What Motivates Me to Write

Does “having fun” count?

What if I’m not always having fun? Then what’s my answer?

I actually pondered this for a long time, especially whenever the writing got hard. And for a long time, I didn’t have a really great answer.

When I finally found it, it was a combination of finding out more about my personal Clifton Strengths, and a serendipitous sentence that fell out of my own mouth without me realizing it.

First, Clifton Strengths. It’s a fascinating “personality system,” except it doesn’t touch introvert/extrovert or anything like that. Instead, it asks “what are you good at doing?” And it doesn’t mean carpentry or singing or homework.

My top Strength is Input, which means my brain is good at taking stuff in & collection information. If you’re like me, this is your cue to stare blankly and say, “Isn’t that what all brains are for?” But apparently— not. Brains strong in Communication are good at creating understanding between people. Brains strong in Adaptability are good at being flexible, no matter what comes up. There are 34 different Strengths. Wow!

So, what does Input have to do with my reasons for writing?

I wondered that, too. In the meantime, I gave an interview where I was asked why I write. To my surprise, I found myself talking about God and creativity. So there’s that. And it’s true.

Which leads me back to Strengths. In my Strengths group, we had a conversation about how our #1 Strength is usually the reason for why we write, or for the specific books we write. A #1 Responsibility might write because his fans were waiting, for instance, or a #1 Belief might write to spread a philosophy.

Okay, where does that leave #1 Inputs?

I was very confused. What does collecting information have to do with writing a book? Isn’t one an inward process and one an outward process. And what does that have to do with my prior comment about God?

Then another #1 Input said, “I write the books I want to read.”

Oh. Oh, yeah, that’s it.

I honor God by using the creativity he gave me (which isn’t any better than anybody else’s gifts, btw) to write the books I want to read. That makes total sense. (That’s also why I can’t “write to market” unless the market wants the same things I want.)

So, there you have it. I write the books I want to read.

I hope you enjoy them, too.

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

My Blog Schedule is Changing

I’ve been writing in this blog for almost five years, but as my writing schedule intensifies and my personal life becomes more chaotic, it has been harder and harder to keep up.

I’ve decided the time has finally come to drop the regular posts. Oh, I’ll still write from time to time, no worries, but it will be less frequently and less regularly. I will also stop sending out the blog newsletter, though Facebook will still get the post feeds, and you can always come back here to see what’s new.

I already have posts scheduled monthly for the rest of the year, which isn’t that far off my recent every-three-weeks schedule. After that, I’ll write when I feel like it, including when I have a new release. Sorry-not-sorry. Think of it this way: I’ll be able to spend more time writing books for you. 🙂

Anyway, feel free to rummage through old posts to find something of interest for you, and remember that I’m not stopping altogether, just slowing down and dropping the schedule.

If you want to hear from me more regularly, you are welcome to sign up for my newsletter, which comes every two weeks. Besides listening to me babble about my writing and sometimes my personal life, you get links to promos on my books and those of other authors. Or if you only want my latest books and are willing to write reviews, you can sign up for my Advance Reader Club.

Thank you for reading my blogs. I hope you continue to keep in touch.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Update: Return of the Fae 2-3

My beta readers are almost to the end of book 1, and so far they seem to think it’s fine. I finished book 2, replotting and all, and doubled the length of one of the short stories. I even eventually got a basic outline for #3 finished—I think.

So now I’m trying to write book 3 while I do final edits on book 1 and the short stories. Multi-tasking, gotta love it. By the time the betas finish book 1, I’ll be ready for them to read book 2, which has a crazy assassin and a mass kidnapping—sort of. No, I don’t want to be more clear. You can find out when you read it. Mwahaha.

Anyway, that’s the latest. Lots and lots of editing, and a start on book 3, which has been a pain and a half to plot. I had to cut up all the scene bits and rearrange them by chapter to see where I had holes and what else I needed. Then rearrange them again. And again. And again. Sigh. I must admit, this isn’t my favorite step of the process, but somebody’s got to do it. Me, I’ve got to do it.

Book 3 is Academy of the Fae, so you should definitely be thinking “high school shenanigans,” except with magic involved. And not everyone wants to be there (which is totally normal, in my experience).

As usual for this series, I’m using some real events to enhance the fiction. It’s still not real, I hope you understand. But I hope it FEELS real.

Several characters have had their lives turned upside down at this point, so they’re flailing around trying to get under control. I don’t plan to make that easy, of course. The more things go wrong, the more fun it is for you to read. Mwahaha.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Character Interview: Unexpected Heroes

Today I’m interviewing some of the characters from the Unexpected Heroes series. On my left are Ahjin and Nia, and on my right are Ludik and Zefra.

(Ahjin has curly hair that is white despite his youth, long white wings, and purple eyes. His face and hands are seamed with pale scars. He wears ankle boots, and his pants and shirt are sober colors, with a small crest on one shoulder.)

(Nia has long lavender hair in many braids, and gills on her neck. A long scar runs diagonally from forehead to cheek, right under one green eye. She wears a wetsuit in an eye-poppingly bright pattern of tropical fish. Her webbed feet are bare.)

(Ludik is the tallest, with short gold hair and gray eyes. He wears a knee-length tunic in a colorful geometric pattern, and his boots reach mid-shin. He tucked a bow under his chair despite our best efforts to dissuade him.)

(Zefra has bright red hair peeking from under her turquoise scarf, but black eyebrows. Over her cream robe, she wears leather and silk armor, and a short sword is buckled at her side.)

Where do you live? What’s that like?

Ahjin: Ioj is the most advanced country on Kaiatan. We even have a printing press.

Nia: That doesn’t make you the most advanced. Nokailana knows how to have *fun.

Ludik rolls his eyes.

Zefra: How are we measuring most advanced? And why? Shouldn’t we talk about trade and things like that?

Never mind. I’ll find a map for our readers. What is your job / role / occupation? What do you do with your days?

Ahjin: I’m an aerobat. That’s an aerial acrobat. I’m very good at it.

Nia: You have a different job now. Why don’t you say—

Ahjin: Why don’t you NOT say. Or sing.

Nia sticks out her tongue.

Ludik: I’m a hunter.

Everyone raises their eyebrows. Ludik scowls.

Ludik: I like being a hunter.

Zefra: Yes, but— Okay, never mind. I’m an explorer and guide. Finally!

I see some of you have some impressive scars. Do you mind if I ask how you got them?

Ahjin: Yes.

Nia: Not waiting for my guard. Not the best idea, actually. Always wait for your guard.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far, and why?

Ahjin: Getting married. The lady was hard to pin down.

Nia: I would have said saving the world was better, maybe?

Ludik: Oh, I like his marriage answer, but my lady wanted to marry me.

Ahjin stretches out a wing and bops Ludik.

Zefra: I found a long-lost oasis and a god’s workshop.

(The boys start wrestling on the floor. Time to move on.)

Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

Nia: Optimistic.

Ludik: Pessimistic, but my wife helps me look on the brighter side.

Zefra: Realistic.

Ahjin: What difference does it make? I’m going to do what I need to do anyway.

Who would you turn to if you were in desperate need of help?

Nia: Ahjin.

Ludik: My friends.

Zefra: Whoever knows how to help with my problem.

Ahjin: I think we have a pretty good team right here.

How did you feel about each other when you first met?

Nia: Oh, we were great friends, of course.

(The other three start laughing too hard to continue the interview.)

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing According to Plan— Or Not

To Outline or Not to Outline, That is the Question

First, there are authors who outline extensively, and authors who don’t outline at all, and every possible range between. All possibilities are equally valid and viable, as long as the author uses a method that their brain likes.

In other words, the answer is “yes.” Outline or don’t, whatever you like.

But if the method you are using isn’t working, go ahead and try something else.

If you normally outline like crazy, but then you’re bored with the story because you already know what happens– outline less.

If you got lost somewhere in the middle and have no idea what happens next– outline more.

If you know where you’re going but you forget things along the way–outline more strategically.

What About Me?

I’ve always said I was a plotter. After all, I wrote a sentence or two of outline for every single chapter (six) I planned for my short story so long ago. Which then grew into an entire book.

Yeah…. not a good outline. Maybe I wasn’t a plotter.

But plotting is good, right? (See how I drank the Kool-aid?) So I tried more plotting for book 2. Which stalled in the middle. I thought plotting was supposed to be easier!

Plotting also eventually saved book 2, after I rearranged a lot of stuff. The whole process of learning helped me develop the plotting system I still use (with a few updates). That system made books 3 & 4 much easier (as easy as it gets, ahem).

For my new series, I added a column for “What goes wrong?” because I was making things too easy for my characters.

So Now It’s Easy, Right? Everything Goes According to Plan!

*wild laughter*


Major things still go wrong. Drama goes missing, beats don’t work out, plot holes appear, characters refuse to do the thing because they don’t want to. Those all require re-plotting on purpose. (I hate that.)

Then there are the accidents, happy or sad. I’ll be writing along, following my notes, and then something happens that I didn’t plan. Sometimes I erase it because it messes up stuff I have to have later. Sometimes it’s better than what I had planned and I still have to re-plot. (The one time I love re-plotting.) Sometimes it’s just different, neither better nor worse for the plot, and I have to decide if it adds anything else to the story. Is it funny? Poignant? Foreshadowing? Linking to backstory? Okay, it can stay.

Sometimes I Don’t Find the Broken By Myself

I have a lovely critique group, and I always get beta readers. And sometimes they’ll twiddle their fingers nervously and say, “You know, I really don’t think this thing right here works. Here’s my reason…”

And then I cry.

Okay, not usually. But I might be sad. And then I start pondering how to fix the broken thing. Sometimes it’s easy. “Rearrange the dialogue here. Add all the reasons there. Put the cause before the effect.” Sometimes it’s hard. “What do you mean, you don’t like the ending??”

But really and truly, I’m grateful to those who find my errors before I expose them to the whole world. I’d rather fix them first.

Well, Should I Plot?

I don’t know. Do you have a plotting brain?

Try it and find out. Remember, there’s no “true” answer, no matter what So-and-So Famous Person says. If plotting works for you, plot. If not plotting works for you, don’t plot. If semi-plotting works for you, then do that.

It’s your story and your brain. Do it your way. Really.

If you want to learn more about plotting, I have a list of my favorite plotting books.

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Minor Reveals

This post is based on a question from a reader. Thanks, Jared C., for the idea.

“What happened to Kolina and Alemana after they escaped from the pirates? Did they ever make it to Ahjin?”

The answer is in the books, but it’s a bit subtle in places for reasons I’ll explain, so here’s the whole reveal.

After their early adventures in Tales of Kaiatan, Kolina and Alemana swam all the way home, collected their stuff, then swam to the island of the gods. Ahjin gave them both jobs among his guards, and they are in Spark of Intrigue as such. You have to look for them by description, because early readers complained I had too many names to keep track of, so I un-named a lot of minor characters. At the time, I hadn’t written Tales, so I didn’t realize that was a bad idea for Kolina and Alemana. Oops.

But in case you missed them in Spark, they are mentioned again in Tales, as minor characters in the last story. Look in Izo’s wedding scene to find them. 😉

And here’s a bonus question for you.

“Do you ever have Easter eggs in your stories?”

Of course I do! I can give you two examples off the top of my head.

In Spark of Intrigue, Nia sees several history tapestries in the library. One shows the war between the Heresa and Tetsuya clans.

In Tales of Kaiatan (and Unexpected Tales), Shara and Hesketh’s romance is almost blighted because of rules laid down after the war between Heresa and Tetsuya.

And in Legends of Kaiatan, which is set farther back in history, the story of Fearless tells of a boy who got drafted into… the war between Heresa and Tetsuya. Yep, they’re all talking about the same war. I had a lot of fun with that one.

My second example is less complicated but more impactful.

In Seed of War, Zefra offers to show Nia the maps of legends her grandparents have, and tosses off the additional information that some of them even have songs with them. She’s just trying to keep Nia from being bored and antsy, and the comment didn’t mean anything in particular.

(The author was just tossing off the comment, too…)

Then in Spark of Intrigue, it turns out that one of those legendary maps and the song that goes with it are the key to solving the mystery and ending the conspiracy.

(Fortunately for me, I was editing Seed while I was plotting Spark and desperately looking for a way to solve my dilemma. And there it was, as a throw-away line. Sometimes authors plan ahead and foreshadow their big plot twists. Sometimes they rummage through the prior books and turn meaningless strands into important threads. Ahem.)

I don’t think I have to tell you about EVERY time I accidentally made myself look smart, do I? Nah… I’m okay if you think I’m actually that smart on purpose. 😉

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Change of Pace

I have written fifty posts about my favorite books. Fifty is a lot. I have decided that the time has come for a change of pace. I’ll still write the occasional book review post, including a “best of [year]” and “research in [year],” but mostly, I’m going to switch to posts about writing.

My old book review posts will remain up for reading inspiration. You are still welcome to comment on them and let me know what you liked or what you would recommend.

Besides the yearly posts, I might add the occasional guest post or random review, as I feel like it. 🙂

If you’ve been loving my book reviews, I apologize for the change, but I hope you grow to love my other posts just as much. That’s all for now, but I’ll have a new writing post in three weeks.

See you then!
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

How Fast Do I Write?

Short answer: Not very. If you want me to be one of those book-a-month writers, you will be very disappointed.

Long answer…

I started writing my first book in July of 2013.

Yes, that was a long time ago, thank you. It was supposed to be a 6-chapter short story, but it grew. There’s no outlining in this process because I thought writing a sentence or two for each chapter was outlining. Anyway, it took me until March 2015 to finish the first draft of 104K words. It’s shorter now, yes. So 104K in 20 months is 5.2K per month. And then it took me almost five years AFTER THAT to rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit (seven major times and hundreds of minor!) until I was ready to publish in Jan 2019.

5.5 years total for book 1.

I started writing book two September 24th, 2015.

I got partway through it, decided the not-outlining thing wasn’t working, and stalled for a long time while I learned more about story structure and reorganized a large chunk of the plot. In August 2017, I got back into it, finishing in summer of 2018. So that one took three years for the first draft, or roughly 2.6K per month not counting when I was just staring at it, or 3-4K per month only counting the months I actually wrote. Yes, that is still slower than book one for the draft. That’s because by then I knew how much I didn’t know. The editing went faster, though. I published in Sept 2019.

4 years total for book 2.

I started outlining book three in February 2018.

I wrote it from July 2018 to 25 Feb 2019. Eight months for the drafting! Pretty fast, huh? That’s over 11K per month. Definitely getting faster, although I didn’t write down when I started outlining it. And I wrote this one while I was editing book 2 and outlining book 4. It was a grueling schedule. I published in May 2020.

2.25 years total for book 3.

I started outlining book 4 in Dec 2018.

I wrote it from March 2019 to Jan 2020, which is ten months or an average of 9K per month. Still not bad, especially considering that I plotted the last few chapters right before I wrote them. Ahem. That one was published in January 2021.

Just over 2 years total for book 4.

After book 4, I rewrote the prequel story between Jan & Mar 2020, making it much longer and much, much better. It’s still a novella, so two months is totally reasonable. Roughly 9K per month. Then I edited and re-edited ten million times (hey, it felt like it), for a total of 10 months. For a novella. Nope, not fast at all. Republished Nov 2020.

I started book 5 in March 2020.

Yes, during the pandemic. That wasn’t the hard part. My parents moved in with my family in Sept 2019, but we still hadn’t found a new (bigger) house yet. THAT was the hard part. I finished drafting in mid-April 2021. The outlining wasn’t separate for this one, because it was a collection of short stories, so I alternated outlining and writing. 100K in 13 months is an average of 7.7K per month. It was published in September 2021.

1.5 years for book 5.

Time to finish the series.

I outlined AND drafted book 6 from May to late December 2021, plus an extra novella for a reader magnet that goes with it. About 110K in 8 months is almost 14K per month. They were published in May 2022.

1 year for book 6.

Yes, by this point, I was feeling pretty fast as an author. I was also feeling pretty overworked.

I started a new series in January 2022.

In it, I wrote almost two (shorter) books by the end of September. 95K in 9 months, or 10.5K per month. That series isn’t complete yet, nor am I ready to publish.

In April 2022, I started brainstorming ANOTHER new series.

It was more complicated, so it took me until the end of September to be ready to start writing book 1, though I did finish the 20K prequel during that time. My estimate was that I would finish book 1 by New Year’s, but I actually finished December 5th. 75K (before edits) in just over 2 months, or about 35K per month. Yes, you read that right. Three times as fast as ANY of my other books, and ten times faster than the slowest. Wow! It’s still in the editing process as of this post, so I can’t give you the total time.

I still have several books left to write in that series. Will they all go that fast? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be nice?

But it’s not always so smooth.

In fact, I caught Covid in December, stopped writing for almost two months, and have been struggling to get back up to my old speed, much less the new one. Sigh.

But I’ve done it before, so I believe I can do it again, eventually.

So to what do I attribute the increase in my speed?

For the past year, I’ve been studying Clifton Strengths and trying to figure out my own brain. I also discovered Strengths for Writers and the Writer-Better-Faster Academy, which applies the topic directly to writers. And slowly, I’ve been learning. I’ve also spent the past 10 years improving my writing skills, which helps dramatically. And I got an office with a door. Don’t underestimate the the benefit of not being interrupted! With all the changes, I think things are finally starting to click into place. I hope so.

Wish me luck!
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Robert Newman’s Mystery Series

Just for the fun of it, I’m doing an in-depth review of an old favorite today. Robert Newman wrote one of my favorite fantasy books, The Shattered Stone, but he also wrote a whole series of young adult mysteries that all start The Case of

Be warned, these are old books, from the 70’s and 80’s. Granted, that makes me feel old, too… But I just looked them up, and they are available in ebook now, which means you don’t have to hunt them down in old print copies the way I did. (Although the print copies have way nicer covers.)

The series is sort of a Sherlock Holmes off-shoot, in that Sherlock is in a few of the books, but mostly the books are about a young boy and his friends.

In the first book, Andrew’s guardian is kidnapped in London, leaving him all alone. He’s rescued by a girl nicknamed Screamer and her family. Screamer’s brother works for Sherlock as a Baker Street Irregular, and so Andrew starts working for him, too. After helping Sherlock solve some big crimes, Andrew also finds out what happened to his guardian.

Later in the series, a policeman does more of the detecting than Sherlock does, but Andrew and Screamer remain involved.

Why do I like it so much?

The writing is good. (And you shouldn’t take that for granted.)

The mysteries are exciting but still logical and possible to solve yourself, though you don’t have to. And you don’t have to know stuff that’s impossible to know *cough Agatha Christie cough*.

But especially, the characters are very well done. I love Andrew and Screamer and the other characters. And even though the kids do a lot of the mystery-solving, they do it by helping the adults who are actually in charge (unlike some unrealistic young detective stories). The adults, in another plus, are generally loving and intelligent instead of cruel idiots.

The kids in the story are FRIENDS, above all else, and you can tell it when you read the stories. They treasure their friendship and stick together, and that makes for a delightful read.

So, there you go. If you like mysteries with young detectives, try Robert Newman’s The Case of series. Leave a comment to tell me what you think.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Update: Return of the Fae series

Yep, that’s the name of my newest series. For a while, my brain called it Space Fae, until I came up with the actual name.

This is the series I wrote about in November, that is contemporary fantasy with a dash of science fiction and a great big splash of mythology. My work-in-progress tagline is: What if Earth has legends of werewolves, fae, and other myths because we used to be their colony? What if they’re coming back?

I’m having a ton of fun with the premise, and I plan at last six books in the series, though it’s set up in a way that will let me write in it for as long as I want.

I started drafting book 1 late last September and actually finished in early December, way ahead of schedule. Fastest book ever for me! So I started on book 2 and got four chapters done before I got Covid. Phooey! For obvious reasons, that brought my writing to a screeching halt for a while.

Then I had post-Covid-brain for a couple of months, and I only managed to get two more chapters written. Not very helpful. Even worse, I discovered the plot was scarce in obstacles. Sure, the characters had hard things to do, but they were doing them with no difficulty. That’s great in real life, but not very exciting in a book. Covid-brain didn’t want to talk about re-plotting the book, so I took it to my critique group to ask for ideas.

But trouble intervened IRL…

Sadly, my real life has been enough of a mess that I have not yet had a chance to see if the new ideas will work or not, though I am pretty sure I’ll need to majorly rewrite the last two chapters. Sigh.

Then a couple of beta readers got through book 1 and weren’t excited about the ending. I tried this, I tried that, still didn’t work. So I started pondering (which put book 2 on the back burner). It took weeks to come up with a rewrite that might (no guarantee) work. And I still need to see what people think about it.

In the meantime, I decided the prequel wouldn’t work as a reader magnet because it’s epic fantasy instead of contemporary, so I wrote a new short story that I hope has more of the flavor of the series. And then I rewrote it, because that’s the way it goes.

So that’s where I am right now. Will the new ending for book 1 work? How can I replot 90% of book 2? Is the new short story any good? Inquiring minds want to know, and so do I.

Wish me luck!
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.