Tag Archives: books

Si?ab: A Tribute to a German Shepherd #Dog

adultSiab blog
Everything in a writer’s life shapes her writing whether that is joy or sorrow. On Saturday at approximately 9:30 a.m. my beloved German Shepherd, Si?ab Vom Das Massiv, died. My wife and I were with her when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Her beautiful and gentle soul has been a guiding light in my writing and in my life. She was my Muse. It was she who guided my decision to write Death by Dog, a Special Crimes Team anti-dog fighting novel.

For several years, I bred Si?ab to a wonderful working line GSD, Griswold Von Grunheide owned by #SuzanneEviston, a police dog breeder and trainer. They produced excellent pups. Shortly after the sale of the last pup from Si?ab’s last litter I read an article in the newspaper about a German Shepherd who had been beaten nearly to death and tossed in a dumpster in Seattle to die. Fortunately, some kind soul heard a whimper from the dumpster and rescued the dog. He survived. I shuddered and quickly checked the photo of the dog. It was colored differently than any dogs birthed by Si?ab. I inhaled a relieved breath; however, the seeds of Death by Dog were sown.
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Dogs and books have been constants in my life. One of my first memories is of a dog named Trixie, a German Shepherd rescued from the Animal Shelter. After I learned to read at the age of six, I often hid in the attic of our old three-story house next to one of its grimy windows. As the dull light seeped through, I read for hours with Trixie lying next to my leg. For those hours, I was transported from my violence-ridden neighborhood into a different world.

My imagination fired by the stories I read had me scribbling stories of my own. My grandfather, Pap, would have me sit on his lap and read my latest story to him. He suffered through every childish word as if he listened to the next Pulitzer Prize winner.

As spring gave way to summer of my fifth grade year and school edged toward its three month closure my teacher, Mrs. V., made me promise to continue writing during vacation.That summer my family moved out of the neighborhood where I had grown up, yet I faithfully kept my promise to Mrs. V. Though Trixie died a couple of years before we moved, that June my mother took me to the Animal Shelter where I purchased a black Lab. I named him Laddie.

During those long summer days Laddie gamboled by my side as we walked up the grassy slope to the copse of trees at the back of the property where my mother had moved us. He would sniff and wander about, and then return to lie down by my side as I scribbled story after story. By the start of school that fall, I was hooked on writing.

Later in life during those times I found myself either living on the road or homeless, dogs and books remained my constant companions. They stoked the guttering fires of hope; they fueled the flames that burned inside of me. And I wrote.

I wrote articles for newspapers about racism and the horror of the child welfare system. I wrote poems and flung them into the world through the pages of anthologies and newspapers. I wrote short stories and published some of them in small magazines. And always a dog lay next to me.

During the past ten years, Si?ab led me into the experiences of #Schutzhund and #agility.
SIAB_TUNNEL

She followed me as I planted trees and fought back invasive blackberries as my wife and I transformed a neglected farm into a wildlife/wild bird habitat. She trotted next to me as I rode on horseback through forests and along mountain trails; and camped far from city lights.

She never knew a stranger unless he threatened my wife or me, and then her teeth would warn him away. Children mauled her as she lay waiting patiently for her turn on the agility fields. Inevitably, people who met her came to love and respect her gentle soul.

When my wife’s old German Shepherd, Katrina, died last spring, Si?ab spent a lot of time during those first few months comforting my wife. These past few weeks, undoubtedly sensing that her time to Travel to the Other Side loomed close, she spent nearly every waking and sleeping moment next to me as if she knew how much I would soon need those memories.

Now the job of comforting and inspiring me falls to Isis, Si?ab’s daughter. This morning she wrapped herself around my legs and pressed against me; she dispensed kisses and laid quietly on the couch as I drank my morning tea—a job Si?ab always performed to get my day off to a pleasant start.
Start day w Siab

Dogs and books. They have been constants in my world, grounding me; inspiring me. They give me strength and courage to face life and to send out words that I hope will–someday, somehow–help transform the world into a better place.
5 GSDs in a row
Siab Rainbow Bridge

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Five #Books That Scare Me!

sunrise-hope-for-change
There are some books much more terrifying than the scariest haunted house or even Stephen King’s imagination.

  1. What We Know About Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel
    https://www.amazon.com/About-Climate-Change-Boston-Review/dp/B009Z3TXRY
    I don’t know of any scarier subject than climate change. In those two words the future of earth and its inhabitants are held hostage.
    In this book, Emanuel begins by saying: “Scientific research has solidified the idea that human-induced climate change presents significant risks to our descendants, and the understanding of key elements of those risks. For example, the acidification of the oceans by increased input of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is now viewed as among the most significant threats posed by our ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels. But even while science has reached a strong consensus that climate is indeed changing, that the change is caused mostly by us, and that it poses important risks, public recognition of and concern about these risks has diminished (emphasis is mine; not Emanuel’s), particularly in the United States.”
    To me—this is truly scary stuff! Image a few decades from now when your grandchildren are raising their children; image that just getting enough drinkable water is a near impossibility; image that crops are so scarce that millions starve to death…. Scary, huh? Stephen King, let’s see you top that!

  2. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    https://www.amazon.com/Am-Malala-Stood-Education-Taliban-ebook/dp/B00CH3DBNQ
    In the first few pages of her book Malala says, “…I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me….” She goes on to say, “I wasn’t scared, but I had started making sure the gate was locked at night and asking God what happens when you die. I told my best friend, Moniba everything.”
    Imagine the constant fear of living in the shadow of such a threat! How hard your heart would pound at every slight noise, every rustle of the underbrush, every strange human that walked toward you.
    Malala, a Pakistani teen, was shot in the head by the Taliban while on a school bus en route to her home simply because she wanted an education. This is flat out horrifying. I can’t imagine the terror she must have lived through, and yet she emerged a strong young woman who campaigns relentlessly for educational opportunities for girls.
    What is truly beyond scary and right into terrifying, however, is that violence toward girls who want to obtain an education is not uncommon in our modern world.

  3. The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice by Kathryn Bolkovac
    https://www.amazon.com/Whistleblower-Trafficking-Military-Contractors-Justice-ebook/dp/B004CYERM2
    I can’t describe the horror within the pages of this book as well as the author’s book description: “When Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three Kathryn Bolkovac saw a recruiting announcement for private military contractor DynCorp International, she applied and was hired. Good money, world travel, and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country sounded like the perfect job. Bolkovac was shipped out to Bosnia, where DynCorp had been contracted to support the UN peacekeeping mission. She was assigned as a human rights investigator, heading the gender affairs unit. The lack of proper training provided sounded the first alarm bell, but once she arrived in Sarajevo, she found out that things were a lot worse. At great risk to her personal safety, she began to unravel the ugly truth about officers involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution and their connections to private mercenary contractors, the UN, and the U.S. State Department. After bringing this evidence to light, Bolkovac was demoted, felt threatened with bodily harm, was fired, and ultimately forced to flee the country under cover of darkness—bringing the incriminating documents with her. Thanks to the evidence she collected, she won a lawsuit against DynCorp, finally exposing them for what they had done. This is her story and the story of the women she helped achieve justice for.
    At first read, you don’t want to believe that these words could be true. I want to assure—they are true. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives not only in war torn countries, but in industrialized nations, such as the United States. I know.
    My research when I wrote Street Harvest, (https://www.amazon.com/Street-Harvest-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KVREDIC) included discussions with Washington State Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit (MUPU) helped me grasp the widespread cancer of human trafficking. Here in the United States where we supposedly value children, a child goes missing every FORTY SECONDS. Many of these kids wind up on the streets.
    Street kids, transient and untracked, are particularly high risk for becoming victims of forced prostitution, export to overseas brothels, and victims of death porn where are children are filmed as they are murdered while being sexually abused. Children as young as six years old are at risk. My book is fiction based on factual research.
    Kathryn Bolkovac’s book is factual; and, it is a very scary reality. I have never seen a horror flick that made my heart pound as hard or caused fear to dry out my mouth so thoroughly as what the reality of human trafficking does.

  4. The 51% Minority (How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It) by Lis Wiehl
    https://www.amazon.com/51%25-Minority-Women-Still-Equal-ebook/dp/B000SEICC6
    The Introduction of this book begins with a dinner conversation where there was discussion of civil rights, the Supreme Court and other current events. The author writes, “…then a gentleman seated to my right, a successful gay professional, said something that alarmed me. ‘I certainly wouldn’t want to be a woman today,’ he told the table. ‘It’s a no-win situation. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t with every single decision, and your body is a political playground. At least as a gay man, I know where I stand. As a woman, you’re stuck in some weird societal purgatory.’
    ‘Yeah,’ another man agreed. ‘Isn’t it strange that women are fifty-one percent of the population and still get the short end of the stick on almost every front?’”
    In my upcoming thriller, Attack!, I quote research I did on Theodore Roosevelt. In the late 1800s, he wrote his thesis for Harvard on the rights of women. It was his contention that women should have absolute equality in marriage and not even be expected to assume their husbands’ names. In other writings, he maintained that women should have the right to vote, the right to hold property, the right to work at any profession and to receive equal pay for equal work.
    We have won the right to vote and the right not to assume our husbands’ names; however, Latina women continue to earn fifty-six cents to a white man’s dollar for performing the exact same job while black women earn sixty-seven cents and white women earn seventy-four cents and every woman grows up under the certainty one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. We know that we must live a hyper-vigilant life if we are to reduce the odds. We can never let our guard down in public; never relax and get a little tipsy; never daydream our way home from work after dark; and even in our own homes, we must remain aware of the potential to become a victim of domestic violence or home-invading rapists.
    How is that for heart-thundering suspense? For never knowing from what quarter the attack might come? Horror writers—eat your heart out! You can’t write fiction as terrifying as this reality.

  5. Beyond the Silence, A Woman’s Journey to Freedom by Aya Walksfar
    https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Silence-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01ADRQ0K8
    What would you do if your child was suddenly ripped away from you? Taken as hostage to force you back into a situation of certain torture, violence and blood? How much fear would slice through your guts, freeze your innards?
    Beyond the Silence is fact cloaked in fiction. Based on the lives of real women who have fought back, survived, and triumphed, this book enters the dark world of cultural and familial abuse; childhood sexual molestation by religious persons and family members; domestic violence and forced BDSM during marital rape. How does a girl grow up or a woman survive a culture that preaches females are second class human beings? How does a woman overcome the propaganda that makes her feel crazy for believing her own reality?
    These subjects are the elephants that sit at Sunday dinner around the family tables all across America. These are the elephants that eat at the tables of rich and poor; black, white, Native American and every other race. These are the elephants that have no regard for which religion you follow, which nationality you proclaim, or which region of the country in which you are born.
    The fact is: No woman is safe. She is not safe on the streets, on the job, on public transportation, in her school, on a university campus, or in her home. Regardless if she is seven years old or seventy-eight years old, she is at risk every single day.
    And that is the scary reality of being a woman in America today. Haunted houses simply cannot compete with that kind of scary.
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#Halloween Month! A Month of Scary!

evil-stalks-the-night
#October is #Halloween Month, All-Hallows Month! I will celebrate by making it A Month Of Scary!

October 1: I will discuss the meaning of Halloween on my blog and post Chapter 1 of Artemis’ Warriors, Book 1, The Vampire War. In addition, this will be one of the FEW times that my email friends will receive more than one notification per week from me. On October 1, I will send the first two chapters of my upcoming thriller–Attack!

October 8: Five Books that scared me. On this day, I will share five books that truly disturbed me. Not all horror is paranormal.

Oct 15: Five Scary Things that Made Me Write. Many things motivate an author. On this day, I will share five of those occurrences.

Oct 22: Five Scary Things I Wrote About. Though I do not write horror books, there are several subjects that are tackled in my novels that are truly scary.

Oct 29: A Scary/Paranormal Short Story. Then, there are those incidents that no one can explain…. It’s not always wise to walk around alone, after dark!

Great October Reads:
Dead Men and Cats, a novella
blackCatCover1
On October 1, 35 copies of Dead Men and Cats will be given away! Stay tuned to my BLOG for the latest on how to grab your #FREE #Ebook!

Looking forward to seeing you! Oooooooo!

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It’s Really Up To Each of Us

creator's child

Like many authors, I tackle everyday issues in my work–everything from dog fighting, hate crimes, serial killers, human trafficking of children to LGBT rights. All of these issues are close to my heart. I love dogs; I believe we all have a responsibility to stop human trafficking; I have worked with street kids; and I have spent a lifetime fighting for human rights in one way or another–the first time at the age of fourteen.

Like many lesbians, I had hoped that marriage equality would pave the way for acceptance of LGBT rights–not special privileges as some seem to believe–just human rights enjoyed by any heterosexual person. Unfortunately, the fight for LGBT rights is not over.

Why should this concern my readers?

The words of Martin Niemoller, (1892-1984) a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken foe of Hitler, and consequently spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camp, say it more eloquently than I can:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

For those living in the beautiful state of Washington where #HumanRights is more widely accepted than some states this may seem like a dead issue. I truly wish it were, but the advent of I-1515 places grave doubt that the fight for human rights for LGBT people, even in Washington state, is over.

According to The Atlantic in January, 2016:
“Twenty-eight. That’s the number of states where it’s not against the law to discriminate against a gay person who’s looking for an apartment, applying for a job, or buying something from a store. Five more states have protections, but with exceptions: New York, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin don’t forbid discrimination against transgender people, for example, and Massachusetts and Utah don’t protect all LGBT people in all situations in which discrimination might arise. The federal government does not protect against this kind of discrimination, either, except in limited cases. Although Democrats have proposed legislation that would change that, the chances of it successfully sliding through a Republican Congress in an election year seem slim.
The irony of gay marriage becoming legal in the United States is that it has made discrimination against LBGT people easier. For example: Many newlywed couples may be asking their employers for spousal benefits for the first time. Depending on where they live, it may or may not be illegal for that employer to respond by firing them—something that happened in a number of states in 2015.”

(see full article http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/lgbt-discrimination-protection-states-religion/422730/)

Conservatives are using the #FirstAmendment to attack LGBT rights. The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;….
While this Amendment originally pertained to establishing places of worship and worshipping without fear of violence, conservatives are using these words to bring back Jim Crow segregation laws that will at first be used against LGBT people.” (emphasis is mine)

Essentially what it boils down to is that I may have the right to marry the one I love, but I may not have the right to take her out to dinner (anyone remember a time when black Americans could not sit in certain restaurants?), or have our photographs taken, or to order a cake to celebrate our anniversary.

Several states have bills to allegedly “protect religious freedom”, but which in reality allows commercial businesses and organizations, including taxpayer funded organizations and governmental workers, to refuse services to LGBT people by simply saying it is against their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to serve certain individuals.
These same people frequently do not adhere to the rest of the tenets of whichever faith they are hiding behind, such as Christianity. If one decides that their “sincerely held religious beliefs”–almost always based on Christianity and the Bible–says they should not serve homosexuals because the Bible condemns homosexuals, then why are these people still divorcing, having sex outside of marriage, wearing cloth made of two different kinds of threads, not closing their businesses on the Sabbath, and so on? Why should they be allowed to cherry-pick which so-called sincere beliefs they have so that they can justify discrimination against a particular group of individuals?

According to Huffington Post, these bills—AKA Religious Freedom Restoration Acts—are popping up all over the place.

“Conservatives are putting forward state-level RFRAs to let people claim religious liberty as a justification for denying services to LGBT people. So you’ve got the evangelical Christian bakery that refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, for example, or the photographer who refuses to provide services to a gay couple. In some cases, these bills are written so broadly that they also allow discrimination against single mothers, interfaith couples and interracial couples.
Seven states have active RFRA bills: Colorado (HB 1180), Hawaii (HB 1160), Iowa (HF 2032, HF 2200, SF 2171), Michigan (SB 4), Mississippi (SB 2093, SB 2822), North Carolina (HB 348, SB 550) and Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 440, SB 723, SB 898)

As if that is not enough to worry about there are other classes of bills aimed at limiting the freedom of LGBT people.

Marriage-Related Religious Exemption Laws: these bills provide a religiously based exemption regarding same-sex marriage. Some only apply to religious organizations; others apply to commercial and government officials.(our tax dollars hard at work to discriminate against a group of people)

First Amendment Defense Acts — These bills, in essence, allow any person, business or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage. Yes, it’s as sweeping as it sounds. It not only discriminates against LGBT people, but can extend to single mothers and anybody with a sexual relationship outside of marriage. A state-contracted counselor, for example, could deny services to a single mom. Taxpayer-funded adoption agencies could refuse to place children in the homes of same-sex married couples. Government employees could decline to file official forms for gay couples (remember Kim Davis?). Three states have active FADA bills: Hawaii (SB 2164), Illinois (SB 2164) and Oklahoma (SB 440).

Pastor Protection Acts — These let churches refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. The First Amendment already covers this right, but sometimes lawmakers like to pass bills just to send a message. So, we have Pastor Protection Acts. Fourteen states have active PPA bills: Arkansas (HB 236, SB 120), Colorado (HB 1123), Kentucky (HB 17, HB 28), Louisiana (HB 597), Maryland (HB 16), Michigan (HB 4732, HB 4855, HB 4858), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39, HB 2000, HB 2040, HB 2730), Mississippi (HB 587, HB 737), New Jersey (AB 1706), Ohio (HB 286), Oklahoma (HB 1371, SB 811), South Carolina (H 4446, H 4508) and Tennessee (HB 2375, SB 2329).

Government-officials-using-your-taxpayer-funds-against-you bills — Some bills let judges and clerks refuse to perform same-sex marriages or issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Four states have active bills like this: Kentucky (HB 17, HB 14), Minnesota (SF 2158), Mississippi (HB 586, HB 1342) and South Carolina (SB 116).

No-wedding-cake-for-non-straight-non-white-heathens bills — These allow businesses to refuse to provide goods or services related to marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. That could mean a frame shop refusing to sell pictures frames that are going to be used for a same-sex wedding, an interracial marriage or an interfaith marriage. Four states have active bills like this: Kentucky (SB 180), Minnesota (SF 2158), Missouri (HJR 97, SJR 39) and Ohio (HB 296).(It isn’t just LGBT people these bills can be used against!)

Other marriage exemption bills — These bills provide yet other kinds of religious exemptions relating to same-sex marriage. Five states have active bills in this category: Kentucky (HB 31), Michigan (HB 4733), Missouri (HB 2754), Oklahoma (HB 1125, HB 1599, SB 478, HJR 1059, SB 973) and South Carolina (H 3022, H 3150, H 4513).

God-Doesn’t-Want-Gay-People-To-Raise-Kids Bills
These let adoption and foster care agencies refuse to provide any services that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage, such as same-sex couples. This is regardless of what is in the best interests of a child. Three states have pending bills like this: Alabama (HB 158, SB 204), Nebraska (LB 975) and Oklahoma (HJR 1059, HB 2428).

Other Generally Terrible Anti-LGBT Bills
It turns out there are too many categories for all the bills out there, but there’s a few more of note: Two states have bills (AB 1212 in California; SB 210 in South Carolina) that require public universities to provide funds for student organizations, regardless of whether the organization discriminates against LGBT people based on religious beliefs. Three states have bills (HB 325 in Arkansas; HJR 1059 in Oklahoma; and Tennessee’s HB 566, SB 397, HB 1840 and SB 1556) that let health professionals deny services to LGBT people by citing religious objections. And there’s one bill in Oklahoma (SB 1289) that prevents local governments from passing nondiscrimination protections, including LGBT protections, that go further than protections at the state level, such as the law proposed by North Carolina.”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbt-state-bills-discrimination_us_570ff4f2e4b0060ccda2a7a9

Here is something to remember:

In 1933 Hitler began his reign of terror by first targeting the Jewish people. He proclaimed them inferior (and therefore undeserving of the rights of other German citizens) and began a systematic stripping of their rights, beginning with firing them from their jobs and not allowing them access to services enjoyed by the general German public.

July 14, 1933, Hitler began targeting other groups, namely Gypsies and African-Germans. He stripped them of their rights by using some of the same arguments for taking Jewish rights.

October, 1934, Hitler began targeting LGBT people. Again, he stripped this group of people of the German-citizen rights by using the same arguments as he used against Jews, Gypsies and African-Germans.

When a tyrant, whether they clothe themselves in political or religious rhetoric, begins to strip away the rights of any group of citizens then all citizens need to fear for their freedoms.

As a pagan, I am very much in favor of protection of my religious/spiritual practices; however, that does not mean that I should be allowed to engage in discriminating against other citizens. If I am engaged in public commerce–such as running a restaurant, bakery, photography studio, selling books, or any other business—then I need to serve ALL of the public. If I do not want to serve all of the public then I should not be in business.

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black Americans could not sit at the counter of just any diner. Now, there are certain groups of people who want to bring back those laws of segregation by cloaking them as religious freedom restorations and protections. Segregation is segregation regardless of how you clothe it and regardless of which group of people you target.

If left unchecked, these laws could easily be applied to any group of citizens—
–You are Muslim and it is against my religious beliefs to serve you
–You are black and God said you are inferior and therefore I should not serve you
–You are a single mother or an unmarried couple. God does not permit sex outside of marriage and so I will not serve you.
–You are interfaith or inter-racially married and God does not want us to mix the faiths/races, so I will not serve you.
–You are Native American and therefore a heathen and since you don’t believe in my God, I will not serve you.

Here in the beautiful state of Washington, you can do your part by working against I-1515. Discrimination protects no one’s rights! Discrimination has no place in a free country.
beauty

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Gifts We Are Given

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PleaseReview

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

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Characteristics of a Crappy #Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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