Aya Walksfar, Author

Hard hitting, in-the-news murder mysteries

Things That Go BOOM!

Lieutenant Chris Knurr took on the scary (nearly as scary as disarming bombs!)task of teaching a roomful of writers about things that go boom.
Here is the brave individual! Chris Knurr Bomb Squad WPA
I’m not real sure that he should have told us about Macgyver bombs, though. Those are things of which nightmares are made. These little explosive devices are also called acid bombs or bottle bombs. And, they are one of the scariest bombs out there. Why? Not because they are the most destructive–not even close. What’s so scary is that these highly unstable and unpredictable bombs can be made from readily available supplies found in many homes! Chris showed us a short video clip of one young man who put the chemicals for the bomb in a plastic bottle and then shook the bottle. The bomb exploded in his hand. Though these are not even close to the most destructive explosives, they can still maim and kill.

Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in thinking about the explosives used to create bombs–things like dynamite and C-4–that I, like many others, are unaware of the danger present in those small or long, thin devices called detonators. Chris passed a non-el or shock tube around so that everyone in the room was holding it and then he set it off. It was startling with a small zap, but if it had been part of a bomb it would have been used to initiate a detonator or blasting cap.(please note: things in bold are corrections made to original post per information from Lieutenant Knurr. Thank you, Lieutenant Knurr, for passing along these clarifications! You rock!)

Det cord is a high explosive wrapped in a plastic coating, needing a detonator or blasting cap to initiate it. When it is set off by a blasting cap, it sends a detonating wave to other blasting caps or explosive charges. This cord is commonly used to connect explosives together.

After that fairly benign demo of a shock tube, he passed around inert blasting caps—little metal tubes not more than a couple of inches long and smaller in diameter than my little finger. Though they look harmless, they are small, sensitive primary explosive–woe be to those who forget this part of the description–devices used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less sensitive secondary explosive such as TNT, dynamite or plastic explosives.

One man did forget the description of blasting caps. Chris showed us a photo of what was left of the man’s face after he bit down on a live blasting cap. We could just about make out his eyes above the ruin of his face. Nose, lips, mouth, cheeks, and chin were gone. Blood was streaming down the red mass that had been his face. It was nothing short of a miracle that the man survived.

Since I am writing a thriller where homemade explosives play a significant part, I was especially interested in the part of the lecture dealing with ANFO, or bombs made from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. Several thousand pounds of a slightly different formulation of this type of explosive–ANNM which is ammonium nitrate with nitro methane fuel–was packed in the vehicle that Timothy McVeigh parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19,1995. He lit a two minute fuse and when the explosion occurred it killed 168 people, including 19 children and injured another 684 others.

Two of the most popular, homemade high explosives currently seem to be TATP and HMTD, both hydrogen peroxide based. Chemicals to make these bombs are fairly common. Unfortunately for law enforcement, the labs producing these high explosives may appear to be meth labs since TATP is a white crystal and HMTD is a white powder. These explosives are unstable.

Chris’ lecture covered many other types of explosives as well as such topics as what defines the ‘explosive train’, but those things would require a lot longer post and much more skill to explain than I have to make it as understandable as Chris did for us. (Just because I could understand it, doesn’t mean I can explain it! Chris is a talented teacher and an accomplished expert in all things that go BOOM!)

There were some things that really snagged my attention, though.

  1. I had no idea that a suitcase full of firecrackers, if set on fire, could blow up a full size car!
  2. Car bombs in a downtown area is a bomb squad’s nightmare.
  3. It is way too easy to buy the ingredients to create a bomb! Scary!
  4. There are 2700 civilian bomb techs trained by the FBI.
  5. A “dirty bomb” is not one that needs a bath; it is an explosive that has radioactive material on it.
  6. Grenades, and high explosives, create pressure waves/shock waves that go through a body. This, in turn, creates fluid waves (we are mostly water) that shred the inside of the body. This is what kills.
  7. The bomb suit—Explosive Ordnance Disposal suit (EOD)–weighs over 80 pounds and someone has to wear it! It is hard to move in it and is very hot! (I tried on the helmet and the coat part. Do you remember what it felt like when you were a little kid and your mom bundled you up for cold weather and you could barely move? Yup, a lot like that.)The helmet weighs about 8 to 10 pouunds. The bomb suit, in order to maximize dexterity and mobility, has no gloves. This leaves hands and forearms exposed to danger.
    Aya bomb coat WPA
    (This photo is used courtesy of Tom Middleton)

EOD technicians wear the suit during reconnaissance, when trying to ‘render safe’, or disruption procedures on potential or confirmed explosive devices. These suits protect the wearer from fragmentation, blast overpressure, thermal and tertiary effects should the device explode. An interesting note: technicians back away from explosive devices not because they are “afraid” of the bomb, but because most of the protection resides in the front plate of the suit.
Tom in bomb suit WPA
Tom Middleton models the EOD suit next to the robot used by the bomb squad.

Though I have only been able to grasp a mere fraction of the information he conveyed, Chris gave me something more valuable even than knowledge of explosives; he gave me a better understanding of the dangers faced from international and homegrown terrorists who have easy access to the information and ingredients to create explosive devices; and he gave me a better understanding of the pressures the people of a bomb squad face as they work to protect the public.

Aya Bomb Squad helmet WPA

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#2016WPA A World of Mayhem and Murder

WPA—a world of murder, arson, guns and explosives! A place where at the next corner you’ll be faced with a man lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood; his brains oozing out of his eye socket, bits of brain matter flung across the floor.

This was the world in which I immersed myself for four days.

Writer’s Police Academy utilized the facilities of the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College where real cops, EMS, and fire fighters train. The first night of WPA, we were treated to a chance to interrogate police officers about the equipment they use—everything from guns, rifles, battering rams, (let me tell you—that battering ram was heavvvvy!) SWAT shields and vehicles. They went through the procedure for forced entry by SWAT.

Throughout our classes at WPA, our instructors were cops, fire fighters, arson investigators, ballistics experts, and emergency medical experts. John Flannery taught my first class, Blood Spatter, (spatter; not splatter!)
John Flannery WPA

Dry book learning was not on the menu at WPA. A homicide scene greeted us as we walked into John’s class. A bullet hole in the window, blood spatter on the wall behind the couch, the body of a male—late twenties—lying in a pool of blood, brain matter coming out of one eye socket, the skull and clumps scattered on the floor.
WPA Blood Spatter Victim

We were the officers investigating the homicide. What clues did we see? Who did we suspect was the assailant? Why was there a bloody handprint on the bookcase? Did the victim make it after being shot through the eye? Didn’t people immediately die from such a gunshot wound? Did the jar with marijuana have anything to do with the murder? Why was there a revolver close to the victim and a shell casing from a 9 mm off to one side? Did either have anything to do with the murder?

Those were the obvious clues as we first encountered the scene. Other clues slowly came to our attention under John’s careful guidance, as did the possible meaning of each clue as it pertained to the crime. Blood spatter behind the couch linked to the bloody handprint on the bookcase. The victim had been shot through the eye as seen by the blood spatter behind the couch. (No brains oozing out yet) Holding his bleeding head, he had staggered across the room, placing his bloody hand on the bookcase to stay upright, then eventually falling to the floor where we then saw his body. He was not dead at this point—contrary to what a person might think knowing about the grievous head wound.

Blood spatter WPA
Someone had entered or had been present in the apartment when the victim fell. That person had then proceeded to kill the victim. This person’s presence became clear from the blood spatter on the ceiling above the victim’s body and the spatter on the wall to the right of the victim’s body. The spatter on the ceiling created four dotted lines of blood. This pattern was also seen on the wall to the right. We learned that this was cast off blood—blood flung from the instrument itself– blood streaks made when a blunt instrument is drawn back to hit the victim again.

The assailant had used a blunt instrument to beat the victim once he had fallen to the floor. The beating was the cause of death, even though the head shot may have killed him eventually. What kind of instrument was used to beat the victim? Was it still in the apartment?

A pool cue was used to beat the victim. The blood had been carelessly wiped off, leaving a pale pink stain at the pointed end of the stick. The felt tip was responsible for the blood droplets on the floor, the droplets that were fairly round with just a faint tail. This let us know that the assailant, after beating the victim to death, had walked away from the body with the end of the cue pointed down toward the floor. The diameter and shape of the blood droplets told us that.
Blood droplets from weapon being carried

A bloody footprint indicated that someone, perhaps the assailant, had stepped in the victim’s blood. The shoe print had a pointed toe, was small—like maybe a size five or six—and had a definite heel which was square—like a woman’s pump.
WPA Shoe print in blood

After examination it was revealed that the victim had shot through the window at someone or something outside of his apartment. This accounted for the bullet hole in the window and the revolver close to the victim.

We still had the 9 mm shell casing which indicated that a 9 mm had been used inside of the apartment to shoot the victim. His assailant had then, after the victim fell, proceeded to viciously beat him in the face and head with the pointed end of the pool cue. This beating resulted in the brain oozing out of the eye socket and the caved-in look of the right side of the victim’s head. Further investigation revealed a woman’s driver’s license tossed or fallen in the trash can in the living room where the victim lay. The beating was vicious and had continued far beyond just immobilizing or killing the victim warranted. It demonstrated that this crime had been committed with passion; it was personal. We concluded that we should look at the victim’s girlfriend, wife, lover, and exes.

Though this murder had been a scenario set up by John, he also showed and explained real crime scene photos which were horrendous. The first crime scene photo was of a woman in a cabin. The woman’s body had been found crumpled between the wall and the bed. From blood stains on the bed it was obvious the woman had been resting or sleeping when the attack began. She next fell or rolled out of bed in an attempt to elude her attacker. She was standing when the attacker hit her with a sharp instrument in the head. Blood smeared down the wall as she crumpled to the floor.

The assailant continued his attack after the woman was on the floor. One of the wounds was a hacked open thigh which left the muscles gaping with blood pooled in the wound. The pooled blood indicated that the wound had been made perimortem. The heart had stopped pumping before the blood drained over the edge of the deep wound. The assailant had also removed the woman’s left hand—post mortem fortunately for the victim–and it was found next to the wall. The viciousness of the attack indicated that it had been personal.

This led the investigation to the woman’s estranged husband. The estranged husband had followed the woman to the cabin, waited until their children had gone down to the beach, and then entered and attacked the sleeping woman. The severed hand was the hand with the wedding band still on it.

Unfortunately, the couple’s young children found their mother when they returned from the beach.

In the second set of crime scene photos, a mother and her child had been killed in their home; their throats slit. John was sensitive to the fact that the death of the infant might be troubling to some people. He announced that in the coming photos that an infant had been killed and if anyone wanted to leave for this part, it was perfectly all right and they could return after this particular crime scene had been examined. A few people who had small children at home did leave for this part of our session.

John then walked the class through the crime scene photos, explaining what the blood on the woman’s arms meant—she had grabbed at her slit throat in a vain attempt to save her own life. Next we explored the baby’s photos. On the side of the child’s face, there was blood—which went with the slit throat—but there was also a clean space called a void where no blood had run. This indicated that the child had been sleeping with his head turned to the right side when his throat had been slit, but at some time after that—perimortem which means at or close to the time of death–the child had turned his head until his face pointed upward. The void occurred because when the blood was running, the turn of the head placed a small part of that cheek against some object that the blood ran around—the bed was most obviously the object. The child, before dying, had turned his head to where his face looked up and then he died.

The assailant, who turned out to be the estranged husband and father, claimed that though he confessed to the crimes that his sentence should be mitigated because he killed his wife and son with humane means that resulted in instant death and that they did not suffer—ie: a slit throat.

The woman’s bloody arms and the void on the child’s cheek proved that both victims had struggled after their throats were slit and therefore had not died instantly.

The Blood Spatter class was packed with information and this short blog post cannot give it justice. Suffice it to say that I learned a ton of stuff! John was one of the best instructors I have ever encountered. If you want to read about John’s extensive credentials go to http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/john-flannery/

Sisters in Crime was one of the sponsors for the #WritersPoliceAcademy. To learn more about #SistersInCrime go to http://www.sistersincrime.org/

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Interview with a Werewolf

First day of your life
The other day I interviewed Elder Maria Many Horses, the Alpha of the North America Wolves, and told her that I was confused about the designation of alpha. I had always heard that alphas were the biggest, strongest, most dominant and, oftentimes, the meanest wolves in the pack.

Elder Many Horses accepted my offer of coffee and settled across the kitchen table from me. “It is only human conception that an alpha wolf is the one who can dominate the other wolves by brute strength and fear. In any fight, especially a true dominance fight, both wolves will be injured. Werewolves have the same instinctive fear as wild wolves—that injury can equate to death even if you win the fight. So, the actual leadership is often passed along to the best qualified leader without bloodshed. Besides, the alpha position is more about caretaking than being taken care of.” She gave a little shrug. “Not many wolves are willing to shoulder the tremendous responsibilities inherent in the alpha position.”
Elder Many Horses on Power
“Besides, wolves are pack animals. We hunt cooperatively; the entire pack cares for the young; and we are extremely social animals. We need each other in order to not only survive, but to thrive. If we solved everything by fighting, our society would devolve into bloodshed and chaos.”

A puzzled frown drew my eyebrows tight. “What if you are directly challenged for the leadership position?”

All levity vanished from her face. “That has occurred in the past, and will most likely occur again in the future; however, one-on-one fights are as often won by cunning and intelligence as by brute strength.” She held up a hand to forestall my question then proceeded to answer what I had not yet asked. “Yes, strength counts, especially in that type of confrontation; however, prowess in all types of battles will win out against pure brute strength. The mind powers the body, regardless of how well-developed the body may be. The one who believes in what they fight for, will frequently win over one who simply fights to gain power.” A smile tipped the corners of her mouth up. “Knowing martial arts helps, too. It is an alpha’s responsibility to stay in shape and to keep our fighting skills honed.”

I refilled our coffee cups before I sat back down and asked another question. “What exactly does an alpha do?”

“We are leaders. Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of the entire pack. That means maintaining peace among the members—from the beta to the omega—and providing a niche for them in the pack’s hierarchy. That, also, means keeping our existence secret from humans, and being prepared to repel aggression from other Supernaturals; such as the situation we’re facing now with the Vampire War. That may mean negotiating a peace or it may mean fighting. The alpha has to consider both options.”

She sipped her coffee, a thoughtful look on her face. I took a chocolate chip cookie from the plate and nibbled it as I waited for her to continue.

“As for keeping our existence secret from the human population. Well, technology has made that more difficult. The only way we can survive is to adapt and change, and the alpha has to lead the way. If there are wolves in the pack who can’t adapt then it’s the alpha’s duty to relocate them where they can live without risk of exposing our species. For the rest of the wolves, a leader has to find ways for them to integrate successfully in the human world. Remember that an alpha’s mantra has to be ‘all things for the greater good’.”

“So, mainstream culture has it all wrong about werewolves?”

A gentle smile stretched her lips and crawled up to her dark eyes. “All of those myths that were so carefully seeded among humans have kept my People safe for millennia. And, they still do. Tell me, who in popular culture would expect the werewolf leader to be a woman of mature years?”

“Is alpha usually a hereditary position?”

“Werewolf succession is neither bloodline bound nor gender bound. Many times in our Story, however, you will note that the best leaders were the biological or the adopted heirs of the current alpha.”

“What about your family?” I dipped another cookie in my coffee and ate the delicious gooeyness as I waited for her to respond.

“I demonstrated alpha qualities at the age of two. Eventually, I took over from my father who had taken over from my grandmother and so on for the past seven generations. My daughter, however, shows beta qualities rather than alpha. My adopted daughter will succeed me as alpha.”

“What if someone issues a dominance challenge?”

Elder Many Horses lips pursed as if she tasted something bitter. “Then she will answer the challenge. Bloodshed and death are always possibilities, not only in werewolf succession but in life; especially, when great power is the prize.” She sat straighter in her chair and locked gazes with me. “I believe she will win any challenge. She has trained since the age of three and she has great strength. I speak not only of the physical, but also of mental and psychological and spiritual strength. If she must fight, she would be fighting to protect our People. There is no more noble objective; and it is one for which she would gladly die, or live. Just as I do.”

To learn more about Elder Maria Many Horses and the Vampire War, read The Vampire War Trilogy. NOW ONLY $0.99 get Artemis’ Warriors, Book 1, The Vampire War: https://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Warriors-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B0158NZ1L6

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Hashtags

manydroplets
As an author, my work is motivated by passion. I care deeply about every novel that I have written. I feel strongly that I have a gift that must not be wasted.
Journey you make
Consequently, while my work entertains, it also tackles some difficult subjects. This can, of course, be more easily seen in my literary and mystery novels, but it even occurs in my vampire trilogy and my YA novel, Black Wind.
(http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK)

What does that have to do with hashtags? Hashtags highlight an important point in a subject so that it is more searchable on the internet and, therefore, can be more easily located by readers. There is a hashtag that sums up the major motivation behind all of my work: #WomensLivesMatter

As I was thinking about that hashtag and how it relates to my writing, I began to realize that there is a second hashtag that is every bit as important: #LGBTQLivesMatter

It is only recently that I began considering what hashtags relate to my writing. It was the advent of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter–coupled with the insistence of writing coaches that hashtags are important to authors–that finally helped me realize how important hashtags really are in this web-connected world. I began considering what the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter meant to me. The longer I thought about this hashtag, the more similarities I discovered between the occurrences that birthed that particular hashtag and the events that motivated my work. Let me start at the beginning.

I write to entertain, but I also write to empower women. Why do women need to be empowered?

Women grow up knowing that we are never safe: not on the street, not on college campuses, not in high schools; and not even in their churches. We realize that we face potential violence toward us whenever we do those ordinary things such as riding the subway, walking down the street, having a drink in a bar; and even in our own homes in bed asleep.
We are at risk for being beaten, raped, and murdered simply because we are women. The least dangerous thing that happens to us is being verbally harassed, but even that can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.

We are not safe from teachers, preachers, strangers, friends, lovers, or even family members from the time we are small children. And, all too frequently, we are not safe from the very ones society has placed in power over us; and policemen are all too likely to be a part of the problem, right down to actually beating, raping and murdering us.
There is simply no telling when or from where the attacks might come.

This situation has gone on for so long and has been so prevalent in our society that it has become normalized. Girls are warned about what they must do to lessen the risk of being attacked: don’t provoke them, don’t talk back, go along with whatever they are asking of you, don’t complain, be careful of what you wear, watch out for how you present yourself including how you walk, don’t go to certain places, never be alone as there is some safety in numbers sometimes, and if you are attacked, don’t fight back because they might kill you.
Of course, none of those things really work because the woman is not the perpetrator of the crime against them. We are the victim.

In order to break this cycle of victimization, the situations need to be brought to light. We cannot overcome that which we cannot name.

Just as women have experienced this level of potential violence all of our lives–consciously or subconsciously–black Americans also experience this level of violence. Simply take out the word woman and insert the word black in the above descriptions. And, as it is with women, it is with black Americans: they are warned not to provoke their attackers, to be careful where they go and when they go, to watch what they wear, and so on. Yet, as it is with women, it is with black Americans—there is nothing they can do to prevent those attacks upon them because they are not the perpetrators; they are the victims.

Women must measure the potential threat from all males in all situations. For black Americans, law enforcement officers have become a large, and very visible, part of the problem of violence against them.

A problem that is named is a problem more likely to be fought and overcome. Because the violence against black Americans has been coming, increasingly, from law enforcement officers, it has become important to name the issue: the issue is the casual and deadly violence with which police officers are confronting black Americans. Hence the need for a hashtag that refutes the police officers’ casual use of deadly force: #BlackLivesMatter

The more I considered the violence against women, the more I realized how the violence against black Americans contains strong similarities.

  1. Both situations occur with such regularity that they have become “normalized” and therefore, a nearly invisible part of society.
  2. Victim blaming occurs in both situations.
  3. These situations are not going to improve until certain conditions are met.

The conditions needed to resolve both situations are very simple, yet quite difficult to put into place. Think of these conditions as an arc, or an arch, beneath which justice and safety lie for all citizens.

A. Accountability: the perpetrators must be held to strict standards of accountability to the victim and to society.
B. Responsibility: the perpetrators must be given the absolute personal responsibility for their own actions against the victim, regardless of such irrelevant issues as what the victim was wearing, how the victim spoke, and so on.
C. Consequences: the perpetrators must face serious consequences that truly fit the crime they committed. For example, murder should result in very long prison terms, at the least, and should most often result in life in prison since the victim’s life has been cut short. Rapists should not be free to rape again and again and again.

Currently, perpetrators are not held accountable for the damage to people’s lives, and for the deaths they cause. They are not forced to stand responsible for their own actions. Excuses are presented to explain their behavior which then mitigates their personal responsibility; things like what the victim wore, how the victim spoke to them, why was the victim walking alone on the street at that hour (because they have a right to be there?), why was the victim standing on that corner.

In the case of law enforcement officers, there is the additional responsibility they assume when they begin wearing a uniform: they assume the responsibility to de-escalate situations so that the least amount of violence occurs.

And the perpetrators all too often do not face consequences commiserate with their actions. Rapists are given hand slaps and set free even when found guilty (after all who would think of ‘ruining’ a young man’s life when he is such a great athlete, regardless of the fact that he negatively impacted a woman’s entire life?) Law enforcement officers walk away from killings with a few weeks administrative leave and a bogus investigation into their crimes.

Our country does not face the greatest threat from outside terrorists. The greatest, most grave threat to our nation is the threat of home grown terrorists be they maniacs hiding behind religion or murderers hiding behind badges.

A good friend of mine, who also happens to be a very intelligent woman, pointed out that many people seem to demand that every Muslim who is not a terrorist should apologize for and condemn every terrorist who murders in the name of the Muslim religion while at the same time we do not hold police officers to that standard of behavior. For some reason, we don’t demand that all police officers apologize for and condemn every terrorist who hides behind the blue line and a badge.

Muslim civilians are not responsible for what others who claim that religion do. It would be like saying that all white Christians be held responsible for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Church! However, when police officers take the oath to serve and to protect, they are accepting the responsibility to protect civilians against all threats, even if that threat comes from one of their own. Even moreso if that threat originates from one of their own.

It is time to demand that our police officers live up to that responsibility, or find new vocations. If there is a bad cop out there who pulls a gun on a civilian in a situation that does not call for that measure of violence, then it is up to the good cops to stop that cop before he murders a civilian; before he rapes a woman; before he beats up a queer.

To those entrusted with great power, rests great responsibility.

Yes, all lives do matter and that includes the lives of police officers. There are police officers—wonderful people who uphold the law and whom I greatly admire; people I am honored to call my friends—and I fear for their safety out there on the mean streets; however, until certain groups are no longer targeted, we must keep bringing to the public awareness that these groups are being targeted: women, LGBTQ people, and black Americans.

#BlackLivesMatter #WomensLivesMatter #LGBTQLivesMatter

As grave as these matters are, I am an eternal optimist. In every novel I write, the good/the light within people always triumphs. I believe our country will overcome this dark night and the sun of a beautiful day will one day shine upon all of us.
NoMatterHowLong

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July 4th

There are many things I love about #America, but the one that brings me the most hope is being celebrated on this day–July 4th celebrates change; great change.
That is what the United States is truly about: the ability to change; to learn and to grow.
Change

Sometimes, our growth has been bitter with spilled blood as seen during the Civil War and during the 1960s when civil rights for black Americans was hotly contested.Yet, as #MayaAngelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This has been America’s saving grace; America’s greatest strength—the willingness to do the best we can, and when we know better, we try hard to do better. As an American who is both a woman and a lesbian, this has been the knowledge that has kept my faith in America strong. I believe that women and men, citizens of our great nation, will always strive to grow and to learn; and, ultimately, to do better.

This past year has brought great changes to the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, it has also brought about terrible backlash. LGBTQ people, especially of the transgender orientation, have faced tremendous violence in every city and state in the nation. In Orlando, Florida the worst attack ever launched against us was when a deranged man with an assault rifle murdered 49 people and injured 53 others in the Pulse nightclub—a place that had been founded to create a safe space for LGBTQ people.

We have people trying to discover ways to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling; and we have others discovering new ways to write laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people—laws that allow LGBTQ people to be fired from our jobs, evicted from our homes, refused service in an eating establishment; laws which negatively impact our ability to foster or adopt children and in the long run, may once again impact our right to even maintain custody and/or contact with our own blood children. (Beyond the Silence was written specifically to highlight not only the physical violence suffered by some lesbians, but the emotional violence of having their blood children ripped away because their mother is a lesbian! Though my novel is fiction, it was written with the blood and tears of real people. With North Carolina’s law in effect, such things can once again occur.)

History has demonstrated that change is difficult. People fear anything different. They desperately try to maintain the status quo. But, in the end, America has never backed away from true and lasting change that resulted in guaranteeing freedom to all of her citizens. When we allow laws to be put into place that disregard the freedom of a particular group of people—whether that group is black Americans, LGBTQ people, or Japanese-Americans—we are setting the foundation for everyone’s freedom to be violated.

In the 1960s, it was determined that if you owned a business establishment that was open to the general public then you had to serve black Americans the same as you served white Americans, regardless of your personal beliefs against it—beliefs that told you that black and white Americans should not drink from the same fountain, eat at the same establishment, or attend the same schools. Today that same argument—the argument that says someone’s personal beliefs should allow them to discriminate against a particular segment of the public—has been used by several states against LGBTQ people, most notably in North Carolina.

I believe that the citizens of this nation will not allow such a law to go unchallenged; will not allow such a law to continue to exist. Just like in the 1960s, I believe that the people of the United States will destroy such discriminatory practices, once and for all. I believe that someday, soon I pray, LGBTQ people will celebrate July 4th with the same guaranteed freedoms that their heterosexual counterparts now enjoy.
ChooseToBe

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#LGBTQ Month

CreatorLovesDiversity

As LGBTQ Month draws to a close, I wanted to tell a story about my own life.

We are all products of a number of variables, among them our environments; especially, the one in which we matured. I wish I could say that I was different; completely self-made, independent of anyone’s influence, but I can’t. The way in which we grow up helps us to either accept ourselves for what we are or it throws us into a lifetime of denial and pain.

creator's child

As many of you know, I grew up in a desperately poor neighborhood. Of course, my mother, being the rebel that she was, refused to stay confined to those few streets, unlike so many people in our neighborhood. Whenever she could scrape together the gas money, she would load all of us up, including my grandmother, and go driving. Sometimes out to North Hills—much nicer, a rural setting back then—where we had a particular ice cream shop at which we stopped. My grandmother always had rainbow sherbert while the rest of us tried a variety of flavors. Something encouraged by my mother.

That vignette sums up my mother: someone who pushed against the strictures in which she found herself bound. When those strictures wouldn’t give, something in my mother did, and she expressed that frustration and depression as rage.

It took me many years to discover why my mother held such rage inside. At the age of nineteen, I finally understood. By this time, my mother had moved our family out of the city and into rural suburbia to live on two-and-a-half acres of land, surrounded by animals she rescued. However, the move had done nothing to calm her “temper” and periodically, blood was spilled. I don’t excuse my mother’s violence—all too frequently I suffered as the target—but I do now understand it.

A creative individual, my mother wrote songs, played the guitar, sang, could dance any dance, and could even dance on roller skates. At fourteen, she left home to “seek her fortune” as a singer. Not uncommon at the time for a talented young person to do. Unfortunately, those talented young people were almost always males. Turned aside at venue after venue, my mother turned to illegal means to earn a living. (Years later, I suffered the same type of discrimination when I worked as a mechanic. Shop after shop denied me employment due to my gender.)
Over time, Mom relinquished the pursuit of a singing career and eventually founded a home remodeling business.

At nineteen, I returned home and went to work for my mother. After a couple of weeks of no “flying off the handle”, I chalked up her “mellowing” due to her getting older. (After all, she was thirty-nine.)Until that special Wednesday.

Mom and I had been working on a beautiful Victorian-style house in Mount Lebanon that belonged to a nurse. At lunch time, the nurse came out and announced that lunch was prepared. This in itself was unusual. Some clients, who loved my mother, would fix us sandwiches and beverages, but never a sit-down full meal lunch. During that lunch, I watched the interactions between my mother and this other woman. Kids always know the score!

I left the table that day with the knowledge of what—or in this case who—had brought about the drastic changes in my mother.

My mother died about a year after I met her nurse-friend-lover. That year was filled with good memories—memories of the two of them together, memories of my mother and I laughing.
Up until then, being the product of my society, I had bristled and even gotten into fights if someone so much as insinuated that I might be lesbian. After seeing how that woman brought out the best in my mother, I accepted that being a lesbian—for my mom—was a good thing. It would take me a bit longer to accept being a lesbian for myself.

What was even more interesting was this:
I had always believed that I had inherited my mother’s rage. I was prone to fighting, and never flinched from a violent confrontation. After my mother met her nurse, her rage dissipated. Although it was years later before I got a handle on my personal rage, I finally knew genetics had nothing to do with our rages.

Society’s bigotry had forced my mother to be someone she wasn’t; had denied her not only the work she would have loved, had she been given the opportunity to perform in the venues that were open to men, but had also denied her sexuality. Mom was, in many respects, able to overcome her disappointment in not achieving her dream, (after all, she knew how competitive a career as a singer could be and she was realistic),but she could never overcome her unhappiness at being forced into a heterosexual life style.

My mother gave me an invaluable gift: the ability to accept being a lesbian. Accepting my lesbianism, eventually allowed me to overcome my own “rages.” I learned that #LoveWins and it can, indeed, change us. So, no matter who you love….

loveisagift

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5 #Supernatural Facts You Need To Know

From the time of the Great Fall, vampires have lived among us. Although there have been times when humans and vampires have coexisted somewhat peacefully, that has not occurred for hundreds of years–not since the Time of Hunting. During the Time of Hunting, humans partnered with certain segments of vampire society and declared war upon all Supernaturals. Fortunately, another segment of vampire society continued to be strict adherents to Artemis’ Purpose.
By the time the second vampire war ended, thousands of humans, vampires and other Supernaturals lay dead. Human hysteria fed continued attacks on vampire and Supernatural enclaves, and so vampires and other Supernaturals went underground. In order to soothe human fears, many myths, legends and other sources of misinformation were established by the Supernatural community.
Here are 5 such myths:

  1. Myth: #Vampires, werewolves, witches, and other Supernaturals don’t exist. The truth is that Supernaturals have existed since Time Began, except for vampires. Vampires were created by Artemis in response to Caine killing his sister, Abella.

  2. Myth: Vampires are harmed by garlic, holy water, crosses or other symbols of religion, silver, and sunlight. The truths is that some vampires enjoy a nice, garlic-laden Italian dinner, belong to various religions, have silver serving dishes and wear silver jewelry, and sun bathe like humans. Vampires can be killed, however, by shredding the heart and decapitation. Gold weakens and burns them.

  3. Myth: Vampires are evil. The truth is there are two distinct segments of vampire society. One segment views humans as blood cattle; the other segment adheres to Artemis’ Purpose to save human souls.

  4. Myth: Vampires turn into bats and fly. The truth is that vampires can no more fly–without an airplane–than humans. However, they can teleport, but it is a rare Power. Vampires do have a wide range of other Powers, though.

  5. Myth: Vampires are ruled by blood lust. The truth is that Artemis instilled both a blood lust and a sexual lust in vampires in order to remind them of there connection to humanity. Although vampires can survive on feeding their Hungers with vampires, Supernaturals or even animals, over time their Powers will weaken. In order to maintain the optimal level of Power they must feed from humans, both blood and sex.

In spite of hundreds of years of carefully maintaining their mythological status, vampires now face the risk of being outed. Once defeated by the combined efforts of vampires and other Supernaturals, the segment of vampire society that wants to make humans into blood-cattle has risen from the ashes of that defeat. While the World Council of Matriarchs sit on the sidelines, First Councilwoman Serena Longer faces the greatest challenge of her very long life: to keep her heart and her People safe.
To learn more about vampires, read Artemis’ Warriors, Book 1, The Vampire War.
https://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Warriors-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B0158NZ1L6
front cover artemis

COMING July 8th on Amazon! Arundia Returns, Book 2, The Vampire War.

If you love vampires, enjoy a good adventure with a sexy heroine, you don’t want to miss The Vampire War Trilogy!
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5 Rules for Juggling Life

5 Rules for Juggling Life
1. When you wake up, decide on your attitude for the day. Sometimes, we all have days when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe we had unpleasant dreams or ate the wrong kind of food for dinner; whatever the reason, we are irritable. Such irritation sets the tone for the day. If you allow it to continue, it will taint all that you attempt to do. Take a few minutes, grab a cup of tea or coffee and look out your window at the magnificent day! Even if a cold wind is blowing and rain is slashing down, it is still a glorious day. You have these hours of life ahead of you. This moment, right now, is the beginning of the rest of your life!
what moment waterfalls imagequote
2. No matter how positive we determine to be, sometimes life happens. Sadness invades our hearts; perhaps a friend dies or a senseless act of violence rips through the community. You feel impotent, angry, lost. Reach out to someone and ask for help in dealing with such events, whether those events are personal or more widespread. We all need help sometimes.
IAmHappy
3. Prioritize your day. No day is ever long enough to accomplish everything we want to get done. If we fail to prioritize, we spin our wheels leaping from one emergency to another and getting nothing completely done. By the end of the day, we are exhausted and feel as if we’ve failed. Don’t do this to yourself! Sit down with that cup of tea or coffee, take out a piece of paper and a pen. Make a list of everything you want to do then go back through it and number it. The “have to get done” thing is number 1. Number 10 or higher is reserved for those things that will inevitably wind up on tomorrow’s list.Remember, to get where you are going, you have to know which roads you need to take and in what order.
no distance too far
4. Be sure to leave time for loved ones; take time to say I love you. Take time to hug that special someone. Life is not guaranteed to any of us. This moment is all that we own. I think of those poor relatives of the Orlando victims—their loved ones will never return home; there will never be another day, or even another hour, in which to tell them they are loved; they are valued.
loveisagift
5. Make time for yourself. If you don’t allow yourself time to heal, to regenerate, you will eventually have nothing to give to anyone else. You are one of Creator’s children, too, and you are worthy of care; of love, both from others and from yourself.
creator's child

Per Rule 1: I realize that it is easier to expound on “rules for juggling life” and all of its many demands than it is to actually put these things into practice. I have found that if I take time for a cup of tea in the mornings, before I begin my day, then it is easier to keep a positive attitude. There are times that translates into getting out of bed a few minutes earlier. In my experience, such measures are well worth the reward.
Per Rule 2: This past week has been rough; emotions swing wildly as the full impact of the massacre in Orlando, Florida becomes devastatingly apparent. As a lesbian, I have faced violence before, but the pure hatefulness–such as the protesters at the #Orlando funerals–that has come to light staggers me, heart, mind and soul. Then love will shine through the darkness and my emotions swing back the other way. Trying to maintain a positive and/or productive attitude in the midst of this tragedy, has been challenging. There have been times I have had to simply shut down any input from outside to give myself a breather to regroup. I have talked about this attack to friends and that has helped to a certain degree. I have turned to my pagan beliefs and that, too, has helped as my spirituality always does. And, I have written. Writing has always been the staff that steadies me against the greatest of storms.
Per Rule 3: I have a easy-to-carry-with-me calendar. I write down everything in the calendar from stopping at the store to doctors’ appointments to what I need to do for my writing. Then I break those things down farther, such as writing becomes write one chapter in new WIP (work in progress), respond to three readers’ questions, contact beta readers about newest novel, and so on. Not only does it help me not to forget important steps I need to take, but it is satisfying to run a line through each item that I accomplish.
Per Rule 4: The people and dogs that I love recharge me. When I hug my wife, I am energized. I feel as if I can climb Mount Everest. Throwing a ball for my dog or taking one of them for a walk or simply cuddling one of them on the couch, centers and refreshes me. I usually don’t set aside a large amount of time all at once, except for things my wife and I have planned, but instead I take fifteen minutes here and there. Those minutes help me to clear my mind so that when I return to my work, I often find the solution to the problem that had previously had me stumped.
Per Rule 5: I must admit–I am not very good at this one. I find it difficult to take the time I need for myself. For example, my occupational therapist says I have to do certain exercises throughout the day, but when evening arrives I often find that I have not performed those exercises. Literally scheduling in time for such things on my calendar goes a long way toward achieving my self-care goals whether that goal is exercise, a long soak in the tub, vegging out with a book, or taking time to make a greenie Smoothie for myself instead of eating a Danish roll.

These five “rules” help me to #ManageStress and accomplish more.

What rules do you have for juggling your life? I would love to hear. Please, share.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:
1. Arundia Returns, Book 2, the Vampire War, will be released July 8, 2016. I am offering a FREE pdf of Artemis’ Warriors to anyone who would like to do a review of Artemis’ Warriors, Book 1, the Vampire War. Simply drop me an email at ayawalksfar@gmail.com In the subject line put: Reviewer’s Free Copy Artemis’ Warriors. This offer is only good until July 7th.
2. Death by Dog, #SpecialCrimesTeam, goes ON SAle for $0.99 from July 1 through July 9.
3. Are you a member of Audible? FREE #Audible download codes for Sketch of a Murder, Special Crimes Team; Street Harvest, Special Crimes Team; and, Old Woman Gone, Special Crimes Team, in exchange for a review on Audible and/or Amazon. Simply email me at ayawalksfar@gmail.com In the subject line put: Free Audible download code In the body of the email, please specify which book you would like to have.

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#RememberOrlando

ChooseToBe
49 dead. 53 injured. 25 still fighting for their lives in the hospitals in Florida. The worst massacre on United States soil since 9/11. Hate was the foundation for both 9/11 and the massacre in Orlando. On 9/11, people felt they had the right to “punish” the United States; that they were called by their “God” to do so. In Orlando, one man felt he had the right to “punish” people because they dared to show affection in public, and they happened to be gay. (Think how often you have kissed your loved, touched your loved one, in public…)
In spite of the Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015 to be openly LGBTQ is still dangerous—not in some foreign nation, but right here in the United States.
Haters still cling to expressing their hatred in a number of ways. It is manifested by government officials refusing to issue a marriage license the looks the same as any heterosexual couples marriage license (one state issues a different looking marriage license for lesbian and gay couples). In some states, such as North Carolina, that hate is manifested in a wide variety of government-sanctioned ways, one of which is a restaurant owner hiding behind his Christianity can refuse to serve LGBT people. In several states that do not explicitly forbid discrimination against LGBTQ people, an employer can fire a lesbian or gay employee who gets married and asks to have her/his wife/husband covered by the employer’s insurance; or an apartment manager can evict a lesbian or gay family. Some states do not allow lesbian or gay couples to foster or adopt abandoned children.
On Sunday, June 12, 2016, around 2:40 a.m., as a crowded, LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida served its last round a man with a semi-automatic AR-15 that had the capacity to rapid fire 20 or more rounds–an assault weapon usually carried by the military in war zones; the same type of weapon that massacred people Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut. and San Bernadino, California–manifested his hate with a spray of deadly bullets.
For over three hours, people in that nightclub did not know whether they would live or die. One young man texted his mother: “in the bathroom” and a little later, “I’m gonna die”. He never made it home. A 22-year-old man had gone to the nightclub to listen to salsa music with his boyfriend. His bullet-riddled body was one of the ones carried out. A 31-year-old woman was dancing with her girlfriend when the shooting erupted. A 49-year-old heterosexual woman had gone to the club with her 21-year-old gay son. She had survived cancer twice; she didn’t survive the massacre.
Some political candidates–instead of focusing on the victims–are using this massacre to increase more hate. They want us to believe these kind of things are only perpetrated by Muslims associated with Islamic Terrorists and that therefore we should take strict measures against those who are Muslim, including banning their immigration into the United States. Unfortunately, the man responsible for the mass murders in Aurora, Colarado in 2012 was Caucasian and had no affiliation with Muslims or Islam; the boy who killed 20 6-and-7-year-old children and six adults was likewise Caucasian and had no affiliation with the Islamic Terrorists. In 2014, a young man murdered women and men because “women rejected his advances and sexually-active men had a more fun life than he did”. No affiliation with Islamic Terrorists. Men who proclaim to be Christians have routinely murdered black men and women and children since the days of slavery and the only organization with which they are affiliated is the Ku Klux Klan. Other radical, Christian groups have also periodically targeted blacks, LGBTQ people and others who were different than themselves.
These killings are not about religion; they are about hate. It is as simple as that. People who hate and have access to assault weapons can do more damage more quickly than those who do not have access to assault weapons. It is a simple equation even for someone like myself who “doesn’t do math”.
(NOTE:I believe in the right to own handguns, rifles and shotguns. Own a few myself; even have a Concealed Carry Permit. But civilians have no need to own assault weapons whose only use is to kill a massive number of people in as little time as possible without the need to reload frequently!)
The scary thing is this: for the past month I have been working on a new novel for my Special Crimes Team series. The working title is Eve of Destruction. It is about people who despise those who are not like them and make a decision to physically attack those people simply for the “crime” of being different.
CreatorLovesDiversity
I began writing Eve of Destruction in response to having a major political election with a candidate who preaches hate and discrimination. Such high level propagation of misogyny, racial bigotry, and religious hate is bound to fuel the hate and violence of those who already walk a fine line between civility and violence.
Although my Special Crimes Team series dissects serious issues in our society (as well as presenting a edge-of-the-seat mystery), my natural optimism always shows itself in my work. At the end, those who had been hard beset find ways to overcome.
While I read about the massacre in Florida, the death, the dying, the senseless violence, the hate of one man, I also read about victims who instead of blindly running away helped other victims escape; people who tore off their shirts to bind someone else’s wounds. I read about candlelight vigils and those who reached out to victims and their families and friends. I read about the real people; the everyday people of the United States, and that made me proud to live here, to be a U.S. citizen. It seems that regardless of how ugly a few people can get; how they can manifest their hatred of women, blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ, and anyone different than themselves there are others who remind me that people are often beautiful, brave, generous, and kind.
This is what keeps me optimistic. And it is this optimism that prevails in my work and my life. Though the massacre of innocent people occurs, and has been occurring with a frightening regularity in recent years, I believe that the people of the United States are basically good people; kind and just people. I believe that those people of common sense and basic human decency will overcome the haters.
CarryPeace
DON’T speak his name! Instead #SpeakNamesOfTheVictims!
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/orlando-nightclub-massacre/orlando-massacre-what-we-know-about-victims-n591141

DON’T LET HATE WIN! LOVE CAN OVERCOME!

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Absent Until June 6

butterfly
Wanted to let everyone know that I will be taking a few days off from my work to simply enjoy my wife and the beauty that surrounds us every day. Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. Be sure to kiss your loved ones and take time to gaze in awe at the sunsets.
IAmHappy

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