Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Death on Tap"

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the popular Bakeshop Mysteries.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to Death on Tap, her first Sloan Krause Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Mac. Don’t do this.” I put my hands on my hips. “You know exactly who I’m talking about. I can’t believe you would bring her here—tonight. That’s low. Even for you.”

“Who, Hayley?” He pulled a silver lighter with his initials monogramed on the front from his back pocket and flicked it on and off.  “You look smoking hot tonight, Sloan.”

“Don’t use her name.” I folded my arms over my chest. “You’re smoking again?”

“No!” Mac flipped the lighter off and stuffed it back in his pocket. He moved closer, and lowered his voice. “I didn’t bring her. She followed me here. I made a mistake, but I promise I didn’t bring her. I’m trying to shake her.”

We both turned as Eddie’s voice became louder in the bar. “You’ve got some nerve showing your face here you little cheat.”

I brushed past Mac into the doorway to see what was going on.

Garrett and a staggering Bruin were holding Eddie. He reminded me of an overly carbonated bottle of beer about to blow its cap.

Hayley, the beer wench, chewed on an unlit cigarette. Eddie puffed out his chest like he was about to break free. She cowered and inched her way toward the door.

“That’s right, keep backing up. No one wants you here.” Eddie heckled her. His posture, like a boxer waiting to throw the first punch, baffled me. Why was he suddenly my protector? Or was there more to it? Could he have had a fling with her, too? There had to be something else between them.

As Hayley backed her way out of the pub, Bruin tried to pull Eddie away, but Eddie threw him off.  The motion made Bruin lose his footing. He swayed. The crowd gasped. Garrett caught him with his free hand. This was more drama than Leavenworth had seen in years. Everyone was completely captivated.
I have to admit that my palms were a bit sweaty as I turned to page 69. I love the concept of one page being able to capture the spirit of an entire book. But what if it didn’t? What if page 69 was a total dud, with sentence after sentence of rambling prose? What if there wasn’t a sliver of plot on page 69. Or worse, what if I hated it?

Side note—I’m not sure if this is true of all writers or just me, but sometimes reading my words months or years later tends to make me cringe. I fall down the rabbit hole of thoughts like, “Why did I say that?” or spiral through regrets on word choice and sentence structure.

Fortunately, as I timidly flipped to page 69 my fears were unfounded. Surprisingly I think this one small section gives the reader a solid sense of Sloan and her need to keep up her game face at opening night of her new pub, while internally seething that her soon-to-be ex-husband and the beer wench have crashed the party.

Cheers to that!
Visit Ellie Alexander's website.

--Marshal Zeringue