Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chapter Closed

A chapter of my life has ended, and a new chapter is beginning. This week I took the final for my math class (and did well on it) and now am officially completely done with my degree!

I’ve been doing some regular volunteer interpreting work since I finished the interpreting program, but next month I’ll finally be getting some paid work. I have a freelance job that will give me a few hours a month, and on Wednesday this week I’m going in for a skills assessment at another place to see about getting several hours a week of work. I’m a little nervous about the assessment, of course, but I’m confident I’m a good interpreter, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I would love prayer that it goes well.

Last week I got to assist the interpreter at 1945 Christmas from Home, a live radio drama (like readers theater), so that was a ton of fun. The people at Tapestry Theatre are kind and welcoming and very skilled actors. Maybe someday I’ll get to be a voice actor in one of their shows.

I did get to do some singing with my voice this month, though. I miss being on the worship team at church or in a choir, but have been unsure my body has the stamina to do either thing right now. But recently my church lost all the singers for their Women’s Christmas Party and I got to be one of the fill-ins. It was perfect since it was just one evening with a few songs at the beginning and end of the event. It felt weird to be on the stage using my voice instead of my hands, but was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Introducing the Novelist, Amy Michelle Wiley

I have approximately six abandoned novel files in my laptop right now—that’s just from the last five years. None of them go past three or four chapters, and few were abandoned after a mere page and a half. During my childhood I'd started another three or four books, never to complete them, and the number of storylines rattling around in my head is closer to a whopping fifteen.
All my life I've been a writer and aspired to be a novelist. I've started a novel with grand hopes, only to let them fizzle and die as I left it in the dust to pursue yet another novel. So never has that goal been attained.

Until now.

NaNoWriMo, and its support group hundreds of thousands of people strong (plus my own smaller wonderful support group of family and friends), was the kick I needed to get a novel out. I passed the NaNo goal of 50,000 in thirty days on Saturday, four days early, and today on the thirtieth I finished the epilogue and now have a completed rough draft of Reaching Sky. It's a fairly short book at a current 55,783 words, but it is WRITTEN!

I think NaNo worked well for me, despite the rushed time limit and the "no major editing" rule. The story is rough with a lot of holes (like the cat I introduced in one scene, never to mention again... and the fact that I don't mention the main character's name, the weather, or the location in the whole first whole section... etc.) but it's definitely a very viable draft that has some strong parts.

You can read a short story based on the characters here, Eureka in Yreka, to get an idea of the book. My aim is to get this one published through a traditional publisher, so here are my goals for the next year:
  1. Go over the book again right now to add in all the scenes and details I remembered later but didn't have time to go back and put in during the competition.
  2. Let it sit at least a month without so much as a glance or a thought.
  3. Edit it with hopefully somewhat fresh eyes.
  4. Give it to two trusted writer friends to give me lots of constructive feedback.
  5. Write another draft based on that feedback.
  6. Give the new draft to another three or four people—a mix of writers and just readers.
  7. Rewrite it again.
  8. Send it to a professional editor for a polish.
  9. Send it to an agent!
  10. Probably more rewrites for agents and publishers.
  11. Have a publisher accept it! Woo!
Thank you all for your support and encouragement and for believing in me! Keep 'em coming! I can't wait to see what God does this this book, now that He finally got me to actually write it. ;-)

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Cracking the Whip at the Limping Noodle

    When I first joined NaNoWriMo and began planning to write a novel in a month, I started hearing about Week Two. Yes, all in caps like that. It’s An Event. But the thing is, this is one event that didn’t have such a good rap. Week Two is terrible. Week Two is tough. Writers quit during Week Two *cue dramatic music* never to return to their story again.

    At the end of week one I was barreling through my story at top speed. Mighty Writer Amy wasn’t going to be daunted by week two, oh no. (Did you note how I trivialized the threat merely by not capitalizing it?) Reaching Sky is a winning novel! Bethany House is going to publish it, and not only that, they are going to offer me a two-book contract for it and the companion novel, M&Ms and Apple Cores. Get ready, week two, here I come!

    And then Week Two hit. There were three things I underestimated about Week Two.

    1) The middle of a book is hard to write. I know this because I researched it (read, misery loves company). Even best-selling authors feel like giving up during the middle of the book.

    2) My handy-dandy outline said “Day five: LA to Yreka, Drive and Talk. Day Six: Arrive in Newport, OR.” Now, maybe you haven’t looked at a map lately, but LA and Newport are almost a whole state apart. And California and Oregon are big states. On top of that, “drive and talk” isn’t exactly a detailed blueprint.

    So now I’m stuck in a notoriously Hard to Write Middle, with a very Vague and Fuzzy Outline, right in the midst of Week Two.

    3) Added to that is that I’m tired. Not tired of writing, just tired. As in a bit of a Fibromyalgia Fatigue Flare.

    So what do I do? I keep writing, of course! I am Mighty Writer Amy, remember? I may now be convinced my novel is as exciting as a limping noodle (no, I don’t mean “limp noodle” or a “wet noodle.” I’m not quite that depressed. A limping noodle is a tiny bit interesting, right?) but I am determined that not even the Three Plagues of Week Two can stop me.

    So. It doesn’t.

    And just as a treat, here is a teaser from this week’s writing. It comes from near the beginning of the week, back when things were still moving pretty good and not yet limping.

    I went back to scanning the cars behind me for that dark blue sedan. It was amazing how many blue cars were out there. I freaked myself out several times, but they always eventually took an exit or pulled ahead or fell behind. I was zoning out when something made me glance beside us.

    The squinty-eye man was not behind me. He was beside me. On the other side of my window. Staring right at me.

    I yelled. His car kept pace with me and for a second we locked eyes. His were dark and piercing, even with the drooping lid. Sky took a gasping breath.

    Gripping the wheel, I fought the impulse to stomp the break or gun the gas. There was a car right on my tail. Getting rear ended would just make us more vulnerable. What if the car behind us was part of it, too?

    My heart was going so fast I expected it to give up any second. I’d just die right there, holding the wheel of my truck.

    “Sage, do something.” Sky cowered down, but popped up for a little peek.

    “Should I take the exit?” There was one only a quarter of a mile up. Would that be safer or scarier? “I don’t know what to do.” I didn’t have much luck keeping the panic out of my voice. Dealing with psychos chasing me was not something I had experience with.

    The squinty-eye man made the decision for me. He pulled a half a car length ahead. Then he yanked the wheel. Toward us.

    Sky screamed.

    I reacted instinctively, jerking the truck away. Then I saw the concrete rail. We were going to die.

    Somehow I kept control, slamming on the breaks and straightening out so we were driving down the shoulder. From the corner of my eye I saw the man roll down the car window and reach out a hand that held something black. The bang echoed in my ears. Filling my brain. Overpowering my thoughts.

    When I came out of my shock the truck was stopped on the shoulder, only a few feet away from the freeway exit. Someone honked.

    Sky. Had he shot Sky?

    I turned my head slowly. She was laying flopped over her seatbelt with her head almost on the floor. She didn’t move.

    Yes, I'm going to be mean and leave you with a cliff hanger. No, I'm not going to tell you if Sky is dead or alive or injured. If you'll excuse me now, I have a limping noodle I need to get back to.

    Sunday, November 07, 2010

    Dance in Peace

    During my entire childhood, the families of the Wileys, the Zollers, and the Rauches were almost just extensions of one family. We could all be found gathered at one house or another several times a week, and us kids grew up as close friends. Now that we’re all grown, we don’t see each other as often, but they are still there on my heart, right near the top of my close friends’ list.

    The father of the Rauch family, Bill, just passed away a few days ago. He'd successfully battled cancer several times but he was hit with a new one and this time he was gone within six weeks. The memorial service yesterday was a beautiful remembrance of his life. People always say nice things at funerals, but with Bill you knew every word was truth, because he was a rock-solid man, with a life built on The Rock. We'll miss his ready hugs, gentle humor, and quiet wisdom.

    One person related that a few days before the end, they went to visit him and he said, "How can I complain about this, when God has given me so many things and such a wonderful life?"

    That's a beautiful perspective and one we might all aspire to have when trials come along, whether they be short ones or terminal ones. I may have a chronic illness that requires an awful lot of rest, but during the few hours I can be active I get to be doing my dreamsthe dreams God gave me and has fulfilled in me: writing, interpreting, spending time with my family and friends.... I'm thankful for those times and it's important for all of us to remember to cherish those times while we have them.

    Speaking of writing dreams, my novel Reaching Sky is coming along nicely. As expected, I've had a couple of days my body didn't allow me to write, but I've been able to make up for it on other days. By the end of the day I'll be a tad beyond today's goal at close to 12,000 words. I've gotten further than on any of my other novel attempts and in a couple of days I will have passed my record for my longest solo writing project.

    Here's a short excerpt from the story:

    “Hey,” I leaned over to bat playfully at Sky’s arm.

    She yelled and cowered, her arm flying up protectively.

    We stared at each other for a split second, my mouth gaped, until she shrieked again and pointed to the road. I jerked back into my lane.

    She’s scared of me. My own little sister thinks I’m gonna hit her. I waited until my breathing had slowed down before I spoke. “Sky, I’m not going to hurt you. I would never hit you.”

    She looked out the window, her fingers clenching a handful of her skirt.

    Turning on my blinker, I pulled onto an off ramp and then into the first parking lot I reached. Sky shot glances at me, her eyes red-rimmed.

    I put the truck in park and turned so I could face her directly. “No one should ever have hit you.”

    She looked down. “Sometimes I talk back.” Her voice dropped. “I don’t always do what he tells me to do.”

    I fought the anger. “Sky, look at me.”

    It took a minute, but finally she turned. She didn’t quite look me in the eye, but at least in my general direction.

    “No one ever has the right to hit you. Ever. No matter what you do, no matter how bad you are, the appropriate punishment should never leave a mark. Never. It wasn’t your fault, Sky.”

    She was crying for real now. I hoped they were healing tears. Tears that let go of the guilt for something no child should ever feel guilty about.

    I reached out, gently, and took her hand. “I want to promise you something, Sis.”

    She glanced at me, didn’t pull her hand away.

    “I promise I will never hit you. I will never hurt you.” I said the words slowly. They filled up the car.

    Sky nodded. Ever so slightly, she nodded.

    I hoped, oh, how I hoped I could be as sure of not hurting her emotionally as I was of not hurting her physically. I knew taking her from that house had been the right thing, but had taking her away? Should I have brought her straight to the social worker and let her investigate?

    I looked at her vulnerable face, tears streaking through last night’s makeup. No. I’d done the right thing. And anyway, I’d made a decision and would have to follow through with it. I was her protector now.

    Now I think I'll go take a nap. Oh, speaking of that, when it comes time for me to die (which hopefully won't happen for a long time), I hope people don't say, "rest in peace." I've done a whole lot o' resting here on earth! When I get to heaven I'm going to be healthy and full of energy. I hope people say something more like, "Dance in peace, Amy, dance in peace." 

    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Connecting Me

    I often get told how funny I am. Now mind you, if I try to be funny then I only get blank stares or, if it's a text medium like FaceBook, I might get an "Oh, that's too bad. I'll pray for you." But throughout my everyday conversations, periodically someone will burst out laughing and declare how funny I am, leaving me at a complete loss as to why exactly that comment was funny. But no worries, because I like being funny. Certainly I haven't much talent at writing humor, so I'll take all the chuckles I can get from my everyday actions.

    A few weeks ago my humor made national headlines. No, not in a newspaper, on a friend's advice blog. In fact, Connecting Now hosted what turned into a rather huge competition between my humor and another lady's comments. Check it out here: Duking it Out Connection Style: LaBuff vs. Wiley. Subsequent posts can be found there as well, with Hold the Phones and Extra! Extra! Read All About It!  following the polls and then the final and triumphant win of--well, you'll have to go read it--in The Results Show.

    My fame even spread to Canadian comedian Timmy Boyle's blog, Inside Timmy's Mind, with his post The Great Debate.

    Today I am once again showing up in the bloggesphere, though this time because of my creativity rather than my humor. My dear friend Joanne Sher just interviewed me about my collaborative fiction group Peculiar People over on her blog, An Open Book. I think I forgot to mention here on my blog that I've just opened up for submissions to the next group book, the orphan plane project, so be sure to check out the details on her blog and on the PeP website. It's going to be a really fun project!

    But don't worry, I'm not letting all the fame go to my head. Well, not much anyway. ;-)

    Monday, November 01, 2010

    Inaugural NaNo Lessons

    After all the hype and excitement to get going, when it actually hit midnight and I was legally able to start writing Reaching Sky, I felt surprisingly at a loss for a moment. But only a moment, and then I was typing away. I’d decided on this special occasion of my very first NaNoWriMo, I would stay up and get the prologue and first chapter done before going to bed.

    It only took me an hour and a half and when I was done I’d already hit my word count goal for the day. In order to win the competition, I have to write about 1,667 words a day, and I’ve already written 1,772 and most of the day is still left! As nervous as I was about being able to write the 50k in a month, I’m secretly harboring a hope that I can complete the whole book in a month, which will hopefully be closer to normal novel length of at least 70k. Of course, now it’s no longer a secret, but you know what? I think I might be able to do it!

    Some things I learned on this inaugural experience of mine:

    • I forgot to name the bad guys
    • It’s harder to turn off the internal editor than I thought
    • If my character gets beat up in the first chapter and the book spans only a week, she’s going to have a black eye through the whole book
    • As I got into bed feeling satisfied, I realized I’d forgotten to write the one-sentence event—the one the whole book pivots on—into the first chapter
    • It only took me an hour and a half to meet the day’s word goal
    • Why didn’t I write a book a long time ago??

    And now, for a special treat just for you, I will share my opening paragraphs. Keep in mind it’s a hurried rough draft and not yet a polished work.


    She chose red. Sky gripped the pencil with white knuckles and drew a sharp line of lightning through the black clouds. She was huddled against the side of the house—the side with no windows—and pushed the pencil so hard the paper almost ripped. The house in her drawing was just a square, much like the plain box-house she leaned against. The real house didn’t have dark clouds hovering over it, not so as a passerby would notice, anyway, but Sky knew they were there, just as sure as they were on her paper.

    First Chapter:

    I am invisible. I learned that art many years ago, blending with the background to avoid flying fists and boiling words. Now I have used it for a different purpose. I watched, only a week ago, as Mr. Scrivener punched in the password to his safe. He’d thought himself alone in the house, so hadn’t been suspicious or attentive.

    That’s the trick, I’ve learned. Always be suspicious and always know what’s around you. But Mr. Scrivener, in all his conniving business schemes, somehow hasn’t learned that well enough.


    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Waiting for NaNo

    Just one day until NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st! I’ve been working hard on getting everything ready to start my novel. This will be my first try doing the NaNo competition and, assuming I stick to the end (which I intend to do!) my first completed solo novel.

    I made a simple outline—hopefully will help me keep from getting stuck but will let me have freedom to let my characters lead. Since my story is about two runaway foster kids, I have their road trip planned with maps printed out for their path from southern California to southwest Washington.

    The manager of Washington’s Children’s Administration (foster care system) even took a while to talk to me on the phone for a while, answering my research questions for the book. She was very helpful.

    I’ll be posting small excerpts of the book throughout the month, so you all can follow along with my progress, if you like. Here’s my synopsis and a banner I made for fun for the story.

    Sage is independent and determined to prove it. After his parents died five years ago, he’s been bounced from one foster home to another, and now at seventeen he is sick of it and ready to be his own master. As he skips town, he stops to say goodbye to his little sister, Sky. But when he sees her bruised and tear-streaked face, he knows he can’t leave her with an abusive foster family and impulsively takes her with him.

    Sky is young and scared. Sage isn’t sure if she even remembers what it’s like to have a real family and she definitely doesn’t trust him. She seems to be pulling further and further away. Can he reconnect with her before it’s too late?

    As the two escape across the U.S. they begin to realize that it’s not just social services after them, but someone scarier…and deadlier. Will they be able to leave the past behind and find a future together?


    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    God of the Silly and Impossible

    I just finished the rough draft of I Will Dance, a historical fiction novella for Peculiar People’s Heirloom Chronicles book, I Will be Found. This is story I’ve had in my head since I was a teenager, and we’ve been theoretically working on this book for several years, but somehow I’d never been able to get it out on paper. I finally did it!

    Not only did I finish that long-awaited project, but this is the longest solo writing project I’ve actually finished. I’ve always been a little ADD with my writing, and never managed to get much done on a novel before loosing interest and moving on to something else. Each new story idea that pops into my head is "shinier" and more exciting than whatever I'm working on at the moment. I’ve also pretty much only done creative writing when I felt like it. When I was in the creative mood.

    This month I made myself write almost every day even if I didn’t feel like it (unless I was really sick—which is fairly often). Some days it was only a couple of paragraphs, and other days it was several pages. And I found that when it’s not flowing all easy and pretty, then writing can actually be work. But sometimes making myself do it will cause the creative flow to come back again.

    I know the rough draft will need a lot of work to smooth it out, but I praise God that I finally finished! Do a happy dance with me!

    This novella was 13,000 words. In November I’m going to do NaNoWriMo and try to write 50,000 words in thirty days. When I struggled this much to get 13k done, why do I think I can get 50k done? Especially when added to my normal writer struggles with writing block or the “blahs” is a fight with a chronic illness that can leave me nearly non-functional some days. Seems rather silly and impossible, doesn’t it? Well, for one thing, it’s okay if I don’t get the full amount done. It’ll still be more than I would have written otherwise. And for another thing, I happen to have a God who loves silly and impossible conundrums.

    It’s true. Look at history. Think of the fortressed city of Jericho that had a huge impassible rock wall around it. What did God ask His people to do? March around it fourteen times. Silly actions to attempt the impossible. But that wall fell down.

    Think of a young man with only a sling shot and three stones going against a huge giant in full body armor. Silly and impossible. But Goliath died.

    My own life is full of these stories, as well. Think of a young lady with vision-brain connection problems that mean she can’t remember what she’s seen or tell apart things that look similar. God asks her to become fluent in a visual signed language. Silly and impossible? But I am fluent.

    Think of a lady entering a interpreting training program that is so difficult and intense that there is about a 20% graduation rate. That lady develops a debilitating chronic illness in the middle of the program. Her even thinking of continuing seems silly and impossible, doesn’t it? And yet, here I am, graduated.

    Yes, my God is a God of the silly and impossible. He often requires very hard work and determination on our part, but then He steps in and does a miracle. I believe He gave me the talent and desire to write. Part of my being a good steward of those gifts is for me to…well, to write!

    So here I am, once again feeling God pressing me toward the silly, impossible task of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see how He does it.

    The best part about these silly, impossible tasks is that when the silly becomes amazing and the impossible becomes accomplished there is no doubt about Who did it. God gets all the glory.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Lessons from a Beetle

    Today I was in our tiny guest bathroom when a rustling noise and bit of movement startled me. I was relieved to see it was only a little black beetle, minding his own business as he rushed along the floor, blindly hugging the baseboard to ensure he didn’t loose his way. He wasn’t daunted by any debris he passed, clambering quickly over it and continuing on his way.

    But then he reached the corner. Hesitation was evident in every bit of his bony little body as he looked this way and that, trying to figure out what he was suppose to do now that his straight way had turned so sharply. Finally he took the plunge and turned the corner, continuing his mad dash along the front wall. But when he reached the second turn, he stopped short. Desperately he searched around, even trying to squeeze under the baseboard in an attempt to get around this block. Eventually he gave up and went back the way he’d come, sure he’d missed a door or passage somewhere along the way.

    All he found was the old corner, the twist he’d already overcome. Nothing was left to do but once again backtrack. Again he reached the second corner and searched for a way around it, not knowing that only a few steps beyond it was the doorframe, where he could easily pass under the door to freedom.

    Finally he made the choice, and turned the corner into the unknown. Within seconds he’d found the door and, with only a slight hesitation, ran out to the open world.

    I had to wonder as I watched this beetle’s journey, how often we look like that to God. He sets us on a path, and as long as things go pretty much straight and as we expect, then we can take the little obstacles that come along. But as soon as the road twists, then we become unsure, wondering if we’ve lost our way or are being led astray. We look for easier ways, and sometimes we even turn around, and backtrack along the lessons He’s already taught us, falling back into the same habits we’ve overcome.

    Can we trust that around that next corner, or maybe the one after that, He has a whole world of opportunities just waiting for us?

    *beetle picture by Derrick Ditchburn

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    A Writing Meme

    OK…here’s how this works.

    1. Copy and paste the following to the comments and replace my answers with your own.

    2. If you have a blog, copy and paste these questions and your answers to your blog.

    Here are your questions (and my answers)

    What’s your favorite genre of writing? Fiction, especially that which is based on true stories, like Biblical fiction or “ripped from the headlines” fiction.
    How often do you get writer’s block? I have an illness that causes a lot of brain fog and fatigue, so I often struggle to write because of that. I never lack for story ideas, though.

    How do you fix it? Well, since most of my issues aren’t from regular “writer’s block,” it’s not so easy to fix. Keeping my schedule not too hectic helps. As for traditional writer’s block, I find entering the FaithWriters’ challenge helps get my creative juices flowing so I can work on some of my other projects.

    Do you type or write by hand? Type! I only hand write short notes to myself when I’m not at the computer or am doing research.

    Do you save everything you write? Yup. I sometimes save some of the various versions of stuff as I’m in the process of shortening or lengthening or revising it, too.

    Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it? Yes, often. I fact, in November I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo with a storyline a friend and I thought up about four years ago and then never did anything with.

    Do you have a constructive critic? Yes, several of them. Joanne Sher, Hanne Moon, and Laury Hubrich are some of them. When I can, I also attend a local critique group led by Randy Ingermanson.

    Did you ever write a novel? I have about fifteen novel ideas in my head, but haven’t managed to stick to any of them long enough to finish. When I was a young teen I wrote about a third of a historical fiction book. I’m going to try NaNoWriMo this year and try to actually finish one of these novels. Hold me to it!

    What genre would you love to write but haven’t? I’d like to try a true mystery sometime. I actually got first place in the “mystery genre” week of the FW challenge, but it wasn’t a traditional story with a mystery to solve.

    What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will? A mushy romance novel. I do include a little romance in some of my stories, but never mushy and I can’t picture myself doing a book that was solely a romance.

    How many writing projects are you working on right now? Actively only working on one—a historical fiction novella for the Heirloom Chronicles project. But mentally I’m working on three others, as well: the next group Peculiar People project, my NaNoWriMo novel, and an anthology of my historical fiction short stories. Of course, I throw in a random blog post or challenge story occasionally, too.

    Do you write for a living? Do you want to? I do make a little money sometimes on my writing and especially freelance editing. Eventually I’d like all the income I earn to come from writing and interpreting.

    Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper? Yes, I’ve been published in a number of magazines, including HopeKeepers magazine for Christians with chronic illnesses and At the Center, a magazine for crisis pregnancy center workers.

    Have you ever won an award for your writing? I’ve gotten the Editor’s Choice award in the FaithWriters’ challenge many times, and an anthology I have three stories in won an award from the Military Writers Society of America.

    Do you ever write based on your dreams? As in the dreams I have while I’m sleeping? I know I’ve filed away story ideas from at least one dream. I can’t recall any stories I’ve written so far that were directly from a dream. I have weird dreams!

    Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers? I favor realistic endings. That means they are sometimes sad, but I always include some hope in my endings.

    And now it's YOUR turn! Respond below, put your answers on your blog, or both. Enjoy.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Behind the Name: Sparrow

    My friend Mari redesigned my blog for me. Isn’t it lovely?! I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain the meaning behind my nickname Sparrow. There are several Biblical passages that explain that God notices even things like a sparrow, and if He cares about a bird, so much more does He notice and care about the lives of His own children who were created in His image.

    So the name Sparrow signifies to me the special love and care God has for every detail of my life. This is comforting, because I know that if something matters to me, even just for a second, then it matters to God. He understands and cares about each minute of my life. That knowledge is also a responsibility, because it means God doesn’t just care about the big picture of my life, but that it’s important that each action, each word, and each thought I have is one that glorifies Him. Of course, I fall short in that goal, but there again is the comfort of knowing that I am holy in God’s eyes because He sees me through the lens of Jesus’ cleansing blood.

    Because of that assurance I have in God, I know He will give me the strength to not only go on each day, but to soar. I may have pain, I may have fatigue and frustrations, but ultimately I know that this world is temporary and while I’m here God will use my life for His glory. Sometimes He even shows me glimpses of how He’s doing that, such as when I’m able to encourage someone else with their illness, or when one of my stories touches someone’s life.

    Speaking of stories, it looks like the interpreting field is going to be quiet this term (sadly…and that’s a bit of a prayer need, too), so I’m hoping to be able to do a lot of writing. I’m working with a small team of writers on a historical fiction book, Peculiar People’s Heirloom Chronicles project. We’re hoping to get the rough draft done by the end of September. I’m really excited to see what God does with that book. My section is about a young girl in a German concentration camp during WWII. It’s a tough story to write, but one that I think many will be able to identify with. Though we don’t have the same level of torture and depravation as my character, most of us experience times (or lifetimes) of physical or emotional pain and have to grapple with the “why”s.

    Then I’m hoping to try NaNoWriMo for the first time. For those who aren’t familiar with it, National Novel Writing Month is a sort of online support group pushing authors to just let go and be creative as they attempt to write a rough draft of a novel in the month of November—that’s right, a novel in one month! I’m not sure if I can write that way, especially with my physical limitations, but I want to at least try. I haven’t managed to stick with a novel long enough to finish it so far, so maybe this will be what I need.

    I’ll keep you posted on my progress with both books. I’m planning to actually post on my blog a little more often now that I’m pretty much done with school. So, see you around!

    Sunday, September 05, 2010

    Moving Mountains

    Wow, I didn’t realize it had been quite this long since I’ve written a post. Hope I still have some readers out there! Life is amazing. I graduated from the interpreting program this June, against all odds (only about 15% of students graduate). My friend in the picture, Holly, is one of my Christian classmates and dear friends who has been so supportive. The internship our last term was a great experience and I was blessed with good mentors. I did have some struggles because I ended up with a bit too busy of a schedule (seems pretty much everything is too much for my poor body) but stretched one term of internship hours over two terms and made it through most days. Now I am finishing up a few general education classes for my AAS degree.

    Over the summer there isn’t much paid work available, but I’ve been volunteer interpreting regularly at a church. That’s been a blessing for me to be able to minister in that way and to keep getting interpreting practice and experience over the summer. I’m hoping to begin paid interpreting at a community college in a couple of weeks. I really like the supportive atmosphere at that college and I’ll be able to do just a few regular hours of work a week. I’ve also been accepted at a freelance agency and will be able to accept additional work through them during the times I’m feeling better.

    My writing career is taking off as well. It can be challenging sometimes because writing takes so much mental creativity and the Fibromyalgia zaps so much of my energy, but as my school schedule is getting quieter I’m able to do a little more writing. My international collaborative fiction group published Delivered the beginning of this year. It’s a beautiful book and well worth getting, if I do say so myself. ;-) It’s available as a paperback or as an eBook on the Peculiar People website, or if you live in my area ask me to buy an autographed copy. PeP is hard at work on the next collaborative book, the Heirloom Chronicles project, and even have an agent who may be interested in seeing the finished manuscript.

    I also had the privilege of being asked to speak at the international FaithWriters’ writing conference in Michigan last month. I taught a workshop on self publishing and it was a lot of fun. Despite my fatigue, I was able to speak clearly, and the whole conference had a lot of great info and even better, a lot of wonderful Christian fellowship and support.

    My health issues continue to make life a challenge, but God continues to give me the strength to succeed in ways that sometimes seem impossible. One of my friends was just telling me how exciting all the things I’ve accomplished are, and even more exciting because it’s so blatantly clear that it’s not ME who is accomplishing them, but God through me, because there’s no way I could do any of it myself.

    Thanks for all the encouragement and support you, my friends and family, have given me. I will do my best to actually keep this blog updated now that I’ve dusted it off again.

    Overcome the odds
    You don't have a chance
    (That’s what faith can do)
    When the world says you can’t
    It’ll tell you that you can!

    I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains,
    Hope that doesn’t ever end
    Even when the sky is falling.
    And I’ve seen miracles just happen,
    Silent prayers get answered,
    Broken hearts become brand new.
    That’s what faith can do!
    That's what faith can do!
    Even if you fall sometimes
    You will have the strength to rise.

    Kutless—“What Faith Can Do”

    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    Friday Fiction: Lime-Green Castles

    I will post a real blog update soon, I promise! In the mean time, here's a story for Friday Fiction, a weekly blog event many of my friends participate in. This week it's hosted at Karlene's blog, Homespun Expressions, where you can read other short stories. I've dusted off this old story of mine in honor of Kyron, a seven-year-old who disappeared from my area a few weeks ago. As you read the fiction story, please take a moment to pray for this very real family struggling with the same type of situation.


    By Amy Michelle Wiley

    The lime-green of the sign across the way brings it all back like it was yesterday. I had been sitting on the front porch with a lime popsicle. My hands were itchy from the juice that dribbled down the stick and my feet tapped along with the nameless little tune I hummed.

    I can still hear the phone ring, the murmur of my mother’s voice as she answered. Now, the memory of that sound holds so much emotion, but then it was only normal, only another noise in the everyday life that surrounded me.

    The footsteps as she walked toward the front door are so clear that even now I almost turn to look behind me. They are the sound of coming uncertainty, of horror, of pain so deep it still twinges.

    Mom sat beside me on the wooden steps and it was only after I turned to look at her that I’d felt the first glimmer of what was to come. Her face was grey, twisting in a way I’d never seen. Silence stretched out until it touched the edge of infinity.

    The words that finally came out of her mouth shattered my childhood innocence, scattering the pieces so far I’d never be able to entirely put it back together again.

    “Mark,” she’d whispered, “your brother’s been…taken.”

    For a time I couldn’t breathe. I asked no questions. Perhaps I needed no answers. Facts wouldn’t change the truth. Knowledge wouldn’t make it go away. I knew right then there would be no happy ending. The remains of my popsicle puddled at my feet, pale green liquid against the solid concrete.

    The clarity of my memory ends there. The next days, years even, were filled with police questions. Searches for the red pickup that had been seen driving away with my brother. Drawings of the man we’d never before seen. Clues called into the hotline. Minds wracked, trying to remember something, anything that might help.

    And always dead ends. Hopes that were dashed to the ground, so often that hope nearly died, laying stagnant at the bottom of our souls.

    Yet there was a different kind of hope. It was what kept us alive. What got us up in the mornings, gave us strength to put one foot in front of the other. That hope was our faith. It was the knowledge that wherever Tommy was, wherever Tommy wasn’t, God was, too.

    I spent much of those first few years away in my mind, filled with a mixture of memory and fantasies about me and Tommy. Tommy and I. Always they were set in the castle we’d created.

    That castle had dominated all the real life play we’d had. I’m not sure when it had first started, but at some point in our late toddler years we’d both become fascinated with medieval times, and our play had become filled with knights, princes, and castles. Eventually the castle had become a staple of all our imaginings, even when we’d gone on to other interests.

    By the time of Tommy’s kidnapping, the castle had become something even more solid than that, for it had become a part of heaven, a part of our final life goal, of our relationship with God. We’d spent hours talking about the castle we’d have in heaven, and how we’d walk the halls of our cherished building in the very presence of God. Perhaps we’d even have a pet dragon, and Jesus would teach us to ride horses.

    Somehow as I look back, it’s as though I see the castle through lime green glasses. The tapestry patterns are green, and even the stone walls themselves have a faint hue of lime. I know my mental distance caused my parents even more worry, but it was the only way I knew to cope.

    At some point during those years, a time long after the police had stopped making daily visits, even after my parents had stopped calling for updates, I overheard a conversation that I think changed all of us.

    “Sometimes I pray he’s not still alive.” Mom’s voice was apologetic, tears straining just under the surface. “I hate to feel that. Feel guilty feeling that. But John,” I could picture her leaning closer against his chest, “to think of him in heaven is so much easier than to wonder of the horrors he’s gone through.”

    There had been silence for a time, before her voice had continued, so faint I could hardly hear it.

    “They keep telling us to go on with our lives, but when I go on I forget to pray. And if he’s still alive, he needs us to pray as hard as we can, every second of the day.” Her voice had broken then, and her sobs had been muffled by Dad pulling her tight.

    Dad’s words had come full of pain, but full of something stronger, too. “Ellen, God is there just as much wherever Tommy is, whether in heaven, or on earth. We have to trust Him, honey. We need to go on and follow the path God has given us, and rest in the knowledge that God is big enough, strong enough to take care of Tommy for us.” I heard the soft sound of a kiss, and knew he’d kissed her forehead in the comforting way he had. “It’s time to let go. It’s time to give him completely over to God.”

    From then on, I spent less time in the castle, and more time with my family and friends. My grades came back up, and I graduated high school with honors.

    Now the three of us sit once again in the police station, Mom and Dad now grey-haired. Through the window the green sign across the way turns in a lopsided circle, advertising The Dragonfly Café.

    The police had called last week. A man arrested for another crime had confessed to several murders, they told us. They have locations of bodies. They think Tommy may be one of them.

    I don’t know what to feel. After so long of uncertainty, I don’t know what to do with this knowledge.

    The policeman comes out now, holding a clear zip lock bag. “The dental records agree,” he tells us. “These are the things they found with him.” He sets the bag on the table gently.

    Then I see it. It’s a plastic candy wrapper, marked with that writing I still know so well. I pull it a little closer, instinctively knowing it was meant for me. It’s crinkled and old, but I can just make out the words.

    “I’ll be in the castle’s north court, riding horses with Jesus. See you there.”