Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Cold Silence"

James Abel is the pseudonym for Bob Reiss, an accomplished author and journalist who has written extensively on the Arctic. He lives and works in New York City.

Abel applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Cold Silence, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Cold Silence plunks the reader down smack dab in the middle of the threat; that danger comes when we least expect it, and from startling directions. That in our modern era, a small group can bring the world to its knees. That when you combine fanaticism and science you can threaten a billion people, one small place at a time.

Page 69 is certainly representative of the rest of the book as far as concept, pace and issues go. It is a rare section from the perspective of the bad guys, as opposed to most of the book, which we see through the eyes of Joe Rush.
Visit James Abel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Protocol Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Protocol Zero.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Ghosts of Bergen County"

Dana Cann was born in Santa Barbara, California, and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. He's worked in commercial banking, corporate finance, and restructuring.

His short stories have been published in The Sun, The Massachusetts Review, The Gettysburg Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Florida Review, and Blackbird, among other journals. He has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Cann earned his M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, Ghosts of Bergen County, and reported the following:
Ghosts of Bergen County is a ghost story about overcoming grief. Page 69 features a telephone conversation between two main characters, Mary Beth and Gil, a married couple whose baby was killed two years earlier in a hit and run. Mary Beth, recovering from major depression, has developed a routine where she goes to a nearby elementary school playground for dismissal. Today she calls Gil from her cell phone, and tells him she’s out for a walk. Gil asks:
“You’re fine?”

“I’m just tired.” A child screamed behind her.

“Where are you?”

“At the School on the Ridge. Everyone’s hanging out. The ice cream man is parked at the curb like a crack dealer.” She tried on a smile. She thought he’d appreciate the joke. Instead he was earnest:

“You should get yourself a treat.”

“The line’s too long.”

She heard his breathing. Probably walking in Midtown. He worked in private equity. He bought and sold companies. She didn’t know which ones. Then a transaction would hit the press, and he’d copy the headline and e-mail it to her under the subject My Deal. He kept secrets well.
This phone call represents the first interaction between Gil and Mary Beth in the novel’s present time. It’s no coincidence that it occurs when the two are geographically miles apart and figuratively tiptoeing around each other in the things that they say. The scene is rendered from Mary Beth’s point of view. But this same phone call (and dialogue) also occurred in the previous chapter, rendered from Gil’s point of view.

I swiped this device—repeating a scene from a different point of view—from Russell Banks and his novel The Sweet Hereafter, another work about overcoming grief. The Sweet Hereafter utilizes multiple points of view to tell the story of a school bus accident and its aftermath. While Banks’s novel is largely rendered linearly, one scene—in which two characters visit the school bus involved in the accident—occurs twice, each time rendered from the other character’s point of view. It’s a fascinating, memorable scene, and I wanted to capture something like it in Ghosts of Bergen County.
Visit Dana Cann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"The Killer in Me"

Margot Harrison is an award-winning journalist and author, whose fiction has appeared, among other places, in The Saint Ann's Review.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Killer in Me, her first novel, and reported the following:
The primary narrator of The Killer in Me is seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows, who believes she has a mysterious window into the mind of a serial killer. On page 68, I introduce a second narrator: Nina’s friend Warren, who has doubts about her sanity but is also a bit in love with her. On page 69, Warren explains why he has just allowed Nina to drag him all over a strange city in search of a killer who may not exist. He traces their friendship back to middle school, when she asked for the loan of a book.

From page 69:
It started in spring of seventh grade with the book report for Ms. Mullins. I’d stayed up all night reading The Man Who Japed, by Philip K. Dick, an old book I’d found at a library sale, and now I couldn’t seem to explain its convoluted plot. It didn’t help that every time I said, “Dick,” the whole class snickered, and Ray Welles, the class comedian, sang out, “Who you callin’ a dick, Witter?”

By the time I finished, Mullins’s voice was hoarse from shushing the class. “What does ‘japed’ mean, Warren?”

I’d read the whole book, yet my mind went blank, and sweat beaded under my collar.

Mullins made me fetch her enormous dictionary and read out the definition. When I was finally allowed to sit down again—amid mutters of “What a dick” and “Dick move, Witter”—a tiny, rolled-up note waited on my desk.

I’d never gotten a note at school that said anything good. I almost threw it away unopened, but curiosity won out. Standing at my locker after the bell, I deciphered a message written in silvery-purple ink and scrunched, adult-looking cursive: Your book sounds good. Can I borrow it? NB.
Very little of The Killer in Me is directly autobiographical (no, I have never stalked a serial killer). Page 69 is an exception: a naked steal from my own adolescence. Like Warren, I read and loved The Man Who Japed (and many other books by cult SF author Philip K. Dick). Like Warren, I delivered enthusiastic class reports on nerdy books that none of my contemporaries had any interest in. Like him, I had learned to fear handwritten notes from classmates who could smell weirdness and were prone to out-of-the-blue insults.

Unlike Warren, I did not find a soul mate to swap my books with—granted, an unlikely occurrence in rural Vermont in the 1980s. I wish I had.

While page 69 gives a decent sense of my book’s “voice,” it’s not typical of the content. Much of The Killer in Me is about dark imaginings and worst-case scenarios. This passage, by contrast, is teddy bears and rainbows. It paves the way for a romantic subplot in which Warren goes on a cross-country road trip with his long-time crush—something that, I’m guessing, many teens would jump at the chance to do.

Nina’s too preoccupied with that maybe-real killer to dwell on her feelings for her old friend. But, based on the connection we see here, Warren hopes he can change that. Some readers may hope so, too.
Visit Margot Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Monterey Bay"

Lindsay Hatton is a graduate of Williams College. She holds an MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. She currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters, but was born and raised in Monterey, California, where she spent many summers working behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Hatton applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Monterey Bay, and reported the following:
Oh man, this is crazy. Page 69 includes one of the most pivotal moments plot-wise in the book: the end of the scene in which my protagonist’s father basically throws her to the wolves. She wants to be thrown to the wolves, though, but doesn’t want him to know she wants it, so it’s a complicated interaction. This was a hard page to write. All those layers of intention, many of them completely or partially hidden. In that way, I think it’s absolutely representative of the rest of the book. One of Monterey Bay’s themes is about what’s happening behind the scenes: all the surprising internal forces that result in an external phenomenon or façade. The relationship between Margot and Anders is a façade that, in the course of the book, the reader will see crumble. This is the first major indication of serious structural instability, so to speak.

This page also reminds me how hard it is to do good exposition. Creating prose that sounds beautiful and also moves the plot forward isn’t easy. Simplicity is often a good solution, and I think I did a decent job of that here. I like his white hair, the speck of herb on his lips. These are the sorts of small, telling details that, years down the road, I feel like Margot would remember. So yes: high-five to myself. I like page 69. Not too shabby.
Visit Lindsay Hatton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2016

"The Imperial Wife"

Irina Reyn’s first novel What Happened to Anna K. was published in August 2008. It was one of the “Ten Best Books of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly, one of’s Best Books of August 2008, and made both the San Francisco Chronicle’s and Washington Post’s “Best Books of the Year List.” It won of the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction from the Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Reyn applied the Page 69 Test to her  new novel, The Imperial Wife, and reported the following:
Page 69 begins with a question, "Are you ready to meet the Vandermotters?" This is posed by a serious boyfriend of Tanya Kagan's who hopes to introduce her to his parents, Upper East Side old-money descendants from early Dutch settlers. Tanya, on the other hand, is a Russian-Jewish immigrant from Moscow by way of Queens, a junior cataloger at a major New York auction house feeling thoroughly out of her element among the Town&Country/Greenwich/Hermes-wearing set.

The answer here is both yes and no. On one hand, she has no business hobnobbing inside a milieu as foreign to her as outer space. On the other hand, as someone with her face pressed to the glass of "Americanness," she is fascinated by what they represent. Just as she tries to become the kind of woman the Vandermotters would approve of, so does she prepare for the evening by purchasing a Chanel blazer she thinks is an approximation of the "right" outfit. But she makes sure to hold on to the tag. She can't afford it and plans to return it. Whether or not she will be forced to return Carl as well, remains to be seen...
Learn more about the book and author at Irina Reyn's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Happened to Anna K.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"The House at the Edge of Night"

Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge, UK, in 1989 and began writing at the age of fourteen. She studied English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving to County Durham where she worked as a secondary school teacher. She has published a trilogy of young adult novels, The Last Descendants.

Banner applied the Page 69 Test to her debut adult novel, The House at the Edge of Night, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The House at the Edge of Night is almost blank. And yet it’s also one of the most important pages. It’s the final page of the first part of the book, and it ends with the line: ‘On a windblown day in March 1921, the House at the Edge of Night opened for business.’ The whole first part of The House at the Edge of Night is really a gathering of force towards that sentence, which is a moment of transition. The book is about one family, the Espositos, on a tiny Mediterranean island, and their bar, the House at the Edge of Night. In the final four parts, it opens up to span almost 95 years, from the First World War to the 2008 financial crisis. But Part One, which is the most fairytale-like of the book, tells the family’s prehistory: the story of Amedeo Esposito, the island’s first doctor, who faces a dilemma when he delivers two babies in one night, one his lover’s and the other his wife’s. Everything else that happens – the opening of the bar and 95 years of struggle – is a result of that initial, personal predicament. When you tell a big, epic story, you have to make sure the reader cares first. I try to do that principally through the characters, and through the language. And my hope is that by the time the reader gets to page 69 they are utterly invested in Amedeo and his family, willing to follow them into the much wider, more epic sweep of twentieth-century history which comes after.
Visit Catherine Banner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"The Way Back Home"

Alecia Whitaker grew up on a small farm in Cynthiana, KY. She is the author of The Queen of Kentucky and the Wildflower series, as well as an actress with appearances on several television programs and commercials.

Whitaker applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Way Back Home, and reported the following:
The page 69 test is always interesting to me. In the case of The Way Back Home, I’d say it is a pretty strong reflection of the main conflict for Bird, my protagonist, who is finally at the top of her game musically but is constantly competing with another artist for the spotlight. Why we, as women, often pit ourselves against each other baffles me. There is room for everyone! We each have a unique voice, something new to say or at least a new way to talk about something that’s been said, something to bring artistically. High tides raise all ships so why not lift each other up? In this final installment of the Wildflower series, Bird has to find enough confidence in herself to block out the haters and focus on her own path. It’s so easy to say and so hard to do.

So I hope this passage makes you want to read more. Page 69 is the last page of chapter 7 and Bird is at the VMAs. She has just seen her arch rival perform:
…I’m just baffled that it’s "Kayelee this” and “Kayelee that”–not all of it pleasant but all of it about her.

“Your award’s up next,” Anita says matter-of-factly. “There’s no way you’ll lose this one, so forget what you just saw and be gracious.”

Bonnie clearly agrees. She grabs my arms and shakes me from side to side, smiling big and trying to pump me up. “You’ve always wanted a Moonman!”

I throw my phone back into my purse and frown. Yeah, I wanted to win, both for me and for Bonnie, but at this point, it’s not like anyone will even care.
Learn more about the book and author at Alecia Whitaker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wildflower.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Vita Brevis"

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, and the newly released Vita Brevis.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to Vita Brevis and reported the following:
From page 69:
Balbus raised the bottle, tipped it sideways, and watched the liquid level itself out.

“Sir, about Doctor Kleitos—”

“No sign of him, I suppose?”

“No, sir. But there’s a problem at the surgery. There was this barrel—”

“Talk to Firmicus.” Balbus winced as his fingers met the hot glass, then he twisted out the stopper and sniffed. Ruso was struck by the absurd notion that he could be handing over a poison in the guise of medicine. His patient was right: he was nervous. Ever since he had realized what was in the barrel, Be careful who you trust had taken on a sinister new significance.
By a happy coincidence, Page 69 holds a crucial turning-point in Vita Brevis—much of what happens later depends on this moment. But it makes little sense by itself, so here’s the background:

Ruso has just taken over a medical practice in Rome from the suddenly-departed Doctor Kleitos, who was supplying regular ‘just in case’ antidote medicine to wealthy landlord Balbus. Balbus is convinced that enemies—real or imagined—are trying to poison him. Now the supply of antidote has run out, and Kleitos has left no record of what was in it.

Ruso doesn’t know much about antidotes, but he does know that his patron wants him to make a good impression on Balbus. So he’s offered to cook up a harmless substitute, hoping to fool Balbus’s enemies into thinking he’s still invulnerable—at least until Ruso can track down Kleitos and ask what was in the original bottle.

Ruso’s cooking, however, has just been seriously disrupted by the discovery of a dead man in a barrel outside his front door. With this and the cryptic warning from Kleitos’s hand-over note now looming large in his mind, he can’t remember exactly what he’s put in the medicine. And when he does remember, it won’t be a great comfort to him.

Researching Vita Brevis was a delight. Many medics in the ancient world were highly skilled and—like Ruso—eager to do their best for their patients. Some of their surgical techniques were still in use centuries later. But anyone could claim to be a doctor, and in a society where human dissection was forbidden and scientific method seems rarely to have been valued above dogma and philosophy, the sick were at the mercy of the superstitious and the dangerously ignorant. I’ve slipped one or two of their more entertaining claims into the book, but didn’t have room for Pliny’s odd assertion that women have fewer teeth than men. (And no, I don’t know why he didn’t resort to the simple expedient of counting them.)

In the light of the risks involved, it’s not surprising that many patients referred themselves to the shrine of Aesculapius, where they hoped to receive healing in dreams. But if the gods failed, only the medics remained. And that’s when one of Pliny’s other assertions comes into play. Is it really true that “only a doctor can kill a man with complete impunity?”
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

Writers Read: Ruth Downie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Green Island"

Shawna Yang Ryan is a former Fulbright scholar and the author of Water Ghosts and Green Island. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She is the 2015 recipient of the Elliot Cades Emerging Writer award.

Ryan applied the Page 69 Test to Green Island and reported the following:
1952. Taiwan. Martial law under dictator Chiang Kai-Shek.

On page 69 of Green Island, the unnamed narrator is just five years old and the youngest of four children. Her father has been arrested as a political dissident and her family has no idea if he is dead or alive. A possible widow, her mother moves the children to her own parents’ home in central Taiwan.

In this scene, the narrator has come across some of her father’s belongings, including his wallet, and she steals the money to buy some sweets. The shopkeeper sees the money—from the Japanese colonial era—and knows that it is stolen. In the culture of fear and repression under the Kuomintang in 1952, traitors were jailed for much less, so the shopkeeper rebukes the narrator and sends her away. Later that night, she comes to speak with the narrator’s mother.

The mix of yearning and fear is a theme throughout the book. Alas, it was also a key feature of that era in Taiwan, and it is encapsulated in this child’s innocent mistake.

The page closes with the mother going to the narrator, who waits anxiously in bed, pretending to sleep. You must turn the page to see if the mother punishes her or comforts her….
Learn more about the book and author at Shawna Yang Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Water Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Last Ride to Graceland"

Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, and The Canterbury Sisters. A two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, she has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty years for magazines such as Wine Spectator, Self, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. She also ballroom dances competitively.

Wright applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Ride to Graceland, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I look around the room, trying to imagine it years ago. The colors bright and unfaded, the music loud. The smell of grease and pot mingling in the air and Elvis on a bar stool holding court. The absence of chairs. His listeners must have clustered around him on the floor, sitting at his feet like the apostles of Jesus, and maybe it felt good after the big stages and venues to sneak away to a little nothing place like this and shake the glitter off. I have a million questions to ask this man but I blurt out "Did my mother smoke weed?"

He laughs again, but it's a genuine laugh this time, not a bitter one.

"You want the truth?"

"You know I do."

He spits on the floor. Puts the sunglasses back on. "Then I'll give you want you say you've come for," he says. "Your mother was a wild child. She did it all and she did it all the time."

And with that, the air seems to go out of the room.
Last Ride to Graceland opens with Cory Beth Ainsworth finding a car in an abandoned fishing shed on her family's property in Beaufort, South Carolina. But it isn't just any car. It's the Stutz Blackhawk that Elvis Presley drove on the last day of his life and it's been hidden in that shed for thirty-seven years, cocooned in bubble wrap.

Cory Beth's mother Honey, who'd died of breast cancer a few months earlier, had lived most of her life as a small town church choir director. But when she had been nineteen, Honey had spent a single year as a backup singer for Elvis. In fact, she had been at Graceland when he died, but she had always refused to talk about that day - especially about the fact Cory Beth had been born a mere seven months after Honey's return from Memphis.

The car seems like the perfect chance to get some answers. Cory Beth decides on the spot to drive it back to Graceland, following a trail of trash left in the car to replicate her mother's journey. A styrofoam cup leads her to the Juicy Lucy in Macon, Georgia - once a burger joint and pot palace and now merely am abandoned kudzu-choked shell. As page 69 shows us, Phillip, the former owner, remembers a very different Honey than the woman who raised Cory Beth.

Last Ride to Graceland has bit of a Wizard of Oz structure, with Cory Beth encountering three people from her mother's past along her winding route to redemption. Although she originally thinks she's undertaking her journey to answer the question of who is her biological father, she quickly learns that the road between Beaufort and Memphis will also tell her something even more important: who her mother really was as well.
Visit Kim Wright's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"The Rules of Love & Grammar"

Mary Simses grew up in Darien, Connecticut and began writing stories at the age of seven. In college, she majored in journalism because she didn’t believe she could ever make a living as a fiction writer. After working in magazine publishing for a few years, she went back to school to become a lawyer. While working as a corporate attorney, she enrolled in an evening fiction writing class at a university in Connecticut and began writing short stories “on the side.” Several of her stories were published in literary magazines. Simses finally took the advice of a friend and decided to try writing a novel. That manuscript ultimately became The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, a number one best-seller in Germany.

Simses applied the Page 69 Test to The Rules of Love & Grammar, her second novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Rules of Love & Grammar, writer and wordsmith Grace Hammond, now 33, is at the Sugar Bowl, a luncheonette where she used to hang out as a teenager. Grace is back in her home town of Dorset, Connecticut, staying with her parents after encountering the trifecta of bad luck – she lost her job, her boyfriend dumped her, and part of the ceiling in her New York City apartment caved in because of a water leak. But coming home has always been a tumultuous experience for Grace, who has still not come to terms with the death of her older sister seventeen years earlier.

Grace, who has a penchant for taking out her Sharpie and correcting any grammatical mistakes she encounters, is sitting in one of the Sugar Bowl’s booths with her childhood friend, Cluny. Grace and Cluny discover that Grace’s high school boyfriend, Peter, is also there. Grace and Peter shared their first dance and kiss during their sophomore year of high school at an event called the Cinderella Ball. Peter, now a successful Hollywood director, is in town filming scenes from his new movie. As Grace and Peter speak to one another for the first time since high school, Grace realizes she’s still very attracted to Peter and makes it her goal to win him over again.

The Rules of Love & Grammar is a story about family relationships, love, and the need to accept the past – both the good and the bad. It’s also about the futility of striving for an error-free life.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Simses's website and follow her on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Julia Vanishes"

Catherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada – a beautiful city nobody in her right mind would ever leave, but leave she did, and you may draw the obvious conclusions about her mind. Since then, she has lived on a wee volcanic island in Japan (which erupted during her time there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, an oil rig in the middle of China’s Bohai Bay, New Jersey, and now Connecticut, where she writes books and defends the Eastern seaboard from invading dragon hordes alongside her intrepid warrior-children.

Egan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Julia Vanishes, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When I get to the library with coffee for Frederick, wondering if it is more painful to sit there and pretend to read poorly or to clean the inside of the grandfather clock on the landing, he is wearing his coat and putting a piece of paper into the pocket.

“Oh,” I say, feigning disappointment. “Are we not reading today?”

He looks up as if I’ve startled him, but he always looks that way.

“I’m so sorry, Ella – I’ve got to run an errand for the professor,” he says. The way he says it, a little grudgingly, I smell an opportunity.

“Let me do it,” I say. “Heaven knows you have more than enough to do as it is.”

He grins. “That’s kind, Ella. But really, I must go. It’s a ways from here.”

“All the more reason you ought to let me go,” I press.
This scene, at the opening of chapter 5, shows Julia at work pretending to be an illiterate housemaid in Mrs. Och’s grand house, and trying to persuade a principled young scholar in the house to let her run an errand that will further her mission as a spy. It’s a fairly quiet moment building towards more dramatic revelations. Julia eventually figures out that she’s working for the wrong side, but by the time she knows her employer’s ultimate goal, it’s too late to back out. It’s not a high-drama point in the book but I hope a reader skimming this scene would want to follow the intrigue and see why Julia is so eager to run Frederick’s errands for him!
Visit Catherine Egan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and PhD candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali.

Older applied the Page 69 Test to Infomocracy, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is part of a section I often read from, because it is includes a chase scene and also offers a quick window into the world of the book. Page 69 takes place in Jakarta when one of the main characters, Ken, realizes he’s being followed. He’s already been alerted by his antennae, tiny filaments that twitch at the nape of his neck if their cameras pick up anything strange going on behind him. Now he’s able to confirm it by watching the video they project into a corner of his vision:
Just as he’s starting to think the antennae were overreacting, triggered by a random repeat passerby or innocent stares, he passes under a rare bank of solar-powered streetlights, and a few seconds later he sees something in the vid: the glimmer of the lights passing over the carapace of a vehicle, a large vehicle. That in itself is not strange; what is odd is that the behemoth is not nudging people, donkeys, motorcycles, three-wheelers, and Sunways out of the way to pass. Ken risks a glance over his shoulder, and the head- lights of the massive all-terrainer seem to wink at him. It is hanging back, maintaining a distance, inexplicable in this cutthroat traffic culture unless there is some other motive.
Ken is at a distinct disadvantage, because the government he works for, Policy1st, prefers low-impact vehicles like the solar-powered Sunway he’s riding. He tries to make the best of it.
When the slow pace of traffic gets him near enough to the corner, he swings the Sunway up on to the sidewalk, slides it around the corner onto a dark, almost-empty side street, and flips the auxiliary speed switch. The platform below him hums, then vibrates. He hears honking from the street behind him as the SUV tries to make it to the corner. Then his head jerks back in a gush of smoggy air as the Sunway takes off, bouncing along the imperfectly paved road.
The chase that follows illustrates the way different governments in this future world crowd as close together as neighborhoods, so that crossing a street can completely change the laws you are bound by and, therefore, the best approach to evading a pursuer. The section also captures the sense of semi-illicit political intrigue that drives much of the novel, as Ken and his colleagues and rivals try to sway the result of a global election.
Follow Malka Older on Twitter and visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"All the Time in the World"

Caroline Angell grew up in Endwell, N.Y., the daughter of an electrical engineer and a public school music teacher. She has a B. A. in musical theater from American University and currently lives and works in Manhattan. As a playwright and director, she has had her work performed at regional theaters in New York City and in the Washington, D.C., area.

Angell applied the Page 69 Test to All the Time in the World, her first novel, and reported the following:
I wrote this novel from the first-person perspective of Charlotte, the twenty-nine-year-old babysitter of Matt and George, the children of Gretchen and Scotty McLean. Part of the story is told in flashback, and on page sixty-nine we are in the middle of a scene that occurred two years prior to the events of the present. Charlotte is recalling her first encounter with Uncle Patrick, Scotty’s brother. Patrick and Charlotte have an offhand, slightly charged chat while she is helping with the clean-up from Matt’s birthday party, and Patrick sits on the couch, not helping. By the end of the conversation, he isn’t sure he has the measure of Charlotte; for some reason, she isn’t responding to him in a way that he recognizes. He decides to test his boundaries to see if he can get a reaction. In the last line on page sixty-nine, Patrick asks Charlotte, “Did Gretchen ever tell you that we used to go out?” And it has the desired effect of catching her off guard.

Most of the novel, of course, centers around the family’s experience of an intense tragedy. As I wrote it, I was largely focused on the emotional complexity of a world that has been altered. Page sixty-nine marks the beginning of Charlotte and Patrick’s relationship. As the plot moves forward, they continue to engage in these sparky exchanges, feeling drawn to each other because they’re in the trenches together. The line between what’s circumstantial and what’s romantic becomes blurred. Charlotte says, “It’s surreal, the way life moves on, even if you feel like you’re not moving with it.” (That one’s not on page sixty-nine though. You’ll have to hunt for it.) What I wanted for her relationship with Patrick was to reflect this particular vitality; how life moves around grief. Joy and humor can exist side by side with despair. I wanted to examine the way we take care of each other, the way we find solace in routines and what we know, how we try to make ourselves safe and, ultimately, the way we have to make ourselves vulnerable in order to keep the things that are important and meaningful in our lives.
Visit Caroline Angell's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: All the Time in the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2016

"The Waking Fire"

Anthony Ryan is the author of the Raven’s Shadow novels, including Blood Song, Tower Lord and Queen of Fire.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Waking Fire, the first novel in the Draconis Memoria series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He was woken by the sound of a key working the lock on the heavy iron door. He didn’t rise from the bunk, turning onto his side and blinking his bleary eyes until they found focus on the brickwork. The voice that greeted him was familiar and expected, also deep with impatient resentment. “On your feet.”

Clay waited a good while before rolling onto his back, gazing up at the flaking plaster on the ceiling. His sleep had been fitful, richly populated by Derk’s and Joya’s faces, laughing sometimes, mocking at others. But mostly just burned and dead. And Keyvine. Keyvine had been there too.

“I said, get up!” the voice said with growling deliberation. “Lest you’re keen to spend the next year in here before the Protectorate decides whether to kill you or cut you open.”

Clay groaned and sat up. It was daylight now, somewhere past mid morn judging by the angle of the shadows. A tall man stood on the other side of the bars. He wore the green-leather duster and wide-brimmed hat typical of the Contractor fraternity, his hair hanging in thick braids down to his shoulders. It had been nearly two years since their last meeting but Clay still felt the same jarring disorientation when looking at his face. There were a few more lines on the forehead and the stubble on his chin was mostly grey, but the resemblance remained. They could have been twins.

“You gonna stare at me all day, boy?” the man demanded. “Off your backside, we got work.”

“Since when d’you have work for me?” Clay asked.

The man angled his head, eyes narrowing with the same angry judgement he had exhibited all those years ago when Clay shambled into his home with a recently emptied pistol in hand. “Since it turned out you were actually useful,” the man said, stepping back to jerk his head at a second man standing near the open door. Clay’s pulse quickened as he recognised him as the ununiformed Protectorate type who had shot Speeler.

“Killing the fat man was unnecessary,” Clay said.
Page 69 of The Waking Fire is the opening of a key scene in the story where one of our main protagonists, Claydon Torcreek, having woken up in gaol, meets his estranged Uncle Braddon for the first time in years. Their relationship is one of the more important aspects of the book, both in terms of character development and propelling the narrative. I’m always keen to ensure my characters change throughout the story and was very pleased with the way Clay and his Uncle came to terms with each other as the book progressed.
Visit Anthony Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"The Bourbon Thief"

Tiffany Reisz is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning Original Sinners series for Mira Books (Harlequin/Mills & Boon).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bourbon Thief, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
“I wish Momma would come back too,” Tamara said. But from the looks of the dark and the wet and the new rain coming down, it didn’t appear her mother was coming back anytime soon. She found her grandfather looking at her, studying her. He’d been doing that more lately, watching her. Sometimes it didn’t feel like his gaze was on her so much as his hands. She liked it when Levi looked at her. But not even he looked at her like this.

“Angel, I know it’s not easy being a Maddox. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. Your grandmother wanted to go to college instead of getting married. But her family had money trouble so she got married. You do what you have to do for your family. Like Jacob Maddox.”

“What about him?”

“My great-grandfather Jacob Maddox got married for money too. Married a lady named Henrietta Arden. That’s why this house is called Arden, because we wouldn’t have it but for her.”
In The Bourbon Thief, the weight of history bears down upon my characters, nearly crushing them. But while they are pressed, they are not crushed. History is a heavy burden, especially in the south. My leading lady Tamara Maddox is nearly a casualty of history and her grandfather’s obsession with bloodlines. The book is a tale of lust and love, revenge and redemption set in Kentucky and South Carolina in 1980. This page gives the tiniest hint of what is expected of Tamara and what she will be forced to do to save both herself and the soul of her family.
Visit Tiffany Reisz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Clear to Lift"

Anne A. Wilson is the author of Hover and Clear to Lift. She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in ocean engineering. She served nine years active duty as a navy helicopter pilot, including three years flying search and rescue, where she specialized in high altitude, technical mountain rescue. Following her military service, she worked for four years in the semiconductor industry. Currently, she and her husband own a triathlon coaching company, Camelback Coaching. Wilson lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona, with her husband and two sons.

Wilson applied the Page 69 Test to Clear to Lift and reported the following:
From page 69:
Only once, in an unintended slip, did I learn something about my real father. I was eleven, and Mom was adding another row of larkspur—a new hybrid that would bloom lavender with a midnight-blue center. I sat next to her in the dirt, watching closely, idly floating through another stress-free summer vacation. She mumbled it, almost like she was talking to herself. “Your father would love this new color. It’s his favorite flower....”

Later, I asked Nick about it. “I didn’t know you liked larkspur.”

“What’s a larkspur?” he responded.

And so, I observed. When Mom seemed melancholy, she would invariably wander out to the backyard, sit on the rod-iron bench that overlooked her garden, pull up her knees, and wrap her arms around them. I would watch her breathe deeply and close her eyes. In my child mind, I thought she just enjoyed sitting among the flowers. But my adult mind realizes she was sitting with my father.
If you were skimming Clear to Lift and hit this page, you wouldn’t be aware of the action, the adventure, the blizzards and floods, and daring helicopter rescues you’d experience in this novel.

Instead, you’d find something quite the opposite. Something quiet and personal. A woman struggling to learn more about the father she never knew. The main protagonist, Alison, is trying to piece together clues about her real father and this is something she pursues throughout the book. Of course, at the same time, she’s doing some pretty heroic helicopter piloting!

Would someone read on? Gosh, I sure hope so. This page is just a rest stop in an otherwise fast-paced, action-packed book.
Visit Anne A. Wilson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Tag, You’re Dead"

J.C. Lane is the author of the new thriller Tag, You’re Dead. She also writes mysteries as Judy Clemens, including the Stella Crown and Grim Reaper mysteries. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime, and loves hanging out on-line or in person with other people in the book industry, because they are awesome. She lives in Ohio, where she attends lots of soccer games, bakes as much as she can, and runs when she feels like it.

Lane applied the Page 69 Test to Tag, You’re Dead and reported the following:
Page 69 of Tag, You’re Dead details a conversation between Charles Akida, one of the “Its” in the Game of Tag, and the Referee, who is overseeing the whole thing. Charles is not happy with the way the Game is progressing, and informs the Ref that the problems need to be fixed or he will be taking back his player fee -- a huge sum of money – and ending the Game.

It is so interesting to me how this really does encapsulate what the book is about. The Its want something from the Ref they cannot receive any other way, and the Ref, while the creator of the Game and in charge of its mechanics, is beholden to make sure the Its are satisfied. Tag, You’re Dead is filled with angst, wishes being fulfilled (or not), opposing forces, and the question of who, exactly, decides a person’s fate. Do we create our own story, or do we allow others to dictate what happens to us? Do we allow anger and fear to channel our decisions, or do we use our unique skills and personality to fight against the obstacles put in front of us? Who do we become when faced with adversity? Six people in the book must decide the answers to these questions, which means there are six separate ways the questions are answered.
Visit J.C. Lane's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tag, You're Dead.

Writers Read: J.C. Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Conrad & Eleanor"

Jane Rogers has published eight novels, written original television and radio drama, and adapted work for radio and TV. Her last book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, was the 2012 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction; it was also longlisted for the Booker Prize. She has won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book, has been a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and she lives in Banbury, England.

Rogers applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Conrad & Eleanor, and reported the following:
Page 69 follows a conversation between Conrad and his mother on the evening of his father’s suicide. Conrad is not close to his parents but his mother phoned him when she found her husband’s body. Now an ambulance has taken him away, and Conrad and his mother sit over the remains of their supper and Conrad attempts to uncover the motive for his father’s taking his own life. His mother is dry-eyed and sharp-tongued, and highly critical of Conrad and his sister:
‘There’s a lot you don’t know. He would have walked barefoot to China for you two.’

Con pours himself another whisky. His father has killed himself and it is his fault. ‘Did he talk to anyone about – his money troubles?’

‘Who would he talk to?’

Nobody. He was a friendless man – no social skills. ‘D’you think he was depressed?’

‘Of course he was depressed. What’d he got to look forward to? His own grandchildren don’t know him, the farm’s losing money, how long till we get turfed out and dumped in a home?’

‘His grandchildren do know him. Did know him.’

Con’s mother humphs. ‘They saw him twice a year. More interested in the lambs than him, more interested in shrieking and running amok.’

It is true that something gets into the kids when they visit the farm. Maybe it’s the space and the dilapidated state of the place, but they do tear about, their calling voices echoing across the yard. And of course they avoid his father; what child wouldn’t avoid a man who pinches your cheek too hard and bellows, ‘You need to get more pudding down you!’?
This is a book about marriage and parenthood, so of course this is representative; yet it is the only scene where Con’s mother appears, since the bulk of the book concerns the marriage of Conrad and Eleanor. The scene helps us to understand why Conrad has chosen to be such a hands-on father, himself – in reaction against his own father.
Visit Jane Rogers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Simone Zelitch's novels include Louisa, which won the Goldberg Prize for Emerging Jewish Fiction. Her work has been featured on NPR and recent honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Zelitch applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Judenstaat, and reported the following:
My page 69 opens in the middle of a paragraph:
Nobody else’s father talked like that. She hadn’t been afraid, though. If Rudolph had let go of her hand, she would have followed those angry-looking men in their long black coats and high black hats across Stein Square to see where they were going.
A reader would wonder: What men? Why would she follow them?

The first full paragraph:
Now the bus pulled away from the center of Dresden. It filled with black-hats like a net fills with fish: jewelers carrying heavy cases, caftan-wearing men with low-crowned hat and broad, aggressive shoulders. There must have been one of their girls’ schools not far from Parliament because the middle doors swung open and the girls poured on—at least a dozen of them—bundled up in sweaters with their legs encased in thick brown stockings, all carrying identical cheap knapsacks, and angling seats next to their friends. They whispered girl-secrets in Yiddish. So they had taken over that neighborhood too.
The people on the bus are “black-hats,” Judenstaat’s ultra-Orthodox population. As they’re described, a reader may wonder why the tone is so aggressively hostile. Isn’t this supposed to be a book about a Jewish state?

Judenstaat is carved out of German Saxony in 1948 as an an answer to the Holocaust. The country is fiercely secular, but the rapidly growing black-hat minority has its own schools, its own laws, and essentially its own economy. Black-hats speak Yiddish rather than Judenstaat’s national language, German, and they consider the country an abomination. They’re supported by the state. If this seems improbable, ask an Israeli for an explanation.

Yet Judit—the archivist heroine—is drawn to the world of the black-hats. That’s why she’s on that bus. She’s haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, and as she’s investigating the mystery behind his murder, she’s compiling a documentary about her country’s founding. It’s in the black-hat neighborhoods that she finds reels of film or photographs that others have discarded, or that the state itself has confiscated from her archive long ago. Black-hats know things.

It could be that Judit’s fascination with the Orthodox community comes from a spiritual need: she’s still in mourning for her husband, and the social-democratic country of her childhood has become unrecognizable. In fact, Chabad, a Lubavich outreach organization—a real one— hopes to draw secular Jews into the religious life. Chabad exists in my imaginary country and on page 69.
They made it their mission to get all Jews to perform mitzvot and speed the coming of the Messiah. Judit herself had been accosted by a woman in a wig who tried to get her into a Mitzvah Tank. The woman spoke good German and promised her an audience with Rabbi Scheerson, who would receive her like his own child and give her a dollar—a real American dollar from the United States. Frankly, Judit was allergic to Chabad. The people who fell in with them always looked like they’d been hit on the head too many times and started to like it.
In many ways, the descriptions and references on page 69 are Jewish private jokes, potentially obscure to the uninitiated. Yet Judit’s contradictory responses to religious Jews are a key to her character, and raise issues at the heart of the book. She wants to cross a border between the rational and irrational world. That doesn’t mean she will be welcome there.

The page ends with this assessment:

“The men and women on the bus were not Chabad. They looked through her as confidently as Sammy Gluck had looked through the ghost of Hans Klemmer. They believed in ghosts, the spirit world: demons, angels, the raising of the dead. They did not believe in Judit.”
Visit Simone Zelitch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"Missing, Presumed"

Susie Steiner is a former Guardian journalist. She was a commissioning editor for that paper for eleven years and prior to that worked for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and the Evening Standard. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Steiner applied the Page 69 Test to Missing, Presumed, her second novel, and reported the following:
On page 69, Helena has come out of her police interview and is struggling to see as bright low winter sun hits her eyes and flashes off the car roofs like knives. In part, this description comes from my own experience of having terrible eyesight and of my vision being a confusion, rather than clear. But not 'seeing clearly' is a motif in the novel, to express characters acting blindly or evading the truth.
Visit Susie Steiner's website.

Writers Read: Susie Steiner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Cure for the Common Universe"

Christian Heidicker is an awfully charming young author from Utah.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Cure for the Common Universe, his debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I followed the echo to a slimy mop trail, which led to the backside of a janitor hunched in the far corner. His mop was propped against an open grate, and he was peering inside a wall vent, which was large enough for him to t inside. Vapor from an e-cigarette coiled around his ponytail and ass crack as he mumbled. “They get points for doing a crap job cleaning up this place. Do I get a raise for cleaning up after them? No, I do not. Come on, you piece of...”

He pulled out what looked like a computer chip, slid it into a zip case, and then replaced it with another. He glanced up, saw me, quickly replaced the grate, and pushed his mop around the corner.

I walked up to the corner and squinted through the vent. Tiny green lights winked in the darkness.

What the hell? This was some serious Myst shit....

Whatever. I wasn’t there to solve mysteries. I was there to win.

Ugh. I was starting to sound like I was on a reality game show.

Back in the Nest, Fezzik placed a finger to his lips and pointed to a lump in one of the bunks. Zxzord was snoring.

“So is he on heroin, or not?” Meeki asked.
I actually don’t think this page is representative of my book at all! It involves a mystery that doesn’t actually end up going anywhere ... part of the real life is never as much like video games as one would like.

Those last few lines though... Them’s the goods.
Visit Christian McKay Heidicker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue