Sunday, November 29, 2015


Joseph Wallace is the author of three novels: Diamond Ruby, set in 1920s New York City; the global apocalyptic thriller Invasive Species; and its follow-up, the newly released Slavemakers.

Wallace applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
The story of Slavemakers is set twenty years after an apocalyptic event that left the earth nearly devoid of humans. Unlike in many post-apocalyptic novels, though, the planet has not been left barren and blighted by a conflagration. In fact, in many ways it is already recovering from the damage done by our species, going back to the purer state it existed in before we spread across the globe.

One of Slavemakers’ main characters is Aisha Rose Atkinson, a young woman born just months after the apocalypse. In this passage, set in the wilds of Kenya, she stops a hyena from killing her by bashing it with a rock…but still discovers exactly where she stands in the food chain. (Hint: Not at the top.)
The hyena’s mouth closed with a click of teeth. It sat back on its misshapen haunches and, for an instant its eyes went out of focus. Then they cleared, and Aisha Rose saw its body tense. At the same time, yowling, the other two came dancing in toward her.

Coming for her, but still sideways, with their heads partly averted even as they showed their teeth. Not the steady, headlong lope—somehow eating up the ground in their humpbacked way—they used when they moved in for the kill.

She’d hurt the alpha female, she could see that. But more importantly, she’d startled them, all of them. Even scared them. What was this seemingly dormant creature that suddenly sprang up and attacked? And what else was it capable of?
That passage focuses on one of the themes that interested me the most while I was writing Slavemakers. What would it be like to be a human in a world where we’re no longer the dominant species? Where we’re not automatically the alpha?

Life for Homo sapiens wasn’t always the way it is now. For most of our evolutionary history, we were far from the most powerful living thing on earth. Even now, we’re easy prey for everything from microbes to tigers. We’re just good at protecting ourselves, and at eradicating most threats through the sheer force of our numbers and our technology.

Strip those away, and where would we stand? That’s what Aisha Rose knows after her encounter with the hyena pack, and that’s part of what Slavemakers is about.
Visit Joseph Wallace's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Alien in Chief"

Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine "Kitty" Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series. Touched by an Alien, Book 1 in the Alien series, was named by Booklist as one of the Top Ten Adult SF/F novels of 2010. Alien in the House, Book 7 in the Alien series, won the RT Book Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award as the Best Futuristic Romance of 2013. The latest novel in the series, Alien in Chief, has been nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award as Best Urban Fantasy of 2015.

As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series and she's made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of other pen names as well, including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch.

Koch applied the Page 69 Test to Alien in Chief and reported the following:
Alien in Chief is the 12th book in my Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series. A lot has gone on for Kitty since she discovered that aliens were on the planet and, as a side benefit, that the A-Cs, as they call themselves, were all drop dead gorgeous.

Kitty’s learned how to save the day with her knowledge of comics and pop culture, hairspray, and rock ‘n’ roll, not necessarily in that order. She thinks so far outside the box as to give those she’s working for and against the idea that she doesn’t actually know the box exists.

Page 69 of Alien in Chief is the start of a chapter:
Chapter 13

There were only a handful of people who liked to hold meetings on my roof, and all of them were trained assassins. And when the trained assassins who’ve got your back tell you to go to the roof, you go to the roof.

“Denise, as I said, you win. I need to take care of some things, like starting to figure out how to tell Jeff you’ve won and how Kevin isn’t going and all that, so I’m going to leave you, Amy, and the kids and get back to this business we call show.”

“I’ll give you that politics is a lot like acting,” Denise said with a laugh, as Coldplay’s “Trouble” came on. “I plan to have agents here while you’re gone, so it won’t be just Kevin, but he’s staying, and if you can convince any of the others to stay, that would be good, too.”

“Gotcha. I’ll do what I can. Though I think that you’re going to have the best success with that, Mother Superior, so feel free to give that look to whomever you think needs to stay and just keep me advised.”

With that, I gave Jamie and Charlie quick kisses, then trotted out of the daycare center and to the stairs.

Used hyperspeed to get up onto the roof. Telling no one I was going up here wasn’t a problem – Walter monitored all the public areas of the Embassy and while the likelihood that he already knew we had rooftop visitors was slim because they were the best of the best, the chance that he’d see me go out onto the roof was high. And any time I could go somewhere without the Secret Service tagging along I went for it, and an anonymous text telling me to come alone was a good reason to continue ditching them. At least in my opinion.
This is pretty much Kitty’s life – clandestine meetings at weird locations, fighting evil while trying to be a good wife and, these days, mother, getting dragged into situations, countries, and even planets against her will in order to save the day, and doing it all with a quirky outlook and a sarcasm knob that goes to eleven.

A lot has also gone on in Kitty’s life since Book 1/Touched by an Alien, and since the series builds and follows Kitty’s adventures, I strongly recommend that readers start at the beginning and read the books in order. Just think of all the fun you have awaiting you!
Learn more about the book and author at Gini Koch's website.

The Page 69 Test: Touched by an Alien.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Plot Boiler"

Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Stuckart a/k/a Brandon now lives in South Florida.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Plot Boiler, Book 5 in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, and reported the following:
Fortuitously, Page 69 of Plot Boiler starts off a new chapter. Chapter 6, to be exact. We begin our test neatly at the beginning of a scene, with our protagonist/amateur sleuth, Darla Pettistone. The owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books is confabbing with her barista, Robert, in the bookstore’s new coffee bar. Of course, Hamlet the cat is also hanging out there.
“Robert, you ready to play corporate spy and try to figure out what’s so special about this coffee?”

Smiling, Darla shook the bag of roasted beans that she’d bought from Perky’s a couple of days earlier for an outrageous price. It was about thirty minutes to opening time on Thursday morning, meaning it was just Darla, Robert, and Hamlet upstairs in the coffee bar—and, once again, Hamlet seemed overly interested in the special blend. He had leaped onto the bar top and was moving cautiously toward the bag she held. Ignoring Darla, he put out a large, furry paw so that he was almost—but not quite—touching the sack.

Like her sister used to do on road trips when they were kids, just to start a fight, Darla thought with a shake of her head.
On Page 69, we’re learning that Darla and Robert are in some sort of competition with a local coffee shop, and that the always-clever Hamlet has suspicions of his own about Perky’s top-secret blend of beans. No one is dead yet; in fact, we’re not going to see the actual murder in this book until quite a few more pages from this point. For now, we’re aware of conflict brewing (pardon the coffee pun!), but a killer has not yet reared his diabolical head.

Is this bad? Only if the reader is an adrenaline junkie. Hopefully, he or she is intrigued enough by the potential corporate battle-in-the-making on Page 69 to start at the beginning, secure in the knowledge that someone eventually is going to pay the ultimate price in this retail war (can’t have a murder mystery without a victim, right?).

That said, a question I often hear asked is if the slower, character-driven road to murder that is often found in cozies trivializes that crime? Isn’t murder scarier, more real, when it slaps you with a bloody hand right from the start of the story?

I’ve talked about this before, and I still say, no. Rather, the deliberate pace such as found in my stories allows the reader a chance to learn about the future corpse and to begin to care about him. By the time the victim is discovered, both the fictional sleuth and the reader are saddened, and both have similar vested interests now in solving the crime.

And thus, murder has become very personal, and very real, indeed.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ali Brandon--AKA Diane A.S. Stuckart--website.

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

My Book, The Movie: Double Booked for Death.

The Page 69 Test: Words with Fiends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Shards of Heaven"

An award-winning writer and professor, Michael Livingston holds degrees in History, Medieval Studies, and English. In his academic life, he teaches at The Citadel, specializing in the Middle Ages.

Livingston applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Shards of Heaven, the first in a trilogy of historical fantasy novels, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Shards of Heaven opens with Juba, one of the many characters in the novel, revealing to his stepbrother Octavian (the future Augustus Caesar) that he may have discovered the Trident of Poseidon:
When Juba finally raised his eyes, he could see the mixture of incredulity and hope on his stepbrother's face. "Juba, I --"

"I know. You don't believe me. I'm young, I got taken in by a trader . . . I know." Juba reached for his wine cup, which he'd set down next to him on the bench, and saw that it was empty. He could use the jug, he knew, but that would make too big of a mess. Octavian's half-filled cup, though, would do nicely. "May I?" he asked, reaching for it.

Octavian handed over the cup, his gesture bordering on something exasperation, and Juba stood, carrying it over to set it down on the floor near the door. He returned, ignoring the confused look on his stepbrother's face, trying to focus his mind as he wrapped his hands around the fragment of the wooden shaft and picked it up.
One of the joys of Shards, I hope, is the process of discovery: the reader is swept along with these fascinating historical figures as they slowly uncover legendary artifacts of the ancient world and begin to understand how to use them. It is this very situation that is playing out as Juba sets the half-filled wine cup by the door: our first chance to see one of the Shards of Heaven being used. It is only the smallest taste of the power of the gods that will be revealed in the novel -- and even more are found in the sequel beyond it -- but like the finest of meals I hope it lingers in the memory.

And page 70 is even better!
Visit Michael Livingston's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Shards of Heaven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"All of Us and Everything"

Bridget Asher's novels include The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, The Pretend Wife, and My Husband’s Sweethearts.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All of Us and Everything, and reported the following:
Years ago, I wrote a love letter for a stranger on a plane. He was going win-back his childhood sweetheart who was engaged to someone else. I used this bit from my own life but made it much more personal in All of Us and Everything. On page sixty-nine, one of my main characters, Ru Rockwell, is on a plane and seated next to her is someone she first thinks is a strange but he's far from it. This is someone she owes -- from way back -- and, yes, she writes a love letter for him but it has all kinds of messy consequences. This is the page where the two meet up.
Learn more about the book and author at Bridget Asher's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Inherit the Stars"

Tony Peak is an Active Member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and an Associate Member of the Horror Writers Association. His interests include progressive thinking, music, wine, history, Transhumanism, and planetary exploration. Happily married, he resides in rural southwest Virginia with a wonderful view of New River.

Peak applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Inherit the Stars, and reported the following:
From page 69:
throat constricted. She had her prize and just wanted to leave. Waiting outside the bridge viewport, Terredyn Narbas’s lonely shape begged her to return.

“Picking up other ships,” Sar said in a low voice. “Some­one else has followed you.” He stared at her, then turned the manuals. Frevyx neared her ship at docking speed.

Kivita’s stomach quivered. “Shit, Sar. Hurry up! Get me aboard, and we’ll cut from this system.”

Cheseia grabbed a spike baton from the weapons locker. “Where will you go? Your beacon will be posi­tively traceable.”

“Just get me on Terredyn Narbas. No way someone else would come this far from Inheritor Space.” Kivita shook sweat from her lank hair. Her mission grew more complicated and mysterious by the minute, matching a deeper fear.

Others wanted the gem. Maybe enough to kill for it.

Sar snorted. “We’d better leave now, with all of us on Frevyx.”

“Like hell we will! I’m not leaving my ship.” Kivita locked stares with Cheseia. The pause from the bridge made her tremble with anxious energy.

“Stand ready for the airlock, Kiv,” Sar finally called from the bridge. “Better trust us. You know I’ll track your trajectory, so there’s no point in pulling some trick. Wait . . . Got several signals, closing. Cheseia, close the doors as soon as she leaves.”

Frevyx hummed louder. Gravity relaxed for a second as both airlocks magnetized with each other. Kivita rose onto her tiptoes, ready to jump into her gyro harness and clear Vstrunn as soon as possible.

Cheseia approached the airlock’s left side. “Truly, you must follow us. That gem is certainly important—”
Page 69 from Inherit the Stars gives a good impression of the relationship between Kivita and Sar, the two main characters, as well as the science fiction setting and the danger they are in as forces converge on them for an object Kivita has discovered.
Visit Tony Peak's website.

Writers Read: Tony Peak.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Nuts and Buried"

Elizabeth Lee is the author of the Nut House mysteries, including Snoop to Nuts and A Tough Nut to Kill.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Nuts and Buried, and reported the following:
So let’s look at page 69. It’s a half page. The intro to chapter 10. Doesn’t say a whole lot about the book. Linda Blanchard is in her office, out in her greenhouse. She’s a plant biologist and has some really strong new pecan trees coming along—except the man who takes care of the trees comes in to tell her they aren’t doing well and she feels guilty—as she feels guilty about a lot of things, like people being murdered around her, and her Meemaw mad at her; and her boyfriend besotted by a big ugly dog, showing it the kind of love he doesn’t show her, and she’s acting like a spoiled kid, which makes her feel guilty because she’s supposed to be a grown up woman with more to think about than dogs and men.

At this same moment she’s wrapped up in another murder and about to take a bullet herself—which she doesn’t bother to think about while she’s feeling bad about her trees and maybe her whole out-of-control life.
Learn more about the author and her work at Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Tony Park has worked as a newspaper reporter, a government press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He is also a Major in the Australian Army Reserve and served in Afghanistan in 2002. Park and his wife divide their time between Sydney and southern Africa where they own a home on the border of the Kruger National Park.

Park applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Ivory and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Jane was having trouble sleeping. She checked the digital clock-radio on her tiny bedside table. Two am.

She rolled over, and tried to get comfortable, but to no avail. She’d been dreaming about pirates, and being forced to jump overboard at gunpoint from the stern rail of the Penfold Son – like being made to walk the plank. There were sharks in the water below.

It was stuffy in the cabin. The air conditioning was too cold. It seemed to be stuck on the highest setting so she’d turned it off. She swung her legs out of bed and swapped her pyjamas for a pair of cargo shorts and T-shirt. She slipped on her sandals. Strictly speaking, passengers were not supposed to be on the open deck at night time for safety reasons, but the first mate had seen her once before taking a stroll in the moonlight, and had simply waved and smiled.

Jane made her way to the hatch leading to the open deck and sighed with relief at the gush of fresh air that greeted her. She walked outside and saw the sky was clear. The full moon was starting its descent towards the western horizon and as its light waned more stars were appearing above. Somewhere out there was the coast of Africa – Mozambique.
Page 69 of Ivory is, coincidentally, a pivotal moment in the story and the lives of the characters who populate it.

Our flawed hero, ex-Special Forces soldier turned modern day pirate Alex Tremain and his band of rogues has just boarded a Chinese freighter off the coast of Africa. On board they’ve discovered a disturbing cargo of elephant ivory, rhino horn and live animals in appalling conditions, all destined for illegal markets in Asia.

Alex is a pirate with a conscience and he wants to not only capture this ship to make some money (he’s in the process of renovating an island resort – it’s complicated), but also to free the captured wildlife.

Just as his band are getting ready to storm the freighter’s bridge we cut to our leading lady, corporate lawyer Jane Humphries who’s hitching a ride to South Africa on board the flagship of her rich shipping magnate boyfriend’s flagship, the MV Penfold Son.

A very dirty deal is about to go down. Alex will see some mysterious, valuable, cargo being transferred from the Chinese ship to the Penfold Son. Once he takes down the vessel full of illegal wildlife cargo he’s going after his white whale, the ship carrying Jane and whatever else is on board.

Jane’s heard tell that there are pirates in these waters – she’s even had a nightmare about it – but little does she know she’s about to meet her very own Johnny Depp.
Visit Tony Park's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ivory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 16, 2015

"All Men Fear Me"

Donis Casey is the author of eight Alafair Tucker Mysteries. While researching her own genealogy, she discovered so many ripping tales of settlers, soldiers, cowboys and Indians, murder, dastardly deeds, and general mayhem that she said to herself, “Donis, you have enough material here for ten books.” The award-winning series that resulted, featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, is set in Oklahoma and Arizona during the booming 1910s. The latest installment, All Men Fear Me, is now available from Poisoned Pen Press. Read the first chapter of each Alafair Tucker Mystery on Casey's website.

Casey is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur. She was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now lives in Tempe, AZ, with her husband.

She applied the Page 69 Test to All Men Fear Me and reported the following:
The year is 1917 and the United States has just become embroiled in World War I. What would you think if suddenly people you've known for years begin to look at you with suspicion, for no other reason than the fact that your brother is a unionist, or you have a foreign-sounding name, or you said something critical about the government? What if they report you? What if night riders pay you a visit? You have to be careful, because I am public opinion. All Men Fear Me.

Ever since old Nick arrived in Boynton, Oklahoma, it seems that bad things keep happening around town. He’s there during the fight at the bawdy house. He shows up in the crowd after the Khouris' market is trashed and after the machinery fails at the brick plant. He’s throwing punches with the best of them when a riot breaks out at the monthly Liberty Sing in the Masonic Hall. The odd thing is that no one seems to notice that Nick is around. At least until people start dying.

On page 69, Nick sees an opportunity to stir up more trouble at the local pool hall.
Chapter 16
"All hail, all hail! to the Liberty Knights
More strength and more brave to their arm
Give them a strong thrust to humble in dust
The foes that would bring us to harm."
Tulsa Daily World, Nov. 15, 1917

Old Nick whiled away a pleasant evening at the pool hall. He sat in the corner and nursed his root beer for hours, enjoying the sight of a bunch of ignoramuses gambling away their wages on one game after another while swilling bottle after bottle of soda pop that had been sweetened with something from the still that the proprietor kept hidden in the cellar behind his house.

Nick watched the show from the shadows until the hour was late and the would-be pool sharks were thoroughly unsteady on their pins. Then he cocked his bowler hat to a roguish tilt, took up a cue, and proceeded to win enough money to pay for his night on the town. His marks were dejected about their losses, but Nick was so cheerful about it that they found it hard to hold it against him.

Old Nick racked his cue and took a swig of his soda pop. It was a hot night, and the pop was lukewarm at best, but it was wet and felt good going down. He eyed a group of men at a round table in the corner engaged in a heated discussion. One of the arguers was a man whose money was now in Nick’s pocket. He walked over. “Mind if I join you, fellows? Let me buy a round of drinks for the table. I don’t want there to be no hard feelings.”

The man Nick had outplayed seemed to be the head honcho of this group, so nobody argued when he grinned and gestured toward an empty chair. “No hard feelings at all, pard. Take a seat and join the fun.”
Visit Donis Casey's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

My Book, The Movie: Hell With the Lid Blown Off.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen"

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen is her twentieth book, and the first in the Year Round Christmas cozy series from Berkley Prime Crime. Under the pen name of Eva Gates, she is the national bestselling author of the Lighthouse Library series, the latest of which is Booked for Trouble. Delany lives in Prince Edward County Ontario, and she is the current president of the Crime Writers of Canada.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen and reported the following:
From page 69:
As well as toys, Alan crafted bowls, vases, and jewelry out of wood. I particularly loved his necklaces, as did my customers. He strung twelve to twenty-four highly-polished wooden disks on a chain, each piece of wood getting progressively larger as the chain descended.

“Great. They’ve been very popular and we’re almost sold out. Is there a problem? You could have left them with Jackie. You know I pay on time.”

“I know. I guess ... well, I...”

I yelped as a tiny ball of indignation leapt out of Rudolph’s Gift Nook. “Merry Wilkinson, I should have known you’d have something to do with this.” Betty Thatcher glared at me.

She then glared at Alan. “Shouldn’t you be in your workshop, young man? Crafting exclusive hand-made custom decorations?”

If Betty didn’t like me for selling artisan things, she liked Alan even less for making them. He never seemed to mind. “Thanks for reminding me, Mrs. Thatcher, ma’am. Only twenty-three shopping days until Christmas. That’s a pretty sweater. It sure captures the mood of the season.”

“Why, thank you,” she said, softening a fraction. She wore a red fleece sweatshirt (only $29.99!) decorated with a picture of Rudolph (the deer, not the town), his flashing nose powered by a battery concealed on Betty’s person.

“Talk to you later, Merry,” Alan said. He walked away, in his slow lazy fashion.

He’d been about to say something to me, when we’d been so rudely interrupted.
This page captures some of the mood of the book. You can tell it’s a cozy, and I hope you can tell it’s attempting to be funny. (Only $29.99!). But aside from the single reference to 23 days until Christmas and Betty’s shirt, you wouldn’t know this book is part of the Year Round Christmas Series. Christmas is front and centre in the book, and in the series, and page 69 doesn’t show much of that. It does give a hint at the characters. Merry Wilkinson is the protagonist and she owns a shop that sells locally made artisan goods. Alan Anderson is a potential love interest, who at this point in the book is only potential. This scene does show in Alan’s nervousness talking to Merry, and Merry’s annoyance them being interrupted by Betty, so she doesn’t get to hear what he wants to say to her. You also are given the name of the town, Rudolph, which has a lot to do with why the town is known as America’s Christmas Town.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Eva Gates / Vicki Delany (October 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Solar Express"

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of over sixty novels encompassing two science fiction series and four fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre..

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Solar Express, and reported the following:
Solar Express is a very “hard” SF novel set in the year 2114. One of the key aspects of the book is that Alayna Wong-Grant, one of the two protagonists, is an astrophysicist at a full-spectrum optical and radio telescope observatory on the far side of the Moon, trying to discover the reason for a recently-discovered [in our time] pattern of solar behavior, otherwise known as multi-fractal mini-granulations. As the station-keeper, she has to work in her observation time when she can, while making sure all the various instruments and all the support equipment are always functioning. On page 69…
She’d put off answering Chris’s latest message for several reasons, including the fact that she’d been preoccupied with her own research, poring over the data and observations, looking for the smallest hint of something besides the patterns of granulation and mini-granulation that had been studied for more than a century and a half. But it seemed that nothing was there. Nothing was there…

For some reason an old rhyme came into her head.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish, I wish he’d go away.

Like it or not, one way or another, the data, the observational hints she was seeking, the clues, the whatever… she and the solar array weren’t finding them… or not recognizing them, and she was having trouble dealing with that.
This passage and what follows shows her intensity, and the fact that her work comes before answering messages from friends, as well as the fact that the great questions in science don’t always yield quick or easy answers.

And yes… there is an answer to her inquiry, to which, by the way, there isn’t today. There’s also a great deal more, all of which results from her intensity.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Recipes for Love and Murder"

Sally Andrew lives on a nature reserve in South Africa's Klein Karoo with her partner, Bowen Boshier, and other wildlife, including a secretive leopard. Her background is in adult and environmental education, and she has published a number of nonfiction books.

Andrew applied the Page 69 Test to Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery, her first novel, and reported the following:
This page shows part of Tannie Maria's response to a man who wrote a letter to her 'Love Advice and Recipe Column' in the Klein Karoo Gazette. He needs help with a gal he fancies, but also mentions he doesn't know how to boil an egg. The man's relationship issue is quickly solved, but the egg boiling recipe is a little more intricate...

Page 69 also catches some of Maria's conversation with Detective Henk Kannemeyer (the tall detective with the chestnut moustache), and gives a taste of the murder and intrigue that flavours the book.
Visit Sally Andrew's website.

My Book, The Movie: Recipes for Love and Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"Manners & Mutiny"

Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy in three series: 2 adult, the Parasol Protectorate and the Custard Protocol, and 1 YA, the Finishing School series. Her newest book ends the Finishing School series and is called Manners & Mutiny. Her books are published in 18 different languages. She has 12 New York Times bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, hedgehogs, and tea.

Carriger applied the Page 69 Test to Manners & Mutiny and reported the following:
From page 69:
Vieve glowed. “Recent pamphlets suggest there’s a kind of cosmic mist, no name as yet, but I thought my aunt would appreciate the homage to modern astronomical theory.”

Sophronia was impressed with the artistry and the execution, if not with the resulting style statement. Since Vieve’s shining eyes clearly indicated an expectation of some form of praise, Sophronia said the nicest thing she could think of without lying. “It’s very well made.”

“Do you think my aunt will like it?”

“Does she have anything to go with it?” Sophronia was cautious.

Vieve laughed. “Crikey, no. I do know something about fashionable headgear. No, no. I don’t expect her to wear the wretched thing! It’s a bit of a family joke.”

Sophronia relaxed. “Oh, well, in that case, I think it’s wonderful.”

Vieve’s dimples became more pronounced. She resettled the solar hat into its box and took great pains when strapping it to Sophronia’s back.

“Well, my dear Vieve, amazing work as always. Someday you must allow me to repay you for all you’ve done.”

“Sophronia, ma mie, I’m counting on it.” The girl doffed her hat and strode back toward Bunson’s, hands thrust deep into her pockets, whistling an off-key tune under her breath.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?

Well page 69 turns out to be the last page of a chapter, so it has that aspect of closing down a scene. In that way it certainly isn't reflective of the books pace, which is mostly pretty breakneck. Vieve (a small but mighty inventor) has just shown Sophronia (our main character) an extremely peculiar hat. It is a gift for Vieve' aunt, a rather austere teacher at Sophronia's school. This is a side scene that gives an important glimpse into Vieve's character and a major foreshadow for when she shows up, 20 years later, in Changeless (the second book in my first series). It does show Sophronia's developing relationship with her friends: more accepting of their quirks and their abilities. It also sets up a debt that as yet, in all 12 stories I've written in this universe, I've yet to cash in on.

Would a reader skimming be inclined to read on?

It is very indicative of my style and tone, so I suspect if you're attracted to that, then yes. If you have read my other books, then I think definitely yes because Vieve (and her adult form, Madame Lefoux) is one of my most popular side characters. I believe many loyal readers will be delighted to see her back again in this book, as she wasn't around much in the last one.

One of my favorite things about writing this prequel series was the opportunity to explore Vieve's character further. She's 10 in Etiquette & Espionage (the first Finishing School book) and in her 30s in the Parasol Protectorate series. Throughout both she is charming and a great lover of technology, who is excited by creativity. But in the Finishing School books, I got to write her before her heart is broken and she becomes brittle. In the Parasol Protectorate books, Alexia (the main character) finds Madame Lefoux fascinating, but untrustworthy and for good reason. Sophronia, on the other hand, adores Vieve but doesn't need to trust her. Sophronia is a spy, she doesn't trust anyone. Yet both Sophronia and Vieve are loyal to each other and have a strange kind of integrity. I like the way that the same side character reflects and interrelates differently with my two main characters. This, I hope, tells readers quite a bit about Vieve and how she changes over the years, but also how different Sophronia's view of the world is from Alexia's.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Soulless.

The Page 69 Test: Changeless.

The Page 69 Test: Waistcoats & Weaponry.

The Page 69 Test: Prudence.

My Book, The Movie: Prudence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 6, 2015

"Dead Investigation"

Charlie Price lives in northern California. He is an executive coach for business leaders and has also worked with at-risk teens in schools, hospitals, and communities. His novels include Desert Angel and The Interrogation of Gabriel James, winner of the Edgar Award.

Price applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Dead Investigation, and reported the following:
Overview: Murray is living in a cemetery lawnmower shed, once again hearing troublesome voices he cannot identify.

Let’s say you have no dad and your mom is a prostitute and the kids in your school find out. So to them you’re an outcast, a loser. Home and school are both miserable and you’re so alienated you wind up taking refuge in a cemetery and so lonely that you talk to the headstones. Let’s say after a while you realize they’re returning your conversation and pretty soon you have a new identity, Friend to the Deceased. In fact, you want those words on your own tombstone. You figure you’ll probably die soon after you graduate from high school, which is fine because life is no wreath of roses.

You get to know several of the dead, especially the younger ones, but one day you hear a voice that you don’t know and had never spoken to. A new voice. A disturbed voice that seems to be crying. And let’s say your only living friend, Pearl, the cemetery caretaker’s daughter, pesters you to find where the voice is coming from and reluctantly, you do. And that finding gets you in more trouble than you ever imagined possible. So that’s the prequel, Dead Connection.

The new book, Dead Investigation, starts right where the first book ends, but Murray’s social position has deteriorated. His classmates have found out Murray admitted he talks with the dead. Now he’s progressed from non-entity dork to certified psycho-ghoul. Not exactly a step up. Worse, something’s happening in his home cemetery that he thought he’d never have to deal with again: New voices, full of pain, crying out for help.
...the sounds were unmistakable. Different voices grumbling, groaning, mixed together, hard to understand. As he honed in he noticed another voice on top of the others. Higher, thinner, but there was so much background noise all he could pick up was “R” and “U.”

“Are you.” Again and again . . . part of a longer sentence but the rest was blurred. His stomach rolled remembering a few months ago, the first time he’d listened closely to the murdered cheerleader. He thought she kept repeating, “hit me.” Later, when they’d actually talked, Murray realized it was, “hid me.” Right now he believed the reedy voice could feel him . . . was saying something directed to him. “Who are you?” Or, “What are you doing?” Or “Are you going to help?” Too many possibilities to make sense of it. Another girl, kidnapped and killed? That was the last thing in the world Murray wanted to find. It practically made him sick.

The voice could connect. Knew Murray was out here. Now what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t just walk away.

But he did.
So Murray’s in a bind. And scared. These voices could literally drive him crazy if they don’t shut up. He can’t seem to ignore them, but he can’t tell anybody either, especially not Pearl. The only thing he can think of is to figure out who they are and why they’re so miserable. His investigation puts him on a collision course with Deputy Sheriff Roman Gates, his feminist partner Deputy Faraday, and his woman confidant, psych caseworker Peggy Duheen.

Murray hopes to hide within the boundary of the cemetery for the rest of his life, but the outside world is banging on the graveyard gate, badgering him to use his possibly clairvoyant skills to help uncover another murderer.
Visit Charlie Price's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Investigation.

Writers Read: Charlie Price.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Class Dismissed"

Allan Woodrow is the author of The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless and The Pet War. Also, under the name Fowler DeWitt, Woodrow has written The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School and its sequel, The Amazing Wilmer Dooley.

Woodrow applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Class Dismissed, and reported the following:
From page 69:
On Wednesday, breakfast waits for me on our dining room table, like it’s supposed to. As I take my usual chair, I’m excited about school today. I can’t remember being this excited about anything.

At least, I can’t remember being this excited about anything that doesn’t include shoes.

On the table, my utensils glisten. I smooth a bump from my hair, using the reflection from my spoon for guidance. I put a cloth napkin on my lap.

Everything is perfect.

Wait. It’s not.

Because when I look down at the plate in front of me, my stomach ties itself into a big knot. The yolk dribbles into the egg whites, and the egg whites run into the whole-wheat toast. The crusts on my toast have been sliced off, mostly. But on one edge, parts of the terrible-tasting, too-hard brown bread exterior remain.
Page 69 is actually the first page of Chapter 11, which is written from Samantha’s perspective. The book’s chapters are told from five different character’s perspectives, each of whom are in the same fifth grade class: Adam, Maggie, Samantha, Kyle and Eric. Depending on the chapter you plunk yourself into, your connection to the story and the characters may change dramatically.

Most of the story is told in the classroom, but we do see glimpses of each character’s home lives. For the most part, each character begins as a cliché. But as the story progresses, each character grows and discovers new parts of themselves. This chapter shows Samantha as a bit of a one-note character: a spoiled rich girl, used to getting her way even at breakfast. But by seeing her in this environment, we are able to appreciate her growth throughout the book, as she becomes more accepting of the other students and appreciative of the things she has (such as an appreciation for her Aunt Karen’s breakfast attempts, even when they aren’t up to the usual standards).
Visit Allan Woodrow's website.

Writers Read: Allan Woodrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 2, 2015

"Twain’s End"

Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist. Her 2013 novel, Mrs. Poe, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of poet Francis Osgood.

Cullen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Twain's End, and reported the following:
Phew! I think Twain’s End might have passed the Page 69 Test. I wrote the book to answer my own curiosity about why Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, had such a nasty break-up with his secretary, Isabel Lyon, in 1909, the year before he died. In order to know what went wrong between the pair, I had to deeply know them before they met as well as during their intense relationship. This applied to every aspect of their lives, from their families to their friends to their homes. As does every page in the book, the happenings on page 69 further the reader’s understanding of what might have led to their crisis.

Page 69 might seem like a simple scene, but actually it’s the result of much research and travel. As the scene opens, we find Isabel Lyon with Mark Twain’s daughter, Jean, at his rented home overlooking the Hudson. Isabel had recently been hired as secretary to Mark Twain’s wife, but had yet to meet the bed-bound Livy Clemens. Isabel was finding herself in the awkward position of being charmed by her employer’s husband while trying to stay in the good graces of Twain’s disconcertingly odd grown daughters. As Isabel noticed about Jean Clemens on page 69, “as sturdy as she looked, there was something vulnerable about her, something broken, like the stray dogs and cats she was continually nursing back to health.”

To write this scene I had to know how the Clemens’s home outside New York City (now in the Bronx) looked. I consulted pictures of the house from the period during which Twain lived in it.

I visited the actual setting, something that I do for every scene that I write. I find that it’s the best way to help the reader feel as if she or he is there.

On-site research is always an education. In the case of Wave Hill, with its commanding view of the Hudson and the New Jersey Palisades, it was also a treat.

I had to know how my characters look, as well. Fortunately, there were plenty of photos to consult. On page 69, I describe Jean as having a “strong chin and Greek-goddess nose, healthy good looks.” I pulled that description from this photo.

[photo right: Jean Clemens, Twain’s youngest daughter, and an animal advocate.]

The scene was viewed from the perspective of Isabel Lyon, a woman I came to admire. In this photo-based portrait by renowned painter Susan Boone Durkee, you can see the intelligence, strength, and perhaps weariness, in Isabel Lyon’s eyes. Her boss was the most famous man in the world at the time. Was he her lover? The answer to what I believe came between the pair lies in the pages of Twain’s End.

Every picture tells a story. Twain’s End reveals a world.
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue