Just the next step

The local author “cove” of my bookstore, The Next Chapter Books & Art. Yes, my books are on the shelf!

“I guess I should have expected it,” my husband teased when I said I wanted to take over the local bookstore. “I mean, first you’re a published author, then you start self-publishing, and now you want to own a bookstore.”

I laughed. But really, is he totally wrong?

I want to sell my books.

I told a fellow author who stopped by the store to wish me well that the other day. “I want to sell books. My books, your books, whatever.” And it’s true. That’s what I want to do as a bookstore. Highlight and sell local authors’ books. Because there’s a surprising number of us here in my little town who can spin a pretty good yarn.

My friend, who has several books at the store himself, smiled. “True. But you want to sell your books most. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

And he’s right, too. I do want to sell my books. Most. So I’m owning it. It occurred to me when I heard that the bookstore was going to close if someone didn’t take over that my books wouldn’t have a spot on a bookstore shelf anymore. I’d have to go looking for more stores willing to take them on.

As I don’t like beating the pavement, maybe it was just easier to take on a bookstore and learn to be a small business owner and pay bills and create a marketing plan and write press releases and be a grownup?

Maybe there’s something slippery about that slope, but it does seem to be working, and I can’t deny taking over this bookstore has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I look forward to going in to work every day, I work on bookstore ideas at night, the store is my favorite subject—when I started considering setting a picture of the store as my background on my phone, I had to admit, I might be in love.

Everyday it seems a little stronger,

Everyday it lasts a little longer.

Come what may, do you ever long for

True love from me?

—James Taylor, Everyday

So I guess it’s okay if I’ve taken another step along the road of self-publishing. Yeah, I want my books on the shelf, not just here but in bookstores everywhere, but until that happens and as long as the only reason I’m here is not to sell my books only (just most), I’ll do my damnedest to keep this beautiful store open and selling all the books, including mine.

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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PC: Politely Considerate; A study of two viewpoints

I read two editorials in The Washington Post this morning. One was about the Republican Party, the other about J.K. Rowling. Two diametrically opposed subjects that somehow made me think about the same thing.

In his article, Wake up Republicans. Your party stands for all the wrong things now., Stuart Stevens says Republicans have become a party of white grievance in the midst of a population of diverse “immigrants and multiculturalism” by labeling kindness and compassion with a somehow evil label of “PC”. He’s not wrong. I’ve felt this way myself. Political correctness is not evil. It is thinking of others before shooting your mouth off. But this got me thinking about the many times I’ve been browbeat as “part of the problem” by my fellow liberals. Sometimes I’m not PC enough, evidently, to really be considered a liberal. Which I admit. I’m a fifty-year-old, born-and-raised-in-the-South, white lady. What do you expect?

And still, I try.

In her article, Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?, Megan McArdle muses about the intriguing J.K. Rowling case, in which the hugely successful, Trump-hating, liberal author dared to support a woman who said binary sex is a biological fact that cannot be denied, not because she thought the woman was right, but because Rowling believed the woman had a right to her opinion. And the mob swarmed, according to McArdle, but Rowling has yet to acknowledge any wrongdoing. She has not deleted her tweet, she has not scheduled any conferences with groups who could educate her as to why she was wrong, and she has not apologized. Instead, Rowling is ignoring the would-be mob, letting her reputation stand for itself.

I mean, yeah, but damn. That takes courage.

These two articles got me thinking about what troubles me about left-wing liberals. They’ve taken the whole PC thing to a militant level. If you don’t watch every hand gesture, every word, every joke, every casual remark or tweet, you are “part of the problem.” You must stay well to the left of the white line and tread carefully lest you wander into the middle of the road. Because to those on the far left, there is no common ground. But if all the left stands for is being PC police, then we are in as much danger as the Republican party right now. As Stevens says, “Republicans now partly define their party simply as an alternative to that other party, as in, ‘I’m a Republican because I’m not a Democrat.'”

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” —Aaron Tippin

Yet, as McArdle says, “we fret about the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings…” In other words, instead of forming our own opinions based on our own beliefs, we let others mandate them for us. McArdle does attribute this behavior to both the left and the right (the left being the offender in the case of Rowling), but in my mind, the left is becoming exceptionally less accepting of other opinions, and that is dangerous. If we are to be the party of acceptance and tolerance, we must learn to accept and tolerate a multitude of ideas without attempting to summarily cancel them.

In the end, if we hear out the opinions of those who disagree with us, we can choose whether or not to accept them into our beliefs. Yes, be polite and considerate—in fact, that is what PC should stand for—to all. Even those who disagree with you. Accept into your own heart what you believe is right. Blow the rest away like unimportant dandelion fluff.

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Yes, I did write that last line so I could use this picture.  Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Dear Millenials: It’s okay to have high hopes. Love, Gen X

Yeah, I said it. Before you go making fun of Generation X’s “High Hopes” dance, take a few notes from your elders. (And maybe read the lyrics of that song, too. It is the Generation X anthem.)

I have not yet decided which Democrat I will vote for in the primary election. I like different aspects of several of them. I wish I could combine all these different aspects into one Super Candidate. Lacking that, I wish that all of the other candidates would get behind one candidate in a kind of Super Coalition and promise to help that person defeat the Great Evil, Donald Trump.

I have High Hopes.

You gotta have High Hopes.

Truth is, I started out my adult life with High Hopes. My generation, who hadn’t yet been disregarded as Generation X—not Boomers or Millenials or even The Silent Generation, but evidently not even worthy of a name—at any rate, my generation was the first to realize we needed to recycle. I remember how proud I was to cart my little blue bin from the apartment I shared with my husband while he was in medical school to the larger blue bins labeled by colors of glass, newspaper or aluminum cans. I was making a difference.

I had High Hopes.

Not many dimes, though. I worked for a tiny newspaper an hour away, covering local news in a town I didn’t live in but grew to care about. I covered politics, police reports, wrote features about interesting folks, even tried my hand at writing about sports (baseball was my favorite, basketball a close second, football killed me).

I was going to make it big at the little newspaper and catch the eye of the bigger ones. I pictured myself eventually writing something that caught the attention of Rolling Stone. It could happen. After a couple of years of it not happening (and late nights at the paper keeping me from my new husband), however, I was tired of commuting. Burning your biography and rewriting your history isn’t all that easy after all. A job at the library of the medical school attracted me, just as jobs at libraries always had. I went back to my roots.

But I still had High Hopes.

Twenty-some years later, I still have high hopes. I still write, and it’s not all romance or kid stuff. I write about my politics and my beliefs and just my thoughts, not because I hope Rolling Stone will take note, but because I know words have a way of getting out there. Sometimes in an article like this one.

Maybe my generation hasn’t changed things. Maybe we aren’t the ones who will save the world. But we have the influence and the power to effect change when we find the one (or ones) who will. We’ve got one more run in us, and it’s going to be a sight to see.

We want everything.

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The sun has not yet set on Generation X. We still want it all.

Reflections on the darkest day of the year

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Happy darkest day of the year

Today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, and, in my mind, the day of change. Hopefully for the better. Last year on this day, I got the idea to write children’s books. This year, I’ve written two. Jessica Entirely and Jessica Naturally, the first two books of my Jessica series, are now published and being consumed. Of course, to do that, I had to create a new identity as my romances are definitely not for kids. Thus was born Shelley Gee.

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I have also written a good bit of poetry this year. I like that. I published my first poetry booklet, Times and Ties, which I dedicated to a friend who passed away unexpectedly and tragically. I still miss you, Pam. You were a staunch supporter of my writing, especially my poetry. (By the way, I’m working on getting this booklet online. For now, it’s only available for purchase at our local small bookstore, The Next Chapter Books and Art.

For Pam

By Michelle

 

Oh my brain just couldn’t comprehend

But my treacherous heart heard the news

And held it close and took it in

 

Oh today is gray because you’ve left

Taking your light and helpful spirit

And you won’t be coming around

 

And oh my heart keeps reminding me

You’re gone.

 

Oh my friend what you’ve left behind

Has more value than words can say

More than most with twice the time

 

Oh the legacy of a loving life

The warm work of hands that care

Reminds us we’ll see the sun shine

 

But oh my heart keeps telling me

You’re gone.

 

Last year, I also took about six months of singing lessons, landed a spot in the choir for our local theatre’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and accepted a spot on the board of our other local theatre. So I’m exploring a whole new arena of storytelling.

What will this next year hold for me? Well, I took a bit of a break from my romances in order to accomplish all this, and I’m eager to get back to it. Magic at Sea is calling me. I plan to answer that call today. After all, what better way to celebrate the return of light to the world than by writing about love? Beyond that? I know I’ll be writing more about little Jessica. I hope to be in more theatre and I know I’ll be behind the scenes for more. Tonight, I’ll light a fire and a few candles and think hard about how to make it all happen.

What about you? What will the light bring you?

For more ideas about how to celebrate the winter solstice, check out this website: https://rhythmsofplay.com/ways-to-celebrate-the-winter-solstice-2/

Also, my book Winter Solstice is still available from Lyrical Press:

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Poem: Jack Frost’s Gift

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Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

 

Jack Frost’s Gift
By Michelle Garren Flye

Jack Frost made me a gift today—
Turned a rose to silver filigree
And left it by my way
So I would be sure to see.
Twas a grand thing to bear witness
To such a work of care and art!
I couldn’t bear to make a guess
How much he left of his heart.
Oh, such a fine gesture to send
Such a worthless being as me!
I didn’t take it with me in the end.
I suppose I didn’t feel worthy.

 

Poem: Being Monkeys

In this Christmas season, a lot of people are seeing no evil, hearing no evil and definitely speaking no evil. Congrats.

Being Monkeys

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Turn your back—you didn’t see it.

Close your ears—you didn’t hear.

Cover your mouth—don’t speak out!

It’s no business of yours if we fall.

 

In one thing only we are united today.

Denial of the truth binds us all together.

If we don’t admit our wrongs, our mistakes,

How can they be marks against our history?

 

It’s a dangerous pass we’ve chosen to tread,

A treacherous and awful way to proceed.

Ignoring one story to side with another,

Passing up wisdom in favor of greed.

 

What do we do now, how to fix what’s broken?

In a world with no laws, how can we be safe?

Stay by the fire, ignore the cries of others—

After all, you are blind and deaf…mute, too.

 

Aren’t you lucky? No one expects you to speak.

 

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Stay by your fire.