Some Shakespeare Sunday

A little bit of Shakespeare for all of my creative friends, who work so hard to capture the enormity of life in the small mirrors of page, stage, or other medium. Happy Easter!

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Prologue, King Henry the Fifth

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Author Truths

I posted a medium-sized writing rant on Facebook and my friend asked me to post it here, so I did. I tweaked it. And I added gifs. Because that’s what I do. Enjoy!

I get asked writing and publishing advice on a pretty regular basis. I love to help where I can. Really. Helping other writers is one of my favorite things. But I can’t count the number of times someone has asked for advice and then shrugged it off. I write books for money (not a lot, but I’m working on it). I have a literary agent. I’m traditionally published. If you ask for my advice, listen!

But because they won’t, the burden falls, my hapless readers, on you. Here are a few truths about writing and publishing people don’t love to hear:

1) Most authors don’t make enough money to quit their day jobs.

meme artist crying money poor

2) You aren’t just going to write a novel with no training/practice and make money. In fact, the odds are slim that you’ll make money at all. See #1. Writing fiction will NOT make you rich quick.

3) Your first novel will likely not be published, because your first novel is terrible.

tv excited good computer new girl

No it isn’t, Nick. No it isn’t.

Sorry, fact of life. If you have an idea for a story you just know will be your magnum opus, write something else first so you have some clue what the heck you’re doing. Or two or three something elses.

4) You MUST read. If you don’t take the time to read, both in and out of your genre, both classics and new releases, your writing will be out of touch and/or out of date and/or your story concept will have been done a million times. Which you would know. If you read.

book read beauty and the beast

5) Research fiction writing before/during/after you write your book. In fact, never stop. Keep learning. Just because you can write papers for school does not mean you can put together a coherent piece of fiction, let alone a compelling one. So take a class or start Googling.

6) Your spouse/mom/bff is great for encouragement, but is not going to give you adequate feedback on a professional level. You need to meet other writers.

7) Go to writing conferences. I’m not kidding. Yes, they cost money. But take it from someone who understands money struggles: the cost is worth it.

8) If you want to be a professional writer, you MUST master basic grammar.

meryl streep writing english grammar bane of my existence

Your story might be fantastic, but there are a lot of people out there who have good grammar AND write fantastic stories. Agents would rather represent those people. Editors would rather buy books from those people. Be one of those people.

9) Don’t take too long to write your story.

writing

Authors who actually support themselves generally write one or more books per year.

10) If you want to be published by a large publisher, you need a literary agent. Large publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless it’s sent to them by an agent. Small publishers will, but it’s also a good idea to have a literary agent when you work with them to make sure you don’t get screwed. If you’ve made it this far into this post, are interested in publishing, and don’t know about agents, you get them through a process called querying. Google it.

If you have any questions about writing or publishing that I haven’t covered here, feel free to ask.

rant end rant rant over

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Romance, Fun, and Princesses

So, I should be writing right now. Really. I need to write. But I was cruising Twitter, as one does when one is staggering beneath the weight of a quickly-closing deadline, and I saw a tweet that basically said this:

“Heroes in romantic stories are wealthier than their girlfriends because if the girl is self-reliant she could dump her man and people who read romance have smallish minds and like it when women are dependent on men.”

RealityTVGIFs snl saturday night live drinking real housewives

That’s not what the tweet said, obviously. Too many characters. But that’s what it said to me, and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. I’ve actually been thinking about this lately: common tropes in romance, why they exist, and why people think it makes them look enlightened to make fun of them.

I mean, it’s 2017, right? Women can be powerful and wealthy. Women can fulfill themselves. Women can save themselves! You won’t find any damsels here, sir. As you can see, I am clearly wearing pants. And I am wearing them well.

flip trick pants

This is not an all-encompassing post about society’s current relationship with romance readers and the tropes they love. But I feel like the writer of this tweet is missing the point of this particular idea, and I wanted to address it.

Giving a female character a wealthy love interest isn’t about her self-actualization or independence, and it definitely isn’t about female readers not wanting those things. Women don’t read and write books with scrappy working-class heroines and wealthy men because we have tiny minds and can only imagine ourselves as the barnacle on some rich dude’s yacht of life. We read them because we’re scrappy working-class heroines, and it’s fun to take a couple of hours and imagine how nice it would be to fall for someone who showers us with paid bills and financial security.

That’s it. There is no deeper meaning.

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For me, this relates strongly to the cultural movement that has declared heroines in fairy tales stupid and useless in the sense that, for some reason, we don’t think of princesses as strong, independent, capable women. “Don’t be the princess, be the hero.” First of all, I won’t even address what that says about devaluing femininity because it will make me angry. Second, those princesses are the heroes, that’s why the stories are named after them. No one had a problem with them also being heroes until someone pretended those words were mutually exclusive.Third, you know what women in fairy tales did? Whatever the heck it took to get them out of that nasty scullery. And they succeeded. Wildly.  Because back when these stories were written, there was no option for, “And then she got the promotion to Senior VP of Marketing and lived happily ever after the end.”

movies deal with it sunglasses the devil wears prada business woman

An ending for the ages.

Relative to most women, princesses and queens held positions of power, authority, and respect. Fairy tale heroines literally climbed the quality-of-life ladder to its top rung (or climbed back up after being knocked to the bottom, in the case of the ones born royal). Don’t try to tell me they were hauled up there by the prince just because they were pretty. I’ve owned a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales since I was eight. They went through hell first. Nobody in those stories is happy until they’ve suffered. Those princesses earned their happy ending. Are the cultural values that made marriage to a powerful man the only way to improve their lives problematic? Yes. But that sounds like society’s problem, not the problem of women who pwned society and took their power anyway.

John Williams Waterhouse, “Lancelot and Guinevere”

It’s kind of twisted, when you think about it. Princesses (aka the epitome of femininity) have been made a joke and a scapegoat. Can we not? Because it’s possible to be feminine and all the other things we want to be: intelligent, hardworking, creative, assertive, and wealthy enough to never need the financial support of a man.

Anyway.

Tropes in romance and fairy tales aren’t evidence that people who enjoy them are backwards or small-minded. They’re evidence that everyone needs an escape from a hard life. They’re evidence that those stories–the stories where the characters aren’t financially secure, no matter how hard they try–are stories a lot of women can see themselves in, and have seen themselves in for hundreds of years. They’re evidence that, hey, most people would be cool if their financial burdens were suddenly lifted by someone sexy who loves them.

Personally, I don’t find it enlightened to mock women (or men) who enjoy this trope. Then again, the bandwagon of intellectual smugness has never been my favorite ride.

Life is hard. It’s okay to dream the dreams that make you happy in your downtime. It’s okay for some things to just be fun.

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Speed Write Your Novel

Today I taught a class  called “Speed Write Your Novel” at LTUE, and a few people requested the slides. Here you go! Personal use only, please. Thank you to everyone who attended! This is the third class I’ve taught on writing and I really loved it.

In class, we had some great ideas for sites/apps/etc. people use to help them be accountable, increase their word count, or keep their inspiration handy. If you didn’t get to comment in class or you know of a really great website/app/community (or have anything else helpful to add) please include it in a comment on this post.

Talking to you today inspired me to finish my own WIP, so I’m going to go write!

Best of luck, everyone!

Image result for may the odds be ever in your favor katniss

 

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Cover Reveal! “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King

Hey! It’s been a while. A long, long while. But one of my goals for 2017 is to get back in touch with the internet, and what better way to kick it off than with the cover reveal for a book you’ll all want to read?

The Hundredth Queen, the debut of my agency sister, Emily R. King, will hit virtual shelves on June 1st of this year. If you like YA fantasy, you’re not going to want to miss it! Check out the back cover copy:

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda’s only hope for escape lies in an arcane, forbidden power that’s buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

Sounds good, yes? And it comes in such a pretty package!

TA DA!

the-hundredth-queen

Congrats, Emily! I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and I’m excited to see what you do next!

 

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Judge the Judges: Sample PitchSlam Entry

Image result for stars

Hey guys! I’m helping out with PitchSlam again this year. Seriously, reading the slush and discovering up-and-coming writers is one of my favorite things. You’ve gotten our feedback, and now it’s time for revenge. 😀 Kim has written a marvelous introductory post here, so go check that out. She’s also got links to several other team member’s entries.

While I find this a bit nerve-wracking, I also look forward to sharing my own stuff, because nothing helps me improve like good feedback. In the past I think I’ve posted the beginnings of books that are already published, so I knew no matter what people said they couldn’t actually be that bad. This is a brand-spanking-new unfinished WIP. These pages have only been seen by two of my alpha-readers (and are currently awaiting feedback from betas). And the title is a working title, as I don’t really settle on a name for my books until they’re finished.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be fair if I told you more (though my nervous desire to ramble is strong), because it’s not like you get to tell the judges or agents more. So, without further ado, here it is!

NOTE: I  am blog-ican’t change the font to Times New Roman without changing the font of my entire blog. But YOUR entry MUST be in 12 point Times New Roman.

Name: Caitlyn McFarland

Genre: YA Fantasy

Title: ZODIAC

Word Count: 75,000

If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why?: Evangeline would be Han Solo–so cocky she’s clearly overcompensating for something. Piper would be Rey, because she hasn’t quite come to terms with her own power.

35 Word Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Zodiac Guardians Piper and Evangeline are closer than sisters—they’re blood-bound warriors. When they capture the man whose death will abolish dark magic, Piper’s empathy and Evangeline’s ambition could tear them—and Earth—apart.

First 250 Words: 

Piper glared at the diamond points of starlight that dulled and faded in the quickening sky. A purple gleam flashed across the eastern horizon, the angle of the not-yet-risen sun catching the energy of the darklight shield where it arched over the stratosphere.

A hook of longing set in her chest and dragged at her as the stars disappeared. She wished they would stay gone. Or undergo some sort of cosmic shift while they were out of sight. If a catastrophic event knocked the constellation Leo out of place, maybe the power granted by the unlucky timing of her birth would disappear. Maybe she’d become an ordinary. Find the family she’d been taken from at less than a year old.

Be normal.

Normal, Evangeline’s voice was in her head, affectionate and mocking. You don’t want normal, Pi-face. You just think you do.

Piper wrinkled her nose and leaned through an open window into the back seat of the Jeep, knocking empty water bottles, chip bags, and a pair of Evangeline’s dirty jeans off the tan upholstery to the floor. She extracted the crumpled paper from the pocket of a denim jacket—stashed purposefully at the bottom of the pile—and leaned against the dusty white door.

Mountainridge University marched across the top of the page in stern, gray caps. Piper smoothed out the pamphlet on the leg of her torn jeans, then peeled it open, keeping her back to the truck stop where Evangeline was grabbing caffeine and ice.

 

That’s it! Please leave your crits in the comments and hop back to Kim’s blog for more links!

P.S. Today is the one-year anniversary of the release of book #2 in my trilogy, SHADOW OF FLAME!

Shadow of Flame Final

To celebrate, here’s a link to #1, SOUL OF SMOKE! It’s only $1.49. If you like fantasy and romance, check it out!

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WriteType CP Match

**The WriteType CP Match is over and all of the entries have been removed. If you were part of the event and need information from a post or a comment, please feel free to send me an email. Thank you so much to everyone who participated! If you’re looking for a critique partner, please follow this blog or find me on Twitter (@CHMcFarland) so you’ll know when we’re organizing our next event. At this time, we plan on doing another match-up in December 2016.**

 

Hi guys!

You know what my favorite thing is? Expensive chocolate.

music dancing jennifer lopez jlo nodding

Do you know what my other favorite thing is?

CRITIQUE PARTNERS!!

reaction happy party birthday excited

That’s why my friends and I are hosting the WriteType CP Match! We do it twice a year,  and one of those times is RIGHT NOW. If you don’t have a critique partner and think you need one (HINT: YOU DO), check out the official blog here and the instruction post here. The more entries we have, the more likely you are to get matched with the CP that will help you make all your dreams come true. You don’t have to have a finished manuscript, you just have to be a writer!

Go forth and submit!

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