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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When I started to write the Millersburg Quartet series, I wanted to write about the girls who had been geeks in high school, the nerds, the outcasts, the ones who were different, who never quite fit in. You know. Us.
We hung together, some of us, against the cliques and groups and some of us stayed friends for a long time after high school and college.
Ali was the smart one, taking college courses while still in high school. A meteoric rise though led to an equally meteoric fall. To add insult to injury she discovered that her boyfriend had gotten engaged. To someone else. With her life and career in shambles, she goes in search of her mother’s roots in Ireland. When she offers Aidan O’Connell a lift from his broken down car, she gains a handsome tour guide. But there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Aidan. Is he only looking for a brief Irish Fling?
Cam Kenyon has come home a different woman than the one that left. Always the sensible one, she’s now a respected psychologist. If only she could apply that new-found confidence to Noah Denton, her old high school crush and the candidate for District Attorney. Some things haven’t changed. But when she learns Noah’s opponent is resorting to Dirty Politics, she can’t stand aside.
Molly was the theater geek but now she’s a teacher and her only forays in the theater are with the local community theater group. Then bad boy director Jack Tyler shows up, trying to wrestle his demons while rediscover his love of the craft. Getting involved with Jack is a risk. Is it one Molly’s willing to take? Will she make the Director’s Cut?
The wild child of the four, sculptor and welder Jesse Chamberlain has always been impulsive. For Mitch Donovan, whose world has been turned upside down, she’s just the thing to shake him out of the tailspin he’s been in. Suddenly he’s riding Two Up and the writer’s block that’s plagued him has vanished. The announcement of a new M. J. Donovan novel, though, brings a fan out of hiding. What he doesn’t count on is Jesse.
Here’s a bit of trivia for fans. Almost all of these stories were inspired by real life, some by real people and/or real places. Like the solo trip to Ireland from Irish Fling and the grotto in the woods with its homemade hot tub in Two Up. The rest I’ll leave you all to guess. I hope you all enjoy them.
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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,
Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Last-Resort/Valerie-Douglas/e/2940012614605
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Just a great story with great characters about people fighting nearly impossible odds to try to do what’s right? With good guys, and bad guys, and characters who want to do good, and some who think they are but aren’t? I know I do and did. That’s part of the reason I write them…
Setting Boundaries – After centuries of war an uneasy peace has finally been negotiated between Elves, Dwarves and Men, thanks to Elon of Aerilann, Elven councilor to the High King. One final task yet remains, one last bone of contention – to set the boundaries between their lands. It’s a task that will be easier said than done. Although the lesser Kings signed the Alliance not all of them wish to see it succeed, and some are willing to oppose it. Violently.
For journeyman wizard Jareth it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Unlike many he’s long admired the calm, seemingly aloof Elves, especially Elon of Aerilann and his paxman Colath.
What he doesn’t know is that the journey they will share will test him to his limits and forge friendships that will last for centuries.
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I had two great reviews for Cooking Class this week, from opposite ends of the erotica readers spectrum – someone who has never read one and someone who loves them – both gave it five stars.
wistfulskimmie on Jun. 15, 2011 :
This was my first introduction into reviewing an erotic book. Boy what an introduction it was! It was sort of Hell’s Kitchen meets Kitchen Nightmares with a whole load of sauce added.
That being said, all the steamy scenes (and wow were they steamy!) were very tastefully done. I never felt they were gratuitous and they fitted in with the story.
I would be interested to read more from this author as I feel she writes from a woman’s point of view…for women. A classy novel that I very much enjoyed.
5.0 out of 5 stars ;0), June 16, 2011
Lady Raven “Raven Rave” I’m speechless, I had to give myself a minute before I reviewed. When I first picked up the book I thought it was something else completely, as much as I love hardcore erotica I never really got into the menage romances, I felt it was too much for me with 3 different emotions. This was my first and I have to admit WOW what a read, by the third chapter alone ok what they did and what they did with the sauce *blushing* might have to look at sauces differently for awhile. It did remind me of the tv show Hell’s Kitchen that I am a fan of with Evan’s temper that people seem to be afraid of, Dylan very sexy and Lily I’m jealous of her lol.
This book literally had steam coming from it Double your Pleasure Double your Fun with this book, it has the sexy guys, and lovable female and sex, sex, sex and more hot sex. So be warn ahead of time if all these things are not on your checklist of things you like in a book then I don’t know what to tell you but I surely enjoy the read.
Cooking Class –
Lily Cavanaugh did it the hard way. She’d apprenticed under Master Chef Evan Taylor until he threw one temper tantrum too many. She was madly in love with him but so was every other woman who worked for him. So she walked away and built her own restaurant. Then Evan and the director of his new TV show, Dylan Bryant, walk into her restaurant to offer her an intriguing proposition…
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