Is there room in fantasy for strong, healthy relationships…?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in heroic fantasy | 0 comments

Raised in Tolkien, nurtured by the writings of Anne McCaffrey, a child of Star Wars, and an admirer of the writing of Joss Whedon, I found myself struggling with the question of whether there was a place for strong, healthy relationships in the face of the incest and rape at the heart of so much of G. R. R. Martin’s books. (He kills off every even remotely good relationship like he does all his ‘good’ characters. Sorry if that’s a spoiler.) One of the major flaws of the later Star Wars movies was that the ‘bromance’ (a word I hate) between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-wan overshadowed and was in some ways more compelling than the romance between Anakin and Padme.

With that legacy, I wanted to take my readers on a journey that looked at everything from prejudice to the price of war in a different, more intimate way. I also wanted to dispel the notion that women couldn’t fight alongside men, or lead them. Despite the fact that they had been doing that from time immemorial – many of the ‘goddesses’ of ancient times may have been female leaders demonized by their enemies. The ancient Persians were proud of their female warriors. There were complaints written in ancient texts about the independence of Egyptian women. It wasn’t until the more paternalistic religions took precedence that women were relegated to the sidelines – this despite Judith, and the Queen of Sheba, and the various successful women rulers throughout the centuries. Queen Victoria’s devotion to her husband Albert is well known, and proof that romance can exist even with a strong female ruler.
That’s something else I wanted to show – that a woman can be strong and capable, yet still have a good relationship.
In Star Wars it’s Leia who goes to rescue Han, until she’s unmasked. 
I loved the romance between Zoe the warrior/first mate and Wash the pilot in Firefly, it was realistic, not without its struggles, but they were devoted to each other. As were Aeryn Sun and John Crichton in Farscape – another of my favorite shows.
As a culture, we’re oddly cynical about relationships. We focus on the 50% that don’t succeed rather than the 50% that do, and forget that until recent times good solid healthy marriages were the rule rather than the exception. It still makes me smile to think of one couple who were interviewed on NPR – they’d been together for 50 years and were still devoted. Both people were committed to the relationship through thick and thin.
What I didn’t want was to be consigned – as some very good writers are – to the female ‘ghetto’ of ‘romance writer’.
I struggled with that in a pretty deep crisis of conscience – until I came on-line. In one of those odd moments of serendipity, one of the first things I saw was a blog about the best relationships in Sci-fi, including some of my favorites.
Those were the kinds of relationships I wanted to explore in my novels, built on mutual respect and shared values that survive despite the turmoil of their lives. There might be centuries of difference between the two main characters in one of my books, and they might come from different ‘races’, but they recognize those shared values and develop the mutual respect over the course of the books. In another, despite being terribly damaged by her past, another character still finds a man strong enough to accept her for who she is.
I’m still in transition, and I don’t know if I’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m searching for a way through so I can still take my readers on wonderful, magical journeys.
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Honor and integrity

Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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

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Fantasy Discount Weekend

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Dear readers, especially those who love fantasy,

This coming weekend the Alexandria Publishing Group will have a special for you. Many of our fantasy books will be free then, so if you haven’t gotten all our books on your virtual shelves yet, this weekend will be your opportunity to stock up at a price that can’t be beat.

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A Convocation of Kings – Second Edition

Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in writers | 1 comment

Why a rewrite, you might ask? Many would argue that a professional writer – and I consider myself a professional – would never do such a thing, that you should never release a book that isn’t finished.
Well, I didn’t – insofar as the perfectionist in me would allow. I was happy with A Convocation of Kings, it was a good book . It accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, said the things I wanted to say – that love can conquer all and  the hatreds war engenders are never over when the fighting is over, among others.
I remember reading a quote from a famous artist that said that even when the painting is on the wall of a museum he could spot  little things he might have done differently.
Another quote says that a work of art is never truly finished, it’s just abandoned – a quote possibly attributed to DaVinci.
I understand both quotations. (and yes, writing is an art.)
But a point has to be reached where you simply have to say – It’s done.
Go to any one of thousands of writer’s groups and you’ll find dozens of people who have been working on the same manuscript for years, endlessly polishing, questioning each word or phrase, critiquing each other’s work, but never submitting a single manuscript. And they probably never will.
I understand that, too, but there is a point where you can actually tweak a story to death, render every sentence sterile and remove any semblance of soul.
You want it to be the best it can be, but sooner or later, you have to let it go.
So I made A Convocation of Kings as good as I could make it, and then let it go.
So again, why the rewrite?
Because, as any artist or writer can tell you, sometimes your mind is wandering and then suddenly this idea pops up out of nowhere. I was working on this completely different project when I had this brainstorm about A Convocation of Kings. Was it anything specific? I don’t really remember. I was just driven to take another look at it. (Ask my husband, I disappeared into my writing room for the better part of three weeks.) I just knew it could be better and how to get it there. So I sat down, started on page one and did an extensive edit, tightening some scenes, making others clearer, expanding on others, deleting one or two that didn’t move the story forward while adding others. New characters popped up and a small character got bigger, to reflect the part of the story that revolved around the main characters.
I’m hardly the first one to have done it. Stephen King released a Complete and Uncut version of The Stand because he wanted to put back in some scenes that had been edited out.
In the past, that wasn’t possible. That may be one of the blessings of being an indie writer, especially of e-books. It’s a new world, a new way of doing things, and we may now have the freedom to make changes on the fly – whether just minor grammar changes or something as extensive as with A Convocation of Kings.
All I know for certain is that when I finished, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. A Convocation of Kings was a good book. I really believe that now it’s a better book.

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