Friday, September 19, 2008

"Southern Poison"

A freelance writer for more than ten years, T. Lynn Ocean has published in magazines nationwide. She is the author of the novels Fool Me Once, Sweet Home Carolina, and Southern Fatality.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Southern Poison, and reported the following:
Since I did the page 69 test for Southern Fatality, first in the Jersey Barnes mystery series, figured I'd stick with that one again for Southern Poison, which was just released. What's so much fun about writing a series is the opportunity to delve deeper into the thoughts and lives of the characters so the reader can really get to know them. Of course, this series remains all about action and entertainment, but page 69 demonstrates that Jersey—while tough and savvy—has the same family troubles and romantic issues as every other woman.

If you read Southern Fatality, you've already been introduced to Duke Oxendine, a career military man and Lumbee Indian who, now retired, co-owns a pub with Jersey called The Block. It's located on the Cape Fear River and Jersey lives in an apartment on the second floor of the historic building. Jersey and Ox first met as teens in high school, right after a move dumped him in a brand new town. Jersey taught him the eleventh-grade ropes and he taught her how to box. The two became inseparable best friends and later joined the Marines together, not realizing they'd be abruptly split up two weeks later.

They remained in touch, though, and reunited when Ox took his 20-year retirement from the military and was unceremoniously dumped by his wife, Louise. (She'd waited until then, Ox later realized, so she'd be entitled to half his pension.)

I won't give you a spoiler, but suffice it to say that the romantic sparks have finally ignited between Ox and Jersey. And then, page 69 happens.

Page 69 excerpt:

My abdominal muscles relaxed and I realized I'd been holding my breath. "That's good, right? If she marries her live-in, you won't have to pay alimony any longer."

His eyes held mine for so long that I could see the pupils dilate and constrict as they focused. "She flew here because she had to see me. To be sure."

My stomach contracted again. "To be sure that she is completely over you?"


I wrapped my mind around his single word answer and thought about the laws of reciprocity. "And, you? Do you need to find out if you're completely over her?"

Ruby sashayed by our table to see if we wanted anything. Neither of us did. Sensing the conversation to be private, she kept moving.

"Jersey, the other day with you was incredible and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it—and you—since. What we might be, if we decide we want to be together. But I can't just turn Louise away."

Yes you can, I thought. She dumped you and broke your heart.

"We had a lot of good years together and she's the mother of my daughter."

A daughter who will be college-bound in a few more years.

"We don't talk about it, you and I," he continued, "but we both know that we love each other. We've been tight since high school and our relationship is something special, something magical. I'd do anything in the world for you."

Apparently not anything, since you're letting Louise barrel her way back into your life, I mused.

"Say something Jersey. Say anything. Talk to me."

I breathed deep and corralled my emotions into a small place where I hoped they'd stay dormant. "There's nothing to say, Ox. You have to do what's right for you. Lindsey is welcome to stay here. And as for me, I'm off to have a chat with Lady Lizzy."

"Want me to ride along with—"

"No, thanks," I interrupted. "I'm all set."

I left before he could protest, thinking that the dynamics of our relationship were irreversibly damaged. Ox and I were no longer tuned to the same frequency. Being around him suddenly felt clumsy and awkward. I didn't even bother to ask what information he had planned to trade with Lady Lizzy, to get her to tell all about her calendar. I had something of my own to use and didn't need his help. Or maybe I did need it, but I damn sure wasn't going to ask for it.
Read an excerpt from Southern Poison, and learn more about the author and her work at T. Lynn Ocean's website.

The Page 69 Test: Southern Fatality.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue