Saturday, March 30, 2019

"Beautiful Bad"

Annie Ward has a BA in English Literature from UCLA and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She has received a Fulbright Scholarship and An Escape to Create Artists residency. She lives in Kansas with her family.

Ward applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Beautiful Bad, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I took a deep breath and glanced at Joanna, who was glaring at him with such naked hatred that I suddenly felt nervous. On my last visit it was hugs and laughter between them. Something had gone rotten.

Joanna slumped there in her metal chair, moving her bracelets up and down her arm. When had she become so withdrawn and remote? So tight and coiled like a tiny, poisonous, gorgeous snake. Oh, and her eyes. Olives and almonds. Reptilian.

Suddenly I was very unhappy. We’d been so close. We knew everything about each other. It was starting to feel like that was no longer the case.

Joanna’s eyes rolled up and took in the table. Me, hunched and looking grief stricken for no apparent reason. The men, bloodied, pleased and preening. And then she was back. She stood and said, “I’m going to go dance.” It was clear that she was not asking me to come with her.

And dance she did, by herself, while everyone watched.
In this scene, we are witnessing the beginning of the end for both a friendship and an affair. Two American women are seated at a table with three British soldiers who have just been in a bar fight in a shady nightclub in Eastern Europe.

It’s truly representative of the book as the core of the story in Beautiful Bad is a toxic love triangle and in this scene, all of the key characters are present.

The woman speaking is Maddie, and she is describing her best friend Joanna, who has become suddenly and suspiciously distant. The man who Joanna is looking at with “naked hatred” is Ian, a British soldier both women met recently. Joanna has been having a secret affair with him and the romance is in its death throes. She suspects that his interest has pivoted to Maddie and is not happy with either of them. Jealousy and grief are starting to evolve into hatred and vengeance.

Maddie, who is admittedly smitten with Ian, has only the slightest suspicion that anything is going on between her best friend and the soldier who has been flirting with her all night.

The twisted attraction between these three risk-takers who are each damaged in their own way will ultimately come to a fatal conclusion.

In this scene there are three broken people but only one murderous psychopath.

You have to hear their story in order to understand who it is.
Visit Annie Ward's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2019

"The Last Year of the War"

Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, and As Bright as Heaven, among other novels.

Meissner applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Last Year of the War, and reported the following:
The Last Year of the War is a work of historical fiction narrated by the main character, Elise Sontag. She is the American-born daughter of German immigrant parents interned during World War II and then repatriated in January 1945 to Germany in a prisoner exchange. But it is more than just Elise’s fictional story; it is representative of hundreds upon hundreds of real German immigrant parents and their American-born children who were incarcerated in the US during the war based on little more than fear and suspicion. They were never convicted of a war crime nor had they ever declared themselves loyal to the Nazi regime, but they were nonetheless looked upon as the enemy and then treated as such.

This book allows us, as it allowed me when I was writing it, to consider how we look at people who are ethnically not just like us. Do we look at them as mere slices of geography or as humans first before anything else? Page 69 of The Last Year of the War, aptly underscores what it feels like to be told “This is who you are to me no matter who you really are.” Elise, who was born in Davenport, Iowa, and never lived anywhere else, is with her family and other German Americans and Japanese Americans is at a train station. They are all headed to Crystal City Family Internment Camp in a remote corner of southwest Texas. She is fourteen on this summer day in 1943. Elise is American through and through, except for her parentage, and doesn’t even speak German, but ever since her father was arrested six months earlier, she feels less and less sure she knows who she is. Here’s a quote from page 69 from her viewpoint:
We must have made quite a visual tableau, a dozen happy families speaking different languages crying tears of relief into each other’s necks and being led by local police and armed INS agents from one platform to a second one. Other travelers gape at us. Some clearly understood who we were and rewarded us with cold stares; others appeared unsure and therefore were warily curious. The window shades had been lowered on this other train to keep out the scorching sun, but also to remind all of us in our car – it was full of other families bound for the internment camp – that we were not vacationers on a pleasure trip. We were detainees who could not be trusted to see where we were headed or to be seen.
Visit Susan Meissner's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Susan Meissner & Bella.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"Finding Katarina M."

Elisabeth Elo grew up in Boston, attended Brown University, and earned a PhD in American Literature at Brandeis University. She has published scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as Walt Whitman and Cinderella, and her essays and Pushcart-nominated short stories have appeared in a variety of publications. Elo worked as a magazine editor, a high-tech product manager, and a halfway house counselor before beginning to write fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Finding Katarina M., and reported the following:
From page 69:
find life-sized stuffed mammoths, whatever they are. And there’s a khomus museum, the only one of its kind in the world!”


“I’m sure you’ve seen one, Nat. It’s that metal instrument that people hold against their lips, and then they pluck a reed that vibrates at different speeds? Apparently, there are a lot of excellent khomus players in Yakutsk. And did you know that our own President Abraham Lincoln was quite a good khomus player himself? He’s even featured in the museum’s Hall of Fame!”

“Gosh. I didn’t know that, Mom.”

“See? There’s always so much to learn about a place.”

I sighed, knowing I was beat. Vera would never forgive me if I left Yakutsk so fast. In a few days, maybe she’d see things differently. After she’d had a little more time to prepare herself psychologically for what she would probably experience as a personal rejection, though I would do my best to talk her out of that.

“Okay. You made your point. There is a lot to see here,” I said, trying to work myself into the tourist spirit.

Vera paused. “Are you sure you’re okay with this? It’s not too much to ask, is it? A few more days, just to be sure there hasn’t been some simple mix-up that will be straightened out soon?”

“It’s fine, Mom,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense to have come all this way just to turn around and go home. And who knows—I may get a call from Lena tonight.”

“I hope so. I truly do.”

“So do I. Now you take it easy, okay? No traipsing up and down the halls in the middle of the night.”

“You make it sound like I’m out on safari.”

“Love you, Mom.”

“Oh, Natalie. I love you, too.”
Finding Katarina M. is about an American woman who travels to Russia to find her estranged grandmother, only to find herself in some unexpected and very dangerous situations. It’s a dark, thriller-ish story, but it does have its lighter moments, and this is one of them. In this scene, Natalie, the protagonist, has gone to the Siberian city of Yakutsk to meet her aunt, who is supposed to take her to see her grandmother in a remote village. But the aunt didn’t show up at the airport to meet her as promised, and she isn’t answering her phone. Natalie is flummoxed. After doing everything she can think of to contact her aunt, she reluctantly decides to return to the States. She breaks the news to her invalid mother, Vera, over the phone. Vera is terribly disappointed. She convinces Natalie to stay in Yakutsk a little longer by touting the charms of the city—the Permafrost Institute, the Mammoth Museum, and, on this page, the allegedly world famous Khomus Museum.

There really is a Khomus Museum in Yakutsk. I went there myself, and it’s true that Abraham Lincoln is in the museum’s Hall of Fame. I was a bit startled when I saw his stern, familiar photograph on the wall of esteemed khomus players!
Visit Elisabeth Elo's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie.

My Book, The Movies: Finding Katarina M.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

"My Lovely Wife"

Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where she is furiously typing away on her next thrilling standalone.

She applied the Page 69 Test to My Lovely Wife, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of My Lovely Wife contains part of Millicent’s backstory. She is the title character, though not the narrator. Everything we know about Millicent is told through her husband. On this particular page, Millicent is telling him about her childhood and specifically about her older sister. I think it is a decent representation of the book overall, because it all contributes to Millicent being who she is. That is, of course, My Lovely Wife!
Visit Samantha Downing's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2019

"The Liar's Child"

Carla Buckley is the author of The Good Goodbye, The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a best first novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Wharton School of Business, and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and three children.

Buckley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Liar's Child, and reported the following:
The Liar's Child is told from the perspectives of four narrators, and page 69 finds us hearing from Sara, the novel’s main protagonist. We’re at the beginning of Chapter 12, and Sara’s up to something. So far, we’ve learned that Sara (which isn’t her real name) is a reluctant participant in the federal Witness Protection program for crimes as yet unnamed. She’s been driven across the country, dropped at a seedy apartment building on the North Carolina coast, and given a job cleaning beach rentals. Right now, it’s late, and Sara’s been waiting for the rest of the apartment residents to settle down for the night. We follow her as she quietly sneaks down to the courtyard, and over to her own car. She’s brought tools with her, and goes to work.
Sara waited for the people working the third shift to drift across the courtyard to their cars and drive away before she quietly let herself out of her apartment. It was just before midnight. The partiers were still out. She figured she had maybe an hour before they returned, tires squealing and music blaring out of car windows, searching for anything that might extend the party. The last thing Sara wanted was some amped-up drunk stumbling over and calling out, Hey, baby.
This scene captures Sara’s central conflicts—the one she knows about (chafing at the federal restrictions she’s under) and the one she doesn’t know about (the children who live in the apartment next door, who are about to make an appearance.) It reveals her ability to focus on the task at hand, her sheer grit and determination in achieving her goals, and hints at her vulnerability—the parts of herself she ignores and therefore doesn’t quite understand. She’s a keen observer of other people, but she never asks herself the same hard questions. Consequently, we wonder at her reliability as a narrator. How can we trust someone who can’t see the entire picture?
Visit Carla Buckley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"All the Wrong Places"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

Fielding applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, All the Wrong Places, and reported the following:
All the Wrong Places is about four women, all of whom are checking out various dating apps, unaware that a serial killer is also browsing these sites, looking for his next victim. Chloe, one of the four women, has just discovered her husband is listed on these sites and on page 69, she is preparing to confront him. While this page isn't representative of the more "thriller" aspect of this book, it is perhaps more representative of the concerns of the book as a whole, and is, in my opinion, every bit as suspenseful.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

My Book, The Movie: All the Wrong Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"A Dangerous Duet"

Karen Odden's interest in the Victorian era goes back to her New York University doctoral dissertation, which explored how the medical, parliamentary, and literary representations of nineteenth-century railway disasters helped to create a discourse out of which Freud and others fashioned their ideas of “trauma.”

Her first book, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today Bestseller and won the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona award for eBook Fiction.

Odden applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dangerous Duet, and reported the following:
Page 69 ends a chapter, so it’s a short page, with a sentence that begins on page 68:
Yes, Sebastian was physically powerful enough to inflict this sort of injury; I’d seen his taut body arc and somersault in the air and watched him catch his sister, bearing both her weight and his with only one hand. But from what I’d seen, the two of them seemed intensely protective of each other. Wasn’t the trapeze act itself a testament to the trust that was between them?

But perhaps it was precisely that—an act, with the trust merely an artifice that vanished offstage, like Amalie’s French accent.
Somewhat to my surprise, this short page is fairly representative! One important theme in the novel is the interplay between on-stage and off-stage identities. Wherein lies the foundation for an authentic self? Is it in the series of repeated actions (for example, a nightly performance) that approximates some sort of solid “core” of traits? Or does it inhere in “essential” elements such as race or gender? My heroine, Nell Hallam, dresses as a man because male performers are paid twice as much, but her costume also allows her certain liberties that facilitate her ambition and courage. Onstage, Amalie sings French songs with a pure accent, but she grew up in the East End and doesn’t understand the meaning of the lyrics she sings. For Stephen, an embittered performer, the distinction between truth and lies is blurred by the music hall roles. He insists that character is like an onion; one only finds different layers, and there is no solid foundation. Part of Nell’s trajectory is to clarify for herself the sorts of truth and the elements of character that matter.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Tiny Americans"

Devin Murphy grew up near Buffalo, NY in a family with Dutch roots. He holds a BA/MA from St. Bonaventure University, an MFA from Colorado State University, a PhD from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University. He has worked various jobs in national parks around the country and once had a three–year stint at sea that led him to over fifty countries on all seven continents. His fiction has appeared in over 60 literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, The Chicago Tribune, New Stories from the Midwest, and Confrontation. He lives with his wife and children in Chicago.

Murphy applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Tiny Americans, and reported the following:
This page of my novel is the middle of a scene where a character has to drag a dead horse out of a paddock at a Girl Scout Ranch and bury it on the mountainside. This has to be done before the campers wake up and see the horse. The scene is representative of the rest of the book which travels across the country and the world, paying close attention to the natural world and where it is both gritty and beautiful.
Visit Devin Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tiny Americans.

Writers Read: Devin Murphy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Pure Chocolate"

Amber Royer writes fun science fiction involving chocolate, aliens, lovesick AIs, time travel, and more. She teaches enrichment/continuing education creative writing classes for both teens and adults at UT Arlington.

Royer applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Pure Chocolate, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I am not dressed for diving. I can already feel myself walking in squishy shoes, chafing from wet jeans.

“Don’t look so nervous,” Mertex says. “We’re the shore crew.”

The helicopter hovers over one of the “teeth” and the guy sitting nearest the doorway throws out a nylon-looking ladder. He turns back to us, “Your turn.”

We climb down the ladder, and the helicopter moves on, leaving us in a wild, beautiful place, part beach, part riverbank, with stumpy lavender-barked trees and tangled yellow vines trailing down into the water, all decorated with driftwood and shells and tumbled bits of glass.

“Stay close, you guys. It would be embarrassing to lose part of our rescue party.” Mertex scans the area like Kaliel might appear if he looks hard enough. “If you see any mounds of dirt, or any giant green eggs, leave them alone.”

“What are they?” Brill asks.

Mertex shudders. “Yawds are vegetarians, and they’re shy, so as long as you don’t disturb their nests, they won’t stomp on you.”

“Good to know.” Brill takes a few steps down the shoreline, then hesitates, waiting to make sure we’re following him.

We walk for a couple of hours. I’m thirsty. I should have brought along some of Tawny’s bottled agua. Mertex didn’t bring any water either. Apparently Zantites can go longer without rehydrating.

“Babe.” Brill hands me a bottle of agua he had tucked in his jacket. I drink it greedily, while he sips at one of his own. An animal jumps in the channel, making a splash about ten feet out. Brill grabs my arm. I freeze, afraid I’m about to be Zandy-gater food.

Brill brings his face close to my ear, like he’s brushing my cheek with un beso. “Someone’s following us.”

In the stillness behind us, a twig snaps.
This page drops you into a big part of the book’s conflict and gives you a flavor of the first alien world Bo visits in the book. Kaliel is the pilot from the first book that Bo kissed – and after he shows back up and gets close to Bo on the dancefloor, Brill (Bo’s boyfriend) and Kaliel have a fight. So when Kaliel goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Brill becomes the prime suspect on a planet where it’s guilty until proven innocent.

Bo and Brill are the only non-Zantites in the search and rescue crew. They’re desperate to find Kaliel alive. The third character with them, Mertex, is a Zantite (if you didn’t read Book 1, picture a bald lemon-yellow giant with shark-teeth and whale-like eyes). In Free Chocolate, he’s the one who dumped Brill in that giant chocolate mold. (At this point, Mertex’s life has become bound to Bo’s, so obviously the relationships between all three characters have changed, but I won’t give spoilers as to how that happened.) Mertex is an important character this time around, so the fact that he shows up on this page is exceptionally cool.

You know that the foreshadowing on this page about not disturbing a yawd’s nest has to be followed up on. It’s going to be both comical and dangerous and a little gross – and drive the plot forward. And that gives you a true flavor of the book – comedy balanced with adventure.

Sadly, Bo doesn’t get any dialogue on this page ... which is not typical of the rest of the book. But the tone and pacing is about right.
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"The Waking Forest"

In between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies, Alyssa Wees grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats.

Wees applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Waking Forest, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I enter the blackness between the trees, and the forest does not vanish.

No—it collapses.

The branches curl in on themselves like fingers into a fist and the leaves drop all at once, a scratchy swirl of anemic green. The trunk nearest me begins to tip, and I jump out of the way into the path of another falling trunk, and another and another, until I’m forced to dart backward out of the woods. I stumble on a raised root and tumble to the lawn, the brief spark of sunlight from before now gone. I watch as the trees twist and tilt and crumble in a great plume of dust. Broken branches, cracked trunks, shriveled leaves—when the dust clears, floating up and up and up, all of it is gone.

It happens in perfect silence, and I have no idea when the screaming stopped.
At this point in The Waking Forest, the protagonist, Rhea, has had visions of a mysterious forest that always vanishes when she reaches out to touch it. No one else can see this forest. But in this scene, Rhea finally reaches the forest and manages to enter it for the very first time, even as it falls apart around her. Her visions are growing stronger and more tangible, and the fantasy world she sees is beginning to merge with her reality. This passage is absolutely representative of the rest of the novel. From here her visions are only going to grow more real—and more frightening.
Visit Alyssa Wees's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waking Forest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Last Night"

Karen Ellis is a pseudonym of author Katia Lief. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and The Authors Guild. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Night, and reported the following:
If you open to page 69 of Last Night you’ll find yourself in an abandoned warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn with my three favorite characters in this novel. It’s the night of high school graduation for Crisp and Glynnie, who visit with twelve-year-old weed dealer JJ. Crisp has just asked JJ, “How’d you get to be homeless?” and the boy has described how his Haitian parents were deported and he cycled through miserable foster families.
“That’s when I moved in here,” JJ tells them. “No one bothers me. I get good grades. A lot of food gets tossed in the dumpster by Fairway every night. For pocket money, I do a little selling for Big Man.”
Cossetted and entitled Glynnie, who has been JJ’s incurious customer for a while, finally wakes up to his plight.
Glynnie pivots to her knees, throws her arms around JJ, slight, bony, skin so soft, and whispers, “It’s okay.” Why did she never think to ask him that question: “Why are you homeless?” Now, she knows that he’s not ‘JJ, her kid dealer’ but ‘Janjak St. Fleur, beloved son of Ester and Kervens.’ Homeless, abused, neglected, surviving by his wits.
This is the moment when Crisp, biracial and himself fatherless and keenly aware of JJ’s challenges, makes the crucial decision to help JJ—a decision that fuels the story as it unfolds through the hours of a long and treacherous night.
Visit Karen Ellis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"The Chef’s Secret"

Crystal King is a novelist, editor, professor, social media professional, and critical & creative thinker.

Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius, the man whose name is on the world’s oldest known cookbook.

Her new novel, The Chef's Secret, is a story about a famous Italian Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the cuoco segreto (private cook) to several Popes.

King applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 drops the reader into the heart of the main conflict between my protagonist and villain.
The feather in Romoli’s green velvet hat fluttered in the breeze. He continued as though he had not heard me. “When Bartolomeo gifted me his recipes, it was the most important thing that ever happened to me. I could never thank him enough. Tell me, Giovanni, did they read the will yet? Barto told me when he passed he would leave more of his recipes to me.”

The heat rose to my face and to the tips of my ears. I jabbed a finger at Romoli’s chest. “You stole those recipes! How dare you ask if there are more for you.”

Romoli brushed my hand away. “I don’t understand this jealousy, Giovanni. I worked with him long before you did. I was called into service by the Medici and could not say no. It is because of that appointment you were even allowed into Bartolomeo’s good graces. Why should you be so surprised he would promise his recipes to me?”
This is a page of incredible fictional license. All of the people mentioned on this page were real, but none of these actions likely happened. It’s a “what-if” scenario, a bold connecting of the dots between the things we know and don’t know about these individuals: the Renaissance celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi; his apprentice and nephew, Giovanni; and Medici steward, Domenico Romoli. I try to stay true to what we know about historical figures, but when there are big gaps between those facts, that’s where the joy of invention comes in for authors of historical fiction.

In this case, I assume that Scappi and Romoli certainly were familiar in at least name, as they had cookbooks published within the same decade, and the world of Renaissance Italy was a small one. I wondered, what if they were jealous of each other? How would that rivalry manifest? This is one of those scenes that came from such conjecture.
Visit Crystal King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Feast of Sorrow.

Writers Read: Crystal King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"The Queen's Resistance"

Rebecca Ross was born and raised in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, her lively Australian Shepherd, and her endless piles of books. She loves coffee, the night sky, chalk art, maps, the mountains, and growing wildflowers in her yard. And a good story, of course.

Ross applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Queen’s Resistance, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my second book, The Queen’s Resistance, holds one of my favorite lines in the entire novel. This book is a sequel to my debut, The Queen’s Rising, and is a dual narrative between two of my characters, Brienna and Cartier. Their POV chapters alternate with one another, and page 69 happens to be in one of Brienna’s chapters.

Brienna is struggling to find her place among her new family, the MacQuinns of Maevana, and is beginning to feel like she does not belong, despite the fact that she was adopted by Lord MacQuinn. On page 69, she is writing a letter to one of her best friends, who she ardently misses, and she hears her friend say to her (and this is the quote I love): “You are a daughter of Maevana. You are made of ancient songs and stars and steel.”

Brienna claims that promise and it becomes a guiding light to her as the story progresses and she begins to face multiple challenges and heartbreaks and triumphs. The Queen’s Resistance is truly a novel that centers on justice, restoration and healing as well as forgiveness and finding one’s place. Brienna comes to realize—as does Cartier—that it is not only blood that holds people together but love and sacrifice and beliefs and ideals.
Visit Rebecca Ross's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Rising.

Coffee with a Canine: Rebecca Ross & Sierra.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"A Deadly Turn"

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. Her Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries include The Branson Beauty and Another Man's Ground.

Booth applied the Page 69 Test to the third book in the series, A Deadly Turn, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He fished through his notes and found the emergency notification phone number that the high school had on file for Johnny. There’d been no landline listed, just a single local cell number. He dialed, and it went straight to voice mail. Probably because it was currently sealed in an evidence bag.

Yo, this is Johnny. Leave me a message. If you’re lucky, I’ll hit you back.

Hank was not in the mood to think about luck. He shut the laptop with a smack just as Maggie came in from the garage. He was starting to tell her about Aunt Fin setting up camp in Maribel’s room when she collapsed in a chair across the table from him. He shut his mouth. This did not appear to be the right time. She looked like she could fall asleep right there.

“Babe, good grief,” he said. “What happened?”

She laid her head on the table. He knew that sign. She rarely ate when she was on shift, and now—nine hours after she was originally supposed to be finished—she was crashing. He rushed to the fridge and pulled out the eggs and cheese. Once he got the omelet going, the smell perked her up enough for her to raise her head.

“It was just an ordinary broken leg. I was in the middle of it and Ed was late, so I stayed to finish it. And then a trauma came in. Teenager. A fall. From at least twenty feet. So many broken bones. Protruding left tibia. Shattered left wrist. The only good thing is that it doesn’t look like she hit her head too badly. We were in surgery for … I don’t even know.”
This page really is representative of the rest of the book. Johnny was one of the teenagers involved in the deadly crash, and Sheriff Hank Worth is trying to find out more about him and growing more and more suspicious as he investigates. At the same time, Hank has to deal with several family problems, including the unexpected arrival of his wife’s Aunt Fin. The tension between these two things runs throughout the novel, and page 69 gives a very good snapshot of that.
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: Another Man's Ground.

The Page 69 Test: Another Man's Ground.

My Book, The Movie: A Deadly Turn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

"The Spitfire Girls"

Soraya M. Lane graduated with a law degree before realizing that law wasn't the career for her and that her future was in writing. She is the author of historical and contemporary women's fiction, and her novel Wives of War was an Amazon Charts bestseller.

Lane lives on a small farm in her native New Zealand with her husband, their two young sons and a collection of four legged friends. When she's not writing, she loves to be outside playing make-believe with her children or snuggled up inside reading.

Lane applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Spitfire Girls, and reported the following:
Well, this made me laugh! Page 69 just says “Part Two”! So I decided to do the page prior…

Here’s a little excerpt from the page:
‘Do you, want me to get her?’ Ruby asked. ‘When she lands, I mean?’

‘What I want is for you to pull her down a peg,’ May fumed as she sorted off. ‘And remind her that this isn’t some jolly overseas experience, because we’re in the middle of a bloody war, in case she hasn’t noticed!’

Lizzie might have the fancy training and acrobatics in the air, but Ruby had skill and the quiet respect of the other women. Seeing her watch the American slack-jawed and in awe was more infuriating right now that watching Lizzie’s insubordination.

She’d been asked to take her best two pilots with her to train to fly four-engine bombers, but was she putting her own reputation on the line by taking Lizzie with her? If she couldn’t rein her in and she turned out to be a loose cannon, all hell would break loose - not just for her, but for all the women who flew for the ATA. One bad egg could affect the lot of them. But the four-engine bombers were the only planes that women were not cleared to fly outside of training yet, and if she didn’t take Lizzie? She gulped. Then she might be signing the personal death warrant of the men who were waiting for them; getting those big bombers to the front was the only way they stood a chance of winning the war, and she knew it.
This page actually represents the book quite accurately. There is a lot of conflict between May (the leader of the ATA pilots in the UK) and Lizzie, an American hot-shot pilot sent to the UK to fly with her. May is of the opinion that Lizzie thinks she’s on a glorified holiday at the British tax payer’s expense, and doesn’t yet know if she’s as great in the sky as she says she is. The two women do eventually become friends and Lizzie discovers the consequences of her attitude, and she sees why May takes her job ferrying fighter planes to their boys’ at the front so seriously. This page also shows Ruby’s insecurities in her flying, so it’s a great representation of their individual character flaws.
Visit Soraya Lane's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Spitfire Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Death in Provence"

Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer - and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to their new book, Death in Provence, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Penelope stirred an emergency teaspoonful of sugar into her tea. No, that didn’t necessarily follow, she tried to tell herself. She didn’t even know for sure whether those were bloodstains on the axe shaft. She was just catastrophizing. This was what happened when a person was overwrought. She had to stop this now. The axe shaft – and the head – would have to be submitted for forensic tests before anything could be ascertained, and they probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the body in the pool. She should know better than to go leaping to conclusions.

With the presence of mind that had often been praised by her former boss, she took several photos of the axe, from different angles, on her phone. Then she went upstairs and found some plastic wrapping from a new set of pillows and carefully placed both parts of the axe inside it. She would share her discovery with the police, though she doubted the Chief [of Police] would be thrilled to receive her bearing a strange (and possibly irrelevant) package at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Especially when she wasn’t sure she should have been at her property at all.

She was just deciding where she should store it, or whether she should take it out to the car to take with her, when she heard the spitting of stones outside. A vehicle came down the track. Penelope froze. What if it was the police? Had someone seen her coming and in and reported her?

There was nothing for it but to face the music. She should open the front door with a big smile on her face, as if nothing was amiss. Then again, no, she shouldn’t: that would look calculated. She should sit tight and have a few sips of tea.

No knock on the door came.

After about ten minutes, Penelope went down to the front hall and peeped out of the window. A car had indeed arrived on her property and parked outside. It was a very familiar red Mini Cooper.
Penelope Kite, middle class Englishwoman of a certain age, is definitely showing her sensible side on page 69. She isn’t always quite this measured. For a start, newly divorced and determined to live life to the full, she has moved to the South of France on a whim. She has taken on a tumbledown old farmhouse in Provence alone, developed a reckless rosé habit, and found a dead body in her swimming pool.
The local Chief of Police has already treated her with disdain but he will learn to his cost that he should never have underestimated Penelope: she has a formidable brain and worked until recently for an eminent forensic pathologist in London.

Her new acquaintances in and around the village of St Merlot include Clémence Valencourt the chic Parisian realtor who sold her the house – and can make Penelope feel inadequate just with a look. Clémence seems to turn up everywhere in her little red Mini-Cooper. Why is she still taking such an interest? Could it be that she and the devastatingly attractive Mayor of St Merlot are in cahoots, intent on undermining Penelope right from the start? But why?

As Penelope contends with increasingly unsettling events and the ever-present temptations of French pâtisserie and wine, her larger-than-life best friend Frankie arrives from England and takes the village by storm. There’s a good, strong mystery at the heart of the book, some gorgeous and authentic landscapes, delicious French cuisine and plenty of laughs along the way. Thrillingly, several reviewers have called it “a combination of Agatha Christie and Peter Mayle”. Formidable!
Visit Serena Kent's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2019

"Stolen Girl"

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of over sixteen picture books and novels. Her earlier picture books include Enough, Silver Threads, Daughter of War, Aram's Choice and The Best Gifts.

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.

Skrypuch applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Stolen Girl, the latest volume in her WWII trilogy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I flipped the page so quickly that I nearly tore it.

“Careful,” said Ivan, smoothing down the crease in the glossy paper.

My mind was still swirling between past and present. I clutched onto the side of the counter so I wouldn’t fall.

Ivan looked at me strangely. “What’s wrong, Nadia?”

I took a deep breath and tried to clear my thoughts. “I am fine,” I said. I wanted to get this over with. “Let’s look at some other colors.”

Next were pinks and reds—everything from the palest blush of that long-ago pink brocade dress to the violent red of blood. No, no, no.

The next page showed blues. My hand reached out of its own accord and touched a pale mauve. A wisp of scent tickled the edge of my brain. Lilac bushes in a much-loved garden.

“You’d like your room to be that color?” Ivan asked.

And I surprised myself. Yes, I did want that color. Lilac would make me feel safe. I still wasn’t happy about the thought of being closed up in a small room all night, but the color would be soothing. And maybe I could convince Ivan to leave the door off.

He handed a lilac paint chip to the clerk and ordered one can. We walked home, carrying the can between us.
The entirety of page 69 is a nice microcosm of Stolen Girl.

Nadia is a survivor of World War II and she's just immigrated to Canada with her adoptive parents. Now that she's in a place of safety, she begins to have disturbing flashes of memory that make her wonder who she really is. She fears that her family were Nazis and she even remembers meeting Hitler face to face, but she has other memories as well and these ones don't fit in with a privileged Nazi past. In this scene, her adoptive father, Ivan, takes her to the paint store so she can choose a color for her new bedroom. She has a violent reaction to the page of yellow chips, reminding her of yellow stars on prisoners' clothing and a certain girl in a yellow dress, just before page 69 begins.
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Stolen Girl.

Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2019

"The Perfect Alibi"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases.

Margolin applied the Page 69 Test to The Perfect Alibi, his second novel in the series featuring Robin Lockwood, ex-MMA fighter and Yale law school graduate, and reported the following:
Page 69 is not representative of The Perfect Alibi. In The Perfect Alibi, Robin agrees to represent a woman who claims to have been raped by Blaine Hastings, a star athlete. DNA evidence leads to the athlete's criminal conviction, but he swears he is innocent. Then a second woman is raped and the DNA evidence again points to Hastings. But, there is a problem. Hastings was behind bars when the second rape occurred and only identical twins have identical DNA. When Hastings is released, people start to die, but who is killing them? Page 69 introduces a subplot about another lawsuit involving a pharmaceutical company that doesn't appear to have any connection to anything else that is happening in the novel – but it does.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Third Victim.

The Page 69 Test: The Third Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 1, 2019

"The Gardener of Eden"

David D. Downie has called Paris and the Marais home since 1986. He has written for over 50 publications worldwide including Bon Appétit, The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, The San Francisco Chronicle,, and He is the author of the critically acclaimed Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, three Terroir guides, as well as several cookbooks and crime novels. He lives with his wife, Alison Harris, a photographer, and creates custom tours via his "Paris, Paris Tours" blog site.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Gardener of Eden, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I suppose I might as well admit right here that my secret dream, my “dear diary” confession, is that I would love more than almost anything to revive that hatchery and fill the rivers and ocean with salmon again. Maybe I will. Maybe that’s why I came back, and I just don’t know it yet. Maybe it’s because I had no children and have militated since adolescence for birth control and family planning because there are too many of us, no matter how you spin it. Yes, I was brought up a Catholic, but my mother was a WASP and a religious skeptic, and she inculcated doubt and nature worship in me. Silent Spring was her Bible. Maybe the explanation is simpler. I’d just like to give back, not only to self-obsessed, anthropocentric humankind, but to the world, the Earth, in the larger sense.

I wonder how many trapped raccoons father shot for the good of the fish and the community, meaning the human consumers of the fish? The sight gave me nightmares. Shooting into a wire mesh cage at close range seemed especially cruel and made an ungodly mess his subordinates had to clean up. That did not help buoy his popularity, which was waterlogged from the day we arrived—we, the educated city folk with attitude.

His attitude extended to his family. More than once he forced me to stand there with him and take the raccoon or hog executions like a man. The war must have done that to him. Had he fired at close range on Germans and Japanese? I asked myself. In what ways had he been tortured when he was a POW? But that kind of information was verboten. He never talked about the war, and everything I learned about his experiences in Europe and Japan, and the torture that made him suffer for the rest of his life, came from my mother.

Mostly because of the massacring of raccoons and other wildlife, I took no pleasure in target practice and I refused whenever I could to go hunting with him, especially when it came time for the cull. The wild pigs were the hardest of all to trap and kill—they have human eyes and whimper and cry like children. But he was a stubborn cuss, to borrow from Beverley, and dragged me along too many times to count.

He did not appreciate rebelliousness in his son, saying I had better know how to handle myself and a firearm, because man was a violent species and sooner or later another war would break out, maybe this time on American soil. Giving me Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here when I was fifteen, he made me read and summarize it to him. There was no Wikipedia back then, and no edition of crib notes on that book. Sadly, not only could it happen here. It did happen here. Except for my time in ROTC, I have not picked up a firearm since leaving high school in Carverville.

I hope to the god I no longer believe in that I never pick one up again, and never have to meet another man who has been tortured.
A former judge driven from office by corrupt, reactionary politicians, James Paul Adams is the wistful, soulful, aging hero of The Gardener of Eden. Returning “home” to Carverville, the dying timber town in the Pacific Northwest where he attended high school about forty years earlier, he’s unsure what led him back, to swim like a salmon to its native stream. James’ father was a biologist at Wildlife & Fish. His job was to restore salmon habitat and manage the fish hatchery James wants to revive. But he knows there are other, less obvious forces at work in his quest—a sense of guilt and loss, a need to find closure, and, most importantly, to find the young woman he loved and who disappeared without a trace while he was away in college. The Gardener of Eden is a novel of suspense, not a thriller or crime novel. This first-person excerpt from James’s journal captures the mounting tension inside his head. It also hints at the brutal realities of the re-found Carverville: destroyed forests, a closed mill, beaches sullied by oil from offshore rigs, feral hogs run wild, and a violent, sadistic county sheriff who was James’s childhood rival and nemesis.
Visit David Downie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue