Friday, July 11, 2014

Guest Post: A Novel Inspired by an Orphan by M. Weidenbenner, Author of Scattered Links

Today on Shelf Full of Books, Michelle Weidenbenner shares with us her inspiration for her novel Scattered Links.  Before we get to her guest post however, here's a little bit of information about Michelle.

About the Author:

Michelle is a fulltime employee of God’s kingdom, writing and encouraging writers every day. She’s often a sucker for emotional stories, her sensitive side fueling the passion for her character’s plights, often giving her the ability to show readers the “other” side of the story.

She grew up in the burbs of Detroit with five brothers. No sisters. Each time her mom brought the boy bundle home Michelle cried, certain her mom liked boys better than girls. But when her brothers pitched in with the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting—without drama, Michelle discovered having brothers wasn’t so bad. They even taught her how to take direct criticism without flinching, which might come in handy with book reviews.
Michelle is living her dream—writing every day and thanking God for the stories He puts in her path. When Michelle isn’t writing she’s winning ugly on the tennis court. She’s known as “Queen of the Rim Shots.” No joke. It’s ugly.
Her debut novel, Cache a Predator is a geocaching mystery and a #1 Amazon bestseller in the drama and thriller/crime categories.
Scattered Links (initially titled Love is Just a Word) was the winner of the 2013 Aspiring Writers Competition, sponsored by Write on Con and The Reading Room. It’s been a #1 Amazon Bestseller in the Adoption category.
Michelle blogs at Random Writing Rants where she teaches and encourages writers how to get published.

Author Links
Website   *  Goodreads  *  Twitter  *  Facebook

A Novel Inspired by an Orphan

Scattered Links is a novel that pulls its characters from the gutter, and in the end, celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit.”

A girl, alone, abandoned, afraid, no one to wipe her tears, no one to settle her fears.

Her birthday came and went and no one knew. No one noticed if she had a bad day, or made good grades. There wasn’t a parent to tell her what to do, or notice when she struggled to get out of bed, and no one pitched a fit when she cut off her hair. No one worried when she went to the hospital or when she didn’t show up for dinner.

Orphans are desperate for someone to know, someone to care, someone to ask and someone to share.

In Russia and Ukraine when an orphan is 16 they are often sent to live on the streets, no longer able to get services. Many become addicts, prostitutes, and criminals.

In 1997, I traveled to Russia to adopt an orphan girl. She was two but the size of a nine-month-old infant. She didn’t smile. Her body was rigid, her muscles weak, and her eyes were unable to hold mine. She’d look away and avoid eye contact.

She never knew her mother and probably was rarely held. This was the photo of her we received before we traveled to Russia. (I’m not sure what the spider is that’s hanging over her head.)

While in Russia, we weren’t allowed to view our daughter’s play and sleeping quarters, but I spoke with other parents who’d been allowed into the living areas in different orphanages. The orphanage descriptions in SCATTERED LINKS are from other adoptive parents.

There are scenes in the novel that were based on what we saw. For instance, the man in the automobile accident who stood on the side of the road, his head wrapped in white bandages by emergency personnel, who was probably waiting for someone to pick him up—we saw this man and wondered why EMS hadn’t taken him to the hospital.

After we took Olivia from the orphanage we brought her to a hotel to wait for her paperwork. We blew up a beach ball and let her chase it down the hotel halls to strengthen her legs. We blew bubbles she chased and popped. We made silly faces to teach her how to laugh.

When we gave her a bath she screamed, hysterical about the running water. She’d probably never had a bath in the orphanage, so we dipped her in the water one toe, one finger at a time until eventually she splashed and plunged and giggled.

We took our time showing her the world. We took our time waiting for her to trust us.

When a child’s brain is developing in early infancy and they aren’t held when they cry, changed when they’re wet, or fed when they’re hungry a part of their brain doesn’t develop. They never learn how to love.

“A child must be loved before she’s able to reciprocate love”.   NOTE: here’s the click to tweet link: <a href="">Tweet: “A child must be loved before she's able to reciprocate love”.</a>

At three, our daughter was diving and throwing somersaults off of the diving board with no fear. But even now she still struggles trusting people.

She’s 18 now. Here’s how much she’s changed:

My journey to Russia and my love for our daughter led me to research children who didn’t have the best infant care, the best loving environment in infancy. My research led me to write the novel, SCATTERED LINKS.

It’s a story of a Russian teen girl who’s abandoned in an orphanage before she has a chance to say goodbye to her mama or tell her a secret that haunts her.

Although Oksana’s story is fiction it’s based on problems that many children have who haven’t had love in early infancy. In American we have a foster care system that doesn’t always work too. Some children never form healthy relationships with parents and consequently end up in prisons, addicted to drugs, or committing suicide—just like the orphans on the streets in Russia.

This novel isn’t science fiction, supernatural, or fantasy. It’s a story about a girl and her inability to love anyone… except, er, maybe a horse. (I don’t want to give too much away.)

I’m amazed at the positive reviews this novel is receiving and encouraged that it might change lives. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone read this post or SCATTERED LINKS and was inspired to work on a solution to rebuild our foster care system in the US?

Scattered Links
By Michelle Weidenbenner
Publisher: Random Publishing
Published: Jan 4, 2014

Amazon Synopsis:

“Scattered Links is a novel that pulls its characters from the gutters and, in the end, celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit.” A reviewer comment. 

Thirteen-year-old Oksana lives on the streets of Russia with her pregnant mama and abusive aunt—both prostitutes. When Mama swells into labor, Oksana makes a decision to save herself from abandonment, a decision that torments her forever. But her plan fails when her aunt dumps her in an orphanage before she has the chance to say goodbye to her mama or tell her the secret that haunts her. 

Scattered Links is a story of family and the consequences that come from never learning how to 
love. It’s a story of a girl’s inability to bond with her adopted family and the frustrations that follow. 

How can a child understand the mechanics of forming a healthy relationship when she never had a mother who answered her cries, held her when she was frightened, fed her when she was hungry, or loved her unconditionally? 

Only when the child meets a rescued abused horse, and recognizes the pain in his eyes, does she begin to trust again. 

Book Links

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