Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Friday's Harbor"

Diane Hammond is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Seeing Stars, Hannah's Dream, Going to Bend, and Homesick Creek. She served as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their corgis.

Hammond applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Friday's Harbor, and reported the following:
At page 69, Neva (Truman Levy’s girlfriend) is preparing to swim with killer whale Friday for the first time—mostly as seen through Truman’s eyes. It is classic Truman. He is a man who doesn’t trust that good luck will last and who worries that the fact of his deep love for Neva, alone, will court disaster.

At the top of the page, Gabriel Jump, Neva’s boss and Friday’s senior killer whale trainer, is giving Neva instructions about how to initiate this new, in-water relationship with Friday. Truman tells Gabriel,
“Just don’t let him, you know, eat her. Okay?” Truman told Gabriel. “No eating.”

“C’mon—he’s a pussycat,” said Gabriel.

“That sounds like someone’s epitaph.”
It is on this page that Neva’s trust in Friday is first tested. She will spend countless hours in the water with him after this first introduction, and while she’s aware that Friday is an animal that could badly injure if not kill her, she’d been an elephant keeper for years, and was used to keeping her fearfulness down and her vigilance up.
Learn more about the book and author at Diane Hammond's website and follow her on Facebook.

The Page 69 TestHannah’s Dream.

The Page 69 Test: Seeing Stars.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Diane Hammond & Petey and Haagen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Mike Maden's lifelong fascination with history and politics ultimately led to a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Davis, focusing on the areas of conflict, technology and international relations. After brief stints as a campus lecturer, political consultant and media commentator, Maden turned to studies in theology and a decade of work with a Dallas-based non-profit where he eventually discovered screenwriting. Drone, the first book in Maden's new thriller series, is the result of a challenge by two published friends to try his hand at novel writing.

Maden applied the “Page 69 Test” to Drone and reported the following:
Drone is a military thriller but war is an extension of politics, so it’s terribly important that “politics” is accurately portrayed in a novel like this even though it isn’t a political thriller per se.

Page 69 of Drone lands on a terribly important plot point—a big reveal for some of the characters involved, chock full o’ dramatic irony because the attentive reader already has the piece of information that the characters on this page just now discover. For that reason alone, I’m not going to reproduce the page here. But it’s a good page to talk about briefly. President Margaret Myers is a decisive first term president because she comes to the job with extensive experience in the corporate world and state government. But the quality of one’s decisions can only be as good as the data points upon which they are built and President Myers is being presented with a number of possibilities but few concrete facts by her advisors. Something terrible has happened on American soil and the American president intends to do something about it. Her problem on page 69 is that her best analysts are reasonably certain about the identity of the culprits, but is that good enough information to act upon? President Myers has sworn to defend the nation but she has also sworn to uphold the law which is decidedly uncertain in this instance. She’s forced to choose between “justice” and “the law.” Which will prevail? Unfortunately, this dilemma is becoming increasingly common in our republic which is a tragedy since we are a “nation of laws” that strives for “justice for all.”
Read more about Drone, and follow Mike Maden on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Drone by Mike Maden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Tina Connolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared all over, including in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Connolly applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Copperhead, and reported the following:
On page 69 in Copperhead (the sequel to last year's Ironskin) Helen has just gone looking for her sister Jane at Jane's flat in the slums. But the door is finally answered by someone else:
Helen realized after she spoke that it was a woman, despite the fact that she was wearing slacks. Her heavy, dark brown hair was cut in an asymmetric bob that fell across one of the mask's eyeholes, and the heavy scent of jasmine perfume lingered around her. "You must be looking for Jane," the woman said as Helen entered, stripping off her lilac gloves and blowing on her hands.

"Yes," said Helen. "I'm her sister. But–"

"Helen!" she said. "How delightful. And so fashionably brave, too." Her finger inscribed a circle around her own mask, indicating Helen's lack of one. "I think someone beat us here. Do you know if Jane's safe?"
Page 69 is a pretty great random page because besides showing Helen's determination to bravely do a lot of things she's never done before, it introduces one of my favorite characters, Frye. Frye's a flamboyant theatre actress. She was just supposed to have a small part in the book, but she waltzed in and made herself indispensable to the plot. She takes Helen under her wing—but also, believes in her. And her home—a bohemian hanging-out place for a horde of local actors and musicians—becomes a central meeting place as Helen tries to solve the mystery of Jane's disappearence, and stay one step ahead of the political group Copperhead, and the dangerous fey.
Learn more about the book and author at Tina Connolly's website, blog, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Copperhead.

Writers Read: Tina Connolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Shadow of the Alchemist"

Jeri Westerson's first five books featuring Crispin Guest are Veil of Lies, Serpent in the Thorns, The Demon's Parchment, Troubled Bones, and Blood Lance.

Westerson applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the series, Shadow of the Alchemist, and reported the following:
Shadow of the Alchemist has a murder, a relic, and a Moriarity-type villain to cross wits with our hero, Crispin Guest, ex-knight turned detective. Crispin has become known as The Tracker, a man who can solve any puzzle or find any missing object—for a price. Perenelle, the wife of infamous alchemist Nicholas Flamel, has been kidnapped and the culprit wants his most prized creation, the Philosopher’s Stone. Flamel’s assistant is murdered and ancient symbols turn up on walls and carved on stones throughout London. Crispin must decipher them in a strange treasure hunt to find the man responsible. What follows is a chase down the shadowy streets of London, between men who know the secrets of poisons and purges, sorcery and forbidden sciences. With the help of Flamel’s deaf mute servant Avelyn and Crispin's apprentice, the indomitable Jack Tucker, Crispin races against time to save Perenelle from disaster, and the Philosopher’s Stone from falling into the wrong hands.

With this excerpt we are in the middle of the action. Much has transpired and Crispin is trying to sort it out.

From page 69:
“I don’t understand you,” he growled. He took her by the shoulders and propelled her roughly toward the door. “You must leave!”

She shook him off and gritted her teeth in frustration. She looked around the room and ran from corner to corner, etching more signs on the walls with her fingers.

“She’s gone mad,” said Jack in a whisper.

“She is trying to tell me something, but I don’t have time to decipher it.” He ran his hand over his face. He had passed quite a pleasant night with her. It cheered his heart and made some of the pain go away, but now the light of day had arrived and the fancies of the night were best forgotten.

Night. He looked at his apprentice who kept his eyes on the young woman. “Where were you most of the night, Jack?”

“I was at Master Flamel’s, sir. I thought I should await a message from the abductor since the ransom was not taken.”

“And was there a message?”

“No, sir. None. And Master Flamel was having a right fit. I spent most of the night calming him down. I thought to spend the night, as Avelyn had not returned… Course, now I see why. But I thought you would want me back, so though it was late, I returned. But Master Crispin, if it was Lord Henry in St. Paul’s to collect the ransom and you caught him at it—”

“I am not convinced he is involved.”

“Oh. Well. Perhaps. But if not him, then who?”

“I don’t know. They want this precious stone. And yet Flamel exchanged the ransom for one of no value. He told me it was to buy time, but that is a very unsatisfactory answer.”

“Wait,” said Jack, eyes pinging back and forth between Avelyn’s still frantic movements and Crispin’s stillness. “Why would Lord Henry have need for a valuable commodity such as that broach? He has his own wealth, almost as rich as the duke.”

“I know. I did wonder that, too. Which makes me all the more convinced that Henry had little to do with it.”

“A coincidence his being there, then?”

“No, not a coincidence. I don’t believe in those.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Jeri Westerson's website and her "Getting Medieval" blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Now You See It"

Jane Tesh is a retired media specialist and pianist for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, NC. She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries, A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, and A Little Learning, featuring an ex-beauty queen turned detective and her con man husband, and the Grace Street Mysteries, Stolen Hearts, Mixed Signals, and the newest, Now You See It, featuring PI David Randall and the many Southern characters who live at 302 Grace Street.

Tesh applied the Page 69 Test to Now You See It and reported the following:
On page 69, a very short page and the last page of chapter seven of Now You See It, private investigator David Randall has insisted his friend Camden go to a doctor to check on Cam’s fading voice. Randall actually uses this as an excuse to ask the doctor about some pills he found while investigating the death of magician, Taft Finch. Taft’s brother Lucas had hired Randall to find a special box that may have once belonged to Houdini, but the case took a dark turn when Taft was found dead in a locked trunk at the local Magic Club in what at first looked like a botched attempt at an escape trick, but what Randall now suspects is murder.
“Something else I want you to see.” I took the pills out of my pocket.

Nick looked them over. “This is Unisom.”

“Sleeping pills, right?”

“Yes, doxylamine succinate, to be exact, one of the most potent you can get without a prescription.”

“Powerful enough to kill someone?”

“Depends. How many pills, how they’re delivered, if they’re mixed with other things. But, yes. Hope you’re not planning a murder.”

“Something to do with a case. Now, I know you’re not supposed to mix your drugs with alcohol or operate heavy machinery. What’s the deal with this pill?”

“Definitely not something you want to mix with alcohol. No sleep medication should be used with alcohol, and this one shouldn’t be taken with Zyrtec or Benadryl. Both those drugs will enhance the side effects, which include blackouts and seizures.”

Blackouts. That’s all the murderer needed in order to make certain Taft was securely locked away.

“Thanks,” I said. “Thanks for fitting us in today.”

“No problem. Let me know how things go, Cam.”

Camden thanked him. When we got in the car, he said, “Do we know exactly when and how Taft died?”

“That’s what I’m going to ask Jordan.”
Now Randall knows for certain that Taft was murdered. Armed with this new information, Randall will check with Jordan Finley, his contact at the police department, and continue to question the colorful and theatrical members of the Magic Club. Each one has a motive, whether it’s revenge, jealousy, or unrequited love. Randall will have to perform some tricks of his own to solve this case.
Learn more about the book and author at Jane Tesh's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Mixed Signals.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jane Tesh and Winkie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Not a Drop to Drink"

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. McGinnis has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Not a Drop to Drink, and reported the following:
Not a Drop to Drink is a story of survival in a brutal world where drinkable water is rare. It's also about a teen girl learning how to move beyond the feral isolationist lifestyle her mother taught her, and move from just surviving to living and becoming a true human being who can interact with others, and care for them. The voice is stark and bleak, the presence of fear hangs over the whole book. I think that page 69 is a good representation of all these things.

The scene finds Lynn butchering a deer she has killed, but worried that she hunted too soon in the season as it's not cold enough for her to freeze the meat outdoors. Her neighbor, Stebbs, is offering to cure it for her using salt (which she doesn't have) if she'll split with him anything she finds at a nearby camp where they believe the inhabitants have died off. The survival aspect is front and center, her interaction with Stebbs stiff and uncomfortable, as she's only recently begun speaking to him. As she walks away from her lifelong home to raid the stream camp, she feels anxiety and guilt, the constant worry of whether her mother would approve of her new ways hanging heavily around her.

From page 69:
She ignored him while she skinned subcutaneous fat off the carcass. he had a good point, but she didn't want to admit that she'd made a mistake in shooting the deer too early to freeze the meat.

"There's another way, you know," Stebbs said. "You can salt it, hang it in the trees to cure."

"I don't have enough salt."

"I do. I'll butcher this while you're gone; you split with me whatever the Streamers had."

Lynn didn't ask how he had enough salt that he could offer to preserve a whole deer for a neighbor. The process of rotting had begun the moment the heart stopped pumping, and already the flies were gathering at the fold of the wound she'd opened.

"Go get your salt then," she said stiffly.

Walking away from the house felt like a crime, even though she trusted Stebbs. The familiar roof looked distinctly odd from a distance, the tilted angles of the second story at odds with the lightly sloping section over the kitchen where she and Mother had always camped. When it was blocked from view by trees, Lynn clamped down on the surge of betrayal that filled her gut. She pushed the ever-present worry of whether Mother would approve to the back of her mind, as she crossed the clover field she'd seen every day of her life but never set foot in once.
Learn more about the book and author at Mindy McGinnis's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"The Rosie Project"

Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant with an international reputation. His screen adaptation of The Rosie Project won the Australian Writers Guild/Inscription Award for Best Romantic Comedy Script. Simsion lives in Australia with his wife, Anne, and their two children, and is currently working on a sequel to The Rosie Project.

Simsion applied the Page 69 Test to The Rosie Project and reported the following:
Not this page! When The Rosie Project was reviewed on a national television book-club program in Australia, just after its publication, only one panelist had reservations – and this was the page she cited. “We’ve seen this joke before,” was the essence of her problem with it. Man walks into gay bar, doesn’t realize where he is or what’s going on.

I’ll concede it’s not the funniest scene in the book, but it isn’t meant to be. The fact that there is any comedy at all as we walk our protagonist to a meeting with Rosie is because there’s comedy wherever Don Tillman goes. Much of it is observational, but Don Tillman isn’t a stand-up comedian pretending he doesn’t get what’s going on and asking us to play along – Don Tillman really doesn’t get it.

The Rosie Project is about a highly-intelligent but socially-challenged genetics professor who sets out to find a partner, scientifically. His quest takes him beyond the world of academe and a regimented solo life in which he has become comfortable. A gay bar – and even nightlife – is foreign to him. How he sees and deals with that foreignness and how others deal with him is what the book is about. I’ve tried to follow my comedy mentor Tim Ferguson’s advice to “make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em think.”

And, while I wouldn’t hold page 69 up as the funniest or most moving or insightful in the book, it’s representative of Don Tillman’s voice and of the tone of the story. If you can cope with this page, I think you’ll enjoy the rest.
Learn more about the book and author at Graeme Simsion's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Rosie Project.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Crooked Numbers"

Tim O’Mara has been teaching math and special education in the New York City public schools since 1987. Sacrifice Fly, his top-selling debut mystery introduced the series hero Raymond Donne, a Brooklyn public schoolteacher who was once an up-and-coming police officer until a tragic accident destroyed his knees and the future he envisioned on the force.

O’Mara applied the Page 69 Test to Crooked Numbers, the newly released second book in the Raymond Donne series, and reported the following:
Somewhat paradoxically, Page 69 is where Raymond tells his romantic interest, Allison Rogers, now may not be the right time to sleep together for the first time. They’re having drinks at Raymond’s favorite bar, The LineUp.

“Why don’t you think of me as a one-night stand?” she asks Ray. To which Ray responds, “I could do that, but I’m already starting to like you.”

This scene marked the first time in the two books that I actually wanted to smack my main character upside the head. I’m sure there will be more.
Learn more about the book and author at Tim O'Mara's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Crooked Numbers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Day One"

Nate Kenyon is the author of Bloodstone, a Bram Stoker Award finalist and winner of the P&E Horror Novel of the Year, The Reach, also a Stoker Award Finalist, The Bone Factory, Sparrow Rock, StarCraft: Ghost Spectres, and Diablo: The Order.

Kenyon applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Day One, and reported the following:
Day One is about the day machines become sentient and take over New York--and the young journalist and father who must escape the city to save his wife and young son. It has a lot of action, but there's also a lot of clever surveillance that feeds the plot and the sense of paranoia and dread.

On page 69, the city has experienced what appears to be some kind of terrorist attack. John Hawke, who was on an upper floor of a building when the attack occurred, has made his way to the lobby with a number of others. They have just fought their way down a nearly pitch-black stairwell without power, people are terrified and panicking, and nobody knows exactly what is going on.

Page 69 is a nice representation of the overall novel--there's a clear sense of panic as people try to get through the front doors, which are inexplicably locked, and at the same time, Hawke notices the surveillance camera mounted near the ceiling appears to be tracking him:
The alarms were relentless, drilling into Hawke's head. Young pulled herself away and he let her go, noticing something else strange; the security cameras mounted in the corners of the lobby that normally panned slowly back and forth were now moving deliberately, as if someone was controlling them.

He watched one of them swing around in his direction and stop, the camera's unblinking eye fixed on his location.
Then everything else is overwhelmed as a man picks up an office chair and hurls it through the glass doors and people surge out into the street:
It was like a dam had broken. The crowd surged forward, knocking away the rest of the glass that still hung to the frame, pushing and shoving each other to get through the opening.
What happens next? You'll have to read Day One to find out!
Learn more about the book and author at Nate Kenyon's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Day One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Jennifer duBois’s A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most acclaimed debuts of recent years. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and O: The Oprah Magazine chose it as one of the ten best books of the year.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Cartwheel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Cartwheel finds American foreign exchange student Lily Hayes and her roommate, Katy Kellers, in the basement of their Argentinean host family's home. It is Katy and Lily’s first time alone in the house together, and a “temporary, lukewarm camaraderie” has grown between them. In five weeks’ time Katy will be killed in this same basement, and Lily will become the investigation’s prime suspect; the evidence against her will include snarky e-mails she sent about Katy during the first days of their acquaintance. There will be no record of the conversation on page 69—their most substantial so far, as they debate the pros and cons of taking Communion at their host family’s church. It’s one of the first times in the book that Lily’s idiosyncratic idealism puts her at odds with the people around her, though it won’t be the last. “I’m just saying,” Katy says, with characteristic pragmatism. “A bite of toast, a swallow of wine, and they’re happy. Who cares?” Lily responds with characteristic stridency: “I think it’s really despicable to pretend to believe in it if you don’t.” “But if you don’t believe it, why do you care? If there is no God, it’s not like He’s gonna know,” says Katy. “But you’re gonna know,” says Lily.

The end of page 69 leaves Lily staring out the window at the house of the young man who will briefly become her boyfriend (as well as her only alibi for Katy’s murder), wondering who lives there. On the next page, Lily’s speculation is interrupted by a crash upstairs. Lily and Katy go to investigate—Lily wondering if a robber is in the house, Katy scolding Lily for having forgotten to lock the door. The moment is a glimpse of things to come, as well as a turning point—not least in the relationship between Lily and Katy, which grows more nuanced than anyone will realize once Katy is dead. Katy’s forbearance and light skepticism will sometimes challenge and enlighten Lily, sometimes bore and frustrate her—and later in the book, it’s the absence of these qualities that will condemn her. After the upstairs crash turns out to be only their drunken host father, Lily and Katy return to the basement, Lily stewing with disillusionment: “I mean, they seemed so happy. Their lives seemed perfect,” she says. “Well,” says Katy. “I guess we don’t really know that much about them.” The remark is an expression of humility and agnosticism, and the kind of thing Lily probably wouldn’t say—and after Katy is killed, it is the one thing that nobody says about Lily.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Jennifer duBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

My Book, The Movie: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Spider Woman's Daughter"

Anne Hillerman's debut novel, Spider Woman's Daughter, is a mystery set in the Southwest, including the Navajo Nation and Santa Fe. The book follows the further adventures of the characters Tony Hillerman made famous: Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn and Bernadette Manuelito. Anne Hillerman also is the author of the award-winning Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn and eight other books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Spider Woman's Daughter and reported the following:
My page sixty nine comes at the end of chapter five. It's short. Here's what it says:
After an hour, she quietly crept out of bed and went back to the kitchen to work on the files. By dawn, she had reviewed them all, made lists of possible suspects and their connections to Leaphorn. None of the criminals in the old cases except for Delos looked especially evil, especially motivated to shoot a man in cold blood. In fact, they all should be grateful to Leaphorn for attempting to reboot their lives.

She put on her Nikes when the sky began to change from black to gray and quietly opened the front door. She ran to greet the dawn.

When she came back, she smelled the sizzling bacon. She saw Chee, phone in one hand, spatula in the other. She could tell from the tension in his body that whatever news he listened to wasn't welcome.
Actually, and to my surprise, this excerpt does a good job of representing two important aspects of the book. The "she" is Bernadette Manuelito, affectionately known as Bernie. The excerpt shows her obsession with solving the crime, and her need to weave together the threads of clues to create a solid fabric of evidence to find the villain. The name of the mystery, Spider Woman's Daughter, refers to one of the Dine` Holy People, Spider Woman, the divinity who taught the Navajo how to weave. She also gave the Hero Twins important magic tools which ultimately helped them make the world safer for The People. At one point in the story, someone praises Manuelito for her ability to make connections, to wrap up loose ends. He calls her "Spider Woman's daughter."

This excerpt also illustrates the way I have allowed the relationship between two of the central characters my father created to evolve into something new, something more intimate, more domestic, more an equal partnership rather than the love-struck boyfriend (Chee) and the girlfriend who idolized him (Bernie).

What the excerpt lacks, however, is dead bodies, the growing threat posed by the villain, the tension that arises from false leads and learning logical suspects didn't do it, the excitement that builds as the stakes grow higher, and the on-going conflict that sustains the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Hillerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spider Woman's Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"The Princess of Cortova"

Diane Stanley is the author and illustrator of beloved books for young readers, including The Silver Bowl, which received three starred reviews, was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews and Book Links Lasting Connections, and was an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Cup and the Crown; Saving Sky, winner of the Arab American Museum's Arab American Book Award and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year; Bella at Midnight, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy; The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine; and A Time Apart.

Stanley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Princess of Cortova, and reported the following:
I turned to page 69 of The Princess of Cortova with some trepidation. Would I find some tedious bit of exposition? Drop into the middle of a complicated section, completely incomprehensible if you haven’t read the beginning? So it was a pleasant surprise when I found myself in one of my favorite scenes. Better still, it was a telling moment, representative of the book as a whole.

The Princess of Cortova (the final book in the Silver Bowl trilogy) is a tale of royal intrigue: With tensions rising between the neighboring kingdoms of Westria and Austlind, Molly and Tobias accompany the young King Alaric to Cortova, where he hopes to form an alliance with King Gonzalo, the treaty to be sealed by Alaric’s marriage to Gonzalo’s daughter, Elizabetta. This alliance is crucial to Alaric because his cousin, King Reynard of Austlind, has become an increasing military threat.

But Gonzalo has tricks up his sleeve, beginning with the unwelcome revelation that Alaric is not the only suitor. King Reynard is also there, seeking the same alliance and the marriage with the princess for his son. Soon the two kings are trapped in a nightmarish bidding war, in which the price keeps spiraling up and the terms become ever more outrageous, yet neither can afford to walk away, lest the other one win. Then comes the first attempt on Alaric’s life.

How appropriate, then, that page 69 begins with a deception. It’s a small one compared with what follows; but it’s apt because this particular deception involves another central story line, the romantic tension between Molly, Alaric, and Tobias.

A string of desperate situations have brought this unlikely trio together; and over the course of the three books, their feelings for one another have grown as confused and problematic as they are intense. The reader senses that Molly and Alaric care deeply for each other. But nothing is ever said. And whatever their feelings might be, she’s a commoner, he’s a king, and duty takes precedence. Alaric must marry the princess and Molly must help him do it. The reader also knows that Tobias loves Molly—everyone knows; he wears his heart on his sleeve. But what she feels for him, beyond cherishing him deeply as her best friend since childhood, is not entirely clear. So with all this in mind, page 69 seems especially fitting:
“Forgive me, Tobias,” he said, “but before the priest arrives, I must explain that we’ve created a little deception here.”

The priest? What priest? Tobias looked questioningly at Molly, but she was staring down at her shoes.

“He will bless our journey, and pray for a good outcome, and so forth.”

Ah. But then why were he and Richard there? And Winifred?

“However, the court shall believe—and the priest will not say otherwise—that he was called for another purpose: to hear”—he took a deep breath—“your vows of betrothal.”

Tobias gasped. Molly cleared her throat. Neither looked the other in the eye.

“If anyone asks, you will say that the wedding is set for a year from now, when Molly comes of age. I have rings for both of you to wear. Once the journey is over, of course, you can take them off again, and we can spread the word that the betrothal was broken by mutual consent. We’ll think up some good reason why.”

Before Tobias could speak—his mouth was already open—the king held up a hand to stop him. “It had to be you, Tobias. No one else would be believed, and it’s doubtful that anyone would even have been willing—”
The terrible awkwardness of this moment, the multiple heartstrings being pulled, won’t be entirely clear to the casual reader jumping in at mid-stream. But I think there’s enough here to give a sense of a larger story, deeper feelings.

And the king’s remark at the end, insensitive though true—that none of his highborn knights would have been willing to link their names with Molly’s—brings in yet another theme: the enormous class difference between King Alaric and the other two, complicating Molly’s task in helping him win the treaty, acting as an impediment to any future for Alaric and Molly.

That’s a lot in just a few short lines. All in all, I’m pleased with the page 69 test.
Learn more about the book and author at Diane Stanley's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Mrs. Poe"

Lynn Cullen is the author of Reign of Madness, a 2011 Best of the South selection by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 2012 Townsend Prize finalist, and The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and an ALA Best Book of 2008.

Cullen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mrs. Poe, and reported the following:
It is 1845. On page 69, the reader gets an inside view of the Manhattan home inhabited by Edgar Allan Poe, his 23-year-old wife of 10 years, and his mother-in-law/ aunt, Maria Clemm. (Yes, he married his 13-year-old first cousin.) The tension within this strange household is palpable to the narrator, writer Frances Osgood, who is at the Poe abode on assignment. In her desperation to provide for her children, the newly single Osgood has agreed to write a feature for the New York Tribune about the man whom ‘The Raven’ has catapulted into stardom. Osgood had been given the prize job when mutual friends noticed that Poe had taken a liking to her…and Poe doesn’t like anyone.

In this scene, as Frances Osgood examines a picture of the Boston Harbor with Virginia Poe, her pride in being Poe’s chosen one is melting into something more like discomfort. Please note that the details in this glimpse into Poe’s world are true-to-life. Although fiction, Mrs. Poe chronicles how Poe went from the most famous writer in America to a reviled pariah within the space of a single year. Join Frances now as she descends into the odd circle within the threadbare Poe residence.
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Tom Leveen is the author of Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Sick, his first foray into the horror genre, and reported the following:
Whoa, wow! Yeah, page 69 of Sick actually is pretty representative of the entire novel. It covers the confusion, carnage, and characters in one fell swoop. I think anyone looking for an action story, one that happens to involve zombie-esque creatures, would keep reading after flipping to p. 69.

One of my favorite lines on this page:
“We need a plan,” Travis says as Kat starts hunting for a cell among the remaining—surviving—students.
I love that these teens, who are just starting to understand the gravity of their situation of being stuck in the drama department while a horde of rampaging mutated students roams outside, are already putting things into such stark contrast. They’re not remainders, they are survivors. The only ones they know of who’ve made it this far. The realities of an apocalypse have begun working on their psyches. Fun!

And while there’s no actual action on this page, there is implied action via the protagonist’s call to his ex-girlfriend. All he gets is a voicemail which turns out to be a real-time audio recording of the beginning of the attack. I love the powerlessness of that moment. It’s one we can all identify with. That moment where you get “the call,” whatever it may be regarding, where you know life will never be the same. It’s such a chilling sensation. Otherworldly, really, and that’s all the more true in a novel about virus-ridden human monsters.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Leveen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"The Necromancer's House"

Christopher Buehlman is an author of genre-bending literary horror novels, the first of which, Those Across the River, was a finalist for Best Novel at the 2012 World Fantasy Awards. He is also the winner of the Bridport Prize for Poetry in 2007, and his alter-ego, Christophe the Insultor, has a substantial cult following at renaissance festivals across the United States.

Buehlman applied the Page 69 Test to The Necromancer's House, his third book, and reported the following:
So you want to see what’s in the book? I’m afraid all you’ll find in the box where the book should be is a Russian cavalry officer’s revolver, one bullet and a straight razor. Put the bullet in the chamber and spin it. You know what to do next. If you’re still with us, the book will appear. Use the razor to cut yourself, where doesn’t matter, and bleed down into the inlaid horsehair of the title. That done, the book will open to exactly the page you need, and God or gods help you should you actually try to use the spell it gives you. It isn’t called The Book of Sorrows for nothing.


You only want a peek into The Necromancer’s House?

Well, that’s a different matter.

I give it to you gratis.

Page 69, you say?

You naughty thing!

You should get along fine with Yuri, a Ukrainian spammer and minor wizard enslaved to an ancient witch who is just about to hunt down the owner of the book I thought you wanted to see.

It used to be hers, after all.

In any event, welcome to Yuri’s shitty Kiev apartment. Don’t pet the cat-it’s a nervous little beast!
The room gets colder.

The cat almost hisses, remembers what happened to it the last time it did, and curls itself around its master’s feet, its tail flicking between those heels-up feet and the sooty footprints on the pink flip- flops beneath them.

Now the man turns in his chair and looks at the window.

She’s here.

He looks away quickly. His palms grow moist.

He anticipates the sound just before he hears it.

The sound of an iron pot scraping against the cheap stucco below the sill, scraping like a rowboat against a pier.

Baba Yaga riding through the night skies of Kiev, sitting in an iron pot, pushing it with a broom. Just like in bedtime fables. But she really is outside. Some part of her, anyway.

I’m nine stories up.


“Yes, little mother,” he manages, smoking again.

He is careful not to show his teeth when he speaks.

Put on your kerchief.

The cat shivers violently.

He pulls the sticking drawer out, pulls out a blue terrycloth hand towel. Is repulsed thinking about putting this over his eyes, but does so anyway, tilting his head back, holding it in place because God help him if it falls off and he sees her.

The crunching sound as the iron pot crumbles stucco.

Is there really a pot, or do I hear one because I expect to?

A bare foot on his gritty linoleum floor.

She is in the apartment now, he knows.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Buehlman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Once We Were Brothers"

Ronald H. Balson is a trial attorney in Chicago, where he has practiced for the last 40 years, and has taught business law at the University of Chicago for twenty-five of those years. Once We Were Brothers is his first novel, which was inspired by several trips to Poland in connection with a telecommunications law suit. The Polish monuments, the memorials and the scars of the war he saw on his trips, motivated him to write his World War II novel. He lives with his family and a couch-eating dog in a Chicago suburb.

Balson applied the Page 69 Test to Once We Were Brothers and reported the following:
Once We Were Brothers is a present day legal drama wrapped around the narration of a family’s struggle to survive the Nazi occupation in small town Poland. In the following passage, the protagonist, Ben Solomon, remembers the days the Nazis took over his town and arrogated their way of life. On page 69, Hans Frank, a ruthless mass-murderer who was ultimately tried and executed at Nuremberg, appears at the Solomon home to appoint Ben’s father to the Judenrat. It is the beginning of the end for the Jews of Zamosc.

Page 69 speaks from the heart of the story. It addresses the dilemma Jews faced when they did not abandon their homes, their belongings, their careers, and everything they knew in the face of the impending Nazi occupation. It also sets a foundation for later confrontations between Abraham Solomon and the SS hierarchy, the lustful advances of Dr. Frank on young Rebecca and the hopelessness that settled on all of Poland when the Nazis took over.
“‘Herr Solomon, I have learned that you are a respected leader among the Jews and so you are to be appointed to the Judenrat, the council of Jews. That is a much honored appointment for you and your family. The Judenrat will report to me, or to my assistant, and will implement the Fuhrer’s orders on Jewish affairs.’

“‘I seek no privileges, sir. I am no more or less than any other member of our community.’

“‘You will address me as Dr. Frank, Herr Solomon. My name is Dr. Hans Frank, and you will not forget that, please. And I suggest you reconsider your declination. There will be a Judenrat, of that you may be sure, and it will consist of the most influential of the Jews in Zamość. You cannot help your people if you are not present.’

“All of us are seated in the room, barely breathing, not daring to say a word. Dr. Frank looks us over, points at Uncle Joseph and says, ‘Who is the crippled man?’

“‘That is my brother, a well-educated and prominent man. He has had an accident.’

“Dr. Frank purses his lips and nods. He crushes his cigarette on a dish, slaps his gloves on his leg and rises to leave. ‘I will see you at the town hall tomorrow morning at ten.’ On his way out, he stops at the door and points at Beka. ‘Who is the young Jewess?’

“‘My daughter, Rebecca. She is only seventeen.’

“‘Yes. Seventeen.’ He gestures for the soldiers to precede him through the doorway and turns to my father, ‘You will be at the town hall at ten.’ Then he bows slightly and leaves our home.”

“Did your father go to the meeting?” asked Catherine.

Ben nodded. “At ten o’clock. When he came home his face was drained of all color. He kept repeating, ‘We should have listened to Ilse. We should have left Zamość.’”
Learn more about the book and author at the official Once We Were Brothers website and Ronald H. Balson's Facebook page. 

My Book, The Movie: Once We Were Brothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Hush Little Baby"

Suzanne Redfearn graduated from California Polytechnic Institute, Pomona. Like her protagonist she is an architect and lives in Laguna Beach with her husband and two children.

Redfearn applied the Page 69 Test to Hush Little Baby, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book comes at a crossroads for the protagonist, Jillian, right at the moment when she is taking a time out to contemplate her life and the difficult choice she needs to make. She knows she needs to get out of her abusive marriage, but she is terrified. At this moment she hates herself and what she has become. She leaves work and goes to the beach. Frolicking in the waves is a mother playing with her little girl, adding to Jillian's self-loathing:

Mothers sacrifice for their children, throw themselves in front of trains, lift cars with superhuman strength to save them.

I do nothing. Drew has glimpsed Gordon’s temper. He was there when Gordon nearly killed me. He’s been subjected to Gordon’s demand for perfection, has suffered the consequences of not living up to his impossible standards.

He knows his dad has hurt me. He’s heard the slaps and the thumps at night, has been woken by my involuntary gasps and yelps, has heard the sharp intake of my breath when he hugs me too hard the next day.

Yet I stay.

My mind drifts to the first time Drew and I were alone. It was the day after he was born, and he was cradled in the rook’s nest of my arm, his tiny lips opened and closed, glubbing around his toothless gums, and his newborn eyes, barely slits, opened around their pale blue centers to find mine.

“Hello, little man,” I said.

At my voice, his mouth rooted for my breast. He knew me.

Although he’d just fed, I opened my gown, and he latched on again, a lackluster effort more for comfort than nutrient. That moment lives in my heart, the moment he was all mine, when life was still perfect and I could give him everything he needed.

Now, when he needs me most, I’m failing.
Learn more about Hush Little Baby at Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"The Magician's Bird"

Emily Fairlie grew up in Virginia and went to Tuckahoe Middle School, which unlike Tuckernuck Hall was sadly lacking in hidden clues and treasure. She was also the proud owner of a family of gerbil escape artists with a taste for blood (and sunflower seeds). She now lives in Chicago with her dog Binky.

Fairlie applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Magician's Bird: A Tuckernuck Mystery, and reported the following:
In The Magician's Bird, Laurie Madison and Bud Wallace are rising seventh graders who are in charge of planning a scavenger hunt for their fellow students, but so far their ideas have all been shot down by Mrs. Abernathy, one of their faculty advisors. On page 69 they show up for another scavenger hunt meeting, but the school is almost deserted. And instead of Mrs. Abernathy, they find their other advisor, Mrs. Hutchins.
"Bud! Laurie! What are you doing here?"

Bud and Laurie exchanged a worried glance.

"Scavenger hunt organizational meeting. Remember?"

"Oh, right, that." Mrs. Hutchins laughed again. It was a high-pitched, strained-sounding laugh. It didn't sound normal, especially since nothing was funny.

"I'm sorry kids, we'll have to reschedule. Things have gotten a little hectic here today. Why don't we plan on tomorrow? know what? I'm sure whatever ideas you've come up with are fine. Why don't you just go with those? Okay, thanks, great, bye." She hustled past them down the hall without a backward glance.

"What was that?" Laurie's eyes were wide.

"Well, something's definitely up," Bud said, staring after Mrs. Hutchins.

"All of our ideas are fine?" Laurie shook her head. "So if we went ahead with the plan to carve a clue into the ceiling of the library, they'd be okay with it?"

"Technically," Bud said. "But I really don't think we should do that one."

"Yeah, okay. But TECHNICALLY," Laurie said.

"Technically, yeah."

Laurie smiled. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all.
(Okay, I cheated a tiny bit. That last line was actually on page 70.) I think this is a pretty good representation of the book. I'm so glad that page 69 didn't turn out to be an illustration!
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Fairlie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"No Dogs Allowed"

Stephanie Calmenson, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York never expecting to become a writer, is now the highly acclaimed author of over 100 books for children, including the beloved Dinner at the Panda Palace, a PBS Storytime Book; Late for School! and Oopsy, Teacher! (Mr. Bungles books); and Ollie's School Day, a Children's Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. As a kid, her heart's desire was to have a dog, but it didn't happen. Dogs are now a big part of her life and her work with books such as May I Pet Your Dog?, starring her dachshund, Harry (Horn Book Fanfare; ALA Children's Video Award); Rosie: A Visiting Dog's Story, starring her Tibetan terrier, Rosie ("one of the outstanding nonfiction books of the year" -- Smithsonian Magazine) and No Dogs Allowed!, the first book in the new Ready, Set, Dogs! series written with Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole, starring two girls who -- woofa-wow! -- turn into dogs.

Calmenson applied the Page 69 Test to No Dogs Allowed! and reported the following:
Page 69 is a great page to happen upon even though it's a full page illustration instead of text because it depicts a madcap scene in the book. Kate and Lucie are best friends and each of them loves dogs and wants to have one, but can't. One day, at their local thrift shop, The Lucky Find, they try on two sparkly pink dog bone necklaces and discover they're magic. With a POP! and a WHOOSH! Kate and Lucie turn into dogs. Fortunately they're able to figure out how to turn themselves back into girls and the fun begins as they switch back and forth. The scene on page 69 shows them burying bones in their moms' garden. The moms are calling, "Scoot!" and "Scram, dogs, scram!". They have no idea they're yelling at their own daughters. The dogs disappear and turn themselves back into girls. When their moms recount how two dogs destroyed their garden, Kate and Lucie say, "What bad dogs!" and "Shame on them." The girls are trying not to laugh, but at the same time they feel pretty bad about what they did and offer to clean up the mess. As they get to work, they overhear their moms talking about them. "Our girls sure are growing up. It's wonderful how they jumped right in to help," says Kate's mom. "They really are changing," says Lucie's mom. "If they only knew," says Lucie, raking up the scattered lettuce. Page 69 shows the kind of mischief two girls who turn into dogs can get into!
Learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Calmenson's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Calmenson & Harry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Serpent and the Pearl"

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching I, Claudius at the age of seven. She wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome, and it was later published as Mistress of Rome. A prequel followed, titled Daughters of Rome, and then a sequel, Empress of the Seven Hills--written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East.

Quinn made the jump from ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, The Serpent and the Pearl and The Lion and the Rose, detailing the early years of the Borgia clan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to The Serpent and the Pearl and reported the following:
My page 69 would be a bafflement if you started there, but on the other hand, you might keep reading out of sheer fascination. You see, the heroine is talking to a shriveled-up severed hand.

No, The Serpent and the Pearl is not a murder mystery about a serial killer who takes grisly mementos of his victims. Actually, there is a serial killer, and there is a murder mystery, but the hand has nothing to do with him. The Serpent and the Pearl takes place in the Italian Renaissance, and Catholics of the day were very big on holy relics - little bits of dead saint, much of the time. The heroine, who is a cook, just happens to have in her possession the sacred hand of Santa Marta, patron saint of cooks - and she didn't exactly come by it honestly! So she tells her good luck charm:
"My hands and all their works, from this day, if you will forgive me my sins against you."

I looked down at my own hands. Scarred with old knife nicks, the faded burn on my wrist where a too-hot sauce had once splashed, the calluses from wrestling with spits and jerking feathers from dead pheasants. What saint beside the patron saint of cooks would want hands like that?
So if you opened The Serpent and the Pearl and started at page 69? You'd know that the heroine is a working woman with an unorthodox past and an Addams-Family sidekick. Hopefully you'd keep reading!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website and blog.

Writers Read: Kate Quinn (April 2012).

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

My Book, The Movie: Empress of the Seven Hills.

Writers Read: Kate Quinn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Michael Farris Smith is a native Mississippian who has spent time living abroad in France and Switzerland. He has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature, and the Brick Streets Press Short Story Award. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with the New York Times, University Press of Mississippi, and more.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Rivers, and reported the following:
I’ve heard about this test but never tried it until now and I was excited to open up Rivers and find that page 69 is a big movement in the story. Besides the unrelenting hurricanes, the violent and lawless region, the crazed, snake-handling preacher, the hijacked and left-for-dead central character of Cohen, page 69 of Rivers introduces rumors of buried casino money which has brought reckless, treasure-hunting hoards into the fray:
Those with a chance, if there was actually anything to be found, had the guns, had youth, had the vehicles to get through, or across, or over. Men in army green jeeps and trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles made for war, with gadgets that detected metal underneath the ground. Men who possessed the physical strength and training to work hard, dig deep, make haste. Men who had been left behind by their government, stuck in outposts in the region below the Line, for God knows what. To help those that didn’t want to be helped. To protect those who didn’t want protection. To sit in steel-braced, cinderblock outposts, day after day, ducking from the storms, watching the rain, listening to the snap of lightning and the moan of thunder, staring at the walls and staring at the floors, so that the same government that abandoned the region could still maintain an authority over it, even though there was no law to be followed. No law to be made other than what seemed right at the time. These were the men who sat there day after day, because they had been ordered to by other men who lived on dry land, and now they had grown restless and anxious and this was their opportunity to get out and go and do something.... The coast was crawling with them and they all came after the same thing – the buried casino money.
This was a significant shift in the “what’s happening” aspect of Rivers. There is already plenty for Cohen and others who have chosen to stay below the Line to deal with. And now, there is greed. I liked the addition of the rumors of the casino money because it’s far-fetched and a dangerous thing to go after. All are armed, and one hurricane follows another, and roads and bridges are washed away, but man wants money and will do anything for money, and a violent, unpredictable landscape became more so on page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Farris Smith's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Then We Take Berlin"

John Lawton's novels include Second Violin, Flesh Wounds, and Bluffing Mr. Churchill. His thriller Black Out won a WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, A Little White Death was named a New York Times notable book, and A Lily of the Field was named one of the best thrillers of the year by Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times.

Lawton applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Then We Take Berlin, and reported the following:
Unless I am much mistaken, this is the scene in Then We Take Berlin where my hero (18-year-old Joe Wilderness) is taken for cocktails at the Ritz Hotel, London on VE Night, by his step-grandmother, the vivacious, utterly amoral Merle. They see off a prissy waiter, play a little havoc with the expectations of the English class system.

London celebrates, a conga runs length of Piccadilly, the King appears on the balcony to wave to the crowd, soldiers strip off their uniforms and the Royal Parks blaze with bonfires.

Merle takes Joe home and seduces him. So, yes, it is in no way unrepresentative of the book as a whole. It is Europe after the shooting stops, and then ... Europe after the party stops ... a Europe of starvation, greed and rampant opportunism. The World turned upside down.
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Studio Saint-Ex"

Ania Szado graduated from the Ontario College of Art and the University of British Columbia. Her first novel, Beginning of Was, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her writing has appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Globe and Mail, Flare, and This Magazine.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Studio Saint-Ex, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Studio Saint-Ex isn't quite representative of the novel—it makes no reference to the French author-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or to The Little Prince, which he is writing in my historical novel—but it provides a glimpse into some of the concerns that tormented Saint-Exupéry when he was living in 1940s New York.

The page captures part of a conversation between two fictional characters: fashion designer Mignonne, who falls for Saint-Exupéry and takes liberties with his work, and Mig's unscrupulous boss, Madame Fiche.

The two designers have been duped by a new client's former couturier, Vaudoit. While blaming Mig for exacerbating the situation, Madame claims that Vaudoit's motivations were political. The WWII capitulation of France has led to a deep rift in Manhattan's elite French expat community, deepening Saint-Exupéry's resolve to return to active participation in the war.

The excerpt includes a small but significant turning point for Mig. She takes the reins to force a solution, foreshadowing the point at which she will take control of Saint-Exupéry's images and story to try to save him and his creative work from disaster—and to keep her own career prospects alive.

Madame's voice continues from page 68:
"Vaudoit must be a Gaullist. It is this, above all, that sets him against me. As a point of honor, he must ensure my failure. I should have seen it. It is my own fault."

Madame bent forward in her chair as though she were in pain—or perhaps her script was written on her low-heeled, black shoes. "And your fault, Mignonne, even more so. You compound the failure, and I must carry it on my shoulders. Tomorrow, I tell Mrs. Brossard that due to your ineptitude, I have been unable to complete her coat on time. I will lose yet another client. You will have taken me, in four months, from Women's Wear Daily to a new level of defeat."

My mind was finally coming awake. "No." Fault or not, I would not let Madame think I had failed. "I'll make a new muslin tonight."

She gave me a baleful look. "And waste yet more fabric?"

"It will fit, I promise you. You can judge tomorrow if it's worth going forward with the coat. Go home now, Madame. In the morning, we'll cut the client's fabric. In the afternoon, we'll sew."
Mig pulls it off here, but it's a much taller order to stop a determined, patriotic pilot-author from returning to war-torn skies, or to find a way to use his writing to save his own life and capture his heart.
Learn more about the book and author at Ania Szado's website.

--Marshal Zeringue