Category Archives: Home

Interviews, book reviews and all things write

Life is Dynamic

The only things certain about life, my mother used to say, was death and taxes. Actually, on this I have to disagree. The only thing certain is death and that life will change.

change-2

Since the latter part of 2016 and the first six months of 2017, my life has been in a state of flux. My wife was laid off, my favorite dog died, Trump is in the White House, I’ve joined political resistance groups when I thought my days of protesting were over, I’ve published Attack on Freedom, a political thriller, I’m completing the edits of two more books for release this year, and I’ve taken employment as a cashier at an Arco gas station and convenience store.

AND, the most important change–at least, to me–Beyond the Silence: A Woman’s Journey to Freedom is a FINALIST in the Golden Crown Literary Society awards! I am so pleased to be a finalist in the GCLS awards that until July 9th, Beyond the Silence #ebook will be #FREE at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/606365. Simply use the coupon code VM53C at checkout. Easy as that.

GCLS

Unfortunately, in order to deal with many of the changes in my life, I have had to cut back on the amount of time I spend on social media. Consequently, you won’t catch me as frequently on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. My blog may only get two posts per month beginning in July. I apologize.

Meanwhile, to keep up with what I am doing, catch me on my profile page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar   or  my author’s page at https://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor.

If you want to know about my involvement in politics, you can check out https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan  or  https://www.facebook.com/groups/440389712959710/

Remember, even though change happens, it is how we deal with it that counts. Life is an adventure; it is dynamic. But, isn’t that what keeps us growing?

 

 

 

Share

No Perfect People: A #Mother’s Day Reflection

aliciaDoSomethingGood

When I wrote those words in the novel Run or Die, they came from growing up with my mother. She was a woman who became the first female remodeling contractor in our state to do her own work.  Never play the damsel-in-distress because if you play it long enough, you become it.  Never back down from a bully; they only get worse. And, whenever you get knocked down, pick yourself back up and throw yourself back into the fight. Never settle; constantly strive to improve, to grow, to become more.

All very necessary lessons as I grew up in a ghetto. A poverty-stricken area where dreams died fast and so did most people. But most people weren’t my mother.

Flying saucers were part of my childhood–they were the things my mom threw at my stepfather. She liked knives, too, but unlike the cups and saucers, she deliberately missed with the knives. A friendly warning; that’s all. Her temper was well-known in our neighborhood. No one wanted to set it off, including me. All too frequently, I was at the wrong end of her temper; often for reasons I never understood.

You’d think that with memories like that, that I would despise my mother. Honestly, I did go through a phase of hating her, but it never diminished the fact that I also loved and admired her; respected and idolized her. Why? One time she told me to wake her up and when I did, she threw a Vick’s jar at me. I ducked and took off out of the house until she calmed down. So, why do I retain good memories of my mother? Why do I speak of her with respect?

Because, in spite of the violence, my mother was a kind and caring person. No, that is not some illusion succored by someone who can’t accept the truth; the reality. Let me tell you about the woman beneath the violence.

My mother grew up in a coal camp–tarpaper shanties where coal miners and their families lived while the miners eked out a piss poor existence. Water hauled from the creek, kerosene lanterns rather than electricity, outdoor latrines. A tough life. My grandmother cleaned a rich woman’s house for a pittance and the rich woman’s castoff clothes that Grandma altered by lantern light. My mother’s father–my biological grandfather–like most men in the camps believed it was his right to get drunk on money needed for food and to come home and beat his wife and children.

My grandmother, like most women of that day and that place, put up with the beatings until the night he staggered home and went after my mother. My grandmother grabbed his gun from the cupboard. She told him to “Get yerself right with your Maker, John.” Then she pulled the trigger. Fortunately, or unfortunately, (I never could decide on that) John took those seconds to dive out of the tarpaper-covered window hole. Grandma plugged him in the upper thigh, but he’d learned his lesson. He didn’t return and died in a coal mine cave-in years later.

Didn’t matter. He had used his money for booze and women. It was Grandma’s work that fed and housed the family.

Fast forward to when my mother turned fourteen. She had a beautiful singing voice and from somewhere managed to scrounge up a battered guitar and taught herself how to play.  Big dreams for a girl in a coal mining camp. Eventually, she ran away to the city where singers, even women, could find jobs as singers and guitar pickers. Yes, some women did find lounges and places to launch their career as singers. My mother wasn’t so lucky. She scratched out a living doing whatever it took to survive.

But, she never gave up. She wrote songs and found small venues where they hired her to play and sing. Sometimes, the pay consisted of a plate of food and beer. It was rough trade and a tough life.

Fast forward again. Birth control wasn’t available to my mother back then. She wound up eventually getting pregnant and getting married. Still, she refused to completely give up her dreams of singing. She continued to write, to sing and play when she found the gigs, but a woman with kids didn’t enjoy the same kind of freedom to pursue her passion as a man with kids. Over time, finding work to pay the rent and the bills took priority over pursuing her dreams. My mother accepted her responsibilities to provide for children, but alcohol and drugs soothed the wound left by her unrealized dreams.

Yet, even under the burden and the anger of thwarted dreams and passion, the despair of watching her life become a drudgery, of never having anyone with whom she felt able to truly share, the true spirit and heart of my mother shone. In large actions and in small ones, her kindness and caring spilled out.

Violence in poverty-stricken areas is sharpened by  physical hungers as well as despair. And, no one in our neighborhood ever had enough to eat. Somehow, Mom talked to the “bulls” that guarded the train yards back then into allowing her and me to gather the crates of fruit and vegetables that had fallen and busted during transfers from train cars to trucks for delivery. We hauled those crates home in the back of Mom’s dilapidated pickup. Then she would send me around to invite the neighbors to help us out, since we “couldn’t possibly eat it all”. I learned a valuable lesson back then: sometimes the only thing poor people have left is their pride. You don’t offer charity; you ask them to help you.

Another time, a child in our neighborhood needed medical care that her parents couldn’t afford. Mom set up a street fair on our deadend street. Now, for most people that right there would spell disaster for the fair. Not my mother. Even to this day, I have no idea how she pulled all those people to our street; to her fair. People paid to walk past those cars parked across the end of the street and they paid to play and laugh and eat. After two days, the fair ended and the little girl received her treatment.

It wasn’t just what my mother gave to others that impressed me. My mother was a consummate oral storyteller, telling stories in such a way that tears would pour down my cheeks and then the next story would have me laughing so hard my stomach ached. I would sit at her feet and listen for hours, transported to other worlds and far-off times.

Like the stories, I recall the nights my mother played her battered guitar and sang. Even today, I remember many of the songs.

My stepfather and mother both worked, so I was given chores such as cleaning the house and making dinners. Pride swelled inside me when she’d lay her arm across my shoulders and say “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

When she discovered that I wrote, she told me to never give up my dream; to never stop, no matter what happened in my life. After I left home, I found out that she bragged to neighbors, to friends, to acquaintances that her daughter was a writer.

At the age of nineteen with my life in turmoil, I returned home and worked with my mother in her home remodeling business. It was during that special time Mom introduced me to her lover. Her lover, a woman and a nurse. I had noticed something different about Mom during the months we had  worked together–her rages and violence had decreased; she laughed more; she drank and drugged less.

Unknown to either my mother or myself, that year I spent working with her was the last year of her life. I am grateful for it allowed me to see the real woman; the woman who could have been had life been kinder. We worked together, and laughed together. And, sometimes, we would have lunch or dinner with her lover. My mother’s eyes shone.

I had never seen my mother’s eyes shine like that.  Love had soothed the wounds in my mother’s soul.

Journey you make

A short blog post can never capture my mother’s journey, nor the strength it took for her to walk it. Here are a few of the footsteps she left behind for others to follow.

–No one is perfect. Just do your best.

–Never give up your dreams.

–Love is a most priceless gift. Don’t let others tell you who to love.

–Joy awaits those whose hearts never stop seeking.

–You’re tough. You can do anything you decide to do.

–Don’t let fear decide your life.

–If you don’t allow yourself to grow and to become, you will have nothing to offer others.

 

 

Share

GCLS Finalist! #She Persisted!

Beyond the Silence: A Woman’s Journey to Freedom, has been chosen as a finalist in the Golden Crown Literary Society Awards contest. The #GCLS’ mission is to educate, and to recognize and promote #lesbian literature. They receive thousands of entries to their awards contest every year. I am honored to have become a finalist in the dramatic fiction category. https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Silence-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01ADRQ0K8

Though I set this novel in the Deep South in 1988, it is timely when we view our current political climate. Many states have passed so-called “religious liberty” laws that discriminate against #LGBTQ people and other states prepare to pass such laws. Beyond the Silence was based on research that exposed the harsh reality of how such discrimination played out in real women’s and real children’s lives. The legalities that allowed the discrimination that ripped apart Barb Hensen’s life were real. Lesbian women could have their children removed from their custody on the claim that their “lifestyle” endangered the child.

In the years since 1988, many strides have been made to protect lesbians and other LGBTQ people from harmful, and often devastating, discrimination. Unfortunately, there is a very real danger that the progress we have made could be rolled back. We could once again face powerful forces that want to tear apart our families.

However, Beyond the Silence is a story of triumph; the triumph of a woman who loses everything, yet finally finds herself. A woman who persisted; who refused to quit when many times she would have welcomed death. A woman who built a life in spite of all the obstacles that stood in her path.

I wrote this book as a tribute to such women, whether they are lesbian or straight; bisexual or transgender. This book is not about a single life, no matter how heroic such a life might be. It is the story of every woman who has ever struggle and nearly given up, yet dragged herself to her feet to fight on.

I salute you.

believe

Share

Changes

change-2

Like my life, this website is undergoing some changes. Please be patient. Meanwhile, as an apology to my readers, I am offering a free ecopy of Attack on Freedom, a political thriller with a touch of romance. It’s simple to claim your free ebook: go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/707335  Follow instructions and be sure to enter the coupon code PN52B when you are prompted to enter the code.

eCover (9)

Meanwhile, amid my political work I #amwriting the last of the Vampire War trilogy–The Final Battle (or Girl Rescues Mom, Inherits Vampires). This has been a fun and challenging project for me both in terms of the graphic sexuality (I don’t usually write graphic sex) as well as the subject matter–vampires. Quite divergent from mysteries and literary fiction.

Talking about mysteries: Twisted Minds, A Special Crimes Team novel, will be out later this summer.

Twisted Minds Summer 2017

I believe it makes us better when we challenge ourselves to do something different.

A list of places where you can find me:

https://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor

https://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar

https://www.facebook.com/groups/440389712959710/  (Together Women Can Group open to public) (information, petitions, articles dealing with women’s rights)

https://www.twitter.com/BooksRDoorways  (a place for all things bookish with links to great reads, etc.)

https://www.twitter.com/2getherwomencan  (companion to above group)

 

 

 

 

Share

1st Amendment: Stand Up or Shut Up!

While most people’s attention is on national politics, the Republicans in our own state of Washington are attempting to slip a few unsavory laws through the legislature. The worst of these laws are what the Republicans are calling anti-riot laws, but are really anti-protest laws.

Six reasons no legislation should be written that dampens the citizen’s right to protest:

1.We already have vandalism/malicious mischief laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

2.We already have trespass laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

3.We already have assault laws in place for any situation, including during protests, both organized and unorganized.

4.A law that makes the organizer of a protest or anyone participating in the protest liable for the actions of another person essentially forces an untrained civilian into the role of law enforcement. It does not matter whether the person breaking the laws is with the protest or is a rogue attempting to disrupt a peaceful protest.

5.Placing a civilian in such a position is a no-win situation for everyone, including innocent bystanders and law enforcement. Civilians are seldom trained to deal with violent offenders, regardless whether the offending is trespassing or assaulting someone. When you force a civilian into this role, you are very possibly forcing that civilian to break the laws against assault which would lead to legal repercussions from jail time to fines to civil lawsuits.
In addition, anytime civilians act as law enforcement they place real law enforcement in danger. Law enforcement officers have a specific protocol in matters of riot containment or offenses by individuals during a peaceful protest both to ensure that the offenders are stopped and the law enforcement officers are kept as safe as possible. When you inject civilians into the situation, that protocol is disrupted.

6.The right to peacefully protest is part of the Bill of Rights, First Amendment. Without the right to protest, a tool for citizens to force government to change is taken away. Without the right to impact our government, our democracy is seriously endangered.

7.When any part of the Bill of Rights, or the First Amendment, is compromised it then weakens that amendment and the Bill of Rights and other parts can then be more easily destroyed. Without the First Amendment not only will you, as a citizen, have no right to protest government actions, you will eventually have no right to speak out against the government. This leads to dictatorships.
setworldonfire
Peaceful protests have always been the match that people lit to change government; sometimes, protests are the only way to change government.

If you believe that our “blue” state would never stand for such a law being passed, you are asleep while driving your citizenship. Such proposals have already been introduced into our state legislature. If such a bill can be proposed, it will be passed without sufficient protest from the people. Such protest might be physical actions like marching or the protests might take the form of calling, emailing, and writing to not only the representatives for your district, but also the representatives for other districts to let them know they answer to our state, to all of our citizens.

Many people thought Trump would never be elected. They were asleep while driving their citizenship. If you want your rights protected, you need to stand up. Democracy is a choice: stand up or shut up!

The state of Washington is not the only state where laws are currently being proposed that would dampen or violate First Amendment rights to peaceful protest. As of February 24, 2017, seventeen states have bills being proposed that would deny citizens the right to protest. To see if your state is one, go to the link below. It has a map of the states of concern. These laws would, according to the Washington Post do such things as: “…indemnify drivers who strike protesters with their cars and, in at least one case, seize the assets of people involved in protests that later turn violent.”

According to Cornell University Law School:
“…The Supreme Court has expressly recognized that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. This implicit right is limited to the right to associate for First Amendment purposes. It does not include a right of social association. The government may prohibit people from knowingly associating in groups that engage and promote illegal activities….”
Cornell University Law School:
“Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Three important changes in the United States that were brought about by protesters:
1. The right to form unions
2. Voting rights for black Americans and women
3. December 16, 1773 The Boston Tea Party signaled the colonists’ determination to live in a country where their needs were clearly represented.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/24/republican-lawmakers-introduce-bills-to-curb-protesting-in-at-least-17-states/
https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/first_amendment

To read about protests that changed history, go to https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan

democracy

Share

8 Methods for Self-care During Stressful Times

There is no doubt that we have entered a highly stressful point in our national history. Such extreme stress–especially when added to everyday stressors we all face such as jobs, family, and time constraints–affects all of us and causes a number of physical and cognitive issues from headaches to stomachaches to sleepless nights and depression to mention only a few.
Regardless whether you have girded up to resist the current administration or if you simply want to survive the insanity of it, there are things you need to know.

Signs of Stress:
–Overeating/undereating/loss of appetite/nausea/diarrhea/constipation
–Inability to sleep/change of sleep patterns/restless sleep
–Feeling hopeless/helpless/defeated/being pessimistic
–Restlessness and irritability/snapping at people/losing your temper more easily
–Low energy/that blah feeling
–Headaches/body aches, pains and tense muscles
–Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
–Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
–Nervousness/shaking/ringing in the ear/cold or sweaty hands and feet
–Clenched jaw/grinding of teeth
–Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
–Constant worrying/racing thoughts
–Forgetfulness and disorganization/inability to focus/poor judgment
–Procrastinating/avoiding responsibilities/wanting to ‘hide under the bed’/wanting to ‘hide in the bed’
–Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
–Increased nail biting/fidgeting/pacing/restlessness

If you, or anyone you know, are exhibiting any or all of these symptoms they may be warning signs that stress levels have reached unmanageable proportions. The more symptoms or the more severe the symptoms, the higher the degree of stress.

Stress is not only unpleasant, but it can cause or exacerbate such things as heart ailments, skin disorders, sexual dysfunctions, mental health problems, and gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn, indigestion, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

As an author, I am deeply involved in a career that is, during the best of times, stressful. Because of the current political climate, as an author I have certain responsibilities to use words to keep people informed and to do my part to protect the freedoms that we in the United States enjoy; freedoms that are facing unparalleled challenges during this administration. Here are some ways that I manage the stress that is inherent in my life:

8 Methods for self-care during stressful times:
1.The first and best defense against stress is someone to talk to. This person needs to be non-judgmental, accepting, and someone you can trust not to repeat what you said. If you don’t have a family member or friend to whom to turn, I would recommend seeking professional counseling services or speaking with your doctor.

2.Eating regular meals, preferably eaten with people you like–can fuel your body to fight off stress. During meals, avoid discussing upsetting issues. Let that occur after you eat and have had a little bit of time to digest your food. If you don’t have time to sit down and eat, carry healthy snacks with you such as cheese and apples. This will give you the extra boost of energy while also supplying protein for repair of the body.

3.Exercise not only allows you to blow off steam, but it strengthens the body, and releases internal chemicals that lift our moods. Exercise does not have to be complicated. Depending on your physical condition is the level to begin exercising. You can take a brisk walk outside, go jogging along the street in your neighborhood, use a treadmill, do sit-ups/push-ups/ running up and down stairs or stretches at home.

4.Baths/showers can help overcome stress. A long, warm/hot bath or a long shower can wash away not only the grime of day-to-day living, but it will relax muscles and give you a time to quietly decompress. The sound of showers can be very soothing to some people while a decadence of a long bath will relax others.

5.Sitting down with a cup of tea or decaf coffee or a cool glass of water will also aid in managing stress. The water actually assists in washing toxins from the body. The warmth of tea or decaf coffee can be very soothing. Peppermint tea is good for digestive upsets; chamomile tea is good for restlessness and sleeping problems. Ginger root (made from real ginger root brought to a boil and then simmered for 15 minutes and then left to steep until it reaches the potency you wish) is great for infections, colds, sore throats, and upset digestion.

6.Sometimes, you have to simply leave the current reality. Find a good movie or book to take you on an adventure that transports you from everyday reality. Put on soothing music and sit back and immerse yourself in the notes and the tones of the instruments.

7.Attitude of Gratitude List is remarkably helpful in managing stress as it pulls us away from the feeling of helplessness and reminds us of the beauty and joy in our lives.
butterfly

8.Resist.
HumansSaveSelves
Join a group or organization that is fighting for the issue you are most invested in. Sign online petitions from reputable organizations (FYI: do NOT donate money to any organization you have not researched. Now is a great time for SCAM artists to rip people off!),email your senators and representatives about issues that are important to you, handwrite letters to your senators and representatives about issues or to simply thank them for their stands on different issues (since emails are easily done and senators and representatives get tons of them a day, a handwritten note of no more than one page will often catch their attention faster. Also, this gives them physical evidence of their constituents concerns to wave under the noses of the opposing senators or representatives), phone your senators and representatives and leave short messages of concern or thank you.
Volunteer on the campaign of people who are running for governmental positions. Tweet to your senators and representatives.
And don’t be hesitant to contact senators and representatives to let them know that once they hit Capitol Hill, they represent all the people of the nation, not just their narrow constituency. Be polite, state your concern, be brief.

Remember that stress can make us feel that we have done nothing of any worth, that we are failures. Stress lies.

creators-child

If you have other stress relief methods, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Share

Research Meet Reality

eCover (9)
In Attack on Freedom, which began to take shape in 2013, I explored the possibility of the United States experiencing a military coup. Looking at the Presidential Succession Act which governs who becomes president if the current office holder resigns, dies, or is removed from office—impeached, it became clear that the United States under the current system was indeed at risk for a military coup. It could occur by assassination of key people and/or by a declaration of a “State of Emergency” by the president thus thrusting the United States under military control. It was on this premise that I wrote the thriller, Attack on Freedom.

One of the lesser-known facts about the United States government is that the president can declare a “State of Emergency” (#MartialLaw) nationally in the event of war or large scale terrorist attacks or locally as in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush Expanded Martial Law Authority on September 29, 2006, when he signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).The law expanded the president’s authority to declare Martial Law under revisions of the Insurrection Act and gave the president the power to take charge of National Guard troops without state governor authorization.

In 2017, the NDAA remains in force with a provision that allows the military to detain United States citizens without cause and without due process for an indefinite period of time. This type of power was exercised against Japanese-Americans in 1943 when the Supreme Court upheld a race specific curfew. In 1944 the Court justified the random internment—imprisonment—of more than 110,000 Japanese-American citizens with the subsequent forced loss of their homes and businesses for which they were never monetarily compensated.

During Trump’s first couple of weeks in office, he threatened the city of Chicago with Martial Law for nothing more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago calling him out. “You didn’t get elected to debate crowd size at your inaugural. You got elected to make sure people have a job, that the economy continues to grow, people have security as it relates to their children’s education. It wasn’t about your crowd size. It was about their lives and their jobs.” (NOTE: Trump claimed that Chicago was experiencing violent “carnage”. Looking up FBI Statistics as well as several independent city violence ratings, Chicago did not make the list of Top 25 most violent cities.)

However, with such whimsy by the president, a city, a state, or the entire country could be declared in a “State of Emergency” (under Martial Law) which would replace civilian authority with military authority.

What would occur is this:
–The suspension of the #Constitution, probably starting with the First Amendment. The #FirstAmendment guarantees the citizens of the United States the right to worship as they choose, the right to peacefully protest, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
–Confiscation of #firearms
–Suspension of Habeas corpus: imprisonment without due process and without a trial
–Travel restrictions, including road closures and perhaps even quarantine zones
–Mandatory curfews and Mandatory identification
–Automatic search and seizures without a warrant

Martial law has been used in the United States during political protests, labor strikes, and any other unrest deemed a “State of Emergency” by either state or national government. Currently, we have seen some of these indicators with Trump’s Muslim Ban and detainment of lawful citizens of the United States on the soil of the United States (ie: travel restrictions for a specific segment of society), suspension of Habeas Corpus during protests when protesters were detained without access to attorneys.

One of my beta readers told me that this book disturbed her because the scenario “could so easily occur”. Attack on Freedom is eerily echoing many events happening in our country at the present time. As the Americans in my novel discover, freedom isn’t free and everyone has to be united and must take action to secure freedom for all of us. If one person is not free, then no one is free.

Get your copy of Attack on Freedom NOW! https://www.amazon.com/Attack-Freedom-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01N5WU1LE

Share