Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Impossible Saints"

Set in 1907 England, Clarissa Harwood’s debut historical novel Impossible Saints follows the competing ambitions and growing love between Lilia Brooke, an agnostic militant suffragette, and Paul Harris, a peace-loving Anglican clergyman.

Harwood applied the Page 69 Test to Impossible Saints and reported the following:
Page 69 is still early in the story, but it’s a crucial moment when Lilia and Paul come face to face with their conflicting beliefs. They are already feeling an unspoken attraction to each other, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia has just told Paul that she despises marriage, but he doesn’t understand, thinking she means that a man and woman can’t share a loving relationship. She corrects him with these words:
“Two intelligent people don’t need an artificial, archaic formality such as marriage to sanction their commitment to each other.” She suddenly looked uncomfortable. “If a woman were to choose a free union with a man who respected her, I would heartily approve.”

Paul stared at her, not trying to hide his shock. It was one thing to argue for equality between women and men, but it was quite another to advocate something as bizarre and immoral as a free union. People certainly did have such relationships, but a man and woman who lived openly together without being married were shunned by respectable society. Beyond that, marriage was a sacrament. To remove the ceremony in which a man and woman were mystically united by God as one flesh would strip the relationship of all beauty and meaning. What remained would be as cold and cerebral as a business partnership, albeit one that happened to include sexual relations.

“I don’t expect you to agree with me,” Lilia said. She looked at him as if she had been trying to explain an electric locomotive to a prehistoric cave-dweller and had only just realized how pointless it was.
Paul’s shocked reaction to Lilia’s words is typical of what most respectable middle-class people in the early 20th century would have thought about a man and woman living together without being married. This scene reflects both the increasing personal tension between my protagonists as well as the larger societal tensions between religion and feminism, major themes in the novel. Ultimately, Impossible Saints is about two people who challenge each other to examine their long-held beliefs and to decide whether their love is worth fighting for.
Visit Clarissa Harwood's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"The Last Man in Tehran"

Mark Henshaw is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a decorated CIA analyst with more than sixteen years of service. In 2007, he was awarded the Director of http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Last-Man-in-Tehran/Mark-Henshaw/a-Jonathan-Burke-Kyra-Stryker-Thriller/9781501161261National Intelligence Galileo Award for innovation in intelligence analysis. A former member of the Red Cell think tank, Henshaw is the author of Red Cell, Cold Shot, and The Fall of Moscow Station.

Henshaw applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Last Man in Tehran, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The CIA director leaned forward, arms on the desk, his hands clenched together. “We’ve had one mole or defector after another show up over the last twenty years, and the damage they do gets worse each time. Everything Aldrich Ames gave the Russians, he photocopied. Thousands of pages of material. Then Robert Hanssen started giving them thumb drives. Tens of thousands of pages. Ten years later, Bradley Manning burned CDs and passed three-quarters of a million documents to Wikileaks in a matter of months. Then Edward Snowden left the country with an entire hard drive. We still don’t know how many files he took, but the last estimate is that he took almost two million reports in a single shot.” Barron put his forefinger on the table to make his point. “It took us eight years to catch Ames and it took the Bureau twenty to catch Hanssen. We can’t afford to take that long anymore. These moles are stealing larger amounts of classified material in shorter amounts of time, doing more and more damage faster and faster. We need to start finding them and shutting them down within weeks, not years.”

“I’m not a counterintelligence officer,” Kyra noted.

“I know. Just work with our people to see if you can come up with some creative tactics to flush this guy out in a hurry,” Barron ordered. “I’ll call down and plow the field for you. Then I’m going to have to call the FBI director and warn him that we might have a breach. He’ll want to send someone over to join the investigation, and heaven knows where this will go after. So I’d like to have our hooks into this for leverage before the Bureau comes in.”

Kyra looked over to Jon. “Glad you’re staying for the fun, for a few days at least.”

“It’s all fun until someone loses a kneecap,” Jon said.
This is the end of one of the pivotal scenes of the book. Here, acting CIA director Clark Barron is giving Kyra (our hero) her marching orders, with her old mentor, Jonathan Burke unwillingly in tow. The Israelis are on the warpath and Barron is sure there’s a mole inside Langley helping them; he has to report that, but he knows the FBI will tear Langley apart to find the traitor.

Kyra hesitates to take the assignment — hunting moles is a specialized business and she has no experience doing it. Barron thinks that what makes her the right choice. Hunting moles is also a slow business—a tedious process that the US can no longer afford given that technology allows traitors to pass over increasing amounts of classified information in shorter and shorter periods of time. Kyra will bring a beginner’s mind to the hunt, a willingness to explore new approaches that the grizzled old hands might reject because “that’s not the way we’ve always done it.”

As for Jonathan, he’s retired, recently married for former CIA director Kathy Cooke, and would rather be home nursing the artificial knee he had to get when the Russian busted the original. Jon is irascible, but he does know how to pick his battles—his new wife has sided with Barron on the need for Jon to get out of the house, so he knows he’s beaten. But he and Kathy end up working together as a team and they get to close the case of a CIA officer gone missing years before that has haunted Kathy for years.
Visit Mark Henshaw's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fall of Moscow Station.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Hunting the Five Point Killer"

C. M. Wendelboe is the author of the Spirit Road Mysteries (Penguin). During his thirty-eight-year career in law enforcement, he served successful stints as a sheriff’s deputy, police chief, policy adviser, and supervisor for several agencies. He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a fiction writer.

Wendelboe applied the Page 69 Test to his latest contemporary mystery, Hunting the Five Point Killer, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Hunting the Five Point Killer, my sleuth, retired Denver homicide detective Arn Anderson, is trying to figure out the circumstances of the apparent murder of a local policeman ten years before. He talks with the victim’s surviving son, Pieter who tells Arn he ... “came down the stairs and there was Dad…sitting where he always did in front of the TV. Pants undone.”

Pieter continues explaining the scene where he found his father slumped over in his chair with two bullet wounds to his head ... “if I’d have come down the stairs a few moments sooner I might have scared the killer off. Or he would have drilled me.”

Arn must search for the killer who—like Arn—has now come out of retirement to kill again.

This killer will haunt Arn throughout the book. As Arn searches to unravel the mystery of decades-old murders he looks over his shoulder to ensure he is not the latest victim.
Visit C. M. Wendelboe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Worst Fear"

Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series.

Hilton applied the Page 69 Test to Worst Fear, his new novel in the Tess Grey thriller series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘You OK, Tess?’

‘I’m fine,’ she said, too quickly to be sincere.

‘This entire thing has you rattled,’ he said. ‘It’s not like you.’

‘Fear of the unknown,’ she admitted. ‘I must admit, having no idea who is behind Chelsea’s death is worrying.’

‘If anybody was involved,’ he reminded her. ‘You feel strongly that your friend didn’t take her own life. Are you worried you might be a target?’

‘I’ve no reason to think that way,’ Tess said, but a visible shudder ran through her body. ‘It’s not as if any of the others have been hurt, right?’

‘What about your buddy Conklin?’


‘And none of the others have had any trouble come their ways yet?’

‘That still remains to be seen. I haven’t spoken to any of them yet.’

‘I’m sure if anything bad had happened, you’d have found out. All those programs you have running, I just bet you’ve set ’em to alert you if any of their names pop up in any news or police reports.’

‘Believe it or not, I’m not that far along with the investigation yet. I’m still waiting to make personal contact before I do anything else.’

‘That’s probably for the best. Speak to them, Tess; you’ll hear they’re all fine and well, and that you’ve nothing to worry about.’

‘I’m not worried.’

‘And I ain’t cabbage coloured,’ Po retorted. ‘You ain’t actin’ like yourself, Tess. I can tell. But you’re probably frettin’ over nothin’, you’ll see once you’ve talked to your old friends.’
Page 69 of Worst Fear finds private investigator Tess Grey mulling over her latest case with her ex-con partner, Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere, and I’m happy to find that it does give a flavour of the mystery they both find themselves embroiled in. An old friend of Tess has been discovered dead at the base of a remote Maine cliff, and the police have ruled her death a suicide. However Tess isn’t convinced, because Chelsea Grace suffered from a crippling fear of heights. Having had no contact with Chelsea since their University days, Tess was surprised when, prior to her death, Chelsea left a scheduled message on a social media site requesting that Tess be informed in the event of her death. Following this short discourse, Tess discovers that others from their circle of friends are being hurt, killed or going missing. It seems somebody from their past is holding a deadly grudge, and Tess herself could be the next target.
Visit Matt Hilton's website.

Writers Read: Matt Hilton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Scones and Scoundrels"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Scones and Scoundrels, book two in her Highland Bookshop series, and reported the following:
Here’s page 69 of Scones and Scoundrels in its entirety (short, because it’s the end of chapter 6):
closed, too. She could also stop at Paudel’s Newsagent, Post Office, and Convenience to see what Basant would sell her that she didn’t need. He had a wall of old-fashioned sweetie jars behind his counter and she definitely didn’t need anything from them.

The door jingled. Janet heard Tallie start to greet the customer, but the customer’s own greeting washed right over Tallie’s and drowned her out.

“You must be very happy to see me. People in bookstores usually are.”

That voice. It could only be their visiting author. Janet, hidden from the sight of anyone at the sales counter by the row of tall shelves, cravenly stayed where she was.

“What do you know about this murder last night?” Daphne asked.

“As yet, details are sketchy,” Tallie said in her best lawyer’s voice.

“And I think we need to change that, don’t you?”
In 144 words, page 69 does a pretty good job of representing the rest of Scones and Scoundrels. It establishes the setting, introduces three central characters and gives hints about their personalities by showing tension between them (and within one of them), mentions murder, suggests a need for change, and ends with a question that might compel the reader to turn the page. I could hardly ask six and a half paragraphs to do more. Let’s take it point by point.

Broad: a place where combination Newsagent, Post Office, Convenience shops exist that sell jars of old-fashioned sweeties.
More immediate: a bookshop.
Exact: down a row of tall shelves with Janet.

Janet: works at the bookshop, somewhat self-indulgent, somewhat craven.
Tallie: works at the bookshop, speaks with a lawyer’s voice when necessary.
Daphne: visiting author, inspires cravenness in one strong woman and washes right over another.

Why is Janet thinking about buying sweeties she doesn’t need? Will she? Why does she stay hidden when she recognizes Daphne’s voice?
Why does Daphne speak right over the top of Tallie’s greeting? Are people in bookstores happy to see her?
Did she say murder?
Why does Tallie use her best lawyer’s voice?

Change and a question
What exactly is Daphne asking them to do? Will they?

So, will someone skimming page 69 be inclined to read on? I think readers who enjoy traditional or cozy mysteries just might.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Plaid and Plagiarism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"The Wife"

Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels include the standalone thrillers The Ex, Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a Night, Never Tell, 212, Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Wife, and reported the following:
Every story is framed by the details we choose to emphasize and those we choose to exclude. But when stories seem incomprehensible -- our beloved, sweater-wearing Dr. Huxtable drugs women with Quaaludes for sex, or a young woman in the adjacent town is kidnapped as she walks home from a party -- we grasp for any details that might cushion our own lives with a sense of security.

Angela Powell knows better than most how we search for ways to distance ourselves from those who suffer the consequences of crime. Page 69 gives context to the dark incident that stole years from Angela’s young life. She acknowledges that her own story, when told a particular way, highlighting certain details and brushing over others, can be used to explain her fate. She cut class. She hung around with a girl who bred trouble. She found herself in a crashed BMW with an older man—a stranger. These indicting facts compel us to see her as an “other.” We’ll say we don’t blame the victim, but we look for ways we can explain their situation—anything that differentiates them from us and allows us to hold on to our comfort. She knows that anyone reading her story will point to her rowdy adolescent behavior and say, “It’s awful, but thankfully that kind of thing only happens to kids who make bad choices.” What happened to her won’t happen to us, which means we can still sleep at night.

Even though she was an “innocent” victim, Angela realizes how she looks under a microscope. And because she has experience in victim-blaming herself, the role comes naturally when a new set of victims come to her attention – this time accusing her own husband of misconduct. She can believe her husband, or she can believe the women—but not both.
Visit Alafair Burke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Watch Me"

Jody Gehrman is a native of Northern California, where she can be found writing, teaching, reading, or obsessing over her three cats most days. She is also the author of eleven novels and numerous award-winning plays.

Her Young Adult novel Babe in Boyland was optioned by the Disney Channel and won the International Reading Association's Teen Choice Award.

Gehrman's plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I.

She is a professor of English and Communications at Mendocino College.

Gehrman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Watch Me, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Watch Me delves into the back-story of one of my main characters, Sam Grist. He recalls the first time he met the girl who was destined to break his heart. The way he deals with this heartbreak is violent and extreme, but I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.

In some ways page 69 differs from most of the book, which centers on a mutual obsession between a writing professor and her deranged but charming student, Sam. This section teases out Sam’s character arc, showing us the origins of his pathology—or at least the early signs of it.

Every psychopath has a tender story in his past. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert begins his tale with a story of the girl who started his obsession. “There might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea.”

Eva is Sam’s tender story from the past. On page 69, we meet her for the first time; she is a goddess in striped, mismatched socks and combat boots. She’s queen of her strange domain, a hippie commune of scattered yurts and teepees on a few acres of frozen hills outside Jackson Hole. It’s her honesty that draws him in; it’s that same honesty that later hardens his heart.

I can’t resist a tiny postscript. I always seem to weave yurts into everything I write; sure enough, page 69 happens to be my yurt page. It’s become a standing joke with my friends. New York editors are forever struggling with the concept. I usually end up sending them a picture. I suppose my recurring yurtieness comes from having lived in a yurt one dreamy summer long ago. But that’s another story.
Visit Jody Gehrman's website.

Writers Read: Jody Gehrman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Eternal Life"

Dara Horn received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University in 2006, studying Hebrew and Yiddish. In 2007 she was chosen by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best Young American Novelists.” Her first novel, In the Image, received a 2003 National Jewish Book Award, the 2002 Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the 2003 Reform Judaism Fiction Prize. Her second novel, The World to Come, received the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, the 2007 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and as one of the Best Books of 2006 by The San Francisco Chronicle, and has been translated into eleven languages. Her third novel, All Other Nights, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and was one of Booklist’s 25 Best Books of the Decade. In 2012, her nonfiction e-book The Rescuer was published by Tablet magazine and became a Kindle bestseller. Her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Books of 2013 and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Horn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Eternal Life, and reported the following:
I was dreading answering this question, knowing how totally arbitrary page 69 is—or frankly any page other than Page 1. So I grudgingly opened my new novel to page 69, already preparing my thoughts on how meaningless this was.

To my astonishment, page 69 of Eternal Life happens to be the page on which the entire key to the novel’s plot is revealed.

Eternal Life is a book about a woman who can’t die. This is not a particularly original premise, of course. Stories about immortality or the quest for it are as old as literature. But in thinking through these stories, I noticed the strange fact that none of them are about fertile women. My main character has been married dozens of times, has had hundreds of children—and has outlived them all. How did she get into this situation? Well, it’s on page 69.

While most of the book is set in contemporary America, page 69 comes at the heart of the book, when Rachel is a young and still-mortal woman in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. She’s in love with the son of the High Priest in the ancient Jewish temple, despite being married to someone else. When her child with her lover falls ill, she makes a divine vow before the High Priest to save her child’s life. The price of this vow, as the High Priest explains to her, is her death: “You must sacrifice your own death for him to live. It means that your child will live, but you will never die.”

Mothers will do anything for their children, right? Rachel doesn’t hesitate. She won’t appreciate just what this means until much later, when her city is on fire… and also much, much, much, much later, in 2018, when most of the book takes place. But that’s the part that takes place before page 69, and after, and throughout her eternal life.
Learn more about the author and her work at Dara Horn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Lullaby Road"

James Anderson was born in Seattle and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston. For many years he worked in book publishing. Other jobs have included logging, commercial fishing and, briefly, truck driver. He currently divides his time between Ashland, Oregon, and the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. The Never-Open Desert Diner is his first novel.

Anderson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Lullaby Road, and reported the following:
I’ve answered this question before, and at first I tended to think of it as a bit foolish. On second thought, the question does make a novelist think hard about how a work as long and intricate as a novel fits together, allowing for shifts in tone and plot and yet somehow also cohesive and representative of the narrative and, in the case of Lullaby Road, the narrator. Lullaby Road is filled with Ben Jones’, a Native American/Jewish trucker in the high desert of Utah, interactions with the eccentrics and self-exiled he serves along a hundred mile stretch of highway. Solitude and privacy are sought and cherished; yet, Ben knows and respects each individual as a human being, though often a very troubled and flawed human being. In these interactions we see how people often dance around each other, the pushme-pullyou of human connections, and how we manage to communicate much more than we intend. This is what is happening on page 69 of Lullaby Road when Ben takes a young, mute Hispanic child and an infant to be cared for by an older, though still beautiful New York socialite who has banished herself to the Utah desert. In that sense, it is representative of the novel.
Visit James Anderson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Never-Open Desert Diner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes"

USA Today bestselling author Karen Rose Smith's 100th novel is a 2018 release. She writes both cozy mysteries, romance novels and women’s fiction. One of her romances was aired as a TV movie on the UP TV network. Her passion is caring for her five rescued cats. Her hobbies are gardening, cooking, watercolor painting and photography. An only child, Smith delved into books at an early age. Even though she escaped into story worlds, she had many cousins around her on weekends. Families are a strong theme in all of her novels. She's recently working on her Caprice De Luca Home Staging mystery series as well as her Daisy Tea Garden mystery series.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes, and reported the following:
At its core, the first book in my new Daisy’s Tea Garden series Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes, is a novel about family—my sleuth Daisy’s family as well as the murder victim’s family and relationships. Page 69 is significant because it spotlights the significant relationship between Daisy, a widowed mom, and Jazzi (Jasmine) her fifteen year old adopted daughter.

From page 69:
...The name of the website was Bonds Forever. After a quick look, Daisy could see it was one of those websites where children who were adopted could register to find their birth parents.

Jazzi must have seen the stunned look on her mother’s face. “This has nothing to do with you,” she told Daisy quickly. “I mean, nothing to do about you being my mom. I want to find my birth parents.”

Over the years, they’d had plenty of discussions about being adopted—how Jazzi had been a gift to her and Ryan, how she’d been a child of their hearts. But since Ryan had died, they hadn’t talked as much as they should have. Her daughter Violet had expressed her grief and sadness over her dad's loss much more openly than Jazzi, and Daisy had given her younger daughter the opportunity and the time to grieve in her own way. But maybe that hadn't been the right thing to do. After all, their life had been in Florida. With Ryan gone, Daisy had moved them back to Willow Creek, changing everything.
How does Daisy feel about this elemental turn of events? How will her biological daughter Violet look at her sister searching for her “real” parents? How will this distract Daisy from her search for a murderer when her Aunt Iris—co owner and manager of Daisy’s Tea Garden—becomes Detective Rappaport’s main suspect?

As Daisy involves the murder victim’s family in conversations, their dysfunctional co-dependency turns her feelings inward when considering her family relationships. Although Daisy’s family is close, Daisy gets along with and confides much more easily in her aunt than her mother Rose. She and her father Sean are close. Loving and supporting her sister Camellia in her career choices, Daisy had still felt friction between them as they'd grown up...mostly because of Daisy’s mom.

If readers read page 69, I believe they will understand what “family” means to my cozy mysteries.
Visit Karen Rose Smith's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Rose Smith & Hope and Riley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


After graduating from Stanford University, Martha Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, substitute teacher, college lecturer, advertising copywriter and magazine writer before finding her true calling as a writer of children's books. She has since written more than 20 books for children.

Freeman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Zap, and reported the following:
I’d like to say that as it happens, Page 69 in Zap is my very favorite.

Only I’m not sure an author is well-advised to single out one page that way. I mean, doesn’t a favorite imply that the other pages are lesser? And if it does, wouldn’t the wise and time-pressed reader just go to the favorite page, and skip everything else?

Zap is a novel for and about kids that takes place in a troubled city I call Hampton, New Jersey. At 7:42 one ordinary morning, the lights go out … and stay out. Soon our sixth-grade hero Luis comes to realize something scary. He has a clue about what caused the outage that no one else has. Worse, the authorities are way too busy to pay attention to a kid. As the situation gets desperate, Luis and his ex-best friend Maura get busy. To bring back the power, they brave abandoned houses in Luis’s blighted neighborhood, take on a gang of toughs and outwit a ruthless unknown adversary.

Page 69 depicts a moment of high drama. In the dark, three drunk teens led by a kid named Tony break into Luis’s favorite bodega and threaten the owner, Senora Alvaro. Scared out of his wits, Luis tries to think clearly:
Tony’s around sixteen, I think. I can take him if I have to. I can take him because I’m smarter. Also, I haven’t been drinking. No problem. An opposing voice spoke in Luis’s head, too, a sane one…. You’re eleven. You are half his size. All those push-ups won’t count for much against his weight advantage. You are going to get annihilated. Run while you can!
No spoilers except to say the outcome is both realistic and (I hope) funny, and Luis lives to fight another day.

I’m no electrical engineer, so writing Zap required quite a bit of research. In a way, I learned about electricity, the electric grid and computer hacking right along with my characters. One more fun fact about Zap: Luis, the hero, is loosely based on a friend of mine who grew up in Camden, New Jersey, and recently moved back to that city. There are photos of the real Luis and his family at the end of the book, and a letter to readers from him, too.

No doubt you are a wise reader and probably time-pressed. Knowing Page 69 is the author’s favorite, maybe you are tempted to read it and skip the rest?

But, reader, please don’t. To grasp the full glory that is Zap Page 69, you are going to have to read the preceding and succeeding pages, too. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"The Girls in the Picture"

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age.

Benjamin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Girls in the Picture, and reported the following:
From page 69:
All through the film, Mary's hand gripped my arm. She was as feverish as I was, her fingernails digging deeper and deeper until, when at last she let go, I had four distinct red marks in my flesh. But I didn't mind. The two of us were one - one living, breathing, stupefied being, wholly and entirely transfixed. Just like everyone else in the audience caught up in this sweeping, emotional vortex that sucked us all in and wouldn't let go until the very end, when the hero and heroine were together at last, and the image faded to the ultimate title.
This is such a perfect example of how Mary Pickford and Frances Marion bonded over their passion for film. On this page, they are seeing for the first time D.W. Griffith's epic film, The Birth of a Nation. They're in the audience, just like everyone else. And they're blown away by the huge step forward that this represented at the time. While we today rightly remember this film as a disturbing example of blatant racism, in 1915 when it premiered, it was acknowledged to be a groundbreaking film. This was the first film that had an original score written for it (to be played by orchestras in the movie houses), the first to use fade in/fade out technique, the first to use rapid cutting to indicate thrilling action. So Mary and Frances are just as blown away by its artistry and technique as the rest of the audience; this passage establishes their shared love and ambition for this new art form.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Pretty Girls Dancing"

Kylie Brant is a native Midwesterner and resides in Iowa. She has the distinction of selling the first book she ever wrote. That began a career that has spanned forty novels. She’s garnered numerous nominations and awards, including twice winning the overall Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mystery and suspense, and a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Brant is a three-time RITA nominee and has been nominated for five RT awards. Her recent novel, Pretty Girls Dancing, was a #1 Amazon bestseller.

Brant applied the Page 69 Test to Pretty Girls Dancing and reported the following:
Pretty Girls Dancing is my thirty-ninth novel. Seven years ago, fourteen-year-old Kelsey Willard disappeared, and was presumed dead. She left behind a fractured family--a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure. But now another teenage girl has gone missing. It's ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Pretty Girls Dancing is told in five revolving viewpoints: Whitney, a recently kidnapped teenage girl; Janie, the sister of Kelsey Willard, who was kidnapped seven years earlier and is a presumed victim of the Ten Mile Killer; Claire Willard, Kelsey and Janie's mother; David Willard, Kelsey and Janie's father; and Mark Foster, a BCI investigator on Whitney's case. Page 69 is fairly representative of the book, as it’s a turning point in the story. Mark Foster is just leaving the home of Whitney DeVries. The ballet slipper he saw on the girl’s bedroom floor has him remembering the case files from the unsolved Ten Mile Killer case. All the victims’ bodies' had been discovered clad in a leotard, a tutu, tights and ballet slippers. Many of them had taken dance.
Suddenly in a hurry, Mark headed through the door and down the hall, with Shannon at his heels. Moments later he was hunching against the wind's bitter bite as he hastened to his car. If he did speak to the other agent tonight, he knew better than to share the thought that had struck him as he'd contemplated that ballet slipper. The older man would chew his ass. Probably rightfully so.

He slipped into the vehicle. Started it. The memory of the dance shoe refused to be shunted aside. It looked like thousands of others worn by girls across America.

It also looked like those worn by the dead victims of the Ten Mile Killer.
The page has Mark coming to the conclusion that to save one girl, he must first solve the riddles that died with another--Kelsey Willard herself. I hope that reading page 69 would intrigue the reader enough to want to read on to discover the truth about the two missing girls.
Watch the trailer for Pretty Girls Dancing.

Read more about Kylie Brant's work at her website.

Writers Read: Kylie Brant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The Sea of the Dead"

Barry Wolverton has been writing for children for over 20 years, helping create books, documentary television, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books, among others.

His debut novel, Neversink, was named the Children’s Book of Choice by Literacy Mid-South for their Read Across America program in 2014.

Wolverton applied the Page 69 Test to The Sea of the Dead, his latest novel in The Chronicles of the Black Tulip, and reported the following:
As it happens, page 69 in The Sea of the Dead is the opening of Chapter 7: “The Queen of Cashmere.” It begins:
Archibald Black stared at the girl with the uncommonly green eyes, and she in turn stared at him. They were sitting face-to-face in an ornate, vaulted room that completely defied Black’s expectations. He and David Owen had been led by Prester Thaddeus down a dark alley to an unmarked door, and when the girl let them in, they had passed through a crumbling corridor that reeked of garbage and twitched with rats.
This is a critical point in the book, and also a bridge between The Dragon’s Gate and The Sea of the Dead, the final two books in the trilogy. One of the unresolved plot points at the end of book 2 was, will David Owen (father of the protagonist, Ben Owen) and Archibald Black (Bren’s friend and a father figure) ever reunite with Bren after their ill-planned rescue attempt? They have escaped capture by the army of Mogul emperor Akbar in India, but now they find themselves in Cashmere, where their problems are about to get worse. That’s because they have crossed paths with book 3’s two new main characters, a woman named Shveta and an unusual young girl in her care named Ani. Shveta claims she is descended from the last authentic ruler of Cashmere, before the Mogul invasion, and believes it is her destiny to restore independence to Cashmere and rule as its queen. The way David Owen and Archibald Black extricate themselves from the pickle they find themselves in turns out to be a key to bringing all the main characters from all three books back together.
Visit Barry Wolverton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Island.

My Book, The Movie: The Sea of the Dead.

Writers Read: Barry Wolverton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Before I Let Go"

Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language, and ideas, she spends as much time in fictional worlds as she does the real world. She loves to travel, roll dice, and daydream. Her #1 New York Times bestselling debut novel, This Is Where It Ends, follows four teens during the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting. Her sophomore novel, Before I Let Go, is a haunting young adult murder mystery set during a cruel Alaskan winter.

Nijkamp applied the Page 69 Test to Before I Let Go and reported the following:
Page 69 of Before I Let Go is only half a page, but very representative of the first part of the book. It’s a fragment of a phone call between Corey, the main character, and Eileen, one of Corey’s friends at her boarding school. In it, Corey talks about returning home. Home is Lost Creek, Alaska, the place she used to live before her family up and moved to Canada. Home is where Kyra, Corey’s best friend since childhood, lived. Except, Kyra died mere days before Corey got on the plane back, and now she’s left with discovering what exactly happened in the months since she was away. As a result, Corey has to confront secrets about Lost Creek and about herself. She has to confront a home that doesn’t feel like a home anymore, where nothing is quite how she remembered it or even entirely real. People call her an outsider. Corey tells Eileen, “I feel like a stranger.“ But what she doesn’t know yet, is that things are only about to get stranger from here.
Visit Marieke Nijkamp's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Where It Ends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Only the Rain"

Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of over a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. Also a prize-winning playwright, a produced screenwriter, and a prolific essayist, he has been published and produced in virtually every field and genre of creative writing.

Silvis applied the Page 69 Test to his new psychological suspense novel, Only the Rain, and reported the following:
On page 69 of the hardcover edition of Only the Rain, Russell, the narrator, wrestles with what to do with his ill-gotten gains. Unfortunately for him, he’s not a championship thinker. He knows that he has to do something before the crap hits the fan, but what? Every plan has its own consequences. And those consequences have their consequences. And the fan keeps spinning.

Like most young adults, the first twenty-something years of Russell’s life had been guided, if not determined, by others. He was raised by his grandparents, went into the Army right after high school, got married, had two kids, went to college, got a job. All along the way he had people telling him what to do, or people expecting him to behave in a particular way. Now, because of one spontaneous decision, he finds himself with no one to advise him. His is a man utterly alone, and at wit’s end.

So he draws on past advice from the three people he relied on when he was younger. But that advice is contradictory, and much of it seems barely relevant to his current dilemma.

Man, he thinks, all I ever wanted or expected out of life was to have a decent job…, stay reasonably healthy, raise good kids and put them on their own paths to success, and then enjoy my last twenty years or so playing with my grandkids.

Page 69 occurs approximately a third of the way into the novel. Russell is about to make another decision that will lock him into a potentially disastrous confrontation with the bad guys. He is about to discover, for better or worse, what all of us must eventually learn: that every decision we make has the potential to either stain or illuminate the soul.
Learn more about the book and author at Randall Silvis's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Shoots Crows.

My Book, The Movie: The Boy Who Shoots Crows.

My Book, The Movie: Only the Rain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Splintered Silence"

Susan Furlong is the author of the Georgia Peach Mystery series. She also contributes to the New York Times bestselling Novel Idea Mysteries under the pen name Lucy Arlington. She has worked as a freelance writer, academic writer, ghost writer, translator, high-school language arts teacher, and martial arts instructor. Raised in North Dakota, Furlong graduated from Montana State University with a double major in French and Spanish. She and her family live in central Illinois.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new suspense novel, Splintered Silence, the first in the Bone Gap Travellers series, and reported the following:
Splintered Silence’s protagonist, Brynn Callahan, is an Irish Traveller. Scattered in clans throughout the United States, Travellers live secretively and are often marginalized by the rest of the population, who Travellers refer to as “settled people”. Page 69 of Splintered Silence demonstrates the tension that buzzes throughout the novel between Travellers and Settled people, especially the local law. Here is a description that shows Brynn’s distrust and instant dislike of Deputy Sheriff Harris:
He stared down his high-bridged nose at me, his pout little mouth curving upward in a sneer. Harris had a baby face, complete with pudgy cheeks that might inspire a pinch or two from a women three times my age. All I wanted to do was slap them silly.
One of the most prominent themes in Splintered Silence is the human/canine bond. Brynn is an ex-Marine and dog handler. She and Wilco, a HRD (Human Remains Detection) dog, served three military tours. Now they’re back home in rural Appalachia, wounded, suffering from PTSD and trying to assimilate into civilian culture. They rely on each other; their relationship is tight and fiercely loyal. This excerpt sets up a fight scene between Brynn and Harris:
I was about to fire back with something witty when the sound of running water drew my attention to the side of the deputy’s parked cruiser. Only it wasn’t water, but Wilco. He was relieving himself on the deputy’s tire … I tilted my head back and let the laughs roll. And roll.

… Harris … did the ultimate in stupid. He swung his foot at my dog, trying to kick him. “Get the hell away from my car, you friggin’ mutt.”

I stopped laughing.
(The rest of the fight scene unfolds on page 70 and is representative of the Brynn and Wilco’s relationship and the lengths to which Brynn will go to protect one of her own.)

My Page 69 is a transition page, working up to a large scene, but still holds hints of many of the themes presented throughout the book. Splintered Silence examines several social issues: PTSD, class tensions, human/dog bond, prejudices, the Irish Traveller sub-culture, addiction … and weaves these topics into a fast-paced crime story.
Visit Susan Furlong's website.

Writers Read: Susan Furlong.

My Book, The Movie: Splintered Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 5, 2018

"The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily"

Laura Creedle writes about her experiences as an ADHD writer at her website and blog. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Creedle applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily, and reported the following:
From page 69:
We settled in to eat tofu and watch ‘Bringing Up Baby.’ The sight of Cary Grant in a pink, frilly dressing gown chasing a leopard— pretty hilarious. But what really got me was watching Katharine Hepburn, as Susan, destroy cars, lose important relics, rip off the back of her dress, and unleash a dangerous animal on her unsuspecting neighbors—all while talking a mile a minute and being adorable. Maybe I should have lived in the thirties. Because—screwball.

“Well, what did you think, Lily?” Rosalind’s mom said as the credits rolled.

“Awesome,” I replied.

“Really?” she said. “But did you really enjoy it?”

“Oh, my god— You know, whatever I break, at least I will never destroy an entire brontosaurus skeleton. Susan was like ADHD on steroids.”

I can say stuff around Rosalind’s parents because they’ve known me since kindergarten.

“ADHD—classic,” Rosalind’s dad said, looking up from his laptop. “Never thought about that before.”

“Well, next we’re going to watch ‘His Gal Friday,’” Rosalind’s Mom said. “It stars the actress we named Rosalind after and…”

“Sorry mother,” Rosalind interrupted. “Regretfully, we must depart for my room.”

Rosalind bolted toward the hall and I followed.
If you opened my book the page 69 looking for swoon-worthy romance or quotes from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, you might be disappointed. While there’s plenty of romance, medieval references, and love letters in the rest of the novel, there’s just as much of Lily thinking about what it means to be Neuro-divergent. Since both Lily and Abelard are ND, and Lily is failing out of school, it comes up a lot. Would you keep reading? Depends on what you think about Lily’s voice, and your tolerance for em—dashes. Breaking things, being “broken” is a big theme in my novel and this page is pretty typical in that regard.
Visit Laura Creedle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"The Bomb Maker"

Thomas Perry's novels include the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, and A String of Beads), Death Benefits, Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel, and The Butcher's Boy, which won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Bomb Maker, and reported the following:
This is always an interesting test, because it almost always turns up a page that’s a fair sample of the rest of the book. Page 69 in The Bomb Maker is the last part of one of the central scenes. Dick Stahl, the former boss and team leader of the LAPD bomb squad, has returned because the squad has lost half its technicians in a single blast. His first bomb is a car chained to the pumps of a gas station. In this scene he and his two team members have removed most of the military-grade explosives in the car, but found a final piece, a ten-inch pipe two feet long that’s had its ends epoxied shut. He and the team believe it’s got a mercury tilt switch under the cap. If it’s not level it will explode. Stahl and his team put the bomb in a backpack, put a spirit level from the tool box on it, and Stahl, walking slowly and alone, carries it on his chest down into the dry concrete riverbed about a hundred yards away to put it in a containment vessel and detonate it. Page 69 is the detonation of the huge charge. I like this page 69 because it tells us who Dick Stahl really is, and gives us a single image of what it can mean to be a bomb technician.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 1, 2018

"The Case of The Unsuitable Suitor"

Born, raised and educated in Wales, Cathy Ace enjoyed a successful career in marketing and training across Europe for twenty years before migrating to Vancouver, Canada.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Case of The Unsuitable Suitor, and reported the following:
From page 69:

Christine’s heart was pounding; Ballinclare Manor wasn’t built on the same scale as Chellingworth Hall’s 268 rooms, but it did have about forty different spaces ranged over four, beautifully proportioned Georgian floors, and she and Alexander had spent the last hour making a concerted effort to enter each one to establish if Brid and Callum Ahearne were anywhere to be found. They weren’t.

‘Basement and outbuildings next,’ said Christine descending from the dusty, near-derelict topmost floor where the tiny servants’ quarters had now become storage rooms for the sort of detritus the landed gentry can accumulate over almost three hundred years.

Alexander sneezed as he followed her. ‘I just need to wash up a bit after that last room. I’m beginning to think you come from a long line of hoarders, and that’s why your flat in Battersea is so overrun with all sorts of decorative bits and pieces.’

‘So says the man who bought an entire antiques business just because he likes old, beautiful things.’

‘I like young, beautiful things too,’ said Alexander, snatching Christine’s waist as the couple rounded the final landing before the last sweep of the staircase to the ground floor.

Playfully pushing him away, Christine stopped abruptly and shushed him. ‘Listen. I think I heard something.’

The couple strained their ears.

‘Yes, I heard that too,’ said Alexander, his eyes alight. ‘I think it came from one of the rooms back here.’
The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor finds Mavis MacDonald and Carol Hill, of the WISE Enquiries Agency, trying to unravel the facts behind the deaths of the three former wives of Anwen-by-Wye’s prodigal, Huw Hughes, who has semi-retired, and now making overtures to their colleague Annie Parker. Is she in danger…or is the fact Huw has been made a widower three times over simply a triple-tragedy? They are also forced to consider that someone they know – living at stately Chellingworth Hall – has just committed a horrid act of vandalism. At the same time, their fourth staff member – Christine Wilson-Smythe – is holidaying at her family’s estate in Ireland, where she and her dangerously attractive beau Alexander Bright face a mystery of their own – what’s happened to the couple who look after the estate when Christine and her viscount father are absent? They seem to have disappeared.
Visit Cathy Ace's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue