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.

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.

 

 

First Review of Becoming Magic: 5 Stars on Amazon!

Real reviews mean a lot to authors. Think about that. We actively encourage others to tell us what they really think. And no author I know would ever consider helpful any review that was less than honest, no matter how much it stroked their ego.

With that said, I was thrilled—and relieved—that my first review for Becoming Magic on Amazon was five stars. It comes, full disclosure, from an acquaintance who is a very talented magician and writer, Arjay (R.J.) Lewis. Arjay was the magical consultant on Becoming Magic, and he’s helped me design a magical holiday show for my next book Dickens Magic—plus I’ve read several of his books. So when I read his review of Becoming Magic, it was a little bit like both Stephen and Mac King had combined into one joint force to praise my book. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s the part that meant the most to me:

…Flye boldly takes on a #metoo concept, which not only explains why our heroine is reluctant, but makes understandable the hero’s confusion as to why his advances are being rejected. It was a difficult choice, because in the hands of lesser writer, it could’ve been a cheap and tawdry device. But in Flye’s excellent craftsmanship, it is handled artfully and the reader understands both sides of the conflict.

This book means a lot to me because in a way it marks my own rebirth as a writer. When #metoo came along, I realized I was guilty of perpetuating in my writing what could be seen as dangerous situations for women—in Island Magic, the heroine is actually kidnapped by the hero. Though I’ve never gone for rape fantasies and my only bondage romance (Escape Magic) was actually pretty positive in that the heroine was the escape magician, I’ve sworn off some of the favorite tropes of romances and am striving to rebuild my own corner of the romance genre with more positive heroes, heroines and romantic situations.

Time will be the only thing that will tell if romance readers are willing to accept a new kind of romance. But at least one reviewer thought it worked, and that means a lot.

Four Days to Becoming Magic: What do I hope to accomplish?

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Yesterday I uploaded my files to Createspace, KDP and Smashwords. A few tiny bumps in the process gave me plenty of time to reflect.

What do I hope to accomplish with this book?

It reminded me of the best writing advice I’ve ever been given: Make sure you have a clear goal for each and every scene you write. How does that scene or chapter help move your story along? Before I got that advice, I’d taken as gospel the “just write” theology of writing. Well, just writing can get you into literary holes and take you down paths you never intended. You’ll end up backtracking and deleting a good bit of whatever you “just write”. (I know a lot of plotters are out there shaking their heads at my “pantsing” attitude, but it’s the way I write.) If you have a clear idea of what your scene will accomplish, you’ll stay on track much better.

So what does that have to do with what I hope to accomplish with this book? Well, I think of each and every book I put out there as a chapter in my life. So many chapters of you life are not within your control. But some are. And each book I put out is something I control. What is my goal with this one?

I’ve given up on the getting famous thing. Not every writer is Stephen King. I’ve given up on getting rich. Not every writer is Nicholas Sparks. I doubt I’m writing blockbuster movies here because I’m not J.K. Rowling. I’m not a literary pioneer like Jack Kerouac. And yet, I can’t give up on the hope that my writing has a place out there. Somewhere.

This year is a year of change for me. My oldest graduated and starts college in the fall. I’ll go from being in charge of most of his life to having only the influence of a (hopefully) trusted advisor—though in truth I’ve been making that transition for a couple of years now. We’re in the process of transforming our home into something we actually enjoy living in. My office is nearly at the point of being my dream space now.

And my writing changed.

In the past, I’ve often followed the formulaic manly hero/submissive heroine (not always, but my characters usually had some of those characteristics). I’m proud to say I fought that tendency in Becoming Magic. I want to see a change in the romance genre. I feel like we’ve swung too far the other way of things by accepting casual references to marginal practices into our genre. In today’s world, romance heroines need to take charge of their lives and loves. This is, after all, what our daughters may read.

So yeah. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with my writing and this particular book. In my own little corner of my genre, I hope I will make a difference. In a way, Becoming Magic marks my emergence from a chrysalis of sorts. Though only time will tell if I’m a butterfly or just a stunted caterpillar.

Six Days to Becoming Magic and I feel bad for Laura Ingalls Wilder

In six days my new book Becoming Magic will be unleashed upon the world. I’m calling it “a new kind of romance” because I think it’s time my genre addresses the #metoo movement and accepts that, in the past, our books have been part of the problem—and can now be part of the solution.

Just yesterday, the Association of Library Services to Children played a key role in a cautionary tale for all authors who don’t pay attention to changing times. They removed the name of one of America’s great pioneer women authors from an award. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder’s famous Little House series contains a number of racist (by today’s standards) references to Native Americans and black people.

Understand, first and foremost, that I get it. I read these books as a child and never thought twice about “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” or the reference to blackface. I’m reading them again with my daughter and am extremely grateful that she has a good, analytical head on her eleven-year-old shoulders. She knows those statements are wrong. She didn’t understand the blackface and “darkie” reference until I explained them, and then she knew they were wrong, too. We talked about how times and people’s perceptions change and evolve, and while Wilder may not have thought twice about writing those passages, they are considered wrong now.

She got it.

With all that said, I feel for Wilder. Her writing accurately reflected the social attitudes of her time. And now it is a victim of today’s more evolved social sensibility. Wilder even apologized for some of her writing during her lifetime and lived to see one passage changed from saying “no people, only Indians” to “no settlers, only Indians”, which shows she actually at least partially got it, too. I’m glad to know that.

I hope the removal of Wilder’s name from the award does not mean her books will someday be removed from library shelves. Read with the correct context, these books are invaluable to understanding and remembering our history and the history of our literature. Along with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, these books form a map to remind us of where we’ve been so we don’t go back there.

And, Laura Ingalls Wilder, rest assured I get it, too. Writing of any genre may reflect the current time and sensibility, but eventually those times and sensibilities—and sensitivities—will change.

Nine days to Becoming Magic: What do I know about #metoo?

It’s a fair question. I’m happily married to a wonderful man. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. Not by a significant other, a trusted family member, a stranger, a friend. I know people who have, though. Several.

Think about that for a minute. I know several people (I could name about six) who have been a victim of a violent crime. If I know 600 people (and that’s generous because I’m practically a hermit) and I could name six who have told me what happened to them (and it varies all along the spectrum of sexual assault from date rape to outright attack), then one out of a hundred people I know have suffered from this crime. If you count the number of women who have been sexually harassed or touched inappropriately against their will, that number skyrockets. It’s probably more like one in five.

That’s where #metoo gets its power. The sheer number of women who have suffered from this crime is overwhelming. And the rest of us? We live in fear of it. That’s me. When my mother sent me off to college it was after a strict talking to about what could happen. I already knew of course. Even in my small town, bad things happened. A teenage girl my older brother knew was raped and killed when I was a child. During my sophomore year in college, a woman was raped and killed about a block away from my apartment.

Now I’m a middle age woman and I’m still aware of how men look at me. Over the years I’ve read more and more about sexual assaults and I know better than ever what men can do to a woman. I have had moments when I’ve been certain I was in danger, when I would reach for my keys and line them up between my knuckles like claws (a move I was taught in a self-defense course), when I would go into the nearest lighted building because I thought maybe someone was following me.

And now I have a daughter.

#Metoo isn’t just about having survived an attack. It’s about women banding together to prevent those attacks from happening. It’s about creating a world where our daughters don’t have to live in fear and wear their keys like weapons. It’s about taking charge of our lives and our happiness. And that’s what Becoming Magic is about. As a romance writer, I can’t do much to change the world, but I can refuse to put the dangerous fantasies in my books. I’m changing. I hope my genre will change, too.

She looked around, spotting Connor almost immediately. She took a half step toward him and froze, stumbling a little, her eyes on the dark-haired man at the next table. He was the large, powerful type you got used to seeing in Hollywood. The kind who worked out at a gym first thing in the morning and then again at night. He was good-looking in a slick, well-kept way. Nothing about this man was an accident.

And nothing about his appearance should make her want to find the nearest potted plant and puke in it, but that was exactly how she felt, nonetheless. She felt hot and cold in quick fluctuations. She swallowed hard against the bile that rose in her throat and wheeled around, knocking into a waiter with a tray full of glasses as she did, sending them flying with a crystalline clatter.

The icy water erased the need to throw up, but not the need to flee. She wanted to look over her shoulder, to see if Connor had seen, but nothing mattered except getting away now. The world whirled and refocused on a narrow aisle leading her away and she followed.

Happy Summer Solstice! T-minus 10 days and counting to Becoming Magic

Happy longest day of the year! Happy lightest day of the year! Happy summer solstice!

And happy T-minus 10 days to my new book, Becoming Magic. I’m calling it a new kind of romance.

What is a new kind of romance?

A romance where women are in charge of their own fate and aren’t considered property. A romance where rape is rape, not fantasy. A romance about what real women really want—real men secure enough in their own masculinity to be able to both protect a woman who wants it and back off when she doesn’t.

That’s real romance. It’s sexy and fun and no holds barred. It’s loving and tender and passionate. And here’s a little taste of it.

Connor pulled the linking rings back out of their velvet bag and began practicing with the engagement ring on them. “I may need your help, too.”

“With the trick?” She raised her eyebrows. “I’m not sure I’m the one—”

“Nonsense. You know how it works. You just have to catch it correctly.” He tossed the ring to her. She caught it neatly, but the engagement ring went flying.

“Damn.” She cursed softly. “I thought I could do that.”

“No, you weren’t sure. You said so.” He found the engagement ring and replaced it on the linking ring. He fixed her with a stern look. “Be certain.”

“Okay.” She shrugged, but she knew what he was talking about. Every movement in magic—or any showmanship, really—had to be done with certainty. No rethinking yourself or doubts allowed. The audience should never be aware that you might not know what you’re doing. And so she banished any doubts and looked at him expectantly.

“And don’t look at me like that.” He twirled the rings in the air, absently connecting and disconnecting them. She knew how it was done, but he’d gotten so good at it, she couldn’t catch him.

She laughed. “Why not?”

He paused in the act of juggling the rings, caught them and displayed them all connected with the engagement ring dangling at the bottom. “Because you make it hard for me to be certain.”

She tilted her head, wondering what he meant…