Monday, July 31, 2017

"Flight Risk"

Young adult author Jennifer Fenn has been filling notebooks since she was in elementary school. She’s never without a book! Fenn is terrified of corn fields but has jumped out of a plane, eats her cereal without milk, and has run a marathon.

She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College’s MFA program, and lives with her husband, daughter and Scottish terrier in Downingtown, PA.

Fenn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Flight Risk, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Flight Risk delves into the main character Robert’s struggle with ADHD, one of several factors that eventually lead him to steal a small airplane. The text also alludes to Robert’s growing obsession with flight simulators and planes: “With his newfound concentration, could Robert make it in the air force?” Robert notes that while on Adderall, “his knees ceased their hyperactive jig. He could sit still, could read for fifteen minutes at a time.” He stays inside working on his virtual take-offs and landings, returning to school “as pale as the digital clouds he’d spent all summer navigating through.” Robert’s mother, Deb, however, has mixed feelings about Robert being treated with Adderall, and so she takes him off his prescription. This page contains one of my favorite details in the book: when Robert is off Adderall, he eats “a dozen candy canes in one sitting, crunching them between his teeth while his mother cringes.”

Is it representative of the rest of the book? Yes and no. The book is written in a collage style, with several points of view; Robert’s is the most frequent, but there are also TV transcripts, interviews and newspaper articles. A lot of Flight Risk deals with Robert’s plane thefts, his attempts to outrun Yannatok Island’s sheriff and how he becomes both a notorious outlaw and a hero, which this page doesn’t include. Still, I like the writing on this page, and it does provide a valuable insight into the protagonist’s psyche. I hope that would encourage a reader to keep going!
Visit Jennifer Fenn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"The Lost History of Stars"

A native of south Chicago, Dave Boling is a sports columnist in the Seattle area. His first novel, the international best-selling Guernica, was translated into 13 languages with an English-language edition sold worldwide. Prior to becoming a journalist, Boling was a football player at the University of Louisville, an ironworker in Chicago, a logger in the Pacific Northwest, a bartender and bouncer, and a laborer in a car factory and in steel mills. He took up fiction writing at age 53.

Boling applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Lost History of Stars, and reported the following:
Trying to inhabit the mind of my female narrator, Aletta Venter, I interviewed a fair number of psychologists--all women. I probed their insights into coping and survival mechanisms that might help an early teen girl stay strong and resilient in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

The Brits had torched much of the South Africa veld during the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. After burning the Boers’ homes, the Brits interned the women and children in lethally mismanaged concentration camps. It was a grim slice of history that has been largely overlooked.

So, how could Aletta, a small but determined insurgent, find the courage to not only survive, but continue fighting her private war against the might of an empire? The doctors agreed she would be in a transitional time of life, dealing with a turbulent confluence of powerful factors. All the usual adolescent issues of self-doubt, uncertainty and hormonal changes would be incalculably compounded by the influences of fear, malnutrition, and the profound emotions of loss.

Within this high-pressure crucible, she would need an unbending inner purpose. And for sanity, she would be driven to latch on to any shred of normalcy and grip it like a life-line.

The scene that is already under way when come to Page 69 has Aletta with her new best friend, Janetta, who was far more worldly, having grown up in a town rather than on the remote veld. Aletta discovers that Janetta has kissed a boy at school, and wants Janetta to teach her how it’s done. On Page 68, Janetta tells Aletta that her lips must be shaped as if to whistle, but Aletta has trouble doing it without actually whistling. She feels hopelessly naïve. In the last sentence of Page 68, Aletta asks about the eyes--what should she do with her eyes?

From page 69:
“Closed … you’re supposed to do that.”

I thought that was terrible advice … you might miss, or go too slowly or too fast. Wouldn’t seeing it be part of the experience?

“Like this …” She leaned toward me, eyes closed. Her breath touched me first, and her lips settled lightly on the apple of my cheek.

“Now you,” she said.

I stared at her cheek, estimating the range before closing my eyes and easing in. I felt softness and warmth, and tiny pale hairs against my lips.

“That’s right,” she said, “but soft, and keep your eyes closed.”

I leaned in again, but softer.

“Like that,” she said. “Good.”
The scene is several pages long, and serves as a tender counterpoint. Aletta otherwise sustains her purposeful acts of resistance, of minor heroism and compassion, but in this scene, she’s merely finding her way on the path toward being a young woman.
Visit Dave Boling's website.

Writers Read: Dave Boling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Devastation Road"

Jason Hewitt is a novelist, playwright and actor. He was born in Oxford, and lives in London. His debut novel, The Dynamite Room, was long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Authors' Club First Novel Award.

Hewitt applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Devastation Road, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Devastation Road comprises of a short quiet scene that I often forget I wrote, and yet it brings to the forefront many of the novel’s themes.

Owen begins the novel by waking in a field somewhere in Europe. He’s injured and wearing clothes that don’t belong to him, and has no idea of where he is, or even when it is. In fact it’s May 1945 and the conflict he has very little recollection of is now only days away from ending. The novel is ultimately about his attempts to get back home through the chaotic aftermath of war.

By page 69 Owen has been joined by Janek, a 16-year old Czech boy who speaks little English. They have formed an uneasy alliance, neither trusting each other yet neither wanting to make their journeys on their own. In this scene they are nearing the end of their second day together. They rest in a crop of forested trees and Owen sits on a stump poking around with a broken watch that Janek had been intent on throwing away…
He wondered if he could mend it. He had managed to prise the back off. Inside, the springs and wheels stood stationary. He gave each a gentle nudge with the blunt tip of the pencil but nothing wanted to move. He took the watch to pieces and emptied all its cogs and coils and tiny screws into his hand. Now though, scattered out across his palm, none of the parts seemed to bear any correlation to the others. He poked at one or two of them with his fingernail, uncertain even what they were. If he could navigate his way around anything as complex as an instrument panel, he could navigate his way around something as simple as a watch.

Even as a child he had taken things to pieces – clocks, wirelesses, gearboxes and carburettors – and then tried to rebuild them, only better. He liked to see how things worked, the design and construction – even of a living creature. He had dissected a frog once, all on his own. He had pinned it to a slab of wood while it was still alive and then had been disappointed when, the moment he had nervously cut it open, it had promptly died. He had so wanted to watch its tiny pumping heart.
Owen has long-term memory loss, so just as he is trying to fix the pieces of the watch together and can make no sense of them, so too is he trying to piece his frayed memories together, and, with that, his former life. Mending the watch should be easy for Owen. We know that he was once a draughtsman and has an engineering background; he sees the world around him as if everything is mechanical and yet he knows that this was not why he was in Europe. There must have been some other reason. The novel therefore is as much about his journey of self-discovery. The watch is significant too. We don’t yet know where Janek got it from but it has its own narrative, swapping and changing hands as the story develops, before eventually finding its own true home.

While Owen is deliberating the broken watch, Janek smokes. He thinks the war has made a man of him and yet he is still a child. He wants to be a resistance fighter like his missing brother and yet has no real comprehension of what that means.
Janek wandered back, pinging his cigarette stub into the grass and then stepping up on to one of the stumps, and then from that on to another and to another, having to jump sometimes, barely crossing the gap. He suddenly appeared on the same stump as Owen, behind him, his toe kicking at Owen’s backside. He peered over Owen’s shoulder at what he was doing before leaping off on to the next.
The scene holds a rare moment of conciliation between them, but they will soon be joined by another character and everything is turned on its head.
Visit Jason Hewitt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Devastation Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a Disney-style castle. Today, she is a winner of the ECPA Christian Book Award for her debut novel Unblemished, which released to magical applause: “a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections” (RT Book Reviews). Sara spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After Is Never Far Away.”

Ella applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Unraveling, and reported the following:
This test is always a fun one, and fortunately for me, so far, my page 69s always fall at the opening of a chapter. Go, Pub Team! You make this easy.

Chapter openings are always my faves. Don’t get me wrong, middles and endings are great too, but openings are the icing on the cake, the topping that makes you want to dig into the substance underneath. When I write an opening I ask myself, “How can I begin this in a way that will entice the reader to, well, keep reading?”

Page 69 in Unraveling, the second book in my Unblemished trilogy, brings us to the opening of Chapter 11 which is entitled "Change." I love this chapter because I know exactly what’s going to happen. I know who my main character, Eliyana, will meet and what she will discover. But you don’t, so it’s my job to make sure you’ll want to find out. So, here goes...
Chapter 11 ~ Change

If I wasn’t in my right mind I’d chuck this blasted mirrorglass crown off the hill. What good does it do me? No one looks to me. Listens. They still think of Joshua as their leader. And can I blame them? One look at him and people think, Noble. Worthy. King. What do they think when they look at me? Imposter? Intruder? Wannabe?

“Don’t be ridiculous, Em. This insecurity is the old you. You know better. The Verity chose—”

“Just leave me alone.” The smallest burst of Verity burns in my gut. As if it’s staging a silent protest to my words. I tug at the ends of my hair. Regret my harsh tone. None of this is Ky’s fault. “I’m sorry.”

I know. It’s fine.” Though his words reassure, his voice in my head reveals a pinch of hurt.

Ugh. This sucks. Joshua and I are at odds—again—and now I’ve hurt Ky? Maybe. I don’t know. He’s probably not even real. Of course he’s not.

Or is he?

I’d like to scream my head off now if you don’t mind. Okay, thanks.

Anxiety revs my nerves as I enter the door leading into the kitchens. Old memories lift from storage. I take them out, dust them off, and see them anew. The frame around a not-so-long- ago...
What?! A not so long ago what?! Would you turn the page to keep reading? I hope so. For those #TeamKy fans out there, I’m pretty sure you can tell this is leading somewhere that has to do with him. I won’t say too much more about that, but let’s just say the farther you read, the closer you’ll get to discovering what in the world is going on. El can hear Ky’s voice in her head? How is that even possible?

And what is this about a mirrorglass crown? And why is El having her doubts? For those who read Unblemished, you know all the awesomeness she’s capable of. For those who didn’t, you’re probably wondering what the Verity is and why this girl is doubting herself so much. Good. If you’re new to the series and couldn’t care less about this Ky person, hopefully I’ve confused you enough to make you turn the page. I really hope you’ll want answers. And if you do?

Just keep reading...
Visit Sara Ella's website.

The Page 69 Test: Unblemished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Dead Is Good"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Dead is Good, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Rose and I osmose through the closed door, watch Grace pay the driver and take a photograph of him—unsmiling out of the driver’s side window as per her directions--with her iPhone camera.

The cab driver is a passionate man. He shouted into the speaker of his cell phone in Russian during the way-above-the-speed-limit ride from the hospital to this three-story brick apartment-turned condo building on Fountain Avenue in West Hollywood.

I never visited this place in life.

When Grace and I were together, I had a studio apartment in Hollywood––right off Hollywood Boulevard on Cahuenga––and she lived in Santa Monica where she had a studio filled with large canvases and wire sculptures.

The morning sky is clear with an almost-transparent and full moon suspended like a bubble in the eastern sky.

A wind I cannot feel scatters shadows of a flowering tree on the sidewalk.

Don’t expect me to tell you what time it is.

Someone took my watch and my cell phone when I died.

What I know about the living world I see with my two dead eyes and hear with my two dead ears--thank you very goddamn much.
Page 69 above is representative of Dead Is Good in that it is a first-person narration by Charles Stone, a ghost who cannot be seen or heard in the living world and who cannot directly effect the living in any way. Rose is his canine companion in death--which the reader probably wouldn't realize from reading this page--and who suffers the same limitations as Charles (silent invisibility). Right now Charles is observing the one woman he truly loves returning to her apartment after she's jumped from the Santa Monica Pier (and for which she was briefly hospitalized).

This brief passage allows the reader to learn a little about Charles––he's dead,rueful, and sweary––and about the relationship he once had with Grace, an artist in a phase of life that is alien to Charles.

What the reader wouldn't know is that Grace's sister has killed herself, that Grace is in danger, and that Charles loves Grace more deeply than ever. Still, I hope that Rose, the woman getting out the cab, and the ghostly narrator would prove interesting or mysterious enough to keep the reader reading. A lot is going to happen after page 69.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls"

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series and several adult mysteries. Her books have heroes and bad guys, action and messy situations. An avid reader, she once missed her subway stop and rode the train all the way to Brooklyn because the book she was reading was that good. She lives in Northern California with her family, two cats and a parakeet named Zeus, who is sick of the cats eyeballing him like he’s dinner.

McMullen applied the Page 69 Test to Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls and reported the following:
From page 69:
Toby regroups and stands up straighter.

“Okay,” he says. “Pay attention. When you go back to school, act normal. Say nothing about what you’ve heard here today to anyone. That includes all those girls you hang around with.”

Well, that’s easy. Because I’m never talking to those girls again. None of this would be happening if they hadn’t blabbed about my escape.
This is the moment when Abby Hunter finds out that her boarding school sits atop a secret training facility for young spies. While trying to escape, she comes up against a mysterious man who tries to kidnap her. Fortunately, Toby was on to her and a rescue arrived just in time. But things are going to get much more complicated. Unbeknownst to Abby, her mother is a spy, too.
Visit Beth McMullen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Watch Me Disappear"

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, This Is Where We Live, and the newly released Watch Me Disappear.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Watch Me Disappear and reported the following:
Page 69 of Watch Me Disappear lands perfectly at the first page of chapter 4, which just happens to be the chapter where the story starts to take off.

Watch Me Disappear is the story of Olive and Jonathan Flanagan, who have been struggling to cope after Billie Flanagan – wife of Jonathan, mother to teenage Olive – disappears on a solo hiking trip in Desolation Wilderness. It’s been a year since Billie vanished from the trail and was declared dead (her cell phone and a hiking boot were found, but not her body); but without a death certificate or any kind of real closure, Jonathan and Olive still haven’t quite accepted that she’s gone.

In fact, Olive has started to experience strange hallucinations – she calls them “visions” – in which her mother seemingly insists that she’s still alive and wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan is (rightfully) worried that his daughter is emotionally unstable; and so, in chapter 4, he decides that it’s finally time to start getting rid of his wife’s belongings, so that they both can move forward with their lives:
Jonathan sits on the floor of his bedroom closet, sorting through sixteen years of his wife’s existence. Stacks of musty sweaters and grass-stained running shoes; socks missing their mates, holes at the heels; silk scarves received as Christmas gifts from Jonathan’s mother and rarely worn. Bowls full of unidentified buttons, a dusty stack of old Outside magazines, a box stuffed full of Olive’s preschool artwork.

A growing line of shopping bags stands sentry outside the closet, scrawled with Sharpie instructions: Save - Discard - Donate - Give to Olive.

He’s already tackled the vanity and the overflowing master bathroom drawers. Billie’s hairbrush, still woven with dark threads: Into the trash. The oxycodone she’d been prescribed after a biking accident, but had never taken: Put aside for recycling. Her jewelry box, filled with tangled chains: Save for Olive. Congealing bottles of expensive hand lotion, yellowing packets of holiday novelty tissues, four different kinds of sport sunscreen. Flotsam of little importance – just stuff -- and yet together it somehow adds up to a human being; each worn-out sandal or solitary earring a moment, a decision, a reflection of taste and opinion.
As Jonathan undergoes this emotional purging, however, he discovers some alarming things about his wife that he hadn’t expected, outright lies that make him wonder who his wife really was; and, even more disturbing, whether she’s even dead. All those memories, all those sentimental sandals and earrings – how much do they really tell him about Billie, after all? Were any of his memories real?

So this is a critical moment in the book! It introduces the theme that we sometimes see only what we want to see about the people we love; that we construct neat little family narratives and try to fit our loved ones inside, even if it’s all an illusion.
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Death On Delos"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates.

The author lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, two daughters, two ducks, two budgerigars, and a brush turkey that is almost as irritating as Socrates.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the Athenian Mystery series, Death on Delos, and reported the following:
I always enjoy this challenge, because I'm very firmly of the view that every page must add something to a story. Every time I'm asked to do one of these I immediately worry about what's on page 69. One of these days I'm going to write a book that is specifically engineered to have something weird and wonderful on page 69.

My latest, seventh(!) book of the Athenian Mysteries is called Death On Delos. Delos was the holy isle of the ancient Greeks. It was the birthplace of two gods: Apollo the Sun God and Artemis the Huntress. A strange but true fact is that in ancient times it was illegal to either die or be born upon Delos. Which makes it all the more tricky when a pregnant Diotima, my heroine and the detective of our tale, arrives and is required to solve a murder.

Page 69 sees Diotima start work. The revelation that his wife has been assigned to the case comes to my hero Nico on the page before. He has no problems with that. What disturbs him slightly more is discovering that he's the prime suspect.
"Of course, I’ll have to interview you first,” said my wife. “You’re the prime suspect.”

“Me?” I said, horrified. “I expected that sort of response from Anaxinos, but not from my own wife.”

“Well, you were the one standing over the victim’s body,” she pointed out. “Face it, Nico, if you were in my position, you’d be insisting that you did it, and demanding that we learn more about your dubious past.”

“I like to think you’re already familiar with my dubious past,” I said bitterly. “You contributed to a lot of it.”
So I had a lot of fun with this! Diotima is on her way as the lead detective, with an inordinate number of disasters, revelations, twists, turns and brilliant deductions to get them to the end.
Visit Gary Corby's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death on Delos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Another Man's Ground"

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. The Branson Beauty, featuring Sheriff Hank Worth, is her first novel.

Booth applied the Page 69 Test to Another Man's Ground, the second Sheriff Hank Worth Mystery, and reported the following:
A critical chapter ends on page 69 with these last five lines. It’s a text conversation between the two main characters. Sheila Turley is the chief deputy of the Branson County Sheriff’s Department and she’s at a crime scene. She texts her boss, Sheriff Hank Worth, while he’s stuck at a campaign luncheon.
At John Doe site in the woods.

He pretended to drop his napkin and texted her back as he bent to retrieve it.

Another what?

He straightened and waited for her response.

Body. It’s a kid.
What’s revealed in this conversation is a key turning point in the novel. Crime intrudes on Hank’s campaign for sheriff, and it’s an election he has to win or else he’ll be out of law enforcement job all together. But he hates politics and he’s been looking for any excuse to get out of campaigning, so he seizes on Sheila’s text and the impossibly difficult criminal investigation that follows. With his attention split between the two tasks, will he succeed at either one?
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: Another Man's Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Tornado Weather"

Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has worked as both a reporter and editor, and also holds a Master's in Fiction Writing and English Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Kennedy applied the Page 69 Test to Tornado Weather, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When Shannon was a girl, she used to love to visit her grandmother's stately home on Peach Street, to get lost in the upstairs bedroom while Granny made a pie or ironed Grandpa's shirts. Granny always left her alone to wander the house, to go from room to room, picking up knick knacks and making up stories. Back then she didn't like to share Granny or her house with anyone if she could help it, not even Rhae Anne. The only time she remembered playing with another person at Granny's was the summer Camila lived with them and her memory of those days was sketchy. Mostly she recalled walking with the beautiful girl through the back hall where the linoleum – yellow roses on a silver background – echoed their steps back at them. And their breathy version of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” Together they traced the chains of flowers from doorway to doorway, their feet kicking up dust motes in the half-light of the hall like disturbed spirits. At one point, Camila whispered, “I want to stay here forever.”

“Forever,” Shannon whispered back.
On page 69 of Tornado Weather, Shannon Washburn – grieving the loss of her mother and trapped in a toxic relationship and dead-end job – is visiting with her grandmother following a race-fueled dust-up at the laundromat where she works. Shannon drops in on her grandmother as often as she can to keep the old woman company and do light housework, but it's been too long since her last visit and Shannon's conscience smotes her. While helping Granny to some angel food cake, she is reminded of a different time, when visiting her grandmother was less of a burden and more of a joy. Readers who start on this page would probably think they were in for a rather sad ride, but one page later they would encounter Johnny Carson, Granny's battery-powered parrot shrieking “Land Ho!” and they'd have a better idea of the general tone of the book. Heartfelt, I'd say, but always on the lookout for the absurdity of human existence.
Follow Deborah E. Kennedy on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Tornado Weather.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Tomorrow's Kin"

Nancy Kress is the bestselling author of multiple science-fiction and fantasy novels, including Beggars in Spain, Probability Space, and Steal Across the Sky. Her SF has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Kin, an expansion of the Nebula-winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which takes the story forward several generations. Her fiction has been translated into multiple languages, including Klingon.

Kress applied the Page 69 Test to Tomorrow's Kin and reported the following:
How representative does a single book page have to be to count as “representative”? Page 69 of Tomorrow’s Kin depicts part of a confrontation between Noah Jenner, wayward son of protagonist Marianne Jenner, and an alien. Only the alien isn’t, exactly—he’s the descendent of humans taken from Earth 140,000 years ago by unknown beings. DNA analysis has verified this. Noah feels a shock of recognition, however, that goes beyond the 6,000-generation-ago family tie. The shock has to do with something going on in Noah’s brain caused by his heavy use of a drug called sugarcane. The recognition will have major plot consequences. So—I guess that page 69 is, if not representative, at least heavily congressional.

Tomorrow’s Kin is based on my Nebula-winning novella, “Yesterday’s Kin,” and extends the story for ten more years. It is the first of a trilogy, all of which are written, because the novella turned out to be only the start of a complex story that I very much wanted to tell. It involves two planets, three global disasters, and four generations. They get around, those Jenners. And in doing it, they alter the course of human history.
Follow Nancy Kress on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Girl on the Leeside"

Kathleen Anne Kenney is an author, freelance writer, and playwright. Her writing has appeared in Big River, Coulee Region Women, and Ireland of the Welcomes, as well as other publications. She has had numerous short plays presented in Minnesota theaters and has published the play The Ghost of an Idea, a one-actor piece about Charles Dickens. Her play New Menu was a winner in the 2012 Rochester Repertory Theatre’s national short-play competition. She is currently at work on a novel based on her 2014 stage play, The Bootleg Blues.

Kenney applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Girl on the Leeside, and reported the following:
This is really intriguing! Page 69 doesn’t include the main character, Siobhan, but two secondary characters discussing her:
There was a pause, then Tim said, “You know them well.” His voice held an unconscious hint of envy.

Maura smiled. “I’ve been friends with Siobhan since we were five and met at school. My favorite stories had always been those about fairies and kelpies and sprites, and, I thought, here one was! For the longest time I was convinced she was only temporarily in human form, and would be disappearing back into her fairy mound one day.”

“I’ve gotten that feeling, too,” Tim admitted.

“I’m not surprised. But she’s real. Just in her own world. Unfortunately. She was so full of stories as a child, always full of stories. Even by the age of eight or nine she was an expert in ancient tales and legends. When she was telling one of those it was the only time she really came alive, came out of herself. It’s almost the same today.” Maura’s voice was a little sad.

It was a relief to Tim that someone else, someone who knew her so well, also saw Siobhan as being too secluded.

“Has she never been away from here?” he asked.

“Oh, sure. Keenan has taken her on a few day trips, to Iona, Wexford, and such. Always, of course, to visit the ancient stones and ring forts and dolmens and that. I remember once our family was going on holiday to Scotland for a week, and I was desperate for Siobhan to come along. My da said it would be all right. Siobhan didn’t even really want to come but I was determined to make her. We were both about ten, I think. I got up my courage to ask Kee. He said no.”

“Do you think he’s still overprotective of her?”

Maura hesitated and Tim felt he’d gotten too personal. Maura studied his face for a moment before she answered.

“Yes. Although he doesn’t have to be. She’s an expert at it herself.”
I do think this passage reflects the fact that most of the characters in the novel think about Siobhan quite a bit, and that the story moves ahead because of their interaction with and reaction to her as the protagonist. It also gives a glimpse into what kind of person she is: overly protected and withdrawn.
Visit Kathleen Anne Kenney's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girl on the Leeside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"A Merciful Truth"

Kendra Elliot is the award-winning author of numerous books, including the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series. Elliot won the 2015 and 2014 Daphne du Maurier awards for Best Romantic Suspense, and she was an International Thriller Writers finalist for Best Paperback Original and a Romantic Times finalist for Best Romantic Suspense.

Elliot applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Merciful Truth, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Merciful Truth touches on one of the primary internal conflicts in the entire series. At the age of eighteen, my character Mercy Kilpatrick was cast out by her survivalist parents and now she’s returned to town as FBI agent. She is a law enforcement officer for the government, a profession that will never be respected by her anti-government father.

On page 69, she is interviewing an arson victim when she realizes he is a friend of her father. The young victim makes the connection at the same time and says, “I’ve met your siblings…I don’t recall your father mentioning an FBI agent in the family.”

“He wouldn’t bring it up,” is Mercy’s reply.

She’s hurt and stunned. This young man, new to the community, has been accepted into her father’s inner circle of survivalists, yet he continues to reject his daughter. Mercy and her father are both proud and stubborn; she clearly carries his genes.

A Merciful Truth is the second book in the series. In the first book, Mercy strives to patch her relationship with some of her siblings, but her father and oldest brother are still holdouts in Truth. This eats away at her pride and her inner child. No one can emotionally hurt her in the way her family does. She puts up a tough façade, pretending that the last fifteen years of estrangement have been a cakewalk, but deep down she wants acceptance.

Throughout the series, she vacillates between wanting her father’s approval and telling him to go to hell. To compensate for his rejection, she works hard to continue the prepping lifestyle she was raised in, telling no one that she secretly prepares for the end of the world. It’s her way of following her father’s expectations, but she hides her accomplishments, unwilling to let him know.
Visit Kendra Elliot's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Hum If You Don’t Know the Words"

Bianca Marais holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto’s SCS, and her work has been published in World Enough and Crime. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband.

Marais applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, and reported the following:
I was curious to see what page 69 from Hum If You Don’t Know the Words would reveal about the novel, and was surprised to discover that it contained a really important scene containing a plot twist. I hate spoilers so I won’t reveal too much, except to say that it centers around one of the protagonists, Robin, a nine-year-old girl whose parents have just been murdered. As she waits at the police station for her aunt to come fetch her, she’s frantic about her twin sister, Cat, who got left behind at their home when the police arrived in the middle of the night. The scene explains a lot about Robin’s psyche and the coping mechanisms she has developed in order to become the child she thought her parents wanted her to be. It’s a great snapshot that very representative of the book which deals with weighty subject matter and has quite a few twists and turns along the way.
Visit Bianca Marais's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"The Lightkeeper’s Daughters"

Jean E. Pendziwol is an award winning Canadian author. Born and raised in northwestern Ontario, she draws on the culture, history and geography of the region for inspiration for her stories.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters, her debut adult novel, is an affecting story of family, identity, and art that involves a decades-old mystery. Vividly drawn, Lake Superior is almost a character in itself, changeable yet constant, its shores providing both safety and isolation.

Pendziwol applied the Page 69 Test to The Lightkeeper’s Daughters and reported the following:
I feel a little disadvantaged in that page 69 of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters is at the end of a chapter and is only a couple of paragraphs long, but on the other hand, it contains all the elements integral to the story – the relationship between the two main characters, Elizabeth, who is an elderly blind woman, raised on a remote island on Lake Superior where her father was the lighthouse keeper, and Morgan, a sixteen year-old delinquent teen completing community service hours at the home where Elizabeth lives; art and music, both consistent themes throughout the novel; and the influencing presence of nature.

There is a connection between Elizabeth and Morgan, first revealed in the painting of a dragonfly that inspired Morgan’s graffiti piece and led to her presence at the senior home. The dragonfly also sits framed on Elizabeth’s dresser, one of few personal possessions in an old lady’s room. On page 69, Elizabeth and Morgan forge an agreement whereby Morgan agrees to read the faded pages of the lightkeeper’s recently discovered journals in exchange for one of Elizabeth’s paintings. The reader knows which one she wants, but Elizabeth has no idea which one, or why. The novel toggles between the perspectives of Elizabeth and Morgan, and page 69 was written from Elizabeth’s point of view.
I can hear her grinding the cigarette beneath the heel of her boot, but she is silent, She must have removed one of her earbuds, as the strains of Epica are more easily discernible, mingling with the chattering of sparrows and the rustling of the wind through they hydrangea.

“Can I pick which one?”

It is an interesting response. there are three sketches. One is a dragonfly, the other a hummingbird, and the last a detailed study of beach peas. Common themes repeatedly transcribed from various angles. Some critics suggest that a series of the same subject could almost be compiled to create a three dimensional image, as though each interpretation adds a layer that expresses a slightly different perspective, yet immediately associates with the others. Even as sketches, they are each worth a tidy sum. But I don’t think that is the appeal to her. What does she see in one of those pictures?


“All right then. Let’s get started.”
And it is here that the journey of Elizabeth and Morgan begins in earnest.
Visit Jean E. Pendziwol's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Edgar-winning novelist Meg Gardiner writes thrillers. Fast-paced and full of twists, her books have been called “Hitchcockian” (USA Today) and “nailbiting and moving” (Guardian). They have been bestsellers in the U.S. and internationally and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Gardiner  applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel UNSUB, the first book in a series featuring homicide investigator Caitlin Hendrix, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m calling about the baby found abandoned during a police raid two nights ago. This is the officer who brought her out of the house.”

A minute later she felt lighter. Relieved and with a loosening in her chest. The little girl, Baby Doe, had gotten a clean bill of health and was in temporary placement with a foster family.

The little fighter was safe, and warm, and being cared for. Yes, she was in psychological peril. Abandoned. But she was in hands that wouldn’t leave her in a crank house full of drugs and knives and gunfire. Caitlin pictured her wondrous wide eyes, held close to her own shoulder.

“Thank you. That’s good news.”

Take it when you can get it.

Behind Sequoia High School, past the football practice field, down the hill beyond the avocado orchard, was the concrete flood control channel that skateboarders called the Drain. The cyclone fence didn’t keep them out, not even on a blustery afternoon after a sad day at school, the weird vibe. Mr. Ackerman dead. Half a dozen kids were hanging there, a few taking advantage of the slopes and curves, the culverts and bends—not as good as a half pipe or empty swimming pool, but their spot—skating and sitting and talking about the freakiness of it all. Substitute teacher in Algebra, looking like a rabbit in the headlights. Like the classroom was poisoned. News vans on the street outside.

The Prophet. The actual, no-shit serial-killer who carved devil’s horns into his victims.
This excerpt captures the vibe and the rhythm of UNSUB. It gives a sense of the chaos that has invaded the world of the story. In the first section, the heroine, Caitlin Hendrix, tries to find out if a baby she rescued from a crank house is safe and well. In the second, teenagers at a suburban high school face the reality that their beloved teacher has been murdered by an infamous serial killer. The kids try to hold it together, but everything they’ve assumed about the safety of their lives has been turned inside out. Shortly after this moment, they literally stumble into a message from the killer.

Page 69 captures the tone and unsettling atmosphere of the book. Things are off kilter, and even the language reflects that. In the first section, Caitlin attempts to hang onto the “normal” life of a police detective. She’s trying to find positive news, something warm and hopeful, in her work day, as the serial murder case slowly swallows her life and swamps the Bay Area. The second section shows how the terror of the case is playing out: The killer is dominating the minds and emotions of the high school students. He has murdered their math teacher, and will soon draw these kids further into his world. UNSUB is a psychological thriller, and the killer plays mind games with the cops, the media, and the public. The high school skateboarders are about to discover exactly how that happens, as he draws them into his orbit and toys with them.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 7, 2017

"The Harbors of the Sun"

Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins, and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Edge of Worlds (2016) and the newly released The Harbors of the Sun, the last book in The Books of the Raksura series.

Wells applied the Page 69 Test to The Harbors of the Sun and reported the following:
From page 69:
They were flying far too close together. Jade bared her teeth. "They don't think much of the half-Fell." Bunching like that might be a good tactic for approaching groundlings, but not for fighting in the air. Perhaps they were relying on surprise; Fell weren't good scent hunters, and if Malachite and Jade hadn't been here, the half-Fell flight might have been taken unawares.

Malachite moved one spine. "They wouldn't. The progenitors and the rulers think of these half-Fell as something to be used against us. It's a mistake." She spared Jade a glance. "Perhaps their penultimate mistake."

This time when Malachite crouched to leap, Jade matched her and they burst into the air together.
I think this page does capture one of the main themes of the books. These two characters are queens of the Raksura, a culture where queen is the most physically and politically powerful position. Jade is younger, the sister queen to reigning queen Pearl of the Indigo Cloud court, and Malachite is older, reigning queen of Opal Night and the most feared and respected queen of the western Reaches. When the two characters first met in an earlier novel in the series, they were in conflict. Jade had taken Moon, Malachite's long-lost son, as her consort, without Malachite's permission. But they've slowly started to overcome their differences as they work together to protect their people from attack.

While Moon is the main character of the series, the female characters and the relationships between them are vitally important throughout. It's the queens who lead the Raksuran courts, and Moon, who was born a Raksuran consort, has to learn to work with them and navigate their sometimes dangerous politics to be able to help protect his new family.
Visit Martha Wells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Prisoner of War"

New York Times bestselling author Michael P. Spradlin is the author of more than twenty books, primarily for teens and young adults. He is an Edgar Award nominee, winner of the Wrangler Award and his books have appeared on numerous state reading lists. His trilogy, The Youngest Templar, was an international bestseller. His newest novel, Prisoner of War, is historical fiction based on the true story of America’s youngest POW in World War II.

Spradlin applied the Page 69 Test to Prisoner of War and reported the following:
Page 69. A random number. A random page. It can be a whole page of dialogue, the beginning or end of a chapter, or several paragraphs building narrative tension. In the case of Prisoner of War, the protagonist, Henry Forrest, has lied his way into the Marine Corps and is now suffering through the first leg of the Bataan Death March as a Japanese captive.

Henry is only fifteen years old, having lied about his age to join up. Now he is witnessing some of the most evil and inhumane acts of human cruelty imaginable. And on page 69, he meets the man who will become his tormentor.
As my senses slowly returned, I scanned the crowd hoping to see Jamison, but could not locate him in the teeming mass of men. With nothing else to do but think, I was reminded again of all the reasons why I wished I’d never come to the Philippines. The air was thick with humidity, like a wet blanket constantly covering us. The breeze was miserably hot, and were it not for the pitiful shade of the palm tree, the sun would set our skin to sizzling like bacon on a grill.

But I’d made my choice when I’d lied and joined up. The Marine Corps was not a democracy. You got sent where you got sent. Right now, despite the unrelenting brightness of the sun, it felt as if I was in the darkest corner of the world.

I dozed with my back to the tree and had no idea how much time had passed. It must’ve been a few hours later when a Japanese staff car arrived, followed by a column of trucks filled with more Japanese soldiers. An officer emerged from the back of the car. He was dressed in an immaculate uniform, carrying a riding crop in his hand and wearing knee high leather boots.
This officer will test Henry to the limits of human endurance. Can he survive? Will he find a way to keep his humanity intact? Page 69. Onward.
Visit Michael P. Spradlin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Prisoner of War.

Writers Read: Michael P. Spradlin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 3, 2017

"We Shall Not All Sleep"

Estep Nagy began writing his first novel, We Shall Not All Sleep, in 2005. His fiction and other writing have appeared in Southwest Review, The Believer, Paper, Box Office, and elsewhere. He wrote and directed the independent feature film The Broken Giant (1998), which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His plays have been produced and developed at theaters across the country, including at Actors Theater of Louisville and the Source Festival in Washington, DC. He attended Yale University.

Nagy applied the Page 69 Test to We Shall Not All Sleep and reported the following:
From page 69:

Catta stood at the top of the Indian Head cliffs and watched a gull attempt to fly while suspended in a strong headwind. He was so close that he could have leapt into the open air and touched it. He shouted and the gull turned and looked at him, and then went back to his struggle with the wind. Soon the gull worked free, dove downward into the shear, and then he was gone.

Through the hole where the bird had been, Catta saw the flat, red metallic barge, passing the bellbuoy and then turning to traverse the longest edge of the island toward the lonely corner of Seven that lay farthest from the clearing. Penny had stopped following him a little way into the woods and now she sat at the very front of the barge, her feet dangling in the whitecaps. Catta laughed out loud and shouted as loud as he could. They would never hear him, not at this height and distance, not against the wind and the motor. And then Penny’s head spun around. She waved enormously with her whole arm, like someone drown- ing, and Catta was suddenly happy. He shouted again, and then he waved and Penny waved and Edward Peck waved, too. The barge disappeared around the corner, and Catta turned and hurried home for lunch, taking the trails for better speed.
I learn so much in novels from a character’s relationship to nature. When I think of writers I love, Proust, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, even The Hunger Games, how a character experiences and interprets the natural world is one of the most important things a novelist can tell the reader. So in that sense, I hope page 69 here begins to open a window into that essential part of Catta’s soul.

We Shall Not All Sleep has several threads, but its beating heart is the self-discovery of 12-year-old Catta Hillsinger. On page 69 he’s on a hike, something he does every day on the Maine island his family visits each summer. Soon after this, Catta's father puts him on a nearby island wilderness as a sort of test, but here, he’s trying to teach himself everything about the woods so that, eventually, he’s able to hike without a map, a compass, without anything. He unexpectedly gets that opportunity a few pages later, and so much in the book flows into and out of that moment.
Visit Estep Nagy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"Before Everything"

Victoria Redel is the author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Before Everything, and reported the following:
Before Everything is a novel where the narrative point of view shifts and keeps shifting because I wanted readers to feel how one character’s, Anna, choice to stop medical treatment impacts on the lives of those who love her. While most of the novel is seen through the perspective of five women friends who have known one another since childhood, Page 69 is interesting because we’re seeing through the eyes of Reuben the ex-but-still-married husband of Anna. Reuben is thinking about when he and Anna told their grown children that she’d decided to stop treatment and enter hospice. I love this scene because I truly love the character of Reuben. While much of the novel is about enduring friendship, Reuben is, in many ways, the quiet hero of the book: “He was the go-to guy. Conversations with Kate from hospice. Every two seconds family, friends checking in, ‘What’s the plan?’” The novel isn’t about idealized perfect relationships; it’s about how we manage (or don’t) complicated, messy, real relationships. Reuben reckons with how a marriage can fail but two people still are intertwined as parents and loyal partners of a deep shared history. In this scene, Reuben keeps that unified parental front: “Reuben looked right past the etch of panic on each their faces and said, “We all need to agree. This is mom’s choice.” As the scene unfolds, he admires Anna as she nimbly shifts away from any grim focus on her. “Okay enough. Each of you tell me something,” Anna insisted that Sunday after they’d all had a massive family cry. “Something good about your lives, your work. Let’s just have no more big feelings for a little bit.” I also like this scene on page 69 because even though it doesn’t shy away from the serious stuff of life there’s a good dose of humor. This was what I tried to balance throughout the novel. People in this book are intense, quirky, funny and devastating—for better or worse, aren’t all the people we love best?
Visit Victoria Redel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue