Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"The Shortest Way Home"

Juliette Fay received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. Shelter Me was her first novel, Deep Down True her second.

Fay applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Shortest Way Home, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a pivotal moment in The Shortest Way Home. Sean Doran has worked as a nurse in Third World war zones and disaster areas for the last twenty years. He comes home to Massachusetts for what he thinks is a brief stopover. But once there, he finds that things are falling apart with his elderly aunt who raised him and his 11-year-old orphaned nephew, Kevin.

On page 69 Kevin, who is a strangely quiet kid, makes Sean keep a promise to go for a hike with him. It’s the first time Kevin asserts himself, and as a result they begin to get to know each other a little better. They’ve both been raised by the same woman, Aunt Vivvy, whom Sean muses has “all the warmth of a garden hoe.”

The hike takes them past the back of the cemetery where Sean’s mother and brother Hugh (Kevin’s father) are laid to rest. Sean hasn’t been there since Hugh’s funeral five years ago, and wants to avoid the place. Because of Hugh’s early death, it’s unknown whether he might have been carrying the gene for Huntington’s, a devastating, incurable disease that caused their mother’s demise when they were kids. As a result, Kevin could be at risk for the gene—or not.

Though he’s also at risk, Sean has chosen not to be tested for Huntington’s. As he explains in another chapter, “I didn’t take it. I don’t want to know.” To avoid passing on the disease in case he is a carrier, Sean has never married or had children.

As they hike, it becomes clear that Kevin has an astute eye for detail about the world around him—and about his uncle Sean, as well. This perceptiveness will soon cause Sean to question his own future, as he learns more about the boy’s hidden strengths and the challenges he faces.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliette Fay's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Down True.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Wild Girls"

Mary Stewart Atwell's short fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices and Best American Mystery Stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Wild Girls, and reported the following:
Serendipitously, page 69 of Wild Girls touches on a major theme—the different choices that the main character can make for her life, and the potential consequences of each. At the beginning, we hear a description of Kate’s friend Caroline, an anomalous free spirit at their Southern boarding school:
She wore rainbow-striped kneesocks and John Lennon glasses, and if anyone made fun of the way she looked, the sarcasm passed right over her without making an impression. Her father lived in Rome, and traveling with him had given her a faith in her ability to move in the world that I envied. She was the one who had encouraged me to apply to my dream colleges in Minnesota, Maine, and Vermont when my mom said that maybe I should look for a backup—something less expensive, and closer to home.
Kate and Caroline are separated not only by socioeconomics but also by the confidence that social status brings. As Kate says, Caroline believes in her right to move easily in the world; Kate, brought up in a town without opportunity, suspects that mobility might not be an option for her. Local teenagers have the potential to turn into wild girls, nightmare creatures who wreak havoc on the town and sometimes even murder, and Kate fears becoming one of them.

One might think that the worst thing about being a wild girl would be murdering people, but Kate doesn’t quite see it that way. When she thinks about the wild girls, she often skips past their crimes to focus on their later lives, living in disgrace in the community they terrorized. In the passage below, she reflects on her sister Maggie’s atypical experience as a wild girl and her return to their hometown:
Maybe the fact that my sister had been an unusual kind of wild girl should have been reassuring to me. Maggie had proven that it was possible to come out on the other side without any major baggage. In this she was not just different from Crystal Lemons, dead in the ruins of Bloodwort Farm, but different from the girls who went to prison, who always came back changed, degraded. I had seen Sharon Englehard, drunk at ten a.m., talking to herself at a bus stop, and Angie Davenport was rumored to work as a prostitute at the travel plazas on Route 19. Given the track records of the other ex-wild girls, Maggie’s choice to settle for a deadneck life with Kayak Boy didn’t seem so bad. Still, I couldn’t help noticing that the one thing the wild girls had in common was that they were all stuck in Swan River.
Though Kate sympathizes to a certain extent with the rage that fuels the wild girls’ frenzy, she recognizes that the end result of that frenzy is more shame, more stagnation. If she’s going to get out of Swan River, she has to find a way to channel her own anger and resentment in a positive direction.
Read more about Wild Girls, and visit Mary Stewart Atwell's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The Witch of Babylon"

D. J. McIntosh’s The Witch of Babylon has been sold in nineteen countries, was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award, and won a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished novel.

McIntosh applied the Page 69 Test to The Witch of Babylon and reported the following:
From page 69:
Laurel eased herself up and walked over to a credenza pushed against the wall. Every inch of its marble top was covered with stacks of file folders and documents along with some dusty photos sitting beside her computer. One of these, her wedding picture, showed a bride with high cheekbones, a slight Slavic tilt to her green eyes giving her face a faintly exotic look, satiny brown hair, swept up. She was dressed simply in a white satin sheath, holding a spray of white roses and baby’s breath. Beside her, Hal, ramrod straight in a severe black suit, looked uncomfortable, as though he already knew the marriage was doomed to fail. Like some omnipresent ghost, Hal’s mother Mina, a little blurry but clearly identifiable, could be seen in the background. Laurel saw me looking at the photo. “Do you know there isn’t one wedding picture with just the two of us? Mina always lurked somewhere, making sure she was in the shot.
The nexus of conflict in thrillers often focuses on how wrong relationships between people can go and much of the action in The Witch is about just these kind of conflicts. Betrayal, loss, jealousy, the crumbling edifice of a marriage destined for grief from the start, lie at the heart of both the novel’s puzzles and its catastrophic outcome. The stakes are always higher where family ties are broken. The book’s protagonist, John Madison, with family troubles of his own, steps into Hal, Lauren and Mina’s spoiled world, unaware of the consequences to him. And even when it concerns the affairs of a famous and historic king, family repercussions from the loss of a much loved daughter give birth to a legend that lasts centuries.
Learn more about the book and author at D.J. McIntosh's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"A Plague of Lies"

Judith Rock has written on dance, art, and theology for many journals, and has been artist-in-residence and taught and lectured at colleges, seminaries and conferences across the United States and abroad. The Rhetoric of Death, her first novel, was a 2011 Barry Award nominee.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Plague of Lies, and reported the following:
In A Plague of Lies, p. 69 is a necessary but uneventful transition between the end of one scene which furthers the plot, and the beginning of another important plot scene. The Jesuit delegation to Louis XIV's Versailles has just presented the gift--or bribe--of a saint's relic to the king's second wife, Madame de Maintenon. They're trying to 'sweeten' her with this gift of St. Ursula's little finger, because the royal wife is very angry at Jesuits. She's angry because the king's Jesuit confessor supports the king's refusal to publicly acknowledge the marriage, the reason being that her family is only minor nobility and not royal. The four man delegation has left her reception room and is on its way to dinner at the table of the Duke de La Rochefoucauld, an important courtier and a friend of the angry Madame de Maintenon. The Jesuits follow the long gallery corridor to the Duke's apartement.
...they found the gallery thronged with richly dressed men and women making their way into La Rochefoucauld's rooms. Charles tried not to stare at the women. Tall headdresses, confections of ribbons, lace, and starched linen, waved above discreetly padded puffs of hair and curls like bunches of grapes, and scarves like woven air fluttered on bare shoulders. The men's gold-embroidered waistcoats glittered beneath open black coats, their sticks tapped, and their velvet and wool coat skirts hung nearly to their knees. Precedence--the prescribed order of entrance by rank--was taken, given, and rearranged with narrowed eyes and coldly honeyed words.
The last sentence is a warning of danger beneath the smooth social surface, and begins the new scene. Historical novelists are often criticized for drowning their readers in historical detail. I try to use detail to deepen or change the mood of a scene. And, of course, to help the reader see what the book's characters are seeing. But I also keep in mind that a novel is not--and is not intended to be--a film. The reader needs enough visual detail to be present with characters and events. But half the fun of reading is conjuring the scene for oneself--rather than having it dictated by the camera. That seems especially important to me in these times when we're inundated with screens and so little is left to the imagination. No matter how much detail a historical novelist gives, in the end it's always imagination that lets the reader of a historical novel travel to a past time and live there for the duration of the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Judith Rock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty"

Joshilyn Jackson, a native of the Deep South, has worked as an actor and an award-winning teacher, and is now a writer and a mother of two. She is the author of gods in Alabama; Between, Georgia; The Girl Who Stopped Swimming; and Backseat Saints.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and reported the following:
A Grown Up Kind of Pretty is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a loamy, fecund, mossy, verdant landscape. It's an impossible place to bury secrets, because anything shoved under that soil is going to put down roots and then sprout up into something huge and vine-y and fast-growing.

The fertility of the region also affected how I imagined the family in the book;Virginia Slocumb is 45, her daughter Liza is 30, and Liza's daughter Mosey is 15. If you do the math, after the equal sign is the idea that Ginny and Liza's main goal in life is to get Mosey to sixteen unpregnant.

Mosey is not that girl. She's a late bloomer who is built like a Twizzler; she's never even been kissed. And yet she's been so helicopter-parented on the issue of her sexuality that she pees on Dollar Store pregnancy tests just to see that second window stay blank and white and clean, a testament that she is not her mother.

Page 69 comes right at the end of Chapter One, and I think it's my favorite page 69 test yet, because it is about the literal unearthing of the book's first buried secret. Earlier in the chapter, Ginny takes out a willow tree, and human remains are found in the Slocumb backyard. This is a bit of a murder mystery and a love story, but under that, it's a story interested in exploring identity: What makes us, us. Our genes? Our histories? How much can we change our essential natures with our choices, our ideals, our belief systems? On Page 69, Mosey and her best friend, Roger, are texting, and they realize the bones under the willow belong to Liza's biological child. Mosey isn't a Slocumb at all. This is her reaction. From page 69:
I felt clear and light, and I felt little bubbles forming all over inside of me, just under my skin. Like when you pour a Sprite and forget about it and all the carbonation sticks to the inside of the glass.

I lifted the phone and read five words. Yes. You could be anybody.

I nodded like Roger was there to see me, and I felt a couple of the little bubbles launch off the sides of me and rise.

There was another Mosey Slocumb. If she had lived, no doubt she would be scared to move because every step took her closer to what everyone already knew she would become. Mosey Slocumb would have to be perfect every second, or else she’d slip and land on her back only to stand up pregnant, or she’d gobble drugs and worship trees like a freak, or she’d end up a bank teller in ugly uniforms so no one noticed she was still cute and she’d live for her kid and her kid’s kids and probably their kids, and she’d never so much as have a date. But I wasn’t that girl.

I was something stolen from someplace so foreign it sounded made up: Miss No One from Nevada. Anonymous from Arizona. My phone buzzed again, but I ignored it. Outside I held my body still, and the lady who had raised me stirred my cocoa, and the big world turned. But inside, the bubbles went running up through me, more and more, until I was fairly popping with them.

I wasn’t me. I wasn’t Mosey Slocumb. It was like weights falling off. I could be anyone, and that meant I might do anything. Any damn thing I felt like. Anything at all.
Learn more about the book and author at Joshilyn Jackson's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Under the Eye of God"

Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him "one of the most important writers in American literature." New York Newsday hailed Charyn as "a contemporary American Balzac,"and the Los Angeles Times described him as "absolutely unique among American writers."

Charyn applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Under the Eye of God and reported the following:
This is a perfect entry point into the book. It’s a mirror within a mirror inside another mirror.

Trudy Winckleman, the owner of a bordello in New Orleans, suddenly finds herself in Manhattan impersonating a dead woman, Inez, for the titillation of a multi-millionaire, David Pearl. But something goes awry. She falls in love with one of her own marks, Isaac Sidel, the vice-president-elect of the United States, and she doesn’t really know what to do about it.

In this page [at left, click to enlarge], Trudy, aka Inez, tries to explain to David Pearl that she can no longer live inside his fantastic mirror.

Inez, once a Ziegfeld Follies girl and the mistress of Manhattan’s king of crime, the late Arnold Rothstein, who fixed the World Series of 1919, seems to get constantly in the way of Trudy, David Pearl and Isaac Sidel.

Trudy no longer wants to live in this strange museum on the Upper West Side that David has created for the specter of Inez. But Trudy has two children, and both of them will be in jeopardy if she runs away from David’s “mausoleum.”

So she has to depend on Isaac Sidel, someone who has even less of a future than she has.
Learn more about the book and author at Jerome Charyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Blood Lance"

Jeri Westerson is the author of the medieval mysteries featuring Crispin Guest – Veil of Lies, Serpent in the Thorns, The Demon's Parchment, and Troubled Bones.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the series, Blood Lance, and reported the following:
Blood Lance has a murder, a relic, and all the medieval goodness of every Crispin Guest novel. But this one also features London Bridge in a starring role. Not only does the action begin there with a body hurtling off the bridge into the churning Thames below and Crispin diving in to dramatically save the hapless fellow--to no avail--but it also features a knight with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which, of course, wasn't called that then), Spanish spies, the first appearance of John of Gaunt's son Henry Bolingbroke, the reappearance of Geoffrey Chaucer after last year's Troubled Bones, and then ends in a deadly joust on--have you guessed it?--London Bridge, where such things did indeed happen. Crispin soul-searches as he is wont to do, not only the choices he made to have put him in the position of being the Tracker, but decisions he's made since. This Page 69 excerpt is very short because it ends the chapter. It's cryptic but perhaps not too much for those who remember the first Crispin adventure, Veil of Lies.

From page 69:
The portrait weighed heavy in his hand. His fingers rubbed over the surface, loosening as he held it poised over the fire. A knock at the door startled him and, instinctively, he clutched the little frame. Hastily he stuffed it back under the mattress, went to the door, and opened it. Crispin took a staggering step back. In the doorway stood his old friend, Geoffrey Chaucer.
Learn more about the author and her work at Jeri Westerson's website and her "Getting Medieval" blog.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

The Page 69 Test: Serpent in the Thorns.

The Page 69 Test: The Demon's Parchment.

My Book, The Movie: The Demon's Parchment.

The Page 69 Test: Troubled Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"A Fatal Winter"

Winner of the Agatha Award for Death of a Cozy Writer, which initially won the Malice Domestic grant, G. M. Malliet attended Oxford University and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her St. Just mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Fatal Winter, the second book in the Max Tudor Series, and found the following:
Page sixty-nine of A Fatal Winter happens to serve two purposes:

My protagonist Max Tudor, village vicar and heartthrob, has taken “neo-Pagan” Awena Owen out to dinner, in part to pay her back for all the meals she’s cooked for him, and in part because he very much enjoys her company. While the Max Tudor mysteries are not romantic-suspense stories, Max’s growing attraction to Awena is a part of the plot, and this gave me an opportunity to have the two characters interact, and to discover for themselves how much they have in common.

Max has just returned from a train journey to London in which he meets the ever-so-patrician Lady Baynard of Chedrow Castle. Awena happens to know a bit about her and her quarrelsome family, and over dinner she tells Max a bit of the family’s history. She also reinforces Max’s initial impressions of the woman, which impressions later turn out to be important to the plot.

At the end of this chapter, Max and Awena are spotted by Miss Pitchford, retired schoolmistress and professional busybody. It is only a matter of minutes before news of this cozy, private dinner goes out over the grapevine. Life in Nether Monkslip is like that: Max and Awena remain blissfully unaware that every milestone of their relationship is being assessed and catalogued.
Learn more about the book and author at G. M. Malliet's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Touched by an Alien"

Gini Koch lives in Hell's Orientation Area (aka Phoenix, AZ), works her butt off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of the beautiful people. She writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series for Night Shade Books. She also writes under a variety of other pen names (including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch), listens to rock music 24/7, and is a proud comics geek-girl willing to discuss at any time why Wolverine is the best superhero ever (even if Deadpool does get all the best lines). She speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business.

Koch applied the Page 69 Test to the first novel in her Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, and found the following:
When I was approached to do this test, it was for a later book in this series. But I looked, and that Page 69 definitely gave away some major spoilers. So, I requested to go back to the beginning and see what Page 69 of my first published novel, Touched by an Alien, would provide.

Katherine “Kitty” Katt has discovered that aliens exist on Earth -- they're here to protect and serve and as a side benefit, they're all gorgeous. Kitty's first experience with aliens -- she kills a newly formed and very dangerous superbeing with a Mont Blanc pen -- landed her on the national news. When you see your child on the national news stopping a “terrorist”, you pick up your phone, regardless of where you are, so Kitty's mother -- who Kitty believes to be a consultant -- calls from New York's JFK airport. Mom indicates there's trouble there, and Kitty and her “new friends” head over to see what's going on. What's going on is an in-control superbeing named Mephistopheles trying to kill a lot of people, Kitty's mother in particular. There's no way Kitty's going to run away or let this big fugly monster hurt her mom, so she grabs a luggage cart…
Score! Hit his knee, and it caused him some problems. We grabbed the next bag and did the same.

Some of the A-C crew saw what we were doing and came over. I didn't know any of them, but I did get to remind myself that if I died right now, I'd be surrounded by five hunks and so could possibly go happy.

Mephistopheles caught on to what we were doing and started to bat at the flying luggage. This caused us to have to dodge hurtling suitcases, but it also meant he was focused on us, not my mother.

I would have been happy about this, only Mom wasn't cooperating. Instead of running away, she headed towards him. She waited until she was in close, then started firing.

The bullets hit, but they didn't penetrate. She used the entire clip, popped it out, reached back, pulled another clip from somewhere, put it in, and fired again. This time, instead of aiming for his torso, she went for the head.

Better results, but still, it was more of a distraction than a deterrent. And he paid more attention to her than our assault with the Luggage of Doom.

Christopher, Martini and Gower were by my mother now. I got the impression they were trying to get her off the offensive and into run away mode. It was certainly what I'd be suggesting right now. But she wasn't having any of it.

Mephistopheles got to his knees and swiped at my mother. I got scared I'd see him kill her. Fear, like tears, made me angry. I didn't think about it, I just ran towards him. “Get away from my mother, you freak of nature!”

Freak of nature is not necessarily the biggest insult one could hurl, but it sure seemed to offend Mephistopheles. He spun towards me, snarling. I still couldn't understand him, but his expression said it clearly -- he didn't care for me.

He reached out and grabbed me. His grip wasn't pleasant, but he wasn't crushing me, either. He had my lower body, so my arms were free. I risked a look around as he stood up. Gower and Christopher each had one of my mother's arms and were dragging her away. Reader was moving the other agents away. And Martini was headed right for us.

I had no idea what he thought he was going to do, but I didn't have a lot of time to ponder, as Mephistopheles brought me up to face level. His eyes were horrible, but as he stared at me I saw them change and look more human. “You are trouble,” he said, and it was in English.
This page is pretty indicative of the book -- science fiction with lots of action and humor and romance, though the romance isn't as obvious on Page 69 as it is on Page 70.
Learn more about the book and author at Gini Koch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Island of Bones"

Imogen Robertson worked as a television, film, and radio director before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of the Westerman/Crowther novels: Instruments of Darkness, Anatomy of Murder, and Island of Bones, which was short-listed for the 2011 Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Award. She lives in London.

Robertson applied the Page 69 Test to Island of Bones and reported the following:
From page 69:
She looked back at Felix behind her in the gloom. He smiled up at her encouragingly from the shadows.

“It is safe enough near the door, Mrs Westerman. Only avoid the western corner.”

She edged out. The world seemed to sway somewhat around her. [….]

He stared down gloomily over the wall. Harriet gripped the stone behind her.

“You don’t feel the temptation to throw yourself into the void then?”

“No, I do not,” she said as firmly as she could. “Only a little weakness.” With great effort she turned herself to look at the view. A falling run of trees, a glimmer of lake and crags beyond. She felt her knees shake and her hands were white on the stonework.

“A little weakness…” His voice was soft. “What do you conclude from the snuffbox, Mrs Westerman? Do you think my grandfather was involved in the disposal of the body? What do you think you will learn from that poor mangled corpse?”
I think this is my favourite page 69 test so far! It does give a reasonable sense of the book, I think, which is very satisfying. I hope it suggests old secrets and new threats in a mysterious and beautiful landscape. In the scene Harriet Westerman reaches the top of a medieval tower which is the last remnant of a ruined manor house on the shores of Derwentwater in the Lake District, North West England. With her is Felix, the nephew of her friend Gabriel Crowther, a man with whom she has solved various murders in the past. Gabriel Crowther is a rich and reclusive anatomist who has been asked to visit the area because an extra body has been found in an ancient tomb, but the mystery is for him a very personal one. This is the place he was born and where his father was murdered by his elder brother. Gabriel’s proud, hurt sister and his nephew are also visiting the new owners. Harriet, needing to escape her own demons, agrees to come with Crowther to help uncover the truth and early on the first morning of her visit goes to see the ruins and meets Felix.

The fear of heights which Harriet shows here she has inherited from me so I felt very close to this passage as I was writing it. The page gives us a glimpse of the surrounding countryside, a magical and ancient landscape which is key to the book as a whole and Felix’s question at the bottom of the page gives you an idea of the mystery at its heart. I hope there is a sense of dread tangible on this page too as new violence is about to break out.
Learn more about the book and author at Imogen Robertson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Instruments of Darkness.

My Book, The Movie: Instruments of Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Anatomy of Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 12, 2012

"A Wedding in Great Neck"

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels A Wedding in Great Neck, Breaking the Bank, In Dahlia's Wake, and The Four Temperaments, as well as nineteen books for children. She is also the editor of two essay collections and is the Fiction Editor at Lilith magazine. Her award-winning short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies and in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, two children and three very yappy Pomeranians.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Wedding in Great Neck and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Wedding in Great Neck is actually an important and even pivotal page. It occurs in the first chapter devoted to Justine, the troubled, teen-aged niece of the bride, Angelica. Justine disapproves of Angelica’s Israeli fiancé Ohad, and she has devised a crazy scheme to ruin the wedding: find the groom, pretend to “seduce” him and show the evidence to her aunt. Page 69 finds her snooping in Angelica’s room and trying to put her plan into action:
All she would need to do would be to show that picture to Angelica and then it would be shalom Ohad. The wedding would be off, and he could go back to bombing Palestinian children or whatever it was that he had been doing before he came here. He would deny it, of course. But it would just be his word against hers. Hers, and the picture. The picture would tell the whole story.

Sitting down on the bed, Justine felt a flash of fear. Over two hundred people were coming here today to see Angelica get married. Then there was her family, her great-grandma Lenore, and Betsy. Her grandfather was coming too; her mom had told her that; he was flying in from LA. They would all be hugely, monumentally disappointed. And what about Angelica herself? She was going to be crushed when she found out about Ohad. Her heart would be broken, and Justine would have been the cause of her misery.

Abruptly, Justine got up. She wouldn’t look at the dress, but she couldn’t resist what seemed like an innocent bit of snooping. It wasn’t snooping, anyway. It was worship, pure and simple. She and Portia had always adored Angelica; yes, she was their aunt, but since she was only thirteen years their senior, she really seemed more like some exotic older cousin or even a glamorous sister than anything else.

Pulling open a drawer, Justine saw a jumble of underwear. She dipped her hand in and pulled out a peach thong, which she looped over her thumb. Well, thongs were hot; why shouldn’t Angelica wear one?
In this scene, we witness not only Justine’s act, but her increasingly agitated state of mind. She does not fully execute the plan in this chapter, but page 69 leads to her another bad decision—stealing her aunt’s wedding ring—an act that has powerful repercussions as the novel progresses. So page 69 sets the reader up nicely for the drama to follow.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie, Willa and Holden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"That's Not a Feeling"

Dan Josefson has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and lives in Brooklyn. He has received a Fulbright research grant and a Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to That’s Not a Feeling, his first novel, and reported the following:
I was happy, flipping through my novel, to discover that page 69 is the beginning of a new chapter. And while there are questions that a reader beginning there would be sure to ask (What was the Incident that landed Ellie and her boys in jail?), I think this page represents the book nicely.

To fill you in, Ellie is a Dorm Parent at the Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens, and has been taken to the police station for tackling a student who was trying to run away. I think the figurative language here is pretty representative, such as Ellie marching out of the Mansion blind as a fist. And I like how this ends: with Ellie charged, and suddenly in awe of her accuser. My book’s title, That’s Not a Feeling, is a phrase the school’s faculty members often repeat to the students. But I like that it can also refer to emotions that surprise and overwhelm us, for example the one Ellie experiences here—impressions for which we have no name.

Page 69:
Ellie found herself wandering around the campus, walking faster and faster. The Incident Report, she saw, was still in her hand. Shaking her head, she marched to the Office and dropped off the form. It sailed into the tray marked INCIDENT REPORTS, immense and anonymous. She hated this place. God, if she had left the school last night, she thought. But she hadn’t. Ellie marched out of the Mansion, blind as a fist.

At the police station they had separated her from the boys, whom they had put into two cells while they figured out who everyone was and called the probation officers of the boys who had them. Ellie was interviewed in a room close enough to hear the boys goofing. The officer taking her statement had paused to listen to Pudding yelling that he was going to make Carlos his bitch, was going to trade him to Zach for a pack of cigarettes. Ellie had stared at her hands, and then, like an idiot, she laughed. Another officer sat in the back of the room, but he didn’t say anything the whole time. The officer who interviewed her, Officer Sotelo, had long gray hair she wore piled on the top of her head. She had seemed disinterested and cold, but when she told Ellie that they were charging her with assault and reckless endangerment, the policewoman had suddenly glowed with elegance and wisdom.
Learn more about the book and author at Dan Josefson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Rest for the Wicked"

Ellen Hart, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Rest for the Wicked, the 20th mystery featuring Jane Lawless, and reported the following:
I’ve always enjoyed this test. I’ve even gone back with some of my older books to see what Page 69 has to say. Sometimes I’m happy with it, though often I’m not. This time out, however, I think it works perfectly. The page happens to be the beginning of Chapter Ten and our introduction to the strip club, GaudyLights, which was originally the title for the book. I write a traditional mystery, so I’ve never needed to visit this kind of venue before. Never say never, I guess! Much of the mystery in Rest for the Wicked, takes place at GaudyLights and thus it feels somewhat serendipitous that we enter it for the first time on this page.

Stepping up to the front door, (Jane and Cordelia) gazed up at the neon sign. Tiny lights in every color of the rainbow spelled out the name. Under it, in a lurid, Day-Glo red, were the words DANCING GIRLS!

“Used to be an old car dealership,” said Cordelia, stomping her feet to get some feeling back into them.

“It was a restaurant back in the early nineties,” said Jane. “Sat empty for a while. I heard the city wanted to tear it down to build a parking lot.”

“Now it’s a flesh palace. Gotta love those city fathers.”
Learn more about the book and author at Ellen Hart's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Women of Lost Lake.

Writers Read: Ellen Hart (November 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Death in Four Courses"

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries, most recently Death in Four Courses, published by NAL/Obsidian last month. As Roberta Isleib, she has written eight other novels in the golf lover's and advice column mystery series. Her books and stories have been nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Death in Four Courses and reported the following:
From page 69:
If Key West can be said to have a ghetto, the walk down the blocks of Petronia Street from Blue Heaven to Santiago’s Bodega led us right through it. It was one thing to ride along this path in full daylight, in the back of a pedicab, as we had this afternoon, another to march the same distance in the darkness.

Mom did her best to keep up a chipper smile as we passed along the drab blocks of small homes, yards littered with odd bits of trash, and dour dark-skinned residents who looked as though they’d just as soon not have pale strangers tromping through their neighborhood.

“Maybe we should have had the detective pick us up,” she said in a soft voice that let me know she was a little nervous even though she didn’t want to be.

I linked my arm through hers. “We’re perfectly safe and we’re almost there. And he was coming straight from work.” Which was a tiny stretcher. In truth, I preferred to meet him at the restaurant on my own terms.
For a little background, the reader is hearing the story from the perspective of food critic Hayley Snow, who is attending a big Key West food writers' conference with her mother. Unfortunately, Hayley discovered the keynote speaker floating in a dipping pool at the opening reception. She and her mom have been nosing around for clues to the murder--now they are on the way to have dinner with a detective on the case, who is also her love interest.

I have such fun writing about real restaurants and their real food in these Key West mysteries. The characters in this scene are on their way to Santiago's Bodega, which is a tapas restaurant and one of my favorites! Walking to the restaurant feels exactly like this--you can't believe that you are on the right street. And then, the restaurant appears. And the food is fabulous--as you'll see, Hayley and company order way more than they can reasonably eat.

This page also gives a little glimpse into the character of Hayley's mom, Janet Snow. She would so prefer not to be uncomfortable as she walks to dinner, but she can't help a frisson of fear. And Hayley can't believe her mother is tagging along on the first date with the detective...the evening already feels out of control and it's barely started.

Maybe it's a funny way to write a story, but I love setting my books in actual places, in this case, Key West. I love hearing from readers who felt as though they were visiting the island from their living rooms--or who have taken one of the books on vacation and traced Hayley's path. The characters themselves are entirely fictional, but they live in a real place--if that makes sense! The one thing I've sworn never to do is poison someone in a real restaurant. And there is the sticky matter of negative reviews--sooner or later, Hayley will have to pan a restaurant. I'm thinking I'll make that one up.
Read more about Lucy Burdette's books on her website, blog, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite For Murder.

Writers Read: Lucy Burdette (January 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"The Cranes Dance"

Meg Howrey is a classically trained dancer who has performed with the Joffrey, Los Angeles Opera, and City Ballet of Los Angeles. She made her theatrical debut at Lincoln Center, and toured with the Broadway production of Contact, for which she won the 2001 Ovation Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Howrey applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel The Cranes Dance, and reported the following:
We’re in the middle of a phone conversation on page 69, between the protagonist Kate – a professional ballet dancer, and her younger brother Keith – a professional tennis player. They’ve been shooting the shit and now they’re getting down to essentials. Keith is asking about their sister Gwen, who has suffered a breakdown and gone home to Michigan to stay with their parents. Kate is hedging her answers. Perhaps the only thing a casual browser would glean from this page is that the Kate person feels guilty about something. Not really enough to make someone want to read the book, so I hope the next page they flip to is the sex scene.

But I liked imaging the physicality of this moment, and I liked the relationship between these two characters. Both brother and sister are lying down, icing their respective injuries. They are both people who can’t afford to fall apart, physically or emotionally. Kate is in the middle of a season, Keith is preparing for a tournament in Morocco. The conversation as a whole is a bit of a tennis match between two siblings who aren’t quite sure where the lines of the court are. There are little rushes to the net followed almost immediately with the groundstrokes they are more comfortable with.

One of the things I was interested in with Kate – and ballet dancers in general – is how they are trained to express very big, grand emotions. These are choreographed, staged, presented to an audience with all the trimmings. It is intensely artificial and yet the body doesn’t lie…if you are dancing the Queen, you become the Queen. And then the curtain comes down and who are you then? You are the person lying in bed, icing your neck, worried and sad, wanting to talk to your brother but unable to say the one thing that really matters. You can’t hear the music and you don’t know the steps for this one.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Howrey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"More than Sorrow"

Vicki Delany's More than Sorrow received a starred review from Library Journal which called it “a splendid Gothic thriller.” Delany is also the author of the Constable Molly Smith series, a police procedural set in British Columbia, and the Klondike Gold Rush books, a light-hearted historical series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to More than Sorrow and reported the following:
Page 69 is a very practical part of what is essentially a modern-Gothic thriller, and not terribly indicative of the mood I’m trying to create, but it does provide a glimpse into the character of the protagonist. Hannah Manning is an internationally-known journalist. She has been injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. She is suffering from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and living on her sister’s small-scale organic vegetable farm in Prince Edward County while she recovers. Hannah’s greatest worry, when the story begins, is that she will never recover. She’s dependent on her sister for care and knows that her brother-in-law would rather she was gone. Hannah’s parents are professionals who recently downsized to a condo in the centre of the city with no room for her. For Hannah, a proud successful, independent woman, the future is a frightening place. In Page 69 Hannah is visiting a new doctor.
She ran her eyes over my body. “You’ve lost a lot of weight since the attack. At a guess, I’d say you’ve lost a lot of muscle mass as well. Do you get any exercise?”

I considered lying. But her penetrating eyes were back on my face. “Not much.”

“You need to. I’m sure Doctor Singh told you that.”

I shrugged.

“There’s a pool at the rec center. I swim there most mornings. Why don’t you give it a try?”

I shook my head.

“You’re living out in the country, that’s good. There are studies showing that the more exposure to nature, trees in particular, one has, the quicker the recovery.”

“Is that true?”

She nodded, “Fascinating research. Simply looking at a tree through a window apparently does a person good. Your sister’s farm is near the lake, isn’t it? Lots of opportunity for walking. You said you like the woods, and the beaches aren’t crowded at this time of year.”

“Sometimes,” I said, feeling the words in my mouth, “it all just seems like too much trouble.”

“Lethargy isn’t uncommon with severe brain trauma. The brain is afraid of another shock, so it wants to shut down and heal. But that’s not good for the mind, is it?”


“What do you want, Hannah?”

I was surprised at the question. No doctor had ever asked me before what I wanted. Didn’t they all just assume that I wanted to get better?

I didn’t answer.

She made a steeple out of her fingers and leaned back in her chair. Out in the hallway a child began to cry and a woman made soothing noises. Feet walked rapidly past. The siren of an ambulance got louder as it approached. No doctor had ever waited for me to speak. They were always in such a rush to get onto the next patient.
What Hannah does not reveal to her new doctor is that she is experiencing visions. Visions of a woman emerging from the icy cold mist in the root cellar of the 200 year old farmhouse. Is the woman real? Or the product of a severely damaged brain. Which, Hannah thinks, would be worse?

Meanwhile Hannah has met Hila Popalzai, an Afghan woman severely injured in an attack in Afghanistan that killed her entire family. The two women find comfort in each other’s company and in the peace and quiet of the summer woods.

When Hila disappears, and Hannah can’t account for her time, not even to herself, old enemies begin to circle, and past and present merge into a terrifying threat to the only thing Hannah still holds dear – her ten-year-old niece, Lily.
Learn more about the book and author at Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Murder in the Rue Dumas"

M. L. Longworth has written for The Washington Post, The Times (London), The Independent, and Bon Appétit magazine. She is the author of a mystery series set in Southern France, the Verlaque and Bonnet Provençal Mysteries, published by Penguin USA. Death at the Château Bremont was published in June 2011, Murder in the Rue Dumas was released on September 25th 2012, and the third book, Death in the Vines, is set for release in July 2013.

Longworth has lived full-time in France for over fifteen years and divides her time between Aix-en-Provence, where she writes, and Paris, where she teaches writing at New York University's Paris campus.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder in the Rue Dumas and reported the following:
Page 69 of my second novel, Murder in the Rue Dumas, begins with police interviews of employees of Aix's university, where the elderly Dean of Theology, Dr. Georges Moutte, has just been murdered. I find these suspect interview scenes difficult to write (PD James does it effortlessly) and so I try to add amusing character or scene details to liven up what is, basically, a row of suspects on display for the reader. Half way down the page is this paragraph:
Verlaque imagined that Mlle Z. had either been planning on leaving early or was nervous about being interviewed. He left the assembly room and walked across the hall to a small office that appeared to be the kind that was used by graduate students or for small meetings. The desk was 1960s metal and in a few years would probably be considered vintage and be sold in antique stores in the sixth arrondissement in Paris. Three mismatched chairs had been placed in the room, along with a stack of paper and two pencils. Extra office supplies, most of the boxes half-opened, were stacked on the floor in a corner, as were the parts of a dusty plastic coffee machine.
This descriptive paragraph is my way of showing the dire state of France's facultés. France ambitiously offers free liberal arts education to all, but boy are the facilities in bad shape. You only need to walk by the buildings, on your way into Aix's old town, and you'll see the broken shutters, graffiti-covered walls, garbage-strewn scraggy lawns. Students who attend the literature faculty, and even the esteemed law department, tell me of overcrowded halls and class rooms, absent professors, and the general filth of the buildings. The sorry state of this small office, where Aix's examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque now sits, is in extreme contrast to Dean Moutte's lavish 18th century antique-filled apartment in the old town, and his large, well-appointed office on campus. Having been forcibly 'retired,' his successor will inherit both. Motivation for murder? I think so!
Learn more about the book and author at M. L. Longworth's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue