Eight Days to Becoming Magic: Last Steps and Nerves

So many things can go wrong.

What if I miss a huge typo that changes the meaning of something? Think that can’t happen? In 1631, The Holy Bible was printed without a very important word. It earned the nickname “The Wicked Bible” for saying, in black and white, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

What if my formatting is wrong? This problem is universal to independently published and traditionally published books. No matter how many times you go through a book in word and even pdf format, spaces vanish, indents undent themselves and typefaces may turn to gibberish. My first few independently published ebooks have several reviews that mention “head-hopping” as being a problem. At first I couldn’t figure this out. I usually tell my stories from two POVs—hero and heroine—but I never change POVs without leaving white space. Well, turns out white space alone doesn’t translate to Kindle or other ebooks very well. It just vanishes, leaving your poor reader with no indication that your story is about to hop to another head.

And finally, what if nobody gets it? I don’t mean, what if nobody buys it. That’s a whole different problem. I’m talking about what if nobody who reads it understands why I wrote it? Why spend hundreds of hours sitting at my computer writing something nobody understands? If nobody gets it, why did I waste my time? I mean, I’m not writing Salman Rushdie type books or a Codex Seraphinianus here. (Google that if you want to get sucked down a rabbit hole!) So basically, if I don’t get my point across, that’s on me.

So it’s eight days to publication. Eight days til I find out the best and the worst.

Eight days to Becoming Magic.

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Nine days to Becoming Magic: What do I know about #metoo?

It’s a fair question. I’m happily married to a wonderful man. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. Not by a significant other, a trusted family member, a stranger, a friend. I know people who have, though. Several.

Think about that for a minute. I know several people (I could name about six) who have been a victim of a violent crime. If I know 600 people (and that’s generous because I’m practically a hermit) and I could name six who have told me what happened to them (and it varies all along the spectrum of sexual assault from date rape to outright attack), then one out of a hundred people I know have suffered from this crime. If you count the number of women who have been sexually harassed or touched inappropriately against their will, that number skyrockets. It’s probably more like one in five.

That’s where #metoo gets its power. The sheer number of women who have suffered from this crime is overwhelming. And the rest of us? We live in fear of it. That’s me. When my mother sent me off to college it was after a strict talking to about what could happen. I already knew of course. Even in my small town, bad things happened. A teenage girl my older brother knew was raped and killed when I was a child. During my sophomore year in college, a woman was raped and killed about a block away from my apartment.

Now I’m a middle age woman and I’m still aware of how men look at me. Over the years I’ve read more and more about sexual assaults and I know better than ever what men can do to a woman. I have had moments when I’ve been certain I was in danger, when I would reach for my keys and line them up between my knuckles like claws (a move I was taught in a self-defense course), when I would go into the nearest lighted building because I thought maybe someone was following me.

And now I have a daughter.

#Metoo isn’t just about having survived an attack. It’s about women banding together to prevent those attacks from happening. It’s about creating a world where our daughters don’t have to live in fear and wear their keys like weapons. It’s about taking charge of our lives and our happiness. And that’s what Becoming Magic is about. As a romance writer, I can’t do much to change the world, but I can refuse to put the dangerous fantasies in my books. I’m changing. I hope my genre will change, too.

She looked around, spotting Connor almost immediately. She took a half step toward him and froze, stumbling a little, her eyes on the dark-haired man at the next table. He was the large, powerful type you got used to seeing in Hollywood. The kind who worked out at a gym first thing in the morning and then again at night. He was good-looking in a slick, well-kept way. Nothing about this man was an accident.

And nothing about his appearance should make her want to find the nearest potted plant and puke in it, but that was exactly how she felt, nonetheless. She felt hot and cold in quick fluctuations. She swallowed hard against the bile that rose in her throat and wheeled around, knocking into a waiter with a tray full of glasses as she did, sending them flying with a crystalline clatter.

The icy water erased the need to throw up, but not the need to flee. She wanted to look over her shoulder, to see if Connor had seen, but nothing mattered except getting away now. The world whirled and refocused on a narrow aisle leading her away and she followed.

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Happy Summer Solstice! T-minus 10 days and counting to Becoming Magic

Happy longest day of the year! Happy lightest day of the year! Happy summer solstice!

And happy T-minus 10 days to my new book, Becoming Magic. I’m calling it a new kind of romance.

What is a new kind of romance?

A romance where women are in charge of their own fate and aren’t considered property. A romance where rape is rape, not fantasy. A romance about what real women really want—real men secure enough in their own masculinity to be able to both protect a woman who wants it and back off when she doesn’t.

That’s real romance. It’s sexy and fun and no holds barred. It’s loving and tender and passionate. And here’s a little taste of it.

Connor pulled the linking rings back out of their velvet bag and began practicing with the engagement ring on them. “I may need your help, too.”

“With the trick?” She raised her eyebrows. “I’m not sure I’m the one—”

“Nonsense. You know how it works. You just have to catch it correctly.” He tossed the ring to her. She caught it neatly, but the engagement ring went flying.

“Damn.” She cursed softly. “I thought I could do that.”

“No, you weren’t sure. You said so.” He found the engagement ring and replaced it on the linking ring. He fixed her with a stern look. “Be certain.”

“Okay.” She shrugged, but she knew what he was talking about. Every movement in magic—or any showmanship, really—had to be done with certainty. No rethinking yourself or doubts allowed. The audience should never be aware that you might not know what you’re doing. And so she banished any doubts and looked at him expectantly.

“And don’t look at me like that.” He twirled the rings in the air, absently connecting and disconnecting them. She knew how it was done, but he’d gotten so good at it, she couldn’t catch him.

She laughed. “Why not?”

He paused in the act of juggling the rings, caught them and displayed them all connected with the engagement ring dangling at the bottom. “Because you make it hard for me to be certain.”

She tilted her head, wondering what he meant…

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A New Kind of Romance

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]On July 1, 2018, I will release my latest romance, Becoming Magic. In a very real way, this is an apt title for a turning point in my own writing. In it I address some pretty difficult issues facing the world at large as well as writers of romance today.

I’ve written before about how today’s empowered women have influenced my writing. Once upon a time romance was filled with shrinking, helpless “heroines” dominated by dark, brooding, melancholy “heroes”. Women were overpowered by the sexual demands of men in those romances. Rape fantasies were played out in the pages by manly men—remember the “macho man” from the eighties?—men who took what they wanted without asking.

Is it any wonder men of former generations thought we liked to be wolf whistled at, called “darlin” and sweetheart, and that it was okay to cop a feel if we left an opening?

But it seems women are finally willing to speak up and say they don’t like that. We prefer to be asked appropriately before touching begins. In today’s world, the dukes and tycoons of those old romances would find themselves on the wrong end of a sexual harassment lawsuit.  So how do romances change?

It’s a good question. Romances, at their heart, are fantasies. In the post-50 Shades world of romance, authors have begun to push those fantasies to the limit. Rape fantasies are more blatant and much more graphic in many romances. Is there really any need to stop pushing those limits, though?

The simple answer is yes. Fantasies are only fantasies until they touch on reality, and psychologists are already concerned about the effect mainstream media’s acceptance of borderline practices like S&M will have on developing teenage minds and their sex lives. I believe that the problem has existed all along and goes much deeper. I believe romance authors must address sexual harassment and face the #metoo movement head on.

We have a place in this. We can write a new kind of romance, shape the fantasies of the future. We can write first and foremost about love. Sex is a part of love, a way of expressing love and, in some romances, an essential part of character development. It is not, however, an end without means, and romance writers can and should, at least for our own characters, define what those means are.

I hope you’ll read Becoming Magic. And I hope I’ve succeeded, at least partly, in starting to write my own new and more mindful kind of romance.

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Poem: Why Can’t You See the Dark?

Why Can’t You See the Dark?

By Michelle Garren Flye

 
Why can’t you see the dark?

It creeps up on you

Concealing all that is bright—

Why don’t you see it?

 

Please see the dark.

Shadows fall and evening rises—

The sun is gone, leaving…nothing.

Please see it.

 

You’re blind to loss.

You don’t miss what’s gone,

The light you let go.

You are blind in the darkness.

 

You could still fight it.

The dark can’t take everything.

Maybe if you reach out

You’ll find the light again.

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Poem: Take a Knee

For the #KneelingMan. I heard you. My heart believes in you. #TakeAKnee.

 

Take a Knee

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Red and White and Blue and White,

Symbol of long-forgotten bravery—

Of men who fought and men who died

For our right to be free…

 

To take a knee.

 

Salute no star whose unworthy light

Shines on the path of treachery.

Beware the stripes of men who delight

And celebrate their criminality.

 

Just take a knee.

 

What is a flag when democracy fails?

When leaders grub for riches at the feet

Of a false idol who demeans and defiles

All that once made us great?

 

No. Take a knee.

 

Take a knee, say a prayer

That God can save us now.

Plead forgiveness—

Your head must bow.

 

Simply take a knee.

 

Ephesians 3:14 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.”

 

 

 

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Looking back while facing the future

IMG_3378Yesterday my oldest son graduated. What does that have to do with writing and my blog? You’re right. Absolutely nothing.

Except.

Except I didn’t start writing seriously until I became a mother. I will not presume to speak for all women, but my creativity is, I think, closely linked to my maternal drive. After all, I’d never had less time to write than after I became a mother, but since then I’ve written thirteen novels. And, interestingly, I have seen my writing grow, not just quantitatively but also qualitatively, with my children.

Other than that, what does my son’s graduation have to do with my writing. Probably nothing.

Except.

Except now he’s old enough to—if he wanted—pick up one of my books and start reading. He’s certainly old enough to run into someone else who’s read my books or to have a friend who, out of curiosity, picks up one of my books to read. It’s a half frightening thought. I don’t write or publish anything I am ashamed of having read, regardless of by whom, but it’s always a possibility that anything I put out there will change someone’s perception of me. And that’s now a possibility I have to face with my child.

Other than that, surely my son’s graduation doesn’t have anything to do with my writing. Right?

Except.

Except I can’t help wondering how it will sneak into my writing. I often find my life events do. Especially emotional ones, and this one is a doozy. How does the love between a parent and child change when a parent has to face that the child no longer truly needs her in his day-to-day life? It will surely change, and probably deepen into something I haven’t yet experienced. Since I write about love, this will probably factor into my writing in ways I cannot yet predict.

So, while I look back on my past writing with pride and see how it matured with my children, I also face forward and embrace the changes yet to come.

And speaking of changes…

Screenshot 2018-06-03 10.53.37

Coming soon

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