Aya Walksfar, Author

To write is to create new realities with words

6 TRAITS OF STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

6 TRAITS OF STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

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1.  Does she make things happen? Does she make choices–good and bad–that move the story forward? Will her choices make a difference? A #strongfemalecharacter doesn’t wait for others to act; she is willing and able to act. She doesn’t wait to be rescued; and, she often rescues others.

In Street Harvest, Jaimie Wolfwalker, defies the police to rescue children from human traffickers.  (Street Harvest, Book 2, Special Crimes Team)

2.  Does she demonstrate intelligence?

#PatriciaBriggs’ character, Mercy Thompson, is a skinwalker coyote and a mechanic in the human world. Her opponents, and even allies, are werewolves, vampires and the fae–all of who are many times stronger than Mercy. She compensates by using intelligence and courage to prevail.

3.  Does she show passion about something other than some “hottie” or some “sex on a stick” guy? Is she willing to face great odds because she believes strongly in something? (justice, protecting the weak, and so on)

Jaz Wheeler (Run or Die) is determined to remain on Hopewell Farm in spite of the six men who are just as determined to chase her away, or to kill her.

4.  Does she possess traits that the reader can relate to and that makes the reader care about the character? Is she a loyal friend,  compassionate, intelligent, tenacious, strong-willed, fearless? This does not mean she isn’t flawed. The best characters show traits that we can admire, but also traits that we find less admirable–such as suspicious, stubborn, has a temper. People don’t relate well to perfection because we aren’t perfect, and can never be.

Sergeant Nita Slowater (Sketch of a Murder,Book 1, Special Crimes Team) has a quick temper that landed her in the #SpecialCrimesTeam when she punched out a reporter. Her temper flared because the reporter was implicated in her best  friend’s murder. (temper vs loyalty)

5.  Is she resourceful? When faced with stronger opponents, greater force either mental or physical, greater resources–such as the bad guy owns the town– can she figure out a way to survive; to defeat her opponents?

In #SuzanneCollins, Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen faces incredible odds, yet she finds ways to overcome those odds and not only survive, but to defeat her opponents.

6.  Does she change over time? A strong character will grow and change during the course of a story.

Sergeant Nita Slowater starts out with a prejudice against reporters and FBI agents. Over the course of the story she comes to understand that not all reporters are willing to get a story at any cost and not all FBI agents turn traitor.

Basically, a strong female character will demonstrate many of the same traits as a strong woman in real life:

  1. She considers who she is and what she wants for herself. She honors her instincts. She sets goals for herself.

  2. She shares her ideas and thoughts, regardless of what others think. She stands up for herself and others. She meets challenges and does not wait for others to act.

  3. She is willing to learn and to teach. She is confident in her own abilities.

  4. A strong woman will bloom wherever she finds herself.

Do you enjoy reading stories with strong female characters? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear!

Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team, http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

Street Harvest, Book 2, Special Crimes Team, http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

Run or Die http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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12 REASONS FOR STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS

Words are powerful. We ingest words like air, almost unconsciously. And, like air they wend their way deep inside of us, carried into our brains just like oxygen.

What happens if you are a young girl and all the words that feed your brain tell you things like:

1.  Girls can’t do science (check out my pinterest board about #GREATWOMEN

http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar/great-women/

2.  Girls should have babies and stay at home  (IF this is what a woman wants then it is an appropriate career, and a tough one. But, not all women want to have children–in our overcrowded world–and many want to have a career outside of the home.  #womenshould do whatever their talents and desires lead them to do)

3.  Girls can’t be athletes  (Girls, and women, can be and do whatever they choose. There are many outstanding #womenathletes )

4.  Girls don’t do math (I refer the reader to my pinterest board GREAT WOMEN)

5.  Only lesbians want to be independent women (This one is too silly to even answer)

6.  Lesbians are women who are too ugly to find a man (Personally, I think Portia is very stunning. Ask #ellendegenres I bet she would agree)

7.  “There is no such thing as rape” (This statement shows that there are people who are dangerously ill-informed, or there is no such thing as a brain among the people who say this!)

8.  “Rape is just a snuggle with a struggle” (on a t-shirt that was being sold in a mall in the Phillipines!) (This one is extremely dangerous and goes along with “there is no such thing as rape”. Until we understand that rape is violent assault with the same objective as a perp tying up and beating another person–which is to control and terrorize that person– we will not be able to understand the full extent of this horrendous crime. That the perp uses sex–what is normally considered a tool of intimacy–to control and terrorize is part of what makes this crime so devastating. )

9.  If you would use a little makeup, you’d be pretty (and if you don’t use makeup, obviously you are ugly) (Cosmetics are a huge industry and it behooves that industry to spend billions of dollars every year to convince women of this fallacy. This is pretty egotistical. These people are claiming that they know what beauty is better than Creator/God/Goddess and they are willing to help the Dieties/Diety make their creations beautiful! YOU are BEAUTIFUL just as you are!)

10.  Honey, you’d look so much nicer if you lost a few pounds (translation: if you don’t loose a few pounds, you’re el blimpo) (Women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. All of them are beautiful. The only time a person should worry about their weight is if it is adversely affecting their health, by THEIR standards.)

11.  Women are weaker than men; they can’t fight back (hmm, there are undoubtedly a few men out there who wish they hadn’t believed that one!)

12.  #Feminists are women who hate men (how about Feminists are women who want the best for women and men?)

These 12 statements are why we need to have novels which paint a true picture of the diversity, the strength and the courage of women. Girls, and women, need to hear positives; need to see role models of women who confront all sorts of evils and obstacles and triumph on television, in songs and in novels.  There are many wonderful pinterest boards about #remarkablewomen

We do not need more Manic Pixie Dream Girls who only exist to help the boy fulfill his destiny! We do not need more damsels in distress feeding the idea that girls and women are helpless without a man/boy to rescue them. Women, and girls, often rescue others and this needs to be celebrated in literature.

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MEET THREE REMARKABLE WOMEN

I have known many remarkable women in my life, starting with my mother and grandmother. Grandmother was a spiritual woman who reached out and touched lives; my mother rescued animals. As an author, I write about remarkable women.

These past few months, I have had the privilege to work with three women much like my grandmother and my mother: my adopted sister, Lois, a very spiritual Native American woman; and Shari Bond and Jackie Glover of Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue. Lois was friends with an 84-year-old man, Walter, who had 58 alpacas when he went into the hospital. Since Walter didn’t have any family close-by, Lois became his patient advocate as well as cooking him meals as he couldn’t always eat the hospital food, and taking over the care of his 58 alpacas. At 76-years old, my sister is a tiny woman, barely five-foot tall and weighing around a hundred pounds. loisThe schedule she took on was grueling.

One afternoon when my wife, Deva, and I had gone to Sedro Woolley to visit Lois we finally realized the extent of the project she had taken upon herself:

Walter was not coming home. Ever. His alpacas had not been sheared in two years; DSC01136(note the excessively heavy fiber on this animal. Poor animal had no way to cool off and the excess fiber hid the fact that they had been starving) they had not been getting enough to eat; and they had several other health issues. And they all needed rehomed ASAP! As Lois researched finding homes she met despair. The alpaca industry in the United States was in a many-years-long slump; alpacas flooded the market; there were no homes available. Several people suggested that she load the animals up and truck them to auction to be sold off as dog food on the hoof. DSC01105 (note the bare pasture. All that grew there was inedible weeds) Other people suggested that she have all of the animals euthanized. My sister was devastated. And exhausted from months of caring for the animals and months of running back and forth to help feed and take care of her friend, Walter.

Lois was so busy giving that she forgot to ask others for help. Fortunately, when Deva understood the overwhelming scope of the project, she volunteered to help with the animals. That night, Deva went online and found the Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue.  http://www.facebook.com/foralpacas  She immediately contacted Shari Bond. Shari quickly responded. So began Deva and my months’ long journey in helping Lois and the alpacas.

At first, Walter’s son–a grown man who lives out of state–blocked all attempts to rehome the alpacas, mistakenly believing that each animal was worth thousands of dollars. Lois finally found a way around that. First big hurdle in the way of rehoming the alpacas had been crossed!

The next issue: the alpacas, which had been badly neglected and starved until my sister took over their care, and some had health issues, could not be transported before they were sheared or the combination of poor condition and heat while un-sheared could kill them.

Anyone who meets Lois recognizes the goodness within her. Andre, who had been friends with Walter and knew Lois stepped in and paid for the shearing. 140525_0001  (these wonderful men knew Lois and came to help. Andre paid for the shearing–in blue shirt–as well as physically helped during the shearing. Note the gentleness of the man kneeling on the floor, comforting the baby alpaca during its first shearing) 140525_0009One more hurdle crossed!

If you have ever tried to place even one animal in an ethical manner, you know that the long process of finding potential homes, screening potential adopters and finalizing the adoption can take weeks. With an animal species that is over-abundant this process can take months of hard work.

Shari and her business partner, Jackie Glover, began the process of finding suitable placements. Some of those who came forward–good people wanting to help–didn’t know anything about alpacas and their needs. Many had inappropriate fencing, such as barbed wire; others wanted to run alpacas and inappropriate livestock together which can result in the alpacas being seriously injured. Others simply didn’t know what they would be getting into until Shari and Jackie explained about the needs and requirements for alpacas. The pool of potential homes shrunk quickly.  DSC01109

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

Working herself into exhaustion and with limited income of her own, Lois searched for ways to pay people to help with the physical care of the animals; pay vet bills, and buy good hay. None of which comes cheap. She found some help she could afford by having garage sales and selling other items.

Deva and I began purchasing good hay from Dayville Hay in Snohomish and transporting it to the ranch. A small item off Lois’ list.

Next hurdle….

Intact male alpacas, unless they are intended for breeding purposes, are trouble. They argue and sometimes injure each other, and, in general, are more difficult to manage. In a poor alpaca economy intact males were definitely not a moving item. Gelding would cost $200 per animal. There was no money for gelding.

Shari and Jackie, got busy. They contacted Chuckanut Vet Hospital in Mount Vernon and found a compassionate vet who offered his services for the price of the supplies needed for each gelding. With 18 males the cost was still significant. Shari and Jackie got busy fundraising.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…..

Walter died. The ranch, which had been up for sale, now faced either a quick sale or a foreclosure. The animals had to be moved, and moved soon!

The gelding took place, but people who wanted alpacas were still scarce. One alpaca, Sammi, died after the gelding from pneumonia.

The alpacas were down to mere days before they had to be vacated.

Commitments made months earlier, before their involvement with these alpacas, claimed large portions of Shari and Jackie’s time. Tensions rose. Two of the placed alpacas literally dropped dead in their new home. All placements had to be put on hold until a necropsy could determine why these alpacas died.

The clock ticked inexorably forward, greedily consuming the hours, the days left.

The necropsy exposed disturbing medical facts. Blood tests had to be performed on all the alpacas at the ranch. Again, Shari contracted with the vet and Oregon State University to have blood drawn and tested. Days ticked by as we waited for the results.

Finally, the results green flagged the rehoming project. Another hurdle faced and overcome!DSC01128  (I only have photos of the alpacas before shearing. Isn’t this one a beauty?)

At last, we were down to eleven males and six females. But we only had days left. Shari and Jackie hustled. They shuffled the alpacas at their ranch, and at foster placements. They found new foster homes. And they decided that the three elderly (18-year-old) females would come home to live with them for the remainder of their lives. Lady Jane and her two cronies would not have to move ever again.

Shari and Jackie’s truck couldn’t haul their large trailer full of alpacas a hundred and fifty miles.

The hard deadline of Monday evening loomed ahead of us. Deva phoned Shari and volunteered to use our diesel truck to pull the large trailer.

Friday came. Deva finished work, went to a physical therapy appointment, we filled our cooler with juices and waters, and started south to pick up the big trailer at Cross Creek Ranch.

Friday night, Interstate 5 traffic between Darrington, Washington and Tenino, Washington sucks rotten lemons! We finally arrived and hooked up the trailer. Last minute discussions about meeting times concluded, we headed home.

Meanwhile back at the ranch….

The 13-year-old male, Leonardo, who had been a bag of walking bones, went down and wouldn’t stand up. Frantic phone calls ensued. Shari arranged an emergency call to the vet to see Leonardo.

Saturday morning. We arrive at the ranch. Leonardo is down in the pasture. Shari, Deva and I go over to see him. He finally gets up, one hind foot not touching the ground, back legs trembly weak, spine hunched in pain, eyes sunk from dehydration. It looks like we’ll lose Leonardo. A pall hangs over us as we wait with Lois for the vet to arrive.

The vet arrives. Checks Leonardo’s heart, lungs, gut sounds. Stands up and gives us the news: Leonardo can be saved!

A shot of Banamine for pain and instructions to Shari for rehydration, thiamine shots, internal parasite eradication, pain management and further care. Great news, but now we have to regroup.

Santiago DSC01121 (lush grass outside the fence next to the busy road shows how barren the pasture is), one of the eleven males, cannot be with the other males as he attacks them. The plan had been for Shari to haul Santiago on her smaller trailer while Deva hauled the other ten males on the large trailer. Now, Leonardo needs to be hauled on the smaller trailer.

It wouldn’t be so difficult, but Shari had months ago arranged for a gelding clinic at OSU for fifteen alpacas that she committed to hauling to the clinic. They have to arrive early morning on Tuesday. She has to pick them up at various locations around the state, and get them there. She had planned to use Sunday and Monday to gather the alpacas. Now, she had to adjust her extremely tight schedule. Leonardo needed her help.

Deva and Shari decided on a plan: Leonardo would ride in Shari’s trailer and Deva would haul the other nine males. Sunday Shari would return to pick up Santiago and Deva would haul the six females.

Night had fallen by the time, Deva drove into Centralia and the home for the last of the five males on the trailer. Shari, Jackie and a man with a headlamp met us at the driveway and directed us into a dark pasture. In an adjoining pasture, horses pressed against the fence, curious about the commotion in the field next to them. We unloaded the animals and headed out, leaving Shari and Jackie still talking to the man about the alpacas.

One in the morning, we arrived home. Our dogs tell us just what they think about our hauling in so late at night. I wonder as I toss and turn how Shari and Jackie do this day after day. How do they drive for hours on traffic clogged roads, deal with sick, neglected and sometimes brutalized animals; and drop into bed only to do it again and again? I can’t help but admire them.

Sunday morning arrived with brilliant blue skies and a friendly sun smiling upon us. Shari phoned. Leonardo had not pooped yet that morning. She could not leave until he did. Leonardo had been so dehydrated that one of the concerns was that his intestines would be clogged and that he could bloat. Pooping was an important medical sign…for better or for worse. Finally, Leonardo pooped, and we all rejoiced! Funny how something like that can bring such happiness.

Accidents all over the place on I-5 between Tenino and Bow, Washington, but Shari finally drove in through the ranch gates. Great news as she steps from her truck: Leonardo is doing well, eating, drinking, relaxing in the sun with his new bud next door.

The six females ran into the big trailer like they knew they were heading some place good. Shari haltered and led Santiago into her trailer. Good-byes were said. Lois, after caring for the alpacas for so long had a few tears in her eyes, but they were happy tears. The animals were finally safe.

If you would like to donate to a wonderful cause and help animals that desperately need you, contact Shari Bond at Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue.

FRIEND the alpacas! https://www.facebook.com/foralpacas

For VENDOR space at the Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue Bazaar contact Shari at ccar.crosscreek@gmail.com

Or, attend the bazaar, enjoy touring the rescue ranch while drinking cider and munching homemade treats! 10:00-4:00pm, Saturday, October 25th, 4225 Military Rd SE, Tenino, WA

To learn more about these wonderful people and their adorable rescued alpacas, go to http://www.crosscreekalpacarescue.org

A few more photos (pre-shearing. For more recent photos, visit Shari Bond’s facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/foralpacas) DSC01149  Many of these animals had been award-winning fiber producers.    DSC01120  Franz, the last baby born before the rescue.                                           DSC01107 Note the uncomfortably thick fiber on this poor animal. And the weather was in the 80 to 90 degree range!

DSC01108  They need YOUR help! Will you help them? If you can help in any way–providing a permanent home, providing foster care, sending the money to feed one of them for six months or a year–please do so! Contact Shari Bond  ccar.crosscreek@gmail.com

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FIVE THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS AN AUTHOR

As an author, I have learned many things. Here are five of them:

  1. The Reader is the most important person in a book’s life.woman reading

  2. Next to readers, the most important people in the creation of a novel are Beta Readers. chefThey cut out all the parts that need to be trimmed.

  3. Characters backtalk and talk back.

ExecutionerAnd sometimes, get a little rowdy if they think I’m not listening!

  1. There is a good use for sleepless nights!

  2. I now have an excuse for excessive reading.

 

Photos are courtesy of these fine photographers: Woman Reading a Book: David Castillo Dominici; Executioner Superhero with Axe: Vectorolie ; Smiling Chef Holding a Knife: imagerymajestic

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5 GREAT THINGS HAPPENING!

imagequote deer celebrate

Each day I try to find things to celebrate in my life. On some days that is easier to do than on other days. Recently, I have been blessed with  a serendipitous turn of events.  5 GREAT things are happening in my life. I wanted to share them with you.

  1. August 27, 6-7:30 P.M., at Tony’s Books and Coffee in Darrington, Washington, I am the featured author for this month for Darrington Library’s Summer of Authors. I am very honored to be part of this wonderful program to showcase local authors. A drawing will be held at the end of the evening for a signed print copy of Run or Die, my newest mystery. Participants will also receive a print copy of an original short story as a thank-you for coming.  http://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A

  2. Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team,  is available as an audiobook! It can be purchased on Audible or Amazon. I was fortunate to have a wonderful narrator, Kathi Miles, for the production of this murder mystery. Watch this blog for a chance to win a FREE copy of the audiobook Sketch of a Murder. More information on that in an upcoming blog! http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

  3. Street Harvest, Book 2, Special Crimes Team, is going into audiobook production! Will keep you up-to-date via this blog! Meanwhile, the ebook is available on Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/Street-Harvest-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KVREDIC

  4. Old Woman Gone, Book 3, Special Crimes Team, is due out this Fall!

  5. Met with Beth Jusino, Marketing Consultant. This knowledgeable woman set up a feasible marketing strategy for me. It is always a pleasure to work with Beth. She recently published The Author’s Guide to Marketing. GREAT book! Check out Beth’s blog: http://bethjusino.com

What wonderful things are happening in your life? Would love to hear!

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5 GREAT BOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

  1. Who Am I? by Megan Cerulewski. This nonfiction book should be required reading for anyone working in a helping profession that deals with women. The story of finding light in the dark depths of abuse. No graphic violence and no graphic sex but the material is for adults only. A heartbreaking, and inspiring story! http://www.amazon.com/Who-Am-Daughter-Taught-Again-ebook/dp/B00MBKZD9K

  2. Stones by Ruby Standing Deer. Journey to a culture that revered all of life as sacred in Book 3 of Ruby Standing Deer’s saga of Ancient Native Americans. Join Dove and Singing Stone as they fight to save the wild mustangs! This book has no graphic violence and no graphic sex, just a great story! http://www.amazon.com/Stones-Ruby-Standing-Deer-ebook/dp/B00M1YXETW

  3. The Crimson Orb by Joyce Hertzoff. A delightful read full of magic and adventure! No graphic violence and no graphic sex in this book, just a fun read! http://www.amazon.com/Crimson-Orb-Joyce-Hertzoff-ebook/dp/B00KWUO7E8

  4. Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene. From the time that Mallory Blackburne hears “the thunderous boom of metal striking wood…” this mystery captures the reader. Romance and mystery without the need for graphic sex or graphic violence; just a great read! http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Loon-Gen-Delacourt-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00838H1OY

  5. Unbreakable Bonds by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Ghosts and families…which makes the most trouble for Angela Panther? A fun read. No graphic violence and no graphic sex, just a relaxing read! http://www.amazon.com/Unbreakable-Bonds-Angela-Panther-Novel-ebook/dp/B00JBR808W

As an author, I read voraciously and range over a number of genres. For my selections for this blog, I decided to introduce books that tell a great story without the need for graphic violence and graphic sex.

I love discovering writers and books. Do you have a favorite book or an author who is not mainstream that you would like to share with us? Please, leave the author’s name and/or the title of the book in a comment!

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Are you looking for an audiobook? Sketch of a Murder is now available as an audiobook: http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Sketch-of-a-Murder-Audiobook/B00MI0ER8Q (this book has graphic violence and some graphic sex)

THE CHAMELEON’S LEGACY

Chapter 1

By age 5, I–Cas Redner–had seen a number of flying saucers…sometimes, they even landed…on my stepfather’s head. My mother’s aim was very good, whether the object was a saucer, a Vick’s jar or a butcher knife. It wasn’t her fault that my stepfather moved so quickly.

Our family fit into our dead end—on so many levels—neighborhood. The cops rarely appeared with fewer than two units and four cops. Mostly they didn’t show up at all—probably hoped we would kill each other off. Sometimes, we did.

When Mom went into a rage the only person who could, without fail, calm her down was Miss Allen. Miss Allen lived in the house next door. Her yard adjoined ours. My mother called her Miss Allen with great respect and I knew better than not to be respectful to Miss Allen. If my mom didn’t knock me into next week, Miss Allen surely would.

Miss Allen, a big ebony woman with white teeth that showed often in a smile, black, kinky hair, huge pillowy breasts and a solid right hook, didn’t tolerate being dissed. I’d seen her knock a full grown man on his ass. She laughed loud, talked louder, hugged big and had a slow burn temper; you just better not keep on until it boiled!

Mom didn’t trust men alone with me, except for Daddy Reese, a short term stepfather, and my step-grandfather, Mom’s stepfather who I called Paw-Paw. I have lots of memories A.P., After Paw-Paw, but none B.P., Before Paw-Paw. There weren’t any B.P. He knew me before I ever knew about him, but then you can’t blame a two and some year old in an orphanage for not knowing her grandfather. Born while my mother was serving time for killing a man, the only person present during my birth, besides the medical staff and my mother, was Mom’s friend, a prostitute named Sue. I went straight from the hospital to the orphanage.

I grew up knowing my mother couldn’t keep me—no nurseries in prisons—and neither could my grandma. My grandfather set his foot down saying, “I’m not going to take care of the kids your daughter whores out.” End of discussion. Grandma cried but she couldn’t afford to take me if she left her husband and she wouldn’t leave for less than that kind of good reason. I’m told that a well-known attorney wanted Grandma to bring me home, leave me on her couch while my grandfather was at work and leave the door unlocked. He said, “When you return the baby will be gone to a good home and there’ll be a little something to help you out financially in an envelope.” Sort of like a puppy. I heard that Grandma drew herself up rigid and stared at the attorney. “I don’ sell my granbaby.”

I grew up hearing that story along with the story about the young couple who wanted to adopt me. They took me home, but when I got sick with a high fever and had a convulsion, they returned me. Nope, don’t want this one. It’s broke.

Mom served her time and hit the streets, in more ways than one. Prostitution paid better than any other job my unskilled mother could find. When Reese Hannah paid the young blond woman for a date, he didn’t know it would go so much farther. An older man with a strong sense of where he fit in the world, and where women fit—in the house taking care of kids and husband—he quickly fell under my mother’s spell. Mom could charm a polar bear out of its fur. Couldn’t blame her. Daddy Reese worked hard, had simple wants and loved my mother beyond all reason. The only condition he put on their marriage: mom had to bring me home from the orphanage.

I’ve never been able to decide if Daddy Reese did me a favor or not. Maybe Grandma should’ve sold me to that attorney?

Paw-Paw said when I came home I would go into a screaming terror if I saw a rubber doll and I was likewise terrified of thin switch-like tree limbs. Except for that, he said he’d never see a child not yet three years old stay as still and silent as I did.

I don’t recall much about Daddy Reese. I remember him coming up the hill from his job in the evening, black rounded top lunch pail swinging from one big hand. I’d run as fast as my legs would carry me down the hill, screaming, “Daddy Reese!” Just before I reached him, he’d put down the lunch pail and spread his arms wide. I’d race into him, and he’d scoop me up and we’d twirl around and around. Then he’d give me a kiss on the cheek and put me down. I’d insist on carrying his lunch pail though it hung nearly to the ground, I was so small. He’d take my hand and I’d skip-walk back home with him. That’s the only memory I have.

My fourth birthday came and Daddy Reese left. Mom had gotten pregnant by another man and divorced Daddy Reese.

My new stepfather, Andrew, was not permitted to be in the same room alone with me, and he wasn’t permitted to speak to me. Nor I to him. I’ve never understood how Mom could control people the way she did, but they did whatever she demanded. Until my mother died when I was nineteen, Andrew spoke to me only three times, and those times remained my and his secret.

A couple weeks after my younger half-sister, Helena, was born Mom had me sit on the frayed couch and taught me how to hold, bottle feed, burb and change an infant. A few weeks later, after I’d had a bit of practice, one day after Andrew left for work, she handed the baby over to me. “You have to take care of her, Sis. Andrew has to work and I have to go find a job, too.” I am sure I nodded because any other answer would not have been acceptable to Mom. Unlike some four year olds, I was mature for my age, and I understood how to live with my mother with the least amount of pain—literal pain as she despised being back talked or disobeyed.

People have heard me relate these things about my mother and they have said, “Oh, God, she was so mean to you!”

No, Mom wasn’t mean. Our world was harsh. To be female in our world demanded a toughness that even men didn’t have to don. And a vigilance beyond what any boy or man had to maintain. It was years after I’d left home that I finally comprehended my mother’s actions.

 

The Chameleon’s Legacy is a new, coming-of-age novel I am working on. This is a VERY rough first draft of Chapter 1. Leave a comment! I appreciate all comments.

For other books I’ve written, go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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THE RETURN

THE RETURN

Time moves on, sometimes far too quickly. I left Hidden Springs Campground and meandered north on Highway 101. trees

I swung off my course long enough to visit Ferndale once again, enjoy the old buildings DSC01432and hit the Ferndale Pie Company. They advertised “Great homemade pies topped with Humboldt Creamery Ice Cream”. The mixed berry pie and vanilla ice cream lived up to the hype and I grabbed one of their “small brownies”–read large enough to feed half of Darrington!–and hit the road.

That evening I camped in a small campground a couple of miles south of Orick, California. When I rode in, it looked like the proverbial cheap sites place, probably with limited hot water that ran red from old pipes. Couldn’t have been more wrong about the showers, or the place. Within yards of my campsite, a Roosevelt Elk calf lay in the grass while mom grazed in the field. DSC01583 DSC01588

The next day dawned with clear skies and I hopped my bike, anxious to ride. Somewhere breakfast called my name. Just inside the southern boundaries of Orick an old motel and restaurant squatted beside Highway 101. Since the town was so small, choices were limited so I parked and walked into what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill greasy spoon–emphasis on greasy spoon.

I headed for the far corner and sank into the chair. The Palm Cafe served eggs done to perfection, the waffle browned and sporting luscious red strawberries, the bacon crisp, the sausage gravy and biscuit to die for. I washed it all down with coffee black, hot, and wonderful.1226 photos from new camera 706

The 88 year-old woman who owned the restaurant came in every morning to bake fresh pies from scratch. Being told that, I had to try a piece though I wondered how I’d move, much less get up on a horse! The strawberry cream pie melted in my mouth and made me forget all about how many calories it had.

I sucked down some more coffee then headed off for my horseback ride. The brochure of The Redwood Creek Buckarettes hooked me with the siren call of “ride among ancient redwoods”. As soon as I saw the big beasts, I recalled that a horsewoman I was not and  wandered if maybe I should’ve plugged my ears. 1226 photos from new camera 708

The woman guide grinned at me and pride wouldn’t let me walk away. She walked a red quarter horse over to the mounting block.  I dragged myself onto the saddle. Jade was so broad I felt like I was doing the splits. 1226 photos from new camera 736I’d never been that athletic!

Still, once we got moving–just me and the guide–the rocking motion of Jade put my mind at ease and let my eyes wander. The path ran straight beside a small river then began a gentle climb up the hill. Within minutes the climb steepened and the trees closed off the modern world.1226 photos from new camera 733

The trail meandered into the National Redwood Forest through a stand of old growth redwoods that had escaped mankind’s rapacious greed. Silence broken only by an occasional bird call wrapped around my soul. Two hours later, we emerged at the base of the hill and on back to the rodeo grounds from where we’d left.

I slid off Jade and walked bowlegged over to my bike.

That night as I listened to the lapping of the waves against the shore, I swallowed down Ibuprophen, yet couldn’t stop smiling at the memories of the horse’s rocking motion, the quiet, and the ancient trees. That night I dreamed of redwoods and horses.

I awoke to the chill of a Crescent City morning with harbor seals barking on a rock just offshore. 1226 photos from new camera 785I listened until the fog rolled the rest of the way off the water and the seals barking had died away. The Apple Peddler Restaurant lay a few miles south of my position, the opposite direction of my travel, but I remembered their mouthwatering food and strong hot coffee. What’s a few miles? After breakfast, I followed Highway 101 along the Pacific Ocean and on up to Oregon.1226 photos from new camera 808

 

That afternoon, I rode into Battle Rock, Oregon. The Battle Rock Wayside and City park on the left caught my eye. I drove in and shut down the bike. 1226 photos from new camera 856

The Redfish Restaurant , a small square building with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the beach and situated on the edge of the park looked like the kind of place to be pricey with tiny portions and mediocre food, but I was hungry and too impatient to check out the other offerings in town. Besides, all the tables were tables had a view. 1226 photos from new camera 840I figured that was worth something.

The butternut squash soup was creamy and flavorful, nearly as good as the soup Falomi made at Mother Earth’s Bounty. The pulled pork sandwich was done right–tender, juicy, smoked pork without the smothering bottled sauces too often used. The salad was a nice mix of crisp, fresh spring greens.

It seemed like every time I had made a snap judgment based on appearances, I’d been proven wrong. My friend, Jaimie Wolfwalker, would’ve said Creator was trying to teach me to withhold judgment based on appearances and to learn to evaluate life on substance. Of course, Jaimie walked closer to the spiritual side of life than I ever had. Guess that went with being psychic and part Native American.

Late that afternoon, I crossed the highest bridge I’d ever ridden Coos Bay Bridge then the sand dunes in Oregon snuck up on me and I nearly ran off the road gawking. 1226 photos from new camera 877The sign for Spinreel Dune Buggy called to me, though I was by no means sure I should heed the call. I turned off and headed that way, just to check things out. Size wise, the rental place wasn’t that big. I wandered in, checked out the buggys and nearly left.

I’d walked to my bike, started it up and began backing out of the parking area when a vision that had never happened flashed across my mind: Alicia laughing as she raced a buggy down the face of a sand dune. I shut down the bike, took a deep breath and shook my head at myself. Alicia had been far more adventurous than I, and it appeared that her ghost had taken up challenging me to act beyond my doubts.

Being a conservative driver, I only raced down one cliff face of sand, holding my breath the entire distance. 1226 photos from new camera 870Of course, I wouldn’t have gone down it, but I’d already topped the dune and didn’t know how to go anywhere except straight down!

If you like roller coasters and the way they teeter at the pinnacle of drops, you’d love riding dune buggys. I hated roller coasters. Alicia had loved them. At the Puyallup Fair, she’d teased me into taking her on one–five times! Each time I got off, I swore I’d never do that again, yet I climbed back on because I loved hearing Alicia laugh.

More than anything else during my trip, the Spinreel Sand Dunes momentarily brought Alicia back to me. I left them feeling as if I had gained some great gift; and, I had.

Idling into Florence, Oregon, long after most people were home and vegging in front of television sets, I found BJ’s Ice Cream right on the main road, a dessert junkies dream. Ice cream made from scratch nestled among the baklava, cheesecake, tiramisu, tarts and cream horns.

Nick and Ron, the two young men behind the counter, gave me a brief rundown on BJ’s. Cole Brother’s Creamery started in 1917 in Slatter, Idaho, beginning a four-generation family tradition of making old-fashioned, batch ice cream. A three scoop ice cream sundae later, I groaned out the door carting a bag with a selection of tarts and cream horns.

That night I tossed my sleeping bag on the ground close enough to hear the coastal sunsetocean whisper and shush.   I awoke to sand and the chill of a coastal morning.DSC01517

Saturday afternoon found me drifting through DePoe Bay, Oregon. A sign bragged that it was the “World’s Smallest Harbor.”

Fifty miles north of the Oregon border, I rode through the small city of Raymond, Washington. Large steel sculptures popped up all over the town. Wildlife, people, pets, even an ox pulling logs through what was once a lumber town.

Once through Raymond, I stopped a few times during the rest of my ride home, but I was tired and eager to get home. I pushed hard. Around Aberdeen, Washington, I picked up Highway 12 East and caught Interstate 5 a few miles north of Olympia. A few minutes after midnight, I rode into my driveway.

I was home.

Some of the places Jaz talked about: (not in any particular order)

www.northwestplaces.com/trips002/Raymond001 (Raymond, Washington–a town of steel sculptures)

www.redwoodcreekbuckarettes.com (horseback tour among the ancient redwoods)

www.ridetheoregondunes.com (Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rentals)

BJ’s Ice Cream, 2930 Hwy 101, Florence, Oregon

www.savetheredwoods.org/   (Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: the most old growth redwoods in California)

http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Humboldt/Founders (Coast redwoods once grew naturally in many places across the Northern Hemisphere. Due to manmade and climatic changes, Coast Redwoods now only grow naturally in a narrow 40 mile wide and 450 mile long coastal strip from southern Oregon to southern Monterey county in California. The Dyerville Giant which stood for approximately 1600 years fell on March 24, 1991.)

humboldtredwoods.org/hidden_springs (Hidden Springs Campground, California)

AvenueOfTheGiants.net   (Avenue of the Giants, California)

www.california-native-wood.com (Orick, Ca. very nice natural wood gifts and keepsakes)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palm-Cafe-Motel/166106546757081 (Palm Motel and Café Orick, California)

To read more about Jaz Wheeler: http://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A

 

The Rest of the Journey

The Rest of the Journey: Jaz Wheeler’s Places to Remember

For several more days, I awakened surrounded by redwoods, listening to the occasional bird call. Each day brought some new adventure, some place to eat that fixed delicious food, photo ops to freeze the moment and time to heal.

I’d never heard of Petrolia, California, the Lost Coast nor the Mattole Valley, so I got directions and took off. The topography reminded me of Hawk Hill and Hopewell Farm. road to petrolia top of hillFor a moment, guilt stabbed me because I hadn’t called Aretha since I left home. I pushed that feeling aside knowing how she’d laugh at such foolishness. I’d call when it was time to call.

Steep hills, rough road, sharp curves, and solitude.1226 photos from new camera 434 One car passed me, heading for the Lost Coast and a truck rumbled by coming from Mattole Valley.

At the top of the hill,  top of hill to petrolia

a lone steer wandered away from the few head of cattle bedded down, hard chill  winds blew up from the ocean that was merely a smudge of darker blue on the far horizon and one house squatted alone, on a far hilltop. Cattle and green grasslands fading to brown beneath the summer sun, and quiet. 1226 photos from new camera 439

The further down the hill, the rougher the road, but the ocean lapping the shores below me gave reward to the determined traveler. 1226 photos from new camera 466

Cool winds blew off the water and the rugged shoreline of the Lost Coast gave testimony to the hardy people whose ranch boundaries ran along the cracked roadway. 1226 photos from new camera 488

Smaller than the small town below Hopewell Farm, there wasn’t much to Petrolia.  It boasted a general store/post office/gas station–all-in-one and scattered houses. What people I encountered were friendly, but the little store was mostly surrounded by uninhabited land. 1226 photos from new camera 511

By the time I left the valley, the patterns of bright late afternoon sun and early evening shadows greeted me along the same road that I’d ridden down. 1226 photos from new camera 514

This time I stopped to gaze at the largest Madrone trees I had ever seen. Lines of them marched along both sides of the road. largest madrone

Back home on my little farm, one tall slender Madrone struggled to thrive. My place wasn’t unique. In the Seattle area, Madrones simply did not get as large as these. I wondered about the age of these majestic trees, what changes they’d seen, whether they mourned their fallen and dreamed of days gone by when groves of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder. A bittersweet moment.

I left the windy road behind and headed to Ferndale, California. As evening drew close, an old and beautiful building caught my eye: The Victorian Inn. 1226 photos from new camera 622

Dinner was real chicken pot pie, nearly as tasty as Folami Winters had served at Mother Earth’s Bounty before she helped Aretha and I; before the attack that burned her restaurant to the ground. I shoved those thoughts aside, told myself it no longer matter, that was years ago. After dinner, I met the owners of the Victorian Inn, Lowell Daniels and Jenny Oaks. They told me the Inn had been built in 1890 of Humboldt County redwoods, that the walls were so thick no insulation was necessary.

Full and tired, I headed to the campground. Tomorrow I would be leaving, beginning the return trip home.

If you enjoyed Jaz’s travelogue, be sure to CLICK and FOLLOW so you won’t miss the ending!

To discover more about the magical Mattole Valley, go to:  http://mattolevalleynaturals.com/mattole-river-valley

You can learn more about the beautiful and historic Victorian Inn and the “slice of the past” town of Ferndale, California by going to http://www.victorianvillageinn.com

To read about how Jaz wound up at Hopewell Farm and became friends with Aretha Hopewell and Folami Winters, read Run or Die, now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A

 

 

AMONG THE SACRED ANCIENTS

AMONG THE SACRED ANCIENTS: Jaz Wheeler’s Journey Among the #California #Redwoods

Dark settled its shawl over the redwood forest as I drove into Hidden Springs Campground. My headlights picked out cars and tents and RVs as I wound my way along the curvy asphalt to my reserved spot.

Redwood sentinels stood guard at the entrance as I pulled onto the leveled area and shut off my bike. Quiet embraced me. Exhausted, I flipped out my bedroll and lay down. The next thing I knew, birds chirped in the bushes as the sun filtered through the trees. DSC01223

After a quick breakfast of granola bar and bottled water, I stuffed my bedroll in the bear proof box, snapped a small padlock on it then hopped on my bike.

Those years ago, after Alicia was lost and even after I left Hawk Hill and Hopewell Farm, playing tourist was far from my mind. The redwoods had started the healing of my wounded soul, but I hadn’t been ready to take side trips to places like the Drive-Thru Tree at Myers Flat. DSC01205

And, I’d never seen a two-story tree house! DSC01215

I learned a little more about the majestic redwoods.  Drive thru shrine water stats

When I entered the gift shop, this little guy greeted me. By the time I left, he’d worked so hard to make tourists feel welcome that he was simply exhausted. shop dog at drive thru tree

For the rest of the day, I wandered among the ancient giants, drifting from one grove to another, beginning with the Founder’s Grove then on up to the Rockefeller Forest where the Giant Tree and the Tall Tree resided. DSC01239 DSC01238

When I entered Rockefeller Forest, I entered a sacred time and place.

person among giants

Like my heart, the Forest held light and shadows and jagged memories.

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Eventually, the passing of the hours forced me to return to my campsite.

evening comes in forest

 

For more photos from Jaz’s exploration of the Redwood Forest, go to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar

Don’t miss the rest of Jaz’s journey. Enter your email address and FOLLOW!

To learn more about Jaz Wheeler, read Run or Die. http://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A

 

 

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