There’s no such thing as really good timing, I’ve found, but bad timing? Oh yeah.
So go ahead and giggle. Yeah, this is some of the worst timing ever in the history of publishing in general. A romance novel on a cruise ship? I can pretty much guarantee you no one else is putting this out.
As I’m putting the finishing touches on it, I find myself questioning other things, too. Simple things like handshakes and hugs. A kiss on the cheek from a friend. And, well, love in general.
How will Covid-19 affect writing about romance? I have no idea. I haven’t actually tried it. If it’s a transient thing, which we all hope, it won’t, obviously. But if the times change, as I’m scared they will, will I have to take that into account? Will courting be done via Zoom or Facetime? How will anyone fall in love that way? Love has to do with sparks, and I’m not sure the right kind can travel over virtual reality.
I imagine people like me will continue to write about what love and romance once were for a long time. We’ll either become outdated as humans evolve and learn to fall in love in different ways or we’ll serve as a valued reminder of what once was and hopefully one day will be again.
Whatever the future holds, I maintain that the sea is and always will be a source of romance. Whether the big cruise lines ever come back or not, love on the sea will always be a thing. So, in a couple of weeks (15 days to be exact), I’ll welcome Magic at Sea to my Sleight of Hand collection.
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.”
Seriously, I’m kind of happy to be done with the poem-a-day challenge. Writing poetry—everyday, anyway—gives you a new respect for Emily Dickinson. Not appreciation. Respect. There is a difference! I’ve always appreciated Dickinson, but the volume of poetry she wrote is something I now respect. It’s hard to write a poem every day.
But on to other things. It’s May Day! Let’s celebrate spring in spite of quarantine. What better way than by anticipating my upcoming new book? This is my new romance novel that takes place, of all places, on a cruise ship. Lol, right? If you can stop laughing long enough, though, take into account that I began writing this novel three years ago after I went on a cruise to Alaska. It was an amazing, truly magical experience, and to me, there is nothing so romantic as the sea. So, if you can clear the tears of laughter from your eyes, here’s the cover and a brief excerpt.
“Do you want me to leave?” He turned his hand over in hers so he could curl his fingers around hers.
“I think it would be best. Yes.”
“I will then.” He dropped his hand from hers, but then he leaned forward and kissed her, very quickly and softly, on the lips. “I’ve got plenty to do and you don’t need me here. I won’t see you again before your show tonight, though, so I want you to think about one thing for me.”
She wasn’t sure she could think about anything else but how his lips felt on hers and how much she wanted to repeat that experience. “What?”
“Have you ever once worried about what would happen if this thing doesn’t work out? Or have you just wondered what will happen if it does?”
His words gave her a jolt as she recognized the truth in them. She hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be stuck working on a ship with a man she’d attempted to date, perhaps to see him start another relationship with someone else. Not even once had that occurred to her. Why wasn’t she worried about that?
Because it won’t happen. I feel it. If we let this thing get started between us, it’s not going to stop. And maybe that’s what I’m scared of.
He stepped away from her, his eyes still locked on hers. He nodded. “Neither have I.”
From Magic at Sea by Michelle Garren Flye
So go celebrate May Day with cake, dancing (even if it’s solitary, dance anyway) and singing. If you have a May Pole, decorate it. Smell some flowers. Enjoy life a little. We all deserve it.
It’s a good feeling, right? Finishing something. I recently realized my next book is finished. I mean, yeah, it was written a while back, but even the editing stages are finished. It’s as polished as it’s gonna get, I think. Well, maybe one last run through.
I’m not going to tell you anything about this book except that it’ll be book 7 of my Sleight of Hand series. If you haven’t read any of my Sleight of Hand series, never fear. All of them are stand-alone romances with occasional appearances of characters from previous books. It’s like a romance series that focuses on a family or a particular small town, but the community that these books focus on is actually a little more…magical. The characters are not related except by marriage (well, there’s one set of brothers…). As for being set in one small town, nope. Settings range from the coast of North Carolina to Hollywood, Las Vegas and New York.
It’s kind of fun to think that this all began with Close Up Magic in 2013. I’d always been fascinated by stage magic. I often tell the story of five-year-old me being chosen by a magician to be on a “flying carpet”. I was instructed to keep my eyes closed so the magic would work. My mother told me afterward it certainly appeared that I flew. Ever since, I have loved stage magic. I know there’s a trick and I sometimes try to catch the magician at it. But even if I do figure out how a trick is done, it doesn’t spoil the fun for me. Often it just increases my respect for the magician’s performance.
So why am I not announcing more about my next book in this series? I obviously am very excited about it. It’s the best one yet, I know it. I put a lot of thought into this one, which is why it took so long. The answer is simple. I’m planning to roll out the next book on The Next Chapter Books & Art’s social media first. This bookstore has become so much a part of my life, including my writing life, it just makes sense.
So if you want to be one of the first to see the cover (which is bound to be beautiful due to being designed by the fabulous Farah Evers Designs) and read all about my new book, follow The Next Chapter Books & Art on Facebook and Instagram.
In the meantime, I have a couple of other projects in the works. I’d like to put out another booklet of my poetry, rework my backlist now that I’ve discovered Vellum, and Book 8 is calling me already. Not to mention my alter-ego Shelley Gee wants to get to work on Jessica Gravely as soon as possible.
Yesterday, I had to admit—at long last—that I just can’t see my computer screen as well when I wear contacts. So I pulled out an old pair of reading glasses I once used for a Halloween costume. In spite of myself, I was hoping they wouldn’t work.
Here’s me seeing my computer screen clearly without squinting. So I’m getting older. Better than the alternative, I always say.
Today I find myself in a quandary in spite of my new ability to see clearly. I want to write again, but I’m unsure what to write. I’ve been in stasis mode for a few weeks, though, you see, so it’s harder than I anticipated jumping back into the pool of work. I usually get anxious if I’m not writing something, but I’m surprisingly calm about it this time. And I think I can attribute that to the hidden room dreams.
If you’ve never had hidden room dreams, let me tell you, they’re a trip. For me, I was always wandering through our extraordinarily cluttered house (it was worse in the dream than in reality) only to find a door I opened to reveal rooms I never knew my house possessed. These rooms were always furnished, as though ready for use, but in my dreams I always realized it would take some work to make them functional.
I had this dream often enough so I looked it up online. Hidden room dreams, I found, were an indication that there’s some talent or ability hidden in our psyche that we aren’t making use of. Interesting, considering I started having these dreams right after my first foray into community theater. If ever there was someone you wouldn’t have thought suitable for the stage, it is probably me. I have a definite fear of public speaking. I remember nearly fainting in high school when I had to give a three-minute speech. Just a few years ago, I attempted to conduct a few writing workshops, and, well, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t what I would call good, either.
But theater is different. You’re somebody else, from the makeup (I never wear eyeliner except onstage) to the clothing (ah, those sumptuous nineteenth century dresses I wore!) to the words (speeches I would never have made on my own). Okay, I’ve only had bit parts so far, but in one play I did have more than a dozen lines!
And now, here I am, having just finished directing (and writing, at least a little bit) my daughter’s talent show, taking singing lessons in preparation for auditioning for another musical—and no longer haunted by hidden room dreams. Is it possible my hidden rooms were theater-related all along? Maybe the “clutter” in my dreams was my desire to tell stories, that I’ve always restricted to the arena of writing. If I move it into theater as well, I’ll have another outlet and more room in both parts of my psyche.
But never fear, I’m not giving up on my writing, either. Jessica Entirely, the first of my middle grade Jessica mysteries, will be ready for publication in June. I’m now working on the polishing of Timeless, the final book of my Synchronicity series. And Magic at Sea, book 7 of Sleight of Hand, should be ready for an October 31 release! Plus, I’ve already started planning Jessica Naturally, which I’m hoping to have out by Christmas.
So even as I explore these hidden rooms and try to dust them off so they’ll be functional, I’m adding to the clutter on the other side of my psyche. Can’t be helped, though. I guess I’ll just have to add more shelves over there!
Romance is a window on the reader’s soul, not the writer’s. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
It’s a truth for most romance writers, I think. Our friends and family are almost afraid to read our books. As if they might find out something more about us than what they want.
Why don’t you write something else?I have this great idea for a book you could write.
It could be funny.
I could almost laugh.
Why am I amused? The reason is simple. Any good writing lays your soul bare because you do tell secrets about yourself. It’s the only real way to make your writing read true to another person’s soul. The trick is to write it so no one knows what is true and what is fiction. And I can guarantee you, even those who know me best don’t know what’s true and what’s fiction in my books.
I always say I’m never in my books. And it’s true. I’m not a character in my books. But I am in there. I’m in every word and phrase I write. When you hold my book, you are holding a part of my soul. Is it a window onto my everyday wants and desires and loves? No. Like all writing, and especially fiction, my words are filtered through the reader’s experiences and is more likely to reveal something about them than me.
I guess that’s why I say, no apologies. I write what I write. If you have the courage to read it, that’s great. If not, please understand when I chuckle a little when you suggest I write something different. I love you, but my visceral answer to such a suggestion is an unequivocal “no.”
In other news…
I’m on Book Reviews by Jasmine today promoting Becoming Magic by talking about what I’d do on my day off if I worked in show business in Hollywood. As you might expect, it’s magical!
And on Smashwords and its affiliates, Close Up Magic, Book 1 in the Sleight of Hand series, is FREE just in time for the holidays! Read it if you dare!
This picture has nothing to do with this post. It’s just a pretty picture I took and posted here to catch your eye. Do you like it?
I’ve never liked that phrase “the exception that proves the rule”. If there’s an exception, then it proves the rule is faulty, right? Or does it prove that there is a rule to begin with? Or is it that you’re “testing” (proving) the rule with your exception?
No matter what, the expression is rife with possibilities for misinterpretation.
Which is why I’ve decided that Dickens Magic, which is most definitely an exception to my normal formula for Sleight of Hand books, proves nothing. Nothing except that I will go where my characters and their story lead me.
But how is Dickens Magic different from my other books? First of all, the hero and heroine are not magicians. Neither one of them. They aren’t involved in magic (at first, at least) in any way.
Second, Dickens Magic does not take place in any exotic locales like Las Vegas or the Caribbean or Hollywood. There is one very brief scene in New York City. The rest of the book is set entirely in New Bern, N.C., one of the least exotic locales you could ever want to visit.
Third, Dickens Magic’s setting centers around a building. It’s actually a building I love. The Masonic Theatre where RiverTowne Players performs. And it’s based on my own theatrical exploits. I tell everyone my recent desire to be an actress is my midlife crisis. And I’m good with that. But the truth is, if I had never walked into that theater with my daughter when she auditioned for The Little Mermaid, Jr. at the age of five, that midlife crisis would probably have lain dormant forever. I couldn’t do it anywhere else, I’m pretty sure.
Finally, I never put myself in my books. I can honestly say I’ve never read one of my books and seen myself in it. But this one, I kind of did, although I didn’t realize it until the final round of editing. It startled me at first when I noticed it, and certainly it’s not a real clear portrait of who I am, but it’s there. I’m not one of the main characters, though, so don’t think I think I’m the multitalented Kate.
So, my exception is out there. It doesn’t prove a thing. I’ll return to the rules (or most of them, at least) next time. Though maybe I’ll decide it’s more fun breaking the rules, especially the rules I’ve made myself.
I’m super excited to share Dickens Magic with you all in a few days! It comes out on October 31 and it’s set in a place that’s become very special to me. The historic Masonic Theatre where Rivertowne Players performs is a very old building with so much history it’s practically got a personality of its own. The people inside the building are awesome, too, but it’s the place itself that has magic for me. I’m convinced that if the Masonic Theatre were a person, she and I would be the best of friends.
That’s probably a result of all the creative energy and wonderful people who have filled
Me, backstage in my party dress, ready to go to the Fezziwig’s!
the building through the years, but whatever it is, I’ve wanted to set a book there for years. When I finally gave in and auditioned for a part in A Christmas Carol last year, I got my chance to see how the theater’s magic really works first hand. The spirit of that old place got into my blood and I started writing Dickens Magic almost as soon as A Christmas Carol wrapped up.
It’s difficult putting into words what that theater is actually like. And I’m sure some can go in and just see an old theater. Others can admire the architecture and history, but not really feel the magic. But if you go to a play there, let yourself open up to the magic…it’s an amazing thing. And if you can’t make it there, try my book, Dickens Magic. See if I did my friend justice.
To get you started, here’s an excerpt from the book, before the romance between hero Alex and heroine Kate really gets going. For fans of Close Up Magic, yes, the Andre in this excerpt is Andre Hawke!
As though energized by the way they had begun, the cast fell together almost instantly and the resulting rehearsal was one of the best Alex could ever remember being involved in. Especially considering no one was actually off-script, the run-through went smoothly, as if everyone already knew the blocking that hadn’t even happened yet.
Wisely, Kate let it happen, stopping them only between scenes to make notes about performance and blocking. As Scrooge, Alex was on stage nearly the entire play, which afforded him plenty of time to take note that Andre stayed for the rehearsal. He sat comfortably next to Kate in the front row, his long legs crossed in front of him. From time to time, he’d say something to her that almost always made her smile.
And every single time, Alex felt a jolt of jealousy that threatened to push him out of character. He managed to hold it in check, incorporating it into his character of Scrooge. At least it made it easier to play a jealously guarding old man. And besides, Kate hadn’t given her script to Andre, had she? She’d given it to him. And tonight, he’d read it.
In a strange way, he felt very much like a miser—a kinship with Scrooge he hadn’t expected. But it wasn’t money he wanted to hold tight. If he really had any money, he’d give it all to her to erase the worry lines from her forehead. But he hadn’t really been able to do that, in spite of the fact that he had called Andre to get him to come early. No, Andre had done that. And now Andre was cuddled up with Kate in the front row.
Except he wasn’t. When Alex looked again, Kate was alone. She looked tired though. Her face was pale, and he could see lines of pain around her eyes. Just as it struck him that it must be nearly nine o’clock, Andre reappeared next to her with a glass of water. She gave him a quick smile and took a sip of the water. He bent down next to her and she nodded, looking back at the stage. “We’re going to call it for the night, guys. Sorry, this has been one of the best run-throughs I’ve ever seen so early in rehearsals, but I’m fading fast.”
Everywhere I go now I’m touting my “new kind of romance”, so I thought it fitting that my blog should have a new look. So here it is, complete with a red rose background.
Next month I’ll be attending Mumfest in my adopted home town of New Bern. I’ll be selling my independently published books and giving away a few advance copies of Dickens Magic, which won’t be available until October 31, as well as a complete set of my Sleight of Hand series. I’m super excited about this, and I hope I’ll get to meet a lot of potential readers who are interested in my work.
For those who don’t know, New Bern suffered a great deal of damage during Hurricane Florence. The downtown area, where Mumfest will be held, was particularly hard hit as it is located at the junction of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. Many businesses were flooded, homes were lost. And yet no one has suggested that Mumfest should not happen. And so, on the fourth weekend post-Florence, our downtown streets will be crowded with booths of arts and crafts, food vendors, local businesses and non-profits. Flowers will brighten the corners which not long ago were occupied by storm debris.
And I will be there. I don’t yet know if I’ll be able to sell folks on my new kind of romance idea. I hope so. I truly believe what we read makes a difference. In the same way that what we eat affects our bodies, what we consume through books and other media affects our minds. If it’s good, wholesome and nutritious, so will our minds and hearts be. And good, wholesome and nutritious in the case of romance, does not have to mean not sexy.
I’m going to leave you with an excerpt from Dickens Magic, which takes place entirely in downtown New Bern at the historic Masonic Theatre I have come to love. I think this excerpt, which is from the POV of Alex, the hero, sums up a bit of what I feel about this town:
Alex walked without paying much attention to where he was going. He knew the way pretty damn well, after all. Every crack in the sidewalk, every storefront, every red light and stop sign was ingrained on his heart like a map of his very existence. He’d never felt that with New York, not even Broadway. Broadway was where he worked and his apartment in Manhattan was where he stayed.
New Bern was where he lived.
He paused at a corner. He stood directly in front of the old fire station, now a museum. If he looked right, he would almost see the old theater. It was just two blocks down, set back from the road with an unevenly paved parking lot in front, the crumbling façade of the building adorned with a poster of the theater’s latest production. What was it? Chicago? He’d read the review of it to his mother last week. He’d said maybe he’d take her.
Of course, that probably wouldn’t happen. He knew that.
A trolley passed in front of him and he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection in one of the windows. Unshaven, his clothes a little more rumpled than he usually allowed them to be, his hair a little longer than he was usually comfortable with. And a worried look that wouldn’t be banished.
I hope you’ll come visit this town I’ve grown to love so much. New Bern got knocked down, it’s true, but she’s getting back up with the grace and dignity you’d expect of a 300+ year old dame. She’s strong. #NewBernStrong
It’s a fact of life that music affects humans in a way that very little else does. Throughout the ages, music has developed with human beings. Today, the history of music is studied along with the psychology of music, musical therapy and ethnomusicology—and many other branches of music studies. All because we like to hear pretty sounds.
I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t have a playlist for writing. It varies, and sometimes one song is more strongly featured than others, but almost all of us have music playing in the background when we write. Why is this? Music can inspire and lift the spirits. Music can remind us so strongly of where we’ve been and make us long to go somewhere completely different. Music sets the mood.
Most of the time, my playlist is pretty eclectic. For six months after David Bowie died, I remember I only listened to his music. And then other songs began to sneak in. He’s still pretty heavily featured on my playlists, but it’s not all Bowie all the time like it was. I have some country, some pop, some classic rock, even a bit of classical. Recently, Enrique Iglesias has snuck onto my radar, possibly because of my most recent work-in-progress (more about that later).
Today, I’m over at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews promoting Becoming Magic with ten of my favorite playlist songs. Guaranteed, I listened to all ten while writing Becoming Magic. I’m probably listening to them today, too. Join me over there and leave a comment with your favorite song. I’d love to know what inspires you!