Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Don't Eat Me"

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

Cotterill applied the Page 69 Test to his latest Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery, Don't Eat Me, and reported the following:
Again, the supernatural takes over as we turn to page 69 [inset below; click to enlarge] and see how it represents the entire book. That isn't the usual supernatural I seed through all my books. It's the uncanny root that always seems to grow out of that one page. On it, we learn that Siri and Civilai are attempting to make a movie yet are lacking the fundamental skills needed to operate the camera. We see the quality of would-be actors for the main roles and sense the frustration our heroes feel. In France, Siri and Civilai had become cinema aficionados and dreamed of making a great film of their own. But perhaps the practical side of things is just a touch beyond their grasp.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Cotterill's website.

The Page 69 Test: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

My Book, The Movie: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

The Page 69 Test: The Axe Factor.

The Page 69 Test: I Shot the Buddha.

The Page 69 Test: The Rat Catchers' Olympics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Suffer the Children"

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office she analyzed many forms of trace evidence as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI in Florida and is the author of thirteen traditionally published novels. Some of which have been translated into six other languages, one has been optioned for film and one reached the New York Times bestseller’s list. The latest is Suffer the Children, which involves forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner in a series of deaths inside a center for violent children.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to Suffer the Children and reported the following:
Suffer the Children takes place inside the Firebird Center, a juvenile detention facility for troubled and violent children, a demographic with which neither forensic scientist Maggie nor homicide detective Jack has had much experience. A fifteen-year-old girl with two murders already under her belt has been found at the bottom of a stairwell. Fell? Jumped? Pushed? Maggie applies her forensic expertise to the scene while Jack interviews doctors, therapists and less-than-communicative juveniles. Another violent death, of course, is just around the corner, but on page 69 no one knows it yet.

Maggie is doing her thing at an unrelated crime scene, where her boss tries to engage her in a very subtle heart-to-heart—the fact that her life has radically changed since meeting Jack Renner has not gone unnoticed. But there have been other traumas to blame that on, an attack by a knife-wielding rapist, a drive-by shooting, a near-throttling and having her shoulder dislocated while saving Jack from a fatal fall, so her co-workers believe all she needs is a little talk therapy. They have no idea what she’s really done, and when a phone call summons her back to the juvenile center she is saved from her boss’s curiosity.

In the next paragraph we skip back in time one hour, as detectives Jack and his partner Riley arrive at the juvenile detention facility. The handsome and apparently caring second-in-command, Dr. Quintero, fusses about bad publicity but only because the center is desperate to expand their services and take in even more disturbed and neglected children. Jack is listening with only a fraction of his attention—he doesn’t expect this case to go anywhere, expects that the girl’s death was a simple accident and one that will not be repeated inside that facility.

He’s about to discover how wrong he is.

This page is very representative of the characters—Maggie, hardworking and troubled, Jack dogged and impatient—but occurs at a bit of a lull in the action. They believe the case is over, that they’ve done all they can and won’t be revisiting the Firebird Center any time soon. But on page 70 they will run into—literally—the next victim.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"See All the Stars"

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Frick edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her newly released debut young adult novel is See All the Stars, and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press, fall 2018).

Frick applied the Page 69 Test to See All the Stars and reported the following:
On page 69 of See All the Stars—a YA contemporary thriller written in two interwoven timelines—Ellory is on the cusp of meeting up with her best friend Ret, with whom she’s had a rather epic falling out. As she makes her way to their meeting spot at the river, Ellory reflects on the months since their friendship fell apart: her suspension from school, time spent away from their Harrisburg hometown, time spent in therapy. And the progress she hasn’t really made. This page gets at the heart of two of the book’s core themes: loss and toxic friendships.
For four months, I clung to therapy like a lifeline. Dr. Marsha was the only person I could really talk to, the only one who never judged, never tried to scrub me clean with pitying looks … I wasn’t magically cured, but I was managing the cocktail of emotions she called ‘an experiential sense of loss.’ I was coping.

Then I returned to Pine Brook. Then Ret sat across from me in AP English like everything was totally normal. Then I knew that everything I thought I’d worked through in therapy was a giant, glaring lie. Hi, my name is Ellory. I’ve been lying to myself.
See All the Stars is about losing the people who were once your entire world and about figuring out how to move on. It’s also about friendships—and what happens when they become toxic. Friendships between women in adolescence and early adulthood are rarely simple. They’re intense—intensely good, intensely close, intensely consuming, intensely critical, intensely imbued with meaning, intensely fraught with the trappings of personal identity formation and navigating an often unforgiving social world. Ellory and Ret shared a deeply intense—and not always healthy—friendship, and now that it’s over, Ellory has to figure out how to forgive herself for her role in what happened, which isn’t easy. Meeting up with Ret in this scene is one of her first steps in that direction, but she has a long, twisty road ahead.
Visit Kit Frick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

"Lucky Little Things"

Janice Erlbaum is the author of two books for tweens, Lucky Little Things, and Let Me Fix That For You (coming in 2019), the memoirs Girlbomb and Have You Found Her, and the novel for adults I, Liar.

Erlbaum applied the Page 69 Test to Lucky Little Things and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Who are you,” she demanded. It was a statement, not a question.

“I’m Emma,” I said nervously. “Macintyre.”

I wanted to get off the stage, out of the lights. Other people were waiting for their turn. I knew the mocking noises would start up again any second. Melanie just stared at me. I wasn’t sure if it was a good stare or a bad stare.

“That was incredible,” she said.
My new book, Lucky Little Things, is about a 13-year-old New Yorker named Emma who’s recently had a streak of bad things happen in her life, when she receives a mysterious note telling her that she’s going to have good luck for the next month. The mystery note doesn’t seem to be working at first – here on page 69, she has to audition for the spring play while reeling from her best friend’s betrayal, and she breaks down crying on stage. But her breakdown impresses the playwright, and Emma lands the lead role.

The whole book is about luck – what it is, how it works, and how you can have more of it in your life. Emma notices how the bad luck of crying onstage led to the good luck of getting the part she wanted, and she starts seeing more of these connections in her life, until she eventually realizes the secret behind the mystery: Luck is not a thing that happens to you. It’s everything that happens to you.
Visit Janice Erlbaum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"The Seasonaires"

Janna King is a screenwriter, playwright, and director. She has written TV movies and series for Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel, King World and more. Her two short films, “Mourning Glory” and “The Break Up,” which she wrote, directed and produced, were official selections at several film festivals.

King applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Seasonaires, and reported the following:
On page 69, Jade, one of my novel’s seasonaires says, “Millennials are ‘stupid.’” I used the single quotes around ‘stupid’ because she is referring to the negative stereotype given to her generation. My novel, The Seasonaires, is about six twenty-somethings who are paid to live a dream summer on Nantucket as brand ambassadors for a fictional clothing line, posting this aspirational life on social media. Although their job might seem superficial as they work to present a curated perfect image to the world, the characters are more than meets the eye, each with complexities and struggles.

As a mother of a 19 and 21-year-old, I can confidently say millennials are not stupid. They must navigate a world that has fallen apart, saddled with mistakes made by my generation. Social media has definitely become an obsession, plagued with its own set of evils. Yet more and more, young people are using it to connect and speak out on important issues. I am constantly inspired by their thoughtful, articulate and passionate words and actions.

Page 69 is representative of the rest of the book because the story centers on an image of millennials that transforms into various shapes. There is no singular definition. The clueless and the heartless exist at (almost) any age. As humans, we’re flawed, and my characters are no different. However, I believe that refraining from judging an entire generation is a smart and sensitive step toward a brighter future.
Visit Janna King's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Janna King & Melvin and Olive.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Blood Highway"

Gina Wohlsdorf’s first novel, Security, was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of 2016.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Blood Highway, and reported the following:
I’m not sure there’s a page in Blood Highway that represents the whole book — the plot’s so twisty, the settings are so various, the characters move in and out so much. But page 69 does contain a rant that pretty neatly represents Rainy.
“Look,” Blaine said. “People are mostly doing the best they can —”

(And Rainy says):

“Don’t do that. Don’t platitude me. People are mostly doing the best they’re willing to do, not the best they can. A person’s actual best is pretty damn good, but it’s a lot of work. So people find the maximum amount of work they’re willing to do and then they call that their best.”
She’s merciless in her honesty, cruel in her judgements. And God, how awful is it that she’s right?
Visit Gina Wohlsdorf's website.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Highway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Rust & Stardust"

T. Greenwood is the author of twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. Bodies of Water was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award.

Greenwood applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rust & Stardust, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Al moved to look over Ella’s shoulder at the book. The photos, Al realized, were mug shots, a rogues’ gallery of criminals. Carefully written notes about each felon were etched beneath: descriptions of their persons, their aliases, and their crimes. Criminal after criminal; he felt sick. Was it possible that Sally was with one of these degenerates?

Ella looked up at Al, scared.

“Go slowly, Ma,” he said softly, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Are any of them the man you met?”

She shook her head, turned the page. Then suddenly, she stopped. Her eyes widened, and she pointed at a photo. “That’s him,” she said.

Both detectives leaned over to study the photograph.

“Are you sure?” Burke, asked. “Frank La Salle?”

“He was very charming,” Ella said, her jaw set defensively. “And courteous.”

“I’m certain he was,” Burke said sympathetically. Morrow scooped the book up.

“Who is he?” Susan asked.

“I should have listened to my heart,” Ella said, to no one in particular, shaking her head. “I felt uneasy letting her go with that man.”

“No one’s blaming you, ma’am,” Burke offered, patting her shoulder.

“You’re positive . . .” Morrow said impatiently, holding the book up now, open to the photo of the hawkish man. “That this is the man who kidnapped your daughter?”

Kidnapped?” Susan cried out, and stood up.

Kidnapped? Al thought. Al went to her and put his arm around her, her shoulders shaking, her body trembling.

“Al, what do they mean?” Susan asked, looking up at him, terror in her eyes. He worried about her getting so worked up; it couldn’t be good for the baby. “Sit down,” he said, and ushered her back down into her chair.

“That’s him. The one that took Sally on the bus.” Ella nodded. “I remember the scar on his face.”
This is such an important scene in the story! Here is the moment when Sally Horner’s family is confronted with the horrifying truth of what has happened to her.

Until now, Ella had believed that Sally was simply on holiday at the Jersey shore with a classmate and her family. But after Sally failed to come home (and despite letters and calls assuring her mother that everything is okay), her family grew increasingly worried and suspicious. When a letter arrived saying that she was now headed to Baltimore, Ella finally called the police.

Rust & Stardust takes place in 1948, a simpler, more trusting time. Sally, and her family, are victims of a man who exploits this trust. This scene is when they first learn that they have been duped. From this moment on, their lives are irrevocably changed. It is the single scene in which the world as each of them know it disappears. Rust & Stardust explores the loss of innocence, not only for Sally but for those she leaves behind.
Visit T. Greenwood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rust and Stardust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2018

"The Possible World"

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won't do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

Schwarz applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Possible World, and reported the following:
The Possible World is a narrative in three voices. Page 69 is in the voice of Clare, a 99-year old woman in a care home. We’ve learned in an earlier chapter that she is carrying a lot of secrets, and may have given a false name when she was admitted to the care home twenty years before.

On page 69, she’s talking to Belinda, the head nurse in the home. Clare has just had a standoff with an aide, after discovering a new pill among the familiar ones in her cup of medications and refusing to take it. Belinda is the first speaker.
“Why do you treat people like that?” she says. “You know her name.”

“Her name doesn’t matter. She’ll move on in a year.”

“Everyone’s name matters,” says Belinda. “She knows your name.”

“Well, she’s paid to,” I say. “And it’s written on my door.”

She waits.

“Tanya then,” I say. “Tanya is giving me the wrong medicine.” I hold my hand out higher. “That’s not my pill.”

“It’s Mariah,” she says. “Not Tanya. And you knew that.”

She squints through her reading glasses at the pills. I touch each one with my forefinger.

“That’s my vitamin, and that’s my antacid, and that’s my calcium, and that’s the laxative. So what's that one?” I push it to the rim of my hand again, bring the hand up closer to her face.

“That’s a nerve pill,” Belinda pronounces.


“Green oval with a D on it? Mmm-hmm, that’s an antidepressant.” She straightens up.

I can’t make out the D, but it is green and it is oval.

“I don't take a nerve pill. That's not my medicine. Someone mixed it up.”

Belinda lifts the top page of the clipboard she’s carrying and scans the page below.

“It’s your medicine all right," she says. “Started on Monday. Dr. Evans’s orders.”

“Why in the world,” I say, staring at the little green pill.

“His note here —“ She struggles to make out the handwriting. “He says Mandy’s reported you’re withdrawn.” She looks over her readers at me. “You do spend a lot of time on your own.”

Mandy is the recreational therapist, whose spirited intrusions we all have to bear…
Before page 69, Clare has seemed curmudgeonly dismissive of everyone around her —other residents of the home, visitors, staff. But she is not dismissive of Belinda, despite the rough familiarity with which Belinda treats her. Between them, there is an undercurrent of affection and respect. It’s the first hint that Clare’s personality is still limber, and capable of trust.

Page 69 might be very beginning of the change in Clare’s story. That little green pill provokes her to make a decision (to participate in one of the recreational therapist’s activities) that ends up changing both her life and the lives of the other main characters, Ben and Lucy (who are strangers to her at this point in the story). With the interaction between Clare and Belinda, Page 69 also contains hints of larger themes in the book: how every person is much more than she or he might appear to be on the surface—the very old, the very young, the in-between— and even that perhaps nothing is what it appears to be, and the world more complex than we know.
Visit Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Possible World.

Writers Read: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Game of the Gods"

Jay Schiffman is an award-winning writer and creator of games, animations, apps, and web experiences. He was a practicing attorney for several years and has been involved in a number of successful businesses in the digital, educational, and technology spaces. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children.

Schiffman applied the Page 69 Test to Game of the Gods, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Game of the Gods is the story of Max Cone, a revered military commander and High Judge in the Federacy, the world’s most powerful nation. Max no longer wants anything to do with the Federacy’s politics or wars. He wants to stay on the sidelines as the world slowly slips into chaos. But when his family is taken, Max has no choice but to fight back.

In trying to save his family, friends, and eventually the world, Max travels through different political landscapes fighting enemies and uncovering truths. One of his early adventures takes him through what he believes to be a friendly territory, Abstainer Territory. The Abstainers are apolitical—they don’t believe in any “isms” other than the potential for humanity to be compassionate and kind.

On page 69, Max spends time with leaders in the Abstainer Movement and begins to form some close connections. (I can’t say more than that, but there is more than that). The scene is not necessarily representative of Game of the Gods, because Game of the Gods is first and foremost a fast-paced plot-driven action adventure. But, the scene does a representative job of developing the characters, which is also integral to the story.

In this scene, an elderly Aquarius Rollins, a trailblazer in the Abstainer Movement, and her daughter Nayla, enter Max’s bedroom. Aquarius and Nayla are true believers in the principles of the Abstainer Movement, but Aquarius’ son Trace, a recovering morzium- addict, has left the movement.

From page 69:
“I’m really glad you’re here, Max,” Trace says. “I’ve never had a brother. But I kind of feel like maybe you and I could kind of be—”

Nayla and Aquarius enter the room, and Trace quickly stops talking. He’s embarrassed, and I’m thankful for the intrusion. Like Trace, Nayla and Aquarius just seem to walk into rooms without being invited. It’s not rudeness. It’s openness. Federates are all about boundaries. Abstainers are about breaking them down.

“It’s time for our morning meditations, Trace,” Nayla says. “Will you join us, Max?”

“I don’t know about Max,” Trace says, “but sure as hell I’m not joining you.” Nayla doesn’t take the bait. She ignores Trace and waits for me to answer. I stumble a little and then say, “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll just get my things and go.”

“If it’s not too much trouble, Max, I would like for you to stay while we do it. You can just watch.”

Trace and I sit on the bed like petulant children while Nayla and Aquarius kneel to the floor. They sit on rust-colored carpet with their palms facing the sky. “Thank you for hearing our words. Thank you for being present. I am Nayla. This is my mother Aquarius.”

“We are a family filled with love. We are present. We hope that we bring virtue to the day and goodwill to all we meet.” She rises to her feet and helps her mother stand. Aquarius and Nayla chant:

Our suffering is like water.

It ebbs. It flows. It roams. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

It follows. It compels. It evaporates. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

It moves. It changes. It leaves. It returns.

Our suffering is like water.

Nayla pauses for a moment and asks me if I would like to chant with her. I feel beyond uncomfortable at this point. I would rather run naked through the Omniplex.
This passage does a solid job of providing the reader with a snapshot of these characters’ interpersonal dynamics and their views of the world. A few pages ahead, however, some of them are hopping into a transport, getting ambushed, and fighting bad guys. That would be more representative.
Visit Jay Schiffman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Game of the Gods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Penelope Lemon: Game On!"

Inman Majors is the author of five novels including the newly released Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

A native of Tennessee, Majors received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from The University of Alabama. He is a professor of English at James Madison University and makes his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Majors applied the Page 69 Test to Penelope Lemon: Game On! and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 10

Penelope charged toward the softball family, sure of foot and feigning good cheer, the baskets of fried vegetables as the lamest of peace offerings. Before she even arrived, the mother called out: “And what is that?”

“Just some appetizers. On the house.”

“No. I mean that big pile of something.”

Penelope set the baskets of fries down first. Then realizing what the woman was pointing at, she said: “Oh, this is our Funion Platter.”

“Your what platter?”

Penelope hated to repeat the name. In normal situations it made her laugh anytime someone ordered it. Riblets had the same effect. But she soldiered on: “Funion Platter. It’s like a huge onion ring that everyone can share.”

She smiled as she said this, to show she didn’t find the woman’s tin ear for wordplay off-putting. In the meantime, the woman had grabbed the basket before Penelope could set it down and said to the table in a harsh voice that showed what she thought of puns in lieu of ordered entrees: “Anyone want a funion ring?”

“What I want is the steak sandwich I ordered thirty minutes ago,” the father said.

Penelope noticed he had pulled his baseball cap extra low, as if trying to squeeze thoughts of food out of his mind before passing out. Or maybe to suppress burgeoning homicidal instincts. His beard looked
I’d say page 69 of Penelope Lemon: Game On! is fairly representative of the book though it’s more of a set-up page for funnier stuff to come. My protagonist, Penelope Lemon, recently divorced and strapped for cash, has taken the only job she can find in the small town of Hillsboro, Virginia—waiting tables at a frontier-styled steakhouse called Coonskins, where the d├ęcor is heavy on stuffed mammals and peanut shells tossed willfully to the floor.

Anyone who has waited tables will recognize the tyrannical family of five who have just been seated in her section. They are part of a traveling girls softball team which has stopped at Coonskins for lunch. Unfortunately, the cooks in the kitchen have screwed up the family’s order. Penelope attributes this mistake to the fact that all the cooks—for the first time ever—aren’t absolutely bat-shit stoned. “Their work brains were all fuzzy with sobriety.” Apparently Hillsboro is going through a dry patch in the weed department.

Nonetheless, the family blames Penelope for the mistake and have been pelting her with peanut shells every time her back is turned. As low blood sugar begins to reign, a showdown looms between the aggressive family matriarch and poor Penelope.

What is representative on page 69 I hope is the wordplay in the scene: the analysis of the ridiculous menu items—Funion Platter/riblets—that make Penelope cringe or laugh every time she has to say them. That sort of thing occurs throughout the novel. What’s also representative is Penelope’s kindness and cordiality despite the very rude people before her. She’s not big on confrontation and is generally a laidback and easy-going person.

But she is about to get plonked with a flying legume one too many times.
Visit Inman Majors's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Escape from the Badlands"

Carrie Jones is the The New York Times bestseller author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series, Flying series, Girl, Hero, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and other uses for duct tape). She is also the coauthor, with Steve Wedel, of After Obsession and Summer Howl. She also writes picture books about unconventional spies. Her books have been published all around the world, been bestsellers in France, and have received numerous awards.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to her new middle-grade fantasy novel, Escape from the Badlands (Time Stoppers), and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Don’t say anything,” she said, heading down the hill.

“You didn’t tell me.”

“How could I tell you when it hasn’t happened?” She gasped, tripping on a rock. She stumbled and slowed to a power walk…

"Wait for us,” Eva yelled from the top of the hill.

But Annie didn’t want to wait. She kept walking, arms pumping at her sides. If she walked fast enough maybe she could just get away from the vision, get away from the coldness inside her, get away from he worried that she wouldn’t be able to save the elves.

Bloom caught up again. “Annie… what if that isn’t the past? What if it’s the future?”

Jamie had caught up to them, too, and sneered before Annie could even open her mouth. “It won’t be . We won’t let that happen to Annie. Not ever.”
I love the Page 69 Test so much because it always forces me to look at a random page of my story and see if the theme and plot and emotional through line is being played out. I always sort of hold my breath when I do it because I so badly want it to be representative of those elements of the book.

Without being spoiler-filled, Annie (the ‘she' first referenced) and her friends have just walked through a fog of shame set up as a perimeter trap for other explorers centuries ago. Here, all the children have had to relive their worst shame, but Annie’s shameful moment? She never remembers it happening. And it’s really… It’s not a good thing to see. It implies that she’s in cahoots with the ultimate bad guy of the book.

But what I love about this scene is that her friends are so horrified that she hasn’t told them about this event. And Annie just can’t deal with it - with the shame of what she doesn’t remember happening. And her friends quickly figure out that she wouldn’t hide this from them. That’s not what she’s about or their friendships are about. Instead they realize that they could potentially see something that will happen in the future. Even then though, her friends come to her aid saying that they wouldn’t let that happen, trying to calm her and support her.

And this book? That’s what this book is about. It’s about banding together, about trusting your friends, and about believing in yourself, which are lessons I personally have to teach my own adult self over and over again.
Visit Carrie Jones's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Carrie Jones & Tala.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2018

"The Family Tabor"

Cherise Wolas is the author of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, a semifinalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Prize, an Indie Next Great Reads Pick, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, named a Best Novel and Best Debut Novel of the year by Kirkus Reviews, named a Top 10 novel of 2017 by Booklist, in addition to receiving among many other accolades.

Wolas applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Family Tabor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Simon has Elena.

Camille has Valentine.

They are cozy in love, and it spears her straight through, skewers her heart.

Why is she the crescent moon waning when her siblings seem always to be waxing?

Her mother says Phoebe’s the kind of woman men do not quickly release, and boys from various stages of her life still occasionally beat their man-sized wings in her direction, raising the air around her, blowing the dust off their joint old times, a checking-in, a checking-up, wanting to know if Phoebe has allowed someone to stick, to roost—not them, they know, though they had all tried hard.

But her mother also says that the men from Phoebe’s past will always hang on, because she gave them up in the limerence phase, when romantic euphoria is at its peak. Maybe her mother is right; maybe that’s why she has no flesh-and-blood man, only the perfect golem she dreamt up.
Over a gorgeous August weekend, patriarch Harry Tabor will be named Man of the Decade at an enormous gala. Of course, the entire family will be at the hometown celebration in Palm Springs. The Tabors are brilliant, accomplished, and worldly. They glow. They are lucky. They are golden. They seem free of lurking dark truths. But the adult children, Phoebe, Camille, and Simon, are privately struggling, each seeking something we all want—love or clarity or the belief we’re living our right life.

At this point, we’ve seen Phoebe through the eyes of her mother Roma, but here, in Chapter Seven, we’re meeting Phoebe herself as she packs for the celebratory weekend honoring her father, and then engages with Raquel, the neighbor cat-sitting for her. While Raquel natters away, this section of page 69 continues Phoebe’s intense thoughts about her desperate desire to find love. Her sister and brother have what she wants, and there is a hint, unexplained, that she considers herself responsible for her loveless state. [T]he perfect golem she dreamt up refers to a truth about Phoebe the reader now knows, but I won’t give away here.

Page 69 is specifically about Phoebe, but is representative of the novel’s "Good Samaritan" section. These early chapters individually highlight the Tabors, and reveal, or begin to reveal, their personal secrets. And the revelations of these secrets will reverberate in unexpected ways through the novel.
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. She now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.

Ellison applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Caged, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Caged is pretty damn representative of the book. The main character, Sayer, is talking to a scruffy Irishman who is a potential suspect in her murder investigation. He offers her proof that he can't possibly be the killer setting off a series of plot twists and turns. Why would someone implicate this suspect? And what should she do about the line of media vans already lingering outside his house hoping to catch a glimpse of the Cage Killer?
Visit Ellison Cooper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Caged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2018

"The Bucket List"

Georgia Clark is an author, performer and screenwriter based in Brooklyn. She wrote the critically acclaimed novel, The Regulars, and the "witty, sexy" (L.A. Times) The Bucket List, both Simon & Schuster. Her first books were the Young Adult novels She’s With The Band and Parched. Clark is the host/founder of the storytelling night, Generation Women, which invites six generations of women to tell a story on a theme. She is currently developing The Regulars as a TV show for E!. A native Australian, she lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and a fridge full of cheese.

Clark applied the Page 69 Test to The Bucket List and reported the following:
On page 69, our heroine Lacey Whitman has just received the news she’s scored an invitation to elusive Iranian fashion designer Elan Behdazi’s main-stage Fashion Week show. Lacey works as a junior sales rep for the well-known trend forecasting company Hoffman House. As she says, she can wrangle invites to the after parties, but never to the actual shows; “those are reserved for people significantly more powerful or beautiful than me.”

Her only interaction with Elan was at a work event weeks prior, where she’d just found out she has the BRCA1 gene mutation, the breast cancer gene, and ended up abruptly leaving the party. She’s been concerned with her health in the time since, but now this character has once again entered her orbit, and will have a significant effect on her life and the choices she’ll come to make.

Writing the character of Elan was cathartic for me, having been in a not-so-healthy relationship with someone older than me who I admired professionally. Elan’s relationship to Lacey, and to her body, forms the bedrock of both the serious and the sexy scenes in this novel.
Visit Georgia Clark's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Bucket List.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"One of Us"

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, his novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, One of Us, and reported the following:
In One of Us, a disease has produced a generation of monsters who are now growing up in orphanages. It’s both a misunderstood monster story and a novel about prejudice.

By Page 69, it’s understood some of the plague children are developing extraordinary capabilities. We are given the point of view of an agent assigned to ferret out those with powers and put them to work for the U.S. government.

Agent Shackleton:
Who would have ever guessed these kids might be the key to America reclaiming its status as a superpower? That an annoying, skinny kid with an upside-down face might play a role in that historic event?
This single paragraph tells us a lot about One of Us in that it is a story about mutants who also happen to be regular kids, and also a story about those who would exploit them.

When the kids realize both their powers and the extent of their exploitation, they will have a choice. Find a way to fit in, or rise up to claim their birthright.
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"How We Learned to Lie"

Meredith Miller is the author of Little Wrecks and How We Learned to Lie. She grew up in a large, unruly family on Long Island, New York, and now lives in the UK. She is a published short story writer and literary critic with a great love for big nineteenth-century novels and for the sea.

Miller applied the Page 69 Test to How We Learned to Lie and reported the following:
How We Learned to Lie is written in two alternating first-person voices. Sometimes we see events in the novel from both perspectives and realize that the truth changes depending on where you look at it from. Joan and Daisy, the two close friends who narrate the novel, have started to hide things from each other. Blank spaces start to open in their relationship, spaces sometimes too big to fill with their love for each other, but they don’t stop trying.

So, any page you open the book to will only give you one of these perspectives. Page 69 turns out to be a good choice though, because here Joan describes the early years of her friendship with Daisy, and the first time he came inside her house and met her family. Here is an extract:
So I knew him already, when he showed up one Saturday morning in nothing but his Fruit of the Looms, knocked on the kitchen door and asked Gramps if he could eat breakfast with us. We were maybe nine.

Gramps stood aside and waved Daisy through the door, then he said, “Andre, get the boy a shirt.”

“That’s okay, Mr. Jensen. I’m not cold.”

“That’s as may be, but it’s polite to wear a shirt when you’re eating at someone else’s table.”

I wondered if Gramps’d ever met Mrs. McNamara. Her table was always weirdly perfect, but she might be sitting at it wearing just about anything.

Daisy sat there like a naked secret at our breakfast table, making me feel like a bunch of leaves had blown in the door, like something had been tracked in and I should grab a broom to sweep it out again. I just wanted to get him away from my family and back outside where he belonged.

Then he looked up and saw Arthur for the first time, drinking coffee with his chair tilted back. Daisy looked at the two back legs of that chair, gauging the balance and the chances of falling over. You could see the picture of potential disaster pass through his mind, busted head and blood and rushing to the emergency room. You could see him absorbing the fact that Arthur didn’t seem scared of any of that. Daisy got down to idolizing him right away.

“Arthur, put your feet down,” Gramps said, and went back to making pancakes.

“Hi, I’m Daisy.” He smiled at Arthur and put on the shirt Andre handed him. It was from the laundry basket but Gramps didn’t notice.

“Alright, little brother?” Arthur was fourteen. He was already working hard on his cool.

Daisy turned around to Andre and said, ‘Alright, brother?’

Andre just rolled his eyes.

Daisy ate five pancakes and drank a big glass of orange juice. When he was done his plate was so full of artificial maple syrup I couldn’t lift it without slopping some on the table. The feeling of my two lives grinding together was making me flinch, like fingernails on a blackboard. The sound of it was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think.
I think this gives you a good sense of Joan. She is a person who likes clear answers and for people and things to stay in their boxes. It drives her nuts when people don’t make sense or hide from the truth, when they can’t see what is perfectly clear to her.

I wonder if you get a good sense of Joan’s relationship with Daisy here, though? She is often cynical about him and tells him when she thinks he’s being stupid. When the chips are down though, she’ll do anything for him. A lot of what makes her angry at him is when he refuses to take care of himself or protect himself from people who will hurt him. In the end she finds it almost impossible to imagine her life without him.

There is also a sense of Daisy’s relation to Joan here. Part of what I was trying to establish in this scene is the way in which Daisy fetishizes Joan’s family. His own family has such enormous painful gaps in it; he seeks to fill those gaps by trying to fit himself in the Joan’s family. For Joan, it is a fantasy of her family and not the difficult reality that Daisy loves. In the end he’ll have to come to terms with this.

I love these two characters so much. I love who they are and I love their difficult love for each other. Their shared history goes back to their earliest memories. It turns out page 69 gives you a pretty good sense of that.
Visit Meredith Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Beautiful Exiles"

Meg Waite Clayton's novels include the Langum Prize honored The Race for Paris and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time (on a list with The Three Musketeers!) and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Beautiful Exiles, and reported the following:
The page 69 exercise is always such fun! Page 69 [below left; click to enlarge] of Beautiful Exiles, my new novel about the relationship between war journalist Martha Gellhorn and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, is a bit atypical. The book is written in scenes, but this page is introducing Ginny Cowles, who becomes one of Martha’s best friends. In real life, the two friends go on to write a play together in the years after Beautiful Exiles ends.

And yet! The voice on this page is the voice of Martha—very smart and spunky and full of unusual and lively word choices, and a little insecure. It’s a voice I steep myself in by reading pretty much everything I could find written by her before I wrote the books: her letters, her novels, her war reporting, her memoirs.

It touches on Martha’s internal demon, an insecurity that has roots in her judgmental father.

And it addresses some of the very important themes of the book. Martha, even in her few words of description of this friend, raises both the particular challenges women journalists face, and the importance of what journalists do. Ginny, in “capitalizing on her smooth brown hair,” is “just doing what we all did, using whatever advantage we had to get a story that ought to be told.”

And it raises for the first time a very interesting quirk of Ernest Hemingway’s, which is that while he went to cover war, he never would go to the hospitals to visit the wounded. Martha always went to the hospitals. I’ll leave the reader to read the rest of the novel to see what that difference means.
Visit Meg Waite Clayton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Four Ms. Bradwells.

The Page 69 Test: The Wednesday Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2018


Danielle Girard is the author of Chasing Darkness, The Rookie Club series, and Exhume and Excise, featuring San Francisco medical examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman. Girard’s books have won the Barry Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, and two of her titles have been optioned for movies.

A graduate of Cornell University, Girard received her MFA at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. She, her husband, and their two children split their time between San Francisco and the Northern Rockies.

Girard applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Expose, and reported the following:
The page 69 test -- is it representative of the rest of the book?

Expose is my 12th release and by now, I thought I’d seen every question that could be asked about books. But the “page 69” test was new to me.

As it turns out, page 69 [inset left; click to enlarge] is representative of the book. Medical Examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman is at her best when she is solving the mysteries of how someone died. And on page 69 of Expose, she is doing just that. The victim here, Malik Washington, is a teenage boy found stabbed in a theater. The weapon found at the scene links Washington's death to another death earlier that same day, raising the stakes for the team and increasing the pressure to find the killer.

Here, Schwartzman works the scene with Inspector Hal Harris to draw information from the victim—his stature and strength, his wounds and placement, the cause of death and staging of the body—in order to extract the clues that will lead them to the killer.
Visit Danielle Girard's website.

My Book, The Movie: Expose.

Writers Read: Danielle Girard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Silent Hearts"

Gwen Florio grew up in a 250-year-old brick farmhouse on a wildlife refuge in Delaware and now lives in Montana. Currently the city editor for the Missoulian, Florio has reported on the Columbine High School shooting and from conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. In 2013, Montana, her first novel in the Lola Wicks detective series, won the High Plains Book Award and the Pinckley Prize for debut crime fiction.

Florio applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Silent Hearts, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The ice clattered in her glass. Liv braced her wrist against the arm of the chair to stop her hand from shaking.

“It’s a two-year appointment. Minimum. We’ll need that long to get things up and running. After that, we can decide whether we want to stay on.

Liv tipped the glass against her lips and let the whiskey burn down her throat. “We?”
In this passage, Liv Stoellner’s husband has just told her about a job offer to run an organization, Face the Future, aimed at helping Afghan women. It’s a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and foreign aid groups are pouring into Afghanistan following the Taliban’s departure. Martin Stoellner is an academic whose area of expertise, Central Asia, was considered a backwater until the attacks. His career had been languishing, and he’d begun an ill-advised flirtation with a student. Liv loves her job as a researcher in a college library, but also senses that her marriage hangs in the balance of this decision. Martin’s job offer comes with a sweetener—a job for Liv, too. Face the Future’s executive director assures Liv that she and her husband will be true partners, seducing her with this vision.

And indeed, when she arrives in Central Asia, she finds that she actually loves the work of interviewing Afghan women and assessing their circumstances. Especially rewarding is her growing friendship with their interpreter, a local woman named Farida. But even as Liv thrives, Martin struggles, not nearly so enamored of their new situation as he’d imagined—just as Face the Future is not the cure-all to their marriage that Liv had hoped it would be, especially as it becomes clear Martin is also drawn to Farida.
Visit Gwen Florio's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Gwen Florio & Nell.

My Book, the Movie: Silent Hearts.

Writers Read: Gwen Florio.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 3, 2018

"Walk A Crooked Line"

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries and the River Road Mysteries.

The debut of her Jo Larsen series, Walk Into Silence, was a #1 Kindle bestseller in the US and the UK, and #3 in Australia.

McBride applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Walk A Crooked Line, the second Jo Larsen novel, and reported the following:
The set-up, as we reach page 69, is that Jo Larsen and her partner Hank Phelps are investigating the suicide of a 15-year-old girl named Kelly Amster. Kelly apparently took a dive from the old water tower in tiny Plainfield, Texas, just a few weeks after the new school year started. Though they have not recovered Kelly’s phone, the detectives have been given Kelly’s school-issued laptop, which they’re hoping will yield some clues as to why the girl committed suicide. Only, the laptop is beyond dead. The department has recently hired the captain’s niece, Bridget, who’s interning while she pursues an advanced degree in digital forensics. Jo is hoping Bridget can help them out.
“I’ll see what I can do to get it running,” Bridget said and took the laptop from her. “It could have a corrupted memory or bootloader, or maybe it’s a virus.” She glanced at the Post-it note stuck to the lid, checking both sides of it. “Looks like I’ve got everything I need. I’ll let you know when I get in.”

When, not if. Jo liked her already.

“May the Force be with you,” she said.

Bridget smiled. “Thanks.”

Well, heck, she had a Death Star pencil holder, and she was wearing a T-shirt with Yoda and the phrase, Do or Do Not…There Is No Try.

Bridget pulled her headphones back on, and Jo left her to do her magic.

She had other fish to fry.
I love this snippet, because the brief levity is like taking a breath in a novel that touches on some very serious topics: namely, suicide, bullying, and abuse in various forms. I don’t think I could write anything without spots of humor, because it’s how I deal with dark stuff in my own life. And Jo Larsen definitely has a lot of darkness (and demons) to deal with as she turns over some nasty rocks to figure out what—or who—pushed Kelly Amster to her death.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan McBride's website.

My Book, The Movie: Walk a Crooked Line.

Writers Read: Susan McBride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 2, 2018

"The Supervillain and Me"

Danielle Banas, a Pittsburgh native, earned a degree in communication from Robert Morris University. After years spent dreaming up characters instead of paying attention in class, Banas joined the storytelling platform Wattpad, where her work has received millions of views online. When she isn’t writing, she can be found loudly singing show tunes, spouting off Walt Disney World trivia, and snuggling with her puppy.

Banas applied the Page 69 Test to ​The Supervillain and Me, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When I was a kid, my dad decided it would be a good idea to sign me up for a summer soccer camp. Sports, he said, would help me get stronger. They would enhance my fragile human body and protect me from danger. As the crime rates in Morriston skyrocketed, so did my dad’s determination. Soccer was followed by boxing, which was followed by fencing. (I put my foot down pretty firm on that one.) I failed to see how sweating all day would help me fight evil, so I quit athletics and allowed my interests to gravitate toward performing instead. This switch was not beneficial to my safety, as I discovered later that evening. Because I hated sports, I had zero muscles to protect myself against the supervillain who came knocking just after midnight.

But I did have a steak knife.

“Holy shit!” Iron Phantom ducked as the knife whizzed over his right shoulder, the tip embedding in the wall. “And again with the throwing.”

“I have more than one tonight.” I pulled the second knife out of my pocket as I stood my ground on the opposite side of my bed. I didn’t plan on throwing knife number two, but if he tried anything funny, then it just might slip....

Iron Phantom yanked the blade out of the wall, a bit of plaster breaking away with it. Dammit. Now we were even.
So first off, I really love this little knife throwing scene! It’s something that wasn’t added until a later draft, and I’m not sure how I managed to go on without it for so long. It’s representative of probably the first 50% of the book. My protagonist, Abby, spends a large chunk of time being very distrustful of the new supervillain in town, Iron Phantom. And she certainly has a good reason to be wary – even though he tries to convince her that he isn’t evil, he still burned down a building. Not only that, but he keeps showing up out of nowhere, begging her to help him uncover a growing mystery in their city. As a character, I really like Iron Phantom. He’s brave and smart and super snarky, but if he showed up unannounced at my house I would probably throw a knife at him too. He means well (most of the time) but he’s kind of creepy.
Visit Danielle Banas's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Danielle Banas & Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: The Supervillain and Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"The Lido"

Libby Page graduated from The London College of Fashion with a BA in fashion journalism before going on to work as a journalist at The Guardian. After writing, her second passion is outdoor swimming. She lives in London, where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city.

Page applied the Page 69 Test to The Lido, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“So how are you finding it?” says Rosemary. “Have you gotten used to the cold yet?”

“It’s strange, I know, but I quite like the cold,” says Kate. “It wakes me up.”

“Why do you think I come in the mornings?”

They both laugh.

“I think I’m starting to understand it,” says Kate, looking around her. Her heart beats fast but she feels calm. “Why you love it here so much, I mean,” she says.

“There’s nowhere like it,” Rosemary replies, leaning back a little farther until her toes poke out of the surface of the water.

Kate watches her, this old woman in her navy swimsuit who has swum here all her life. She imagines what it might feel like to see your city changing around you like that and to lose the place that feels like home. As she thinks it she is reminded of her conversation with Erin, and how she had listened to her sister tell her things weren’t perfect, and she herself had said nothing – done nothing.

“You really want to save it, don’t you?” Kate saves after a moment.

“Oh, I do.”

“Maybe I can help you.”

As soon as she says it she realizes that, without knowing exactly how or why, this is something she needs to do. She needs to help Rosemary Peterson save her lido.

Rosemary looks at her for a moment, the wary expression that Kate had noticed the first time they met returning for a moment. But then she smiles.

“Okay then,” says Rosemary.

“Okay then,” says Kate.”
My novel, The Lido, is about the unlikely friendship between 86-year old widow Rosemary, and 26-year old journalist Kate as they come together to try and save their local outdoor swimming pool (or ‘lido’). It is about the importance of community and fighting for the places we love.

Page 69 is actually a very significant page in the book as it is the moment when Kate agrees to help Rosemary, and the campaign to try and save the lido is born.

When Kate and Rosemary first meet, Kate is a very anxious, lonely reporter who has been assigned the story of the potential lido closure by the newspaper where she works. Rosemary is a loyal swimmer who has frequented the lido her whole life. It’s where many of her memories, particularly of her beloved husband George, played out, and has a huge role in her life. Kate is not a swimmer – in fact she isn’t much of a ‘do-er’ at all because of the panic attacks that control much of her life. But when she interviews Rosemary for the newspaper, the older woman encourages her to get into the water herself.

Kate slowly comes to experience the invigorating benefits of cold water swimming, and of spending time at the lido. In this scene, Rosemary and Kate have spotted each other one morning in the shallow end of the pool. Kate suddenly realises that perhaps just writing about the closure of the lido isn’t enough – maybe there is more she can do. So starts an important journey for both Kate, Rosemary, and the lido.
Visit Libby Page's website.

Writers Read: Libby Page.

--Marshal Zeringue