Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


gender wars

I wish I could get excited about graphic novels. I looked at Maus many years ago and tried to get into it.  I couldn’t.  I didn’t like having prefab images put my own imagination on hold.  I didn’t like the lack of complexity that I enjoy so much in a literary novel (no graphics). It was like watching tv in print. Everything is oversimplified. Reduced to its  lowest common denominator. (more…)

Full disclosure:  I started this blog so I would have a “writer’s platform” I could show agents and potential publishers.  But it doesn’t come without a cost, and that is one’s privacy.

The idea of public and private has shifted.  While some people still keep private diaries/journals, myself included, others are blogging their hearts out for all the world to see.  Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, chat rooms, etc., have conditioned a new generation to spill it all on the web, to not hold back.  Some even set up webcams in their houses so strangers can follow their daily routine. (more…)

Meet Evonne Marzouk, today’s guest author:

Evonne Marzouk is an inspirational public speaker and author of The Prophetess. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Jewish News Syndicate, The Wisdom Daily, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, RitualWell and many other publications. She recently co-authored a chapter on “The Heroine’s Journey” in the book Jewish Fantasy Worldwide (2023) and offers a free printable Heroine’s Journal on her website to empower all women to live their greatest dreams. IG/FB: @heroinewhisperer


When I picked up Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew she was considered one of France’s most important literary figures, but The Lover was the first work of hers that I had read.

lovers-1676972_640The back cover claims that The Lover is “an exquisite jewel of a novel,” but it’s my understanding that this work is autobiographical and not fiction. At fifteen, Duras, who was then living in Saigon with her mother and two brothers, started a relationship with a Chinese man twelve years older than she. It continued for almost two years. And while the work centers on the sexual involvement and its repercussions in her life, the narrative also slips in and out of Duras’ dysfunctional family life, where her mother beats her while Marguerite’s older brother cheers on the mother.

From inside my study, one wall book-lined, the other holding a large mirror that makes the room appear bigger, I sit on the loveseat, listening to Strauss and the waterfall powered by a tiny electric pump. When I’m home, I turn it on, the sound of water like a heart beat in this house, a tangible reminder of what usually is invisible, at least to waking life—water for me representing the unconscious and all that lives there. It also is the source of the books I’ve written, the muse that continues to inspire me to write, daily. (more…)

Fiction writers have been called many things, but magician seems the best description. They dip into the black hat of their imagination and produce an endless variety of characters, situations, images, genres, events, and styles. The effect on readers is nothing less than magical, the reader also becoming a conjurer, assisting in making visible what wasn’t there before. (more…)

Tony Flood spent most of his working life as a journalist, initially on local and regional papers and then on nationals. He was also editor of ‘Football Monthly’, Controller of Information at Sky Television and enjoyed a spell with ‘The People’ before retiring in 2010. In his celebrity book My Life With The Stars, Tony recalls: “My work

as a showbiz and leisure writer, critic and editor saw me take on a variety of challenges — learning to dance with Strictly Come Dancing star Erin Boag, becoming a stand-up comedian, and playing football with the late George Best and Bobby Moore in charity matches.” Tony now spends much of his time writing books and theatre reviews, as well as playing veterans football. He says: “I must be one of the oldest — and slowest — players in the country!”

More details about Tony and his wife and fellow author Heather Flood — andspecial book offers — are available on the websites: (more…)

Dreaming Myself into Old Age

October 9, 2023 | By | Reply

Dreaming Myself into Old Age

At the beginning of 2012, in my seventy-second year, I decided to return to analysis so I could explore my concerns about aging and dying. Fortunately, I found Dr. Y, a Jungian analyst who takes Medicare, freeing me to explore my new terrain—old age—without depleting our savings. Dr. Y is a psychiatrist who merges the rational world of science with C. G. Jung’s more esoteric ideas about the psyche. I have feasted on Jung from the time I first discovered his writing in my late twenties. For me, his more mystical aspect overshadowed the scientist. I love how he evokes the multiplicity of things—the magic, the mystery, the many levels to reality including the mythic part. Of course, dreams inhabit the mythic dimension, and I view them as communications from a part of myself that knows more about me than my conscious ego does. (more…)

Meet Robert Archambeau, today’s guest author:

Robert Archambeau possesses the world’s least interesting international identity. Of French-Canadian ancestry, he was born in Rhode Island, raised in Canada, and spent summers in Maine or at his father’s art studio on a lake in the Canadian wilderness. An art school brat, he always felt it was inevitable that he would end up making art, or at least movies, but his fate was grimmer still. After a brief stint as a deck hand and grotesquely underqualified ship’s engineer, he fell in with a group of poets and pursued graduate studies in English at the University of Notre Dame. While studying for his PhD, he ran off to Chicago, got married on a sailboat in Burnham Harbor, and worked as a clerk in a secondhand bookstore. Here, sitting at the long counter in the Aspidistra Bookshop, he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Wordsworth, as well as many of the poems that would make up of his first collection of verse, Home and Variations. (more…)

I’m thinking today of timing—how important it is to success. Timing and perseverance: the two go together. I’m also noticing the seasonal aspect of creativity, how cyclic it is. That too is hard to grasp. I want it all the time. I’m afraid if it isn’t there, it won’t return. But I need to remember that if I pursue my creative impulses, and if they’re in accordance with my abilities, then there will be success. Maybe not financially, though that would be nice. But I’ll experience the satisfaction of achieving what I’m capable of. (more…)

My novel Curva Peligrosa opens with a tornado that sweeps through the fictional town of Weed, Alberta, and drops a purple outhouse into its center. Drowsing and dreaming inside that structure is its owner, Curva Peligrosa—a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet. Adventurous, amorous, fecund, and over six feet tall, she possesses magical powers. She also has the greenest of thumbs, creating a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she possesses a wicked trigger finger.


Michelle Cameron is the author of Jewish historical fiction, including Babylon: A Novel of Jewish Captivity, the award-winning Beyond the Ghetto Gates and The Fruit of Her Hands: the story of Shira of Ashkenaz. She has also published a verse novel, In the Shadow of the Globe. Napoleon’s Mirage, the sequel to Beyond the Ghetto Gates, is forthcoming in August 2024.

Michelle is a director of The Writers Circle, a NJ-based creative writing program serving children, teens, and adults. She lives in Chatham, NJ, with her husband and has two grown sons of whom she is inordinately proud.

Visit her online:


With two new books being published by Shanti Arts, and wondering how best to market them, I’ve been thinking about book festivals I’ve participated in. I realize that, while these events are great for focusing on the many book genres available, I also have concluded that I probably won’t attend one again. A few years ago, I signed up for the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, a relatively new venue at the time. Its first session was in 2015, and it claims to be an international event that draws people from all over the world: “More than 50,000 diverse people of all ages, from urban to suburban Bay Area communities and beyond.” (more…)

Join me and my editor/publisher, Christine Cote, to help celebrate the release of my hybrid memoir Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning (to be released on 9/19/23) and my newest poetry collection, California Dreaming (published on June 27). We’ll explore some of the main themes in both of my books as well as Christine’s work as publisher/editor of Shanti Arts Press. There will be lots of opportunities for Q&A.

In Dreaming Myself into Old Age, I’ve hoped that reflecting on this these later years will help me to better understand and deepen them. Perhaps, in sharing my quest, readers will make their own discoveries, as has been true for me whenever I’ve read about someone else’s journey. But I also believe that aging presents its own mysteries for us to uncover, and that is part of my search as well. Dreaming Myself into Old Age is set within my lifelong pursuit of self-discovery.

According to my editor, this exploration carries over in California Dreaming. She says, “Lily Iona MacKenzie’s unbounded zest for life sings through the poems in California Dreaming. A writer in her bones and a dreamer in her heart, she discovers the poetry in everything—travel, art, music, nature, past and present. Her words and rhythms touch the soul and leave their treasures behind. ‘Listen closely to these poems’ quiet but insistent murmur.’ (Kathleen McClung)

Grab your favorite beverage, find a cozy spot, and join us online for an hour of delving into the mysteries of dreaming and aging!

California Dreaming & Dreaming Myself into Old Age can be purchased from Shanti Arts as well as Amazon and other major outlets. ???

If you like these books, please leave a brief review.

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 858 9043 1364

Passcode: 613741

I look forward to seeing you at noon on September 23.

Lily Iona MacKenzie


With two new books coming out, I’ve been wondering about applying for book awards. Fellow Regal House author Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop came to my rescue with this piece on book awards that she first published on SUBSTACK on August 16. This is an important post for all authors, published or unpublished.

My memoir, Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies which came out in the fall of 2022, marks the first time I’ve published with a small independent press. In the three years since acceptance, I’ve learned lots about how much it costs to produce a book, how important distribution can be, and the amount of time and energy that goes into marketing and publicizing a book, no matter if it’s self-published, traditionally published or released by an independent press.

The one thing that has stopped me in my tracks is the number of “come-ons”, scams, and false promises that land in my inbox daily.  These include payment for reviews on Instagram or with “influencers,” (I admit to hating that word), hybrid publishers wishing me to submit my next book, advertising offers, emails encouraging me to submit my book for a festival and so on. Every one of these involve me spending money and, in the end, they will cost me far more than I ever expect to make in royalties. And all of them prey on a writer’s desperate desire to be lifted above others in the great cacophony of modern life where people more and more choose visuals on devices over reading the printed word.

I’ve quoted this figure before but it’s worth repeating. In the US alone, over 4 million new books were published in 2022. (These include both self-published and commercially published books in all formats.) As a comparison, ten years ago in 2013, just over 275,000 books were published in the US.  No wonder writers are desperate and prone to scams and false promises.

The one I’m focused on because I jumped on board are the hundreds of awards. I entered 15 contests, some of which were approved by the Alliance of Independent Authors and some of which were given a caution or negative rating. I was advised by experts in the field such as the knowledgeable and experienced publishing specialist, Jane Friedman, to check how long the contest has been around, to study past winners, to look for a list of judges, to evaluate how important the prize is to members of your book community, and most importantly, to look at contests that are created primarily to make money. In the beginning, I paid some attention to this advice but the lure of a possible award (how could they not pick me?) made me throw caution to the winds.

Here’s the bottom line. I’ve entered fifteen contests and I’ve spent close to $900 on contest fees. I’ve been shortlisted in a memoir magazine contest and been declared a finalist for another book award. In one case I won a Bronze Medal in the Female Memoir division, and in another, I was named a runner up in the Memoir category. None of these “honors” paid me any money. The announcement of my “win” is most often followed by a bombardment of emails encouraging me to pay more for editorial or marketing advice or for a bronze medal on a colored ribbon or to enter more contests or book festivals. I’ve won no mention at all in six contests, and five have yet to report.

However, in many cases, the list of “winners” is truly daunting. I’m convinced that most of the writers who submitted “won” something. In one contest, I counted the finalists, winners, and runners up and came up with 146 entries that garnered some mention. It cost me $50 to enter that contest. If 500 people entered just one of the possible categories (and I suspect there are many more desperate and eager authors like myself), the income off the bat is $25,000. Where does the money go? Who are the judges? Are they paid?  Starting a writing contest seems to have become a profitable business.

Of course, there are reputable contests for writers from PEN awards to the Pulitzer Prize to the excellent listings in Poets and Writers Magazine. If I have one piece of advice to offer to writers interested in submitting to contests, I’d say stick to the reputable listings including the smaller and less well known awards you can find at the Alliance of Independent Authors . Don’t fall into the trap I jumped into. Don’t waste your money on the “for profit” contests that might give you a momentary burst of gratification (see, they did pick me!) but in the end will do little to sell your book or get it to new readers.

Visit Elizabeth’s website at

Follow her newsletters on Substrate.


Stephanie Cowell has been an opera singer, balladeer, founder of Strawberry Opera and other arts venues including a Renaissance festival and an outdoor arts series in NYC. She is the author of Nicholas Cooke, The Physician of London, The Players: a novel of the young Shakespeare, Marrying Mozart, and Claude & Camille: a novel of Monet.  Her work had been translated into nine languages and adapted into an opera. Stephanie is the recipient of an American Book Award.  Her website is (more…)

How Far Have Women Really Come?

This recent election tested American women and how far they have progressed in the gender war. Yes, I call it a war. Most women don’t earn the same amount as men, even if they are working in similar professions. And we still aren’t treated equally at all societal levels. This underdog status was evident in Hilary Clinton’s inability to win the presidency. Some aspects of the problems she faced reminded me of an experience I had some time ago after my rental home was destroyed in a fire. I lost all of my possessions as well as my beloved cat. Luckily for me, I was visiting relatives in Canada at the time. Otherwise, I also could be underground with my pet.

In those years, I envisioned Justice as being more feminine, a positive and document8-copysupportive nurturing mother figure that could make things right in the end. The image of Justice blindfolded, holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other, suggested she would be neutral and open to multiple perspectives, but she also could be swift in making her decisions. At that time, I had worked as a legal secretary for law firms and had run into some attorneys who were advocating for the less fortunate—serving justice. They helped reinforce the ideal image I had in mind. I thought Justice not only would give the less fortunate an opportunity to succeed, but I also believed she would serve me as well.

This was the perspective I took into the lawsuit I filed against my negligent landlord, PG&E, and a furnace repair firm. I initiated this suit because the fire department had determined the fire had started in the cottage’s ancient floor furnace. Their conclusion didn’t surprise me. I had experienced furnace problems before the fire. PG&E and the furnace repair company had checked out the heater at different times, but clearly they hadn’t made it any safer. Now I hoped that justice would prevail, and I’d receive financial recovery after losing my home, cat, as well as all of my belongings.

In preparation for the lawsuit, I had to spend months completing an extensive inventory of everything I had lost, detailing each item and how much it was worth to me. My home had been crammed with many things, including art objects I had made or collected from friends and family. I also owned two huge professional paintings done by a talented California artist. Not only did I have to estimate everything’s market value, but I also had to articulate each item’s emotional meaning for me. The account ranged from all of the books I had read and whose pages I had underlined, commented on, and had a dialogue with over the years, to the daily journals I had kept since my early twenties. How does one put a price on such items?

During the first mediation, the female judge, Jacqueline Smith (not her real name) patronized me. She said, “You don’t look fifty-three. A jury won’t award you much because you look so young and could easily start your life again.”

Her message was clear: I didn’t have any right to request reimbursement for my losses. In the judge, insurance adjustors, and defending attorneys’ eyes, I didn’t exist as a woman who had suffered a major loss and, literally, had to start over two-thirds of the way through her life. I also felt that the judge was aligned with the opposing side, most of them men and trained in this type of mediation. They shared similar values that excluded me. Disillusioned, discouraged, and powerless, I left feeling as if I didn’t have any control over the process and that justice was the last thing to expect there.

For the second mediation two weeks later, I invited my companion Benjamin, an English professor and psychoanalyst, to join me. My attorney and I had felt outnumbered from the beginning. We hoped having another professional person with us would add weight to our presentation. However, I also believed that Benjamin, a man who looked prosperous and accomplished, would enhance me as well; his higher status would give me more value. Since someone who was worth something in society had chosen me as a companion, I must have a few qualities comparable to his. On my own, I wasn’t worth as much as a man, especially a man of substance. While I teach rhetoric to incoming college freshmen, I’m an adjunct and not a full-time professor as Benjamin is. I’m just a writer.

During this second mediation, when Judge Smith met with us, instead of addressing me, as she had in the previous session, she talked mainly to the men on either side of me—Benjamin and my attorney. I was practically invisible. Not only did she want the men’s approval (at least this is how I interpreted her constant eye contact with one or the other), but she also enjoyed engaging with them. There was a subtle flirtation going on between Judge Smith and Benjamin that had begun when he opened the mediation chambers’ door for her (he didn’t know then that she was the mediator and a judge). This time, defendants’ attorneys’ responses to me and to my attorney were also different. Their respect had visibly increased thanks to Benjamin. It wasn’t just me seeking reimbursement for my losses. I was now part of a couple and therefore more acceptable in their eyes.

This experience reminded me of my mother’s life-long need to be known as a “Mrs.” It didn’t really matter to her who the man was—and, in fact, mother’s last marriage was a disaster. Her husband wanted what little money she had and not her love. But she felt having the title of Mrs. Gilbertson made her more valuable. More esteemed. “Mrs” made her someone to respect. I finally could understand why she felt that way. As a single woman going through this legal challenge, I had become more vulnerable and easier to victimize.

While the agreement I signed prevents me from revealing the lawsuit’s results, I did receive some compensation. But the money couldn’t replace physically or emotionally what I had lost. Nor did it address the new problem I had to deal with: a loss of innocence, the destruction of my belief in Justice to make me “whole” again—to be seen as an equal to men. Not even a loving mother, as I had imagined Justice to be, could banish the trauma of the damages I had sustained. Such ordeals reside beyond what Justice can heal.

As for Hilary, yes, women have come a long way, but this recent election reinforced what I had learned from my mediation experience. Women still are viewed by many as the weaker sex not only by men but also by other women. American women didn’t turn out for Hilary in the numbers many of us had hoped for and expected. One can argue that she has baggage and isn’t a fresh face, but she was the most prepared and capable candidate we’ve ever had for president, and she would have put her heart and soul into the job. Yet sexism still is alive, not just in men but also in women, and, yes, we do still have a long way to go.



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