Thursday, September 30, 2021


Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Pure, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…Or maybe it’s me and I have pre-summer-onset SADs––seasonal affective disorder plus sorrow. Freddie aligns his ass to true north to take a dump and I am grief-frozen. I’ve slithered from “DOING GOOD” to “LOST” on the Snakes and Ladders board and am sliding to BEREFT.

I am character–, skills– and imagination-deficient. I have a knack for failure and for lies.

I’d written “freelance writer” instead of “forger” in the “About Me: Occupation” section of the Valley Haverim Chevra Kadisha intake form. I omitted mentioning that I was a plagiarism-enabler. An unencumbered-with-ethics problem-solver who’d write your job application essay, compose the poem or short story your English teacher had assigned, pen your college admissions essay or your freshman paper––often a slightly altered previous forgery––and for a bigger fee, I’d take a whole online course plus exams in your name.

I’d included my one legit job, though it had ended when my employer, editor in chief and publisher of Mission City Lifestyle Digest, deemed that I was not “essential” during the pandemic. My “work” consisted of lifting biographies almost verbatim from the websites of the realtors, interior decorators, yoga instructors, coffee roasters, chefs, landscape designers, plastic surgeons, gynecologists specializing in vaginal rejuvenation and orthodontists that were published as “profiles” among full color ads for “The Tri-Counties’ Best”––who happened to be the same realtors, decorators, yoga studio operators, coffee roasters, restauranteurs, landscape designers plastic surgeons, vaginal rejuvenation gynecologists and orthodontists––that made up ninety percent of the “magazine” which was delivered for free to medical and dental offices and upscale salons and businesses throughout Santa Barbara, Montecito and Ventura counties.

Except for the humiliation, leaving Mission City Lifestyle Digest had felt good and meant that I could stop pretending––except to my aunt––that I was a working “journalist.” But instead using my newly freed-up time to drive to L.A. and check up on my aunt, I retreated into my room in the Goleta house…
Page 69 of Pure introduces the reader to my first-person narrator––young or young-ish, opinionated, self-deprecating and full of grief––and lets the reader know that there’s a dog in the story named Freddie. The narrator has filled out an intake form from Valley Haverim Chevra Kadisha where she applied for a position of some kind. If the reader of page 69 is curious or scrupulous, he might look up “Valley Haverim Chevra Kadisha,” realize that “Valley Haverim” is fictional and find out that a chevra kadisha is a Jewish burial society.

The reader also learns that the narrator used to write college papers, essays, and attend classes for money and that she has an aunt she regrets not visiting. So, page 69 delivers the vibe and tone of the novel and a sense of who the person at its center is and some information about her past.

But page 69 doesn’t tell the reader why the narrator wants to work in a Jewish burial society, why she is “bereft,” or why she seeks a way of “doing good.” And all this is really important, crucial stuff, so I’d have to give my page 69 a test score of D, Poor.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

"One Year Gone"

Avery Bishop is the pseudonym for a USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen novels including the newly released One Year Gone.

Bishop applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
One Year Gone is about a mother, Jessica Moore, whose daughter, Wyn, goes missing the year before. Jessica hasn't given up looking for Wyn, and everyone else has decided she's left town and will never come back, until late one night Jessica receives a series of text messages from Wyn saying that she's in danger. The book contains various timelines, mostly present day and the day that Wyn goes missing, and on page 69 it's one of the flashback chapters focusing on Wyn. Specifically, page 69 is about how Wyn used to volunteer at the local animal shelter, and how she had made it her mission to get one unlucky dog adopted:
There was one dog in particular, a mutt named Uno, who had been at the rescue for almost two years. He was maybe three, four years old. He’d been clearly abused as a puppy. He needed to be in a home where there were no other dogs to compete with and no children.

He’d been adopted previously but the couple had brought him back after a week, saying they didn’t think he was a right fit. It was explained to them that sometimes it takes a while for a dog to adjust, but the couple didn’t want to bother.

Uno had looked so confused. He didn’t understand what was happening. He’d gone back into his kennel, his ears down, and curled up in the corner, looking so hopeless.

Wyn had wanted nothing more than to adopt him herself. She’d even talked to her mom about it, and it was clear her mom had considered it before pointing out Uno would be alone most of the time, what with her mom working practically ten hours a day and Wyn going to school and then work, and then what would happen once Wyn graduated and went to college? (At that time, Wyn had been on board with the idea of college.)

Now that wouldn’t be fair to the dog, her mom had said, would it?

Part of Wyn hadn’t cared; she just wanted to bring Uno home, show him that there was life outside the rescue. But she knew her mom was right. And so Wyn had made it her goal to get Uno adopted.

In the end, it had taken almost three months. Wyn had started a social media campaign, taking pictures of Uno in super-adorable poses that she would upload to the rescue’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. One of them had him sitting at a table, a cake in front of him, a bib tied around his neck. Uno’s eyes were big at the knowledge this was a treat for him. Wyn had added the caption: Uno loves cake, but he’d love having a home even more!
If a reader opened to page 69 in One Year Gone, would they get a good idea of the whole work? I would say no. They would at least get some good background on Wyn, which hopefully would make her an appealing character to root for, but based on that page alone, they would not even know that the chapter is a flashback chapter.
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

Writers Read: Avery Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 26, 2021

"Brass Lives"

Chris Nickson is the author of Brass Lives and eight previous Tom Harper mysteries, seven highly acclaimed novels in the Richard Nottingham series, and two Simon Westow mysteries. He is also a well-known music journalist. He lives in his beloved Leeds.

Nickson applied the Page 69 Test to Brass Lives and reported the following:
Page 69 of Brass Lives is the tail end of one scene at Millgarth police station in Leeds, with Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper talking to some of the detectives there, and the start of another scene where he’s conferring with the chief constable.

At one point he makes a note and pins it on the wall, a summary of the questions on the case that still need answering:

Fess murder


Metropole shooting

Barracks robbery

Does the page give a good indication of the book? Honestly, no. It’s two short bits that doesn’t even tell much about the characters, let alone the plot. In many ways, the book is a fantasy: not genre (it’s historical crime), but about someone who went from Leeds to New York as a child and became a well-known gangster, a killer, and returned. Davey Mullen, as he’s known in the book, is based on Owen Madden, who was known, loved and feared in equal measure in New York. A gangster who survived so much and went in to live a long life, dying peacefully, an achievement in itself in that business. Unlike Davey, Owen never did come back to Leeds, but the idea of what if was very appealing…and set in 1913, with the Great War a year away yet largely unexpected makes it a time on the cusp of huge changes, while people, including Harper’s own daughter, are making plans for the future. Harper himself has risen higher than he’d ever expected, now in what’s mostly a desk job and missing being a real policeman, chafing under the bonds of high office. But not all the changes are for the good (no spoilers on that part).
Visit Chris Nickson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

Writers Read: Chris Nickson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"Summer Sons"

Lee Mandelo is a writer, critic, and occasional editor whose fields of interest include speculative and queer fiction, especially when the two coincide. They have been a past nominee for various awards including the Nebula, Lambda, and Hugo; their work can be found in magazines such as, Clarkesworld, and Nightmare. Aside from a brief stint overseas learning to speak Scouse, Mandelo has spent their life ranging across Kentucky, currently living in Lexington and pursuing a PhD at the University of Kentucky.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Summer Sons, and reported the following:
Page sixty-nine of Summer Sons actually hits a real sweet spot for the novel overall! The browsing reader gets a glimpse of the mood—or, to be more accurate, the visceral spook-factor—as well as the escalating conflict between our protagonist Andrew, his gruesomely personal haunting, and the life his dead best friend left behind. Fresh off of arguments with both his inherited roommate and his ex-girlfriend about the nature of Eddie’s death, suicide or otherwise, Andrew is in the midst of polishing off a bottle of bourbon when he notices something off about the closet. And as he goes to check it out…
He braced his wrist on the doorjamb and sat on his heels, stone still with his face tucked against the crook of his elbow to hide. It isn’t him. It isn’t really him.

Floorboards creaked scant inches to his left, but he refused to lift his head and look. He wasn’t asleep; he wasn’t on the cusp of sleep; he was awake. Manifestations this physical were not supposed to happen while he was awake, gloaming light shining through the big bold windows in streaks of red-gold, but Eddie had always been an exception to the rules. Don’t, he thought, but he reacted instinctively to the first brush across the knobs of his spine with a yearning, flexing shudder.

An icy burning gripped the back of his neck in the rough outline of fingers, their shape more familiar than his face in the mirror. Against good judgement and survival instinct he leaned into the too-solid hold. It hurt, but he missed that touch so much, even this noxious remnant.

“Stop,” he whispered again.

The papers rustled along their edges. Crouching in the hidden hollow of the closet, scruffed by the revenant that dogged his heels, he felt terribly and paradoxically alive. Rank breath drifted past his ear and cheek. The punishing grip pushed until his head bowed forward, forcing him to stare unseeing at his shoes, but the haunt kept going. It pushed until his skin chafed and his vertebra cracked, until the boundaries between its false flesh and his skin gave out. The cold sank straight through the gagging constriction of his throat to the cavern of his chest, grasping at him from the inside out. Blood and dirt were all he tasted in his drooling mouth, choked on the phantom’s invasive presence. His first sleep on native soil dredged itself up behind his eyes: wrists cut to exposed muscle, a frantic retreat from the fact of death. He echoed the vision’s desperate call for survival: I am awake I am awake I am awake
That brief scene practically oozes with the fear and longing Andrew’s tangled up in as he begins to unravel the secrets of Eddie’s final weeks alive. Even though he knows the ghost is bad news, he can’t help but give it his attention—it’s all he’s got left of his friend. Miserable co-dependent southern boys, that’s the Summer Sons vibe. And while it doesn't necessarily offer much about the broader plot, there's one other significant thing about page sixty-nine: the fact that the haunting is no longer following ‘the rules’ Andrew is used to clues the reader in that things are about to get much, much worse.
Visit Lee Mandelo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

"Feral Creatures"

Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The RumpusHuffington Post, and more. Her debut novel Hollow Kingdom was an Indie Next pick, a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, the Audie Awards, and the Washington State Book Awards, and was named a best book of 2019 by Good Housekeeping, NPR, and Book Riot. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, five Steller's jays, two dark-eyed juncos, two squirrels, and a husband.

Buxton applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Feral Creatures, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Feral Creatures, our crowtagonist, S.T. is chronicling his flights to the Nightmute library in Alaska. A flightless crow, he must travel on the back of his bald eagle ally, Migisi. The purpose of these trips is to find reading material to educate and buoy the spirits of his charge, Dee. Dee is the last child on earth and S.T. the crow vows to do everything corvidly possible to keep her alive.

I’d say the Page 69 Test works very well for Feral Creatures. It certainly showcases the waggish, witty banter of S.T., our intrepid and loquacious crow. It details where the book begins as S.T. is describing his flight over the Alaskan tundra. It chronicles the specific fauna and flora S.T. spots below him (“We soared over the fiery crimson takeover of dwarf birch, over moose (Meese? Moosees? Dammit, from here on let’s just call them gangly Canadian coatracks) and lemmings and black spruces"), which is certainly indicative of a novel that extols the virtues of nature. It hints at the dilapidation and ruin of buildings in this post-apocalyptic tale and the emptiness of a world without humans who succumbed to a mysterious virus. It even hints at climate change, which continues to be a threat through the pages of Feral Creatures despite the absence of the human race (“even through the worsening storms that plagued us, whose waves pounded us like the fists of impatient gods”). S.T.’s dedication to Dee and commitment to her education is evident across the page as well as being the very impetus for these flights to the Nightmute library. At the end of page 69, S.T. admits to working hard to evolve his own reading ability for Dee’s education as well as confessing to falling in love with poetry. Very specifically, he professes his love for the verses of Emily Dickinson and page 69 ends with a Dickinson poem that S.T. completely misinterprets to be about the apocalypse and how handsome crows are!
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

--Marshal Zeringue