The terrible events in Canadensis, PA – the fatal shooting of one state trooper and the wounding of another – and the Ray Rice scandal brought back a lot of memories.
You see, a shooting like the one in Canadensis – although not of state troopers but of his neighbors – was an unspoken ambition of my ex-husband. Unspoken to anyone but me.
I had grown up in the Pocono Mountains, and that’s where I returned – as Cam does in Dirty Politics, and for the same reason. It had been home to me, a refuge. Much of the events in both Dirty Politics and The Last Resort were inspired by real events in my life.
That refuge would be tarnished.
Like many victims of domestic violence, I was young – just twenty – and I had already been a victim of another act of violence. When I met the man who would become my ex-husband, he promised that no one else would ever hurt me.
No one but him, that is.
To look at him, no one would have pegged him as an abuser. He was handsome, with thick, dark hair
and blue eyes. His best friend was on the local police force – which many would be shocked to find is disturbingly common. It’s difficult for the victim of domestic violence to go to the local police when one of them is your spouse’s best friend. A claim of battering would all too likely have been met by disbelief.
If it came down to it, my ex’s plan was to walk down the street shooting. This despite the fact that he claimed to truly like one of the neighbors – an elderly black woman who had always been kind to him. (Closet racism was alive and well then as now.) If cornered he would go out in a blaze of glory. Death by cop.
In those days, domestic violence was just rising to the national awareness thanks to movies like ‘The Burning Bed’ and The Facts of Life actress Nancy McKeon’s A Cry for Help. Or the Julia Roberts movie Sleeping with the Enemy – which showed that socioeconomic status wasn’t an indicator of domestic violence. It’s not just poor or middle class women who deal with it – as Ray Rice’s new wife proves.
Having survived domestic violence, I had high hopes, but over time – and certainly over the last few years – I’ve grown cynical. That was the reason why I had written both The Last Resort and Dirty Politics. I wanted to raise awareness, but even more, I wanted to bring a sense of hope to women who had been through domestic violence. I wanted them to know that they hadn’t been forgotten, and that they still had a chance to find happily ever after with the right person. I didn’t want to write the usual ‘victim’ story – and so I wrote The Last Resort – as an entertaining way to help people understand that domestic violence is…complicated.
One of my least favorite questions about that time – and one of the reasons I don’t talk about it much – is this one… “How did someone like you….?” The assumption being that an intelligent woman wouldn’t have found herself in that situation. As if all abusers came with a big red “A” tattooed on their forehead, rather than many being charming, if subtly controlling.
I’ve learned not to talk about it for another reason – the inevitable comment that follows any domestic violence discussion. “Why do they go back?”
The answer to that question is as myriad as the women who wore Ray Rice jerseys to football games.
First, of course, is an entire culture that caters to the idea that women need to be protected rather than learning to protect themselves, and that bad boys will be reformed by the ‘right’ woman. That only happens in fiction. It’s one of the reasons I dislike both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, for perpetuating that myth.
The reality is that bad boys don’t reform, that if he lies to you once, he’ll lie whenever it’s convenient. As far as going back? What choice do victims have, really?
In most cases, their spouses controlled the money. As bad as the situation is, going to a shelter can seem worse over time. The victim has no income. They’re not just poor, they’re destitute. They uprooted their children. They not only lost their home, but they may have left their pets behind. A pet the ex can threaten.
And where can they go? Home to their parents, where their spouse can find them?
That spouse can also claim visitation rights.
Most shelters help victims fill out protection from abuse orders, but any cop will tell you that those orders are only worth the paper they’re written on. The only purpose for filing them is to have a record of the claim. If they’re lucky, that order is used to keep the abuser away. If they’re unlucky, it identifies the victim’s killer. How many times have you seen that in the news? The victim left, but they still weren’t safe. In one case locally, the victim got remarried to a police officer. Her ex broke into the house and shot them both.
The abuse may be bad, but living is a persuasive argument.
Even the abuser’s situation is complicated. Even police officers abuse their spouses. It’s a question of money and power.
In cases like Ray Rice’s, there’s the whole football culture. Growing up, I remember that there was a status to being a star player. I also remember the warnings. Only cheerleaders had the status to date the quarter or running backs. And even the cheerleaders were taking their chances. So is it any surprise when you take a talented and handsome young man, give him a lot of money, and women throwing themselves at his feet, that he thinks he’s on top of the world? Look at Justin Bieber.
So the dialogue about domestic violence begins again – after the law that funded it has been gutted. Abused spouses are flooding hot lines, the NFL is pouring money into help centers, and hopefully into shelters and training programs.
More importantly, though, we need to end the culture of blame for both victim and abuser, to get them the help they need – the spouses to redevelop their self-esteem, and for the abusers to learn better ways to express their anger.
Then, and only then, will domestic violence come to an end. At least the NFL is stepping up, but we need Congress as well, and that’s not going to happen.
20% of all proceeds from the sale of The Last Resort will go to domestic violence shelters.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-last-resort-19
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005318DNW
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dirty-politics-2
Three women a day are murdered in this country by an intimate partner, and gun ownership by an abuser increases a woman’s chances of being murdered. Read More »
Are tropes too trite?
For those of you who don’t know, a literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works. For a time, old 70-80s TV programs had a list of standard tropes – the identical twin to one of the heroes, one of the heroes (there were only heroes then) goes blind, or develops amnesia.
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In fantasy one of the tropes is the young hero on a quest or becoming the savior of the world. In mystery novels it’s the lead characters problem with alcohol or love of esoteric music (especially jazz), and the uptight woman who melts for him but turns out to be the murderess. There’s also the Sherlock type hero, or the brilliant psychopath as the enemy.
In romance it’s the HEA or HFN (happily ever after or happy for now) ending, and the ‘misunderstanding’ or
downright deceptive hero who doesn’t tell the heroine something important.
That’s where I’m at right now. In my current WIP it just happens that the hero has a good reason for withholding information from the heroine… but it’s a commonly used trope, but it works for the book.
But has that trope been overused?
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting And Sexy
“It was one of the most riveting page turners I’ve ripped through in a long time. I guess those who are a bit prudish about detailed sex episodes may be put off by this book. However, that is only a portion of this exciting story with its wonderful characters. For once an investigative work of fiction doesn’t revolve around a murder, but a disappearance, where the victim is still very much alive. I found the back story of a woman who heads up a spousal abuse rescue program very enlightening and the cast of well developed characters built around this group make for a very entertaining read also. The developing hot romance between the two main protagonists really adds some spice to an already great page turner. The description of the mountain location resort area during the Fall season with its colorful foliage also was a great addition to the story. This is one of those books that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down and finished in record time.” (thank you, sir!)
The review started out with this, though – “I’m not quite sure why so many others didn’t like this book…”
I suspect that I do.
Many people expect Independent writers to write ‘froth’ – easy to read romances and erotica (and I write those, too) or genre fiction like fantasy – and not in depth mysteries that discuss difficult subjects.
When I wrote The Last Resort I wanted to write about someone who had experienced domestic violence, not ‘survivor’ or another victim. I wanted it as a subtext to the primary story. The basic story was based on fact – a group like Carrie’s actually existed once, I don’t know if it still does. I wanted people to experience what it was like to be on all sides of the issue, in an entertaining story. It’s the only one of my books written in the first person, and it was originally intended as the first in a series of novels, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Like many of my novels, it started out as a real experience, with real people (and some not so real). I hope one day to see people coming to this book with it’s complex characters and deep storyline, looking for an entertaining mystery – and a little romance.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6 Read More »
In an odd way, I was lucky to grow up where I did – a resort town with a university. Time changed it, but it has been a wonderful background for some of my stories – all but the first book of The Millersburg Quartet were set there, and it was the setting for The Last Resort. In a way the town of ‘Millersburg’ becomes a character in itself. Of course, I changed the name to protect both the innocent and the guilty. (Although an old high school friend reconnected on Facebook, and she told me she recognized it.) Time has changed it, though. Most of the resorts that formed the basis for The Last Resort no longer exist. It was a real pleasure then to find an article in my local paper about some of my favorite places back ‘home’.
The farmer’s market on Main Street where Cam bought the supplies for her Saturday morning breakfasts as described in Dirty Politics and Director’s Cut was real at one time, as were the resorts where Carrie worked in The Last Resort. The Inn at Pocono Manor, where Carrie and Drew danced, still exists. (Although I did change a few pertinent details as well as the name.)
My favorite town, Jim Thorpe, was featured in two of those books, as well. A wonderful little town with Victorian accents, it was full of great shops, wonderful little restaurants, quaint little B&Bs and one of the best lounges at the Harry Packer house. I loved visiting there at Christmas when the whole town would be decorated for the holidays.
There’s no season that isn’t good there, if you want a long weekend it’s a great place to go. Some people go just for the fall colors. Winter snow turns it picturesque, and there’s plenty of skiing nearby. Spring is a great time to visit, the number of visitors is smaller so you can enjoy wandering through some of the shops. How do I know all this? Like Molly, I worked – briefly – for the Vacation Bureau.
Dirty Politics – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005318DNW
Director’s Cut – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0058KRLVS
The Last Resort – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6 Read More »
Of all my books, perhaps The Last Resort is the most conflicted. It’s also the book one of my beta readers swears is the best I’ve ever written. It’s the book that nearly won a contest, but won one of the judges’ hearts – she asked to be notified if it ever reached print. (It has!) It’s also the book that receives the most mixed reviews – primarily a complaint that too much is going on. Which I have to admit makes me laugh even as I struggle with it.
Because life is messy, and complicated, and so much of events of The Last Resort are based on reality. Events that took place almost exactly as they happen in the book, and at the same time. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or innocent. I have to admit to being tempted to hold a contest asking readers to tell me which characters in The Last Resort are real…and which aren’t. I’m also grateful that some of the participants in those events are probably dead by now although I doubt they’d recognize themselves. People never do.
One reviewer even commented on the level of detail, objecting to a mention of the heroine raking leaves. Yet that rake shows up in a later scene. As a writer I had to explain why it was so conveniently placed there. I had to make it real.
Even the ‘rescue rangers’ are based in truth. Some time ago, I read about a woman who had organized a group of retired cops and ex-service people to help battered women escape their abusers. It was difficult and dangerous work, as they and any police officer could tell you.
I sometimes wonder if people have just seen too many Lifetime movies where the victim escapes into the arms of the one man who will love her, who will fight for her, and in the end save her from her abuser.
In real life, that just doesn’t happen. Most women who escape run to their families (where their batterers frequently find them) or live in shelters on subsistence. They have no money because their abusers made sure they had no access to any. Most are ashamed.
When they do call for help, they frequently panic immediately afterward. Many times cops become caught between the abuser and the victim, because the victim is all too aware that the laws don’t really protect her. In all likelihood her abuser will be back out on the street within hours. And looking for her. Unless she finds a shelter – most counties don’t have domestic violence shelters – he’ll very likely find her. A protection from abuse order is worth the paper it’s written on, it’s a formality that must be part of the record…but one that is almost guaranteed to infuriate the abuser – who never considers himself the bad guy. It’s shaming, and inflaming for them.
Leaving is the most dangerous time for most women, and the time when most die. One to three women in the United States daily.
So I wrote The Last Resort from my own experience, and it translated fairly easily. All the events in the book took place around the same time.
What I didn’t want to write was just another domestic violence book. I didn’t want it to be primarily about domestic violence. I wanted to write something that would be entertaining as well. I wanted the book to balance what I frequently see as a culture of constant victim-hood, with women and those around them defining themselves always by this one event for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I wanted to write about someone who would give women hope, an example of someone who had broken the chains of domestic violence. I wanted to write a book about a woman who had not only survived, but thrived and grew stronger because of it. I also wanted to show that it was possible to love and be loved again, to have a healthy relationship.
Someone like me.
Twenty percent of all the proceeds of The Last Resort will go to charities benefiting the victims of domestic violence.
Available from Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6 Read More »