Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Marilou Is Everywhere"

Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University (BA, English and Creative Writing). She has worked as a metadata analyst (signed an NDA & shall say no more!), a college teacher, a proofreader/copyeditor, design consultant, waitress, and ghostwriter. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation, and the Keene Prize for Literature, among other generous entities.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to Marilou Is Everywhere, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When Jude disappeared, it became clear that practically no one had any awareness of her mother's condition. Jude's friends, it turned out, had not been inside the house for years. Bernadette Satterwhite was not especially befriended in the community, except among the other artists and burnouts who had migrated to the area in a great wave at the end of the seventies They had moved in on the cheap acreage in an approximation of something radical and dreamy. They would live off the land, away from what Bernadette called the murderous and ever-humming instructions of capitalism. So great was the influx that there had even been, at one time, a commune called the Whole in the Universe at one of the former farmhouses, somewhere in Ned or Spraggs or Rutan, although nobody could remember where.

After a decade or two, many of them blew off to more favorable cultural climates. I guess they hoped rural tedium would be a little more poetic, and not so much long winters of the snow chaining its death wish upon you. Those who stuck around picked up enough grit and crud and survival skills that they often could not be told apart from the rest of us, who were bent into catastrophe postures by poverty, black lung, heroin, WIC vouchers, fluoride, Miller Time, a caustic species of aloneness, perfectly well-intentioned social workers, postindustrial blight, single-A football, pepperoni rolls, and things like that. These things burned and bent the outsiders, too, the longer they hung around.
Page 69 turns out to be delightfully representative of the book, in particular its penchant for gossipy stretches of backstory. This chapter introduces Bernadette Satterwhite, a Texan transplant and regal bohemian outcast who moved to Greene County to live off the land. While she has long been a colorful and occasionally despised member of the community, her mental state has declined sharply in recent years, to an extent the community was unaware of until the search for her missing daughter, Jude, reveals how out of hand Bernadette's drinking has gotten.

And if you've ever been to Southwestern Pennsylvania, I hope you'll agree that the list in the second paragraph is just about as representative as it damn gets. (Well, I left out Sheetz MTO, but hindsight's 20/20.)
Visit Sarah Elaine Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"Miracle Creek"

Angie Kim moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea, to the suburbs of Baltimore. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize in Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications including Vogue, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, The Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three sons.

Kim applied the Page 69 Test to Miracle Creek, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is completely different from the rest of Miracle Creek in one particular way: I added it to the story after the rest of the novel was written. Miracle Creek is written in close third-person, from the POVs of seven different characters. Page 69 is taken from the first chapter of Mary Yoo, the teenage daughter of the Korean immigrant family that anchors Miracle Creek. Mary is essentially me, when I first came over to the US from Seoul, S. Korea, with my parents when I was eleven. Page 69 is essentially an edited mix of personal essays I wrote about that time in my life, which were published in The Southern Review, Asian-American Literary Review, Gulf Stream, and Glamour. The rest of the novel, I wrote linearly, finishing one chapter before moving on to the next, but there were a few scenes I added after I finished drafting and revising the whole novel, and this entire page is one of those new scenes.
Visit Angie Kim's website.

My Book, The Movie: Miracle Creek.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 29, 2019

"Howling Dark"

Christopher Ruocchio is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Ruocchio has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two.

 Ruocchio applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Howling Dark, and reported the following:
(Oof, Page 69 is a chapter-ender, so it’s short!)
The growing night was cold, and the days short on Rustam, as days so often are. And I was of Delos, and used to colder climes than she, who hailed from hot and arid Ubar worlds and worlds away. See us as we go, arm in arm, she walking tight beside me, my arm about her slender waist. We might have been two lovers returning from the opera—​were it not that we were armed. You might think nothing of us at all. Arslan was, after all, a place for hard people in harder times. Two drunks perhaps, or two sailors recently out of freeze. Yet when I look back upon that moment, I can point to but few moments that are as shining and simple as that warm and gentle quiet we shared ... or the small pressure of her hand on my arm, or the way I nestled against her shoulder in the back of our shuttle and for a moment forgot that my friend was dead.

But the ugliness of the world does not fade, and fear and grief are not made less by time. We are only made stronger. We can only float together on their tides, as otters do, hand in hand.

Before it ends.

Before it has to end.
I’m not sure we could have found a less representative sample of the book if we tried. This is the tail end of a scene of relative peace and stability—and even happiness—in a book that’s full of these things falling apart. A lot of Hadrian’s journey in Howling Dark is discovering that people have their own internal worlds and that those worlds aren’t in alignment with his own (even, and most painfully, when he is doing what is right and necessary and they are not). This scene is before these illusions are properly shattered, and so it’s really setting the stage for that process by which I break poor Hadrian down. If it is representative in any way, it is that the general melancholy on display here is pretty demonstrative of Hadrian’s narration. He is an old man writing this, and his life has been very painful. Recounting all this is not easy for him.
Follow Christopher Ruocchio on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Empire of Silence.

The Page 69 Test: Empire of Silence.

My Book, The Movie: Howling Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Medusa in the Graveyard"

Emily Devenport has written several novels under various pseudonyms including one which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick award.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Medusa in the Graveyard, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Someone approached, their feet crunching on the path. Oddly, it wasn’t until that moment that it occurred to me that we must also have gotten our gravel from asteroids.

Cocteau held a wine bottle in one hand and a glass in the other. She navigated the garden path with grace, belying the sparkle in her eye that I guessed had come from several samplings from the glass―and possibly several previous glasses.

She hoisted the bottle. “I have made a lovely friend. He makes coffee and he likes wine.”

“Ogden Schickele?” I guessed.

“The very one.” Cocteau sat beside me on the bench. She was a tiny thing, and she looked delicate, though not fragile. She moved with confidence. Her demeanor, as she regarded me from her perch, reminded me very much of Dragonette.

Her hair was so white, I wondered if she lightened it. The contrast with her dark skin made her look like a magical creature. A fairy godmother? An elf? Yet despite her apparent age, her skin was smooth, and Cocteau’s accented voice possessed the timbre of a fine instrument, pleasing my ears so well, I knew I would be looking for reasons to like her rather than sensible reasons not to.

“Captain Thomas says you’re the real deal,” I said, “sought after by giant companies, and by captains of ships much larger than Merlin.”

“How could I resist Merlin?” Cocteau set the bottle beside her as if it were a favored child. “She is named for a beautiful falcon, so small and fierce and full of surprises.”

Like you, I thought.

“You know, Oichi―” Cocteau took a sip. “―when I made queries about you, when I was deciding whether or not to sign on for this contract, my sources called you Miss Kick-Butt.” She winked. “It’s the reason I accepted.”

I wondered whom she could have talked to who would have known so much about me, but I couldn’t help smiling back. “I don’t kick people’s butts for fun. These days I spend a lot more time putting out fires than setting them.”

“There’s more than one way to kick butt.” Cocteau took another sip. “Oh my Lord this is good wine. And the coffee! My French soul is in ecstasy.”

Perhaps she was related to the filmmaker after all. “You are entirely French?” I said. “You know this?”

“No one is entirely anything, these days,” said Cocteau...
Cocteau sums it up perfectly, on the bottom of page 69. Oichi and the Olympians have learned that they're not alone in the cosmos – they have neighbors, and old enemies could be allies under the right circumstances. Vengeance is no longer relevant or useful. Now they have to figure out how to rebuild what they were so eager to tear down when they plotted their revolution. Who will be their allies? Who will want to trade for their wine and coffee?

Who will be their new enemies? The answer will not be clear to anyone until Oichi and her team travel into the Graveyard and speak with the three alien ships with whom they share some DNA, entities who have remained in self-imposed sleep for millennia. With each step they take toward that destination, the picture becomes more complicated, because The Three are not the only ancient entities in that spaceship junkyard – and they aren't the only ones looking to forge new alliances.

Weapons may help people win wars, or even prevent wars if their existence is a deterrent, but conflicts aren't resolved by weapons, alone. One step into the Graveyard will prove that things that go BOOM are primitive compared with what the entities in the Graveyard can do. Wonders and terrors are harbored, therein, and Oichi is one of the few who has the nerve and the hubris to seek them out.

There will be consequences...
Visit Emily Devenport's blog.

The Page 69 Test: Medusa Uploaded.

My Book, The Movie: Medusa Uploaded.

My Book, The Movie: Medusa in the Graveyard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Rabbits for Food"

Binnie Kirshenbaum is a novelist and short story writer. She has twice won the Critic's Choice Award and the Discovery Award. She was one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of Paper magazine's Beautiful People. Her books have been selected as Favorite Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek, Vogue and National Public Radio. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a professor and Fiction Director at Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

Kirshenbaum applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Rabbits for Food, and reported the following:
Page 69 falls midway into the chapter titled “Is She Getting Any Help?”(The answer is No.) This chapter is a chronology of the experiences with myriad psychologists and psychiatrists whose help Bunny (the novel's protagonist) sought prior to the major depressive disorder afflicting her now. This chapter, and by extension, page 69, is unique to the book insofar as it is a discrete, free-standing look back that span many years, which does not do much to heighten the tension. The first half of page 69 sums up her dissatisfaction one of the psychiatrists:
Dr. Stine wore velvet shawls and wrote papers for professional journals in which she psychoanalyzed artists and writers. They were all dead, the artists and the writers, but still, she should've changed their names. A year or so in with Dr. Stine, Bunny related an exquisite example of the systematic erosion of her confidence, how when it was time for Bunny to apply to college, her mother left on her bed a brochure and application for dental hygienist training. Dr. Stine gave Bunny a copy of a paper she'd written called "Too Much Mother Too Close to Home, " one she just happened to have on hand, in which based on the story "So Much Water So Close to Home," she psychoanalyzed Raymond Carver.... Goodbye Dr. Stine.
The depiction of Dr. Stine is emblematic of Bunny's cynicism and her judgmental nature. But she's not wrong, either. Bunny might not be sure if it's ethical or not to write psychoanalytical papers on dead authors, but she does know that for Dr. Stine to give one to her--a writer who considers herself to be a failure-- is an insensitive and self-aggrandizing response to Bunny's pain. Bunny never lets foolishness or thoughtlessness pass by without comment. Her sardonic tone of voice is largely consistent throughout the novel and is one of the ways with which she tries to buffer herself against the hurts she has experienced. It's also an unsuccessful way to bolster her own lack of self-worth.

The second half of the same page introduces the reader to Dr. Lowenstein, an encounter which reveals another side to Bunny:
Unlike the others, Dr. Lowenstein neither gave her advice nor spoke in platitudes. Mostly, he said nothing, which might've provoked Bunny to ask, "What am I paying you for? I can talk to myself for free," except that it seemed that he rarely spoke because he was listening.
Despite her penchant for snarkiness, she is sensitive and intuitive. She doesn't lash out at everyone. Her feelings about Dr. Lowenstein, which she acknowledges and accepts with gratitude are also present (in greater and deeper degrees) in her relationships with her husband, her closest friend, and animals.

Her dual nature is evidenced by caustic misanthropy aimed at the inanities and thoughtlessness of humankind, which includes the vast majority of people she encounters as well as political ills that are juxtaposed by her periodic expressions of love, admiration, affection, and genuine concern for the fate of the world. These extremes are nowhere near as pointed on page 69 as they are on other pages, nonetheless, but they do reveal a tempered version of the same thing. And as her mental illness is the novel's driving force, page 69 is a clear-cut representation of her failed attempts to conquer despair.
Learn more about the book and author at Binnie Kirshenbaum's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rabbits for Food.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Just My Luck"

Jennifer Honeybourn is a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she’d have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives in Stratford, Ontario with her husband, daughter and cat in a house filled with books.

Honeybourn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Just My Luck, and reported the following:
Page 69 kicks off chapter eight:
The next day, I arrive at the hotel half an hour before I’m scheduled to meet Will and his brother for the luau. I was hoping to sneak behind the front desk so I could log in to the computer and check the guest records, but there are too many people around for me to safely do it, so I decide to use the computer in my mom’s office instead. She’s not working today, but if anyone asks why I’m in her office, I can just tell them she asked me to pick something up for her. And pray they don’t mention it to her.
I think that the first paragraph in this chapter actually captures a few of the elements of the main and sub plots of the story pretty well. In this scene, Marty is at the Grand Palms Maui, the luxury hotel where she works. She intends to track down the home addresses for the guests she stole from so that she can return those items and hopefully turn her luck around. She has to use her mother’s office to try and find the guest information, which is a bit of a risk.

Marty normally works the front desk, but she’s been taken off her duties for the next few weeks so that she can act as a tour guide for a couple of rich guests — Will and his brother, Hayes. She’s meant to show them around the island, which she’s not exactly thrilled about, mostly because she’s fighting an attraction to Will, one that can’t lead anywhere. The luau is the first time that the three of them will be spending time together.
Visit Jennifer Honeybourn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"In the Woods"

Carrie Jones is the The New York Times bestseller author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series, Flying series, Girl, Hero, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and other uses for duct tape), as well as After Obsession and Summer Howl with Steven E. Wedel.

Steven E. Wedel is a high school English teacher, and lives with his wife and children in Oklahoma.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, In the Woods, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“He ain’t here. Just the girl.”

I don’t know if this is good news or bad news. My palms are sweating like crazy. That is such a cliché that not even I would try to put it in a poem. Damn. I swallow hard, try to calm down.

“Can you tell me what room?” I ask.

“They know you’re coming?”

“Are you their personal secretary?”

“Don’t you sass me, boy,” the man snarls.

“Sorry,” I concede, holding up my hands in a show of peace. “Can you just please tell
me what room number?”

“Let me see some ID. Anything happens up there and that girl’s daddy needs to whup you, I wanna know who to send him after.” The guy gets off the wooden stool he was perched on and shuffles toward the counter while I withhold a disgusted sigh and pull out my wallet. He copies down my name and address, then pauses. “You’re the kid who saw Bigfoot.”

“Yeah.” I snap my wallet closed. The guy reeks of tobacco and old, greasy food.

“Was it big? They say Bigfoot has a powerful bad smell. Did it smell bad?”

“I really don’t remember.” Of course, I remember everything, but I’m not going to tell him about it.

“What room?”

“Twelve,” he says, his eyes a little wider now, like they’re filled with wonder.

A minute later I’m standing outside a dull-green door with a “12” screwed to it in flat black aluminum numerals at eye level, just above a peephole. I take a deep breath to steady myself, then wish I hadn’t, as the smell of old urine and mold fills my nose.

I knock on the door.
So In the Woods switches between the two main characters’ points of view and right here you see Logan, this normally chill Oklahoma farmboy whose life has turned upside down because he may have seen Bigfoot. Because of this sighting a Maine girl and her cryptozoologist dad (mostly her father) are investigating. Love ensues. Creepiness happens. Hands sweat.

You can see part of that here via Logan’s viewpoint. So, yes! Page sixty-nine is an excellent test.
Visit Carrie Jones's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Carrie Jones & Tala.

My Book, The Movie: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Lady in the Lake"

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full-time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001.

Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards.

Lippman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lady in the Lake, and reported the following:
I was happy when I opened Lady in the Lake to Page 69 and discovered that it was one of what I call the-off chapters: Throughout the book, the dominant view of Maddie alternates with people she has just met and, Maddie being Maddie, pretty much ignored. Well, she doesn't ignore them per se, but the conceit of the book is that she is so focused on one story that she never stops to consider that Baltimore is teeming with stories. There's a reason the chapters appear under bland descriptions -- The Classmate, The Clerk, The Waitress, The Suspect.

On Page 69, we are in the middle of the section that belongs to "The Patrolman." We will see him one more time in the novel, passing quickly through a scene. But, as it turns out, this is a pivotal chapter. The patrolman, a sanctimonious man, will end up making quite a bit of trouble for some of the characters in the book.

Oh and if you're paying very, very, very close attention, you might realize that he's the father of Nancy Porter, the female detective who makes appearances in Every Secret Thing, To the Power of Three and What the Dead Know.

(I really doubt anyone is paying that much attention, but it -- and the other Easter Eggs here -- were a source of fun for me.)
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Another Thing to Fall.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

The Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences.

The Page 69 Test: I'd Know You Anywhere.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Dangerous Thing.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

The Page 69 Test: Sunburn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Me Myself & Him"

Chris Tebbetts is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of James Patterson’s Middle School series. Originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio, Tebbetts is a graduate of Northwestern University. He lives and writes in Vermont.

Tebbetts applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Me Myself & Him, and reported the following:
This was a fun exercise, and in fact, page 69 is a great choice to represent at least one thread of my novel, Me, Myself & Him. That page straddles two sections of one chapter, where my gay protagonist, Chris, is just coming to realize that his two best (and straight) friends, Wexler and Anna, are beginning to hook up in their last summer before college, leaving him as the third wheel. This part of the story definitely speaks to some of the emotional truths I brought to the telling here—which is to say, this book is a little bit of memoir and a lot of fiction, and I was easily able to draw on my own memories of high school, when it comes to that sense of outsider-ness. I wasn’t comfortably out of the closet at that age, like my character is, but I remember well what it felt like to lose friends to a romance that I knew on some level was out of my own reach at that time.
Visit Chris Tebbetts's website.

My Book, The Movie: Me Myself & Him.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"This Side of Night"

J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.

His debut novel, The Far Empty, was published in 2016.

Scott applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, This Side of Night, and reported the following:
The Far Empty introduced Joe Garrison, a hard-charging DEA supervisor. He has a small but significant role in that book, appears again briefly in High White Sun, before making a full return in This Side of Night, where he’s a viewpoint character for the first time. At page 69, we learn that he’s coming down to Murfee to meet with Sheriff Chris Cherry; ostensibly to talk about a series of bloody killings on the Rio Grande, although Chris – and America Reynosa – suspect there’s more to it. A lot more. Garrison’s arc across the novels is interesting; he’s the perpetual outsider who can’t escape Texas. Two of Garrison’s agents were wounded and killed in Murfee, and Chris was severely there wounded too. Now, neither man can move past the blood that’s been spilled in that small Texas town, and although they’re not friends, they’re probably the closest thing they have. I’ve often been asked if I’m Chris Cherry, but I’d say there are far more similarities between Joe Garrison and me than any other character in my books. However, I wouldn’t say this particular scene is representative of the book as a whole, since so much of the overall narrative is about America Reynosa coming to grips with her own complicated legacy in Murfee.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: This Side of Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 19, 2019


Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre, Touch, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and the handbook Before and After the Book Deal: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting, and surviving your first book, forthcoming from Catapult. Her writing has been widely published in such outlets as BuzzFeed; the New York Times; O, the Oprah Magazine; and Poets & Writers. She is the founder of the learning collaborative, The Cabins, and she also runs a service called “The Query Doula” where she helps writers prepare their manuscripts and query letters for an agent’s eyes.

Maum applied the Page 69 Test to Costalegre and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Seven, eight,” I said.
“And now you must be twenty!”
 This made me laugh because of course I wasn’t twenty; if I were twenty, I would be married and not down at the stables doing nothing by myself.

“I’m fifteen,” I said. “Just.”
 He raised his eyebrows.
 “Dangerous age,” he teased. And I understood why many people must have liked, and also hated, him so much.

“Have you come to ride? Is your mother joining you?”

“Oh no,” I said. “She can’t with her ankles. They’ve gotten terribly worse. But we’ve got . . . Charlotte will ride. Do you know Charlotte?”

“Course I do,” he said. “Terrific horsewoman. Fiendish writer. How many of you are up there at that hellhole?”

“Oh, I think we’re . . . nine?”

“And which one of the imbeciles was it that stole my goat?”

I went even redder.

“Hmm,” he said. “I see.” Then he turned to the groom and said another thing in Spanish.

“It wasn’t me, sir,” I said quickly. “It was...”

“Tell away,” he said, pulling the letter from his front pocket. “I know who, exactly. Hetty sent this over. What a perfect fool. Do you know that goat was payment for
I think page 69 of Costalegre is quite representative of the rest of the book. Here we have young Lara meeting someone she is viewing as a potential savior, a way out of the cloistered Mexican house that she is trapped inside of with all of her mother’s artist rescues in 1937. That someone is Jack Klinger, a German war artist who has been hiding away in Costalegre for some time.
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

The Page 69 Test: Touch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Naomi Booth is a fiction writer and academic. Her first work of fiction, The Lost Art of Sinking, emerged from research into the literary history of swooning, and won the Saboteur Award for Best Novella 2016 as well as being selected for New Writing North’s Read Regional campaign 2017.

Booth applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sealed, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘Look at this,’ he says, turning towards the valley and the mountains. ‘No smog out here. Clean as a whistle. Smell that air!’

I breathe in through my nose. It smells cleaner than the city, for sure. It’s a complex mix, there are tones in there: the hot acacia hits you first, green and waxy, but then there’s something sharper, a bit like petrol, and after-notes of charcoal ash. Things smell different to me now, stronger and more distinct. Before we left the city, I’d stopped going out on weekends when there was smog. I could smell the pollution hours before it descended: I could distinguish all the different acrid layers that make up its piss-yellow haze. It made me dizzy and nauseated. Pete says it’s the pregnancy, says it can make you hyper-alert to scents and tastes.
Pete and Alice have left the city to try to escape its toxic environment and a strange skin condition that is affecting people there. This passage on page 69 captures a lot of things that are at play in Sealed: Alice is heavily pregnant and highly anxious. She’s hyper-attuned to the environment in a way that Pete isn’t—and it’s not clear if this is paranoia, or a result of pregnancy, or another kind of intuition. Pete is optimistic in a way that can seem to belittle her sense of the world as threatening, and there’s a tension in the novel around that clash of emotional worldviews: he’s hopeful while she’s fearful. Alice’s experience of pregnancy is an important part of the story: she has a highly ambivalent relationship to being pregnant, and this is reflected here through scent—pregnancy has made her more sensitive to the potential toxicity of the air around her, and the whole world feels and smells poisonous to Alice. Another crucial element of the novel is the landscapes in which it is set: Pete and Alice move to a rural, mountainous area, which is beautiful and vast. Pete experiences this in a positive way, but for Alice the beauty of this environment is darkened with danger: this is a landscape that might ultimately prove deadly—poisoned and poisonous, liable to catch fire, and full of strange, unpredictable animal life.
Visit Naomi Booth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Blue Hours"

Daphne Kalotay is the author of Calamity and Other Stories, which was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize. Her debut novel, Russian Winter, won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and has been published in twenty-three foreign editions. Her second novel, Sight Reading, was a Boston Globe bestseller, a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Kalotay applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Blue Hours, and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the car the next day, heading back to the city, I stole a look at the sparkly diamond hanging at Kyra’s neck. I had only ever worn it that one time. “Is Roy the one who gave you that necklace?”

Kyra nodded, and I waited for her to offer up something more. “C’mon,” I said, “what’s the deal with you two?”

She said, “I guess I’m supposed to marry him.”

I looked at her face to see if she was serious. “Do you want to marry him?”

An odd little sigh. “You saw what he’s like. How can he keep living this way? He’s so removed from the rest of the world. I mean, even his job. ‘Personal investing.’ He manages his friends’ brokerage accounts!” I expected her to laugh, but she looked like she might cry. “I had a mad crush on him growing up. Then the summer after my freshman year of college, we finally got together. That lasted about a year. But he was already done with college, and then—” She gave a little rustle of her shoulders, as if shaking something off. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I mean, do you love him?”
Some background: The narrator, Mim, has just graduated from college and moved to NYC, where she is roommates with Kyra, a rich girl from Newport, Rhode Island. In this micro-scene, they are returning from a weekend at Kyra’s mother’s house, where Mim thought she was getting to know Kyra better—only to be surprised by the materialization of a young man named Roy, whom Kyra had never mentioned.

This snippet presents a small-scale version of the themes that return in a global way in the book’s second half. For one thing, the book is a love story. It’s also about the peculiar American “privilege” of ignoring the traumas of the greater world. We see those themes introduced here in Kyra’s dismay over Roy’s aloofness due to his rich-boy comfort, her sense of fatalism when asked about their relationship (which is in a way our American version of an arranged marriage), and the mystery of why their romance ended. In a way, Mim and Roy will become rivals. And though the characters don’t know it yet, Kyra will devote herself to a life of humanitarian aid work. When, twenty years later, Kyra goes missing abroad, Mim and Roy—who haven’t spoken to each other in two decades—will join forces to try to find her.
Learn more about the book and author at Daphne Kalotay's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sight Reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"The Most Fun We Ever Had"

Claire Lombardo earned her MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. A former social worker, she now teaches fiction writing and is at work on a second novel.

Lombardo applied the Page 69 Test to The Most Fun We Ever Had, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Both kids were sleeping through the night and Matt had just made partner and Violet had shed her final pounds of baby weight and everything had been going exceptionally, and if they got a babysitter and went out to dinner it should’ve been to bask rather than to save their marriage. Except now there was Jonah, and there wasn’t a restaurant in the Chicagoland area fancy enough to assuage the effects of his arrival.
On page 69 of my novel , neurotic Sorenson sister Violet frets before a date with her husband, both because she’s grown apart from him and because she doesn’t want to talk about the thing she knows they’ll have to talk about—namely, the arrival into their lives of an orphaned teenage boy who has just moved in with her sister, Wendy.

This page is representative of the rest of the book, I’d say, because the present arc of the novel—the year in which the aforementioned teenager returns—is all about chronicling unrest in the lives of the characters. Nobody in the Sorenson family is quite where he or she wants to be at the beginning of the novel, and Violet—though she’s type-A and concerned with appearances and keeps her struggles under wraps, for the most part—is perhaps more unmoored than most. This novel is very much concerned with the ways that we process life as it comes at us—life at its most quotidian and its most dramatic.

Jonah is very much a catalyst for change within this family, and his behavior—good, bad, or otherwise—played a major role in helping me propel the plot forward. He also serves as an outside observer, the only POV character who isn’t an immediate member of the Sorenson clan, so he both gives the reader a breather from being pressed so closely against the Sorenson sisters and provides some objectivity in his perception of this particular family.
Visit Claire Lombardo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Shadow & Flame"

Mindee Arnett is the acclaimed author of Onyx & Ivory and its sequel, Shadow & Flame, as well as Avalon and its sequel, Polaris. She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals.

Arnett applied the Page 69 Test to Shadow & Flame and reported the following:
Page 69 of the Shadow & Flame is definitely representative of the entire book. It’s the second page of chapter 4 and it involves an identify reveal / confirmation for a major character whose fate was in question up until this point. I don’t want to get any more specific because of spoilers.

Actually, the fact that there’s a huge spoiler on this page proves it’s definitely indicative of the rest of the book. I haven’t been able to talk about the book much because it’s a sequel to Onyx & Ivory and literally every part of it is some kind of spoiler. Of course, it’s not just because it’s a sequel but more because the book is super intense and action packed. In many ways, this is a war novel, and the stakes are high for every character. There are numerous heartbreaks and failures intermixed with hard won triumphs. Readers who enjoyed Onyx & Ivory need to hold on and brace themselves for Shadow & Flame. It’s going to be rough ride, but ultimately a satisfying one, I hope.
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Onyx & Ivory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Everything About You"

Heather Child's experience in digital marketing has brought her into close contact with the automation and personalization technologies that herald the "big data" age.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Everything About You, her debut novel, and reported the following:
We are not far from a world in which people are constantly tracked, with facial recognition and the ‘internet of things’ meaning it will be increasingly difficult to ‘go dark’. However Freya’s foster sister Ruby vanishes into the night and leaves the younger girl heartbroken, just as we come up to page 69, on which Freya is experiencing the aftermath of the loss.
Others were openly cruel, taunting her in the hangouts with rumours that Ruby had been a prostitute and her pimp had finally killed her. All that hanging round Peckham now became evidence that she was a streetwalker, loitering in greenzones late at night to solicit business. This was when Freya shut down. Comments were left to build up online, and at school she would wear headphones and stand outside in the cold, away from everyone.
On page 69 we see the real-life Ruby, the seventeen year-old who took risks, who was achingly close to Freya, leaving the younger girl without a role model when she disappeared. It is a page of grit, of her mother viewing grim news stories.
Freya knew she had given Ruby up for dead. Perhaps it was the only thing to do. There were too many stories of missing schoolgirls, one man after the next arrested with a string of murders to his name. They were in the press where they had not been before.
It is perhaps one of the most ominous pages in the book. What is missing is the ‘new’ Ruby, recreated as an artificial intelligence. Years later, her colourful personality is scraped from the internet, and she reappears as Freya’s virtual assistant.

This Ruby is as wild and fabulous as before, and programmed to give Freya everything she wants. The trouble is that Freya will do anything for her foster sister, and follow wherever she leads, even down those same dark paths from long ago.
Visit Heather Child's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

"Betrayal in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University, and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper. Currently, she is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

Her first novel, A Murder In Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads’ readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle’s list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

The series continues Kendra Donovan’s adventures in Regency England with A Twist in Time, Caught in Time, and Betrayal in Time.

When McElwain is not on her laptop, she enjoys traveling, exploring different cultures, spending time with family and meeting friends for Happy Hour. She lives in Long Beach, California.

McElwain applied the Page 69 Test to Betrayal in Time and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Thanks.” Kendra paused, lifting her face up to the black sky spinning with white crystals. For a moment, she stood there, absorbing the cold air scented with fireplace smoke. Alec stopped beside her, his gloved hand capturing hers.

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I suppose I’m thinking about how nothing changes, not really. People will always kill each other. For the damnedest reasons.” She sighed, and tugged Alec’s hand. “C’mon, my lord. Let’s go in before we turn into popsicles.”

“What the devil is a popsicle?”

Kendra laughed, and pulled him down the path. Harding was eyeing them from the door he held open. Hurrying up the steps, they joined Rebecca and the Duke, who were divesting themselves of their outerwear. Servants were bustling around the mansion, opening up rooms, taking linen covers off the furniture, dusting and sweeping. The scent of lemon, linseed oil, and beeswax drifted on the air. Even though kindling and coal had been brought in, and fires started in many of the hearths, it was still cold enough for Kendra to lament the lack of central heating in this era as she handed her cloak, gloves and bonnet over to one of the waiting footmen. Kendra kept her reticule, which contained the muff pistol, and her notes.

“Lady Atwood is with Mrs. Danbury in the morning room, sir,” Harding informed the Duke in his characteristically grave manner. “Shall I let her ladyship know that you have arrived?”

“Thank you, but I shall go to her myself. Send someone to Lady Rebecca’s residence to find out if her parents have arrived. Has my study been made ready?”

“Yes, sir. A fire has been lit, as well as several wall sconces.”

“Very good. We have dined, but if my decanters in the study haven’t been replenished yet, send up a maid with a bottle of brandy, and a pot of tea. And we shall need the slate board returned to the room. I trust it is around here somewhere? You did not dispose of it entirely?”

The butler slid a look in Kendra’s direction, but his expression remained impassive. “I shall supervise its return. Tonight, your Grace?”

“Tonight,” Aldridge confirmed, and glanced at his nephew. “Alec, if you will escort the ladies upstairs, I shall join you shortly.”
In Betrayal in Time, 21st century FBI profiler Kendra Donovan, who has been trying to adapt to her new life in the early 19th century, returns to London to assist Bow Street Runner, Sam Kelly, in a bizarre murder. The body of Sir Giles Holbrooke was found naked in an abandoned church, garroted, with his tongue cut out. The puzzle deepens when strange cross-like symbols appear on Sir Giles’ flesh during autopsy. When Kendra learns that Sir Giles was not an ordinary citizen, but a spymaster, she must figure out if his killer is connected to the treacherous intelligence world or something closer to home. While I don’t think page 69 illustrates the gritty, twisty path that Kendra is forced to navigate in this novel, it does give a small taste of what it’s like being a time traveler, the differences in language and lifestyle. It also shows Kendra as the ultimate outsider, no matter how hard she tries to fit in. When the Duke asks for his butler, Harding, to find the slate board they used in the last murder investigation, we get the sense that the servant looks at Kendra as an oddity, with a whiff of disapproval (although never overtly expressed in the Duke’s presence) that the American is once again involving their master in something as low-brow as murder.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caught in Time.

My Book, The Movie: Betrayal in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Paper Son"

S. J. Rozan has won multiple awards for her fiction, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity, the Japanese Maltese Falcon, and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Rozan was born and raised in the Bronx and now lives in lower Manhattan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Paper Son, her latest Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery, and reported the following:
Such an interesting thing, this Page 69 Challenge. For one thing, the book's page numbers are different from the manuscript's, so when I accepted the Challenge I wasn't even sure where the story was up to by page 69. For another, what are the chances any particular page represents the whole book?

But lo, to my surprise, page 69 of Paper Son does. It's part of a conversation Lydia Chin and Bill Smith have with a young paralegal in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The book's set in the Mississippi Delta, and in this conversation, Lydia is introduced to some of the intricacies of race relations in Mississippi. The conversation includes the phrase, "colored folk of a different color."

Which is the point. Everything in Mississippi is, ultimately, about race; but it's about more than black and white. Growing up in the North, I never knew that. The Delta has been home, for more than a hundred years, to a community of Chinese -- first immigrants, and now, for some generations, Mississippi natives. Plus Eastern European Jews; Italians; Lebanese; and those Native Americans who stayed after most were driven from their land. To WASP Mississippi, all these people were "colored." The complexities created by pushing this logic to its extreme -- and extreme is something Mississippi is particularly good at -- are absurd, though not funny. And that fact is pretty much what Paper Son is about.
Visit S.J. Rozan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"Secret Soldiers"

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua. She has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

Hutton applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Secret Soldiers, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 8

Bagger led the boys back to their dugout, where the three men they’d left sleeping now sat around their makeshift table, drinking tea, smoking, and playing cards.

“’Bout time you got back, Bagger,” said a large man. He had long auburn sideburns, a scattering of teeth, and no neck said. His voice grated through his throat like a spade against gravel. “Where’s Max?”

“He’s running messages,” Bagger replied.

“Command better not wear him out. We need him well rested for later.”

“Don’t you worry about Max. He’ll be ready.”

“He better be.” The large man motioned to the empty chair beside him. “We’re getting ready to play Pontoon. You in?”

“No chance, Mole. You chaps took all my earnings last time we played. I’ve got nothin’ to wager.”
Page 69 of Secret Soldiers kicks off Chapter 8 and Thomas and the boys’ introduction to the clay kickers, a specialized crew of soldiers, whom the boys will be shadowing on a secret mission in the tunnels beneath no man’s land. On page 69, the crew leader, Bagger, takes the boys into the crew’s dugout, where they will sleep and eat between shifts hauling spoil out of the tunnels. In the dugout, they meet the crew’s kicker, Mole, a “rough-around-the-edges” tunneller who dug sewers beneath Manchester before he and Bagger were recruited by the British Army to dig secret tunnels under the Western Front. Page 69 captures the camaraderie between Bagger and Mole, a bond of trust which Thomas and the boys will have to form in order to survive their mission and the war. The dialogue between Bagger and Mole on page 69 also sets the stage for readers and the boys to meet Max. The mystery of the valuable, yet unseen crew member is solved a couple chapters later when Thomas and the boys finally meet Max and discover the many roles he plays for the British Army and the crew both in and under the Allied trenches.
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Soldier Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

"The Missing Years"

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. In 1994 she began a Physics degree at University College, Oxford, where she obtained a first; she subsequently obtained a doctorate in Theoretical Physics, also from Oxford University. A keen sportwoman, she represented Oxford every one of her seven years there in either Swimming or Waterpolo, and usually both. Elliott works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.

Elliott applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Missing Years, and reported the following:
When I first flicked to page 69 of The Missing Years to re-read it for this article, I was struck by how precisely this particular page captures the key issues facing Ailsa, the main protagonist. Ailsa is giving her half-sister, Carrie, a lift back from the station. It’s clear that the physical landscape she finds herself in—the Scottish Highlands—is unfamiliar and not yet comfortable to her:
There’s no moonlight to be found thus far this evening; Carrie would have needed a torch to navigate this had I not picked her up. The city dweller within me balks at the idea.
The reader might also deduce that the landscape of the relationship between Ailsa and her half-sister is equally unfamiliar:
There’s a caustic tone to Carrie’s words that surprises me. I throw her a quick glance, but I can’t deduce her expression in the darkness of the car interior.
Ailsa is attempting to have her father, who has been missing for a quarter of a century, declared dead; she tells Carrie about her meeting with a lawyer. We see Ailsa’s understatement and reserve as she describes the meeting as “a bit strange”, prompting Carrie to ask:
“How so?”

I shrug. “You know. Talking about my father. I don’t usually do that.” Talking about my father, without really talking about my father. We covered his date of birth, town of birth, occupation, last known abode; the barren facts that in no way construct a person.
Carrie goes on to ask:
“Do you have to, I don’t know, come up with a theory? For what happened to him, I mean?”

“I ...” In front of me hang a hundred, a thousand, a million and more different possibilities. I almost can’t see the road for the myriad of my father’s lives playing out before me, like overlapping cinema screens, all that could have been, might have been, perhaps was, perhaps even is. All of the things I have imagined and all I haven’t yet thought of. If I had to pick one, I might damn all the others. What if I picked the wrong one?
So, all on this one page, we have the looming presence of the isolated landscape Ailsa finds herself in, her uncertain relationship with her half-sister, and the impact of the absence of her father. Of the three, the physical landscape is under-represented on page 69, as this is a novel that is firmly steeped in its setting, and the Manse—the house that Ailsa has inherited, that lives and breathes and exerts its own influence on those around it—isn’t mentioned at all. Scottish mythology is twisted and dark and eerily romantic; it is utterly in keeping with the craggy peaks that stand in judgement over those that live and love beneath them. Like all the tales that have come before it, The Missing Years, with the strange Manse at the heart of a long-unsolved mystery, couldn’t possibly be set anywhere else. If you give it a read, you’ll see what I mean...
Visit Lexie Elliott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 7, 2019

"Under the Cold Bright Lights"

Garry Disher is one of Australia’s best-known novelists. He’s published over 50 books in a range of genres, including crime, children’s books, and Australian history. He lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.

Disher applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Under the Cold Bright Lights and reported the following:
Page 69 of Under the Cold Bright Lights happens to reflect perfectly the book as a whole. On page 69, police searching a house discover vials of a hospital drug known as "sux" (succinylcholine), which can kill in certain circumstances and not leave a trace. This dovetails with the back story, in which the main character, a burnt-out cold case detective named Auhl, suspects a suave doctor had murdered two of his wives and intends to murder the third. And the drug resonates all through the book, most satisfyingly in the final chapter, in which...
Visit Garry Disher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 5, 2019

"The Outside"

Ada Hoffmann is the author of the space opera novel The Outside, the collection Monsters in My Mind, and over 60 published speculative short stories and poems.

Hoffmann applied the Page 69 Test to The Outside and reported the following:
The Outside is a novel about AI Gods, cosmic horrors, and an unfortunate scientist named Yasira Shien who's caught between them. On page 69, Yasira, has been summoned to help the Gods find her mentor, Dr. Evianna Talirr. She's been reading Dr. Talirr's allegedly heretical papers, and on this page, she's arguing with one of the angels (cyborg servants of the Gods).
"Is this a trick? Are these really Dr. Talirr's papers, or did you make fake ones somehow, to try to - I don't know - to get a reaction out of me, or to tempt me into agreeing with some of the heresy. Because this makes no sense! It's science, and the math checks out, but it makes no sense. Dr. Talirr wouldn't do this."
Yasira is having trouble assimilating the information about a woman she thought she could trust. But she's even more unsure what the information means about her, after all the time she spent working with Dr. Talirr and helping create a reactor based on Dr. Talirr's science.
Yasira took a short, fuming breath. She suddenly realized she was frightened, not angry. She didn't want to say this next part. But these were angels of Nemesis; they'd find out what she was thinking sooner or later.

"And," she said, "this is Dr. Talirr's worldview. It affects everything she does. So the Talirr-Shien Reactor is like this too, isn't it? I'm a heretic, too."
To some degree, page 69 is still setting things up. It's a pretty representative depiction of one of the main conflicts in the book. But at this point, the characters are still getting used to the basics of what that conflict is. In subsequent chapters, it's about to get much weirder.
Visit Ada Hoffmann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

"Stone Cold Heart"

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about. Sweet Little Lies is her first novel.

Frear applied the Page 69 Test to Stone Cold Heart, her second novel featuring DC Cat Kinsella, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Parnell’s face is a picture as we wait by the reception desk, attracting stares and corner-of-the-mouth comments from the snappily dressed workforce. “Jesus, don’t tell me they’re the latest trend again?” he mutters as a redhead whips by us in blue velvet flares. “I had a pair of those back in the seventies and they were out of fashion then.”
This was a fun exercise! I’ll admit I assumed that every page of my novel would surely be in some way representative of the overall work, however page 69 let me down me badly.

On page 69, my main protagonist, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella, has gone with her partner, Detective Sergeant Luigi Parnell, to re-interview a witness at their office – the same office where the recently deceased victim also worked. The entire page is given over to their reactions to the youth-club style atmosphere they encounter and the millennial fashionistas who seem amused by their presence. The witness, Kirstie Connor, is the owner of the firm and she’s embarrassed by the upbeat atmosphere, aware it doesn’t exactly show the company culture in the best light (given someone just died). This isn’t essential to the plot but it hopefully gives the reader a sense of place. It also demonstrates that Kirstie Connor has at least some social awareness (up until this point, she’s been a fairly unsympathetic character).

While page 69 isn’t overly important in the grand scheme of things, it is the start of a very important chapter as the detectives find their first firm clue in this office. I also think the page gives a good snapshot of Cat and Parnell’s relationship. He’s the older father-figure while she’s the young gun, often helping him navigate modern culture.
Follow Caz Frear on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Sweet Little Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

"Green Valley"

Louis Greenberg is a renowned writer in his own right, having been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for his debut novel The Beggars’ Signwriters (2007), but is perhaps more known for his work with Sarah Lotz as one half of internationally bestselling S.L. Grey.

Green Valley is his first solo novel to be published outside his native South Africa. He is currently based in England.

Greenberg applied the Page 69 Test to Green Valley and reported the following:
From page 69:
It was near six when I got to the precinct. Though it had felt like a week, I’d only been in Green Valley for five hours, and I guessed Barbra would still be in the office.

I took a stabilising breath before hurrying and greeting the desk officer. ‘Hi. I know I shouldn’t be here after hours, but I’ve left my keys behind. I got all the way home and scratched around in my damn bag… they have to be on my desk. Well, I goddamn hope so. You mind if I go take a look?’

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘You gotta sign in, though.’

‘Of course,’ I said, hoping he wouldn’t look too closely at the dirt under my nails. Most of Green Valley had come off in the shower, but not all. After signing in, I patted my jacket’s inner pocket – the signal-proof pouch was still there. Even though I trusted the Sentinel tech’s capacity to block its signals, and the fact that I’d been able to smuggle it out of Zeroth’s liaison office undetected proved that it was working, I couldn’t help imagining radio-wave tendrils punching a microscopic hole through the pouch’s defences and speeding their way back to Zeroth to expose me. The sooner I handed this thing off, the better. And if Barbra wasn’t in the office? I’d have to hold onto it till the morning, feel Zeroth’s tentacles clawing out to it all night. Fuck, I hoped she was there.
While page 69 of Green Valley gives you a representative sense of the first-person narrative and the perspective, voice and concerns of Lucie Sterling, the main protagonist, it might mystify you if you open up here. It’s the very start of Part II, and it’ll be as if you’ve started a miniseries on episode two. You won’t know what Lucie’s just seen. She’s returned to Stanton from a very unsettling visit to Green Valley, an enclave across town where the remnants of a big-tech firm, Zeroth, live in permanent virtual reality. Eight years ago, Stanton voted to outlaw the internet and digital technology, and since then Green Valley has been shunned.

But now, dead Green Valley kids have been appearing in Stanton, and Lucie’s had no choice to go and see her brother-in-law – her dead sister’s niece is still inside Green Valley and nobody knows exactly where she is. And Lucie has other reasons for going in: she’s part of Sentinel, a covert policing unit run by Barbra Reeve that’s keeping tabs on Green Valley. This opportunity to go inside has offered a rare chance to bug the enclave. Now she wants to return the kit to Barbra and be done with it.

Although everything seemed fine inside Green Valley when she visited, Lucie can’t shake the feeling that everything isn’t quite as it seemed. Virtual reality has a way of doing that. And although Kira’s been located, Lucie’s not sure whether she can trust what she’s just experienced.

You’ll need to read on to find out more!
Visit Louis Greenberg's website.

Writers Read: Louis Greenberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

"Dear Wife"

Kimberly Belle is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of novels of suspense. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Belle applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dear Wife, and reported the following:
From page 69:

This case, I handle by the book.

I start at the show house, walking the grounds and studying the dirt for imprints—both shoes and tires. I press my face to the windows and peer into all the rooms. This place is a “show house” all right, every room packed with complicated, flashy furniture, every horizontal surface crammed with bowls and candles and crap. I try the doors, the latches on the windows, but the place is locked up tight. No sign anyone but a decorator has been here.

From there, I go to the office for a face-to-face with Sabine’s boss, Lisa, a perfumed blonde in a ruby-red suit with lips to match. According to her, not only was Sabine a no-show for last night’s showing, she also missed a company-wide training yesterday afternoon, where she was supposed to present on building a social media platform.

“You don’t understand,” Lisa tells me, a frown pulling on her Botoxed brow. “Sabine is my hardest worker, and she’s always on time for everything, especially showings. Honestly, Detective, this is very worrisome. This isn’t like her at all.”
This isn’t the first time we meet Marcus, the detective tasked with finding the missing Sabine, but it’s the first time we hear from his point of view. We already know he’s smart and he’s a hustler, but we learn he’s skating on thin ice at work. Thanks to an overly demanding family, he’s being pulled in a thousand different directions, and his boss has noticed. With Sabine’s case, Marcus is definitely feeling the pressure to get things right.

But the more he digs into her disappearance, the more convoluted it becomes. It doesn’t help that Sabine left almost no clues, or that there was trouble at home, something her husband Jeffrey is trying very hard to hide. We also get a peek inside Jeffrey’s head and into his marriage to Sabine, which has been falling apart for a while now. Financially and perhaps emotionally, he’d be better off with her gone.

But at its heart, Dear Wife is the story of Beth, a woman on the run from her controlling and abusive husband. For months now she’s been planning her escape—saving grocery money, thinking through the various strategies, coming up with a plan. One day when her husband is at work, she finds her chance. She steers her car westward to leave a trail of clues, then doubles back and disappears into Atlanta.

Is Beth Sabine? And what is Jeffrey hiding? As the stories progress, it becomes clear that somebody is lying.
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue