Science Fiction & Fantasy Conference

Every year for several years now, I’ve gone to the Life, the Universe, and Everything sci-fi/fantasy conference in Utah. Last year, I told you about it after the fact, so I’m trying to do better this time, in case you’d like to go. I’m telling you, if you like science fiction or fantasy, it’s a really cool conference to attend.

No, you don’t have to be a writer. They also have art classes, and a game room, and movies, and presentations of academic papers, and meet-and-greets.

Yes, they do have writing classes. And the art classes, and business classes, and worldbuilding classes. And oh-that-sounds-super-cool classes. Two of my family members got to attend a weapons class with real weapons. They raved for weeks.

Yes, you can meet writers there. Yes, you can attend any of the classes, presentations, movies, games, book signings, etc with your pass (except for a very few “bonus” things that either cost extra or require an extra sign-up). It’s a pretty reasonable price, as these go. Check it out at ltue.net

If you decide to go, here’s a little practical advice.

Have someone drop you off, or be prepared to walk from farther parking. Or stay in the hotel and don’t worry about it!

Wear good shoes and comfortable clothes/hairstyle. Layers allow you to go from Utah-winter-outside temps to variable inside-room temps.

Take food to eat, especially if you aren’t going to take an actual lunch break. (An actual lunch break is a great idea, but sometimes the classes are just too tempting…)

Look for a freebies table. There are usually bookmarks, business cards, and who-knows-what-kind of goodies.

Check out the book room. Besides books, they have swag and art and authors.

Talk to people–lots of people. Pretend you aren’t shy. Understand that lots of people around you are also desperately trying to pretend they aren’t shy, and just say something (nice) to them.

If hauling weight bothers you AT ALL, slim down your bag to lighter than you think you can carry all day.

Ask experienced attendees which bathroom tends to have shorter lines, and use it immediately after class.

Drink lots of water (if you lightened your bag, take a small bottle and refill it every hour). I know, it will just make you need the bathroom, but trust me, dehydration will not enhance your experience.

Wash your hands frequently. If you are sick, don’t shake hands with anyone, even your favorite author that you ran into in the hall. (Elbow bump, perhaps?)

If you have business cards in a related field, bring them. Give them out to anyone that wants one, or leave them on the freebie table. But be nice! If someone doesn’t want one, they don’t have to have one…

If the class you want to take is full, try something else or find someone for a conversation.

Take a shower (obviously), but please, please don’t wear perfume, cologne, essential oils, scented lotions, or other scented products. Not only are there a LOT of people, and scents pile up, but some people are allergic, and it’s not very polite to make things uncomfortable for them.

Be nice. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that, do I?

And have fun! Maybe I’ll see you there,
M. C. Lee

Self-Help Books

In honor of New’s Year goals, and because my sister was asking, here’s a list of some of my favorite self-help books. I haven’t included “help me understand myself” or “help me with parenting/marriage,” though I do have posts about those (click for the links). I also didn’t include religious books, but I do recommend religion as a way to improve yourself.

I’ve sorted the list by the goal you might be making. Other than that, it’s in random order.

“I want to get stuff done.”

The Power of When: Discover your chronotype and maximise your potential, by Michael Breus. What is the best time of day for you to do different things? Based on your wake/sleep cycle and body chemistry. If you’ve heard of early bird/night owl, this is the same kind of thing, but with four choices and actual explanations.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney. This is less of a body book and more of a brain book. I can’t possibly be the only person who wants to understand my brain, can I?

“I want to make better decisions.”

*Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference, by Hal Edward Runkel. Because even adults can get more adult-ish.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely. Why we sometimes trip ourselves in our thinking, and what to do about it.

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer. If you want to understand more about the processes of decision-making. Yes, I like brain books…

“I want to do better with my money.”

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey. I’m sure there are other great finance books, but this is one of the first I recommend to anyone. It starts with the basics.

“I want to figure out what to do with my life.”
(This is a rather loose category, sorry.)

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. What makes someone the best of the best. Okay, so it might not actually help you figure out what to do with your life, but maybe it will help you see some talents and potential you overlooked.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield. This is the book I credit for pushing me the final step toward author. No, he doesn’t talk about writing, just about life and going for what you want.

*Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. Doesn’t help you pick a profession, but could help you do better at general “life.”

*Warning: one of the “Adulthood/Adulting” books swears. I’d tell you which, but I can’t remember.

Feel free to leave your favorite goal in the comments, or recommend a book I might like.
Happy New Year, happy reading, and good luck with your goals!

M. C. Lee

Christmas Fantasy

Today, I want to talk about fantasy tropes.

A trope is a commonly occurring motif or cliche, by the way. In Romance, for instance, you have a Happily Ever After. In a Detective Story, you get the big “reveal” explanation at the end.  While I talk, you can think about your favorite fantasies and what tropes they have.

(I’ve capitalized the tropes on purpose, for easy recognition.)

Almost all fantasy stories have a Hero, who is sometimes a Farm Boy or Poor Orphan but sometimes a Secret Prince (and sometimes both). Sometimes he’s a Chosen One, with or without a Prophecy. Sometimes he’s marked with a Special Sign that tells people he’s the Hero, and sometimes he’s so ordinary that nobody, including himself, believes that he’s the One. Sometimes the story starts with the Hero ready to Combat Evil, but sometimes the story starts earlier and the Hero has to Come of Age before he can really face his adversary.

Our Hero isn’t the only one in the story, of course. The Hero usually has Allies to help him Conquer His Enemies. There might be a Mentor of some kind. Sometimes his Allies include a couple of Best Friends, and sometimes, unfortunately, a Traitor. There’s sometimes a Damsel (or Dude) in Distress. On the other side, there’s almost always some sort of Dark Lord, though he might be called something else, and he has his Minions of Darkness, of course.

Most fantasy stories are about Good vs Evil, so all these characters will eventually face each other. They frequently go on some sort of Quest first, to gather a Weapon or learn how to use the Magic, or to collect their Allies. Sometimes they have a more ordinary Magic and depend more on personality characteristics to rally the troops and win, and sometimes their Magic is so spectacular that we can hardly believe it. There are usually some intermediate battles to fight before the Last Battle. The Protagonists (or Good Guys) will appear outmatched, but in the end, after several apparent defeats, they will Conquer their Enemies.

My favorite story has a lot of these fantasy tropes. The Hero is a Poor Boy (a carpenter instead of a farm boy, and living with his mother and step-father instead of being an orphan), but he’s also a Secret Prince whose real father is a king. He’s a Chosen One, Prophecy and all, but the Special Signs were all temporary, so he grows up with almost everyone believing he is totally ordinary. There are a few hints that he’s Special, but they are easily overlooked. The story starts with him as a baby, so he definitely needs a Coming of Age before he can Fight Evil.

As usual, he’s not the only one in the story. After he Comes of Age, he travels on a Quest, though is less physical than it is philosophical. He gets to know his real father, the King, and is given Power from him to save his Kingdom from the Dark Lord. Most people don’t believe him when he says who he is, but he is recognized by a Mentor and still Gathers Allies. He has *twelve* Best Friends. He combines the Rescue of Damsels/Dudes with the Quest to Learn to Use Magic, saving many as he goes. He even uses his Magic to bring one of his Allies back to life, which makes his Enemies very nervous.

This is the ultimate Good vs Evil story, and as the Hero’s Allies and Magic increase, the Minions of Darkness fight back. The Minions, of course, have a bigger army and more weapons and hold the current power in the Kingdom. Even though the Dark Lord commands his Armies from a distance through his chief Minions, his influence is strong, and his armies outnumber the Good Guys. They have no intention of letting the Hero gain power in the the Kingdom.

Despite the Good Guys being outmatched, they continue to gain Allies, partly because of his Magic, but mostly because of his personality. Then a Traitor among the Hero’s Best Friends swings the Battle to the side of the Enemies, right at a pivotal time. Our Hero is captured, illegally tried, tortured, and killed. Yes, really. It’s not a trick of the Author. And yes, it’s terrible.

It looks like the Chosen One and the Good Guys have lost. For three days, the Dark Lord’s Minions celebrate. Evil has won. The Hero is dead, and his Allies are hiding in fright. The story seems to be over.

Then our Hero pulls out his next bit of Magic. As it turns out, his capture and death were all part of The Plan. He uses his Power to come back from Death, and his Allies rejoice. The Enemies start the chase all over again, but they can’t catch our Hero anymore. Now he’s the Not-so-Secret Prince, and he rules the Kingdom. He doesn’t wipe out his Enemies yet, but only because he’s waiting for everyone to pick sides before the Final Battle.

Pretty cool story, huh? The best part is that it isn’t a Fantasy Story at all. It’s not even fiction. It has certainly inspired a lot of imaginary fantasies, in blatant or subtle ways, but it’s real, and we’re all part of the Epilogue.

So, in this Christmas season, I encourage you to read The Story with your family and think about the Hero of us all. (If you haven’t figured it out and need to know where to find The Story, let me know. I suspect you have The Book somewhere in your house.)

I wish for His Peace to be a Power in your life.
M. C. Lee

Christmas Reading List

Since Christmas is coming, I thought I’d list some of my favorite “Christmas” books. Some are set at Christmas-time, some are about Christmas, and some are about THE Christmas.

Set at Christmas

Marian’s Christmas Wish, by Carla Kelly. Adult Regency romance. Less fluffy than some of the genre. What I like best: the heroine is brave and determined and makes the hero change his mind about what he wants (with her brain, not her fluttering eyelashes).

Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. Adult mystery. She has several Christmas volumes out by now, so pick one. The mystery is good, the humor is better.

The Thirteen Days of Christmas, by Jenny Overton. Young adult historical romance. Annaple’s suitor woos her with gifts. Mildly sweet, heavily funny.

About Christmas (loosely speaking)

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar & Ted Lewin. Juvenile historical fiction. The cathedral bells are silent, but there’s a legend that one day they will ring again if the right gift is presented on Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Historical fiction. You know, the one about Ebenezer Scrooge. Although a little heavy-handed, it’s also a classic for a reason.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Juvenile contemporary. When the worst kids in town take over the annual Christmas pageant, the results are both absolutely hilarious and extremely touching.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. Juvenile poetry. If you’ve only seen the movie remakes, you are seriously missing out. (The cartoon based directly on the book is good.) This is the classic, and it’s a classic for a reason.

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle. Juvenile contemporary. Vicky’s baby sibling is due around Christmas, but she doesn’t want it if it means Mother will be gone. A sweet Advent book.

The First Christmas

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. Juvenile historical fiction. A young lady (disguised as a boy) and her younger brother with prophetic dreams join the Magi to visit the newborn Christ. I read it as a Beehive Award nominee, and it was one of my favorites that year.

How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. Adult historical fiction. This story of the Magi is not as well-written (a bit dry & awkward), but the characters are compelling and the story is touching.

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey. Told from the point of view of the rebellious donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem, this is another hilarious-but-touching story.

Luke 2, in The Holy Bible. The ultimate classic story of Christmas. 😉

What’s your favorite Christmas story?

Merry Christmas,
M. C. Lee

So You Want to Be a Writer?

I don’t know if any of you are prospective writers or not, but since somewhere around 80% of the people in the United States have thought about writing a book, I figure there’s a pretty good possibility. Some of you may already be writing and doing well (at the writing–I’m not talking about publishing today). This article is not for you. Today, I want to talk to those of you that are still wavering about whether or not to write.

If the idea of writing a book sounds fun, in theory, but you aren’t sure if you’d like it in real life, could I suggest a trial run? NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) made me think of this post, but since it won’t be published until late November, it won’t actually help you with the trial this year. (Note to self: plan ahead next time!) Nonetheless, the idea is sound.

Let me back up and tell you about NaNoWriMo. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month (an average of 1667 words per day). Writers and prospective writers all over the world participate. There’s an official website, Facebook groups, and more. There are badges to collect along the way, buddies to encourage, a tracking chart to see your progress. It’s kind of fun. If you win, there are usually cool digital prizes (mostly discounts on things). The best prize, though, is the progress you make on your book and the chance to discover if you like writing well enough to make it through an entire novel.

But you don’t have to do NaNoWriMo to get those last two prizes. All you have to do is write. Every day. For weeks, or months, or years. If that sounds like fun, you might be a writer. If that sounds like torture, or if you just don’t know… well, maybe you want to try that trial period I suggested. Pick a month, any month. (November is the official NaNoWriMo, and they have Camps in April and July if you want to participate in their buddy system, but the calendar also has nine extra months you could use on your own.) Pick a goal (50,000 words, 20,000 words, “X” words per day, whatever). Now, for that month, write every day (or at least almost every day). Track your word count. Don’t worry about editing right now, though you should certainly put that on your to-do list for a different month. Just write. Keep writing. Write more.

If you start dreading your daily writing session, then writing might not be the profession for you. Consider dropping it to hobby status and only writing when inspiration strikes. If you look forward to sitting down with a computer or pencil and find yourself plotting when you’re washing dishes or driving or supposedly working, then keep writing. Write the whole month. Write like a crazy person, if that’s your style.

At the end of the month, look at what you’ve accomplished. Did you write (almost) every day for a whole month? Did you meet your goal? Did you come close? Did you enjoy yourself? Did the writing become easier? Do you want to keep doing it?

Notice that I’m not asking you right now if your writing is any good. I’m assuming that you will let it sit and then edit it before you try to make that assessment. Besides, quality can be practiced, researched, and improved. Enjoyment and dedication are more inherent, and that’s what this experiment was about.

So, what do you think? Now that you’ve tried it, do you still want to be a writer?

Happy writing,
M. C. Lee

Thanksgiving Reading List

I’m very thankful for my family, so in honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to post a list of some of my favorite books about families. I’ve limited it to fiction (or easy-to-read biography), not nonfiction/self-help/parenting.

In random order, but categorized for your convenience, here are a dozen suggestions for your Thanksgiving reading pleasure.

Contemporary (or close):

Cheaper by the Dozen/Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Biography. Hilariously funny, tremendously moving, and not even in the same class as the stupid new movies.)

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (Biography. Also hilariously funny.)

Ramona Quimby series, by Beverly Cleary (Such an accurate portrayal of the ups AND downs of family life.)

Dear Lola: Or How to Build Your Own Family, by Judie Angell (A bunch of orphans face off the world to form their own family.)

North of Beautiful, by Christina Chen (A girl with a birthmark learns about true beauty and love.)

Historical:

The Glamorist Histories series, by Mary Robinette Kowal (“Jane Austen meets magic,” but so intertwined with family drama. Could also be filed under fantasy.)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A confined girl is finally set free of her rooms and discovers what family should actually be like.)

The Five Little Peppers, by Margaret Sydney (Okay, so it’s pretty old-fashioned, but I love the way the siblings love each other so much.)

Fantasy:

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (When an ordinary girl is born into a magical family, what will they do with her?)

Castle Glower series, by Jessica Day George (When you’re an ordinary princess in an extraordinary family, how do you find a place for yourself?)

The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy, by Jessica Day George (The 12 Dancing Princesses, but better. And the series continues with other fairy tale retellings, so how can you go wrong?)

The Leland Sisters series, by Marissa Doyle (Historical YA romance, with sisters who are always there for each other.)

What are you thankful for this year? What book has made you the most thankful for something in your life?

Happy Thanksgiving (early),
M. C. Lee

Rubber Duckies

I’m imagining your faces now. “What in the *world,*” you say, “do rubber duckies have to do with writing? Or reading?”

That’s a great question! 🙂 First, let me assure you that no ducks, real or rubber, were harmed in the writing of this article. Second, this is not an article about bathtime or babies. Third, this is a writing post, thought the general idea is actually applicable to life in many ways. Fourth, a rubber ducky falls under the “writing tools” category in a very special way (when it isn’t applying to other life situations).

A rubber ducky, in the non-bathtime way, is a person who lets you bounce ideas off them. The “bouncing” explains the rubber. As for ducky… I have no idea. Maybe it just sounds like more fun, or maybe it falls better from the tongue.

Let’s make up some FAQs about rubber duckies. 😉

Q. Why do I want a rubber ducky?
A. Rubber duckies help you think through sticky writing problems, provide randomly generated [fill in the blank] choices, provide a check for “would character X really behave like this?”, and solve a lot of other writing problems.

Q. Oh, so, I should choose a more experienced writer for a rubber ducky?
A. If you have a more experienced writer for a rubber ducky, count yourself blessed! But no, your ducky doesn’t have to be any kind of writer at all. It’s frequently helpful if they’ve read some of your stuff (or listened to you talk about it ad nauseum), but sometimes even that isn’t required. Your rubber ducky might be a complete non-writer who knows nothing about your story.

Q. Wait, I’m getting really confused. If my ducky doesn’t have to be experienced OR informed, how do they help me?
A. And now we’re back to the “rubber” part. A good ducky bounces ideas BACK to you, so you can hear how they sound from another perspective. By restating your problem or idea and/or by trying to anticipate your next step or how it links with your other stuff, they can help you find plot holes, logic mistakes, character anomalies, and so forth. Because you have to simplify your problem for your poor ducky to even follow your explanation, it forces you to boil everything down to the essence, and mistakes are less able to hide in the minimalist forest.

Q. So all my ducky has to do is repeat back what I said?
A. That might be enough. A really GOOD ducky, though, will follow up by asking you questions. I don’t know what questions, because it totally depends on your ducky, your story problem, and what you proposed as a question or solution. But they might ask how that would affect plotline A or what character B would think or how clue C fits in now. And that might spark your brain into the next answer and the next answer and the… where’s my notebook to write this all down? Or it might bounce your answer right back in your face so you realize that if you change THAT, it’s totally going to break THIS thing over here, so you’d better not do it!

Q. You’ve sold me! Where can I get a ducky of my own? A really good, top-quality one, please.
A. Alas, they are not found in stores, not even online. But look around, and you might already have one you can use. Pick a test question and start bouncing it off potential duckies. Make a note of who gives the most useful responses (which doesn’t necessarily mean they know the answers, just that they make YOUR brain start moving in the right direction). There, now you have a starting-level rubber ducky, all your own. As for the really good, top-quality ones, they’re always homemade. Take your level 1 ducky and train them to level up!

Happy duck hunting (don’t harm any real ducks, please),
M. C. Lee

Seed of War is out!

I try to write one book-related post each month, and one writing post. This one is supposed to be a book post, and I was struggling to come up with a topic (feel free to suggest some in the comments for the future) until I realized it’s a good time to make an announcement. I hope you’ll forgive me for making this post about a book I wrote instead of a regular book review. 🙂 I know I mentioned this last time, but this is the *official announcement!*

My second book just came out in ebook a couple of weeks ago! It’s available in many online retailers and at libraries (if you get the librarian to order it through Overdrive, Bibliotheca, or Baker & Taylor).

It’s the sequel to my first book (not so oddly), though it’s more “the further adventures of” than “the continuation of the story.” It does continue the story in a way, but Wind of Choice is a complete story with no cliffhanger ending, and so is Seed of War.

I also switch main characters to someone else in the group instead of Ahjin. Yes, we still get his POV (point of view) in a few chapters, but most of the time, we’re in Ludik’s head.

And I mash up genres just a little. It’s still definitely fantasy, but I throw in a bit of mystery. If you liked the bits and pieces of shapeshifting in book one, you should read book two, because we spend the entire book in Darrendra and meet a lot of shapeshifters!

It’s already listed in Goodreads, with at least a couple of nice reviews. (Thank you, nice ARC readers!)

And speaking of nice reviews, here’s an endorsement for you:

If you want an adventure with lots of fun banter and laugh-out-loud situations, or if you want a journey that will make you cry and think deeply about forgiveness, read Seed of War.
– M. L. Farb, author of The King’s Trial

If you want to read some of the book before you buy, you can do that with Amazon’s peek inside, or you can get a free sample at MyBookCave, StoryOrigin, or ProlificWorks. (The same applies to Wind of Choice.)

So, what’s the book about?? I’m so glad you asked…

****************************************************

Saving the world from feuding gods made eighteen-year-old Ludik miss his wedding. Now his second chance is here, and nothing will stop him from marrying his sweetheart this time.

Except maybe a dead body.

In a mad race to hunt a misguided witness, Ludik must confront a fierce wolf, follow the trail through hostile territory, and escape his own execution.

Even with the help of his outkindred friends–-a gilled translator, a fire mage, and the winged messenger of the Gods–- Ludik might not be able to prevent war from igniting between the shapeshifting kindreds.

Danger lurks among the trees, and if he can’t solve the clues, more than his marriage is on the line.

***************************************************

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

Writing Process, Book 2 (Part 3)

So I ran book 2 through two separate writing groups, trying to make sure I fixed all the problems. And it got a lot better! I mean, so much better. I love my writing groups. When I thought I had the book polished all shiny, I rounded up a few beta readers and turned them loose on it. Some pointed out a few little problems. Some loved everything except the cliffhangers and mean-author moments (which I promise I used for very specific reasons and not because I’m sadistic).

Then, after I thought all I had left was a little editing for grammar and so forth, my last, lagging beta reader turned in a blistering critique. Okay, I’m exaggerating. She was actually extremely polite, but she did point out what she thought were two *major* problems throughout the story. After licking my wounds, I asked a couple of trusted people which parts were true and which I could ignore. After some discussion, I decided that one problem could basically be ignored. She was judging it by a different ruler than I use. I did add a sprinkle of “fix it” for that problem, but mostly I crossed it off my list. The second one–well, unfortunately for me, she was mostly right. Sigh. I hate finding out that I did things wrong, especially when I think I’m done.

Anyway, I made a plan for fixing the problem that didn’t require me to rewrite the entire book (though it did stick its grubby fingers into almost every chapter and several chapter headings, and some chapters did get bigger rewrites). It took me two weeks to do the edits, and when I ran them by people, one of them pointed out another problem that my fixes had created. *bang head on desk* So I fixed that one next.

Then, as I’m running through “one last edit” to make sure I didn’t create more problems while I was fixing everything else, I ran into a couple more things that could be improved. Lucky me, they were pretty minor, but all this meant that I had to do another round, so I finished “final edits” a month later than I anticipated, and ending up working a lot of extra hours for weeks and getting to bed very, very late on the last day I had available. *no, don’t bother me, it can’t be morning yet*

Blech. There are some days I wonder why I write. Then my characters start talking in my head again and telling me how cool this next scene would be. (Come on! Shapeshifting spies! Pirates! Ooh, and…) And my small batch of fans ask for their next fix and tell me how my first book made it into their small collection of owned books. And I hover my fingers over the keyboard and take a deep breath.

Anyway, by the time this article posts, SEED OF WAR should be live in e-retailers all over the world, and available to e-libraries, too. As for me, I will be sitting at home steadfastly eating ice cream and telling myself that it will be fine. Really, it will be fine. I need another spoon…

Be kind to my baby,
Marty C. Lee

P.S. I don’t have an eating disorder. Really. But ice cream makes an excellent *occasional* stress reliever, and it tastes yummy. And I eat it out of a bowl, not the carton. With only one spoon, because I only have one mouth. 🙂

Strong Heroines

I was thinking about my last book post and that started me thinking about what makes a character, particularly a woman, strong. Now, I know men and women are just people, and a strong character is a strong character regardless of gender. (Did you stop throwing tomatoes yet?) But sometimes some people think a “strong woman” has to be strong physically, or good with weapons, or compete in a “man’s world.”

Since that’s never what I’ve thought, I wanted to talk about my definitions.

Let’s start with the difference between “strong” and “gentle,” since some people think someone can’t be both. Here’s what I decided. “Strong” is how well you resist pressure exerted on you. “Gentle” is how much pressure you exert on others. So while the terms are related, the direction of the pressure is important, and one person can be both at the same time.

Now, back to our heroines (and heroes). Is a strong warrior a strong person? Maybe, maybe not. The neighborhood bully that threatens people with his sword might be a strong warrior, but he isn’t a strong person. The unarmed traveler who gently refuses to comply with the demands of a robber is a strong person. (Possibly a dead strong person, but we can hope not.)

I’m going to borrow some of the heroes/heroines from last month’s post as examples. 🙂 And yes, I cheated and threw in a couple of men. Strong is strong.

In The Great and Terrible Quest, the two main protagonists (heroes) are a wounded knight and a young boy. The knight is physically strong enough to fight multiple enemies, climb a cliff without a rope, and keep moving after enemies split his head. That’s not what impresses me most about him, though. He continues on his quest for ten years(!) through near-death and total memory loss, not to gain a reward for himself, but to give his own inheritance to the true owner. Wow, that’s strength of character. As for the little boy, he has very little physical strength (he is just a little boy), but he defies his robber-baron grandfather and the entire robber band to save an injured cat and then the wounded knight. He risks his life (Grandfather is a dangerous jerk) to save others, and he leads the knight ever onward despite enemies at every turn and almost no help from the knight. His strong determination and faith carry the story, and I love it.

The Ordinary Princess, Amy, is like Cimorene in some ways, like not wanting to be a princess. (Enchanted Forest series, by Wrede. Add it to your list.) But in others, she is very different. Amy doesn’t have a spitfire personality. She never picks up a weapon and doesn’t know any magic or even how to cook. She never fights anyone and doesn’t have any enemies. Amy is a cheerful, gentle soul. But when her parents decide to hire a dragon to attract a suitor, she runs away to protect her kingdom and ends up working as a kitchen maid until she’s drooping with exhaustion. I call that strength.

In the Crown Duel duology, our heroine does fight with a sword (very badly) and ride a horse (adequately) and try to improve politics (oh-so-disastrously). She doesn’t even know how to read, but I can’t call her weak. She keeps trying against overwhelming odds, even when torture and execution seem the inevitable next steps. And (spoiler) she wins. Not by feat of arms or might of army, but by one voice saying the right thing for morally right reasons. How strong can you get?

The heroine of Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is another non-combatant. I almost said non-fighter, but she does fight. She fights for her family’s financial security with her wits. She turns enemies into friends or finds ways to render them helpless, and all without a weapon. By the end of the story, her father, long thought cursed because he had only seven daughters, is praising her name and counting her better than his brother’s seven sons. Smart and caring is strong, too.

I could name more, but I think I’ve babbled long enough. Which characters in books you’ve read impressed YOU with their strength? What kind of strength did they have? What strength do you wish you had?

Trying to be stronger,
M. C. Lee