As authors, we have to get creative—that’s our job, right? Depending upon the book, our setting changes, and a real locale doesn’t always lend itself to the tale. Then, we have to get really imaginative and build something from the ground up. (No pun intended) I had this problem with a book I began in 2008. I knew I wanted a large city, but I didn’t want to use something famous, like Chicago or New York. For starters, I’ve never been to New York and have only passed through Chicago, so dealing with real geography was daunting. I didn’t want someone to come back at me and tell me I got street names wrong, or changed a location into something that it wasn’t.
Instead, I decided to create a city of my own, fleshing it out with buildings and inhabitants as necessary. It started small, and grew rapidly into something entirely beyond my imagination. I never gave this city a name, partly because I couldn’t think of something that didn’t sound really stupid. Instead, I left it, thinking I would come up with a name eventually. Nine years later, I still haven’t named it, and I’ve written approximately 45 more books set there.
Not everything is perfect in The City. It has its share of traffic snarls, accidents, bank robberies, drive by shootings and drug deals gone wrong. The City police force is sometimes stretched thin, especially when a major riot starts in the Trifecta – also called the War Zone by residents and police. There are bright spots there, however; a string of beautiful parks, an extensive area that houses an art museum, natural history museum, aquarium, planetarium and a variety of other cultural buildings.
I never expected this city setting to grow and take off as it has, but like so many things, it grew when I wasn’t looking. I love my city and I wish it really existed, because I’d move there in a heartbeat. My newest novel, So Much It Hurts, coming out November 1, from Tirgearr Publishing, is set in The City. Small town girl, Pia Donovan, has recently moved from Nebraska, in order to begin her masters degree in music at the City University. Feeling rather overwhelmed by it all, she’s lucky enough to stumble (literally) into Flynn Chancellor, an art major. He takes her under his wing and introduces her to a variety of wonderful people – including his roommate, Yancy Fredrick, who is in business. Pia feels right at home with the two handsome men, and finds that she enjoys their company. Flynn offers to see show her the campus. While there, they meet up with Yancy, who was there for an adviser meeting.
Excerpt from So Much It Hurts
“Want to grab a coffee?” Yancy asked.
“Already had one. I wouldn’t say no to something cold,” Pia replied. “Do we need to go back to the union?”
“Nope. Some enterprising business majors,” he emphasized with a knowing glance, “decided to open a cafe with some of the culinary art students. It’s right here.” He pointed to another anonymous, functional building. This one had details in sky blue. The one he’d come out of was identical, done in dark green. “On me,” he offered.
“You know my order,” Flynn said. “Pia, you will love their sno-cones.”
She gave him a skeptical look.
“Trust me. The lady will have a Barbie and I’ll have Wedding Cake, both with cream.”
“You know, that sounds better than coffee,” Yancy said.
“We have a mocha flavored one,” the young woman said. “And with cream, divine.” The tag on her chest declared her name was Annie.
“Better than Wedding Cake?” Flynn raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing is better than Wedding Cake,” Annie replied. “Except the Barbie.”
“Wedding Cake. Sno-cones.” Pia’s skeptical tone was unmistakable.
“Yeah. Tastes like tiny, frozen pieces of cake, even has the texture of the icing.”
“I’ll try the mocha,” Yancy decided. “Thanks.”
Annie made them quickly, placing spoons in them. “Stir it up,” she told Pia.
The three of them stirred the cream in and Pia took a bite. The girl and both men stared at her. Self-conscious, she choked as the cold hit her throat. It passed quickly, but heads were turning.
“Fine,” she squeaked. “Cold!”
“And?” they all said.
“So good! Delicious.”
“Taste.” Flynn held up his spoon to her. “Don’t worry, I haven’t eaten off it.”
“You’ll get my germs.”
“I’ll live.” He held up the spoon again, teasing her mouth.
Trying not to touch it with her lips, she took a bite. Closing her eyes, she moaned. “Oh, my God, that’s better than sex.”
The men burst out laughing and Annie joined them.
“I said the same thing,” she said. “And this one,” she pointed to Flynn, “assured me that it wasn’t, because I hadn’t had sex with him yet.”
“We haven’t,” Flynn stated suddenly. He wanted that clear. He made erasing motions in the air with his spoon.
“Nor have we,” Yancy added with a smile.
Pia could tell from the girl’s expression, she wouldn’t have minded if either of them had made a move. Yancy leaned on the counter, blue eyes capturing Annie’s, his smile making her gasp.
“You’re sure I’m gonna like this?” he asked, casually ducking his chin. His eyes flickered up, lighting on hers once more.
“Positive,” she whispered, blushing.
He opened his mouth, touching the spoon with the tip of his tongue. Flicking it at the ice, he suddenly sucked it into his mouth, savoring the flavor. Annie watched, barely breathing.
“Oh, dude. Try.” He held out the spoon to Flynn.
“Mother fu— Damn, that’s good!”
“I have three brothers, you don’t have to edit. May I?” Pia giggled.
“Be my guest.” Yancy held the cup toward Pia.
She took a bite with her spoon. She gave another soft moan. “Oh, my God!” She rolled her eyes, licking her spoon.
Both men stared, spoons halfway to their mouths. The women laughed at them.
“Gotcha!” Pia pointed at each of them with a giggle. “I have three brothers. Do you think I don’t know how to get under a man’s skin?”
“I was suddenly aware that no woman has made that sound for me, ever,” Yancy admitted quietly. “And I’m thinking I need to up my game.”
“I’m so hot right now, I don’t think I can walk,” Flynn mumbled.
“Did you mean to say that aloud?” Pia asked.
“No. But my off-switch broke when you moaned.”
“You’re dripping,” Annie stated.
Both men looked at their flies, eliciting more female laughter.
“Made ya look!” she chortled.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
I invite you to visit my city, get to know the residents, and learn to love it as much as I do.
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