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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)
stairway to the heavens

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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.

obamafeetgwbushfeetdesk

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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#NewYear–New Challenges

this-moment
January 1, 2017—the birth of a new year. Each year is an opportunity to live up to our aspirations, our hopes, our dreams. Looking back on the past year we can evaluate what did we do right; what did we do wrong; what can we improve upon?
It’s not a time to judge; but a time to contemplate. It’s not a time to regret; but a time to plan.
All of us face many challenges in this coming year—personal, political, business. In order to be effective, we need to focus and to strategize.
For me, I will be attending to the political climate much more closely than in past years. (To find out more: https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan )It’s not to say that I ignored the bones of our country before, but I impacted it more with my work than with my direct involvement. I truly thought my days of protests, marches, and petitions had been passed to the younger generation; and they were doing fairly well with it. I can no longer absent myself from more direct involvement; however that might manifest.
My novels will continue to reflect the issues that women and girls face on a daily basis while entertaining women with great stories of action, adventure, and mystery with a touch of romance. In some ways, my politics intersect with my writing seamlessly as both are based on enlightening, encouraging, and empowering women and girls. I have spent a lifetime in this struggle; and, it’s a good struggle—one of which I am proud.
The schedule for publishing this year is a bit more lax; instead of putting out four books as I have done for the past few years, I will be releasing three books during 2017.
–The first book will be Attack! I have re-titled this book and it is now Attack on Freedom! In many ways, this is a timely novel; a political thriller with a scary premise—a president that intends to become a dictator.
President Anne Marie Xavier faces the most critical challenge of any president since the beginning of the nation. She must stop rampant terrorism while protecting the citizens from a power-hungry adversary who will stop at nothing.
–The second book is the long awaited Ariel Ascending, Book 3, Vampire War trilogy, the final book in this series.
Serena Longer must take the murdered Matriarch Belora’s position as the Matriarch of the North America Region while her daughter, not-quite-13-year-old Ariel, has to ascend to the position of First Councilwoman of the North America Region. Not since the Time of Hunting has such a young huvam held such a difficult position among the vampires.
While Ariel attempts to adjust to her exponentially growing Powers and deal with Serena’s overprotectiveness of her only biological child, Matriarch Helena Outerridge increases her guerilla attacks on Ariel’s People.
As bodies pile up, Ariel becomes increasingly determined to stop the aggressors—ancient vampires with incredible Power and their allies, Weres and witches. In a desperate attempt to crush her foes, Ariel takes four other young women with developing Powers to search for the perpetrators. Unless they find a way to overcome their enemies, they may not survive to return home.
–The third book on my 2017 schedule is Twisted Minds, Special Crimes Team series. This is the sixth book in this series—all books in the Special Crimes Team series can be read in any order or as stand-alones
Sergeant Nita Slowater and the Special Crimes Team face a series of rapidly escalating crimes that begin with the vandalism of a Muslim women’s center. At the scene of each crime a Manifesto is left. Other than the Manifesto and the obvious signs of hate, the victims of the crimes appear to be randomly chosen.
Was this the work of a hate group or a single perpetrator? As the victim pool ripples larger, Sergeant Slowater and her team desperately race time before more victims are claimed.
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No one can tell the future. Though we may carefully plan our days, we cannot control all of the variables and will often wind up in places we never dreamed of being. As I face this year, I find that both scary and exhilarating.
rene-somewhere-different
During this time of upheaval and change—both good and bad and neither–we are all presented with the opportunity to become more than what we are; to step beyond our own limitations; to be the person we’ve always wanted to become. I’m ready to learn and grow. Are you?
Remember, courage is not the absence of fear; it is the going ahead in the face of fear. Whether you fears are of the personal, political, or business variety, forge ahead. You can’t start a fire, if you don’t light a match.
Best wishes for a year of growth.
Aya

My literary novels focus on personal growth.
Good Intentions: Bev Ransom has a secret. Her mother has one too. No secret can remain in the dark forever. Their lives are about to be shattered by the secrets they harbor.
https://www.amazon.com/Good-Intentions-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00OLZYKPQ

Hard Road Home: The Story of a Young Girl’s Triumph: Cas Redner lost her beloved grandfather. Shortly afterwards, she lost her mother to addiction and bad men. Caught in the broken child welfare system, Cas opts for life on her own. But for young girls, freedom comes with a high price. Ultimately, the only things holding Cas together are the teachings of her Native American grandmother.
https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Road-Home-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00TLCRUFQ

Beyond the Silence: A Woman’s Journey to Freedom: In order to find herself, Barb Hensen must sacrifice everything in her life, including her child. But, she doesn’t have much choice. If she doesn’t leave, someone will die.
https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Silence-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01ADRQ0K8

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2 Important Truths About This Season

solstice

Every year I celebrate Winter #Solstice quietly; contemplating what this time of year means to me. One of the things I have learned from Winter Solstice is that sunrise will always come, if we hang on. If we keep putting one foot in front of the other; if we refuse to give up, we will see that glorious sunrise. I learned from my biological mother and my grandmother to “never quit”.
One friend of mine years ago commented that I was much like a bulldozer–I would go around, over, under, or through any obstacle in my path. Sometimes, tenacity is the only thing between failure and success.

The second important truth I have learned about this season is—

gifts

Growing up in the midst of poverty, I watched my grandmother literally share her last piece of bread with another. My mother regularly went down to the train yard and gathered up produce from broken crates. She brought it back to our neighborhood and shared it with everyone.
On the other hand, I have lived among those who had more than they needed; those who hoarded material things until they had to create more storage, yet they were unwilling to part with a single item to someone who had nothing. Others who had plenty sometimes grudgingly parted with a pittance to those in need.

giving-freely

Here is a story of a person who gave freely when she had so very little to give.

old dog

THE GIFT

By Aya Walksfar

Sixty-eight-year old Marybelle Brown pushed the rattling grocery cart filled with plastic bags of aluminum cans through the square next to the #Seattle Aquarium. That summer vendors had hawked sparkling necklaces and handmade toys and flamboyant scarves. Now it lay beneath the full moon, deserted except for a few pigeons huddled on a low wall near the water. Moving slowly so she wouldn’t disturb their rest, she made her way over and leaned against the cold concrete. She’d always loved Puget Sound. The gentle lap of the waves soothed her.

After a few minutes, she turned her cart and headed across the empty space. In the center stood a twelve-foot tall #Christmas tree. Red and green lights twinkled amid the plastic ornaments and glittering tinsel. Marybelle gazed up at it, at the star blazing white on the top. At last, she sighed in contentment and moved on.

fuzzy xmas tree

Today had been a wonderful Christmas Eve. She’d found three partially eaten cheeseburgers in one of McDonald’s trashcans. They were stashed in the ragged canvas shoulder bag along with French fries from a dumpster and two, whole pieces of cod from Ivar’s trash. A smile sat lightly on her cracked and chapped lips. Tonight she would feast! She patted the side of the shoulder bag and felt the bottle of Starbucks mocha and the bottle of Arrowhead water that a kind man had given to her with a smile and a Merry Christmas. Yes, tonight she would feast.

She bent her head back and gazed upward. Stars flung across the black heavens. Some people likened the stars to diamonds on black velvet, but she knew better. The stars were all the souls who had gone ahead, smiling down on those they’d left behind. Someday when it was time for her to leave this bent and painful body, she’d fly up there and be with them. Her momma and granny would be waiting. She wondered if the critters she had nursed would be there. Of course, they would! Her granny had told her that the souls of animals always went to the Bright Place because they lived as God intended.

She shuffled along. Time to get to her spot under the viaduct. Thick blackberry bushes hid the hole she’d dug out up against where the concrete met the earth. It had taken her a long time to make a roomy depression in that hard ground with a broken shovel. Hidden at the far back of the hole were all of her most precious belongings, safe from discovery by others, safe from the rain.

She crossed the quiet street and the cart jarred over the trolley tracks. Where cars parked during the day was mostly deserted now and filled with deeper shadows. The fat round concrete pillars that held up the overhead roadway too often hid bad things. She veered away, cornering her eye so she could keep watch while she passed.

As Marybelle came abreast of one spot of darkness a darker shadow moved within it. Her heart leaped into her throat. Her chest constricted with panic and squeezed the breath from her lungs. There! Who’s there? Her feet froze as her mind shouted, “Run!”

Just as her feet started to move, a whimper floated out of that darkness. The loneliness in that small sound dragged at her heart. “Leave, Marybelle. You can’t help whoever it is.”

In spite of herself, her hands left the cart and her feet shuffled toward the darkness. Her heart galloped like a crazed horse. “ Oh, Lord, I feel like my heart’s gonna bust.”

As she drew closer, a stray beam of moonlight shone against the pillar. Crumpled at the base of that cylinder of concrete lay a black dog. It lifted forlorn eyes to her face. The very tip of its tail tapped the ground twice then stopped like that was all the energy the poor thing had.

In her mind the years fell away and she once again saw her momma open the door of their tiny apartment. “Oh, Marybelle, you can’t help every critter you see,” her momma’s gentle hands tending to Marybelle’s latest rescue belied her words. Momma and granny had always tried to save the animals she dragged home–starved and beaten and broken.

She edged closer and the dog cringed, trying to melt into the ground. She knew the feeling. Carefully, she lowered herself to her achy knees. Never looking directly at the dog, she held out a hand. “It’s alright. I know just how you feel.” The dog’s body relaxed and it stretched its black nose toward her hand. “That’s it, little one. Come on over to Marybelle.”

She slid her shoulder bag to the ground then dug around until her hand touched the wrapping of one of the half-eaten burgers. Eyes still averted, she held a small bite on the palm of her outstretched hand. The dog sniffed the air and gave an anxious whine. “I know. It’s scary, but honestly, this is for you.”

The cold seeped through the three pairs of thin pants and chilled her arthritic knees. Still, she knelt there, hand out in offering. The dog stretched its neck toward the food. It crept one step, two steps. Now Marybelle could see the ribs jutting out under the patchy hide.

“Poor thing,” she crooned.

The dog trembled as it came close enough to snatch the food. It took the rest of the burger for the poor thing to creep close enough for Marybelle to put her arms around it. The dog was big, bigger than her German Shepherd had been. She felt the resistance of its stiff body, but kept humming and stroking one hand down its thin side. At last, the tension drained from it and it nestled against her chest.

After a while, she gave its sharp nose a kiss. “Gotta git up, little girl. My knees don’t like this kneeling.” She pulled a ragged wool scarf from around her neck and made the dog a soft collar and leash.

At her hideaway, Marybelle laid out the sleeping bag that a young, white girl had given her that past fall. She never carried this precious gift for fear of it being taken from her. But every night since early fall she’d blessed that child, and wished her well as she fell asleep. The dog immediately curled up on one side, the shivers wracking its body subsiding.

She sat next to the dog and lit the stub of a candle she’d found and saved for a special occasion. This surely was a most special occasion. “We’re safe here, Dog. With all the blackberry bushes around us and being way up under here, no one wants to crawl this far back.” She draped the two blankets she had scrounged from a Goodwill donation box around her shoulders and over Dog’s back.

From her handbag, she took the food and set it on the sleeping bag in front of them. She filled her dented quart pot with the bottled water and set it in front of Dog. She raised her head and drank deeply as Marybelle opened the bottle of Starbucks Mocha Coffee drink. She tapped the bottle against the pot rim. “Here’s to our friendship, Dog.”

Carefully, she divided the hamburgers, the fries, the fish: half for her, half for dog. Dog quickly ate her half, but sat politely, not begging for Marybelle’s food. She took all but one piece of the fish and laid it in front of the gray muzzle. “Merry Christmas, Dog.”

Dog cocked her head and fixed her clouded eyes on the old woman. “Go on, Dog. An old woman like me don’t need so much food. Probably would make me sick to eat all of that. This piece of fish’ll do me just fine.”

Feast over she stuffed the trash in the paper bag and set it to one side. She lay down and Dog cuddled against her chest. With the blankets spread over the two of them and the sleeping bag zipped she draped a sleep heavy arm over the old dog’s side. “This has been a lovely Christmas Eve, Dog. Thank you.”

Singing woke Marybelle. Beautiful singing that called to her. She opened her eyes and got to her feet. Dog leaned her head against Marybelle’s leg. A bridge lay before them. Dog looked up with cataract whitened eyes and whined. She took a step toward the bridge and twisted her gray muzzle over her shoulder as if to say, “Come on.”

The bridge shone like a golden light lit it from within. Marybelle shivered. Fear rose up and wrapped chains around her legs. Dog padded back to her side. She pushed her cold black nose against the palm of Marybelle’s hand and gazed up at her. “Oh, Dog, I know you wanna go that way, but I…I can’t.”

Dog sat next to Marybelle’s leg and sighed. She rubbed the old dog’s grizzled fur and knelt in front of her. Staring into the dog’s dimmed eyes, she cradled the gray muzzle between her knarled and arthritis twisted hands. “I know you want to go that way. And…and it’s probably a good place, Dog. But, I…” she inhaled a deep breath and let it ease from her. “I know it’s a good place, Dog. I can feel it; like I know you can, too. But, I don’t deserve to go there.”

Dog flicked out a warm wet tongue and licked the tears that traced the lines of Marybelle’s weathered face. She pressed her face against Dog’s then kissed her muzzle and stood up. She took a half step away from Dog.

Courage gathered like a tattered garment, she looked into Dog’s eyes. “I can’t go there, Dog. I haven’t been a good person. There’s things…” she glanced away and swallowed the lump in her throat. When she looked back, she blinked away the tears. “There’s things I’ve done; things I’ve said that were wrong. I’ve…I’ve hurt people. Over there,” she raised a thin arm and waved toward the shining bridge. “Over there is for good people, people like you, Dog. Go on. You deserve to be there.” She turned and moved away from the dog.

She’d only gone a few steps before she felt the cold nose against her dangling hand. She squatted next to the dog. “Oh, Dog.” She buried her face in the brittle black fur. When she lifted her face, she hugged the dog and stood. “Looks like you aren’t going to go, if I don’t.” Heart pounding, she gave a slight nod as if confirming her own decision. “I’ll go with you, Dog, because you deserve to be over there.”

Dog pressed tight against her leg as they walked onto the glowing bridge. The golden light enveloped them, warmed them.

Halfway across the bridge Marybelle stopped and gazed over the railing. Below, a broad, placid river flowed. As they drew nearer to the far side, a beautiful meadow ablaze with blue and yellow and orange flowers rolled out as far as she could see. Her eyes rounded.

When they reached the end of the bridge, a melodic voice spoke. “I see you’ve helped her to Cross, Dog. I knew you could. Well done.”

Marybelle raised her eyes and gazed into the milk chocolate face and dark chocolate eyes. “Momma?”

The woman spread her arms and Marybelle ran into them.

The End

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PHOTO CREDITS: Old dog–Anne Lowe    Christmas tree–Anna Langova  (all-free-download.com)

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#FREE #EBOOK FOR YOU!

Dear Reader,
Halloween is here! Time for a heart-stopping mystery. To download your FREE ebook:
deadMenCover june 2014 (5)
1.Go to: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/269625 (Book page for Dead Men and Cats, a novella)
2.Choose “Buy”
3.When the Shopping Cart page comes up: Go to “Price”. It should read: $0.99 USD. Right below it should be a box with “Coupon Code” next to it. Enter UH42Z
4.On the right side, it will have a box that says “apply coupon”. Click on this box.
5.The “Total” should now read $0.00
6.Click on the yellow “Checkout” button.
7.At the top will be a greenish banner that says “Checkout Complete”
8.Go to yellow box on right side that says “View Purchases in Library”
9.It will send you to a page which is your library of Smashwords purchases. Scroll down to Beyond the Silence. Hit the green “Download” button
10.Go to the box that says “Download full versions of this book” and choose which format works best on your device (ie: epub for NOOK, mobi for Kindle, or pdf. There are some other choices, as well; pick the one best for your device)
11.Once it downloads to your computer you can then load it on your ereader device. Or if you own a tablet reader, you can download by using the tablet to access the Smashwords site.
12.If these instructions fail, or if you need assistance, please contact ayawalksfar@gmail.com.
13.Enjoy the read!
snarling-maliniosreview
For those of you subscribed to my newsletter (Sign up with your email now!) this is one of the few times during the year when you will receive two notifications from me: one for this blog and one for your free short story in the newsletter. Enjoy!

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Scarier than #Halloween and Zombies!

Not all horror involves zombies and the undead. When you pick up one of my mysteries you will embark upon a journey that will horrify, terrify, and, ultimately, uplift you.

  1. Sketch of a Murder: When the legal system fails women and children, The Avenger dispenses a unique brand of justice. Sergeant Nita Slowater and the Special Crimes Team must stop the Avenger before an innocent man dies!
    In the real world, true horror occurs every day with the failure of our legal system to protect children from sexual abuse; and the failure of that same legal system to provide justice to women who have been sexually assaulted. All too frequently what happens is the child is told to stop telling lies and the women are interrogated as if they committed a crime by being assaulted.
    https://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

  2. Street Harvest: A group of dedicated people frantically search for human traffickers targeting street kids in this fast-paced novel.
    In the real world
    of our modern-day United States, a child goes missing every 40 SECONDS! As a transient population, street kids are at the highest risk to go missing and become a victim of human trafficking. And, LGBTQ youth are particularly at-risk since they comprise over 40% of the street kid population.
    Children as young as six-years-old are raped, sodomized, tortured, and sometimes murdered in snuff films for the ‘entertainment’ of perverted men, usually Caucasians. Other children are shipped overseas to brothels for the perverted pleasures of men who fly in from industrialized nations to partake of that which is illegal in their own countries.
    https://www.amazon.com/Street-Harvest-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KVREDIC

  3. Backlash: Success can be deadly…if you’re a woman. The clock begins ticking with the abduction of successful attorney, Eleanor Delaney. Sergeant Nita Slowater and the Special Crimes Team must piece together a puzzle that began thirteen years ago.
    In the real world successful women, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, are targeted for harassment that ranges from insinuations to verbal/emotional attacks, and sometimes to physical assaults. As an ordinary woman, I understand some of what such women endur for I, too,–like every woman–live each day never knowing if I will be harassed, sexually assaulted or physically attacked.
    Rape is a reality that overshadows women from birth to death. One in three women will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. No woman is safe whether she is on a college campus, working in an office, riding mass transit, broke down on a lonely road, or sleeping in her own home. There is no greater horror than to live with the knowledge that you never know when you might become a victim.
    https://www.amazon.com/Backlash-Special-Crimes-Team-Book-ebook/dp/B00W7UJAWA
    kdpcover

  4. Death by Dog: When savaged bodies begin piling up, Sergeant Nita Slowater and the Special Crimes Team must stop dog fighters who are turning dogs into deadly weapons.
    In the real world,
    #dog is man’s best friend, but man is often a dog’s worst enemy. Ghandi is credited with saying, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Here in the United States dog fighting is a thriving so-called ‘sport’. Dogs whose only crime is to be bought, raised, or sold to dog fighters will live a life in cages, beaten, starved, and set upon by larger dogs all in the name of ‘entertaining’ men.
    Like domestic violence and rape, dog fighting crosses all socio-economic strata. At a dog fight you can find a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, an athlete, or the CEO of a large corporation right alongside of all types of criminals, drug dealers, and wanna-be gangstas.
    https://www.amazon.com/Death-Dog-Crime-Team-Book-ebook/dp/B01B5NXY4E
    dbdcover1

NOTE: Set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, ALL books in the Special Crimes Team series can be read as STAND-ALONES. Grab your copy today!

  1. Run or Die: Jaz Wheeler never realized that farming could be hazardous to her health until six men issued the ultimatum: run or die!
    In the real world, there is nothing more horrifying, more frightening than to be attacked because of the color of your skin or because of your sexual orientation, and to know that those who are charged with serving and protecting you may be some of the very ones assaulting you. Not knowing if you will survive to see another sunrise, with nowhere to run, with no place to hide, and with no one to turn to, you face death truly alone.
    Run or Die is a work of fiction based on fact. Sadly, racism and homophobia are alive and deadly here in our country. The current hate-mongering election is feeding the flames of violence that could burn up all of us.
    https://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B00KV8BK5A
    ecoverrord
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#Reviews: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

REVIEWS: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Your opinion counts—especially with Independent Authors AKA #IndieAuthors—those of us who choose to write and to publish our own work. I read every review I receive, and I take them seriously. What the reader says matters to me.
What is even more important for the reader to understand is that reviews and word-of-mouth can make or break an Indie book. We swim, or drown, in an ocean of books. creeping fog on ocean
Between 600,000 and 1 million new books are published every year. With limited advertising budgets and no large house to create “buzz” for us, we have to depend on rankings, especially rankings on Amazon, to have our books placed far enough toward the top of the queue that readers who are randomly searching–say ‘mystery’–will happen upon our books. Two ways to get good rankings on Amazon is to either sell a lot of books every day and/or amass at least twenty-five 4 and 5 star reviews.
Unfortunately, Indie authors also face the terrible monsters of the deep. Beneath the choppy waters of the ocean of books lurk Review Trolls. Here is a rare photo of a Review Troll, note the wide open mouth getting ready to gobble up a Indie Author: Sea Monster Yawning
Review trolls are people who purchase a book, keep it a day or two and then return the book without reading it. That person can now post an Amazon VERIFIED purchase review. The reviews that trolls publish are always meant to wreck an author’s ratings. Like black hat hackers, review trolls are about unnecessary destruction. Their ratings, however, will pull down the ranking of the book that they attack unless that book has enough 4 and 5 star ratings to successfully counterbalance the trolls’ attacks.
With the challenges involved in getting very busy people to write and post reviews and fending off troll attacks, Indie authors face advertisers who won’t even consider their book for their publications and email blasts unless the book has at least ten 4 and 5 star reviews on AMAZON! They don’t count Barnes and Noble or Smashwords reviews. Everyone knows that advertising is one way to get your book in front of a larger audience. Classic chicken and egg situation. Advertising could result in more reviews, but you can’t advertise with the really good advertisers without ten reviews.
You see, a reader’s opinion really does matter, especially to an Indie author. The next time you finish a book, please consider zipping over to Amazon and quickly posting an honest review.
For me, and for many Indie authors who put in incredibly long hours, we thank you!
AMAZON REVIEW EXCERPTS FROM READERS:
STREET HARVEST (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, SECOND BOOK. ALL BOOKS IN THIS SERIES CAN BE READ OUT OF SEQUENCE) Pat Rummenie says:
Everyone with a social conscience who also loves a good mystery should read this well written book.
OLD WOMAN GONE (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, THIRD BOOK) Amazon Customer says:
The mixture of police procedures and Native American spiritualism are needed to solve the crime and rescue the two women. The author knows the setting well and uses it to enhance the story.
BACKLASH! (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, FOURTH BOOK) Coppercreek says:
I love crime novels, and this really hit the spot.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONG MYSTERY/THRILLER) KtHack8 says:
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a story about life and finding the will to overcome adversity.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONE MYSTERY/THRILLER) Denise Gayl says:
Thought provoking about the injustices of bigotry and racism, and the ray of sunshine that there are people “out there” willing to accept, love, and help others even though their lifestyles are unlike their own. Well done.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) pwindsinspirations says:
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 liked how it took me from despair to triumph and the way the writer brought that about.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) Denise Gayl says:
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.
THIS is why I write! Thank you, Readers! YOU are my inspiration!
katrina leavereview

SKETCH OF A MURDER, Special Crimes Team, is FREE. Run over and grab your copy! http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

To view my other titles go to: http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

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