Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"The Social Graces"

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her new novel, The Social Graces, is a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

Rosen applied the Page 69 Test to The Social Graces and reported the following:
From page 69:
If William looked at his timepiece once more, if he clacked it open and snapped it shut again, Caroline was going to scream. And she never screamed. Instead, she waited, counted to ten. In less than twenty-four hours, their daughter was getting married, and William had just announced that he was not going to walk Emily down the aisle. Caroline knew he didn’t mean it, that he simply like the sound of it, that it gave him some false sense of control over the situation.

“Why not just have Waldorf give her away?” he said. Clack. Snap. “He’s running for the state senate. Surely that should impress everyone.”

“Waldorf is not her father.”

“Oh, come now, Lina. You’re not fooling anyone.” He set the timepiece down. “You can invite as many presidents, as many dukes and duchesses—invite the goddamn queen of England—it won’t change a thing.”

Maybe it wouldn’t change the situation, but it was certainly providing enough dazzling distractions to give the gossips something else to focus on. She had painstakingly curated the guest list, one that was so ultra-exclusive she’d even crossed off several of the bride and groom’s requests. As she explained to Emily, there simply wouldn’t be room for several of James’s friends such as that young Vanderbilt and his brash wife.

“I tell you, Lina,” William said, reaching for his timepiece again, “everyone knows this wedding is a farce.”

“This marriage may be a farce, but it saved your life, and now I’m going to save Emily’s reputation. And I don’t care how many dignitaries it takes to do it.”
You can’t judge a book by its cover and I don’t think you can judge The Social Graces by the page 69 test. While it does capture one aspect of Mrs. Astor’s personality, it doesn’t address the fact that Alva Vanderbilt shares equal real estate in the story, or even hint that there’s a fun society chorus throughout—which is a big part of the book’s theme. This novel spans three decades, so while grabbing a quick snapshot like this might give readers a taste of the story, it’s also misleading.

I think and hope that The Social Graces will provide readers with a fun escape into the Gilded Age. A bookseller friend put it best when he said, “It’s like the original Real Housewives of New York City but in ball gowns.”
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: What the Lady Wants.

The Page 69 Test: Windy City Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 19, 2021

"When I Ran Away"

Ilona Bannister grew up on Staten Island and lived in New York City until she married a Brit and moved to London. A dual qualified U.S. attorney and UK solicitor, Bannister practiced immigration law in the UK before taking a career break to raise her two young sons and unexpectedly found herself writing fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to When I Ran Away, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
How long is a heartbeat? How long is a breath? A fraction of a second to choose a different life. Before I can stop myself, before I can even think of the words, I've said them.

"If it's with you then it's right." Harry pulls me to him. I breathe him in. I'm not sure what I'm doing.

I do it anyway.
Reader, I’m so pleased that at page 69 of When I Ran Away, which is only a few lines long, you’ll find one of my favourite moments in the love story of Gigi and Harry, a very unlikely couple who understand each other better than anyone else ever could. It's a turning point in Gigi's life, a moment of pure happiness when she decides to make her life with Harry. And she very much deserves this moment after many years of loneliness, struggling as the single mother to an adopted son, and grieving the loss of her brother on 9/11. But deciding to stay with Harry means leaving New York and moving to London. It's a move she thinks will solve her problems and assuage her grief, but she'll soon learn that life in London only changes the location of her sadness and the things she hasn't dealt with. It doesn’t take them away. And while she hopes this drastic move away from New York will somehow break the cycles of dysfunction for her children that she grew up with in her own family, it also leaves her feeling isolated and raw, especially after the birth of her baby. But don’t worry reader, there will be other moments of happiness for Gigi. It will just take her some time to find them.
Follow Ilona Bannister on Twitter.

Q&A with Ilona Bannister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 17, 2021

"Gone Missing in Harlem"

Karla FC Holloway is James B. Duke Emerita Professor of English, African-American Studies, and Professor of Law at Duke University. As a professor, her classrooms and scholarship focused on literature, law, and bioethics; but in 2017 she turned her full attention to writing fiction. Her debut literary fiction is A Death in Harlem, a mystery set in the moment of the Harlem Renaissance.

Holloway's new book, Gone Missing in Harlem, is a novel about memory, mothering and resilience that bridges the Harlem Renaissance and the Great Depression. Weldon Thomas, NYC's first colored policeman, returns to solve the mystery of a Harlem baby whose disappearance fails to engage the same energies and interest as the contemporaneous Lindbergh kidnapping.

Holloway applied the Page 69 Test to Gone Missing in Harlem and reported the following:
Page 69 has perhaps one of the most uncomplicated presentations of the dilemma and story of Gone Missing in Harlem. It’s the “here’s the facts” page and it surprised me, because much of the book’s story challenges the reader to piece together the mystery, to uncover the pathways towards discovering “who dunnit?” and to decide whether the principal characters are reliable—or not. Breathe. There are no spoilers here. Page 69 does not give away the mystery; but it’s an important (arguably critical) declaration of facts that also matter, and may—in fact—be determinative. Here the mother and daughter, whose relationship has been strained, share an intimacy that is loving and assuring. It’s perhaps the only time the reader might be certain of mother Lilah’s heart. A thoughtful reader might determine that these feelings do not emerge from thin air, but instead reconsider what has suppressed them. Daughter Selma, caught between her own wish to return to the uncomplicated days of a happy and carefree childhood (“I’m your Baby Girl. Me.’) and the circumstance of her unwanted pregnancy (“I’m spoilt”) needs the assurance she gets of mother’s loving support who comforts her daughter, “You got me to stand with while you growing that baby.” It’s on Page 69 that DeLilah accepts she can only save her daughter if she acts from a “strength motivated by love, not fear.”

Although one reading of this book might (perhaps too easily) attach to trauma and disarray, this page makes it plain that my intent strongly turns towards this being a book about resilience, love, and strategy. As a matter of fact, from now on when somebody tells me about the pain and hurt evident in the characters’ challenges, I get to say – but have you seen page 69? It’s the page when DeLilah calls her daughter ‘sweet girl’” and pushes back against Selma’s characterization of her own body as ‘spoilt.” Instead, DeLilah insists ‘You ain’t no kinda fruit. You about to be somebody’s mother.’” And then Lilah determines to make a plan where motherhood (hers and her daughter’s both) is an assurance rather than a casualty. I’m now in love with page 69! Or at least, I have a ready come-back to readers who say but wait…what about when that (unnamed spoiler here) happens? “Ah hah,” I’ll respond in a smug and clever tone. “But have you read Page 69?
Visit Karla FC Holloway's website.

Q&A with Karla FC Holloway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 15, 2021

"Titan Song"

Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes noir with a twist of magic and a disco chaser. Stout's stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Nature. He is the author of The Carter Archives, a series of noir fantasy novels from DAW Books.

Stout applied the Page 69 Test to the new title in The Carter Archives, Titan Song, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I slipped back out the door and into the living area, where Jax crouched beside Donna, his voice calming as he told her she’d done the right thing by calling us.

“We both wanted to see the Barekusu come to town,” she said. “Now Saulie’s not gonna be there, and it’s my fault. We were gonna go down the street and be there when the procession came in.”

The phone sat on an end table. There wasn’t any blood on it. From what I’d seen in the bedroom, she’d have gotten gore all over the phone. She must have cleaned her hands after coming out of the bedroom.

“They’re beautiful,” she said. “All them Barekusu, coming in from the ice plains. They’re finally gonna make sense of this town.”

I stared at the sink. The liquid that covered the dishes wasn’t red sauce.

“It’s gonna be beautiful,” Donna said, “just beautiful.”

She closed her eyes, letting her hair hang down like a curtain. Jax looked at me. I nodded, and in a softly musical voice, he told Donna her rights.
This is an interesting one! Page 69 of Titan Song features two detectives on the scene of a newly-discovered murder. As the level of violence involved sinks in, the killer talks about the beautiful future of the city, creating a contrast of optimism and sorrow. In that way, it’s a very good encapsulation of the tone of the book, and the Carter Archives series.

But at the same time, most of the book is spent on chasing killers, rather than the moment of capturing them. The inevitable accumulation of hints and allegations, clues and misdirections. Those classic detective whodunnit moments make up most of a mystery, with the solutions only coming along often enough to keep the characters marching on, moving relentlessly toward the conclusion.

So this glimpse of the story is very accurate in tone, and less so in terms of action. The question it raises is, I suppose, what is the story about? I think a reader's answer to the question of whether the Page 69 test works in this case would depend on whether they believe Titan Song is about the hunt for a killer or the way that beauty and sorrow intertwine.

I've got my own thoughts, of course. But I like to think that each reader will have their own opinion by the time they've finished the book!
Visit Dan Stout's website.

The Page 69 Test: Titanshade.

The Page 69 Test: Titan's Day.

Q&A with Dan Stout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"A Winning Betrayal"

Louise Guy has enjoyed working in marketing, recruitment and film production, all which have helped steer her towards her current, and most loved, role – writer.

Her passion for writing women's fiction is a result of her love of reading, writing and exploring women's emotions and relationships. Women succeeding through hard work, overcoming adversity or just by owning their choices and decisions is something to celebrate, and Guy loves the challenge of incorporating their strengths in these situations into fiction.

Originally from Melbourne, a trip around Australia led Guy and her husband to Queensland's stunning Sunshine Coast where they now live with their two sons, gorgeous fluff ball of a cat and an abundance of visiting wildlife - the kangaroos and wallabies the most welcome, the snakes the least.

Guy applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Winning Betrayaland reported the following:
Page 69 of A Winning Betrayal opens at the start of a scene where Shauna and Frankie have met for the first time. The story is told from a dual perspective, and while this page will not give the reader a feel for the entire story, it will provide them with an excellent sense of Frankie’s storyline.

Having shared a first division lotto win, the two women have been invited to the offices of Gold Power Lotteries to meet with a psychologist who provides advice and strategies on how to cope with this life-changing situation. We learn that Frankie is a reluctant winner, scared of the potential pitfalls of the win, and believes the money does not belong to her. Frankie shivered. This already confirmed that this money shouldn’t be theirs. Frankie’s husband explains to Shauna and the psychologist why Frankie is reluctant to accept the money. The ticket was brought with twenty dollars she found outside a newsagent so she believes the ticket belongs to whoever lost the money… The reader will get an appreciation of the type of person Frankie is from page 69. She struggles to embrace the money from the very start, and this struggle continues throughout the story.

In contrast, Shauna’s extroverted and opinionated personality shines through. She’s quick to voice her thoughts throughout the story, and this is highlighted on page 69 when she has an instant opinion on Frankie’s situation, even though they’ve only just met; Shauna snorted. ‘That’s nuts. The ticket belongs to you.’

Page 69 will leave the reader wondering whether Frankie’s concerns are valid and, if they are, what terrible circumstances may unfold due to this financial windfall.
Visit Louise Guy's website

My Book, The Movie: A Winning Betrayal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 12, 2021

"Heaven's a Lie"

Wallace Stroby is an award-winning journalist and crime novelist.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Heaven's a Lieand reported the following:
Page 69 of Heaven's a Lie is a “hang out” scene, meaning it focuses on the characters and their relationships within their environment, without needing to advance the plot. Joette Harper, a young widow living alone on the Jersey Shore, visits a storefront bar where her friend Doreen works. Joette is nearing forty, Doreen is in her fifties. They share shots of tequila and talk about Doreen‘s husband’s recent health issues. Joette plays the jukebox, picking the old R&B songs she always does, including B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone.” The bar is a place where Joette feels comfortable and welcome, and her friendship with Doreen is one of the few connections in her life.

This will be one of her last carefree nights though. She soon finds herself in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a local drug dealer who thinks she’s stolen a bag of cash that belongs to him. As her life begins to spin out of control, she discovers she’s capable of things she never would have imagined.
Learn more about the author and his novels at the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Share.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"The Speed of Light"

Elissa Grossell Dickey is a mother, writer, and multiple sclerosis warrior who believes in the power of strong coffee and captivating stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Speed of Lightand reported the following:
On page 69 of The Speed of Light, Connor is asking Simone out for the first time:
I clear my throat. “Nothing major, really. How about you?” I pray my voice is casual, though my hand inside my pocket is trembling.

“I’m supposed to meet a few friends at a bar downtown around seven o’clock. Do you . . . I mean, would you want to come?” Yes. The word comes quick, the snap of a whip. I don’t want to let him get away again.

But on the outside I hesitate. I meant what I told Nikki—I need time to adjust, to wrap my brain around my diagnosis. The thought of a first-date conversation now makes me cringe: Hi, I’m Simone and I like going to the theater and reading books and talking about movies and by the way remember when I mentioned I might have a chronic neurological condition? Well, I sure do, and to be honest I don’t know what it’s going to do to me tomorrow let alone years from now but would you like to see me again?

And yet despite everything, Connor is standing here in front of me, this handsome man I never thought I’d see again, smiling with so much hope. Maybe we wouldn’t have to talk about it, not right away. Maybe we could just have fun.

Finally, the word pushes its way past my lips. “Yes.”

We exchange numbers, say our goodbyes, and when I walk back across campus, my steps are lighter somehow, almost like I’m floating.
The test was proven right—this scene does indeed give readers a good idea of what my book is about! It shows the blossoming love story between my main character, Simone, and her love interest, Connor. It also demonstrates Simone’s hesitancy to enter a relationship so soon after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and her uncertainty about her future, which are major themes of the book.

The Speed of Light actually has dual timelines. Page 69 falls during the past timeline, one year in the past, when Simone has recently been diagnosed and is starting her relationship with Connor. The other timeline (present day) is a lot more suspenseful—Simone is hiding from an unknown shooter at the campus where she works. But Simone and Connor’s relationship is central to the book regardless of the timeline, as are her hesitancy to enter a relationship and her uncertainty about her future. So again, I believe The Speed of Light passes the page 69 test.

The book’s two, quite different timelines demonstrate why I chose the book’s title. The Speed of Light does refer to the fact that they are both Star Wars fans and the fact that snowflakes falling against a windshield can make it look like you’re flying at light speed. However, it primarily refers to the fact that life can—and does—change quickly, for better or worse, be it a devastating diagnosis, a handsome stranger, or a chilling act of violence at work. You never know what life will throw at you, and The Speed of Light shows how one woman navigates this.
Visit Elissa Grossell Dickey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Whisper Down the Lane"

Clay McLeod Chapman writes novels, comic books, and children’s books, as well as for film and TV. He is the author of the horror novels The Remaking and Whisper Down the Lane.

Chapman applied the Page 69 Test to Whisper Down the Lane and reported the following:
Right at the top of page sixty-nine, there's this bit of dialogue:
"When your mom and I first started seeing each other, we talked a lot about you. When it might be the right time to tell you about me and what my childhood was like. I told her I wanted to wait a little while. Until it felt like the time was right. And I guess now is the time. To tell you. Because... Here's the thing, Eli. There's something I've been wanting to ask."

Too late to turn back now.

To run.
Some context: Richard has just married Tamara, who has a son named Elijah. This conversation is between the two of them, where Richard is struggling -- failing, even -- to tell Elijah about his own tangled childhood. It's a father-son chat that deep sixes itself pretty much before it even gets started. Richard can't help but see a little bit of himself in Elijah -- both grew up in single-mother families, both had absent fathers. But what Elijah doesn't know, and what the reader is slowly beginning to suspect, is that there's more to Richard's childhood than he's letting on. It's a murky place full of repressed memories and lies...

...So is it a perfect page to represent the rest of the book? Absolutely. It claws at the surface of something far more sinister, lingering beneath an innocuous conversation. The words themselves are relatively simple. Harmless, even. But it's what's hiding within the words, the secrets we keep, that suggest there's something more foul afoot.
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Whisper Down the Lane.

Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"The Dark Heart of Florence"

Tasha Alexander is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lady Emily mystery series. The daughter of two philosophy professors, she studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, live on a ranch in southeastern Wyoming.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Dark Heart of Florence, the 15th Lady Emily mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 11

In the time between my arrival home from the library and Cécile’s from wherever she’d gone with Signore Tazzera, I wrote letters to the boys and Margaret, read half a novel, and dressed for dinner. When Cécile did return—half an hour before we’d planned to dine—she was glowing. “Will you object if I don’t change my gown?” she asked. “I’m famished and would prefer to eat without delay.”

“I shan’t object so long as you tell me where you’ve been all afternoon,” I said. “Although my mother would be horrified and present this as yet another example of standards slipping to unacceptable lows. If we don’t dress for dinner, how will anyone recognize us as civilized?”

“Alors, there are times the uncivilized proves much more satisfying. And that, Kallista, is all you need know about my afternoon.”

“I take it you will see Signore Tazzera again?”

“I’ve invited him to dine with us tomorrow evening.”

I rang for Tessa, told her we were eager to eat whenever Cook was ready, and asked her to bring us a bottle of Cécile’s champagne as an aperitif.

“Non, Tessa, there was a case of prosecco delivered earlier today,” my friend said. “Bring us a bottle of that instead.”

Would that it were possible for me to adequately describe the shock I felt. Imagine London destroyed by vicious butterflies. Or the Parthenon of Athens felled by a child’s kite. I would have sworn either more
Page 69 in The Dark Heart of Florence is the beginning of Chapter 11. Does it give the reader a good idea of the book as a whole? Yes and no.

On the one hand, it gives us insight into two of the primary characters in the novel: Emily, the protagonist, and Cécile, one of her dearest friends. Their wit and their opinions concerning the joys of being uncivilized are illuminated when they banter about Emily’s mother and dressing for dinner. One the other hand, near the bottom of the page, Cécile tells a maid to bring her prosecco rather than champagne, a request that to anyone who knows her is unthinkable. Cécile only drinks champagne. Not tea, not coffee, not a nice Burgundy. Champagne, please and thank you. Emily is shocked, but we don’t get enough of her reaction to fully understand. Nor do we see what motivated her: the charming librarian who sent the prosecco.

But doesn’t a passage that raises questions make you want to read more? It certainly does for me, and this is a book that raises a considerable number of questions. So that’s another way the Page 69 test works—it gives the reader an appropriate and telling preview of what else is to come.

That said, because the book has two point-of-view characters, separated by more than four hundred years, one page can’t simultaneously give the reader a sense of both. Emily’s story takes place in 1903 and Mina’s in 1480, but Emily’s is the primary narrative. The test succeeds in giving our browsing reader a glimpse of what she’s like.

For me, one of the most important factors that influences whether I like a book is voice. If I’m seduced by it, it will carry me through even if there are significant flaws in the plot. Page 69 of The Dark Heart of Florence certainly gives the reader a taste of Emily’s voice, the dominant one in the novel.
Visit Tasha Alexander's website.

Q&A with Tasha Alexander.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 5, 2021

"Lies We Bury"

Originally from Sacramento, Elle Marr explored the urban wilderness of Southern California before spending three wine-and-cheese-filled years in France. There, she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and discovered her love of writing novels.

Currently, she lives and writes outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, son, and one very demanding feline.

Marr applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lies We Bury, and reported the following:
True to form, the Page 69 test has done it again. In Lies We Bury, this location opens on main character Marissa Claire Lou analyzing a note that invites her to discover the next dead body--the second one, to her knowledge. The first was found inside a Portland brewery, where a stuffed animal she owned as a child was also inexplicably seen. As the note challenges, “Find the name I most admire and you’ll find the next one first.”

In debating her choices--Just where should she look exactly? Should she turn the note over to the police?--this section also reflects a greater theme throughout the book: motivations are important. It’s not enough to simply know an act was committed; we want to understand why, especially given the most heinous forms of brutality. If Marissa can identify the person the killer admires most, as the note taunts, if she can piece together what drives them to take a life, she might be able to find the killer herself and stop them from leaving items from Marissa’s childhood at each crime scene.

As the rest of the story unfolds and more signs point to Marissa as the murderer, we see just how ambiguous motivations can be.
Visit Elle Marr's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 3, 2021

"Valentino Will Die"

Donis Casey is the author of the Alafair Tucker Mysteries, an award-winning series featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, set in Oklahoma during the booming 1910s. Her first mystery, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book. Casey is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Valentino Will Die, the sequel to The Wrong Girl, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m glad that the doctor knows to look for poison,” Bianca said.

“I told him about Rudy’s fears right away, even before the operation. I like Meeker. I think that if there’s anything unnatural to find, he’ll find it.”

She didn’t have a chance to comment before Meeker emerged and crooked a finger at her. “You may go in, Miss LaBelle. Against my better judgment. He’s awake and knows you’re here and insists on seeing you. Please don’t agitate him.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Bianca didn’t want to give him time to reconsider. She disappeared into suite Q.

Meeker turned to George. “I examined the puncture wound Miss LaBelle mentioned. It is barely noticeable, almost completely healed. I took a swab from the area and will have it tested. However, I don’t believe it has anything to do with Mr. Valentino’s condition.”

“Well, I suppose that’s good, but now we’re right back where we started.”

“Miss LaBelle seems to think there’s a possibility that Mr. Valentino’s custom-made cigarettes may have been poisoned. I cannot imagine that they were, but she was quite adamant, so I told her I would send one to the lab and test for poison. Did he have a cigarette case on him when he came to the hospital?”

George gave the doctor a look that suggested he had lost his mind. “Cigarettes? I certainly wasn’t thinking about bringing his cigarettes when I was riding with him in the ambulance. You can’t seriously think...”

“Probably not. But given the laboratory results that I’ve already shared with you, I don’t intend to leave any stone unturned.”
The Page 69 test works well for this book. It’s an interesting turning point in the story, and gives the reader a taste of what’s at stake for the characters as well as a glimpse of my protagonist’s personality. Silent screen movie star Bianca LaBelle has come to New York City to be by the side of her dear friend and co-star Rudolph Valentino as he lay in the hospital on the brink of death. A few weeks earlier, after an intimate dinner at Bianca’s Beverly Hills mansion, Rudy confessed to her he had been receiving mysterious, threatening notes which said, “Valentino will die”. Now, after falling deathly ill in the middle of the publicity tour for his latest movie, he’s convinced he’s been poisoned, and has begged Bianca to come to New York to help discover who is trying to kill the world’s most famous screen lover. Page 69 opens in the middle of a conversation between Bianca and George Ullman, Valentino’s manager and agent, and then between Ullman and Rudy’s physician, Dr. Meeker, in the corridor outside Rudy’s hospital room.

Until now, no one but Bianca has put much stock in Rudy’s assertion that someone wants to kill him. She has been hounding Ullman and the doctor to conduct tests for poison, and the conversation between Ullman and Meeker on page 69 is the first hint the doctor has taken Bianca and Rudy’s worries seriously - and might have discovered something ominous.
Visit Donis Casey's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

The Page 69 Test: All Men Fear Me.

The Page 69 Test: The Wrong Girl.

My Book, The Movie: Valentino Will Die.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Good Neighbors"

Sarah Langan grew up on Long Island, in a town called Garden City, but not on a crescent bordering a park. She got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and also received her Master’s in Environmental Health Science/Toxicology from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters.

She’s received three Bram-Stoker awards, and her work has often been included in best-of-the year lists and anthologies. She’s a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and works in both film and prose.

Langan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Good Neighbors, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Good Neighbors, my b-plot tweens, called the rat pack, are in the middle of Sterling Park on a swelteringly hot summer day in 2027, thanks to global warming. They're overlooking an eerie sinkhole, even though their parents told them to stay away from it:
Julia giggled. "Sucker! Our parents are down there."

"Doing what?" Charlie asked.

Julia shook her head. "Worrying about the wrong things. It's all they know how to do."

Dave kicked the board. "I really wish they were down there. I'd have the house to myself."

Julia pictured her Beauty Queen mother down at the bottom of that sinkhole, pregnant and sweating and ringing her nervous hands. Square your shoulders! Smile! Go put on a bra so nobody can see your business! If a grown man ever talks to you, just scream. He's got no business talking to you. Are you getting along with the neighbors? Don't make yourself unpleasant, Julia! These people are so important!... Did you bring Larry? Don't you know he's your responsibility?

She pictured her dad down there, too. Playing sad songs and walking slow and sad like every day he woke up as Julia and Larry's father instead of as a rock star was a disappointment.

"Let's throw 'em down. Then we'll take over. We'll run the world."

"I like my parents!" Charlie cried.

"I like mine, too," Julia answered, "But they still suck."

That was when the only tranquility they'd forged that summer broke.

Shelly and the rest of the rat pack came howling back.
I think this page sets up the plot pretty well. The adults are afraid of the wrong things, and the kids are on the verge of inheriting a messed-up world. They're literally on the brink of disaster, as represented by the sinkhole. Julia is the main kid-character, and I think we can see here the distinction between herself and her love interest, Charlie. He sees his parents as perfect. Julia doesn't have that luxury.

Also on this page, we learn about Shelly, Julia's best friend-turned-enemy. This relationship mirrors the adult relationships, where Julia's mom Gertie and Shelly's mom Rhea were also best friends, who became enemies. The tragedy of this book is about ten pages away, and it's used by the adults as a pretext to attack the entire Wilde family, who, with their Brooklyn accent and cheap house, represent a downward economic spiral. They're convenient scapegoats to attack, because the real problem is too big.
Visit Sarah Langan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Keeper.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"The Perfect Marriage"

Adam Mitzner is the acclaimed Amazon Charts bestselling author of Dead Certain, Never Goodbye, and The Best Friend in the Broden Legal series as well as the stand-alone thrillers A Matter of Will, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, and The Girl from Home. A practicing attorney in a Manhattan law firm, Mitzner and his family live in New York City.

Mitzner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Perfect Marriage, and reported the following:
Without spoilers, page 69 encapsulates some of the important intrigue The Perfect Marriage.

The page is split into two scenes.

The first is the tail-end of a discussion between the two main characters – James and Jessica Sommers – regarding the well-being of their son and a financial crisis they’re facing. These two issues are at the center of the book and propel much of the action to follow, as well as the twists and turns at the end.

The second part of the page concerns a twist in which two characters we’ve seen a lot of previously turn out to have a relationship that had not yet been disclosed.

I would not want a reader to turn to page 69 at the beginning, because it reveals too much, but after they’ve read the book, I welcome them to return to that page because a lot of what happens throughout its 300-odd pages is right there on page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

The Page 69 Test: A Case of Redemption.

The Page 69 Test: Losing Faith.

The Page 69 Test: A Matter of Will.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfect Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 29, 2021

"The Hiding Place"

Paula Munier is the USA Today bestselling author of the Mercy and Elvis mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones, the first in the series, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and named the Dogwise Book of the Year. Blind Search was inspired by the real-life rescue of a little boy with autism who got lost in the woods.

Munier credits the hero dogs of Mission K9 Rescue, her own rescue dogs Bear, Bliss, and Blondie—a Malinois mix as loyal and smart as Elvis—and a lifelong passion for crime fiction as her series’ major influences.

She’s also written three popular books on writing: Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, and Writing with Quiet Hands, as well as Fixing Freddie and Happier Every Day.

Munier lives in New Hampshire with her family, the dogs, and a torbie tabby named Ursula.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new Mercy and Elvis mystery, The Hiding Place, and reported the following:
From page 69:
CHAPTER ELEVEN

“Patience had one of those motion cameras on the porch. So that she could see the people who left animals on her doorstep.”

“I thought it was anonymous,” said Troy. “I thought that was the whole point of the rescue drop-off station.”

“It was,” said Mercy. “It is. But in case anything goes wrong, she needs to be able to contact them. Like if the animals turn out to have rabies or some other communicable disease.”

“Does that ever happen?” asked Ed.

“I don’t know. But that’s not the point. The point is, we should have film of whoever left those kittens on the porch.”

“And whoever left the bomb.”
Don't panic. No kittens--or any other animal--were harmed during the course of this story. But on page 69 we see our heroine Mercy Carr, her cousin Ed, and game warden Troy Warner examining a crime scene, which just happens to be the porch of the Victorian house where Mercy's grandmother Patience lives. The man who murdered Mercy's grandfather has escaped from prison, and this bombing may confirm that he's out for revenge--and that the target of his revenge may be Patience.

Her grandmother is the one person Mercy most relies upon for love and understanding—the rock who never fails her. The thought of losing her is unbearable, and she’ll do anything to keep her safe. In The Hiding Place, Mercy must dig deeply into the past to reveal the dark secrets that could destroy her grandmother and their family—or save them all. The porch bombing is just the first in a series of threats that Mercy and her canine companion Elvis must face while they search for the truth—and take down the killer.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowing of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Red Widow"

Author Alma Katsu writes:
Lyndsey Duncan is a case officer at CIA tasked with finding the mole who is handing over the Agency’s best assets to Russia. Theresa Warner is the Red Widow, wife of a CIA officer who died during an operation inside Russia. Both were once rising stars at Langley but separate events have thrown their careers and their lives for a loop. And now, the two officers become entwined over the mole hunt, ultimately causing both women to question what it means to work at CIA, what you owe to your country, and what you owe to yourself.

In some ways, Red Widow is a little unconventional for a spy novel. It’s meant to appeal to viewers of shows like The Americans and Homeland more so than maybe James Bond and Jason Bourne.
Katsu is best known for her award-winning historical horror and fantasy novels, but retirement from a 30+ career in intelligence has freed her up to write what she knows best: spy novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Red Widow and reported the following:
Page 69 opens on a video teleconference between Langley and Moscow station, where Eric Newman, chief of Russia Division, is giving Hank Bremer, Moscow station chief, bad news. Lyndsey Duncan, who is in charge of the hunt for the mole, sits in:
Popov and Kulakov killed, Nesterov missing. The grim truth settles over the four of them. The evidence seems undeniable: Moscow is rolling up CIA’s assets.

Eric clears his throat. The corners of his mouth twitch. What he’s about to say next pains him. “Hank, I want you to stand down all operations for the time being.” It’s the same advice Lyndsey gave him, only now he’s ready to act on it.

Bremer’s face goes red, like his shirt collar has suddenly gone too tight. “You can’t do that. We have things in the works—”

“It doesn’t matter, Hank. You know that. Shut it down, all of it. Tell your people”—the assets, Eric means, their Russian spies—“to lie low until we get things under control. We can’t afford to lose anyone else right now.”

Bremer is clearly upset but he knows not to say anything more. Instead, he strikes the table with a closed fist.

“I know you don’t like it, Hank, but we have to think of our people.” Eric’s tone is more conciliatory but it’s too late. Station Chiefs don’t like to have their authority questioned in front of subordinates. He should’ve helped Hank come to this conclusion himself. “We’ll figure out what’s going on and stop it.”
Page 69 thrusts you into what it’s like on the job—there are many, many meetings to make sure nothing is being overlooked, because the spy business is complex and fraught with peril, obviously—but only a taste of what the whole book is about, I’m afraid. It’s very work-oriented and crackles with the difficulties of managing and juggling work relationships, but you don’t get to see the interaction between the protagonist, Lyndsey Duncan, and the titular character, Theresa Warner.
Visit Alma Katsu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 25, 2021

"Floodpath"

Emily B. Martin splits her time between working as a park ranger and an author/illustrator, resulting in her characteristic eco-fantasy adventures. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger help inform the characters and worlds she creates on paper.

When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

Martin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Floodpath, and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test opens a tiny but dead-on window into Floodpath. It’s the very end of a chapter in which Lark, the main protagonist, has been running away in every sense of the word. Once a much-feared desert outlaw, she’s uncovered truths about herself that redefine everything she is and could become, and up to this point in the book, she’s been emotionally, mentally, and physically fleeing from them. By the end of this chapter, on page 69, she’s out of time, and all the things she’s been running from have caught up to her. She collapses and loses consciousness. Narrating this, she ends the chapter with, “I tilt and disappear.”

This is such a great glimpse of Floodpath because the whole book is about losing and rebuilding identity. All three protagonists—Lark, Veran, and Tamsin—have gone through major identity crises in book 1. In the sequel, I wanted essentially to break them all down, strip away everything they thought they were, leave them to flounder for a few beats, and then watch them build themselves back up into something stronger, something truer. Lark is at this breaking point on page 69. Up until then, she’s been denying the things she’s found out about her past. She refuses to believe it’s true and gets angry when Veran tries to discuss it. After this page, when she’s dragged back to consciousness, she begins to give in, just a tiny bit. She starts to prod this new identity, examine it, try it on for size. And while she still has a long road to travel before she accepts it, this page is where that turning point begins.

In short, it’s the moment she stops running from something and starts creeping toward something.
Visit Emily B. Martin's website and check out her six stunning eco-fantasies for nature lovers.

The Page 69 Test: Sunshield.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"The Vietri Project"

Nicola DeRobertis-Theye was an Emerging Writing Fellow at the New York Center for Fiction, and her work has been published in Agni, Electric Literature, and LitHub. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she was the fiction editor of its literary magazine Ecotone. She is a native of Oakland, CA and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

DeRobertis-Theye applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Vietri Project, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I realized I didn’t need to go so far as to look up a utility account, really I could check any piece of mail. I tried to remember the dim orange-lit lobby of the apartment building, attempting to summon the memory of a mailbox. I decided that if I was willing to go as far as requesting a complete stranger’s birth certificate, if I had possibly stolen and kept in my possession a rare and not unpolitical book from someone named Chiara, then it seemed arbitrary to draw the line at trying to check Vietri’s mail. At least, I thought, I should return to the apartment, see if the mailbox was easily accessible, if so, peek at the names, put everything back in its place. A car was exiting the driveway as I walked up the street, I’d timed my visit to the morning, hoping to catch some resident leaving for work, and I broke into a jog, slipping inside the metal gate as it rolled shut, keeping my eye on the car as it continued down the street, but it didn’t slow. I doubted they had seen me, given the angle, still, I felt a rush of anxiety, or excitement, as I ascended the stairs, gave three soft knocks on Vietri’s door, suddenly afraid of what would happen if the shrill neighbor heard me again. But no one answered, and the steady thuds of my feet moving down the stairs calmed me, by the time I’d returned to the lobby my heartbeat had slowed, my head felt clear. The postboxes were just inside the entryway, thin and metal, with a lock at the bottom so that the door opened upwards to reveal a slot. Vietri’s number, like the door buzzer outside, was missing a name card, and I slid my fingers under the lip at the
I’m impressed by how well this would work! It even opens on a complete sentence, the start of a new section. Gabriele, the narrator, is deciding how far she will go on her search to find Vietri: will she, in this instance, try to break into his mailbox? She has been unable to find him home at his apartment, and finding proof of his existence itself has proved elusive. This is a turning point in the novel, in which she decides she’s willing to take a risk in order to find him, and it leads her into all of the discoveries in the rest of the book—a story of his life that encompasses one hundred years of Italian history. It’s also a scene that shows how the book engages with mystery tropes as well.
Visit Nicola DeRobertis-Theye's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vietri Project.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"The House Uptown"

Melissa Ginsburg is the author of the novels The House Uptown and Sunset City, the poetry collection Dear Weather Ghost, and two poetry chapbooks, Arbor and Double Blind. A second poetry collection, Doll Apollo, will be published in 2022 by LSU Press, and the poetry chapbook Apollo is forthcoming in June from Condensery Press. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Guernica, Kenyon Review, Fence, Southwest Review, and other magazines. Originally from Houston, Texas, Ginsburg studied poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Mississippi. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with two dogs, eleven chickens, and the writer Chris Offutt.

Ginsburg applied the Page 69 Test to The House Uptown and reported the following:
Page 69 finds the character Lane eating a bite of omelet prepared by her married lover, Bertrand, a corrupt city councilman. She is recovering from a migraine and goes to bed, then muses about their relationship: "He risked plenty, coming to her. He trusted her, he gave her so much power. She could destroy his family and his career with a single phone call. She could probably send him to jail with what she knew. Lane wondered how often he considered that. Sometimes she thought the potential for destruction was a measure of his love."

This test is a bit misleading, because the scene is a flashback to decades before the bulk of The House Uptown takes place. Bertrand is not a major character in the book. He has been dead for two years and Lane's cognition is faltering. She gets confused about time, and slips into reveries like this one, in which memories feel utterly real and present to her. On the other hand the test kind of works, because this is a book about characters who abide by their own rules which often fly in the face of social convention, morality, and the law--Lane and Bert's affair is really the least of it! This page is also representative of the psychological intimacy of the book. We get to know the way that the main characters think, and to look at the world through their unique sets of beliefs.

Lane is a brilliant painter, obsessed with her art, in denial about the problems with her mind. Her assistant Oliver, a young gay man and former drug dealer, takes care of all the details of her life so she can focus on her paintings. He loves her and tries to do what's best for her, but his job gets increasingly complicated. When Lane's 14-year-old granddaughter Ava shows up to stay with Lane, her presence disrupts the delicate equilibrium of Lane's life. The House Uptown is a lyrical meditation on grief, art, and family connections, paced like a thriller, set in a New Orleans that tourists never see.
Visit Melissa Ginsburg's website.

Q&A with Melissa Ginsburg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 19, 2021

"The Stills"

Jess Montgomery is the author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries. Under her given name, she is a newspaper columnist, focusing on the literary life, authors and events of her native Dayton, Ohio for the Dayton Daily News. Her first novel in the Kinship Historical Mystery series garnered awards even before publication: Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District (MCAD) Artist Opportunity Grant (2018); Individual Excellence Award (2016) in Literary Arts from Ohio Arts Council; John E. Nance Writer in Residence at Thurber House (Columbus, Ohio) in 2014.

Montgomery applied the Page 69 Test to The Stills, the third novel in the Kinship series, and reported the following:
On page 69, Sheriff Lily Ross enters the Harkins farmhouse in a far reach of Bronwyn County, in the Appalachian hills of southeastern Ohio. The Harkins son, Zebediah may have ingested tainted alcohol. It’s 1927, a little over halfway through the United States’ experiment with Prohibition, and by this time, the federal government had started adding deadly methyl alcohol to industrial alcohol, sometimes used in brewing alcohol for human consumption. Sheriff Lily, whose character is inspired by Ohio’s true first female sheriff in the 1920s, is more worried about the boy’s well-being than the law at this point, and has arrived with the doctor.

Not only that, but the Harkins mother, Dora, is very ill with cancer. The Harkins father, Leroy, works on Lily’s small farm.

Here’s part of page 69:
Lily clears her throat. “Mr. Harkins, I can get Zebediah to the help he needs. Based on what Ruth told us, Zebediah has ingested tainted alcohol. The sooner we c-can—”

Lily stutters to a stop. Whereas at her farm Leroy often removes his hat and lowers his eyes when addressing her, now his gaze is straight and sharp as a finely honed stone arrowhead. This is his turf, his land.

“You need to pull my boy in for drinking, so be it.” As he starts to pull his wife from the cold door, his voice softens. “Come on, honey.”

Lily’s fists clench. Damn that it’s the man’s legal right to run his family as he sees fit. She relaxes her hands, tries to speak gently. “I’m not pulling him in. We just want Zebediah to be all right.”

Dora jerks away from her husband, and the look on his face is as if she has shot him through the heart. “Please, Leroy! Just let the doctor in—”

“Didn’t do nothing for you,” Leroy mutters. “Just like that fool church didn’t do nothing.”

Lily’s heart crackles, sorrowful for the man’s loss of faith. He’s already lost so much.

But not his love for his wife. As he gently turns her away from the door, Leroy says over his shoulder, “Come in then. Shut the door behind you!”
I feel this passage on page 69 actually captures a lot of the spirit of The Stills, whose plot is driven in part by both Prohibition and the church to which Leroy refers, as well as by the illnesses of Zebediah and his mother.

More importantly, it shows Lily at her best, prioritizing her concern for the people she serves, and being sensitive to the nuances that drive their lives. It also reflects the extra challenges that women face in the 1920s, even in having power in their own home. And yet, Leroy ultimately do as his wife wishes, even as he struggles with his own fears and grief.

The setting, the Appalachian area, is a character in this passage too, as it is in the whole of my novel and in my series.
Visit Jess Montgomery's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Widows.

The Page 69 Test: The Hollows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"Skyward Inn"

Aliya Whiteley is one of the most exciting talents in the UK. The author of five books of speculative fiction, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlisted The Loosening Skin. Her novels have been shortlisted for many awards, including the Clarke Award, the Shirley Jackson Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. She lives in Sussex with her husband and teenage daughter.

Whiteley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Skyward Inn, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I’m in the thick of it. The men ask for drinks, and I pour them; they flirt with me and I flirt back, just a little, just enough. How do I know what enough is? I’m good at this, I enjoy it: noise, business, the thunk of darts into the board like drumbeats calling me up, giving me music to which I can work. But all I can think of is the woman.

The match is over. The Away team have won and they’re lording it over the local lads, of course, but that’s the way the game is played, and everyone is cheerful. I head to the kitchen and find Isley finishing up the pork and apple pies, his shirt sleeves rolled back and his apron in place, tied in a double bow around his waist. He looks up and smiles at me as if I’m the only person he wants to see, and I remember why I asked him to come back here with me.

‘It’s ready,’ he says. ‘I’ll dish it, you carry it through.’

‘My brother found someone. The trade’s on.’ Is this really the right time? It doesn’t matter; I need to tell him.

He looks at me, a tea towel in one hand and a fish slice in the other. ‘That’s good,’ he says, cautiously.

‘It’s on for tomorrow morning. Early. Out by Wrecker’s Cave. I’ll go. Give me the stuff to trade and I’ll take it.’
Page 69 of Skyward Inn is a good taste of the first two-thirds of the book, I think. This is the Inn at work. The main character Jem is working front of house at the bar she’s opened back in her home town. She’s serving the drinks and her long-term partner Isley is out back cooking the food. The extract gives us the sense of her enjoyment of the job, and the balancing act it requires to keep everyone happy.

Maybe some readers would think this was set in the past. I doubt many would place it in the near future, or realise that Isley is, in fact, an alien from a planet Earth has invaded. Things are not as they seem, but that’s a key element of the book.

Then there’s the undercurrent of tension. Jem tells us her mind is elsewhere, and the drumbeats of the darts hitting the board builds a driving rhythm. I think you could read this page and get the feeling that something threatening is building.

It wouldn’t be possible from this to get a sense of what happens in the final third of the book, which is meant to be a bit of a surprise. I’d say it does give a sense of where the fracture points in the story will be – Jem and Isley’s relationship, and the intrusion of ‘the woman’. The desire to be together, part of a team. And the need to be alone, sometimes, too.

Even so, the book does head off in a different direction, but I’d say in this case page 69 certainly gives you clues to what terrain lies ahead, if not a roadmap.
Visit Aliya Whiteley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 15, 2021

"Death Waits in the Dark"

Mark Edward Langley was instilled with a love for the American West by his father at a young age. After visiting it throughout adulthood, his connection to the land became irrevocable. After spending almost thirty years working for someone else, he retired and began to focus on writing.

Langley applied the Page 69 Test to his latest Arthur Nakai mystery, Death Waits in the Dark, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Death Waits in the Dark, we find my Navajo protagonist Arthur Nakai heading toward what he hopes will be a fruitful—even though unexpected--meeting with the mother of one of two missing girls who may have seen who killed the two sons of Arthur’s first love.

I believe if a reader opens Death Waits in the Dark to page 69, they wouldn’t get a good grasp of the storyline. Truth be told, I scanned page 69 in handful of best-selling authors books I have in my collection and it was about 50/50 that any of them had anything you would say to be tantalizing enough to give a reader a good idea of the work as a whole, so personally I don’t think that is a good way for someone to choose to purchase a novel from any author.

Death Waits in the Dark finds Arthur Nakai, a former Marine with ten years experience outside the wall in Afghanistan and twelve years tracking illegal drugs and human traffickers dragging kids and young girls across the border and selling them into worlds that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. While Arthur is attending the wake of a soldier that was under his command—the sixth to take his own life—he receives a call from Margaret Tabaaha, the first girl that taught him about love. Her two sons had been murdered, and she pleads for Arthur to do what the police can’t. Arthur’s journey leads him into the world of oil and gas exploration in New Mexico—the Land of Extraction. But when Arthur learns who the killer may be, he struggles with disbelief. Because if the police are right, the decision he will be forced to make may be something he can't live with.
Visit Mark Edward Langley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death Waits in the Dark.

Coffee with a Canine: Mark Edward Langley & Lady Cora.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 13, 2021

"Fatal Intent"

Tammy Euliano is a practicing anesthesiologist and tenured professor of anesthesiology at the University of Florida. In addition to a prolific list of academic publications, YouTube teaching videos, and numerous teaching awards, she has also written award-winning short fiction.

Euliano applied the Page 69 Test to Fatal Intent, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Fatal Intent, my protagonist, Dr. Kate Downey is about to confront a new and unpleasant surgeon named Charles Ricken. First, she does a little online research and finds an obituary for Ricken’s father, a “well-respected surgeon and philanthropist” in Miami. A few clicks later, she learns that the older brother died four months later. “So Ricken was a middle-aged orphan with no family of his own.” Before she left her office to find Ricken, she spoke to the photo of her comatose husband, “Wish me luck.”

So what do readers glean from this single page? They get a hint of Kate—she does her research, she prefers to avoid confrontation but will stand up for what’s right, she loves her husband and is nowhere near ready to accept the inevitable. They also learn of conflict between the protagonist and the surly surgeon (same root word? You be the judge). This friction persists for much of the book, and is one more stressor on Kate’s already dreadful situation. Her one saving grace is her Great Aunt Irm’s reassuring presence a few pages later. Oh, and her black Lab, Shadow.

All in all, page 69 provides browsers an important, if necessarily incomplete, view of Kate and another important player in the novel. With the characterization that happens to fall on that page, they catch a glimpse of some of the ongoing conflict and the strength of the protagonist through her heartache. I hope that small taste would leave browsers wanting more, and wondering what the @#$% was going on. Should they choose to continue reading, they’ll be immersed in the operating theaters of a large teaching hospital (minus the gross parts…unless you find hospital politics gross, which I kinda do). They’ll hopefully root for Kate to solve the mysterious deaths of her patients while dealing with false accusations, an imperious chief of staff, her insolent brother-in-law, and unexpected dangers lurking around every corner…with the occasional respite from Aunt Irm’s confused English idioms and the simulator engineer’s unique evaluation of Kate’s medical students. One of whom he considers “a box of extra stupid rocks.”

I hope a Page 69 Browser will want to know who lives…and who dies…and who is responsible in the end (Page 311, by the way).
Visit Tammy Euliano's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 11, 2021

"While Paris Slept"

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, leaving at eighteen to study psychology. In 1993 she moved to Paris, the city that inspired her to write While Paris Slept. There she pursued a career in international education and raised three sons with her French husband. She recently left her teaching position, so she can write full time while running her writing group in Paris.

Druart applied the Page 69 Test to While Paris Slept and reported the following:
Page 69 is about collaboration during the occupation of Paris. Charlotte, aged 18, is working in German hospital, and her friends are concerned that people may think she is collaborating with the Nazis.

If a browsing potential reader started with this page, they would get a good idea of the setting and tone of the book. The conversation the young women are having about Nazism and collaboration is designed to make the reader question how ordinary people would have coped under an enemy occupation. Some people would have resisted at all costs, even prepared to sacrifice their own lives for their moral conscience - the true heroes. Others would have seen what could be in it for them - the collabos. But I imagined that the vast majority of people were just trying to survive and protect their families, and so compromises were made. And this is how Charlotte finds herself working as a nursing assistant in a German hospital. It is not an 'action' chapter and therefore doesn't show the tension that runs through the novel, of which there is plenty!

Also, collaboration is one of the many themes weaving through While Paris Slept, but not the main theme, which is about parental love, and the lengths one mother will go to in order to protect her child.
Visit Ruth Druart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

"Starfish"

Lisa Fipps is a graduate of Ball State University, award-winning former journalist, current director of marketing for a public library (where she won the Sara Laughlin marketing award), and an author of middle-grade books. Starfish is her debut novel. She’s working on her next novel and several others. She currently lives in Indiana and lived in Texas.

Fipps applied the Page 69 Test to Starfish and reported the following:
Starfish is a middle-grade novel in verse. Page 69 of Starfish is the poem “Big Ol’ Fat Thing.” The protagonist, Ellie, has just told her therapist, Dr. Wood, about something deeply hurtful that Ellie’s mother had said.

A reader opening Starfish and flipping through to page 69 would get a very good idea of the magnitude of the bullying that Ellie endures for being fat, especially by her mother, who’s her biggest bully. Starfish isn’t just about the bullying, though; it’s about Ellie’s journey from letting others’ words and actions make her feel small to boldly taking up her space in the world. So, a reader wouldn’t get that part of the story from reading page 69.

The poems involving “big ol’ fat thing” are the most powerful examples of how one word can form the basis of a child’s self-image and self-worth and have a far-reaching, lasting, negative impact. These poems are some of the most painful for readers to read. They were also some of the most painful for me to write.
Visit Lisa Fipps's website.

My Book, The Movie: Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 7, 2021

"The Rose Code"

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network, The Huntress, and The Rose Code. All have been translated into multiple languages. Quinn and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Rose Code and reported the following:
If you were to flip to page 69 of my latest release, historical novel The Rose Code, you'd like be every bit as confused as my heroine finds herself:
If Bletchley Park had a motto, Mab thought, it would be “You dinnae need to know.”

“Are the other huts set up like this one?” Mab asked as she was whisked through the central corridor of Hut 6.

“You dinnae need to know,” said her new supervisor, a middle-aged woman with a crisp Scottish voice. “You're assigned to the Decoding Room...”
That's Mab's introduction to the top-secret world of Bletchley Park, a secluded country house in the middle of nowhere in Buckinghamshire where the best and brightest minds in Britain have been recruited to break the supposedly-unbreakable Axis military codes. Mab is a London shop-girl, sharp as a tack and just come to the Park clutching her secretarial degree and her wish to serve her country, and as she's whisked off to Hut 6, she's less introduced to her work than thrown into the deep end of it. And this scene on page 69 is a good introduction for the reader too—because the hush-hush air that shrouds Bletchley Park's work is the linchpin of The Rose Code, and “you dinnae need to know” will be both the savior and the bane of the characters' existence.

Mab is put to work as a decoder, and her oath of secrecy is so critical she's not allowed to tell her family, her friends, or even her roommates (who also work at Bletchley) what she does there. All the codebreakers work under the same oath, and they all take it seriously...so what happens when they find out someone's been talking, and Britain's codebreaking hub has a traitor in the midst?

Read The Rose Code to find out!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 5, 2021

"Forget Me Not"

Born and raised in upstate New York, Alexandra Oliva is the author of The Last One. She has a BA in history from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, dog, and young son.

Oliva applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Forget Me Not, and reported the following:
Page 69 starts with the main character, Linda, opening the door of her apartment and retrieving a box someone has left in the hallway. Inside the box are cookies, a wrapped gift, and a note. It’s essentially an apology/peace offering from her neighbor, Anvi. (There was a pretty intense scene a few pages earlier; secrets were revealed, and it didn’t go well.) Linda then puts the box aside and checks Anvi’s social media profile to see if the gift-giving is sincere or performative. It appears to be sincere. Next, Linda searches for #clonegirl, a hashtag that went viral years ago and indicates—inaccurately—Linda herself. She looks at an old picture of herself as a feral young girl who’d just escaped from the isolated, walled-off property where she’d essentially raised herself, and thinks about how unprepared that girl was for everything that would happen in the years following her escape. She thinks about how right that girl was to be afraid.

I think readers opening to page 69 of Forget Me Not would get a sense of some of the primary themes of the novel—Linda’s isolation and anxiety, a taste of the strangeness of her background—but not necessarily of the novel’s pacing. There was a series of reveals a few pages earlier, including a high-emotion scene that is one of my favorite parts of the whole book. Now, around page 69, the story is taking a breath to recover and ground itself before everything really gets kicked into high gear. It’s an important moment and in the flow of the novel it accomplishes a lot, but I could see how a reader who opened up to just that page might think the plot is less exciting than it actually is.

So, as far as the page 69 test is concerned, it’s a close call, but ultimately I think it works. It just might work better for some readers than others. The page is a little slower than most of the rest of the book, but the eeriness of Linda evaluating the photo of herself as a child, recognizing from a distance how monstrous that feral girl must have seemed to the people who found her—but also remembering how it felt to be that girl, how comfortable she’d been as a wild, dirty thing—captures the suspense and tension at the heart of the story.
Visit Alexandra Oliva's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last One.

Coffee with a Canine: Alexandra Oliva & Codex.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"The Rebel Nun"

Marj Charlier began her writing career at daily and mid-size newspapers before joining the Wall Street Journal as a staff reporter. After twenty years in journalism, she pursued her MBA and began a second career in corporate finance. While she has published ten novels, The Rebel Nun is her first historical novel.

Charlier applied the Page 69 Test to The Rebel Nun and reported the following:
From page 69:
Marian threw back her head and laughed with an abandon I had never seen from anyone in the cloister, even during the happy days of Radegund’s tenure. I smiled even as I shushed her.

“Lebover will prohibit you from working in here if she hears you,” I whispered. “She hates joy.”

“Do you think God hates joy?” Marian asked, straightening out the laughter in her face and lowering her voice.

I smiled. “I am certain He does not.”


I wish that short-lived improvement in the goodwill and cheer at our monastery had made me optimistic about the future—my soul could have benefited from the respite—but a cynicism that colored my humors muddied even my best moods and especially my most anxious ones. I would be listening to the clever banter of my sisters, their heads bent over the stitches of their wool work, and feel a creeping gloom sneak up on me like the draft from an open door.

Maroveus avoided our monastery until a month after Marian arrived, which should have been a relief for all of us, but I never doubted he would return to refresh our misery. When he did come, early in March, blowing through the front door like a cold gale personified, he did not disappoint. He met with Lebover in the reception room, and the rest of us were ordered to stay away so that we would not hear their discussion.

Before then, Lebover could not have told him much about what was happening at the monastery, other than the fact of the arrival of Sister Marian. She was spending nearly all her time bedridden by her gout in her chamber. Near the end of his visit, Maroveus hailed Bertie to bring Marian to the reception room.
This page may not capture the entire plotline, and it may not be the most representative page in the book, but it does present a few main elements of the story. First, it shows the behaviors and attitudes of several main characters, in particular, the narrator (Clotild), Marian, Lebover, and Maroveus. It speaks to the cloud of despair that the nuns feel and their hope for more joyous days at the monastery. It tells us how worthless Lebover is and how much Maroveus craves power and creates misery. These are key themes to the plot. And by raising the question of whether God hates joy, the passage indicates this is a book about women who are seeking meaning in life—whether from religion or from a philosophy derived from personal experience.

Marian has been sent to the monastery for the remainder of her life because she violated a church council proclamation that women who were widowed by priests could not remarry. Her marriage, which had given her a new lease on life and joy, was annulled and she was condemned to the cloister. But despite that injustice, she brought her happy spirit with her. As we see throughout the novel, women are not given choices in life. Every woman in the monastery arrived not by volition, but by circumstance or coercion. This speaks to a major theme of the book: the few opportunities women in the sixth century had. They could be married and widowed (only once, if they married a priest), become a prostitute, or go to the nunnery. As our heroine seeks to gain independence and agency, she battles the church’s hegemony, misogyny, and cruelty. These aspects are all represented or hinted at in this short passage.
Visit Marj Charlier's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Rebel Nun.

--Marshal Zeringue