Friday, April 2, 2010

"The Tale of Halcyon Crane"

Wendy Webb is editor in chief of Duluth-Superior magazine. A journalist with two decades of experience, she lives in Minnesota.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Tale of Halcyon Crane, her first novel, and reported the following:
I love this concept! When readers get to page 69 of my novel, The Tale of Halcyon Crane, they've already been through the first phase of the plot's setup: Our heroine discovers that everything she has been told about her life — who she was, who her parents were — was a lie. She learns that the mother she thought was dead for 30 years was actually alive until very recently, and her father, upon whom she doted, had abducted her all those years ago. She travels to her mother's home for answers, and on page 69, she is just beginning to find them.

On page 69, Hallie takes her first steps into the home where she lived as a child, a home that now belongs to her. She is greeted at the door by her mother's two dogs, giant Alaskan malamutes, Tundra and Tika. People who know me are touched when they read this, because I happen to have a real-life malamute named Tundra, who joined our family after our beloved dog Tika passed away suddenly. One great thing about being a novelist is having the ability to put these two wonderful dogs together in a story, even though they never were in life.

The page ends with the line, "So, these were my mother's dogs." She has found the first real connection with the mother she never knew — the house, the dogs. In the rest of the book, the stories of her mother and her ancestors unfold, leading Hallie to the answers she seeks. What she finds is at turns delightful, menacing and even terrifying.

Page 69 of The Tale of Halcyon Crane:
Will produced a set of keys from his pocket, unlocked the front door and held it open as I walked through it into my home.

I found myself standing in a large square foyer, the living room on one side, the dining room on the other, and a grand wooden staircase ascending in the middle.

"Where's the welcoming committee?" Will looked left, right and up the stairs. "Girls! Tundra! Tika!"

I heard a clatter of toenails on the wood floor, and two enormous dogs burst through the swinging door separating the dining room from what I assumed was the kitchen. They looked like huskies but were much bigger, their thick white and gray fur, bushy tails, long legs and dark masks around steely golden eyes all hinted at ancient timberwolf ancestors. One was carrying a twisted rope bone in her mouth; the other had a stuffed rabbit. The dogs wiggled and curled around our legs, their great tails wagging, ears pinned back in greeting. Will was scratching and petting them in return, murmuring: "Good girls! Such good, good girls!"

One of them, the bigger of the two, jumped up on me, putting one saucerlike paw on my shoulder and the other on top of my head. I was afraid to move. "They're friendly, right?"

"Down, Tundra!" Will commanded and the dog dropped to the floor and sat in front of me. "She loves visitors. They're the highlight of her day. And yes, they're both friendly, but protective, too."

I reached down gingerly to scratch this beast behind the ears. "So, these were my mother's dogs."
Read an excerpt from The Tale of Halcyon Crane, and learn more about the book and author at Wendy Webb's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue