Friday, January 31, 2014

"Kids These Days"

Drew Perry lives in North Carolina with his wife, a dog, two cats, and, somehow, two boys. He teaches writing at Elon University. His first novel, This Is Just Exactly Like You, was a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan prize from the Center for Fiction, a Best-of-the-Year pick from The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and a SIBA Okra pick.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Kids These Days, and reported the following:
I confess to have cheated a bit, and stretched back to the last bit of page 68 for a passage that continues onto page 69:
Devil’s Backbone was on the Intracoastal side, a sand and oystershell drive running back to two trailers welded longways at the seam. Out where they had the docks, which were a good deal more serious and permanent-looking than the building itself, somebody was keeping an iguana in a homemade cage. There were no boats in the water, no cars in the parking lot. It was hot and bright. It was always hot and bright. The place was a fever dream. I half-wished I had somebody with me—the twins, maybe. Having a couple of people nearby who knew martial arts might not hurt.

Inside, it was refrigerator-cold. The biggest through-wall air conditioner I’d ever seen was roaring away behind the counter, and there were low ice-cream-shop coolers full of bait along the walls: Styrofoam containers of worms, shrimp, fish. Live bait, too, in tanks. No bell on the door, no bell on the counter, no way to alert anybody you were there. Faded pictures of fishing triumphs stapled up everywhere. Hats and T-shirts and beer cozies with DEVIL’S BACKBONE printed on them. And the requisite fishing supplies, line and three thousand different shapes and sizes of lead weights, sorted into tins and trays. A sign up by the counter advertised boat rates. FULL DAY 225. HALF DAY 185. 90/HR. The rest of the board was empty, filthy. I stood in the middle of the floor and waited.
This section finds the main character, Walter, as far afield from what he knows as we've seen him so far in the book: He's on a kind of real estate recon mission for his friend and new boss and brother-in-law, Mid, and he's standing in a trailer at a fish camp in Northeastern Florida wondering, What have I gotten myself into?

What he's gotten himself into is this: He and his wife, Alice, are pregnant, even though Walter's not at all sure he wants to be; Walter's lost his job and house in North Carolina and had to move to Florida to work at an as-yet undefined job for Mid, who is certainly an entrepreneur but also possibly a small-time criminal; and Walter's whole universe is falling in on him, bit by bit, as he realizes the full scope of just how much he does not know.

Is this passage representative of the book? Yes and no. The book itself, as a whole, is I hope more comic and madcap, but in its evocation of this kind of Floridian landscape, I hope it also makes one want for a cooler of ice and a beverage or two.
Visit Drew Perry's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"A Star for Mrs. Blake"

April Smith has traveled to every location she writes about in her books, from the Dominican Republic to Siena, Italy, to Meuse-Argonne, France. She takes pictures and talks to people and just wanders. Back home, she outlines the story on a white board, stepping back to see the whole, and then begins writing chapters, often out of order, according to what presents itself that day. It’s a process of both intuition and will that can take from two to twenty-five years, as was the case with her new novel, A Star For Mrs. Blake.

Aside from her newest work of historical fiction, Smith is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels, a standalone thriller featuring a woman baseball scout, and is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to A Star For Mrs. Blake and reported the following:
On p. 69 of the Reader’s Edition of A Star for Mrs. Blake (my single copy of the hardback is on my husband’s nightstand) we meet one of the main characters, Lieutenant Thomas Hammond who is the young liaison officer assigned to accompany our group of Gold Star Mothers to the cemetery in France. Thomas Hammond was a real person whose diary inspired the novel. He had just graduated from West Point when he landed the plum assignment to guide the pilgrimages, which were big news in the midst of the Depression. Over seven thousand women went. The diary was shown to me by his son, the actor /writer/director Nicholas Hammond, whom you may know as Friedrich in the original movie The Sound of Music. Nicholas and his family gave me carte blanche to adapt his father’s experiences as a novel, and I’m grateful for their generosity. The rest of the characters are pure fiction.

Page 69 takes place in the Hotel Commodore in New York City just before the mothers board an ocean liner for the overseas cruise. The problem is one of them has gone missing and it is Hammond’s job to find her. The young lieutenant is described as in “tip-top shape...” with “lush brown hair that was almost black, a patrician nose, large wide-set intelligent brown eyes, and polished manners.” He nervously faces his commanding officer and nemesis, General Reginald Perkins, who “stared resentfully at the young man...” not happy that Hammond has no answer for how this woman could have disappeared. Conflict ensues.
Visit April Smith's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Star for Mrs. Blake.

Writers Read: April Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Her Dark Curiosity"

Megan Shepherd grew up in her family's independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The travel bug took her from London to Timbuktu and many places in between, though she ended up back in western North Carolina. The Madman's Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity are her first novels.

Shepherd applied the Page 69 Test to Her Dark Curiosity and reported the following:
Page 69 is actually one of the most exciting pages in the book, though it’s only a paragraph long. It’s the end of a chapter where a big twist is revealed. I hope it’s indicative of the book as a whole, because I try to have as many twists and surprises as possible, while still maintaining a logical flow of events.

Like the first book in the series, Her Dark Curiosity is inspired by a classic, in this case, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. On page 69 our main character, Juliet Moreau (daughter of the famed Doctor Moreau from HG Wells’ classic novel) discovers that her best friend’s suitor isn’t the man she thought he was. In fact, he might even have a darker, more dangerous other half. This is, I think, the first place where we really see the Jekyll & Hyde influences coming together. Though Her Dark Curiosity isn’t a strict retelling, there are various themes & references peppered throughout, and this is one of the biggest ones.

Unfortunately I can’t say much more for risk of giving away the big twist, but I think in this case, it definitely passes the Page 69 test!
Visit Megan Shepherd's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Beyond Belief"

Helen Smith is a British novelist who lives in London.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Beyond Belief, the new book in her Emily Castles mystery series, and reported the following:
On page 69, Emily is talking to Tim, a character whose son has died. A spiritualist has advised Tim and his wife to come to Torquay. This means that Tim, his wife and the spiritualist are all potential suspects in a death that hasn't happened yet. A leading psychic has predicted that someone will drown that weekend, and it seems that a famous magician called Edmund Zenon is the most likely candidate. He has offered fifty thousand pounds to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal during the Belief and Beyond conference. Emily has been hired to write a report on the outcome, so she's well placed to investigate if anyone should die. And because this is a murder mystery, we don't have long to wait until that happens. Beyond Belief is an entertaining read with eccentric characters in over-the-top situations, but there are moments of pathos.
There was a low wall running along the side of the path, with railings on top of it, with gaps at regular intervals to allow access to steps leading down to the beach below. Further down the beach, toward the town center, a small crowd had gathered, though Emily and Tim weren’t close enough to see what was happening down there. Behind them, the hotel was on top of a hill at one side of the bay. The path sloped gently downward until it reached the town center and the harbour in the middle of the bay, where was almost level with the sea, and then it began to climb again to the top of the cliff at the other side.

The wind coming in from the sea was cold, and Emily turned up her collar to keep the chill off her face. “I’m sorry to hear about your son,” she said. It was all she needed to say for Tim to start talking as they walked down the hill.

His hand went to his hair. He brushed his fingertips across the top of his head. “Thanks. I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself, too, since it happened. There’s this awkwardness with people at work. My boss, my colleagues—people I used to enjoy a pint of beer or a game of golf with—they’re sympathetic, but what I’m going through is beyond their understanding. Have you ever lost someone close like that?”


“I have less in common with my friends than I once did. It’s a lonely feeling. You start to feel like an outsider. You feel a kinship with other outsiders, no matter what put them there. You start to look for those people. You get people who say they want to help. Sometimes you feel hugely grateful to them. Other times you feel resentful. You don’t know who to trust. You feel emotional. That’s not me. Or it wasn’t.”
Learn more about the book and author at Helen Smith's website, Twitter perch, or on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: Beyond Belief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 27, 2014


Kerry Schafer was born and raised in Canada, moved back and forth across the border several times, and finally settled on a compromise. She now lives in Washington state, but within an hour’s drive of her home and native land. She is the author of the Books of the Between (Between and Wakeworld) and the Dream Wars Series (Dream Runner, Dream Thief, Dream Wars).

Schafer applied the Page 69 Test to Wakeworld and reported the following:
When I was invited to take the Page 69 Challenge it sounded like great fun. I floated over to the book in a haze of happy anticipation, flipped through the pages, and wilted like a deflated balloon. As it turns out, page 69 of Wakeworld is a short page at the end of a short chapter. It begins mid-paragraph and mid-thought, and is one of only three point of view scenes of the dark, power hungry Dragon Queen, Aidan.

I confess I was tempted to cheat. A few pages back and we have Zee battling a swarm of black cloaked, gray skinned warriors. A few pages forward and we find Vivian discovering that she has been locked into Wakeworld and has no way to get back to Zee, wounded and taken captive by his enemies. But no, instead page 69 gives us a quiet, almost reflective moment, in which Aidan makes one of those decisions that turns out to be pivotal to all that follows:
But he was breathing. Strong enough to kill seven of her best men and live. If he could survive this, there was a chance he could survive the other.

“Let him be put to the test.”

The captain looked at her, as though he wished to speak but did not dare.

“What?” she demanded. “Say it.”

“He is already very weak. It is a harsh death you decree.”

“If he is the one I seek, it will heal him. If not, he will die anyway. See that it is done.”

“And the other?”

She barely even glanced at the hovel. The face that had watched through the open window had moved out of sight, but she knew the man was still in there. A coward. She detested cowards. Not worth the sword thrust it would take to kill him and of no use to her, now that she had the Key. “Throw him into the Between and leave him to wander.
The Verdict - is page 69 representative of the novel?

No. Although this page contains a key moment in which a decision is made that will affect the lives of all the characters, it lacks the action, tension, and magic that runs through most of the book.
Visit Kerry Schafer's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"The In-Between Hour"

Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people. She grew up in rural England, studied history at York University, and worked in London fashion before marrying an American professor she met at JFK airport. Today they live in the forests of North Carolina.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The In-Between Hour, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
“It’s fine.” He could hear her smile. “A senescent grandfather doesn’t bother me in the least.”

How perfect, she had used the word senescent. Will loved to be surprised by people’s word choices. Words held such power and such beauty. And such escape. As a young boy, he chose magical, not mad, to describe his mother. As an adult, he chose alive, not dead, to describe his son.

“You said this was temporary, but I prefer a six-month lease.” She gave a soft laugh, an easy laugh. No drama. “Is that a problem?”

Yeah, because if he thought he’d still be in Orange County in six days let alone six months, he’d kill himself and his dad. But he could easily pay out the lease. It was just money. The one thing he had plenty of.

“It’s not a problem if we can move in tomorrow.”
The passage above offers a glimpse into the voice and mindset of my hero, bestselling author and grieving dad, Will Shepard. At this moment in the plot, Will’s voice also reveals some key elements of the novel.

The In-Between Hour is about words. After his young son dies in a car wreck, Will falls back on his love of words and spins a story to rewrite the truth. He pretends his son is traveling the world. Will’s intention is honorable—to protect his aging father from unbearable grief—but the emotional cost to Will is devastating. His thoughts here reveal how close Will is to unraveling.

And as we eavesdrop on his first conversation with the heroine, we see their differences. Hannah loves the ancient forest of Orange County, North Carolina; Will hates it. He wants only to escape the scars of his past and get back to his life in New York. But he can’t, not until he’s figured out what to do with his dad.

Octogenarian Jacob Shepard has short-term memory dysfunction and a desire to return to his beloved forest. He has engineered being kicked out his retirement home, and Will has come, reluctantly, to his rescue. Which leads Will to contact Hannah, a holistic veterinarian with a secluded cottage for rent at the bottom of Saponi Mountain. Will is drawn to Hannah’s sense of calm and her lack of drama. What he doesn’t know is that she’s also keeping secrets: Her son, a young poet, is in clinical depression and wants only to die. Hannah spends each day praying he can find the strength to live.

Jacob is the reason for this phone call and the lynchpin that brings Will and Hannah and their broken families together on land that holds such meaning for all of them, land that’s going to help them heal.
Learn more about the book and author at Barbara Claypole White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"The Gospel of Winter"

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Kiely applied the Page 69 Test to The Gospel of Winter, his first novel, and reported the following:
From the text:
“No,” I said, “you’re probably right. But maybe it’s because everyone is too afraid.”

Mark looked at me. “Of what?”

“I don’t know. Everything. Maybe everyone’s just faking it because that’s all there is.”

“So they can’t get real?” Mark asked. “That’s depressing.”

“Tell them to take their fucking faces off,” I said, but it felt weird now to say that so casually. “They can’t, right?”

Mark gazed down into the river, and I did too. The chunks of ice and dead foliage floated from beneath the bridge and zigzagged out to the harbor. “But we can,” he said. “We are.”
In this scene, two friends, Aidan and Mark, address one of the central questions of the novel: what are the consequences of sharing our most vulnerable truths? Aidan harbors a truth that terrifies him: he knows the danger a predatory priest in the local parish poses for the rest of the community. He can’t bring himself to discuss what he knows, though, and the struggle with whether or not to tell this truth (and others) haunts Aidan throughout the book.

Though Aidan is isolated from the high school social scene, in this chapter, he has been invited to a small party where he begins to form fledgling friendships with three classmates: Mark, Josie, and Sophie. After smoking too much pot, Mark and Aidan leave the party together to stumble home. As they walk, they begin to open up to each other. Forming real, meaningful friendships might be the first step in Aidan’s finding the strength and courage to speak up—as Mark suggests in this conversation, the secret to sharing a secret is in the sharing.

Aidan can’t completely shake his cynicism and reserve, however. The silence hurts, but he’s afraid that airing what he knows will hurt even more.
Learn more about the book and author at Brendan Kiely's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Whispers of Vivaldi"

Beverle Graves Myers is the author of Whispers of Vivaldi and five previous mystery novels featuring Tito Amato, the 18th-century sleuth with a stellar talent for sleuthing. A former psychiatrist, Myers divides her time between Louisville, Kentucky and southwest Florida.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Whispers of Vivaldi and reported the following:
Place: the Republic of Venice. Time: the autumn of 1745, an age of reckless pleasures, playful artifice, and baroque excess. Maestro Torani, the director of Venice’s flagship opera house, has just set off on a mysterious errand in his private gondola. With a rival theater attempting to rip the Republic’s support away from his theater and Venice simmering with indignation over Torani’s selection of a radically new opera to begin the carnival season, Tito Amato is worried about the old man. The singer-sleuth follows the sleek black gondola along the pavement only to see another boat dart out of an adjoining canal. Rowed by masked bravos, its serrated prow attacks Torani’s gondola like a snapping dog leaps at a cornered boar. After Tito has rescued his mentor from the wreckage, he takes a moment to make some observations.

From Page 69:
Crisis forestalled, I began to feel the cold through my sodden shirt and breeches. I was suddenly very tired. The hubbub caused by the gondola crash seemed to recede into the distance, as if a giant’s hand had scooped me up and set me down on the next campo.

Shivering, I found myself hunching forward, hugging my neck with my right arm. Though my throat was no longer golden, the instinct to protect it remained. I was barely aware of someone—Peppino? — throwing a cloak around my shoulders.

More than anything in the world, I wanted to close my scratchy eyes and forget this flagrant attack along with the bewildering events of the past few days. Instead, I twisted around to survey the intersecting canals.

The wreck of Torani’s gondola had come to rest at a landing across the wider canal. The oaken ribs showing through its lacquered, crumpled hull put me in mind of our Christmas goose once most of the meat had been stripped from the carcass. Several sbirri were inspecting the stricken boat, poking the black frame with long rods. The constables turned to each other with puzzled frowns and impatient gestures, then started questioning the small crowd that had gathered.

The men and women immediately backed away, shook their heads, and spread their hands. Even beyond earshot, their message was clear: “We saw nothing.”

Rain continued to fall, lighter now, but miserable just the same. All was drizzle, haze, and fog.

The marauding gondola had vanished into the mist.
So how well does this passage from page 69 represent the entire story told by Whispers of Vivaldi? Quite well, I’m pleased to report. Tito is depicted as the intelligent, compassionate, loyal hero that he is, and Venice comes wrapped in the misty veil of intrigue that permeates the entire series. If you enjoy fast-paced, well-researched historical mysteries with a sympathetic protagonist and a dash of culture, I predict you’ll keep turning the pages.
Visit Beverle Graves Myers' website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Beverle Graves Myers.

My Book, The Movie: Whispers of Vivaldi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"What I Had Before I Had You"

Sarah Cornwell grew up in Narberth, Pennsylvania. Her fiction has appeared in the 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Missouri Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, and Hunger Mountain, among others, and her screenwriting has been honored with a Humanitas Prize. A former James Michener Fellow at UT-Austin, Cornwell has worked as an investigator of police misconduct, an MCAT tutor, a psychological research interviewer, and a toy seller.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What I Had Before I Had You, her debut novel, and reported the following:
In my childhood, there were always animals: stinky lovelorn dogs and pregnant cats to birth in our laundry room and broken-legged mice that we kept in shoe boxes full of moss. I never had a stuffed animal, because my mother thought that real ones deserved our care. They were free to come and go, and not a few of them ended up as grease on the parkway, cats especially. We buried front halves and back halves of things so many times that I learned to love generally and with measure. The animals were not allowed in the nursery. That rule was strict. After all, reasoned my mother, cats have been known to smother infants, and even the sweetest dog, when provoked, will bite.

For a few years when I was very young, we had an old parrot called the Admiral who spouted nautical phrases like "Thar she blows" and "Come about," sending us into bellyaching fits of laughter. My mother inherited the Admiral at the death of a client, his secret nautical enthusiasms outed by his bird. The Admiral ate Cheerios from my bowl and rode on my shoulder, to the oohing and ahhing of the neighbor kids. When he flew off, I waited days and days in hopes that he would come back, that he loved me more than he loved the endless sky. When it was finally clear that he was gone forever, I wailed for hours, and my mother held me on her lap and stroked my hot face with her fingers and told me that the only sure thing was her and me, and the rest of the world could do you wrong, and this was how it felt.
In this little slice of book, we get Olivia's nostalgic voice and a glimpse of her childhood relationship with her mother, Myla. In this anecdote as in the book as a whole, Myla governs her daughter's life with her own unique logic. She is unconventional, fun, and loving, but also deeply emotionally manipulative--in this recollection of Olivia's, Myla is using the common childhood experience of losing a pet to drive home her own point about the untrustworthiness of other people, and to confirm herself as the center of her daughter's world.

This excerpt also references the nursery, where Myla keeps cribs and supplies, though Olivia's sisters were stillborn many years before. Myla believes the twins persist as infant ghosts, and though Olivia can't see them, she never questioned her mother's claims until the turbulent summer of 1987, as presented in the book--the summer when Olivia grows out of that childhood trust and starts asking the questions that will lead her to revelations about her family and about herself.

This excerpt is mildly misleading in that it is told in the past tense; most of the book is in the continuous present tense--both Olivia's experience as a fifteen year old in 1987 and the present-day parallel narrative, in which adult Olivia searches for her lost nine year old son, Daniel, in the town where she grew up. Daniel has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a family diagnosis shared by Olivia and Myla, and Olivia must revisit her difficult relationship with her mother in order to figure out how to be a mother, now, to Daniel, as he launches into the same passions and struggles that come with that complex mood disorder.
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah Cornwell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Fake ID"

Lamar "L. R." Giles writes stories for teens and adults. He's never met a genre he didn't like, having penned science fiction, fantasy, horror, and noir thrillers, among others. He is a Virginia native, a Hopewell High Blue Devil, and an Old Dominion University Monarch.

Giles applied the Page 69 Test to his new young adult mystery/thriller Fake ID and reported the following:
When I was told about the Page 69 Test and asked to apply it to Fake ID, I was a little intimidated. I had no clue what I’d find on that page. Would it be dialogue heavy, a description of the park Nick (the hero) retreats to when he wants to be alone, or the opening page of a chapter where the top third is a number and white space?

Would I, somehow, fail the test?

Hesitant, I turned to page 69 and found a pleasant surprise. It’s the last scene between Nick and his one friend Eli. No spoiler alert necessary here. Fake ID is a murder mystery, and you only need to read the jacket to know that Eli doesn’t make it. Unlike many murder mysteries, Eli doesn’t die on the first page or in the first chapter. I kept him alive up to and beyond page 69 on purpose because the relationship he develops with Nick illustrates a key theme in my book. Loyalty.

How does you earn another’s loyalty? What do you do with it once you have it? How do you lose it? In this interaction Eli does something that shows a level of trust in Nick that the boy’s never experienced in his tumultuous life. It brings out an unknown drive in him, a loyalty for Eli that pushes the rest of the story when Eli’s snatched away.

Additionally, this scene shows what life could be like for Nick in a perfect world. A sweet fantasy and a horrid lie. The world is not perfect, never has been. But this scene on Page 69 of Fake ID is nice break from the mayhem.
Learn more about the book and author at Lamar Giles's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Fake ID by Lamar Giles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Last Train to Paris"

Michele Zackheim is the author of four books. Born in Reno, Nevada she grew up in Compton, California. For many years she worked in the visual arts as a fresco muralist, an installation artist, print-maker, and a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; The Albuquerque Museum; The Grey Art Gallery of New York University; The New York Public Library; The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, and The Carlsbad Museum of Art. She has been the recipient of two NEA awards, and teaches Creative Writing from a Visual Perspective at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Of her transition from visual artist to author she writes: “Over time, random words began to appear on my canvases…then poems…then elaborate fragments of narratives. I began to think more about writing and less about the visual world. Finally, I simply wrote myself off the canvas and onto the lavender quadrille pages of a bright orange notebook. This first book, Violette’s Embrace, was published by Riverhead Books.” That book is a fictional biography of the French writer Violette Leduc. Her second book, the acclaimed Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl (Penguin Putnam, 1999), is a non-fiction account of the mystery of the lost illegitimate daughter of Mileva and Albert Einstein. Broken Colors (Europa Editions, 2007) is the story of an artist, whose life takes her to a place where life and art intersect. Her fourth novel, Last Train to Paris, was published in January 2014.

Zackheim applied the Page 69 Test to Last Train to Paris and reported the following:
From page 69:
After Andy returned to the office, I went back upstairs to Clara’s room and insisted that we go for dinner. We strolled along the boulevard St. Germain. The street lamps gave off a pale yellow glow, blurring the evening like a painting by Utrillo. Even the voices of the pedestrians were soft, and we found ourselves almost whispering. We turned left onto the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, meandering past a row of small galleries and antique shops. Displayed in one of the windows were three small charcoal drawings by Giacometti.

“That’s what I feel like,” Clara said, “a line that’s disappearing into the horizon. Lost.” I took her hand and we walked.

“Let’s go to Deux Magots,” I said. “It’s late, and not so crowded, and I love to listen to that.” And I pointed to an old tramp wearing drooping and patched trousers held up by a thick leather belt, a peasant’s shirt, originally blue, but now black with grime, and a beret. He was clasping a battered violin to his chest. “He’s remarkable. When you hear him play, you’ll see what I mean.” I walked over and handed him money. For just a short time, we could forget our distress. The evening was transformed as the old man played Massenet’s “Meditation.”
I loved writing page 69. The challenge of weaving a painterly, emotional group of words together is most satisfying. I was a visual artist for half of my adult life and have spent the second half writing. Not only do I look for color, shape, and form in the world of cities and towns and nature and human beings; I also try to imbue emotions with the delicate vibrancy of Japanese sumi ink: a fluttering bird or a bold slash of an unexpected idea made with a huge horsehair brush.
Visit Michele Zackheim's website.

My Book, The Movie: Last Train to Paris.

Writers Read: Michele Zackheim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Red 1-2-3"

Three of John Katzenbach's novels have been made into feature films: In the Heat of the Summer (adapted for the screen as The Mean Season), Hart's War starring Bruce Willis, and Just Cause starring Sean Connery. His other books include the New York Times bestseller The Traveler; Day of Reckoning and The Shadow Man. Katzenbach was a criminal court reporter for The Miami Herald and Miami News and a featured writer for the Herald’s Tropic magazine.

Katzenbach applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Red 1-2-3, and reported the following:
Now this is a tough standard. I mean, ideally every page of a psychological thriller should wrap itself around a reader’s imagination – but in Red 1-2-3 alas, page 69 is the start of a chapter and lacks car chases, gunfire, knife play, cliff-edge teetering or fiery explosions. Now, that said, on page 68 a killer contemplates a most intriguing crime spree – while at the same time he awaits the mundane, but delicious dinner his wife prepares in the kitchen. This is the sort of moment in the book that I really work hard at – a time where the ordinary crashes into the exceptional and lines that define character and underscore tension are molded together. I have always thought that the essence of psychological tension in the very best thrillers comes from a junction of the routine – which a reader can identify with – and the twists of character, that further the plot, so that it all combines into a story that compels the reader to turn pages.

When I was young, I had a wonderful teacher at Bard College, a novelist named Mary Lee Settle. She used to say that any writer worth their salt can handle the scene where the clock is striking High Noon, and Black Bart is in the dusty street, stroking the pearl handles of his twin Colt .45’s, calling out the Sheriff, “I’m out here waitin’ on yah, Sheriff!” and the School Marm is clutching the Sheriff’s knees, pleading with him, “Don’t go out there, Sheriff! Black Bart’ll gun you down f’er sure…” and the Sheriff is saying, “But Martha, the whol’ town’s expecting me to face him…”

Easy, Mary Lee would say. Good versus evil and pretty much the scene the author imagined from the get-go, which is why he or she’s writing the book in the first place.

But the scene that establishes the tension for that showdown happens significantly earlier. Maybe at breakfast, when Martha the School Marm idly asks her husband/lover the Sheriff, “Well, dear, got any plans for today?”

And he replies, “Yes, ah, I have a pressing appointment at precisely noon…”

That breakfast is much harder to write -- but incredibly important for the overall story.

And that’s the sense I try to endow on many pages in Red 1-2-3. It’s to create an atmosphere of tension that runs beneath – like a river in winter, flowing under a thin layer of crackling ice.
Learn more about the book and author at John Katzenbach's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Red 1-2-3.

Writers Read: John Katzenbach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"He Drank, and Saw the Spider"

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider, and reported the following:
Page 69 of the fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider, features the introduction of one of the novel’s most enigmatic characters: the sorceress Opulora. Eddie and his girlfriend Liz, having just delivered a wagonload of place settings (it makes sense in context), are forced by politeness into a private audience with King Gerald, a.k.a. Crazy Jerry, ruler of Mahnoma. Despite their worries, it seems to be going well. And then:
A tall woman with short gray hair appeared in the room. And by “appeared,” I mean just that. One moment she wasn’t there, and the next she was. No door had opened, no tapestry rippled to reveal a hidden passage. And I was almost positive she hadn’t been there when we’d all entered.

“Bloody hell!” Gerald yelped, which actually startled me more than the woman’s sudden appearance. “Don’t do that!”
Until now, Gerald--whose reputation as a king who’d gone mad has been totally belied by his civil and reasonable behavior--has been gracious, generous and even witty. Liz, nervous at meeting royalty in general and possibly insane royalty even more so, has even begun to relax. But with Opulora’s appearance everything shifts, as Eddie notes toward the bottom of the page:
I was more fascinated by the change in the unspoken power dynamic. Gerald might be king, but Opulora was definitely in charge.
On the one hand, this is an example of the kind of courtly intrigue Eddie always finds amongst royalty, so he’s not that surprised. But this is his first encounter with a sorceress functioning as part of a royal court (he’s met my Merlin figure, Cameron Kern, in Dark Jenny, but only after the wizard had retired to exile). He has an iffy relationship with magic, and seeing a practitioner so close to the throne makes him understandably suspicious, especially since at that moment, they’re basically trapped.

It’s also a possible hint that Gerald isn’t as stable as he puts on, that perhaps Crazy Jerry still lurks beneath the good manners. In contrast, Opulora is perfectly polite and seemingly open about her presence and role.

This intrigue contrasts with subsequent chapters set in a small village, where there are secrets, but also a wide-open sense of fun and camaraderie totally absent from the castles. When those two worlds are drawn together, the crash and boom is loud, boisterous and unexpected--and hopefully, a lot of fun to read about.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

My Book, The Movie: He Drank, and Saw the Spider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Black Arts"

Faith Hunter is author of the Jane Yellowrock novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Black Arts, Book 7 in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Black Arts:
a driver called in sick. He wasn’t willing to give me any more info on the phone, so you might want to pay him a visit.” He pointed to one of the unknowns in the car. “I’m pretty sure she’s a chick and that she has long, straight red hair because it matches the shade of Rachael’s hair in this light.”

I leaned in. Molly’s a redhead. She might have straightened her hair. And then I realized how stupid that was. Molly was not tied into my case. The timeline was impossible. I was reaching for straws. I was starting to panic about my best friend.

The Kid said, “The other one looks like a dude, with a nose ring.”

Once he pointed it out, I could make out the ring. It was an aggressive piece of jewelry.

“From what Alonzo didn’t say, I’m guessing the chick’s a vamp, and was turned when she was about fifteen. He implied that she was classy, like an old-world vamp, though the words he used were ‘like she was a movie star, like from the ’forties. You dig? Like, a real classy chick.’” I managed a partial smile, but I didn’t think it fooled Alex at his mimicry. “The other one he didn’t say anything about, but I’m guessing it’s the vamp’s blood-servant or primo or something.”

“How many redheaded vamps have lairs or homes in New Orleans?”

“A few. I pulled up six. If we could get a name—”

“Yeah.” I stood. “Anything on Mo—on the family case?”

“Nothing new. I made it into the hotel security footage, but it’s a lot of work to locate the right floor and right day without access to their dedicated system. I’ll text you the minute I get anything. The plates from the limo that the ‘family case’ got into were hard to trace because your source didn’t give you a state for the rental agency. The car was rented out of Galveston, Texas, seventy-two hours ago.”

My forehead crinkled in surprise. Texas? Leo didn’t rule Texas. I didn’t know who did, but it was in a database somewhere. The Kid went on. “Within an hour, but not on the same credit card, two buses were rented, all vamp-specific, which could have nothing to do with the limo rental. Or it could be related.” He shrugged. “I can’t rule it out, so I included it in my report.”
I have to admit that the excerpt sounds oblique and obscure and confusing. That said, it may be the pivotal point in the novel when two different plot lines are first juxtaposed. And don’t juxtapose. Jane is a rogue-vamp hunter who was hired by the master of the city of New Orleans, to chase down and kill (true-dead) a vamp who had turned against his own. Then she stayed on to help keep the city safe from the monsters, even if it meant working for the monsters themselves. Welcome to the world of Jane Yellowrock.
Learn more about the book and author at Faith Hunter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 17, 2014


Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert. Her work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening,” and Famous Monsters called her "one of the best writers in dark fiction today." Her novels include The Castle of Los Angeles and Malediction. A multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner, she lives in North Hollywood, California.

Morton applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Netherworld, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Netherworld involves my globe-trotting heroine, Lady Diana Furnaval, encountering a mysterious gateway in the depths of a snowy forest in the Transylvanian mountains. Diana is there searching for clues to the death of her husband, William.

The scene is sober and melancholic, as Diana returns from the forest to the abandoned village of Urveri and the inn where William died. Winter is raging, and everything is frozen over, quiet, dead. Diana remains strong while in the village, but a page later, as she’s in the hired sleigh heading back down the mountains, tears freeze on her cheeks.

I’d like to think that most of Netherworld is less somber and ultimately tragic than this scene! Diana is often caustic and witty, and loves to learn about new customs and languages as she travels. The one part of Netherworld that this scene captures well, however, is the folklore that provides the background for the story. When Diana finds the gateway in that forest, the description runs: In Ireland this would have been a fairy ring; in England, a haunted moor. I love mythology and folklore – eastern and western, ancient and modern – and Netherworld is steeped in it.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Morton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Netherworld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World"

Rachel Cantor's is the author of the novel A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World. Her stories have appeared in magazines such as The Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Fence, and Volume 1 Brooklyn. They have been anthologized, nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, short-listed by both the O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories, and awarded runner-up Bridport and Graywolf/SLS Prizes. She lives in New York, in the writerly borough of Brooklyn, but has at various points made her home in most U.S. states between Virginia and Vermont. In addition to writing fiction, she freelances as a writer for nonprofits that work in developing countries. In that capacity, she's worked everywhere from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. She spent much of her adolescence in Rome, and as a young one, wandered the world, working on food festivals in Melbourne, Australia, and European jazz festivals in France; living in rural Gujarat while interning for a Gandhian nonprofit; and teaching Afghan women refugees in Peshwar, Pakistan. She is, always, at work on another book.

Cantor applied the Page 69 Test to A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World and reported the following:
Leonard has many fine qualities, but he isn’t the brightest star in the Neetsa Pizza constellation (don’t know it? it’s that wedge-shaped bunch of stars over there, with the pepperoni, next to the Heraclitan flame). On p. 69, Leonard is finally talking to Isaac the Blind, the thirteenth-century mystic who, unbeknownst to Leonard, has been redirecting the calls Leonard should have been receiving on his Neetsa Pizza complaints hotline—redirecting them so Leonard can instead talk for a great long while with a certain medieval explorer and, in doing so, save the world. Only Leonard doesn’t realize he’s done either: as far as he’s concerned, “Marco” is a loony calling from the Finger Lakes District. On p. 69, Isaac is introducing himself; because Leonard’s attention is diffuse, Isaac is using the voice of Leonard’s grandfather, hoping this will focus him. Instead, it only confuses Leonard further, especially when Isaac claims to have known the grandfather in earlier times: Leonard assumes he means in the “old country,” while Isaac actually means through an incarnation some seven centuries back. On this same page, Isaac begins to draw from Leonard the reason why he was chosen to talk to the explorer, why he, and not Isaac, was the appropriate person to have in this instance saved the world; it has something to do with Leonard becoming the explorer’s friend. Page 69 is utterly representative of the book: it contains humor, pathos, historical characters, a fantastic setting, and offers a good sense of Leonard’s loyalty and sweetness.
Visit Rachel Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"The Broken Dragon"

Irene Radford is the author of the Dragon Nimbus (The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician, The Wizard's Treasure) and the Dragon Nimbus History (The Dragon's Touchstone, The Last Battlemage, The Renegade Dragon) series. She is the author of the Stargods and Merlin's Descendants series as well, and is also one of the founders of the Book View Cafe.

Radford applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Broken Dragon, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Broken Dragon begins Chapter 8 in Prince Glenndon’s point of view. The Crown Prince of Coronnan carries almost half the weight of this, the twelfth book in the world of The Dragon Nimbus. Having been raised in the rural community of the University of Magicians by his mother Brevelan and her husband Jaylor, without knowing that he’d been sired by Darville, now the king, (see The Silen Dragon: Children of the Dragon Nimbus #1) he is still uncomfortable with city life and the intricate dance of Court politics and matchmaking. On this page he wills himself to invisibility to avoid yet another miserable lesson in riding or sword fighting and the hovering bevy of greedy females who see him as only a valuable prize and not a person.

This page is a good presentation of what drives Glenndon but contains little of the action or the actual tension of ruthless characters at war with each other. Their willingness to use whatever elements they can tap into as weapons will bring this world to the brink of devastation and perhaps beyond. Glenndon must find a determination he doesn’t know he has, not only to survive but to protect the land and kingdom he is destined to inherit.
Visit Irene Radford's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Broken Dragon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"A Measure of Blood"

Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (Edgar finalist, best novel), Hideout, and Simple. The newly released A Measure of Blood is her seventh Richard Christie novel.

George applied the Page 69 Test to A Measure of Blood and reported the following:
Maggie Brown dies early in A Measure of Blood, but she exists still in memory—in the lives of her friends, her bereft son, and her killer, Nadal Brown (no relative at all). Nadal met her, was fascinated by her and became ecstatic when he learned they shared the same last name.

On Page 69, Nadal is obsessing over what he characterizes as their breakup. He doesn’t understand that Maggie never considered what they had a relationship. She was pretty forthright with him, telling him that, shallow as it was, she just liked his looks, and that she was mixed up, too old for him, a bit desperate to have a child. She was lonely, she said, and they were just messing around, foolish as that might be. None of this mattered to Nadal. He wanted her, the child, a new life.

The “breakup” or shaming of Nadal is the catalyst for his angry behavior, which culminates in a rage against Maggie, an inciting incident that happens before the novel begins. Later, as we follow him, he can hardly remember the split second’s fury in which he killed her, but his real motive all along was—and continues to be—to have his son. Or the boy he believes is his son. The bulk of the novel is about Nadal’s hunting and finding seven year old Matt Brown.
The police, led by Commander Richard Christie, must then search for Matt.

On page 69 Nadal remembers and is fueled by the insults he suffered from Maggie. He remembers everything she said, every rejection, private or witnessed, in person or by phone or by email. He is reviewing moments of interaction with Maggie in which he tried to understand her:
“You said you like how I look.”

“That isn’t enough. You need to just forget about me.”

“You’re Brown. I’m Brown. It was meant to be.”

“No, no, no.”

“You want a baby. I want a baby. We both want a family.”

“Right. And you want to put my hair down and take me to some farm in Puerto Rico.”

“You think I’m nothing.”

She sighed. “See, I can’t even have a conversation with you. No more. That’s it. I’m not dating ever again. Never. I’m finished.”

But it wasn’t true, what she said. He went back to her place unannounced and waited for her one afternoon. She walked up to her door with a guy.

“Oh-oh,” she said when she saw him.

“Who’s this kid?” the guy asked. He was not good looking. Older. A little bit bald.

She said, “A guy I know, that’s all.”

“You want me to dust the sidewalk with him?”

“No. Let’s just go in.” She walked past him as if she hardly knew him.

He had never given his phone number, which meant she couldn’t call him. So he called her from work.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “You treat me like shit. Who was that guy you started up with?”

“I was wrong,” she said. “Look. Erase everything. We are no more. We are finished. No more. Don’t call.”

But he had an email for her. Were you just using me? he wrote.

Yes. I’m sorry. I was. But I’m not the only one at fault. I got a new phone two weeks ago and when you called me, I saw the phone number on the screen. You were calling from Bellefonte. You said you were home. What’s that all about?

I live near there. I traveled to see you.

Don’t travel. Don’t call me. This is over and I will call the police, I swear. I’m sorry if I hurt you, but I don’t want to see you ever again.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 99 Test: Afterimage.

The Page 99 Test: The Odds.

The Page 69 Test: Hideout.

My Book, The Movie: Hideout.

The Page 69 Test: Simple.

Writers Read: Kathleen George.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Game Slaves"

Gard Skinner lives in a place known for hurricanes and morons who surf during them.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Game Slaves, his first book, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Game Slaves is a pivotal moment for NPC (non-player character) Dakota. The great science fiction out there is able to examine what it means to be human through so many different lenses. Doing it through AI minds was a blast.

On page 69, Dakota is trying to come to terms with what her value is to the world…
She says, “It still makes no sense. There are holes everywhere... Or maybe I’m dead? I remember falling from a really high place, a wall of rock zooming down. It’s so vivid. Am I hallucinating all this before I hit?"

No one answered. We’d all been tossed from cliffs before. Hundreds of times.

“I had friends. I had a life.”

“Can you name them?” York asked.

“There’s more. Your explanation doesn’t add up.”

York leaned over. “Or, admit this, it could be that you’re programmed to think it doesn’t add up?”

“I feel more for some of you than others. Some I don’t like at all, York. The point is, I feel. I get hungry. Maybe I’m being tricked. Maybe you’re all in on it... I have sadness. I get afraid. I experience joy. I’m lonely, even when we’re all together. I’m different from the rest of you.”

She pinched her arm. Ran her fingers through her hair. Held her breath till she turned blue. Stomped her own toes with the heel of her boot.


But she was just kidding herself. One way or another, it was all programmed response.
Visit Gard Skinner's website and the Game Slaves Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Words with Fiends"

Ali Brandon is the national bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series—also from Berkley—which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically-reviewed historical romances which will soon be re-released as ebooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association.

Brandon applied the Page 69 Test to Words with Fiends, the third book in the Black Cat Bookshop Series, and reported the following:
I’d heard of the Page 69 test before but had never applied it to any work, let alone my own. But, given the opportunity to do just that, I flipped to the page in question in my latest Black Cat Bookshop Mystery and took a look.

I will pause for a minute to explain one recurring concern I’ve had with my series. The popular wisdom regarding mystery novels seems to be that the murder should occur within the first few pages. Sorry to confess, but when it comes to cozy mysteries, I don’t work that way.

While I understand the rationale behind this supposed rule, I object to killing off someone who is, to the reader, merely a name. It might be fiction, but we’re still talking murder, and that’s a pretty darned serious crime. I want my readers to have had the chance to care about—or at least be intrigued by—each book’s victim before that character bites the dust. And so, while I always begin my story at a point of change, we’re a few chapters into each novel before I pull the figurative trigger.

Back to my examination of Words with Fiends. Page 69 happens to be the point in the novel where our protagonist, Darla Pettistone, is dealing with finding the murder victim. She and her teenaged employee, Robert, have gone to the dojo where they take karate lessons, only to find that real life mayhem had occurred. Darla and Robert have done what they can for a supposed suicide victim and are breathlessly waiting as the paramedics take over. Here’s an excerpt:
The next few moments were a blur of action. Not only had the ambulance service responded, but the police and fire department, as well. The studio entry was overwhelmed now with large uniformed men hauling all manner of rescue gear, a gurney clattering as they rushed behind Darla through the maze-like path to the training area. While the responders gathered around the collapsed man, a shaken Darla pulled Robert a safe distance back to give them room.

The teen was manfully trying to hold it together, though Darla caught him rubbing his eyes with one sleeve. Roma whined, and Darla promptly handed the dog over to Robert.

“Here,” she said softly, managing a tremulous smile as the little dog burrowed into Robert’s arms. “She needs her friend right now.”

It seemed Robert needed the little dog even more, for he promptly settled cross-legged on the floor and buried his face in the velvet softness of her small body, his shoulders silently shaking.

And then the chaos before them was punctuated by one word that sent a frisson of hope through Darla.

Aha! It seems that I have, in a way, satisfied the supposed requirement of presenting the dead body right up front. The reader who applies the Page 69 principle will immediately know the “who” and the “where” and the (presumably) “how” of the murder. He or she can now go back to the start to find out what led up to the death, and learn why he or she should care about learning the killer’s identity.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ali Brandon--AKA Diane A.S. Stuckart--website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Diane Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika.

My Book, The Movie: Double Booked for Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Into the Wilderness"

Mandy Hager is an award-winning writer and educator based on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. She has a drive to tell stories that "matter" -- direct, powerful stories with something to say. She won the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Award for Young Adult Fiction for The Crossing, the first book in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy.

Hager applied the Page 69 Test to Into the Wilderness, the second book in the trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 marks a scene between main protagonist Maryam and Joseph, nephew of the evil Father Joshua who controls the people of Onewēre from his ‘Holy City’, a rotting cruise ship that is home to the religious cult Apostles of the Lamb.
... waded in, his hands strategically placed across the parts she feared to see. He squatted down and made his way across to her clumsily on bended knees. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I just needed some time to think.”

He was right next to her now, the water lapping at his shoulders. “You look like a seal,” he murmured, reaching out to tuck stray tendrils of her hair back into her plait. His fingers lingered on her neck, cupping it, his thumb circling the fine curls at its nape.

She could hardly breathe. His hand slid to her shoulder, drawing her around until they faced each other, only a hand’s width of lapping water between them. She knew she should pull away, put distance and propriety between them, yet she couldn’t—couldn’t. It felt as though the tide pressed up against her back to trap her there and she was powerless to intervene.

Never before had she been so conscious of her body. She knew Joseph had glimpsed it when Father Joshua stripped her bare before the entire congregation of the Holy City when she’d first Crossed. But now it really mattered to her, and she felt ashamed. She’d always been so small—Mother Elizabeth’s “te bebi”; she’d been late to get her bloods and was still as lean and lacking curves as a young boy. Would he think her ugly if he saw her now?

The whites of his eyes shone silver as he leaned across the distance, every fraction of an inch heightening her apprehension, until he met her with his lips. All the strength in her legs gave way and she floated up against his chest, nipple meeting tingling nipple with a terrifying recognition as the kiss transformed to something so heated she truly felt that she would burst...
Is this representative of the book? Yes and no! It marks a turning point in the relationship between Maryam and Joseph — the start of a growing love that will complicate the relationships between the four main characters in the book. And it is one of the few happy scenes, a breather in between the hardship and turmoil that they encounter.

It is a relationship that would never have been allowed to blossom on their own island home of Onewēre (a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean). Maryam is a native of the island, Joseph is nephew of the leader of a cruel, blood-thirsty religious sect who raises certain young women (The Chosen) to be either ‘breeders or bleeders’; to serve the Apostles of the Lamb and to, ultimately, die in their service.

What this scene shows, indicative of the whole trilogy, is Maryam’s slow dawning of maturity and understanding, and of the vast differences that have arisen between the subservient native population and the white ruling elite. Her naivety (so carefully nurtured in her childhood to ensure obedient behaviour) is slowly eroded as she fights for her life and comes to understand the intricacies and inequalities of her world.

Perhaps what it most clearly mirrors in terms of the overarching story of the three books, is the power of love — and how love can overcome differences and embolden those in its grip, in order to fight for a fairer, more equitable world.
Learn more about the book and author at Mandy Hager's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Wilderness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Heirs of the Body"

Carola Dunn is the author of Heirs of the Body and many previous mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple, as well as numerous historical novels. Born and raised in England, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dunn applied the Page 69 Test to Heirs of the Body and reported the following:
Page 69 of Heirs of the Body doesn't illuminate the plot. It does illustrate the background of the series: the clash between the pre-WWI generation, here Daisy's mother, the Dowager Lady Dalrymple, and the post-war generation, Daisy herself, with Geraldine, the present Lady Dalrymple—whose husband had been a schoolmaster until he inherited—caught uneasily in between. Rapidly changing expectations and social mores are part of the reason I chose to write about the 1920s.

The page does end with stormy weather in the offing!

Page 69:
Daisy's mother got round to asking after her grandchildren. As she had completely ignored their existence the previous day, Daisy took this sudden solicitude with a pinch of salt. A wayward impulse made her begin with Belinda, in whom the dowager had even less interest than in the twins.

"Belinda's doing very well at school. She's even thinking she might like to go on to university, though it's much too early to make a decision, of course."

"Belinda...? Oh, your stepdaughter. I cannot approve of excessive education for young ladies...but of course, the child doesn't quite—"


"I'm very fond of Belinda," Geraldine put in hastily. "A nice child, and bright. And having seen many decidedly unintelligent boys going on to fritter away everyone's time at Oxford and Cambridge, I don't believe it can be right to waste a good brain just because it's female."

"If Bel wants to continue her studies when she's seventeen or eighteen, she shall. Miranda, too. She loves picture books and she knows most of her ABCs. Oliver is more interested in trains at present. Not content with his wooden train, he builds his own with his blocks."

"Not what I would describe as a useful accomplishment. Still, you did at least produce an heir." The dowager gave Geraldine a disparaging look, then transferred it to Daisy. "Though it hardly matters, since there is no title to inherit."

Daisy's mother was the only person who invariably succeeded in bringing her to the boiling point. It must have been obvious because Geraldine, with an alarmed glance at Daisy, said, "Will you have another wafer, Maud?" and thrust the plate towards the dowager, as if to stop her mouth. "And may pour you some more lemonade? Daisy, let me refill your glass."

They both accepted. The social amenities restored, the dowager took a sip and said graciously, "An excellent notion. June is seldom so hot. I believe we shall have a storm."

As if to confirm her prediction, a distant mutter of thunder made itself heard. Though they were sitting by the open window, not a breath of air relieved the stifling heat. Heavy clouds darkened the sky, but no rain fell. Conversation languished.
The plot of Heirs of the Body concerns the present Lord Dalrymple's search for an heir. Not having been brought up in the expectation of becoming viscount (Daisy's brother was killed in the war), he finds himself on the eve of his fiftieth birthday without having stirred himself to discover who will inherit the title and estate.

Worldwide advertising brings four credible candidates to London from all over the Empire. Three, rather; one is represented by his wife (or widow). He's been missing a couple of months. She doesn't know where he is nor when or whether he'll return.

The family and all the prospective heirs are invited to the Dalrymple estate, Fairacres, for his lordship's birthday. A series of accidents and a death make it plain that someone is determined to let nothing and no one stand in the way of his inheriting.
Visit Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

Writers Read: Carola Dunn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 9, 2014


K. M. Ruiz is the author of Mind Storm and Terminal Point, a duology which is gathered in the omnibus Strykers. She lives in California.

Ruiz applied the Page 69 Test to Strykers and reported the following:
Page 69 in Strykers is a fairly accurate representation of the struggles the characters have to go through and overcome in the rest of the book. The book has an ensemble cast of characters and page 69 lands on a chapter dedicated to Ciari Treiva. It shows part of a conversation between the ruling elite and an enslaved psion who still finds a way to protest the treatment of her people, albeit very little comes of her protestations. Ciari has to play a certain role in order to ensure the survival of her people and if that means sacrificing a few in order to save everyone else, she will do it. She’s not completely heartless about it, but she knows her role, and it’s to make sure the elite believes she’s toeing their line, even when it becomes apparent later on in the story that she’s not.
“That’s a Class II telepath you want me to terminate, sir. I realize you don’t much care about the rest of them, but—”

“That’s a dysfunctional Class II telepath I’m telling you to terminate,” Erik interrupted sharply. “There’s a difference between a psion that is worth something to me and one that has proven useful in all the years we’ve let him live.”

“Permission to speak freely, sir.”

“If you’re going to try arguing for their lives, then no. Terminate them.”

The screen went blank, Erik having cut the connection on his end. Ciari rubbed a hand over her face, mouth twisting slightly before the expression smoothed away. She hated this part of her job.

Getting to her feet, Ciari left her office for the lift beyond her doors, taking it down to the busy command level. It was a mazy of hallways, offices, and command rooms, full of humans and Strykers alike monitoring Styrkers out in the field on contract and those within their headquarters. All Strykers showed up on the government’s security grid through bioscans from the signal that their implanted neurotrackers transmitted, a precaution that was law. If they dropped off the grid, they were either dead or attempting an escape, the latter of which resulted in the former.

There was no way out of the Strykers Syndicate except by death. Everyone knew that.
Learn more about the book and author at K. M. Ruiz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Dying to Know"

As an international security consultant and former government agent, Tj O'Connor has conducted security consulting, investigations, and anti-terrorism operations around the world. Today, he provides independent security consulting to government agencies and private businesses.

O'Connor  applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Dying to Know, and reported the following:
I’m not sure if I pass the test or not, but page 69 of Dying to Know does represent important storylines in my novel. Dying to Know is about Oliver Tucker—a dead detective—who is killed in the opening and returns to help his beautiful wife solve his murder. Yes help. Tuck is not your typical ghost story character. He’s the chief protagonist in every sense, except for his flaw—he’s dead. On page 69, two significant plotlines emerge in Tuck’s investigation—his abilities beyond pure investigative skills and his prime suspect:
Like striking a match, the sparks ignited and flames singed my fingers. An image swirled in the print as if developing before me.

A thin, shallow face with haunting, powerful eyes emerged. The face was aged and showed a man worn by more than years.

This face was no friend.

Poor Nicholas Bartalotta.

Poor Nic was not poor at all. In fact, he was one of the wealthiest people in Frederick County. He was also the county’s most notorious, albeit only, gangster. Poor Nic was retired from the New York City mob families. Newspapers, being as fond of notorious mobsters as they are of bestowing silly names on them, dubbed him “Poor Nic” from his lavish lifestyle. The nom de guerre followed him to Winchester.

“Hi, Nic. I bet you thought you were rid of me.”

I laid my hand on the photograph and a manic episode exploded in my brain. My thoughts lost focus and melted. Needles pricked me everywhere. I tried to get control but a jolt of electricity shot through me like a cattle prod to my brain. Lightning burst through—synapse by synapse. My eyes shuttered closed and the current swept through me.
When my eyes opened, I was standing in a luxuriously furnished, two-story great room. There were antiques and expensive trappings and I could have been in an English castle amongst lords and ladies. There were paintings, sculptures, and fine art of every variety. The room exuded wealth and power. Across from me, in front of the story-tall double oak doors, two muscular men stood…
So, here we have Tuck learning he can move about from place to place. He also learns that an old nemesis, Poor Nic, is again a key suspect in one of his cases. This time, it’s his own—detective solve thyself.

Prior to page 69, Tuck could not comprehend part of his world—including an investigative file on his desk. He could not get through doors, could not read, and was a prisoner of his new world. Here, he is finally able to move about and finds clarity in his case file. There, he sees what he’s been missing—his old arch enemy, Poor Nic, was the prime suspect in his most recent homicide case. Now the question on Tuck’s mind is—did Poor Nic close Tuck’s case for good?

Page 69 is a good representative page and it is demonstrative of Tuck’s greatest flaw and new investigative tool—his death. This page also sets the stage for something Tuck is about to come to terms with—it’s the living, not the dead, who are most terrifying.
Visit Tj O’Connor's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Tj O’Connor & Toby, Mosby, and Maggie Mae.

My Book, The Movie: Dying to Know.

Writers Read: Tj O'Connor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Ann Redisch Stampler is the author of Afterparty and Where it Began, both for teens, as well as several picture books, including The Rooster Prince of Breslov. Her books have been an Aesop Accolade winner, Sydney Taylor Honor and Notable Books, a National Jewish Book Awards finalist and winner, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year.

Stampler applied the Page 69 Test to Afterparty and reported the following:
The set-up:

In looking over his 16 year-old daughter’s new best friend at the Family Game Night from hell, Emma’s psychoanalyst father has decided to batten down the hatches and hope that Siobhan will be carried away in the storm of his horrified daughter’s reaction to his efforts to pry the girls apart.

The subdued opening volley of Emma’s reaction falls on page 69:

You know how in the morning, everything is supposed to look all shiny and better? It doesn’t.

My dad makes waffles with blueberry smiley faces, like he did when I was seven. I’m pretty sure this is because (1) he wishes I were seven and (2) he wants me in the best possible mood so he can tell me that after our (trashed) Family Game Night, courtesy of my (trashed) best friend, he wants me to stay home more. I am not supposed to mistake this for being grounded; it is intended more as extreme family bonding. Or as me bonding with the inside of our house. Or as me bonding with anybody other than Siobhan.

And I understand his concern, I do. He’s not being mean, he’s being worried. I get that. But people change, right? She was a wrecked twelve-year-old, but it’s not like she’s in that same wrecked place. Not everyone who screws up is doomed to be, well, doomed forever, right?
On the surface, this passage presents a snippet of sixteen-year-old Emma making light of her father’s concerns about a best friend whose dark side cannot be hidden even for long enough to play one round of Scrabble while smashed on a vodka-laced Big Gulp.

In the broader context of the book, below the surface, this passage shows Emma explaining away the very aspects of Siobhan that should be the most alarming, as these alarming characteristics reflect aspects of Emma’s mother. The passage shows Emma -- who is deeply aware of her mother’s failings and terrified that she is destined to find herself passed out on the same grim path – trying to reassure herself that despite her own adventures in bad behavior, she is not “doomed forever.” But in fighting to believe this, Emma allows herself to know yet not know that Siobhan’s Game Night description of herself as a wrecked twelve year old has a great deal of bearing on who Siobhan is now.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Redisch Stampler's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue