Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


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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…)

Writing is such a part of my day that if I don’t get to it, I’m constantly distracted, as if I have a lover I’m thinking about. It’s like a siren’s call, pulling me away. My husband Michael notices it. He comments on me seeming drifty. He’s right. I’m not fully there. The discipline of writing an hour or more a day pulls me into myself and gives me the contemplative part I need. Balance. (more…)

The Magic in Magical Realism Part 2: The Mystery in Magical Realism

I ended my first magical realism blog post, “The Magic in Magical Realism,” with the following passage: “The writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts. The principle thing is not the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between our circumstances and us. The magical realist does not try to copy the surrounding reality but to seize the mystery that breathes behind things.”

These observations deserve some explication. Magical realism isn’t the only way art, and in this instance literature, reveals truths that otherwise might not be recognizable. Most literary writers are trying to understand in a more profound way the dynamics between individuals and groups. They’re probing everyday events for what might be hidden from view. It isn’t unlike what Don DeLillo’s character Artis in Zero K observes:

I’m aware that when we see something, we are getting only a measure of information, a sense, an inkling of what really is there to see. I don’t know the details or the terminology but I do know that the optic nerve is not telling the full truth. We’re seeing only intimations. The rest is our invention, our way of reconstructing what is actual, if there is any such thing, philosophically, as what we call actual.

Artis could be speaking for the writer/artist who knows that our ordinary vision, our way of apprehending the world and its contents, is limited. Probing the actual, then, is what writers and also many visual artists attempt. I’m thinking of Anthony Marra’s recent collection of linked short stories The Tsar of Love and Techno. By taking his readers inside the fractured world of Chechnya and the former USSR between the 1930s, the present, and even beyond, he reveals the tragic consequences of Stalinist Russia and surroundings. In the book, art both reveals and conceals, as when a painter from the first story is forced to censor photomagicgraphs and paintings. He airbrushes a ballerina out of a photograph, changes other pictures to make Stalin look better, and obliterates his brother’s face from a family photo because his brother’s religious beliefs made him a traitor in the harsh environment of the communist regime. Yet he later paints his brother’s face in the background of every painting he is charged with altering.

This action demonstrates the power artists have, whether writers or visual artists, to alter what we call reality or the actual. What we think we are perceiving can suddenly shift. We easily can be deluded into believing what is being presented visually when in actuality there is little basis for its veracity. Donald Trump is an expert at creating this type of illusion by using his experience in so-called reality TV shows. But, aside from Trump’s slight of hand, we are constantly struggling to strip away the veils that obscure our understanding of things in the hope we’ll come closer to whatever reality is.

Writers who employ magical realism have a unique approach. They don’t try to delude the reader into thinking what is presented on the page is real in the sense it is something that could actually happen. Instead, the narrative leans more in the opposite direction, presenting images/descriptions that the reader understands are not true to our lived life but still contain an even more persuasive reality.

This approach isn’t new. In reading about Virgil’s Aeneid in Richard Jenkyns’ Classical Literature, I came across the following:

Virgil makes the familiar become strange: the Trojans see the River Tiber breaking out into the sea from thick forest, after having sailed past the scented and mysterious island of the enchantress Circe by night, hearing her song and the howling of her animals. Tiber is miraculously stilled before Aeneas travels up it to Evander’s town on the site of future Rome; the trees and waters marvel, as though they had come alive, and the boat cuts through the woodland as though penetrating a jungle.

First, the Tiber is actually in Rome, but in this narrative, the river is linked to Circe’s island, a fictional world. Next, this powerful river is temporarily at rest to allow Aeneas to safely reach Evander’s town. Then, the trees and waters are anthropomorphized, responding emotionally to what has just happened. Finally, this vessel created to travel in water also can move on land, and in a thickly wooded area. Virgil isn’t trying to convince his readers that these things are true to our lived life, but he is showing that those things we take for granted can step out of character and behave differently, contradicting our expectations. His descriptions demonstrate the mystery underlying the Trojan’s journey. A study would show, I’m sure, that many other texts inhabit the magical realism genre if not fully then partially.

This passage reminds me of what quantum mechanics suggests about our universe. Some physicists believe that many interacting worlds (MIW) exist in vast numbers, are real, and “exert influence on each other.” The passage goes on to point out that

There are three main points to the MIW theory…. First, that the universe we live in is just one of an unknown ‘gigantic’ number of worlds, some of which are ‘almost identical to ours,’ but most are ‘very different.’ Second, all of the worlds are ‘equally real,’ existing continuously through time with precisely defined properties. Third, quantum phenomena arise from ‘a universal force of repulsion between ‘nearby’ (i.e. similar) worlds, which tends to make them more dissimilar.’ ‘All quantum effects arise from, and only from, the interaction between worlds,’ the physicists explained in their abstract.

I’m not a physicist, but as a writer I can speculate from this theory. Since everything that could have happened in our past but did not has occurred in the past of some other universe, time may not necessarily always follow its prescribed linear path or could be much more complicated than what we believe. The MIW theory also opens up the possibility that humans will be able to interact one day with some of these parallel worlds. We could conclude that in its way, magical realism is more real than naturalistic, representational fiction.

In my novel Bone Songsto be released early in 2017, the main character, Curva Peligrosa, travels the Old North Trail alone from Southern Mexico to Southern Alberta over the course of twenty years. She started this journey with her twin brother Xavier when they were in their teens, but they got lost and ended up in the fictional town of Berumba, a place they had read about in a novel. Xavier was killed there. We all know we can’t actually visit fictional worlds; they only exist in our imaginations. Yet Bone Songs suggests that in a certain way we actually do inhabit these creations. They become more real in some instances than our everyday lives, and perhaps physicists will be able to demonstrate one day just why. (A woman who came to a recent reading of mine said the characters in the novels she reads are so present to her that she has to wait a few months before starting another book.)

It turns out that Curva has unusual abilities. Not only does she have divination skills, but phantom streams and sink holes often surface when she appears. She also has created a tropical greenhouse in Alberta that thrives because of her intense connection to the natural world. She has brought avocado seeds with her from Mexico, and they become healthy trees that produce that wonderful fruit in an inhospitable climate. Other fruits and vegetables flourish under her care, as do monarch butterflies, and the greenhouse attracts visitors from all over the area.

But what is the point of Curva being this kind of fecund individual? Why should a reader trust her to unveil anything? Curva’s larger than life presence (she actually is over six-foot-tall and a full-bodied woman) reminds the reader that women do have some amazing abilities, yet they aren’t always recognized, hidden beneath the usual misconceptions we have about females. Curva breaks though many of those notions, not wanting to follow the traditional path. Instead, she prefers to create her own trail and to pursue a life free from the type of demands her mother faced. Curva is trying to expand the boundaries of ordinary life so there is room for someone like her to thrive. This approach forces her to explore the mysteries of being human and to reach an understanding that allows her to live both within conventional society and outside it.

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This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Over twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2016), these blogs will be posting about magic realism. If you click on the blue frog button below, you will be taken to a list of posts from where you can hop around the blogs. 


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