Monday, December 30, 2013

"Rosarito Beach"

M. A. Lawson is the author of nine novels in the Joe DeMarco thriller series (writing as Mike Lawson) and the newly released Rosarito Beach.

Lawson applied the Page 69 Test to Rosarito Beach and reported the following:
Page 69 in the hardcover copy of Rosarito Beach is a “set-up” page. On this page I’m describing the actions being taken by U.S. marshals preparing to move a prisoner from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego to the Federal Courthouse, and in the following pages I have a group of gangbangers attack the marshals while they’re driving the prisoner from the jail to the courthouse in an attempt to free the prisoner. What’s probably most interesting about this is something I did in the book to change reality. In reality, federal prisoners in San Diego are moved from the federal lockup to the courthouse via a tunnel. Well, I didn’t want to use the tunnel. I thought the gangbanger attack on the marshals would be more dramatic if it took place outside, on the streets of the city - so I invented an earthquake. That is, I used a fictional earthquake that occurred a year before the scene takes place to damage the tunnel so it was under repair and couldn’t be used for prisoner transport. Is this what’s know as literary license? Beats me.
Learn more about the author and his work at Mike Lawson's website.

Writers Read: M. A. Lawson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"City of Lost Dreams"

Biographical details about Magnus Flyte are sometimes conflicting. He appears to have operated under several identities, and may have ties to one or more intelligence organizations, including the CIA, the Mossad, and a radical group of Antarctic separatists.

His literary executors, Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, applied the Page 69 Test to Flyte's new book, City of Lost Dreams, and reported the following:
It’s fun to be a spy. For most of us, this activity is confined to occasionally training our binoculars on the neighbors, opening up the medicine cabinet of our dinner party hosts, or Google searching potential love interests. (The last one is not recommended.)

On page 69 of City of Lost Dreams, Sarah Weston is snooping through the Vienna apartment of Frau Doktor Bettina Müller. She has a task to complete - the elusive Dr. Müller has sent her there with strict instructions to retrieve something from the Doktor’s refrigerator – but Sarah wants to know more about the woman, so she’s having a good look around. She’s also putting off the moment when she must get whatever is in the refrigerator, which Sarah is very much hoping is not a human head. The rooms are filled with clocks. Clocks of all kinds. Hundreds of clocks. Buzzing, clicking, and cooing.
Their tickings gave the apartment a strange sort of vibrancy. Like being surrounded by heartbeats, Sarah thought. No. Like being inside a heartbeat.
Behind the Scene: Magnus Flyte’s indefatigable assistants travelled to Vienna in order to conduct on-the-ground research and location scouting for City of Lost Dreams. All the clocks described in this scene can be found in Vienna’s Uhrenmusem, where the intrepid researchers were shadowed closely by a security guard. Perhaps the gentleman was bored, or perhaps he was alarmed by the furious note-taking, sketching, and whispered conversations between the assistants about whether or not one of their characters should steal something from the Uhrenmuseum, and if so, what and how.

On page 70 we find out what is in that refrigerator. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not a head.
Learn more about the book and author at Magnus Flyte's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dark Magic.

My Book, The Movie: City of Dark Magic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The Vastalimi Gambit"

Steve Perry has sold dozens of stories to magazines and anthologies, as well as a considerable number of novels, animated teleplays, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays, along with a couple of unproduced movie scripts. He wrote for Batman: The Animated Series during its first Emmy-award winning season, and during the second season, one of his scripts was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing. His novelization of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire spent ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He also did the bestselling novelization for the summer blockbuster movie Men in Black, and seven of his collaborative novels for Tom Clancy's Net Force series have made the New York Times list.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to The Vastalimi Gambit, the second novel in his Cutter's Wars series, and reported the following:
So, this is where I set-up the page in the second book of my space-opera series, but, you know what? I think pretty much everything you need is on the page. You should be able to get a feel for who these folks are, and what they are about from context, and whether or not you'd keep reading. See what you think:
Kay resisted the urge to extrude her claws as they walked across the road.

When they were ten meters away from him, Vialmasc said, “Well, if it isn’t the hairless ruta who ran. You won’t escape me this time.”

He spoke barely passable Basic, and she knew that was for Wink’s benefit.

Kay smiled at him. “Is that the best you can do? One would think that a fighter who used to have skill could rise above such a pedestrian insult.”

Vial shrugged. “It’s not the talking, Kluth, it’s the doing that matters. And you will find that my skill is unchanged from the time you observed it last.”



“One hates to kill a worthless opponent, there is no honor in that.”

“After I finish you, I’m am going to shred your tame human.”

“He is legally immune to Challenge.”

“Challenge? Hardly worthy of that, is he? I’m going to exterminate him, as I would any other pest.”

“You think?” Wink said.

Vial glanced up. Saw that Wink held his knife in his left hand.

The big Vastalimi whickered. “How amusing! What do you think you are going to do with that stubby toy, ape? Wave it and hope I die from fright?”

“No, actually, I planned to use it to cut your balls off and stuff them into your mouth after I shoot you with this.” Wink held up his pistol in the other hand.

Vial looked at Kay. “You were speaking of honor? None among humans, is there?”
Visit Steve Perry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"The Eidolon"

Libby McGugan was born 1972 in Airdrie, a small town east of Glasgow in Scotland, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-atheist father, who loved science. She enjoyed a mixed diet of quantum physics, spiritual instinct, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Her ambition was to grow up and join the Rebel alliance in a galaxy Far, Far away. Instead she went to Glasgow University and studied medicine.

A practicing doctor, she has worked in Scotland, in Australia with the Flying Doctors service, and for a few months, in a field hospital in the desert. She loves traveling and the diversity that is the way different people see the world, and has been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, potholing in Sarawak, backpacking in Chile and Europe and diving in Cairns.

McGugan applied the Page 69 Test to The Eidolon, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
What does she think? That I’m making up some bullshit story about her sister to get things back on track? I’d have come up with something better than that, for fuck’s sake, after two weeks in the sodding wilderness.

The sky is the colour of old lead as I walk back along the glen. The hushed village street stretches ahead, the squat cottages huddled against the evening chill. There’s a fine drizzle on my skin, like being breathed on, and the air smells of clean cotton. You know what, Cora? The doctor was right. It is all just stress. What was I thinking? I’ll see my mum’s GP and get some of those pills I should have taken in the first place and I’ll not need to tell you about any of it.

“Don’t forget to give your mum my present! And wish her a happy birthday for me!” Casimir’s voice makes me jump – I’d barely noticed reaching his gate. The old man is standing on the grass at the side of his house with one hand on his empty beehive. He waves at me with the other. “I’m just off to do that right now.” I feel for the carved letter opener he made, safe in my pocket. “We’ll be down to see you later!”

“Aye, no doubt you will.” Casimir calls back, his hand still resting on the hive. I glance back. There’s something in the tilt of his head that seems unfamiliar. Wonder why all his bees died. What did Einstein say? We’ve got four years left, after all the bees die. The tarmac is broken under my boots. Old, splintered by the frost. There’s no need to tell Cora about the dreams or what happened in Tibet. It’ll go. I lock the thought in the past to stop it bleeding into the present.
Page 69 – (the UK edition anyway!) Is it representative? I think so. Protagonist Robert Strong is wrestling with his feelings for Cora, his estranged partner. Like much of the book, it reflects his inner conflict with much of life (and his need to wash his mouth out with a bar of soap). Although he’s inherently cynical, he is having a hard time contenting with life’s bruises. And he’s had more than his fair share of them. A recent tumultuous trip to Tibet, in which he experienced the ‘Third Man Phenomenon’, still disturbs him, and with the dissolution of his relationship and research post, he feels anchorless. But, ever the pragmatist, and in the way that we are all meaning-making beings, he tries to assign a rational explanation to seemingly irrational events. This particular encounter with Casimir, his father-figure and good friend, proves to be more than he first assumes, although he doesn’t yet appreciate the subtleties of the exchange. And neither may the reader until the following page. Page 70 is where it’s at! It hints at what’s to follow and the direction the story is taking. You’re going to have to read it to find out more…
Learn more about the book and author at Libby McGugan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Seeing Red"

Seeing Red, National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine's latest novel, is a story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.

Erskine applied the Page 69 Test to Seeing Red and reported the following:
This scene is between Red, the main character, and his whiney younger brother, J, once their distraught Mom has to run an errand.
With a shaky hand she grabbed J’s Flintstone’s glass from the cabinet, opened the fridge, and poured him some milk. “Here,” she said, sticking it in his hand so hard some milk sloshed over his wrist. “I need to drive Beau home, and I’ll figure out what to feed you when I get back.”

The screen door slapped behind her while J stared at the glass in his hand. “I don’t drink milk,” he said in a small voice. He stared at the screen door. “Don’t you remember, Mama?” He looked at me, his bottom lip shaking. “Doesn’t she remember?”

I didn’t want him to start bawling, so I quickly took the glass from him. “It’s OK, I’ll make you a sandwich.”

“But I don’t want —”

“A special sandwich. Out of special stuff. Like Daddy used to make, remember?”

He was still pouty but he’d raised his eyebrows, so I knew he was curious. “With potato chips inside?”


“With mayonnaise and peppermints inside?”

“Let’s see what we got.”
I think this passes the test (if I understand the test, that is!) in that it reveals some pain the characters are going through (the father has died recently), the fact that Red has to take care of his little brother, a light touch of humor (the sandwich fillings), and the punch of the book being “Let’s see what we got.” It's representative of what Red has to do throughout the book -- take on responsibilities of his family, his community, and his culture. Let’s see what we have inside, who we are, what we’re made of -- not just these characters but us, the readers. How would we handle ourselves in this situation? And when an issue like racism come up, how would we react to that and what, if anything, would we do about it?
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

My Book, The Movie: Seeing Red.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 20, 2013

"The Blooding of Jack Absolute"

C.C. Humphreys is a novelist, fight choreographer, and actor who played Jack Absolute in The Rivals for a six-month run in London in the mid-1980s. When he became a full-time writer a decade ago, he decided to transform his leading man into a title character. Humphreys has written seven historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, which was runner-up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers 2002. The Jack Absolute series features three books: Jack Absolute, The Blooding of Jack Absolute, and Absolute Honour.

Humphreys applied the Page 69 Test to The Blooding of Jack Absolute and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Sweet boy,” she said, turning her wrist so that he could kiss her palm. He was only too happy to oblige.

Three months before he would undoubtedly have galloped on apace, sought lips, tongue, breast, and all in rapid succession. But he had been a good student. So he led her around to the table, poured them both a glass of the port, clinked glasses before draining his, then whispered, “Stand here, I have something for you.”
Actually, its quite a good page for the early Jack. He’s sixteen, think himself a dashing fellow about London Town and right here he is with the woman who is teaching him the practicalities of love making. Fanny Harper is a courtesan, and the mistress of Lord Melbury, one of the most powerful politicians in England. But since he rarely visits, she is quite happy to ‘educate’ Young Jack.

I hope I am not reading too much into the number ‘69’ but… On it, Jack is demonstrating his new skills as a conversationalist. But he is building up to practising something else he’s learned from Fanny and does so on the next page. He recites a sonnet he’s written which is – I will try to put this delicately – about the joys of pleasuring a woman, eh hem, orally. It is quite a sexy scene, foreplay to what follows but which does not go according to plan. For Lord Melbury turns up and catches the young rogue in flagrante. This leads to all sorts of complications and, eventually, means that Jack has to flee England and arrives in North America two days before the battle for Quebec.

So yes, 69. Quite apropos!
Learn more about the book and author at C.C. Humphreys's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"The Absence of Mercy"

John Burley worked as a paramedic and firefighter before attending medical school in Chicago and completing an emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and Shock Trauma in Baltimore. His debut novel, The Absence of Mercy, received the National Black Ribbon Award, which recognizes a novelist who brings a fresh voice to suspense writing.

Burley applied the Page 69 Test to The Absence of Mercy and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Absence of Mercy, the father of a murdered teenager arrives in the Coroner’s Office to identify the body. He is met there by the medical examiner, Dr. Ben Stevenson, and a detective investigating the case:
“You are welcome to come sit in my office for a moment until you feel that you’re—”

“Where’s my boy?” Tanner responded, looking over Ben’s shoulder into the next room. His voice was deep and gruff, the product of too many years spent smoking too many cigarettes.

“Well, we were hoping you could identify—”

“Let me see ’im then.”

“Yes, of course,” Ben agreed. He led the two men into the next room. He had taken as much care as possible to prepare the boy’s body—his face, anyway—for viewing. His injuries had been severe and disfiguring, and Ben was no plastic surgeon. Suddenly he wanted more time to work on the boy, especially that gaping bite wound across his left cheek. He’d been able to pull the wound edges together using a series of horizontal mattress sutures, but now it didn’t seem nearly sufficient to withstand the eyes of the boy’s father.

“The wounds were fairly extensive,” he explained to them, somewhat apologetically. “There’s been some significant disfigurement to the face.” Ben carefully folded down the edge of a cloth blanket he’d placed over the body prior to their arrival. He tried to brace himself for the father’s response.

Phil Tanner was quiet for a long moment, studying the boy’s marred but placid appearance. He looked upon him with a surreal and uncertain fascination. In the front room the phone rang, and Ben heard Tanya answering it. “Coroner’s Office,” she said, and Ben silently kicked himself for forgetting to have her put the phones on hold during the visit. The sound seemed to break Phil Tanner’s trance, and he looked up at them with confusion.

“That ain’t my boy,” he said, and Ben exchanged a surprised look with Detective Schroeder.

“That’s not your son, sir?” Schroeder asked.

The boy’s father shakes his head as if to clear it. “No,” he says, “that’s not exactly right.” It is his son, he explains, but it just doesn’t look like his son. He doesn’t want it to be his son lying here in front of him. He wants it—God forgive him—to be someone else’s child.
The shock, grief, and outrage that Phil Tanner experiences on those pages reflects the emotional response of the other inhabitants of Wintersville—a small Midwestern town whose peaceful suburban existence is shattered when a serial killer descends upon the community. It’s a place where everyone knows one another—or at least thinks that they do. But there are secrets in this town that run like contaminated rivers just beneath the surface of people’s daily lives.

What makes this story so terrifying and disturbing is that it could happen anywhere, to any of us. And as the faces of good and evil begin to blur we are compelled to ask ourselves how far we would go to protect the safety of our own family. How well do we know ourselves? What are we capable of? The answers to those questions will haunt readers of The Absence of Mercy for a long time to come.
Visit John Burley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: John Burley and Sterling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 16, 2013


Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang applied the Page 69 Test to Control, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Control, my protagonist is face to face with Cy, the resident angry teen boy in the new foster home full of mutant freaks she now resides in. She's just gotten pretty cut up from trying to escape through a broken window, and Cy is removing the shards of glass.
"You." Cy points to the long examination table. "Lie down. And stay down."
Here's where the reader should go, "What a jerk! He's talking to her like she's a dog." The reader is right. He is a jerk! For now.
I start to relax. Lying on my back, there's nothing to look at except Cy. I notice that behind all the tattooed skin is a good cheekbone. He works steadily, never looking up. My heart hardens a little. The distance he's put between us feels like an insult.
Anyone who's been to the doctor or dentist knows of the peculiar intimacy that happens with the person examining or treating you. They're allowed into this deeply personal cocoon of space that strangers are banned from. I love how Zelia gives in a little to let that space become more special, and Cy rejects her offering to break the ice. Again--jerk! I also like how he's hiding behind the tattoos. Over the course of the novel, we will see more and more of him without the tattoos, a metaphor for him dropping his guard and coming to terms with his own problems.
My belly involuntarily quivers when he touches me. He hovers so close, I can smell him. Unlike the boys at school, there is no rancid boy/sock odor. It's something else. Smoky, but not awful like illegal cigarettes. It's earthier, better. I wonder if Dyl has ever downloaded a scent like this--
Ah, nothing like hormones taking their toll on an unsuspecting teen girl! I like how contemporary technology (downloadable perfumes and scents) weave into her normal thinking. It helps you remember that no, this is not like today. And at the same time, physical attraction is universal, no matter what century you're living in.
Learn more about the book and author at Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Vatican Waltz"

Roland Merullo is the author of the Revere Beach trilogy, A Little Love Story, Golfing with God, and Breakfast with Buddha.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Vatican Waltz, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Vatican Waltz is almost perfectly representative of the rest of the book. It shows part of a conversation between an open-minded Catholic priest and the novel’s main character, Cynthia Piantedosi. Cynthia has series of intense visions which seem to be telling her she is destined to become a priest—obviously impossible, given the Church’s current rules. But Father Welch recognizes something in her, some special sacredness, and so, despite those rules, he offers to help push her up the ladder of the Catholic hierarchy.

This is really a novel about the tension between the man-made rules of the faith, and the essence of the faith itself. It seems to me that this tension exists in all faiths and it also seems to me, as someone who has read widely across the religious spectrum, that the mystical branches of every faith move beyond the rules and toward a more universal, less exclusive emphasis on kindness and compassion. Cynthia embodies a challenge to the rules—something true of every great spiritual figure in history. I think Pope Francis, with his refreshing emphasis on compassion and love as opposed to doctrine and rigidity, would understand immediately what a special soul she is. My own belief—pretty obvious here—is that the world would be a better place if the leaders of every religion focused less on regulations and more on promoting an all-inclusive kindness.
Learn more about the book and author at Roland Merullo's website.

Writers Read: Roland Merullo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"After Eden"

Helen Douglas graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in economic history. After a stint as a subeditor in London, she moved to California, where she worked as a theatre director, then as an English teacher. She now lives in Cornwall with her husband and children.

Douglas applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, After Eden, and reported the following:
Eden, the sixteen year old narrator of the story, is at the beach with a group of friends, including new boy, Ryan. Eden assumes that Ryan is just a transfer student, but later on she will discover that he’s actually on a mission to save the world. At this point in the story, their friends are ‘tombstoning’ off the harbour wall into the sea, but Eden is too scared to do that. Ryan offers to keep her company and in this scene, they start to get to know one another.
I didn’t feel remotely interesting, sitting on the beach, too scared to join in with the fun my friends were having.

‘But you hardly know anything about me.’

Ryan laughed, just as Megan launched herself off the harbour wall with a scream. I watched as she swam towards the shore. From experience, I knew that they’d all repeat the jump four or five times before they tired of it and swam across the bay to Lucky Cove on the opposite headland.

‘Are you going to educate me?’ said Ryan.

I looked at him, lost. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘Everything.’ He was still smiling at me with his big, warm smile, a smile that was amused and friendly and just on the cusp of being flirtatious without quite crossing into it.
‘That could take a while,’ I said, feeling myself blush.

‘I don’t mind.’

I lay back on the sand and closed my eyes, enjoying the gentle caress of the April sunshine on my skin.

‘Everything is a big subject,’ I said. ‘How about you get to ask me three questions.’
This is actually quite representative of the book as a whole. The main focus of the narrative is the love story between Eden, who is a bit awkward, and Ryan, who isn’t supposed to be falling in love. Over the course of the novel, Eden becomes aware of just how small her world is, and decides to become part of something much bigger. She’s still quite fearful at this stage in the story and has lots of learn by the end of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Helen Douglas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Ben Tanzer is a prolific novelist and an Emmy-award winning Public Service Announcement writer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Orphans, and reported the following:
"There is Morg, Al B and his girlfriend, lover, muse Shalla, and her flowing hair and raucous, throaty laugh. They hustle and make music, rhyming and stealing." Orphans, Page 69.

The Page 69 Test asks a straight forward question, if you open a book to Page 69, is it representative of the rest of the book, and would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on? To open Orphans to Page 69 is to land in the middle of a dream fraught with confusion and loss, and the desire to make sense of what our memories mean to us in the present. In the world of Orphans, we are all orphaned by work and family, and a society that is all too happy to replace us. Given all this, do I think someone skimming the page would be inclined to read on? I do. Like the characters' love for the Ramones, the writing is intended to be slamming and propulsive, giving the reader no choice but to read on as they are pulled along blow by blow, page by page, and chapter by chapter, breathless and exhilarated, from the first sentence to the last. What Page 69 may not tell the reader about Orphans, is that a story which is at once bleak and harrowing, is also full of humor, and that despite the fact that clones may actively replace us in the workplace and home, on a good day, you can still score a robot hand job. Which is nice. If that's your thing.
Visit Ben Tanzer's blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Uncrashable Dakota"

Andy Marino was born and raised in Clifton Park, New York. He graduated from NYU and currently lives in Queens. He is the author of Unison Spark.

Marino applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Uncrashable Dakota, and reported the following:
Uncrashable Dakota concerns the 1862 discovery of flight by a hapless Union soldier, a long-simmering family feud, and the fate of the world’s most magnificent airship—not to mention a very odd species of beetle.

If you’re the kind of person who likes being plunged into fight scenes for which you have no context, page 69 is for you! Feel free to skip right on down to the excerpt.

For everybody else, here’s what’s going on: Hollis, grandson of the aforementioned soldier and heir to the Dakota Aeronautics empire, has been fighting with several menacing crewmen who have entered his family’s stateroom for a nefarious purpose. Explaining that purpose would spoil a plot point, so you’ll just have to trust me re: nefariousness. All you really need to know is that Hollis is torn between throwing himself back into the fray or fleeing down a back hallway.

Page 69 also marks the end of a chapter, so the excerpt is really short.
In the corner, Steward Bailey groaned, head lolling from one side to the other. The crewman by the door planted a boot in his ribs, and he slumped forward.

Hollis was faced with a decision that he had no time to ponder: lunge at the big man’s legs and try to catch him off balance or scramble through the dining room and out the servants’ door?

Take him down.

Already his body was obeying a more reasonable and insistent command, hurtling through the kitchenette, past a wooden block of razor-sharp steak knives, handles facing out.

Go back and fight.

The knives were behind him. He crashed through the door and out into the empty, undecorated hallway, where he did what his mother had told him to do.
The thing his mother told him to do was run! To find out if he ever returns for those steak knives, you’ll just have to read the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Andy Marino's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Kara Was Here"

William Conescu was born in New York and raised in New Orleans. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned an MFA in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University. He is the author of the novels Kara Was Here and Being Written, and his short stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, and other publications. Conescu lives in Durham, North Carolina.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Kara Was Here and reported the following:
Page 69 of Kara Was Here actually sets up a scene I like to read at book events—one of Kara’s many ghostly appearances. (She has a lot of dialogue for a character who died before the novel opens.)

A little context: Kara Was Here tells the story of a failed actress whose sudden and mysterious death at 34 unhinges the lives of those who loved her most. Set in North Carolina and New York, the novel follows three people: Kara’s college best friend, who begins to suspect Kara might have been murdered; Kara’s 18-year-old sister, who was supposed to have spent the summer with Kara and instead starts taking dangerous steps into Kara’s secret world; and Kara’s college boyfriend, Brad Mitchell, who thought they’d be together forever. Instead, he ended up in a happy—if strained—marriage with someone else. Kara wound up dead on somebody’s couch in Brooklyn. Now Brad keeps seeing her ghost.

It’s hard for Brad not to wonder “what if,” and that’s what’s happening on page 69. He’s reflecting on his attempt at a long-distance relationship with Kara:
After she moved to New York, Brad felt inspired to show Kara that their chances were better—or at least decent—in North Carolina. He found an agent in Raleigh, someone who worked with TV and film companies on the coast in Wilmington. She got Brad a couple of commercials and two lines in a teen soap opera. Kara insisted she’d “done Wilmington” because in high school she’d worked as an extra in two movies and had a speaking part in an episode of a detective show. But the odds of getting work in North Carolina had to be better than in New York. To this day, he still received small checks from the soap opera when his episode was replayed on cable.

He did alright in the local theater world, too. He worked temp jobs by day, and at night always seemed to be in rehearsal for something. Kara was vague in the descriptions of her failure. She’d sent out headshots. She’d gone on another audition. She’d heard about something that was coming up. She waited tables. That’s what she’d done in Chapel Hill too, he thought. Sometimes he reminded her.
Then we learn how Brad was temping in a real estate office and eventually traded his acting life for real estate. He imagines what his life would have been like if he’d moved with Kara to New York in his mid-twenties. He can’t help but think of all that would have been different, for both of them.

In addition to the suspenseful elements that help drive the novel, Kara Was Here is, in many ways, about forks in the road—looking back and looking forward, considering paths not taken and possible futures. On page 69, we see a key decision point for Brad and Kara, a choice that defined their respective and very different futures.

It might be more fun for a reader skimming through my book to pause a few pages after 69, when Kara appears as a vision during a client meeting and, while smoking a cigarette and ashing in inappropriate places, challenges Brad’s assessment of their respective paths. But page 69 provides essential backstory to the rift that developed between the two of them—long before she died, and then started visiting him again.
Learn more about the book and author at William Conescu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Thin Space"

Ohio-based Jody Casella has been writing stories since the age of seven. She majored in creative writing at Rhodes College and has an MA in English from the University of Memphis. After many years teaching and raising children, she's thrilled to be making her debut with Thin Space (Beyond Words; Simon & Schuster) which Kirkus called "A creepy supernatural chiller (that) sets up a gut-punch of desolation and loss...Brutal and brilliant."

Casella applied the Page 69 Test to Thin Space and reported the following:
When we meet Marsh Windsor, the main character in Thin Space, he's buckling under the weight of guilt and grief. A few months ago he hobbled away from a horrific car accident that killed his identical twin brother. It was not Marsh's fault, everyone says, but he was the one driving the car...

It doesn't help that he and his brother were on the outs at the time, and Marsh blames himself for that too.

A possibly crazy elderly neighbor tells Marsh about the Celtic belief in thin places, sacred places where the wall between our world and the other world is "thinner." Marsh latches on to the idea and makes it his quest to find one. He thinks if he can find a thin space, he'll be able to see his brother again and set things right between them.

At this point in the book, on page 69, Marsh has come to the conclusion that there's a thin space somewhere inside new neighbor Maddie Roger's house.

The challenge, though, is how to get in without telling Maddie, a girl he hardly knows and doesn't want to know, what his motivation is. To complicate matters, Maddie's got an overprotective older brother, Sam, who's taken one look at our tormented hero and decided his sister needs to stay far away.

Here Marsh works on manipulating Maddie into inviting him inside, and she turns the tables and gets to the heart of his problem:
The snow's really coming down now. The flakes plop on the ground fat and wet. "You think we should get out of this?" I say. "You know, go inside?"

She takes a step back and her foot slides in the snow. I reach out and touch her arm to steady her. "I don't know. Sam..."

"He doesn't want me in your house." Why does this surprise me? Has anything about this whole ordeal ever been easy? "So where is he?"

"Out with friends, I guess. I don't know. I told him--" Maddie blinks at me. Snow wets her cheeks, her hair. "Hey, do you ever wish you could go back in time, do something over?"
Oh yes. This is exactly what Marsh wishes he could do. And if he can find a thin space, he will have his chance.
Learn more about the book and author at Jody Casella's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jody Casella and Zooey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"The Whatnot"

Stefan Bachmann is a writer and musician. He was born in Colorado and now lives with his parents and siblings in Switzerland. He is currently studying film composing at the Zürich Conservatory, and writing his third book. His debut, The Peculiar, was published when he was nineteen years old. It is followed by the newly released companion novel, The Whatnot.

Bachmann applied the Page 69 Test to The Whatnot and reported the following:
I did one of these for The Peculiar, too, and now I'm pretty sure I'm going to turn to the sixty-ninth page of my type-set books for the rest of my life and make sure it's wildly exciting, or at least semi-coherent. I mean, technically all the pages in a book should stand up to a test like this, but I never think of it that way while I'm writing. Page 69 of The Whatnot is right in the middle of a scene where our guttersnipe main character, Pikey Thomas, is being visited by a shadowy faery in steampunk London, where all faery activity has been outlawed. The faery brings a gift to pay for a past favor, and it sets off an entire chain of events that thrusts Pikey into the center of a massive plot between the faeries and the English. The section doesn't make a ton of sense out of context, but oh well! Here it is:
“It’s for me?” Pikey breathed. He could already see it all: running away, finding someplace good, someplace where there were thick warm socks and a stove and people who didn’t only kick at him and shoo him away when he walked too close, and—

Coach wheels rattled in Bell Lane. Iron horseshoes hammered the cobbles. The faery’s smile vanished. It looked at Pikey an instant longer, its mirror-eyes wide and limpid. Then it whirled, black wings sweeping, and disappeared down the alley.

Pikey watched it go, the gemstone heavy in his hand. The gem was very cold. But it was solid, too, reassuring like nothing he had ever held before. He wanted to laugh, holding it. He wanted to whoop and yell and dance up the alley, and tell all the few people he knew that he was richer than them and the landlord put together. He stared at the gem a second longer, cupping it in his hands and watching his breath cloud around it. Then, with a start, he realized what he was holding and clutched it to his chest. He looked sharply up the alley. He wriggled into his hole and wrapped himself in his blankets, the gem hard against his heart, like a piece of a good luck.
Learn more about the book and author at Stefan Bachmann's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Peculiar.

The Page 69 Test: The Peculiar.

Writers Read: Stefan Bachmann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Real Vampires Know Size Matters"

Gerry Bartlett is the author of the Real Vampires series. She applied the Page 69 Test to Real Vampires Know Size Matters, the tenth book in the series, and reported the following:
I always love this test because it continues to surprise me how it turns out. In Real Vampires Know Size Matters, Gloriana St. Clair, my vampire with the figure issues, is struggling with several problems—she has a woman after her long-time lover and must mentor a newly turned vampire. On page 69, the new vampire, Sienna, a rock star, is finally figuring out that her life as she knows has just changed forever:
“I’ve always known my singing days are limited.” Sienna touched her wild hair and wrinkled her pierced nose. “Can you see this when I’m forty? Sixty? I’m not planning to be one of those geriatric rockers who doesn’t know when to call it quits.”

“You’ll never look geriatric now, Sienna,” I touched her shoulder. “But you’ll have to face a different issue with your looks later. When you don’t age.”
That seems like a simple scene and Sienna takes it pretty well at the time. But later we find out that she’s not content for vampires to stay in the shadows. This woman is used to the spotlight and figures being a vampire would be a great hook and gain her a whole new audience. When a hit man is hired to silence the out-of-control rocker, Glory must protect her fledgling and satisfy the angry vampire community.
Learn more about the book and author at Gerry Bartlett's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Real Vampires Have More to Love.

Coffee with a Canine: Gerry Bartlett and Jet (September 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Andromeda's Choice"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than forty novels including Andromeda's Choice, the latest volume of Dietz's popular Legion of the Damned™ series.

Hundreds of years in the future, much has changed. Advances in medicine, technology, and science abound. Humanity has gone to the stars, found alien life, and established an empire. But some things never change...

All her life, Lady Catherine Carletto (called Cat) has lived for nothing but the next party, the next lover, and the next expensive toy. Then, as part of a murderous power grab, Princess Ophelia and her cadre of synth assassins murder her brother the emperor, and go on to purge the galaxy of his friends and supporters—including Cat’s family.

Now Cat, the only surviving Carletto, is on the run. And, like countless others before her, she seeks refuge in a military organization that's home to society's most dangerous misfits. The Legion of the Damned.

Cat Carletto vanishes and Legion Recruit Andromeda McKee appears in her place. A woman with a mission—to bring down Empress Ophelia—or die trying. And that's where the Page 69 Test comes in... Dietz took the test--and here's what he discovered:
When I opened Andromeda's Choice to page 69 I discovered that my protagonist was back on Earth after fighting a hellacious series of battles on the planet Orlo II. And now, much to her disgust, she's about to receive the empire's highest medal for valor from the person who killed her family: Empress Ophelia.

But first, as part of a propaganda effort calculated to take advantage of McKee's bravery, she's forced to make a series of television appearances. Will someone among the millions of viewers recognize the scarred veteran as the once famous celebrity Lady Cat Carletto? Her life hangs in the balance.
McKee felt a little lightheaded as she followed the officer onto an elevator which dropped so fast it felt as if her spit shined shoes would come up off the floor. She could see herself in a mirror on the opposite wall. The immaculate white kepi sat squarely on her head. The uniform was brown, with red fringed epaulettes, and the badge of the 1st REC on the left side of her chest. She wore a campaign ribbon as well--and the chevrons on her sleeves marked her as a sergeant. It was in some ways like looking at a stranger.

Then the ride was over, the doors whispered open, and they stepped out into a long hallway. The walls were painted a subtle shade of red and were decorated with photos of famous guests. A perky intern was there to meet them. She had straight black hair, almond shaped eyes, and full lips. The ear plug and wire thin boom mike she wore were barely noticeable. A wannabe reporter? Yes, that seemed like a good guess.

McKee saw the girl flinch as she noticed the scar. It was her experience that women reacted more strongly than men--probably because they were imagining how awful such a disfigurement would be. The intern recovered, produced a smile, and said "Hi! My Name's Cindy. Please follow me."

Wilkins went first followed by McKee and Larkin. A door led to a make-up room where a man and a woman were waiting for them. McKee was ushered into the chair in front of the female. She had pink hair, had lots of rings on her fingers, and introduced herself as Shelly. "Don't worry," Shelly said, kindly. "I can make that scar disappear."

McKee felt something akin to panic. Ugly though it might be the scar was her mask. The thing most people couldn't see past. "I don't need any make-up," McKee growled. "I'm proud of my scar."

Shelly was clearly taken aback, mumbled something about highlights, and dabbed at McKee's forehead a couple of times before declaring her "Ready for prime time."
Learn more about the book and author at William C. Dietz's website.

Andromeda's Choice follows Andromeda's Fall.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Fall.

My Book, The Movie: Andromeda's Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Staged to Death"

After writing over eighty published romances, Karen Rose Smith is now writing mysteries, too.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Staged to Death, the first book in her Caprice De Luca home-stager mystery series, and reported the following:
I was surprised at how well page 69 captures the essence of Staged to Death. Both of Caprice De Luca's rescued "pets" introduce the page. In the sentences—
...he (Dylan) scampered inside as if he knew Roz needed him. Caprice suspected Sophia was curled on the office chair, waiting for her owner's nightly check of emails.
--the reader learns how Caprice thinks of animals. Dylan, named after the folk singer Bob Dylan, is a furry little stray who seems to be intuitive. It's obvious Caprice believes animals can sense what their master needs. She also knows her pets well enough to realize they live by schedules. Sophia, a long-haired calico named after Sophia Loren, expects Caprice to check email on her home office computer before she turns in. Yep, Caprice is an animal lover who understands their behavior.

On page 69 the reader also can see that Caprice loves to cook.
Along with that (a packet of ground beef), she picked up endive, a pack of grated carrots, and a bag of shredded cabbage.
With the mention of these ingredients, the reader can wonder what Caprice is going to create in her kitchen, which is retro in design by the way. The concoction will turn out to be minestrone and the recipe will be included in Staged to Death. Food means "love" to the De Lucas. Caprice, along with her stay-at-home younger sister Bella, and her caterer older sister Nikki, learned to cook at their Nana Celia's elbow as well as in their mom's kitchen. They all contribute dishes to the monthly De Luca dinners. Their brother Vince doesn't cook—he brings the wine. The De Lucas are a close-knit family who squabble but who band together in any crisis.

We also learn another reason Caprice likes to cook in the line—"As she set everything on the counter, she ran over the murder scene in her mind." Caprice thinks while she cooks, not only solving family dilemmas but sorting clues and putting the murder puzzle together, too.

At the end of page 69, my reader knows a tad about the murder.
The glass case where Ted had kept his most valuable collectibles had been standing open. Did that mean the murderer had robbery on his mind? From what she could recall, the case hadn't been emptied.
Apparently Caprice had been at the murder scene where she'd, at least, glimpsed the open curio cabinet. A home-stager, Caprice had been staging Ted's castle-like mansion with a Camelot theme. The reader can deduce that Roz, who was mentioned earlier on the page and who needs Dylan's comfort, is somehow connected to the murder victim, Ted.

I believe page 69 encapsulates the themes in Staged to Death that I hope my readers will enjoy most—pets, home-staging, family...and solving a murder mystery.
Visit Karen Rose Smith's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Karen Rose Smith & Hope and Riley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"The Thrill of the Haunt"

E.J. Copperman is a mysterious figure, or has a mysterious figure, or writes figuratively in mysteries. In any event, a New Jersey native, Copperman has written for such publications as the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, American Baby and USA Weekend.

Night of the Living Deed is the first E.J. Copperman novel. It was followed by An Uninvited Ghost, Old Haunts, A Wild Ghost Chase, Chance of a Ghost, and the newly released The Thrill of the Haunt.

Copperman applied the Page 69 Test to The Thrill of the Haunt and reported the following:
I just turned to Page 69 in The Thrill of the Haunt. It is as prosaic and completely undistinguished a page in the book as I could find. Almost any other page would surely have more interesting material. Sort of makes me want to get out of this business and take up upholstery. If it’s representative of the book, I can’t say. I wouldn’t read or not read the book based on the scintillating information on Page 69. It takes place when Alison Kerby, the owner of the Haunted Guesthouse (who just wants to run her little inn on the Jersey Shore and be done with it, but who for reasons you’ll have to pick up the book to find out keeps getting involved in crime investigations) is being overwhelmed from a number of sides. One of her guests is threatening to exorcise the resident ghosts from her house. Her client in one case is trying to get Alison to follow the client’s husband to gather blackmail material. And her other client, who wants her to investigate the death of the town’s favorite homeless man, is in her kitchen demanding results after a total of 18 hours of investigation. Her client, Kerin Murphy (Alison’s semi-nemesis) is there, along with Alison’s mom, Loretta, and unbeknownst to Kerin, Paul Harrison, Maxie Malone and Jack Kerby, three ghosts, the last of whom happens to be Alison’s dad.

From Page 69:
My attitude probably wasn’t good for business, but then I really wasn’t a PI, so that wasn’t really a very high priority for me. I was an innkeeper, and would be happy to never have another investigation client as long as I lived.

“This isn’t what we expected when we agreed to your exorbitant salary demand,” Kerin said.

I shrugged. “So fire me,” I said. Dad shook his head, but he didn’t understand that my business plan was to get out of business as quickly as possible. “Feel free to find yourself another investigator or as I would advise, let the police handle it. Why are you so hot and bothered over Everett’s death, anyway? I agree it’s very sad that the poor guy was killed, but I didn’t know him very well. Did you?”

Kerin sniffed. “My estimation of a person’s worth is not based on how well I know them,” she said. I considered asking whether she measured a person’s worth in dollars or negotiable bonds, but instead I noted Maxie floating in from the backyard, looking bored. She perked up when she saw Kerin, though, no doubt recognizing that her presence meant conflict, something Maxie enjoys no matter what her mood. “Everett was a part of this community, he was valued, he was worth caring about.”

“I agree,” I said. “What was his last name?”

Kerin’s head came close to the land speed record for snapping up. “His last name?” she asked.
See what I mean? I guarantee you’ll have more fun with other pages from The Thrill of the Haunt.
Visit E. J. Copperman's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Thrill of the Haunt.

Writers Read: E. J. Copperman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 29, 2013

"The Cartographer of No Man’s Land"

P.S. Duffy is the author of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, a debut novel that takes place during the First World War in Nova Scotia and the Western Front in France. She lives in Rochester, MN, had a long career in neurologic communication disorders, and now splits her time between writing fiction, reading history, fiction, and essays, and writing in the neurosciences for Mayo Clinic. She says that at her age she is happy to have the word “debut” applied to anything she does.

Duffy applied the Page 69 Test to The Cartographer of No Man’s Land and reported the following:
The Cartographer of No Man’s Land takes place during the First World War and is told through the eyes of Angus MacGrath, a lieutenant on the Western Front in France, and his 13-year-old son back home in a fishing village in Nova Scotia. When Angus’s best friend and brother-in-law goes missing at the front, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing and enlists to find him. Hoping to be a military cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly to the infantry. An initially reluctant soldier, he continues his search, but now for some greater purpose. What he eventually discovers about Ebbin makes sense only in the context of war. At home, his young son is coming of age without him and, like all the characters in the book, must navigate the shifting ground of war’s uncertainties and lasting effects.

Page 69, in full:
Chapter Five
February 18th
Arras Sector, France

“February 18th, 1917,” Angus wrote at the top of the tablet in his lap. He ran a filthy hand through his filthy hair. The sack of censored letters slumped beside him on the frozen ground of the dugout. Some he’d censored himself, as was required of junior officers—a task he found embarrassing, and one which Publicover sailed through on the winds of duty. I get through mine in ten minutes flat, he told Angus. Just scan for anything that reveals location or tactics and for grievances against King and country, the CEF, or the top brass. No need to get bogged down with memories of apple blossoms or hopes for Aunt Bertie’s recovery.

In the process Angus had learned a few things about his men—that some, like Boudrey, could barely write; that Katz, McNeil, and Wertz could turn a phrase with ease; and that some wrote no letters at all. Many were homesick, some heartsick, but they generally refrained from self-pity. Survival demanded that someone, somewhere had it worse.

There was about an hour of daylight left, Angus figured, maybe twenty minutes of it to himself. By midnight, he’d be gone. His men …
Page 69. Hmm … wasn’t there a “Page 99 Test” awhile back? Because that page is good. It’s great, in fact. It contains all a reader needs to be intrigued, moved, astounded. I actually haven’t looked at it, but I’m sure that’s true. Page 69, on the other hand, is an interlude (sigh) between action on the home front and the Western Front. In a trench in the last hours of daylight, Angus has finished censoring letters and struggles to write his own. It presages a moment later in the book when Angus will again censor letters, but under very different circumstances. Why not? “Who better to blot out truth?” he’ll say to himself.

But here we learn merely that he’s survived his first two weeks on the front line and that despite being the reluctant soldier, he takes his duty to his men seriously. There’s a passing reference to their stoicism and to Publicover, the good-looking19-year old lieutenant, who is a stronger officer than Angus at this point, and whose boyish enthusiasm belies the ice in his veins. I happen to love him so I’m glad he’s on page 69.

By the midnight hour alluded to at the bottom of the page, this quiet moment and Angus’s world will be rocked by a young private who runs amok, then straight into No Man’s Land toward the German line. The previous page has Angus’s son, Simon Peter, also in fading daylight, staring in wonder at a painting by Angus—strange and more alive than any his father had painted before—of a boy and his father in a rowboat. That thread of connection is there in the boat, in Simon Peter, and in Angus sitting on his crate trying to write home. It is the love story of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at P. S. Duffy's website.

Writers Read: P. S. Duffy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Dead Eye"

Mark Greaney’s debut international thriller, The Gray Man, became a national bestseller and was nominated for a Barry Award in the Best Thriller category. The follow-up Gray Man thriller, On Target was also nominated for a Barry Award in the Best Thriller category. Ballistic, the third in the series also received glowing reviews including a rave from the New York Times comparing flipping the pages of the Mark Greaney thriller to “…playing the ultimate video game!”

Greaney applied the Page 69 Test to Dead Eye, the fourth book in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Dead Eye does a fine job of capturing the feel of the novel. Dead Eye is the fourth novel in the Gray Man series, chronicling the adventures of ex CIA paramilitary operations officer Court “Gray Man” Gentry as he lives off the grid as a freelance assassin.

On page 69, Russ “Dead Eye” Whitlock, himself a former CIA operative, is on the hunt for the elusive Gray Man in the Baltic port city of Tallinn, Estonia. Dead Eye is supposedly following the orders of a shadowy private military company in D.C., but on page 69 we see he has called an audible by coming to Tallinn, using his own tradecraft to anticipate Gentry’s arrival here.
He lifted his Steiner binoculars to his eyes and checked out to sea, monitoring the small vessels as they came in, and then he shifted back to a spot a half mile below his position. At the mouth of the port near the massive Tallink Ferry terminal was a choke point that anyone who had disembarked from a vessel in the port would need to pass on the way into town, and this was the main focus of Whitlock’s attention. Most people leaving the docks did so in groups; clusters of three to ten men, heavily bundled in coats and hats to protect them from the cold sea air. They would then head to buses or cars and trucks in one of the parking lots in the area.

Russ ignored these groups; he was on the lookout for a loner.”
Russ soon finds Gentry in his sights, and the game is afoot. His motivations drive the story, but a female Mossad officer, American paramilitary teams, CIA executives, and Gentry’s incredible skill all ensure plenty of twists and turns in the novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Mark Greaney's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Gray Man.

My Book, The Movie: The Gray Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


As clichéd as it sounds, Renée Rosen is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, the author loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.

Rosen applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Dollface, A Novel of the Roaring Twenties, and reported the following:
So I took the test and honestly, I was kind of disappointed on where I landed. Not that I don’t love the scene of Vera and her mother at the lunch counter, but it’s just not representative of the book as a whole. The scene is absolutely necessary but page 69 doesn’t capture the spirit of Dollface, which is the story of flapper who falls in love with two mobsters from rival gangs during Prohibition Chicago. Other than “water closet” and “bloomers” you’d have no idea that this book is about gangsters and the Roaring Twenties. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

From Page 69:
A woman stepped out of the water closet and we noticed that she had accidentally tucked the back of her dress up inside her bloomers. I glanced over at the woman, and from the corner of my eye, I saw the expression on my mother’s face. I turned and looked at her. She was trying not to laugh, but her shoulders were shaking. That’s when I surrendered and started laughing, too.
Learn more about Dollface at Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Sorrow’s Knot"

Erin Bow was born in the Midwest and studied particle physics in college, eventually working at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. She then decided to leave science to concentrate on her love of writing. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband, James, and their two daughters.

Bow applied the Page 69 Test to Sorrow's Knot, her new YA novel, and reported the following:
It will appeal to the eighth-grade boy in all of us to learn that page 69 of Sorrow’s Knot [below left; click to enlarge] is the dirtiest page in the book. Go ahead and snicker. But seriously, this double entendre about Cricket’s ineptness at shooting a lance through a rolling hoop is as off-color as this particular novel gets.

But this page stands out in other ways, too, at least to me. There’s a story behind it.

I wrote this scene, and a handful of others, on a retreat in November 2012. Besides the odd copy edit, they were the last things I did to the book. I added them to give a glimpse of the deep core of happiness inside my characters.

I mean, this is a book called Sorrow’s Knot. It’s mostly about death. It was clearly never going to be a laugh riot. But still, when you deal only with the character’s problems, it’s easy for the readers not to get to know them as people. For instance, Otter (who is the lead character) has a sly sense of humor and is given to practical jokes. I, as a writer, am always aware of that. But if you as a reader only get to spend time with Otter on the worst days of her life — if you only get to see the plot — you might not get to see her sense of humor. You will like Otter less than I do.

So, paradoxically, the last thing I did to make this a better book was add scenes that don’t contribute to the plot at all. Kestrel and Cricket pledging okishae on page 80 (okishae is sort of like married, except no one does it and everyone thinks they’re weird). Otter and Kestrel swimming in the hot spring. The bit where they stuff the pillow. The bit where they catch, then eat, the comically stupid goose.

So enjoy the slightly dirty joke on page 69, internet. It’s making the whole book warmer.
Learn more about the book and author at Erin Bow's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Trish J. MacGregor is the author of 36 novels and as TJ MacGregor won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for original paperback in 2003. Apparition is the third book in the Hungry Ghost trilogy, and takes place in the mystical city of Esperanza, Ecuador, high in the Andes.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Apparition and reported the following:
Apparition begins with a brujo – a hungry ghost – materializing next to Tess Livingston as she’s in her car. No brujo has been seen in Esperanza since the defeat of Dominica’s tribe four years ago, but this one looks as real and solid as any living human and claims to be Dominica’s brother, Ricardo. When he threatens Tess and attempts to seize her, possess her, she fights back and escapes, completely freaked out by what has just happened.

In the final, fierce battle between the living and Dominica’s tribe of the dead, the living were helped by Light Chasers. These evolved souls, who brought Esperanza into the physical world 500 years ago, have deferred their passage to a higher plane in order to guide and protect the living and to guard the city against brujo incursions. Tess calls on her dad, Charlie, a member of the chaser council, but he doesn’t appear. She speeds on to the restaurant where she and her partner, Ian Ritter, are supposed to have dinner.

But while they’re eating outside, a monstrous wave of blackness sweeps up the hillside toward the restaurant’s deck. Everything the black wave touches simply disappears. As parts of the deck and the people on it are swallowed up by the blackness, pandemonium erupts and shrieks that the brujos have returned riddle the air. One thing is clear to both Tess and Ian: their time in Esperanza may be nearing an end.

On page 69 of the book, the 13 members of the chaser council are meeting to cast a vote about the fate of Esperanza. The head of the council, Newton, has just told them that in the last 48, hours there have been thousands of brujo seizures worldwide, that they’re using an abandoned hotel in the city as their portal to other countries. He insists it’s time to remove Esperanza from the physical world because the city itself is the brujo’s portal to the living.

Charlie has just learned that several chasers, whom he believes to be spiritually corrupt, experimented on their own with taking the city back into the nonphysical world and their experiment went awry. He now understands what happened at the restaurant. Dozens have died, dozens more were seriously injured. He’s irate and calls for a private vote.

Excerpt page 69:
“All in favor of a private vote,” said Franco, “raise your hand.”

Ten out of thirteen hands shot up. Newton glanced around nervously, apparently realizing for the first time that he might not have the support of the majority. Maria and Simon, Charlie thought, looked pissed. “A private vote it is,” Charlie said. “Write ‘yes’ if you favor what Newton is proposing and ‘no’ if you’re against it. Then put your vote in the center of the table.”

Charlie quickly scribbled “no” on his piece of paper, slid it out into the middle of the table. Within minutes, all votes were cast. Charlie shuffled them, then he and Maria began to turn them over. Yes votes along the top, no votes beneath.

Once the votes were all turned over he tried not to gloat. “Six yes, seven no.” Too damn close. Charlie suspected that Pilar and Alan or Dan had voted with his group. He knew that Newton and Maria would be lobbying behind the scenes to get one of them to change a vote. But for now, Esperanza had won a reprieve.

“Keep in mind,” Franco said, “that some of us who voted no might change our vote if provisions are included – something replaces Esperanza and people are given a choice.”

“Damn unlikely,” Maria muttered.

“You’d rather kill thousands?” Franco snapped, staring at her.

“It’d be easier.” Maria snatched her bag off the table, got up, and marched out of the café.
This scene makes it clear that even supposedly evolved souls may be corrupted by power and that politics is pertinent in the afterlife!
Learn more about the book and author at Trish J. MacGregor's website.

The Page 69 Test: Esperanza.

My Book, The Movie: Esperanza.

The Page 69 Test: Ghost Key.

My Book, The Movie: Apparition.

Writers Read: Trish J. MacGregor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Murder on the Orient Espresso"

Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including nine books in two different mystery series from Severn House--the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina. Balzo's books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A Wisconsin native, Balzo now splits her time between South Florida and North Carolina.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder on the Orient Espresso, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘Spry old fellow,’ Prudence said.

‘The engineer? Oh, he’s quite the character.’ Missy checked her watch. ‘I do worry that we’ll get back to the station too early, though. You know, before the crime is solved?’

‘Maybe someone should make an announcement,’ I suggested. ‘Requesting that Potter and the rest of the “cast” come to this car.’

There was a flaw, of course, in my plan: Laurence Potter obviously didn’t want to appear. Missy, however, didn’t seem to see it. ‘That’s a wonderful idea, Maggy. Zoe should—’

‘Zoe? Why not you?’ Prudence prodded. ‘You do most of the work, anyway. Why let her take all the credit?’

Missy blushed, tugging down her dress. ‘Oh, no, I prefer to work behind the scenes. I couldn’t.’

‘You couldn’t what?’ Zoe, perhaps instinctively, had magically turned up, too.

‘Maggy suggested that we make an announcement . . .’

‘Maggy?’ Zoe repeated.

I raised my hand. The woman was either stupid or trying to rile me. I was betting on the latter.

‘Oh, right,’ Zoe said distractedly, her attention drawn to the commotion in the corner, where a huge man dressed in a zoot suit was trying to climb onto the table.

Pavlik, having been thwarted in his effort to save the day by venturing into the Everglades, slid out of the booth. ‘You!’ he said in a thundering voice. ‘Down! Now!’

The big man ignored him. With the train’s swaying movement he looked like an overweight, overdressed mob surfer trying to position his feet for one last Big Kahuna of a wave. Worse, he was a decade off in his costume. The high-waisted trousers and long coats with wide lapels and padded shoulders were popular in the forties, not the thirties.

‘Off the table, Fred!’ Zoe bellowed.

‘Fred’ got off. Pavlik shrugged and returned to our table.

‘Zoe, we think you should cut the cake,’ Prudence suggested. ‘Sop up some of the alcohol.’

‘Too late,’ Missy said mournfully.

‘Too late to sop up the alcohol or too late to cut the cake?’ One more Orient Espresso martini on an empty stomach and I’d be up on a table. Or under it.
The first thing I want to say about Page 69 of Murder on the Orient Espresso is that I really do know the difference between single and double-quotes. Severn House in London publishes my Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries (Orient Espresso is #8 in the series), and the Brits use single quotes where we use double and vice versa.

The second thing you should know is that in this scene, the fictional "Fred" is dancing on the edge -- the uneasy calm before the literal and figurative storm.

You see, Wisconsin coffeehouse owner Maggy Thorsen has accompanied her main squeeze, Sheriff Jake Pavlik, to South Florida, where he's speaking at a mystery-writers' conference. Maggy is anticipating a romantic arrival in their hotel suite, but the opening night event turns out to be a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express.

As night falls, conference organizer Zoe Scarlett rushes Maggy and Pavlik onto an excursion train into the Everglades along with the rest of the guests. Zoe's assistant, Missy Hudson, explains to the jet-lagged couple that Pavlik is to play the murder victim, Ratchett. Guests of Honor Rosemary Darlington and Laurence Potter will be Mary Debenham and Hercule Poirot, respectively. The rest of the guests are dressed in period costume and the idea is to solve the crime and return to civilization.

Maggy hopes that will be soon. But you don't always get what you want.

Things rapidly begin to fall apart. It's obvious that reviewer Potter and author Darlington despise each other, though whether that's because of a rumored affair or Potter's denouncement of Darlington's long-awaited comeback novel as "badly-written pornography," nobody seems to know. A young man turns up, claiming that Laurence Potter stole his manuscript and, on page 69, a torrential rain storm is about to strike.

And then there's the python…
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Balzo's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Triple Shot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Tamar Ossowski resides in Needham, Massachusetts. She is married and has three children, one of whom was born with special needs and could spell before he learned to speak. She wrote the novel Left to explore the possibility that you can only become the person you are supposed to be once you truly embrace the person you already are.

Ossowski applied the Page 69 Test to Left and reported the following:
Left is the story of a mother who goes on the run with one child and abandons the other. It is the story of what remains once the unthinkable has happened.

One minute Franny has a mother and a sister and the next she is left in the care of woman whom she barely knows. Without explanation, her family suddenly vanishes. Learning to adapt would be challenging for any child but what happens when that child also happens to be autistic?

As time passes she begins to accept her fate even though she vows never to give up hope that one day her family will return. Leah, the woman caring for her, takes her to an indoor swimming pool at the university where she works (page 69) in an attempt to lift her spirits. As the scene progresses, it becomes clear that Leah is starting to care about Franny despite the fact that she covers her ears every time the toilet flushes, rearranges the letters of the alphabet out loud, and rocks back and forth when the world gets too intense.

Soon, protecting Franny becomes the only thing that Leah cares about. All she wants is to make sure that Franny is happy and even though Franny feels safe, it is clear that she still misses her mother. She asks Leah if she knows why her mother left and if she is ever coming back. She asks it in her little shaky nine-year-old voice. Those are the days that are the hardest.

Those are the days that secret keeping becomes suffocating.
Learn more about the book and author at Tamar Ossowski's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Left.

--Marshal Zeringue