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Writing Update: Return of the Fae 3-4

Apparently the last time I told you how my writing was going, I was still plotting book 3 of The Return of the Fae. Well, good news! I finished book 3. My alpha readers are working through it while my beta readers work on book 2. I had a lot of fun, which is usually a good sign that you will enjoy reading it. 😉

Now I’m tangled up in a mix of plotting and drafting for book 4. I’ve already replotted at least three times, and I still have a missing chapter. Don’t ask me how I feel about this unless you enjoy grouchy noises.

But I have finished over a third of book 4 and am now knee-deep in drama. Traitors, magic, and war! And more drama is coming, I promise.

In fact, I’ve already written part of the end of the book (when I got stuck on replotting), and it is so much fun. Mwahahaha! When I stopped to return to what I was actually supposed to be doing, I left a character on their knees in shock. And I wasn’t even finished with the surprises!

This series is very different from Unexpected Heroes in at least a couple of ways. One is the subgenre. Instead of epic fantasy, Return of the Fae is contemporary fantasy with a dash of mythology and dollop of sci fi. Another is the reality check. I’ve managed to shoehorn in a LOT of real-life stuff along with the imaginary fae—although it’s possible I’ve claimed that stuff is related to the fae that, in fact, had absolutely nothing to do with it. (But it works so well…)

If you read The Return of the Fae series and find yourself double-checking the news to see what really happened, then I’ll count the books a success. 😉

Anyway, that’s the update. I’m trying to finish the first draft by the end of April or early May. Before book 2 comes out! I know you’re looking forward to that (as am I), and I want to have time to enjoy the release.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2024 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

How I Ramble-Plot a Chapter

I’m trying to include more “how I” posts, even though I realize you probably do things a different way. So this time, it’s how I plot a chapter.

This comes after I have the skeleton of the book outlined, so I know sort of what happens. Yeah, sort of. To figure out what REALLY happens, I go for a walk with my voice recorder, and I talk my way through it. To demonstrate, I’ve included the transcript of an actual plot exercise for The Coming of the Fae, which is in my new series. This scene isn’t terribly spoiler-y (just a little), which is one reason I’m using it instead of something else. I cut out teensy bits for your benefit (stammering, etc), and redacted a spoiler. I stopped the session before reaching the end of the chapter.

(Hop on the treadmill, start the recording)

Okay, we’re going to try chapter 15 again. Ah, which has changed since the last time we tried it, which is all right. And it needs *more, so we need to figure out which threads we have dropped. (Yes, I talk to myself in plural when I plot, because it’s me AND my characters. Or whatever. I’m not crazy.)

So Miknon is going to catch, I guess maybe not over here, but catch some of the highborn swapping empty crates for full ones. Um, moving the food up to their deck.

Let’s see, we also need to check back in on the prince. Oh, in the last chapter with Gil, we need to make sure we have some kind of check in with his family, to see how his mother and brother are doing after the death of Grandpa.

So this chapter, check on the prince, and maybe Miknon is an official spy. Did we already leave the fleet behind? I do not remember. (Pull up outline on phone.) Oo-hoo, do not fall off the treadmill. Ah, yes, we’ve already left the fleet behind. So we need to deal with that. Okay, so this needs to be a political chapter, pretty much.

So in the last chapter whenever it’s appropriate, we need to—we can’t find the council, so we need to keep an eye on them, so the prince asks Miknon to do it, but Miknon doesn’t want to do it. She doesn’t want to be involved in this, and Gil talks her into it, and that I guess is where we give her the friend signals.

Um, okay, so now Miknon is actually following some of them around, trying to find out what they are up to. That’s how she catches them swapping grain. Uh, some of the guards do know (spoiler redacted), dur, because they were in the room when all of this went down. But only a few of the guards. Right, right.

Okay, so, and how are they getting it through the halls—the boxes of grain— without anybody noticing. These people are up at all hours. Okay, what if they have a meeting? The council calls a meeting to update the crew on the progress of the ship and what they’ve discovered. And during the meeting– so everybody who’s awake is at the meeting, supposedly, and they’ll hold another meeting for everyone who’s asleep. And while they’re in the meeting, their cronies are sneaking down the hallway with the grain, and Miknon catches them at it. So she flies in, uh—

But we need to have a funeral, too. Too late to have a funeral, it would have already been way, way over by now. Cuz we are coming up on Mars, right?
Okay, so the meeting is to say we are approaching one of the— we’re approaching the third planet, the red one. Um, it’s half the size of our destination, but we’re going to check it out, because if it’s a possible place to live, then we’ll just move there instead. That’s a good distraction.

Okay. So a lot of backtracking to do. That’s all right, that’s why I plot ahead. (Yes, that’s in the actual recording. I try to encourage myself instead of scold.)
So when Miknon finds out, there are only a limited number of guards that she can talk to, so she has to find one of them. He’s going to pull the rest of the guards and go catch the people, who are going to throw a fit, and Kishar says, um– No, Zaidu says our deck is short on food. The guard says everyone’s deck is short on food. Oh, and Miknon can overhear this by climbing in the light sconce and pretending that she’s supposed to be there. Ha, ha, hide as a light bulb, that’s cute. Okay.

Okay, so… Zaidu says we’re short. Everybody’s short. Well, we’re more important. And ah, this is where we get to pull the (unintelligible), right? And the king promised we would be equal. Well, the king is dead. (Spoiler, sorry, but it wouldn’t make sense without it.) You promised to obey, you promised to follow the will of our leader. The leader is now the council. For now.

And the guard says, well, I can go tell all the lower decks that you’re doing this, and and what will you do then? And Zaidu says our magic is better. And the guard says, do you have enough energy to do your magic when you’re on short rations. Well, we wouldn’t be on short rations if you’d let us take the food. And Kishar says, we don’t want a riot on the ship, and lots of dead bodies would spread disease. We are almost there— he’s right you know. Do the whole Orthallen bit with this. This was a poorly, uh, we apologize for the misunderstanding, and we will put everything back. And Miknon stays in the light sconce, which she gets to, by the way, by sneaking out of the tunnel grille closest to it and gradually coming on. Ah, so she stays there, and after the guard leaves—

Ah, well, okay, so he doesn’t say everything. He says, um, we didn’t realize the other decks were as short as ours. Of course we’re sorry blah blah blah. (Yes, I really said that.) After they leave, then they say, why’d you do that. Well, we can’t afford a riot until we have enough energy to blast them with our magic. Wait until we land and recover, and then we can do whatever we want. Okay, that’s a good start. (End of session.)

I’m sure you noticed several things.

First, I backtrack and change my mind a lot. That’s okay; that’s why I do the pre-plotting.

Second, I change things in previous chapters. Also okay. The back of the embroidery is generally a mess, but the front is the point of the project. In other words, if it works out in the end, it doesn’t matter if the process is messy.

Third, I don’t add much description. That comes later, but it does come. Ditto the emotion. During these plotting sessions, I usually say things like, “He’ll be sad,” or “Insert drama blah blah.” *Shrug* It works for me.

So, does this give me a “finished” plot?

I wish, but no. It does give me really good notes that (usually) let me get the chapter drafted before I go back and edit it. It’s still pretty likely that I will think of stuff to change or add. Again, it doesn’t matter how messy the back of the embroidery is.

What’s the point of this?

Well, first is to entertain you. I know I always like hearing the nitty-gritty details of how authors actually work. If you want a whole book about it, try The Making of Delgath, by Michael J. Sullivan.

Second is to reassure you that it doesn’t matter if your process is different from your writing buddy’s. If it’s working for you, then it’s fine. If it’s not working for you, then try something else.

And in case you missed it, this book is now out! Yay!

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

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

Character Interviews: Coming of the Fae

Today I’m interviewing a few of the characters from The Return of the Fae series, which is coming soon. On my left are Alexandria and Ian Fitch and Nikos Antonakis. On my right are Gil and Miknon… um, what were your last names again? Right, never mind. (It’s rude to ask a fae for more name than they offer.)

(Alexandria is tall, thin, and brunette. Her brother Ian is blond and short for thirteen. Nikos has black curly hair and impressive muscles. Oops, did I say that out loud? Gil also has black hair, though his is badly cut, and he’s wearing a walking cast on one leg. No, he’s not holding a blue doll on his lap; that’s his sister, Miknon, who is an actual fairy. Excuse me, pixie.)

Where do you live?

Alexandria: We’ve lived all over, because Dad’s in the military.

Nikos: I come from Greece, but I’ll be in the United States for a few years for school.

Gil: Earth. Right?

Ian giggles: Right.

But where did you originally come from, Gil and Miknon?

Gil: Another world. Seven worlds, actually. But they are gone now.

It seems all of you have moved around. What’s your favorite thing about your current location?

Alexandria: Not moving anymore.

Ian: My new family.

Gil: All the space to run around. (He taps his cast.) Soon, I mean.

Miknon: Being able to go wherever I want.

What is your job? What do you do with your days?

Alexandria, Ian, Nikos: Student.

Gil: Zookeeper.

Miknon: Light bulb.

I’m sorry, what? Do we have a translation mishap here?

Gil: No, I think she got it right. The glowing thing that lights a room, yes?

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

Nikos: Getting my friends away to be safe.

Alexandria: Saving my mother and brother from Dad.

Ian: Convincing Alexandria to let me keep Gil.

Gil: I’m still working on a treaty with Earth.

Miknon: Stealing two hundred children.

Gil: Sorry, wrong word. RESCUING two hundred children.

Miknon: Right. Rescuing. That’s it.

You all seem pretty good at saving people. Who would you turn to if you needed help?

Miknon: My brother, even if he’s the one who got me in trouble in the first place.

Gil: Hey, that’s not fair!

(Miknon glares at him. Gil shrugs.)

Gil: Okay, maybe that’s fair.

Alexandria: I’d turn to my family.

Ian: Alexandria. She has a list for everything.

Alexandria: Hey!

Nikos: Well, that is true. (He ducks her glare.) But she’s very competent.

Gil: So, there was this time Alexandria attacked a knife-wielding crazy man—

(Alexandria clears her throat.)

Gil: I mean, she wasn’t even armed, but—

(Alexandria folds her arms and glares. Gil shrugs and stops talking.)

So, what are your plans for the next year?

Alexandria: Get a scholarship for college and pass all my classes. I hope.

Ian: Learn a couple of languages.

Nikos: Pass my college classes.

Gil: Finish the treaty and make—someone take over for me so I can have some fun.

Miknon: Research murder trials.

Um, okay. Maybe this is a good time to end the interview. Thank you so much for talking with us today.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

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

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*

No.

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.