I don’t have a problem with Amazon. Not really.

This weekend a friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was an article by Adam Stern in The Chicago Tribune entitled “Independent Bookstores are More Than Stores”.

This article gave me a lot of feels.

First, as a reader, I totally agree with him. I remember as a kid haunting local bookstores. I would sometimes spend hours browsing bookstore shelves. That’s how I discovered Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and even Jane Austen. We had a used bookstore in our town called The Book Nook. I would often trade books in there. I’d bring in a stack of dog-eared novels and leave with another. I believe that’s where I first made the acquaintance of Stephen King. There is absolutely nothing like browsing a bookstore’s shelves and taking home a new book by a new author you might never have tried before.

And yes, this experience is slowly dying off.

Second, as an author, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. They make it easy for me to publish my books. It costs me nothing but time to put my book up for sale on Amazon. BUT they make it easy for anyone to publish their books. Forgive me for sounding a little uppity here, but when I decide to publish something, it’s gone through intensive editing. I self-edit, but I am an editor, so I can do it. My books are not the stream-of-consciousness, unedited, full-of-typos books that have given independent/self-publishing a bad name. In fact, I would venture to say that my books are better edited than some bestsellers. But it’s difficult for readers to trust self-published books because anyone can self-publish. Hence, the love/hate relationship.

I cannot hate on Amazon when they provide essential tools for me, though.

Third, as a bookstore owner. Okay, I should hate Amazon, right? Again, there’s mixed feelings here. My store serves a different purpose than Amazon. You will not find the latest Oprah pick (does she still do that?), the newest best seller, the trendiest hot read on my shelves. I have well-loved classics, dog-eared novels, a decent selection of nonfiction, and LOCAL, INDEPENDENTLY-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. So as far as that goes, I don’t have a problem with Amazon. When someone comes in and asks for Nicholas Sparks’s latest or the new book by Barack Obama, I cheerfully refer them to Books-A-Million or Amazon. “But I want to keep my money local and help you,” they say. “So browse the shelves and find something you like from what I have,” I reply.

That’s my problem (and, I guess, Stern’s) with Amazon. But it’s not just Amazon. It’s big publishing in general. And people like Oprah who presume to know what other people should read. They have the influence and resources to push the same authors over and over again. The same ideas get consumed over and over. Just because I can publish my well-edited, pretty damn readable book doesn’t mean it’s going to be discovered by readers who have been conditioned to want to read the latest bestseller, the latest trendy nonfiction, the latest thing Oprah said was good.

So, to those who call me up and ask for the book they heard about on Good Morning America this morning, I say, “If you truly want to help your community and keep your money local, have a look at our local author section. There’s some good stuff in there that you will never know about if you don’t give it a try.”

My independently published graphic novel.

A Poem for Valentine’s Day

What if Valentine’s Day was a way to renew what you feel instead of declare it?

Daring

By Michelle Garren Flye

Fold up your petals

Don’t dare to emerge

On this not-even-just-spring-day

You’ll win no medals

In the pre-spring surge

Sp don’t dare rush along the way

But maybe the one who meddles

And pushes life to the verge

Daring to jump ahead of the fray

Will be the one who gentles

That which would otherwise scourge

Maybe Love’s daring will keep us safe.

Idiot daffodil. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

A Brief History of Word Processing and a bad picture of a poem

Okay, so there’s this songwriter/musician I follow on Instagram and am a little obsessed with. (His work, not him!) Recently he’s been posting these amazing pictures of new songs he’ll be coming out with this year. They’re all neatly handwritten in a really cool looking journal with rough-edged, linen-like paper, and they brought back memories of trying to handwrite stories and poems in my own journals back before I progressed to a typewriter and then to a Brother word processor and finally to my MacBook.

I decided I should try handwriting again. So I’ve been carrying around a journal (mine is lined because my handwriting goes hopelessly uphill if I have no guides). I’m not exactly sure why, but poetry eluded me for some time while I carried that journal. I think it was fear. I think I was honestly afraid that if I tried to write something in a journal, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Last night, just as I was supposed to begin making dinner, inspiration finally struck and I rushed for my journal and a pen and started writing. What came out of my pen isn’t exactly what inspiration whispered to me, but I don’t think I did too badly. It’s definitely different writing on paper and not as easy for my inner editor to make me rethink things. A good pen makes a huge difference. I like this one, but it’s one I picked up at my dentist’s, so it may not last long. I’ve never liked writing with a pencil (too scratchy), but I may try that next time.

I haven’t even titled this poem, either. I hope I can read it when I go to transcribe it onto the computer. My handwriting isn’t awful, but as you can see, my inner editor did kick in once or twice, resulting in a few scratch-outs.

What this experience did remind me of was that I didn’t start taking my own writing seriously UNTIL I had a computer. Until I could sit in front of a screen and type my words in and erase as necessary and have a finished product that looked like it should, I was almost literally frozen creatively. I had ideas, but when I sat down to write them, they poofed away.

Is my inner editor that strong? Did it keep me from being creative for years by whispering to me that my ideas wouldn’t turn out right if I wrote them out on a legal pad? If so, what would happen to me tomorrow if the EMP finally happens? If all computers are wiped out, will it take my creativity with it?

Maybe I better try writing in that journal more often.

Poem: Taking the Lead

I’ve been entering contests, so I haven’t had much to put up here recently since most contests won’t accept previously published poetry. I wrote this one this morning, though. because my daffodils are already starting to bloom, and I decided I should share it here instead of trying for fame.

Taking the Lead

By Michelle Garren Flye

There’s always one to emerge before winter’s done.

Poking bright petals out to the sun, as if no one will care.

It seems as if the cold air should bring on despair

But you must lead the way, the charge before spring

When there’s still too much bite for the robin’s wing.

Why come out now, oh, little yellow flower?

Why stick your neck out before the seasons change?

Don’t you know you have no real power

And your appearance now is nothing but strange?

The frost will still nip you back when you bud.

But maybe you’re here to bring hope to us all.

Maybe your courage will stir all our blood!

Why wait for the rest of the world to stand tall?

There must be one to lead the way

To hold up the standard and show that we care.

That first soldier marches so we have one to follow

Like the little yellow flower that doesn’t mind cold air

And risks a frosty death in a show of bravado.

Poem: A Hard Left

Make no mistake. It’s not going to be easy to come back from where we are. “Hard” has more than one meaning.

A Hard Left

By Michelle Garren Flye

Safe footing may take a while.

We’ve hovered so long over the abyss

Trembled with fear, mile after mile

Lips stuttering our tremulous wish

Oh, safety, security, sanity, please

Return to us in our daily life

We know you embody the keys

To free us from all this strife

Now we understand how hell feels

Evil creeping in through marble halls

Peril lingers here, flames lick our heels

Darkness still beckons with wanton calls

We’ve landed just this side of hell

We’ve still got such a long way to go

And our journey may not go well

But at least the direction we now know

Stand still a second before taking a step

Gain your balance, then make a hard left.

The winds of change. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Hell at Your Doorstep

Like many, I’ve been watching the developments of the riot at the Capitol Building last week. Probably more than I should…although, maybe not.

You see, at first, I thought it was a bunch of yahoos that overwhelmed an unprepared bunch of basically mall cops. Were the cops even armed with anything but batons and shields? I wasn’t clear. It seemed, at first, like a bunch of rednecks got out of control at a tailgate party.

Over the course of the past week, it’s become very clear, that’s not what happened at all. The rioting crowd was out for blood. And blood was spilled. Some theirs, but a lot of it from the courageous police who were all that stood between the mob and the fragile gears of our democracy.

I think it’s important that we all not only realize this but accept it. Maybe there were good people in that mob swept up by the evil and the hell. Maybe we all need to be on guard because if the events of January 6, 2021 are any indication, hellfire is just a step away.

Hell at Your Doorstep

By Michelle Garren Flye

Hell’s not far away

Pull back the shade

You know it’s there

It doesn’t try to hide

Watch people tumble

Unresisting to the flames

Follow, follow, the light cries

Come and meet your doom

The eagle’s flight wavers

Courageous profiles darken

When hell flames alight

At your very doorstep

Massive gates won’t stop

The press of fiery rage

Stone burns the same

As wooden crosses then

Thorns bleed tears of wine

Drip down marble visage

Don’t look out the window, love

Hell will greet you there

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Echoes: For Our Congress

Echoes: For Our Congress

By Michelle Garren Flye

Angry bangs and steps echo

In hallowed halls

While souls scrunch under chairs

And keep silent

To avoid detection

Anguished texts and last-minute calls

Words left unsaid must be spoken

Because time is suddenly ending

A doorknob rattles

(Is it friend or foe?)

Huddle down, small one,

Don’t grab attention now

The loud crashes might be gunshots

Those screams might be a friend

Don’t react, keep your cries quiet

Until someone calls the all clear

Then hold your hands up,

Follow directions through bloody halls—

And welcome the U.S. Capitol to the ranks

The domestic terror list that includes:

Parkland

Sandy Hook

Columbine

Listen to the echoes

And know what they endured

Because of your neglect.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

By Michelle Garren Flye

Merry Christmas we cry,

Admiring our tree,

Wishing we could fly

But there’s nowhere left to flee.

The soft glow of white light

Illuminates our night’s work:

Vision of loveliness to our sight

While we ignore what’s in the mirk.

It’s the last of 2020,

The year everything went berserk.

We know that our fates

Rest on whatever comes next,

On untested dates

That still may be hexed.

Maybe, just maybe, our lives will get better?

Maybe we’ll get past this year that was cursed?

Whatever lies in wait is just round the corner—

No time to waste, we plunge in headfirst!

Never mind, doesn’t matter; this year’s a goner.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: I wrote the most perfect sentence

Sadly based on real life events.

I Wrote the Most Perfect Sentence

By Michelle Garren Flye

Right there for a moment

The most perfect sentence

Written in an instant

In a flash of brilliance

Nostalgic but not sappy

Surely worthy of award

I was superbly happy

It struck just the right chord

But I was busy with life

Unable to write it down

Settling scores and strife

Bustling about my town

When at last I sat to write

Nothing was left to recall

Try and try as I might

The words had gone AWOL

When words fail. Art by Michelle Garren Flye

A Day of Promises: Happy Winter Solstice!

I try never to let the winter solstice pass unnoticed. Of course I was asleep at 5:30 a.m. or whatever ungodly hour the solstice actually happened, but today is one of my favorite days.

The shortest day of the year.

I’ve watched the days get shorter since the summer solstice (you really can notice it after a week or two). Once daylight savings runs out, it’s really noticeable. Suddenly I have to hurry to walk my dog before it gets dark.

And then you get to today. The shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere at least. And that means tomorrow it will be light longer. Today is not a day of darkness. It is a day of promise.

Tomorrow will be brighter.

With that in mind, I thought I would share the first bit of something from my next comic, SeaGlass. Because that’s my promise. I’ll finish another comic next year.

From SeaGlass, my next comic. Art and words by Michelle Garren Flye