Friday, March 27, 2015

"When Reason Breaks"

Cindy L. Rodriguez was a newspaper reporter for the Hartford Courant and a researcher for the Boston Globe before becoming a public school teacher. She is now a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school. She is also a founding member of Latin@s in Kid Lit and a member of the We Need Diverse Books team. She lives in Plainville, CT, with her young daughter and rescue mutt.

She applied the Page 69 Test to When Reason Breaks, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
(Ms. Diaz) asked Emily to read aloud. She seemed startled to be called upon but didn't protest. She read:

I dwell in Possibility -
A fairer House than Prose -
More numerous of Windows -
Superior - for Doors -

"You were supposed to go easy on us. This is making my head hurt," said Kevin.

"Good," responded Ms. Diaz. "That means you're thinking. Now, who can tell me what's going on in the first stanza?"

No hands went up. Elizabeth stared at the lines of poetry, rereading them several times. She then started to write and draw in her notebook.

"What do you notice about the poem? Let's start there."

Tommy tentatively raised his hand. Ms Diaz nodded at him.

"She uses capitalization in unusual ways."

"Good. That's a start." Ms. Diaz underlined the capitalized words.

"Should we be underlining these?" asked Kevin.

"Yes," she said. "Now, what does the capitalization do for these words?"

"Gives them importance," said Tommy.

Abby smiled admiringly at Tommy. Elizabeth noticed when she peeked from behind her hair-curtain.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?
In some ways...This is a school-based story, so there are several important scenes that happen in Ms. Diaz's classroom. Also, Emily Dickinson's life and poetry heavily influence the story, so it's fitting that they are addressing one of her poems on page 69. Through the analysis of a few of Dickinson's poems, the main characters--Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis--discover that they have more in common with Dickinson and with each other than they first thought. Interestingly, many of the characters are named on this one page: Emily, Elizabeth, Ms. Diaz, Tommy, Kevin, and Abby, so the reader would get an immediate glimpse of the major players by previewing this page.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?
I hope so! A reader skimming this page would be inclined to read on if he or she is interested in a story that includes diverse characters, a positive and important teacher-student relationship, and teen girls who are struggling with depression and whose personal problems are laid bare as they grow more familiar with themselves, each other, and the life and work of Emily Dickinson. I think a reader would get a sense of this when skimming page 69 and would continue reading if this kind of contemporary young adult story appeals to them.
Visit Cindy L. Rodriguez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Dreamfire"

Kit Alloway writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs.

Alloway applied the Page 69 Test to Dreamfire, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 drops us into the middle of Josh explaining some of the complexities of the Dream to Will. In that way, it is pretty representative of the book—the Dream is at the center of all the action. But it also hints at the conflict between Josh and Will when she tentatively asks whether he believes in souls. Souls become a big part of this story, as does Josh’s anxiety about opening up to Will. The next page, though, gives us a lot of insight into Will’s thought process.
Visit Kit Alloway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"A Fireproof Home for the Bride"

Born in Minnesota and reared in North Dakota, Amy Scheibe currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Brian Flynn, and their two children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Fireproof Home for the Bride, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the first page of Chapter Five: To Hold a Thing Unknown. Two very important things happen on this page: First, Emmy Nelson puts on men’s clothing in order to prove herself capable of being a farm wife. She is awoken in the middle of the night by the slamming door of a pick up truck and is already wearing a flannel shirt and overalls, as she is expecting this to happen. She pulls on her grandfather’s cardigan and then her father’s barn coat: ready to assist with the birth of a new calf on a cold winter’s night. But before she can even leave the house, her fiancé is standing at the door, asking her to make coffee and call her father. Gender roles are fanned and extinguished in this way throughout the novel, which is set in the pocket of time between Rosie the Riveter and Gloria Steinem. Second: Emmy is dreaming of a new love even as she is determined to prove herself worthy of the one assigned to her. The hope of knowing a greater world outside of her family’s expectations is already taking shape inside of her, and will eventually propel her in surprising ways.
Visit Amy Scheibe's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Duplicity"

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said "no one could make a living" with an English degree. It wasn't too many years later Traver realized it didn't matter what the job paid--nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

Traver applied the Page 69 Test to Duplicity, her first novel, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
I jerk another drawer out, one that used to hold my old Goth things from my days dating Ginger: belts with poison symbol buckles, spikey collars, chains, armbands, and my small but loud collection of weird ties. Now expensive watches and cufflinks fill the space, tidy as the other drawers.

Not mine not mine not mine—

“One,” Mom counts, from the other side of the door.

“One sec, geez.”

I toss the drawer away and throw my shoulder into the dresser. This time it yields, jogging reluctantly along the carpet and back into place.

“Two.”

I pull the door open, out of breath. “Mom, I’m not twelve anymore. Quit with the counting thing.”

“Could have fooled me,” she says. She strides past me and surveys the drawers, starts to ask about them, then shrieks.

You broke your new mirror? That was two hundred dollars! What is wrong with you?”

“Mom, I didn’t—”

“I can’t believe this! I try to do something nice, I thought you must be upset about something since you broke your last mirror and that pretty girl hasn’t been over yet this week—”

“But—”

“So I bought you a new one. Per usual, Brandon, my hard work is repaid with your knack for destroying everything.”
Page 69 is representative both of the main struggle Brandon’s dealing with—that his mirror reflection is really screwing up his life—and the conflict he faces at home. In the way his mother keeps cutting him off, and in that last line especially, I think this sample does a good job showing that the book isn’t just about mirror shenanigans.
Visit N. K. Traver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Soil"

Jamie Kornegay lives in the Mississippi Delta, where he moved in 2006 to establish an independent bookstore, TurnRow Book Co. Before that he was a bookseller, events coordinator, and radio show producer at the famous Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. He studied creative fiction under Barry Hannah at the University of Mississippi.

Kornegay applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Soil, and reported the following:
It’s the middle of the night, and the main character, a would-be farmer named Jay Mize, is alone in a pasture. He has just desecrated a body that he found in his field, covered by water from a recent flood. He is contemplative, having finished this awful work. Here is page 69 in full:
The horrible exertion of his chore had taken its toll on his body, and he could barely will himself to move. He just sat there in his lawn chair with the crude metamorphosis all around him, holding a murderer’s remorse. If he could last until morning, he knew that, as with any successful experiment, the moral ambiguities of night would give way to the scientific certainty of day.
If it seems insane to you that Jay has opted to dispose of the corpse rather than call the authorities, it is because he made the rash decision to move the body out of his field and place it in a shed in his backyard. Having gone that far, there was no turning back. “But it didn’t matter that he’d done nothing morally wrong by moving the body from the field. No one would understand why he had done it, and that would be as good as wrong.”

He is distrustful of society and doesn’t believe he will get a fair shake with the law. Circumstances leading to his discovery suggest this, along with his family history, his status as an outsider, his understanding of justice. His logic is still dubious, but he is a man of logic nonetheless. He values science and reason, neither of which are terribly useful here in the Mississippi back country.

Jay, a former soil scientist, turns on his scientific brain to arrive at the solution to his problem: how to most efficiently dispose of this organic matter, breaking it down to its finest elements and releasing them back into the world so that no traces of evidence will come back on him. His rendering method, which I devised after searching for some unique way to get rid of a body, is a scientific process that requires some gruesome preparation, and we have caught him as he has finished this and started the experiment.

But Jay is still a compassionate man – a father and husband, though failing at both – and is disgusted by what he has done. Frequently, he must force himself back into this dispassionate, scientific mindset to continue his experiment. The passage represents what I find most interesting about Jay – that he operates with one foot on solid ground and the other sliding into madness. His madness is not moving away from self-control but toward a cold, rigorous, dehumanizing logic. He is sharpening his mind to a point so fine that it could easily break off.

Jay’s science is sound, which may allow him to get away with his cover-up, but will he be able to keep a calm head and avoid suspicion when he is thrust into situations with the novel’s other characters? Will his morality stand, or will desperation drive him to greater crimes?
Follow Jamie Kornegay on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Golden State"

Stephanie Kegan is the author of Golden State, recently named by People Magazine as one of “The Best New Books” and Entertainment Weekly as one of “The Top 10 Things We Love This Week.”

She applied the Page 69 Test to Golden State and reported the following:
Golden State tells the story of Natalie Askedahl an everyday wife and mother, who discovers her adored older brother may be a terrorist wanted by the FBI for a string of lethal bombings. When her brother is arrested, she is thrust into overnight notoriety. With reporters camped on her doorstep, she is forced to make decisions that pit her loyalty to her brother against her need to protect her own family. As her life splits permanently into before and after, Natalie begins to understand that some of the most dangerous things in the world are the stories we tell ourselves.

From page 69:
(My plate) went flying. I saw the wine shoot from my glass. Someone asked if I was all right. I got up carefully, afraid that I wasn’t, then saw the dark stains on the overstuffed white chair, the splattered food. Guests were already springing from their seats to perform triage.

I knelt to pick up my plate, and tried to wipe the seafood curry off the Persian rug with my hand. When I stood, I saw Julia staring at me from a corner of the room. I opened my mouth to say something to her, I wasn’t sure what, but she bolted, a hand over her face.
Page 69, while largely unrepresentative of the rest of the book, is still is a part of the whole. On this page Natalie knows the FBI is secretly investigating her brother, and she is trying to carry on her normal life under the weight of that burden. She is with her husband and two daughters, aged eight and fifteen, at a party at the home of her wealthy in-laws. Natalie is carrying a plate of food from the dining room to the den, a step down. She doesn’t know how she missed the step. She is, of course, mortified when she falls into the room, the contents of her plate landing all over the elegant furniture. Worse, her fifteen year old daughter Julia is a witness to her stumble. The moment is both mundane and fraught. Two pages later, Natalie will witness her brother being arrested on national television. Her former life shattered, she will be confronted with a horrific choice that will propel her into a nightmare of confusion, lies and betrayals.
Visit Stephanie Kegan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Werewolf Cop"

Award winning author, screenwriter and media commentator Andrew Klavan is the author of such internationally bestselling novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. Klavan has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Werewolf Cop, and reported the following:
The problem in answering the page 69 test when it comes to Werewolf Cop is that, by a strange twist of providence, page 69 is the turning point of the entire novel — and I don’t want to give it away. I’m not making that up. Page 69 is the page on which the story takes a sudden turn and reveals its true nature. For 68 pages, the novel is one sort of thing. Then, on page 69, in a single very sudden, very violent, very frightening moment, it becomes something else entirely and everything that happens afterward follows from that one paragraph on that one page. In a way, many of the novels themes coalesce in that narrative moment: the curse of history, the limitations of realism, the sacrifice we have to make to fight for the good and the way that fight sometimes turns us into the very evil we oppose. All of that is in one paragraph on page 69 — so help me — so I’m just going to have to let you read it yourself.
Visit Andrew Klavan's website.

Writers Read: Andrew Klavan.

My Book, The Movie: Werewolf Cop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

"A Wicked Thing"

Rhiannon Thomas is an English Lit grad from Princeton University. She currently lives in York, England, in the shadow of a 13th century Gothic cathedral. When she isn’t lost in YA fantasy, she writes about feminism and the media on her blog, Feminist Fiction.

Thomas applied the Page 69 Test to A Wicked Thing, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of A Wicked Thing, Aurora has snuck out of the castle and is meeting a boy called Tristan for the first time.

I wasn't expecting this page to be that representative of the book, but the first paragraph is actually perfect.
Here were people, treating her like she was normal, like she had no fate and no duty and no trauma around her. Someone to talk to, not protect or manipulate. It was, she thought, a first in her life. She wanted to dwell in it longer, in this freedom, where she could breathe and talk and listen and not hide everything behind expectations.
It really captures Aurora's central struggle in the book. Everyone around her has already decided who she is and what she must do, and she feels unable to push against that. She wants "freedom," but she doesn't really know what that means or what it will entail for her.
Visit Rhiannon Thomas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"The Friendship of Criminals"

Robert Glinski is a graduate of Washington University and Temple University School of Law. He was an attorney in Philadelphia and New Jersey for a decade before transitioning to investment advising. With two writing pieces recently optioned in Hollywood, he now spends his time crafting his next novel and finishing his first screenplay.

Glinksi applied the Page 69 Test to The Friendship of Criminals, his first novel, and reported the following:
When people ask me to describe The Friendship of Criminals, I tell them to trust the title. Yes, there’s crime, but the book is as much about the unique relationships between criminals as it is heists, schemes, and scams. Page 69 is a perfect example.

Earlier in the novel, two of the younger characters – Marcek and Angie – meet in a trendy Philly dance club, though the encounter isn’t entirely random or accidental. Both are targeting the other as a mark. Marcek intends to rob the jewelry store where Angie works. She knows he’s been casing the place and wants a cut.

On page 69, they re-connect, attracted to each other despite the false bottom they discover during the initial meeting. Marcek and Angie are like two sharks in a vast ocean, drawn together because so few others understand and accept their taste for the illegal. A pair of con artists, honest in their flaws and defects. That’s page 69.
Visit Robert Glinski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Lost in Paris"

Cindy Callaghan grew up in New Jersey and attended college at the University of Southern California before earning her BA in English and French, and MBA from the University of Delaware.

She is the author of Just Add Magic (2010), Lost in London (2013), Lucky Me (2014), Lost in Paris (2015), and Lost in Rome (2015).

Callaghan applied the Page 69 Test to Lost in Paris and reported the following:
One of the things I’ve learned about my writing is that I want there to be action on every page. Page 69 of my latest book Lost in Paris is no exception. It has a very funny scene in which Gwen and crew are trying to solve a clue in order to follow a scavenger hunt around Paris. (The hunt is a race for special tickets to the world’s hottest band’s concert in Paris that night.) Gwen’s friend Brigitte, the unusual pet sitter, has a sack tossed over her shoulder. A rival team who is also racing to solve the clue stops to see what information that can tease out of Gwen’s group. It comes in wonderfully handy that there is a snake in the sack. Gwen uses Sophie (the snake) as a way to misdirect the rival team’s search, and to freak them out a bit. “What? Are you afraid of a pretty little snake?”

This is a nice demonstration of how I love to set up humorous situations. You have the good group and the bad group racing for the same thing. Add a snake in a sack, and Bam!, things get fun.
Visit Cindy Callaghan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Cindy Callaghan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Prudence"

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London. Her books are published in over a dozen different languages. Carriger has received the Prix Julia Verlanger and the Elbakin Award from French readers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Prudence, the first book in the Custard Protocol series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The Spotted Custard now boasted a completely finished exterior. Her balloon had been painted bright red with black spots and coated in the necessary lacquers and oils to make her weather resistant. She shone in the late afternoon light like some large, fat, round seedpod. The trim of the gondola section was picked out in shiny black, a stark contrast to the pale blonde wood. Railings and other details shone darkly beautiful in the late afternoon sun. Dama had insisted that black was the perfect choice being a color that matched to anything. "Now, when you lean picturesquely against the railings, my puggle, your dress will never clash." "Very well reasoned, Dama," had been Rue's straight-faced response.

Percy, on the other hand, looked about with utter indifference.

"Well, Percy," said his sister, drawing his attention to her presence, "What do you think?"

"Why name the craft after a comestible and then decorate it like a Coccinellidae?"

Rue knew better than to attempt reasoning with Professor Percival Tunstell. "Because I like it that way."

Percy wrinkled his nose at her and then, distracted, leaped forward. "Do be careful, those documents are hundreds of years old!"

Rue summoned Percy's valet with a subtle gesture. "Virgil, steer him up that gangplank and down below into the library, would you please? Spoo here will show you the way."

Spoo obliging appeared at Rue's elbow and nodded at the young valet. "Oi up, me duck?" She said, or something equally unintelligible.

Virgil looked askance at the soot covered girl, near about his own age but remarkably scruffy and laddish by comparison. "Good afternoon," he said, remembering his manners.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?
This is certainly representative of the beginning of Prudence. Since this is the start of the Custard Protocol series, I wanted to show Rue pulling together a crew full of outrageous personalities, as well as fixing her dirigible, the Spotted Custard, up to fly, decorating it, and stocking it with supplies. This scene illustrates the chaos of that kind of endeavor. In this scene, Rue's friend and soon to be navigator, Percy, arrives and sees the ship for the first time. It's clear he is not particularly interested and only cares about his books. Also, it illustrates that he is rather absent minded and has to be looked after by his valet, Virgil. (Virgil is a little young to be a gentleman's valet, but takes his duties very seriously.) In it we also see Spoo, a fun minor character throughout this series, meet Virgil for the first time. Spoo represents the decklings, the children who work on the squeak decks of Rue's new dirigible (as opposed to the sooties who work the boiler rooms below). Spoo and Virgil are destined to have a kind of sibling bickering affection, where in she is constantly shocking him with her tomboy behavior.

As a writer, I'm using this scene to show how Rue is already assuming command, in that she is organizing things (or in this case, Percy) to run more smoothly through manipulation. A lot of the backbone of this book is Rue learning about her capacities (and failings) as a leader, since she assumes the role of captain unexpectedly and must prove herself.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?
That's a hard question to answer. If you are familiar with my style and like my wacky full cast of characters, then yes, I think it likely. If you are the kind of reader who might get confused by how many different people appear on this one page, perhaps not. It's a chaotic moment, which can be confusing to read however intentionally frenetic. I write what amounts to a comedy of manners with action and romance thrown in, but this is one of the mainly manners segments that rests entirely on the personalities of characters already established in previous chapters and their reactions to a new experience, and interactions with each other for the first time.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Recipe for Disaster"

Stacey Ballis is the author of several foodie novels, including: Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over, Room for Improvement, The Spinster Sisters, Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, and Recipe for Disaster. She is also a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Recipe for Disaster and reported the following:
From page 69:
Grant sighs, his shoulders sagging. “I’m going to take the dog for a walk for ten minutes and clear my head. When I get back, I’d like us both to have a calmer conversation, can you agree to that?”

“Fine.”

Grants heads out and I go back to the bathroom to pee and try to fix the snarled shrubbery on my head. Half of it is mashed flat and the rest is sticking out everywhere, so I can’t imagine he could even take me seriously. I stick my head under the cold water in the sink, which wakes me fully, and I can begin to think about rationality. I run a brush through my wet hair and pull it back into a ponytail, brush my teeth, and throw on some jeans and a fleece. I pull on my work boots, coat, throw a hat over my wet head, and put my keys in my pocket. I think for a minute, and then I grab the bag and coffees on my way out.

I catch up to Grant halfway back from his trek around the block. The sky is just lightening, and Schatzi prances proudly by his side. He tilts his head down and looks at me with eyebrows raised, as if to ask if the crazy lady is gone.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi there. Want to walk with us?” He holds out his arm, and I slide my arm through it, gripping his puffy down coat. We don’t speak till we get to the park, where we can sit on a bench while Schatzi finds a patch of bare earth under a tree to groom herself, and we each open a cup of fragrant sweet coffee, and begin to munch our pastries.
Page 69 is right after a fight the heroine has with her fiancé, and while he is deserving of her anger, she takes it way over the top, which I do think is representative of where she is in her life and in their relationship. It is showing the cracks in the façade.
Visit Stacey Ballis's website.

Writers Read: Stacey Ballis.

My Book, The Movie: Recipe for Disaster.

--Marshal Zeringue