Friday, December 9, 2016

"The Art of Confidence"

Wendy Lee is the author of the novels The Art of Confidence, Across a Green Ocean, and Happy Family. Happy Family was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2008 by Booklist and awarded an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies.

A graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, Lee has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Corporation of Yaddo. She spent more than a decade in the publishing industry as an editor at HarperCollins Publishers and Lantern Books in Brooklyn, where she co-edited the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat. She has also worked as an English teacher in China, taught writing at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and served as a mentor with Girls Write Now.

Lee applied the Page 69 Test to The Art of Confidence and reported the following:
The Art of Confidence is about a forged painting and the five people involved in its creation and sale. One of the characters is Harold Yu, the Taiwanese businessman who buys the painting as an investment but is inexplicably drawn to it, even though he has no understanding of art.

On Page 69, Harold has just returned home to Taipei from a trip to New York where he first learned about the painting. He’s married to a woman named Vicki, who comes from a powerful family in Taiwan; together they have a young son named Adrian.
The worst thing anyone could say to Vicki was that she was Chinese instead of Taiwanese, despite—or because of—the fact that her grandfather had come to Taiwan from the mainland in 1949 as part of the nationalist government. In college, as she liked to remind people, she’d been the first runner-up to Miss Taipei.

Meanwhile, Harold thought it was important that his son have some exposure to the mainland, where much of his business had shifted over the past ten years. Someday, when Adrian was old enough to take over the company, as Harold had when his father died, it would be useful not to consider himself so different from the people across the Taiwan Straits.
Up to the point of buying the painting, Harold has lived according to the parameters set by other people. Vicki, as the first part of the passage above indicates, is a bit of a snob, and Harold has always felt inferior to her. He’s let her dictate where they live and how they bring up their son. Now, with their marriage on the rocks, he decides to buy the painting, in part, to impress her. It’s a romantic and completely useless gesture, but it paves way for further self-introspection.

The forged painting unlocks certain parts in each character’s personality, but for Harold, it really becomes the catalyst for him to re-examine his marriage and determine what he really wants out of life.
Visit Wendy Lee's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Across a Green Ocean.

The Page 69 Test: Across a Green Ocean.

Writers Read: Wendy Lee.

My Book, The Movie: The Art of Confidence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"To Capture What We Cannot Keep"

Beatrice Colin was born in London and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. A former arts and features journalist, she also writes novels for adults, children, short stories, radio plays for the BBC. She has spoken at numerous book festivals, taught at Arvon and was a judge and mentor for the Scottish Boom Trust's New Writers Award.

Colin was also once a singer in the band, April Showers, whose single, "Abandon Ship," reached the number 144 in the charts.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, To Capture What We Cannot Keep, and reported the following:
Emile Nouguier, an engineer who was one of two who designed the Eiffel Tower that was built between 1887-8, is having dinner with his mother in her apartment. She wants him to take over the family business - a glass factory - marry a suitable wife, produce heirs and provide for a host of elderly aunts and distant relations. In this scene the divisions between the sexes are laid out – he eats pudding and she watches him – and we see the kind of pressure he is under.

Unless they were very wealthy and able to be independent, women acted as supporting structures to their husbands. But men also were constrained by convention. Cait Wallace, the other narrative voice in the book, is not suitable wife material for a man like Emile Nouguier and he knows it. On this page, the central conflict that drives the book is laid out. Emile cannot marry for himself; he must marry for the benefit of other. He can’t face it and escapes the apartment, desperate for fresh air.
Visit Beatrice Colin's website.

My Book, The Movie: To Capture What We Cannot Keep.

Writers Read: Beatrice Colin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

"The Nature of a Pirate"

A.M. Dellamonica's books include Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and Child of a Hidden Sea and A Daughter of No Nation of the Stormwrack series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the third Stormwrack novel, The Nature of a Pirate, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of The Nature of a Pirate, Sophie Hansa sees her parents for the first time in months.

I refer to the Hidden Sea Tales books as "Narnia for environmentalists." On this particular page, its chapter's closer, Sophie returns to San Francisco after months on the magical world of Stormwrack.

This series is breaking a lot of portal fantasy rules. Traditionally, going home is the last thing that happens. You have a self-contained adventure in Oz, it ends, and you get to compartmentalize it into its pocket-dimension and return to home, hearth, and family. You have seen wonders, and you may even be the wiser for it... but your real life is here on Earth. Resuming it constitutes your happily ever after.

I think that was something that worked out pretty well in 20th-century stories. Ordinary people from our world visited secret magical realms; they took temporary vacations from their lives. What Sophie returns to, on page 69 of The Nature of a Pirate, is the news that her family home has been broken into twice, and in the course of investigating those B&E incidents, police have noticed that the Hansa family is missing a daughter.

We don't currently live in a world where compartmentalizing is easy, or it's a snap to vanish for weeks on end. Sophie's problem is complicated by the fact that her parents have no idea where she has been--even if they wanted to lie to police, they wouldn't know where to start. She can't let them know, you see, that she went looking for her birth parents. Besides, Stormwrack immigration laws require her to keep the existence of their world a secret from people in the U.S.

Which may be fair, except that it's almost certain that whoever busted into her parents home? Knows all about Stormwrack.

Most of this book takes place on the magical side of my novel's portal. This scene is a sojourn, a quick side-trip from Sophie's larger problems. Someone's sinking ships within the Fleet of Nations, for example, and a condemned human smuggler wants Sophie to save him from execution. But The Nature of a Pirate is, in part, the story of a person with a foot in two worlds, someone who may eventually have to commit to a future here, with all our technological marvels, or the faraway, inconsistent and sometimes devastating power of enchantment.
Visit A.M. Dellamonica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Child of a Hidden Sea.

My Book, The Movie: Child of a Hidden Sea.

The Page 69 Test: A Daughter of No Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Chasing Shadows"

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper is a former high-school and college English teacher. Winner of the 2005 Mary Higgins Clark Award for her outstanding novel, Dark Angel, Harper is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, historical novels, and a series of historical mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Chasing Shadows, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my new psychological suspense novel, Chasing Shadows, the two main characters who will carry the series are still getting to know each other as they drive toward St. Augustine, Florida. Nick is a criminal lawyer who has hired forensic psychologist Claire to help him with a case close to his heart. Because his father committed suicide, (Nick believes he was murdered and hopes to prove it) he takes cases through his secretive South Shores endeavors, where the death is undetermined. An old friend of his needs help, and he’s on the way.

So on page 69, besides Nick’s filling Claire in more on the case, a murder or suicide in a Civil War era mansion which is reputed to be haunted, the two of them are already in trouble. Nick notices in the rearview mirror that a person in a mask and a hoodie driving behind them is coming too close. It’s the second hint they that someone wants them to steer clear of this case, and things get worse from there. Earlier, a bullet that killed another man might have been meant for Nick—or Claire.

One things I established before page 69 is that a forensic psychologist does not dissect dead bodies, but rather only the clues the dead leave behind by interviewing friends, family—and dangerous foes. The tag line for Chasing Shadows and the series is “The dead still talk if you know how to listen.” And Claire does.
Visit Karen Harper's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Bonds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Lone Wolf"

Sara Driscoll is the joint pseudonym of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan.

They applied the Page 69 Test to Lone Wolf, the first book in their FBI K-9s mysteries series--starring search-and-resuce team Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk--and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Next!” The voice was flat, dull, worn down by weeks of nearly there tax deadline hysteria.

The line shuffled forward again. Naomi nudged the diaper bag at her feet, pushing it ahead of them as they crept forward. Only three more people and then it was their turn.

Joe’s whimper accompanied a whole body squirm. She clamped her arms around him, familiar with this move and how he’d nearly managed to slither free a few times before. The pressure of her hold only increased his distress and he started to whine. Heat rose in her face as sideways glances began to slide her way.

What kind of parent are you? Can’t you control that child? Who’s in charge—you or the kid? The crowd’s unvoiced thoughts rang in her head.

“Ignore them. Ignoooooooore them...” she singsonged to herself, bouncing him again. It’s too early, naysayers advised, but she knew the reason he’d been up half the night was his one-year molars coming in. Her normally placid baby was riding a razor’s edge of exhaustion right now.

And, as a result, so was she. Never a good combination.
Page 69 of Lone Wolf lands the reader in scene many of us have been unlucky enough to be in ourselves—waiting in what feels like an unending line in a government office. In this case, it’s an IRS office on the day before taxes are due, and a young mother is in line with her squirmy, overtired baby because she needs assistance filing her deceased father’s final tax return.

Lone Wolf is the story of a rogue bomber who is taking out specific targets, and the IRS office is on his list. In fact, as this scene unfolds, the bomb is already on its way, heading toward the IRS office while people stand in line, not realizing their lives are hanging in the balance. While the overwhelming majority of the book is about the FBI’s efforts to find and stop the bomber and this scene doesn’t highlight FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk, it does shine a light on the victims. And truth to be told, it’s the loss of the victims that drives the story. So while page 69 might not show the protagonists, it delivers on something more important—the reason the protagonists work so hard to find justice for innocents caught up in something far beyond their control.

As to what happens to Naomi and her young son when the bomber strikes, well… you’ll just have to read on from page 69 to find out.
Learn more about Lone Wolf: An FBI K-9 Novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"The Bone Sparrow"

Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne Australia, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. She has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a fictitious book for older readers based on research and recounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She lives in Melbourne, with her three sons, husband and two dogs.

Fraillon applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bone Sparrow, and reported the following:
Wow. I had never heard of the page 69 test before, but it is like some strange sort of magic. Having gone to my own books, I then stumbled into a kind of page 69 hysteria and ran around the house turning to the 69th page in each book I came across. I love this test! How does it work? Is this some strange publishing trick I don’t know about…?

Anyway, the 69th page of The Bone Sparrow is a surprisingly good representation of the book. The Bone Sparrow tells the story of Subhi, a young boy who has spent his entire life in an immigration detention centre. On page 69 the reader is introduced to Subhi’s friend Eli, ‘strong walking his way back to his tent’, and we get a glimpse of Subhi’s desperate hope for his ‘Someday’ to come: ‘I spend the next five nights watching the sky, watching for those lights to dance. Even though Eli says we can’t see them from here, not ever, Maá always used to tell me that sometimes ‘not ever’ can change’.

We also discover that a girl from the Outside has made her way into the camp, and we meet the rubber Shakespeare Duck, with his self-proclaimed ‘sparkling wit and fascinating conversation’ talking to Subhi. Harvey, one of the few nice guards at the detention centre, is also mentioned, and the reader learns how much Subhi looks up to Harvey.

These are all themes and ideas which resurface towards the end of the story, and the passage about Subhi watching the sky is among some of the first passages I jotted down when Subhi’s character first emerged in my imagination.

I shall never again turn to the first page of a book when deciding whether or not to read on – from now on, it will be page 69 every time.
Follow Zana Fraillon on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Sparrow.

Writers Read: Zana Fraillon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"To The Last Drop"

Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including nine books in two different mystery series from Severn House--the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina. Balzo's books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, Balzo now lives on the Central Coast of California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, To The Last Drop, and reported the following:
Seems like such a random thing, doesn’t it? Pick a page, any page. But in this case, it’s not even just any page. Pick page 69. Period.

Turns out, that particular section of To the Last Drop does a particularly nice job of setting up the book, while still not giving anything away.

From page 69:
... three of us had sat. Sarah had already scrubbed it once but I’d be damned if there weren’t still sticky smudges where she’d sat. I tossed her the rag. ‘Go over that table again.’

‘It’s interesting, though,’ my partner said as she re-cleaned her tacky mess, ‘that Lynne has suddenly decided it’s not suicide. She can say all she wants that her change of heart is because Rita Pahlke’s appearance here is suspicious, or she doesn’t want the kid to feel responsible, but I like my theory about the life insurance policy better.’ She sent the damp cloth back airmail.

I caught it. ‘You mean that she’s discovered there’s no payout on William’s life insurance policy in case of suicide? But he’s been dead for less than twenty-four hours – there’s no death certificate yet and it’s a Saturday to boot. Could she even have filed a claim?’

‘No, but how long does it take to go home, pull out the policy and a magnifying glass and read the fine print?’

About as long as the interval between my leaving Lynne at her office and her showing up at Uncommon Grounds. ‘She is a planner, I guess, by her own admission.’

‘And she’s planning on using you to turn this into a homicide investigation. And I might point out that if that happens, your ex will be on the list of suspects right behind Crazy Rita and the grieving widow.’

‘Don’t forget Clay Tartare. Though Rita is my fave for now. So tidy,’ I waved the dishrag, ‘when the person who finds the body is also the killer.’

‘You’re usually that person,’ she reminded me.

There was that. ‘At least this time I had a witness with me.’

‘Your son would lie for you in a heartbeat.’

‘I’d like to think so,’ I said with motherly pride. ‘If you believe I’ll let Lynne manipulate me, relax. The medical examiner will find for suicide and the case will be closed.’ I chewed on the inside of my cheek.

‘But . . .’ Sarah prompted.

‘There was a blow to William’s forehead, did I tell you that?’

‘Happens when you hit the ground with it.’ Sarah’s expression changed. ‘Could we be missing something here?’….
So, what does this tell us?

First, it gives us a glimpse into the relationship between Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston, her partner in Uncommon Grounds. Sometimes prickly, often ornery, Sarah always has Maggy’s back. Except when she doesn’t.

Page 69 also, conveniently, sets up the crime. Assuming it is a crime. We know a man—oral surgeon William Swope--is most certainly dead. That death may be ruled a suicide at any moment, but the victim’s wife says her husband was murdered and is pressing Maggy to investigate. And, despite her protestations, Maggy seems to have her own questions.

So, who might have wanted the oral surgeon dead? We have some clues to that here, too. A mysterious woman named Rita Pahlke and a man named Clay Tartare. Maggy’s ex-husband Ted, who was William’s partner, is also a possibility. And what about the victim’s own wife, Lynne? She seems to have a number of axes to grind.

And finally, page 69 tells us something about Maggy—a self-described “corpse-stumbler”--and her son Eric, who was co-stumbler in this case. Maggy is certain he has her back, thereby keeping her out of the suspect pool this time around.

Where might page 70 take us? I hope you’ll pick up the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Balzo's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Triple Shot.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Orient Espresso.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 25, 2016

"The Infinity of You & Me"

J.Q. Coyle is the joint pen name of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton. Dalton is an acclaimed writer who has published short story collections and novels. Baggott is the author of over twenty novels.

Baggott applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, The Infinity of You & Me, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Infinity of You & Me, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a fight scene. Alicia’s absentee father has shown up in the back yard with a gift for her on her 15th birthday – and he also has a warning. Her father is seen as a real threat. There’s a restraining order against him, and Alicia hasn’t seen him since she was a toddler. Their strange and poignant conversation is embedded with clues that Alicia has to unlock over the course of the novel.

But the conversation is cut short because Alicia’s uncle walks out into the back yard and sees his brother, the black sheep. Uncle Alex has come to the party with a couple of his grad students who chase her father down.

As her father is being hauled off, he says to Alex, “You’ve got me now. You’ll leave her alone then, okay? That’s my daughter!”

This is the first time Alicia has heard her father claim her as his own. This is a pivotal scene. It really changes everything. Alicia suddenly doubts what she’s been told about her father, and some of the things he says resonate with Alicia in a way that completely upends her.

What she does next sets the rest of the novel into motion. From here on out, it becomes a fast-paced full-sprint mystery – including a chase through alternate parallel universes.
Visit the websites of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"A Most Novel Revenge"

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.

Weaver applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Most Novel Revenge, the third Amory Ames mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I think one of you knows the truth. I want you to tell me.”

“The truth?” Beatrice spat out. “What do you mean? Since when have you concerned yourself with the truth?”
Page 69 of A Most Novel Revenge is part of a tense conversation about the events surrounding a mysterious death. At a house party seven years before, a young man was found dead under strange circumstances. One of the party guests, a woman named Isobel Van Allen, wrote a novel—a thinly-veiled account of the event—that accused a fellow guest of murder. A massive scandal ensued and Isobel left the country in disgrace. Now she’s back, claiming there are more secrets to be revealed.

A reader glancing over this page would see an indication of the conflict that occurs when all the guests present at that fateful party are called back to the scene of the event and must confront Isobel and their past. In this sense, it is a good representation of the mystery that lies at the heart of the novel. However, what this page doesn’t give is a clear picture of the narrator, Amory Ames, or her voice. A reader wouldn’t get an idea of who she was from this page alone. The scene also lacks some of the lighter moments and amusing interplay between Amory and her husband, Milo. Readers would need to keep reading to discover the relationship between Amory and Milo Ames that is an important part of both this novel and the series as a whole!
Visit Ashley Weaver's website.

Writers Read: Ashley Weaver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 21, 2016

"City on Edge"

Stefanie Pintoff's first novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, won the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel of 2009 and earned nominations for the Anthony, Macavity, and Agatha awards. In the Shadow of Gotham introduced turn-of-the-century New York Police Detective Simon Ziele, who appeared again in A Curtain Falls (2010) and Secret of the White Rose (2011).

Pintoff launched the Eve Rossi series of thrillers in 2015 with Hostage Taker, a Barry Award nominee for Best Thriller.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the newly-released second Eve Rossi novel, City on Edge, and reported the following:
What’s on page 69 of my new thriller, City on Edge, isn’t actually part of the story. It’s special extra material—the kind readers can linger over if they want to immerse themselves more fully in the world I’ve created. Specifically, it’s the official FBI dossier of ADIC Henry Ma, who runs the New York office. He’s a “political animal always seeking out the next opportunity or promotion”—and he succeeds because his abilities match his ambitions. However, he also treats those he supervises “as pawns in the larger game that he plays”—and this is important, because it often puts him at odds with my protagonist, Special Agent Eve Rossi, and the secret and unconventional FBI unit at the heart of my book.

That unit—Vidocq—is modeled after the example of notorious 19th-century criminal Eugène Vidocq, who gave up his life of crime to become a legendary crime-fighter and head of the French Suréte.

In my own modern-day story, smart and by-the-book Eve Rossi runs the Vidocq Unit, leading a group of ex-convicts with extraordinary talents, oversized egos, and contempt for the rules. They accepted a simple deal: Put their skills to work for the government – or do hard time in jail. Now, they operate under the radar, solving crimes using methods that ordinary agents never could.

Vidocq is a unit designed to serve the FBI during moments of crisis. Whenever they need someone to save the day. Or failing that, when they need someone to blame.

In City on Edge, this moment of crisis involves rescuing a kidnapped girl—the Police Commissioner’s daughter—when she disappears as the giant character balloons are inflated the afternoon before New York City’s trademark event, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The commissioner, aware that he has a target on his back due to recent altercations between the police and ordinary citizens, doesn’t know who to trust. He turns to Eve and her team — and what follows is a cat-and-mouse chase, set against the backdrop of the parade, as they work to save a child and protect the city itself.
Visit Stefanie Pintoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

The Page 69 Test: Secret of the White Rose.

Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Battlemage"

Stephen Aryan was born in 1977 and was raised by the sea in northeast England. After graduating from Loughborough University, he started working in marketing, and for some reason he hasn't stopped. A keen podcaster, lapsed gamer and budding archer, when not extolling the virtues of Babylon 5, he can be found drinking real ale and reading comics.

Aryan applied the Page 69 Test to Battlemage, the first book in his Age of Darkness trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Battlemage is a moment that’s both humorous and scary. The Mad King has now declared himself Emperor of the world and, as the name suggests, he’s a few beers short of a six pack. He’s asking his Generals how the war is going and it becomes clear very quickly that he’s not living in the same version of reality as everyone else. The whole chapter is told from the point of view of the Emperor’s servant, who is utterly petrified and living on a knife edge. He has no idea if he is going to survive the next hour, never mind if he will see tomorrow, as the Emperor’s mood swings and violent outbursts are tremendous.

I really like this chapter and point of view as it shows the terrifying and ridiculous nature of one of the main villains in the book. As far as a lot of people know the Emperor is this malevolent, religious figure who is idolised, but in reality he’s like a confused and incredibly powerful child who doesn’t understand the simplest things. At the same time everyone is afraid to tell him the truth as he might give the order to have their heads chops off. So everyone is walking on egg shells while trying to carry out his wishes to the best of their abilities.
Visit Stephen Aryan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Battlemage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Spy Ski School"

Stuart Gibbs's middle grade novels include Space Case, Belly Up, Poached, Spy School, Spy Camp and the Last Musketeer series. He also writes for TV and film. Before all that, he studied capybaras, the world's largest rodents. Really.

Gibbs applied the Page 69 Test to Spy Ski School, the fourth book in the Spy School series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Spy Ski School is very representative of the rest of the book. (In fact, when I do public readings from SSS, I often read a section that includes page 69, rather than starting from from the beginning of the book). SSS is the fourth book in the Spy School series, which follows 13-year-old Ben Ripley’s misadventures at a top secret academy run by the CIA. In this book, Ben has finally earned the right to go on an authorized CIA mission, but as is always the case in this series, nothing works out quite as well for him as he’d hoped.

Page 69 takes place during a scene where star spy-in-training Erica Hale has convinced Ben Ripley, our hapless hero, to join her on a reconnaissance mission — and then uses him as a diversion to forward her own agenda. Thus, on this single page, there is comedy, action, intrigue and danger, which I strive to have a nice blend of throughout the series. It’s a tough balance to achieve: often, some scenes are more comic, while others are more focused on the action. But page 69 is a nice combination of everything that I want this series to be.
Visit Stuart Gibbs's website.

The Page 69 Test: Space Case.

--Marshal Zeringue