Saturday, December 30, 2017

"One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning"

David Moody first self-published Hater in 2006, and without an agent, succeeded in selling the film rights for the novel to Mark Johnson (producer, Breaking Bad) and Guillermo Del Toro (director, The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth). His seminal zombie novel Autumn was made into an (admittedly terrible) movie starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine. Moody has a unhealthy fascination with the end of the world and likes to write books about ordinary folks going through absolute hell.

Moody applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning, and reported the following:
Page 69 of One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning is actually only half a page long. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, and it’s relatively action free. Interestingly, though, it does say a lot about the book. The novel takes place on a small, rocky island in the North Sea between the UK and Denmark. It’s a cold, inhospitable place, and it’s where a group of office workers are enduring a team-building weekend courtesy of Hazleton Adventure Experiences. The Hater novels (of which this is one) are about mankind’s inability to get along. The human race is split down the middle, and both sides must wipe out the other in order to survive. As well as the dynamic between the Haters and the Unchanged (as they’re called), in the new book there’s an immediate division between the office co-workers and the Hazleton Adventure Experience staff. On page 69 we see a character from either side finally beginning to interact and bridge the gap between the two factions. It’s a relatively lightweight conversation they share, but its implications for the rest of the story are vast. These people will need to work together in order to stay alive, and yet the people they need to work with are also their biggest threat. It’s an impossible paradox, and after a series of horrific events, page 69 represents the point where the smartest of the folks on the island realise what’s at stake and what they must do to survive.
Visit David Moody's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning.

Writers Read: David Moody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Carrying the Gentleman's Secret"

Helen Dickson lives in South Yorkshire with her retired farm manager husband. On leaving school she entered the nursing profession, which she left to bring up a young family. Having moved out of the chaotic farmhouse, she has more time to indulge in her favorite pastimes. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling, reading and music. An incurable romantic, she writes for pleasure. It was a love of history that drove her to writing historical romantic fiction.

Dickson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Carrying the Gentleman's Secret, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Carrying a Gentleman’s Secret is representative of the rest of the book. The story is set in the Victorian era. Alex has come to Gretna Green in Scotland to prevent his brother-in-law entering in a bigamous marriage with an unsuspecting Lydia. He succeeds and in doing so finds himself attracted to the “bride” – she is not immune to him either, but when he suggests they spend the night together – no strings attached, she is shocked, her refusal fierce.
Furious with himself, more than with her, after all she had been through that day, Alex understood how insulted she must feel by his improper suggestion. ‘If you are going to cast doubt on my good intentions, then there is nothing more for me to do than bid you goodnight and wish you a safe journey.’

‘Goodnight, Mr Golding,’ Lydia said in a shaky, breathless voice, trying to ignore the dull ache of disappointment in her chest, regretting this new turn of events that had ruined the closeness that had developed between them throughout the meal.

Alex looked at her face, drawn by the candlelight reflecting softly in the depths of her eyes and the appealing pink of her lips slightly parted to reveal shining white teeth. His conscience rising up to do battle at what he had suggested, he tried flaying his thoughts into obedience, but he could smell her perfume in the air, which weakened his resolve.

He had known and made love to many beautiful women, but he could not remember wanting any of them on first acquaintance as he wanted Lydia Brook. What was it about her that he found so appealing? Her sincerity? Her innocence? Whatever it was he could not deny that she affected him deeply.
What will Lydia do? Is she about to forget her mother’s moral teachings and fall into bed with a stranger? What happens next drives the story forward. Alex’s seemingly change in character and his suggestion poses a challenge to Lydia, and when they part - Alex to remain in Scotland and Lydia to return to London and her humdrum life - is crucial to their relationship when they meet again.

Lydia is a working girl, a seamstress. She is ambitious to rise above her humble beginnings and open her own establishment. Her father, a convicted criminal, was transported to Australia years earlier. Lydia lives in fear of him coming back into her life when she receives a letter informing her that he has served his sentence and is returning to England.

She is shrewd and her enthusiasm for her work shines through. She wears her determination like chainmail – such is the result of having ambition in a world dominated by men. Alex is impressed by her knowledge of her subject and to get her started in opening her own dress shop they form a business arrangement.

Alex’s own dark past weighs heavily on his broad shoulders. Lydia’s image of him is of a wealthy English gentleman, a man who succeeds in everything he does. Her illusions are eventually shattered when his dark past is revealed to her. We see Lydia’s transition from a working girl to a woman of independent means. But she is vulnerable to Alex’s charms too – a man who is her social superior and one to rule her heart.
Visit Helen Dickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Carrying the Gentleman's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"The Art of Murder"

Casey Doran's second Jericho Sands book is The Art of Murder.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Art of Murder finds Jericho Sands at a crossroads. He’s returned home to find his best friend murdered, his ex-girlfriend engaged and a new killer stalking the streets of Peoria. Jericho has already made one decision he’ll never be able to take back. Now, he’s faced with the option of making another. In this scene, Jericho is speaking with Eddie Torrez, a detective for the Peoria Police Department who is currently on disciplinary leave and facing the very real possibility of loosing his badge. Being discussed is the task of finding the latest killer who has come to town. Neither Jericho nor Torrez trust the pair of detectives known ironically as ‘The Hall of Famers’ to solve the murder of their friend. Grasping at straws to come up with a plan, the page kicks off with the line:
“How do you feel about breaking into police headquarters?”
Torrez offers Jericho an opportunity to gain valuable information into the murder investigation and hopefully find the next link to the killer. But it comes with a risk to them both.
“How about the alarm codes?” I asked.

“Let’s hope they haven’t changed them.”

“And if they have?”

“Then we run like hell.”
The page ends with the two men preparing to break into headquarters and steal information so they can track down a killer. I feel that this section is very representative of the book. I try to make the conflicts and dangers that arise through the story affect the characters on emotionally and moral levels, as well as just physically. At it’s core, The Art of Murder is about people crossing lines that will forever change them. This scene sets up one of those moments.
Learn more about The Art of Murder, and follow Casey Doran on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Art of Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Nemo Rising"

C. Courtney Joyner is an award-winning writer of fiction, comics, and screenplays. He has more than 25 movies to his credit, including the cult films Prison, starring Viggo Mortensen; From a Whisper to a Scream, starring Vincent Price; and Class of 1999, directed by Mark Lester. A graduate of USC, Joyner's first produced screenplay was The Offspring, which also starred Vincent Price. Joyner's other scripts have included TV movies for CBS, USA, and Showtime.

Joyner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Nemo Rising, and reported the following:
From page 69:

The sound of Nemo’s footsteps changed.

The cobblestone streets had ended, and the wood planking of the Norfolk Harbor wharf had replaced them. A flock of gulls broke from a far piling, and he watched them dip before they angled for a strip of ocean he could barely glimpse between a sail maker’s shop and a tavern.

The rows of buildings along the waterfront denied Nemo his view, but he tasted the salty-damp air, then soaked his lungs with a deep breath. His strides lengthened, quick-marching through an alley, with Duncan catching up, until they both reached the docks.

He stopped, taking in the shallow-bottom freighters and fishing boats, tied in their slips. Sailors worked the small craft on the rst dock, and on the second the sails were coming down on a two-mast schooner. Orders were shouted, with all hands crewing together.

Duncan said, “You can deny it, but this is where you belong.”
My page 69 is a bit compromised; the start of a chapter, and half-a-page. I thought about shifting to another part of the book, with Nemo fighting steampunk monsters, or in bloody battle, and there’s plenty of that, but I stayed with this quiet moment, because my book is also a sea story besides being a giant, fantasy adventure. So, I like this brief page, as it reminds us that Captain Nemo was a hero, villain, and all the shadings of Verne, but he was also a man of the sea.
Visit C. Courtney Joyner's website.

My Book, The Movie: Nemo Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 22, 2017


Ken Scholes is the award-winning, critically-acclaimed author of five novels and over fifty short stories. His work has appeared in print for over sixteen years. His series, The Psalms of Isaak, is published by Tor Books and his short fiction has been collected in three volumes published by Fairwood Press.

Scholes is a winner of the Writers of the Future Award, France’s Prix Imaginales, the Endeavour Award and a scattering of others. His work is published internationally in eight languages. Scholes’s also a public advocate for people living with C-PTSD and speaks openly about his experiences with it.

Scholes’s eclectic background includes time spent as a label gun repairman, a sailor who never sailed, a soldier who commanded a desk, a preacher (he got better), a nonprofit executive, a musician and a government procurement analyst. He has a degree in History from Western Washington University. His nickname is Trailer Boy in homage to his childhood home on the outskirts of a small logging town.

Scholes is a native of the Pacific Northwest and makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his twin daughters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Hymn: The Final Volume of the Psalms of Isaak, and reported the following:

From page 69:
“I am Captain Endrys Thrall of the New Espiran Council Expeditionary Force. I’ve had my people watching and waiting for you at every likely place you might turn up. We lost track of you when you joined the Androfrancines in the Beneath Places.” He paused. “Until the dream, of course.”

His words moved faster than she could comprehend them, but something in his tone and posture caused her to relax her grip upon the knives. “You’re watching for me? Why? And what is this expeditionary force?” And where, she wondered, is New Espira?

The captain smiled. “There is a lot to explain. We’re watching for you because you are Winteria bat Mardic, daughter of the Younger God Salome and the Dreaming Queen of the House of Shadrus. My ship bears an ambassador who is eager to meet you. On his behalf, I extend an offer of asylum for you and your companions. Caldus Bay is not presently safe. We can keep you out of Y’Zirite hands.”

Winters looked out over the bay. “I don’t see a ship.”

He shook his head. “No, you don’t. But return with the others after nightfall and we will provide you refuge and transportation.” He turned away, toward the coast behind them. “Of course, you are under no obligation to accept our hospitality. But there is a squad of Blood Guard tracking you and a sizeable reward for the capture of your Androfrancine traveling companions. I’ll wait for you here tomorrow.” He started walking. “If I do not see you, I will assume you have made other plans for your safety.”
On December 5, the last volume in my five book series, The Psalms of Isaak, hit bookstores and wrapped up a decade of my creative life. I think Marshal has been kind enough to have me over for most if not all of the books and I’m glad to be back again talking about Hymn.

On page 69 of Hymn, we join Winters just outside Caldus Bay where she has been hiding with Tertius and Hebda. She is meeting yet another player in the game of Queen’s War – a captain from a place she’s never heard of who knows a great deal about her. Truth be told, even I have been surprised as the world of Lasthome has unfolded over the years.

I knew when I wrote Lamentation that there was an empire of Y’Zir hidden away and seeded it into the end of the first book. But I didn’t know about the New Espirans until I reached the very end of Requiem. (For those who love the series, you’ll want to mine my novelette at, “A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon,” for bits of backstory, like reference to the region of Espira.)

I think what makes this selection the most true to the book and the series over all is the introduction of yet another mystery that expands their understanding of their world and place in it. A stranger showing up with an offer of aid. I think part of what has made the books work has been that constant sense of a mystery to be solved to engage curiosity. Who destroyed Windwir? Why? Who are these mysterious runners in the Wastes? What is this song that is affecting the mechoservitors? Who is the mechoservitor Charles? What is the antiphon? They are solved as we move through the books but new ones continue unfolding even here in the third act of the over-arching story.

I’m pleased with how all of the mysteries are resolved – or left open – by the time we get to the end of it. I hope you are, too.
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"The Last Suppers"

Mandy Mikulencak is the author of The Last Suppers, which recently received a starred review from Library Journal and was named to Barnes & Noble’s list of Best New Fiction of December 2017. Set in 1950s Louisiana, the novel evokes both The Help and Dead Man Walking with the story of an unforgettable woman whose quest to provide meals for death row prisoners leads her into the secrets of her own past.

Mikulencak applied the Page 69 Test to The Last Suppers and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Last Suppers focuses on a prison board dinner hosted by Roscoe Simms, the warden of the Greenmount State Penitentiary. Ginny, the prison cook and the warden’s lover, eavesdrops on the dinner that’s not going as planned.
She opened the door just a crack. Roscoe paid inordinate attention to his salad as Russell Dunner, Superintendent of Corrections, spoke to him in a private conversation. Roscoe’s face remained placid. The look was familiar. He’d retreated to a peaceful place in his mind, probably reliving a fishing trip to Catahoula Lake. Yet, if asked, Roscoe would still be able to repeat every word Dunner said. His brain worked like that.

The rest of the men ate their salads and made small talk. Ginny recognized a few faces but couldn’t recall their names from previous dinners. Tim didn’t say much, but appeared pleased as punch Roscoe invited him, like a child finally asked to sit at the grown-ups’ table at Thanksgiving.

The woman had to be Dunner’s new wife. Roscoe had mentioned some time ago that he remarried after his first wife died. She sat stiffly in her crisp linen suit with a pinched look on her face. She sniffed at the chowchow on her fork and set it back down without taking a bite.

Roscoe muttered a few more “yes, sirs” before the loud man spoke again.

“You hired Roscoe to be warden, now let him do his job.” Salad dribbled down the man’s chin as he spoke.

“We got no business keeping a warden who doesn’t have the stomach for corrections,” the superintendent said. “This ain’t no hotel.”

A bitter laugh escaped Ginny’s lips. The prison was the farthest thing from a hotel. Just because Roscoe worked to improve living conditions and cracked down on the brutality of the guards, didn’t make him a weak man or an ineffective warden.

Dunner continued his tirade. “And now he wants to separate first-timers. They’re all goddamned convicts and they can live together.”
This excerpt shows that the warden, Roscoe Simms, faces substantial obstacles to true prison reform, especially the era in which he lives in the South. It says a little bit about how tired he is of fighting the good fight – and that he’d rather be at his favorite fishing hole. The excerpt doesn’t really hint at the crux of the novel, which is protagonist Ginny’s obsession with preparing last meals and how that obsession causes her world to unravel. She’s sleeping with the warden, who is her dead father’s best friend. As she starts to uncover secrets about her father’s murder, she faces her own demons and whether she’s made the right choices in her work and love life. Roscoe not only fights to improve the prison; he’s fighting to ensure Ginny doesn’t uncover those secrets. At some level, Ginny knows she is heading for unfathomable heartache but can’t help herself.
Visit Mandy Mikulencak's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Suppers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 18, 2017

"Desert Remains"

Steven Cooper is a former investigative reporter. His work has earned him multiple Emmy Awards and nominations, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow award, and numerous honors from the Associated Press. He taught for five years in the English department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Cooper has lived a bit like a nomad, working TV gigs in New England, Arizona and Florida, and following stories around the globe.

Cooper applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Desert Remains, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Gus follows the detective to the trailhead. A soft wind is stirring. Tumbleweeds, like visitors from an old cartoon, blow across the path and scatter. The sky is a simple blue shield, with no emblem but the sun. But as bold as it may be up there, it’s aloof today, keeping the desert mild, temperatures in the midseventies. They walk silently, Gus scanning every few feet in front of him for critters. Gus has been stung by a scorpion once, and it felt like a fiery cattle prod had been soldered to his foot, only to be followed by an injection of battery acid, but it happened in his bathroom, not on a hike.

Alex leads him off the path toward a cave. Gus kicks a few rocks out of his path. “Someone vomited here,” Gus says.

“That’s the first vision you’re getting?” Alex asks incredulously.

“If by vision you mean I can see the vomit, then yes, Alex.” Gus indicates the splatter on the ground outside of the cave.

“Right,” the detective says. “That came from the guy who discovered the body. A jogger.”

Gus shakes his head. “He’s not a suspect.”

“So far you’re batting a thousand. We checked him out. Looks like he has an alibi through noontime yesterday.”

“And I’m guessing the body was here before that.”

“Safe to say.”

“The jogger was looking for something when he left the trail.”

“Is that a question?”

“No,” Gus says. “That’s what I sense.”

“He told us he went off the trail in search of the petroglyph around back.” Alex removes a flashlight, shines it into the cave. He brings the sphere of light to the wall. “He found this instead.”

The two of them stand there on the fringe of the cave looking at the carving.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” the detective asks.

No, Gus has never seen anything quite like this. Nor anything like the visions that come at him now at shutter speed. He begins to hum softly to balance himself, to find his center of gravity.
On page 69, readers see, for the very first time, the psychic Gus Parker accompanying homicide detective Alex Mills to a crime scene. This truly sets the stage for how Gus and Alex work together. It’s uncanny how the first scene of them working together in the field falls on page 69. What readers experience here is absolutely representative of the rest of the book to the extent that it reveals the chemistry between the men; it’s their chemistry as buddies with a shared objective that keeps the story moving along. On page 69 and the pages that immediately follow, readers see their humor, their brotherly affection, and their mutual respect. The page, itself, is not a dramatic representation of plot, necessarily, but it takes the characters, together, from preliminary action and setup to primary action and momentum, all against the third great character in the novel, the desert.
Visit Steven Cooper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Desert Remains.

Writers Read: Steven Cooper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"The Incredible Magic of Being"

Kathryn Erskine is the acclaimed author of many distinguished novels for young readers, including Mockingbird, winner of the National Book Award; The Absolute Value of Mike, an Amazon Best Book and ALA Notable Book; and Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Incredible Magic of Being, and reported the following:
From page 69:


Pookie used to think it was cool that I was a uni-sensor, like knowing her bus broke down and making Mom pick her up even though Mom kept staring at me and asking me how I knew. Or checking out three books at the library which weren’t even on comets (they were on costumes through the ages) even though Mom looked at them funny, and I did, too, but it turns out Pookie needed them for a report that was due the next day. Or feeling that Pookie was having a really bad day and fixing two glasses of chocolate milk, pulling out her Matt Damon DVDs, and dragging the stuffed kiddie sofa in front of the TV and when she got home she said I was the best brother in the whole universe.

After that she left our universe, but I’m still uni-sensing her and everyone else.
Appropriately, page 69 has the beginning of one of astronomy-loving Julian’s frequent FARTs (Facts And Random Thoughts). These asides that share facts or thoughts, often about science, are either explanations or extensions of the story. It’s Julian’s idiosyncrasy, and they can be funny or poignant, but I also hope they serve as an example to readers that it’s OK to daydream and make connections, especially between science and daily life, because thinking and making analogies is useful and fascinating.

In this FART, Julian references his ability to sense when something is happening to someone he loves or to seemingly predict the future. I think we’ve all had experiences like this—and if you’re open to the possibility I think it happens even more. It also happens in reverse; for example, you really hope that, of all your neighbors, you won’t run into a particular one at the grocery store but, of course, that’s the exact person you bump into. This “uni-sensing,” or sensing the universe, is a critical element of the story. Julian tries to get the crotchety widower next door to connect with his recently deceased wife, whom Julian is sure must be up in the stars watching, but the connection between Julian and his neighbor is even more special. In this FART, he also reveals the close relationship he always had with his sister, Pookie, and their current distance. And that’s another of Julian’s goals in the book—to reconnect with his sister and bring his family together, which does happen in the end, but in a way that’s … incredibly magical.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Woman Enters Left"

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War.

Brockmole applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Woman Enters Left, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Woman Enters Left comes at the very end of a chapter where Louise, a jaded actress in 1952, is parked on the side of a Nevada highway, trying to decide whether to obediently go to a shoot in Las Vegas or rebelliously head towards Route 66.
She wipes off her face again with the handkerchief, knowing she’ll have to pull over and reapply her makeup before arriving at the Flamingo. An actress never knows who might be watching. The publicity department would collectively faint at a LOUISE WILDE SWEATS headline.

Does she really want to go through with this? If she shows up on set tomorrow, shows up for that bikini and ukulele and insipid script, that’ll be it. There will be no negotiating a better contract. No fighting for better roles. She’ll be giving in.

But giving in is better than hiding. Better than ignoring her problems, hoping they’ll just go away. They won’t. Life requires patience and, these days, she doesn’t have much of that.

She slides behind the wheel and pulls on her gloves. Beneath them she can just barely see the line of her wedding band. She turns on the car and looks out onto the road.

But she doesn’t get too far, because she’s staring at that cactus-shaped sign again. It stands in front of another road, barely a track of dust between the sagebrush. It suddenly comes to her that she knows exactly what the sign says. Though she still can’t make out any of the letters, not with the paint peeling in the relentless sun, she suddenly knows she’s read it before. PRICKLY PEAR RANCH—AN OASIS IN THE DESERT.

Vegas would have to wait.

She turns down the road.
It’s an excellent peek at the whole book, with my heroine teetering on the brink of decision. Despite a ferocious streak, for years she’s been a loyal and uncomplaining subject of the Hollywood studio system. But she sees in this moment on the side of the highway her chance to break free, to run away from both a stagnant career and marriage. Instead, a sign on the side of the road stirs up memories and sends her on an adventure in search of a family secret. I think I have a lot packed into page 69!
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

My Book, The Movie: Letters from Skye.

My Book, The Movie: Woman Enters Left.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"A Spoonful of Magic"

Irene Radford, author of the Dragon Nimbus (The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician, The Wizard's Treasure) and the Dragon Nimbus History (The Dragon's Touchstone, The Last Battlemage, The Renegade Dragon) series, often appears at conventions in the Oregon-California area. She is the author of the Stargods and Merlin's Descendants series as well, and is also one of the founders of the Book View Cafe.

Radford applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Spoonful of Magic, and reported the following:
From page 69:
And, frankly, that satisfied him nicely. He’d grown to love Daffy the way she was, not what she could be. The thought of his first wife’s power and the insanity that followed scared him to his bones, shaking every bit of ethics and morality his Nana had pounded into him. She and G-Pop had died too young, from wounds inflicted upon them by his insane wife. His parents had died in South Africa trying to rescue a tribal shaman from murderous state police when he was an adolescent. In a way he was thankful they didn’t have to experience D’Accore’s depravity.

But then, his dad had been savvy enough, he might have recognized the signs of an untrained talent eating away at her brain. She was a siren and had trapped him. She was also a fire wizard. Her wand was a zippo lighter.

Over a lifetime of use wands absorbed quite a bit of power that needed to be grounded and the wand destroyed to keep it out of the hands of rogues. Unfortunately mundane families didn’t know that and took a deceased magician’s belongings to antique malls or sold them at garage sales.

Something special called to Shara. Was it someone else’s discarded wand, or something unique to her and her budding talents? She’d spent approximately ten seconds sniffing right and left, then ran two aisles to the left and down all the way to the back wall of displays. She knew what she wanted and where to find it.

G followed her at a more relaxed pace, knowing that the further in to the mall they traveled, the cheaper the rent and therefore the price of the goods. He removed his hands from his pockets and flexed his fingers, letting the nerve endings on each digit sense anything untoward. He’d been trained for this when he was recruited as a deputy. When the Guild elevated him to Sheriff he’d undergone a long and grueling process to enhance every nuance of his multiple talents. Except for the judges on the Board, he was now one of the most powerful wizards on the planet.
This page introduces G (Gabrielle Sebastian Deschants) the ex-husband of heroine Daffy Deschants, and their youngest daughter, Shara, as magicians. Magic permeates the family and this is about the children exploring their powers and finding their wands under their father’s tutelage, his strongest role as a father.
Visit Irene Radford's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: A Spoonful of Magic.

Writers Read: Irene Radford.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 11, 2017

"The Breathless"

Tara Goedjen adores fairytales, mysteries, and ghost stories.

She wrote her first story at age eleven about children who disappeared at midnight, and she’s been writing ever since. Mostly raised in Alabama, she played college tennis in Iowa and then moved to Alaska and Australia before heading back to the continental US.

While completing grad school, Goedjen worked as a tennis coach, a yoga instructor, a university writing teacher, and as an editor for a publishing house. These days, when she’s not making up stories, she's probably going for a hike, staring at a to-do list, reading a novel, or eating all of California’s seasonal fruit.

Goedjen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Breathless, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Breathless features bullet holes, strange heirlooms, and veiled threats. On this page, sixteen-year-old Mae Cole is dealing with the aftermath of a startling event: a boy suspected of being involved with her sister’s mysterious death has just shown up on her doorstep. On top of that, one of her sister’s friends—someone Mae has never gotten along with—has just come back to town.
Mae hurried to where she’d left her bag and picked it up, slinging it over her shoulder. The weight of the green book in the canvas rested against her hip, and the pocketknife her dad had given her for her birthday poked out from the top flap. […] Then she saw Lance, for the first time in nearly a year, and her heart skidded in her chest.
This page is representative of the rest of the book since it hints at two very different threats surrounding Mae: 1) the untrustworthy people who keep showing up at her family’s isolated house in the woods, and 2) the subtle magic contained within the “green book,” a family heirloom that’s as powerful as it is dangerous. Mae doesn’t realize it yet, but her home is a place where wickedness lurks in both human and supernatural forms. She’ll need her pocketknife for protection, as well as a brave heart.

The objects and characters on page 69 foreshadow some of the secrets that are revealed in The Breathless—secrets that deal with an heirloom that’s been passed down from generation to generation in Mae’s family, and secrets that deal with Mae’s older sister, who wasn’t as perfect as Mae once believed. It’s up to Mae to find out what really happened to her sister, before history repeats itself.
Visit Tara Goedjen's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Breathless.

Writers Read: Tara Goedjen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"The Revolution of Marina M."

Janet Fitch is a writer and a teacher of fiction writing.

She is the author of the #1 national bestseller White Oleander, a novel translated into 24 languages, an Oprah Book Club book and the basis of a feature film, and Paint It Black, also widely translated and made into a 2017 film.

Fitch applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Revolution of Marina M., and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Revolution of Marina M. turns out to be deliciously representative of the novel. Would a person encountering this page be likely to read on? I’d say he or she would be more likely to want to back up—it’s the aftermath of my protagonist Marina’s first sexual encounter, with a seductive young man named Kolya Shurov. She’s had a passion for him since she was six and he was twelve. Now she’s sixteen and he’s a 22-year-old officer in the Tsarist army. It’s 1917, the midst of WWI, the moment before the start of the Russian Revolution.

“It looked like we’d fought a war on the white sheets, completely untucked from the striped mattress ticking, the puffy eiderdown crushed, everything soaked with our sweat.”

The Revolution of Marina M. has a wide erotic streak. My protagonist, Marina Makarova, is a passionate, daring girl who is discovering politics, herself and her powers as a poet and as a woman. Sex is a laboratory of self, then as now--a young woman testing, pushing the limits, a wild revolution in itself.

Each erotic encounter in the book is absolutely specific to the partner and the circumstances, because for me, sex is a type of dialogue—an aspect of relationship that is only known to the two participants.  Communication is not always clear, it can be murky and stemming from questionable motives, terrifying, pitiable, obsessive or transcendent.
Visit Janet Fitch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Deadly Dance"

Hilary Bonner is the author of many crime novels and five non-fiction books. A past Chair of the Crime Writers' Association, she was previously the showbusiness editor of the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mirror.

Bonner applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Deadly Dance, and reported the following:
A teenaged schoolgirl, Melanie Cooke, has been found murdered in a city’s red-light district.

As usual family members are the principle suspects. The girl’s parents are divorced and both remarried. On page 69, Detective Sergeant John Willis visits the girl’s stepmother.
‘It’s just routine, Mrs Cooke,’ Willis told her. ‘I’m sure you know by now that Mr Cooke’s daughter has ben found dead?’

‘Yes of course, ‘replied Susan Cooke. ‘My Terry called almost as soon as he knew the worst. Terrible, Terrible, But I can’t help you.’
She goes on to explain that she hardly knew Melanie, in spite of being married to the dead girl's father.
‘He blames me for how we live. He certainly wouldn’t bring that girl to this place. Not his little princess.’

She paused, waving a hand wearily at the small, front garden, which was a brown desert growing only the odd stinging nettle, an old bedstead, a rusting bicycle, and a pile of bulging, black plastic rubbish bags. She touched a fading bruise on her left cheek.
This is the start of an interview which leads Willis to feel justified in reporting back to his superior officer, my regular series detective, geeky DI David Vogel, a compiler of crosswords and lover of backgammon, that Terry Cooke is the most likely perpetrator.

As far as Willis is concerned, the way the couple live, the obvious tension between them, and the fading bruise point to Cooke being a violent man.

When I first looked at page 69 I did not see it as being particularly significant in the development of the book. Them, when I thought about it, I realised it is actually highly significant.

Because, like almost everything in this novel, nothing is how it first seems.

What appears to be a tragic but all too familiar murder case scenario turns out to be anything but that.

There are actually three principal protagonists in Deadly Dance who each speak in the first person. But the reader does not know who they really are. At this stage Cooke may be one of them. Or he may not.

This ‘routine interview’ with the life of a principle suspect is not at all what it seems to be in any way.  And that makes the contents of page 69 a key component within Deadly Dance.
Visit Hilary Bonner's website.

Writers Read: Hilary Bonner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"The Genius Plague"

David Walton is a science fiction and fantasy author with a growing number of novels in publication. His first, Terminal Mind, won the 2008 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel.

Walton applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Genius Plague, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Genius Plague is the first page of chapter 7, in which the main character (Neil Johns) finds himself in a bit of trouble at the NSA... again.  Neil is a brilliant guy and passionate about his job as a code cracker at the NSA, but he tends to let his enthusiasm get the better of his caution.  That and his general cluelessness about how others will react to him provides some of the humor in what could otherwise be a dark book.  He is, after all, tracking a fungal infection that subtly influences people's minds, leading them to make choices that benefit the spread of the fungus.  Assassinations, suicide bombings, and military coups are turning world politics upside-down... and his own brother is infected.  Neil's energy and creative initiative, however, allow him to cut through bureaucracy and get to the truth, though it does also land him in hot water more than once.  So yes, I would say that Page 69, though it's only a glimpse into a piece of the story and doesn't touch on the main plot, is representative of the story as a whole, because it gives us a picture of who the main character is, a person uniquely able to fight against this threat to humanity.
Learn more about the book and author at David Walton's website.

Writers Read: David Walton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Something Evil Comes"

A.J. Cross, like her heroine Kate Hanson, is a Forensic Psychologist with over twenty years' experience in the field. She lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband.

Cross applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Something Evil Comes, and reported the following:
I’ve heard of this test and I’ve taken a look at page 69 of Something Evil Comes to see if it is representative of the whole book.  It goes without saying that I would like for any reader skimming the page to read on. On initial consideration of the page I didn’t see that representative element. That is, until I thought about it.

This particular page focuses on the three main characters who work in the Unsolved Crime Unit.  They are discussing an interview with one of a duo of night time, would-be thieves who break into the locked crypt of a church.  The sole feature inside it is a stone sarcophagus. Hoping for valuables, they move its heavy wooden lid aside and light candles they brought to the scene. They are confronted by the fairly well preserved body of a young man whose throat has been ripped out.  He has been identified as twenty-year-old Matthew Flynn, son of one of Birmingham’s leading business entrepreneurs who disappeared a year before. The thieves flee from the crypt but one of them is apprehended shortly afterwards. Bernard Watts, the senior officer in the Unsolved Crime Unit is now conducting the initial interview with him. When the thief’s legal representative requests time alone with her client, Watts joins forensic psychologist Kate Hanson who had been observing the interview from another room, and his other colleague Lieutenant Joseph Corrigan, on secondment from the US as an armed response trainer and third member of the Unsolved Crime Unit. They discuss the information the thief has volunteered thus far and in particular his failure so far to mention the body.

Watts now returns to the interview, ready to challenge the meagre account he has been given. Having had time alone with his lawyer, the thief has had time to reconsider and is now ready to make some very limited admissions to Watts:
‘Yes, I went into that place and yes, I was looking for stuff to nick but there was nothing there so I left.’

‘Is that a fact? Short visit was it?’

‘Yeah, in and out, ten seconds tops.’

Watts sat back, thick arms folded. ‘Let’s think about that, shall we?’

‘My client has given you an admission that he broke in-.’

‘Ten seconds to get inside, walk about a bit, light some candles, have a proper look around.’ He shook his head. ‘Sounds like a few good minutes to me.’

Chivers was flustered now. ‘No ... Yeah, well it might have been a minute or two but that’s all.’

‘What about the lid?’

Chivers’ eyes darted to his solicitor. ‘What lid? I don’t know anything about no lid.’
As a forensic psychologist I’m aware of the skills needed by police officers to obtain the maximum information possible from those who are equally determined to give as little as possible of a self-incriminating nature. An added pressure is that all of these to-and-fro exchanges are closely regulated and time-constrained in the interests of fairness and justice to all.

Page 69 of Something Evil Comes reflects these demand on officers following their initial tracking down of those they think may hold vital evidence. It is a major aspect of the work of the Unsolved Crime Unit throughout the book as it tracks down those who might be minor players - or far more involved in the murder of Matthew Flynn than they are prepared  to admit.
Learn more about Something Evil Comes.

My Book, The Movie: Something Evil Comes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Chord of Evil"

Sarah Rayne is the author of a number of acclaimed psychological thrillers and haunted house books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Chord of Evil, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
As Phin stared at it, a dizzying kaleidoscope began to whirl through his brain – a maelstrom of things half read, of fragmented stories half heard and imperfectly remembered, and of almost-forgotten rumours. He knew some of the stories and he had only ever quarter-believed them. He thought most people had only ever quarter-believed them. And yet there it was, written in sad, faded ink—

Toby’s voice, asking what he had found, broke in, and it took a moment for Phin to realize where he was. He put the music carefully down on the table, and sat back, his eyes still on it.

‘Phin, for pity’s sake—’

‘The title,’ said Phin. ‘My God, that title—’

‘What about the title? Is it Giselle again, like the painting?’ Toby came round the table to see.

‘It’s not Giselle,’ said Phin. ‘It’s Siegreich.’

Siegreich. The word spiked deep into Phin’s mind.

Toby said, ‘What’s a siegreich? Whatever it is, it’s making you look bloody peculiar.’

Phin said, ‘Music with that title is believed to have been composed sometime during the early 1940s, in Germany.’


‘It’s a piece of music that’s almost a legend,’ said Phin. ‘One of those curious stories that sometimes emerge from wartime. The kind where you don’t know what’s true, and what’s embroidered truth, and what’s outright fiction. The story is that the Nazis got hold of a composer who was living in Germany and persuaded him to write a piece of music for them. And when the Nazis used persuasion—’

‘Point taken. For persuasion read force.’
Phineas Fox, music historian and researcher, for his second outing might have found himself imbroiled in any one of half a dozen plots, ancient or modern, classical or rock or jazz, any of which could be based on true stories.

But for Chord of Evil, I latched onto the infamous tritone – the ‘Devil’s Chord’.

The devil’s chord has been described as one of the most dissonant music intervals that exists – so much so, that it was banned in Renaissance church music.  Church music was supposed to be a paeon of praise to God, and the tritone was considered so ugly that it wasn’t thought suitable.  Medieval arrangements even used it to represent the devil, and Roman Catholic composers sometimes used it for referencing the act of the crucifixion.  Its dissonance can work to advantage in some cases, though.  It’s remarkably effective as background music in films, where it can serve as a warning to the audience that something bad’s about to happen.  That harsh discordance that tells you the killer’s outside the door with an axe.  Think shower curtains in Psycho.

It occurred to me that the devil’s chord might make a guest appearance in a composition that had become part of music legend.  But what could that legend be?

Well, as somebody once said, if you can’t find a genuine legend, create one of your own.

Music has often been composed to celebrate great events – coronations, births, victory in war.  But what about a legend in which a piece of music was written to celebrate not a happy, or a triumphant event, but something far darker?  Something so menacing its existence was kept secret?

It was at that point that I saw the whole plot.  I could see Phineas Fox peeling back the layers of a secret that had lain undisturbed for three quarters of a century – glimpsing edges and corners of it, and ending in delving into a very grisly fragment of musical history indeed.

And so, Chord of Evil was born.
Visit Sarah Rayne's website.

Writers Read: Sarah Rayne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 30, 2017

"The Woman in the Camphor Trunk"

Jennifer Kincheloe is a public health research scientist turned writer of historical mysteries. She pens the Anna Blanc mystery series, set in 1900s Los Angeles, featuring a young socialite turned LAPD police matron with an insatiable need to solve crimes. Kincheloe recently entered the world of criminal justice herself when she took a job with the Denver Sheriff Department studying the jails.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new Anna Blanc novel, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Joe scoffed, stuck both hands in her big skirt pockets and rummaged around, almost touching her thigh through three blessed layers of fabric.

Anna bit her lip. “Masher.”

He produced the framed picture. “That’s it. You’re out.” His finger shot toward the door. “This is my case, and I won’t have you disturbing the apartment before I’ve finished going over it.”

“I haven’t touched anything else.” She decided not to mention the tea.

He took Anna by the arm and steered her outside. “Stay away from my crime scene.”

“You’re just using that as an excuse to get me out of Chinatown. Well, I don’t want to go.” Anna turned and went back inside.

Joe followed. “Wolf didn’t authorize you to work this case.” He grabbed her by the waist and pulled her backward. Anna dragged her heels. Joe pulled harder. Anna sat down. She began to crawl back toward the crime scene where she belonged.

He stepped on her skirt. “I could arrest you.”

“But you won’t.”

“And why is that?”

“I’m a good sleuth and our chance of solving this crime is even better with two of us on the case. Admit it.”

“I knew once you got a taste of this case you wouldn’t leave it alone. You’re going back to Central Station where it’s safe.” He grabbed her under the arms, pulling her up and onto her backside.

She scooted along on her bottom, her skirt pushing up to reveal her stockinged shins, but Anna didn’t care. Why should she care? Propriety had gotten her nowhere. She simply closed her eyes tight so that she couldn’t see them.

Joe sighed and let go. When she opened her eyes, he was tugging down her hem. He extended a hand to help her up. She eyed him suspiciously.

He said, “We tracked mud on that floor. If you aren’t careful, you’ll stain your uniform.”

Anna looked at the muddy floorboards and considered. Joe knew more about laundry than she did, and she did need to wear this uniform tomorrow. She took his hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet.

“Sherlock, you make my life hell.”

“My pleasure.”
Page 69 finds Anna and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, in Chinatown where they’ve discovered the body of a missionary stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. It conveys the tone of the story and the tension between Anna and Joe. This is a mystery with humor and a strong romantic subplot. RT Book Reviews described Anna Blanc as “I Love Lucy meets Agatha Christie.” I think that’s perfect.
Visit Jennifer Kincheloe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Valiant Dust"

A former United States Navy officer and a well-known game designer, Richard Baker is the author of over a dozen novels, including the New York Times best seller Condemnation (2003) and the highly acclaimed The Last Mythal trilogy (2004–2006). He is a lifelong devotee of science fiction and fantasy, a history enthusiast (particularly military history), and an avid fan of games of all kinds.

Baker applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Valiant Dust, and reported the following:
This struck me as a really interesting challenge, just because I tend to do this when I’m deciding whether to buy a book in the store (although I don’t pick a specific page number to check). Anyway, I had no idea which scene I’d find myself in by flipping to page 69 of Valiant Dust until I looked.
Lara gave Randall a sharp look, but a moment later she smiled coolly and intertwined her arm with Sikander’s. “I am sorry if it was not clear before, Mr. Randall, but Sikander is my date for the evening. And I certainly wouldn’t refer to a culture so rich and artistically mature as Kashmir’s as disadvantaged in any way.”

“If you say so,” Randall replied. “I suppose primitive belief systems are quite fascinating. The fact that they have survived up to the modern day says quite a lot about human nature—although not much that is complimentary, I am afraid.”

“Oh, here it comes again,” Magdalena Juarez said. “Hiram, no one cares what you think about their beliefs. Leave it alone.”

“I don’t mean to offend,” Randall said. “I am sincerely trying to satisfy my own curiosity. What exactly is the nature of Ms. Dunstan’s interest in this arrangement? Political? Charitable? Anthropological, perhaps?”

“Ms. Dunstan’s interests are none of your business, Mr. Randall,” said Sikander in an icy tone.

“I don’t see that they ought to be yours, either.” Randall gave a small shrug and took a level sip from the highball glass in his hand.
Well, that’s an interesting spot to land on! It turns out that this is the scene where Sikander North, the protagonist of the story, stands up to his shipmate Hiram Randall when Randall does his level best to provoke Sikander into taking a swing at him. It’s a social occasion—the Governor’s Ball on the planet of New Perth—and Randall has made it clear more than once already that he doesn’t believe Sikander North, a Kashmiri, is qualified to serve in Aquila’s star navy. Hiram Randall is a mean drunk, and Sikander is just about ready to slug him when all of Hector’s officers are summoned back to the ship by an emergency recall.

The reason this scene is in the book is that it offers a glimpse of the social life of serving officers. Many military SF books show the characters only in the context of the military challenges they’re facing—they rarely seem to leave the bridge. But fleet life isn’t just about being on a ship 24-7; what you do on your off time is also important. I also meant to convey something about the refinement and genteel manners of high-ranking officers in the Aquilan Navy (although Hiram Randall is currently acting like an ass). Finally, the scene illustrates the smugness and elitism of Aquila’s atheistic monoculture; people like Randall are contemptuous of the culture and traditions of more isolated planets such as Sikander’s homeworld.

Is page 69 representative of Valiant Dust? I think my answer is sort of. The central conflict of the story revolves around Great Powers fighting for control of a valuable colony world. The Governor’s Ball of New Perth doesn’t directly figure into the unrest, chaos, politics, and military conflicts roiling the planet of Gadira. But it does help to establish who Sikander is and what sort of challenges he faces from his own side when he has to begin making choices between what’s good for Aquila—the Great Power in whose navy he serves—and what’s right for the people of Gadira, whose plight is very familiar to him.
Visit Richard Baker's website.

Writers Read: Richard Baker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"To Guard Against the Dark"

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction. She’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Czerneda has edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners. Her latest is SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, and her next will be an anthology set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, is To Guard Against the Dark.

Czerneda applied the Page 69 Test to To Guard Against the Dark and reported the following:
From page 69:
The driver dropped to the ground and ran away.

At first, the passengers seemed too stunned to move, their reactions comical, mouths flapping, arms waving--

Then one fragmented, components scurrying over the sides of the ramp and away—

—as the other two vanished from sight, without taking a single step.

Terk stared. Swallowed, hard. “Got to be a mistake. Problem with the vid.”

“My equipment’s prime--”

“No mistake,” Morgan said heavily. The Assembler? Given the source of the cargo, he’d have been surprised not to find one or more involved. As for the others?

“Don’t take this wrong, Morgan, but I thought the Clan were extinct,” Terk grumbled, as though this shift in his universe was a personal affront. “Thought the Assemblers made them extinct. We were sure.”

“We were wrong.”
When I took up the challenge of checking my own page 69—would it be representative of the whole book, would it entice a reader--I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I’m delighted by what I did.

The relationship between Jason Morgan, my protagonist, and Russell Terk began in the first book published in the Clan Chronicles series, and there are now nine. Both Human, one driven by a personal code, the other a Trade Pact Enforcer tasked with preventing interspecies strife—and frequently frustrated in his attempts. Both formidable in their way. I’m sure readers of the series appreciated my putting them together as erstwhile partners.

As well, this snip sets up the underlying conflict of the final volume in the series: the Clan shouldn’t be here and what about the Assemblers? (Among my favourite aliens.) To anyone familiar with the series, or only the previous book, The Gate to Futures Past, their appearance is the sound of an alarm.


I do believe I passed the test.
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Winter of Ice and Iron"

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

Neumeier applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Winter of Ice and Iron, and reported the following:
For most novels, page 69 should be past the introduction but well before events start rising toward the climax. In Winter, this page turns out to be mostly worldbuilding. I always avoid infodumping backstory right at the beginning of the book, but that means working in short bits of backstory and worldbuilding throughout the story, and p. 69 is one place where that happens.

On page 69, twelve percent of the way through the book, the story hits a quiet moment between disasters. At this point, Kehera Raëhema has left her own land, renouncing her claim to the throne of Harivir and her tie to her country’s strongest Immanent Power, in order to protect her people and the land itself. But she hasn’t yet arrived at her destination, met the Mad King of Emmer, shattered his plans, escaped, or found herself caught up in a sweeping tide of greater events than she can yet imagine. In this quiet moment, she has a chance to reflect and the reader has an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the world:
The Gods were mysterious and nameless, uncountable and unknowable. Folk prayed to the Fortunate Gods and hoped for their favor, but in ordinary days, no one expected them to take much notice of one person or another. But these did not seem like ordinary days to Kehera.

At least the Fortunate Gods wanted the world to prosper. They wanted the land to produce Immanent Powers that would someday rise to join them. The Unfortunate Gods wanted to shatter every land and force the apotheosis of every Immanent into their own company….Fortunate Gods quickened the warming earth in the spring and the seed in the fields and the baby in the womb; Unfortunate Gods brought the killing winds and the winter dragons. That was all an ordinary person needed to know. It was certainly all Kehera needed to know.

She made a silent oath: that she would do what she had to do to protect Harivir…. That she would do her best to teach nothing of bitterness or resentment to the Immanent of Raëh, so that in its time, far in the future, when it rose, it would become a Fortunate God.

In the predawn stillness, the unvoiced oath had the feel of truth. A light wind from the west ruffled the grass stems and picked up dust from the road to swirl into tiny whirlwinds. A vast sweep of cloud stretched across the line of the road and off to the east, dark slate against the pearl of the sky. It was going to be a beautiful morning, and almost against her will, Kehera felt her spirits lift.
In the next paragraph, Kehera arrives at the city of Suriytè, capital of the enemy nation of Emmer. Five pages later she meets the Mad King of Emmer. His plans go wrong immediately. Shortly thereafter, so do hers. The Gods, Fortunate and Unfortunate, exert their subtle influence, or occasionally not so subtle, and the world begins its plunge toward winter and the dark turn of the year, when the choices and actions of just a few women and men will decide whether the world turns back toward spring or is consumed by chaos.
Visit Rachel Neumeier's website.

My Book, The Movie: Winter of Ice and Iron.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"The Resurrection of Joan Ashby"

Cherise Wolas is a writer, lawyer, and film producer. She received a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a JD from Loyola Law School.

Wolas applied the Page 69 Test to The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Joan Ashby, acclaimed writer, which she always intended to be, and new mother, which she never intended to be, has refused her husband’s suggestion of a nanny. She has fallen in love with her unexpected child, and is not keen on having their very small house overrun. Eight weeks after giving birth to Daniel, Joan finds her study a frozen preserve, her typewriter lifeless and cold, and realizes Martin is right—a nanny would free up some hours for her work. A week later, Joan opens the door to a young woman who has come for the position. Despite the thirty-degree snowy cold, Fancy is coatless, gloveless, and hatless, sporting a tropical-colored dress. This young Canadian, with hair the color of wet sand, is a talker, a tea-lover, and eager to put to use her lifetime of caring for younger siblings.

Page 69 completes this “interview” between Joan and Fancy. And yet it’s not really been an interview at all—Fancy has talked about her life, how she and her best friend Trudy decided on Rhome because of the street named Strada di Felicità, about the Queen of England sipping soup, the shade of yellow paint Joan and Martin chose for the nursery that Fancy likes because of its positive psychological aspects, and has demonstrated she can change the sheets in the crib without waking the baby. Joan never liked Mary Poppins—“She hated that movie as a child, all that officiousness, as if children could not know their own minds…” but watching Fancy, Joan’s perspective alters. Fancy seems magical and usually solitary Joan instantly brings her into their lives.

I certainly hope this page would encourage readers to keep reading! Page 69 is representational of the book, in terms of its close attention to details, the way Fancy’s personal history further highlights the smallness of Joan and Martin’s own families, and continues the division between Joan’s prior solitary writing life and her current new life as a mother. But the page is an anomaly too—because Fancy could be a character in one of Joan’s stories. She also marks a quiet truth about the serendipity of connectivity that runs through the book.
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

Writers Read: Cherise Wolas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Bucket's List"

Gary Blackwood is the award-winning author of more than thirty novels and non-fiction titles for children and young adults, including the bestselling Shakespeare series. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, he now lives in Canada.

Blackwood applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Bucket's List, and reported the following:
When I taught a college-level playwriting course many years ago, I spent a lot of time (more than the students would have liked, I’m sure) stressing the importance of dramatic structure.  It worked so well for writing plays that I started applying it to my books as well.  For a time, I outlined novels in advance, making sure I knew just where the conflict would begin and where the turning point would be, and so on.  I like to think that, by now, hewing to those principles has become second nature.

Looking at page 69 of Bucket’s List, it seems that it has—more or less.   Though I didn’t consciously pay much attention to structure, it’s in there.  That page falls slightly more than a quarter of the way through the book, which (if you don’t get too anal about it) is roughly where the main conflict should get underway.  And as it happens, it’s the spot at which Inspector Field encounters his nemesis, the nefarious Neck, in person for the first time (in the course of this tale, at least)—and lets him get away.  Since the inspector spends the rest of the story trying to catch up with Neck, I think we can successfully argue that this is where the conflict really kicks in.

And is page 69 representative of the book as a whole?  Well, I think that any reader who dips a toe into the book, so to speak, at this point in order to test the waters will get a pretty good idea of what lurks beneath the surface.  First off, we’re thrust into the middle of an action scene, as Neck flees and Charley tries to stop him:
Though he’s no crack shot, the revolver is his best bet.  He has no qualms about plugging the man; whether he killed Rosa or not, he’s committed more than enough crimes to deserve shooting.  Charley rests the gun butt on the window sill, wraps his finger—the middle one, not the crooked index finger—around the trigger, takes careful aim, fires.

The bullet finds its target; Neck falls to his knees, clawing at his shattered shoulder blade.  Charley is sure he’s done for.  But that’s what the hangman thought, too.  It seems the damned villain is indestructible.  He’s down for only a moment before he staggers to his feet and stumbles forward.  When he reaches the far end of the roof, he swings himself over the edge and disappears.
Then we get to see Inspector Field doing what he does best: gathering and interpreting clues—or at least trying to:
The detective scans the pavement for drops of blood or footprints that might lead him in the right direction, but it’s hopeless; there’s too little light and too much slush.  Among the many valuable things Charley learned during his policing career is his vast vocabulary of curse words.  Normally he makes sparing use of them, but now he avails himself of all his favorites.

Returning to the alley, he surveys the side of the harness shop.  He’s always despised drainpipes; they provide much too convenient a ladder for lead-stealers and attic thieves.  Now he has even more reason to hate them; it’s obvious from the way the pipe is pulled away from the brick wall that, despite his grievous wound, Neck somehow managed to clamber down it.
There’s more to the story than just action and detection, of course, and more to Charley’s character as well, but those two elements crop up again and again--as they tend to do in mysteries.
Learn more about Bucket's List.

My Book, The Movie: Bucket's List.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"The Temptation of Adam"

Dave Connis writes words you can sing and words you can read. He lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife, Clara and a dog that barks at non-existent threats.

Connis applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Temptation of Adam, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He throws his hands in the air defensively. "Fine, so I still want to figure out how to get your mom back. There are so many men who just give up on love, though. Why can’t I be one willing to fight for it? Doesn’t the world need that?"

I let out two good, fake throw-up noises and point at my neck. "Sorry. Cluster of Cocoa Puffs stuck in my throat."

"Grow up, kid," he says, shoving my head to the side.

The annoyed smile on his face makes me laugh. I’ve got to admit, I’ve liked my dad a lot more since I got suspended from school, and I don’t say either part of that sentence that a lot.
This is a conversation between Adam and his dad once they, sort of, make amends. It's representative of the book because this is the beginning of Adam coming around to people again, from here, we see him realize that attempting to trust and love other people is a big part of his healing.
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My Book, The Movie: The Temptation of Adam.

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--Marshal Zeringue