Release day approaches and the return of HONEOWP

Hi everybody. I’ve been struggling some with my writing since summer began. I think I’m just going to take a breathing moment and spend the summer with my kids. I know the writing bug will strike again, but until then I’m just going to relax, work on finishing up a couple of manuscripts and marketing my upcoming releases. I have two that I can lay claim to. Of course, you know about WHERE THE HEART LIES by Carina Press, but there’s also the Turquoise Press anthology FOREIGN AFFAIRS, which I’m thrilled to say includes my short story “Agapi Mou” (translation: “My Love” in Greek). FOREIGN AFFAIRS will be out sometime this fall, and as soon as I have a cover and a release date, I’ll let you know.

With these upcoming releases, I have decided it’s time to revive HONEOWP. If you remember, I began HONEOWP as a way of doing something good with my writing. I’d love to think that my writing somehow makes a positive difference in the world, but I have no illusions. I don’t really write change-the-world type stuff. So I decided to donate my royalties for a year to charity. During the course of that year, I managed to donate over $300 to charity (which doesn’t say much for my book sales). I also wore myself out researching charities and keeping up with posts about how much was donated to which charity. Not that I minded, but toward the end, it felt like it was slowing my writing down a bit.

So I’m simplifying things this time around. I’ve chosen one charity, No Kid Hungry. However, once again I’m inviting all other writers, novelists, editors and bloggers to join me in the effort. If you’d like to join up, send me your information and I’ll add it to my HONEOWP role call. You don’t have to pledge all your royalties, and you don’t have to even tell me how much you’re donating. Just post about HONEOWP and the charity of your choice on your own blog/Facebook/Twitter. I’ll blog about you and your charity and your books (if you have any) on BREATHE. If I have time (which I probably will), I’ll send you a few questions about you and your charity of choice.

So welcome back, HONEOWP, and don’t forget to join me right here on July 16 for my release day celebration!

BREATHE honored by Versatile Blogger Award

A couple weeks ago, I got a nice surprise when my friend and fellow writer A.J. Brown gave me my very first Versatile Blogger Award. I’m not totally certain I deserve this award, especially recently. I haven’t really kept on my posts like I should. However, I’m going to accept it, because I’ve learned that honors and awards offered by friends quite often mean much more than those given by strangers. Thank you, A.J. It means a lot to me that you think so much of me as to offer this.

For those who don’t know about the Versatile Blogger Award, there are a few rules. First of all, thank the person who passed the award along to you. I’ve done that. Link back to his/her blog. Well, that’s no problem. I think A.J.’s already on my O2 Links of Interest, but in case you’ve missed him, here’s another link: Type AJ Negative.

Next, I’m supposed to link back to the original site: The Versatile Blogger Award. Check.

Now comes the hard part. Nominating fifteen blogs for the VBA. Okay, here goes:

1. I’d nominate A.J., but somebody’s already beat me to it. But seriously, if you’re into writing, horror, funny family stories, author interviews, reviews, etc., you should check out his aforementioned blog. If ever there was a versatile blogger, he’s it.

2. Jennifer Reno of Jenn Reno Photography. Why a photography website? Oh my, so many reasons. First of all, I won’t deny it. She’s a friend of mine. She’s read my books and mentioned them on her blog. But really, it’s about her work. Remember the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, Jenn has millions of words on her blog, then. Every picture she takes tells a story. One of my favorites is of a little boy in a Batman cape hugging his mother. And it’s not just Jenn’s pictures either. She links to multiple other talented photographer’s sites. It’s fantastic exploring those sites and finding inspiration in the real people depicted on them.

3. John Peter’s Dark Scribblings. John recently revived his Dark Scribblings, and I’m thrilled. He’s posted interviews, articles and just some pretty interesting thoughts. John’s one of those writers who’s really interested in working with other writers, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to do just that on occasion.

4. Steve Lowe’s Assorted Shitzengiggles. If you’re not easily offended, check out Steve’s website. It’s good for a laugh, a giggle, and sometimes a snort. I think A.J. may have nominated Steve, too, but since Steve was one of my original HONEOWPs I feel I need to follow suit.

5. Amanda Von Hoffmann’s Gossamer and Lichen. Another of my original HONEOWPs and a very talented writer. Amanda blogs about writing, books, art and whatever strikes her fancy at the time.

6. Ash Joie Lee. Although Ash doesn’t currently keep up her blog, she’s got a lot of interesting stuff on it, including her ongoing Facebook Status Story.

7. Year of Giving. In 2009 Reed Sandridge was unemployed. He decided to spend his year giving $10 a day to total strangers who would then allow him to tell their story on his blog. Such an amazing blog! Go back to the first day and start reading. It’s 365 days of human interaction and some really beautiful stuff that will restore your faith in humanity.

Okay, that’s all I can come up with at the moment. I know there are more, so I may come back and add some. At any rate, my last obligation as a nominee for the VBA is to tell seven things about myself. Here goes.

1. I’m a Pisces. Even in the “new” astrology I’m a Pisces.
2. I’m taking piano lessons this year. I’ve never played a musical instrument other than a recorder in my life, but I’m taking piano lessons and I’m really horrible, but it’s fun having a new challenge.
3. I don’t go to church, but I do consider myself a Christian.
4. I’m a registered Democrat, but the right Republican could turn me.
5. I consider supercars a form of art. And muscle cars. And I love NASCAR. I’m having a hard time reconciling my love of cars with my desire for clean energy.
6. I stopped writing horror because I wanted to stop thinking about the horrible things that could happen to people.
7. I believe in happily ever after.

A.J.’s Back: Announcing ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH!

Congratulations to my friend A.J. Brown, whose story collection ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH is available in ebook form today from Dark Continents Publishing. I’ve never put together a short story collection, so I got A.J. to tell me a little about how it’s done. Welcome, A.J. Brown!

BREATHE: First off, congratulations on your new book! This has been a long time coming, and I know I’m not the only one of your readers who’s thrilled about it. Tell us a little about the stories in ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH.

A.J.: Thank you, Michelle and I’m happy you’re as thrilled as I am.

During the summer I submitted a few stories to Dark Continents Publishing. Though they didn’t accept it at that time, they liked one story in particular, “The Woodshed”. Then in early December I was contacted by DCP about submitting for an e-book release slated for early January, either a novella length story or several stories totaling around the 20-30 thousand word mark.

I submitted four and they took three of them. I think they chose the best three. They all seem to fit together in one way or other. I’m excited to see what the readers are going to say about it.

BREATHE: Two of your stories (“The Woodshed” and “‘Round These Bones”) have already made the journey into the published world but you chose to rework them for this collection. What do you think it was about these stories that made you pursue them?

A.J.: Actually, only “The Woodshed” has been published, but I still reworked both of the stories. Many people thought “The Woodshed” was good when it was published. It received some really good reviews. That was in 2008 and I’m a much better writer now than I was then. To be honest with you, I think everything I wrote before this year is crap.

What made me rework these stories (and about six others as well) was reading Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s not your typical writing tips book. It has an intimate feel to it. It has a challenging feel to it. In On Writing King mentions telling the truth in your lies, in your fiction. Not only that, he also said that the journey for the writer should be the same as the reader (per se). In other words, if I don’t enjoy the journey, then neither will the reader.

That went hand in hand with what I’ve always felt about writing: let stories breathe and they live—literally live—and the reader can feel those stories and get lost in them. I hate the cookie cutter stories, where everything is tried and true and no one is willing to take chances. So, I went back and looked at “The Woodshed”, saw holes in it, saw a lack of emotion and character and I felt like the very thing I loathe: cookie cutter writers.

I went back and rewrote the entire story, keeping parts, scrapping others. Then I did it again and again and again until this version came out. Even then, I had missed something crucial that the editor pointed out to me in the editing phase. Thankfully, we got that sorted out.

As far as “Round These Bones” is concerned, it was bad. Really bad. It was barely alive when I read it. I cringed and hoped I could make it better. I got rid of ninety percent of the original story and completely rewrote it. I let the story lead me instead of me leading the story. It was fun revisiting it and discovering where it should have went to start with.

BREATHE: How does “Phillip’s Story” fit with the other two? What made you choose it to complete the anthology?

A.J.: “Phillip’s Story” is a completely different piece. It’s really two stories in one and actually has a somewhat happy ending to it. It’s also a story that I wrote in one sitting and the first original I wrote after spending three months rewriting several pieces. It just took off and then the idea for the second part came to me and it went from there. It’s my favorite piece in the collection.

BREATHE: Tell me about the process of putting together a story collection. Did you choose a theme for it?

A.J.: When determining the stories for this collection I narrowed it down to six that I really thought were good and that could fit together as a group. I whittled that down to five and had several readers take a look at them. In the end, I went with the four I thought were the strongest and DCP picked up the three best ones.

As far as a theme, I didn’t realize there was one until my friend, Paula Ray, mentioned it. I had completely overlooked a crucial element of the collection: a title. So, when I was asked for a title I drew a complete blank. I have a title in mind for a future collection, but it is definitely theme oriented and I didn’t want to use it for this one.

I gave a synopsis of all the stories to a group of my writer friends and Paula immediately came back with the stories having one common connection: torment and discovery. Then she added, “How about Along the Splintered Path?”

I’m not going to lie, I have sweated about this since the offer came to submit again. I want this to be great. I want the readers to enjoy it. You understand how that is, Michelle. The readers are the most important people in a writer’s world—without them, we are nothing. Period. So, having the opportunity to do this is huge for me.

BREATHE: You know I have to ask: Are there any particularly interesting character names in these stories?

A.J.: Michelle, I’ve been following your blog and I see that you’ve done another Rose is A Rose series—I think you should do one of these each year to see how things change for writers.

As for my characters, there is definitely an importance to Phillip’s name. It was the only name that felt right. The same goes with Hollis Williams, one of the other characters in “Phillip’s Story.” To me Hollis was the type of name that said he could be a big fellah, maybe a little goofy or not all together there, which is what I was going for. The tragedy that is Hollis Williams is a vital part of the story and I gave his name a lot of thought. Of all the characters in the collection, those two names are the most important.

Buy ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH now!

Type AJ Negative

Making a Joyful Noise…Good News!

I got some great news today.

Carina Press, the digital-first imprint of Harlequin (!!!!), has accepted my book THE SIXTH FOLD (don’t get attached to the title, because it’ll probably change). I am thrilled, to say the very least

It’s on days like this that I think of my favorite Bible verse: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” Well, you probably know it. Not that I’m a Bible thumper or even a dedicated reader of the Bible (you wouldn’t have guessed that from my Sunday School choice of verses would you?). In fact, I tend to think of the Bible as a guidebook to be referred to when I’m feeling lost. It’s always there to help me out.

Anyway, whenever I read that particular Psalm of David’s I think of him on top of a green mountain, probably surrounded by sheep, yelling a hymn at the heavens. I think he’d probably just received some good news, because that’s how I always feel when I get good news.

The news about Carina Press is that kind of news to me. The kind that takes your breath away, makes you want to jump up and down and then quiets into a breathing moment, sort of like a stone being thrown into a pond. I’m breathing now and reflecting on my good fortune. It has to do with my career and how I now believe I’m on the right track. I’m not just whistling the day away when I steal three hours away to write.

I’m enjoying it.

HONEOWP Update: I got a nice bump in sales from WINTER SOLSTICE last month, so Rainbows International got a little donation. This month’s HONEOWP charity is one of my favorites. Toys for Tots never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The thought of real heroes playing Santa for children who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas…well, the romantic in me responds well to such things. You can donate directly by clicking on the link (above and under HONEOWP Charities to the left) or by purchasing one of my books. All my royalties for November will be donated to Toys for Tots.

Rainbow Chasers: A Tribute to Steve Jobs (with a HONEOWP announcement at the very end)

This week, two extraordinary things happened. The first ever quadruple rainbow was photographed and Steve Jobs, visionary founder of Apple, passed away. In my mind, these two events are linked by more than the time period, however.

In an article I found about the quadruple rainbow, I found the term “rainbow chasers”, and that phrase has caught my imagination in a sort of magical way. I’ve mused about what it would be like to chase rainbows. It’s an actual job, too. Check out the Urban Dictionary’s definition. What a wonderful way to introduce yourself. I’d love to be able to walk up at a dinner party or a PTO function or really just about anywhere, shake someone’s hand and introduce myself as “Michelle Garren Flye, rainbow chaser.”

But in a way, I am a rainbow chaser. And Steve Jobs was one of the most successful rainbow chasers of our time. In his own words:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Stanford University Commencement Address 2005

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903596904576520690515394766.html#ixzz1a6UcP55X

So, in honor of Steve Jobs and the rainbow chasers who went before him (Walt Disney, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Einstein), I offer a new definition of a rainbow chaser: Someone who recognizes the joy of constantly striving toward the goal of perfection in their life and work. And in honor of Steve Jobs and the future rainbow chasers who may have been inspired by him, I designate my next HONEOWP Charity as Rainbows International Grief Support Organization for Children.

August: A Big Month for HONEOWP; Can We Make September Even Better?

Hey y’all! Just a quick note of celebration for my HONEOWP effort for August. Although my royalties were as underwhelming as ever, I did receive $200 prize money for my third place story in Hyperink’s Romance Anthology Contest. I had originally only pledged my royalties to the HONEOWP effort, but I decided that the prize money should go to it as well. I donated $100 to Oceana, my HONEOWP charity, and $100 to the Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run.

As mentioned before, my HONEOWP charity for this month is my local food bank. September is Hunger Action Month, and many of us, myself included, probably don’t realize how many hungry people there are in America. From the children who go to school hungry to the parents who struggle every day and the homeless who can’t afford a decent meal, they’re all around us. My goal for September is not just to get people to buy my books so I can donate the royalties, but to urge you to locate your local food bank and make a donation there. Please, spread the word. Refer someone to my post, tweet it or repost it on Facebook. YOU could make a difference.

For ways you can help fight hunger in America:

Food Bank Locator
Share Our Strength
Feed the Children
Feeding America

Post Irene Update

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts since we got our power back after Hurricane Irene. It’s harder than it sounds. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever been through an experience quite like Irene. Early, early on Saturday morning I woke and lay awake hearing the wind and various thumps from outside. I knew those thumps were trees coming down. I’ve heard that final, horrifying sound of a tree dying before. These were different, though. These thumps were near and far and I had no real idea when one might crash through the roof of my house. When the power went out at 4:45 a.m., I pretty much gave up sleeping and just listened and prayed.

The gray-washed light of Saturday morning brought no real relief. The water in the creek was higher than I’ve ever seen it. I alternated watching it and waiting for it to come over our retaining wall and keeping a close eye on the swaying hundred foot tall pines in our front yard. I don’t know exactly how long the eye wall of Irene hovered a mere forty miles away from my home, but I do know the winds and rain continued until well past dinner time on Saturday. I finally realized it was over when I heard a bird cheeping outside. Peering out the window I saw him sitting on the railing beside my steps, fluttering his wings and chirping indignantly at the sky. I couldn’t help but smile because his feelings exactly echoed mine.

On Sunday we realized how lucky we were. Trees were down all around us. Trees blocked roads, smashed houses and littered yards. Homes were flooded not far away. Nobody had power. Generators and chainsaws provided a white noise for five days after. You can still hear the chainsaws and wood chippers, but almost everyone has power again thanks to the utility companies who worked tirelessly to restore it. I’ve had power and cable for going on three days and have logged on to update my blog at least six times. I couldn’t find the words.

You see, I thought I was salty. I thought I had been through a hurricane before. I thought I was a tough Eastern North Carolinian (I’ve lived here for six years now) who could weather the storm. But I’ve never seen a storm like Irene. And she was mild compared to some. Locals still talk about Fran and we all know what Katrina did. My heart goes out to the people on the Gulf Coast who are now dealing with Tropical Storm Lee. Heavy rain could fall there for 36 hours and thousands are already without power. Even as I say a little prayer for those affected by Lee and those worse affected than me by Irene, I’m keeping a close eye on Katia. Too soon to tell if she’s coming our way, but I have no desire whatsoever to go through another hurricane.

And now that I’ve found the words to express my dismay about tropical storms, it’s time for my HONEOWP update. September is Hunger Action Month, so I’m donating my royalties to my local food bank. Even when natural disasters are few and far between, there are plenty of hungry people out there. Consider making a donation to your local food bank this month. And if you want me to donate more royalties to my food bank, buy my books!

Still waiting to hear about August’s royalties to know what my final donation to Oceana will be, but I have decided to include my $200 prize money for my story “Life After”, which won third place in Hyperink’s Romance Anthology Contest. If you’d like to purchase the anthology and read my story, you can find it on Amazon (Kindle format) here: The Best of All Sins: Stories of Love and Heartbreak or on Hyperink’s website (pdf format). If you read it, please consider writing a review on Amazon!

Stay safe everybody, and take a breathing moment when you can.