Leaving the backlist behind

Over the past week—especially since Wednesday when I discovered my dog had chewed through my computer cord—I have been working on getting the last three of my self-published books online at Smashwords. Smashwords will make these books available in multiple formats at multiple outlets, so that you aren’t just limited to Kindle if you wish to read in ebook format. In a few days, every one of my books will be available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks—you name it, I’ll be there. Every format.

Revisiting my backlist became less of a chore than I’d imagined it would be. I actually found myself giving my last three books (Weeds and Flowers, Ducks in a Row, and Saturday Love) a thorough proofreading…and enjoying it. I haven’t read those books in ages.

Weeds and Flowers isn’t even a romance like I write now. More of a coming-of-age story that was written in a sort of patchwork quilt way—bits and pieces that I stitched together to make a novel. Appropriately, it was actually probably the first novel I wrote, though not the first one published. I had forgotten how much that book meant to me, though. It’s the only one—so far—that has something in it that actually happened, not actually to me, but to people around me. Re-reading it was like reliving some of my own childhood, even if I was more watching than experiencing at the time.

As for the other two, Ducks was the most difficult book I’ve written thematically. I think of it as sort of an anatomy of both a marriage and an affair. I actually still dislike the heroine, though she did grow a lot during the course of the book. And I fell in love with one of the male characters. So much so that he ended up getting his own book, Saturday Love, because I just couldn’t leave him hanging like he was at the end of Ducks. Regardless of my feelings for the characters, however, re-reading those books was like visiting with family I hadn’t seen in a while. And it revived a past resolve to write a third book in that series. If I can ever get past the two or three other projects I have waiting for me now.

But for now, I am returning to work on Dickens Magic, my next in the Sleight of Hand series and my first ever attempt at a holiday-themed book. I’d reached a sort of roadblock on that one. I couldn’t quite figure a believable way to drive a wedge between the hero and heroine but over the course of the week, I had a brainstorm. I plan to give myself two more weeks to finish the first draft of Dickens Magic, then I have another start on a not-magic-related book and at some point I have to get to work on Magic at Sea… 

But maybe that would wait. Maybe I could start my third book about the Hubbard family, Agape Mou (Greek for “My Love”). There’s a reason it’s Greek. If you read Ducks and Saturday Love, you’ll understand. I have plans for a very good-looking Greek hero for that one, but his ties to the Hubbard family are very complicated and bound to result in some drama. Especially when he gets involved with the daughter of the family…

Oh crap. If I’m not careful my imagination will get stuck in sunny Greek vineyards instead of a theater all decorated for Christmas. Better get back to work! Herete, my friends.

Reviving the Backlist: 13 Novels are waiting for you!

Yesterday while pondering whether or not I could be considered a “Southern” writer and not just a writer from the South, I started thinking about my backlist. I realized three of them were still only available on Amazon because I created book covers for them using KDP. But creating simple ebook covers is easier than ever now, so I looked up an online book cover creator and got to work.

I’m happy to say I now have book covers for all three and one of them—Weeds and Flowers—is now available (along with most of my backlist) for free on Smashwords with the coupon code SS100. Ducks in a Row is in process today and I’ll work on Saturday Love as soon as Ducks is ready. I’m excited about getting Ducks out there to a wider audience. It was what I call “critically acclaimed” having earned the following comments from reviewers on Amazon:

  • “I highly recommend this unsettling book.”
  • “A beautiful story about love, choice, redemption, and family.”
  • “One of the best books I have read this year, very thought provoking.”
  • “…a very beautiful but painful story…”

Saturday Love is actually the sequel to Ducks because I felt I left too much untold at the end of Ducks. At any rate, I’m thrilled more people will soon see these and maybe add them to their to-be-read pile. For now, here are the covers of all three:

Weeds and Flowers

Ducks in a Row

Saturday Love

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.

Creation’s Child: The Killer in Me

I’ll take a quick break from promoting Movie Magic (see the beautiful cover to the right) to talk a little bit about one of the most powerful and potentially addictive parts of writing: Creation. Because along with creation comes the ability to kill with impunity within the realm of your creation, that is.

There’s a saying that’s popular among writers. It’s on bumper stickers, coffee cups and t-shirts. “I’m a writer. Don’t piss me off or I’ll put you in a book and kill you.” While I’ve never actually done that, I have killed people off in books to move the story along. In fact, in my very first published book Secrets of the Lotus, I killed off the heroine’s imprisoned brother in order to bring her and the hero closer. Heartless? Cold? Maybe. But here’s the result:

Dan bolted up the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. The door of her apartment was ajar. He went in to find her standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine, her eyes red.

“Jo?” He closed the door. “What’s up?”

“He’s dead. James.” Josie lifted her glass as if in a toast. Dan could see tears running down her cheeks. “There was some kind of riot, something stupid. But somebody had one of those weapons, the ones they make out of spoons—what do they call them?”

“A shiv?” Dan pulled the term from some movie or other, then felt like an idiot since he was fairly certain she didn’t really care. He crossed the room and took the wineglass from her, leading her into the living room, tossing some cushions on the floor and sitting with her in his arms. “I’m sorry, baby.”

She felt good enough against him to make him feel guilty, but he also knew her well enough to realize what she needed from him at that moment, and if he let her go, he wasn’t sure what would happen to her. He touched his lips to her hair, allowed himself to breathe her scent and offered her the only real comfort he could.

Since then, in twelve books, I have only (sort of) killed off five characters. I say “sort of” because, well, two of those were characters you didn’t really know but that affected the heroines’ backstories, and one of them had a twist that’s not revealed yet. As in he died, but… (Read the Synchronicity series if you want to know what I’m talking about!)

But of all the deaths of all my characters, the only one that really surprised me was the death in Weeds and Flowers. I say it surprised me because I knew this character had more to accomplish in the story. Hell, he’s talking in the last chapter of the book! It was only after I wrote his death scene that I realized he was a ghost.

The phone rang at six thirty the next morning. I groaned and rolled over. No fair being woken up so early on a Saturday. I heard David’s voice on the phone, muffled. He talked for several minutes, his voice low and somehow ominous, like the first growls of thunder. I rolled over onto my back. Silence fell, a humid shadow over the house. Then I heard Mom’s voice, a flicker of lightning. With my eyes closed so I couldn’t see the bright sunlight that snuck past my shades, I felt a thunderstorm approaching. Them Mom cried “No!”, the lightning struck and I sat up, wide awake. Something awful had happened.

J.K. Rowling cried when she killed off Snape. Agatha Christie supposedly killed Poirot because she was falling in love with him. Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes because he was tired of him…and later regretted it. I guess my point—other than trying to entice you to read two of my earliest books—is that with creation comes the ability to destroy. Even if it’s just imaginary people in an imaginary world. It’s thrilling and addicting and devastating at the same time.

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

Life as a Self Published Writer and the Road Not Taken

Tomorrow morning, Island Magic goes on sale. My tenth book (nine novels and a novella). It seems like a good point in my career to sit down and look at the road I didn’t take for a minute.

I see the roads of Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing like this. Self Publishing is a rural route. Part of it isn’t paved, and part of it is freshly hacked out of the forest undergrowth. It’s windy and long and sometimes difficult to get through, and there are a lot of little side paths you might find yourself on if you’re not careful. Traditional Publishing, however, is a highway. Well-paved, but sometimes jammed up. Littered with rejection letters from editors, publishers and agents. It’s only once in a great while that a writer can make their way through the pack and over the bridge and into the big, golden city named Published. And once you do, you have to go back to the beginning and start all over.

I reached the fork in my road a while back. Traditional publishing had paid off only mildly for me (two ebooks with Lyrical Press and one with Carina Press). I tried self publishing with my book, Weeds and FlowersMH900058885, because I had literally no idea how to sell it. It isn’t literary or genre fiction. It’s fairly intense for young adults, but the main characters are teenagers. I tried to rewrite it as a young adult romance, but that didn’t work. So I self published it, telling myself it wouldn’t hurt anything.

And it didn’t hurt anything. But it opened up a whole new world to me. Suddenly I realized, as a writer, I don’t have to sit in a traffic jam on the Traditional Publishing Highway. I don’t have to spend my precious writing hours anguishing over cover letters and synopses. If I took this exit onto Self Publishing Route, I could spend them writing what I want to write. Books.

I can still see Highway Traditional Publishing. It crosses Route Self Publishing from time to time. I check out the market, consider submitting, wish for a moment that life could be easier, that my books would sell themselves. And then I continue writing. Because that’s what I want to do, and if I have to pull out my machete and hack my own way through the wilderness, so be it.

Island Magic goes on sale tomorrow. Don’t forget to buy your copy of my seventh self-published book.

Five Days of Free Kindle Books: Weeds and Flowers

I’m giving away one of my books each day of this work week and using the opportunity to spotlight them and give you a little background into why I wrote them on this blog. 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!

Weeds and Flowers coverWeeds and Flowers is the one book I’ve written that I would not classify as a romance. It’s about growing up in a small town and losing faith and finding your first love and lots of other things, but it’s not a romance. It’s a mystery, a coming-of-age story, a story about family and friends. When someone asks me which one of my books they should start with, I usually say this one. Because at its heart, it’s what I’m really about.

Weeds and Flowers is set in a small town and it’s very loosely based on a murder that happened there when I was a girl. That murder changed things in my trusting little town. It happened just a few blocks away to a girl who lived a very similar life to my own with a family and friends who loved her. Although I’ve changed names and circumstances, it was that time period that changed so much in my town that I wrote about.

Here’s a few paragraphs from what might be my favorite of all my novels:

On Friday, I spent the night at Marleen’s. Mom didn’t really like for me to spend the night away from home, so this was a rare treat. “Have her over here,” Mom would always say, never seeming to realize how difficult that was. Mom liked Marleen because Marleen always behaved well in front of parents. “She’s quiet and ladylike,” Mom said. “Maybe some of it will rub off on you.” To which I’d reply that if Mom didn’t want a tomboy for a daughter, she shouldn’t have let my real dad give me a boy’s name.

But even Mom had to admit that if I kept turning Marleen’s invitations around and insisting she sleep over at my house, somebody would get offended. Marleen didn’t mind, but her mother was sort of touchy. Mom said Mrs. Galloway came from the wrong side of the tracks and often thought other people didn’t think she was good enough for them. Besides, I wanted an opportunity to see Kyle up close without seeming too obvious. And Friday should be perfect since Marleen’s parents were going out and leaving Kyle in charge.

“I hope Jeff doesn’t bug us too much,” Marleen said. Her brother Jeff had become a little creepy, in a greasemonkey kind of way. “God, I wish I just had one adorable brother like you do. You know Kyle’s planning to bring his new girlfriend over?”

I shrugged, as if I didn’t care. She knew, of course, but I hated to admit my hopeless crush, even to my best friend.

But Marleen just sighed. “Neither of them has an artistic soul, you know? I mean, all Jeff cares about is cars and all Kyle cares about is girls. There’s so much more to life than that. No one understands me. Well, no one but…”

She broke off, but I suspected I knew who she was talking about. She’d been over to Mrs. Whitford’s garden again, talking to Brian. I didn’t go with her when Brian was in the garden anymore. I wasn’t sure why, but it seemed weird to me that he was so interested in talking to Marleen when he was a good twenty years old than her.

Brian wasn’t in the garden when we got to Marleen’s house, and Kyle wasn’t home yet, so I let Marleen convince me to go to the garden. Most of the roses had withered, and there weren’t so many bugs as during the summer, but the garden still had a creepy feel to it. Marleen and I discussed the school Halloween dance for a while. Who was taking who. Who wasn’t going. Who would probably kiss who. Who would ask us to dance if we decided it was worth our while to go.

The back screen door at the house banged shut and we peered through the thinning bushes to see Brian pulling spades and hoes and shovels out of the storage area in the basement of the old house. He didn’t appear to have seen us, and with difficulty I managed to hold Marleen down. I didn’t want to have to talk to him. She giggled but acquiesced.

We watched as Brian pulled what seemed like every gardening tool he owned out of the storage closet, then seemed to find what he was looking for. He stood, stretched, and turned slowly, his eyes scanning the garden, a trowel in one hand, a bag of bulbs in the other. As we crouched in the garden, the scent of damp earth and rotting plants filling our nostrils, Brian drove the trowel into the ground again and again. I could hear the thud of its blade, the ripping sounds of roots and sometimes a tiny clink as it hit a rock or pebble.

Finally, tired of watching Brian thrusting into the earth, I tugged on Marleen’s shirttail. She shook her head and stayed where she was. I shrugged and headed for the fence, crawling with my head down. I wasn’t able to see Brian or tell for sure if he saw me, but the stabbing noises continued. Only later, when Marleen joined me in her yard did I realize that Brian couldn’t have escaped seeing us from his back porch as he came outside. Somehow realizing he’d known we were there and acted like he hadn’t creeped me out even more.