Friday, July 31, 2009


And all this time I thought apples were best when eaten. Not so. My new Apple has become my totally fab friend and ally in this writing business. 

So goodbye PC. 

I'm a little sad about jumping off your OS after all these years, but had to do it. I was spending more time tracking down viruses and fending off hackers than I was writing.

Now I'm praying MAC will continue to be the shiny Apple it has started out to be.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Interview with Tween Author, Barbara Dee

[Want a signed copy of Barbara Dee's latest novel? Leave your "wittiest " tween comment and you might just receive one in your mailbox. ]

Barbara Dee is the author of Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life (McElderry/S&S, 2006, Aladdin MIX, 2007) and Solving Zoe (McElderry/S&S, 2009). Her third novel for tweens, This Is Me From Now On, will be published by Aladdin MIX next spring. A lawyer and an English teacher in previous incarnations, she now lives in Westchester, NY with her husband, three teenagers, and two incredibly spoiled cats. You can visit her on the web at

Welcome to The Write Game, Barbara. Can you tell us a little about your latest novel, Solving Zoe?

Zoe Bennett feels invisible at school. That is to everyone but the weird new kid, Lucas, who thinks Zoe's a code-reading genius. She read a single cipher in his notebook, and now he won't leave her alone. When cryptic, anonymous notes appear in students' lockers, Zoe becomes a suspect.

Barbara, what triggered the idea for Solving Zoe?

Actually, Solving Zoe was triggered by my first book, Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life, which was about a middle school girl who turns her chaotic family life into a fantasy novel. As I was writing Just Another Day, I realized how lucky the heroine was, to know that she was a talented writer with a mischievous sense of humor. And then I started thinking: how would it feel if you didn’t know what made you special? Or if you suspected there was something cool about the way your mind worked, but it didn’t seem like the sort of talent kids are supposed to have? I think middle schoolers sometimes have a pretty limited vision of “talent,” so I tried to expand the category a bit.

Is there a favorite line or two from Zoe that you'd like to share with us?

Hmm, let me think. Okay, here’s a passage. One of the tricks Zoe’s mind plays is to rearrange letters when she’s focusing on a word. As she considers the word Arizona (where someone she knows is visiting) she thinks:

Arizona. Why is that even a word? Arizona. Anozira. Zoriana.
Zoriana is a very cool name. But maybe for a superhero, not for an actual place.

I wouldn’t call these my favorite lines, but I like them—maybe because I’ve always been obsessed with names. When I’m first coming up with a character, I spend hours studying baby-naming books. I waste a ridiculous amount of time this way, but I have to do it!

What's been the most exciting/daunting part of becoming a published author?

I think the most exciting part is the day you get your first pass galley—when the manuscript you’ve been tweaking on your computer for months and months is mailed to you all printed up, with spiffy chapter headings and fonts, and you suddenly realize that it’s about to become a BOOK. Just last week, I received the galley for my third novel, This Is Me From Now On. It had been sitting in a puddle on my doorstep overnight, so came out of the envelope a soggy clump —but to me it still looked fabulous.

Are you working on a new book? Can you give us a sneak preview?

I just finished my fourth novel for tweens, which I’m tentatively calling Surprise Me. You know how every seventh grade girl is convinced that her own mom is The Most Embarrassing Parent on the Planet? Well, Marigold’s mom really is—she’s a wildly uninhibited performance artist, who one day gives a performance that ends up wrecking the best friendship Marigold ever had. I’m thinking this is basically a mother-daughter novel, but there’s also a lot in it about theater improv, which is a fascinating subject I had so much fun researching.

That sounds like fun. Be sure to let us know when it's out.

Thanks for the visit, Barbara. I'm off to buy my own copies of your book. For those who want to have some great summer reading fun or have a tween roaming the house asking, "What are we going to do today?" buy Solving Zoe right now and do a problem solving yourself!

 You might want to pick up a copy of Just Another Day while you're shopping. This tween novel is about a twelve-year-old named Cassie who turns her chaotic family life into a fantasy novel. When she's convinced her English teacher isn't actually reading it, she rebels.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters

Michelle Zinc's Prophecy of the Sisters gets my unqualified vote for a "must read." Ms. Zinc has created a Gothic tale that pulls the reader into a world of high drama that won't allow you to leave until you know if a very determined young heroine will be able to save civilization from chaos.

At the same time that you are rapidly turning those pages, you don't want the story to end. This author has done a remarkable job of taking us to the Edwardian era and making that period like one we know as well as our own. The dialog is period without ever being stilted. The description is elegant without stopping the forward momentum of the story. I particularly loved the scenes between the sisters and those of the astral encounters.

Okay. That's all. I don't want to give anything away. But PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS is . . .

Great storytelling all around.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interview with Cyn Balog

CYN BALOG's FAIRY TALE is here just in time for a great summer read. Here's a sneak preview of what you have in store for you.

Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are a match made in heaven. They've been best friends since birth, they tell each other everything, and oh yeah- they're totally hot for each other. But a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen bash, everything changes. Cam's awkward cousin Pip comes to stay, and Morgan is stunned when her formerly perfect boyfriend seems to be drifting away. When Morgan demands answers, she's shocked to discover the source of Cam's distance isn't another girl- it's another world. Pip claims that Cam is a fairy. No, seriously. A fairy.

And now his people want Cam to return to their world and take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Determined to keep Cam with her, Morgan plots to fool the fairies. But as Cam continues to change, she has to decide once and for all if he really is her destiny, and if their "perfect" love can weather an uncertain future.

So how's that for sweet plot?

Now About Cyn Balog

Cyn Balog is a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She's also the Race & Event Manager for several national fitness magazines. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and young daughter. Both are 100% human, or so she thinks. FAIRY TALE is her first novel.

When Cyn stopped by to tell us a little bit more about herself she was patient enough to answer some questions.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

FEED by MT Anderson... the voice is just... brilliance... and the end makes me weep. It somehow makes you care about a character who can not bring himself to care about anyone or anything.

I loved that book too. Glad we agree on that one. So let's talk about fictional characters. If you could be a character in a book which one would you choose?

Oh, it would have to be one of the Disney princesses, because I'm all for living happily ever after.

Oh, yes. And speaking of being happy, after chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

I chew gum. I think they must have made Wrigley's LUSH-flavored gum in like, heaven. It comes in this sexy black packaging, too, and yet I can still amuse myself by blowing bubbles with it.

Sounds like a calorie-saving plan as well. Thanks for stopping in. It's been great talking with you.

Cyn Balog's FAIRY TALE is available at Amazon, so order it now and enjoy a summer reading treat. Also stop by her website and see what else she's up to.

Book Signing

A Great Good Place for Books is small, but mighty when it comes to hosting a book signing. Last Wednesday this intimate shop gathered parents, kids, and four young adult authors into its well-stocked confines for two hours of "book talk."

Cheryl Herbsman, Sarah Quigley, Ellen Klages, and I spoke briefly about our books and then the audience took over with tons of great questions.

Thanks to Jake Hallman for coordinating this event that allowed writers and readers to come together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best Single Sentence It IS!

Okay, sharpen those pencils, people. The votes are in. Write the best single-sentence characterization and have them on my desk by August 11th midnight . . . well, the 12th in the morning so I can read them with my latte. Everyone stands a better chance of making a favorable impression if I read the entries with my morning coffee.

Here's something to consider when you're writing these sentences. Give your character ACTIONS that immediately show the reader who this person is--rich, poor, middle class, self-assured, eager, distracted.

Does your character enter a room, slouch in an over-stuffed chair, or turn to confront danger? When someone reads about your character do you want the reader to like him, be repelled by him, suspect, or envy him?

I'm waiting to read these and my judges should be back from summer vacation just in time to pick the winner. Good luck.

Oh, wait! I almost forgot the best part . . . THE PRIZE. Here's what I think might be interesting. I'll offer to send a book, probably one I've read and enjoyed (Thanks, Linda for that idea.), BUT I'll offer an alternative as well. If you win and you want a chapter critique, I'll give that instead of the book. So this time around you get to choose your prize.

Have fun. I'm looking forward to this contest.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Writing Blog

Want to win a signed ARC of Haunted Hollow? Check out this CONTEST and tell them The Write Game sent you. Here's my email to include, so we both might be winners. cleemckenziebooks[at]comcast[dot]net.

Sounds like there are a few very tempting prizes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Contest #4

So what will it be this time? We've had three "Opening Lines" contests so far with some super entries. This time I thought I'd take a poll. What do you want?

1. Opening Lines . . . again

2. The best Query Letter

3. The "Knock-Your-Socks-Off Synopsis

4. The Best Single-Sentence Characterization

5. The One-Paragraph Description that leaves the reader breathless

Let's have your votes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Interview with Cynthea Liu


Here's a peek at what's in store for you.

Chinese-born Cece was adopted when she was two years old by her American parents. Living in Texas, she's bored of her ho-hum high school and dull job. So when she learns about the S.A.S.S. program to Xi'an, China, she jumps at the chance. She'll be able to learn about her passion—anthropology—and it will give her the opportunity to explore her roots. But when she arrives, she receives quite a culture shock. And the closer she comes to finding out about her birth parents, the more apprehensive she gets. Enter Will, the cute guy she first meets on the plane. He and Cece really connect during the program. But can he help her get accustomed to a culture she should already know about, or will she leave China without the answers she's been looking for?

Let's find out something about Cynthea.

Cynthea Liu spent her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas where she was a Whiz Quiz member, an Academic Decathloner, and a spelling bee champion. (Yes, she was very popular.) After attending college on the East coast, she worked at a corporate job where she mastered PowerPoint and racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles. Eventually, she traded in her suit for sweats to do the fun stuff–writing for children.

When Cynthea stopped by The Write Game, she took a moment to answer a few questions. Here's how the interview went.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

I'm not sure I've read that book or maybe it's not something I think
about much. Usually, I find myself wishing I could write humor like
that person, do suspense like this other person. It would be nice to
be able to acquire the strengths of each author and be like this
super-author that does it all just right.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

None of them. Fiction characters have it pretty bad, though they
usually get good endings. I like the real life just fine-- good things
happening all the time!

Sounds like you have a very healthy outlook on life, Cynthea. How about those times when writing doesn't happen? After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

I don't get writer's block really. If I get stuck, I'm just "stuck."
Thinking of it that way may actually help prevent a real writer's
block from setting in for me. A long bath usually helps me get

What led you to write a story about a teen in search of her Chinese roots?

My agent asked if I wanted to write a book set in China for S.A.S.S.
series. I said, sure! In the publisher's concept letter there was a
small mention of possibly writing a book about a girl who returns to
China in search of her birth parents. That's what I used to start
writing the book.

Do you have any personal thoughts about the adoption of Chinese baby girls that you'd like to share with your readers?

I'm just really excited for adoptive families who are giving great
homes to girls (and boys) who need them. Not just abroad but within
the U.S. as well!

Cynthea is a "go" kind of person. Her websites are fabulous and her energy boundless. Kudos, Cynthea on your book and all that you do to inform authors and present new books.

You can find THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA on Amazon. Be sure to buy your copy today.

Friday, July 10, 2009


So here it is Friday again. This weekend I'm taking a break and I am not Tweeting. I am not blogging. I am not promoting my book or anyone else's book. This weekend I'm doing anything and everything that has nothing whatsoever to do with being an author.

When this kind of emotion falls over me, I'm usually at the level of "overwhelmed" by what's going on.

How many of you out there often feel the need to totally, like 100%, do something different? Forget all of your goals, toss all of your lists. And what do you choose to do instead of that usual stuff? Give me some of your ideas. I'm even tired of my usual non-writing activities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Interview with Megan Frazer

MEGAN FRAZER'S Book is here!

Secrets of Truth & Beauty tells about Dara Cohen who, when she was little, was crowned Little Miss Maine. That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives.

So what do we know about this author?

Megan Frazer studied English literature and creative writing at Columbia University. She lives with her husband and baby in Maine, where she is a high school librarian. She loves cheese and cooking, and both of these make their way into Secrets of Truth & Beauty. She was not, however, ever in a beauty pageant.

I wanted to know a bit more about Megan--you know some secret scoop on the author. So here's my not-so-brilliant questions. Megan did her best to make them sparkle. Thanks, Megan.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Oh wow, this is a tough one. I love authors who are able to create these amazing worlds that are similar to but different than our own, like Roald Dahl or Madeleine L'Engle. I'm going to choose an adult book, though: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I think it's fantastic that you're reading along, thinking this is your average coming-of-age tale, and then all of a sudden, no big fanfare, the boys can fly.

I love those surprises in books. A touch of Magic, right? On to my second not-so-brilliant, but interesting (?) question. What fictional character do you wish you could be?

Even harder. The problem is that with most fictional characters, there's something wrong, right, or else why write about them? I guess if forced to choose, I would go with Virginia Woolf's Orlando, because she got to experience life through so many centuries -- and as a man.

(Incidentally, I hear that Orlando Bloom was named for this character -- it's just a sign of our cosmic connection that it's my favorite book.)

Yes, Cosmic with a capital C, Megan.

Now here' s a real inside scoop question. After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Ice cream.

Thanks so much, Megan. And to all of you who want to find out the Secrets of Truth & Beauty go to Amazon and buy your copy today.

Monday, July 6, 2009

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

I started Twitter a few months ago to see what it was about. I'd heard it was the "water cooler" of the online social life, but that it offered more than quick conversations. So what did it offer? Book promotion opportunities? Connecting with other authors? How about those agents?

Here's a neat little post called 10 Ways Twitter Can Help Writers.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More About Opening Lines

I’ve had three Opening Lines Contests on The Write Game, and before I do another one I thought it might interesting to talk about the winning lines. The winners have had something special in their entries that make them stand out. So what is this “something special?”

Here’s definition of a great opening. (Adapted from Sol Stein in Stein on Writing.)

1. It excites the reader’s curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship. (Stein later refers to this as “quick characterization.”)

2. It introduces a setting.

3. It makes the story important enough for the reader to continue.

Let’s look at two winners and see how these Opening Lines meet Stein’s criteria.

"I’m not crazy. I promise. I don’t talk to walls, pet my invisible cat named Sugar, dance on tables in the cafeteria, or try to channel John Lennon’s wondering spirit through dollar store crystals." Kathleen Elizabeth

"The funeral was yesterday. Afterwards they drove me 324 miles away to a small town in the Hill Country. They’ve put me in one of those temporary shelters until they can find a place for me. There are fourteen kids here. It’s noisy and crowded. I hate it. I haven’t said a word to anyone." Bish Denham

These winners definitely excite the reader’s curiosity about the character. But how? Can you find the “quick characterization” in each of these? What words or phrases about the character grab your attention? How about the setting? What gives you the hint of where/how this person lives? And why is it important to keep on reading? I'd like to hear your ideas about why these Opening Lines stand out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Interview with Nan Marino

This year, July brings more than the warmth of summer. It brings a touching yet witty story to the bookshelves. Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGlinty Told Me is here and you are in for a treat.

Nan Marino tells the story about Tamara Ann Simpson, the Ramble Street girl who tugs at your heart so much you wish you could enter the pages and help her out. At the same time you ache for her archenemy, Muscle Man McGlinty. He's a kid you want to take home and make safe.

The core issue may seem to be about wining a kickball game and exposing "a squirrelly runt" for the liar he is, but really it's about trying to grow up when the adults in your life aren't helping. What makes this story truly special is the way Nan juxtaposes the history-making summer of 1969 with the everyman lives of Tamara and Muscle Man McGlinty. While Neil Armstrong takes "one small step for mankind," the Ramble Street kids slog through childhood the best they can.

I was very fortunate to bump into Nan and her brilliant storytelling talent out there in the cyber-world of writers. We've shared writing for several years now and I am always amazed at how she reaches subtly, yet deeply into her characters. She has the ability to give us those "ah ha" moments when we recognize ourselves in the people she creates. Her settings are as vivid as if you were looking at a picture.

In My Uncle is Neil Armstrong
, you "see" that muddy kickball field and the 1969 street with the flicker of TV light from the windows on American USA. You "feel" the excitement of the moonwalk and the sadness of the war with the loss it brings to the people on Ramble Street.

Here's some of Nan's answers to this interviewer's questions:

We all draw on our lives when we write fiction, can you share what you tapped into to create Neil Armstrong is My Uncle?

The story takes place in Massapequa Park, New York, which is where I grew up. I hope I captured that close-knit neighborhood feeling. We had barbeques where everyone was invited, my brother played the accordion and one of our neighbors always sang. I borrowed the
neighborhood barbeques and the accordion playing for my story. I even borrowed my neighbor's favorite song. The names of my friends and family are scattered throughout the book in one form or another.

Of course, the first moon walk was a major inspiration. In 1969, everyone watched while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those first steps. On that day, all of humanity was filled with hope and promise.

Tamara Ann Simpson, has been discussed in reviews as "the bully you have to love." First, did you see her as a bully? And second where did she come from?

It wasn't until I saw the review from Booklist that I ever thought of her as that. It was a wonderful review, but that word threw me. I knew Tamara had some issues. There might be a few times where she crosses the line. But a bully? Hmm. I guess you could make an argument
either way.

Once I heard a television personality describe his Long Island childhood town as a "hardscrabble environment." I never thought that about Massapequa, but wondered what would happen if my main character felt that way. It helped me find her tough-girl voice.

IMHO Tamara's tough act was a cover-up for a girl who had to compete with the Mary Beths in her world and had to do it without her best friend who has moved away.

So what about Muscle Man did you know him when you were growing up?

When I was around nine or ten, there was a boy who challenged a group of us to a kickball game-all of us against him. In real life that game probably lasted around ten minutes. I remember thinking that he was either very dumb or very gutsy.

If there could be a perfect writing day, what would that be for you?

The house would be quiet, the sun would be shining, and there would be chocolate involved.

A perfect writing day is all about discovery. It's when the characters take over, say amusing things and act in totally surprising way (of course, their new surprising actions are so completely in tune with their inner essence that I wonder why I didn't see it coming from the very
beginning). There are no plot holes on perfect days. It's a day filled with 'ah ha' moments.

I'm drooling here.

Your background is in librarianship, so obviously you're a lover of books. Have you always written stories or wanted to?

I've always been a reader, but it took me a long time to figure out what kind of story I wanted to write. After I wrote my first children's story, everything clicked.

I'm sure glad it "clicked" and I know everyone who reads your books will be too.

Tell us about Chi. I keep thinking I'll see a Chi dog in one of your stories. Will I?

Lee, you are too kind. Over the years, I suspect that you've heard way too many Chi stories. She's a very quirky dog.

One day, I told my husband I was going shopping and instead ended up at the local animal shelter. I'm not sure why I went there that day, but Chi was the first dog I saw. She was a scrappy oversized underweight adolescent and she needed a home as much as we needed a dog.

She's a great writing companion. She sleeps at my feet and can chew up a rejection letter in record time.

Chi is all over my webpage and mentioned in my blog. I suspect she'll find her way into a story one of these days.

Nan's book is here and it's beautiful. Buy some copies and get a jump start on birthdays and Christmas. This isn't just a book for the young reader either, any of us who grew up in those Neil Armstrong days will love to revist that time of great anticipation.

Barnes & Noble
Local Independent Bookstore
Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGlinty Told Me is available in the Unabridged AudioBook as well.