Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"House of Lies"

Born in Kent, D. S. Butler grew up as an avid reader with a love for crime fiction and mysteries. She has worked as a scientific officer in a hospital pathology laboratory and as a research scientist. After obtaining a PhD in biochemistry, she worked at the University of Oxford for four years before moving to the Middle East.

Butler applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, House of Lies, and reported the following:
Page 69 of House of Lies falls in the middle of a chapter at a point where two of the characters are talking about the central mystery – the disappearance of two teenagers from Chidlow House.
‘Right. It’s probably got nothing to do with the students’ disappearance, but I thought it was worth checking out.’

‘Absolutely. Any news your end?’ Rick asked.

‘Nothing much, but I would like you to look into Graham Doyle’s company. I’d also like you to speak to all the teachers who were working here this week, and I’m particularly interested in Edward Chidlow’s background.’

‘Chidlow’s a person of interest, is he?’

‘Possibly,’ Karen said. ‘I’m not sure yet, but we need to look at him and anyone who’s been in contact with these students this week. Chidlow’s interesting because according to Todd Layton – Natasha’s father – Chidlow has quite the reputation.’

‘What sort of reputation?’

‘Layton said, according to the local rumour mill, Chidlow likes younger women.’

‘How much younger?’

‘That’s what I need you to look into, Rick.’

‘All right, Sarge. I’ll see what I can find out.’

After hanging up, Rick polished off his sandwich, and took one last look out of the window. Yes, England was a green and pleasant land thanks to all the rain they had, but it could be really depressing. He could do with seeing the sun break through the clouds for a moment or two.
I think the page 69 test works well here. The page gives a glimpse of the central mystery driving the plot and shows the key moment the police investigation focuses on a major suspect. Rick, the point of view character in this section, is having a tough time at home as he’s caring for his mother who has dementia. His thoughts and mood are coloured by his current situation. Although his mother isn’t mentioned on page 69, I think readers can still get a sense of how Rick’s feeling.
Visit D.S. Butler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Dark Star Rising"

Bennett R. Coles served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy for fifteen years, where he saw many adventures and also had many boring times to think about writing. As his career shifted to one of international business development he continued to explore all corners of the Earth, but now had thirteen-hour flights across the Pacific where he could churn out chapter after chapter of military space adventures. He is a recipient of the Cygnus Award for military science fiction and the Cygnus Grand Prize for science fiction. He attends SF cons across North America whenever he can, but is far more likely to be spotted at cons closer to his home in Victoria, Canada.

Coles applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Dark Star Rising, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When they were well clear he leaned in with a wink. “The things I do for you, darling.”

Realizing they were in public she restrained from hugging his arm, but she did add a skip to her step. “Thank you.”

Their destination loomed ahead, a brick-fronted façade from which a sign hung declaring this café to be the Cup of Plenty. A patio full of tables hosted the regular crowd of patrons, a few of whom glanced up without interest as Liam and Amelia walked to the door. The air inside the café carried the soothing aroma of coffee, laced with the sweetness of pastries. It was Amelia’s favourite moment whenever they came to Windfall.

The café was arranged in neat rows of long tables, each able to seat three a side in comfort, on a dark, tiled floor under a vaulted roof. Wealthier clients were scattered around the room, enjoying the fresher air and richer fare, and Amelia immediately spotted a familiar face. Propped with his back to the wall on the left side sat their usual merchant contact, Matthew Long. His broad form hunkered over his cup, a pot of coffee and additional cups resting before him. His dark eyes rose and did their usual pass over Amelia’s form before settling on Liam. He struggled heavily to his feet.

“My lord,” he greeted, his deep voice wet with phlegm, “welcome back to Windfall.”

“Thank you,” Liam responded, taking the nearest seat. “It’s been a while. I hope you’re keeping well, Mr. Long?”
Does this page properly represent the entire book? Meh. None of the biggest elements of the story are on display here, but it’s not without some representational value. It does offer a description of the Cup of Plenty, which is a key location that our heroes visit multiple times both in Dark Star Rising and in its predecessor Winds of Marque, but the most important detail of this café (its alien owners) isn’t unveiled until page 70. The opening lines of the page also hint at the relationship between Liam and Amelia, and the fact that they have to keep it hidden in public.

The page does offer the chance to highlight some writing craft, though. The fact that Matthew Long looks lasciviously at Amelia might seem like an unnecessary (and misogynist) detail, but it’s actually a subtle set-up. Later in the book, again in the Cup of Plenty, the fact that Long suddenly is not interested in Amelia is one of the big warning signs that something is about to go very wrong for our heroes. Even the smallest details should be important in a tightly written book.
Visit Bennett R. Coles's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"The Fourth Island"

Sarah Tolmie is a poet, speculative fiction writer, finalist for the Crawford Award and professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Her books of poetry, Trio in 2015 and The Art of Dying in 2018, were shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award and the Griffin Prize, respectively. Her fiction includes the novels The Little Animals (2019) and The Stone Boatmen (2014), the dual novella collection Two Travelers (2016), and the short fiction collection NoFood (2014).

Tolmie applied the Page 69 Test to her new novella, The Fourth Island, and reported the following:
From page 69:
This was more convenient as winter came on and more people competed for space indoors, he told himself. They drank nettle and wild mint tea—there was no black tea to be had on the island, and Philip missed it sorely—and talked about things that were of less and less interest to Pádraig. Eventually, the boy begged off and stayed home with his brothers to help with the net-mending and so on. This left the two of them alone. Feeling more and more tense and somehow expectant whenever she was around, Philip finally said to her one day, “I don’t know that there’s anything more I can teach you, Nellie.”

“So, maybe there’s something I can teach you,” she said. Philip started to blush at that and went on blushing for about three days. At the end of that time, they both emerged from his cottage and went to the Flaherty farm.

Old Anna saw them come over the hill, hand in hand. “Ah,” she said. Thomas’s heart sank within him. As Philip could not figure out how to preside at his own wedding and nobody wanted to fetch the priest from the other side of the island, he and Nellie stood up before the company and declared that they were married, as the custom was. They had a big dinner with a bit of fiddle music and that was that. Thomas was sad but philosophical. He had always known that there was no way he could compete with Father Murphy if he became a contender.
I would tend to agree with Marshall McLuhan about this (as indeed about many things). Page 69 of a book — assuming that it has 69 pages at least, or the experiment becomes surreal — may tell you more about an author’s style than page one, or the last page. On those pages things are being accomplished that do not need to happen anywhere else in the story, and they can significantly impact the style. As writers who want to sell books we are all under terrible pressure to do some goddamn fancy thing on page one that we may never do again. McLuhan grasped this fact though he wasn’t a fiction writer himself.

So, if you like the writing on page 69 you will probably like the writing of The Fourth Island in general. There is nothing more important than this.

This section marks the final getting-together of Nellie, a girl of 18 or so who arrived on the lost island in 1828 as she was dying of a fever on the next-door island of Inis Mór, and Philip Murphy, a Catholic priest who arrived there in 1830 just as he was about to be bayoneted in a square in Brussels. So they are contemporaries (and not everyone is in this book). But their lives could hardly have been more different, even though they are both Irish and were born within 100 miles of each other. Nellie wakes up on Inis Caillte no longer deaf; she has to learn to live in the world in a totally different way. Philip teaches her to read; he shares his clerical learning with her. She is transformed by this and ends up becoming a powerful and celebrated poet. At the same time, he falls in love with her and is also transformed. In marrying her, he also has to learn to live in the world in an entirely different way.

This passage of the book reveals what I might call its typical ratio of the ordinary and the extraordinary: at one level what happens to Nellie and Philip is mundane and might have happened anywhere (though with different consequences). Yet the means by which they ended up on this mysterious island are unknown; how Nellie’s deafness was cured is unknown; it is equally miraculous that the two can understand each other when they speak, as Nellie speaks Irish and Philip English. The books that they read together are in Latin and German, yet if they read them aloud to Irish-speaking villagers, they hear it as Irish. So something else is going on.
Visit Sarah Tolmie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

"Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters"

Emily Carpenter is the bestselling author of Until the Day I Die, Every Single Secret, The Weight of Lies, and Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. A graduate of Auburn University, Carpenter has worked as an actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant for CBS television. Raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to New York City before returning to the South, where she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her family.

Carpenter applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My throat went dry, the base of my skull pulsed, and then, dammit all to hell, my stupid right arm tingled, then went completely numb. He knows.

He leaned over and poked me. "You want to stay so you can the bang the hot cinematographer."

I let out an audible whoosh, I was so deeply and utterly relieved.

"I understand." He kissed my cheek and tousled my hair. "And you have my blessing, but only if you tell me everything, ex post nasto." He bounded off the bed and clicked off the TV. "Okay, seriously, sis. You had better be back in a week. Because, as you know, Mom and I can't deal without you."
Readers may not realize this, but if they read this page - the end of chapter Eleven - they would actually get a great snapshot of the beginning of Eve's quest to uncover her grandmother's secrets in Alabama. They would see her close relationship with her brother Danny, but also that she's willing to lie to him about her reasons for not returning to California with him. Later, she'll realize her grandmother had reasons for her lies as well. Also, the reader sees that when Eve thinks Danny's about to catch her lying, her right arm tingles, which is a hint of the supernatural elements to come.

But because my page 69 is so short, it's a tough sell. I'm not sure this works well for my book.
Visit Emily Carpenter's website.

My Book, The Movie: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"The Puzzle Women"

Anna Ellory is the author of two novels, The Rabbit Girls (2019) translated into 14 languages and The Puzzle Women (2020).

She has always been an avid reader and after becoming a mum she started writing too. Prior to this she worked as a nurse. In 2018 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. The Puzzle Women was written, in part, on this course.

She lives with her family, including a dog called Seth, and writes in pockets of borrowed time. She is currently working on her third novel.

Ellory applied the Page 69 Test to The Puzzle Women and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Puzzle Women is actually a title page indicating the reader is moving from the THEN 1989 section to NOW 1999, which is neither indicative or particularly interesting, so I turned the page and we meet:
LOTTE

Her fingers were blue with cold as she walked to the bus stop. She kept thinking, What would Roo do? She knew he would slow down and think hard, so she did.

She knew that buses took people to places they wanted to go, so she walked to a bus stop and took the bus to the station. Using her thinking head, she decided she was going to be more than what people thought she could be. She was going to find these puzzle women and she was going to put Mama’s notebook back together again.

And she was going to do this alone.

Once at the bus station, her first stop was to find the toilets. She asked a cleaning lady with a blue tabard and pink gloves, who smiled and took her all the way to the cubicle door. It was a smelly toilet, but after Lotte had a wee and washed her hands, she looked into the bathroom mirror and repeated the affirmation Roo had given her. ‘I am more than my Down’s syndrome. I am inde-pen-dent.’

Taking her time at the outgoing terminal of the bus station, she tried navigating the timetables, trying to fix words to times and places, but it was so complicated it made her want to cry. She didn’t even know what the word Zirndorf looked like. Instead of crying and going home, she thought about the puzzle women; how, maybe, they could bring the pages back for her. She could give them to Roo and Roo could tell her what they meant and she could miss Mama with him.
Lotte’s struggle is very clear here, her love for her brother and her desire to do something important independently. She is going to piece the torn pieces of Mama’s notebook back together, she sees this as a way to connect with her brother and know who Mama was. She is also on her way to The Puzzle Women who are piecing the shredded pages of the Stasi’s archives back together. Little does Lotte know that by going to these women for help, she is also taking a step into her past.

The page 69 test works perfectly for my book.
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2020

"Once We Were Here"

Christopher Cosmos was raised in the Midwest and attended the University of Michigan as the recipient of a Chick Evans Scholarship. In addition to being an author, he is also a screenwriter and has had his work featured in the annual Black List of best Hollywood screenplays of the year. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Cosmos applied the Page 69 Test to Once We Were Here, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Once We Were Here comes at the end of a chapter where two of the main characters, Alexei and Costa, have left their village in Agria, Greece, and gone north to fight against Mussolini's Italians. They fight with the Greek army, and they win, which is actually the very first Allied victory in the whole of the war.

On one hand, one of the main characters, Philia, is missing from this scene, so it could be argued that it's a page that's not the best representation of the story as a whole - as the main thrust of the novel is an epic and generation-spanning love story that's interrupted by war in different ways - but on the other hand, it could be argued that it's the perfect representation of this novel and story. Growing up as a Greek-American, I heard stories of "the war" for as long as I can remember, and it was those stories that I listened to and internalized which led me to writing this novel. Greece played an imperative but forgotten role in WWII, and so reminding so many that it was actually the Greeks that recorded the first Allied victory in Europe is a very good representation of that idea. Also, this specific moment that I've described on page 69 was actually commemorated in America on the cover of Life Magazine in December, 1940, with a picture of a Greek Evzone standing at attention with a bugle at his lips and crumbling Greek ruins in the background behind him, and we have an entire holiday called "Oxi Day" that's dedicated to the memory of Greece's defiance and answering of the world's call for help.

This moment on page 69, though, and of course, is just the beginning of the forgotten role that Greece played in helping the Allies to win WWII, and it's also just the beginning of the story of Alexei, Costa, and Philia. This year is the 80th Anniversary of "Oxi Day," and the events that were described on this page, and as such I invite everyone to join me in celebrating by picking up a copy of Once We Were Here!
Visit Christopher Cosmos's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2020

"Spindlefish and Stars"

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on the edges of mountains and woods and fields and sometimes even the sea. A writing and literature instructor, she lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Spindlefish and Stars, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds Clo, the main character of Spindlefish and Stars, walking down a village street “hemmed in on all sides by…little shacks, themselves crammed in a motley jumble of doors and walls and windows,” while people follow her, whispering and pointing, “Mrmrmrm! Mrmrmrm!” Alone and afraid, she is not sure where she is meant to go or what she is meant to do—“Clo, who had lived her whole life in the shadows, found here no shadows in which to hide”—but one of the villagers indicates a hut at the end of the street. When Clo questions, “Here?” all the crowd nods and points and murmurs in excitement. The page ends as she reaches the little house and raises her hand to knock on the door.

I think the page 69 test works fairly well here! While I’m not sure that readers, flipping to this page, would get a sense of the overall storyline, they would glimpse a key moment and gain a window into the main character’s vulnerability. Clo has been brought to this gray island village by a ticket of “half-paffage” that her father, now missing, left for her. Though the murmuring strangers on the island (including the old apple-faced woman who will open the door), seem to have been expecting her, she will unfortunately not find her father here. Instead, she will shortly be locked away and forced into gruesome chores with the island’s fish.

By this point in the story, Clo has—unknowingly—already entered into a different world, but this doorway presents another liminal moment, not dissimilar to the door-knocking moments in fairytales that mark the transition from the real to the magical. She will be crossing into the mythic realm, but also into a place that will propel her own—very human—transformation as she comes to re-evaluate and regret her isolated life “in shadows.”
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spindlefish and Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

"Love Sold Separately"

Ellen Meister's books include Dorothy Parker Drank Here (2015), Farewell, Dorothy Parker (2013), The Other Life (2011), The Smart One (2008) and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA (2006), as well as numerous essays and short stories. She teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education, mentors emerging authors, lectures on Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related topics. Meister is the voice of Dorothy Parker on her hugely popular Facebook page.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Love Sold Separately, and reported the following:
In Love Sold Separately, a down-on-her luck aspiring actor named Dana Barry gets an opportunity for fame and fortune as the host of a Shopping Channel show. Dana, who can be impulsive and self-sabotaging, is about to sign the contract when she notices an alarming clause. Apparently, if she takes the job she’s going to have to give up performing on stage with her acting troupe, Sweat City.

When she brings it up to her manager, who is also her best friend, they have this exchange:
“Sorry, hon. It’s nonnegotiable.”

“When were you going to tell me?”

“Dana—”

“I’m serious, Megan. Were you going to let me sign this and not find out until it was too late?”

“I’m looking out for you.”

Dana’s eyes burned as she stared, stung by the betrayal. “So you’re my mother now? I thought you were my friend.”

“I’m your manager.”

Dana grabbed the stack of contracts from her. “Not anymore.”
The argument continues until her manager finally spells it out:
“It’s an experimental theater group that’s going nowhere and will get you nothing. In a typical year, how many people see your performances there? A hundred? A hundred and twenty? And most of them are related to the actors. It’s a sweet little group of friends, but don’t kid yourself. Sweat City is not launching careers, it’s holding them back.”

“But that’s my decision, not yours.”

“Don’t do this, Dana. Don’t blow everything for this useless little group.”

“Useless?” Dana could hardly believe what she was hearing. She knew her group did good work, knew they were some of the most talented actors she had ever met.

“You know what I mean,” Megan said. “I get it. It’s fun. It’s enriching…”

“It’s art,” Dana said.
This all happens on page 69, and it gets to the very heart of Dana’s character, showing her impulsivity, but at the same time, her dedication to acting and her loyalty to her fellow thespians. Dana is not in it for the fame. If she was, the Shopping Channel gig would be a slam dunk. So yes, page 69 illustrates the internal struggle that drives of narrative of this Shopping Channel murder mystery.
Visit Ellen Meister's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dorothy Parker Drank Here.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2020

"White Out"

Danielle Girard is the author of Chasing Darkness, The Rookie Club series, and Exhume, Excise, Expose, and Expire, featuring San Francisco medical examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman. Girard’s books have won the Barry Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, and two of her titles have been optioned for movies.

A graduate of Cornell University, Girard received her MFA at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. She, her husband, and their two children split their time between San Francisco and the Northern Rockies.

Girard applied the Page 69 Test to White Out, book one of her new Badlands Thriller Series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
She stared in through a small living room window. The answers were inside. All she had to do was go in. But she couldn’t shake the fear about who she was. About what she’d done. Why hadn’t she asked Tim about Abby? Or about the name in her Bible? Because she didn’t want anything to do with Tim, with his nicotine-stained teeth and his drugs and his wife and daughter.

She caught sight of the coffee table, glasses and bowls on its surface as though it belonged in a fraternity. This is who you are. Where you live.

She wanted nothing to do with that either.
This is my second go at the page 69 test (my first was with Expose, book 3 of the Annabelle Schwartzman Series). I was surprised back then that Expose’s page 69 fit so well with the overall theme and story… and here I am, surprised again.

On page 69 of White Out we witness our protagonist, Lily Baker, arriving at her own home after a night spent out in the elements, following a car accident. For most of us, home symbolizes not only familiarity but also safety and comfort. For Lily Baker, it is none of these things. Because home is as unfamiliar as everything has been to her since she woke up in that car. Without her memory, Lily Baker is a stranger to herself.

And she’s a stranger that she’s not sure she likes. The things she learns about herself in the hours after the accident make her wonder what kind of person she really is.

A terrible car accident, a gun and a bible in her purse and a memory of a dead man in a pool of blood is all Lily has to go on when she wakes after a car accident. White Out is a thriller about what we are capable of when pushed to the edge… and about being a stranger, even to ourselves.
Visit Danielle Girard's website.

The Page 69 Test: Expose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2020

"Village of Scoundrels"

Margi Preus is a New York Times bestselling author of the Newbery Honor Book, Heart of a Samurai and other novels and picture books for young readers, including the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award book The Clue in the Trees, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series.

Preus applied the Page 69 Test to her recent novel, Village of Scoundrels, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Village of Scoundrels is in the middle of a very tense scene in which one of the character’s mother is about to be deported from a French internment camp to Poland (to Auschwitz, but they don’t know that yet). This scene is a nearly verbatim retelling of the true-life story of Hanne Liebmann, the inspiration for the character Henni, and the person who related the tale to me. Even so, it was the single most challenged scene by my editor, managing editor, CE, and several other readers, who couldn’t believe things could possibly transpire the way that they did. Read it to see for yourself, but I’ll tell you in advance it is true, and it really happened the way I describe it.

Teen-aged Henni has previously been extracted from the internment camp and sheltered in the village of the title (the real life Le Chambon-sur-Lignon). Henni gets a message that her mother is ill and she returns to the camp only to find that her mother, along with a thousand others, is about to be deported. Henni finds the cattle car containing her mother and climbs inside. It’s a highly emotional moment and particularly fraught because we don’t know if Henni will be allowed to leave or will be deported along with everyone else.

In their brief conversation, Henni's mother talks about how, over time, their rights had been eroded by the Nazi government in Germany, until finally “'all that is left is our lives. And it seems they must have those, too.’ She clutched Henni’s shoulders and whispered, ‘Don’t let them take you.’”

This is exactly what the novel is about: how the Jewish teens and children rescued from French concentration camps manage to stay out of the clutches of the Nazi occupiers and how the teenagers of the village help shelter them, forge I.D. papers for them, and smuggle them to safety, all while staying one step ahead of the authorities.
Visit Margi Preus's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

"Girl Gone Mad"

Avery Bishop is the pseudonym for a USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen novels.

Bishop applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Girl Gone Mad, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Girl Gone Mad finds the reader smack dab in the middle of chapter 9. This chapter takes place at Olivia Campbell's parents' house right after Olivia's funeral. It's an informal reception, and we find the novel's protagonist and narrator, Emily, there along with Courtney, one of Emily and Olivia's friends from middle school. On page 69, Olivia's sister, Karen, comes to thank Emily and Courtney for coming. Courtney asks about a man who showed up during the funeral — who practically barged in and created quite a scene — and it's then that Karen shares that Olivia took her own life and that everyone blames the man, who was Olivia's fiancé.

Now, for some background on Girl Gone Mad, the novel deals with mean girl culture and how a set of popular girls in middle school bullied the new girl to her breaking point. Fourteen years pass and all the girls have gone their separate ways. Emily in particular holds guilt over what happened. At the beginning of the novel, Emily receives word that Olivia has died. She goes back and forth on whether or not she should attend the funeral. In the end, she goes along with Courtney, and on page 69 is where the real mystery starts: we learn that Olivia didn't just die, but that she killed herself, and that her fiancé had some kind of involvement. This raises even more questions for Emily and Courtney, and what forces them to start looking into what happened to Olivia — and how it might affect them all.

So I'd have to say if readers picked up the paperback and flipped to page 69, they'd get a pretty good idea of what's going on in the story!
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2020

"A Borrowed Life"

Kerry Anne King is the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Closer Home, I Wish You Happy, Whisper Me This, and Everything You Are. Licensed as both an RN and a mental-health counselor, she draws on her experience working in the medical and mental-health fields to explore themes of loss, grief, and transformation—but always with a dose of hope and humor. King lives in a little house in the big woods of the Inland Northwest. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer.

King applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Borrowed Life, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Drink lots of water, and let’s get some food into you.” He reaches for the chips and sets them in front of me. Pours more water into my glass.

I watch his hands, entranced by the way he serves me as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, not as if he’s making some sort of tit-for-tat point he’ll expect me to pay for later.

“What does your husband think of you getting into this whole drama thing?” he asks. “I mean really. I’m asking Liz, not Lacey.”

I drop my eyes and twist the ring on my finger, imagining Thomas’s scathing reaction to my behavior.

“He died. Awhile back.” I try to make it sound like it’s been years, not just a few months. I don’t want to see Lance’s eyes and face close into sympathy as he locks me up in the widow box.

“Divorce, for me,” he says.

I try to read his face, assessing the damage, unsure why we are talking about our no-longer-here spouses.

“Hey, you two lovebirds.” Bernie’s voice cuts through the chatter. “Are you having your own personal conference over there?”

“Jealous?” Lance asks, fully Darcy again, claiming my hand in his own.

The warmth of him, the sensation of it being the two of us, together, a partnership of some kind, fills and feeds me more than the giant plate of food that arrives a few minutes later.
In this scene, Liz is out for dinner and drinks with the members of a community theater production she’s just gotten involved in. I’d give page 69 a five on a scale of one to ten as far as how representative it is of A Borrowed Life. This page beautifully captures the sense of my main character, Liz, balancing at a cross-roads between her old life and her new. It introduces her relationship with Lance, her love interest in the book. But it could mislead a reader into thinking they were reading a romance, which this is not. A Borrowed Life is the story of a repressed woman who has lived for thirty years under the thumb of a rigidly fundamentalist pastor who believes that women were created to serve the needs of men. Liz sets out to create a whole new life for herself, and finding new love is only one part of that adventure. One of my readers summarized the theme of the book better than I can, so I’ll quote her here:

“There's mother-daughter drama, there's comedy, there's female bonding, there's romance and more but what I loved most is that this isn't the story of Liz finding love again, at least not with a man. It's about Liz finding a way to build a life she loves so that she can come to love herself.” ~Reading Is My Cardio Book Club
Visit Kerry Anne King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2020

"Winter Counts"

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel Winter Counts. Winter Counts is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a September main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was an Indie Next Great Reads pick for September.

Weiden applied the Page 69 Test to Winter Counts and reported the following:
On page 69 of Winter Counts, my protagonist Virgil Wounded Horse and his ex-girlfriend Marie Short Bear are driving to Denver (to find a heroin dealer) but stop in Nebraska where they discover the Carhenge site, an actual roadside attraction in the town of Alliance. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. About twenty old cars were buried in the ground, front bumper down, standing straight up like monoliths. They were arranged in a large circle, and I realized that they were obviously some sort of bizarre homage to Stonehenge. Not only were the cars buried on their edges, the artist had placed some autos on top of the others as a kind of cap or connector, just like at the real Stonehenge monument. There were a few cars buried on their sides in the center of the circle, serving as the focus of the installation.”

So how well does the “page 69 test” work for Winter Counts? I would give it a mixed review. That page doesn’t really portray any of the book’s central themes: identity, the role of violence in American society, or the historic oppression of indigenous people. On the other hand, it does provide some of Virgil’s cynical commentary as well as introduce some Lakota words in the form of graffiti spray-painted on one of the cars. “Graffiti scarred some of the cars’ bodies. I saw ARCHY SUCKS, I LOVE MEHITABEL, DADDY LONGLEGZ, and in the corner, WANAGI TACAKU.” In addition, I built in some hidden commentary in the meaning of the graffiti, but, to my knowledge, no reviewer has yet picked up on that. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing my intentions for the graffiti’s cultural significance, but will leave that to readers and acknowledge that perhaps the “page 69 test” revealed something unexpected in this book.
Visit David Heska Wanbli Weiden's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2020

"Back Bay Blues"

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys. 

Colt applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Back Bay Blues, and reported the following:

Page 69 of Back Bay Blues involves the protagonist Andy Roark and his client Thuy interviewing the widow of a murder victim. The interview is an important element of the story because it ties the two victims of two separate murders together. On this page we see that they have known each since they were in school together and during the war. It also gives them the next clue, the next link in the chain of their investigation.
I took the time to look at the pictures in the living room. They had the usual pictures of children and family portraits, but in one area was a picture of a young Pham in a Navy uniform. There were others, and then one caught my eye. It showed the same man standing next to a man in a Vietnamese Navy uniform, wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses. They were facing the sun and something glinted on his chest above his ribbons. There was another man in the picture who wasn’t in uniform but was in a Madras shirt and had long hair. The man with the Madras shirt was a young Hieu.
Page 69 is a good example of my book and the way I write. One of the themes of the book is the losses that average Vietnamese people incurred in the war. In this case it is the loss of a homeland, a loss of a career, loss of status, all of which highlight the struggle to rebuild again in America. All of the Vietnamese characters in the book, with the exception of Thuy, have had to try and make a new home in America. They have done so with varying degrees of success. Often books and movies, that deal with Vietnam, focus on the losses incurred by Americans that we rarely see any focus on the losses that Vietnamese people had to deal with.
Visit Peter Colt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Back Bay Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue