Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Blue Hours"

Daphne Kalotay is the author of Calamity and Other Stories, which was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize. Her debut novel, Russian Winter, won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and has been published in twenty-three foreign editions. Her second novel, Sight Reading, was a Boston Globe bestseller, a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Kalotay applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Blue Hours, and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the car the next day, heading back to the city, I stole a look at the sparkly diamond hanging at Kyra’s neck. I had only ever worn it that one time. “Is Roy the one who gave you that necklace?”

Kyra nodded, and I waited for her to offer up something more. “C’mon,” I said, “what’s the deal with you two?”

She said, “I guess I’m supposed to marry him.”

I looked at her face to see if she was serious. “Do you want to marry him?”

An odd little sigh. “You saw what he’s like. How can he keep living this way? He’s so removed from the rest of the world. I mean, even his job. ‘Personal investing.’ He manages his friends’ brokerage accounts!” I expected her to laugh, but she looked like she might cry. “I had a mad crush on him growing up. Then the summer after my freshman year of college, we finally got together. That lasted about a year. But he was already done with college, and then—” She gave a little rustle of her shoulders, as if shaking something off. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I mean, do you love him?”
Some background: The narrator, Mim, has just graduated from college and moved to NYC, where she is roommates with Kyra, a rich girl from Newport, Rhode Island. In this micro-scene, they are returning from a weekend at Kyra’s mother’s house, where Mim thought she was getting to know Kyra better—only to be surprised by the materialization of a young man named Roy, whom Kyra had never mentioned.

This snippet presents a small-scale version of the themes that return in a global way in the book’s second half. For one thing, the book is a love story. It’s also about the peculiar American “privilege” of ignoring the traumas of the greater world. We see those themes introduced here in Kyra’s dismay over Roy’s aloofness due to his rich-boy comfort, her sense of fatalism when asked about their relationship (which is in a way our American version of an arranged marriage), and the mystery of why their romance ended. In a way, Mim and Roy will become rivals. And though the characters don’t know it yet, Kyra will devote herself to a life of humanitarian aid work. When, twenty years later, Kyra goes missing abroad, Mim and Roy—who haven’t spoken to each other in two decades—will join forces to try to find her.
Learn more about the book and author at Daphne Kalotay's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sight Reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"The Most Fun We Ever Had"

Claire Lombardo earned her MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. A former social worker, she now teaches fiction writing and is at work on a second novel.

Lombardo applied the Page 69 Test to The Most Fun We Ever Had, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Both kids were sleeping through the night and Matt had just made partner and Violet had shed her final pounds of baby weight and everything had been going exceptionally, and if they got a babysitter and went out to dinner it should’ve been to bask rather than to save their marriage. Except now there was Jonah, and there wasn’t a restaurant in the Chicagoland area fancy enough to assuage the effects of his arrival.
On page 69 of my novel , neurotic Sorenson sister Violet frets before a date with her husband, both because she’s grown apart from him and because she doesn’t want to talk about the thing she knows they’ll have to talk about—namely, the arrival into their lives of an orphaned teenage boy who has just moved in with her sister, Wendy.

This page is representative of the rest of the book, I’d say, because the present arc of the novel—the year in which the aforementioned teenager returns—is all about chronicling unrest in the lives of the characters. Nobody in the Sorenson family is quite where he or she wants to be at the beginning of the novel, and Violet—though she’s type-A and concerned with appearances and keeps her struggles under wraps, for the most part—is perhaps more unmoored than most. This novel is very much concerned with the ways that we process life as it comes at us—life at its most quotidian and its most dramatic.

Jonah is very much a catalyst for change within this family, and his behavior—good, bad, or otherwise—played a major role in helping me propel the plot forward. He also serves as an outside observer, the only POV character who isn’t an immediate member of the Sorenson clan, so he both gives the reader a breather from being pressed so closely against the Sorenson sisters and provides some objectivity in his perception of this particular family.
Visit Claire Lombardo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Shadow & Flame"

Mindee Arnett is the acclaimed author of Onyx & Ivory and its sequel, Shadow & Flame, as well as Avalon and its sequel, Polaris. She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals.

Arnett applied the Page 69 Test to Shadow & Flame and reported the following:
Page 69 of the Shadow & Flame is definitely representative of the entire book. It’s the second page of chapter 4 and it involves an identify reveal / confirmation for a major character whose fate was in question up until this point. I don’t want to get any more specific because of spoilers.

Actually, the fact that there’s a huge spoiler on this page proves it’s definitely indicative of the rest of the book. I haven’t been able to talk about the book much because it’s a sequel to Onyx & Ivory and literally every part of it is some kind of spoiler. Of course, it’s not just because it’s a sequel but more because the book is super intense and action packed. In many ways, this is a war novel, and the stakes are high for every character. There are numerous heartbreaks and failures intermixed with hard won triumphs. Readers who enjoyed Onyx & Ivory need to hold on and brace themselves for Shadow & Flame. It’s going to be rough ride, but ultimately a satisfying one, I hope.
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Onyx & Ivory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Everything About You"

Heather Child's experience in digital marketing has brought her into close contact with the automation and personalization technologies that herald the "big data" age.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Everything About You, her debut novel, and reported the following:
We are not far from a world in which people are constantly tracked, with facial recognition and the ‘internet of things’ meaning it will be increasingly difficult to ‘go dark’. However Freya’s foster sister Ruby vanishes into the night and leaves the younger girl heartbroken, just as we come up to page 69, on which Freya is experiencing the aftermath of the loss.
Others were openly cruel, taunting her in the hangouts with rumours that Ruby had been a prostitute and her pimp had finally killed her. All that hanging round Peckham now became evidence that she was a streetwalker, loitering in greenzones late at night to solicit business. This was when Freya shut down. Comments were left to build up online, and at school she would wear headphones and stand outside in the cold, away from everyone.
On page 69 we see the real-life Ruby, the seventeen year-old who took risks, who was achingly close to Freya, leaving the younger girl without a role model when she disappeared. It is a page of grit, of her mother viewing grim news stories.
Freya knew she had given Ruby up for dead. Perhaps it was the only thing to do. There were too many stories of missing schoolgirls, one man after the next arrested with a string of murders to his name. They were in the press where they had not been before.
It is perhaps one of the most ominous pages in the book. What is missing is the ‘new’ Ruby, recreated as an artificial intelligence. Years later, her colourful personality is scraped from the internet, and she reappears as Freya’s virtual assistant.

This Ruby is as wild and fabulous as before, and programmed to give Freya everything she wants. The trouble is that Freya will do anything for her foster sister, and follow wherever she leads, even down those same dark paths from long ago.
Visit Heather Child's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

"Betrayal 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.

Her first novel, A Murder In Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads’ readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle’s list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

The series continues Kendra Donovan’s adventures in Regency England with A Twist in Time, Caught in Time, and Betrayal in Time.

When McElwain is not on her laptop, she enjoys traveling, exploring different cultures, spending time with family and meeting friends for Happy Hour. She lives in Long Beach, California.

McElwain applied the Page 69 Test to Betrayal in Time and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Thanks.” Kendra paused, lifting her face up to the black sky spinning with white crystals. For a moment, she stood there, absorbing the cold air scented with fireplace smoke. Alec stopped beside her, his gloved hand capturing hers.

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I suppose I’m thinking about how nothing changes, not really. People will always kill each other. For the damnedest reasons.” She sighed, and tugged Alec’s hand. “C’mon, my lord. Let’s go in before we turn into popsicles.”

“What the devil is a popsicle?”

Kendra laughed, and pulled him down the path. Harding was eyeing them from the door he held open. Hurrying up the steps, they joined Rebecca and the Duke, who were divesting themselves of their outerwear. Servants were bustling around the mansion, opening up rooms, taking linen covers off the furniture, dusting and sweeping. The scent of lemon, linseed oil, and beeswax drifted on the air. Even though kindling and coal had been brought in, and fires started in many of the hearths, it was still cold enough for Kendra to lament the lack of central heating in this era as she handed her cloak, gloves and bonnet over to one of the waiting footmen. Kendra kept her reticule, which contained the muff pistol, and her notes.

“Lady Atwood is with Mrs. Danbury in the morning room, sir,” Harding informed the Duke in his characteristically grave manner. “Shall I let her ladyship know that you have arrived?”

“Thank you, but I shall go to her myself. Send someone to Lady Rebecca’s residence to find out if her parents have arrived. Has my study been made ready?”

“Yes, sir. A fire has been lit, as well as several wall sconces.”

“Very good. We have dined, but if my decanters in the study haven’t been replenished yet, send up a maid with a bottle of brandy, and a pot of tea. And we shall need the slate board returned to the room. I trust it is around here somewhere? You did not dispose of it entirely?”

The butler slid a look in Kendra’s direction, but his expression remained impassive. “I shall supervise its return. Tonight, your Grace?”

“Tonight,” Aldridge confirmed, and glanced at his nephew. “Alec, if you will escort the ladies upstairs, I shall join you shortly.”
In Betrayal in Time, 21st century FBI profiler Kendra Donovan, who has been trying to adapt to her new life in the early 19th century, returns to London to assist Bow Street Runner, Sam Kelly, in a bizarre murder. The body of Sir Giles Holbrooke was found naked in an abandoned church, garroted, with his tongue cut out. The puzzle deepens when strange cross-like symbols appear on Sir Giles’ flesh during autopsy. When Kendra learns that Sir Giles was not an ordinary citizen, but a spymaster, she must figure out if his killer is connected to the treacherous intelligence world or something closer to home. While I don’t think page 69 illustrates the gritty, twisty path that Kendra is forced to navigate in this novel, it does give a small taste of what it’s like being a time traveler, the differences in language and lifestyle. It also shows Kendra as the ultimate outsider, no matter how hard she tries to fit in. When the Duke asks for his butler, Harding, to find the slate board they used in the last murder investigation, we get the sense that the servant looks at Kendra as an oddity, with a whiff of disapproval (although never overtly expressed in the Duke’s presence) that the American is once again involving their master in something as low-brow as murder.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caught in Time.

My Book, The Movie: Betrayal in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Paper Son"

S. J. Rozan has won multiple awards for her fiction, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity, the Japanese Maltese Falcon, and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Rozan was born and raised in the Bronx and now lives in lower Manhattan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Paper Son, her latest Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery, and reported the following:
Such an interesting thing, this Page 69 Challenge. For one thing, the book's page numbers are different from the manuscript's, so when I accepted the Challenge I wasn't even sure where the story was up to by page 69. For another, what are the chances any particular page represents the whole book?

But lo, to my surprise, page 69 of Paper Son does. It's part of a conversation Lydia Chin and Bill Smith have with a young paralegal in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The book's set in the Mississippi Delta, and in this conversation, Lydia is introduced to some of the intricacies of race relations in Mississippi. The conversation includes the phrase, "colored folk of a different color."

Which is the point. Everything in Mississippi is, ultimately, about race; but it's about more than black and white. Growing up in the North, I never knew that. The Delta has been home, for more than a hundred years, to a community of Chinese -- first immigrants, and now, for some generations, Mississippi natives. Plus Eastern European Jews; Italians; Lebanese; and those Native Americans who stayed after most were driven from their land. To WASP Mississippi, all these people were "colored." The complexities created by pushing this logic to its extreme -- and extreme is something Mississippi is particularly good at -- are absurd, though not funny. And that fact is pretty much what Paper Son is about.
Visit S.J. Rozan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"Secret Soldiers"

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua. She has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

Hutton applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Secret Soldiers, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 8

Bagger led the boys back to their dugout, where the three men they’d left sleeping now sat around their makeshift table, drinking tea, smoking, and playing cards.

“’Bout time you got back, Bagger,” said a large man. He had long auburn sideburns, a scattering of teeth, and no neck said. His voice grated through his throat like a spade against gravel. “Where’s Max?”

“He’s running messages,” Bagger replied.

“Command better not wear him out. We need him well rested for later.”

“Don’t you worry about Max. He’ll be ready.”

“He better be.” The large man motioned to the empty chair beside him. “We’re getting ready to play Pontoon. You in?”

“No chance, Mole. You chaps took all my earnings last time we played. I’ve got nothin’ to wager.”
Page 69 of Secret Soldiers kicks off Chapter 8 and Thomas and the boys’ introduction to the clay kickers, a specialized crew of soldiers, whom the boys will be shadowing on a secret mission in the tunnels beneath no man’s land. On page 69, the crew leader, Bagger, takes the boys into the crew’s dugout, where they will sleep and eat between shifts hauling spoil out of the tunnels. In the dugout, they meet the crew’s kicker, Mole, a “rough-around-the-edges” tunneller who dug sewers beneath Manchester before he and Bagger were recruited by the British Army to dig secret tunnels under the Western Front. Page 69 captures the camaraderie between Bagger and Mole, a bond of trust which Thomas and the boys will have to form in order to survive their mission and the war. The dialogue between Bagger and Mole on page 69 also sets the stage for readers and the boys to meet Max. The mystery of the valuable, yet unseen crew member is solved a couple chapters later when Thomas and the boys finally meet Max and discover the many roles he plays for the British Army and the crew both in and under the Allied trenches.
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Soldier Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

"The Missing Years"

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. In 1994 she began a Physics degree at University College, Oxford, where she obtained a first; she subsequently obtained a doctorate in Theoretical Physics, also from Oxford University. A keen sportwoman, she represented Oxford every one of her seven years there in either Swimming or Waterpolo, and usually both. Elliott works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.

Elliott applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Missing Years, and reported the following:
When I first flicked to page 69 of The Missing Years to re-read it for this article, I was struck by how precisely this particular page captures the key issues facing Ailsa, the main protagonist. Ailsa is giving her half-sister, Carrie, a lift back from the station. It’s clear that the physical landscape she finds herself in—the Scottish Highlands—is unfamiliar and not yet comfortable to her:
There’s no moonlight to be found thus far this evening; Carrie would have needed a torch to navigate this had I not picked her up. The city dweller within me balks at the idea.
The reader might also deduce that the landscape of the relationship between Ailsa and her half-sister is equally unfamiliar:
There’s a caustic tone to Carrie’s words that surprises me. I throw her a quick glance, but I can’t deduce her expression in the darkness of the car interior.
Ailsa is attempting to have her father, who has been missing for a quarter of a century, declared dead; she tells Carrie about her meeting with a lawyer. We see Ailsa’s understatement and reserve as she describes the meeting as “a bit strange”, prompting Carrie to ask:
“How so?”

I shrug. “You know. Talking about my father. I don’t usually do that.” Talking about my father, without really talking about my father. We covered his date of birth, town of birth, occupation, last known abode; the barren facts that in no way construct a person.
Carrie goes on to ask:
“Do you have to, I don’t know, come up with a theory? For what happened to him, I mean?”

“I ...” In front of me hang a hundred, a thousand, a million and more different possibilities. I almost can’t see the road for the myriad of my father’s lives playing out before me, like overlapping cinema screens, all that could have been, might have been, perhaps was, perhaps even is. All of the things I have imagined and all I haven’t yet thought of. If I had to pick one, I might damn all the others. What if I picked the wrong one?
So, all on this one page, we have the looming presence of the isolated landscape Ailsa finds herself in, her uncertain relationship with her half-sister, and the impact of the absence of her father. Of the three, the physical landscape is under-represented on page 69, as this is a novel that is firmly steeped in its setting, and the Manse—the house that Ailsa has inherited, that lives and breathes and exerts its own influence on those around it—isn’t mentioned at all. Scottish mythology is twisted and dark and eerily romantic; it is utterly in keeping with the craggy peaks that stand in judgement over those that live and love beneath them. Like all the tales that have come before it, The Missing Years, with the strange Manse at the heart of a long-unsolved mystery, couldn’t possibly be set anywhere else. If you give it a read, you’ll see what I mean...
Visit Lexie Elliott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 7, 2019

"Under the Cold Bright Lights"

Garry Disher is one of Australia’s best-known novelists. He’s published over 50 books in a range of genres, including crime, children’s books, and Australian history. He lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.

Disher applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Under the Cold Bright Lights and reported the following:
Page 69 of Under the Cold Bright Lights happens to reflect perfectly the book as a whole. On page 69, police searching a house discover vials of a hospital drug known as "sux" (succinylcholine), which can kill in certain circumstances and not leave a trace. This dovetails with the back story, in which the main character, a burnt-out cold case detective named Auhl, suspects a suave doctor had murdered two of his wives and intends to murder the third. And the drug resonates all through the book, most satisfyingly in the final chapter, in which...
Visit Garry Disher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 5, 2019

"The Outside"

Ada Hoffmann is the author of the space opera novel The Outside, the collection Monsters in My Mind, and over 60 published speculative short stories and poems.

Hoffmann applied the Page 69 Test to The Outside and reported the following:
The Outside is a novel about AI Gods, cosmic horrors, and an unfortunate scientist named Yasira Shien who's caught between them. On page 69, Yasira, has been summoned to help the Gods find her mentor, Dr. Evianna Talirr. She's been reading Dr. Talirr's allegedly heretical papers, and on this page, she's arguing with one of the angels (cyborg servants of the Gods).
"Is this a trick? Are these really Dr. Talirr's papers, or did you make fake ones somehow, to try to - I don't know - to get a reaction out of me, or to tempt me into agreeing with some of the heresy. Because this makes no sense! It's science, and the math checks out, but it makes no sense. Dr. Talirr wouldn't do this."
Yasira is having trouble assimilating the information about a woman she thought she could trust. But she's even more unsure what the information means about her, after all the time she spent working with Dr. Talirr and helping create a reactor based on Dr. Talirr's science.
Yasira took a short, fuming breath. She suddenly realized she was frightened, not angry. She didn't want to say this next part. But these were angels of Nemesis; they'd find out what she was thinking sooner or later.

"And," she said, "this is Dr. Talirr's worldview. It affects everything she does. So the Talirr-Shien Reactor is like this too, isn't it? I'm a heretic, too."
To some degree, page 69 is still setting things up. It's a pretty representative depiction of one of the main conflicts in the book. But at this point, the characters are still getting used to the basics of what that conflict is. In subsequent chapters, it's about to get much weirder.
Visit Ada Hoffmann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

"Stone Cold Heart"

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

Frear applied the Page 69 Test to Stone Cold Heart, her second novel featuring DC Cat Kinsella, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Parnell’s face is a picture as we wait by the reception desk, attracting stares and corner-of-the-mouth comments from the snappily dressed workforce. “Jesus, don’t tell me they’re the latest trend again?” he mutters as a redhead whips by us in blue velvet flares. “I had a pair of those back in the seventies and they were out of fashion then.”
This was a fun exercise! I’ll admit I assumed that every page of my novel would surely be in some way representative of the overall work, however page 69 let me down me badly.

On page 69, my main protagonist, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella, has gone with her partner, Detective Sergeant Luigi Parnell, to re-interview a witness at their office – the same office where the recently deceased victim also worked. The entire page is given over to their reactions to the youth-club style atmosphere they encounter and the millennial fashionistas who seem amused by their presence. The witness, Kirstie Connor, is the owner of the firm and she’s embarrassed by the upbeat atmosphere, aware it doesn’t exactly show the company culture in the best light (given someone just died). This isn’t essential to the plot but it hopefully gives the reader a sense of place. It also demonstrates that Kirstie Connor has at least some social awareness (up until this point, she’s been a fairly unsympathetic character).

While page 69 isn’t overly important in the grand scheme of things, it is the start of a very important chapter as the detectives find their first firm clue in this office. I also think the page gives a good snapshot of Cat and Parnell’s relationship. He’s the older father-figure while she’s the young gun, often helping him navigate modern culture.
Follow Caz Frear on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Sweet Little Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

"Green Valley"

Louis Greenberg is a renowned writer in his own right, having been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for his debut novel The Beggars’ Signwriters (2007), but is perhaps more known for his work with Sarah Lotz as one half of internationally bestselling S.L. Grey.

Green Valley is his first solo novel to be published outside his native South Africa. He is currently based in England.

Greenberg applied the Page 69 Test to Green Valley and reported the following:
From page 69:
It was near six when I got to the precinct. Though it had felt like a week, I’d only been in Green Valley for five hours, and I guessed Barbra would still be in the office.

I took a stabilising breath before hurrying and greeting the desk officer. ‘Hi. I know I shouldn’t be here after hours, but I’ve left my keys behind. I got all the way home and scratched around in my damn bag… they have to be on my desk. Well, I goddamn hope so. You mind if I go take a look?’

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘You gotta sign in, though.’

‘Of course,’ I said, hoping he wouldn’t look too closely at the dirt under my nails. Most of Green Valley had come off in the shower, but not all. After signing in, I patted my jacket’s inner pocket – the signal-proof pouch was still there. Even though I trusted the Sentinel tech’s capacity to block its signals, and the fact that I’d been able to smuggle it out of Zeroth’s liaison office undetected proved that it was working, I couldn’t help imagining radio-wave tendrils punching a microscopic hole through the pouch’s defences and speeding their way back to Zeroth to expose me. The sooner I handed this thing off, the better. And if Barbra wasn’t in the office? I’d have to hold onto it till the morning, feel Zeroth’s tentacles clawing out to it all night. Fuck, I hoped she was there.
While page 69 of Green Valley gives you a representative sense of the first-person narrative and the perspective, voice and concerns of Lucie Sterling, the main protagonist, it might mystify you if you open up here. It’s the very start of Part II, and it’ll be as if you’ve started a miniseries on episode two. You won’t know what Lucie’s just seen. She’s returned to Stanton from a very unsettling visit to Green Valley, an enclave across town where the remnants of a big-tech firm, Zeroth, live in permanent virtual reality. Eight years ago, Stanton voted to outlaw the internet and digital technology, and since then Green Valley has been shunned.

But now, dead Green Valley kids have been appearing in Stanton, and Lucie’s had no choice to go and see her brother-in-law – her dead sister’s niece is still inside Green Valley and nobody knows exactly where she is. And Lucie has other reasons for going in: she’s part of Sentinel, a covert policing unit run by Barbra Reeve that’s keeping tabs on Green Valley. This opportunity to go inside has offered a rare chance to bug the enclave. Now she wants to return the kit to Barbra and be done with it.

Although everything seemed fine inside Green Valley when she visited, Lucie can’t shake the feeling that everything isn’t quite as it seemed. Virtual reality has a way of doing that. And although Kira’s been located, Lucie’s not sure whether she can trust what she’s just experienced.

You’ll need to read on to find out more!
Visit Louis Greenberg's website.

Writers Read: Louis Greenberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

"Dear Wife"

Kimberly Belle is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of novels of suspense. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Belle applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dear Wife, and reported the following:
From page 69:

This case, I handle by the book.

I start at the show house, walking the grounds and studying the dirt for imprints—both shoes and tires. I press my face to the windows and peer into all the rooms. This place is a “show house” all right, every room packed with complicated, flashy furniture, every horizontal surface crammed with bowls and candles and crap. I try the doors, the latches on the windows, but the place is locked up tight. No sign anyone but a decorator has been here.

From there, I go to the office for a face-to-face with Sabine’s boss, Lisa, a perfumed blonde in a ruby-red suit with lips to match. According to her, not only was Sabine a no-show for last night’s showing, she also missed a company-wide training yesterday afternoon, where she was supposed to present on building a social media platform.

“You don’t understand,” Lisa tells me, a frown pulling on her Botoxed brow. “Sabine is my hardest worker, and she’s always on time for everything, especially showings. Honestly, Detective, this is very worrisome. This isn’t like her at all.”
This isn’t the first time we meet Marcus, the detective tasked with finding the missing Sabine, but it’s the first time we hear from his point of view. We already know he’s smart and he’s a hustler, but we learn he’s skating on thin ice at work. Thanks to an overly demanding family, he’s being pulled in a thousand different directions, and his boss has noticed. With Sabine’s case, Marcus is definitely feeling the pressure to get things right.

But the more he digs into her disappearance, the more convoluted it becomes. It doesn’t help that Sabine left almost no clues, or that there was trouble at home, something her husband Jeffrey is trying very hard to hide. We also get a peek inside Jeffrey’s head and into his marriage to Sabine, which has been falling apart for a while now. Financially and perhaps emotionally, he’d be better off with her gone.

But at its heart, Dear Wife is the story of Beth, a woman on the run from her controlling and abusive husband. For months now she’s been planning her escape—saving grocery money, thinking through the various strategies, coming up with a plan. One day when her husband is at work, she finds her chance. She steers her car westward to leave a trail of clues, then doubles back and disappears into Atlanta.

Is Beth Sabine? And what is Jeffrey hiding? As the stories progress, it becomes clear that somebody is lying.
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 30, 2019

"A Matter of Will"

Adam Mitzner is currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP in midtown Manhattan and the author of several acclaimed novels, including Dead Certain, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, The Girl from Home, Dead Certain and Never Goodbye.

Mitzner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Matter of Will, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Matter of Will begins the 12th chapter and describes Will Matthews’ current living arrangement – a three-bedroom walkup in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, which he shares with three other guys.

By this point in the book, Will has already met Sam Abaddon, the uber-wealthy investor who appears to be the answer to Will’s prayers. Prior to meeting Sam, Will was on the verge of being fired from his job as a stock broker, and sent packing back to his Midwest hometown with his tail between his legs. But now Will is on the cusp of snagging Sam’s business, which means that he won’t be living with his current roommates for too much longer.

This passage is representative of how life starts for a lot of would-be Masters of the Universe. They come to New York City with visions of living in penthouse apartments with commanding views of the city, and they end up sharing a bedroom in a setting that more resembles their college experience than Wall Street success.

At the same time, the reader knows that Will is within striking distance of that fancy penthouse he has always dreamed about. The question by page 69 of the novel is: What strings are attached to Will getting it?
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Michael Blumlein is the author of several novels and story collections, including the award-winning The Brains of Rats. He has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker. His story "Fidelity: A Primer" was short-listed for the Tiptree. He has written for both stage and film, including the award-winning independent film Decodings (included in the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and winner of the Special Jury Award of the SF International Film Festival). His novel X,Y was made into a feature-length movie. Until his recent retirement Dr. Blumlein taught and practiced medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

Blumlein applied the Page 69 Test to his new novella, Longer, and reported the following:
On page 69 my two main characters, Cav and Gunjita, husband and wife, are having a conversation. Both are scientists, and they're trying to understand a scientific riddle that's unexpectedly presented itself. They're having a difference of opinion. Cav is fairly certain the answer lies in one direction; Gunjita is equally certain it lies in the opposite direction.

This difference reflects their different personalities. Cav is a dreamer and a wool-gatherer by nature, qualities that Gunjita admires and respects. Gunjita is pragmatic and thoughtful in ways that Cav both admires and lacks.

They met in their twenties. For Cav it was love at first sight. Nearly sixty years have passed since then. They've spent a lifetime together, a long and loving one.

Gunjita has just taken a treatment making her young again. Cav, at eighty, is dragging his feet.

Gunjita is growing impatient with him. She doesn't understand what's holding him up. Cav doesn't quite understand either. He loves her dearly, and he loves life. But he's already lived a long and deeply fulfilling one. What more can he expect? Is there such a thing as enough?

What draws two people together? What keeps them together? What drives them apart? When a relationship ends – and sooner or later, all relationships do, whether or not by choice – what happens next?

Longer is about many things – aging, mortality, scientific achievement, the very nature of life – but the persistence and changeability of love and togetherness lie at its heart.
Visit Michael Blumlein's website.

Writers Read: Michael Blumlein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2019

"Summer Hours"

Amy Mason Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon.

She’s written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, The Orange County Register and other publications. Doan has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Doan is the author of The Summer List and the newly released Summer Hours.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Summer Hours and reported the following:
From page 69
I wandered rooms like a nosy houseguest, finger-combing the fringe on the fuzzy red sofa afghan, turning knobs on our decades-old intercom panel. Serra and Eric and I used to play that we were DJs on it.

The books on my bedroom shelf and the clothes in my closet seemed like someone else’s, like riches, and I couldn’t remember why they hadn’t made the cut when I’d packed for Berkeley last summer.

I picked up the framed picture of Eric and Serra and me after the Senior Awards ceremony. We were grinning into the sun with our arms flung around each other, clutching our prizes—me the Haggermaker, Serra her Artists’ Network certificate, Eric the Rotary Club’s bright medal.

You must call each other all the time.

Eric and I hadn’t spoken once.
This is when 21-year-old Becc first comes home to her house in Southern California after leaving for college in Berkeley. We get a sense of Becc’s tight, lifelong friendship with Eric and Serra—their parents called them “The Three Mouseketeers” when they were younger—and how wounded Becc is by Eric drifting from her life. (Early in the book, Eric awkwardly reaches for more than friendship with her but she’s not ready.)

We also see that Becc was a high achiever when she was younger. But she’s examining the photo as if that good girl standing in the sun is now a stranger. Her desire to maintain a perfect image for her wealthy benefactor, Francine Haggermaker, is evident here, and foreshadows what’s to come. I had a lot of fun with the lies that Becc later writes in her letters to the older woman. Francine is a bit of a cipher until late in the book, but Becc is convinced that she will disapprove of her secret affair and increasing rebelliousness, rescind her scholarship, and make her life hell. Becc is like all of us in those not-quite-adult, not-quite-child years. She still has so much to learn.

Page 69 doesn’t hint at the other half of the book—adult Becc driving up the California coast with a mystery passenger to an old friend’s wedding, trying to make things right along the way.

But overall this captures the novel’s central conflict and my writing style perfectly, so I love it.
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Last Day"

Domenica Ruta is a fiction writer and memoirist from Massachusetts. A scholarship kid at Phillips Academy Andover and Oberlin College, she has worked as a videographer and editor, a book store clerk, a waitress, a bartender, an English-as-a-Foreign-Language teacher, a nanny, a nursing home caregiver, a domestic violence hotline advocate and a house cleaner. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin.

Her first book, the memoir With or Without You, was a New York Times Bestseller and named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the top three nonfiction books of the year 2013. The Boston Globe, Macleans, NPR, Slate, Elle, Bust, and USA Today all loved it.

Ruta applied the Page 69 Test to Last Day, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a scene on the International Space Station starring Bear, the all-American astronaut. He's in the cupola, a module with all these gorgeous windows that allow astronauts to see the earth in her gorgeous entirety, "where he liked to take what he'd come to think of as a nice cool drink of Earth." He's feeling lonesome for Earth and the simple pleasures we take for granted, such as naturally moving water. I wouldn't say this page is a perfect representative of the whole book, but it does touch on something central - we are always reaching forward and backward at the same time: into the past and into the future; longing for home, in a spiritual sense, even as we push ourselves to leave home and explore the bigger world. It's about how precious our world is, how precarious, how intimate we are with it and how foreign it can feel.
Visit Domenica Ruta's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"The Cutting Room"

Ashley Dyer is the pseudonym for prize-winning novelist Margaret Murphy working in consultation with policing and forensics expert, Helen Pepper.

Dyer's new novel is The Cutting Room.

Murphy applied the Page 69 Test to The Cutting Room and reported the following:
By chance, page 69 of The Cutting Room provides a snapshot of the investigation, a glimpse into the mind of the serial killer at the heart of it, providing insights into the main protagonists, too. The Ferryman makes his victims the centrepiece of his art work, and here, detectives Greg Carver and Ruth Lake discuss his latest “art exhibit” with forensic psychologist, Dr Yi. “Catch the Gamma Wave” consisted of a row of laptop computers, propped open on a ledge of a natural sandstone escarpment not far from the city centre the night before. Each laptop screen was split into two parts; the top image showing a brain wave trace, the lower one, cardio.

From page 69:
[Ruth] hesitated, and Carver gazed at the space around her head.

‘What?’ he said.

Ruth knew that Carver had learned to read emotions like anger and guilt accurately, but complex emotions were trickier, and anyway she wasn’t sure if there was a colour for freaked out.

‘I did some background reading on gamma brain waves overnight,’ she said. ‘They’re typical of the brain state associated with “Eureka” moments – you know, sudden, unexpected sparks of insight or knowledge.’

Yi nodded. ‘There’s quite a lot in the literature about gamma brain waves and the “A-ha!” moment.’

‘Okay,’ Carver said. ‘And the brain waves on the laptop screens – were they actually gamma waves?’

‘I couldn’t tell a gamma wave from a microwave,’ Ruth admitted. ‘Doctor Yi?’

The psychologist leafed through the notes and printouts he’d brought with him. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘In my opinion they are.’

They looked to Ruth to take up the story again.

How to explain it? ‘If you drop a stone in a pond; you’d expect the ripples to get weaker and shallower as the energy dissipates, wouldn’t you?’

Carver nodded.

‘Brain waves should behave in the same way,’ Ruth said. ‘So, when the heart stops, brain activity weakens, brain waves slow down, and finally, they stop.’

‘Flatlining,’ Carver said.

‘Kind of ... An academic study on rats found that a type of brainwave called “low gamma waves” got stronger – for up to thirty seconds after the animals were technically dead.’
Detective Carver survived a near-fatal attack in Book #1, but he was in a coma for days, and now, as he recovers from a serious brain injury, he sees auras of light shimmering around people. It’s rare form of synesthesia; more commonly, synesthetes will ‘see’ words as colors, or ‘taste’ sounds, but for Carver, the flashes of light and color seem to correspond to the moods of those around him, and he has begun to interpret the colors in order to gain insights into others’ thoughts and feelings. The auras are mentioned here, as Carver tries to read Ruth Lake. Here, too, Ruth demonstrates her background in science; a former CSI, she has researched gamma waves overnight, hoping to understand the warped message behind the Ferryman’s art.

The experiment she refers to on page 69 refers to a discovery that low gamma brainwaves become stronger and more synchronized in the 30 seconds after death (i.e. when the heart stops or a massive stroke occurs), indicating heightened, organised and focused consciousness. This revelation leaves us in no doubt that the killer is sadistic, calculating, and without conscience: the brainwaves prove that the victims were aware of what was happening to them—even after he’d murdered them.
Visit Ashley Dyer's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Ashley Dyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Season Butler is a London-based writer, performance artist and teacher, and an associate producer of the I'm With You art collective.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Cygnet, and reported the following:
This was an interesting one for me, since Cygnet's pagination of the UK edition, published by Dialogue Books, is slightly different from the North American one, out with Harper Collins. Together, the two page 69s perfectly capture the narrator’s internal dilemma and the social landscape of Swan Island.

I first reached for the UK edition of Cygnet, where The Kid is mentally tangled in a panic of stories and images which all contribute to her morbid fantasies around the potential finality of the loss of her family and totality of her alienation.
How long will it be until I or my folks have weathered into a shape where can’t even recognise each other anymore? Or until we’ve changed so much we can’t love each other again, like jigsaw puzzle pieces that have gotten wet and warped and can’t fit together, like they should, and the picture will never be right. I wonder if what I’ve lost is the possibility of fitting anywhere. An extraneous piece, the wrong blue for the sky or the sea, the wrong green for the leaves or the grass or the café awnings or the leather of the little boy’s lederhosen.

My parents lost all the photos from my childhood in some move or other. I don’t have the straw to spin into gold, the way I do it up here in Mrs Tyburn’s attic. My magic will work on her but not on me. I’ll have to start from scratch, on my own, the old-fashioned way. Except I know they’ll come back for me tomorrow. I know they will.
On page 69 of Harper Collins’ North American edition, we’re in Swan Island’s cafĂ©, the Psychedelicatessen, with the owners, Suzie-Q and Johnny-Come-Lately. The Kid has come in with Jason, the grandson of one of the Wrinklies who takes their homegrown marijuana to sell back on the mainland, helping them maintain their autonomy with the profit. He brings with him all the stuff they can’t grow, that helps keep retirement sweet.

The setting in the Psychedeli captures the aesthetics and politics of Swan Island life:
Inside, blue walls painted with a cloudscape that mimics the sky on a clear summer day gives the Psychedeli a great feeling of spaciousness, which it needs against the hodgepodge of homemade and salvaged furniture and pillows and bean bags that make up the dining room. Hardly anyone uses the bean bags because it’s hard to get up once you’re in one, even for me, and they always talk about getting rid of them but never do. They’ve hung some flags over the counter at the back, all with acronyms like POW- MIA and AFL-CIO, and ones with the Led Zeppelin zeppelin and the Rolling Stones lips.
The Kid and Jason, Suzie and Johnny, settle into a booth at the back and get down to business…
Visit Season Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cygnet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2019

"The Perfect Fraud"

Ellen LaCorte worked for many years in human resources. She now writes full time from her home where she lives with her husband in Titusville, New Jersey. She is the mother of two grown sons.

LaCorte applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Perfect Fraud, and reported the following:
Claire Hathaway fakes her way through her job as a psychic. Her mother is the real deal. On page 69, Claire Hathaway has returned home because her father is gravely ill. This is heartbreaking for Claire but it also puts her right back into what she’s worked her adult life to escape—trying to keep her mother from dissolving into an emotional disaster.
“What time’s the operation?” I ask my mother as she maneuvers the car out of the parking lot.

Adjusting the rearview mirror, she says, “As long as he remains stable during the night, they’re planning for eight-thirty.”

“Early. That’s good.”

When did this stiltedness between us become entrenched? Unless my mother is unloading her anxiety on me via psychic vision or through nutritional advice—more of a monologue on her part than a two-way exchange—our conversations are mostly superficial and perfunctory. It feels like we both have to carefully consider what we’re going to say, as if we were strangers who’d met in the grocery line, marking time until our turns at the register by discussing the pros and cons of firm or extra-firm tofu.
This excerpt from page 69 defines one of Claire’s major issues in the novel, that is, how to reconcile her relationship with her mother who had burdened Claire with responsibilities no young child should have had to take on. This has left Claire with a heightened sense of guilt and an extreme reluctance to take on any responsibility.

Until she is forced to.

When Claire meets Rena, a mother with a very sick child, she must decide whether or not to become involved. Claire has doubts about her psychic skills and is not sure how she can or if she will help, but a little girl’s fate may be in her hands.
Visit Ellen LaCorte's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2019

"All The Greys on Greene Street"

Laura Tucker is a writer and former literary agent who has coauthored books on a wide range of topics, including health, fitness, parenting, and self-help. Her credits include Still Room for Hope by Alisa Kaplan, Standing Tall by C. Vivian Stringer, Shalom in the Home by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Training for Life by Debbie Rocker. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Tucker applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, All the Greys on Greene Street, and reported the following:
On page 69 of All The Greys on Greene Street, Olympia, the main character of the book, has left Washington Square Park with her friend Alex to find a payphone. (The book, I should mention, is set in 1981.) On the surface, the scene is a casual conversation between friends who have known each other since preschool, but it’s quickly apparent that there’s quite a bit of tension between them.

One source of that tension is longstanding: Alex is the kind of kinetic kid who never stops moving, and Ollie often finds this extremely annoying. But her irritation with him in this scene is definitely amplified by the uncomfortable questions Alex insists on asking about her dad’s sudden disappearance. The official story doesn’t add up, and Ollie knows it, but she’s not ready to ask why.

Page 69 also contains one of my favorite of Ollie’s memories:
[Alex’s] dad travelled so much for work, we thought LaGuardia was some kind of magical city until we were most of the way through third grade. “My dad’s flying out of LaGuardia tonight,” Alex would tell us, reverent and hushed, so that we could practically see the jacketed doorman hailing a cab while his dad waited under a heated marquee, beautiful globe lights reflecting off rain-slicked roads.

Then someone figured out that LaGuardia was just an airport in Queens.
Maybe I was overly prone to glamorous fantasies, but I remember many similarly disappointing moments of discovery. This might be one of the less lovely parts of growing up....
Visit Laura Tucker's website.

Writers Read: Laura Tucker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2019

"The Gospel According to Lazarus"

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, and reported the following:
In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus resurrected a beloved friend named Lazarus. And yet, nowhere in the Gospels is there any mention of how Jesus created this miracle or if he had any special reason for doing so. In my novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, I explore these questions while narrating the tale of Lazarus from his own point of view.

The story begins with Lazarus awakening in his tomb, unsure of where he is and disoriented. Worst of all, his faith has been shattered because he remembers nothing of an afterlife. Fragile and vulnerable, he turns to Jesus for help, and the two men embark on a new phase of their long friendship.

After Jesus’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Lazarus concludes that his whole life may have been a test for this chance to save his beloved friend from crucifixion. Only many years later, however – after our narrator has been forced to flee Jerusalem – does he begin to understand the true role that he played in Jesus’ life. And he begins to believe that he might still be able to help his old friend by voicing his unique perspective on the religious and mystical movement that became known as Christianity.

One of my objectives in this novel was to restore to Jesus and Lazarus their Judaism. And so Jesus is known by his Hebrew name, Yeshua ben Yosef, and Lazarus is referred to as Eliezer ben Natan.

On page 69, Eliezer is about to finish telling his grandson a mystical version of the story from John 8 of a woman accused of adultery and facing punishment. In Eliezer’s version, the woman has been and beaten and brutalized. Yeshua saves her life by using an insightful strategy against her accuser. Here is what Eliezer says.
All who have ever heard this story believe they know the lesson that Yeshua wished to teach us. It is contained in these words: ‘Let he who is without blemish or who has never lost his way cast the first stone.’

But, while that is an important lesson, it is only the one we see at first glance, written across the polished surface of his actions.

If you gaze below this level of meaning, dear boy, you may glimpse the second – and some would say, more life-changing – lesson that Yeshua intended for us that day, and it is this: The only hands and eyes that the Lord has to right injustice in our world are our own.
Page 69 captures a bit of the mystical tone of the book but not the rapid pace and down-to-earth atmosphere. The review in England’s The Observer newspaper is relevant in this regard: “A very human tale of rivalry, betrayal, power-grabbing and sacrifice... Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this brave and engaging novel is that Zimler manages to make the best-known narrative in western culture a page-turner. I simply had to keep going to the end to know what would happen.”
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 99: Guardian of the Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Last Bus to Everland"

Sophie Cameron was born in the Scottish Highlands and studied French & Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived in France, Canada, Germany and now lives in Barcelona with her wife.

Cameron applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Bus to Everland, and reported the following:
Last Bus to Everland has two settings: one is Everland, a magical dimension that the main character, Brody Fair, visits every Thursday night with his friends; and the other is modern-day Edinburgh, where Brody lives in a cramped apartment with his parents and siblings. Brody’s dad has agoraphobia as a result of PTSD and rarely leaves the building. On page 69 of the book, Brody is looking back at how his father’s condition began after waking up from a short coma caused by a vicious attack:
But then I remember Mam rushing into our bedroom to tell us that Dad had woken up. I remember the car ride to the hospital in our pajamas, and that giddy mix of relief and joy and nerves when we arrived to find him sitting up, bruised and bandaged but smiling. It was in the papers and all: “Brave Father Makes ‘Miracle’ Recovery after Intervening in Leith Attack.”

I thought that was it. I thought Dad was better, that everything was back to normal. But when he walked through the front doors of the hospital the following week, before we’d even reached the car, he had a panic attack.

Doesn’t sound like much when you say it like that. It doesn’t sound the way I remember it: Dad gasping for breath, eyes wide and face pale, clammy hands tugging at his collar as if his clothes were suffocating him. It doesn’t sound like the horror in his face, or the fear that seeped out of him and snatched my own breath away. It doesn’t sound like Keira crying, or Jake asking over and over what was wrong.
In many ways, this page isn’t particularly representative of the novel as a whole: there is no sign of the magic here that Brody discovers when he’s taken to Everland. But on the other hand, it does show some of the challenges of the difficult (and occasionally dangerous) real world that Brody lives in, and his love for his family. Brody finds his father’s condition frustrating and unfair, but he’s always empathetic. He understands that it’s a real disability and that his dad is doing his best.

Despite being a fantasy novel, the family dynamics are really the heart of Last Bus to Everland. Brody’s home life isn’t always easy: his father’s disability means he can’t work, his mum is struggling to make up the hours, and Brody is caught between his genius older brother and his attention-seeking younger sister. He doesn’t feel seen or understood, but he loves them regardless. When the doors to Everland begin to close, he’s forced to choose between the magical dimension (and Nico, the boy he’s fallen in love with there) and his family – and it’s not an easy decision at all.
Visit Sophie Cameron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"The Perfect Plan"

Bryan Reardon is the author of Finding Jake and The Real Michael Swann. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Bryan worked for the State of Delaware for more than a decade, starting in the Office of the Governor. He holds a degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife and kids.

Reardon applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Perfect Plan, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"I'm busy, Liam. You know that. I can't afford anything going wrong right now."

"It's cool," I say. "Everything's cool. I promise."

"It better be," he says. "I suggest you head home right now."

I keep staring at the car, the police, the guy with the beard.

"I will," I say, and hang up.
Page 69 of The Perfect Plan is short, the end of a chapter. The dialog could mean anything without the proper context. Maybe just a banal conversation between two brothers, Liam and Drew. Or maybe not. Liam might have just left a car in the middle of an intersection after getting into an altercation with the bearded man. The Jetta he abandoned could have been used in the abduction of a woman on Drew's gubernatorial campaign staff. In fact, it is the woman's car. And Liam is the one that abducted her.

The interaction above may be the start of a complex cat and mouse game. The kind that you're never sure who might be the villain. And who the hero. In life, though, there is rarely one or the other. Instead, we are both. Or neither. On page 69, it appears that Liam is the former and his brother the later. Maybe that perception will be flipped on its heels. Maybe they are both villains, and Drew's staffer is nothing but an innocent victim. Chances are, though, their story will lead to something very different. Because we are talking about the Brennan brothers. With them, nothing is as it appears.
Follow Bryan Reardon on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Bryan Reardon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Time’s Demon"

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy; the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood; a contemporary urban fantasy trilogy, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson; and most recently, Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s Knightfall series.

Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Coe applied the Page 69 Test to Time’s Demon and reported the following:
From page 69:
Bexler wasn’t there, but the tri-sextant sat on his workbench. She guessed that he had already finished it, and was making arrangements for additional materials. His single-mindedness had its advantages...

...Bexler returned nearly two bells later, arriving in an ill temper. Apparently he would have to wait a ha’turn for the first arcs to reach Hayncalde, and another qua’turn after that for enough of them to complete two tri-sextants. In the interim, Gillian knew, he would be impossible to live with: more incentive to ingratiate herself with people in the castle. If she remained in the flat for all that time, her boredom might well prove fatal for at least one of them.

“Is this one finished?” she asked him, interrupting a tirade about the incompetence of ministers, and the value of tri-sextants.

“Yes, it’s ready. I have nothing to do for... for days upon days.”

He flounced to a chair near the hearth and dropped himself into it, a boy in a man’s body.

“Can’t you work on tri-apertures?”

“I suppose, but to what end? They don’t need those.”

“Not now, perhaps. They might before long.”

Bexler nodded. His gaze roamed the chamber, restless. Eventually it settled on her, and his mien shifted in a way she recognized too well.

“You know,” he said, smiling, “as long as we’ve nothing to do–”

“You have nothing to do. I have plenty. I’ll be leaving for the castle before long. In the meantime, I’d suggest you get to work on those apertures. If nothing else, we can sell them for food money, until some other noble has need of our services.”

He frowned, putting her in mind again of a fifteen year-old boy.
The “Page 69 Test” is always a crapshoot, because manuscript pages rarely correspond exactly to book pages. As with Time’s Children, the first book in my time travel/epic fantasy series The Islevale Cycle, page 69 of Time’s Demon, volume two in the series, is not representative of the entire book. It does illustrate, though, an essential truth about big fantasy projects.

On page 69 in Time’s Demon, we encounter Gillian Ainfor, a relatively minor and yet hugely important character in the series. She and her husband, Bexler Filt, have been spies in the court of the ruler who was overthrown and murdered in book I. Their actions helped my “bad guys” succeed in that coup. Now, however, their importance is diminished. Filt is a Binder and creates essential devices for the Windhome-trained Travelers who serve in the various courts. He remains valuable to those in power. Gillian, on the other hand, though smarter and more resourceful than her husband, finds herself feeling superfluous.

In this scene, she seeks to find renewed purpose. She intends to present herself to the new authorities in the city and offer her services as a spy. Anything to get away from her husband. Anything to put herself back at the center of world-shaping events.

Characters like Gillian (and Bexler) are critical to the success of big projects like this one. Epic fantasy works best when it has many plot threads and point of view characters, when readers find themselves in a web of storylines all driving toward a single narrative conclusion. Secondary characters have to feel real, their motivations and emotions need to resonate with readers, just as do the feelings and actions of central characters. As I say, Gillian’s arc is crucial to this novel, despite her being in only a few scenes. She is also a fun character to write, as much for her wit and candor as for her singular role in the story.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog..

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"We Were Killers Once"

Becky Masterman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, We Were Killers Once, and reported the following:
"Beaufort's drive took him west on I-10, a straight shot out of the panhandle of Florida..." begins the chapter on page 69 of We Were Killers Once. Someone, maybe Joseph Campbell, once said that every story is either Hero Takes a Journey or Stranger Comes to Town. Jeremiah Beaufort, who has been freed from a long prison conviction, is definitely the stranger on page 69 coming into the lives of Brigid Quinn, a hardened retired FBI agent, and her husband, a mild-mannered ex-priest named Carlo DiForenza who live in Tucson, Arizona. We already know what Jeremiah Beaufort probably did, and why he's coming for Carlo. We know he's a murderer. And we know he's fond of the melody called "Humoresque." What Beaufort doesn't know is that Brigid Quinn was a killer once, too.
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: We Were Killers Once.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune"

Roselle Lim is a Filipino-Chinese writer living on the north shore of Lake Erie.

She loves to write about food and magic.

When she isn't writing, she is sewing, sketching, or pursuing the next craft project.

Lim applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Nothing made me happier than the act of cooking. My happiest memories were of spending time in the kitchen with Ma-ma as we prepared our meals. The best cooks doubled as magicians, uplifting moods and conjuring memories through the medium of food.
The above opens Chapter Eight, and it captures the soul of the book. Cooking and food play a central role in bringing the characters together, while Natalie’s relationship with Miranda, her mother, is the heart of the novel.

A common thread throughout the story is how kinship are navigated using the language of food. Natalie cooks magical dishes for her neighbors to help them and, in doing so, she begins to understand their hopes, desires, and foibles. She realizes she can no longer keep herself apart from her community.

Natalie’s journey to confront the grief from her mother’s death and to find her own path changes her. Like most mothers-and-daughters, the relationship between Natalie and Miranda is complicated. It is full of love, but not always acceptance or understanding. Natalie’s growth comes from her reconciliation of the past with her desired future.

The page 69 test showcases the two essential themes of the book.
Visit Roselle Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Time After Time"

Lisa Grunwald is the author of the novels The Irresistible Henry House, Whatever Makes You Happy, New Year’s Eve, The Theory of Everything, Summer, and the newly released Time After Time. Along with her husband, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler, she has edited the bestselling anthologies Women’s Letters and Letters of the Century. Grunwald is a former contributing editor to Life and a former features editor of Esquire. She and Adler live in New York City.

Grunwald applied the Page 69 Test to Time After Time and reported the following:
I’m not sure I could have found a less representative page of Time After Time than page 69. My main character (Nora) has gone to visit her father (Frederick) in his hospital room. Nora (and we) will never see this hospital room or Frederick again. In fact, the scene mainly exists in technical service of the plot. Frederick’s illness is the reason Nora comes to New York from Paris; her visit to the hospital is the reason she doesn’t go straight home from the dock where her ship has landed; her heading home after the hospital visit is the reason she winds up in the accident that is the central event of the novel. So, the main setting of the novel (Grand Central Terminal) and the other main character (Joe Reynolds), and the obstacles they face are nowhere present—or even foreshadowed—on page 69.

And yet I think the page does reveal something of Nora’s personality. On page 69, we see her being strong, loving, concerned—and complicit with her father in decrying her mother’s imperious nature. When she tells Frederick that her roommate’s flipped-up haircut makes her look like a playing-card king, we see her levity and her eye for detail. All these elements, but above all the love and determination that have brought Nora to Frederick’s room, will be among the qualities that so attract Joe—and that I hope will endear her to the reader as well.
Visit Lisa Grunwald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2019

"A Bend In The Stars"

Rachel Barenbaum is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor, before moving to the New Hampshire woods to write. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an AB in Literature and Philosophy from Harvard College.

Barenbaum applied the Page 69 Test to A Bend in the Stars, her first novel, and reported the following:
A Bend In The Stars is set in 1914 Russia. The novel is focused on the brother and sister duo of Miri and Vanya. When the book opens, the two are snared by the Czar’s army as his forces tighten their grip on the local Jewish community in preparation for war with Germany and brother and sister are forced to run for their lives. They should run from Russia, but Vanya refuses to leave the country until he’s snapped a photograph of the total solar eclipse due over Russia– a photograph that will help him prove the theory of relativity and thereby beat Einstein. His stubbornness puts them in extreme danger and it is Miri who saves them. She is the hero.

When readers first meet Miri, she is one of Russia’s first female surgeons. She is already a trailblazer in terms of her career but the personal and the professional are not always aligned, and readers follow her journey as she discovers the depths of her courage and love. She is the character that grows the most, that is tested the most. And she is the character that recognizes her limitations, not because of her abilities but because she is a Jew and because Russia has no tolerance for Jews. We see this transformation beginning on page 69:
(Miri) grabbed the misshapen pot, whipped around meaning to defend them with it, but in that same instant, he (a soldier) took hold of her wrist and the two were locked together. The pot in her fist hung suspended over them. The soldier looked surprised by her strength, by the fact that she didn’t let go or give in. But he was stronger and he seemed to like taunting her, not overpowering her as quickly as he could. She understood that once she stopped fighting, he’d be merciless.
Just as that individual soldier was merciless, so too was the Czar and this is the moment when Miri realizes that her only way forward is to escape because if she stays they will kill her – and it will be brutal. She must find a way out of Russia for her, for her family. What follows is a journey that includes an epic love story twisted into real life history and science as Miri risks everything to save the people she loves most.
Visit Rachel Barenbaum's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Bend in the Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2019

"The Electric Hotel"

Dominic Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Electric Hotel, and reported the following:
The Electric Hotel takes place in the world of early silent film. It tells the story of a lost silent film that ruined the careers—and to some extent the lives—of the famous French director and actress who made it. We also follow a band of pioneering filmmakers during the rise and fall of a studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, America’s first movie town and the place that popularized the term cliffhanger (because of the kinds of reels they made out along the Palisades cliff tops).

As it happens, page 69 of the novel is mostly white space, with just six lines of text. In a way, the white space is indicative of a theme and approach to formatting in the novel. As I was writing the book, I was conscious of the way white space is a kind of visual stand-in for silence, using it liberally, and I also wanted to emulate the formatting of early screen photoplays.

But to be fair, if I was picking up the novel in a bookstore and flipping to page 69, I’d probably turn one page over, to page 70, to get a true sense of the world and story. That page features a description of Brooklyn’s first prototype movie house, about to be opened in 1900 by Hal Bender, one of the novel’s primary characters. Early silent films were often shown between live acts on the vaudeville circuit.
Everyone agreed that Hal Bender had brought something beautiful to the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, even if they didn’t know what to call it. Something between a glorified storefront, a vaudeville theater, and a novelty parlor. The facade was stucco and rusticated imitation stone, but the flourishes—sculpted garlands and goddesses—were molded plaster, painted to a high gloss. From a distance, it looked like a curbside basilica, something hand-chiseled by neighborhood sinners and aspirants, but inside there were eight rows of red-plush opera chairs and the velvet drapes were tied back with golden, tasseled ropes. There was a Kimball pump organ, a mounted screen of white silk, and a stage where vaudeville acts could perform between reels.
Visit Dominic Smith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre.

The Page 69 Test: Bright and Distant Shores.

--Marshal Zeringue