Mama Diaries

Monday, January 6, 2020

IWSG and Caught in the Act

It's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post of the month. The question is, how did you know you wanted to be a writer? What prompted you?

This is a question I answer every time I do school author visits. I ask the kids to raise their hands if they want to be an author when they grow up. And the young kids always do. Middle-schoolers, not so much. Guess what? I didn't want to be an author when I grew up. I wanted to be an astronaut or opera singer. I'm neither. This is probably a good thing because the world is much better not hearing my singing voice!

So, how did I get here? You can thank my daughter and my son for that. Here's the story:  When my son was a little baby, he didn't sleep. Neither kid did. Talk about a serious case of sleep deprivation. Four years of less than 4 hours of sleep a night! When you're that sleep-deprived, weird things go on in your head. Like poems. That's what happened. At 3:00 AM one night, a poem popped in. For the rest of the week, I spent my nights in the rocking chair with my 3-month old son, composing the entire story in my head. Later, I shared the poem with my daughter, who was three years old at the time. She said, "Mom that's really good! You should make it a book!"

My sleep-deprived mind thought that was a brilliant idea. So, here I am, 15 years later, still writing. My sixth book comes out this September:  Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure.

The name of the first book?   That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN!  

Now, for the story:

If you recall, our German Shepherd, Schultz destroyed his Beaver toy by ripping the seams and taking out all the stuffing. We thought for Christmas, we'd get him a brand new Beavie. Ladies and gentlemen, it took Schultz all of two hours to destroy it. Here he is, in action:

And yes, that is Beavie's heart. Schultz ripped Beavie's heart out! I think Bootsy, the cat has been a terrible influence on him!

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Strange Kind of Snow

Schultz seems to be feeling much better. His chemo treatments are done and he is back to his old self creating chaos and mayhem wherever he goes.

Here's the latest story:

When I walked into the mansion (the term I use for my former place of residence), I noticed white stuff all over the ground: Blobs of cotton-like material strewn in the hall, in the family room, and in the kitchen.

I picked one of these blobs up between my fingers and looked at it. "What the heck?"

Then I saw the remains of "Beavie," one of Schultz's favorite toys. The stuffed beaver wasn't so stuffed anymore. His head was sliced open and his cotton stuffing was strewn about. I found the perpetrator looking as innocent as could be.

A short while later, that lovely green bunny you see him pictured with met the same fate. Apparently, the dog has too much time on his paws. Or maybe he misses the snow we had in Ohio and wants to get into the Christmas spirit! 

On another topic, I'd like to let you know that I'm a guest over at Regan Macaulay's blog telling her why my friend, Dennis Higgins' book, Christmas in Pottersville, is my favorite Christmas book. Please visit if you'd like to know why. 

And finally, I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Enjoy the holidays!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG and the Dinosaur Experiment

It's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group monthly post.

Today's question is, "If you were living the ideal author life, what would it look like?"

Probably a bit different than what it looks like today! I don't need to be a best-selling author. But I would like to see my Amazon ranking under the 100,000 mark regularly. And I would like to get more than $10.00 a month in royalties. Writing books is a lot of effort! It's not just writing. It's editing and marketing. A lot of time goes into it. And it would be really nice to see a paycheck that reflects that.

So, my ideal writer's life:  Have 4-10 author appearances (school visits, library visits, bookstore visits) a year, write a book a year, stay under the 100,000 mark on all of my books, and make about $10,000 a year. Is that asking for too much? 

Now for the story:

My daughter had an assignment for her statistics class:  To find out if people's responses to surveys are influenced by what they see. For this grand experiment, my daughter and her friends decided that they would dress in dinosaur costumes and visit the local mall. There they would ask people what their favorite dinosaur was. The hypothesis was that the person would respond with the dinosaur the interviewer was dressed as. Things were going as planned until the security officer showed up.

"You're violating dress code rules," she stated.

"But we're doing a school project," my daughter objected.

"Too bad. No dinosaurs allowed."

"Well, what's your favorite dinosaur?" my daughter pressed.

"The extinct kind."

And that was the end of the experiment.

Before I go, I had the awesome opportunity to go to Miami, Florida to receive the silver medal for my book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. Here's a picture. (That's a little bit of living the ideal author life!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Favorite Holiday Memory Blog Hop

 Today, I'm participating in the Favorite Holiday Memory Blog Hop sponsored by Elaine Kaye who has a new picture book, Sleigh Ride. Check it out! It looks like a cute one in time for the holidays!
Blog Hop Question: What is your favorite holiday memory? 

My Memory:

Making and decorating Christmas cutout cookies. It's something I enjoyed doing as a kid, and it's a tradition I passed on with my own kids. The best part was decorating the big gingerbread man shape. We had a blast trying to see who make the fanciest one. Then we baked it and ate it!

What's your favorite memory?

New Picture Book Release from Elaine Kaye:

BLURB: On Christmas Eve, Gregory and Sammy get a special visitor—Santa Claus! Santa brings them on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world and to the North Pole. Bundle up and come along for the ride!

General Age Range - Kids 4-8 (Story Picture Book)

Book Links:


Get Pea Soup Disaster now!
Kindle / Nook / Kobo

About the Author: Elaine Kaye is the author of A Gregory Green Adventure series. She created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools. She currently lives in Florida, but has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home.

Hop around to the other blogs participating:


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

IWSG Post and Rats Overhead

It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group post of the month.

This month's question is, "What is the strangest thing you've had to research to write your story?"

Taser guns. In one of my stories, the criminal used a taser gun to knock someone out. The little plastics tags that were released after it was fired held the clue to the identity of the bad guy. Did you know one little tag can identify the place the weapon was made and the person who purchased it? I didn't know until I researched it. And now you know, too!

Now for a story:

My son was sitting in his class listening to his teacher drone on and on. He was about to fall asleep when something caught his attention. A noise overhead. Something was shuffling around in the ceiling space above him.

He looked up and noticed a hole in the ceiling. Why it was there, I do not know. But two seconds later, the shuffling thing fell out of it. Guess what it was? A rat!

Needless to say, mayhem and chaos ensued following the rat's drop-in! I'm not sure exactly what happened to that rat, but it sure livened things up a bit. I have to wonder what else might be hiding in that school's ceiling! 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Guest Author, C. Lee McKenzie

Today I have the awesome C.Lee McKenzie at my pad telling us about her newest release, Not Guilty. 

Hi Sherry. Thank you so much for giving me a chance to chat about this latest book I’ve titled NOT GUILTY. You asked me where the idea for this book came from, and that made me think back a few years. I found it quite interesting to trace this story from its beginning to now.

I discovered that no single idea generated Not Guilty, but my interest in exploring the theme of justice started the ball rolling. I love to think that there is such a thing in this world--even in the face of so much injustice. In fact, I wrote an earlier story with this same theme, but it’s still buried in my computer and may never be published. Maybe it was just a test run for this one.

When I set out to write Not Guilty, I had a very different plot in mind; then suddenly I had this clean-cut, middle-class basketball player of a kid locked up in juvenile hall for something he didn’t do. And while justice started out as my main theme, the one of friendship stepped up and took center stage. Surprise!

Well, I love surprises, so instead of trying to avoid this change in focus, I ran with it. Here’s a short scene where Devon (my MC) remembers how his long-time friend once left him to face the consequences for something the friend had done. This same friend has turned his back now that Devon’s in trouble, but not guilty...again.

          ... he wanted to get rid of the white noise inside his head. The noise that sputtered guilty. He’d only heard it once before when he was in the fifth grade playing ball in his backyard. His best friend, Colin Mayhew, had made a solid hit with his bat, but the ball hadn’t gone the direction it was supposed to. It had gone straight through their neighbor’s front window, shattering the urn on the mantel. But not just any urn. This one held Mr. Shipley’s ashes that were now scattered on the floor. Mrs. Shipley hysterical. Dad commandeering the broom and dustpan from him when he failed to sweep up Mr. Shipley fast enough. Mom trying reason and mint tea. Him, Devon Carlyle, wishing the bat hadn’t been his. Colin long gone.
          That moment was sharper in Devon’s memory now than ever before. He’d apologized. A lot. His dad had paid for the window and purchased a new, very expensive urn. Colin never owned up. Devon never told them what really happened. Nobody liked narcs, and there was something in his dad’s face that sealed his lips. So Mrs. Shipley and his parents always thought Devon had been the one who hit the ball.

Later, while Devon’s in juvenile hall, he finds friends who stand by him, ones who’d never leave him to take the rap for something he didn’t do.

So far my young adult writing has also explored themes like self-abuse, homophobia, grief, and guilt. And I’ve just finished a draft of a new book with intolerance and discrimination at its core.

A topic that Sherry suggested I might also discuss is my favorite genre. I can’t say I have a favorite one, but after so many serious young adult stories, I look forward to a magical middle-grade journey once in a while. I often jump into ones like Sign of the Green Dragon or my series of Pete and Weasel adventures (Alligators Overhead, The Great Time Lock Disaster, and Some Very Messy Medieval Magic). These are my sorbet between those young adult courses.

Thanks again for letting me be here on your great site, Sherry. And thanks to your readers for taking the time to find out more about Not Guilty.

 You're welcome, Lee! Best of luck with your new book! 

Here's my review:

When high school basketball star, Devon Carlyle, is wrongfully accused of assaulting a man on the beach with a knife, his world is turned upside-down. He needs to prove his innocence and find the true culprit.

Not Guilty is not just a story of social injustice and dealing with the aftermath of being wrongly accused. It is a story of friendship. Devon forms bonds with his juvenile detention roomies, Ice, Tats, and Chewy, who help him unravel who really committed the crime.

The book is well-written with fully-developed characters. Although it is obvious that Devon is not guilty, it is still interesting to watch the friendships develop and eventually learn the identity of the one who committed the crime. Recommended for Y/A readers. 5 star.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Not Guilty, you can find it here:

For more information on Lee and her writing, connect with her on

Lee's other young adult books include: 

For a chance to win a copy of the book, click the following link:

Monday, October 14, 2019

Guest Author, Charles Suddeth

Today I have author, Charles Suddeth, at my pad. He's here to tell us about himself and about his newly-released middle-grade book Stone Man and the Trail of Tears.

Hi, Charles. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I have published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. I am active in SCBWI and Green River Writers. I lead a monthly SCBWI meeting in Louisville, and I teach for the Jefferson County Schools.

I started writing poetry and short stories when I was 11, and I haven’t stopped. A few years ago, I decided that I shouldn’t keep the stories for myself. I joined 2 writing groups: Green River Writers and SCBWI. They helped me hone my writing.

Wow! Sounds like you are a busy guy!

Where did you get your idea for Stone Man?

My great-great-grandfather, Bill Pennington was born about 1830 in a Cherokee village, in Kentucky. His family moved north of the Ohio River during the Trail of Tears to a rural area just north of Charlestown, Indiana, 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky where a mixture of whites and Meti (French/Shawnee mixed-bloods) lived.

It sounds like your family experienced first-hand what it was like on the Trail of Tears.

What do you want readers to take away from reading your book?

Most of all, I want readers to have fun–this is an adventure. I also want them to have an introduction to Cherokee culture and to know how the Trail of Tears tore apart people's lives. And I want them to appreciate that people everywhere are much the same.

I think your book accomplishes that.

Did you have to do any research before writing the book? If so, tell us about it.

I have been doing Cherokee research for a long time–after an uncle told me of my Cherokee heritage. The Museum of the Cherokee in Cherokee, North Carolina used to publish a journal, and several issues were devoted to those who escaped the trail of tears. Although I am not fluent, I can speak some Cherokee–it helps me to understand the characters' thinking.

What is your writing process like?

I do not outline–I prefer that my stories flow. I do know their destination, but not always their route getting there. I use critique groups and writing retreats to help my revisions.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you work when you feel inspired?

I do not write by schedules. I am not an early riser, so I work in the afternoon and evenings. Inspiration helps, but if inspiration doesn't find you, hunt inspiration down. I like to do a short meditation before I write or revise to keep my mind focused.

Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?

 I read a lot (I am not sure why I own a TV). My favorite authors were John Steinbeck and Michael Crichton–both are gone. Currently, I read a lot of thrillers and books on DNA research, both fiction and non-fiction. I do not have favorite living authors.

Are you working on anything new?

I am working on a historical novel, Run from the Devil. It is loosely based on the life of Cato Watts–legendarily the first slave, first musician, and first man hanged in colonialLouisville history.

It sounds like it'll be a fascinating read!

Where can readers purchase your book?

Here's my review of Stone Man and the Trail of Tears: 
Those familiar with US history know of the Trail of Tears. It is a sad chapter in which Cherokee Indians were hunted by US soldiers and forced off of their land. Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is the fictitious story of a young Cherokee boy, Tsatsi, and his family who lived during that time. When his village is attacked, Tsatsi and his sister, Sali, flee and are separated from their family. Things get worse when Sali becomes ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man, a legendary giant who instills fear in the hearts of the Cherokee people. Fortunately, Stone Man is not what he seems. He helps the children on their perilous journey to find a new home.

Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is a fascinating story that has bits of history and culture woven throughout. Readers will learn a little about the Trail of Tears as well as interesting things like which acorns are best to eat and what plants can help reduce fevers. At the end, there is a glossary with Cherokee words and definitions. Recommended for readers in grade 4 and up.  5 stars