Monday, October 28, 2019

C. Lee McKenzie & Not Guilty

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 this tantalizing new story, be sure to enter Lee’s giveaway featured below.

* 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?

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 FacebookTwitterInstagram and at her Website

NOT GUILTY can be found AMAZONSmashwords, Barnes & NobleKobo, and Goodreads.

The author’s other young adult books include: Sliding on the Edge, Princess of Las PulgasDouble NegativeSudden 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.


My review: 

This book is a powerful and emotional read - one of my favourite YA reads ever.
Devon is a 17-year-old basketball star who has everything going his way ... until he's accused of stabbing a man on a stretch of beach near his home.
Watching Devon go through so many challenges makes for a stressful and emotional ride that had me both in tears and cheering more than once.
Honest, gritty, realistic, and incredibly heartfelt.
These characters and this story will stay with you long after you've finished the final page.

A fabulous read!!

NOT GUILTY is out and about and it is so good. It's easily one of the most powerful and emotional YA books I've ever read. It pulled me in from the beginning, dug in its claws, and didn't let go until the last words. Do yourself a favour and pick up your copy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

WEP Challenge & The Crop

Every crop of students has their own personality, their own foibles, and strengths.

This crop is strong.

Teachers plant seeds in their students. Good teachers strive to improve the future with every lesson. Hope is paramount. 

There is no future without hope.

Teachers who don’t get that weed themselves out pretty quickly. Kids know far better than adults who is truly interested in them and who is just putting in the hours.

By the time they become teenagers, students who’ve been exposed to too many putting-in-timers are apathetic and that apathy might be the biggest problem facing the world today.

People who don’t care about anything breed more people who don’t care. Then society goes to hell, doesn’t even need the help of a hand basket.

This crop of students isn’t apathetic, they aren’t going to contribute to those issues. This group is going to do something about apathy. The future will be better because of those seeds planted long ago.

A ceremony isn’t strictly necessary, but pomp is never out of place at a moment like this.

The full moon brightens the clearing and the three take their places around the altar, black robes swirling around their feet.  Each raises their hands and speaks the words.

After a symbolic beat, the words are repeated.

Sparks sizzle at their fingertips and blue light arcs from one to the next and the third, completing the circle.

Sulphur burns the air, robes blow in the sudden wind, and the howl of the unknown fills the woods.

They’re ready.

The most successful crop in history.

The world will never be the same.


This story is part of the WEP/IWSG challenge. Check out the link to find all the details - there's still time to sign up. Make sure to check out the other stories - it's always a blast to see how everyone interprets the theme!

How about you? Any memorable graduation ceremonies? Anyone else worried about Apathy? 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Damyanti Biswas & You Beneath Your Skin

Please welcome my good blogging buddy Damyanti Biswas to the blog today!


You Beneath Your Skin has been called a gritty novel, and Jemi is a romance writer--but we have found one common ground--Romance in a Gritty Setting!
Grit is sandy, gravelly, rough. Romance brings in images of softness. The two seem as different as-- well, to use a sad cliché-- chalk and cheese.
It is possible though to evoke romance in a grittier setting, and often, this works well to make the novel grittier still, and the romance more tender. If you show moments of tenderness, then those of violence, the harsher realities of being human are even more effectively seen in contrast.
There are two romantic relationships in You Beneath Your Skin:
Jatin-Anjali : Anjali is a conflicted Indian-American single mother of a teenaged boy with autism. She's a psychiatrist, also involved in a long standing-affair with Jatin Bhatt, a patriarchal, corrupt cop. Not much stereotypical romantic potential there, especially when you consider their ages: Jatin is 44, Anjali, 39.
Maya-Pawan: Pawan is a handsome young detective of 23, straight-laced and principled as they come, who admires Maya, his cute 27-year old boss who runs an investigative agency. Maya has a giant crush on Pawan--but all of this is complicated by the fact that Maya carries a secret. She has vitiligo, and wears covered clothing to hide the patches.
The setting is New Delhi—a burgeoning metropolis known more for its politics than romance—and my story is very real, it does not follow tropes of either crime, or romance, or romantic crime. It is a novel obsessed with the characters it portrays of which the city of New Delhi is one.
All in all, the novel does not sound like a typical home for romance, but here's how romance appears in my gritty crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin:
  1. A romance where each fills a lack in the other: In my mind, no matter what the story, if the reader comes to understand  characters, you have won the battle. In You beneath Your Skin,  Jatin stays in an unhappy marriage to save his career, because his father-in-law is also his boss. His affair with Anjali is a bid to escape his dreary existence. Anjali, on the other hand, stays in the affair despite her guilt because she's attracted to him, and because he is her way of escaping the rigors of her life--single motherhood to a special-needs son.
  2. A romance that grows as the story develops: Without giving much away, we can say that Jatin's love for Anjali deepens when they face crises together. A love that changes and strengthens is one that keeps the reader engaged.
  3. A romance sub-plot. A light sub-plot provides necessary relief from the darkness in a gritty crime story. In You BeneathYour Skin, that relief is provided by Pawan and Maya, and their nuanced, positive relationship throughout.
  4.  A romance in gritty settings needn't be a happily ever after. A traditional romance needs a happy ending but when you write romance into a grittier novel, a tragedy or an unrequited love keeps the reader guessing. 
  5. The relationship between the two main protagonists and their ups and down hold interest and provide narrative tension in places where the crime is in the background. When crime is in the foreground, the relationships in the background provide a certain wholeness—life continues, as does romance, in the harshest of settings and circumstances.
  6. Moments of  tenderness: Tender moments between the characters establish their traits and this is something that makes the ending come together when the novel reaches its climax. In You Beneath Your Skin, everything collides in the end and the effect is heightened because the romance was established beforehand--the reader  (hopefully) connects with the characters and wants to know their fate, romantic or otherwise.
  7. Poetry: Jatin is a lover of classical Urdu poetry, and of poets who are known as much for their philosophical take on life and loss, as they are for their couplets on love. This works throughout the novel to retain a sense of whimsy, of delicacy, of languor in a story that is a relentless barrage of events.

In You Beneath Your Skin, love and loss hold hands in my attempt to show Delhi and its denizens as they really are, through complex, conflicted characters. The romance in the novel makes it not just a crime story, but as well a story that is (hopefully), deeply and unapologetically human.

You Beneath Your Skin is a crime novel about the investigation of an acid attack on a woman from Delhi’s upper class, set against the backdrop of crimes against underprivileged women. They are assaulted, disfigured with acid, and murdered. 
While the framework is that of a thriller, the novel threads together different narrative strands. The author tackles various social issues: crimes against women and why they occur, the nexus between political corruption, police and big money; the abuse of the underprivileged, be it adults or children. 
Of these the issue of crimes against women is the strongest—why do men attack women? Why do they gang together? What happens when a woman tries to break the glass ceiling? Can toxic masculinity masquerade as benevolent patriarchy?
Parents would also find this novel fascinating: how do you bring up a good human being in today’s
troubled times? How much do you know of your teenager’s life? If you’re the parent of a special child, what challenges do you face and what sort of support can you expect?

It is a  whodunnit, but also a whydunnit, because violent crime unravels those affected: the people, the relationships, the very fabric of society, and we get a glimpse of what lies beneath. That’s why the title, You Beneath Your Skin.
The narrative of the book was researched and shaped during the author’s work with Project WHY, and some of the experiences generously shared by acid attack survivors from the non-profit Stop Acid Attacks. To return this debt of gratitude, all author proceeds from the book will go to these two non-profits.
Outside India: 

Net galley: 

Goodreads link:


Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi's underprivileged children as part of
Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

 All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.  
       Book links:        Outside India:


Thanks so much, Damyanti!

The book is indeed gritty and powerful and stays with you long after you turn the last page. The relationships between the characters is the reason the story pulled so hard at me, even when some of it was very difficult to read. The characters are people searching for better - and isn't that often what life is all about? If you haven't read You Beneath Your Skin yet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today!!

How about you? Do you like gritty stories that pull you in and don't let go? Does having those tender moments make the dark parts easier to read? Have you read You Beneath Your Skin yet?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Charles Suddeth & The Mind Of A Child

Please welcome fellow Dancing Lemur Press author Charles Suddeth to the blog today!


Know your reader, know your age group—getting into a child’s mind 

I am a substitute teacher for the Louisville schools. I sub for anything from pre-school to high school. I also host a monthly Louisville SCBWI Social where newer writers ask about age groups. Here are the age guidelines I use.

Picture Books: Ages 3 to 8. These children cling to me in class. They are Searching for Security. Even while playing, they need to know an authority figure is present to give them love and protection. They enjoy tattling on other classmates—perhaps to reinforce their security. Happy endings are a must for security’s sake.

Middle Reader’s: Ages 8 to 13. These children are sometimes described as crazy. They are not certain who they are or what their abilities are. They do things in groups to obtain peer approval, because they lack self-confidence and self-identity. They are Searching for Identity. Peer pressure is strong, and they never tattle on other students. They love books in series and books about kids in groups to help them find identity. 

Young Adult: Ages 14 to 18. Teenagers are famous for rebellion, sometimes called “attitude.” They are Searching for Independence. Psychologists describe this as psychological efforts to separate themselves from their families to become adults. Teens seldom tattle on students in class, but they will do so if other kids are not watching. They like books about loners or kids fighting the system as in many dystopian novels—independence is the key.

My favorite writing rule is: Take your reader where they are not expecting to go. Once you know your audience you can take them to destinations unknown and even undreamed of. 

Bio and Links:
Charles Suddeth has published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. He is active with Green River Writers and leads a monthly SCBWI Social. He lives in Louisville and teaches for the Jefferson County Schools. 

Website     Twitter      Facebook     Pinterest:      Tumblr

Find Stone Man: And the Trail of Tears at:
Amazon      ITunes      Kobo      Barnes & Noble      Goodreads 


Thanks Charles!

Love that writing rule! 
As another teacher, I agree with your breakdown. It's important to know the needs of the age-groups we are writing for.

How about you? Have you ever written for children? Can you relate to those stages? Do you like when a book takes you in unexpected directions?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. He, his clones, minions, friends, and fellow authors make it an amazing event every month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


October 2 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?

I can't imagine trying to write a story without being a reader.
Reading has taught me so much - and not only about Story, but we'll stick with that for this post! 😀

From reading, I've learned how Story flows.
I've learned how Tropes work and how they are different from Cliches.
I've learned what the Beats of a Story are and how they flow.
I've learned how Characters interact and how Emotions trump all (at least for me!).
I've learned that Fantasy & SciFi & Romance & Adventure & MG & SciFi & YA & Mystery all have their own personalities, expectations, and styles.

I've learned a lot of these things by osmosis.
From the Bobbsey Twins to the Hardy Boys to Anne of Green Gables to the Hobbit to Agatha Christie to Anne McCaffrey to JD Robb and beyond, I've learned a lot. Those lessons have become a part of me and therefore part of my writing.

If writers haven't immersed themselves in those worlds, how can they create a story that fits seamlessly into that world they're writing?

Maybe some people can, but I sure can't.

What about you? Do you think Writers should be Readers as well?