Thursday, February 28, 2019

"The Huntress"

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network and The Huntress. All have been translated into multiple languages. Quinn and her husband now live in San Diego with two rescue dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to The Huntress and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Dad,” Jordan said, gripping his sleeve harder.

The crowd was already carrying them outside. He pulled Jordan along. “What is it?”

Jordan’s tongue dried up. What on earth was she going to do, rip Anneliese’s bouquet to bits on the church steps? What would that prove?

Anneliese’s laughing voice exclaimed behind her: “Jordan, catch!”

Jordan turned at the top of the church steps, and the bridal bouquet came flying into her hands.

“For my maid of honor,” Anneliese twinkled as guests clapped. “The train, Dan, we’ll be late—” There was a whirl of luggage and flying skirts as Dad loaded the cab and Anneliese slid her pocket-book over her arm, and Jordan stood feeling frozen all over again. Because she could feel quite clearly that there was no hard little lump among the stems now. Anneliese must have slid the Iron Cross out before throwing the bouquet.

It must be something very precious, Jordan thought, if she’d risk carrying it today, and only take it out at the last minute.

Or it was never there at all, another thought whispered, and for one horrible moment Jordan thought she was going crazy. Jordan and her wild stories. She’d concocted the wildest theory imaginable out of thin air and jealousy, and this time her mind was furnishing evidence.

But the strap of the Leica reassured her. The Iron Cross had been there; she’d snapped a shot of it. She’d go down to the darkroom the minute she got home, and run the film. Already she was shivering, imagining the black arms of the swastika emerging skull-like through the developing fluid. Proof.

Of what? Jordan thought, staring at Anneliese as Dad opened the cab door. By itself, it’s not proof of anything.

Except that this woman was hiding something.
Page 69 of The Huntress is about as representative as you can get for this book: it's the moment when my young heroine Jordan, on a beautiful summer day in 1946 when her widowed father marries a sweet-spoken Austrian widow newly emigrated to Boston, discovers that the bride has a Nazi war medal tucked like a good luck charm into her wedding bouquet. Jordan has already been feeling like there's something "off" about her father's fiancee, something that doesn't add up...but this is the first piece of solid proof she gets. In the moment when her beloved father has just married this woman and brought her into their family.

What does Jordan do with this information? Order your copy of The Huntress and find out!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"That's Not What I Heard"

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It's Not Me, It's You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink; Confederates Don't Wear Couture; The Date to Save; and Prince in Disguise.

Strohm applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, That's Not What I Heard, and reported the following:
From page 69:
First and second base were gossiping, too. Molly Santos was hovering over at third base, looking desperate to run up to home plate and join in on their conversation. Clearly, Molly knew better than to try to talk to Olivia during practice. Olivia looked behind her to the outfield—there were two of them talking, too. Kim still hadn’t shown up.

“Come on, Wendy,” Olivia growled, annoyed. Were they going to do anything or just stand here chatting? Olivia looked to her right, where she could see the baseball diamond in the distance, close enough that the outfields might have overlapped if William Henry Harrison High ever produced a real powerhouse of a hitter, but not close enough that Olivia could discern anything beyond small figures around the bases. Were they having as many problems over there? Was Coach Mendoza content to let the team spend all of practice chatting, like Coach Finn apparently was?

Olivia was pretty sure it was Teddy over at second base, like always. Unlike Kim, Teddy must not have been distraught enough about his romantic problems to miss practice. Olivia couldn’t believe Kim hadn’t shown up. So irresponsible. The whole point of being on a team was that you couldn’t let the team down. Nothing was more important than the team. Nothing.

Olivia was trying to think of a way she could tell Kim off that wouldn’t result in Mama K forcing them to have a “deliberative dialogue” about dealing with sibling issues in a constructive way. Olivia didn’t want to have any kind of dialogue. She just wanted to yell at Kim.
This section of That's Not What I Heard is from the point of view of Olivia, Kim's younger sister. At the beginning of the book, Kim's boyfriend, Teddy, breaks up with her. (Or maybe she breaks up with him. It isn't clear.) Distraught, Kim runs out of school and disappears for the day, even missing softball practice, which really annoys Olivia, who considers her role as her high school softball team's shortstop to be of utmost importance.

Because the book is from 17 different POVs, no one section can really sum up the whole book, but this really tells us exactly who Olivia is! Softball will always be her first priority, and this scene really plants the seeds that lead to her getting fed up with Kim and all her relationship drama later in the book.
Visit Stephanie Kate Strohm's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Kate Strohm & Lorelei Lee Strohm-Lando.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Right as Rain"

Lindsey Stoddard was born and raised in Vermont. She spent twelve years living in NYC and taught middle school English at MS 324 in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. Right as Rain is her second novel, following the acclaimed Just Like Jackie.

Stoddard applied the Page 69 Test to Right as Rain and reported the following:
From page 69:
And for one second I don’t feel like the only kid who doesn’t understand Spanish and who isn’t wearing navy blue and white, and who gets lost in the hallways, and doesn’t have a locker or any hours of community service. I’m not feeling so much like I don’t belong… And just when I’m feeling like everything might be going OK, we swing open the big doors to the gym and the whole class turns around to look at us…
Page 69 of Right as Rain shows the fish-out-water feeling Rain has after moving from her small town in Vermont to the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City at the end of sixth grade. This is a book about grief and big life changes and transitions and being thrown for a loop and trying to hold on through the discomfort and recognize the teammates you have around you.
Visit Lindsey Stoddard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2019

"Arkad's World"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He lives in Western Massachusetts.

Cambias applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Arkad's World, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Arkad's World is not a major event, but it does show off some of the book's strengths and gives all the main characters a nice scene together.

My heroes — Arkad, Jacob, Ree, and Baichi — are traveling across the eternally sunlit face of the planet Syavusa in search of a spacecraft holding Earth's lost cultural treasures. They have stopped at a remote fuel station run by nonhumans, and Ree claims her ankle is hurt so she can't go on. She insists she can get back to the spaceport without the others; Jacob is skeptical but Arkad is terrified.
"You can't stay here on your own if you're hurt," he said, louder than he intended to. Both adults looked at him curiously. "The Psthao-Psthao will take you."
Baichi, who has an infallible memory, fills in the characters (and the reader) on what the Psthao-Psthao are — beings from an unknown planet who live in caves and tunnels.

Arkad knows something she doesn't: that the Psthao-Psthao take the dead and dying to feed their larvae. He saw them take his mother, and just the thought of them frightens him. He volunteers to stay with Ree and protect her, but that suggestion only seems to irritate her.

I like the scene because all my characters are showing exactly who they are. Jacob is concerned with the mission more than anything else. Ree is working a scheme of her own. Arkad is protective of his friends. And Baichi is detached, unafraid, and can show off her knowledge.

As a bonus, I introduce one of my favorite alien species in the book on this page: the scary and death-obsessed Psthao-Psthao. Though they are mostly an off-stage presence through most of the book, I actually put quite a bit of thought into them, especially their culture and psychology. What would it mean to know that you were born (well, hatched) in a corpse? That someone had to die for you to live? These are beings who don't mind dying themselves, but are horrified by the thought of not being eaten.

So if you like Page 69 of Arkad's World, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the book.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias.

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2019


S. Andrew Swann is the pen name of Steven Swiniarski. He’s married and lives in the Greater Cleveland area where he has lived all of his adult life. He has a background in mechanical engineering and— besides writing— works as a Database Manager for one of the largest private child services agencies in the Cleveland area. He has published over 26 novels since 1993.

Swann applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Marked, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“What do you think he said?”

“‘Wealcan has fallen. They’ll come for you. The shadows are coming.’ That’s what I remember.”


“I don’t know, it might be a word I didn’t understand, but it feels like a name.”

“Can you say it in the original language?”

I had to think hard, as if I was pulling long unused switches in my brain. However, I could still see the old man at my window, still hear his words, and I was able to slowly pull it out, syllable by syllable.

He listened, and finally said, “It sounds like a language to me, though I have no clue what one. Sounds Germanic?”

“I don’t know what to do,” I said quietly.

“Of course you do,” Jacob snapped. It was such a sudden change in tone that I stared at him as if he had just slapped me. He almost glared, and his expression was hard.

“W-what?” I suddenly felt very small and weak, and I felt perilously close to breaking down. After all I had exposed myself in front of Jacob, his disapproval, his scorn would be devastating.

“Dana, you know exactly what to do. You’ve been doing it all your professional life. You’re a cop, and one of the best detectives we’ve got. Act like it.”

All I could do was stare.

“You have twice as much to go on as your Dad did, and you have the luxury of being on paid leave. Follow up on what you do know. Write down that phrase so you don’t forget it, with that and a translation you should have no problem tracking down the language. You have the tattoo on you and John Doe, so you know it’s not unique— there has to be other people out there with the same mark.”

I nodded. Jacob didn’t yet know the difficulty of researching others with the Mark, but he was right about the language, and right in that I had much more to work with than my Dad ever had.

What’s in the box?
Page 69 of Marked shows a dinner between my protagonist Detective Dana Rohan and her partner Jacob Hightower. This is the first time she’s talked with him off-duty. We’re seeing her social anxiety, a major part of her character here. She has this mark on her back that does these paranormal things, and she’s hidden it since she’s been a teenager. This has led to severe self-imposed isolation. This is the first time she’s opened up about any part of that to anyone, and she’s understandably tentative. At this point she’s shown Jacob the mark and told him about the history of her and her adoptive family, but she’s yet to tell him anything paranormal is going on.

This is a major theme of the book. She has this power, a mark that allows her to travel between alternate pasts and futures, and in large part it’s crippled her and stunted her life. She isn’t even able to use the mark to its full potential until she starts opening up and trusting other people.
Visit S. Andrew Swann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"The Night Olivia Fell"

Christina McDonald is an author of suspenseful, emotional thrillers. She is also an avid bookworm and a devoted mother and wife. She was born in Seattle, Washington and now lives in London, England with her husband and two sons, where she enjoys reading, writing, hiking and lifting weights at the gym.

McDonald applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Night Olivia Fell, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I whirled to face her. “When the baby’s born, Olivia will die! So stop harping on about the baby, because that deadline means my daughter fucking dies!”

I shouldn’t have blown up at Sarah. Whatever problems I’d had with my sister, whatever resentment I’d held in my heart, Sarah had always been my rock. Even when my mom was alive, it was Sarah my teachers called if I was sick, Sarah who helped me with my homework. When I was five and got lost when we were picnicking at the beach, it was Sarah I howled for under the hot white sun. I was alone and she ran to me, shouting my name, and I knew I was safe. I never felt that way with my mom.
I think page 69 represents Abi’s internal struggle really well. Because of her traumatic past, she holds people at arm’s length. Even her sister, who’s practically raised her. She’s terrified of being abandoned.

In this scene Abi is scratching at her arms after finding out Olivia is brain dead but the baby might live. Sarah tries to comfort her by talking about the baby, but Abi lashes out angrily because even though the baby might live, Olivia will still die, and this is an impossible situation to comprehend. Abi shouts at Sarah and runs away, later reflecting on how complicated their relationship has always been.

She loves her sister because Sarah has always been there for her and she’s always felt safe with her, but Sarah cannot replace their mother. Even though she doesn’t know it yet, Abi is afraid she’ll lose Sarah like they lost their mother.

This scene shows the depth of Abi’s emotion, how broken she’s been by her past, as well as the importance of letting the love of others heal us and help us. Abi is crippled by her fear of abandonment to the point that she doesn’t allow herself to get too close to anybody. Even her own sister. She knows she’s doing it, and she loathes herself for her actions, but seems unable to stop herself. This scene sets up the internal character struggle and shows how far Abi has to go to find any sort of healing after what has happened to Olivia.
Visit Christina McDonald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

"Dead Is Beautiful"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dead is Beautiful, and reported the following:
Dead Is Beautiful is the fourth in my mystery series about a murdered man and the dead dog he names Rose. In each book my ghosts return to the living world to fight for the meek and the exploited. Along the way, Charlie confronts his failures in life and gets to know his wise, benevolent and often cryptic canine companion. Most of the books take place in or around Los Angeles, from Skid Row to Beverly Hills.

In Dead Is Beautiful, Charlie and Rose are called back to the living world when a protected tree harboring an endangered bird is illegally cut down and he realizes that the one person living or dead he would prefer to avoid, lives next door. On Page 69 the ghosts encounter a homeless woman in the Hollywood neighborhood where Charlie once lived. The neighborhood has been so thoroughly gentrified that Charlie doesn't recognize it. At Rose's urging they follow the woman to a construction site along the Hollywood Freeway where she settles in for a night that will involve her in a horrific crime later connected to a dangerous scheme that will endanger Charle's charm-free brother, and threatens his beloved Rose.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The Stranger Inside"

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the newly released The Stranger Inside. On the lighter side of mystery, Benedict wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to The Stranger Inside and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Did you take this? When?”

“I went by the house. Walked right up to the porch and knocked on the door, and I asked if I could please get some of your things for you. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request, right?” She shakes her head. “What an ass. He acted like I was crazy or something, when we all know he’s the criminal.”

“Di, we don’t even know if he is who he says he is. Kyle’s going to be pissed at both of us. Tell me Hadley wasn’t with you.”

“Oh no. Don’t tell anybody. Especially Kyle. I was trying to help you!” Her eyes are wide, and it’s obvious she wants Kimber to be pleased. In her pale chambray shirt and white skirt, ponytail, simple silver jewelry, and sandals, she’s the picture of summer efficiency and calm. Who knew she had such a stubborn, wild streak? Though what she did seems to strangely fit. She is loyal. Deeply loyal. The realization piles more guilt on Kimber.

“But what did he say?” She’s talked to him. What if they connect in some way? What if he manages to turn her against me?

“Well, to be honest, he wasn’t nasty at first,” Diana says. “Then I told him what I wanted. I only got his picture because I pretended I was getting a call and was sending it to voicemail.”

Kimber’s fear turns into anger. “You’re lucky he didn’t call the police. Or…or he could have let you inside and then killed you or something and buried you in the basement.”

Diana pales. “He’s weird, but I can’t believe he’s dangerous. Do you think he is?”

“Oh God. Kyle’s going to kill me,” Kimber says. “Dragging you into this. Could you tell what he was doing when you got there?”

“He had a laptop open on the table in the hall, like he was carrying it around, I guess.”
I like this page because it’s primarily dialogue between Kimber, the protagonist, and her best friend, Diana. Lance Wilson is occupying Kimber’s house, so she is staying with Diana and her husband, Kyle Christie. Diana has just announced that she went to Kimber’s house, alone, to try to get some of Kimber’s clothes and belongings from Lance Wilson. Up to this point in the book, Diana has been a calm force for good and good sense. Here, we not only get to see the Kimber/Diana dynamic, but that Diana—much to Kimber’s chagrin—can be unpredictable when she’s on a mission. Their relationship is complex, especially because Kimber is hiding so many secrets from Diana. The page is significant in the book because Kimber likes to be the one with the most information, and here she’s been blindsided by Diana’s casual visit to her occupied house. It makes her wonder what else Diana has been doing when Kimber wasn’t paying attention.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2019

"The Martin Chronicles"

John Fried’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Gettysburg Review, North American Review, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. He teaches creative writing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and received his MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers. Prior to teaching, he was a magazine writer and editor in New York, and his work appeared in various publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, New York, Time, and Real Simple.

Fried applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Martin Chronicles, and reported the following:
Page 69 is from the chapter titled “A Rifle is Not a Gun.” In this chapter, Marty, the main character, is 13 years old, away from New York City at summer camp, out of his element in every way. He’s in the middle of a riflery class, deep in the woods, firing at paper targets in the distance. This particular page is when something strange happens – he hits the bull’s eye on his target several times and discovers he might actually be good at this shooting thing. It’s a little bizarre turn for the city boy who has never fired a rifle (or a gun, for that matter) in his life.

This page certainly fits the model of so much of the book: Marty encounters something new or unexpected (about the world or himself) and we watch him respond. In this case, it’s not just the riflery class, but the newfound fame and popularity that go along with doing something well. He’s suddenly the “it” kid that everyone wants to know and hang out with at camp. That’s completely out of left field for him and something he has to reconcile with as a character because there’s an implied power there too. He’s never felt like he’s had much power in his life before.

I really love this chapter because it’s one of the few times we see Marty out of New York City, in a completely different environment. Just putting him there – in the woods, at camp, with strangers – opened up so many opportunities for conflict and drama for me as a writer. At the same time, it’s probably one the darkest chapters of the book. And because the book is set in the 80s, there’s no Internet or cell phones to connect him back to his life. He’s really out on his own, alone, for several weeks and that’s not something that happens elsewhere in the book.
Visit John Fried's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Good Riddance"

Elinor Lipman is the award-winning author of many novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine; one essay collection, I Can't Complain; and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus. She lives in New York City.

Lipman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Good Riddance, and reported the following:
Yikes! Did my subconscious know that I’d be asked to shine a light on page 69 of Good Riddance, so I’d better make it a chapter ending that packed a wallop?

The page is just 16 lines long. My narrator has been coerced into going to a 50th high school reunion, not her own class, but one that her teacher-mother had been overly fond. of. There she meets the now-68-yeaer old valedictorian, who confesses something she’d rather not know.

Every sentence on the page is a reveal, but I can quote one without giving away the store: “I owed Peter Armstrong nothing. I was shaken and deeply sorry I’d heard the possible weighty truth.” All the other lines give too much away, but please know that weighty truths and the embroidery around them can still make for a happy ending.
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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