Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Blogger Debra Parmley - Writing About Difficult Subjects

Recently someone asked me how I can stand to write about women who have endured such things as domestic abuse, a spouse kidnapping their child, rape and branding. For her, these topics are taboo and she doesn't even want to think about them.

I admit my western romance novels have been described as gritty, which surprised me at first. It surprised me because I don't actually describe the scenes in which these events take place. When I write about a heroine, I always begin after these events have happened. There are several reasons for this.

First, I trust the reader to understand when the heroine states or implies a horrific event has happened, what the heroine is referring to and to supply enough of their own imagination to flesh such a situation out in their mind or to nod at it and move on through the story. Hopefully this allows the reader to stay in their comfort level.

Second, women who have survived horrific circumstances don't tend to go into a lot of detail when talking about it. They refer to it instead of giving a play by play of the action. So for me, when writing these stories, it feels more natural to write them this way.

Third, I'm writing about women who are survivors, not victims. About women who learn to take back their power, to take back their lives. So the story must center on that, or I don't want to write it.

There is a personal quote of mine and if you hang around with me long enough, or hear me speak or read an interview, it might just pop up. I believe it sums up what drives many of the stories I have written.

"It is not the things which are done to us that define us. It is the things that come from within ourselves."

That's really the only thing any of us can control and this is true of people walking the planet and of our story people. Character comes from within and character growth is what I believe makes a good story.

My first book, A Desperate Journey, is about an abused wife whose husband has stolen her son and it is about her journey to Texas to get her boy back. It is about her journey to take her power back. What recourse did a woman in 1867 have if her husband stole their son? If her husband was a bigamist who moved from woman to woman how would a woman in that time period ever find out?

My second book, Dangerous Ties, begins with the heroine who has been brutalized, branded, strung up over a mine shaft and the rope is breaking. The whole town has turned against her believing she stole the gold her fiancée absconded with.

So, yes, the west I write about in my western historical romances is a gritty place. Bad things happen there. But good things can happen too. All it takes is one good hero, one good heroine and together they can take on the world. I like to believe that's what they do when they ride off into the sunset.

Each year I donate a portion of the proceeds from A Dangerous Journey to the local women's shelter. Saturday, I was active in an event called Shimmy Mob, which is an international event held on World Belly Dance Day, May 12th. In 9 countries and 110 cities around the world, dancers performed the same choreography in "flash mob" type events to raise funds and awareness for our local women's and children's shelters. You can read more about it on my website. Or on http://www.shimmymob.com

Blurb: A Desperate Journey

Sometimes a journey of the heart is the most dangerous journey of all.

Sally Wheeler learned the hard way that men aren’t always what they seem. Now she will stop at nothing to track down the bigamist husband who stole her child and abandoned her on their failing Kansas farm. Even if it means traveling with a handsome maverick who could change her mind about men.

Free after spending seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Rob Truman aims to balance the scales of justice on the man who sent him there—Luke Wheeler. His quest doesn’t include falling for the one woman who will lead him to his quarry, but Sally’s courage in the face of her fear touches his soul.

Through dangerous days and nights on the trail, neither Sally nor Rob can ignore their growing feelings for each other. Yet both are haunted by the poor judgment that, in the past, led them down the wrong road. Love—and trust—are luxuries neither of them can afford.

But as the bullets start flying, love may be all that saves them—and Sally’s son.

Blurb: Dangerous Ties

He found her dangling from a rope. Her life about the end in the black abyss of a mine shaft. Since coming west Lillian's life had gone terribly wrong. Misplaced trust had shattered her soul and a lust for gold had nearly forfeited her life. One man would bring her back from the brink. One man would save her life and give her back her heart. If he can sever the rope that binds her with the most dangerous ties.


Nevada 1860

Pain erased all sense of time. Lillian didn't know how long she'd hung, her muscles exhausted from the strain, her mind full of warnings she was helpless to do anything about.

Her throat was raw from screaming before Grady had gagged her. Now the cloth gag stuck to her dry tongue. She squinted through tired eyes at the pail of water sitting by the edge of the mineshaft. She could look right down into it, the water taunting her with how good it looked, how it would taste cool and refreshing as it slid over her tongue, down her throat. It would soothe her throat if she could just reach it.

But there was no hope of that.

They'd tied her up and left her to die of thirst. Lillian closed her eyes.

No, don't look at it. Don't think of it. Think of something else.

Pain shot from her broken right toe up her ankle and leg. The scent of burnt flesh still filled her nostrils. He'd seared the brand across the top of her breast. Memory lodged in her body where pain radiated along with heat, echoes of his laughter still ringing in her ears.

A single tear slipped out and ran down her cheek.

It hadn't mattered what he did to her or how relentless they were. She still couldn't tell them where the money was. She couldn't tell because she didn't know. And no amount of torture could change that one fact.

Lillian squeezed her eyes tight and prayed her lie had bought enough time to get away. Though how she'd ever get out of this she didn't know.

She had to get away before he returned, angrier than ever because she'd lied.

Mr. Thomas Shelton, her former fiancé, was probably well to California by now, and rich as the cream Lillian used to pour into her tea every afternoon. He'd done more than abandon her along with the promises he'd made to her. He'd left her to face the anger of everyone in town who he had robbed.

Dear God, but she was thirsty. If she could only have a drop or two of water. Lillian kept her eyes closed so as not to look at the pail again.

Mr. Shelton, the president of Shelton Security Bank and a widower, had finally asked for her hand in marriage after months of waiting. She'd thought she'd close the dressmakers shop. Fact was, she wasn't making much money. It hadn't been going well. The women living in town or in the outlying areas did their own sewing and except for a few bridal gowns and mending the saloon women's clothing, Lillian had made no other sales. Nevada was nothing like New York, where a woman needed a new gown for an event or wanted one simply because it was the latest new fashion.

She'd been foolish to follow her cousin out west, even if he was her only living relative. Carl was nothing like the boy she'd grown up with. Letters could be so deceiving and she hadn't seen him since he was ten.

Yet he'd written to her, urging her to come out west after her parents died. Convinced her it was better to be with family. Promised to help her set up a dressmaker's shop now that she had to make a living. She'd always enjoyed sewing for herself and her ailing mother and the dresses she made always brought compliments.

She'd also been drawn in by the adventure of moving west. So she'd left the town she'd spent her entire life in.

Carl had been nice enough at first, helping her set up shop, introducing the townsfolk to her. But, after the first few weeks, he spent all his time playing cards and running up debts in the saloon and the mercantile, then expected her to pay for them.

He seemed to have the idea that because he'd done this favor for her, she was indebted to him for life. It was a debt she could never repay.

Carl thought she owed him and he thought she had the money. Even her own cousin didn't believe her.

The pain in Lillian's shoulders from the pressure of her own weight pulling her down pushed away her thoughts. Her arms being stretched for so long made her jerk and flinch, though she knew it was futile to fight and she barely had any fight left. But she couldn't help pulling against the ropes even though it only made things worse.

Oh, what she'd give for someone to cut her down and a fast horse. She'd learn to ride, as if her life depended on it.

Debra's books are available on Amazon


Barnes and Noble


and through your local Indie bookstore http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781605042763

Visit Debra at http://www.debraparmley.com or on facebook and Twitter.


Meg Benjamin said...

Hi Debra, welcome to the Naughty Nine. Dangerous Ties sounds both gritty and hot.

Debra Parmley said...

Thank you for inviting me, Meg!
I hope readers will find it so. :-)

Kelly Jamieson said...

Hi Debra! Depending on my mood, I do enjoy a book that's gritty and real,with a strong heroine who can overcome tough obstacles - this sounds like one of those! Thanks for being here today!

Debra Parmley said...

Hi Kelly!
Yes, my western heroines are survivors. I'm eclectic in my reading too though. Some days I'm up for that and some days I like a pure fantasy land, less real and gritty. I've always felt the wild west was a rough and gritty place. To survive required hardiness.
Thank you Kelly!
It's a pleasure to be here. :-)

Susan Jaymes said...

I like reading how heroines survive and learn to over come their obstacles. Great post.

DebraParmley said...

Thank you Susan! I admire heroines in stories and in real life who overcome great obstacles. I find them inspiring. :-)

Drmgrl99 - Dawn said...

I always love to hear that authors donate proceeds and this is an absolutely wonderful cause you have chosen!

Debra Parmley said...

Thank you Dawn!

If you'd like to know more about the cause I donate to and another fundraiser I do once a year, visit my website and look for the blog post on Shimmy Mob. ;-)