I too started my first ever coal fire in a Mark II I bought last spring. My chimney wasn't complete at the time so the stove sat in the basement all summer/fall. This gave me a chance to replace the seals. I started it for the first time last sat. night and its been burning awesome all week. I shake twice a day. I am burning Kimmels nut. It seems like great coal, as I don't get clinkers or other ash problems. I shake until the first red embers fall as directed by others here. I can also tell when to think about stopping shaking, as the grates will sort of start to jam. Even with the short choppy strokes, It will sort of jam which I believe is because some unburned and uncrushable coal has made it to the grate. I just filled it anyway, and the next time I shook, it was business as usual.
So far so good for me.