Sunday, March 24, 2019

"The Liar's Child"

Carla Buckley is the author of The Good Goodbye, The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a best first novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Wharton School of Business, and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and three children.

Buckley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Liar's Child, and reported the following:
The Liar's Child is told from the perspectives of four narrators, and page 69 finds us hearing from Sara, the novel’s main protagonist. We’re at the beginning of Chapter 12, and Sara’s up to something. So far, we’ve learned that Sara (which isn’t her real name) is a reluctant participant in the federal Witness Protection program for crimes as yet unnamed. She’s been driven across the country, dropped at a seedy apartment building on the North Carolina coast, and given a job cleaning beach rentals. Right now, it’s late, and Sara’s been waiting for the rest of the apartment residents to settle down for the night. We follow her as she quietly sneaks down to the courtyard, and over to her own car. She’s brought tools with her, and goes to work.
Sara waited for the people working the third shift to drift across the courtyard to their cars and drive away before she quietly let herself out of her apartment. It was just before midnight. The partiers were still out. She figured she had maybe an hour before they returned, tires squealing and music blaring out of car windows, searching for anything that might extend the party. The last thing Sara wanted was some amped-up drunk stumbling over and calling out, Hey, baby.
This scene captures Sara’s central conflicts—the one she knows about (chafing at the federal restrictions she’s under) and the one she doesn’t know about (the children who live in the apartment next door, who are about to make an appearance.) It reveals her ability to focus on the task at hand, her sheer grit and determination in achieving her goals, and hints at her vulnerability—the parts of herself she ignores and therefore doesn’t quite understand. She’s a keen observer of other people, but she never asks herself the same hard questions. Consequently, we wonder at her reliability as a narrator. How can we trust someone who can’t see the entire picture?
Visit Carla Buckley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"All the Wrong Places"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

Fielding applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, All the Wrong Places, and reported the following:
All the Wrong Places is about four women, all of whom are checking out various dating apps, unaware that a serial killer is also browsing these sites, looking for his next victim. Chloe, one of the four women, has just discovered her husband is listed on these sites and on page 69, she is preparing to confront him. While this page isn't representative of the more "thriller" aspect of this book, it is perhaps more representative of the concerns of the book as a whole, and is, in my opinion, every bit as suspenseful.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

My Book, The Movie: All the Wrong Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"A Dangerous Duet"

Karen Odden's interest in the Victorian era goes back to her New York University doctoral dissertation, which explored how the medical, parliamentary, and literary representations of nineteenth-century railway disasters helped to create a discourse out of which Freud and others fashioned their ideas of “trauma.”

Her first book, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today Bestseller and won the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona award for eBook Fiction.

Odden applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dangerous Duet, and reported the following:
Page 69 ends a chapter, so it’s a short page, with a sentence that begins on page 68:
Yes, Sebastian was physically powerful enough to inflict this sort of injury; I’d seen his taut body arc and somersault in the air and watched him catch his sister, bearing both her weight and his with only one hand. But from what I’d seen, the two of them seemed intensely protective of each other. Wasn’t the trapeze act itself a testament to the trust that was between them?

But perhaps it was precisely that—an act, with the trust merely an artifice that vanished offstage, like Amalie’s French accent.
Somewhat to my surprise, this short page is fairly representative! One important theme in the novel is the interplay between on-stage and off-stage identities. Wherein lies the foundation for an authentic self? Is it in the series of repeated actions (for example, a nightly performance) that approximates some sort of solid “core” of traits? Or does it inhere in “essential” elements such as race or gender? My heroine, Nell Hallam, dresses as a man because male performers are paid twice as much, but her costume also allows her certain liberties that facilitate her ambition and courage. Onstage, Amalie sings French songs with a pure accent, but she grew up in the East End and doesn’t understand the meaning of the lyrics she sings. For Stephen, an embittered performer, the distinction between truth and lies is blurred by the music hall roles. He insists that character is like an onion; one only finds different layers, and there is no solid foundation. Part of Nell’s trajectory is to clarify for herself the sorts of truth and the elements of character that matter.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Tiny Americans"

Devin Murphy grew up near Buffalo, NY in a family with Dutch roots. He holds a BA/MA from St. Bonaventure University, an MFA from Colorado State University, a PhD from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University. He has worked various jobs in national parks around the country and once had a three–year stint at sea that led him to over fifty countries on all seven continents. His fiction has appeared in over 60 literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, The Chicago Tribune, New Stories from the Midwest, and Confrontation. He lives with his wife and children in Chicago.

Murphy applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Tiny Americans, and reported the following:
This page of my novel is the middle of a scene where a character has to drag a dead horse out of a paddock at a Girl Scout Ranch and bury it on the mountainside. This has to be done before the campers wake up and see the horse. The scene is representative of the rest of the book which travels across the country and the world, paying close attention to the natural world and where it is both gritty and beautiful.
Visit Devin Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tiny Americans.

Writers Read: Devin Murphy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Pure Chocolate"

Amber Royer writes fun science fiction involving chocolate, aliens, lovesick AIs, time travel, and more. She teaches enrichment/continuing education creative writing classes for both teens and adults at UT Arlington.

Royer applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Pure Chocolate, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I am not dressed for diving. I can already feel myself walking in squishy shoes, chafing from wet jeans.

“Don’t look so nervous,” Mertex says. “We’re the shore crew.”

The helicopter hovers over one of the “teeth” and the guy sitting nearest the doorway throws out a nylon-looking ladder. He turns back to us, “Your turn.”

We climb down the ladder, and the helicopter moves on, leaving us in a wild, beautiful place, part beach, part riverbank, with stumpy lavender-barked trees and tangled yellow vines trailing down into the water, all decorated with driftwood and shells and tumbled bits of glass.

“Stay close, you guys. It would be embarrassing to lose part of our rescue party.” Mertex scans the area like Kaliel might appear if he looks hard enough. “If you see any mounds of dirt, or any giant green eggs, leave them alone.”

“What are they?” Brill asks.

Mertex shudders. “Yawds are vegetarians, and they’re shy, so as long as you don’t disturb their nests, they won’t stomp on you.”

“Good to know.” Brill takes a few steps down the shoreline, then hesitates, waiting to make sure we’re following him.

We walk for a couple of hours. I’m thirsty. I should have brought along some of Tawny’s bottled agua. Mertex didn’t bring any water either. Apparently Zantites can go longer without rehydrating.

“Babe.” Brill hands me a bottle of agua he had tucked in his jacket. I drink it greedily, while he sips at one of his own. An animal jumps in the channel, making a splash about ten feet out. Brill grabs my arm. I freeze, afraid I’m about to be Zandy-gater food.

Brill brings his face close to my ear, like he’s brushing my cheek with un beso. “Someone’s following us.”

In the stillness behind us, a twig snaps.
This page drops you into a big part of the book’s conflict and gives you a flavor of the first alien world Bo visits in the book. Kaliel is the pilot from the first book that Bo kissed – and after he shows back up and gets close to Bo on the dancefloor, Brill (Bo’s boyfriend) and Kaliel have a fight. So when Kaliel goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Brill becomes the prime suspect on a planet where it’s guilty until proven innocent.

Bo and Brill are the only non-Zantites in the search and rescue crew. They’re desperate to find Kaliel alive. The third character with them, Mertex, is a Zantite (if you didn’t read Book 1, picture a bald lemon-yellow giant with shark-teeth and whale-like eyes). In Free Chocolate, he’s the one who dumped Brill in that giant chocolate mold. (At this point, Mertex’s life has become bound to Bo’s, so obviously the relationships between all three characters have changed, but I won’t give spoilers as to how that happened.) Mertex is an important character this time around, so the fact that he shows up on this page is exceptionally cool.

You know that the foreshadowing on this page about not disturbing a yawd’s nest has to be followed up on. It’s going to be both comical and dangerous and a little gross – and drive the plot forward. And that gives you a true flavor of the book – comedy balanced with adventure.

Sadly, Bo doesn’t get any dialogue on this page ... which is not typical of the rest of the book. But the tone and pacing is about right.
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"The Waking Forest"

In between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies, Alyssa Wees grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats.

Wees applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Waking Forest, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I enter the blackness between the trees, and the forest does not vanish.

No—it collapses.

The branches curl in on themselves like fingers into a fist and the leaves drop all at once, a scratchy swirl of anemic green. The trunk nearest me begins to tip, and I jump out of the way into the path of another falling trunk, and another and another, until I’m forced to dart backward out of the woods. I stumble on a raised root and tumble to the lawn, the brief spark of sunlight from before now gone. I watch as the trees twist and tilt and crumble in a great plume of dust. Broken branches, cracked trunks, shriveled leaves—when the dust clears, floating up and up and up, all of it is gone.

It happens in perfect silence, and I have no idea when the screaming stopped.
At this point in The Waking Forest, the protagonist, Rhea, has had visions of a mysterious forest that always vanishes when she reaches out to touch it. No one else can see this forest. But in this scene, Rhea finally reaches the forest and manages to enter it for the very first time, even as it falls apart around her. Her visions are growing stronger and more tangible, and the fantasy world she sees is beginning to merge with her reality. This passage is absolutely representative of the rest of the novel. From here her visions are only going to grow more real—and more frightening.
Visit Alyssa Wees's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waking Forest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Last Night"

Karen Ellis is a pseudonym of author Katia Lief. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and The Authors Guild. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Night, and reported the following:
If you open to page 69 of Last Night you’ll find yourself in an abandoned warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn with my three favorite characters in this novel. It’s the night of high school graduation for Crisp and Glynnie, who visit with twelve-year-old weed dealer JJ. Crisp has just asked JJ, “How’d you get to be homeless?” and the boy has described how his Haitian parents were deported and he cycled through miserable foster families.
“That’s when I moved in here,” JJ tells them. “No one bothers me. I get good grades. A lot of food gets tossed in the dumpster by Fairway every night. For pocket money, I do a little selling for Big Man.”
Cossetted and entitled Glynnie, who has been JJ’s incurious customer for a while, finally wakes up to his plight.
Glynnie pivots to her knees, throws her arms around JJ, slight, bony, skin so soft, and whispers, “It’s okay.” Why did she never think to ask him that question: “Why are you homeless?” Now, she knows that he’s not ‘JJ, her kid dealer’ but ‘Janjak St. Fleur, beloved son of Ester and Kervens.’ Homeless, abused, neglected, surviving by his wits.
This is the moment when Crisp, biracial and himself fatherless and keenly aware of JJ’s challenges, makes the crucial decision to help JJ—a decision that fuels the story as it unfolds through the hours of a long and treacherous night.
Visit Karen Ellis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"The Chef’s Secret"

Crystal King is a novelist, editor, professor, social media professional, and critical & creative thinker.

Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius, the man whose name is on the world’s oldest known cookbook.

Her new novel, The Chef's Secret, is a story about a famous Italian Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the cuoco segreto (private cook) to several Popes.

King applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 drops the reader into the heart of the main conflict between my protagonist and villain.
The feather in Romoli’s green velvet hat fluttered in the breeze. He continued as though he had not heard me. “When Bartolomeo gifted me his recipes, it was the most important thing that ever happened to me. I could never thank him enough. Tell me, Giovanni, did they read the will yet? Barto told me when he passed he would leave more of his recipes to me.”

The heat rose to my face and to the tips of my ears. I jabbed a finger at Romoli’s chest. “You stole those recipes! How dare you ask if there are more for you.”

Romoli brushed my hand away. “I don’t understand this jealousy, Giovanni. I worked with him long before you did. I was called into service by the Medici and could not say no. It is because of that appointment you were even allowed into Bartolomeo’s good graces. Why should you be so surprised he would promise his recipes to me?”
This is a page of incredible fictional license. All of the people mentioned on this page were real, but none of these actions likely happened. It’s a “what-if” scenario, a bold connecting of the dots between the things we know and don’t know about these individuals: the Renaissance celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi; his apprentice and nephew, Giovanni; and Medici steward, Domenico Romoli. I try to stay true to what we know about historical figures, but when there are big gaps between those facts, that’s where the joy of invention comes in for authors of historical fiction.

In this case, I assume that Scappi and Romoli certainly were familiar in at least name, as they had cookbooks published within the same decade, and the world of Renaissance Italy was a small one. I wondered, what if they were jealous of each other? How would that rivalry manifest? This is one of those scenes that came from such conjecture.
Visit Crystal King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Feast of Sorrow.

Writers Read: Crystal King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"The Queen's Resistance"

Rebecca Ross was born and raised in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, her lively Australian Shepherd, and her endless piles of books. She loves coffee, the night sky, chalk art, maps, the mountains, and growing wildflowers in her yard. And a good story, of course.

Ross applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Queen’s Resistance, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my second book, The Queen’s Resistance, holds one of my favorite lines in the entire novel. This book is a sequel to my debut, The Queen’s Rising, and is a dual narrative between two of my characters, Brienna and Cartier. Their POV chapters alternate with one another, and page 69 happens to be in one of Brienna’s chapters.

Brienna is struggling to find her place among her new family, the MacQuinns of Maevana, and is beginning to feel like she does not belong, despite the fact that she was adopted by Lord MacQuinn. On page 69, she is writing a letter to one of her best friends, who she ardently misses, and she hears her friend say to her (and this is the quote I love): “You are a daughter of Maevana. You are made of ancient songs and stars and steel.”

Brienna claims that promise and it becomes a guiding light to her as the story progresses and she begins to face multiple challenges and heartbreaks and triumphs. The Queen’s Resistance is truly a novel that centers on justice, restoration and healing as well as forgiveness and finding one’s place. Brienna comes to realize—as does Cartier—that it is not only blood that holds people together but love and sacrifice and beliefs and ideals.
Visit Rebecca Ross's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Rising.

Coffee with a Canine: Rebecca Ross & Sierra.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"A Deadly Turn"

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. Her Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries include The Branson Beauty and Another Man's Ground.

Booth applied the Page 69 Test to the third book in the series, A Deadly Turn, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He fished through his notes and found the emergency notification phone number that the high school had on file for Johnny. There’d been no landline listed, just a single local cell number. He dialed, and it went straight to voice mail. Probably because it was currently sealed in an evidence bag.

Yo, this is Johnny. Leave me a message. If you’re lucky, I’ll hit you back.

Hank was not in the mood to think about luck. He shut the laptop with a smack just as Maggie came in from the garage. He was starting to tell her about Aunt Fin setting up camp in Maribel’s room when she collapsed in a chair across the table from him. He shut his mouth. This did not appear to be the right time. She looked like she could fall asleep right there.

“Babe, good grief,” he said. “What happened?”

She laid her head on the table. He knew that sign. She rarely ate when she was on shift, and now—nine hours after she was originally supposed to be finished—she was crashing. He rushed to the fridge and pulled out the eggs and cheese. Once he got the omelet going, the smell perked her up enough for her to raise her head.

“It was just an ordinary broken leg. I was in the middle of it and Ed was late, so I stayed to finish it. And then a trauma came in. Teenager. A fall. From at least twenty feet. So many broken bones. Protruding left tibia. Shattered left wrist. The only good thing is that it doesn’t look like she hit her head too badly. We were in surgery for … I don’t even know.”
This page really is representative of the rest of the book. Johnny was one of the teenagers involved in the deadly crash, and Sheriff Hank Worth is trying to find out more about him and growing more and more suspicious as he investigates. At the same time, Hank has to deal with several family problems, including the unexpected arrival of his wife’s Aunt Fin. The tension between these two things runs throughout the novel, and page 69 gives a very good snapshot of that.
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: Another Man's Ground.

The Page 69 Test: Another Man's Ground.

My Book, The Movie: A Deadly Turn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

"The Spitfire Girls"

Soraya M. Lane graduated with a law degree before realizing that law wasn't the career for her and that her future was in writing. She is the author of historical and contemporary women's fiction, and her novel Wives of War was an Amazon Charts bestseller.

Lane lives on a small farm in her native New Zealand with her husband, their two young sons and a collection of four legged friends. When she's not writing, she loves to be outside playing make-believe with her children or snuggled up inside reading.

Lane applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Spitfire Girls, and reported the following:
Well, this made me laugh! Page 69 just says “Part Two”! So I decided to do the page prior…

Here’s a little excerpt from the page:
‘Do you, want me to get her?’ Ruby asked. ‘When she lands, I mean?’

‘What I want is for you to pull her down a peg,’ May fumed as she sorted off. ‘And remind her that this isn’t some jolly overseas experience, because we’re in the middle of a bloody war, in case she hasn’t noticed!’

Lizzie might have the fancy training and acrobatics in the air, but Ruby had skill and the quiet respect of the other women. Seeing her watch the American slack-jawed and in awe was more infuriating right now that watching Lizzie’s insubordination.

She’d been asked to take her best two pilots with her to train to fly four-engine bombers, but was she putting her own reputation on the line by taking Lizzie with her? If she couldn’t rein her in and she turned out to be a loose cannon, all hell would break loose - not just for her, but for all the women who flew for the ATA. One bad egg could affect the lot of them. But the four-engine bombers were the only planes that women were not cleared to fly outside of training yet, and if she didn’t take Lizzie? She gulped. Then she might be signing the personal death warrant of the men who were waiting for them; getting those big bombers to the front was the only way they stood a chance of winning the war, and she knew it.
This page actually represents the book quite accurately. There is a lot of conflict between May (the leader of the ATA pilots in the UK) and Lizzie, an American hot-shot pilot sent to the UK to fly with her. May is of the opinion that Lizzie thinks she’s on a glorified holiday at the British tax payer’s expense, and doesn’t yet know if she’s as great in the sky as she says she is. The two women do eventually become friends and Lizzie discovers the consequences of her attitude, and she sees why May takes her job ferrying fighter planes to their boys’ at the front so seriously. This page also shows Ruby’s insecurities in her flying, so it’s a great representation of their individual character flaws.
Visit Soraya Lane's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Spitfire Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Death in Provence"

Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer - and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to their new book, Death in Provence, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Penelope stirred an emergency teaspoonful of sugar into her tea. No, that didn’t necessarily follow, she tried to tell herself. She didn’t even know for sure whether those were bloodstains on the axe shaft. She was just catastrophizing. This was what happened when a person was overwrought. She had to stop this now. The axe shaft – and the head – would have to be submitted for forensic tests before anything could be ascertained, and they probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the body in the pool. She should know better than to go leaping to conclusions.

With the presence of mind that had often been praised by her former boss, she took several photos of the axe, from different angles, on her phone. Then she went upstairs and found some plastic wrapping from a new set of pillows and carefully placed both parts of the axe inside it. She would share her discovery with the police, though she doubted the Chief [of Police] would be thrilled to receive her bearing a strange (and possibly irrelevant) package at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Especially when she wasn’t sure she should have been at her property at all.

She was just deciding where she should store it, or whether she should take it out to the car to take with her, when she heard the spitting of stones outside. A vehicle came down the track. Penelope froze. What if it was the police? Had someone seen her coming and in and reported her?

There was nothing for it but to face the music. She should open the front door with a big smile on her face, as if nothing was amiss. Then again, no, she shouldn’t: that would look calculated. She should sit tight and have a few sips of tea.

No knock on the door came.

After about ten minutes, Penelope went down to the front hall and peeped out of the window. A car had indeed arrived on her property and parked outside. It was a very familiar red Mini Cooper.
Penelope Kite, middle class Englishwoman of a certain age, is definitely showing her sensible side on page 69. She isn’t always quite this measured. For a start, newly divorced and determined to live life to the full, she has moved to the South of France on a whim. She has taken on a tumbledown old farmhouse in Provence alone, developed a reckless rosé habit, and found a dead body in her swimming pool.
The local Chief of Police has already treated her with disdain but he will learn to his cost that he should never have underestimated Penelope: she has a formidable brain and worked until recently for an eminent forensic pathologist in London.

Her new acquaintances in and around the village of St Merlot include Clémence Valencourt the chic Parisian realtor who sold her the house – and can make Penelope feel inadequate just with a look. Clémence seems to turn up everywhere in her little red Mini-Cooper. Why is she still taking such an interest? Could it be that she and the devastatingly attractive Mayor of St Merlot are in cahoots, intent on undermining Penelope right from the start? But why?

As Penelope contends with increasingly unsettling events and the ever-present temptations of French pâtisserie and wine, her larger-than-life best friend Frankie arrives from England and takes the village by storm. There’s a good, strong mystery at the heart of the book, some gorgeous and authentic landscapes, delicious French cuisine and plenty of laughs along the way. Thrillingly, several reviewers have called it “a combination of Agatha Christie and Peter Mayle”. Formidable!
Visit Serena Kent's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2019

"Stolen Girl"

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of over sixteen picture books and novels. Her earlier picture books include Enough, Silver Threads, Daughter of War, Aram's Choice and The Best Gifts.

In 2013 she won the Silver Birch Fiction Award for Making Bombs for Hitler and the Red Cedar Award for Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War.

Skrypuch applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Stolen Girl, the latest volume in her WWII trilogy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I flipped the page so quickly that I nearly tore it.

“Careful,” said Ivan, smoothing down the crease in the glossy paper.

My mind was still swirling between past and present. I clutched onto the side of the counter so I wouldn’t fall.

Ivan looked at me strangely. “What’s wrong, Nadia?”

I took a deep breath and tried to clear my thoughts. “I am fine,” I said. I wanted to get this over with. “Let’s look at some other colors.”

Next were pinks and reds—everything from the palest blush of that long-ago pink brocade dress to the violent red of blood. No, no, no.

The next page showed blues. My hand reached out of its own accord and touched a pale mauve. A wisp of scent tickled the edge of my brain. Lilac bushes in a much-loved garden.

“You’d like your room to be that color?” Ivan asked.

And I surprised myself. Yes, I did want that color. Lilac would make me feel safe. I still wasn’t happy about the thought of being closed up in a small room all night, but the color would be soothing. And maybe I could convince Ivan to leave the door off.

He handed a lilac paint chip to the clerk and ordered one can. We walked home, carrying the can between us.
The entirety of page 69 is a nice microcosm of Stolen Girl.

Nadia is a survivor of World War II and she's just immigrated to Canada with her adoptive parents. Now that she's in a place of safety, she begins to have disturbing flashes of memory that make her wonder who she really is. She fears that her family were Nazis and she even remembers meeting Hitler face to face, but she has other memories as well and these ones don't fit in with a privileged Nazi past. In this scene, her adoptive father, Ivan, takes her to the paint store so she can choose a color for her new bedroom. She has a violent reaction to the page of yellow chips, reminding her of yellow stars on prisoners' clothing and a certain girl in a yellow dress, just before page 69 begins.
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Stolen Girl.

Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2019

"The Perfect Alibi"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases.

Margolin applied the Page 69 Test to The Perfect Alibi, his second novel in the series featuring Robin Lockwood, ex-MMA fighter and Yale law school graduate, and reported the following:
Page 69 is not representative of The Perfect Alibi. In The Perfect Alibi, Robin agrees to represent a woman who claims to have been raped by Blaine Hastings, a star athlete. DNA evidence leads to the athlete's criminal conviction, but he swears he is innocent. Then a second woman is raped and the DNA evidence again points to Hastings. But, there is a problem. Hastings was behind bars when the second rape occurred and only identical twins have identical DNA. When Hastings is released, people start to die, but who is killing them? Page 69 introduces a subplot about another lawsuit involving a pharmaceutical company that doesn't appear to have any connection to anything else that is happening in the novel – but it does.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Third Victim.

The Page 69 Test: The Third Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 1, 2019

"The Gardener of Eden"

David D. Downie has called Paris and the Marais home since 1986. He has written for over 50 publications worldwide including Bon Appétit, The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, The San Francisco Chronicle,, and He is the author of the critically acclaimed Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, three Terroir guides, as well as several cookbooks and crime novels. He lives with his wife, Alison Harris, a photographer, and creates custom tours via his "Paris, Paris Tours" blog site.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Gardener of Eden, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I suppose I might as well admit right here that my secret dream, my “dear diary” confession, is that I would love more than almost anything to revive that hatchery and fill the rivers and ocean with salmon again. Maybe I will. Maybe that’s why I came back, and I just don’t know it yet. Maybe it’s because I had no children and have militated since adolescence for birth control and family planning because there are too many of us, no matter how you spin it. Yes, I was brought up a Catholic, but my mother was a WASP and a religious skeptic, and she inculcated doubt and nature worship in me. Silent Spring was her Bible. Maybe the explanation is simpler. I’d just like to give back, not only to self-obsessed, anthropocentric humankind, but to the world, the Earth, in the larger sense.

I wonder how many trapped raccoons father shot for the good of the fish and the community, meaning the human consumers of the fish? The sight gave me nightmares. Shooting into a wire mesh cage at close range seemed especially cruel and made an ungodly mess his subordinates had to clean up. That did not help buoy his popularity, which was waterlogged from the day we arrived—we, the educated city folk with attitude.

His attitude extended to his family. More than once he forced me to stand there with him and take the raccoon or hog executions like a man. The war must have done that to him. Had he fired at close range on Germans and Japanese? I asked myself. In what ways had he been tortured when he was a POW? But that kind of information was verboten. He never talked about the war, and everything I learned about his experiences in Europe and Japan, and the torture that made him suffer for the rest of his life, came from my mother.

Mostly because of the massacring of raccoons and other wildlife, I took no pleasure in target practice and I refused whenever I could to go hunting with him, especially when it came time for the cull. The wild pigs were the hardest of all to trap and kill—they have human eyes and whimper and cry like children. But he was a stubborn cuss, to borrow from Beverley, and dragged me along too many times to count.

He did not appreciate rebelliousness in his son, saying I had better know how to handle myself and a firearm, because man was a violent species and sooner or later another war would break out, maybe this time on American soil. Giving me Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here when I was fifteen, he made me read and summarize it to him. There was no Wikipedia back then, and no edition of crib notes on that book. Sadly, not only could it happen here. It did happen here. Except for my time in ROTC, I have not picked up a firearm since leaving high school in Carverville.

I hope to the god I no longer believe in that I never pick one up again, and never have to meet another man who has been tortured.
A former judge driven from office by corrupt, reactionary politicians, James Paul Adams is the wistful, soulful, aging hero of The Gardener of Eden. Returning “home” to Carverville, the dying timber town in the Pacific Northwest where he attended high school about forty years earlier, he’s unsure what led him back, to swim like a salmon to its native stream. James’ father was a biologist at Wildlife & Fish. His job was to restore salmon habitat and manage the fish hatchery James wants to revive. But he knows there are other, less obvious forces at work in his quest—a sense of guilt and loss, a need to find closure, and, most importantly, to find the young woman he loved and who disappeared without a trace while he was away in college. The Gardener of Eden is a novel of suspense, not a thriller or crime novel. This first-person excerpt from James’s journal captures the mounting tension inside his head. It also hints at the brutal realities of the re-found Carverville: destroyed forests, a closed mill, beaches sullied by oil from offshore rigs, feral hogs run wild, and a violent, sadistic county sheriff who was James’s childhood rival and nemesis.
Visit David Downie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 28, 2019

"The Huntress"

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network and The Huntress. All have been translated into multiple languages. Quinn and her husband now live in San Diego with two rescue dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to The Huntress and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Dad,” Jordan said, gripping his sleeve harder.

The crowd was already carrying them outside. He pulled Jordan along. “What is it?”

Jordan’s tongue dried up. What on earth was she going to do, rip Anneliese’s bouquet to bits on the church steps? What would that prove?

Anneliese’s laughing voice exclaimed behind her: “Jordan, catch!”

Jordan turned at the top of the church steps, and the bridal bouquet came flying into her hands.

“For my maid of honor,” Anneliese twinkled as guests clapped. “The train, Dan, we’ll be late—” There was a whirl of luggage and flying skirts as Dad loaded the cab and Anneliese slid her pocket-book over her arm, and Jordan stood feeling frozen all over again. Because she could feel quite clearly that there was no hard little lump among the stems now. Anneliese must have slid the Iron Cross out before throwing the bouquet.

It must be something very precious, Jordan thought, if she’d risk carrying it today, and only take it out at the last minute.

Or it was never there at all, another thought whispered, and for one horrible moment Jordan thought she was going crazy. Jordan and her wild stories. She’d concocted the wildest theory imaginable out of thin air and jealousy, and this time her mind was furnishing evidence.

But the strap of the Leica reassured her. The Iron Cross had been there; she’d snapped a shot of it. She’d go down to the darkroom the minute she got home, and run the film. Already she was shivering, imagining the black arms of the swastika emerging skull-like through the developing fluid. Proof.

Of what? Jordan thought, staring at Anneliese as Dad opened the cab door. By itself, it’s not proof of anything.

Except that this woman was hiding something.
Page 69 of The Huntress is about as representative as you can get for this book: it's the moment when my young heroine Jordan, on a beautiful summer day in 1946 when her widowed father marries a sweet-spoken Austrian widow newly emigrated to Boston, discovers that the bride has a Nazi war medal tucked like a good luck charm into her wedding bouquet. Jordan has already been feeling like there's something "off" about her father's fiancee, something that doesn't add up...but this is the first piece of solid proof she gets. In the moment when her beloved father has just married this woman and brought her into their family.

What does Jordan do with this information? Order your copy of The Huntress and find out!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"That's Not What I Heard"

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It's Not Me, It's You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink; Confederates Don't Wear Couture; The Date to Save; and Prince in Disguise.

Strohm applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, That's Not What I Heard, and reported the following:
From page 69:
First and second base were gossiping, too. Molly Santos was hovering over at third base, looking desperate to run up to home plate and join in on their conversation. Clearly, Molly knew better than to try to talk to Olivia during practice. Olivia looked behind her to the outfield—there were two of them talking, too. Kim still hadn’t shown up.

“Come on, Wendy,” Olivia growled, annoyed. Were they going to do anything or just stand here chatting? Olivia looked to her right, where she could see the baseball diamond in the distance, close enough that the outfields might have overlapped if William Henry Harrison High ever produced a real powerhouse of a hitter, but not close enough that Olivia could discern anything beyond small figures around the bases. Were they having as many problems over there? Was Coach Mendoza content to let the team spend all of practice chatting, like Coach Finn apparently was?

Olivia was pretty sure it was Teddy over at second base, like always. Unlike Kim, Teddy must not have been distraught enough about his romantic problems to miss practice. Olivia couldn’t believe Kim hadn’t shown up. So irresponsible. The whole point of being on a team was that you couldn’t let the team down. Nothing was more important than the team. Nothing.

Olivia was trying to think of a way she could tell Kim off that wouldn’t result in Mama K forcing them to have a “deliberative dialogue” about dealing with sibling issues in a constructive way. Olivia didn’t want to have any kind of dialogue. She just wanted to yell at Kim.
This section of That's Not What I Heard is from the point of view of Olivia, Kim's younger sister. At the beginning of the book, Kim's boyfriend, Teddy, breaks up with her. (Or maybe she breaks up with him. It isn't clear.) Distraught, Kim runs out of school and disappears for the day, even missing softball practice, which really annoys Olivia, who considers her role as her high school softball team's shortstop to be of utmost importance.

Because the book is from 17 different POVs, no one section can really sum up the whole book, but this really tells us exactly who Olivia is! Softball will always be her first priority, and this scene really plants the seeds that lead to her getting fed up with Kim and all her relationship drama later in the book.
Visit Stephanie Kate Strohm's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Kate Strohm & Lorelei Lee Strohm-Lando.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Right as Rain"

Lindsey Stoddard was born and raised in Vermont. She spent twelve years living in NYC and taught middle school English at MS 324 in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. Right as Rain is her second novel, following the acclaimed Just Like Jackie.

Stoddard applied the Page 69 Test to Right as Rain and reported the following:
From page 69:
And for one second I don’t feel like the only kid who doesn’t understand Spanish and who isn’t wearing navy blue and white, and who gets lost in the hallways, and doesn’t have a locker or any hours of community service. I’m not feeling so much like I don’t belong… And just when I’m feeling like everything might be going OK, we swing open the big doors to the gym and the whole class turns around to look at us…
Page 69 of Right as Rain shows the fish-out-water feeling Rain has after moving from her small town in Vermont to the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City at the end of sixth grade. This is a book about grief and big life changes and transitions and being thrown for a loop and trying to hold on through the discomfort and recognize the teammates you have around you.
Visit Lindsey Stoddard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2019

"Arkad's World"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He lives in Western Massachusetts.

Cambias applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Arkad's World, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Arkad's World is not a major event, but it does show off some of the book's strengths and gives all the main characters a nice scene together.

My heroes — Arkad, Jacob, Ree, and Baichi — are traveling across the eternally sunlit face of the planet Syavusa in search of a spacecraft holding Earth's lost cultural treasures. They have stopped at a remote fuel station run by nonhumans, and Ree claims her ankle is hurt so she can't go on. She insists she can get back to the spaceport without the others; Jacob is skeptical but Arkad is terrified.
"You can't stay here on your own if you're hurt," he said, louder than he intended to. Both adults looked at him curiously. "The Psthao-Psthao will take you."
Baichi, who has an infallible memory, fills in the characters (and the reader) on what the Psthao-Psthao are — beings from an unknown planet who live in caves and tunnels.

Arkad knows something she doesn't: that the Psthao-Psthao take the dead and dying to feed their larvae. He saw them take his mother, and just the thought of them frightens him. He volunteers to stay with Ree and protect her, but that suggestion only seems to irritate her.

I like the scene because all my characters are showing exactly who they are. Jacob is concerned with the mission more than anything else. Ree is working a scheme of her own. Arkad is protective of his friends. And Baichi is detached, unafraid, and can show off her knowledge.

As a bonus, I introduce one of my favorite alien species in the book on this page: the scary and death-obsessed Psthao-Psthao. Though they are mostly an off-stage presence through most of the book, I actually put quite a bit of thought into them, especially their culture and psychology. What would it mean to know that you were born (well, hatched) in a corpse? That someone had to die for you to live? These are beings who don't mind dying themselves, but are horrified by the thought of not being eaten.

So if you like Page 69 of Arkad's World, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the book.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias.

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2019


S. Andrew Swann is the pen name of Steven Swiniarski. He’s married and lives in the Greater Cleveland area where he has lived all of his adult life. He has a background in mechanical engineering and— besides writing— works as a Database Manager for one of the largest private child services agencies in the Cleveland area. He has published over 26 novels since 1993.

Swann applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Marked, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“What do you think he said?”

“‘Wealcan has fallen. They’ll come for you. The shadows are coming.’ That’s what I remember.”


“I don’t know, it might be a word I didn’t understand, but it feels like a name.”

“Can you say it in the original language?”

I had to think hard, as if I was pulling long unused switches in my brain. However, I could still see the old man at my window, still hear his words, and I was able to slowly pull it out, syllable by syllable.

He listened, and finally said, “It sounds like a language to me, though I have no clue what one. Sounds Germanic?”

“I don’t know what to do,” I said quietly.

“Of course you do,” Jacob snapped. It was such a sudden change in tone that I stared at him as if he had just slapped me. He almost glared, and his expression was hard.

“W-what?” I suddenly felt very small and weak, and I felt perilously close to breaking down. After all I had exposed myself in front of Jacob, his disapproval, his scorn would be devastating.

“Dana, you know exactly what to do. You’ve been doing it all your professional life. You’re a cop, and one of the best detectives we’ve got. Act like it.”

All I could do was stare.

“You have twice as much to go on as your Dad did, and you have the luxury of being on paid leave. Follow up on what you do know. Write down that phrase so you don’t forget it, with that and a translation you should have no problem tracking down the language. You have the tattoo on you and John Doe, so you know it’s not unique— there has to be other people out there with the same mark.”

I nodded. Jacob didn’t yet know the difficulty of researching others with the Mark, but he was right about the language, and right in that I had much more to work with than my Dad ever had.

What’s in the box?
Page 69 of Marked shows a dinner between my protagonist Detective Dana Rohan and her partner Jacob Hightower. This is the first time she’s talked with him off-duty. We’re seeing her social anxiety, a major part of her character here. She has this mark on her back that does these paranormal things, and she’s hidden it since she’s been a teenager. This has led to severe self-imposed isolation. This is the first time she’s opened up about any part of that to anyone, and she’s understandably tentative. At this point she’s shown Jacob the mark and told him about the history of her and her adoptive family, but she’s yet to tell him anything paranormal is going on.

This is a major theme of the book. She has this power, a mark that allows her to travel between alternate pasts and futures, and in large part it’s crippled her and stunted her life. She isn’t even able to use the mark to its full potential until she starts opening up and trusting other people.
Visit S. Andrew Swann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"The Night Olivia Fell"

Christina McDonald is an author of suspenseful, emotional thrillers. She is also an avid bookworm and a devoted mother and wife. She was born in Seattle, Washington and now lives in London, England with her husband and two sons, where she enjoys reading, writing, hiking and lifting weights at the gym.

McDonald applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Night Olivia Fell, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I whirled to face her. “When the baby’s born, Olivia will die! So stop harping on about the baby, because that deadline means my daughter fucking dies!”

I shouldn’t have blown up at Sarah. Whatever problems I’d had with my sister, whatever resentment I’d held in my heart, Sarah had always been my rock. Even when my mom was alive, it was Sarah my teachers called if I was sick, Sarah who helped me with my homework. When I was five and got lost when we were picnicking at the beach, it was Sarah I howled for under the hot white sun. I was alone and she ran to me, shouting my name, and I knew I was safe. I never felt that way with my mom.
I think page 69 represents Abi’s internal struggle really well. Because of her traumatic past, she holds people at arm’s length. Even her sister, who’s practically raised her. She’s terrified of being abandoned.

In this scene Abi is scratching at her arms after finding out Olivia is brain dead but the baby might live. Sarah tries to comfort her by talking about the baby, but Abi lashes out angrily because even though the baby might live, Olivia will still die, and this is an impossible situation to comprehend. Abi shouts at Sarah and runs away, later reflecting on how complicated their relationship has always been.

She loves her sister because Sarah has always been there for her and she’s always felt safe with her, but Sarah cannot replace their mother. Even though she doesn’t know it yet, Abi is afraid she’ll lose Sarah like they lost their mother.

This scene shows the depth of Abi’s emotion, how broken she’s been by her past, as well as the importance of letting the love of others heal us and help us. Abi is crippled by her fear of abandonment to the point that she doesn’t allow herself to get too close to anybody. Even her own sister. She knows she’s doing it, and she loathes herself for her actions, but seems unable to stop herself. This scene sets up the internal character struggle and shows how far Abi has to go to find any sort of healing after what has happened to Olivia.
Visit Christina McDonald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

"Dead Is Beautiful"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dead is Beautiful, and reported the following:
Dead Is Beautiful is the fourth in my mystery series about a murdered man and the dead dog he names Rose. In each book my ghosts return to the living world to fight for the meek and the exploited. Along the way, Charlie confronts his failures in life and gets to know his wise, benevolent and often cryptic canine companion. Most of the books take place in or around Los Angeles, from Skid Row to Beverly Hills.

In Dead Is Beautiful, Charlie and Rose are called back to the living world when a protected tree harboring an endangered bird is illegally cut down and he realizes that the one person living or dead he would prefer to avoid, lives next door. On Page 69 the ghosts encounter a homeless woman in the Hollywood neighborhood where Charlie once lived. The neighborhood has been so thoroughly gentrified that Charlie doesn't recognize it. At Rose's urging they follow the woman to a construction site along the Hollywood Freeway where she settles in for a night that will involve her in a horrific crime later connected to a dangerous scheme that will endanger Charle's charm-free brother, and threatens his beloved Rose.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The Stranger Inside"

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the newly released The Stranger Inside. On the lighter side of mystery, Benedict wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to The Stranger Inside and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Did you take this? When?”

“I went by the house. Walked right up to the porch and knocked on the door, and I asked if I could please get some of your things for you. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request, right?” She shakes her head. “What an ass. He acted like I was crazy or something, when we all know he’s the criminal.”

“Di, we don’t even know if he is who he says he is. Kyle’s going to be pissed at both of us. Tell me Hadley wasn’t with you.”

“Oh no. Don’t tell anybody. Especially Kyle. I was trying to help you!” Her eyes are wide, and it’s obvious she wants Kimber to be pleased. In her pale chambray shirt and white skirt, ponytail, simple silver jewelry, and sandals, she’s the picture of summer efficiency and calm. Who knew she had such a stubborn, wild streak? Though what she did seems to strangely fit. She is loyal. Deeply loyal. The realization piles more guilt on Kimber.

“But what did he say?” She’s talked to him. What if they connect in some way? What if he manages to turn her against me?

“Well, to be honest, he wasn’t nasty at first,” Diana says. “Then I told him what I wanted. I only got his picture because I pretended I was getting a call and was sending it to voicemail.”

Kimber’s fear turns into anger. “You’re lucky he didn’t call the police. Or…or he could have let you inside and then killed you or something and buried you in the basement.”

Diana pales. “He’s weird, but I can’t believe he’s dangerous. Do you think he is?”

“Oh God. Kyle’s going to kill me,” Kimber says. “Dragging you into this. Could you tell what he was doing when you got there?”

“He had a laptop open on the table in the hall, like he was carrying it around, I guess.”
I like this page because it’s primarily dialogue between Kimber, the protagonist, and her best friend, Diana. Lance Wilson is occupying Kimber’s house, so she is staying with Diana and her husband, Kyle Christie. Diana has just announced that she went to Kimber’s house, alone, to try to get some of Kimber’s clothes and belongings from Lance Wilson. Up to this point in the book, Diana has been a calm force for good and good sense. Here, we not only get to see the Kimber/Diana dynamic, but that Diana—much to Kimber’s chagrin—can be unpredictable when she’s on a mission. Their relationship is complex, especially because Kimber is hiding so many secrets from Diana. The page is significant in the book because Kimber likes to be the one with the most information, and here she’s been blindsided by Diana’s casual visit to her occupied house. It makes her wonder what else Diana has been doing when Kimber wasn’t paying attention.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2019

"The Martin Chronicles"

John Fried’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Gettysburg Review, North American Review, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. He teaches creative writing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and received his MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers. Prior to teaching, he was a magazine writer and editor in New York, and his work appeared in various publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, New York, Time, and Real Simple.

Fried applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Martin Chronicles, and reported the following:
Page 69 is from the chapter titled “A Rifle is Not a Gun.” In this chapter, Marty, the main character, is 13 years old, away from New York City at summer camp, out of his element in every way. He’s in the middle of a riflery class, deep in the woods, firing at paper targets in the distance. This particular page is when something strange happens – he hits the bull’s eye on his target several times and discovers he might actually be good at this shooting thing. It’s a little bizarre turn for the city boy who has never fired a rifle (or a gun, for that matter) in his life.

This page certainly fits the model of so much of the book: Marty encounters something new or unexpected (about the world or himself) and we watch him respond. In this case, it’s not just the riflery class, but the newfound fame and popularity that go along with doing something well. He’s suddenly the “it” kid that everyone wants to know and hang out with at camp. That’s completely out of left field for him and something he has to reconcile with as a character because there’s an implied power there too. He’s never felt like he’s had much power in his life before.

I really love this chapter because it’s one of the few times we see Marty out of New York City, in a completely different environment. Just putting him there – in the woods, at camp, with strangers – opened up so many opportunities for conflict and drama for me as a writer. At the same time, it’s probably one the darkest chapters of the book. And because the book is set in the 80s, there’s no Internet or cell phones to connect him back to his life. He’s really out on his own, alone, for several weeks and that’s not something that happens elsewhere in the book.
Visit John Fried's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Good Riddance"

Elinor Lipman is the award-winning author of many novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine; one essay collection, I Can't Complain; and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus. She lives in New York City.

Lipman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Good Riddance, and reported the following:
Yikes! Did my subconscious know that I’d be asked to shine a light on page 69 of Good Riddance, so I’d better make it a chapter ending that packed a wallop?

The page is just 16 lines long. My narrator has been coerced into going to a 50th high school reunion, not her own class, but one that her teacher-mother had been overly fond. of. There she meets the now-68-yeaer old valedictorian, who confesses something she’d rather not know.

Every sentence on the page is a reveal, but I can quote one without giving away the store: “I owed Peter Armstrong nothing. I was shaken and deeply sorry I’d heard the possible weighty truth.” All the other lines give too much away, but please know that weighty truths and the embroidery around them can still make for a happy ending.
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2019

"Rapid Falls"

Amber Cowie is a graduate of the University of Victoria and was short-listed for the 2017 Whistler Book Award. She lives in the mountains in a small West Coast town. Cowie is a mother of two, wife of one, and a debut novelist who enjoys skiing, running, and creating stories that make her browser search history highly suspicious.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rapid Falls, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Maggie wakes up early, stirring around five thirty. Rick is snoring beside me, and for a few moments, I listen to Maggie’s quiet chatter to the stuffed dog she sleep with every night. She is an early riser, but she often wakes slowly, gently sliding between dreams and consciousness rather than abruptly jumping awake, like me. Lately I jerk out of sleep before my dreams are finished, gasping as if the bed beneath me is a sheet of ice-cold water, then wait for an hour or so for Maggie to wake up. I can never fall asleep again after I dream of the river. When her murmurs turn into a call, I slip out of bed and cross the hallway. In the half light of dawn, I see her sweet smile as I walk into the room.

Rick comes out of the bedroom about an hour later. His hair is tousled and his eyes look soft with sleep.

“Let’s go away tonight.”

“What?” I look up from the tower of blocks I am building with Maggie. Only the night before we’d been arguing about my mom’s new plan for Anna. “Where would we go?”

“Griffith Hot Springs? I’m sure your mom could stay over. Maggie, do you want to have a sleepover with Grandma?”

Does page 69 in my hardcover represent Rapid Falls as a whole? I’d like to think that I had planted a small seed of what’s to come on every page, but I knew that was probably not the case as I opened my book to the selected page. Sure enough, as I began to re-read this page I got a bit worried since it was short (the beginning of a chapter) and focused a lot on the sleep habits of a small child. Rapid Falls is not a self-help book for parents seeking more slumber, so I was starting to think that I’d have to say that my skills as a writer had fallen short here, but then, I found this line. I can never fall asleep after I dream of the river. I remember writing that and rewriting that and thinking to myself once I had finished it: this sentence works. It says something about Cara in that moment and hints at something else about her that the reader does not yet know.

So, yes (yay!). Page 69 has a line that evokes everything I hope readers carry with them as they read my novel: a sense of curiosity and dread about the river and why Cara’s dreams are as they are.
Visit Amber Cowie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"What Every Girl Should Know"

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Every Girl Should Know and reported the following:
On page 69 of What Every Girl Should Know, young Maggie Higgins (Sanger) is dealing with the aftermath of a boy’s first attentions. Following his profession of love—and her gentle rejection under the direction of her older sister, Nan—Maggie’s brother weighs in on the scene he’s just witnessed.
“I guess you’re not marrying Walter Kearney, Maggie.” John grinned. “Maybe he’ll ask Nan next.”
Which in turn presents Maggie with another first…the prospect of marriage. Always a looming presence in any 19th century young woman’s life.
“Marry?” I grunted. “Nan and I are never marrying anyone. I’m going to be a doctor, and Nan is going to be a writer.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them. Nan and I might say it all the time. But we only said it when it was the two of us. We didn’t say it out in the general world. Not that Thomas and John were the world, but at the moment—in this moment—they felt like they were. And maybe they were, really. The world kept growing larger, and in comparison, I grew smaller.
Saying our dreams out loud for the first time can be scary. Especially for a 19th century young woman, where even having dreams seemed absurd. As page 69 continues, Maggie weighs her life options…
Miss Hayes rang her bell.

“All girls get married, Maggie,” John said, swinging the hair from his eyes. It was as if he was saying we all die, which we do all die, but first I wanted to live. It wasn’t that falling in love sounded fatal, it was what followed. I wasn’t ready to be someone’s rib yet—I’d barely used my own.

Miss Hayes rang her bell harder.

“Or teach.” He shrugged, glancing over at Miss Hayes.

We walked toward the schoolhouse. Nan and I lagged a few steps behind, like we didn’t want to be too close to them right now. Which, we didn’t. I wanted to apologize to Nan, but I wasn’t sure for what. I took a closer look at Miss Hayes as I passed her on my way inside. Could I be her? I glanced around the classroom. It was better than death, I guess.
Wife. Mother. Teacher. These were Sanger’s only options. And she didn’t like them much, as page 70…and the rest of history attests to.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Once a Liar"

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker, and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family, including Maurice the canine.

Brady applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Once a Liar, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Do you think he knows they’re guilty?”

“I don’t know if all of them are guilty,” Claire responds, “but it certainly seems like they are. Peter once told me that it’s not his job to care if they did it or not. It’s his job to provide them with the best possible defense.” I’m pleased to hear Claire defending me so beautifully.

“A person needs a proper defense. Our whole legal system is based on that notion. Innocent until proven guilty, right? And if the prosecution can’t prove it, then it’s the system’s problem.” Claire knows exactly what to say. I’ve trained her well.
This passage from page 69 of Once a Liar is exemplary of the kind of deviousness and manipulation present throughout the book. Peter, who narrates, is eavesdropping on his girlfriend Claire and teenage son Jamie as they discuss Peter’s career, and the moral flexibility required to defend the seemingly indefensible.

Once a Liar explores the inner working of a sociopath, Peter Caine. How did he end up unable to experience empathy and remorse? Was he made into a ruthless, unfeeling monster, or was it inside him since birth, just waiting to get out? And whatever force fueled this condition, can he ever come back from the dark side?

When the tables are turned, and Peter is accused of a brutal murder, and he looks to be the only viable suspect, will he finally put his dark days behind him, and change his ways? And if he can, will it be too late?

Once a Liar is a psychological thriller that dissects carefully crafted appearances, asks whether we truly know anyone we think we do, and turns the ideas of forgiveness and revenge on their heads.
Visit A.F. Brady's website.

Coffee with a Canine: A.F. Brady & Maurice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"The Ingenious"

Darius Hinks works and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. He spent the nineties playing guitar for the grunge band, Cable, but when his music career ended in a bitter lawsuit, he turned to writing. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the David Gemmell Morningstar award and, so far at least, none of his novels have resulted in litigation.

Hinks applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Ingenious, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Phrater Alzen rushed through the Giberim Temple, his robes snapping behind him. The chamber was a vast sun-drenched octagon, topped with a magnificent, ribbed dome. The emerald-green walls were clad in a storm of copper lattice work, crashing and soaring around columns that reached hundreds of feet to cradle an undulating, honeycomb vault, an ocean of glass tiles, each facet staining the sunlight a different colour, spilling a profusion of reds, golds and blues that flashed across balustrades and walkways before igniting the gilded, mosaic floor, a circle of ceramic flames framing a polished onyx sun.

Another Curious Man rushed to his side, dressed in identical finery and looking equally harassed. It was his old friend, Phrater Ostan. “For God and the Temple,” whispered Alzen.

“God and the Temple,” Ostan replied.
Page 69 of The Ingenious is not very representative of the book. It showcases one aspect – the glorious, imposing, ostentatious nature of its brutal ruling elite (see below) but that’s not the overriding flavour of the novel – most of it is set in slums, brothels and doss houses as our lowlife ‘heroes’ try to halt their moral decline.
Visit Darius Hinks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 11, 2019

"The Secretary"

Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Knight applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Secretary, and reported the following:
When I turned to page sixty-nine I didn't expect to land on such a key scene - one I had struggled with and re-written many times. On re-reading it, I realised too, that it contained moments that are reprised in the final pages of the book - I am not sure I was conscious of that at the time. The exchange between Christine Butcher, the secretary, and Mina Appleton, her employer, encapsulates their relationship. Mina, demanding and careless of Christine's feelings. Christine, unable to say no to her mistress. The more that is asked of her, the more she is prepared to give. In this scene, Mina Appleton's father has recently died and she and her secretary have been working from Mina's home, Minerva. Christine has just brought Mina her lunch on a tray in her bedroom. It is a task that could have been performed by the housekeeper, but Christine insists on doing it herself - her own need to be needed, as always, leading her deeper into Mina's web.
"'I'm so sorry your mother wasn't able to stay on after the funeral, Mina. I suspect you would have liked to have her with you now.'

'God no,' she said. 'We're not close. My mother's a cold-hearted woman. She's never been there when I've needed her - even as a child.' She pushed her tray to one side and looked at me. 'And your mother, Christine. It was cancer, wasn't it? That took her from you.'

My hands started to sweat - the anxiety I always felt when I thought of my mother, soaking into the arms of the chair. I imagine it's still there - my shame absorbed into the deep red plush of Mina's upholstery.

'No.' I felt unable to say more, and perhaps that's what sparked her curiosity. She left her bed to come and sit near me, perching on the stool at her dressing table, and turning to face me. I found it hard to meet her eyes, and looked down, imagining how nice it would be to sink into the thick pile carpet and disappear.

'An accident?' My mother's death was something I never talked about."

"'Yes, it was an accident.'

'Oh, Christine.' I heard the rustle of tissues being pulled from a box, then felt them thrust into my hand. 'Take your time,' she said. '"It might be good for you to talk about it. I thought, perhaps it might. So, I took myself back to the leaves on the pavement. Autumn. Five thirty on a Wednesday afternoon."
The Page 69 Test: Disclaimer.

--Marshal Zeringue