Books I Had to Buy

Obviously, I read enough that I can’t possibly buy every book I read. I can’t even buy every book I RE-read. That’s why I love my public library. 🙂

But there are some books that I bought from my teeny book budget because I couldn’t stand not having them around whenever the craving hit. Here are some of them.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. A classic for a reason. Despite being slightly light on characters, heart and meaning are written into every book. I have the original-order set, both for sentimental reasons and because they are more meaningful when read in the order the author intended.

The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. I am permanently in love with the characters. Permanently. Don’t fight me on this, because I. Will. Win.

The Great and Terrible Quest, by Margaret Lovett. I had to search this one out on the internet, but it was so worth it. This one is less well-known, so let me tell you a bit about it. A young boy hides a wounded man from his nasty grandfather and his band of thieves, then decides to help the man succeed in his forgotten quest. And by forgotten, I mean the man has amnesia, but whatever memory he lost is important enough to keep him moving despite a split head. Because nobody in the story knows what’s going on for a while, it can be confusing, but it’s worth the wait for the reveal.

Minnipin series, by Carol Kendall. I like Gammage better than Glocken, I’ll admit. I love the spunky (but very ordinary) heroes, who don’t fit in but save the village BECAUSE of their differences.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. It’s a Cinderella story (oddly enough, with a heroine who collects Cinderella stories), but I love the realistic romance and the heroine who keeps trying no matter what.

The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye. This is my favorite romance, even though it’s a children’s book. Really, truly. It’s actually marketed as a fantasy, which totally makes sense, because Princess Amy runs away when her parents decide to get a dragon to enhance her marriageability. But it’s a story of true love, and I adore it.

Crown Duel & Court Duel, by Sherwood Smith. Here is another can’t-say-die heroine. I feel a lot of empathy for her social awkwardness and her burning intent to do the right thing no matter what others say or how much trouble it lands her in. I always wince when those two traits wrap themselves around each other in the most troublesome ways, but oh, it makes a wonderful story.

Shattered Stone, by Robert Newman. I used to just check this one out from the library regularly, but then I moved and my new library didn’t have it. Can’t have that! This is a fantasy mystery about traitors and war and lost identities, but I also love the romantic ending.

Enchantress From the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl. It’s sci-fi, but with a fantasy feel, with a heroine who is determined to do the right thing even if it kills her. Literally.

A Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeline L’Engle. Granted, I like some books in the series better than others, but I still own the whole thing. This is another classic-for-a-reason, and the movies totally miss the reason.

The Baker Street series, by Robert Newman. You can call it a Sherlock Holmes spin-off, which is accurate enough. Though they are mysteries, it’s the characters that make me return to the series over and over and wish Newman wrote a few more of them.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. A historical fiction about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to make her family’s fortune. Yes, I like strong heroines, and no, I don’t think “strong” means “good with a sword.”

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith. This is not the Disney version. Let me repeat, this is the original, not the Disney version. Disney made a cute movie of the book, but he lost the inherent sweetness of Dodie’s story.

The Belgariad and The Mallorean series, by David Eddings. I once stood in a bookstore reading part of the newest book and laughing so hard that everyone stared. Fortunately, I got to do my crying in private. More characters that I love ever so much.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Not for the faint of heart, I admit, but I’ve been hooked since I was eight years old. I’ve reread them so many times that my husband assures me I am a TERRIBLE person with whom to watch the movies.

Most of Georgette Heyer’s romances (with The Masqueraders at the top of the list). Heyer, in general, writes romances that feel real. Real characters, real situations (for the time), real reasons to laugh and cry, and most importantly, real reasons to love.

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that should give you at least a few days of reading. 😉

What book did you HAVE TO BUY?
M. C. Lee

Author Goals vs Character Goals

This morning, I woke up realizing what problem was behind certain recurring issues in the books of a friend of mine. With her permission, I’m going to use her work to explain the difference between author goals and character goals, why they SHOULDN’T be the same, and how the conflict between them makes a better story.

Let’s start with a basic definition of character and author goals. Characters want “something” that will make their life better. The lover, the job, the house, the winning goal. Whatever it is, they think it will make them happy. Authors, on the other hand, want their characters to be unhappy. Temporarily! Because good stories are made of conflict against desires. It is the tug of war between what a character wants and what they get that leads us down story lane. Will they succeed or will life/villain/better team defeat them??

Now, on to the examples.

Example #1: Author “Jane” (name has been changed) has the goal of a big reveal at a dance. The reader knows earlier that character “Hero” is turning his life around and coming back to church, but the other characters don’t yet know that. Because Jane wants a dramatic scene at the dance, she decides that Hero must also wish to save the reveal until then. He feels nervous and secretive and unready to tell anyone about the changes in his life, but thinks unveiling the surprise at the big dance will be exciting. That’s great writing, right?

Well, no. There are a few problems. First, Hero is hiding things from people he’s close to, which is odd for his character. Second, Hero is hiding things from his desired “Heroine” which would knock down some of the barriers between them, AS HE HAS BEEN WISHING. Third, most people who are coming back to church are relieved and happy and want to share the good news with their family and friends. (There are exceptions, but those haven’t been set up in this story.) Fourth, if he doesn’t want to reveal it now, privately, why would he want to save it for a public event? So all this means that his idea of hiding everything until the dance feels very unrealistic.

Does that mean Jane’s hope for a dramatic reveal is sunk? Not at all! In fact, by acknowledging Hero’s desires, yet making his life detour according the author’s wishes, we can make an even more dramatic reveal. Let me illustrate how it COULD happen, with “old” and “new” examples from the story.

Old #1: The desire. Hero doesn’t want to tell his family, friends, or wannabe girlfriend because… they will tease him? They won’t be happy for him? He wants to shock them? This scenario, besides being poorly explained, makes him seem selfish and weak and makes his loved ones seem like jerks.

New #1: The frustration. Hero wants to tell everyone (notice the change in character goal and how it opposes that of the author). He decides to do so in person, as such good news deserves. Hero calls, gets a busy signal or answering machine, and doesn’t want to leave a message. He goes by in person, but people are gone or busy with the doctor (in the case of the friend in the hospital). Hero tries composing an email, but it just doesn’t feel personal enough. He will have to try later. This scenario has us rooting for Hero, who is trying to do the right thing and keeps hitting obstacles. When is the poor guy going to get a break? Now when Jane does the big reveal at the dance, we cheer that Hero finally gets to tell his family, and the author’s goal conflicting with the character’s goal has made a better story.

Old #2: The weekend. Hero attends a different church to avoid seeing his friends and family. Ouch! Again with the selfish and weak…

New #2: The unavoidable weekend. Hero is sent out-of-town for his job. Obviously, he won’t be attending church with his family, but it’s not his fault. Again, we get to root for Hero.

Example #2. In this case, Hero has been trying to find “Lady” who saved his life and then disappeared. Author goal: Keep the characters from realizing the other’s “secret identities” until the big reveal. Character goal: Find each other! Remember, the way we’re going to get the two goals to meet is not by aligning the character goals with the author’s or by letting them give up, but by yanking our poor characters off their chosen path and ramming them into obstacles until the only way left is the author’s way.

Old #3: The picture. Hero, who is a reporter, sees a picture on Heroine’s laptop that makes him realize she is probably Lady. When he says he wants to ask about “some picture,” (without mentioning Lady or the rescue), she tells him to go away, and he does. He’ll ask later. Wow, a reporter who gives up when his source isn’t cooperative? Since when? He gave up much too easily. Author goal has taken over at the expense of the story, and we no longer believe his goal is important.

New #3: The investigator. In this scenario, our intrepid reporter wants to actually tell Heroine which picture he’s talking about and ask if she is Lady. Remember, we’re going to FORCE Hero into the author’s path, despite his desire to follow his own goal. So, some ways to do this would be to have Heroine cut him off mid-sentence and walk away or tell him to mind his own business (she’s mad at him), or to have someone else interrupt with something that can’t wait, or to have his boss suddenly call with an urgent message, or… You get the idea. Keep the goal, create an obstacle! Now Hero can say to himself, “Well, if I can’t find out that way, I’ll put my reporter skills to work on the problem.” Jane will string Hero along for a while longer with more obstacles, while the reader chews on his/her fingernails. By the time we get an answer to the dilemma, we’ll be excited for it.

What examples (good or bad) have you found (or written)?

Happy writing,

M. C. Lee

Paperbacks

My first book, Wind of Choice, finally came out in paperback as well as ebook. It’s been a surprising experience, so I thought I’d talk about it.

The first surprise was how much more REAL the paperback felt than the ebook. It has the same cover and the same contents. I have a copy of the ebook on my phone. People have bought the ebook, but the paperback is so new it hasn’t sold anything. So why did holding the proof copy make me feel like I might finally be a “real” author? I still haven’t figured out the answer to that one.

Second, while there wasn’t much wrong with the proof, it surprised me how strongly I reacted to imperfections. Oh, it needs a higher quality picture there. Oh, what happened to the border line on the map. Tsk, tsk, the Author page should all fit on one page. Now, mind you, my publisher had checked all these things before the proof was released, and I didn’t mind them in the ebook (why not??), but somehow, it looked different on paper. Thank you, all you people who told me I should really read the proof! So I got my publisher to make the changes (honestly, they were little ones) so it would be as perfect as possible.

Third, I was surprised at the reactions of those around me. “Oh, you published a book.” “Well, the ebook came out months ago.” “Yeah, but… I don’t read ebooks and I can hold this in my hands. This is real.” So I guess Surprise #1 shouldn’t have been a shock, since other people apparently feel the same way. Of course, I didn’t know they would!

Go ahead and explain it to me in the comments? Why does a paper copy make a difference?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

My Favorite Newbery Winners

I haven’t read all the Newbery winners since 1922, but I have read a lot of them. Here are my favorites, all four or five star reads for me.

Science Fiction

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. Meg’s father disappeared a year ago, and now three crazy ladies claim she and her little brother and a new maybe-friend can travel instantly across space to rescue him. This has been made into movies, but none of them are as good as the book. Controversial at the time for a children’s book, this has become a classic for very good reasons. I love the characters, love the fantastic settings, love and hate the way the plot makes me think about the world and good vs evil, and love the way Meg succeeds. The rest of the series is also good, though the first two books are the best.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Okay, not exactly sci-fi, but sort of. In a future world, Jonas lives in the perfect society, without fear, poverty, or war. Then his new job as the Receiver of Dreams reveals secrets that could destroy his entire world. This has been made into a movie, too, with mixed results. The book is still better. While not a “fun” read, this is very thought-provoking, and Lois does a great job of dribbling out the revelations until we finally understand. I did *not* enjoy the others in the series.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien. This one is also hard to classify. In part contemporary beast tale, in part speculative sci-fi, this is the story of a mouse who discovers her deceased mate was an escaped inmate of scientific experiments that increased his intelligence to human levels. When Mrs. Frisby’s house and sick son are threatened by the plow, she turns to the likewise intelligent rats for help. The movie is cute, but the book is touching. Mrs. Frisby isn’t as smart as the rats, but her courage and motherly love carry her through the story.

Fantasy

The Grey King, by Susan Cooper. The finale in a series between the Dark and the Light. Memories lost to illness, only a broken riddle can guide Will to retrieve a magical harp from the most powerful Lord of the Dark, the Grey King. Though the book is set in “modern” times, at least in part, it definitely has the feel of ancient fantasy seeping down through the years. Will is a great hero, strong despite weakness, and the book wraps up the hanging threads from the rest of the series into a tidy conclusion.

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. Aerin is the daughter of the king and a witch. Powerless though she is, her tainted blood has banned her from the throne. Now dragons are stalking the land, and she is the only one who can fight them. While I would classify Aerin as a strong heroine, it’s not her sword fighting or horse riding that makes her so. Instead, it’s her honesty, her determination, and her desire to protect her land that make her the hero of the story.

The High King, by Lloyd Alexander. Another series finale. When the most powerful weapon in  Prydain falls into the hands of Arawn-Death-Lord, Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, and Prince Gwydion raise an army to march against Mount Dragon, Arawn’s stronghold. I love the characters so, so much, and while this last book is sad, it is the fulfillment of the series in many ways. The characters have matured into even more wonderful people who make hard choices because it’s the right thing to do.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Let’s call this one urban fantasy. It’s set in modern times, but with ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, would be completely normal if he wasn’t raised by ghosts. If Bod leaves the graveyard, he will come under attack from the man who killed Bod’s family. The book can get a little spooky at times, but isn’t actually horror. The mystery builds and builds, and while I guessed things ahead of time, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of watching the author draw all the strands together into a tapestry. While the basic story is very good all by itself, the little touches Neil adds in puns and allusions made it even more enjoyable for me.

Historical Fiction

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare. Daniel bar Jamin wants to revenge his father’s death by forcing the Romans from Israel. His hatred wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of Jesus of Nazareth. The historical aspects are good, but what really touched my heart was the vision of love winning over hate.

King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry. The Sultan sent six of the best horses in the kingdom to the King of France! Agba, the mute horseboy, knew his horse Sham would be chosen. But when a corrupt boat captain steals the food for their journey, the horses nearly die by the time they arrive. And the King of France sends Sham to be a workhorse! Will he ever be able to prove himself the champion that he is? I don’t know if Agba or Sham is the better character, but I felt for both of them throughout the story. I’m not a true horse-enthusiast (call me pleasantly neutral), but I still liked the horse parts and the history.

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Tree-ear, an orphan, wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is determined to prove himself–even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard. Tree-ear is another ordinary hero who wins through determination and character rather than flashy skills and big battles. The historical aspects make an excellent backdrop to Tree-ears character arc.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. Sarah comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa’s advertisement for a wife and mother. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay? Though a children’s book, this is a great example of a historical romance. Love grows slowly as the characters get to know each other, and in the end, we believe because we’ve seen why. The movie is pretty good.

Contemporary

Holes, by Louis Sachar. Stanley Yelnats is under a curse that has followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending every day digging holes. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize the warden is looking for something. The mixed-up timeline is a little confusing, but the reasons for it become clear by the end. Louis doesn’t waste a word as he lays out the clues, and the revelations at the end tie everything together perfectly. The movie for this one is actually pretty good.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would live in comfort at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because be was a miser and would have money. It takes a mystery and Mrs. Basil to teach her how to go home again. I enjoyed the mystery, but the biggest draw for me was the relationship of the siblings.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson. Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side and outruns everyone. He and Leslie Burke become inseparable, creating Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Imagination and friendship are the true kings in this book, despite its sad ending. (My husband watched the movie with tears rolling down his face and accused me of cruelty for recommending it.)

There you go! Fourteen books from the Newbery Award Winners. How long will it take you to read them all?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Writing Process, Book 3 & 4 (Part 1)

When I started writing book 3 around March 2018 (after plotting from January), I tried to be a little smarter than prior times. I made my usual beat sheet first (with an extra plotline for the romance), then cut it up (literally) to try a new step in my outlining process. I spread out all the beats and rearranged them several times to finalize chronology and chapter point-of-view. Once I had them the way I thought I wanted them, I typed them up again in my old chapter-tracking form.

I had finally noticed that one of the things that made me write more slowly was trying to figure out the “steps” of a chapter as I was writing. Sure, I’d know where I was going, but how do I get there? (The other thing that slows me, besides life getting in the way, is trying to make it perfect the first time, so starting with book 3, I gave myself permission to add [author notes] and fix it later.)

So I invented another new process step. This time, I thought I’d try outlining a little more detail for each chapter. After a little experimentation, I decided aiming for about 10% of the anticipated finished words for each chapter might be enough. I worked on this “tithe outline” at the same time I started writing chapters for book 3. That might not have been the best way to do it, honestly, since it slowed down both parts.

I got three chapters written between July and September, which was still pretty slow, and another two before the end of October. Not acceptable, even when I’m busy with the first two books. I finished the outline barely in time for NaNoWriMo.

(As for books 1 & 2, I was desperately trying to prepare book 1 for publication and get book 2 through my critique group. Lots of editing and rewriting. I was busy.)

In November 2018, I used my extended outline to zip through sixteen chapters and actually win NaNo, but the book still wasn’t finished. Fantasy tends to be longer than some genres, thank you, and I tend to complicate things. But the more I got used to my new outline, the easier it was to work with it, and the faster I got. I even had a few 3000-4500 word days. Yes, I know there are authors who can write 10-20K per day, but my brain doesn’t do that yet.

In December, I finished two-and-a-half chapters of book 3 and got the beats, POV/chronology, and four chapters of book 4 outlined. By the end of January 2019, I wrote another four chapters of book 3 and outlined 2/3 of book 4 before I discovered some major problems and had to start over. (But at least I found it in the outlining stage and not after I’d WRITTEN 2/3 of the book!) It took until May to figure out how to fix my outline, partly because of publishing and partly because I spent a month helping my parents. And it was pondering what kind of song I’d write for this book that gave me the clue. 😉

I finished the first draft of book 3 in February (excluding stuff to fix and things like chapter headings and Nia’s curses). Thirteen months for drafting is still pretty slow, but it’s half my time for book 2, so it’s still progress. Now that I have some experience at it, I’m hoping book 4 will go even faster.

Wish me luck!

M. C. Lee

Get to Know Yourself in Book Club

My sister thought a list of book club suggestions would be great for summer. She said, “List ones that make you think and have things to discuss.” So I was looking through my posts of favorite books and ran across my Personality/Cognition list, which is thankfully much shorter than the almost-200 personality/behavior books I have listed as “read” on Goodreads. Reading about personality and behavior always makes ME think about myself, others, and the world. Maybe it will do the same for you.

This time, let’s go over the Personality books, and maybe another time I’ll cover some of the Cognition ones.

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, by Don Richard Riso

The Enneagram splits personalities into nine categories. One of the unique things about this system is that it discusses the difference between healthy and unhealthy versions of each type, and what traits you should aspire to gain (based on type). It took me a long time to figure out my type under this system, but I learned a lot about myself when I did.

The Color Code: A New Way to See Yourself, Your Relationships, and Life, by Taylor Hartman

The Color Code sorts people by motivation: power, intimacy, peace, fun (or a combination). It also helpfully discusses how to deal with people of other “colors” in more productive and less frustrating ways. For instance, red and blue are the most controlling colors, but for completely different reasons. If you don’t understand WHY they are trying to control you, you might fight the battle on the wrong front entirely.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better, by Gretch Ruben

The Four Tendencies sorts people by how they respond to external or internal expectations. If you’ve ever wondered why some people can set and follow goals all by themselves and others can’t, this is for you. This one also gives tips on how to deal with people of other types. If you have a rebellious (by nature, not stress) teen in your life, you can learn tips here.

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, by Gary Chapman

Love Languages has a narrow focus on how to feel/share appreciation, but in that field, it’s a gem. If you’ve ever lavished extra loving care on your significant other, only to have him/her complain that you never appreciate them, you probably have a disconnect in your love languages. This book can tell you how to identify and fix that. My significant other and I have very different primary languages but the same secondary. We use our secondary a lot…

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel

Reading People is the “sampler” book of personality discussion. It dips into the Meyers-Briggs (16 Personalities), the Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, Highly Sensitive People, and more. It doesn’t discuss any of them in “enough” detail, but if you’re looking for variety or want to figure out where to go next, this might be the book for you.

So, do any of these sound like something your book club would like to read and discuss?

Happy reading and personality-analyzing,
M. C. Lee

Writing Process, Book 2 (Part 2)

With the help of my critique group, I improved the setting, description, and physical cues of my second book. But they still complained that the first third was too slow. (By the time we reached halfway, there were no brakes on the story and no complaints about pacing.) I tried this and that to increase the tension and the plot movement, and it improved, but people still complained.

After rewriting things several times, I wanted to tear out my hair. Yeah, being an author is sometimes not much fun at all. Then I had to go out-of-state to help my parents declutter–again. Since I knew I’d be too busy to actually write, I decided it was a good time to do a lot of brainstorming and figure out how to fix my pacing at last. One advantage is that my mom is very familiar with my stories and characters and is willing to talk to me about them.

We went over each chapter, one at a time. For some of them, we figured out small things to increase the tension and pacing. Then we got to chapter six. Plot: inadequate. Chapter character goal: missing and unfulfilled. Dialogue: lots and lots of that… Pacing: very, very slow. We tried to fix the poor thing, but eventually decided it was just broken.

*We will pause for a moment of silence for a dead chapter.*

I hate broken chapters. I really do. This wasn’t my first one and probably won’t be my last. Still don’t like it.

We talked it over for two days and still got nowhere. Though Mom knows my stories and characters, she’s a novice with story structure and beats and other writerly jargon. Then one of my author friends kindly offered to call and chat about the problem. We brainstormed several bad solutions (okay, not bad, just not very workable for the rest of the story) and then finally hit on something I hope works.

Yes, I still have to rewrite the entire chapter. No, I’m still not happy about it. Yes, I’ll do it anyway. And again, and again, and again, until it’s finally good enough to share with the rest of you.

What are the lessons here?

  1. When you get stuck, ask for help.
  2. Don’t give up.
  3. You won’t succeed without lots of hard work.
  4. Don’t call a book finished until you’ve fixed everything you can possibly fix and polished it until it shines.

My brain died on my “vacation,” but as soon as I get it back in working order, chapter six is up for a complete remodel, and I have a page of other edits to incorporate. (That doesn’t sound as bad, but they aren’t simple “change this word” things. Nope, more rewriting all over the book.) Once I finish (*pause for hysterical laughter*), I hope to have it ready for beta readers. Or at least alpha ones. My publisher would still like me to get it out in a reasonable amount of time after the first one.

(Update: That chapter passed my critique group. Another chapter still has to go through the process. Sigh.)

Wish me luck, and good luck in your own writing,

M. C. Lee

Lifelong Reading

I hear some of you like to hear personal things about your favorite authors. I have a pretty big space bubble around my personal life, but I thought maybe you’d like to hear about my reading experience. After all, I have been recommending books to you, as well as writing books FOR you.

I’ve been reading (fluently) since I was four years old. Yes, really. My mom says I was reading at 7th-grade level before I even hit kindergarten age. Since I am not one of those people whose memories go back to toddler-hood, I literally can’t remember I time I couldn’t read. I’m pretty sure it’s had an impact on my view of the world. 😉

I started reading “big-people” books very quickly, and by the time I was eight, I was reading Lord of the Rings. No, I didn’t understand all of it; I was only eight! But I read it about once a quarter every year for many years, then dropped to twice a year, then annually. When my sister dropped her book and lost her page, she called me on the phone. “Quick, tell me what page I’m on!” “What just happened in the story?… Okay, here’s your page.” No, I didn’t have it memorized. Yes, that’s about how long it took me to find it.

Junior high was the first time I attended school (lousy timing!), and people started asking me how many books I read a year. Well, I don’t know! The library only lets me check out ten at a time, and I go every week. But I read books from home, too… So I started tracking. For three years, I wrote down every book I read that had at least 90 pages and wasn’t a textbook. Back then, there was no electronic way to do this (not much internet, folks, and the school computers could put their entire hard-drive on a single floppy drive!), so I did it all by hand. Decades later, I typed it all up so I could analyze it. Yep, I’m a nerd.

Three years. An average of 620 books/year. Lowest year was about 430, highest was a bit over 800. Yes, I realize that’s almost two a day. No, most of them did not have 90 pages; most of them had several hundred pages. Yes, that included some repeats, but most of them were new. You can also assume I read that many books every year until I had kids. (Children require attention, go figure, so I dropped down to only 300 or 400 books for a while.) Even now that I’m writing, I still manage to read over 200 books. Guys, that’s a LOT of books.

No, I don’t read sixteen hours a day. When I was seven or eight, I asked my mom what speed reading was. She gave me the 30-second explanation (or less), and I promptly forgot about it. I apparently started using some of the techniques, though, because my reading speed kept going up until it hit borderline-speed-reading. Not real speed-reading, just borderline. My family thinks it’s amusing to watch my eyes when I read. When they’re really bored, they’ll add pinball-game sound effects. They’re not as funny as they think they are.

By now, you might think I’m bragging. I’m not. I’m just pointing out that I have a lot of experience in the field. 😉 By now, I’m pretty good at picking out fun books. My tastes might not match your own, but if they do, then you’re probably fairly safe taking recommendations from me. Handy, isn’t it? Go ahead, search my posts for all the different lists… I’ll wait for you here. 🙂

As for writing, being a good reader doesn’t necessarily make one a good writer, but it certainly helps! I hope you decide my books are good enough to make your list of recommendations.

Happy reading,

M. C. Lee

LTUE 2019 Business Class Notes

Every year for several years now, I’ve gone to the Life, the Universe, and Everything sci-fi/fantasy conference in Utah. It’s sort of a writing conference, and sort of not. They also have art classes, and a game room, and presentations of academic papers, and meet-and-greets.

But I mostly go for the writing classes. And the business classes. And the worldbuilding classes. And the oh-that-sounds-super-cool classes. Two of my family members got to attend a weapons class with real weapons. They raved for weeks.

I wrote about my other classes here, and now I’m moving on to the business classes. If the class was a panel, I didn’t list the speakers and I didn’t keep track of who said what.

Finances
Rules to pass audits: Keep mouth shut. Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Don’t volunteer anything.
One-time sales tax must be paid right after. Regular sales must have license.

On the Road
Road stuff is no fun
Write what you love, and lots of it

Video trailer
Stock video sites for video clips
Kaden live free software or Adobe premiere
Sony Vegas good for beginners $50
DaVinci resolve free

Tools of the Trade
Scrivener is good for disorganized
Storyoriginapp.com, Prolifwords, and Mybookcave for reader magnets
Bundle rabbit
Kdp rocket

Working with Reviewers
Be polite & professional
Try to build a connection
Kirkus reviews are useless

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Indie, by M.A. Nichols
Don’t wait for book to be perfect
Income is the goal, not sales
Write more books!

Realistic Self-Publishing (all notes for rest of page), by Keary Taylor
Smashwords is a common source of piracy
Publish 2nd book before spending money on ads
She spends $60/day on ads
Be organized

Are you willing to:
Find & hire editors, proofreaders, cover artists, & formatters?
Manage your own marketing & PR?
Learn a lot of new skills?
Get creative with books AND entrepreneurship?
Treat this as business?

Average costs:
Editor/proofreader: $300 for 70K book
Format: $175 e & print
Cover designer: $150+
=$600-1000 to launch book that has a chance

Series starter marketing:
Only book: launch $2.99-5.99 depending on genre/length (pref 2.99-4.99)
Once established, first-in-series:
Full price= more cost to marketing
$0.99= charging a little helps pay for marketing
Free= no risk for readers

Follow-ups in series:
Increase by $1 each book (2.99, 3.99, 4.99)
Same price for each in series
Same price until last book, then increase $1

Backmatter:
Immediately after The End, have lead-in to next book with LINKS
Also by with LINKS
Thanks for reading, ask for review
Author bio
Social links
Follow on Amazon
Newsletter signup
CHOOSE SOME, NOT ALL. Keep it clean & simple.

Don’t get caught up in swag or book signings. They’re fun, but not profitable.

2000 books published/day on Amazon
WILL have to pay for visibility
Readers WILL forget you
Market constantly changes
For full-time, can’t take this casually

Set up social media sites, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon Author Page, website.
Study what other authors are doing

Places to advertise:
Facebook
Amazon Ads
Bookbub
Other paid sites (in order of effectiveness)
eReader News Today
FreeBooksy
BargainBooksy
Free Kindle Books
RobinReads
FussyLibrarian
BookBarbarian
BookAdrenaline
BookSends
ManyBooks

Schedule sales around book releases
Stack ads (same day or close together)
Cycle ads, including backlist
Plan at least 6 weeks ahead (sites fill up early)
Mailing list advertisers WILL list permafree books

Downfalls: Genre bouncing, not interacting/getting personal with fans, not collaborating with other authors

Whew! I feel overwhelmed now. How about you?

Happy writing,

M. C. Lee

Books That Should be Made into Movies

This list is totally my opinion, but here are some books I think would make good movies. Hollywood, are you listening to me?

In random order:

Devil on My Back, by Monica Hughes. Dystopian sci-fi with a “big brother” hooked right into you.

The Shattered Stone, by Robert Newman. Fantasy with a touch of mystery. Who betrayed the truce and broke the stone?

Winter of Magic’s Return and Tomorrow’s Magic, by Pamela F. Service. Fantasy-in-the-future and the return of Merlin as a teenager with amnesia.

The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. Dragons and a strong heroine with brains.

Knee-Deep in Thunder, by Sheila Moon. An underground world of fantasy with larger-than-life animal characters.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. A Cinderella story with a more satisfactory romance.

Crown Duel/Court Duel, by Sherwood Smith. Magic, rebellion, and court intrigue, with a touch of magic.

The Gammage Cup, by Carol Kendall. Five ordinary Minnipins become heroes in spite of themselves.

The Great and Terrible Quest, by Margaret Lovett. A quick-witted orphan eludes his evil grandfather to help a wounded knight on a quest he can’t even remember.

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer. A Georgian romance with intrigue and compelling characters who sometimes cross-dress to disguise themselves.

Have Space Suit–Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein. Two kidnapped children must convince a galactic council not to eradicate Earth.

Code Orange, by Caroline B. Cooney. Contemporary suspense. Don’t ever advertise on the internet that you might have a source of biological warfare. Don’t ever say you might BE a source of biological warfare…

The Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner. Fantasy. Don’t believe what you see, because you probably misunderstood, even without magic. This is one series where I can imagine the camera angles without even trying.

Dragon Slippers series, by Jessica Day George. A brave girl defends dragons. Yes, I got that in the right order.

Knight and Rogue series, by Hilari Bell. Knights errant have been a legend for 200 years, until Michael decides to resurrect the obsolete occupation and drags a reluctant thief with him.

The False Prince series, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Fantasy and intrigue, and another case of not believing what you see. When the royal family is killed, who will step up to impersonate the lost prince?

What’s on your Make Mine a Movie list?

M. C. Lee