Monday, February 29, 2016

"Speakers of the Dead"

J. Aaron Sanders is Associate Professor of English at Columbus State University where he teaches literature and creative writing. He holds a PhD in American Literature from The University of Connecticut and an MFA in Fiction from The University of Utah. His stories have appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and Beloit Fiction Journal, among others.

His first novel, Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery (Penguin Random House) features a young Walt Whitman’s as he finds himself in the middle of body-snatchers, medical students, and the law.

Sanders applied the Page 69 Test to Speakers of the Dead and reported the following:
Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City's body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

On page 69, Walt has reunited with his former boyfriend, Henry Saunders:
The two men fidget in silence. Walt can see himself in the mirror, his swollen face and prematurely graying hair, and that’s when he catches Henry looking at him.

“Stay awhile, if you like,” Walt says.


“Only if you want to.”
Though we don’t get much plot on page 69, this scene captures well the emotional center of the novel, the reuniting of ex-lovers and their uncertain future. I don’t want to give anything away, but I have to say when I turned to page 69 to write this, I couldn’t believe how important the scene is.
Visit J. Aaron Sanders's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 28, 2016

"The Fall of Moscow Station"

Mark Henshaw is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a decorated CIA analyst with more than sixteen years of service. In 2007, he was awarded the Director of National Intelligence Galileo Award for innovation in intelligence analysis. A former member of the Red Cell think tank, Henshaw is the author of Red Cell and Cold Shot.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Fall of Moscow Station, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He curled up on the ground in a twitching heap, groaning and gasping for air.

Kyra stepped back, far enough that he couldn’t grasp or kick her. “I’d tell the Bureau to add assault to your indictment, but it’s already a long list.” She squatted down so he could see her face. “I’ll tell Barron about your offer, but you’re not going to get your deal. And even if you do get to Moscow, CIA defectors have a bad habit of falling down long staircases after they’re not useful to their Russian friends anymore. So I wouldn’t plan on a peaceful retirement, back home or in Moscow.”

“Uh-uh,” Maines grunted. “Full . . . full pardon . . . and fifty . . . million.” He sucked in some air, then pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. Kyra didn’t move, ready to defend herself again. “I get that,” he wheezed, “I keep my mouth shut. I don’t . . . and I tell the Russians everything . . . take my chances.”

“If you want the president or anyone else to take your offer seriously, you need to give something up first.”

“What’s that?”

“The name of your handler,” Kyra told him.

“I don’t think . . . he’d like that,” Maines said, his chest rising and falling rapidly. The pain between his legs was fading enough to manage. He pushed himself back onto one knee. “If Barron gets me the deal, you stand out front of the embassy tomorrow at noon . . . wear a red jacket. If you’re there, I come out. If you’re not, I take care of myself.” He was catching his breath now, but his legs were still too shaky for him to stand.

“Either way, I’ll be seeing you pretty soon.” Kyra turned around and walked toward the door.

“I should’ve left you in that safe house,” Maines said, his voice still weak from the abuse she’d dealt to his crotch. “I see you again and I’ll kill you.”

Kyra made an obscene gesture without looking back.
I was very happy to find this scene fell on page 69. Here, Kyra (the hero of our tale) is confronting Alden Maines, a CIA defector on the rooftop of the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Maines has already given up one high-value CIA asset to the Russians to prove his bona fides, which resulted in a murder that set the entire story in motion. The twist is that Maines saved Kyra’s life a few years before and she’s taking his betrayal personally. She doesn’t like the idea that she owes her life to a traitor.

The moment is pivotal for them both. It’s Maines’s last chance to show remorse and some shred of loyalty to the United States and he rejects it out-of-hand. Kyra decides that his mercenary attitude proves that her former friend is beyond redemption or deserves no mercy; she’d love to do more than just knee him in the groin, but the Russians are watching and will protect their prize. But Maines’s blackmail attempt forces the Russians’ hand in a way that both Maines and Kyra very quickly and painfully come to regret.
Visit Mark Henshaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Murder on a Summer's Day"

Murder on a Summer’s Day, chosen by the New York Post as a “must read” book, is the fifth in Frances Brody’s 1920s series featuring Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth. Murder in the Afternoon, third in the series, was named a Library Journal Best Mystery 2014. A Woman Unknown, book four, is nominated for an Edgar – the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Brody lives in Yorkshire, England, the setting for her mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder on a Summer’s Day and reported the following:
On page 69 of Murder on a Summer’s Day, Kate Shackleton is in the Cavendish Arms Hotel in the village of Bolton Abbey on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate. She is interviewing former dancer Lydia Metcalfe, daughter of Yorkshire farmers and mistress of a missing maharajah, Prince Narayan.

Yesterday Narayan went deer-stalking and failed to return. This caused consternation locally and among civil servants at the India Office in London where Kate’s cousin James works. James telephoned Kate who drove to Bolton Abbey as quickly as she could. It is hoped that she will solve the puzzle of the disappearing prankster prince before his absence sparks a scandal or creates political difficulties. Could his disappearance be the result of a lovers’ tiff, or the desire to surprise his mistress by returning with a wedding ring?

Lydia is upset and resentful. Kate needs all her skills in order to find out what she needs to know.
‘I wondered whether the maharajah’s true purpose in coming here was to ask your father’s permission to marry you.’

Her eyes widened. ‘D’you know, I bet that was it. It would be just like him to behave like an old-fashioned suitor. When we arrived on Tuesday, the farm was our first call, at Narayan’s insistence. He particularly wanted to see my father but he was out of luck.’

‘Why was that?’

‘Dad wasn’t there. He and my brothers stayed clear until we had gone. Narayan talked to my mam.’

‘Did he mention marriage?’

‘He might have said something to Mam, while I was looking round the farm. My mother always tries to give me a job, tries to draw me back in. I went to collect eggs. But Narayan would get short shrift from Dad if he asked permission to marry me. I know exactly what he’d say.’


‘The usual. Narayan’s married already, his skin’s the wrong colour, I’m old enough, I’ve been pleasing myself all my life. Shall I go on?’

‘Not unless it helps to get it off your chest.’

She re-filled her glass and took a long swig. Her face was now flushed, her eyes a little glassy and fierce.

‘I don’t understand why Narayan is taking so long. He’s too used to his comforts …’
Learn more about the book and author at Frances Brody's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying in the Wool.

The Page 69 Test: A Woman Unknown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"The Red Storm"

Grant Bywaters's The Red Storm won the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel Competition. He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
If you were to open up to page 69 you would find my detective, William Fletcher, in a lot of trouble. So much that his cop acquaintance Brawley is telling him he needs to lawyer up. It is an important scene because it gives insight into how a black detective in the 1930s uses his resources to get important connections which allows him to do his job while staying out of jail or worse.

From page 69:
“Get over to City Hall. Emerson wants to see you. You might want to bring that hotshot mouthpiece of yours, too.”

Brawley was referring to Jim Prescott, who was representing me. My previous lawyer and good friend, Jean Fisher, had been murdered less than a year ago, shot coming out of court with a not-guilty verdict for a colored man accused of rape. When the American Bar Association would not allow Fisher, and any other colored, for that matter, to be a member, he joined the National Bar Association in the late twenties. It was Fisher that retained me to do legal assistant work for him, which included finding witnesses, interviewing, conducting legal research, and performing other activities Fisher did not have the time to do. He was directly responsible for my current profession. Fisher also helped push for me to get licensed.

I had been forwarded to Prescott after Fisher’s murder. Prescott was gracious enough to take me on as a client, and charged me a fraction of what his normal fee would be, perhaps because Prescott had been good friends with Fisher as well, but I think it was predominantly because of the pro bono work I do for him. I had located enough key witnesses when he needed them for him to realize I would be no use to him in jail.

And it seems that’s what it always came down to. You had to make yourself look irreplaceable enough with the right people. It made no difference if this was true or not, as long as they believed it to be so. Prescott knew how to work the legal system, no matter how crooked it could be, and without his counsel, I’d have been in jail over a trumped-up charge long ago.
Learn more about The Red Storm at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Eight Juxtapositions: China Through Imperfect Analogies"

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom's most recent books are Eight Juxtapositions: China through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo and China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, which has been translated into Korean, Turkish, Indonesian, and Chinese (complex characters). Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine; editor of the Journal of Asian Studies; advising editor for China at the Los Angeles Review of Books; a member of Dissent Magazine's editorial board; and an Associate Fellow at the Asia Society.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Eight Juxtapositions and reported the following:
The top of Page 69 of my latest book has the Roman numeral VII, followed by the words “The Flat and the Bumpy.” After that come two quotations, one from a Financial Times blog post on 2014 as the centenary of World War I’s start, the other from a Chinese official’s remarks that China’s position has changed markedly in the 120 years separating 2014 from 1894, when a disastrous war with Japan began. Then, we get this first post-epigram sentence of Chapter VII (the last four words spilling over onto page 70): “One can learn a lot about how globalization has changed the world by considering how time was conceptualized in different places a century or so ago—for instance at the moments flagged in these two quotes—and how it is marked now.”

The chapter title is definitely representative. All others also contain two juxtaposed words or phrases separated by a conjunction, as in “Orwell and Huxley” (III), “Chicken or Beef” (VI), and “The People’s Pope and Big Daddy Xi” (VIII). The epigrams are not representative: no other chapter starts with two quotations. The way these quotes, combined with the opening sentence, suggest that the chapter will move both through time and space, though, is definitely typical. In many chapters, the reader is taken to at least two periods and at least two locales, a pattern set in “Tibet and Manchukuo” (I), which explores parallels between Beijing’s handling of Tibetan issues circa 2008 and Tokyo’s approach to Manchuria in the 1930s.

More generally, Page 69, like the beginnings of all chapters, launches an effort to use juxtapositions to unsettle assumptions that many readers are likely to have. In this case, a chronological one: that the war anniversary on everyone’s mind in 2014 would naturally be that which began in 1914. Not so, as in China, where 60 year cycles can be as important as centuries, making the passage of 120 years a bit like a bicentenary, the war the Qing Dynasty lost to Japan in 1894-95 was what publishers were issuing new books about like crazy in 2014.

What then of the “flat” and the “bumpy”? These words flag the contrast between Thomas Friedman’s view of globalization as smoothing out difference and Pico Iyer’s view of it as something where things get mixed together in way that create new kinds of varieties and hybrids. I use the marking of time to highlight differences between a “Friedman Flattening” and “Pico Proliferating” view of the world, and then explain why I’ve long been on “Team Pico” in the debate and will stay there. One uncharacteristic thing about page 69 is that there is nothing particularly playful about the sentences it contains. Those a bit later where I take liberties with alliterative phrases about Friedman and Iyer and make the pop culture reference to “Team Pico” are more representative of the feel of much of this short book—a work so short that I couldn’t have written a “Page 99 Test” response, as there is no 99th page.
Learn more about Eight Juxtapositions at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: China's Brave New World.

The Page 99 Test: Global Shanghai, 1850–2010.

The Page 99 Test: China in the 21st Century.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"What Remains of Me"

Alison Gaylin's debut book Hide Your Eyes, was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best First Novel category. Her critically acclaimed suspense novels have been published in such countries as the UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway and Japan.

She has been nominated for the ITW Thriller, Anthony and RT Awards and won the Shamus Award for And She Was, the first book in the Brenna Spector series. Her books have been on bestseller lists in the US and Germany.

Gaylin applied the Page 69 Test to her ninth book, a standalone suspense novel entitled What Remains of Me, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“They do that for suicides?” Shane said. Stupid thing to say. He didn’t even know why he’d said it. It was as though his mouth was moving of its own accord, reality knocking into him like waves. His parents’ home. The big window overlooking the canyon that he used to press his nose against, Flora complaining about the prints. And in it, in this place that used to be his whole world… Crime scene tape. Police uniforms brushing by, staticky radios. The click of cameras. White gloved hands. And then, his mother in a white silk robe on the red couch by the window, doubled over, collapsed…

“Mom.” Shane moved toward her, Bellamy sticking close behind. “Mom.”

Her head lifted, very slowly. She looked up at him, her mouth a trembling line, eyes like smashed glass. For a few seconds, it seemed as though she didn’t recognize him. Then she whispered his name.

Shane tried to think of the last time he’d seen his mother. Had to have been at least a year ago. He’d gone to one of her charity luncheons and she’d greeted him with a big smile, a hug. She never changed, Mom. Not before today. But now, it was as though someone had scooped all the life out of her. “You’re here,” she said…
In 1980, Kelly Lund, then 17, is convicted of murdering a famous director. The story goes back and forth between 1980 and 2010, when, five years after serving her prison term, Kelly is suspected of committing a similar crime -- the victim this time her father-in-law, movie legend Sterling Marshall.

Page 69 of the book takes place in 2010, and is told, not from Kelly’s point of view but through the eyes of her husband (and Sterling’s son) Shane Marshall. In it, he has recently learned of his father’s death, and believes it to have been a suicide.

At first, I wasn’t sure whether this page was representative of the book. But looking at it closely, I realize that thematically speaking, it is. In the scene, Shane is seeing his normally content mother completely changed. That happens throughout WHAT REMAINS OF ME. Every character has deep, dark secrets that, once revealed, change lives irrevocably. By the book’s end, nearly everyone has had “the life scooped out of them,” and emerges a changed person, whether it’s because of a traumatic event, a lie coming back to haunt them -- or learning, at long last, the ugly truth.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Chains of the Heretic"

Jeff Salyards's debut hard-boiled fantasy novel Scourge of the Betrayer began the series called Bloodsounder’s Arc and was followed by Veil of the Deserters.

Salyards applied the Page 69 Test to Chains of the Heretic, the final installment of the series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
A horseman came riding hard towards the convoy. I’d been with the Syldoon long enough to know that rarely boded well. Scouts never galloped up to report that our enemies had been swallowed up by marshland or stricken by the plague.

Braylar called out, “Report, Syldoon.”

The scout sat straighter in the saddle as he saluted, the morning sun giving him a golden silhouette, totally at odds with the news he delivered. “Urglovians are moving to intercept us, Cap, heading southwest. And Denvin reports the army to the west is closing in, too. Can’t see slipping between them, not if they got any brains at all and got men patrolling ahead.”

Braylar pulled Bloodsounder off his belt. “So be it. Ride down the line, and tell the lieutenants we head due east now.”

Braylar’s personal retinue felt comfortable arguing tactics with him, but the men were a different story. Still, some doubt crossed the scout’s face, as if he wasn’t sure he heard the order correctly. But before Braylar could berate him for dawdling, he replied, “Aye, Cap. Due east.”

Clearly, the rank and file didn’t know much about what bedeviled their captain, so they had no reason to suspect he was about to march us straight into the Godveil.

As the scout rode off, Braylar gave me a long look. “If your assertion proves correct, you could very well rescue all of us from doom. And if it proves false—”

“I will be the second man to die,” I said, wondering if I would keep the goat in my stomach.

The captain twitch-smiled. “You are beginning to think more and more like a Syldoon. It is time you dress the part. I asked the men to put a spare gambeson and nasal helm in the wagon. They should be somewhere in the back.”


“Put them on, you dolt. If we do somehow survive the Godveil, we have no idea what to expect on the other side, and I would like to keep you alive long enough to congratulate you for your mad, mad plan.”

I stood, nearly falling off the bench as the wagon rocked over the hard ground, and my heart felt like it was trying to beat its way out of its ribcage. I swallowed hard. “Aye, Captain.”

He said, “Oh, and Vendurro jiggered together a scabbard to fit Lloi’s blade. Syldoon don’t favor sabers or curved swords in general, so it took some work. So buckle that around your waist as well and be sure to thank him later. You have no competency with the thing, I know, but should you find an enemy in your face, it will prove more useful than trying to club them with an unspanned crossbow. More importantly, I don’t want you damaging any more crossbows.”

He laughed at his own joke and then said, “Well? Get to it, Arkamondos. It is uncharted territory ahead for us all.”
When you pick an excerpt to share, you can obviously be judicious and select a chunk of writing that will engage a reader, hopefully intrigue them, and something that ideally encapsulates the flavor or feel of the whole book.

The Page 69 Test, on the other hand—where you strip out page 69 and see what you get—is more dicey. You might end up with something totally confusing or incomplete (being such a small sample size), or not representative of the book as a whole, or really spoilerish. When I opened Chains of the Heretic to 69 to see what I’d find, I had a feeling it might be a non-starter, but I lucked out. Page 69 actually captures the spirit of the book pretty well and comes at a good moment.

It has some pointed Arki and Braylar banter (and the book is full of snarky and sarcastic dialogue, so that’s apropos), and some mounting dread as Arki wonders if he’ll brown his britches, as this bit immediately precedes the company embarking on a seriously dangerous and possibly suicidal gambit. It might be a tiny bit spoilery, but the marketing copy already alerted the reader to the fact that our intrepid band will cross the Godveil at some point in the book, and this happens pretty early on, so it’s not ruining any big discovery for the reader. If page 69 actually showed what was beyond the Veil, I would have backed off this immediately, because that surprise is well worth waiting for. There is some crazy, creepy stuff over there.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Salyards's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Scourge of the Betrayer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 21, 2016

"The Opposite of Everyone"

New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson's books include the novels: Someone Else’s Love Story, gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.

Jackson applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Opposite of Everyone, and reported the following:
The Opposite of Everyone is narrated by a successful, ruthless lawyer, Paula Vauss, who hasn’t spoken to her mother, Kai, in more than fifteen years. She gets a cryptic letter from Kai, who is dying. It indicates that Paula might not be an only child.

Page 69 is a flashback to Paula’s disordered childhood. I think it’s perfect as a single page representation, because Paula here defines her relationship with Kai. Kai is an itinerate storyteller who uses Southern Oral tradition to retell Hindu god stories. Paula says her mother speaks with “with all the authority vested in her by her flea market prayer beads and her lotus flower tramp stamp.” They live a nomadic life, close to homeless, and Kai also reinvents and retells their personal history as they rove.
She acts like this is just another chapter in our endlessly mutable story, Kai towing me as she moves from man to man. I never fought or even questioned it, because of the truth at the root of our shared life: Kai doesn’t love me like she loves the boyfriends.

Boyfriend Love is the light on a bug’s back end, flicking on and off across a lawn. It begins with lies and kissing. It devolves into fighting and boredom. It ends with hasty packing and sometimes robbery. It is easily replaced by fresher love.

Me and Kai were always more than that.
In this scene, eleven year old Paula is about to tell a story of her own, one that will land her mother in jail for two years, put her into foster care, and cause a rift in their relationship that will form the book’s central conflict.
Learn more about the book and author at Joshilyn Jackson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

The Page 69 Test: Backseat Saints.

The Page 69 Test: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"If I Run"

Terri Blackstock, author of If I Run, has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series.

Blackstock applied the Page 69 Test to If I Run and reported the following:
From page 69:
small fridge in his room that his mother stocked with Gatorade and Coke. We spent most of the time on the floor, though there were high-end easy chairs.

I wonder if he still has those bean bags.

Had. I correct myself and force my brain back into gear. I'm not a grieving friend. I'm an investigator.

I follow the two detectives to Brent's door, slip on the blue shoe covers and gloves they offer me, and when they unlock it, I duck under the tape across the door keeping people out. The stairs where he was found are in the foyer, just five feet from the front door.

There is still plenty of dried blood on the floor where it bled out of him. I'm sweating now, and my heart hammers in a weak staccato beat. I force myself to think like a cop. I study the blood splatter on the wall. There are drops on the bottom quadrant of the wall close to the stairs, but I see a couple circled closer to the door, suggesting that the first time he was stabbed may have been as the person came in. Risking Keegan's wrath, I take quick pictures on my phone. The stab wound across his carotid artery was too high for Casey to have landed easily, since Brent was considerably taller than her.
Page 69 of If I Run has a lot of clues to the murder that took place before the book opened. Dylan Roberts, the point of view character in this scene, is a war-weary veteran with PTSD. He's been trying to get a job in law enforcement, but he's seen as damaged goods. When his best childhood friend is murdered, Dylan is hired as a private contractor to hunt for the suspect, a job that gives him a chance to prove himself. In this scene, the police detectives take him through the crime scene before they send him off to track the girl who allegedly killed his friend.

But what is the truth? That's the question haunting Dylan. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren't adding up. Casey Cox doesn't fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan's skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn't guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan's damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer ... or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.
Visit Terri Blackstock's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Why They Run the Way They Do"

Susan Perabo is Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Her books include the short story collection Who I Was Supposed to Be and the novel, The Broken Places.

Perabo applied the Page 69 Test to her new story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do, and reported the following:
Page 69 of  Why They Run the Way They Do is not even a full page -- it’s the last few sentences of a story called “Shelter.” In the story, the owner of a no-kill dog shelter in rural New Hampshire realizes that she has breast cancer; rather than seeking treatment, she spends her final healthy days trying to find homes for the dogs in her shelter before she is no longer able to care for them. She pins most of her hopes on Jerry, an unpleasant recluse who wants only one dog, but whom she tries to convince to take more. This story sounds pretty maudlin, but the narrator’s defining characteristic is an utter lack of self-pity, even in the darkest of circumstances; her desire to place the dogs stems not from affection but from a no-nonsense practicality. I am wary of spoiling the end of the story, but I can say that it takes place mostly in the narrator’s imagination, as she tries to predict the ultimate fate of her remaining dozen dogs.

I didn’t’ realize it until writing this piece, but characters throughout my collection spend a whole lot of time imagining. Sometimes this imagining is constructive, other times destructive. Very often what my characters imagine is a different outcome to a situation than what’s actually occurred, though in the case of “Shelter,” I’m pretty sure that what the narrator imagines is what happens. Will Jerry come through for her in the end? Is Jerry someone readers might find familiar? Perhaps.

Here’s a tiny bit of it:

“Shhhhh,” I said, because I could hear something in the distance, gravel crunching under tires, claws scraping on metal, a man cursing me. I smiled.
Learn more about Why They Run the Way They Do.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"On Edge"

Gin Price lives in Michigan with her partner David, two children, many reptiles and an ornery cat.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, On Edge, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I couldn’t hide my wince. “Yikes.”

“They were terrified of getting arrested for child neglect, so they both took turns staying home for a month.”

“Well that was good at least, right?” I wasn’t sure trying to make her feel better about her parents’ behavior was a good tactic, but I didn’t feel comfortable not saying anything in support.

“Are you kidding? I wanted to make them panic, not stay home and glare at me. I couldn’t wait for them to leave again. Rosahlia is all the guardian I can handle. She comes, she cooks and cleans, and doesn’t try to get in my way when I want to do something. She does kinda nag, though. Hey, isn’t that—?”

Liv pointed off toward the ticket booth and I followed her finger. Yup. My luck from the rest of the day stayed consistent. “Yeah. Haze.”

“I’m used to calling him Bren, but I’ll try to remember Haze. You know me, I could give a rat’s ass about that street bullshit.” And then as if she remembered who she was talking to she added. “Except you, Ellie.”

Feeling suddenly happy, I laughed openly, a part of me wondering if Haze would recognize the timbre of my voice and home in.

There was no home-age.

“I know you dig what I do. Don’t sweat it. Maybe one day you’ll get over your fear of heights.”

“No way. I’ll leave all the cool acrobatics to you. Hey, they’re looking over here. Think they’ll come over?”

Sexay Home-age after all! I kept my happy feet from dancing. “I have no idea. Maybe you should wave, Liv. You said you wanted to start slow with talking to him again. If he sees you looking and you don’t wave...”
This excerpt of On Edge is an accurate representation of some of the main emotions running through the book.

There’s the awkwardness of not knowing what to say to your friend when they talk about something tragic that happened to them. I personally feel you don’t know what to say in those moments mostly when you don’t know how to trust. Also, you can see the need to change focus past that awkwardness not only by the person confessing, but by the friend who feels inadequate.

The transition between uncertainty of comfort into uncertainty of giddy, romantic feelings introduces one of the main underlying tones of On Edge. Is the main character falling in love with friend or foe?
Visit Gin Price's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Violent Crimes"

Former trial attorney Phillip Margolin has been writing full-time since 1996. Most of his many novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Violent Crimes, and reported the following:
Unfortunately, page 69 of Violent Crimes is at the end of a chapter and only has five lines and one short paragraph. It does, however, end an important chapter. In Violent Crimes Amanda Jaffe is hired to represent a returned veteran who is charged with assault growing out of a bar fight and who is referred to her by an old friend, Christine Larson, a lawyer in a huge law firm. Amanda has no trouble getting the case dismissed but she has more trouble helping Tom when Christine's bludgeoned body is found in his house. Evidence points to a set up. Then Dale Masterson, the senior partner in Christine's firm is also bludgeoned to death. Suspicion falls on Tom but Dale's crazy son, Brandon, is seen running from the Masterson estate covered in blood. When he walks into the police station and confesses, his mother hires Amanda to defend him. The case looks like a sure loser until Amanda starts to question the evidence.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"The Things We Keep"

Sally Hepworth has lived and traveled around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the U.K., and Canada. While on maternity leave from her job in Human Resources, Hepworth finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to write, the result of which was Love Like the French, published in Germany in 2014. While pregnant with her second child, she wrote The Secrets of Midwives, published worldwide in English, as well as in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2015. A novel about three generations of midwives, The Secrets of Midwives asks readers what makes a mother and what role biology plays in the making and binding of a family.

The Secrets of Midwives has been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publishers Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Hepworth’s debut English language novel as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing.”

Hepworth applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Things We Keep, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I can’t bear to listen to it all again. While Richard did some terrible things, I still feel surprisingly uncomfortable hearing her slam him, particularly after she’d allowed Richard to move her and Dad over from England and set them up very nicely. I also feel uncomfortable since she spent a decade kissing his ass so wholeheartedly that even Richard felt awkward. (And Richard never felt awkward around adoring women.)

‘Thanks, Mother, but we’re fine. Really.’

‘You’re hardly fine, Evie. You’ve taken a job in a residential care facility! I must admit, I still don’t understand why. Even if you didn’t have the experience to become a head chef at a restaurant, surely you could ... I don’t know ... open a little catering business or something?’

I don’t bother to point out that in order to start any kind of business, I’d need money, something that was in desperately short supply right now. Instead I remind her that if we don’t want Clem to be moved to Butwell Elementary we need an address in the area. When I finish talking I notice Clem standing in the doorway of the bedroom, holding her tatty pink bunny by the ears.

‘Clem’s awake, Mother. I have to go.’

‘Hold on a minute,’ she says. ‘Your father wants to speak to you.’

There’s a shuffle, and then I hear Dad clear his throat. ‘Saw the paper. You hang in there, baby. People will realize that you were dealt a rough card, too. The only one who should be suffering is your low-down scumbag of a husband ...’

Clem climbs onto my lap, and I smile brightly. She watches me intently, her radar for knowing when people are talking about her father in perfect working order. ‘Don’t worry about me, Dad,’ I say brightly. ‘I’m fine.’
On first glance, I was going to say that this little snapshot isn’t a perfect representation of the book, but on closer examination, it’s actually not bad. In this scene, Eve remembers how much her parents adored her husband, but now, with the new information that Richard was a swindler, they have changed their tune. While this secondary plotline—about how Eve’s husband left her high and dry—isn’t at the core of the novel, it demonstrates how our memories can be changeable. And this, in essence, is what the whole book is about—the way memories change, and how we are better served by relying on our instincts and our feelings to steer our lives. All in all, a good little snapshot of the heart and soul of the book.
Visit Sally Hepworth's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of Midwives.

My Book, The Movie: The Secrets of Midwives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 15, 2016

"A Whisker of Trouble"

Sofie Ryan is a writer and mixed media artist who loves to repurpose things in her life and her art. She is the author of The Whole Cat and Caboodle and Buy a Whisker in the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mystery series.

Ryan applied the Page 69 Test to A Whisker of Trouble, the latest Second Chance Cat Mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 falls partway through Chapter 4 of A Whisker of Trouble—a much longer chapter than I remembered it being. The narrator, Sarah Grayson, is talking to Charlotte Elliot. Not only is Charlotte one of Sarah’s grandmother’s closest friends, she also works for Sarah, she’s one of the senior citizen sleuths who operate out of the sun porch at Sarah’s business, and she’s the mother of Nick Elliot, Sarah’s teenage crush who is an investigator for the state medical examiner’s office. Not all of that information is available from that one page, but the section is a good indicator of Nick’s personality and his relationship with the detectives, aka the Angels, which is important not only to this book, but to the entire series.
“Sarah, have you talked to Nicolas?” she asked.

“Not since he was here yesterday. Why?”

She sighed. “To quote Rose, Nicolas has his knickers in a bit of a knot.”

“Did you know what she and Alfred were up to?” I reached over and flipped on the light switches as we stepped into the shop.

“Not for a long time, no,” she said. “I just can’t seem to get it through to Nicolas that we don’t want to spend whatever time we have left just organizing bake sales and growing roses. He’s hardheaded sometimes.”

I smiled and set her bag down by our feet. “When he makes up his mind about something it is pretty difficult to get him to change course.” I tipped my head to one side and studied her face. “I wonder where he got that?”

“It comes from the Elliots,” she said, straight-faced. “They’ve always been a stubborn bunch.”
The other thing I think this page does is give readers a glimpse of the close, loving relationship Sarah has with her grandmother’s friends, which is why she keeps getting pulled into their investigations.
Charlotte was wearing caramel-colored pumps with her dark brown skirt, which made her several inches taller than I was. I stood on tiptoe and kissed her cheek. “I love you and your britches are starting to smoke,” I whispered.

She smiled and I started for the stairs.

“I’ll open up,” she called after me.

“Thank you,” I said without turning around.
Charlotte and her friends are family as far as Sarah is concerned. She loves them, she worries about them and she can’t help getting involved with their cases if only to keep them from getting into trouble. Sarah’s a bit of a reluctant sleuth. Her ability to connect with people is what makes her good at it.
Visit Sofie Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"This Is Where It Ends"

Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and wants to grow up to be a time traveler.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut young adult novel, This Is Where It Ends,  and reported the following:
This Is Where It Ends is the story of a school shooting. It takes place over the course of fifty-four minutes, and follows four teens, who all have their own reason to fear the boy with the gun. Now, at page 69, we're about five minutes into the shooting. On the page, two teens are trying to decide what to do; they aren't in the auditorium, where the shooter is, where the rest of the school is. They've already alerted the police, but now they are presented with a choice: do they run and hide, or will they try to help their friends and siblings? It's not the only choice they have to make, but for these two characters, these two wonderful characters, it's one of the most essential ones. Of course they'll try.
Visit Marieke Nijkamp's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 13, 2016

"It’s. Nice. Outside."

Jim Kokoris is the author of the novels The Rich Part of Life, which has been published in fifteen languages and for which he won a Friends of American Writers Award for Best First Novel, Sister North, and The Pursuit of Other Interests. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Kokoris lives in the Chicago area with his family.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, It's. Nice. Outside., and reported the following:
Page 69 in It’s. Nice. Outside. involves a scene at a hotel in Knoxville with my two main characters, John Nichols and his special needs son Ethan. It is a transition scene – they are essentially checking into a Marriott, one of many hotels they stay at on a cross country odyssey and have a short exchange with front desk clerk. Where John and Ethan are really going has yet to be revealed at this point of the book.
The clerk behind the desk, a young guy with thick-framed glasses and too much aftershave, glanced up from behind his computer and gave me the trying-to-act-normal around Ethan smile. I appreciated the effort.

I smiled back at him. “We’d like a room on the first floor.”

He punched some keys, looked up again and nodded. “Thank you for being a Marriott Gold Member, Mr. Nichols.”

My chest swelled and I bowed my head. “You are most welcome,” I humbly said.
A lot is about to happen in Knoxville to John and Ethan. This particular scene is the calm before the storm, a rare respite for John on his long, painful, funny journey with his challenging son. Soon other members of the family will join them and together they will ultimately attempt to complete this journey together.
Visit Jim Kokoris's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Pacific Burn"

Barry Lancet's international thriller Japantown won the prestigious Barry Award for Best First Mystery Novel, and was selected by both Suspense Magazine and renowned mystery critic Oline Cogdill as one of the Best Debuts of the Year. His second book, Tokyo Kill, was a finalist for a Shamus Award for Best P.I. Novel of the Year and was selected as a must-read for Asian leaders by Forbes magazine.

Lancet applied the Page 69 Test to Pacific Burn, the third entry in the Jim Brodie series, and reported the following:
I was reaching out for the SIG when the agent with the silver hair yelled, “Touch it, I shoot.”

That’s the line sitting at the top page 69 of Pacific Burn.

In this scene, Brodie has flown to Washington, D.C., and is confronted by a joint task force of the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security as he steps off the plane. He refuses to let them drag him away and lock him up without an explanation. A fight ensues, Brodie comes out on top in the first battle, reaches for a loose weapon, and guns are pointed. The war is far from over…

From Page 69:
I was reaching out for the SIG when the agent with the silver hair yelled, “Touch it, I shoot.”

I froze, half bent, hand outstretched, my fingers twelve inches from the pistol. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man had his own metal trained on my chest. He was ten feet away. A no-brainer of a shot.

Moving only my head, I locked eyes with him. “Call off your man.”

“One more inch, Brodie—“

“Enough!” the first suit from the jetway said with authority. “Put it away, Swelley. Now.”

I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the new speaker. His gun was pointed at Silver Hair. Swelley. Not a name I’d forget in this century.

With his free hand, the suit peeled off his shades. “I said stand down.” His voice projected unmistakable menace. And something more.

“We don’t answer to you,” Swelley hissed, squaring his shoulders, a fiery strength rippling through him.

“I’d like to stand,” I said. “I have no weapon. And we have an audience. A large audience.”

But no response was forthcoming, so I didn’t move.

Around the terminal, there were easily fifty witnesses. A few had cell phones raised and rolling in what I suspected was record mode, but I kept my gaze focused on Swelley. The feverish glint in his eyes told me I was in grave danger. Told me I was dealing with a fury disengaged from the man. A nearly independent force that could act on its own—to my detriment. If I wanted to get out of this alive, I needed Swelley to reel in more than his weapon.

I kept my eyes on him. I waited for my words to penetrate. It was a long tense moment, but finally I saw Swelley blink with deliberation. His expression clarified. The unanchored animosity retreated. My words had broken through. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of the fourth agent. His weapon was drawn and being held unobtrusively at his side—ready to go either way.
Much happened before this scene, and much more happens after. Brodie becomes embroiled in a case involving the mayor of San Francisco, the Japanese “nuclear mafia,” and rogue elements in the Far Eastern. When he digs too deeply, he hits a nerve and finds himself the target of a legendary assassin who works both side of the Pacific—and never leaves a contract unfulfilled.
Visit Barry Lancet's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Worlds of Ink and Shadow"

Lena Coakley is a young adult author living in Toronto. She is the author of the YA fantasies Witchlanders and Worlds of Ink and Shadow: A novel of the Brontës.

Coakley applied the Page 69 Test to Worlds of Ink and Shadow and reported the following:
From page 69:
All her stories were finished now. All Charlotte’s beautiful characters were to be put away in a box like toy soldiers—the lords, the ladies, the innocent maidens, the heroes, and the villains.
While page 69 doesn’t represent my entire novel, it certainly tells the reader what my main character, Charlotte Brontë, is feeling at the beginning of my book.

For much of her life, Charlotte and her brother Branwell have had the ability to make the fantasy countries they write about become real. They are able to travel to these places, though they jealously hide the secret of how it is done from their younger sisters, Anne and Emily.

In these invented worlds, Charlotte has been able to escape her drab existence as the daughter of a poor parson in the factory town of Haworth. For years she and Branwell have played lords and ladies in fine clothes, enjoying the scandals and romances of the characters they created.

However, Charlotte knows that this magic has come at a terrible price. Now that she is eighteen, she has vowed to stop writing forever, even though for her this is like cutting off a limb.

Of course, this is Charlotte Brontë. We know she will not quit writing forever. The story of Worlds of Ink and Shadow is partly the story of how Charlotte invents an adulthood that allows for writing, that allows for the expression of her creative self.
Learn more about the book and author at Lena Coakley's website, and follow her at Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"No Ordinary Life"

Born and raised on the east coast, Suzanne Redfearn moved to California when she was fifteen. She currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband, their two kids, a Cockapoo named Cooper, and a cat named Motley. They own a restaurant in town called Lumberyard. Prior to becoming an author, Redfearn was an architect specializing in residential and commercial design. When not writing, she enjoys doing anything and everything with her family—skiing, golf, tennis, surfing, playing board games, and watching reality TV. Redfearn is an avid baseball fan. Her team is the Angels. She can also be found in the bleachers watching her kids’ sports or prowling the streets with her husband checking out the culinary scene of Orange County.

Redfearn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, No Ordinary Life, and reported the following:
Page 69 from No Ordinary Life is very representative of the novel. In this scene Faye and her four-year-old daughter have just finished auditioning for a television show with another boy. Molly did very well, the boy did not. The boy and his mom are walking out of the room when the page starts:
“Behind the garden shed, baby,” she says before the door closes, her voice shrill. “You forgot the word ‘garden.’”

He forgot more than that, but perhaps her memory is as bad as her son’s.

When the door closes, the man in the center leans back in his chair and peers at Molly over steepled fingers. “Do you sing?” he asks.

The man is not particularly handsome, his nose slightly large for his face, his chin slightly small, but he has a magnetism that causes the room to swirl around him. The others are glued to his words, and I find myself drawn to him as well. Even the heavy man beside him pays attention, looking up from his boredom as if suddenly Molly is interesting.

“Evewryone sings,” Molly answers.

“Will you sing something for us?” the woman says. “Anything you like.”

Molly tilts her head, and her mouth skews to the side, then she starts tapping her foot, and I know what’s coming, and it’s all I can do to control my snicker.

“Hey…ey…ey. Uh. Yeah, hey…ey…”

The three at the table blink rapidly, unsure what Molly’s singing, and even the heavy man smiles when Molly breaks into the chorus for “Play That Funky Music.”

When she finishes the chorus, the man in the center holds up his hand to stop her, a smile still on his face.

My heart bursts with joy and panic in equal measure. The competitive spirit in me applauds because I know Molly nailed it, while the annoying buzz from this morning returns, blaring at full volume because I’m uncertain what it is we’ve won.

“Thank you, Molly,” the woman says. “We’ll be in touch.”

“You’wre wewlcome,” Molly says with a small bow like Bo taught her to do after a performance.

I take her by the hand to lead her from the room.

“One more question,” the man in the center says, stopping us. He is looking at Molly’s sheet. “It says here you’re 53 inches, but that can’t be right. How tall are you?”

I swallow, frozen by the question. I have no idea how tall Molly is. I’m five-two, that’s sixty-two inches. Molly’s at least two feet shorter. Sixty-two minus twenty-four…I try to do the math in my head, but my brain won’t function. A mother should know this. What mother doesn’t know how tall her child is?

Molly saves me. She puts her hand on top of her head and drags it out to the air in front of her. “This tawll,” she says, then she turns and pulls me out the door.
Visit Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Little Baby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"The Silence of Stones"

Jeri Westerson is the author of the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Silence of Stones, the eighth book in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Silence of Stones:
He rubbed his hands for another moment and turned. His strides were long down the nave, but footsteps followed him, and then someone ran to head him off at the door. A burly bear of a man furrowed his brow at him, body blocking his exit.

‘We weren’t done talking, Master Guest,’ said Findlaich from behind him.

‘Yes we were. You don’t have the Stone so there is nothing else to say.’

‘But you are a finder of lost things, are you not? They call you the Tracker.’

Crispin halted but did not turn around. He laughed instead, a harsh bark of a sound. ‘Don’t tell me you intended to hire me, too?’ He did turn then, eyes narrowing. ‘You whoreson. Don’t you know why I am already looking for it? The king has my apprentice as hostage. If I don’t find it and return it to the king, he will kill the boy! What the hell do I care about you?’

‘Such haste and impertinence,’ said Findlaich, shaking his head. ‘I care not for what schemes the king’s got brewing. I only know my own task. And that was to secure the Stone. But I no have it. And I shall be in peril if I do not do as my patron says. Yet, I might have an idea who does have that troublesome Stone.’

‘And why should I trust you?’

‘Well now…’ He rubbed his shaggy chin again. ‘There are things that I know that perhaps you do not…’ Sagging, he shrugged. ‘I wish no harm to your lad, Master Guest, but as you well know, men like us are at the mercy of our betters.’

Betters? Who would lead such an expedition for the Stone, he wondered. Who could? A Scottish lord, no doubt. But who? This Mormaer? The Mormaer, he corrected. The tribal nuances of northerners was a puzzle to him.

And anyway, how would the knowing of it help his situation? Well, all the pieces were necessary. Only a complete tapestry yielded an understandable picture.

He faced Findlaich, whom, he realized, had been civil to him. ‘You will forgive me if I leave you now? For I have another appointment which might provide answers that we all seek. Pardon me if I do not invite you along.’

‘To the Boar’s Tusk?’
That pretty much sets up the book, doesn't it? We have Crispin Guest, our protagonist who is tasked with searching for the stolen Stone of Destiny, taken from the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey. Crispin's immediate concern is his apprentice Jack Tucker who was taken hostage by the king to insure Crispin's expediency. And we have his Scottish rivals. So all is in place very neatly on page 69!
Learn more about the author and her work at Jeri Westerson's website and her "Getting Medieval" blog.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

The Page 69 Test: Serpent in the Thorns.

The Page 69 Test: The Demon's Parchment.

My Book, The Movie: The Demon's Parchment.

The Page 69 Test: Troubled Bones.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Lance.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow of the Alchemist.

The Page 69 Test: Cup of Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 8, 2016


New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than fifty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese. Dietz also wrote the script for the Legion of the Damned game (i-Phone, i-Touch, & i-Pad) based on his book of the same name--and co-wrote SONY's Resistance: Burning Skies game for the PS Vita.

He grew up in the Seattle area, spent time with the Navy and Marine Corps as a medic, graduated from the University of Washington, lived in Africa for half a year, and has traveled to six continents. He has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, news writer, television producer and Director of Public Relations and Marketing for an international telephone company.

Dietz is a member of the Writer’s Guild and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor in Washington State where they enjoy traveling, kayaking, and reading books.

Dietz applied the Page 69 Test to Graveyard, and reported the following:
From page 69:
There were lots of messages and Lee skipped through them until she found the one from Kane. His voice was strange, as if he was trying to sound casual, but under considerable pressure. "Hi, hon... It's me. Sorry to bother you, but I'm in jail. No, this isn't a joke. I was arrested for murder about an hour after you left for work. They're holding me at the MDC and I need some help. Okay, I guess that's all. Love you." And that was followed by a click.

Lee could hardly believe her ears and listened to the message again before calling the MDC. She knew at least a dozen people there--and it didn't take long to hook up with a clerk who could confirm that yes, they did have a prisoner named Lawrence Kane, and yes, he was being held on a murder charge.

Lee's hand shook as she dialed Marvin Codicil's number. Codicil was her attorney and had been able to resolve a number of legal problems in the past. And, since he knew Kane, Codicil seemed like the right person to turn to. He answered on the second ring. "Hello, Cassandra... I wondered when you’d call."

"I was working," Lee replied. "It sounds like you already know about Lawrence."

"Yes," Codicil said. "He called me as soon as he could."

"So what the hell is going on?"

"I'm due in court five minutes from now," Codicil said, "so I can't go into a lot of detail. Suffice it to say that Lawrence had left his condo, and was on his way to St. John's, when he saw two men accost a young woman on the street. He stopped, got out of his car, and ordered them to stop. They turned and one of the men fired a shot at Lawrence. He returned fire using the .45 that you gave him. The man with the gun fell dead.

"And even though cops were almost impossible to find in all of the chaos a patrol car happened along seconds later. The surviving suspect took the dead man's pistol and ran. The police officers ordered Lawrence to surrender his weapon and he did so. Then, when they asked him to explain the shooting, he realized that the young woman had disappeared. And when Lawrence asked the police if they'd seen her they said ‘no.’ End of story."
In this case the Page 69 Test works fairly well, although it shines a light on only one part of Cassandra Lee’s life. Because while Lee’s boyfriend is in jail, she’s also working to uncover corruption in the Mayor’s office, tracking the serial killer responsible for killing a number of cops including her father, and working a case that involves illegal face transplants. And that’s what makes the novel exciting… There’s a lot going on all at once.
Visit William C. Dietz's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Fall.

My Book, The Movie: Andromeda's Fall.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Choice.

The Page 69 Test: Deadeye.

My Book, The Movie: Deadeye.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Shade Me"

Jennifer Brown's books include the YA novels Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, and Torn Away, and the middle grade novels Life on Mars and How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me From Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Shade Me, her latest YA novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Bill Hollis turned to me, his icy blue eyes turning my insides cold. “And you are?”

But before I could open my mouth, Dru answered for me. “A friend of Peyton’s.” I gave him a curious look. Why the lie? But I guessed maybe I knew why. Bill Hollis was not in a mood for games—and who could blame him?—and he might consider it a game for someone who wasn’t exactly a friend to be there. Fern green feathered in around us, giving me an itchy feeling I always got in awkward situations.

“Were you the one who found her? Do you know who did this?” Bill Hollis asked, his gaze penetrating me. And then, as if flipping a switch, his eyes softened and his mouth curved into a pleasant tilt—the man from the magazines. “Should we be thanking you?” He held out his hand. “There will be a reward, of course.”

I stared at it, unsure what to do, my head shaking of its own accord. Bill Hollis was probably not the kind of guy whose handshakes went unreciprocated, but something about him oozed minty distrust that made my heart pound, even more so than with Dru. I was too scared of him to touch him.
Nikki Kill is not your typical sleuth. Or your typical Hollywood teen. Or your typical anything, really. She is a semi-surly ripped-jeans-and-scuffed-Chucks-clad girl struggling with her grades, her mom’s death, and her synesthesia. Nikki sees colors in words, letters, numbers, and even emotions, which makes her world a confusing, and frustrating, place.

But Nikki is forced into solving a dangerous mystery when Peyton Hollis, a very rich, very popular girl from her school, is attacked, and Nikki’s is the only number stored in Peyton’s phone. Nikki has never so much as spoken to Peyton in her life, and doesn’t want to solve the mystery of who left Peyton for dead, but she is quickly sucked in by curiosity, a sense of obligation, and a dismaying attraction to Peyton’s brother, Dru.

On page 69, Nikki is visiting Peyton at the hospital, wrestling with the irresistible pull of Dru, when Peyton’s wealthy and powerful movie producer father, Bill Hollis, arrives. This is Nikki’s first (but definitely not last!) run-in with the frightening elder Hollis, and she finds herself instantly battling the heebie-jeebies. She feels defensive and suspicious and can’t help wondering why Dru is lying about who she is. Is he protecting her? Is he protecting Peyton? Is he protecting the family? Or is he simply protecting himself?

While not exactly a pivotal scene in Shade Me, this scene is still important, as it marks the deepening of Nikki’s dedication to the case. What she sees in Bill Hollis makes her wonder what has really gone on in Peyton’s life. She begins to believe that maybe Peyton did need help. And she is determined to find out…why did Peyton need help from her?
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Brown's website.

Read: Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Brown & Ursula and Aragorn.

My Book, The Movie: Life on Mars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 5, 2016

"A Prisoner in Malta"

Phillip DePoy is the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University and author of several novels, including The Drifter's Wheel, A Corpse's Nightmare, and December's Thorn.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Prisoner in Malta, the first book in a new mystery series featuring Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare's contemporary and Queen Elizabeth's man behind the throne, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Prisoner in Malta contains a particularly telling bit of action tied to philosophy:
The man was taken by surprise, but training or instinct did not fail him. He drew his sword.

“Stop,” the man warned, menacingly.

“Ah, good,” Marlowe said to the man, “military sword against rapier and dagger. The former is a clumsy man’s failing; the latter is a clever man’s grace. As luck would have it, I am quite graceful. You’re about to die.”

That was a lesson from Lopez: taunt an opponent with the idea that he’s already lost, even before the fighting has begun.

The guard hesitated. The verbal gambit had worked. Marlowe thrust his rapier directly into the man’s midsection. Blood spotted his tunic.
From this exchange we quickly understand several things about the young Christopher Marlowe. He’s calm, confident, and verbal in the face of a dangerous situation, but he’s also still a student, relying on lessons he’s been taught (in this case by his sometime mentor, Dr. Lopez, the Queen’s physician). This section arises from one of my favorite real quotes from the historical Marlowe: “You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute, and now and then stab, when occasion serves.” The entire book’s not comprised of swordfights, of course, but there is a lot of action. I think what might be missing from page 69 is a fuller explication of Marlowe’s more poetic virtues, but all in all the page isn’t a bad partial introduction to the rest of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Drifter's Wheel.

The Page 69 Test: A Corpse's Nightmare.

The Page 69 Test: December's Thorn.

My Book, The Movie: December's Thorn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Skinner Luce"

Patricia Ward was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, moving to the United States when she was eighteen. Her books include The Bullet Collection, an award-winning novel about two sisters growing up in wartime Beirut.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Skinner Luce, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Aunt Eva says you can’t stay over,” he remarks at last.

“I’ve got work first thing tomorrow. It’s a company fighting a takeover, they need extra hands. It pays double, I can’t say no.”

The lies pour from her like water. He gives her another sideways look but doesn’t call her out. He thinks she moonlights as an escort, a theory he advanced when he was wasted one night, then laid into her about his right to worry, her being his younger cousin and all. You don’t have to do it, he blathered. You’re better than that! She had to dig pretty deep not to contradict him. It stung, that he pictured her stooping so low, despite the ironic parallels to the truth. But she saw the advantage of letting his theory stand. He’ll never dare suggest it to Eva, who’d have an aneurysm from sheer horror, so he ends up in a circuitous way serving as an ally, stopping Eva when she’s pushing too hard lest Lucy blurt out the dreadful truth.

“Harry O’Neill finally kicked the bucket,” he says.

“Eva told me.”

“Remember when he caught us stealing all that gum?” He chuckles to himself. “What morons we were.”

“Yeah. You puked, you were so scared.”

“At least it hit his shoes.”

Lucy laughs a little, surprised to remember, actually. Memories of her early years are fragmented, disconnected. The shrinks way back said it was due to trauma. Not remembering things, not sleeping, nightmares, all these symptoms would go, they promised, once she resolved her issues. Fat chance of that. Sean keeps talking, and she listens, tried to joke around, her hands clenched inside her pockets. They were two peas in a pod, once upon a time, that’s what Eva used to call them. They used to make a tent in her room, hide inside, make plans for the future.
On page 69, Lucy has just arrived in Hull for Christmas Eve and is talking with her cousin Sean as he drives her home. It eats away at her that she always has to lie about what’s going on in her life, and that she must swallow his perceptions and criticism, but she has no choice. Sean and and her adoptive mother Eva can’t ever know the truth about her, for their own safety. It is also Lucy’s deepest fear that should they find out, they would no longer love her. Despite these layers of duplicity, she shares a genuine closeness with Sean. They grew up together and have a real bond that can’t be severed.

Their conversation doesn’t reveal the main elements of the book—that she is an alien created by beings from another world, the Nafikh; that she must Serve Them; that They are violent and terrifying and she could be killed any day. But the scene does raises an essential theme, because Lucy’s relationship with Sean and Eva is all that keeps her going. If it weren’t for her ties to them, she might give up and end it all. If you have come face to face with your creator and know that you are worthless; if you know your purpose here on this Earth, and it is wretched, why bother carrying on? This is the question servs face every day, how to find meaning in an existence that is so utterly sordid and hopeless. But Lucy, who by chance was adopted by humans as a baby, has what no other serv can possibly comprehend: a family. She has the luck of knowing what it is to love, and to be loved. She has ties and responsibilities, people counting on her and believing in her, people who actually care. It will be what’s at stake for her, when things start to unravel.
Visit Patricia Ward's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Beasts and Children"

Amy Parker was born in Okinawa, Japan, and spent most of her childhood on diplomatic and military compounds overseas. She returned to the United States after her high school graduation and attended Indiana University, where she studied comparative literature. She won a Michener fellowship in fiction from the University of Texas, Austin. Afterward, she spent four years doing intensive monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the oldest Soto Zen monastery in the United States, and at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center in Mill Valley, California. She received lay ordination in the Soto Zen lineage in 2007. She left the monastery for the Iowa Writers Workshop, where she graduated in 2012. She currently lives in Wichita with her son.

Parker applied the Page 69 Test to her debut story collection, Beasts and Children, and reported the following:
Oy… by sheer coincidence the most sexually explicit scene occurs on page 69. I’m a little bashful about quoting it here. It’s at the midpoint of the story “Rainy Season”, where we first meet two of the book’s protagonists, a pair of sisters, Maizie and Jill. The sisters are diplomatic brats, bored tweens caged up on their compound in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at a loss for activity, and totally unsupervised.

By page 69, Jill has swept off in the company of a prostitute and two very drunk tourists, to a karaoke bar in the Night Market in Chiang Mai. Her younger sister Maizie comes along, hoping to protect her. Instead, both girls get drunk on Long Island Ice Teas and things go from bad to worse. Jill has been flirting with the younger of the two tourists—he’s 20 to her 13, and she’s desperate for experience. In this moment his expectations and hers clash violently, to put it somewhat mildly. There’s an equally handsy gibbon encroaching toward the bottom of the page who is going to give her sister problems. It’s ridiculous and uncomfortable and humiliating—the whole scene is a nightmare.

Kyung slides his hand up past the elastic of her underpants and plunges a finger into her. Jill gasps. She is all slippery but it hurts. His finger works deeper. She tries to pull away but Kyung’s other hand squeezes her breast and she can’t move. Inside her is a wave she suspected when touching herself all alone, but this is different because it hurts and she can’t get away. Then Kyung leans in to kiss her, and his tongue, thick with liquor and cold, wraps her tongue and she can’t breathe. She doesn’t know how to kiss back, and she can’t breathe, so she, too panicked to care that they’re in public, she bites him.

Is it representative of the collection? In a way, yes, because many of the stories are about naïve or foolish people endangering themselves and others by taking action without thought to consequences—but it’s also somewhat misleading because “Rainy Season” is such a headlong, breakneck piece. Other parts of the book are more wry, or funny, and somewhat less manic. But this is a big moment in the collection because it’s when Jill realizes that her imagination is a source of danger. Her misguided excursion brings about more than the first kiss she’d hoped for, and her realization that unexamined fantasy and impulsive action have far-reaching, possibly irreparable consequences is one of the big epiphanies of the book. A thrust of a finger literally thrusts her into an extremely painful adult understanding of her own agency.
Visit Amy Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"The House on Primrose Pond"

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of novels such as A Wedding in Great Neck and You Were Meant for Me as well as dozens of books for children. She is the editor of and a contributor to The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty, as well as All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.

McDonough applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The House on Primrose Pond, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The House on Primrose Pond, Susannah Gilmore makes an important discovery. Ever since she moved into the New Hampshire house her parents left her and discovered a love letter to her mother that was clearly not written by her father, she’s been on quest. Talking to friends and neighbors of her parents, and combing the house for clues, Susannah is determined to learn the identity of her mother’s secret lover. And on page 69, she goes out to the woodshed, a place she has not yet explored. There, nearly buried by a stack of logs, is a small, flowered cosmetic bag which contains a tube of Revlon’s Fire and Ice lipstick—her mother’s signature shade—and a bottle of nail polish whose “contents had solidified to a dark, mottled mass.” And she also finds a bunch of yellowed clippings—poems from a now-folded local newspaper. One is a love poem entitled "Say Yes." Though it is signed with a nom de plume, this poem turns out to be instrumental in Susannah’s search, and the person to whom it leads her is the last person on Earth she would have suspected.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden.

The Page 69 Test: You Were Meant For Me.

My Book, The Movie: You Were Meant for Me.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Good on Paper"

Rachel Cantor is the author of the novels Good on Paper (Melville House 2016) and A Highly Unlikely Scenario (Melville House 2014). Two dozen of her short stories have appeared in venues like The Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, Fence, and Kenyon Review, and she has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is always at work on another book.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Good on Paper and reported the following:
Page 69 opens Chapter 14, “Second Coming.” My narrator, Shira Greene, is at a turning point. She’s an underachieving translator who’s very unexpectedly taken on a job translating a Nobel Prize-winning poet. She’s terrified! For encouragement she visits her old friend Benny, proprietor of her neighborhood indie bookstore, People of the Book. Only to get to him, she has to go through his hostile gatekeeper Marie, bookstore sales clerk and occasional billboard artist:
It had been two and a half decades since I was lyricist for the proto-punk band Gory Days (What’s behind Door Number Two? It had better not be you, you, you!). In our Den of Propinquity, we listened to qawwali and Raffi, but sometimes when I was alone I played the band’s one cassette—the relentlessly pornographic Second and Third Coming—tapping my tambourine ironically against my thigh. When I entered People of the Book, and heard that Benny’s raga had been replaced by a grunge band I didn’t recognize, I felt old. I also felt like pulling my ear drums out with my fingernails.

And there she was, our sleepy connoisseur of noise, head resting on a pile of lit mags. Snoring, her hair no longer green but red, white, and blue. Dreaming up her next billboard, I was sure.

Hello! I shouted in her ear. When she didn’t respond, I went behind the counter and switched CDs: out with the Bloody Monkeys, in with Nikhil Banerjee.

Hey! Marie said, lifting her head. Who said you could do that?
Visit Rachel Cantor's website.

See Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books.

The Page 69 Test: A Highly Unlikely Scenario.

--Marshal Zeringue