Thursday, September 29, 2016


Margot Livesey's first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published the novels Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

Livesey applied the Page 69 Test to her eighth novel, Mercury, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Mercury, the beginning of chapter 11, shows Donald worrying about Christmas. "Thanksgiving had been hard," he tells us, "but it was only one day, an American day. Christmas had always been our family’s holiday. Every year had found us together, first in Scotland, then in the States, playing games, eating goose, hoping for peace on earth.” But now Donald’s beloved father has succumbed to Parkinson’s, his mother has fallen in love, and his wife Viv is devoting almost every waking moment to training a horse named Mercury. The description that follows shows Donald, a hard working optometrist, trying to distance himself from the pain of these changes.

I was surprised at the extent to which page 69 alluded to many of the main concerns of the novel. Although it is only when when readers reach part II, narrated from Viv’s point of view, that they can truly begin to understand the forces at work in Donald’s household.
Learn more about the book and author at Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Forsaken Skies"

D. Nolan Clark is the pseudonym bestselling horror writer David Wellington uses for his science fiction books.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Forsaken Skies, and reported the following:
It happens every time.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve taken the Page 69 Test. I do know that each time I’ve reached for the book, excited to share some incredible action scene or maybe a tender moment between two characters I love. Every single time, it turns out page 69 is right in the middle of an exposition scene. Typically, it’s a page of pure dialogue, one character telling another one about what’s going on in the plot.

And yeah… here we are.

Forsaken Skies is the best book I’ve ever written. Working on it, it felt like the culmination of everything I’ve learned over the years about writing, all the little tricks I’ve picked up, all the sweat and tears I’ve put into improving my skills. There are scenes in this book I can’t believe I wrote, scenes so exciting and fun. There are characters here I can hear breathing when I read their dialogue, people I’d love to spend time with in real life (as long as I didn’t have to live in their dangerous world!).

On Page 69, one of those characters, Elder McRae, is talking about how her world was settled. About why her people came to the planet of Niraya, a planet now in terrible peril. She’s pleading with the main character, a starfighter pilot named Aleister Lanoe, to come to their aid. She isn’t begging. Elder McRae doesn’t beg anyone for anything. But she’s desperate, and she knows without Lanoe’s help, her world will die.

It’s an intense, fraught scene. It is not particularly typical of the book. This book is full of spaceships twisting through the void in fast-paced dogfights. It’s chock full of mysteries and their revelations, of people trying to connect with each other in the midst of mortal danger. Most scenes full of action and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

But on page 69, there’s an old woman trying very hard to convince a warrior just to listen to her. To give her a chance to tell her story.

I hope you’ll give me the same chance, and check out my book. And be ready for what happens on page 490, because it’s awesome.
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Gods of Nabban"

K. V. Johansen is the author of The Lady, The Leopard, and Blackdog and numerous works for children, teens, and adults.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Gods of Nabban, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Yeh-Lin angled the inscribed silver mirror to catch the moon. Something had been nagging on the edges of her dreams, prickling when she drifted on the edge of sleep, for some time now. She had found herself unusually reluctant to pursue it. That fact ... began to interest her.
Well, page 69 in Gods of Nabban turns out not to be one of those pages that encapsulates the flavour of the book. Gods of Nabban is very character-driven and heavy with both action and psychological drama, focused, more than the other books set in the world of the caravan road, on a single pair of characters, though the story does have threads that follow other people as well. Ghu, a runaway slave and the returning heir of the gods of Nabban, and Ahjvar, the severely troubled assassin whom he loves and who, though he wants only to die, is trying to live for Ghu’s sake, are the primary protagonists and they don’t get a look-in on that page. Neither does Ivah, a character who’s been around through assorted traumas and revelations since her villainous beginnings in Blackdog; she’s now on a spiritual quest that will bring her to cross paths with Ghu, as will the journey of Kaeo, a slave actor and most unwilling prophet of the dying gods, and his rescuer Rat, who is, shall we say, rather high up in the counsels of a conquered nation currently at war with Nabban.

However, on page 69 what you get is Yeh-Lin, who is one of the seven devils -- formerly-human wizards who exist as beings of conjoined or imperfectly merged souls, having bound themselves to seven devils who escaped from the hells in which they were imprisoned long ago. Yeh-Lin is also a former empress and tyrant of Nabban. She claims to be reformed and repentant, and is, at the moment we see her, a tutor in history and languages to Ahjvar’s great-something-granddaughter. The young apprentice bard Deyandara doesn’t really need her any more, though, and Yeh-Lin, here, has been scrying around -- probably trying to keep an eye on Ghu, who fascinates her -- and is seeing a vision of something in Nabban that troubles her -- a young man “so bruised and bloodied and bandaged, blood seeping through his bandages, too, that it was hard to guess at the bones underlying his swollen features...” and a very grand and elegant woman handling him, but there is “a third presence in the room, an attenuated thread” which hurls her out of the vision and leaves her briefly, though she denies that even to herself, afraid. She conquered a fair chunk of the world in her day. Gods sacrificed themselves trying to overcome her. She doesn’t do fear.

Yeh-Lin, if she were an animal, would be a cat. Something weird. Hmm. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it’s fun. Maybe I’ll just poke it daintily with my paw a little, to see what happens ... So there’s something disturbing and dangerous brooding in the heart of Nabban, and Ghu -- probably the one being in the world Yeh-Lin would actually admit to standing in awe of -- is, with his dead king (as Yeh-Lin calls Ahjvar because it annoys him so much), heading for Nabban ... possibly to claim the empire as his own. Clearly the boys can’t be allowed to keep all the fun to themselves.
Visit K. V. Johansen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: K.V. Johansen & Ivan.

The Page 69 Test: The Leopard.

The Page 69 Test: The Lady.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Cruel Beautiful World"

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Girls In Trouble, and other books.

Leavitt applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Cruel Beautiful World, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Iris saw how her mother suffered, how her sadness seeped through the walls, held there like a stain. “He’ll be back,” her mother said. Every week, she still went to the beauty parlor because she wanted to look her best for when he came back. She wore makeup and dresses and cooked elaborate roasts, because any night could be the night he was coming back, and wouldn’t he want something delicious to eat? Every day when Iris came home from school, her mother was at the kitchen table, looking at the society pages, and Iris never knew why until one day she came home and found her mother crying, and then saw the photo of the young, pretty bride in the white gown, and her father standing behind her. Iris saw how the bride was twenty-three. Ten years younger than Iris’ mother.
Page 69 of Cruel Beautiful World is about Iris, the elderly adoptive mom of sisters Charlotte and Lucy. Iris is telling us about how her mother couldn't let go of Iris’ father, even when he left both of them, quickly going into a new family with a younger wife. So it is and isn’t like the rest of the book. It isn’t in that Lucy’s running away to a back to the land paradise that turns into nightmare, and Charlotte’s trying to find her is the main story. But it is in the emotions. People loving and trusting the wrong persons. People trying to fix something that cannot be fixed, no matter what you do.
Learn more about the book and author at Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pictures of You.

My Book, the Movie: Pictures of You.

The Page 69 Test: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Cruel Beautiful World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Casting Bones"

Don Bruns is an award-winning novelist, songwriter, musician and advertising executive who lives in South Florida. He is the author of five Mick Sever Caribbean mysteries, and seven Lesser and Moore mysteries.

Bruns applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Casting Bones, the first book in a new series, and reported the following:
I’ve written the page 69 challenge for several of my books. Reading page 69 of Casting Bones took me by surprise. The New Orleans based crime novel (complete with a voodoo queen who helps solve a murder) is based around corruption, graft, and greed plus a rush to judgement that could get the wrong man convicted.

The question the protagonist, Detective Quentin Archer, keeps asking is ‘why?’ Every time he answers a ‘why’ he’s that much closer to solving the murder. What surprised me was that all of those factors in the book come into play on page 69. The atmosphere of a steamy New Orleans and the oddball assortment of colorful characters is missing but the essence of the story is there. Tension, anger, a push for justice…it’s all on the page. Just don’t skip the rest of the book, okay. There’s a lot more intrigue and excitement in Casting Bones.
Learn more about the book and author at Don Bruns's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stuff to Die For.

My Book, The Movie: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

The Page 69 Test: Stuff to Spy For.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

My Book, The Movie: Casting Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2016


Marina Budhos is the author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction. Her novels for young adults are Tell Us We’re Home and Ask Me No Questions. Her nonfiction books include Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers and Sugar Changed the World, which she cowrote with her husband, Marc Aronson.

Budhos applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Watched, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Watched is the end of one scene and the beginning of another; both, however, are family scenes: Naeem and his half-brother, Zahir, and Naeem with his parents, dreading, waiting for them to come home as he must tell them he’s failing high school.

In the first scene, Zahir is dreamily talking about Spiderman, his favorite super hero, and saying that if he went to Forest Hills High, maybe he’d meet Peter Parker.
“There are special cells,” he explains. “They absorbed the radioactivity. They go through his bloodstream, even his heart, especially the aorta. That’s what’s so effective.” Zahir used to pore over an old illustrated book on the body I bought for a dollar on the street. Now I can see, he’s wobbling between believing in Spider-Man’s special powers and his own crazy, factual head.”
I guess I love this passage because it’s all about brothers—so central to the book—and about heroes and believing. The two brothers share and communicate through comic books, and Naeem himself is sorting out not just what he believes, but how to move out of his own dreamy boyhood, into the hard realities of growing up.

The next scene his parents arrive:
After Zahir goes to bed, I sit at the kitchen table, my stomach twisted raw, waiting for my parents to come home. I’m back to feeling bruised, shaky, as if someone has knocked me hard in the ribs. Taylor is right. Tell them.

The key scrapes in the lock and my parents shuffle in, looking worn, preoccupied. Amma sets down the crinkly glazed plastic bag she uses for groceries she gets half price, when the shops close. Before I can say a word, Abba drops down in the La-Z-Boy. He doesn’t even bother to go in the bedroom and change into his favorite lungi, as he always does, the fabric washed so many times I can see its pale white threads.
To me, this is the other central relationship: his parents, with whom he feels such chest-sucking guilt. He notices and knows everything about them—how exhausted, how thrifty they are to just get by—and yet he’s all smashed up, knowing he’s failed them.

Thus, p. 69 gets to the core of the book—Naeem’s deep attachment to his family, his guilt, his screwing up, which leads him into a central dilemma—getting in trouble with the law and ultimately agreeing to be an informant.
Visit Marina Budhos's website.

My Book, The Movie: Watched.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Making Friends with Billy Wong"

Augusta Scattergood is a former librarian turned book reviewer turned middle-grade author. Her books include Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny.

Scattergood applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, Making Friends with Billy Wong, and reported the following:
I love this test. When I was a school librarian, it was one way I helped young readers decide if they'd like a book or not.

One of my favorite scenes to write begins at the bottom of page 68 and continues to page 69. So I fudged a little.
"That's my mama's favorite!" I hummed along about a blue moon and a dream in my heart. "The day I was born, Daddy called the radio station and requested that song for Mama and me."

My grandmother put down her iced-tea glass and settled her hands in her lap. "You don't say," she said very quietly.

"I know all the words. Since I was barely tall enough to put my arms around his waist, I've danced on my daddy's shoes." I was still a little mad at Mama, but remembering her and Daddy carrying on to music made me smile.

Grandma Clark turned to face the window, away from me. "Get me some more tea, Azalea. While you're up, cut off the radio."

“But I love 'Blue Moon.'"

"I asked you to turn it off. We've heard enough," she answered.
I think this passage very indicative of the book because it shows how Azalea and her grandmother struggled to get to know each other when Azalea first came to help Grandma Clark. Azalea misses her parents, her dad especially, and Grandma Clark loves to criticize.

Truthfully, I'm also fond of this scene because I remember dancing on my own daddy's shoes!
Learn more about the book and author at Augusta Scattergood's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Way to Stay in Destiny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Three Truths and a Lie"

Brent Hartinger is the award-winning author of a number of novels, mostly for and about teens, including Geography Club (2003) and five companion books, The Last Chance Texaco (2004); Grand & Humble (2006); Project Sweet Life (2008); and Shadow Walkers (2011).

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Three Truths and a Lie, and reported the following:
Three Truths and a Lie is a young adult novel -- part horror novel, part twisty puzzle box thriller. It's the story of four teenagers who spend a weekend in a remote cabin in the rainforests of Washington State, and soon find themselves terrorized by some locals. Or is it the locals? It soon becomes clear that nothing in the rainforest is exactly what it appears, and none of the teens is telling the whole truth about anything.

Page 69 is right in the middle of the spot in the book when the characters play the party game Three Truths and a Lie, the night they first arrive at the cabin. The whole point of the game is for the players to see how good a liar they are, and also judge the lying abilities of the other players. I like this scene a lot, because there's a lot more going on than meets the eye -- not just between the players themselves, but also between me and the reader. Suffice to say that there is a hell of a lot of lying going on in this scene! But what exactly is going on won't be clear until you finish the novel.
Visit Brent Hartinger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 19, 2016


Robert K. Tanenbaum is the author of thirty-one books—twenty-eight novels and three nonfiction books. He is one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys, having never lost a felony trial and convicting hundreds of violent criminals. He was a special prosecution consultant on the Hillside strangler case in Los Angeles and defended Amy Grossberg in her sensationalized baby death case. He was Assistant District Attorney in New York County in the office of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the DA’s legal staff training program. He served as Deputy Chief counsel for the Congressional Committee investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills and taught Advanced Criminal Procedure for four years at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted continuing legal education (CLE) seminars for practicing lawyers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, where he earned a B.A. He received his law degree (J.D.) from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tanenbaum applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Infamy: A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi thriller, and reported the following:
From page 69:
So he shut down her credit cards and knew she’d return if for no other reason than their son. When she came back, he beat her black and blue. “And if you ever leave me without permission, you’ll never see Tommy again,” he sneered into her tear-stained face.

Lately she’d seemed unusually happy. She didn’t give him any “looks,” or challenge him in any way. She even seemed to be drinking less. He wondered if it was because she was screwing Richie Bryers, the basketball coach at the exclusive prep school where Tommy was enrolled. He’d hired Bryers to coach Tommy in his spare time, also figuring that the “golden carrot” would assure his boy a place on the varsity squad in a couple of years.

As if on cue, Bryers appeared from the bathhouse where he’d apparently been changing into a swimsuit and white robe. He removed the robe to enter the pool. Constantine studied the man. An avid tennis player, he was no slouch himself, but he was impressed with the coach’s tanned, sculpted physique. He knew the man stayed active not just on the basketball court where he’d once been a highly recruited New York Public High School player and then all-American point guard at Harvard, but also was a skier, surfer, and mountain climber.

Bryers saw him looking and smiled and waved. Constantine smiled and waved back. He actually liked the man—at least, as much as he liked anyone—and that’s why he extended the use of the pool and guesthouse to him whenever they were spending time there. It didn’t hurt that he believed that between the money and the “perks,” Bryers was bought and paid for in regard to his son’s special tutoring and future on the team. After all, he chuckled to himself, everyone has a price.
Infamy is a murder mystery focusing on the murderous effects that result from weak character and unbridled ambition intertwined with shocking deception. In Infamy, those who lust for power evince a delusional belief system that rationalizes illegality as justified politically when “done for the greater good” and, therefore, can be engaged in with impunity.

At page 69, District Attorney Butch Karp is about to engage a killer in Manhattan’s Central Park. The killer holds the keys that can very well open Pandora’s Box into the self-anointed top echelon of politicos who are engaging in acts of treasonous infamy.
Visit Robert K. Tanenbaum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Robert Wilder is the author of a novel, Nickel, and two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink, both optioned for television and film.

A teacher for twenty-five years, Wilder has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in Newsweek, Details, Salon, Parenting, Creative Nonfiction, plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition.

Wilder applied the Page 69 Test to Nickel and reported the following:
The final line on page 69 in my novel Nickel is a question from Monroe, Coy’s sick best friend after she convinces him to ditch school in the middle of the day. Coy made a promise to his mother that he’d never do something like that—be the cliché boy who acts out because his dad is dead and his mother is in rehab. He’s the kind of kid who is worried about everything, getting in trouble being first item on a long list of worries. Monroe asks, “What kind of trouble will we get into that would be worse than what we’ve already been through?” This line stings Coy because it forces him to face the difficult landscape of his life—haunting past, tumultuous present, and seemingly daunting future. Just like many teenagers, Coy’s paralysis (and eventual action) is at the heart of the novel and representative of the work as a whole. I think most casual readers would want to turn the page to see how he deals with the aftermath of his decision to follow Monroe into dark places.
Visit Robert Wilder's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Daddy Needs A Drink.

My Book, The Movie: Nickel.

Writers Read: Robert Wilder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Red Right Hand"

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015.

Holm applied the Page 69 Test to Red Right Hand, the second Hendricks novel, and reported the following:
Red Right Hand is the sequel to The Killing Kind, which introduced the world to Michael Hendricks. Once a covert operative for the US military, Hendricks makes his living hitting hitmen… or he did, until a criminal organization known as the Council caught wind and targeted the people he loves.

When viral video of a terrorist attack in San Francisco reveals that a Federal witness long thought dead is still alive, the organization he’d agreed to testify against—the Council—will stop at nothing to put him in the ground.

Special Agent Charlie Thompson is determined to protect him, but her hands are tied; the FBI’s sole priority is catching the terrorists before they strike again. So Charlie calls the only person on the planet who can keep her witness safe: Michael Hendricks.

Believing this witness could hold the key to taking the Council down, Hendricks agrees, even though it means wading into the center of a terror plot whose perpetrators are not what they seem.

Sounds exciting, right? Sure… but what’s on page sixty-nine? A bad man on his way to pick up a ringing telephone:
Sal’s office was a cliché of a gentleman’s study. Mahogany paneling. Built-in floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with books he’d never read. A hinged, hand-painted globe that doubled as a bar cart. Burnished-leather armchairs. Banker’s lamps. An antique Wooton desk on which sat a phone, a leather blotter, and a computer.

Sal walked by it without a glance. His office was for show. A rodeo clown, intended to distract. He never conducted any business of real import in it.

The ringing phone was in his second guest room, which was tucked behind the kitchen. The third floor of Sal’s house comprised a guest suite—bedroom, bathroom, and sitting room—and that was where visitors typically stayed. Consequently, this bedroom was rarely used, and everything about it appeared to be an afterthought: The simple, metal-framed twin bed. The cheap floral comforter. The empty dresser. The prefab particleboard nightstand, upon which sat a lamp, a box of tissues, and an old rotary phone.

The phone wasn’t registered in Sal’s name. In fact, the line used to be connected to his neighbor’s teenage daughter’s room. When their house was foreclosed on years ago during the recession, he had surreptitiously had it rerouted and set the bill to auto-deduct from an online checking account opened for just that purpose. The former was a simple matter of redirecting a single wire; the latter, snatching a bill from his neighbor’s mailbox and calling the phone company to update the payment method. Committing fraud to get money out of major corporations is a tricky business, but committing fraud to give them money is easy, because they never think to question getting paid.
Sure, a little whiz-bang would’ve been nice, but I rather like the mystery generated by this phone call. Don’t you want to know who’s on the other end? Aren’t you curious why Sal works so hard to make his business line seem unimportant? Buy a copy of Red Right Hand and the answers you seek are but seventy pages away.
Visit Chris Holm's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Kind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Blue Madonna"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Blue Madonna, the eleventh installment of the series, and reported the following:
The beginning of the page 69 entry should make fans of the series feel right at home. Billy Boyle and his friend Baron Piotr Kazimierz have just returned from an assignment to the Dorchester Hotel in London, where “Kaz” hangs his hat. Kaz is Polish, and his family had visited him while at school in England before the war, and took a suite of room at the Dorchester. They returned to Poland, planning on immigrating to England, knowing war was looming. They did not act quickly enough, and were all killed as the Soviets invaded Poland from one side and the Nazis from the other. In this passage, Billy muses on why Kaz stays in this suite, and the changes he has seem in him over the past two years:
Making this suite his home was Kaz’s way of staying connected, I guess. To a family and a time ground into dust by war and hatred. He was the last of his line, with more money than he knew what to do with, a penchant for taking chances, and delight at taking revenge whenever he could. When I’d first met him, he was a skinny spectacle-wearing egghead, an expert at European languages and the finest wines. Two years later, he’d built up his body to serve him as well as his intellect and resolve. Now he was a wiry, tenacious, spectacle-wearing egghead, who was a terror with his Webley break-top revolver.
There is more on this page, having to do with black market criminals and stool pigeons, but I’ll leave that part for readers to discover on their own.
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Wave.

The Page 69 Test: Evil for Evil.

The Page 69 Test: Rag and Bone.

My Book, The Movie: Death's Door.

The Page 69 Test: The White Ghost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Lion Island"

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her most recent picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Engle lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a blank page between sections, so it is not typical of Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words. This young adult historical verse novel is inspired by the memoir of Antonio Chuffat, a messenger boy of Chinese, African, and Cuban ancestry who documented the nonviolent freedom struggle of indentured Cantonese laborers. Like so many 19th century Cubans, Antonio’s parents worked in the sugar fields, and were housed in slave barracoons, where Chinese men married Congolese and Yoruba women, creating an entirely new and unique blended culture, with distinctive linguistic, spiritual, musical, and culinary traditions.

If we look at page 68 instead of the blank 69, we find a brief poem in the voice of a fictional girl named Fan, who is leaving a rural shack to venture into Havana, where she hopes to become a singer.
On the Night Before I Run Away

I chop
wild fennel,
stir garlic
into soup
in a kettle,
toss in a few
and inhale
the spicy aroma
of my rapidly growing
Fan and her family are among the five thousand Chinese-American refugees who have fled anti-Asian violence in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She and her twin brother Wing are important characters in this novel, because in his memoir, Antonio Chuffat credited los californios with bringing concepts of freedom and democracy to Cuba, where islanders were at war with colonial Spain, fighting simultaneously for independence and an end to slavery.

I consider page 68 to be typical because it is both wistful hopeful., with a trace of defiance These are aspects of nearly every verse novel I’ve ever written, because my characters are usually inspired by the diaries, letters, and other first person accounts of historical figures who lived in times and places where young people had to make difficult choices. In Fan’s case, claiming the freedom to sing means leaving her family.
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"A Wife of Noble Character"

Yvonne Georgina Puig grew up in Houston, Texas. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband, Toben Seymour.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Wife of Noble Character, and reported the following:
I wouldn't say that page 69 is representative of the whole book (and reading it now I see some adjectives I wish I had cut), but it is setting up a big moment for Vivienne. She has just woken up after an important night, and is about to experience some of its repercussions. It's the first time the reader really sees Vivienne struggling to balance being true to her self with participating "correctly" in her social milieu.
Visit Yvonne Georgina Puig's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Wife of Noble Character.

Writers Read: Yvonne Georgina Puig.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 9, 2016

"The Wedding Shop"

Rachel Hauck is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress and other books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Wedding Shop, and reported the following:
This is a tough test. I'm going to have to flip to page 69 to see how I fare!
She passed it on to her great-niece, Cora, who ran the shop for over fifty years.” Keith turned the lock and shoved the door open.

“Fifty-five years.” Haley remembered the details of her sixth-grade paper, which she typed on the kids’ computer, propping the picture she’d found when she was ten, hiding from the rain in the shop, against the desk lamp.

“Perfect. You already know more than I do. The historical society might have some intel, but you can bet there’s some little old blue hair in town who bought her wedding trousseau here.” Keith mimed sipping from a cup of tea with his pinky in the air, then stepped aside, as Haley entered the foyer. “Well, what do you think?”

Haley wrinkled her nose. “What’s that smell?”

She stood in the narrow foyer with Keith, pinned in by walls that hadn’t been there when she was playing brides with Tammy.

“Hey, sorry I’m late.” Cole cut between them, stepping into the foyer, dusting the snow from his dark brown hair, his blue eyes bright against his red-tinged cheeks.

“This was as far as we got,” Haley said.

“Look at this place.” Cole kicked one of the dividing walls, grabbing the edge and giving it a shake. “This is not up to code. Probably wasn’t permitted.”

“It’s not part of the design.” Haley slipped a document from her messenger bag. “Drummond Branson gave me a copy of the original plans. He said the historical society would give me a lot of room as long as we stick to the main structure.”

Cole reached for it, studying the lines, then scanning the shop. “All of this should be open.”

“Exactly.” Haley cut through the doorway on her right. The walls cut off all the light coming through the front display windows. “This was the grand salon, I think. It’s the biggest room. Not sure what Miss Cora did here.” She exited back into the foyer. “This is the staircase and over here”—she slipped through the doorway on the left—“is the small salon.”

The smaller salon had a stained carpet covering the floor replete with a near black pathway from the front door to the back. “This is nasty.”

“Yeah, the last business in here,” Keith said, “was a computer repair shop, Microfix or something, and the guy was a slob.”

Cole disappeared into what looked like a butler’s pantry, made some kind of racket, then reappeared. “The wall is wet. Probably a leak in the roof, which means mold.”
Okay, I'm back. Page 69 in The Wedding Shop is a key page. Who knew? When we move from page 68, Haley, our contemporary heroine is scouting out the old wedding shop with a realtor, Keith, and contractor, Cole​—who is the about to become the love of her life. But she doesn't know, of course.

Since the shop is a character in the story, it's critical for the reader to see, feel and smell the shop. To touch it. To walk through the rooms and get a vision for what it was and what it could be. Closed for almost 30 years, Haley plans to bring it back to bridal-life. But she's inexperienced and broke.

We also learn a bit of the shop's history on this page. Who founded it. Its importance to fictional Heart's Bend, TN. Delivering the back story of an inanimate object can be tricky. You don't want the characters just parroting details but the shop can't speak for itself. So little by little, Haley, Keith and Cole present the shop to the reader.

Could the story work without this page? I don't think so. Because somewhere, somehow, the reader must "see" the shop. This is that page.
Visit Rachel Hauck's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"The Dread Line"

Bruce DeSilva grew up in a parochial Massachusetts mill town where metaphors and alliteration were in short supply. Nevertheless, his crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies, and his book reviews for The Associated Press appear in hundreds of publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer.

DeSilva applied the Page 69 Test to The Dread Line, the fifth novel in his crime series featuring Liam Mulligan, who was recently fired from his investigative reporter job at a dying Providence, R.I. newspaper. He reported the following:
From page 69:
“What was the stolen jewelry worth?” I asked.

“It’s insured for six point three million,” Booth said. “Of course, anybody trying to fence it will have to settle for about twenty percent of that.”

“Suppose you had the goods,” I said. “How would you dispose of them?’

“Half of the pieces are unique designs,” Booth said. “Unless you wanted to get caught, you’d have to break them up, melt the settings down for the gold and platinum, and reset the stones. The other half were bought over the counter at Harry Winston, Van Cleef, and Chopard. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of pieces just like them, so you probably could get away with selling them out of a pawn shop or on eBay. Happens all the time.”

“How would you know which ones were unique?” I asked.

“A fence who specializes in rare jewelry could figure it out,” Booth said.

“How many fences like that are there?”

“In the U.S., we’ve identified a couple of dozen, but there are sure to be others we don’t know about.”

“Are any of them local?”

“The closest one is Max Barber up in Boston.”

“Have you had a chat with him?” I asked.

“I have. “Gave him photos of the stolen jewelry, asked him to be on the lookout, and promised him fifteen percent of the insured amount if he helps with recovery.”

“Did you make the same offer to the others?’

“The ones we know of, yeah.”

“Does this ever work?”

“More often than you might think.”

“Have you talked to Carmine Grasso?” I asked.

“Who’s that?”

“The go-to guy in Rhode Island for disposing of stolen goods.”

“Does he have the expertise to handle something like this?” Booth asked.

“He deals mostly in pilfered electronics and hijacked liquor,” I said, “but there are a lot of jewelers in Rhode Island, Harvey. Expertise can be bought.”
Page 69 finds Mulligan comparing notes about a spectacular jewelry heist with an insurance investigator named Harvey Booth – one of several obsessions that keep distracting Mulligan from a bigger case that requires his full attention. The New England Patriots, shaken by murder charges brought against their superstar tight end, have hired Mulligan to investigate the background of a college athlete they’re thinking of drafting. At first the job seems routine, but as soon as he begins asking questions, he gets push-back. The player, it seems, has something to hide—and someone is willing to kill to make sure it remains secret.
Visit Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva & Brady and Rondo.

My Book, The Movie: The Dread Line.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Scavenger of Souls"

Joshua David Bellin has been writing books since the age of eight (though his first few were admittedly very, very short). He is the author of Survival Colony 9 and its sequel, Scavenger of Souls. When he’s not writing, he spends his time drawing, catching amphibians, and watching monster movies with his kids. A Pittsburgh native, Bellin has taught college English, published three nonfiction books (one about monsters!), and taken part in the movement to protect the environment.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Scavenger of Souls and reported the following:
It’s appropriate to apply this test to page 69 of Scavenger of Souls, because that’s exactly what’s happening on that page: my teenage protagonist, Querry Genn, is being tested.

Querry and his friends have been taken captive by a man who calls himself Asunder, leader of a small group of survivors who’ve rejected machine technology in the wake of devastating wars. Asunder’s hunting for new recruits, and he’s presented Querry and the other teens with a terrible choice: join him, or be sacrificed to the unknown power that dwells in the desert, the Scavenger of Souls. On page 69, the teens debate the offer, which is ultimately a test of their resolve, their friendship, and their lives.

For Querry, the group’s nominal leader, that test carries particular urgency. He wants to protect his people, but he’s running out of time, and there are mysterious forces working against him. The choices Querry makes, the risks he’s willing to run, and the sacrifices he’s willing to endure are what drive the book to its conclusion.

Does Querry pass the test in the end? Read Scavenger of Souls to find out!
Visit Joshua David Bellin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Leave Me"

Gayle Forman is a journalist and award-winning and New York Times bestselling author whose many young adult novels include I Was Here, Just One Day, and If I Stay, which was also a major motion picture. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Forman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Leave Me, and reported the following:
This test is uncanny. I’ve done it for several of my books and it always lands on a significant page but maybe never more so than in Leave Me.

Page 69 is short, three brief paragraphs. Maribeth Klein is a busy, overextended working mother, trying to juggle her job as a magazine editor, her demanding four-year-old twins, with minimal help from her well-meaning but hapless husband. She’s so busy that when she begins having chest pains and nausea, she refuses to believe it’s a heart attack. (Who has time for that?) But it is, and the diagnosis eventually leads to emergency bypass surgery.

Coming home from the hospital to recover, Maribeth discovers that the people around her are so used to leaning on her that she cannot lean on them. The refrigerator is empty. The taxes go unpaid. The kids come home from school with lice. Tired and depleted, Maribeth struggles to keep the balls in the air.

But she can’t. A few weeks after her surgery, she feels herself deteriorating, healing backwards, leading her to fear not just for her life, but for what would become of her four-year-old twins if something were to happen to her. In a panic, she calls in a sympathetic visiting nurse named Luca for an exam. Though Maribeth’s heart rate and EKG check out fine, Luca commiserates with her patient’s predicament—she tells Maribeth that a common fantasy among women is a hospital stay because it’s a guilt-free vacation. On page 69, Luca tells Maribeth: “If you want to get better, really better, well, you’re going to have to do that for yourself.”

This turns out to be pivotal for what comes next. Because on the next page, Maribeth takes that advice to heart. She packs a bag and runs away.
Learn more about the book and author at Gayle Forman's website.

The Page 69 Test: If I Stay.

The Page 69 Test: Where She Went.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 5, 2016

"The Memory of Things"

Gae Polisner is the award-winning author of The Summer of Letting Go and The Pull of Gravity. A family law attorney and mediator by trade, but a writer by calling, she lives on Long Island and swims in the open waters of the Long Island Sound.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Memory of Things, and reported the following:
The Memory of Things unfolds the morning of September 11, 2001, as 17-year-old Kyle Donohue, fleeing to safety over the Brooklyn Bridge, finds a girl crouched in fear, covered in smoke and ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. He brings her home to safety only to discover she has no idea who she is or why she was there.

From page 69:
“And, no, my uncle wasn’t drinking. Everyone asks that.” I always add that last part because it’s the first thing people assume when they hear what happened. “He nearly died, broke his spine... “ I look at Uncle Matt and stop. He doesn’t need to hear the ugly replay. The spinal cord injury. The swelling on his brain. The surgeries to try to repair things. Besides, she can probably figure it out by the mumbling and drooling and itty-bitty pasta pieces. By his ragdoll neck and dead-fish right hand. Which is the one that works at all.

She looks up, first at me, then over at Uncle Matt, who rolls his head up and says, “Ky-uh... where... you... dah?”

“I know,” I say, trying not to break down and cry. “It’s getting late. I wish we’d hear from him.”
Aw, I truly love that Uncle Matt is featured on p. 69, this being the scene where the girl first meets him, as Kyle tries deal with the stress of the disaster around him and not knowing if his first-responder father is going to make it home.

Uncle Matt, an injured lieutenant and former memory expert now relegated to a wheelchair, is an early reader favorite so far. I think my adoration for my own uncle, Richard Kahn, informed my writing of the character, and shines through all the scenes with him.
Visit Gae Polisner's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Summer of Letting Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 4, 2016

"Breath of Earth"

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella Wings of Sorrow and Bone. Her newest novel is Breath of Earth. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

Cato applied the Page 69 Test to Breath of Earth and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test takes me to chapter 3 of Breath of Earth, when my heroine, Ingrid, visits the home of an earth warden and finds the place ransacked. She's surprised when another man arrives--one who she met briefly earlier in the day, right before an explosion obliterated the building she was in.

Part of my page 69:
[Ingrid] eyed the Tesla rod and considered the man again. He didn’t strike her as a hooligan. He looked like a teacher or an accountant—and not a very well-off one, at that. His leather coat had a few years of wear to it, with the edges fuzzed to white. The condition of the jacket and tie beneath looked similar, being tidy yet shabby.

Peculiar, though, how he showed up at the auxiliary so soon before it exploded. Ingrid lowered the pistol but kept it in her grip. No reason to trust the man, even if she wanted to admire him like a Remington bronze.

“This morning, I do believe you mentioned you were a secretary at the auxiliary?”

“Yes, I am, sir. Ingrid Carmichael. I work for Warden Sakaguchi, specifically, and assist the board.”

“Don’t see many secretaries toting about pistols.”

“Shooting is taught right along with coffee brewing, shorthand, and bookkeeping, though I haven’t taken the course in knife throwing yet. That’s next on the list.”
This excerpt is a good example of the light romance within the book. This is one of the first times that Ingrid and Cy speak, and it doesn't take long for the fun banter to begin. This is a brief interlude between tense scenes, a chance for the two to uneasily get to know each other even as she holds a pistol and he holds a Tesla rod, a weapon that causes an electric shock. I don't place a major emphasis on the romance within the book--my characters are pretty occupied with trying to stay alive--but I think moments like this are essential. Books with constant tension can be fun and fast to read through, but I appreciate a good ebb and flow, where the tension is broken by moments that make me grin or laugh out loud. I hope that's how readers will react as they read this page.
Visit Beth Cato's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Clockwork Dagger.

My Book, The Movie: The Clockwork Crown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 2, 2016


Barbara O’Connor is the author of award-winning novels for children, including How to Steal a Dog, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. Drawing on your her South Carolina roots, O’Connor’s books are known for their strong Southern settings and quirky characters.

In addition to six Parents Choice Awards, O’Connor’s distinctions include School Library Journal Best Books, Kirkus Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables. She has had books nominated for children’s choice awards in 38 states.

O’Connor applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, Wish, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I never should’ve told him about my wishing. I’d never told anybody and now that I had, it did sound dumb. Why would anyone make the same wish every day if it never came true? Maybe I should give up.

But then guess what happened? I looked at the clock and it was 11:11! I closed my eyes and made my wish.

By the time I got home from school, my mad feelings about Howard were gone and I was glad he had a plan to catch Wishbone. When I told Bertha I was going to his house the next day, she was tickled pink. She kept telling me how good I was to be friends with Howard ‘cause other kids were so mean to him.

“Even in church,” she said. “Can you believe that?”

I didn’t tell her I sure could believe that, with the likes of Audrey Mitchell in that so-called church family.

That afternoon, Howard dropped into the seat next to me and said, “You can borrow my brother Lenny’s bike.”

“What for?”

“So you can get home. Better than walking.” He took a smashed bag of potato chips out of his backpack and emptied the crumbs into his mouth. “I got a real good plan,” he said. “You know. For catching Wishbone.”
Wish is the story of eleven-year-old Charlie Reese, who has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

Page 69 is a perfect page to represent the story. It reveals Charlie’s short temper, her daily wishing, her longing to catch a stray dog named Wishbone, and her growing friendship with easy-going Howard. It also gives us a glimpse into Bertha’s loving heart and Howard’s bullying by other kids. About the only thing not represented on that page is the setting – the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Visit Barbara O'Connor's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Playing with Fire"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, and the newly released Playing With Fire.

Elias applied the Page 69 Test to Playing With Fire and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jacobus recalled the Abbott and Costello routine where the street-smart Abbott tried to explain the intricacies of the track to Costello. Much to the naïve Costello’s horror and chagrin, Abbott insisted that “the mudder ate the fodder.” Now Jacobus had something to eat, too. Crow.

“I guess I’ve been kicking a dead horse,” he said.

“Not at all,” Benson replied. “It was a long shot.”
On Page 69, Daniel Jacobus played one of his famous hunches. Evidential clues had led him to believe that Amadeo Borlotti’s mysterious disappearance and the burning down of his house were the result entanglement with criminal elements at the Saratoga Race Track. It seemed certain Borlotti visited the track to bet on the horses, including My Little Flower Child. How else could such a modest violin repairman have come upon a fortune so quickly…and lose it even faster?

Never had Jacobus been so wrong.
The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

The Page 69 Test: Danse Macabre.

The Page 69 Test: Death and the Maiden.

My Book, The Movie: Playing With Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue