Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Strangers to Temptation"

Scott Gould’s work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Carolina Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, New Madrid Journal, New Stories from the South, and New Southern Harmonies, among others. He is a two-time winner of the Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission and a past winner of the Fiction Fellowship from the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Gould chairs the creative writing department at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities in Greenville.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his story collection, Strangers to Temptation, and reported the following:
I have to be honest. I didn’t think this Page 69 thing would be very successful (or interesting) for a collection of stories. I mean, the stories in Strangers to Temptation are linked by several elements—setting, narrator, the early 1970s—but they are stand-alone pieces, so there’s no chance one page would illuminate the other 223?

I flipped to page 69. I was way wrong.

Strangers to Temptation has several themes running through it: race, coming of age, class divisions, sexuality. And all of them rear their heads on page 69. That page hits toward the end of a story called “May McIntosh Flies, John Wayne Runs,” in a the midst of a long scene where the narrator (a fourteen-year old white kid) and his new black friend sneak through the muddy swamp to watch a football game—specifically, to watch May McIntosh perform her cheerleading gyrations. (May cheers for the brand new, white-flight private high school. This is the early 70s, remember?) The two boys have stumbled onto a group of older country boys who share a bottle of whiskey and a similar goal: to hide in the woods and watch May McIntosh fly through the air.

At the top of the page, the narrator realizes that his black friend has safely ditched him because, “[Columbus] was already smart enough at that age to check before stepping out of the shadows.” He’s already learned to avoid the kind of white people who are passing the bottle around. He knows the dividing line between shadow and light. (Also, I thought it was ironic that the first word on the page is we, because in those post-segregation days, it wasn’t easy to figure out what we meant.)

The boys can’t keep their eyes of May McIntosh. She is nearly goddess-like the way she makes “a mockery of the laws of gravitation and physics.” The narrator has a special connection to May. Early in the story, she lays a big kiss on him that tastes like coconuts. He’s been fascinated with her since. Hence, his trip to spy on her.

The boys sharing the bottle are not townies. They are hard-edged, quick-to-anger country boys, which makes the final question on the page significant. A kid in a hunting coat asks the narrator, “Why you out here?” None of the boys are where they are supposed to be that night, hiding there in the dark, a long way from the light and the bleachers that are occupied by private school kids.

So it all seems to be on page 69: the racial tensions and confusions of the early 70s, burgeoning sexuality brought on by coming-of-age, class stratification and folks crossing boundary lines in the dark.

The Page 69 Test. How did it know?
Visit Scott Gould's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Molly Patterson was born in St. Louis and lived in China for several years. Her work has appeared in several magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Iowa Review. She was the 2012-2013 Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize.

Patterson applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Rebellion, and reported the following:
Rebellion is split up into sections for each of its four main characters, and page 69 comes from the first section that features Juanlan, a young Chinese woman who has reluctantly come home to her provincial town after graduating college. In this scene, she awakens the first morning she’s home and her mother quizzes her about the book she’s reading, a Chinese translation of Pride and Prejudice:
Juanlan shrugs. “We read it in my British literature class last autumn; I wanted to try it again in Chinese. It’s a romance.”

“Oh, romance,” her mother says, pursing her lips in a kiss, and then laughs at herself as she leaves the room.

The picture on the cover of the book is of a woman and man, half turned away from each other. She barely understood anything when she read it in English, but the characters had struck her as exotic, their world as lovely and delicate as lace. Rereading in Chinese, it is all too familiar. The people are small; they live in a small place; they take, it seems, only the smallest of risks.
Juanlan’s disappointment in the book mirrors her disappointment at being back home. She’d had dreams of living in a big city and working for a foreign company, not of working for her parents running their second-rate hotel, and helping to care for her father.

In the same scene, she talks to her mother about Lulu, her sister-in-law. Juanlan’s mother is angry at Lulu for ignoring the dietary restrictions that all Chinese women follow when they’re pregnant:
“…Your brother’s wife, she’s careless about her health. I tell her she should eat only boiled chicken and plain vegetables, and she says she wants spicy pork. Yesterday at lunch, she asked where I was keeping the lajiao. She wanted to put it on her rice.”

“Did you give it to her?”

“Of course not!” Her mother watches as Juanlan spits into the sink. “You tell her, maybe she’ll listen. She’s going to hurt the baby, eating spicy food.”
Juanlan and Lulu have never gotten along very well, but in the pages that follow, they quickly strike up a friendship based on their mutual unhappiness. They both feel stifled by their family’s expectations; they both feel powerless in a rapidly changing society, and suspect that they’re among the group that will be left behind. More than anything, they’re bored—a feeling that has the potential to get them into trouble when a new source of interest arrives on the scene: an American man who’s eager to befriend them.
Visit Molly Patterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"The Rat Catchers' Olympics"

Born in London, Colin Cotterill has worked as teacher in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before he started training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand. He’s won the Dilys and a CWA Dagger, and has been a finalist for several other awards.

Cotterill applied the Page 69 Test to his latest Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery, The Rat Catchers' Olympics, and reported the following:
This page 69 thing is starting to make me wonder exactly what role the supernatural plays in the content that appears on that magic page every year. It begins with the line,

“The obvious target would be a high-ranking Chinese,” said Civilai. “At least that’s who I’d shoot.”

And right away we know that someone’s under threat and that Civilai isn’t that fond of Chinese. I wonder what he’d think of that same cunning China 37 years on watching its new economic policy steamroll through the region and far beyond. He predicted it as the seeds were being planted in the seventies.

The conjecture continues as Dr. Siri and his team work through other possible targets. We learn that they’re in Moscow for the Olympic Games and that someone on their team of athletes isn’t who he claims to be. But do they have enough evidence to make an accusation?

“What if Sompoo’s here at the invitation of the Soviets? His background means nothing. How many on the shooting team don’t have guerilla training? They’re all expert gunmen for a reason. Until we have something concrete to show them I think we’ll be making fools of ourselves to go to the Soviets with this.”

See? The stage is set in one foul swoop. All we’re missing on that page is some good old Siri and Civilai lightheartedness. But,wait! What’s Siri’s reaction when they wonder if he could be the target?

“I paid two visits to the bathroom at Wattay airport. He could have shot me there.”

“Me too,” said Civilai.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Cotterill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"Murder in Disguise"

Mary Miley 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. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel and business topics.

Miley applied the Page 69 Test to Murder in Disguise, her fourth Roaring Twenties mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
If I had been on trial for my own life, I do believe I would have felt more composed than I did on that day, Tuesday, November 3, as I climbed the steps and entered the courthouse at Main and Temple. After all, a lifetime spent in front of audiences that jeered as well as cheered should have equipped me with enough poise to soothe any amount of stage fright, and a jury is nothing more than an audience empowered to judge and to determine a performer’s fate. I knew my part to perfection. I’d chosen my costume carefully—an ivory tunic dress with its pleated skirt demurely hemmed below the knee—and applied my makeup—a light application of kohl rimming the eyes and subdued lipstick—to emphasize my wide-eyed, ingénue honesty.

So why was I shivering like a dead leaf in a gale? Because it wasn’t my life; it was David’s. And I owed him a life for what he did for me in Oregon last year.
Page 69 finds the reader at the start of Chapter 12 and the beginning of the courtroom scene where Jessie’s significant other, David, is being tried for murder and a host of Prohibition-related crimes. Jessie is one of the witnesses. David’s shady lawyer is confident of acquittal—why not? He’s bribed the jurors—but things don’t go as expected. Things never do. That’s what keeps the reader turning pages.

Is this page representative of the rest of the book? Well, yes. As a matter of fact, it’s representative of my entire Roaring Twenties series, because it furthers the saga of David and Jessie’s relationship, which began in the first book, The Impersonator, and continues through the second and third. One of my goals in creating this subplot story arc is to illustrate the absurdity of the Prohibition laws that corrupted our legal system in horrifying ways.

Readers tell me they enjoy being immersed in the 1920s, easily America’s most intriguing decade. This was an era that soared from the heights of silent movies to the depths of Prohibition, a time when vaudeville, gangsters, flappers, bootleggers, and jazz came right into the parlor courtesy of a new invention called radio. As the male establishment watched in horror, women declared their independence with the ballot, raised their hems, bobbed their hair, smoked cigarettes, slurped bathtub gin, and shimmied at speakeasies late into the night.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Disguise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 25, 2017


Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Ferocious and This is How it Happened. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Stokes loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Ferocious and reported the following:
From page 69:
Tucking the bath towel around my body as best I can, I open the bathroom door a crack and look out. Light filters through the open window, but there’s no movement. I press my ear to the crack. No sounds. I open the door a little wider. That’s when I see the feet.

They’re connected to a body. Shit, shit, shit. A man with bright-blond hair.

I bend down and test for a pulse, even though I can tell right away that he’s dead. One of my throwing knives lies next to his stomach, the blade crusted over with dried blood. Stepping past the body, I check the deadbolt and the chain on the door—both secure. At least there’s no danger of a maid stumbling in here before I can figure out what to do. But then how did the men get in? I glance around the room and find the open window, one pane broken in order to undo the lock. Balmy air wraps around me as I pull the window shut. If anyone had heard the commotion, they would have been banging on the door by now. Still, there’s no way to fix it. I can’t stay here. I’m not safe.

My suitcase is empty, the contents strewn across the floor. I grab a clean set of clothes and get dressed, noticing that it’s after eight in the morning. I have no idea what happened since the men broke in, probably around one or two a.m.

I sit on the edge of the bed and try to calm myself. But it’s hard to be calm when a dead body lurks in your peripheral vision.
This scene takes place in a guesthouse in the Koreatown district of Los Angeles. Winter has traveled to L.A. to find the man who is responsible for her sister’s death. Readers learn in Vicarious (the first book in this two-book series) that Winter has gaps of missing time, and here she has awakened in the shower and she’s not sure how she got there. She finds the body of a blond man in her guesthouse room and doesn’t know how he died, but she’s pretty sure she’s responsible since one of her knives is covered with blood. Winter remembers two men breaking into her room, but she doesn’t remember what happened after that or what happened to the second man.

I think this page is a good representation of the novel because it captures the dark tone of the book along with highlighting Winter’s deteriorating mental state. One thing she really struggles with is how to live while not being completely in control of her actions. The story returns to this theme multiple times as Winter comes to grips with who she is and what that means for her future . . . or whether she should even have a future.
Learn more about the book and author at Paula Stokes's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Vicarious.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"The Weight of Ink"

Rachel Kadish is the award-winning author of the novels From a Sealed Room and Tolstoy Lied: a Love Story, as well as the novella I Was Here.

Kadish applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Weight of Ink, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Weight of Ink was a daunting moment in the writing process. The novel asks the reader to step into a foreign world: a world of seventeenth-century London, semi-hidden Portuguese Inquisition refugees, plague and fire, and danger around every corner for those who questioned the religious and political orders of the day.

Among the novel’s challenges was finding a way to introduce the reader to all of that gently enough that it didn’t feel daunting. I wanted the reader to be aware only of following a story and a set of characters, rather than studying up on unfamiliar history or syntax. So the question was to figure out how best to guide the reader into that world.

The novel alternates contemporary chapters (in which the historians discover the seventeenth-century documents left by Ester Velasquez and begin to realize how radical they are), with chapters set in the seventeenth century (in which we enter Ester Velasquez’s world).

Knowing how alien the seventeenth-century world might initially feel, I started off letting the reader get comfortable in the novel’s contemporary storyline. Chapter 1, which is set in contemporary London, is twenty pages long.

But for chapter 2--the reader’s first foray into the seventeenth century--I gave the reader only a three-page sampling of that world: a letter dated 1657, in which one seventeenth-century character expresses concern for another’s wellbeing.

A toe in the water of the seventeenth century—that was all.

Then back to safer ground: chapter 3--twenty pages set in contemporary London.

For the novel’s first 67 pages, the odd-numbered chapters—the contemporary ones--were “normal” length…but the even-numbered chapters—those set in the seventeenth century--were tiny: chapter 4 was another letter, two pages long; chapter 6 was a single solitary page, describing a woman on a ship heading to London.

And then it was time to take the plunge. By now, I hoped the reader was sufficiently oriented to understand the wants and loves and fears of my seventeenth-century characters in context.

Chapter 8, which starts on page 68, is the first full-length seventeenth-century chapter in the novel…so page 69 was part of a scene I wrote with great trepidation: would the reader be willing to follow my characters down the narrow lanes of London and of seventeenth century language? Would the tense encounter between Ester and her brother on the docks, and the fraught exchanges with the dock workers and the subsequent fight and Ester’s retreat to the rabbi’s study all make sense to the modern reader?

I’m still stunned when readers say chapter 8 was one of their favorites. I wrote it with such fear and trembling—but also with a sense of fatalism: Now I’m in and there’s no going back, and all I can do is hope the reader will take the leap with me.
Visit Rachel Kadish's official website.

My Book, The Movie: The Weight of Ink.

Writers Read: Rachel Kadish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"Fox Hunter"

Zoë Sharp is the author of fourteen novels so far, either in the Charlie Fox crime thriller series, standalones or collaborations, as well as moonlighting as an international pet-sitter and yacht crew. When she’s not doing that, she dabbles in self-defence and house renovation. (If she visits don’t tell her to make herself at home or she’s liable to start knocking walls out.)

Sharp applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Fox Hunter, and reported the following:
From page 69:

The blow stunned me only for a moment. Just long enough for the senior officer to drag me bodily out of the back seat of the cruiser. The thump as I hit the concrete floor brought me out of it.


He had me by the back of my collar and was dragging me towards the men with the Cadillac. I grabbed his hand, dug thumb and forefinger viciously deep into pressure points I could find in my sleep.

He yowled, whirled with his nightstick raised. I swivelled on my backside as if break-dancing, hooked one leg behind his and scissored the heel of my boot into his kneecap as hard as I could manage.

He’d clearly received some kind of unarmed combat instruction as part of his training, but either that was a long time ago or he’d been a very poor student.
Page 69 of Fox Hunter is the start of chapter thirteen, so in reality it’s only half a page. Because I have a tendency to write in short chapters, and break in the middle of a scene, it hits the ground (quite literally in this case) with its legs still pumping from the end of chapter twelve. Yes, it’s fairly representative of the book, in that my narrator—bodyguard Charlie Fox—is a capable fighter, so when she has no other choice she fights without any quarter expected or given.

But in other ways this section doesn’t clue the reader in to the quieter, more reflective moments. The sorrow of an Iraqi woman attacked and left for dead, who tells her story to Charlie, via an interpreter, earlier in the story. Nor the later agony of a father forced to make an impossible choice concerning his son. So, I hope readers might take page 69 as an indication of a fast-paced story with a protagonist who can more than hold her own, and then be pleasantly surprised by other hidden depths in characters and situations described elsewhere.
Learn more about the author and her work at Zoë Sharp’s website, blog, and find her on Facebook or Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Fox Hunter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Call of Fire"

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Her newest novel is Call of Fire. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

Cato applied the Page 69 Test to Call of Fire and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Papa? Papa!” A girl’s voice screeched from above. By the time Ingrid glanced up, all she spied was a blur of movement. Feet pounded down the stairs. The girl leaped to a stop before them. She was young with creamy brown skin, a stick figure in calico and stained white stockings. A mismatched bow in kimono fabric was almost bigger than her head.

“Oh.” The girl stared at Ingrid. “You’re a woman. Up there, I saw the top of your head, and your skin, and I thought...”

Ingrid didn’t know what to think.

A nearby door squawked as it swung open. “Mirabelle, what fuss you causing?” The woman carried a damp rag and a scowl that could stop a galloping horse. She looked between Ingrid and the girl and stood even straighter. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. You. You’re Ingrid Carmichael.”
This latter half of page 69 is at the very end of a chapter, and in the few lines that follow, Ingrid is about to get quite a shock about the identities of these two strangers. My Blood of Earth trilogy features an alternate history of 1906, with the United States and Japan allied as a world power. Japanese influences, therefore, are quite evident in everyday America, from food to speech to clothes. Even in these few lines, there's mention of scrap kimono fabric being used as a bow. Worldbuilding often comes in small dribbles of details like this.
Visit Beth Cato's website.

The Page 69 Test: Breath of Earth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"The Authentics"

Abdi Nazemian is a screenwriter, director, and author.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut YA novel, The Authentics, and reported the following:
This page of The Authentics ends with the lead character, Daria, stating that she has the illusion of being in control, while never feeling more out of control. That sentiment is in many ways representative of her journey. Daria is passionate, opinionated, and thinks she has figured out a way to make sense of the world and of her place in it. But circumstances challenge her, and much of her journey is one of learning to let go and be open to feeling out of control. It's a state of mind I can certainly relate to, and I hope many readers will as well, so hopefully they'll be intrigued enough to turn the page to see what page 70 has to offer.
Visit Abdi Nazemian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 18, 2017


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

Abel applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Vector, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Vector comes from the point of view of a bad a researched novel based on science...this particular bad guy is not human. It is something many people see every day, regarded as not usually dangerous, yet something responsible for millions of deaths around the world each year. It has no idea it is a bad guy, hijacked by others with mayhem in mind.
Visit James Abel's website.

My Book, The Movie: Vector.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Dead, to Begin With"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Dead, to Begin With, the 24th Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
I’ve been doing this for years now, and every year I swear I’m going to have something really exciting happen on page 69 in my next book. But what we have in Dead, to Begin With is two men arguing over a brown paper bag at a garage sale:
Rhodes looked at the sack. It an ordinary brown paper bad, not a very big one, and Rhodes could see that someone had written “$1" on the side with a black marker.

“Are you armed, Ted?” Rhodes asked.

“I got a license.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Yeah, I’m carrying. It’s in a holster in the small of my back.”

Ted wore a brown nylon jacket that zipped up the front. It hung several inches below his waist and easily concealed the weapon.

“I’m going to come take the sack,” Rhodes said. “Don’t reach for the pistol.”
Okay, so it’s not an explosion or a knife fight, but it’s something that would make you curious, right? Will Ted try anything? What’s in the bag? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, Half in Love with Artful Death, Between the Living and the Dead, and Survivors Will Be Shot Again.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

Writers Read: Bill Crider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Feast of Sorrow"

Historical fiction author Crystal King is a culinary enthusiast, teacher and social media professional. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, has recently been long listed for the 2017 Center for Fiction First Novel prize.

King applied the Page 69 Test to Feast of Sorrow, and reported the following:
My novel is about the famous ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, a man whose name graces the oldest known cookbook. I tell the story from the point of view of his cook, a Greek slave named Thrasius. The page 69 test is a perfect representation of the many sides of Apicius—and how Thrasius has no choice but to weather his stormy nature.

It begins after Apicius has a confrontation in Rome with his biggest rival, the man who has the post he desires as gastronomic advisor to Caesar. Apicius is ticked and has decided not to return home, instead visiting one of his other ocean villas. When Thrasius tries to convince him to go back to his wife, the following moment occurs:
The look on his face told me everything I needed to know. I dared not move as he strode toward me and slammed his hand against the side of my face. His heavy rings smashed against my temple and I could see stars through the blackness. I fell to the ground clutching my head in pain.

“We go when I say we go. Next time think hard before you question me.” He turned back to the window and left Sotas to gather me up and escort me out.

I reeled with his words.

I stayed away from him after that, sharing only the barest of words when asked at meals. A month passed before his mood shifted and we returned to Baiae.
In the scene after this, Apicius is back to his old charismatic self and returns home to his sad and angry wife. Ignoring her dismay at his long absence, he begins having the slaves unload cartloads of furniture—enough to replace everything in their massive palace. It’s classic Apicius. Historically, he was a man who spent his money frivolously, dwindling his monstrous fortune over the course of his life. Thrasius watches, conveying to the reader underlying insight into both Apicius and his wife, Aelia.

Both scenes dig deep into Apicius’s mercurial nature and show Thrasius caught between each of his moods. Apicius rarely physically punishes Thrasius as he might other slaves—he is the favored slave in the household, the cook who has brought Apicius the fame he seeks. For this page to be one of the scenes where Thrasius has displeased him I find to be especially interesting. He is the current that runs through the book holding everything together, the foil to Apicius’s dramatic (and tragic) trajectory and page 69 is a perfect glimpse into those dynamics.
Visit Crystal King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Anna Stephens is a UK-based author of gritty epic fantasy debut, Godblind, the first in a grimdark trilogy about a religious, political and ideological war, the people caught up in its midst, and just what, exactly, they are willing to do to win – is the cost ever too high when the fate of an entire people is at stake? She lives with her husband, Mark, an enormous book and movie and music collection, and – allegedly – too many toys.

Stephens applied the Page 69 Test to Godblind and reported the following:
Page 69 of Godblind drops us straight into a fight, with the evil Mireces having attacked the Wolf village to try and claim back their escaped slave, Rillirin. Corvus, the king of the Mireces, is engaged in battling an unnamed Wolf warrior who is guarding the house where Rillirin is hiding. The Mireces are overrunning the village and the Wolves are being killed in defence of this nameless, mute slave.

Does it represent the rest of the book? Yes and no. The Mireces are accurately summed up as vicious, and ruthless, who think nothing of owning slaves and treat them worse than animals. It also contains action, and there’s a fair amount of that throughout Godblind, with battles, skirmishes and single combat abounding. It also gives up an insight into the Wolves, the civilian warriors on the border of Mireces and Rilpor; the fact they’ve taken in Rillirin, despite the danger it means to them, show them as decent and caring people, and the fact they fight to protect her, rather than giving her up, is also indicative of their general temperament.

It doesn’t, though, give any indication of the other main faction in Godblind – the rest of Rilpor, the Ranks (army) or the royal family in the capital.

However, it’s action-packed and provides a strong indication of the Mireces way of life: “We just want what belongs to us,” as well as the general attitude of the Wolves.
Visit Anna Stephens's website.

My Book, The Movie: Godblind.

Writers Read: Anna Stephens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

"The Half-Drowned King"

Linnea Hartsuyker can trace her ancestry back to Harald Fairhair (Harfagr), the first king of Norway. She grew up in the middle of the woods outside Ithaca, New York, and studied engineering at Cornell University. After a decade of working at Internet startups and writing, she attended New York University and received an MFA in creative writing.

Hartsuyker applied the Page 69 Test to her first novel, The Half-Drowned King, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Half-Drowned King shows a glimpse of the protagonist Ragnvald’s sense of humor, and his fragile relationship with his intended, Hilda. In this scene, Ragnvald and Hilda are at the ting, a gathering of families from district of Norway. At the ting, laws are announced, trials are held, and justice dispensed. Hilda’s brother Egil was a witness to an attempt on Ragnvald’s life that scarred his face. Ragnvald wants Egil to testify on his behalf, while Hilda’s father Hrolf wants his son to refuse. After Hrolf tries to end Hilda and Ragnvald’s betrothal, Hilda somewhat awkwardly offers to sleep with Ragnvald to force her father to allow their marriage. And here is page 69:
Ragnvald burst out laughing and then closed his mouth quickly. This was the last thing he expected of such a solemn girl. She yanked her hand from his grasp and pulled herself up to her full height, as tall as he.

“I apologize for shocking you,” she said stiffly. “Perhaps my father was right.”

He abruptly sobered. “Hilda,” he said, catching her hand again. “You caught me off guard. I did not mean to laugh at you. I was only surprised—that you would offer so much for me.”

“I do not like to break my promises,” she said, still stiff and formal.

“Neither do I,” he said. “I only meant I would come back for you—you need not spend your”—now he flushed as well, and the smile from before threatened to return—“coin with me. I would not trap you.”

“Would you like to be free of me, then?” she asked, and then added, acidly, “Was it only your pride that was injured?”

So she was not so young that she did not know how to wound a man with words. Still, he would not let Solvi’s enmity take her from him. “No,” Ragnvald said shortly. “I want to marry you. Ask of me what promises you will.”

“That is what I want too. Promise to return to me, no matter what happens,” she said, softening. She reached toward him, but stopped for a moment, before touching his cheek as she had earlier.

“I promise,” he said. “I will bring you the bride price you deserve, and a great household to manage.”

“I will wait,” she promised in return, giving him a wide smile that transformed her face. “Father will not marry me off against my will, not with all my sisters needing husbands.”

Ragnvald pulled her close and kissed her on the lips, a kiss she was too surprised, or inexperienced, to return. When he let her go, her smile had turned pleased and knowing. She touched her lips as she bid him good night.
Both Ragnvald and Hilda are proud and touchy, and reluctant to expose what they really feel and want. These types of characters are some of my favorite to write because they spend so much time getting in their own way. I think this scene is a good example of Ragnvald both at his best, trying to be kind, honest, and honorable with his betrothed, and while also showing his flaws.

What readers won’t know from reading this page is that Hilda has rivals for Ragnvald’s affection. The Half-Drowned King is full of battles and political machinations, but it also hinges on the relationships between people. Viking polygamy and arranged marriages have given me the opportunity to explore different kinds of love, from passionate love-at-first-sight, to the love that develops over long marriages when two people spend a lifetime working toward the same goals. I will leave it to my readers to discover what kind of relationship Ragnvald and Hilda have and how it develops over time.
Visit Linnea Hartsuyker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash"

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, as well as a contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue and Hello Giggles. She's also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike.

Ganger applied the Page 69 Test to her debut YA novel, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, and reported the following:
From page 69, Birdie Paxton, just after something horrible has happened to her family:
For some sick reason, all of this makes coming to school totally worth it because for a short time, I can forget about everything else.
This short passage is definitely representative of how Birdie deals with her emotions, and touches on one theme from the book. Her going to school makes her life feel normal when her family is going through some incredibly abnormal things.
Visit Candace Ganger's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash.

Writers Read: Candace Ganger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Graveyard Shift"

Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he had the opportunities to serve as an ICBM crew commander and as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul.

Haspil applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Graveyard Shift, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Graveyard Shift is strangely representative of the rest of the novel. Even though the characters depicted in the scene are secondary and even tertiary in nature, that page happens to capture many of the key aspects of the book. The scene in question depicts a blood dealer, as a client and his vampire enforcer steal his product and keep the money they owe him. The supernatural is present in the form of a vampire thug escorting the client. The client mentions the main villain's name almost in passing; the threat is implied. The product in question is an ingredient someone is using to poison the artificial blood vampires rely on to survive. The slang and the speech patterns the men use place them firmly in the criminal underbelly of modern day Miami. The scene ends with the blood dealer making what seems to be an empty threat after the client and his people have gone. However, this incident causes the dealer to give our heroes a tip that sets some of the book's critical actions into motion. I was skeptical about the entire Page 69 Test idea. Not anymore.
Visit Michael F. Haspil's website.

My Book, The Movie: Graveyard Shift.

Writers Read: Michael F. Haspil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"The Dress in the Window"

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Grant/Littlefield works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Dress in the Window, and reported the following:
It’s a particular challenge to write a seduction scene set in the 1950s, when social conventions and mores were quite different, and the particulars of human sexual congress were often veiled and denied. But it was important to this scene to show that Jeanne, a thirty-ish career woman, has decided to take the reins in the loss of her virginity, after suffering all manner of tragedies including the loss of her fiancé.

How would such a woman signal to a man she did not know well that she was willing to have sex with him? Far more subtly, it seems to me, than she might in 2017—when a direct invitation or vigorous twerk might do the trick.

This is how Jeanne navigates her first date with a friend of a friend:
It was Ralph who asked if she might like a second cocktail when their entrees came, but it was Jeanne who finished hers while unblinkingly holding his gaze.

It was Ralph who ordered the cheesecake with strawberry crème, but it was Jeanne who offered him the last bit on the spoon she’d licked clean.

It was Ralph who suggested a post-dinner walk in the square…but it was Jeanne who paused in front of the lion statue with her face upturned in the gilded lamplight. Ralph kissed her, tenderly at first, then less so half an hour later in the elevator of his building, to which they had taken a heady cab ride with her hand under his shirt.
This passage reflects both the tone I aimed for throughout the book, and the mood of the era as reflected by my research. There is an undercurrent of faint despair which drives the women in the novel to do things they might never have considered before war changed their lives forever.
Visit Sofia Grant's website.

Writers Read: Sofia Grant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Fierce Kingdom"

Gin Phillips is the author of five novels. Her debut novel, The Well and the Mine, was the winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Since then her work has been sold in 29 countries.

Born in Montgomery, AL, Phillips graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in political journalism. She worked as a magazine writer for more than a decade, living in Ireland, New York, and Washington D.C., before eventually moving back to Alabama.

She currently lives in Birmingham with her family.

Phillips applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Fierce Kingdom, and reported the following:
I’m going to cut through any ambiguity and say that, yes, page 69 of Fierce Kingdom is utterly representative of the novel. But it might not be exactly what a reader would expect to be representative.

Fierce Kingdom centers around Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, who are leaving the zoo one afternoon when they hear gunshots. Joan sees a gunman, and she runs. The novel plays out in nearly real time over the course of three hours, following Joan, Lincoln, and a handful of other characters, ending when the police enter the zoo. More than a traditional thriller, though, it is an exploration of motherhood. The book asks what we owe our children…and what we owe someone else’s child.

Page 69 gives a glimpse of Joan as she’s found a safe place for herself and Lincoln, although she’s very conscious of the gunmen who might be lurking nearby. She’s exchanging texts with her husband, and she’s frustrated with him for needing reassurance when she’s trying hard to stay focused on immediate threats. This is a still moment in the story, and it lets us know Joan and her life a little more deeply. It's one of many of these moments in the novel, moments that linger over a character and the landscape of their thoughts, and I think these inner glimpses are more important to the intensity of the book than the action—it’s these moments that, hopefully, make the reader care.

So we get a flash of Joan’s irritation with her husband’s nervous texts, but we also realize that “she longs for his handwriting. He leaves her a note on the kitchen counter every morning…You are my #1 draft pick. He makes her coffee so that it is hot when she wakes up, even though he does not drink it.”

We see, too, her struggle to pull herself together so that she can keep her son calm and content.

“She is trying to work herself back into the right mood to talk to him—quiet, as quiet as possible—to make everything normal and all right. A considerable part of parenting is pretending moods that you do not entirely feel. She has thought this before when she’s listening to little plastic people act out a battle scene for hours at a time, but now it seems like maybe all those eternal battles were a good thing—maybe they were practice."
Visit Gin Phillips's website.

Writers Read: Gin Phillips.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"The Lost Ones"

Sheena Kamal was born in the Caribbean and immigrated to Canada as a child. She holds an HBA in political science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness. Kamal has also worked as a crime and investigative journalism researcher for the film and television industry. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, and enjoys beaches and Dark ‘n’ Stormys.

Kamal applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Lost Ones, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The two IT guys look crushed, but what are they going to do? Complain that I bumped into them? Which, of course, is the truth. These young men are a decent sort, however, and just accept that their day has gone from normal to shitty in mere moments and they’re out of pocket for two trays full of designer coffee.
On page 69 of The Lost Ones, my heroine, Nora Watts, is using a bit of devious ingenuity to gain entrance to a building. It’s not a key plot point, but it does reveal something important about Nora’s character. It shows that she isn’t above playing dirty, and that she thinks quickly on her feet. It’s a recurring element in the book, this penchant of Nora’s to take matters into her own hands and use her wits to get access to spaces that she normally wouldn’t be allowed into. It also tells the reader that, though she is emotionally conflicted about this hunt for her daughter, she is also willing to do whatever it takes to find her. You don’t play dirty unless the stakes are high.
Visit Sheena Kamal's website.

Writers Read: Sheena Kamal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 4, 2017

"White Fur"

Jardine Libaire is a graduate of Skidmore College and the University of Michigan MFA program. White Fur is her second novel. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Libaire applied the Page 69 Test to White Fur and reported the following:
From page 69:
New Haven blooms; dogwoods open their petals of tea-streaked porcelain, and birds tune up like a symphony; rain falls on stone one day, simple white puffs fill an azure sky the next. Students are euphoric, high on thin sunshine. Tender skin is revealed to the air in golf shirts and knee- length skirts. Kids shiver at the sidewalk café, determined to drink their coffee outside, hunching over notebooks.
✷  ✷  ✷
Elise sometimes goes to the basketball court on Montague Street that’s annexed to the church. A program for troubled teens uses it when school lets out, but it’s deserted in the mornings. She squints into the frail light as she shoots. Her face is expressionless whether she misses or scores. One day, a nun offers her banana bread in a napkin and a can of cream soda. “Oh, wow,” Elise says. “That’s really nice of you.” “I see you playing here,” the nun says. “You’re a strong girl.” “Seriously, thanks,” Elise says, the ball between her pigeon- toed feet as she eats— she needed this kindness. The woman’s face is turtle-like in the short tuck of her nose and the bleary, innocent eyes. She wears gray orthopedic shoes, and when she waddles back to the church, her beads sway…
A few things happen on page 69 of White Fur. We hopefully feel and see the way spring gets going in New Haven, CT; it’s fickle, still cold, but dogwoods bloom in the way that only dogwoods can bloom. We also see Elise—that she’s pigeon-toed, that she doesn’t change her expression when shooting hoops and missing or scoring.

But the primary event here is the nun, who has been watching Elise on the days when Elise comes to play basketball at the church court by herself, and who chooses to bring Elise a slice of banana bread and a cream soda this afternoon. Maybe the nun can feel that Elise is lonely, struggling, and she decides to help her in this tiny, sweet, earnest way. The important aspect to this is how Elise lives in the world with an open soul, even though she seems hard at first. She connects to what’s around her, and this provides a channel for this woman (who doesn’t know her) to hand her sustenance. This is Elise’s core, this capacity to leave the gate unlocked, to take the risk of vulnerability. This is also what makes her so fundamentally different from Jamey, and it has a lot to do with what she might teach him, if he’ll let her.
Visit Jardine Libaire's website.

Writers Read: Jardine Libaire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"The Smack"

Richard Lange is the author of the story collections Dead Boys and Sweet Nothing and the novels This Wicked World, Angel Baby, and The Smack. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the International Association of Crime Writers’ Hammett Prize, The Short Story Dagger from Great Britain’s Crime Writers Association, and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Los Angeles.

Lange applied the Page 69 Test to The Smack and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I won’t whore for you,” Tinafey said. “If that’s what you’re hopin’, forget it.”

“I’d never ask you to do that,” Petty said.

“That’s what you all say till your pockets are empty.”

“I’m not a pimp, Tinafey,” Petty said. “That’s not my game.”

Tinafey squinted into his eyes, looking for the truth, then said, “Nobody’s waitin’ on me in Memphis, so I might as well stay a little longer. I ain’t even been to the beach yet.”

“We’ll do that.”

“And Beverly Hills? Rodeo Drive?”

“Wherever you want.”

“And if somebody asks, can I say I’m your girlfriend?”

Petty was taken aback by the question.

“Do you want to say you’re my girlfriend?” he said.

“It’d make things easier,” Tinafey said.

“Can I say I’m your boyfriend?”

Tinafey made a face. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?” she said.

“Not to me,” Petty said.

Boyfriend,” Tinafey said in a funny voice. “Girlfriend.”

“You ever had a white boyfriend before?” Petty asked her.

“Once, in high school,” she replied. “His daddy ’bout shit, though. Made him break up with me.”

“That’s Memphis for you.”

“That’s everywhere for you.”

Petty played with a drop of water on her shoulder.

“You ever had a black girlfriend?” she said.

“Sure,” Petty said.

“One you didn’t pay for?”

The sound of sirens spiraled up from the street.
Page 69 of my new novel The Smack is a conversation between Rowan Petty, a down-on-his luck conman chasing 2 million dollars in Army money smuggled out of Afghanistan, and Tinafey, a prostitute he met and fell for in Reno and convinced to accompany him to L.A., where the money is hidden. This conversation comes as the two are still feeling each other out, neither completely trusting the other yet, which is to be expected, considering the shady and dangerous world they inhabit.

This page is definitely representative of a certain strand of the narrative, and maybe the most important one. While there’s all kinds of murder and mayhem in the book, the characters always come first. My protagonists are people you normally wouldn’t root for –criminals, drunks, ne’er do wells who exist outside the boundaries of the square world – and one of the challenges I set for myself as a writer is to make you care about them and want to see them survive the perils I throw at them and succeed at whatever skullduggery they’re engaged in.

Rowan and Tinafey’s love story is the beating heart of the The Smack. They’re two lost souls who bump into each other one snowy night in Reno and manage, against all odds, to form a relationship that salves some of their previous wounds. Whether this relationship, or they, themselves, make it through the chaos and violence swirling around the stolen money they’re after…well, you’ll have to read the book to find that out.
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

The Page 69 Test: Angel Baby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Dark Sky"

Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and moved to Nottingham when he was 18 to go to university. He’s stayed there ever since, and now lives with his wife, two cats, two snakes and a collection of tropical fish. He is the author of the Keiko novels, sci-fi adventures that follow the escapades of those crewing the spaceship of the same name; Dark Run is the first book in the series, Dark Sky the second.

When not writing, Brooks works for a homelessness charity, plays guitar and sings in a punk band, watches football (soccer), MMA and nature/science documentaries, goes walking in the Peak District or other areas of splendid scenery, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him.

Brooks applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Sky and reported the following:
In sharp contrast to when I did this for Dark Run, think it's safe to say that page 69 of Dark Sky is very definitely indicative of the rest of the novel in general!

Dark Sky sees the crew of the freighter-spaceship Keiko taking on what should be an easy data retrieval job on the mining planet Uragan to make a quick buck. Unfortunately things don’t work out that way, when the contact reveals that all is not as it seems and plays hardball with them, and then a revolution starts leaving them trapped in a subterranean city with conflict raging around them and a 700mph storm battering the surface.

Page 69 takes place in a bar and sees the start of these problems, as captain Ichabod Drift and his muscle Apirana Wahawaha are having a terse exchange with Aleksandr Shirokov and his husband about forged travel documents. The ship’s tech wizard Jenna McIlroy is encoding data to look like pictures of naked men to keep it away from prying eyes, then receives a notification on her wrist computer that suggests something has just gone very, very wrong… but you’d have to read on to page 70 to find out exactly what that is.
Visit Mike Brooks's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Run.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Run.

Writers Read: Mike Brooks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"The Epiphany Machine"

David Burr Gerrard is the author of The Epiphany Machine and Short Century. He teaches creative writing at the 92nd Street Y, The New School, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop.

He lives in Queens, NY with his wife.

Gerrard applied the Page 69 Test to The Epiphany Machine and reported the following:
The Page 69 test happens to be almost weirdly appropriate for The Epiphany Machine. This page sees the novel’s narrator, Venter Lowood, on the literal threshold of one of the biggest decisions of his life. Venter has grown up knowing that, before he was born, his father and mother used the epiphany machine, a mysterious device that tattoos epiphanies on the forearms of its users. His father received the tattoo SHOULD NEVER BECOME A FATHER; his mother received the tattoo ABANDONS WHAT MATTERS MOST. His mother abandoned the family shortly after he was born, and Venter has been raised by his father and by his maternal grandmother, both of whom now hate the machine and have made it a forbidden subject.

At this point in the novel, Venter is a teenager, and his grandmother is on her deathbed. Venter has come to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to see Adam Lyons, who keeps the epiphany machine in his apartment. Unsure of his own motives—is he there to make a final attempt to find his mother before her own mother dies, or is he there to use the machine?—Venter has a long talk with Adam in the doorway, sensing that if he goes inside, he will use the machine.

Let’s call Venter’s feeling at this moment the Page 69 feeling. Simultaneous revulsion towards the idea of giving oneself over to a purportedly magic tattoo machine and curiosity about what your tattoo would be. I hope that you’ll want to follow Venter as he makes his decision.
Visit David Burr Gerrard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue