Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Mary Anna Evans is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates, and Strangers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Plunder, the 7th Faye Longchamp novel, and reported the following:
Ah...the Page 69 Test. It's terrifying. What if I open my book to page 69, preparing to write something cogent and life-affirming about its contents, but I find a full page of drivel? Even worse, what if I find only a half-page of drivel?

I just opened my new release, Plunder, to page 69, and found that it is the last page of Chapter Eight, and that it consists of even less than half a page of text. It is a mere 17 lines long. Please, God, don't let it be drivel. What are the odds that I found something substantive to say in 17 lines? Hang on a minute while I read it...

Okay, I'm back. There's actually a lot happening in those 17 lines, which only makes sense. A chapter-ending scene had best pack a punch, unless the author is actually hoping that readers will put the book down and walk away. In the case of Plunder, page 69 details the final moments of a conflict that is central to the story. A tiny old woman, Miranda Landreneau, is having a shouting match with a large and scary-looking stranger, Steve Daigle, and she's holding her own. He has arrived on the doorstep of the houseboat where she lives with her teenaged granddaughter, claiming to be the widower of her estranged step-daughter. To make matters worse, he says that he is now half-owner of her houseboat and that she and the girl will be needing to find another place to live. Joe Wolf Mantooth, husband of my protagonist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, is standing at Miranda's side, wanting to help but not sure how to do it.

No stranger to bullies, Miranda sets Steve straight, saying, "You'll get this boat when you're man enough to throw me overboard." Because they're in Louisiana bayou country, her position is a bit stronger than her scrawny body would suggest. She is widely believed to be a voodoo mambo, and people who know Miranda do not dismiss her casually. She can intimidate without saying a word: "Her hand went to her apron pocket....People who believed that Miranda could curse them would cower at the possibility that her hand would come out of that pocket full of hexing powder or graveyard dirt. Nonbelievers couldn't care less what a woman half their size did with their hands."

And this is where page 69 leaves Miranda and Steve. It does not say whether she has graveyard dirt in her pocket. It does not reveal whether Miranda actually does have voodoo powers. It does tell us that Steve stops short of throwing her overboard, but there's no indication that he refrains because he fears her powers. It leaves the conflict unsettled and in limbo. This is not a bad thing on page 69 of a book with 296 pages. Somebody will throw the valiant woman's little body overboard, leaving her granddaughter homeless, and throwing Faye's family and business into chaos, but page 69 is too early for me to be telling you all the details. For that, you'll need to turn to page 70...
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

My Book, The Movie: Strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue