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East Pittsburgh Native Publishes Fantasy Book, 'The Black Crystal'

R. A. Oakes has written the 'Black Crystal,' a part of the Black Crystal Saga, a nine-novel series about Warrior Women in a magical land.

Paul Robert Oakes, under the nom de plume R. A. Oakes, published his first book, The Black Crystal.

The story is about a young warrior woman, Chen, who inherits her aunt's dark sword as she struggles against an abusive warlord. She is aided by Aerylln, heir to her own magic sword, but Chen's situation becomes even more precarious upon learning that the two swords are sentient beings locked in a blood feud that is centuries old.

Oakes grew up in East Pittsburgh, now part of Woodland Hills School District, and went on to Pennsylvania State University.

“I graduated from Penn State in 1972, and in my first semester there I took the Basic English writing class (English 1), and I only got a ‘C’ grade in the class," Oakes said. "But I must have learned something in that first class because in English 2, I got an ‘A.’" 

The author worked as a journalist for the New Castle News, in New Castle, PA. The job came about serendipitously.

Oakes said, “I wrote a letter to the editor at the New Castle News and the
executive editor, Len Kolasinski, asked me if I wanted to work for the paper."

He interned at the paper and enrolled at Slippery Rock University, studying journalism while writing human interest stories for the New Castle News. He did not stay in the field. According to the author, “I didn’t like writing negative news.”

After a circuitous route, the author came back to writing after years away from the pen.

His passion is for fiction. Oakes attributes his series to the strong women in his life. He said, “My book is a tribute to the 'warrior women' in my life.

“Some years ago, a female friend with a black belt in martial arts, Ronna Rothenberger, asked me if I'd ever considered writing warrior-women books," Oakes said. "Ronna was a great fan of Xena Warrior Princess, and she knew how I felt about female leadership.  After I began writing 'Black Crystal,' another good friend of mine, Dawn Rogers, ended up as the basis for female protagonist in the book. In real life, I had repeatedly witnessed Dawn make difficult personal decisions—ones that would require her to take actions involving considerable risk. And she never chose the path of least resistance.  Once I began writing 'Black Crystal,' it became obvious to me that such a true-life warrior woman had to become my lead character.”

The author cites grit and determination has the cornerstone of his accomplishments.

“When I graduated from high school, I had no idea I would become an author. The future holds many opportunities for all the students at Woodland Hills High School, ones that they might not envision for themselves at the moment. All you have to do is be open to possibilities. Also, believing in yourself is very, very important. It might well be the single most important ingredient for success. Inside all of us is greatness. It's like mining for gold. It's inside of you. You just have to have the determination to keep looking.”

The Black Crystal is available on Amazon for $14.95.

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