Announcing: Five days of free books! Plus, enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

I have now self-published enough full-length novels to fill a work week. To celebrate that accomplishment, I’ve decided to launch a five-day promotion starting on Monday of next week. Five days of free Kindle books! And to sweeten the deal, if you read one of my books and post an honest review of it by August 15, you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift card to Amazon! Here’s the schedule of free books:

Monday: Ducks in a Row
Tuesday: Saturday Love
Wednesday: Close Up Magic
Thursday: Weeds and Flowers
Friday: Tracks in the Sand

Remember, the review should be totally honest. Whether it’s positive or negative—as long as it’s obviously about one of MY books—you’ll still be entered to win the gift card. And each review equals one entry! So if you want to read and review more than one by August 15, please do! I can only offer my self-published ones for free, but if you’d like to purchase and review Where the Heart Lies, Secrets of the Lotus, or Winter Solstice, those count, too!

Here’s how to enter:
1. Download one of my books. See the schedule for free books or purchase and review one of my pro published books.
2. Post an honest review on Amazon about the book.
3. Email me at michellegflye@gmail.com to let me know you posted a review.
4. Winner (selected by random draw) will be announced August 15 6 p.m. Eastern!

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What can I say about Tracks in the Sand? (Excerpt at end of a long and rambling post.)

Well, it’s out now, for one thing. My ninth novel. Wow. That number sort of floors me. When I wrote Secrets of the Lotus I actually worried that I might not have another one in me. For those counting, here are my novels, in (as best I can remember) order of release:

Secrets of the Lotus
Winter Solstice
Weeds and Flowers
Ducks in a Row
Where the Heart Lies
Close Up Magic
Escape Magic
Saturday Love
Tracks in the Sand

Tracks in the Sand is only the second novel I’ve set in my hometown, Brevard, N.C. (Weeds and Flowers is the other one;Winter Solstice comes close, but it’s in Asheville.) I can’t really say why that is, either. I love Brevard. I know Brevard better than any other place I’ve ever lived, I think, although it really has changed a lot since I lived there. The dime store is now an antique store. There are more restaurants near the town square than the entire TOWN used to be able to support (anybody remember Berry’s? I loved that place). The library I worked at from the age of 12 to 18 has moved into a much nicer, more modern building and the old library (previously the old post office) is, sadly, being converted into town offices.

But some things remain the same. The last time I was home, I took my kids to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ at the Coed Cinema, the same movie theater I saw “Mary Poppins” at for the first time. And the old hardware store (the one I modeled Sean Anderson’s after in Tracks in the Sand) was right there next door to the movie theater. And the county courthouse, which I also mentioned in my book still “perched on the corner of Broad and Main Streets like a large bird of prey watching the little mouse cars go past.” That’s not a very flattering description, and I’ve always loved that old building, but there really is something deliciously creepy about it.

Anyway, all this rambling is just to say, Tracks in the Sand is set in my hometown, a beautiful little place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s the county seat of Transylvania County, has a population of around 7,500 and an elevation of 2,230 feet. It’s become a tourist destination but it’ll always be home to me.

Excerpt from Tracks in the Sand:

What would she do if I kissed her? Half the attraction was that he had no idea. She might kiss him back, she might hit him or bite him. She might kiss him back and then hit him. Whatever she did, he knew it would be unexpected because that was what Paige was.

“Well?” She raised her eyebrows. “What did you mean?” Her voice was so crisp and no-nonsense, he knew she had no idea what he was thinking.

And why was he thinking it now? But he knew the answer. Before she’d left ten years ago, he’d never been able to imagine his life without her in it and hadn’t been willing to do anything that might destroy what they had and scare her off in the process. But now he’d lived without her. He could do it again, if their relationship didn’t work out.

I don’t need her as a friend anymore. I want her as a woman.

“Sean? You still there?” Her expression had softened a little, concern overcoming some of her irritation.

“I meant that he never deserved you.” He took a deep breath and stepped toward her. “I meant that I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping with him. For revenge or anything else.”

Decision made, he reached for her, caught her by the arm and pulled her to him. Startled and off balance, she tipped forward into him, catching herself by grabbing his chest. Her expression when she looked up at him had changed from confused to uncertain.

“I never said I was going to sleep with him.” She sounded a little breathless…and like she was trying very hard not to sound breathless. The idea that she felt the attraction too and didn’t want him to know pleased him. And she didn’t try to push him away, either.

Maybe this would be easier than he’d thought. Probably not, though.

He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “You don’t have to say anything. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Do you?” Her gaze flickered—instinctively and unwillingly—to his lips and back to his eyes. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”

“Sure.” He grinned. “You’re thinking that if I don’t let go of you you’re going to knee me in the groin.”

“Then why are you still standing so close?” She tilted her chin, her voice determined.

“Because you’re not going to do it.” He deliberately stopped smiling, and, still keeping a firm grip on her waist with one arm, he lifted a hand to trace the softness of her lips with one finger. He knew her so well. Even after all these years, he could read the nuances of her expression, could see the battle between attraction and irritation. I’m probably the only one who can do that, too. The wonder of it filled him.

“Why would that be?” Her arms slid up a little to his shoulders. She could be about to knee him in the groin or move further into his embrace. Knowing her, she probably hadn’t made up her mind yet.

For answer, he moved his hand to brush back her hair, exposing the tender skin beneath her ear. Bending, he took a deep breath of her and kissed the spot, feeling her tremble in response. Because you feel the same way I do and you’re wondering why we haven’t done this a long time ago if it feels this good. He didn’t have to speak the words. When she slid her arms around his neck, moving her lips to his, he knew she knew.

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I’m not sure I actually write romance.

It’s not that I don’t want to. Or even that I don’t try. It’s just that I’m told…over and over…that even though my stories have strong romantic elements (and…spoiler ahead…a happily-ever-after ending), they’re not really romance. Check out the following quotes from actual reviews:

“Reading this book was an odd experience, and my grade for it really depends on what it’s trying to be. As “womens’ fiction” this is quite an engaging story, but as a romance it fails.” –Amazon review for Where the Heart Lies

“Even though I was not thrilled with the romance in the book, it is still a worthwhile read.” –Amazon review for Where the Heart Lies

“a well-written, thought-provoking novel and is not what I expect from a typical romance” –Amazon review for Ducks in a Row

“Although categorized as romance, it is not the typical romance that I normally read.” –Amazon review for Ducks in a Row

You get the picture. I have had to accept the fact that I don’t always write the typical, run-of-the-mill, escapist romance. However, I feel the romances in the two books above were the meatiest (ooh, not a romantic descriptor at all) ones I have ever written. And here I am with another offering that probably won’t please all romance lovers.

Image

Tracks in the Sand has been turned down by some of the best romance publishers out there. I suspect it’s because although it fits RWA’s definition of a romance (it has a central love story with a happily ever after ending), it isn’t your mama’s romance. And it’s not what passes for romance in today’s market, either.

First of all, my heroine is a tough little bitch. Seriously, she is. In fact, one of the editors who turned Tracks down originally told me she couldn’t relate to the heroine as she was written then. I softened her a little, but I didn’t want to change her too much. She’s been through some serious shiznit in her life, and her current attitudes about people and situations reflect that.

By contrast, my hero is not an asshole. He’s warm and kind and exactly what the heroine needs to heal. He knows what he wants, he’s not afraid to go after it, he’s even successful—although not a doctor or a lawyer or any of the typical trades. He’s not even a fireman. In fact, he owns a hardware store.

And though the romance is central to the story, the heroine’s journey is fraught with many topics you don’t find in typical romances. Cancer, alcoholism, and child abuse to name a few. Not romantic subjects but perfect obstacles to add a touch of reality and depth to her story.

So I have to say…don’t read Tracks in the Sand if you’re looking for escapism. It’s not that kind of romance. However, if you want a story that’ll make you believe in the strength of love and family and forgiveness, I think this one might be it.

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Why rewriting might be easier for a “Pantser”, or the joy of the honeysuckle rose.

I’m a “pantser” (as in fly-by-the-seat-of) when it comes to writing. And everything else in my life. Anybody who’s ever tried to set up a playdate with my kids knows I don’t plan ahead. The best way to make plans with me is text me at the last minute. If I’m not doing anything, I’ll probably join you. On the other hand, I hate birthday parties. Trying to figure out what me and my kids are going to be doing two weeks from next Saturday at three o’clock in the afternoon? Ha! As if.

When it comes to writing, “pantser” (and I really prefer the term “organic writer” and please don’t call me a “paNSter”) means one simple thing. I don’t outline. I plunge in with a vague idea of where I’m going and who I’m going with (my characters) and plow through until I reach the finish line. Which is usually not where I thought it was when I started out. Which usually means I have a total mess to go back through when I’m done.

So why do I think rewriting is easier for me than someone who has plotted and planned and checked out every intersection of the race? (Ahem, not that writing is a race. It’s totally not.) Because, to move from racing to gardening metaphors, I don’t mind throwing out and cutting and replanting. Just for instance, a first reader told me a few months ago that the story I was telling in my current work-in-progress wouldn’t work. She had some great points, including the fact that my heroine was totally unsympathetic. (I’d been going for tough.) She made some suggestions for a total rewrite and I set the work aside for a few weeks. Now, coming back to it, I’ve got fresh eyes and I’m pulling weeds like crazy, trying to get at the heart of the novel.

What I’m getting at is that it’s not that abnormal for me to throw out three thousand words at a chunk. I may have spent an entire working day composing those words, but if I find it’s a weed and not a flower (haha), I don’t mind tossing them at all. But what if I’d plotted and planned and written those words and gotten the same reaction from a first reader? I don’t think it would be as easy to pull and prune and toss.

But then, if I planned and plotted, maybe the finish line would stay where it was supposed to be, huh? Just like a well-planned garden. But then I might never get a chance to find something like this:
honeysuckle rose

And that’s the true joy of being a pantser. Finding the heart in the middle of the massive mess of writing. A honeysuckle rose that nobody planned. Because there always is one. Even in a novel you have to completely rewrite.

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Just Spring is over… Share your favorite poem with me!

For those who don’t know, April is National Poetry Month. This year I’ve celebrated by teaching some amazing kids about poetry. It’s been fun, rewarding and, at times, truly amazing.

But I digress. Last week we wound up our study with a look at concrete poetry, which gave me the opportunity to share e.e. cummings’s haunting “[In Just-]“. I’ve always loved this poem and read it regularly to see what else I can discover about it. I remember the first time a teacher displayed this poem on the overhead projector and I was so puzzled by it. I was just getting used to poetry that looked like poetry and here was this crazy mishmash of unrhymed, strangely patterned words.

And yet, it’s the poem I come back to most often when I think about poetry. And it’s the poem I think of when the world is mud-luscious and starting to warm up and the flowers aren’t blooming yet but you know they will… Just spring.

Perhaps the world does us an injustice by making just spring so short a time. It’s over here now, ending with the brief month of April. The first flowers are past their bloom, the mosquitoes are beginning to bite. Summer and pool time and the beach and lazy days are coming. We’re all looking forward to it, but we’ll miss those first days of spring.

Next year when March and April come around, though, I look forward to again listening for the far and wee whistle of the little lame balloon man. And in the meantime, I’ll watch for the seeds I planted this April to sprout and grow.Image What’s your favorite poem? Share it with me in the comments!

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April is National School Library Month. What’s your first memory of a library?

SLM2014_banner_webI am a librarian. No joke. A lot of people might not know that about me, but I did receive my Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Today being the first day of School Library Month, I thought I’d take a moment to reminisce about the effect libraries in general had on me in my formative years.

My first memory of a library is not a very pleasant one. Our school library was a dark area right in the middle of the building with no windows. On the best of days, it wasn’t a welcoming space. I was probably about seven or eight on this particular day. I had an assignment to learn how to use the encyclopedias (back in the days before Google). I can’t remember what my assignment was, but I do remember noticing a little cluster of my classmates in a corner with an encyclopedia. Curious, I joined them.

Someone had found a picture of a statue. A naked man statue. Not much bigger than postage stamp size and in grainy black-and-white, it nonetheless held our third-grade attention like no teacher ever could. Until the blue-haired librarian found us.

I kid you not in the least, she had blue hair. And when she was angry–which she unfortunately often was–it all seemed to stand on end. That day was the angriest I ever saw her. She snatched the encyclopedia away from our unworthy childish hands. “That is art!” she snapped. (Or something close to those words.) “It is not something to be giggled about!”

Being a timid child, I fled to the darkest corner of the library, my cheeks burning, certain I was going to be found and led to the principal’s office, probably even be accused of being the ringleader pervert.

Nothing of the sort happened, of course, and I’ve learned to think of my blue-haired elementary school librarian as a sort of benefactor. She wasn’t the one who convinced me to go into library science, but she helped form my philosophy that a library needs to be a friendly place–for children, especially. No, the people who convinced me to go into library science were my “Ladies of the Library”. I discovered them when I was about twelve years old and started volunteering at the Transylvania County Public Library. Beautiful, happy souls who loved their work, these ladies took me under their collective wing and nurtured my love of books and reading.

It seems fitting to me that it was at the public library–the library my mother took me on weekly trips to from the time I learned to read, the first library I ever got a “library card” at–that I first fell in love with the idea of the preservation of knowledge. As for my ladies of the library, I remember them all with a great deal of fondness. I still have the little bookmark they gave me when I graduated from high school. They made the library a friendly place for me, and I thank them for it.

But the path that led me to becoming a librarian started there in my elementary school library. In the dark, foreboding corner of a dusty space filled with moldering books and guarded by a fierce, blue-haired custodian. God bless her.

So tell me…what is your first memory of a library?

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Quick Update: What I haven’t done.

You know that moment when you’ve been up all night with your kid who has the tummy bug and you’ve got a splitting headache and all you want is to take a shower and go to bed, but you’re still waiting to see if the Gatorade and pretzels are going to stay down this time?

Yeah. That’s me. Right now.

So I chose this moment to update you on what’s going on in my life. And maybe give you an excerpt from Saturday Love cause I really want more people to go out and give that book some love! It deserves it.

I’ve been staying busy, which technically means out of trouble. My kids’ school libraries are up and running and almost fully staffed by volunteers. I love moms who love books and kids! I’m writing somewhat furiously on Island Magic. This one’s like a maze. I keep hitting roadblocks and having to go back to the beginning. But I’ve got a good feeling about the current track I’m on. And I’ve been doing some other fun stuff like working on a fundraiser for the kids’ school, keeping up with their various practices, etc.

What I haven’t done (and that’s always what haunts us, isn’t it?) is be consistent with my marketing for Saturday Love. As I mentioned before, it really is a good book. And even if you haven’t read Ducks in a Row, Saturday Love is pretty much a standalone novel. So anyway, rather than bore you further with my regrets, here’s a taste before I leave you alone:

Will hesitated inside the front door. He glanced down the hall, knowing his mother waited in the kitchen. His brother and sister paused with him and Will looked at Lisa. “Can you give us a minute?”

Lisa opened her mouth to object, but Patrick jerked his head at the kitchen. “Tell Mom we’ll be there in a minute.” She frowned at him, but flounced down the hallway after a second’s hesitation. Patrick sighed and looked at his brother. “Don’t ask me.”

“I just want to know if she’s okay.” Will heard the note of desperation in his voice and saw it reflected in his brother’s eyes. “Jesus, I feel like a fucking addict.” He turned away.
A moment of silence passed, then Patrick spoke. “She’s fine. I saw her the other night.”

“Did she speak to you?” Will stood with his shoulders hunched, holding onto the old wooden banister that he’d slid down as a child. He could feel a slight nick in the wood beneath his fingers and remembered how it had happened. He’d been playing with one of his father’s knives from the kitchen, pretending to be in a swordfight with an invisible adversary. He’d never intended for the banister to take a hit, but it had. Will remembered how angry his father had been. He wondered how angry he’d be now.

Patrick didn’t seem to notice his brother’s preoccupation. “No. I don’t think she saw me. She was with her husband.”

Will closed his eyes, pain and relief warring in him. I’m glad she and Neil worked things out. It’s the right thing. But God it hurts to think of her in his arms.
Then again, it always had. How in the hell did I manage to fall in love with a married woman? Especially one who was still in love with her husband?

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