Favorite Writing-Business & Productivity Books

In random order:

Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book in ebook and print, by Joanna Penn

Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (Let’s Get Digital, #1), by David Gaughran

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream, by Craig Martelle

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, by Sheree Bykofsky

Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts, by Joanna Penn

Author 2.0 Blueprint, by Joanna Penn

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward

The Secrets of Success, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (it’s a single chapter/booklet, but a lot to ponder)

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker

HOW I SOLD 80,000 BOOKS: Book Marketing for Authors, by Alinka Rutkowsky

Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, by Helen Sedwick

You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules, by Kevin McLaughlin. No, I don’t believe everything he says, but I did pick up some useful things.

Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, by Becca Syme. I’ve become a big fan of the Write Better-Faster community.

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite Plotting Books

I know, I already listed my favorite writing books. But I recently went through and sorted my craft books for my own purposes, so I thought maybe it was time to update my list. So here are my favorite writing books that are about (or partly about) plotting and outlining.

First, my absolute favorites.

The Last Fifty Pages: The Art and Craft of Unforgettable Endings, by James Scott Bell. Okay, so it only talks about plotting the END of the book, but it’s a great book for that. I mean, great!

The Heroine’s Journey, by Gail Carriger. I used to really struggle to fit my stories into the Hero’s Journey plot points, and I thought maybe I was just too stupid to figure out. Then I read this book and discovered that I was using the wrong plot structure. I write heroine’s journeys (which can be used for male or female characters). Ta da! Problem solved! If you only write Hero’s Journey stories, don’t worry about this one (though it’s fascinating).

Next, we have a bunch of actual plotting methods.

Building Better Plots, by Robert Kernen

The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, by Noah Lukeman

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland.

Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction, by Larry Brooks

Story Pitch: The How To Guide For Using A Pitch To Create Your Story, by Scott King. Create a plot from a 30-second summary.

Plotting Your Novel, by Janice Hardy.

Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, by James Scott Bell. If you don’t feel like a plotter but think outlining would improve your story or writing speed, try this one. It starts with just three plot points–beginning, middle, and end–and tells you how to write from there.

And then some ways to improve your plotting method, or other “side” information that isn’t necessarily strict structure.

Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan. A glimpse into the mind of a writer as he plots and writes an actual book. (If you haven’t read the book, I suggest doing that first, since this has major spoilers.) I discovered that my plotting PROCESS is pretty similar to Sullivan’s, so this book was a comforting revelation to me.

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, by Brandon Sanderson et al. Like Dulgath, this is a glimpse into the process of writing & revision.

The Fantasy Fiction Formula, by Deborah Chester. So many tips on how to make your plot have the effect on readers that you want it to.

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon. It really helps set up the conflict that will run your plot.

Understanding Conflict and What it Really Means, by Janice Hardy. Like GMC, it helps you make your plot beats more effective, but it works with any plot structure.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes, by Donald Maass. Like Fantasy Fiction Formula and GMC, this can improve the effect of your plot on your readers.

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, by Ursula K. LeGuin. How to get structure to work for you.

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward. How to use plotting to increase your writing speed.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, by Matt Bird. General story tips to improve your favorite plotting method.

How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat

Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson

What’s your favorite plotting book or method?

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Update: Legends 2

I was telling you about how I wrote the “fairy tales set on my fantasy world.”

Now that I had all the source-tales selected and assigned to cultures, with factors chosen for each and the rough outlines done, the next step was actually writing. My main goal was to rewrite the fairy tales as if they came from my own fantasy world, but each story ended up handling the source material in different ways. Some of the stories are based on different versions of the same fairy tale (like Snow White), some are based on similarly themed stories (like The Stonecutter), and some are the result of firmly mashing together completely different tales while cackling wildly (Twelve Dancing Princesses + Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves + Rumplestiltskin. Underwater. With mermaids and pirates.). *shrug* When I got to the last story, I even threw a ballad into the mix.

For whatever reason, the two most wildly mashed-up stories ended up being set in the same culture. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s because of the culture… The Nokai are rather interesting. (They’re the mermaids-without-tails who think that there’s no such thing as too many parties. Don’t think that makes them only silly–they have plenty of experience hunting sharks, and they’ll happily bat their eyelashes at you while they bargain you out of your last coin.)

For various reasons, including chance, I ended up writing the long stories first. Some of them went fairly quickly (for me) and were pretty close to being finished after a draft or two. Some had to be majorly rewritten. The Japanese story about a stonecutter who kept wishing to be more powerful was problematic, and I had to change the entire character arc to make it fit the romance I wanted it to be. Grrr, I hate that! But it’s a better story now, which was the point.

I got partway through Red Riding Hood and had to delete half a chapter because I suddenly realized it was turning dark–way too dark! I don’t write dark, and I really wanted the story to be funny, so I had to back up and reconfigure a motive. In case you’re wondering, I can describe the finished story as “What if Red Riding Hood was the wolf?”

Then the last story stalled completely because The Frog Prince depends on magic my world doesn’t have. But I really liked the story, so I polled the internet for stories that fit a partial idea I had, and found a ballad that fit my needs. (Scarborough Fair, if you wanted to know.) By the time I finished fixing the problems, the ballad was the main source and The Frog Prince had become one aspect in the story, along with The Brave Little Tailor and Cupid & Psyche. I see those skeptical looks you’re giving me… Really, it works. 😉

Some stories needed more research than others, too. The frog story, for instance, made me look into seaweed harvesting, wool infections, and the average rate of spinning thread. Yes, that’s all for the same story. I promise, it makes perfect sense within the story. 🙂

And as a bonus for my beloved readers, one of the stories is exclusively available through my newsletter. I took Dick Whittington and Puss in Boots and smooshed them together into The Cat’s Fortune. And it’s FREE! (With a signup to my newsletter…)

On another world, so long ago that truth has faded into legend, a cat and a boy seek their fortune together. You think you know the story, but do you?

Orphaned and homeless, young Aktar travels to the city of Rapata for a better life.

But it seems the rumors of gold-paved streets are false. Can he find a home and a job before he starves?

Maybe with the help of a foundling kitten.

A retelling of Puss in Boots and Dick Whittington, set on the fantasy world of Kaiatan, home of the Unexpected Heroes.

Click here to get the free story!

It will give you something to read while you wait for the rest of the Legends to come out, May 2022. Preorder available now at your favorite retailer!

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite Contemporary (and Recent History) YA & MG Books

I didn’t really sort these, except that the early-mid 1900’s are near the top and the truly contemporary are near the bottom. 🙂

The Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck. I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it also belongs under the historical category, so here’s another shout-out.

The Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier. Although depressingly set in during the Spanish Flu, this is an uplifting story and a fine example of a real YA romance (e.g. no insta-love).

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar, is a short children’s book about mysteriously silent bells and the Christmas gifts that the town hopes will bring them back to life.

I am David, by Anne Holm. A touching story about a boy who escapes a concentration camp only to discover that not everything on the outside is as nice or easy as he expected.

The War That Saved My Life (series). Despised by her mother for her club foot, the girl makes her escape with her brother and finds a better life in the country.

The House of Sixty Fathers, by Meindert DeJong. Caught in the middle of a war and separated from his family, a young boy finds solace among the enemy.

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. You might have seen one of the many movie versions, but I’ve never seen one that quite managed to capture the charm of this book.

The Great Brain series. A very smart (and not-very-ethical) boy tricks all his friends, to his younger brother’s dismay. Set in the early 1900’s and based on true stories of the author’s brother.

The Gawgon and the Boy, by Lloyd Alexander. Though his Aunt Annie is terrifying, David learns to love her and the adventures she shares with him.

White Fang, by Jack Landon. A boy and his dog–er, wolf. The story actually follows the canine through his many adventures.

Her Own Song, by Ellen Howard. A touching story of adoption and prejudice and the many people who love one small girl.

Lost Off the Grand Banks, by Arthur Catherall. I don’t know if you can get your hands on this one, but it’s an exciting sea adventure. A temporary cook on a fishing boat ends up helping to save the men of a sunken submarine. It haunted my memory enough that decades later, I found it worth an interlibrary loan.

Where the Red Fern Grows. Another boy-and-his-dogs story. Be prepared to cry. When I was a kid, three of us couldn’t get through a certain chapter because we were all sobbing too hard.

Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. Cheaper by the Dozen series. A funny family drama. The old movie is okay (though the book is better), but the new movie is a total disappointment. Read the books instead!

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith (like NIMH, I like the cartoon, but the book is so much better). Someone tried to argue with me that I liked this book because of the old-fashioned language, but they lost. I like the sweet characters and the happy ending.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and I’m-not-crying touching, this is the story of the horrible siblings who terrorized the school and took over the town’s Christmas pageant.

Caroline B. Cooney, Jennifer L. Holm, and Andrew Clements have written lots of great contemporary stories. Seriously, they can keep you busy for weeks (or at least days, if you read like me). No, I’m not going to list them all; that’s what the internet and your librarian are for. I’m just here to tell you they’re all great.

North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen. A girl with a birthmark has to learn what real beauty is.

Sex Education, by Jenny Davis (not what you’re thinking…) When their teacher gives them a service assignment for class, their lives are changed forever. (Seriously, no sex in it at all.)

The Only Alien on the Planet, by Kristen D. Randle. The mystery behind a silent teenager is heartbreaking.

Halfway to the Sky, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Appalachian Trail). When her brother dies, a girl takes to the Trail to deal with her sorrow, only to learn that life is more complicated than she realized.

As always, feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments.

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite Books Read in 2021

In random order, folks, as I always do them.

Science Fiction:

Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir. I do like a nice First Encounter story. 🙂 I’ll admit I skipped some of the science pages, but eh, that’s okay.

Some of the Vorkosigan saga, Lois McMaster Bujold, but some of them crossed lines for me. Consider this a content warning.

Dragonback series, Timothy Zahn. A reread, but I liked it just as much this time around. What if dragons were really aliens that needed humans to keep them alive in a symbiotic relationship?

Fantasy:

Farilane, Michael J. Sullivan. Ignore the publication date; I got it early. 🙂 The MC is smart and funny and kind of crazy… Think: Sherlock Holmes with a smart mouth and a sense of adventure.

Nolyn, Michael J. Sullivan. I really liked the team dynamics.

The Dragon With the Unbearable Family, Stephanie Burgis. Funny and touching.

The Prydain Chronicles. A frequent reread because I love them so much.

Sadly, this wasn’t a great year for fantasy. I gave a lot of 3 stars (which is still good in my system), but the only other ones that got higher from me were my own, and I think that’s rather biased. *cough*

Fantasy Romance:

A Drop of Magic, Liz McCraine. I’d forgotten how much I love Liz’s characters until I picked up this book. Real people with real problems, dumped in a situation they have to deal with, like it or not. And though there’s a drop of magic in this book (tee hee), most of the solution comes from plain old human ingenuity and stubbornness. Actually, the same could be said of the problems, too… Though the book is easy to read because it’s so well-written, it’s not simplistic. Liz is a master.

Scales & Sensibility, Stephanie Burgis. Regency-with-magic-and-dragons and a heroine who finally learns to stand up for herself.

The Dragon’s Revenge, Bethany Wiggins. Okay, I saw the plot twist a long way back, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. 🙂 Gotta love a determined heroine and a kind hero who love each other for more than their pretty faces.

Romance:

Charming Artemis, Sarah M. Eden. The latest (last?) in the Jonquil family saga. Sadder than usual, for a variety of reasons including a forced marriage, but it came out okay in the end.

Forget Me Not, Sarah M. Eden. Arranged marriage, friends to lovers. All about the characters.

The Best-Laid Plans, Sarah M. Eden. *cough* Yes, you sense a theme. What can I say? Sarah is good.

The Hairdresser & the Hero, Jessica Marie Holt. I picked up this ARC because it sounded cute. And it is. But it’s also well-written, with realistic, funny characters and a believable story. Even the secondary characters feel real (and funny). The dialogue is real, motivations are believable (even for the semi-villainous beautician, poor lady), and the romance grows from positive interactions and a dash of attraction. 

An Uncommon Early, Sian Ann Bessey. Not much to the plot, but well-written and touching with nice characters.

To Con a Gentleman, Sarah Adams. When a con goes wrong, two hearts are at risk.

The Duke Meets His Match, Karen Tuft. Enemies to lovers, in a gentler, more social battle.

Otherwise Engaged, Joanna Barker. I thought it had a big plot hole, but the characters were engaging enough to overcome that.

Non-fiction:

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry. This is the book I wanted the original EI book to be. Instead of just talking about how important EI is, it actually gives ideas for improving your EI skills. Okay, MY skills…

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, Judith Orloff. I read several “sensitive” books, and this was the only one that actually felt like it had usable strategies.

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? Ally Carter. A lovely writing book for young adults, but the advice in it is solid even for adults.

The Last Fifty Pages, James Scott Bell. I’m adding it to my list of great writing books.

In the Hands of the Lord: The Life of Dallin H. Oaks, by Richard E. Turley Jr. A nice biography.

The Second Coming of the Lord, Gerald N Lund. If the subject is of interest to you, this is a great book.

Other Juvenile:

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Leslie Connor. A nice about-families book. Though he was raised in a prison with his mother, Perry has solid optimism.

Jungle Night, Sandra Boynton. Okay, so it’s a little kids board book. Cute pics, though, and did you listen to the music?

I read 211 books in 2021, according to Goodreads, so the problem is not that I wasn’t trying. I gave out a LOT of 3-star ratings. Three stars is still very solid, no regrets about reading. But I never buy anything for keepsies unless it hits at least 4 stars, because I have to want to reread it several times. Actually, my book budget is pretty small, so 4 stars is no guarantee, either, just a minimum threshold. 😉

What were your favorite books last year?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

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. 🙂

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

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

Writing Update: Tales of Kaiatan

My next planned book (not counting an omnibus with bonus material) is a collection of short stories set “contemporary” to the Unexpected Heroes series. The earliest one is 60 years before the first book, and the latest one is a couple of years after the last book. (The NEXT planned book will be “legends” from much earlier in “history.” Think “fairy tales not placed on Earth.”) You can read a few of these contemporary stories already, in Unexpected Tales.

In a way, short stories are easier to write, because the plotting is much simpler. On the other hand, description and character have to be squished into a smaller space, and there’s no time to meander.

Anyway, all of the stories have ended up being connected to the series rather than merely set in the same world, though some are tightly connected and some are merely side stories of characters or expansions of casual mentions. Three of my four main characters have parents-meeting stories (the fourth was an arranged marriage). I’ve got survival treks and new jobs and races and pirates and weddings… It’s an interesting mix. A few of the stories have sequels in the collection (or in the series).

Some of the stories were easy to choose, for one reason or another. The last handful were harder, because I was looking for holes to fill. (Like needing a story from a female Nokai POV that took place between books 2 & 3. Yes, really.) In fact, I just figured out the last tagline in January, because it ended up being the prequel to another story I decided on the week before. And by “figured out,” I mean very generally. I actually finished writing that story before I finished one of the earliest planned stories, which gave me fits. It was supposed to be a short, one-chapter story but expanded to four chapters and almost 10,000 words. Some of the older stories in the collection had to to be rewritten to have complete arcs instead of just being bonus scenes.

I discovered a few entirely new characters for this collection, and they still ended up tying into the series. I can never read chapter 2 of Wind of Choice the same way again because the new backstory explains so much. I cried writing the last scene, literally. My mom cried when she read the sequel, then she backed up to read and cry again. Um, okay.

For my short stories, I use an abbreviated version of my usual outlining process, and sometimes I wing it (now that I’ve written almost half a million words). Except for that ornery romance… I had to research romance beats, alas. I still always start with a character and a situation and an ending and/or premise, and then I connect the dots from there. Sometimes I use more than one POV, sometimes only one. I’ve balanced stories from each country as well as male and female POVs. I tried to sprinkle the stories between the novels, but they still ended up heavily pre- and post-series with only a few between the books. Most of the stories have happy endings, because I like that, but a few ended up being sad or dark. I can’t help it! Some stories are sad!

One of the stories that’s already in Unexpected Tales has gotten so many questions about what happens next that I’m pondering turning into a complete novel. I’ll let you know…

Mmm… what else do you want to know? Toss me a comment, and I’ll either comment back (for a short answer) or write a post (if it needs a long answer).

Another time, I’ll try to remember to tell you about the “legends,” which I frequently describe as “loosely based on Earth fairy tales, as they would be if they came from Kaiatan.” For instance, Japan has a story about a stonecutter who kept wishing to be more powerful. What would that story look like if the main character was a shapeshifter??

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

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

Writing Process, Book 4

Sigh. Yet again, I’ve gone too long without giving you an update on my writing. That’s probably a good thing for me (indicating fewer frustrations), but maybe not as good for you (assuming your interested in the topic).

So, book 4 has actually come out already. *cough* Writing it was easier than the first three in some ways and harder in others. Each of my books has had different problems.

How was it easier, you ask? My plotting system is working better now that I’ve had some practice and fine-tuned my process, so I didn’t struggle as much with the beats. I write a little faster than I used to. I’m very familiar with the characters by now. 😉 I got to wrap up all the little strings I left in the other books.

How was it harder? I had to wrap up all the little strings I left in the other books. Several characters wrote themselves into the story with quite a bit of determination, and they insisted on being important instead of walk-on characters. I wrote myself a pretty little dilemma (how does an entire world lose the key to a city, and how would one person find it?) and had to figure out how to solve it.

I have become much more of a plotter than I used to be, but I still make up a lot of things as I go. In this book, that involved both character and plot elements. For instance, I found out (and yes, it really feels more like “found out” than “made up”) that Ahjin has a cousin I didn’t know about. She used to be a priest and left when Ahjin told Irajahan he couldn’t force recruits anymore. Now she’s a diplomat from Ioj to Iskra. I thought that was the extent of her involvement, but no, she wiggled her way into the climax of the story, too.

Then there’s Tarakh. He’s a nice boy who likes Zefra. (Zefra isn’t sure how she feels about that, especially when he says outrageous things to her…) I thought he was going to be a minor character for a few chapters, but no, he really wanted to be part of the adventure. Also, if you’ve read any of my books, you’ve seen my cute chapter headings with cultural info or book excerpts or “world” proverbs. It takes me a long time sometimes to choose those sayings, even when I’m borrowing proverbs. (“Which one fits this chapter?”) Then Tarakh comes along, and he’s spouting proverbs like crazy, and I don’t even have to make them up, because he’s supplying them. (I promise I’m not insane. Writer-brain is just weird sometimes.)

Let’s not forget the lost city. I hadn’t planned on it being lost or a maze, honestly, but I hit a spot in my beat planning where I needed something, and I had nothing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I outlined 2/3 of book 4 and then discovered some major problems and had to start over. It was pondering what kind of song I’d write for this book that gave me the clue out of my mess. 😉 After I had the first missing part figured out, I reread the prior books for inspiration, and lo and behold, I’d accidentally left a trail of clues for myself without realizing it.

Book 1 had the newly rediscovered starting point for finding the lost city and a casual mention of Zefra’s grandparents’ occupation which I threw in just because it was convenient but now it was important. Book 2 mentioned the collection of “legend” maps AND the fact that some of them came with songs. Book 3 and a short story that hasn’t been published yet had some villain characters I needed, as well as the beginnings (continuation) of the conspiracy. Nia’s language talents became important again, and this time, her singing was important to the plot instead of just everyone’s mood. I managed to tie in the romance from book 3 in an important way, and Ludik’s children became plot-essential. Ahjin’s political shenanigans in book 1 made a difference to book 4. Everything started tying together in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Yeah, the first three books can be read as standalones if you really want (though *I* think they’re better in order), but book 4 is much more dependent on the others.

One of my biggest headaches came when I needed to write the “key” to the maze. I already had the design for the maze, but I needed two pathways through it (“right” and “wrong”) and a poem that would lead BOTH ways depending which way it was interpreted. If you aren’t groaning already, then I haven’t adequately explained how awful this was… To make it worse, I had to wrote music for the poem that would have clues in it, which meant I had to write the music THEN instead of waiting until I finished everything else, as usual. And even though I’ve written four songs for the books, music and all, I am not actually a musician. As if that weren’t enough, then I had to figure out how Zefra unraveled the mystery in the story, and she’s no musician, either!

Whew! Writing the book ended up being almost as tangled as the conspiracy IN the book, but at least I got to write some really cool scenes, like shapeshifting spies and a midnight duel and a race through the desert. And Tarakh flirting with Zefra. 😉

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

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

Favorite Education & Homeschool Books

I was homeschooled for a long time (and wish it had been longer). I homeschooled my children until they said they wanted to go to public school. So, with that experience behind me, here are my favorite education & homeschool books (that aren’t textbooks). It’s a short list, but that’s okay

ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know, by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Teenagers with ADD & ADHD, by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, by Ruth Beechick

Cleaning House, by Kay Wills Wyma

Life Skills for Kids, by Christine M. Field

Homeschooling: The Middle Years, by Shari Henry

The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer

The New School, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Homeschooler’s College Admissions Handbook, by Cafi Cohen

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (fiction)

Schooled, by Gordan Korman (fiction)

If anybody out there wants to write some good homeschooling fiction, there’s obviously a hole waiting to be filled. I’m tired of reading about the odd homeschooler down the block that doesn’t fit in until he goes to public school. Boo! Most homeschoolers are well-educated, well-adjusted, and well-socialized. And that’s generally BECAUSE of homeschool, not DESPITE it. And yes, homeschoolers go to college just fine. Even if they stay at home through high school.

Just as a thought, if you or someone you know is dealing with remote school because of… you know, Covid… wouldn’t it be easier to take charge of school yourself and do it your way instead of trying to meet public school expectations at home? It’s just a thought, so don’t throw tomatoes at me. 🙂

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Favorite Action-Adventure Books

Before I start, I’ll warn you that I have a wide variety of books listed as “action-adventure” on my list. I won’t bother you with the ones I didn’t really like, and I’ll sort the ones I did, but as you’re looking through and see the mishmash that made the cut, just remember that I warned you. 😉

Adult

Bad Penny, by John D. Brown. Mystery.

This Just In, by Kelly Blair. Mystery

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Nonfiction.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, by Jennifer Armstrong. Biography.

I sense a theme in my adult adventure books… mystery or nonfiction…

Young Adult

Code Orange, by Caroline B. Cooney. Contemporary. Sort of a medical thriller, sort of a spy thriller. Mostly a boy trying to avoid the consequences of his bad ideas.

Pigboy, by Vicki Grant. Contemporary. School field trip gone very, very wrong.

Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter. Contemporary. Teen spy school.

Brotherband Chronicles series, by John Flanagan. Fantasy.

Reckoners series, by Brandon Sanderson. Science fiction. Superheroes gone bad.

Holes, by Louis Sachar. Contemporary. Juvenile detention gone bad.

Abhorsen series, by Garth Nix. Fantasy. Content warning for zombies (of a sort) and occasional grossness.

Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. Contemporary. The rest of the series isn’t bad, but the first one is best.

The Gideon trilogy, by Linda Buckley-Archer. Historical.

Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan. Contemporary fantasy.

Middle Grade

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Contemporary fantasy.

Brave Margaret, by Robert D. San Souci. Historical.

Ascendance series, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Fantasy.

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart. Mystery.

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding. Historical.

Adventurer’s Wanted series, by M.L. Forman. Portal fantasy.

Alcatraz series, by Brandon Sanderson. Portal fantasy.

Letters from Wolfie, by Patti Sherlock. Historical.

Larklight series, by Phillip Reeve. Fantasy.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. Portal/contemporary fantasy. Yeah, it’s a bit tricky to classify exactly.

The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. Oldie but goodie.

 

And that’s all, folks. Considering that a lot of these are series, they should keep you busy for at least a FEW days. 🙂

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

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