Monday, December 30, 2019

“And Dangerous to Know”

Darcie Wilde is the award-winning author of the Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, a Regency-set historical mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen.

Wilde applied the Page 69 Test to the new book in the series, And Dangerous to Know, and reported the following:
Page 69 of And Dangerous to Know, is transitional. Two of our main female protagonists — Rosalind Thorne the story’s lead, and Alice Littlefield, her best friend — are quite literally moving from one place to another, in this case via a borrowed carriage.

It’s also a transitional one for the story, because it’s Rosalind’s last chance to back out of what might become a very bad situation. She’s been asked to find some very sensitive letters by the highly place, and highly influential, Lady Melbourne. Those letters involve one of the biggest scandals, and the biggest celebrity, of Regency England, the poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron. Byron has recently had to leave the country. These letters show that Lady Melbourne knew the real reason behind his departure, and that her part would exacerbate the scandal, if it became public. If she takes the job, she risks becoming part of the scandal, if she turns the job down, she risks allowing a murderer to escape justice.

It’s also a chance for a little private conversation between friends about Rosalind’s private life, or lack thereof. Rosalind is trying to make up her mind about her future in more ways than one. During this time period, the limits on what women could do and still remain within the bounds of propriety and gentility were strict. Rosalind has been slowly stepping outside those bounds, possibly to the point of no return. But her gentility is a part of her identity. If she sheds it, who is she? What is she? And where does she fit in the world she has to live in?

So the discussion is about a choice between loves, but it is really a choice between worlds. On this page, Rosalind is, literally and figuratively, choosing where she wants to go.
Visit Darcie Wilde's website.

My Book, The Movie: And Dangerous to Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 28, 2019

"A Trace of Deceit"

Karen Odden is the author of bestselling novels A Lady in the Smoke and A Dangerous Duet.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Trace of Deceit, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Or someone could have switched them afterward, inside the Sibleys’ room,” [Matthew said].

“That’s possible,” I allowed. “Though the forgery would have to be very good for the exchange not to be detected. But why would someone bring in a painting only to remove it again? Wouldn’t that raise the guard’s suspicion?”

“I don’t think so. Someone could have changed his mind,” he replied. “Mr. Pagett told me he often spent hours in the Sibley room, sorting the paintings, placing them side-by-side as he determined what to hang on his walls and where.”

I could imagine that.

“And while an inventory is maintained for each room,” he continued, “the description would probably be brief—something less specific than the one in the auction catalog. So if the inventory listed merely ‘French portrait of a woman,’ one painting might plausibly be mistaken for another. Of course, all those written records were lost in the fire.” He spread his hands. “I know Felix is certain it’s the original, but if Mrs. Jesper’s painting were a forgery, how could you tell?”

I smoothed my napkin again and laced my fingers on top of it. “The difference can be something as minute as a variation in the shape of the signature or the placement of it. Merely a quarter of an inch to the right or left can give it away. But Edwin would say the signature is easy to mimic. It’s more difficult to reproduce the precise way a painter wraps the canvas around the bars, and the length or weight or roundness of the brushstrokes, or the tone of the painting.”

He looked dubious. “That sounds rather intangible.”

“I suppose, but even a layman can usually detect the difference when the two are side by side.”
On page 69 of A Trace of Deceit, Annabel Rowe and Inspector Matthew Hallam sit together at a teashop, tentatively beginning to collaborate and to propose some possible explanations for why Annabel’s brother Edwin was killed and how a priceless French painting that was ostensibly burned in the Pantechnicon fire years before has reappeared and then been stolen. Their tea-table is cluttered with tea and coffee pots, cups and saucers, and plates of scones and sandwiches, some hanging over the edge—much as the mysteries of Edwin’s death and the painting at this point seem cluttered with details that don’t form a coherent whole. In this moment, Matthew sketches a potential logic, and Annabel responds; she suggests another possibility, and he counters. The tea things move around the table and the dialogue flows back and forth. And then Annabel explains that if the stolen painting is a forgery, it is possible to tell by particular details, thus proving to Matthew (and the reader) that she is valuable to his investigation. She is, at heart, searching for truth, as is he. They are, literally and metaphorically, at the same table, although she drinks tea and he prefers coffee. So, yes, in many ways this page is representative of how Annabel and Matthew have their differences but will work together well in subsequent scenes.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 26, 2019

"Nietzsche and the Burbs"

Lars Iyer is a Reader in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, where he was formerly a longtime lecturer in philosophy. He is the author of the novels in the Spurious Trilogy, and more recently the widely acclaimed Wittgenstein Jr.

Iyer applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Nietzsche and the Burbs, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Questions for Miss Lilly: How long will the polders hold back the ocean, miss? What about the dikes? How long do you give human civilization in general, miss? Do you think the end will come gradually, or all at once, miss? How many people do you think will survive the catastrophe, miss? Do you think there will be cannibalism, miss? It’s going to be bad—very bad, isn’t it, miss?

We don’t inherit the Earth from our parents, but borrow it from our children, that’s what they say, isn’t it, miss? Do you ever feel it’s your fault, miss—climate change? You and your generation? Do you ever want to repent, miss—cover your head with ashes?

We have to downshift, don’t we, miss? We have to transition out of our lifestyles. No more four-by-fours ... no travelling by car ... no flying overseas ... We’ll have to do without pilot lights, won’t we miss? And we can’t let the water run when we brush our teeth. And we should piss while we shower—isn’t that the idea? And we’ll have to recycle even harder, won’t we miss? Go ever more local...

Really, we have to cull the population, miss—it’s quite clear. There should be a tax on babies, miss. On people who live alone. We should agree to sterilization, shouldn’t we, miss? In fact, we should just do away with ourselves. That might solve it, miss.
My characters, older teens in the last year of school, are convinced that the world as it stands cannot be redeemed. They’re drawn to apocalypticism – to the hope for the destruction of the present world. At the stage of the novel represented by the text on page 69, they welcome approaching climatic and financial catastrophe, and the resultant dissolution of current social and political norms. As such, their geography teacher Miss Lilly’s calls for geoengineering, recycling and ecological awareness fall on deaf ears. Let it all come down is their watchword. Let chaos break forth, let the floodwaters rise and the apocalyptic beasts be released…

My characters will end up nurturing other kinds of hope, notably in the music they perform together in their band, Nietzsche and the Burbs. They go on to affirm a love of fate – of the senselessness of chaos – that, they hope, will transform the suburbs and perhaps the world, too. But it is really in their friendship that they show their greatest hope. Who would they be without each other, and without their enigmatic lead singer, Nietzsche?
Visit Lars Iyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 23, 2019

"Dead Blow"

Lisa Preston turned to writing after careers as a fire department paramedic and a city police officer. She is the author of the highly acclaimed, best-selling novels, Orchids and Stone and Measure of the Moon and the Horseshoer Mystery Series. She is also the author of several non-fiction books and articles on the care and training of dogs and horses.

Preston applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Dead Blow, the second Horseshoer Mystery, and reported the following:
Cracking Dead Blow open to page 69 finds the intrepid horseshoer Rainy Dale on the job in rural Oregon. She’s just spent the day shoeing horses at the remote end of a ranch owned by her new client, Donna Chevigny, whose husband died in a suspicious accident a year ago. This is the second day of a two-day shoeing job at the remote site, and little wisps of clues and red herrings to the central mystery abound. Rainy and Donna are now on horseback very near where the man died. Rainy is sending her dog to gather cattle from federal land bordering the ranch so that the herd is brought back onto the Chevigny ranch.

A dangerous bull is pastured in one of the two ranch fields that adjoin the federal grazing land. The three pastures come together at a run-through shed, but opening one gate lets the other wire fences sag. If the bull escapes his pasture, he will likely charge the horses Rainy and Donna are riding. Rainy’s dog Charley runs back and forth, working from both sides of all the fencing as he necessarily has to give the cattle he’s moving space at times. The bull charges the dog. Rainy shouts a warning and sprints her horse for the shed where she needs to close the main gate to tighten the fencing. Rainy’s hokey language, partly an act and partly a product of her upbringing, is present even in her thoughts as she notes she “didn’t exactly feel like I was about to run out of horse”—a compliment to the animal’s fitness.

Happily, Dead Blow’s page 69 is solidly representative of the novel. I’m looking forward to doing the Page 69 test on next year’s Forging Fire, which is all about the dog.
Visit Lisa Preston's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Blow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 21, 2019

"The Network"

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. When editing her work, she loves to procrastinate by spending time on social media, and when stuck on a plot twist has been known to run ideas by her Silver Labrador and Golden Retriever who wish she would stop working and play ball with them. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Shaw applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Network, and reported the following:
From page 69:
His face is expressionless as it was when he first picked us up, and I wonder at his lack of affect. I have an urge to reach out and poke him, try to provoke a reaction. But of course, I don’t. I make my face a mask and follow along with everyone as if this is the most natural thing in the world. We are led to an elevator and line up to go down in groups. No one speaks while we wait our turn.
This page is from a chapter from the point of view of Maya, a young medical student who is beginning an internship at The Institute, a secluded campus in upstate New York. Her story runs parallel to the main story in The Network but takes place in the early seventies. So it is not directly representative of the book as the two main characters, Jack and Taylor, are in present time, however, her story sets the backstory for what is happening in the present. The antagonist, Damon Crosse, is seen in both the past and present narratives.
Visit L. C. Shaw's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson.

Writers Read: L.C. Shaw.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 19, 2019

"The Ninja Daughter"

Tori Eldridge is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. She holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do Ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Eldridge has performed under her maiden name (Tori Brenno) as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film.

Her debut novel, The Ninja Daughter, is the first book in the Lily Wong series and was inspired by her debut short story featured in Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2014. Other short stories have been published in several anthologies, and her screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist place for the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Eldridge applied the Page 69 Test to The Ninja Daughter and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Got it covered. But thanks for calling.”

Baba chuckled. “Your mother hired a caterer for the evening.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. French cuisine. Dinner’s at seven, but she’s planning cocktails at six.”

Holy crap! I checked the time: five thirty. “Sounds great. I’ll see you soon.”

I ended the call and tapped the phone against my forehead.

How could I be so stupid? I was just about to sprint to my bike when I heard the garage door opening. Tran had returned. I did the math: thirty miles from Van Nuys to Arcadia would take three hours by bike, two hours by Metro rail, or forty-five minutes by car. Even if I yanked Tran out of his BMW, stole it, and drove now, I’d be at least fifteen minutes late. Five more minutes wouldn’t make a difference.

I took out the tracker. I had made my decision.

As Tran paused in the driveway, waiting for the garage door to raise, I shouldered my backpack. No matter what happened in the next thirty seconds, I would need to run, either for my bike or for my life; I wouldn’t have time to collect any possessions.

When the car rolled forward, I fell in behind and attached the GPS tracker under the bumper behind the wheel well. If the car had moved just a little slower, I could have darted away before it stopped. Instead, I got trapped on the side of the car. If I ran, the sensor would trigger, the door would stop, and I’d get caught. If I hid until he entered the house, I’d have to open the garage door to escape, and he’d know someone had been there. Since neither option appealed, I dove above the sensor lights at the floor of the garage and rolled onto the driveway.

I half expected gunfire to riddle the metal and tear into my flesh before the garage door finally closed, but that didn’t happen.
Page 69 is a perfect representation of The Ninja Daughter because it incorporates both action and family, which is exactly what you can expect from fast-paced mystery about modern-day ninja with Joy Luck Club family issues.

My ninja warrior sleuth, Lily Wong, is in a dicey situation with J Tran—the dangerous person of interest in this scene—when she receives a phone call from her father. Lily needs to plant a tracking device on Tran’s car, and her window of opportunity is shrinking. This page features two of the most prominent characters in the book: the mysterious and lethal J Tran and Lily’s beloved North Dakota Norwegian father. There’s even reference to her Hong Kong mother, who is featured heavily in the novel.

And to make this page even more perfect we see that Lily moves around Los Angeles via bike, Metro, and rideshare. The fact that she considers yanking Tran out of his car let’s us know that she doesn’t have one of her own. This begs the question: How does “a heroine for the #MeToo era” (Library Journal starred review) rescue and protect the women of Los Angeles without a car?!

There’s a wealth of character and plot information hidden in this page that even includes an example of ninja skill and awareness when Lily dives over the garage sensor and rolls out of sight.

And to top it off, the page ends with Lily “half expecting gunfire to riddle the metal and tear into my flesh before the garage door finally closed.” Perfect!
Visit Tori Eldridge's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"All That's Bright and Gone"

Raised in the Detroit suburbs, Eliza Nellums now lives with her cat in Washington DC. She is a member of Bethesda Writer's Center as well as the Metro Wriders, a weekly critique group that meets in Dupont Circle.

Nellums applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, All That's Bright and Gone, and reported the following:
This is the page where we first meet Mac, an ambiguous character in the rest of the book. My protagonist Aoife (who is a six year old girl) thinks he's pretty fun, but the reader is suspicious because of the reactions of other characters. Is this page characteristic of the rest of the book? Well, it opens a new chapter so I only had a few paragraphs to work with, but we got some childhood nostalgia (the Penguin Palace, a real life ice cream parlor in Maumee, Ohio) and some childish enthusiasm - "The ice cream drips down the front of my dress, but Uncle Donny doesn't even get mad. He teaches me how to suck it out of the bottom of the cone like a straw!" - so I'd say yes. Like most of the book, we have a sense that things are simmering under the surface that our narrator doesn't quite understand, or even necessarily notice. But hopefully that just makes the reader more alert. They have to be, because Aoife and Teddy are pretty focused on the ice cream.
Visit Eliza Nellums's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 16, 2019

"A Small Town"

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of over twenty novels, including the critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series, Forty Thieves, and The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar Award. He lives in Southern California.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Small Town, and reported the following:
I do think that page 69 of A Small Town is representative of the rest of the novel. Leah Hawkins, the highest ranking surviving police officer of the small town of Weldonvillle, Colorado, has taken on a mission. Two years ago the town was destroyed by a break-out at the federal prison outside town. Twelve men planned and directed the break, setting over a thousand violent convicts loose to terrorize and destroy the town. All of the inmates were recaptured except the twelve. All are murderers. Leah takes a leave of absence and goes after them alone. She uses the money from a federal grant intended to rebuild the police department in order to find and kill them.

On page 68 Leah is in Naples, Florida, where she believes her first fugitive, Albert Weiss, will be. She thinks that after two years of freedom he will be nearly out of money, and that to get more he will do what he's always done, kidnap someone for ransom. Because he hasn't got any allies here, he will have to work alone, which means finding the easiest of targets, a child or a rich young woman who has been drinking. On page 69 Leah has found a potential victim, a young woman passed out in her convertible behind a bar. She watches her victim, regretting a little that she's found her because she can't leave her and search other places for Weiss. On the bottom of page 69, she sees a car pull up in the lot and a man get out and walk toward the unconscious victim. She realizes after a moment he is Albert Weiss. This is typical of Leah's actions in the book. She uses her two-year study of the escapees and her twenty years of detective experience to think her way into the presence of each killer.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Jacqueline Firkins's "Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things"

Jacqueline Firkins is a writer, costume designer, and lover of beautiful things. She's on the fulltime faculty in the Department of Theatre & Film at the University of British Columbia. When not obsessing about where to put the buttons or the commas, she can be found running by the ocean, eating excessive amounts of gluten, listening to earnest love songs, and pretending her dog understands every word she says.

Firkins applied the Page 69 Test to her new YA rom-com, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, and reported the following:
On page 69 in Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, Edie and Henry are fighting about Henry’s lax attitudes around love and relationships. We get a glimpse of Mansfield, and how Edie doesn’t fit in with her wealthy, polished surroundings. Edie’s repulsed by Henry. Henry’s intrigued by Edie. We sense a growing tension that may shift from hate to something more complex. The page represents several main themes/storylines in the book: the search for confidence when we don’t fit in, the difficulty of finding meaningful love in a disposable, live-in-the-moment society, and a growing awareness that everyone’s more complicated than their first impression might imply. The only thing missing to fully represent the book is a pun.
Visit Jacqueline Firkins's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona.

My Book, The Movie: Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 13, 2019

"The Truth Is"

Raised in the Boogie Down Bronx, NoNieqa Ramos is an educator, literary activist, and writer of “intense” literature. She wrote the young adult novel The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary.

Ramos applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Truth Is, and reported the following:
From page 69:
the peel. So Danny and I think we’re hilarious and set it on the stairs.

“So where were you this morning? Your ears are pierced.” I estimate 120 dollars’ worth of piercings from a homie who may have raided the janitors’ closet. Blanca and I did the research.

“Yeah.” He has wooden plates inserted into his ear holes. “Buddy of mine owed me a favor. Did it for free. But I had to do it this a.m.”

“Free? Except for the cultural appropriation, I like them.”

Danny blinks in surprise.

“So a buddy, huh? You and Blanca. She tried to DIY a tattoo once by reading a prison blog.” Ms. Trial-and-Error was planning on piercing her nose by hand and I was like hell to the no.


I said her name. Out LOUD.

“Is she in homeroom?”

Yeah. No. Yeah. “She’s not here.” Not on the stairwell. At the moment. Mostly. “Anyway, tats and piercings were her thing.” Gonna be her thing. “She was into fashion. Costumes, actually. Girl loved petticoats. Other girls walked around in shorties and tank tops. She walked around in the summer with a parasol. She always said she didn’t belong—” to this time.

“What’s your thing?”

“I love the suspenders. And the hats: bowler, Panama, fedoras. I could tie a Windsor knot like nobody’s business. Britches are badass.” Wait. The correct answer was I build sets.

“I can just see the two of you.”

“Actually, you couldn’t. Because Blanca had the cojones to walk through the barrio with a Victorian touring hat. She wore her personality on her sleeve. My personality ... is kind of stitched into a secret pocket.”
On this page we start with a reference to a banana peel being left on the stairs. A recurring private joke that’s shared among the Underdogs--Verdad and her new friends who are LGBTQIA+ and homeless-- is the banana. The banana is also featured in the art work and that’s because my book points it finger at the patriarchy and argues that gender identity should be fun and playful--not painful and assigned by patriarchal power structure.

The convo that follows is between Verdad, my fifteen-year-old protagonist who is recovering from the mass shooting death of her best friend Blanca, dealing with PTSD, and her love interest, transboy Danny. Danny has skipped school yet again, and at this point in the book, Verdad doesn’t know that he’s homeless or that her newly-evolving queer sexual identity may also subject her to the same fate.

Verdad has a big moment with Danny when she speaks Blanca’s name aloud for the first time since the funeral. Danny’s the first person she’s beginning to open up with and trust with her pain. They both have a lot of secrets to uncover before they truly understand each other. Verdad says, While Blanca “wore her personality on her sleeve. My personality … is kind of stitched into a secret pocket.”

Verdad talking about drama and costumes is connected to the whole theme of identity in the book and the idea that teens should be able to safely and joyfully try on different identities as they explore who they really are.
Visit NoNieqa Ramos's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 12, 2019

"When the Stars Lead to You"

Ronni Davis grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she tried her best to fit in—and failed miserably. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology, she worked in insurance, taught yoga, and became a cat mom.

Now she lives in Chicago with her husband Adam and her son Aidan. By day she copy edits everything from TV commercials to billboards, and by night she writes contemporary teen novels about brown girls falling in love. When she’s not writing, you can catch her playing the Sims, eating too much candy, or planning her next trip to Disney World.

Davis applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, When the Stars Lead to You, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?

On page 69, Devon has her second run in with Ashton after he’s come back into her life after ghosting on her two summers ago. Naturally, she’s in kind of a tailspin, and every time she seems him, the whirl of emotions grow more intense.
Longing and
anger and
desire and—
She’s so angry at him, while also consumed by her memories of their summer together. She’s fighting her desire for him, despite remembering how much hurt her before.
His voice had deepened slightly since that summer. I hated that it still gave me chills.
Devon struggles with her feelings for Ashton throughout the book. She loves him so much, but she’s fights with determining if he is good for her or not. Based on that, I believe page 69 is absolutely representative of the book.
Visit Ronni Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: When the Stars Lead to You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Down the Darkest Road"

Kylie Brant is the author of more than forty novels, including Cold Dark Places in the Cady Maddix series, the Circle of Evil Trilogy, and the stand-alone novels Pretty Girls Dancing and Deep as the Dead. A three-time RITA Award nominee, five-time RT Award finalist, and two-time Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Brant is a member of the Romance Writers of America, including its Kiss of Death mystery and suspense chapter; Novelists, Inc.; and the International Thriller Writers. Her books have been published in thirty-four countries and have been translated into eighteen languages.

Brant applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Down the Darkest Road, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“A man named Bruce Forrester was also locked up at that time.” Cady took a picture of Forrester from her pocket and slid it across the table to Gosch. “Do you remember him?”

He tapped the photo once. “Yeah. Yeah, I do. Mostly ’cuz I heard ‘bout what he done later. Killing that kid and all. Knew at the time there was something wrong with him. Did he molest that boy before he killed him?”

Cady blinked. “Why would you ask that?”

Gosch leaned forward, lowering his voice. “There was this other guy in here at the time. Byrd. He was kept isolated. I figured he done something big, but then one of the guys said he was one of them pedos.”

“A pedophile?”

“Yeah. There were just a few of us in there until late the next night when a whole shit ton of people got hauled in. Jailers shifted us around some, but Forrester, he asks to cell with him.” Gosch sat back, gave her a knowing look. “Forrester is one of them guys you give a wide berth. The rest of us waited, expecting a bloodbath. Ain’t no one got time for a pervert like Byrd, and we figured Forrester would half kill him before the jailers could separate them.”

That was the impression Cady had formed of the fugitive as well. “But he didn’t?”

Gosch shook his head slowly. “Nope. Whole time they was in there, they had their heads together whispering. Just talking real low, like the best of buds. Only thing I could figure was Forrester might have the same interest in little kids that Byrd did.”
Page 69 has US Deputy Marshal Cady Maddix tracking down fugitive Bruce Forrester on a recent kidnapping warrant. In this passage, she’s interviewing a county inmate who was jailed at the same time as the fugitive years earlier. Gosch’s conclusion about Forrester doesn’t pan out, but his revelation does connect to how Forrester has been making a living all these years. And it’s critical to Cady’s growing suspicion that the key to finding the man is buried in his dark past.

Five years ago, ten-year-old Dylan Castle and his friend went into the woods one night and stumbled onto Forrester in the middle of a crime scene. Dylan survived; his friend did not. Dylan and his family have moved from place to place to stay one step ahead of Forrester. Cady is afraid that the boy is the reason the fugitive has remained the area. But to find him, she’s first going to have to figure out what happened in the woods that night. The closer she draws to the truth, the more danger she’s in. Cady has to find Forrester before he discovers where Dylan is hiding. And she has to stay alive long enough to save them both.
Visit Kylie Brant's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"The Revisionaries"

A. R. Moxon is a writer who runs the popular twitter handle @JuliusGoat. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Moxon applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Revisionaries, and reported the following:
From page 69:
To him, Bailey was his relation. He didn’t realize that Yale had been her boyfriend. He had no idea his two managers even knew each other before they became colleagues—a misapprehension those two encouraged. No, I doubt Ralph gave Yale a passing thought when he made the hires.

But Donk and Bailey sure gave Yale a passing thought. For them, their new jobs were less a hire than an infiltration. I suppose you could say seeing brother and lover murdered affected them a bit, as regarded their feelings toward Ralph Mayor.


It’s nearly dark, and thus far the expected trouble hasn’t arrived. Donk’s closed down the store early, which is a tricky bit of business. You have to come up with a cover story the gangs will believe; Donk decided to claim an internal audit, requiring the manger’s presence. Now they’re by the checkout lanes, pretending to count cash and confabulating. Even so, Bailey frets; there’s always the worry that news of an unauthorized closing will get back to Ralph. They also have to worry about whoever might be on the way.

Donk, being Donk, sees opportunity where Boyd sees only danger. In fact, Donk seems to be ready to shoot some crazy angle, seems to detect some hope that they’ve finally come near the end of their long vengeful road.

The problem with getting Ralph is all the bodyguards. You can’t fight your way into Ralph’s retirement villa. Survival of the fittest? Ralph’s bodyguards are the fittest who survived. Even if you could sneak a weapon past their jealous eyes, you still have Ralph, old, but tough and mean. The odds of prevailing with a shiv against Ralph are not strong, and even then, there would be a bad death afterward. No way to fight past that shrewdness of apes; their paunches hide impenetrable mounds of muscle, they possess a frequently indulged taste for cruel deeds. They know their way around ordnance and cutting edges and brass knuckles, they knew where nerves cluster, they knew where to snip to make your ligaments give way like cables, unroll your muscles inside your skin.

What we need, Daniel is fond of repeating, is an army to go get the bastard. He has the unified gangs, sure, but his tenuous authority over them comes to him from Ralph. No good. He needs another army.
The difficulty in saying whether or not page 69 is representative of the whole is that the whole is comprised of 4 distinct parts, each of which become more fragmentary as the book progresses into revelations I'd rather not mention. However, as page 69, which occurs in Part 1, deals with three of our characters navigating the impact of new intrigues upon long-standing intrigues, it is at least representative of that part.

There is one way at least, however, that page 69 is representative of the whole, and that is that it features a change in mode. We switch from a character named Tennessee, speaking in first person (to an as-yet unrevealed party) about the events that are happening in present-tense Part 1, before swapping over to the events Tennessee is recalling, and a third person omniscient voice. As the book progresses, this shifts will (one hopes) take on greater and greater depths of meaning for the attentive reader. And hey, even if they don’t, they sure will be in there, so I’d say that page 69 is a very … oh let’s say nice … representation of the novel as a whole.
Visit A. R. Moxon's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Revisionaries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"The Penmaker's Wife"

Steve Robinson is a London-based crime writer. He was sixteen when his first magazine article was published and he’s been writing ever since. A love for genealogy inspired his first bestselling series, the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mysteries, and he is now expanding his writing to historical crime, another area he is passionate about.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Penmaker's Wife, and reported the following:
I think page sixty-nine of The Penmaker’s Wife (my eighth published book to date) is very representative of the rest of the story. I can’t share much of it with you, unfortunately, because it contains some pretty big spoilers. Angelica Chastain is the lead character, and here we see her dark side for the first time, which is something that builds throughout the remainder of the book. On page sixty-nine Angelica is telling her confidante what she did in London before she fled to Birmingham with her young son, William, and about some of the terrible things she’s done since as she set out to make a better life for him. While some dark deeds are revealed on page sixty-nine, however, I wanted the reader to feel some sympathy for Angelica, rather than condemning her for her actions, asking what he or she would have done in her situation, which was very dire indeed. Page sixty-nine is also part of a section that reveals a big twist, of which The Penmaker’s Wife has many.

Here’s how the page ends:

‘You see,’ Angelica said, ‘I’m a monster, and I’m sorry I lied to you before, but how could I have told you all this when we first met? You would not have wished to know me then.’
Visit Steve Robinson's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Steve Robinson.

My Book, The Movie: The Penmaker's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 6, 2019

"No Man's Land"

Sara Driscoll is the pen name of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan, authors of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries and the FBI K-9s series.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their latest FBI K-9s novel, No Man's Land, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“If we can match COD on both victims, I’ll be able to make it happen. This may be too soon, though. You know most tox results take four to six weeks to come in,” said Craig.

“Do you think it will be an impediment if we can’t tie together COD?” asked Meg.

“Maybe. Maybe not. There are enough similarities in the unique body dump sites with victims that I can make a case for the potential of a common killer. Let me make some calls.”
Page 69 of No Man's Land finds the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team just as they are beginning to realize the case they’re working on may involve serial deaths. It’s representative of the rest of the book in that it’s the gateway for the team taking control of the case.

After unexpectedly finding a body while out enjoying an afternoon of urban exploration—the exploration of abandoned or nearly inaccessible man-made structures, also known as urbex—in Maryland, FBI K-9 handler Meg Jennings and the rest of her team are suspicious of the death, recognizing they’ve found the elderly victim in a challenging location she could not have reached on her own. After looking into past disappearances of older persons, they wonder if they’ve found a victim connected to a much bigger case. But after a second victim goes missing in real time, Meg and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk, and several other team members follow the clues in an attempt to save the victim before it’s too late. The search leads them to the shuttered Pennsylvania industrial facility of Bethlehem Steel, where, sadly, they find another deceased senior.

When Meg presents the situation to her superior, FBI Special Agent-in-charge Craig Beaumont, he takes it upon himself to find a way to not only link the deaths, but to claim jurisdiction of the case due to the murders occurring across state lines. More than that, he will ensure the case becomes his responsibility, allowing his teams to investigate all related disappearances.

It’s clear the victims are alive when they are abandoned in the condemned buildings. Now, if they can put the clues together fast enough, the team might just be able to find the victims in time to save their lives and end this murderer’s gruesome spree.
Learn more about the FBI K-9 Novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

"The Lammisters"

An author and arts journalist, Declan Burke has previously published crime novels, including Slaughter’s Hound and the award-winning Absolute Zero Cool. The Lammisters is a comic novel. Although set in Prohibition-era Hollywood, it is influenced by Irish comic novelists such as Laurence Sterne and Flann O’Brien.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to The Lammisters and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Lammisters is fairly typical of the novel overall, in large part because it is ridiculous to a fault. The Bartley we meet is Bartley McGuffin, who is the personal secretary to one Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who has journeyed to California in the hope of encountering chorus dolls and movie stars of questionable morals. As we meet him, Bartley has managed to insult Felicia Fortesque, the confidante of Vanessa Hopgood, Hollywood’s most shimmering star; in consequence, Felicia has whipped out her derringer, and is threatening to fatally dispatch Bartley should he utter so much as one single further syllable:
The mind, to paraphrase the immortal Milton, being of its own place, wherein can be devised a hell of heaven, and a heaven of hell, Bartley’s thoughts now wander from his current predicament in a phenomenon that will be familiar to those readers who have found themselves in immediate danger of going the way of a quasi-aristocratic bounder in a Chekhovian third act, i.e., his life flashed before his eyes.

Alas, your humble narrator is obliged to report that said mental two-reeler proved a considerable disappointment to Bartley McGuffin, consisting as it did of a series of sliced drives, duffed niblicks and two-foot putts sent trickling downhill past the hole on the right-hand side. Ironically, the image that jerked Bartley out of his maudlin reverie was that of a ball he had driven straight and true the best part of two hundred and seventy yards down the fairway but which had come to rest nestling in the shadowy recesses of a temporary drain the groundskeeper had neglected to mark GUR. The blend of rage and despair that had accompanied Bartley’s belated understanding that his was a pointless existence lived as a microscopic speck in what was at best a blindly indifferent and at worst mindlessly hostile universe returned now to enflame Bartley’s instinctive fight-or-flight response, and he raised his gaze from the derringer’s pitiless muzzle to meet the equally merciless stare of Felicia Fortesque. And it was now that Bartley McGuffin dug deep, mining a hitherto unsuspected seam of courage, fortitude and grace under pressure, and there found, just when he needed it most, the wherewithal to give vent to a provocatively defiant sniff.
Page 69 combines a number of elements which feature in The Lammisters: most of the characters are devoted to the noble Scottish art, i.e., golf; all of the characters find themselves adrift in a story which has been abandoned by a hapless aspiring author, and are thus living pointless existences in a blindly indifferent universe; and the language employed is exactly what you might expect when a verbose narrator attempts to cobble together a story abandoned by his author, and especially when that narrator seems to know everything that is worth knowing about Western civilisation’s canon of literature – except, that is, how to write a clear, concise sentence.
Learn more about the book and author at Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

Writers Read: Declan Burke.

My Book, The Movie: The Lammisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 2, 2019

"Mercy Road"

Ann Howard Creel writes historical novels about strong female characters facing seemingly impossible obstacles and having to make life-changing decisions. In her 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. In The Whiskey Sea, a fierce young woman becomes one of the only female rumrunners on the Atlantic Coast during Prohibition. And in While You Were Mine, a New York City nurse must give up the child she has raised as her own during World War II.

Creel applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mercy Road, and reported the following:
From page 69 (with a few paragraphs before and after included, so that it makes more sense):
The next day, Cass and I took a taxi to automobile supply houses and procured the necessities and tools for all three ambulances. The doctors had trusted us to stock the vehicles and equip them for anything we might encounter on the roads ahead. After we’d dragged back or arranged deliveries for everything we needed, we took a couple of hours to visit Notre-Dame, the gardens of the Tuileries, and Napoleon’s tomb.

Eve had apparently tired of Kitty and Lottie’s company, or maybe she wanted to see more of France’s sights instead of its shops, because she asked if she could join us. A diminutive blond whose freckles covered her face all the way to her hairline, she could’ve passed for a schoolgirl, although she was twenty-three, like me.

As we walked the boulevards and parks, Eve tended to fall a few steps behind us, and I couldn’t figure out if she liked to lag behind or if she lived for the most part in her own world. She had purchased a small Paris guidebook, and she read as she tagged along.

I could’ve remained on the Pont Neuf for hours looking down at the smooth flow of the river that calmed my nerves about the date coming up that night, but we had much still to see, and we also purchased postcards to send home.

We took a taxi to Montmartre, where Papa had told me the artists congregated, but a waiter informed us that the artists’ turf had moved to the cafés of Montparnasse. Therefore we splurged on another taxi and headed to Café de la Rotonde, which according to Eve, Pablo Picasso frequented. There, Eve finally joined the conversation. “Did you know that when the Tuileries gardens first opened to the public, they barred some people? No beggars, lackeys, and soldiers.”

“Heavens,” I said.

“What are lackeys?” asked Cass.

“I think it’s the service class, such as servants and footmen,” Eve answered.

“Footmen?” Cass asked, then chuckled. “Maybe yesterday’s footmen are today’s drivers.”

I laughed. “Yes, perhaps we wouldn’t have been allowed. But I don’t understand banning soldiers.”

Indeed, the American soldier in France commanded a lot of respect. Whereas the French and British soldiers often appeared war-weary, like haggard ghosts of themselves, the American soldier wore a clean uniform and polished boots and smoked prized American-made cigarettes. He knew he would encounter danger, but he kept everything light with jokes and laughter. Other soldiers looked up to him, girls flirted with him, and children followed him around.

That thought swept me away for a while, the American soldier Captain Brohammer on my mind. I had guessed his age to be about thirty-one or thirty-two; he seemed like a youngster to have already reached the rank of captain. His dashing appearance made me think of Swedish warriors, and I could imagine him in a former life slaying dragons and sea serpents with a shining sword. My hands started trembling, and I put them under the table in my lap. I hadn’t gone on a date since high school.

Cass’s groans brought me back to the moment. Eve pointed at her guidebook and told us that France had always been a war zone. She talked about Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and Joan of Arc. “This part of the country has been the site of sieges, marches, battlegrounds, and the war camps of France’s enemies going back to the beginning of recorded time.”

Cass looked around the café. “Does anyone have some paper?” she asked the air. “I seem to have wandered into a class on French history, but I forgot paper, and I need to take some notes.”

I held my breath, but Eve, a good sport it turned out, only smiled and continued talking.

Cass held up her hands. “Wait a minute. Are you always like this?” she asked Eve.

“Most of the time,” Eve answered.

Turning to me, Cass said, “If we ever have to ride doubled up, she’s going with you.”

I laughed.

Eve wove her hands together on the tabletop and leaned in. To Cass she said, “If you and I ever have to ride doubled up, I’ll do the driving.”

I liked this girl.

Cass gave a little whoop. “Not on your life.”

“I’ll wager I’m better.”

“Behind the wheel?” Cass shook her head. “What foolish fancy.”

“Speaking of fancies, do you race?”

Cass paled, obviously astonished. “Are you challenging me to a race?”

“Now, girls,” I interrupted them, but the smile wouldn’t leave my face. I hadn’t shared a laugh with friends in a long time.
This scene is typical of the lighter tone of the book before these ambulance drivers reach the war zone, and later, the front lines. I hope you enjoy it.
Visit Ann Howard Creel's website.

The Page 69 Test: The River Widow.

My Book, The Movie: Mercy Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 1, 2019

"Don't Tell the Nazis"

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of over sixteen picture books and novels. In 2013 she won the Silver Birch Fiction Award for Making Bombs for Hitler and the Red Cedar Award for Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Don't Tell the Nazis, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I stepped from behind the bush and walked toward the voices.

The Germans who weren’t from Germany: Volksdeutsche refugees. A few were tossing loose soil from a mound onto what looked like a freshly turned garden. Other shovels were neatly piled to the side.

Most of the Germans were calmly sorting through mounds of clothing. Shirts here, jackets there, hats there. As a shirt was picked up and shaken out, then folded, I couldn’t see a bullet hole, and there was no blood. All of the clothing seemed undamaged. But where were the Jewish men?

And then I noticed a familiar face—Frau Schneider, but her daughter, Marga, wasn’t with her. Frau Schneider was picking through the clothing along with several men and one other woman. One of the soldiers who had been handing out shovels yesterday stood among them, giving orders. They all seemed so calm, just concentrating on sorting the clothing.

So these people had been sent out here first to dig what looked like a garden ready for planting, and then they were sorting clothing? Very odd. And what would they be planting in the middle of the woods?
This excerpt is a good representation of the growing realization of what the Nazis are really up to. Days before this, the townspeople of Viteretz had been relieved by the arrival of the Germans in June 1941 after living under brutal occupation of the Soviets since September 1939.

They think the war is over.

But this scene shows that is these Nazis are not not the civilized Germans the townspeople were expecting, and that the war is far from over: it has just taken an unimaginably horrific turn.
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 28, 2019

"Age of Legends"

James Lovegrove is the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Odin. He was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1998 and for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2004, and also reviews fiction for the Financial Times. He is the author of Firefly: Big Damn Hero with Nancy Holder and Firefly: The Magnificent Nine. He lives in south-east England.

Lovegrove applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Age of Legends, and reported the following:
Ironically, page 69 of Age of Legends features a sex scene. I swear I did not plan it that way for the purposes of some metatextual “69” joke. In the original manuscript the scene crosses from page 57 to page 58. The pagination in the published novel is, obviously, different because the typesetting is different.

The sex scene is not gratuitous. Neither is it terribly sexy. It’s certainly not romantic.
The participants are the story’s antagonist Derek Drake, who is the extreme right-wing Prime Minister of a near-future United Kingdom, and a Russian TV journalist, Tatjana. She has just interviewed him for a Russian television news network, and they have then nipped upstairs at 10 Downing Street for some very athletic bedroom-related recreational activity.

Tatjana is, as it happens, a “gift” from her country’s president to Drake, a token of appreciation. Both Drake and President Vasiliev are political hard men and they share similar views on immigrants, gay people, and so forth. One might even suspect, if one was being particularly cynical, that Vasiliev helped Drake get elected.

Drake, it should be noted is married. For the sake of balance, it should also be noted that his wife Harriet isn’t much better when it comes to respecting their nuptial vows. She is conducting an ongoing affair with the head of Drake’s private security force, Major Wynne.

Do I have a very low opinion of politicians? You decide!
Visit James Lovegrove's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"A Pure Heart"

Rajia Hassib was born and raised in Egypt and moved to the United States when she was twenty-three. She holds an MA in creative writing from Marshall University and her short fiction has appeared in Upstreet, Steam Ticket, and Border Crossing magazines. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and two children.

Hassib novels are In the Language of Miracles and the recently released A Pure Heart.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Pure Heart and reported the following:
From page 69:
The next morning, Gameela snuck out of the apartment before anyone woke up—an easy feat in a family that slept past ten on weekends. She needed to walk the Cairo streets at the time she loved them most: early on a Friday morning in October, when the summer’s heat had finally subsided, replaced by a crisp breeze just cool enough to sting her nose, when the sprawling city was mostly still sleeping. Stepping out of the apartment building and onto the street and, crossing it, reaching the promenade that bordered the Nile, Gameela felt refreshingly clean, as if she had just stepped out of the sea and under the shade of an umbrella, like she loved to do when they used to vacation in Mersa Matruh years ago. She walked slowly down Saraya El-Gezira Street, occasionally glancing at the Nile below. Watching a boat float down the river, Gameela took a deep breath in and waited for that familiar sensation to fill her, the one that she got whenever she, as a child, strolled by the Nile with her father—the feeling of blissful belonging, an anchored identification with all that surrounded her: not only the running water, but also the Cairo dust that rendered everything a dull shade of gray, the suffocating heat that often prevented her from pursuing this same walk, the chaos of the streets crowded with peddlers and taxicabs and donkey-drawn carts and Mercedeses all maneuvering around each other with skill that decades of coexistence bred.

She could not believe how easily Fayrouz was giving all of this up, how easily she was leaping into a marriage that would inevitably take her away from her country.

She could not believe how easily Fayrouz was giving her family up.
This page is certainly representative of one of A Pure Heart’s main themes: the theme of home, of how attached we get to the physical places we inhabit, and of how some people can transplant themselves through immigration while others can’t. The novel tells the story of two sisters who fall on opposite sides of that spectrum: Gameela, a young woman with a deep sense of national and religious belonging, and Rose, whose name was Fayrouz before she changed it, and who marries an American and immigrates to the United States, a move that damages her relationship with her sister in ways she spends the entire novel trying to unravel.

What this page specifically touches on, though, is how much place affects our sense of belonging. Gameela’s description of her surroundings shows an attachment to them that is so essential to her identity that she cannot understand her sister’s choices outside of the parameters of place: immigration is an uprooting, a tearing away from a physical home and from the family we leave behind there, and for Gameela, this is unthinkable and inexplicable. This section stands in dialogue with several other sections from Rose’s point of view, where we get to see how she builds her own relationship with the new places she calls home, and how she views the places she left behind when she immigrated. Together, these parts pose some of the novel’s central questions: How much of our identity is tied to our home and our country of birth? And what happens when immigration forces us to redefine home?
Visit Rajia Hassib's website.

The Page 69 Test: In the Language of Miracles.

Writers Read: Rajia Hassib.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 25, 2019

"Starship Alchemon"

Christopher Hinz is the author of seven novels. Liege-Killer won the Compton Crook award for best first novel and was nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. He has written screenplay adaptations, short stories and a graphic novel, as well as scripting comics for DC and Marvel. His latest publications are the novel Starship Alchemon and the co-written novelette Duchamp Versus Einstein.

Hinz applied the Page 69 Test to Starship Alchemon and reported the following:
Starship Alchemon presents ten intelligences – nine human and one AI – on a mission to investigate an “anomalous biosignature” on a distant planet. Included among the crew are a troubled psychic, a narcissistic researcher and an increasingly unhinged bridge officer.

What could go wrong?

Here is Page 69 in its entirety. The scene occurs between the psychic, LeaMarsa, and the mission’s tech trainee, Alexei, in the Alchemon’s versatile natatorium. Multiple story purposes are served. LeaMarsa’s emotional disconnectedness is spotlighted as are the repercussions of Alexei’s earlier, less-than-subtle sexual advances. The location also serves as our introduction to a locale that all too soon will play a pivotal role in the ship’s troubles.
The male voice emanated from the water and was followed by a loud splash. She ambled back to the rim, stared at the two figures swimming toward her.

Alexei Two Guns hopped from the pool and shook his head, sending a fine spray of water from reddish hair styled unfashionably long like her own. The tech trainee was a bit taller than LeaMarsa. Slim and deeply tanned, he was naked except for a yellow crotchpad.

“We need a third for waterball,” Alexei said, gesturing to Faye in the water. “Come in and get wet.”

“No thanks.”

“Don’t think about it, LeaMarsa. Just do it!”

Alexei was pleasant enough, but she didn’t understand how a person could be so relentlessly exuberant. And since yesterday he seemed to be hanging around her an awful lot, pushing her toward doing physical exercise with him.

Did he want more than that? Sex? She couldn’t be sure. His intentions remained unclear. Odder than that, they seemed to have come out of the blue, as if he was following some mandate rather than his feelings.

Yesterday, during a random encounter in the updeck corridor near her cabin, he’d complimented her for wearing a simple skirt and blouse. The apparel, outputted from a PYG receptacle, was a generic ensemble she’d selected from among the thousands of fashion templates stored in the primary genesis complex. It wasn’t even smart clothing. As usual, and against PYG’s recommendation, she’d chosen the nano-free option.

Alexei had seen her dressed in such attire since the outset of the voyage and had never before said a word, which made the praise all the more bizarre, as did his subsequent proposal...
Visit Christopher Hinz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2019

"The Other Windsor Girl"

Georgie Blalock is an amateur historian and movie buff who loves combining her different passions through historical fiction, and a healthy dose of period piece films. When not writing, she can be found prowling the non-fiction history section of the library or the British film listings on Netflix. Blalock writes historical romance under the name Georgie Lee.

Blalock applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Other Windsor Girl, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Vera didn’t have the resources to enjoy this life to the full, but to be a small part of it even for a short time, to perhaps meet someone who might help her achieve her dreams or forget her disappointments, proved irresistible. Nothing still might come of it, but for a while she could enjoy herself and finally prove to her mother—and to herself—that she was more than a disappointment, that she was someone worthy of notice. She could finally find some benefit in the freedom of being single. “I’d love to come.”

“Good, then it’s settled.”

Vera had no idea what was settled except that she was going to do something that might, with any luck, bomb her old life to smithereens like the Luftwaffe had done to great swaths of London. She’d craved change when she’d followed Rupert to the Dorchester. She might just have it.
Page 69 of The Other Windsor Girl is the end of chapter four when the heroine Vera decides to take a chance on becoming a member of the Princes Margaret’s Set, Princess Margaret’s group of young aristocrats and socialite friends. This decision changes her life. She will no longer be the overlooked Honorable Vera Strathmore but eventually become second lady in waiting to Princess Margaret and spend the next ten years living a life she never could have imagined possible. Through her association with the Princess, she will gain the respect and purpose that she’s been struggling to find since the end of World War II and that has eluded her, especially in her writing career. Everything will change for Vera after this chapter as she embarks on a friendship with Princess Margaret and becomes part of her world. Vera enjoys opportunities and experiences she could never have imagined and gets a good look at the less than glamorous side of royalty. This page is the heart of the novel and the beginning of Vera’s journey to discovering herself and what she really wants out of life.
Visit Georgie Blalock's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Other Windsor Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 21, 2019

"Upon the Flight of the Queen"

Howard Jones’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (2011), was widely acclaimed by influential publications like Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, made the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Release of 2013 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He is the author of four Pathfinder novels, an e-collection of short stories featuring the heroes from his historical fantasy novels, The Waters of Eternity, and the new novel from St. Martin’s, the second in a new fantasy series, Upon the Flight of the Queen, the followup to For the Killing of Kings, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to Upon the Flight of the Queen and reported the following:
My trilogy is centered on a heroic order of champions who discover a terrible conspiracy in their midst at the same time an invasion is underway. Naturally I assumed a page 69 test would take me to some of my protagonists unravelling one of several mysteries, or engaged in some swashbuckling action, but what I discovered instead was the madness of their queen, Leonara. In the first book of the trilogy, the queen’s mostly off-stage, and apart from one scene, we only see the terrible results of her choices. Come book two she’s sometimes center stage, and on page 69 Leonara is letting it be known just what she intends to do with her newfound powers. I dare not reveal that, for fear I’ll spoil book one, but suffice to say that she has far too much faith in her own intellectual superiority, and has surrounded herself with yes-women and yes-men eager to curry favor. On page 69 one of them is starting to suspect the queen’s vision may well lead them to disaster and dares suggest a proposed course of action might be premature. The queen’s responses, and those of her closest subordinate, go a long way toward showing us just how dangerous Leonara’s going to be to our protagonists over the course of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Howard Andrew Jones's website.

View the animated book trailer for Upon the Flight of the Queen.

Writers Read: Howard Andrew Jones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


JP Gritton’s awards include a Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellowship, a DisQuiet fellowship and the Donald Barthelme prize in fiction. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Tin House and elsewhere. His translations of the fiction of Brazilian writer Cidinha da Silva are forthcoming in InTranslation.

Gritton applied the Page 69 Test to Wyoming, his first novel, and reported the following:
The top of page 69 reads, “I think I must’ve half wanted it to go south.” Shelley Cooper, the construction-worker-by-day/drug-runner-by-night who narrates my novel Wyoming, has just invited a lady of the evening to join him in his hotel room. In some ways, this invitation is exactly what the book is about: the manner by which we subconsciously participate in the disasters of our lives.

Before this point, Shelley’s progress through the book has been a series of dumb ideas. He steals an air compressor (dumb idea). Later, to help his best friend pay for chemotherapy treatments, Shelley agrees to drive fifty pounds of Colorado high-grade down to Houston (dumb idea). He has some dumb ideas about the money he gets for his trouble, which comes padlocked in a stainless-steel briefcase.

There isn’t a lot of me in Shelley, but this much we have in common: sometimes I get the feeling that I am the casual viewer of a TV show about self-sabotage. Bad idea, I’ll think. Don’t do it! And then?

The next line reads, “I smiled to watch her blow inside—this time I hadn’t bothered fastening the chain—smiled even if there was a sweet sad voice in my head, ringing like a bell: You will regret this, it went, you will regret this, you will regret this.”
Visit JP Gritton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wyoming.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 18, 2019

"Life and Limb"

Jennifer Roberson has a BS in journalism with extended majors in British history and anthropology. She spent her final semester in London on an American studies program as an adult student in 1982, and while there, two days after her 28th birthday, received a telegram (pre-email!) from her agent informing her DAW Books had bought what became Shapechangers, the first in her Chronicles of the Cheysuli fantasy series. Her collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott, The Golden Key, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. In addition to the new Blood & Bone series, she has published eight Cheysuli novels, the Sword-Dancer Saga (#8 to come) and three of four volumes in the Karavans universe. The second volume in Blood & Bone is Sinners and Saints, scheduled for publication in March of 2021. Hobbies include showing dogs, and creating mosaic artwork and jewelry. She lives in Arizona with a collection of cats and Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

Roberson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Life and Limb, and reported the following:
Life and Limb is the first volume in an ongoing urban fantasy series about the End of Days, and two perfectly ordinary young men who are strangers to one another have been conscripted to join the heavenly host in a battle against Lucifer’s spec ops troops: demons who now inhabit characters and creatures from fiction, history, myths, legends, and folklore. But the angels have agendas, and Gabe and Remi—an ex-con biker and Texas cowboy—must also come to grips with the unwelcome discovery that they themselves are not after all entirely human, even as they climb the steepest of learning curves in an attempt to save the world.
“It will come,” Grandaddy said. “It’s a process.”

I shook my head. “We have lives. Hell, I just got mine back. You can’t expect us to walk away from everything.”

Grandaddy’s voice took on an edge unlike anything I’d heard from him before. My skin itched, and I stared at him in shock. He was doing something again.

“That’s exactly what I expect, Gabriel. This is the End of Days I’m talking about, with the fate of the world at stake. Everyone born of heaven must answer this call, if we’re to succeed. Is it a sacrifice?—of course it is. But there is nothing in your lives that is of greater importance than this.” His eyes were steady. “You have never disappointed me. Don’t do so now.”

I looked for compassion. Found none. “What about our families?”

Grandaddy didn’t even attempt to hedge. “I said we could massage things. Well, I have massaged the minds of your parents and brother. They believe you are in prison finishing your sentence.”

“But that’s only six more months.”

“And your father’s reaction once you’re out? Would you be welcome in his house?”

After a long moment, I said no. Because I remembered what my father had said, even if he didn’t because of Grandaddy’s brain massage. That night on the porch, as I rolled my bike out of the garage, felt like a death-knell. My mother stayed inside, and kid brother Matty was probably out getting high.

“And what would you do, Gabriel?”

“Get on my bike and head out. Maybe for good.”

Grandaddy nodded. “Well, we will free you of that. They will remember no hostilities, only that you are on the road. And so you are free to do your duty without interference for however long it takes.“

I glanced at the cowboy, looked back at Grandaddy. “What about him?”

“Remi is traveling the world undertaking research for the book he plans on writing. And he may, from time to time, call home to reassure his parents. But the calls will show overseas locations, nothing in this country. You, on the other hand, may drop postcards to your mother. Your father’s a son of a bitch, but she is a worthy woman.”

And there it was, all tied up in a neat little bow. The present. Our futures. An explanation for it all.
Page 69 is representative of the book in that Grandaddy is laying out their futures, and their stakes in that future. It's the end of the world, which is the main plot-driver for the series. The introduction to their new lives is not well-received and sets up internal conflict as Gabe and Remi learn they must sink or swim.
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--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"An Equal Justice"

Chad Zunker studied journalism at the University of Texas, where he was also on the football team. He’s worked for some of the most powerful law firms in the country and invented baby products that are now sold all over the world. He has wanted to write full time since he took his first practice hit as a skinny freshman walk-on from a 6’5, 240 pound senior All-American safety — which crushed both him and his feeble NFL dreams.

Zunker is the author of the David Adams legal thriller, An Equal Justice, as well as The Tracker, Shadow Shepherd, and Hunt the Lion in his Sam Callahan series. He lives in Austin with his wife, Katie, and their three daughters.

Zunker applied the Page 69 Test to An Equal Justice and reported the following:
Page 69 of An Equal Justice consists of a scene where David Adams, our hero, follows an old homeless man named Benny—who has just saved David’s life from a mugging—deep into the woods of East Austin. Benny is taking David to see his home for the first time. This scene is one of the most pivotal in the entire book. It’s David’s first exposure to a secret homeless community called The Camp, where David meets many others like Benny. Soon after this scene, David begins to feel caught in between two worlds—the wealthy and powerful, and the poor and outcast. This tension leads him toward a dramatic climax as David tries to unravel a dark and sinster conspiracy at his law firm.
Visit Chad Zunker's website.

Writers Read: Chad Zunker.

--Marshal Zeringue