Aya Walksfar, Author

Hard hitting, in-the-news murder mysteries

Gifts We Are Given

Journey you make
We all have gifts—talents, skills, even personality traits that we’re born with or have developed; usually both. We can choose to use those gifts strictly for personal gain and comfort or we can use those gifts to make a difference, however large or small that difference might be.

I come from #women who made a difference. For example, my grandmother worked in the kitchen of a large, busy restaurant washing dishes and huge pots and pans. It was a grueling, on-her-feet eight to ten hours a night then walk two miles home in the early morning dark since the restaurant closed around 2 a.m. It was the kind of job that could easily depress a person; make them angry and resentful; or just too tired to care about anyone else.
Not my grandmother.

Grandma didn’t tout her #spiritual beliefs. She just quietly lived them. Still it wasn’t surprising when the young cook and his wife brought their sickly newborn to Grandma while she was on her fifteen minute break and asked her to bless the child. Grandma laid aside the half sandwich and the cold glass of water, got up and walked outside with young Pete. She took their baby in her arms and prayed for the child and gave the little girl her blessing. I heard that the child did indeed begin a slow process of physical improvement from the night on.

Grandma was a giver of many blessings; usually in the form of encouragement, common sense counsel, a listening ear, and a caring heart. It didn’t matter if you were family, friend, or a stranger. My mother had a different type of gift. She didn’t care much for most people though she could talk anyone into almost anything. No, Mom’s gift lay with animals. Many of my short stories about animals originate in some incident with my mother. Stories such as the one about a coyote pup’s rescue from cruel men and the story about a horse standing in a farmer’s field starving, all came from instances of my mother’s courage to face down hostile humans and rescue needy animals. Vicious #dogs were my mother’s special gift. Dogs that would rather chew my face off as to look at me would sidle up to my mother and beg for her to touch them.
viciousHumanResponsible

My family didn’t have a lot of money; most days we were fortunate to have enough to eat, yet few days passed that my grandmother or my mother didn’t use their gifts to bring healing to a hurting world. From them I learned that if you have a gift and don’t use it to bring about positive change then you waste a precious resource. No other person will ever have the exact gift that you do. No other person will ever be able to bring about the positive changes that you have the power to create.

Sometimes, it isn’t easy to choose to use your gift for positive change. In my early twenties, I’d published a few short stories, some articles and a handful of poems. At this particular time in my life, I was living in an old milk van converted into a moving house. I made money with a variety of odds jobs that barely kept body and soul together. It was one of the tougher times in my life.

One night a man in a business suit knocked on the back door of my van. I picked up the pipe wrench that I kept handy for unwanted and insistent visitors (of which I’d had a few since I parked in out-of-the-way places and deserted parking lots) and answered the door. Ascertaining that the man meant me no harm, I invited him in for a cup of coffee. He sat on the passenger seat and I sat sideways on the driver’s seat as he laid out a business proposal. A friend of his had read some of my work and had been impressed with my ability with words. He had shown some of that work to this man.

Mr. Suit provided enough evidence to prove that he was indeed a successful businessman. His proposal was that I would write pornographic novels (he owned several adult bookstores and supplied a number of other outlets). He would buy them, paying me a nice advance for each novel, and then—depending on our agreement for that particular book–either the balance of an agreed-upon fee on completion or royalties. I could write under a pen name, if I desired.

At that moment in time, I had a total of ten dollars in my wallet and no job on the horizon. I turned him down. I was given a gift with words and with that gift came the responsibility to use it in a manner that would be, in some way, positive. Whether that emerged from writing an engaging story that allowed people to relax after a stressful day, or whether it emerged from the underlying ‘message’ in my stories, was irrelevant.

Since that evening in my van, there have been other times that I have been homeless, penniless, and jobless, but I have never regretted my decision. Now, many years later, I write books with strong female protagonists who make Superman look like a wuss.

My latest release, Death by Dog, opens with a street kid determined to stop dog fighters.

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Dog-Crime-Team-Book-ebook/dp/B01B5NXY4E

Death by Dog
Chapter 1
When the cold rain stopped that Wednesday, the sun peeked through gray clouds and painted the horizon over Puget Sound in slashes of orange and red. Soda stepped out the door of the First Avenue bookstore as she brushed her thick chestnut hair away from her face. It fell in waves to the middle of her back. She dug a scrunchie out of the pocket of her faded jeans then fisted her hair and tied it so that it fell under the collar of her hoodie.
Mid-March in Seattle, Washington, breathed an early spring chill on the city. She flipped her hood up then zipped the sweatshirt and stuffed her hands in the pockets. Shoulders hunched, she walked briskly south. Before long, she left the restaurants, boutiques and shops that had pulled steel mesh across their entrances for the night and entered an industrial area that had seen better times. Warehouses and abandoned buildings with busted windows hulked in the darkening evening.
The sound of rough male voices drifted across the narrow street. Soda edged into the deeper shadow of a crumbling, brick building; its windows like blinded eyes stared blankly out onto the littered street. Between the black jeans and the navy blue hoodie–pulled close around her pale face and with her white hands stuffed in her pockets–the shadows swallowed her form. Standing perfectly still, she listened as the voices drew closer. Eyes straining, she peered from her spot, trying to make out what swung between the two men.
A few street lamps–not yet vandalized–spilled watery yellow light on the dirty sidewalk and the green dumpster that squatted at the mouth of the alley across from where Soda hid. The men sauntered into the light. Soda squinted her gray-blue eyes. Her heart pounded when she finally realized what they carried.
The body of a large dog hung between them as they made their way to the dumpster. They swung the body back and forth until enough momentum had built and then let go. The animal sailed over the edge of the dumpster and thumped into the trash. They pulled off their gloves and stuffed them in jacket pockets.
The hum of traffic from several streets away sang a muted song, but the men’s voices–harsh and loud–rode over the top of it. The shorter, heavier man dug under his jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and the ember glowed as he inhaled. Grey smoke drifted up toward the circle of lamp light, but disintegrated when a slight breeze puffed off Puget Sound. The breeze smelled of dead fish. “Damn, that was some sick bitch. Shortest fight I’ve ever seen.” Admiration sounded clear in his gravelly voice.
The second man was slightly taller and not quite as heavy as his companion. He accepted a cigarette and lit it. “Short for damn sure. Only thing that bitch,” he jerked a thumb over his shoulder and toward the dumpster, “good for was a trainin’ fight. Can’t believe that other’n; not even two years old, yet. Man, I want me one of them dawgs.” He snorted a laugh.
A shiver ran up Soda’s spine. She pushed against the brick; the cold that seeped through her hoodie felt reassuring.
The shorter man shook his head. “In your dreams.” He finished his smoke then flicked the butt out into the street.
A cramp seized Soda’s calf muscle. Afraid any movement would draw their attention she clamped her teeth and pressed her lips together, willing herself not to move.
“What you think one of them dawg’s worth?” In imitation of the other man, the taller man flicked his cigarette butt out into the street.
For a moment, he seemed to be looking straight at her and Soda thought her heart might stop.
The other man shook his head. “Way outta your league. I heard some of them cost as much as fifty big ones.”
The taller man shifted his attention to his companion and Soda sucked in a silent breath. “If I had me a dawg like that…”
The shorter man guffawed. “You wouldn’t know what to do with it. Them things are the devil’s own dogs. One of them would eat you up, bro. Come on. I’ll buy you a beer.”
They sauntered away into the dark created by busted street lights. Snatches of their words faded until only the hum of the traffic from nearby streets filled the air. A couple of minutes later, a truck roared. Soda shuffled to the edge of the cracked sidewalk and watched as a block north a large, dark colored pick up pulled into the street. She waited until she could no longer see the red of the taillights before she hustled across the potholed asphalt.
Hand on the dumpster side she let her head drop back until she stared up at the faded sky. “Why am I doing this? It’s not going to change anything. She’s dead, or they wouldn’t have thrown her away.” A lump swelled in her throat. She swallowed hard. Taking a deep breath, she pushed her thin shoulders back and straightened up to her full five-foot-five in an effort to steel herself for what she knew lay in the garbage. With an exhale, she clambered up the side of the dumpster. Balanced on the inches-wide lip of cold metal, she stared down as the odor of rotted food wafted up to her. Pale light glinted off black plastic bags of garbage.
The dog had landed on top of several black bags. “You poor dog,” she said as tears quickened in her eyes. She readied to hop off the metal container then stopped. Holding her breath, she leaned forward. A faint movement caught her eyes.
Without hesitation, she dropped into the garbage and waded to the animal. One dark eye blinked slowly up at her. “Poor baby.” She eased down close to the dog. Papers rustled and a puff of something rancid reached her nose. She ignored it. Gently lifting the dog’s head, she scooted her legs underneath and laid the big head on her lap. A whine whispered from the dog. With light fingers, she stroked the dog’s face between gaping wounds. At least, the bleeding had stopped. A pink tongue slowly snaked out and rasped along Soda’s hand.
Even in the faded light from the street lamps, she could tell that the dog’s coat had once been a sable color, a mix of light brown and black hairs. Now a spray of drying and dried blood matted the fur with dark splotches. One of the muscled forelegs had been gashed and the muscle ripped open. The jagged point of bloodied bone jutted out of the skin. The dog had once been a beautiful animal with a well-built body that looked bigger than most German Shepherds that Soda had seen, but it was definitely a German Shepherd. She’d always loved the regal look of German Shepherd dogs.
Another shuddering breath pushed the dog’s ribs up and down. Soda swallowed back her tears as she recalled a lullaby that her mom had sung to her when she was young and had awakened from a bad dream. She petted the dog’s big head and stroked her side as she sang in a quavering, soft voice. Before she’d finished the song, the dog licked her hand once more, looked into Soda’s eyes and breathed her last.
Tears coasted down her cheeks as she wiggled out from under the dog’s head and laid it on a pillow of garbage. She reached out and stroked the still side. “Maybe you’ll see my mom when you cross the Rainbow Bridge, girl.” Jaw clenched, she struggled to her feet. With the sleeve of her hoodie, she scrubbed the tears away.
She had always loved dogs. Had one that had died a month before her mother died of cancer; a little dog shelter mutt, but Soda had loved Cindy. After her mother passed, she was glad that Cindy had died of old age first. She couldn’t have taken care of Cindy while she lived on the streets and she wouldn’t have left her dog alone with her abusive stepfather.
Fists knotted at her sides, she vowed that even though she was only a street kid she’d do something! She didn’t know what, but she would do something to stop those assholes from slaughtering any more dogs.

What gifts do you have? How are you using your gifts? Leave a comment. I would love to hear!
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Book Report on Books I’ve Read

Death Comes E-Calling by Leslie O’Kane (Cozy Mystery)
An e-card designer and mom with two children returns to live in her hometown while her husband works overseas for a year. She receives a mysterious and urgent letter from one of her old teachers asking her to visit. Before she can visit, the elderly woman dies. Was she murdered?
Some nice twists occur that involve the designer’s previous classmates. Returning to your childhood home and reconnecting isn’t always fun.
For a cozy easy bedtime read, I’d give it a 3.0.

Seven Daughters by Jessica Lourey (Paranormal)
A bit slow starting. Deals with long standing grudges between two families in a small town. There is an underlying thread of witchery that makes the story intriguing.
For a witch novel easy bedtime read, I’d give it a 3.3.

Lodestone (Witch Hunt) by Wendy Scott (Paranormal)
This witch story hooked me right away and kept me reading. Sabrina is a likeable young witch who faces challenges far beyond her. The author made this character a complex mix of strong/weak; naive/wise. An enjoyable character. If you like witch stories, you will enjoy this one.
A 5.

Circled by Anne McAneny (Murder mystery)
The death of a young girl, Macy, sets into play a string of tragedies that span more than a decade. Protagonist, Chloe, is an interesting, complex character. The story is a tapestry of past and present with unusual characters that kept me reading.
It may be a little confusing right at first, but even then it hooked me. The ending is surprising and well-done.
A definite 5.

Dear Lorna by L.E. Perez (Lesbian love story)
If you enjoy love stories–as opposed to everyone jumps right into bed/romance/sex stories–you will enjoy this one regardless of your gender preference. A surprising book with a bit of a convoluted beginning, but well worth the effort to continue as it soon becomes clear why the author chose this particular writing style: it brings the story alive.
No sex, no graphic violence, but a feeling of how love can grow, be misunderstood, get all tangled up in our fears, and heal in spite of everything.
I strongly recommend this book. A definite 5.

The Trouble with Dying by Maggie LePage (Paranormal)
Faith is dead, but will she stay dead? With help from her Gran’s ghost, Faith must navigate the world that lies in between life and death. The story is told from a coma/potential ghost perspective which makes it a bit different than most stories like this. A love story with a twist.
A nice 4.

Rating of the books from most to least enjoyed:
1. Dear Lorna
2. Circled
3. Lodestone
4. The Trouble with Dying
5. Seven Daughters
6. Death Comes E-Calling

I don’t rate books below a 3 star. If the book, in my opinion is less than a 3 star read, I avoid rating for several reasons: (Most of the time, I avoid reading it, too!)
a. It may simply be a matter of taste. If I had to rate some books, they would be in the negatives. And, that may not be fair to other readers who might enjoy those books.
b. An author works hard to write a novel. If I truly feel the novel lacks in some areas of craft, I will personally write to that author and detail my issues with her/his book. The author gets a heads-up without getting slammed on Amazon. Unfortunately, there are enough Trolls out there willing to rate books at a one star when they have never even read the book–just bought it so they could be “verified” purchasers then returned it immediately for their money back.

PleaseReview

Though life is busy, please take a few minutes after reading a book, hop over to Amazon and drop a review. Reviews do not have to be complex, detailed monsters–just two lines about something you liked in the story. Amazon also makes it a bit easier by having easy-to-click buttons for things like Characters–Flat, Developed, Complex and so forth. After clicking those, add in your two-lines and give it a star rating and you’re done!
The reasons I specifically mention Amazon:
a. Many advertisers only count reviews posted on Amazon. These advertisers won’t look at a book unless it has a minimum of ten reviews–usually they want more than that–with a total of 4.5 star rating. Without access to advertisers, Indie Authors are hard put to get their books noticed by the reading public.
b. When a book gains 50 reviews on Amazon, the book will begin showing up in several of Amazon’s feeds. These feeds get the book in front of the reading public.

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3 Things My Characters Taught Me

Not long ago, I submitted Hard Road Home, a literary novel, to Writer’s Digest Self-Published Awards Contest. Though I did not win, the judge who read my work had this to say:
“…HARD ROAD HOME is, like its title, a hard read, simply because of its subject matter. When Cas’s grandfather dies, her life rapidly falls apart into a spiral of abusive adults, alcohol, drugs, etc. It’s certainly intense material, and Walksfar writes about it vividly—I only can hope that much of it didn’t come out of direct experience, but the vividness of the writing did make me wonder about that. The character of Cas is certainly compelling; it’s difficult not to root for a character who doesn’t crumble under the weight of such torment and abuse.” (23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards)

In writing this book I drew from the experiences of children who had been subjected to horrendous abuse and still managed to overcome that adversity in order to pursue useful and, sometimes, heroic lives. The common denominator between those young people was that they never gave up; no matter how bad things seemed–they put on their big-girl pants and kept moving forward.
NoRoadSoLong

LESSON 1: Never give up!

My newest literary novel, Beyond the Silence, also tackles serious issues in our culture: domestic violence, marital rape, depression, anorexia, and the unjust loss of one’s children. In this book, Barb Hensen comes to realize that in order to live one has to have the courage to dream.
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LESSON 2: Find the courage to dream!

It isn’t only the protagonists in the literary novels that speak to me. In Run or Die, a mystery/thriller, Jaz Wheeler’s lover tells her that she needs to step beyond her current limiting circumstances.
aliciaDoSomethingGood

LESSON 3: Become all that you can be!

There you have it–some of the wisdom of my protagonists.

To check out the full array of novels, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

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#Highway530: In Memoriam

A TRIBUTE TO THOSE WE LOST AND THE FOUR LESSONS THEY LEFT BEHIND:
March 22, 2014 10:37 A.M.
aDarkTime

Oso_landslide_(WSP)

Sorrow seemed to swallow us whole.
light in darkness

We came together–to search for an elusive miracle. We found that miracle in each other, and in the children who shouldered a burden that no child should ever have to lift. They came–from the young Cub Scouts who raised money to the children who helped serve food to the workers to the teenagers who stocked shelves.

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In a community grieving, we found the first hint that
light

We came to accept that
NoMatterHowLong

Eventually, we realized

thoseWhoSeemGone

Four lessons grew from the soil of that tragedy:

footsteps

beauty

savor

Though life holds disappointments, broken dreams,and sorrow
butterfly

This blog post is dedicated to the 43 people that were lost when the Highway 530 Mudslide took out the small community of Steel Head Drive and the surrounding area once known as Hazel, Washington.

Many of these image quotes can be found in Biker Granny’s Motorcycle Philosophy
http://www.amazon.com/Biker-Grannys-Motorcycle-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B019APE7W2

For photos taken during the search and rescue efforts after the slide:
http://www.seattletimes.com/news/highway-530-mudslide-east-of-arlington/

FROM THE FULL ARCHIVE OF THE EVERETT HERALD’S COVERAGE OF HIGHWAY 530 MUDSLIDE: CURRENT ISSUES FOR SURVIVORS AND VICTIMS OF SLIDE:
http://www.heraldnet.com/section/osomudslide
FEB. 26, 2016
Now, there will be no mudslide trial before mid-to-late September.King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff changed the schedule in a Feb. 18 ruling that came after lawyers for Snohomish County, the state of Washington, and a timber company all said more time is necessary.The delay was opposed by lawyers representing the families of the 43 people who were killed and dozens of others who were injured in March 2014 when a wall of mud and trees raced across the Stillaguamish River valley.“It cannot be underscored more deeply at this stage that Plaintiffs deserve their day in court,” the lawyers wrote. “The trauma of survivors and surviving family members endures while this case is prolonged and remains unresolved.”

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4 Things You MUST Remember!

Life doesn’t always go according to plan and right on schedule! What can a person do? Whether you are fifteen or fifty-five, here’s a few suggestions from Biker Granny.

  1. Even rivers sometimes get blocked, yet the water simply finds a way over, under, around, or through the obstacle. Be like a river.waterfall 1 waterfalls A waterfall is a river that has found a way over an obstacle. Some do it quietly; some do it with joyous abandon.
  2. Flowers always smile after a rain–they lift their heads and rejoice in the sun. Rejoice in the moment, however, different it is than what you planned. Be like a flower. magnolia bloom
  3. In the face of adversity and difficulty, trees cling and thrive on mountainsides. Strong, tenacious, persistent. Be like a tree. tree in rock
  4. You are a child of Creator, and no matter how many plans fail to bear fruit, you are a wonderful part of creation. And you are worthy. PurposeAndBeauty

To read more of Biker Granny’s Motorcycle Philosophy, pick up your copy today! http://www.amazon.com/Biker-Grannys-Motorcycle-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B019APE7W2
If you’ve read Biker Granny’s Motorcycle Philosophy, please take a moment to review it!

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Characteristics of a Crappy #Romance

I don’t normally use my blog to analyze books; however, there seems to be a run of romances that are determined to portray #women as stupid, weak, contemptible, and willing to accept abuse in the name of “love”. This is an unhealthy trend.

Here is an analysis of the characters of such a book:

The mother: helpless, stubborn, unwilling to listen to her daughter when her daughter tells her a man had attacked her; has to be ‘made’ to allow her daughter to marry a wealthy man who obviously loves her while mother continues to push the idea that the man who attacked her daughter would be a better match for the girl.

The father: heroic, of course. He is the fountain of reason, he is the support of his daughters, he is the one who forces the mother to relent, he even accepts the strange wealthy man, he recognizes true love, and when the bad villagers want to cause his daughter’s new husband trouble, he is the voice of reason trying to talk them out of it.

The younger sister: Sneaky, helpless, manipulative, spoiled, lazy, blackmails sister and new husband into taking her with them, at first fights off the attentions of villain but in the end when it really counts, all she does is whimper, beg and cry. And that was after she left the ‘safety of the castle’ without anyone knowing, while knowing that the bad men were close by and looking to harm her sister’s husband and her sister.

The elder sister/dragon’s wife: helpless, stupid, weak, flighty, easily manipulated, fearful, as far from courageous as possible to get! The only time this woman shows any backbone is by insisting she does not want to marry the villain, but wants to marry the wealthy guy who loves her. Other than that, she shows herself to be flighty—one minute accepting the dragon man while the next page she rejects what he is until someone talks her around to accepting him. She likes the wealth but doesn’t want to accept the nitty gritty. Whenever she is attacked, all she does is stand there and take it until she is rescued. Then she puts herself into situations that makes it necessary to rescue her, for no good reason. So, add stupid to the analysis of her.

The dragon man: intelligent, wealthy, forgiving, patient, loving, kind, generous, strong, understanding, protective, loyal—you get the gist.

If I rated this book on Amazon, I would give it a minus 5!

This book reinforces the notion that women continually make bad decisions even when they have the information they need to make better decisions; that women cannot rescue themselves, but must be rescued by a man; that women will constantly put themselves in danger without ever trying to extricate themselves from that danger; and that women will never fight back regardless of the situation.

How this book could have been better:
The girls, both the soon-to-be-wife and her sister, could be shown to fight back against the bully/villain, instead of passively allowing themselves to be hit, slapped, and otherwise beaten. The sister, when she moves in with the wife and the dragon, could be taught how to fight back more effectively.
Neither of these things needed to negate the hero’s rescue. The women could be fighting back, but the man could be shown as much more versed in fighting and much stronger and even though the women never concede defeat, they need someone to help them in the fight.

During the younger sister’s capture, it could be made clear that the man sneaked up on her and hit her in the head with a branch and therefore, got her wrists tied and her more helpless than otherwise. It could even be that he sneers and says, “Now, let’s see if you hit and scratch like some wildcat.” She could spit in his face and call him a coward and a bully. When the dragon and his wife come up on the scene, the younger sister could have tears streaming down her face and be beaten up, but she still stares defiantly at her tormentor and actually head butts him right before the entrance of the hero. The reader knows that the younger girl would have been killed had not the hero come, but at least she would have gone down with a fight.

The mother could resist the daughter’s love match with the dragon-man right up until the villain attacks her younger daughter the first time. Then she realizes how wrong she has been and goes up to the castle to warn the dragon-man of the mob coming for him as a way of making amends.

The wife could still worry about her dragon husband so much that she allows her mother to persuade her to follow him in hopes that they can help in some way. The mother could still be caught and held hostage to force the dragon man to bring the dragon to be killed. The dragon man’s wife, however, could show her mettle by sneaking up behind the villain holding her mother and pressing a knife against his throat thereby creating a standoff. A different man can then put her father at risk by grabbing him with a knife against his throat. The dragon man can then concede and bring the dragon “to be killed” so that the villain will release the others without harm.

During the ensuing fight the father could still be pitchforked accidentally, but the dragon man’s wife–instead of needlessly getting slashed–could be slashed as she wheels around and attacks one of the bad guys. She gets the better of him by plunging her own dagger into his heart while her dragon husband roasts the main villain.

The dragon still has to give everyone blood and be the hero, except in this version the women get to be something more than airheads who can’t make a sound decision and are unable to do the least thing in their own defense.

The story is still the same story, but with both men and women being shown as courageous and loyal and able to make good decisions. Sounds like a win-win to me!
What do you think? Can romances be good romance reads while portraying women as strong, complex characters?

All of my novels portray women as complex characters. Check them out at http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

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4 Whys & 4 Hows of #Journaling

worthRemembering

Writing is not for the faint of heart. When words are put on paper, or computer screen, we are opening our minds, our emotions, and our souls to the reader. In journaling, the reader is also the writer and that is what makes journaling a powerful tool in #StressManagement, and in dealing with our daily struggles and triumphs, among many other uses.

There are 4 strong reasons to journal:

1.Express negative emotion safely. Have you ever said something then wanted to take it back, erase it? Once journaling becomes a habit, these unfortunate situations decrease drastically. You write out those hasty, and not so hasty, comments and then take the time to re-read and evaluate them. Should they be said? How could this be said in a more tactful manner? Am I simply venting my frustrations inappropriately?

2.Track progress in a project or toward a goal. In our very busy world it is easy to get sidetracked by an avalanche of things we need to do. Buried beneath this avalanche are those projects we hold closest to our hearts; ones that often get neglected. One way to insure that a project, whether large or small, reaches a successful conclusion is to track the progress of the project. In a journal, you can do that on a daily, or a weekly, basis. It is especially helpful if we sketch out our plans in the journal first, such as build tree house for the children. From that broad goal, you can then write out the steps to accomplish the end result and what materials will be needed. This is simply one way to track progress toward an objective.

3.Think ‘out loud’. We all occasionally need a sounding board, but there are times when the person we normally go to is either inappropriate or unavailable at the time of our need to ‘think out loud’. Thinking out loud is easily accomplished through writing in a journal. You put your thoughts, however rambling, into the journal and then leave them for a few hours. Go back and re-read what you have written. Often new inspirations or simply a new perspective will give you much needed feedback on the issue at hand.
Use these pages to record your emotions; even the ones that seem difficult to share such as the feeling of being vulnerable when you look up at the stars flung across the vast heavens; the heart-stopping joy at seeing the first butterfly of the season; the sadness of seeing a small animal dead along the road; the love for that special person that you haven’t yet found the courage to shout from the rooftops. Record those dreams that seem so out of reach that you fear to share them with anyone.
Use the journal to capture the moment; record the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings evoked as you catch a glimpse of a wild mountain goat in his natural habitat, or see the eagle soar above the raging white waters of a river. Life has a way of obscuring these moments. When we journal we capture the essence, what the moment means to us, more surely than any photograph.
manydroplets
Capture those droplets of life in your journal where you can revisit them from time to time.

4.To record our daily struggles and triumphs; our accomplishments, large and small. One of the easiest things to do is to tell ourselves that we have not ‘accomplished anything today’ (or this week, this month, this year!) All too frequently, the large and small triumphs get washed away on a flood of things we still need to do. Once we lose track of those triumphs, we forget how much we have actually accomplished. By journaling about large and small triumphs, we can use our journal as a tool for positive motivation. Record the fact that you got the kids to all their games on time; that you cooked a wonderful dinner for your significant other; and that you finally got that raise you deserve.
Use your journal to record struggles, self-doubts, and worries. A week or a month later go back and review these things. How were issues resolved? Was that self-doubt something that you needed to analyze and address? Time and again, you will discover that you have made good choices; you have overcome what could have been crippling self-doubts; and you have moved forward in spite of worry and obstacles. This will reinforce the fact that you are a capable person, and it will give you ideas on how to handle similar situations in the future.

There are 4 easy steps in journaling:

1.Choose a journal book that best fits you. A journal can be a spiral bound notebook or a bound and covered book with blank pages. It should at least be the size of a paperback book, but don’t use three ring binders as they don’t feel ‘intimate’ enough for personal thoughts and expression of emotion.

2.Dedicate a specific amount of time for journaling during a quiet period of the day—this can be once a day or once a week. It should be at least once a week as beyond that we forget the important things we want to say in our journals and journaling won’t become a habit.

3.Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or any other grammar boogeyman. Just go with the flow. This is not the final draft of a novel. These words are for your eyes only. Sometimes, the flow-of-consciousness—just allowing yourself to write without any specific purpose or goal—is a great way to discover subconscious thoughts and feelings.

4.Keep your journal somewhere safe from prying eyes. It’s for you, to share parts of it or to not share it at all.

There, you have it–four strong reasons why you should journal, and four easy steps to start your adventure today! Happy writing!

Go to http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK to check out my work.
Sketch of a Murder, the first book of the Special Crimes Team series, is FREE. Go to http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ ALL the books in the Special Crimes Team series can be read out of sequence or as stand-alones.

Just like journaling, reviewing a book is best done in the heat of the moment. So, when you reach that last page, shoot over to wherever you purchased the book–or if it was a gift, shoot over to Amazon or Goodreads–and leave a review. An author will thank you.

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#Reviews: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

REVIEWS: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Your opinion counts—especially with Independent Authors AKA #IndieAuthors—those of us who choose to write and to publish our own work. I read every review I receive, and I take them seriously. What the reader says matters to me.
What is even more important for the reader to understand is that reviews and word-of-mouth can make or break an Indie book. We swim, or drown, in an ocean of books. creeping fog on ocean
Between 600,000 and 1 million new books are published every year. With limited advertising budgets and no large house to create “buzz” for us, we have to depend on rankings, especially rankings on Amazon, to have our books placed far enough toward the top of the queue that readers who are randomly searching–say ‘mystery’–will happen upon our books. Two ways to get good rankings on Amazon is to either sell a lot of books every day and/or amass at least twenty-five 4 and 5 star reviews.
Unfortunately, Indie authors also face the terrible monsters of the deep. Beneath the choppy waters of the ocean of books lurk Review Trolls. Here is a rare photo of a Review Troll, note the wide open mouth getting ready to gobble up a Indie Author: Sea Monster Yawning
Review trolls are people who purchase a book, keep it a day or two and then return the book without reading it. That person can now post an Amazon VERIFIED purchase review. The reviews that trolls publish are always meant to wreck an author’s ratings. Like black hat hackers, review trolls are about unnecessary destruction. Their ratings, however, will pull down the ranking of the book that they attack unless that book has enough 4 and 5 star ratings to successfully counterbalance the trolls’ attacks.
With the challenges involved in getting very busy people to write and post reviews and fending off troll attacks, Indie authors face advertisers who won’t even consider their book for their publications and email blasts unless the book has at least ten 4 and 5 star reviews on AMAZON! They don’t count Barnes and Noble or Smashwords reviews. Everyone knows that advertising is one way to get your book in front of a larger audience. Classic chicken and egg situation. Advertising could result in more reviews, but you can’t advertise with the really good advertisers without ten reviews.
You see, a reader’s opinion really does matter, especially to an Indie author. The next time you finish a book, please consider zipping over to Amazon and quickly posting an honest review.
For me, and for many Indie authors who put in incredibly long hours, we thank you!
AMAZON REVIEW EXCERPTS FROM READERS:
STREET HARVEST (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, SECOND BOOK. ALL BOOKS IN THIS SERIES CAN BE READ OUT OF SEQUENCE) Pat Rummenie says:
Everyone with a social conscience who also loves a good mystery should read this well written book.
OLD WOMAN GONE (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, THIRD BOOK) Amazon Customer says:
The mixture of police procedures and Native American spiritualism are needed to solve the crime and rescue the two women. The author knows the setting well and uses it to enhance the story.
BACKLASH! (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, FOURTH BOOK) Coppercreek says:
I love crime novels, and this really hit the spot.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONG MYSTERY/THRILLER) KtHack8 says:
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a story about life and finding the will to overcome adversity.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONE MYSTERY/THRILLER) Denise Gayl says:
Thought provoking about the injustices of bigotry and racism, and the ray of sunshine that there are people “out there” willing to accept, love, and help others even though their lifestyles are unlike their own. Well done.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) pwindsinspirations says:
This story brought out emotions in me I had hidden away. I, too, was abused and afraid to tell anyone for fear of only making it worse for myself….. I liked how it took me from despair to triumph and the way the writer brought that about.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) Denise Gayl says:
A very good read. As a mother of 2 girls, the subject matter is a bit difficult at times. But, in the end, it shows that young women pitted against adversity through no fault of their own can come back strong and live good lives. Is thought provoking and makes me realize there is much that needs to be done in this society to help young people thrive.
THIS is why I write! Thank you, Readers! YOU are my inspiration!
katrina leavereview

SKETCH OF A MURDER, Special Crimes Team, is FREE. Run over and grab your copy! http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

To view my other titles go to: http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

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Reporters: Truth Tellers Or…?

BeautyWillPersist

Every time that I read headlines in the newspaper, I recall Sergeant Nita Slowater’s feelings about reporters. In Sketch of a Murder the protagonist, Sergeant Nita Slowater, doesn’t like reporters; in fact, she despises them. Her introduction to Dawn Samira, investigative reporter for the Seattle Times, reinforces Nita’s attitude.

Excerpt from Sketch of a Murder:
As they emerged from the car, she spotted a woman standing outside the yellow crime scene tape. A five-foot nothing blonde bomb that was roughly two seconds from explosion, if the hand waving and the foot stomping at the patrol officer told a true tale. Must be the reporter. They always act like the police should fall over their own feet giving them access to crime scenes. Arrogant asses.

After leaving the crime scene, Nita is told by her superior, Lieutenant Michael Williams that she will be the liaison with Dawn. Nita is far from pleased.

Excerpt from Sketch of a Murder:
“I don’t do politics and I don’t play ‘meet-the-press.’” She yanked on the snug lap belt and shifted her body away from him.
He slammed the heel of his hand against the steering wheel. “What’s such a big deal about this, Sergeant Slowater?”
Body stiff, she swung around to face him. “What’s such a big deal? Do you know why I got exiled to SCaT?”
He gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Governor Marleton didn’t think I needed that kind of information at this time.”
“I’ll tell you why—I slugged a fucking reporter and knocked him on his skinny, white ass.”

Still the lieutenant insists that she be Dawn’s contact during the case. Finally, Nita tells the lieutenant why she despises reporters.

Excerpt from Sketch of a Murder:
“I heard an undercover man was found dead when the doors got busted open.”
For a second, she closed her eyes then the images on the back of her lids forced them open again. “Yeah. My best friend, Ed.”
He scratched his jaw, fingers rasping against his five o’clock shadow. “What happened?”
She redirected her attention to the side window, watched the trees and bushes flash past. The memory hit her in the chest like someone hammering on a punching bag.
In the pre-dawn hours of that February morning, a drizzle of cold rain had weaseled its way down the back of her Kevlar vest as she waited for the go command. She’d been in the second wave to spread out through the blackness of the sprawling warehouse. Flashlight beams bounced off of stacks of boxes, pallets of crates. Barrels took up one large, roped off area. She recalled thinking how easy it would be for a sniper to pick them off. Only the first wave had night vision goggles; everyone else was pinpointed with flashlights.
Static nearly made the terse commands coming over her radio unintelligible. No need to answer. The office door loomed ahead of her, its pebbled glass bouncing the light into glittering fragments. The darkness looming all around them gobbled it up like a hungry beast. Head low, she reached over and twisted the knob. Locked.
Her partner, Ricky Day, held his gun in the ready position and tilted his head at the door. She nodded back. He swung in front of the door and kicked. The wooden jamb splintered. The door flew open, slammed against the wall hard enough to crack the glass in the upper half of it.

Even facing straight ahead she could feel the lieutenant stealing quick looks at her. The smells of that day wafted up from her memory. Technicolored pictures in her mind ran on fast-forward in an infinite loop, complete with surround-sound. Over and over. The coppery smell of Ed’s blood. The sour smell of a rookie puking. The echoing of the empty warehouse—empty except for Ed’s body still strapped to a battered wood chair in the main office.
The words clawed their way up her throat. “Those bastards tortured him. Cut out his eyes. Sliced off his lips and tongue and hacked off both ears.”
“Shit!” The curse exploded from him.
Her eyes darted toward him. Staring at his face, she felt the tie between them. Cops. In spite of their differences, they were cops. “Staub printed an exposé the day before—pretty much told them that one of our people was on the inside. No one could prove how he got his information, but the FBI agent working with us disappeared during the raid.” Silence pooled between them. She refocused her gaze on the roadside racing past the side window.
Miles later they ran into Seattle’s normal late afternoon gridlock. Taillights flickered. They coasted to a stop. Heat wavered up from the asphalt and mixed with the ghostly gray wisps of exhaust from the car in front of them.
“Dawn’s not like that.” His words hung in the stuffy air as the car crawled along.
She didn’t look at him. “They’re all like that, sharks without a conscience. All they care about is the blood, and they don’t really care whose blood it is.”

There is a segment of the population who believe that news reporters seek sensationalism rather than reporting objectively, and that such biased reporting negatively affects the information the general public receives about important events.
What do you think? Have you read about events in the newspapers or heard about them on television broadcasts that you feel are biased reports rather than actual reporting of events?
Do you feel that Nita’s attitude about reporters is accurate?

Don’t forget to get your FREE ebook copy of Sketch of a Murder and see if Nita ever finds a way to get along with Dawn.
http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

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STOP! We Need Strong Female Characters

front cover artemis (One of my favorite book covers)
http://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Warriors-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B0158NZ1L6

So here’s a quick questionnaire for filmmakers who’ve created a female character who isn’t a dishrag, a harpy, a McGuffin to be passed around, or a sex toy. Congratulations, you have a Strong Female Character. That’s a great start! But now what? Screenwriters, producers, directors, consider this:”

I decided to compare my books to this standard to see how my strong female characters rate: (also please remember that my protagonists are all female)

1.“After being introduced, does your Strong Female Character then fail to do anything fundamentally significant to the outcome of the plot? Anything at all?”

My strong female characters, even the secondary ones, always have a reason for being that is significant to the plot.

2.“If she does accomplish something plot-significant, is it primarily getting raped, beaten, or killed to motivate a male hero? Or deciding to have sex with/not have sex with/agreeing to date/deciding to break up with a male hero? Or nagging a male hero into growing up, or nagging him to stop being so heroic? Basically, does she only exist to service the male hero’s needs, development, or motivations?”

Even though some of my female characters—protagonist or secondary–are raped/beaten/kidnapped it is to advance the plot; not to advance a particular character.
Interactions in life are about the two people who happen to be in the same “story” as the other one. As in Street Harvest when Eleanor Hasting is kidnapped–she is in that position because of her personal beliefs.
I don’t create characters who primarily are there to motivate others. I don’t think life of a strong woman allows for that type of relationship, and all of my women are strong in their own way.

Street Harvest

3.“Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?”

NOT LIKELY!

4.“Is a fundamental point of your plot that your Strong Female Character is the strongest, smartest, meanest, toughest, or most experienced character in the story—until the protagonist arrives?”
Since my protagonists are female, I will answer this in regards to secondary strong female characters: no, the women I write about are complex, capable people who make mistakes, suffer and learn along with the protagonist who also suffers and learns.

5.“…or worse, does he enter the story as a bumbling fuck-up, but spend the whole movie rapidly evolving past her, while she stays entirely static, and even cheers him on? Does your Strong Female Character exist primarily so the protagonist can impress her?”

Dawn Samira, secondary/supporting character to protagonist Sergeant Nita Slowater, would really laugh at this one! Dawn has been called lots of things, but static is not one of them. She is Nita’s biggest cheerleader—as Nita is hers–but they grow together.

6.“It’s nice if she’s hyper-cool, but does she only start off that way so a male hero will look even cooler by comparison when he rescues or surpasses her?”

I love novels where the characters are not so much rescuing each other as they are growing together. These are the types of novels I write. Like in Run or Die when protagonist Jaz Wheeler interacts with supporting character Aretha Hopewell, both women come out better than at the beginning of the book. Learning and growing is a cooperative endeavor.
http://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A

7.“Is she so strong and capable that she’s never needed rescuing before now, but once the plot kicks into gear, she’s suddenly captured or threatened by the villain, and needs the hero’s intervention? Is breaking down her pride a fundamental part of the story?”

The only pride that gets shattered is the pride of the bad dudes! My protagonists and her supporting characters, kick the bad dudes butts!

8.“Does she disappear entirely for the second half/third act of the film, for any reason other than because she’s doing something significant to the plot (besides being a hostage, or dying)?”

Even my hostage in Old Woman Gone, Grandma Greene at 85 years old does not sit back and wait for rescue. She acts on her own behalf and on the behalf of others.

“If you can honestly answer “no” to every one of these questions, you might actually have a Strong Female Character worthy of the name. Congratulations!”

Yep, I think my female characters rank among the most complex, significant characters in fiction.
To read the entire article from which this standard was copied, go to: (it is well worth the time to read!)

http://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/618-were-losing-all-our-strong-female-characters-to-tr/

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