The Music Behind the Story from First Love by Dellani

music-behind-the-storyA few weeks ago, I shared Music Behind Under the Western Sky, set in 1976. This isn’t my only story set in that same time period, though First Love isn’t published yet. The Seventies were an era of great music, no doubt about it. We had bands like Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Gary Wright. Fantastic songs filled the airwaves and my characters, like me and my friends, listened to each new song with enthusiasm.

I did a lot of research so that I would have the right songs for the year. Though I lived through this era, my memory for when each song came out, was kind of faulty. I enjoyed revisiting songs from my past and now sharing them with you. One of the first songs mentioned is Love is Alive by Gary Wright. No visit to the Seventies would be complete without Stairway to Heaven. This song evokes strong emotions even today. I also mention the album Blow by Blow by Jeff Beck. This album woke a love in me for this kind of music and I’ve been a fan of Beck, and others like him, since.

We begin with a road trip from Western Nebraska to New Mexico. A group of high school students from a church youth group, are on a mission trip over the summer. Traveling together, they have to compromise on some things, but the one area where they are all in agreement is the music they want to hear—the good stuff, (which does not included Barry Manilow, who was very popular at the time.)

First Love cover“Can we have on the radio, Mr. C?” Brad asked. “Mrs. C wanted to play Barry Manilow. It was a unanimous veto on that.”

“What makes you think I don’t like Barry Manilow?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Because you’re too cool to think It’s a Miracle for Mandy to Be Somebody’s Baby over on Avenue C,” Brad replied.

The boys gave him an evil eye.

“You know an awful lot about Barry Manilow,” Maddie said. “Are you sure you aren’t a closet fan?”

“My mom listens to Manilow like—all day and forces me to pollute my mind with his lyrics. But when she’s gone, I put on some Hendrix or a little Jeff Beck and rock the rafters.”

“I’m not much for Manilow either,” Craig admitted. “Okay. Maddie, pick a station.”

Delighted at being given that honor, she reached for the dial and turned it for a few seconds before coming to an audible station. The new, but familiar, opening strains of Love is Alive filled the car.

“Leave it there!” the boys yelled.

Maddie passed it, just to tease them, but went right back to it. She happened to like the song too. By the first chorus, they were singing with Gary Wright. Brad played air guitar, imitating the part to perfection. Clayton took bass. Daniel beat on the back of the seat to the drums. Maddie and Richard sang, harmonizing together. Craig bounced to the beat, tapping the steering wheel. They cheered when the song ended.

“Danny, you got that Zeppelin tape with you?” Craig asked when the radio went to commercial.

“I do.”

“Got a perfectly good cassette player up here. Toss it up.”

Seconds later, the tape was in the player and cranked up. Stairway to Heaven filled the air. This time, they made Maddie sing solo because none of them could hit the notes like Robert Planet, except her.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Excerpt from Under the Western Sky by Dellani

It’s small town Nebraska in the late 1970’s and life in the small Midwestern town is quiet and uneventful. That’s what Libby Marshall and Bobby Menedez think until Bobby’s cousin, Ramon is beaten by a group of white boys. Racial tension is high after the beating and it’s soon revealed that something quite evil lies hidden Under the Western Sky.

Once they had their tickets and popcorn, they went into the theater and found a good spot. The boys liked to sit in the back because there was more leg room, but the girls liked the middle. To compromise, they sat somewhere between the two and let Danny have the aisle seat since his legs were the longest. Toni snuggled next to him as he put his arm around her shoulders. Libby sat next to her, not really looking at Bobby, although they shared the popcorn.

“Are you mad at me or something?” he asked her quietly, not wanting to bring their friends into it.

The others were so wrapped up in one another, they didn’t hear him. Libby scooted a little closer, lowering her voice as she took a bite of popcorn.

“No, I’m not mad, Bobby. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with this whole arrangement, that’s all.”

“We’re a couple friends going to a movie. You got a full social calendar I don’t know about?” He tried to make light of it, but his feelings were hurt.

Libby nudged him, nearly spilling the popcorn. “Don’t be a goof. Of course not.”

“I really like you, Libby. If you can’t see that, I’m sorry.”

“I thought maybe you were going out with me because of what Toni said to Danny. That she wouldn’t go if I didn’t have a date.”

“All this time you thought that’s what this was? A mercy date? Baby, I think you’re the greatest!”

“You do? For real?”

“Yeah, for real. Hey, would I make comments about your ass if I didn’t think you were cute?”

“I dunno, you’re a guy. I mean, Danny’s always drooling over my tits.”

“Danny’s a goober. He drools over any tits he can see. You have to admit, you’re killing us both with the no bra thing.”

She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll remember you said that, Roberto.”
“What, are you my mom? You have to scold me into behaving? I want to date you, Libby. If I wanted just to jump your bones, I’d have done that already. You know, some women actually find me very attractive.”

She giggled, tossing her hair. “Yeah, I can see the appeal. You’ve got that whole Latin Lover thing going. The dark hair and bedroom eyes. You’re cute, for sure.”

“Then why won’t you let me kiss you?”

She looked at the screen as the movie started. By the set of her shoulders, he could see that she didn’t know how to respond. Taking a chance that he was right, he blundered on.

“Is it because all this time you thought I didn’t really like you? How could I not? You’re wonderful. I’ve had a thing for you like—forever,” he whispered as the cartoon started.

Libby gave him a curious stare as the lights dimmed, her popcorn halfway to her mouth. She couldn’t believe his admission was real. He didn’t really want her, did he? He was taking her out so Toni would go with his best friend. That’s what friends did for one another. Was he kidding? She was too inexperienced to tell.

Libby knew a lot of girls her age had already lost their virginity. She and Toni were among the few left in their graduating class who had never been with a guy. If Danny got his way, that was going to change and soon. He was so hot for Toni, he got a boner every time he talked to her. Bobby, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly mean it. Or did he?

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Character Quotes from Savage Heart

Savage Heart is the much anticipated (and demanded) sequel to my historical romance, Indian Summer. Set in the early summer of 1740, Gabriella and Manuel are now happily (or maybe not so happily) married.

savage heart cover“Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.

“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.

“Yes,” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”

“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”

“And you think I’m wrong?”

“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”

Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”

“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Excerpt from “Savage Heart” – sequel to “Indian Summer”

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

War with the British looms on the horizon. Governor Deza knows that things could get dangerous very quickly. He insists that Gabriella and her sisters join their step-mother and go to Jamaica. Manuel plans to infiltrate the British army, posing as an Indian. For very obvious reasons, Gabriella doesn’t want him to go. They talk about it on their ride home.

“I love you so, Gabriella. You are a part of me like no other.”

“Then why are you so determined to leave?”

He was discouraged but not surprised by her sudden change of tactic. Gabriella was well known for her sneaky ways of getting the truth from him. He sighed gently, clucking to the horses to go faster. Pricking up their ears, the two graceful mares began a steady trot.

“I must, my love. You know this better than anyone.”

“Sailfish or one of his men could do the job as well. You know that’s true. His skill with languages is equal to yours. He’s brave and strong, an excellent warrior. He’d do a remarkable job.”

“He has one failing as an agent of espionage.”

“What failing could he possibly have?”

“He doesn’t know the ways of the English as well as I. He might not see trouble coming. Englishmen say one thing with their lips, but their bodies belie their words. My brother, as skillful as he is, can’t interpret them as accurately as I.”

“Take him with you, then. If he’s with you, I won’t worry.”

“You’ll always worry about me, Bella.”

“I won’t worry as much with him by your side. He will be here in a few days for my party.”

“How can I ask such a thing? I could get him killed!”

Furious, she raised her voice. “I will, then.”

Manuel’s temper also flared. “Why would he do something so dangerous for you?”

“Because he, unlike you, loves me enough to do what I ask!”

They pulled up in front of their home. Rather than waiting for Manuel to help her down, she scrambled from the carriage. Rushing inside, Gabriella slammed the door behind her.

Manuel couldn’t speak. His mouth hung open as he stared at his front door. He couldn’t believe that she had said that, nor that she would have the gall to ask his blood brother to help him on this dangerous mission.

“She’d risk us both to save but one of us.” Manuel wondered for a moment, if she ever had to choose, which man would she pick?

It had always bothered him that she had spent so much time alone with Sailfish. He knew how much his brother loved her. It was painfully evident in his eyes every time they met. He longed to touch her, kiss her, make love to her. Had she been unfaithful to him while they were apart?

His better sense prevailed whenever he got in a mental battle of what if. Gabriella loved him and he knew it. She was very religious, making her choices by the teachings of the Church. She would never have let Sailfish make love to her. Still, doubts lingered.

Sometimes when she spoke to his brother and they shared a laugh over something that had happened in her time with the tribe, her eyes glittered in a way they never did for him. There was more than just friendship on both their parts. Manuel’s logical side protested he had no right to feel this way. After all, she had married him. She was his, but had she been his brother’s first?

Shaking his head to clear it, he drew a deep, cleansing breath, wishing he knew the answers to these questions. He could never ask Gabriella. If she even thought he didn’t trust her, she would surely leave him. He couldn’t stand the idea of losing her for any reason. But lack of trust was worse than infidelity. If she’d been unfaithful, and he didn’t want to believe for a moment that she had, it was before they were wed.

“Evenin’, young master.”

Manuel jumped, startling the horses. Holding the bridle of one of them, he calmed them.

“I didn’t hear you, Willem.”

“Sorry to startle you, sir. I heard you arrive and thought as you might need help with the ladies, an all.”

“Thank you. As a matter of fact, if you’d take them, Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.

“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.

“Yes.” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”

“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”

“And you think I’m wrong?”

“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”

Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”

“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”

“Thanks, Willem. Good night then.”

“Good night, sir.” He tipped his hat, spit and led the horses to the stable.

Manuel took the stairs to their bedroom two at a time. He heard Gabriella talking. Wondering if she spoke to Consuela, their maid, he lingered outside the door, trying not to make any noise.

“He’s so stubborn! I can’t believe what a pig headed man he can be! How can he think to leave me now, when less than a year ago, he was just coming back from his spying upon James? The gall! To think I’d stand for it!”

He heard a hairbrush clatter on the floor. Some very unladylike language followed that she would never have used around anyone but him. In point of fact, she’d probably learned it from him. He knew she must be alone.

Location Location Location

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750The setting for a book is as important to me as characters. Where and when the book takes place can be crucial. For instance, not too likely to have people freezing to death in Florida in August. Conversely, no one is going to die from heat stroke in the Arctic in the winter.

Indian Summer is set in Florida in 1739. I used two locations in the state to tell my story. The first, of course, is St. Augustine, the seat of Spanish power and a strategic location on the coast.

The fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos, is in St. Augustine and has the  honor of never being taken by force.

castillo vista

The second part of the story is set on an island that is now New Smyrna Beach (established in 1768). The turtle shaped mound (Turtle Mound) is located at the south end of the island in what is now a national park, Canaveral National Seashore.

It is thought that Turtle Mound was used as a lookout post. When you see the view, you can understand why. These photos show the view of the ocean, but the river is clearly visible from the other side of the mound.

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View from atop Turtle Mound

View from atop Turtle Mound

Writing the Problem Child

castillo vista

Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, FL

Every author will tell you that they have secret books – those that will probably never see the light of day. Our skeletons in the closet, if you will pardon the cliché. We also have our problem children – those books that, for whatever reason, were harder to write than others. The more experienced and prolific the author, the more of these they are likely to have. Some problem children allow themselves to be finished, others do not.

I have such a problem child – Indian Summer. This one allowed me to finish it, but there was great doubt for a long time. The problem was several fold. First of all, I chose first person, which is difficult for a new writer. However, Gabriella was determined to speak for herself, so I had no choice but to make it work.
Another problem with the original manuscript was that I tried writing it as a diary. NEVER do that as the entire book. It’s boring and it doesn’t work at all.

Third, and most difficult for me to overcome – there wasn’t a lot of information on-line and the books I most needed were frequently missing from the shelves. If it hadn’t been for a happy accident, I would never have found the information I needed – but that’s subject for another post.

I had chosen a time period in the 1830’s, little knowing what a problem this would present. My basic idea was that Gabriella was forced to marry Manuel by an uncaring father. Manuel, a drunkard womanizing gambler, was abusive. To get away from him, Gabriella fled to New Smyrna from St. Augustine, to live with her sister at the sugar mill. When the sugar mill was attacked, she would find friendly Indians and be taken in by the tribe.

After some research, I found out that the tribe I wanted to use died out circa 1777. That bumped my time period back about six decades. While there was a great deal to be found about American owned Florida of the 1830’s, there wasn’t much on the Spanish occupation. Yes, there were books, but as I said, they were hard to find. However, with some digging, I found that there was a major siege of St. Augustine, by the British, in 1740. I chose to move my date back another 38 years, to 1739, the year before the siege. (This decision wasn’t made until later.)

My troubles didn’t stop there. After a time, Gabriella stopped talking. I wrote a few scenes, mostly scribbling them in a notebook late at night, but she abjectly refused to move forward. Something was wrong. Rather than figuring it out, I dropped the notebook in a drawer and left it there. I didn’t entirely forget about Gabriella and her struggles, but the voice was muted. I was a busy mother and didn’t have time or the wherewithal to diagnose and heal Indian Summer’s woes.

Several years later, I was cleaning out the drawer. I found the notebook and started reading. I remember thinking, “This is crap.” I almost tore the pages out to throw them away, and then I came to a scene that caught my attention. It’s one that happens later in the book after Gabriella meets Sailfish, the Indian man. I read the first few sentences – then more. “This is pretty damn good,” I concluded. “I can work with this.”

I carefully removed the pages from the notebook and carried them to the computer. My first step was to type everything out NOT as a diary. I still used Gabriella’s voice, but as if she were speaking. As I typed, the story began to unfold. Gabriella started speaking again, her voice loud and clear.

As the story progressed, I found I had less and less control over the action. Somewhere around the time that Manuel takes Gabriella to a horse race on her birthday, it got away from me and galloped off like a runaway horse.
Manuel, the evil, womanizing gambler refused to be bad. In fact, he reformed!

Gabriella, the shy violet of the piece, decided that she would not sit quietly while she was shoved around and manipulated. She also refused to fall in love with anyone but Manuel.

Sailfish was forced to take a secondary role in the book. He did so grudgingly. I finally had to promise him his own book so he would behave. It’s not finished yet (it’s another problem child) but I do have a good start on Savage Heart.

A secondary love interest, became the villain. He snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting that at all. That’s what made him the perfect man for the job. The governor, Gabriella’s father, didn’t suspect him either.

At the time, the experience of having the characters take off on their own was extremely disconcerting. Later, I realized it was a far better book than I had envisioned. Now, I delight in the moment the characters become so real, they move the action instead of me. That’s when I know I’m doing my job right, recording their lives as they live them.

Below is the scene that grabbed my attention as I read through my scribbles. The way it appears in the book is almost identical to the original. From Chapter 13 & 14 of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes.

The ocean felt blood warm and comforting. I hadn’t realized how much my body ached from my new activities. The tension of the last few weeks washed from my body as the water closed over me. It buoyed me up, letting me float gently on the waves. I closed my eyes to the bright morning sun and rested. I didn’t realize how far I drifted, for the tide was going out. I heard a noise, a shout from the beach and looked up. I was much further out than I intended and began to swim slowly back in.

Before I saw what was happening, a man dove into the water and swam rapidly past me. It was not until then I saw the fin on the water. Shark! I could formulate no other thoughts but the horror of that image, that word. I had seen people attacked by sharks, their bodies torn and bloody, bloated from the water they died in. I swam for my life as quickly as I could. The man met the shark not far from the
shore. I scrambled out, running to my clothing. I had the ridiculous notion that it would somehow protect me. There was a battle going on in the waves, but I couldn’t see it clearly. The man raised his knife, the sun glittering off the blade. He brought it down on the shark again and again with a dull, liquid “thunk.” Blood was everywhere, but whether it was his or the shark’s I didn’t know.

Forgetting my clothing for the moment, I grabbed my knife. Foolishly, I dashed back into the water as man and shark dove under! I couldn’t see either of them, just blood on the waves. A small ripple where they went down was the only other thing visible. Suddenly, the water beside me erupted as a huge shark leapt out of the water not five feet from me! I screamed, frozen to the spot. I saw the knife in its ugly, brutish head, between its eyes. It was fighting fiercely, despite numerous stab wounds.

Clinging to it stubbornly was a man. Sailfish! He was covered in blood, slipping from the shark’s hide. The vicious beast gave a last squirm as the life left it. It shivered once more and died. Sailfish drew his blade from it, racing toward me.

“Run!” He yelled.

I was stupefied, I couldn’t make my legs work. I stood there naked and dripping, too terrified to move.

“Run!” He yelled again. “Gabriella, get out of the water!”

Before he finished speaking, I saw the fins racing toward all the blood, toward us! I turned and ran, splashing and flailing to get to shore. He caught up with me, righting me as I fell. Impatient at my lack of speed, he lifted me out of the water, carrying me to the sand. His long legs covered the distance in less time than it takes to tell of it. I stared in shock and horror as the dead shark danced crazily in the water, the others tearing its carcass to pieces in a horrific frenzy! A scream threatened to erupt from my throat. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. Gradually, the furor died down and the sharks swam away. Nothing was left of the dead one. I sank to my knees, retching. I had not eaten yet that morning, so it was dry heaves. Sometimes that’s worse than actually vomiting. I became aware of strong hands helping me sit up, of the same hands dressing me like a baby and the muscular arms around me, holding me while I cried.

All the sorrow, anger, and fear that had built in me since the night of my capture, came pouring out in a flood of tears. I felt so safe in his arms. I clung to him, weeping as if my heart were broken. He held me, rocked me, and stroked my hair, all the while speaking in low monotones. None of it made sense to me for he spoke in his own tongue, but the flow of the words and the tone were comforting. I cried a long time, finally coming to a stop. He continued to hold me, giving me his comfort.

Soon, however, the touch changed, I felt the comforting become a caress as a lover would touch his beloved. I don’t know why, but I felt a tingling sensation for the first time since we met. He was so strong, virile, warm and so alive. He stopped rocking me, but continued to hold me, turning my tear-streaked face gently to his. I gazed into his jet black eyes, lost in their depths. His strong jaw was working, trying to hold the emotions in. I felt his manhood pressing against me and faltered in my resolve.

God help me, I loved Manuel! How could I dishonor him by kissing another man? Even as I thought this, Sailfish lowered his lips to mine and kissed me with a passion not even Manuel had equaled. I melted into his embrace, his lips locked with mine, his tongue probing my mouth. I burned inside, my heart fluttering like a trapped bird. I felt swept away as if the ocean waves had carried me off into the water once more. Wave after hot wave coursed through my body. He touched me all the places I knew he shouldn’t, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to stop him. I was so tired of fighting desire, sick of saying no, weary of being proper.

I believe I would have allowed him to continue had we not heard shouts coming from on the mound. There was a ruckus on the river side of the island. Reluctantly, he let go of me, turning to the lookout. Sailfish called out to him, demanding to know what was wrong. I couldn’t understand his answer, for they spoke in their native tongue. Sailfish all but dumped me on the sand as he rose and ran toward the camp, shouting as he went. I gathered myself up running after him, curious and afraid all at once.

I was sure it had to do with James and me. I was afraid for all these people, worried they would be injured. I was terrified that Sailfish would kill James, or worse, James would kill him.

To purchase Indian Summer

Indian Summer – Excerpt

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750Gabriella Deza is the youngest daughter of the Spanish Governor of Florida. The year is 1739 and trouble is, as usual, brewing with the British. It is nearing Gabriella’s fifteenth birthday, a major step for a Spanish girl, where she becomes a woman. Her father gives her charge over her younger brother, asking her to care for him while he and his wife are gone to Jamaica. The day of their return, a terrible storm hits the shore.

 There was a nagging feeling of dread rising in my mind. I felt hot then cold all over as if I were taking sick again. I had the feeling that Manuel needed me, something was horribly, terribly wrong. I couldn’t suppress it, for it seared my soul. My dreams nagged my thoughts, causing shivers of dread down my spine.

Without saying a word to anyone, I wended my way as quickly and quietly to the door as I could. It was hardly more than three minutes after Manuel left, and yet he was nowhere in sight. He must have taken his buggy. Having no such vehicle available to me, I ran to the fortress with as much speed as I could muster. I was grateful to Grand-mère for the dress as it provided more mobility than any of my other outfits would have.

The hair rose on my arms as if I were cold, my breath came in shuddering gasps and yet I ran until I thought my lungs would burst. It was then I saw it, a flicker, a flame and suddenly the entire southeast bastion of the fort seemed to be on fire!

Silhouetted against it, I saw a man. My dream came rushing back of an instant and I knew it to be James the spy! I couldn’t contain my anger. It drove me onward, compelling me to be hasty, chiding my slowness. Anger burned within me, hot and fierce as the signal fire before me, filling me with a fury driving away my fear.

I finally reached the gate, passing the ladies and the buggy without fully noticing. I saw no sign of Manuel, James or anyone else. In fact, the postern gate was open and unguarded, just as in my dream! I stifled the shriek I felt rising in my throat. Fear gripped me, cold unreasoning fear. Dread of ghosts of dead soldiers floated through my mind, making me shiver again.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think or make any decision. I stood there stupidly, gaping at the sight in front of me, riveted to the spot. That was my undoing. Stealthily out of the shadows, James was upon me. He grabbed me in his strong arms, holding me to him, using me as a shield, a gun pointed at my head!

An involuntary scream ripped from my throat! James chided me, goaded me on, pulling my hair, waving the gun before me!

“Go ahead and scream, lass. Scream for all you’re worth! It will bring him to me. I’ve waited, plotted, planned for this moment. Before the sun rises, he’ll be dead and you, my lass, you will be mine!”

He planted a rough, brutal kiss on my cheek, nipping my ear, causing me to scream again. I writhed away from him, but he held me fast. He shifted his hold upon me, crushing me against his pelvis. I could feel the lust in him. It disgusted and terrified me. He seemed to feed off my fear, growing more bold.

“That’s it, that’s it! He’ll be here any minute that upstart Spanish bastard!”

He was turning around from side to side, holding me in front of him, pulling my hair to keep me on my feet, for I was near to fainting. A shadow moved stealthily toward us. I hoped James had not seen. Perhaps I only hoped so much that it was Manuel, I imagined it. But no, I heard a pistol being cocked and knew James heard it to. From our left, Manuel emerged quietly from the shadows, pistol in hand.

The light from the signal fire threw wavering shadows and highlights over his face, making him look demonic, his handsome face contorted into an unyielding mask of cold rage and hatred. His hand was steady, pointing the gun at James, who tried in vain to keep me in front of him. Manuel lifted his chin standing still.

“Let her go, James, or I shall drop you where you stand.”

“If you shoot me, she’s dead.” He put the gun up against my head.

“Don’t be so sure of that, Doctor.”

I could hear panic rising in James’ voice. His breath coming in fast gulps, hot on my neck. “Drop your gun. I’ll let her go if you drop your gun!”

“Do you take me for a complete fool? You drop your gun and I’ll give you a head start to the gate to run like the cowardly cur you are. Stand away from her now.”

James’ hand holding the weapon was beginning to falter. I summoned all my resolve and slammed my elbow into his ribs, stamped on his foot and hit him in his private parts as hard as I could with both my fists together.

He gasped for breath, falling to the ground, dropping his gun. Manuel kept him covered while I jumped out of reach. All I could think of was getting away, returning to the safety of my home, of Manuel’s arms. I was in a panic, terrified! Then I saw the man behind Manuel, musket raised like a club, the sailor who had met James.

Manuel couldn’t get a shot off in time, but caught the blow of the musket with his pistol stock, forcing the man away from him. They grappled for what seemed hours, but was only a few seconds. Unfortunately, neither of us watched James. He lunged for his pistol, grabbing it before I could warn Manuel. I could do nothing to stop him. I was too far away. I tried to scream, to alert Manuel in some way, but the sound caught in my throat.

Manuel and the sailor turned just as James raised his gun to shoot. James’ shot caught the other man in the back, the bullet slamming through him as if he were jelly. The echo in the stone courtyard was deafening. Then they fell!

“Manuel! Dear God, he’s been shot!” I screamed to no one.

The other fellow was dead, but Manuel was still moving. I ran to be by his side, but James grabbed my hair again and dragged me away! The last I saw, Manuel was lying in a pool of blood, his life draining from him and I could do nothing!

In His Own Words – Sailfish of the River People

If you’ve read Indian Summer, you know Sailfish. He is Manuel’s best friend who helps Gabriella when she is pursued by the spy. While I was writing Indian Summer, Sailfish kept trying to do more and be more than I could allow him to be in that novel, so I gave him his own book. It’s not quite finished, but I’m having a great time writing Savage Heart.

Below is an interview with Sailfish. It incorporates some of the elements from Savage Heart.

What is your name?
You may call me Sailfish as my own language is hard for you to pronounce.

What do you want most?
I want to find love and gain the acceptance of my people.

Why is this so important to you?
Why does anyone want love? As to the acceptance, if I am to be chief after my uncle, I must have their approval.

What makes you happy or sad?
The death of my beautiful wife and son—that made me very sad. That Gabriella loves me for nothing but a dear friend, also saddens me. But finding Meli, that makes me happy.

How do you treat the people in your life? 

I hope that I treat them well. I do my best, but often I disappoint them somehow. Or perhaps I disappoint myself?

Can people count on you?
My friends and family can always count on me for help.

What makes you angry?
The British general, Oglethorpe, makes me angry, as does the Spanish king. The fighting between these two nations has torn my country apart.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?
With everything that I am, and all that makes me a man, I stand for what I believe.

What excites you?
The thrill of the hunt, the beauty of a perfect sunrise, joy in the eyes of the woman I love.

What do you do for a living?
I am a warrior and scout.

What kind of books do you like?
I don’t have access to books, although my Blood Brother taught me to read. I don’t have time to sit and read a book. I never really saw the point.

What kind of music?
I like the music of the wind in branches, the pounding of the waves on the shore, the songs of birds and call of animals. All these are music to me.

What’s the one thing you’d most like to do before you die?
I want to find true love again. I thought I’d found it with Gabriella, but that was not to be. Perhaps with Meli? Who can say?

If you could, what’s one thing you’d change about yourself?
A soulful look settles on his noble features and he hangs his head in silence.  I think I would not fall in love with Gabriella.

In Her Own Words – Gabriella Deza of Indian Summer

Who are you?

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

What is your story?

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

Where and when do you live?

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

Are you the hero of your own story?

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

What is your problem in the story?

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!

How does the author see you?

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

What do you think of yourself?

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

Do you have a hero?

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?

Do you have any special strengths?

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.

Do you have any special weaknesses?

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

What do you believe?

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.

What makes you happy?

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.

What do you regret?

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

Has anyone ever betrayed you?

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.

What was your childhood like?

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.

Who was your first love?

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.

What is your most prized possession? Why?

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.

What is your favorite color? Why?

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

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

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!

How do you envision your future?

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

© Dellani Oakes

Indian Summer – Excerpt

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750Indian Summer is an historical romance set in 1739, St. Augustine, Florida during the Spanish Era. Although I took a few liberties for literary purposes, I tried to capture the spirit of the times.

Gabriella Deza is the youngest daughter of the Spanish Governor, Ferdinand Deza. Her  mother, who was English, died when she was five. Her father remarried a French woman a few years later and Clara gave him his first and only son, Marcos. In this scene, Marcos runs away from the house during a thunderstorm because his mother and father are on a ship that is probably going to crash.

The rain was so heavy, I soon lost track of Marcos in the storm. I knew he’d be heading to the wharf, so I found my way there as best I could. Once I reached the shore I began to call him. My voice was drowned by the sound of the wind.

“Please,” I begged of the men that I knew. “Will you help me find my brother?”

But all were too busy to listen to a young lady who was too foolish to stay out of the storm. I could see Papa’s ship in the ocean heading toward the wharf, as the waves pounded it on all sides. It looked ready to break apart! I began to pray as I ran looking for my little brother.

“Oh Lord, protect them and help me find my brother!” I repeated over and over as I ran through the crowd, pushing my way in the press of men.

It was then I saw Marcos. He was trying to help deploy ropes. The men on the shore tied off stout hemp lines to the pier and were roping themselves in to wade out into the storm. They formed a life line should the ship break apart. Other men were standing and holding the ropes to bring in the others if they foundered in the waves. No one was watching my brother. They were all too busy with their appointed tasks.

I saw the approaching wave before he did, for he was not looking at the sea. He had turned briefly to implore the men once more to let him help, but none gave him their ear.

“Marcos!” I called, though he couldn’t possibly hear me. “Marcos, behind you!”

The wave moved faster than I could, with all my damp skirts around my legs. I knew I couldn’t reach him and he was going to die. Despite his faults, I realized I dearly loved my little brother. I didn’t want to lose him. I couldn’t even think what his death would do to Papa.

As I ran, I watched the wave build higher. It rose until I could hardly see the top. The ship rode the crest. The men on shore saw the swell approaching. They dropped the ropes, running inland as fast as they could in the wet sand. Several fell and were swept away by the waters. The ropes held them and they were able to pull
themselves out of the waves.

Marcos was calling to them. “Where are you going? My mamá is on that ship!”

He hadn’t turned around, distracted by their flight. The ship loomed nearer and the wave grew. I couldn’t reach him through the wet sand and the press of men running against me.

“God, I beg you please save him! I swear I’ll be good to him all my days! Oh, Mother of God, protect him! I promised Papa!”

Lightning flashed across the sky illuminating the beach, lighting Marco’s face like a ghost! It was then he turned and saw the ship as the wave approached him. He froze.

“Marcos!” I screamed, “Marcos run!”

He heard my voice, but he was paralyzed with fear. I ran, screaming for him to move. There was no way he could escape. The water was too deep, its pull stronger than he. The darkness and rain enveloped him, obscuring my view. In the next flash of lightning, I saw the ship looming ever closer and screamed for all I was worth!

Suddenly, another figure appeared on the beach. A man, large and strong, was running toward my brother, a rope around his waist. He came upon Marcos just as the wave broke on the shore, grabbing him securely. He dropped to the ground, tucking the little head against his massive chest, holding my brother with an inhuman strength. He turned his body, taking the brunt of the wave on his back and powerful shoulders. Marcos grasped his waist just before the wave’s surge covered them.

The ship swerved hard to starboard, hitting the corner of the pier not far away, shuddering to a halt. The water rushed around the ship, up the beach, over my brother and the man. I couldn’t see what happened next, for I had to retreat out of the wave’s reach. The greedy fingers of water clutched my dress, determined to drag me into the fray. Were it not for the aid of the men on shore, who held me fast, I would have been spirited away and surely drowned.

I babbled every prayer I knew, calling on God to help them. Little by little the waves receded and I could move closer, looking for them. I saw the rope tied to the pier, taut with weight, and began to pull. Men from the shore saw me and raced to my side. Together we hauled them in. I feared both were surely drowned. Finally, their sodden forms broke the surface of the waves. I rushed forward, but the men held me back, for the currents were wild and treacherous.

For more about Dellani and her books:

Dellani Oakes glasses in hand

http://TheNinjaTattoo.wordpress.com

http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com

http://dulcetbydellanioakes.wordpress.com

http://LoneWolfbyDellaniOakes.wordpress.com

http://writersanctuary.blogspot.com

© Dellani Oakes