Happy May Day! It’s a perfect day here in Eastern North Carolina as I sit in my bookstore, one of my favorite places in the world. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing. If I walk outside, I can see the river a couple blocks away.
Speaking of May Day, I snapped a picture of a young cypress tree. I love cypress trees. Their green is so soft and perfect. I took this picture because she seemed so happy with her new spring dress.
I’m thinking she needs to be a poem, but sometimes real things are already poems and can’t be improved on by words.
Of course, UnSong is my attempt to capture some of those things with both words and pictures. See below for a video of me reading the title poem. Then go check it out! I’ve gotten some pretty great reviews on it already!
Today is usually both a relief and a sad day for me because I love National Poetry Month. 🙂 In case you couldn’t tell. I enjoy challenging myself by writing a poem a day. I love reading others’ poetry, and this month I took it a step further and invited local poets to submit recordings of themselves reading one of their poems, which I then posted on my store’s social media.
It’s a been a good month.
If you’ve enjoyed my illustrated haiku, thank you. They’ve been a great deal of fun to come up with. I’m planning to continue through the summer (though not posting them online, sorry) and at the end I hope to have something I can be proud enough of to publish with the title “100 Warm Days of Haiku”. This one will be different since I’m getting more confident with my use of color. It’ll still be pretty cheap as a Kindle book, but the physical book may be a bit more expensive since I’d like to publish it in color this time.
In the meantime, please consider giving my first collection of illustrated poetry, “UnSong”, a try. It’s available online today. I don’t have physical copies in my store yet because I worked on it right up til the deadline to make sure it was something I could be proud of (and I am).
So here it goes. I’m releasing UnSong on the world. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.
I’ve saved some very special people for last on my list. I’m fortunate enough to belong to a group of local writers, every one of whom is extremely talented. If you think self-published authors just don’t make the cut for talent, you HAVE NOT read the work of these writers. Everyone’s self-published for a different reason. Sometimes you don’t want to jump through the hoops required for publishing. Sometimes you don’t want to write what the publishers want to publish. And sometimes you just want to cut the crap and publish your book already.
With that said, my group is made up of four of the most talented writers I’ve ever crossed paths with (and me), and all of them gave me feedback on UnSong. Three of them went so far as to offer a blurb for the cover. And here they are:
UnSong is a beautiful compilation with an amazing amount of breadth and variety. Ms. Flye is literally a song writer! I particularly enjoyed the themes of “staying” and “taking flight”.
—Tracie Barton-Barrett, author of Buried Deep in Our Hearts and Finding Her Spirit
Ms. Flye’s personality shines brightly through both her poetry and her illustrations. A lovely and relevant book to behold!
—Leslie Tall Manning, award-winning author of Knock on Wood and Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town
Michelle Garren Flye’s poetry, art, and photography excite my senses and touch my heart. Oh, what a talent!
—Padgett Gerler, author of Invisible Girl and The Gifts of Pelican Isle
Heather W. Cobham was the one who suggested I put dragonflies on the cover, which, in my mind, rounded out the book in a fantastic way.
For more information on these fantastic ladies and their writing, check out their websites:
Now we come to what is probably the review/blurb I worked the hardest to get. Poet Sam Love was one of the first people I approached for feedback on UnSong. He agreed to do it. Thank God.
I’m not sure how difficult it was for Sam to be a hundred percent honest with me, but when he replied there was no hesitancy. My book was sort of a mess. It lacked focus, some of the poems just didn’t seem to belong and it wasn’t organized into anything like a book. Just a mishmash of poems.
Don’t rush it, he said. You’ve got the beginnings of a good collection here.
I’m a seasoned professional so of course I didn’t think about never speaking to Sam again.
No, really, I have been writing seriously for long enough so I was able to receive Sam’s honest opinion and be grateful for it, even if it was hard to hear. I replied a sincere thank you and let the advice percolate for a bit, deciding what to do. I could put off the publication date, or I could work really hard and fix it.
Being the seasoned professional I am, I fixed it. I worked late into the evening, I worked between customers at the bookstore. And I got more opinions from other writers. Frank Hutton, a photographer and writer I have been friends with (we met on Zoetrope.com and have worked on other projects together), gave me some invaluable advice about design, as well as well as some great feedback on the poems themselves. I have some blurbs coming up from other writers tomorrow who also gave me some awesome feedback.
So…I fixed it and went back to Sam. Would he be willing to give me a blurb? I had no idea. Maybe he didn’t want his name associated with this mess.
He replied a day later with this:
Unsong is a bit like a buffet with nuggets of wisdom you can choose to embrace until it fills your soul. Wonderful nibbles of hope that you will return to when you need a dash of light to repel the darkness.
—Sam Love, author of Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival
I call it victory.
For more information about Sam and his poetry, check out his website. His books are also available in my store.
My second review for UnSong comes from an extremely talented poet and musician who I’ve actually met in person. The truly incredible thing about this woman is that she works tirelessly for other authors while at the same time managing her own career and family. I count myself lucky to have been introduced to her, and you can imagine how much her feedback on UnSong means to me!
Here’s her review:
In UnSong, Michelle Garren Flye’s poems invite the reader to take a pause from the busyness and stress of modern life: “I know the wild world calls— / you want to spread your wings; / but, stay, a little longer, dear, / put off your springtime flings.” In “River Bones,” “time comes to a halt” after the wind uncovers “forgotten memories, a bucket, a plate, / a fishhook left on the line too late.” While in “Everything Grows,” Flye invokes Shakespeare’s famous line from Sonnet #15: “When I consider everything that grows / holds in perfection but a little moment,” in order to express how hard it is to make time stand still: “Everything grows, everything rushes into the night.” Other poems reveal Flye’s sharp sense of humor (“What Good is a Girl?”) and wonder of the natural world such as in “I’m a December Tree” and “Now That I Am in Mid-Fall.” … As an added treat, Flye’s oems are paired with her own illustrations. Savor this collection written by a romantic, and experience the wonder of reading joyful and optimistic poems—a true balm in these troubled times.
—Alice Osborn, author of Heroes without Capes
Alice is extremely talented and you really should look her up. To help you out, here are a few links:
We interrupt our regularly scheduled stream of illustrated haiku for a special message:
UnSong, my collection of illustrated poems (which does contain some haiku but also has free verse, sonnets, etc.), will be published on Friday, April 30! I’ve already seen a hard copy proof and it’s pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.
And I don’t totally have to say so myself. I’ve been lucky enough to get some glowing advance reviews for UnSong from poets and writers I respect a great deal. Of course, I’m going to smash all of them onto the back cover (I already have and I’m hoping the type will be big enough to read…) But I also wanted to take some moments to brag a little and explain why each of these advance reviews means so much to me. So this week, I’ll be putting up early reviews from these wonderful, talented people so you’ll feel more confident when you go to buy UnSong.
Here’s one from the best poet you may never have heard of but should:
UnSong by Michelle Garren Flye is a wicked-smart mash up of verse and graphic art. Early in the book, an elegy to Ruth Bader Ginsberg is paired with a portrait of a woman in a black dress, seen from behind, her arms raised as if to enthrall an unseen crowd. Later, a brilliant untitled haiku takes as its subject our “Covid Days.” My favorite work in the book is a piece called River Bones: “… water rolls back to caress and cover the river’s bones with the touch of a lover …” Illustrated poetry books are hard to get right. UnSong nails it, the book rising above any limitations of the format. Buy this book!
—Dennis Mahagin, author of Grand Mal, and Longshot & Ghazal
I’ve “known” Dennis for several years. We’re both what I consider graduates of an online writers group called Zoetrope. Dennis was one of the first poets I knew in real/online life that I became a fan of. His poems are edgy and true, with a sprinkling of genius in some of the ways he uses words that I have never been able to capture in my own work. So he was one of the first people I approached with a request for a blurb. When he responded with the above paragraph, I felt a little like I’d won a prize or hit the best-seller list or…something pretty awesome.
If you want to check out some of Dennis’s work (and I do encourage it), Google him for some of his many online publishing credits, but you can also find his collection Grand Mal on Amazon, and he has a tumbler blog.
And just like that, Flye Gee Comics is born. LOL. Mainly because, like everything else I do, it’s with a “just go ahead and do it” mindset (I didn’t steal that from Nike, btw, I’ve been like this for a while now).
It’s really funny the way this came about, though. The origin story is important in comic book lore, so here it is in a nutshell. I fell in love with manga (My Hero Academia in particular). It reminded me of reading comic books. I started thinking how cool it would be to have my stories illustrated that way and realized I always have a vision in my head while writing anyway. And those visions are often not scenes, exactly, but like a particular aspect of a scene. For instance, I might write a scene about two people having a serious conversation while one drinks water, and the picture in my head is of when that character sets the glass down. The ripples in the top of the water.
Like a comic book frame.
Not being an artist (at least not a really good one), I started wondering if I could do at least part of my comic book with photo manipulation. Yeah, that could work. I’ve been playing around with the concept of poetography (a poem paired with a photograph) for some time. And if I based my comic book story off some of my poetry, I could incorporate three or four things I love in one thing.
Okay then. Let’s just go ahead and do it, I thought.
I’ve shared some of my journey on here. You’ve seen early versions of the illustrations. I’ve improved some of those. I worked really hard to format it into a book. I treated each page like an individual work of art. I finished the ebook version first, then fought my way through the formatting of the print version. I proofread and marked up and printed and proofread again. I corrected margins and found odd marks on some of the illustrations that I swear I didn’t put there. I removed those. I learned how to do speech and thought bubbles. I played with different fonts and ended up using three different ones. I finally decided it was good, so I ordered author copies. And yesterday a box full of them arrived about two weeks early.
So I decided I’d just go ahead and do it.
And that’s the origin story of Flye Gee Comics. I’m playing around with ideas for Issue 2. Stay tuned because chances are I will go from concept to publishing with little warning.
Today is, in a very real way, a very big day for me. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary and the day I officially release my 18th book.
It’s hard to celebrate right now, as I have good reason to know. My 50th birthday fell right at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. My son and my daughter also have celebrated birthdays. Today I have no actual plans to celebrate. I once envisioned a busy day full of well wishing friends for both my book and my marriage. I mean, not as many people make it to their silver wedding anniversary as used to, right? And quite a few authors never see 18 books with their name on the front.
But celebrating is hard right now. People are still sick, still dying. I’m working hard to make sure I’m not one of them. I have nightmares that my family is. And life goes on.
And still, I am happy to announce the publication of my 18th book, Magic at Sea, the seventh book of my Sleight of Hand series (and still a standalone, so you can read it even if you haven’t kept up with the series!). And I am happier still to be married to the same wonderful man for twenty-five years. Rain or shine, we’ve had them both.
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.”
I pray I am not shouting into the whirlwind of too many voices this time. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Happy birthday to my newest baby, Becoming Magic! It’s high time for this book. In a world with so much denigration of women, it’s past time for the genre of books most heavily written by women to honor what women really are.
We are powerful.
We are beautiful.
We are creative.
We are romantic.
We are sexy.
We are strong.
Does anyone want to deny any of the above? As a member of the “lesser” sex, I can say honestly that the only reason I can see that we were ever called that is so men can make us think less of ourselves. We’ve been victims long enough. It’s time to rise up and recognize the men who actually appreciate what women really are.
They are equal partners.
They are not afraid of us.
They are willing to treat women as equals.
They are romantic.
They are sexy.
They are strong.
Please notice that I didn’t say they are dukes or melancholy or macho or sadists. All except the last could, possibly, be part of who they are, but as women, it’s time to defy the melancholy, macho, duke hero who practices S&M. We know what we want, and it doesn’t include rape.
That’s what a new kind of romance is all about. Please try out my new kind of romance, Becoming Magic. You can find the first chapter here. Read it. If you enjoy it, download the whole book at your favorite ebook retailer. The paperback version should be available soon.
And then tell me what you think.
Dear God, may this book please not be lost in the shuffle of many. May it not be caught up in a whirlwind of other voices that drown it out. May it please make it to the eyes of the readers who need it. In your name I pray, Amen.