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I Did It Again!

This November gave me another opportunity to sharpen my writing skills by participating in the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.  Those who participate agree to write a complete novel, 50,000 words or more, in the month of November.  For more details, look at www.nanowritmo.org

Sounds easy?  Think again.  Finding the time to write each day is harder than it seems.  Life interrupts and writing has to wait.  Whether it’s a job, kids, meals, bathroom breaks or spousal demands, life will always intrude.

Last year, a friend of mine told me about NaNoWriMo and I thought it would be fun to participate.  I signed up for free and on November first, I started to write.  I hammered away at the keys wondering if there was any way I could finish.  I did it and wrote over 65,000 words.  This year, I finished a little earlier than I did last year, and I hit the 88,000 word mark!  Not bad, considering how many times I went back and cut the manuscript because the story was going in the wrong direction. 

As always, it’s a lot of fun.  If you have ever considered writing a novel but didn’t think you had what it takes to do it, try NaNoWriMo and see if you do.  It costs you nothing, winning is easy and you get to put a fun graphic on your blog. 

Fun NaNo graphic for your blog

Fun NaNo graphic for your blog

Creating a Character Sketch

Writers new and old sometimes have trouble finding a place to start. We are full of all kinds of ideas, and jot them down in an effort to keep track of them. Getting these ideas into a cohesive whole can be trying. As an A.P. English teacher, I had to take high school students into the unstable world of creative writing. It was a scarey trip for all of us! I used several exercises both for these journeys and for less creative projects.

One thing I had them do was a character sketch. Sometimes the character was from a book we were reading, others were character types I gave them and they had to write a description. I do not claim to be an expert at anything but my own little world, but I have found a few ways to get fourteen through seventeen year olds to write. I’ve incorporated the same exercises for myself, so I know they work for adults as well.

Pick a character you want to develop but are having trouble getting hold of:

Start by giving him or her a name.

Decide on his age.

Hair color. (Include facial hair)

Eye color.

Skin type and color.

What he wears.

What he carries.

His voice and manner of speaking.

Does he have pets? Do animals even like him?

Does he live alone? Where does he live?

Is he healthy?

Is he a good person or an evil one?

Does he like people or does he shun their society?

How does he travel?

Habits

Example:

Tom the Magician -all right it’s not very creative, but he’s got a name! None of this is written in stone. A better name can be given to him later.

Age: He is ancient.

Hair color: His hair is pure white and he has a long white beard.

Eyes: His eyes are piercing blue.

Skin type & color: His skin is pale and like parchment.

Clothing: He wears a black woolen robe that is in tatters.

What he carries: He carries a gnarled staff.

Voice: His voice is a deep baritone. He tends to stutter.

Does he have pets: He has an old Greyhound and an Irish Wolfhound who share his cave.

Does he have family: He has no family.

Where does he live: In a cave in the mountains.

Health: He doesn’t take care of himself and tends to cough a lot.

Good or Evil: He’s a good man, but not a terribly good magician. He has a bad memory and makes mistakes in his spells.

How does he travel: He doesn’t travel because he’s made himself so unpopular with his botched spells that he doesn’t dare go far from home.

Habits: having been alone so long, he talks to himself.

Once you have gotten the sketchy details you can flesh him out and think about where he is, what he’s doing, where he’s going, who he’s with. Do a basic Who, What, When, Why, How like a journalist, only you don’t use journalistic jargon. Read through your character sketch and make changes until you are satisfied with it. This process can be done for any character you create.

One thing I always keep in mind, my characters have an existence of their own. They make their own decisions, go their own way, and do what they want. Remain flexible, today’s villain may be tomorrow’s hero!

Character Interview with Gabriella Deza of “Indian Summer”

 

 

 

Second Wind: What is your story?

Gabriella: I haven’t much of one yet, I’m only just 15, but what there is of it is told in “Indian Summer.”

SW: Who are you?

G: I am Gabriella Deza, youngest daughter of Governor Ferdinand Deza.

SW: Where and when do you live?

G: I live in the village of St. Augustine, Florida territory. The year is 1739.

SW: Are you the hero of your own story?

G: Me a hero? Heavens, no! That would be Manuel Enriques, my father’s aid du camp and the love of my life.

SW: What is your problem in the story?

G:Quite by chance, I found out a terrible secret. A British spy is trying to overthrow my father, capture the fort and take over the town!

SW: Do you embrace conflict or do you run from it?

G: I’ve never wanted to embrace conflict, but one must face it bravely. Troubles are sent by God to test us. Am I going to argue with Him? I never run when I can fight.

SW: How does the author see you?

G: Headstrong, demure, capable, passionate, honest, loving. I am these things and ever so much more.

SW: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

G: Oh, yes, Dellani Oakes portrayed me very accurately. She seems to have seen into my heart with great alacrity.

SW: What do you think of yourself?

G: I think I am all those things and more. For one so young, my life suddenly became rather complicated.

SW: Do you have a hero?

G: My father, Manuel and Sailfish are my heroes. They are all so brave and noble. Though, in their own way, all men are heroes, don’t you think?

SW: Do you have a goal and why that particular one?

G: My goal is to marry Manuel as soon as possible. I love him more than I can possibly express. I want to be with him forever. He is my own, true love.

SW: What are your achievements?

G: I’m too young to really have many of those. Although I have made Manuel love me and I have done everything I can to help him and my father keep their secrets and save the town.

SW: Do you talk about your achievements or do you keep them to yourself?

G: What need have I to brag? God sees what I have done. If He deems it worthy, than others will hear of it in time. Manual and Papa know what I have achieved. For now, that is all that is important.

SW: Do you have any special strengths?

G: My faith in God is my greatest strength. My faith has seen me through very trying times. I would not be the woman I am without it.

SW: Do you have any special weaknesses?

G: My passion for Manuel is nearly my undoing. All he need do is look at me and I go weak in the knees.

SW: Do you have any skills?

G: I speak English and French in addition to my native Spanish. I ride a horse very well and also drive a buggy as well as any man.

SW: What do you need most in life?

G: I need the wretched spy disposed of so that our town will be saved and I may marry the man I love.

SW: What do you want to be?

G: I want to be a wife and mother, what greater purpose is there for a woman save to go into holy orders?

SW: What do you believe?

G: I believe in God and I believe in the love of Manuel and my family. I also believe in my own abilities to cope with any situation life presents.

SW: What makes you happy?

G: Many things make me happy, but when Manuel kisses me, I can’t think of anything but how happy I am. There is only one thing which would make me happier, and that would be to marry him.

SW: What are you afraid of?

G: I’m terrified of losing Manuel. If he were to die, what would become of us? Papa says only he can save us in this troubled time. If I lost him, I would have no reason to live.

SW: What makes you angry?

G: The fact that wretched spy is trying to kill us all! He is someone we know, a person who pretends to be our friend. He has all but ruined my life. If I had the skills, I would find and slay him myself.

SW: What makes you sad?

G: The loss of my mother makes me sad, as does the death of Manuel’s beloved aunt. Though they are in a better place, I miss them both very much.

SW: What do you regret?

G: That I with all my education, I never learned how to shoot a pistol.

SW: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

G: Yes, the man who spies on us, using our friendship against us. He betrays me, my family and my home. I hope I have a hand in bringing him to justice.

SW: Have you ever failed anyone?

G: I hope not. I will only have failed them if I do not find the spy and send him to God early for judgement.

SW: What was your childhood like?

G: Delightful in so many ways, but also sad because we lost Mama when I was five and Grandmama not long after. However, Papa and his new wife, Clara, have provided a loving home for the four of us. My older sisters, little brother and I have lived in relative comfort our entire lives.

SW: Do you like remembering your childhood?

G: Oh, yes, very much! I have wonderful memories of my childhood.

SW: Who was your first love?

G: My first and only love is Manuel. I never realized how much he loves me nor I him, until he declared his love for me on my birthday. He is the most magnificent man alive and I love him more than my own life.

SW: What is your most prized possession? Why?

G: My peso necklace, because Manuel gave it to me. Though my parents gave me pearls for my birthday, the peso shows Manuel’s love for me. He can’t ask me to marry him, it wouldn’t be proper, but that shows each of us our promise to wed.

SW: What is your favorite scent? Why?

G: Sandalwood., because that is the scent of Manuel’s soap.

SW: What is your favorite color? Why?

G: Apple green, because it was Mama’s favorite as well, and I am most like her of all three of us girls.

SW: What is your favorite music?

G: The flamenco I danced with Manuel.

SW: What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

G: The apple green dress I wore to my party. It is the first dress I wore that showed everyone I am now a woman. And because Manuel and I danced the entire night together when I wore it.

SW: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

G: I think I’d like the Spanish and the English not to hate one another so much.

SW: What makes you think that change would be for the better?

G: There would be less fighting and conflict in the world.

SW: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

G: Do not think badly of me of saying this, but I would want to be stranded only with Manuel. I can think of no one else with whom I have enough in common to spend any period of time. Only if we were married, of course. Anything else would be scandalous!

SW: How do you envision your future?

G: I see my future happily married to Manuel, having his children and loving him for the rest of my life.

Character Interview with Manuel Enriques of “Indian Summer”

Second Wind: What is your story?

Manuel: My story is still being written, but a portion of it is chronicled in “Indian Summer” by Dellani Oakes.

SW: Who are you?

M: My name is Manuel Hermida Enriques Orejan Sanchez and I am confidential aid to Governor Ferdinand Deza.

SW: Where do you live?

M: I live in the beautiful town of St. Augustine in the Florida territory.

SW: Are you the hero of your own story?

M: What is a hero? A man who does what he must to protect that which he holds dear. I am such a man. If that makes me a hero, then I accept this role gladly.

SW: What is your problem in the story?
M: The problem is that there is a pesky British spy wandering around causing trouble. The beast is wily and sly, but I’ll catch him, have no doubt.

SW: Do you embrace conflict?

M: Conflict is in many forms. If it is in the form of a beautiful woman, I embrace and make love to it. If it is in the form of this annoying little fly speck of a spy, then I spit on it and grind it to dust beneath my heel.

SW: Do you run from conflict?

M: Never! Face conflict proudly and fight it to the death.

SW: How do you see yourself?

M: In my life, I have done many bad things. However, I am trying to change to be worthy of my darling Gabriella.

SW: How do your friends see you?

M: I haven’t many friends, but those are very close. They see me as strong, intelligent, passionate with women, stubborn and capable. How do you see me, cariña?

SW: How do your enemies see you?

M: My enemies never see me. They are dead long before that. If by chance they do catch a glimpse, it is as of the face of death.

SW: How does the author see you?

M: Ah, my beautiful Dellani. If it were not for Gabriella, such stories we would write together! She sees me as romantic, passionate, handsome, slightly dangerous, and very well appointed.

SW: Well appointed?

M: You will have to read my tale to find out what I mean by that.

SW: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

M: As accurately as any woman may know a man’s heart, yes.

SW: What do you think of yourself?

M: I am not a modest man, but even I do not like to brag. I am all that is said of me and more.

SW: Do you have a hero?

M: Yes, my blood brother, Sailfish of the River People. He is the greatest warrior I know and even more brave than I.

SW: Do you have a goal?

M: Indeed I do! I want to catch the spy so that I can marry my beloved Gabriella.

SW: What are your achievements?

M: That is perhaps not a question I should answer here, eh, cariña?

SW: Do you talk about your achievements?

M: As I said, I am not one to brag. What I have achieved is a matter of history. There are things I have done that I would rather forget.

SW: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

M: Many of them, yes.

SW: But why? Surely your accomplishments are wide ranging and very nearly stuff of

legend.

M: Not all legends have a happy ending. Some things are better left unsaid.

SW: Do you have any special strengths?

M: I am swift, strong, I speak many languages fluently. I can track prey like an Indian and shoot a bow as well as a gun.

SW: Do you have any special weaknesses?

M: Only my love of Gabriella. She makes me weak.

SW: Do you have money troubles?

M: No. Although I like to gamble, I rarely lose. Besides, my parents and aunt left me a great deal of money.

SW: What do you want?

M: I want to marry Gabriella more than anything in the world. Well, there is perhaps one thing I want more than that, but it’s not polite to discuss.

SW: What do you need?

M: I need to catch that wretched spy!

SW: What do you want to be?

M: I am what I want to be. An honorable man who loves a beautiful woman. One day I shall also be a father, that is my greatest ambition.

SW: What do you believe?

M: I believe in God and my strength and abilities.

SW: What makes you happy?

M: Would you like to me say something poetic like a beautiful sunset or the seagulls above the water? I am not poetic man. What makes me happy is very simple, my love for Gabriella. It drives me, moves me to be the best I may be.

SW: What are you afraid of?

M: I am afraid that what I am capable of will one day consume me. And I am terrified that I will lose Gabriella.

SW: What makes you angry?

M: The snake of a spy.

SW: What makes you sad?

M: The loss of my sweet aunt. May she rest in God’s peace.

SW: What do you regret?

M: I regret how I have behaved in my past. That is behind me now.

SW: What is your biggest disappointment?

M: I am most disappointed that I cannot wed Gabriella right away.

SW: What, if anything, haunts you?

M: In a soldiers life, are there not many things to haunt him? What haunts me, cariña, is better left forgotten.

SW: You look sad, have I touched on a painful subject?

M: Among the most painful. I am not proud of many things I had to do. It is between me, God and the dead.

SW: Have you ever failed at anything?

M: So many things, how can I even count them?

SW: Have you ever failed anyone?

M: Not something I wish to discuss. But yes.

SW: Have you ever betrayed anyone?

M: Never on purpose, but accidents happen.

SW: Do you keep your promises?

M: Always. It is a point of honor.

SW: Are you honorable?

M: As much as I am able to be given circumstances.

SW: That sounds like a very cagey answer.

M: And it is the only one you shall get.

SW: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

M: Oh, yes. I am very well appointed.

SW: You would love for me to ask what that means, wouldn’t you?

M: No, I would like you to read the book and find out.

SW: Have you ever killed anyone?

M: I was a soldier, of course I have killed. And nearly been killed more than once.

SW: Who was your first love?

M: My first love was a girl whose father was a garrison soldier. We ran away together, but I deserted her soon after.

SW: Why did you do that?

M: Because I was headstrong and stubborn and scared to death of her father.

SW: Who is your true love?

M: Ah, my beautiful Gabriella is my own true love.

SW: What is the most important thing that ever happened to you? Why?

M: Getting this job with the Governor is the most important. It got me out of my old life and onto a straight path to redemption. It also brought me Gabriella.

SW: Was there a major turning point in your life?

M: The day I realized how much I love Gabriella.

SW: Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

M: The day that Gabriella said she loved me. It was the most important day of my life.

SW: What is your most prized possession? Why?

M: My most prized possession? Must I have just one? Perhaps my pistol. Or my best pair of boots? No, not really, although I am rather fond of these pants.

SW: Oh? Why is that?

(All I get is a sly grin and a slow, wicked wink.)

SW: What is your favorite color? Why?

M: Sapphire blue, because it is the exact shade of Gabriella’s eyes.

SW: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

M: I would change how much we hate and distrust the British. It would be great for us and the rest of the world to trust one another.

SW: What makes you think that change would be for the better?

M: There would be no wars or conflicts. I would never have to leave Gabriella’s side again.

SW: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

M: Can you really see me stranded with a man? I’ll only go if Gabriella does.

SW: How do you envision your future?

M: Happily married to my beloved.

“Indian Summer” excerpt from first chapter

The following is an excerpt from “Indian Summer” now available at Second Wind Publishing.


The first rays of sun rose above the ocean, setting the waves afire. I gazed out my window, watching the town of St. Augustine awake. Sounds from the kitchen below blended with the calling of the men on the docks and the soldiers at the fort.
Tradesmen opened shops as women called to one another from their houses. Carpenters and stonecutters continued repairing the walls and buildings after the latest British attack. Seagulls called raucously along the shore waiting for whatever scraps got thrown to them, fighting over the merest, insignificant crumb. All these were comfortable sounds, mingling together into a familiar morning melody.
As my bedroom faces the ocean and hence the rising sun, I wake early, before any of my family, enjoying these last quiet moments. Yawning and stretching deliciously, I dressed and sat at my desk to compose a letter to my grandmother in England. I had not written anything but the date, 15 February, 1739, when the door to my room flew back connecting sharply with the wall, thus announcing the arrival of my little brother, the pest.

Interview with Dellani Oakes

Interview used by permission of Second Wind Publishing and the author 

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 http://www.secondwindpublishing.com It is also available at Amazon.com