Sunday, June 30, 2019

"A Matter of Will"

Adam Mitzner is currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP in midtown Manhattan and the author of several acclaimed novels, including Dead Certain, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, The Girl from Home, Dead Certain and Never Goodbye.

Mitzner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Matter of Will, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Matter of Will begins the 12th chapter and describes Will Matthews’ current living arrangement – a three-bedroom walkup in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, which he shares with three other guys.

By this point in the book, Will has already met Sam Abaddon, the uber-wealthy investor who appears to be the answer to Will’s prayers. Prior to meeting Sam, Will was on the verge of being fired from his job as a stock broker, and sent packing back to his Midwest hometown with his tail between his legs. But now Will is on the cusp of snagging Sam’s business, which means that he won’t be living with his current roommates for too much longer.

This passage is representative of how life starts for a lot of would-be Masters of the Universe. They come to New York City with visions of living in penthouse apartments with commanding views of the city, and they end up sharing a bedroom in a setting that more resembles their college experience than Wall Street success.

At the same time, the reader knows that Will is within striking distance of that fancy penthouse he has always dreamed about. The question by page 69 of the novel is: What strings are attached to Will getting it?
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Michael Blumlein is the author of several novels and story collections, including the award-winning The Brains of Rats. He has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker. His story "Fidelity: A Primer" was short-listed for the Tiptree. He has written for both stage and film, including the award-winning independent film Decodings (included in the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and winner of the Special Jury Award of the SF International Film Festival). His novel X,Y was made into a feature-length movie. Until his recent retirement Dr. Blumlein taught and practiced medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

Blumlein applied the Page 69 Test to his new novella, Longer, and reported the following:
On page 69 my two main characters, Cav and Gunjita, husband and wife, are having a conversation. Both are scientists, and they're trying to understand a scientific riddle that's unexpectedly presented itself. They're having a difference of opinion. Cav is fairly certain the answer lies in one direction; Gunjita is equally certain it lies in the opposite direction.

This difference reflects their different personalities. Cav is a dreamer and a wool-gatherer by nature, qualities that Gunjita admires and respects. Gunjita is pragmatic and thoughtful in ways that Cav both admires and lacks.

They met in their twenties. For Cav it was love at first sight. Nearly sixty years have passed since then. They've spent a lifetime together, a long and loving one.

Gunjita has just taken a treatment making her young again. Cav, at eighty, is dragging his feet.

Gunjita is growing impatient with him. She doesn't understand what's holding him up. Cav doesn't quite understand either. He loves her dearly, and he loves life. But he's already lived a long and deeply fulfilling one. What more can he expect? Is there such a thing as enough?

What draws two people together? What keeps them together? What drives them apart? When a relationship ends – and sooner or later, all relationships do, whether or not by choice – what happens next?

Longer is about many things – aging, mortality, scientific achievement, the very nature of life – but the persistence and changeability of love and togetherness lie at its heart.
Visit Michael Blumlein's website.

Writers Read: Michael Blumlein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2019

"Summer Hours"

Amy Mason Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon.

She’s written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, The Orange County Register and other publications. Doan has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Doan is the author of The Summer List and the newly released Summer Hours.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Summer Hours and reported the following:
From page 69
I wandered rooms like a nosy houseguest, finger-combing the fringe on the fuzzy red sofa afghan, turning knobs on our decades-old intercom panel. Serra and Eric and I used to play that we were DJs on it.

The books on my bedroom shelf and the clothes in my closet seemed like someone else’s, like riches, and I couldn’t remember why they hadn’t made the cut when I’d packed for Berkeley last summer.

I picked up the framed picture of Eric and Serra and me after the Senior Awards ceremony. We were grinning into the sun with our arms flung around each other, clutching our prizes—me the Haggermaker, Serra her Artists’ Network certificate, Eric the Rotary Club’s bright medal.

You must call each other all the time.

Eric and I hadn’t spoken once.
This is when 21-year-old Becc first comes home to her house in Southern California after leaving for college in Berkeley. We get a sense of Becc’s tight, lifelong friendship with Eric and Serra—their parents called them “The Three Mouseketeers” when they were younger—and how wounded Becc is by Eric drifting from her life. (Early in the book, Eric awkwardly reaches for more than friendship with her but she’s not ready.)

We also see that Becc was a high achiever when she was younger. But she’s examining the photo as if that good girl standing in the sun is now a stranger. Her desire to maintain a perfect image for her wealthy benefactor, Francine Haggermaker, is evident here, and foreshadows what’s to come. I had a lot of fun with the lies that Becc later writes in her letters to the older woman. Francine is a bit of a cipher until late in the book, but Becc is convinced that she will disapprove of her secret affair and increasing rebelliousness, rescind her scholarship, and make her life hell. Becc is like all of us in those not-quite-adult, not-quite-child years. She still has so much to learn.

Page 69 doesn’t hint at the other half of the book—adult Becc driving up the California coast with a mystery passenger to an old friend’s wedding, trying to make things right along the way.

But overall this captures the novel’s central conflict and my writing style perfectly, so I love it.
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Last Day"

Domenica Ruta is a fiction writer and memoirist from Massachusetts. A scholarship kid at Phillips Academy Andover and Oberlin College, she has worked as a videographer and editor, a book store clerk, a waitress, a bartender, an English-as-a-Foreign-Language teacher, a nanny, a nursing home caregiver, a domestic violence hotline advocate and a house cleaner. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin.

Her first book, the memoir With or Without You, was a New York Times Bestseller and named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the top three nonfiction books of the year 2013. The Boston Globe, Macleans, NPR, Slate, Elle, Bust, and USA Today all loved it.

Ruta applied the Page 69 Test to Last Day, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a scene on the International Space Station starring Bear, the all-American astronaut. He's in the cupola, a module with all these gorgeous windows that allow astronauts to see the earth in her gorgeous entirety, "where he liked to take what he'd come to think of as a nice cool drink of Earth." He's feeling lonesome for Earth and the simple pleasures we take for granted, such as naturally moving water. I wouldn't say this page is a perfect representative of the whole book, but it does touch on something central - we are always reaching forward and backward at the same time: into the past and into the future; longing for home, in a spiritual sense, even as we push ourselves to leave home and explore the bigger world. It's about how precious our world is, how precarious, how intimate we are with it and how foreign it can feel.
Visit Domenica Ruta's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"The Cutting Room"

Ashley Dyer is the pseudonym for prize-winning novelist Margaret Murphy working in consultation with policing and forensics expert, Helen Pepper.

Dyer's new novel is The Cutting Room.

Murphy applied the Page 69 Test to The Cutting Room and reported the following:
By chance, page 69 of The Cutting Room provides a snapshot of the investigation, a glimpse into the mind of the serial killer at the heart of it, providing insights into the main protagonists, too. The Ferryman makes his victims the centrepiece of his art work, and here, detectives Greg Carver and Ruth Lake discuss his latest “art exhibit” with forensic psychologist, Dr Yi. “Catch the Gamma Wave” consisted of a row of laptop computers, propped open on a ledge of a natural sandstone escarpment not far from the city centre the night before. Each laptop screen was split into two parts; the top image showing a brain wave trace, the lower one, cardio.

From page 69:
[Ruth] hesitated, and Carver gazed at the space around her head.

‘What?’ he said.

Ruth knew that Carver had learned to read emotions like anger and guilt accurately, but complex emotions were trickier, and anyway she wasn’t sure if there was a colour for freaked out.

‘I did some background reading on gamma brain waves overnight,’ she said. ‘They’re typical of the brain state associated with “Eureka” moments – you know, sudden, unexpected sparks of insight or knowledge.’

Yi nodded. ‘There’s quite a lot in the literature about gamma brain waves and the “A-ha!” moment.’

‘Okay,’ Carver said. ‘And the brain waves on the laptop screens – were they actually gamma waves?’

‘I couldn’t tell a gamma wave from a microwave,’ Ruth admitted. ‘Doctor Yi?’

The psychologist leafed through the notes and printouts he’d brought with him. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘In my opinion they are.’

They looked to Ruth to take up the story again.

How to explain it? ‘If you drop a stone in a pond; you’d expect the ripples to get weaker and shallower as the energy dissipates, wouldn’t you?’

Carver nodded.

‘Brain waves should behave in the same way,’ Ruth said. ‘So, when the heart stops, brain activity weakens, brain waves slow down, and finally, they stop.’

‘Flatlining,’ Carver said.

‘Kind of ... An academic study on rats found that a type of brainwave called “low gamma waves” got stronger – for up to thirty seconds after the animals were technically dead.’
Detective Carver survived a near-fatal attack in Book #1, but he was in a coma for days, and now, as he recovers from a serious brain injury, he sees auras of light shimmering around people. It’s rare form of synesthesia; more commonly, synesthetes will ‘see’ words as colors, or ‘taste’ sounds, but for Carver, the flashes of light and color seem to correspond to the moods of those around him, and he has begun to interpret the colors in order to gain insights into others’ thoughts and feelings. The auras are mentioned here, as Carver tries to read Ruth Lake. Here, too, Ruth demonstrates her background in science; a former CSI, she has researched gamma waves overnight, hoping to understand the warped message behind the Ferryman’s art.

The experiment she refers to on page 69 refers to a discovery that low gamma brainwaves become stronger and more synchronized in the 30 seconds after death (i.e. when the heart stops or a massive stroke occurs), indicating heightened, organised and focused consciousness. This revelation leaves us in no doubt that the killer is sadistic, calculating, and without conscience: the brainwaves prove that the victims were aware of what was happening to them—even after he’d murdered them.
Visit Ashley Dyer's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Ashley Dyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Season Butler is a London-based writer, performance artist and teacher, and an associate producer of the I'm With You art collective.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Cygnet, and reported the following:
This was an interesting one for me, since Cygnet's pagination of the UK edition, published by Dialogue Books, is slightly different from the North American one, out with Harper Collins. Together, the two page 69s perfectly capture the narrator’s internal dilemma and the social landscape of Swan Island.

I first reached for the UK edition of Cygnet, where The Kid is mentally tangled in a panic of stories and images which all contribute to her morbid fantasies around the potential finality of the loss of her family and totality of her alienation.
How long will it be until I or my folks have weathered into a shape where can’t even recognise each other anymore? Or until we’ve changed so much we can’t love each other again, like jigsaw puzzle pieces that have gotten wet and warped and can’t fit together, like they should, and the picture will never be right. I wonder if what I’ve lost is the possibility of fitting anywhere. An extraneous piece, the wrong blue for the sky or the sea, the wrong green for the leaves or the grass or the café awnings or the leather of the little boy’s lederhosen.

My parents lost all the photos from my childhood in some move or other. I don’t have the straw to spin into gold, the way I do it up here in Mrs Tyburn’s attic. My magic will work on her but not on me. I’ll have to start from scratch, on my own, the old-fashioned way. Except I know they’ll come back for me tomorrow. I know they will.
On page 69 of Harper Collins’ North American edition, we’re in Swan Island’s café, the Psychedelicatessen, with the owners, Suzie-Q and Johnny-Come-Lately. The Kid has come in with Jason, the grandson of one of the Wrinklies who takes their homegrown marijuana to sell back on the mainland, helping them maintain their autonomy with the profit. He brings with him all the stuff they can’t grow, that helps keep retirement sweet.

The setting in the Psychedeli captures the aesthetics and politics of Swan Island life:
Inside, blue walls painted with a cloudscape that mimics the sky on a clear summer day gives the Psychedeli a great feeling of spaciousness, which it needs against the hodgepodge of homemade and salvaged furniture and pillows and bean bags that make up the dining room. Hardly anyone uses the bean bags because it’s hard to get up once you’re in one, even for me, and they always talk about getting rid of them but never do. They’ve hung some flags over the counter at the back, all with acronyms like POW- MIA and AFL-CIO, and ones with the Led Zeppelin zeppelin and the Rolling Stones lips.
The Kid and Jason, Suzie and Johnny, settle into a booth at the back and get down to business…
Visit Season Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cygnet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2019

"The Perfect Fraud"

Ellen LaCorte worked for many years in human resources. She now writes full time from her home where she lives with her husband in Titusville, New Jersey. She is the mother of two grown sons.

LaCorte applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Perfect Fraud, and reported the following:
Claire Hathaway fakes her way through her job as a psychic. Her mother is the real deal. On page 69, Claire Hathaway has returned home because her father is gravely ill. This is heartbreaking for Claire but it also puts her right back into what she’s worked her adult life to escape—trying to keep her mother from dissolving into an emotional disaster.
“What time’s the operation?” I ask my mother as she maneuvers the car out of the parking lot.

Adjusting the rearview mirror, she says, “As long as he remains stable during the night, they’re planning for eight-thirty.”

“Early. That’s good.”

When did this stiltedness between us become entrenched? Unless my mother is unloading her anxiety on me via psychic vision or through nutritional advice—more of a monologue on her part than a two-way exchange—our conversations are mostly superficial and perfunctory. It feels like we both have to carefully consider what we’re going to say, as if we were strangers who’d met in the grocery line, marking time until our turns at the register by discussing the pros and cons of firm or extra-firm tofu.
This excerpt from page 69 defines one of Claire’s major issues in the novel, that is, how to reconcile her relationship with her mother who had burdened Claire with responsibilities no young child should have had to take on. This has left Claire with a heightened sense of guilt and an extreme reluctance to take on any responsibility.

Until she is forced to.

When Claire meets Rena, a mother with a very sick child, she must decide whether or not to become involved. Claire has doubts about her psychic skills and is not sure how she can or if she will help, but a little girl’s fate may be in her hands.
Visit Ellen LaCorte's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2019

"All The Greys on Greene Street"

Laura Tucker is a writer and former literary agent who has coauthored books on a wide range of topics, including health, fitness, parenting, and self-help. Her credits include Still Room for Hope by Alisa Kaplan, Standing Tall by C. Vivian Stringer, Shalom in the Home by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Training for Life by Debbie Rocker. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Tucker applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, All the Greys on Greene Street, and reported the following:
On page 69 of All The Greys on Greene Street, Olympia, the main character of the book, has left Washington Square Park with her friend Alex to find a payphone. (The book, I should mention, is set in 1981.) On the surface, the scene is a casual conversation between friends who have known each other since preschool, but it’s quickly apparent that there’s quite a bit of tension between them.

One source of that tension is longstanding: Alex is the kind of kinetic kid who never stops moving, and Ollie often finds this extremely annoying. But her irritation with him in this scene is definitely amplified by the uncomfortable questions Alex insists on asking about her dad’s sudden disappearance. The official story doesn’t add up, and Ollie knows it, but she’s not ready to ask why.

Page 69 also contains one of my favorite of Ollie’s memories:
[Alex’s] dad travelled so much for work, we thought LaGuardia was some kind of magical city until we were most of the way through third grade. “My dad’s flying out of LaGuardia tonight,” Alex would tell us, reverent and hushed, so that we could practically see the jacketed doorman hailing a cab while his dad waited under a heated marquee, beautiful globe lights reflecting off rain-slicked roads.

Then someone figured out that LaGuardia was just an airport in Queens.
Maybe I was overly prone to glamorous fantasies, but I remember many similarly disappointing moments of discovery. This might be one of the less lovely parts of growing up....
Visit Laura Tucker's website.

Writers Read: Laura Tucker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2019

"The Gospel According to Lazarus"

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, and reported the following:
In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus resurrected a beloved friend named Lazarus. And yet, nowhere in the Gospels is there any mention of how Jesus created this miracle or if he had any special reason for doing so. In my novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, I explore these questions while narrating the tale of Lazarus from his own point of view.

The story begins with Lazarus awakening in his tomb, unsure of where he is and disoriented. Worst of all, his faith has been shattered because he remembers nothing of an afterlife. Fragile and vulnerable, he turns to Jesus for help, and the two men embark on a new phase of their long friendship.

After Jesus’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Lazarus concludes that his whole life may have been a test for this chance to save his beloved friend from crucifixion. Only many years later, however – after our narrator has been forced to flee Jerusalem – does he begin to understand the true role that he played in Jesus’ life. And he begins to believe that he might still be able to help his old friend by voicing his unique perspective on the religious and mystical movement that became known as Christianity.

One of my objectives in this novel was to restore to Jesus and Lazarus their Judaism. And so Jesus is known by his Hebrew name, Yeshua ben Yosef, and Lazarus is referred to as Eliezer ben Natan.

On page 69, Eliezer is about to finish telling his grandson a mystical version of the story from John 8 of a woman accused of adultery and facing punishment. In Eliezer’s version, the woman has been and beaten and brutalized. Yeshua saves her life by using an insightful strategy against her accuser. Here is what Eliezer says.
All who have ever heard this story believe they know the lesson that Yeshua wished to teach us. It is contained in these words: ‘Let he who is without blemish or who has never lost his way cast the first stone.’

But, while that is an important lesson, it is only the one we see at first glance, written across the polished surface of his actions.

If you gaze below this level of meaning, dear boy, you may glimpse the second – and some would say, more life-changing – lesson that Yeshua intended for us that day, and it is this: The only hands and eyes that the Lord has to right injustice in our world are our own.
Page 69 captures a bit of the mystical tone of the book but not the rapid pace and down-to-earth atmosphere. The review in England’s The Observer newspaper is relevant in this regard: “A very human tale of rivalry, betrayal, power-grabbing and sacrifice... Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this brave and engaging novel is that Zimler manages to make the best-known narrative in western culture a page-turner. I simply had to keep going to the end to know what would happen.”
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 99: Guardian of the Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Last Bus to Everland"

Sophie Cameron was born in the Scottish Highlands and studied French & Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived in France, Canada, Germany and now lives in Barcelona with her wife.

Cameron applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Bus to Everland, and reported the following:
Last Bus to Everland has two settings: one is Everland, a magical dimension that the main character, Brody Fair, visits every Thursday night with his friends; and the other is modern-day Edinburgh, where Brody lives in a cramped apartment with his parents and siblings. Brody’s dad has agoraphobia as a result of PTSD and rarely leaves the building. On page 69 of the book, Brody is looking back at how his father’s condition began after waking up from a short coma caused by a vicious attack:
But then I remember Mam rushing into our bedroom to tell us that Dad had woken up. I remember the car ride to the hospital in our pajamas, and that giddy mix of relief and joy and nerves when we arrived to find him sitting up, bruised and bandaged but smiling. It was in the papers and all: “Brave Father Makes ‘Miracle’ Recovery after Intervening in Leith Attack.”

I thought that was it. I thought Dad was better, that everything was back to normal. But when he walked through the front doors of the hospital the following week, before we’d even reached the car, he had a panic attack.

Doesn’t sound like much when you say it like that. It doesn’t sound the way I remember it: Dad gasping for breath, eyes wide and face pale, clammy hands tugging at his collar as if his clothes were suffocating him. It doesn’t sound like the horror in his face, or the fear that seeped out of him and snatched my own breath away. It doesn’t sound like Keira crying, or Jake asking over and over what was wrong.
In many ways, this page isn’t particularly representative of the novel as a whole: there is no sign of the magic here that Brody discovers when he’s taken to Everland. But on the other hand, it does show some of the challenges of the difficult (and occasionally dangerous) real world that Brody lives in, and his love for his family. Brody finds his father’s condition frustrating and unfair, but he’s always empathetic. He understands that it’s a real disability and that his dad is doing his best.

Despite being a fantasy novel, the family dynamics are really the heart of Last Bus to Everland. Brody’s home life isn’t always easy: his father’s disability means he can’t work, his mum is struggling to make up the hours, and Brody is caught between his genius older brother and his attention-seeking younger sister. He doesn’t feel seen or understood, but he loves them regardless. When the doors to Everland begin to close, he’s forced to choose between the magical dimension (and Nico, the boy he’s fallen in love with there) and his family – and it’s not an easy decision at all.
Visit Sophie Cameron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"The Perfect Plan"

Bryan Reardon is the author of Finding Jake and The Real Michael Swann. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Bryan worked for the State of Delaware for more than a decade, starting in the Office of the Governor. He holds a degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife and kids.

Reardon applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Perfect Plan, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"I'm busy, Liam. You know that. I can't afford anything going wrong right now."

"It's cool," I say. "Everything's cool. I promise."

"It better be," he says. "I suggest you head home right now."

I keep staring at the car, the police, the guy with the beard.

"I will," I say, and hang up.
Page 69 of The Perfect Plan is short, the end of a chapter. The dialog could mean anything without the proper context. Maybe just a banal conversation between two brothers, Liam and Drew. Or maybe not. Liam might have just left a car in the middle of an intersection after getting into an altercation with the bearded man. The Jetta he abandoned could have been used in the abduction of a woman on Drew's gubernatorial campaign staff. In fact, it is the woman's car. And Liam is the one that abducted her.

The interaction above may be the start of a complex cat and mouse game. The kind that you're never sure who might be the villain. And who the hero. In life, though, there is rarely one or the other. Instead, we are both. Or neither. On page 69, it appears that Liam is the former and his brother the later. Maybe that perception will be flipped on its heels. Maybe they are both villains, and Drew's staffer is nothing but an innocent victim. Chances are, though, their story will lead to something very different. Because we are talking about the Brennan brothers. With them, nothing is as it appears.
Follow Bryan Reardon on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Bryan Reardon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Time’s Demon"

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy; the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood; a contemporary urban fantasy trilogy, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson; and most recently, Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s Knightfall series.

Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Coe applied the Page 69 Test to Time’s Demon and reported the following:
From page 69:
Bexler wasn’t there, but the tri-sextant sat on his workbench. She guessed that he had already finished it, and was making arrangements for additional materials. His single-mindedness had its advantages...

...Bexler returned nearly two bells later, arriving in an ill temper. Apparently he would have to wait a ha’turn for the first arcs to reach Hayncalde, and another qua’turn after that for enough of them to complete two tri-sextants. In the interim, Gillian knew, he would be impossible to live with: more incentive to ingratiate herself with people in the castle. If she remained in the flat for all that time, her boredom might well prove fatal for at least one of them.

“Is this one finished?” she asked him, interrupting a tirade about the incompetence of ministers, and the value of tri-sextants.

“Yes, it’s ready. I have nothing to do for... for days upon days.”

He flounced to a chair near the hearth and dropped himself into it, a boy in a man’s body.

“Can’t you work on tri-apertures?”

“I suppose, but to what end? They don’t need those.”

“Not now, perhaps. They might before long.”

Bexler nodded. His gaze roamed the chamber, restless. Eventually it settled on her, and his mien shifted in a way she recognized too well.

“You know,” he said, smiling, “as long as we’ve nothing to do–”

“You have nothing to do. I have plenty. I’ll be leaving for the castle before long. In the meantime, I’d suggest you get to work on those apertures. If nothing else, we can sell them for food money, until some other noble has need of our services.”

He frowned, putting her in mind again of a fifteen year-old boy.
The “Page 69 Test” is always a crapshoot, because manuscript pages rarely correspond exactly to book pages. As with Time’s Children, the first book in my time travel/epic fantasy series The Islevale Cycle, page 69 of Time’s Demon, volume two in the series, is not representative of the entire book. It does illustrate, though, an essential truth about big fantasy projects.

On page 69 in Time’s Demon, we encounter Gillian Ainfor, a relatively minor and yet hugely important character in the series. She and her husband, Bexler Filt, have been spies in the court of the ruler who was overthrown and murdered in book I. Their actions helped my “bad guys” succeed in that coup. Now, however, their importance is diminished. Filt is a Binder and creates essential devices for the Windhome-trained Travelers who serve in the various courts. He remains valuable to those in power. Gillian, on the other hand, though smarter and more resourceful than her husband, finds herself feeling superfluous.

In this scene, she seeks to find renewed purpose. She intends to present herself to the new authorities in the city and offer her services as a spy. Anything to get away from her husband. Anything to put herself back at the center of world-shaping events.

Characters like Gillian (and Bexler) are critical to the success of big projects like this one. Epic fantasy works best when it has many plot threads and point of view characters, when readers find themselves in a web of storylines all driving toward a single narrative conclusion. Secondary characters have to feel real, their motivations and emotions need to resonate with readers, just as do the feelings and actions of central characters. As I say, Gillian’s arc is crucial to this novel, despite her being in only a few scenes. She is also a fun character to write, as much for her wit and candor as for her singular role in the story.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog..

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"We Were Killers Once"

Becky Masterman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, We Were Killers Once, and reported the following:
"Beaufort's drive took him west on I-10, a straight shot out of the panhandle of Florida..." begins the chapter on page 69 of We Were Killers Once. Someone, maybe Joseph Campbell, once said that every story is either Hero Takes a Journey or Stranger Comes to Town. Jeremiah Beaufort, who has been freed from a long prison conviction, is definitely the stranger on page 69 coming into the lives of Brigid Quinn, a hardened retired FBI agent, and her husband, a mild-mannered ex-priest named Carlo DiForenza who live in Tucson, Arizona. We already know what Jeremiah Beaufort probably did, and why he's coming for Carlo. We know he's a murderer. And we know he's fond of the melody called "Humoresque." What Beaufort doesn't know is that Brigid Quinn was a killer once, too.
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: We Were Killers Once.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune"

Roselle Lim is a Filipino-Chinese writer living on the north shore of Lake Erie.

She loves to write about food and magic.

When she isn't writing, she is sewing, sketching, or pursuing the next craft project.

Lim applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Nothing made me happier than the act of cooking. My happiest memories were of spending time in the kitchen with Ma-ma as we prepared our meals. The best cooks doubled as magicians, uplifting moods and conjuring memories through the medium of food.
The above opens Chapter Eight, and it captures the soul of the book. Cooking and food play a central role in bringing the characters together, while Natalie’s relationship with Miranda, her mother, is the heart of the novel.

A common thread throughout the story is how kinship are navigated using the language of food. Natalie cooks magical dishes for her neighbors to help them and, in doing so, she begins to understand their hopes, desires, and foibles. She realizes she can no longer keep herself apart from her community.

Natalie’s journey to confront the grief from her mother’s death and to find her own path changes her. Like most mothers-and-daughters, the relationship between Natalie and Miranda is complicated. It is full of love, but not always acceptance or understanding. Natalie’s growth comes from her reconciliation of the past with her desired future.

The page 69 test showcases the two essential themes of the book.
Visit Roselle Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Time After Time"

Lisa Grunwald is the author of the novels The Irresistible Henry House, Whatever Makes You Happy, New Year’s Eve, The Theory of Everything, Summer, and the newly released Time After Time. Along with her husband, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler, she has edited the bestselling anthologies Women’s Letters and Letters of the Century. Grunwald is a former contributing editor to Life and a former features editor of Esquire. She and Adler live in New York City.

Grunwald applied the Page 69 Test to Time After Time and reported the following:
I’m not sure I could have found a less representative page of Time After Time than page 69. My main character (Nora) has gone to visit her father (Frederick) in his hospital room. Nora (and we) will never see this hospital room or Frederick again. In fact, the scene mainly exists in technical service of the plot. Frederick’s illness is the reason Nora comes to New York from Paris; her visit to the hospital is the reason she doesn’t go straight home from the dock where her ship has landed; her heading home after the hospital visit is the reason she winds up in the accident that is the central event of the novel. So, the main setting of the novel (Grand Central Terminal) and the other main character (Joe Reynolds), and the obstacles they face are nowhere present—or even foreshadowed—on page 69.

And yet I think the page does reveal something of Nora’s personality. On page 69, we see her being strong, loving, concerned—and complicit with her father in decrying her mother’s imperious nature. When she tells Frederick that her roommate’s flipped-up haircut makes her look like a playing-card king, we see her levity and her eye for detail. All these elements, but above all the love and determination that have brought Nora to Frederick’s room, will be among the qualities that so attract Joe—and that I hope will endear her to the reader as well.
Visit Lisa Grunwald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2019

"A Bend In The Stars"

Rachel Barenbaum is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor, before moving to the New Hampshire woods to write. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an AB in Literature and Philosophy from Harvard College.

Barenbaum applied the Page 69 Test to A Bend in the Stars, her first novel, and reported the following:
A Bend In The Stars is set in 1914 Russia. The novel is focused on the brother and sister duo of Miri and Vanya. When the book opens, the two are snared by the Czar’s army as his forces tighten their grip on the local Jewish community in preparation for war with Germany and brother and sister are forced to run for their lives. They should run from Russia, but Vanya refuses to leave the country until he’s snapped a photograph of the total solar eclipse due over Russia– a photograph that will help him prove the theory of relativity and thereby beat Einstein. His stubbornness puts them in extreme danger and it is Miri who saves them. She is the hero.

When readers first meet Miri, she is one of Russia’s first female surgeons. She is already a trailblazer in terms of her career but the personal and the professional are not always aligned, and readers follow her journey as she discovers the depths of her courage and love. She is the character that grows the most, that is tested the most. And she is the character that recognizes her limitations, not because of her abilities but because she is a Jew and because Russia has no tolerance for Jews. We see this transformation beginning on page 69:
(Miri) grabbed the misshapen pot, whipped around meaning to defend them with it, but in that same instant, he (a soldier) took hold of her wrist and the two were locked together. The pot in her fist hung suspended over them. The soldier looked surprised by her strength, by the fact that she didn’t let go or give in. But he was stronger and he seemed to like taunting her, not overpowering her as quickly as he could. She understood that once she stopped fighting, he’d be merciless.
Just as that individual soldier was merciless, so too was the Czar and this is the moment when Miri realizes that her only way forward is to escape because if she stays they will kill her – and it will be brutal. She must find a way out of Russia for her, for her family. What follows is a journey that includes an epic love story twisted into real life history and science as Miri risks everything to save the people she loves most.
Visit Rachel Barenbaum's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Bend in the Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2019

"The Electric Hotel"

Dominic Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Electric Hotel, and reported the following:
The Electric Hotel takes place in the world of early silent film. It tells the story of a lost silent film that ruined the careers—and to some extent the lives—of the famous French director and actress who made it. We also follow a band of pioneering filmmakers during the rise and fall of a studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, America’s first movie town and the place that popularized the term cliffhanger (because of the kinds of reels they made out along the Palisades cliff tops).

As it happens, page 69 of the novel is mostly white space, with just six lines of text. In a way, the white space is indicative of a theme and approach to formatting in the novel. As I was writing the book, I was conscious of the way white space is a kind of visual stand-in for silence, using it liberally, and I also wanted to emulate the formatting of early screen photoplays.

But to be fair, if I was picking up the novel in a bookstore and flipping to page 69, I’d probably turn one page over, to page 70, to get a true sense of the world and story. That page features a description of Brooklyn’s first prototype movie house, about to be opened in 1900 by Hal Bender, one of the novel’s primary characters. Early silent films were often shown between live acts on the vaudeville circuit.
Everyone agreed that Hal Bender had brought something beautiful to the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, even if they didn’t know what to call it. Something between a glorified storefront, a vaudeville theater, and a novelty parlor. The facade was stucco and rusticated imitation stone, but the flourishes—sculpted garlands and goddesses—were molded plaster, painted to a high gloss. From a distance, it looked like a curbside basilica, something hand-chiseled by neighborhood sinners and aspirants, but inside there were eight rows of red-plush opera chairs and the velvet drapes were tied back with golden, tasseled ropes. There was a Kimball pump organ, a mounted screen of white silk, and a stage where vaudeville acts could perform between reels.
Visit Dominic Smith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre.

The Page 69 Test: Bright and Distant Shores.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2019

"Like a Love Story"

Abdi Nazemian is a screenwriter, director, and author.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new YA novel, Like a Love Story, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Like a Love Story is the end of one of the most important scenes of the novel. In the scene, Reza - a closeted queer Iranian teen - and Art - the only out and proud kid in their high school - bond as they discuss, what else, Madonna. At the end of the scene, Art realizes that Reza, who lost his father and lived in Iran during the revolution, has suffered loss just as Art himself has as a part of the NYC queer community in the late 1980s. The scene touches on everything the book is about: loss, love, activism, music, and the power of human connection.
Visit Abdi Nazemian's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Authentics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"Dawson's Fall"

Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books - six novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two as New York Times Editors’ Choices.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dawson's Fall, and reported the following:
Page 69 is taken from Sarah Morgan Dawson’s actual Civil War diary, written in Baton Rouge. It starts off when the town had been taken by Federal troops, quartered on a gunship, lying at anchor in the river. Sarah is at home, with her mother and sisters Lilly and Miriam. Her father and one brother have died; the women are on their own.
May 30, 1862 Wednesday…we rose very early, and had breakfast sooner than usual, it would seem for the express design of becoming famished before dinner. I picked up some of my letters and papers, and set them where I could find them whenever we were ready to go to [the summer cabin] at Greenwell..I was packing up my traveling desk…and saying to myself that my affairs were in such confusion that if obliged to run unexpectedly I would not know what to save, when I heard Lily’s voice down stairs crying as she ran in- she had been out shopping - “Mr. Castle has killed a Federal officer on a ship, and they are going to shell -” Bang! went a cannon at the word, and that was all our warning.

Mother had just come in, and was lying down, but sprang to her feet and added her screams to the general confusion. Miriam…ran up to quiet her, Lilly gathered her children crying hysterically all the time, and ran to the front door with them as they were…I bethought me of my “running” bag which had used on a former case, and in a moment my few precious articles were secured under my hoops, and with a sunbonnet on, stood ready for anything.
The page both is and is not representative - it takes place twenty years earlier than most of the narrative, which is set in 1889. But it’s representative in that it gives an idea of the conditions of her life, during the war, how suddenly things happened, how the fact of uncertainty and anxiety affect people, what it means, as a practical matter to a household, to be under fire. What happens to the women and children, the final targets of war. What the imminent present of death does to the character.
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Dawson's Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 3, 2019

"The Prophet of the Termite God"

Clark T. Carlton studied English and Film at Boston University and UCLA and have worked as a screen and television writer, a journalist, and as a producer of reality television in addition to a thousand and one other professions.

Carlton applied the Page 69 Test to his novel, The Prophet of the Termite God, and reported the following:
From page 69:
They entered the weeds to see if they were free of Hulkrites or other human enemies as well as predatory insects, spiders, mites and ticks. As they waited for the scouts to return, Daveena heard the buzz of honeybees and looked up to see some flying overhead. The sacks on their hind legs were not yellow with pollen, but with the dark brown propolis they mixed with their wax to make a glue to build or repair their dwellings. The bees turned south then dropped over what was likely a hive tended by the mysterious Bulkokans.

“Daveena,” shouted Worela, wife of the chieftain, her abundant jewelry shaking like a bead-chain drum as she walked. “You speak the Seed Eaters tongue, yes?”

“I do.”

“Thagdag wants you and the other two-tongued to approach these bee people and see if we can find a common tongue.”

“These are an eastern people. I don’t know that they will know yatchmin,” she said, using the Seed Eaters’ word for their language.

After the sand sleds were set in a circle under the weeds, the clan’s children were gathered in its center. The girls were handed materials for making jewelry and the boys were set to music practice on drums and other instruments. A contingent of men was left behind to guard the children as the roaches were released from the sand sleds’ tethers.

The beehive was approached with the women riding atop the roaches and the men alongside on foot as their protectors. An increasing number of bees, making their way home at the end of the day’s foraging, were a helpful guide. The women steered the roaches through a winding path between towering stalks of dying sun daisies with hairy, brown leaves and limp flowers that resembled murdered spiders at the ends of spikes.
Dead on! The passage represents my world where humans have evolved to the size of insects and intertwined with their world. In order to do so, the humans have to disguise themselves with the scents of the insects they have parasitized. This results in an extreme tribalism since different nations cannot intermingle or speak a common language. Wearing the scent of yellow ants allows a human to exploit them for food and labor but it marks him as someone to kill by the brown ants and their own human parasites.

The one exception in this world to intertribal contact are the Britasytes, a cockroach people whose insects exude a repelling pheromone that allows them to wander unmolested through the different ant lands. The roach clans are the traveling show people/carnies as well as the traders and messengers between rival nations. On page 69, a roach clan is on the dangerous assignment of going into Hulkren, the fallen nation of ghost ant warriors, to liberate the Bulkokans, a captive people who live as the symbionts of bees. The mission portends a future problem as the Bulkokans are convinced of themselves as the Favored Children of their bee goddess — they are no less tribal than anyone else.
Visit Clark Thomas Carlton's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Prophet of the Termite God.

Writers Read: Clark Thomas Carlton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 1, 2019

"One Small Sacrifice"

Hilary Davidson’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises. Davidson’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, One Small Sacrifice—the first book in a new series—and reported the following:
From page 69:
“This Diana person you met… is there any way you can track her down?”

“I can try. You think she’s important?”

CJ shot him a curious sidelong look. “Emily takes off and a couple days later you’ve got a strange woman in your apartment who claims Emily gave her a key?” He shook his head. “I’m not going to pretend I know what’s going on, but there’s no way I’d write that off as a coincidence.”

Alex opened his mouth to answer, but there was a screech of tires from Second Avenue and the sound of metal crunching against metal. A woman screamed. Every synapse in Alex’s brain was suddenly on fire, all of them transmitting the same message: run. He grabbed CJ’s arm and pulled him off the flagstone and behind a tree.

“What are you doing?” CJ asked, clearly confused.

Alex froze, suddenly remembering where he was: not a war zone, just noisy midtown. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, except for you trying to dislocated my shoulder.”

Alex let go immediately. “I’m sorry.”

There was a siren in the distance. “That sounded like a car accident on Second Avenue,” CJ said. “What did you think it was?”

“I don’t know.” Alex could feel his face flush red. What the hell was wrong with him? Frist the snap’n pops had thrown him into a fugue state; now the sound of a fender bender was shooting him straight into a panic.

“Be honest with me,” CJ said. “Are you having PTSD episodes again?”
It’s interesting how well this scene captures what’s happening in the book. Alex Traynor is a war photographer; his fiancée, Emily Teare, is a doctor who vanished a couple of days earlier. Alex didn’t know Emily was breaking up with him until he found a note in their apartment telling him that it was over. Alex can’t understand what’s happened, and he turns to Emily’s closest friend, CJ Leeward, for answers. CJ can’t provide clarity, but his perspective helps Alex start to question some of the strange events that precipitated—and followed—Emily’s disappearance. CJ is the first person that he tells about a woman who let himself into his apartment with a key she claimed Emily had given her. Alex is certain that woman was lying to him, but he has no idea who she really is or what she wants.

Complicating matters is the fact that Alex suffers from PTSD from his time working in war zones. He’s haunted by memories of people he saw killed in Syria, as well as the death of his close friend Cori Stanton, who fell from the roof of Alex’s building in Hell’s Kitchen a year before One Small Sacrifice begins. The NYPD investigated the matter, but didn’t find enough evidence to indict Alex; however, one of the investigating detectives believes that Alex got away with murder, and when Emily vanishes, the NYPD’s reaction is swift and intense. Alex had believed his PTSD was under control until the past few days; the fact that it’s resurfaced with a vengeance terrifies him.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Always Tells.

--Marshal Zeringue