Tag Archives: Washington state

It’s Really Up To Each of Us

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

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

Why should this concern my readers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is something to remember:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter how dark
In 2013, I wrote Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team. I write novels that have been ripped from the lives of women.
Sketch of a Murder exposes the horrendous truths around the #sexual #assault of women and children in the United States. Perpetrators often walk away from prosecution and justice.Even those who are convicted may only serve three years for forcible rape.
Many victims do not report sexual assault.
–They fear the perpetrator will return and harm them. Something that perpetrators often threaten to do.
–The victim does not want to make a private matter public. This is especially true if the perpetrator is a boyfriend, a husband or ex-husband, even someone they simply met and had a drink with.
–The victim is worried that she will be blamed for what happened or that she will not be believed. This is frequently the case when victims actually follow through with prosecution. They are questioned about their sexual histories, why they were in that particular place at that specific time, and so forth. Some cops grill women and girls who report rape in much the same aggressive and offensive manner. Women are often told it is their own fault that they were assaulted.
–The girl or woman feels ashamed and/or feels guilty and/or is embarrassed. A strong element of personal shame, guilt and embarrassment for the victim is a factor in every sexual assault crime.
There have even been public debates about whether the crime of #rape actually exists or if it is an “attempt by women and girls to gain special privileges.”
As a past victim of the violence of attempted rape–12 attempts during my life–I understand the well-founded hesitation of women and girls to subject themselves to the process of attempting to prosecute the perpetrator.
One of the attempts on me included the perpetrator’s use of a straight razor. When I reported that crime, the police took me to the station and after leaving me to “stew” in a room alone they finally came in and aggressively questioned what I had been doing walking around alone after dark.
I finally lashed out and told one detective that “I have the right to walk where and when I please; the attempted rapist is the one who should not be allowed freedom to walk around the city.”
In response to my declaration, one detective openly questioned whether or not a crime had actually occurred.
I held up my hand and sarcastically said, “I’m not into self-mutilation. I did not slash my own hand open.”
Is it any wonder that rape is the most UNDER reported crime in the United States?
In Sketch of a Murder, I bring these stats to life. The Avenger, a serial killer who stalks and tortures men who have skated justice, sets up a Court of God’s Justice and questions the men about their crimes and then hands down “justice”.
The “reasoning” put forth by the perpetrators is, unfortunately, all too indicative of the thought processes of males involved in rape. In my other life, I have listened to such men give those arguments about how it’s not their fault and besides, the girl/woman “asked for it.” (Yes, those were the words used by one man).
And what of law enforcement–the real good people; the ones who want the rapists to pay for their crimes? In Sketch of a Murder I explore the dilemma faced by law enforcement officers who must stop a killer whose mission they may secretly applaud.
Just to give you some idea about the enormity of the crime of rape below are some statistics. Please,keep in mind that rape is a seriously UNDER REPORTED crime:
—67% of sexual assault victims are under 18. More than half of this number are under 12 years old.
—95% of rapists are male
In the state of Washington, First Degree Rape is considered a Class A Felony–the worst felony possible under law, yet a rapist may only get three years in prison for forcibly raping a woman or a child. A person is guilty of First Degree rape when such a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion where the perpetrator or an accessory:
—uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or what appears to be a deadly weapon or
—kidnaps the victim or
—inflicts serious physical injury including but not limited to physical injury which renders the victim unconscious or
—feloniously enters into a building or vehicle where the victim is situated.
In Washington State, a rapist who is convicted of Class A Felony rape may sue for and receive access to the any child produced by his violent act; thereby allowing him future access to his victim’s life, and a future way to manipulate, control, and emotionally and physically harm his victim.
In Washington State in 2013 there were 13,442 primary victims of sexual assault and 6,252 secondary assault victims.
33% of women in Washington State have been sexually assaulted. And, 20% of this number have been the victims of multiple assaults by different offenders.
Only 25% of the women who suffered physical injuries sought medical assistance and only 33% sought counseling. (I was never one of those who sought medical assistance or counseling. I simply could not afford it. Fortunately, I was raised in a matriarch where rape was considered a crime of violence–rightfully so–and the rapist was the only one blamed.)
Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 MINUTES
43% of lesbian and bisexual women, and 30% of gay and bisexual men reported having experienced sexual assault.
34% of Native American and Alaskan Native women experienced an attempted or completed rape
19% of African American women have experienced an attempted or completed rape
18% of Caucasian women have experienced an attempted or completed rape
7% of Asian American women have experienced an attempted or completed rape
83% of adult females and 32% of the adult males who are developmentally disabled have been victims of sexual assault
Disabled women are raped and abused at a rate of at least twice that of the general population of women.
light in darkness

IF you or someone you know has suffered from sexual assault, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! PLEASE go to: http://www.wcsap.org/find-help This website is the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. You will find a list of places to go to for help! PLEASE, make use of these services.
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LESSONS LEARNED

DSC09967 White Horse Mountain, Cascade Mountains, Darrington, Washington

Lessons Learned (The Observations of a Wildlife Habitat Manager)

Other than #author, I have several hats that I wear. Among them is the Wildlife Habitat Manager Hat. Habitat is NOT a sanctuary. It is a place where wildlife and wild birds can arrive and depart as they please. Habitat offers the wild ones food (in the form of plants, trees and the resultant insects), water (sometimes in the form of water dishes if the natural water source dries up), and shelter/nesting areas (in the form of bushes, trees, tall grass areas, undergrowth and deliberately maintained ‘slash piles’ of natural plants including tree limbs), and, hopefully, a measure of safety from domestic predators such as cats and dogs.

In 1996, my wife and I bought twelve acres of abused farmland. When I label the land abused what I mean is that the fields had been overgrazed, invasive weeds such as non-native blackberry bushes and morning glories had taken over approximately eleven acres of the land, garbage had been dumped on the creek banks and piled in a variety of other places (all of which we discovered as we took down the invasive blackberry brambles); old cars, farm equipment, freezers–complete with the rotted carcasses and hides of deer, bear and other wildlife– and other appliances also hid beneath the blackberry brambles; and, sadly, we also uncovered the skeletons and other remains of animals and birds killed for the sake of killing and left to rot where they lay.

When we first moved here, no birds flew over the property. It reminded me of the silent spring that Rachel Carson evoked with the title of her important book. Not until our medicine man came and blessed the land did the birds return. The first bird in was the tiny Rufous Hummingbird.

Since that time, we have cataloged sixty-eight different species of birds who visit our land, usually staying to shelter and/or nest. We have had a variety of wildlife, including a family of deer who frequently have their fawns in our back field and coyotes who sing their mournful songs to the dark of night.

But, the journey has not been without it setbacks and detours. So here are a few of the lessons learned by this wildlife habitat manager:

—When calculating the amount of time a rehab project might take, add in one-half again of what you think (ie: 40 hours would become 60 hours). This will allow for delays, surprises and just days when you want to play instead of work.

—Be aggressive with invasive plants! Whether the plants are Euro-Asian blackberries, morning glories, scotch broom or English daisies, begin a program of spray-mow-spray immediately. For the sake of the wild ones, try to use eco-friendly herbicides such as Round-Up. It you really need more toxic herbicides, such as some of the caustics, try to spot spray and limit the amount of the chemical used as well as the amount of land it is applied to.

—Not everything the experts tell you to try will work. For several winters, I fought a losing battle with snow tearing the gutters off of the barn. We tried a number of different remedies, including snowjacks that are in use in places like Alaska. The problem with our snow is that it accumulates, partially melts, refreezes and accumulates some more making most types of snowjacks not very efficient and often the victim of the snow pack along with the gutters. The way we resolved our issue was with four foot deep trenches around our barn under the roofline. We filled the trenches with two different sizes of rock/gravel and with French drain then created a ditch that leads to a depression where the water can slowly dissipate. It works, for us. Don’t be afraid to try out your own ideas.

—Try different plants in different areas! You may be surprised that what will grow in one place, won’t flourish in another place that appears to be the exact same type of ground, sunlight and moisture.

—When visiting nurseries, ignore most of the statements like “Oh, no, this is not invasive”; “no, you won’t have any problem with this spreading where you don’t want it” and similar statements. Many of the current invasives that we battle daily were brought here deliberately by other people, including the scourges of farmland and wildlife habitat–English daisies and scotch broom! No one thought these “pretty flowers” would become noxious weeds. We can eradicate invasive plants. Be consistent and persistent!

Try to use plants that are native/indigenous to your area. (Our neighbor planted a black walnut tree and now we have bunches of baby black walnut trees sprouting up everywhere). Think twice about eradicating what your neighbors may term ‘weeds’ if that plant is indigenous, such as salmonberry bushes and Indian plum bushes. Many times the wildlife/wild birds that are native to your area really need these plants (sometimes, the very ones your neighbors labor weeds)! Both salmonberry and Indian plum are early spring flowering plants that provide much needed nectar for the hummingbirds who arrive before other trees and bushes set their blossoms.

DSC01752 Patch of Thimbleberry bushes (Pacific Northwest native plant; edible by humans, birds and wildlife. A tasty red berry on a thornless bramble.)

Salmonberry bushes are much more sensitive (especially to herbicides) than many people believe and can be controlled (kept to one area) by mowing the young starts that sprout through rhizome propagation. As well as providing nectar, these delicate blossoms are a lovely relief from the barrenness of winter. According to my adoptive mother, Vi taqseblu Hilbert, who was an Upper Skagit elder, new shoots were once eaten by #NativeAmericans much like asparagus. The berries are red or gold colored and delicious for people, birds or other wildlife. salmonberry bloom Salmonberry blossom (Pacific Northwest native plant)

—Be gentle with yourself! This was a very important lesson for me. I tend to demand not only perfection of myself, but perfection as of yesterday! No matter how dedicated and hardworking you are, take time to stop and just walk the land, enjoy all that you have accomplished. Be sure to take ‘before’ photos you can refer to because many times we don’t see the progress we are making. Sort of like being in a dense forest–rather difficult to see the whole tree.

—Remember, even though one person can’t save the entire planet; we can’t even save the entire species–whatever the species–we can make a difference one person at a time; one small piece of land at a time. So, whether you have a small backyard or a hundred acres, what you do matters. When you provide food, water and shelter for two birds that gives that bird species one more place to rest, to eat and grow strong, and to bring young into this world to bless all of us. And, each time one of us provides habitat for the wild ones, we demonstrate to our neighbors and friends that it can be done without sacrificing the use and enjoyment of our property. We can make a difference; and, we can make this world a tiny bit better for us having been here.

We are saving, preserving and increasing beauty each day.

JUNE 2015 144 Oregon Grape (Pacific Northwest native plant; berries are edible by humans, birds and wildlife)

 

To see photos of the author’s land, go to Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar) and view Jaz Wheeler’s farm. My character in Run or Die has much the same kind of place as we do. Funny how that works!

 

 

 

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The Birth of a Book

In the unheard screams that rip the fabric of the night, in the silent tears of a victim huddled in upon herself in the corner of her own kitchen, Sketch of a Murder was born.

Domestic violence and rape are patterns of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.

Once the first seeds of an idea are planted, I begin to research. What I found in the case of Sketch of a Murder was:

One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.

4 MILION women experience physical assault and rape by their intimate partners  http://www.safehorizon.org/page/domestic-violence-statistics–facts-52.html?gclid=CJ6k76f9rcUCFYeEfgodUwYACA

The number of women murdered by current or ex male partners between 2001 and 2012 were 11,766. During that same time period, the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq were 6,488.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html

FBI Statistics for 2013 for Washington State:

Forcible rapes in seven cities: (these are the ones actually brought to trial. Until conviction, they are only considered alleged rapes) 657.

Rape and domestic violence are among the most under-reported crimes. Frequently, women internalize the blame for being beaten and sexually assaulted. Shame and a sense of hopelessness; a fear of the abuser increasing the abuse; a fear that there is no way to escape; fear of reprisal against them or their family, seals their lips against reporting the crimes.

When the crimes are reported, the woman often finds herself grilled as if she is the perpetrator–what did you do to anger him; why were you wearing that slutty dress; isn’t it true that you’ve slept with other men; how many other men; how long did you know X before you invited him to your home; and the interrogations go on and on.

If the crime does go to trial, the woman’s ordeal is increased. She is placed on the stand and forced to testify to humiliating and painful memories in a hostile environment. She is cross-examined as if she is the defendant. Evidence can be difficult to collect or has been contaminated; the woman waited too long to report the crime; the woman’s character is put on trial; the trial becomes a “he said–she said” fiasco. Technicalities and good attorneys allow men to smile as they walk away unscathed after perpetrating horrible crimes that will scar their victims forever.

With research as a foundation, I begin a process of creative “what-ifs”. What if a person decided to take justice into their own hands? What motivates a person to seek violent revenge? What type of personality would such revenge require? What type of training would a person need to be successful? What type of tools would that person have to use?

From this process, the Avenger sprang. In Sketch of a Murder, the Avenger has been triggered by a life event to exact justice. After the first murder, the Avenger goes on a spree of gruesome killings. The Avenger, however, doesn’t simply pick guilty men who have skated on serious charges; the Avenger wreaks havoc among wealthy men who have used position and power and monetary advantage to walk free.

Now that I have the antagonist–or the bad person and that person’s motivation–I must decide who will oppose this person and why; who will be the protagonist.

Some crimes are far reaching enough to warrant the formation of a Task Force. Again the creative “what-ifs” are employed. What if a task force is created by the governor because the Avenger has eluded multiple police forces and the deaths of wealthy men negatively impact her position? What if the task force is not constrained by jurisdictional boundaries within the state? What if the best cops for that force are misfits, cops that have ticked off a superior because they refused to toe the blue line? What special attitudes and abilities would they bring to the story? What conflicts with each other would such renegade team members face?

The Special Crimes Team was born from the governor’s desperation to find and stop the Avenger. Purely a political move, or was it?

All books need a place of occurrence. Whether that physical place plays a large or a small part in the story depends upon the story. The state of Washington is blessed, and cursed, with features that attract the best of people, and the worst of people. Mountains, wilderness, farmlands, big cities, airports, seaports, railway stations, high immigrant and migrant worker populations, a diverse and mobile population, a down turn in the economy that resulted in foreclosed and abandoned homes, proximity to another country’s border and a general attitude of live and let live makes this state a haven for human traffickers, dog fighters, kidnappers, and other criminals who need unlimited places in which to blend and/or to use to escape. Blessings

With those elements–the crime, the antagonist, the protagonist, the scene and some of the complications–in place, the work of writing begins.

The first draft is written without concern for grammar, punctuation, or even logic and timelines. It is the story in the rough. After the first draft comes multiple drafts, each one refining the story, further developing the characters, fleshing out the scenes, fine tuning the dialogue, checking and fixing the timeline; and, reassessing the logic and the story arc. When I decide the story is finished, I begin editing. After I edit as much as I can, I send the work to others to edit. When that work is returned, I read the feedback and evaluate what changes must be made.

After editing, Beta Readers are engaged to comment on the story as readers–did it hook them; did the dialogue sound real; were the situations believable, and so forth. With that feedback, I make final corrections then send the book to the publisher.

The publisher obtains a cover, formats the book and puts the package together for presentation to the public. And, a book is born.  Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014

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To see all of Aya’s novels: http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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WHAT WERE THE CHILDREN DOING?

WHAT WERE THE CHILDREN DOING?

During most disasters children are secluded from the harsh realities as well as possible.

On March 22, 2014, 10:47 a.m., the Highway 530 Mudslide swallowed the tiny community of Hazel.

Shortly after the slide hit, those people living EAST of the slide responded.

During the grueling day as hope flared then dwindled, the people from the small town of Darrington and the surrounding area east of the mudslide, labored to rescue those trapped.

What were the children doing?

Whatever was needed! Our young people immediately responded to the disaster.

Some joined the adults on the debris field, rescuing survivors.

Some worked at the Community Center preparing a hot meal for those slogging through the mud slurry and for the stunned and devastated city of Darrington and the surrounding area.

The next day and for many days thereafter, our youth continued their heroic efforts:

They packed lunches, sometimes hundreds of lunches

Helped prepare meals and then helped to serve them

Wrapped utensils to be used during meals

Worked on the debris field

Did welfare checks on older citizens

Cleaned houses for volunteers and displaced families to stay in

Unloaded trucks of donations

Shelved those donations

Delivered food and other necessities to families

Swept floors

Helped affected families move into temporary homes

Raised money and donated it to the victims

Washed fire trucks

Helped with animal care and animal food distribution

Wrote and performed a song of hope and strength for the people of Darrington

Drummed and “laid a blanket” ( a Native American ceremony performed by the Sauk-Suiattle People) for donations for the affected families

Did whatever was asked of them without complaint

How do I know this? I was the Darrington Volunteer Registrar during the disaster. Some of our youth worked as many as 15 hours a day, day-after-day. In the end, our young people donated over 3,000 hours of effort. And these are only the youth I know about! Many others worked but never registered with me.

Are we proud of our youth?

You betcha!

Our young people, ranging in age from Cub Scouts to seniors in high school, ARE the

DARRINGTON DO-ERS!

Thanks to all of them the recovery efforts were supported. Tired and disheartened and grief-stricken people received food, shelter, and other types of assistance as well as a renewal of hope.

These young people rock!

Do you have a story of young people who rock? Would love to hear it! Leave a comment!

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LOST AND FOUND: TWO SIDES OF A DISASTER

Seven weeks after a tidal wave of mud swallowed the tiny community of Hazel, Washington, and blocked a mile long stretch of the major artery Highway 530 from east to west, thereby isolating the small town of Darrington, thousands of tons of mud and debris are slowly being moved off that stretch of highway.

With each scoop of mud and debris those excavators are removing dreams and hopes; years of work and, unfortunately, some of the beliefs that I have held dear. There is a part of me that wants to lie on the floor and kick and scream that ‘it’s not fair!’ After all that has been lost, must I lose my belief in those organizations that have always brought a swelling of pride to my heart, and a feeling of safety…yes, safety in knowing they stood in the wings, ready to aid in event of disaster?

Compared to the horrendous losses of others, I hate to even mention such a minor loss as ‘faith in an organization’, but I will in hopes that others will not be so suddenly hurt by it.

Red Cross had been a symbol of competent help for so many years…to me.  In our community, the Red Cross received $30,000 in gas cards to aid commuters who now had added 85 miles one way to their travel time to jobs. Red Cross refused the assistance of our long standing (20years) director of Family Resource Center in handing out what could have been a real boon for our residents. Instead, the Red Cross worker gave out $300 per family of gas cards without asking whether the person lived in Darrington, had a valid driver’s license, owned a car or even commuted the extra 85 miles one way.

Drug addicts arrived from as far away as Sedro Woolley and Concrete, to receive $300 of gas cards to trade for black tar heroin. Alcoholics rode bicycles to receive those cards and cash them in for alcohol.

Shell Corporation meant to help the citizens of Darrington. We thank them, but please, Shell, from now on..give the gas cards to United Way, or to the locals who have been working in the community all along and know who will actually use the gift as intended.

Though my faith in Red Cross was completely lost, I FOUND a wonderful new faith in the youth of this coming generation. As the Darrington Volunteer Registrar I have had the pleasure of recording 2589 hours given to the community by high school and middle school young people. These young people unloaded trucks, stacked donations on shelves, swept floors, made sandwiches, delivered groceries to home bound folks, cooked meals, cleaned flooded houses, cleaned houses for displaced families, cared for displaced animals and did whatever task was asked of them with a good spirit and willing hands.

And while I’m talking about animals, I want to acknowledge the Darrington Horse Owner’s Association who cared for displaced horses, solicited and received donations of animal food and distributed those donations.

I discovered so many good people, people I might never have taken the time to speak with had they not been part of the disaster efforts here in Darrington. As a married lesbian woman, I am well aware of the attitude of certain religions towards my sexual orientation. The Southern Baptists are not known for their tolerance of my sexual orientation, nor for their respect for lesbian marriages/relationships.

As it happened, the Southern Baptists have a trailer they dispatch to areas hit by disasters. This trailer is a complete kitchen to help cook and feed those in the affected area. Retired Fire Chaplain Chuck Massena headed the group that arrived in Darrington and took over cooking for the volunteers and the community for a couple of weeks. I had the opportunity to speak with this delightful gentleman. My wife and I enjoyed eating a wonderful dinner with him and chatting. Of course, being an educator, I made sure that Chuck realized that I am a married lesbian and practicing pagan. If all Southern Baptists could be as accepting as Chuck how much greater would be the peace in our world. It was only a minor miracle, I admit, this thing of a lesbian pagan couple peacefully breaking bread with a Southern Baptist retired fire chaplain, but I’ll take any size miracle.

There were other uplifting discoveries I made during this time of sorrow that I want to share:

I realized how humbling it was to watch the mayor of this small town, as he spoke of the people we lost, choke up and have to stop talking as tears stood in his eyes. It was equally humbling to watch how supportive the men–big, burly loggers, truck drivers, fishermen–and the women were as we waited respectfully for Mayor Dan Rankin to continue speaking. Every night, night after night, at community meetings, Mayor Rankin took time to read the names of those we’d lost.

There are others, people who came from outside our community to stand with us, to help us, and yes, to cry with us. They are too many to name, but they know who they are. Some of them even re-discovered their connection to our town.

The second thing I want to share is the hugs I have given and the hugs I have received during this time of sorrow. I have sat in the community center and “felt” the town hugging each other. That is the best way I can explain it: it felt like all of us filling those bleachers had spread our arms wide and wrapped those arms around each other. I’d never known that a “town could hug”; it happened here in Darrington.

No, I haven’t suddenly become a card carrying, tree-cutting logger. I remain a tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping lesbian pagan, but today I am more than that. I am also a citizen of this small town called Darrington. I proudly claim kin as one of the “Darrington Do-ers”.

Belonging, that’s the real miracle. Meeting people I’ve lived by since 1996, yet never knew. Hugging and caring, being there with a kind word or a shoulder, reaching out a hand or giving a wave…we’ve shared these things, the people of Darrington and I.  And, I am honored.

Darrington Do-ers. Darrington strong. Darrington proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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