Monday, December 31, 2018

"Bear No Malice"

Clarissa Harwood holds a PhD in English Literature with a specialization in Nineteenth-Century British Literature.

In addition to being a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, she is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

She lives in London, Ontario.

Harwood applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bear No Malice, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Bear No Malice, my Anglican minister protagonist, Tom, is having a rare personal conversation with his new friend, Simon. (Simon and his sister Miranda rescued Tom from a wood in the Surrey countryside after Tom was beaten and left for dead by unknown assailants.) Tom is deeply grateful to the siblings for saving his life and intrigued by their mysterious past, but his own secrets make him reluctant to open up. The secret that’s uppermost in his mind here is his affair with Julia, a married woman, but he has many others.

This scene shows the growing trust between Tom and Simon, whose artist sister Miranda becomes more important to Tom than he can imagine at this moment. His friendship with the siblings will be tested, and he will need to overcome both personal and professional obstacles, before he can learn to really trust anyone.
Visit Clarissa Harwood's website.

The Page 69 Test: Impossible Saints.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"Terran Tomorrow"

Nancy Kress's many books include over two dozen novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Kress’s work has been translated into two dozen languages, including Klingon, none of which she can read.

Kress applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Terran Tomorrow: Book 3 of the Yesterday's Kin Trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 is all talk. The talk, like all talk other than ‘Watch out! There’s a bear behind you!” is pretty static. Two people—three after Major Elizabeth Duncan enters the room—just sit there on page 69, exchanging information. Not all the information is verbal. It’s clear (at least I hope it’s clear) that Colonel Jenner is attracted to Jane; that Jane is quick and observant at learning the culture on this planet utterly foreign to her; that Duncan is reserved and gives little away; that another of the alien visitors is already resisting Earth (Jane: “He should choose a Terran name.” Jenner: “But I see from your face that he will not.”)

All this will become important later in the book. Seeds are being planted. Foreshadowing is sneaking in. But it’s still just talk, and so the next scene contains action. Too many talky scenes in a row can feel too quiet, prompting the reader to think: Come on! Get on with it, already!

Which Terran Tomorrow does. A group of Terrans have returned from the alien planet World, where they spent book 2 of my trilogy (If Tomorrow Comes), bringing with them a handful of Worlders. They find a United States vastly different from the one they left: devastated by a pandemic carried by sparrows, torn by civil war, divided by ideological differences on how to rebuild. With courage and anger and science and murder, they set out to do that.

And also to talk.
Visit Nancy Kress's website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Tomorrow's Kin.

The Page 69 Test: If Tomorrow Comes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 27, 2018

"The Girl at the Border"

Leslie Archer is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Girl at the Border, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?

Is it ever! Herewith, a crucial scene between Angela and Richard, which just about sums up what a good part of the novel is about:
Beside and above her, Richard seemed to have fallen asleep with the light on, his open logbook lying across his chest. She listened to the familiar sound of his breath, even and comforting. Silently she rose. At the edge of his bed, she leaned over, switched off the light.

It wasn’t until she was back on the mattress, settling the blanket over herself, that Richard said, very softly, “There are venomous forces in the world.”

She lay unmoving, saying nothing, wondering where this was going. His voice was so light and low maybe he was talking in his sleep.

Then he said, “I exposed Bella to one of those venomous forces. My wife. And what did I do to protect her? Nothing. I knew I couldn’t take her away from Maggie. I absented myself from an intolerable situation.”

Tears slid down Angela’s cheeks. Her heart broke for him. She felt crushed beneath the weight of his words and recalled the silent grief in his eyes while he had been trying to text with Bella. Was this how her inarticulate father had felt? A wracking shiver went through her. At last, she understood. It was like a chain, strands of DNA twining, spinning out across generations: her father hadn’t been able to talk to her because she was a mystery to him. She was a mystery to him because he was a mystery to himself. She had told Richard that her father was a good man, but now she understood that he hadn’t known that about himself. She saw all this replicated in Richard, clear and painfully sharp in the darkness of the tent.
There is so much pain in people’s lives, so much goes unspoken until it’s too late, or not at all. Admitting to yourself what you can’t stand to face is part of what life is all about. Here, Angela begins her journey back from being an exile, both actually and figuratively, to accepting the love in someone else, and the love that lies hidden within herself. It’s a key scene in the novel, and I’m so happy it occurs on page 69!
Visit Leslie Archer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 24, 2018

"Liars' Paradox"

Taylor Stevens is a critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers including the breakout hit The Informationist. Best known for high-octane stories populated with fascinating characters in vivid boots-on-the-ground settings, her books have been optioned for film and published in over twenty languages. Her newest release, Liars’ Paradox, introduces twenty-six-year-old assassin twins, Jack and Jill, in a bone-jarring twist on cold war spy novels that the Dallas Morning News calls, “a truly high-energy page-turner of a thriller,” and Lee Child says is “the start of what could be the best new series in years.”

Stevens applied the Page 69 Test to Liars’ Paradox and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jack stretched a hand to her, offering to help her up. She recoiled and scrambled away.

He followed her. “Come on,” he said. “We’ll go together.”

“No,” she whispered.

“Together,” he said, stretching the word into three strong, emphasized syllables. “And anything Clare deals you, she’ll have to deal me, too. Together.”
All stories and all heroes have a history—the stuff that exists in a fictional universe before the first words in the opening scene touch that starting page. When a story is done right, all the history that matters will weave through the telling so that by the time the reader gets to the end he or she fully understands who the characters are and what drove them to the decisions and choices they made.

But in Liars’ Paradox, where we have twenty-six-year-old twin assassins searching for their paranoid and possibly delusional mother after her house has gone up in a fireball, the entire present only makes sense as it relates to the past—their own fractious childhoods from which their skillsets come—their mother’s history, without which the present wouldn’t exist.

Assembling these many pieces into a single flow without info dumps or clunking down the pacing with blocks of expository dialogue meant showing the past in real time through a second timeline. On page 69 we’re at the very tail end of one of those flashbacks, glimpsing one of the events driving the present day dysfunctional love-hate relationship between the siblings and between siblings and Clare, who has always been more mentor than mother.
Visit Taylor Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of seven novels and dozens of novels for children. She is also the editor of two essay collections and her short fiction, essays and articles have appeared in numerous national and literary magazines. McDonough is also the fiction editor for Lilith magazine.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new middle-grade novel, Courageous, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the first time we meet George, Aidan’s older brother, who is a soldier in the British army during World War II. He and his mates are on their way to Dunkirk. They’ve been told that once they arrive, they will be given a hot meal and a chance to sleep. Little does George know what actually awaits him there. George is a very important character in the novel. He gives the reader an up-close and personal view of combat, and he also introduces an important theme about the horror of war for men on both sides of the conflict.
Visit Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Death by Dragonfly"

Jane Tesh is a retired media specialist and pianist for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, NC, the real Mayberry. She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Series, A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, A Little Learning, A Bad Reputation, and Evil Turns, featuring former beauty queen, Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her con man husband, Jerry Fairweather. Stolen Hearts is the first in the Grace Street Mystery Series, featuring PI David Randall, his psychic friend, Camden, Randall’s love interest, Kary Ingram, and Cam’s career-driven girlfriend, Ellin Belton, as well as an ever-changing assortment of Cam’s tenants. Mixed Signals is the second in the series, followed by Now You See It, Just You Wait, Baby, Take a Bow, and Death by Dragonfly.

Tesh applied the Page 69 Test to Death by Dragonfly and reported the following:
From page 69:
I did a little research on Lalique, as well, finding a photo of a surrealistic half woman half insect pin all blue and gold called “Dragonfly Woman,” that was exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, and another photo of an amazing gold and blue enamel necklace with a design of black swans. Lalique was also a success at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and designed stage jewelry for actress Sarah Bernhardt. In 1925, he designed the first car mascots—bouchons de radiateur—if you want to get fancy, for Citroen and made others for Bently, Bugatti, and Rolls Royce, to name a few. Besides the Large Dragonfly, “Libellule Grande,” Pierson’s treasure, there were twenty eight other designs, including a small dragonfly, a peacock head, an owl, a rooster, and the largest, called “Spirit of the Wind,” a woman’s head with stylized hair streaming back. I thought the Fury would look pretty spiffy with The Comet on the hood. The Guinea Hen, not so much. According to the article, the actual number of existing mascots wasn’t known and most were eagerly sought after and very rare. While the Eagle’s Head was infamous for being fitted on Nazi officers’ staff cars, there were no curses associated with any of the mascots.

By two o’clock, Camden was awake and feeling better. I waited while he put on his sneakers and we were off to tackle some snakes.
PI David Randall has been hired to find a stolen glass dragonfly made during the Art Nouveau Period by renowned artist, Rene Lalique. Earlier that day, the client, Leo Pierson, stopped by 302 Grace Street where Randall lives and has his agency’s office and mentioned that the dragonfly was cursed. During the visit, Pierson shook hands with Randall’s friend, Camden, who is psychic. Cam had a violent reaction to the handshake, seeing the dragonfly and other lost objects, but unable to see their location. This is the beginning of Cam’s downward spiral into an addiction to pills that cancel his visions. Randall will have his hands full trying to find Pierson’s treasures and trying to get Cam off the pills. As for the snakes, Cam’s wife, Ellin, eager to get some info on Matt Graber, a self-styled “cosmic healer” who wants to take over her Psychic Service Network, sends Randall and Cam to Graber’s studio. Part of Graber’s act includes two huge pythons, and they take an instant liking to Cam, who is terrified of snakes. Two more reasons to take pills. Two more headaches for Randall.
Learn more about the book and author at Jane Tesh's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jane Tesh and Winkie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"Not Our Kind"

Kitty Zeldis is the pseudonym for a novelist and non-fiction writer of books for adults and children. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

Zeldis applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Not Our Kind, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Not Our Kind, Eleanor and Margaux have the first of their meetings and by lunch time, Margaux is already enchanted with her new tutor. This scene is key because it lays the groundwork for the strong bond that develops between teacher and student. This bond in turn affects the other relationships in the novel, like the one between Eleanor and Tom, and even importantly, between Eleanor and Patricia. Margaux does not have her own point of view in the novel, and yet she is the fulcrum for much of the action and is thematically linked to Eleanor as well.
My Book, The Movie: Not Our Kind.

Writers Read: Kitty Zeldis.

Coffee with a Canine: Kitty Zeldis & Dottie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 16, 2018

"One Taste Too Many"

Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series, which debuts with One Taste Too Many on December 18, 2018. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly.

Goldstein applied the Page 69 Test to One Taste Too Many and reported the following:
A portion of page 69:
…Not many bosses were as kind, understanding, as Harlan had been since Wednesday night. Between rescheduled appointments and a motion docket at the courthouse, today was going to be busy.

She felt guilty about how much time she and Emily had taken away from Harlan’s paying law practice and sleep. From when she woke him two nights ago to meet Emily at the station, Harlan had been a prince. Most lawyers working pro bono would have run as fast as they could in the opposite direction ….
Page 69 is the transitional opening of One Taste Too Many’s thirteenth chapter. It describes how Sarah is trying to get on her boss’s best side because of Harlan’s efforts keeping Sarah’s twin, Chef Emily, from being arrested for the murder of Sarah’s ex-husband. Considering the police think he died after eating a bite of Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp, it hasn’t been easy. Now, with RahRah, Sarah’s Siamese cat, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to keep Harlan on her side while she figures out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!
Visit Debra H. Goldstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 14, 2018

"The River Widow"

Ann Howard Creel writes historical novels about strong female characters facing seemingly impossible obstacles and having to make life-changing decisions. In her new novel, The River Widow, a former tarot-card reader turned widow and stepmother must escape the clutches of an evil family while also facing the crime she herself has committed.

Creel applied the Page 69 Test to The River Widow and reported the following:
The River Widow is historical fiction at its core, but the book has been described by many as a page-turner and thriller:
In 1937 with flood waters approaching, Adah Branch accidentally kills her abusive husband, Lester, and surrenders his body to the raging river, only to be swept away herself.

So begins her story of survival, return to civilization, defense against accusations of murder, and the fight to save herself and her step-daughter, Daisy, from the clutches of her husband’s notoriously cruel family, who have their sights set on revenge for Lester’s death. Essentially trapped, Adah must plan an escape.
Applying the page 69 test to the novel takes us to the day Adah returns to her flood-damaged house. Already she has survived the river, made her way back, endured living with her in-laws who suspect her of murder, and witnessed enough cruelty to know she must get away and take Daisy, despite having no legal claim to her.

Page 69 is not a good representation of the book. It’s a rather quiet moment as Adah looks inside the house in search of things to salvage. Unexpectedly she finds a box of letters in the attic, which remained dry, written to her husband’s first wife before she died. On page 69 the significance of the letters isn’t known, but later, those letters and others come to play a vital role.

Beyond page 69, there are very few quiet moments. Just when Adah thinks things can’t get much worse, she learns that a community will sometimes ignore evil behavior and stick together no matter what. Does she have what it takes to defy them all and escape?
Visit Ann Howard Creel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Into The Night"

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons and one very old cat. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Bailey applied the Page 69 Test to Into The Night, her second novel, and reported the following:
It’s over two years since we met DS Gemma Woodstock in The Dark Lake and now she is back, navigating an unfamiliar city and tackling the most complicated homicide investigation of her career.

Two murders have occurred by the time we hit page 69 of Into The Night, and they couldn’t be more different. Walter Miller, a homeless man, was found stabbed to death in the middle of the night in an isolated area of the city. There are no suspects in his murder. A few days later Sterling Wade, a young up-and-coming Hollywood star, is stabbed on the set of his new movie.

There were hundreds of witnesses present when Sterling was attacked but due to the costumes and the chaos, no one saw what happened. Gemma and her new detective partner Nick Fleet are immediately thrust into the star’s glamorous world, the death of the homeless man all but forgotten.

They meet his beautiful co-star, the movie producer, his actress girlfriend, his best friend and agent – and it turns out they all have something to hide. Sterling Wade’s family is also a mystery, his homely country parents seem completely lost in the celebrity scene, and his brother and sister harbour a lot of jealousy about the way their sibling’s life turned out.

In this particular scene, Gemma and Fleet are interviewing Sterling’s bewildered parents who have arrived in Melbourne from their rural property. A media storm is brewing and they have been accosted by journalists while trying to come to terms with the death of their high-profile son.
April’s mouth tugs into a reflexive smile before she remembers what has happened. I can see a hint of Sterling’s famous face across her cheekbones. ‘Yes. He used to tell us that everyone thought he’d changed his name, you know, to be more memorable for TV or something. But Sterling is actually an old family name.’
The more Gemma and Fleet speak to Sterling’s parents the more they start to suspect that there might be a rift in the family that they are trying to conceal. They reveal that when Sterling was younger he moved to the city and stayed with a foster family while he was pursuing his acting career.
‘Did Sterling still see the Beaufords?’ I press, noticing the slump to their postures.

‘I think so,’ says Matthew. ‘Sterling used to talk about them quite a bit and they live in Melbourne so it’s easier for them to see him.’

There’s a mild bitterness to Matthew’s tone and it prompts me to imagine what I would feel like if Ben replaced me with another parent, for him to slot so neatly into a new family.
At page 69 of Into The Night the case is certainly in full swing and the clues are starting to form in Gemma’s mind. Little does she know that there are plenty of twists and turns around the corner.
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

My Book, The Movie: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Storm Rising"

Sara Driscoll is the joint pseudonym of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan.

They applied the Page 69 Test to Storm Rising, the third book in their FBI K-9s mysteries series--starring search-and-resuce team Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk--and reported the following:
From page 69:
Sunday, July 23, 6:27 AM
Chesapeake, Virginia

Webb whistled along with the radio while he stared out the window as the countryside flashed by. When they drove away from the coast, they left the worst of the devastation behind them, so while this inland portion of the county showed the lashings of a powerful storm, it had suffered significantly less flooding. Now the eerily denuded trees gave glimpses of the white statuary of the Roosevelt Memorial Park cemetery through Webb’s window.

Meg slid him a dark, sideways glance. “You seem pretty chipper.”

“It’s a beautiful day. I enjoyed a cozy night with a beautiful woman in my ... uh ... bed”—Webb playfully waggled his eyebrows at her, cheerfully exaggerating a too short interlude that involved nothing more than unconsciousness—“and I’m headed out to do some good in the world. Why not be chipper?”
Page 69 of Storm Rising is a brief period of ease for FBI K-9 handler Meg Jennings and Washington DC Fire and Emergency Services Lieutenant Todd Webb on the morning following a horrific day rescuing victims—both living and dead—from the devastation of a catastrophic hurricane in Virginia. This moment is a short respite for the weary first responders just before they stumble on several new victims and become entangled in the horrific world of juvenile sex trafficking.

Storm Rising takes Meg and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk, into the heart of a community devastated by a Category Three hurricane. While Todd and his fellow paramedics struggle to move stranded hospital patients to safety, Meg and the rest of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team go in search of the missing and the lost, trying to find those who didn’t, or couldn’t, get out of the path of a killer storm. But it’s Meg and Todd’s discovery of victimized children that directs their path for the rest of the tale. When the ever-deepening layers of the trafficking ring point to some of the community’s most prominent leaders, it will take all the team’s efforts to bring down the powerful and save the helpless.
Learn more about Storm Rising: An FBI K-9 Novel.

Coffee with a Canine: M. Ann Vanderlaan & her dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 8, 2018

"The Pint of No Return"

Ellie Alexander (also known as Kate Dyer-Seeley) is a Pacific Northwest native. Her love for the Pacific Northwest runs deep. Hence why all of her books (whether she’s writing as Ellie or Kate) are set there. From the Shakespearean hamlet of Ashland, Oregon to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington to the hipster mecca of Portland, Oregon and a variety of other stunning outdoor locales, the Pacific Northwest is a backdrop for every book and almost becomes another character in each series.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to The Pint of No Return, her second Sloan Krause mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I looked away. The thought of touching Mitchell’s dead body a few minutes ago made my stomach queasy. “Okay, so you came downtown to meet Mitchell. Then what happened?”

“I got here and I couldn’t find him. He was supposed to be at some pub around the corner, but they were already closed.” Her voice was shrill. She rocked back and forth onto the tip of her toes. Her feet must be freezing in flip flops, I thought, rubbing my arms. Had the temp started to drop or was I feeling the effects of shock?

I figured she was talking about Nitro.

“This is my first time in Leavenworth so I went around to every place that was open to try and find him. The bartender in the bar across the street told me that he had seen Mitchell heading for the tent so I tried there next.”

“Is that when you saw Lisa?”

She shook her head. “No. I looked everywhere in the tents, but he wasn’t there. I tried calling and texting but he didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Then I heard him yelling at someone so I ran out here. It all happened so fast. There was the sound of shattering glass. The next thing I knew I saw that woman over there.” She caught her breath and pointed at Lisa. “Running away from Mitchell’s body and Mitchell lying dead on the ground. He didn’t collapse. She killed him, and she was fleeing the scene,” she repeated.
On page 69 we find Sloan Krause, a craft brewer turned amateur sleuth on the scene of a murder in her beloved Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is tucked into the northern Cascade Mountains and is designed to resemble a charming German alpine village. It’s Oktoberfest which means that Front Street is filled with the lively sounds of oompah bands, the sight of lederhosen, and the smells of fresh baked pretzels and schnitzel. The annual beer bash brings in travelers from every corner of the globe. It’s the next best thing to being in Munich for Oktoberfest. Sloan has been brewing up batches of her signature Cherry Wizen for the celebration. As revelers pour into the streets to do the polka and chicken dance and the kegs get tapped, things take a darker turn. Mitchell Morgan, who is in town to film a documentary Wish You Were Beer, about Leavenworth’s rich beer culture turns up dead. To make matters worse, he was last seen chugging pints of Sloan’s Cherry Wizen. Sloan wants to protect her reputation as Leavenworth’s favorite brewmistress and restore normalcy to her brew mecca.

Visit Ellie Alexander's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Strange Days"

Constantine Singer grew up in Seattle and earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family and teaches history at a high school in South LA.

Singer applied the Page 69 Test to Strange Days, his debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I don’t understand what she just said, but I take the paper she’s pushing at me. It’s another letter. This one’s not in an envelope, it’s just folded up. It’s short:

Hey Alex,
This is Corina. She was sent here to get you.
She’s cool. Go with her.

It’s in my handwriting again. I look up at her and she nods like she understands. “It’s a lot to deal with, but it’ll all make sense when we get to the compound.”

“Compound?” I ask, because even though I want to know how she has a letter from me telling me to go with her when I know for a fact that I have never written one—or been to Seattle—plus I don’t know her, I can’t get the words out.

She sighs. “Just come with me, Alex.” She picks up the note and points to the last part. “‘She’s cool,’” she reads. “‘Go with her.’”
Alex not sure what to do? Check.

Befuddling Time Travel element? Check.

Snappy exasperation from Corina? Check.

It turns out that page 69 of Strange Days is a fairly representative sample, save for the fact that it is a moment of rest in the action. One of my favorite pieces of plotting advice goes something like this: A plot should have five “Oh Nos” for every 2 “Oh phews.” Otherwise it’s too much or too easy. This is an “Oh Phew” moment, which are outnumbered approximately 5:2 in the book.

On a personal note, I really like this moment because it was while writing it that I really discovered who Corina was going to be. The eventual centrality of her character wasn’t part of my original design, but when I started writing her she convinced me that she needed a starring role.
Visit Constantine J. Singer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"Murder in Her Stocking"

Since publication of her first novel in 1986, Sonja Massie has authored more than 60 published works, including the highly popular and critically acclaimed Savannah Reid Mysteries under the pseudonym G.A. McKevett.

The author applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder in Her Stocking, and reported the following:
Page 69 contains one of the most critical scenes in the book, as Stella holds the dying murder victim in her arms and tries to comfort her, while attempting to find out the killer’s identity. The elements of this scene that I believe are representative of the rest of the book are Stella’s compassion, courage, and her passion for justice.

Stella is risking her life, remaining in a dark, lonely alley where this young woman was viciously attacked only moments before. But Stella’s only concern is for Priscilla. She treats Prissy, the town’s notorious “fallen woman” with the same kindness she would show anyone else. She displays a high degree of tolerance, even respect, for the dying Priscilla that’s rare in their little town, where everyone knows everybody and harbors a strong opinion about everything they do.

Not only is Stella eager to offer gentle assistance as Prissy slips from this life into the next, but she’s trying to give Prissy one other gift that she feels is precious. Justice. For reasons that will be revealed in the next book of the Granny Reid Mysteries, Stella has a keen desire for and appreciation of justice. Having had her own life torn apart by a terrible act of murder, Stella knows all too well the value of justice and the pain caused by not receiving it in the face of great loss. For the remainder of the story, in spite of her own personal, family problems and challenges, Stella searches for Prissy’s killer, committed to bringing them to account for the life they took.
Visit G.A. McKevett's website.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Her Stocking.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"The Heirs"

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Hawthorne applied the Page 69 Test to The Heirs and reported the following:
Here’s how page 69(which also happens to be the start of Chapter Ten) begins:
Chapter Ten

“Hi!” Ben’s dad was abruptly next to her on the grass by the soccer field. “I remember you from the second game. You wanted to know about that Polish kid Ted.”

“Yes. Tad.”

Adam was somewhere in the middle of the field but not playing goalie. So Mark had kept his promise; Adam was as safe as he could be, for now. The other team’s uniforms were gray and dark blue, which was way too similar to the Hornets’ white and royal blue. How would the players tell each other apart? That would be an interesting question to ask a coach. Especially a coach who was also an artist, who understood colors.

“Remember that stock I told you about?” – and now Ben’s dad slapped his palms together –“Drugtrials-dot-com. It’s the company that runs a database that tracks all the trials for new drugs in the U.S. It closed yesterday at twenty-six and one-eighth. That’s more than a dollar above when we talked.”

“Oh. Is that good, a dollar?”

“Good? It’s great! If you’d bought fifty shares, you’d have made more than fifty bucks. You can check for yourself. Do you know how to find the stock listings in the newspaper? Or on the Web?”

Eleanor simply needed this drug company’s particular abbreviation, which was DRTR. And then, any time she wanted, she could show DRTR’s latest ever-rising number in The New York Times to Nick and say triumphantly: “Remember that stock you didn’t want to buy?”
Page 69 is not one of the most dramatic pages in The Heirs. In one way, though, it’s typical: It takes place on the suburban New Jersey soccer field where most of the key characters frequently meet and subtly clash (while their kids’ team usually loses):

Eleanor, the protagonist, a high school French teacher and mom, whose mother has suddenly started talking Polish – after refusing for 50 years to discuss how she survived the Holocaust in Poland; whose husband, Nick, insists he must work 24/7 to prevent Y2K computer crashes; whose 9-year-old son is a team misfit because he messed up as goalie; and whose rebellious 12-year-old daughter wants to pierce her nose and does not want a bat mitzvah.

Mark, the sexy, divorced soccer coach and art teacher (enough said).

Janek and Maria Wysocki, a Polish-Catholic immigrant couple who Eleanor becomes increasingly obsessed with, as she imagines whether their parents crossed paths with Eleanor’s mother in Holocaust Poland – or worse.

Eleanor’s son, Adam.

The Wysockis’ son, Tad – who happens to be the team’s star striker.

And a more minor player, the pushy stockbroker known as Ben's dad, who’s trying to entice Eleanor to buy his favorite dotcom stock – despite the angry objections of Nick, her husband. (Yes, this is autumn 1999, and we readers know what will happen to that stock in March 2000.)
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My Book, The Movie: The Heirs.

--Marshal Zeringue