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.

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

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.

Signed,

One of your authors

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

Saturday Love

2 Comments

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Thoughts

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.

Sincerely,

Michelle Garren Flye

4 Comments

Filed under Publishing

Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

I’ve been offline for far too long, trying to make my Facebook and a few Twitter posts make up for my lack of blogging. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that I am. I’m actually writing and having a lot of fun with it.

And something else is looming on the horizon.

My current work in progress is lovely. I’m in love with my characters and it’s set in New York, which is a city I love to write about. Not sure I’d want to live there, but I do love writing about it. I get caught up in the storyline, and the twists and turns of it reveal themselves a little more to me each day, so every time I sit at the computer, it’s an adventure.

But every now and then something else lifts its head like Nessie the sea monster and smirks at me with seaweed-stained teeth. Something that will take the joy—at least temporarily—out of my writing.

It’s the first draft of Movie Magic.

I don’t know if you remember Movie Magic. I wrote it way back in November during National Novel Writing Month, which was only the second NaNoWriMo I’ve ever finished. I have no delusions. Movie Magic is bound to be a mess since it actually started out as Pirate Magic and took a turn a third of the way through…and I obeyed the unwritten NaNo rule not to go back and fix what had gone wrong but just to plow through and get it done.

So it needs to be rewritten. Edited. Reworked. Sweated and bled over. I still owe this book a pound of flesh.

I know it’s coming after I finish the first draft of this as-yet-untitled new book. I plan to publish Movie Magic on October 31 (Halloween to the rest of the world, but always Houdini’s birthday to me). So eventually I must face it.

If you’re asking what the big deal is, you’re not a writer. Mark Twain once remarked that the best writers are the best rewriters. Because that’s the true test. Writing a book is one thing. Being able to open it up six months later and face the mess AND fix it…well, that’s a test of courage and willpower and skill.

Comments Off on Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

Filed under Editing, Writing

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.

Comments Off on The Day After: Earth Day for the Rest of Us

Filed under Thoughts

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.

Comments Off on The Fear of the Last Word

Filed under Fear, last word, muse, Thoughts, Writing, writing process