Mama Diaries

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


Tuesday, October 1, 2019


Hello everyone. No stories today. But I'm stopping by briefly to take part in the monthly IWSG post.

This month's question is, "Should you read a lot which may influence how you write and what you write about, or not read at all so that you have original ideas?"

I'd say read. That's how you get a sense of what works and what doesn't. I think even if you lived in a bubble and wrote, you'd still come up with universal themes and ideas. Reading does give you ideas. But that's not a bad thing. Besides, reading an author's work is being supportive. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?

What do you think? Should you read other people's work, or just write your own stuff with no outside literary influences?