Going for it: Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate finalist

In April 2017, I began writing poetry. As in writing a poem a day for all thirty days of National Poetry Month. I don’t even know why. I had never thought of myself as a poet. I’m not a classically trained one, anyway. My degrees are in journalism and library science. The only things I know about rhyme and rhythm and meter are the little bit I remember from high school—and what I feel in my heart.

Since April 2017, which I now realize was almost three years ago, I have written poetry often, usually to vent something, political or personal. I’ve taught a few elementary poetry classes to kids because I still remember the first time I read e.e. cummings’s “in just—” and I wanted to share that with them. I’ve read and written poetry for more than one voice, which is not something I learned in school. I’ve played with rhyming and not rhyming, sometimes in the same poem. I’ve written prose poetry and limericks and haiku. (Haiku, done properly, is much harder than you might think.)

Last year, I published a little booklet of my poetry because a friend had passed away and I wanted to dedicate something beautiful to her memory. I chose fourteen of my favorite poems, formatted them with some of my photography and sent them off to a printer. I have given away more of those booklets than I’ve sold (it’s only available at my bookstore).

And that’s what poetry is to me, really. It’s meant to share. I’m more than happy to charge you $9 for one of my romances, but poetry, to me, is something different. Most of what I write goes on my blog, if I think it’s any good. I’ve only ever tried to submit it to poetry magazines or contests once or twice, more because I wanted to share with a wider audience than anything.

So, you might imagine my surprised delight when I was notified yesterday that I am a finalist for the title of 2020 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. This means I have the opportunity to present my poetry and my view of poetry to an audience at the historic Turnage Theatre in less than a month. I’m thrilled, rattled, uncertain, ecstatic and pretty sure the selection committee sent the email to the wrong person, but at the same time, I’m gonna go for it. This is a huge honor for me, as well as the opportunity to express my love for this art form.

Wish me luck.

My poetry booklet.

The author and the bookstore

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved reading. She loved reading more than anything else. She would wake, pick up a book and start reading. She read as she ate, as she brushed her teeth, as she walked… She even found a way to prop her book up on the bedside table so she could read while she dressed.

Eventually, reading wasn’t enough, so the girl began to write the words she loved. Slowly, she came to the point where she was writing instead of reading. Maybe not as constantly because somewhere in there she’d grown up and had more responsibilities. Kids must be fed and cared for, house must be cleaned, laundry laundered, jobs attended to. Still, she found as much time as possible for writing. She even wrote several novels and that’s how the girl became the author.

The author found a little bookstore—a friendly, charming place that welcomed local authors and sold their books for them. The owner of the bookstore was a lovely lady who enjoyed meeting new people and liked selling their books for them. But eventually the lady wanted to retire. She told the author the store would have to close, but the author was very sad about that. “Oh, you can’t do that!” She thought of all the books in the store that would no longer have a place on a shelf in a warm, cozy bookstore. Including her books.

“I wish I could keep doing this forever,” the owner said, “but it’s just time for me to let go. Of course, if I could find someone to take over for me, that person could keep the bookstore open. Would you be interested?”

The author had never considered such a thing. She wasn’t a businesswoman. She was a mother, a wife, a reader, a writer. She had two dogs and two cats to take care of. She had carpools and volunteer work and housework and laundry. Being a bookstore owner wasn’t something she could do.

But maybe it was.

And so the author took over the bookstore and found she loved it. The bookstore was even more charming and peaceful when she went into it every day. It slowly became hers, and she felt as if “work” was not a chore there. “Work” was love, and the bookstore gave it freely to its new owner, the author.

Author’s Note: All this is to say that I am the proud new owner of a bookstore that I really do love. The Next Chapter Books and Art in New Bern, N.C. It happened very suddenly and much as I wrote above. I’m still in the transition stage with limited hours while I get my kids used to me not being the stay-at-home writer/mom that I’ve always been, but come in and feel the good vibes there. The positive energy that soaks the place is worth the trip.

Like The Next Chapter here:                https://www.facebook.com/TheNextChapterBooksNB/

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Poem: Magnum Opus

“If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

–Michelangelo

 

Magnum Opus

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Is that your masterpiece?

Your legacy and estate?

 

When you look at it,

Do you know it’s finished?

Or do you want to wipe it clean?

 

Completion is nothing.

Finality is all that counts.

You could dot the last “I”—

Then black it all out.

 

The creator’s Hand decides.

Or maybe it’s accidental?

In the end, it won’t matter.

 

Shake the Etch-a-Sketch

And start over again.

 

Author’s Note: As the year draws to a close, I’m looking hard at where I am and where I want to be. I’m making plans for changes. Watch this space.

But don’t worry. I still have plenty of romance left. I’m not erasing the Etch-a-Sketch. I’m adding another one.

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.

Dickens Magic: My Exception Proves Nothing

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This picture has nothing to do with this post. It’s just a pretty picture I took and posted here to catch your eye. Do you like it?

I’ve never liked that phrase “the exception that proves the rule”. If there’s an exception, then it proves the rule is faulty, right? Or does it prove that there is a rule to begin with? Or is it that you’re “testing” (proving) the rule with your exception?

No matter what, the expression is rife with possibilities for misinterpretation.

Which is why I’ve decided that Dickens Magic, which is most definitely an exception to my normal formula for Sleight of Hand books, proves nothing. Nothing except that I will go where my characters and their story lead me.

But how is Dickens Magic different from my other books? First of all, the hero and heroine are not magicians. Neither one of them. They aren’t involved in magic (at first, at least) in any way.

Second, Dickens Magic does not take place in any exotic locales like Las Vegas or the Caribbean or Hollywood. There is one very brief scene in New York City. The rest of the book is set entirely in New Bern, N.C., one of the least exotic locales you could ever want to visit.

Third, Dickens Magic’s setting centers around a building. It’s actually a building I love. The Masonic Theatre where RiverTowne Players performs. And it’s based on my own theatrical exploits. I tell everyone my recent desire to be an actress is my midlife crisis. And I’m good with that. But the truth is, if I had never walked into that theater with my daughter when she auditioned for The Little Mermaid, Jr. at the age of five, that midlife crisis would probably have lain dormant forever. I couldn’t do it anywhere else, I’m pretty sure.

Finally, I never put myself in my books. I can honestly say I’ve never read one of my books and seen myself in it. But this one, I kind of did, although I didn’t realize it until the final round of editing. It startled me at first when I noticed it, and certainly it’s not a real clear portrait of who I am, but it’s there. I’m not one of the main characters, though, so don’t think I think I’m the multitalented Kate.

So, my exception is out there. It doesn’t prove a thing. I’ll return to the rules (or most of them, at least) next time. Though maybe I’ll decide it’s more fun breaking the rules, especially the rules I’ve made myself.

 

October 31 and magic

Why do I launch my magic books on October 31? Could be one of several reasons. For instance, did you know on October 31, 2011, the global population reached seven billion for the first time in history? Yep. That day is officially known as the Day of Seven Billion. So, you know, lots of potential readers out there.

But that’s not it.

October 31 is, of course, All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day or Halloween, depending on your religion or lack of it. It’s a day for remembering the dead. A day for spirits and magick.

But that’s not it.

When I first started out my quest to make magic romantic, I did a lot of research about magicians. I read about magicians and magic through history. I researched different types of magic from illusion to mentalism. I watched videos, old and new. From David Copperfield and David Blaine to Houdini. I found out that Harry Houdini, master escape magician whose water torture escapes still elude much of the magical community, died on October 31.

And that’s it.

That’s it because not only did he die on October 31 but because of a pact with his wife, Bess, to do his best to contact her from beyond the grave, a seance is still held every year on the anniversary of his death. In fact, multiple seances are held. There’s even an online one. Harry Houdini, 91 years after death, is still encouraging people to believe.

That’s what I want to do with my writing. It’s why I started writing about magicians. I love that magicians can help us believe in something beyond ourselves, even when we know there’s a trick. A well-performed magic trick can, even for an instant, help us believe that maybe there’s something more out there.

Speaking of believing: This is the 90th year of the Houdini Seance. Do you believe Houdini will choose this year to contact us?

Happy Launch Day, Movie Magic! (Check out the reading at the end…)

It’s October 31, and that means the launch of my new book, Movie Magic. I so enjoyed writing this one, and I’m so hoping you will enjoy reading it.

Today, we celebrate. At the end of the day (about 5 p.m.), I’ll draw names from all my commenters for prizes. Everything from signed copies of Movie Magic to Amazon gift cards. Every comment is eligible, and multiple entries are encouraged.

By the way, Ann Marie was the winner of the special edition Sleight of Hand perfume from Waft.com. I’ll be in touch with her to arrange delivery!

I leave you with this. It’s me, reading from chapter one of Movie Magic. I’m not big on public performances, but I really believe in this book.