Friday, April 30, 2021

"Tears of Amber"

Sofía Segovia was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She studied communications at Universidad de Monterrey, mistakenly thinking that she would be a journalist. But fiction is her first love. A creative writing teacher, she has also been a ghostwriter and communications director for local political campaigns and has written several plays for local theater. The Spanish edition of her bestselling El murmullo de las abejas (The Murmur of Bees) was an Audie Award winner and named novel of the year by iTunes, and the English translation by Simon Bruni and narrated by Xe Sands and Angelo Di Loreto was one of Audible’s Top 10 of 2019 and a Voice Arts Award winner. She is also the author of Peregrinos (Tears of Amber), Noche de huracán (Night of the Hurricane), and Huracán (Hurricane).

Segovia applied the Page 69 Test to Tears of Amber and reported the following:
Page 69 in Tears of Amber shows Ilse doing what she loves most: riding in the sidecar of her father’s motorcycle. That day she can tell through her father’s tense demeanor that something is very wrong, even if she doesn’t know what.

This page is an important piece of the puzzle contained within Tears of Amber. It shows Ilse’s closeness to his father. It also marks the boundary between a before and an after for Ilse’s family. We, as modern-day readers, know what’s coming, but Ilse doesn’t. Page 69 is needed to complete the whole, but the reader does need to turn the page, as it doesn’t reveal the whole.

This story captures the spirit of war, not from a military point of view, but from the common people who suffer it; not from the point of view of the allies or the usual victims of Nazism, but of other little-recognized and much less remembered victims: the Prussian population.

Tears of Amber is a novel full of endearing characters with plot and points of view that are told in tandem: two decisions, two roads, two families, two children who live in remote corners of East Prussia.

Through both families, we understand how easy it is to believe in a leader who seems to achieve everything he promises, and how “simple” it is to live a war that at first seems distant. But it is a chimera. Through children, we will see the innocence of childhood made a victim. Through a Polish young man made a slave, we will see the possibility of peace and brotherhood. In the course of this moving story inspired by true events, we will witness how the adults fall into disenchantment and comprehend the horror when they cease to be blind to the vices and cruelty of their government. More so when they realize that the war is lost, that their army has abandoned them, and that a vengeful enemy is at their heels. Sustained by little more than their hope, they will do anything to survive, even brave the uncertainty of the road ahead in the harshest winter and in the most massive human exodus in history. This is a moving story about the human experience during war, but it’s also a definite call for peace.
Visit Sofía Segovia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Bitterroot Lake"

Alicia Beckman adored living in Seattle as a college student and young lawyer, but is happiest back home in her native Montana, where she lives with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their full-figured gray tuxedo cat. As Leslie Budewitz, she’s the bestselling author of the Seattle Spice Shop and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries. A three-time Agatha Award winner, for Best Short Story (2018), Best First Novel (2013), and Best Nonfiction (2011), she is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America.

Beckman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bitterroot Lake, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Abby’s tiara sat on a shelf in her bedroom, not part of the ridiculously large wardrobe she’d taken to college. The image of that tiara, shining into the silence in the house in Seattle, tore at Sarah’s heart.

At this rate, she would have no heart left, the muscles and arteries ripped to shreds for the birds to pick.

Deep breaths, her therapist would say. She inhaled, heard how thin and ragged her breath was, how short the exhale. Focus. In, out, in, out.

As for the rest—well, Holly knew part and Jeremy had known part. But no one had known it all, not even her therapist. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything now.

“Sarah? Sarah.” The sound of her name brought her back to the room, to Nic pressing a hand on her arm.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.” She shook Nic off, tried to shake off their concern. She was tired of everyone’s concern, at the same time that she craved it. What a mess she was.

“Okay,” Nic echoed, not sounding convinced. “The question is, what does the letter writer want? Or what did he want, if it was Lucas?”

“You don’t seriously think it wasn’t him?” Holly said.

Nic held out both hands. “I’m saying we’ll never get to the bottom of this if we don’t consider every possibility. We can’t start with a conclusion and get anywhere.”

Across the table, Janine closed her eyes. Though she was forty-seven, she looked like a teenager right now, younger than Abby, and scared as hell. Sarah ached to comfort her. But that wouldn’t help them get at the truth, would it?
Will this page give the reader an accurate sense of the book? When I first re-read the page, I thought the answer was “yes and no,” but the closer I looked, the stronger that “yes” became. Bitterroot Lake is the story of four women who reunite unexpectedly after twenty-five years and are forced by murder to reconsider the tragedy that tore them apart. It’s also a story of fractured friendships and family ties, of mothers, daughters, and sisters, and of the ways that a house or a place can influence us. It’s a story of the power of secrets, and how even close families sometimes keep them; no matter how good the intentions, the outcome, and the fact of the secret, can still be painful. This excerpt illustrates the relationship between the four and shows a bit of each woman’s character—a strength or a weakness. It hints at the bond between our main character, Sarah, and her daughter, and Sarah’s interior journey, shaped by grief and guilt, as she grapples with becoming a widow at only forty-seven and all the questions that raises.

The reference to Lucas and the letters brings us back to the present-day mystery. It’s clear that the letters are deeply distressing and that getting to the truth could be brutal. It’s also clear, I think, that the four will push forward to that truth, even as they know it could hurt them, even as they know it could bring them back together—or drive them further apart.

Not bad for one page out of 318, eh?
Visit Leslie Budewitz's & Alicia Beckman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"In Her Tracks"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 6 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series. He is also the author of several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new Tracy Crosswhite novel, In Her Tracks, and reported the following:
If readers were to open In Her Tracks to page 69 they would find Tracy in the midst of an interview with the apartment mate of a missing 19 year old girl. The apartment mate is a male so of course he is a possible suspect. Tracy is trying to gauge who this young man is. She’s not used to the living arrangement. It has become much more prevalent for men and women to share an apartment and not be romantically involved. So Tracy is trying to get a sense for this roommate, if the relationship with the missing young woman is as plutonic as he says it is.

From page 69 book browsers would get a good idea what the entire story is about. A girl is missing, Tracy is on the hunt and she’s starting her investigation.

I’ve found over nine novels that my readers really enjoy watching Tracy be a detective, hitting the ground running, talking to witnesses, to relatives, to possible suspects. They like to see her in action doing what a good detective does to solve a case. Investigations into true mysteries can be long and drawn out. It requires detectives to be dogged and to think outside the box. It requires detectives to go down the wrong path, correct, and try a different path. They have to be flexible to what the evidence is providing and where it will take them.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

Q&A with Robert Dugoni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 26, 2021

"Something Unbelievable"

Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and moved to the United States as a child. Her first novel, Oksana, Behave!, was published in 2019. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and daughter, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Auburn University. She is also a fiction editor at The Bare Life Review, a journal of immigrant and refugee literature.

Kuznetsova applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Something Unbelievable, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel is narrated by Larissa, an eighty-nine-year-old woman who is telling her granddaughter the story of her family's evacuation from Kiev, Ukraine to the Ural Mountains during World War II. On this page, she is fourteen, and her family and the Orlov family, whom they have travelled with, are finding their new apartment and trying to settle in, even though the accommodations leave something to be desired. Larissa's mom and the men try to be more positive, while Aunt Tamara, the mother in the other family, says she will meet her end there.

This would give readers a pretty good idea of my book - it introduces many of the characters in Larissa's narrative, and sets up the idea that her family is exiled during the war. And even though the reader wouldn't know that her granddaughter Natasha also has her own perspective in contemporary Manhattan, thematically, it also speaks to larger concerns of the book - about how to make yourself feel comfortable in a new and unfamiliar place, and all the different attitudes that one can take when being put in a challenging situation.

In addition to discussing Larissa's wartime struggles, the book follows her granddaughter, an actress trying to reboot her life and career after the birth of her daughter. She's feeling lost and alone, thinking of her dead mother and their inability to reconcile, and hoping to find meaning in hearing her granddaughter's story.
Visit Maria Kuznetsova's website.

Q&A with Maria Kuznetsova.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 24, 2021

"Good Eggs"

Rebecca Hardiman is a former magazine editor who lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Good Eggs, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Good Eggs finds us in a chapter from Kevin Gogarty's point of view. Kevin, a middle-aged, married, recently unemployed father of four, is in the throes of a midlife crisis. In this scene, he is trying to invent an excuse to see, once more, the sexy administrator at his daughter's new school. The woman, Rose, is on her way out and Kevin is desperate to invent a reason to pass by her office and speak with her again. Barreling towards them and poised to spoil this moment is Miss Bleekland, the school's battle-ax of a house mother, with whom Kevin is about to meet to discuss his daughter's latest indiscretion (she was spotted throwing out a bottle of vodka and some cans of beer).

The page 69 test works pretty well because this is a funny scene, and one of the book's objectives is to make readers laugh. Kevin is stressed and hapless, two characteristics which I find very funny. Throw in old-fashioned lust in an inappropriate setting and it's even tenser. However, I think the page 69 test falls a bit short for Good Eggs because ideally it would feature our main character, Millie Gogarty, Kevin's mischievous mum, who is the star of the show. But if the reader kindly turns just four pages, to 74, Millie is to be found at the helm once again.
Visit Rebecca Hardiman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 22, 2021

"Margreete's Harbor"

Eleanor Morse is the author of White Dog Fell from the Sky and An Unexpected Forest, which won the Independent Publisher’s Gold Medalist Award for Best Regional Fiction in the Northeast United States, and was selected as the Winner of the Best Published Fiction by the Maine writers and Publishers Alliance. Morse has taught in adult education programs, in prisons, and in university systems, both in Maine and in southern Africa. She lives on Peaks Island, Maine.

Morse applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Margreete's Harbor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Can I have some, Grandma?” Eva asked, touching Margreete’s sleeve.

“No.” It was that little one with the braids, hair falling into her eyes. “This is my jello.” She preferred the red jello to the green. She remembered once being invited to a garden party where they’d served green jello mixed with cottage cheese so it looked like a pale vegetable, like a celery stalk. You had to raise your little finger when you held your teacup or you were considered uncouth. Which people thought she was. She didn’t know why she was asked, and she never was again.

The little one was staring.

“What are you looking at?”

“Your bowl.”

“This is my jello, do you understand?”

“Did you make it?”

“I found it. Finding establishes ownership.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means it’s mine.”

“What’s that on top?”

“Whipped cream.”

“Can I have some whipped cream?”

“It’s in the refrigerator, but sometimes the squirt can explodes.”

“I don’t want any.”

She looked at Eva. “How old are you?”
This page, at the beginning of Chapter 12, does give a reasonably good window into the book. A grandmother suffering from the early stages of dementia, has nearly burned down her kitchen. She refuses to leave her house to move into a care facility, so her daughter, son-in-law, and their three children end up moving to Maine and living with her under one roof.

What page 69 reveals is a grandmother who's unsure who this child is who's living in her house. She has forgotten the child's age and is fiercely protective of what's hers (her bowl of jello). It also reveals how one by one, the children in the family attempt to establish a relationship with their half-scary, half-fascinating grandmother.

Margreete, the grandmother in Margreete's Harbor, was meant to be a minor character in the story, but she elbowed her way to the center of the book. In the early stages of writing this book, her voice was clear to me right away: irreverent, definite, often slightly confused, jokey with people she likes. There are many glimmers of clarity, even wisdom in her, as in this example when she's talking to her grandson. "When you grow up, don't ever try to love someone you don't love. And don't ever try to not love someone you do love."

The book is set in midcoast Maine between 1955 and the end of the 1960s. Liddie, the mother, is a professional cellist. Harry, her husband, teaches history in high school until it becomes clear that he isn't cut out for the job. Their oldest child, Bernie, is gay during a time when most kids in the 1950s have no idea what this means. Eva, their middle child is a budding musician, and Gretchen, their youngest, is trying to figure out how the world works, with plenty of bumps along the way.

Swirling around the family is a world that's changing fast: the civil rights movement, young men drafted into the Vietnam War, mass protests in the streets, cities burning, this country's leaders assassinated. Each member of the family responds to this tumultuous time differently. I hope that readers will see how echoes from this era follow us into today's world. Alice Cary, in a starred BookPage review, writes," Full of love, triumph and a boatload of heartbreak, Margreete's Harbor is a celebration of life's inevitable messiness. As after any good visit with family or dear friends, you will leave feeling satisfied while yearning for more."
Visit Eleanor Morse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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