Friday, December 30, 2016

"A Perfect Life"

Eileen Pollack is a writer whose novel Breaking and Entering, about the deep divisions between blue and red America, was named a 2012 New York Times Editor’s Choice selection.

She also is the author of Paradise, New York, a novel, and two collections of short fiction, In the Mouth and The Rabbi in the Attic, as well as a work of creative nonfiction called Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull (soon to be a major motion picture starring Jessica Chastain) and two innovative textbooks, Creative Nonfiction and Creative Composition.

Pollack applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Perfect Life, and reported the following:
From page 69:
We found a handicapped spot just outside the club, then got in the line and waited. The bouncer didn’t seem to notice us, even when Maureen was sitting right in front of his beery gut. The club was in a basement, and Maureen told him that we would need his help getting down the stairs.

He shook his head no.

“No?” Maureen said. “What do you mean no?”

“No wheelchairs.” He stamped the next couple’s hands.

“You have a law against wheelchairs?”

“No law,” he said. “I just don’t want to get a hernia.”

The couple behind us pushed past us. I wanted to seize the wheelchair and carry it down myself, but I had tried this once, at an entrance to the T, and nearly dropped Maureen down the longest flight of stairs in Boston. Most of all, I wanted to punch the bouncer. What a relief it would be to get angry on someone else’s behalf. For all her feistiness, Maureen rarely showed anger. “How can I?” she told me once. “I never know whose help I might need.” This was true of my own life as well. I couldn’t show anger toward my father, or Susan Bate, or Yosef or Vic. If Laurel came down with the disease, I would regret any harsh words I had ever said to her.

I told the bouncer that if he didn’t help me carry my friend’s chair down the steps, I would report him.

“Yeah?” he said. “To who?”

“Just tell me this,” Maureen said. “If I were inside the club, and I drank too much, and I picked a fight with someone, you would throw me out, wouldn’t you?”

The bouncer shrugged. “I guess so.”

“Okay, so why not throw me in.”

He narrowed his eyes. Then he grabbed the wheelchair, spun it roughly backward, and bumped it down the steps as if Maureen were a load of beer.

“You creep!” I yelled, wishing I’d had more practice cursing. I ran down and yanked his vest.

He turned and raised his fist. “Fuck you and your ugly friend,” he said. He plucked his vest from my hand and lumbered back up the steps.

“Don’t you want a kiss?” Maureen shouted up to him.

He shot us both the finger.

“That does it,” I told Maureen.

Never mind, she said. She had gotten us in, hadn’t she? She tried to straighten her stockings, but her hands were shaking.

“He shouldn’t be able to get away with that,” I said.

“Jane,” she said, “if I stopped to report everyone who was a jerk to me in the course of a day, I would never have any fun. Let’s go in. I’d rather spend my time dancing.”
A Perfect Life is the story of Jane Weiss, a young researcher working desperately to find a test for the genetic disease that killed her mother and that Jane herself has a 50-50 chance of having inherited. If she finds the marker for Valentine’s disease and learns she doesn’t have it, she can marry and have children without worrying that they, too, will die the lingering, painful death that killed her mother. But what if she does have the gene? And what if her sister, Laurel, has it? What are the ethics of developing a test for a debilitating, slow-acting disease that has no cure? Adding to the complexity of the novel is Jane’s relationship to Willie Land, the son of a famous folk singer who also died of Valentine’s. Willie loves Jane and wants to marry her even though their combined risk for carrying the gene for Valentine’s would make their marriage almost certain to result in a child with the disease, or one of them needing to see the other through a fatal illness. Inspired by the real-life research that led to the discovery of a marker for Huntington’s chorea, A Perfect Life explores the questions raised by our newfound ability to decode our genes. Has life become a matter of calculating percentages? Of trying to achieve a perfectly risk-free life? Is it possible—or even desirable—for human beings to evade the limits and imperfections to which our very bodies make us prone?

In this scene, taken from p 69 of the novel, Jane takes a rare moment to go dancing with her friend and fellow researcher, Maureen, who has been confined to a wheelchair since childhood as a result of her own disease, rheumatoid arthritis.
Visit Eileen Pollack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee"

Mary G. Thompson was raised in Cottage Grove and Eugene, OR. She was a practicing attorney for more than seven years, including almost five years in the US Navy, and is now a law librarian in Washington, DC. She received her BA from Boston University, her JD from the University of Oregon, and her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School.

Thompson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee, and reported the following:
On page 69, Amy, who has recently come home after being held captive for six years, is thinking about her father and comparing him to her kidnapper.
He always listened when I talked.

He smiled a lot.

He was a real father. The kind every kid deserved to have. The kind who doesn’t have moods, doesn’t lash out, doesn’t punish them by tossing their food. Doesn’t hit them. The kind who loves his kids’ mother for all the right reasons, who loves her because of who she really is.

There’s another kind of love. It’s the way you love the things you own, like your sports car or your favorite outfit—or your dolls. Some people would say it’s not really love at all. But they never saw the way Kyle looked at Stacie. They never saw the way he held Lola in his arms and smiled, the way his eyes lit up as he told her what a precious little doll she was. How angry he became when we didn’t act like dolls were supposed to. There’s a kind of love that’s just like hate, that won’t let go, that doesn’t give but only takes.

That wasn’t the way my dad loved me, or the way my dad loved my mom, once.
Amy is being more contemplative here than is typical. The nature of love versus obsession is a theme in the book, but more importantly, Amy’s story is about surviving unthinkable circumstances without losing oneself and about the balance between selflessness and survival. For Amy, the past six years hold dangerous secrets, but a normal future is at times just as terrifying. How can she go on with life as if her ordeal is over, when she knows that for others, it might never end?
Visit Mary G. Thompson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"A Venetian Vampire"

Award-winning author Michele Hauf has published over 80 novels in historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, as well as writing action/adventure as Alex Archer and erotica as Michele Renae.

Hauf applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Venetian Vampire, and reported the following:
I'll just include the text here and let you decide. From page 69:
“Maybe.” She leaned against the wall and crossed her arms.

“And where does this friend come in? I thought you said you’d picked up a piece of art for him. Or was that a lie you made up when we met at the bar? It is a him, yes?”

“It is. And it wasn’t a lie. But how can you know the art I told you about was the egg?”

“You’ve committed two heists since arriving in Venice?”

Kyler shook her head. The man was insufferable! “Just the one. What about you? You said you were casing the place the same time as me. You don’t strike me as particularly in need of pin money.”

“I am quite well off, thank you.”

No kidding. The palazzo must be worth a fortune, and she bet the suits alone set him back a couple thousand per outfit. “And I recall you actually said you weren’t a thief? I don’t get it.”

“There’s nothing to get, Kyler. I wanted the Nécessaire egg. I devised a way to obtain it, via you.”

“How’d that work out for you?”

“I can’t argue the night ending on a high point with you pierced by my cock.” He smirked and stroked his jaw. The move was so sensual Kyler’s body heat rose a few degrees.

Neither could she make the argument. And just the sound of it—pierced by his cock—ooh, it gave her a good shiver.

“And I do love a good adventure. Such as werewolves,” he continued. “They provide a challenge. Keeps an old vamp on his toes. And in this case, I’ve also the pleasurable challenge of dallying with a very pretty vampiress thief who wishes to thwart my mission.”
I think it say a bit about both hero and heroine, and makes the reader wonder what the heck is going on (and that maybe it could be fun).
Visit Michele Hauf's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Venetian Vampire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The Iron Water"

Chris Nickson is the author of the highly-acclaimed Richard Nottingham series and is also a well-known music journalist. Born and raised in Leeds, he lived in the USA for thirty years and now makes his home in England.

Nickson applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in his Tom Harper mystery series, The Iron Water, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Everyone knew where Gilmore held court: The Sword, just on the far side of Marsh Lane. It was right on the boundary of his territory, next to Quarry Hill, where Archer had made his start, and facing out towards Leeds with a challenge. It was the only pub in Leeds with a Fenian Brotherhood flag hanging behind the bar, right next to a picture of William Gladstone, the man who supported home rule for Ireland.

From the outside it looked shabby, as rickety and empty of hope as the rest of the Bank. A big man leaned against the door jamb, picking at his teeth with a sliver of wood.

‘Ready?’ Harper asked.

‘As I’ll ever be, sir,’ Ash answered. ‘I made out my will a few months ago.’

They’d made one more stop on the way, at the union office on Kirkgate. Tom Maguire was working, writing furiously, scratching out words almost as soon as they came, then carrying on. He glanced up at the footsteps.

‘Make yourselves comfortable,’ he told them. ‘I need to get this thought down before I lose it forever.’

He looked no better than he had a few days before, the inspector thought. His pale skin was almost translucent, and every few seconds he gave a small cough.

Finally he finished, blotted the sheet, and sat back.

‘How’s the little one, Mr. Harper? Still blooming with health?

‘Of course.’

‘Good, good.’ He nodded. ‘Well, I know I’ve done nothing, so the pair of you must be here for information.’

‘It’s just something Annabelle mentioned last night. She told me you used to be close to Declan Gilmore.’

‘I did,’ he admitted, his face serious. ‘But that was another world and time, back when there was some innocence in his soul.’
I’m not sure any small slice of a book can ever be typical. But this gives a flavour of some of the interactions on the book – between Detective Inspector Harper and his Sergeant, Ash and Harper with the union man Tom Maguire (who really existed and was a political force in the 1890s in Leeds), where Harper’s wife Annabelle, who’s also vital to the book, is mentioned.

In some ways, it’s a book about the old and the new. The old criminal gangs, with their ideas locked in the past, being outsmarted and used by someone new. The changing political face of the time and place, with the formation of the Independent Labour Party. And the police themselves, forced to adapt to confront a new style of crime.

Historical crime fiction offers the chance to show the present through the prism of the past, because, in many ways, so little changes through history. Yes, the emphasis is on fiction, of course, but the late Victorian setting isn’t as far removed from where we are now as we might like to believe. It is, perhaps, a mystery with a social conscience.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Renting Silence"

Mary Miley is the winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Competition. She grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and France, and worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. After completing her masters in history, she worked at the museum and taught American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel, and business topics.

In 2013 Miley introduced her Roaring Twenties series with The Impersonator, then followed it with Silent Murders. She applied the Page 69 Test to the third book in the series, Renting Silence, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Turning to Clara I said, “You must have known her better. You’ve been living here for how long?”

“Almost four years. And yes, I knew her well. I liked her. She came from New Orleans, and I’ve got family in Baton Rouge, so we had that in common. She was a good friend, sober, and determined to succeed. Not scatterbrained and morally bankrupt like so many young girls today.”

“She wanted to be a screen star,” I prompted.

“And she was making progress. She had some credible parts, not just extras.”

“Were you here the day she was killed?”

“I was downstairs in my own room, so I heard nothing until someone screamed. I rushed upstairs.” She set her teacup on the table and gazed toward the window as if looking into the past. “It was monstrous seeing her on the floor like that, and then carried out on a stretcher. The amount of blood she lost convinced me that we wouldn’t meet again in this lifetime, and I was right. I was shaking so badly I could hardly make it back to my room and once there, well, I couldn’t sit. I just paced until one of the policemen stopped by to ask me what I knew. He looked around my rooms while I answered his questions. I wish I could have been more helpful. I knew of no one who would want to harm Lila. She was always so pleasant and generous. Later that night, I remembered I still had her caracul coat that she’d lent me the previous week. The pretty gray one, remember it, Emma? Well, the last thing I wanted was for someone to think I’d stolen it, so I crept upstairs to her room and returned it to her closet. And you know what? Someone had been there before me.”

She came to an abrupt stop, like a stage actress who has lost her place in the middle of the play. I waited, but when she showed no sign of continuing, I prompted, “What do you mean?”

“Only that there were a few items of clothing on the closet floor. Lila had beautiful clothes and she took good care of them. She didn’t toss them on her closet floor harum-scarum like an ill-bred schoolgirl. No, someone had been in her room after her death and helped themselves.”
Blackmail is an ugly crime in any era but particularly in the 1920s’ Hollywood, where rumors about homosexuality, illegitimate children, and extra-marital affairs destroy careers, ruin lives, and even lead to murder. Open to page 69 of Renting Silence and you’ll find Jessie, the former vaudeville performer turned silent film script girl, playing the role of a country girl come to Hollywood to be a star, just so she can investigate a murder that occurred in a boarding house. She’s asking a couple of the boarding house residents what they knew about Lila, the murdered woman.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Impersonator.

The Page 69 Test: Silent Murders.

My Book, The Movie: Silent Murders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Crime and Catnip"

T. C. LoTempio is the author of the nationally bestselling Nick and Nora mystery series. When she’s not writing books, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.

LoTempio applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Crime and Catnip, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Daniel gave him a poke and Nick rolled to one side. I gasped as I saw what Nick’s body had covered. The photograph of Nick Atkins and Angelique. I could have sworn I’d put it in the zipper compartment of my tote but, as I full well knew, mere zippers never seemed to stop Nick from acquiring things he perceived as his property.

Daniel stared at the photo. He turned it over in his hands. “Where did you get this?”

I reached for it but Daniel held it out of my grasp. “Ollie gave it to me. That’s Nick Atkins and his last girlfriend, Angelique Martone.”

Daniel’s brows drew together as he stared at the photo. “Angelique Martone?”

I nodded. “Yep. Apparently she and Nick Atkins had quite a serious relationship, but they had a big fight and she took off.” Daniel didn’t reply, just kept staring at the photo. For a brief second I thought I caught a flicker of annoyance in his blue eyes, and then his expression cleared. He set the photograph back on the counter and abruptly stood up. “Sorry to cut this visit short, but I’ve got to get going. I’ve got a few reports to file at the office.” He came over to me, gave my shoulders a quick squeeze. “I’ll give you a call about the details.”

“Still trust me to pick out your costume?”

He hesitated only slightly. “Absolutely.” He bent over, gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “Later, alligator,” he whispered, his breath hot on my cheek.

He walked out the door with a wave. I leaned against my counter, tapping the photo of Angelique against my palm. At my feet, Nick bleated out a plaintive meow.
In Crime and Catnip, Nora Charles is asked to investigate the strange disappearance of museum curator’s niece. At the same time, Nora is still poking around, trying to discover what might have happened to her cat Nick’s former owner, PI Nick Atkins, who’s been mysteriously missing for months. Page 69 sets the scene for what lies ahead: linking the disappearance of Violet Crenshaw’s niece to Atkins. And, as followers of this series can attest to, it’s Nick the cat who lends a paw to steer his human sleuth in the right direction!
Visit T.C. LoTempio's website.

My Book, The Movie: Crime and Catnip.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Cover Me in Darkness"

Eileen Rendahl is the national-bestselling and award-winning author of the Messenger series and four Chick Lit novels. Her alter ego, Eileen Carr, writes romantic suspense. Her other alter ego, Kristi Abbott, writes cozy mysteries.

Rendahl applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Cover Me in Darkness, and reported the following:
Here is the entirety of page 69 of Cover Me in Darkness. It’s the start of chapter eight so it’s a short page, but very representative of the book as a whole in theme and tone.
The words sounded ridiculous, melodramatic, delusional. I couldn’t not say them, though. I had to tell someone. I had to get help.

Sam looked down at my hand in his and then back up again. “Amanda, are you sure? Couldn’t this have been an accident? A slip-up in the lab? Carelessness of some kind by someone?”

I slid my hand out of his grasp. I’d known he would probably react that way. Any sane person would. It still disappointed me. Emotions were so irrational; no wonder I preferred numbers. “Of course it could be. And whoever pushed me out into traffic this morning might have just been clumsy, and whoever broke into the trunk of my car might have just been playing a prank.”
My heroine, Amanda, spends a good deal of the book doubting herself, doubting her own perceptions, and doubting the people around her. In this scene, she’s talking to her late mother’s psychiatrist. At this point, he’s the only person she knows that shares her suspicion there was something not quite right about her mother’s suicide. He’s her only ally, and yet he’s not sure whether he believes her when she finally tells him that she thinks someone might be trying to kill her, too.

She’s very alone, but before she can sway someone to her way of thinking, Amanda has to decide that she believes what she’s saying herself.
Visit Eileen Rendahl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Denny’s Law"

Elizabeth Gunn is from Minnesota but has lived everywhere else since graduation from college. She married during a season of work in Yellowstone Park and raised her children in Helena, Montana. After selling the inn-keeping business they built there, Gunn and her husband traveled extensively, aboard a sailboat in Mexico, in an RV all over North America, and by bus tours throughout Europe when they lived in Barcelona, Spain, for a year.

Gunn applied the Page 69 Test to her latest Sarah Burke novel, Denny's Law, and reported the following:
Like all police detectives, Sarah Burke follows wherever the evidence leads and has no two days alike. On page 69 of Denny’s Law, she and her team are hearing a ballistics report from the Firearms and Toolmarks scientist at her crime lab, who believes that God is in the details:
Banjo pushed his wire-rims onto his forehead and pursed his whole face into a pained squint… “My man at the store wouldn’t give me a phone number till he checked with the buyer. But the buyer, on the other hand, was so eager to talk about this gun that he called me.

“Norman Wasserman, that’s his name. He’s still a hobby shooter but he doesn’t have a Masterpiece any more—the one you found was stolen from him on New Year’s Day, 1995, while he and his family were skiing in Vermont. The thieves took many other items of value but the one he remembers with the most regret was the loss of his best guns out of a locked case in his study…kind of a man cave with two toy train sets and a big pool table. He says he’s got a steel door and frame on it now and a deadbolt lock; nobody’s ever getting in there again till he lets them in.”

All the men in the room, Sarah could see, were leaning toward Banjo with shining eyes. Any minute now they’re all going to drool, she thought.
Visit Elizabeth Gunn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Denny's Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"The Edit"

J. Sydney Jones is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels of the critically acclaimed Viennese Mystery series, The Empty Mirror, Requiem in Vienna, The Silence, The Keeper of Hands, A Matter of Breeding, and The Third Place. He lived for many years in Vienna and has written several other books about the city, including the narrative history, Hitler in Vienna: 1907-1913, the popular walking guide, Viennawalks, and the thriller, Time of the Wolf. Jones is also the author of the stand-alone thrillers and suspense novels Ruin Value: A Mystery of the Third Reich (2013), The German Agent (2014), Basic Law: A Mystery of Cold War Europe (2015), and The Edit (2016). He has lived and worked as a correspondent and freelance writer in Paris, Florence, Molyvos, and Donegal, and currently resides with his wife and son on the coast of Central California.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to The Edit and reported the following:
From page 69:

I cannot bring myself to deal with the Irish yet. I sit at my trestle table watching the jungle outside my windows, but I feel cut off from it. It is merely a surrealist painting.

This disconnected feeling has not overcome me for several decades, and of course it is Miss O’Brien’s doing. Why did she have to enter my serenity and destroy it with her snooping? Why did she have to spread her chaos into my well-ordered existence? My white-stucco home with its red-tile roof no longer feels like a fortress; the refectory table and priceless ladder-back chairs in the dining room no longer look as substantial as they once did. The two leather armchairs in front of my huge stucco fireplace no longer seem snug.

I have just returned from leaving food inside the door to the guest room on the second floor, and barely escaped with my life, for the Irish was waiting for me behind the door with a priceless copy of the Bible in her hands, which I leave in that room for the contemplative. To use such a sacred book as a weapon! The woman is insane. She would have struck me with it, too, if I had not instinctively sensed the danger and drawn back just as the book swept by my face. Miss O’Brien, thrown off balance by the force of the intended blow, tottered drunkenly past me, the Bible still gripped maniacally in her hands. I was able to wrestle it out of her clutches—no telling what she would have done with the lovely old thing—and shut the door against the tattoo that her fists beat on the wood as I left.

Clearly, I must find an alternate form of accommodation for her: She is much too loud and violent to be held in a conventional room. Fortunately, there are heavy metal shuttersoutside her windows, which I closed last night, locking them from the outside. The door to the room is a massive construction of oak planks held together by wrought-iron flanges. She is secure enough for the time being, but over the long haul?
The Edit is a novel about memory and the banality of evil. Senor X makes his living in the 1990s running a charter fishing boat in a nameless Central American country. But he is much more than a simple boat captain, as Irish-American journalist Kate O’Brien discovers to her peril. When the two meet, Senor X is in the midst of writing his memoirs, revealing himself as a high-ranking Nazi war criminal still on the run. When she accidentally reads some of this memoir and is discovered by Senor X doing so, O’Brien becomes his captive until he determines what must be done with her.

This excerpt takes place just following that dramatic incident, and Senor X realizes that he cannot simply keep O’Brien hidden away in a spare, upstairs bedroom. Instead, he soundproofs his basement as preparation for O’Brien’s new lodgings—a miniature concentration camp of his very own making. What he does not reckon on is the strength and spirit of his captive. Battling for her sanity and life, O’Brien makes a devil’s bargain: her cooperation in return for allowing her to edit Senor X’s memoirs. As a Kirkus Reviews critic noted of this novel, “Their relationship becomes a provocative test of wills, raising a disturbing question: which is the captive?” The critic concluded: “Jones brings deliciously dark humor to his psychological thriller, a worthy cousin to John Fowles’ classic The Collector.”
Learn more about the book and author at J. Sydney Jones's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Dark Stars"

CS Quinn is a bestselling author and journalist for The Times, The Guardian and The Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to journalism and fiction, her background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council.

Combining historical research with far-flung travel experiences helped her create The Thief Taker series.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Stars, the third book in the series, and reported the following:
On page 69 we’re getting to know scary Judge Walters, who enjoys publicly drowning pirates at Wapping Docks. I guess this page fairly represents the menacing b-story, but there’s a fair bit more colour (I’d like to think) and thrills happening in the main story with hero Charlie and heroine Lily.
Visit C. S. Quinn’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"After the Crown"

K.B. Wagers lives and runs in the shadow of Pikes Peak. She loves flipping tires and lifting heavy things. She's especially proud of her second-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and her three Tough Mudder completions. When not writing she can be found wrangling cats with her husband, or trying to keep up with her teenage son.

Wagers applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, After the Crown, and reported the following:
In After the Crown we see Hail settling into her role as empress (a job she never wanted) and page 69 puts us smack in the middle of a meeting of the matriarch council where they’re discussing various issues the empire is facing. The need for an heir to the throne has been raised and Hail reacts in a manner that no one is expecting.
“We’re done here. Alice is my heir; if anyone would like to formally dispute that, let Matriarch Desai know.” I waved a hand. “Now get out.”

Everyone left except for Alice and Clara.

“I’m going to be sick,” Alice murmured.

“Not on the carpet.” I grinned at her. “Don’t worry—you’ll get used to the idea.”

“Majesty, the fallout from this—”

“We’ll handle it, Clara. Alice can do the job if something happens to me. That’s the important part of this, if I recall.”

“At least until Your Majesty has a child.”

I cleared my throat and forced a smile in Clara’s direction. “Of course.”

You are going to have to tell someone about that one of these days, Hail, the voice in my head cheerfully reminded me.

I snarled silently at it as I left the room.
Hail’s choice demonstrates her ability to plan ahead, as this is something she knew was coming long before anyone else did, as well as her ability to read people. Her solution—naming Alice Gohil—is more long term than anyone realizes. I tried to keep Hail’s inability from having children from being the central focus of the plot, tricky when you’re talking about a lineage-based ruling system! This scene provided us with the perfect opportunity to show Hail stepping up to the plate in terms of ruling and gives us a hint of how things are changing in the empire of Indrana.
Visit K.B. Wagers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Walk Into Silence"

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries and the River Road Mysteries. She has won a Lefty Award, been twice nominated for the Anthony Award, and received the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth.

McBride applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Walk Into Silence, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Boys already walked the perimeter of both houses and beat the bushes before you even got here. I knocked on a few doors myself. None of the neighbors saw squat.”

She walked beside him, back to the driveway where Lisa Barton stood. The woman turned up her coat collar, tucking hands in her pockets. She looked a bit like an actress from one of those Hitchcock movies Hank liked to talk about with her blonde hair, calf-length coat, and high heels. Though she was a little rough around the edges to be Grace Kelly.

“Did you find her?” she asked as they approached.

“Naw,” Hank said, “just a cat.”

He gave Jo a glance that made her cheeks warm. She touched her shoulder where the animal had hit her, feeling stupid.

“Poor Jenny. She should’ve gotten help,” Lisa murmured, brow cinched. “If she’d done what was best for her, this wouldn’t be happening.”

“Back to the scarf,” Jo said. “Mrs. Dielman told her husband she’d lost it.”

Lisa sighed. “Jenny seemed to have problems remembering a lot of things lately. The other day, she locked herself out. Thank goodness, I had a spare key.”

“So maybe she was flaky,” Jo replied. “But that doesn’t explain why she’d disappear for twenty-four hours without calling her husband, then show up here and vandalize your property, Ms. Barton.”

“Who else could it be?” Lisa crossed her arms tightly. “Who else would want to send me a message?”

“What message?” Jo felt like she was missing something. “You think Jenny had a grudge against you?”

“I’d say so, yeah.” The woman shook tousled bangs from her eyes and looked dead-on at Jo. “I’m pretty sure she imagined I was having an affair with Patrick.”
As Walk Into Silence is about a missing woman, Jenny Dielman, there are a lot of questions in the book: who was Jenny really, was she losing her mind, did she leave on her own or was she harmed, were those around her trustworthy? So I think the scene on page 69 gives a decent sense of the investigation that Jo Larsen leads into Jenny’s disappearance. In this chapter, the next-door neighbor has asserted that Jenny vandalized her house. But was it really Jenny? Is anything the neighbor has to say about Jenny worth believing? What is the truth and who is telling it? Those are things Jo asks herself and must find out before she can figure out what happened to Jenny and why.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan McBride's website.

My Book, The Movie: Walk Into Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Bronx Requiem"

John Clarkson is the author of several thrillers and crime novels published in the late 90's, and the early 00's. During the day, he ran a boutique advertising firm, then a private marketing and advertising consulting firm. He has worked directly with corporate clients such as NewPower, Chase Manhattan and E*Trade Financial where he helped create the notorious E*Trade Baby.

Clarkson applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Bronx Requiem, and reported the following:
This is a cool premise for a blog question. Page 69 in Bronx Requiem happens to be the beginning of Chapter 10. The type layout makes this a half-page, so I have only half of what might normally be in play to represent the book. Fine by me! I believe most readers decide whether or not to read a book in the first paragraph. I know there are agents out there who say they only need the first ten words or so to decide if they want to keep reading. It’s tough out there.

A little background: Bronx Requiem is the second book of a new series featuring protagonist James Beck, a fairly normal guy, who is unjustly incarcerated. He spends eight years in the searing hell of N.Y. State maximum security prisons before he wins his release. It changes him profoundly, and like most ex-cons, innocent or guilty, makes him an outcast. Beck leaves prison determined to be the man he wants to be, living by his own moral code, sticking to a tight-knit group of outcasts – ex-cons like himself. He rejects what he considers the fake morality of society. He refuses to be oppressed by law enforcement, or anybody for that matter. Fortunately, Beck is smart enough and resourceful enough to pull this off.

Of course, not a single word about any of that is mentioned overtly in the Beck novels. We get to sit back and watch this “philosophy” unfold.

In Bronx Requiem, one of Beck’s closest friends, a man who helped him survive prison, has just been released on parole. Before Beck can help him build a new life outside, he’s murdered. On page 69, Beck and his guys arrive at the Bronx housing project where they will begin finding out who killed their friend, Packy Johnson. One of Beck’s guys, Demarco Jones, does most of the talking, providing background and history on the housing project, but underlying the back and forth we see that Demarco is also trying to control Beck. To stop him from rushing into the project. In between the lines, we see the danger around the corner. I think every scene in a crime thriller should either advance the plot or reveal character. Page 69 does both.
Visit John Clakson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2016

"The Art of Confidence"

Wendy Lee is the author of the novels The Art of Confidence, Across a Green Ocean, and Happy Family. Happy Family was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2008 by Booklist and awarded an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies.

A graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, Lee has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Corporation of Yaddo. She spent more than a decade in the publishing industry as an editor at HarperCollins Publishers and Lantern Books in Brooklyn, where she co-edited the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat. She has also worked as an English teacher in China, taught writing at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and served as a mentor with Girls Write Now.

Lee applied the Page 69 Test to The Art of Confidence and reported the following:
The Art of Confidence is about a forged painting and the five people involved in its creation and sale. One of the characters is Harold Yu, the Taiwanese businessman who buys the painting as an investment but is inexplicably drawn to it, even though he has no understanding of art.

On Page 69, Harold has just returned home to Taipei from a trip to New York where he first learned about the painting. He’s married to a woman named Vicki, who comes from a powerful family in Taiwan; together they have a young son named Adrian.
The worst thing anyone could say to Vicki was that she was Chinese instead of Taiwanese, despite—or because of—the fact that her grandfather had come to Taiwan from the mainland in 1949 as part of the nationalist government. In college, as she liked to remind people, she’d been the first runner-up to Miss Taipei.

Meanwhile, Harold thought it was important that his son have some exposure to the mainland, where much of his business had shifted over the past ten years. Someday, when Adrian was old enough to take over the company, as Harold had when his father died, it would be useful not to consider himself so different from the people across the Taiwan Straits.
Up to the point of buying the painting, Harold has lived according to the parameters set by other people. Vicki, as the first part of the passage above indicates, is a bit of a snob, and Harold has always felt inferior to her. He’s let her dictate where they live and how they bring up their son. Now, with their marriage on the rocks, he decides to buy the painting, in part, to impress her. It’s a romantic and completely useless gesture, but it paves way for further self-introspection.

The forged painting unlocks certain parts in each character’s personality, but for Harold, it really becomes the catalyst for him to re-examine his marriage and determine what he really wants out of life.
Visit Wendy Lee's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Across a Green Ocean.

The Page 69 Test: Across a Green Ocean.

Writers Read: Wendy Lee.

My Book, The Movie: The Art of Confidence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"To Capture What We Cannot Keep"

Beatrice Colin was born in London and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. A former arts and features journalist, she also writes novels for adults, children, short stories, radio plays for the BBC. She has spoken at numerous book festivals, taught at Arvon and was a judge and mentor for the Scottish Boom Trust's New Writers Award.

Colin was also once a singer in the band, April Showers, whose single, "Abandon Ship," reached the number 144 in the charts.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, To Capture What We Cannot Keep, and reported the following:
Emile Nouguier, an engineer who was one of two who designed the Eiffel Tower that was built between 1887-8, is having dinner with his mother in her apartment. She wants him to take over the family business - a glass factory - marry a suitable wife, produce heirs and provide for a host of elderly aunts and distant relations. In this scene the divisions between the sexes are laid out – he eats pudding and she watches him – and we see the kind of pressure he is under.

Unless they were very wealthy and able to be independent, women acted as supporting structures to their husbands. But men also were constrained by convention. Cait Wallace, the other narrative voice in the book, is not suitable wife material for a man like Emile Nouguier and he knows it. On this page, the central conflict that drives the book is laid out. Emile cannot marry for himself; he must marry for the benefit of other. He can’t face it and escapes the apartment, desperate for fresh air.
Visit Beatrice Colin's website.

My Book, The Movie: To Capture What We Cannot Keep.

Writers Read: Beatrice Colin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

"The Nature of a Pirate"

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

She applied the Page 69 Test to the third Stormwrack novel, The Nature of a Pirate, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of The Nature of a Pirate, Sophie Hansa sees her parents for the first time in months.

I refer to the Hidden Sea Tales books as "Narnia for environmentalists." On this particular page, its chapter's closer, Sophie returns to San Francisco after months on the magical world of Stormwrack.

This series is breaking a lot of portal fantasy rules. Traditionally, going home is the last thing that happens. You have a self-contained adventure in Oz, it ends, and you get to compartmentalize it into its pocket-dimension and return to home, hearth, and family. You have seen wonders, and you may even be the wiser for it... but your real life is here on Earth. Resuming it constitutes your happily ever after.

I think that was something that worked out pretty well in 20th-century stories. Ordinary people from our world visited secret magical realms; they took temporary vacations from their lives. What Sophie returns to, on page 69 of The Nature of a Pirate, is the news that her family home has been broken into twice, and in the course of investigating those B&E incidents, police have noticed that the Hansa family is missing a daughter.

We don't currently live in a world where compartmentalizing is easy, or it's a snap to vanish for weeks on end. Sophie's problem is complicated by the fact that her parents have no idea where she has been--even if they wanted to lie to police, they wouldn't know where to start. She can't let them know, you see, that she went looking for her birth parents. Besides, Stormwrack immigration laws require her to keep the existence of their world a secret from people in the U.S.

Which may be fair, except that it's almost certain that whoever busted into her parents home? Knows all about Stormwrack.

Most of this book takes place on the magical side of my novel's portal. This scene is a sojourn, a quick side-trip from Sophie's larger problems. Someone's sinking ships within the Fleet of Nations, for example, and a condemned human smuggler wants Sophie to save him from execution. But The Nature of a Pirate is, in part, the story of a person with a foot in two worlds, someone who may eventually have to commit to a future here, with all our technological marvels, or the faraway, inconsistent and sometimes devastating power of enchantment.
Visit A.M. Dellamonica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Child of a Hidden Sea.

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

The Page 69 Test: A Daughter of No Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Chasing Shadows"

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper is a former high-school and college English teacher. Winner of the 2005 Mary Higgins Clark Award for her outstanding novel, Dark Angel, Harper is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, historical novels, and a series of historical mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Chasing Shadows, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my new psychological suspense novel, Chasing Shadows, the two main characters who will carry the series are still getting to know each other as they drive toward St. Augustine, Florida. Nick is a criminal lawyer who has hired forensic psychologist Claire to help him with a case close to his heart. Because his father committed suicide, (Nick believes he was murdered and hopes to prove it) he takes cases through his secretive South Shores endeavors, where the death is undetermined. An old friend of his needs help, and he’s on the way.

So on page 69, besides Nick’s filling Claire in more on the case, a murder or suicide in a Civil War era mansion which is reputed to be haunted, the two of them are already in trouble. Nick notices in the rearview mirror that a person in a mask and a hoodie driving behind them is coming too close. It’s the second hint they that someone wants them to steer clear of this case, and things get worse from there. Earlier, a bullet that killed another man might have been meant for Nick—or Claire.

One things I established before page 69 is that a forensic psychologist does not dissect dead bodies, but rather only the clues the dead leave behind by interviewing friends, family—and dangerous foes. The tag line for Chasing Shadows and the series is “The dead still talk if you know how to listen.” And Claire does.
Visit Karen Harper's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Bonds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Lone Wolf"

Sara Driscoll is the joint pseudonym of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan.

They applied the Page 69 Test to Lone Wolf, the first book in their FBI K-9s mysteries series--starring search-and-resuce team Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk--and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Next!” The voice was flat, dull, worn down by weeks of nearly there tax deadline hysteria.

The line shuffled forward again. Naomi nudged the diaper bag at her feet, pushing it ahead of them as they crept forward. Only three more people and then it was their turn.

Joe’s whimper accompanied a whole body squirm. She clamped her arms around him, familiar with this move and how he’d nearly managed to slither free a few times before. The pressure of her hold only increased his distress and he started to whine. Heat rose in her face as sideways glances began to slide her way.

What kind of parent are you? Can’t you control that child? Who’s in charge—you or the kid? The crowd’s unvoiced thoughts rang in her head.

“Ignore them. Ignoooooooore them...” she singsonged to herself, bouncing him again. It’s too early, naysayers advised, but she knew the reason he’d been up half the night was his one-year molars coming in. Her normally placid baby was riding a razor’s edge of exhaustion right now.

And, as a result, so was she. Never a good combination.
Page 69 of Lone Wolf lands the reader in scene many of us have been unlucky enough to be in ourselves—waiting in what feels like an unending line in a government office. In this case, it’s an IRS office on the day before taxes are due, and a young mother is in line with her squirmy, overtired baby because she needs assistance filing her deceased father’s final tax return.

Lone Wolf is the story of a rogue bomber who is taking out specific targets, and the IRS office is on his list. In fact, as this scene unfolds, the bomb is already on its way, heading toward the IRS office while people stand in line, not realizing their lives are hanging in the balance. While the overwhelming majority of the book is about the FBI’s efforts to find and stop the bomber and this scene doesn’t highlight FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk, it does shine a light on the victims. And truth to be told, it’s the loss of the victims that drives the story. So while page 69 might not show the protagonists, it delivers on something more important—the reason the protagonists work so hard to find justice for innocents caught up in something far beyond their control.

As to what happens to Naomi and her young son when the bomber strikes, well… you’ll just have to read on from page 69 to find out.
Learn more about Lone Wolf: An FBI K-9 Novel.

--Marshal Zeringue