Fear Waits By My Computer

grayscale photography of human skull

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I get up. I send the kids off to school. I grab a cup of coffee. I go to my office.

I say good morning to Fear.

Fear waits for me by my desk every morning.

Good morning, he says. Are you ready?

I am. I sit down behind my computer and push Fear away. He’ll breathe down my neck if I don’t. 

And I type, ferociously and as unbrokenly as I can manage because if I stop, Fear is waiting.

Fear is patient.

Are you sure that’s the right way to put that? He lingers at my shoulder. Then he shrugs. Never mind. Nobody reads your stuff, anyway.

You should’ve started writing novels earlier instead of that short story crap. Ten years earlier and you’d have an agent and been able to sell your stuff instead of messing around with this self-publishing thing. It’s just vanity press by a different name.

You should really get an agent, but agents don’t like what you write, do they?

Fear has a grip on me now, so he is confident enough to walk away a little. He looks back at me and shakes his head. Why did you quit your day job? Oh yeah, to be a mom. But you could get a real job now. Maybe you should. 

And now Fear has a little friend. Self-Doubt holds his hand, and is somehow more frightening than Fear himself. 

What’s the problem? Fear says. Are you afraid if you stop writing you’ll be just another regular Joe?

Maybe you already are, whispers Self-Doubt. Maybe you always have been.

Note: So far this month, I have defeated both Fear and Self-Doubt. I’m at 48,254 words of the National Novel Writing Month book. Take THAT Fear and Self-Doubt!

 

Like them or not, you should listen to the poets

If anything has caught me off-guard about today’s political climate, it’s the rising dislike of celebrities and intellectuals. Once upon a time, these were the heroes. Movie stars like James Dean smoked, so everyone had a pack of cigarettes tucked in their rolled up t-shirt sleeve. Jane Fonda said we need more exercise so everyone started aerobics. Remember those “The More You Know” PSAs? They featured everyone from Tom Brokaw to Matthew Perry speaking out about issues like conservation and education. Stars trying to use their star status to make a difference in the world.

In 2016, it felt like all that changed. All of a sudden, conservatives wondered out loud where athletes and movie stars and, God forbid, writers got off having political opinions. And why should they be allowed to speak out about the every day world of politics? Movie stars should just act, singers should just sing, athletes just play their sports (and stand for the National Anthem). The other day, Rob Thomas tweeted that he was shocked to see a reporter’s White House press credentials taken away because he asked the president a question the president didn’t want to be asked. The response Thomas got from fans was less than encouraging in many cases.

But the worst of this is that suddenly writers aren’t supposed to have an opinion. Writers aren’t supposed to speak out against what looks like certain doom. Writers shouldn’t remind the public of what has come before and what it wrought. The press is “fake news” because they are trying to report what’s happening to us. This seems a particularly dangerous attitude, honestly. To prove my point, I’ve compiled a partial list of things writers (mostly in science fiction, but not all) predicted, for want of a better word, in their fiction.

And after reading this, maybe you can understand why I say, listen to the poets. Otherwise, you may live to regret it.

1726 (Jonathan Swift) Gulliver’s Travels predicted the discovery of Mars’s two moons.

1818 (Mary Shelley) Frankenstein predicted organ transplants.

1865 (Jules Verne) From the Earth to the Moon predicted solar sails and lunar modules that launch from Florida and return to earth as splashdown capsules.

1887 (Edward Bellamy) Looking Backward predicted credit/debit cards and shopping malls.

1898 (Morgan Robertson) The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility predicted the sinking of the Titanic—by iceberg in the month of April—fourteen years before it happened.

1899 (H.G. Wells) When the Sleeper Wakes predicted motion sensing doors.

1903 (H.G. Wells) The Land Ironclads predicted tanks.

1909 (E.M. Forster) The Machine Stops predicted video chatting.

1910 (Edwin Balmer and William MacHarg) The Achievements of Luther Trant predicted the lie detector test.

1913 (H.G. Wells) The World Set Free predicted the atom bomb.

1923 (H.G. Wells) Men Like Gods predicted phones, email and television.

1924 (J.B.S. Haldane) Daedalus; or Science and the Future predicted in vitro fertilization.

1932 (Aldous Huxley) A Brave New World predicted genetic engineering.

1961 (Robert Heinlein) Stranger in a Strange Land predicted water beds.

1968 (Arthur C. Clarke) 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted the iPad and its use to access news media.

1968 (John Brunner) Stand on Zanzibar predicted satellite tv, violence in schools, and, eerily, President Obama (Obomi was the character’s name). Interestingly, it is set in 2010.

1984 (William Gibson) Neuromancer predicted computer hackers.

1990 (David Brin) Earth predicted broken levees in the Deep South and the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant.

1994 (Tom Clancy) Debt of Honor predicted the use of hijacked jet planes to crash into U.S. government buildings.

Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency has been predicted by everyone from The Simpsons to Philip Roth. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, her presidential candidate even used the slogan “Make America Great Again”.

Are these all coincidence? Life imitating art? Possibly, though Stand on Zanzibar and The Wreck of the Titan sound like blatant fortune-telling to me, and how Jonathan Swift could know Mars had two moons in 1726 is beyond me. But what is my point here, anyway? Should Stephen King and J.K. Rowling be allowed to say whatever they want about Donald Trump and the fools who voted for him?

Yeah. Probably. Because true poets have a knack for looking at things a little closer, opening themselves up to the universe a little more, feeling things a little deeper…and seeing things a little clearer than others do. I’m not saying me. I try, but I haven’t gotten there yet. But I do believe we are given poets and prophets and visionaries by a God who wants to help guide us.

And if the overwhelming majority of those poets and prophets and visionaries are saying don’t go there, I suggest we listen.

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Helpless: 76 words that aren’t for NaNo (poem)

Helpless

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

I wish I could sing.

Glorious notes,

Beautiful arias.

Fill the room

With emotion.

Shout it out—

With melody.

 

I wish I could paint.

Dexterous strokes,

Shades of beauty.

Fill the walls

With truth.

Slash it on—

With skill.

 

I wish I could write.

Eloquent phrases,

Perfect words.

Fill the page

With wisdom.

Jot it down—

With brilliance.

 

But I can only scream.

Painfully.

Wretchedly.

Helplessly

Filling the world

With fire.

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Double Promo: Becoming Dickens?

I have a guest blog post on Sharing Links and Wisdom today that’s sort of a compare/contrast thing about my two current releases, Becoming Magic and Dickens Magic. I’ve never actually had this sort of thing happen before—two fresh books out at once? I remember the first time I met with an agent and he asked me for proposals for at least three more ideas for novels. I had no idea how to go about that.

And now I have two books out, one rough draft complete (Timeless), and I’m working on my National Novel Writing Month book, Magic at Sea. I’ve also got plans for another magic book and another standalone romance. Plus, my daughter’s been asking me to write a kids’ book and I might have a rough idea for one… It’s in the process.

So I haven’t forgotten about either of my new releases. I’m hoping they’ll help promote each other. And I’ll go ahead and tell you, Connor and Carole from Becoming Magic and Alex and Kate from Dickens Magic make multiple appearances in Magic at Sea.

Wish me luck on this crazy month… For anyone keeping score, my word count is currently at 23,201, which is well ahead of the curve, but I know from experience the end of the month is when it gets hard, so I’m writing as much as possible now. They’re not all good words, but they  are words, and during NaNoWriMo madness, that’s what counts!

And hey, buy one of my books! They make great escape reading.

Paranormal Interests: Dickens and Me

7A241F6E-D057-4BE3-8D35-3CB616A54869I’ve mentioned before that I loved A Christmas Carol from an early age. I first read this copy, which belonged to my father and is one of my most treasured possessions.

Looking back, I’m not really surprised that I fell in love with that story. It starts out with a ghost, and that’s a definite interest I’ve always had—along with magicIt’s an interest I evidently shared with Charles Dickens, a famous skeptic who helped found The Ghost Club, a club dedicated to investigating the paranormal.

As for me, I rabidly consumed those little dime store pulp magazines—the ones that told of the bloody history of the countess of Bathory and explored creepy urban legends like the spiders in the wig and the vanishing hitchhiker. This obsession grew into a full-fledged love of local legends and lore. I have a jampacked shelf with ghost stories from every place I’ve ever visited.

I figure Dickens and I don’t have to be too reserved about our interest in the paranormal, though. It was, after all, shared by notables like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, among others. And while Doyle was known to be a believer, Houdini and Dickens were both skeptics. And me? I’m somewhere between. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Have I mentioned that Dickens Magic is available today?

 

Kept in the Dark: The dark twin to Dickens Magic

My “magic consultant” R.J. (Arjay) Lewis just happens to have released his own book today, possibly more appropriate to the date than mine is. I was lucky enough to get to read this book ahead of time so I could post a review for him. If you like horror at all and want an extra chill today, give Kept in the Dark a try. Plus, it’s free!

My review of R.J.’s “dark twin” of Dickens Magic:

Kept in the Dark“Everything will make sense once you know what I know.”

Arjay Lewis draws that line in the sand that you just have to cross. You have to know what he—and his protagonist Jake Hurd—know. And once you know it, maybe it makes sense…or maybe you wish you didn’t know it anymore?

Kept in the Dark is Arjay’s latest foray into the psychological thriller/horror genre. A delightfully frightening mix with well-developed characters and a chilling plot, it takes you through the experiences of Jake as told to his psychiatrist Dr. Sam Lucas. Sam has to face the fact that Jake may not be the delusional night guard who’s afraid of the dark, but instead a man who’s been damned by his glimpse into another dimension—and the monsters he accidentally released.

I loved the tie-in to the Ecuadorian legend of El Cucuy and the tragic and the chilling view of mental illness. Well done!

Full disclosure, I was provided a free copy of this novel, and Arjay has worked with me on a number of projects. But I have enjoyed his work since before I met him when I first read The Muse. I think you will enjoy this novel, too.

Happy birthday, Dickens Magic!

dickens-magicHappy birthday, at long last, Dickens Magic! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever! And what better way to celebrate my latest book in my magic series than by indulging in a little of the magic of the day?

I try to release my magic books on Halloween for a couple of reasons. First, it’s Samhain, the day the Celts believed the veil lifted a little between this world and that of the dead. It’s a sort of “in between” time and magic abounds. For instance:

  • Bat magic. Bats are messengers. Did you know you can send a message with a bat to the other side of the veil on Halloween? Just ask when you see one out and about tonight.
  • Spider magic. Don’t squash spiders on Halloween! If you find one inside, it’s probably a dead relative come to visit.
  • Black cat magic. If you find a stray black cat curled up on your doorstep, don’t scare it off. It’s there to guard your house against evil spirits. Or it’s a witch’s familiar sent to spy on you.
  • Jack-o-lantern magic. You probably have one guarding your front door. My favorite legend of the jack-o-lantern comes from the Southern Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. One of many “Jack Tales” I read and heard over the years. I especially like the one from Richard Chase’s timeless collection. In this version, Jack the troublemaker made the first one when, after tricking the devil into agreeing not to take his soul to hell, he was also refused entrance to heaven. The devil, taking pity on poor, homeless Jack’s soul, tossed him a coal from hell and Jack put it into a hollowed out gourd to light his way as he wandered the earth. If you haven’t read the Chase collection, it’s available here: Jack Tales.

Second, it just so happens that the master of escape magic, Harry Houdini died on Halloween. Even he couldn’t avoid the inescapable clutch of death, it seems. Or could he? Toward the end of his life, Houdini was alternately fascinated and disgusted by the “mediums” of the day. He spent a large amount of his time studying their tricks and exposing them.

And yet, he and his wife Bess promised each other that whoever passed away first would find a way to contact the other with a secret code that spelled “Believe”. So, after Houdini’s death, Bess arranged a seance on the anniversary of his death every year until her own death, after which it was taken up by other believers.

I wonder about the death of Houdini. What better way for an escape magician to cross the veil than when it is, by Celtic belief, at its thinnest? And surely, if he so desired, he could escape that veil. Yet so far, no one has heard from him. If you’re curious about this year’s seance, you can find out more here: Houdini seance.

Maybe this year he’ll tell everyone to buy Dickens MagicIt’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, you know. He and Dickens shared a real interest in the paranormal. More about that later.