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

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Advertisements

Falling In Love With Your Own Book

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500I just reread Under the Western Sky and fell in love with it all over again. I wrote it almost seven years ago, for NaNoWriMo, but it still feels fresh and new when I read it. I think books should do that, even for the people who write them. If I can’t go back to a book years later and enjoy reading, how can I expect my readers to enjoy my books over and over?

It started like any other book, with a first line, a scene and no notion where it was going. It developed quickly, gaining speed and momentum as I continued to write. I didn’t start out having a message to tell, but it turned out that way. Along the way, I produced a story I’m really proud of.

Under the Western Sky is about friendship. It’s about learning to love someone for who they are, not for the color of their skin. It’s about ending prejudice one person at a time. My cast of characters really represents diversity—that, too, was unintentional.

Libby Marshall is white, Scotch and Irish girl, and falls for a Mexican boy, Bobby, in a time when such relationships were rare. Her best friend, Toni, is part Native American and half Italian. Toni’s boyfriend, Danny, is blond and blue eyed—like Libby, another of the whitest kids you know.

These teenagers from diverse backgrounds, have one thing in common. They see past the skin color and look at the person within. Sadly, it’s not a characteristic that everyone shares—which they find out the hard way. Shortly after Bobby and Libby start dating, their world is upended by racial hatred. They and their friends band together to save themselves and their families, from being victims of this hate.

As I said, I hadn’t planned that message at all. I didn’t start writing with the intention of teaching a lesson or pointing out a wrong, it just happened. I hope that I managed to keep it from being too smarmy or preachy. I dislike that sort of thing intensely. I wanted a good story about friends who help one another, and I decidedly feel that I accomplished that. I tried to make the characters believable and well rounded, avoiding typical stereotypes that I find terribly annoying.

Libby very much reflects my own attitudes about pigmentation differences. She sees beyond skin tone and looks inside, revealing the personality within. I was raised that way, and so was she. When I was in school, my friends were a mix of Mexican, white, Native American and Asian. When I got to college, I had a lot of black and Indian friends, too. I didn’t care, and still don’t care, about superficial things like race. Sadly, not enough people share this attitude.

Bobby and Danny have a friendship that is more like brothers. They have always been there, supporting each other in times of trouble. As the story progresses, circumstances drive a wedge between them, but their unyielding belief in one another makes them strong. Instead of giving up on years of friendship, they work together to protect the ones they love.

I’m immensely proud of this book and delighted that the folks at Tirgearr Publishing saw its merit. I hope that each of you will take a few moments to look it over, maybe buy a copy. I know you won’t regret it.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

In Her Own Words – Toni Cristo Under the Western Sky

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500What is your name?

Antonia Cristo, but everyone calls me Toni.

What do you do?

I’m a high school student. I sometimes work part time, babysit, that kind of thing.

What is your biggest fear?

It used to be my biggest fear was whether I was gonna have a zit on an important date night. Now, I’m scared to death we’re all going to die!

What would you give up everything to have?

I don’t know. Is there really anything that’s worth that? If you have one thing and nothing else, that seems kind of silly.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and are you going to be able to rectify it?

The biggest mistake was talking to Danny like I did. I should have known there was more going on, but I’m (according to him) selfish and shallow. After this, I guess he has a point.

What food would you never eat?

Pickled pigs feet—ew!

You’ve dressed to impress. What are you wearing?

My thigh boots, red leather mini and my bare midriff shirt—the white one with the big red swirls—and ruffles, lots of ruffles! My hair in a high, sleek tail.

What one thing have you found unattainable thus far in your life?

Making it with Danny. Libby’s all “you have to wait!” I keep thinking I’m ready for it and I guess she’s right, because it hasn’t felt right yet. But he’s totally cute and I really, really like him. There are worse guys, you know?

What is about to change for you?

Nothing, I’m totally copasetic.

Where and when do you live?

In an itsy-teeny town in Nebraska. Could it be more dull?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I’m totally gorgeous, there is no doubt! I’m a little too tall, but I’ve got great boobs. (Danny really likes my boobs.) I could do with longer lashes, but that’s what mascara is for!

Who do you hate and why?

I hate whoever’s after us, trying to kill Bobby and Danny. I swear, if they give me a chance, I’ll shoot ’em myself! Daddy taught me how to shoot when I was really little. I’m a crack shot!

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Under the Western Sky

dellani knows history banner

In His Own Words – Daniel Emerson from Under the Western Sky

What is your name?

Daniel Emerson, JuniorUnder the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500, but you can call me Danny.

What do you do?

I’m a high school student. I play football and I work part time with my dad.

What is your biggest fear?

Honest to God, until recently, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Now, we’ve got all kinds of trouble and I’m scared to death. I can’t talk about it. They’ll kill me if I talk.

What would you give up everything to have?

I would give up everything I own for things to go back the way they were a week ago; working toward buying a car, a hot girlfriend who’s just about ready to give it up, the best friend in the world and a great family. I want that back!

What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and are you going to be able to rectify it?

Let’s get straight right now, the mistake wasn’t mine—or my dad’s. I don’t know whose, okay? But it’s the biggest one anyone can make and I don’t know how to get out of this mess. Normally, I’d ask Bobby…. But that’s part of the problem.

What food would you never eat?

I eat just about anything, but don’t try to give me chitlings.

You’ve dressed to impress. What are you wearing?

My best jeans, just tight enough to show everything off—faded just right so the ladies know what I’m packin’. My Led Zeppelin T-shirt, my new boots and my leather jacket. I’m set!

What one thing have you found unattainable thus far in your life?

Getting’ in Toni’s pants.

What is about to change for you?

Oh, yeah! If we can get out of this mess alive, I know she’ll be mine.

Where and when do you live?

I live in Western Nebraska. The year is 1976.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I see a boy waiting to become a man. If I live through this shit we’re in, I’ll be a man for sure. I don’t want to be a dead one.

Who do you hate and why?

I hate Hatred. I don’t know if that makes sense, but too many people hate others for no reason. He’s black or she’s Mexican. Why does the color of someone’s skin mean anything? We act like Mexicans are horrible people because they’re brown. But look at George Hamilton, okay? He’s as dark as a Mexican and no one wants to kill him for it!

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Under the Western Sky

dellani knows history banner

Dellani Knows History!

dellani knows history bannerI’m not claiming to be an expert on anything. Let’s get that stated up front. However, in a couple very specific times, in limited settings, I know a minuscule amount of history.

That being said, I can give you a fairly clear idea of events leading up to, and including, the siege of St. Augustine, Florida in 1740. Don’t ask me names, I’d have to check my notes, but I know that something significant happened there. Do you know what happened? If not, you’ll have to read my novel, Savage Heart, when it comes out. Education with a little romance to make indian summerit more palatable.

Since it’s not finished yet, you can get an feel for the times by reading Indian Summer. If I may say so, it gives an enjoyable romp through history and it told from the perspective of fifteen year old, Gabriella Deza.

If a retro setting is more your style, why not try my novel, Under the Western Sky, set in Western Nebraska in 1976. It takes place shortly after the disastrous handling of events at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Set in a time of fear, it examines the relationships between people and their perspectives on interracial couples.

I really want to focus more on this book than the other, because I sometimes forget it’s out there. I know that’s awful, but Under the Western Sky is my quiet child. Unlike some of the others, this book isn’t a hot, spicy romantic suspense. Yes, the tension is there as Libby and Bobby fight for their lives, but this is the flush of first love.

In Under the Western Sky, I focus as much on the conflict they face, as on their relationship. I like that these young people work together against adversity. Their love transcends race and color. Instead, it’s about two young people who have grown up together and care deeply for one another. It’s about the power of friendship, not just between them, but with their two best friends, Danny and Toni.

I love this book and I have promised myself I am going to share more of it with my fans. If you haven’t read Under the Western Sky, I hope you’ll get your copy today while it’s only .99¢ 

Below is a short excerpt from Chapter 9 of Under the Western Sky:

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500Bobby and his best friend, Danny, are on opposite sides of the racial barrier. Danny is white and his father has been approached by a white supremacist group. His initiation was to injure, possibly kill, Bobby because he’s dating a white girl. They have a terrible fight and Bobby takes his friend down. The police have arrested Danny and he spent the night in jail.

Bobby woke the next morning to the delicious odors of coffee and bacon. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was well after nine. He couldn’t remember a time when he had slept that late on a Sunday. In fact, he couldn’t remember a time he’d slept that late in the last six years.

Bobby’s body ached from his encounter with Danny. When he examined himself in the mirror, he saw that his old friend had landed a few good punches on his ribs, leaving angry red welts on his back and chest. How could he have done that without Bobby noticing? He hurt all over and was glad he hadn’t spent the night on the lumpy old couch. His back hitched on him when he bent over to pull up his jeans.

Someone knocked on the door as he zipped his pants. Fumbling with his shirt, he invited them in. He was expecting his mother or maybe Maria, but it was Libby. She was dressed in Maria’s shorts, and a T-shirt with big pink rhinestone lips on the front. Her eyes widened when she saw the bruises on his chest.

“Your mom said to wake you for breakfast,” she said shyly, eyes downcast.

“Thanks.” He pulled her gently inside, closing the door. His lips connected with hers, leaving a spark in their wake. “I’m sorry about last night,” he sighed, holding her face in his hands. “I feel like such a bum.” His fingers traced the curve of her cheek and neck tenderly.

“No, it’s my fault. I should’ve known better.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I love you too much for that.”

They kissed a few more moments until Maria called to them from the hallway. “Rise and shine, Babu! Breakfast!” She tapped on the door, whispering. “Put it back in your pants and get out here before Mom has a piglet!”

Bobby jerked the door open in her face, leaning casually against the frame. “It’s where it belongs, Mia. Just getting a good morning kiss.” He smirked, pinching her cheek.

He still didn’t have his shirt on and Maria winced, sucking in a breath as he passed her.

“Did Danny do that?” She pressed her hand gently on his side.

“Yeah.” He flinched away from her fingers as they probed a particularly sensitive spot. “Fuck, Mia, don’t do that!” he said, more loudly than he intended.

“What’s that language I’m hearing in my house?” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Nothing, Mamá! It was a perfect stranger who said that,” Bobby called from the hallway.

“If he was perfect, he wouldn’t use that kind of…” His mother stood in the living room, a pancake turner in one hand, an oven mitt in the other. When she saw Bobby’s chest, she stopped talking. “Oh, Jesus, Maria!” She crossed herself as she approached him.

Babbling in Spanish, she examined him carefully before leading him back to the kitchen. “Jim, Toby, look! See what that brute did to my baby!”

Toby looked him over with a practiced eye. “I don’t think anything’s broken, but we better take you by the hospital to have x-rays.”

“I’m fine.” Bobby tried to pass off the pain. “Just bruised up.” Shrugging into his shirt, he winced as he pulled it down, gasping as the cloth rasped against his bruises.

“That settles it for me,” Toby said in a no-nonsense voice. “I’m taking you.”

“Can I at least eat first? I’m starving.”

Toby frowned, not wanting to agree, but not wanting the kid to be hungry.

“A man either needs food or sex after something like that,” Jim said, without thinking.

Bobby shot him an ugly look, which fortunately his mother missed. “Yeah, well, I’ll take that food now, Mom.”

Jim mouthed, “I’m sorry,” to him, winking at Maria as she stifled a giggle.

“Does it hurt as much as it looks?” Grace asked.

“Pretty much, yeah. Hurts to breathe deep. I don’t even remember him doing that to me. I didn’t feel anything at the time.”

“Yeah, you don’t,” Toby said calmly. “It’s an adrenaline thing. You get so pumped, you don’t realize you’re taking almost as much damage as you’re giving. Though in this case, I think you did more.” He winked at Bobby. “You’ll have to show me that trick. I know black belts who can’t do that.”

“I wish I could. I don’t have a clue. It was like I saw in my mind how it was done, but unless you pulled a gun on me, I don’t think I could repeat it.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Jim almost clapped him on the shoulder, but refrained. “Bruce Lee, ki ya!”

Bobby tried to laugh but it hurt. Instead, he held his ribs, groaning.

“That’s it,” Toby said, before they even sat down. “Link is on his way here. I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“I’ll take him, Toby,” Jim offered. “I think the ladies need you here more than me. As soon as Link arrives, we’ll go.”

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Under the Western Sky

To Buy Indian Summer