Monday, November 12, 2018

"A Scandal in Scarlet"

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy.

Delany applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Scandal in Scarlet, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“It’s settled then.” I was already looking forward to an entire day off. In the summer too. I normally went to the beach on Sunday morning for a swim, but I never had time to linger. We’d do that tomorrow. Then we’d have lunch someplace charming and quiet and expensive. I’d heard good things about a new restaurant in Chatham. Maybe a drive up the coast in the afternoon. The roof of the Miata down, the salty wind in our hair. I’d like to get a new summer dress, and then we could stop at the Harbor Inn on the way back for drinks on the veranda. Unlikely that Ryan would be free to join Jayne and me at the Blue Water Café for dinner, but it was possible this case would be cleared up quickly and easily.

“I feel giddy at the very idea,” Jayne said.

“Good. Why don’t you go home? I can finish up here by myself. It’s almost nine.”

She glanced toward the sliding door. “I’ll stay a bit longer. I hate leaving the place when people are in it.”

The store began to empty out. “Do you have any ideas, Gemma?” Jayne asked when the last customer had left. Who, I am pleased to report, staggered under the weight of her purchases.

“Ideas about what?”

“About who killed Kathy?”

I shook my head. “I can’t say I haven’t been thinking about it, but nothing stands out in my mind. Although the relationship between her and her ex-husband is interesting.”

“In what way?”

“I think he regrets leaving her. I think his new wife knows it, and she’s angry about it. But I didn’t observe either of them doing anything untoward.”

I counted the day’s receipts and began to tidy up.
At first glance page 69 doesn’t seem terribly important. The murder has happened, the police have been to the scene, and now everyone has left and characters are planning the following day. They are talking about what might have happened, but only as observers. They have no intention of getting involved in the investigation.

But, this is the last page of the first act, if you consider the classic three act structure. The characters are relaxed, the initial drama around the murder has happened. Life is about to go on.

Turn the page, and everything changes. The characters are plunged into an investigation of the murder. All their plans are turned on their head.

At the end of the first act the character has committed to a course of action. She will investigate the murder.

The game is indeed afoot.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"Go to My Grave"

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until 2010, before immigrating to California.  A former academic linguist, she is now a full-time fiction writer, the multi- award-winning and best-selling author of the Dandy Gilver detective stories, set in Scotland in the 1920s.  She also writes a strand of award-winning contemporary standalone novels including Edgar-finalist The Day She Died and Mary Higgins Clark finalists The Child Garden and Quiet Neighbors.

McPherson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Go to My Grave, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the end of a chapter so a very short page:
‘More burgundy, Vicar?’ came Buck’s voice – I think it was Buck’s voice – through the monitor.

‘You don’t do séances as well as the crystals and other claptrap, do you Kim?’ said Paul.

‘What?’ Kim’s voice was strained.

‘Ouija board, maybe? Knock once for yes? We could go straight to the source.’

‘Stop it,’ said Rosalie. ‘How can you?’

‘And I thought this was going to be dull,’ Buck said. ‘You Mowbrays should sell tickets. You’re the same as you ever were.’

‘Shut up, Bu-’ I clicked the switch and silenced them.
Hmmmmm, page 69 is quite representative of the 2018 chapters of the book. (There are 1991 chapters too.) Go To My Grave takes place during a weekend celebration for Kim and Shasha Mowbray's 10th wedding anniversary. Siblings Buck and Peach join Sasha's sister Rosalie, her husband Paul and a few others for what's supposed to be a luxurious short break. Needless to say, it goes sharply downhill, even before the bodies start piling up.

Here someone's listening in on a private conversation and what she hears is Buck mocking his cousins, Peach trying to get him to behave, Paul being dismissive of Kim's new-agey beliefs and making jokes about ghosts, much to his wife's distress. They are a pretty dysfunctional family really.

Also on this page, is something that Go To My Grave has quite a bit of: British sayings. "More tea, Vicar?" is a tongue-in-cheek thing we say if someone drops a clanger at a social gathering. I'm not sure if it was ever said for real to an actual vicar at a tea-party to cover an awkward moment, and it's more usually given a twist into something else now: "More vodka, Vicar?" or "Another line of coke, Vicar?" Far from covering awkwardness, it now draws attention. Typical Buck!
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Girls on the Line"

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated by the attitudes, social policies, and changes in China each time she visits. She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons.

Liu applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Girls on the Line, and reported the following:
I was so excited to see that page 69 of Girls on the Line really gets at the tension and suspense I was trying to build in the story.

The novel focuses on two best friends who have aged out of a Chinese orphanage. By this time, Yun, the more impulsive of the two girls, has gotten fired from her factory job, lost her housing, found out she was pregnant, and fled from the more reserved Luli who told her that her boyfriend is suspected of trafficking women. Yun has just been visited by a detective looking for her boyfriend, and on page 69, Yun tentatively confronts her boyfriend.
“He didn’t want me to tell you he was here. And, Yong, he thinks you’re a kidnapper. He said you make women think you’re their boyfriend—”

“I hope you didn’t listen to any of that! Did you tell them that I’m a driver for someone else? If he’s looking for someone, he should be looking for my boss. He’s the one who runs the business.”

Business? Bride delivery ... or trafficking? I shut it out of my mind. “I didn’t say anything. Just that he was wrong. That you’re with me.”

A tight smile comes to his face. “You really said the right thing. He pats the pocket of his jacket until he finds his keys. “You’re with me.” He holds up the keys, clacks them in his hand. “I’ll go with you to get your things.
Despite a flicker of doubt, Yun has to trust her boyfriend, because she’s gotten herself in a hard place with no one else to help her. This scene underlines one of the main themes that hummed in my brain as I was writing Girls on the Line. As a truly disadvantaged person—by gender, economics, education, social policies, the lack of nurture—Yun doesn’t have the basic resources, not even internal ones, to make good choices. For people who have so much stacked against them, in real life, it’s just not easy to break the cycle.
Visit Jennie Liu's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girls on the Line.

Writers Read: Jennie Liu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"The Kinship of Secrets"

Eugenia Kim's debut novel, The Calligrapher's Daughter, won the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was Best Historical Novel and Critic's Pick by The Washington Post. Her stories have appeared in Asia Literary Review, Washington City Paper, and elsewhere.

Kim applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Kinship of Secrets, and reported the following:
The Kinship of Secrets is told from the alternating viewpoints of two sisters who are close in age and are separated as a result of the Korean War. Inja is raised with relatives in Seoul, South Korea, while Miran grows up with their parents in a suburb outside of Washington, DC. Page 69 is in Inja’s perspective at age eight, soon after the armistice. She and her relatives were refugees in the southern city of Busan, and at this moment are staying at an inn outside of war-torn Seoul, on their journey home. Mentioned on this page is a boy who is Inja’s age, who will later become her boyfriend. Because this is a significant transitional moment, how Inja’s two grandparents, her uncle and aunt have aged during the three years of war is summarized. Uncle returns from checking on their home in the city. He reports it’s still standing, “but someone was living there. There are bullet holes in the walls and dirt is everywhere—broken crockery. Nothing of ours remains, though I can’t recall what we left—some chests and tables.” But they had also left behind their cook and her daughter, and there is no sign of them. “Inja understood they had been lost in the war, like so many others she’d heard about in church and school, and they would never know what happened to them. …There was so much to feel bad about in the war. A few words of prayer helped shift those feelings into the recesses of a busy mind.”
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"Machine City"

Scott J. Holliday was born and raised in Detroit. In addition to a lifelong love of books and reading, he has pursued a range of curiosities and interests, including glassblowing, boxing, and much more. He is the author of Punishment, the first book in his series featuring Detective John Barnes; Stonefly; and Normal, which earned him recognition in’s Literary Blockbuster Challenge.

Holliday applied the Page 69 Test to Machine City, his second novel featuring Detective Barnes, and reported the following:
Page 69:
“There’s a machine in there,” the man said. His jaw shook as he spoke. Raindrops glistened on his bald head and dripped from his chin. “Right?”


“What’s it like?”

“It’s not worth it,” Barnes said.

“Who were you?”

Barnes sighed. “Does it matter?”

The man took a beat and then quickly uttered, “I don’t like my life.”

As Barnes rolled up the window, he said, “Join the Brittanians.” He pulled out of the alley and turned toward home. His cell phone rang as he accelerated down the street. He snatched it up and answered. “You bastard.”

“Is that. Any way to talk. To a friend?”

It wasn’t Franklin. Barnes pulled the phone away from his head and checked the caller ID. unknown. He put the phone back to his ear. “Who is this?”

“Oh, John,” the caller said. “My feelings. Are hurt.”

“Gee, I’m sorry. Now who the fuck is this?”

“I know. What you must. Think.” The voice was weak and whispery. The caller struggled to speak. He took sharp intakes of breath between his stunted phrases. “You think Franklin. Is toying with you. You think he wrote. The letter from Cohen.”

“Say what?”

“You think he’s. Trying to pull you. Into an. Investigation. Using Ricky as bait.”

“Look, jerk-off,” Barnes said. “I don’t know who you—”

“Using the fact. That you failed. Your kid brother.”
I'd say page 69 represents the novel rather well. At this stage Barnes has just returned to the machine like an addict back to his drug of choice. He runs into a machine protestor and speaks with him for a moment before continuing on. He gets a call from the man who's tormenting him both via the phone and from within Barnes's mind, making him wonder if it's all in his head. It's spot on with what the book is about.
Visit Scott J. Holliday's website.

My Book, The Movie: Machine City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

"Mutiny at Vesta"

R. E. Stearns is the author of Barbary Station and the newly released Mutiny at Vesta. She wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate.

When not writing or working, Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. She recently moved to Denver, Colorado, USA with her husband/computer engineer and a cat.

Stearns applied the Page 69 Test to Mutiny at Vesta and reported the following:
Mutiny at Vesta is about heists, hubris, and lesbian space piracy in our solar system. I am pleased to report that page 69 of Mutiny at Vesta is representative of the book as a whole!

In Barbary Station our heroines, Adda and Iridian, were trapped on an isolated shipbreaking station in deep space. In the sequel, they’re seeing the rest of the solar system from a pirate crew’s perspective. Page 69 begins with our heroines’ crew captain playing the asteroid belt’s most powerful factions against each other. The Interplanetary Transit Authority (ITA) are ostensibly the good guys in this universe, and they’re the only ones willing to take on Captain Sloane’s pirate crew in a space battle. And yes, Captain Sloane always talks like this.
“We haven’t always enjoyed such a high profile,” Sloane admitted, without confirming or correcting Iridian’s estimate of Sloane’s troop strength. “Which meant we drew less ITA attention. Their presence can be advantageous, when they focus on rescuing ships in distress and clearing debris from the reliable routes. We simply purchase exclusive focus on those objectives. When we can’t, it’s often possible to redirect high-minded ITA agents toward the Ceres syndicate.”
The Ceres syndicate is the largest criminal organization in the asteroid belt, and as Captain Sloane’s lieutenant points out at the end of this conversation, “they’re killers. We’re not.”

After a scene break, we jump into Iridian’s point of view as the warship Apparition approaches the Ann Sabina, a longhauler that Captain Sloane’s crew is about to raid.
Two days later, Iridian put a hand on the cool metal bulkhead to steady herself before snapping her suit gloves onto the rest of her armor. Grav was barely over one g, but the Apparition’s speed would keep climbing as it arched through the last banked turn to line up with the target. They’d have to keep increasing speed to match the Sabina, which’d been accelerating since its launch and wasn’t stopping anytime soon.
In Mutiny at Vesta, Iridian and Adda face off with enemies of pirate crews generally and Sloane’s crew in particular. Is Sloane hiring hundreds of mercenary soldiers to defend crew territory against the ITA and the Ceres syndicate, or is the captain planning for something bigger? And how does artificial intelligence fit in? Find out in the second installment of Adda and Iridian’s adventure.
Visit R. E. Stearns's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Barbary Station.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2018

"The Holdouts"

James Tucker is the author of the acclaimed Buddy Lock thrillers Next of Kin and The Holdouts. He holds a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School and has worked as an attorney at an international law firm.

Currently he manages real estate strategy at a Fortune 50 company, where his work includes frequent travel throughout the United States. Fascinated by crimes of those in power, he draws on these cases for his novels.

One of four fiction writers awarded a position at a past Mentor Series at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Tucker has attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop in Portland, where he was mentored by author Walter Kirn. He lives near Minneapolis with his wife, the painter Megan Rye, and their family.

Tucker applied the Page 69 Test to The Holdouts and reported the following:
While The Holdouts is a police thriller, family is a hugely important part of the story. Buddy, his fiancée, the ten year old boy they’re trying to adopt, and Buddy’s half-brother play essential roles. On page 69, Buddy’s half-brother confesses to the way Buddy kept him alive during a dark time—a time when Ward repeatedly considered suicide. The brothers, who haven’t always gotten along, shake hands. They realize that they’re “competitors and rivals, but brothers, too.”
Visit James Tucker's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Holdouts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"The Quantum Magician"

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec and tweets from @derekkunsken. In previous incarnations, he did molecular biology experiments, worked with street kids in Honduras and Colombia, and served in the Canadian Foreign Service. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog and BCS, as well as in several year’s best anthologies, and earned him the Asimov's Award. The Quantum Magician is his first novel and is published by Solaris Books in English, by SFWorld in Mandarin, and by Albin-Michel in French (early 2020).

The Quantum Magician has been described as "Ocean's Eleven in space" and is about a genetically-engineered con man who is able to perceive the quantum world. He takes a job to move a dozen advanced warships through the wormhole of an enemy nation, a virtually impossible task, even with the right crew.

Künsken applied the Page 69 Test to The Quantum Magician and reported the following:
I opened the book to page 69, and found the client and the con man arguing, which is pretty representative of the novel. The job, a heist to move some warships across a wormhole, is phenomenally dangerous, and even if Belisarius succeeds for his employer, he'll start a war.
“He looks young enough to be my grandson,” Rudo said to Babedi.

“Mister Arjona broke into the vault of one of the big Plutocracy Banks and stole an experimental AI when he was still a teenager,” Babedi said.

“That wasn’t proven,” Belisarius said. “I wasn’t even charged.”

“He’s also wanted for questioning by the Congregate on suspicion of espionage,” Babedi said. “Congregate defense secrets were compromised.”

“The charges were withdrawn,” Belisarius said. “There was no evidence linking me to anything. I’m free to move through Congregate space.”

“So Mister Arjona has a habit of getting into trouble,” Rudo said.

“He has a habit of getting out of it, which is what we need, ma’am,” Babedi said.

“Just so,” she agreed.

“What will you do on the other side, Major-General?” Belisarius asked quietly. “The Congregate will want what you’ve got. Just like the Puppets.”

“They can try to take it,” she replied. The hum of conversation lowered as officers strained to hear their commanding officer. “A hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Venusian state signed an accord with the Sub-Saharan Union. In the last century, in service and in blood, the Union has paid out its debt.”

“The Congregate owns a lot of real estate in the Epsilon Indi system,” Belisarius said. “Two fortified Axis Mundi wormholes. Battleships bigger and more numerous than your cruisers. And I think they’ve got a dreadnought in system.”

“They do,” Babedi said.

They were going to die. They were all going to die if they faced the Congregate navy, and they needed him to get to a place where they could die.
So this is a weirdly hyper-representative portion of the novel, one that cements the stakes of everything that's come before and establishes what will happen from here on out. I may use this for a reading at a book store in two weeks!
Visit Derek Künsken's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Roar of Sky"

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Roar of Sky, the finale of the trilogy, is now available. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cats.

Cato applied the Page 69 Test to Roar of Sky and reported the following:
From page 69:
The Kilauea caldera stretched miles in circumference, the edges fringed by the dark silhouettes of trees. Off to the right, a long stretch of the steep cliff released billows of steam, but as if by gravity, her gaze was pulled into the abyss below. It was impossible to judge the drop in the scant light, but it had to be several hundred feet. The land below consisted of absolute blackness, Perhaps a mile in the distance, color returned in a splashing cauldron of red, orange, and yellow.

"That down there is the lava lake of Halema'uma'u," said their guide, his pronunciation of the place like lilting poetry. "That's the home of the goddess Pele. That is our goal."
This is actually the perfect excerpt from Roar of Sky! My characters Ingrid and Cy are posing like regular tourists as they journey into the Kilauea caldera in my alternate history 1906 setting. Ingrid is a geomancer, and her sensitivity to flows of earth energy make this an especially perilous place to be.

Tours like this were a regular nightly event over a century ago when safety standards were far more lax. You can even read Mark Twain's recounting of the journey. Tourists ventured on horseback along steep switchbacks to reach the dry lava plateau below, where they would walk on foot in the dark to the lava lake. There, they could stand on the very shore and cook hot dogs over the lava or pluck in coins to watch them melt. Of course, this was all sacrilegious to Native Hawaiians--Kilauea itself is part of Madame Pele's body--but well, tourists haven't changed much in a century. The journey into Kilauea has, though. When I took my research trip there in January 2017, my hike stopped at the bottom of the cliff. Toxic fumes were too dangerous from that point on. This summer's eruptions and earthquakes caused boulders to block the Halema'uma'u Trail. I'm not sure when it will open again.
Visit Beth Cato's website.

The Page 69 Test: Breath of Earth.

The Page 69 Test: Call of Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Bring Them Home"

Born in Kent, D. S. Butler grew up as an avid reader with a love for crime fiction and mysteries. She has worked as a scientific officer in a hospital pathology laboratory and as a research scientist.

After obtaining a PhD in biochemistry, she worked at the University of Oxford for four years before moving to the Middle East.

Butler applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bring Them Home, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘The superintendent thought otherwise, Sophie.’ Karen’s tone was clipped, and she tried to hide her irritation. She was annoyed at her own unprofessionalism. It was very unlike her and didn’t set a good example. She’d been wrong to show her frustration at being told not to question Jasper. She believed in the line of command and challenging the superintendent’s authority was out of order. ‘The superintendent didn’t make the decision out of malice, Sophie. She decided on the best course of action, and we have to go along with that.’

Sophie’s eyes widened, and she folded her arms over her chest. ‘Well, if it were me, I’d be spitting feathers. This finding could crack the case wide open. I mean, you hear about criminals taking trophies from the scene of the crime. Maybe Jasper Palmer took the glove as some kind of keepsake.’

‘If he did, it’s more likely he’d have kept it to himself, don’t you think?’

Sophie thought for a moment. ‘True, but maybe this is his way of getting involved in the case. I read about that too. Criminal deviants integrate themselves into the search or aftermath of a crime. They get a sick kick out of being involved in the investigation.’

‘You’ve certainly spent a lot of time reading,’ Karen said.

Sophie’s face fell. ‘Is that a bad thing?’

‘Of course not. But DI Morgan did make a good point. Nigel Palmer was our number one suspect after Amy Fisher disappeared, but if he’s abducted two ten-year-olds, it would mean his MO has changed dramatically, which is unlikely.’

‘MO: his modus operandi,’ Sophie stated, looking pleased with herself.

‘Yes. Now, are you ready?’

Sophie did a double take. ‘Ready? For what?’

‘I thought you might like to come with me and talk to the Gibsons. It would be a good learning experience. It won’t be easy, but I’m sure you’re up to it.’

Sophie nodded eagerly. ‘Absolutely. I’ll just grab my jacket.’
I think this page is representative of the book. Page 69 is part of a scene where DS Karen Hart is training Sophie, a younger, less experienced officer. They are detectives working on a case involving two missing schoolgirls, and Karen can’t stop obsessing over similarities with a previous investigation. She has a suspect in mind, but without the backing of her boss or solid evidence, her hands are tied.

At this point in the book, Karen’s frustration at their lack of progress is starting to build. She knows the likelihood of finding the girls alive get smaller as each hour passes.
Visit D.S. Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bring Them Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 26, 2018

"When You Find Me"

P. J. Vernon was born in South Carolina. He holds a PhD in immunology and published science before turning his hand to publishing fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, When You Find Me, and reported the following:
Page 69, in its entirety:
sorry for the late call. You don’t know me. My name’s Annie. I’m calling—” The woman—Annie—paused. “I need to talk to you about Paul. I’ll be back in touch so keep your phone close.”

I held my breath.

“Something else—” A second, longer hesitation. “There’s something going on here you don’t know.”
When You Find Me nails the Page 69 Test.

It’s brief, suspenseful, and as far as representative page 69’s go—sticks the landing.

In this moment, one of two protagonists, Gray Godfrey, first connects with a mysterious woman calling herself Annie. Gray’s husband, Paul, has been missing for nearly twenty-four hours, and the police—led by Detective Nina Palmer—have just informed the family that his rental car was found abandoned on a desolate stretch of highway. Passenger door opened marsh-side.

As more time passes since Paul’s been seen in the flesh, Gray unravels. She’s nearly reached a breaking point when her phone finally lights up, shattering what’s been an excruciating silence thus far. But the voice on the other end of the line isn’t her missing husband. Or, in fact, anyone she recognizes. Gray was at a loss for answers before the voicemail, but the handful of words from Annie are merely the opening volley in a zero-sum game. One Gray will discover has been unfolding for decades.

Secrets are patient things. And on When You Find Me’s page 69, patience runs out.
Visit P. J. Vernon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Time's Children"

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Children, is the first volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. The book has just been released by Angry Robot Books. The second volume, Time’s Demon, will be released in May 2019.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he has recently reissued, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood, and, most recently, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy.

He is also currently working on a tie-in project with the History Channel. Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Jackson applied the Page 69 Test to Time’s Children and reported the following:
When I first tried the page 69 test on Time’s Children I was a little disappointed. I hoped the page would have some cool action sequence, or a moment of magic or time travel (which plays a huge role in the book and series). Instead, I found a page that really isn’t representative of the rest of the book. It consists largely of dialogue between my antagonist, and the Autarch for whom he works.

But as I thought about it more, I realized that one exchange between them feeds into a central subplot of the book, and an important element of what I like to do with all my villains. Something you need to know: Time travel in my world exacts a heavy cost. For every day or month or year my Walkers go back in time, they age that much. And then they age that much again returning to their own time. So if I am twenty and I go back a year, I arrive in the body of a twenty-one-year-old, and when I return to my rightful time, I am twenty-two. Here, the autarch speaks of sending one of his other assassins back fourteen years to pursue my protagonist. This assassin happens to be the wife of my point of view character for the scene.

Here’s the exchange:
[The autarch says] “Make your arrangements. But I want plans in place in case this doesn’t work. The woman is prepared to follow this lad back in time?”

The woman. “You mean my wife?” Orzili said, none too wisely.

Pemin stared, his expression icy. “I mean my Walker.”
Orzili may be my assassin, my “bad guy,” but I go out of my way to humanize him, to make his emotions and fears and needs (and those of Lenna, the Walker to whom he is wed) as powerful and relatable as those of my hero. Here, we see him daring to challenge perhaps the most powerful person in my world, who is also his employer. He knows he shouldn’t, but he dreads seeing his love’s life spent for the sake of Pemin’s bloodlust. If she is sent back after “the lad” and then returns to their shared time, she will have aged twenty-eight years. Their life together will never be the same.

I want my readers rooting for my heroes. I want them hoping that Orzili and Lenna will fail. But I also want the failure of my anti-heroes to carry an emotional cost. None of this should be easy. None of it should be drawn in black and white. Shades of gray. That’s what I’m after. And in this case, on page 69, I am beginning to set up the core emotional struggle of a key character. That he is my villain makes it no less crucial to my narrative.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog.

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels.

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue