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The other day I was watching the Turner Classic Movie station and they ran an ad where Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore discussed the film Marty and paired it with the film How to Marry a Millionaire and which woman would be a good match for Ernest Borgnine as Marty. The ladies were Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Robert Osborne thought Betty Grable might be his best match. For some reason, I didn’t agree.

If you have never seen the film Marty, it is well worth the time to see it. Ernest Borgnine plays a single, Italian man of about thirty-five who works in a butcher shop. He is not handsome, rich or a huge success. He is an ordinary, rather shy man who is overweight and gets tongue-tied around women. His family and customers all nag at him about why he isn’t married and starting a family yet, all his siblings have. The chatter does not help. He hangs out with his male friends and they do the same stuff all the time, bowling, the diner, and just hanging out. One night they go to the dance.

Marty is a shy man, who is reticent but he is a kind person. It is because of this kindness that he finally meets someone. A man offers him $5.00 to take a blind date off his hands so he can go score with a woman he already knows. Marty feels that is cruel and a lie. He refuses, but watches. He feels compassion for the lonely woman the man ditched and speaks to her. They hit it off. Though his friends don’t think too much of her, in the end, Marty feels something special for her, and they begin seeing one another, empowering Marty to come out of his shell.

The women in How to Marry a Millionaire are looking to ensnare wealthy men to keep them in style. Lauren Bacall is a savvy who knows what she wants and goes for it. She does not want to waste time dating the wrong men. She needs a man who will meet her eye to eye and be as strong as she is. Lauren and Marty would never go far. She would give him a look up and down and say; “No thanks, pal.”

Betty Grable seems weary of the chase, and may for a time give a man like Marty a chance. Where Robert Osborne sees her as a good match for Marty, I don’t agree. She may be able to hang out with the guys, be great fun at a party or on a date. She is a good person, also full of confidence. Where does her life really intersect with Marty’s? To me, Marty and Betty want different things out of life, and in the long run would not make one another happy.

Then we come to Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Osborne feels that she would be pursued by men for her looks and sex appeal. It really was the problem she faced in life every day. Yet is that what Marilyn wants? To me, she is a woman who is looking to love and be loved. She is not so taken in by the shallow surface appeal of a sexy body or drop-dead good looks. Marilyn Monroe, though she had an undeniably powerful animal magnetism, she showed her vulnerability. She showed her loneliness, and desire to find someone she could love. To me, Marilyn and Marty would be able to have a successful relationship. They want the same thing ~ to love and to be loved. They could each be vulnerable, open and honest with one another, the basis for a good, long lasting relationship.

It made me stop and ponder; what do we expect from relationships these days?

In writing, creating characters and in my everyday life, relationships need to have commonality on some level or they won’t work. In creating romance for characters, I need to be mindful of their core values, beliefs and desires. A psychologist friend of mine read my books and related to me the depth and intricacy of human relationships I achieved. I even ran a troubled character profile by her, and she was ready for me to refer him to her for treatment.

I strive for relationships in my writing that are able to stand the test of time if they are to last. I construct the relationship with the fatal flaw that will tear the couple apart. I study life, people, their relationships, what works and what does not.

The question that still remains at the end of this discourse is simple. What do you want from a relationship? As you ponder that question, know that the sage wisdom of the ages comes back as well: What you give will be returned.

May your relationships be a blessing to those who know you, because you give of yourself from your heart.

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Teaser of Things to Come

My next book is a collection of short stories that the publisher, Mike, has promised would be out in the spring.  I sincerely hope this will, indeed, be true.  For today’s Blog I thought I would give a little teaser to one of the stories: A Death of Convenience.  This story takes its inspiration from the rash of robberies that have hit these stores more and more.  I thought about the punks who rob them, the clerks who work in these places for pittance wages and the choices they have in any life threatening situation.


Here is a taste of this next book.  You can let your imagination take the story where you will.  Look for this book by S. M. Senden soon from Second Wind Books.  My other publications include Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries. 


A Death of Convenience

Jerry Wall peered through the heavy cloud of smoke that haloed about his head as the three teenagers made their way to the door of Cathy’s Convenience Store where he worked the graveyard shift.  He hated the punks who came out after dark like grimy rats climbing out of the sewers.  They were usually prowling for trouble dressed in their pseudo gang-style clothes of torn t-shirts with skulls, fake blood spatter and dirty words emblazoned on the front, and scuffed pants falling down from their hips revealing soiled underwear.  Worst of all, their hairy butts were exposed too.  Their profusely tattooed bodies complimented by multiple body piercings.  As Jerry exhaled, then sucked more smoke into his lungs he wondered what female in her right mind would find any of these punks attractive.       

Jerry wished he could have been more like Clint Eastwood and tell the kids: “Go ahead, make my day,” before blasting their sorry little asses to kingdom come as they deserved.  But Jerry knew he qualified as a first class wimp.  He’d always been afraid of confrontation so he endured their taunts and insults and even turned a blind eye to their petty thievery rather than confront any of them.   

It wasn’t worth his life.  

The three punks pushed open the door and stood in the doorway looking around as if the world owed them something.  Jerry had seen so many young thugs think they were entitled to something just because they were breathing.  He also knew that attitude would catch up with them one day.   


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Who is Davis Hall by Calvin Davis

Who is David Hall? I didn’t have the faintest notion. I had never heard the name before. The actor Ed Asner, famed for his work on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I was familiar with. And I was casually knowledgeable about Troy Duran, who has done voice overs for Anheuser Busch and Jeep Grand Cherokee commercials. But David Hall? Don’t ask me.

But wait, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little and explain. As I mentioned last month, an audio publisher wants to make an audio book of my novel The Phantom Lady of Paris. They gave me a list of possible narrators for the work, among them was — can you believe it — Ed Asner of television fame. Imagine the celebrated Ed Asner reading my…my words? Hard to believe, isn’t it? Well, I could have chosen him if I had wanted to.

The publisher asked me to describe the kind of voice I wished to narrate my novel. I wanted the voice of someone in his early twenties. The central character in The Phantom Lady is young. I did not desire someone who sounded like a college professor or a recent graduate of an announcer school, someone who boomed his words. I wanted a narrator whose voice was “everyday,” down to earth because that’s the kind of person the central character The Phantom is.

CSI DavidThe publisher said I have just the voice you’re looking for, the voice of David Hall. A little research revealed that David was a regular character in CSI, Crime Scene Investigation. He also appeared in The West Wing and L.A. Wing. I heard a sample of his voice. And I agree with the publisher. David’s voice is just the voice for The Phantom Lady of Paris. Can you imagine? I passed on Ed Asner? Me? A nobody. Saying no to Ed, a somebody. Huh, some nerve!

Before I forget, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to each of you. We have much to be thankful for at our house this year. Both my wife’s and my heath are good. Our glucose levels remain in tolerance–we’re both diabetics. Every morning when we wake up, we thankful we have another day together, something I become more conscious of since I turned 82. Vonnie has a book releasing on Thanksgiving; her publisher is in the UK and they don’t observe turkey day. I’m thankful for Second Wind’s continued growth as a publisher and their taking a chance on me a few years ago. I’ve been blessed in many ways. ~ Calvin Davis


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Sea of Destiny – Part 11

sea of destiny coverKyle and Carmelita are chatting as they board the ship. He compliments her by saying she looks like an Amazon Queen. Carmelita isn’t sure at first if he’s giving her a compliment.

“Believe me, it is. The Amazon women were formidable warriors as well as being great beauties.”

“And you would know this because?”

“It’s from having a totally useless degree in liberal arts. About the only thing it’s good for is winning at Trivial Pursuit.”

“Mm hm. And annoying your housekeeper when she’s trying to tan.”

“Here I am trying to compliment you and you’re shooting me down.”

“I’m an Amazon Queen, after all. That’s my job.” She giggled, closing her eyes against the sun.

“Daddy! Daddy! Look at me!” Mindy called from the pool.

Cindy held her hand and together they jumped into the six foot deep water. With very little help, Mindy swam to the side with her sister right behind her. Laughing and dripping, they did it again and again, the little one never tiring of it.

“Dad!” It was Randy this time. He did a perfect dive off the board, barely splashing as he went in.

“Good one, son!” He called when Randy’s head came above the water. “Excellent form!” He turned to Carmelita. “Kid’s gonna make swim team his freshman year.”

“Takin’ after his daddy for sure,” she grinned. “I haven’t seen them this happy in ages.” She wiped a tear.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was until now. We’re like a normal family again.”

“Oh, what’s that on your face?” She reached over, wiping her thumb on his cheek. “Dear God, boy, you’re smiling! I might fall out!”

He chuckled, hopping up. “Want to see the perfect dive?”

“You gonna get that sexy Olympic swimmer out here? I’d pay to see that!”

“Brat.” He chuckled, walking quickly to the diving board.

Taking a deep breath, he did a perfect swan dive into the pool. Feeling the water slip past him, he scissored his legs, rising rapidly to the top. He spent the next hour swimming with his children, teaching Mindy how to jump off the board, and correcting Randy’s swan dive. Carmelita joined Cindy in the shallow end where they examined every attractive man who went by, evaluating them on some esoteric scale they seemed to be making up as they went along.

After showers and naps, it was nearly dinner time. They dressed for dinner and went to the dining room in a quiet, solemn procession. The large, circular tables were laid with fine linen table cloths and beautiful centerpieces of tropical flowers. They were seated with an elderly couple from Minot, North Dakota and a honeymoon couple from Great Falls, Montana. One place was empty. The name on the card gave them nothing, bearing the name, ‘E. Geraci.”

The first course had already been served by the time a solitary person entered. Dressed rather like a gypsy in brightly colored, flowing skirts, blouse and shawl, she walked slowly to the table taking the empty seat next to Kyle. The waiter brought her food as well as a glass of iced tea with mint without even asking her. She accepted each with a stately inclination of her head.

She wore a multicolored scarf tied tightly over her head. No hair escaped and her scalp looked smooth beneath it. Her eyebrows were just growing in, her complexion pale, almost pallid. Kyle knew that look well. This was a woman who had been through chemo.

She was much taller than she looked walking in. Kyle guessed her to be around five nine. What had once been a strong, athletic body was ravaged by her disease and treatments. However, she was still broad shouldered with the build of a swimmer. Her eyes held a spark of determination as she smiled at him, extending her hand.

“Emily Geraci,” she said quietly, her voice slightly hoarse.

“Kyle Scott.” He took her hand gingerly. “This is Carmelita Porter, my housekeeper.

And my three children, biggest to smallest; Cindy, Randy and Mindy. Kids, Ms. Geraci.”

© Dellani Oakes 


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Sea of Destiny – Part 10

sea of destiny coverKyle has been talking to his travel agent. He told her to find a family friendly cruise for his family and Carmelita, their housekeeper. Angie, the travel agent, calls him with details. They are going to Mexico. She suggests he may find love again, but teases that the name of the boat is not the Love Boat. Curious, Kyle decides to see what the name of the boat really is.

 Curious, he booted up his computer and took a quick shower. It was warmed up and ready when he got out. He toweled dry, put on a pair of boxers and flopped onto his bed with the laptop. The e-mail from Angie confirmed all their reservations giving place and time of departure.

Serendipity? The ship’s name is Serendipity?” He laughed out loud, kicking up his heels. “Well, I wanted Fate to decide,” he chuckled. “I’m guessing it just did.”

After breakfast, Kyle and Carmelita made arrangements to move her possessions to the apartment attached to his house. They also decided that she would take the children shopping the next day while he and the Simmons brothers moved her things over.

“I’ll go by today and pack up my breakables,” she told Kyle. “I can’t trust any of you men to do it right.”

“And pack up your clothing. I don’t want to embarrass you by going through your panty drawer.”

“More likely embarrass you if you did,” she commented, raising an eyebrow. “If you knew what I was wearing under these slacks, I venture to say you’d have a heart attack and we’d miss that cruise.”

“While you’re gone, I’m going to pack and get some writing done.”

“You’re going to start writing again? That’s wonderful!”

“I decided last night that it’s time. I’ve cut myself off too long, Lita. I need something to make me feel like me again.”

“Good. Then I don’t have to fuss at you.” She patted his cheek. “I’ll be back before the kids get home.”

“Call if you need me.”

“I’ll do that very thing. See you, baby.” She patted his cheek again and left in a perfumed cloud.

The next few days passed in a blur for Kyle. Between moving Carmelita and preparing for their trip, he was busier than he’d been at the office. It was a good kind of busy, though. It wasn’t the bury himself in work to keep from grieving kind of busy. This was with a purpose—that of spending special time with his family. He couldn’t remember the last time they had a family vacation. Nearly two years, if he remembered correctly.

Monday night they drove to Cocoa Beach and spent the night with friends who lived there. The next morning, they reported to their ship, amazed at how full it seemed, even if it was operating at far less than capacity. Their cabins were luxurious by any standards with perfect views. The children made themselves at home and were enjoying the pool as the ship pulled out of the port. Kyle sat by the pool slathered with sunscreen sipping a vodka martini. Carmelita sat beside him trying to pretend she didn’t know him if any good looking men walked by.

Examining her objectively, Kyle could see that she would probably have very little trouble finding male companionship. Nearly six feet tall, she had the statuesque build of a goddess. Her legs were long, shapely and muscular making him feel scrawny and weak. No slack himself, he wasn’t much taller than she was, but very wiry of build.

“You look like an Amazon Queen, Lita,” he commented quietly.

“I hope that’s meant to be a compliment, or else you won’t live through this first day.”

© Dellani Oakes 


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The War On Bunnies

Bob’s War on Bunnies occurs every spring in our suburban neighborhood. It’s disgusting, violent and shocking like an outtake from some TV nature show. Worse, Bob leaves it to Mom to remove the inedible body parts–gall bladders, tails, bits of fur–from the porch. Mom’s Aunt Juliet in Ohio reminds her about the dangers of allowing intermediate vectors into one’s home on a cuddle-me basis. Bob spends his evenings with his head in Mom’s lap while she watches The Big Bang Theory and Jeopardy. Late at night, when she should be sleeping, Mom fears she may become the Typhoid Mary of the next global pandemic. She also remembers the kid’s book Horror Classic, There’s a hair in my dirt! by Gary Larsen.

 Bob cleans house—out-of-doors. Although he’s grown a bit timid about attacking squirrels now that he’s no longer a hungry stray balls-out Tom Cat, he still likes to eat bunnies. Along with bunnies, his hit list includes darling chippies, birdies, mice and voles. Voles are the loss leader among the daily offerings; even when there’s nothing else to be out-smarted and slain, there’s always some poor bastard vole ambling near-sightedly past. Yes, my rescue cat is the bane of the local wildlife, except for the fine assortment of parasites he picks up from the guts of his prey. Then it’s time for Mom Picks Up after Bob and Mom does laundry for Bob, along with a trip to the vet for the tablets to de-worm a 13 lb. cat. 

He’s good about swallowing the first pill, but his dose is 1 ½ tablets, so he puts a paw down, or, actually his jaw closes, on my fingers as they attempt to deploy the second half.  That, he seems to believe, is pushing his goodwill in a shameless, numb-nuts duh-human way. He sets about explaining this with saber-like claws and shiny, clean white teeth.  He’s semi-polite, not quite ready to rip my arm off, but he’s firmly in the negative. Mom often has to give up.


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One Hot January in February

In 1992 a man approached me to tell his story. His name was Joe January. I was intrigued after our first meeting—I thought there was something of Philip Marlowe in January. That encounter resulted in January’s Paradigm. With January’s direction, I’ve since written the second volume, One Hot January—forthcoming any day from Second Wind—and the final volume, January’s Thaw (to launch later this year). Combined, they paint a profile of a man out of place out of time.

A private investigator from the South Bronx, circa 1940, January, perhaps best described as an indignant Humphrey Bogart, is as hardboiled as they come. Despite spanning two centuries and dealing with time travel and alternate realities, January’s story is anything but just a story. The denouement is less than happily ever after (but such is life), and January at times comes across as a sort of comic book superhero. But in youth we often view ourselves as invincible, only later seeing the global repercussions of our actions. Yet given the chance to live life over again, who would turn their back? Hence the meat of January’s story is largely about regret: how, through his own foolishness, he lost the two women who meant the most to him.

In One Hot January, the emotionally aloof January uncovers an impossible plot of time travel and an alternate reality in which Germany has won World War II by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, who must prevent the secret of Hitler’s location from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is transported one hundred years into the future where, in the sequel, January’s Thaw, he must survive by his century-old sagacity in our modern world, or as January observes: “Pornography, pollution, global warming, corrupt politics, terrorism, and for all your purported connectivity through the Internet and cell phones, your society is more disconnected than ever.” Sometimes we must look into the past for the voice of reason.

Set against the backdrop of an alternate reality in which Germany won World War II, January’s tale is compelling, and I couldn’t be more pleased he chose me to tell it. I think I’ve managed to capture and remain true to his story as well as his voice. We both hope you’ll enjoy his journey.

J. Conrad Guest, author of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings and One Hot January

Photo courtesy of Sommerville Photographie



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Take a Bite Outta Crime – part 2

In our last installment, Kirk Nunne & his wife, Drea Barr, owners of Barr Nunne Caterers, were waiting for their fish supplier.  When Jay didn’t show up on time, Kirk went to his shop to see what was wrong.  (Bouillabaisse for 300 doesn’t make itself, after all.)  Inside the shop, Kirk found Jeff, injured and dying.  We join him once more as he calls for assistance.

“Emergency operator. What is your emergency?”
Kirk gave her the particulars.
“Sir, are you inside the premises?”
“Yes, ma’am. That’s how I found Jay.”
“Don’t touch anything. Leave the building immediately.”
“He shouldn’t be alone….”
“I have three units on the way. ETA, 30 seconds. Leave now. The perpetrator could still be there.”
Suddenly realizing how stupid he was for going in the building alone, Kirk walked carefully to the back door. He heard sirens approaching and saw flashing lights outside. Raising his hands once more, he walked out the door.
“I’m the guy who called,” he said loudly. “I have identification in my pocket. I’m reaching for it.”
Slowly and smoothly, he reached into his pocket. Pulling out his wallet, he held it where the police could see it. One young officer stepped forward, taking the wallet. He examined the license carefully. Nodding to his companions, he handed it back to Kirk.
“Is an ambulance coming? Jay’s hurt.”
“Any minute,” the young officer replied.
As promised, the siren grew louder as an ambulance turned the corner heading up the beach. Kirk explained to the officers what he had seen and heard when he entered the market.
“Did you touch anything?” His cop buddy asked. His name was Officer Scott.
“No. The door was open, so was the cooler. I walked right in.”
The paramedics carried Jay out on a stretcher. He was ghostly pale. The emergency team looked tight lipped and grim. Not a good sign, Kirk thought.
“Why were you here, Mr. Nunne?” Officer Scott asked him.
“I’m a caterer. Jay was late with our fish order and my sous-chef was having a major meltdown. Bouillabaisse for 300 doesn’t make itself.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t let you get your fish.”
“The bride will have to settle for French Onion Soup. That was our backup plan. I’ll make a call. I sure as hell hope Jay will be okay.”
The officer’s radio scratched to life. “Percy to Scott.”
“Scott here, go ahead.”
“We lost him, Scotty.”
“Roger that, Percy. Thanks. I’ll track down next of kin.” He turned to Kirk. “Sorry, sir. Your friend didn’t make it. Do you happen to know his family?”
Kirk shrugged. “I didn’t know Jay that well. He was a business associate and chatting acquaintance. My wife may know more. Hang on. I have to call her anyway about that soup.”
“Oh, sure.”
Kirk made the call, leaving instructions for Margo to contact the bride. The crime scene team arrived as he concluded his call.
“She remembers a daughter,” Kirk told the officer. “Her name is Carley Simpson and she lives here in the city. Drea thinks she might be a model or works for an agency. Jay used to tell her about the locations and photo shoots. He was trying to get us in with that crowd to help our business.”
“That was nice of him.”
“Helping us helped him. He is – was – the best fish supplier around. Reliable, reasonable and his fish were always fresh. We did a lot of business with him. Seafood is rather a specialty of ours.”
“Can you think of anyone who would want to kill him?”
“Like I said, I didn’t really know him that well. He was a nice guy, widowed, that’s about all I knew.”
“Thanks for your help, Mr. Nunne. Here’s my card. If you think of anything….”
“I’ll call you for sure. I hope you can find out who killed him. He was a good man.”


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Bookcase Adventures

Ogden St. George

Ogden St. George

My mother had a charismatic English friend named Rosemary, whose home we visited during several school holidays. She lived in an rambling old stone house in the evocatively named small and ancient village of Shipton-Under-Wychwood.

In memory, my image of Rosemary has merged with Julia Child’s. Mother’s friend was a tall, fair, big-boned Englishwoman, forever engaged in day long sessions with French recipe books, standing in an enormous dim kitchen filled with arcane culinary devices and dangling copper pans. Her children were much younger than I, so they weren’t very interesting to me, a solitary teen. She also kept 6 or 7 (they milled in a group, so it was tough to count how many there actually were) long-haired Dachshunds, a breed of dog I’d never met before. They were charming dogs who liked to lie in heaps on the couch, like a fluffy, smiling pile of black and tan pillows.

Rosemary had terrific bookcases, which I was turned loose upon while she and Mom sipped sherry in the kitchen. These were full of historical novels from the 30’s and 40’s—some earlier. Here were Norah Lofts and Elizabeth Goudge with their mystical and yet oh-so-grisly- vision of the romantic past. Between those covers I discovered a burning love for the genre, and learned what a mesmerizing time travel experience a good writer can deliver. The most exotic of all the books Rosemary owned were the ones by Joan Grant: “Winged Pharoah,” and “Lord of the Horizon.” Mrs. Grant always said her “novels” were, in fact, recalled past lives. So brilliantly realized were they infected my subconcious; I dreamed of them for many years. Those books also kindled a keen interest in topics which were considered totally wacko in the ‘50’s, but are now Cable TV staples: past lives, auras, astral projection, Egyptian gods and ghosts, Atlantis, and so on.

Rosemary was also an expert in all these new and fascinating topics, and seemed to like to talk to me. After a few hours, I found I could enter the kitchen and talk with her about all the astonishing things I’d read. The ladies, having imbibed several glasses of sherry and had their grown-up chat, were quite welcoming, even Mom, who was proud of my geekiness. I remember sitting on a stool in that imperfectly lighted kitchen, watching Rosemary turn a perfectly delicious bird into a pate, which to my kid taste buds didn’t taste half as good as plain turkey.

Meanwhile, ever more dishes piled into the big sink. Spoons and sharp knives littered the counter. The dachshunds were underfoot, begging for thrown treats and getting them, their long ears dragging across a slate floor accumulating an authentically medieval patina of grease.


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What Second Wind Book Do You Wish to Read? You Might Get Your Wish!


balloon2Leave a comment telling us what Second Wind book you would like to read. Five commenters, chosen at random will receive an ebook of their choice. One of the lucky winners might balloon2abbe you!

It’s our party, and we can do what we want. So besides giving away five ebooks, we are giving you a present. Click on a package to receive your surprise.

gift3                gift2 



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