Monday, August 31, 2015

"Between the Notes"

Sharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband (who makes fonts), her son (who makes music), and her daughter (who makes believe!). She worked in public relations for twenty years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. Between the Notes is her debut novel. When she's not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical.

Roat applied the Page 69 Test to Between the Notes and reported the following:
From page 69:
I heard the distinctive rumble of Lennie’s Jeep and watched out the front window as he drove off. My chest unclenched the slightest bit, knowing he was gone. “You probably won’t have to go very far to get stuff for your police report.”

Mom raised an eyebrow. “Why’s that?”

“Am I the only one who’s noticed that our neighbor is a drug dealer?”

“Mr. Lazarski?” Mom chuckled. “He’s sixty-five years old and disabled. I hardly think he’s dealing drugs…”

I peered out the kitchen window toward their little house. There was one broken-down car parked in the grass along the far side, and one of those prefab sheds shaped like a miniature barn. I’d seen Lennie coming and going from it, but nobody else had stepped out of the house.

“I wasn’t talking about Mr. Lazarski, Mom. I was talking about his son.”

Mom pulled a box of pasta from the cabinet. “Trust me. We checked everyone out thoroughly before moving here. It’s not a bad neighborhood, sweetie. No arrests, no incidents at all in the past year.”

“That just means they haven’t been caught yet,” I mumbled.
Page 69 is a conversation between protagonist Ivy and her mother. It’s a fairly good representation of their relationship, and definitely gives a glimpse into what’s happening in the book. The page reveals some tension between Ivy and Lennie, the boy next door, as well as her family’s financial hardship and her struggle adjusting to their new, more modest circumstances.
Visit Sharon Huss Roat's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Cheating for the Chicken Man"

Priscilla Cummings’s books include the highly acclaimed The Red Kayak and The Journey Back.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Cheating for the Chicken Man, and reported the following:
Thirteen-year-old Kate Tyler is not one to get riled too easily. But she’s fed up, and she’s desperate. The boy who bullied her brother in middle school has started it again in high school by stringing up a banner in the hallway that reads, “The Chicken Man Returns.” It’s a cruel reference to Kate’s brother, J.T., who lives on a Maryland chicken farm and has just returned after a year in juvenile detention eager to put the past behind and make a fresh start. Kate has torn the banner off the hallway walls and stormed into the school office to report the bully’s cruel act, determined to get immediate action. But instead of asking for the bully’s name, the secretary hands Kate a form to fill out.

On Page 69 Kate is furious:
“But you have to do something now!”

The secretary held up both hands. “Take your time. Fill out the form and bring it back. That is the protocol. We need the form.”

Protocol. That word again: the rules of appropriate behavior. “But this boy –“

“Look,” the secretary’s voice was firm when she cut Kate off. “Give us the information we need, and we’ll follow up on it.”

“What about the banner?” Kate asked, gently lifting the pile of papers.

But the secretary had moved on down the counter to the next student, who couldn’t’ get his locker open.

Kate was a mix of anger, frustration, and now, disappointment. Pressed together, her lips made a tight line....
This excerpt from Page 69 is a crucial turning point in the story because Kate realizes the establishment is not going to do anything to protect her brother. She will need to do it herself. And it won't be easy. She’ll have to set aside cherished principles and put her own future on the line.
Visit Priscilla Cummings's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Darkness the Color of Snow"

Thomas Cobb is the author of Crazy Heart, which was adapted into a 2009 Academy Award-winning film starring Jeff Bridges, and Shavetail, among other books.

Cobb applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Darkness the Color of Snow, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Darkness the Color of Snow is the end of the chapter in which patrolman Ronald Forbert of the Lydell Police Department writes his report on the traffic stop two nights before in which his ex friend was killed in a horrific accident. Or was it an accident?

Two of the other major characters—Police Chief Gordon Hawkins and Sergeant Pete Mancuso discuss the effect of the accident on Forbert, who is a young, relatively inexperienced policeman. They worry that perhaps Forbert will take too much blame for the event onto himself, which, of course, he will. The Chief responds that Forbert has a “good head and a good heart,” which is true, but raises questions about how much stress a “good head” and a “good heart” are capable of handling. And that’s one of the main issues that Darkness deals with.
Learn more about the author and his work at Thomas Cobb's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shavetail.

My Book, The Movie: Crazy Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"From Where I Watch You"

Shannon Grogan is a 2nd grade teacher who writes at night, and at Starbucks or the library while her kids are at ballet and baseball, in a tiny logging town east of Seattle, WA. She holds degrees in education and graphic design/illustration. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she likes baking (gluten-free), shopping at Target, losing to her kids at Skip Bo or Apples to Apples, camping, or wishing she was on a beach. But usually she’s reading, or watching scary movies like Jaws, or reality TV like Cake Boss or Long Island Medium.

Grogan applied the Page 69 Test to her new YA thriller, From Where I Watch You, and reported the following:
Page 69 absolutely is representative of the whole book! Phew!

My main character Kara is sitting with Charlie (her lifetime crush, who is back in town with secrets of his own) at El Diablo coffee shop in Seattle, arguing about Kara’s plans for the future, which includes her plan to ‘run away’ to San Francisco to enter a national baking contest in the hopes of earning a scholarship to pastry school.

Page 69 not only reminds the reader of Kara’s plans to escape her collapsed family life, but it also reminds us that she has a stalker, and a love interest building.

I’ll insert one quote from the page, which is a thought Kara is having while Charlie prods about her plan:

The “alone” in his sentence makes me think of the notes, and I wonder if whoever wrote them is watching us right now.
Visit Shannon Grogan's website.

My Book, The Movie: From Where I Watch You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"The Einstein Prophecy"

Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, television writer (Charmed, Sliders, Poltergeist: the Legacy) and the bestselling author of many novels and nonfiction books, including Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet, and The Romanov Cross. His most recent supernatural thriller, The Einstein Prophecy, occupied the # 1 slot in the Amazon Kindle story for much of July. He lives and works in Santa Monica, CA.

Masello applied the Page 69 Test to The Einstein Prophecy and reported the following:
Page 69, in this instance, is pretty short, as it contain only the last words of the chapter. But I think it’s still enough to offer a glimpse into the book.

We find ourselves in the Princeton University Art Museum, where the custodian, working late at night to clean up the conservation room after the installation of a mysterious and ancient sarcophagus, is suddenly attacked by a swarm of bats flying through a broken window. He flees outside, but the bats relentlessly follow.
The bats came down on him like a hard brown rain, wings spread, claws distended, tiny fangs shining . . . Minutes later, their work done, they rose again, and spun off above the treetops of the garden, toward the gleaming white belfry of Nassau Hall, over the top of FitzRandolph Gate, and then down the moonlit, sleeping streets of the town, like heralds proclaiming the arrival of their king.
However short, the page still touches on many of the book’s most significant elements. The story takes place in 1944, when the sarcophagus (or ossuary) is sent to Princeton by the OSS for intense and urgent study. As it happens, Albert Einstein, who fled the Nazis years before, is a resident of the town. At the time, he was on the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study there. How the sarcophagus wound up in Princeton, and what it contains, is at the core of the book, which revolves around the creation of the atomic bomb on one level, and the unending war between good and evil on another. It’s a mix of physics and theology, quantum mechanics and Middle Eastern archaeology, and, I hope, it tells an entertaining (and scary) story at the same time that it touches on some larger questions of morality and the ultimate destiny of humankind.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Masello's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood and Ice.

The Page 69 Test: The Medusa Amulet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"The Wolf Wilder"

Katherine Rundell is the author of Rooftoppers, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner), and The Wolf Wilder. She grew up in Zimbabwe, Brussels, and London, and is currently a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She begins each day with a cartwheel and believes that reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless. In her spare time, she enjoys walking on tightropes and trespassing on the rooftops of Oxford colleges.

Rundell applied the Page 69 Test to The Wolf Wilder and reported the following:
From page 69:
Feo wasn’t sure what to say. The boy wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at the pup, who was accidentally tasting snow for the first time. The pup sneezed: tiny, doll-sized sneezes.

She said, ‘I’m Feo, actually. Not Feodora.’

‘Feo. Can I touch it, Feo?’

‘Him. He’s a boy. It’s really up to Tenderfoot, not me.’

But Ilya’s face was so hopeful it hurt her chest to look at him, and she shrugged.

‘If you make sure she can always see your hands, she won’t bite. They get nervous when they can’t see both your hands.’

He quivered from boots to cap as he stroked the wolf. Feo watched him. His eyelashes were so blond they were almost invisible, and they were covered in snow. There was a scar on one eyelid.
The Wolf Wilder is about bravery, and about love and, most of all, about wolves, so page 69 is pretty representative: it describes the birth of a newborn wolf pup. Feodora lives alone with her mother in the Russian wilderness, and when the world intrudes on their peace in the form of the Imperial Army and a General with a vendetta against them, she has to decide who to trust, and learn how to make her way in the world alone. I wanted the book to be about where bravery comes from, and about the animal core in all of us, and why it might be worth in always staying a little wild. I spent some time with wolves in researching the book, and they're electric - they have muscles like no other creature I've encountered, and, as it says in the book - they're beautiful, unpredictable creatures: the witches of the animal world.
Visit Katherine Rundell's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"The Flying Circus"

Susan Crandall is a critically acclaimed author of women’s fiction, romance, and suspense. She has written several award-winning novels including her first book, Back Roads, which won the RITA award for best first book, as well as Whistling Past the Graveyard, which won the SIBA 2014 Book Award for Fiction.

Crandall applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Flying Circus, and reported the following:
I was quite intrigued by this idea, the litmus test of a particular page representing the whole of the book. So take a read and then I’ll give you my assessment of “The Page 69 Test” in the case of The Flying Circus:
He got up and walked around.

He looked in the little copse of trees. No Cora. No Mercury.

Standing by the Jenny, he heard something. A soft, piglike snuffle.

He climbed up on the wing. Cora was asleep in the cockpit, Mercury curled on her lap. Cora was doing the snoring. The dog looked up and cocked his head.

“Bet you need to visit the doggie outhouse,” he whispered as he lifted the dog from her lap. There, under the dog, clenched in her hand was the hammer they used to drive the stakes. Maybe she wasn’t as brave…or as foolish…as Henry had thought.

He climbed quietly back down and set the dog off to take care of his business and went to take care of a little of his own. When he came back out of the trees, Cora was standing next to Gil, who seemed to be ignoring her as if she had really succumbed to Henry’s will and disappeared in the night.

“Well, are we entertaining here today, or moving on?” she asked brightly. “I personally think we should move on. Get a nice early start. Maybe head to Lafayette. You know those engineering students at Purdue will be wild for a plane ride.”

With a cigarette in dangling from the corner of his mouth, Gil kept his eyes on the newspaper. “I am an aviator. I do not ‘entertain.’”

Entertainment, excitement, spectacle—call it what you will—was exactly what Gil sold. Henry’s short acquaintance with Gil had given him enough insight into the man that he understood Gil viewed selling rides as a means to an end. That end was simple, to keep his plane filled with fuel and his feet off the ground. Regular meals resided as a distant third.

And Purdue? Cora clearly wasn’t using good logic. Plenty of towns were closer that would require less fuel to reach and still had more than enough people for a good crowd. And those university kids—Henry didn’t feel at all good about going and mixing with them. Farm folk he understood. Of course, he kept all of these thoughts tight inside. His only concern now was making sure he was in the cockpit of that Jenny when it left here.
Surprisingly to me, it does give a nice slice of the whole. Although only it only scratches the surface, of course, as any single page can.

This book is about three misfits on the run in 1923. Mutual need bands them together in a traveling daredevil act while their conflicting goals and deeply concealed secrets threaten to tear them apart. This story is about the cobbling together of a family from lives demolished by circumstance. It’s a deeper examination of the times; anti-German sentiment bred by the Great War, women’s rights, union strikes, and the damaged returning war veterans. All of this is filtered through the adventure of a lifetime as these three (and a stray mutt) barnstorm their way across the heartland. In this adventure of aerial stunts and daredevil dangers, they discover that the truth can be the most dangerous thing of all.
Visit Susan Crandall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2015


Nicole Galland's novels include The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago; and Godiva. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

Galland applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Stepdog, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…I realized with a sinking feeling I’d be earning the green card by spending much of the coming dark New England winter being stalked by a dog in someone else’s small apartment.

Sara greenlighted me on adding a sports package to the cable so I could at least catch some footy and watch Manchester United trounce Liverpool. It took the dog awhile to get used to my shouting at the telly and dancing a jig when United beat Liverpool…. John Henry, Mr. Owner of the Red Sox, put me in a difficult position when he bought Liverpool F.C. – the playoffs were beginning and although Sara was not into sports, everyone in Boston is into the Red Sox. There’s a rule or something. We agreed not to discuss it. But under my guidance, the dog developed a healthy respect for Man United. Not that I talked to her about it; only Americans and Brits discuss sports with their dogs. I talked directly to the television, loudly, and was gratified that she was interested in what I had to say to it.

Rain finally stopped. And after what felt like an eternity, the sun came out… A gorgeous autumn was unfurling in New England. One benefit of being at Sara’s was its proximity to Arnold Arboretum. Imagine all the best parks in all the British Isles got dumped together into one place on the outskirts of Boston – and we lived walking distance from the front gate. I went back to walking there every day. The colors were starting, the air was loaded with cool autumn scents and full of thriving birdlife, almost like the rurals in Ireland.

But the days were getting shorter, and that led to a new canine-related tension…
Stepdog’s page 69 contains no actual scene, and in fact, if I were to single out any one passage to create the wrong impression of the narrator, this would be it. The whole page functions as a cross-fade from the relationship's summer “honeymoon phase" into its autumnal "sophomore slump." The premise of the story – based on our real-life marriage! – is that Rory (an Irish actor) falls precipitously in love with his friend Sara just as his performance visa runs out. They have an impulsive, secret marriage-of-convenience so he can get a green card… and remarkably, the only source of tension in their marriage is her over–attachment to her dog.

On page 69, Rory has just moved into Sara’s apartment, but can’t legally work, so he’s home all day with the dog. Thus he’s newly at loose ends and fairly pathetic – it’s the only moment in the book where he displays the slightest interest in what’s on television, and as you can see in the excerpt, he’s completely preoccupied with it. It’s in sharp contrast to how he is throughout the rest of the book, where he’s generally a playful smart–ass, an extrovert who loves to stay engaged with the world around him. So I wouldn’t recommend page 69 as representative of the story. I would, rather, recommend anything a few pages later, once Rory (more characteristically) stops whining and comes up with some creative solutions to his woes.

Solutions which, it turns out, cause the crisis that is the second half of the story.
Visit Nicole Galland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Gone Cold"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels and international thrillers. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Corleone’s highly acclaimed international thriller Good As Gone introduced former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, and was followed by Payoff, which Booklist called “a lean, mean, pedal-to-the-metal thriller.”

Corleone applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Gone Cold, and reported the following:
Happy to report that Gone Cold passes the Page 69 Test. In the third Simon Fisk thriller, the former US Marshal has recommitted himself to learning what happened to his daughter Hailey after she was abducted twelve long years ago. After receiving a grainy image of a young woman wanted for murder in Ireland, Simon sets off again for Europe in the hopes of finding that young woman, who may or may not be Hailey Fisk. Page 69 finds Simon in a Glasgow pub with Zoey Carlyle, another woman from Simon’s sordid past. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal her identity, but suffice it to say, Simon Fisk learns more about his past – particularly his distant past – than he bargained for when he initially boarded that plane from DC to Dublin to find his daughter.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Payoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Bright Lights, Dark Nights"

Stephen Emond is the creator of the Emo Boy comic series, two illustrated young adult novels, Happyface and Winter Town, and Steverino, a comic strip that ran in his local Connecticut newspaper.

Emond applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Bright Lights, Dark Nights, and reported the following:
Page 69 is an excellent representation of Bright Lights, Dark Nights! It’s a scene of Walter and Naomi dancing at a Foo Fighters concert, before the concert ends and the arena is “all theirs.” While a lot of the press on the book has been about the larger issues of race and police in urban communities, the book to me is mostly about first loves and meeting that special person who makes you someone new. The first half of the book especially has a lot of scenes like this, of Walter and Naomi discovering themselves and each other, before heavier themes introduce themselves toward the mid-way point.
Visit Stephen Emond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Between the Living and the Dead"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to Between the Living and the Dead, the 22nd Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
Once again I have failed to provide an explosion or even a shooting on page 69 of my new book. When will I learn? However, this time page 69 does happen to be the beginning of a chapter (Chapter 7, to be precise), so at least it’s not the middle of something. Here are the opening lines:
Vicki’s eyes widened at Rhodes’s words. “Neil’s dead?”

Rhodes nodded. Vicki didn’t seem to be unhappy about it.

“Who did it?” she asked after a second or two.

“I was hoping you might be able to help me with that,” Rhodes said. “Maybe you know someone who might want to kill him.”

“I didn’t go out with him that much,” Vicki said. “Just a few times. You know what he did to me. If I could’ve killed him then, I might’ve done it myself, but I’m over that now.”
For those with short memories or who (heaven forfend!) haven’t kept up with the books in the Sheriff Rhodes series, Vicki was left naked and afraid on the side of a road in a previous book by a drug­-dealing charmer. Now he’s a murder victim, so the sheriff, who gallantly rescued Vicki from her roadside contretemps, now has to question her about the killing.

So while there’s no explosion, there’s suspicion, a bit of suspense, and a potential suspect. Did she or didn’t she? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, and Half in Love with Artful Death.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2015


Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Her debut novel, Landfalls, is a fictionalized account of the 18th-century Lapérouse expedition that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.

Williams applied the Page 69 Test to Landfalls and reported the following:
Every chapter of Landfalls has a different narrator and different style, so any given page might only be representative of that section. Given that, page 69 comes in the middle of the longest chapter in the book, a chapter that could almost stand alone as a novella. It’s called “Concepción” and re-imagines the three weeks that the Lapérouse expedition spent in Chile in 1786.

This particular page does seem fairly representative of “Concepción,” in that you’ve got the expedition’s two captains talking (they interact with each other more in this chapter than in any other part of the book). And I’d hope readers who randomly dropped in here would be inspired to read on. We’ve got a crewmember being confined to his quarters for 48 hours and another crewmember taken seriously ill and the page concluding on the verge of a revelation about yet another problem on board.

Perhaps my favorite line on this page is where one captain says, of the sick man, “Let’s hope it’s our first and only death.” That line will quickly come to seem ironic and sad.
Visit Naomi J. Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"The Eternal World"

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of the bestselling Nathaniel Cade series, about a vampire who works for the President of the United States. Called “the best debut vampire novel in many years” and “dazzlingly clever” by critics, the books have been optioned by producer Lucas Foster (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Man on Fire, Law-Abiding Citizen) and have been translated into nine languages and published in over a dozen countries. His latest book is The Eternal World, about the Fountain of Youth.

Farnsworth applied the Page 69 Test to The Eternal World and reported the following:
I got lucky with this one. Page 69 of The Eternal World is the end of a conversation between Simon, the conquistador who discovered the Fountain of Youth over 500 years ago, and his trusted lieutenant, Max. Today, as far as the world knows, they are corporate executives. But in private, they can drop all pretense and speak openly. They’re arguing, as they often have in their long lives, over Shako, the Native American woman who is the sole survivor of the tribe that the conquistadors slaughtered to gain control of the Fountain. She has her own supply of the Fountain’s youth-restoring water, and she’s been hunting them for centuries in her quest for revenge. She’s also Simon’s former lover.

From Page 69:
“You think I haven’t tried to kill her?”

Max weighed his next words carefully. “I don’t think you’re displeased that she is still breathing.”

“Perhaps I simply find her useful.”

“My friend, she will bury us all if she gets the chance.”

Simon made a dismissive noise. “You have always been too afraid of her.”

Max seemed tired as he shook his head at Simon. “How many times do I have to say this? She is not the woman you knew all those years ago. She has had a long time to become someone else entirely. We all have. You want to remember the girl she was, and you forget everything she’s done since. For your sake, I hope she is as sentimental as you the next time she has your head in her sights. At your age, nostalgia can be fatal.”

“Well,” Simon said, “no one lives forever.”
This short passage sums up much of the conflict in the book. These men have done extraordinary things and committed terrible crimes. They have lived for centuries and seen history unfold as eyewitnesses. And now that they are running out of the Fountain’s water, and Shako is closer than ever to killing them, they are facing the prospect of true death.

And yet, Simon still cannot think of himself as truly mortal. He still has more he wants to do. He can’t bring himself to believe his long, unnatural life will ever end.

Max knows better. The past catches up to everyone eventually. And they both have so much of it, ready to devour them if they ever stop running.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Farnsworth's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Oath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Butter Off Dead"

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, Butter Off Dead, third in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Butter Off Dead starts with business—our amateur sleuth, Erin Murphy, runs a mercantile specializing in regional foods, in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery, and she’s busy fixing a ceiling leak, installing new shelving, and wondering why her normally-calm mother threw a tantrum over a broken martini glass. She’s pondering the suspicions circling around her brother, Nick, a wolf biologist, after the death of his girlfriend, when the shop phone rings—and it’s for Nick.
A few minutes later, when all was quiet, I snuck up the steps and peeked into my office. Nick sat in my chair, stunned. As if he’d been struck by one of his own darts—humane darts, used in tracking and collaring wolves. I pried the receiver from his hand, set it in the cradle, and waited.

After a long silence, he raised his eyes. “Her will names me her primary heir. The real estate, personal property, and cash and investments. Money I never imagined she had. There’s a whatdoyoucallit? A bequest to the school district for the art program and another to the Art Center. A few other specific bequests.”

“She never made any money. Her paintings were too affordable.” The proof hung on the wall.

“Did it come from Iggy?”

“Must have, but she never told me.”

“Mom’s here. You sit. I’ll get lunch.”
There’s very little Erin thinks can’t be fixed by lunch. Her mother, Fresca agrees. A few lines down, Fresca’s arrived and the three are toying with their sandwiches. The fifteenth anniversary of the death of her husband—Erin and Nick’s father—in a still-unsolved hit-and-run is approaching, and all the family feels the welling emotion. For Erin, only seventeen at the time, it was a triple loss: her father, her childhood, and her best friend, Kimberly, now the local sheriff’s detective in charge of the murder investigation. This is the third book in the series, and both the current murder and the death of Erin’s father will be solved.
Fresca leaned closer. “You have nothing to feel guilty about, Nick. Nothing. The things unsaid...”

I knew she was thinking about her own loss. My father. Nick knew it, too. He turned his hand palm up and squeezed hers. My throat tightened. I reached for the unfinished sandwiches and began wrapping. “The worst part is—”

Our front door chimed and I stopped myself.

“Hello, Kimberly,” Fresca said. “Just in time for lunch.”
So page 69 is a bit quiet on the surface, but the emotional undercurrents are deep and swirling. We read, I think, as much to form emotional connections with the characters and explore their own emotional ties and dilemmas, as for the action. There is plenty of action in Butter, including Erin’s encounter with a rabid wolf-hater who thinks her brother is doing the devil’s work, near-disaster in a Playhouse filled with townspeople eager for the opening of the First Annual Food Lovers’ Film Festival, and a clash with a collector whose passions have become deadly obsessions. But the modern mystery is about much more than crime. The amateur sleuth uses her insider knowledge to unearth clues and motives that law enforcement doesn’t always see—or see in the right way. While the job of law enforcement is restore external order, the amateur sleuth restores the social order. Page 69 gives us a few hints of how that will happen—that justice will be served, order will be restored, and dinner will be on time.
Visit Leslie Budewitz's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"When the Moon Is Low"

Nadia Hashimi is an Afghan American pediatrician living in suburban Washington, D.C. She is the author of the international bestseller The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

Hashimi applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, When the Moon Is Low, and reported the following:
Page 69, much to my delight, was the first page of a chapter about Fereiba, the protagonist of When the Moon Is Low. Fereiba, as a young whose mother dies during her birth and her father, desperate for help with his two young children, quickly remarries. Her childhood made difficult by a stepmother who cannot make space for her in her heart, Fariba grows into a lonely young woman.
"They blame you for his death. That's what I heard," KokoGul said flatly. The back of my neck grew hot. I stopped drying the dishes. The rag hung limply in my hand.

"Me? Why do they think it was me?"

"They say he was a perfectly healthy young man and that he was taken from his family the day before they were to come for your shirnee [hand in marriage]. Of course, Agha Firooz's wife insists that you must be cursed. First your mother, then your grandfather and now this suitor who was just hours from becoming your fiance."
There is much more to the story, though, than can fit on page 69. Fereiba finds herself in an unexpectedly blissful marriage to a civil engineer. They build a warm home for themselves and their children only to have their world torn asunder by the war in Afghanistan and the brutal Taliban regime. When Fereiba loses her beloved husband, she is forced to flee the dangers of Kabul with her three children. With an eye on England, the family presses on from one country to another, relying on each other and the kindness of strangers. When Fereiba’s adolescent son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family, a new series of events forces him to come of age in the underground world of the desperate.
Visit Nadia Hashimi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Stone Rider"

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2012 he was a finalist in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition, and in 2013 he graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. He works as a Planner for Ogilvy & Mather in the UK.

Hofmeyr applied the Page 69 Test to Stone Rider, his first novel, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the book?

Yes, I think it is. I’ll give you the opening lines and closing lines of the page.

It starts with a dream sequence:
He glides through a desert, infinite in all directions. The sun rides high with him, a blazing white disc. Heat waves float from the ground. Then a cry goes up. He turns. Wild animals flank him, either side. To the left, a lupine shadow. To the right, a sinuous panther. The animals lope beside him, quick over the ground.
And it concludes with action:
A scream outside. Wild-throated and high-pitched. Adam sits bolt upright, covered in a cold sweat. His heart hammers in his chest.
This mix of action and dream-like pursuit through an epic, dystopian desert is actually very reflective of the novel.

Stone Rider – my debut novel – is a gritty coming-of-age story in which a boy who has lost everything joins a brutal race to win the chance to escape his dying world. The story begins in the wind-swept dustbowl town of Blackwater, where rival Tribes of teenagers ride semi-sentient mechanical bykes and when they join the Blackwater Trail they are thrown out into a bleak and savage wilderness.

The story is about how we maintain humanity in bleak and trying circumstances. It’s about endurance and willpower. The Race is primal and long distance course, which permits moments of quiet, solitude and introspection interspersed between high-octane adrenalin madness. Expect fear and dust and a good amount of blood.
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

Stone Rider is one of Rachel Paxton-Gillilan's top five YA books for Mad Max fans.

My Book, the Movie: Stone Rider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2015

"Letters to Zell"

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Griep applied the Page 69 Test to Letters to Zell, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
CeCi, Bianca, and I had a lovely lunch at Gretel’s Café today. Hansel traveled Outside recently, scouring Human supermarkets for new ingredients, and so there are quite a few new things on the menu. Gretel has come to favor something called ketchup, and while it’s delicious, I think maybe not quite so many things should be made with it, pies in particular. It’s a very pretty tomato color, and I will admit it goes well with fried potatoes.

Bianca ate quite a lot of it. I told her that she should be careful lest she not fit into her wedding dress and she held up her middle finger at me, like the motor coach men did when we arrived at the Magic Castle. I’ve gathered that it’s a gesture that means that the gesturer does not like what one has said or done and plans to disregard it. Or that the gesturer plans to consume your potatoes as well as hers and ask for another bottle of ketchup.

One guess is as likely as the other.
On Page 69 of Letters to Zell we find ourselves at the end of a letter from Sleeping Beauty (aka Rory) to Rapunzel (Zell). The excerpt demonstrates one serious and one not-so-serious theme in the book.

Though these letters are satire, there is a lot of emotional work going on underneath the sarcasm. The Sleeping Beauty character is our naïve, lacy-collared romantic. She is less open to change than the other two princesses and takes things quite literally. But underneath all of her complaint here, are real concerns for her friends and for the changes she sees happening in her life. She doesn’t know how to hit the pause button or even confront her friends in a productive way, so instead she takes her frustrations out on ketchup. The ketchup itself is meaningless, but the fear she feels when she sees her friends falling hard for the new and the different is quite real.

I also wanted to take the opportunity given to me by way of taking on three female protagonists to address many of the clichéd hobbies, interests, and behaviors of women in their 20s-40s. One of the trends I myself got caught up in for awhile was being a foodie. During my stint as an attempted foodie, I found often there is some hot, under-appreciated new ingredient that everyone uses ad nauseum for a month or so – no matter which restaurant one flings oneself to – be it ramps or ferns or morels or kale. While I still take great joy in exploring the Seattle food scene with my friends, I wanted to give that time in my life a fitting little roast. In Letters to Zell I can be accused of skewering wine bars, book clubs, romance novels, Cosmopolitan, and more. Writing Zell was a journey toward the maturity of embracing these very things because I want to, not because I’m supposed to.

Readers who enjoy layered satire and having a laugh at their own expense will hopefully enjoy page 69 of Letters to Zell and beyond.
Visit Camille Griep's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"The Beautiful Bureaucrat"

Helen Phillips is the author of the story collection And Yet They Were Happy, which was named a notable collection by The Story Priz, and the children’s adventure book, Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new  novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
“This is the food I’ve always wanted to eat,” she confessed.

“Of course!” Trishiffany purred. “Of course it is, Jojo doll.”

Josephine finished the cookie and began another. But Trishiffany wasn’t eating.

“What, making me eat alone?” Josephine said.

“Oh ... my girlish figure.” Trishiffany looked down at the pink lines of her hips.

“What about my girlish figure?” she retorted, picking up a third cookie, and then paused, wondering if the cookies might be poisoned.

“Well I haven’t been through what you’ve been through lately,” Trishiffany said. “You’ve earned a cookie or seven.”

“What I’ve been through lately?” Josephine repeated slowly, alarmed. She hadn’t said a word to anyone about anything. Yet at the same time it felt so pleasant to hear someone express compassion for her situation. But then she conjectured, with a jolt, that Trishiffany could be the other woman. “What have I been through lately?” she said, guarded, testing the waters.

“Oh Jojo doll!” Trishiffany said. “You’re so cute! You don’t need to be so suspicious all the time, you know?”

Josephine looked directly into Trishiffany’s bloodshot eyes. Her own tired eyes recognized themselves in her coworker’s. You tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. She dismissed her ludicrous hunch.

“I know,” Josephine admitted. She bit into the third cookie. The cork was loosening—she wanted to talk to Trishiffany—about her bad skin, her unreliable eyes, her vanishing husband, the man in the Chinese restaurant, the vagabond in her orgasm. She wanted to be held by someone kind. She wanted to cry into a cocktail across from a woman who always remembered Kleenex in her purse.
It just so happens that Page 69 touches on most all of my protagonist Josephine’s problems. We witness an interaction between Josephine and her creepy/friendly coworker Trishiffany, which culminates in a list of Josephine’s current challenges: the physical deterioration she’s experiencing due to her bizarre job, the stalker she may or may not be imagining, and her husband Joseph’s recent disappearances. Throughout her conversation with Trishiffany, Josephine teeters between finding her coworker’s company comforting and upsetting. Trishiffany has just brought her homemade cookies, the exact nourishment that Josephine needs—but Josephine’s paranoid state of mind leads her to wonder if they are poisoned. Trishffany expresses sympathy for Josephine’s recent drama—but Trishiffany’s inexplicable knowledge about that drama leads Josephine to wonder if her husband is involved with Trishiffany. Throughout the book, I’m interested in this teetering: between realism and surrealism, between humor and horror, between bleakness and beauty. This page also includes one of my favorite lines in the book: “She wanted to cry into a cocktail across from a woman who always remembered Kleenex in her purse.” I wish I were the kind of woman who always remembered Kleenex in her purse.
Visit Helen Phillips's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 7, 2015

"Protocol Zero"

James Abel is the pseudonym for Bob Reiss an accomplished author and journalist who has written extensively on the Arctic. He lives and works in New York City.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Protocol Zero, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Protocol Zero finds my protagonist, Marine Dr. and bio-terror expert Joe Rush in Northern Alaska trying to figure out why a party of researchers has died, and whether the threat might be larger, might in fact effect America's northernmost city, which lies on the Arctic Ocean....and then get bigger still. On page 69 Joe is deep in conversation with the Inupiat Eskimo head of the North Slope, Alaska police, a leader and whale hunter and member of a 4,000 year old culture, who is explaining some history to Joe, grounding him on the patriotism of the place, and also on unpleasant past incidents that have resulted in some suspicion of the motives of outsiders. Joe's on a secret mission. He can't explain the real reason he's there. He likes the police chief, and he's torn between truth and loyalty...and now he begins to learn some secrets about the people who have perished.
Visit James Abel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me"

Sara Nickerson began her professional writing career working in television and film. Her first novel, How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, started out as a screenplay she wrote while studying screenwriting at the University of Washington. Her second novel, The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me, was inspired by her very first job: picking berries on a small blueberry farm in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons, two cats and one brave Chihuahau.

Nickerson applied the Page 69 Test to The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me and reported the following:
From page 69:
But what I was really trying to say was this: Your food comes from a grocery store and then—WHAM—it doesn’t. It comes from dew and dirt and sunshine. From old man hands and clanging metal buckets. It comes from flies and heat and voices without faces.

It comes from me. Melissa.
For my main character, Missy, this is the summer of change. She’s twelve. Her father is getting remarried. Her friends are away at summer camp, and they want to drop their nicknames. Missy would like things to stay exactly the same forever, but when she and her older brother take a summer job in a blueberry field, a new kind of change takes her by surprise.

Missy is at that age where magic can still exist, but barely. Like, if everything lined up, a wardrobe could actually lead to a new world. But it would have to line up perfectly. On page 69, though, Missy realizes she’s found a new kind of magic, not the wardrobe kind. She’s discovered the magic of actually growing up and stepping into the world on her own. Page 69 is the end of a chapter, and the very last word in that chapter is the name, Melissa. Like her friends did earlier, Missy re-names herself here, to be this new person in this new and magical world.
Visit Sara Nickerson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Sara Nickerson & Pico.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Zodiac Station"

Tom Harper has written a dozen thrillers, including The Orpheus Descent, Lost Temple, and Secrets of the Dead. He grew up in Germany, Belgium, and America, and studied history at Oxford University. His first novel was a runner-up for the CWA Debut Dagger Award.

Harper applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Zodiac Station, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Zodiac Station is mostly blank. Seven lines of text tailing off a chapter end, barely making a dent in the expanse of white paper. You might think that doesn’t say much about the book: actually, it’s strangely appropriate.

Because this is, in part, a book about blankness, about those Conradian white spaces at the top of the globe, and the darkness we find there. In a key passage early in the book, the narrator describes his fascination with the Arctic. ‘As long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of the north… The north’s a blank page, tabula rasa, white space on our own private maps we can fill in all over again.’ That’s what this book’s about – along with the secrets that lie buried under the pristine snow.

So what is there on page 69, aside from blank space? Here’s the whole text:
I looked around. Only my footprints.

‘Martin never came down here.’ That wasn’t quite accurate. ‘Not when he was alive.’

‘Anything else?’ She jerked her head towards the snowmobiles. ‘It’s a long drive back.’

I left the bones in their icy grave. And this time, I remembered to free the snowmobile tracks from the ice before I started the engine.
This is a conversation between Tom Anderson, my protagonist, and Greta, the woman who’s helping him. Tom is a washed-up research assistant who’s been given a second shot at his career when an old professor summoned him to work at the scientific base of Zodiac Station. Greta is the base mechanic, a hard woman in the world of men, whose main job is to keep Anderson alive in the unforgiving Arctic wastes. In this scene, they’ve returned to examine the crevasse where a scientist from Zodiac Station was found dead. The base commander insists he fell in by accident; Tom and Greta aren’t so sure. Investigating the crevasse, they find a set of tiny bones. It’s strange, because bodies don’t decompose in the Arctic: the cold dry air ought to preserve them perfectly.

The line about freeing the snowmobile tracks from the ice is something I picked up on my research trip. I spent ten days on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, deep in the Arctic circle, which shares some characteristics with the fictional island in the book. I covered several hundred kilometres on snowmobiles, got a frostbitten nose and learned a lot about what can go wrong with the machines. When you stop after a long drive, the hot treads melt the snow under them and sink in. As it cools, the melted snow freezes back to ice, locking in the snowmobile. If you don’t lift it out to free the tracks before you go off again, you can burn out the engine. As the text implies, Tom’s already done this once at this stage.

That’s pretty much it. I don’t want to suggest page 69 is a perfect representation of the book, because actually there’s lots of things going on in the story: murder, espionage, sex, paranoia, corporate skulduggery and bad science to name but a few. But if, like me, you get a cold shot of excitement when you read books about the frozen north, you’ll understand why that white space is important, too.
Visit Tom Harper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Zodiac Station.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2015


Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway, along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties, to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role-playing). However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. He is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature.

Anders applied the Page 69 Test to Nightborn, and reported the following:
My second novel, Nightborn, has just been released. It’s book two in the Thrones and Bones series. It’s a series about a friendship between unlikely people, a boy who is an obsessive board gamer and a girl who is half frost giant. In the first book, Frostborn, the rather introspective Karn and the rather athletic Thianna don’t immediately like each other, but their shared adversity teaches them to appreciate and rely on their differences, and they part the best of friends. In book two, Thianna has fallen afoul of dark forces, and Karn is forced to leave his home and travel farther than he ever dreamed to rescue his friend. Flipping to page 69, I find myself on a page where an innkeeper at an establishment in which Thianna briefly stayed suggests to Karn that she might be deceased, and he adamantly protests, “She’s not dead!” Whereupon he receives his first real clue to her location. For a book about friendship, and the lengths to which one will go for it, I think this is a wonderfully representative page. Also, the fact that the innkeeper is a gnome is probably telling.
Visit the official Thrones & Bones website, Lou Anders's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Murder at Barclay Meadow"

Wendy Sand Eckel is a psychotherapist who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, where she enjoys her family, multiple pets, and life on the water.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder at Barclay Meadow, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Murder at Barclay Meadow passes the test. Let me set the scene and follow with an excerpt.

Rosalie Hart’s world has been upended. After her husband confesses to an affair, she exiles herself to her late aunt’s farmhouse on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With its fields untended and the house itself in disrepair, Barclay Meadow couldn’t be more different from the tidy D.C. suburb Rosalie used to call home. Just when she is convinced things couldn’t get any worse, she finds a body floating in her marsh grasses.

On page 69 Rosalie is meeting a new acquaintance for lunch.
“I see a wedding ring but you haven’t mentioned a husband.”

I stuffed my hands in my lap. I still wasn’t accustomed to admitting the truth about my marital status. Saying I was getting divorced felt like wearing ill-fitting shoes––it rubbed and squeezed and pinched at my heart. “He was having an affair. He still is,” I added. “I moved out about a nanosecond after he confessed.”

“So…” She folded her hands over the menu. “Dish––what happened?”

“Rebecca happened.”

“Mid-life crisis,” she pronounced and leaned back in her chair. “Let me guess, he’s around forty?”


“How old is Rebecca?”

“Do I have to tell you?” I sipped my water. “Early thirties. And she weighs about thirty pounds, too.”

“Don’t do that.” Rhonda glanced around for the waitress, impatience pursing her lips.

“Do what?”

“Compare yourself to her. You’re not the reason he strayed.”

“How could you know that?”

“It’s totally and completely about him. You could be Angelina Jolie and he still would have had the affair.”

I sat back and shook my head. “We both know that’s not true.”

“Oh yes it is.” She pulled a piece of bread from a basket and ripped it in two. “Let me guess, he’s successful? Makes a lot of cash?”

“Only recently.”

“So here’s the deal. The old 4 – 0 comes around and he starts thinking, am I only going to have sex with the same woman for the rest of my life? And here I am in my prime, good-looking, lots of dough. So he takes it all out for a test drive.” She buttered the bread.

“That all sounds so trite.”

“Honey, you aren’t the first chick this has happened to.”

I watched as the waitress set two sweating martinis on the table. Rhonda’s comments were getting under my skin. Seeing Ed’s actions as a mid-life crisis seemed to trivialize our entire marriage. I picked up the glass and took a swig of vodka. Whoa, I thought. So that’s what a martini tastes like.

Rhonda was eyeing me. “Divorce isn’t so bad, Rosalie. It’s not the end of the world.”

“Then why does it feel like it?” My throat was tight from the alcohol.

She slid an olive off a hot pink plastic sword with her teeth. “Look at the bright side––being a divorcee is sort of exotic. You get to say dishy things like my first husband. And no more dirty underwear on the bathroom floor, snoring in the middle of the night.”

“Ed never did those things. He’s neat as a pin.”

“So…” she said, eyebrows raised. “Would you take him back?”

My fingers fluttered over my spoon. I avoided her eyes, glancing around at the other patrons. After a deep breath I said, “Yes.” I centered my glass on the small napkin. I looked up at her. “How desperate do I sound?”

“You’re practically an invertebrate.
Visit Wendy Sand Eckel's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue