Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"Soon the Light Will Be Perfect"

Dave Patterson is an award-winning writer, musician and high school English teacher. He received his MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.

Patterson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Soon the Light Will Be Perfect, and reported the following:
It’s wild how indicative of this entire novel page 69 really is. When I cracked open a copy of Soon the Light Will be Perfect and turned to the page in question, I found a scene where a group of true believers in the Catholic church have brought the mother, sickened with cancer, into a church chapel to be prayed over. This scene holds the crux of the entire book: the intersection of faith, tragedy, and the cruel realities of life for lower-middle class Americans.

In this scene, the mother has been placed in the center of the chapel with chairs arranged in a tight circle around her. The adults lean toward the mother, placing their hands on her body, ready to induce a miracle from God to rid her body of tumors. Here’s a sample paragraph from page 69:
In unison, they bow their heads and begin to whisper their own prayers. Their words melt into one another’s until there’s a steady hum of Jesus and cancer and Father and Savior and please. My hand rests on my mother’s wrist. I mumble my own prayer and watch the way the early evening sun comes in through the window and lights up my mother’s face. Her skin is pale. I imagine the black cancer inside her melting away from our prayer. And when that happens, she’ll open her eyes and laugh and we’ll all cheer and the four of us will get back in the car and head home and brag about the power of the Spirit. But she stays hunched over with her eyes closed.
This novel is about a family clinging to a faith that doesn’t seem capable of saving them from the misfortune of cancer and poverty. This scene embodies that theme. Throughout the book, some of the characters double down on faith as their prayers go unanswered, while others begin to loosen their desperate grip, slipping into the abyss. Page 69 roils with this tension as disparate prayers are whispered to a God who doesn’t seem to be listening.
Visit Dave Patterson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Soon the Light Will Be Perfect.

Writers Read: Dave Patterson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2019

"Black City Dragon"

Richard A. Knaak is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Legend of Huma, WoW: Wolfheart, and nearly fifty other novels and numerous short stories, including works in such series as Warcraft, Diablo, Dragonlance, Age of Conan, the Iron Kingdoms, and his own popular Dragonrealm. He has scripted comics and manga, such as the top-selling Sunwell trilogy, and has also written background material for games. His works have been published worldwide in many languages.

Knaak applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Black City Dragon, the second book in his new urban fantasy series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Spare me. I need your eyes, but I need much more from them. We need to look beyond just the surface on this, understand?

He chuckled. Who understands you better than Eye? Not even she, my noble saint. Not even she...

Before I could react to his comment, he gave me his vision. I heard a slight gasp, but not from Claryce.

“Demon spawn,” muttered Diocles.

I didn’t correct him, in great part because I wasn’t sure if he was wrong. I still had no idea as to the dragon’s true origins, and the dragon claimed ignorance as well. To hear him, he had simply come to be and then had been condemned to guard the Gate.

You wished to look ... so look...

I did ... and saw exactly what I’d hoped I wouldn’t.

From the way the coin appeared to keep shifting location on my person, I’d expected to find traces of magic in it. In fact, I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that Galerius had given it to me as more than a taunting memento showing his desire to claim the card.

In fact, the magic in it, while slight, proved something more disturbing.

I recognized it, and so did the dragon. His earlier amusement faded, replaced by distrust and more.

The same magic that made the card in Holy Name the threat it was also existed in the coin.

Fortunately, as I’d already noted, the coin only contained the barest shadow of the card’s power. Enough to use it for a few tricks Galerius no doubt had in mind. Still, I could also sense the age of the coin.

I dismissed the dragon’s gaze. “He had it,” I informed the others as calmly as I could. “At some point in the past, Galerius had possession of the card.”

It answered a lot. It certainly hinted at how he’d not only recovered from his awful illness but had survived so long.

“You once commented on the question of where Oberon got the card in the first place,” the ghost pointed out.
While Page 69 doesn't represent everything in the book, it certainly contains some key points in it. Some of the points are representative of the series as a whole. You can see the interplay between Nick (St. George) and the dragon (who calls himself 'Eye' for reasons you learn), a pair ever at odds and yet facing a danger they both know too well.There's also the reaction from the ghost of Diocles, late Roman emperor and the man who had Nick executed centuries ago. Long grudges and vengeance are a part of both Black City Dragon and the series as a whole. So is the sinister magic and force behind it that the characters are faced with in part by what seems a simple coin and, overall, by a monstrous artifact.

There's also discussion concerning the truth about the dragon, not merely a rampaging beast, but the guardian between our world and Feirie. The guardian that Nick had to replace once its power resurrected him after his execution --- and left the dragon part of him. There's more than even the two of them know about their pasts, something that will encompass Claryce --- and Diocles, even --- as well.

And we don't even get to talk about the thing lurking in Lake Michigan. Shame...
Visit Richard A. Knaak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2019

"City of Flickering Light"

Juliette Fay received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. Her books include Shelter Me, Deep Down True, The Shortest Way Home, and The Tumbling Turner Sisters.

Fay applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, City of Flickering Light, and reported the following:
City of Flickering Light follows burlesque dancers Irene Van Beck and Millie Martin and comedian Henry Weiss as they jump from a moving training to escape the clutches of a brutal burlesque show owner. They make their way to Hollywood with dreams of working as extras in the burgeoning silent movie industry, but soon find it isn’t nearly as easy as they’d hoped. They arrive with very little money and varying ideas of just how committed they are to one another.

Page 69 finds Henry still wearing the same suit in which he’d jumped off the train and negotiating for a position as a tailor in a studio costume department, the first job any of them is able to secure. Albert Leroux, head costume designer, is appalled by Henry’s appearance, but he’s desperate for help. Henry has learned both his tailoring and negotiating skills from his shrewd grandfather, and keeps insisting that a lunch break be part of the package.
“Twenty-three dollars a week,” said Henry. “And I start right now, spend my first week’s salary on clothes … and I get a lunch break.”

“Oh for godsake, what’s the obsession with lunch!”

“I like lunch. And I like you, Albert. You seem like a smart guy and a good tailor, and I’d like to work for you. For twenty-three dollars a week. And a lunch break.”
He’s told Irene and Millie that he’ll meet them, and he needs the lunch break so that he can get there. It’s a pivotal moment for Henry, because he realizes that he’s willing to jeopardize this deal in order to keep a promise to two girls he really doesn’t know all that well. His commitment to them—and theirs to him—grows over the course of the story, and is at times the only thing can cling to as they face the gritty underbelly of 1920s Hollywood and struggle to get to glittering top.

Like many of the Hollywood hopefuls of the time, they face sexism, prejudice, abuse, and poverty. As much as it’s about a fascinating time in a fascinating place, ultimately it’s a story of friendship.
Visit Juliette Fay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"Before She Was Found"

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Before She Was Found, and reported the following:
From page 69:
No matter how determined I was to leave work at a reasonable time, I got home well after nine o’clock that evening. As usual, the house was dark and quiet. I immediately peeled off my clothes to shower but couldn’t wash away the thoughts of Cora Landry and what happened to her in the train yard. The world was a dangerous place even for a little girl from small-town Iowa.
This section of the novel is written in the perspective of Dr. Madeline Gideon, a psychiatrist who has been charged with working with Cora Landry who was left to die in an abandoned train yard after a brutal attack. Dr. Gideon uses her expertise in order to help twelve-year-old Cora process and come to terms with what happened to her that night. As she gets to know Cora and the details surrounding the assault emerge, Dr. Gideon realizes that the events in the train yard are more disturbing anything she’s ever seen before.

Just like all of my novels, Before She Was Found was sparked by real-life events in the news including an urban legend. It also explores what happens when the power of peer pressure, the intense need for belonging and the dangers of online predatory behavior all collide. Along with Dr. Gideon’s voice, the novel is told through the eyes of a mother and a grandfather of two young girls, Cora’s journal entries, police reports, text messages and online forums. Each viewpoint is pieced together in order to reveal what happened before and after the tragic event in the train yard.
Visit Heather Gudenkauf's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and Maxine.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & Lolo.

Writers Read: Heather Gudenkauf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"All My Colors"

David Quantick is an author, television writer and radio broadcaster. As well as All My Colors, he wrote the surreal thriller The Mule (“the Da Vinci Code with better grammar” – The Independent) and the comic scifi novel Sparks (“excellent” – Neil Gaiman). He also wrote the critically-acclaimed TV drama Snodgrass, currently being developed into a feature film, and Dickens In Rome, a new play for Northern Stage.

Quantick has won several broadcast awards, including an Emmy as part of the writing team on Veep.

He applied the Page 69 Test to All My Colors and reported the following:
On page 69 of All My Colors, Billy Cairns – ageing alcoholic and the only person in the story who might once have been a really good writer – is in the middle of a nightmare set in a fantastical library that is also somehow a hardware store. Todd Milstead, the main character, is in it too, raging at a librarian who is also a clerk.

This scene was fun to write, because it’s hi-falutin’ (Borges references!) and horrible (blades!) and also a chance to show Todd, who’s an asshole, in full-on asshole mode. And it features Billy, one of the few characters in the book who’s really done nothing wrong but for whom everything goes wrong. Billy and Todd enjoy some moments together which are kind of tributes to the hee-hee-hee Tales of the Crypt gory humour that Stephen King does better than anyone else.

I wanted to write a book with a relentless story about a man who does a bad thing and the consequences of that thing, but along the way I ended up writing about writers and writing, and I also put it a lot more dark humour than I had intended. A lot of the scenes in this book – maybe even this one– are comic and vile at the same time.

Which is fine by me. Hee-hee-hee!
Visit David Quantick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2019

"Emily Eternal"

Born in Texas, M.G. Wheaton worked in a computer factory before getting his start as a writer for such movie magazines as Total Film, Fangoria, Shivers, SFX and several others. After leaving journalism, Wheaton worked as a writer for video games, comic books, and movies, including writing scripts for New Line, Sony, Universal, Miramax, HBO, A&E, Syfy, Legende, Disney Channel, and others while working with filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, Michael Bay, Steven Soderbergh, George Tillman, Gavin O'Connor, Janusz Kaminski, and Clark Johnson.

Wheaton applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Emily Eternal, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The stairway is narrow. Several people use it at once, ascending on the right, descending to the left, which makes for a tricky pas de deux. I persevere, slowly making my way up the hundred or so steps. My heart is pounding by the midpoint and I am short of breath by the summit. But when I reach the small white lighthouse that sits atop it, the woman’s body relaxes, happy in her accomplishment and thrilled by what comes next.

The lighthouse is barely two stories tall, the catwalk around it not wide enough to accommodate more than a dozen people at a time. Even so, over forty pilgrims are packed around it, all gazing out to the sea beyond. There’s a plaque nearby and I try to read it, but my eyes remain fixed on the horizon line. Though I can’t turn my head, I’m able to determine where I am by eavesdropping on the others around me.

The vista is of the Cape of Good Hope also known as the Cape of Storms thanks to the number of ships decimated within it before and after Vasco da Gama navigated through it for the first time on his way to India. It is a spot revered by some, as it is a place where two oceans meet—the Indian and the South Atlantic—and may have been described by God as a place to which Abraham was meant to pilgrimage.

My host is overwhelmed. She raises her hand and wipes tears from our eyes. I feel awash in her emotion—awe, fear, adoration. It’s cold here. As others move aside, she moves to the edge to get a better look at the gray, cloudy sky over the water. Someone remarks Antarctica is only a couple thousand miles in that direction. I wonder if they think they can see that fa—

Everything changes in a blink. I’m in motion. Running fast—real fast. I’m no longer in South Africa. I’m in a large city. I’m on the sidewalk. It’s early morning. I catch sight of a few bits of signage as I pass. They’re in English and there are phone numbers with American area codes. Boston’s area code. Ah. I’m back home. I happen to see a street sign—Congress. I see another—Hanover. On one side of me is an ancient brick building calling itself the Union Oyster House, on the other, city hall.
So, the main character of Emily Eternal is an artificial consciousness named Emily being developed as a highly empathetic psychologist to help humans process trauma. Utilizing an experimental interface chip, she’s able to access and manipulate a patient’s senses to not only appear as a physical person but also to access their memories. When the Sun begins to die, however, the government ropes her in to a program to create a sort of “digital ark,” using her abilities to record the memories and experiences of the world’s population to leave behind after mankind goes extinct for any future civilization or alien race that happens along. In Emily’s page 69 scene, Emily has just begun her recording and is experiencing a memory of a woman ascending the steps of the Cape Point Lighthouse in South Africa overlooking the Cape of Good Hope.

It’s fairly indicative of the book, I think, as Emily is a close observer of human emotional response, something she dearly wishes to experience herself.
Visit Mark Wheaton's website.

Writers Read: M. G. Wheaton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"If You're Out There"

Katy Loutzenhiser grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dabbling in many art forms and watching age-inappropriate movies. After graduating from Bowdoin College, she found an unlikely home in the Chicago comedy scene and regularly sang improvised musicals in public. These days she writes YA books in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband. She is probably eating a burrito right now.

Loutzenhiser applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, If You're Out There, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I cover my face with my throw pillow. After a moment, I peek out at him. “Am I crazy for not letting this go?”

“Does it matter?”

“I mean, a little. But hey, my mom’s a therapist. Hopefully she can fix whatever damage I’m doing here.”

Logan laughs lightly. “Do you want me to write back?”

I take the phone and push through the weepy feeling, scrolling until I find a picture of her face. It’s an enthusiastic selfie with a homemade BLT from a few months back. I remember I was right outside the frame when she took this, probably telling her she was ridiculous. Her bright smile takes up the bulk of her face, her skin a warm brown. Her big eyes shine back at me—happy and direct. I want her to hear me. What is up with you out there??

I feel a hand on my shoulder and flinch.

“Sorry,” says Logan, pulling back. “You looked ... sad.”

“Yeah.” I can’t quite meet his eyes. “I guess it was naive, but I really thought we would always be friends. Like pregnant-at-the-same-time kind of friends. Not that we were those girls. But we could have been. A version of them anyway.”

“Hey,” he says after a minute. “You wanna get out of here?”

I pause. “What’d you have in mind?”
So... I think the test worked? Page 69 captures quite a lot about If You're Out There. As you might be able to guess, the story follows a girl who's been ghosted by her best friend in the world--the kind of person she thought would be in her life forever. It's been months of radio silence since Priya moved to California, and even though everyone keeps telling Zan to move on, she's still fixated on the loss, clinging pathetically to her old friend's every Instagram post. Logan, the new kid at her school, has taken an interest in the whole weird situation. And he's the first person to make Zan feel like her instincts might be worth listening to. This just isn't normal. What if something is up with Priya out there?
Visit Katy Loutzenhiser's website.

My Book, The Movie: If You're Out There.

Writers Read: Katy Loutzenhiser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2019

"The Better Sister"

Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent novels include The Wife and The Ex, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel. She also co-authors the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan and East Hampton.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Better Sister, and reported the following:
The main character in The Better Sister is Chloe Taylor. She’s smart, successful, and focused like a laser. But page 69 is told from the point of view of Detective Jennifer Guidry, who is investigating the murder of Chloe’s husband, Adam. Guidry is the only character who gets her own POV chapters, which are interspersed among a story otherwise told from Chloe’s first person point of view.
DETECTIVE JENNIFER GUIDRY plucked another gelatinous piece of candy from the tear in the upholstery of the passenger seat of her department-issued Impala. If her count was right, it was the seventeenth one so far—not counting the one Chloe Taylor had found. She wondered how long Bowen had been stuffing them in there. If she had to guess, it probably started around the time she called him out for that weird thing he kept doing, rolling up little strips of Scotch tape and dropping them into a coffee cup. If only he were as obsessive and compulsive about police work.

She closed the car door and made her way back to the Dunham house across the street, which she had left only forty minutes earlier. Andrea Dunham was still in her robe when she answered the front door.

Andrea kept clutching at the collar to cover her chest, even though she was wearing some kind of tank top beneath it. Guidry thought about telling her to go upstairs and do whatever she needed to do to be less fidgety, but she was working on fumes and needed to get home to catch a few hours of shuteye.

Andrea gave a small laugh when Guidry asked whether she and Chloe Taylor were close. “Sorry,” Andrea said, “but you saw their house, right? And you see the one you’re sitting in now. No, we don’t exactly hang out….”
The scenes from Guidry’s perspective allow the reader to know more about the investigation than Chloe knows and to see Chloe and her family through a stranger’s eyes. I also like Guidry as a character in her own right. She’s smarter than her partner (Bowen, who has apparently been stuffing Mike and Ike candies in a tear in the car upholstery), but isn’t bitter about it.

She’s fair-minded and thorough as an investigator, and that’s why she’s back at Andrea Dunham’s house, asking about Chloe outside her presence. That short exchange at the bottom of the page hints at the class divisions that permeate The Better Sister. Chloe and Adam are city people in East Hampton, a part of the community but always apart from it. And class is just one of the many attributes that now separates Chloe from her older sister, Nicky, who returns to Chloe’s life after Adam is murdered, because did I mention that Adam used to be married to Nicky? And that Nicky is the mother of Chloe’s stepson, Ethan, who becomes a suspect in Adam’s murder? There’s a lot happening beyond the little details working their way through Guidry’s mind on page 69.
Visit Alafair Burke's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ex.

The Page 69 Test: The Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"The Tale Teller"

Anne Hillerman is an award-winning reporter and the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Spider Woman’s Daughter, Rock with Wings, Song of the Lion, and Cave of Bones, as well as several nonfiction books. She is the daughter of New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Tale Teller, her fifth Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito novel, and reported the following:
Sometimes, a gal gets lucky and my page 69 exercise is one of those times. This section neatly captures several important details of The Tale Teller. I smiled as I read it again.

Here, the reader sees retired Navajo Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, the central detective in this book, in action. Leaphorn has been a crime solver for longer than some of my readers have been alive. Tony Hillerman introduced him in his first novel back in 1970. My continuation of the series hasn’t make life easy on the Legendary Lieutenant. But after a brain injury and a long rehab process, he’s back at work. Leaphorn has accepted a complicated case that seems to involve theft and perhaps even murder.

The opening lines come at the end of Leaphorn’s telephone conversation in the Navajo language (he still has trouble with English) with the manager of the Hubbell Trading Post. He’s asked the trader to facilitate a meeting with a well-respected Navajo silversmith and needs to ask the trader’s opinion of some photos. Leaphorn hopes the trip will help him understand why a young woman with a lot to live for died unexpectedly.

This excerpt also reflects a peaceful interlude in what turns out to be a rocky phase in Leaphorn’s relationship with his long-time friend and housemate, Louisa Bourbonette.

Finally, readers will find my affection for writing about real places in the Southwest. The universe has created more settings of beauty and mystery on the vast Navajo Nation than I could describe in a lifetime. I love adding real sites to my fiction.

The only things missing are references to this tale’s other story lines, mysteries that revolve around burglaries, unclaimed corpses, family jealousy, and the general mayhem the confronts my younger crime solvers, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito.
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Hillerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spider Woman's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Spider Woman's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Song of the Lion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Come and Get Me"

Originally from central Indiana, thriller and mystery author August Norman has called Los Angeles home for two decades, writing for and/or appearing in movies, television, stage productions, web series, and even, commercial advertising. A lover and champion of crime fiction, Norman is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and Sisters In Crime (National and LA), and regularly attends the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his first Caitlin Bergman thriller, Come and Get Me, and reported the following:
From page 69:
She studied Greenwood’s face, still unsure of his motivation. The man was likeable, good-looking, and obviously gave more of a damn about his job than most people she knew. But he’d been selling her something since the first time they’d met. Was it Nothing to see here, or Look closer? And if it was Look closer, why couldn’t he do it himself?
Caitlin and Mary found a spot on the back wall of the conference room. Despite the short notice, the press conference’s available seats had been filled by broadcast outlets from Indianapolis, print reporters from surrounding counties, and a single student-journalist: Lakshmi Anjale.

The sheriff’s department displayed a poster-sized image of Paige Lauffer taken at the bar where she worked. Sheriff Hopewell started strong in front of a wall of law enforcement—several deputies, Jerry Greenwood, two uniformed BPD officers, and two state troopers. The FBI duo stood near the far wall, removed from the company front of reassurance. Hopewell gave the essentials, and then a female deputy took over. When the standard questions from the pros fizzled, Caitlin sent Lakshmi a text: Now.

The girl’s hand shot up. “Deputy, do you believe Paige Lauffer’s disappearance is related to Angela Chapman’s in any way?”

No surprise from the deputy. “Not at this time.”

Lakshmi pushed. “I recognize two FBI agents in the room—Agent Mark Christiansen from the Bloomington resident agency—and Special Agent Antoine Foreman from Indianapolis. Can you comment on their involvement in this investigation?”

The crowd’s necks craned toward the agents. Caitlin caught the slightest smile on Jerry Greenwood’s lips.

The deputy at the podium paused for only a moment. “Of course, the FBI has extended all of their available tools to help bring Paige Lauffer back to us.”

“That’s wonderful,” Lakshmi said, “but it seems unusual that an agent who specializes in the profiling of serial killers would be enlisted to locate a missing person in Monroe County unless there was some evidence, or at least suspicion, of foul play. Could either of the agents comment on their involvement?”

Mary put her arm around Caitlin. “Where did you dig that up?”
In Come and Get Me, investigative journalist Caitlin Bergman returns to her college for an honorary degree after dropping out twenty years earlier, only weeks from graduation. What starts as a search for closure to a long untended trauma leads to a full-blown investigation into the two-year-old disappearance of a female student. To help the missing girl’s family find closure, Caitlin must partner with the same police department that once victim-shamed her out of town. From all appearances, the modern department has grown with the times, and her charming handler, Detective Jerry Greenwood, has included her in an active investigation, going so far as to take her along to local crime scenes.

At first, the usually fearless Caitlin struggles with PTSD symptoms awoken by her return to campus and reconnecting with her former roommate Mary, now head of the journalism department, but she’s bolstered by the youthful determination of Lakshmi Anjale, Mary’s best pupil and best friend of the missing student.

Up until Page 69, she’s gathered the scattered pieces politely, never challenging the police department’s official findings, but now she’s ready to go on the offensive. A second female student has disappeared and a press conference is called. When everyone else finishes with the standard who, what, when, and where, Caitlin has Lakshmi, now working as her shadow, challenge the authorities, calling out the involvement of an FBI serial profiler and alleging a connection between the two disappearances.

If Detective Greenwood thought he was manipulating a broken woman, page 69 is where he learns that Caitlin Bergman doesn’t slow down, broken or not. It also announces Caitlin’s presence to a much more dangerous adversary, one who will ultimately make the trauma of her past seem like a minor irritation.
Visit August Norman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2019

"The Eighth Sister"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon best selling author of The Tracy Crosswhite series, My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, and The Trapped Girl.

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Eighth Sister, and reported the following:
Page 69 of the novel is one of the initial meetings between Charles Jenkins and Viktor Federov at Gorky Park in Moscow. The page sets up the idiosyncrasies of both characters and how they clash because the two men don’t trust one another. They meet because Jenkins has reached out to Federov, claiming he has information to sell. Federov is interested, but guarded. Neither man is telling the other the truth, only what he hopes the other wishes to hear. The entire book is a game of cat and mouse, with a chase, figuratively and literally.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim, as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller.

Stout applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Titanshade, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Titanshade, Carter and his new partner talk about fashion, conspicuous wealth, the smells of a big city, and corrupt authority figures. So all in all, I’d say it’s a nice encapsulation of the book.

There’s one line in particular I’d like to look at:
“The city’s a strange place,” I said. “Lots of people, lots of secrets. Learn how it operates and it’ll open right up to you.”
This is not only a bit of advice from a grizzled veteran to a newcomer, it’s a statement about what it’s like to serve and protect a community when you view yourself as an outsider. Part of the reason that Carter can be objective during his investigations is that he isn’t quite part of the populace he’s trying to defend. For him, this distance is both burden and asset.
Visit Dan Stout's website.

My Book, The Movie: Titanshade.

Writers Read: Dan Stout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

"Blood on the Chesapeake"

Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery is Blood on the Chesapeake. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries.

Overbeck applied the Page 69 Test to Blood on the Chesapeake and reported the following:
From page 69:
He stared out again and spied the two white and gold sails billowing in the breeze.

“Thank God,” he said and exhaled a long breath, his loud release of air sounding like the swish of the water.

The craft grew larger, moving silently across the water. Its front triangular sail, white with a broad gold stripe around the edge, ballooned with the wind, propelling the boat at a surprising clip. As the sailboat glided across the water, a lithe figure, clad in a white top and shorts with blazing red tresses flying behind her, stepped to the bow. She waved, and he felt his whole body respond. He watched as she lowered the sails and used the engine to ease the boat in.

“Ahoy, there,” Erin called out, “can you catch our lines?”
When readers see the reviews or blurbs on my new novel, they will often find “creepy” (“an absorbing and genuinely creepy debut tale”—Zoe Sharp, British thriller writer) or “mystery” (“a spooky, atmospheric mystery”—James Benn, historical mystery writer) or “ghost” (“a good deal of old-fashioned ghost whispering”—William Kent Krueger, Edgar Award winner). What prospective readers will find less often is romance. Blood on the Chesapeake is an eerie ghost story and murder mystery, but it is also a tale of love and romance.

Darrell Henshaw had his heart broken. On the eve of his wedding to his voluptuous fiancé, Carmen, a fellow teacher at their high school in Michigan, he learns that she has been fooling around with his boss, the head coach, right there in their shared office. So Darrell decides he needs to get as far away from her as possible.

His desperate search lands him in Oxford, Maryland, a quaint, charming town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. With a job teaching American History and coaching football and basketball—even if both teams are terrible—he thinks he’s found the perfect new start. That is, until he discovers the town holds an ugly secret, a ghost haunts his office and the bodies start dropping.

One thing he is sure of is that, after Carmen, he’s sworn off women. He’s had enough heartache for a while. Then he meets Erin and she melts his resolve.
In a few seconds, [Sara] reappeared at the family room door with a stunning, tall, twenty-something redhead. Her hair was tied in ponytail and pulled back from a near perfect oval face. She had graceful features, a long, slim neck and sprinkling of reddish-brown freckles that, rather than distract from her beauty, accentuated it. And two of the most gorgeous green eyes he’d ever seen.
From that first encounter, he was hooked and, lucky for him, Erin felt the same way. Page 69 recounts the start of their second date, a romantic cruise on the bay, with Erin at the wheel. This page sets the tone for the love that Darrell finds in Erin, a strong, beautiful and tender woman and a partner who ends up saving both his heart and his life.
Follow Randy Overbeck on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and check out his webpage.

Writers Read: Randy Overbeck.

My Book, The Movie: Blood on the Chesapeake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2019

"Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)"

Lorna Landvik's novels include the bestselling Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Oh My Stars, Best to Laugh, and Once in a Blue Moon Lodge. She has performed stand-up and improvisational comedy around the country and is a public speaker, playwright, and actor most recently in the one-woman, all-improvised show Party in the Rec Room. She lives in Minneapolis.

Landvik applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes), and reported the following:
Susan McGrath sweaty and frustrated, ruminating on her dissolving marriage. At her newspaper office, she’s an in-charge decision maker but here, in the locker room after a yoga class, it’s a different story. Unlike the agile Olivia Shelby whose Downward Dog is a thing of beauty, Susan is stiff and clumsy on the yoga mat and changing into street clothes, comparisons between her and Olivia taunt her: Why are her legs a fish-belly white while Olivia’s are tanned and toned? But in the bigger picture, the comparisons hurt more: why does Olivia have an intact marriage and a son who seems not to be repulsed by her?

Is this page representative of the book? I suppose it is in that I’ve tried to bring a moment — a self-conscious, questioning moment — alive in a character’s life. If I’d landed on a page featuring another character, my hope would be that in that page, a reader would get a sense of her or him, as well as my tone, my sense of humor.

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) was a different sort of novel for me to write in that newspaper columns spanning fifty years are interspersed in the story of their writer, Haze Evans, who suffers a massive stroke at the book’s beginning. While we get to know her through these columns, in Part Two, the book shifts into the past — Haze’s past — and the reader gets to know her as a young woman. Susan and Sam are the other main characters and telling the stories of these three different generations was fun and challenging in the way writing fiction always is.
Visit Lorna Landvik's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes).

Writers Read: Lorna Landvik.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"They All Fall Down"

Rachel Howzell Hall's books include the Lou Norton mystery series. Her first novel, A Quiet Storm, was a featured selection of Borders’ Original Voices program, as well as an alternate selection of the Black Expressions book club. She lives in Los Angeles.

Hall applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, They All Fall Down, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I, too,had waited for something magical to happening my life. I thought it had been meeting Billy, then marrying Billy. I thought it had been giving birth to Morgan, but then ... no. When would it happen, that something magical? On this island, maybe? Maybe.

“Woo-hoo!” Desi cheered. “We made it.” Eyes wild, she shook me out of my wondering.“C’mon, girlie!The island’s waitin’ for us!”
I adore Miriam Macy, the main character. Some would say she’s ‘unlikeable’ but is that because she suffers no fools, because she’s pissed at her station in life? She’s been replaced and debased and sure, she’s done some bad. I’d forgive her, though. Desi is her opposite--lusty and full of life and in her way, just as 'unlikeable.' She, too, acts out when she's dissatisfied but she's young and cute and can get away with more. She has an optimism that, if she lives long enough, will be diminished by her disappointment. If she lives long enough, she may adopt Miriam's cynicism and reluctant optimism. See, we're all waiting for something magical to happen -- and when it doesn't (or can't), we act out because we've put so much into the dream. Marriage, jobs, kids... I see a lot of women in Miriam, women who are forced to atone for being their authentic selves. Women who are told that they are ‘too much,’ but like these women, Miriam is a fighter even until the end. She still has hope that something will shake her way.

Page 69 encapsulates They All Fall Down. The six other guests, 'unlikable' in their own ways, have all come to the island for fulfillment -- either to start over, to make money, to not think about life at home. Each are optimistic that something magical will happen. No one thinks they're bad--every villain is a hero in her story--until they are confronted with their sin... and that realization may come too late. I've said this before and I think we can all agree: As much as America likes underdogs, we also like seeing bad people get their just deserts. Scary thing is: sometimes, we are those bad people.
Visit Rachel Howzell Hall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


H. S. Cross was raised in the waspy suburbs of Detroit, attending co-ed day schools, doing children’s theater, sailing, riding bikes, collecting Garfield paraphernalia, and afraid to kiss boys. It therefore follows that she has written two novels set in the 1920s and 30s at an austere English boarding school for boys, Wilberforce and the newly released Grievous.

Cross applied the Page 69 Test to Grievous and reported the following:
From page 69:
—What’s going to happen, sir?

Voice rough, unused.

—You’ll have to tell me everything, John replied.

—I mean Trevor. Is he . . . ?

The boy still didn’t look at him but turned instead to the door, as if his friend stood just outside.

—Kardleigh’s with him. He said you’d done a commendable job with the first aid.

The boy scowled.

—Thomas, John continued, please start at the beginning. I can’t help until I know the facts.

A deeper scowl. John thought he heard teeth grinding.

He could wait. Not long, but some. He would sit beside this boy and wait on the light. He would use the Christian name, which he hadn’t used with this one in years. This bone-crushing person beside him bore little resemblance to the child who had first entered his study, too young for the school but enrapt nearly as much as John had been by the woman accompanying him. John remembered thinking the mother was too young to be a widow. The war had produced a nation of them, but even though ten years had passed since then, this woman, girl, wore black head to toe, looking lost and fierce, as if she, not the boy, were being dispatched. He remembered thinking she needed a governess. He remembered, when she spoke, how much it seemed like playacting, as if she’d raided the dressing-up box. He remembered the monologue she embarked upon, concerning the boy’s hair, its streaks of yellow and brown, yellow from her, brown from his father, neither color winning the battle but flecking side by side in brindle—as if she were describing a stray dog. John remembered thinking her prattle a charming form of hysteria, and he remembered inviting the two to sit and drink the tea Mrs. Firth had provided while he stepped across the quad. Jamie was in his study with his secretary, and John unleashed in front of them both. Lewis had tried to wheel himself from the room, but Jamie had told the man to stay as he was. He told John that since Riding was here now, he couldn’t be put out at the gates. End of discussion, good day, where were we, Lewis?

John knew he’d left the boy and his mother alone too long, and as he strode across the cloisters, he remembered thinking, She’s too young to manage; he remembered thinking, They’ll eat him alive. And then he remembered Morgan Wilberforce.
Stylistically, page 69 is a good representation of the book. We’re in the middle of a scene between John Grieves (housemaster and title character) and his student Thomas Gray Riding. Gray is on the verge of being expelled—because of a night prowling incident in which his friend, Trevor, was injured—and John is trying to figure out what happened so he can advocate for Gray with the Headmaster. We’re in John’s point-of-view here, with dialogue (styled with em-dashes) and direct access to John’s thoughts. We’ve just come from Gray’s point-of-view on the previous page, in which Gray is frantically rehearsing how he can lie his way out it. Alternating points-of-view is a major feature of Grievous and gives the reader a privileged view of the characters’ cross-purposes and misunderstandings (both tragic and comic).

I was surprised by how much the page’s content also represents the novel. John and Gray’s relationship is arguably the central one, and this scene is where it begins decidedly to fracture. John’s memory of the day Gray arrived at the Academy in 1928 (three years earlier) also presents the origin of their acquaintance: the way John feels Gray was foisted on him by the Headmaster, Jamie; how bizarre the arrival was, in the middle of the school year and Gray two years younger than the youngest boys; the moment John decided to ask Morgan Wilberforce (protagonist of Wilberforce) to mentor Gray, another key relationship. As a bonus, we get John’s memory of Gray’s mother, Elsa Riding, and while he has not seen her since that day in 1928, their relationship develops later in the novel. Elsa herself eventually enters as a point-of-view character, and her widowhood and grief destabilize Gray’s home-life.
Visit H. S. Cross's website.

Writers Read: H. S. Cross.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss"

Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s first novel, In Beautiful Disguises won a Betty Trask Prize and was nominated for the Guardian First Fiction Prize. In 2004 he was awarded the Clarissa Luard Prize for the best British writer under the age of 35.

Balasubramanyam holds a PhD in English, and degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He has lived in London, Manchester, a remote Suffolk beach, Berlin, Kathmandu, and Hong Kong, where he was a Research Scholar in the Society of Scholars at Hong Kong University. He is a currently a fellow of the Hemera Foundation, for writers with a meditation practice, and has been writer in residence at Crestone Zen Mountain Center and the Zen Center of New York City.

Balasubramanyam applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘And do you agree with your wife that you choose to work the hours you do?’

Chandra looked from Jean, who was staring at him, to Ms. Benson, who was cleaning her glasses. Of course it wasn’t a choice: if he didn’t work then how would he pay for their house, or their cars, or the televisions in every room, or the sums he doled out to cousins in India, some of whom he had never even met? And did anyone have the slightest idea what it was like for him in that department, how hated he was by those mediocrats, how he had to work twice as hard as all of them, not including the Senior Common Room somnambulists who did not work all? If that was a choice, you might as well call breathing a choice.

‘Well, Chandra?’ said Cynthia Benson.

‘Yes,’ said Chandra. ‘I agree.’

‘There’s more,’ said Jean. ‘Charles won’t say this, but he doesn’t think the rules apply to him. He thinks he’s not an ordinary person, that his work has to come first because it’s vital for humanity and if his children have to suffer, then so be it.’

It was the cruellest thing she had ever said to him. Could he help it if he was a brilliant man? Yes, why not say it? B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T. It was a fact acknowledged by far greater authorities than Cynthia Sigmund. And yes, his work mattered. As he never tired of telling Jean, he had been born into a poor country, truly poor, not the sort of kitchen sink poverty she complained of but the sort where millions died in famines, where homelessness meant homelessness instead of a preference for inferior wines and an al fresco lifestyle. Chandra’s work saved lives. It didn’t mean he was more important than Jean or that he didn’t love his family, but it was a fact.
Page 69 is when my titular character, the world famous trade economist, Professor Chandra, attends marriage counselling with his wife. He is a patriarchal workaholic, and a narcissist, and all of this makes his wife, Jean, unhappy. But Chandra lacks self-awareness: he has never questioned his decisions before and now that he’s finally forced to, he refuses to see them as decisions but as compulsions. I think he's right – in one manner of speaking, nothing is a choice. Our external circumstances and level of awareness determine everything we do. We can, however, change our level of awareness, which is what the book is about. After a life threatening accident, Chandra does indeed embark on a journey of burgeoning self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Whether he chooses to do this, or whether he is forced, is too difficult a question for me to answer.
Visit Rajeev Balasubramanyam's website.

Writers Read: Rajeev Balasubramanyam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2019

"Pickle's Progress"

Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designs projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release in Spring 2019.

Butler’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017.”

Butler applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Pickle's Progress, and reported the following:
Pickle’s Progress centers around the unusual relationship between identical twins, Pickle and Stan McArdle. Page 69 lands in the middle of a chapter that begins to explore that complexity, as they converse outside of Stan’s Upper West Side brownstone in NYC. Pickle has arrived to have dinner with the family. Yet he is nervous because Junie, a bereaved woman who is staying with Stan and his wife Karen, has become the intense object of his desire. Pickle is a handsome schlub and has gone to great lengths to dress to the nines - not his usual way – in order to make a great impression on Junie. Stan is obsessive compulsive – a handsome anti-schlub – always color coordinated and natty. In spite of the fact that people literally cannot tell them apart, they are in many ways, direct opposites. Yet, their bonds go deep. They were raised by a crazy mother who favored Stan over Pickle in exceptionally damaging ways. Their upbringing has shaped their relationship and each twin’s capacity to love. The twins watch out for each other, and are also in competition with each other. Page 69 (and the chapter) begins to set up, illuminate and deepen the contradictions inherent in their relationship.
Visit Marcia Butler's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Skin Above My Knee.

My Book, The Movie: The Skin Above My Knee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

"The Chaos Function"

Jack Skillingstead’s Harbinger was nominated for a Locus Award for best first novel. His second, Life on the Preservation, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. He has published more than forty short stories to critical acclaim and was short-listed for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His writing has been translated internationally.

Skillingstead applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Chaos Function, and reported the following:
The Chaos Function is about a war reporter named Olivia Nikitas who mistakenly inherits the power to manipulate probability outcomes. First, she uses the power, unwittingly, to restore her friend’s life. But the new probability also sets the world on the path to apocalyptic destruction. Page sixty-nine is pretty representative of the novel, which is a thriller with a science fictional premise. Olivia has been abducted by members of the secret society who until now has held the probability power and passed it down through generations of exclusively male “Shepherds.” Here we have a scene between Olivia and one of her captors, a security officer named Dee, who seems to be the only woman in the Society’s remote compound with any sort of agency. In the morning, Olivia is to be vetted by the Society Elders, and Dee, against orders, is coaching Olivia. We have all the elements of the book. Suspense, mystery, a ticking clock, and the beginning of an alliance that will ultimately determine much of the action to come. So, yeah. Page sixty-nine rocks!
Visit Jack Skillingstead's website.

Writers Read: Jack Skillingstead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

"The Goodbye Café"

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel.

Stewart applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Goodbye Café, book three in The Hudson Sisters Series, and reported the following:
Well, I admit I was skeptical, but I opened The Goodbye Café and there I was, at the very crux of my character’s personal cross-road. Allie Hudson Monroe is a divorced mother of a fifteen-year old daughter, Nikki. Allie has her moments – she’s snarky, sarcastic, and in the past, has been an admitted mean girl. She’s also having a hard time with alcohol. She’s in her deceased father’s family home in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains with her two sisters – one she’s just met – and they’re renovating a run-down, boarded up 1920s theater built by their great-grandfather. Unless and until the theater is restored, their father’s entire estate – which is sizable – will go to charity. California girl Allie is stuck in that no-where town until they’re finished. Her daughter has come to stay for the summer – and there’s no one on earth Allie loves more. While Allie can’t wait to get back to her life in L.A., Nikki is starting to make noise about not going back.

The scene on page 69 starts out with Allie in her room, more than ready to dive head first into that bottle of vodka she has stashed in her bathroom, when Nikki knocks on the door, wanting to talk. Allie chooses to forego that drink she thought she needed because she sensed her daughter needed her. It’s the first conscious step Allie takes to get her drinking under control – and the beginning of her awareness that something is going on in her daughter’s life in CA that she doesn’t want her mother to know about.
One little drink wouldn’t hurt anything, right? And she was working her tail off these days between the theater and now the Goodbye.

She’d convinced herself she deserved a nightcap when she heard a light tapping on the door.


“Come on in, Nik.” Obviously, the nightcap was going to have to wait.

Nikki came into the room wearing a short pink nightshirt, her phone in her hand.

“Were you in bed?” she asked.

“Just thinking about it,” Allie told her. “What’s up?”

Nikki shrugged. “Just wanted to see what you were doing.

Allie knew her daughter. She never just wanted to see what her mother was doing. Something was up.

“Come in and sit.” Allie sat on the bed. “Did you find a recipe for your brownies?”

“I did. They’re going to be awesome. I’m going to test them early in the morning, and if they’re really good, I’ll make more and bring them to the Goodbye.” She drew up her legs and hugged them. “It’s exciting, isn’t it, owning a restaurant? I was happy Aunt Barney gave me my own assignment. I promise I will make the best brownies ever, and no one will say that Mrs. Kennedy’s were better.”

“I’m putting my money on you, kiddo.” Allie leaned forward and tucked a long strand of hair behind Nikki’s ear.

“Thanks, Mom.” Nikki tapped the cover of her phone and looked around the room. “You have more fresh air in here. The rooms in the front of the house don’t get the breeze like you do.”

Allie leaned back against the headboard and slid under the sheet. The day was starting to catch up with her, now that she’d slowed down.

“Mom, what happened to all the pretty jewelry you used to wear? Those gold bracelets and the diamond earrings?”

“They’re over there in the dresser in a little jewelry case.”

“Can I see them?”

“Of course.”

Nikki got up and went to the dresser, then returned to the bed. She took out Allie’s bracelets and put them on, then held them up to the light. “Why don’t you wear these anymore?”

“They’d get in my way when I’m trying to paint, and besides, Hidden Falls isn’t a very fancy place. I’d feel overdressed if I wore them every day.” Allie watched her daughter switch the bracelets around.

“Is everything okay, Nik?”

Nikki nodded, but a moment later asked, “Why can’t we stay here in Hidden Falls?”

“Because our lives are in California. Your father. Your school. Your friends.”

Nikki laid down next to Allie. “They have a good high school here. Dad can get on planes and fly everywhere for his job or for his vacations, he can get on a plane and come and see me.” She paused. “And I have better friends here.”

Allie raised an eyebrow. “Does that include Courtney?”

“It includes everyone.” She scooched closer to Allie, curled up, and closed her eyes. “Can I stay here for a while, Mom?”

“Of course you can.” Allie leaned over and turned off the lamp on the bedside table. “All night, if you want.”

“Just maybe for a few minutes.” Nikki yawned.

Within minutes, her daughter was sound asleep, the bracelets still on her arm, but wondering what had happened between her and her long-time best friend kept Allie awake for a while longer. Eventually she chalked it up to normal teenage drama, closed her eyes, and gave in to sleep.
Visit Mariah Stewart's website.

Writers Read: Mariah Stewart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2019

"The Antidote"

Shelley Sackier is the author of The Freemason's Daughter, Dear Opl, and the recently released The Antidote.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Antidote and reported the following:
The page in question:
She sat next to him and shivered, staring out across the summer grasses. They rippled with the cool night breeze as if a giant, invisible hand were running its fingers through its weft and weave. “I’m sorry, Xavi. I know how stressful it’s been for you.”

He looked toward the star-filled heavens. “I must be persuasive—convince the ministry I am capable—but they have been cowed by Sir Rollins for far too long. I fear tomorrow I will be forced to go along with him, as no one yet holds my ideas in high esteem.” He sneezed and rubbed his nose with the back of his sleeve.

“Well,” Fee said wryly, “to be frank, the only thing I see lacking to make you a well-respected monarch is a proper handkerchief, but, if we are to be serious”—the tone of her voice changed, finding a mixture of optimism and wistfulness—“tomorrow is the start of all that. Princess Quinn arrives. You will make a fine king, Xavi. And I’m sure your parents chose an exceptional partner for you.”

Xavi slowly found his feet and made a purposeful effort to smile. “I hope you hold no worries, Fee. You’ll always remain my closest confidante.”

Fee brushed off the dirt on her trousers. Deep within her bones she knew this could not be true. Not with the changes that waited upon their return to the castle.

Xavi pulled her into an affectionate hug. “You are such a goose. Do not worry.” He swept a hand up toward the cave. “We’ll make it up there again one day—you’ll see. Tonight I’m just—”

His words were cut short by a high-pitched yelp and the flurry of limbs mixed with a cloud of dust rolling down from the ridgetop to rest at their feet.

Their mouths dropped open, stupefied with fear over being discovered, when a teenaged girl scrambled to find her footing, repeatedly apologizing while attempting to adjust her clothing.
I really like this page, love it actually, because it is a microcosm of all the books themes: the deep and enduring friendship between Fee and Xavi, Xavi’s worries over his ability to rule their kingdom, and most important, the constant threat of discovery—not just the two of them being out of place and breaking the rules of the kingdom, but of Fee being discovered for who she really is and breaking the rules of the right to exist.

It feels a bit like I won the jackpot with this Page 69 test, as I couldn’t have sought out a more perfect one to encapsulate and tether together all the roots of this tale.
Visit Shelley Sackier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Shelley Sackier & Haggis.

My Book, The Movie: The Antidote.

--Marshal Zeringue