What’s in a Cover, or How Writers Judge Books by Them

We writers are very silly people. We show pictures of our covers the way proud parents show pictures of their babies. In most cases, we’re no more responsible for the way the cover looks than the funny expression captured by a snapshot of a baby. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect our pride in the first concrete proof that our work has paid off.

Congratulations. It’s a book. Island Magic eBookAnd yet. When an author looks at a book cover–whether they designed it themselves or had someone like the fabulous Farah Evers do it for them or got it straight from the Art Department of Harper Collins Publishing–however that cover came into being, when an author looks at it for the first time, it’s going to be one of two things: a huge disappointment or the culmination of every dream the author ever had for her book.

As an independent author (I like “independent” much better than “self-published”), I have a bit more control over things, so I don’t often get one of those huge disappointment things anymore. In fact, as you can see above, my most recent cover falls very definitively into the latter category.

I’ve been working on this story for a while. Ever since Escape Magic, as a matter of fact. Island Magic was a tough story to write. It deals with some more difficult themes than either of the first two books in the series. However, I didn’t want it to lose the magical feel of the first two books, and I wanted my cover to reflect that. With the help of Ms. Evers, the cover did indeed come to life with all the magic and beauty of the first two. And a little indefinable something more, too. This cover is perfect for this book.

So forgive me if I start featuring the cover prominently on my blog so early. The book won’t be published until October 31 (Harry Houdini’s birthday!), but you can pre-order it now for your Kindle. 

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One Thing Writers Never Tell You About Writing

When people find out I write, they ask me, “What’s that like?” Usually I’m at a loss. Writing is so much a part of me and who I am, I can’t really separate it enough to look at it. All I can come up with as a reply, usually, are amorphous answers that I’m never certain of so I always word them almost as questions. “It’s…uh…fun?”

Recently I dug a little deeper. I was actually trying to remember what the last book I read was—other than my own—and how I used to love reading. It drove me nuts to be caught somewhere without a book. When I was a kid in school, I was always the first one to hand in my math test and then I’d pull out whatever novel I was currently reading (or re-reading). And get lost in it. Remember that old line by libraries and teachers and literacy organizations, “Books take you places”? When I was a kid, books took me all over the world.

And now that I’m an adult and a professional (albeit only marginally successful) writer, I realized something that nobody ever told me before about writing. When you write a book, it takes you places, too.

Only it’s better.

Yep, that’s what it’s like to be a writer. It’s like being a reader, only better. Yes, it’s hard work. There are days I despair of ever writing two coherent words in a row. There are days when writing sentence after sentence is more arduous mentally than plowing a field with a mule and a hand plow is physically. Writing can be so exhausting it’s frightening. It can hurt. But it’s good. In fact, it’s wonderful.

It takes you places.

I’ve set my books in places I’ve never been like New York (I’ve been twice since, but I’d never been there before I wrote Secrets of the Lotus) and Greece (part of Saturday Love). And I’ve set them in places where I’ve been and long to go back like the Caribbean in Island Magic and Las Vegas (Close Up Magic and Escape Magic). And I’ve set them in places I’ve lived like Hillsborough, N.C. (Where the Heart Lies) and my hometown of Brevard, N.C. (Tracks in the Sand). And each and every time, when I would sit down to write, my book would take me there.

So now I guess I have a reply. “What’s it like to write? Why do I do it?” Because writing is like reading. It takes you places. What makes it better is that you get to take your readers along with you for the journey.

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Free Today Only!

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Close Up Magic, get it today! It’s free for the Kindle until midnight Amazon time. :) Just click on the cover below:
CloseUpMagicEbookRev
I’m hoping this will help get everyone ready for Island Magic, which should be out in October!

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Winner, winner! $50 Gift Card Giveaway

I am totally late in announcing this (I was supposed to do it at 6 p.m. last night), but I did shut off entries at that point. Not that there were any more, but I wouldn’t have entered them in the giveaway if there were! And after consulting Random.org, the winner of the $50 Amazon gift card giveaway was…Cheryl Rhodes! I’ve already contacted Cheryl, who was kind enough to write TWO reviews. One for Close Up Magic and one for Tracks in the Sand. She was also kind enough to give them both five stars! Which I didn’t even require, if you remember. :) Although she did point out a typo in Close Up Magic that I totally missed. When I get a chance, I’ll be fixing that one.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I love giving stuff away, especially e-gift cards. :) They don’t even require me to go to the post office and stand in line! So I might be looking for more ways to give away gift cards over the next month. Stay tuned!

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“Our Magic”: The perfect end to an awe-inspiring summer.

When I was a teenager, a boy I liked wrote something in my yearbook that I will never forget: “Have an awe-inspiring summer.” I’m sure he hardly thought about it at the time and probably doesn’t remember writing it now, but it had a profound effect on me.

Did I have an awe-inspiring summer then? No. Not really. I worked in the public library, read a lot of books, spent a week at the beach with my family. I didn’t really know how to go about having an awe-inspiring summer then.

This summer was awe-inspiring. For me, anyway. Why? Mainly the travel. I spent almost two weeks in the mountains where I grew up, a week in Wyoming where I went to Yellowstone and got to see Old Faithful and a bear, and finally a four-day trip that took me back to the mountains, then to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., and finally through Cherokee, N.C. and back home. Peppered in between I played school librarian and published Tracks in the Sand. It’s been a good summer. A productive summer. And it comes closer to approaching an awe-inspiring summer than any I’ve ever lived before. Even my kids think so.

And today I got an email from R. Paul Wilson, producer and director of “Our Magic”, a documentary about magic by magicians. I’m very excited about this documentary for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s about one of my favorite subjects. I’m also proud to be a backer of this project. The opportunity presented itself just when I started my Sleight of Hand series, and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in a project with real magicians.

Check out the trailer here: Our Magic.

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Review a Book, Win a $50 AMAZON Gift Card!

Last week I gave away more than a thousand books on Kindle. Free. I was astounded. Blown away, really, by the enthusiasm. Okay, yeah, this is America. Stick the word “FREE” on something and we’ll likely pick it up. Even if we throw it in the garbage can later. But this was different because there are literally hundreds—probably thousands—of Kindle books up for grabs every day. Most written by people like me who are just trying to make it in the big world.

And more than a thousand readers selected MY books from that pile of free Kindle books. That means something. To me, anyway.

Okay, so, step one for me as an author is complete. My books are out there on Kindles everywhere. Check. The next step for me is to encourage you to READ my books. I know how it is. You download a “To Read” list on your Kindle and you never quite get around to actually READING them. And certainly not to REVIEWING them (step three). So here’s my idea. How about, if you read my books by August 15 at 6 p.m. AND review them on AMAZON, you get entered in a drawing for a $50 AMAZON gift card. For FREE! Certainly makes reviewing sound a lot better, doesn’t it?

And I’m talking about a real, honest review. If you don’t like my writing, I invite you to tell me why. If you do like my writing, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve learned a lot from both types of reviews from readers. Of course, I’m taking a risk here. It’s quite possible I could get one star from someone who reads my book just because of this giveaway and posts, “I didn’t like it because it wasn’t the Wall Street Journal.” I hope I don’t get those, but I have enough faith in my ability to write well in my genre that I’m willing to risk it.

So, if you like romance and women’s literature, and if you have read one of my books, and if you’re willing to write a review on one of them before August 15, here’s how to enter:

1. Download and read one of my books or read one of the ones you got in last week’s freebies.
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!

Good luck! I’ve already got a couple of entries!

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Five Days of Free Kindle Books: Tracks in the Sand

Each day this week I’ve given away one of my books on Kindle for free, and I’ve spotlighted them on this blog, taking the opportunity to give you a little background on why I write what I write. And to sweeten the deal, I’m offering a $50 gift card for anyone who writes a review of one of my books on Amazon and posts it by August 15. Winner will be chosen by random drawing that evening. All you have to do is drop me an email at michellegflye at gmail dot com to let me know you posted the review. I want your honest take on ANY of my books (including the three published by actual publishers), not just the five I’m offering for free. But if you want a free book, here’s your chance!

Tracks_in_the_Sand_Cover_for_KindleTracks in the Sand is my ninth book, but only the second I’ve set in my hometown of Brevard, N.C. I’m not totally certain why this is. Maybe I’m concerned my writing will be greeted by the people at home with the same enthusiasm Thomas Wolfe got for Look Homeward, Angel. Whatever the reason, when it came time to write about a woman going home after years away, it just seemed right to set it in Brevard.

Tracks, like Saturday Love, went through many revisions. I wanted the main character to be strong. I actually started Tracks right after Where the Heart Lies. I’d just written a super strong but very sweet character in Alicia, and I wanted to try something different with Paige. Paige is tough because life has made her that way. But she has so much more vulnerability than Alicia does. Alicia is strong clear through in a very good way. Paige is flawed, her strong exterior actually a mask for the hurt child she still is. It took me many hours of revisions to get Paige to the point where it was possible to like her, but I’m happy with the result. And, well, the hero who cracks through her tough outer shell at last and wins her heart…well, you read it and tell me.

Tracks in the Sand, my newest release, is free today. Go get it. But if you’re not convinced yet, here’s a little excerpt:

She’s thinking about playing cat and mouse with him again. An unexpected stab of jealousy made Sean grip his clipboard hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He turned away to pretend to count the hammers hanging on the pegboard nearest him. “Jesus, Paige, are you really thinking about going down that road again?”

“What?” She tried to look innocent, but he could tell by the tiny smile on her lips she’d already considered the possibility of sleeping with Travis. Was she looking for revenge on Travis or Melissa? Or both? And would she really go that far to get it?

“What what?” He shook his head, replacing the hammers and moving further down the shelves to continue. “You know what. The son-of-a-bitch broke your heart, that’s what. Now you’re thinking about sleeping with him.”

“I wouldn’t do that.” She folded her arms over her breasts in a defensive posture.

“Why the hell not? And don’t tell me you didn’t at least consider it.”

“Besides the ick factor, I wouldn’t do it because I wouldn’t want to hurt Beth.” She followed him down the aisle. “But yeah, I have to admit, it crossed my mind. It would be the perfect revenge.”

He gave her a sharp look. “But your better nature took over?”

She shrugged. “Not sure I have a better nature. But yeah, something like that. I like that girl, and I don’t want to cause her or her family any more trouble than I already have.”

He paused, deciding to play devil’s advocate. “Well, you know. She knows the deal between you and Travis, right? I mean, she’d probably come around eventually if you guys got back together.”

The shock on her face was followed so quickly by disgust, he realized he had nothing to worry about on that front. “You really know how to turn a girl’s stomach, Sean.”

He laughed. “Well, the way you danced in here, you looked like a woman in love.”

“Not love.” She paused, frowning. “But the kid is amazing, and she’s been the one bright spot in my return home. Aside from you, of course. And if her father breaks her heart, I’ll kill him.” She fixed Sean with a glare. “Have you heard anything about him? If he’d make a pass at me, he’s probably done it before with someone else.”

“Why would you say that?” Sean turned away. What little he knew about Travis he wished he didn’t, but he had to admit he had a hard time following her line of thinking. Paige was a sexy, beautiful woman, and they shared a past. Why wouldn’t Travis make a pass at her? What Sean had a hard time believing was that Travis had ever given Paige up.

“Why?” Paige shrugged. “I want to know if he’s a cheating bastard that’s going to end up hurting Beth. And does Melissa know? And if she does, which she surely does because she’s an intelligent woman, why the hell does she put up with it?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Sean straightened a shelf of drill bits, then turned to look at her. Her curly hair had frizzed a little in the damp evening air. She wore almost no makeup and her jeans and blouse were wrinkled. Her expression was frustrated, half angry, and her posture was defiant.

And his heart skipped a beat every time he saw her.

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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