Top Shelf Indie Book Award Nominee – Song of the Fairy Queen!

Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in award, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, News, strong heroine | 0 comments

Top Shelf Indie Book Award Nominee – Song of the Fairy Queen!

A Top Shelf Indie Book Award Nominee (I didn’t submit it, someone else nominated it and Top Shelf thSong of the Fairy Queen Adought it was worthwhile. I’m floored.) http://topshelfmagazine.net/index.php/sci-fi-fantasy
“Brilliant, absolutely Brilliant. Having just finished reading ‘Song of the Fairy Queen’, I have to admit that it was one of the best books I have read in a while.”

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Don’t Stop Protesting, Don’t Stop Fighting #TimesUp #metoo #EnoughisEnough #NeverAgain #GunControl

Posted by on Feb 27, 2018 in About the writer, Millersburg Quartet, The Last Resort, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Domestic Violence GraphicWe thought we’d won. We thought we’d raised the issue of domestic violence. We thought change was on the horizon.

We were wrong.

We stopped fighting too soon. Domestic violence continues to kill — and not just the victims.

On Feb. 22, 2018 a police officer died aiding a neighbor. The shooter had a long history of domestic violence, an active protective order against him, and three open warrants, including for assault.

A man barred from owning firearms shot two officers in Westerville OH with a gun purchased by a friend, officials say. Both officers died.

Most police officers hate responding to domestics. They’re always unpredictable. Largely because victims quickly learn that even if their abuser is removed frgunsom the home, in many if not most states he’s released again by morning or within hours. By then, many victims discover that their abuser has all the economic power – she has no money, no way to escape.  She also knows that if he’s arrested after he’s released he’ll come home and things will get ugly. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she doesn’t have many choices – rip her home apart to throw herself and her kids on the kindness of strangers or stay. Most don’t know how to find a shelter. (Few are well-funded. In the US we give more to animal shelters than to domestic violence refuges.) All she wants is for it to stop.

The next officer(s) to respond deal with the result.

As these did. As do their families still and always.

The victims? They become invisible. Forced to live with the knowledge that calling for help got the officers killed.

I remember standing in the shower, getting clean for the first time in a week, and hearing a familiar voice shouting as I turned off the water. The familiar voice was that of the man I’d married. (I empathized with Rob Porter’s ex when she reported something similar.) My knees went weak, and I collapsed. He’d found me. No surprise, most domestic violence victims go to the one place they feel/felt safe. Home.

And he’d come armed for bear with a shotgun to either convince me to return or to kill me if I wouldn’t.

My sister tried to persuade him I wasn’t there. A neighbor, Mr. Blackburn, hearing the shouting, came to help. (This is the time when many who step in get killed.) Somehow, instead, Mr. Blackburn talked my husband into taking a drive around the block to cool off. Then Mr. Blackburn and my sister hurried into the house to sneak me out a side window so if my husband returned he wouldn’t see me.

All I had on was a towel, but Mr. Blackburn’s wife loaned me some clothes. What I’d been wearing – dictated by my husband – reeked.

Then Mr. Blackburn went back to be with my sister while my husband searched the house.

Why didn’t I call the police about my husband’s abuse? First, it was a rural area. Second, because his best friend was one of the local police officers, and my husband frequently went to their picnics. A lot of abusers are friendly with the local police. Like some who abuse, my husband could be personable, even charming. I was told frequently by coworkers and his friends how great a guy he was.

Even if I had, I dreaded the inevitable questions. Like ‘What did you do to make him mad?’ Nothing. I learned what many domestic violence victims learn – that he’s given the benefit of the doubt, while she’s just given the doubt.

For me, what made him angry once was looking up at the wrong time as we were driving we passed a hitchhiker walking along the road. (I never saw him.) My husband was shouting even as he U-turned the car. No sooner did we get inside the house than objects began flying – whatever he could get his hands on. It was his modus operandi, throwing things, and he had deadly aim.  (As you can see from the graphic at the top of the page, that’s not unusual.)

Sometimes he just needed to assert his dominance. I woke up once fighting to breathe. He had covered my mouth and nose. He told me he could end me if he wanted. And that wasn’t the worst of it. As is fairly common with some abusers, he escalated. There were guns everywhere. When he lost his temper or needed to prove his dominance, he pointed them at me. Russian Roulette, with my head as the target. I knew I had to leave, but to my shock, I discovered my car was gone. (I didn’t know then that he’d sold it, as well as emptying my bank account.)

That same weekend he went out the back door with a bundle in his arms, things I recognized. My clothes. All of them. Pictures. My precious first story – handwritten and irreplaceable. He lit a match and set it all ablaze.

I wanted to stop him…but there were the guns.

When he left for work he locked me in the cellar, in the dark. He’d left me clothes, baggy stuff. When he wasn’t home, I was locked in the basement. I was allowed to shower only when he gave me permission.

If my sister hadn’t shown up, wondering where I was… I heard her calling my name and banging on the door. I knew if I stayed, he’d kill me eventually. It was something he’d threatened to do… He’d also told me one of his fantasies – to walk down the street shooting everyone. That wasn’t a side of him I’d ever seen before we married, and wouldn’t have until he felt safe. Or so doctors told me.

If I didn’t get out but damaged the door, he’d see… If I didn’t try, I’d never escape, and one day he would kill me. I knew that. So, I threw my shoulder at the door, shouting for my sister not to leave. And the door gave way.

That’s how I wound up going home. There was nowhere else to go.

After my ex didn’t find me, he left, but he was suspicious. He kept driving around the block. So they snuck me out, crouched on the back seat floor of Mr. Blackburn’s car.

Mr. Blackburn paid for me to stay at a hotel out of his own pocket, but even that wasn’t safe.

When the phone rang I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting a call. It was the minister at my church. The minister had heard I had left. He said he’d talked to my husband, who told him he’d frightened me and thought I needed to talk with someone. I asked if my ex was there, and the minister said no. I told him that my husband was dangerous. He assured me I’d be safe – he just wanted to talk to me. So I went. When I got there I could hear the choir practicing upstairs. It was reassuring.

Shortly after I arrived, though, the door to the minister’s office opened, and my husband walked in. He smiled and patted his pocket, which hung heavy. He commented on how good the choir sounded. The threat was clear. At least to me.

I didn’t dare tell the truth with him there, and at the end, we went ‘home.’ He took the handgun out of his pocket and put it on the car seat between us.

The first time I tried to call for help, my husband came home within minutes. There were no cell phones in the house, he beat me with the handset of the phone. Then he left for work, promising he’d be calling to check on me. I waited for the phone to ring. It did, and I answered. As soon as he hung up, knowing I couldn’t call the local police, I called the minister. I told him he’d gotten me into this, he could get me out. Then I quickly hung up.

And waited for the phone to ring again, or for my ex to come home. Nothing. I quickly called the minister back and gave him my address. He wouldn’t come to the house. Instead, he told me to meet him at a car dealership over a mile away.  I went out a back window since all the doors were locked. I ran along the backyards, fearing that any moment I’d hear a car, a shout. I was terrified.

Not taking any chances, the minister had two other men with him. The only support I had? My puppy.

It wasn’t as if my ex gave up, but when he showed up at the house, Mr. Blackburn had his wife ready to call the state police and said so. Mr. Blackburn gave my ex a choice: the cops or the mental health ward at the hospital. My ex chose the hospital. There they diagnosed him as potentially schizophrenic with violent fantasies.

Even knowing the situation, the hospital didn’t give me a heads-up that he was out.  It wasn’t required, then or now. The only blessing was that when he found me, he hadn’t gone home for a gun first.

Many of those who commit domestic violence stalk their exes. It’s not uncommon.

As we saw here in Central Ohio. The two officers had no idea what they were walking into. All they knew was that there was a 911 hang-up call. It wasn’t the first time they’d responded to a call from that home. She’d called when she tried to file for a protection order and again when he showed up at the house anyway. After she refused to let him in, she called again when he seemed to be messing with her car.  Despite those incidents and others, and despite the fact he was a convicted felon, he wasn’t arrested.

What many don’t realize is that not only does this put the officers at risk, but it can be a sign of worse things to come. Bad behavior becomes worse. In some cases, the abuser turns on the victim’s entire family. In others, he turns on strangers who try to help.  Or the responding officers.

Here it resulted in the deaths of two officers while the victim crouched in the bushes outside her home in fear for her baby still inside. She listened to the gunshots and called 911. Since then, she’s virtually disappeared. I feel for her; she called for help and the responding officers died.

And I feel for the officers’ families.

It’s time and past time for people to start taking domestic violence and its victims seriously and to actually do something about the rampant gun violence besides offering prayers and sympathy.

Personally, I support second amendment rights for those who like to hunt deer or rabbits, but a military-style weapon is meant to kill people, and concealed carry was supposed to be limited to those who needed protection, not everyone.

Let’s have sensible gun laws – bans on military-style weapons, licenses for firearms like you have to drive a car, with training and background checks for those who want to own one, and to keep guns out of the hands of those with a history of violence or mental illness. Rather than parades, have buy-backs of the military-style weapons out there.

Make America Safe Again for everyone. If anything good is to come out of the horrific shootings in Parkland FL it should be that.

Survivors of Parkland, keep protesting. Keep raising your voices. You inspire the rest of the world.

#MeToo? Support them, but don’t stop protesting how women are still harassed and abused. It won’t stop unless we make changes.

The first step has been taken – https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/oregon-legislature-passes-bill-banning-people-with-domestic-violence-convictions-from-owning-guns/ar-BBJtgeI

However, the Republican-led Congress has no desire or incentive to do anything about any of this – not with their history towards women and gun violence.

#TimesUp #metoo #EnoughisEnough #NeverAgain #GunControl

(P. S. This is the only time I will talk about this. I don’t need sympathy. I’ve learned to live without it. I’m not a ‘survivor;’ this is just something that happened to me. I did want to say that I know what it’s like to have to hide from someone who wants to kill – and no one should have to live with that fear.)

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I write fantasy novels for grownups

Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, strong heroine, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do you like fantasy novels with realistic, complex characters, fantastic worlds with Elves, Dwarves, Men, Fairy Queens or High Priestesses, where battles of the mind and the heart are fought as well as battles against uncanny enemies? Epic, heroic, historic Arthurian fantasies. Tolkienesque or G. R. R. Martin (with healthy relationships and without the incest and rape. Why does G. R. R. not have any positive relationships between his characters?)

In other words, not YA.

Song of the Fairy Queen Ad

I prefer to be realistic about all aspects of relationships in the books I write. So, good friends will joke with or tease each other, interpersonal relationships will grow, expand and become intimate. That’s how those things work, although I don’t tend to get graphic. That doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it or that you won’t know what they’re doing.

So yes, tServant of the Gods - New jpghere may be some sex as there normally would be between two people who care deeply about each other. Sometimes relationships aren’t easy, sometimes circumstances, time or distance have effects on friends and lovers. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes people do. That’s reality.

 

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Audio – Part 2

Posted by on Aug 20, 2018 in #writing, advice, audiobooks, books, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, writers | 0 comments

audiobooksOkay, to be honest, I never considered myself to be an audio person, although I know a lot of people who use audiobooks for traveling to and from work or on vacation. I had my reservations about doing that (more on that later) but as with many authors I love my readers, so, as with print and e-books, I wanted to give those who liked audio the chance to hear my books.

So, a few years back I took the leap into audiobooks. I was excited, but I had trepidations. ACX/Audible was available through Amazon, so I set it up through them.

The process isn’t difficult, you choose the book you want to be narrated, give the blurb and basic information about the characters (what type of people were they), chose the type of narrator you wanted (male/female or both), and what kind of voice you wanted for it. (Advise to writers think about that carefully.) Then put it up for audition.

I was really curious about the process – but remember those trepidations? Like all writers, I was protective of my work. Was the narrator going to do justice to it? Since this was the first book I was doing in audio, I wanted to dip my toes in, rather than go all out, so I put one of my novellas up. In the end, I was glad I limited that narrator to that. (I like the new one much better, more on that later.)

Not surprisingly, since it wasn’t a full novel, I didn’t get a lot of requests for auditions, but I picked the one that seemed to fit the best and sent him a section of the book which contained all the main character but was focused mainly on one.

The audition didn’t set me on fire, but I wasn’t certain what to expect, the narration seemed good, so we set up the contract.

All readers bring their own stuff to books – that’s a truism all writer/authors need to learn. (I had one reader complain that all the characters in one of my books were beautiful when only one – as I’d written him – qualified. (And he hated it.) She clearly brought her own expectations to my book.) It was also true of that first narrator and I wasn’t experienced enough to know what I should and shouldn’t object to. It hadn’t been an issue in the audition since it was only a short reading. Now it became one. For some reason – too much Lord of the Rings, perhaps – he felt all the elves in the books had to have ‘British’ accents. All in all, though, it was about what I expected from audio. He was so satisfied that he asked to read some of my other books. The novella I’d sent him was a prep to the epic fantasy, it was a character-driven about the genesis of a friendship between three men – a wizard and two elves. That wasn’t the one he wanted to read, surprisingly – and now I’m glad. He requested to audition another book, but didn’t feel comfortable with some of the content, so he requested another. Nope. And another. None of them suited him.  In the end, we parted ways.

All those failed auditions, though, seemed to discourage others from trying, and so for a time, I gave up. I hadn’t been that enthralled with that first rendition and it had been more than a little discouraging to me, too.

Recently, though, one of my books was nominated for an Indie book award. I was floored, I hadn’t done anything, someone recommended it to the magazine.

Excited, I wanted to capitalize on the nomination, and so I decided to try audio again.

It was scary. Once more I was going to put one of my books into someone else’s hands. They say you should what scares you, especially in writing. Challenge yourself. So I did it.

This time I received more auditions. One was close, but another…

Wow. Just wow.

It was brilliant. His voice was exactly what I wanted and conveyed what I hoped.

So, we set up the process and he began the narration. When the first chapter came back for me to listen to, I was enthralled – at my own writing! – he brought the characters to life for me in a whole new way. And we worked together well.

Bless him, I’d hoped to have the complete first version by my birthday, but I’m not a complete newbie and know there is a process so I accepted that might not be possible. But he did it, bless him, pushing himself to get it done. When I got the complete version for correction and approval I downloaded the lot and found I couldn’t stop listening.

I was stunned and flattered to learn I was one of his first narrations. And, given the quality of his work, I want to have his marvelous voice out there more.

I know that some authors have narrators they love to work and who love to work with them. Part of me wants that (actually part of me wants to keep his talent all to myself for a little while to do my other fantasy series *grins*) but he also deserves to have the opportunity to narrate for others. So, I hope this book and any others he chooses to narrate for me gives him that springboard. He’s thoroughly converted me to the world of audiobooks.

So, for Indie/self-published and other writers, should you do audiobooks?

My obvious answer would be yes, but for reasons other than just this. Today print, despite what some traditional publishers believe, is not the be all and end all, it’s just another arrow in your quiver. Readers come in all kinds, some like e-books, some prefer print, while some like audio. Some will read the book on an e-reader and then purchase the book. Some will listen only to audio. You should serve all your readers. With the option to share the profit, it couldn’t be easier on all levels, and unlike print which pays pennies, with audio, you can split it fifty-fifty. So there’s every reason to do it, and few reasons not to.

There are a few sites for audiobooks that are usually available through your publishing site of choice, most will help you get started.
Here are a few suggestions –

  1. Be patient. Don’t settle. Listen to a lot of auditions and hopefully, you’ll find a voice that will make your story shine.
  2. Understand their process, recording, editing and re-editing, and also understand that they have the same demands on their time that you do – home, family, day jobs. Things happen.
  3. When you get your book back, listen to it carefully. Make sure that it conveys what you want. If there’s something you want to be changed, don’t be afraid to tell the narrator so they know. That’s what the process is for. As with editors, a good narrator will read the book, a great one will make it shine.

(Thank you, Zac, for making mine shine.)

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Audio – I’m so excited!

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 in audiobooks, books, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, News, Uncategorized, writers | 0 comments

Once before I dallied with the idea of doing audiobooks, starting with one of the novellas in The Coming Storm series – Setting Boundaries – a prequel to the series. Setting Boundaries - a novella (The Coming Storm Book 3) by [Douglas, Valerie]

At best the result was ‘meh’.

The narrator was okay, but he was convinced fantasy had to be read with a ‘British accent’ – I’m not sure why. And his accent wasn’t really British. It wasn’t horrible, but there was just something… that wasn’t quite there.

I had wanted to have the whole series on audio with the same narrator but he wanted to try some of my other books. One after another, though, didn’t work out for him – he had problems with some scenes. Unfortunately, he bid on them, then turned them down, and then I couldn’t go on to other narrators.

So, I admit that I was a little leery about trying again.

Song Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004774N2S

This time I decided to try with my standalone fantasy, Song of the Fairy Queen. And, to be honest, I was scared whether anyone would be able to do the story justice.

I’m soooo glad I did. The narrator – Zak – is brilliant, he brings depth to the characters, energy to the story, and his voice is perfect. Listening is weirdly wonderful, I’m constantly caught off guard by the idea that I wrote those words that he is bringing to life. I can’t wait until it’s finished.

 

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Valerie Douglas, Author is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache