Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Lady of the Eternal City"

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

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

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to Lady of the Eternal City, the fourth book in the Empress of Rome series, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Lady of the Eternal City you might think you'd stumbled into a kid's book. A little girl and a little boy have just been introduced, and are sizing each other up. Not, however, as playmates:
“Married,” Annia said instead, dubious. “Us?”

He gave a shrug. “Your father's the richest man in Rome. Or one of them. And my grandfather says I'll need a rich wife.”


“I'm going to be Emperor.” Pedanius said it as a fact. “My grandmother was the Emperor's sister, so I'm his great-nephew.” He gave her a long, superior blink. “You should be honored. Ugly girl like you—”

Annia poked her tongue out.
So this is kind of cute; two kids in ancient Rome being matched up by ambitious adults like little chess pieces. But this scene is important, because it lays the foundation of a burning enmity that is going to power the climax a few hundred pages later. Young Pedanius's arrogance in assuming he will someday be Emperor of Rome (and his assumption that he can therefore have anything he wants, including Annia) are constant themes with his character as he grows up. And Annia's complete failure to be intimidated by Pedanius's pedigree or his rudeness will provide the spark for these two characters—not a spark of attraction, but a spark of hatred. The two kids in this little scene aren't there to be cute; they're there to realize that they are going to grow up and be mortal enemies.

Would a reader keep going, if they opened the book to this page? I hope so, considering that these kids are in a fistfight one page later before being marched back to their parents to discuss the details of their betrothal!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Throne of Darkness"

Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of several books, including the novel Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new dark fantasy novel, Throne of Darkness, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Throne of Darkness is a quiet scene amid a great deal of action, but it illustrates what Booklist said about ToD in its review: “The homogenous Northern European–style settings of fantasy tales can quickly become a bore for avid readers, which is why Nicholas is happily among the authors who draw from the medieval Western world as a whole. His new novel brings together a metropolitan collaboration of fascinating historical fantasy.”

In this scene we find seated around a table in an inn: Molly and her granddaughter Nemain, both queens in their own right back in Ireland—although the title is more akin to “clan chieftain” than to a Queen Victoria–type monarch—as well as Jack Brown, Molly’s lover and Hob, Nemain’s husband. These latter two are Englishmen. With them are Father Ugwistan, a Berber priest who is happy to point out that his name is the original form of Augustine, and that the saint was also Berber. Father Ugwistan is the assistant to Monsignor Bonacorso da Panzano, an Italian who is a clandestine papal operative, and Sinibaldo, another Italian, the monsignor’s bodyguard and a sometime assassin. They are discussing ways to thwart King John’s plot to destroy the rebellious northern barons at Runnymede, when they gather to sign Magna Carta; the plot involves a Moroccan sorcerer and his eerie tribe of blacksmiths, who have the ability to change into hyenas.
Visit Douglas Nicholas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Pretty Wanted"

Elisa Ludwig enjoys writing about teen outlaws, even though she herself has never been one. Pretty Wanted is the final novel in the Pretty Crooked trilogy.

Ludwig applied the Page 69 Test to Pretty Wanted and reported the following:
From page 69:
“So what are you doing in St. Louis? Playing Sherlock? You should leave this to the cops.”

A woman with a plastic shopping basket stuffed with makeup and maxi pads pushed past me to look at the floss section. I moved away, turning my back to her and lowering my voice to a whisper. “No, no, no. I’m not trying to solve the case.”

“What then?”

Somehow it was getting harder to explain this when it should have been easier. “I just want to know who she was. And I can only find that out here.”

He was silent for a beat. “Either way, I wish you’d give it up. You’re putting yourself in serious danger, you know that?”

“I know. But this is something I have to do.”

“Look, all I’m saying is there are people who care about you, who don’t want to see you hurt.” His voice wavered a bit. “Don't forget about those people.”
Wow, I have to say that this book really nails it with the page 69 test! In this scene Willa is talking to Tre on the phone—he’s back home in Arizona and she’s on the run from police and FBI, looking to find out about her real mother, who was killed in St. Louis. This is the moment in the book when Willa starts to realize that her goals are not exactly clear, even to herself. Willa says she only wants to know who her mother is, but that question is becoming increasingly entangled with how and why she was murdered. At the same time she’s starting to understand that Tre may be one of the few people who truly has her best interests at heart and that their relationship may be a tad more complicated than she thought. It’s a real turning point in the book because as soon as Willa is honest with herself she can fully pursue her mission, for better or worse, and she can also figure out what she really wants from the guys in her life. In the arc of the whole series this scene really puts Willa on the cusp of actually growing up and confronting the truth.
Visit Elisa Ludwig's website.

The Page 69 Test: Pretty Sly.

My Book, The Movie: Pretty Sly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"The Empire of the Senses"

Alexis Landau studied at Vassar College and received an MFA from Emerson College, and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Empire of the Senses, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 from The Empire of the Senses touches on a few important themes of the novel, but the page itself is not representative of what the book is really about. This page, the beginning of Chapter 7, mainly describes Lev’s disillusionment with how the German army treats the native villagers on the Eastern Front. Lev observes the army’s brutality and corruption as well as the latent anti-Semitism that is expressed by a German officer who speaks to Lev in condescending terms. I suppose this page does reflect Lev’s main struggle—the tension between his German and Jewish selves. Lev is never fully at home in either identity. The page also touches on how Germany as well as Europe in general harbored the belief that Jews would always have divided loyalties (between their Jewishness and their Germaness) and therefore Jews were never fully trusted to act and feel as “real” Germans did, promoting a homogenous nationalist culture, which led to one of the main tenets of Nazism.
Visit Alexis Landau's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2015

"When Reason Breaks"

Cindy L. Rodriguez was a newspaper reporter for the Hartford Courant and a researcher for the Boston Globe before becoming a public school teacher. She is now a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school. She is also a founding member of Latin@s in Kid Lit and a member of the We Need Diverse Books team. She lives in Plainville, CT, with her young daughter and rescue mutt.

She applied the Page 69 Test to When Reason Breaks, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
(Ms. Diaz) asked Emily to read aloud. She seemed startled to be called upon but didn't protest. She read:

I dwell in Possibility -
A fairer House than Prose -
More numerous of Windows -
Superior - for Doors -

"You were supposed to go easy on us. This is making my head hurt," said Kevin.

"Good," responded Ms. Diaz. "That means you're thinking. Now, who can tell me what's going on in the first stanza?"

No hands went up. Elizabeth stared at the lines of poetry, rereading them several times. She then started to write and draw in her notebook.

"What do you notice about the poem? Let's start there."

Tommy tentatively raised his hand. Ms Diaz nodded at him.

"She uses capitalization in unusual ways."

"Good. That's a start." Ms. Diaz underlined the capitalized words.

"Should we be underlining these?" asked Kevin.

"Yes," she said. "Now, what does the capitalization do for these words?"

"Gives them importance," said Tommy.

Abby smiled admiringly at Tommy. Elizabeth noticed when she peeked from behind her hair-curtain.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?
In some ways...This is a school-based story, so there are several important scenes that happen in Ms. Diaz's classroom. Also, Emily Dickinson's life and poetry heavily influence the story, so it's fitting that they are addressing one of her poems on page 69. Through the analysis of a few of Dickinson's poems, the main characters--Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis--discover that they have more in common with Dickinson and with each other than they first thought. Interestingly, many of the characters are named on this one page: Emily, Elizabeth, Ms. Diaz, Tommy, Kevin, and Abby, so the reader would get an immediate glimpse of the major players by previewing this page.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?
I hope so! A reader skimming this page would be inclined to read on if he or she is interested in a story that includes diverse characters, a positive and important teacher-student relationship, and teen girls who are struggling with depression and whose personal problems are laid bare as they grow more familiar with themselves, each other, and the life and work of Emily Dickinson. I think a reader would get a sense of this when skimming page 69 and would continue reading if this kind of contemporary young adult story appeals to them.
Visit Cindy L. Rodriguez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Kit Alloway writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs.

Alloway applied the Page 69 Test to Dreamfire, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 drops us into the middle of Josh explaining some of the complexities of the Dream to Will. In that way, it is pretty representative of the book—the Dream is at the center of all the action. But it also hints at the conflict between Josh and Will when she tentatively asks whether he believes in souls. Souls become a big part of this story, as does Josh’s anxiety about opening up to Will. The next page, though, gives us a lot of insight into Will’s thought process.
Visit Kit Alloway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"A Fireproof Home for the Bride"

Born in Minnesota and reared in North Dakota, Amy Scheibe currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Brian Flynn, and their two children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Fireproof Home for the Bride, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the first page of Chapter Five: To Hold a Thing Unknown. Two very important things happen on this page: First, Emmy Nelson puts on men’s clothing in order to prove herself capable of being a farm wife. She is awoken in the middle of the night by the slamming door of a pick up truck and is already wearing a flannel shirt and overalls, as she is expecting this to happen. She pulls on her grandfather’s cardigan and then her father’s barn coat: ready to assist with the birth of a new calf on a cold winter’s night. But before she can even leave the house, her fiancé is standing at the door, asking her to make coffee and call her father. Gender roles are fanned and extinguished in this way throughout the novel, which is set in the pocket of time between Rosie the Riveter and Gloria Steinem. Second: Emmy is dreaming of a new love even as she is determined to prove herself worthy of the one assigned to her. The hope of knowing a greater world outside of her family’s expectations is already taking shape inside of her, and will eventually propel her in surprising ways.
Visit Amy Scheibe's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said "no one could make a living" with an English degree. It wasn't too many years later Traver realized it didn't matter what the job paid--nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

Traver applied the Page 69 Test to Duplicity, her first novel, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
I jerk another drawer out, one that used to hold my old Goth things from my days dating Ginger: belts with poison symbol buckles, spikey collars, chains, armbands, and my small but loud collection of weird ties. Now expensive watches and cufflinks fill the space, tidy as the other drawers.

Not mine not mine not mine—

“One,” Mom counts, from the other side of the door.

“One sec, geez.”

I toss the drawer away and throw my shoulder into the dresser. This time it yields, jogging reluctantly along the carpet and back into place.


I pull the door open, out of breath. “Mom, I’m not twelve anymore. Quit with the counting thing.”

“Could have fooled me,” she says. She strides past me and surveys the drawers, starts to ask about them, then shrieks.

You broke your new mirror? That was two hundred dollars! What is wrong with you?”

“Mom, I didn’t—”

“I can’t believe this! I try to do something nice, I thought you must be upset about something since you broke your last mirror and that pretty girl hasn’t been over yet this week—”


“So I bought you a new one. Per usual, Brandon, my hard work is repaid with your knack for destroying everything.”
Page 69 is representative both of the main struggle Brandon’s dealing with—that his mirror reflection is really screwing up his life—and the conflict he faces at home. In the way his mother keeps cutting him off, and in that last line especially, I think this sample does a good job showing that the book isn’t just about mirror shenanigans.
Visit N. K. Traver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015


Jamie Kornegay lives in the Mississippi Delta, where he moved in 2006 to establish an independent bookstore, TurnRow Book Co. Before that he was a bookseller, events coordinator, and radio show producer at the famous Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. He studied creative fiction under Barry Hannah at the University of Mississippi.

Kornegay applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Soil, and reported the following:
It’s the middle of the night, and the main character, a would-be farmer named Jay Mize, is alone in a pasture. He has just desecrated a body that he found in his field, covered by water from a recent flood. He is contemplative, having finished this awful work. Here is page 69 in full:
The horrible exertion of his chore had taken its toll on his body, and he could barely will himself to move. He just sat there in his lawn chair with the crude metamorphosis all around him, holding a murderer’s remorse. If he could last until morning, he knew that, as with any successful experiment, the moral ambiguities of night would give way to the scientific certainty of day.
If it seems insane to you that Jay has opted to dispose of the corpse rather than call the authorities, it is because he made the rash decision to move the body out of his field and place it in a shed in his backyard. Having gone that far, there was no turning back. “But it didn’t matter that he’d done nothing morally wrong by moving the body from the field. No one would understand why he had done it, and that would be as good as wrong.”

He is distrustful of society and doesn’t believe he will get a fair shake with the law. Circumstances leading to his discovery suggest this, along with his family history, his status as an outsider, his understanding of justice. His logic is still dubious, but he is a man of logic nonetheless. He values science and reason, neither of which are terribly useful here in the Mississippi back country.

Jay, a former soil scientist, turns on his scientific brain to arrive at the solution to his problem: how to most efficiently dispose of this organic matter, breaking it down to its finest elements and releasing them back into the world so that no traces of evidence will come back on him. His rendering method, which I devised after searching for some unique way to get rid of a body, is a scientific process that requires some gruesome preparation, and we have caught him as he has finished this and started the experiment.

But Jay is still a compassionate man – a father and husband, though failing at both – and is disgusted by what he has done. Frequently, he must force himself back into this dispassionate, scientific mindset to continue his experiment. The passage represents what I find most interesting about Jay – that he operates with one foot on solid ground and the other sliding into madness. His madness is not moving away from self-control but toward a cold, rigorous, dehumanizing logic. He is sharpening his mind to a point so fine that it could easily break off.

Jay’s science is sound, which may allow him to get away with his cover-up, but will he be able to keep a calm head and avoid suspicion when he is thrust into situations with the novel’s other characters? Will his morality stand, or will desperation drive him to greater crimes?
Follow Jamie Kornegay on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Golden State"

Stephanie Kegan is the author of Golden State, recently named by People Magazine as one of “The Best New Books” and Entertainment Weekly as one of “The Top 10 Things We Love This Week.”

She applied the Page 69 Test to Golden State and reported the following:
Golden State tells the story of Natalie Askedahl an everyday wife and mother, who discovers her adored older brother may be a terrorist wanted by the FBI for a string of lethal bombings. When her brother is arrested, she is thrust into overnight notoriety. With reporters camped on her doorstep, she is forced to make decisions that pit her loyalty to her brother against her need to protect her own family. As her life splits permanently into before and after, Natalie begins to understand that some of the most dangerous things in the world are the stories we tell ourselves.

From page 69:
(My plate) went flying. I saw the wine shoot from my glass. Someone asked if I was all right. I got up carefully, afraid that I wasn’t, then saw the dark stains on the overstuffed white chair, the splattered food. Guests were already springing from their seats to perform triage.

I knelt to pick up my plate, and tried to wipe the seafood curry off the Persian rug with my hand. When I stood, I saw Julia staring at me from a corner of the room. I opened my mouth to say something to her, I wasn’t sure what, but she bolted, a hand over her face.
Page 69, while largely unrepresentative of the rest of the book, is still is a part of the whole. On this page Natalie knows the FBI is secretly investigating her brother, and she is trying to carry on her normal life under the weight of that burden. She is with her husband and two daughters, aged eight and fifteen, at a party at the home of her wealthy in-laws. Natalie is carrying a plate of food from the dining room to the den, a step down. She doesn’t know how she missed the step. She is, of course, mortified when she falls into the room, the contents of her plate landing all over the elegant furniture. Worse, her fifteen year old daughter Julia is a witness to her stumble. The moment is both mundane and fraught. Two pages later, Natalie will witness her brother being arrested on national television. Her former life shattered, she will be confronted with a horrific choice that will propel her into a nightmare of confusion, lies and betrayals.
Visit Stephanie Kegan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Werewolf Cop"

Award winning author, screenwriter and media commentator Andrew Klavan is the author of such internationally bestselling novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. Klavan has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Werewolf Cop, and reported the following:
The problem in answering the page 69 test when it comes to Werewolf Cop is that, by a strange twist of providence, page 69 is the turning point of the entire novel — and I don’t want to give it away. I’m not making that up. Page 69 is the page on which the story takes a sudden turn and reveals its true nature. For 68 pages, the novel is one sort of thing. Then, on page 69, in a single very sudden, very violent, very frightening moment, it becomes something else entirely and everything that happens afterward follows from that one paragraph on that one page. In a way, many of the novels themes coalesce in that narrative moment: the curse of history, the limitations of realism, the sacrifice we have to make to fight for the good and the way that fight sometimes turns us into the very evil we oppose. All of that is in one paragraph on page 69 — so help me — so I’m just going to have to let you read it yourself.
Visit Andrew Klavan's website.

Writers Read: Andrew Klavan.

My Book, The Movie: Werewolf Cop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

"A Wicked Thing"

Rhiannon Thomas is an English Lit grad from Princeton University. She currently lives in York, England, in the shadow of a 13th century Gothic cathedral. When she isn’t lost in YA fantasy, she writes about feminism and the media on her blog, Feminist Fiction.

Thomas applied the Page 69 Test to A Wicked Thing, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of A Wicked Thing, Aurora has snuck out of the castle and is meeting a boy called Tristan for the first time.

I wasn't expecting this page to be that representative of the book, but the first paragraph is actually perfect.
Here were people, treating her like she was normal, like she had no fate and no duty and no trauma around her. Someone to talk to, not protect or manipulate. It was, she thought, a first in her life. She wanted to dwell in it longer, in this freedom, where she could breathe and talk and listen and not hide everything behind expectations.
It really captures Aurora's central struggle in the book. Everyone around her has already decided who she is and what she must do, and she feels unable to push against that. She wants "freedom," but she doesn't really know what that means or what it will entail for her.
Visit Rhiannon Thomas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"The Friendship of Criminals"

Robert Glinski is a graduate of Washington University and Temple University School of Law. He was an attorney in Philadelphia and New Jersey for a decade before transitioning to investment advising. With two writing pieces recently optioned in Hollywood, he now spends his time crafting his next novel and finishing his first screenplay.

Glinksi applied the Page 69 Test to The Friendship of Criminals, his first novel, and reported the following:
When people ask me to describe The Friendship of Criminals, I tell them to trust the title. Yes, there’s crime, but the book is as much about the unique relationships between criminals as it is heists, schemes, and scams. Page 69 is a perfect example.

Earlier in the novel, two of the younger characters – Marcek and Angie – meet in a trendy Philly dance club, though the encounter isn’t entirely random or accidental. Both are targeting the other as a mark. Marcek intends to rob the jewelry store where Angie works. She knows he’s been casing the place and wants a cut.

On page 69, they re-connect, attracted to each other despite the false bottom they discover during the initial meeting. Marcek and Angie are like two sharks in a vast ocean, drawn together because so few others understand and accept their taste for the illegal. A pair of con artists, honest in their flaws and defects. That’s page 69.
Visit Robert Glinski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Lost in Paris"

Cindy Callaghan grew up in New Jersey and attended college at the University of Southern California before earning her BA in English and French, and MBA from the University of Delaware.

She is the author of Just Add Magic (2010), Lost in London (2013), Lucky Me (2014), Lost in Paris (2015), and Lost in Rome (2015).

Callaghan applied the Page 69 Test to Lost in Paris and reported the following:
One of the things I’ve learned about my writing is that I want there to be action on every page. Page 69 of my latest book Lost in Paris is no exception. It has a very funny scene in which Gwen and crew are trying to solve a clue in order to follow a scavenger hunt around Paris. (The hunt is a race for special tickets to the world’s hottest band’s concert in Paris that night.) Gwen’s friend Brigitte, the unusual pet sitter, has a sack tossed over her shoulder. A rival team who is also racing to solve the clue stops to see what information that can tease out of Gwen’s group. It comes in wonderfully handy that there is a snake in the sack. Gwen uses Sophie (the snake) as a way to misdirect the rival team’s search, and to freak them out a bit. “What? Are you afraid of a pretty little snake?”

This is a nice demonstration of how I love to set up humorous situations. You have the good group and the bad group racing for the same thing. Add a snake in a sack, and Bam!, things get fun.
Visit Cindy Callaghan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Cindy Callaghan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London. Her books are published in over a dozen different languages. Carriger has received the Prix Julia Verlanger and the Elbakin Award from French readers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Prudence, the first book in the Custard Protocol series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The Spotted Custard now boasted a completely finished exterior. Her balloon had been painted bright red with black spots and coated in the necessary lacquers and oils to make her weather resistant. She shone in the late afternoon light like some large, fat, round seedpod. The trim of the gondola section was picked out in shiny black, a stark contrast to the pale blonde wood. Railings and other details shone darkly beautiful in the late afternoon sun. Dama had insisted that black was the perfect choice being a color that matched to anything. "Now, when you lean picturesquely against the railings, my puggle, your dress will never clash." "Very well reasoned, Dama," had been Rue's straight-faced response.

Percy, on the other hand, looked about with utter indifference.

"Well, Percy," said his sister, drawing his attention to her presence, "What do you think?"

"Why name the craft after a comestible and then decorate it like a Coccinellidae?"

Rue knew better than to attempt reasoning with Professor Percival Tunstell. "Because I like it that way."

Percy wrinkled his nose at her and then, distracted, leaped forward. "Do be careful, those documents are hundreds of years old!"

Rue summoned Percy's valet with a subtle gesture. "Virgil, steer him up that gangplank and down below into the library, would you please? Spoo here will show you the way."

Spoo obliging appeared at Rue's elbow and nodded at the young valet. "Oi up, me duck?" She said, or something equally unintelligible.

Virgil looked askance at the soot covered girl, near about his own age but remarkably scruffy and laddish by comparison. "Good afternoon," he said, remembering his manners.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?
This is certainly representative of the beginning of Prudence. Since this is the start of the Custard Protocol series, I wanted to show Rue pulling together a crew full of outrageous personalities, as well as fixing her dirigible, the Spotted Custard, up to fly, decorating it, and stocking it with supplies. This scene illustrates the chaos of that kind of endeavor. In this scene, Rue's friend and soon to be navigator, Percy, arrives and sees the ship for the first time. It's clear he is not particularly interested and only cares about his books. Also, it illustrates that he is rather absent minded and has to be looked after by his valet, Virgil. (Virgil is a little young to be a gentleman's valet, but takes his duties very seriously.) In it we also see Spoo, a fun minor character throughout this series, meet Virgil for the first time. Spoo represents the decklings, the children who work on the squeak decks of Rue's new dirigible (as opposed to the sooties who work the boiler rooms below). Spoo and Virgil are destined to have a kind of sibling bickering affection, where in she is constantly shocking him with her tomboy behavior.

As a writer, I'm using this scene to show how Rue is already assuming command, in that she is organizing things (or in this case, Percy) to run more smoothly through manipulation. A lot of the backbone of this book is Rue learning about her capacities (and failings) as a leader, since she assumes the role of captain unexpectedly and must prove herself.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?
That's a hard question to answer. If you are familiar with my style and like my wacky full cast of characters, then yes, I think it likely. If you are the kind of reader who might get confused by how many different people appear on this one page, perhaps not. It's a chaotic moment, which can be confusing to read however intentionally frenetic. I write what amounts to a comedy of manners with action and romance thrown in, but this is one of the mainly manners segments that rests entirely on the personalities of characters already established in previous chapters and their reactions to a new experience, and interactions with each other for the first time.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Recipe for Disaster"

Stacey Ballis is the author of several foodie novels, including: Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over, Room for Improvement, The Spinster Sisters, Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, and Recipe for Disaster. She is also a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Recipe for Disaster and reported the following:
From page 69:
Grant sighs, his shoulders sagging. “I’m going to take the dog for a walk for ten minutes and clear my head. When I get back, I’d like us both to have a calmer conversation, can you agree to that?”


Grants heads out and I go back to the bathroom to pee and try to fix the snarled shrubbery on my head. Half of it is mashed flat and the rest is sticking out everywhere, so I can’t imagine he could even take me seriously. I stick my head under the cold water in the sink, which wakes me fully, and I can begin to think about rationality. I run a brush through my wet hair and pull it back into a ponytail, brush my teeth, and throw on some jeans and a fleece. I pull on my work boots, coat, throw a hat over my wet head, and put my keys in my pocket. I think for a minute, and then I grab the bag and coffees on my way out.

I catch up to Grant halfway back from his trek around the block. The sky is just lightening, and Schatzi prances proudly by his side. He tilts his head down and looks at me with eyebrows raised, as if to ask if the crazy lady is gone.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi there. Want to walk with us?” He holds out his arm, and I slide my arm through it, gripping his puffy down coat. We don’t speak till we get to the park, where we can sit on a bench while Schatzi finds a patch of bare earth under a tree to groom herself, and we each open a cup of fragrant sweet coffee, and begin to munch our pastries.
Page 69 is right after a fight the heroine has with her fiancé, and while he is deserving of her anger, she takes it way over the top, which I do think is representative of where she is in her life and in their relationship. It is showing the cracks in the façade.
Visit Stacey Ballis's website.

Writers Read: Stacey Ballis.

My Book, The Movie: Recipe for Disaster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Our Endless Numbered Days"

Claire Fuller is a novelist and short fiction writer. For her first degree she studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art, specializing in wood and stone carving. She began writing fiction at the age of 40, after many years working as a co-director of a marketing agency. Fuller has a masters in Creative and Critical Writing from The University of Winchester.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Our Endless Numbered Days, her first novel, and reported the following:
Our Endless Numbered Days is the story of Peggy Hillcoat, recently returned to her mother’s house in London, after nine years away. Gradually we learn that when Peggy was eight she was taken by her father to a remote cabin in a European forest where he told her the rest of the world had disappeared.

The novel’s structure is a dual narrative one, with most chapters looking back at Peggy’s time in the forest, interspersed with chapters in her present day, when she is in London.
Page 69 is part of a London chapter, and a scene where Peggy is trying to build a new relationship with her mother, Ute. They are sitting at the kitchen table and Ute has just made Peggy porridge with water – the only way she will eat it. Neither of them quite know what to make of the other:
for the first time since I got home we really looked at each other – my eyes seeing into hers, and hers looking back into mine; both of us trying to work the other out, as if we were new to each other, which we were. And then the moment was gone.
The dual narrative structure allowed me to describe some of Peggy’s characteristics without saying at this stage, what had happened to make her this way:
…I just sat, looking down at my bowl again, with my licked clean spoon placed to the side. It too, reminded me of the tidy piles of my belongings taken from my rucksack.
Peggy licks her spoon clean even when she is in London where there is plenty of food, because for nearly a decade she didn’t have enough to eat. And even she doesn’t realise that she still likes to line things up – even her cutlery – because of the things her father taught her.

And finally on page 69, there’s mention of Oliver Hannington, an American who plays a pivotal role in the events that unfold.
Visit Claire Fuller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Death Marked"

Leah Cypess is the author of the acclaimed Mistwood and its companion, Nightspell.

Cypess applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Death Marked, the sequel & conclusion to Death Sworn, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
A red line ran up Cyn's arms -- barely more than a scratch, a trickle of blood forming a thin dash against the back of her wrist.

"Very good," Karyn said. "Did any of you see how he did that?"

"By being ten times more powerful than Cyn?" Lis suggested.

Cyn narrowed her eyes at her sister. Then she glanced at Karyn and shrugged. "That would be my guess, too."

"Next," Karyn said, "Ileni can spar with me."

Danger prickled up Ileni's spine, but the magic surging through her wiped it out. She was fairly sure she could show these sorcerers a trick or two. Rehearsing a spell in her mind, she stepped forward.
I think page 69 is somewhat representative of the book -- Ileni's relationship with the imperial sorcerers, and her feelings about the magic she might possibly reclaim, form a large part of the book. Page 69 forms part of her introduction to both the new people and the new possibilities... but in the calm beginning, before all the conflicts come to a head.
Visit Leah Cypess's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sworn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 13, 2015


Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. Her books have been optioned for film and TV. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

Cook applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Remember, and reported the following:
My answer is based off page 69 of the ARC version of the book as I don’t currently have a hardcover copy in the house. (I gave away my copies for some giveaways etc!)
Each house had a perfectly manicured lawn, some even with fountains. I felt awkward, the way I always did when someone saw my house for the first time, and I became hyperaware that it was huge. Like mansion huge. It wasn’t that I wanted to live in a trailer, but there were times I wished we just had a normal house.
On this page Harper is having Neil show up at her house for the first time. She feels awkward, both because she knows he hates her dad’s company, but also because she’s aware of the difference in their social status. Through the book she struggles with dealing with her family’s wealth (and resulting benefits) and her realization that these benefits may have come at an extreme cost. Harper has had a privileged existence and she is facing challenges she couldn’t even have imagined before. It would be easier for her to stick her head in the sand and imagine she doesn’t know what is going on, but she doesn’t do that. I hope readers fall in love with her courage as much as I did.
Visit Eileen Cook's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Year of Mistaken Discoveries.

Coffee with a Canine: Eileen Cook & Cairo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"In Wilderness"

Diane Thomas is the author of the psychological thriller In Wilderness and The Year the Music Changed: The Letters of Achsa McEachern-Isaacs and Elvis Presley. Her favorite setting for her stories is in the mountains of north Georgia, but she loves reading a good yarn set most anywhere.

Thomas applied the Page 69 Test to In Wilderness and reported the following:
From page 69:
Her little cabin has the simple, functional beauty of a thing created over time with loving care, a life's work. Even the knobs on the storage cabinets take into account the grain of their wood. The trestle table and its benches, though perhaps crafted more hurriedly, show a similar sensibility and belong here in this place. The same holds true for the "few good things" she brought. Even the seed packets belong, as they gleam from the mantel. She stares at them a long while, then gets up and brings them to the table. A dozen lovely envelopes, each different and all chosen by a random sweep of her hand. Even the backs are pretty, with their pastel diagrams of planting zones. Her cabin is in zone seven.

She fans out the envelopes, arranges them by the colors of their vegetables: parsley, kale, broccoli, green bell peppers, sage, cabbage, lettuce, turnip, yellow summer squash, golden winter squash, carrots, beets.

If their names make a litany, their various planting directions are a poem:
Plant in late winter,
Sow after the last frost.
When the ground is warm to touch.
In full sun.
In partial shade.
In small hills.
Scatter soil one-eighth inch.
Water in.
Thin at two inches.
Harvest at sixty days.
Ninety. One hundred twenty.
Let the ground lie fallow until spring.
At the start of In Wilderness, in the winter of 1966, 38-year-old Katherine Reid, who is suffering from a mysterious wasting disease, is told to get her affairs in order because she has at most six months to live. She retires to an isolated cabin deep in the southern Appalachian Mountains to live out her remaining days. Once there, she finds she is not dying according to schedule. Indeed, after a month she feels not worse but better, well enough to engage with her surroundings and seek out ways to fill her time. (She has yet to meet the troubled young man who even then spies on her obsessively and will soon make himself known to her, capture her heart and threaten her very life.) The seeds she contemplates on page 69 were purchased on an angry whim before she reached the cabin. The poem ends on page 70, after which she decides she will plant a vegetable garden.
Visit Diane Thomas's website.

Writers Read: Diane Thomas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The Storyspinner"

In second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything except princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she’s been dabbling with ever since.

Wallace applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Storyspinner, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Have you done this before?” he asked quietly, eyes focused on the body. “Have you killed?”

“No.” Pira found a bag of coins on the first body and slipped it into her pocket.

Her words surprised him. She was so calm, so focused, so decisive.

“You’re very good at it.” Leao meant it as a compliment, but Pira shot him a glare hotter than the fire that still flickered between the bodies.

She moved onto the second corpse and resumed her searching. “Next time, you’d better be good at it too.”
If someone only read pages 69 of The Storyspinner, and they were an action fan, then those paragraphs might very well encourage them to continue reading. There’s only a hint of the relationship dynamics between these two characters, but it’s something that grows and shifts throughout the story.
Visit Becky Wallace's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Storyspinner.

Writers Read: Becky Wallace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Where All Light Tends to Go"

David Joy is the author of the novels Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015) and Waiting On The End Of The World (Putnam, 2016), as well as the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Joy applied the Page 69 Test to Where All Light Tends to Go and reported the following:
A great poet and friend of mine, Ron Houchin, made me do the Page 69 Test right after I’d finished Where All Light Tends To Go, and, well, I was a tad disappointed. That’s a page of dialogue between Jacob McNeely and Maggie Jennings when Jacob has come looking to try and get her back. I tend to prefer really thick language, something like the opening lines of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, so a page of dialogue doesn’t get my gears turning like other parts of the novel. At the same time, that scene is essential in that it’s the first moment that we see Jacob entertaining the thought of something better. That’s the moment in the book that we start to see him recognize that there just might be one thing that can break the cycle he was born into. It’s her.
Visit David Joy's website.

Writers Read: David Joy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Above Us Only Sky"

Michele Young-Stone is the author of the novels Above Us Only Sky and The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, which The Boston Globe called “an exceptionally rich and sure-handed debut.”

Young-Stone applied the Page 69 Test to Above Us Only Sky, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Less than a month after the Old Man went into hiding from the Russians, the Nazis came to the front door of the Straż house. They informed the Straż family that they needn’t pack anything. They wouldn’t be gone long, just long enough to register as Jews. There were public documents testifying to their Judaism, and additionally, their neighbors had reported them as Soviet sympathizers.

They were certainly Jewish, but first and foremost, the Straż family was Lithuanian.

The Gestapo found Frederick in the basement, and grabbing him by his overcoat, pulled him up the stairs. He wasn’t registering with the others. They already knew who he was, and he wasn’t a Jew. They seemed to know everything. It was unnerving. One of the Nazis, a man twice Frederick’s age, punched him playfully in the arm. “You hid among the vermin.”
Page 69 embodies a fundamental dilemma in my novel. What is a nation to do when they are being passed back and forth between two madmen, Stalin and Hitler? Which, if either, is a lesser evil?

Lithuania has been chastised and has made formal apologies since their independence in 1991 for their participation in the Holocaust. One of the issues raised in my novel is that for many of them, the Germans seemed far more rational than the Soviets and their Red Army. The Lithuanian people had a history of being invaded by the Russians, and by 1941, hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians had been murdered by the Soviets, and those who were not outright killed were deported to Siberian gulags where they learned, “Work is an honor.” This is the message that met many of the prisoners as they passed through the barbed wire gates of the prison camps. They would be worked to death under the most severe conditions.

I recently met a man who lived through this battle between Stalin and Hitler. He remembers the Russians and Germans fighting, bullets flying through the pine forests, the sound they made, a sort of kerplunk when they landed in the surrounding lakes. As a young boy, he knew that they were fighting over who would rule his country. If the Germans won, the Nazis would liquidate the Jews and anyone else they saw fit. If Stalin won, the extermination would be based on who was educated and who owned land. Mostly… Or a person may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There was no lesser evil.

Above Us Only Sky is a novel about survival, about the Vilkas family, how they birthed bird girls, and how an American girl, Prudence Vilkas, born with wings, returns to a homeland she never knew was hers.
Learn more about the book and author at Michele Young-Stone's website, blog, and Facebook fan page.

The Page 69 Test: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

My Book, The Movie: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

Coffee with a Canine: Michele Young-Stone & Emma (May 2010) and Coffee with a Canine: Michele Young-Stone & Emma Peel and Chauncey.

Writers Read: Michele Young-Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Inherit Midnight"

Kate Kae Myers is a sign language interpreter for deaf main streamed high school students. She also runs her high school's creative writing club.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Inherit Midnight, her first novel, and reported the following:
With awful relatives who don’t hesitate to remind her she’s not a true VanDemere, 17-year-old Avery has never gotten along with her family. Then her wealthy grandmother plots an elaborate set of challenges to see which family member deserves to inherit the VanDemere wealth. With Riley—the family lawyer’s son—by her side, Avery is determined to win, because winning means freedom and the chance to learn the truth about her parents.

Page 69 of Inherit Midnight takes place in the conference room of the lawyer’s office, where all the VanDemeres are undergoing the first challenge of the family competition, a test of their knowledge about the family ancestors. The pressure is on, since the competitor with the lowest score will be eliminated. Avery is the last one to still be working on her test, and she’s sensing the usual judgmental reproach from her relatives:
I felt all their eyes on me as I wrote my best guess for another fill-in-the-blank. Daisy gave an annoyed snort. “Hurry up stupid, so we can get out of here.”

Not looking up from the test, I said, “Just a suggestion, Daisy. Stop cutting your own bangs.”

The comment shocked me. I may have thought it every time I saw her, but I never planned to say it. Someone snickered and Uncle Marshall’s voice turned cross. “Avery, that was uncalled-for.”

I circled another answer, then glanced up. “But it’s fine for her to say I’m stupid?”

Even though he looked at me in a snooty way, I knew he was surprised that I actually talked back to him. I flipped my test face down on the pile just as Mr. Tate tapped his watch. “Time’s up.”
Visit Kate Kae Myers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 6, 2015

"The Distance Between Lost and Found"

Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Holmes works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Distance Between Lost and Found, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
They’ve been climbing for an hour. Maybe longer. Through sheets of rain. And it has occurred to Hallelujah, which means it has probably also occurred to Rachel and Jonah, that they should have found the trail by now. Did they cross right over it, a thin, washed-out dirt stripe in the sea of green? Did they fall farther than they thought?

Or did they climb the wrong hill entirely?

It’s a chilling thought. A slice of icy rain, down to the bone.

Because that means that while before, they were just off-course, now, they are lost.


Hallelujah has felt lost for the past six months. Since Luke. But now she almost wants to laugh, because clearly, she had no idea what lost was.

“We’re lost,” she says aloud. Trying out the words.

Jonah turns to look at her. He cocks his head, like he didn’t hear what she said.

“We’re lost,” Hallelujah says again. Louder. She enunciates. “Lost.”

And Jonah visibly deflates. Exhales. “I think so, yeah.”
This excerpt is actually a great representation of the book as a whole! The Distance Between Lost and Found is about two parallel journeys. In the physical sense, it’s about a trio of teens getting lost in the mountains and trying to find their way home. In the emotional sense, protagonist Hallelujah “Hallie” Calhoun is struggling to find herself again after an incident six months ago left her a social outcast, bullied and withdrawn. It’s only through the physical challenges she faces in the wilderness that she is able to rediscover her strength and her voice.

Page 69 captures the exact moment that Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel realize they’re in over their heads. Prior to this point, they’ve separated from their youth group hiking trip without chaperones or maps, gotten caught in a violent rainstorm, and fallen down a mountainside. From here on out, things only get worse. I definitely hope this snippet would be enough to entice someone to read further!
Visit Kathryn Holmes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"The Bargaining"

Carly Anne West is a freelance writer with an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bargaining, and reported the following:
I’m not sure I could have chosen a more perfect page to set the scene for The Bargaining than page 69. There’s so much going on here.

Penny is still trembling from her first traumatic encounter in the North Woods, a damaged and tortured place for which she hasn’t even begun to gain a true understanding. And instead of feeling the emotions she knows she needs to process, she’s tucking them away, succumbing to the numbness that has kept her breathing since the death of her best friend Rae. This particular set of actions mirrors those described in the first scene of the book in which we see Penny. The death of Rae still fresh, she has begun to develop the coping mechanism of zeroing in on only the most rudimentary sets of senses. It’s becoming clear that Penny has not nearly healed from her ordeal with Rae, and she’s instead developed these temporary behaviors to approximate living.

Page 69 is also the first time Penny and her stepmom April are seeing the Carver House – the place April was hoping to turn into a Bed & Breakfast – and numbness is not an option here. Penny is assaulted by the smells of age and neglect that have settled into the old house, and it’s immediately clear that neither of them is prepared for what these woods and everything in them is going to inflict on them.
Learn more about the book and author at Carly Anne West's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Murmurings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"The Bookseller"

Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the midcentury modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Swanson applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Bookseller, and reported the following:
I love it when random things work out in my favor. As it turns out, page 69 of The Bookseller is illuminating and rather instrumental to the storyline.

On that page, the main character - single, childless bookstore owner Kitty Miller - visits the street where (as her alter-ego Katharyn Andersson) she lives in her dream-life with her husband Lars and their children. The night before, Kitty had dreamed about this street and house - so the next day, she decides to investigate. She finds that the street exists - as in her dream, it’s in a neighborhood under construction, with many brand-new houses and others in the process of being built.

But her house is not among these. The lot which held the Andersson house in the dream is - in the real world - empty.
I stare at the space. I can see the pink-orange brick house in my mind. I know exactly how the house would sit on the land, the low roofline of the attached garage and main section of the house and the higher roof over the upper level. I can envision the saplings planted in the yard, the juniper bushes by the front door. I picture the driveway where Lars smoothly rolled up and parked the Cadillac. My mind visualizes the wooden lamppost next to which Alma stood and waited for her ride home.

But there is no house here, not even any plan for a house - none that I can see, at any rate. There is nothing here except brittle prairie grass, dirt, and weeds.
Kitty asks a passer-by if he lives in the neighborhood, and when he responds yes, she asks if there has ever been a house there, or if he knows of a family named Andersson. He responds negatively to both, leaving Kitty mystified and a bit empty inside.

So what’s going on? Well…you’ll have to read The Bookseller to find out.
Visit Cynthia Swanson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 2, 2015

"The Way to Stay in Destiny"

Augusta Scattergood is the the author of the acclaimed debut novel, Glory Be.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Way to Stay in Destiny, and reported the following:
Here's a bit of what I wrote on page 69 at the very end of "Chapter Ten: The Problem":
Now my heart’s beating so fast, my head’s spinning.

“Does your nephew know about this?” Miss Sister speaks louder. “What exactly did you tell Theo?”

"Nothing yet. Not your business. If I get me the new job in Mount Flora, there's a duplex waiting, too. Nice old lady next door offered to watch after him."

"Mount Flora? My stars! Even on the bus, that's over an hour away," Miss Sister says.

"Don't know what difference it makes to anybody 'cept me." Uncle Raymond keeps muttering even while he's shutting the front door, making it hard to hear, harder to believe.

But I know Miss Sister heard every single word. Even the ones he didn't say out loud.
I love the Page 69 test. When I was a school media specialist, I often encouraged my students to try it. I'm delighted to discover that my own page 69 is one I remember working on very hard. I re-wrote that last sentence more times than I care to remember.

I hope this passage will encourage young readers to turn to the next page of The Way to Stay in Destiny! I love ending chapters on a note that leaves readers wondering.

In this selection, Miss Sister and Uncle Raymond are talking about our narrator Theo, while he's standing at the top of the stairs at the Rest Easy Rooming House and Dance Studio, eavesdropping. For the first time since moving to Destiny, Florida, Theo is worried his uncle may be taking him away from the place and the people he’s just beginning to love. I think this passage shows how much Miss Sister cares about Theo.
Learn more about the book and author at Augusta Scattergood's website and blog.

Writers Read: Augusta Scattergood (April 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue