Friday, November 18, 2011

M&Ms and Apple Cores

For years a story has lingered in my mind. I didn't know much of it, but had a picture of a toddler huddled in the corner of a bare room. She was neglected, left to molder there and slowly draw farther and farther into herself. But one young man who passed occasionally through the house would do a small part to reach out to her. He shared his own favorite foods with her--a handful of M&Ms and the core of his partially-eaten apple.

In my mind and planning, that book eventually changed from M&Ms and Apple Cores to Above the Clouds, the sequel to my first novel, Reaching Sky. Then it made another metamorphose to become the sub-plot to my current work in progress, Voices of the Dark. This scene is part of what resulted from that original vision.

Excerpt from Voices of the Dark

“Jasper, I’m the one taking care of the little girl.” Jesse and I sat down and I pulled out the picture of Renee and held it out to the man. “You know her?”
He peered at it, his face so young and innocent, in glaring opposition to the prison jumper he wore. His eyes were dark brown and full of…. It almost looked like empathy.
“Yeah, that’s the boss’s kid.”
“She’s Garth Keane’s daughter? Who is the mother?”
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “I ain’t never heard no mom mentioned. I jest assumed she was either dead or didn’t want nothin’ to do with some crack-head baby.”
“How long have you known the toddler?”
“I been…” he looked away, “hanging around there 'bout a year, I guess. She was always there. She just stayed in the back room, away from everything.”
“Who took care of her?”
He frowned, his eyes boyish and uncertain. “Well, no one, really. She just stayed back there. If she come out in the middle of something the boss would yell at her to git back in.” He leaned forward. “He didn’t want her hurt, you know. Didn’t want the gang guys to mess with her.”
“So Garth loved her? Protected her?” I couldn't make that fit with what I'd seen.
He shifted his weight. “Loved? Well, I dunno. I never really saw him do much else with her.”
“What’s her name?”
He shrugged again. “I never heard her called nothing 'cept girl.”
He didn’t say it like she was a thing. Even in the middle of all the drugs and neglect, for some reason this kid had cared about her, just a little. I could sense that. I could see the title, not “girl” but an almost-name; Gurl.
“But who fed her and all that?”
“I brought her food sometimes. I would give her the core of my apple and once in a while, when the boss was passed out, I’d give her M&Ms. She loved those!” He grinned. “I’d set ‘em down and she’d grab a handful and stuff ‘em in her mouth and then play with the others, grouping them by color, you know? Then eating the rest one by one, a color at a time.”
That was good news. If she could sort things by color then she at least had a basic understanding of categories.
There was one other thing I had to ask. “With all the drugs and everything… Meth tends to…” How did I say it politely?
“Up your sexual drive,” Jesse came to my rescue, if bluntly.
“Yeah.” I tried not to flush. “But the doctor said no one bothered her that way.”
Jasper squirmed. “Well, I think maybe that’s why the boss kept her in the back room. You know, to make sure no one was bothering her. I was pretty much the only one he’d let in there.”
That explained that. So Garth at least had some kind of protective feelings for her. I wished I could talk to him, find out where she’d come from, why he had her in that situation.
“So you never saw the other guys interacting with her?”
“Well,” he squirmed again. “This one guy was sort of eyeing her. She was getting older, you know? That’s why I—” He broke off, his face paling. “I mean, I’m glad she’s safe now, that’s all.”
I made a mental note to mull over that response later.
“But there were plenty of other girls around. I guess that kept her safe too, you know?”
“Other girls?” Jesse broke in again. “Like prostitutes you mean?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He studied his hands like they were suddenly the most important thing in the room.
Something about how he’d said "girls" didn’t set right with me. “Other girls. Like what age?”
“I dunno.” He shifted again, his gaze darting from me to his hands to the floor.
A weight, a premonition, settled on my chest. “Jasper,” I braced a hand on my chair, “this is really important. Were these older girls, like your age? Or were they younger? Lots younger?”
His reply was barely a whisper. “Younger.”
It was just one word, but it hung there, draining every bit of air from the room. And with it, my secure world behind to fall apart.

© 2011 Amy Michelle Wiley

Joanne is hosting more Friday Fiction stories at An Open Book. Check it out for more great reads!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A 2 Z: Zany Madi

When I joined FaithWriters in 2005, Lynda Lee Schab was one of the first people to welcome and encourage me. (Back then I called her Ikab, due to a misreading of her all-lowercase username of LSchab.)

Lynda has stayed a few steps ahead of me, paving the way in this writing journey that started with freelance writing of smaller works that led to novels, agents, and publishers. In fact, her first novel, Mind Over Madi, was accepted by a publisher and is coming out in print TODAY!

I was thrilled to get an advance reader copy a few weeks ago, though I will admit that chick lit and romance fiction are near the bottom of my list of preferred genres. But as I expected, Lynda’s writing is stellar and I never once groaned over something too sappy and never got the least bit bored. In fact, I enjoyed the book a lot.

Lynda’s character, zany Madi McCall, grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional home. Now with a family of her own, she is haunted by the fears her mother instilled in her to never, ever trust a man, because all men will cheat eventually. Yet so far her own husband Rich is a patient, Godly guy, and she has gotten to the point where she finally feels like she can trust him.

Then her worst fears are realized. She finds another lady’s lipstick on his collar. Her mother was right! And she recognizes the shade of lipstick, too. Only that sleazy Fawn Witchburn wears dark, almost-brown like that.

Madi orders Rich to leave the house immediately. After all, no explanation can possibly be a good one, right? He packs his bag, leaving Madi to answer the questions of their three kids. She tumbles into despair, the way paved liberally with Edy’s Dibs, her favorite chocolate ice cream dessert. Well, if she’s honest, maybe they are more of a coping mechanism than just a dessert. That and hours of playing Solitary on the computer.

With sometimes-hilarious twists and turns, Madi begins the zany life of a now-single mom to a tween and not just two teens, but twin teens, both in the midst of their own relationship dramas. Then Madi’s best friend calls and somehow manages to convince her that going to their high school reunion is a good idea.

Madi keeps on the go with her kids, her friend, and even a few meetings with a new therapist, resulting in her effectively avoiding God during the busyness. Her therapist reminds her that she is a true princess—a daughter of the King—but Madi sure doesn’t feel very royal. And the extra pounds those Dibs added don’t help.

Plus, it seems like Fawn is showing up everywhere she goes, and things come to a head when a Michigan snowstorm traps them all—the high school reunion goers, Fawn, and even one of the kids’ friends—in the same restaurant for a few hairy hours.

Madi comes face-to-face with “the other woman” and she begins to realize that maybe, just maybe, not everything is how it seemed. Will she find the truth once and for all about her husband? Is her marriage salvageable? Or is her mother right that men can never be trusted?

You’ll have to read the book to find out! Lynda uses lots of humor and wacky characters, mixed with real-to-life situations, as she brings Madi on a journey to accept that she truly is a princess of the Lord. Order a copy today (just in time for Christmas gifts) by clicking here. Find out more about Lynda and her other published works at her website,

As always, check out other "Z" posts in the "From A 2 Z 4 U & Me" meme at I can't believe we're already to the end of the alphabet! But keep checking back for weekly updates about my novel-in-process and other fun posts.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A 2 Z: Young Treasures

Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing my oldest niece in her acting debut as an Oompa Loompa in the musical Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. She did a great job! She has a wonderful singing voice, so it was cool that she got to use it and try out acting. I love the Willy Wonka story, so it was extra fun to see the Christian Youth Theater perform it. They were wonderful and the set was impressive.

I'm also focusing on Youth in my NaNo novel, Voices of the Dark, though as the title implies, the book looks at a darker aspect. My main character, Adria Kingston, is doing what she can to fight against child abuse.

Most of us would never dream of hurting a child, and indeed cannot begin to understand what could happen inside a person that they would allow themselves to so seriously abuse a little kid. Yet all around us there are children aching, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But we do have the power to help. We can be aware of what is happening around us, aware of the children of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Be willing to step forward and do something if we see inappropriate behavior and teach our own children or students how to treat those around us.

Now for a short excerpt from the rough draft of the book. I'm way behind on my word count goal and have been busy and not feeling well at all, so thank you for your continued prayer and encouragement.

By Amy Michelle Wiley

We passed through the clinic's waiting room and I noticed a man standing near the reception counter. His muscled arm wrapped around a fluffy brown teddy bear. He stepped forward. “Adria Kingston?”

“Yes?” I frowned and put a protective hand on the child’s head.

“I’m Chaplain Jesse Carmichael.” He held out a hand. “I was told Garth Keane’s living relative had been brought here?”

“Garth Keane?” I shook his hand automatically, my mind racing to connect the name with something.

“The man who was shot today.”

small teddy“Oh.” I looked down at the child, who once again had her arms hugged around her body, her chin tucked tight against her chest. Garth Keane’s living relative. I tried to wrap my mind around that, connect the tiny child with the bloody body.

The chaplian knelt before her, his tall body folding in on itself. A smile brought out a single dimple in his left cheek and suddenly he looked charming, almost boyish. “Hi. I’m Jesse.” He held out the teddy bear. “Look what I brought you.”

Her gaze remained on the gray carpet.

“His fur is really soft. He gives great hugs, too.”

Her head still didn’t move, but I saw her eyes shift, fastening on the bear.

“Isn’t he silky?” Chaplain Carmichael drew the stuffed animal’s fur across her arm, back and forth. “Here you go. You can have him.”

A tiny hand reached out. Slowly, hesitantly. A pale finger, stained with grime, touched the tan fur.

Her hand snapped back to her chest.

“Wasn’t that soft?” The chaplain didn’t seem phased. “You wanna touch him again?”

This time both hands reached out. She caressed him, her hand trembling. Then she took the bear and pulled him to her chest. A tiny sigh escaped her lips.

I couldn’t help grinning at the man, a stranger though he may be. He looked up at me, his eyes glowing.

“Thank you,” I mouthed. I handed him my business card, but my gaze strayed to the child. She was in my custody now, officially my foster daughter, but I knew so little about her. I knew only that someone hadn’t taken care of her, hadn’t had enough love even to share with a tiny, precious girl.

In their neglect they’d forgotten to feed her, clean her, or even touch her. Was it possible they’d even forgotten to name her?

© 2011 Amy Michelle Wiley
As always, check out more "Y" posts in the "From A 2 Z 4 U & Me" meme at