Writers: Don’t Wait. Write a Banned Book Today.

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” –William Faulkner

I love that quote by Faulkner. It’s how I’ve always felt about my best writing. When the story is in there, it just needs to come out, and the only way is through my fingertips. It’s a wonderful feeling.

What isn’t a wonderful feeling is how I feel about the publishing industry right now. I feel like writers are becoming less of artists because they’re at the mercy of publishers and consumerism. Will a story sell? If a publisher, editor or agent says no, too often the story is never written. Or if a writer sneaks and writes it between his/her agent-approved projects, it becomes one of Stephen King’s “trunk novels.” Filed away in a forgotten place.

When did writers start writing what everybody else WANTS them to write? If that were always the case, there’d be no banned books week (September 27-October 3, just fyi). Can you imagine Huxley pitching A Brave New World? Or Ray Bradbury trying to sell an agent on Fahrenheit 451? What if, at the time these books were being written, the publishing world said no and the writers didn’t write them? What if those books had never been there to inspire thoughts and feelings that aren’t always pleasant, but nonetheless help us to become a better place?

I believe it is the duty of writers and artists to bring things into the world that wouldn’t otherwise be there. If it’s a story that sells a million copies, great. The important thing is to get it on your computer screen and out of your head. Then do your damnedest to send it out into the world. Through the normal channels, through a small publisher, in ebook form or pamphlet or on your own blog, if need be.

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, onto paper.” –Ray Bradbury

Because that’s your job. That’s why you’re a writer.

In honor of banned books week, I’d like to urge all my fellow writers to join me next week in writing something they want to write. Don’t write it because somebody else thinks it will sell. Write it because it’s in your heart. You may rediscover that joy that writing used to bring you.


Filed under Writing

What’s next?

Ever get to that point in your life where you can’t help but wonder: what’s next? It happened to me this summer, and something changed.

I had four works-in-progress and none of them were panning out. I’ve got one complete manuscript in my Sleight of Hand series that needs editing before it can go anywhere else. But I had lost all my inspiration. I was plagued by the normal questions. What’s next? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to continue to pursue the “traditional route” of publishing or plough on through the rocky road of the independent?

And then it happened. My work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Out of Time” smacked me in the face and told me to get to work. If the title doesn’t sound particularly romantic, well, that’s because it isn’t, totally, a romance. And I’ve held off talking about it this long because it was something so new to me, I didn’t want to jinx how well it was going.

Turns out what I really wanted to write was a romantic fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction (give me a good Anne McCaffrey novel any day!), but the amount of world building required scared me. I mean, how do authors do it? Coming up with everything from political systems to the amount of gravity on a planet…that’s mind-boggling. Better to stick on good ol’ planet earth.

Well, I managed and the results have become something I’m very pleased with. I can’t say they’ve answered all my questions about what’s next, but I will say I’ve already got a rough outline for a second novel in the series and an idea for a third.

So maybe what’s next is something a little different. A road I haven’t yet taken.

Speaking of roads not yet taken, please note that this weekend, September 17-19, I will be at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. I’m presenting five workshops (!!!) on everything from marketing to writing a series, and while I’m really looking forward to it, it’s with trepidation since I’ve never done anything like this before. You can find more information about the conference here: Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference 2015.

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The Supermoon

Last night was the Supermoon. This is how it looked from the North Carolina beach.

Last night was the Supermoon. This is how it looked from the North Carolina beach.

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Let’s be honest: We can’t blame E.L. James.

So, E.L. James decides to try to do what many authors do. In an attempt at promoting her new book Grey, James went live on Twitter, allowing other Tweeters to ask her questions using #AskELJames. What ensued was…troubling. Tweeters used the opportunity to criticize James’s writing and to accuse her of everything from glorifying abuse to setting back women’s rights a good fifty years.

Now, I’m not a fan of 50 Shades. I read the first one, or at least started it, after hearing a great deal of buzz about it. I ended up skipping through a good bit of it, and when I reached the end, I was actually disappointed to learn that there were two sequels. I’m no fan of E.L. James, but I don’t blame her, and I certainly would never have participated in the monstrous activity that took place on Twitter.

E.L. James is a writer. Maybe not a great one, but she did write, as of last count, four enormously popular books. Is it her fault that a publisher chose to publish her books, a gazillion people chose to buy and read them, and a movie producer chose to make a movie—which another gazillion people went to see? Not really.

So who is there left to blame if the author is out of bounds? The publisher for pulling 50 Shades out of the slush pile and giving it the type of promotion that most authors can only dream of? Maybe, but publishers are, in the end, just salesmen. They see a need in the market and they try to be the first to fill it.

The troubling thing about the whole 50 Shades phenomenon is that, at the end of the day, there was a market for the book. In spite of its disturbing thematic material. In spite of its sub-par writing. In spite of the fact that “those type” of books (which have been around for many, many years) were once hidden at the back of the bookstore, not prominently displayed at the front door to greet me and my children when we go in looking for summer reading.

So don’t blame E.L. James for writing what a large part of our society now wants to read. Writers write. Publishers publish. Readers buy the books.

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Filed under Thoughts, Writing

Dear Amazon: Happy Independence Day!

Dear Amazon,

Happy Independence Day. To celebrate, I’m taking my first steps away from you. My first book to make the parting of the ways official is Saturday Love, which is the first of my books to come free of the Kindle Select program.

I’m looking at other ways to make Saturday Love available across other platforms now. Soon it will be available in iBooks, on Nook, and probably in many other formats. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens as I’m sure you’ll want to celebrate with me.

In the meantime, since Saturday Love can no longer be borrowed for free by your Amazon Prime customers, I’ve cut the price to 99 cents. True, this means I get less than 35 cents per ebook purchased, but I’d rather get nothing than participate in a program that abuses authors. At least this way I get to be my own pimp.

I’ve had people ask me why I’m so outspoken about this. After all, I’m a librarian. If a library bought my book and loaned it out for free, I wouldn’t get anything at all from the people who borrowed it, regardless of how much or how little they read. True, but the library would have bought the book. You didn’t do that. You never bought my books, but you’re getting money from the Prime customers who borrow them. I know that because I am a Prime customer, and I paid for that membership. I also don’t borrow books. I buy them. Even Kindle editions. So it won’t hurt me too much to switch to Nook for my ebooks.

I don’t doubt that my stance against you is rather like a little mouse waving a pin-sized sword at an elephant. My hope is to be joined by other authors waving pin-sized swords (or pens) at you. For the time being, I’ll keep jabbing with my itty-bitty pen, and working toward true independence.


One of your authors

P.S. Here’s a link to buy Saturday Love for just 99 cents:

Saturday Love


Filed under Uncategorized

Whose eyes do YOU see the world through?

I’ve been thinking a lot about filters for the past few weeks. When I was a teenager, I thought I wanted to be a photographer. Somehow I got a pretty good 35mm camera. (Remember those? The ones you loaded the film in and when it hit the end of the 36 exposures, the film would rewind with a whirring noise?) I experimented a lot with this camera, putting different filters over the lens to get different effects in the final prints. One would make everything look kind of rosy, another would create sparkles wherever there was light, and there were others, but I can’t remember them because those two were my favorites.

I think we all see the world through filters of our own choosing. These filters are created by outside sources. The news comes to mind. Depending on which news you watch on television or which newspaper you read or where you go on the internet, you may see the world in a different light. Is the Confederate flag an emblem of racism or Southern pride? Is gay marriage the best thing to happen to our world since the end of World War II? Or the beginning of the apocalypse? Are pro-lifers evil or is it the mother who gets the abortion?

I can’t help but come back to the filters I used to put on my old Nikon. I chose to see the world as sparkly and rose-colored, and I probably still do in many ways. I don’t watch news programs very often or read the Wall Street Journal. I know what ISIS is, but when I hear the word, I still think of the Egyptian Goddess Isis (who was a superhero with her own show in the 70s) and not the terrorist group, which, if I think too much about their evil, will cause me to cower in a corner for the better part of the day.

Poets and writers and news media color everyone’s impression of the world and have for centuries. The best example I can think of for poetry filters are Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”, a rose-tinted painting of love in the countryside, and Sir Walter Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”, a stark response based in reality that rips the romance right off Marlowe’s filter.

No matter who you are and what happens to you in your life, you see the world through your own chosen filter. But you can choose to try on a different one every now and then. Turn on FOX News from time to time. Switch to CNN for half an hour. Turn the television off and pick up a book of poetry. See the world from the other side, or at least try to.

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Dear Amazon: I am one of your writers.

Dear Amazon,

I am one of your writers. One of your writers who truly believed up until yesterday that your Kindle Select Program would eventually prove to be a winning game for me. I have written and published seven books using your Kindle Select Program. I’ve taken advantage of the promotion system you had in place of rollback deals and free days for my Kindle books. Because of this, my self-published e-books were available exclusively on a Kindle platform, in spite of the fact that I know people who own Nooks. When I gave away e-readers, it was always a Kindle.

Yesterday, to my sorrow, I lost faith in you, not because I think your program is a bad one, but because you made a move that I believe takes advantage of writers like me. Writers who are trying to get our words out to the public. Writers who believe we have something to say, even if we don’t always have the patience and forbearance to deal with the traditional publishing system. Writers with talent and passion for their work.

By changing your policy of paying Kindle Select authors by the download to paying them by the number of pages read, you devalued my work. You said my work is worth less than traditionally published authors. You said you have lost faith in me.

My work is worth as much as any traditionally published book out there, whether it be a bestseller or a struggling indie book. I already charge less for my e-books, and when they’re borrowed through the Kindle Select Program, I get a fraction of my already small profits. But I guarantee you, I put as much work into my romances as any Harlequin or Kensington author out there, and I insist that that work be respected.

With regret, I have stopped the automatic re-enrollment of my books in your Select program. By the end of the summer, I will be free to seek other platforms to publish my books on, and if your new policy is still in effect, I will do so. I imagine I won’t be the only one, either. Any smart self-published author out there will also look elsewhere if they want the world to know they respect themselves and the writing process.


Michelle Garren Flye


Filed under Publishing