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.

abstract art burnt color

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I love interviews.

Just for the record. In case you were wondering if you could ask me questions. Because I actually love questions. Even my kids can only wear me down after asking the same question about ten times.

Seriously, though, interviews are fun. Like writing but you don’t have to come up with the idea yourself. I’ve done several interviews on my blog tour for Becoming Magic, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Today I’m at the lovely Teresa Noel’s blog for another interview. You can find it here: T’s Stuff Interview.

One of the questions Teresa asked me was about my favorite part of the book. I had to think about it, and, I admit, I considered many different parts. I finally settled on one, but I won’t spoil it here. Go check out the interview!

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Hacking GoodReads to find your perfect book (and help others find theirs)

I’ve been looking through some GoodReads romance lists and it’s fairly disappointing. Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels are still listed in top romance categories like “Hottest Adult and Young Adult” (emphasis mine). It’s past time to fight back against this type of thing.

It’s time to hack GoodReads.

I found hope for this in the comments on the “Hottest” and “Most Popular” lists. Romance readers are ready for—and have discovered—indie romances in so many more than fifty shades. Romances by authors of different ethnicities, romances featuring other than the typical male/female couple. Romances without BDSM—remember those?

Are you a reader who’s ready to hack GoodReads and lead the revolution? Here’s a “how-to” guide.

  1. Search for lists with “different” or “indie” in the heading. They’re out there. A list called “Books You Wish More People Knew About” has 16,000+ books!
  2. Create a list! Did you just read the wackiest book ever with a werewolf heroine whose cubs are in school so she joins the PTA? Find some friends who’ve read wacky books that don’t fit into any other lists and make the list. Cross genre is a definite thing in today’s world.
  3. Most of all, if you’ve read a book that you loved, find a list for it! Especially if it’s an indie author. Indie authors would love to see their books on a list where more readers might find it.
  4. Comment on the “Hottest” and “Most Popular” list if you know an author or title which should have been included. You never know when you might be able to point a reader to a book they’ll love but never would have found without you!

The revolution in the publishing industry has begun. Battle lines have been drawn between big publishers and small, between more of the same and originality. The battlefields are places like Amazon, Smashwords, indie book stores, chain bookstores, online ebook retailers and especially a place like GoodReads. What’s at stake? The right of the reader to buy into the ideas of their choosing—not what’s chosen for them.

Poetry is meant for more

I’m reeling. I read in The New York Times that The Nation apologized for publishing a poem because of social media backlash. The editors apologized—as did the poet—for using language identified as black vernacular because the poet is white.

Okay. I get the whole black face thing. I agree that no one should ever attempt to use language or cultural appropriation to make fun of another race. However, this poem (“How-To” by Anders Carlson-Wee) had a certain beauty to it and was not, in my opinion, intended to outrage anyone. But if it was…so what?

You think Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn with its anti-slavery views without intending to outrage his fellow Southerners? Do you think it would have been as effective if Mr. Twain had not used black vernacular? And yes, I know in today’s world old Huck has become somewhat despised among some literary snobs, but I still—and always will—love that book.

But poetry! Poetry is meant for more than being politically correct. Poetry is meant to entice and outrage. Poetry is meant to make you think about things a different way. Why the hell do you think it’s so difficult to understand? Why do you think your English professors could spend an entire class period on a ten-line poem? Because poetry is different. And it’s off limits to political correctness.

To those who think Mr. Carlson-Wee had no right to appropriate black language, I say this: He has poetic license. He’s a talented writer who sees the world a different way. He’s white but, for this poem at least, he spoke for another race because that was what his muse whispered to him. Who are you to say he was wrong?

By the way, I had a whole other post planned for today extolling the virtues of this cover for Dickens Magic. Because I seriously can’t stop looking at it. Many, many thanks to Farah Evers Designs for the fantastic work on it!

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Write the change you want to see: A Birthday Thank You for a Friend

Special Note: I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of teachers in my life. Some of these people probably don’t even realize I was their pupil at one point or another. I’d like to dedicate this blog post to a friend who greeted me in the hallowed halls of the Zoetrope writers workshop at the true beginning of my writing career. Her example and kind words of encouragement have helped many a writer over the years, whether it was as an editor or reviewer or friend. Happy birthday, Beverly!IMG_4047

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think writers have another obligation. Write the change. It’s the charge given to each of us with this calling to write our feelings and dreams down and send them out on paper airplanes into the world.

Don’t like the world with less opportunity for lower classes? Imagine it different. Write the change.

Don’t like racism? Write a world with more tolerance.

Don’t like partisan politics? Erase them with a few strokes of the keyboard—in your writing, anyway.

Horrified by the attitudes that resulted in the #metoo movement? Write a world where consent is actually romanticized. For instance:

She loved and trusted this man. Nothing they chose to do together could be wrong or destructive. —Dickens Magic, coming October 31, 2018

I’m not saying you’ll change the world with your stories. I’m saying it’s up to the writers and dreamers to reach out to others and show them what the world could be. Imagine a world where the rights of every human being are respected. Imagine a world where technology aids instead of replaces human interaction. Imagine a world where everyone is valued for what they bring to the world, no matter what their skill is.

Imagine it and write it.

Writing is a funny, funny thing.

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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.