Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Deep Roots"

Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, and occasionally attempts to save the world.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Deep Roots, and reported the following:
On page 69, Aphra meets with her least favorite FBI agents, and learns why their team of supernatural affairs experts are investigating the same disappearance that she is:
Peters didn’t look pleased, but he took a clothbound volume from one of their stacks, and opened it to a marked page. There lay sketched my childhood recollection: crablike claws, overarched with bat wings fading to fog at the edges, and an eyeless head covered with irregular protuberances like some exotic fungus. Barlow retrieved a folder from across the room. Inside, another drawing in a more formal style: where the book showed the creature poised for flight and clutching some device in its foremost claws, the folder showed it splayed as if ready for dissection. I repressed a shudder. The two figures could have been drawn from the same verbal description, but the details were all different: the folder showed the head rounder and the protuberances more varied, the placement of the claws completely different and more lobster-like than crab-like.

“This one’s a composite,” said Barlow, tapping the folder. “From reports a few years back of bodies seen in a flooding river. No corpses were found, of course, and it was dismissed at the time as mass hysteria.” Mary’s eyes tracked his finger. Her gaze passed over the drawings and back to us.

“Mass hysteria,” she said, “usually means someone’s worked hard to convince people that they didn’t see anything.”
Aphra spends most of Deep Roots wrestling with the Outer Ones—the aliens behind Barlow’s sketches—about their interference in human politics, and trying to untangle the dangers of their own inhuman conflicts. So page 69, where she gets her first glimpse of them, foreshadows a lot of what’s coming. And her friction with Barlow’s team, who nearly got her killed in Winter Tide, will continue to make the whole thing more difficult.

Trying to understand the agents’ interplay makes Aphra think about the differences between her culture and theirs:
The scene in front of me slipped further into focus: Barlow, trying to pretend that he and [Aphra’s brother] Caleb were in charge; Mary and [Aphra’s friend] Deedee, trying to let him. That might be the best way to get work done, but I couldn’t imagine keeping up the pretense. Innsmouth women might deck themselves in gold for a man’s pleasure, recite passages of lore to show off their learning, or cultivate an interest in stories about fishing expeditions. But my mother had never taught me how to efface myself to bolster male self-importance—nor had my father taught any need for it.
These differences play their own roles in the book. It’s easy to imagine how the common prejudices of 1949 America might get in the way of a woman trying to get things done; the less familiar biases of Aphra’s own people are ultimately just as problematic. I love drawing conflict from cultural pressures—mutual incomprehension between people who think they’re being obvious, or situations that put what needs to be done up against what someone can’t imagine ever doing.
“We’ve had an uptick in sightings over the past couple of months, all along the Berkshires and White Mountains,” said Barlow. “Clusters in the vicinity of disappearances, cutting off after each one. Even a few possible cases here in New York, though they’re pretty vague.”

“I hate this city,” added Peters. “One of these monsters could walk down Fifth Avenue, and people would only report if it stopped traffic.”
Also representative: Peters being a douchebag. He’ll get worse over the next few chapters…
Visit Ruthanna Emrys's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Potter's Field"

Rob Hart is the author of the Ash McKenna series which wraps up this month with Potter’s Field. Other entries include: New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague. He also co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson.

Hart applied the Page 69 Test to Potter’s Field and reported the following:
From page 69:
“The hardest kind of person to help is someone who doesn’t want help,” she says. “If there’s one thing I know without any doubt or question, it’s that. Unless someone wants to make a change, they won’t do it. They’ll dig in deeper. He has to want to be helped. So make sure when you find him you give him what he needs. It might not be to drag him here kicking and screaming.”
This is a social worker talking to the lead character, Ash McKenna, about a heroin addict he’s looking for.

But it’s about him, too.

It sums up a lot of Ash’s journey. In the first book, New Yorked, he’s a brash, angry kid with a skewed moral compass. The whole series is about him growing up. This is the first that he’s actually ready to do that, and he’s just realizing it.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field by Rob Hart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2018

"A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe"

Alex White was born and raised in the American south. He takes photos, writes music, and spends hours on YouTube watching other people blacksmith. He values challenging and subversive writing, but he’ll settle for a good time.

White lives in the shadow of Huntsville, Alabama’s rockets with his wife, son, two dogs and a cat named Grim. Favored pastimes include Legos and racecars. He takes his whiskey neat and his espresso black.

White applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ranger rested a heavy, sharp claw on Boots’s shoulder. Its hiss dripped with malice, like steam through a long steel pipe. Ahead of her, human death. Behind her, a walking blender.

“So, uh, how long have you been with the captain?”

“I’ve been on this ship since I was a little girl. Came aboard after you deserted the captain.”
Orna looked to be in her mid-twenties, so Boots did the math and ignored the jab. “Yeah, so I’m guessing that’s about fifteen years?”

“Yes. No more questions about me.”

Behind Orna’s back, Boots silently mocked the quartermaster’s gruff delivery.

Orna paused. “You know I can see everything Ranger sees.”

They wound through the ship’s foredecks until they came to the bridge. It was precisely as Boots had left it almost twenty years ago, with a fresh coat of paint over all the bits that made it an ADF ship. Unlike Cordell’s office, which had essentially been gutted and rebuilt, the bridge was a spotless, frozen set piece from the Famine War. Three terraces, each taller than a large man, housed stations and readouts. Overhead, starlight slipped through a tremendous bubble dome. Boots’s favorite shift on the bridge had always been the night cycle, when the lights were dimmed and she was alone with the vastness of space.

She immediately recognized the marksman from the bazaar sitting in the pilot’s chair three terraces down. The pilot stood up and ascended the stairs at their entry.

“Aisha,” said Orna. “This is Boots Elsworth. You’ve met.”

The pilot smiled and took Boots’s hand in both of hers. “Aisha Jan. It is my utmost pleasure. Sorry for shooting you.”

Up close, she was far prettier than Boots remembered in the bazaar, with smoky eyes and long brown hair that faded to pink at the tips like some bird of paradise.
First off, this is 100% representative of the rest of the book!

We've just been introduced to Ranger, a walking AI battle armor that follows Orna Sokol, the quartermaster, around like a pet. Orna and Ranger are a tough combo, and they steal almost every scene they're in from here on out.

Opposite them, we have one of our two main characters, Boots Elsworth. She’s smart-mouthed and salty as hell, and this scene is no exception. Boots is a con artist by trade, and she’s on the ship because she’s swindled them out of a considerable amount of cash. In retaliation, they’ve kidnapped her, and they plan to squeeze every last asset they can out of her.

The one way in which this scene differs from the rest of the book is its lack of mortal peril. A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe keeps time through spectacular setpiece action scenes, from high-octane races on a space station to pitched gun battles. So, if this scene had colorful characters, sass and action, I’d say it was more representative.

Fear not, dear readers, for within the next twenty pages, we’ll be blowing enemy ships out of the stars and getting a taste of just what they’re up against!
Visit Alex White's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"The Collide"

Kimberly McCreight is the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, which was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Alex Awards and was called Entertainment Weekly’s Favorite Book of the Year. Reconstructing Amelia has been optioned for film by HBO and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films. McCreight’s second adult novel, Where They Found Her, was a USA Today bestseller and a Kirkus Best Mystery of the Year.

The Outliers, the first book in her teen trilogy, also a New York Times bestseller, has been optioned for film by Lionsgate, Mandeville, and Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard. The second book, The Scattering, was released in 2017.

McCreight  applied the Page 69 Test to the newly released third and final book, The Collide, and reported the following:
From page 69:

“The hospital sent your phone back,” Gideon says, when I finally get back downstairs from the longest shower I have ever taken. He puts the phone down in front of me on the coffee table. “I charged it for you. I mean, it probably has like nine kinds of tracing crap embedded on it. You should take a look at your missed messages or whatever. Then we should probably burn it in the backyard.”

Gideon thinking to charge my phone feels like the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I stare down at it and try not to cry.

“Thanks,” I manage.

When I turn it on, one hundred and thirty-six texts flood in. Jasper accounts for 90 percent of the messages, all sent in the twenty-four hours between when he saw me grabbed on the bridge and when he finally snuck his way into the hospital...
This moment from The Collide is actually both typical and atypical of the book and The Outliers trilogy as a whole. The scene is atypical in that it’s a relatively quiet moment in a series full of a great deal of fast-paced action. After narrowly evading capture in The Outliers, and finally beginning coming to terms with who she is in The Scattering, Wylie now finds herself in The Collide falsely accused of murder. Luckily, with the help of her mother’s friend Rachel she’s been temporarily released on bail. In this scene shortly after her release, she and her brother Gideon attempt to come to an uneasy peace, but reconciliation isn’t simple after Gideon’s betrayal. Still, Wylie needs someone she can count on right now and that person is Gideon, whatever his shortcomings.

It is in this respect that the scene on Page 69 is emblematic of The Collide—and the series more broadly. The Outliers explores what it means to trust in yourself, while knowing that the greatest strength may lie in how we connect with others. What Wylie learns in The Collide is that no one can truly make a difference by going it alone. The trick is finding the right people to fight at your side.
Visit Kimberly McCreight's website.

The Page 69 Test: Reconstructing Amelia.

The Page 69 Test: The Scattering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"The Girl from Blind River"

Gale Massey lives in St. Petersburg, FL. Her stories have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Walking the Edge, Sabal, Seven Hills Press, and other journals. She has been the recipient of scholarships and fellowships at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Writers in Paradise, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Massey applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Girl From Blind River, and reported the following:
“When Keating looked at Phoebe and raised his glass she knew it was time to wind things up with a big hand.”

This last sentence from page 69 represents the power dynamics that play out in the novel. Judge Keating runs a high-stakes poker game for regional and local officials and high-profile celebrities. It’s a game that he is notorious for fixing and winning. Most of the people he invites understand this and consider it a form of hazing they have to put up with to win the favor of Blind River’s most powerful judge. However, on this night a retired and beloved NFL player is in attendance and he’s got no intention of losing. Phoebe, an ex-con, has been hired by Judge Keating to deal the game in the basement of Keating’s house. Since he’s the one that sentenced her to prison she’s well aware of his authority in her life and his ability to corrupt the system to his own benefit. She’s understands that she’s been hired to make sure he not only wins the game but deals his competitors a vicious loss. But while the last thing Phoebe wants is to get tangled up with the law, the last hand of the night puts her dead center in a detective’s investigation when one of the players goes missing.
Visit Gale Massey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl From Blind River.

Writers Read: Gale Massey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

"A Theory Of Love"

Margaret Bradham Thornton is the author of the novels A Theory Of Love and Charleston and the editor of Tennessee Williams’s Notebooks, for which she received the Bronze ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in autobiography/memoir and the C. Hugh Holman Prize for the best volume of southern literary scholarship published in 2006, given by the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Theory Of Love and reported the following:
Page 69. This is the moment when Christopher and Helen’s relationship shifts. Helen has dislodged him from his emotional reticence and his devotion to sprezzatura. My character Christopher emerged from research I was doing on Cuba. I came across a memoir of a man who had been orphaned as a two year-old and taken into a circus when he was seven. His memoir detailed all the places he had traveled in the US and Cuba during the 1800s, and his account was surprisingly flat and unemotional, and it made me wonder about what could be expected from someone who had never been loved or who had had love withheld. So even though my novel’s setting is contemporary, I thought this question could be explored through Christopher whose father died in a skiing accident when he was small and whose mother was emotionally distant. On page 69, Christopher surprises himself when he asks Helen to marry him. One of the questions going forward now and for the rest of the novel is whether or how Christopher shifts or changes once he and Helen are married.
Visit Margaret Bradham Thornton's website.

Writers Read: Margaret Bradham Thornton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2018

"Empire of Silence"

Christopher Ruocchio is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Ruocchio has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Empire of Silence and reported the following:
From page 69:
"...Order. Without that, civilization on a galactic scale is impossible. It breaks down.”

“The Eudorans get on just fine!” I objected, thinking of the nomad caravaners with their net of asteroid stations spread throughout human space. “And the Freeholders.”

“Please,” Lord Alistair sneered. “Those inbreds can’t hold a single planet together, much less a thousand.” And with an impatient hand wave he dismissed billions of human lives from our conversation as one shoos away a fly. “Do you know that some of those Freeholder worlds have countries? Nation-​­states like those from before the Exodus? Some of those little colonies can’t even build starships! They fight themselves as much as they fight anyone else.”

I shrugged. “And we don’t?”

“The rules of poine have their admirers in the Imperium, I’ll grant. But the Chantry regulates our actions, minimizes collateral damage.”

“They threaten dissident lords with biological weapons, you mean. What has any of this to do with circuses?”

The Archon of Meidua thrust his chin out. “We ­aren’t like those other nations, son. There’s no congress, no body politic here. When I make a decree, I make it. Personally. No proxies, no fallbacks. The old systems of democracy and parliament only allowed the cowards to hide. Our power depends not on the consent of the people but on their belief in us.”

“I know all this,” I said, shifting forward to the edge of my seat. My nostrils flared. I had not forgiven the man for abandoning me to my injuries. He was my father, in Earth’s name. My father. And I was being lectured because I had been brutalized. Still, he was right. I was not just a boy. I was his son, and there was a responsibility on me to carry the weight of my house. There was power in that responsibility and an accountability, too. It is for this reason that a lord was better than parliament. A lord had no excuse. If he abused his power, as I feared Crispin might, he would not rule for long. If he was cold in the application of his power, as I knew my father was, he would not rule easily.

“No, you don’t,” the lord snapped, smoothing a curling lock of hair back behind one ear. “We have to engage with the churls. We have to show that we are people, boy, not some abstract political concept. That is what they understand. That is why I sent you and Crispin to the Colosso while I treated with Elmira. I am patriarch to the people of Meidua, and you both were sent to represent me and our house. Personally. Crispin played his role admirably; the people love him now because they see him as part of their world. He fought in their Colosso, while you ... ​you turned your back.”
You’re trying to get me in trouble with this passage! Here Hadrian’s father is outlining a bit of his philosophy of governance, which is decidedly Machiavellian, if not completely untrue. Hadrian starts this novel out in quite a position of authority, which many people will be quick to point out is a kind of privilege. What those same people are very often blind to is the degree to which that same authority brings with it a degree of scrutiny and responsibility. Contrary to popular wisdom, tyrants almost always die horribly because the people simply won’t consent to be governed by such people. (I think the assassination rate among European monarchs was something like 16%, making it one of the most lethal occupations in history). It’s even true among chimpanzees, our closest relatives, where it turns out the troop leaders who are kind but firm rule better, more stably, and over periods of increased prosperity (which would imply a kind of objective morality and ethic of leadership, but that’s a big conversation). Hadrian’s father is a tyrant, and as we’ll see: his negative example points Hadrian towards the proper path.

I don’t actually think this page is very representative of Empire of Silence as a whole. While Hadrian certainly has very complex feelings about the Sollan Empire and his place in it (and about everything, really), he doesn’t discuss political theory very much. Nevertheless, it’s a very important scene and one which informs Hadrian’s character in ways I don’t think even he could readily admit.
Follow Christopher Ruocchio on Twitter.

Writers Read: Christopher Ruocchio.

My Book, The Movie: Empire of Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"The Moment Before Drowning"

James Brydon grew up in North Shropshire, England, and studied English at Oxford. For over a decade, he has worked as a cryptic crossword setter. Under the name Picaroon, he sets two puzzles a month in the Guardian, and he compiles for the Spectator, the Times (London), and the fiendish Listener puzzle, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as the films of Akira Kurosawa and the six-fold symmetry of snowflakes. He is fluent in French and Serbian, is currently polishing his German, and can hold a conversation in passable Chinese. He lives in St. Albans, England, with his wife and daughter.

Brydon applied the Page 69 Test to The Moment Before Drowning, his debut novel, and reported the following:
The Moment Before Drowning is the haunting story of two murders: one the main protagonist is asked to investigate, and one he is accused of. In the background, it’s also an exploration of colonial history, and a book about memory and the shifting, elusive nature of truth.

On this page, Captain le Garrec is questioning the aristocratic Christian de la Hallière, a suspect who knew the murdered girl’s father during World War Two. De la Hallière, part of French troops that fought with the Wehrmacht, recounts how he killed a Russian peasant during the retreat on the Ostfront precisely because the act was unjustifiable, and therefore steeped in the pleasure of crime. De la Hallière gleefully highlights the paradox between the supposed moral progress of modernity and the barbarity of mass destruction and the Holocaust: “We may claim to abhor war, in this sanitized century we inhabit, but the conflicts we have fought have pushed brutality and depravity to hitherto unseen levels.” As le Garrec listens, he is uncertain how much of what de la Hallìere says is fact, and how much he is embellishing to play the role of the unrepentant fascist.

Since this is a mystery novel, I won’t say if this information turns out to be significant. However, the notions that memory is never objective, and that truth is difficult to ascertain, resonate later on. Le Garrec will be called to give an account of a horrific act which occurred while he was in the army in Algeria, forcing him to confront his own traumatic past, and to try to reconcile his sense of guilt with his need for exoneration.
Learn more about The Moment Before Drowning at the Akashic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Alternative Remedies for Loss"

Joanna Cantor is the author of the novel Alternative Remedies for Loss. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from Colorado College, and is a recipient of the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Cantor applied the Page 69 Test to Alternative Remedies for Loss and reported the following:
From page 69:
get a feel for what was out there. She showed Olivia pictures and they huddled over her phone, blurring the line between themselves and the young patrons at the next table.

OLIVIA AND MICHEL fell into a sort of routine. It wasn’t the kind where he took her to dinner. But she could rummage in his cabinets and find things to eat while he looked on with mild amusement. There was always champagne, and when they didn’t finish the bottle, he threw it away. Mornings, he drank French press coffee with almond milk, too fatless and bitter for her. While he showered, she stole the guest chocolate from above the kitchen sink. And then he’d come out of the bathroom with toothpaste breath and call her Lady Godiva and they’d fuck again—on the couch, on the floor, once with her hip pressed into the counter so hard she had a bruise for ten days. He loved the bruise. The next time he saw her, he couldn’t stop touching it. He pushed his thumb into it while he fucked her, even when she winced. He watched her face, waiting for her to tell him to stop, which she didn’t, and he came early, with the look of a child having an accident.

They saw each other a couple of times a week, always at his place. One evening in early November—the days so short that by the time Olivia left work it felt like it had been night for as long as it had been day—Michel said he had presents for her. He’d ordered a bunch of lingerie online, or not exactly lingerie: a couple of lacy thongs, a camisole because he didn’t know her bra size, and several pairs of metallic leggings. Apparently he had a thing for leggings.

Olivia modeled the thongs in the living room to instrumental jazz. Michel fiddled with the stereo, reaching out to stroke her hip. “Perfect ass,” he murmured appreciatively, as though he’d designed it himself. She stuck it out for him and then turned to face
My debut novel Alternative Remedies for Loss is the story of 22-year-old Olivia Harris in the year after her mother’s death. After a disastrous family trip to India, Olivia moves to New York City and gets a job at a media company. Months later, a discovery about her mom leads her back to India, this time to visit a yoga ashram.

Page 69 does not refer to the most central part of the novel—the loss of Olivia’s mother, which has left her reeling. But this page does capture one major strand of Alternative Remedies for Loss: the ill-advised but exciting romantic fling. Olivia’s relationship with Michel, an older man she meets through work, may not be the best idea, but there’s a lightness and playfulness to it at the beginning (as there often can be in the early stages of a relationship, even if the wiser part of us knows we’re making a mistake).

The mood of novelty and energy that show up on this page are not just about Michel; they’re also about Olivia’s first months in New York. It was important to me while writing this book that the themes of loss and grief not become too heavy because, while they are true to Olivia’s experience, she’s also young: it’s a time of many firsts, and she is capable of being distracted and getting swept up in her new city life.
Visit Joanna Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Caught in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University, and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper. Currently, she is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

McElwain applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Caught in Time, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Then build me a picture. Don’t lie or soften it. What was Mr. Stone like?”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at his tense hands. “Mr. Stone was complicated,” he finally said. “He could be in a jovial mood...”

“But,” Kendra prodded.

Biddle took the bait. “But his jovial mood often came at the expense of the mill workers.”

“How so?”

Biddle unlaced his fingers and spread his hands on the desk. “He was the manager of Bancroft Mill. We employ nearly three hundred workers, Miss Donovan. It’s the largest mill in the area.”

“I see. In other words, he held a lot of power.”

“Yes, he did.”

“And how did he use his power?”

Biddle pursed his lips as he considered the question. “He ... he enjoyed threatening workers with dismissal—without references. His humor could be cruel.”

“Cruel to you?”

“No.” He met her eyes, and shrugged. “I served a purpose, Miss Donovan. I handle the day-to-day operation of the mill,something which Mr. Stone had no interest in doing. He would never have dismissed me.”

Kendra wondered if that was true. No one was indispensable. And if Stone turned on his assistant of nineteen years, what would Biddle have done?

She asked, “Did he threaten to fire workers, or did he actually fire them?”

“Both. We’ve had to dismiss workers with the addition of new frames.”

“That must have angered a lot of your employees.”

“Yes, but Lord Bancroft was the one who made the decision to order them, not Mr. Stone. It is essential for progress, you must understand.”
Caught in Time brings back my protagonist, Kendra Donovan, who is a twenty-first century FBI agent inexplicably thrust into Regency England. She and her guardian, the Duke, are traveling to one of his estates in the north of England when they get waylaid by fog and the murder of a mill manager. This was a dangerous time between factory/mill owners and workers; emotions were running high. When Luddites attack a local mill and the manager is found bludgeoned to death, many in the village are quick to connect the dots. For Kendra, those dots are leading away from the Luddites. Once again Kendra is challenged by the lack of forensics tools in this era as well as the submissive role women were forced to play. My page 69 illustrates the procedural aspects to a criminal investigation. Victimology is important — understanding who the victim was and how that might have contributed to his/her death. Here we begin to see that the victim was a megalomaniac, who had more than one enemy. It is also the beginning of a dark and twisty road that Kendra will be propelled down, with some shocking revelations to her own circumstance in 19th century England.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

--Marshal Zeringue