New Project Preview: UnSong

Do you remember the first book you ever read without pictures in it? It probably happened about fifth grade, at least that’s when I remember it.

It felt like a mistake, right? You were told to use your imagination to picture the characters and scenes, and I know I learned how to do that. It was so much work, though, I only really wanted to read the same books—my favorites—over and over. When I was assigned a book to read in school, it was almost always a chore, though some of those classics did make it into my favorites stack.

I’ve read plenty of books now, using my imagination to fill in the blanks left by the lack of art, but I started wondering. Why omit the art? Why not provide a few illustrations? Maybe that’s why graphic novels are surging in the marketplace. I know I still love a good comic book.

With poetry, in particular, there’s a definite need for art. Poetry is not just words. Poetry grows from feelings, is inspired by sights, might be as amorphous as a scent.

Other poets, of course, have already discovered what I’m just now concluding. I mean, look at Shel Silverstein. Also, I recently picked up Gabbie Hanna’s beautiful book of illustrated poetry dandelion in a bookstore (ahem, not mine), read the very first poem in it and got tears in my eyes.

So, like I always do, I’m throwing all my thoughts and feelings about something (in this case poetry), into a big kettle and seeing what boils out. So far, I’ve got most of the poems I’m planning to use and a few of the illustrations…and a title.

Possible cover, but probably not. 🙂 Stay tuned!

I don’t have a problem with Amazon. Not really.

This weekend a friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was an article by Adam Stern in The Chicago Tribune entitled “Independent Bookstores are More Than Stores”.

This article gave me a lot of feels.

First, as a reader, I totally agree with him. I remember as a kid haunting local bookstores. I would sometimes spend hours browsing bookstore shelves. That’s how I discovered Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and even Jane Austen. We had a used bookstore in our town called The Book Nook. I would often trade books in there. I’d bring in a stack of dog-eared novels and leave with another. I believe that’s where I first made the acquaintance of Stephen King. There is absolutely nothing like browsing a bookstore’s shelves and taking home a new book by a new author you might never have tried before.

And yes, this experience is slowly dying off.

Second, as an author, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. They make it easy for me to publish my books. It costs me nothing but time to put my book up for sale on Amazon. BUT they make it easy for anyone to publish their books. Forgive me for sounding a little uppity here, but when I decide to publish something, it’s gone through intensive editing. I self-edit, but I am an editor, so I can do it. My books are not the stream-of-consciousness, unedited, full-of-typos books that have given independent/self-publishing a bad name. In fact, I would venture to say that my books are better edited than some bestsellers. But it’s difficult for readers to trust self-published books because anyone can self-publish. Hence, the love/hate relationship.

I cannot hate on Amazon when they provide essential tools for me, though.

Third, as a bookstore owner. Okay, I should hate Amazon, right? Again, there’s mixed feelings here. My store serves a different purpose than Amazon. You will not find the latest Oprah pick (does she still do that?), the newest best seller, the trendiest hot read on my shelves. I have well-loved classics, dog-eared novels, a decent selection of nonfiction, and LOCAL, INDEPENDENTLY-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. So as far as that goes, I don’t have a problem with Amazon. When someone comes in and asks for Nicholas Sparks’s latest or the new book by Barack Obama, I cheerfully refer them to Books-A-Million or Amazon. “But I want to keep my money local and help you,” they say. “So browse the shelves and find something you like from what I have,” I reply.

That’s my problem (and, I guess, Stern’s) with Amazon. But it’s not just Amazon. It’s big publishing in general. And people like Oprah who presume to know what other people should read. They have the influence and resources to push the same authors over and over again. The same ideas get consumed over and over. Just because I can publish my well-edited, pretty damn readable book doesn’t mean it’s going to be discovered by readers who have been conditioned to want to read the latest bestseller, the latest trendy nonfiction, the latest thing Oprah said was good.

So, to those who call me up and ask for the book they heard about on Good Morning America this morning, I say, “If you truly want to help your community and keep your money local, have a look at our local author section. There’s some good stuff in there that you will never know about if you don’t give it a try.”

My independently published graphic novel.

Poem: I wrote the most perfect sentence

Sadly based on real life events.

I Wrote the Most Perfect Sentence

By Michelle Garren Flye

Right there for a moment

The most perfect sentence

Written in an instant

In a flash of brilliance

Nostalgic but not sappy

Surely worthy of award

I was superbly happy

It struck just the right chord

But I was busy with life

Unable to write it down

Settling scores and strife

Bustling about my town

When at last I sat to write

Nothing was left to recall

Try and try as I might

The words had gone AWOL

When words fail. Art by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Craving Heart

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Sometimes I’m attracted to a particular thing or sound or food/drink for no particular reason that I can name. My craving may attach itself to something I’ve known about and/or liked/loved for years. But all of a sudden, that’s all I want in my life.

What is this? It’s like a pregnancy craving. With my first son, I wanted milk all the time. Great, right? With my second, I wanted sweet tea, which sucked because I was living in Maryland at the time, and the only place to get good sweet tea was Bojangles. Thank God for Bojangles! My daughter was a different matter. I craved protein—in the form of hamburgers and steaks.

While I was pregnant, I figured cravings were trying to tell me something. I figure the same thing about these life cravings. Right now, all I want to listen to is Lifehouse and all I really want to read is manga/comics. I prefer drawing to writing, unless it’s poetry. What is my body trying to tell me?

Maybe it’s my spirit. Maybe it’s a type of spiritual pregnancy craving. I’ve completed my comic book (I’m moving away from calling it a graphic novel on my son’s suggestion), so it’s not that, but I can’t escape the feeling that my cravings relate to what’s happening in my creative life. In some way I can’t honestly name.

Craving Heart

By Michelle Garren Flye

Amorphous at first, like the moon’s touch,

Then filling the mind and life.

What is it you long for, want so much?

Sometimes sharp as a knife

Other times soft…you’d never hurt.

Give it to me, you whisper,

Give, and it’ll quench your thirst.

Resist you? Oh, that, I’d never!

I know how you get, my craving heart,

When I attempt to ignore

The insinuation of your persistent art.

No, I’ll surrender to wanting more

Of whatever you say I require.

I’ll see where this craving leads,

I’ll follow the road of desire—

And allow the nourishment of your needs.

Poem: Fever Phoenix

My apologies for my continued fascination with fire right now…but maybe it’s just because, HEY! THE WORLD IS BURNING! WE MIGHT NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!

Fever Phoenix

By Michelle Garren Flye

Fever burns within,

But are you

Fire or fuel?

Make the call.

Will you destroy what you touch

Or feed the flames of others?

Spew your own sparks

Or rise from the ashes

Of all you caressed

Of all that you fed

And like a phoenix

With feathers ablaze

Spread your wings

And scorch all in your way

Until even the tiniest flicker

Of a candle is engulfed

In your laughing mouth

As you rise

Above those without escape

From the conflagration

At the end of the world.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Missing Fire

I’ve been a little at loose ends here recently. I finished a project (well, sort of, it was my fanfiction), and I’m experiencing what a friend calls “post publication blues” (thanks for that, Tracie!). It’s a real thing, I think, when you are writing so hard on a project (I finished 58,000+ words in less than 30 days), and suddenly it’s done. And you want to go on to the next project but suddenly…your creative fire is burning low…

So I’ve turned to poetry until I can get myself geared up for one of my next projects (one of which was actually inspired by my fanfiction journey and is definitely quite different from anything I’ve ever attempted before).

Missing Fire

By Michelle Garren Flye

I miss the fire you woke in me—

The burning desire running through my veins.

Destructive, creative forces warring for victory.

I poured it all out onto the page

Red ink of blood spilled past the margins

Ran rampant over blue lines

Left scorch marks behind—

The ashy smell of lost passion

Haunts me even now.

How do you recover

When you burn from the inside out?

How do you rebuild

On unsteady, overheated foundations

Willed to stand only by yearning?

Maybe you cut your losses

And start over instead.

But do you find a good base or rebuild on ash?

Use brick and mortar or something incendiary?

Depends on your desire:

Gain solid footing? Or invite the flames?

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Haiku study continues

Seriously. What does make a haiku good? I know it when I read it. I know it when I write it. I’m still trying to get to the point where I feel I can do it consistently, though. Here’s an idea:

#40 (eh)

Pretty pink roses

What secrets do you keep there

Beneath your petals?

#41 (not bad)

Dragonfly swoops low

Lands on water’s smooth surface

To meet Reflection

#42 (s’okay)

Lie here beside me

Look at the clouds and dream

What do you see there?

#43 (maybe?)

It rustles the brush

Stalking the moonlit midnight

Fearful manifest

#44 (not bad)

Hard to remember

Winter in mid summer heat

Ice when all is fire

#45 (love this one, but I made it a full poem)

why would you think all

the fire in the world is yours

you are left with ash

#46 (eh)

Light shines in the rain

Love awaits us in those walls

Home sweet home again

#47 (not bad)

Smell of fresh death floats

On hot wind with crackly leaves

Fallen trees are mourned

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

I wrote a fanfiction. And it’s really good.

I blame 2020. So in a way, I guess I should thank 2020 for being such a miserable year it froze my creative juices in my veins so that the only way I could continue writing at all was to take up a study of haiku and try to figure out why some 5-7-5 poems are better than others.

Until Boku No Hero Academia, that is.

My daughter introduced me to it. More to the point, I found out she’d been watching anime and reacted like any sensible parent would and demanded she watch it with me. I have a bit of a prejudice against anime and manga due to the way it portrays women. I found some of that in BNHA (a.k.a., My Hero Academia, based on the manga by Kohei Horikoshi), but nothing I felt would scar my beautiful, confident, intelligent daughter.

I did think the anime could use a stronger female character or two, preferably on the hero and not the villain side.

I was pretty sure I could create one.

In mid-July I did exactly that. And then I started writing her story. Then I posted it on a fanfiction site. It’s now up to 22 chapters (I’ve been posting one a day, serial-like), has almost 700 hits, 22 kudos, six subscribers, and one reader who comments every single day. I’m kind of proud of that. It might be the most successful thing I’ve ever written.

After I wrote about ten chapters of it, I came clean with my daughter. She was shocked and, I think, happy. She asked if she could read it. I gave her the link because I’ve rated it “Teen and Up” on the site, and I know it’s okay for her.

She said it was really good.

I asked if it was weird that I wrote it.

She pointed out that most fanfiction is written by kids, so my readers are probably kids and probably think I am, too.

Oh jeez.

That is a little weird.

And still, I know I’m going to finish this story because I can’t not. It’s been pure fun to write. I love the universe, the characters (Kohei Horikoshi’s and mine), and how it’s brought me back to reading the comic books I borrowed from my older brother’s room when I was a kid. He always had the best ones. Richie Rich, Spider-Man, The Micronauts (remember Baron Karza, anyone?), and so many others. I loved those comics.

And I’m not going to apologize for writing a fanfiction based on an anime based on a manga. After all, it’s better than sitting frozen in horror watching our world flame out.

And besides, it inspired my beautiful daughter to draw me this:

My OC (that’s Original Character) from my fanfiction.

I am not going to post a link to my fanfiction because I don’t want to lead any children to my romances. If any of you do find this, my romances are not child friendly. I would refer you to my Shelley Gee account for middle grade children’s books. Possibly my semi-YA Weeds and Flowers. But none of these are set in a universe with heroes and villains and would probably be a disappointment. Sorry? On the other hand, if you know me and want to read the fanfiction to see if it’s really all that, let me know.

Happy May Day!

No poem today.

But do not fret and worry.

Poetry returns.

🙂

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.

Cover by Farah Evers Designs

“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.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 25 (National Poetry Month): when you don’t feel the rhyme

Sometimes the words flow easily and sometimes not so much.

when you don’t feel the rhyme

by michelle garren flye

you say you’re down and just can’t

feel the rhyme

the world off its axis and fallen aslant

you haven’t the time

and life’s hours seem too scant

let the pain flow away instead

to hold us in sway

while an unjust world continues to tread

unless you stay

your hand and find the rhythm instead.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye