Monday, August 29, 2011

A 2 Z: Orphan Opportunities

The other day I was talking about a project and a friend asked me, “Is that the book about the orphans?” The question gave me pause because I suddenly realized that phrase could describe every one of my current writing projects: Peculiar People’s orphan plane project, “I Will Dance”—my section of PeP’s Heirloom Chronicles book, and my solo novel, Reaching Sky.

I’d never realized I was so obsessed with orphans until that moment, and discovered upon reflection that a number of my other past or future writing projects also include parentless children. At first it seems an odd topic for me to be focused on, because I have such a strong and loving family myself. But perhaps that’s exactly why—my heart goes out to those who do not have that support I’m blessed to have.

Thinking back, I realize my heart has always been drawn toward orphaned children and I often dreamed that when I was an adult I would go to Mexico to work in an orphanage as well as possibly adopting children of my own. Though my health will likely prevent that particular mission field, I find that at times I now work with children who, though they technically have parents, are often separated from them by a language and cultural barrier caused by the child’s deafness and the parents’ unwillingness or lack of knowledge to bridge that gap.

As I’m now pitching my novel (and its continuing Elements of Light series focused on foster children) to an agent, I’m thinking about ways to promote those books and the orphan plane project. I’m praying about whether or not God is calling me to become more involved in advocacy for the foster care system in the U.S. and the world-wide orphanages and adoption systems, including their strengths and weaknesses. It would possibly mean volunteer and research time, which would require a gift of my energy—a limited and cherished commodity and therefore a serious decision.

I’d love prayer and advice. I want to wait to see if this is something God is calling me to do rather than just something that would make sense from a promotional viewpoint that has the added benefit of something that would aid society. It could even mean speaking engagements and perhaps a partnership with existing organizations that minister to foster children locally and orphan children globally.

I will only move forward if I’m confident this is indeed a calling from God, but sometimes it can be hard to know if I’m hearing Him or just my own brain talking. Thanks for your prayers and feedback!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A 2 Z: Novels past and pres—hey, look! an idea!

I could cover all three of the next weeks’ blogs in one slam dunk post about Novels about Orphans by Peculiar People but I’d rather spread those all out, so this week I’ll talk about my novels, past and present.

My first novel was Marissa, a historical fiction book I started as a teen and got about 10,000 words into. That’s my longest uncompleted work. It is about a young girl in 1854 who stays with a neighbor family while her mother goes to care for her parents who are battling Scarlet Fever.

Ironically, a few years later I actually came down with Scarlet Fever myself. These days they call it “strep throat with a scarletina rash” and it’s easily treated with antibiotics, but let me tell you, that was a horrible three days! I was literally writhing in pain every time I had to attempt to swallow.

But back to the point. Here is a clip from that story, exactly as I left it in 1998. (you should have heard me snickering and snorting as I looked for cute excerpts)

"I'm so glad you all are coming over! I know we'll have so much fun! We always do." Tanya smiled at Marissa and then gasped. "Caroline Thoger! Don't lean over the side of the wagon like that. You'll fall out."

"No I won't," protested little Carrie. "Du wagon weels looks neat tun'n wound an wound like that, when you looks at dem fwom du back. An du gwound movin by so fast."

"Well, you still can't hang over the edge like that." Insisted Tanya. "You mite fall out."

Since then I’ve opened a menagerie of documents that each contain anywhere from three pages to three chapters of a novel (and that's not counting all the short story starts). I get ideas faster than I can write them and that's resulted in...well, nothing. I guess I’m a bit ADD when it comes to writing and I get distracted by the next shiny idea before I’ve hardly started the last one. It took NaNoWriMo to keep me focused for long enough to actually write a whole rough draft—and that was only because it was over in four weeks!

In a file from 1998 I have a couple thousand words of a period piece, Changes in a Family, about a stuck-up rich family. Also in that year I wrote about some kids who got locked in a school bathroom over the weekend. Then there was the story from 1997, about a kids’ club, that got a whole page and a half dedicated to it. Another file from ’98 contains exactly fifteen words.

In 2003 I have files for a book about a girl with amnesia and a story about a cowgirl whose far-away aunt sends her porcelain dolls for her birthday every year until they finally meet and find a way to bridge the gap between the frilly aunt and horse-loving girl. Another file is called The Shimmer and begins a sci-fi futuristic story that is still high on my list of books to be written soon.

A file from 2005 contains notes and scenes from a story that eventually became Reaching Sky, the one novel I have completed to date. There I also found My Real Father from 2005 about a girl whose biological father suddenly came back into her life when she was fifteen. Her adopted father who raised her is Deaf. This is the opening scene:
The imaginary enemy agent hot on her trail, Adriana braked her bike hard and skidded around the corner. Leaning over her handlebar she raced the last few feet until she reached the safety of her driveway.

She screamed and swerved to miss the strange man standing in the middle of her driveway. Sticking a foot out, she managed to keep from toppling to the ground and gaped at the man, debating whether or not she should run.

Finally she managed to gasp, “Did you need something?”

The man smiled—or was it a smirk? “Yes. You’re Adriana, I presume?”

OK, this was freaking her out. How did he know her name? She climbed off the bike, keeping it between them. “Uh, yeah.”
A file from 2006 contains three chapters of a fantasy book, Beyond the Valley, about two boys on a quest to find a fabled treasure, as well as Threads of Pain, a novel about a young girl needing a kidney transplant.

One file simply has a list of fifteen book ideas or titles, some the same as the above stories. One of those is Reaching Sky and another is my completed novella, “I Will Dance,” which will be published in the Peculiar People's Heirloom Chronicles anthology.

Now that I’ve actually finished a book and a novella, I firmly believe I can keep myself focused and continue that trend. That list also shows M&Ms and Apple Cores, which has now become Above the Clouds and part of the Elements of Light series. I plan to write the rough draft during this year's NaNoWriMo. Over the next several years, once I've completed the third and final book (a new idea) in that series, I hope to write Threads of Pain and then start the Shimmer series.

I'd love you all to help hold me accountable and keep me focused!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A 2 Z: Me!

I had planned to write about myself for the "M" post in this meme and didn't even realize it would fall on my birthday. How perfect! :-) First of all I'll mention that I posted my "L" one late due to being busy with the FaithWriters' Conference, but it's there now so you can look down at the next post for the second part of Kira's story.

Starting at a very young age I had a love for words, a passion for people and stories, and an imagination to match. Before I could even form written words with a pen myself, I dictated stories to my mom, who wrote them down and let me illustrate them. Those early stories were all about the escapades of Amy and Jamie—me and my imaginary twin sister.

I began developing my own fictional language at the age of twelve, with the help of my best friends Megan and Jeff. Eventually I created a culture to match it, and someday will write the novels set on that Island of Enelee.

Yet as easy as language and stories came to me inside my head, writing it out on paper or reading it off paper was a surprising challenge that first manifested itself when it came time for me to learn to read. Eventually we discovered I have a visual processing disorder—my eyes don't work quite right with each other or send quite the right signals to my brain. I had to have extensive therapy and training before I was able to comfortably do common tasks, and it's rather a miracle that today I am successful at writing and at interpreting a visual language.

I'm the youngest of three girls—a surprise baby trailing behind the older two by several years. My mom was an only child and taught us that siblings and family were something to be cherished, so the three of us have always been close friends.

Maybe the rest of "me" is best told by some pictures.

My sisters and friends and I loved playing outside in the creek,
ponds, and woods. We were very much tomboys and were often seen
climbing trees, playing with snakes and frogs, and digging in the mud.

But I was also a frilly girl and loved
dress up and tea parties with my girl friends.

When I was seventeen, my next-oldest sister
and I started figure skating. We took lessons,
competed, became informal mentors to the
younger regular skaters, and eventually
were assistant teachers to the beginning
levels. When I had to stop skating due to
expenses and increasing health issues,
I could do one of the lowest sit spins at the
rink (though my lay back was awful) and
could land all my single jumps. I was
working on my axel and double sal cow.
In this pic we were The Lone Ranger

and Tonto (me) for a special skating event.

A few years ago I got to go to Australia to stay
with FaithWriter Chrissy Siggee for a month.
In 2010, I graduated from a sign
language interpreting program
and now work as a professional
interpreter in churches and at a college.

In 2007, I became assistant
coordinator and emcee for the
first FaithWriters Conference.

Last year and this year I also had the privilege
of teaching a workshop at the FW conference.
Today on my 29th birthday I'm feeling pretty content. So far I've had a great life and God has accomplished some cool things through me. I have a college degree and a job I love, have had short stories and articles published nearly seventy times, have a completed novel, several group books published through my collaborative fiction organization, and as mentioned, am an emcee and presenter at an international writing conference. Plus I'm an aunt to three beautiful girls and have been to at least seven different countries besides the U.S.

That's not bad for just under thirty years of life!

My hopes for this next year are that I'll get:
- increasing answers to my health issues (though I've come to accept my health itself likely won't improve much)
Reaching Sky accepted by a traditional publisher
- a rough draft of Above the Clouds written
- at least a start on putting together The Master's Touch: then and now, an anthology of my Biblical fiction and current event fiction short stories
- my national interpreting certification written and performance tests taken and passed

I think that's a pretty good list for now. Thanks for all your love, support, and prayers this year. As always, check out links to more "M" posts in the "From A 2 Z 4 U & Me" meme at and feel free to jump right in if you're a blogger who would like to join us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A 2 Z: Lekira's Life (Kira's Challenge part 2)

Kira faced the rising sun with a straight back, her heart singing, soaring as high as the laita that swooped above her. She packed her things quickly, chattering to Qee the whole time.

“After five days in the jungle without any human contact, I’ll bet you’ll be glad when I have my own kind to talk to, instead of gabbing your ear off.”

The behki snorted and Kira laughed. She tied her bag and turned her attention to Qee’s fur. Plucking a small branch off the soft-wooded lenter tree, she worked the broken end until it splayed wide in a fan of thin fibers. She drew it through Qee’s coat, working out tangles and dirt.

“We’ll come into the village as champions, Qee, not bedraggled survivors. I left a girl and will come back a woman.” Her mind filled with the thought of her beloved Mikot’s face, shining with pride.

Qee nudged her and she shook her head. “Zoned out on you, did I?” She giggled, but put her hands back to work.

“Now for my hair.” She loosened her dark locks from the rawhide band. “Should I keep it down or brai—”

A scream pierced the air.

Kira reached for Qee, her throat tightening. For a moment she thought it was the wildcat, healed and returning for revenge. But when the cry came again, it sounded more human, almost like a cry for help.

One of the other challengers, perhaps? Injured and calling for help? No, they were all in different parts of the jungle.

She rushed to secure her pack on the behki’s back and took his forelock. “Shhh, Qee, lewah.”

The animal obediently followed and she crept in the direction the cries had originated, both of them stepping carefully, silently. Another scream came, this time a deep moan quite nearby. Kira paused, catching the urgent words that followed. “Oh, please, Creator, send someone to help.”

“Ssssss.” She motioned for Qee to stay put and crept forward to peer through the bushes. A woman lay in the dirt, her great mound of a belly contracting in childbirth. Sweat dampened her dark forehead.

“Oh, please, someone help.” Her words dropped to a murmur and Kira strained to understand the woman's heavy accent.

Kira pulled back, leaning against Qee. She would forfeit the challenge if she joined up with another human. Besides, she knew little about helping birth a child. Surely she would just make things worse.

“Creator, please, send someone.”

The words clung to Kira, pulling her, prodding her. She sighed. “Yes, Creator. I’m coming.” She looked up at the sky for a moment, pale clouds peering between the leaves. If she could do even one small thing toward brining another life safely into this world, it was worth the challenge.

Worth waiting another year? Worth the chance of Mikot choosing someone else?

No. She could not think of that now. Think only of the moment.

She bustled into the clearing. “I’m here to help.” She laid her pack down and took the woman’s grimy hand. “What’s your name? What should I do?”

A tear welled out of the woman’s eye. “He heard. Thank you.” She gripped Kira’s hand. “I’m Lasia. Please, boil some water and sterilize a knife.” Lasia motioned toward a bucket, then bent forward again in a contraction. “Hurry!”

Kira called for Qee and they hurried to the river and back, gathering brushwood along the way. Within minutes she had the pot over a small fire and was kneeling again beside Lasia.

“Why are you out here alone? Where is your family?” Kira didn’t add that the woman was also within the boundaries of Kira’s tribe.

“My behki spooked and ran. I was afraid if I fell off I would hurt the child.” Her hand went to her belly, rubbing, caressing. “Somehow I clung on until he quieted, but by then I had no idea where I was and then this baby announced it was coming whether I was ready or not.”

She grabbed at Kira’s hand, moaning again. Kira braced with her, fearing the small bones in her own hand would break with the pressure before Lasia finally relaxed again.

“What are you doing out here, a child alone?”

Kira straightened. “I am no longer a child.” Well, she would have been no longer one. “I’m proving my readiness for adult life and a family.”

“Ah,” Lasia nodded. “My people have this tradition, too, but it is only the boys who brave the elements alone.” Her gaze meandered around the clearing, resting briefly on Qee before turning back to Kira. “Yet your way has wisdom. Do not we women brave the jungle nearly as much as the men, plus with our children to care for?”

She cried out again, this time longer. Something was wrong. Kira could see it by the way she moved, the way her stomach contracted but did not shift the baby. She saw it in her eyes, in the short breaths that puffed from her mouth.

Closing her eyes, Kira let a prayer rise to the Creator. It was a prayer with no words, for He saw the situation and knew it better than she.

When she opened them, Lasia was watching. “So what must we do?”

Kira's hands moved almost before she knew they would, finding places on her abdomen. The touch calmed her as the girl massaged, fingers probing to feel the baby within.

“It’s a breach birth, I think.” Kira pushed at the baby’s rear through the stomach muscle, turning it, turning ever so gradually. Another contraction hit and she paused, wiping Lasia's forehead with a cloth until it was done and she moved to once again began urging the baby.

Then it happened. The baby kicked and rolled the rest of the way into place, Lasia’s belly bulging with a tiny elbow before falling calm.

The next contraction eased the child forward and within minutes Kira was grabbing for the slippery bundle. A cry rent the air. Kira laughed. A baby girl, safe in her hands. Trembling, she placed her on Lasia’s chest and for a moment their eyes met before dampness clouded Kira's vision.

“Thank You, Creator. You have brought yet another of Your creations into this world.”

It was the next day before it seemed safe to move Lasia. She and the baby rode on Qee and Kira strode beside him, her shoulders back. She had done the right thing; she didn’t regret that. But a part of her stomach clenched tighter and tighter as they neared my home.

Then they were there, stepping into the path of the village.

“She’s come! Kira’s back!” A little boy dropped his hemp ball and charged down the road ahead of them, screaming at the top of his lungs. People rushed out, exclaiming over Kira, over the strange woman and baby.

Her eyes searched only for one person. Kira found him in only a moment and in an instant all her fears were relieved.

“Kira!” Mikot grasped my hands. “I feared the worst.”

Her brave man’s eyes were wet. He was crying over her. Crying over Kira!

“I had to help Lasia.” Her words trembled, though she tried hard to be strong. The very words condemned her. Failed her from the challenge.

His eyes turned to Lasia. He tugged down the blanket swaddle and smiled at the wrinkled face of the newborn.

Then he turned back to Kira. “What beauty you have done. What honor to help such a life into this world.”

Her heart trembled, nearly stopped. What a man she had. She had chosen well. He would wait, she knew it. Next year they would wed.

Mikot left her for a moment to murmur with the tribal councilman. She held my tears in check, focusing just on the baby. The beautiful baby.

But then Mikot returned and grabbed her hand, held it high in the air. He turned to address the entire village. “Kira was willing to give up her challenge in order to help another, yet in that she has proven herself stronger than ever. Welcome our newest woman, Kira.”

Kira’s family yelled approval, stomping their feet.

Mikot reached around her to offer a hand to Lasia, lowering her gently to the ground. “Your child, what have you named her?” His finger trailed along the baby’s tiny foot.

“I name her in honor of my newest friend who guided her into this world.” Lasia’s voice rose to be heard above all the villagers. Rose to let all the world know. “I call her Lekira.”

This post is late and hastily-written due to the FaithWriters' conference that was in Michigan this weekend. It was an awesome time and though I'm coming back in a lot of pain and with a cold, it was worth it. Wonderful time!

Check out more "L" posts in the A 2 Z 4 U & Me meme at

Monday, August 01, 2011

A 2 Z: Kira's Challenge (part 1)

Kira gripped her hand tighter under the behki’s forelock and whispered into her mount’s ear. “Are you ready, Qee?” The animal tensed in response and they leaned forward as one. Kira’s eyes searched the horizon, watching for the first gleam of the sun.

She dared glance away for a second, meeting Sylan’s gaze. She flashed a smile at her friend. “You’ll pass this time, I know you will.”

The older girl shifted on her own behki. “I hope so. But it’s you who will be the top champion this year, I can feel it. Besides,” she tipped her head knowingly toward a young man in the crowd behind them, “it’s you who has someone waiting for your return.”

Kira couldn’t help but throw a glance behind her.

Steady brown eyes met hers and her stomach flip-flopped. She spun back to the front, her cheeks warming. Please, Creator, give me Your strength. Kira must pass. If she did not—another stolen glance moved her head, unbidden—would he wait a whole year for her to try again? Or would he find someone else, someone stronger and able to take on the task of marriage and family?

Mikot's eyes shone and his back straightened. His unspoken message filled her heart. He believed in her. Loved her. Waited for her.

It was that which gave her courage when the sun finally did send it’s first ray over the field. She didn’t even have to kick Qee. He felt her energy release and they bolted forward. Kira threw back her head and yelled, so full of sudden joy and confidence that she could not contain it.

Sylan laughed and screamed beside her, the excitement contagious, and Kira heard other cries from the other challengers as they sped off, each headed for a different direction of the compass.

The behki’s long legs lengthened out to full stride and Kira lay over his neck, wind slipping by with little resistance. Time seemed suspended as they streaked over the prairie, becoming one with the fluid motion of the air.

All too soon they reached the forest, and Qee was forced to slow as his paws picked a silent way through the brush. Kira leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “Caspyu, Qee.”

He lifted his head and sniffed, ears pricking forward as though they could help guide him toward the smell of water. He adjusted his course and by the time the sun was peaking through the leaves directly overhead he’d found a creek.

She made camp there, beside the gentle waters. Then, with a pat on Qee’s neck, she slipped back into the trees to search for berries and game. She’d nearly filled a pouch with rich tingna berries when a noise made her pause.

No, it wasn’t a noise. It was lack of noise. She held her breath, eyes darting among the trees for the silent birds, then down to the trails, watching for any tell-tale movement among the brush.

She saw nothing.

Her breath had returned to normal and she was reaching again toward the bush when a harsh caw from a japo rent the air. It was a single note, urgent, warning. Kira’s chest tightened.

The she heard it. Kshhhhh, kshhhhh, ksha.

The air itself froze, refusing to enter her lungs. Her blood pooled and ears rushed. It was only the memory of Mikot’s eyes that gave her strength enough to reach to her waist. Her fingers trembled, but untied her slingshot by rote. A stone already nestled in its pouch.

She waited. Listened. Dared not move.

The feline erupted from the bushes. Time slowed as it dove toward Kira in a perfect arch, “Kshhhhh” gurgling from its throat, seeping out through its white fangs.

Kira released the sling by instinct. The stone whisked through the air and hit squarely between its yellow eyes. The cat tumbled to the ground, mid-pounce.

It was far from dead.

The black beast shook its massive head. Yellow eyes narrowed, fastened on Kira, looking at her, through her. It hissed again, the sound wrapping around Kira’s throat, tightening, pulling. No! She sucked in a breath and yanked out her small sword, the blade glinting. She and the cat circled, watching each other’s every move.

The cat reacted first. A paw darted out, blood-red claws flashing.

Kira met it with her blade. The cat’s yowl filled the forest. The girl used the animal’s pain, used the pause to slash out herself. The blade hit flesh, biting deep into its shoulder. This scream was louder, angry. Defeated.

With a rustle of brush, the animal was gone, leaving only a smear of blood on steal to prove it was more than a dream. Kira knelt in the grass, feeling the comforting firmness of the earth below her.

“Thank You, Creator.” She raised her head toward the heavens, breathing great droughts of air.

Her first challenge was won.

Kira's Challenge © Amy Michelle Wiley 2011
Photos from
I whipped this up just for fun, but always appreciate any feedback on my writing you might have. Look for the second part next week for my "L" post. As usual, check for more bloggers posting in the "From U 2 Z 4 U & Me" meme, and feel free to join us if you're a blogger.