The Freedom (and Responsibility) of Self Publishing

I have a new book coming out on May 28. Did I mention that? I scheduled that release date myself. I wrote the book, too. And edited it. And proofread it. Again and again and again… (I’m actually in the last round of proofreading right now.) And hired a book cover guru (Farah Evers Designs). I did all this on my own without consulting anyone (except Farah because she has a skill set I do not). No editors, no agents, no publishers.

This is my book.

Why don’t I get an agent and sell my book to a real publisher? I guess the short answer to that is I have no patience. I used to think that was the only way to publish legitimately. But over and over I kept hearing “You’re a good writer, but it’s not what we’re looking for.” Well, I heard that when I could get any response at all. And that was usually after six months to a year of anguished waiting and checking my email and wishing and hoping and praying…

Self-publishing, though. Wow, that’s freedom. You can finish a book today and put it out tomorrow. Well, almost. It does have to pass a vetting process through Amazon or Smashwords or whatever. Still, it’s really easy comparatively. When I realized this (after my first self-published book, Weeds and Flowers), it didn’t take long or many rejections to decide my next one would be self-published.

It also didn’t take me long to realize the universal truth behind Uncle Ben’s immortal words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I have spent the past decade perfecting my skills, not only in writing, but also book designing, editing, even a little cover design (though I still prefer Farah), and everything else that is involved in creating a beautiful book for my readers. I’ve studied and read articles, trying my best to learn to craft a perfect sentence or just to learn the difference between lie and lay (that one is my kryptonite, but don’t get me started on who and whom).

Am I there yet? Hell, no. Why do you think I’ve been reading and re-reading my book? I have not the slightest doubt there are mistakes in it, but tell me, when was the last time you read a 70,000-word book (whether it was professionally or self published) that didn’t? Most 700-word magazine articles have typos. Hell, CNN makes mistakes routinely in seven-word headlines. So, yeah, in spite of my best efforts, you may find a typo. But you’ll find fewer mistakes in Magic at Sea than you’d probably find in Secrets of the Lotus (my first novel published by Kensington Press).

(It’s worth mentioning, too, that any traditional publisher would probably have put off publishing Magic at Sea indefinitely considering the bad press that the cruise industry has received recently. Is that going to stop me? Oh no. I wrote this book based on a cruise to Alaska that my family and I took that is still one of my favorite vacations ever. I would do it again in a heartbeat.)

I often wonder what I would do if a professional publisher offered to publish my books. Purchase my whole backlist, professionally edit it, and put it out in paperback. It’s no doubt a pipe dream because, as I’ve been told often enough, I don’t write what they want to publish, but what would I do if someone made that offer after the love and care I know I’ve put into every one of my books? Sign or no?

Who am I kidding? I’d sign.

In the meantime, however, here are approximately 700 of my words that I’ve pored over (yes, pored, not poured, I looked that one up a while back) to entice you to buy Magic at Sea. Hopefully with no mistakes!

As they sat to partake of the drinks and snacks he’d arranged, Galen found himself settling into the unintentional role of Frankie’s escort. Yet it felt natural when Connor and Carole sat together with Kate and Alex next to them for Galen to hold a chair for Frankie.

“So you really get to live on this ship?” Kate looked around with appreciation, then back to Frankie. She sighed. “Just imagine the amount of writing I could get done.”

Frankie smiled. “For six months, as long as I behave myself.” She batted her eyelashes at Galen. “I wasn’t everyone’s first choice for onboard entertainment, though.”

Galen felt the full force of the little group’s curious gazes. How could he not adore Frankie? How could he not be certain she would be an asset to the cruise—not just this ship but the entire line? He shook his head inwardly. Though from what he’d gathered Frankie had only met Connor once before, she was already a part of the group. Maybe it was some sort of magicians’ code. More likely it stemmed from her association with their friends. Any friend of mine…

“You don’t approve of escape magic, then?” Connor’s good humor didn’t falter. “I’ve never tried any of it myself, mainly because it’s a whole different skill set that takes years to learn, and if you don’t know what you’re doing…” He shrugged and looked back to Frankie. “But I’m looking forward to seeing your show. Lydia and Tony speak very highly of you.”

“Thank you.” Frankie took a little sip of her champagne and glanced at Galen. Her eyes sparkled. Your turn.

He accepted the unspoken challenge. “Frankie’s show marks a bit of change in our focus as far as entertainment goes. The magic shows have always been more kid-centric.”

“I can do kid magic.” Frankie spoke up.

“Can you?” He shot back.

“Of course I can. I got my start as a kid, after all. I know the rings and the scarves and the cup and ball routine. Why don’t you let me prove it?” She leaned forward. “If you think the kids will be missing the magic show because you’ve made it the ten o’clock show, let me go to the kids’ clubs.”

“What happens when they want to come to your show that evening?” He raised his eyebrows.

She shrugged. “I’m not ashamed of my show. You’re the one who decided it needed a parental guidance rating.”

“I—” He hesitated. It sounded silly now. He hadn’t even seen the whole show, after all.

Alex looked amused. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you slap a parental warning on a show, the kids immediately want to get in even more. What’s wrong with the show?”

“It’s…” He couldn’t complete the sentence satisfactorily in spite of the polite silence that stretched uncomfortably.

Frankie appeared to take pity on him. “In his defense, it is a little edgy. And some of the effects might be a bit scary. Tense.”

“Has nothing to do with what you look like, then?” Connor’s voice had taken on an edge of its own now. He leaned forward, his eyes on Galen’s. “Because that wouldn’t exactly be the best standard to base a decision on, would it?”

Carole put a hand over her fiancé’s and he glanced at her, then returned to his original position. She gave Galen a curiously sympathetic look. “Not everyone judges women based on how they look.”

Feeling strangely as if he’d been given a rare compliment he didn’t really deserve, Galen cleared his throat. “At any rate, I did make the decision that Frankie’s show would do best in the ten o’clock slot. But if she’s popular enough, she’ll get an encore show as well.”

“And now I can do the kids’ shows, too.” She smiled happily.

“I didn’t agree to that.”

“I believe you did.” She looked around the table and the others nodded agreement.

He groaned. “Fine. But I need to see what you’re hoping to perform first.” His phone dinged and he realized he must have been there for more than an hour. The first day at sea had a lot of programs to run, and though they mostly ran themselves, he needed to make the rounds. He rose. “Sorry. Duty calls.”

And the beautiful cover designed by Farah Evers Designs

Happy May Day!

No poem today.

But do not fret and worry.

Poetry returns.

🙂

Seriously, I’m kind of happy to be done with the poem-a-day challenge. Writing poetry—everyday, anyway—gives you a new respect for Emily Dickinson. Not appreciation. Respect. There is a difference! I’ve always appreciated Dickinson, but the volume of poetry she wrote is something I now respect. It’s hard to write a poem every day.

But on to other things. It’s May Day! Let’s celebrate spring in spite of quarantine. What better way than by anticipating my upcoming new book? This is my new romance novel that takes place, of all places, on a cruise ship. Lol, right? If you can stop laughing long enough, though, take into account that I began writing this novel three years ago after I went on a cruise to Alaska. It was an amazing, truly magical experience, and to me, there is nothing so romantic as the sea. So, if you can clear the tears of laughter from your eyes, here’s the cover and a brief excerpt.

Cover by Farah Evers Designs

“Do you want me to leave?” He turned his hand over in hers so he could curl his fingers around hers.

“I think it would be best. Yes.”

“I will then.” He dropped his hand from hers, but then he leaned forward and kissed her, very quickly and softly, on the lips. “I’ve got plenty to do and you don’t need me here. I won’t see you again before your show tonight, though, so I want you to think about one thing for me.”

She wasn’t sure she could think about anything else but how his lips felt on hers and how much she wanted to repeat that experience. “What?” 

“Have you ever once worried about what would happen if this thing doesn’t work out? Or have you just wondered what will happen if it does?”

His words gave her a jolt as she recognized the truth in them. She hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be stuck working on a ship with a man she’d attempted to date, perhaps to see him start another relationship with someone else. Not even once had that occurred to her. Why wasn’t she worried about that

Because it won’t happen. I feel it. If we let this thing get started between us, it’s not going to stop. And maybe that’s what I’m scared of.

He stepped away from her, his eyes still locked on hers. He nodded. “Neither have I.”

From Magic at Sea by Michelle Garren Flye

So go celebrate May Day with cake, dancing (even if it’s solitary, dance anyway) and singing. If you have a May Pole, decorate it. Smell some flowers. Enjoy life a little. We all deserve it.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Happy National Poetry Month (a day late)

Yesterday was April 1, 2020, the first time I’ve ever wished someone would declare the whole year thus far as an April Fool’s joke.

It didn’t happen.

But while I was waiting for it to happen, I did get something done. A little something, anyway. I took a picture. You can see it to the left.

Yes, I published a book of poetry. A couple of those poems go back several years to the first year I wrote a poem a day for National Poetry Month. That’s when I first realized I liked writing poetry. And that I was pretty good at it.

I’ve come a little ways since then. I’m more confident about what I can do and why I do it. I’m pretty sure I’ll write poetry for the rest of my life. I guess that’s why I decided to go ahead and publish a small collection publicly. If you know there’s more coming, why not, right?

Speaking of which, there’s never been a better time for whiling away the time writing poetry than now. A bookstore, the most essential place of business in the best of times, isn’t, exactly, right now. So, in the interests of the public health, I’m staying home. And since it’s National Poetry Month, I’m writing a poem a day. Since I missed yesterday, you get two today. Let me know what you think!



April 1, 2020
 
April Fool’s, I cry, wishing it applied.
If only the past four years could dissipate
And life go on with no reason to hide.
But go back inside and shut the gate;
No use waiting for a change in the tide.
 
Store’s closed, theater’s shuttered, all gone.
No more help from those in charge
Than that you give yourself alone.
No superheroes will arrive and barge
In to help you, so change your tone.
 
Would life be better if other decisions were made?
Oh yes, but we can’t live for yesterday when
Worries about tomorrow still pervade.
Close your eyes and count one to ten.
Then go on with life, there are debts to be paid.




April 2, 2020
 
How long until we trust a hug again?
How long before we open up to life,
And throw our arms around each other?
I’d like to buy the world a coke—
But that’s tough from six feet away.
 
They say it will happen eventually.
Slowly, we’ll see this thing go away.
Can a hug happen carefully,
Or is it more of a spontaneous thing?
Can we learn to embrace that way?
 
I guess it will work out for us, though.
When this is over, we’ll be delicate.
It’s better to be careful when you’re hurt.
And oh, we will be tired and we will ache—
When we get there, don’t squeeze too hard.

What is Utopia?

As a writer, I get to imagine things all the time, but one thing for me has always been sort of amorphous. What, exactly, would Utopia be like? I can imagine a place with green fields where everyone does their fair share, but eventually I start seeing flaws in the system. For instance, I don’t like working outdoors, I tend to kill plants, and I hate bugs. Would I be expected to help grow crops the same way my brother, who has a green thumb, would? And as a librarian, I wonder, would people who don’t care about books be expected to help me take care of them? How can you be a caretaker for something you have no care for? Who’s making all these rules, anyway?

Usually, I end up deciding I’d rather just retreat onto a mountaintop or desert island with the people I love most and have supplies air dropped to me. But what kind of liberal does that make me if I can’t even picture a Utopia that works?

Today I read this wonderful opinion column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times called Watership Down and the Crisis of Liberalism and I practically clapped my hands. If you’ve never read Watership Down, the classic tale by Richard Adams, you must. Go get a copy. I’ll wait. Okay, maybe not, because it is like 500 pages long, but Watership Down was a masterpiece, and Douthat hits the nail on the head with what makes a true Utopia and how Adams created one with this sentence:

And what makes the regime the rabbits are founding good — and successful, but first and foremost good — is the integration of the different virtues, the cooperation of their different embodiments, their willing subordination to one another as circumstances require.

Bam. Right there. Each rabbit that embarks on the quest to found a new home after they lost their old home to ecoterrorism (a subdivision) has a unique skill that they offer to the group. The leader, the strong, the religiously gifted, the athletic, the intelligent, the creative—all have something to offer the group.

So that’s what Utopia is to me. It’s a world in which we all have our unique gifts and they’re all valued. Imagine a world where you could find your gift and pursue it and contribute to the world in your own way. If a teacher’s offering of education, a doctor’s offering of healing, a policeman’s offering of safety, a politician’s offering of governing, a writer’s offering of…whatever we offer—it was all valued. Every skill, from acting to playing a sport or inventing, all the way to trash collecting and housecleaning.

Isn’t that what we all want? A world we can live in without fear of someone taking what is ours? Our job, our belongings, our happiness. In a world where everyone already had theirs, maybe that wouldn’t be such a problem. To me, that is Utopia.

(Side note: The only other place I’ve ever seen a Utopia that looks like it could work is Starfleet in the Star Trek universe.)

But what is Utopia to you? In our highly divided culture today, maybe this isn’t what everyone wants. Utopian dreams come to us all, though. I’d love to hear yours.

P+HJCTX2GkIW5TG4EzA

Utopian perfection? Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Cover Reveal: Timeless! (Finally)

Drum roll, please…Ta…DAAA!

Yes, that is the cover for the final book of my Synchronicity series, Timeless. And yes, it does have a unicorn on it! As all my best covers are, this one was designed by my talented friend Farah Evers of Farah Evers Designs, and I gave her a tough task, asking her to make a non-dorky cover with a unicorn on it. 🙂 (Sorry to all you unicorn fans out there, but…) As you can see, she rose to the challenge magnificently!

This one has been a long time coming. I started writing this trilogy in 2015, and Out of Time was published in 2016. I followed it up with Time Being in 2017. And now, finally, I’m ready to release Timeless. These worlds I invented and the portals between them have been fun to travel. Steeped in the legends of the Cherokee (T’sali) people of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I grew up, I feel like, more than any of my other books, these have a bit of my soul in them. I mean, what little girl doesn’t dream of finding out she’s a princess from a faraway land?

I’ve enjoyed my time in Eladi/Ayeli/Gadusi, consorting with Elves and Meti as well as humans, but I am ready, now, to let it go. So, on June 1, 2019, you can find out how it all ends. For those who have followed this story, the Raven Mocker does make another appearance, and yes, there really is a unicorn.

And if you haven’t followed the story? I’ve slashed the prices on the first two ebooks, Out of Time and Time Being, to 99 cents! (Come on, Disney/Marvel didn’t make you that good a deal and you still went to see End Game!) Don’t get left behind. Be ready for the end of this epic story on June 1!

Jack and Kaelyn have battled an army and realigned space and time to be together. But their greatest challenge yet looms, and it’s from Kaelyn’s own people. 

The joyous reunion with Todd and the Ayeli Meti should bring peace to all they love, but instead Kaelyn discovers a dark underbelly of prejudice. The Ayeli Meti have not forgotten the war with the Elves, and it takes very little to push them over the edge. Now Kaelyn must decide between love and duty.

Trapped on Ayeli, can she overcome the lingering anger against Elves? And can Jack defeat his father on the lost world of Gadusi, making it safe to reopen the portals? Most important, can Kaelyn and Jack find their way back to each other through the locked portals—or are they doomed to spend eternity alone?

Hidden room dream: Getting older, getting busy again, getting to know who I am

Yesterday, I had to admit—at long last—that I just can’t see my computer screen as well when I wear contacts. So I pulled out an old pair of reading glasses I once used for a Halloween costume. In spite of myself, I was hoping they wouldn’t work.

They did.

Here’s me seeing my computer screen clearly without squinting. So I’m getting older. Better than the alternative, I always say.

Today I find myself in a quandary in spite of my new ability to see clearly. I want to write again, but I’m unsure what to write. I’ve been in stasis mode for a few weeks, though, you see, so it’s harder than I anticipated jumping back into the pool of work. I usually get anxious if I’m not writing something, but I’m surprisingly calm about it this time. And I think I can attribute that to the hidden room dreams.

If you’ve never had hidden room dreams, let me tell you, they’re a trip. For me, I was always wandering through our extraordinarily cluttered house (it was worse in the dream than in reality) only to find a door I opened to reveal rooms I never knew my house possessed. These rooms were always furnished, as though ready for use, but in my dreams I always realized it would take some work to make them functional.

I had this dream often enough so I looked it up online. Hidden room dreams, I found, were an indication that there’s some talent or ability hidden in our psyche that we aren’t making use of. Interesting, considering I started having these dreams right after my first foray into community theater. If ever there was someone you wouldn’t have thought suitable for the stage, it is probably me. I have a definite fear of public speaking. I remember nearly fainting in high school when I had to give a three-minute speech. Just a few years ago, I attempted to conduct a few writing workshops, and, well, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t what I would call good, either.

But theater is different. You’re somebody else, from the makeup (I never wear eyeliner except onstage) to the clothing (ah, those sumptuous nineteenth century dresses I wore!) to the words (speeches I would never have made on my own). Okay, I’ve only had bit parts so far, but in one play I did have more than a dozen lines!

And now, here I am, having just finished directing (and writing, at least a little bit) my daughter’s talent show, taking singing lessons in preparation for auditioning for another musical—and no longer haunted by hidden room dreams. Is it possible my hidden rooms were theater-related all along? Maybe the “clutter” in my dreams was my desire to tell stories, that I’ve always restricted to the arena of writing. If I move it into theater as well, I’ll have another outlet and more room in both parts of my psyche.

But never fear, I’m not giving up on my writing, either. Jessica Entirely, the first of my middle grade Jessica mysteries, will be ready for publication in June. I’m now working on the polishing of Timeless, the final book of my Synchronicity series. And Magic at Sea, book 7 of Sleight of Hand, should be ready for an October 31 release! Plus, I’ve already started planning Jessica Naturally, which I’m hoping to have out by Christmas.

So even as I explore these hidden rooms and try to dust them off so they’ll be functional, I’m adding to the clutter on the other side of my psyche. Can’t be helped, though. I guess I’ll just have to add more shelves over there!

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.

abstract art burnt color

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Writing is a funny, funny thing.

close up of hand over white background

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Funny weird, not funny ha-ha.

Funny in that when the fever is on you, you can write five to ten thousand words in a day.

Funny in that on those days, you don’t want to stop for anything.

Over the course of the past few days, I wrote the last fifteen thousand words of my next Sleight of Hand novel Dickens Magic. And then I started another one that I’m not ready to talk about yet. I’m now six thousand words into that one.

Writing is funny, but not exactly fun. While you’re in the fever, you’re aware of the other things you  need to be doing. But even though you’re not having fun, there’s no way you want to stop.

For instance, right now, I want to be back at work on my work-in-progress, but I knew I needed to stop by here and remind you that:

(a) Becoming Magic is out there now, just waiting for readers and reviewers. It has two reviews on Amazon and still sits at five stars.

(b) All my self-published books with the exception of Becoming Magic (because really, it’s a new release) are available in the Smashwords Summer Sale for FREE with coupon code SS100. Go get em!

With that said, I’m off to indulge myself some more in my funny, funny chose profession.

A New Kind of Romance: Changing the soul of romance literature

I just read a wonderful article in The New York Times by Alexandra Alter called “The Changing Face of Romance Novels”. The article addressed how romance novels are slowly changing to more accurately reflect the growing diversity in our world. However, Alter points out that many of the more diverse authors who write diverse romance must turn to alternative publishing outlets to get their books to readers as traditional publishing does not embrace change—at least not right away.

The article got me thinking. More diversity is a wonderful thing. More accurately reflecting the world we live in is invaluable. And yet, that doesn’t address what I see as the core problem in my genre the way my new kind of romance will. You see, though the face of literature definitely needs to change with changing times and audiences, the soul of romance must be addressed as well.

Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” If the romance genre continues to explore the darker desires and pitfalls of humanity, is that what we romance authors believe love is all about? Is that what the publishing industry believes?

Isn’t it our duty as artists to illuminate the brighter side of love?

Yes, sex sells. It always has and always will. It sells books and clothes and cars. It sells candy and music. The publishing industry needs to take note, however, that you can’t just give the romance genre a facelift (even if it does need one). In today’s world, however, it is more important than ever to show through the romance genre that sexy does not need to include what women don’t want in their lives—whether that is controlling heroes, discrimination, assault or harassment of any sort.

 

 

Becoming Magic Release Day Reflections with Contest

IMG_3805I haven’t spent a great deal of time worrying about the release of Becoming Magic today, in spite of a glitch at Amazon that has prevented the Kindle version from being available. Oh well, that’s life.

No, instead, I’ve been participating in a Facebook moon photography “contest” hosted by a fellow author, Robert Beatty, author of the fantastic Serafina series. I love taking pictures of the moon, so I chimed in with my Juneau Moon, seen at the left.

Photography got me thinking about some of my other favorite things to photograph. My very favorite thing of all to photograph (besides my kids) are flowers. So, since I happen to have some very pretty roses sitting on my kitchen counter, I snapped a pic of one of those and posted it on Facebook. Because, hey, I’m a romance author, right? Red roses are my thing. I’m calling this one Kitchen Rose. (If you look hard at the bottom right corner, you can see breakfast.)

IMG_3806

And of course, no day would be quite complete without taking a picture of my cat. Her name is Calliope, who was the muse of poetry. She posed quite prettily for me with my daughter’s sneakers, but you can tell my floor needs sweeping!

IMG_3807

What’s your favorite thing to photograph? Do you have a favorite photo on your phone right now? Would you like to win a print copy of Becoming Magic? Visit my Facebook page here: Michelle Garren Flye, author and post your favorite picture of the moon, a pretty flower or your pet. I’ll choose my favorite and send you a print copy of Becoming Magic.