Aya Walksfar, Author

Hard hitting, in-the-news murder mysteries

4 #FREE #BOOKS

Share these download codes with family, friends and co-workers. These four #books will remain #free ONLY until August 30, 2015. (JUST 4 more DAYS!) Go to http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AyaWalksfar to download your FREE copy, or copies! Download any one or all four of these #ebooks. These are COMPLETE books; not teasers.

  1. (Genre: #Mystery/Thriller/police drama) Street Harvest, Book 2, Special Crimes Team, Code JE68B   (NOTE: all the books in my series can be read out of order or as stand-alone novels) What do the bodies of two young children have in common with the murders of two adult men? Eleanor Hasting, a black bookstore owner and child advocate knows these killings are linked. Now, she must convince Lieutenant Michael Williams, head of the Special Crimes Team. Psychic Jaimie Wolfwalker is prepared to do whatever it takes to locate and rescue the missing street children. The law be damned! Jaimie’s attitude and methods place her on a collision course with Sergeant Nita Slowater, second-in-command of the Special Crimes Team. Four dedicated people struggle to come to terms with each other in their desperate search for clues. Every day brings more missing children, more young bodies. They must stop the monsters before another child disappears…forever.
  2. (Genre: Mystery/Thriller) Run or Die, Code MX48Y Life had never been easy for Jaz Wheeler. When love touched her world only to be snatched away, emptiness settled around her heart. She barely cared enough to keep body and soul together until she landed on Hawk Hill and the Hopewell Farm. Somehow the isolated farm caught her by the heart strings. Now, she must find the strength and the courage to stand against the ultimatum to run or die.
  3. (Genre: #Literary) Good Intentions, Code HQ72R Bev Ransom thinks her life can’t get any worse after her father dies unexpectedly. At least, she has her friend and employer, Rene Lawson, an intriguing older woman whose past is shrouded in mystery. Then, on a day like any other, Bev goes to work and by evening Rene is dead. Devastated and unable to let go of another loved one, Bev becomes obsessed with unraveling the mysteries that surrounded Rene. When she uncovers a twenty-year old secret, Bev’s world is shattered. Is there anyone she can trust?
  4. (Genre: Mystery/Thriller, a novella) Dead Men and Cats, Code UH42Z When Megan Albright and Janie Sampson discover a dead man and a live, calico kitten floating in an old rowboat the serenity of the quiet community of Shadow Island is shattered. Then Dan Uley, a close friend, is murdered. Doubting the sheriff’s commitment to finding the killer, they know they must do it for there is no telling who will be the next to die.

Here are the instructions for downloading via Smashwords: (They can only be accessed for FREE through Smashwords!)

  1. You have to set up a FREE Smashwords account. It’s totally FREE!
  2. After the account is set up:

Go to http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AyaWalksfar

Scroll down until you find the book title you have a coupon code for and click on it

Click on the book cover

Click “Buy”

The book cover and title will appear along with the original price and below the original price will be “coupon code” with a box next to it

Type in the code for your FREE download

Click “Checkout” in the upper right corner

“Review you order” will appear with the title of the book on the left and the price of the book on the right. The first “price” will be the original price and right below it will be $0.00 with the code that you typed in next to it

Complete checkout

Go to “view library” and the book cover will come up with a green “download” button

Click “download”

On the right side a box will appear that says “Download the full versions of this book”. Below this will be buttons with different formats. Choose the format that is right for your device, such as epub for NOOK, mobi for Kindle. If a page appears that says this book has multiple versions, always choose to download the most current version of the book.

“Save” file. Now your FREE ebook is on your PC.

Transfer from PC to your device. Enjoy!

Monday I will be sending out the monthly newsletter. If you aren’t receiving the newsletter, but would like to, enter your email address in the sidebar box for JUST FOR YOU newsletter. That will put you directly on that mailing list.  I have attempted to blend the two lists–blog and newsletter–so you receive notifications of both (JUST 4 times a month), but may have missed an email in the process. Sorry if I did!

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The Open Road Calls!

JUNE 2015 141The open road calls! (and I answered the phone.)

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will not be on #SocialMedia, including this blog, until after August 26th or so. I am taking time to hang out with my bestie and wife, Deva, and just chill, doing things we want, and need, to do for ourselves. JUNE 2015 064 Our last trip. JUNE 2015 107 Here we are taking a water break to stay hydrated. (You never should look like a prune–all dried up–at the end of a ride)

When on the #bike, we gear up! Road rash at sixty miles an hour is no joke.  JUNE 2015 060

May all of you have a wonderful and profitable ten to fourteen days! I’ll post once I settle back down in front of my computer and my #dogs forgive me for ignoring them! (It’s really hard to type on a computer with a German Shepherd on my lap! LOL!)  AyasLapDog

 

 

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MEMORIES

aliciaDoSomethingGood

Fond memories–who doesn’t have at least one? Even growing up in a poor neighborhood, I had several. #Books figure in all of them; usually along with a dog. One of my fondest is of the Carnegie #Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–the one on the Northside. I spent untold hours within its rooms; curled up in a corner somewhere with my nose stuck in a book.

At some point in every winter that I recall, at home our heat got shut off for non-payment. It’s hard to feed a family when your wallet is empty, much less keep the heat and the electricity turned on. Carnegie Library was always warm. And quiet. And never violent. No one got stabbed or shot or beat up within those walls. No one even yelled. That was back when libraries had a hushed, reverent atmosphere.

Oftentimes, when I’d walked in with my toes nearly frozen as they peeked from the holes in my tennis shoes and wearing clothes that were always too big for me, the librarian would smile and glance around then wave for me to come over to the desk. She would dart looks here and there like she and I engaged in a great conspiracy. I’d stand on tiptoe and lean as far over the counter as I could and she’d stretch toward me and whisper, “We just received some new books and I found a few I thought you might like.” Then she reached beneath the counter and drew out two or three or four books and slid them over the counter to my eager hands.

With a quick look around, I swiped them off the counter and tucked them in faded backpack I’d bought at a thrift store–treasures to savor. Sometimes, a sandwich lay on top of the books. Of course, there was no eating or drinking in the library, but she’d lean even closer and say in a voice only for my ears, “No one’s over by the table at the end of the A-B aisle in nonfiction.”

Though I visited that particular library many times every week from the age of six to the age of nine, if I ever knew her name, I’ve forgotten it. Her face, over the years, has blended with other faces, but I have never forgotten her kindness to a poor child in a rough neighborhood.

During the winter of my ninth year, my grandfather was murdered. Shortly afterwards, Mom moved us out of the city and into rural suburbia. I never saw my beloved library nor the kind librarian again, yet the impact of both still affects me to this very day. Every time I write a book, I remember her. I hope that my work honors her kindness.

 

http://i1.wp.com/andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/Alleghenyfront.JPG?w=538  Once upon a long time ago, I climbed on those concrete banisters. Sometimes, I ran up and down them; and, sometimes, I lay on my back and stared up at the sky and dreamed of a place far from where I’d grown up. This building was my sanctuary, my haven.

http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/photoalbumAlleghenyReg.htm

 

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LESSONS LEARNED

DSC09967 White Horse Mountain, Cascade Mountains, Darrington, Washington

Lessons Learned (The Observations of a Wildlife Habitat Manager)

Other than #author, I have several hats that I wear. Among them is the Wildlife Habitat Manager Hat. Habitat is NOT a sanctuary. It is a place where wildlife and wild birds can arrive and depart as they please. Habitat offers the wild ones food (in the form of plants, trees and the resultant insects), water (sometimes in the form of water dishes if the natural water source dries up), and shelter/nesting areas (in the form of bushes, trees, tall grass areas, undergrowth and deliberately maintained ‘slash piles’ of natural plants including tree limbs), and, hopefully, a measure of safety from domestic predators such as cats and dogs.

In 1996, my wife and I bought twelve acres of abused farmland. When I label the land abused what I mean is that the fields had been overgrazed, invasive weeds such as non-native blackberry bushes and morning glories had taken over approximately eleven acres of the land, garbage had been dumped on the creek banks and piled in a variety of other places (all of which we discovered as we took down the invasive blackberry brambles); old cars, farm equipment, freezers–complete with the rotted carcasses and hides of deer, bear and other wildlife– and other appliances also hid beneath the blackberry brambles; and, sadly, we also uncovered the skeletons and other remains of animals and birds killed for the sake of killing and left to rot where they lay.

When we first moved here, no birds flew over the property. It reminded me of the silent spring that Rachel Carson evoked with the title of her important book. Not until our medicine man came and blessed the land did the birds return. The first bird in was the tiny Rufous Hummingbird.

Since that time, we have cataloged sixty-eight different species of birds who visit our land, usually staying to shelter and/or nest. We have had a variety of wildlife, including a family of deer who frequently have their fawns in our back field and coyotes who sing their mournful songs to the dark of night.

But, the journey has not been without it setbacks and detours. So here are a few of the lessons learned by this wildlife habitat manager:

—When calculating the amount of time a rehab project might take, add in one-half again of what you think (ie: 40 hours would become 60 hours). This will allow for delays, surprises and just days when you want to play instead of work.

—Be aggressive with invasive plants! Whether the plants are Euro-Asian blackberries, morning glories, scotch broom or English daisies, begin a program of spray-mow-spray immediately. For the sake of the wild ones, try to use eco-friendly herbicides such as Round-Up. It you really need more toxic herbicides, such as some of the caustics, try to spot spray and limit the amount of the chemical used as well as the amount of land it is applied to.

—Not everything the experts tell you to try will work. For several winters, I fought a losing battle with snow tearing the gutters off of the barn. We tried a number of different remedies, including snowjacks that are in use in places like Alaska. The problem with our snow is that it accumulates, partially melts, refreezes and accumulates some more making most types of snowjacks not very efficient and often the victim of the snow pack along with the gutters. The way we resolved our issue was with four foot deep trenches around our barn under the roofline. We filled the trenches with two different sizes of rock/gravel and with French drain then created a ditch that leads to a depression where the water can slowly dissipate. It works, for us. Don’t be afraid to try out your own ideas.

—Try different plants in different areas! You may be surprised that what will grow in one place, won’t flourish in another place that appears to be the exact same type of ground, sunlight and moisture.

—When visiting nurseries, ignore most of the statements like “Oh, no, this is not invasive”; “no, you won’t have any problem with this spreading where you don’t want it” and similar statements. Many of the current invasives that we battle daily were brought here deliberately by other people, including the scourges of farmland and wildlife habitat–English daisies and scotch broom! No one thought these “pretty flowers” would become noxious weeds. We can eradicate invasive plants. Be consistent and persistent!

Try to use plants that are native/indigenous to your area. (Our neighbor planted a black walnut tree and now we have bunches of baby black walnut trees sprouting up everywhere). Think twice about eradicating what your neighbors may term ‘weeds’ if that plant is indigenous, such as salmonberry bushes and Indian plum bushes. Many times the wildlife/wild birds that are native to your area really need these plants (sometimes, the very ones your neighbors labor weeds)! Both salmonberry and Indian plum are early spring flowering plants that provide much needed nectar for the hummingbirds who arrive before other trees and bushes set their blossoms.

DSC01752 Patch of Thimbleberry bushes (Pacific Northwest native plant; edible by humans, birds and wildlife. A tasty red berry on a thornless bramble.)

Salmonberry bushes are much more sensitive (especially to herbicides) than many people believe and can be controlled (kept to one area) by mowing the young starts that sprout through rhizome propagation. As well as providing nectar, these delicate blossoms are a lovely relief from the barrenness of winter. According to my adoptive mother, Vi taqseblu Hilbert, who was an Upper Skagit elder, new shoots were once eaten by #NativeAmericans much like asparagus. The berries are red or gold colored and delicious for people, birds or other wildlife. salmonberry bloom Salmonberry blossom (Pacific Northwest native plant)

—Be gentle with yourself! This was a very important lesson for me. I tend to demand not only perfection of myself, but perfection as of yesterday! No matter how dedicated and hardworking you are, take time to stop and just walk the land, enjoy all that you have accomplished. Be sure to take ‘before’ photos you can refer to because many times we don’t see the progress we are making. Sort of like being in a dense forest–rather difficult to see the whole tree.

—Remember, even though one person can’t save the entire planet; we can’t even save the entire species–whatever the species–we can make a difference one person at a time; one small piece of land at a time. So, whether you have a small backyard or a hundred acres, what you do matters. When you provide food, water and shelter for two birds that gives that bird species one more place to rest, to eat and grow strong, and to bring young into this world to bless all of us. And, each time one of us provides habitat for the wild ones, we demonstrate to our neighbors and friends that it can be done without sacrificing the use and enjoyment of our property. We can make a difference; and, we can make this world a tiny bit better for us having been here.

We are saving, preserving and increasing beauty each day.

JUNE 2015 144 Oregon Grape (Pacific Northwest native plant; berries are edible by humans, birds and wildlife)

 

To see photos of the author’s land, go to Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar) and view Jaz Wheeler’s farm. My character in Run or Die has much the same kind of place as we do. Funny how that works!

 

 

 

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#SEX AND VIOLENCE

Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014

We live in an undeniably violent world–wars, murders, rapes, ad nauseum. Should books graphically reflect that reality? How much is too much?

As the author of murder and mayhem–and even in my literary works to some, though to a lesser, degree–this is a question I face. This issue is compounded by the question of sex. As with violence, sex permeates our culture. Nearly every television show, movie, and advertisement has sex intimately entwined. Let’s face it: sex and violence sells.

Yet, I want my work to mean more than a dollar sign or a cheap thrill. I feel a responsibility to tell stories worthy of a #reader’s time. After all, my commitment is to entertain, enlighten and empower. Where does that leave such a writer?

We become a weaver of plots, a builder of characters, a creator of worlds.

I use a certain amount of graphic sex and graphic violence in some of my work. Note the word “some” and the phrase “a certain amount”. Since I write everything from young adult to vampire to #murder to literary (yes, I realize authors are supposed to brand themselves with one genre, but that robe felt too tight and it itched!) the use of sex and violence must be tailored to the story.

For example, in the young adult novel, Black Wind, (TO BE RELEASED JULY 31) they never get their clothes off, yet in the vampire novel, Artemis’ Warriors(COMING AUGUST 31)….well, let’s just say that sometimes clothes get scattered all over the place. The mystery/cop/thriller novels, such as The Special #Crimes Team series, fall somewhere between these two poles.

Likewise, in Black Wind, violence occurs but to a lesser degree and not as graphic. The vampire fighters in Artemis’ Warriors dash about, lopping off heads and arms and other important parts. The blood flies. In Sketch of a Murder, SCT, Book 1, the reader sees crime scenes through the serial killer’s eyes–and the scenes are gruesome, yet in Old Woman Gone, SCT, Book 3, bloodshed is minimal. (All the books in my series can be read as stand-alone novels.)

So, what creates the different levels of sex and violence? The story. It is my contention that the plot and the characters in a story determine the amount of sex and violence, as well as how graphically those instances are portrayed .

All too often, I have picked up a novel and within a few chapters have read ten pages of graphic sex (more frequently than graphic violence even) for every page of story. Needless to say, I toss the book aside and seldom pick up anything else by that author. If scenes of sex and violence dominates a work with no clear purpose in forwarding the story, then I have to ask how well-developed are the characters and how substantial is the plot?

Readers, what is your opinion? How much sex and violence is too much? Leave a comment!

DON’T FORGET: UNTIL AUGUST 30 FOUR of my e-novels are FREE! Want a #FREEBOOK? Go to: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AyaWalksfar  Choose one, or all, of the books listed below. Follow the checkout instructions. When asked for the coupon code, entered the code specific to that book. Continue checkout. Download the format that works best with your device. epub for NOOk; mobi for Kindle; or whatever format your device requires and is listed.

Street Harvest, Special Crimes Team, Book 2 (all of my series can be read out of order, or as a stand-alone novel) Use Coupon Code: JE68B

Run or Die    Coupon Code: MX48Y

Good Intentions, a literary novel  Coupon Code: HQ72R

Dead Men and Cats, a mystery novella  Coupon Code: UH42Z

If you have problems with the download, please contact me at ayawalksfar@gmail.com I will try to answer your questions.

Share the codes with family, friends and co-workers. Heck, share them with your neighbors and maybe they will read instead of party all night and keep you awake!

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Have a GREAT WEEK!

 

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IT’S ABOUT TIME!

In 1988, I came out of the Closet. Not only did I come out, I blew the damn thing up!

The year started quietly enough–I had a nice home, decent furniture with a few antique pieces I’d refinished, rode horses with my friend of four years, and attended college to become a veterinarian. As the year progressed, that seeming normalcy shattered. My friend and I became an intimate couple–in the Deep South, in 1988.

Now, I’d always enjoyed my friend’s family as I didn’t have one of my own–big Sunday gatherings and lots of visiting back and forth–right up until I learned about the herd of pink elephants stampeding through her life. Suffice it to say that her family did not take her sexual orientation well. Her mother, a fundamentalist Christian, was certain that her daughter would go to Hell–and that was only because my friend had decided to divorce her abusive husband. With that reaction in mind, we didn’t apprise her of the change in sexual orientation. If it had only been her mother, we might have stayed and tried to work it through, but other family members felt that the use of violence would realign her orientation and wipe away her desire for a divorce.

Faced with a choice of using violence to counter extreme violence, in a state where a man could with impunity beat his wife but heaven help the woman who fought back–prison, psych wards and increased violence against such a woman–we decided to leave the state.

light in darkness

She left everything she had worked over eleven years to help accumulate including her beloved horses; walked away from a Bachelor’s of Science degree that lacked one quarter to complete, and packed what she could in an old cedar chest and a used van. I, too, walked away from home, material possessions that couldn’t fit in a couple of cardboard cartons and the van, my horses (we arranged with a supportive friend to come and get all of the horses and rehome them), and my dream of becoming a veterinarian.

We crossed the country with her old German Shepherd dog and my Pit Bull, driving for hours to exit the state and begin to feel a little bit safe. California was filled with crowds and congested cities, so we continued traveling, stopping here and there to find work, always labor and always paid in cash. We parked in rest areas and slept in the van; sometimes, awakened by the pounding of a night stick on the metal side and the order to move on. We bathed in sinks in the rest area bathrooms, in a bucket inside the van, and every once in a while, at a mission. The women there, waiting in line for their turn at the showers, frequently let us go ahead of them so we could get back on the road.

Oregon felt decidedly unsafe. A few weeks before a young gay man had been severely beaten on an Oregon college campus. Work on a couple of horse farms and a sheep farm and eventually a donut shop got us enough money to head for the state of Washington.

Years earlier, I had lived in Washington before I moved to the South. The memories of Western Washington held the promise of diversity and, perhaps, even acceptance and safety. Funny how having been heterosexual during my earlier sojourn in the state had drastically impacted my life; things had changed and not just my sexual orientation. Washington was, indeed, more tolerant than the Deep South–usually–if you were careful where you went–if you stayed aware of potential attackers around you–if you could find a landlord/landlady willing to rent to a couple of lesbos–if you could find a job where your sexual orientation didn’t matter if you could do the work—if, if, if……

Even on Capitol Hill in Seattle, LGBTQ Land, lesbians were waylaid, stalked, beaten, raped for being lesbian, and sometimes for just being female. It became difficult to tell which was the greater crime. We turned our anger to action and joined with other lesbians in an effort to change the world, or at least our little corner of it.

Over time, we found a wonderful landlady and worked temp labor at Labor Ready where they didn’t care if you were an omni-sexual purple alien; we reconnected with some friends of mine and made new friends, and we enrolled in college again, though not on our original track of studies. Slowly, we rebuilt our shattered lives.

My wife and I have been life partners for over twenty-six years, now. In spite of the sorrow and pain we endured, we grew closer to each other, strengthened each other, and have never rebuilt our Closets. It is heartening to finally have the vindication of the Supreme Court decision. Our marriage is, at last, legal in all fifty states.

No matter how dark

Will the Supreme Court decision make it easier to come out? For some, yes, but those are the fortunate ones. Those types of families and friends; co-workers and professors, are becoming more and more common. Yet still for some lesbians the day they step from the Closet, they will face violence, and ostracism from those closest to them.

There is still a lot of work to do.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html?_r=0

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Heart Dog UPDATE

Surgery today. Tumor appeared to be limited to the spleen. Spleen and tumor removed. A biopsy will be done and results in around Friday.

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The Heart Dog

The Heart Dog

adultSiab

If you’re really lucky, once in a lifetime, a heart dog will come into your life. These are more than companions, more than pets, more than a loving animal–they are the dogs who connect to our souls; who enlarge our hearts and give us the strength to face whatever may come. They are the dogs who come to us in our times of greatest need; in our times of greatest change.

I’ve been fortunate. Three such dogs have come into my life. One, a Black Lab whom I thought I was rescuing from a shelter, rescued me many times during a troubled childhood. The second, a Pit Bull, came to me in my thirties as my life underwent major, drastic changes.

Si?ab, my Muse, came to me also during a time of great changes. Heart dogs teach us; they give us the strength to move forward in our lives. She is often in my office as I scribble out the stories within the pages of my books. Her beauty of soul has fueled many of my words. When I get discouraged, she makes me smile. She is unwavering in her love.

AyasLapDog

And tomorrow, she may leave me.

Thursday a tumor was discovered on Si?ab’s spleen. It measured six inches wide and six inches long on the xray. A blood test didn’t detect cancer, but the vet said it might not even if cancer is present. So, at six o’clock tomorrow morning Si?ab and I will get in the car and drive to the vet’s. There she will undergo abdominal surgery. If all goes well, if this tumor is benign her spleen will be removed and she will go home with me. If the tumor is clearly cancerous, she may never wake up. It is a difficult choice, but long ago I swore I would never extend the suffering of someone I loved in order to avoid my own suffering.

She is my heart dog, a dog whose soul is entwined with my own.

Regardless of how the surgery turns out tomorrow, I will be out of touch for at least a week, most likely two weeks. If it turns out well, I will post the results.

 

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Genre vs Author

sunsandbookocean

Genre VS Author

When searching for a new #book to read, do you first look in the genre or do you search by author’s name? How important is it for an author to write in one genre versus writing in several genres–such as an author who writes mystery, literary, paranormal and young adult versus an author who writes only mysteries or only literary or only paranormal books?

As an author I am always seeking ways to improve my visibility to readers and make it easier for them to find my work. I have been given various pieces of advice about writing in only one genre versus writing in several. There is one school of thought that says an author can “get away with” writing literary novels in conjunction with writing another genre since literary is in a class by itself. I write both literary and #mystery on a regular basis.

However, being an avid #reader myself, who consumes books from all genres except religious and erotica, I have had characters wake me up in the middle of the night yelling, “Write about me!” So, off I tromp to the writer’s dungeon, sleep still clouding my mind, and I kick up the computer. Fingers on the keyboard, I begin typing while not fully awake.

The next day when I re-read the beginning of whatever scene or story I worked on in the middle of the night, I gasp! Oh. My. God! I’ve written the opening scene of a vampire story with werepanthers (or a young adult story with a feisty grandmother and a young girl who loves horses).

A dilemma is upon me. Do I erase these poor characters, do I assign them to the Purgatory of the dreaded “Uncompleted Stories”, or do I continue to develop them and the story they have to tell?

If I do proceed to tell their story, do I publish it under the same name as I publish my literary and mystery novels, or do I use a different name–like C. W. Anon (Crazy Writer Anonymous)?

What would you recommend? My characters beg of you, please leave a comment.

Black Wind, a young adult novella, will be released July 24, 2015.

What would force a seventeen-year old girl to steal a horse? Follow my FB fan page and find out! http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor

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Death by #Dog, Book 5, #SpecialCrimesTeam

snarling malinios

Chapter 1

WEDNESDAY

Soda’s wavy, chestnut hair fell to the middle of her back. She pulled it back and tied it with a rubber band, so that it fell under the collar of her hoodie. Her mother had loved brushing and braiding Soda’s hair, even when Soda topped her mother’s five-foot-three height by two inches–before Mom got real sick; before sixteen-year-old Shelly Myers had become a street kid tagged as Soda. Sometimes, her mom would stand with her in front of her bedroom mirror and point out how they both had gray-blue eyes and the same determined, strong chin. She’d laugh and say, “Yeah, but you’re this curvy, sexy woman and I’m a stick that walks and talks.” She’d frown into the mirror. Mom would kiss her forehead and reply, “You are beautiful just the way you are.” Soda had loved those times.

But those times were miles away and months gone and mid-March in Seattle, Washington, breathed an early spring chill on the city. She flipped her hood up then zipped up the sweatshirt and stuffed her hands in the pockets. This part of Seattle–full of warehouses hulking silent in the evening and abandoned buildings with busted windows–held painful memories for her; so painful that it made her feel sick in the pit of her stomach, yet she felt unable to stay away.

Auntie El had been held by her kidnappers in a warehouse not far from where she walked. The elderly bookstore owner had befriended the street kids, Soda among them. Now she was gone, too; just like Soda’s mother. At least, Mom’s death had been beyond Soda’s control; not like Auntie El–dead because of Soda. “If only I had…” began the haunting litany. She shoved it away. Tears burned her eyes. It had been a year, yet the hurt twisted as sharp in her chest as if she’d lost Auntie El yesterday.

Ever since then these dark streets called to her. Every night she came down here, skittered from one dark spot to another, watching; circled the warehouses and listened. Some days she wondered if she was getting a bit crazy. What did she think being here could accomplish?

She edged along the deeper shadow of a crumbling, brick building; its windows blinded eyes looking out on littered streets. At the sound of male voices across the deserted street, she shrank back. Between black jeans and navy blue hoodie–pulled close around her pale face,white hands stuffed in her pockets–the shadows swallowed her form. Standing perfectly still, she strained to see what the men carried.

A few street lamps–not yet vandalized–spilled watery yellow light on the dirty sidewalk. The men sauntered into the light, the body of a large dog hanging between them as they made their way to the dumpster squatted in the mouth of the alley across from where Soda hid. They swung the body back and forth until enough momentum had built then let go. The animal sailed over the edge of the dumpster and thumped into the trash. They pulled off their gloves and stuffed them in jacket pockets.

The hum of traffic from several streets away sang a muted song, but the men’s voices–harsh and loud–rode over top of it. The short, heavy man lit a cigarette. The ember glowed as he inhaled. Grey smoke drifted up toward the circle of lamp light, but disintegrated when a slight breeze puffed off Puget Sound, smelling of dead fish. “Damn, that was some sick bitch. Shortest damn fight I’ve seen.”

The taller man accepted a cigarette from the other man and lit it. “Short for damn sure. Only thing that bitch,” he nodded toward the dumpster, “good for was a trainin’ fight. Can’t believe that other’n; not even two years old, yet. Man, I want me one of them dawgs.” He chuckled and a shiver ran up Soda’s spine.

The first man shook his head. “In your dreams.” He tossed his cigarette down, not bothering to stomp it out.

A cramp seized Soda’s calf muscle. Afraid any movement would draw their attention, she bit her lip hard to keep from shifting.

“What you think one of them dawg’s worth?” The taller man flicked his cigarette butt out in the middle of the street.

“I heard some of them cost as much as fifty big ones.”

“If I had me a dawg like that…”

The shorter man guffawed. “You wouldn’t know what to do with it. Them things are the devil’s own dogs. One of them would eat you up, bro.”

They moved away, snatches of words fading until only the hum of the traffic from nearby streets filled the air. A minute later, a truck roared in the night. Soda watched as a large pick up screeched away from the curb a half block away. She waited until she could no longer see the red of the taillights before she hustled across the empty street.

Breath sucked in deep, she exhaled then climbed the side of the dumpster. For a moment, she balanced on the inches-wide lip and stared down. Right when she had just about decided to hop off, a faint movement caught her eye.

Without hesitation, she dropped into the garbage and waded to the animal. One dark eye blinked slowly up at her. “You poor baby,” she sat on rustling papers amid half-rotted food and cradled the dog’s head on her lap. Gently, she stroked the dog’s side and face between the gaping wounds. The pink tongue slowly snaked out and licked Soda’s hand.

Even in the poor light from the street lamps, she could tell that the dog’s coat had once been a golden color. She imagined how it would have glowed in the sun. Now the spray of drying and dried blood matted it with dark splotches. One of the muscled forelegs had been gashed and the sharp point of white bone jutted out of the skin. She’d once been a beautiful #animal, the well-built body bigger than a German Shepherd’s.

Another shuddering breath pushed the dog’s ribs up and down. Soda remembered a lullabye that her mom sang to her whenever she woke up from a bad dream. As she petted the dog’s big head and stroked her side, Soda sang in a quavering, soft voice.

Before she’d finished her song, the #dog licked her hand once more, looked into Soda’s eyes and breathed her last.

Tears coasted down her cheeks as she gently laid the dog’s head on a pillow of garbage. With the sleeve of her hoodie, she scrubbed them away. She had always loved dogs. Had one before her mother died; before she’d had to leave to escape her stepfather’s drunken advances. Her jaw clenched as she struggled to her feet. Fists knotted at her sides, she vowed that even though she was only a street kid she’d do something! She didn’t know what, but she would do something to stop those assholes from slaughtering any more dogs.

Death by Dog will be Book 5 in the Special Crimes Team series. All of the books in the series can be read as stand alones without reading prior books in the series. Death by Dog is scheduled for release Winter 2015-2016.

Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team: Success can be deadly…if you’re a woman! AVAILABLE on pre-order as an ebook on Amazon. Go to http://www.amazon.com/Backlash-Special-Crimes-Book-4-ebook/dp/B00W7UJAWA

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For a list of Aya’s books, go to http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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