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.)
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Heirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Bleak Harbor"

Bryan Gruley is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of the new novel Bleak Harbor, which Gillian Flynn calls “an electric bolt of suspense.” Two-time Edgar Award winner Steve Hamilton says Bleak Harbor is “unlike any other crime book I’ve ever read.”

Gruley also wrote the Starvation Lake trilogy: Starvation Lake, The Hanging Tree, and The Skeleton Box. Starvation Lake was an Edgar Finalist and won Anthony, Barry, and Strand awards. The Hanging Tree was a #1 Indie Next pick, a Michigan Notable Book, and a Kirkus Best Mystery of 2010. Reviewers have compared Gruley favorably to novelists Dennis Lehane and Richard Russo.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Bleak Harbor and reported the following:
Page 69 of Bleak Harbor is blank but for one word in all caps: FRIDAY.

Like the weekday itself, this page marks a transition, one that goes to the heart of what the novel is about.

On page 68, Pete Peters, stepfather of autistic, 15-year-old Danny Peters, is in the office of his medical marijuana shop in downtown Bleak Harbor, Michigan. After being summoned there late Thursday night by an alarm service, he has just viewed a frightening image on his computer. He calls his wife, Danny’s mother. “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus,” he says. “Somebody has Danny. Somebody has our boy.”

On the other side of page 69, we find Danny himself, sleeping in a hot, dark, stuffy room. He is wondering whether he’ll see his parents again, and dreaming about dragonflies: “The dragonflies are bigger than gulls. They are blacker than crows. They hover and glide, skitter and dart. Their shadows darken the water.”

Danny is obsessed with dragonflies. He appreciates their beauty as well as their status as one of the most efficient killers in the animal kingdom. The dichotomy is a running theme throughout the novel, encapsulating tensions at the core of how and why Danny has been kidnapped.
Learn more about the book and author at Bryan Gruley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Starvation Lake.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"The Subjugate"

Amanda Bridgeman is an Aurealis Award finalist and author of several science fiction novels, including the best-selling space opera Aurora series, alien contact drama The Time of the Stripes, and sci-fi crime thriller The Subjugate. Born in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, she moved to Perth (Western Australia) to study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University, earning her a BA in Communication Studies. Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen-month stint in London (England) where she dabbled in Film & TV ‘Extra’ work.

Bridgeman applied the Page 69 Test to The Subjugate and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Subjugate is a perfect taster for potential readers of the book. It features the key detectives, Salvi Brentt and Mitch Grenville, as they discuss their case and the behaviours of some of their suspects from the religious community of Bountiful. It also serves to highlight the relationship between Brentt and Grenville, and in particular the tension between them, as Mitch antagonizes Salvi.
“It’s odd that he hadn’t seen her for a few days,” Salvi said. “One minute they’re spending all this time together, enough to make her fight with Ellie, then suddenly their contact stops.”

“Maybe the fight with Ellie triggered Sharon to stop seeing him.”

“But even after she hadn’t seen him for a few days, she still wasn’t talking to Ellie. No, something else happened.”

“Between Tobias and Sharon?” Mitch shrugged. “Maybe the Children of Christ weren’t so chaste after all.”

“Maybe,” Salvi said. “Or maybe they’d agreed to spend time apart so as not to risk their vows.”

Mitch chuckled. “Innocent until proven guilty, huh?”

“Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to go,” she said.

“Except with the preacher.” He smiled, eyes twinkling.

Salvi gave him a blank stare.

Mitch looked back at the road. “Well, you know, you just be might be in luck, Salvi. Both the Children of Christ church and hall have BioLume products, as does the house of the good preacher.” He glanced back at her. “What do you say, would you like to poke around the preacher’s bedroom?”
Page 69 certainly touches on two important elements of the book: religion and sex, however it doesn’t touch on the Solme Complex, the high-tech prison, situated outside of the religious community, which could possibly house the killer they’re looking for. The Solme Complex ultimately represents the two other main elements of the book: technology and violence. All four elements are woven in one way or another through both the religious community and the prison - The yin and yang of society. And it’s the detectives’ job to find out just where the blurred line between man and monster truly lies...
Visit Amanda Bridgeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Alice Payne Arrives"

Kate Heartfield is the author of the historical fantasy novel Armed in Her Fashion and two time-travel novellas from Publishing, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives. She has also published several dozen short stories and an interactive novel for Choice of Games. A former journalist, she lives in Ottawa.

Heartfield applied the Page 69 Test to Alice Payne Arrives and reported the following:
From page 69:
"Look!" Alice cries out, and points to the floor, where three drops of liquid have fallen. "Is it rain? I believe it is. If it's taken our mouse, it's given us rain. I can smell it. Is it some sort of window?"
Page 69 of Alice Payne Arrives is fairly representative of the whole novella, it turns out. It brings us to a cluttered scientist's study in England in 1788. It's the page where highwaywoman Alice and her scientist lover, Jane, start to figure out that a device they found creates portals in time and space. The reader already knows this, because the reader has also been following the storyline of Prudence, a time traveler from the 22nd century.

But the opening of a portal in Jane's 18th century study gives us a chance to see how Alice and Jane each respond to this revelation, and it reveals the differences between them. Those differences are among the reasons Alice and Jane are attracted to each other, but they will also test their relationship:
"But no device can bring a person from one place to another with no connexion in between," protests Jane.

"No device you've seen, but this mechanism is entirely new and mysterious to you. You've said so."

Alice stands and walks around the disc of shimmering air, looking at it from one side and the other.

Jane kneels and puts her finger to the damp spot on the floor, sniffs it.

Alice says, "I'll have to go through."

"Alice! Didn't you see what happened to my mouse?"
We never do meet that mouse (he's named Cicero) again, but perhaps one day I'll write his story. He's doing fine.
Visit Kate Heartfield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets"

Rosemary Simpson is the author of two previous historical novels, The Seven Hills of Paradise and Dreams and Shadows, and two previous Gilded Age Mysteries, What the Dead Leave Behind and Lies that Comfort and Betray. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

Simpson applied the Page 69 Test to her newest Gilded Age Mystery, Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets, and reported the following:
If there was ever a temptation to cheat, this is it! But I won't. Below is the entire text of page 69 of Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets.
on Josiah's desk, one by one, each more graphic and disturbing than the last.

"I don't think there can be any doubt about it," she said when the last photograph had joined the others. "This was murder. Someone tried to kill our client."
This is the hook at the end of Chapter 7 that should make it difficult for the reader to do anything but turn to the next page, no matter how late it is or how early she has to get up in the morning. The protagonist, Prudence MacKenzie, has stolen photographic plates (we're in 1889!) from the studio/gallery of a photographer who specializes in postmortem studies, and sent them off to be developed, hoping to find clues to what might have caused the unexpected deaths of a beautiful young mother and her child, a new client's sister and infant niece. In the meantime, she and her partner, Geoffrey Hunter, begin to examine photographs of a terrible accident that took place the day before on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. A sandbag fell from the flies, crushing the head of one of the singers who was standing just inches away from their client. Coincidence? Not once a photograph reveals that the frayed end of the sandbag's hemp rope has also been cut. Prudence's conclusion that what was intended to be deemed an accident was really murder sets the two investigators off on a determined and complex quest to solve an old killing and prevent future deaths.
Visit Rosemary Simpson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"The Arrival of Missives"

Aliya Whiteley writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in The Guardian, Interzone, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007. Her writing is often violent, tender, terrifying and funny. It has garnered much critical praise and provoked discussion.

Whiteley Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, The Arrival of Missives, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My parents, knowing that we have reached the date of the meeting in Taunton, watch me over breakfast with intensity, but we do not speak of it. I am so meek and mild with my newfound ability to dissemble that I give them no reason to be mistrustful. If I place a foot wrong my father would lock me in my bedroom today, but he cannot play that role unless I give him cause.

I see now that this is a lesson all women must learn, and my mother is an adept. I had never noticed her performance before. She handles my father with her downcast eyes and serene expression. She skips over the obstacles he lays for her with deceptive ease, so when he complains about the stale bread she takes it away and presents a fresh loaf without a word. When he asks why she is silent, she says cheerfully of how she was just thinking of a funny thing Mrs Barbery said to her in the village, and relates a piece of tattle with such charm that my father forgets that he was looking for a fight at all.

Then she looks away and I see the pretence fall, and I know she is hiding all her thoughts and feelings in order to pander to him. He is an enormous tyrant baby to whom she will be forever bound.
This is a flash of realisation for my narrator that I really like, because it begins a series of revelations about the village where she lives and the people that surround her. She begins to examine the balance of power, and at how her mother has to placate her father, who is a tyrant in many ways.

My narrator, Shirley, is sixteen years old and has a zealous naiveté at the start of the book. She sees everything in terms of black and white, including her romantic feelings for her schoolteacher. Then the teacher involves her in a far-reaching plan, and the novel takes a leap into a very different kind of story that forces her to question everything she thought she knew.

This page contains a moment of clarity. Shirley has grown up just enough to re-evaluate her parents’ relationship. I think maybe that comes to us all at some point; I loved getting a chance to write about it here as part of a larger science-fiction storyline. It seems to me sci-fi is often at its best when it manages to include delicate details of emotional and personal discovery within its big ideas.
Visit Aliya Whiteley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded"

James Alan Gardner is a 1989 graduate of the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and has had several science fiction stories and novellas appear in publications such as Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He is the author of Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant, Hunted, Ascending, Trapped, and Radiant. He was the grand prize winner of the 1989 Writers of the Future contest, has won the Aurora Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded, and reported the following:
I’m happy to say that page 69 of They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded is actually a pivotal moment in the book.

Quick background: Gun’s protagonist is a university student named Jools. She and her roommates gained superpowers in the first book of the series (All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault). Jools is now “human-best” in everything. For example, she doesn’t have superhuman strength but she’s as strong as the strongest human weightlifter. She’s also as fast as the fastest human runner, as agile as the best human gymnast, and as knowledgeable as the best human surgeon, physicist, historian, etc.

In other words, she has a huge breadth of knowledge. This lets her see cross-connections between disciplines that no one else is aware of. If she’s not careful, her mind fills with brilliant new inventions that combine principles from many different fields.

But does that breadth add up to super-intelligence? The question matters because on this particular version of Earth, people with super-intelligence tend to become Mad Geniuses: supervillains of the sort who create hordes of zombie dinosaurs or fire-breathing robots in order to conquer the world.

Is Jools in danger of going mad and becoming a supervillain? Or is she simply a very smart person who’s unlikely go maniacal?

Page 69 starts addressing this question. Jools and her teammates have got their hands on what looks like a super-gun made by a known Mad Genius. They don’t want to pull the trigger; for all they know, the weapon shoots nuclear bombs or lethal plague germs. But Jools wants to see if she can understand what the gun does and how it was made. Without admitting it out loud, she wants to know how smart she is. Is she just a clever human, or might she be a dangerous super-genius?

On page 69, Jools and her friends set out to break into a lab and analyze the gun. The page starts a scene in which a great many secrets begin to be revealed.

So hurray for page 69! It advances both the plot and Jools’s character development. Pretty good for just one page.
Visit James Alan Gardner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Bittersweet Brooklyn"

Thelma Adams is the author of the historical novel Bittersweet Brooklyn, the bestseller The Last Woman Standing and Playdate, which Oprah magazine described as “a witty debut novel.” In addition to her fiction work, Adams is a prominent American film critic and an outspoken voice in the Hollywood community. She has been the in-house film critic for Us Weekly and The New York Post, and has written essays, celebrity profiles and reviews for Yahoo! Movies, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine,, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Parade, Marie Claire and The Huffington Post. Adams studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was valedictorian, and received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

Adams applied the Page 69 Test to Bittersweet Brooklyn and reported the following:
From page 69:
She feared for Abie’s life, however quick he was with a knife. Where could he be? Was he hiding from the police? And if that reporter got her brother’s name in print, did it mean that he was lost to her?

That reporter didn’t know Abie like she did—how much love he had for her and how, time and again, he’d been forced to defend himself, a scrawny kid, from bigger foes as he had in the orphanage. To hesitate was to become a victim. She understood that. There had to be justification for his attack on that Rothman kid. Abie would explain. She felt fear, yes, but something else, too, as she paced the sidewalk bracing herself to return home. It was pride. Her brother was the toughest kid on Fourteenth Street, and he would always protect her. No one on the street would dare harm her with such a daring brother in her corner.
Page 69 in Bittersweet Brooklyn, the final page of Chapter Eight, is an inflection
point: historical research and fiction converge. Throughout the novel, I used the criminal milestones of old brother Abraham "Little Yiddle" Lorber to plot the course of his younger sister's personal dramas. I uncovered a New-York Tribune newspaper item from 1921 headlined: "Toughest Kid Proves It: Newsie Stabs Lad, Who Doubted Title Given Him."

In this critical final page of an action-packed sequence, Thelma, 13, has fled from a traumatic domestic event in Brooklyn. She travels to her family's Manhattan newsstand, seeking consolation and advice from her older brother. Instead, she encounters a mob at Union Square, a splash of blood and discovers to her horror that Abie is likely the perp.

Her response filtered by personal trauma and adolescence mixes terror and pride. Being a face in the crowd following her brother's attack tests, but does not break, her loyalty. A nearby workman advises her: disappear and don't talk to the police. As she grows up, the warnings are everywhere – and yet this brother is the light of her life, he sees her spark and loves her unconditionally, the way she needs to be loved.

Their bond is a thing of pure imagination. His criminal life is documented, however spottily, in newspapers, criminal records and, ultimately, federal trial transcripts. But who is she, the girl without a documented past? That's what I wanted to know and I answered with fiction. She's a bubbly girl with a dancing heart capable of loving fully, deeply richly – but the challenge is keeping that spark alive as a struggling American immigrant. The love, tenderness, humor and betrayals of this brother-sister relationship are at the heart of the book. The affection grew in the writing, a life force of its own.

I knew in May 1921, Lorber stabbed a boy named Nathan Rothman – but where was Thelma? How did that crime impact her? How does her decision that day change or seal her fate?

Thelma's devotion to her brother defines her. It's the crux of Page 69, and it alternately heals her and haunts her through the years to come and to the final page of Bittersweet Brooklyn.
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2018

"The Delphi Revolution"

Rysa Walker is the bestselling author of The Delphi Trilogy (The Delphi Effect, The Delphi Resistance, and The Delphi Revolution). Timebound, the first book in her CHRONOS Files series, won the Grand Prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Her career had its beginnings in a childhood on a cattle ranch, where she read every book she could find, watched Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, and let her imagination soar into the future and to distant worlds. Her diverse path has spanned roles such as lifeguard, waitress, actress, digital developer, and professor—and through it all, she has pursued her passion for writing the sorts of stories she imagined in her youth.

Walker applied the Page 69 Test to The Delphi Revolution and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You still need to find Pfeifer,” Stan repeats. “You just can’t bring him back here. At least not until the other paths close.”

I stare at him incredulously. “What other paths? This isn’t making any sense!”

Stan exhales and turns to Maria. “Show them. It’s easier.”

Then Maria is in my head again, pushing that same scene. The image keeps flipping, flickering, like one of the old movie projectors my hitcher Emily used when she was a teacher. White office building, maybe ten stories high, with tall recessed windows. Construction cones and a barrier emblazoned with the word STOP in bright red blocks the street.

This time, however, Maria doesn’t pull back and things get even stranger. I kind of hear the gunshot again and the scream. At the same time, I also kind of hear the sound of a horn and the squeal of brakes. It’s not that I hear all of these things, layered on top of each other. It’s more that I hear (and don’t hear) the gunshot and the scream. And I hear (but also don’t hear) the horn and the tires screeching on the pavement.

In addition, the video feed, if you can call it that, is split into different layers. Two men in dark suits—one of them vaguely familiar—push a third man toward shelter, but then the group splits into two separate sets of three men. Set #1 pushes the man in the center toward a blue shed between the building and a parking lot across the street. My first thought is that it’s a phone booth or the TARDIS. But since neither of those things currently exist in downtown DC, it must be a portapotty.

The second set of men that split off in the vision dives behind a concrete barrier, which is barely knee-high. But before they can reach it, another shot rings out and the man they’re escorting crumples to the ground.
The Delphi Revolution is the third and final book in my Delphi Trilogy, so I wasn’t sure if page 69 would fit the rest of the book or the series as a whole. In one way, it fits quite well. The excerpt above gives a good sense of the psychic abilities the various Delphi adepts possess and their efforts to defeat the presidential candidate who is fanning public fears of psychic terrorism for his own political gain. So, in that sense, it gives a taste of the overall themes of not just this book, but the entire series.

What doesn’t really come through on this page, however, are the relationships that are as central to the story as psychic abilities and government conspiracies. Anna’s concern for her foster brother, Deo, and for the other adepts--many of them small children--who are in danger through no fault of their own, is really the heart of the book. Stan and Maria, who are featured heavily in the excerpt above, do play an important role in the plot, but they’re more peripheral than the core characters we follow throughout the series.
Visit Rysa Walker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Zero Sum Game"

SL Huang is an Amazon-bestselling author who justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. Her debut novel, Zero Sum Game, is recently out from Tor, and her short fiction has sold to Analog, Nature, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. She is also a Hollywood stuntwoman and firearms expert, with credits including Battlestar Galactica and Top Shot.

Huang applied the Page 69 Test to Zero Sum Game and reported the following:
From page 69:
Camarito was barely more than a truck stop, a ramshackle collection of buildings pretending to be a town. The gas station lighting up Main Street tried very hard to be a travel center and almost made it before giving up.
Page 69 is the beginning of a chapter, so has only about two paragraphs. Unlike some of my other chapter beginnings, they’re not nonstop action, but instead start delving into some character backstory. I’d say Zero Sum Game is about half thriller and half characters I want people to fall in love with, so yeah, I think it is representative!
I sat back and watched the night while Rio went inside to pick up some coffees.
This chapter was, in fact, a chapter I had been looking forward to writing since I started the book, because it gives the first deep taste of who the character of Rio is. And I was tremendously excited to get there.

As it turns out, so are all my readers! Rio is everyone’s absolute favorite character. He’s also a psychopath serial killer. This… makes me slightly worried about my readers.

Oh, and did I mention Rio is sort of my main character’s best friend?
I was never quite clear on where the gray ended and the black and white began, but it wasn’t a stretch to put both Rio and me among the condemned...
My main character Cas also kills more people than is strictly polite. But, you know, she sometimes has feelings about it.

Rio is not the greatest influence on her, but they do make a good team when taking down shadowy global organizations, and Cas will threaten to shoot people who are rude to him, even though he doesn’t care one whit. Their relationship with each other stymies the other characters, who see Cas as redeemable—maybe—and Rio as, well, definitely not.

Cas and Rio also have a mysterious backstory together, and the most common question I get from readers so far is “ARE WE GOING TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THEM IN THE SEQUELS??”

Yes, readers. Yes, you are.
Visit S. L. Huang's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2018

"A Scandal in Scarlet"

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy.

Delany applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Scandal in Scarlet, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“It’s settled then.” I was already looking forward to an entire day off. In the summer too. I normally went to the beach on Sunday morning for a swim, but I never had time to linger. We’d do that tomorrow. Then we’d have lunch someplace charming and quiet and expensive. I’d heard good things about a new restaurant in Chatham. Maybe a drive up the coast in the afternoon. The roof of the Miata down, the salty wind in our hair. I’d like to get a new summer dress, and then we could stop at the Harbor Inn on the way back for drinks on the veranda. Unlikely that Ryan would be free to join Jayne and me at the Blue Water Café for dinner, but it was possible this case would be cleared up quickly and easily.

“I feel giddy at the very idea,” Jayne said.

“Good. Why don’t you go home? I can finish up here by myself. It’s almost nine.”

She glanced toward the sliding door. “I’ll stay a bit longer. I hate leaving the place when people are in it.”

The store began to empty out. “Do you have any ideas, Gemma?” Jayne asked when the last customer had left. Who, I am pleased to report, staggered under the weight of her purchases.

“Ideas about what?”

“About who killed Kathy?”

I shook my head. “I can’t say I haven’t been thinking about it, but nothing stands out in my mind. Although the relationship between her and her ex-husband is interesting.”

“In what way?”

“I think he regrets leaving her. I think his new wife knows it, and she’s angry about it. But I didn’t observe either of them doing anything untoward.”

I counted the day’s receipts and began to tidy up.
At first glance page 69 doesn’t seem terribly important. The murder has happened, the police have been to the scene, and now everyone has left and characters are planning the following day. They are talking about what might have happened, but only as observers. They have no intention of getting involved in the investigation.

But, this is the last page of the first act, if you consider the classic three act structure. The characters are relaxed, the initial drama around the murder has happened. Life is about to go on.

Turn the page, and everything changes. The characters are plunged into an investigation of the murder. All their plans are turned on their head.

At the end of the first act the character has committed to a course of action. She will investigate the murder.

The game is indeed afoot.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"Go to My Grave"

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until 2010, before immigrating to California.  A former academic linguist, she is now a full-time fiction writer, the multi- award-winning and best-selling author of the Dandy Gilver detective stories, set in Scotland in the 1920s.  She also writes a strand of award-winning contemporary standalone novels including Edgar-finalist The Day She Died and Mary Higgins Clark finalists The Child Garden and Quiet Neighbors.

McPherson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Go to My Grave, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the end of a chapter so a very short page:
‘More burgundy, Vicar?’ came Buck’s voice – I think it was Buck’s voice – through the monitor.

‘You don’t do séances as well as the crystals and other claptrap, do you Kim?’ said Paul.

‘What?’ Kim’s voice was strained.

‘Ouija board, maybe? Knock once for yes? We could go straight to the source.’

‘Stop it,’ said Rosalie. ‘How can you?’

‘And I thought this was going to be dull,’ Buck said. ‘You Mowbrays should sell tickets. You’re the same as you ever were.’

‘Shut up, Bu-’ I clicked the switch and silenced them.
Hmmmmm, page 69 is quite representative of the 2018 chapters of the book. (There are 1991 chapters too.) Go To My Grave takes place during a weekend celebration for Kim and Shasha Mowbray's 10th wedding anniversary. Siblings Buck and Peach join Sasha's sister Rosalie, her husband Paul and a few others for what's supposed to be a luxurious short break. Needless to say, it goes sharply downhill, even before the bodies start piling up.

Here someone's listening in on a private conversation and what she hears is Buck mocking his cousins, Peach trying to get him to behave, Paul being dismissive of Kim's new-agey beliefs and making jokes about ghosts, much to his wife's distress. They are a pretty dysfunctional family really.

Also on this page, is something that Go To My Grave has quite a bit of: British sayings. "More tea, Vicar?" is a tongue-in-cheek thing we say if someone drops a clanger at a social gathering. I'm not sure if it was ever said for real to an actual vicar at a tea-party to cover an awkward moment, and it's more usually given a twist into something else now: "More vodka, Vicar?" or "Another line of coke, Vicar?" Far from covering awkwardness, it now draws attention. Typical Buck!
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Girls on the Line"

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated by the attitudes, social policies, and changes in China each time she visits. She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons.

Liu applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Girls on the Line, and reported the following:
I was so excited to see that page 69 of Girls on the Line really gets at the tension and suspense I was trying to build in the story.

The novel focuses on two best friends who have aged out of a Chinese orphanage. By this time, Yun, the more impulsive of the two girls, has gotten fired from her factory job, lost her housing, found out she was pregnant, and fled from the more reserved Luli who told her that her boyfriend is suspected of trafficking women. Yun has just been visited by a detective looking for her boyfriend, and on page 69, Yun tentatively confronts her boyfriend.
“He didn’t want me to tell you he was here. And, Yong, he thinks you’re a kidnapper. He said you make women think you’re their boyfriend—”

“I hope you didn’t listen to any of that! Did you tell them that I’m a driver for someone else? If he’s looking for someone, he should be looking for my boss. He’s the one who runs the business.”

Business? Bride delivery ... or trafficking? I shut it out of my mind. “I didn’t say anything. Just that he was wrong. That you’re with me.”

A tight smile comes to his face. “You really said the right thing. He pats the pocket of his jacket until he finds his keys. “You’re with me.” He holds up the keys, clacks them in his hand. “I’ll go with you to get your things.
Despite a flicker of doubt, Yun has to trust her boyfriend, because she’s gotten herself in a hard place with no one else to help her. This scene underlines one of the main themes that hummed in my brain as I was writing Girls on the Line. As a truly disadvantaged person—by gender, economics, education, social policies, the lack of nurture—Yun doesn’t have the basic resources, not even internal ones, to make good choices. For people who have so much stacked against them, in real life, it’s just not easy to break the cycle.
Visit Jennie Liu's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girls on the Line.

Writers Read: Jennie Liu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"The Kinship of Secrets"

Eugenia Kim's debut novel, The Calligrapher's Daughter, won the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was Best Historical Novel and Critic's Pick by The Washington Post. Her stories have appeared in Asia Literary Review, Washington City Paper, and elsewhere.

Kim applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Kinship of Secrets, and reported the following:
The Kinship of Secrets is told from the alternating viewpoints of two sisters who are close in age and are separated as a result of the Korean War. Inja is raised with relatives in Seoul, South Korea, while Miran grows up with their parents in a suburb outside of Washington, DC. Page 69 is in Inja’s perspective at age eight, soon after the armistice. She and her relatives were refugees in the southern city of Busan, and at this moment are staying at an inn outside of war-torn Seoul, on their journey home. Mentioned on this page is a boy who is Inja’s age, who will later become her boyfriend. Because this is a significant transitional moment, how Inja’s two grandparents, her uncle and aunt have aged during the three years of war is summarized. Uncle returns from checking on their home in the city. He reports it’s still standing, “but someone was living there. There are bullet holes in the walls and dirt is everywhere—broken crockery. Nothing of ours remains, though I can’t recall what we left—some chests and tables.” But they had also left behind their cook and her daughter, and there is no sign of them. “Inja understood they had been lost in the war, like so many others she’d heard about in church and school, and they would never know what happened to them. …There was so much to feel bad about in the war. A few words of prayer helped shift those feelings into the recesses of a busy mind.”
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue