Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"The Fairest of Them All"

Cathy Maxwell spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, "Why do people fall in love?" It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.

Maxwell applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Fairest of Them All, and reported the following:
The Fairest of Them All is about missed chances and making amends. As in every Romance novel, there are many types of love to be explored. Page 69 features the most poignant and the most complicated—familial love.

Over seventeen years ago, Lord Jack Whitridge disappeared from his bed at school. His family searched for him but could find no evidence to what had happened. They didn’t know if he’d runaway, had been kidnapped, or fallen to childish pranks or bad company.

Now Jack has returned home without any warning or obvious regrets about leaving, until he faces his mother. Marcella has mourned her son. He stands before her, whole and alive. What is a mother to do?

Siblings may hold grudges, outsiders may judge, but a mother has only one response:
“I had to see him again, to feel him. I needed to be certain I wasn’t dreaming.” She leaned close and Jack felt his arms go around her in the same manner that she had once hugged him when he was half his size.

His mother seemed impossibly small in his arms.

She drew a deep breath. “Yes, you are my Jack. You have the scent I always remembered about you.”

“What? Flowers and roses?” Gavin suggested.

“Dirty potatoes,” their mother answered, straightening and smiling up at Jack. “Welcome home, my son.”
Visit Cathy Maxwell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Groom Says Yes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Beware That Girl"

Teresa Toten is the author of the acclaimed Blondes series, as well as The Game, The Onlyhouse, among other books. Toten has twice been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Born in Zagreb, Croatia, she arrived in Canada 13 days later, and now lives in Toronto.

Toten applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Beware That Girl, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Still, my next play had to be the files. I had to break into Kruger’s cabinet. I needed better intel on Olivia in order to bind her close and guarantee my sweet ride all the way to Yale.... That was the plan, but any good plan must allow for contingencies. A plan A needs a plan B, and a C, and in worst-case scenarios, a D.
That’s my character Kate who’s intending to break into school files to get information on the fabulous Olivia in order to bind Olivia to her. It’s indicative of Kate's street smarts and conniving. In alternating chapters, I have two lovely blonde girls, two friends, two protagonists and we have to beware of one of them—but which one? You think you know but then you don’t. It’s a dark, twisty story around the most complex relationship there is—female friendship and how far would you go to get what you want.
Visit Teresa Toten's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2016

"A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall"

Hannah Dennison is the author of The Vicky Hill Mysteries (Little, Brown) and the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur), both set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside. Dennison originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, she still continues to teach mystery writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in Los Angeles, California. Dennison has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and is serving on the MWA board for 2016-2018.

Although she spends most of her time in Oregon with her husband and two insane Vizsla dogs, Dennison’s heart remains in England. She is a passionate supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Historic Houses Association, and the National Trust. She enjoys all country pursuits, movies, theater and seriously good chocolate.

Dennison applied the Page 69 Test to her  new novel, A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It occurred to me that when I’d mentioned the name Bryan Laney, my mother had given no indication that she remembered him at all. If Mum had broken all the boys’ hearts across the countryside, maybe Bryan had just been one of her many suitors. Electra! I couldn’t wait to have that conversation with her.

“So you must have remembered the summer balls at the Hall?” I asked.

Bryan nodded, obviously still trying to take in the fact that my mother was close by.

“What about Pandora Haslam-Grimley,” I said. “She was American. Do you remember her?”

Bryan frowned. “I remember her alright,” he said darkly. “She was a friend of Lady Edith’s. Much older than us lads but she liked a bit of rough.”

“A what?” I exclaimed.

“Bit of rough.” Bryan winked at Eric. “You know, a bit of the other with the local lads. Course, I only had eyes for Iris and that drove Miss High-and-Mighty mad. She couldn’t stand Iris but then a lot of the girls here couldn’t stand Iris, either. They were a bit afraid of her.”

“Afraid of my mother?” I said with disbelief.

“Not only was she Electra, she was Madame Z—Madame Z’s Psychic Touch.” Bryan chuckled. “All the girls went to Iris to have their fortunes told.”

“Did Pandora?”

Bryan shrugged. “No idea. When Pandora wasn’t hanging about the stables she was messing around with the lads at the boxing emporium. I often wondered what happened to her, too.”

“She’s dead,” Eric said bluntly.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” said Bryan. “She would have been pushing ninety by now.”

“Kat and I found her body in a priest hole,” said Eric.

Bryan’s jaw dropped. All the color drained out of his face, I thought he was going to pass out.
By luck this excerpt illustrates a crucial plot element and provides a vital clue to the murder. On page 69 we learn about the victim’s (Pandora) character, her taste in men and why she loathed Iris (Kat’s mother). We also wonder how involved Bryan Laney was in Pandora’s demise as well as discovering that he knew more about Iris’s past with the traveling fair and boxing emporium than Kat did.

One of the ongoing themes in the series is Kat realizing that her mother was not who she thought she was at all. Iris’s secret writing life as Krystalle Storm, the international bestselling author of racy romances, would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The question is—was Iris capable of murder?

I’m afraid you’re going to have to read A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall to find out!
Visit Hannah Dennison's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

My Book, The Movie: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

My Book, The Movie: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall.

Writers Read: Hannah Dennison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Imagine Me Gone"

Adam Haslett is the author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, and the novel Union Atlantic, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. His books have been translated into eighteen languages, and he has received the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the PEN/Malamud Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.

Haslett applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Imagine Me Gone, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He shut the bedroom door to give Donna her privacy and then told me this gig was like nothing they'd ever done before."Bullshit," he called it. He's been bribing an officer to send telegrams to everyone in LA he can think of to try to get them airlifted out of here, but he suspects the messages are never sent. Donna apparently has a heart condition which is acting up. She was supposed to be in the studio five days ago, and her voice is at the breaking point. We talked a bit about Munich in the mid-seventies, the dilemma about whether to sign with Geffen, and how Donna wanted to move toward more of a rock sound on her next album. I wanted to tell him that they couldn't control what they'd started, that the beats would only get faster and the synth more gorgeous, but this seemed presumptuous. I was worried the door might open and Donna might appear and I would be ugly and dumbstruck. So eventually I excused myself, and hustled back down to our cabins on 5.

To be honest, Aunt Penny, I'm not sure what will become of us now. We thought it was bad when Dad got shackled to Jim Pottes two days ago, making sleeping awkward for everyone, and then Dad woke up with Jim's corpse locked to his ankle and wrist, dead with the Marburg that Mom presumably gave him. We lost half the morning cleaning up all that blood and mucus (except that little fidget-creature, Alec, who said he had a headache). I'd planned to do so much reading on this trip, and have got to practically none of it. In any case, at the rate the crew's expiring I guess they'll need someone to sail this puppy north again, so maybe I'll have a chance to catch up then."
As it happens, page 69 of Imagine Me Gone encapsulates one of the main tensions and (I hope) pleasures of the book, which is the absurdist juxtaposition and intermingling of parody and suffering in the character of Michael, the elder brother of the family that the book centers on. It's Michael's mental troubles, and the legacy of his father's depression that the other characters must contend with over the course of three decades. In this particular moment, Michael is writing a "letter" to his Aunt Penny from a ship on a transatlantic crossing on which Donna Summer is the main stage entertainment--all of it an elaborate fantasy. Here he finally gets to speak to her producer Giorgio Moroder, one of the father's of disco, with which he is obsessed, and commiserate about the disaster of the (imagined) trip they are on, the disastrousness of which becomes clear in the second paragraph, which further details the slave ship conditions that Michael is terrifying his aunt (and himself) by describing. This is how he functions in the book. He speaks through parody and elaborate exaggeration, which is a form of relief from the unrelenting quality of his anxiety. In my own family, that kind of laughter was a reprieve, and my hope is that it serves a similar role in the novel.
Visit Adam Haslett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Union Atlantic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters"

Margaret Dilloway has been a writer ever since she learned how to write. In high school she was a California Arts Scholar in creative writing and she won a National Council of Teachers of English writing award. She practiced writing in a variety of forms, such as being a theater critic and a contributing editor for two weekly newspapers, doing technical writing, and writing plays, before publishing three critically acclaimed books for adults: How to Be an American Housewife, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and Sisters of Heart and Snow. Her research for Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters included a trip to Japan and a samurai sword-fighting class. Dilloway lives in southern California with her husband, three children, and a goldendoodle named Gatsby.

Dilloway applied the Page 69 Test to Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters and reported the following:
From page 69:
His tan face is covered in red blotches, the way it gets when Peyton's trying hard not to cry, like the time his cheekbone was cracked by a stray fastball. I'm glad, because if Peyton starts crying, I will too, and I can't do that. I might not be able to stop.

"I promise. It's all right." Obachan's tone will not be argued with. She's so sure of herself that Peyton visibly relaxes.
This is where the action is actually really taking off, but you don't know what's about to happen. Xander's grandmother is giving them some important talismans for their adventure, and both Peyton and Xander are very scared at this point.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Dilloway's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Dilloway and Gatsby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2016

"Contrary Motion"

Andy Mozina is a professor of English at Kalamazoo College and the author of the short story collections The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and Quality Snacks, which was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize.

Mozina applied the Page 69 Test to Contrary Motion, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Turns out page 69 is a pretty representative slice of my novel. Matt, my protagonist, is a divorced harpist preparing for a symphony audition, and in this scene he discovers a problem with his instrument while practicing:
Within ten measures I notice a buzz in the sixth-octave C string. I have to pull on it hard to get the volume I need, but the harder I pull, the worse the buzz. I tune that string again, but that’s not the problem. I give the instrument a once-over, and sure enough, there’s a hairline crack in the short hump of wood that connects the neck to the top of the soundboard. It wasn’t noticeable just after I dropped the harp, and earlier this week, when I sometimes heard the slight tremors that herald a buzz, I had put off a careful reexamination. But now I see the crack exists. For their whole lives the neck and the soundboard have wanted to kiss, two thousand pounds of pressure pulling them together, and now they are a speck closer, and the bass string knows it.

“Shit,” I say.
Among other things, the novel dramatizes the day-to-day grind of artistic ambition, including dealing with this type of mechanical breakdown. The novel also explores connections between the artist’s personal and professional lives. Why did Matt drop his harp in the first place? After a night of bungled sex with his girlfriend, our hero drinks himself to sleep on his living room couch and thus does not hear his alarm going off in his bedroom, calling him to rise and head off to his Sunday morning brunch gig. Late for brunch, he rushes loading his harp into his station wagon—and drops it! Thus his dubious sexual performance is slyly (or not so slyly) linked to his wounded instrument. This reinforces the notion that the harpist’s instrument is an extension of his mind and body, a somewhat true and also dangerous idea that messes with Matt’s head. But this scene also acknowledges that the harp is a thing, a separate object, something that the musician must exert absolute control over in performance, yet, maddeningly, has a vulnerable life of its own. What’s not in this scene is Matt’s relationship with his daughter, which is a counterpoint to his relationship with his harp and the women to whom he’s attracted (his ex-wife and his girlfriend). Matt’s fraught bond with his harp and these women is contrasted with his more natural, if difficult in its own way, bond with his daughter.
Visit Andy Mozina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Girl Against the Universe"

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Stokes loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Girl Against the Universe and reported the following:
From page 69:
I turn to the section of my notebook where I record all of the unlucky happenings and their outcomes and jot down a basic description.

Sept 9th. Tennis courts. While playing a practice point, I hit Jordy Wheeler with a tennis ball.

No need to be overly descriptive. It’s not like I’ll ever forget that moment.

“Hey,” a familiar voice says.

I look up to find Jordy standing over me. He’s wearing track pants and a T-shirt and his hair is damp like he just got out of the shower. Quickly, I shut the notebook.

“Luck notebook,” he reads from the cover.

I silently curse at my twelve-year-old self for being so literal. Did I really have to write that on the outside?

“Did I see my name in that?” His lips twitch.


He kicks at the toe of my flip-flop with one of his giant feet. He’s wearing the latest Nike court shoes. They probably cost more than my racquet. “I think I did.”

“Well, you think wrong. It’s a project for math class.” I slip the notebook back into my purse. “Question. Are random people laughing at you today?”
I think this excerpt from page 69 is a fairly good representation of Girl Against the Universe. GATU is the story of a girl named Maguire who has been in several bad accidents where everyone but her was injured or killed. Because of this, Maguire has developed survivor’s guilt to the degree where she now feels cursed, like she’s bad luck to people around her.

This belief has led her to develop obsessive coping mechanisms, one of which is writing down all of the bad things that happen to people around her in the notebook we see here. Jordy is the book’s other main character, an eighteen-year-old tennis prodigy who Maguire meets outside of her therapist’s office and then later at tennis practice, where he helps out with the girls’ team.

I like that her notation about hitting Jordy makes it seem like that moment isn’t as straightforward as what she writes in her notebook. (It’s not.) Despite the fact she’s a very truthful character, I like that she lies to him here because it sets up the romantic tension that’s just beginning to form between the two of them. This page also highlights their differences in social standing, and by mentioning Maguire’s twelve-year-old self, it shows readers just how long she has been struggling with her issues.
Learn more about the book and author at Paula Stokes's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Girl Against the Universe is one of Dahlia Adler's top fifteen contemporary YA books that make fabulous valentines.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Lainey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"This Is My Brain on Boys"

Sarah Strohmeyer is a bestselling and award-winning novelist whose books include The Secrets of Lily Graves, How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, Smart Girls Get What They Want, The Cinderella Pact (which became the Lifetime Original Movie Lying to Be Perfect), The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, Sweet Love, and the Bubbles mystery series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, This Is My Brain on Boys, and reported the following:
Geesh. I don’t know. I usually give every book a 50-page test, though I gave Goldfinch more than that by far and still didn’t finish it. This Is My Brain on Boys is about how, despite our best efforts, really we are controlled by the chemicals in our brain. Love, attraction, heartbreak. All chemicals. But I think the twist is that we can control the chemicals in our own brains and, more importantly sometimes, the brains in others. In other words, it is actually possible to make someone fall in love. Those love potions of old weren’t so far off after all! So, for those interested in learning how to do that, they might want to stick around until the end.
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2016

"Saving Abby"

Steena Holmes lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs. Her novels, including Finding Emma and Emma’s Secret, have sold more than one million copies, have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, won the National Excellence in Indie Award for Fiction, and are now published in the international market.

Holmes applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Saving Abby, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Saving Abby … while I re-read this page, I couldn’t stop smiling. If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or even check in on my travel blog, you’ll understand why.
She wasn’t sure if she could keep the excitement out of her voice so she sent her mother a text instead.

Josh set a plate of cut fruit down on the table, and then not so discretely pushed the pages he’d been working on towards her.

Claire smiled. She got the hint.

John’s gift was creating unforgettable characters in the simplest of situations and having readers beg for more stories. Her passion was bringing those characters and situations to life through her illustrations. Before their Jack’s Adventure series, she’d been a sought-after illustrator, but now she only took on a few select clients.

Her favorite project, hands down, was when she was working on Jack’s story.

“So where are we today?” She looked through the pages and smiled.

Paris. Jack was racing after what he thought was a lost puppy, tearing through the winding streets of Saint-Germain while his mother was on a walking tour of chocolate shops.

She remembered that day so clearly, how Josh came up with the idea when they’d spotted a puppy after their own walking tour – a tour that entailed two stops at their favorite chocolatier.

“Of all the cities we visited, Paris is the one I felt we didn’t have enough time in,” Claire said before hiding a yawn with her hand.

“We’ll have to go back. Do you need to lie down again or think you can manage to stay up until past dinner?” There was a teasing tone in Josh’s voice and Claire knew he was greatly relieved to finally know the reason for her exhaustion.
I love Paris. It’s a city I’m always yearning to return to, a stop that I’m always attempting to add to my itinerary when I’m headed back to Europe. A few years ago I took a chocolate walking tour and loved it… there was this one chocolate shop we found that I’ll never forget – it had the best drinking chocolate I’ve ever tasted (even better than Angelina’s in Paris).

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to add in my love of traveling into Saving Abby and I hope readers will enjoy these small glimpses into my life as well!
Visit Steena Holmes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"City of the Lost"

Kelley Armstrong graduated with a degree in psychology and then studied computer programming. Now she is a full-time writer and parent, and she lives with her husband and three children in rural Ontario, Canada.

Armstrong applied the Page 69 Test to City of the Lost, the first volume of the new Casey Duncan mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
my path, so close I nearly ram into him. When I back up, he advances, uncomfortably close.

“Eric ...,” Anders says, his voice low.

“Did I give you an order, Detective?”

“Yes, but—”

“No buts. Either I gave you an order or I didn’t, and I don’t know how it works down south, but out here, you disobey an order, and you’ll find yourself in the cell until morning.”

Anders steps between us. He shoulders Dalton back, keeping an eye on him, much the way one might ease off a snarling dog.

“He’s kidding,” Anders says. “He’d only keep you in there until dinner hour.” A wry smile, and I’d like to think he’s kidding, but I get the feeling he’s not.

“I know you’ll want to come along,” Anders continues, “but you just got here. What we have out there is death by misadventure. Not homicide. Normally, that’d still be your gig. But let’s just hold off . We’ll bring the body back, and you can take it from there. Reasonable?”

I nod.

He looks at Dalton. “See how that’s done?” Then a mock whisper for me. “Reasonable isn’t really in Eric’s vocabulary. You’ll get used to it.”

The grin he shoots Dalton holds a note of exasperated affection, as if for a sometimes- difficult younger brother. Dalton only snorts and points at the back of the ATV.

“I thought I’d drive today, boss,” Anders says. “You hop on back.”

Dalton gets on the ATV and revs the engine.

“That means get on or I’m walking,” the deputy says to me. “Eric drives. Always.”

I nod. It’s not a tip about transportation. Employee relationships might be a little casual here, but Eric Dalton is in charge, and I’d best not forget it. Which is fine. That’s one reason I like being a cop. My brain understands paramilitary relationships, often better than normal ones.

Anders gives me directions to the station and then says, “Go directly there. Park out back and head in the rear door. Anyone flags
Sometimes the page 69 test works out well, and it did with this book. City of the Lost is a mystery set in a hidden town in the Yukon, where people go to disappear. The narrator, Casey Duncan, goes there when her past catches up with her. and it turns out her timing is perfect. As a homicide detective, she has no problem being admitted…because the town seems as if it may be in need of someone with her particular skills.

On page 69, she’s flown in with the sheriff, Eric Dalton. She’s literally just arrived and they’re met by the deputy, Will Anders, who reports that their “runner”—a resident who fled into the forest—has been found. Dead. Casey insists on going. Dalton refuses, and we get a bit of character work, seeing the interplay between Anders and Dalton, which tells Casey what she can expect in her new town.

Page 69 also give Casey—and the reader—a sense that law enforcement in Rockton may work a little differently. A place like this isn’t run by the rules one would find “down south” and if the sheriff wants to throw you in a cell for the crime of pissing him off, he can do that. Which may suggest that while this is a contemporary mystery, there’s an air of the Wild West about Rockton.
Visit Kelley Armstrong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"See Also Deception"

Larry D. Sweazy's novels include A Thousand Falling Crows, Escape from Hangtown, See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for books the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 (for the short story "See Also Murder"), and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010. Sweazy was awarded the Best Books in Indiana in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. And in 2013, he received the inaugural Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year for The Coyote Tracker, presented by the AWA (Academy of Western Artists). Sweazy has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies.

Sweazy applied the Page 69 Test to See Also Deception, his new Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, and reported the following:
On page 69, Marjorie finds the invasive plant, musk thistle, on her own land. She is on her way home from her first visit in town after learning that Calla Eltmore committed suicide. Musk thistle is the plant that sent her to phone the library to see if it was an perennial or biennial plant for the index she was writing. When no one answered, Marjorie knew something was wrong. While this incident isn’t deeply representative of the rest of the book, it does represent the essence of Marjorie’s character. She is curious to a fault. Her curiosity leads her to ask questions that may in the end be uncomfortable—or dangerous—for her. It is this trait that propels Marjorie forward to investigate Calla’s death on her own. Marjorie couldn’t believe that Calla was capable of killing herself, and she sought out the answers when no one in the position of authority would help her find the truth. The musk thistle, considered a weed, blended in with the rest of the thistles, hiding in plain sight, just like the answers—and the killer—that Marjorie was intent on seeking out.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny (April 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights"

Brooks Benjamin lives in Tennessee with his wife and their incredibly spoiled dog.

Benjamin applied the Page 69 Test to My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights, his first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When the team met after school for the first practice of the season, everyone huddled in their usual groups. First string all together, talking and laughing. Second string doing the same thing.

And the blue team. My team. We just sort of stood around, looking at each other like we weren't really sure why we were even there.

"All right, men," Coach Bear said, waving us into one big group. He crossed his arms. They were so hairy it made his gut look like it had a unibrow. He dragged one hand down his mustache and sighed. "Thursday's our first game. Pine Ridge Middle."

Coach Donnelly nodded. "Gotta watch their backfield." He was basically a miniature version of Coach Bear.

"Yep. We're five and oh against 'em but that don't mean we ain't gonna go out there and play like we're oh and five, right?"

The team grunted out a round of cheers.

Coach Bear pulled his baseball cap down. I wasn't sure how he ever saw with it covering ninety percent of his eyes. "That's what I wanna hear! We're gonna go undefeated, boys. I ain't gonna accept a loss. Not with the offense we got this year."

More cheers. Grunts.

"You know my favorite saying. Second place is the first loser. We gonna come in second Thursday?"

After a loud round of NOs, we took off for our warm-up jog.
My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights is, at its core, a book about discovering what you're passionate about. For Dillon, it's dance. But he's currently getting nudged into football by his dad. So this scene dumps us right at the beginning of the team's first practice. We see the team, the coach, and the concept of football through Dillon's eyes for the very first time. I love how this scene follows one where Dillon and his dance crew, the Dizzee Freekz, practice a new routine because you get to see a clear difference in how he perceives the two activities. Another reason I enjoy this scene is because it's the first of many where Dillon's on the field. And the more we see Dillon dancing and practicing, the more we're able to see how each changes in his own mind. I won't say whether the changes are positive or negative ones, but they definitely don't stay the same.
Visit Brooks Benjamin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue