Friday, February 15, 2019

"Rapid Falls"

Amber Cowie is a graduate of the University of Victoria and was short-listed for the 2017 Whistler Book Award. She lives in the mountains in a small West Coast town. Cowie is a mother of two, wife of one, and a debut novelist who enjoys skiing, running, and creating stories that make her browser search history highly suspicious.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rapid Falls, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Maggie wakes up early, stirring around five thirty. Rick is snoring beside me, and for a few moments, I listen to Maggie’s quiet chatter to the stuffed dog she sleep with every night. She is an early riser, but she often wakes slowly, gently sliding between dreams and consciousness rather than abruptly jumping awake, like me. Lately I jerk out of sleep before my dreams are finished, gasping as if the bed beneath me is a sheet of ice-cold water, then wait for an hour or so for Maggie to wake up. I can never fall asleep again after I dream of the river. When her murmurs turn into a call, I slip out of bed and cross the hallway. In the half light of dawn, I see her sweet smile as I walk into the room.

Rick comes out of the bedroom about an hour later. His hair is tousled and his eyes look soft with sleep.

“Let’s go away tonight.”

“What?” I look up from the tower of blocks I am building with Maggie. Only the night before we’d been arguing about my mom’s new plan for Anna. “Where would we go?”

“Griffith Hot Springs? I’m sure your mom could stay over. Maggie, do you want to have a sleepover with Grandma?”

Does page 69 in my hardcover represent Rapid Falls as a whole? I’d like to think that I had planted a small seed of what’s to come on every page, but I knew that was probably not the case as I opened my book to the selected page. Sure enough, as I began to re-read this page I got a bit worried since it was short (the beginning of a chapter) and focused a lot on the sleep habits of a small child. Rapid Falls is not a self-help book for parents seeking more slumber, so I was starting to think that I’d have to say that my skills as a writer had fallen short here, but then, I found this line. I can never fall asleep after I dream of the river. I remember writing that and rewriting that and thinking to myself once I had finished it: this sentence works. It says something about Cara in that moment and hints at something else about her that the reader does not yet know.

So, yes (yay!). Page 69 has a line that evokes everything I hope readers carry with them as they read my novel: a sense of curiosity and dread about the river and why Cara’s dreams are as they are.
Visit Amber Cowie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"What Every Girl Should Know"

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Every Girl Should Know and reported the following:
On page 69 of What Every Girl Should Know, young Maggie Higgins (Sanger) is dealing with the aftermath of a boy’s first attentions. Following his profession of love—and her gentle rejection under the direction of her older sister, Nan—Maggie’s brother weighs in on the scene he’s just witnessed.
“I guess you’re not marrying Walter Kearney, Maggie.” John grinned. “Maybe he’ll ask Nan next.”
Which in turn presents Maggie with another first…the prospect of marriage. Always a looming presence in any 19th century young woman’s life.
“Marry?” I grunted. “Nan and I are never marrying anyone. I’m going to be a doctor, and Nan is going to be a writer.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them. Nan and I might say it all the time. But we only said it when it was the two of us. We didn’t say it out in the general world. Not that Thomas and John were the world, but at the moment—in this moment—they felt like they were. And maybe they were, really. The world kept growing larger, and in comparison, I grew smaller.
Saying our dreams out loud for the first time can be scary. Especially for a 19th century young woman, where even having dreams seemed absurd. As page 69 continues, Maggie weighs her life options…
Miss Hayes rang her bell.

“All girls get married, Maggie,” John said, swinging the hair from his eyes. It was as if he was saying we all die, which we do all die, but first I wanted to live. It wasn’t that falling in love sounded fatal, it was what followed. I wasn’t ready to be someone’s rib yet—I’d barely used my own.

Miss Hayes rang her bell harder.

“Or teach.” He shrugged, glancing over at Miss Hayes.

We walked toward the schoolhouse. Nan and I lagged a few steps behind, like we didn’t want to be too close to them right now. Which, we didn’t. I wanted to apologize to Nan, but I wasn’t sure for what. I took a closer look at Miss Hayes as I passed her on my way inside. Could I be her? I glanced around the classroom. It was better than death, I guess.
Wife. Mother. Teacher. These were Sanger’s only options. And she didn’t like them much, as page 70…and the rest of history attests to.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Once a Liar"

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker, and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family, including Maurice the canine.

Brady applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Once a Liar, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Do you think he knows they’re guilty?”

“I don’t know if all of them are guilty,” Claire responds, “but it certainly seems like they are. Peter once told me that it’s not his job to care if they did it or not. It’s his job to provide them with the best possible defense.” I’m pleased to hear Claire defending me so beautifully.

“A person needs a proper defense. Our whole legal system is based on that notion. Innocent until proven guilty, right? And if the prosecution can’t prove it, then it’s the system’s problem.” Claire knows exactly what to say. I’ve trained her well.
This passage from page 69 of Once a Liar is exemplary of the kind of deviousness and manipulation present throughout the book. Peter, who narrates, is eavesdropping on his girlfriend Claire and teenage son Jamie as they discuss Peter’s career, and the moral flexibility required to defend the seemingly indefensible.

Once a Liar explores the inner working of a sociopath, Peter Caine. How did he end up unable to experience empathy and remorse? Was he made into a ruthless, unfeeling monster, or was it inside him since birth, just waiting to get out? And whatever force fueled this condition, can he ever come back from the dark side?

When the tables are turned, and Peter is accused of a brutal murder, and he looks to be the only viable suspect, will he finally put his dark days behind him, and change his ways? And if he can, will it be too late?

Once a Liar is a psychological thriller that dissects carefully crafted appearances, asks whether we truly know anyone we think we do, and turns the ideas of forgiveness and revenge on their heads.
Visit A.F. Brady's website.

Coffee with a Canine: A.F. Brady & Maurice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"The Ingenious"

Darius Hinks works and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. He spent the nineties playing guitar for the grunge band, Cable, but when his music career ended in a bitter lawsuit, he turned to writing. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the David Gemmell Morningstar award and, so far at least, none of his novels have resulted in litigation.

Hinks applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Ingenious, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Phrater Alzen rushed through the Giberim Temple, his robes snapping behind him. The chamber was a vast sun-drenched octagon, topped with a magnificent, ribbed dome. The emerald-green walls were clad in a storm of copper lattice work, crashing and soaring around columns that reached hundreds of feet to cradle an undulating, honeycomb vault, an ocean of glass tiles, each facet staining the sunlight a different colour, spilling a profusion of reds, golds and blues that flashed across balustrades and walkways before igniting the gilded, mosaic floor, a circle of ceramic flames framing a polished onyx sun.

Another Curious Man rushed to his side, dressed in identical finery and looking equally harassed. It was his old friend, Phrater Ostan. “For God and the Temple,” whispered Alzen.

“God and the Temple,” Ostan replied.
Page 69 of The Ingenious is not very representative of the book. It showcases one aspect – the glorious, imposing, ostentatious nature of its brutal ruling elite (see below) but that’s not the overriding flavour of the novel – most of it is set in slums, brothels and doss houses as our lowlife ‘heroes’ try to halt their moral decline.
Visit Darius Hinks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 11, 2019

"The Secretary"

Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Knight applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Secretary, and reported the following:
When I turned to page sixty-nine I didn't expect to land on such a key scene - one I had struggled with and re-written many times. On re-reading it, I realised too, that it contained moments that are reprised in the final pages of the book - I am not sure I was conscious of that at the time. The exchange between Christine Butcher, the secretary, and Mina Appleton, her employer, encapsulates their relationship. Mina, demanding and careless of Christine's feelings. Christine, unable to say no to her mistress. The more that is asked of her, the more she is prepared to give. In this scene, Mina Appleton's father has recently died and she and her secretary have been working from Mina's home, Minerva. Christine has just brought Mina her lunch on a tray in her bedroom. It is a task that could have been performed by the housekeeper, but Christine insists on doing it herself - her own need to be needed, as always, leading her deeper into Mina's web.
"'I'm so sorry your mother wasn't able to stay on after the funeral, Mina. I suspect you would have liked to have her with you now.'

'God no,' she said. 'We're not close. My mother's a cold-hearted woman. She's never been there when I've needed her - even as a child.' She pushed her tray to one side and looked at me. 'And your mother, Christine. It was cancer, wasn't it? That took her from you.'

My hands started to sweat - the anxiety I always felt when I thought of my mother, soaking into the arms of the chair. I imagine it's still there - my shame absorbed into the deep red plush of Mina's upholstery.

'No.' I felt unable to say more, and perhaps that's what sparked her curiosity. She left her bed to come and sit near me, perching on the stool at her dressing table, and turning to face me. I found it hard to meet her eyes, and looked down, imagining how nice it would be to sink into the thick pile carpet and disappear.

'An accident?' My mother's death was something I never talked about."

"'Yes, it was an accident.'

'Oh, Christine.' I heard the rustle of tissues being pulled from a box, then felt them thrust into my hand. 'Take your time,' she said. '"It might be good for you to talk about it. I thought, perhaps it might. So, I took myself back to the leaves on the pavement. Autumn. Five thirty on a Wednesday afternoon."
The Page 69 Test: Disclaimer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"The Killer Collective"

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Killer Collective, and reported the following:
The Killer Collective is my Avengers: Infinity Wars book, combining the John Rain assassin series; the Ben Treven black-ops series; and the Livia Lone Seattle PD sex-crimes detective series. Distinct characters and distinct universes, so inherently a lot of fun to force them together under a lot of pressure.

Livia just survived an assassination attempt and is now being investigated for her use of lethal force. So page 69 was a nice opportunity to depict a bit of how Livia views the world and operates as a cop.
“This Child’s Play thing,” Phelps said. “Tell me more about that.”

Livia rubbed the back of her neck. She was tired now but still amped from the attack, which in this windowless, fluorescent-lit room was beginning to feel surreal. She’d interrogated plenty of suspects in rooms like this one, asking them the same questions different ways, gradually teasing out the lies. She didn’t know Phelps. Maybe what he’d told her about believing she’d defended herself against an assassination attempt was the truth. Or maybe it had been intended to lull her. After all, whatever semantics the PR people came up with, in the end Phelps was in charge of investigating Livia for a possible homicide. That would be bad enough under any circumstances. For Livia, though, the scrutiny felt worse than uncomfortable. It felt dangerous. She kept her activities compartmentalized—sealed off and far from her everyday life. But she’d read an article somewhere, something about how undersea mountains and trenches exert a gravitational force on the water thousands of feet above them, a detectable force that enabled scientists to map the contours of the deepest seabeds by measuring their effects on the surface. She’d always assumed that what she kept buried down deep was imperceptible to the people around her. But she hadn’t ever pressure checked the notion the way it might be pressure checked now.

She reminded herself that it was natural, unavoidable, for a cop in her position to be anxious. It wouldn’t come across as anomalous or incriminating or anything else.

Okay. She leaned back in the plastic desk chair and looked at Phelps. “You ever get tired?”

“Not when I think someone just tried to assassinate a cop. How about you?”

She had to give him a grudging smile for that. She actually wanted to believe he was sincere. Which of course was exactly what a good interrogator tries to get a suspect to feel.

“Look,” she said. “I want to be clear. I’m not saying the Child’s Play op shutdown had anything to do with tonight, all right? I know there’s a mandatory psych eval after an officer-involved. I’d rather not go into that with people thinking I wear a tinfoil hat.”

Phelps laughed. “I get it. Probably just a coincidence.”

“Exactly.” She was aware that he had fed her the very word she’d used when briefing him earlier. It was that same interrogator’s technique—a way of establishing rapport and eliciting more information. No wonder so many cop marriages failed. Probably every little thing started to feel like a manipulation.

“Still,” Phelps said, “the notion is that, what, there’s a child-porn ring inside the Secret Service, and the FBI contract hacker you were working with”—he consulted his notes—”Trahan, right. And Trahan spotted it because they were using his custom-developed encryption software. And then the Secret Service tried to have you killed as part of a cover-up. Is that it?”

“Those are your words,” Livia said. “All I said was that the timing is odd.”

Phelps nodded. “I think it’ll be more productive to stay focused on rapists you’ve sent away. Scumbags with a grudge.”

Livia tended to agree, but saw nothing to be gained by saying so. “It’s your investigation.”

Phelps’s cellphone buzzed. He glanced at the screen. “It’s the lieutenant.”


He smiled. “Probably checking in to make sure I’m not sweating you too much. Don’t worry, she’s calling me because she knows she shouldn’t be calling you, and this is her way around it. I’ve known Donna a long time. She’d deny it, but she can be quite the mother hen.”

He clicked the “Answer” key and raised the phone to his ear. “Hey, Donna. We’re still at it.” A pause, then, “Look, I broke protocol earlier as a courtesy, but for the rest of the interview, you know I’m supposed to keep the subject sequest—”

Another pause, longer this time. Phelps frowned. “Hey, now, there’s no need for that kind of language. We’re on the same team, even if we have to play different positions. But fine, you win. Hold on.”

He put the phone on the table and pressed the speakerphone key. “Can you hear us? It’s Phil and Livia.”

Livia said, “Hey, LT.”

“Turn on the news,” Strangeland said. “That flight Trahan and Special Agent Smith were on. The red-eye to DC. It went down in Lake Michigan.”
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Livia Lone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 8, 2019

"American Pop"

Snowden Wright is the author of the novels Play Pretty Blues and the newly released American Pop. He has written for The Atlantic, Salon, Esquire, and the New York Daily News, among other publications. A former Stone Court Writer-in-Residence, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wright applied the Page 69 Test to American Pop and reported the following:
From page 69:
…for his infant child. Tewksbury couldn’t have known that the one color of his new country’s flag that was missing from that placard would one day be used for the label of a soft drink that would make his son a millionaire.

Tewksbury carried the child back to Fiona. He didn’t want to think about business ventures right now. He didn’t want to think about omens. He didn’t want to think about his mentor. A celebration was in order! Tewksbury turned to the doctor and said, “Got any more of that whisky?”
Because page 69 happens to be the end of a chapter, those two paragraphs represent the entirety of the page. They also could be said to represent the entirety of the novel.

American Pop is the story of the Forster family, owners of the world’s first major soft-drink company, Panola Cola. The paterfamilias of the family, Houghton Forster, has just been born. In the first paragraph, I used a flash-forward—though, because it’s not a scene, like its opposite, a flashback, perhaps “foreground information” is a better term—to the day Houghton would be made wealthy by his soda business.

Tewksbury, Houghton’s father and an immigrant, notices a placard on which “Space for Rent” is written in alternating red and blue letters. In further foreground information, I note that the label for Panola Cola will be white, the one color of the American flag missing from the placard.

Thus page 69 represents a microcosm of the American dream. An immigrant new to the country has the first inkling of a business that will one day make his son incredibly wealthy. Throughout the rest of the novel, though, I tried to interrogate the idea of an American dream, exploring how it is often merely a story this country tells about itself. American Pop is a story about that story.
Visit Snowden Wright's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 7, 2019

"I Invited Her In"

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000, and since then she's well over a dozen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages.

Parks applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, I Invited Her In, and reported the following:
I tend to build my stories quite slowly, allowing my readers time to become intimately acquainted with my characters and to become invested in them, understanding of them, warts and all. I get a kick from taking my readers on a journey where initially we are gently moseying along together and then bang, I knock the reader off their feet with what I hope to be a surprising event. My structure is such that I then allow my readers to recover, get up, brush themselves off and then crash - once again, another shocking twist. From about a third of the way in, I hope readers believe my novels race along and that I earn the lovely (although grammatically dubious) adjective – unputdownable. I’m gratified when people compliment me on my believable characters, who they may love and hate in equal measures. Characters need time to become real and important to a reader. Since this is my signature structure, I would say page 69 is not representative of the action that is to come. The characters are still circling around one another, they are subtly climbing inside readers’ heads and insidiously shuffling under their skins too. At this point in the book, everything seems relatively calm and straightforward. Page 69 gives little indication of the emotional complexity, shocks and horrors that are to follow in this twisty tale of blistering revenge.

I Invited Her In is narrated from different viewpoints: mostly Mel’s and Abigail’s but occasionally from other characters too as a way of showing the scale and scope of the impact of the revenge, deceit and betrayal. Page 69 happens to be a part of the book when we are seeing things from Abigail’s point of view. She and Mel are having a traditional English afternoon tea together in Shakespeare’s birth town, Stratford Upon Avon. I guess the most representative thing about this scene is that it’s a typical way for best friends to pass a lovely, indulgent afternoon. Thrilling long-lost-friend Abi is offering tired mum Mel some glitz and luxery. Abi is carefully seducing Mel, not in a sexual sense but in that way a glamourous friend can. “Abi had a talent of bathing those she singled out in a unique sense of importance. She knew the power of her intense interest.”
Visit Adele Parks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"The Bridge Home"

Padma Venkatraman lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. An oceanographer by training, she is the author of twenty books for young readers, published in India, on a variety of subjects.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bridge Home, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"Look, this is our place," Kumar replied. "It's okay for you to come here, but you can't bring along every new kid in the city."

"Enough here for us all to share," Arul said.

"Yes, just look at this wealth spreading from sea to shore!" Muthu waved his stick. "Gray gold, I call it."
I don't have a copy of the real book yet, but page 69 on the ARC represents the book quite nicely, except that one of the main characters, Rukku (the protagonist's sister) isn't center stage, though she's central to the story (here, she's sitting beside the rubbish dump on which the kids are working, so she doesn't say anything). What we do see does, however, reveal a lot. Viji, the protagonist, sticks up for herself when a kid from a rival gang challenges her, and we see her friends, Arul and Muthu come to her aide. What they say on that page makes not only the depth of the bond among the four children immediately obvious, it also shows that they're very different characters, and it captures Arul's quiet strength as well as Muthu's ability to find humor in terrible and terrifying situations. It shows, I hope that this book has laughter in it, because it is about courage, survival and hope in the face of poverty, violence and loss.
Visit Padma Venkatraman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 4, 2019

"Kith and Kin"

Jane A. Adams is a British writer of psychological thrillers. Her first book, The Greenway, was nominated for a CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and an Author's Club Best First Novel Award. She has a degree in Sociology and was once lead vocalist in a folk rock band.

Adams applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Kith and Kin, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Kith and Kin finds Henry at his sister’s house, discussing European politics and, more particularly, what is happening in Germany in late 1928, with his brother in law. Cynthia, Henry’s sister, practically raised him after their parents died, she is still a massive influence in her brother’s life.

The character of Cynthia is undoubtedly influenced by the women I grew up around. Aunts and great aunts who had survived the great depression, experienced at least one and often two world wars and who were possessed of great determination, courage and intelligence. They had very little time to spare for men who would not or could not respect that.

I attended an all-female grammar school and the women there were also self-determined, politically and socially aware and tried to instil those values into us. At the time, I probably didn’t appreciate any of this! But I’ve come to understand that I had a number of very important role models, growing up, many of whom would have been contemporaries of Cynthia.

So, how does this scene fit into the book? It’s a pause in the investigation, a time to look at the wider context of the times, to establish political and social structures and to see something of Cynthia’s household and learn both a bit more about Henry’s past and current world events. A page or so later, Henry is on the foreshore of the Thames, examining yet another body and the book is back into investigation mode.
Visit Jane A. Adams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 3, 2019

"The Glovemaker"

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Weisgarber applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Glovemaker, and reported the following:
I wasn’t sure what I’d find on page 69 in the hardback edition. I had visions it might be the end of a chapter with just a paragraph and a lot of white space. To my surprise, it’s a full page that hits most of the plot points along with brief references to the main characters. There’s even a quick reference to snow, an important influence in the story. What are the chances it would all come together on this one page?

As per usual, the action takes place in a kitchen with the main character, Deborah, getting ready to wash dishes. Deborah has helped hide a man who is charged with a felony, and on page 69 she’s convinced that her sister knows what she’s done. Instead, her sister reveals something that further complicates Deborah’s situation.

To my amazement, there are two sentences that speak to the novel’s theme. One is “The air in the cabin was heavy with unspoken thoughts,” and the other is “Michael’s troubled by what goes on here.”

Unspoken thoughts. Troubled. And washing dishes as if that could cleanse the past.
Visit Ann Weisgarber's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Promise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 1, 2019

"Fog Season"

Patrice Sarath is an author and editor living in Austin, Texas. Her novels include the fantasy books The Sisters Mederos and Fog Season (Books I and II of the Tales of Port Saint Frey), the series Books of the Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) and the romance The Unexpected Miss Bennet.

Sarath applied the Page 69 Test to Fog Season and reported the following:
On page 69 of Fog Season, elder sister Yvienne Mederos still has things well in hand. She is having a calm conversation with her butler and her cook, and the discussion around the nonfunctioning dumbwaiter is straightforward and unambiguous. What Yvienne doesn’t know, though, is that the decision taken on Page 69 will lead to all hell breaking loose.

That’s what I loved about writing Fog Season. The characters have some of the information, but never all of it, and they never know what’s about to hit them.

Yvienne tells Albero to bring in the engineers. Poor Yvienne. She’ll soon wish that she let sleeping dumbwaiters lie.
“Well, now is the time for us to act, and Mama had given me instructions. I don’t like the idea of something potentially useful broken. Shall we look into it? Can you have the craftsmen who installed it come and take a look?”

“I will do, miss.”

“Thank you, Albero. And you too, Mrs Francini. I’m looking forward to lunch.”

“Roasted vegetables with anchovies and wine,” Mrs Francini said with immense satisfaction.
Learn more about the book and author at Patrice Sarath's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue