Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Living Proof"

Kira Peikoff is a writer based in New York City. She graduated with high honors from New York University in 2007 with a degree in journalism, after four years of various reporting internships: covering street crime for The Daily News, writing about Capitol Hill for The Orange County Register in Washington, D.C., reporting on business and technology for Newsday, and researching feature stories for New York magazine.

Realizing that fiction was her true love, she dedicated herself full-time to writing Living Proof, her debut novel. The story was inspired by her experience reporting from the White House in the summer of 2006, as she watched President Bush announce the first veto of his presidency to deny federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Peikoff’s passionate feelings about what many people view as a controversy of morality vs. science–one with potentially life-or-death stakes–led to the central conflict in Living Proof.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Living Proof and reported the following:
This page is key to the plot. The story takes place in a near-future world in which the destruction of an embryo is first-degree murder. The heroine is a young fertility doctor named Arianna Drake with a dangerous secret and a notorious past as a supporter of an infamous stem cell scientist. When Arianna’s clinic grows inexplicably popular, she attracts the suspicion of the Department of Embryo Preservation, an oversight agency whose mission is to monitor and record the creation of every embryo outside the womb. The Department can find no obvious reason for the sudden spike in popularity of Arianna’s small clinic, so it sends an undercover agent named Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activities.

Trent’s challenge is to find a way to introduce himself to her in a neutral venue, then worm his way into her life. Through her social networking profile, he discovers her love of a certain mystery writer who is appearing in her neighborhood for a book signing that week. Trent manages to make sure she knows about the event, which he also attends. On p. 69, he makes his crucial—yet relaxed, charming—introduction by posing as a fellow fan; it’s an introduction on which his entire mission depends, since he knows he’ll never have another shot at a first impression. Does it go horribly or perfectly according to plan? You’ll have to read to find out!
Learn more about the book and author at Kira Peikoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Parlor Games"

Maryka Biaggio, Ph.D, a professor of psychology for 30 years, undertook writing fiction as a serious pursuit around 2000. She attended writing conferences, started a critique group, and devoted half her time to writing. She improved her craft by completing three novels before writing Parlor Games. Now she splits her time between writing and working as a higher education consultant. Excerpts of her novels have garnered Willamette Writers and Belle Lettres awards. She specializes in writing historical fiction about real people.

Biaggio applied the Page 69 Test to Parlor Games and reported the following:
A bookworm hungering for a good read wanders into a bookstore, picks up Parlor Games, and reads the publisher’s description: “A sweeping historical novel about a beautiful con artist whose turn-of-the-century escapades take her—and her Pinkerton detective pursuer—around the world.” She cracks the book to page 69:
We arranged to gather on a Tuesday evening at Fitzgerald and Moy’s, one of Chicago’s most opulent saloons. Claude met me at the door and escorted me across the tavern’s multicolored tile floor to a back room that was no doubt typically occupied by poker players.
Hmm, our ravenous reader thinks, sounds like a woman is telling the story—perhaps the beautiful con artist. Skipping ahead to some dialogue, she reads:
“Pauline,” Claude said after closing the door, “allow me to introduce Mr. Reed Dougherty.”

Dougherty rose from his seat and bowed. “Miss Davidson, a pleasure to meet you.”
OK, the reader thinks, two characters who know each other are meeting a third. What game are they playing in the back room of a saloon?
As I seated myself opposite him at the round, felt-covered table, Dougherty locked his penetrating dark-brown eyes on me—in the manner of an admirer first taking in my God-given beauty. He wore a navy-blue suit, an unadorned white shirt, and a slightly askew blue cravat, the sort of plain but respectable attire one might find on a country storekeeper. His large hands, as well groomed as a surgeon’s but as muscular as those of a farmer, were quite at odds with his fine-featured cheekbones and straight-lined nose—all in all, a handsome face in a not-quite-classic but understated way. In fact, I found him an odd jumble of traits: savvy but not terribly refined in manner, as if he had accustomed himself to relying solely on intellect and grit; and light-handed in gesture but melancholy of expression, with his blade of a mustache waxed to a forlorn downturn.
Hmmm, muses our reader, this narrator is pretty sharp; no doubt about it, she’s our con woman. And the author spends a lot of time on this Dougherty character. Maybe he’s that Pinkerton detective pursuer.
“May I offer you a glass of port?” Dougherty asked, lifting a bottle and tipping it over a glass.”

Claude and I joined Dougherty in his toast: “To our business. May it be profitable.”
Our hungry reader slaps page 69 closed and heads for the register. She has guessed right—the charming protagonist of Parlor Games has just met her nemesis, Detective Dougherty. Did our reader choose a good page to preview? Absolutely, for she will soon learn that the novel’s lovely enchantress repeatedly leaps from one frying pan to another. And as she turns the pages she’ll be asking herself if this con woman can manage to steer clear of the fire.
Learn more about the book and author at Maryka Biaggio's website.

My Book, The Movie: Parlor Games.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Cover of Snow"

Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. She is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program.

Milchman applied the Page 69 Test to Cover of Snow, her first novel, and reported the following:
Wow, am I surprised by what happens on page 69 of my book!

I’m tempted to stop there. Maybe you’ll wonder what could be so surprising.

But that wouldn’t really be fair. You see, I’m surprised by how un-dramatic it is, at least relatively. Cover of Snow has been described as a literary thriller, and many of the blurbs and reviews seem to focus on a certain page-turning quality. I was expecting to open up to page 69 and find something that might make my own eyes water—and that’s after writing twenty-two drafts of the book.

But on page 69, my heroine is having a snack with her dead husband’s aunt. She’s just learned something—on page 68—that calls his relationship with his whole family into question. And she’s about to do something that will attempt to unravel the thorny knot that existed between them. But on page 69? There’s a certain quiescence. It’s the calm before, and just after, the storm.
I lifted my head, attempting to find Jean’s gaze. “I’m just trying to make sense of what happened, Aunt Jean. Something went horribly wrong.”

“I know it did.” She pressed her hands together until one was nearly hidden by the cushy flesh of the other. “But you’re talking about things from a long time ago. And Eileen is like my very own sister.”

“Yes,” I whispered. “But you just told me Brendan was like your son.”
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Hard Twisted"

Chuck Greaves's debut novel Hush Money, a legal mystery, was honored by SouthWest Writers as the Best Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller/ Adventure Novel of 2010, and was awarded SWW’s highest honor, their grand-prize Storyteller Award for 2010.

Greaves applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Hard Twisted, and reported the following:
Hard Twisted is a work of Depression-era literary fiction based on true events. Specifically, it is the coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Lottie Garrett, who is kidnapped from Dust Bowl Oklahoma by her father’s murderer, 36-year old Clint Palmer, and taken on a one-year crime and killing spree across the American Southwest.

While the story begins and ends in a Greenville, Texas courtroom, the heart of the novel lies in southeastern Utah – in red-rock canyon country – where the unlikely duo herd sheep for trading post impresario Harry Goulding, find themselves in a range war with frontier sheriff Bill Oliver, and leave four bodies in their wake amid the haunting buttes and spires of Monument Valley.

Page 69 is part of a transitional phase in the story, in which the reader begins to realize that Palmer, the garrulous Texas drifter and cockfighter, has a dark past and an even darker plan for the future. Palmer has lured father and daughter, homeless and hungry, to a rented house in Texas from which Lottie’s father will soon disappear. For now, however, their interplay bears a thin veneer of domestic normalcy:
There were sounds from the kitchen, and when she’d descended the stairs on stocking feet, she found her father at the breakfast counter lifting groceries from a box. The lights were on and the stove was lit, and the familiar odors of woodsmoke and coffee masked the lingering paint smell.

There you are. Thought we was gonna have to send a posse.

She rubbed her eyeball with a fist.

Are you hungry?

Yes, sir.

Palmer’s voice echoed in the front room. Hey! Hows about a hand out here?

Lottie found him straddling the threshold with a stool under each arm, the screen door propped with a foot.

Take one, he told her, and when she reached for the stool, he kissed her quickly on the lips.

Don’t! She glanced toward the kitchen. He’s like to kill us both.

Palmer stood the stools by the kitchen counter and went to rummage the cookware, returning with their iron skillet.

Ever had huevos rancheros?

Way what?

Never mind. He rubbed his hands together. Sit yourself down and watch a Texan at work.

He greased the cold skillet with his fingers, then cracked a half dozen farm eggs into the pan.

My whole time I was away, he said over the rising sizzle, this right here is what I missed the most.

Was you in the army?

Honey, I was the scourge of Fort Leavenworth. He winked at her father standing behind her. They wanted me so bad, they wouldn’t let me go.
This is one of the last scenes in which father and daughter appear together, and is also one of the last to take place indoors, before the duo’s bloody, Odyssean road-trip begins.
Learn more about the book and author at C. Joseph Greaves's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Death in the 12th House"

Mitchell Scott Lewis has been a practicing astrologer and teacher in New York City for more than twenty years. His Starlight Detective Agency mysteries are Murder in the 11th House and the recently released Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Death in the 12th House and reported the following:
Page 69 of Death in the 12th House actually is pivotal in the relationship between two of the murder suspects; victim rock ‘n roll star, Freddie Finger’s widow and ex-wife. Although the reader could still follow the story without it, that page adds a tinge of suspicion to one of the characters, as well as the birth information of another. And since this is a series about an astrologer-detective, that is valuable information, particularly for the part of my audience with a background in the celestial arts.
Her birth information was not in question. Every mention of her gave the same date. She was a Virgo, born September 10th 1977 about 9:20 in the morning. She had a Moon-Venus conjunct in Leo in sextile to Pluto, and an early Scorpio rising sign. Her sexuality bobbled just beneath the surface.
Learn more about the book and author at Mitchell Scott Lewis's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death in the 12th House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 25, 2013


Kate Watterson grew up on a steady diet of mystery/suspense novels. If it involves murder and intrigue, she is bound to be hooked. Watterson also writes award-winning historical novels as Emma Wildes.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Frozen, and reported the following:
On page 69…what a great pick for Frozen! Lucky, I guess. Yes, I think it is representative of the book as Ellie is discussing with the county deputy working with her investigating this series of serial murders. That page gives insight into their personal lives as they work the case of the latest missing young woman. Rick Jones mentions that he’d married young when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant in high school, because it felt like it was the right thing to do.

She responds:
“If you’re a nice guy.” Ellie thought about that discarded shoe, brilliant leaves sifting over the ground next to it, and the congealing pool of blood. She added with somber conviction, “I’m afraid there are some out there who aren’t nice at all.”
Uhm, yes, by the way, she’s right. The person they are hunting is definitely not playing nice.
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Watterson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Frozen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"The Aviator's Wife"

Alice I Have Been is Melanie Benjamin's first historical novel; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is her second.

Benjamin applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and reported the following:
When the reader gets to page 69 in The Aviator's Wife, it is at the beginning of a pivotal scene in the book; the courtship of Charles and Anne. They courted in the air, not on the ground; they always shared flight, that freedom in the sky that brought out the best of each of them. On page 69, they’re on their way to an airfield where Charles will take Anne up for the second time in their acquaintance, and where he will introduce in her the idea that she, too, can learn to fly. Charles did this for her; he saw in her a strength, a courage she didn’t quite see herself. The unfortunate thing is that, once giving her wings, he seemed to spend a lifetime trying to clip them. On page 69, that is all in the future; she has yet to learn to fly. And before she does so; before she can experience this freedom she has only dreamed of, she has to learn to navigate a life with Charles both on the ground and in the air. And this early scene implies the difficulties of that life, still ahead of her:
Months had passed since we’d seen each other, but obviously he did not feel compelled to explain what he had been up to, and so, out of defiance and a prickly sense of pride that made me set my mouth a certain way, neither did I.

I glanced at my wristwatch, then at the immobile face beside me, the eyes hidden by those round smoky lenses, the brow obscured by that magical hat.

But if he didn’t talk, neither did he give any indication that he expected me to. So I gave myself over to the purity of simply being, with him, on a fine summer day. Only once did I break the silence; it was when we drove along a lane bordered on either side with young birch trees.

“Oh, look! It’s like they’re bowing to us!” I couldn’t help but laugh, pointing as the tops of the trees shimmied ahead of us, bending in the light breeze. Charles nodded but kept his eyes on the road, and so I retreated once more, embarrassed by my outburst.

Finally we turned down a long gravel road that led to an open field. There, two planes were waiting; an enormous white French Normandy-styled house rose up in the distance, along with several barns and smaller dwellings.

Charles braked the car, and the engine sputtered off. He turned to me.

“Well, that was fun,” he said with a sudden, surprising grin, and I had to laugh.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"The Trouble with Fate"

Leigh Evans was born in Montreal, Quebec but now lives in Southern Ontario with her husband.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Trouble with Fate, her first novel, and reported the following:
How would The Trouble with Fate fare in the potentially sales-sinking Page 69 test? Now there was a question. I made myself a cup of coffee and grabbed the bottle of Tums just in case.

Please, Leigh-of-the-past—don’t disappoint Leigh-of-the-present.

I opened the book and read the page.

Lucky, lucky me!

Oodles to choose from—Hedi’s on the brink of turning her life upside down.
There was a gap in the bushes between the two businesses. I pushed through it, chewing the inside of my lip as I tried to conquer my pre game jitters. The trembling would stop when it was go time. I had no plan. I never have a plan. Usually, I just count on opportunity.
Up to that day, Hedi Peacock had been relatively successful at the whole staying under the radar thing. No one had really figured out that their barista wasn’t precisely mortal. And frankly, if the Alpha of Creemore hadn’t kidnapped Lou, Hedi’s destiny would have continued running along the same bumpy but somewhat monotonous path. Our girl had boiled life down to three things: her job at Starbucks; her Fae amulet, Merry; and her 9/10ths batty Aunt Lou.

But the big bad wolf did abduct Hedi’s aunt, and now, she’s got a dilemma. The only way he’ll give her back is if she steals another amulet—the pretty blue one hanging around the neck of the one Werewolf Hedi swore she’d kill if she ever met again.

Which leads us to page 69: Hedi’s tracked down her quarry, Robson Trowbridge, and she’s ready to do something she’s actually very good at.


And then running like hell.

Too bad Trowbridge can run faster than she can…
Learn more about the book and author at Leigh Evans's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 21, 2013

"The Book of Why"

Nicholas Montemarano is the author of the novel, A Fine Place (2002), and the short story collection If the Sky Falls (2005), a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Book of Why, and reported the following:
Before I say anything about page 69 of The Book of Why, I want you to read this excerpt and imagine what kind of novel it might come from.
Even in the dark I could see the outline of the closet door. I got out of bed, turned on the light, and put my hand on the knob…

I imagined him laughing as he stood up from the operating table, where they must have pronounced him dead. I imagined him tiptoeing into the hallway, down the stairs, and outside to a cab. He could have gotten home before us. He’d disappeared, and now, if I focused my thoughts, he would reappear.

I stood with my hand on the knob, listening for his breathing.

He might wait until morning, I thought.

He might wait until the wake or the burial—a knock from inside the coffin as it’s lowered.

He might wait years.

Until then, he would be the voice in the static between stations; the creak on the attic steps; the rain against my bedroom window; the wind that blew leaves across the backyard; a blue jay on our clothesline; footsteps, shadows, silence; any sound that broke silence.
If you read only this page, you might conclude that you’re in the middle of a Stephen King novel. My novel is, at its heart, a love story, and it asks big questions about control and fate and why we believe what we believe, and it can be a little spooky (messages from the dead, mysterious signs, strange coincidences), but it’s not in Stephen King territory.

Except maybe it is—just a little bit. The scene above does take place on Halloween, after all. Now that I’ve looked at page 69 in isolation, I’m remembering a few other moments in the novel that might raise the hair on the back of your neck.

The narrator of The Book of Why, Eric Newborn, is a self-help author and inspirational speaker who believes that we can create happiness and success with positive thinking. He spends part of the novel looking back on his childhood, tracing the origins of his beliefs. His father was an endearingly eccentric, almost magical figure who first put these ideas into Eric’s head.

Page 69 follows one of the novel’s high events: Eric’s father has just died suddenly, and Eric can’t quite believe it. He’s back home from the hospital, in his bedroom, trying to sleep. Earlier that evening, his father had a heart attack while hiding in Eric’s closet. With this information in mind, go back and reread the excerpt above. My guess is that it will probably be less spooky than sad—just a boy trying to imagine his father alive again.
Learn more about the book and author at Nicholas Montemarano's website, Facebook page, and Twiiter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Little Wolves"

Thomas Maltman’s essays, poetry, and fiction have been published in many literary journals. He has an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His first novel, The Night Birds, won an Alex Award, a Spur Award, and the Friends of American Writers Literary Award. In 2009 the American Library Association chose The Night Birds as an “Outstanding Book for the College Bound.” He’s taught for five years at Normandale Community College and lives in the Twin Cities area. Little Wolves, his second novel, made the January 2013 Indie Next List and is an Amazon Book of the Month.

Maltman applied the Page 69 Test to Little Wolves and reported the following:
I find the Page 69 test suits my second novel Little Wolves, a story of murder in a small town, even though the action on that page is quiet. The novel features a braided narrative, a folktale woven into the story of a father searching for answers after his son has done something terrible, and a pastor’s wife and local school teacher who wonders if she could have prevented what happened. The pastor’s wife is pregnant, a failed scholar in Anglo-Saxon literature, and in this passage from page sixty-nine, a stranger slides a note under the door, a riddle like the ones she taught her class, and Clara is further haunted by her dead student.
Wolves under moon

child in her skin

the end comes soon

she will suffer for her sin.

Someone knew. Someone knew about the notes she had been keeping.

The first note she discovered near the overhead, pleated in a neat square with her full name printed on the outside. It was Clara’s third day as a long-term substitute and she needed to get the journals written out on the transparencies for first period. She unfolded the note, wondering who had left it there:

You have such a nice laugh, it makes me warm inside. But even when you are laughing your eyes look sad. You look like the loneliest person in the world.

Clara didn’t know what to do with it. She searched her mind for the faces of those who sat near the overhead, who might have slipped this note here. Part of her wanted to throw it away. Keeping it invited an intimacy. Keeping it meant the words printed there were true in ways she wasn’t ready to think about. She put it in her desk drawer, telling herself she would throw it away after school. But she never did and every other day when she came in the notes were waiting for her in the same place, tucked carefully under the big bulky overhead.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Maltman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"The Start of Everything"

Emily Winslow is an American living in Cambridge, England. She trained as an actor at Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious drama conservatory and earned a master’s degree in museum studies from Seton Hall University. For six years she worked for Games magazine, creating increasingly elaborate and lavishly illustrated logic puzzles that were often issue centerpieces. The Whole World, her first novel, came out from Delacorte Press/Random House in 2010.

Winslow applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Start of Everything, and reported the following:
The Start of Everything's page 69 is a short half-page of text under a chapter heading. It's set shortly after an event that is supposed to be a surprise to the reader, and in referencing it gives away a major plot point.

So here's my cheat: instead of spoiling the book I'll give you a little of page 6 and of page 9. Between them, they introduce the alternating threads that structure the book.

Page six is a chapter end, and has only these words on it:

One of Trevor’s buttons had a wild thread unravelling through it. It was right in front of my face.

He backed up until there was space for him to move sideways, and he let me pass.
Mathilde is frightened of everything, and it's not clear what is actually a threat to her and what she merely perceives to be a threat. These chapters are in her point of view, and I hope for the reader to experience the unease of seeing the world through her eyes.

Page nine is an argument between detectives Morris Keene and Chloe Frohmann. They take turns narrating these present-tense chapters of investigation. Neither are at full strength. Morris has just returned from time off after a serious hand injury that continues to limit his abilities; Chloe discovers here how responsible she feels for that injury. Later, she discovers more to feel guilty about: that she doesn't trust him.
The white, bumpy scar across his fingers stands out in the daylight. It wasn’t so obvious in the hospital. The wound to his abdomen had seemed so much worse.... I get it over with. “Some people feel that I let you down. That you shouldn’t have been alone.”

He glances at me, indignant, then back at the road. “Who said that?”

“It doesn’t matter who said it. Everyone thinks it.”

“They think I can’t interview a witness on my own? Because that’s what I was doing, interviewing a witness.”

“I know, Keene, I— ”

“I didn’t know, and you didn’t know, what was going to happen. I don’t need a nanny, for fuck’s sake.”

“You do realise that this misplaced concern isn’t aimed at you but at me? I should have been there. Two of us, and it wouldn’t have happened the way that it did.”

“You can’t . . .” He shakes his head, eases into a roundabout, and continues once on the other side: “You can’t control everything. So my physiotherapist tells me, between exercises. You can’t control everything, or always know what you’re going to need, until you need it. You didn’t know; I didn’t know. The only person who did something wrong was the one with the knife.”

My muscles unclench. Relief blurs my eyes. All this time I thought I’d been feeling outrage at the accusation; I’d actually been feeling guilt.
Learn about the book and author at Emily Winslow's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Thread on Arrival"

Amanda Lee is a pseudonym Gayle Trent uses for her cozy mystery series featuring a heroine who owns an embroidery shop. The series is set on the Oregon Coast and features Marcy Singer, a spunky, thirty-something, entrepreneur who is handy with a needle.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the fifth novel in the series, Thread on Arrival, and  reported the following:
Page 69 of Thread on Arrival is not particularly representative of the book as a whole, but I do think someone skimming the page would read on to see what happens next. Thread on Arrival details the events surrounding an antique tapestry, a sunken treasure, and a murder. Page 69 reminds the reader that the novel’s heroine, Marcy Singer, is an embroidery expert and shop owner. And the scene that begins on the previous page gives another character a chance to slip away before Marcy can speak with her further. Page 69 also gives the reader a little backstory about Marcy’s mom, sought-after costume designer Beverly Singer. The reader will quickly understand that Marcy and her mom have a loving relationship and that Marcy often confides in her. In Thread on Arrival, Marcy’s mom helps to set events in motion that determine the outcome of the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Gayle Trent's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Out of Warranty"

Haywood Smith's novels include Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, The Red Hat Club, Red Hat Club Rides Again, Wedding Belles, Ladies of the Lake, Waking Up Dixie, and Wife-in-Law.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Out of Warranty, and  reported the following:
On page 69, curmudgeon Jack shoves the info about his condition into a mental cubbyhole and slams the door, distracting himself by trying to find the parts to fix the derelict tractors in his yard. Stuck in gridlock on the way home, he stews about how much money it cost him at the specialist's office.

I know a funny book about health problems sounds weird, but Out of Warranty was inspired by my own weird form of arthritis, which I've had since childhood, but never knew what was causing my problems--until I got bitten by a rabid raccoon. The book is about a 55-year-old widow with my condition who goes broke paying for her healthcare and meds, and decides she has to remarry for better health insurance. When dating and fix-ups don't work out, she ends up marrying a one-legged curmudgeon with the same condition for his health benefits, and they both live happily ever after --in separate bedrooms in "like," with lots of house rules.

I used a male point of view to contrast the female response to health challenges. So many men just don't want to know what's wrong with them, but when they find out, they go into denial. Jack just wants to be left alone to read, uninterrupted, for the rest of his life. He lives his life on his terms, but only when it looks like he's not going to live much longer is he finally willing to compromise and get with the program. He can't afford to make his house safe to live in, so he looks elsewhere. Older people face health challenges every day, but in America, when you have a chronic condition, insurance often stops paying for necessary meds and procedures. After what I've been through with my insurer, I send up the medical profession, the health insurance industry, and the drug companies.
Learn more about the book and author at Haywood Smith's website.

Writers Read: Haywood Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall"

Nancy Kress is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy titles, including Dogs, Beggars in Spain, Nothing Human, Probability Space, Stinger, and her bestselling Write Great Fiction series. She is a recipient of the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and John W. Campbell Memorial awards, and her work has been translated into 16 languages.

Kress applied the Page 69 Test to 2012's After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall and reported the following:
Page 69 of After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall – oh dear, oh dear. I usually say in interviews that I don’t write sex scenes, and here is one. Or, rather, a post-sex scene, and of a controversial nature. Not because of what was done, but because of who was doing it, and why. The page is a fierce argument, and not even between the two people who just had sex.

The novella is about survival after a catastrophic, Earth-ravaging event. Twenty-one years later, the survivors and their offspring think they know what happened (they’re wrong). They think they know why only a few of them were preserved in the alien-built “Shell” (wrong again). They are trying to restart the human race, but most of them are infertile from radiation, and they need every possible baby they can get (on this, they’re right). Led by an extraordinary woman named McAllister, they are both stealing infants from the past and trying to desperately to conceive their own. Unfortunately, the desires of the heart and the needs of survival don’t always align.

So page 69 is typical of the book in a few ways: (1) it showcases both human desperation and human practicality, (2) it involves emotional conflict because even people with the same goal may have different ideas of how to reach it, and (3) the scene is carried by Pete, my fifteen-year-old protagonist whom one reviewer called “the most poignant character in SF in a long time.” I loved writing Pete. I hope you will enjoy reading him.
Learn more about the author and her work at Nancy Kress' website and her blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Rage Is Back"

Adam Mansbach’s books include the number one international bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, the California Book Award– winning novel The End of the Jews, and the cult classic Angry Black White Boy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and The Believer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Rage Is Back, and reported the following:
Page 69 falls in the middle of a flashback, as Dondi, the book's eighteen-year-old biracial narrator, relates a sequence of events five years earlier that unfolded after his mother's nervous breakdown and brief stay in a mental hospital. He ended up staying with the upstairs neighbors in their building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn – and being present during a confrontation that led two of the apartment's residents, Knowledge Born and Twenty-Twenty, to forcibly evict the third, Reggie, after discovering that he'd been jerking them on the rent. It's one of several relatively self-contained episodes in the book, stories within the larger story, and reflects my desire for Rage Is Back to range freely, for Dondi's voice to carry the story in whatever direction he feels is necessary and for the reader to trust him enough to carry the mission through, and feel like all the digressions pay off. So in one sense, page 69 falls outside the main plot of the book, but on the other, I'd hope it would pull a reader in anyway. Here it is; you be the judge:
When Reggie came home, the three of us were waiting in the living room: Knowledge Born on the couch, a baseball bat stashed beneath him, Twenty-Twenty leaning on a metal cane he’d found in the back of the hall closet, and your boy tucked well out of the way, over by the fire escape.

Sit down, Twenty-Twenty said, as scripted. We need to talk.

Reggie parked himself on the futon. What’s up, fellas?

I called Verizon, Twenty-Twenty said, hand on his hip. There’s no such thing as a reinstatement fee. You owe me sixty bucks.

It wasn’t a reinstatement fee, dude, it was the money we owed on the bill, plus they said they had to charge us for basic service in advance because we didn’t pay. Reggie looked around the room, then raised his voice a little, slapped his palms against his knees and bowed his arms out from his sides. What, you think I tried to rip you off?

My heart was bucking, and if Reggie had so much as made eye contact I might have jumped out the fucking window, but it was interesting to see how fast he played the wounded-indignation card. I could see why it had been effective in the past, with hippies like Sue: it forced your hand, flushed any inner doubt up to the surface. And at the same time, there was a current of intimidation running below it, like even a righteous man will rise up to defend his honor, and lest you forget I happen to be a large bear-like motherfucker.

The plan was to pick Reggie apart point by point, get him to cop to the small offenses before they raised the major stuff, but that opening statement killed Twenty-Twenty’s patience. He dipped into his room while Reggie was trying to clarify the phone situation, came back with a stack of papers.

Call Verizon right now, man. Ask them if we–

Twenty-Twenty flicked the latest overdue notice into Reggie’s lap.

You know what? Fuck the phone bill. Why are we eight thousand dollars in debt?

I gotta give Reggie credit. His face fell, but he picked it right back up and tried to turn the tables.

What the fuck were you doing in my room? he demanded, rising a few inches off the couch.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mansbach's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Is Back.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 11, 2013

"The Midwife’s Tale"

Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and recently leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Midwife's Tale, and reported the following:
I was a bit surprised how well The Midwife’s Tale fared on the Page 69 Test. It introduces Bridget Hodgson, my narrator – I use the first person, so it more or less has to! – but also my character’s nemesis, and the city of York which looms in the background of the entire story. The story is set in 1644, so the city is a tad less sanitary than today:
As we neared the butcher shops, the stench from offal littering the gutters struck us with an almost physical force. We passed one shopkeeper who stood, knife in hand, over a large sow whose throat he had cut moments before. The creature jerked as blood spurted from the wound with every beat of its heart, each one weaker than the last. The butcher stared at us, as if daring us to report him to the authorities for fouling the gutters.
One reaction that my early readers had to The Midwife’s Tale was the lack of smells. Why doesn’t my narrator talk about the stench? The best answer, of course, is that she would not have found it worth noting – pre-modern cities smelled bad, and that was that. But I also wanted to take advantage of particularly ripe portions of the city, so I engineered this little detour through a neighborhood known as The Shambles. (The Shambles still exist today, but smell markedly better.)
View the trailer for The Midwife’s Tale, and learn more about the book and author at Sam Thomas's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Midwife’s Tale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Safe House"

Chris Ewan began his crime-writing career with The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, which was called one the "best books for grownups" by Publishers Weekly and AARP The Magazine, and one of the best thrillers of the year by the London Times.

Ewan applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, the stand-alone thriller Safe House, and reported the following:
If you were reading Safe House, I’d hope that you’d be seriously tantalised by page 69. There’s a big reveal on page 70, one that launches the reader into Part Two of the novel and ushers a cast of dangerous characters into the mix, and much of the work on page 69 is geared towards building suspense.

Here’s the start of the page:
The boiler looked just as I’d left it. The front plate fitted back into position. The exterior wiped clean. ‘The door to the kitchen’s on your left. There’s a light cord next to it.’

She reached above her head to yank the garage door closed. It was at knee height when she ducked down and peered out from below.

‘I think I could have worked that one out for myself,’ she said.
In isolation, this works to some degree, but it helps if you know the background to what’s happening. The guy doing the narrating is the book’s main character, Rob Hale. He’s a heating engineer who recently met a beautiful blonde woman called Lena in a lonely cottage in the middle of some woods. He took her out on his motorbike and they crashed. But ever since he came round from the head injury he sustained in the accident, almost nobody will believe that Lena exists. The police think that he imagined Lena, not least because his description of her bears a striking resemblance to his recently deceased sister, Laura. The only person who really buys his story is a private investigator called Rebecca Lewis.

In the section quoted above, Rob and Rebecca have returned to the isolated cottage where he claims to have met Lena. It’s an important moment for Rob, but Rebecca freezes him out of it. Why? Well, because she has an uncompromising attitude, not to mention her own agenda, and I think there’s some indication of that here.

The other character to feature on page 69 is Rob’s dog, Rocky, a pedigree golden retriever.
‘Rocky?’ I called, my ribs smarting with the effort. ‘Rocky?’

I knew my dog. I knew he wouldn’t come right away. This was his first adventure in days and he’d want to savour it.

I took a moment to think about where he might be…
Where he might be is in the woods behind the cottage.
A rough path had been beaten through the grass to my right. It looked Rocky-sized and led to the back corner of the garden, where a wire fence had been pushed flat against the ground by the encroaching treeline. I waded through the grass. Stepped over the fence.


I heard a bark. Coming from ahead.
And that’s where page 69 ends, leaving both Rob and the reader to wonder what Rocky may have found in the darkness of the woods. I think there’s some sense here that it won’t be good. Perhaps it’s even scary – and with Rebecca occupied inside the cottage, Rob is going to have to deal with it by himself.

Spooky, right? Well, I certainly hope so.
Learn more about the author and his work at Chris Ewan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 7, 2013


Dean Crawford worked as a graphic designer before he left the industry to pursue his lifelong dream of writing full-time. An aviation and motorcycle enthusiast, he lives with his family in Surrey, England.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the UK paperback edition of his latest novel, Immortal, and reported the following:
Page 69:
What people don't realise is that human diseases should have been eradicated by natural selection by now via inherited immunity or random mutation. The reason they haven't been is because humans mate young and for most of our evolution have also died young. The presence of extensive age-related disease is a relatively new phenomenon because it's only recently that people have lived until their seventies and beyond on a regular basis. That means that natural selection acts weakly against age-related disease because resilience to it hasn't yet had the chance to evolve within us. My work involved studying how genetic manipulation might serve humanity by acting as a substitute for natural selection and creating specific genes resistant to such diseases as Huntington's or Alzheimer's.
Page 69 describes a character's explanation for why evolution has not yet eradicated age-related disease in humans. The story of the search for human immortality starts as so many scientific endeavours do, with a noble quest: to cure age-related disease. But soon the spectres of profit, and control of population and pandemics, take priority as capitalist interests turn a medical investigation into a race for control of the most powerful elixir the world has ever seen.
Learn more about the book and author at Dean Crawford's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Terminal Island"

Walter Greatshell's books include Xombies: Apocalypticon and Xombies: Apocalypse Blues.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Terminal Island, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel Terminal Island is not particularly indicative of the book as a whole, but it does give a crucial bit of insight into the main character, Henry Cadmus. It is a flashback to Henry’s childhood, when his mother brought him to Catalina and he first experienced the romance…and the horror…of the island.

In alternating chapters, these disturbing boyhood memories are contrasted with Henry’s present-day return to Catalina, where he has come with his wife and baby daughter to reconcile with his estranged mother…and hopefully put to rest the demons of his past. Unfortunately, Henry finds that those demons are still there waiting for him…

Without more ado, here is page 69 of Terminal Island:
Chapter Ten: FISH HEAD

Henry was in love.

He spent the next few days in a delirium of romance, the island taking on even more fantastical Technicolor hues than before. Everything Henry had been doing by himself or with his mother—fishing, snorkeling, exploring the town—he now started doing with Christy, and it made all the difference. She brought a fresh perspective, a whole new way of looking at things.

For instance, when Henry was alone he was accustomed to ignoring the pleas of the coin-divers—that group of local kids who loitered under the base of the pier in the afternoons, cadging quarters from tourists. In the company of his mother he might ask for some change to toss, mildly interested in the feeding frenzy it provoked, but otherwise he passed them by.

Christy, however took evil pleasure in tormenting them. She would fake tossing a coin, like a dog owner pretending to throw a stick, and when the boys were wise to that trick she would toss a bottle cap, or flattened gum, or anything else resembling a coin, so that they dove furiously after these worthless item. When they objected she would harangue them with insults, long strings of the
And that’s it, the end of page 69. A little puppy-love, a boy’s first crush; nothing too scary, right? But Henry’s infatuation with bad-girl Christy will lead him to his first close encounter with the evil lurking beneath the island’s beautiful fa├žade…an evil he will never escape.
View the video trailer for Terminal Island, and visit Walter Greatshell's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"The One I Left Behind"

Jennifer McMahon's books include Dismantled, the New York Times bestseller Island of Lost Girls, and the breakout debut novel Promise Not to Tell. She grew up in suburban Connecticut, and graduated from Goddard College. Over the years, she has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and has worked with mentally ill adults and children in a few different capacities. Currently, she lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella.

McMahon applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The One I Left Behind, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The One I Left Behind, the scene that unfolds -- while not fraught with the tension or suspense found in other parts of the book -- gives the reader a sense of three important characters. We are back in the summer of 1985. The narrator, Reggie, is 13 years old. She is in her living room watching TV with her best friend Tara, and Reggie’s Aunt Lorraine. In just a few short moments, their lives are going to change: they’re about learn about that a woman’s hand has been left in a milk carton on the steps of the police station – it’s the very first time the killer Neptune strikes. Neptune will eventually take Reggie’s own mother as his final victim.

But they don’t know any of that yet. On page 69, they’re in the living room eating Doritos and watching television, happily oblivious. The girls have to turn off MTV so Lorraine can watch the local news at noon (she has a crush on the weatherman).

Here is a bit from page 69:
After the news, Reggie knew Lorraine would go to the garage for her fly rod and waders, then make her way down the slope of the backyard to the creek, where she’d stay until it got too dark to cast flies. The left side of the couch where she sat night after night was infused with the tangy, fish smell that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. Reggie half expected to look at her neck one day and see gills.

“Two more weeks until summer vacation,” Lorraine said, still focused on the loose thread.

“Mmmm,” Tara aid, reaching for another Dorito. “Then it’s good-bye, Brighton Falls Junior High. Thank God.”

“Maybe you two should get jobs,” Lorraine said.

Tara laughed. “We’re too young.”

“I was working in my father’s shop when I was twelve,” Lorraine said.

“That was back before the days of child labor laws,” Tara shot back. “The Dark Ages,” she added, wiping orange cheese powder on her black jeans as she gave Reggie a conspiratorial wink.
I like that we’re getting a look at their ordinary world where the biggest thing that’s happening to them is being about to graduate from 8th grade. They don’t know (though the reader does) that there’s a killer in their midst and that Neptune’s crimes will tear the whole town, as well as Reggie’s own family, apart.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer McMahon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Promise Not to Tell.

The Page 69 Test: Island of Lost Girls.

The Page 69 Test: Dismantled.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Seven Locks"

Christine Wade is a researcher and writer who fell in love with the Hudson River when she first attended Bard College and has lived on its shores in New York City and the Catskill Mountains ever since. Seven Locks, her first novel, won a James Jones Fellowship Award for an unpublished novel in 2009.

Wade applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
An easy way to think about working up a novel is that you pose a question to the reader ---and then you make interesting pathways to lead your reader to the answer. Of course the question has to be intriguing from the moment it is introduced and the reader’s interest must be piqued along the way.

On page 69 of Seven Locks the inaugural question of the novel is restated and pondered:

What is the fate of a Dutch farmer who on the eve of the American Revolution mysteriously and suddenly vanishes, leaving his wife to take care of two young children and tend a farm at the foot of the Catskill Mountains?

By page 69 of Seven Locks the lost man’s wife is seemingly on a quest to find him, but also harbors another secret dilemma that she is seeking to resolve. She has forged an unlikely alliance with a French trapper and is hoping it will be reliable enough to help her get crucial information from the local indigenous tribe.
“If your husband has gone wild they may know of it, and they might know if he has died somewhere. Or if he lives somewhere. These people know many things, much more than any ever admit.”

“He could be anywhere. Will they tell me if they know?”
By this point in the story the main character is marking her trail through the forest by tying cloth to twigs so she can get home again---much as she would in a folk tale. The connection between the story and the archetypes of folklore is purposefully cultivated. And on page 69 the flavors of the food the characters are consuming are again wafting across the page: a description of the 18th Century colonial cuisine is often detailed throughout the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Christine Wade's website.

--Marshal Zeringue