Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Rich Palate for the Traveling Writer and the Not Guilty Book Tour!

I’m delighted today to welcome author C. Lee McKenzie to my site to talk about her latest release, NOT GUILTY, as part of her MC Book Tour Blog adventure. 

After you find out more about C. Lee and this tantalizing new story, be sure to enter Lee’s giveaway featured below. 

A Rich Palate for the Traveling Writer
By Guest C. Lee McKenzie, the YA author of Not Guilty

Hi Tyrean. It’s great to be at your place today, and thanks for the question you asked me:
How Do Travels Influence Your Writing?

This question couldn't have come at a more perfect time because I’m on a trip, and I have a chance to answer it while I make my way around Morocco.

On this journey, I’ve moved from large cities like Fes and Marrakech to the vast Sahara desert and passed through small villages, so I’ve interacted with a lot of different Moroccans--those who speak English, French, and Spanish as well as their native language, and those who speak only their native tongue and have never left their birthplace.

When I arrived, two things immediately struck me. First, the people’s speaking distance between themselves and strangers is closer than for the North American. I found myself stepping back at first to keep my comfort zone, but of course they only stepped forward to keep theirs.

Also they touch frequently,. Even if they don’t know you, they like to take your arm or rest their hand on your shoulder. With friends they might hold hands. Men will easily walk hand in hand while they chat.

These aren’t earthshaking differences, but if you’re thinking of crafting a scene between Moroccan and North American characters, you can use them. Here’s a scene I wrote as an example:

Heat shimmered up from the mosaic floor tiles. The ceiling had long ago collapsed and the sun blazed overhead like a slightly off center chandelier.

Ben lifted one foot, then the other in an effort to cool his thin-soled sandals.

“Monsieur, WC is only there.” The guide motioned to his left, totally mis-reading his client’s discomfort.

Ben shook his head and pointed overhead. “Just hot.”

The guide pulled him into the slice of shade along one wall, and keeping a grip on his arm, leaned close. “Here is the hamam, you see. And--” now pulling him into another dark ruin of a room “--the cauldera. It is here.”

Ben tried to step away, but the wall was at his back so there was no putting any distance between him and his guide who always seemed about to embrace him.

This was his fourth hamam, so Ben had become bi-lingual when it came to discussing the bathrooms of a “typical” historical Moroccan riad. He’d like to free his arm, but that didn’t seem possible. The guide was on a mission to drag him from room to room until they’d visited this entire hotel that had seen its last guest sometime in the second century.

The contrasts between cultures offer a rich palate of opportunities for creating humor or drama in stories. The misunderstandings, the discomforts, the moments of enlightenment when different cultures come in contact are unlimited.

I’ve also discovered that when I’m traveling, these contrasts make me more keenly aware of my own culture. If you see a schematic of  any culture, it looks a lot like an iceberg--most of it out of sight and out of awareness, particularly the culture you exist in. By culture I don’t mean art or language or how we dress, I mean how we treat time, space and other silent forms of communication, like the ones I’ve mentioned above.

You don’t have to travel to other countries to find differences between people. In my books, I often include U.S. characters from different backgrounds, and one of the main themes I like to explore in all of my young adult books is our uniqueness as well as how much we’re alike. No matter how different we look, sound, behave in our communities we have underneath our veneer of culture, a common humanity--a need for safety, food, and shelter, a love of family and friends; a desire to succeed and be recognized--all in degrees, of course, but things that are basic to human existence.

Travel in the U.S. brings me together with people of all ages, education, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. In Not Guilty, I used some of those experiences to tackle the story of an anglo middle class kid who winds up in juvenile hall where he meets others with a different life experience--experience he lacks but desperately needs once he’s in trouble. His life-long friends abandon him, but he discovers his new ones will stand by him regardless of his short-comings.

Here’ s scene in juvie between Devon, the MC, and his new friends, Tats, Chewy, and Ice. He finally trusts them enough to tell them his plan for proving himself innocent.

“Hey.” Devon coughed. Nervous because he wasn’t sure his plan was good. “I’ve laid out some ways to find the guy I’m serving time for. Want to hear it?” 

“Lay it on us,” Tats said.

He did. And they listened without breaking in. When he finished, nobody said anything. “Well?”

Chewy finally broke the silence. “Grandma Marika says, ‘The proof’s in the pudding.’”

“What’s that mean?” Ice asked.

“It means you don’t know—”

Tats cut Chewy off. “—if something’s good until you start to eat it.”

“I still don’t get it.” 

“I do,” Devon said. “My plan might work, but I won’t know until I try it out.” 

“Ah! Okay. Now why don’t you two say it clear like English does?” 

“Go to sleep, Ice. Give your brain a rest.” Tats cut a big one, and they all laughed. 

Devon closed his eyes, thinking how much he was going to miss these guys. 

Thanks once again, Tyrean for letting me visit. I hope your readers found something useful in the post.

I'm sure they have, C. Lee!!! 

* Not Guilty
* by C. Lee McKenzie
* Publication Date: October 25, 2019
* Genre: Young Adult

          A blood-smeared knife. One young man’s word against another. A lifetime dream crushed.
          The evidence points to Devon Carlyle. He was there when it happened. Everyone knows he had it in for Renzo Costa. And Costa says Devon was the one. In the judge’s rap of a gavel, Devon’s found guilty of assault. The star of the Oceanside High’s basketball team loses his shot at the one thing he’s worked so hard for—the championship game where college scouts could see how good he is.
          Now he makes his great shots in Juvenile Hall with kids far different from those that have always been in his life.
          Angry? Hell, yes.
          He’s bent on finding who did the crime. He’s bent on making them pay because he’s Not Guilty.
          But can he prove it?

Devon is one of those guys. Everything in his life seems to be going right, and then it all goes devastatingly wrong. Even knowing Devon wasn't guilty, I wondered how he would prove himself innocent. All the evidence is against him. He's at the wrong place and the wrong time. He gets thrown in Juvie. He's angry. He's grieving. And, life on the inside isn't easy.
Devon was one of those characters who, once I stepped into his messy story, I started rooting for. His inner dialogue, his way of struggling through, really made him a "real" character and I felt drawn into his dilemma and his world right away. The writing in this book is excellent. The story-line is gripping, and I think anyone who picks it up is going to be hoping Devon manages to prove that he's Not Guilty.

For those who aren’t familiar with the author, here’s a bit of background on her.

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. She has published five young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, and Sudden Secrets. Not Guilty is her most recent one. 

          Sometimes she likes to jump into the world of the fantastic and when she does, she writes for the middle-grade reader. Some Very Messy Medieval Magick is the third book in the time-travel adventures of Pete and Weasel, with Alligators Overhead and The Great Time Lock Disaster being the first two. Sign of the Green Dragon, a stand-alone, takes the reader into ancient Chinese dragon myths and a quest for treasure. 

          When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot of questions about things she still doesn’t understand. 

For more information on Lee and her writing, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at her Website

NOT GUILTY can be found Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

The author’s other young adult books include: Sliding on the Edge, Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, Sudden Secrets


With Halloween celebrated this week, Lee’s giving away five digital copies of NOT GUILTY and a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. This tour-wide giveaway will end at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 5th.

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by today during Lee’s visit. Do you enjoy stories where the underdog becomes the champion? Don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review Lowdown and Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy

In addition to this post, I have a post at the Insecure Writer's Support Group website on How to Use Instagram as an Author today! Go there, and check it out if you're interested!

I love reading! However, I have a tough time writing reviews. I want to give fully honest reviews, but I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. I know how that feels.  I also know how much reviews mean to authors because I am one, so I write them.

Did you know that you have to have 50 reviews at Amazon to get featured in their newsletters? I don't think they all have to be superstar reviews, but there is some kind of algorithm to it.

Did you know Amazon doesn't always let writers review other books? This is crazy to me. Trolls get to review. Writers aren't supposed to review. This is why it's good to have two Amazon accounts. That's how my reviews get posted and stay posted. And no, I'm not a troll, or even a super-reviewer. I don't get paid to review. I review the books I like, that's it.

Speaking of which:

Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy is out today!!! I was given a free copy to review, but please note this does not bias my opinion here.


Action - I love action in fantasy novels and this novel had action!

Mystery - I love not knowing everything right away and this novel delivered on all of its promised hints later on in the story! (Agh. The desire to throw in spoilers is really strong, but I'm holding it back.) The bread crumbs of intrigue led to a satisfying conclusion!

World-Building - The slow unveiling of world-building and the power structure of the magic users was awesome! I loved how we learned alongside the main character and discovered what her powers meant and how to use them, as well as why she doesn't seem to have a focus. 

Tension - This book had it. It was tough to put down, and I read it in two sittings.


Character-Building for the MC - I admit I struggled to like the main character in the first chapter or two. I wanted her to get out of her tough situation a lot faster, but then as the novel progressed, I found myself drawn more and more into her situation, how she was who she was, and how she began to understand who she could be. I realized the farther I got into the book, just how well the author had written this character. Jasmine is one of the most fully realized fantasy characters I've read in a long, long time.

This fantasy novel is excellent, but there is an abusive relationship shown in the beginning. It is handled well, but it was troubling when I first saw it. There is justice, but not the way the reader might expect. 

OVERALL: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!!! This book was one of my favorite recent reads. I really enjoyed it and found it to be fun, as well as thought-provoking. I really liked how the author showed the main character growing into her strengths and finding her footing, even if I didn't like where she was at the beginning.

Do you write reviews? If you ever read one of my books, please feel free to give me a review - even if it's not that many stars. Really. I would like one of my books to get up to 50 reviews someday. Be honest. Give it to me straight. I'll be okay.

And, have you picked up Wielder's Prize yet? I recommend it!

Please check out my post at the IWSG site today!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Two Rejection Letters = A Win? Seeing Rejection as a Step Forward

Last Friday, I woke up late (still feeling ill), wandered around my house like a zombie, ate breakfast like someone not sure the food would stay down, and then found two rejection letters for two different manuscripts in my inbox.

I read them over, and then over again.

I wasn't surprised by the rejections.

I was surprised I had received any response from these two agents.
Both of these particular literary agents had stated explicitly on their websites:
 "If you haven't heard back in 90 days, please consider your manuscript rejected." 

From both agents, I had received no response for over 120 days.
So, I considered my manuscripts rejected.

However, they both e-mailed me. 

This felt like a win!

Rejections as a win?

Yep. If they took the time to actually read my work and send me a personalized rejection letter, it's a win. 

In fact, I see personalized rejection letters as a step forward.

They weren't form letters.
They show the agents actually read my work.
They responded when they had stated on their websites they might not.
They gave me specific feedback.
One sent me three links to databases of other literary agents so I could find the right agent for me.

Win, win, win. Step by step by step.

I am still writing.

I am still submitting my work.

Every day offers new possibilities.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October #TheIWSG and Reading

Founded by Alex J. Cavnaugh

Optional Question: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

First, I must say I'm biased. I love to read. If I could get paid for reading books all day, I would take that job! 
Second, I think what we watch in movies, shows, and even on the world news pours into our brains and becomes a part of our imaginary landscape, so I'm not sure if any of us is truly a clean slate of originality. I know my first fantasy trilogy was influenced by Star Wars (not intentionally, but it was definitely there and once I realized it, I started to pick and choose how much it influenced those books). I have had a strong desire to write strong female characters ever since Princess Leia stepped onto the screen with a blaster in her hand.

Normally, in this next bit, I would update you on my writing life. Um. I finished a short story that I'm proud of and I submitted it to an anthology just a few hours before the submission window closed. I felt pretty triumphant about it, even though I don't know if the story will be accepted or published.
There's more than's gone on in my writing life, but that's my highlight and I'm going to stick with that.

Otherwise, I've been sick for the last 36 hours with a horrible, terrible, wouldn't-wish-it-on-anyone, kind of stomach bug or food poisoning problem. I'm slightly better today, so I decided to post ... late.

Anyway, I hope all of you are well and happy, and healthy!

Write On!!!

This month’s Write…Edit…Publish challenge:

As you sow so shall you reap. What will your character sow - dragon's teeth, elven bones, gouged eyes from tormented souls? Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone ... or blood.

January’s IWSG post day will be on January 8, the second Wednesday. The first Wednesday is New Year’s Day – do not post that day! Note it in your calendars now – January 8.
The next #IWSGPit - our Twitter pitch event – is January 15, the third Wednesday. This will be our fifth one and last year there were thousands of agents and publishers watching, ten thousand Tweets sent out, and #IWSGPit became a trending topic. Polish your pitches and check the site for full details.