Sunday, March 3, 2013

Speeding Tickets by Valley Brown : Interview and Excerpt

 
 


 
 

Q:  What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

A:  My main characters had emotional issues due to their respective pasts and the traumas they endured.  Christine (“Chris”) was brutalized as a teenager and then lost her husband unexpectedly. Doug survived an extra-nasty situation in Vietnam. His dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was a foregone conclusion, but it hadn’t struck me that this was also the condition afflicting Chris.  A friend made the connection and pointed that out to me as I was working on the story.  I began researching PTSD, to see what it really means to be diagnosed with it, and to live with it on a daily basis.  We have an enormous number of Veterans in the U.S. who deal with it every day, the best way they can. There is no absolute cure, and what therapies exist are not without consequences. It takes unimaginable determination to tackle PTSD, and enormous commitment from the people in those relationships. There are lots of sites out there for Veterans.  I have links to some on my website.

 

Q:  Plotter or Pantser?  Why?

A:  I’m a borderline Obsessive-Compulsive -- I’m both! The story hits for me like a full-blown video. I begin madly jotting down the essence of it as fast as possible.  My editor calls it “throwing up on the page.” When I run out of steam, I go back and dissect it, making order out of the chaos that I didn’t notice at first.  After that, I turn it over to my editor.  She shows me my weak spots, and I go back at it. I end up with multiple revised outlines, discarded stuff, new stuff, etc. until the story truly is done.

 

Q:  What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

A:   I’m not sure that’s humanly possible – being a writer and retaining sanity. On some level you have to be crazy to want to do this and be serious about it. You have to force yourself to step back on a regular basis. You become so engrossed in the story and characters that you lose your sense of them if you don’t. I get up, move around, soak in the tub, make coffee or tea, go weed my flowers – anything to interrupt my brain glazing over. Going to the gym is good, too.

You have to remember that this is serious work as much as self-indulgent creative expression, and you can’t do a good job if you don’t take care of yourself.

 

Q:  Who should play Chris in a film of your book?

A:  I have actually thought about this a lot, and asked friends about it. The current choice is Diane Lane. She’s the perfect age and height, and very pretty. She’d have to lighten her hair and wear contacts, though, so maybe not.  Elizabeth Perkins or Kim Basinger could be good, too.

 

Q:  Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.

A:  That’s easy. It was hand-delivered by a silver-haired gentleman who found my book in the local library.  Jim and his wife both read and enjoyed it, so he tracked me down and brought me a handful of their favorite romance paperbacks, from their personal collection, complete with little comments they had made in the margins over the years. He’s met my son and husband, and every once in a while brings me another book, or sends me a pertinent news article that he thinks I ought to be aware of.  Jim believes that I am going to eventually be right up there with all the “great ones.” Who could ask for a better fan than that?

 

Q:  Do you have a website or blog?

A:  Absolutely!  Valleybrown.com has been up for a while, but we’re still playing with it. I am html illiterate, so I need someone else to keep it updated and marginally optimized. My blog at Valleybrown.wordpress.com is a lot more active. I don’t post frequently, but I like being able to post thoughts on stuff other than my books. I actually have a second blog, over on tumblr.  It’s called “Wordslop” and is meant to be a little off-the-wall. I’m coercing some of my writing buddies to do guest posts. It’s good practice for them and gives the blog a divergent personality. We’re also considering posting short stories in installments to alternate with more typical posts. Like everything in life, it’s a WIP.

 
 

 

 
 
“Passion for writing keeps me up in front of my word processor long past the dictates of my better judgment. When I’m not writing about Chris and Doug, or poetry, etc. or creating art (glass or fabric), you can find me cruising Southern Indiana on my ’99 Honda Shadow.”

Member:  Romance Writers of America; Indiana Chapter – RWA.

 

 
 
 

Speeding Tickets is a contemporary romantic suspense novel centered on recently widowed Christine Cassler, whose journey through trauma and tragedy is intermixed with the hope of finding love once more. Chris is hardly prepared for a tumultuous romance with a mysterious handsome biker, though, and when she uncovers a scheme of deceit and embezzlement at work, it threatens not only her second chance at happiness, but also her very life.  Speeding Tickets is a story about one woman’s journey through trauma and tragedy, and how the power of love keeps her moving forward. It touches on the sensitive topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the different ways in which people deal with wounds that never heal, yet somehow find strength and courage to love again.

 
 
 

Chapter 1

Thirty-four years later…
 
This is it, I thought, my lower lip trembling. They’re going to find my scrawny little fifty-year-old carcass, broken and bloody, at the bottom of this ditch and say a woman her age had no business riding! I dug the heels of my over-priced leather biker boots into the loose soil of the highway’s shoulder, the front of my little 250cc Honda motorcycle sliding past the lip of the drainage ditch. Fumes of spent rubber and exhaust burned in my throat as tiny pebbles gave way beneath my soles. Oh God, oh God – what the hell am I doing?
My hands struggled to maintain a rigid grip on the controls, but I was certifiably stuck. I couldn’t get off of the bike – and I couldn’t let go. Gil’s response to my insistence on learning to ride echoed inside my helmet.
“You’re the one who wants to do this. If you’re gonna ride your own bike, you gotta expect to get into trouble sooner or later, kid.” 
Ya think, honey?
Everything had been in soundless slow-motion: The big Unidentified Furry Object shooting across the road directly in front of me, the view through my windshield turning into a grassy abyss, the obscenity that never quite left my mouth.
“Something happens fast – just hit the brakes, kid!”
Well, Gil, I did hit the brakes. Unfortunately my less-than-perfect reaction resulted in a heart-stopping short skid to my current position. All 120 pounds of me was concentrated on keeping nearly 300 pounds of stalled bike from rolling head-first into the ditch as my feet slid further, leg muscles simmering in a slow burn.
I barely heard the deep throaty engine sound closing in on me. Glancing out of the corner of my eye – too afraid to turn my head – I saw a man hurriedly park a big bike. My boots lost more ground. Oh God. Desperate for any solution that didn’t involve imminent demise or permanent disability, I prayed he would yank me off the seat before the inevitable plunge.
“Are you all right?” A deep even voice flowed comfortingly into my ears.
“Yes, but,” and this was almost more embarrassing than I could stand, “I’m stuck. Can you help me back up?” A full second passed while sweat ran down my back.
“Sure, hang on.”  A tall, bulky figure went behind the bike, barely visible in my side mirrors.
Boots crunched at the edge of the road. The bike wiggled sickeningly as he grabbed hold of the frame. I swallowed hard.
“Okay, now this is what we’re going to do. When I say ‘now’, you’re going to let go of the hand-brake and push back with your feet for all you’re worth. Got that?”
Hoping my leg muscles could still move, I gulped audibly.  “Yes,” I squeaked out.
“What?”
“Yes!” I gasped louder, nodding for emphasis.
“All right, give me a second.” He ground his boots deeper into the rocky soil. The bike moved back a fraction, allowing my legs a nano-second of respite.
“Now!” he commanded sharply.
Startled, I jerked as I released the hand-brake, my shaky legs and feet exerting all the resistance they could muster – and the bike inched away from the ditch. When my feet encountered hard road again, I maneuvered the bike into a safe position and got off. 
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I exhaled as my legs quit functioning. Sitting straight down, I fumbled with my helmet and jerked it off. Shoulder-length tresses of blonde hair fell every which-way, my body shaking as I struggled to keep from bawling.
My mystery hero squatted in front of me, his face half-hidden by the dark visor of his full-face helmet, but obviously concerned as to whether I was going to lose it or not. He had probably been blissfully immersed in his perfect late-afternoon ride until it got interrupted by this low-time, green-horn female rider on her wimpy little two-fifty. He was probably seething inside. Instead, he reached over and gently brushed some of the hair out of my eyes. My embarrassment escalated.
“I think you might want to sit somewhere a little farther off the road,” he suggested, looking up and down the length of it.
I laughed sheepishly as he pulled me to my feet and off the pavement. The guy was easily a  six-footer. He wore a finely scuffed black leather jacket. Partly unzipped in the late afternoon heat, it conformed to his broad chest and shoulders like a well-worn glove.
I found myself staring at what could only be a lot of lean leg muscle inside those tight faded jeans he had on. Oh my God! I can’t believe I’m staring at him – geez!
“Thanks. I’m Chris – Recovering Rookie Rider,” I blurted, a taut smile quivering on my cotton-ball-dry lips.
He shook his head. “Doug – and I kind of figured that one out.”
“Ouch,” I winced, scrunching up my reddening face.
Doug the Biker flipped his visor all the way up. A broad grin emphasized fine wrinkles in his somewhat rugged, weathered face. Wisps of dark brown hair edged past his helmet liner, setting off a pair of hazel eyes whose incorrigible liquid twinkle jump-started an internal tremble that shot through me from head to toe, leaving my guts weak and fluttering. Areas of me that hadn’t seen action in a long time – make that a very long time – stirred in a way that was disconcertingly familiar, but my flustered brain cells couldn’t pull up anything coherent.
 Why was it whenever I managed to do something spectacularly stupid, there was always a good-looking guy around to do it in front of? The big grin relaxed into a quizzical smile. From the way his eyes meticulously inventoried me, he was trying to place me as well.  We stood there, checking each other out in awkward silence.
“How long you been riding?” Doug the Biker fixed me with those glittering eyes. My stomach experienced a movement that must have registered on the Richter Scale.
“A couple of years, but I’m afraid my riding experience has been mainly short rides when I have time,” I confessed, feeling alternately flushed and pale.
“Don’t think I’ve seen you – your bike, before,” Doug stated hesitantly, “I’m usually tearin’ up the pavement somewhere ‘round here. Mostly on the weekends.”
He chewed his upper lip and stared at his feet for a second before mesmerizing me with those eyes again.
“On Sunday mornings, a lot of people like to ride up to the coffee shop just this side of the old dam.”
Am I on the verge of getting asked out? It had to be my imagination. He was only letting me know about some place I could reasonably expect to hang out with other bikers. Sure, that’s all it is.
“I’ll remember that,” I replied, blinking hard to keep from sinking deeper into the sparkling hazel abyss as my insides churned. Seconds passed. Doug the Biker seemed to be trying to figure out his next move. My brain wanted to explore a lot of tangents regarding his eyes and lips and leg muscles and . . . Oh God – get your mind out of the gutter, girl!
“I’d better head back,” I announced, clearing my throat. “I’m not entirely comfortable being out after dark on this thing.”
Doug the Biker nodded.  “I could ride with you – make sure you get home okay.”
He seemed genuinely nice, and was definitely way more than decent-looking, but that’s no way to tell if someone’s a psycho or not. Despite my raging hormones, I decided to play it safe and bear the rest of my humiliation alone.
“Thanks, really . . . but I’ll be fine,” I smiled weakly. Smoothing my hair away from my face, I pulled my helmet back on. Doug’s firm, well-defined lips sagged at the edges.
“Well then,” he exhaled heavily, “I’ll wait ‘til you get going before I head out.” His eyes ran down my body. My heart missed at least one beat, maybe two.
“Ride safe.” Turning, he sauntered over to his bike, a huge Honda Valkyrie – a clean-looking ride, no saddle bags, no funky modifications. It was custom-painted two tones of dark metallic purplish-blue with silver ‘ghost flames’ fading in and out. His dark blue metal-flake helmet nearly matched the paint job.
“You, too. Thanks again,” I called out, my voice catching at the sight of his backside in those tight faded jeans. As I concentrated on my start-up, Doug the Biker watched, making sure I didn’t go ‘trail-riding’ again. Rumbling off in the direction of home, I fumed over being a blonde damsel in distress. Oh, crap! I can’t believe I just blew off an incredibly attractive guy my own age! If he’s still there . . . I looked in my mirrors, but my knight in shining bike-armor was gone.
 
 
 

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