Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Teaching Matters: A Reflection on Where My Journey Started

Today I want to talk, briefly, about why teachers matter. Or, more specifically, about how two teachers influenced me as a person and in my choice of career. I’ve been thinking about these two people for some time now and thought, “Hey, why not write a blog post about them.”

Both of these teachers taught English in coinciding classes at my high school. They both retired the year after I graduated.

The first one I would like to address is “Mr. G.”

Mr. G was my English teacher my sophomore year of high school. He was a teacher liked by many; such could be seen by the occasional mid-class drop-in by teenaged boys—his past students—who he would then chase out of his room with a yard stick in a great show for the rest of us. I learn a lot about grammar in his class.

Yet, my most vivid memory of Mr. G is a day when we were copying something—I don’t recall what—off of a projector screen. My pencil had dulled, so I walked up to the front of the class to sharpen it. En route, I accidentally tripped over the projector cord and unplugged it. Yes, a little embarrassing to trip in front of your entire class, but ultimately no harm done.

However, after I tripped and before I could plug the machine back in, Mr. G stood up from his desk and started shouting at me. Needless to say I was shocked. Cue deer in the headlights. He bellowed several things at me, but the part I remember verbatim is this: “You don’t think, Charlie! I wish you would think, but you don’t.”

This was not the only incident where Mr. G “bumped heads" with me, but it was certainly the most memorable. When he was finished, I plugged in the projector, returned to my desk with a dull pencil, and spent the rest of the class trying not to cry.

Now, let me tell you about “Ms. B.”

Ms. B was a creative soul. She had cardboard cutouts of The Lord of the Rings characters lining the walls of her classroom. She taught a wide variety of things English, including Lit & Film and Creative Writing, the latter of which I took from her twice. She also ran the high school’s literary magazine.

Ms. B was not my “friend.” She wasn’t a “one-of-the-guys” teacher, but she was a good teacher. Ms. B is the one who first taught me how to write. She taught me how to expand my imagination and encouraged my creativity. She gave me good feedback on my work: compliments and criticism alike. I was not the best writer in her class by far, mind you. I was about average.

This teacher never said anything extraordinary to me. She never offered an inspirational quote that I still heed to this day or did anything that fundamentally changed the course of my life. But Ms. B had an overall impact on me, creating a current for which the boat into my current career would float.

This is why teaching matters.

I could heed the words and behaviors of Mr. G and believe that, since he’s my teacher, since he’s the one in charge, he must be right. I must not know how to use my brain. I must not know how to think. I must dumber than my male counterparts, to whom he always showed far more respect than me.

Fortunately, I grew in the nourishment of Ms. B, who was willing to believe in me as much as I believed in myself. Who was willing to listen to me and help me grow, who celebrated my creative writing scholarship to BYU alongside me in the long hours I spent in her classroom after the school day had ended. I even had the fortune of running into her in the parking lot of Bed Bath & Beyond a couple months ago. When I recognized her, I jumped out of my friend’s car and ran to her driver’s side door, gushing at her about how much her classes meant to me and all the successes I’ve been able to achieve because of the path she helped me find. It was a good day for me and, I hope, a good day for her.

If I ever run into Mr. G, I hope I can tell him about all the successes I’ve been able to achieve in spite of what he thought of me.

Teachers matter. What they say and do matters. It’s been over ten years since I’ve had any influence from either of these people, but I still think about them often. I hate to admit it, but even today those angry words from Mr. G echo in the back of my mind. However, I’m happy to say that I know, 100%, that they’re wrong, and that is thanks to good, uplifting teachers. Teachers like Ms. B.

So thank you, again, Ms. Beck, for all you did for me.

Friday, October 16, 2015



It's official as of last night. My novel, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet,* has sold to 47North and will likely be released in 2016, but I make no promises. A more permanent release date will be announced when it's had.

Not many people even know this manuscript existed, and that's because I accidentally skipped about three major steps in the process. This book did not see the eyes of my usual alpha readers, just a few friends. It never went to my beta readers or got my personal read-through. My editor actually read the freaking rough draft. Talk about embarrassing, but apparently it hit the right buttons!

Ever since I wrote The Paper Magician, I've had this bad habit of drafting short. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was the length of TPM in rough draft form, and I've been working this month on adding 20,000 words (that's a 33% increase!) to the manuscript. I like to pitch the book as the Grimm Brothers meets Paula Dean meets another-book-I-won't-name-because-it's-kind-of-a-spoiler.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is a standalone, other-world fantasy novel with fairytale allusions. Here's the pitch via Publisher's Marketplace:

Mare, a woman bereft of memories, has the peculiar ability to infuse baked goods with emotions and talents. Sold into slavery, she encounters two men from her past: one who can’t touch her, and one who might kill her. Mare fights to reclaim her history as she struggles against her captivity, but her memories are tied to dark secrets with godly consequences—secrets that may better be left forgotten.

Thank you so much to everyone who has held my hand on this journey and made it possible for me to sell another book! I hope you guys enjoy this one!

*My publisher and I literally just came up with this title. Other ideas included Crumbs and Sugar and Spice and Everything Broken.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Release Day for THE JOCK AND THE FAT CHICK by Nicole Winters

Who's excited to read this? Me. That's right. I'M excited.


A love story between a big, beautiful girl who knows who she is and a popular jock who’s afraid of what he wants.

No one ever said high school was easy. In this hilarious and heartwarming debut, one high school senior has to ask himself how much he's willing to give up in order to fit in.

Kevin seems to have it all: he's popular, good looking, and on his way to scoring a college hockey scholarship. However, he's keeping two big secrets. The first is that he failed an assignment and is now forced to take the most embarrassing course ever--domestic tech. The second is that he is falling for his domestic tech classmate, Claire.

As far as Kevin is concerned, Claire does have it all: she's funny, smart, beautiful, and confident. But she's off-limits. Because Kevin knows what happens when someone in his group dares to date a girl who isn't a cheerleader, and there's no way he is going to put himself—or Claire—through that.

But steering clear of the girl of his dreams is a lot harder than Kevin thought…especially when a cooking project they are paired together for provides the perfect opportunity for things to heat up between them outside the classroom….

Sound amazing? You can nab the book almost anywhere!




Barnes and Noble


As a C average student with a learning disability, Nicole was herself a reluctant reader. That changed when, at the age of twelve, she was assigned S. E. Hinton's classic YA novel The Outsiders. After devouring the book in a single sitting, Nicole came to understand how the right story can capture the imagination and enthusiasm of anyone - reluctant reader or otherwise. From there, Nicole gravitated towards tales of adventure, suspense, romance and horror. Her works focus on human relationships and the personal journeys of the characters, creating stories she hopes will excite and inspire readers.
Nicole enjoys travelling the world, but calls Toronto home. She is the author of TT Full Throttle (a YA road racing novel) and is currently at work on her third novel, The Conjurer.

FB Author Page
FB Book Page

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Release Day for FOLLOWED BY FROST!

Follow by Frost releases TODAY!

Seventeen-year-old Smitha's wealth, status, and
beauty make her the envy of her town—until she
rejects a strange man’s marriage proposal and disastrous
consequences follow. Smitha becomes cursed, and
frost begins to encompass everything she touches. Banished to
the hills, hunted by villagers, and chilled to the very core
of her soul, she finds companionship with Death, who longs
to coax her into his isolated world. But Smitha's desire for life proves
stronger than despair, and a newfound purpose gives her hope. Will
regrets over the past and an unexpected desire for a man she cannot touch
be enough to warm Smitha’s heart, or will Death forever still it?

If you're local to Utah, I'll be doing a release party at The King's English Bookshop this Saturday, September 26th, at 7:00 PM.

Interested in the book? You can scope it out on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon. (Or B&N, for all you Nookies.)


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Interview and Giveaway with Romantic Fantasy Author Caitlyn McFarland

I am ecstatic to have Caitlyn McFarland on the blog today! Caitlyn and I met because we both signed with our agent, Marlene Stringer, within a year of each other. I moved back to Utah, we met, and now we're basically soul mates.

Caitlyn is an amazing writer, especially when it comes to romantic tension. I haven't written fan-fiction in years, but I am SO tempted to write some based off her Dragonsworn series (Carina Press). I really am obsessed with them. So hard. (I really love her books so much that I'm about to break my no-cowriting rule and create a magnificent beast of fiction with her.)

ANYWAY. I bombed Caitlyn with questions and she's sharing the love by giving away the first two ebooks of the series: Soul of Smoke and Shadow of Flame. The third book, Truth of Embers, comes out in December (just in time for Christmas).


Where did you get the ideas for your dragons and the different magic they use?

So, there are ten dragon clans in the Dragonsworn world and each clan has their own magic. When I started Soul of Smoke, I actually only had the Elemental dragons. Then I realized that was stupid, because there are dragon legends from all over the world. Of course dragons would be from everywhere. Because of the limited scope of the story, I could never go as in-depth as I really wanted, but I tried to look at dragon mythology from different parts of the world and give the dragons from those places powers that were related to their legends. I ran into a problem, though, when I found out that almost all non-Western dragons are associated with water, and many of them don't have magic, only poison. A lot of the clans ended up with powers that only related to their originating mythology in a very tangential way, or not at all.

What is your favorite love story?

Um... all of them? LOL. I'm a fan of every romance from Shakespeare to Austen to Nora Roberts to
authors with romance-heavy YA fantasy like Laini Taylor and Marissa Meyer. My ideal love story would probably combine the forbidden love aspect of Romeo and Juliet with the banter/wit of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

No one steal that. I'm going to write it.

If you had to pick a pop song written in the last ten years as your theme song, what would it be?

My theme song changes depending on my mood. Sometimes I'm “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and sometimes I'm “Demons” or “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. Every once in a while I'm “Moonlight Sonata,” but only under ideal circumstances. Usually I trip over things too often to be classical. For a year in college I was “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift. Those were interesting times.

If you had to write a fanfiction of your own series, what would it be about?

I've actually started a couple of short stories about what Cadoc gets up to in the weeks between Soul of Smoke and Shadow of Flame. I'd also really like to write Griffith and Ffion's love story. Someday I probably will. I feel like I owe them because REASONS.

If you and your protagonist, Kai, switched places, how different would the story be?

Ha! There would be no story. At the beginning of the first book, Kai saves Rhys from an attack by another dragon. When it comes to fight or flight, my reaction is “freeze.” I would have been eaten and we’d all be dead. The end.

How do you handle the fact that your books are emotionally destroying me?

Well, you know...

I love you, Charlie.

What is your favorite movie and least favorite movie of the last year, and why?

The only movie from this year I can remember seeing at this moment is Inside Out. I'm going to be honest, I've spent most of 2015 watching all nine seasons of Supernatural that are on Netflix. Now I'm waiting for season 10. They're all favorite. Also I finished Parks and Rec. It's favorite, too. Least favorite... hm... I don't know. I fill my brain with things I like and forget about the things I don't.

Is there a particular author that you look up to?

I look up to J.K. Rowling. I mean, yeah, she's crazy successful, but in my opinion she's also really good. I've read Harry Potter (several times) and the mysteries she writes as Robert Gailbraith. It's astounding to me how different those stories are. She's so good at establishing tone. Aside from that, the continuity in the HP books is insane, and that's much harder to pull off than I think readers understand. But now that I'm thinking about it, if I could have awesomeness equivalent to any other author out there, I'd choose Maggie Stiefvater. Not only is she insanely intelligent and insightful, she's a gifted artist and such a talented author. The Scorpio Races is probably in my top three favorite books of all time.

Tell us a secret talent of yours that isn't writing-related.

I like to sew overly complicated Halloween costumes for my daughters. Here are the ones from last year:

The Merida costume was reused from two years before, but those Frozen costumes took me A LOT of time. So much time I was too lazy to carve the pumpkins, as you can see. Also, I like to sing Broadway music. Sometimes I sketch Very Bad Art.

Where do you draw your crazy romance-writing skills from?

If I have any skills, it would have to be from a lifetime of reading/watching every romance I can get my hands on. More than that, I just seriously love the idea of people falling in love—and not just falling in love, but finding something they lack in the other person and becoming better because of each other. Also, I have to say that recently I've learned a lot about how to structure a romance from my editors, Libby Murphy and Angela James.

What's next on the horizon, writing-wise?
Releases December 14th

Right now I'm finishing edits on TRUTH OF EMBERS, the final book of the Dragonsworn trilogy, and I am SO excited about it. I've been waiting to write some of those scenes for years. After that, I'm working on a project I'm calling TRAVELER (the title will change). It's along the lines of the Dragonsworn books in that it's a contemporary-ish fantasy about a girl in college who finds herself sucked into something magical, but this is more along the lines of an enchanted forest/portal fantasy with a twist. I drafted the story back in 2013 and I'm really excited to be able to visit that world again. After that, I kind of want to get into YA.


Caitlyn is hosting a giveaway on Twitter for Soul of Smoke and Shadow of Flame! Retweet the tweet linked HERE to enter. You can get an additional entry by commenting on this post (or the first entry if you don't have Twitter). 

About Caitlyn

Originally from the Midwest, Caitlyn McFarland currently lives in Utah with her husband and three young daughters. She has a Bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she’s not writing about dragons or running around after her daughters, she can be found hunched over a sewing machine making elaborate princess costumes.

Want more Caitlyn? (Of course you do)