Friday, June 22, 2018

"The King’s Justice"

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. Her new Stanton & Barling medieval murder mystery series starts with The King's Justice. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Powell applied the Page 69 Test to The King's Justice and reported the following:
In my new medieval murder mystery, The King's Justice, Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate the brutal murder of the local smith in a village outside York. A suspect is under lock and key in the prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. The case appears straightforward and Barling is certain that his investigation will be quickly concluded. But then young Stanton had to open his mouth and throw the whole thing into disarray. My Page 69 has the deeply irritated Barling revisiting what he knows of the crime so far and trying to figure out just what is going on. Problem is, Barling doesn’t yet know that this is the first murder of many—and things are about to get a whole lot worse…

From page 69:
No thanks to Stanton. ‘Sir Reginald, how tall was Geoffrey Smith?’ The messenger’s question asked not once but twice in the foul atmosphere of the forge.

Barling had wondered if his ears had deceived him as he’d stared at Stanton. His fingers tightened on his stylus in annoyance. He was in the middle – the middle – of examining the forge. That was the task in hand at that moment. To approach it with order. With method.

Murder took place in Smith’s own forge. No witnesses.

The examination of the forge. That should have been the one task at that moment, nothing else. But Stanton, taken hold of by a personal memory, had opened his mouth and immediately disrupted that order.

Death was by fracture of the skull. Branding iron caused fracture. Face also fractured with branding iron.

As so many others had done before. Barling had witnessed passions take over in matters of law on far too many occasions over many years, when facts and distance were needed. The law was based on consistent, sound judgement. That was how it worked. Emotion made for neither. And emotions indeed ran high here.

Body was discovered by daughter, Agnes Smith.

The emotions of Agnes Smith in particular. Not only had she suffered the grievous loss of her father, she had made the terrible discovery of his body. Her strident boldness was another matter, however. He had not encountered very many young women who would be happy to hang a man.

Body is buried in the churchyard – I have not viewed it.

In the confusion of the assembly outside the forge, he had wondered – feared, even – that Agnes would tear Lindley from Stanton’s grasp and do it there and then. It would not have been difficult. Stanton was not a natural guard. Barling shook his head.

Accused is Nicholas Lindley. An outlaw who had claimed to be a beggar.

Barling could also understand the villagers’ naked thirst for vengeance. Feelings always drove the ignorant and uneducated. They could not be expected to consider the proper administration of justice. It fell to Barling to make sure they did. A heavy burden, but one he was happy to shoulder for his King.

Lindley swears he is innocent.
Is this page representative of the rest of my novel? Well, it certainly is of Aelred Barling and his methodical approach to solving crime. Stanton’s scenes are a lot more action-packed. Together, they make quite a team!
Visit E.M. Powell's website, blog, Twitter perch and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: E.M. Powell & Marshall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"The Lost For Words Bookshop"

Stephanie Butland lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she's not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet.

Butland applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Lost for Words Bookshop, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He felt in his shirt pocket and brought out cigarettes and matches. He smoked Marlboro and I liked the red on the top of the packet. He put a cigarette between his teeth and then passed the matchbox to me. He knew I liked to strike them. Mum always told him off when she saw me lighting his cigarettes, so we did it when he wasn't looking.
Here the protagonist, spiky bookseller Loveday, is looking back to her childhood and her relationship with her father. In the writing of this book I spent a lot of time thinking about Loveday's early life, although we don't see a lot of it in the text, and I enjoyed writing her happy early days, with two parents who adored her and were determined that she would have everything she needed in life. Of course, things don't always work out the way we hope, or expect....

The opening sentence of the book reads, 'A book is the match in the smoking second between strike and flame', and here on page 69 we connect to this idea again. The idea of potential, contained in matches, in books, in people, in situations, is something that preoccupies this book. What makes life grow in one direction and not another? What makes what is latent spring to life, expand, burn?
Follow Stephanie Butland on Twitter and Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Lost for Words Bookshop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2018

"The Body Counter"

Anne Frasier is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her award-winning books span the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, and memoir. The Body Reader received the 2017 Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original from International Thriller Writers. Other honors include a RITA for romantic suspense and a Daphne du Maurier Award for paranormal romance. Her thrillers have hit the USA Today list and have been featured in Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. Her memoir The Orchard was an O, The Oprah Magazine Fall Pick; a One Book, One Community read; a B+ review in Entertainment Weekly; and one of the Librarians' Best Books of 2011. She divides her time between the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and her writing studio in rural Wisconsin.

Frasier applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Body Counter, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The camping spot was located under a cluster of trees, in an area few people went. It was a strange reaction, but whenever Jude visited a crime scene that took place in a beautiful area, she felt a small bit of heaviness lift from her heart, almost like visiting a cemetery. She loved cemeteries. Loved the tranquil sense of peace they evoked. She felt that same sense of peace now as she and Uriah stood staring at the flowers and photos, the candles and words of love so many people had left at the scene. It was easy to see that two families and groups of friends were in mourning.

“It’s entirely possible the killer knew the victims and knew they were going camping.” Uriah stood with hands in his pockets, wind blowing his curly hair. His observation, especially considering the remoteness of the campsite, made sense. “The method of a knife to the throat isn’t rare or unusual. And, like the sheriff said, our killer could be a copycat. The coverage of the events here could have given him the idea. We see it all the time with mass shootings.”
This is a pretty good example of the book. The detectives visit a crime scene outside their jurisdiction because they suspect the same killer might be responsible for the strange public murders taking place in Minneapolis. The Body Counter is the follow-up to The Body Reader. I typically traumatize my characters by putting them in horrific situations. These two detectives were so traumatized in The Body Reader that I decided to drop into more of a crime-of-the-week, police procedural mode for the second book because there’s only so much characters and readers can take. The third and last book (The Body Keeper) returns to more of a character-driven plot.
Visit Anne Frasier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"The Speed of Sound"

Eric Bernt was born in Marion, Ohio, and raised in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and Madison, Wisconsin. He attended Northwestern University, where he learned that journalism was not for him—but storytelling was. Upon graduation, he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote seven feature films including Virtuosity (starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) and Surviving the Game (starring Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, and F. Murray Abraham). He has also written for television (Z Nation). Bernt lives in Agoura Hills, California, with his wife and three children.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Speed of Sound, and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Speed of Sound is a scene in the Russell Senate Building in which a senator is introduced to the concept of 'acoustic archeology' and the intelligence possibilities it presents. This idea is at the very core of the book, so it most certainly represents the rest of it. I've been obsessed with this little known area of science since first reading about it two decades ago. Every now and then, I come across a new technology, approach, or advance that utterly captivates me. Acoustic archeology was one. This was a book I had to write.
Visit Eric Bernt's website.

Writers Read: Eric Bernt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2018

"Dive Smack"

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A. from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs where she is always trying to make more time for the beach. Her new novel Dive Smack is dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you'll understand why.

Brodsky applied the Page 69 Test to Dive Smack and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ten minutes later, we’re hanging ten over the edge of the pool in Chip’s backyard. When you drive up to Langford’s house it’s unremarkable, a split-level ranch like most our friends’ houses. But the backyard is a different story. Mr. Langford owns a pool company, and he uses their yard to showcase his work to clients. But he really went to town on the lap pool once Chip showed promise in swimming, adding special year-round heaters and extra lighting.

There’s a hot tub connected to a smaller pool on the far side of the yard, built into the landscape like a tropical oasis, which is straight up ridiculous and awesome. Mr. Langford calls it the Lover’s Grotto. I don’t think he realizes how on the nose that is, considering the number of girls Chip’s had over there.

The pool we’re using now is the same as this morning, four-lanes wide with two diving boards. The 3-meter board was put in for my birthday after Mom died. Mrs. Langford made Lasagna that night, too, come to think of it.

“Here’s the deal,” Chip says. “You win; I’ll help you with the project—no matter what.
Well, I think there’s a little set up here to the kind of life Theo’s best friend Chip lives at home and how Theo fits into that world. But the last line on this page is a doozy because it really does set the stage for what’s to come and how their friendship is a big part of that outcome. I can’t wade too much deeper because of spoilers, but a good friend—a real friend—will always be there for you in the end.
Visit Demetra Brodsky's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Demetra Brodsky & L.B. and Ponyboy Curtis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Revenant Gun"

A Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon Ha Lee finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Revenant Gun, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"I have no choice but to answer," Dhanneth said with a bitter edge.

Formation instinct. It would not do to belabor the realities of the situation, which Dhanneth surely understood better than he did. "All right," Jedao said. "What happened to the swarm's original general? The details, if you please."

Dhanneth's shoulders pulled back. "He resisted the hexarch. He's gone."

"Gone?"

"He's dead," Dhanneth said in a scoured-out voice.

"Was he important to you?"

Dhanneth smiled humorlessly. "Not anymore."

Formation instinct again, or something more personal? Jedao didn't know how hard to press. He didn't want to alienate the man further. "Tell me something else, then," Jedao said. "The hexarch talked about successor states and despots and protector-generals in what's left of the hexarchate. What are they like? Are any of them honorable?"

"No," Dhanneth said with chilling conviction. "It's the same all over. Anyone could tell you that."

A quiet cold ran through Jedao's bones. It was a bad situation, but he might be able to talk himself through it if he treated it like a game.
This is, I think, pretty typical of the rest of the book. "Formation instinct" is sci-fi brainwashing that forces soldiers to obey their superiors. Jedao is leaning on it to question Dhanneth, his hostile aide, so he can find out more about the situation. The thing is, Jedao is the reincarnation of a notorious 400-year-old mass murderer and tactician, and he's expected to reconquer a nation sundered by civil war (the hexarchate)--but he has amnesia. He has no idea who to trust, and his boss--the hexarch--may get rid of him at any time if he fails to produce results, or to fall in line, as he's just discovered. Even worse, he may have the best of intentions, but he keeps tripping over his own history, including an over-fondness for games in a situation where the stakes aren't just his own survival, but the fate of the hexarchate.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"The Bookshop of Yesterdays"

Amy Meyerson is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Southern California. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the Writing Program at the University of Southern California.

Meyerson applied the Page 69 Test to The Bookshop of Yesterdays, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 marks at a key shift for our protagonist, Miranda Brooks. Miranda has recently returned to her hometown, Los Angeles, where she discovers that her estranged and recently deceased Uncle Billy not only has left her his bookstore, Prospero Brooks, but a scavenger hunt within the novels on its shelves. Miranda hasn’t seen Billy in 16 years, not since he and her mother had a bitter fight, and the scavenger hunt provides Billy the opportunity to reveal the past to Miranda.

If you’re thinking, Miranda…Prospero…an estrangement between siblings…isn’t that a reference to The Tempest? you’re right! The novel is full of literary references. At its heart, however, it’s a book about family. From the description above, it probably sounds like it’s about Miranda’s relationship with Billy, but it’s really about her relationship with her mother, which starts to come into focus on page 69.

Miranda’s mother, Susan, has been cagey with Miranda about Billy, refusing to attend his funeral and frequently insisting that she isn’t mourning his death. On page 69 Miranda realizes that her mother’s evasiveness is fraught: “I didn’t know how it hadn’t occurred to me before. Mom was keeping a secret.” This secret has everything to do with why she and Billy stopped speaking and begins to threaten Miranda’s relationship with her mother.

From here, Miranda begins to question what she really knows about her mother. When she goes outside to tell her mom that dinner is almost ready, Miranda narrates,
“I found Mom outside, holding a pair of shears as she decided which flowers to cut for the table. Behind her, the sky was ignited in a rich orange lined in pink. I couldn’t see the setting sun, but it left its legacy across the sky.

“Tonight’s an amaranth night,” Mom said, watching the sky. “Amaranth’s not right.”

“It’s carmine. And cerise,” I said. Being raised by Mom, I could name more colors than most people knew existed. That was my skill as the daughter of a decorator, but I didn’t want to talk about shades of pink, the glorious hues of Southern California sunsets. “Dad says dinner’s close.” I snuck a final glance at her, trying to remember when she’d become that way, hesitating before she responded in conversation, when she’d fallen into the habit of covering her mouth as she laughed, when she’d replaced her red nail polish with nude, her crimson lipstick with vitamin E stick. She still listened to Jefferson Airplane and Fleetwood Mac, still meditated for ten minutes each morning, but at some point, everything she owned had faded to muted shades of pink.”
I cheated a little at the end here and continued to the top of page 70, but I wanted to include the full paragraph because this is a pivotal moment for Miranda. She’s beginning to understand that her mother had an entire life before her, one she can never understand. This gets at the essence of the novel: what we can and can’t know about the past; what we can and can’t know about our parents. I love that the page 69 test was able to highlight this central theme.
Visit Amy Meyerson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2018

"Free Chocolate"

Amber Royer teaches enrichment and continuing education creative writing classes for teens and adults. She spent five years as a youth librarian, where she organized teen writers’ groups and teen writing contests. In addition to two cookbooks co-authored with her husband, Royer has published a number of articles on gardening, crafting and cooking for print and on-line publications.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut science fiction novel, Free Chocolate, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“.....if your planet registers with the Galactic Court. You can set laws to regulate your borders, and entering illegally becomes itself a punishable crime, according to the laws you set on your soil. That process usually takes years, but I could expedite it for you, if I felt incentivized.” She rubs the tentacle ends together in pairs. Because the gesture for and-this-is-the-point-where-you-give-me-a-bribe really is universal.

“But I just told you, Earth money is worthless.”

All the tentacles shake no again. “There are already some parts of the galaxy where Snickers Bars are being used as currency. I’m not opposed to dealing in that medium.”

“Why?” The vlogger sounds incredulous. “Why would candy bars be worth more than cash?”

“Because, my dear, the Krom missed chocolate.”

The vlogger exits the Embassy, grumbling, making empty threats. Pero, she was still missing the point. That holo changed everything.

Threats. Frank hadn’t actually threatened Brill, but he may well have lived most of his life with that same underlying frustrangeration. And now he’s alone with a Krom. My Krom. And I can’t explain to Mamá why I’m so worried. So when she asks again, I lie and say, “De nada.”

When we’re ready to go across campus to the banquet hall, Chestla takes us personally down the elevator. When she’s gotten out and far enough away, I make my way from the elevator car. I blink, as my brain adjusts to what I’m seeing. Right in the middle of the lobby, there’s the Larkssian equivalent of a golf cart, which has been converted into a closed vehicle with the use of panels of lavender fabric that looks suspiciously like bed sheets.

Chestla pulls back one of the panels. “Get in.”

I look at Mamá. She shrugs, then steps forward. “Gracias, Chestla.”
This page actually does say a lot about the book and the worldbuilding. You get to see a key part of the conflict: Bo’s boyfriend is a Krom – who just happen to be the aliens who took samples of Earth commodities during Earth’s first First Contact, duplicated said commodities and sold them off over half the galaxy. For the most part, Earth’s still mad about that.

We’ve caught Bo mid-flashback, recounting the details of a holo she watched about the time just after that First Contact (which happened before she was born). The dialogue at the beginning actually starts on the previous page, with a human vlogger, who’s been more or less touring the galaxy now that alien life has been discovered, having just found out that, “Her planet’s been mugged,” by the Krom. She’s gone to the nearest Galactic Embassy to try to redress the situation.

By this point, Bo has reason to believe that her mother’s boyfriend, Frank, may not be who he says he is. Brill has reluctantly left with Frank . . . and the history between Krom and Earth plays into the reasons she’s afraid Brill might not be coming back. But the apartment she’s in is bugged (media and holos and electronic surveillance play a big part in this book), which has Bo freaked out further. She’s at odds with her home planet, and is just starting to figure out in these chapters how much.

This page also gives Chestla, Bo’s quirky RA, who wound up on the same backwater planet as Bo after she failed to become a proper guardian companion to royalty on her home planet (where her people are the alpha predators), a chance to show off her protective nature, which suits her role throughout the book.
Visit Amber Royer's website.

Writers Read: Amber Royer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Side by Side"

Jenni L. Walsh has spent the past decade enticing readers as an award-winning advertising copywriter. Her passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings.

Walsh applied the Page 69 Test to Side by Side, book 2 in the Bonnie series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My heart leaps, and in that moment, all questions ’bout Clyde’s character dissolve. If he’s willing to pull up a chair in the visitors’ room, he’s willing to risk it all for me.

The gals, not many of them receiving their own guests, shout their encouragement. But when I walk into the room, I stop dead in my tracks.

Betty Thornton,” Blanche says, standing behind a small table. “Stripes agree with you.”

My cheeks burn and I can’t seem to get my feet to move. She ain’t who I was expecting. She ain’t who I want to see me this way.

“It’s okay,” she says. “Remember how I once had intercourse,” she says plainly, then lowers her voice, “in a church? I ain’t one to judge.”

I shake off my disappointment. It only takes a few steps before my arms are ’round her. My eyes sting with tears. I hug Blanche harder.

“Enough of that,” she says. We both sit, and while Blanche’s eyes shine with excitement, like she’s stuck between right and wrong, her back is stiff, like it gives her the heebie-jeebies to actually step foot in a jail. She lowers her voice. “You okay? I’m surprised you ain’t panting with how hot it is in here.”

I nod. I am fine, physically, at least.
I was so happy when I began reading Page 69 and it was a conversation between Bonnie and Blanche, who is Bonnie’s best friend (and Clyde’s brother’s wife). While the storyline is very much about Bonnie and Clyde, it’s also about the evolution of various characters, including Blanche. She’s a large part of the novel. At the onset she’s a bearcat. Then, when she begins running with Bonnie and Clyde, something she didn’t want for herself but did so out of love for her husband, Buck, the reader begins to see her personality, choices, and decisions begin to shift. She doesn’t want a life on the lam for her and Buck. Above, in Blanche’s words and reactions, we get a glimpse into the start of her evolution, which ultimately affects her relationship with Bonnie, and later, Bonnie experiences a great amount of guilt when it comes to Blanche’s involvement in Bonnie and Clyde’s life of crime.
Visit Jenni L. Walsh's website.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming Bonnie.

My Book, The Movie: Becoming Bonnie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2018

"The Angel Makers"

The Angel Makers, the second novel in Tessa Harris’s Constance Piper Mystery series, is based on the true crimes of the Victorian baby farmer, Amelia Dyer, who was practising her deadly trade at the same time as Jack the Ripper was prowling the streets of London.

Harris applied the Page 69 Test to The Angel Makers and reported the following:
From page 69:
I look up at the sky. It’s gray, as usual, but it’s not cold enough for snow. I wish it would, snow that is. At least everything would look cleaner for a few minutes before the brilliant white of a heavy fall is covered in soot and grime again. Everything gets soiled in the end in Whitechapel, that’s just how it is.

Up ahead of us are the stalls where they found the baby the other day. The smell of roasting chestnuts covers the usual stench of horse dung, but I can taste fear on my tongue. My eyes swerve from left to right, scanning for sight of the woman who pointed the finger at me. lt don’t feel right walking along the rows of stalls, like everyone’ll be watching me, judging me. Instead, as we pass a haberdasher’s shop, I call to Flo.

“I’ll buy my ribbon here,” I say, pointing to the window decked out in red and green. There’s a sleigh in the center and it’s loaded with presents, all wrapped up in bright paper.

“What’s wrong with the market?” Flo protests, but the look I give her reminds her of what happened. She nods and agrees to wait outside as I pluck up the courage to go in. I’m not that used to shops, you see, especially not ones that sell fancy goods such as this.
Eagle-eyed readers will recognise the setting of this novel. Whitechapel is, of course, the district of East End London made infamous in 1888 by Jack the Ripper and it is here that Constance Piper ekes out her meagre living as a flower seller. Yet what sets her apart from all the other poverty-stricken souls living in Jack’s shadow is that she believes she has a special ‘gift.’ Constance can communicate with her dead teacher and mentor, Miss Emily Tindall. Together they make a great crime-fighting team, aided and abetted by the young, ambitious and committed Detective Sergeant Thaddeus Hawkins of the Metropolitan Police.

Here we join Constance two days after the discovery of a baby’s body at the market. A stallholder accused her of depositing the tiny corpse and she was arrested briefly. Quickly able to prove her innocence, she still remains wary. Infanticide was a familiar crime in the East End. Options were very limited for unmarried mothers. To avoid stigma, many entrusted their infants to “baby farmers”—women who agreed to care for the baby, or find an adoptive family, in exchange for a fee.

When one of Constance’s friends is murdered, she discovers her dead infant daughter was farmed out to a woman called Mother Delaney. I based this character and her evil exploits on the real-life case of Amelia Dyer – now believed to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Her tiny victims were all strangled. The Angel Makers interweaves her story with imagined events set against the dark underbelly of London society in the late nineteenth century. A young governess, made pregnant by her employer’s son, enlists Constance’s help to discover what has happened to her baby. With the aid of Miss Tindall and Detective Hawkins, Constance sets off to track down Mother Delaney and bring her and her murderous associates to justice.
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sixth Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"The Bird and the Blade"

Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of The Bird and the Blade. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names.

Bannen applied the Page 69 Test to The Bird and the Blade and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Bird and the Blade finds us in the Caucasus mountains through which Prince Khalaf and Timur Khan of the recently overthrown Kipchak Khanate are fleeing for their lives. The story’s protagonist, Jinghua, a slave girl, is supposed to be hunting for food in the forest. Instead, she falls asleep and dreams of her dead brother.
I open my eyes to find myself frozen to the core and more uncomfortable than I can bear. The dream quickly disintegrates in my memory. I remember only Weiji telling me he wanted to go home, and it leaves me feeling hollow and depressed.
Weiji’s ghost haunts Jinghua throughout the story, a mirror of her own unattainable desires. At this stage of the plot the one and only thing Jinghua wants is to return home, a dream that is about to be destroyed in the following pages. As she heads back to camp, she hears fighting in the distance.
Maybe if I just stay here and wait, it will end, and I won’t have to deal with it.
Whew, that line is Jinghua in a nutshell. At this point in the novel, the reader is unaware of all the things that make Jinghua’s choices extremely complicated, but complicated they are, and poor Jinghua is frequently paralyzed with indecision as a result.

That indecision just might be her downfall.
Visit Megan Bannen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Megan Bannen & Brontë.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 4, 2018

"Treeborne"

Caleb Johnson grew up in Arley, Alabama, studied journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and earned an MFA from the University of Wyoming. He has worked as a small-town newspaper reporter, an early-morning janitor, and a whole-animal butcher, among other jobs.

Johnson applied the Page 69 Test to Treeborne, his debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
There sat Lyle Crews on a tumped-over barrel, coveralls now rolled down to his waist, singing, Love lifted me. Love lifted me. When nothing else could help, love lifted me… [Janie] admired how hard singing was for him. Truth, she knew, only hard things were worth doing. The Seven had to be preserved, her aunt kidnapped. Hard. Life ain’t easy Sister. She began to see a confederate in Lyle Crews as she watched him repeat those lines over and over.
This excerpt from page 69 of my debut novel, Treeborne, takes place during a pivotal moment for young Janie Treeborne. Most of her life before the summer in which this scene takes place, Janie thought she knew exactly who she was. Things suddenly changed. Janie did something bad. Now, watching Lyle Crews sing a hymn, she begins reckoning with herself and her decisions. This moment one of her many comings of age. Really, the scene is representative of what much of Janie’s portion of the novel is about—how she looks upon change and the past.
Visit Caleb Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"The Pearl Sister"

Lucinda Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels, and her books have sold more than thirteen million copies in over thirty languages globally. She was born in Ireland and divides her time between England and West Cork with her husband and four children.

Riley applied the Page 69 Test to The Pearl Sister, the fourth installment in The Seven Sisters series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Poverty was only a heartbeat away in the tenement buildings near the docks. Father often said that no one could ever criticize him for living in a manner above his flock, but at least, thought Kitty as she walked into the drawing room to toast her hands by the fire, unlike others in the neighbourhood, the manse’s inhabitants were warm and dry.

“Good evening, Mother,” she greeted Adele, who was sitting in her chair by the fireside darning socks, resting them and the pincushion on her small bump.

“Good evening, Kitty. How was your day?” Adele’s soft accent was that of Scottish gentility, her father having been a laird in Dumfriesshire. Kitty and her sisters had loved traveling south each summer to see their grandparents, and she had especially delighted in being able to ride horses across the sweeping countryside. She had always been perplexed, however, that her father had never accompanied them on their summer sojourns. He cited the need to remain with his flock, but Kitty had begun to suspect that it was because her grandparents disapproved of him. The McBrides, although wealthy, had come from what Kitty had heard termed “trade,” whereas her mother’s parents were descendants of the noble Clan Douglas, and frequently voiced their concern that their daughter lived in such reduced circumstances as a minister’s wife.

“Mrs. McFarlane and her children send their best wishes, and Mr. Cuthbertson’s leg abscess seems to have healed. Although I have some sad news too, Mother. I’m afraid Mrs. Monkton died yesterday.”

“God rest her soul.’ Adele immediately crossed herself. “But perhaps it was a blessed relief, living like she did…”

“Her neighbour said they’d taken her body to the mortuary, but as there are no relatives and Mrs. Monkton hadn’t a farthing to her name, there’s nothing for a funeral or a decent burial plot. Unless…”

“I’ll speak to your father,” Adele comforted her daughter. “Although I know church funds are running low at the moment.”

“Please do, Mother. Whatever Father said about her descent into sin, she had definitely repented by the end.”

“And she was delightful company. Oh, I do so hate the onset of winter. The season of death … certainly around these parts.” Adele gave a small shudder and put a hand protectively across her belly. “Your father’s at a parish committee meeting this evening, then out to take supper with Mrs. McCrombie…”
This is an extract from a part of The Pearl Sister set in the past. The main character, CeCe, has hesitantly begun researching her past, and has come across the life of Kitty McBride, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1906. Kitty is not yet eighteen, an intelligent and inquisitive young woman, who looks up to her father, a Presbyterian clergyman. Page 69 captures her on the cusp of change; not only will she begin to lose her faith in God and in her father, but Mrs. McCrombie will take her to Australia…

I adored writing Kitty’s character because we get to see her develop from an obedient young woman into a headstrong and very capable pioneer, living in the isolated and wild town of Broome in Western Australia. Her character was inspired by the real lives of the many great pioneer women of the Outback, who were brought to Australia as wives and daughters, but who learned to work the land and survive in an unforgiving new world.
Visit Lucinda Riley's website.

Writers Read: Lucinda Riley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Medusa Uploaded"

Emily Devenport has written several novels under various pseudonyms including one which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick award. She currently studies Geology and works as a volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Devenport applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Medusa Uploaded, and reported the following:
Midway down page 69 in Medusa Uploaded I read:
Unhappy plans were beginning to manifest in the halls of my mind. They were bloody-handed creatures...
And that is, absolutely, representative of the rest of the book. In fact, it makes a pretty good summary. Oichi is a ruthless person, but she's got good reason. She was forged by harsh circumstances, and has spent the majority of her life pretending to obey. The consequences of being exposed as a dissident are brutal, but it's not just the loss of her life that frightens Oichi. She has a master plan. It's the core of her existence. And if she's discovered, that plan will fail. So she's willing to kill to prevent that from happening.

Yet Oichi has also been raised with an appreciation of beauty, of intelligence and integrity. On page 69, she is confronted with the need to kill someone she admires. He has seen through her disguise, and he could expose her. The fact that he has children to protect makes him more dangerous. She's going to have to decide what to do about him. And Oichi has the fortitude to do what needs to be done.

But things aren't going to go as expected, and how she improvises is what drives this story. If you haven't read my book yet, and this post leads you to check out page 69, I hope you'll want to flip back to the beginning, because Oichi's unhappy plans lead to some unexpected places.
Visit Emily Devenport's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"All the Ever Afters"

Danielle Teller (formerly Morse, nee Dyck) grew up in Canada, where she and her two brothers were raised by the best parents in the world. As a child, she was a bookworm who dreamed of being a writer, but she chickened out and went to medical school instead. In 1994, she moved temporarily to America, and she has been living temporarily in America ever since. Teller attended Queen's University during her undergraduate years, and she received her medical training at McGill University, Brown University and Yale University. She has held faculty positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University, where she investigated the origins of chronic lung disease and taught in the medical intensive care unit. In 2013, Teller quit her job to pursue her childhood dream of being a writer. She lives with her husband, Astro Teller, and their four children in Palo Alto, California.

Teller applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother, and reported the following:
This is the most interesting question anyone has asked about my book! Page 69 comes at the end of a chapter, so it is half blank, which may be a good metaphor for my writing. I write very slowly and revise constantly, so my word counts are always lower than they are supposed to be, never higher. I struggle to fill blank spaces!

This chapter closes with Agnes, who eventually becomes the “evil” stepmother, escaping a cruel mistress for what she hopes will be a better position as a servant:
As we left the kitchen, I cast a glance at the bulky form of the laundress, who lay sprawled in her scant underclothes, glistening with sweat in the weak light of dawn that filtered through the skylights. I prayed that I might not meet her again.
This is the first of Agnes’s “ever after” moments, where she finds her way out of unhappy circumstances to seek a better life for herself, and later for her daughters. As such, page 69 is emblematic of the novel as a whole, which chronicles the successes and setbacks of the stepmother’s rags-to-riches life.
Visit Danielle Teller's website.

Writers Read: Danielle Teller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 28, 2018

"Man on Ice"

Humphrey Hawksley is a British journalist and thriller writer whose books focus on the world’s trouble spots and the characters caught up within them. His most recent, Man on Ice, set on the US-Russian border exposes the vulnerability of a tiny Alaskan village barely two miles across the winter sea ice from a Russian military island. This is where the sovereignty of America and Russia meet face-to-face. As most of us know, hostility between the two in real life has reached dangerous levels. Trouble flares up on the eve of a presidential inauguration when foreign powers often view the US as being weaker and in flux.

Hawksley applied the Page 69 Test to Man on Ice and reported the following:
By chance Page 69 of Man on Ice is a pivotal scene. The protagonist Rake Ozenna, a soldier skilled at working with ice and snow, is hiding out from Russian troops who have moved onto the tiny Alaskan island of Little Diomede. He awaits orders from Washington. In the White House, they are working out what possible motive Russia could have for occupying the island.
“They’re doing it now because they think they can,” suggested Prusak (White House Chief-of-Staff). “They took Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and Europe did nothing. They’re outpacing us many times over with bases and ports in the Arctic.”
Then, down the page to Ozenna:
“Captain, how best can we use you?”

“I need to cross to Big Diomede and cut off the snake’s head.”

The snake goes all the way to the Kremlin, thought Stephanie (British ambassador to Washington).

“What can you achieve there?”

“I can tell you who is where and how to hit them.”
The chapter ends with Rake Ozenna instructions to cross treacherous frozen sea water unseen and get to the Russian military base on the other side.
Visit Humphrey Hawksley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Man on Ice.

Writers Read: Humphrey Hawksley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 27, 2018

"It Started in June"

Susan Kietzman is the author of Every Other Wednesday, The Summer Cottage, A Changing Marriage, and The Good Life.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, It Started in June, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He had just started picturing his life without Grace when she called. He got up from his couch and walked to the fridge for a beer. He took a sip and called her back, resolved to tell her he couldn’t make the commitment. As soon as she answered the phone, as soon as her heard her voice, his resolve crumbed.
Thirty-year-old Bradley Hanover finds himself in the unexpected and unwelcome position of assessing his allegiance to a co-worker he has impregnated but hardly knows. Leery of office romance and sworn off hooking up on a first date, Bradley breaks both rules one night when post-business-meeting drinks with Grace Trumbull, his project manager, lead to sex in the back of her car. Before she announces her pregnancy, Bradley and Grace go out several times, each date more adhesive than the last. But Grace’s decision to keep the baby is as surprising to Bradley as their initial unplanned intimacy. Not ready for parenthood yet not able to shake his infatuation with Grace, Bradley straddles freedom and commitment.

Their twelve-year age difference is a factor. Grace has already been married (and divorced) and is professionally several steps ahead of Bradley, who still has to prove himself at the office – and in life. He drinks too much beer with his college buddies, and he relies heavily on his psychiatrist mother for advice. His trouble-free existence has delayed his maturation. And yet he has an innate inclination to do the right thing. Plus, he knows his rejection of fatherhood will immediately end his opportunity to see if Grace can work her way into his heart as she has with his head. Selfishly, he wonders if a long-term relationship with Grace and the baby will punch his ticket to manhood.

Grace, too, has her doubts, not only about Bradley but also about being a mother. But, as the damaged product of a loveless childhood, she is determined to be a better parent than her teenaged mother and righteous grandparents were to her, to give this baby growing inside her a loving and nurturing upbringing. Realizing her decision to keep the baby may be misguided, she nonetheless convinces herself that correcting the errors of the past will heal her troubled soul. The few people she is close to, however, question her logic – Bradley amongst them.

Does it make sense – Grace, Bradley, and the reader wonder – for a couple to stay together when the one thing keeping them together is also pushing them apart? The questioning of commitment continually surfaces, for Grace as well as Bradley, making this passage on page 69 representative of the book from beginning to end.
Visit Susan Kietzman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Every Other Wednesday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain"

Will Walton is an indie bookseller in Athens, Georgia. Anything Could Happen was his first novel.

Walton applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain, and reported the following:
Page 69 actually works sort of okay! It's sort of a split-screen page: We have the beginning of one of Avery's poems on the bottom half, and the scene that precedes its composition right above it. That pretty well indicates what the reader's in for; the book itself is split similarly, divided between prose and verse.
Follow Will Walton on Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Anything Could Happen.

My Book, The Movie: Anything Could Happen.

Writers Read: Will Walton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"The Cactus"

Sarah Haywood was born in Birmingham. She studied Law at Kent University and Chester College of Law, then worked as a trainee solicitor in London.

After qualification, she moved to Liverpool, working first as a solicitor, then as an advice worker with Citizens Advice. She subsequently joined the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman, where she investigated complaints about lawyers.

Haywood completed an Open University Creative Writing Course, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and two sons.

Haywood applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Cactus, and reported the following:
At the age of forty-five, Susan Green finds that her carefully-constructed world is turned upside down; one of the catalysts is her unexpected pregnancy. The soon-to-be father is Richard, a man with whom she’s had a ‘relationship’ of mutual convenience based on the strict understanding that there’s no emotional involvement from either party. The Cactus is written from Susan’s perspective, so we’re in her head the whole time. Page 69 begins with her explaining to the reader why she’s ended the arrangement with Richard, who, annoyingly, is standing on her doorstep:
I could imagine the scene being played out: I tell Richard I’m pregnant; he assumes I’ve done it deliberately because I want a baby or some kind of permanence to our relationship; I try to convince him that it’s the last thing on earth I’d want to happen; he offers gallantly to pay for the termination and accompany me to the clinic; I seethe with anger at his condescension and pity. No, much better to end it cleanly and swiftly.
It’s clear from this paragraph that Susan is a strong-minded, independent woman. All well and good, but she’s taken it to extremes. She refuses to be swayed by emotion and is determined to rely on logic alone when making her life choices. She never lets down her guard, so she can never be hurt.

Later on page 69, Richard, who has no idea that Susan’s carrying his child, endeavours to persuade her to resume their personal arrangement. In the course of his appeal, he says:
“I understand why you sent (the message ending the relationship). You want something beyond what we currently have, some guarantee that you won’t be alone as you enter middle age. I didn’t think I’d be able to make such a commitment, but if not doing so means I’m going to forfeit our time together, then I’m prepared to give you what you want.”
Richard genuinely believes he’s offering Susan what she desires: more regular contact and a greater commitment from him. We know better. With his self-conscious magnanimity, Richard’s not only being as tactless as Susan can be herself (“alone”, “middle age”), he’s also completely misinterpreting her motives.

So, is page 69 representative of the rest of The Cactus? Not entirely. There’s an element of humour, as there is throughout the book. Here, it’s in Richard’s pomposity and obliviousness; in the rest of the novel, it’s in Susan’s rigid but misguided opinions, and in the eccentric people she encounters. Page 69 gives both a snapshot of Susan’s character early on in the novel, and the background to her decision to proceed with the pregnancy alone. What’s missing, though, are the other main plot threads: Susan’s efforts to overturn her mother’s will favouring her brother, Edward; her exploration of her family history; and her developing relationships with Edward’s best friend, Rob, and her neighbour, Kate. It’s these experiences, as much as the prospect of becoming a mother, which cause Susan to bloom.
Visit Sarah Haywood's website.

Writers Read: Sarah Haywood.

My Book, The Movie: The Cactus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"Onyx & Ivory"

Mindee Arnett is the author of the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Avalon as well as the Arkwell Academy series and the newly released Onyx and Ivory. An avid eventer, she lives on a farm near Dayton, Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals. When not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she can be found on a horse, trying to jump anything that will stand still.

Arnett applied the Page 69 Test to Onyx and Ivory and reported the following:
From page 69:
…but the threat of the wilders wasn’t new, just the notion of them banding together. Even still, he couldn’t see their threat being the reason a magist would invent a spell that could kill so quickly. Wilders weren’t to be executed on the spot but taken prisoner for the Purging, a ritual designed to rid the world or their magic once and for all.
The above quote from page 69 of my latest book, Onyx & Ivory, is surprisingly indicative of the rest of the story. It deals specifically with the heart of the external conflict and plot—the ongoing political struggle between the two groups of magic users in this world, magists and wilders. Without giving away too many spoilers, readers will eventually discover that the main difference between these groups is more political than physiological (magicological?). In other words, one group of these magic users, the magists, have been recognized as being useful and safe by the powers that be. They’ve been embraced by society at large and even enjoy a privileged status among the people—hence their ability to invent new spells and use them. The other group however, the wilders, have been deemed dangerous and are forced to live in hiding.

The point of view character in this passage is Corwin Tormane, the second born prince of the high king, and a person who just so happens to be in a position of power. This conversation, taking place with one of the magists, is the start of Corwin’s journey in realizing the politics involved in singling out one group of people or another, and what he might or might not need to do to correct the situation.
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Avalon.

Writers Read: Mindee Arnett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

"The Blues Walked In"

Kathleen George is the author of The Johnstown Girls, a novel about the famous Johnstown flood. She has also written seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh: A Measure of Blood, Simple, The Odds, which was nominated for the Edgar® Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Hideout, Afterimage, Fallen, and Taken. George is also the author of the short story collection The Man in the Buick and editor of another collection, Pittsburgh Noir. She is a professor of theater arts and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

George applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Blues Walked In, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of The Blues Walked, Marie David, who has worn nothing but stitched and mended hand-me-downs all her life buys a new coat. It’s not exactly new in that it has been returned to Gimbels after too long a time by a customer who changed her mind. This purchase is representative of a couple of things (I am thrilled to learn.) It’s the coat that will make her look much more sophisticated than she is and will cause her to be mistaken for Lena Horne. It is also like a coat Lena remembers from her childhood, something her father bought her, in a rich royal blue. The coat links these two women who are of different races and economic backgrounds. The things they share are emotionally bare childhoods and a love of movies, a love that has both of them dreaming about being discovered and put on the screen.

They also share a fascination with a charismatic young man Josiah (a Negro in the language of the day) who wants to be a movie director. They know there is something special about him. Both of them respond to his kindness and his emotional intelligence. When he’s jailed and accused of murder, both women go to the jail protesting. The officers only see a blue coat in one case and coifed hair and dark skin in both cases. They are not looking. They already have opinions about race and those opinions toss everybody—and unfortunately Josiah—onto the expendable pile.

I’m thrilled to learn that page 69 “talks” the language of the book. This test is always a terror. What if there’s nothing there? I always ask before I look. Whew.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"The French Girl"

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. A keen sportswoman, she works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.

Elliott applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The French Girl, and reported the following:
In The French Girl, page 69 spans the end of one scene and the start of another. Nevertheless, the combination rather neatly captures not only the essence of the novel but also that of the main protagonist, Kate. By page 69, Kate is both struggling with the re-surfacing of painful decade-old memories, stirred up by the discovery of the corpse of the eponymous French girl, and grimly aware that it would take something of a miracle to save her fledgling business. Both are taking a toll on her sense of self, as we see in the first section when she catches a glimpse of her own reflection in a shop window:
I disconnect then look up to see my ghostly self hovering in front of a swimwear montage, a smile still in place from the phone call that fades as I watch. The promise of a new life, a different life, still lies tantalizingly in reach.
In the next scene, we see two inherent characteristics of Kate’s personality: her commitment to facing her difficulties head-on, and her dark humour. We also see Kate’s warmth for Tom. It becomes clear to the reader that his presence back in England, after a long period living in Boston, is an emotional crutch for Kate; we begin to worry that she might be blinded by their shared affection:
I’ve been expecting a call from him, to tell me he’s awarding the contract to a rival firm. I could do without the final nail in the coffin…but why delay the inevitable? “Put him through, please.”

The phone in front of me buzzes after a moment. I find a smile to drape on my lips. “Good afternoon, Gordon. How are you?”

“Very well, thank you. Is this a good time?”

“Absolutely. Fire away.” Fire away. Not that he can really fire me since he’s never actually hired me, but still, the inadvertent gallows humor amuses me. I will tell Tom that later, I think. I can already see his eyes crinkling above that unmistakeable nose.
So: memories and ghosts and for Kate, a shifting sense of her own place in both her past and her present. I think it’s a fairly representative page. But perhaps you should buy the book and judge for yourself.
Visit Lexie Elliott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Sign of the Cross"

Glenn Cooper graduated with a degree in archaeology from Harvard and was formerly the Chairman and CEO of a biotechnology company in Massachusetts. His previous thrillers, including the bestselling Library of the Dead trilogy, have sold six million copies in more than thirty languages worldwide.

Cooper applied the Page 69 Test to his new religious conspiracy thriller, Sign of the Cross, and reported the following:
My favorite page in the book! Well, maybe not, but an interesting page to illustrate an important point about Sign of the Cross in particular, and thrillers in general. In the book which is the first in a new series, Cal Donovan, professor of history of religion and archaeology at the Harvard Divinity School, is asked by the Vatican to investigate the case of a young Italian priest who develops the stigmata of the wounds of the crucified Christ. Is the priest a faker or might this be a real miracle?

The page involves the book’s antagonist, Schneider, and his nefarious organization, and here I use the device of a new recruit to illuminate some of the group’s backstory. Thrillers, by nature, cannot work without the duality of a protagonist and an antagonist. I’m not the only thriller writer who’s found that coming up with strong, believable, multidimensional bad guys is really the name of the game. Good guys are easy to invent, bad guys are hard. Early on in my writing career, a mentor who earned his bones in the thriller game told me to study Ken Follett’s The Man From St. Petersburg, where equal page count is devoted to the protagonist and the antagonist. That lesson stuck with me and I take a measure of pride in crafting good bad guys.
Visit Glenn Cooper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2018

"A Lite Too Bright"

Samuel Miller was born and raised in Vermillion, South Dakota, and now resides in Los Angeles, where, in addition to writing, he directs music videos and coaches Little League Baseball. He began writing his first novel while on tour in a fifteen-passenger van with the rock band Paradise Fears. A Lite Too Bright is his debut novel. Currently he attends graduate school at the University of Southern California. He credits his existence entirely to two spectacular parents, three brothers, one sister, and the best and sweetest puppy dog on the whole planet, Addison.

Miller applied the Page 69 Test to A Lite Too Bright and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Lite Too Bright is entirely dedicated to a public address announcement made by the conductor of the Zeyphr train (his second of six such announcements in the novel), alerting the train passengers their next stop is Elko, Nevada. While this may not contain much literal information about the plot, I think it captures the essence of the book in a couple of subtle ways:

The conductor is about as modern, middle America as you can get; he sounds like someone straight out of my youth, false enthusiasm & all, & to me, a lot of this book is about trying to create that world for the reader. He's expressing his frustration with people getting off to smoke at stops when they're not supposed to; but truly, as he reveals, his frustration is with the organization & bureaucracy of his superiors. Truthfully, he doesn't care about what people do, he just hates that he's made to care, because he has to, because of the way systems of power & money are structured in the world-- also an over-arching theme & common attitude amongst characters.

Mostly though, it just tells the readers where we are....
Visit Samuel Miller's website.

Writers Read: Samuel Miller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"The Accidental Bad Girl"

Maxine Kaplan was born in Washington, DC. She and her twin sister spent their early childhoods trotting behind their journalist parents as they traveled around the world, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY. Maxine graduated from Oberlin College in 2007. Following a long stint in the world of publishing, she has worked as a private investigator since 2009. She lives in her adopted hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her lovely husband and complex cat.

Kaplan applied the Page 69 Test to The Accidental Bad Girl, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Accidental Bad Girl is both representative of the book as a whole and not representative. I don’t think this page out of context will give away the central conflicts of the book; it doesn’t tell you anything about the plot or even the genre. But what I think it does convey is the underlying conflicts of the book—the themes that undergird all the action. Specifically, this page concerns the contrast between reputation and lived experience; between trust your interpretation of your actions over the wider world’s impression of them. It also highlights the focus on sexual double standards and the slut-shaming that we still haven’t gotten over as a society, and which teenage girls deal with on a daily basis.
“Kendall, talk to me,” she said earnestly, grabbing my wrist. “I’m your friend.”

“Get away from me,” I hissed at her, trying to extricate my arm.

Audrey suddenly let go and buried her face in her hands. When she looked up there were tears in her eyes. I would have been impressed if I hadn't been there the first time Audrey cried on demand, to get out of trouble when she snuck into the hotel pool on the eighth grade field trip to DC. But I had been the only one there, so when she did it now, a hush fell over the hallway as Audrey hunched over and her shoulders shook.

“When you did what you did with Grant, I was angry, but I hoped our friendship would eventually get past it,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, it was a real betrayal, but I told myself to remember how frustrating it must have been for you, to watch your friend with the guy you secretly wanted. I felt bad for you. But it’s because I assumed you liked him, not that it was about sex!”

She drew a raggedy gasp and continued, with narrowed, clear eyes staring straight at me. “Now I’m just worried about you, Kendall. Despite everything, I still care about you and I don’t want you to put yourself in dangerous situations. Grant is one thing, but strangers? Where are you meeting these guys? How old are they? Are you being safe?”

At each question, her voice went an octave higher, painting pictures in my head—and everyone else's heads.
I’m actually pretty pleased with page 69 as representative of Bad Girl. Gives nothing away while telling you what it’s worried about. Not a bad test...
Visit Maxine Kaplan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Nightblade's Honor"

Ryan Kirk is an author and entrepreneur based out of Minnesota. He is the author of the Nightblade series of fantasy novels and the founder of Waterstone Media.

Kirk applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Nightblade's Honor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I have, of course, heard the stories of the skill blades possess, but I have never seen anything like that in my life. How good are you?”

“Better than many, but far from the best,” she replied. Telling the truth also felt good. She was tired of hiding and lying just to stay safe.
Unlike my last attempt at this experiment, in this case, page 69 is a wonderful microcosm of the book as a whole. In the scene, Asa, one of the protagonists, has just been discovered as a nightblade. Nightblades have protected the Kingdom for many years now, but at this time in the story, they are being hunted for their perceived crimes, and Asa has been on the run since the beginning of the book.

As I was writing this book, I was fascinated by the question: "What happens when society turns its back on its protectors?" Within this scene, one possibility begins to play out as a retired soldier realizes the person he invited into his house is much more than she seems. This is the beginning of a series of scenes I greatly enjoyed writing, and so I'm excited it popped up on the Page 69 Test!
Visit Ryan Kirk's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nightblade's Vengeance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Bad Cops"

Nick Oldham was born in April 1956 in a house in the tiny village of Belthorn on the moors high above Blackburn, Lancashire.

After leaving college and spending a depressing year in a bank, he joined Lancashire Constabulary at the age of nineteen in 1975 and served in many operational postings around the county. Most of his service was spent in uniform, but the final ten years were spent as a trainer and a manager in police training. He retired in 2005 at the rank of inspector.

He lives with his partner, Belinda, on the outskirts of Preston.

Oldham applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Bad Cops, and reported the following:
I scoffed at this concept! Until I read page 69 and began to think that maybe it was representative of the rest of the book, and I suppose that one should be able to take any random page and apply that question ... But my page 69, much to my delight, said so much about the book. First of all, I think it's quite a funny page – Henry Christie is being tailed by two corrupt but inept detectives who do not like each other very much, one of whom has been eating too much fast food which plays havoc with his digestive system, and also discloses Henry's love of carrot cake – but it is also something more than this, and I think the book is summed up in a short sentence said by one of the bad guys to the other as they drive past Henry, who is sitting outside a café eating said cake, as this bad guy suddenly realizes something profound about Henry: 'This fucker is gonna haunt us.' And in that succinct phrase we readers learn something (which we may already know about Henry if we've read other books in the series): Once Henry Christie is on your tail, he is not gonna let go, whatever the cost.
Follow Nick Oldham on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Nick Oldham.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2018

"The Perfect Mother"

Aimee Molloy is the author of the New York Times bestseller However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and the co-author of several non-fiction books, including Jantsen’s Gift, with Pam Cope.

Molloy applied the Page 69 Test to The Perfect Mother, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69:
“What’s your story?” Colette had asked Winnie. But she waved away the question.

“We’ll save that one for another time,” she said, rifling through her wallet. An older woman in front of them turned, a paper cup of roasted nuts in her hands. She smiled, noticing the rise of their bellies. The woman placed her free hand on Winnie’s arm. “You have no idea what you two are in for,” she said, her eyes moist. “The world’s most wonderful gift.”

“That was sweet,” Colette said, after the woman walked away.

“You think so?” Winnie wasn’t looking at her, though. She was staring past her, beyond the stone wall, into the park. “Why does everybody like to tell new mothers what we’re about to gain? Why does nobody want to talk about what we have to lose?”

As she climbs the steps of City Hall, Colette’s thoughts turn to the caption she’d read under Midas’ photo: The baby’s Sophie the Giraffe, a plastic squeak toy from France popular with American parents, and a blue baby’s blanket are also missing. The police are asking anyone with information to call 1-800-NYPDTIP.

Whoever took Midas: why would they take those things? It’s good news, Colette decides, stepping into the elevator. After all, only a person who loves him—or at least someone who doesn’t intend to hurt him—would think to also take his favorite blanket and toy.
How interesting! I think the page 69 test works quite well here, as it raises two questions central to the mystery of what happened to baby Midas, who was abducted from his crib while his sitter slept on the couch.

First, Colette is remembering back a few months to a conversation she had with Winnie (it is her son who was abducted). Winnie and she were still pregnant and Colette remembers an odd comment Winnie made that day--“Why does everybody like to tell new mothers what we’re about to gain? Why does nobody want to talk about what we have to lose?” This comment would come to haunt Colette, making her question what role, if any, Winnie had in what happened to her son that night.

And second, it sets out that whoever took Midas also took his favorite blanket or toy. Hmmmm…what could that mean?
Visit Aimee Molloy's website.

Writers Read: Aimee Molloy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Positively Izzy"

Terri Libenson is the cartoonist of the internationally syndicated daily comic strip, The Pajama Diaries. She was also a long-time humorous card writer for American Greetings. She won numerous awards for her greeting cards and was the creator of a top-selling card line, “Skitch.” Terri has also written for AmericanGreetings.com, Egreetings.com, and BlueMountainArts.com.

Libenson applied the Page 69 Test to her new graphic novel, Positively Izzy, and reported the following:
Positively Izzy is told from the perspective of two girls, Brianna and Izzy. Page 69 falls during one of Izzy’s chapters. Here, we see Izzy’s mom walking in to their apartment with groceries, ready to chastise her daughter after finding something which turns out to be Izzy’s unfinished take-home test.

This page represents Izzy and her mother’s relationship, which is an important part of the story; Izzy constantly fails to be productive in school, and her mother always worries about her. It’s a tension that builds until an ultimate conflict occurs between mother and daughter. Page 69 is a big predictor of what’s to come.
Visit Terri Libenson's website.

Writers Read: Terri Libenson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Orphan Monster Spy"

Matt Killeen was born in Birmingham, in the UK, back when trousers were wide and everything was brown. Early instruction in his craft included being told that a drawing of a Cylon exploding isn’t writing and copying-out your mother’s payslip isn’t an essay “about my family.” Several alternative careers beckoned, some involving laser guns and guitars, before he finally returned to words and attempted to make a living as an advertising copywriter and largely ignored music and sports journalist. He now writes for the world’s best loved toy company, as it wasn’t possible to be an X-wing pilot. Married to his Nuyorican soul mate, he is parent to both an unfeasibly clever teenager and a toddler who is challenging his father’s anti-establishment credentials by repeatedly writing on the walls. He accidentally moved to the countryside in 2016.

Killeen applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Orphan Monster Spy, and reported the following:
I’m a bit sceptical of the concept behind this, mostly because text and layout vary between editions, however page 69 of the UK edition of Orphan Monster Spy is indeed a bit pivotal. It’s the moment that The Captain is confirmed as a spy as a result of Sarah’s investigations…
“Some things, I don’t know what they are. But you’re a spy.”

“That so?”

“If those things weren’t locked up I wouldn’t have been sure, but they were hidden, so they’re secret. That makes you a spy.”

It’s also the moment she is given her little monster identity, the start of her journey to become a spy herself.

Sarah opened the card. There she was, standing against the hall wall, with the name Ursula Bettina Haller. Most miraculously of all, the papers were unstamped. There was no red J, no police station attendance stamps. Ursula was German and she wasn’t Jewish.

“Why are you doing this?” Sarah felt something – an itch in the corner of her eyes, and it left her breathless. It took her a few seconds to recognize the emotion, so long had it been since she’d been grateful. It made her feel vulnerable and she was immediately suspicious of it.
She ceases to be the orphan from this point on. It marks the end of the “origin story” and the start of the mission. I used to read this bit on my author visits…I’ve been advised to go for a more high-octane bit.
Orphan Monster Spy is on Jenny Kawecki's list of seven YA titles with undercover spies.

Follow Matt Killeen on Twitter.

Writers Read: Matt Killeen.

--Marshal Zeringue