Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Heritage of Cyador"

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer.

Modesitt applied the Page 69 Test to  Heritage of Cyador, the 18th book in The Saga of Recluce, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Speaking of similarities – ” Lerial slides the cloth-wrapped miniature from his riding jacket, using a slight concealment to blur it, should there be eyes in the walls, so to speak, although he can sense no one near but the guard, then slips the miniature into the older man’s hand. “– there are more than a few.”
In this scene, Lerial has just met Rhamuel, the arms-commander of the neighboring duchy of Afrit, who is also the younger brother of the duke of Afrit… and, equally important and potentially dangerous, the former lover of his aunt, and the father of Lerial’s young cousin, a fact unknown in Rhamuel’s land and barely known in Cigoerne, Lerial’s duchy, a land created by the refugee descendants of the emperor of fallen Cyador. The miniature is the first portrait Rhamuel has ever seen of his daughter.

The scene is an example of all the intrigues that surround the two men, both younger brothers, although Rhamuel’s brother is the ruler, and Lerial’s is the heir. Both men are far more talented and accomplished than their siblings, and the future of their respective lands rests on their abilities in both battle and in intrigue. But all eyes are on both of them, and neither can afford to reveal that they are more closely linked than any can suspect, for both might well then be considered traitors, even though Lerial has been sent as a commander of three companies of Mirror Lancers to assist Afrit in repelling an invasion by their mutual enemy. If either fails, or is discredited, both lands will likely fall.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Allegiance"

Beth Bernobich is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, among other places. Her books include the young adult fantasy Fox and Phoenix, the fantasy trilogy River of Souls, and the newly released The Time Roads.

Bernobich applied the Page 69 Test to Allegiance, the third book in the River of Souls trilogy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I go to Duenne tomorrow,” he said. “Leos Dzavek is dead. Armand will know that soon, if he does not already. You can imagine what follows next. So I intend to demand a public audience before the entire council. It is my right as my father’s heir. There I will say all that I should have said years before.”

At first Emma was unable to speak. Dzavek dead. Raul Kosenmark returning to court and council. It was as though the gods had reached down and overturned all their lives. But immediately after came the thought, He dissolved his shadow court, but his spies are still at work in Károví.

She wondered what else he had kept from her and Benno.

“Will Armand listen?” Benno asked softly. “He never has before.”

Another shrug, but Emma did not mistake that gesture for indifference. “I cannot tell. I also intend to speak with my father and his factions—with any faction that will have me—so that mine is not the only voice. There are others who might dislike me, but they dislike more the idea of a senseless war. They know that Károví will not yield, if they ever do yield, without a long and bloody fight.”

More revelations. “When did your father return to court?”

Kosenmark smiled bitterly. “Another recent event. I wrote to him last month, during my absence.”

Yes, the absence that remained a mystery.

“What of Lir’s jewels?” Benno asked. “Dzavek had one. Surely—”

“I have no report about them.”
Allegiance is the third book in my River of Souls trilogy, set in the fantasy world of Erythandra, which tells the story of a young woman named Ilse Zhalina and her journey toward independence. It's also the story of two nations on the brink of war. One of the chief players is Lord Raul Kosenmark, an exiled councilor, who runs a secret organization to influence politics from afar. On page 69, he announces his intention to abandon secrecy and openly oppose the king's call for war. The decision marks a turning point not only for Kosenmark himself, but also for his allies, his enemies, and the kingdom.

So does page 69 represent the book? It definitely represents the political aspect of the entire trilogy, which has centered around Raul Kosenmark's efforts for peace. Ilse Zhalina herself plays an important role in those efforts, at first as Raul's helper, then as his lover and partner. While she's not present in this scene, her actions in the previous book have led directly to Raul's decision, which in turn will lead them both to the king's court and the final confrontation with their enemies.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Passion Play.

--Marshal Zeringue

"The Golden Hour"

Todd Moss, formerly the top American diplomat in West Africa, draws on his real-world experiences inside the U.S. Government to bring to life the exhilaration—and frustrations—of modern-day foreign policymaking. His new novel, The Golden Hour, was originally inspired by the August 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania when Todd was dispatched by Secretary Condoleezza Rice to negotiate with the junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Moss is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has taught at the London School of Economics (LSE) and at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He holds a PhD from SOAS and a BA from Tufts University. Moss is currently Senior Fellow and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington DC.

Moss applied the Page 69 Test to The Golden Hour and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Golden Hour, the State Dept crisis manager Judd Ryker is sitting in his car in the CIA parking lot talking on the phone with a lobbyist who represents the President of Mali, who has just been overthrown in a coup. She’s urging him to stand up for what’s right and not allow worries over terrorism to let the US government to abandon democracy. It’s a classic dilemma faced by policymakers during real crises and a driving tension in the plot. A great window into the story!
Visit Todd Moss' website.

Writers Read: Todd Moss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"White Tiger on Snow Mountain"

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and comparative literature and an MFA in writing, both from Columbia University. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His second novel, Mystery Girl, was picked as one of The New Yorker’s best books of the year. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography.

Gordon applied the Page 69 Test to his story collection White Tiger on Snow Mountain and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Good,” Nina said, hailing a taxi. “He should have died sixty-nine years ago. With me.”

I tried reasoning with her in the cab, but she just worked herself up even more, eventually turning on me, if only because I was there: I was, she declared, secretly pleased at this outcome. I had never believed her and had been snidely playing along, mocking her the whole time in my pompous, bookish way. I was completely closed off to spiritual ideas and emotionally shut down as well. I did think she was a prostitute. I had never loved her at all.

“Who do you think you are anyway?” she demanded.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. No one.”

It must have been Durel’s day off because when we got to 7402 and Nina banged on the door, a small, round Latina lady answered.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

“Liu Ping!” Nina shouted and ran past her.

“Sorry,” I said, “she’s family,” which was ludicrous. Nina looked like the pep squad captain in a cable movie about All-American cheerleaders. We followed to the alcove where Liu Ping lay dying. He was definitely dying—that anyone could see.

His shriveled head seemed no bigger than my palm, the features all folded into each other, like a fist. His body was just sticks and plaid pajamas. There was really almost nothing left of him, some skin, a few white hairs, two stunningly beautiful brown hands, and that slow breath like a wind from the other side. Instinctively we all stopped, Nina, the lady, and I. We stopped and stared, in awe, at the dark majesty of death. Then
Since this is a short story collection, the odds of a random page summing up the themes or content of the book are even slimmer than usual, but I do think there are some hints here. This passage is from a story called “Su Li-Zhen,” about a woman in contemporary New York who becomes convinced she is the reincarnation of a courtesan from old Taipei and enlists her ex-boyfriend (the narrator) in a search for her reincarnated lover. So it is a ghost story, but also a realistic, wry tale about the difficulty of creating intimacy and relationships in the contemporary world. I tried to make Nina almost like a character from a classic screwball comedy, but also there is also a more emotionally raw aspect and a darker, sadder, level that is always present, but that maybe the characters themselves don’t want to look at and I think that does relate to the collection as a whole. Or maybe it is just a random page!
Learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Sweet Sunday"

John Lawton has written seven Inspector Troy thrillers, two standalone novels, and a volume of history, and has edited several English writers (Wells, Conrad, D. H. Lawrence) for Everyman Classics. His thriller Black Out won a WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, A Little White Death was named a New York Times notable book, and his latest Troy novel A Lily of the Field was named one of the best thrillers of the year by the New York Times. His recent novels include Then We Take Berlin, the first book to feature Joe Wilderness, and the newly released Sweet Sunday.

Lawton applied the Page 69 Test to Sweet Sunday and reported the following:
Page 69 of Sweet Sunday is set in the book’s present, from which most of the rest of the novel is flashback. Oddly, it’s the scene that is most conventional – when Turner Raines meets with a detective from the NYPD and is told his buddy Mel was murdered. Conventional in that it’s a vital scene in any crime novel, odd because I never saw this as a crime novel as I wrote it. I saw it as a novel, in which crime plays a part. I’d say, if you were skimming and got to page 69, yes you’d probably read on because it is the point in the book when it most resembles the mystery it isn’t. If you’re hooked by that, then I’d like to hope the life of Turner Raines, unravelled in the next 200 pages, proves as engaging as any mystery.
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website.

Writers Read: John Lawton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Waistcoats & Weaponry"

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her debut novel, Soulless, won the ALA's Alex Award. The following books were all bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is currently writing her YA Finishing School series. She is overly fond of tea.

Carriger applied the Page 69 Test to Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the Finishing School series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
This seemed to trouble the professor of late, for he would sporadically attempt to rid himself of the fuzzy protuberance. Since he was immortal, this did not work, for the moment the razor was put away his mustache grew back to its exact former state.

Sometimes, like tonight, he’d only managed to shave halfway before getting distracted, so the mustache looked as if it had lost its purchase at last and slid dangerously to the side and was trying, before their very eyes, to claw its way back up. It was hypnotic and difficult not to stare because the facial hair grew as quickly as a vampire’s wounds might heal.

“Young ladies, why are you leaving my class so soon, whot? I believe we have not yet even started. Wait a moment there! Don’t I know you? Yes, I think I do, I believe you are dancers to perform this evening. Or, wait...”

Sophronia and Dimity curtsied apologetically.

“Sorry, sir,” said Sophronia, “we’re excused. There’s this masquerade, you see?”
Dimity added, “Her brother is engaged, very exciting. We have to catch transport tomorrow and we need our beauty rest.”

“Well, that is no lie,” added Preshea from her seat near the back of the room.

The vampire lost interest halfway through their explanation. “Oh, yes, well, if you insist. Don’t forget your sausage, whot.” His mustache had almost resumed full bushiness.

“Of course not, sir,” replied Sophronia with a perfectly straight face.

“I believe they are bringing Viscount Mersey, does he count as a sausage?” Preshea was inclined to be fresh.
I think this is pretty representative of Waistcoats & Weaponry, and of my style. The bit with the mustache is pretty classic Carriger (I have a thing about mustaches, they will creep into most of my writing). Also this scene features a vampire in a position of authority being silly, young women being stroppy, and a hint at romance ~ all typical of this particular installment in my young adult series.

There isn't as much of the main character, Sophronia, on this page as there is in the rest of the book, nor as much action as begins occurring once the girls leave for the masquerade. Also the rest of the story is quite a bit more steampunk. But apart from that, I think it quite representative for the Finishing School series.

I don't know if the skimming reader would be inclined to read on, I suspect that is a matter of the skimmer's taste, as it were.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Soulless.

The Page 69 Test: Changeless.

Writers Read: Gail Carriger (November 2010).

Writers Read: Gail Carriger (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"The Firelight Girls"

Kaya McLaren is the author of Church of the Dog, On the Divinity of Second Chances, How I Came to Sparkle Again, and most recently, The Firelight Girls.

McLaren applied the Page 69 Test to The Firelight Girls and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ruby’s favorite thing about camp when she was twelve was not doing dishes. As the campers finished eating, they sang songs while they scraped their plates into a coffee can and then stacked them. And that’s when Ruby’s favorite part of the day came—when one person took the pile of plates to the little window of the dishwashers’ station, and that was it. Poof. Gone.

Just two days ago, Ruby stood at the sink, elbows deep in suds scrubbing a particularly difficult cheese-coated casserole dish. “Why do I have to wash all the dishes all the time and Fred never does?” She glanced over at her brother who was leafing through the Sears Catalog, looking at beebee guns.

“Because your brother mows the lawn and chops wood,” her mother answered.

“He doesn’t do either of those things three times a day—or even year-round,” muttered Ruby.

“You can stop that attitude right now,” said her mother firmly.

The discussion was over. Ruby’s place as a girl was reaffirmed—she was destined to be a servant, or at the very least, a second-class citizen. At school, Fred and the other boys got to have P.E. in the shiny new gym with the nice floor, while they, the girls, had P.E. in the old gym with the warped floor. And afterward, Fred and the boys had a towel service, but the girls had to bring their own towels. After school, boys had the opportunity to participate in sports, but if you were a girl, your only opportunity was to cheer for the boys. “It’s just the way it is,” her mom had explained, but nonetheless, the injustice of it infuriated her.

But not this summer. No, not this summer at camp. Here at camp, she was a second-class citizen to no one. Here at camp, she was no one’s servant. Sure, there were chores they did after breakfast and flag ceremony, but they didn’t bother her because everyone made the mess and everyone helped clean it up. It wasn’t like everyone made the mess and only the girls cleaned it up. How she loved her one week a year of equality.
The Firelight Girls has five main characters, and Ruby on page sixty-nine is just one of them, but I think page 69 is pretty representative of the book in one important way: It examines why camp was so important to Ruby. The reason camp was important varies from person to person and some reasons, like Ruby’s, are unique to a time in history. It had never occurred to me that one reason to love camp would be to have a whole week of being a second class citizen to no one, that is until a woman from my mother’s generation said that to me when I asked her why camp had been so important to her. Ruby’s taste of equality leaves her wanting more than a husband that will treat her like a servant, so, when at her wedding reception she sees that’s exactly what he’s going to do, she runs and sets a messy chain of events into action.

Each of the characters in my book discover something profound at camp that changed their lives—their own reason camp was important. Ethel, the former camp director, discovered true love and her life’s work. Shannon discovered the limitations of competition and the virtues of cooperation. Along with that, she learned to appreciate poetry and to lighten up. Laura discovered not only her love of nature, a love that would lead her to find her husband as she hiked the Wonderland Trail, but perhaps even more importantly, she discovered peace.

All of those reasons were profound enough to lead these four women back to camp together just in time to meet Amber, a teen runaway, who discovers family at camp—something she’s never really had before.

The Firelight Girls is warm and uplifting with (spoiler alert!) a happy ending. Enjoy!
Visit Kaya McLaren's website.

Writers Read: Kaya McLaren.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Crashland"

Sean Williams is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of several novels for adults as well as the coauthor of the middle grade series Troubletwisters with Garth Nix. As a resident of South Australia—which he reports is a lovely place a long way away from the rest of the world—Williams has often dreamed of stepping into a booth and being somewhere else, instantly. This has led to a fascination with the social, psychological, and moral implications of such technology. When not pondering such weighty matters, he can generally be found eating chocolate (actually, he eats chocolate when pondering these matters, too).

Williams applied the Page 69 Test to Crashland, the sequel to Twinmaker, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Crashland contains one critical plot turn that will resonate with readers of the series, plus a number of small details that make me smile for personal reasons.

Clair’s best friend Libby, who is the driving force behind book one, has just appeared out of nowhere. What does it mean? How will Clair react? Will it change Clair’s current plan? Is it really Libby at all? These questions vex Clair all through the series, and here they all are on one page.

As to the rest.... Well, every book is at least partly autobiographical, as this page proves. Vanilla oil is my wife’s favourite perfume. Rice broth, or congee, is in my opinion the best comfort food ever invented. “Jitter-punk” is a musical genre I made up on the spot: no idea what it sounds like but I’d love to hear it. The band The Ponies refers to my best friend, who has two unrelated girl friends that he calls “Pony”. It always seemed logical to me that they should form a band. And “Pinch Me”: why not? All the best pop songs have strange/silly names. (He said, thinking that it at least might be true.)
Visit Sean Williams' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"The Sword of Michael"

Marcus Wynne is a charter member of the Been There, Done That Club. He's got all the T-shirts and knows all the secret handshakes. He enjoys poetry, ballet, knife fighting, and serial monogamy with fierce feminists. He is the author of multiple Amazon ebook bestsellers including contemporary thrillers No Other Option, Warrior in the Shadows, Brother in Arms, as well as With a Vengeance, Johnny Wylde, and Air Marshals.

Wynne applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Sword of Michael, and reported the following:
Page 69 is actually a key scene in the relationship between the protagonist, Marius Winter, a shamanic depossessionist, and Jolene LaMoore, the love of his life, a Wiccan priestess.

Page 69 is a key scene on several levels. From the plot perspective, it’s a foreshadowing of what is unrolling (unbeknownst to the protagonist and his girlfriend) around the two of them. From the character development perspective, for both Marius and Jolene, it’s one of the scenes that illuminates the deep structure of their relationship — and the fierce independence and interdependence that characterizes their love affair.

From Marius’s evolution as a character perspective, it’s one of the key reveals — “I can’t help it. It’s my nature.”

From page 69:
This time.

A faint whisper from my guides…Chicken

I took a deep breath.

“I respect you and your work, Jolene. You know that. As sure as the breath we both breathe. Okay? Here’s the thing: this is already a violent fight. Dillon and me, we’ve been down this road before. And yeah, so have you. I know this. This is very focused on me. I need to keep my mind in the fight. And yes, it’s a character flaw, and I’m painfully aware of it, but I can’t concentrate when I’m thinking or worrying about you. I will, I can’t help it. It’s my nature.”

“Like the scorpion and the frog.”

“Sure. Whatever. You in this makes me more vulnerable.”

“What?”

“It’s warrior strategy, Jolene. You’re my distraction. You’re my weakness. That’s how they’ll try and get me. They tried the straight on frontal. All it did was add to my body count and Dillon’s compost pile. But with you…they’ll try to get at me through you. It’ll add fear and uncertainty…you know how they feed on that.”

She studied my face. Sat back, touched one finger to her drink. I saw understanding in her.

“Yes,” she said. “I know what they feed on.”

“Will you do this for me? Please? It will help me get through this. Just stay out, look to yourself. I know you can take care of yourself. I need you to be my safe harbor if I need one. I mean, when I need one,” I added in a hurry.

She got up and went to the counter. “Johnny?” she called to the extravagantly tattooed and coiffed rockabilly manager. “Would you get me a refill please?”

“Sure,” he said. “House?”

“No. The Guatemalan Organic.”

He decanted some for her, and dropped me a knowing wink as she turned back to join me at the table.

Thanks for that, Johnny.

She eased into her chair, all back clad lissome length of her. A waft of her perfume, heated by temper and the body I knew so well, filtered my way.
Visit Marcus Wynne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 7, 2014

"What the Lady Wants"

As clichéd as it sounds, Renée Rosen is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, the author loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.

Rosen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age, and reported the following:
This snippet leads into one of my favorite scenes from What the Lady Wants. By this point in the novel, Nannie is well aware that her husband is in love with her neighbor Delia and you know what they say about a woman scorned.

But that’s only one aspect of What the Lady Wants. Here’s a better representation of the novel: In late 19th century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.”
His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer, and led to an infamous love affair.

The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watched the flames rise and consume what had been the pioneer town of Chicago, she couldn’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world was about to change. Nor would she have guessed that the agent of that change would not simply be the fire, but more so the man she met that night…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie— including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago was transformed into the Gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.

From page 69:
A few days later Nannie invited Delia to tea. She arrived wearing a purple silk Madame Gabrielle dress with two gathered flounces and a rolling collar trimmed in velvet. But Nanny greeted her in a simple skirt with a tablier hanging down the front. At first Delia thought she had arrived too early, but it became apparent that Nannie had no intention of changing. Delia ended up feeling terribly overdressed and awkward.

Still, Nannie had a lovely table for two set near the window in the parlor. The cockatiels were perched in their golden cage, squawking and flapping their wings in a fury as Delia passed in front of them.

The weather had called for rain according to the newspapers, but so far it was a crisp fall day, not a cloud in the sky. The sunlight coming through the window shades landed directly in Delia’s line of vision. She could see the bands of sunlight running across her arms and hands and no doubt across her face.

“Excuse me,” Delia said, squinting to block the sunlight, “but would it be possible to adjust the shades?”

“Of course, of course.” Delia waited patiently, but Nannie never called for her butler and made no attempt to adjust them herself. Instead, she went on talking. “You and Arthur are such a fun couple. Everyone always says you’re the life of the party.”

“Well, Arthur’s the instigator, you know.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard. Weren’t you the one who started everyone playing charades at the Swift’s dinner party?”

Delia cringed inwardly remembering that night when Arthur had behaved so badly.
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Deeper Than the Grave"

Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series — featuring intrepid gunshop owner Tai and her corporate security agent partner Trey — has garnered starred reviews in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Published by Poisoned Pen Press, this Atlanta-based series debuted with The Dangerous Edge of Things, followed by Darker Than Any Shadow (2012) and Blood, Ash and Bone (2013).

Whittle applied the Page 69 Test to Deeper Than the Grave, the fourth book in the series, and reported the following:
The sixty-ninth page of the fourth book in the Tai Randolph series – Deeper Than the Grave – is entirely atypical for both the series and her life. Tai is the half-owner and sole proprietor of Dexter’s Gun’s and More, an Atlanta gun shop that caters to Civil War enthusiasts and reenactors, especially those of the Confederate persuasion. Her slightly-estranged brother, Eric, is the other half-owner.

Tai is somewhat reckless, highly emotional, and trusts her gut reactions more than a play-it-safe sensibility. Eric is sophisticated, almost ten years her senior, and has a PhD in psychology that he often wields against Tai as if it were an efficiently keen scimitar. The scene on page sixty-nine is a rare moment of détente between them.

Of course Tai is trying to grill him for some information connected to a grotty skull she’s stumbled upon, which is why she’s giving him a ride to the airport. And of course Eric is jetting off to yet another speaking engagement nowhere near his sister’s haphazard “investigation.” But in Tai’s Camaro, for this one scene, there’s a real connection between these two very different siblings, an authentic emotional presence. I hope the goodwill they forge here will turn into foundational ground for them.

From page 69:
The next morning dawned sunny and clear and bitter cold. I kept the engine running and the heater blasting as I parked in front of my brother's house. His lawn wore the dead of winter well, the leafless dogwoods and winter-spare azaleas complementing the lines of his Arts and Crafts bungalow. I knew better than to honk in his part of Virginia Highlands, but of course I didn't have to—Eric was already coming out to meet me, suitcase rolling beside him like a well-behaved dog.

Maybe it was the bright clear light, but he looked thinner, more gray hairs among the dark blond tousles he so carefully cultivated. He'd turn forty this year, I remembered with a start. I had thirty in my headlights and no gray yet, but my brother's hair was a portent of things to come. He popped his luggage in the trunk, then slid into the passenger side, balancing a travel mug as he arranged his messenger bag between his knees.

"I could have gotten a car," he said, fastening his seatbelt. "The coffee's for you, by the way. Blue Mountain. Sugared and creamed."

I took the mug from him. "Let me guess. Organically sourced from a single cow in Switzerland."

"Oh, you are full of funny this morning, aren't you?"

I laughed as I pulled the Camaro into his driveway for a quick turn-around.
Learn more about the book and author at Tina Whittle's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Darker Than Any Shadow.

The Page 69 Test: Blood, Ash, and Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Ugly Girls"

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and two pit bulls.

Hunter applied the Page 69 Test to Ugly Girls, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ten hours of that light left Jim feeling like an animal. And he got to leave it after that. These men had to stay. Once, a meek, whip-thin drug addict on a three-year stint had come in, and it was clear he had meant to stay under the radar, never asking for seconds, never looking anyone in the eye. Jim had hope for him, had even stopped outside his cell to talk about the weather. The addict talked about feeling the warm rain on his face once he got out. But those lights. After a month the man had to be thrown in solitary for writing CRACK in his own fecal matter on his roommate’s bed.

Jim rounded the corner and saw that O’Toole was also waiting to be buzzed in to the next area. “Morning,” Jim said.

O’Toole snapped his fingers what felt like mere centimeters from Jim’s nose. “Get a cup of coffee, Tipton. It ain’t fucking morning.” Jim grabbed O’Toole’s hand so tight he could hear the surprise pop pop of O’Toole’s knuckles cracking. Happened almost before he could stop himself. Like he had turned the channel and now he was watching some new scene. O’Toole wasn’t a big man, but he’d fight back if it was called for, and the thought made Jim let go.

“What the fuck, Tipton?” O’Toole was panting, his breath warm and moist.

“Just kidding around,” Jim said. He could barely get the words out. Lactic acid was pouring into his muscles. He felt feverish, and sorry, and filled with dread. “Go on ahead,” he told O’Toole, though the man had already turned.

Sometimes Jim thought if he could just take Perry to work, if she could just see what breaking the rules did to a person . . . but then this shit with O’Toole reminded him that life wasn’t no better on the other side of the bars. He shook his head. Had to stop thinking like that. But it was true. Taking Perry to work would only show her that you’re damned if you do and goddamned if you don’t.
Jim is actually one of my favorite characters in the book, and I love his scenes when he's at work. He's a prison guard, and at home he's got an alcoholic wife and a teenage stepdaughter, Perry, who he sees going in a bad direction, so for Jim maybe the only time he feels any peace is on the drive to or from work. But even then, he's driving toward something terrible. His worry about humanity, his worry about Perry, they are one and the same. He sees how men turn into animals and he has been fighting it in himself for some time. He wants something different for Perry but he knows that might be a pipe dream. This feels pretty representative of the book in that the characters are often working toward or pining for a different life, or even a different moment in the life they're in, and that pining only illuminates the life they're actually in. The moment they're actually in. Over and over, they're confronting themselves. The selves they are and the selves they want to be and the selves they wish they weren't. So read on, readers! We're in this together, now.
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--Marshal Zeringue