Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Night After Night"

Phil Rickman is the author of the Merrily Watkins mysteries, the John Dee series, and several novels of the paranormal (including two for children under the name Thom Madley).

He applied the Page 69 Test to his supernatural thriller Night After Night, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the beginning of Chapter 7 of Night After Night. As good a way in as any. This is how it opens.
Grayle takes a headache home with her. Hasn’t had one in years. She swallows two paracetamol, turns out the lights and lies down on the sofa, where she has a dream about a dead person.
This is Grayle Underhill. She’s the central character in Night After Night.

Grayle is an American journalist hired by the British TV company making a reality show in which seven people - a mixture of believers and sceptics - are locked into a haunted country-house for seven days. Grayle’s job is to find out the history of both the house and the people and then to monitor their experiences night after night, while the show goes out live.

But, of course, as we learn in Chapter 7, Grayle has problems of her own.
As usual, it’s Ersula, her sister. The clever one.
Ersula is the dead person. Ersula was an an academic with a pile of letters after her name, like their father, Dr Erlend Underhill, who is not dead but still features in Grayle’s dream.
He joins his cleverer daughter and the two of them stand looking down at Grayle. Looking down on her, on account of Grayle has no qualifications worth a damn.
And is a journalist. Even worse, she used to be a kind of New Age journalist who once wrote a column for a New York tabloid under the name Holy Grayle. She’s hung out with all kinds of weirdos and ended up having a breakdown before starting again in the UK, this time working hard-news.

But now she’s being paid to go back into a world where nothing is quite what it seems, looking after a bunch of people not all of whom are entirely stable.

The title of Chapter 7 is ‘Feral.’ This is a reference to Grayle’s friend and former employer, Marcus Bacton, who’s writing a book about the need for mystery. It’s the slightly ferocious Marcus who will help Grayle discover some of the soiled history of the house. Knap Hall is linked to Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII. Its history is not comforting, but you’ll need to read a couple hundred more pages before the worst is revealed.

Despite what it says on Amazon, this is mystery rather than horror, although the paranormal aspects look valid to me. It’s about people and how they react to the unknown.

Personally, I like to think any page could be a Page 69. If you’ve done it right, every page should be full of interesting hooks that make you want to keep on reading. Go ahead… ask me about Page 96...
Learn more about the book and author at Phil Rickman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Broken Bonds"

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper is a former high-school and college English teacher. Winner of the 2005 Mary Higgins Clark Award for her outstanding novel, Dark Angel, Harper is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, historical novels, and a series of historical mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Broken Bonds, book #3 in The Cold Creek Trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Broken Bonds is the middle of a scene where the two main point-of-view characters, the hero and heroine, get to know each other better. They are at a restaurant and he says, "No more talking about fracking, poor kids, or how we met." That picks up on the way they met, which was she saved him from being shoved off a cliff in Appalachia. She's dedicated to helping poor mountain kids. But their relationship--and the crime they try to solve together--is going to be a hard climb. The page also introduces a character who played a large part in the previous novel, but it also a possible perp in this book.

(The one time I was blessed to meet P.D. James, she told me never have more than 3 suspects or you won't be able to do them justice. Needless to say I took her advice!)

The book has a lot of action scenes, but this isn't one of them--at least not physical action, but a lot--from the author's view--is going on. Plot, character, themes--yikes, what a juggling act! Would the reader read on from this page? Probably only if it's part of the previous pages, which is the way it works.

And, oh yes, the book does claim to be romantic suspense, so there are hints of both on this page. It gives the reader a moment to breathe between the grabber opening and the "it's-going-to-be-a-rocky-ride" rest of the book.
Visit Karen Harper's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 29, 2014

"The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer"

Krista Davis lives and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, the 2nd book in the Paws and Claws Mystery Series, and reported the following:
Oh my! So much misery. Trust me when I say that there’s humor, too, and that The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer isn’t a sad book. Felix, Grayson, and Mark are ghost hunters. Eva is a ghost debunker who fainted when she learned that Mallory is dead.
I avoided mentioning that she fell on Mrs. Mewer’s tail, fearing that would set off more guilt and tears.

Felix inched closer, evidently feeling awkward. “Um . . . you know, Mark is a friend of mine, too.”

“He is?” she sniffled.

Grayson took a seat, his elbows on his knees, his face turned toward the floor.

Felix sat down near Eva. “We were college roommates. He’s a great guy. I can’t believe Mallory is dead. Mark must be flipping out.”

Eva nodded. Was she holding her breath?

“Did . . . did you work with Mark?” asked Felix.

“Sort of. We met when he was investigating some haunted manor houses in England.”

Felix’s eyes widened in surprise. “Cool. I’ve done a few of those. Did you know Mallory?”

“This is so tragic. Do you know her family story?” Eva sniffled and knotted a tissue.

Her face screwed up. “It’s so sad!”

Grayson wiped his eyes with his fingers. “When Mallory was fourteen, her father and brother died in a boating accident. You can imagine how horrible that was. Her mother couldn’t take it, and a month later, Mallory came home from school to find her mother had intentionally overdosed.”

“She was shipped from relative to relative,” said Eva. “I can’t believe that their family saga ended with her drowning.”

“It’s like they were cursed,” said Grayson.

Felix seemed at a loss. “I talked with her last night. She was so happy.” Felix rubbed his face with both palms. He looked at me when he said, “Mark is a trust fund baby from an Oklahoma oil family. You’d never know it. He acts like a regular guy, but he’s filthy rich.”

“Must be nice,” said Grayson. “My grandfathers were missing in action.”

“Both of them? Vietnam?” asked Felix.

“That’s not what I meant. They were just absentee. We never saw them. My parents went through a nasty divorce when I was just a baby. My mom took my sister and me, started a new life, and in the ensuing bitterness, cut off all contact with my dad’s family. Then my dad died.”
Visit Krista Davis's website.

Coffee with a canine: Krista Davis & Han, Buttercup, and Queenie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"The Moment of Everything"

Shelly King is a native Southerner who packed her bags and moved to Silicon Valley at the beginning of the Internet boom. She works for a major software company as a social media strategist and information architect. Her stories have been published in the GW Review, Epiphany, Slow Trains, the Dos Passos Review, and the Coe Review.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Moment of Everything, her first novel, and reported the following:
I think this page does represent the rest of the book quite well. It shows how the notes Maggie finds in the book are a fascination not just for her but for others. These people are longing for a little romance in their lives, just like Maggie is, and Maggie has found romance, at least someone else’s, in the pages of an old used book. The people who respond to her posting online the notes she finds represent what I hope the reader of The Moment of Everything is feeling. Who are these people? What happened to them? Can I find love in a bookstore? But the page also gives us more of a glimpse of Maggie’s friendship with Dizzy. This is a key relationship for her and this page shows that it’s not one-sided. He wants to help her get what she wants, or at least what she thinks she wants at the time. That relationship becomes one of the key points of tension throughout the novel. What happens when you change and your friend doesn't?
Visit Shelly King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"The Diva Wraps It Up"

Krista Davis lives and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Diva Wraps It Up, the 8th book in her Domestic Diva Mystery Series, and reported the following:
On this page, Sophie has just checked up on Edith, a sour and downright unpleasant neighbor whose husband is in the hospital. Edith thinks someone wants to kill her, but Sophie is worried that Edith isn’t thinking straight, for instance about the fact that someone stole her statuette of a boy. The book takes place at Christmastime.
“I’ve spent all these years disliking her, but then something like this happens,” she snapped her fingers, “and all I feel is pity for her.”

I thanked Mabel and assured her I would call Edith later. They kept their house warm, and I felt like I would bake in my heavy sweater. It was a relief to step out into the cold air again. I wondered, though, what had prompted Edith to leave the house unattended when she knew Mabel was coming. Maybe Edith really was confused.

I probably shouldn’t have, but out of curiosity, I cut through the walkway that led past the house and into the back garden. Even though winter had ravaged the garden, it offered a private respite. Beautiful bushes and old trees stood stark against the fence, their bare branches reaching out like comforting arms around the expansive garden.

Boxwoods lined red brick walkways and a small herb garden had been put to bed for the season. Only the markers with herb names remained. Totally symmetrical, another patch of the same size and shape lay asleep on the other side. A fountain stood in the middle, surrounded by a circle of the red bricks that led like spokes on a wheel to the north, south, east and west. I imagined that it must be even more impressive from the upstairs windows. Where had the statuette of the boy been? I walked through the garden to the back gate and let myself out into the alley.

The old VW camper that had horrified Gwen was parked outside their gate on the other side of the alley. I turned left and walked by Mars and Natasha’s gingerbread garage. I paused for a minute where I’d seen Sugar and Jonah the night before. My cell phone rang, startling me.

“What are you wearing on your date?”

I recognized Nina’s voice. “I don’t know. Probably something black.”

“I have your dress and there’s a woman eyeing it. She looks like she wants to grab it out of my arms. They only have one. Get thee to Sweet Belle right now.”

“Nina, that’s thoughtful of you but—“

She spoke to someone else. “I’m trying this on.” Into the phone, she hissed, “Hurry!”

The store was only a few blocks away.
Visit Krista Davis's website.

Coffee with a canine: Krista Davis & Han, Buttercup, and Queenie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"The Perfect Mother"

A journalist for thirty years, Nina Darnton wrote her first novel, An African Affair three years ago.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Perfect Mother, and reported the following:
I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about the idea that page 69 of any novel would encapsulate enough of the idea to tell you anything important about the book or whether or not you would like it. So I turned to page 69 this morning to see whether, at least in the case of my book, The Perfect Mother, that was true.

At first glance, it seemed false. My book is about a young college student, Emma, who travels to Spain on a Junior Year Abroad program and winds up accused of murder. It was inspired by the Amanda Knox case, but only in terms of those bare facts. The murder is different, the personalities of the characters are different, even the country is different. My book centers on the relationship between the mother and daughter and the mother’s steadfast belief in her daughter’s innocence even when presented with conflicting information. On page 69 we read about a meeting between Jennifer, the mother, and Roberto, a Spanish detective she has hired to help her prove her daughter’s innocence. In this conversation we don’t learn about the crime Emma is supposed to have committed nor do we hear about the charges against her or the police interrogation of her.

However, on second look, I realized that we do learn a lot that is important in a more indirect way. We see Jennifer’s involvement in the case. We meet the detective who is the only person able to both confront and comfort her. And we learn about Seville, Spain whose customs and exotic circumstances have influenced both Emma and Jennifer. Are these revelations significant because they occur on page 69, or would any page be provocative? That’s for you to find out. I’m on the fence.
Visit Nina Darnton's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfect Mother.

Writers Read: Nina Darnton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Last Days in Shanghai"

Casey Walker has a PhD in English Literature from Princeton University. His essays and short fiction have appeared in The Believer, Esquire, Narrative, Boston Review and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He lives in Iowa with his wife, novelist Karen Thompson Walker. Several trips he’s made to China, including one accompanying a delegation of officials from a small California city, laid some of the groundwork for his new novel, Last Days in Shanghai.

Walker applied the Page 69 Test to Last Days in Shanghai and reported the following:
Page 69:
“There’s a newer one,” I said. I was sure that was true. Bund had emailed a new itinerary twice daily in the final run-up to the trip. It was my job to manage the circus of changes, and I had failed at it.

“You didn’t let Mr. Polk know?”

“How come I’m talking to you? Polk can call when he’s in.”

“Mr. Polk is out sick.”

“He’s out sick?” I said. “He worked through chemo.”

Glenn had a suit he’d bought new for the internship, but he didn’t know to cut the jacket vents or the pockets, so he walked in it stiffly, with no place to put things. I never clued him in. He was eager enough, sometimes even helpful, but I could also see he was prone to red power ties and a creeping fascism.

“How’s the boss?” he asked.

“I can’t really tell,” I said.


“Go home,” I said. “Go back to bed.” I’d fallen asleep in my suit. I sat up and fumbled at the knot of my tie, yanking it hard and only tightening the knot. I steadied my fingers and went back like a surgeon and got the tie undone and popped the top buttons of my shirt.

“While I’ve got you,” Glenn rattled out, sensing I was about to hang up on him, “I’m trying to square up some of Congressman Fillmore’s committee coverage. They dropped reams of stuff on us at like five o’clock yesterday.”

“So read it,” I said. “Summarize. Use big fonts.” Sightings of Leo actually reading a briefing book were apocryphal, like encounters with Bigfoot—no matter, he still demanded them.

“I promise I’m not being difficult,” Glenn said. “Just one more thing.”

I checked my impulse to throw the phone across the room. I turned on the television to newscasters on BBC World, all of whom had the same indeterminate international look—khaki-brown skin, but never too dark, English with a global lilt. The woman who reported the time in Singapore, London, and Dubai could be from Lahore, Athens, or Buenos Aires.
From this page, a reader might imagine that Last Days in Shanghai is an industry novel about Washington D.C. political life, full of press secretaries and fundraisers and committee meetings. Perhaps it looks like something in the House of Cards vein, a D.C. update of those Shakespearean history plays where factions vie for the crown with devilish scheming and ruthless men (mostly men) murder their way to the top.

The novel does, I’ll admit, bear a certain resemblance to that kind of story of ambition and acquisition. But I think Last Days would be better described not as a story of climbing ambition, but as a narrative of bottomless dread and unraveling. The narrator, Luke Slade, an aide to a Congressman, has accompanied his boss on a political junket to China that turns disastrous. Luke is young and thinks he’s world-weary and wised-up. But what’s still to come for him is a reckoning with the dubious underpinnings of the political system he’s supported and the nature of the lies he’s told (to himself as much as to others).

The scene on this page takes place in a business hotel in Beijing. I was very deliberate about the narrow aperture through which Luke sees China—business hotels and banquet rooms and airports abound. He doesn’t speak the language and he’s being escorted around and sloughed from meeting to meeting. But I also tried to imagine these scenes in hotel suites as always in conversation with the cities outside of them. There’s a China that Luke is always trying (and mostly failing) to experience, and for every confined conference room in the book, there’s a dizzy wander through Beijing’s hutong or along Shanghai’s waterfront.

As to the actual conversation Luke has here, it occurs to me now that this is possibly the last gasp of the “old” Luke Slade, the slightly cynical Washington flack who thinks he’s got a few things figured out, before the whole China junket goes completely haywire.
Follow Casey Walker on Twitter.

Learn more about Last Days in Shanghai at the Counterpoint Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"The Convert's Song"

Sebastian Rotella is the author of Triple Crossing, which the New York Times Book Review named its favorite debut crime novel and action thriller of 2011, and the nonfiction book Twilight on the Line. He is a senior reporter for ProPublica, a newsroom dedicated to investigative journalism in the public interest.

Rotella applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Convert's Song, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel is actually a half page that begins Chapter 5. It marks lull in the action, and a turning point. In the preceding chapters, Valentine Pescatore, a U.S. private investigator based in Buenos Aires, has run into his long-lost friend Raymond, who in their youth in Chicago was a troubled singer and drug dealer. Raymond appears mysteriously in Argentina, saying he has cleaned up his act and converted to Islam. Days later, a terrorist attack devastates a shopping mall. Pescatore and his boss, Facundo Hyman, rush to the scene. The next morning, the police arrest Pescatore on suspicion of involvement in the attack. An FBI agent arrives to spring Pescatore, who causes a ruckus by sucker-punching an interrogator who roughed him up.

The page opens with a line I like: “’Persona non grata,’ the legal attache said.” The scene takes place in the office of Agent Tony Furukawa, the FBI attache at the U.S. embassy, a solitary veteran of expatriate life. He’s a decent, dedicated investigator, but run-ins with bureaucracy have made him pessimistic and grouchy. He’s worried he’s going to get kicked out of the country because of Pescatore’s antics. “They won’t let me be leeg-att in fucking Zambia. Thanks to you, pinche baboso cabron.” The exchange with Furukawa evokes some of the themes in the book about identity, rootlessness and exile. Pescatore asks the Japanese-American agent why he speaks Spanglish slang like a kid from the barrio. Furukawa explains that he’s from a Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles. Like the other characters—the Argentine-Mexican-American Pescatore, or the French cop of Moroccan descent Fatima Belhaj—Furukawa is a product of cultural convergence, a born border-crosser, a man at ease in different languages and tribes.

For Pescatore, lying on a couch recovering from the Argentine police interrogation, the nearly empty embassy on a Saturday night is a refuge, a mother-ship. His life has been a tightrope walk between cop and criminal. Since resigning from the Border Patrol and taking this job in Buenos Aires, he has become more serious and professional. Raymond’s catastrophic appearance has pulled him back toward his past. He suspects Raymond had something to do with the terrorist attack and his arrest. Not for the first time, Pescatore has been mistaken for a bad guy. He’s been rescued by the good guys. He wants to help. But do they trust him? Will it last?
Learn more about The Convert's Song at the Mulholland Books website.

Writers Read: Sebastian Rotella.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The Lady"

K. V. Johansen is the author of The Leopard (Marakand, Volume One) and Blackdog and numerous works for children, teens, and adults.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Lady (Marakand, Volume Two), and reported the following:
From page 69:
“The Lady,” said Talfan. “Took a company of temple guard to the suburb. Red Masks. Started arresting wizards, or trying to. Someone started fighting back. Killing Red Masks. Some great wizard with demons and --” She shook her head. “Maybe even the Blackdog of Lissavakail’s out there.”

“The Blackdog?” Varro raised his head sharply. “No. He wouldn’t --” He clamped his teeth together on the words.
Well, it’s all secondary characters on this page, a gathering of some of the Marakander rebels against the goddess called the Lady, but the Northron caravan-guard Varro, husband of the Marakander apothecary Talfan, is a character we’ve already met in Blackdog and The Leopard, and is a friend of the shapeshifting Blackdog. He’s kept Holla-Sayan’s nature secret from his wife, just as he’s kept Talfan’s place among the leaders of the loyalists of the old gods secret from his friends. This page, despite not featuring any of the central characters except by hearsay, comes at a significant moment, when those opposed to the Lady and her temple are realizing that their time has come -- if they don’t raise the city now, in the wake of the assassination of the Voice of the Lady (by one of the heroes, Ahjvar, in The Leopard), and seize the advantage they’ve been given by the battle in the suburb in which the Blackdog, the bear-demon Mikki, and the wizard Ivah (who were enemies in Blackdog) destroyed many of the reputedly-invulnerable Red Masks and put the Lady herself to flight, they will never reclaim their city and free their gods.

If I were a reader considering the book and this was the page I’d opened up at, it would definitely intrigue me, with its hints of battle, intrigue, and dark magic. I’d be wanting more in order to find out what was going on; I’d walk out of the store with both halves of Markand, The Leopard and The Lady, for certain.
Visit K. V. Johansen's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Leopard.

Coffee with a Canine: K.V. Johansen & Ivan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The First of July"

Elizabeth Speller studied Classics at Cambridge University. She is the author of The Return of Captain John Emmett and The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, both of which received stellar critical acclaim. She lives in England.

Speller applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The First of July, and reported the following:
To my relief I’m quite pleased with Page 69 of The First of July.

My novel follows the lives of four men, of different nationality, class and ambition and with very different hopes and fears, as they are sucked into the Great War. Frank is a working class Londoner, bent on self-improvement and obsessed with bicycles. Jean-Baptiste is a French runaway from his home on the Somme River, Benedict an organ scholar at one of Britain’s greatest cathedrals and Harry is British by birth but long established as a wealthy businessman in New York and newly married to a beautiful young American.

On page 69 Harry and his wife, Marina, set off by ship from New York on their honeymoon to Europe in May 1914. Of course (and this is a common dramatic trick of historical novels) the reader knows the timing is not propitious. But, also, by page 69 it is clear Harry is not quite the man he seems and has secrets that have kept him from Britain for several years, although the nature of these are yet to be revealed.

By the page end they are docking in Venice but for most of it the couple are in their stateroom, bantering with each other. They plan how they will escape their countrymen in Italy, bar the traditional necessity of seeing the Colosseum by moonlight, argue about the relative poetic demerits of the British Shelley and Byron v the American Longfellow, and then they make love, with an intensity that catches Harry by surprise.

But the page starts with Harry lying awake at night, disturbed by vague premonitions of the fragility of even the most protected lives. Beside him his bride, Marina, sleeps peacefully:
Beneath them and the first class warmth of their cabin lay fathoms of water, and his imagination travelled downward into the rocky abysses, getting colder and darker until finally, all light was extinguished.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Speller's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth Speller and Erwin.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Speller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Hope Rising"

Stacy Henrie has always had an avid appetite for history, fiction and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations from Brigham Young University and worked in communications before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances.

Henrie applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hope Rising, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“What food does that cabbage-head cook have today?” Louis asked as he followed her up the path.

A soft laugh escaped Evelyn’s mouth. The sound surprised her. She hadn’t laughed since finding out Ralph had been killed. “Whatever it is, we will both accept it gratefully. That’s what my grandmother always taught me.”

“I remember ma grand-mère.” Louis pulled back on Evelyn’s arm so he could scoop up a pebble with his free hand. “She smiled and told stories while she sewed. I miss her. Ma mère does not smile anymore or tell stories.”

Sadness filled Evelyn as she thought of Louis’s mother, trying to make do without her husband. Evelyn now knew what it meant to have the person one loved and counted on suddenly taken away. Though she’d never met this other woman, she felt bonded to her by grief.
This excerpt from Page 69 gives a great glimpse into Evelyn’s strength and the effects of the Great War on people all over the world. Evelyn has been dealt a severe blow, losing the man she loved, and her life has been drastically altered because of it. But she isn’t one to whine or retreat. After all she’s an Army Nurse Corps nurse in France. In this scene, she manages, in spite of her own grief, to give attention to young Louis. Their bond of grief and friendship is one that plays a significant role throughout the whole novel, even before Evelyn meets her sweetheart’s best friend Corporal Joel Campbell.
Visit Stacy Henrie's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hope Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm"

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She worked her way through her teenage years as a back country trail guide and ranch hand and spent a year working on a cattle station in Australia. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology.

But it was Bowen's infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.

Currently, Bowen lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

Bowen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm, and reported the following:
I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm introduces readers to the linchpin of my series: the formidable Dowager Duchess of Worth, who the ton believes is slipping—rather oddly— into her dotage. But beneath the dowager’s loopy veneer lurks the chief strategist of a covert network comprised of reformed criminals and con artists. Their objective? To lift up society’s oppressed without ruffling a single aristocratic feather. And as luck would have it, the duchess’s capable associates seem to be every bit as good at falling in love as they are at their jobs.

From page 69:
Of course she was dead.

It explained everything. Given everything that had transpired in the last twenty-four hours, he felt like a fool for not having figured it out sooner. A lady—and she was a lady, of that there was no doubt—did not learn how to do what she had done last night at a fashionable finishing school. She would have learned to do what she had done last night from experience.
Jamie moved past Gisele to the far side of the room, noticing the dust motes dancing in the bright ray of sunshine slanting through the window and across the floorboards. He took his time, trying to make sense of this peculiar conversation, a jumble of questions vying for his attention.

“What’s your name?” He decided to start with the easiest. “Your real one.”
Page 69 falls in the middle of one of the more emotionally charged scenes in the first half of the book between the hero and the heroine. Gisele has just confessed her darkest secret to Jamie and this marks the genuine honesty that begins to build between them. Both still have their own agendas at this point, but as the their bond of trust grows as the story unfolds, their motivations and their end game mesh into a singular goal. I think this passage perfectly represents both the story itself and the characters guiding it.
Visit Kelly Bowen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Secret of a Thousand Beauties"

Mingmei Yip is the author of six novels (the 7th coming out in 2015), including her new release Secret of a Thousand Beauties (the story of a former imperial embroiderer and her orphaned, supposedly celibate followers), The Nine fold Heaven (an ex-spy looking for her lost love and supposedly still born baby), Skeleton Women (story of three femmes fatales), Song of the Silk road (adventure on China’s ancient route with a three million dollar award), Petals from the Sky (inter-racial love story), and Peach Blossom Pavilion (story of the last Chinese geisha).

Yip applied the Page 69 Test to Secret of a Thousand Beauties and reported the following:
From page 69:
Father Edwin liked to quote the Chinese saying “Times flies like a horse jumping over a valley.” The scent of spring was in the air. In the ten months that had passed since I’d joined this small community of supposedly celibate women, I had become very good at embroidering. This was the result not only of Aunty Peony’s intensive teaching, her relentless scoldings, and the burning of countless incense sticks—but also my fear of being sent back to my old village.

I felt somewhat relieved that so far I hadn’t run into anyone from Old Village, or seen any ad of “Missing Person” with my photo. But, of course, we rarely left the house, and if we did, we only went to the neighboring village. So if Mean Aunt was looking for me in Soochow, pasting ads on walls, lampposts, even in newspapers, I wouldn’t have noticed. But I still reminded myself to be careful. However, even if they did find me, could they do anything if I refused to go back?

Having thus reassured myself, I felt more relaxed. I was exultant that Aunty Peony finally let me work on her intended masterpiece Along the River. But I thought it would be even better if Aunty would let me make my own copies of her stitch patterns and drawings of famous paintings. When I asked her, she looked at me suspiciously and adamantly refused, saying that they were not to be borrowed or copied. Period.
This page actually summarizes quite well the thoughts of the narrator Spring Swallow after she had escaped her abusive Mean Aunt in Old Village and joined a small community of supposedly celibate embroiderers.
Visit Mingmei Yip's website, and view the book trailer for Secret of a Thousand Beauties.

My Book, The Movie: Secret of a Thousand Beauties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"The Boy Who Glowed in the Dark"

Orest Stelmach is the Ukrainian-American author of the Nadia Tesla series, including The Boy From Reactor 4, The Boy Who Stole from the Dead, and The Boy Who Glowed in the Dark, which was released this month. Stelmach is donating 25% of his December royalties from his new release to Chernobyl Children International, which sponsors medical missions to Ukraine to save the lives of children affected by the legacy of nuclear disaster.

Stelmach applied the Page 69 Test to The Boy Who Glowed in the Dark and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Johnny led Nadia and Bobby along the streets of Shibuya toward a low-key shabu-shabu restaurant, where customers cooked their own dinners on a skillet at the table. They’d left New York on Tuesday and arrived in Tokyo Wednesday afternoon. Johnny’s jet lag had vanished from the moment he’d laid eyes on Nadia. His gut told him she was in more danger than either of them knew, but at least the three of them were together.

Nadia and Johnny walked close together so their conversation couldn’t be overheard. They let Bobby get a few steps ahead of them so they could keep an eye on him. He gaped and gawked at the people and the neon lights.

“We were followed from my apartment to the airport,” Nadia said. She told him how Bobby duped airport security into taking the men into custody.

Johnny wasn’t surprised by the kid’s balls or skills. The back-story to his murder accusation had established he was no ordinary seventeen year-old. “Who were they?”

“Don’t know,” Nadia said. “They looked straight out of central casting for Russian or Uke mafia types. Right off the streets of Moscow or Kyiv. But when things look one way, they’re often another.”
The Page 69 Test is a doozy. There is so much entertainment at peoples’ fingertips in the world today, I’m not sure someone who reads this page will necessarily flip to the next one. One thing I am sure of is that an author is the worst judge of his own material. It takes so much self-confidence to write a book that he inevitably ends up drunk on his own Kool-Aid when he’s done. That said, let me try to be objective.

The reader can infer much about the book from the sixty-ninth page. The scene takes place in Tokyo and references are made to Moscow and Kyiv. This is a story with an international setting. There’s tension from the first paragraph. Johnny fears they’re in danger, Nadia mentions they were followed to the airport, and she also reveals that the kid, Bobby, conned airport security into arresting the men who were following them. The reader knows this is an international thriller.

Perhaps the most insightful comment on the page, however, is the last one. “When things look one way, they’re often another.” This line portends the twists and turns these characters will face. Bobby, a child of Chernobyl, is in possession of half a formula that could change the world. Someone from his past claims to have the other half. Meanwhile, powerful men are intent on securing the treasure these three people seek. Is there a formula? Who will survive and who will prevail?

Based on this analysis, I conclude that the reader would most definitely read on. What sane reader wouldn’t … No, wait. The images on my computer screen are coming in and out of focus. What’s happening? Ah, but of course ... Ignore what I just said.

I’m drunk on my own Kool-Aid.
Visit Orest Stelmach's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 8, 2014


Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she's an "experience junkie." She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.

Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.

Concluding that this discovery was her life's work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to Revolution, the third installment in the Replica Trilogy Series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"So what you're telling me," Angel said softly, her eyes narrowed in a glare that was probably supposed to intimidate the "real" truth out of Nadia, "is that our new Chairman isn't really a human being at all. Do I have that right?"

"I wouldn't put it quite that way," Nadia said. "I think Dorothy probably technically qualifies as human, it's just that her mind isn't human. Think of her as a kind of robot housed in human flesh."

Angel glanced over at Bishop. "She been dipping into the happy pills lately? 'Cause this all sounds more like a bad trip than reality."
Yes, I think that page is pretty representative of the book. Nate, Nadia, and their friends have the almost impossible task of trying to unseat the impostor who has taken over the Chairmanship of their state--all while being on the run from the authorities with a price on their heads. Not only do they have a whole lot of practical obstacles--how are a bunch of teenage fugitives going to topple a government?--but they also have to deal with the seeming implausibility of their claims.

The scene quoted above takes place in the Basement, which is basically the slums, only much more lawless than the slums of today's world. It's the only place they can hide where Dorothy's enforcers won't find them, but they won't be able to survive there--especially not with the price on their heads--unless they can convince some of the Basement power-players--like Angel--that they are worth saving.

I hope the page would make people want to read on. But I also hope it would make people want to catch up on everything that's happened so far and pick up the first two books, Replica and Resistance.
Visit Jenna Black's website.

Writers Read: Jenna Black.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Suspicion at Seven"

Ann Purser's latest Lois Meade mystery is Suspicion at Seven.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 has only five lines at the end of a chapter, but I quote the whole of it, as it could not better represent the rest of the book!
Her heart lurched as she saw the big sign advertising Brigham Luxury Jewellery. Busy talking from behind the display was Gran, her face flushed and excited. Behind her, Joan was wrapping up a purchase. Neither of them saw her, and she slipped away, walking rapidly to sit on a straw bale at the ringside to consider what she should do next.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Purser's website.

The Page 69 Test: Found Guilty at Five.

Writers Read: Ann Purser.

My Book, The Movie: Suspicion at Seven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Come Away"

Stephen Policoff has taught writing at Wesleyan and Yale and is currently Master Teacher of Writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU. His books include the novel Beautiful Somewhere Else, the memoir Sixteen Scenes from a Film I Never Wanted to See, two YA books, The Dreamer’s Companion and Real Toads in Imaginary Gardens (co-authored with Jeffrey Skinner), and the children’s book Cesar’s Amazing Journey.

Policoff applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Come Away , and reported the following:
Page 69 of Come Away contains the end of the only (fairly muted) sex scene in the novel, which takes place while Nadia’s father, the eminent New Age philosopher, Dr. Erik Maire, is dozing in the next room.

Despite his love for/ appreciation of his young wife, Paul cannot stop the monologue of anxiety in his head. Nadia, far more centered and optimistic than Paul, is also unable to dispel her fears about their daughter Spring, who has suffered a mysterious accident just before the novel begins:
Sometimes I worry that Nadia—far better looking and younger than anyone I deserve—might be tempted by one of the bad Bobs or Mikes in her office. But then she’ll whisper something sweet or exciting in my ear, stroke my face, tell me that I make her feel beautiful, make her feel sexy. These are things she whispers to me sometimes, and who doesn’t like to hear that?

“You were so quiet,” she said, leaping up. “Not sexy enough for you?” She jumped back onto the bed, cupped her hands over her mouth in a mock shout. “Or is it that Dad is just a wall away?” She laughed, pulled on her long white nightshirt, flopped onto the pillows.

I was still lying there as if pinioned to our sweaty sheets, trying to keep the moment alive, trying not to let my thoughts race toward what they usually race toward.

She lifted her beautiful head. “You don’t think there’s something wrong with Spring like Jack thinks there’s something wrong with his boys? That she sees things? That she sees things that aren’t there?”

“She’s five. Your father says that’s the magical age, the age when they can’t really tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t…”

“Can you?” She looked grave suddenly. “Maybe you should call the doctor tomorrow.”

“About her or about me?”

“I’m worried about you, but I’m used to your moods and your weird ideas. But Spring…what if there’s still bleeding or something and they didn’t get it out or it wasn’t just a fall, it
was something else. You know, a seizure? So please call him, just make sure.”

“He’s such an asshole.”

“So is my father, but you just quoted him to me. Call Dr. Balin tomorrow, okay? See what he says about this green girl?”
So does this pass the Page 69 Test? I am inclined to say yes! I have elsewhere described Come Away as a dark domestic comedy with a mild buzz of the supernatural, and I think on this page you can see that: the odd yet loving relationship between Paul and Nadia, their heightened apprehension and dread about Spring, and the mention of the mysterious green girl—whom only Spring and Paul seem to see, and whom Paul fears may represent some malign force intent on taking his child from him. Needless to say, I have no objectivity here, but it does seem to me that you might get a small taste of the larger feast of Come Away from this page.
Visit Stephen Policoff's faculty webpage and Facebook page, and learn more about Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"The Time Roads"

Beth Bernobich is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and, among other places. Her books include the young adult fantasy Fox and Phoenix, the fantasy trilogy River of Souls, and the newly released The Time Roads.

Bernobich applied the Page 69 Test to The Time Roads and reported the following:
From page 69:
…Ó Deághaidh was evidently waiting for some kind of response. “I knew them all,” Síomón said. “In some cases, I knew more than I liked. It’s a large university, but a small department—the graduate department, that is.”

Ó Deághaidh nodded. “The Queen’s Constabulary is much like that.”

Síomón’s pulse gave a sudden painful leap. The Queen’s Constabulary of Éire normally concerned itself with only royal affairs. But then he remembered Maeve’s family. Lord Ó Cadhla was a high- ranking minister in Éire’s government and adviser to the queen. It was his influence, no doubt, that had brought Commander Ó Deághaidh to Awveline City.

“You look unsettled, Mr. Madóc.”

Síomón ran his hand over his face. “I am more than unsettled. I am distressed. It’s a hard thing, to hear that a friend has died.”

And you gave me that news without warning. Then watched to see how I acted.

But he knew better than to say so to a stranger, much less a member of the Queen’s Constabulary.
The Time Roads is an alternate history novel consisting of four linked stories, set in the early 20th century, in a world where Ireland is the world empire and England one of its dependencies. It's also a world where prime numbers have special properties and time travel is possible. Page 69 takes place early in the second story of the book, A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange, when a stranger first approaches Síomón Madóc with questions about a series of horrific murders taking place among Awveline University's mathematics students.

So does page 69 represent the book? Yes, I think so. While the story itself is centered on Awveline University and the murders, this conversation references all the important themes and characters throughout the book. Síomón is a graduate student in mathematics, and the subject of mathematics is present in all four stories. The stranger who approaches him is Commander Aidrean Ó Deághaidh, a former mathematics student himself and the Queen's spymaster. And the mention of the Queen and Lord Ó Cadhla are hints of the book's larger world.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Earth & Sky"

Megan Crewe is the author of the young adult novels Earth & Sky (the first in the Earth & Sky trilogy), The Way We Fall, The Lives We Lost, The Worlds We Make (the Fallen World trilogy), and Give Up the Ghost.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Earth & Sky and reported the following:
When I checked page 69 of Earth & Sky, I was struck to discover it contains this passage, in which the alien rebel Win is sharing a recording of his group's leader with Skylar, the novel's Earthling protagonist, who he hopes to convince to join him in fighting to free Earth from his people's control:
The guy—Jeanant, this leader Win’s been talking about—appears to be no older than his midtwenties. His curly black hair drifts over the tops of his ears as he nods, the even light glowing off his bronze skin. But it’s the way he stands that fixes my gaze on him. From the straightening of his shoulders to the tilt of his head, he exudes a firm purposefulness, as if he’s exactly where he needs to be.

Then he starts to speak, in a low voice that carries through the cloth’s invisible speakers in the choppy yet rolling syllables of what could be an alien language. After a second, a computerized English translation kicks in, its inflectionless tone blending into his voice.

“It doesn’t matter where they were born, who their ancestors are, what’s written in their genetic code,” Jeanant says. “Every thinking, feeling conscious being deserves our respect. Everyone of them deserves the chance to determine the course of his or her own life, without outside manipulation. Because no matter what some of us like to tell ourselves, they have their own minds with their own unique visions of the universe, that are just as valid and meaningful as anyone else’s.”

He punctuates his point with a sweep of his hands.

“Look at these people, and remember they could have been our friends,” he says. “They could be our teachers, in a far better way than we use them now. But not until we make things right and release them from what’s all but slavery. And we can. There may not be very many of us, but if we’ve learned anything from all our centuries of study, it’s that a small group can make a difference.
Jeanant's speech (which goes on for another few sentences on page 70) is a defining statement not just for this book, but for the entire trilogy. His ideas are the reason Win has come to Earth at all. His words and his dedication convince Skylar to help the rebel cause. And the goals he relates become increasingly vital to the main characters over the course of the series, as well as hinting at the weaknesses that will cause their opponents' downfall.

This excerpt doesn't capture much of the story's action or personal drama, but from a philosophical point of view, it offers a pretty much perfect picture of what these books are all about.
Visit Megan Crewe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 28, 2014


Rachel Manija Brown is the author of the memoir All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India. Sherwood Smith is the author of many fantasy novels for teenagers and adults, including Crown Duel and the Mythopoiec Award Finalist The Spy Princess.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Stranger, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ross and Mia walked to a busy intersection marked with signs he couldn’t read, where they stopped for a cart pulled by armor-skinned bullocks. There were people everywhere, so many that it was impossible to keep them all safely within view, and they all either openly stared at him or pretended they didn’t. Children nudged one another and pointed. His shoulder blades crawled with the need to get a wall at his back.

“How big is this town?” his voice was soft, but everyone within earshot stared.

“Population one thousand sixteen,” Mia said with visible pride. “Including our newest citizens, Enrique and Esteban Carrillo, age three weeks.”

His attention was caught by a couple in pants and shirts the color of desert sand, walking quickly and with purpose. They bristled with weapons.
This excerpt from page 69 is representative of the setting: a post-apocalyptic frontier town built on the ruins of Los Angeles, full of mutated animals, and townspeople who rarely see visitors.

It’s also representative of the characters: Ross is a prospector (a scavenger of artifacts from the pre-apocalypse world) who is used to fighting off the many dangers of the desert by himself. He’s not scared of risking his life, but he is scared of socializing.

Mia is the teenage town engineer who has a small obsession with numbers.

What page 69 is not representative of is that it doesn’t have any action. The book as a whole is full of battles with giant rattlesnakes, people discovering their mutant powers, and romance—and that’s before the entire town has to pull together to fight off the most deadly attack yet.
Learn more about Stranger at the Viking Children’s Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"This Is How It Ends"

Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and graduated from American University with a BA in literature. She's lived in Washington DC, Boston, NYC and now, an old farmhouse north of the city with her husband and three sons. When she's not writing, she's probably tending to the farmhouse or the sons, reading, cooking, skiing, or sleeping.

Nadol applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, This Is How It Ends, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Hey, Loser.” Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to find Matty Gretowniak leaning against the railing.

“What are you doing here?” I said, still feeling the sting of his comments about the SATs, but otherwise glad to see him. Most of the kids here were skiers or partiers or jocks. I was none of the above and neither was he, as far as I knew.

“Having a Coke. Enjoying the view. You?”

“Trolling for chicks.”

Matty laughed. “Good luck with that. I came with my sister,” he admitted. “She’s on the ski team this year.”

“Awesome,” I said. “Point her out and I’ll troll in that direction.”

“Don’t you dare.”

Trip had continued on without me and I saw him on the far side of the deck with the girls and John. “You run today?” I asked Matty.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “That course is brutal. You ever done it?”

“About five hours ago.”

Matty whistled. “Impressive. Brains and brawn.”

“You know, Matty,” I said. “You keep talking like that and I’m gonna start thinking you have a thing for me.”

“Well, now that you mention it…” he joked. “Actually, I was checking out your friend.”

“Trip? He’s got a girlfriend.”

“No, you idiot.” Matty cleared his throat, suddenly uncomfortable. “The girl. Tannis.”

“Tannis?” My eyebrows shot up. “She’s not—“ I stopped, realizing what I’d been about to say– she’s not a girl – was mean. I might rag on Tannis to her face, but I didn’t want to do it behind her back. “– not seeing anyone,” I finished.
This scene takes place at a party after the Warrior Dash, a big race that kicks off tourist season in the small, dilapidated Vermont ski town that is the setting for This Is How It Ends. While the novel centers on the dual mysteries of a murder and a strange pair of binoculars the teens find, underlying both is an exploration of friendship - how we come together with certain people, who we trust and to what extent and why. The dialogue between Riley and Matty in this scene is representative of that. Matty isn’t a big player in the story, but perhaps Riley should have chosen him as a closer friend. Instead, Riley holds fast to his childhood friendship with Trip, who he describes as “capricious, fearless, self-centered, fun and loyal when he wants to be”, though they have little in common but their shared history.

What I love about this scene is its potential energy. It’s near the tipping point of the story and the blocks that have been put in place are about to start tumbling down. Each of the things mentioned in this casual dialogue – Matty’s interest in Tannis, the Warrior Dash which Riley just ran with Sarah, his longtime crush, Matty’s earlier comments about the SATs – are all significant to how the story unfolds.
Visit Jen Nadol's website.

Writers Read: Jen Nadol.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 24, 2014

"An Unseemly Wife"

E. B. Moore grew up in a Pennsylvania fieldstone house on a Noah’s ark farm. The red barn stabled animals two-by-two, along with a herd of Cheviot sheep. After a career as a metal sculptor, she returned to writing poetry. Her chapbook of poems, New Eden, A Legacy (Finishing Line Press, 2009), was the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife, both based on family stories from her Amish roots in Lancaster. E. B. received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Moore applied the Page 69 Test to An Unseemly Wife and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the great sea of dark, she clung to the firelight. …A distant coyote yipped.

If only (Ruth) could see a moon… its mouth open as if howling, yet silent as herself. Anything to dispel the dark.

What foolishness. Wasn’t what waited beyond the fire’s light the same as she’d seen in the day, unrecognizable for now, a joy tomorrow, just as Idaho would be? All in God’s hand, a hand she knew but couldn’t see.
On page 69, Ruth’s loneliness and her desire to believe the unbelievable are at the heart of An Unseemly Wife. She was nine months pregnant, about to give birth, and against her will her husband, Aaron, bundled her, along with their four children age 11 down to 3, into a Conestoga wagon headed overland. They braved the unknown on a 2000 miles trek to claim free land in the west.

Her upbringing said, obey your husband. Their Amish religion said, obey, but not this departure, not from the Fold and safety of their valley in Pennsylvania. Leaving the Fold went against the Old Order rule: stay separate. Aaron promised they’d keep their distance from all English.

Despite this, his demand set off Ruth’s unseemly behavior, and she grew worse when they joined the dreaded outsiders. On the trail their very survival depended on being part of the English community. This included a preacher’s wife who wore grey, not the fancy colors of other women. She seemed like-minded, if overbearingly friendly. Another who crowded Ruth’s boundaries was an unnerving woman dressed in men’s fringed pants and jacket. Among them, friendships grew, even flourished until prejudice and jealousies lead to betrayal, and the separateness Ruth believed would save their souls, proved catastrophic, with the family abandoned on the trailside fighting for their lives.
Visit E.B. Moore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Heritage of Cyador"

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer.

Modesitt applied the Page 69 Test to  Heritage of Cyador, the 18th book in The Saga of Recluce, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Speaking of similarities – ” Lerial slides the cloth-wrapped miniature from his riding jacket, using a slight concealment to blur it, should there be eyes in the walls, so to speak, although he can sense no one near but the guard, then slips the miniature into the older man’s hand. “– there are more than a few.”
In this scene, Lerial has just met Rhamuel, the arms-commander of the neighboring duchy of Afrit, who is also the younger brother of the duke of Afrit… and, equally important and potentially dangerous, the former lover of his aunt, and the father of Lerial’s young cousin, a fact unknown in Rhamuel’s land and barely known in Cigoerne, Lerial’s duchy, a land created by the refugee descendants of the emperor of fallen Cyador. The miniature is the first portrait Rhamuel has ever seen of his daughter.

The scene is an example of all the intrigues that surround the two men, both younger brothers, although Rhamuel’s brother is the ruler, and Lerial’s is the heir. Both men are far more talented and accomplished than their siblings, and the future of their respective lands rests on their abilities in both battle and in intrigue. But all eyes are on both of them, and neither can afford to reveal that they are more closely linked than any can suspect, for both might well then be considered traitors, even though Lerial has been sent as a commander of three companies of Mirror Lancers to assist Afrit in repelling an invasion by their mutual enemy. If either fails, or is discredited, both lands will likely fall.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Beth Bernobich is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and, among other places. Her books include the young adult fantasy Fox and Phoenix, the fantasy trilogy River of Souls, and the newly released The Time Roads.

Bernobich applied the Page 69 Test to Allegiance, the third book in the River of Souls trilogy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I go to Duenne tomorrow,” he said. “Leos Dzavek is dead. Armand will know that soon, if he does not already. You can imagine what follows next. So I intend to demand a public audience before the entire council. It is my right as my father’s heir. There I will say all that I should have said years before.”

At first Emma was unable to speak. Dzavek dead. Raul Kosenmark returning to court and council. It was as though the gods had reached down and overturned all their lives. But immediately after came the thought, He dissolved his shadow court, but his spies are still at work in Károví.

She wondered what else he had kept from her and Benno.

“Will Armand listen?” Benno asked softly. “He never has before.”

Another shrug, but Emma did not mistake that gesture for indifference. “I cannot tell. I also intend to speak with my father and his factions—with any faction that will have me—so that mine is not the only voice. There are others who might dislike me, but they dislike more the idea of a senseless war. They know that Károví will not yield, if they ever do yield, without a long and bloody fight.”

More revelations. “When did your father return to court?”

Kosenmark smiled bitterly. “Another recent event. I wrote to him last month, during my absence.”

Yes, the absence that remained a mystery.

“What of Lir’s jewels?” Benno asked. “Dzavek had one. Surely—”

“I have no report about them.”
Allegiance is the third book in my River of Souls trilogy, set in the fantasy world of Erythandra, which tells the story of a young woman named Ilse Zhalina and her journey toward independence. It's also the story of two nations on the brink of war. One of the chief players is Lord Raul Kosenmark, an exiled councilor, who runs a secret organization to influence politics from afar. On page 69, he announces his intention to abandon secrecy and openly oppose the king's call for war. The decision marks a turning point not only for Kosenmark himself, but also for his allies, his enemies, and the kingdom.

So does page 69 represent the book? It definitely represents the political aspect of the entire trilogy, which has centered around Raul Kosenmark's efforts for peace. Ilse Zhalina herself plays an important role in those efforts, at first as Raul's helper, then as his lover and partner. While she's not present in this scene, her actions in the previous book have led directly to Raul's decision, which in turn will lead them both to the king's court and the final confrontation with their enemies.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Passion Play.

--Marshal Zeringue

"The Golden Hour"

Todd Moss, formerly the top American diplomat in West Africa, draws on his real-world experiences inside the U.S. Government to bring to life the exhilaration—and frustrations—of modern-day foreign policymaking. His new novel, The Golden Hour, was originally inspired by the August 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania when Todd was dispatched by Secretary Condoleezza Rice to negotiate with the junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Moss is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has taught at the London School of Economics (LSE) and at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He holds a PhD from SOAS and a BA from Tufts University. Moss is currently Senior Fellow and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington DC.

Moss applied the Page 69 Test to The Golden Hour and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Golden Hour, the State Dept crisis manager Judd Ryker is sitting in his car in the CIA parking lot talking on the phone with a lobbyist who represents the President of Mali, who has just been overthrown in a coup. She’s urging him to stand up for what’s right and not allow worries over terrorism to let the US government to abandon democracy. It’s a classic dilemma faced by policymakers during real crises and a driving tension in the plot. A great window into the story!
Visit Todd Moss' website.

Writers Read: Todd Moss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"White Tiger on Snow Mountain"

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and comparative literature and an MFA in writing, both from Columbia University. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His second novel, Mystery Girl, was picked as one of The New Yorker’s best books of the year. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography.

Gordon applied the Page 69 Test to his story collection White Tiger on Snow Mountain and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Good,” Nina said, hailing a taxi. “He should have died sixty-nine years ago. With me.”

I tried reasoning with her in the cab, but she just worked herself up even more, eventually turning on me, if only because I was there: I was, she declared, secretly pleased at this outcome. I had never believed her and had been snidely playing along, mocking her the whole time in my pompous, bookish way. I was completely closed off to spiritual ideas and emotionally shut down as well. I did think she was a prostitute. I had never loved her at all.

“Who do you think you are anyway?” she demanded.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. No one.”

It must have been Durel’s day off because when we got to 7402 and Nina banged on the door, a small, round Latina lady answered.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

“Liu Ping!” Nina shouted and ran past her.

“Sorry,” I said, “she’s family,” which was ludicrous. Nina looked like the pep squad captain in a cable movie about All-American cheerleaders. We followed to the alcove where Liu Ping lay dying. He was definitely dying—that anyone could see.

His shriveled head seemed no bigger than my palm, the features all folded into each other, like a fist. His body was just sticks and plaid pajamas. There was really almost nothing left of him, some skin, a few white hairs, two stunningly beautiful brown hands, and that slow breath like a wind from the other side. Instinctively we all stopped, Nina, the lady, and I. We stopped and stared, in awe, at the dark majesty of death. Then
Since this is a short story collection, the odds of a random page summing up the themes or content of the book are even slimmer than usual, but I do think there are some hints here. This passage is from a story called “Su Li-Zhen,” about a woman in contemporary New York who becomes convinced she is the reincarnation of a courtesan from old Taipei and enlists her ex-boyfriend (the narrator) in a search for her reincarnated lover. So it is a ghost story, but also a realistic, wry tale about the difficulty of creating intimacy and relationships in the contemporary world. I tried to make Nina almost like a character from a classic screwball comedy, but also there is also a more emotionally raw aspect and a darker, sadder, level that is always present, but that maybe the characters themselves don’t want to look at and I think that does relate to the collection as a whole. Or maybe it is just a random page!
Learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Sweet Sunday"

John Lawton has written seven Inspector Troy thrillers, two standalone novels, and a volume of history, and has edited several English writers (Wells, Conrad, D. H. Lawrence) for Everyman Classics. His thriller Black Out won a WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, A Little White Death was named a New York Times notable book, and his latest Troy novel A Lily of the Field was named one of the best thrillers of the year by the New York Times. His recent novels include Then We Take Berlin, the first book to feature Joe Wilderness, and the newly released Sweet Sunday.

Lawton applied the Page 69 Test to Sweet Sunday and reported the following:
Page 69 of Sweet Sunday is set in the book’s present, from which most of the rest of the novel is flashback. Oddly, it’s the scene that is most conventional – when Turner Raines meets with a detective from the NYPD and is told his buddy Mel was murdered. Conventional in that it’s a vital scene in any crime novel, odd because I never saw this as a crime novel as I wrote it. I saw it as a novel, in which crime plays a part. I’d say, if you were skimming and got to page 69, yes you’d probably read on because it is the point in the book when it most resembles the mystery it isn’t. If you’re hooked by that, then I’d like to hope the life of Turner Raines, unravelled in the next 200 pages, proves as engaging as any mystery.
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website.

Writers Read: John Lawton.

--Marshal Zeringue