Favorite YA & MG Historical Books

I’m sure you know by now that I’ve been expanding old posts. So here you go for historical books (without magic or fantasy). I stopped around the end of the 1800’s. Anything later will go in my “Contemporary” recommendations, coming up soon.

In roughly chronological order:

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Set in ancient Korea, a young boy is apprenticed to a potter, but an important errand to court goes very wrong.

Mara, Daughter of the NIle. Mystery and intrigue swirl in teh court of Egypt, and Mara must choose where she stands.

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Another Egyptian mystery.

Behold Your Queen, by Gladys Malvern. My favorite version of the Queen Esther story.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. Two brothers each have seven children, but one has all daughters while the other has all sons. When trouble strikes, one of the daughters dresses as a man and travels to another land to seek her family’s fortune. I like the heroine who is strong without being a warrior.

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare. A Roman-Christian era story of revenge and forgiveness.

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. I read this for the Beehive Awards, and it was one of my very favorites for the year. Set at the time of Christ’s birth, it tells the story of a young girl and her little brother who discover that even as a baby, Jesus could heal their wounds.

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove. A young girl must help a mysterious shipwrecked stranger regain his lost memories and solve a local murder.

Ann Turnbull writes Quaker stories from the 1600s, where the main characters find love despite religious persecution and cultural expectations.

The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan, is about a deaf man and the troubled woman who figures out how to communicate with him.

King of the Wind. A small, mute Arab boy is sent with an Arabian horse who becomes the main stud for the American Arabian breed.

Little House on the Prairie series. I realize they aren’t perfect, but I still find them amusing and charming.

Boston Jane, by Jennifer L. Holm. A pioneer girl must choose between her old identity as a society girl or her new persona of a spunky frontier woman.

Charlotte’s Rose, by Ann Edwards Cannon. When the mother dies and the father is grief-stricken, a pioneer girl adopts the infant girl and struggles to keep her alive.

Stealing Freedom, by Elisa Carbone. A young girl seeks freedom through the Underground Railroad.

Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee. Two girls disguise themselves as boys and set off on the cowboy trail, but their troubles merely follow them.

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. Thanks to my local librarian to identifying this from my childhood. A young girl moves in with distant relatives and discovers an enchanting house and mysterious horse.

The Anne of Green Gables series, of course. It’s a classic for a reason. Gotta love the spunk in that girl!

Okay, that’s the end of the list. Feel free to leave more recommendations in the comments. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Β© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

How I Deal With Feedback

I’m in a lot of author (and reader) groups on Facebook, and recently, I’ve noticed a lot of people asking questions about how to deal with beta or editor feedback. So I thought I’d tell you how I do it. πŸ™‚

(I usually work in Google Docs, though Word’s commenting functions work in the same general way.)

So, I sent a book or short story to a beta reader or editor, and now I’ve gotten it back. What next?

First, I just read through it.

If I find something I easily agree with (spelling errors, stupid mistakes), I might or might not hit “accept” as I read. Either way, this is just a preliminary run. The goal is to read, not to change. I don’t have to agree with the edits. I’m just reading.

Second, I put it down and cry.

Okay, really, this step is optional, but I frequently use it. Feedback hurts sometimes, guys, and it’s okay to admit that. I find that I recover faster if I just admit the hurt. So I take a break, rant PRIVATELY (not in public, not on social media!), cry, take a nap, eat chocolate… whatever I need. Sometimes this only takes a few minutes. Sometimes it takes a couple of days before I feel ready to face the feedback again. The more years I’ve spent getting feedback, the shorter this step USUALLY is. Thicker skin is truly something that develops with practice for most people. Anyway, I stay away from the feedback until I feel ready to face it.

Third, I accept the easy stuff.

If I didn’t hit “accept” as I went, I go back and do it now for all the changes I already agree with that don’t require rewriting. Punctuation, grammar, spelling, small word choices, fixing oopsies. All the easy things. Yes to this one, yes to that one, sure whatever, yes, yes, if you say so, yes.

Fourth, I fix or make a list of the harder but obvious fixes.

These are the things I agree I should fix and I see how to fix, but they require actual rewriting, rearranging, additions, subtractions, whatever. Depending how much I’m dreading the rest of the feedback, I’ll either do all the fixes now or start a list to fix later.

Fifth, I reconsider the icky stuff.

These are the reasons why I have the crying step in my process… This is the comment about hating my character. This is the comment about needing more emotion. This is anything I don’t know how to fix. This is anything I don’t agree with. “What do you mean you don’t like my favorite part, buster?”

Unfortunately, this is usually the part that takes the longest. Ick.

I pull out the homework.

I make a list of the might-be-right-but-don’t-know-how-to-fix to ponder and/or discuss with my critique group and set that away for later. Maybe I need to learn a new skill. Maybe I need to rewrite the whole scene or write something elsewhere in the book to support it. Maybe my critique group will tell me the beta reader is crazy and I don’t need to change anything. (Sadly, that’s not the most common answer.) When I figure out how to fix the problems, I’ll come back to them.

“You put in too much world-building here. It’s boring.” Okay, well, most of my readers like my world-building, but let’s look at that page very carefully. What do I absolutely need to have? Keep that, of course. Is there anything that is completely frivolous? Move it to my deleted scenes file. Now the borderline stuff… it adds color and makes the world more realistic, but what’s the minimum amount necessary to do that? Can I cut it in half? Add just a vibrant detail or two? Split it into bits and pieces so it’s less dump-y? Several of the above? Slice, slice, slice.

“Your characters did something stupid.” Did I not give enough mental explanation/motivation? Did I make a change-of-direction too quickly? Did I miss a step in their character arc? Did I skip a setting/plot description that would explain why their decision was necessary under the circumstances? Did I not exert enough pressure on them? Did I leave any “smarter” possibilities open? Do I need a confrontation scene? Did they ACTUALLY do something stupid??

That only leaves comments that might be wrong.

I very carefully read the rest of the comments, one at a time, very slowly. I dissect those suckers down to their component parts, looking for any part that might be right.

Sometimes they’re right about the symptom but wrong about the disease.

“Your ending stinks.” Ouch. WHY does it stink? Let’s go research endings, shall we? Add it to the homework list… (As it turns out, my ending was fine. My lead-up to the ending needed work and a lot more page-time, and I needed a confrontation scene. Now my ending is great, thanks.)

Sometimes the reader is not my audience or doesn’t get the book.

(This kind of comment should rarely come from your editor, or else you have the wrong editor.) “I think you need more romance.” Sorry, honey, this isn’t a romance book. “When are we getting to the sex?” Yeah, never. Actually, if the answer is that simple, they’ll get eliminated in the first round, but sometimes they’re more complicated and I have to think if they fit my genre/book or not. “Why did you skip over the interesting part in the middle? I think there were pirates!” Um, no, there were no pirates, and I skipped the boring journey. And pirates aren’t going to fit. But hey, I can put pirates in a different book for you, okay? “Your use of contractions is lousy.” Well, the different cultures use contractions differently, but I can explain it better, I guess.

Even with these comments, though, I analyze to see if I somehow gave the wrong cues and skewed reader expectations. Do I need to fi something ELSE to avoid making future readers ask the same wrong questions? Depending how far off the comments were, the reader is sometimes added to my do-not-beta list.

Sometimes the reader is just wrong. Or a jerk.

As always, I analyze these comments to make sure I don’t need to change something, somewhere. Then I delete the comments with a fair amount of satisfaction. Take that. If “jerk” is the problem, I also add the reader to my do-not-beta list. Look, don’t be a jerk, people.

By the time I get to this point, I should be finished with everything except my list of homework. Time to go write again!

In a later post, I’ll talk about choosing an editor.

Happy writing,
M. C. Lee

Β© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite YA & MG Mystery/Spy Books

Mysteries or Spies

I’ve put these in very rough chronological order, starting with ancient times and working up to modern times.

The Golden Goblet, Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Ancient Egypt, family conflict-mystery.

The Case of the Marble Monster, by I.G. Edmonds. Mini-mysteries set in ancient Japan with a clever judge. Solve them yourself or keep reading to find the answer.

Samurai series, by Dorothy Hoobler. Oddly, these have Judge Ooka (of Marble Monster fame) as a minor character. That was a hoot for me, but even without him, I love the ancient Japanese setting and the main character. If I remember correctly, some of these have a hint of paranormal (ghosts, etc), but mostly not.

A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner. To hide from her father’s enemies, a young girl disguises herself in the middle of a boy’s choir.

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee. A “school is cover for spy agency” book. Bit of a trope perhaps, but well-written, with the very practical twist of using servants for spying.

The Stranje House series, Kathleen Baldwin. A bit of alternative historical England, since magic exists. Another girls’ school is more than it seems…

The Baker Street series, by Robert Newman. This is a Sherlock Holmes series—sort of. In the first book, Sherlock Holmes and a young boy help each other solve mysteries. In the rest of the series, the young boy is the detective, with a bit of help. I love the characters and the friendships, and the plots aren’t bad, either.

Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale. I can’t remember if this is absolutely squeaky clean or not, so I think so, but proceed with caution? Victorian era double-identity mysteries.

Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series. Imagine Sherlock Holmes had a little sister… Now imagine she’s been raised by their mysterious mother to be unusual and amazing as well as smart. Now imagine that society is trying to make her behave like a normal young lady. Are you prepared for the fireworks?

The Ghost Belong to Me Series, by Richard Peck. Recent-historical with light paranormal (clairvoyance and ghosts) and absolutely hilarious situations and characters. Okay, mostly hilarious—be prepared to bawl on the Titanic.

The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Definitely on the younger side, but a sweet series about four young orphans.

Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society series. A bunch of smart kids solve mysteries in modern times with the help of adults (hello, reality!). Again, the characters are superb, and very funny.

Donald J. Sobol. The classic Encyclopedia Brown mini-mystery series. The really nice thing about this series is that most of the mysteries are actually realistic for a kid to solve, rather than big robberies & murders & other “police should handle this” situations.

Trixie Belden series. You can probably find the first dozen or so moderately easily, but there are actually almost 40 of them. πŸ™‚ Trixie and her group of friends do solve unrealistic mysteries *cough* but they also work with the police instead of doing it all themselves.

Ally Carter. She has several spy/mystery series, and they’re all good. Be prepared to cry, though. Also laugh. She’ll run your emotions around in a circle before she lets you rest.

Echo Falls series, by Peter Abrahams. Contemporary, more middle grade than YA. Has a few minor plot holes but still very enjoyable.

Sammy Keyes, by Wendelin Van Draanen. Plucky “orphan” lives illegally with her grandmother and gets in trouble at school while she solves mysteries. I have to admit, I didn’t like the ending to the last book… Also not a fan of having a boyfriend at age 12. But Sammy is funny and stubborn, and I like that.

Too Much Information, by Dale Britton. Gabe can read minds, which is a blessing… until the wrong people find out about it.

Tales of Kaiatan

You might have noticed that this is a book post instead of the schedule writing post. Don’t worry, the writing post will be coming next time… One of the fun things about a new book release is getting to announce it. So…

Ta dah! My latest book is now out! Tales of Kaiatan is a collection of short stories connected to the Unexpected Heroes series. It has prequels, sequels, backstories, side stories, old characters, new characters, and minor characters who demanded to tell their own story… All are waiting for you to join them in their adventures, escapes, romances, challenges, joys, dangers, friendships, and secrets.

Four of the stories are the ones from Unexpected Tales, which hopefully you’ve already read. Fourteen of them are completely new.

Did you ever wonder why Ahjin’s father was so adamant he go along with his Presentation assignment in Wind of Choice? There’s a story for that, and it completely changed my mind about him. What about what happened to everyone Zefra left behind in the oasis in Spark of Intrigue? TWO stories for that! How about what happened before Seed of War started?Β Yep, it’s in here. There’s even a couple of pirate stories behind the scenes of Wave of Dreams. Cool stuff. πŸ˜‰ Some of the stories are funny, some are sad. One of them made me cry on the last page, even though it has a happy ending. Several of them tie up strings you might have been wondering about in the series. πŸ˜‰

Fun fact: all four novels in the series are just shy of 89-thousand words. Nobody’s Revenge is a novella at 17.5K. This book is almost 98 thousand words! I planned enough short stories for the book to be a matching length, but they grew… You may consider it a bonus for you. πŸ˜‰

I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you have a lot of fun reading it.

Anyway, it’s available in a wide variety of retailers or in my direct store, or you can request your library to get it. The ebook is out now, and the paperback will come out in about six months or so.

Welcome back to Kaiatain!
Marty C. Lee

“Contemporary” Science Fiction

(not all set in current day, but less intense science)

Here are juvenile and young adult “contemporary” sci fi books that I really like.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (SO much better than the movie!). Aliens invade Earth—very badly. Laugh-out-loud funny, but still touching.

The Girl with the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts. A girl with a telepathic “birth defect” goes looking for others like her. I like that she still has real-life problems with her babysitter and next-door neighbor.

Pamela F. Service. Yep, just pick up any of them. Some lean toward fantasy (Winter of Magic’s Return) but are still sci-fi-ish. Some are straight sci-fi, like Stinker From Space.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry (but unfortunately not the sequels). Don’t watch the movie… The book is a great illustration of “equal doesn’t mean same,” in a (dys)utopian world.

Alexander Key. My favorites are The Forgotten Door and the Witch Mountain duology. He’s fond of having “fantasy” talents like telepathy come from a sci-fi source.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory series, by Roald Dahl. Hilarious and fun. Don’t watch ANY of the movies unless you want to hear the songs.

Diane Duane (also in adult Sci Fi). The Young Wizards series are her YA books. Can you learn wizardry from a book? Maybe… Why isn’t this in my fantasy list? Because it feels like sci-fi, especially once they start bouncing around the galaxy.

David Weber’s Tree Cat Wars series. He’s famous for his adult sci-fi, but I like the Stephanie Harrington books. A young colonist discovers her new planet is already occupied by an intelligent species… They just look different. But can she convince the rest of the colony?

This list is a little shorter, so if you have good ideas for me, leave a comment. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

My Job as a Manipulator

No, I’m not serious. Not really.

But there’s an internet game where you describe your job in a way that makes it sound bad. So a police officer might say she locks people in small rooms or scares small children with a weapon, or a teacher might say he ruins teens chances of a better life by writing bad recommendations (i.e. bad grades). Yes, I know that isn’t really the way it is– but if you look at it sideways, it can be. That’s the point of the game.

If I were playing the game, I could tell you that I brainwash people. Sure I do. I manipulate them into believing what I want them to believe. I put my own words in their heads. I make them picture what I want them to see. I make them remember something other than their own memories.

What? you say. Isn’t that illegal or something?

Well, it would be if I were doing it in real life, but I’m an author, remember? I’m only doing it to you within the covers of a book.

If I do my job right, then when you read my books, you’ll be immersed in my world. You’ll picture the scenes I want you to see. You’ll hear my characters’ words in your heads. You’ll remember my story instead of just your own life. Your real life will disappear while you live the imaginary life I created for you…

I just highjacked your brain.

*cue evil cackle*

And it’s all legal. In fact, if I’m very good at what I’ll do, you’ll beg me to do it to you again. πŸ˜‰ And again, and again, and again…

Ah, now you’re getting interested. And just how do I do this, exactly, you ask?

Well, that is too complicated to discuss in just one post, but I’ll give you a few hints.

First, it’s a careful balance. If I tell you too little about a scene or a character or a world for you to picture it/them, it won’t draw you under my spell. But if I tell you too much, then you’ll get bored and remember your real life. I can’t have that, now can I? So I have to figure out just the right amount of information to spark the picture in your head without jolting you back into reality. That’s right, my world is more fun than your world. Stay a while and play…

Second, it’s about choices. What words will evoke the right emotions without being distracting? Will a precise but unusual word bring the picture to life or overshadow it? How would the character say it? How would the character NOT say it? The more natural the writing feels, the less likely you are to notice the way I’ve made you think what I want you to think.

Third, it’s about emotion. If I can make you feel for the character— or from the character— then I can really brainwash you. I might even make you temporarily forget who you are. If you feel my character’s emotions, like you are my character, then I’ve really won. You don’t even exist anymore, because you’ve become my creation.

*cue more evil cackling*

And that’s why I can describe my job as being a brainwashing, manipulative telepath. I put my thoughts directly in your head (okay, almost directly) and take over your brain. Until you put down the book.

Here, have another book. You know you want to…

Happy brainwashing reading,
Marty C. Lee

“Contemporary” Fantasy

Here are juvenile and young adult “contemporary” fantasy books that I really like. Some of them are better classified as beast-tales, but I’ll leave them here, anyway.

Brandon Sanderson (also found in adult fantasy and YA sci fi). Sanderson excels in world-building, magic systems, and good characters. His contemporary YA fantasy is the Alcatraz series. I love how the “bad” talents are actually good ones. The humor is nice, too.

Rick Riordan writes “what if Greek/Roman/Norse/Egyptian mythology was real” books. I’m sure you’ve heard of Percy Jackson, but he goes so much farther than that. As is nearly always the case, the books are better than the movies.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon Lexicon series is a masterpiece of 20/20 hindsight. She leaves all the clues in plain sight, so well camouflaged in the story that you don’t even see them until later. The Lynburn Legacy is also very good. (Content warning for younger readers for both series.)

George Selden. You might have heard of The Cricket in Times Square, but there’s actually a whole series of very cute beast-tales from Selden, starring a cricket, a mouse, and a cat who become friends.

Susan Cooper. The Dark is Rising series is about the last of the Old Ones and the battle against the Dark. It has a movie to go with it (in which they skipped to book two *confused face*), but I’d skip the movie and read the much better books instead.

Gregor series, by Suzanne Collins. I know, she’s much more famous for Hunger Games (which I don’t like), but I prefer Gregor the Overlander. In fact, except for the lame ending, I love the series. Giant bugs and rodents living underground, questionable prophecies, a two-year-old sidekick, and unwilling allies. Great stuff.

Diana Wynne Jones has a ton of really good books. You can pick up any of them for a good read, but my favorite is Dogsbody. A star is betrayed and sent to Earth as a dog for punishment of a crime he didn’t commit. Making friends with a girl is only the start of his journey. (I wish this book had a sequel, but it doesn’t and never will. Sigh.)

Bethany Wiggins’ Shifting is a modern-day shapeshifter book where enemies can be hard to identify and the full moon is only the start of the MC’s trouble.

Shannon Messenger is still working on her massive Keeper of the Lost Cities series. There’s a hidden world on Earth, where elves, ogres, and other races live away from humans. But a genetically-engineered elf, hidden among the humans until recently, is about to turn both worlds on their heads.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Another sweet beast-tale. There’s a series, but the first one is best. I like the movie, but the book is much better. The book doesn’t have the magic that’s in the movie, but the rats are better and the characterization is better. Be prepared, though, because the book is also sadder.

I hope something sounded interesting to you. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

My Editing Routine

In case some of you might be interested in how editing works for an author, here’s what I do. πŸ™‚

First I write the book. That tends to take months, if not a couple of years. I’ve gotten faster, hallelujah, but I’m still no book-a-month author.

Then I do a self-edit, rereading it and fixing what problems I notice. With earlier books, I did this several times before the next step, but nowadays I can usually get away with one pass.

Next, I run it through my critique group, one chapter at a time. (If my schedule is tight, I might run chapters through as I write them instead of waiting for the end of the book.)

Then I self-edit again. If the chapter (or book) is giving me problems, I might repeat the self-edit and critique steps more than once.

This edit/critique cycle took four years with my first book. Yep, four years. It was torture. Even now that I’ve gotten better, it takes months because I can only submit a chapter or two at a time.

When I think I have the problems worked out, I find beta readers. Based on their feedback, I always, always find more problems to fix. Sigh. No, I am very thankful for beta readers who aren’t afraid to tell me I could improve XYZ; I just wish I’d make fewer mistakes. But I’d rather hear about problems while I have the chance to fix them, instead of in reviews of the published book. Some of my best beta readers are other authors, but some are just readers. I have a very nice fan who’s happy to tell me where the story is broken.

So, then it’s back to self-editing, then back to beta readers. I repeat this cycle until the only problems being reported aren’t ones I consider problems, or until I admit I don’t know how to fix it and have to send the book to a developmental editor. In earlier books, this took many, many cycles. I’ve gotten better since then, and found better critique partners, so the process is shorter.

Once the book is theoretically as good as it can get, I finish with a painstaking copyedit for grammar, problem words, typos, and other nit-picky stuff. Why don’t I do that before the beta readers? Because it’s wasted effort until I know I’m not going to be changing whole sentences, paragraphs, or plot points. Please note that my natural grammar is good enough that beta readers won’t suffer even if I made a few minor mistakes. (If your grammar isn’t that good, please edit it before you ask for betas. It’s painful to struggle through a big mess of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other technical errors. No, readers can’t just ignore the errors and concentrate on the story if the weeds are bigger than the flowers.)

After that, I submit the final copy for formatting and publishing. Yay!

If beta reading sounds like fun to you, let me know! I’m always looking for good beta readers. πŸ™‚

Happy writing,
Marty C Lee

“Historical” Fantasy Favorites

Here are juvenile and young adult fantasy books that I really like in “historical” fantasy subgenre. Some have a trace of magic. You can read the original post with more recommendations and links here.

Some books cross categories:

Hilari Bell has written several series and a bunch of standalones, and so far, I’ve liked everything. She’s good, I tell you.

Shannon Hale has also written a lot. Some of hers are rewritten fairy tales and some are unique. She can be a little trickier, but give her a shot.

My favorite of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s is the False Prince series. Even though I guessed the twist very, very early, it was still written very well. Basically, the royal family is all killed except for the exiled prince, and now villains want to put a pretender on the throne. The story follows a young man considered to be the best option for their fraud.

I have a complaint about V. Briceland. I don’t think the series is ended, and I want the next one! Preferably soon! Argh. Actually, one of my children called me a while back, asking me to identify a forgotten book for them, and Briceland was the answer. The series has good plots, great characters, and immersive writing. Though the series is connected, the stories are moderately stand-alone and move on to different characters. Setting is similar to a magical medieval Europe.

Mary Hoffman wrote a lovely portal fantasy series. Modern Earth teens get transferred to historical/magical Italy (please don’t yell at me if I forgot a setting).

Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series is very good if you like slow, complex books with hidden turns, and very frustrating if you don’t. πŸ˜‰ They’re actually more fun to read the second time, because then you know where the jokes are.

Emily Rodda writes middle grade rather than young adult, but I still like them. Her heroes are rarely the brave and bold kind, but they find their courage to do what is right. The Deltora series also includes puzzles the readers can try to solve themselves.

Elizabeth Winthrop wrote a charming middle grade series about a magical castle in the attic, so I’d call it portal fantasy.

Holly Bennett writes about elves as well as humans, but not in a Tolkien way. She combines romance and adventure and families.

Gerald Morris is always my recommendation for King Arthur stories that are funny and heart-warming and not so much about King Arthur. And up until the last book, they managed to have happy endings, too.

Lloyd Alexander wrote tons of books, and they’re all good. Some are contemporary-ish, and some are portal-ish, but the Prydain Chronicles are firmly in the “historical” camp. I grew up on the series, and I’m still in love with the characters so much. When a reader told me my books “felt” like Alexander, I nearly cried.

The Great and Terrible Quest, by Margaret Lovett (one of my “ought to be a movie” books). Since the main character is only a boy, not even a teen, I suppose it could be considered middle grade, but somehow, it doesn’t seem that way. I read this book out loud to my family, and they all enjoyed it.

John Flanagan has several series set in the Ranger’s Apprentice world, which is clearly based on Earth even though he cleverly disguises the names. His characters are great, and though he could use a few more girls, the girls he does include are strong heroines without being cliches.

The Minnipin series, by Carol Kendall, is charming and funny. The heroes (male and female) save the day because they must, not because they are strong warriors or trained scholars or anything like that. In fact, the first heroes are the outcasts from the village. I love how Carol uses their real strengths to win the day, rather than forcing them into a trope.

The Princess and the Goblin (and Curdie sequel), by George MacDonald. I will admit, the old-fashioned language can be a bit of a barrier, but I love Curdie and Irene.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, is a Cinderella retelling with a realistic romance. So there.

The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye. Simple but sweet, and my favorite romance, even though it’s a children’s book. If you like friends-to-lovers, this is for you.

Crown Duel & Court Duel, and the Wren series, by Sherwood Smith. Crown/Court Duel is enemies-to-lovers, though the romance waits for the second book. Mel is a heroine who doesn’t fight well, doesn’t make the right choices, doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she just won’t give up. Wren is middle grade with another heroine who muddles through everything.

Cameron Dokey writes lovely fairy tale retellings with romance and magic.

Most of Robin McKinley. Some are fairy tales, some are original. She specializes in strong heroines, some who wear armor and swing weapons, and some who don’t.

Gail Carson Levine is funny and magical and romantic and you should definitely read the books instead of watching a certain movie…

Shattered Stone, by Robert Newman. I went to a lot of trouble to buy this book because my library didn’t have it and I wanted it in my house forever. I could spoil the romance for you, but I won’t. This is one of my feel-good favorites.

Bethany Wiggins’ Transference series is a cool take on dragons and an even cooler take on romance. As in, realistic instead of instalove or lameness. She also has very realistic family relationships.

I hope something sounds like fun (or all of them!) and that you get to settle down with a nice book.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

Character Personalities

“So, how do you write your characters?” people ask me.

“Do you fill out a questionnaire? Do you figure out their personality type first?”

No to both. I just write them. But AFTER I know them well, I’ve been known to run them through a personality test. *clears throat* Or six.

I started off with Meyers-Briggs and Color Code

I was already familiar with those two personality systems. (MBTI in college and CC from reading).

In Color Code, each of my four main characters in my secondary world fantasy series ended up a different personality color (of four). Hmm. I always thought they were very different, and I guess they are. But one test is hardly conclusive, right? So I ran them through the MBTI. Each of them ended up not only a different type (of 16), which was not surprising, but in an entirely different section (of four). More hmm. Considering I wasn’t TRYING for that much diversity, it’s pretty impressive.

Then I found a Hogwarts test online.

My stories aren’t even set on Earth, so the characters certainly wouldn’t go to school there, but okay, I’m curious. Guess what? Yeah, that’s right — each of them ended up in a different House. And, by the way, Slytherin isn’t automatically bad. They just feel that “their” people are more important than “all” people. Obviously, that can get out of hand, but go ahead, tell me you’ve never once given preference to someone you love just because you love them… (No, I’m not Slytherin, but I can imagine how they feel.)

Then I read about the Four Tendencies and the enneagram

Of course, I HAD to run them through those, didn’t I? (The answer is yes. Don’t be silly.) Both of these were trickier. In the Four Tendencies, I’m pretty sure the four characters ended up in four different areas all over again. And oddly, this was the only test where I was like one particular character, whom I usually write by saying, “What would I NOT do.”

The enneagram took even longer, but I finally figured it out. I’m sure you can predict that they all ended up different. Some of them overlapped a smidge, some didn’t even touch.

Recently, I found the DISC system.

And all four characters still scored in different areas. By now, I was very amused but not at all surprised. A little more surprisingly, all four fit fairly solidly in one of the four main groups, rather than overlapping (which is allowed). When I took the test for myself, I overlapped…

I have not yet figured out their CliftonStrengths.

I’ve been very busy and frankly, it’s intimidating. But I’m willing to bet they’ll end up different. πŸ˜‰ Of course, with CS, that’s less surprising, since there are 34 strengths and millions of combination/orders of having them in your top 5 or 10. (I did take CS for myself, and wow, that was an eye-opener. Some of my top strengths are so ingrained that I couldn’t imagine people NOT using them, but now I see it just is not so… But seriously, people, how do you not think all the time??)

By now, I have reams of notes.

I rarely use them in plotting or character development, unless I’m stuck on something, but I read them for my own enjoyment. Because that’s the nerdy kind of person I am…

Surprisingly, I found things as I studied that fit my characters perfectly even though I hadn’t known them as belonging to a certain personality before I wrote the books. For instance, one character is pretty intense— except when he isn’t. He can quite suddenly flip into humor or pranks (oh, his pranks!). I’ve had readers call me on that as not fitting his personality, but according to the MBTI, it’s a real thing for his type. LOL. I’d really like to claim I’m a genius and planned it all, but really, he just told me that’s what he does, so I wrote it down.

People also ask me if my characters are like me.

Well, they can’t possibly ALL be like me, since there are four of them (not counting minor characters or all the short stories) and only one of me.

But really, the answer is still no. Some of them are a little like me in this way or that, but none of them are really like me. Of course one of them shares a Color with me, since there are only four, and a Hogwarts House and a Tendency for the same reason, but our MBTIs are different, and our enneagrams are different, and because DISC allows for partial overlaps, we’re still different. And whenever I break down and figure out four sets of Strengths, there will probably be some overlap, but also some significant differences.

“So will I like your characters? Is one of them like me?”

I hope you’ll like all of them, whether or not they’re like you! But with four very different characters, chance are pretty good that you will feel a kinship in something with someone. And if you don’t feel kinship, I hope you will at least find friendship.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee