Category Archives: Personal

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

Writing Conference Report: LTUE 2019

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.

First, a little practical advice.

Wear good shoes and comfortable clothes/hairstyle. Take food to eat, especially if you aren’t going to take an actual lunch break. Look for a freebies table. Talk to people–lots of people. If weight bothers you AT ALL, slim down your bag to lighter than you think you can carry all day. Ask experienced attendees which bathroom tends to have shorter lines, and use it immediately after class. Drink lots of water (if you lightened your bag, take a small bottle and refill it every hour). If you have business cards, bring them. If the class you want to take is full, try something else or find someone for a conversation.

I’m going to have to split my best take-away advice from the classes I attended this year. I’ll put the business notes in a different post. Here’s the worldbuilding and craft notes. If the class was a panel, I didn’t list the speakers or keep track of who said what.

Foraging, by Cedar Sanderson
Some plants are topically poisonous (absorb through skin).
Never test edibility by tasting.
Blue-colored berries are probably fine, red be cautious, white avoid.
Some things will slowly make you sick, so just because you ate it once and didn’t die doesn’t actually mean it’s safe.
Animals are a better source of emergency food than plants.
Predators are usually not yummy.
Some animals have poison glands. Even deer have scent glands that can spoil the meat if punctured (same for gut).
Fuzz/hair is usually toxic /nasty.
Just because an animal ate it doesn’t mean it’s safe for you.

Objective Correlative  (accent on the second syllable of Correlative), by Rosalyn Eves
Telling emotion is worst, showing is better. Putting the reader inside your characters to feel the same emotions themselves is better.
5 ways to do that:
Objects (readers must understand importance)
Metaphor
Situation (setting, events, etc)
Chain of events (action-reaction)
Movement or gesture
Build up moment until reader is immersed and feels like the character.
Don’t overuse; save for important moments when you can slow down.
(I left the class thinking, “THIS. I want to learn to do THIS.”)

Suspense
Every chapter should have conflict. Some should still be rest chapters
Ticking time bomb + obstacles
Switch from high tension to low and back again to reset the tension
Reader knowing something character does not, creates tension
Don’t withhold information the pov character knows

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Editing, by Kelsy Thompson
A great class, but since she offered her slides to attendees, I didn’t take notes. Also, it was a two-hour class and she moved fast enough through enough material that taking notes wasn’t very practical. If you get the chance to take the class, I recommend it. She covered development editing first (big-picture story items) and then moved down to line editing (actual language) and proofreading (typos).
I did like her encouragement to aim for professional but forget about unattainable perfection.

Beats & Microbeats, by Devri Walls
For intense speed, shorten sentences.
Slow beats use longer, more descriptive sentences.
Do not overdo or everything will be flat
If action or romance scenes are lacking, slow down!
Dialogue: speech tags and action slow scenes. Cut for faster scenes.

4-part Pacing, by J. Scott Savage
Plot is events, pacing is timing
Use foreshadowing for something ELSE and your true twist will slip through.
1st quarter draws interest.
2nd quarter delivers on promise.
3rd quarter is heart of story.
4th quarter is climax.
There is a turning point at every quarter.

Backstory
Give the minimum your reader has to know, in time for them to use it. Not Tolkien!
Walk through as the character would, and be subtle.
Skip As-you-know-Bob (conversations held only to explain things to the reader)

Showing vs Telling
Boil things to the most important showing details.
Naming an emotion is usually telling.
Which parts do the reader need to feel (show) VS just know (tell)?
First draft is worry-free zone. Go ahead & tell, & edit it later.
War That Saved My Life (book): look for showing.
First chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Foreshadowing
If you disguise the foreshadowing as something else, it can hide your real purpose.
Mix truth and lie to confuse readers.
Using multiple techniques is trickier.
Let some red herrings be true to throw readers off balance.

Sagging Middle
If you aren’t having fun anymore, back up and make a different choice.
The middle is the main part of the story.
Use MICE quotient to determine what kind of obstacles you need.

Holidays and Hope

I’m going to break my pattern a little here, and talk about something other than books. Don’t worry, I’ll still be talking about hope and happy endings.

Christmas is my second-favorite holiday, right after Easter. Sure, I like chocolate and presents and family time and music, but that’s not why these two are my favorite. In fact, I’m not at all fond of the bunny and the man in the red suit, though I do try not to spoil the “fun” for other people’s children.

No, my preference for these two days is all about the Main Character in the story they tell. (Yes, I can talk about stories without talking about books.) You know Who I mean. Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, and Easter, to use literary terms, was the climax of His story. In fact, Easter heralds the climax of all our stories, all our happy endings.

Christmas reminds me of the hope the world felt at His birth. Hope that things would get better. Hope that people could find a way. Hope that their problems would end, but they would go on to a better chapter. Hope for relief from sorrow and pain. Hope for repentance and forgiveness. Hope for reconciliation and renewal. Hope for eternal life with His Father and ours. Hope is a powerful way to keep us turning pages, and we don’t have to worry about our hope being betrayed. The happy ending is waiting for us.

Easter is all our hopes fulfilled. Easter is when our Author autographed the book of our happy endings. Sure, we still have to read our personal stories, live through the ups and downs and story turns. And many times, the middle of the story is not much fun, whether we wrote it ourselves or someone else did. But at the end of each of our stories, there is a happy ending, thanks to Him. If we let Him sign our book, then whatever sad, happy, funny, or painful story covers most of the pages, the last page will share His story, His glory, His hope and happy endings.

How can you ask for a better story than that?

So during these holidays, look to the Light, the Life, and the Way. Look for hope and happy endings.

Be merry in Christ,

M.C. Lee