Chaos in a Teacup – Part 8

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As I mentioned last week, inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Sometimes, an author is woken from a deep sleep, having to fumble around in the dark for a pen and paper to record the idea. If we don’t do so, we’ll very likely lose it. Inspiration is ephemeral, emerging from the ether, only to recede just as suddenly. If the author doesn’t capture it, chances are good, it won’t come back. To a non-author, this idea is ridiculous.

“Ideas don’t just pop out of thin air!” the non-author will exclaim.

“Wanna bet?” the author will reply, rather tartly, to be sure.

I imagine that artists and musicians understand this feeling. The ideas for paintings, photographs, sculptures and songs come from the same well of inspiration as stories and poems. Not much is more frustrating than having a wonderful idea, only to lose it because I didn’t have…

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 7

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A favorite question asked by chat show hosts, like me, is “Where does your inspiration come from?” Or, we might ask, more specifically, where the inspiration for a specific book came from. Why do we do this? Well, because it’s a good question, and it drives authors crazy.

Inspiration can come from anything, anywhere. Quite often, we can’t pinpoint it to a specific moment. The idea wasn’t there, then it was. It can be a word in conversation, something we see on TV, a traffic snarl, a mud puddle. (This last one is mine, I confess.)

It was a wonderful idea for a short story, back when I was in college. I was walking from the Fine Arts building, across a narrow driveway to the McDonald’s, and a car splashed through a mud puddle. It swirled in a dreamy, hypnotic fashion, making me think of cream swirling in a cup…

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Books and Entertainment Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Christine and Karen!

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It’s almost Halloween, good thing our guests authors have some books to thrill and excite you! Be sure to tune in to What’s Write for Me November 27, 2021 from 4-6 PM EST on Blog Talk Radio! Our scary guests will be Christine Husom and Karen Vaughan!

Christine Husom is a national best-selling author from Minnesota. She pens the suspenseful Winnebago County Mysteries, and the cozy, but not too cozy, Snow Globe Shop Mysteries where bad guys demonstrate not everyone is “Minnesota Nice.” She has stories in six anthologies and co-edited one. Her latest titles are Remains In Coyote Bog and Frosty The Dead Man. Husom served with the Wright County Sheriff. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and active with the Twin Cities chapter. She loves meeting readers at a variety of venues and events.

Karen Vaughan is a proud Canadian living in…

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 3

Dellani's Choice - Books

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This series of articles were inspired by several author friends who have expressed awe at my organization (rude snort) or have complained about blogging. Since I’m not one to tell the truth, when fabrication will do, I thought I would throw off the veil of misconception, and reveal my less than stellar organization methods, as well as give a few blogging tips.

One major complaint my author friends have is that blogging is tedious and they don’t have the time. Time is a factor, yes, but with a little imagination, you can work out those issues. You need not do it on the day it’s due. Blog Spot and Word Press allow you to post things well in advance. When you have a few minutes, instead of watching Netflix, or chatting on Facebook or Twitter, go to the blog and cut and paste a few quotes. If you have them…

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 32

“We can’t repaint if they do it again and again, Dino,” Kacy interjected. “How many times can you pay the crew to paint the same bloody place?”

Dino looked at the old building with something akin to sorrow in his eyes. “I’ll paint it as often as necessary, Kacy. It’s silly of me to be such a sentimental fool, but it is something I really want to do, for Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sophie—and me.” He turned away, calling to the painting crew, giving directions in the same respectful, confident, assured tones he always used.

“Don’t you worry, Mr. Sawyer,” the head of the paint crew said sincerely. “We’ll take care of the old girl for you. She’ll look good as new when we’re done. If anyone messes her up again, me and my crew will take it personal like. We’ll find the culprit and paint him!”

It amazed Deacon how Dino was able to elicit such goodhearted loyalty from his people. Not many men would have gotten the same kind of consideration. Deacon was sure he couldn’t have pulled it off, but Dino had. He didn’t put on airs, didn’t act rich and snooty, and he spent lavishly on everyone, not only himself.

The police detective in charge walked over to Dino and spoke softly. Turning to Deacon and Kacy, Dino beckoned them over to his side.

“Anything you need to say, you can say freely in front of Deacon and Kacy. They’re friends of mine and are working with me on this project.”

The policeman introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Reyes. He, like everyone else, treated Dino with deferential respect, but his was paired with a friendly familiarity. Deacon wouldn’t have been surprised if they had been on the football team in high school, or fraternity brothers in college. As it turned out, they had been both.

“Dino, it’s clean as can be inside. We went over it with the K-9 team and everything. We checked the shed, it was locked up tight. Your foreman says everything is accounted for. He’s well organized. He had an inventory sheet and went over it with us.”

“Thanks, Terry. Tell Phyllis to call me. I still haven’t seen that new baby. I hope she looks like her mother.”

“Exactly like her, just as beautiful!”

A little more chitchat and he and his men departed. Dino watched them go, worry etched on his handsome face.

“I don’t like this, Deacon. This time it was just paint, what will it be next time?” He shook his head, digging his toe into the dirt.

“No one was hurt. So far, it’s been the building alone.”

“What if it doesn’t stop at that? What if someone dies, like last time? I don’t want to be responsible. I should shut this down right now.”

“Dino, if you shut this place down and give up, I’ll kick you just like I did Deacon.” Kacy stood facing him, hands on hips, eyes flashing green fire. “You want this badly, I know you do. Whatever your reasons, you need to follow through. You’ve never been a quitter, and I won’t let you start now!”

Instead of bridling or recoiling from her, he hung his head, leaning back against his car. His gaze met Deacon’s, and a flicker of his familiar smile crossed the handsome, strained face.

“I hate when she’s right.”

“Believe me, I do too.”

They laughed quietly, ending abruptly.

“Why do you want it so, Dino?” Kacy’s tone was soft now, comforting. “Not for the reasons you’ve said. Those are excuses to justify it. Why?”

“It’s going to sound so darn stupid and selfish. I’ve built an extensive financial empire, and I’m damn proud of it. But when someone asks me what I’ve done, what I’ve given to the community, I can’t whip out some receipts and show them how much I gave here or there. This is something tangible, visible. I can point to it and say, I did that and be proud. If I ever have a son, I want him to look at that building and think, My dad built that.

Kacy put her hand on his shoulder, then hugged him closely. “Dino, you have done so much for all of us. I understand why you want this, now. Anything I can do to make it happen, I will do.” Kissing his cheek, she walked over to where the paint crew were setting up their scaffolds again.

The construction workers were standing in a group around Mac, leaning on their trucks, most of them smoking. They watched placidly as Kacy advanced.

“Listen here, mates,” she addressed them briskly, her Australian accent stronger than Deacon had ever heard it. “Mr. Sawyer needs our help to get this place whipped in shape. Do you think we can do it?”

The crew looked at one another, then at Kacy’s confident stance, her hands in her back pockets. She was relaxed and at ease, not the least worried. Cracking a smile, Dexter took a few steps toward her.

“Hell, Ms. Du Champs, I need the money. But I’d do this damn job for free, if I had to. Kind of got my Irish up.”

She shook his hand firmly, smiling. Dexter stood next to her, staring the rest of them down.

Mac walked forward next, “Can’t let Sparky have all the glory, count me in.”

Every one of the construction workers came forward and promised to keep working. Everyone got a firm handshake and a personal thank you from Kacy. Deacon watched, amazed. She had come far from the woman everyone was terrified of, to the woman they could admire. He realized that this was the real Kacy, not the angry, hostile, inflammatory woman she had been a few days ago.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Books & Entertainment Network

I don’t usually draw attention to my birthday, but as I get older, I’ve decided to. I got a message on Facebook a few days ago, reminding me that my birthday is coming up (like I don’t know that. I mean, who forgets?) and asking me if I wanted to set up a fund raiser. I don’t. There are a variety of reasons for this, but mostly I feel that exploiting my birthday to raise money for something, is rude. I could pass it off as being altruistic, but it’s really a way to draw attention to how thoughtful I am. I’m already thoughtful. I do things for people all the time. I don’t have to set up a cheering section for myself. I also don’t want my friends to feel obligated to contribute.

Also, and less altruistic of me, it’s my birthday. Therefore, it’s all about me. It’s the…

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 1

Dellani's Choice - Books

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This series of articles were inspired by several author friends who have expressed awe at my organization (rude snort) or have complained about blogging. Since I’m not one to tell the truth, when fabrication will do, I thought I would throw off the veil of misconception, and reveal my less than stellar organization methods, as well as give a few blogging tips.

I’m not the most organized writer around. I describe my writing style as Chaos in a Teacup. It’s contained, but whirling around like a hurricane. I don’t outline, I don’t plan. I begin with a sentence that hops into my head, and run with it until the voices take a break. Sometimes, that’s a day, a week, or a month. Once in a while, the story is finished. Other times, it stalls and I have to wait for inspiration once more.

I am slightly better on organization, but…

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 1

In the semi-dark of the old building, its musty smell strong in his nostrils, Deacon Stewart shuddered away the story that the place was haunted. Theater people tended to be somewhat superstitious and melodramatic, creating tales of deaths in the theater, accidents which befell the unwary and unbelievers. Anything from decapitation by a piece of falling scenery, to suicide pacts between love struck actors and actresses. Deacon made his way carefully through the clutter of the back storage room carrying a flashlight. The main circuit breaker had to be here somewhere. The power had been turned on the day before, and he still couldn’t find the damn breaker box in the cold darkness.

What made the stories stronger and more alarming, in this case, some of them were true. There were documented deaths associated with this place. Nothing sensational, just a few freaky accidents that had caused it to be shut down about six years ago.

One such accident was that involving an electrician who was hanging lights. He had a Leko in need of repairs already on the baton. He should have brought it down to fix it, but instead had simply unplugged it, leaving the cable hanging near the ladder. Someone had come along, not realizing what he was doing up on the ladder and plugged it in. Instant, crispy fried techie.

That was the most recent in a long history of such incidents. The theater closed the same day, and had not reopened until Deacon Stewart was hired to run it for the winter snowbird season, in a small, seaside town in Florida.

Having finally located the circuit breakers behind a pile of empty boxes, he examined the panel, the wires, and the immediate area carefully before hitting the main switch. Without a spark, the panel clicked and the dim backstage lights came on, glimmering merrily, teasing him with their cheerfulness.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he took off the protective rubber gloves he wore, thanking God for a small favor. This was one thing, at least, that did not require his immediate attention. He couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of the place. They’d brought in an exterminator to rid them of the carpenter ants and palmetto bugs infesting the attic and walls of the old wooden structure. Once the fumes cleared, the renovations started, beginning with the power being restored.

The building itself dated back to the early forties when the area was used by the military. It looked every bit its age. It needed a major overhaul if it was to be ready on time for its grand re-opening on January Twenty-seventh. Deacon hoped he could find competent people to help him. He had taken the job mostly because it was supposed to be a low stress environment. The doctors had told him he had to avoid stress. Being lead designer in a major theater scenery company in New York City, wasn’t conducive to low stress levels.

After an episode, as it was so tactfully diagnosed by the psychiatrists, he had been put on forced leave of absence, and told to get his shit together before coming back to work. They couldn’t fire him, he was part owner of the company, but they could make him take a vacation.

The episode was brought on by a combination of stress and cocaine, not a period of his life that he was proud of. Also adding to the problem was the recent break up with his long time girlfriend, Frieda Massey. She was an actress who worked mostly off-off Broadway; second rate at best. She had finally landed a good job as a minor character on a new sitcom filming in LA. She hadn’t hesitated to take the job, and flew out of his life, as if he never existed.

Two weeks later, he’d gone wild in the shop, shooting the nail gun into a piece of plywood, screaming and crying hysterically. Then he tried to kill himself with the radial arm saw. He’d intended to cut his own head off, but that wasn’t a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Some fast thinking tech pulled the plug on the saw before he even had his head all the way on the table. Several months and extensive therapy later, the episode behind him, he was told by his two partners he needed a break.

“Go south, young man,” Bernie said. “Florida is nice this time of year. Not too cold, not too hot. I have a friend who owns a small place down there, he’s looking for a Technical Director to open it back up. I put a word in for you. You’re hired.”

Deacon’s protests were ignored. Bernie helped him pack. Maxine, Bernie’s wife, and the other partner, drove him to the airport. If she could have put him on the plane personally, she would have. She stayed by the security gate until his plane took off. He arrived in Orlando three hours later and was picked up by Bernie’s friend Dino.

Dino’s parents must have had a sick sense of humor. Their last name was Sawyer. Despite growing up a living parody, he was a nice guy. Big, blond, darkly tanned, he had inherited the theater from his great uncle. Having always loved acting and directing, he decided to open the theater for the winter season. It was Deacon’s job to whip it into shape.

“I’ve hired a crew to come in starting early Monday morning. Bunch of guys I know who work construction. Not too many jobs in the winter, even here, so they agreed eagerly.”

Today was Saturday, and Deacon had come in late Thursday afternoon, to find the tents just being taken off the building. They left it open to air out all day Friday, and the power was turned on by three o’clock. It took hours to find the circuit breakers in the dim recesses of the building. Having very few windows, all of which were filthy, Deacon could hardly see, even with a high powered flashlight.

Scenery and building supplies littered the entire backstage area. All the supplies had been delivered for the show when the electrician died. Pieces of set were already in place, one dark spot on the floor bore grim testimony to his untimely passing.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 23

“Yes, until the bodies built up. Then I came inside to keep them off my rear. How many of these beasties are there? I still haven’t gotten them all.”

“Far more than we’d thought,” Robin said. “Do you suppose they’ve gathered more to them?”

“I have no way of knowing. It’s pure insanity. I never saw such a thing.”

“Strong magic at work,” a dark skinned man, with the lilt of the islands in his voice, said.

“Magic?” Robin scoffed. “Not magic, Etienne, pure evil.”

The dark skinned man shook his head, insistent. “Magic! We deal with zombies. Someone skilled in the dark arts. You kill them, they make more.”

“How would we fight someone like that?” Raven asked without a hint of skepticism. “I have met a powerful witch….”

“This is very special magic. Dark.”

Raven couldn’t imagine anyone darker, or more chaotic, than Osceola, but he didn’t say so. He wished he could contact his former lover. If anyone could find the person making the zombies, it would be she. He knew she was dangerous, perhaps evil. Could she be doing this? He doubted it. It didn’t have her feel and taste. It bore the scent of another, one he couldn’t identify.

“You must get some sleep,” Robin’s wife said kindly. “You have worked hard on our behalf, Raven. We cannot thank you enough.”

“I do what I can, Mrs. Cooper. I’ll be back before sunset, my friends.” He bid farewell and went back to the inn.

News had traveled from the docks to the rest of the town. There were people waiting in the taproom, when he went in to ask for a bath. The Mayor, Mr. Morton, was intent on speaking to him.

“Sir, with respect, I’m tired and I stink. Take these folk, and leave.”

“But you’re a hero!”

“Perhaps, but even heroes need rest. Go. Sam, I’ll thank you to keep folk away, who have no business here.”

“As you wish, Mr. Willoughby.” Looking staunch and formidable, he folded his arms and glowered.

Raven had his bath, and went to his room. His other clothing was clean and folded on the bed. Beside it was another set of clothing, with a note.

“We thought you could use something more comfortable to fight in.” And it was signed Myra and Samantha. They had made him a pair of soft breeks and a shirt with less full sleeves, better for fighting. The breeks were longer, made to be worn with boots, not stockings and shoes. A pair of soft suede boots sat on the floor by the bed. He wondered how they’d discovered his size. Considering Myra’s discerning eye, she’d probably figured it out. He tried them on, and they were a perfect fit.

Again, he fell into his bed, waking when Uriah arrived with another update.

“The magistrate came by and inspected the ships. Cortez opened the boxes, as you told him to. The papers have been gone over, and a master ship builder came in to examine them. He confirms what you said to the letter. He aided in the refitting of one of the ships, though he had no idea what it was for at the time.”

“Any word yet on the Annabelle?”

“None yet. She should be back by now.”

“You don’t think…. Could she have…?”

“Could she be a death ship again, you mean? I don’t know. Nor can I conceive why someone would be so intent upon doing all this. What is there to gain?”

“I don’t know. If I could figure that out, I’d have more idea how to fight these things.” He handed Uriah a bundle with the first two daggers. “See to it that these are given the treatment by Mr. Silver tomorrow. He knows what they need.”

“As you wish, sir.”

“We need to go,” Raven glanced at the sky. It as clouding over, and he had no idea what that would mean in terms of the zombies.

Uriah parted ways, rushing home. Raven got himself barricaded in the office as the first drops of rain began to fall. Full night fell, but the dead did not arrive. Finding that an interesting side note, Raven made himself comfortable with a cup of Uriah’s good coffee, and waited. Dozing off in the small hours, he dreamed of Osceola.

“I need you my love,” he whispered. “I need your help….”

“You have but to ask. There is a price….”

“Name it!”

“Your son.”

“I have no son. And how could I give you a child?”

Suddenly, there was great warmth in his loins, and desire surged through him. Impossible to ignore, it woke him. The scent of Osceola lingered in the room, and he knew he’d spoken to her in his dreams. Would she really help? He could only hope so. Meanwhile, he had a burning desire he could not tame. Perhaps a visit to the ladies, on his way home, was in order.

Uriah arrived, the men behind him.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 18

“We have come a long way, sir. Now, to business. Will you take Renard as a witness?”

“Yes, sir. One other would please me.”

“Renard, a second?”

“Yes. We can use my assistant.”

“Excellent. Shall we?”

Sterner led the parade, Raven and Renard behind him, with Uriah poking and prodding the Governor. A lean, tall man hopped off one of the ships, landing on the dock in front of them. To his surprise, it was a man that Raven knew well. He’d been captain of one of Raven’s ships.

“Carlos, is it you?”

“Raven!” He dashed forward, clasping his friend by the hand, before pulling him in for a hug. “My friend, we thought you dead! How have you survived? When the ship didn’t come in, we feared the worst.”

“There was a storm at sea. My own fault for traveling so late in the season, but I was summoned to Maine. I didn’t know myself for some weeks, when I remembered my business, I had to make my way on foot. Now, I come to find that my ships are in the service of another.”

Carlos frowned. “I’m assuming he’s not in charge of this inquiry?” he pointed to the Governor.

“I am,” Sterner said. “Your name?” He opened his book, pencil poised.

“Carlos Gonzalez Cortez Prientos Hermida, originally from Barcelona.”

“And your connection to Mr. Willoughby?”

“I was his first captain when he bought his first ship, The Annabelle, in a port in Cardiff. She was a fair and lovely ship, fastest thing I’d ever seen. I was her captain three years.”

“And why are you no more?”

“She was confiscated, as were the other ships of the Willoughby line. One by one, they came to disaster and were impounded by himself.” He nodded, gesturing rudely at the Governor. “Sat in dock a wee bit, then their looks and names were changed. They fly his flag now. This one here, she was the Heart Song, out of London. Next to her, that’s the Artemis from Greece. She’s a bit slower, but hell for stout.” He went on to name the other ships, pointing to each and telling the origin.

“Those aren’t the names upon them,” Sterner said.

“As I mentioned, Governor Blot there….”

“Bluth,” the fat man corrected.

Carlos shrugged, making it known what he thought of Bluth. “He bribed and finagled until he got what he wanted—best ships on the ocean. Runs his own docks now, as you see.”

“If you knew this was going on, why didn’t you report it?” Sterner asked.

“Who would I tell? Who would believe the word of a Spaniard over that of an Englishman? If I had come to you, would you have listened, or would I have been forcibly removed from your offices?”

Sterner had the decency to look chagrined. “I believe you now, Señor Cortez. And you’re right. None would believe your word over this puffed up, poor excuse for a man. Bluth, I don’t know how you pulled this off, but we’ll find out. Mark my words.” He turned to Raven. “My apologies, sir. It will take some time, but with fair witnesses….”

“I believe I can add credence to my captain’s words, Mr. Sterner. On each of my ships, there is a secret compartment, that only I know about. In them, I secured papers, not only to identify the ships, but to identify me. If you will follow me below, with Mr. Renard, I will happily produce these documents.”

“What of me?” Bluth bellowed.

“You’ll stay here with Carlos and Uriah, so you can’t sneak off. And if you’d be so kind to send our young friend for the constable, I’d be appreciative,” he said to Uriah.

“As you wish, my Lord.”

A nearby sailor was sent up to give Boris the message. The noise of his footsteps faded as he ran up the grassy hill.

Raven led the men to the captain’s cabin. Removing a poorly executed painting, which had replaced a portrait of the original ship, Raven took a knife from his pocket. This, he slipped in a concealed slit between the finely hewn boards. A sharp click and a panel opened. Inside, wrapped in oilskin, was a steel box, secured with a padlock. Raven reached further into the hole and produced the key.

“You keep the key with the box?” Sterner scolded. “Is that wise?”

“Since no one knew this was here but me, it was safe. Not even my captains knew.” He opened the box and lifted out another oilskin packet. Inside, there was a lithograph of the ship, another of himself, and ships registry. Sterner looked them over with a critical eye.

“You realize, this looks little like the ship we’re standing on.”

“If you take away the decorative items and look only at the lines of the vessel, she’s easy to identify. A shipbuilder could tell you, if doubt arises. I know each detail of my ships, Mr. Sterner. For you see the last six years of my life represented by board and tar, wheel and sail. I worked long and hard on my business, sacrificing home and family. These ships are my home, the men who worked them, my family. Aside from Carlos, I know not if they live. I mourn their losses and could tell you each by name.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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