Tag Archives: positive change

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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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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2 GREAT REASONS TO GET INVOLVED

2 GREAT REASONS TO GET INVOLVED

1.  Become part of something great that will last for decades and bring positive changes to thousands of lives.

2.  Do something that will make you feel great. There is nothing as good as feeling that I have participated in a project that will have positive ripple effects for many years to come.


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It isn’t often that ordinary people have the opportunity to become part of something truly great. I was gifted such an opportunity this past Saturday.

Barb Keogan, the administrator of the Unity Church in Lynnwood, made me aware that Tanzania needs a children’s hospital. Now, most of the time when I hear something like that I know there is nothing I can do that will affect the situation. It’s too big; costs too much; is too far away. In short, it’s frustrating and depressing; however, in the same breath that Barb told me about the situation, she presented a way for me to make a difference.

The Unity Church in Lynnwood is holding an auction on October 25, 2014, at the church. The money raised will help them send a Humanitarian Outreach Team to Tanzania to labor (literally) in the building of a birthing center. They will partner with the International Health Partners of Tanzania headed by Mary Ellen Kitundu, President, Dr. Denny Lofstrom, Vice-President, and his wife, Paula Lofstrom.

If you would like to attend the auction purchase your tickets NOW! Tickets MUST be purchased by October 18, 2014! You can purchase the tickets by going to the Unity Church in Lynnwood 16727 Alderwood Mall Parkway or call 425-741-7172. Tickets cost $35. Silent Auction opens at 6 p.m. Live auction follows.

To learn more about this project go to   http://www.ihptz.org/Zinga_Project.htm

This project will eventually encompass a Maternity Complex and Hostel, an Orphanage (for children whose mothers die in childbirth–not uncommon in Tanzania), a Pediatric Ward, a Laboratory, a Birthing Center and Neonatal Nursery, an Xray, a Maternal Child Health Center and a Laundry.

For those of us in the United States, a laundry may seem rather mundane; however, in places such as Zinga, a laundry is essential! In the words of IHPTZ:  “No hospital can function without a Laundry. Lots of small hospitals or dispensaries wash clothes by hand on a cement slab outside. Some even hang the laundry on bushes or trees. We feel that a laundry with hot water and good facilities is essential for the prevention of the transferring of infections especially with newborns and children.”

For a variety of reasons, volunteering in #Tanzania is not an option for me, so I asked Barb if donating some autographed novels for the auction would be helpful. She said yes and so…..

We met at Barb’s house on Saturday afternoon for a lovely homemade meatloaf dinner. As we waited for dinner to finish cooking, we visited. I took the opportunity to ask Barb a few questions about her church.

I asked: “Why is your church doing this outreach work?”

Barb said: “Our philosophy behind outreach is to do something to help make someone else’s life better.”

I asked: “Do you do other outreach projects?”

Barb said: “We ‘adopted two schools’ in Everett, members of our church help at food banks, and volunteer at a number of other places.”

Always curious about motivations (after all I am a #crimefiction author!) I asked: “Does your church take these opportunities to evangelize?”

Barb said: “Our church respects other religions. Someone else’s religion is as important as ours. We don’t evangelize.”

After dinner, I sat down with Barb and autographed six #murder #mystery novels to donate to the auction on the 25th of October.

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Though I cannot change the entire world, I cannot stop the crazy wars, I cannot rescue all the animals and people who need to be rescued—I CAN do this small thing. I can weigh in on the side of positive change. I can become a small part of a great vision. If every person did one small thing to make our world a better place for all people and all living creatures, how great would be the changes we would wrought!

Come and be a part of positive change! Join Barb and the Unity Church in Lynnwood in helping to build a Birthing Center in Zinga, Tanzania! Buy your tickets NOW at the Unity Church in Lynnwood 16727 Alderwood Mall Parkway or call 425-741-7172. Tickets cost $35.

If you can’t attend the auction, you can donate money to the Humanitarian Outreach Team. Call Barb at 425-741-7172 to find out how.

Don’t miss future posts. CLICK and FOLLOW!

To purchase your copy of the books I donated for the auction go to:  http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

 

 

 

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