I’ve always found honor and integrity fascinating. The struggle to maintain either in the face of a world – ours or imaginary – that often values neither. That’s where the true conflict lies. All of my characters have to deal with that, but none so much as Elon and Jareth in The Coming Storm. Even Daran High King has his own sense of honor, and holds true to it.
It is Elon and Jareth who struggle with it the most, though. Colath, Elon’s true-friend, faces no such struggle, he simply lives both without question. There are those very rare people who do that.
Elon, though, is more complex. He understands the consequences of his actions and decisions, yet even so he fights to do the right, the honorable thing, on both a grand and a personal level. Despite everything he believes, everything his and the greater society believes, he does what he knows is right, even if there will be consequences,even at the risk of his own life.
For Jareth, honor is more personal, a moment by moment decision he has to make and it’s not always easy for him. He didn’t come from a good background, as we discover in A Convocation of Kings. For him those choices are more complicated.
It’s those decisions and the people who make them that intrigues me and its something many of my characters have to struggle with. The kind of decisions about what’s best, either on a grand scale or a smaller one.
What is it about some men and women that send them running toward danger to help or save others, and not away? That’s what interests me.
It’s not always the big, muscular “hero” types either. Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at fit men as much as any other woman, but it’s not always the Alpha males that are so popular in fiction who go charging into the face of danger. Watch the news, many of the cops and firemen you see are just average people – not particularly tall or overwhelmingly muscular, just fit. (Although there are a LOT of pictures of very muscular fireman on FB).
We do have a thing in our society about physical appearance. Most people tend to think that danger comes in the form of disreputable people, which makes TV shows like Dexter believable on an entirely different level than what was intended. Dexter is a serial killer of serial killers, but he’s attractive so he has to be the good guy. The reality is that people like the man who kept three women hostage in Cleveland was that he was so ordinary in real life that no one gave a thought to him. To some extent I have to blame those line-up pictures that the news shows put up…but then again, how many of these people have time to pretty themselves up for that? What they should have shown was a picture of the man his neighbors and friends saw – not the disheveled monster.
We also have glorified the anti-hero, the person who has to be convinced to do the right thing (or the schlub who can barely do anything right).
Yet I look at the firefighters who died in AZ; or the cops, firefighters, and first responders who went up into the Towers, and I know that few of them fit those stereotypes. They did – and many still do – what was right because it was the right thing to do.
Those are the characters in my books…Whether it’s Kyriay in Song of the Fairy Queen, who decides to restore Oryan to his throne when no one would blame her if she took her people into the deep forest and let men fight among themselves. Or Ariel in Lucky Charm, who grabs a two by four when she sees three men beating up a fourth. Or Ky in Heart of the Gods, who risks his life and identity. None of them are boring, all are complex, each makes their decisions for their own reasons, and all of their books will keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat…
The Coming Storm http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WLOBG2
Author page http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Douglas/e/B0036POJZI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 Read More »
The Last Resort
Since the release of the girls in Cleveland OH from their kidnapper there have been a lot of question. Chief among them – at first – was why they didn’t escape. Then the details began to come out – the chains, the locked doors, the withheld foods. And of course the beatings.
CBS News did a special report on battered spouses. As if it was something new. And of course, the reporter asked the same questions of the woman they interviewed. It was more understandable from the kidnap victims, but he got the same answers. Why didn’t she call for help? No cell phone. Why didn’t she escape, run? The doors were locked from the outside. He mentioned that many victims take up to seven tries to successfully escape. What he didn’t mention was that it’s also the most dangerous time for the victim. The time when she’s most likely to be killed by her spouse.
How do I know so much? Experience. I was one of the lucky ones, though. It only took two tries for me to escape. Why two tries at all? Well, there’s a pastor who owes me his life, because if I told him the truth when he asked or didn’t go home with my ask, we’d both be dead. Along with all those folks in the church.
When anyone asks me which book I would choose as the best book I’ve ever written, The Last Resort is one of them. Surprisingly, for its topic it’s also fun and heartwarming. I wrote it that way deliberately for several reasons – I wanted to show someone who had moved on, and because I wanted to write an entertaining book that wasn’t preachy. It’s the only book I’ve ever written in the first person, and it has some amazing characters. Real and unreal. I’ll leave you to figure out which is which. *grinning* Someday, as planned, I’ll write the sequel.
Review – Ms Douglas crafts a fine tale of romance, intrigue and suspense. Her characters draw you in and you feel that if you met Carrie on the street you would probably recognize her. Carrie has her own demons to battle as she wages war against the foes of others.
When Jack Spencer, the Head of Security for Fairview Mountain Resort, calls to about a missing coed, computer tech and sometimes troubleshooter Carrie Anderson answers. The last thing the resort needs is bad publicity. Jack knows that on the side Carrie is part of a team that help domestic violence victims escape their homes and abusers.
Complicating things for Carrie is the handsome new attorney that just joined the team.
What she finds, though, will test her skills at making people disappear and put all their lives in danger.
The Lutheran Church, Pastor Charles, bless his heart. He was young and a little too naïve, a big, gangly, lanky man, but he wasn’t a bad pastor. There was one car in the church parking lot. A beat up old Chevy. Not the Pastor’s car. The parsonage for the church was down the street on the other side.
Sometimes it just went like this, nothing for a couple of months, and then suddenly a bunch of calls.
I headed for the door to the church, knocking just as Drew’s Volvo pulled into the lot. He’d wasted no time. That was a good sign. On the other hand, maybe he just wanted to make sure I knew he took this seriously. The thought he was trying to impress me pleased me more than it should have.
It was a small church, with the Pastor’s office and the Sunday school in the basement. I opened the door and held it for Drew.
“What have we got?”
“I don’t know yet,” I said, as I stepped inside the little entryway.
There was a short flight of stairs up into the Sunday school hall, and to the right, a longer flight of stairs down to the pastor’s office in the basement.
Pastor Charles poked his head out of the door at the bottom of the stairs. “We’re down here.”
He stepped out as we came down. “She’s quite upset. Her name is Sandy Miller.”
From the office I heard a bark, a little sharp one. Unmistakable. She’d brought a puppy. I blew out a breath. And what else?
He smiled ruefully. “She brought her dog.”
Oddly enough, I didn’t think that was a good sign.
We stepped inside.
Sandy Miller was a nervous wreck, pacing uneasily. Also, not a good sign. It wasn’t the agitation, victims were usually scared, but something about the quality of her tension. There were two children on the floor, one about eight, one about five, and both were far too quiet. The puppy bounced between them yipping, wanting to play. The children weren’t in a playing mood.
“Pastor,” Sandy blurted, “I’m so scared.”
With his sweet gentleness, he gestured at Drew and I. “These people are here to help you.”
“He’s really bad, really,” she said. “I’m so scared.”
She was moving very stiffly, as if her back hurt her.
“Okay,” I said, gently. “Are you sure you want to leave?”
“Yes, oh, yes,” she said. “Now. We have to hurry. When he finds out we’re gone… He said he was going to check on us. Make sure everything was okay.”
Warning bells were going off. Loudly. I took a deep breath but my heart was suddenly pounding.
“How often? How long ago?”
The look Drew gave me told me he was picking up on the concern in my tone.
She looked at me sorrowfully. “An hour, maybe. He called, just to check on me. I already had everything packed. I grabbed the kids, but they wouldn’t leave the dog, so I ran back inside to get it and then ran out the door.”
Some part of her knew. Oh, shit. Talk about a baptism by fire. Oh, I hoped we had time.
“Pastor, get the puppy if you would, Sandy get the children.”
I was hooking my hands-free over my ear and pushing speed dial. “Code,” was all I said when Moira picked up. I hung up instantly. “Let’s go.”
All of us heard the sound of a car in the parking lot, hitting the gravel in a hurry, a bit of a skid.
One of the kids started crying as instinctively I hit the stairs two at a time, praying to get to the door first. The car door slammed even as I shot the lock home. Drew and the Pastor were both in the hallway.
“Are there any other doors unlocked?” I hissed.
“The front doors.”
“Try to keep the children quiet. Bring everyone out into the hallway so he can’t look through the windows.”
Both my shoes were off and I was sprinting through the building to the front of the church. It was a small church, very local. Come on, come on, I told myself as I tried to figure out how to lock them. Drew reached across from behind me and shot the bolt home. I jumped about a foot. He damn near scared the shit out of me.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, quietly.
“Too many things to explain right now.” I was already heading for the one window that would give me a clear view of the parking area as someone banged on the door.
“Sandy!” a voice shouted. “Sandy! I know you’re in there. Come on, honey. It’s okay. I’ll be good. I just got a little mad. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
He banged on the door again, the force of it belying his words. He was pissed. He’d seen the car and knew she was here.
Carefully, I peered out the window. Looked again. Ready to duck if he looked the wrong way, I took a closer look, trying to keep out of view. He was pacing in front of the door. There was something about the way his jacket was hanging. Then I was running barefooted through the church again, Drew close behind. I gestured him through the basement door and pulled it quietly shut behind me.
A very frightened Sandy Miller crouched with her children at the end of the hall. The Pastor was looking very bewildered.
“Sandy,” I whispered. Please don’t say yes. “Does your husband own a gun?”
Slowly, with big eyes, she nodded.
This was worst case scenario, all my preparations and plans undone. I nodded, hitting speed dial.
“Moira, call them off.”
I hung up. “Does he know where the parsonage is?”
Pastor Charles nodded, his face paling.
I darted quickly into the office, grabbed the phone, and dragged it out of the office.
“Call your wife, tell her to get out of the house. Go to the nearest neighbor’s. She’s to go now.”
If Sandy’s husband got no answer here at the church, that’s where he’d go next.
I dialed 911 on my cell phone.
“There’s a man with a gun at the Lutheran Church in Fall Meadows.”
“Stay on the line, please, I’m relaying to dispatch now.” I hit mute on my end, so I could hear her on the other end but I could still talk.
There was a bathroom down here, if I remembered correctly. No windows and a door. It would be crowded, but it would be one more door between us and him. “Sandy, take your children in the bathroom. It’s the door across from you.”
Pounding on the door upstairs. Thud. Thud. Thud.
“Sandy, I know you’re here. Come out here now.” The voice changed, wheedling. “Come on, Sandy. I’m not mad. I’m not.”
I slipped into the pastor’s office and peered up through the window, looking again, just to be sure. Wanting very badly to be wrong. Drew, standing next to me, was keeping in the shadows, looking up at the man now pacing impatiently away from the door.
Youngish, average height, brown hair, and eyes. A light windbreaker hanging heavily to one side. Something big and weighty in that pocket. He stuck his hand in the pocket, closed his hand around it, and wiggled it around.
“Do you see?” I whispered. He nodded, his eyes steady. Bless that.
We backed quickly away.
“Without seeing it for certain, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is,” I said, softly. “A gun.”
“How did you know?”
I let out a breath. “Instinct, I guess. I didn’t, for certain, but something about the level of fear. The way she ran, and the place she came. She’s young, she has parents, a family. She didn’t go to them, instead she went the one place she thought he might think twice about. Church.”
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They say writers should always go places that scare them, that make demands on their skills. Nike’s Wings was one of the more difficult books I’ve ever written, for a lot of reasons. Nike came to be by way of my vivid fantasy life, an article on parkour and a song – ‘She Don’t Want the World’ by Three Doors Down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bQAs1KYfIk I could see how parkour would be handy for an assassin who didn’t rely on strength or fancy weapons. That song played in the back of my head all through the scene that began it all, the moment when Ty confronts Nike at the abandoned school halfway through the book. I could see the dingy windows and smell the moldy mattresses. So Nike was born. Not only did I want to know how they got there, I wanted to know what happened next.
I’ve written harder scenes – the one where Elon and Colath are captured in The Coming Storm, for instance – but some of Nike and Ty’s experiences were difficult. I believe you have to put yourself where your characters are, share their experiences, and to some extent at one time I sort of had.
I didn’t need to do a lot of research, I’m an avid reader of not only books but newspapers and magazines. The information on the cartels, the wall, etc., are all based on real events. I was surprised when, shortly after writing it, a newspaper article suggested that the situation I postulated for how Nike was turned into an assassin might actually have been real.
Even so, I hesitated in releasing Nike, although I finished it over a year ago. I loved the book but something about it still felt incomplete. Not that the research didn’t come in handy *grins* I used it as the foundation for an erotic contemporary suspense called Special Delivery, written under the pen name V. J. Devereaux.
I worked on several novels in between but Nike niggled at the back of my mind. Then, one morning at 4 AM, I woke up. In that halfway space between dreaming and waking, Nike and I walked through those scenes and suddenly I had it. I got up, rewrote them and tumbled back to bed. Woke up, thinking about how it could be stronger, better. Wrote that. Halfway through the day, I had the last pieces, and it all fell into place.
Deliberately, I stepped back for a day or two before going back to her and doing the final edit. I passed her to people I knew and trusted, particularly one. The feedback came back positive, and so I released her.
Now she’s yours.
August 2001 Somewhere in Central/South America
The big custom-built Hummers bumped their way through the jungle along the rutted road to the oil fields. It was hardly Callie’s first trip out there but it was the first in such prestigious company. Her father’s boss and some man from the State Department, of all things, traveled with them. It didn’t look as if she’d need the book she had in her backpack, or get the chance to read it.
Oddly enough, it was turning out to be something of an occasion. Originally, they hadn’t planned to bring her along on this trip but she’d just turned eighteen and was due to fly back home to the states in just a few weeks. In less than a month she’d start her first year at Princeton University with a major in international studies. As it happened, Princeton was where both her father’s boss, Tony Gallegos, and the man from the State Department, Phillip Reeves, had attended college. Once her father mentioned it, both men insisted on bringing her along so they could fill her in and trade stories of their time there.
There were several vehicles in the expedition into the jungle where the oilrigs were located, a truck with some of the oil field workers, cars with guards both ahead and behind, another truck carrying supplies and their own Hummer.
Except for the presence of Mr. Reeves, it was a fairly routine trip. Tensions over the oil were rising among some of the more radical groups in the area so he’d come to try to negotiate with them to see if he could smooth the waters a bit.
First, though, he wanted to visit the oil fields. A lot of people were pretty pissed about it and some of them would be even more so if they knew about this trip. Some of them thought that statement said too much about his priorities, that like in Iraq the oil fields were more important to the U.S. than the negotiations. It was the oil that Reeves really cared about.
Callie had even heard some of that kind of talk on the streets among the people she hung out with there, her parkour and free-running friends.
Listening to him on the way out, she couldn’t really argue the point, it was all he talked about, the importance of the oil fields. That was, when he wasn’t talking about Princeton and the bars she had to visit in the towns near the campus once she was there.
So far, though, the trip had gone pretty quietly with the two men trading stories of their days at college. Callie caught an amused and resigned look from her father when the other two men weren’t watching. He gave her a wink and she smothered a grin.
She glanced out the windows at the thick undergrowth that ran so close beside the windows here along the road where the sun could reach and then up at the trees that towered high above them. Branches clattered and scraped against the glass. The sky was cloudy and dark above them, the sunlight of the morning vanishing as the rainy season clouds rolled in. To those who didn’t know the rain forest it was surprisingly cool, the clammy air thick and heavy with moisture. Some folks thought the humidity at home was bad but they’d never been in the jungle in the rainy season.
Both Mr. Gallegos and Mr. Reeves were reminiscing again over their days at college. Callie restrained a sigh, listening with only half an ear. A part of her longed for the book in her backpack. It was a long usually boring trip, broken only by the appearance of an animal or bird erupting out of the brush but now she couldn’t even read or she’d look rude.
The sudden chatter of automatic weapon fire shattered the boredom, the quiet.
Instantly it became a green and scarlet nightmare as bodies shuddered with the impact of bullets, blood sprayed, screams and cries ran out as men fell amid the shouting and confusion.
Glass shattered in the car ahead of them, every window exploding as bullets stitched along the side of it from the cover of the underbrush. The bodies of those within juddered with the impact of the bullets as blood flew like rain. Some of the guards bailed out of the vehicles in a desperate attempt to return fire and save themselves. Bullets savaged them. Their bodies jerked and twisted as more blood flew. It was so sudden, so shocking Callie couldn’t even draw breath enough to scream. Others tried to run to save themselves and were cut down anyway.
The noise was incredible, the sheer volume of the sound stupefying, overwhelming.
Callie tried to twist in her seat to see the guards that rode in the car behind them. One of them, Jeremy, had been teaching her self-defense. He’d been with the Navy Seals and she’d liked him. Had a crush on him. No one had been expecting any trouble.
Even as she turned, her father unfastened her seatbelt and dragged her off the car seat onto the floor.
She only had a brief glimpse of the chaos erupting behind them before her father’s weight crushed her to the floor of the car. Instinctively she wrapped her arms around her head. She didn’t even know she was screaming as the car bumped and jerked, the driver trying desperately to get around the lead cars until bullets smashed through the windshield.
Hot wetness splashed the side of her face as the car filled with the coppery aroma of blood.
The car jolted to a halt, shouting men firing their weapons into the air pulled the doors open and roughly dragged everyone out, pushing and shoving as the gunfire continued. She smelled burning fuel and scorched metal.
Callie’s father fought to keep them away from her, fought to hold onto her, shouting at them, but the men tore her away. More shots were fired as she was dragged off into the jungle.
When she looked around, all she saw was the men who’d taken them. Mr. Reeves and Mr. Gallegos.
She didn’t see her father.
The rough, dirty, smelly men dragged and shoved her ahead of them, barking at her in Spanish. She nodded numbly, staggering between them along the nearly invisible trail.
She glanced back just once before the jungle closed around them.
Bloody bodies were scattered around the vehicles and the road. No one moved. One of the trucks exploded and she flinched. Thick black smoke billowed. It rose above the trees. She couldn’t see any sign of her father, of Jeremy…then even the trucks disappeared behind the dense foliage.
Somehow she knew her father was gone…dead…but somehow she couldn’t quite bring herself to believe it. She had no time for tears or grieving, only surviving. If her father had died trying to save her, the least she could do was stay alive.
She was so scared…so scared…but Jeremy’s words as he had been teaching her echoed in her head. “Most people die because they stop thinking, Callie,” he’d advised. “Don’t stop thinking.”
Unconsciously she nodded in response to his remembered words. She wondered if he’d had time to think before he died.
She’d only been taking the lessons from him because he was cute…and he seemed to think she was, too. Now he was dead back there like the others. Because if he wasn’t dead, they would still be shooting and her father would be calling for her. But he wasn’t.
Her throat was tight.
Maybe Jeremy’s words, his training, would save her even if they hadn’t saved him. Tears streamed down her face. That was his legacy to her. That and her life.
Another set of words moved through her mind, words from an old science fiction book she’d read. She thought of deserts, not jungles, and of enduring. Of surviving.
Something about fear.
Her mind worried at the puzzle of those words, trying to remember them right.
The men tied her wrists together, pushed and shoved her along, shouted epithets in Spanish.
Knowledge, too, was a dangerous thing. It was a valuable thing. She would keep her knowledge of Spanish to herself. Everything was an edge. She would survive. Somehow, she would survive this.
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Writing The Last Resort was such a strange and wonderful experience. It’s very loosely based on real events and some real people (names changed to protect the guilty). A part of me is curious if readers will be able to tell which is which, some of the characters definitely felt as real to me as their living counterparts.
It’s also the only one of my books written in the first person and of all my characters, Carrie is the closest to me as a person. And, strangely, it’s been a bridge between the past and the present – the description of the character of Drew, based on a real person I never met, closely resembles my husband in a lot of ways. Who I didn’t meet until after I wrote it.
A mix of thriller, mystery and romance, despite that at its core it has a lighter heart than many of my other books. A missing coed, a group of people dedicated to helping people escape domestic violence, and a budding romance between two people who haven’t have much luck at love. All that’s about to change.
The Last Resort
When Jack Spencer, the Head of Security for Fairview Mountain Resort calls to ask her to find a missing coed, computer tech and sometimes troubleshooter Carrie Anderson answers. The last thing the resort needs is bad publicity. Jack knows that on the side, Carrie is part of a team that help domestic violence victims escape their homes and abusers. Complicating things is the handsome new attorney that just joined the team.
What she finds though will test all her skills at making people disappear and put all their lives in danger.
(My name is Carrie Anderson and this was a helluva first rescue for Drew…)
There was banging on the doors above us.
“Can you hear him?” I asked the 911 operator.
“Yes, ma’am. I heard that. Officers are on their way.” “How long?”
In rural areas like ours, it could be as short as twenty minutes – too long – or even longer, before help arrived.
She hesitated. “They’re coming as quickly as they can.”
In other words, too long. Okay. Back to Plan A.
I peeked out the window. He was standing out there pacing in agitation, pulling on his hair. He kicked the door, pulled something big, shiny, and metallic out of his pocket, and pointed it at the door. He thought about it. Now I could clearly see it. Definitely a gun. Abruptly, he turned and started across the parking lot. I hit mute.
“Everyone up the stairs,” I said.
I led the way. “I go first. If I yell ‘back’, get back inside the door, lock it, and go back downstairs into the bathroom. Okay? Don’t argue, don’t stop, just go. Got it?”
They nodded. Sandy looked very shaky.
“Don’t fall apart on me now,” I cautioned. “Remember the children.”
Her eyes widened, but she seemed to steady.
No window in the door. Take a chance, unlock it, and look? I had to.
Easing back the lock, I pulled open the door a crack and peeked out.
He was standing at the edge of the parking lot by the road, irresolutely. He glanced back and I prayed he couldn’t tell the door was ajar. I held up a hand to the others. Wait.
Turning, he looked both ways and trotted down the road with determination. It made sense. If no one was here, the most likely place the Pastor would have taken them would have been the parsonage. His home. I wanted Miller on the porch. The parsonage was an old forties style two-story, with a wide porch that wrapped around one side. Two windows overlooked the porch and the door into the house was along the side. For thirty seconds or so we’d be out of view. Please.
The wait seemed interminable. I kept praying for sirens, but I didn’t hear them yet. Come on, come on. Down the road, Miller was trotting now, in a hurry. If he heard sirens, he’d turn around, make a run for his car. In his state of mind, he’d be almost sure they were coming for him. I wasn’t sure which to root for. Go, just please go.
He was up on the porch. Please let the Pastor’s wife be gone, or let him be on good behavior. Then he was around the corner.
“Now.” I sprinted out the door and hit the remote lock release on my car. “Drew, front seat. Pastor and Sandy, back. Dog and kids on the floor.”
Doors flew open as I rammed the key into the ignition and started the car. Doors slammed.
“Seatbelts,” I shouted, ramming mine into place before throwing the car in gear. My eyes were glued to the rearview mirror.
The slamming doors on a quiet Thursday afternoon had gotten his attention. I could see his tiny figure come flying off the porch at a dead run.
I hit the gas and shot the car toward the dirt road. Dust plumed behind us. I heard a noise, a bang, something. Please let it be too far away. Drew had a hand braced on the dashboard of the car, the other cradling a child’s head against his knee to keep it from bouncing off the bottom of the dash. Good man. The child looked up at me with wide, frightened eyes.
The Last Resort – available through Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/62262,
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