as Marc, he was leaner of build. His curly, dark brown hair fell to his shoulders. He stood still while Rubee scanned his identification tag before releasing the force shield in front of him.

He wore a black eyepatch of his left eye and a jagged scar ran from his left temple to the corner of his lips. It was an old scar, worn and somewhat sunken. A slight stubble of beard shaded the lower half of his face, all but the scar line, which was a pale crescent in the dark.

His uncovered eye glittered black and dangerous in his ruggedly handsome face. Holding his arms from his sides, he waited as Rubee scanned him for weapons. Finding none, she gave clearance for him to pass.

He stepped forward, lighting a dark, thin object. The pungent odor of a cheroot filled the confined space. Squinting past the smoke, he gazed into Marc’s eyes. Marc’s weapon remained pointed at the other man’s head, his calm expression strangely predatory.

VanLipsig threw back his head, laughing caustically. The laugh became a long, high pitched, chilling howl. Matilda felt a shiver run through her to the very bone. She did her best not to show it, but a subtle shift of her bearing betrayed her. His gaze penetrated her soul, laying it bare, finding it wanting.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to the lady, Marc?”

“No.”

Marc hid his anger, but Matilda knew he was furious. His attitude toward VanLipsig puzzled her. They seemed to have known one another for years, parting on less than amicable terms. Though VanLipsig seemed to harbor no ill will, Marc obviously did.

“May I present myself, ma’am? I am Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, also known as the Lone Wolf. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?” He attempted to look humble. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” His glance flicked to her name tag and insignia, dark eye lingering hungrily on her chest. “Commander Dulac.” His mouth formed the words, enjoying the feel of the consonants on his tongue.

He waited patiently for a response. Getting none, his eye locked with hers, curious, intrigued. “Do you speak?”

Matilda studied him quizzically, raising an eyebrow. “There seemed little to say.”

Wil chuckled deep in his throat. It was the most seductively menacing sound she had ever heard.

Beating the Block

author dellani oakes banner with conduct unbecoming from Christina

Writer’s Block!  These ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer’s block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.

1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured …. of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.

2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as “What Word”? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to Thesaurus.com or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget’s can pull a writer past this hurdle.

3) Post Climactic Stress: Or “Where Do I Go From Here?” The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles – celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It’s not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming “Solve Me!” What to do? Falling action after the climax isn’t always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, “Hey! What about this?” To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it’s better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it’s absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it’s a trip to blockage category # 4.

4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can’t seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending. I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can’t even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a major re-write or splitting into multiple books. None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.

5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer’s block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating…. There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition. Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer’s Block obviously hasn’t written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. Hm, can a Volvo go 90? Maybe an Escalade? In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer’s block. There’s no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile. Use this time to observe others or engage them in conversation. Each encounter gives us a little more grist for our imagination mill.

 

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Research, A Writer’s Lifeline

I’ve got research on my mind because I’m writing a sequel to my historical romance, “Indian Summer”.  Although fairly conversant with the time period, new things pop up.  I needed a timeline for the battle I’m going to include in my story.  I could find a few basic facts, but it wasn’t until I came across a website that was of important dates in Georgia history, that I got what I needed.  Strange, since I’m writing something set in Florida.  However, since the attack was led by General Oglethorpe and his troops were stationed in Georgia at the time, I suppose it makes sense.
 
Another fact that presented itself (from the Georgia timeline) was the name of an obscure fort that was attacked prior to the siege of St. Augustine.  Fort Diego?  Where’s that?  Obviously, this led to more questions than I had answers for.  Initial web searches gave me a lot of information on Fort Diego in California (now San Diego), but didn’t help the Florida research at all.  I did a serach for ‘forts in Florida’ and got a list.  Eventually, with a bit of digging, I found it’s location – well, sort of.  It’s now a golf course, but at least I found it! 
 
Each little tidbit made me so proud, I had to read it all to my husband and eldest son this morning.  They were both interested, which was nice.  There’s nothing like sharing these little gems with someone who couldn’t care less.
 
The main problem I have with research is that I have a tendency to get off subject really easily.  I have to force myself to focus and it’s not always easy.  I find some juicy tidbits which are fascinating, though unrelated to my subject.  I often am tempted to follow these leads. 
 
However odious you might find research, being accurate is so very necessary.  Even something not fully related with the story, like the Fort Diego problem, can be necessary background material that I, as the writer, need.

In the Midst of Madness

Finding time to write is something every author deals with. Some of us have more time to devote to it than others, but still find that life intrudes. I just spent the month of November taking the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. While it’s invigorating to test my writing abilities, it also tests my patience.

For those of you who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, I’ll explain. The participants make the personal commitment to write a 50,000 word novel beginning November 1st and ending November 30th at midnight. There are no money prizes, no one reads the novel but you, it doesn’t even have to be perfect, it just has to be done. For this, you get a caffeine addiction, sleep deprivation, frazzled nerves, numb fingers, a nifty little logo to put on your web site, a printable certificate and the satisfaction of knowing that despite everything, you persevered!

It’s amazing how quickly life intrudes when I set a goal like this for myself. Everyone in the household becomes “needy”, particularly my twelve year old son. Things he could do for himself suddenly take on far more importance, meaning that Mom has to get up and take care of it. The phone becomes my enemy. I can go for weeks at a time when the phone won’t ring, but once the November challenge begins, it rings all the time. I’m not being paranoid, I kept track! The week before NaNo began, I had a total of five phone calls in a week – one of which was for me. As of November 1st, I had at least that many a day – and most of them for me.

Meals are another thing that interfere. Deciding what to fix becomes a major decision that I usually leave to the last minute. Grocery shopping becomes a task that eats into my writing time, irritating me further. When I get home, the actual preparation is the most annoying because it’s accompanied by complaints about the meal.

NaNoWriMo is not the only time that these things are problematic, I simply use that as an example. During any given day, the precious moments I have to get the ideas out of my head and into written form, are limited. I don’t know about other authors, but my family fails to recognize that what I am doing is actually “work”. To them, it’s Mom sitting at the computer – again. Old hat, since ninety percent of my free time is at the computer. If I’m not writing, I’m reading what I wrote and editing it with a mixture of brutality and care. The words, “I’m working”, don’t make much of an impression on three hungry boys.

Somehow, in the midst of all this madness, I find enough time to get things done. The precious words get faithfully added to the text even as my eyes cross and my head hits the keyboard. Life, though it interferes, is what I draw from to fill my books with lively conversation, anecdotes and action. So, though I may resent the interruptions, I welcome them, because it shows me that I am a part of life, not set apart – and that is truly a writer’s richest resource.

Name That Character!

This post was inspired by a post on the Second Wind Word Press page, by Pat Bertram.  In it, she talks about how a character name shows a lot about the character.  I started this as a comment to her, but it got too long, so I moved it here.  Dellani

I believe a name tells a lot about a character.  One can be as obvious as “Young Goodman Brown” or as subtle as Duncan Chandler.  The reason I cite the latter as an example is because he is one of my characters whose name represents two distinct facets of his personality.  Duncan means “Dark Warrior”.  He is the son of the protagonist, himself a dark warrior (both in aspect and action).  Duncan is looked upon as a warrior, the next generation.  Chandler means “Light Bringer”.  The reason I chose this name is because he is also looked upon as the new hope, the one to fight the darkness and evil that threaten.

That got me interested in other names that I’ve used in the same series:

Matilda (Duncan’s mother) “Fierce in Battle”

Wilhelm (his father) “Determined Protector”

Marcus (his paternal uncle) “Of Mars – Warlike”

Rebbecca (Marc’s wife) “Enchantingly Beautiful”

Benjamin (his older brother) “Of the Right Hand”

Emmelia (Ben’s wife and Chairman of the Board of the Mining Guild) “Work”

Except for Duncan’s name, which I looked up and chose carefully, all these names were given by chance.  But looking at their personalities, the names fit them incredibly well.  Matilda, his mother, is a warrior and as fierce as her husband in a battle.  Wil protects his family, friends, and those who fight with him.  Marc is also a true warrior and his wife, Rebbecca, is beautiful.  Ben is his father’s right hand, his wife Emmelia is one of the hardest working women in the galaxy.

My readers will probably never know the meanings behind the names, nor why I find them significant, but I found it an interesting way of fleshing them out.