Friday, September 21, 2018

"A Study in Honor"

Claire O'Dell grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in the years of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal. She attended high school just a few miles from the house where Mary Surratt once lived and where John Wilkes Booth conspired for Lincoln to die. All this might explain why she spent so much time in the history and political science departments at college. O'Dell currently lives in Manchester, CT with her family and two idiosyncratic cats.

O'Dell applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Study in Honor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The device before me was an ugly collection of metal rods with boxlike compartments at the knee and ankle, which housed the primitive electronics, and a foot that looked like blunt pedal. The last time I had seen a device like this, it was over ten years ago, and even then it had been an outdated model. The thing enabled her to walk, but not much more. If she had been a dancer, a nurse, she would have lost her career. As it was, she could only stand two hours at a time.

But that was life for our soldiers these days. That was our whole economy tumbling down into the black hole called the New Civil War.
A Study in Honor is the first entry in my new SF/Mystery series about Dr. Janet Watson and Special Agent Sara Holmes. Watson is newly discharged from the US New Civil War, after she lost her arm to an enemy sniper. Until she can wrangle a new prosthetic device from the government, she returns to DC and takes a job as a medical technician at the VA Medical Center. In this scene, she meets Private Belinda Díaz, who lost her leg to an IED, and who is trying to reclaim her own life.

It's a brief scene, but it captures all the important elements of the book: the seemingly never-ending newar, the plight of veterans, the crumbling economy. It's also the first clue of a mystery that both Watson and her Holmes must solve.
Visit Claire O’Dell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"After Nightfall"

Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and rescued cats.

Banner applied the Page 69 Test to After Nightfall, her third novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I tuck the key card into my purse, the one I found with the oak tree logo. To whom could it belong? I sent Nathan a text, but he said he knew nothing about it. That leaves Lauren. The key card must have been hers, even if Jensen didn’t know. Husbands don’t know everything about their wives, do they? And vice versa?
In After Nightfall, the viewpoint character, Marissa, seeks answers to the tragic death of her long-time frenemy, Lauren. The morning after a tense dinner party during which Marissa and her fiancé, Nathan, announced their engagement, Marissa found Lauren’s battered body on the beach at the bottom of a cliff. Fraught with guilt and regret, Marissa tries to figure out what happened. Did Lauren fall, was she pushed, or did she take a deliberate step into darkness?

While Marissa does interact with the detective assigned to the case, he won’t give her any insight into the official investigation, leaving Marissa to sleuth on her own. As she follows the clues, she uncovers alarming secrets about each of the dinner guests who attended the party, leading her to question the motives of everyone she thought she knew. Page 69 does represent the “whodunit” mystery tone of the novel, the idea that even those closest to us keep secrets, and Marissa’s sense of determination in her quest to discover the truth about Lauren’s death.
Visit A.J. Banner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"An Act of Villainy"

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.

Weaver applied the Page 69 Test to An Act of Villainy, her fifth Amory Ames Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Mr. Holloway picked up his glass of champagne. ‘I would also like to propose a toast. To the talented cast of The Price of Victory. You have surpassed what I imagined as I put these words on paper, and I cannot thank you enough. Especially our rising star.’ He lifted his glass. ‘To Flora Bell and the best cast in London.’

Glasses lifted across the room, though I could feel an undertone of speculations as the partygoers drank their toast.

I looked in the direction in which Mr. Holloway had lifted his glass. Flora Bell stood there, and I was surprised to see she did not look as triumphant as I might have imagined. In fact, she looked almost distracted as she smiled and nodded at those congratulating her.

My gaze then went to the flash of fire-colored fabric on the other side of the room, and I looked at Georgina. She, too, was talking to people around her. She looked very composed, as though the toast had had no impact upon her.
Page 69 of An Act of Villainy occurs after the triumphant premier of investor and playwright Gerard Holloway’s new play. Amory Ames and her husband Milo are in attendance because Mr. Holloway has revealed that his leading lady, Flora Bell, has been receiving threatening anonymous letters, and he wants them to help identify the writer. Miss Bell has made her share of enemies – not the least among them Gerard Holloway’s wife, Georgina. After all, it’s an open secret that Flora Bell is Holloway’s mistress.

This page gives an indication of the tensions that lie beneath the surface of this successful theatrical production featuring a bright new star of the stage. Amory and Milo have had their own share of marital difficulties in the past, so Amory wants to not only solve a mystery but reunite a husband and wife she is sure still love each other deeply. Alas, speculation, rumors, and lies left to simmer are sure to lead to violence and danger for all involved, and Amory and Milo will once again find themselves at the dark heart of another murder investigation.
Visit Ashley Weaver's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Most Novel Revenge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Putney"

Sofka Zinovieff studied social anthropology at Cambridge and carried out the research for her PhD in Greece. This marked the beginning of a lifelong involvement with the country.

She has lived in Moscow and Rome and worked as a freelance journalist and reviewer, writing mainly for British publications including The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, The Spectator, The Independent Magazine and The London Magazine.

After many years in Athens, she now divides her time between there and England. She is married and has two daughters.

Zinovieff applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Putney, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Greek eye bead in there. It’ll protect you – keep away the evil eye. They work, you know.’

As she waited on Putney Bridge for the bus home Jane glanced down at the bright-blue Greek eye staring out from her chest. She would never normally wear something as quirky and conspicuous as this. The panic had dissipated, but she felt as disoriented as if she’d been flung back in time and now inhabited the plump, hormonal flesh of her teenage self.
Page 69 of Putney isn’t as representative as I’d like, but it gives some clues. 50-year-old Jane has just visited her old best school friend Daphne after many years. She was horrified to see Daphne’s work-in-progress - a fabric collage that celebrates her 1970s childhood in Putney, and worse, her secret relationship with a much older married man. While Daphne says that there was nothing harmful about it, Jane feels physically ill after seeing the images of a wild-haired girl being led across Putney Bridge. A romance (as Daphne argues) or an abduction? It is Jane who will try to show Daphne how wrong she is and that a child cannot consent to a sexual relationship, even when she believes she was in love.

Jane always felt that Daphne was the slim, glamorous, adventurous “lovable” one in their youthful friendship and she easily slips back into feeling that even now, in middle age, she is gauche and takes up too much space. Her natural modesty extends to style, and the gaudy, home-made brooch that Daphne gives Jane (with a Greek bead resembling an eye – Daphne is half-Greek) just increases Jane’s sense of discomfort.
Visit Sofka Zinovieff's website.

My Book, The Movie: Putney.

Writers Read: Sofka Zinovieff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2018

"Burning Ridge"

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her canine partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Her books include Killing Trail, Stalking Ground, and Hunting Hour and have been named finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, the International Book Awards, and the Silver Falchion Awards. Mizushima spent her childhood years on a cattle ranch before receiving a master’s degree in speech pathology and then practicing as a speech therapist with a neurological communication disorders specialty. She colors her fiction with life experiences such as being a vet’s wife and training search and rescue dogs. She lives on a small farm in Colorado where she and her husband have raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima applied the Page 69 Test to her latest mystery, Burning Ridge, and reported the following:
Leading up to this page, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo have found a charred body in the mountain wilderness outside of Timber Creek. Raised in foster care, Mattie yearns for the security and comfort of family, yet can’t quite trust falling in love. Veterinarian Cole Walker is recently divorced after his wife left him and their daughters (ages nine and six), and though he’s aware of a growing love for Mattie, he’s not certain that he and his kids are ready for him to start a new relationship.

On page 69, Mattie, Cole, and Robo have come down from the mountains where they’ve been investigating a murder and are having dinner with Cole’s daughters, Angela and Sophie. Riley is a teen that Mattie met in her high school Just Say No class. Since Riley is new to town and her father works two jobs, she’s often at loose ends after school, so Mattie brought her to dinner hoping she would befriend Cole’s kids. Shortly after this page, Riley’s dad becomes a suspect.

Here’s the excerpt:
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Cole murmured.

“Our mom lives in Denver,” Sophie chimed in, as if that counted for something.

Riley nodded at her, and Mattie realized that in the minds of kids, maybe it did.

“After Mom died, Dad seemed in a hurry to move out here. I don’t know why he picked Timber Creek. It seemed like we had a lot more money back in L.A., and he didn’t have to work as much.”

That statement tweaked Mattie’s attention. Whenever anyone mentioned a lot of money, her mind shot straight to the drug trade. Occupational hazard. “What did your dad do in L.A.?”

Riley averted her eyes. “I don’t know really. Something to do with business. Like selling and trading on eBay, but not that. Just something like it.”

Her answer didn’t satisfy Mattie’s curiosity, but she decided to let it go. “I’d better take you home soon, Riley. You girls have school tomorrow. Maybe we should help Mrs. Gibbs clean up and get ready to leave.”

“Oh, come now. I can clean up the kitchen me own self.” The housekeeper’s Irish brogue colored her words. She glanced at Sophie whose face was etched with disappointment. “Why don’t you all go to the clinic to see the new coop and those chickens before you leave?”

Sophie jumped from her chair, gathering Riley’s dishes with her own to carry to the sink. “There’s three of them. Chicken Little is the smallest one, and there’s Tootie and Buck. We thought Buck was a boy, but it looks like he’s a girl. Dad and I built their chicken house.” She looked at her sister. “You’ll come with us, won’t you, Angie?”
Though page 69 represents one of the themes in Burning Ridge as well as the series—family and all the forms it might take—it isn’t a representation of the tone, setting, or action contained within the book. Publishers Weekly has described those characteristics with this quote: “…well-developed interpersonal relationships, awe-inspiring landscape descriptions, and some excruciatingly vivid action.” Page 69 is pretty tame for a book described with those terms.
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

My Book, The Movie: Burning Ridge.

Writers Read: Margaret Mizushima.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Happy Doomsday"

David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental-protection specialist while living in places as different as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska. His books include the critically acclaimed novels Rapture and Vamped.

Sosnowski applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Happy Doomsday, and reported the following:
The following passage comes from around the middle of page 69 of Happy Doomsday:
And so Dev looked at the parking lot, where the zombies weren’t, but where a lot of unclaimed personal transportation was. He hadn’t bothered with driver’s ed – hadn’t seen the point. Though not being able to drive in Michigan rendered him pretty much an invalid, regardless of his position on the spectrum, Dev knew he’d never be able to drive. Moving through an ever-changing landscape at twenty-five miles or more per hour was just too much data for his brain to process. He knew this because it had been too much for him to handle just being a passenger, which had been his argument to Leo some time ago. If his parents and he ever had to go anywhere that involved getting on the freeway, his stepdad slipped him a Xanax, and then Dev would stretch out on the backseat, eyes closed, facedown. More than once, they’d been stopped while going through customs at the Ambassador Bridge that connected Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the agents insisting that Dev get out and prove he wasn’t dead or a hostage. Maybe give him a chance to blink “help me” in Morse code or something.
This passage comes just after an event known as “the Whatever-It-Was” leaves Dev the only survivor in a high school where everyone else has mysteriously dropped dead. The passage isn’t necessarily representative because it leaves out two major characters: Lucy, a Goth girl from Georgia, and Marcus (a.k.a., Mo) from Oklahoma, both of whom also survive the original event and eventually hookup with Dev. The passage does give the reader a snapshot of Dev autistic world view and takes place at a pivotal point in the story, i.e., the doomsday of the title, which is hinted at by the reference to the school parking lot’s lacking zombies, though elsewhere in the novel there will be plenty of moldering corpses of the non-walking variety.
Visit David Sosnowski's website.

My Book, The Movie: Happy Doomsday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"When the Lights Go Out"

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry, Every Last Lie, and the newly released When the Lights Go Out.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to When the Lights Go Out and reported the following:
From page 69:
Suddenly it dawns on me all the information I’m liable to find when the woman locates my birth certificate. Not only the documentation I need to prove I’m Jessica Sloane, but the place where I was born. The exact time I slipped from Mom’s womb. The name of the obstetrician who stood below, waiting to catch me as I fell.

My father’s name.

In just a few short minutes, I’ll know once and for all who he is. Not only will I have proof of my own identity, but of my father’s as well.
On page 69 of When the Lights Go Out, twenty year old Jessie Sloan enters the Cook County Clerk’s Office in Chicago, where the Bureau of Vital Records is located, to try and track down her birth certificate – in the hopes of proving not only who she is, but of discovering who her father is. Jessie is a young woman whose mother has just died from breast cancer; she has no other family to speak of. Jessie has put the last five years of her life on hold to care for her ailing mother, but now, in the wake of her mother’s death, has made the decision to apply to college and make something of herself. But when the college’s financial aid office informs Jessie that her social security number is registered to a child who died seventeen years ago at the age of three, Jessie ventures off on an expedition to figure out who she really is.

Page 69 is quite representative of the novel in the fact that it sets the stage for what’s to come. Jessie soon discovers that there is no birth certificate on file for her and, as a debilitating insomnia begins to take hold, she falls down a delirious rabbit hole, trying to decipher if she’s really the person she thinks she is or if her mother had been purposefully withholding her real identity – and if that’s the case, why?
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Hunt The Lion"

Chad Zunker studied journalism at The University of Texas, where he was also on the football team. He’s worked for some of the most powerful law firms in the country and invented baby products that are now sold all over the world. He has wanted to write full time since he took his first practice hit as a skinny freshman walk-on from a 6’5, 240 pound senior All-American safety — which crushed both him and his feeble NFL dreams. He lives in Austin with his wife, Katie, and their three daughters.

Zunker applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Hunt The Lion, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Behind her, she could hear a growing wave of screams catching up on her. The goateed man was probably running after her with his gun on full display. Who the hell was this guy? Who wanted her dead?
Hunt The Lion is the third book in my Sam Callahan series, each of which are fast-paced thrill rides that place my protagonists (Sam Callahan and his love, Natalie Foster) on the constant run. Page 69 accurately captures the relentless pace of the stories, as it finds Natalie racing through the streets of DC while being chased by a stocky man with a gun. Natalie, an investigative reporter, has just discovered a shocking CIA video of Sam standing in a room full of dead bodies in Moscow, when she thought he was on a standard business trip in London. Nothing is what it seems, which has Natalie questioning whether she really has a future with Sam. But first things first, she must stay alive!
Visit Chad Zunker's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hunt The Lion.

Writers Read: Chad Zunker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2018

"Gravesend" and "The Lonely Witness"

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Gravesend, was published as #1,000 in the Rivages/Noir collection in France, where it was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Gravesend is currently shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK and will be reissued by Pegasus Crime in the US in September 2018. Boyle is also the author of a book of short stories, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, and of another novel, Tout est Brisé (Everything is Broken). His most recent novel, The Lonely Witness, is out now from Pegasus Crime. A new novel, A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself, is forthcoming in March 2019. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Boyle applied the Page 69 Test to Gravesend and to The Lonely Witness, and reported the following:
From page 69 in Gravesend:
A nurse had said, “You glad you’re alive?”

“Not really,” he’d said.
From page 69 in The Lonely Witness:
The car arrives ten minutes later. They go downstairs, Amy holding Diane’s arm as they take the steps one by one. Diane seems more fragile by the moment. The car is almost identical to the one Amy caught at the diner, except I DID IT “MY WAY” is stenciled on the door in yellow letters. Amy helps Diane in.
Both of these excerpts, even totally out of context, feel representative of the overall mood of each book—a haunted memory in Gravesend, a fragile and traumatic encounter that’s actually something else altogether in The Lonely Witness. There’s the feeling of doom and uncertainty, the feeling that things can and will unravel soon.
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"I Will Never Leave You"

S. M. Thayer is a pseudonym for an award-winning fiction writer and McDowell Fellow whose work has appeared in numerous publications and received several Pushcart Prize nominations. A native of New York, Thayer lived for decades in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region before moving to rural Virginia and earning an MFA from Virginia Tech.

He applied the Page 69 Test to I Will Never Leave You, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 (as told from Tricia’s point of view):
“This is America. You can believe what you want to believe, but I do seriously good work,” Simpkins [the private investigator] says, and in the pride that glows on his cheeks, I sense my trust in him isn’t misplaced. He isn’t a stupid man. He’s worked for Mark Zuckerberg, a certified tech genius, so technical skills must be in his arsenal.

“Everyone’s got secrets,” I say. “Find hers however you can. I don’t care how you find them, but I need them. The more debauched and scandalous, the better.”
I Will Never Leave You is a psychological thriller/domestic suspense novel told from the point of view of three characters who suddenly realize they can not all be happy. James and Tricia have been married for ten years but are unable to conceive a child that they both desperately want. After Tricia reacts violently to the idea of surrogacy, James’s eye wanders. He begins seeing Laurel, a young waitress freshly out of college, with a half-formed idea that he can have a baby with her and yet somehow, through charm and good fortune, still maintain his seemingly happy marriage with Tricia. Needless to say, Tricia is not exactly happy with this situation. As she says, “I don’t begrudge James the baby. But it goes without saying that I begrudge him the mistress.”

For me, what makes the novel work is that each character is fundamentally selfish in an underhanded way, yet human enough to have moments of sublime generosity and noble aspirations. It's the conflict between selfishness and generosity that hooks each of these characters up and creates the novel's tension and narrative momentum.

Page 69, although only two paragraphs long, is actually fairly indicative of Tricia’s underhanded ways. She’s a banking heiress who believes that because of her wealth, James will ultimately remain indebted (or indentured?) to her for life. In the pages leading up to page 69, she’s engaged the services of private investigator to dig up dirt about Laurel that she can use to her advantage.
Visit S. M. Thayer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2018

"Sweet Little Lies"

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Frear applied the Page 69 Test to Sweet Little Lies, her first novel, and reported the following:
I’m not sure if any one page is wholly representative of Sweet Little Lies as the goalposts shift continuously and the twists and turns come thick and fast (I hope!) However, London is very present on page 69 so in this sense, it is quite representative. When I first started writing Sweet Little Lies, I was in the process of moving out of London back to the West Midlands and writing about the city helped me deal with my homesickness!
“I just don’t understand it. I assumed she’d gone to the coast like before. She loved being by the sea, whereas she hated London. Absolutely hated it.”
The victim, Alice Lapaine, has been found murdered in London (after spending a few weeks in the city) and this has come as a great shock to her husband, Tom. He simply can’t think of a reason why she might have headed there. This is probably the first hint that there’s much more to the victim than meets the eye. Has she been living a secret life? Has she lied to her husband?

Page 69 also provides a small insight into DC Cat Kinsella’s background. The reader infers from this page that she grew up in London but that her family moved out to the Home Counties when she was still quite young. The phrase ‘the bourgeois mystique of Radlett’ is designed to tell the reader exactly what she thought of that decision - Cat Kinsella is very much a London girl at heart!
Follow Caz Frear on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Not Her Daughter"

Rea Frey is an award-winning author of nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Not Her Daughter, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I watch her, just feet from me, crouch and fold into a tight little ball. A red orb against a black, early night. She doesn’t see me. She is afraid of someone.

Her mother rockets out the back door, the baby missing from her hip, and she yells at the top of her lungs: “Emma Grace, come here right this instant!”

There’s an annoyed mother’s tone and then there’s this – poison mixed with something dangerous. Emma stands and teeters back and forth. She steps out of the woods as I reach for her, my hands closing in on air.

Amy takes a few steps forward, and Emma takes one small step back toward the woods.

“How many times have I told you not to go into those woods? Get over here right now. It’s time to go inside. I mean it.”

She moves as deliberately as I’ve ever seen a child move, as if time has been stilled and she is a slow-motion mime.

“Emma, now!”

Emma walks with her head down until she is standing a foot away from her mother. I’m holding my breath, and then Amy’s hand is around Emma’s elbow, and she is shaking her until tears prick my eyes.
Page 69 is actually representative of the whole novel. Sarah, a successful, if broken-hearted businesswoman, suddenly finds herself camping out in the woods watching a child she wants to rescue.

This is the moment when Sarah can still walk away. She is not yet a kidnapper. She has not yet done anything wrong. But she is a witness to a swiftly unfolding scene that will be the catalyst for the entire novel.
Visit Rea Frey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Not Her Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Don't Eat Me"

Born in London, Colin Cotterill has worked as teacher in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before he started training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand. He’s won the Dilys and a CWA Dagger, and has been a finalist for several other awards.

Cotterill applied the Page 69 Test to his latest Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery, Don't Eat Me, and reported the following:
Again, the supernatural takes over as we turn to page 69 [inset below; click to enlarge] and see how it represents the entire book. That isn't the usual supernatural I seed through all my books. It's the uncanny root that always seems to grow out of that one page. On it, we learn that Siri and Civilai are attempting to make a movie yet are lacking the fundamental skills needed to operate the camera. We see the quality of would-be actors for the main roles and sense the frustration our heroes feel. In France, Siri and Civilai had become cinema aficionados and dreamed of making a great film of their own. But perhaps the practical side of things is just a touch beyond their grasp.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Cotterill's website.

The Page 69 Test: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

My Book, The Movie: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

The Page 69 Test: The Axe Factor.

The Page 69 Test: I Shot the Buddha.

The Page 69 Test: The Rat Catchers' Olympics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Suffer the Children"

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office she analyzed many forms of trace evidence as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI in Florida and is the author of thirteen traditionally published novels. Some of which have been translated into six other languages, one has been optioned for film and one reached the New York Times bestseller’s list. The latest is Suffer the Children, which involves forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner in a series of deaths inside a center for violent children.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to Suffer the Children and reported the following:
Suffer the Children takes place inside the Firebird Center, a juvenile detention facility for troubled and violent children, a demographic with which neither forensic scientist Maggie nor homicide detective Jack has had much experience. A fifteen-year-old girl with two murders already under her belt has been found at the bottom of a stairwell. Fell? Jumped? Pushed? Maggie applies her forensic expertise to the scene while Jack interviews doctors, therapists and less-than-communicative juveniles. Another violent death, of course, is just around the corner, but on page 69 no one knows it yet.

Maggie is doing her thing at an unrelated crime scene, where her boss tries to engage her in a very subtle heart-to-heart—the fact that her life has radically changed since meeting Jack Renner has not gone unnoticed. But there have been other traumas to blame that on, an attack by a knife-wielding rapist, a drive-by shooting, a near-throttling and having her shoulder dislocated while saving Jack from a fatal fall, so her co-workers believe all she needs is a little talk therapy. They have no idea what she’s really done, and when a phone call summons her back to the juvenile center she is saved from her boss’s curiosity.

In the next paragraph we skip back in time one hour, as detectives Jack and his partner Riley arrive at the juvenile detention facility. The handsome and apparently caring second-in-command, Dr. Quintero, fusses about bad publicity but only because the center is desperate to expand their services and take in even more disturbed and neglected children. Jack is listening with only a fraction of his attention—he doesn’t expect this case to go anywhere, expects that the girl’s death was a simple accident and one that will not be repeated inside that facility.

He’s about to discover how wrong he is.

This page is very representative of the characters—Maggie, hardworking and troubled, Jack dogged and impatient—but occurs at a bit of a lull in the action. They believe the case is over, that they’ve done all they can and won’t be revisiting the Firebird Center any time soon. But on page 70 they will run into—literally—the next victim.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"See All the Stars"

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Frick edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her newly released debut young adult novel is See All the Stars, and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press, fall 2018).

Frick applied the Page 69 Test to See All the Stars and reported the following:
On page 69 of See All the Stars—a YA contemporary thriller written in two interwoven timelines—Ellory is on the cusp of meeting up with her best friend Ret, with whom she’s had a rather epic falling out. As she makes her way to their meeting spot at the river, Ellory reflects on the months since their friendship fell apart: her suspension from school, time spent away from their Harrisburg hometown, time spent in therapy. And the progress she hasn’t really made. This page gets at the heart of two of the book’s core themes: loss and toxic friendships.
For four months, I clung to therapy like a lifeline. Dr. Marsha was the only person I could really talk to, the only one who never judged, never tried to scrub me clean with pitying looks … I wasn’t magically cured, but I was managing the cocktail of emotions she called ‘an experiential sense of loss.’ I was coping.

Then I returned to Pine Brook. Then Ret sat across from me in AP English like everything was totally normal. Then I knew that everything I thought I’d worked through in therapy was a giant, glaring lie. Hi, my name is Ellory. I’ve been lying to myself.
See All the Stars is about losing the people who were once your entire world and about figuring out how to move on. It’s also about friendships—and what happens when they become toxic. Friendships between women in adolescence and early adulthood are rarely simple. They’re intense—intensely good, intensely close, intensely consuming, intensely critical, intensely imbued with meaning, intensely fraught with the trappings of personal identity formation and navigating an often unforgiving social world. Ellory and Ret shared a deeply intense—and not always healthy—friendship, and now that it’s over, Ellory has to figure out how to forgive herself for her role in what happened, which isn’t easy. Meeting up with Ret in this scene is one of her first steps in that direction, but she has a long, twisty road ahead.
Visit Kit Frick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

"Lucky Little Things"

Janice Erlbaum is the author of two books for tweens, Lucky Little Things, and Let Me Fix That For You (coming in 2019), the memoirs Girlbomb and Have You Found Her, and the novel for adults I, Liar.

Erlbaum applied the Page 69 Test to Lucky Little Things and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Who are you,” she demanded. It was a statement, not a question.

“I’m Emma,” I said nervously. “Macintyre.”

I wanted to get off the stage, out of the lights. Other people were waiting for their turn. I knew the mocking noises would start up again any second. Melanie just stared at me. I wasn’t sure if it was a good stare or a bad stare.

“That was incredible,” she said.
My new book, Lucky Little Things, is about a 13-year-old New Yorker named Emma who’s recently had a streak of bad things happen in her life, when she receives a mysterious note telling her that she’s going to have good luck for the next month. The mystery note doesn’t seem to be working at first – here on page 69, she has to audition for the spring play while reeling from her best friend’s betrayal, and she breaks down crying on stage. But her breakdown impresses the playwright, and Emma lands the lead role.

The whole book is about luck – what it is, how it works, and how you can have more of it in your life. Emma notices how the bad luck of crying onstage led to the good luck of getting the part she wanted, and she starts seeing more of these connections in her life, until she eventually realizes the secret behind the mystery: Luck is not a thing that happens to you. It’s everything that happens to you.
Visit Janice Erlbaum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"The Seasonaires"

Janna King is a screenwriter, playwright, and director. She has written TV movies and series for Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel, King World and more. Her two short films, “Mourning Glory” and “The Break Up,” which she wrote, directed and produced, were official selections at several film festivals.

King applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Seasonaires, and reported the following:
On page 69, Jade, one of my novel’s seasonaires says, “Millennials are ‘stupid.’” I used the single quotes around ‘stupid’ because she is referring to the negative stereotype given to her generation. My novel, The Seasonaires, is about six twenty-somethings who are paid to live a dream summer on Nantucket as brand ambassadors for a fictional clothing line, posting this aspirational life on social media. Although their job might seem superficial as they work to present a curated perfect image to the world, the characters are more than meets the eye, each with complexities and struggles.

As a mother of a 19 and 21-year-old, I can confidently say millennials are not stupid. They must navigate a world that has fallen apart, saddled with mistakes made by my generation. Social media has definitely become an obsession, plagued with its own set of evils. Yet more and more, young people are using it to connect and speak out on important issues. I am constantly inspired by their thoughtful, articulate and passionate words and actions.

Page 69 is representative of the rest of the book because the story centers on an image of millennials that transforms into various shapes. There is no singular definition. The clueless and the heartless exist at (almost) any age. As humans, we’re flawed, and my characters are no different. However, I believe that refraining from judging an entire generation is a smart and sensitive step toward a brighter future.
Visit Janna King's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Janna King & Melvin and Olive.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Blood Highway"

Gina Wohlsdorf’s first novel, Security, was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of 2016.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Blood Highway, and reported the following:
I’m not sure there’s a page in Blood Highway that represents the whole book — the plot’s so twisty, the settings are so various, the characters move in and out so much. But page 69 does contain a rant that pretty neatly represents Rainy.
“Look,” Blaine said. “People are mostly doing the best they can —”

(And Rainy says):

“Don’t do that. Don’t platitude me. People are mostly doing the best they’re willing to do, not the best they can. A person’s actual best is pretty damn good, but it’s a lot of work. So people find the maximum amount of work they’re willing to do and then they call that their best.”
She’s merciless in her honesty, cruel in her judgements. And God, how awful is it that she’s right?
Visit Gina Wohlsdorf's website.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Highway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Rust & Stardust"

T. Greenwood is the author of twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. Bodies of Water was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award.

Greenwood applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rust & Stardust, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Al moved to look over Ella’s shoulder at the book. The photos, Al realized, were mug shots, a rogues’ gallery of criminals. Carefully written notes about each felon were etched beneath: descriptions of their persons, their aliases, and their crimes. Criminal after criminal; he felt sick. Was it possible that Sally was with one of these degenerates?

Ella looked up at Al, scared.

“Go slowly, Ma,” he said softly, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Are any of them the man you met?”

She shook her head, turned the page. Then suddenly, she stopped. Her eyes widened, and she pointed at a photo. “That’s him,” she said.

Both detectives leaned over to study the photograph.

“Are you sure?” Burke, asked. “Frank La Salle?”

“He was very charming,” Ella said, her jaw set defensively. “And courteous.”

“I’m certain he was,” Burke said sympathetically. Morrow scooped the book up.

“Who is he?” Susan asked.

“I should have listened to my heart,” Ella said, to no one in particular, shaking her head. “I felt uneasy letting her go with that man.”

“No one’s blaming you, ma’am,” Burke offered, patting her shoulder.

“You’re positive . . .” Morrow said impatiently, holding the book up now, open to the photo of the hawkish man. “That this is the man who kidnapped your daughter?”

Kidnapped?” Susan cried out, and stood up.

Kidnapped? Al thought. Al went to her and put his arm around her, her shoulders shaking, her body trembling.

“Al, what do they mean?” Susan asked, looking up at him, terror in her eyes. He worried about her getting so worked up; it couldn’t be good for the baby. “Sit down,” he said, and ushered her back down into her chair.

“That’s him. The one that took Sally on the bus.” Ella nodded. “I remember the scar on his face.”
This is such an important scene in the story! Here is the moment when Sally Horner’s family is confronted with the horrifying truth of what has happened to her.

Until now, Ella had believed that Sally was simply on holiday at the Jersey shore with a classmate and her family. But after Sally failed to come home (and despite letters and calls assuring her mother that everything is okay), her family grew increasingly worried and suspicious. When a letter arrived saying that she was now headed to Baltimore, Ella finally called the police.

Rust & Stardust takes place in 1948, a simpler, more trusting time. Sally, and her family, are victims of a man who exploits this trust. This scene is when they first learn that they have been duped. From this moment on, their lives are irrevocably changed. It is the single scene in which the world as each of them know it disappears. Rust & Stardust explores the loss of innocence, not only for Sally but for those she leaves behind.
Visit T. Greenwood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rust and Stardust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2018

"The Possible World"

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won't do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

Schwarz applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Possible World, and reported the following:
The Possible World is a narrative in three voices. Page 69 is in the voice of Clare, a 99-year old woman in a care home. We’ve learned in an earlier chapter that she is carrying a lot of secrets, and may have given a false name when she was admitted to the care home twenty years before.

On page 69, she’s talking to Belinda, the head nurse in the home. Clare has just had a standoff with an aide, after discovering a new pill among the familiar ones in her cup of medications and refusing to take it. Belinda is the first speaker.
“Why do you treat people like that?” she says. “You know her name.”

“Her name doesn’t matter. She’ll move on in a year.”

“Everyone’s name matters,” says Belinda. “She knows your name.”

“Well, she’s paid to,” I say. “And it’s written on my door.”

She waits.

“Tanya then,” I say. “Tanya is giving me the wrong medicine.” I hold my hand out higher. “That’s not my pill.”

“It’s Mariah,” she says. “Not Tanya. And you knew that.”

She squints through her reading glasses at the pills. I touch each one with my forefinger.

“That’s my vitamin, and that’s my antacid, and that’s my calcium, and that’s the laxative. So what's that one?” I push it to the rim of my hand again, bring the hand up closer to her face.

“That’s a nerve pill,” Belinda pronounces.

“What?”

“Green oval with a D on it? Mmm-hmm, that’s an antidepressant.” She straightens up.

I can’t make out the D, but it is green and it is oval.

“I don't take a nerve pill. That's not my medicine. Someone mixed it up.”

Belinda lifts the top page of the clipboard she’s carrying and scans the page below.

“It’s your medicine all right," she says. “Started on Monday. Dr. Evans’s orders.”

“Why in the world,” I say, staring at the little green pill.

“His note here —“ She struggles to make out the handwriting. “He says Mandy’s reported you’re withdrawn.” She looks over her readers at me. “You do spend a lot of time on your own.”

Mandy is the recreational therapist, whose spirited intrusions we all have to bear…
Before page 69, Clare has seemed curmudgeonly dismissive of everyone around her —other residents of the home, visitors, staff. But she is not dismissive of Belinda, despite the rough familiarity with which Belinda treats her. Between them, there is an undercurrent of affection and respect. It’s the first hint that Clare’s personality is still limber, and capable of trust.

Page 69 might be very beginning of the change in Clare’s story. That little green pill provokes her to make a decision (to participate in one of the recreational therapist’s activities) that ends up changing both her life and the lives of the other main characters, Ben and Lucy (who are strangers to her at this point in the story). With the interaction between Clare and Belinda, Page 69 also contains hints of larger themes in the book: how every person is much more than she or he might appear to be on the surface—the very old, the very young, the in-between— and even that perhaps nothing is what it appears to be, and the world more complex than we know.
Visit Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Possible World.

Writers Read: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Game of the Gods"

Jay Schiffman is an award-winning writer and creator of games, animations, apps, and web experiences. He was a practicing attorney for several years and has been involved in a number of successful businesses in the digital, educational, and technology spaces. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children.

Schiffman applied the Page 69 Test to Game of the Gods, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Game of the Gods is the story of Max Cone, a revered military commander and High Judge in the Federacy, the world’s most powerful nation. Max no longer wants anything to do with the Federacy’s politics or wars. He wants to stay on the sidelines as the world slowly slips into chaos. But when his family is taken, Max has no choice but to fight back.

In trying to save his family, friends, and eventually the world, Max travels through different political landscapes fighting enemies and uncovering truths. One of his early adventures takes him through what he believes to be a friendly territory, Abstainer Territory. The Abstainers are apolitical—they don’t believe in any “isms” other than the potential for humanity to be compassionate and kind.

On page 69, Max spends time with leaders in the Abstainer Movement and begins to form some close connections. (I can’t say more than that, but there is more than that). The scene is not necessarily representative of Game of the Gods, because Game of the Gods is first and foremost a fast-paced plot-driven action adventure. But, the scene does a representative job of developing the characters, which is also integral to the story.

In this scene, an elderly Aquarius Rollins, a trailblazer in the Abstainer Movement, and her daughter Nayla, enter Max’s bedroom. Aquarius and Nayla are true believers in the principles of the Abstainer Movement, but Aquarius’ son Trace, a recovering morzium- addict, has left the movement.

From page 69:
“I’m really glad you’re here, Max,” Trace says. “I’ve never had a brother. But I kind of feel like maybe you and I could kind of be—”

Nayla and Aquarius enter the room, and Trace quickly stops talking. He’s embarrassed, and I’m thankful for the intrusion. Like Trace, Nayla and Aquarius just seem to walk into rooms without being invited. It’s not rudeness. It’s openness. Federates are all about boundaries. Abstainers are about breaking them down.

“It’s time for our morning meditations, Trace,” Nayla says. “Will you join us, Max?”

“I don’t know about Max,” Trace says, “but sure as hell I’m not joining you.” Nayla doesn’t take the bait. She ignores Trace and waits for me to answer. I stumble a little and then say, “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll just get my things and go.”

“If it’s not too much trouble, Max, I would like for you to stay while we do it. You can just watch.”

Trace and I sit on the bed like petulant children while Nayla and Aquarius kneel to the floor. They sit on rust-colored carpet with their palms facing the sky. “Thank you for hearing our words. Thank you for being present. I am Nayla. This is my mother Aquarius.”

“We are a family filled with love. We are present. We hope that we bring virtue to the day and goodwill to all we meet.” She rises to her feet and helps her mother stand. Aquarius and Nayla chant:

Our suffering is like water.

It ebbs. It flows. It roams. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

It follows. It compels. It evaporates. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

It moves. It changes. It leaves. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

Nayla pauses for a moment and asks me if I would like to chant with her. I feel beyond uncomfortable at this point. I would rather run naked through the Omniplex.
This passage does a solid job of providing the reader with a snapshot of these characters’ interpersonal dynamics and their views of the world. A few pages ahead, however, some of them are hopping into a transport, getting ambushed, and fighting bad guys. That would be more representative.
Visit Jay Schiffman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Game of the Gods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Penelope Lemon: Game On!"

Inman Majors is the author of five novels including the newly released Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

A native of Tennessee, Majors received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from The University of Alabama. He is a professor of English at James Madison University and makes his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Majors applied the Page 69 Test to Penelope Lemon: Game On! and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 10

Penelope charged toward the softball family, sure of foot and feigning good cheer, the baskets of fried vegetables as the lamest of peace offerings. Before she even arrived, the mother called out: “And what is that?”

“Just some appetizers. On the house.”

“No. I mean that big pile of something.”

Penelope set the baskets of fries down first. Then realizing what the woman was pointing at, she said: “Oh, this is our Funion Platter.”

“Your what platter?”

Penelope hated to repeat the name. In normal situations it made her laugh anytime someone ordered it. Riblets had the same effect. But she soldiered on: “Funion Platter. It’s like a huge onion ring that everyone can share.”

She smiled as she said this, to show she didn’t find the woman’s tin ear for wordplay off-putting. In the meantime, the woman had grabbed the basket before Penelope could set it down and said to the table in a harsh voice that showed what she thought of puns in lieu of ordered entrees: “Anyone want a funion ring?”

“What I want is the steak sandwich I ordered thirty minutes ago,” the father said.

Penelope noticed he had pulled his baseball cap extra low, as if trying to squeeze thoughts of food out of his mind before passing out. Or maybe to suppress burgeoning homicidal instincts. His beard looked
I’d say page 69 of Penelope Lemon: Game On! is fairly representative of the book though it’s more of a set-up page for funnier stuff to come. My protagonist, Penelope Lemon, recently divorced and strapped for cash, has taken the only job she can find in the small town of Hillsboro, Virginia—waiting tables at a frontier-styled steakhouse called Coonskins, where the décor is heavy on stuffed mammals and peanut shells tossed willfully to the floor.

Anyone who has waited tables will recognize the tyrannical family of five who have just been seated in her section. They are part of a traveling girls softball team which has stopped at Coonskins for lunch. Unfortunately, the cooks in the kitchen have screwed up the family’s order. Penelope attributes this mistake to the fact that all the cooks—for the first time ever—aren’t absolutely bat-shit stoned. “Their work brains were all fuzzy with sobriety.” Apparently Hillsboro is going through a dry patch in the weed department.

Nonetheless, the family blames Penelope for the mistake and have been pelting her with peanut shells every time her back is turned. As low blood sugar begins to reign, a showdown looms between the aggressive family matriarch and poor Penelope.

What is representative on page 69 I hope is the wordplay in the scene: the analysis of the ridiculous menu items—Funion Platter/riblets—that make Penelope cringe or laugh every time she has to say them. That sort of thing occurs throughout the novel. What’s also representative is Penelope’s kindness and cordiality despite the very rude people before her. She’s not big on confrontation and is generally a laidback and easy-going person.

But she is about to get plonked with a flying legume one too many times.
Visit Inman Majors's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Escape from the Badlands"

Carrie Jones is the The New York Times bestseller author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series, Flying series, Girl, Hero, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and other uses for duct tape). She is also the coauthor, with Steve Wedel, of After Obsession and Summer Howl. She also writes picture books about unconventional spies. Her books have been published all around the world, been bestsellers in France, and have received numerous awards.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to her new middle-grade fantasy novel, Escape from the Badlands (Time Stoppers), and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Don’t say anything,” she said, heading down the hill.

“You didn’t tell me.”

“How could I tell you when it hasn’t happened?” She gasped, tripping on a rock. She stumbled and slowed to a power walk…

"Wait for us,” Eva yelled from the top of the hill.

But Annie didn’t want to wait. She kept walking, arms pumping at her sides. If she walked fast enough maybe she could just get away from the vision, get away from the coldness inside her, get away from he worried that she wouldn’t be able to save the elves.

Bloom caught up again. “Annie… what if that isn’t the past? What if it’s the future?”

Jamie had caught up to them, too, and sneered before Annie could even open her mouth. “It won’t be . We won’t let that happen to Annie. Not ever.”
I love the Page 69 Test so much because it always forces me to look at a random page of my story and see if the theme and plot and emotional through line is being played out. I always sort of hold my breath when I do it because I so badly want it to be representative of those elements of the book.

Without being spoiler-filled, Annie (the ‘she' first referenced) and her friends have just walked through a fog of shame set up as a perimeter trap for other explorers centuries ago. Here, all the children have had to relive their worst shame, but Annie’s shameful moment? She never remembers it happening. And it’s really… It’s not a good thing to see. It implies that she’s in cahoots with the ultimate bad guy of the book.

But what I love about this scene is that her friends are so horrified that she hasn’t told them about this event. And Annie just can’t deal with it - with the shame of what she doesn’t remember happening. And her friends quickly figure out that she wouldn’t hide this from them. That’s not what she’s about or their friendships are about. Instead they realize that they could potentially see something that will happen in the future. Even then though, her friends come to her aid saying that they wouldn’t let that happen, trying to calm her and support her.

And this book? That’s what this book is about. It’s about banding together, about trusting your friends, and about believing in yourself, which are lessons I personally have to teach my own adult self over and over again.
Visit Carrie Jones's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Carrie Jones & Tala.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2018

"The Family Tabor"

Cherise Wolas is the author of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, a semifinalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Prize, an Indie Next Great Reads Pick, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, named a Best Novel and Best Debut Novel of the year by Kirkus Reviews, named a Top 10 novel of 2017 by Booklist, in addition to receiving among many other accolades.

Wolas applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Family Tabor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Simon has Elena.

Camille has Valentine.

They are cozy in love, and it spears her straight through, skewers her heart.

Why is she the crescent moon waning when her siblings seem always to be waxing?

Her mother says Phoebe’s the kind of woman men do not quickly release, and boys from various stages of her life still occasionally beat their man-sized wings in her direction, raising the air around her, blowing the dust off their joint old times, a checking-in, a checking-up, wanting to know if Phoebe has allowed someone to stick, to roost—not them, they know, though they had all tried hard.

But her mother also says that the men from Phoebe’s past will always hang on, because she gave them up in the limerence phase, when romantic euphoria is at its peak. Maybe her mother is right; maybe that’s why she has no flesh-and-blood man, only the perfect golem she dreamt up.
Over a gorgeous August weekend, patriarch Harry Tabor will be named Man of the Decade at an enormous gala. Of course, the entire family will be at the hometown celebration in Palm Springs. The Tabors are brilliant, accomplished, and worldly. They glow. They are lucky. They are golden. They seem free of lurking dark truths. But the adult children, Phoebe, Camille, and Simon, are privately struggling, each seeking something we all want—love or clarity or the belief we’re living our right life.

At this point, we’ve seen Phoebe through the eyes of her mother Roma, but here, in Chapter Seven, we’re meeting Phoebe herself as she packs for the celebratory weekend honoring her father, and then engages with Raquel, the neighbor cat-sitting for her. While Raquel natters away, this section of page 69 continues Phoebe’s intense thoughts about her desperate desire to find love. Her sister and brother have what she wants, and there is a hint, unexplained, that she considers herself responsible for her loveless state. [T]he perfect golem she dreamt up refers to a truth about Phoebe the reader now knows, but I won’t give away here.

Page 69 is specifically about Phoebe, but is representative of the novel’s "Good Samaritan" section. These early chapters individually highlight the Tabors, and reveal, or begin to reveal, their personal secrets. And the revelations of these secrets will reverberate in unexpected ways through the novel.
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Caged"

Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. She now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.

Ellison applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Caged, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Caged is pretty damn representative of the book. The main character, Sayer, is talking to a scruffy Irishman who is a potential suspect in her murder investigation. He offers her proof that he can't possibly be the killer setting off a series of plot twists and turns. Why would someone implicate this suspect? And what should she do about the line of media vans already lingering outside his house hoping to catch a glimpse of the Cage Killer?
Visit Ellison Cooper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Caged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2018

"The Bucket List"

Georgia Clark is an author, performer and screenwriter based in Brooklyn. She wrote the critically acclaimed novel, The Regulars, and the "witty, sexy" (L.A. Times) The Bucket List, both Simon & Schuster. Her first books were the Young Adult novels She’s With The Band and Parched. Clark is the host/founder of the storytelling night, Generation Women, which invites six generations of women to tell a story on a theme. She is currently developing The Regulars as a TV show for E!. A native Australian, she lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and a fridge full of cheese.

Clark applied the Page 69 Test to The Bucket List and reported the following:
On page 69, our heroine Lacey Whitman has just received the news she’s scored an invitation to elusive Iranian fashion designer Elan Behdazi’s main-stage Fashion Week show. Lacey works as a junior sales rep for the well-known trend forecasting company Hoffman House. As she says, she can wrangle invites to the after parties, but never to the actual shows; “those are reserved for people significantly more powerful or beautiful than me.”

Her only interaction with Elan was at a work event weeks prior, where she’d just found out she has the BRCA1 gene mutation, the breast cancer gene, and ended up abruptly leaving the party. She’s been concerned with her health in the time since, but now this character has once again entered her orbit, and will have a significant effect on her life and the choices she’ll come to make.

Writing the character of Elan was cathartic for me, having been in a not-so-healthy relationship with someone older than me who I admired professionally. Elan’s relationship to Lacey, and to her body, forms the bedrock of both the serious and the sexy scenes in this novel.
Visit Georgia Clark's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Bucket List.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"One of Us"

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, his novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, One of Us, and reported the following:
In One of Us, a disease has produced a generation of monsters who are now growing up in orphanages. It’s both a misunderstood monster story and a novel about prejudice.

By Page 69, it’s understood some of the plague children are developing extraordinary capabilities. We are given the point of view of an agent assigned to ferret out those with powers and put them to work for the U.S. government.

Agent Shackleton:
Who would have ever guessed these kids might be the key to America reclaiming its status as a superpower? That an annoying, skinny kid with an upside-down face might play a role in that historic event?
This single paragraph tells us a lot about One of Us in that it is a story about mutants who also happen to be regular kids, and also a story about those who would exploit them.

When the kids realize both their powers and the extent of their exploitation, they will have a choice. Find a way to fit in, or rise up to claim their birthright.
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"How We Learned to Lie"

Meredith Miller is the author of Little Wrecks and How We Learned to Lie. She grew up in a large, unruly family on Long Island, New York, and now lives in the UK. She is a published short story writer and literary critic with a great love for big nineteenth-century novels and for the sea.

Miller applied the Page 69 Test to How We Learned to Lie and reported the following:
How We Learned to Lie is written in two alternating first-person voices. Sometimes we see events in the novel from both perspectives and realize that the truth changes depending on where you look at it from. Joan and Daisy, the two close friends who narrate the novel, have started to hide things from each other. Blank spaces start to open in their relationship, spaces sometimes too big to fill with their love for each other, but they don’t stop trying.

So, any page you open the book to will only give you one of these perspectives. Page 69 turns out to be a good choice though, because here Joan describes the early years of her friendship with Daisy, and the first time he came inside her house and met her family. Here is an extract:
So I knew him already, when he showed up one Saturday morning in nothing but his Fruit of the Looms, knocked on the kitchen door and asked Gramps if he could eat breakfast with us. We were maybe nine.

Gramps stood aside and waved Daisy through the door, then he said, “Andre, get the boy a shirt.”

“That’s okay, Mr. Jensen. I’m not cold.”

“That’s as may be, but it’s polite to wear a shirt when you’re eating at someone else’s table.”

I wondered if Gramps’d ever met Mrs. McNamara. Her table was always weirdly perfect, but she might be sitting at it wearing just about anything.

Daisy sat there like a naked secret at our breakfast table, making me feel like a bunch of leaves had blown in the door, like something had been tracked in and I should grab a broom to sweep it out again. I just wanted to get him away from my family and back outside where he belonged.

Then he looked up and saw Arthur for the first time, drinking coffee with his chair tilted back. Daisy looked at the two back legs of that chair, gauging the balance and the chances of falling over. You could see the picture of potential disaster pass through his mind, busted head and blood and rushing to the emergency room. You could see him absorbing the fact that Arthur didn’t seem scared of any of that. Daisy got down to idolizing him right away.

“Arthur, put your feet down,” Gramps said, and went back to making pancakes.

“Hi, I’m Daisy.” He smiled at Arthur and put on the shirt Andre handed him. It was from the laundry basket but Gramps didn’t notice.

“Alright, little brother?” Arthur was fourteen. He was already working hard on his cool.

Daisy turned around to Andre and said, ‘Alright, brother?’

Andre just rolled his eyes.

Daisy ate five pancakes and drank a big glass of orange juice. When he was done his plate was so full of artificial maple syrup I couldn’t lift it without slopping some on the table. The feeling of my two lives grinding together was making me flinch, like fingernails on a blackboard. The sound of it was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think.
I think this gives you a good sense of Joan. She is a person who likes clear answers and for people and things to stay in their boxes. It drives her nuts when people don’t make sense or hide from the truth, when they can’t see what is perfectly clear to her.

I wonder if you get a good sense of Joan’s relationship with Daisy here, though? She is often cynical about him and tells him when she thinks he’s being stupid. When the chips are down though, she’ll do anything for him. A lot of what makes her angry at him is when he refuses to take care of himself or protect himself from people who will hurt him. In the end she finds it almost impossible to imagine her life without him.

There is also a sense of Daisy’s relation to Joan here. Part of what I was trying to establish in this scene is the way in which Daisy fetishizes Joan’s family. His own family has such enormous painful gaps in it; he seeks to fill those gaps by trying to fit himself in the Joan’s family. For Joan, it is a fantasy of her family and not the difficult reality that Daisy loves. In the end he’ll have to come to terms with this.

I love these two characters so much. I love who they are and I love their difficult love for each other. Their shared history goes back to their earliest memories. It turns out page 69 gives you a pretty good sense of that.
Visit Meredith Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Beautiful Exiles"

Meg Waite Clayton's novels include the Langum Prize honored The Race for Paris and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time (on a list with The Three Musketeers!) and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Beautiful Exiles, and reported the following:
The page 69 exercise is always such fun! Page 69 [below left; click to enlarge] of Beautiful Exiles, my new novel about the relationship between war journalist Martha Gellhorn and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, is a bit atypical. The book is written in scenes, but this page is introducing Ginny Cowles, who becomes one of Martha’s best friends. In real life, the two friends go on to write a play together in the years after Beautiful Exiles ends.

And yet! The voice on this page is the voice of Martha—very smart and spunky and full of unusual and lively word choices, and a little insecure. It’s a voice I steep myself in by reading pretty much everything I could find written by her before I wrote the books: her letters, her novels, her war reporting, her memoirs.

It touches on Martha’s internal demon, an insecurity that has roots in her judgmental father.

And it addresses some of the very important themes of the book. Martha, even in her few words of description of this friend, raises both the particular challenges women journalists face, and the importance of what journalists do. Ginny, in “capitalizing on her smooth brown hair,” is “just doing what we all did, using whatever advantage we had to get a story that ought to be told.”

And it raises for the first time a very interesting quirk of Ernest Hemingway’s, which is that while he went to cover war, he never would go to the hospitals to visit the wounded. Martha always went to the hospitals. I’ll leave the reader to read the rest of the novel to see what that difference means.
Visit Meg Waite Clayton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Four Ms. Bradwells.

The Page 69 Test: The Wednesday Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue