Sunday, May 31, 2015

"The Life and Death of Sophie Stark"

Anna North graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2009, having received a Teaching-Writing Fellowship and a Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Nautilus, Glimmer Train, the anthology Robot Uprisings, and the Atlantic Monthly, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review Daily, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and she is now a staff editor at the New York Times.

North's first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark turns out to include one of the most raw and upsetting scenes in the book (although I recognize that I, as the author, may not be the best judge of what’s the most raw and upsetting). Sophie has been making a film about Daniel, a college basketball star, and his girlfriend and frat brothers punish her by trapping her in a bathroom and turning the camera on her in a scary and abusive way. But Sophie ends up turning the scene to her own advantage by performing the degrading “line” they’ve given her with a sort of triumph, and including it in her film — it’s actually what makes the film great. So page 69 is, in fact, representative of the book: It’s a key moment in Sophie’s formation as an artist and a person, and in her sort of fusion of the two. The worst things that happen to her (and to those around her) become fuel for her movies, and this becomes in some ways the central tension of the book — can Sophie live a life independent of her movies? Can she allow her loved ones to do so? Would Sophie even want a life separate from her art? The scene on page 69 is where a lot of these questions begin for Sophie. And I hope a reader who happened on that page would decide to read on — he or she might do so just to find out what got Sophie into this frightening situation, and how she got out of it.
Learn more about the book and author at Anna North's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Bye, Bye Love"

Three sisters with an insatiable love for mysteries, write the PI Cat DeLuca novels as KJ Larsen. Julianne, Kari, and Kristen Larsen live in Chicagoland and the Pacific Northwest where they’re working on Cat’s fifth and most outrageous adventure.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their latest novel, Bye, Bye Love, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Cleo flashed her coat open exposing the Glock in her shoulder holster. Then she hiked up her skirt to show off the .22 in her garter holster. She started unbuttoning her blouse and I threw up my hands.



Cleo frowned. “Who the hell is Toby Smoak?”

“Rolex man.”

Her face shone with unabashed admiration. “You found him?”

“Oh yeah, baby.”

“Damn, girl. You got Captain Bob eating some serious crow.”

“Well, not exactly.”

“So where is this Smoak? Does Bobby got a SWAT team surrounding his rathole?”

“The SWAT team is you and me. And Max, if Tino has his way.”

“Huh? I feel like I’m missing something here.”

I climbed back on my soapbox. “Captain Bob was a jerk. He has dissed the Pants On Fire Detective Agency for the last time.”

She feigned shock. “Bob? No! Go on!”

“We’re doin’ this on our own, girlfriend. Without Captain Bob and without the Ninth. It’s you and me. And Inga, if Mama let’s me have her back.”

“Oh yeah. You’re a force to be reckoned with.”

“Here’s the plan. We bring Smoak in and toss him on Captain Bob’s desk like a sack of donuts. We take Provenza down. And when we’re finished, Captain Bob will have to admit he’s a dumbass.”
The Pants On Fire Detective Agency has a reputation for catching cheaters. It’s a skill PI Cat DeLuca mastered when married to her run-around ex, Johnnie Rizzo. Armed with a camera, Cat scales balconies, dangles from hotel windows, and splashes the bare facts on 8X10 glossies. They tend to sweeten a client’s divorce settlement.

Cat is a smart, hotshot detective who gets little respect from the Chicago Police Department. So when Cat stumbles over a faceless body in the park, and it disappears before the cops arrive, it’s not surprising Captain Bob blows her claim off as a bad prank.

In Bye, Bye Love, PI Cat DeLuca is hot on the trail of a body snatcher. Page 69 cuts to a conversation between the detective and her trigger-happy assistant, Cleo Jones. The night Cat stumbled over a body in the park, she and her beagle/partner, Inga, were assaulted. On page 69, Cat reveals the identity of the assailant and announces she’s going rogue. There’s also a reference to Cat’s interfering, Italian Mama. Mama blames Cat for Inga’s injury and has kidnapped her grand-dog.

Happily, I’d say this page represents Bye, Bye Love quite well and seems to pass the Page 69 Test!
Visit K. J. Larsen's website.

Writers Read: K. J. Larsen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 28, 2015


E. E. Cooper lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and one very spoiled dog.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Vanished, and reported the following:
On page 69 Kalah is thinking about when she first became friends with Beth and Britney.
Before I even knew what I was doing I reached over, grabbed her hand with her cone in it, and took a huge lick of her ice cream. As soon as I’d done it, I let go of her, horrified, but Beth burst out laughing. I remember thinking I would do anything to make her laugh like that again.
This page does represent a portion of the book- that exciting time when you are starting a new friendship and you are still trying to figure out the “rules” of the relationship. What are things that are okay to joke about? Is there a leader in the group? Are there things we don’t talk about? How much personal information do we share, or is this a friendship based on doing things together rather than talking. Kalah is excited to be invited to be a part of this group, but she also feels a bit out of her league. She’s questioning why these two popular girls want to include her and hoping that she can keep up with them.

While the book is essentially a mystery- where has Beth gone and what secrets is everyone keeping- the core of the story is about friendship so page 69 works pretty well.
Learn more about Vanished at E.E. Cooper's website.

Writers Read: E. E. Cooper.

My Book, the Movie: Vanished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Anything Could Happen"

Will Walton is a book-selling, pop music fanatic who grew up on a farm and now works at the Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new YA novel, Anything Could Happen, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Anything Could Happen is where Chapter 6 starts, so, sadly, the reader would only get half a page to go on. Still, there is a fair amount of intrigue located on that little half-page: a menacing note is mentioned offhand, as well as what’s referred to as “the King Kong adventure.” I’m also convinced that if the reader’s eye was to wander over to the adjacent page 68, they would be hooked. One of the best additions I made to the novel while revising is on that page: a note from Tretch’s older brother, Joe, to Tretch who has gotten home late.

Page 68/Chapter 5 closes out with Tretch’s response, and I think it’s pretty touching—if I do say so myself. So to anyone giving ACH the Page 69 Test, I guess my suggestion is to (slightly) cheat.
Visit Will Walton's website.

Writers Read: Will Walton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Slated for Death"

Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales.

Her first novel, The Cold Light of Mourning, won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic 2006 Grant for Unpublished Writers and the 2008 St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic Award for best first traditional mystery and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis award in Canada and an Agatha Award in the United States.

Duncan's fourth novel, A Small Hill to Die On won the 2013 Bloody Words best light mystery (Bony Blithe) and the fifth book in the series, Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By, was nominated for the same award in 2014.

Duncan applied the Page 69 Test to Slated for Death, the sixth Penny Brannigan mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"(The wind rattled the) windowpane and fat raindrops, barely visible through the condensation, raced in rivulets down the glass.


"Well, yeah. First Mam and now Nain. They must have left something between them and it'll come to us now, won't it? How much do you think we'll get?"

"Do you know, Peris, I haven't given that a thought. I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that my mother died today."
Page 69 falls at the end of chapter 12 and contains just five sentences. Rebeccah Roberts, whose sister Glenda was recently found dead down the local slate mine, has just returned from the senior's home where the body of her mother was discovered a few days later, just before her birthday party. Rebeccah's nephew, Peris, has come to stay with her for a few days.

The death of her mother has stirred a lot of emotional turmoil in Rebeccah. Old memories and hurts re-surface. She knows that her mother preferred Glenda over her and she isn't sure what she feels, or indeed what she should feel, when her mother dies.

The mother-daughter relationship is often difficult, filled with resentment, misunderstanding, and unresolved issues. In Slated for Death, it lies at the heart of an unspeakable tragedy.
Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth J. Duncan and Dolly.

The Page 69 Test: The Cold Light of Mourning.

The Page 69 Test: A Brush with Death.

The Page 69 Test: Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Café Europa"

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for more than three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Café Europa, the sixth Edna Ferber mystery, and reported the following:
“And today we are the artists that so many in Budapest despise. The avant-garde.”

On page 69 of Café Europa, my amateur sleuth Edna Ferber, vacationing in Budapest in 1914, encounters not only heinous murder but also two young Hungarian artists: Bertalan Por and Lajos Tihanyi. These two real-life painters become important characters in my mystery, and on page 69 there is a brief discussion of their role in revolutionizing the stagnating Austro-Hungarian Empire culture. On the eve of World War One, Hungary, like much of Europe, was caught between the old fussy aristocratic world of Franz Joseph and the burgeoning revolutionary spirit seeping into the culture. On page 69 Tihanyi and Por engage Edna Ferber in a brief conversation about the avant-garde, a democratic sensibility that seeks to reinvigorate the moribund status quo, and so the page serves as a signpost to the coming upheaval in European life: catastrophic world war and the end of failed empire. The page also allows us to see the joy that Edna has in being in the company of such dynamic, lively Hungarian characters, two charismatic souls who will, in fact, help her solve the murder.
Visit Ed Ifkovic's website.

Writers Read: Ed Ifkovic.

My Book, The Movie: Café Europa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"The Big Fix"

Linda Grimes is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband. Grimes is the author of In a Fix, Quick Fix, and the newly released The Big Fix.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Big Fix and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 69:
Right now I needed something, that was for sure. Maybe the poo was it. It wasn't like it hadn't worked to get me out of a tight spot before, as about a hundred neo-Vikings could testify to. But I'd been told lightning doesn't strike the same spot twice, so I wasn't going to count on it.

I started poking at the pile gingerly, keeping a wary eye on Bluto.

"Hurry up, girly. I ain't got all day."

I shoveled faster, turning over big globs of straw and manure, not really paying attention because, of course, I already knew the gun wasn't there. As I was lifting a particularly fresh bunch of horse hockey I heard a plane overhead.


Everyone looked up, including me. Bluto didn't like it. "Hurry the fuck up! You two, start digging—hey, where the hell do you think you're going?"

Cody stopped. "To get more shovels."

"Forget it. Use your hands. Dig!"

Dave sighed. They both reached for the pile as Billy circled around. I dropped the shovel and threw my arms up in an I-give-up gesture, hoping Billy could see me.

"Listen, mister. I don't think the gun is here." I waved an arm, broadly, over the pile. For all this guy knew, I was a heavy gesticulator. "Maybe we should check the other stalls first"—I swung my other arm toward the barn—"because maybe the ex-boyfriend threw the gun in the wrong one," I said, my voice growing louder with the approach of the plane.

Bluto glanced upward, looking edgier by the minute. "You're not done here—keep digging!"
Page 69 is actually pretty representative of the wacky, but still dangerous, kind of trouble my protagonist seems to attract. There's action, humor, and even a bit of snark in her references to the bad guy as "Bluto." (He reminds her of the villain from the old Popeye cartoons. Ciel is fond of assigning nicknames to people she doesn't know, and the nicknames aren't always flattering.) Also, Ciel's best-friend-turned-boyfriend buzzes into middle of things, as he is fond of doing.

So, yeah, not a bad slice of the pie for a reader skimming to find out if it's a flavor they might enjoy.
Learn more about the book and author at Linda Grimes's website.

My Book, The Movie: In a Fix.

Writers Read: Linda Grimes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"The Guest Cottage"

Nancy Thayer's many novels include Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, Beachcombers, Heat Wave, Summer Breeze, Island Girls, and the newly released The Guest Cottage.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Guest Cottage and reported the following:
From page 69:
Trevor’s throat closed up with emotion. He nodded, unable to speak.

Next to him, Sophie made a noise between a cough and a laugh. “Listen to me, the great know-it-all. At least your son talks to you.”

“Jonah’s fine.” Trevor glanced over at Sophie. Their eyes caught, snagged, and they both quickly averted their gaze. “Guys don’t talk to their moms much, anyway.”

“He used to talk to me. This spring he’s become too quiet. He missed a lot of baseball and soccer practice. He used to build his world around those games. His grades are dropping, too.” Her voice thickened when she confessed, “I can tell Jonah likes you.”

It was the perfect moment, the perfect opening, for Trevor to ask, “And do you like me?” But he didn’t want to come on to her like some kind of horndog. Still, he was rattled by her words. So he responded in a Mafia don accent, “Eh, what’s not to like?”

“Jonah doesn’t have a real grandfather,” Sophie said thoughtfully. For a moment, Trevor was thrown by her words. What relevance did that have to this conversation? “My father died a few years ago and he never was involved with my kids. Zack’s father lives in Florida, and gets a new girlfriend every year. He seldom comes to visit. I guess I was kind of hoping Jonah might strike up a relationship with Connor. I worry about him, too. I don’t think it’s good for the old man to be alone so often.”

“You worry too much,” Trevor told her. “It’s summer. Let’s give ourselves some time.” He bit his tongue after saying ourselves. That implied the two of them were in this together.

Well, after all, they kind of were.

Next to him, Sophie nodded. “Good advice.” She wasn’t looking at Trevor now, but he could sense some sort of force field radiating from her toward him like the heat of the afternoon’s sun. His throat went dry. He could pick up a woman in a bar, no problem. But this woman
Wow! Page 69 is the perfect page to represent The Guest Cottage. Here, Sophie, 36, mother of two children, about to be divorced by her husband for a younger woman, talks with Trevor, 30, recently widowed and father of a four-year-old boy. They’re both worried about their children. They’re physically attracted to each other, and they’re worried about that, too.

They’ve accidentally ended up sharing a huge house on Nantucket for the summer. They’re getting to know each other. This conversation shows how Trevor, six years younger than Sophie and a laid-back computer dude, is not only handsome and funny, but also serious about caring for the children in the house. A great theme of the book is learning to trust an instant emotion, and all the ways we try to ignore it.
Visit Nancy Thayer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

My Book, The Movie: The Guest Cottage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"The Venusian Gambit"

Michael Martinez is the author of The Daedalus Incident and The Enceladus Crisis, the first two installments in the Daedalus trilogy. A journalist and professional writer by trade, Martinez lives with his wife and daughter in northern New Jersey.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Venusian Gambit: Book Three of the Daedalus series, and reported the following:
I’m slightly disappointed that, in a book about Napoleonic Era sailing ships in space…there are no sailing ships in space on page 69 of The Venusian Gambit, the final volume in the Daedalus trilogy. But that’s OK, because there’s a British admiral, a Cabinet minister, the Crown Prince of England – and an alien.

The Daedalus series hearkens back to C.S. Forester’s Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander books, but blended with a healthy dose of Star Wars; the series is full of thrilling battles and four-color adventure. In the latest book, there’s also a good dose of political intrigue.

To get you up to speed: In 1809, Napoleon has used ancient alien alchemy to raise an army of revenant soldiers from the dead, and has taken much of England, as well as King George III. Thus, there’s a government-in-exile up in Scotland, and the admiral – Lord Thomas Weatherby – must work to keep Napoleon’s ambitions confined to Earth, lest the rest of the Known Worlds fall under his sway.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that – I didn’t even get to the part where our future 22nd century dimension crosses with Weatherby’s. But that should get you started. Here’s page 69 of The Venusian Gambit, which starts with the minister, Lord Castlereagh, discussing the disposition of a pair of spies in Oxford, and whether they may need assistance.
…an inch. And there are legions of French troops, and their damnable Corps Eternel between.”

“Little, certainly, other than to be prepared,” Weatherby said. “We have given them instruction to discover as much as they are able without being discovered themselves, and—”

“And I’m sure the will perform admirably,” came another voice from the head of the room. The group turned and saw His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales and Prince Regent, enter the room. He was tall, stout and broad-chested, possessed of a florid face and dark hair, with eyes that could hold joy and menace in equal measure – and occasionally both at once. At times Weatherby wondered whether he was King Henry VIII come back to life; certainly the prince’s once-profligate spending, estranged marriage, and long-time mistress helped the comparison.

Yet Weatherby saw there was something far more interesting afoot than the mere attendance of England’s ruler, for the Prince Regent was accompanied by a Xan.

All in the room bowed deeply toward Prince George, but their eyes remained locked on the looming hooded figure to his right. This worthy was teen feet tall, and its taloned hands were clasped in front of it, obscured by the folds of its robe. Likewise, the Xan’s hood covered its face, as was common amongst those Saturnian folk who visited Earth-men.

Prince George, for his part, smiled wickedly at his subjects in the room. “And here I imagine you thought me off on some wastrel adventure or another,” the Prince Regent chided. “In fact, I have been deep in negotiations with the ambassador here.”

Weatherby and Castlereagh shared a quick look, and it became quite evident to Weatherby that this was a surprise to the minister, and thus likely a surprise to the rest of His Majesty’s Government as well. Since retreating north, the Prince Regent had taken a far more active role in government than King George, especially given the latter man’s enfeeblement of both body and mind. An active monarch was, in the eyes of some, a worrisome development, especially when he might act without the advice and consent of Parliament – a Parliament that continued to have difficulty meeting with more than half its elected members behind enemy lines.

George, meanwhile, smiled up at the hooded figure, which made a non-committal, melodic sound. The Xan had two mouths, one upon each side….
Visit Michael J. Martinez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015


Sarah Fine is a clinical child psychologist and the author of the Guards of the Shadowlands series and Of Metal and Wishes. She is also a co-author, with Walter Jury, of Scan and Burn.

Under his real name, Walter Jury is one of the movie producers of the Divergent series, among other films and television shows he is developing.

Fine applied the Page 69 Test to Burn and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Don’t touch me,” I slur, my defiance hardwired even though it feels like I’m swimming in a sea of motor oil and rebar, everything sharp and jagged, the air too thick to breathe. I’m upright, but only because I’m bound to a chair.

Congers is squatting in front of me as I open my eyes. His expression is stern, and his face is paler than it was before. “Cooperate, and I won’t.”

It takes effort, but I raise my head. I’m in a windowless box of a room. Buzzing fluorescent lighting above me. Old radiator against the wall. Not a new building, nothing high-tech. I glance at the door, painted metal, covered in nicks and scrapes. I blink, trying to gather my wits.

“I expected your lab facility to be a little swankier,” I say, my consonants a bit more defined this time.

Congers slides his finger along the bridge of his nose. “We thought it best not to flee straight to a top secret facility.”

“And what exactly would constitute ‘cooperating’?” My hands are cuffed behind the office chair I’m sitting on. My ankles are shackled to its legs. Graham is standing near the door, his gray-green eyes on me. His posture straightens as I size him up.

Congers glances at the young agent before returning his attention to me. “As you are aware, your father had something that belongs to us. We need to reacquire it immediately, especially given this evening’s unfortunate series of events. Even more unfortunate, we need your help.”
I think page 69 of Burn is very nicely representative of the entire book. Here we have Tate, our main character, in a really tight spot—he’s seemingly at the mercy of an enemy who has him drugged and shackled to a chair. But even here, we see him analyzing his surroundings, both the logistical and concrete as well as the emotional—he’s in the process of trying to figure out this young agent named Graham—and all this information will be useful to him in the pages that follow.

Page 69 encapsulates some of the conflict in the book nicely as well. Congers is an H2 agent—he’s one of the aliens who wants not only the scanner Tate’s father invented, but also access to his father’s lab, which contains pieces of extraterrestrial tech that everyone is trying to acquire. And on this page, they’re also dealing with a new variable. Congers mentions fleeing—and that’s because they have a new enemy in Burn, one that makes Tate question everything he thought he understood.

This page gives readers a taste of the characters and conflict in the entire book, and I certainly hope they’ll want to keep reading!
Visit Sarah Fine's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch, and Walter Jury's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"The Memory Painter"

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing plays in college while freezing in the tundra at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She received an MFA from CalArts in Directing for theater and film and was a semi-finalist in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. She currently she resides in California and can be found at her keyboard.

Womack applied the Page 69 Test to The Memory Painter, her first novel, and reported the following:
Well, this was a fun test. On page 69 of The Memory Painter our heroine, Linz, is talking to her father in a seemingly innocent exchange, but by the bottom of the page she lets two vital bits of information slip in their conversation: that she’s met an artist (Bryan Pierce) who has somehow painted the recurring dream that she’s suffered from her whole life—and that she’s also discovered the person in her dream really existed in history. These two revelations set a lot of things in motion for the story, so I’d say page 69 is holding up quite nicely.

The reality is Bryan has painted a lot of dreams and all the people have lived in history, but Linz discovering those two truths about her dream will form the bridge that draws her into Bryan’s world and solidifies their bond. So page 69 does touch on the crux of the story and represents to an extent what happens in the book.
Visit Gwendolyn Womack's website.

Writers Read: Gwendolyn Womack.

My Book, The Movie: The Memory Painter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2015


Sarah Elizabeth Schantz grew up in a bookstore named The Rue Morgue—one of the first mystery bookstores in the US. She is an accomplished short-storyist, with many awards under her belt. Schantz holds an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University. She currently lives with her family in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado, where they are surrounded by open sky, century-old cottonwoods, coyote, and screech owls.

Schantz applied the Page 69 Test to Fig, her first novel, and reported the following:
In this scene, Fig has been called into the principal’s office for crucifying a Barbie at school (she nailed it to the back of the playground shed and used lipstick for the blood). Her mother has recently been released from the hospital after a schizophrenic episode (for which Fig was present) and a subsequent suicide attempt. Fig, who has just turned seven has not only fallen to the wayside of the family’s concerns, she is also beginning to figure out that Mama might not be getting better.

In many ways, she crucified the doll to get her mother’s attention—to impress Mama with her own feminist inclinations. Fig is sitting in the office with the principal and her teacher waiting for Mama so they can discuss the incident. At the top of the page, the reader learns that Fig has a photographic memory, another component of her high IQ, but toward the bottom, as Fig messes with a scab, it becomes evident that her need to pick is escalating into a form of self-harm that will only get worse.

The manifestations of Mama’s mental illness have only happened at home, and just the one night. Until now, it’s always been a private affair, but now the problem is about to become public knowledge. In the next few pages, Mama will not only walk in, she will rudely dismiss the principal and the teacher. Acting like “an actress playing herself” (72), Mama will sit in such a way that the principal can’t help but see her underwear through the rip in her jeans, deeply embarrassing Fig. When Mama drags Fig out of the building, the “acting” doesn’t stop. Mama stands in front of Douglas Elementary looking at the principal’s window, and then “Mama does something” Fig has “never seen her do before” (72). She lights a cigarette, and Fig sees her mother as a monster for the first time: “She smiles, but her lips are shut tight. And . . . two thin clouds of gray come twisting out of each nostril, and . . . [she] is a fire-breathing dragon” (73).

Despite the humiliation and horror Fig endures, she will never give up on Mama. Fig will ferociously defend Mama for the next eleven years. She will do anything to bring Mama back, even if it means sacrificing her own needs.
Visit Sarah Elizabeth Schantz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"False Tongues"

Kate Charles, who was described by the Oxford Times as "a most English writer", is in fact an expatriate American, though an unashamedly Anglophilic one. She has a special interest and expertise in clerical mysteries, and lectures frequently on crime novels with church backgrounds. After more than twenty years in Bedford, Kate and her husband now live in Ludlow with their Border Terrier, Rosie.

Charles applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, False Tongues, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘Oh, hello.’ Jane smiled in spite of herself. She dropped her handbag and her shopping bag on the table and pulled out a chair.

It used to be that Simon was the one who rang her, just for a chat. But now that he had a girlfriend – a serious one, who seemed to consume his every waking moment – those chatty calls were few and far between. Now it was far more likely to be Charlie who made those calls. On her part, Jane was always reluctant to ring her sons, in case they were in lectures or tutorials, or busy with important course work.

‘I’m bored,’ Charlie said. ‘Up to my eyes with this blasted essay. And there’s no one else around. So I thought I’d ring you for a bit of a gossip.’

Well, Jane thought philosophically, it was better to be a last resort, a relief from boredom, than the alternative of no call at all. And she always enjoyed Charlie’s gossip: unlike the more earnest Simon, he had a tendency to be amusingly ironic. He was observant, as well – a useful characteristic for the priesthood. That was Charlie’s chosen career, though of course it would be up to the Church whether to accept him or not. From a young age he’d stated his intention to follow his father into the Church, and was reading theology at Oxford with the aim of going straight on to theological college.

‘I don’t have any gossip,’ Jane admitted. Charlie wouldn’t be interested in the churchwarden running out of mouthwash, the only thing she could recall from her recent encounter. She emptied her shopping bag onto the table and lined up the items she’d bought as cover: a box of paracetamol tablets, a packet of sausages, a cucumber. Just in case Brian asked about her urgent errands.

‘Well, I do.’ Her son paused, then went on. ‘I was in the Bodders on Saturday afternoon. After a few hours I had to go out and get some air. I stopped at a little caf to grab a cup of tea, and who do you think I saw?’

The Archbishop of Canterbury? Lady Gaga? ‘Surprise me,’ Jane said obediently.
Page 69 of False Tongues contains a telephone conversation which is in no way essential to the plot of the novel. The principals in this scene, vicar’s wife Jane and her son Charlie, are continuing series characters but this is Charlie’s only appearance in False Tongues, and Jane is no more than a minor player in a storyline which involves the murder of a teenage boy.

Thematically, though, this scene could not be more representative of the book. A bored Charlie has rung his mother for the purpose of exchanging gossip. False Tongues is largely about the damage that can be inflicted on people by careless gossip – gossip which is not necessarily meant to be malicious, but which can nonetheless destroy lives and blight happiness.

‘No smoke without fire’ – how many times are those words thoughtlessly spoken? Jane herself is a victim, when two church workers speculate about her vicar husband’s relationship with his female curate Callie. And in Cambridge, where Callie has gone to a reunion at her theological college, seemingly harmless gossip comes close to derailing the future happiness of the Principal.

But the meaning of the novel’s title goes beyond gossip to something even more lethal: deliberate lies, and words intended to wound. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’. Anyone who has ever been verbally bullied will know how spurious that old chestnut is. Today, verbal bullying no longer relies on face-to-face contact. Social media and texting provide a convenient cover for those who prefer to hide behind anonymity to practice cruelty. Cyber-bullying is real, and it has directly brought about the death of vulnerable victims – teenagers who have killed themselves rather than face another hateful message, for instance. Words can kill.

So, in False Tongues, when young Sebastian Frost is stabbed to death, the police want to know why. What they find out makes his parents question how well they knew their gifted, popular son. Was he what he seemed to be, or … not?
Visit Kate Charles's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest"

Melanie Dickerson is a two-time Christy Award finalist and author of The Healer’s Apprentice, winner of the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book in 2010, and The Merchant’s Daughter, winner of the 2012 Carol Award. She spends her time writing medieval stories at her home near Huntsville, Alabama, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Dickerson applied the Page 69 Test to The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, her first historical romance for adults, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, you have quite a few key elements of the story. On the first half of the page, the forester, Jorgen, has been delighting the orphan children with some stories he has written—and making Odette fall just a bit more in love with him.

Odette, the heroine, is conflicted. Throughout the book, she questions whether she is doing the right thing by poaching the margrave’s deer to feed the poor. And now that she is falling in love with the forester, who is in charge of capturing poachers, she is more conflicted than ever.

On the second half of the page, Odette has been talking to her best friend about Jorgen, who, if he found out she was poaching, would throw her in the dungeon.
“It is true, Jorgen is not rich.” Anna frowned. “It is a pity because he is very handsome, and he seems to like you. But what man wouldn’t adore you? You are beautiful and will make someone a very good wife. Odette, why don’t you marry?”

“And whom do you suggest?” Odette feigned a flippancy she did not feel.

Anna sighed and shook her head. “That is the trouble. There is no one worthy of you.”

Odette snorted.

“Truly, if I had to pick someone, I do not know anyone I think is good enough for you. They are all either too old or too ugly or too . . . something.”

Would Anna feel the same way if she knew the secret Odette was keeping from her? She hated hiding things from Anna. Now she was even hiding something from her uncle...
I like the foreshadowing of secrets in that last paragraph. For a good portion of the story, no one knows about Odette’s poaching except her uncle, not even her best friend Anna. The reader is left to question: When everyone finds out about her secret, how will they react? What will be the consequences? And Odette has a few surprises in store for her as well, as she discovers hers are not the only secrets that can’t be hidden forever.
Visit Melanie Dickerson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Love and Miss Communication"

Elyssa Friedland graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 2007 and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Love and Miss Communication, her debut novel, and reported the following:
This page focuses on my main character Evie Rosen’s relationship with her family, specifically her mother Fran. Evie’s father died when she was in college and within a year her mother Fran had met her second husband. Evie, on the other hand, is far from settled on the romantic front and has a hard time explaining to her not-so-technologically-savvy mother about modern dating (i.e. swiping for dates).

Here’s a passage:
It was Evie who felt alone. But how much could she discuss dating, loneliness, and sex in the twenty-first century with Fran? Heaven forbid her mother knew Evie was accepting dates requested via text minutes in the form of “U free 2nite? Want 2 hang?” The mention of Tinder would have her picturing fireplaces.
The more nuanced relationship in the book is actually between Evie and her grandmother, Bette. Bette is a classic, meddling bubbe, and she considers her granddaughter’s single status to be a major cause for concern, going so far as to feebly cough and suggest to Evie that she’s not going to be around forever so why not hurry up and get married already.

What I like about page 69 is the focus on the texting and the Internet. Evie does the unthinkable in the book, she gives up the Internet and texting for an entire year, and the story revolves around how making that drastic move affects her friendships, her career and her love life. And the above passage hits on the realities of what it’s like to a single girl nowadays. Getting a guy to pick up a phone and call is considered prehistoric. Emoticons pass for genuine emotion. And while meeting people and keeping in touch has never been easier thanks to social media, paradoxically, loneliness of a new variety is simultaneously peaking.

I think readers of page 69 will want to keep reading. They will find themselves relating to Evie’s complicated relationship with her mother because it represents the classic generational divide. And they will evaluate the way texting and the Internet have changed communication and reflect on its impact on their own relationships.

So yes, I think page 69 is a pretty good representation of my book. It isn’t really as funny as other parts, but it does get to the soul of the novel.
Visit Elyssa Friedland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Some Other Town"

Elizabeth Collison grew up in the Midwest and now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has worked as an editor, graphic artist, and technical writer.

Collison applied the Page 69 Test to Some Other Town, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Some Other Town, Margaret, the novel’s protagonist, discusses Joe Trout, a character in the gifted-and-talented series at the children’s educational publisher where she works. The page, or rather Margaret’s concern about Joe, is representative of the novel, as it centers on Joe’s loss of direction, which is Margaret’s issue as well.

Margaret is a former graduate student of art at the local university, a failed art star who has stayed in town long after graduation and now works as a low-level graphic artist. Lately, however, Margaret has wandered into more than just page design. Hired only to layout Joe’s pages, for months she has also been reading Joe’s text, “word by every overwrought word.”

And what she’s discovered is that Joe’s books are different from the publisher’s other programmed readers, texts based solely on tedious vowel-consonant progressions. As Margaret points out, the Joe Trout series, due in large part to Joe, amounts to more than just its phonetics:
Joe is good, even heroic company, well worth my morning reads. Joe’s heart is pure. He is hardworking, courageous, a good sport, and a tireless champion of nature. Moreover, or at least normally, he’s a seeker of beauty and truth along with, at times, paired vowels. Master of strategic “ou,” “ee,” and “ea,” he cleaves his streams on a quest—coming in, going out, turning about, seeking the unseekable Trout Route.
But then, near the bottom of page 69, Margaret realizes that something is off in Joe’s latest installment. Things are slipping with Joe. He is not his old driven self and has in fact lost the crucial Trout Route.

So the question is raised: What will become of Joe Trout and, by important extension, Margaret?
Visit Elizabeth Collison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall"

British born, Hannah Dennison originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Dennison continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA Extension and still works for a west coast advertising agency. She writes the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur) and the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable Crime) both set in the wilds of the English countryside.

Here Dennison  applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall, and reported the following:
Since page 69 takes place in the middle of the Chapter Seven, here are a couple of things you need to know.

My heroine, Kat Stanford, has learned that a high-speed rail network will be cutting through the six-hundred-year old Honeychurch Hall estate where she and her mother currently live in the Carriage House. We join Kat as she questions Valentine Prince-Avery, a consultant from the Department for Transport, in his hotel room.

From page 69:
“I had no idea there were so many [railway lines],” I said.

“The storms last winter really put the nail in the coffin,” Valentine went on. “The flooding that hit the West Country completely wiped out the line south of Dawlish and even though it’s been repaired, it illustrates just how vulnerable the old network is. It needs to be modernized.”

I remembered those storms. I’d watched the footage on television and had been shocked by the ferocity of the elements and the misery and suffering of so many people who were cut off for weeks. The floods on the Somerset Levels had been particularly brutal.

“But what’s the connection with Operation Bullet?” I asked.

“It’s all one and the same.” Valentine took a sip of wine. “Devon needs a new rail system. There is no escaping it.”

I looked at the map again. “But why does the line have to extend so far south?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” said Valentine. “My job is to solely assess the properties affected for compensation.”

“You should use this map tonight,” I suggested. “I always feel that people respond more to visual images.”

“Have you tried getting anything printed in Little Dipperton?” Valentine polished off the wine in his tooth mug and poured himself another. “But try telling that to the ministry. They’ve completely thrown me under the train—no pun intended.”

“What a horrible position to be in,” I said.

“Not only that, I arranged to have my presentation materials shipped to the pub from London but they never arrived,” he said. “To be honest, I think someone stole them.”
This excerpt definitely hints at what troubles lay ahead at Honeychurch Hall. It’s not just Kat who is upset about the proposed development and potential destruction, but the villagers as well. We’re also not quite sure who this Valentine person is—he certainly enjoys a tipple. Either way, there are plenty of motives for murder. I would say this excerpt passed the Page 69 Test!
Visit Hannah Dennison's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

My Book, The Movie: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

Writers Read: Hannah Dennison.

My Book, The Movie: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Seriously Wicked"

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist.

Connolly applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Seriously Wicked, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jenah suddenly stopped. “Ooh, isn’t that him? What on earth happened?”

A tall, weary boy was slodging through the crowds milling around the front door.

It was the weirdest thing, but when I looked at him the first time, it looked as though his hair was completely black.

But it must’ve been the way the shadows and backpacks moved, because when he looked up and saw us, he was his normal blond boy-band self, except very very tired-looking.

His face cleared at the sight of me. “Cam,” he said, and then stopped. He blinked and swayed on his feet, like he was too tired to think of words after that. His jeans were muddy and his T-shirt sleeve was torn. He was carrying a cardboard box, also muddy, with little bits of stalks and grass stuck into the mud. A leggy lump on the top looked like a squished water bug.

“What happened to you?” I said.

For answer, he lifted the flap of the box about a half-inch. I peered in, and through the light from the airholes punched in the top, I saw a hoppy mass. For a moment I thought they were frogs, but then I saw that the little green blobs had wings. Sparkly green wings that winked in and out of sight like lighting bug bellies.


“Wow,” I said. “One hundred?”

“One hundred,” said Devon.

“One hundred. . .?” said Jenah.

“Frogs,” I lied. “One hundred frogs.”
In Seriously Wicked, sweet boy-band boy Devon gets taken over by a demon. Our heroine Cam has to try to get the demon out of Devon before he's stuck there. Page 69 is kind of fun because it shows everything Cam has to deal with while she's trying to stop the demon from taking over Devon, and the witch from taking over the world.

One of the demon’s tasks is to get a hundred pixies for the witch, so poor Devon is marched around town all night long collecting pixies. Pixies look like frogs, except they have magical wings that most people can't see. Poor Cam is also busy trying to hide that she lives with a wicked witch from everyone. Which means hiding from her best friend that the cute new boy is standing there holding a box of a hundred pixie-frogs. It's a tough job, but if anyone can do it, it's Cam....
Visit Tina Connolly's website, blog, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Seriously Wicked.

Writers Read: Tina Connolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Pirate's Alley"

Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series from Tor Books: Royal Street, River Road, Elysian Fields, and the newly released Pirate's Alley.

Johnson applied the Page 69 Test to Pirate's Alley and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jean struggled, but Etienne only pressed harder on his windpipe. “You might not die forever, Jean, but this will hurt like hell while you’re healing.”

Damn it, Jean was about to get himself killed again.

I clutched the staff more tightly and rolled to my knees, pointing it at Etienne and willing it to fire. A heavy rope of red flame shot from its tip and ignited the grass to Etienne’s right. He jerked his head up but didn’t release his hold on Jean’s throat.

Jean’s breath had turned to a definite wheeze and he’d quit struggling. I had to save him this time.

I shifted the aim of the staff to the left. That had been a warning shot. Even I couldn’t miss from here.

“Move. Away.”
In a lot of ways, page 69 is a pretty good representation of Pirate's Alley. DJ and her companion, the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, are facing off against a regent of the realm of Vampyre and the Wizards’ First Elder—both of whom are on the run from the authorities. Jean, who is human except for the immortality thing, doesn’t have the strength to hold out long against vampire Etienne, and he’s in trouble. DJ is determined to save Jean even though she knows he’s immortal and she isn’t.

And she holds her own. In Pirate's Alley, DJ is very much growing into her powers as a wizard-elven hybrid with a lot of magic at her disposal. She shows in this scene that she is willing to do whatever she has to in order to protect her friends—it’s a trait that becomes a major theme in the book.

Since the scene ends with her confronting the powerful vampire, I hope it would entice a reader to turn the page!
Learn more about the book and author at Suzanne Johnson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Johnson & Tank and Shane.

The Page 69 Test: Elysian Fields.

Writers Read: Suzanne Johnson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2015

"The Mapmaker’s Children"

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. McCoy has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas.

McCoy applied the Page 69 Test to The Mapmaker’s Children and reported the following:
From page 69:
Green: life is here. Sarah walked the garden rows. In addition to blueberries, she saw orange squash, red beetroot, green sorrel and kale...

A horse neighed suddenly. Sarah dropped to her knees in the garden shadows.

Freddy and a man walked toward the barn, leading a speckled mare by the reins.

“Much obliged to you Mr. Fisher,” said Freddy.

Mr. Fisher’s face glinted indigo under the night light. “Glad to help, Mr. Hill.”

Siby’s pa. Sarah was touched by the way Freddy addressed him, respectfully and with obvious affection. Her father’s vision before her: white and black men, walking side by side as equals.

“We thought it best to have two horses pulling the wagon,” Freddy explained. “In case we need to move at a quicker pace. A lot of strangers in town. Amazing how people don’t give the time of day to a man doing a good work, but everybody shows up to see him suffer.” Freddy shook his head and whipped the horse’s reins across his palm. “Mankind. We’re a savage bunch. Sometimes I wonder if Gypsy and Tilda look on us with pity.”

Mr. Fisher sighed loud enough for Sarah to hear from her crouch. “I wonder the same. Mr. George be a man of forgiveness, mercy, and tolerance. I know he preaches them things to the white folk in New Charlestown, but do other towns hear them parts of the Gospel? Sho’ don’t seem like it.” He ran his hand over the horse’s haunches. “My pa, long time ’go, told me God gave animals a different kind of vision from us peoples. They ain’t got as many colors in their head, so they ain’t confused as easily. They sees straight through the rainbow. When I was a young’un, I used to wish I could see for a minute like theys do.” The horse nuzzled his shoulder. “A rainbow be pretty, but if a man try to take hold of it, he learns fast it ain’t nothing but mist in hand.” He patted the horse’s jowl and pushed it back forward. “Speaking of, I hope this fog rolls off for good tonight, otherwise passengers be late.”
Oo, I love what I found when I performed The Page 69 Test on The Mapmaker’s Children. This is a scene wherein Sarah Brown is spying on her host Freddy Brown while he is engaged in secretive Underground Railroad discussion with Mr. Fisher, a freed black man who works for the Hill family in 1859 West Virginia. The page is an atmospheric snapshot of some of the book’s major themes.
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

The Page 69 Test: The Baker's Daughter.

Coffee with a Canine: Sarah McCoy and Gilbert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"The Daylight Marriage"

Heidi Pitlor grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. She got her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and moved out to Colorado, where in Denver and Boulder she worked as a nanny, receptionist, freelance writer, bus girl, rape crisis counselor and counselor to homeless and runaway teenagers. She moved back to Massachusetts to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and worked as a temp at Houghton Mifflin Company. Soon after, she was hired as an editorial assistant in the company's trade division. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She wrote fiction early in the mornings before work and published her first novel, The Birthdays, in 2006. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.

Pitlor applied the Page 69 Test to The Daylight Marriage, her second novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 gives the reader a good sense of the mounting tension within The Daylight Marriage. In this novel, a husband and wife get into a painful argument, and the next morning, she disappears. On page 69 the husband, Lovell, is talking to his wife Hannah's friend to see what the woman might know about Hannah’s disappearance. Sophie, the friend, ends up knowing more than he thought she would. The reader is on the same footing as Lovell—surprised by what Sophie knows. This page is almost all dialogue-- and dialogue is important in the book. Quite a lot is revealed or hidden in dialogue throughout.
Visit Heidi Pitlor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue