Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"The Upper Hand"

Johnny Shaw is the author of the award-winning Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series, including the books Dove Season, Plaster City, and Imperial Valley, as well as the stand-alone novels Floodgate and Big Maria. He has won the Spotted Owl and Anthony Awards and was the Grand Marshal of the 69th Annual Carrot Festival Parade.

Shaw applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Upper Hand, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Your stuff is right here,” Stephanie said, setting it on the sink counter

“Thanks,” the coffee woman said.

“I should be thanking you, I had no interest in getting hit with a dick. Even if it probably wouldn’t have hurt, now that I think about it.”

The coffee woman looked at herself in the mirror. “I’m covered in coffee.” She took off her shirt and put it under the water in the sink Stephanie found herself staring at the woman’s nude torso. She was young, pretty, and in shape. She was also covered in ink. A dragon, some quotes there were too far away to read, a dollar sign, a dozen more.

When the woman turned and smiled, Stephanie looked down at the cover of the binder on the counter. The title read, “San Diego-Poway Highway Proposal, Routes, Maps, Proposed Land Buys.”

The woman wrung out her shirt, put it on, and looked in the mirror. “Great. A wet T-shirt contest.”

Stephanie took off her jacket. “Try this. It should work until you can get something else.”

“Thanks.” The woman smiled, took the jacket, and put it on. “Are you doing the symposium, too?”

“I am.”

“Perfect. That puts us on the same schedule. I have gym clothes in my car. I can return your jacket.” She buttoned the front of the jacket and reached for the binder and her stuff. “Thanks for grabbing my stuff. I’d be in hot water if I lost it. Top secret.” She smiled and winked.

Stephanie handed the woman the notebook that she definitely wanted to read. There had been talk about that highway expansion for years. That kind of inside information was potentially the $1 million find that could her out of her current $300,000 racket.

“I’m Patricia,” Stephanie said. “It’s really nice to meet you.”

“Gretchen. Nice to meet you, too.”
The Upper Hand is a story about an extended family of confidence tricksters and thieves That family includes Gretchen. In this scene, Gretchen is in the process of drawing Stephanie into a confidence game designed for her. Stephanie, herself, is a con woman (hence the fake name) that had dated Gretchen’s brother and conned him. It’s your basic sister getting payback for her brother by seducing ex-girlfriend type of scenario. I know that sounds convoluted, but it’s that kind of story. And this is just the beginning. It gets more bananas as it goes.

It’s funny to read how a scene plays out of context of the rest of the story, but I actually like how this holds together on its own. It is the introduction of an important character and the last page of the chapter, so there’s a sense of momentum to it, even if it’s mostly dialogue.

What I like about this moment is that it’s one of the few chapters that’s not in the point of view of one of the three main characters: siblings Axel, Kurt, and Gretchen. It’s an opportunity to see the con from the outside, from the mark’s point of view. In the chapters that follow we see the inner mechanism from the inside point of view.
Visit Johnny Shaw's website.

The Page 69 Test: Plaster City.

The Page 69 Test: Imperial Valley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 30, 2018

"Wrong in All the Right Ways"

Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, and, as with many authors, her love for reading and writing began at an early age. Because her father was in the Navy, she and her family moved around far more often than she would have liked (she went to five elementary schools–not kidding!), but despite the many moves, her love of education, books, and writing remained.

Her family’s final move brought her to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she went on to study for and earn her B.S. in Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana. Immediately after graduation, Brownlee began work as a Teacher’s Assistant while also pursuing a teaching certification from The University of Holy Cross. Juggling both school and work as a full-time teacher’s assistant was a little hectic for her, but she still managed to squeeze in some time to read and work on a YA novel idea that she’d thought up while rereading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (one of her favorite classics). That idea eventually became Wrong in All the Right Ways, her newly released debut novel.

Brownlee currently works as a middle school English teacher in New Orleans.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Wrong in All the Right Ways and reported the following:
Page 69 of Wrong in All the Right Ways is a scene in which Emma tries to distract herself from her growing feelings for Dylan by trying out for their school’s dance team. While this page is not a complete representation of the entire novel, it does introduce us to Emma’s go-to coping mechanism: dance. As the Dylan drama escalates, Emma realizes that dance is the perfect distraction from her romantic woes. She leans on this activity and her network of dance friends to help her through every issues throughout the novel.

Dance also gives Emma the chance to become such good friends with Karmin Ortega, the captain of the dance team. Karmin brings a ton of sass and humor to Wrong in All the Right Ways, and I know that readers are going to fall in love with her character and the tight-knit relationship Emma builds with her.
Visit Tiffany Brownlee's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wrong in All the Right Ways.

Writers Read: Tiffany Brownlee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 28, 2018

"The Furnace"

Prentis Rollins has over twenty-five years of experience working as a writer and artist in the comics industry.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut full-length graphic novel, The Furnace, and reported the following:
There are three narratives unfolding simultaneously in The Furnace; page 69 [inset below left; click to enlarge] cuts to the heart of one of them. In that narrative, told in flashback, we learn the history of the US ‘Gard Program’—a scheme, launched in 2027, to release dangerous prisoners back into society, the catch being that each would be followed by a floating drone that renders the convict invisible, inaudible, and totally unable to interact with other people. Page 69 shows us the shutting down of several ‘supermax’ prisons and the relocating of the prisoners they housed to GARD facilities.

The second narrative, also told in flashback, is the story of young physics grad student Walton Honderich, the growth of his relationship with the brilliant but unstable physicist Marc Lepore, and how the two of them were jointly implicated in the development of the GARD Program in 2023. Lepore, an alcoholic and repressed homosexual, recruits Honderich to assist him in developing GARD software; when Honderich refuses Lepore’s advances their relationship sours, but it’s too late—Honderich has provided the crucial help that will enable the GARD program to commence.

The third narrative is the crucial present of the story. It’s 2052: Honderich is a middle-aged, alcoholic physics professor living in London with his wife and six year-old daughter. Having returned to the US for a conference, Honderich is forced to finally confront the enormity of the human tragedy the GARD Program entailed—the nearly wholesale die-off of the prisoners subjected to this untested form of psychological isolation. Struggling through his guilt and feelings of thwarted ambition, he explains to his daughter (in a sanitized form) what the GARD Program was and how he was involved in it. And in the end, his daughter inadvertently reveals to him the one remaining route along which he can rise above and be the man he’d once felt so sure he’d be.

The Furnace is a science fiction story about the hideous uses to which technology can be put—page 69 captures that well. But more importantly, it’s about guilt, acceptance, letting go, and the many forms human greatness can assume—that’s what I mainly hope its readers will remember.
Visit Prentis Rollins's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Furnace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 27, 2018

"The Emperor of Shoes"

Born in Boston, Spencer Wise is a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Texas at Austin and worked in the editorial departments at Sports Illustrated and Time Out New York. His work has appeared in Narrative magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Florida Review, and New Ohio Review. He is the winner of the 2017 Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction. Wise teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, The Emperor of Shoes, and reported the following:
Yes! Page 69 couldn’t be more representative of the book. I love this page. Might be one of my favorite pages in the whole darn book. This is the scene where our narrator, Alex, first confronts his father about what he suspects are unethical business practices going on at their shoe factory. The father plays dumb. Alex has to use all the business acumen his father taught him to cajole the truth out of him. So there’s a great cat-and-mouse game here between two manipulative, cagey men, both of whom are hiding something from the other. It also resonates with Alex’s fear that he’s merely his father’s pawn. Alex calls himself a Golem, which is a monster from Jewish folklore created out of clay and brought to life by the breath of its master. On this page, Alex says, “I was staring straight ahead, but I could feel Dad side-eyeing me. I knew he was thinking: I created you. Like how the old rabbis would mold a mystical golem to follow orders—I honestly think that’s how Dad saw fatherhood. And now he was worried that his divine creation was beginning to turn against him.” This page perfectly captures the clash between the father and son as well as the ethical of quandary of how global capitalism, in this case, shoe manufacturing, can be run ethically.
Visit Spencer Wise's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"City of Islands"

Kali Wallace studied geology and earned a PhD in geophysics before she realized she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds more than she liked researching the real one. She is the author of the young adult novels Shallow Graves and The Memory Trees.

Wallace applied the Page 69 Test to her new middle grade fantasy novel, City of Islands, and reported the following:
From page 69:
For two years the master of the Winter Blade had been the man Mara hated most in the world. The man who killed Bindy.

Mara's chest ached as though she had dove too deep, too fast.
On page 69 of City of Islands, twelve-year-old Mara has been asked by her employer to perform a dangerous task: to sneak into a magical island fortress and spy on its master.

What her employer doesn't know is that same man is a special enemy of Mara's. He's the one who murdered her beloved guardian, leaving Mara alone in a world that does not treat orphaned children kindly.
If Mara could get into the Winter Blade, she might be able to find the spell books as proof of what the Muck had done. Nobody had wanted to listen to a bone-mage's little servant girl, but they would listen to the Lady of the Tides.

"Think before you agree, child," said Professor Kosta. "It could be very dangerous."

"But it could also be very rewarding," the Lady added. "For both of us."
City of Islands begins with Mara working for a wealthy woman and dreaming of a brighter future. But at this point, on this very page, her work becomes a personal mission. Suddenly, Mara is given a chance to not only earn a reward for herself, but to reveal the truth of what happened to her guardian. The danger does not concern her. She has a chance to expose a murderer, and she takes it.

As for whether it works out like that… Well, let's just say that there are quite a few twists and turns in store for Mara ahead. But the decision she makes on this page sets the course for the rest of the book, and once she's made it, she never looks back.
Visit Kali Wallace's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Trees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"The Wild Dead"

Carrie Vaughn is the New York Time bestselling author of more than twenty novels and over eighty short stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Wild Dead, and reported the following:
The Wild Dead is a post-apocalyptic murder mystery, the sequel to my Philip K. Dick Award-Winning novel Bannerless that came out last year. Page 69 of The Wild Dead is an odd one, in that it’s only a quarter of a page of text, right at the end of a chapter. In it, what little there is of it, my main character, Investigator Enid, and her partner Teeg are having to stop their investigation for the night, and continue the next day to hunt for the killer of a young woman whose body washed up on the. On the one hand it’s mostly movement, logistics that move the story from one scene to the next. At the same time, I do think it’s representative – this is a murder mystery, even against the backdrop of the unfamiliar post-apocalyptic setting, and this is one of those classic murder mystery scenes in which the detective is explaining her thoughts, listing out clues, giving her take on the setting. I think this is one of the attractions of the murder mystery genre, both written and on TV, particularly series in which we follow the same investigator from one case to the next, and we get to see the world through her perspective.
Learn more about the author and her work at Carrie Vaughn's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 23, 2018


Erin Bowman grew up in rural Connecticut, where she spent most of her childhood penning tales. She studied web design (and minored in Creative Writing because she couldn’t stay away from stories) at the Rochester Institute of Technology. After several years working in advertising and designing websites for various brands, she moved from Boston to New Hampshire, where she now lives with her family and writes full-time.

When not writing, Bowman can often be found hiking, geeking out over good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. She drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books, and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person.

Bowman is the author of the Taken trilogy, Vengeance Road, Retribution Rails, and the newly released Contagion.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Contagion and reported the following:
Page 69 [at right; click to enlarge] is completely representative of Contagion. The hotheaded captain. The ominous setting. And shy, reserved Thea coming out of her shell. She spends the majority of the book fighting for people to take her seriously and she follows her intuition constantly (which keeps her alive through some pretty hair-raising moments that follow this scene).
Visit Erin Bowman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Scream All Night"

Derek Milman has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, film school teacher, DJ, and underground humor magazine publisher. A classically trained actor, he has performed on stages across the country and appeared in numerous TV shows, commercials, and films.

Milman applied the Page 69 Test to his newly released first novel, Scream All Night, and reported the following:
Yes, page 69 totally representative of Scream All Night. Dario has been called home for his father's live funeral (Lucien Heyward, terminally ill, chooses to be buried alive on the Moldavia grounds as a tribute to the heroine of his first film--The Curse of the Mummy's Tongue) and that night Dario re-connects both with his estranged brother, and Hayley--a girl at the castle he always loved--who he had to leave behind when he got legally emancipated from his family and moved into a group home. But they were children then. Now, they're both grown up. On page 69, they meet after midnight in the Moldavia castle, on the set of a fake graveyard, with fake wraiths crawling out of fake graves. Dario reflects on the fact that Hayley, for a variety of factors, belonged in his family more than he ever did. As they share their first kiss as the people they are now, Dario remembers the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his director father, who was bullying Dario into giving him the perfectly monstrous performance as main child zombie Alastair, in what would become one of Moldavia's biggest cult hits--Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun.
Visit Derek Milman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Scream All Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 21, 2018

"Into the Darkness"

Sibel Hodge is the author of the number-one bestsellers Look Behind You, Untouchable and Duplicity. Her books have sold over a million copies in the UK, USA, Australia, France, Canada and Germany.

Hodge applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Into the Darkness, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘Toni…um…she asked for my help to show her how to get on the dark web because I know about computers. I’m studying computer science,’ Laura added for my benefit. ‘She thought we should do it together. But I didn’t want to go into the darkness. That’s what I called it. Those same words. That’s what Toni must’ve meant when she wrote that in her notebook. She must’ve done it without me. She must’ve started looking around down there.’

Corinne clenched her hands together in her lap. ‘I’ve never even heard about this dark web. If it exists with all this heinous stuff on it, why haven’t the police shut it down?’ Corinne asked incredulously. ‘How is it possible it even exists?’

‘Because the sites are really hard to find,’ Laura said. ‘The dark web is made up of encrypted networks that have been hidden. It’s super secure and anonymous. If you use proper OPSEC, it’s really hard, if not impossible, for the police to find what’s out there or who’s using it because IP addresses or location of devices on a network and servers are obscured.’
This is the point where ex-SAS operative Mitchell has firm confirmation that his missing goddaughter, Toni, was searching on the dark web and that it's connected to her disappearance. He realises his worst fear then. That Toni has been taken by a dark criminal enterprise intent on committing the most heinous crimes, and he's in a race against time to track her down and bring her back alive. This is both representative of the rest of the novel and not at the same time. It's a lull in the fast pace of Mitchell's investigation as he questions Toni's best friend for the first time. But an indication of the darkness that Toni has been caught up in.
Visit Sibel Hodge's website.

My Book, The Movie: Untouchable.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 20, 2018

"The Corpse at the Crystal Palace"

Carola Dunn is the author of many mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple, as well as numerous historical novels. Born and raised in England, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dunn's latest novel is The Corpse at the Crystal Palace, the 23rd Daisy Dalrymple mystery.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Corpse at the Crystal Palace and reported the following:
From page 69 of the manuscript:
Daisy wished she could hear what was being said.

"Mrs. Fletcher, I'd like to talk to the children now."

"Before Mrs. Gilpin?"

"Yes, I'm hoping they'll give me a better idea of what I need to ask her. Besides, you must be wanting to get them home, dry, and properly clothed." He had a straight face and a twinkle in his eye.

"We've got to wait for our cars. I can't imagine how I'm going to get the boys out to them without causing a scandal."

"That, I'm happy to say, is entirely up to you."

"If you have any bright ideas, let me know. The same goes for Mrs. Gilpin as for them. She ought to be in bed."

"I'll wait until she is before I see her."

"You don't believe she just slipped and fell and knocked her head?"

"I'll no rule out the possibility, Mrs. Fletcher, but there are altogether too many nannies in this story to just ignore them. When she's more comfortable, likely she'll be better able to give her mind to remembering. You may take her home as soon as convenient."

"Thank you! Sakari," she called to her friend, who had moved to a discreet distance, "we can take Mrs. Gilpin home as soon as Truscott or Kisin gets here, if we arrange for a stretcher to carry her to the street. Would you mind awfully—"

"Leave it to me, Daisy."

"Mrs. Prasad, please make use of the uniformed constables outside as errand boys."

Belinda and Ben exchanged a swift glance.

"We don't mind running errands," said Ben.

"We'd like to run errands," said Charlie. "It's pretty dull here."
Outspoken Charlie! He and his older brother, Ben, are soaked to the skin, having helped Daisy's stepdaughter, Belinda, fish the unconscious Mrs. Gilpin out of a pond. While they were so occupied, Daisy was discovering an unknown nanny dead in the ladies room. A third nanny has vanished, seen only by the children--and, presumably, by Mrs. Gilpin but she can't remember.

The patient, good-humoured detective is DI Mackinnon, who knows Daisy from previous encounters. She is painfully aware, however, that this latest adventure can't be kept from her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. His patience and good-humour are apt to wear thin when she finds herself in this sort of situation, especially when she helps with the investigation. “Helps” is her word. “Interferes” is his.

Despite his certain displeasure, Daisy's duty is clearly to find out what her children's nurse had to do with the second nanny's death and why Mrs. Gilpin went charging off after the third nanny, deserting her charges.

This page is an amazing microcosm of the characters and the story line so far. I would never have thought one page could reveal so much.

There is the puzzle. Now they just have to solve it...
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Heirs of the Body.

The Page 69 Test: Superfluous Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge"

Lisa Jensen is the author of the novels Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, Alias Hook, and The Witch From the Sea, proprietress of the entertainment blog, Lisa Jensen Online Express, and longtime film critic for the alt weekly, Good Times, in Santa Cruz, CA.

Jensen applied the Page 69 Test to Beast and reported the following:
From page 69:
I know the wisewoman's strange powers. Surely, she will serve him some reprimand for his cruelty!

But she shrugs deeper into her cloak. "As you wish." She sighs, and turns away. We all watch her creaky progress as she heads for the trees and the wood far beyond, keeping clear of the place where the snarling hounds are held in check.

"Crone," mutters the grand Chevalier de Beaumont. "Witch!" There is something more than impatience in his voice. Could it be fear?

He bends over his agitated dog, petting and stroking. "Quiet there, Zeus. Good boy. Easy, now," he soothes, softening his voice, drawing deep breaths. He might as well be speaking to himself. Then he looks around to see his gatekeeper trotting toward him, alerted perhaps by one of the other servants.

"Andre!" the chevalier shouts. "How did that damned insolent hag get on my property?"

"Hag?" echoes the gatekeeper, mystified. "But ... I saw no such person, monsieur le chevalier — "

"If you can't do your job, I'll find someone who can!" roars the chevalier. "Get your things and go!" And before poor Andre can utter another word in his own defense, the chevalier is marching back for the park with his hound at his heels.

But my heart is sinking. I let Mère Sophie beguile my wits, but she has no more power against him than I have.
This turns out to be a pivotal scene in my book! My heroine, Lucie, the narrator, is a serving girl who has suffered at the hands of her master, the handsome but cruel young Chevalier de Beaumont, lord of the estate. The mysterious old wisewoman from the wood, Mère Sophie, has promised to become Lucie's ally in her quest for revenge.

This is the first encounter between the wisewoman and the chevalier: the old woman crossing his property on foot politely asks the young lord for a drink of water from his well, and is roughly turned away. This scene is useful, on one hand, because it underscores the chevalier's capacity for thoughtless cruelty, which is second-nature to him.

But it's disappointing for Lucie (and the reader) who is expecting some sort of magical reckoning to repay the chevalier's wickedness. Lucie has witnessed some of the astonishing enchantments Mère Sophie is capable of, back in her snug little cottage in the wood, and Lucie fervently hopes the wisewoman will unleash some of the dark forces at her command to punish the chevalier.

Alas, it is not to be — not on page 69, anyway. But fear not! By page 79, Mère Sophie's magical powers are put to spectacular use, in ways that change everyone's lives forever!
Visit Lisa Jensen's website.

Writers Read: Lisa Jensen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Deep Roots"

Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, and occasionally attempts to save the world.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Deep Roots, and reported the following:
On page 69, Aphra meets with her least favorite FBI agents, and learns why their team of supernatural affairs experts are investigating the same disappearance that she is:
Peters didn’t look pleased, but he took a clothbound volume from one of their stacks, and opened it to a marked page. There lay sketched my childhood recollection: crablike claws, overarched with bat wings fading to fog at the edges, and an eyeless head covered with irregular protuberances like some exotic fungus. Barlow retrieved a folder from across the room. Inside, another drawing in a more formal style: where the book showed the creature poised for flight and clutching some device in its foremost claws, the folder showed it splayed as if ready for dissection. I repressed a shudder. The two figures could have been drawn from the same verbal description, but the details were all different: the folder showed the head rounder and the protuberances more varied, the placement of the claws completely different and more lobster-like than crab-like.

“This one’s a composite,” said Barlow, tapping the folder. “From reports a few years back of bodies seen in a flooding river. No corpses were found, of course, and it was dismissed at the time as mass hysteria.” Mary’s eyes tracked his finger. Her gaze passed over the drawings and back to us.

“Mass hysteria,” she said, “usually means someone’s worked hard to convince people that they didn’t see anything.”
Aphra spends most of Deep Roots wrestling with the Outer Ones—the aliens behind Barlow’s sketches—about their interference in human politics, and trying to untangle the dangers of their own inhuman conflicts. So page 69, where she gets her first glimpse of them, foreshadows a lot of what’s coming. And her friction with Barlow’s team, who nearly got her killed in Winter Tide, will continue to make the whole thing more difficult.

Trying to understand the agents’ interplay makes Aphra think about the differences between her culture and theirs:
The scene in front of me slipped further into focus: Barlow, trying to pretend that he and [Aphra’s brother] Caleb were in charge; Mary and [Aphra’s friend] Deedee, trying to let him. That might be the best way to get work done, but I couldn’t imagine keeping up the pretense. Innsmouth women might deck themselves in gold for a man’s pleasure, recite passages of lore to show off their learning, or cultivate an interest in stories about fishing expeditions. But my mother had never taught me how to efface myself to bolster male self-importance—nor had my father taught any need for it.
These differences play their own roles in the book. It’s easy to imagine how the common prejudices of 1949 America might get in the way of a woman trying to get things done; the less familiar biases of Aphra’s own people are ultimately just as problematic. I love drawing conflict from cultural pressures—mutual incomprehension between people who think they’re being obvious, or situations that put what needs to be done up against what someone can’t imagine ever doing.
“We’ve had an uptick in sightings over the past couple of months, all along the Berkshires and White Mountains,” said Barlow. “Clusters in the vicinity of disappearances, cutting off after each one. Even a few possible cases here in New York, though they’re pretty vague.”

“I hate this city,” added Peters. “One of these monsters could walk down Fifth Avenue, and people would only report if it stopped traffic.”
Also representative: Peters being a douchebag. He’ll get worse over the next few chapters…
Visit Ruthanna Emrys's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Potter's Field"

Rob Hart is the author of the Ash McKenna series which wraps up this month with Potter’s Field. Other entries include: New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague. He also co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson.

Hart applied the Page 69 Test to Potter’s Field and reported the following:
From page 69:
“The hardest kind of person to help is someone who doesn’t want help,” she says. “If there’s one thing I know without any doubt or question, it’s that. Unless someone wants to make a change, they won’t do it. They’ll dig in deeper. He has to want to be helped. So make sure when you find him you give him what he needs. It might not be to drag him here kicking and screaming.”
This is a social worker talking to the lead character, Ash McKenna, about a heroin addict he’s looking for.

But it’s about him, too.

It sums up a lot of Ash’s journey. In the first book, New Yorked, he’s a brash, angry kid with a skewed moral compass. The whole series is about him growing up. This is the first that he’s actually ready to do that, and he’s just realizing it.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field by Rob Hart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2018

"A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe"

Alex White was born and raised in the American south. He takes photos, writes music, and spends hours on YouTube watching other people blacksmith. He values challenging and subversive writing, but he’ll settle for a good time.

White lives in the shadow of Huntsville, Alabama’s rockets with his wife, son, two dogs and a cat named Grim. Favored pastimes include Legos and racecars. He takes his whiskey neat and his espresso black.

White applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ranger rested a heavy, sharp claw on Boots’s shoulder. Its hiss dripped with malice, like steam through a long steel pipe. Ahead of her, human death. Behind her, a walking blender.

“So, uh, how long have you been with the captain?”

“I’ve been on this ship since I was a little girl. Came aboard after you deserted the captain.”
Orna looked to be in her mid-twenties, so Boots did the math and ignored the jab. “Yeah, so I’m guessing that’s about fifteen years?”

“Yes. No more questions about me.”

Behind Orna’s back, Boots silently mocked the quartermaster’s gruff delivery.

Orna paused. “You know I can see everything Ranger sees.”

They wound through the ship’s foredecks until they came to the bridge. It was precisely as Boots had left it almost twenty years ago, with a fresh coat of paint over all the bits that made it an ADF ship. Unlike Cordell’s office, which had essentially been gutted and rebuilt, the bridge was a spotless, frozen set piece from the Famine War. Three terraces, each taller than a large man, housed stations and readouts. Overhead, starlight slipped through a tremendous bubble dome. Boots’s favorite shift on the bridge had always been the night cycle, when the lights were dimmed and she was alone with the vastness of space.

She immediately recognized the marksman from the bazaar sitting in the pilot’s chair three terraces down. The pilot stood up and ascended the stairs at their entry.

“Aisha,” said Orna. “This is Boots Elsworth. You’ve met.”

The pilot smiled and took Boots’s hand in both of hers. “Aisha Jan. It is my utmost pleasure. Sorry for shooting you.”

Up close, she was far prettier than Boots remembered in the bazaar, with smoky eyes and long brown hair that faded to pink at the tips like some bird of paradise.
First off, this is 100% representative of the rest of the book!

We've just been introduced to Ranger, a walking AI battle armor that follows Orna Sokol, the quartermaster, around like a pet. Orna and Ranger are a tough combo, and they steal almost every scene they're in from here on out.

Opposite them, we have one of our two main characters, Boots Elsworth. She’s smart-mouthed and salty as hell, and this scene is no exception. Boots is a con artist by trade, and she’s on the ship because she’s swindled them out of a considerable amount of cash. In retaliation, they’ve kidnapped her, and they plan to squeeze every last asset they can out of her.

The one way in which this scene differs from the rest of the book is its lack of mortal peril. A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe keeps time through spectacular setpiece action scenes, from high-octane races on a space station to pitched gun battles. So, if this scene had colorful characters, sass and action, I’d say it was more representative.

Fear not, dear readers, for within the next twenty pages, we’ll be blowing enemy ships out of the stars and getting a taste of just what they’re up against!
Visit Alex White's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"The Collide"

Kimberly McCreight is the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, which was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Alex Awards and was called Entertainment Weekly’s Favorite Book of the Year. Reconstructing Amelia has been optioned for film by HBO and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films. McCreight’s second adult novel, Where They Found Her, was a USA Today bestseller and a Kirkus Best Mystery of the Year.

The Outliers, the first book in her teen trilogy, also a New York Times bestseller, has been optioned for film by Lionsgate, Mandeville, and Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard. The second book, The Scattering, was released in 2017.

McCreight  applied the Page 69 Test to the newly released third and final book, The Collide, and reported the following:
From page 69:

“The hospital sent your phone back,” Gideon says, when I finally get back downstairs from the longest shower I have ever taken. He puts the phone down in front of me on the coffee table. “I charged it for you. I mean, it probably has like nine kinds of tracing crap embedded on it. You should take a look at your missed messages or whatever. Then we should probably burn it in the backyard.”

Gideon thinking to charge my phone feels like the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I stare down at it and try not to cry.

“Thanks,” I manage.

When I turn it on, one hundred and thirty-six texts flood in. Jasper accounts for 90 percent of the messages, all sent in the twenty-four hours between when he saw me grabbed on the bridge and when he finally snuck his way into the hospital...
This moment from The Collide is actually both typical and atypical of the book and The Outliers trilogy as a whole. The scene is atypical in that it’s a relatively quiet moment in a series full of a great deal of fast-paced action. After narrowly evading capture in The Outliers, and finally beginning coming to terms with who she is in The Scattering, Wylie now finds herself in The Collide falsely accused of murder. Luckily, with the help of her mother’s friend Rachel she’s been temporarily released on bail. In this scene shortly after her release, she and her brother Gideon attempt to come to an uneasy peace, but reconciliation isn’t simple after Gideon’s betrayal. Still, Wylie needs someone she can count on right now and that person is Gideon, whatever his shortcomings.

It is in this respect that the scene on Page 69 is emblematic of The Collide—and the series more broadly. The Outliers explores what it means to trust in yourself, while knowing that the greatest strength may lie in how we connect with others. What Wylie learns in The Collide is that no one can truly make a difference by going it alone. The trick is finding the right people to fight at your side.
Visit Kimberly McCreight's website.

The Page 69 Test: Reconstructing Amelia.

The Page 69 Test: The Scattering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"The Girl from Blind River"

Gale Massey lives in St. Petersburg, FL. Her stories have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Walking the Edge, Sabal, Seven Hills Press, and other journals. She has been the recipient of scholarships and fellowships at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Writers in Paradise, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Massey applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Girl From Blind River, and reported the following:
“When Keating looked at Phoebe and raised his glass she knew it was time to wind things up with a big hand.”

This last sentence from page 69 represents the power dynamics that play out in the novel. Judge Keating runs a high-stakes poker game for regional and local officials and high-profile celebrities. It’s a game that he is notorious for fixing and winning. Most of the people he invites understand this and consider it a form of hazing they have to put up with to win the favor of Blind River’s most powerful judge. However, on this night a retired and beloved NFL player is in attendance and he’s got no intention of losing. Phoebe, an ex-con, has been hired by Judge Keating to deal the game in the basement of Keating’s house. Since he’s the one that sentenced her to prison she’s well aware of his authority in her life and his ability to corrupt the system to his own benefit. She’s understands that she’s been hired to make sure he not only wins the game but deals his competitors a vicious loss. But while the last thing Phoebe wants is to get tangled up with the law, the last hand of the night puts her dead center in a detective’s investigation when one of the players goes missing.
Visit Gale Massey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl From Blind River.

Writers Read: Gale Massey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

"A Theory Of Love"

Margaret Bradham Thornton is the author of the novels A Theory Of Love and Charleston and the editor of Tennessee Williams’s Notebooks, for which she received the Bronze ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in autobiography/memoir and the C. Hugh Holman Prize for the best volume of southern literary scholarship published in 2006, given by the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Theory Of Love and reported the following:
Page 69. This is the moment when Christopher and Helen’s relationship shifts. Helen has dislodged him from his emotional reticence and his devotion to sprezzatura. My character Christopher emerged from research I was doing on Cuba. I came across a memoir of a man who had been orphaned as a two year-old and taken into a circus when he was seven. His memoir detailed all the places he had traveled in the US and Cuba during the 1800s, and his account was surprisingly flat and unemotional, and it made me wonder about what could be expected from someone who had never been loved or who had had love withheld. So even though my novel’s setting is contemporary, I thought this question could be explored through Christopher whose father died in a skiing accident when he was small and whose mother was emotionally distant. On page 69, Christopher surprises himself when he asks Helen to marry him. One of the questions going forward now and for the rest of the novel is whether or how Christopher shifts or changes once he and Helen are married.
Visit Margaret Bradham Thornton's website.

Writers Read: Margaret Bradham Thornton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2018

"Empire of Silence"

Christopher Ruocchio is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Ruocchio has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Empire of Silence and reported the following:
From page 69:
"...Order. Without that, civilization on a galactic scale is impossible. It breaks down.”

“The Eudorans get on just fine!” I objected, thinking of the nomad caravaners with their net of asteroid stations spread throughout human space. “And the Freeholders.”

“Please,” Lord Alistair sneered. “Those inbreds can’t hold a single planet together, much less a thousand.” And with an impatient hand wave he dismissed billions of human lives from our conversation as one shoos away a fly. “Do you know that some of those Freeholder worlds have countries? Nation-​­states like those from before the Exodus? Some of those little colonies can’t even build starships! They fight themselves as much as they fight anyone else.”

I shrugged. “And we don’t?”

“The rules of poine have their admirers in the Imperium, I’ll grant. But the Chantry regulates our actions, minimizes collateral damage.”

“They threaten dissident lords with biological weapons, you mean. What has any of this to do with circuses?”

The Archon of Meidua thrust his chin out. “We ­aren’t like those other nations, son. There’s no congress, no body politic here. When I make a decree, I make it. Personally. No proxies, no fallbacks. The old systems of democracy and parliament only allowed the cowards to hide. Our power depends not on the consent of the people but on their belief in us.”

“I know all this,” I said, shifting forward to the edge of my seat. My nostrils flared. I had not forgiven the man for abandoning me to my injuries. He was my father, in Earth’s name. My father. And I was being lectured because I had been brutalized. Still, he was right. I was not just a boy. I was his son, and there was a responsibility on me to carry the weight of my house. There was power in that responsibility and an accountability, too. It is for this reason that a lord was better than parliament. A lord had no excuse. If he abused his power, as I feared Crispin might, he would not rule for long. If he was cold in the application of his power, as I knew my father was, he would not rule easily.

“No, you don’t,” the lord snapped, smoothing a curling lock of hair back behind one ear. “We have to engage with the churls. We have to show that we are people, boy, not some abstract political concept. That is what they understand. That is why I sent you and Crispin to the Colosso while I treated with Elmira. I am patriarch to the people of Meidua, and you both were sent to represent me and our house. Personally. Crispin played his role admirably; the people love him now because they see him as part of their world. He fought in their Colosso, while you ... ​you turned your back.”
You’re trying to get me in trouble with this passage! Here Hadrian’s father is outlining a bit of his philosophy of governance, which is decidedly Machiavellian, if not completely untrue. Hadrian starts this novel out in quite a position of authority, which many people will be quick to point out is a kind of privilege. What those same people are very often blind to is the degree to which that same authority brings with it a degree of scrutiny and responsibility. Contrary to popular wisdom, tyrants almost always die horribly because the people simply won’t consent to be governed by such people. (I think the assassination rate among European monarchs was something like 16%, making it one of the most lethal occupations in history). It’s even true among chimpanzees, our closest relatives, where it turns out the troop leaders who are kind but firm rule better, more stably, and over periods of increased prosperity (which would imply a kind of objective morality and ethic of leadership, but that’s a big conversation). Hadrian’s father is a tyrant, and as we’ll see: his negative example points Hadrian towards the proper path.

I don’t actually think this page is very representative of Empire of Silence as a whole. While Hadrian certainly has very complex feelings about the Sollan Empire and his place in it (and about everything, really), he doesn’t discuss political theory very much. Nevertheless, it’s a very important scene and one which informs Hadrian’s character in ways I don’t think even he could readily admit.
Follow Christopher Ruocchio on Twitter.

Writers Read: Christopher Ruocchio.

My Book, The Movie: Empire of Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"The Moment Before Drowning"

James Brydon grew up in North Shropshire, England, and studied English at Oxford. For over a decade, he has worked as a cryptic crossword setter. Under the name Picaroon, he sets two puzzles a month in the Guardian, and he compiles for the Spectator, the Times (London), and the fiendish Listener puzzle, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as the films of Akira Kurosawa and the six-fold symmetry of snowflakes. He is fluent in French and Serbian, is currently polishing his German, and can hold a conversation in passable Chinese. He lives in St. Albans, England, with his wife and daughter.

Brydon applied the Page 69 Test to The Moment Before Drowning, his debut novel, and reported the following:
The Moment Before Drowning is the haunting story of two murders: one the main protagonist is asked to investigate, and one he is accused of. In the background, it’s also an exploration of colonial history, and a book about memory and the shifting, elusive nature of truth.

On this page, Captain le Garrec is questioning the aristocratic Christian de la Hallière, a suspect who knew the murdered girl’s father during World War Two. De la Hallière, part of French troops that fought with the Wehrmacht, recounts how he killed a Russian peasant during the retreat on the Ostfront precisely because the act was unjustifiable, and therefore steeped in the pleasure of crime. De la Hallière gleefully highlights the paradox between the supposed moral progress of modernity and the barbarity of mass destruction and the Holocaust: “We may claim to abhor war, in this sanitized century we inhabit, but the conflicts we have fought have pushed brutality and depravity to hitherto unseen levels.” As le Garrec listens, he is uncertain how much of what de la Hallìere says is fact, and how much he is embellishing to play the role of the unrepentant fascist.

Since this is a mystery novel, I won’t say if this information turns out to be significant. However, the notions that memory is never objective, and that truth is difficult to ascertain, resonate later on. Le Garrec will be called to give an account of a horrific act which occurred while he was in the army in Algeria, forcing him to confront his own traumatic past, and to try to reconcile his sense of guilt with his need for exoneration.
Learn more about The Moment Before Drowning at the Akashic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Alternative Remedies for Loss"

Joanna Cantor is the author of the novel Alternative Remedies for Loss. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from Colorado College, and is a recipient of the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Cantor applied the Page 69 Test to Alternative Remedies for Loss and reported the following:
From page 69:
get a feel for what was out there. She showed Olivia pictures and they huddled over her phone, blurring the line between themselves and the young patrons at the next table.

OLIVIA AND MICHEL fell into a sort of routine. It wasn’t the kind where he took her to dinner. But she could rummage in his cabinets and find things to eat while he looked on with mild amusement. There was always champagne, and when they didn’t finish the bottle, he threw it away. Mornings, he drank French press coffee with almond milk, too fatless and bitter for her. While he showered, she stole the guest chocolate from above the kitchen sink. And then he’d come out of the bathroom with toothpaste breath and call her Lady Godiva and they’d fuck again—on the couch, on the floor, once with her hip pressed into the counter so hard she had a bruise for ten days. He loved the bruise. The next time he saw her, he couldn’t stop touching it. He pushed his thumb into it while he fucked her, even when she winced. He watched her face, waiting for her to tell him to stop, which she didn’t, and he came early, with the look of a child having an accident.

They saw each other a couple of times a week, always at his place. One evening in early November—the days so short that by the time Olivia left work it felt like it had been night for as long as it had been day—Michel said he had presents for her. He’d ordered a bunch of lingerie online, or not exactly lingerie: a couple of lacy thongs, a camisole because he didn’t know her bra size, and several pairs of metallic leggings. Apparently he had a thing for leggings.

Olivia modeled the thongs in the living room to instrumental jazz. Michel fiddled with the stereo, reaching out to stroke her hip. “Perfect ass,” he murmured appreciatively, as though he’d designed it himself. She stuck it out for him and then turned to face
My debut novel Alternative Remedies for Loss is the story of 22-year-old Olivia Harris in the year after her mother’s death. After a disastrous family trip to India, Olivia moves to New York City and gets a job at a media company. Months later, a discovery about her mom leads her back to India, this time to visit a yoga ashram.

Page 69 does not refer to the most central part of the novel—the loss of Olivia’s mother, which has left her reeling. But this page does capture one major strand of Alternative Remedies for Loss: the ill-advised but exciting romantic fling. Olivia’s relationship with Michel, an older man she meets through work, may not be the best idea, but there’s a lightness and playfulness to it at the beginning (as there often can be in the early stages of a relationship, even if the wiser part of us knows we’re making a mistake).

The mood of novelty and energy that show up on this page are not just about Michel; they’re also about Olivia’s first months in New York. It was important to me while writing this book that the themes of loss and grief not become too heavy because, while they are true to Olivia’s experience, she’s also young: it’s a time of many firsts, and she is capable of being distracted and getting swept up in her new city life.
Visit Joanna Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Caught in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University, and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper. Currently, she is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

McElwain applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Caught in Time, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Then build me a picture. Don’t lie or soften it. What was Mr. Stone like?”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at his tense hands. “Mr. Stone was complicated,” he finally said. “He could be in a jovial mood...”

“But,” Kendra prodded.

Biddle took the bait. “But his jovial mood often came at the expense of the mill workers.”

“How so?”

Biddle unlaced his fingers and spread his hands on the desk. “He was the manager of Bancroft Mill. We employ nearly three hundred workers, Miss Donovan. It’s the largest mill in the area.”

“I see. In other words, he held a lot of power.”

“Yes, he did.”

“And how did he use his power?”

Biddle pursed his lips as he considered the question. “He ... he enjoyed threatening workers with dismissal—without references. His humor could be cruel.”

“Cruel to you?”

“No.” He met her eyes, and shrugged. “I served a purpose, Miss Donovan. I handle the day-to-day operation of the mill,something which Mr. Stone had no interest in doing. He would never have dismissed me.”

Kendra wondered if that was true. No one was indispensable. And if Stone turned on his assistant of nineteen years, what would Biddle have done?

She asked, “Did he threaten to fire workers, or did he actually fire them?”

“Both. We’ve had to dismiss workers with the addition of new frames.”

“That must have angered a lot of your employees.”

“Yes, but Lord Bancroft was the one who made the decision to order them, not Mr. Stone. It is essential for progress, you must understand.”
Caught in Time brings back my protagonist, Kendra Donovan, who is a twenty-first century FBI agent inexplicably thrust into Regency England. She and her guardian, the Duke, are traveling to one of his estates in the north of England when they get waylaid by fog and the murder of a mill manager. This was a dangerous time between factory/mill owners and workers; emotions were running high. When Luddites attack a local mill and the manager is found bludgeoned to death, many in the village are quick to connect the dots. For Kendra, those dots are leading away from the Luddites. Once again Kendra is challenged by the lack of forensics tools in this era as well as the submissive role women were forced to play. My page 69 illustrates the procedural aspects to a criminal investigation. Victimology is important — understanding who the victim was and how that might have contributed to his/her death. Here we begin to see that the victim was a megalomaniac, who had more than one enemy. It is also the beginning of a dark and twisty road that Kendra will be propelled down, with some shocking revelations to her own circumstance in 19th century England.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

--Marshal Zeringue