Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"The Rising"

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He was born and raised in Minnesota, where his parents had landed after fleeing the wrath of a Flemish prince. (The full story, he's told, involves a Dutch tramp steamer and a stolen horse.) Nowadays he lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists and other unsavory types.

Tregillis applied the Page 69 Test to The Rising, the second book in the Alchemy Wars trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Rising happens to land at a chapter break. And chapter breaks are frequently ­­in this book, at least ­­ a place where characters' fortunes change, or where they experience revelations... whether welcome or not.

Thus, upon opening the book to that particular page, we land in the immediate aftermath of a brief but decisive few moments of frantic, and deadly, activity. This sequence of events could have unfolded considerably better, but also considerably worse, for the point­of­view character. And that distinction can be a very fine line in a world populated with superhuman clockwork servitors.

That's why, while catching her breath and assessing the aftermath, she thinks to herself:
That was less than ideal. Little point in trying to arrange the scene to suggest a simple robbery gone wrong, when it was so obvious that one of the vehicles had been destroyed by metal fists.
Nothing is ever easy for these characters; coincidence is never to their benefit. The master storytellers at Pixar have some excellent thoughts on how stories do and don't work. This list is chockablock with wisdom from beginning to end, but apropos of the scene in question, I take point #19 to heart. Coincidences should only occur on the page if they make the characters' journeys more difficult, or at the very least, more interesting!

But times of flux can also be times of opportunity. And this character is never one to pass up an opportunity, no matter how slight or dangerous. Which is why, as Chapter 4 fades to black, she says, in part:
"I want you to forget everything that happened tonight... And then I believe you'll begin your new assignment by showing me the contents of the chest you were guarding."
That stolen chest becomes instrumental to her continuing adventures. It shines with the promise of long­ and hard­sought information. It's also extremely dangerous, as she quickly learns.
Learn more about the book and author at Ian Tregillis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Weighing Shadows"

Lisa Goldstein is the National Book Award-winning fantasy author of The Red Magician. Her stories have appeared in Ms., Asimov’s Science Fiction, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and her novels and short stories have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. Her novel The Uncertain Places won the 2012 Mythopoeic Award, and her short story “Paradise Is a Walled Garden” won the 2011 Sidewise Award.

Goldstein applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Weighing Shadows, and reported the following:
I was delighted to discover that page 69 actually deals with an important part of Weighing Shadows. Ann Decker has been recruited by Transformations, Inc., a corporation that travels back in time and makes small changes that grow larger as the years pass. A few things start to make her suspicious about the corporation's real aims ­­ the higher­ups don't seem to care about the lives of the people they come in contact with, and then someone dies on one of her voyages. On page 69 she's in ancient Crete, where she meets a more senior agent of the company, Meret Haas. Meret has grown very disillusioned with the company, and she points out problems Ann doesn't yet know about, then tells her about a covert organization of agents opposed to their policies. "I've been with the company longer than you have, and I've seen some disturbing patterns," she says. "In nearly every case I know about the company's sided with warriors, with patriarchies, with hierarchical societies. Have you ever wondered why matriarchies have pretty much disappeared from the world? People say it's because they can't possibly work, but you know that isn't true ­­ you've seen Kaphtor. A peaceful, prosperous, flourishing society that existed for thousands of years."
Visit Lisa Goldstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Secret in Whitetail Lake"

Christine Husom is the national bestselling author of Snow Way Out, the first in the Snow Globe Shop Mystery series, as well as the Winnebago County Mysteries, also set in central Minnesota. She served with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and trained with the St. Paul Police Department, where she gained firsthand knowledge of law enforcement procedures.

Husom applied the Page 69 Test to Secret in Whitetail Lake, the latest Winnebago County mystery, and reported the following:
In Secret in Whitetail Lake, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department recovers an old Dodge Charger from the bottom of a deep lake, containing the bodies of two teenagers who went missing over thirty years before. Page 69 is not a fast-paced action scene in the book, but gives a little insight into Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson’s dedication to uncovering the truth for the victims in the cases she’s working on. And the closer relationship she longs for with Detective Elton “Smoke” Dawes. Corky has returned to the lake that evening, puzzling over how the Charger ended up on that side of the lake, since there’s not a road near there. She’s joined by Smoke Dawes and they mull over the possible circumstances, not knowing they’ll soon be thrown into a cold-case homicide investigation. This is the calm before the storm. Corky is the first one speaking.
“Yeah, I keep looking up there, where the car came down. It must have been moving at a pretty fast clip and gone airborne, or it would have gotten caught up in the brush at the edge of the lake.”

“Speed is a decided factor. Actually, those cattails may have helped slow it down so it didn’t end up further out in the lake. And we come back to the big questions we talked about earlier. Why they went down the hill in the first place and why no one heard them, or noticed the tracks they may have left.”

“I’ll have to ask Mother if she and my dad ever partied hardy there.”

Smoke rubbed his hand over his five o’clock shadow. “Maybe one time, if that. Your mom, dad, and I all had parents who kept track of us, and they’d surely have known if we’d been to a beer party.”

I nodded. “So what made you stop here tonight?”

“I’d just finished up at the office and spotted you when I drove by. As nosy as I am, I thought I’d see what you were up to. Although I’d pretty much figured it out.”
“I’m curious about the ME’s report. I wonder if they can tell if Toby and Wendy died in the crash, or drowned afterwards.”

“You’d think. They weren’t buckled in and I think there’d be evidence of blunt force trauma. I’m hoping they got knocked out so they didn’t know they were drowning.”

I shivered at the thought. “You reminded me of why I don’t like driving on the ice in the winter, even when it should be perfectly safe. There is always that minute chance...” I paused and smiled, “Especially if you burn your fish house down. That must melt the ice beneath it.”

Smoke leaned in close to me, and I smelled cinnamon, probably from an herbal tea on his breath. “I wonder how many times that whole fiasco with Wendy is going to come up during this investigation?”

I resisted the temptation to close the small gap between our faces and kiss him. It was an exercise in self-control. I held onto the hope that someday he would realize that whatever barriers he thought prevented us from having an intimate relationship were not insurmountable. My grandma had told me that Smoke and I were intimate all right, just without the fun part. A little sad, and true.
Visit Christine Husom's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Iced Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 25, 2015

"The Wedding Pearls"

New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author and RITA® Finalist, Carolyn Brown, has published more than seventy books. She's won the National Reader's Choice Award twice, the Bookseller's Best Award and was awarded the Diamond Award from Montlake for selling one million books.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Wedding Pearls, and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Wedding Pearls is the page where the folks on the road trip has stopped in Jefferson, Texas and an old guy named Herman is admiring Mollybedamned, the red 1959 Cadillac convertible. He and Branch are sitting on a bench outside an antique store talking about the car and about the women who Branch are driving around the state of Texas.

A little excerpt:
Herman jumped to his feet and stuck out his hand. “So that beautiful lady belongs to you, ma’am?”

“Yes, she does,” Frankie answered. “And since Mr. Herman here thinks she’s beautiful, she won’t mind him riding in her seats. Y’all have a good time.”

“Thank you, ma’am. Do you think she’d mind if I got Branch here to use my phone and take a picture of me with her? Nobody back home in Pennsylvania will believe it if I don’t have the proof.” Herman’s old green eyes twinkled.

“She might smile for you after those sweet words,” Frankie said.

“Did you find anything that took your eye?” Branch asked Tessa.

She shook her head. “A gorgeous hall tree, but it won’t fit in the trunk. Maybe I’ll find something in the next store that won’t require a moving van to get home.”

“Well, let’s go see what we can find,” Lola said. “I bet we can get all the way to the library by noon, and I want to eat lunch at the barbecue place that lady in the quilt place was talking about.”

After a flutter of the hand waving good-bye to Branch, Tessa joined the other ladies and pulled Blister for Ivy, keeping pace with the older lady while Lola and Frankie went on ahead.

“That cute little blonde your woman?” Herman asked on his way to the car.

“No, sir. It’s a long story but Frankie is the one with the gray hair that you shook hands with. The one with the tattoos is her daughter, Lola, and the pretty blonde is Lola’s daughter. The one with the oxygen tank is Ivy, Frankie’s best friend.”

“That’s only four. Where’s the fifth one? Oh, I get it. Mollybedamned is the fifth lady, right?”

Branch opened the car door for Herman and waited for him to get settled before he shut it. “No, she’s the queen. The fifth one is a sixteen-year-old great-niece of Ivy’s, and she’s at the library doing her schoolwork for the day.”
This is definitely a good representative of the whole book. It shows Branch's care for the caddy, his kindness toward others and it also lets the reader know that he is attracted to Tessa. But since this is the early part of the trip he's not willing to admit it.
Visit Carolyn Brown's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"The Iced Princess"

Christine Husom is the national bestselling author of Snow Way Out, the first in the Snow Globe Shop Mystery series, as well as the Winnebago County Mysteries, also set in central Minnesota. She served with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and trained with the St. Paul Police Department, where she gained firsthand knowledge of law enforcement procedures.

Husom applied the Page 69 Test to The Iced Princess, book two in the Snow Globe Shop Mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter Five

The team finished processing the scene and Dr. Long left with Molly’s body. Clint and Mark each took down an end of the crime scene tape that spanned the archway between Curio Finds and Brew Ha-Ha and rolled it up. They joined Pinky, Erin, and I who were sitting silently at the coffee shop serving counter. Each of us was lost in our own thoughts.

Mark sat down next to me on the third seat from the end. I had been thinking thought about Molly’s coat and cell phone and keys and wallet. “You forgot to send Molly’s things with her husband. And what about her car?”

Clint moved in behind Mark. “We didn’t forget.”

All part of the investigation, I supposed.

“Pinky, let’s go back to one of your tables where we can talk.” Clint said.

“Just Pinky?” I said.
Page 69 of The Iced Princess is the start of Chapter 5 so there are only a few lines on the page. But it lets readers know a woman named Molly has died and the police are beginning their questioning. Camryn Brooks, manager of Curio Finds, and the first person narrator discovered Molly dead in her shop bathroom on Molly’s first of work. The police, including her friend, Officer Mark Weston, and sheriff’s deputies are there in no time. As are her best friends, Pinky Nelson who owns the adjoining coffee shop, and teacher Erin Vinkerman. After the first layer of dust has cleared, Assistant Police Chief Clinton Lonsbury is ready to interview Pinky and Cami. Cami once again feels driven to find out what happened, and finds herself in some big trouble along the way.
Visit Christine Husom's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Pouncing on Murder"

Laurie Cass writes the Bookmoble Cat Mysteries, set in northwest lower Michigan.
She applied the Page 69 Test to Pouncing on Murder, the 4th book in the series, and reported the following:
The top of page 69 in Pouncing on Murder starts with the main character’s opinion on the edibility of mushrooms. (She’s not so sure.) But one sentence later, the narrative moves to a short action-packed scene that results in Minnie, the main character, having to think fast and act even faster to avoid a tragic accident that would hurt or kill a friend. Or…was an attempted murder? The answer to that question drives the plot for next couple of hundred pages.

Is this page representative of the entire book? Probably not, as there aren’t a lot of scenes that threaten anyone physically. But it does reveal a lot about Minnie; her quirky sense of humor and her willingness to do what needs to be done, even if means putting herself at risk. And it does represent the book’s overall tone – lighthearted, but willing to tackle serious issues. Plus there’s a hint of Eddie’s presence, the opinionated rescue cat who has become such a large part of Minnie’s previously pet-free life.
Visit the official Laurie Cass website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Warlords and Wastrels"

Julia Knight is married with two children, and lives with the world’s daftest dog that is shamelessly ruled by the writer’s obligatory three cats. She lives in Sussex, UK and when not writing she likes motorbikes, watching wrestling or rugby, killing pixels in MMOs. She is incapable of being serious for more than five minutes in a row.

Knight applied the Page 69 Test to Warlords and Wastrels, the concluding volume of the Duelists trilogy, and reported the following:
Vocho, one of our...I hesitate to say heroes, so protagonist might be better, is lying to an acquaintance about why he needs a magician (who are very rare) by inventing an arranged marriage gone wrong for his sister, Kass. This is a typical Vocho moment. He starts by describing his father:
Extremely old-fashioned, and so was the intended groom as well as just being plain old. So when Kass got betrothed, they tricked her into having a magician put wards on them both, tattoos like you said.’

Dom took an aghast step back, handkerchief to his mouth. ‘May the Clockwork God preserve our gears, how barbaric!’

‘You see why we had to get away? Why we wanted to know about magicians? The chest – sort of a ruse. Kass knew you’d know, because you’re so educated and worldly wise.’ Vocho wondered if he might be laying it on a bit thick, but Dom looked tickled pink. ‘To tell you the real reason seemed imprudent. And of course, if you want me to help press your suit with Kass...’

Really, when it came down to it, Dom was quite decisive. Perhaps the thought of those tattoos – the only magic Vocho was sure about and that because of him – had sharpened his mind.

Dom waved his hand, as though the thought of Vocho's favour in the matter of Kass had never crossed his mind. ‘Even if I didn’t, I thought those wards hadn’t been used in years! Not since the prelate killed all the mages, at least. I’m surprised your father could find a magician to do it. Turning up all over, all of a sudden. What do you need me to do?’

‘Outlawed, yes, but there are still people prepared to use them, and magicians prepared to draw them, if you know where to find them. It’s not far to Ikaras, and a few people might slip past the guards, might go to your old university to find a magician. What I need is a magician to undraw them. Someone we can trust, and someone within the borders if I can, because my father’ll have them watched, you can be sure.’ Vocho wanted to know who this magician was. There wouldn’t be two in Reyes, couldn’t be, but if there was one . . . Dom would perhaps know or could find out without suspicion falling on Vocho. Dom might be a ninny but he was a well connected ninny.
Visit Julia Knight's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"His Right Hand"

Mette Ivie Harrison is the critically acclaimed author of 8 YA books, including Mira, Mirror and The Princess and the Hound series. Her first adult novel, a mystery entitled The Bishop's Wife, is about a Mormon bishop's wife who is drawn into solving crime when a young wife and mother in her ward goes missing. Harrison writes a regular blog about faith and Mormonism at Huffington Post. She holds a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University and is a nationally ranked triathlete. She lives in Utah with her husband and five children. She is an active, practicing member of the Mormon church.

Harrison applied the Page 69 Test to His Right Hand, Book 2 in the Linda Wallheim Mormon Utah mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
We went through the temple to receive our endowments together the day before the wedding. Most men would have gone through the temple ritual for adulthood before they went on missions, but a lot of women only went before they got married. We had little colored paper tags pinned to our clothing to mark us as first-timers, so people could help us and make sure we didn't make any mistakes in the ritual words or motions and handshakes.

I felt rattled by the ceremony, despite the fact that my mother was right at my side throughout. My father was a temple worker and he helped Ben bring me through the veil, since Ben was so nervous about it after just having gone through himself. Going through the veil is the final part of the ritual, where each person taking out their endowment speaks through a curtain with holes in it to someone representing God on the other side, offering names and tokens to prove worthiness. After the veil, we were allowed to go into the beautiful, open space of the "celestial room," which was meant to be like going to the highest part of heaven. The furnishings are always in white or beige colors, and there is a big chandelier overhead, and though you are allowed to talk, the woman feels nearly silent because mostly people sit and try to feel the Spirit of God and His love there.
This page is part of one of the big "reveals" of His Right Hand: Linda was married very young to another man, not Kurt Wallheim. I hinted at this in The Bishop's Wife, but few readers caught it during the church wedding ceremony with Jonathan and Perdita, which was disappointing to her parents because it wasn't in the temple. But Linda and Kurt were also married in the church rather than the temple. Because of her previous marriage issues, she had to wait a year to be sealed to Kurt in the Mormon temple because she had to wait for her first sealing to be dissolved by the First Presidency of the Mormon church, a lengthy and by no means guaranteed process.

But Linda's marriage to Ben is a disaster, as she eventually realizes that he is likely gay (not something he ever admits to, but she guesses at based on his lack of interest in having sex with her and his looks at other men). She spends months trying to understand homosexuality and trying to save her marriage, but finally divorces Ben and her very strict Mormon family blames her for the choice and it causes a rift with them forever afterward. When one of her sons also comes out as gay in His Right Hand, Linda is forced to confront her old feelings about the Mormon church's teachings about homosexuality, her past with her former husband, and the life she might have lived, which doesn't seem very different from the life of Emma Ashby, married to a transgender man Carl Ashby, with all the secrets that he held back from her.

Page 69 is also an explanation of the Mormon temple ritual, the "endowment," which is secret and sacred and not talked about outside of the temple itself, even among members. I tried to be respectful of the ceremony, not revealing the details, but still allowing non-Mormons a peek into what it is about. I will probably get plenty of angry Mormon readers who think I should not talk about it even this much. That seems to be par for the course with this series. There are a lot of unwritten rules about what a Mormon can say about the church and how to say it. Mormons are uncomfortable with the lack of "testimony-bearing" I bring to the church. Linda is a believer, but she's also capable of taking a step back and she narrates the book as if to non-members, with a factual, but intimate kind of Mormon anthropology.
Visit Mette Ivie Harrison's website.

Writers Read: Mette Ivie Harrison (January 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Lone Star"

Paullina Simons is the international best-selling author of novels such as Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman, and Tatiana and Alexander.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Lone Star, and reported the following:
It can go either way; who knows what’s on any given page of your typeset manuscript? Page 69 could be a description of the torrid hotel room where some of the spicier action takes place or an hour of horrid plane travel. I could be either setting up for a vocal solo or killing it on stage. It could be filler, a transition, or even the title of a new part.

Fortunately in Lone Star, page 69 wasn’t filler.

In Lone Star, my two main characters, Chloe and her lifelong friend Blake are in study hall on page 69, sitting across from each other, trying to figure out what kind of story Blake is going to write. He is not a writer. But he wants to write a story so he can win some prize money. He comes to Chloe for advice. Chloe is smart, studious, sensible. Can she help him figure out if he’s writing a mystery or a love story? She tells him he must know the most important thing about his story, and then he will be able to write it. But Blake maintains it is the act of writing that forces him to figure out what the story’s about. Chloe disagrees. She tells him he must know at the outset. Blake shakes his head. Like he knows everything. “No,” he says. “A story is the best thing of all. It’s an unexpected thing.”

This is all on page 69.

And that’s how I feel about my novel Lone Star. It’s not what you expect. You think you’re reading one kind of story, but then it becomes another. And another, and another. Until you get to the end, and then you say, oh, now I get it. It’s this.

Chloe and Blake are leaning over the table toward each other and that’s how I want you to be reading my book, leaning over the table, your head and your heart fully immersed in it.
Visit Paullina Simons's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Half in Love with Death"

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her novel Half in Love with Death. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

Ross applied the Page 69 Test to Half in Love with Death and reported the following:
From page 69:
She gasped. “What are you talking about? Is something wrong with you?” She was staring at me as if she was convinced I was the worst person in the world. She went on, “Really, I’m worried you’re becoming a pathological liar.”

“Mom,” I said. “I saw you and Ron on the patio.”

“So now you’re spying on me?”

“I wasn’t spying on you. I was outside by the pool.”

“Ron and I were just talking. He was comforting me. God knows, no one else does. You have no idea how hard this all is.”

I flinched.

She went on, “That’s all it was, no matter what your twisted mind tells you.”

“Okay, Mom,” I said.

“It’s not okay.” She grabbed my arm. “You lied and you put yourself in danger. Don’t you think I have enough to worry about?” I wouldn’t look at her. “You are never, ever to have anything to do with Tony again. Do you understand that?”

I bit my lip. “I do understand. I understand that he wants to find my sister. What’s wrong with that? Tony said Schwab’s Pharmacy was important, but Dad didn’t even bother to go there. Both of you just want to drink and forget about her.”

She stared at me as if I was the greatest disappointment on Earth.

I went upstairs and slammed my door, hoping she heard. It would serve my parents right if I never spoke to them again. But none of this was as bad as May telling on me for going with Tony.
I hadn’t told on Jess for going off with Tony the night she disappeared. I thought I was doing the right thing—what anyone I knew would have done. It was so hard to know what the right thing to do was.
Is this scene representative of my book?

Escalating arguments like this happen a lot in my book, as they do (sigh) in the life of teens. Here, as my teen narrator Caroline argues with her mother, several significant lies come to a head.

Just prior to this scene, Caroline’s mother found out that Caroline had gotten a ride home with Tony, her missing sister Jess’s boyfriend, whom she has been forbidden to see. To make matters worse, her mother learned this from Caroline’s best friend May’s mother. Not only has Caroline been caught lying, but her own friend has betrayed her.

Caroline responds by accusing her mother of having an affair, which she has long suspected. When she blurts it out, her mother vehemently denies it, and accuses Caroline of being a pathological liar. However, Caroline knows that this is yet another lie, and when her mother reprimands her, she hurls out a most hurtful accusation: that her mother doesn’t really care about finding Jess.
Having delivered this shattering speech, Caroline flees to her room, contemplating May’s devastating betrayal.

Would a reader skimming this page be inclined to read on?

I certainly hope! On this particular page, tensions that have been brewing in the weeks since her sister’s disappearance spill over, and Caroline is pushed into the turning point in the story. By the end of page 69, Caroline no longer knows in whom she can believe or trust. The only thing she is sure of is that she must do something, and in the next scene she makes the decision that changes everything.
Visit the official Emily Ross website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Made to Kill"

Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer, and award-winning editor.

The author of Made to Kill, volume 1 in The LA Trilogy, Christopher is co-writer of The Shield for Dark Circle Comics and author of the official tie-in novels novels based on the hit CBS television show Elementary.

Born in New Zealand, Christopher has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Made to Kill and reported the following:
Page 69 of Made to Kill has Ray Electromatic mixing with the elite of 1960s Hollywood as he enters a certain exclusive nightclub…
The low ceiling was supported by an arcade of pillars that resolved when I got closer into carved bamboo stems that weren’t black but a deep jade green. The overall effect was of being outdoors on an ancient Chinese terrace under an ancient Chinese sky on a warm and foggy night.

The so-called Temple was full of people. The servers were Chinese men and Chinese women, the women dressed in black silk wraps with red trim and with their black hair pulled back into buns skewered into place with long black sticks tipped in red, the men dressed in more or less the male equivalent. They balanced trays and skirted the club patrons with an elegance as smooth as the silk they were wearing.

The patrons were another story altogether. They stood in groups and they sat at any number of small round tables that were scattered across the room.

And they were all rich. I could tell that by the clothes, the hair, the jewels, the jewels, and the jewels. The light and smoke reduced the men to pinky-purple ghosts floating in the room, the white of their shirts and their teeth the only really distinguishable features. But the women glittered—what skin that wasn’t covered by evening wear slung low in the front as well as the back was covered by pearls and diamonds and other treasures that took that pink and white light and did something special to it before shooting it back at my optics like a laser beam. There were a lot of people in the room but I recognized a large chapter by their photos that hung on the wall of the ice cream parlor just a half block away. Not every member of that parade was here in the Temple. I matched a dozen faces and none of them were Charles David’s or Eva McLuckie’s.

I walked forward into the club. People parted. People looked at me and laughed but they laughed in that way that spoke of true happiness only found in those who don’t need to worry about their retirement. People nodded at me and those nods were appreciative, like they were watching the Mona Lisa stretching her legs around the gallery after hours.
Page 69 is actually a really great scene-setting page, and a fairly good representation of one side of the story, at least. Here, our hero Ray has wandered into the glamorous and mystery Temple of the Magenta Dragon, an exclusive nightclub catering to Hollywood’s rich and famous. At the moment, Ray has no idea what he is looking for—he’s following a lead that was little more than an address, and while he has his optical circuits scanning for a couple of movie stars, Charle David and Eva McLuckie, whose photographs he saw in a hall of fame at a local ice cream parlor, he’s not sure why these two are important. Well, actually he has a few suspicions about Eva…

The Temple of the Magenta Dragon, Charles, and Eva, all play central roles in the book. Page 69 is in the middle of Chapter 9, a fairly important part of the book where Ray starts to make some real progress in his investigation. A couple of pages later, Ray will meet another key player, Fresco Peterman, who is one of my favorite characters in the book.
Visit Adam Christopher's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"A Daughter of No Nation"

A.M. Dellamonica's books include Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and Child of a Hidden Sea and its newly released sequel, A Daughter of No Nation.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
On page 69 of A Daughter of No Nation, Sophie Hansa is once again trying to unlock the mystery of a seafaring magical world she has stumbled upon while looking for her birth family. She is quite literally sitting down with a notebook and jotting down every single thing she has observed in the past day or so that she doesn't understand:
Verena had said half of the snow vulture's young didn't survive in the wild. That implied someone had done a study. Who did studies here?

People might just think it's true, about the vultures' survival rate. They could be making all sorts of unproved assertions.

And all of that was warm-up for the big questions. How was it that Stormwrackers could use magic? When did that develop? Did all magic really use writing and inscription or were there other forms? Did that mean there was no magic before the development of writing?
Sophie's insatiable curiosity is one of the primary things that drives her in this sequel to my 2014 book Child of a Hidden Sea.. She doesn't really believe that magic can just be; she wants to know how it works and what's behind it. That grasping after the truth, even when we cannot find it, is something I find cool about human beings. We want to know the unknowable. We can be awed by the splendor of the universe without surrendering the idea that we might one day glimpse its inner workings.

Curiosity is not a quality that is particularly valued on Stormwrack, though, and in fact it is regarded with suspicion and outright hostility. People who ask questions, the thinking goes, are probably spies. There are also people who think to themselves: Hey, that foreign girl is always sticking her nose into things that aren't her business… I wonder if I could use that further my own plans...

So although A Daughter of No Nation has chases and battles at sea, a pair of star-crossed teen lovers, monsters made of marine salt, a chase through a haunted ocean channel, a bit of romance and a visit to an entire island full of monks who do nothing but serve--okay, and occasionally resurrect--the dead, it's not surprising that this particular page finds my heroine pondering vulture survival rates and the nature of magical inscription. Chances are good that in any given chapter she'll either be wondering something or running for her life.... and maybe, occasionally, both at once.
Visit A.M. Dellamonica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Child of a Hidden Sea.

My Book, The Movie: Child of a Hidden Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"The Curse of Jacob Tracy"

Holly Messinger enjoys books, silk dresses, molten chocolate cake and well-balanced edged weapons. She lives on a Liberal reservation in Kansas with her Sparring Partner and a cat who knows more than he's telling.

Messinger applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Curse of Jacob Tracy, and reported the following:
My mom used to tease me about starting a book in the middle, but by the time I was a teenager I knew that the first couple chapters of a book were usually throat-clearing. If I could open halfway in, and be hooked, then I’d read on. Usually it was not necessary to read the first few chapters, though I would if I liked the characters.

If a reader opened to page 69 of The Curse of Jacob Tracy I imagine she’d be confused, but intrigued. Jacob “Trace” Tracy has just been handed a clue about the murder he’s investigating, by a sleazy reporter named Reynolds, and is planning to take the information to Miss Fairweather, who hired him to do the investigation for her own purposes. Trace knows Miss Fairweather isn’t telling him everything, but he’s content for now to play her game because he believes she can help him control his burgeoning psychic power.

Trace’s partner Boz, on the other hand, has no reason to dangle from Miss Fairweather’s strings and can’t quite understand why Trace is going along. He makes a snide remark about Trace’s complaisance that makes Trace mad, then guilty.
He hadn’t forgotten how she’d thrown them into that hornet’s nest in Sikeston, but at the moment it seemed more important to find the Herschels’ killer than to nurse a grudge.

But it made him uneasy, in the next breath, to realize he was looking forward to meeting with her again, to pour this latest news into her willing ear and hear what she had to say.

To hear her approval, more like. Just like a damned bird-dog.
So Trace is juggling about four different problems on page 69—which is unfortunately becoming a typical day for him at this point—and then on top of things he has an eerie and alarming vision:
At the mouth of the alley he skirted a small pack of children gathered around a makeshift puppet stage […] A red-faced male puppet was beating on two flaxen-haired girl puppets with a stick—no, it was an ax, with a realistic-looking blade that glinted in the sun. The puppeteer was clever; he voiced the high-pitched shrieks of both girls […] and little shots of red fluid squirted from the curtains to flick the children and make them squeal.

Appalled by this show of poor taste, Trace raised his gaze above the backdrop to the puppeteer, and it was Reynolds, wearing that shit-eating grin, but the flesh was worn away from the bones and the sack suit hung loose over a skeleton[…]
Trace has just witnessed a supernatural re-creation of the murders he is investigating, a vision that implies he’s being manipulated by the source feeding him clues.

So there’s a lot going on, on page 69, but that’s Trace’s life these days: his everyday concerns of keeping himself and Boz fed and housed are being increasingly disrupted by the spirits and the machinations of those who would use Trace’s powers for their own purposes.

I would hope that any casual browser would be intrigued enough by the goings-on that they’d go back to page one and start at the beginning; I made very sure that the first few chapters of The Curse of Jacob Tracy were not mere throat-clearing.
Visit Holly Messinger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Jack McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Thunderbird, and reported the following:
Unfortunately, page 69 is at the end of a chapter and contains only six lines. Sioux Chief James Walker, who is under severe pressure, is thinking about steps he might take:
Ivy Banner had a solid reputation. Ivy and her husband lived in Fargo, where she worked for the Renko Construction Company. He didn’t remember much detail about her except that she specialized in electrical design.

Next year, he’d be up for reelection, but unless something changed radically, Walker would not run. He’d had enough.

Tomorrow, if the mission went well, he’d call Ivy and ask for her help.
They’ve discovered a stargate on the reservation he oversees. The president of the United States is uncertain whether he wants to see it dismantled. And there is considerable pressure coming in from both sides. It may provide a giant technological leap for the human race. Or it may lead to, at the very least, an economic collapse. Walker, like POTUS, is uncertain how to respond.
Learn more about the book and author at Jack McDevitt's website.

The Page 69 Test: Firebird.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 4, 2015

"The Conqueror's Wife"

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and high school history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. Her first two novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora and Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, focus on two of history's forgotten women: Theodora of the Byzantine Empire and Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Her third novel, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, is the story of Genghis' wife and daughters.

Thornton applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Conqueror's Wife, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Again, Barsine checked the babe, eliciting more exhausted moans from my mother. “The child still faces the wrong direction. I need sheep fat,” she ordered. “Warm it over the brazier.”

A servant scurried to attend to the fat while my mother cried softly to herself. “My girls,” she whispered through her tears. “You must be brave. Whatever Alexander plans for you, remember who you are, daughters of the King of Kings.”

I knew then she believed herself dying, but every laboring woman wishes for death just before bringing forth new life. My mother would survive this to outlive all of us and complain to our corpses about the quality of wine served at our funerals.
Considering that this excerpt from page 69 of The Conqueror's Wife is a struggle between life and death, albeit in a birthing tent instead of on the battlefield, I'd say that it's pretty representative of the story as a whole. Alexander the Great was renowned for his prowess on the battlefield, but few realize how many people--his mother, wives, and sisters among them--helped him become the legend we now recognize today. Still more fell by the wayside, sidelined by all manner of treachery, disease, and war. So while Alexander may have been brave when laying siege to a city or fighting in hand to hand combat, his friends and relatives also had to fight for their very survival, even many years after he lay mouldering in his own tomb.
Visit Stephanie Thornton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Brooklyn Secrets"

Triss Stein is a small-town girl who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York City. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident which she uses to write mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the second Erica Donato mystery, following Brooklyn Bones.

Stein applied the Page 69 Test to Brooklyn Secrets, the third Erica Donato Mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Brooklyn Secrets surprised even me. Though Erica, my protagonist, doesn’t know it, and the reader won’t know it, there is a moment when the plot starts to turn in a new direction. Erica, a historian-in-training, has been interviewing two very old, very sharp – and sharp-tongued!– women who can tell her all about growing up in Brownsville, then ( and now) one of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods. They both traveled a long road away, and found each other again in old age. Though they were childhood friends, their memories are surprisingly different, and their relationship is often touchy and combative.

In this scene we, and Erica, learn that Lillian is not just frail, she is dying. Erica knows Lillian has a secret, and stops herself before spilling it to Ruby. It is a sad, yet realistic moment, but one that will haunt the last part of the story. I will let Ruby speak for herself:
“She’s dying, you know.” Ruby looked past me, toward the other side of the cafeteria, but I knew she was seeing something else.

“It’s been a joy to have her here with me. We were so close, back when. I only had my big brother, who was horrid to me, and she had one big brother and baby sisters. So we became like each other’s sister. Then we lost track. She went to Douglass College in New Jersey and I was in New York and...” She shrugged. “Things happen and you lose people along the way.” She blinked hard, rapidly, for a minute. “And now I will lose her again, and soon.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her about Lillian’s brother, if she could add or expand that story, or even tell me it was true. The words were right there, but I stopped myself just in time. It was Lillian’s story and her choice to talk to Ruby about it. Or not.

Instead, I cautiously asked, “Did you never connect after you went to college?”

“Of course we did. Weddings, reunions, all that. But it was never the same, and then over the years, there are husbands and children and moves. My second husband was a professor at Yale and Lil never married at all. She liked men, though. And they really liked her. She had a very, very good time in those days.”
Visit Triss Stein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Get a Grip"

Kathy Flann’s fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, The North American Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, New Stories from the South, and other publications. A short story collection entitled Get a Grip won the George Garrett Award and was released by Texas Review Press in the fall of 2015. A previous collection, Smoky Ordinary, won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award and was published by Snake Nation Press. For five years, she taught creative writing at the University of Cumbria in England, where she created mini-courses for the BBC’s Get Writing website and served on the board of the National Association of Writers in Education. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars in Bulgaria, and Le Moulin à Nef in France. She is an associate professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

Flann applied the Page 69 Test to Get a Grip and reported the following:
It was interesting to discover that page 69 of Get a Grip is smack-dab in the middle of “Get a Grip,” the title story – making it the heart of the heart of the book. This second-person narrative revolves around Lisa, who is trying her best not to feel anything for her ex, Jake, a younger man who adores her. This particular page details the moments before Jake proposes to his girlfriend, Keira, the mascot for a minor league baseball team. It’s a moment when there is some urgency for Lisa to acknowledge her feelings to herself. She is sitting in the bleachers with Jake, her best friend Marilyn, and her father, who is a palm reader. A point of tension is that she has never let her father read her palm – she doesn’t want to know what he’ll say. One way Lisa maintains her denial is to refuse to acknowledge the future.
“Hey Luke!” you call, and he blows you a kiss.

Marilyn sighs. “The only reason your old boyfriends still like you is that you never give them a chance to get attached.”

Jake, who is sitting in front of you with your dad, turns around and looks at Marilyn. “That’s not true,” he says. “What about me?”

“Don’t get me started,” she says and rolls her eyes.

You punch Jake’s shoulder. “You don’t like me,” you say. “You’re just using me because I’m so handy around the house.”

“Move over,” says Marilyn. “Here comes Stewart.” She raises her hand, fingertips wiggling. Stewart, Marilyn’s lawyer boyfriend, marches up the bleachers with a cardboard tray of draft beers. You scoot down one row and park yourself on the other side of your father. Stewart distributes the beers and you take a long swill. Your nose tingles.

Keira is doing a handstand on top of the dugout. She walks the length of the roof on her hands, and then she pops up and takes a bow.

You fish from your purse the giant ring that Jake plans to put on the badger’s big cartoon finger during the seventh inning—a concept that was all your idea. You made it for him last night out of yellow pipe cleaners, and the diamond is an ornate sparkly button you found in your father’s junk drawer. How long had it been there?

Just then you can sense your father’s probing eyes studying your hands. You gasp and fumble the ring. It falls underneath the bleachers. “What are you doing?” you say. “Stop looking.”

He looks hurt, like you’ve slapped him, and you regret the harsh tone you’ve used.

“I was looking at the button,” he says.
Much of the story revolves around hands, exploring how we hold on, what we hold, who we hold (or don’t), and why. That’s why it seemed like the right story to unify the collection. All of the characters are grasping for something or someone – trying, with mixed results, to “get a grip.”
Learn more about the book and author at Kathy Flann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue