Tag Archives: Tracks in the Sand

Q: Am I a Southern Writer? A: Maybe.

honeysuckle-rose.jpgEvery morning I read three things. Politics, sports and anything about writing and literature. This morning I happened to see an excellent article in The New York Times called “What Is a Southern Writer, Anyway?” by Margaret Renkl. Renkl wondered if Southern writing could survive the modern age—”mass media and Walmart”. I had to agree, I wondered if she was right.

Growing up in the North Carolina mountains, I saw a lot of Southern tropes and missed out on others. We had snow when I was a girl, and even the summers were not unbearable. Fresh mountain breezes made the 80-plus degree heat quite bearable and no one had air conditioning. We sat on front porches in the evenings, but my mother didn’t allow smoking (or any kind of tobacco) or drinking. Ever. Ahead of her time, she’d witnessed the destructive effects of both.

Most of my childhood, we had one car which my father used to get out and back to work at the DuPont plant where he moved up from mechanic to shift supervisor. We rode bikes and walked to get places when he was gone until he bought my mother a little Pinto to take us to school in. I remember riding back from the grocery store on my bike, balancing a gallon of milk between the handlebars.

And yes, there was the ugly part. I wrote about that in my book Weeds and Flowers. Shades of prejudice, rumors of Klan meetings, memories of burning crosses and hangings. There were ugly weeds in our Southern flower garden, but we only saw hints of them.

Renkl concludes in her article that, “Maybe being a Southern writer is only a matter of loving a damaged and damaging place, of loving its flawed and beautiful people, so much that you have to stay there, observing and recording and believing, against all odds, that one day it will finally live up to the promise of its own good heart.”

If that be the case, then I am a Southern writer although I don’t always write Southern literature. Every single one of my books has some tie to North Carolina, though, and most of them take place at least partly in my state. However, of all my books, I would only consider two of them to actually be somewhat Southern literature. Weeds and Flowers, of course, but also—if a romance can be Southern literature—Tracks in the Sand. (For the record, Tracks in the Sand is free in the Smashwords Summer Sale with code SS100.)

So although I grew up in a little town that became a tourist attraction with a booming economy and now live in another small NC town, I see the faults of small southern living. I love my state and always have. The two years I lived in other states (Maryland and Virginia) were miserable times for me. North Carolina is home, and home, after all, is what both Southern and romance writers write about.

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One Thing Writers Never Tell You About Writing

When people find out I write, they ask me, “What’s that like?” Usually I’m at a loss. Writing is so much a part of me and who I am, I can’t really separate it enough to look at it. All I can come up with as a reply, usually, are amorphous answers that I’m never certain of so I always word them almost as questions. “It’s…uh…fun?”

Recently I dug a little deeper. I was actually trying to remember what the last book I read was—other than my own—and how I used to love reading. It drove me nuts to be caught somewhere without a book. When I was a kid in school, I was always the first one to hand in my math test and then I’d pull out whatever novel I was currently reading (or re-reading). And get lost in it. Remember that old line by libraries and teachers and literacy organizations, “Books take you places”? When I was a kid, books took me all over the world.

And now that I’m an adult and a professional (albeit only marginally successful) writer, I realized something that nobody ever told me before about writing. When you write a book, it takes you places, too.

Only it’s better.

Yep, that’s what it’s like to be a writer. It’s like being a reader, only better. Yes, it’s hard work. There are days I despair of ever writing two coherent words in a row. There are days when writing sentence after sentence is more arduous mentally than plowing a field with a mule and a hand plow is physically. Writing can be so exhausting it’s frightening. It can hurt. But it’s good. In fact, it’s wonderful.

It takes you places.

I’ve set my books in places I’ve never been like New York (I’ve been twice since, but I’d never been there before I wrote Secrets of the Lotus) and Greece (part of Saturday Love). And I’ve set them in places where I’ve been and long to go back like the Caribbean in Island Magic and Las Vegas (Close Up Magic and Escape Magic). And I’ve set them in places I’ve lived like Hillsborough, N.C. (Where the Heart Lies) and my hometown of Brevard, N.C. (Tracks in the Sand). And each and every time, when I would sit down to write, my book would take me there.

So now I guess I have a reply. “What’s it like to write? Why do I do it?” Because writing is like reading. It takes you places. What makes it better is that you get to take your readers along with you for the journey.

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Five Days of Free Kindle Books: Tracks in the Sand

Each day this week I’ve given away one of my books on Kindle for free, and I’ve spotlighted them on this blog, taking the opportunity to give you a little background on why I write what I write. And to sweeten the deal, I’m offering a $50 gift card for anyone who writes a review of one of my books on Amazon and posts it by August 15. Winner will be chosen by random drawing that evening. All you have to do is drop me an email at michellegflye at gmail dot com to let me know you posted the review. I want your honest take on ANY of my books (including the three published by actual publishers), not just the five I’m offering for free. But if you want a free book, here’s your chance!

Tracks_in_the_Sand_Cover_for_KindleTracks in the Sand is my ninth book, but only the second I’ve set in my hometown of Brevard, N.C. I’m not totally certain why this is. Maybe I’m concerned my writing will be greeted by the people at home with the same enthusiasm Thomas Wolfe got for Look Homeward, Angel. Whatever the reason, when it came time to write about a woman going home after years away, it just seemed right to set it in Brevard.

Tracks, like Saturday Love, went through many revisions. I wanted the main character to be strong. I actually started Tracks right after Where the Heart Lies. I’d just written a super strong but very sweet character in Alicia, and I wanted to try something different with Paige. Paige is tough because life has made her that way. But she has so much more vulnerability than Alicia does. Alicia is strong clear through in a very good way. Paige is flawed, her strong exterior actually a mask for the hurt child she still is. It took me many hours of revisions to get Paige to the point where it was possible to like her, but I’m happy with the result. And, well, the hero who cracks through her tough outer shell at last and wins her heart…well, you read it and tell me.

Tracks in the Sand, my newest release, is free today. Go get it. But if you’re not convinced yet, here’s a little excerpt:

She’s thinking about playing cat and mouse with him again. An unexpected stab of jealousy made Sean grip his clipboard hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He turned away to pretend to count the hammers hanging on the pegboard nearest him. “Jesus, Paige, are you really thinking about going down that road again?”

“What?” She tried to look innocent, but he could tell by the tiny smile on her lips she’d already considered the possibility of sleeping with Travis. Was she looking for revenge on Travis or Melissa? Or both? And would she really go that far to get it?

“What what?” He shook his head, replacing the hammers and moving further down the shelves to continue. “You know what. The son-of-a-bitch broke your heart, that’s what. Now you’re thinking about sleeping with him.”

“I wouldn’t do that.” She folded her arms over her breasts in a defensive posture.

“Why the hell not? And don’t tell me you didn’t at least consider it.”

“Besides the ick factor, I wouldn’t do it because I wouldn’t want to hurt Beth.” She followed him down the aisle. “But yeah, I have to admit, it crossed my mind. It would be the perfect revenge.”

He gave her a sharp look. “But your better nature took over?”

She shrugged. “Not sure I have a better nature. But yeah, something like that. I like that girl, and I don’t want to cause her or her family any more trouble than I already have.”

He paused, deciding to play devil’s advocate. “Well, you know. She knows the deal between you and Travis, right? I mean, she’d probably come around eventually if you guys got back together.”

The shock on her face was followed so quickly by disgust, he realized he had nothing to worry about on that front. “You really know how to turn a girl’s stomach, Sean.”

He laughed. “Well, the way you danced in here, you looked like a woman in love.”

“Not love.” She paused, frowning. “But the kid is amazing, and she’s been the one bright spot in my return home. Aside from you, of course. And if her father breaks her heart, I’ll kill him.” She fixed Sean with a glare. “Have you heard anything about him? If he’d make a pass at me, he’s probably done it before with someone else.”

“Why would you say that?” Sean turned away. What little he knew about Travis he wished he didn’t, but he had to admit he had a hard time following her line of thinking. Paige was a sexy, beautiful woman, and they shared a past. Why wouldn’t Travis make a pass at her? What Sean had a hard time believing was that Travis had ever given Paige up.

“Why?” Paige shrugged. “I want to know if he’s a cheating bastard that’s going to end up hurting Beth. And does Melissa know? And if she does, which she surely does because she’s an intelligent woman, why the hell does she put up with it?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Sean straightened a shelf of drill bits, then turned to look at her. Her curly hair had frizzed a little in the damp evening air. She wore almost no makeup and her jeans and blouse were wrinkled. Her expression was frustrated, half angry, and her posture was defiant.

And his heart skipped a beat every time he saw her.

What would she do if I kissed her? Half the attraction was that he had no idea. She might kiss him back, she might hit him or bite him. She might kiss him back and then hit him. Whatever she did, he knew it would be unexpected because that was what Paige was.

“Well?” She raised her eyebrows. “What did you mean?” Her voice was so crisp and no-nonsense, he knew she had no idea what he was thinking.

And why was he thinking it now? But he knew the answer. Before she’d left ten years ago, he’d never been able to imagine his life without her in it and hadn’t been willing to do anything that might destroy what they had and scare her off in the process. But now he’d lived without her. He could do it again, if their relationship didn’t work out.

I don’t need her as a friend anymore. I want her as a woman.

“Sean? You still there?” Her expression had softened a little, concern overcoming some of her irritation.

“I meant that he never deserved you.” He took a deep breath and stepped toward her. “I meant that I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping with him. For revenge or anything else.”

Decision made, he reached for her, caught her by the arm and pulled her to him. Startled and off balance, she tipped forward into him, catching herself by grabbing his chest. Her expression when she looked up at him had changed from confused to uncertain.

“I never said I was going to sleep with him.” She sounded a little breathless…and like she was trying very hard not to sound breathless. The idea that she felt the attraction too and didn’t want him to know pleased him. And she didn’t try to push him away, either.

Maybe this would be easier than he’d thought. Probably not, though.

He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “You don’t have to say anything. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Do you?” Her gaze flickered—instinctively and unwillingly—to his lips and back to his eyes. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”

“Sure.” He grinned. “You’re thinking that if I don’t let go of you you’re going to knee me in the groin.”

“Then why are you still standing so close?” She tilted her chin, her voice determined.

“Because you’re not going to do it.” He deliberately stopped smiling, and, still keeping a firm grip on her waist with one arm, he lifted a hand to trace the softness of her lips with one finger. He knew her so well. Even after all these years, he could read the nuances of her expression, could see the battle between attraction and irritation. I’m probably the only one who can do that, too. The wonder of it filled him.

“Why would that be?” Her arms slid up a little to his shoulders. She could be about to knee him in the groin or move further into his embrace. Knowing her, she probably hadn’t made up her mind yet.

For answer, he moved his hand to brush back her hair, exposing the tender skin beneath her ear. Bending, he took a deep breath of her and kissed the spot, feeling her tremble in response. Because you feel the same way I do and you’re wondering why we haven’t done this a long time ago if it feels this good. He didn’t have to speak the words. When she slid her arms around his neck, moving her lips to his, he knew she knew.

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Announcing: Five days of free books! Plus, enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

I have now self-published enough full-length novels to fill a work week. To celebrate that accomplishment, I’ve decided to launch a five-day promotion starting on Monday of next week. Five days of free Kindle books! And to sweeten the deal, if you read one of my books and post an honest review of it by August 15, you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift card to Amazon! Here’s the schedule of free books:

Monday: Ducks in a Row
Tuesday: Saturday Love
Wednesday: Close Up Magic
Thursday: Weeds and Flowers
Friday: Tracks in the Sand

Remember, the review should be totally honest. Whether it’s positive or negative—as long as it’s obviously about one of MY books—you’ll still be entered to win the gift card. And each review equals one entry! So if you want to read and review more than one by August 15, please do! I can only offer my self-published ones for free, but if you’d like to purchase and review Where the Heart Lies, Secrets of the Lotus, or Winter Solstice, those count, too!

Here’s how to enter:
1. Download one of my books. See the schedule for free books or purchase and review one of my pro published books.
2. Post an honest review on Amazon about the book.
3. Email me at michellegflye@gmail.com to let me know you posted a review.
4. Winner (selected by random draw) will be announced August 15 6 p.m. Eastern!

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What can I say about Tracks in the Sand? (Excerpt at end of a long and rambling post.)

Well, it’s out now, for one thing. My ninth novel. Wow. That number sort of floors me. When I wrote Secrets of the Lotus I actually worried that I might not have another one in me. For those counting, here are my novels, in (as best I can remember) order of release:

Secrets of the Lotus
Winter Solstice
Weeds and Flowers
Ducks in a Row
Where the Heart Lies
Close Up Magic
Escape Magic
Saturday Love
Tracks in the Sand

Tracks in the Sand is only the second novel I’ve set in my hometown, Brevard, N.C. (Weeds and Flowers is the other one;Winter Solstice comes close, but it’s in Asheville.) I can’t really say why that is, either. I love Brevard. I know Brevard better than any other place I’ve ever lived, I think, although it really has changed a lot since I lived there. The dime store is now an antique store. There are more restaurants near the town square than the entire TOWN used to be able to support (anybody remember Berry’s? I loved that place). The library I worked at from the age of 12 to 18 has moved into a much nicer, more modern building and the old library (previously the old post office) is, sadly, being converted into town offices.

But some things remain the same. The last time I was home, I took my kids to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” at the Coed Cinema, the same movie theater I saw “Mary Poppins” at for the first time. And the old hardware store (the one I modeled Sean Anderson’s after in Tracks in the Sand) was right there next door to the movie theater. And the county courthouse, which I also mentioned in my book still “perched on the corner of Broad and Main Streets like a large bird of prey watching the little mouse cars go past.” That’s not a very flattering description, and I’ve always loved that old building, but there really is something deliciously creepy about it.

Anyway, all this rambling is just to say, Tracks in the Sand is set in my hometown, a beautiful little place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s the county seat of Transylvania County, has a population of around 7,500 and an elevation of 2,230 feet. It’s become a tourist destination but it’ll always be home to me.

Excerpt from Tracks in the Sand:

What would she do if I kissed her? Half the attraction was that he had no idea. She might kiss him back, she might hit him or bite him. She might kiss him back and then hit him. Whatever she did, he knew it would be unexpected because that was what Paige was.

“Well?” She raised her eyebrows. “What did you mean?” Her voice was so crisp and no-nonsense, he knew she had no idea what he was thinking.

And why was he thinking it now? But he knew the answer. Before she’d left ten years ago, he’d never been able to imagine his life without her in it and hadn’t been willing to do anything that might destroy what they had and scare her off in the process. But now he’d lived without her. He could do it again, if their relationship didn’t work out.

I don’t need her as a friend anymore. I want her as a woman.

“Sean? You still there?” Her expression had softened a little, concern overcoming some of her irritation.

“I meant that he never deserved you.” He took a deep breath and stepped toward her. “I meant that I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping with him. For revenge or anything else.”

Decision made, he reached for her, caught her by the arm and pulled her to him. Startled and off balance, she tipped forward into him, catching herself by grabbing his chest. Her expression when she looked up at him had changed from confused to uncertain.

“I never said I was going to sleep with him.” She sounded a little breathless…and like she was trying very hard not to sound breathless. The idea that she felt the attraction too and didn’t want him to know pleased him. And she didn’t try to push him away, either.

Maybe this would be easier than he’d thought. Probably not, though.

He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “You don’t have to say anything. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Do you?” Her gaze flickered—instinctively and unwillingly—to his lips and back to his eyes. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”

“Sure.” He grinned. “You’re thinking that if I don’t let go of you you’re going to knee me in the groin.”

“Then why are you still standing so close?” She tilted her chin, her voice determined.

“Because you’re not going to do it.” He deliberately stopped smiling, and, still keeping a firm grip on her waist with one arm, he lifted a hand to trace the softness of her lips with one finger. He knew her so well. Even after all these years, he could read the nuances of her expression, could see the battle between attraction and irritation. I’m probably the only one who can do that, too. The wonder of it filled him.

“Why would that be?” Her arms slid up a little to his shoulders. She could be about to knee him in the groin or move further into his embrace. Knowing her, she probably hadn’t made up her mind yet.

For answer, he moved his hand to brush back her hair, exposing the tender skin beneath her ear. Bending, he took a deep breath of her and kissed the spot, feeling her tremble in response. Because you feel the same way I do and you’re wondering why we haven’t done this a long time ago if it feels this good. He didn’t have to speak the words. When she slid her arms around his neck, moving her lips to his, he knew she knew.

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I’m not sure I actually write romance.

It’s not that I don’t want to. Or even that I don’t try. It’s just that I’m told…over and over…that even though my stories have strong romantic elements (and…spoiler ahead…a happily-ever-after ending), they’re not really romance. Check out the following quotes from actual reviews:

“Reading this book was an odd experience, and my grade for it really depends on what it’s trying to be. As “womens’ fiction” this is quite an engaging story, but as a romance it fails.” –Amazon review for Where the Heart Lies

“Even though I was not thrilled with the romance in the book, it is still a worthwhile read.” –Amazon review for Where the Heart Lies

“a well-written, thought-provoking novel and is not what I expect from a typical romance” –Amazon review for Ducks in a Row

“Although categorized as romance, it is not the typical romance that I normally read.” –Amazon review for Ducks in a Row

You get the picture. I have had to accept the fact that I don’t always write the typical, run-of-the-mill, escapist romance. However, I feel the romances in the two books above were the meatiest (ooh, not a romantic descriptor at all) ones I have ever written. And here I am with another offering that probably won’t please all romance lovers.

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Tracks in the Sand has been turned down by some of the best romance publishers out there. I suspect it’s because although it fits RWA’s definition of a romance (it has a central love story with a happily ever after ending), it isn’t your mama’s romance. And it’s not what passes for romance in today’s market, either.

First of all, my heroine is a tough little bitch. Seriously, she is. In fact, one of the editors who turned Tracks down originally told me she couldn’t relate to the heroine as she was written then. I softened her a little, but I didn’t want to change her too much. She’s been through some serious shiznit in her life, and her current attitudes about people and situations reflect that.

By contrast, my hero is not an asshole. He’s warm and kind and exactly what the heroine needs to heal. He knows what he wants, he’s not afraid to go after it, he’s even successful—although not a doctor or a lawyer or any of the typical trades. He’s not even a fireman. In fact, he owns a hardware store.

And though the romance is central to the story, the heroine’s journey is fraught with many topics you don’t find in typical romances. Cancer, alcoholism, and child abuse to name a few. Not romantic subjects but perfect obstacles to add a touch of reality and depth to her story.

So I have to say…don’t read Tracks in the Sand if you’re looking for escapism. It’s not that kind of romance. However, if you want a story that’ll make you believe in the strength of love and family and forgiveness, I think this one might be it.

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