Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"What Has Become of You"

Jan Elizabeth Watson was raised in Maine, where she currently lives, writes, and teaches and which also serves as the backdrop for her novels Asta in the Wings (Tin House Books) and What Has Become of You (Dutton). Her third novel-in-progress is set partly in Maine and partly in Ireland.

Watson applied the Page 69 Test to the paperback edition of What Has Become of You, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Later that day, it took my parents some convincing that it would be okay for me to watch movies with a bunch of guys I’d never met, in the home of a boy I barely knew. “We don’t even know this boy,” my mother said, turning on her prim persona in a flash. “I’d feel better if we met him first.”

“Why would you have to meet him? It isn’t a date. My God, he repulses me.”

“Well, that sounds like a hell of a basis for a friendship. I guess you can go if Les is willing to drive you.”
The above exchange comes from the journal entry of fifteen-year-old Jensen Willard, a sardonic young woman whose journals offer occasional moments of grim levity. This is one of those moments. Actually, this is a pretty good representation of the kind of conversations I had with my own parents when I was fifteen. The overall mood of What Has Become of You is darker than this excerpt would suggest, but I so enjoyed writing in Jensen’s voice so much that I am working with another young, first-person narration for my third novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Jan Elizabeth Watson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Game of Love and Death"

Martha Brockenbrough has worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school teacher, and as editor of MSN.com. She is a devoted grammarian, and founded National Grammar Day and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Game of Love and Death, and reported the following:
This is page 69 of The Game of Love and Death, a novel about two young jazz musicians in Seattle who fall in love without knowing they’re pawns being played in a deadly game by Love and Death themselves.

Henry is the male protagonist. An orphan, he lives with his wealthy friend Ethan. Here, Henry is with Will, one of the residents of Hooverville. Henry is there to report a news story for the local paper, and he’s just discovered an illegal still on the premises.
Will returned and registered Henry’s stricken look. “A dozen gallons a day pays for a lot of bread and meat. Those soup kitchens? Dinner only and not much of it. Without this, these men would starve.” He paused. “It’d be better if they drank less and sold more. But I’d challenge any man to live here and not want to take the edge off a bit. What we want is a chance, not charity. So you’ll keep that part out of your story, right?”

Henry considered this, and thought about all the alcohol that was consumed at the Domino, and even the glasses of wine and tumblers of Scotch at Ethan’s house. What made this so very different, aside from the matter of taxes?

Before he’d worked out his opinion, Ethan and James returned.

“I’m glad to see you’ve shown our guest the church,” James said. “We do like a spiritual moment now and again in Hooverville.” He turned to Ethan, extending his hand. “I’ll see you again next week?”

Henry expected Ethan to decline. They had all the information they needed, and Ethan was never the sort to come to a place like this when he didn’t have to. But Ethan tucked his notebook into his shirt pocket and said, “Next week. See you then.” His voice was nonchalant, and Henry knew him well enough to know that meant he was anything but.

Inside the car, Ethan shut Henry down before he had a chance to say what he’d seen. “We’re not writing about the booze. James told me all about that. I’m interested in something different. It’s hard to explain. And do me a favor,” he said, casting Henry a side-long glance. “Don’t tell my father.”

Henry glanced at Ethan, curious about the look in his eyes. It wasn’t one he’d seen before. But he didn’t question it, he felt so relieved.

“I won’t say a word.”
This was a bit of a tricky scene to write. Seattle’s Hooverville was the largest homeless encampment of its kind in the nation, so there were those details to attend to. And I was also introducing a key character here (which I won’t reveal, lest I spoil things). But it was an important one. Henry, whose father’s death left him an orphan, is one bad decision away from living someplace like Hooverville. If he toes the line that’s been drawn for him, his future is assured. So it was important to show the thing he fears without making everything seem melodramatic.

To research this scene, I looked at photographs and read a variety of things, including a graduate student’s master’s thesis on the encampment. The language in it was, in a word, swell. I like to imagine that student would be very pleased to see his work live on in a novel nearly a century later.
Visit Martha Brockenbrough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Dismantling"

Brian DeLeeuw is a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. His first novel, In This Way I Was Saved, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, with editions published in the U.K., Germany, and France.

DeLeeuw applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Dismantling, and reported the following:
The Dismantling is a novel about Simon Worth, a young man who drops out of medical school and becomes an organ broker, a fixer who matches desperate buyers with failing kidneys and livers to sellers willing to part with an organ for a price. Simon is haunted by memories of his younger sister, Amelia, who died seven years ago in an accident for which he feels largely responsible. On page sixty-nine, Simon remembers a trip he took to Central America during the year between his high school graduation and his college enrollment. Near the end of this trip, he was struck with a severe fever, during which he experienced surreal visions of his dead sister:
…He closed his eyes and sank back down into the mattress, and then, as though a screen had been switched on, the clearest image of Amelia appeared behind his eyelids. She stood on one of the rock groynes that jutted out from the Rockaway beach into the ocean, wearing a purple windbreaker, her hair batted across her face by the wind. He was aware that he was standing on the beach, but the idea of his body seemed beside the point. The level of detail—glistening, granular—was beyond that of memories, beyond waking sight. He saw the stippled surface of the ocean. He could count each rock of the groyne, each container ship studded across the horizon. His attention did not have to be parceled out but could instead meet the entire breadth and depth of the scene at once. Amelia stood at the tip of the groyne, the ocean’s spray whipping across her legs. She looked back at him. Her face was many ages at once. She was a little girl; she was a teenager; she was the young woman she’d never become. Her face did not flash from one age to the next but rather accommodated all the ages, in the same space, at once. When she smiled, it was many smiles and also one.

Simon opened his eyes, and this vision of his sister remained so true, so perfect, that he was sure for a moment Amelia was there in the room with him. Or rather, that the dim hotel room was itself unreal, an illusion, and the beach was what was real, the beach and the ocean and Amelia, and he was the visitor, the apparition. As though he had died and Amelia were still alive. He struggled to sit up in bed, the force of the vision and the hot weight of sickness grinding down on his body. The fever broke a few hours later. The next day he used the last of his money to buy a plane ticket home.
Although most of the novel takes place in Simon’s present day (the fall and early winter of 2008), these episodes from his past are crucial to understanding his guilt over Amelia’s death and his shame at how he treated his sister before she died. It is this guilt and shame that cause the breakdown that forces him to leave medical school, and it is this guilt and shame that he struggles to atone for throughout the novel. In this way, page sixty-nine is perhaps not representative of the narrative of the book, but it is related to one of the novel’s central questions: what is the nature of atonement? Simon failed to save his sister, so he fights now to save the lives of others. Is there some sort of cosmic ledger where his actions will all balance out, or is he now indulging in a form of narcissism, acting more for his own (psychological) benefit than for that of the people he’s trying to help? And does the motivation matter if the results are the same?
Visit Brian DeLeeuw's website.

The Page 69 Test: In This Way I Was Saved.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Sophomore Year is Greek to Me"

Meredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She’s also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows.

Zeitlin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Sophomore Year is Greek to Me, Zona asks her dad to explain why Greece's economy is in such distress, which he does, broadly. I actually think this page does encapsulate a lot of the biggest elements of the book. First of all, Zona's close relationship with her dad is very significant, both to Zona's character development and the story as a whole. The idea of family - and what makes a family - is a central theme in this novel. Greece itself is an important character in the book; Zona grew up totally disconnected from the country her mother came from, and her journey is about discovering Greece the place as well as her personal Greek roots. Finally, the reason the Lowells move to Greece in the first place is so Zona's dad can write an article about the Greek economy (the very article he is researching on page 69!) and Zona's aspiration to also become a professional journalist is a major plot point. Greece, family, writing... this page has it all!
Visit Meredith Zeitlin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"The Listener"

Rachel Basch is the author of The Passion of Reverend Nash (named one of the five best novels of 2003 by The Christian Science Monitor), Degrees of Love, and The Listener, out now from Pegasus Books.

Basch applied the Page 69 Test to The Listener and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Listener happens to be the final page of a chapter. Less than half the page is filled with text. Both the white space and the words are fairly representative of the overall book. Malcolm Dowd, one of the main characters in the novel, is a clinical psychologist, so there is both a lot of talking surrounded by requisite silence in many of the scenes. Even though page 69 is short on words, two of the novel’s central subjects are present— identity and love, specifically parental love.

This page concludes a scene between Malcolm and his younger daughter, Leah, who has suddenly come home for the weekend from college. Leah has been pumping Malcolm for information she feels he’s been withholding from her and her sister about their mother, who died in a car accident when Leah was only 6. Leah tries to explain to her father that she might better understand herself if she had a fuller, more mature sense of who her mother really was. Near the end of the scene, Malcolm, from whose perspective the chapter is narrated, inwardly acknowledges that “he’d have to tell the girls everything, had planned all along to do so once he’d prepared them, given them all he could. Just as they were about to surpass him, when they were running at full speed, he’d hand off the rest of the information. He didn’t want to be forced to tell the thing before then.”

Page 69 ends with Leah speaking “‘Mom dying is both the worst thing in the world and as familiar to me… as you are.’” Malcolm does not respond with words. Rather, he walks over to where his daughter is seated: “He bent slightly, closed his eyes, and pressed his lips to the crown of her head, just as he had done the very first time he saw her.”
Visit Rachel Basch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"The Russian Bride"

Ed Kovacs is the author of the critically-acclaimed Cliff St. James mystery/crime series published by St. Martin’s Press. Kovacs has studied martial arts, holds many weapons-related licenses, certifications and permits, and is a certified medical First Responder. Using various pen names, he has worked professionally around the world as a screenwriter, journalist, and media consultant. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, American Legion Post 299, the International Thriller Writers association, and Mystery Writers of America.

Kovacs applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Russian Bride, and reported the following:
The only copy of The Russian Bride that I have on this deployment to Eastern Europe is an ARC, Advanced Reading Copy. So I don't know if my page 69 will match up with page 69 in the hardback edition or e-book, but here goes.

The first half of the page completes the introductory description of my female lead, Yulana Petkova, a bona fide exotic-looking femme fatale. Page 69 tells us we're in Moscow, and gives a bit more than just a physical description of Yulana:
And like with many Russian women, her demeanor was tempered by a tough undercurrent. It was like an electrified third rail running along the tracks that was best left untouched. Was it the stereotype of the morose, depressed Russian showing itself? Or was her face betraying the suggestion that she didn’t want to be here any more than Bennings did? Or was her dark expression simply the result of her life experience? Of heartbreak, betrayal, and hard work and a longing for escape to something, anything better than whatever it was that held her in its clutches. Maybe for Yulana, it was a little bit of all of the above; she looked as though she could literally feel her inner hard edge, as naturally as she could feel a pebble in her shoe.
The second half of the page switches to Yulana's POV, and we learn from her inner dialogue that she's no push-over, and doesn't think too highly of the book's hero, Kit Bennings, whom she's just met. But then we learn she's about to be married to Bennings, and that Yulana is in some kind of jam.

The last paragraph provides some nice foreshadowing:
“Congratulations. You are now married,” said the clerk in Russian. To Yulana, the clerk's tone sounded like he had just pronounced a death sentence. And maybe he had.
So my heroine has just married a total stranger, an act that might result in her death. Sounds to me like page 69 has delivered the goods for a reader to keep reading this fast-paced espionage thriller.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Kovacs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Cry Wolf"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their latest novel, Cry Wolf, and reported the following:
Cry Wolf is a hard-boiled thriller written at break-neck pace of political corruption and organised, very violent crime,” Mike Ripley generously noted on his Getting Away With Murder blog when the book appeared in England a few months ago.

As we read page 69, a couple of violent mafia slayings already under our belts, we are in the company of the cocky Hillary Clinton-type female president of an unnamed province in central Italy. She is about to meet a police officer who will change her life. It isn’t that Donatella Pignatti – known to her underlings as the Queen – has led an innocent life: she is as corrupt and unscrupulous as every other political and social climber in the book, though no rival to the ruthless members of the ’ndrangheta clan (the mafia from Calabria in the south of Italy) who are building their criminal empire on her terrain.

The Queen is waiting anxiously for the arrival of a man that the reader has met earlier, General Arturo Corsini, ambitious commander of the national carabinieri special ops squad. Corsini intends to propose a deal that the Queen cannot refuse, a strategy which will entangle the lives of all the main characters in the novel, and cost far more than most of them have bargained for. Unaware of what is in store for her, and weighed down by her own guilty secrets, the Queen tries to guess on Page 69 what this media-famous policeman wants from her. She’s certain that he wants something. Everyone wants more than they’ve already got, no matter how successful they are. As she confides to her male secretary, Paolo Gualducci, the night before she had dreamt of receiving a string of pearls. “Wow! A gift’s a good sign,” Paolo says to encourage her, but the superstitious Queen sees things differently. “Pearls mean tears,” she snaps back.

So, what will General Corsini bring her, riches or woe?

You have to read the book to find out, of course, but we can promise you lots of jolts and violent surprises on the way.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Visible Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Unholy Awakening.

My Book, The Movie: Michael Gregorio's Hanno Stiffeniis novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Whispering Shadows"

Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, his first novel, was an international bestseller. He lives in Berlin with his family.

Sendker applied the Page 69 Test to new novel, Whispering Shadows, and reported the following:
Of course page 69 is not representative of Whispering Shadows. I think only very few pages or paragraphs of a book can be.

This page only hints at one conflict in the book. There is also a murder mystery involved: a dead young American businessman is killed in China, and Paul Leibovitz is trying to help his parents to sort things out. (The alleged killer has an alibi.) He does not want to get involved and his girlfriend Christine asks him not to because she is scared of China, or the Chinese authorities to be precise.As a young girl she fled from China to Hong Kong with her mother because her father was killed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Since then she does not trust China anymore. Paul promises to stay out of the investigation but wants to help at the same time….
Visit Jan-Philipp Sendker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Someone Is Watching"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, Shadow Creek, and other acclaimed novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest thriller, Someone Is Watching, and reported the following:
I think this page is very indicative of what's inside the rest of the book, and should also should tweak anyone's interest in continuing. It's representative of both the style and content of the story and definitely gives you a glimpse into what Bailey is going through. Someone Is Watching is the story of a young female private investigator who is attacked while doing surveillance and retreats to her glass high-rise, afraid to venture outside, and spying on her neighbours through her binoculars, gradually becoming aware that someone is also watching her. Page 69 addresses her growing paranoia as she deals with having the locks to her condo changed. It begins with Bailey's admission to the locksmith that her niece was able to open the previous lock in about two seconds and ends with the chilling admonition to "Enjoy your new locks."
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow Creek.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Creek. 

Writers Read: Joy Fielding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Anywhere but Paradise"

Born in Hawaii, author Anne Bustard is still a beach girl at heart. If she could, she would walk by the ocean every day, wear flip-flops, and eat nothing but fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and chocolate.

She is the author of non-fiction works for young readers including the award-winning Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly.

Bustard applied the Page 69 Test to her debut middle grade historical novel, Anywhere But Paradise, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Later, in math, we tackle word problems. But I already have plenty of my own:

Likelike is pronounced “leakay-leakay,” not “likelike.”

Hilo is “hee-low,” not “high-low.”

Kaneohe is “kah-nay-oh-hay.”

Pau is “pow,” not “pa-you.”

Aina is “eye-na,” not “a-in-ah.”

Kalanianaole is a blur of letters and sounds.

And I still can’t figure humuhumunukunukuapaa.
Baffled by local customs, targeted by a school bully and worried about her quarantined cat, seventh grader Peggy Sue Bennett wants to return to Texas only days after her arrival in Hawaii in 1960. But friendship, the beauty of the islands and more, ultimately change her heart and mind.

On Page 69, Peggy Sue is flummoxed by the pronunciation of Hawaiian words. Sprinkled in conversations, ubiquitous on street signs and towns, as well as Native Hawaiian names, Peggy Sue cannot escape them. The scene on this page shows how frustration is Peggy Sue’s middle name.

For now.
Visit Anne Bustard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Behind Closed Doors"

Elizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains, and Under a Silent Moon, the first installment of the Briarstone crime series.

Haynes applied the Page 69 Test to Behind Closed Doors, the second novel in the Briarstone series, and reported the following:
I’m pleased to see that page 69 of Behind Closed Doors contains two intelligence reports, police source documents which are sprinkled through the book like – I hope – seasoning.

Carl McVey – a local businessman – has been found dead, the apparent victim of a robbery. DCI Lou Smith’s team are now gathering intelligence about his life to look for possible motives for his murder:
5x5x5 Intelligence Report

Date: 1 October 2013
Officer: PC 9921 EVANS
Subject: Op Trapeze – murder of Carl McVEY DOB 29/09/1970
Grading: B / 2 / 4

Following the death of Carl McVEY (Op Trapeze), the McDONNELL brothers are not happy. They believe the murder was due to McVEY falling out with an associate over a drugs debt and they are looking for someone to blame.

(Research shows: Lewis McDONNELL DOB 21/10/1953; Harry McDONNELL DOB 06/07/1956)

Date: 1 October 2013
Officer: PC 9921 EVANS
Subject: Op Trapeze – murder of Carl McVEY DOB 29/09/1970
Grading: B / 2 / 4

Carl McVEY was not thought to be a drug-user himself. He was very careful to keep the dealers away from his licensed premises as he wanted to “keep his nose clean.”
The purpose of the reports – as well as lending a note of authenticity – is to allow the reader to be as much a part of the case as the investigators are. We know just from these two reports that McVey is probably not the squeaky-clean businessman he pretended to be, that he is mixed up in organised crime. But the reports raise further questions – was his death really to do with a drugs debt? If so, who really was to blame?

When I worked for the police I often thought how it would be possible to produce an entire fictional narrative made up of these and other documents – witness statements, forensic reports, interview transcripts, for example. Part of my job as an analyst was to create sense out of this paperwork, to work out where the gaps were, to consider what might have happened while the police officers gathered evidence which would refute or support my hypothesis. As the mountain of papers grew, the evidential gaps were filled in and the nature of the events surrounding the crime became clearer until the point at which an arrest could be made, and the offender brought to justice. Some gaps would inevitably remain, but the aim was to provide sufficient evidence to enable a jury to convict.

In fiction it’s much easier – and more advisable, if you want to satisfy your readers – to tie up all the loose ends and make sure everything’s explained. After all, even if Lou and her team don’t know what really happened, thankfully I do.

Real life is, unfortunately, rarely so straightforward.
Visit the official Elizabeth Haynes website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth Haynes & Bea.

The Page 69 Test: Under a Silent Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"All the Rage"

Courtney Summers is the author of young adult novels including Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are, and Cracked Up to Be. She lives and writes in Canada, where she divides her time between a piano, a camera, and a word-processing program when she’s not planning for the impending zombie apocalypse.

Summers applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, All the Rage, and reported the following:
Page 69:
I follow Todd to the New Yorker, a mess. He makes me go around the house for the hose, and we start there, giving it a rinse. We could probably stop there if we wanted—looks good enough to anyone passing by—but Todd wants to prove he can make it gleam, so we keep going, working up a sweat.

“Wake Lake this Friday, huh?” he asks after a while and now I know Wake Lake is this Friday.

“Andrew was talking about it. Figured it’d be soon.”

“You ever go?” I ask. “When it was your turn?”

“I did.” He squeezes some soapy water over the windshield. “You going?”

“Not really my scene.”

“Mine, either. I was fucked up on painkillers before I got there. The only thing I remember is watching your mom and dad make out through the bonfire.”

“That’s sad, Todd.”

“Yep. But I was no good to anyone back then.” He wipes his forehead with the back of his arm. “Paul—it was better it was him, then.”

“Better it’s you now,” I say.

Todd smiles crookedly. “Thanks, kid.”
All the Rage is an examination of the consequences of rape culture. It was a difficult book to write and I've heard it's a difficult book to read. It's about a girl names Romy, who has been sexually assaulted by the local sheriff's son. When she speaks out about it, no one believes her. Romy has few safe spaces in the wake of this, but Page 69 reflects one of them. Here, she's spending time with her mother's boyfriend, Todd, who supports and believes her.
Visit Courtney Summers's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cracked Up to Be.

The Page 69 Test: Some Girls Are.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Not a Test.

--Marshal Zeringue