Tag Archives: writing

Birthday Thoughts

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On Saturday, July 8th, I will turn 64 years old. Since the age of 14 when I wrote and circulated my first petition to try to effect change for institutionalized young people–myself included–I have used my writing to attempt to bring about positive changes. Shortly after I began circulating that petition at The Hall (the institution where I was incarcerated for being “incorrigible”), I wrote a series of articles for a black-owned and black-run newspaper. The series was entitled “America’s Criminal Disease” and discussed racism as both a crime by the majority and as a disease of the mind. When my articles were accepted by the newspaper, I was asked to come up and meet with some of the staff.

I hiked through a black neighborhood that had suffered the affects of rioting during that summer of riots throughout America. Though I had grown up among the faces of desperate people, it was the first time I had seen that despair morphed into community-wide rage. It made a lasting impression on me.

Being accepted by that all-black staff as a fellow writer, changed me. For the first time in my life, it was confirmed that like those hundreds of books I had read from Carnegie Library, my writing, too, could change lives; could touch people.

Between the petition and the articles, I found a sense of purpose–the use of words to bring about change. I had discovered the direction I wanted my life to take.

But it wasn’t as easy nor as simple as making that discovery. Shortly after my several petitions to the The Hall’s administration resulted in changes to some long-standing rules, I was forced by the administration to leave The Hall and– unknown to me at the time–any chance I had at gaining a college education.

I was shipped off to a worse institution and my caseworker threatened to place me in a hard-core reformatory. I ran. Education doesn’t happen for kids who live in precarious and not-quite-legal places. I finally wound up marrying and having a child in order to have a stable place to live. Too bad I married a man who wanted to use me as a broodmare to have children to sell on the black market. Needless to say, that marriage didn’t last, but his threats of violence toward my daughter continued until I left the state.

Without friends or family to help with a young child, and no real options for childcare, I wound up working at jobs “under the table”; jobs that paid cash, but paid nothing into the future for me. Whenever I saw a way that I might make more money, I picked up and moved. Not an easy life. A life that sometimes wound me up living in a vehicle parked on a street in some nameless city. Several times, after completing a GED, I started taking college courses. Each time life reared up with a heavy hand and slapped me winding. I’d pick up and start somewhere new. All this time I struggled with my sexual orientation; and, consequently, made some very bad choices in men.

The only thing I held onto during those times of despair was my writing. I continued to use my craft to pen articles, poems, stories. Many were published in small magazines, small press book releases, and other journals. Writing kept me going when nothing else could; it gave me purpose; it gave me hope.

Somewhere along the line, I finally  accepted my sexual orientation. Then in my thirties, I met the woman who became my best friend, my life partner, and my wife.  It was then that my writing came into its maturity.

Since that time, I have written fourteen books. Mystery, literary, paranormal, and one inspirational tome.  Each book has brought me emails and reviews that tell me how my work has entertained, enlightened, encouraged, and empowered others–especially women.

Within each novel, I have represented real people with real issues in our modern society. I have talked about laws that need to be changed, and attitudes that need to be overcome among our people. In novels, I can present facts in such a way that people can more easily keep an open mind as they read and consider.

In Sketch of a Murder, I talk about a justice system that doesn’t give justice to women and children abused by men who can buy their way out of punishment. (Spoiler: justice does prevail in the end). In Street Harvest, I present the very real situation of street kids becoming prey to human traffickers. In Old Woman Gone, I touch on how society views older women and I touch on accepting one’s own spirituality. In Backlash, I point out that the law in many states allow rapists to demand access to children born to their rape victims, thus continuing a cycle of abuse and fear for the victim. In Death by Dog, I tackle a horror of dog fighting.

Even though I present these issues, if one is of a mind to find solutions (as well as enjoy an excellent story), during the course of each story I present ways each of us can help change these situations.

My literary novels always parallel reality while telling a triumphant story of a person who simply refuses to quit, to give up. In those pages, I shout the truth that the only time we fail is when we give up.

Words are powerful. During the many hours I spent among books as a child; during the dark days of the summer of riots, when Watts and so many other cities went up in flames; during those lonely times I spent in solitary confinement for inciting other kids to sign petitions and to stand up for themselves, I learned just how powerful words can be. I learned that words can change lives. (I also learned that those in power fear the words of others and the power for change that those words wield). From those lessons learned came a lifelong commitment to use my words to draw others into my world; to show them a different side of life, and to empower them to become better human beings.

My birthday wish is this: I hope that I have been able to entertain, enlighten, encourage, and empower you with my words. If I have brought you a smile, an uplifted heart, a feeling that someone understands what you are going through, then the years of my life have brought forth good fruit.

If you take nothing else from my writing, take this thought:

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8 Methods for Self-care During Stressful Times

There is no doubt that we have entered a highly stressful point in our national history. Such extreme stress–especially when added to everyday stressors we all face such as jobs, family, and time constraints–affects all of us and causes a number of physical and cognitive issues from headaches to stomachaches to sleepless nights and depression to mention only a few.
Regardless whether you have girded up to resist the current administration or if you simply want to survive the insanity of it, there are things you need to know.

Signs of Stress:
–Overeating/undereating/loss of appetite/nausea/diarrhea/constipation
–Inability to sleep/change of sleep patterns/restless sleep
–Feeling hopeless/helpless/defeated/being pessimistic
–Restlessness and irritability/snapping at people/losing your temper more easily
–Low energy/that blah feeling
–Headaches/body aches, pains and tense muscles
–Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
–Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
–Nervousness/shaking/ringing in the ear/cold or sweaty hands and feet
–Clenched jaw/grinding of teeth
–Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
–Constant worrying/racing thoughts
–Forgetfulness and disorganization/inability to focus/poor judgment
–Procrastinating/avoiding responsibilities/wanting to ‘hide under the bed’/wanting to ‘hide in the bed’
–Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
–Increased nail biting/fidgeting/pacing/restlessness

If you, or anyone you know, are exhibiting any or all of these symptoms they may be warning signs that stress levels have reached unmanageable proportions. The more symptoms or the more severe the symptoms, the higher the degree of stress.

Stress is not only unpleasant, but it can cause or exacerbate such things as heart ailments, skin disorders, sexual dysfunctions, mental health problems, and gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn, indigestion, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

As an author, I am deeply involved in a career that is, during the best of times, stressful. Because of the current political climate, as an author I have certain responsibilities to use words to keep people informed and to do my part to protect the freedoms that we in the United States enjoy; freedoms that are facing unparalleled challenges during this administration. Here are some ways that I manage the stress that is inherent in my life:

8 Methods for self-care during stressful times:
1.The first and best defense against stress is someone to talk to. This person needs to be non-judgmental, accepting, and someone you can trust not to repeat what you said. If you don’t have a family member or friend to whom to turn, I would recommend seeking professional counseling services or speaking with your doctor.

2.Eating regular meals, preferably eaten with people you like–can fuel your body to fight off stress. During meals, avoid discussing upsetting issues. Let that occur after you eat and have had a little bit of time to digest your food. If you don’t have time to sit down and eat, carry healthy snacks with you such as cheese and apples. This will give you the extra boost of energy while also supplying protein for repair of the body.

3.Exercise not only allows you to blow off steam, but it strengthens the body, and releases internal chemicals that lift our moods. Exercise does not have to be complicated. Depending on your physical condition is the level to begin exercising. You can take a brisk walk outside, go jogging along the street in your neighborhood, use a treadmill, do sit-ups/push-ups/ running up and down stairs or stretches at home.

4.Baths/showers can help overcome stress. A long, warm/hot bath or a long shower can wash away not only the grime of day-to-day living, but it will relax muscles and give you a time to quietly decompress. The sound of showers can be very soothing to some people while a decadence of a long bath will relax others.

5.Sitting down with a cup of tea or decaf coffee or a cool glass of water will also aid in managing stress. The water actually assists in washing toxins from the body. The warmth of tea or decaf coffee can be very soothing. Peppermint tea is good for digestive upsets; chamomile tea is good for restlessness and sleeping problems. Ginger root (made from real ginger root brought to a boil and then simmered for 15 minutes and then left to steep until it reaches the potency you wish) is great for infections, colds, sore throats, and upset digestion.

6.Sometimes, you have to simply leave the current reality. Find a good movie or book to take you on an adventure that transports you from everyday reality. Put on soothing music and sit back and immerse yourself in the notes and the tones of the instruments.

7.Attitude of Gratitude List is remarkably helpful in managing stress as it pulls us away from the feeling of helplessness and reminds us of the beauty and joy in our lives.
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8.Resist.
HumansSaveSelves
Join a group or organization that is fighting for the issue you are most invested in. Sign online petitions from reputable organizations (FYI: do NOT donate money to any organization you have not researched. Now is a great time for SCAM artists to rip people off!),email your senators and representatives about issues that are important to you, handwrite letters to your senators and representatives about issues or to simply thank them for their stands on different issues (since emails are easily done and senators and representatives get tons of them a day, a handwritten note of no more than one page will often catch their attention faster. Also, this gives them physical evidence of their constituents concerns to wave under the noses of the opposing senators or representatives), phone your senators and representatives and leave short messages of concern or thank you.
Volunteer on the campaign of people who are running for governmental positions. Tweet to your senators and representatives.
And don’t be hesitant to contact senators and representatives to let them know that once they hit Capitol Hill, they represent all the people of the nation, not just their narrow constituency. Be polite, state your concern, be brief.

Remember that stress can make us feel that we have done nothing of any worth, that we are failures. Stress lies.

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If you have other stress relief methods, feel free to share them in the comments section.

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Scared into #Writing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. The Fun Times of Being a Lesbian—not so much.
    –I returned to Seattle in 1989 and landed a job with a medical facility. A number of months into the job, when I insisted that my life partner needed the coverage afforded to married couples as I was working in a section of the facility with a high risk to carry home a contagion, I was told homosexual couples did not rate the coverage. Unable to afford the medical costs if I did drag a contagion home, I refused to work in that part of the facility. I was fired.
    –Capitol Hill in Seattle felt like a haven to me after having been in the Deep South–a place where my life partner and I could walk together without fear. Until the night that a woman was waylaid outside of a lesbian bar and three men began beating her with clubs. If the women inside the bar had not heard the commotion and rushed into the fight, the woman would have been beaten to death.
    –Being an out lesbian among one’s colleagues isn’t always easy or acceptable. I confronted a homophobe white male about making an inappropriate joke in the lunch room, by simply telling him that his joke was not funny.
    He brushed aside my concerns with, “It’s just a joke.”
    When I wouldn’t accept that excuse and insisted ‘just a joke’ or not, it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t appropriate, silence dropped among my lunchroom colleagues so hard it nearly gave me a concussion.
    The situation escalated to the point that my colleagues avoided me with the excuse that they didn’t want to take sides; and the management told me I was ‘half the problem’ until I threatened upper management with involving civil rights and LGBT organizations in the problem.
    The man was fired, but not for his homophobic and inappropriate behavior.
    I never felt ‘part of’ the team after that, and eventually left. I had learned a hard and painful lesson.
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These scenarios continue to occur with frightening regularity. Poor people are murdered with little or no investigation launched into their deaths; rapists freely walk streets while women have to be ever-vigilant; loved ones die without warning; a person can suddenly wind up on the wrong side of violence; and civil rights for LGBTQ people sometimes seem like a far off dream to me.

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

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

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#Halloween Month! A Month of Scary!

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#October is #Halloween Month, All-Hallows Month! I will celebrate by making it A Month Of Scary!

October 1: I will discuss the meaning of Halloween on my blog and post Chapter 1 of Artemis’ Warriors, Book 1, The Vampire War. In addition, this will be one of the FEW times that my email friends will receive more than one notification per week from me. On October 1, I will send the first two chapters of my upcoming thriller–Attack!

October 8: Five Books that scared me. On this day, I will share five books that truly disturbed me. Not all horror is paranormal.

Oct 15: Five Scary Things that Made Me Write. Many things motivate an author. On this day, I will share five of those occurrences.

Oct 22: Five Scary Things I Wrote About. Though I do not write horror books, there are several subjects that are tackled in my novels that are truly scary.

Oct 29: A Scary/Paranormal Short Story. Then, there are those incidents that no one can explain…. It’s not always wise to walk around alone, after dark!

Great October Reads:
Dead Men and Cats, a novella
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On October 1, 35 copies of Dead Men and Cats will be given away! Stay tuned to my BLOG for the latest on how to grab your #FREE #Ebook!

Looking forward to seeing you! Oooooooo!

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#2016WPA A World of Mayhem and Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4 Whys & 4 Hows of #Journaling

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Writing is not for the faint of heart. When words are put on paper, or computer screen, we are opening our minds, our emotions, and our souls to the reader. In journaling, the reader is also the writer and that is what makes journaling a powerful tool in #StressManagement, and in dealing with our daily struggles and triumphs, among many other uses.

There are 4 strong reasons to journal:

1.Express negative emotion safely. Have you ever said something then wanted to take it back, erase it? Once journaling becomes a habit, these unfortunate situations decrease drastically. You write out those hasty, and not so hasty, comments and then take the time to re-read and evaluate them. Should they be said? How could this be said in a more tactful manner? Am I simply venting my frustrations inappropriately?

2.Track progress in a project or toward a goal. In our very busy world it is easy to get sidetracked by an avalanche of things we need to do. Buried beneath this avalanche are those projects we hold closest to our hearts; ones that often get neglected. One way to insure that a project, whether large or small, reaches a successful conclusion is to track the progress of the project. In a journal, you can do that on a daily, or a weekly, basis. It is especially helpful if we sketch out our plans in the journal first, such as build tree house for the children. From that broad goal, you can then write out the steps to accomplish the end result and what materials will be needed. This is simply one way to track progress toward an objective.

3.Think ‘out loud’. We all occasionally need a sounding board, but there are times when the person we normally go to is either inappropriate or unavailable at the time of our need to ‘think out loud’. Thinking out loud is easily accomplished through writing in a journal. You put your thoughts, however rambling, into the journal and then leave them for a few hours. Go back and re-read what you have written. Often new inspirations or simply a new perspective will give you much needed feedback on the issue at hand.
Use these pages to record your emotions; even the ones that seem difficult to share such as the feeling of being vulnerable when you look up at the stars flung across the vast heavens; the heart-stopping joy at seeing the first butterfly of the season; the sadness of seeing a small animal dead along the road; the love for that special person that you haven’t yet found the courage to shout from the rooftops. Record those dreams that seem so out of reach that you fear to share them with anyone.
Use the journal to capture the moment; record the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings evoked as you catch a glimpse of a wild mountain goat in his natural habitat, or see the eagle soar above the raging white waters of a river. Life has a way of obscuring these moments. When we journal we capture the essence, what the moment means to us, more surely than any photograph.
manydroplets
Capture those droplets of life in your journal where you can revisit them from time to time.

4.To record our daily struggles and triumphs; our accomplishments, large and small. One of the easiest things to do is to tell ourselves that we have not ‘accomplished anything today’ (or this week, this month, this year!) All too frequently, the large and small triumphs get washed away on a flood of things we still need to do. Once we lose track of those triumphs, we forget how much we have actually accomplished. By journaling about large and small triumphs, we can use our journal as a tool for positive motivation. Record the fact that you got the kids to all their games on time; that you cooked a wonderful dinner for your significant other; and that you finally got that raise you deserve.
Use your journal to record struggles, self-doubts, and worries. A week or a month later go back and review these things. How were issues resolved? Was that self-doubt something that you needed to analyze and address? Time and again, you will discover that you have made good choices; you have overcome what could have been crippling self-doubts; and you have moved forward in spite of worry and obstacles. This will reinforce the fact that you are a capable person, and it will give you ideas on how to handle similar situations in the future.

There are 4 easy steps in journaling:

1.Choose a journal book that best fits you. A journal can be a spiral bound notebook or a bound and covered book with blank pages. It should at least be the size of a paperback book, but don’t use three ring binders as they don’t feel ‘intimate’ enough for personal thoughts and expression of emotion.

2.Dedicate a specific amount of time for journaling during a quiet period of the day—this can be once a day or once a week. It should be at least once a week as beyond that we forget the important things we want to say in our journals and journaling won’t become a habit.

3.Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or any other grammar boogeyman. Just go with the flow. This is not the final draft of a novel. These words are for your eyes only. Sometimes, the flow-of-consciousness—just allowing yourself to write without any specific purpose or goal—is a great way to discover subconscious thoughts and feelings.

4.Keep your journal somewhere safe from prying eyes. It’s for you, to share parts of it or to not share it at all.

There, you have it–four strong reasons why you should journal, and four easy steps to start your adventure today! Happy writing!

Go to http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK to check out my work.
Sketch of a Murder, the first book of the Special Crimes Team series, is FREE. Go to http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ ALL the books in the Special Crimes Team series can be read out of sequence or as stand-alones.

Just like journaling, reviewing a book is best done in the heat of the moment. So, when you reach that last page, shoot over to wherever you purchased the book–or if it was a gift, shoot over to Amazon or Goodreads–and leave a review. An author will thank you.

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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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