One moment a maniac…

IMG_1947If you’ve ever read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you know it’s full of bitter truths. That love has no reason. That mankind is cruel. That wealth and status are merciless and religion can be flat out wrong. Of course, most of us haven’t actually read the masterpiece. At best, we’ve seen a movie adaptation. At worst, however, we’ve heard the music of Disney’s adaptation at some point.

When Notre Dame burned last year, I cried. I hadn’t seen it yet and it was on my bucket list. It still is, even though I’ll never see the cathedral that was termed “The Forest” for the network of wooden beams that made up the roof. But some of the grand church was preserved. The fabulous rose windows and stone walls still stand. I can see those…someday.

And then I heard one of our local theatres was doing the musical adapted from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was adapted from Victor Hugo’s epic novel. Of course, I had to audition. And somehow, in spite of my audition, I made it into the choir, so I get to sing many of these songs while sitting or standing on stage the entire time. And as an added bonus, I have a couple of lines as a gargoyle.

It’s been fun. Nerve-wracking at times, but fun. I’ve listened to the music so much I may never want to hear it again, even “God Bless the Outcasts” which I’ve been known to blast in my car for no real reason at all. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people—theatre people are great. Differences don’t matter when you’re on stage. I’ve noticed that particularly with this cast. Race, religion, sexual orientation and the big one—Politics—none of that crap matters when you’re telling the story you’ve been charged to tell.

As for the production, well it’s fun. It’s exhausting. It’s taken a lot of time away from my family, and I’m really kind of looking forward to being done with it. But being in this production has also reminded me of what’s perhaps the most cruel of Hugo’s lessons to his readers: That dreams don’t always come true but life really isn’t worth living without them.

What is Utopia?

As a writer, I get to imagine things all the time, but one thing for me has always been sort of amorphous. What, exactly, would Utopia be like? I can imagine a place with green fields where everyone does their fair share, but eventually I start seeing flaws in the system. For instance, I don’t like working outdoors, I tend to kill plants, and I hate bugs. Would I be expected to help grow crops the same way my brother, who has a green thumb, would? And as a librarian, I wonder, would people who don’t care about books be expected to help me take care of them? How can you be a caretaker for something you have no care for? Who’s making all these rules, anyway?

Usually, I end up deciding I’d rather just retreat onto a mountaintop or desert island with the people I love most and have supplies air dropped to me. But what kind of liberal does that make me if I can’t even picture a Utopia that works?

Today I read this wonderful opinion column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times called Watership Down and the Crisis of Liberalism and I practically clapped my hands. If you’ve never read Watership Down, the classic tale by Richard Adams, you must. Go get a copy. I’ll wait. Okay, maybe not, because it is like 500 pages long, but Watership Down was a masterpiece, and Douthat hits the nail on the head with what makes a true Utopia and how Adams created one with this sentence:

And what makes the regime the rabbits are founding good — and successful, but first and foremost good — is the integration of the different virtues, the cooperation of their different embodiments, their willing subordination to one another as circumstances require.

Bam. Right there. Each rabbit that embarks on the quest to found a new home after they lost their old home to ecoterrorism (a subdivision) has a unique skill that they offer to the group. The leader, the strong, the religiously gifted, the athletic, the intelligent, the creative—all have something to offer the group.

So that’s what Utopia is to me. It’s a world in which we all have our unique gifts and they’re all valued. Imagine a world where you could find your gift and pursue it and contribute to the world in your own way. If a teacher’s offering of education, a doctor’s offering of healing, a policeman’s offering of safety, a politician’s offering of governing, a writer’s offering of…whatever we offer—it was all valued. Every skill, from acting to playing a sport or inventing, all the way to trash collecting and housecleaning.

Isn’t that what we all want? A world we can live in without fear of someone taking what is ours? Our job, our belongings, our happiness. In a world where everyone already had theirs, maybe that wouldn’t be such a problem. To me, that is Utopia.

(Side note: The only other place I’ve ever seen a Utopia that looks like it could work is Starfleet in the Star Trek universe.)

But what is Utopia to you? In our highly divided culture today, maybe this isn’t what everyone wants. Utopian dreams come to us all, though. I’d love to hear yours.

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Utopian perfection? Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poems: Push Back, Speak Up (Warnings)

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Silence is not an option. It’s not golden. Find your voice before it’s lost.

Once again, I take my inspiration from a strong woman. Nancy Pelosi may not be the first person you’d think would inspire poetry, but that picture of her pointing a stern finger at a spoiled man while he recoils in stunned anger should inspire every woman who’s ever felt smothered by men.

I know how that happens. Every woman knows. We’re conditioned to get married and have children and if we don’t then there’s something wrong with us. I got married and had children. For a time I did lose my voice, but then I found it again in my writing. I’m fortunate to be married to a man who is confident enough in his own skin to allow me to speak out from mine.

Me too, nasty women, hear me roar, fight like a girl, my body my choice, the future is female, and my personal favorite: silence is not an option. These are just a few of the things women have found the voice to say. But what they all add up to is this: Every. Single. Woman. Has. A. Voice. And that voice is not meant to echo, it’s not meant to be bitten back or smothered behind a man’s hand. Speaking up doesn’t make you less of a woman. It makes you more of a human.

Speaker Pelosi is speaking up in that picture, and that’s why Donald Trump thinks it depicts her as having a “meltdown”. That’s why some men will agree with him. And that’s why we owe it to all women everywhere to speak up. We have voices. Let’s use them.

Silence is not an option. At least, it’s not a good one.

 

Push Back (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

He wraps you up.

Warmth envelops you.

It’s nice, safe, there in him.

You might never want to leave.

 

He wraps you in.

Safety can suffocate.

You choke, feel lost and alone.

You can’t be free now, can’t speak out.

 

He wraps you down.

And now you push back.

Will he give way, let you breathe?

Can you tell him how you feel at last?

 

He wraps you tight.

Push harder! Don’t give up!

It’s your life to live, your love to give.

And you were given a voice to tell your story.

 

He sets you free…

You can breathe again.

You can speak and believe.

He stands beside you, what will you do?

 

You take his hand.

You’re in this together.

Side-by-side, he can’t forget you’re there.

The ties that bind don’t have to be painful.

 

 

 

 

Speak Out (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Lips tremble, form words without sound.

A whisper pushes past, but no one hears.

How can you expect to use what was never found

After days upon days upon years and years?

What is a mouth made for if not to speak?

What good is a tongue if behind it there’s no voice?

You try to push it out, but the words barely squeak.

It’s what happens in the end if you make that choice.

Don’t echo, don’t fib, don’t quiet what will never die.

Your spirit withers within a body of silent tears.

You wish you could scream, but you can only cry.

Oceans of silent waves push back on your cares.

Voices can be lost without thought and exercise.

Form a word of your own now and then—or lose hope.

If you bury yourself in a man’s beliefs, you’ll just tell lies.

Speak up, speak out, and if he objects, just let him cope.

Mumfest weekend!

Just a quick note here to let you know I’ll be at Mumfest this year, representing both Michelle Garren Flye and my alter ego Shelley Gee, who you might know as the writer of charming children’s mysteries. I will have copies of all my books, including my poetry booklet, which is in limited release (meaning you either have to go to The Next Chapter Books & Art or find me to purchase a copy). I’ve cut the prices for Mumfest weekend if you buy directly from me, so it’s a great time to stock up on good books! I hope to meet some of you at Mumfest. I’ll be in the purple tent on Middle Street with my friend Noel of Blissworks. It’s hard to miss! Noel’s artwork is fantastic!

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Mumfest 2018

Cover Reveal: Timeless! (Finally)

Drum roll, please…Ta…DAAA!

Yes, that is the cover for the final book of my Synchronicity series, Timeless. And yes, it does have a unicorn on it! As all my best covers are, this one was designed by my talented friend Farah Evers of Farah Evers Designs, and I gave her a tough task, asking her to make a non-dorky cover with a unicorn on it. 🙂 (Sorry to all you unicorn fans out there, but…) As you can see, she rose to the challenge magnificently!

This one has been a long time coming. I started writing this trilogy in 2015, and Out of Time was published in 2016. I followed it up with Time Being in 2017. And now, finally, I’m ready to release Timeless. These worlds I invented and the portals between them have been fun to travel. Steeped in the legends of the Cherokee (T’sali) people of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I grew up, I feel like, more than any of my other books, these have a bit of my soul in them. I mean, what little girl doesn’t dream of finding out she’s a princess from a faraway land?

I’ve enjoyed my time in Eladi/Ayeli/Gadusi, consorting with Elves and Meti as well as humans, but I am ready, now, to let it go. So, on June 1, 2019, you can find out how it all ends. For those who have followed this story, the Raven Mocker does make another appearance, and yes, there really is a unicorn.

And if you haven’t followed the story? I’ve slashed the prices on the first two ebooks, Out of Time and Time Being, to 99 cents! (Come on, Disney/Marvel didn’t make you that good a deal and you still went to see End Game!) Don’t get left behind. Be ready for the end of this epic story on June 1!

Jack and Kaelyn have battled an army and realigned space and time to be together. But their greatest challenge yet looms, and it’s from Kaelyn’s own people. 

The joyous reunion with Todd and the Ayeli Meti should bring peace to all they love, but instead Kaelyn discovers a dark underbelly of prejudice. The Ayeli Meti have not forgotten the war with the Elves, and it takes very little to push them over the edge. Now Kaelyn must decide between love and duty.

Trapped on Ayeli, can she overcome the lingering anger against Elves? And can Jack defeat his father on the lost world of Gadusi, making it safe to reopen the portals? Most important, can Kaelyn and Jack find their way back to each other through the locked portals—or are they doomed to spend eternity alone?

Facebook storytelling: I’m fine, and you?

I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook about how nobody believes your Facebook posts about your perfect family, so why don’t you just tell the truth?

LOL.

Truth is not really what Facebook is for. It never has been. Facebook started out being a sort of public bragbook for friends you never see. Remember those things? I made them after all my kids’ births to carry around in my purse and show to my friends—see how cute my kids are? Of course, that was before the camera phone. Now I can whip out my phone and show you my last vacation, my new puppy, my car, my son’s graduation, a video of my daughter singing, my other son’s last basketball game—you get the picture.

My point is, Facebook is the equivalent of saying “just fine and you” when someone asks how you are. I mean, if I answered that question honestly every day, I’d get some pretty peculiar looks. A couple of times I’ve gotten some glimpses into acquaintances real lives on Facebook. Every single time, someone closer than me to that person starts begging them to stop putting family stuff on Facebook.

In our hearts, we know everyone we know doesn’t have a perfect life and family. Marriages are in trouble, kids have problems, people make mistakes they can’t take back. Friends and family pass away, we fail each other, we fail ourselves, we neglect the world around us. Life sucks sometimes and all we can do is survive.

I’m fine. How are you?

Trump Tilts at Windmills

They might be giants…they aren’t, but they might be.

Very seldom these days do the worlds of great literature and American politics coincide, but Donald Trump’s recent attack on windmills cannot help reminding me of the passage in the great novel about an insane man, Don Quixote.

Don Trump says, “They kill birds, they cause cancer, you can’t depend on them to power your television for an entire night because if the wind’s not blowing, there’s no power.”

Don Quixote says, “They’re giants and I shall slay them.”

But where is Trump’s Sancho? Where is the voice of reason to tell him that they aren’t actually giants, but very useful and beneficial machines? If we continue the parallel, Sancho would probably be Trump’s voters. The ones he’s promised will benefit if they follow him. Yet Trump’s Sancho doesn’t seem capable of pointing out that the windmills are not actually giants. So, it would seem, Trump Quixote is destined to break his lance without even a word of warning from his companion.

We might laugh at this. Cervantes certainly intended you to laugh at his misguided knight and even at Sancho. But if we’re stuck in Don Trump, or the Man of Queens, we better hope there’s a Knight of the White Moon out there somewhere who will defeat Trump and make him promise to go home to be cured of his madness.

Otherwise, we may be doomed to subscribe to Quixote’s belief near the end of the first volume that knights errant “are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire.”

Sounds uncomfortably familiar.