Writers And Their Chosen Settings – Valerie Douglas

I am excited to begin a weekly feature on my blog called Writers And Their Chosen Settings.

“So much of who we are is where we have been.” – William Langewiesche

On Tuesdays, I will post a guest blog by a writer about a special setting, real or imaginary, they chose for their work.

Today’s guest blog is by Valerie Douglas, author of The Last Resort and Director’s Cut.


 The Last Resort – Thriller

It was getting near sunset, an almost perfect time for the view I wanted him to see.

“Not too much further.” I pointed. “There, see that road. Be careful, it’s mostly dirt and a little bumpy.”

It was a little more than a track. A fire road hacked out of the trees to enable firemen to get to areas it might be otherwise difficult to reach. There were tracks like this throughout the mountains. Hunters used them sometimes as well. The trees opened up and we came to a stop. I didn’t need to tell him to do that, the view was that good.

We got out and leaned back against the warm hood of the car. A trick of geography had set this hill at the perfect spot to see between two higher mountains out at the range of mountains beyond. With the hills and mountains in all their flaming fall colors it was an amazing sight, especially with the warm gold of the setting sun setting all of it aglow. The sunset gave even more color, painting the sky in deep blues, purple, magenta. It filled the soul and gave back peace.

He almost started to move.

“Wait,” I said, and took his wrist.

Drew slid his fingers between mine. I caught my breath but didn’t say anything.

The last touch of the sun slid behind the mountains, Venus sparkle between them. The birds had been singing, twittering. Now, silence. It was as if everything stood still, timeless. I sighed, the only sound except the faintest whisper of breeze. There was still a touch of that amazing light in the sky.

Director’s CutThe Millersburg Quartet – Romance

Millersburg was such a classic small town. That was what had caught Jack’s eye when he’d been trying to find Jay’s condo. It was a quintessential small town tucked away in the mountains of Pennsylvania, with tree-lined streets, hills and mountains surrounding it. The streets were a mind-boggling array of twists, turns, hills that cut up, through, over and around the town, giving it dimensions he hadn’t imagined. The houses were small, neat, the yards wide. It was surprisingly green, even compared to some of the cities he had known.

There was even a Main Street. Literally. He turned onto it and stared.

Shaking his head in amazement, Jack slowed the ‘Vette to a crawl to avoid pedestrians as he eyed the pickup trucks backed up to the curbs on each side of the street and the produce that spilled out of them and the stalls set up on the edge of the sidewalks. This wasn’t something he’d ever experienced, growing up in the city. He didn’t think they still did things like this.

Apparently they did.

A real farmer’s market. Incredible.

Real farmer types in bib overalls stood by some of the stands. A woman who was clearly an old ex-hippie with her graying hair blowing wild around her face had a stall of herbs for sale, both fresh and dried.

It was something that was for sure.


You’ll notice I shared two excerpts. Although they don’t share names – in The Last Resort the town is called Mountaintop, while in Director’s Cut it’s called Millersburg – it’s the same town in essence.

There’s something unique, though, to the kind of town that Mountaintop/Millersburg is. I live near one very similar. It’s the kind of town where people used to know what was happening with their neighbors but with the death of Main Street and the corner store, no longer do. It’s still a pretty good place to raise kids, and for many of them, a place to escape from.

What was unique about the town I knew growing up was the diversity of industry – it was a mountain/vacation area, home to a small university, with little industry. There were several very distinct cultures – the middle class and poor townies, the country people, the farmers to the south, the insular world of the university, and the even more insular world of the resort employees. It was uniquely suited to building a dozen different stories, from hard-boiled detective to a class of cultures, and I could romanticize it somewhat as I did in The Millersburg Quartet series, or show it, warts and all, as I did in The Last Resort. But I could also show the beauty of it, as the excerpt shows.

That town, the one I remember, no longer exists. The once-beautiful mountains are plastered with billboards, condos, housing developments and malls. Traffic is so bad they had to put in stoplights outside of town. It’s grown noisy and rude and so big you can go in the supermarket and not see a single place you know. It does live in my memory though, and it will live on in my stories, and in the ones yet to come.


A big thank you to Valerie Douglas for this guest blog about Millersburg. To read the stories placed in the setting Valerie shared, be sure to follow the links!

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