Tag Archives: publishing

Plastic fiction: What happens when writers give up on soul

Three years ago, Ursula K. Le Guin gave an impassioned speech in which she basically implored writers to write what they wanted to write and not what the publishing industry told them to write. She asked that literature in all forms return to being considered an art form. “Books aren’t just commodities,” she said.

I’ve often wondered if I would sell out if someone offered me the opportunity to sign with a big publisher that would basically guarantee my book would be a bestseller with an awesome marketing plan and everything all taken care of—but I had to write a book the publisher wanted with the plot all spelled out for me. Would I do it? Would I sell out? Would I turn out a plastic fiction book with no soul and no art just to gain readers?

I can’t answer that question. I fear I might. It’d probably be easy enough to write if I didn’t have to come up with the plot myself. And I have a respectable backlist now. Surely I should consider that in the equation. If I gained lots of readers with my plastic fiction—readers who enjoyed my style of writing and who would then consume my other books—wouldn’t it be worth it? But then, too, I’d be feeding the plastic fiction industry that has taken over the publishing world and made it more difficult for writers to be the artists they are meant to be.

Not sure you know what I mean by plastic fiction? Oh yes, you do. It’s especially prevalent in my chosen genre at the moment. For a while it was vampire romances (which has now morphed to include werewolves and shapeshifters and lots of other paranormals). I’m not saying these are all bad. I’ve even read a few that are exceptionally good. But those can be hard to find. And then there’s the fifty-shades phenomenon that is reflected in everything from content (way more explicit than just a few years ago) to covers (haven’t you noticed the trend to monochromatic still life since Christian Grey’s silk tie?).

I think the surge in independent publishing has been a reaction to writers trying to avoid the plastic fiction publishing industry. I’m proud to be a part of that surge. I love what I write, and I love publishing my little bits of art. They aren’t the highest quality—maybe they’re made of aluminum instead of gold or silver—but they aren’t plastic, either. I know this because they come from my heart and contain bits of my soul.

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Facing fear of publishing (with excerpt from Movie Magic)

In January I made the usual New Year’s resolutions: eat healthier, exercise more, etc. But I also made a resolution I had never made before. Fight fear.

Fear has held me back my entire life. I’m a timid person by nature, though I’ve overcome much of that through the love of my family. Yet still, I have more than my share of phobias. Spiders, stage fright, dentists (that’s a big one).

I haven’t overcome these phobias, but I have forced myself to face them. Just last week I smashed a spider that had my daughter cornered. In a gesture at fighting off my general timidity, I recently took the opportunity to travel with my son to Germany. And I tried out for and got a bit part in our local theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol”. So, yeah, I’m working on it.

And this morning, I went to the dentist for the first time in…a while. My teeth are still sore. Like everything, I began to draw a parallel between sore teeth and publishing a book.

When you write a novel, you bare a part of your soul, and the more covering you can pull away (just like the dental hygienist did to my teeth this morning), the better your writing will be. And just like my teeth, which are now sore and more exposed to temperature changes, so the writer’s soul becomes exposed to critics.

The temptation is to keep part of the soul covered. A thin veil. Remove yourself from the story and tell yourself it’s the characters’ story you’re telling. And while this is true to a point, the truth is, the writer is in every story she tells. And once that story is published, the writer is exposed. Perhaps this is why Emily Dickinson published less than a dozen poems in her lifetime. So much of her soul exposed through her poems might have been too much for her to bear.

So publishing is a leap of faith in our own work and our own souls. It might be ignored or disliked or even loved, but it’s bound to be painful in one way or another. With that thought in mind, I present a taste of my soul in the form of an excerpt from Movie Magic:

“What’ll it be, Cowboy?” Her eyes flickered over him in a just slightly less than shameless fashion.

“What would you recommend, Gypsy?”

The woman looked pleased that he remembered her name. “Depends. Are you just here to drink tonight, Walt, or are you eating?”

“You know I’m not going to pass up the burgers.” He leaned on the bar. “We want beer. Maybe one of those pepper beers you guys are so proud of.”

The woman raised her eyebrows and looked at Sabrina. She nodded, her appraisal obviously satisfactory. “Two ghost brews coming up.” She reached beneath the counter and with a flick of her wrist produced two bottles with a label bearing a picture of an ethereal white spirit sporting a pirate hat. She stopped short of handing it to them. “They’re on the house if you do that trick again.”

“Which trick?” Walt raised his eyebrows, trying to look innocent.

“You know which trick.” She uncapped the beer and set it in front of him.

He glanced at the beer, then back to her. “You got a glass?”

“Better than that. I’ve got a bottle of cheap beer back here. You don’t even have to waste yours.”

“What if it doesn’t work?” He looked anxious.

Sabrina laughed and Gypsy grinned at her. “I like this one. She’s got faith.”

“I kind of like her too.” Walt’s sideways grin warmed Sabrina and she couldn’t help smiling back. Walt tapped the bar. “Bring it on, Gypsy. I’m up to any challenge tonight.”

Gypsy let out a whoop that attracted the attention of everyone in the bar area. By the time she’d set the bottle of beer and a glass in front of Walt, the other patrons were crowding around. Sabrina enjoyed her front row seat as she watched Walt pick up the bottle, unscrew the top and take a swig. Then he upended the bottle on the bar with a flourish, somehow not spilling a drop. The crowd oohed appreciatively, then waited as Walt placed a coaster on the bottom of the upended bottle, flipped it back over the right way, then upended it again over the glass. When nothing happened, he pretended to be confused, peered inside for a second while Sabrina and probably the rest of the crowd held their breath, then held it over the glass again, removed the coaster and tapped the bottom of the bottle, producing a gush of beer into the mug. Walt handed the mug to Gypsy with a bow while everyone applauded.

 

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Four magicians who’ll make you believe

Seriously, in today’s world, why would you NOT want to believe in magic? When I started writing the Sleight of Hand series, I knew very little about the stage magicians I was writing about. I found magic entertaining and fun and I always had, so I figured why not write about it? I tried it and the result has been incredibly entertaining for me.

My fourth book in the series, Movie Magic, will be out October 31. I’m planning a day of festivities for its release, but I love this series so much, I decided I should re-introduce my magicians here.

So I started with Close Up Magic. Andre Hawke is the magician hero in this one, and he’s your typical tall, dark and sexy with a family he’s devoted to and protective of. He’s already got a lot going on in his life when Stacey Matthewson, a talented entertainment reporter with a checkered past, shows up. How does he deal with her? With a little magic, of course.

Excerpt: Her chest felt tight and she found it hard to breathe. Was he going to kiss her? Dear God, she felt paralyzed. Was this really just desire or did he actually know enough magic to CloseUpMagicEbookRevhold her immobile while he considered whether or not to kiss her? Or did she want his kiss so bad she was willing to sacrifice what was left of her career to get it?

She cleared her throat and fought her way out of whatever spell he’d cast. “I, um, do have another reason—” She reached into her purse.

“Save it.” He dropped her hand. “I don’t talk to the press before shows.”

She couldn’t disguise her astonishment. “How do you know I’m a reporter?”

“Fresh off the plane. I recognize the smell of the soap. Congratulations, you’re the first. This evening, anyway.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m not expecting any more for at least a couple hours.” His glare was sharp. “They probably won’t catch me until after the show.”

Keep in mind that throughout the writing of Close Up Magic, I refused to look up how magic tricks were done. I didn’t want to know. I made up my own magic tricks for the books and tried to imagine ways they could be done, but I didn’t want to spoil the magic for myself.

When I started writing Escape Magic, I figured I better change that. Escape magic is very different from close up magic in that the performer relies on a lot of physical strength and dexterity to accomplish their tricks. I’d been challenged to make one of my magicians a female, and, to my surprise, escape magic lends itself very well to female performers. When I started researching the subject, I was surprised at how many women escape artists there actually are. This led me to create Lady Lydia, a friend of Andre who becomes the love interest of Andre’s brother Tony.

Excerpt: Lydia was not easy to find. He finally located her in a knot of cheering male magicians. She was seated on a table with her legs crossed and her arms bound behind her. A handsome, dark complected man teased her with a wine glass. “C’mon, Lady Lydia! Get loose and it’s all yours.”Escape MagicEbook

Lydia pretended to have trouble with the knot. “Oh, you might just have me with this one.”

The dark man smiled a little lasciviously and leaned on the table so his body half covered hers. “Oh, I really hope so. But give it a try anyway.”

Lydia remained perfectly calm. Tony knew she’d probably already worked her way out of the knot, or at least knew how to, but she gave no indication of it. “How on earth could I possibly—oops!” She held up her hands with the rope dangling from one and gave him a little push away from her. “Did you lose something, Samir?”

“Just his pride.” Tony recognized the little toadlike man who spoke as Phil, an illusionist. He frowned, searching his mind. Had Phil even been invited? Before he could speak, Phil made a beckoning motion. “Everybody pay up.”

“Not the right venue, Phil.” Tony stepped forward as Lydia took the wine from the handsome magician’s fingers. Tony noticed a line of empty wine glasses on the table next to her. It wasn’t the first bet, then. His resolution to put a stop to the illicit activities strengthened into an almost protective resolve. “Lydia.”

She glanced at Tony as she sipped the wine. “What? You want to go next?” She dangled the rope in front of him. At his disbelieving look, she laughed. “Sorry, don’t have any cuffs. You have to bring your own.”

Of course, after all that partying in Las Vegas, I was ready for a change of scenery with my next book. That resulted in Island Magic and its reclusive magician hero Ian Logan. Logan is in a sort of self-imposed exile from magic, but when he encounters an old friend in trouble—sexy and damaged divorcee Rachel Duvall—Logan just can’t help but slip back into his magic ways to help her heal.

“I’ll tell you a secret.” He brushed her hair back and leaned over, his lips close to her ear. “Real magicians never have to prepare—as far as you know.”

A pleasant shiver went through her. A vague memory stirred. Her mother in the kitchen prIsland Magic eBookeparing for a dinner party. A good hostess has all her preparation done before the party so it looks like she gets to enjoy everything as much as her guests. She pushed the memory away, knowing it would lead to others where she was the perfect hostess with everything prepared ahead of time. She’d already broken her vow never to cry again once that day. She steeled herself against doing it again.

Lifting her chin, she stepped past him onto the deck. Her hands gripped the white-painted wrought iron railing. His body was solid and warm behind her, but she clung to the cold metal rail as if to keep herself from flying up into the stars. She felt almost certain whatever he was about to do—whatever she was about to see—would surely turn her world upside down.

The tropical sun had set long before. She wondered what time it actually was but didn’t really care enough to find out. Diamonds peppered the velvety black sky, and he wanted her to pick one. She lifted her hand and pointed. “That one.”

He rested his chin on her shoulder, bending his legs so his tall frame molded against hers. She watched his hand the entire time as he reached past her arm, closed his long fingers and brought them back to the glass, releasing the light into the bowl of the wineglass. She stared in wonder at the blue light.

“Did you see a trick?” He smiled at her, offering her the glass, his hand still firmly on top of it.

Finally, we come to Movie Magic. This may be my favorite of the Sleight of Hand books so far. I love the heroine, Sabrina Parker. She’s a plucky, ambitious woman in the Hollywood special effects business. She’s befriended all the other magicians we’ve met so far, using their expertise to create effects for movies that go beyond CGI. But when she needs help on a very special movie, her old friends fail her. They’ve all got projects of their own. What’s a girl to do? Our girl finds Walt Bryson, a sexy, talented children’s magician who lives on the coast of North Carolina. And magic ensues. Magic that involves everything from pirates and Carolina Beaches to the Magic Castle of Hollywood.

She missed the pleasant buzz from the rum. The coffee cleared things up for her too much. Half of her really wanted nothing more than to drink rum and make out with him on this couch in the late afternoon sun while the deck below them bustled with waiters anPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]d the other pirates cleaning up from the afternoon. She really wanted to give in to some crazy impulse. She glared at the innocent cup of coffee. “I miss the rum.”

He laughed softly, brushing her hair back from her face, his fingers tangling briefly in the soft curls. “So do I.” His gaze flickered to her lips and she knew in that moment that she wouldn’t need the rum buzz to kiss him. Oh please, just kiss me already. The thought whispered in her heart, and all she could see for a breathless moment was his lips.

He brushed his thumb over her lips, so tenderly her belly filled with a melting fire. But then he backed away with a reluctant smile. “But maybe we don’t need rum, huh?”

All of my Sleight of Hand books are available at Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and many more of your favorite online book retailers. Pick up one and be ready to believe!

Sleight of Hand Series 2-page0001

Movie Magic (Book 4) Available October 31!

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I am a Writer

It’s always interesting to me when people I’ve known for years say, “Oh, you’re a writer?” It’s such an essential part of who I am. But I’m very, very bad at telling people about it, because it’s also a very personal part of who I am. I always sort of hoped that I’d one day have a best-seller and the New York Times would out me, but that doesn’t really seem to be happening, so…

I write romantic fiction of several different genres. I’ve written a coming-of-age romantic mystery (i.e. Weeds and Flowers), contemporary romances (i.e. my Sleight of Hand series) and romantic fantasy (i.e. my Synchronicity series—see below). Three of my books were traditionally published (Secrets of the Lotus and Winter Solstice by Lyrical Press and Where the Heart Lies by Carina Press). I am also the proud author of a book that’s been called “unsettling” and “thought-provoking” (Ducks in a Row).

And there you have it. That’s me. I’ve outed myself. There’s a little bit of me in every book I write. I am a writer.The Synchronicity Series by Michelle Garren Flye-page0001

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Writing and publishing and what comes between.

I’m getting better at this self-publishing thing. I’ve even started thinking of it as a four-step process. The first step is writing/editing. This includes all the drafts and all the deep editing and re-writing. (I’m going to skip a step here, but stay with me.) The third step is publishing. This mostly consists of pushing a button and saying a prayer as your book begins its journey into the world. The fourth step, which actually begins somewhere between the second and third step and continues well into the future, is marketing. I’ve talked about that some, but it includes blogging, tweeting, sending out excerpts, begging for reviews, putting together a press kit…you name it, it’s there.

The second step, which is what I’ve been deep in the process of recently, is book-making. I include copy editing and formatting for ebook and print in this step, and it’s the step that many authors miss out on in traditional publishing. This is the step I’ve had to work to perfect over the years. I’ve found it’s not as simple as typing up a book and plugging it into a publishing platform like Smashwords or CreateSpace. It involves a lot of work, a lot of oversight and a lot of experimentation to get a good, clean-looking book. Chapter headings, white space, margins… Oh, and book covers! Book covers are so much fun. I usually have to get professional help with these, but I also get to make some suggestions and requests (much more so than with traditional publishing). And when it’s all done and you’re ready to move on to Step three, you can call yourself something new, something beyond an author, editor or even publisher. You can call yourself a book-maker.

Pretty stinking awesome.

I’ve been at it for a couple weeks now. I’ve finished the copy-editing and am into the formatting stage for Out of Time. It’s already up for pre-order on Smashwords and Amazon. Go check it out, even if just to look at the beautiful cover designed by Farah Evers Designs. But don’t forget to come back here often. As soon as I’m done with formatting the print version, I’m throwing myself headlong into marketing, and I’ve got a few surprises lined up that will culminate in the day long Out of Time Launch Party on June 15.

See you soon!

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When you don’t want lemonade.

So today I got a second rejection on my romantic fantasy novel, Out of Time. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy. I had hoped to return to the world of traditional publishing for these books, but I’m starting to think it might not happen.

No, that’s not bitterness.

It’s resignation.

So when I’d written my polite note of thanks to the sweet editor who took the time to write my rejection (complete with a compliment on my writing and style), I started thinking about what to do with the lemons I’d been handed.

And I’ve never been much for making lemonade.

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When life hands you a slightly spotty lemon, create a still life on your bookshelf with it.

Labyrinth II continues…

Sarah woke in the darkness and her very first thought was for Davey. She sat up, an afghan sliding from her shoulders as she did so. Voices in the hall warned her and she lay back quickly. A moment later, the door opened and someone looked in.

“She’s still out.”

“You think she’s okay, though?”

Her husband and her father. She felt guilty about deceiving them, but she couldn’t really help it. She had to get to the Labyrinth. She had to find Toby and force him to return her son. That wouldn’t happen if she couldn’t get out of the house, though.

“She’s fine, son. You were right to call me.” The tone of worry in her father’s voice almost made Sarah flinch, but then the door shut and their voices grew fainter.

She sat up again, looking for her backpack. There it was, on the chair. She slipped out of the bed, found her boots and a light jacket, and tucked everything under her arm, ready to leave.

“You think all the preparations in your world can prepare you for another stint in mine, Sarah?” His voice slid from the mirror in a silvery shard.

She turned slowly, knowing she’d meet those mismatched eyes in the mirror, the ones that saw into her very soul, the only ones that could still see the frightened but determined fourteen-year-old girl she’d once been. The one who’d lost Toby in the first place because she’d been too self-involved and thoughtless to believe her own actions had consequences.

By that token, Davey’s disappearance could be traced directly back to her.

“Jareth.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Toby I’m coming for him. He can’t take my son and get away with it.”

“You once said that about a stuffed bear, if I remember correctly.” He tented his fingers below his chin in the reflection, grinning a lopsided grin at her. “You had second thoughts about that, I think.”

“Well, it won’t happen now.” She turned to the bedroom door.

“You won’t get there that way, Sarah.” He laughed. “But I can help you.”

“Why would you help me?” She gave the mirror a scornful look over her shoulder.

He shrugged. “Maybe because I enjoy the game as much as you.” His grin faded. “Or maybe because your brother has pissed me off and it’s time to teach him a lesson.”

Sarah did a double-take, hearing the sincere irritation in his voice. She turned all the way around and gave him her full attention. “I’m listening.”

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My Least Favorite Word

Yesterday I had to face facts. My work-in-progress was done. I had written it. I had rewritten it. I had rewritten it in third person. And then I had gone over it again with a fine tooth comb. If there’s a single typo in the whole thing, it’s a miracle.

So then I had to make a decision. I’m a pretty good hand at self-publishing now. I know how to make some covers myself and I know who to call for others. I could publish this story (which I’m really excited about) and have it out there for public consumption by the end of the year, including marketing. Or I could submit.

God, how I hate that word. Submit. Submit to the inevitable. Submit to the machine. Submit to your fate.

Submit to a publisher.

I’m not saying publishers are bad. In truth, the two or three I’ve been fortunate enough to work with have been awesome, actually. It’s fantastic having a professional editor go over my book and point out its weaknesses. I thrive on deadlines. I love what an editor can wring out of me that I didn’t even know was there. Like a washcloth you thought was dry until you really put the pressure on.

Still, I haven’t submitted to a publisher in more than a year, and yesterday, as my cursor hovered over the “Submit” button, I knew I was submitting to something else. Loss of freedom. I love this story. I could do a good job putting it out on my own. I could have a real hand in designing the cover. And since it’s the first of three books, if it’s accepted, I’m submitting those other two as well.

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But I know a publisher can offer this book much more visibility than I can do on my own. Not to mention that ever elusive validation that we as writers are always looking for. I mean, sure, I love the story. But if a publisher likes it enough to put their resources behind it, well, that’s validation.

So, I submitted. To my fate, to the inevitable, to whatever the future holds. And if this publisher doesn’t like it, I’ll make a decision then about what to do with my story. Another publisher? Self-publishing? Trunk novel?

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