The Day After: Earth Day for the Rest of Us

Earth Day is over, so I feel a little safer making a confession. My carbon footprint is huge.

It’s not on purpose. I love animals. I’m concerned about the environment. I vote Democrat (although at times I’m not sure this helps a WHOLE heckuva lot). I truly believe that we humans damage the planet and someday we’ll regret it.

I also drive an SUV (mid-size, not huge) because I have three kids and when we’re on a family trip, that third-row seating is invaluable. And though I try to make it to the Farmer’s Market or stop at the roadside stands to buy local, it’s often more practical to buy my veggies at the grocery store (I do pay the extra buck for an organic avocado, though).

I’m repulsed by bugs and terrified by spiders, so I don’t garden. Well, except for container gardening. I have made a few ventures into that arena. I donate often to charities that say they support endangered wildlife, but I often wonder if their frequent mailings don’t use most of the money I send them. (I would opt out of that junk mail, but, really, have you tried to opt out of junk mail? It should be simple, but it’s really not.)

I make purchases from Amazon instead of going to the store. That way I can indulge my natural disinclination to make contact with other human beings. And I buy books. Lots of books. Because when the EMP goes off and ebooks are no longer available, I’m going to need something to read.

I feel guilty about these things I do wrong—and not just on Earth Day—but I can’t promise I will change. I probably won’t ride my bike to work or walk to the store because it’s impractical for me as a mother of three. However, in honor of Mother Earth, which I love even though I feel certain she will wreak her revenge on humans one day, I make three resolutions:

1. I will buy 99 percent of my wine from vineyards in North Carolina. When I don’t buy local, I’ll buy European wines because shipping from Europe causes less environmental damage than trucking across the U.S. from California.

2. I will buy organic produce as often as possible. Even when it’s not necessarily better for me, it’s better for the environment if it is grown by a farmer who doesn’t use poisonous pesticides that kill honeybees and other beneficial insects.

3. I will no longer renew or purchase magazine or newspaper subscriptions. These are unnecessary as most of them are available either free or for a comparable price online.

These are tiny things and many, many people could look at my life and tell me of SO many other places I could change to reduce my carbon footprint. And maybe I will, but for now, this is what Earth Day for the rest of us is like.

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The Fear of the Last Word

Writers experience a whole cornucopia of emotions during the course of their careers—anxiety about deadlines, joy when we finish something, pride when we see our books on shelves or in the hands of others—but there is one emotion we avoid speaking of when it comes to our professional lives. Fear.

Fear that the last book really was our last.

Fear that our idea well has dried up and our muse has moved on.

Fear of the last word.

Paralyzing, engrossing, fascinating…fear.

Don’t look too close at the fear, we tell ourselves. If you believe in it, it will believe in you and that is bad news for your writing. But it’s so hard to look away from it! We don’t know where the ideas come from. Who’s to say they’ll keep coming? Who’s to say the angel of creativity might not turn his face away from us? If a writer tells you he doesn’t worry about this, he’s lying.

My very best work is accomplished when my muse sits on my shoulder and whispers it directly into my ear. It’s inspired, feverish, intense and very, very rare. Most often, I feel like I’m plodding through my story, pleading with my muse for something, anything. And I get messages back, but they’re more detached than those intimate whispers. Like emails. Or—if I’m lucky—a handwritten note on scented paper…and mailed from a great distance.

I know I haven’t written my last book. I have one waiting to be edited and I’m writing another one. But still, the last word—my last word—is out there somewhere. It hasn’t been written yet, but it will be. I just hope I write everything I want to write before I write that one.

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Everything Old is New Again: Secrets of the Lotus now Available in Print!

Secrets printWhen I first embarked on this quest to be a novelist, I had visions of grandeur. Seriously. I thought my book would be bought by a big publishing company (Harlequin came to mind), and I’d be sent on a book tour with hundreds of loyal fans lining up to have me sign my book. And after that I’d come home but everybody would recognize me on the street and people would drive slowly by my house hoping to catch a glimpse of me…

Well, none of that happened, obviously. First off, my book Secrets of the Lotus was published by Lyrical Press, a wonderful little independent press which has since been purchased by Kensington Publishing, which has really only made Lyrical better. Second, it was only published in ebook format. Third, my followup Winter Solstice, was also only published in ebook format, and finally, I realized something about writing. There are a lot of books out there. And some of them are even better than mine.

With all that said, however, a dream of mine did come true last week. Lyrical/Kensington finally released Secrets in print. For the first time, I held my first book in physical form in my hands and it’s beautiful. The cover and formatting and editing are all very professional and I love the book.

At $15 a pop, it’s pretty expensive, and I wouldn’t totally recommend buying it unless you’re enough of a fan to drive slowly past my house. And if you’re that much of a fan, let me know when you’ll be driving past and I’ll make sure to lean out the window and wave. Heck, I’ll even come out and sign your book for you. To purchase your copy of Secrets in paperback or ebook (only $3.03), click here: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Lotus-Michelle-Garren-Flye-ebook/dp/B00IPQX14I/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1428351501&sr=8-3&keywords=michelle+garren+flye

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Origin Stories: They’re not just for Superheroes!

Yesterday was one of my kids’ birthdays. I found myself thinking (and talking) all day about the day he was born. I’m going to tell you the story and I beg you to bear with me because there is a point to it.

It was snowy and cold up in Baltimore and I had been feeling bad all day, but I wasn’t supposed to be in labor yet. It was a month too early! But my husband called the doctor anyway, and he suggested we just stop by the hospital to be checked out. Better safe than sorry. We figured we’d stop by Taco Bell and pick up dinner on the way home, then cuddle up in our cozy apartment with our four-year-old son and watch “The Simpsons”.

Well, I was in labor. Long story short, they decided to stop the labor so while they fed me drugs intravenously, my husband braved the snow and took our son to the Eastern Shore to stay with his Granny. The labor stopped and I was discharged the next morning with instructions to rest. I did, but the pains started again that evening and in the early morning hours, I woke my husband and we went to the hospital again and a few hours later, my blessedly healthy five-pound son was born.

This is a story like many others. My friends and I used to get together at play dates and swap birth stories. I find myself telling these stories to strangers and acquaintances who probably don’t get why it’s so important to me and are probably hiding yawns as a I tell them.

So why is this story so interesting to me? Because it’s an origin story. Not just my son’s origin story, but the story of how I became a mom of two (the story of how I became a mom of three is another one for another time!). I love origin stories. The one book of the Bible that I have actually read and studied is Genesis. “In the beginning…” is a magical phrase for me. I think these stories are important to me because they preserve where we came from, and that’s what stories were originally intended to do.

We are made up of our origin stories. How we became who we are. Parents, writers, sons, daughters…whatever you are, you have an origin story or two or three. Probably many all intertwined like leaves and vines. We are who we are because of our stories, so the next time your mother bores you with her story of your birth or your grandfather tells you for the umpteenth time what it was like when he was a kid, listen with an ear pressed to the ground. It’s your origins—your roots—that you’re hearing.

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The Blank Page in 2015

IMG_5147A new year started at midnight and I was up to let it in. I have this tradition of “letting in the new year.” My husband laughs at me, but every New Year’s Eve as soon as it strikes midnight, I open the front door to take a breath of the fresh air of a fresh year. A year in which I’ve made no mistakes.

It’s exciting and frightening at the same moment. Like a blank page on a computer screen.

I’m sort of in between projects right now. I’ve got several started but haven’t been able to commit to one idea since National Novel Writing Month ended successfully for me in November. I tell myself it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, especially after such an intense exercise as writing 50,000 words in 30 days. But the truth is, when the words don’t flow, I get spooked.

That’s when the self-doubt begins. Maybe I never was meant to write, anyway. Maybe I’ve been wasting my time. Time I could have spent with my kids, but instead I sat in front of a computer. Dreams of being a successful writer–dreams I’ve had since I was seven years old–seem trite when the words won’t come.

But I know they will come. It’s like building a fire without kindling sometimes. Try as you might to light a green log without kindling, it won’t catch fire. So you add some. A few words, an outline, writing a scene…you throw all that into the mix until something sparks and suddenly the story takes off. The log catches fire.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to a word-filled, successful year for myself and all my friends, whether they’re readers or writers. Let’s embrace the blank page with all its fearsome possibilities. It’s only as terrifying as we allow it to be.

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My blog: 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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At the crossroads of Here and Here for Now

I always get a little introspective at the end of the year. I could look at this year in a multitude of ways. Definitely as a success, as my three growing, amazing children, two new novels and happy homelife can prove. Definitely as a year of personal growth. I hope I’ve learned as much about forgiving and becoming less selfish this year as I think I have. I’m reading more. I’m writing when I can. I’m in a good place.

It’s a comfortable way of being, this being Here. It’s contentment and happiness. I’m happy with Here. But I’m becoming aware that Here is slowly changing to Here for Now.

Subtly different, Here for Now acknowledges that Here is more than a simple point on the map. It’s a point on the map with roads leading away in all different directions. Here for Now allows that change, while slow coming, is always a possibility. And Here for Now is where I’ve decided to be.

I’ve noticed some differences in my writing recently. I’m no longer content to write simple romances where the romance is the final destination, in essence a fairy tale. I want more for my writing and my readers. So I’m Here for Now, but I’m reaching for that more. I’m hoping for change and I’m working toward it, even if it means slowing down and taking better stock of what I already have.

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