Tag Archives: story


Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014

We live in an undeniably violent world–wars, murders, rapes, ad nauseum. Should books graphically reflect that reality? How much is too much?

As the author of murder and mayhem–and even in my literary works to some, though to a lesser, degree–this is a question I face. This issue is compounded by the question of sex. As with violence, sex permeates our culture. Nearly every television show, movie, and advertisement has sex intimately entwined. Let’s face it: sex and violence sells.

Yet, I want my work to mean more than a dollar sign or a cheap thrill. I feel a responsibility to tell stories worthy of a #reader’s time. After all, my commitment is to entertain, enlighten and empower. Where does that leave such a writer?

We become a weaver of plots, a builder of characters, a creator of worlds.

I use a certain amount of graphic sex and graphic violence in some of my work. Note the word “some” and the phrase “a certain amount”. Since I write everything from young adult to vampire to #murder to literary (yes, I realize authors are supposed to brand themselves with one genre, but that robe felt too tight and it itched!) the use of sex and violence must be tailored to the story.

For example, in the young adult novel, Black Wind, (TO BE RELEASED JULY 31) they never get their clothes off, yet in the vampire novel, Artemis’ Warriors(COMING AUGUST 31)….well, let’s just say that sometimes clothes get scattered all over the place. The mystery/cop/thriller novels, such as The Special #Crimes Team series, fall somewhere between these two poles.

Likewise, in Black Wind, violence occurs but to a lesser degree and not as graphic. The vampire fighters in Artemis’ Warriors dash about, lopping off heads and arms and other important parts. The blood flies. In Sketch of a Murder, SCT, Book 1, the reader sees crime scenes through the serial killer’s eyes–and the scenes are gruesome, yet in Old Woman Gone, SCT, Book 3, bloodshed is minimal. (All the books in my series can be read as stand-alone novels.)

So, what creates the different levels of sex and violence? The story. It is my contention that the plot and the characters in a story determine the amount of sex and violence, as well as how graphically those instances are portrayed .

All too often, I have picked up a novel and within a few chapters have read ten pages of graphic sex (more frequently than graphic violence even) for every page of story. Needless to say, I toss the book aside and seldom pick up anything else by that author. If scenes of sex and violence dominates a work with no clear purpose in forwarding the story, then I have to ask how well-developed are the characters and how substantial is the plot?

Readers, what is your opinion? How much sex and violence is too much? Leave a comment!

DON’T FORGET: UNTIL AUGUST 30 FOUR of my e-novels are FREE! Want a #FREEBOOK? Go to: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AyaWalksfar  Choose one, or all, of the books listed below. Follow the checkout instructions. When asked for the coupon code, entered the code specific to that book. Continue checkout. Download the format that works best with your device. epub for NOOk; mobi for Kindle; or whatever format your device requires and is listed.

Street Harvest, Special Crimes Team, Book 2 (all of my series can be read out of order, or as a stand-alone novel) Use Coupon Code: JE68B

Run or Die    Coupon Code: MX48Y

Good Intentions, a literary novel  Coupon Code: HQ72R

Dead Men and Cats, a mystery novella  Coupon Code: UH42Z

If you have problems with the download, please contact me at ayawalksfar@gmail.com I will try to answer your questions.

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“Take a little time out of your busy day/To give encouragement/To someone who’s lost the way
(Just try)/Or would I be talking to a stone/If I asked you/To share a problem that’s not your own
We can change things if we start giving/Why don’t you
Reach out and touch/Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place/If you can…” Diane Ross 1970

The wrinkled, smudged envelope lay stuffed among my junk mail. I studied the faded words. Neither the handwriting nor the no-name return address rang a bell. The barely legible postmark read: Ukiah, CA,  but the zip code had faded out. The date stamp read: Aug 21 20…  The rest of the year had smeared into  blue oblivion.

As I trudged back up the potholed drive, I wiped the liquid August heat from my brow with the tail of my dirty t-shirt. The mystery letter provided a good excuse to take an iced tea break. Inside the old two-story, clapboard farmhouse, I reached toward the sink sideboard to flip on some music. My hand groped empty air then I recalled that the DVD/CD player had been one of last night’s casualties.

No-last-name-revealed Susie, a girl who couldn’t have been more than fourteen that I’d brought home from the Seattle streets the week before ran off sometime during the night. Three hundred dollars in cash and the compact disc player ran off with her. It’d been a long time since that had happened. The missing material items didn’t hurt as much as the feeling of failure.

Maybe Tim had been right. His shouted accusations from six months earlier still gnawed at me. “Just because you can’t have kids, doesn’t mean my life should be embroiled in chaos created by other people’s juvenile delinquents.” His lip had turned up in that hateful way he had as he’d shouted, “Do you really believe you’ve changed a single one of those brats’ lives? All you’ve accomplished is to wreck our marriage!”

Life would certainly be simpler, and quieter, without rebellious teen girls and angry parents who stormed up to my door in the middle of the night. They refused to take their child home, yet demanded I turn her out. Facing aggressive abusers at fifty is a lot scarier than at forty.

The month before Tim stormed out of my life, I’d had to call the police on a stepfather waving a handgun outside my back door. After the police hauled the man off, Tim issued his ultimatum. “Sandra, it’s either me or those damn girls. One of us isn’t staying here.”

How could I close my door against #girls whose only other choice was often sex for food?

I carried the letter into the living room and folded onto the faded sofa. One foot tucked up under me, I took a sip of lemony tea then set the glass on the scarred cherry wood end table. Carefully, I slit open the envelope. A sheet of yellow tablet paper with scrawled lines fell out.

“Dear Sandy,

It’s been ten years since I split in the middle of the night with all the cash I could find as well as the clothes you bought for me. I hitched a ride with a trucker from your place in Bellingham to Mom’s house in Ukiah. Two weeks later I caught a bus back to the streets of #Seattle. I’d picked a fight with Mom. Mays, of course, grounded me. The truth: my running had nothing to do with Mom or with my stepfather, Mays. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable anywhere.

After living with you for those eighteen months, I viewed street life differently, somehow. Maybe it was those late night gab sessions that you, Stoney, Jaimie and me used to have. Slowly I realized that none of us street kids were the glamorous outlaws whose personas we tried to don. Those outlaw clothes hung on us like baggy rags. Just scared, hungry, stoned kids running from one thing or another, but not running to anything, except a dead end life.

Eight months after I hit the streets again, my best friend, Lydia, died from an overdose. She lay dead, there on the filthy mattress in the back room of a crack house next to me. I woke up from my own drug run and felt her cold arm against mine.

As tears rolled down my face, I could hear you telling me the first time we met on First Avenue in Seattle, “It’s up to you, Michelle. You can stay here on the streets where there isn’t any future, except death of one kind or another, or you can walk away now and with work become anything you want to become. It’s your choice.”

When I dragged home, neither Mom nor Mays ever said a word. Back at school, whenever I felt like quitting, I’d recall how you took me in and told me I could make my life count for something good. You peered through the caked on makeup, the green hair, all those piercings and saw me. I promised myself that I’d write when I became someone you’d be proud to know.

So, I’m writing.

When I received my degree in psychology, Mom and Mays helped finance the opening of a halfway house for street girls. We call it Phoenix Rising. It’s not much. Five acres and a rambling old farmhouse that Mays and the girls are helping me remodel. In the pasture are two horses, Lost and Found, both from auction, both headed for slaughter. They keep company with a goat named Bad Manners. Our orange housecat was a feral kitten a friend of mine live trapped, injured and flea ridden. Her name’s Welcome and that’s what she does to every girl who walks through the front door. Our lab mix came from the local shelter. We named her Friend, and she’s been one to every living thing on this place. Every day those animals keep teaching me the lessons I first learned from you, lessons about having an open heart, believing in others, and giving.

Currently, ten girls live here. Kathy and Melody have been here since a week after the house opened. Kathy’s a computer genius who has already been scouted by a couple of colleges. Melody plans to attend a nearby vocational tech school to learn carpentry.

Sandy, do you remember that night about two weeks after I arrived when you and I were standing, leaning on the top rail of your pasture fence? I told you that a person needed a nice car, good clothes, a fine house and money if they wanted to be happy.

You studied me for a few minutes then turned back to stare out at your Arabian, Angel, prancing across the field. Then in that quiet voice of yours, you told me that after your baby had been born dead and the doctor said you could never have children, you swallowed a handful of pills. The nice house, the fancy clothes and the big car couldn’t give you a reason to live.

Your friend, Rachelle, found you and rushed you to the emergency room. She stayed with you for days. The day you were discharged, Rachelle drove you down to First Avenue then on up and around the university district. She pointed out the street kids as she drove then she pulled over to the side of the road and turned toward you. In a furious voice, she said, “Of course, you can have kids! There they are!” She’d swept her arm to include a young girl probably no more than thirteen huddled in a doorway and another young girl panhandling on a corner.

“There are your kids. If you don’t claim them, if you don’t reach out and touch their lives, who will? And if someone doesn’t give a damn, they’re going to die. Same as your baby died, but for a whole lot less reason.”

You looked at me then. Tears glistened in your eyes as you told me, “The important things can’t be purchased. They can only be handed on, from one person to another, a priceless inheritance.”

Sandy, thank you for my inheritance.

Love, Michelle Dryer.”

Double-checking the phone number on the letter, I smiled as I punched it in.

“Hello?” An older woman’s voice answered.

“I’d like to speak with Michelle Dryer. This is Sandy Harmer.”

“The Sandy from Bellingham, the one Michelle stayed with for a while?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“I’m Eleanor. Eleanor Dryer. Michelle’s mother.”

“Oh, I thought the number on the letter was Michelle’s. You’re not going to believe this, but I just received a letter from Michelle that apparently got lost before it wound up here. In it she told me about her halfway house for girls, Phoenix Rising.”

“That letter must be almost two years old!” Eleanor gasped.  “Michelle…” I heard a catch in the woman’s voice, a hiccup much like a strangled sob. “Michelle was killed a bit over a year ago.”

“Killed?” I sank back against the couch.

“Andrea, a little thirteen-year-old, was sent to Michelle by a street worker. The mother and her drunk boyfriend found out where Andrea was and showed up one night. They tried to force her to go with them, but Michelle got Andrea loose then the boyfriend pulled a gun. Michelle jumped him and yelled for Andrea to run.

“Poor child, she ran to the house and called the police and before she even hung up she heard a gunshot. She ran back outside. Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were gone, but Michelle had been shot. She…she died before the ambulance arrived.”

“I’m sorry. So sorry,” I whispered as tears trickled down my cheeks.

Eleanor sniffed, cleared her throat. “It’s a great loss to all of us. Mays was devastated. He and Michelle had grown very close.”

Tim’s angry words echoed in my heart, “If you keep playing around in other people’s business, you’re going to get yourself or someone else hurt!” Now, Michelle was dead.

Almost as if she could read my mind, Eleanor said, “Sandy, we want you to know how grateful we are that you were part of Michelle’s life. We could’ve lost her on the streets, but we got to share our beautiful daughter’s life. We’ve been blessed to see all the good that she’s done.”

“I…I feel like I somehow got her…her killed.” My throat ached with tears and sorrow.

“Why, Sandy, you should see the girls who came when they heard. Some of them were just girls Michelle talked to on the streets, and others she helped in some way. And, the girls who lived here when it happened, they all stayed on with Mays and me. Said this was home. I don’t think we could’ve gotten through this year without them.” I heard her sigh then she said, “The life Michelle lived because of you was so much better than the life she would’ve lived without you. Thank you.”

After I said good-bye to Eleanor, I laid the phone softly back on its’ cradle and wandered outside. I headed up to the barn. Across the miles and years, Michelle had reached out and touched someone. Had renewed yet another person’s faith and given hope where hope seemed gone.

This time that someone was me.

The End.

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Gertrude, a beautiful five-year-old German Shepherd housed in Kennel Run 10, was scheduled to die in the morning.

I had worked at whatever odd jobs I could find all summer long.  Dusting furniture when it was so hot sweat dripped from the tip of my nose.  Slashing at bramble vines until my arms and even my face looked like I’d had an argument with someone welding a horse whip.  But I was nine that summer and Mom told me if I earned the ten dollars required, she would let me choose a puppy from the local shelter.

We had several dogs at home.  Dogs my mother and I had scraped up off the highways, crushed by speeding cars, patched back together by a vet mom knew who didn’t charge us much.  I’d helped those dogs to survive, getting up every two hours around the clock to feed them gruel and to change the newspapers when they got wet and nasty.

But this dog would be mine.  One I had chosen.

The puppies at the shelter were housed in two kennel runs at the end of the aisle back near the right corner of the huge concrete room.

The older black man who led us through the heavy door and into the back, cautioned as we neared Kennel 10,  “Ya’ll want to stay way away from that fence now,”  he said in his deep, kind voice.  “That thar dog wuz brought in ‘cause she mean.  Cain’t noone git nowheres near her.  Cain’t hardly feed her even; not without a catch pole.”

Just as we came even with the kennel run, the German Shepherd flew from the back of the short run, slamming herself into the cyclone fencing so hard it shook and rattled.  Teeth bared, hackles up, she snarled.  Clawing the fence, she seemed determined to reach us.  I could feel my heart pounding as I scooted so quickly behind our guide that I stepped on the heel of his shoes.  We were three runs away before I realized Mom had stayed behind.

I stopped and turned.  The old gentleman did too.  We both stared.  He amazed; me in resignation.  Fingers through the wire diamonds of the fence,  I could see Mom’s lips moving. The German Shepherd stood, pressed against the wire, gazing up into my mother’s face.

“I be dogged,” the old man breathed.  “I ain’t never seen the like.”

I shrugged.  “My mom has a way with dogs.”

We proceeded to the back corner where Black Lab-mix puppies tumbled around each other as they all struggled to get closer to the fence.  I stuck my fingers through and their tiny tongues slurped as if I had dipped my fingertips in cream.

“I’ll let you in to sit awhile.” The old man took a ring of keys from his belt loop.  “You jest holler when ya want out, okay?”

Happily plopped on the cool concrete, puppies crowding in my lap, I nodded.

What seemed like a long time later, the old man returned.  “Ya’ll ready to come outta thar?”

I carefully stood up, gently dislodging several sleeping pups. “I guess so.”

He walked me back up the aisle until we arrived at where my mother still stood in communion with the German Shepherd from Hell.  The old man kept walking.  I stopped a few feet away, but Mom whispered, “You can come on over, Sis.  She won’t hurt you.”

I edged forward, only partially reassured by my mother’s words.  Mom sometimes forgot that dogs who wouldn’t hurt her would gladly eat the rest of us.  The big black-and-tan female glanced at me, but quickly returned her loving gaze to my mother’s face.

I could hear the tears in my mother’s voice when she said, “They’re gonna kill her tomorrow morning.  No one wants to take her.  They’re all afraid.”

Clearing my throat I asked quietly, “Why don’t you get her, Mom?”

My mother shook her head.  “Money’s tight, Sis.  I need what I got for groceries tonight.  And I won’t get paid till Friday.”

Desperately, I said, “Maybe they’ll hold ‘er for you.  It’s just a coupla days.”

“I asked.”  Mom sighed.  “They’re afraid of her, too.”

As I stood there behind my mother’s squatted form, I saw a tear trace silently down her cheek.  My mother never cried.  Not when our house burned nearly to the ground.  Not when she got into a bar room fight that left her needing stitches from the slash of a knife.  My mother never cried.

Taking a deep breath, I whispered, “I found my dog, Mom.”

Mom took a deep breath and I could see her pulling herself together. With a sad look she gave the dog a last cheek stroke then pushed up and turned to face me.  The smile she forced on her lips wavered.  “Well, what’re we standin’ here for?  You better show me this wonderful animal.”

Closing my eyes for a moment, I slowly opened them and looked up at my mother.  “Don’t need to go nowhere.  I want to buy her.”  I pointed at the German Shepherd who’s eyes had never left my mother’s face.

“Oh no, Sis,” Mom replied.  “You don’t want her.  She’d never really be your dog.”

I shrugged.  “Don’t matter.  Laddie’d be hurt if I brought home ‘nother dog.  I wanna buy her for you.”  Seeing my mother getting ready to argue, I hurriedly added, “For your birthday.  An early birthday present.”

“Oh, Sis, you don’t have to do this.  You’ve been waiting a long time to get a dog for yourself.”

“It’s okay, Mom.  I can wait a little while longer.  She can’t.”

The old man handed a leash to my mom.  After he unlocked the cage, he scrambled away down the aisle.  Everyone moved away as Mom led Gertie out of the front door.

Gertrude went home that day. As she heeled beside my mother, out of that cold concrete building and into the midsummer sunshine, Gertie never realized any other human was close by. Her eyes never left my mother’s face.


I hope you enjoyed this true story of Gertrude the German Shepherd dog and my mother, a complicated woman with a great love for animals.

I wrote the original story, Dog on Death Row, long ago as a high school English assignment.

The dog pictured in this post is the spitting image of Gertrude from those many years ago though her name is Niki. Like Gertrude, Niki is a proper German Shepherd who would fight and die for her family.

Unlike Gertrude, Niki has never seen the inside of the Death Row for Dogs.  Handled properly, Niki’s protective instincts have garnered her admiration instead of the fear with which Gertrude was viewed.

For more adorable pictures of German Shepherd dogs, German Shepherd puppies and other fun things, visit my Pinterest page:  http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar

Do leave a comment. Tell me about the special dog you remember.

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After you have watched this video, read below for the rest of the story.  @greatcaesarband (via @Upworthy) http://t.co/1N0E5hLV8r


This heart breaking video celebrates love and hope in the face of violence and despair.

But a video can only tell so much; here is the rest of the story:

#Interracial couple: What you don’t see on the video is that the young black man was castrated then lynched. His girlfriend was forced to watch while this occurred then she was brutally gang-raped and beaten. She was found in time by a neighbor who rushed her to the hospital. When her parents came to the hospital she told them what happened. Her mother ran from the room crying, disgusted that her daughter had lain with a black boy; her father told her not to come home; that she deserved what had happened to her.

#Gay couple: During the attack on the boy in the locker room, someone shouted that the teacher had come in. The boys dispersed with a warning that should the gay boy report them, they would ‘finish what we started somewhere where we won’t be interrupted, fag!’

#Lesbian couple: Lisa finally got the courage to tell her parents that she is lesbian. Her girlfriend, Jackie, came with her for support. After Lisa was kicked out of her home for being lesbian, Jackie’s mom refused to let her stay even overnight as she didn’t want to get involved in a dispute between the girl and her parents. Jackie promised to meet Lisa the next day at the McDonald’s on Broadway. Lisa never showed. What Jackie didn’t realize was the night before Lisa had been beaten and raped. She huddled for the rest of the night in a cardboard box in an alley, shaking. Ashamed of being raped, Lisa couldn’t face Jackie so she hitchhiked to another city. On the streets without money or skills and being underage, Lisa was forced to become a prostitute in order to earn enough money to buy food and sometimes, for a place to sleep.

I don’t know if this video portrayed actual people, or if the couples were representations of what happens all too frequently. The scenarios I have shared have occurred again and again throughout the United States to many interracial, gay and lesbian couples. No one state has a monopoly on hate.

I wish I could say this type of thing no longer happens, but I would be lying. Every day violence driven by hate happens. Every day violence against women happens.

Every day dozens young girls like Lisa sell their bodies for food and shelter. This isn’t happening overseas in economically depressed countries or countries that are ruled by religious fanatics. It is happening here in the United States.

Will you be part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Leave a comment, or visit Aya’s facebook page and engage in conversation. http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar

COMING FEBRUARY 21, 2014, STREET HARVEST, Book 2, Special Crimes Team.


What do the bodies of two young children have in common with the murders of two adult men?

Eleanor Hasting, a black bookstore owner and child advocate, knows these killings are linked. How can she convince Lieutenant Michael Williams, head of the Special Crimes Team? Someone is abducting street children and their bodies are showing up manually strangled and sexually abused.

Psychic, and member of Missing Children’s Rescue, Jaimie Wolfwalker is prepared to do whatever it takes to locate and rescue the missing street children. The law be damned.  Jaimie’s attitude and methods place her on a collision course with Sergeant Nita Slowater, second-in-command of the Special Crimes Team.

Four dedicated people struggle to come to terms with each other in their desperate search for clues. Every day brings more missing children, more young bodies. Can they stop the monsters before more children disappear?