Monday, June 29, 2015

"Superfluous Women"

Carola Dunn is the author of many mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple, as well as numerous historical novels. Born and raised in England, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dunn applied the Page 69 Test to Superfluous Women, the 22nd Daisy Dalrymple mystery, and reported the following:
Superfluous Women focuses on the women who, brought up to expect a husband, home, and family, found themselves with little hope of marriage because of the huge number of men killed in WWI.

Daisy visits an old school friend who lives with two other women in a house they recently bought together in a small town near London. She and her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher, are invited to Sunday lunch. One of the ladies mentions the old wine cellar—it's locked and they were never given a key. Hoping to find a bottle overlooked in the sale of the contents, Alec picks the lock. What he finds in the near-airtight cellar is a long-dead body, whose stench drives them from the house.

The local police take over the case, as Alec is a witness and can't officially investigate. On Page 69, Daisy is being interviewed by the local Detective Inspector.
Daisy had a feeling his rationale was somewhat specious, but she was always a bit muddled about what was hearsay, what was speculation, and what counted as reporting her own knowledge and observations.

"This is what I remember," she said cautiously. "I couldn't swear I'm getting it right."

"No swearing involved at present, and it won't go in your official statement."

That made her even less certain that she ought to be telling him. She couldn't see what harm it could do, though. "All right. Let's see, where should I start?"

"I'll leave that up to you, Mrs. Fletcher."

"In a nutshell: Miss Sutcliffe had a large house in Huddersfield and not much money, so she took in lodgers. Willie—Miss Chandler—and Miss Leighton had rooms there and they became friends. Miss Chandler worked as a secretary and bookkeeper. She studied and took the exams and became a Chartered Accountant."

"Did she now! A bright young lady."

"Very. But there was some ill-feeling about her success at the firm she worked for, that made her uncomfortable."

"Some people are jealous of success, even when it's taken hard work."

"That, and I gathered one of her bosses believed women had no business becoming professionals. She found a good job in High Wycombe, so she had to move. The others decided to stick with her. Miss Leighton's a teacher and luckily St. Mary's school here in Beaconsfield had an opening. Miss Sutcliffe sold her house and bought Cherry Trees. She's housekeeper, cook, gardener—and landlady to some degree, I think, but I'm a little vague about that."

"Then Miss Sutcliffe must be about the house much of the time? She's the most likely to know something about the previous residents."

"I can't answer for her. That you will have to ask them."

"Of course. Now, would you please tell me what happened at Cherry Trees today."

"Alec and I were invited to lunch. We—"

"Just a minute. When did you receive the invitation?"

"When I went to tea. They invited me, then included Alec when I told them he was coming. If he didn't mind being outnumbered four to one, they said."

"Did they know then that he's a police officer? A detective chief inspector?"

"Willie did. Miss Chandler. She didn't tell the others. I prefer to keep quiet about it, in general. I expect your wife's told you how people look askance at a copper's wife."
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Heirs of the Body.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Death in Salem"

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York.

Kuhns applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death in Salem, and reported the following:
I always find this an interesting exercise and surprising useful in identifying themes of the book.

In Death in Salem, page 69 involves two important characters. Will Rees is one. He is engaged in preparing to search the tunnels underneath Salem, an area that turns out to have a great deal of importance. The other is Peggy Boothe, daughter of Jacob who is the first murder victim. She and Rees are discussing the key to the tunnel door, after walking through a cellar filled with treasure. Not just the murder is important here but also secrets and the keys to them. Page 69 alludes to the secrets this family has: theft, smuggling among others.
Learn more about the book and author at Eleanor Kuhns's blog and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dyer.

Coffee with a Canine: Eleanor Kuhns & Shelby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Even When You Lie to Me"

Jessica Alcott lives with her husband and their two cats. She graduated from Bennington College and has worked at a children’s publisher in the UK.

Alcott applied the Page 69 Test to Even When You Lie to Me, her first novel, and reported the following:
Ugh, I always hate looking at the book after I've been away from it! It takes me a while not to be disgusted with it (yes, I should probably see someone about this). Anyway, page 69 is a conversation between Charlie, the protagonist, and Mr. Drummond, the teacher she's developing a crush on. They're bantering about books but really testing each other out, which is pretty representative of their relationship as a whole. This page also contains one of my favorite stupid jokes, which I'd been saving in my head for years (the book is probably 65% outlet for stupid literature-based jokes I've thought of over the years), which is when Charlie assumes from the title that The Brothers Karamazov is about Russian acrobats, and Drummond counters with, "Just like Madame Bovary is about a cow who wants to be human." I apologize.
Visit Jessica Alcott's website.

Writers Read: Jessica Alcott.

My Book, The Movie: Even When You Lie to Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The Sign of the Cat"

Lynne Jonell is the author of the novels Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, and The Secret of Zoom, as well as several critically acclaimed picture books. Her books have been named Junior Library Guild Selections and a Smithsonian Notable Book, among numerous other honors. Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, Jonell grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. She now teaches writing at the Loft Literary Center and lives with her husband and two sons in Plymouth, Minnesota, in a house on a hill.

Jonell applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Sign of the Cat, and reported the following:
From page 69:
A faint mutter of conversation came floating up the stairs from the kitchen below. Suddenly he heard his mother saying, sharply, "No. I'm not going to tell him yet."

The front door closed. The double lock clicked twice. Through Duncan's open window came the quick tap of footsteps in the street, rapidly fading away.

Duncan awoke to a thin crack of sun, piercing through a gap in the curtains. He had been dreaming again, that same dream of the bright window high in the dark. This time, though, something had been chasing him. He got up abruptly and pushed the hair out of his eyes. The dream was already fading, leaving nothing but a faint memory of dread.

Downstairs, Grizel was happily crunching something in her bowl—sardines, by the smell—and there were rolls and fresh fruit on the table, along with a note. It said that his mother had gone to her first music lesson of the day, but she’d packed Duncan a lunch and hoped he would have a good day at school and remember to buckle his cap.

Duncan stared at the food. Fresh fish, rolls from the bayside bakery, fruit from the wharfside grocers-- his mother must have gotten up very early indeed, if she had walked all the long way down to the wharf and back up the long hill.

He sat down to eat and studied the note again. There was nothing about where she had gotten the money for food. Nothing about the strange visitor of the night before.
Well, given that it’s only one page, this isn’t too bad!

Page 69 of The Sign of the Cat evokes a sense of mystery, which is at the heart of the book. There is a secret visitor in the night, and we see that although Duncan’s mother loves him enough to make a long trip so he can have breakfast, she is also hiding some crucial bit of information from him. We also see that they are poor, which tugs at the reader, and the dream gives a sense of foreboding.

What’s missing is the sea, the talking cats, and any sense of humor!

We get a small hint of the sea when the word “bayside” is used to identify the bakery, and a wharf certainly suggests water and boats. But we get no real sense of the swashbuckling, seafaring adventure that is to come.

Further, Grizel, Duncan’s cat, is so busy munching the sardines in her bowl that she doesn’t speak; if you were to look at page 69 alone you might not realize this very important aspect of the book. Much of the humor comes from the cats and their interactions with humans, so without a talking cat on the page the reader can’t realize just how playful certain parts of the book are.

All in all, though, I think page 69 is fairly representative of The Sign of the Cat. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that there was so much that could be inferred from just one random page.
Visit Lynne Jonell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sign of the Cat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"The Clockwork Dagger"

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair outside of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

Cato applied the Page 69 Test to her 2014 novel, The Clockwork Dagger, and reported the following:
Heroine and healer Octavia Leander has just saved her roommate from the brink of death, and with the help of airship steward Alonzo Garret, she cleans up the scene of the crime.
“I’ll tend to it. You see a bit of everything on these ships.” Mr. Garret stood and unsnapped the canvas from the support poles around the bunk.

“Truly? You see that many attempted murders and medicians failing in their attempts to travel incognito?”

“I referred more to unusual stains and matters of laundry. As for your efforts to travel incognito, I can assure you, your presence has created an unusual fuss on board ship. You are the epitome of gossip right now.”

She harrumphed beneath her breath. “I might find that flattering if my friend hadn’t nearly died.” Tears flooded her eyes. “This is . . . we can’t keep this a secret, not because of me. There’s still a murderer on board.”

Mr. Garret folded the tenting and set it on the floor. He began to lift the sodden mattress and Octavia shook her head. “Wait a moment,” she said. “This won’t dry it to the center, but it will help.” She un-holstered her parasol and held the stick over the blood. Immediately the outer layer began to pale, the desiccated blood falling away in thick flakes like curling candle wax. His eyes widened.

“I never guessed that your medician wand was hidden there.”

“Good. I might keep some secrets from you yet.”
The book is inspired by Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, though my take is set on an airship. This page surprised me with how representative it is of my steampunk fantasy duology. It's a slower scene, coming right after intense action, but shows the growing relationship between Octavia and Alonzo. Octavia is the most powerful medician (magical doctor) in the realm. She knows that she was the intended murder victim, but has no idea why. This is the point where the stakes increase. Her secrets emerge, but so do her roommate's--and Octavia is going to find out she's caught in a snarled mess of political intrigue that is greatly complicated by the involvement of Mr. Garret.
Learn more about The Clockwork Dagger and the just-released The Clockwork Crown at Beth Cato's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2015

"Concrete Angel"

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-editor of Discount Noir. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero."

Abbott applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Concrete Angel, and reported the following:
Either I wrote Concrete Angel with this test in mind or something paranormal occurred. Page 69 is the beginning of one the more important sections of the book: the exploration of the treatment of a mentally ill woman between 1962 and 1975.

Eve Moran, the book's protagonist, has just been caught shoplifting in Wanamakers Department Store in the early sixties. To extricate her from possible legal action, her husband has promised to get her psychiatric treatment. On page 69, she enters an upscale facility called The Terraces. Her husband, Hank, has committed her, and she is steaming mad once the valium wears off. She has reasoned that his promise was tactical rather than binding. This is what greets her at The Terraces.
The Regimen. It was the cusp of a new era of treatment for the mentally ill. No more lobotomies or electric or insulin shock treatments. No more strait-jackets or wrapping patients in wet clothes. Instead it was the era of talk therapy.... Patients had to talk their head off to be released, remembering or inventing dreams, thoughts, grievances, childhood traumas--all of this to feed the doctors needs to probe their minds.
Eve, being the savvy yet self-destructive woman she is, manages to thwart her incarceration's limitations by having goods delivered to her room at The Terraces. The practice is not unusual. It is the amount of merchandise that stuns everyone.

Although this page is pure narrative without any dialog, I think it is pretty indicative of the subject matter of the book. Eve is a mentally ill woman and the book is about how her family, especially her daughter, Christine, are impacted by that.
Visit Patricia Abbott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Burnt River"

Karin Salvalaggio received in MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck at the University of London. Born in West Virginia and raised in an Air Force family, she grew up on a number of military bases around the United States. She now lives in London.

Bone Dust White is her first full-length novel.

Salvalaggio applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Burnt River, and reported the following:
When this writer imagines her ideal reader they always seem to be in some trendy bookstore clutching a takeaway coffee as they wander the stacks. Having managed to escape the hustle of the city, they’re enjoying the quasi-monastic interior. By good fortune they spot my latest thriller Burnt River on a table. The cover image is intriguing so they pick it up and turn it over in their hands, but here’s where this reader strays from this writer’s narrative. They don’t read the blurb or any of those hard won reviews. They simply flip through to page 69. Pressed for time this is their test. Pass it and my book finds a new reader. Fail it and they move on to the next intriguing cover.

They read.
Dylan pulled into the hospital’s parking lot and sat with the engine idling. It was the first time he’d been back since his father passed away a few years earlier. It was supposed to be a routine operation but his father had succumbed to an infection and was dead within a week. Dylan circled the crowded parking lot a few times before finally giving up and pulling into a handicapped space. He dug his badge out of the glove compartment and threw it on the dashboard. It was nearly five in the afternoon and the sun was still in full bloom. The air was clearer than it had been in weeks. In the distance a vague outline of the mountains was visible. According to the news, the wind had shifted and the authorities were hopeful that the latest wildfire was finally under control.

Jessie was sitting on a bench outside the front entrance. She had her legs tucked under her and was using an empty Diet Coke can as an ashtray. For a while they sat side by side without saying a word. He closed his eyes and let the smoke drift over him. Jessie held up the pack.

“Want one?”

“No thanks, I quit.”

“Seems the wrong time to quit.”

“Is there ever a right time?”

“Guess not.” She paused. “Thank you.”

Dylan closed his eyes again. “For what?”

Her shoulders bounced. “For coming. I didn’t think you would.”

“Now you’re just talking shit.”

“What did you tell that detective?”

“I told her everything I know, which isn’t much.”

“So you’re talking shit too.”
This writer breathes a sigh of relief. Page 69 proves to be a very interesting read indeed and surprisingly representative of the book as a whole. In the short passage we are introduced to two of my central characters Dylan and Jessie; given a sense of place; and are told outright that these two characters are not being entirely truthful to each other and an unnamed detective. The writing style is austere. The dialogue is fast paced and combative. Jessie likes to swear, smoke and drink Diet Coke. Dylan has a physical handicap, which he resents, misses smoking terribly, lost a father to illness and has talked shit to a detective. Their relationship is intimate enough to allow silences and they’re not afraid to call each other out when they know they’re not being honest. There is affection but it’s held at arms length.

These two characters are damaged and the reader wants to know why but is a little worried that the book will be a total downer. The reader skims back over the passage again and is relieved to find that the wildfires that so plague the book’s front cover are finally under control and the air was clearer than it had been in weeks. There is hope on these pages after all. The reader closes the book and once again looks at the cover. They read the blurb, the reviews and the author’s short bio. They take a quick look around to make sure they are unobserved before slipping my book into their bag.

This writer puts her head in her hands. It turns out this particular reader is a kleptomaniac. Not ideal. Here’s hoping they write a nice review…
Visit Karin Salvalaggio's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Enchanted August"

Brenda Bowen was born in Philadelphia, grew up in England (from Herman’s Hermits to Queen to the Clash), was graduated from Colby College, made her career in New York, and longs for a cottage in Maine.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Enchanted August, and reported the following:
Enchanted August is a breezy summer read about four jaded New Yorkers who find themselves, more or less by chance, renting a cottage on a Maine island for one glorious month. The glorious month gets off to a rocky start, however, as the four of them do not have much in common. Brooklyn mom Lottie Wilkes heads out of the cottage to explore the island on page 69. She picks some flowers on her way to the island’s tennis courts, and thinks about her husband, who’s back in the city. Here’s a snippet from the page:
Lottie absently thought how much she wished Jon could see her now. She did not have much vanity, but she imagined that she looked her best at this moment. She could feel the late morning sun setting fire to her hair; she was happy with the flowers in her arms. She was so preoccupied with how she must have looked that she didn’t hear one of the tennis players approaching her.

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning,” she replied.
I like page 69 (especially as it leads to page 71, which I really like). It’s the page where Lottie begins to branch out and meet other people on the island. When I was first writing the book, I got stuck right about here. I told a friend of mine – herself a book editor – that I was writing a novel based on Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April. In that story, the main characters barely interact at all with anyone from the village in which the book is set. I believed I had to stay absolutely true to von Arnim’s original: “So they can’t meet any of the islanders,” I told her.

She said “Why not?”

And that “Why not?” stayed with me.

She was right of course. I would have missed quite an opportunity in my own book if I had kept myself so straitened. I went ahead and let Lottie meet Bill Keating, one of those sporty, fit, game New Englanders with which my fictional island – and New England itself – is populated.

He’s handy for exposition, but more important – he invites Lottie to the island’s Hat Party later that summer. And the Hat Party (Chapter 17) is not to be missed.
Visit Brenda Bowen's website.

Writers Read: Brenda Bowen.

My Book, The Movie: Enchanted August.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Freedom's Child"

Jax Miller was born and raised in New York but currently lives in the Irish countryside. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award for her first (unpublished) novel titled The Assassin’s Keeper under the pseudonym Aine O Domhnaill.

Miller applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Freedom's Child, and reported the following:
Oh my goodness, what am I in for? [opens to page 69]
…care for. Truly. Those unwanted guests who want to eat all your food and don’t grasp the first million hints to get the hell out of your home. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I have reached my destination.

The spray of the ocean is at its warmest this time of year, but the air is colder as I climb onto the craggy rocks in the pitch black underneath a moonless night. All that’s to be heard are the sounds of oxygenated bubbles rising to the bottom of the bottle and the crashes of salt below. The scotch burns, and so I cough it out into the gusts that knot up my red hair.

I think back to the day I knew I’d never see my kids again. That was twenty years ago. The word dismissed ricocheted around in my skull for two weeks after I was released from prison. Dismiss: verb. To order or allow to leave; to send away. Vanessa Delaney, the charge of second-degree murder against you is to be dismissed with prejudice.

I sat in an office behind chambers in family court, not far from where I was charged with killing my husband two years prior. I waited for Sharon Goodwyn, a plump and pale woman with no nose, only holes in her face that made her look like a black-haired swine. She was the caseworker in charge of overseeing my children’s adoption after I was charged. And I hadn’t seen her since. But I remember her well, and I remember wishing that some homeless diseased freak would jump her in an alleyway for taking pride in a case that took away my children even though I was wrong- fully accused.

Back when I was brought before the judge, I said not one word, not even when he asked me to speak. It was pointless…
Ah, this one’s not too too bad. It happens to fall on a break, so we see the tail-end of one timeline and the start of another. And yes, I’d say it’s pretty representative of Freedom’s Child as a whole, gives us an idea of what to expect: A drunk narrative and the not-so-sweet way she looks at authority.

To put it in context, it starts mid-thought where Freedom is trying to explain to the reader what mental illness feels like (though she’s quick to dismiss doctors’ diagnoses and chalk it up to being eccentric). We then see her opting to get drunk as a means of self medicating. Enter, 20 year old flashback, where we see Freedom in a courthouse. Here, she was recently released from prison, charges dismissed, and she waits for the social worker to visit her, the one in charge of seeing her kids off to a new adoptive home. And we see that Freedom, put nicely, isn’t too keen of the woman.
Visit Jax Miller's website.

My Book, The Movie: Freedom's Child.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"High Country Nocturne"

Jon Talton's many novels include the David Mapstone Mysteries and the thriller Deadline Man. He is also a veteran journalist, and a former business editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Talton applied the Page 69 Test to the latest David Mapstone Mystery, High Country Nocturne, and reported the following:
I have always found this question fascinating but never more so than with High Country Nocturne.

On page 69, one of the most critical turning points in the story begins a short fuse to detonation. In many ways, the novel can be defined by “before” and “after” this moment. I will not quote for fear of spoiling. What I will say is that a casual reader ought to be intrigued and then hooked by skimming this page, or they won’t like the book at all.
Learn more about the book and author at Jon Talton's website.

My Book, The Movie: High Country Nocturne.

Writers Read: Jon Talton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"The Notorious Pagan Jones"

Nina Berry is the author of the Otherkin series and the newly released The Notorious Pagan Jones. She was born in Honolulu, studied writing and film in Chicago, and now works in Hollywood. When she's not writing, Berry does her best to bodysurf, explore ancient crypts, or venture forth on tiger safari. But mostly she's on the couch surrounded by cats, reading a good book.

Berry applied the Page 69 Test to The Notorious Pagan Jones and reported the following:
From page 69:
The envelope was unsealed and yellowing at the corners. Pagan lifted the flap and carefully pulled out a stack of folded stationery on heavy white paper. Letters. She unfolded the first one with the care of an archaeologist unrolling an ancient papyrus.

Handwriting in black ink slanted across the paper in a jagged scrawl. She didn’t recognize it. Her breathing quickened as she read the first two words. Liebe Eva.

Her mother’s name, Eva, with a casual German greeting in front of it. Pagan understood enough German to know that Liebe was, at the very least, friendly. It didn’t have to be more than that.

But it could be.
It’s 1961, the height of the Cold War, and to Pagan Jones the events of World War II are like some distant nightmare. But as the story moves along, that terrible conflict casts a warped shadow over everything she thought she knew about her family.

The events on page 69 of that book may seem small, but they are vital to the backstory of Pagan’s mother’s mysterious past, and to what motivates Pagan throughout the rest of the book. Eva Jones committed suicide when Pagan was only 12, sending her sensitive daughter into a dark spiral of alcoholism. But why did Eva kill herself? She left no note, and had seemed completely happy up the morning of her death.

Pagan knows she shouldn’t blame herself for her mother’s death, but the guilt weighs on her just the same. Maybe if she finds out what triggered the suicide, that is one burden, at least, she can set aside. So Pagan is driven to find the truth, and what she finds in her father’s safe on page 69 is the first big clue that will send her on a quest that will traverse at least three books and as many continents.
Visit Nina Berry's website.

Writers Read: Nina Berry.

My Book, The Movie: The Notorious Pagan Jones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Long Black Curl"

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Long Black Curl, the third novel of the Tufa, following The Hum and Shiver and Wisp of a Thing, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Long Black Curl describes a crucial meeting between two characters. One of them is Mandalay Harris, the 12-year-old girl who is the hereditary leader of half the Tufa, a race descended from exiled Celtic faerie folk and now living in modern Appalachia. The other is Luke Somerville, a 12-year-old boy from the other half of the Tufa. Mandalay has gotten lost in the snow, something that really shouldn’t be possible given her Tufa blood, and Luke has just discovered her.
The shape stopped. The dog barked once. “Who’s there?” the shape called.

“My name’s Mandalay Harris. I reckon I’m lost. Who’s that?”

“Luke Somerville. Lord a’mighty, girl, how’d you end up all the way out here?”

“Like I said, I got lost. Reckon I have a talent for it.”

“You sure do.” He came closer, and she could see his face. He was about the same age as her, black haired and big eyed. She’d seen him around school, but he belonged to Rockhouse’s people, and they tended not to interact with her folks anywhere but the Pair-A-Dice. She wondered if he knew who she was.
Among other things, Long Black Curl is about the dangers inherent in forming relationships across borders, whether it be family, clan, or society. The central couple, Bo-Kate Wisby and Jefferson Parker, once did so, and it led to horrific events that caused them to be the only Tufa ever banished. Now Mandalay seems on the verge of doing the same thing; given her standing in the Tufa community, the potential for even more destruction is very real.

But at the same time, the potential for great good is there as well. The relationship between Romeo and Juliet, after all, ended their families’ feud. As the modern world encroaches on the Tufa, making it harder and harder to continue hiding in plain sight after centuries of isolation, these relationships may be their only hope. Unless, of course, they lead to their destruction.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Wisp of a Thing.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"Escape to Hangtown"

Larry D. Sweazy (pronounced: Swayzee) is the author of ten novels, Escape from Hangtown, See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for books the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 (for the short story "See Also Murder"), and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010. Sweazy was awarded the Best Books in Indiana in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. And in 2013, he received the inaugural Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year for The Coyote Tracker, presented by the AWA (Academy of Western Artists). Sweazy has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies. He lives in the Midwest with his wife, Rose.

Sweazy applied the Page 69 Test to Escape from Hangtown:
From page 69:
“You look like your sister,” Little Ling said with a whisper.

You knew my sister? For some reason, the announcement of such a thing surprised Celia—until she looked closer.
This start of the first full paragraph on page 69 of Escape from Hangtown is representative of the book, and I’m glad of that. Even though this is a Lucas Fume Western novel, I really think this is Celia Barlow’s book. Celia was beaten within an inch of her life for falling in love with Zeke Henry, a black man, for breaking a terrible taboo of the time, even though no innocent lines had been crossed. The beating left Celia paralyzed, but wholly alive and unable to speak, unable to care for herself in any way. Lucas Fume’s goal in this book is to prove that Zeke Henry is innocent of harming Celia, that the perpetrator of the horrible assault was actually her father, the power senator, Lancaster Barlow. Lucas wants Zeke to be as free as he is; a repayment for Zeke’s efforts to see Lucas free of being falsely imprisoned in the first book (Vengeance at Sundown) of the series. It’s a tough task for Lucas, wrought with peril, and the first part of his plan is to take possession of Celia and get her in a safe place. Little Ling is her caretaker, a longtime family friend who has sided with Lucas. This scene takes place shortly after Celia has been whisked away from a neglectful sanatorium, and she starts to find some long sought after comfort. Lucas’s intervention has given Celia something she thought would never have again, at least in this life… She now has a glimmer of hope, and that, ultimately, is what this book is about.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny (April 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny (April 2013).

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy.

My Book, The Movie: Escape to Hangtown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"The Far End of Happy"

Long a leader in the Southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, writing teacher and developmental editor Kathryn Craft is the author of The Art of Falling.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her second novel, The Far End of Happy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Where are your rings?”

For years he had ignored her in every way that counted; Ronnie was surprised he’d even noticed. She hadn’t meant to make a public statement. As kindly as she could, she said, “Let’s talk tonight, Jeff. At home, like we planned.”

After Tae Kwon Do, they got drive-through burgers and ate on the way to parent-teacher night. Ronnie—and Jeff too, she was sure—pretended to listen to the teachers and look at the projects on the wall, slapping smiles over twisting guts and draining hearts. When they finally got home and Jeff declined her invitation to join in on the boys’ bedtime rituals, she skipped reading the boys a book by promising two the next night.

Ronnie rejoined him in the living room. He sat on the love seat; she sat on the couch.

Jeff spoke first.
“I was going to shoot myself tonight.”
She wasn’t sure she heard him right. He wasn’t hysterical. He could have been saying, I was going to watch football, but the Eagles weren’t playing. Ronnie couldn’t focus on the magnitude of what he was saying; she got stuck on the word “shoot.”

It only took another moment to add it up: he’d already come up with a plan, and it involved a gun.
Based on the twelve hours of my first husband’s suicide standoff at our idyllic little farm in rural Pennsylvania, The Far End of Happy explores the perspectives of three women—Ronnie, her mother Beverly, and Jeff’s mother Janet, all whisked to the safety of a nearby fire hall—who must make tough choices and face shameful secrets while awaiting word about Jeff’s standoff against police at the farm.

This backstory excerpt contextualizes the tragedy unfolding in this marriage. Ronnie, no longer able to handle her husband’s drinking and financial secretiveness, takes one symbolic action to assure herself that she can control her destiny—she removes her wedding rings—and in doing so her life spins further out of control. Modern mothers will no doubt relate: busy as she is ferrying her two active sons from one thing to the next, in recent years Ronnie has assumed that she and her husband had hit a rough patch that would resolve as the boys grew older, missing signs that he was losing his grip on life.

Ronnie and Jeff will live through the night depicted in this excerpt, but she can only protect herself and her children if she leaves the marriage behind. This won’t be easy. Breaking her vow to the man she has loved for fifteen years has already drained her. At the opening of the novel Ronnie bolsters her spirit with the notion that today Jeff will move out.

But Jeff has no intention of leaving. He pulls into the driveway drunk and armed, and after his son’s 911 call, digs in against police. For every agonizing moment that remains of that day, Ronnie must decide whether she will cave in to Jeff’s demands or face off against her decision’s life-or-death stakes.
Visit Kathryn Craft's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"The Ways of the World"

Robert Goddard is the Edgar Award–winning, internationally bestselling author of The Ways of the World; Long Time Coming; Into the Blue, which won the first WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award; and Past Caring. He teaches history at the University of Cambridge and lives in Cornwall.

Goddard applied the Page 69 Test to The Ways of the World and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Ways of the World finds our hero, James ‘Max’ Maxted, at the Café Parnasse in Paris in the early spring of 1919, in the company of his late father’s secret lover, Corinne Dombreux. They have something in common. Unlike just about everyone else involved, they believe Sir Henry Maxted didn’t die in an accidental fall from the roof of the apartment block where Corinne lives – he was pushed. The question is: who pushed him – and why?

Quite a lot of the story emerges on this one page: the alliance between Max and Corinne; the wish of officialdom that no scandal be allowed to touch the post-war peace conference, where Sir Henry was serving as an advisor to the British delegation; the police’s theory that Sir Henry went onto the roof to spy on an Italian artist he suspected of being a rival for Corinne’s affections; the belief shared by Max and Corinne that Sir Henry actually went up there in pursuit of an intruder; the significance, ignored by the police, of the skylight broken from the inside.

‘How sure are you that he was murdered, Corinne?’ Max asks. And she replies, ‘You mean how sure can I make you?’ But the truth, which Corinne probably senses, is that Max is already sure. And he is not going to rest until he discovers the truth – or dies in the attempt.

Welcome to Paris, in the first year of a peace that for some will be deadlier than the war that preceded it.
Visit Robert Goddard's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Ways of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Death Ex Machina"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates.

The books in order are The Pericles Commission, The Ionia Sanction, Sacred Games, The Marathon Conspiracy, and the newest addition, Death Ex Machina.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to Death Ex Machina and reported the following:
I'm afraid life isn't getting any easier for the only private agent in ancient Athens, but at least he has a chance to get into show biz.

It’s the time of the Great Dionysia, the most important arts festival of the ancient world, and a crisis is well underway, because a ghost is haunting the theater. Already too many things have gone wrong and the show promises to be a disaster.

Page 69 sees a wet actor join Nico and Diotima in sheltering from the rain. The actor is a man named Romanos.
“What are you doing out in this weather?” I asked him.

“I was at the theater,” he said. “I was rehearsing the new third actor in his lines.”
The actors are rehearsing for Sisyphus, King of Corinth, written and directed by a fellow named Sophocles, who is becoming increasingly distraught at the state of his play.

This conversation is an important scene. Romanos has clues to offer and, more to the point, insights to offer about himself. He’s a foreigner, from the distant land of Phrygia, come to Athens to find work. Romanos’s greatest desire is to become a citizen of Athens.

Athens at this time had a problem all too familiar to modern western nations: an enormous influx of migrants. How Athens coped with immigration is one of the sub-plots of the story.

What clues have Nico and Diotima found? Will Romanos win his citizenship? You’ll have to read the story to find out!
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pericles Commission.

My Book, The Movie: The Pericles Commission.

My Book, The Movie: The Ionia Sanction.

The Page 69 Test: The Ionia Sanction.

The Page 69 Test: Sacred Games.

My Book, The Movie: Sacred Games.

The Page 69 Test: The Marathon Conspiracy.

My Book, The Movie: The Marathon Conspiracy.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

My Book, The Movie: Death Ex Machina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 8, 2015


Anne A. Wilson was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, with a degree in ocean engineering, followed by nine years of active duty service as a Navy helicopter pilot. Following her military service, she worked for four years in the semi-conductor industry, and currently, owns a triathlon coaching business, Camelback Coaching, with her husband, now in its twelfth year of operation. She lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Wilson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hover, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“So then what?” Em says.

I’m giving her the play-by-play of my stay on the Lake Champlain following a tortuously long day. The check flight for Sabercat 55 took a full thirteen hours to complete, all sitting next to a live wire in Commander Claggett.

“Hold that thought,” I say. “I have got to get something in my stomach or I’m going to pass out.”

Entering the empty wardroom, I make a beeline to the counter that supplies bread, peanut butter and jelly. I put together a sandwich, fill a glass with lemonade, and drop into a wide, stainless steel chair—one of thirty or so positioned on either side of seven long, rectangular tables.

Having just departed the Lake Champlain, I gain a new appreciation for the ample size of our wardroom. Our tables are arranged end-to-end to form a U shape, filling the middle of the space. A lounge area with couches and a TV occupies the far corner. There’s even room for a sizeable salad bar.

Steel blue-gray dominates—the color of the heavy duty plastic table coverings. The chairs are a lighter shade of gray and this all contrasts not so nicely with bulkheads painted a stale yellow-cream, just like our stateroom.

I stare ahead at nothing as I eat, my mind crowded with images from my stay on the Lake Champlain. I’m so wholly engrossed in my thoughts that I don’t notice the arrival of the ship’s operations officer.

“Hey, Sara,” he says in his slimy way. “Imagine finding you here.”

“Yeah, imagine that, Sir.”
I rely heavily on dialogue to tell my stories, so page 69 is “rare” in that descriptive paragraphs occupy a greater amount of real estate than the words within quotes. Having said that, though, page 69 does give a glimpse into my insights about life on a U. S. Navy ship and the inner workings of a U. S. Navy battle group.

I served in the navy as a helicopter pilot for nine years active duty. And since living and working in a navy battle group is not something most people get to experience, I feel I’ve been granted the opportunity to bring my readers into this unique place and give them a taste of what it’s like.

In this scene, the main protagonist, Sara, who is a gifted helicopter pilot, has just returned to her ship, the USS Kansas City, after spending two nights on the guided-missile cruiser, USS Lake Champlain. An aircraft malfunction forced an emergency landing of her helicopter on the deck of the Lake Champlain, so now, she’s recalling her experience to her roommate, Emily.

Normally, the back and forth banter between Sara and Emily is snappy and quick and the pages fly when these two are at it. But on this occasion, Sara needed food fast, so she darted to the wardroom to grab a snack. The wardroom on a ship is where the officers eat, so I offer a brief description of what a wardroom looks like.

The reader is also introduced to the operations officer on the ship, a person Sara is clearly not happy to see.

For me, the jury is out on this one. If someone was skimming, I’m not sure they’d be compelled to read the whole book after reading page 69. I would probably answer differently if we were talking about the pages just before or just after. If they could read these pages, the reader would learn of a romantic plotline and a Navy SEAL mission. But since it’s page 69, I would hope that it’s enough to pique the reader’s interest, and that it’s written in such a way that the reader would know they’re in good hands, and that they’re going to receive an authentic glimpse of life on a navy ship.
Visit Anne A. Wilson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"The Brass Giant"

Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom, amateur seamstress, RPG enthusiast, and art hobbyist, in addition to all that book writing. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she adventures through life with her fiercely-bearded paladin of a husband, their daughter the sticky-fingered rogue, and their cowardly wizard of a dog, with only a sleep spell in his spellbook.

They currently reside in Northwest Arkansas, but once they earn enough loot and experience, they'll build a proper castle somewhere and defend against all manner of dragons and goblins, and whatever else dares take them on.

Johnson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Brass Giant: A Chroniker City Story, and reported the following:
I don’t yet have the bound paperback of the novel from the publisher yet (that comes out June 23!), but estimating where page 69 might be in the print version…
She entered the lift and turned in a circle as she examined all the exposed gears and belts, pulleys, linkages, and electric wires, forgetting her disappointment, forgetting her worries and her doubts. Emmerich followed her in, the curved glass door of the lift closing behind him.

Buttons decorated a freestanding podium at the back of the lift, each one seeming to correspond with a floor in the east tower. There was a large lever on one side of the podium; Emmerich produced a key and slid it into a locking mechanism on the other side. Petra heard a distinct click within, and then, above the lift chamber, the drive motor whirred. Emmerich pressed a button labeled with an ornate O at the top right of the panel and pulled a knob at the bottom. The gearbox within the drive motor shifted, and a white bulb above the podium ignited.

“Ready?” He placed both hands on the large lever.

Petra nodded, and he put all of his weight into pulling the lever back. The whirring of the drive motor slowed for a moment, and with a loud click, the driveshaft locked. She held her breath. The spring-loaded lever snapped back to its original position, and the lift slowly rose above the lobby floor.

Petra’s heartbeat quickened, the steady hum of machinery whirring beneath her feet, vibrating through her bones. She could not help but smile, the gears spinning in perfect, deliberate harmony—a sound fashioned by the hands of a skilled engineer. This was why she wanted to be a part of the Guild, why she tried so hard to prove herself; she wanted to build things that sang, machines so expertly designed that they never faltered, so innovative that she changed the very motions of the world.

She wanted to build the future.
Is it representative of the rest of the book? Absolutely yes. The Brass Giant is full of descriptions like this, detailing the machines of Chroniker City through an engineer’s eyes. Petra lives and breathes machines, and Chroniker City is an integral part of who she is. Would a reader skimming this page be inclined to read on? If a wide variety of mechanical contraptions intrigue them, yes. I would hope so anyway. The Brass Giant is very much a love letter to Victorian science. If that interests you, then this is the book for you.
Learn more about the book and author at Brooke Johnson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Brass Giant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 5, 2015

"What Lies Behind"

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels, including What Lies Behind, When Shadows Fall and All the Pretty Girls, and is the co-author of the A Brit in the FBI series with bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Her work has been published in more than twenty countries. Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original, and Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense. She lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens, where she enjoys fine wine and good notebooks.

Ellison applied the Page 69 Test to What Lies Behind and reported the following:
I love this test. It’s fascinating to me, to see what the story says at this particular point in the narrative. As it happens, for once, I have a hugely compelling and important moment in the book on page 69. Former medical examiner, Dr. Samantha Owens, is dropping by a crime scene at the request of her friend, homicide lieutenant Darren Fletcher. The scene is a bad one, one victim murdered, the second clinging to life in a coma, and they are making their way through the apartment when Sam makes a discovery that changes the course of the investigation:
Most importantly, what was an undercover FBI agent doing in the apartment of a Georgetown University medical student?

She took a deep breath, trying to clear her head. Smelled something off, something close. Deeper than the tang of blood and the effluvia of dead bodies. Sweet, almost flower-like, but not. She couldn’t place it, had never come across the scent before. It wasn’t pleasant, and it wasn’t a natural part of the crime scene, she was sure. It smelled a bit like overripe honeysuckle, but sharper, with some mint, perhaps, both scents overlaid with a sickly rot that made her gorge rise.

Where was it coming from? She saw nothing unusual, or out of place, except for the copious streaks of blood.

“Fletch, come here. Do you smell anything?”

Fletcher breathed in deep. “Blood and gore and carpet cleaner. Maybe some old pot smoke. Bacon grease.”

“Nothing flower-like? Like old flowers left to mold in a vase of water?”

“Like the way patchouli smells? I’ve never liked it, but I can’t say—”

“No, that’s not it.”

Fletcher came closer, sniffing. “Ugh. Yeah, I smell it now. What the hell? It wasn’t here earlier.”

Sam edged to the breakfast bar, wrinkled her nose as the smell grew stronger. She looked closer at the bar. Runnels of blood had come off the counter, streamed down the paneling. There was a break in the blood, almost as if a ruler had been placed in the down flow and the blood had run over it in a perfect line.

“Do you have a Maglite?” she asked.

“Sure,” Fletcher replied, handing her the flashlight he’d stuffed in his jacket pocket.

She shone the light on the edges of the counter, then down into the paneling. In one small area, about twelve inches across, the blood dribbled into nowhere, just plain disappeared.
Now you have to turn the page to find out what she’s discovered, right?

I don’t often have such a monumental event on page 69, this is probably the second or third in 13 books. You just never know how the book is going to break down on the page.
Visit J.T. Ellison's website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: What Lies Behind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Bones & All"

Camille DeAngelis is the author of the recently released Bones & All, Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker, and Mary Modern, as well as a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland. She is a graduate of New York University (B.A. in Fine Arts, minor in Irish Studies, 2002) and the National University of Ireland, Galway (M.A. in Writing, 2005).

DeAngelis  applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bones & All, and reported the following:
I laughed out loud when I turned to page 69, because for many readers this passage is one of the most horrifying in the whole novel. My boy- and babysitter-eating narrator, Maren, meets a sweet (and unsuspecting) old lady at the grocery store, and she brings Maren home and makes her breakfast. Later that day Maren meets an old man who also takes her under his wing, but in a very different way: Sully is the only person she's ever met who also does “the bad thing.” From the bottom of page 69:
The clock on the mantel chimed six as Sully brought his pack in from the sitting room, propped it against the refrigerator, and drew a long ropelike object out of the opening. At first I did think it was a rope, but then he pulled out the thick, silvery knot of Mrs. Harmon’s chignon and laid it out on the calico place mat with a sort of reverence, and I realized what the ropelike thing was made of. There were all sorts of hair woven into it, red and brown and black and silver, curly and kinky and slippery-straight. I never knew something could be so grotesque and so beautiful at the same time.
Sully's neverending rope of hair is part of why people say Bones & All reminds them of Stephen King, which of course I take as a huge compliment.
Visit Camille DeAngelis's website.

Writers Read: Camille DeAngelis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Jessica Brody's books include the teen sci-fi/suspense trilogy: Unremembered, Unforgotten, and Unchanged. Unremembered is now in development as a major motion picture.

Brody applied the Page 69 Test to Unchanged and reported the following:
From page 69:
The glint off the metal cube drive sparkles in the glass and I turn around and pick it up. I sit down on the edge of the bed and turn the small object over and over in my palm, studying its smooth, shiny surface, wondering what could possibly stored on it. Some kind of message left for me to find?
When I was asked to participate in the page 69 test, I was fascinated to find that page 69 of Unchanged, the final book in the Unremembered trilogy really does capture a lot of what this story is about. As indicated in the above passage, Unchanged (as with the rest of the trilogy) is mysterious, suspenseful, and full of cool, futuristic technology. And this particular passage (along with a few other passages on this page) actually marks the beginning of a mystery that will set up the entire rest of the book and give a final resolution to the trilogy.

I love keeping the reader guessing and on the edge of their seat. And I also love exploring the “what-ifs” of our culture and our technology. That’s what I set out to do in this trilogy.

So, yes, I think Unchanged passes the page 69 test. I hope you’ll agree!
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brody's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Unremembered.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Knight applied the Page 69 Test to her new psychological thriller, Disclaimer, and reported the following:
Page sixty-nine is only half a page, the opening of Chapter Thirteen. It describes the moment when Catherine Ravenscroft recognises for the first time, that her life might be in danger. She is standing on an underground train platform on her way to work: 'Buried beneath the earth, deep underground, at least thirty feet between her and natural light'. She has done this a million times before but this time it is different. This time the words she has read from the book that found its way into her home - the book in which she discovered she is a central character - fill her head. She hears them as she is crushed by the rush hour crowd who are pushing around her to get on to the train. She hears them as she sees her feet slipping across the yellow safety line. She hears them as she looks up at the train arrivals screen which tells her the train will be arriving in three minutes.
...what she didn't know was that it was also telling her how long she had left to live...
Buried in this half page too, is an echo from the secret which Catherine has tried so hard to keep hidden.
Learn more about Disclaimer at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Renée Knight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 1, 2015

"Dear Carolina"

Kristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dear Carolina, and reported the following:
I was a little nervous about this “Page 69” test. It’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it? I, obviously, didn’t know what page 69 of Dear Carolina held off the top of my head, so I worried that page 69 wouldn’t be a good page or that it wouldn’t be representative of the rest of the book. So, imagine my relief, when I found that page 69 is sort of a microcosm of the rest of the novel!

When page 69 opens, Jodi, the birth mother in the story, is fighting her very hardest not to start drinking again, which is one of her main struggles in Dear Carolina. She goes to her cousin Graham and his wife Khaki’s house, where Khaki immediately takes baby Carolina. Jodi says, Khaki “winked at me and patted my back real sweet like. She didn’t have to say nothing at all for me to know that she knew right where I was. Not long ago, she’d been knowing that same tired that brings you to your knees and frustration over not being able to do nothing to stop the cryin’ and being so scared you like to faint from remembering that this little baby—all she’s got in the whole wide world is you. But she didn’t know near nothing ’bout addiction. And that was the difference.”

That paragraph, I’d dare to say, is the crux of the story. Khaki and Jodi, despite their clear differences in socioeconomic background, education, upbringing… They understand each other in a very poignant way that goes even deeper than the bond of the shared understanding of motherhood.

And, despite her remembering of the difficulties new motherhood can bring, Khaki longs for another child anyway. But, as Jodi says, the thing that separates them, the thing that makes them different is that, when Khaki is feeling down and upset and exhausted, she turns to her husband Graham. And Jodi turns to alcohol.

As Jodi sits in her cousin’s kitchen, in the home that she compares to “a summer day at the beach,” she realizes: “I couldn’t think straight I were so busy looking around figuring on where they keep the booze. I’d like to tell you I wouldn’t never steal from somebody I love. But I wrote more than a few ‘sorry’ letters to people I loved during them twelve steps.”
Jodi feels about as low as she ever has on page 69. She is scared and exhausted and depleted and she has nowhere to turn. On the one hand, she is excited to tell Graham about the new job that she has been offered, but, on the other, she is racked with worry because she has no idea how she can take the job, pay for childcare and possibly make ends meet.

In his strong, Southern, cowboy kind of way, Graham, as always, makes Jodi feel better with one sentence, with the last line of page 69 that, again, is one of the most important messages of the entirety of Dear Carolina: “You don’t need to give up, and you aren’t all alone.”

That is, to me, the most important theme in Dear Carolina. And, happily, page 69 embodies it quite well!
Visit Kristy Woodson Harvey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dear Carolina.

Writers Read: Kristy Woodson Harvey.

--Marshal Zeringue