Thursday, June 30, 2016

"The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love"

Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting.

Tash applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Just as I told Felicia earlier, everything here needs wristbands. "Rooms will be cleared out between each panel in the main halls and wristbands will be checked," a sign tells me in the con’s signature Comic Sans font (which, besides actual comic books, is the only place Comic Sans is ever called for). "Absolutely no photography or videography. Anyone caught filming or taking pictures will immediately be escorted out of the room," another sign reads, adding insult to injury.

There are people lined up in front of 1-E already, every one of them adorned with a silver-colored piece of paper around their wrist. I’ve never been so jealous of a piece of sticky paper in my life. And then, worst of all, I catch a glimpse of the Zinc hater in the Papa Smurf hat. Unbelievable. He gets to see Robert Zinc and Roxana and I don’t?

There’s a curly-haired guy in a teal Comic Con staff shirt standing guard in front of the line. I try to exhale my anger out before I approach him.

“Excuse me,” I say, putting on an I-promise-I-am-polite-and-rational smile and asking him something I’m sure he’s heard at least a dozen times today, “but is there any way I can get into this panel?”

“Do you have a wristband?” he asks, not in an unfriendly tone.

“No,” I say. He starts to shake his head, but I continue, “I actually waited in line for it since last night. I was number one hundred and three in line, so I should’ve had one. But then there was a great big bum rush and all these people cut ahead of me.” I realize exactly what I’m doing: the nerd whine. But nothing is beneath me at this point. If he asked me to grovel, or lick the floor, or sing an Ariana Grande ballad in front of the whole con, I would do it. “It’s just ... really unfair.” And my nerdgradation is complete.
In this scene, Graham is desperately trying to see if there is anyway he can get the panel tickets that he missed out on even though he stood in line overnight for them. This panel is extra important to him because it's the centerpiece of his grand plan to tell his best friend that he's in love with her (it involves a very rare appearance from their all-time favorite comic book creator, Robert Zinc). I do think this scene is pretty indicative of Graham's voice and also of how much this weekend means to him. For him, there couldn't possibly be bigger stakes than professing his love to Roxy, and he's hoping that his lifelong study of epic stories (in comic books, movies, books, and TV shows) will provide him with some much-needed guidance.
Visit Sarvenaz Tash's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Murder on the Hour"

Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of the award-winning and well-established Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales and a brand new series, Shakespeare in the Catskills.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her newest Penny Brannigan mystery, Murder on the Hour, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the best page in the book!
"In there," she gasped. "Oh, my God. Call the police."

Mrs. Lloyd pulled her phone out of her handbag and pressed 999.

"What should I tell them?" she said to the woman. "Has there been an accident?"

"Worse than that," the woman wailed. "There's a dead body in there and I think someone killed her."

She started to shake and sob.

"You've had a terrible shock," Florence said to the distraught woman as Mrs. Lloyd spoke to the police on the telephone.

"I wonder if the police would mind if I took her home and gave her a cup of tea. You could wait here until they arrive," Florence said to Mrs. Lloyd when she had ended the call.

"Me!" Mrs. Lloyd exclaimed. "What if the killer comes back and finds me alone in the street? He might think I witnessed something and kill me to keep me silent. Happens all the time. And anyway, I wasn't able to tell the police which house it is. I said we'd just be here and this lady would show them.

She turned to the woman. "Which house was it? I don't think you said."

The woman look at a piece of paper in her hand. "Number thirty-five. The lady's name is Catrin Bellis. I was just there about renting a room off her. I certainly didn't expect to find a dead body."

"Of course you didn't," said Florence soothingly.
In Murder on the Hour, the seventh in the Penny Brannigan North Wales series, Mrs. Lloyd and her companion, Florence Semble, are on their way home from a local antiques show when they are stopped in the street and become party to the discovery of a dead body. Ah ha, thinks Mrs. Lloyd, this is our chance to give that Penny Brannigan a run for her money. This is our murder to solve, Florence. It doesn't take long for Mrs. Lloyd to discover she's better off leaving that to the expert. Or rather, the amateur sleuth.

Mrs. Lloyd and Florence are useful characters. They can break tension by providing comic relief and Mrs. Lloyd, who was the town's post mistress for years, knows everything about everybody and is helpful in providing background information. Florence serves as the counterfoil to prick her pomposity and keep her grounded.

Writing their scenes is always fun and readers seem to like them. I'm glad I was able to introduce Mrs. Lloyd and Florence to you today in the page 69 test.
Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth J. Duncan and Dolly.

Writers Read: Elizabeth J. Duncan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"The Trouble with Lexie"

Jessica Anya Blau's books include The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Drinking Closer to Home, and The Wonder Bread Summer.

Blau applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Trouble with Lexie, and reported the following:
Page 69 is around the time I’ll either plunge ahead or abandon a book. (Yes, I do that. I always fear I’m going to be struck dead by the next speeding car, so I don’t have time to finish books I don’t love). Hopefully, readers will keep reading when they get to page 69 in The Trouble with Lexie.

Here’s the center chunk of the page. Daniel, 52, is the father of one of the kids at the elite New England boarding school where Lexie, 33, is the school counselor. He, like his father and his grandfather, is also an alumnus. Daniel’s great-looking (think of Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights), sexy and successful. Lexie’s anxious, a little neurotic, an over-thinker at times and a romantic. She comes from a home (apartment) where she wasn’t parented and was kicked out at 15 in order to make room for her mother’s boyfriend who was moving in. Lexie and Daniel have just had sex for the first time. Lexie, who has only had sex with three other people (and only after they’d done a full STD panel) is stunned by what’s just gone down. She’s also worried she caught a disease.

The she to whom the dialogue refers is Jen Waite, Daniel’s wife. Lexie is the first speaker here:
“You think there is no way on earth she’s had sex with anyone but you in twenty years?”

“Twenty-two years. I’d bet my son’s life on it. And I know absolutely that I haven’t had sex with anyone else in twenty-two years.”

“So why are you so calm?” Was he lying? Lexie felt the shallow water of nausea stir in her stomach. Had she been completely bamboozled?


“This isn’t freaking you out? I mean for twenty-two years, you’ve been having sex with the same woman, the same naked body, the same vagina, the same breasts, the same mouth, night after night after night. And now you’re here with me. And you’re not totally freaking out?”

“I don’t freak out. I’m not a freak-out guy.”
I’ve always found that sex scenes are a good way to show character. If you take someone’s clothes off and have them touch another body, you can usually see exactly who they are. Lexie here is true to herself—worried about what’s just happened and how it will affect the future. Daniel is still somewhat mysterious to Lexie, and to the reader. His shellacked shell does get cracked away by the end of the book, but at this point the reader, like Lexie, can’t be sure if he should be trusted or not. One interesting thing about page 69 in The Trouble with Lexie is if the reader goes back and rereads it after getting to the end of the book, it will have a whole new level of meaning.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 27, 2016

"The Fifth Avenue Artists Society"

Joy Callaway’s love of storytelling is a direct result of her parents’ insistence that she read books or write stories instead of watching TV. Her interest in family history was fostered by her relatives’ habit of recounting tales of ancestors’ lives. Callaway is a full-time mom and writer. She formerly served as a marketing director for a wealth management company. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations from Marshall University and an M.M.C. in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina.

Callaway applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Fifth Avenue Artists Society, and reported the following:
Surprisingly enough, Page 69 of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society is quite representative of the rest of the story. My novel is both about family and Gilded Age women striving for artistic recognition at a time when it was unfashionable for women to pursue professional work, particularly in the male-dominated arts. Page 69 sees my main character, Ginny Loftin, at her first Artists Society meeting having a conversation with John Hopper—the wealthy, charming host of the Society. Ginny’s brother, Franklin, has convinced her to come despite self-conscious reservations, and John and Ginny are discussing writing. They’re both authors, though he has already been published, and the reader is able to see her determination to accomplish the same. The reader also gets a bit of a glimpse into some of the norms of the time—John offers Ginny a drink and she’s quite shocked by the suggestion, and also frets about her mother waking and realizing that her children are still out at eleven at night.
Visit Joy Callaway's website.

My Book, the Movie: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"As Good As Gone"

Larry Watson grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota and his PhD in creative writing at the University of Utah. He is the author of the novels Let Him Go, Montana 1948, American Boy, In a Dark Time, White Crosses, Laura, Orchard, and Sundown, Yellow Moon; the fiction collection Justice; and the chapbook of poetry Leaving Dakota.

Watson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, As Good as Gone, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Lon’s not from the reservation,” Bill said. It was the best argument he could muster.

Lon Black Pipe is, in the phrase that Tom and Don and many of the citizens of Gladstone would use, a bad Indian, which not only means that he’s not meek and deferential but that he’s downright difficult. Lon has served at least two terms in Deer Lodge State Prison, one for assault (he beat up a young cowboy so severely in a bar fight that there was serious doubt whether the cowboy would live), and one for grand theft auto. And those are only the crimes he’s been convicted of; he’s been suspected of committing many others in Gladstone and the surrounding region.

Although Bill knew all along about the connection between Brenda and Lon, he was trying to demonstrate that he did not share the prejudices of his co-workers and many of his fellow citizens. Most Indians are decent, hard-working people who deserve far better than they receive in this part of the world, and Bill long ago resolved to treat them fairly and respectfully, exactly the way he would behave toward white people and just how he would like to be treated.
Among the novel’s themes is how people, especially members of the Sidey family, fit—or don’t—with the larger community and its values. Some of the complications of that fitting in are illustrated in this passage. Bill Sidey is no bigot, yet his defense of Lonnie Black Pipe is pretty tepid. Furthermore, he doesn’t tell his employees that he and Lonnie have a history of friendship going all the way back to childhood. Bill’s relationship with Lonnie Black Pipe also plays a part in the violent confrontation later in the novel between Lon Black Pipe and Calvin Sidey, Bill’s father.
Visit Larry Watson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 24, 2016

"The Tumbling Turner Sisters"

Juliette Fay received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. Her books include Shelter Me, Deep Down True, and The Shortest Way Home.

Fay applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Tumbling Turner Sisters, and reported the following:
An African American tap dancer, an immigrant couple whose trained pigeons tap out songs on bells, and a four-girl acrobatic team are all crammed into a tight backstage area, waiting to perform. It’s page 69 of The Tumbling Turner Sisters, and with the ethnic, racial and gender diversity; competition over placement on the bill; and unlikely friendships forming, it’s a snapshot of small time vaudeville.

Unlike the early 20th Century world in which they lived, women, immigrants, and racial minorities experienced a surprising amount of freedom and upward mobility in vaudeville. There was still plenty of discrimination, but there was an overriding factor that put success uniquely within their grasp: talent. If you could bring the crowds, you were treated well and compensated handsomely, no matter who you were.

On page 69, the lineup has just been changed by the theatre manager, an occupation with enormous power over the performers. Talented black tap dancer Tippety Tap Jones is promoted from closer (the last and worst spot on the bill) to the “deuce” or second spot. The job of the closer, or “chaser” as they were often called, was to be bad enough to “chase” the audience out, so the stage hands could ready the theatre for the next performance. Tip’s rise means the pigeons are demoted to closer, and their handlers are furious.

At the same time, Gert Turner, an acrobat and one of the two narrators of the story, is curious about Tip. In 1919, there is no acceptable way for a white woman to befriend a black man, but Gert is headstrong, attractive and used to getting her way. The fact that Tip isn’t thrilled with her attention is a new experience for her.

Tip is no fool—he knows that as innocent as their conversation may be, he’s courting danger simply by talking to Gert. He plays it cool, which only provokes her determination to learn more about him. It’s the beginning of a friendship that grows progressively more complicated over the course of the novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliette Fay's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Down True.

The Page 69 Test: The Shortest Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"The Devil's Cold Dish"

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

Kuhns applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Devil's Cold Dish, and reported the following:
The Page 69 rule works as beautifully on The Devil's Cold Dish as it did on Death in Salem.

Page 69 is the final page of a chapter and ends with a cliffhanger - a fire.
Rees sniffed. "What's burning?" He realized that he had not been aware of the odor for a little while but had not paid attention. The acrid smell was much stronger in the kitchen, but he saw nothing amiss. The fire had been banked and only a few embers remained. He sniffed again and walked to the door. Although the sky was still streaked with light, the ground beneath lay in shadow. A reddish glow tinted the horizon. Lydia came up behind him.

"I smell smoke too," she said."

"Something's on fire," Rees said, descending the steps.

The stink of burning was much stronger outside and now he could see sparks flying in the air. He turned to tell Lydia to stay inside but found she was right behind him, a lighted lantern in her hand. "It's the bees," she said and lunged past him. Rees did not argue. He followed Lydia over the crest of the hill and down the slope.
This scene is an example of the persecution leveled at Rees and his family and speaks to one of the underlying themes: the harm malice, resentment and jealousy can inflict. After researching Death in Salem, and being immersed in the effects of the witch trials (which, of course, were 100 years too early for Rees), I wanted to write about what might happen if such anger were directed at Rees and his family. The question I kept asking myself was 'How could someone ever forgive such a betrayal?' And how would one feel afterwards?
Learn more about the book and author at Eleanor Kuhns's blog and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: Eleanor Kuhns & Shelby.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Salem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"The Devils of Cardona"

Matthew Carr is a writer and journalist, living in Derbyshire England. He is the author of five non-fiction books: My Father’s House (1997); The Infernal Machine: a History of Terrorism (2007), also published in the UK as The Infernal Machine: an Alternative History of Terrorism (2011); Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain (2009, 2010); Sherman’s Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American War of War (2015), and Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, available in the UK as Fortress Europe: Inside the War Against the Immigration (2015).

Carr applied the Page 69 Test to The Devils of Cardona, his first novel, and reported the following:
Readers who skim Page 69 of The Devils of Cardona will find themselves at the end of Chapter Six, so they only have to read half a page. I hope these few paragraphs will induce them to look further, because they will arrive right in the middle of a very grim and dramatic development. My main character Alcalde (Judge) Mendoza is staying at the viceroy of Aragon's palace in Zaragoza with his team.

He's just about to head up into the Pyrenees to investigate the brutal murder of a priest at the village of Belamar - a village populated mostly by Moriscos (Muslim converts to Catholicism), when he sees the viceroy and Mercader, the Inquisitor of Aragon, in urgent conversation with a man who he hasn't met before.

There are already tensions between the careful, dogged criminal judge Mendoza and the ambitious and fanatical Inquisitor. Mercader hates Moriscos and wants the Inquisition to carry out its own investigation at Belamar. The arrival from the countryside only sharpens the differences between the two men:
"Bad news, Mendoza," the viceroy said. "This is Constable Vargas, the chief constable of Jaca. It seems that three brothers have been found murdered near Belamar. All of them are Old Christians."

"One of them was nailed to a cross!" Mercader exclaimed. "With the heads of his brothers arranged next to him!"
The cautious and thorough Mendoza immediately asks the constable if he's seen these bodies with his own eyes. Mercader doesn't need to see them. The Inquisitor already believes what he hears and is outraged and clearly vindicated by the news, which seems to confirm everything he has told Mendoza about Belamar. The ending of the chapter makes these feeling clear:
Mercader's narrow eyes glittered, and his cadaverous features bore an expression of bitter fury as he turned toward Mendoza. "Now do you understand the kind of people we are dealing with, Alcalde?" he said.
Readers and skimmers will have to follow Mendoza into the Pyrenees in order to find out what kind of people he is dealing with, and some may already be wondering on the basis of Page 69 what kind of person Mercader is. They may also want to know who has killed the three Old Christians, and the chapter ending strongly suggests that there may be more mayhem to come.

To those who like this kind of thing, and even to those who don't, all this ought to be enough to give them a reason to turn the page.
Visit Matthew Carr's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2016

"My Last Continent"

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Raymond applied the Page 69 Test to My Last Continent and reported the following:
At this point in the novel, the reader will be taking a step back from the current narrative to learn what happens when Deb Gardner first meets Keller Sullivan. They are both working at the U.S. Antarctic base McMurdo Station when they fall for each other. Here’s what happens a few sentences into page 69:
Sex at McMurdo happens in stolen moments; it’s furtive and quiet, thanks to too-close living quarters, roommates, thin walls. I don’t know how many days blur together between that first kiss and the first night we spend in my dorm, but finally, after an aeon of helpless and constantly rising desire, we sneak out of an all-staff party and crowd into the narrow bunk in my room, ravishing each other like sex-starved teenagers, which is also typical of McMurdo residents.

Afterwards, as the bass traveling on the wind from a distant building echoes the thumping of our hearts, in the arid heat of the room, sweat evaporating from our skin, it seems we could be anywhere—but at the same time, I realize this is the only place where our sudden relationship could feel as familiar to me as the icy, moonlike terrain surrounding us outside the room’s tiny windows.

In the weeks that follow, we steal time whenever we can—when my roommate is in the field, when Keller’s is at work; it becomes difficult, at other times, to think of anything else. When we come in from the field, we have to peel off so many layers I think we’ll never find skin, until there it is, burning under our hands, dry and hot, two deserts finding water.
While this page isn’t representative of the book as a whole, it offers a good look at Deb and Keller’s relationship. From when they first meet at McMurdo to when they discover themselves on different ships in the Southern Ocean, unable to find their way back to each other, the themes are similar: They never have nearly enough time together, and Antarctica is an inextricable part of their relationship and who they are. And I hope it makes readers curious about what happens to Deb and Keller by the end of the book.
Learn more about the author and her work at Midge Raymond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Spells of Blood and Kin"

Claire Humphrey's short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story "Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot" appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story "The Witch Of Tarup" was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden.

Humphrey applied the Page 69 Test to Spells of Blood and Kin, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I don’t feel like sitting still,” Nick said, pacing. He felt like running another 10k and then jerking off again, but a walk sounded okay too, if it was followed by about ten drinks. He jittered back and forth by the door until Jonathan had located his wallet and keys.

“Bye, Hannah,” Nick said, waving his fingers.

“Bring him back in one piece,” Hannah said.

She was muttering something to herself as she got up and stuck her head in the refrigerator, but Nick didn’t want to hear it.

Jonathan had to stop and kiss her, though, and then he kissed her again.

“Bye, Hannah.” Nick pulled Jonathan away by his shirt collar.

“Bye,” Jonathan said softly. “Hang out here as long as you want. I won’t be late.”

“Yes, he will,” Nick called, already dragging Jonathan down the hall.
As you can see, Nick is kind of a jealous friend: he wants Jonathan all to himself. Also, Nick maybe has a drinking problem, and if he does, he doesn’t want to be the only one.

This scene is all about Nick. Nick is the kind of guy who likes having scenes be all about him. You might find him funny for a while, but eventually you’d realize he’s kind of a selfish jerk (and “jerk” is probably not the word you’d use, if you were writing on your own blog rather than guest-blogging!) Hopefully, you’d start to wonder whether Nick was always like this, or whether something sinister was acting on him, making him more of a jerk than he was before. You might start thinking about how the flaws in a person’s nature can be magnified by power.

Or, you might just find Nick to be an annoying character, and never make it to page 70.

This wouldn’t entirely surprise me. Nick really is a jerk. You might feel like you have too many jerks in your real life to be interested in a fictional one. But this isn’t Nick’s story, even though he thinks it is. It’s the story of Maksim, the man who wrecked Nick’s life, and it’s the story of Lissa, the young woman who inherited Maksim and his problems when her grandmother died. Nick, as it happens, is just one of Maksim’s problems.
Visit Claire Humphrey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 17, 2016


A.J. Hartley is the bestselling author of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

Hartley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Steeplejack, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds our hero, Anglet Sutonga, a 17 year old steeplejack—the only young woman to be so in the city of Bar-Selehm—has been abducted and is being interrogated by a suave young man who seems to have considerable wealth and status:
“I . . . I lost my job,” I said, looking down.
“By choice?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Morlak wasn’t happy with my work.” I spoke as carefully as he did.
 The young man nodded. His fingers, which he had steepled together, were long, the nails manicured.

“So unhappy, in fact,” he said, “that he sent people to kill you, yes?”

There was no point denying it. His men—the phrase was odd, considering they all seemed older than he was—had obviously seen as much.

I nodded once.

“That’s a curious development, wouldn’t you say? You must have upset Mr. Morlak a great deal.”
The scene is pivotal in the book because it’s the moment in which Anglet, who is on the run from her former employer, is given a new job and identity, becoming effectively a private detective or spy. It’s a tense scene, because Anglet doesn’t know what’s going on and she is out of her element. Till now she has been, in truth, one of the lowest of the low socially speaking, and she is not comfortable in this mysterious young man’s luxurious home. She would rather be at work, doing what she does better than anyone else: scaling the city’s tallest spires and chimneys with her satchel of tools. She’ll end this encounter with a new sense of purpose and a full purse, but she’ll still be dependent on her wits and her climbing skills if she’s to figure out the strange and deadly events which have begun to overtake the city.
Visit A. J. Hartley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Die Of Shame"

Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel and also won the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British writer. His books have been translated into twenty-five languages and were made into a hit TV series starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne.

Billingham applied the Page 69 Test to his new stand-alone novel, Die of Shame, and reported the following:
Simply put, page 69 of Die Of Shame is very untypical of the book as a whole. The novel centres around a group of recovering addicts and their weekly meetings with therapist Tony De Silva and this page happens to be one of four in the book which are transcripts of Tony’s notes, recapping the sessions which we have seen in the preceding chapter. These sections – always one page long – are nevertheless hugely important in that the reader gets to see what Tony really thinks of what his clients have been saying and doing in the sessions. He strongly believes that shame is at the heart of many of his clients’ problems with addiction and in these sections we see how this particular brand of therapy is yielding results. As the story unfolds, the reader begins to realise that Tony has unwittingly lifted the lid on a very disturbing Pandora’s box and that something has been revealed that is shameful enough to cost somebody their life…
Learn more about the book and author at Mark Billingham's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bones Beneath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"The Vagrant"

Peter Newman lives in Somerset with his wife and son. Growing up in and around London, Peter studied Drama and Education at the Central School of Speech and Drama, going on to work as a secondary school drama teacher. He now works as a trainer and Firewalking Instructor. He sometimes pretends to be a butler for the Tea and Jeopardy podcast, which he co-writes, and which has been shortlisted for a Hugo Award.

Newman applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Vagrant, and reported the following:
The Vagrant is a hero’s journey set against a bleak, far future, post apocalyptic backdrop. It also features knights, demons, and singing swords. Page 69 is set during one of the flashbacks that sets up the story and it gives a flavour of the prose, and the mood of the book.

From page 69:
The young men do not move. They glance at each other then up at the knight, chanting as one:

‘We invoke the the rite of mercy. Save us, protect us, deliver us.’

After a quick curse at the sky, the knight invites them in.

A few miles past the village, the metal snake belches black smoke and dies. The flanks hiss as they cool; a last impression of living.

The Knight Commander calls his last follower and the fresh recruits. The day’s travel has taken its toll, he knows he has reached the limits of his strength, inside he is crumbling, broken.

‘There is only one order,’ he tells the three of them, return the cargo to the Shining City whatever the cost. Failure is unacceptable, everything else permissible. That is all.’ The three digest the news. Even together they barely add up to one man. ‘From now on Sir Attica is in charge, you take your instructions from him.’

With effort the younger knight marshals his face to calm. ‘What about you, Commander?’

‘I’m not in the mood for running today, Attica, but I am in the mood to shoot something. Carry me up to the turret and you can be on your way.’

The youths have grown up with hard labour and make short work of moving the older man, armour and all, into the raised diamond on the snake’s back.

Attica straps his superior into place. Plastic loops take the strain where muscles cannot. Words fumble out. ‘Commander, I’m not sure I can do this.’
Here we get a hint at the main quest, and we learn that the heroes of the world are already dead and dying (the Knight Commander is one of the last). We also get a suggestion that the people left behind to complete their work are somewhat lacking.

What we don’t get here is much of the main characters. There’s no baby, no goat, no Malice, and the Vagrant hasn’t even become the Vagrant yet. The other thing that’s missing (and this may have some relation to the above characters not being present), are the touches of humour and hope that sometimes shine through.
Visit Peter Newman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vagrant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Rocks Fall Everyone Dies"

Lindsay Ribar is a literary agent by day and a concert fanatic by night. She is the author of The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish.

Ribar applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I told you, call me Natty,” she said. “And this must be Brandy and Ashton.”

“Aspen.” She looked over at me when I spoke—and instantly I could see why Theo was into her. She had these bright blue eyes that reminded me of ... well, of Brandy, actually. “Aspen Quick.”

“That’s a weird name,” she said, nodding, like she approved.

“I know, right?” I said. This was why I’d ditched my real first name, Jeremy, back in third grade. I liked being the guy with the weird name.
The page 69 test actually works surprisingly well here! Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies is a book about family and weird small-town magic and privilege and toxic masculinity and thievery and… well, about a billion other things. But mostly, it’s a book about identity.

Narrator Aspen has grown up in a family with a unique magical ability, and Aspen himself has never questioned either the source of this ability or the amount of power it gives him over others. He’s never questioned it because, well, he’s never had a reason to. Until the events of Rocks Fall, that is. All of that comes later in the book, when Bad Things start adding up to something that Aspen can no longer ignore—but here, on page 69, we get the very first glimpse of who Aspen is.

He’s a guy who isn’t just unafraid of being different from everyone else; he actually values being different. Being his own person. Being kind of a weirdo. And by the end of the story, that part of his personality, that stubborn individualistic streak, might just be the thing that saves him from himself.
Visit Lindsay Ribar's website.

Writers Read: Lindsay Ribar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"The Singer from Memphis"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates. The latest book in the series is The Singer from Memphis.

Corby lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, two daughters, two ducks, two budgerigars, and a brush turkey that is almost as irritating as Socrates.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to The Singer from Memphis and reported the following:
Our book today is The Singer From Memphis. No, that's not Memphis, Tennessee. It's Memphis, Egypt, and the date is 455BC.

Page 69 sees our heroes meet a barbarian who is about to become very important in their lives. His name is Maxyates. He is tall. The hair on one side of his head descends to his waist. The hair on the other side is shorn to the scalp. He dyes his skin bright red. Max has an interesting origin.
“You may call me Max,” the red man said.

“That’s your name?”

“My name is Maxyates. But all my friends call me Max. I choose to call you friends, despite the terrible war of aggression your people perpetrated against mine.”

“Your people?” I said, perplexed. I couldn’t recall Athens attacking any bright red people with only half their hair.

“My tribe are the descendants of Troy. After you Hellenes did your best to wipe out my ancestors, the few survivors made their way to Libya, where they started again. I am proud to call myself a child of Hector.”

If this man was a Trojan then I was the King of Persia. But there was no doubting that he was civilized.
Oddly enough, everything the strange red man says is well documented. The story of Max's people is told by Herodotus, the world's first and greatest historian. There really was a people who looked like Max, who believed they were descended from the survivors of Troy, centuries before.

It just so happens that Herodotus is one of the characters in this book, and Herodotus is present in the room when Max says the lines above.

This is a huge part of the premise of the whole book. Herodotus has hired my heroes Nico and the intelligent and charming Diotima to escort him around Egypt. During which time we watch as Herodotus goes about his business, and also as Nico goes about his business, which involves battling secret agents, fighting off pirates, wrestling crocodiles, and dealing with his most dangerous foe of all: the Public Service of Egypt.

Whether our party of adventurers manage to survive all that is what you will discover when you read The Singer From Memphis.
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Singer from Memphis.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Dead Is Best"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Dead is Best, and reported the following:
My page 69 has only two sentences which end a scene in which my ghostly protagonist and the ghost dog observe a family meeting with the dead man's lawyer to go over his will.

Anyone opening the book to this page (and the one that precedes it) would learn that the dead man was murdered and that he doesn't know who killed him or why; that his murder was overkill--six gunshots; and that the police have no idea who killed him. Also that his family isn't as crushed by his murder as they might be and that he hates his brother.

The reader would also see how the dead dog enjoys exploring the world of the living now that she is freed from its constraints.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Seven Days Dead"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today", while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Seven Days Dead, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, and reported the following:
Rather neatly, page 69 of Seven Days Dead provides a major clue to the novel’s title. I’ve replaced the name of the character in this excerpt to avoid a spoiler for readers.
The stark eyes, the flat hair, the slack jaw—it’s as though he’s not looking at the man he knew as Character’s Name, or even at his corpse. For some reason, out here on the edge of this field, it feels as though he’s looking at his skeletal remains. At his skull. As though the man’s been dead for a week. The pestering birds may have created that effect, but hanging on a tree trunk that way, he more closely resembles a scarecrow than a man. A thought that both creeps the officer out and causes him to feel particularly unnerved.
Seven Days Dead. “…dead for a week.” There’s that. More importantly, two characters are out on a cliff that is known to have the oldest exposed rock on the planet, and so has been named Seven Days Work. The condition of the corpse ravaged by birds and animals, combined with the name of the precipice, gave me the title.

One of two men in the scene is Wade Louwagie, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who suffers from a serious case of PTSD. He has more or less been banished to a remote island in the Gulf of Maine known as Grand Manan. The other man with him where a body has been located is Aaron Roadcap, a killer’s son, someone who lives off the grid, and who, despite alerting the police to the victim, is a suspect in the murder. On this page, Louwagie must request his suspect’s cooperation, which creates an unusual dynamic. He needs him to intercept those who are on their way to help, then guide them to the scene of the crime, while the officer stays behind to protect the corpse from further carnage. The two have a verbal joust over whether this cooperation is indicative of a man’s innocence or guilt, and the mutual distrust between the accused and the accuser is on display.

Naturally, I hope that any reader skimming the page will read on. The dynamic between the pair is an interesting one, and the eviscerated corpse is indicative of dire straits. The novel’s hero is not on the page, but the book depends significantly on island characters and their histories, and on how they get along, which is touched upon here.
Visit Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Stealing the Countess"

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Stealing the Countess, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I noticed Philip Speegle standing at the side of the stage. He was attempting to catch my eye without catching the eyes of everyone else. I gave him a head nod.

“I have to go,” I said. “The club owner wants to speak to me.”

“Is she as pretty as I am?”

He most certainly is not, but then who is?”

“Good answer. Call me tomorrow.”

“I will.”
# # #

I slipped past Ellis, telling her I’d be right back, and made my way to the side of the stage. Speegle took my arm and led me down a short corridor to a small office. He shut the door behind us, effectively muffling most of the noise.

“Do you like this music?” he asked.

“If aliens invade the Earth, it won’t be for our technology. They’ll be coming for the blues.”

Speegle wagged his finger at me.

“I like that answer. I don’t believe it, but I like it.”

Are you going to tell him that you stole the line from Wynton Marsalis? my inner voice asked. I didn’t think so.

Speegle moved to a credenza that was shoved against the wall behind his desk. A bottle of Bookers and a stack of glasses were on top of it. He filled two glasses and handed one to me without asking. I said, “Thank you” and took a sip of the Bourbon because I’m nothing if not polite.

“Any progress?” Speegle asked.

“I expect major developments at any moment.”

“That’s what the cops said. I didn’t believe them, either.”

“Give me time, I’ve only been here seven hours.”

“Have you spoken to Heather? What did the Great Lady have to say?”

“I take it you don’t like her much.”

“Truth is I like her very much. Don’t tell her I said that.”
I’m a disciple of the late great Elmore Leonard. (I was allowed to call him “Dutch” because I bought him non-alcoholic beers in a bar in Denver – “If you’re gonna buy me a beer, kid, you got to call me Dutch.” We spent two hours talking about westerns – books and movies; one of the great moments in my life. It broke my heart when he died. Anyway…) He famously said that the secret to good writing is learning to cut out the parts of your book that readers skip and I agree. My own rule - if it doesn’t move the story along or reveal something significant about the main characters, I take it out! That’s what you see here.

At the top of the page we have the conclusion of a cell phone conversation that helps explore the relationship between the chief protagonist – McKenzie – and his club-owning girlfriend Nina.

Next we segue into a conversation between McKenzie and one of the suspects in the theft of a $4 million Stradivarius violin – who seems intent on blaming a woman he’s been lusting after for decades.

Taken out of context, the two scenes might not add up to much, but I think the page serves as a nice advertisement for the book – it gives the reader a sense of pace, intrigue, and humor that I try to maintain throughout.
Learn more about the book and author at David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Kind Word.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Kind Word.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 6, 2016


Gina Wohlsdorf was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. She triple majored at Tulane University. Following graduation, she lived in northern Florida, southern France, and Minnesota. She held a variety of jobs that afforded her time to write, including bookseller and massage therapist. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Colorado.

Wohlsdorf applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Security, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Brian laughs, loudly. He bends with the strength of it. It looks cathartic.

The Killer has walked to the fourth dryer and opened the door. A hand flops out, limp, crimson, smoking. The Killer tucks it back in, closes the dryer door, but does not restart the machine.

“Corn Pops,” Brian says, wheezing.

“That was your poison, not mine. And Mitch and his Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

“And you always took our toys! Those toys at the bottom of the —”

“You gave them to me!” Tessa is hopping up and down. “You gave them to me of your own free will, both of you!”

“It was extortion.” He points at her. “It was larceny.”

“You were willing victims.”

“God. God, yeah, we so were.”
On any other night at Manderley Resort, this would be the most interesting thing going on in the hotel. Two friends, who are so much more than friends, separated by fate and deception and circumstance for far too long, reminisce about watching Saturday morning cartoons together as children and who liked what cereal.

While a hundred feet or so underneath them, The Killer does his macabre laundry.

This contrast is one of the primary engines of Security — love and horror, safety and danger, possibility and the ultimate negation of possibility: death. We flip from one to the other, back and forth, until the lines begin to blur.

But the biggest surprise in the book is still to come, and it actually doesn’t have any representation on page 69. There’s a reason we can see all — the rekindling romance, the violent murders, and even the most banal actions of Manderley’s other employees.

Just who, exactly, is telling the story...?
Visit Gina Wohlsdorf's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Dark Run"

Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and moved to Nottingham when he was 18 to go to university. He’s stayed there ever since, and now lives with his wife, two cats, two snakes and a collection of tropical fish. He is the author of the Keiko novels, sci-fi adventures that follow the escapades of those crewing the spaceship of the same name; Dark Run, the first book in the series, is now available in the US.

When not writing, Brooks works for a homelessness charity, plays guitar and sings in a punk band, watches football (soccer), MMA and nature/science documentaries, goes walking in the Peak District or other areas of splendid scenery, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him.

Brooks applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Run and reported the following:
I think it's safe to say that page 69 of Dark Run is not indicative of the rest of the novel in general.

Dark Run is an action-adventure set across the galaxy, from the subterranean warrens of Old New York on Old Earth to the crystalline metropolis of Glass City on Hroza Minor and the lawless corridors of the deep-space void stations. The crew of the Keiko are “persuaded” to take a smuggling job involving a mystery cargo and events unfold rapidly (and often violently) from there. Page 69, however, sees a sober and serious discussion of personal history between the ship's young technical genius Jenna McIlroy and their hulking Maori bruiser Apirana Wahawaha.

However, just because there's no intrigue or gunplay doesn't mean that I think the scene is at all superfluous. A story is only as interesting as the characters that take part in it: without investment in the characters, why should we invest in what happens to them and the consequences of their actions? So I hope that readers will appreciate the quieter moments too, when they get a chance to learn more about what drives the characters and why they've ended up where they are. It's these parts that give meaning and contrast to the white-knuckle action scene elsewhere, and which hopefully make the reader care about whether someone lives or dies.
Visit the official Mike Brooks website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Run.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 3, 2016


Holly Schindler is a hybrid author of critically acclaimed traditionally published and Amazon bestselling independently published works for readers of all ages. Her previous YAs (A Blue So Dark, Playing Hurt, and Feral) have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, won silver and gold medals from ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, been featured on Booklist’s First Novels for Youth, School Library Journal’s “What’s Hot in YA,” and been selected as a PW Pick. Kirkus praised her latest YA, Spark, for “crisp prose [that] flows easily between the past and present,” and Booklist claimed the novel casts “a shimmering spell.”

Schindler applied the Page 69 Test to Spark and reported the following:
From page 69:
Thick, gray, filth-filled cobwebs hang like stalactites from the box seats and the once-shiny faces of the theater poised on either side of the stage. Clumps of dust remind me of the underwater pictures I’ve seen somewhere of the Titanic. The old, submerged ship seemed to have grown frail enough that merely touching the deck railings could cause them to disintegrate. Here, it also seems that if I dare touch anything—the curtains, the seats throughout the house—it’s all grown so brittle, it’ll crumble under my hand. I take a few steps anyway, trying to convince myself I can be brave as long as my flashlight doesn’t give out…

I take a step closer, hoping to get a better look at the old set. Is there any evidence left of the wild event that happened here only hours before?
This passage is taken from a scene in which Quin, the main character, is exploring the interior of the aging Avery Theater. The “wild thing” referred to here is that earlier that very afternoon, Quin saw the marquee on the front of the Avery spark back to life—saw the old, dilapidated theater return to its former glory.

Spark is a tough book to classify, because it also requires more from my readers than any book I’ve ever written. The ending isn’t tied into a neat little bow—rather than telling my readers directly what happened, I leave it up to them: did the Avery revert back to its former glory? Does the old theater literally have magical powers—the kind of powers that can transform those who step inside? Or: is that a metaphor for the “magic of the theater”? For the transformative power of story (an actor’s ability to become another person, for a couple of hours, on a stage)? Are the events that Quin describes real, or the product of her writerly imagination?

Depending on your viewpoint, then, the book is either magical realism or its contemporary fiction. And depending on your interpretation, that above passage is either about just a run-down old building that needs to be leveled for safety’s sake, or it’s a magical place that can literally be brought back from the dead—a place that has a heart that can begin to beat again…
Visit Holly Schindler's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Holly Schindler & Jake.

My Book, The Movie: Feral.

My Book, The Movie: Spark.

Writers Read: Holly Schindler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"The 100 Year Miracle"

Ashley Ream got her first job writing for newspapers when she was 16. Since then her career has taken her all over the Midwest, Gulf, and West Coasts with more moves than she would care to count. She is now finally and happily settled in Seattle, where she lives with her husband and runs ultramarathons. Her debut novel, Losing Clementine, was short-listed for the Balcones Fiction Prize.

Ream applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The 100 Year Miracle, and reported the following:
The 100 Year Miracle tells the story of Dr. Rachel Bell, a scientist studying a very rare phenomenon. Once a century, tiny sea creatures that live in the water around a small Washington island hatch and make the bay glow like an aurora. Following a childhood incident, Rachel has been in constant pain, and she secretly believes the creatures contain a chemical that could cure her.

On page 69, she has just experimented on herself for the first time, taking a tincture made from the tiny animals, which are similar to brine shrimp. This is the moment when the side effects become clear.
Compared to LSD, the visual effects were minor. There were no melting faces. She didn’t suddenly see only in black and white. Time did speed up for a moment and then slow down. It wasn’t easy to follow a lot of text on her computer screen. Side effects. They were side effects. A minor inconvenience she would happily tolerate if it meant feeling like this for the rest of her life.

“You want a soda?”

Rachel blinked. She couldn’t clear her mind, but she could concentrate harder. She tried that. “What?”

Hooper was standing over her. She didn’t remember how he’d gotten there. His face had more and deeper lines than usual. The wrinkles had turned to folds. It was, of course, the light. The white tents they’d set up on the beach just beyond the water’s edge had the kind of lightbulbs hanging from the supports that she associated with mechanic shops. They plugged straight into an extension cord, which plugged into their generator, and each bulb had a little aluminum half shell around its backside. They made for odd shadows and pockets of light and dark under the tent. It made Hooper look strange. It probably made her look strange, too. Rachel didn’t want to look strange. She tried to do a better job of arranging her face.

“I asked if you wanted a soda.” He was holding out a can of Diet Coke he’d pulled from the cooler. Meltwater from the ice was dripping off of it and onto the table that held three of the team’s laptops.

“Yes,” Rachel said. “Thank you.”

Hooper stood there while she opened it and took a drink. His presence made Rachel self-conscious of her movements. This was, she thought, exactly like taking magic mushrooms behind the Stop-N-Go, except this was the part when she had to go home and talk to her mother like she hadn’t been taking magic mushrooms.
It’s a critical moment in the book in other ways, too. At this point, Rachel is seven pages away from meeting Harry for the first time. Harry is a composer living on the island with his ex-wife, who is caring for him in the last stages of a degenerative disease. In other words, he’s dying. And if you’re a scientist with a crazy idea, a relationship with a patient who has nothing left to lose can open up a true Pandora’s box.

The book is classified as a “literary thriller,” which is, I think, a way of saying that it has a strong plot, but the plot is derived from the emotions, circumstances and relationships of the characters. There is no antagonist, only well-meaning people all in difficult circumstances who find themselves at cross-purposes. Someone will win and someone won’t, and their own lives may hang in the balance.
Learn more about the book and author at Ashley Ream's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"Too Like the Lightning"

Ada Palmer is a professor in the history department of the University of Chicago, specializing in Renaissance history and the history of ideas. Her first nonfiction book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. She is also a composer of folk and Renaissance-tinged a capella vocal music on historical themes, most of which she performs with the group Sassafrass. She writes about history for a popular audience at and about SF and fantasy-related matters at

Palmer applied the Page 69 Test to Too Like the Lightning, her debut fiction book, and reported the following:
The first line of page 69 of Too Like the Lightning gives a great taste of the book, especially an important issue which none of the online plot summaries really captures. The first words we see are “...cult belief. This is a question of uncovering the deep truth about the provable reality humanity lives in, and someday sharing that.”

As the page continues, we character called Carlyle is talking about a child who has a “power” of some supernatural/miraculous sort. Carlyle argues that it’s important to consider the potential human and humanitarian consequences of this power as well as the theological and metaphysical consequences, how cults and theologians will care about it but it could also do great things for society, like cure disease. Someone responds that they’re already using the power to cure disease, and created a cure for a major plague which they left it on the doorstep of a lab they hope will study and manufacture it. They’re also working using scientific instruments to study the “power” and learn how to explain it, and reproduce it scientifically.

Too Like the Lightning is science fiction, with flying cars, futuristic cities, student field trips to a Moon Base, and all the trappings of golden age, techno-utopian science fiction fun. So people are often puzzled, and sometimes distressed, when, at the very beginning, I introduce a boy who can inexplicably bring toys to life with a touch. Some people have said it turned them off, that they wanted science fiction, not something “unrealistic.” But a big part of the book is about that very conflict, and about trying to show extremely intelligent, scientifically-minded people in a technologically sophisticated world and how they would react to something supernatural. The characters who are dealing with Bridger’s “power” on page 69 aren’t deep in action, not having a high-speed chase scene trying to seize this power or prevent it from being seized by others. They’re calmly debating, thinking through social implications, “moral calculus” as one calls it in the last paragraph. Carlyle is in fact a theologian, technically trained exactly for this situation, how to think about the “miraculous” in a scientific world, and the only conspiracy to hide the “power” that results is in service of trying to figure out the most socially useful and efficient way to eventually reveal it, to the benefit of all.

Science and the supernatural aren’t in tension in these character’s minds, they’re perfectly compatible, and the appearance of a “miracle” doesn’t mean they throw science out the window, it means they add this new discovery to their knowledge pool, another piece of data. In a sense, the conversation in this scene is opposing the binary of science versus magic, just as it’s opposing the binary of science versus religion. My inspiration here is reading eighteenth century Enlightenment books, the works of Voltaire and Diderot. Currently many people think the “religion vs. science” conversation, which is so heated right now, is an ancient binary, but (speaking in my historian hat for a moment) it’s actually very recent. There are a few vague threads in the Middle Ages that, but it remains extremely marginal even in the 19th century, and doesn’t become hot topic until recent decades. In the Enlightenment in particular, most people assumed that learning more about science would strengthen religion by revealing the nature of the Creator from looking at the Creation. I love eighteenth century fiction, and how Eighteenth century scientists, philosophers and authors mixed things we usually think of as opposing genres, not just mixing fantasy and science fiction (though Voltaire mixed those plenty) but also mixing the scientific treatise and the theological treatise, producing works that really are both scientific and theological, without the authors seeing any contradiction. We don’t look at that kind of mindset much in science fiction, so I thought it would be fun to explore. I wanted to do a story where I explore the supernatural rationally, the way we do when we sit down and debate what you should really do to help the world if you had the powers of a telepath, or Superman, or Doctor Strange. There’s plenty of action in the book too, a mystery, conspiracies, but page 69 shows you what may be the most surprising part of all, a calm, open-minded science fiction investigation of the scientific implications of something we usually banish to the far side of the double yellow line between SF and Fantasy.
Visit Ada Palmer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue