Friday, December 30, 2022

"One of Those Faces"

Elle Grawl is a lawyer by day and writer by night. After obtaining her B.A. in English Literature, she took a detour into law before returning to her love of writing.

Her lifelong interest in true crime and experiences as an attorney have provided her with plenty of writing material. Grawl enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their two dogs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, One of Those Facesand reported the following:
From page 69:
I opened the door and peered out. “How can I help you?”

The man straightened up. “I’m Detective Wilder. We’re currently investigating a suspected homicide in the area,” he recited, his tone growing flatter with each syllable.

Suspected homicide? What else could it be?

“A few days ago the body of a young woman was discovered in the alley just across the street from you. I’ve been interviewing people in the neighborhood to see if anyone saw or heard anything. I stopped by your place before, but you were out, I guess.” He glanced over the top of my head into my apartment.

I narrowed the gap between my body and the door. “Homicide?” I asked. I didn’t know why I was acting coy. Half the neighborhood had huddled around when Holly’s body was recovered.

He stared at me for a second. “Yes, a body was found just a few days ago. Have you been out of town?”

“No, I’ve just been busy.”

He observed me for a long moment. “Do you have a minute to answer a few questions?”

I nodded, the alcohol from the night before burning the edge of my throat, threatening to come up. “Absolutely.”

He glanced behind me at the door half-open. “Is there a reason I can’t come in?”

I stepped out and let the door completely shut behind me. “I have a cat. He might get out,” I said.

He pulled out one of those tiny notepads as if we were on Law & Order and jotted something down. Something about my cat, I guessed.

He looked back up at me. “What’s your full name?”

I hesitated. Where would this information appear if I told him? If I told him about that night, would a reporter show up next and cite me as a witness?

You’re not a kid anymore. He can’t do anything to you.

Still, I couldn’t bear the thought that he might find me here. “Isabella Mallen,” I lied.
This excerpt is Harper’s, my protagonist’s, first interaction with the Detective investigating a murder in the neighborhood. The Page 69 Test worked pretty well. This section gives the reader a glimpse of Harper’s inner monologue during the tense discussion and provides a great introduction to this key player in the book.

In One of Those Faces, this murder investigation is the inciting incident and plays a major role in the rest of the story.
Visit Elle Grawl's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle.

My Book, The Movie: One of Those Faces.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

"The Fireballer"

The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and has worked as a reporter, as a national television news producer, and in public relations. Antler Dust was a Denver Post bestseller in 2007 and 2009. Buried by the Roan, Trapline, and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award (2012, 2015, and 2016, respectively), and Trapline won. Trapline also won the Colorado Authors League award for best genre fiction. Stevens has had short stories published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Mystery Tribune, and in Denver Noir (Akashic Books). In September 2016, Stevens was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year. Stevens hosts a regular podcast for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and has served as president of the Rocky Mountain chapter for Mystery Writers of America.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Fireballer, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Fireballer is a key moment. The test works (with one caveat below) perfectly.

The issue is how to take maximum advantage of rookie pitching phenom Frank Ryder. His pitches arrive so fast that batters have no time to swing. For Baltimore Orioles manager Art Stone, Ryder is providing a lift to the whole team. Ryder is a lock to win every game he starts.

On page 69 we are in Stone’s office with Ryder, general manager Alicia Ford, and pitching coach Jimmy Lackland.

Ford wants to see what Ryder thinks of starting more games but only pitching a few innings each time out. Ryder is wary. He “hates these manipulators with a passion. They are overthinking everything.” Ryder believes starting pitchers should pitch as long and as hard as they can each time out; nine innings if possible. He’s young, but old-school.

For the Orioles, Ryder is a gift. To the league as whole, Ryder might be the dirty baseball in the punch bowl. If the league doesn’t put an upper limit on the speed of a pitch or move the mound back or do something, who will come to watch a game when batters have no chance to hit?

On page 69, Ryder also thinks about how much he likes his current routine between starts. That routine includes being “on guard for a little stone-faced Black kid with a chip on his shoulder who nobody else can see.”

That kid is Deon. He’s a ghost. And that ghost forms the emotional side of The Fireballer. The larger question is how the emotional side of the novel will impact the baseball side of the novel. Or, for Ryder, are they all the same thing?

That caveat? The Page 69 test described here is for the trade paperback version.

The hardback (also being released January 1)?

Not so much.
Visit Mark Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2022

"Little Red House"

Liv Andersson is an author, lawyer, and former therapist whose background has inspired her thrillers and mysteries. She and her husband live in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont with their sons and three dogs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Little Red House, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jet regarded me as he made his way to the kitchen area. He opened the freezer and pulled out an icepack, which he tossed my way. “Put that on your head.”

I placed the pack against my skull. “Damn.” It hurt, and the ice only made it worse.

“What were you doing in the shed, anyway? Oliver said you were nosing around on the floor.”

“I was looking for cleaning supplies.”

“On the floor?” He stared at me, his expression unreadable.

Jet had the kind of masculinity I normally loathed in men. Strong, quiet—above the need to explain himself. Impatient with feelings and convinced that only his brand of logic mattered. Used to getting his way with most women because of a handsome face. Only I wasn’t most women. As much as I hated Eve, I’d learned a few things from her, and I viewed men—nearly all men—with the same wary pragmatism I reserved for large dogs and black bears. Unless they served a purpose, I admired them from a distance.

I wanted Jet gone from the property. He was a complicating factor I had neither bargained for nor agreed to. I said as much.

“Call your lawyer, then. Ask him. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. For now, at least.” He took the ice pack from my hand and repositioned it against my head. “I’ll ask again, Constance. What were you looking for in my workshop?”


“Oliver said you were nosing around.”

“I saw a trapdoor on the floor. I was curious about it.”

“It’s just a cabinet. I use it to store chemicals.”

My foggy mind flashed back to the lacy stains. “The wood flooring—is it old?”

“Old as the house, I guess.”

Another wave of nausea hit, and I put my head between my legs, riding it out. With my eyes closed, I pictured the shed floor, the reddish-brown stains interspersed across the wooden planks. Like fans. Like pinwheels.

“Constance, are you okay? You probably have a concussion. Constance?”

Not fans. Not pinwheels. Small red...
Page 69 of Little Red House offers a glimpse into a central conflict unfolding in one of the novel’s dual timelines, provides insight into Connie’s angst about the little red house and what it represents, and foreshadows events to come (without spoilers). In short, the Page 69 Test works for Little Red House.

In Little Red House, Connie inherited the rundown little red house in the New Mexico desert from her mother, Eve Foster. Eve was a cruel woman who played mind games throughout Connie’s childhood, and Connie never knew the house existed until she heard the terms of the will. Connie arrived in New Mexico to discover Jet Montgomery, the property’s surly caretaker, living in an outbuilding on the property. She’s unable to fire Jet based on the terms of Eve’s trust. Suspicious of Jet, and worried about Eve’s motivations for hiring him—is this just another of Eve’s sadistic games? —Connie snoops around Jet’s workshop while he’s away and is rewarded with a clock to the head by their neighbor, Oliver. Connie comes to in Jet’s shack.

In this scene, we experience the tension between Connie and Jet. We also come to understand a little about Connie’s personality and the paranoia she’s inherited from Eve. This paranoia about Jet and the reasons she was bequeathed the house permeates the book. It’s on page 69 that Connie first realizes that what she saw in the workshop may have a more ominous meaning, setting off her quest for answers.
Visit Liv Andersson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

"A Castle in Brooklyn"

Shirley Russak Wachtel is the author of the short story collection Three For A Dollar, the book of poetry, In The Mellow Light, and several books for children. Her short stories and poems have appeared in various literary journals. A daughter of Holocaust survivors, Wachtel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a doctor of letters degree from Drew University and for the past thirty years has taught English literature at Middlesex College in Edison, New Jersey. The mother of three grown sons and grandmother to two precocious granddaughters,she currently resides in East Brunswick, New Jersey, with her husband, Arthur.

Wachtel applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Castle in Brooklyn, and reported the following:
The following excerpt appears on page 69 of my book:
“What is it? What’s happened?” She leaned over, trying to make sense of the paper Jacob held in his trembling hand.

“It’s from your father,” he said, finally finding the words, “and it’s a deed for a parcel of land in Brooklyn.” The simple paper was beginning to feel like a fire in his hands.

She touched his arm lightly.

‘I don’t understand. What does it mean?” He looked at her face, her pale skin, her eyes a serene blue.

“It means a house, Esther, it means we can build our own house.”

Jacob eased back into the brown leather recliner, but he didn’t turn on the TV to watch his favorite show, instead the couple sat talking, planning their future, for hours into the night. When they finally settled into their queen-sized bed, their heads abuzz with their plans, their prospects, neither fell asleep until the soft edge of a sun could be seen rising over the city’s gray skyscrapers. So, it wasn’t until late the next morning that Esther found the unopened letter next to the recliner on the plush green carpet. Jacob recognized the writing immediately. When he finished reading, he looked at Esther, tears forming in his eyes.

“Another big piece of news. Zalman is coming home.”
This excerpt from my book does indeed prove Marshall McLuhan’s theory that book browsers can get a good idea of a book from page 69. The scene is a pivotal one in A Castle in Brooklyn as it reflects the heart of my novel. Jacob, having escaped near-death at the hands of the Nazis, comes to America determined to build the home he has always dreamed of. For him, the home would be a castle! This dream sustains him during the worst of times. In this excerpt, the newly married Jacob is in an apartment with his wife, Esther, when he receives news that his wealthy father-in-law has given them a piece of property to build a home. Shortly after, he discovers a letter from his best friend, Zalman. Zalman means the world to Jacob, for it was he who was at his side during their capture and escape in Europe. Though Zalman is now working on a farm in Minnesota, the letter reveals that he has plans to come to Brooklyn. Jacob hopes that together they can build the home of his dreams.

The scene on page 69 is pivotal to the novel as it sets the wheels in motion for the building of the home in Brooklyn, but also the trajectory of Jacob’s relationship with Zalman. As an architect, Zalman is key to helping make Jacob’s dream a reality. As such, once the house is built, Jacob urges him to stay with him and Esther in the home as their family grows. However, an unforeseen tragedy changes everything, testing the bonds of friendship and even Jacob’s marriage.

I marvel at how accurate McLuhan’s prediction was for A Castle in Brooklyn, which in essence, is about someone who stubbornly holds on to the dream of home and family, despite the odds. Once that dream is accomplished, he is tested time and time again, ultimately realizing his dream far into the future. While A Castle in Brooklyn is the story of a Holocaust survivor who builds a home in Brooklyn, I believe it is also about anyone who holds onto a dream, and anyone who values the importance of friendship, love, and family.
Visit Shirley Wachtel's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2022

"To Each This World"

Having written twenty-three novels (and counting) published by her beloved DAW Books and Hugo-winning editor Sheila E. Gilbert, as well as numerous short stories, and editing several anthologies over the past 25 years, Julie E. Czerneda was inducted in the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2022. Czerneda’s works combine her training and love of biology with a boundless curiosity and optimism. The recently released Imaginings is her first short story collection.

Czerneda applied the Page 69 Test to her new standalone science fiction novel To Each This World, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I know what I heard!”


A warm spot, a tiny step to a shared path; Henry knew better than make anything more of it. The pilot had coped with kmeth’s extreme behavior. Good. Wasn’t cowed by his office. Better. Her willingness to stay and help save lives when she’d every right to demand a deserved leave home reinforced Kisho’s recommendation. Best.

None of which mattered more than his initial assessment.

She didn’t hide her feelings, or chose not to—an honesty he found encouraging. Killian’s face scowled fiercely and smiled well: broad, with strong lines at jaw and cheek, and large, dark brown eyes, blood-shot but alert, shrouded by thick lashes. Her scalp was covered in a close cut black fuzz, a geometric pattern shaved into the sides. Nice work by the Spacer Repository. There were even holes in her epitome’s earlobes and in each wide nostril where she’d removed piercings from previous assignments. Prudent. Kmet tended to fixate on them. Muscle flexed along her bare arms and her posture, weary or not, suggested athleticism.

Killian was in her mid-forties, as was he, and the patches dotting her faded, loose-fitting coveralls hinted at a past full of stories—and an attitude. He liked both, to be honest. Not that she’d care.

He liked that as well.

The pilot cradled her coffee, studying him in return. She’d arrived with conceptions about who he was, based on what he was; most who met him did. Might be shifting.

She’d arrived with those bloodshot eyes, now clear and bright, and the hand holding the cup no longer trembled. Flip’s coffee, no doubt, the polymorph having read the exhausted pilot’s vitals when she arrived and inclined to fix things.

Maybe she wouldn’t notice.

“Let’s get started,” Henry announced. “I need your observations of Kmet-Here and kmeth’s reactions, Killian. To me and my oneirics at once, if you don’t mind.”

She touched her wristband. Reflex. Didn’t tap it. Decision. For whatever reason, the pilot didn’t want her oneiric present.
Happily, jumping to page 69 of my new SF novel, To Each This World, won’t spoil plot. It does a quick, useful introduction to two of my Human protagonists, Henry and Killian. Along with hints about Flip, who isn’t Human but has an abundance of freewill. Nice!

It’s the first time in the book where we see Killian. We’ve been in her head, experiencing the sort of problems that arise on your first day working with an alien—in crisis--but those passages are quick and intimate, without time to learn more about her. The entire book is that way. The points of view are tight, personal, and fully engaged with what’s happening—a choice some say is unusual in science fiction. That’s fine, so is this book. And Killian, Henry, and Flip.

This page is a good example. As Henry forms his opinion of Killian, you learn more about him than her. What he values in another person. What he trusts. What matters to him. He’s in charge, but his natural approach is collaboration, not command. As New Earth’s Arbiter, the one person who negotiates with the alien Kmet, this is a key part of his success thus far. As is compassion. Here it’s for Killian, through Flip’s help.

Readers will spot cues on this page of a far future setting with space travel but what are epitomes and oneirics? I’m pleased those terms appear without context or explanation. If you start from page 1, you’ll be up to speed, but it’s gratifying this peek doesn’t give too much away.

After all, there’s a mystery to solve. Thanks, page 69!
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Guard Against the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: The Gossamer Mage.

The Page 69 Test: Mirage.

Q&A with Julie E. Czerneda.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine and still calls northern New England home. Her debut novel, Spindlefish and Stars, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Booklist, and was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2020 and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2020. A longtime writing and literature instructor, Andrews lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Wolfish, and reported the following:
On page 69, the reader finds Rae, one of the four central child characters of Wolfish, entering her home. She is mud-stained, her hair tangled and “full of seeds and stray insect wings.” Her adoptive shepherd mother, Ness, is concerned Rae has been wandering too far into the hills and fields, saying, “You should not stray so far away from the house. What would you do if you saw a wolf or a herd of boar and you were all alone?” Though Rae is certain she would be saved by her parents—“I would call for you and Mop!”—the aged Ness better understands the danger: “‘Do you see me’—Nessa gestured to her soft body—‘chasing down a bear to rescue you from its claws? Or do you see Mop—ah, here he comes!—fighting a horde of snarling boar to save you from their tusks?’”

The Page 69 Test for Wolfish is mixed, I think. On the one hand, casual browsers could sense the foreshadowing here and guess that Rae does in fact encounter both wolf and boar in the text. They would also gain a window into her fierce attachment to the natural world: she explores everywhere alone and returns home stained with her adventures. (As the text ties each of the four central characters to a different element, Rae frequently appears, as she does here, speckled with “airy” things like insect wings and seeds.) The loving relationship Rae shares with her adoptive parents—who long to keep her safe—would similarly be clear to anyone opening to this page.

However, perhaps because the text alternates through four different perspectives—a king, an oracle-apprentice, Rae, and her twin—I don’t think browsers would gain a good sense of the central conflicts of the novel nor see why—beyond potential bodily harm—it’s significant that Rae might encounter a wolf. Those reading through to page 69 will know Rae, who was abandoned in the wilderness as an infant with her twin, has already been saved once from a wolf when Mop discovered her mountainside. Readers will also have just seen her twin, who was not rescued, mystically transformed into a wolf a few pages earlier and understand this is the creature she is fated to meet again. Casual browsers, I think, would have a hard time gaining an overall sense of the novel from just page 69, but skimming around that area might be enough.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

The Page 69 Test: Spindlefish and Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2022

"Where it Rains in Color"

Before making the big leap into the world of sci-fi & fantasy, Denise Crittendon held a string of journalism jobs. In addition to being a staff writer for The Detroit News and The Kansas City Star, she was editor-in-chief of the NAACP’s national magazine, The Crisis. Later, she became founding editor of a Michigan-based lifestyle publication for black families. After self-publishing two manuals that empower youth, “Girl in the Mirror, A Teen’s Guide to Self-Awareness” and “Life is a Party That Comes with Exams,” she entered the new-age healing movement as a motivational speaker for teens. These days, she fulfills ghostwriting assignments for clients and writes speculative fiction on the side. Crittendon divides her time between Spring Valley, Nevada and her hometown, Detroit, Mich.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Where it Rains in Color, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You probably know more about them too. More than you’re willing to admit.”

“No, just Tnomo.”

“Oh, the star man from nowhere.” She thought about their lunch with The Nobility. “There’s some pretty big secrets being hidden around here. One day, I’m going to figure out what they are.”
Page 69 of Where It Rains In Color is the end of a chapter and only contains seven sentences. However, those closing sentences offer a powerful foreshadowing of events to come. The passage also captures the novel’s essential mystery. As the main character, Lileala suggests her home world, Swazembi, is hiding a few mysteries. She doesn’t know it at the time but, true to her vow, she will eventually uncover the truth.
Visit Denise Crittendon's website.

Q&A with Denise Crittendon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2022

"Last Circle of Love"

Lorna Landvik's novels include the bestselling Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, and Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes).

Also an actor and playwright, Landvik has performed on numerous stages. A recent DNA test determined she’s 95 percent Norwegian and 5 percent wild.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Circle of Love, and shared the following:
I’m very curious as to why Marshall McLuhan picked page 69 — I couldn’t find his reasoning on-line — why not 52 or 37 or 88? I shall explore further, hoping to discover the answer, but meanwhile, here’s what’s on the test page…

Godfrey, the agnostic, artistic custodian of All Souls Lutheran, has been in conversation with Pastor Pete. The funeral of Zac, an overdose victim has taken place that morning and they’re both in reflective moods. Godfrey has been putting the final touches on a mural he’s been tasked to paint, and page 69 begins with him talking as the young minister follows him down the Sunday school hallway.
"Man, the whole afternoon I’ve been so down ... and then I had this funny thought. I wondered what a kid like Zac, with his hilarious stories, might have contributed to that little book of yours.”

Pastor Pete stopped as if a turnstile suddenly blocked her path.

“Little book . . .” she sputtered. “What little book?”

Opening up the supply-room door, Godfrey gave her a wry smile.

“The little book you and the Naomis are working on.”
He informs her that his office — aka the utility closet — is right next to the kitchen where the Naomi Circle gathers and he can’t help occasionally overhearing their discussions.

In an attempt to fundraise needed money for their shabby little church, the women have decided to think not just out of the box, but way out of the box and compile not the usual recipes, but a book that will contain their musings on love and attraction, one they jokingly refer to as ‘The ABCs of Erotica.’

Embarrassed, Pastor Pete asks that he keep this nascent project to himself.

The end of the page brings us to a new scene in which circle member Bunny is visiting her husband whose dementia has brought him into a different world.

If a reader were to turn to this page, I’d hope their interest would be piqued enough to think, “What the . . .?” followed by, “I’d better get this book!”
Visit Lorna Landvik's website.

The Page 69 Test: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

"So Long, Chester Wheeler"

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 40 published and forthcoming books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, So Long, Chester Wheeler, and shared the following:
From page 69:
Chapter Seven: Scrape Them

The following morning I woke up and lay on my back staring at the ceiling for a time, thinking. Then I grabbed my phone off the bedside table and called Ellie.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” she said back.

We had grown surprisingly comfortable with each other.

“So, look,” I began. Then I stalled, and did not immediately tell her what it was we’d be looking at. “I’m not saying I’m actually going to do it. I’m not committing to any of this. So don’t hold me to it. I’m just asking. Let’s say, just for the sake of conversation, that I did agree to drive him to Arizona. What would we be driving? I hate to put that kind of miles on my car. Does he have a dependable car?”

“Oh,” she said, obviously surprised. “I didn’t realize you were even thinking about that. It’s kind of you to even consider it.”

“I can’t really justify why a road trip would be any worse than just sitting in that musty house with him, doing nothing.”

“I guess that’s true,” she said. “I would imagine you’d be taking his Winnebago.”

“Chester has a Winnebago? Where?”
This is a pretty quiet exchange. Not terribly exciting. I think the reader would get a better sense of what’s at stake in this story if the horrible Chester Wheeler appeared on page 69, being horrible, as is his habit.

But this conversation with Chester’s daughter—the one who roped Lewis, our hero, into providing end-of-life care for her father by being needy and likeable—does set up what’s to come. Chester wants Lewis to drive him to Arizona to see (well, ambush) his ex-wife in the interest of some kind of closure. It’s a dying wish, and Lewis has trouble saying no to that. Because he’s a decent person. And Chester has no qualms about using the simple fact of Lewis’s decency to his own ends.

Or, as Chester puts it, “Whatever gets me to Arizona.”

So it does give the reader a chance to see that a real life-changer of a trip is coming. But that really only carries its full weight if you know what a miserable old pain in the ass Chester really is.

Based on that criterium, I have to say that the Page 69 Test mostly fails in the case of So Long, Chester Wheeler.

And by the way, the chapter title on page 69, “Scrape Them,” refers to a couple of bumper stickers on the Winnebago that Lewis finds offensive. He can’t scrape them off without scratching up the bumper, so instead he pastes two other bumper stickers over them, but they end up being ones Chester will find offensive. Because Chester is in a wheelchair, Lewis is hoping Chester will never see them, and they become a recurrent source of some humor in this story. There is definitely humor in Chester Wheeler. More so than in most of my books.
Visit Catherine Ryan Hyde's website.

Q&A with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.

The Page 69 Test: My Name is Anton.

The Page 69 Test: Seven Perfect Things.

The Page 69 Test: Boy Underground.

The Page 69 Test: Dreaming of Flight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2022

"A History of Fear"

Luke Dumas was born and raised in San Diego, California, and received his master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. His work has appeared in Hobart, Last Exit, and the queer anthology The Whole Alphabet: The Light and the Dark, among others.

Dumas applied the Page 69 Test to A History of Fear, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is an eerily good representation of A History of Fear. Not only does it convey the menacing tone and psychological bent of the novel, but it also contains one of my favorite passages in the book:
Satanophobia is not a clinical term. You won’t find it in any psychologist handbooks. No encyclopedia of mental ailments contains it. It is a term known primarily to those who bear the affliction. A word we use to classify and validate a pattern of fear that others, perhaps rightly, would call insanity.

Some disagree. They say we’re not sick at all.

They say, The one you fear is real—and he’s coming.
It’s a pivotal moment for the reader—the moment when my first-person narrator reveals the reason he’s so uncomfortable that his mysterious employer wants him to ghostwrite a book about the devil.

As an adolescent, Grayson struggled with satanophobia, a real but rare condition that causes sufferers to fear that the devil’s out to corrupt them. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian home by a minister father and an abusive mother, Grayson was taught from an early age to fear the influence of “the Adversary.” He’s now an adult and an apparent atheist, yet the condition still lingers at the periphery of his psyche, threatening to recur at any moment.

And it seems his worst fear is coming true. Grayson has barely started conducting research for the book, and already he has reason to believe the fiends—the winged demons that tormented him for years—are back.

Soon after page 69, Grayson will have to decide: will he move forward with the project that will fund his studies and help him redeem himself in his father’s eyes, or call an end to the project in order to stave off the affliction?

Meanwhile, the reader will be left with a question of their own to answer: Is all of this happening in Grayson’s head, or, after all these years, has the Adversary finally found him?
Visit Luke Dumas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2022

"Manifest Destiny"

Zachary Daniel is Midwest native raised in Germantown, Wisconsin. Now residing in Salem, Oregon he enjoys sports, travel, boating, family, friends and drink.

He graduated University of Wisconsin La-Crosse with a degree in Nuclear Medicine. Not too long after, he transitioned to finance and started Digital Edge Wealth Management.

Daniel applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Manifest Destiny, and reported the following:
Page 69: "What I felt for Atina was beyond professional, it was personal." Page 69 takes the reader through a flashback, where the main character Nick intimately involves himself in a case. This page outlines the background for that flashback which is a linchpin for understanding Nick and his underlying family dynamic. A deep examination peels back the layers and shows that all may not be as it seems....

Page 69 is a decent idea of the whole book. A struggle of character, the past and morality. While it doesn't pertain strongly to the plot, the themes weaved in the book are present by this one page. I think the test worked decently.

I think opening the page to any area from page 50-200 is a decent test. 69 is just a fun one. You get a feel for the authors style and narrative ability outside of the beginning where they are purposefully trying to hook you. On almost any page there should be clues and hints to help you capture at least some elements of the story. If not, it might be a indication the book might not be for you. The book itself is a character driven thriller/mystery set in the 1990's on the east coast. Nick, the main character had his idol murdered curing his teen years and struggled greatly. He deals with the trauma in unhealthy ways as his friend a police officer tries to bring him closure by reopening the case. It all comes to a head when Nick has to confront his past, present and actions.
Visit Zachary Daniel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue