Tag Archives: mystery

Research Meet Reality

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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

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Socially Conscious Writer

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During this past election we all learned a painful lesson: words are powerful. Words were used to fire the fuels of hatred, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. Words shouted loud and often enough besmirched a powerful woman’s career and called into question everything she stood for and everything she had accomplished; they skewed our perspective of Hillary Clinton. Words are powerful.

I learned how powerful words are while sitting at the feet of my mother and grandmother, listening to the oral stories they carried. They transported me to another era, a different culture, a different physical place–a place far different than the ghetto in which we lived. The year of my sixth summer, my maternal, illiterate grandparents presented me the keys to freedom. They talked a Carnegie librarian into teaching me to read and write. Words are powerful.

Words are powerful, especially for those with no voice. I was born with a speech impediment. Combined with that speech difficulty, living in an unpredictable and violent home and neighborhood, I learned that silence often kept me from harm. Even when I started school, I didn’t speak very much. Not talking isolated me from children my own age, and from most other people. Between the pages of books, I met numerous friends, partook of great adventures and traveled to new worlds. Many days, I crawled beneath the concrete city steps that went from our street to the street above and read to my dog. There, in that manmade cave, I shut out the violence that bled all around me. Words are powerful.

Three years after my grandparents helped me learn to read and write, my beloved grandfather was murdered; his killer never discovered. Through pencil and paper, words unclamped the talons of rage and pain that gripped me. I had gained an important weapon to battle the demons in my life. Words are powerful.

My grandfather’s death heralded years of upheaval. Several times during my teen years I arrived at the cliff’s edge of suicide. Each time, I picked up pen and paper and wrote myself back away from that abyss. Books waited to transport me to places far from my despair. Each time I returned from between their covers renewed; stronger. Words are powerful.

During my fourteenth year, cities across the nation erupted in flames and blood. Fired by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the bus riders, I wrote a seven part series called Racism: America’s Criminal Disease. A black-owned, black-run newspaper ran my article. For the first time in my life, my words reached beyond the circle of my family. The newspaper staff asked to meet me. They shared some of their dreams with me, a fourteen-year-old kid as if I, too, was a warrior for justice. At age sixteen, a mainstream newspaper published an article I wrote entitled The Forgotten Children: A Look at the Child Welfare System. With words I contributed, albeit in a small way, to important changes in our world. Words are powerful.

Fast forward to the present. Words mold our subconscious; and, our subconscious guides our conscious. You are what you read. You are the stories you learned sitting beside your parents; listening to your history teachers. You are the words spit at you in anger; crooned to you in love. You live the images that you read over and over whether those images portray people of your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, your nationality, your religion, in a positive or a negative light. Words are powerful.

Little girls grow up believing they should aspire to be a helpless princess and wait for a knight in tarnished armor to rescue them. Years later they wonder why they are held prisoner in their own lives. Words create the glass ceiling as much as they build the rape culture. Words can shatter the glass ceiling; words can destroy the rape culture. We see it every day, inch by painful inch as people speak out and rip apart the cloak of acceptance and silence. Words are powerful.

Words are my mantra; words are my weapons. I hone them with story plots and characters; with dialogue and narrative. I intend to change the world, book by book, because I know words are powerful.

The first edition of Good Intentions, an award-winning, coming-of-age novel was published in 2002. Not long after it was released, I received an email from a young man who had been adopted. He said my book helped him cope with the pain unwittingly caused by his adoptive parents’ well-intentioned lies about his biological origins. He thanked me for helping him to heal. Words are powerful.

Life intervened in 2003, delaying any further writing as my days became consumed with other obligations, including the care of two elders who lived with my wife and me. In 2012, Dead Men and Cats, a novella about the impact of hate crime on an isolated community, was published. After that the books refused to be ignored; the characters woke me from deep sleep and chattered incessantly until I arose and wrote their lives; told their stories. Words are powerful.

As a socially conscious writer, my first sacred duty is to entertain. The stories of my mother and grandmother first captured my imagination then they grew their morals in the fertile field of my mind. Any storyteller must first entertain her audience or they will walk away. Sketch of a Murder, a Special Crimes Team novel, is an action packed story about a unit of renegade cops who are set the task of stopping a serial killer who murders wealthy men in gruesome fashion. Detective Suzanne Eviston said, “Loving the book! Especially the killer talking in first person.” Words are powerful.

The second sacred obligation of a socially conscious writer is to enlighten, but not in a preachy, in-your-face manner. Every book I write is well-researched. The management of the crime scene I learned from police officers; how fast a house fire burns I learned from a fire fighter; the length of prison terms for women convicted of violent crimes in 1957, I learned from treatises on the prison system. Through character action and interactions with other characters and their environment, I broach the subject of the impact of gender stereotypes on the working of a unit of cops. In Sketch of a Murder, I dismantle the generally accepted image of homeless people through Molly the Pack Lady. Near the end of the book, I explore how some women discover their sexual orientation. Words are powerful.

Empowerment is the third sacred obligation of the socially conscious writer. Words plant the seeds of what we believe we can do; of what we see as life’s possibilities. In Sketch of a Murder, Sergeant Nita Slowater, a mixed-blood Native American, co-leads a team of difficult cops on a case that has stumped three other police departments. In the end, she learns about love and she rescues her superior, Lieutenant Michael Williams. Women are written as complex people. They don’t wait for Prince Charming or Princess Charming to rescue them. They act on their environment; for good or bad, they control their lives; they impact the world in which they live. When a reader closes the cover of Sketch of a Murder, the seed of women as powerful people is planted in their minds. Words are powerful.

In Backlash, another Special Crimes Team novel, successful women are being stalked. They are snatched from their cars, from their homes, from public spaces. Raped, and then discarded and left to die. Yet, these women refuse to curl up and hide in the dark of their houses, in the dark of their minds. They band together, they fight, they learn self-defense, they refuse to be intimidated, they continue to grow and to succeed. It is long past time for women to be celebrated for such strength in the face of terrible adversity; for the strides they have made, not because men allow it, but because women refuse to be stopped. Words are powerful.

Because words are powerful, we can wield them to harm or to encourage. Encouragement is the fourth sacred obligation of a socially conscious writer. On February 14, 2015, I released Hard Road Home, a stand-alone, coming-of-age novel. Eleven-year-old Casanita Redner is battered by life, abused by those who are charged with her care. Yet, she refuses to be a victim; and though she sometimes loses her way, she never gives up. It is a story of terrible abuse and the ultimate triumph of a young woman. Words can encourage us when we are swallowed by the deepest despair. Words are powerful.

As pwindsinspirations says in an Amazon review: “This story brought out emotions in me I had hidden away. I, too, was abused and afraid to tell anyone for fear of only making it worse for myself…. I could feel for Casanita, became her in her search, her struggles. I liked how it took me from despair to triumph and the way the writer brought that about.” Words can release the pain of our pasts; can help us realize we are not alone. Words are powerful.

Denise Beaumont, another Amazon reviewer, said: “A very good read. As a mother of 2 girls, the subject matter is a bit difficult at times. But, in the end, it shows that young women pitted against adversity through no fault of their own can come back strong and live good lives. Is thought provoking and makes me realize there is much that needs to be done in this society to help young people thrive.” Words can enlighten us to issues in our society; issues we can take action to fix. Words are powerful.

Barb Keogan, an Amazon reviewer, said: “Wow….just WOW!!!! This book grabbed me from the very beginning and I could not put it down It’s not often I find a book that keeps me up late because ” I want to read just one more chapter”…..this book did exactly that. The plight of this young woman and what she endured probably happens much more than we would like to even admit. It is hard to read in some places and think that this is a sad reality of our world, even if the book is fiction.” While entertaining the reader, books can open their eyes to a wider world. Words are powerful.

As a socially conscious author, to entertain, to encourage, to enlighten, and to empower women and girls and their allies–this is my sacred obligation. Words are powerful is my mantra.

Short Bio
Aya lives on 12 acres of wildlife/wild bird habitat designed by her and Deva, her wife of 28 years, at the foot of White Horse Mountain. One old red pony, two Papillons and three German Shepherd dogs live with her. When she isn’t chained to her computer by her characters, you’ll find her working on the land, reading, riding her motorcycle, traveling, or visiting with family and friends.

You are invited to connect with Aya at any of her Social Media Hangouts
http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar (FB profile page)
http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor (FB author page)
http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar
http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar
http://www.twitter.com/BooksRDoorways (book recommendations, reviews, etc. for women and girls and LGBTQ positive books)
http://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan (a social action site)
http://www.twitter.com/2getherWomenCan (companion to FB book page Together Women Can)
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One True Thing

In every one of my novels–whether they are mysteries, fantasy, literary, or young adult—I draw upon reality. This may be in the form of location, items in a scene, laws, or investigative procedure.

In Attack on Freedom, my upcoming thriller, some of the reality that I inject into the story utilizes history and historic objects. One such object is the presidential desk known as the Resolute Desk that is currently in the Oval Office. This double pedestal, partner’s desk was commissioned by Queen Victoria and made from the oak timbers of the HMS Resolute, an Arctic exploration ship that was rescued by an American ship. After getting the ship safely to dock, it was returned to England as a gesture of goodwill and friendship during a time of tension between England and America.

After being returned, the British ship remained in service for an additional 23 years at which time it was decommissioned and salvaged. Queen Victoria commissioned William Evenden at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, England to use the best oak timbers from the ship to design and build what would become known as the Resolute Desk. In 1880, Queen Victoria sent the desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes as a gesture of goodwill between the two countries. The original design did not include the front panel. President Franklin Roosevelt had the front hinged panel designed as a way to hide his leg braces from view. Roosevelt did not live to see the panel installed. It was installed in 1945 under the direction of President Truman, who liked the eagle motif.

The Presidential Seal on the front panel shows the eagle with its head turned to the left toward the arrows of war. This positioning of the eagle’s head toward the 13 arrows is only found on three of the ninety-seven Presidential Seals in the White House. President Truman re-designed the Presidential Seal to have the eagle’s head turned to the right toward the olive branch that has 13 leaves. The now-official seal is the one designed by President Truman.

February 4, 1961, Jackie Kennedy discovered the Resolute Desk in the broadcast room of the White House. She had it brought to the Oval Office for the first time to honor President John F. Kennedy’s love of the sea and love of naval history.

After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Johnson had a larger, plainer desk built for his use to accommodate his size. At that time, he allowed the Resolute Desk to go on a traveling exhibition with Kennedy’s Presidential Library. After the exhibition ended, the desk was displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. This was the only time the Resolute Desk was removed from the White House.

President Jimmy Carter brought the Resolute Desk back to the Oval Office in 1977. He used it from 1977 through 1981. Not every president wanted to use the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. The presidents who did use the desk in the Oval Office were: President Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1989; President Bill Clinton 1993 through 2001; President George W. #Bush from 2001 through 2009. President Barack #Obama has used the Resolute Desk since arriving in the White House in 2009.

President Obama found himself in the middle of controversy when he was photographed with his feet up on the Resolute Desk while having a discussion. Some people railed that he was disrespectful and immature. What they seemed to forget, or perhaps never knew, was that President George W. Bush also propped his feet up on the Resolute Desk while having various discussions. President John F. Kennedy’s children often played beneath the Resolute Desk, opening the front panel as if they hid inside a fort.

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It is interesting to note that President Bush has his feet propped up and pointing to the right while President Obama has his feet propped up and pointed to the left. I wonder if it is due to President Obama being left-handed and President Bush being right-handed?

What these men recognized was very simple: Though a beautiful piece of furniture with historic significance, the Resolute Desk still remains a piece of furniture. It was built to be used; not to be honored. Showing respect during our interactions with other people, with animals, and with our environment is much more important than worrying about someone putting their feet up on a desk during a hard day at the office.

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Scared into #Writing!

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A writer is motivated by many things—life experiences, family, friends, things heard on the radio or read in a newspaper. Even an especially moving piece of music can seed a story within a writer’s soul.

As a mystery writer, I am often asked what motivates me to write the stories that I do. It is a complicated question that spans a lifetime as many variables have come together to produce the person that I am today. However, there were five incidents in my life that I can pinpoint and say—these are things I write about; these incidents have seeded many stories and grown many characters over the years.

  1. My grandfather’s death
    At nine years old you don’t give much thought to death. Not until it jumps out at you in broad daylight in the form of a dead body flopping at your mother’s feet. On that day, I saw Death clearly. In the beaten and battered body of a young woman whose corpse plopped at my mother’s feet when the police opened my grandfather’s garage door. The young woman had been leaning against, obviously struggling to claw her way free of the carbon monoxide poisoning that built up inside and stole her life.
    My grandfather sat in upright pose behind the wheel of his old, green Chevy, head flopped back against the leather seat. The police claimed it was a murder-suicide and laid the case to rest on the unoccupied passenger’s seat of my dead grandfather’s car, the car with a half a tank of gas and the engine shut off inside a concrete block garage with no entry save the big double doors that the police had to cut the heavy duty padlock off in order to open.
    Death frightened me as it would any nine year old; but what frightened me more was the police. How easily they wrote my grandfather’s life off. Being poor and living in our part of town didn’t rate much investigation when you died, however violently and under whatever suspicious circumstances.

  2. Alley rapist
    When I was in my late teens I lived in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve always enjoyed walking at night whether in the city or the country. That night I decided to take a shortcut through the alley on my way home to my apartment—I worked and lived on my own. Halfway down the alley, a man walked out of a ramshackle garage without its door, and around the tail end of the car parked there.
    But I had walked through this particular alley many times at all hours and had encountered others heading home from a late night out, just like me. I didn’t pay particular attention to this man. That is until he started past me going in the opposite direction. He suddenly grabbed my upper arm and jerked me close, pulling me off-balance both mentally and physically. His sour breath wafted in my face as he said, “Men are stronger than women and can take what they want.”
    In spite of a pounding heart, I narrowed my eyes at him. “Ain’t happening.”
    A fight ensued with arms and elbows and fists flying. I bounced back off the ground and faced my assailant, lip bleeding, breath heaving and wondering how the hell I was going to get out of this predictament.
    He lunged and something gleamed in the dim light of the street lamp as he slashed toward me. I threw up my arm. Something hot sliced through my hand. Blood well and dripped from my fingers to the gravelly ground.
    He would have followed up on his attack if a man hadn’t come out on a third floor balcony overlooking the alley and yelled, “What the fuck’s goin’ on down there?”
    My attacker looked from me to the man not that far above us, spun on his heel and just strolled away like nothing had happened. I staggered to the nearest lit house and banged on the door, smearing it with blood. An elderly woman let me in and tended my hand as we waited for the cops.
    I was treated to a third degree that had nothing to do with the attacker and everything to do with “what made me think I should be out walking around at night alone”.

  3. My Mother’s Abrupt Leaving
    In January, 1973, a few months before my twentieth birthday, my mother left work a little early, went home and ate a fried pork chop dinner. As she sipped her coffee after dinner, a migraine headache pounced her. No stranger to migraines, she went off to bed. Within an hour, she was being driven to the emergency room as the migraine engulfed her in agony. By the time, she arrived in the parking lot, she had already slipped into a coma.
    Four days later, my mother, having never regained consciousness, was dead.

  4. Johnny’s Temper
    Ever since I was fourteen, I wanted to travel to San Francisco, California. I finally arrived in that crazy city in the 1970s. At one point I lived in a building that had a coffee shop on the ground floor and rooms for rent on the second floor. It was a nice arrangement, and mostly all of us renting rooms and sharing the kitchen got along well, often planning and eating meals together.
    Unfortunately, a young white couple with a seven-year old son moved into one of the rooms. The couple was into heavy drugs. Now, we weren’t saints, but none of us thought shooting up was the best way to live life. However, we weren’t ones to sit in judgment, so we mostly ignored what this man and woman did. Oftentimes, the boy would be without food, so we took turns making sure he got fed at least a couple of times a day. At least, the kid was safe among us and that, somehow, made it easier to ignore his parents.
    That was until the day the kid’s father called one of the roomers a nigger. Johnny pulled his .38 and marched toward the man who stood swaying in his room’s doorway. As Johnny stormed toward the idiot, the man sneered and decided to dig his grave deeper. “Fuckin’ monkey don’t scare me. Bring it on, boy.”
    Personally, the way the man treated his kid, I couldn’t care less if Johnny blew him away, except the boy chose that moment to come to the doorway of their room. He stood wide-eyed as he watched the two men face off in the hall, just a couple of feet apart.
    Somehow my moronic feet raced down the hall and stepped between Johnny and his potential victim. “Hey, man, don’t blow him away here. The kid’s standing there, man.” I tipped my head toward the room’s doorway.
    “Get outta my way. I don’t take nobody callin’ me a nigger.”
    “Hey, man, if you want to kill him, fine, but not in front of his kid. Come on, man, I know you don’t want to fuck up a kid for life.”
    Johnny snarled, lunged past me and grabbed the man behind me. He dragged the sorry piece of human flesh down the hall, gun in one hand, a grip on the dirty tee shirt in the other hand. Meanwhile, I shooed the kid into my room and shut the door.
    Johnny flung the man down the stairs. The drugged out drunk rolled. When he hit bottom, he moaned, so I knew he wasn’t dead.
    Johnny stormed over to me, standing in front of my closed door. He shoved the muzzle of the .38 up under my chin. “I like you, but don’t ever get in front of my piece again.” With that said, he stomped up the hall and slammed into his room.

  5. The Fun Times of Being a Lesbian—not so much.
    –I returned to Seattle in 1989 and landed a job with a medical facility. A number of months into the job, when I insisted that my life partner needed the coverage afforded to married couples as I was working in a section of the facility with a high risk to carry home a contagion, I was told homosexual couples did not rate the coverage. Unable to afford the medical costs if I did drag a contagion home, I refused to work in that part of the facility. I was fired.
    –Capitol Hill in Seattle felt like a haven to me after having been in the Deep South–a place where my life partner and I could walk together without fear. Until the night that a woman was waylaid outside of a lesbian bar and three men began beating her with clubs. If the women inside the bar had not heard the commotion and rushed into the fight, the woman would have been beaten to death.
    –Being an out lesbian among one’s colleagues isn’t always easy or acceptable. I confronted a homophobe white male about making an inappropriate joke in the lunch room, by simply telling him that his joke was not funny.
    He brushed aside my concerns with, “It’s just a joke.”
    When I wouldn’t accept that excuse and insisted ‘just a joke’ or not, it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t appropriate, silence dropped among my lunchroom colleagues so hard it nearly gave me a concussion.
    The situation escalated to the point that my colleagues avoided me with the excuse that they didn’t want to take sides; and the management told me I was ‘half the problem’ until I threatened upper management with involving civil rights and LGBT organizations in the problem.
    The man was fired, but not for his homophobic and inappropriate behavior.
    I never felt ‘part of’ the team after that, and eventually left. I had learned a hard and painful lesson.
    rights-vs-fears

These scenarios continue to occur with frightening regularity. Poor people are murdered with little or no investigation launched into their deaths; rapists freely walk streets while women have to be ever-vigilant; loved ones die without warning; a person can suddenly wind up on the wrong side of violence; and civil rights for LGBTQ people sometimes seem like a far off dream to me.

Words have power, incredible power. With words we can destroy people or build up people; we can paint injustice with a whitewash brush or we can shine a stark light upon it. It is my hope that the words I write will encourage people to become better than they are; that my words will shine that stark light into very dark corners.

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Old Woman Gone, A Special Crimes Team novel: Who would kidnap an 85-year-old witch?

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Five #Books That Scare Me!

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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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#2016WPA A World of Mayhem and Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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