Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Feast of Sorrow"

Historical fiction author Crystal King is a culinary enthusiast, teacher and social media professional. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, has recently been long listed for the 2017 Center for Fiction First Novel prize.

King applied the Page 69 Test to Feast of Sorrow, and reported the following:
My novel is about the famous ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, a man whose name graces the oldest known cookbook. I tell the story from the point of view of his cook, a Greek slave named Thrasius. The page 69 test is a perfect representation of the many sides of Apicius—and how Thrasius has no choice but to weather his stormy nature.

It begins after Apicius has a confrontation in Rome with his biggest rival, the man who has the post he desires as gastronomic advisor to Caesar. Apicius is ticked and has decided not to return home, instead visiting one of his other ocean villas. When Thrasius tries to convince him to go back to his wife, the following moment occurs:
The look on his face told me everything I needed to know. I dared not move as he strode toward me and slammed his hand against the side of my face. His heavy rings smashed against my temple and I could see stars through the blackness. I fell to the ground clutching my head in pain.

“We go when I say we go. Next time think hard before you question me.” He turned back to the window and left Sotas to gather me up and escort me out.

I reeled with his words.

I stayed away from him after that, sharing only the barest of words when asked at meals. A month passed before his mood shifted and we returned to Baiae.
In the scene after this, Apicius is back to his old charismatic self and returns home to his sad and angry wife. Ignoring her dismay at his long absence, he begins having the slaves unload cartloads of furniture—enough to replace everything in their massive palace. It’s classic Apicius. Historically, he was a man who spent his money frivolously, dwindling his monstrous fortune over the course of his life. Thrasius watches, conveying to the reader underlying insight into both Apicius and his wife, Aelia.

Both scenes dig deep into Apicius’s mercurial nature and show Thrasius caught between each of his moods. Apicius rarely physically punishes Thrasius as he might other slaves—he is the favored slave in the household, the cook who has brought Apicius the fame he seeks. For this page to be one of the scenes where Thrasius has displeased him I find to be especially interesting. He is the current that runs through the book holding everything together, the foil to Apicius’s dramatic (and tragic) trajectory and page 69 is a perfect glimpse into those dynamics.
Visit Crystal King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Godblind"

Anna Stephens is a UK-based author of gritty epic fantasy debut, Godblind, the first in a grimdark trilogy about a religious, political and ideological war, the people caught up in its midst, and just what, exactly, they are willing to do to win – is the cost ever too high when the fate of an entire people is at stake? She lives with her husband, Mark, an enormous book and movie and music collection, and – allegedly – too many toys.

Stephens applied the Page 69 Test to Godblind and reported the following:
Page 69 of Godblind drops us straight into a fight, with the evil Mireces having attacked the Wolf village to try and claim back their escaped slave, Rillirin. Corvus, the king of the Mireces, is engaged in battling an unnamed Wolf warrior who is guarding the house where Rillirin is hiding. The Mireces are overrunning the village and the Wolves are being killed in defence of this nameless, mute slave.

Does it represent the rest of the book? Yes and no. The Mireces are accurately summed up as vicious, and ruthless, who think nothing of owning slaves and treat them worse than animals. It also contains action, and there’s a fair amount of that throughout Godblind, with battles, skirmishes and single combat abounding. It also gives up an insight into the Wolves, the civilian warriors on the border of Mireces and Rilpor; the fact they’ve taken in Rillirin, despite the danger it means to them, show them as decent and caring people, and the fact they fight to protect her, rather than giving her up, is also indicative of their general temperament.

It doesn’t, though, give any indication of the other main faction in Godblind – the rest of Rilpor, the Ranks (army) or the royal family in the capital.

However, it’s action-packed and provides a strong indication of the Mireces way of life: “We just want what belongs to us,” as well as the general attitude of the Wolves.
Visit Anna Stephens's website.

My Book, The Movie: Godblind.

Writers Read: Anna Stephens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

"The Half-Drowned King"

Linnea Hartsuyker can trace her ancestry back to Harald Fairhair (Harfagr), the first king of Norway. She grew up in the middle of the woods outside Ithaca, New York, and studied engineering at Cornell University. After a decade of working at Internet startups and writing, she attended New York University and received an MFA in creative writing.

Hartsuyker applied the Page 69 Test to her first novel, The Half-Drowned King, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Half-Drowned King shows a glimpse of the protagonist Ragnvald’s sense of humor, and his fragile relationship with his intended, Hilda. In this scene, Ragnvald and Hilda are at the ting, a gathering of families from district of Norway. At the ting, laws are announced, trials are held, and justice dispensed. Hilda’s brother Egil was a witness to an attempt on Ragnvald’s life that scarred his face. Ragnvald wants Egil to testify on his behalf, while Hilda’s father Hrolf wants his son to refuse. After Hrolf tries to end Hilda and Ragnvald’s betrothal, Hilda somewhat awkwardly offers to sleep with Ragnvald to force her father to allow their marriage. And here is page 69:
Ragnvald burst out laughing and then closed his mouth quickly. This was the last thing he expected of such a solemn girl. She yanked her hand from his grasp and pulled herself up to her full height, as tall as he.

“I apologize for shocking you,” she said stiffly. “Perhaps my father was right.”

He abruptly sobered. “Hilda,” he said, catching her hand again. “You caught me off guard. I did not mean to laugh at you. I was only surprised—that you would offer so much for me.”

“I do not like to break my promises,” she said, still stiff and formal.

“Neither do I,” he said. “I only meant I would come back for you—you need not spend your”—now he flushed as well, and the smile from before threatened to return—“coin with me. I would not trap you.”

“Would you like to be free of me, then?” she asked, and then added, acidly, “Was it only your pride that was injured?”

So she was not so young that she did not know how to wound a man with words. Still, he would not let Solvi’s enmity take her from him. “No,” Ragnvald said shortly. “I want to marry you. Ask of me what promises you will.”

“That is what I want too. Promise to return to me, no matter what happens,” she said, softening. She reached toward him, but stopped for a moment, before touching his cheek as she had earlier.

“I promise,” he said. “I will bring you the bride price you deserve, and a great household to manage.”

“I will wait,” she promised in return, giving him a wide smile that transformed her face. “Father will not marry me off against my will, not with all my sisters needing husbands.”

Ragnvald pulled her close and kissed her on the lips, a kiss she was too surprised, or inexperienced, to return. When he let her go, her smile had turned pleased and knowing. She touched her lips as she bid him good night.
Both Ragnvald and Hilda are proud and touchy, and reluctant to expose what they really feel and want. These types of characters are some of my favorite to write because they spend so much time getting in their own way. I think this scene is a good example of Ragnvald both at his best, trying to be kind, honest, and honorable with his betrothed, and while also showing his flaws.

What readers won’t know from reading this page is that Hilda has rivals for Ragnvald’s affection. The Half-Drowned King is full of battles and political machinations, but it also hinges on the relationships between people. Viking polygamy and arranged marriages have given me the opportunity to explore different kinds of love, from passionate love-at-first-sight, to the love that develops over long marriages when two people spend a lifetime working toward the same goals. I will leave it to my readers to discover what kind of relationship Ragnvald and Hilda have and how it develops over time.
Visit Linnea Hartsuyker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash"

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, as well as a contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue and Hello Giggles. She's also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike.

Ganger applied the Page 69 Test to her debut YA novel, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, and reported the following:
From page 69, Birdie Paxton, just after something horrible has happened to her family:
For some sick reason, all of this makes coming to school totally worth it because for a short time, I can forget about everything else.
This short passage is definitely representative of how Birdie deals with her emotions, and touches on one theme from the book. Her going to school makes her life feel normal when her family is going through some incredibly abnormal things.
Visit Candace Ganger's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash.

Writers Read: Candace Ganger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Graveyard Shift"

Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he had the opportunities to serve as an ICBM crew commander and as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul.

Haspil applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Graveyard Shift, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Graveyard Shift is strangely representative of the rest of the novel. Even though the characters depicted in the scene are secondary and even tertiary in nature, that page happens to capture many of the key aspects of the book. The scene in question depicts a blood dealer, as a client and his vampire enforcer steal his product and keep the money they owe him. The supernatural is present in the form of a vampire thug escorting the client. The client mentions the main villain's name almost in passing; the threat is implied. The product in question is an ingredient someone is using to poison the artificial blood vampires rely on to survive. The slang and the speech patterns the men use place them firmly in the criminal underbelly of modern day Miami. The scene ends with the blood dealer making what seems to be an empty threat after the client and his people have gone. However, this incident causes the dealer to give our heroes a tip that sets some of the book's critical actions into motion. I was skeptical about the entire Page 69 Test idea. Not anymore.
Visit Michael F. Haspil's website.

My Book, The Movie: Graveyard Shift.

Writers Read: Michael F. Haspil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"The Dress in the Window"

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Grant/Littlefield works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Dress in the Window, and reported the following:
It’s a particular challenge to write a seduction scene set in the 1950s, when social conventions and mores were quite different, and the particulars of human sexual congress were often veiled and denied. But it was important to this scene to show that Jeanne, a thirty-ish career woman, has decided to take the reins in the loss of her virginity, after suffering all manner of tragedies including the loss of her fiancé.

How would such a woman signal to a man she did not know well that she was willing to have sex with him? Far more subtly, it seems to me, than she might in 2017—when a direct invitation or vigorous twerk might do the trick.

This is how Jeanne navigates her first date with a friend of a friend:
It was Ralph who asked if she might like a second cocktail when their entrees came, but it was Jeanne who finished hers while unblinkingly holding his gaze.

It was Ralph who ordered the cheesecake with strawberry crème, but it was Jeanne who offered him the last bit on the spoon she’d licked clean.

It was Ralph who suggested a post-dinner walk in the square…but it was Jeanne who paused in front of the lion statue with her face upturned in the gilded lamplight. Ralph kissed her, tenderly at first, then less so half an hour later in the elevator of his building, to which they had taken a heady cab ride with her hand under his shirt.
This passage reflects both the tone I aimed for throughout the book, and the mood of the era as reflected by my research. There is an undercurrent of faint despair which drives the women in the novel to do things they might never have considered before war changed their lives forever.
Visit Sofia Grant's website.

Writers Read: Sofia Grant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Fierce Kingdom"

Gin Phillips is the author of five novels. Her debut novel, The Well and the Mine, was the winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Since then her work has been sold in 29 countries.

Born in Montgomery, AL, Phillips graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in political journalism. She worked as a magazine writer for more than a decade, living in Ireland, New York, and Washington D.C., before eventually moving back to Alabama.

She currently lives in Birmingham with her family.

Phillips applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Fierce Kingdom, and reported the following:
I’m going to cut through any ambiguity and say that, yes, page 69 of Fierce Kingdom is utterly representative of the novel. But it might not be exactly what a reader would expect to be representative.

Fierce Kingdom centers around Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, who are leaving the zoo one afternoon when they hear gunshots. Joan sees a gunman, and she runs. The novel plays out in nearly real time over the course of three hours, following Joan, Lincoln, and a handful of other characters, ending when the police enter the zoo. More than a traditional thriller, though, it is an exploration of motherhood. The book asks what we owe our children…and what we owe someone else’s child.

Page 69 gives a glimpse of Joan as she’s found a safe place for herself and Lincoln, although she’s very conscious of the gunmen who might be lurking nearby. She’s exchanging texts with her husband, and she’s frustrated with him for needing reassurance when she’s trying hard to stay focused on immediate threats. This is a still moment in the story, and it lets us know Joan and her life a little more deeply. It's one of many of these moments in the novel, moments that linger over a character and the landscape of their thoughts, and I think these inner glimpses are more important to the intensity of the book than the action—it’s these moments that, hopefully, make the reader care.

So we get a flash of Joan’s irritation with her husband’s nervous texts, but we also realize that “she longs for his handwriting. He leaves her a note on the kitchen counter every morning…You are my #1 draft pick. He makes her coffee so that it is hot when she wakes up, even though he does not drink it.”

We see, too, her struggle to pull herself together so that she can keep her son calm and content.

“She is trying to work herself back into the right mood to talk to him—quiet, as quiet as possible—to make everything normal and all right. A considerable part of parenting is pretending moods that you do not entirely feel. She has thought this before when she’s listening to little plastic people act out a battle scene for hours at a time, but now it seems like maybe all those eternal battles were a good thing—maybe they were practice."
Visit Gin Phillips's website.

Writers Read: Gin Phillips.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"The Lost Ones"

Sheena Kamal was born in the Caribbean and immigrated to Canada as a child. She holds an HBA in political science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness. Kamal has also worked as a crime and investigative journalism researcher for the film and television industry. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, and enjoys beaches and Dark ‘n’ Stormys.

Kamal applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Lost Ones, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The two IT guys look crushed, but what are they going to do? Complain that I bumped into them? Which, of course, is the truth. These young men are a decent sort, however, and just accept that their day has gone from normal to shitty in mere moments and they’re out of pocket for two trays full of designer coffee.
On page 69 of The Lost Ones, my heroine, Nora Watts, is using a bit of devious ingenuity to gain entrance to a building. It’s not a key plot point, but it does reveal something important about Nora’s character. It shows that she isn’t above playing dirty, and that she thinks quickly on her feet. It’s a recurring element in the book, this penchant of Nora’s to take matters into her own hands and use her wits to get access to spaces that she normally wouldn’t be allowed into. It also tells the reader that, though she is emotionally conflicted about this hunt for her daughter, she is also willing to do whatever it takes to find her. You don’t play dirty unless the stakes are high.
Visit Sheena Kamal's website.

Writers Read: Sheena Kamal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 4, 2017

"White Fur"

Jardine Libaire is a graduate of Skidmore College and the University of Michigan MFA program. White Fur is her second novel. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Libaire applied the Page 69 Test to White Fur and reported the following:
From page 69:
New Haven blooms; dogwoods open their petals of tea-streaked porcelain, and birds tune up like a symphony; rain falls on stone one day, simple white puffs fill an azure sky the next. Students are euphoric, high on thin sunshine. Tender skin is revealed to the air in golf shirts and knee- length skirts. Kids shiver at the sidewalk café, determined to drink their coffee outside, hunching over notebooks.
✷  ✷  ✷
Elise sometimes goes to the basketball court on Montague Street that’s annexed to the church. A program for troubled teens uses it when school lets out, but it’s deserted in the mornings. She squints into the frail light as she shoots. Her face is expressionless whether she misses or scores. One day, a nun offers her banana bread in a napkin and a can of cream soda. “Oh, wow,” Elise says. “That’s really nice of you.” “I see you playing here,” the nun says. “You’re a strong girl.” “Seriously, thanks,” Elise says, the ball between her pigeon- toed feet as she eats— she needed this kindness. The woman’s face is turtle-like in the short tuck of her nose and the bleary, innocent eyes. She wears gray orthopedic shoes, and when she waddles back to the church, her beads sway…
A few things happen on page 69 of White Fur. We hopefully feel and see the way spring gets going in New Haven, CT; it’s fickle, still cold, but dogwoods bloom in the way that only dogwoods can bloom. We also see Elise—that she’s pigeon-toed, that she doesn’t change her expression when shooting hoops and missing or scoring.

But the primary event here is the nun, who has been watching Elise on the days when Elise comes to play basketball at the church court by herself, and who chooses to bring Elise a slice of banana bread and a cream soda this afternoon. Maybe the nun can feel that Elise is lonely, struggling, and she decides to help her in this tiny, sweet, earnest way. The important aspect to this is how Elise lives in the world with an open soul, even though she seems hard at first. She connects to what’s around her, and this provides a channel for this woman (who doesn’t know her) to hand her sustenance. This is Elise’s core, this capacity to leave the gate unlocked, to take the risk of vulnerability. This is also what makes her so fundamentally different from Jamey, and it has a lot to do with what she might teach him, if he’ll let her.
Visit Jardine Libaire's website.

Writers Read: Jardine Libaire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"The Smack"

Richard Lange is the author of the story collections Dead Boys and Sweet Nothing and the novels This Wicked World, Angel Baby, and The Smack. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the International Association of Crime Writers’ Hammett Prize, The Short Story Dagger from Great Britain’s Crime Writers Association, and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Los Angeles.

Lange applied the Page 69 Test to The Smack and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I won’t whore for you,” Tinafey said. “If that’s what you’re hopin’, forget it.”

“I’d never ask you to do that,” Petty said.

“That’s what you all say till your pockets are empty.”

“I’m not a pimp, Tinafey,” Petty said. “That’s not my game.”

Tinafey squinted into his eyes, looking for the truth, then said, “Nobody’s waitin’ on me in Memphis, so I might as well stay a little longer. I ain’t even been to the beach yet.”

“We’ll do that.”

“And Beverly Hills? Rodeo Drive?”

“Wherever you want.”

“And if somebody asks, can I say I’m your girlfriend?”

Petty was taken aback by the question.

“Do you want to say you’re my girlfriend?” he said.

“It’d make things easier,” Tinafey said.

“Can I say I’m your boyfriend?”

Tinafey made a face. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?” she said.

“Not to me,” Petty said.

Boyfriend,” Tinafey said in a funny voice. “Girlfriend.”

“You ever had a white boyfriend before?” Petty asked her.

“Once, in high school,” she replied. “His daddy ’bout shit, though. Made him break up with me.”

“That’s Memphis for you.”

“That’s everywhere for you.”

Petty played with a drop of water on her shoulder.

“You ever had a black girlfriend?” she said.

“Sure,” Petty said.

“One you didn’t pay for?”

The sound of sirens spiraled up from the street.
Page 69 of my new novel The Smack is a conversation between Rowan Petty, a down-on-his luck conman chasing 2 million dollars in Army money smuggled out of Afghanistan, and Tinafey, a prostitute he met and fell for in Reno and convinced to accompany him to L.A., where the money is hidden. This conversation comes as the two are still feeling each other out, neither completely trusting the other yet, which is to be expected, considering the shady and dangerous world they inhabit.

This page is definitely representative of a certain strand of the narrative, and maybe the most important one. While there’s all kinds of murder and mayhem in the book, the characters always come first. My protagonists are people you normally wouldn’t root for –criminals, drunks, ne’er do wells who exist outside the boundaries of the square world – and one of the challenges I set for myself as a writer is to make you care about them and want to see them survive the perils I throw at them and succeed at whatever skullduggery they’re engaged in.

Rowan and Tinafey’s love story is the beating heart of the The Smack. They’re two lost souls who bump into each other one snowy night in Reno and manage, against all odds, to form a relationship that salves some of their previous wounds. Whether this relationship, or they, themselves, make it through the chaos and violence swirling around the stolen money they’re after…well, you’ll have to read the book to find that out.
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

The Page 69 Test: Angel Baby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Dark Sky"

Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and moved to Nottingham when he was 18 to go to university. He’s stayed there ever since, and now lives with his wife, two cats, two snakes and a collection of tropical fish. He is the author of the Keiko novels, sci-fi adventures that follow the escapades of those crewing the spaceship of the same name; Dark Run is the first book in the series, Dark Sky the second.

When not writing, Brooks works for a homelessness charity, plays guitar and sings in a punk band, watches football (soccer), MMA and nature/science documentaries, goes walking in the Peak District or other areas of splendid scenery, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him.

Brooks applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Sky and reported the following:
In sharp contrast to when I did this for Dark Run, think it's safe to say that page 69 of Dark Sky is very definitely indicative of the rest of the novel in general!

Dark Sky sees the crew of the freighter-spaceship Keiko taking on what should be an easy data retrieval job on the mining planet Uragan to make a quick buck. Unfortunately things don’t work out that way, when the contact reveals that all is not as it seems and plays hardball with them, and then a revolution starts leaving them trapped in a subterranean city with conflict raging around them and a 700mph storm battering the surface.

Page 69 takes place in a bar and sees the start of these problems, as captain Ichabod Drift and his muscle Apirana Wahawaha are having a terse exchange with Aleksandr Shirokov and his husband about forged travel documents. The ship’s tech wizard Jenna McIlroy is encoding data to look like pictures of naked men to keep it away from prying eyes, then receives a notification on her wrist computer that suggests something has just gone very, very wrong… but you’d have to read on to page 70 to find out exactly what that is.
Visit Mike Brooks's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Run.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Run.

Writers Read: Mike Brooks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"The Epiphany Machine"

David Burr Gerrard is the author of The Epiphany Machine and Short Century. He teaches creative writing at the 92nd Street Y, The New School, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop.

He lives in Queens, NY with his wife.

Gerrard applied the Page 69 Test to The Epiphany Machine and reported the following:
The Page 69 test happens to be almost weirdly appropriate for The Epiphany Machine. This page sees the novel’s narrator, Venter Lowood, on the literal threshold of one of the biggest decisions of his life. Venter has grown up knowing that, before he was born, his father and mother used the epiphany machine, a mysterious device that tattoos epiphanies on the forearms of its users. His father received the tattoo SHOULD NEVER BECOME A FATHER; his mother received the tattoo ABANDONS WHAT MATTERS MOST. His mother abandoned the family shortly after he was born, and Venter has been raised by his father and by his maternal grandmother, both of whom now hate the machine and have made it a forbidden subject.

At this point in the novel, Venter is a teenager, and his grandmother is on her deathbed. Venter has come to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to see Adam Lyons, who keeps the epiphany machine in his apartment. Unsure of his own motives—is he there to make a final attempt to find his mother before her own mother dies, or is he there to use the machine?—Venter has a long talk with Adam in the doorway, sensing that if he goes inside, he will use the machine.

Let’s call Venter’s feeling at this moment the Page 69 feeling. Simultaneous revulsion towards the idea of giving oneself over to a purportedly magic tattoo machine and curiosity about what your tattoo would be. I hope that you’ll want to follow Venter as he makes his decision.
Visit David Burr Gerrard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Flight Risk"

Young adult author Jennifer Fenn has been filling notebooks since she was in elementary school. She’s never without a book! Fenn is terrified of corn fields but has jumped out of a plane, eats her cereal without milk, and has run a marathon.

She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College’s MFA program, and lives with her husband, daughter and Scottish terrier in Downingtown, PA.

Fenn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Flight Risk, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Flight Risk delves into the main character Robert’s struggle with ADHD, one of several factors that eventually lead him to steal a small airplane. The text also alludes to Robert’s growing obsession with flight simulators and planes: “With his newfound concentration, could Robert make it in the air force?” Robert notes that while on Adderall, “his knees ceased their hyperactive jig. He could sit still, could read for fifteen minutes at a time.” He stays inside working on his virtual take-offs and landings, returning to school “as pale as the digital clouds he’d spent all summer navigating through.” Robert’s mother, Deb, however, has mixed feelings about Robert being treated with Adderall, and so she takes him off his prescription. This page contains one of my favorite details in the book: when Robert is off Adderall, he eats “a dozen candy canes in one sitting, crunching them between his teeth while his mother cringes.”

Is it representative of the rest of the book? Yes and no. The book is written in a collage style, with several points of view; Robert’s is the most frequent, but there are also TV transcripts, interviews and newspaper articles. A lot of Flight Risk deals with Robert’s plane thefts, his attempts to outrun Yannatok Island’s sheriff and how he becomes both a notorious outlaw and a hero, which this page doesn’t include. Still, I like the writing on this page, and it does provide a valuable insight into the protagonist’s psyche. I hope that would encourage a reader to keep going!
Visit Jennifer Fenn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"The Lost History of Stars"

A native of south Chicago, Dave Boling is a sports columnist in the Seattle area. His first novel, the international best-selling Guernica, was translated into 13 languages with an English-language edition sold worldwide. Prior to becoming a journalist, Boling was a football player at the University of Louisville, an ironworker in Chicago, a logger in the Pacific Northwest, a bartender and bouncer, and a laborer in a car factory and in steel mills. He took up fiction writing at age 53.

Boling applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Lost History of Stars, and reported the following:
Trying to inhabit the mind of my female narrator, Aletta Venter, I interviewed a fair number of psychologists--all women. I probed their insights into coping and survival mechanisms that might help an early teen girl stay strong and resilient in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

The Brits had torched much of the South Africa veld during the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. After burning the Boers’ homes, the Brits interned the women and children in lethally mismanaged concentration camps. It was a grim slice of history that has been largely overlooked.

So, how could Aletta, a small but determined insurgent, find the courage to not only survive, but continue fighting her private war against the might of an empire? The doctors agreed she would be in a transitional time of life, dealing with a turbulent confluence of powerful factors. All the usual adolescent issues of self-doubt, uncertainty and hormonal changes would be incalculably compounded by the influences of fear, malnutrition, and the profound emotions of loss.

Within this high-pressure crucible, she would need an unbending inner purpose. And for sanity, she would be driven to latch on to any shred of normalcy and grip it like a life-line.

The scene that is already under way when come to Page 69 has Aletta with her new best friend, Janetta, who was far more worldly, having grown up in a town rather than on the remote veld. Aletta discovers that Janetta has kissed a boy at school, and wants Janetta to teach her how it’s done. On Page 68, Janetta tells Aletta that her lips must be shaped as if to whistle, but Aletta has trouble doing it without actually whistling. She feels hopelessly naïve. In the last sentence of Page 68, Aletta asks about the eyes--what should she do with her eyes?

From page 69:
“Closed … you’re supposed to do that.”

I thought that was terrible advice … you might miss, or go too slowly or too fast. Wouldn’t seeing it be part of the experience?

“Like this …” She leaned toward me, eyes closed. Her breath touched me first, and her lips settled lightly on the apple of my cheek.

“Now you,” she said.

I stared at her cheek, estimating the range before closing my eyes and easing in. I felt softness and warmth, and tiny pale hairs against my lips.

“That’s right,” she said, “but soft, and keep your eyes closed.”

I leaned in again, but softer.

“Like that,” she said. “Good.”
The scene is several pages long, and serves as a tender counterpoint. Aletta otherwise sustains her purposeful acts of resistance, of minor heroism and compassion, but in this scene, she’s merely finding her way on the path toward being a young woman.
Visit Dave Boling's website.

Writers Read: Dave Boling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Devastation Road"

Jason Hewitt is a novelist, playwright and actor. He was born in Oxford, and lives in London. His debut novel, The Dynamite Room, was long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Authors' Club First Novel Award.

Hewitt applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Devastation Road, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Devastation Road comprises of a short quiet scene that I often forget I wrote, and yet it brings to the forefront many of the novel’s themes.

Owen begins the novel by waking in a field somewhere in Europe. He’s injured and wearing clothes that don’t belong to him, and has no idea of where he is, or even when it is. In fact it’s May 1945 and the conflict he has very little recollection of is now only days away from ending. The novel is ultimately about his attempts to get back home through the chaotic aftermath of war.

By page 69 Owen has been joined by Janek, a 16-year old Czech boy who speaks little English. They have formed an uneasy alliance, neither trusting each other yet neither wanting to make their journeys on their own. In this scene they are nearing the end of their second day together. They rest in a crop of forested trees and Owen sits on a stump poking around with a broken watch that Janek had been intent on throwing away…
He wondered if he could mend it. He had managed to prise the back off. Inside, the springs and wheels stood stationary. He gave each a gentle nudge with the blunt tip of the pencil but nothing wanted to move. He took the watch to pieces and emptied all its cogs and coils and tiny screws into his hand. Now though, scattered out across his palm, none of the parts seemed to bear any correlation to the others. He poked at one or two of them with his fingernail, uncertain even what they were. If he could navigate his way around anything as complex as an instrument panel, he could navigate his way around something as simple as a watch.

Even as a child he had taken things to pieces – clocks, wirelesses, gearboxes and carburettors – and then tried to rebuild them, only better. He liked to see how things worked, the design and construction – even of a living creature. He had dissected a frog once, all on his own. He had pinned it to a slab of wood while it was still alive and then had been disappointed when, the moment he had nervously cut it open, it had promptly died. He had so wanted to watch its tiny pumping heart.
Owen has long-term memory loss, so just as he is trying to fix the pieces of the watch together and can make no sense of them, so too is he trying to piece his frayed memories together, and, with that, his former life. Mending the watch should be easy for Owen. We know that he was once a draughtsman and has an engineering background; he sees the world around him as if everything is mechanical and yet he knows that this was not why he was in Europe. There must have been some other reason. The novel therefore is as much about his journey of self-discovery. The watch is significant too. We don’t yet know where Janek got it from but it has its own narrative, swapping and changing hands as the story develops, before eventually finding its own true home.

While Owen is deliberating the broken watch, Janek smokes. He thinks the war has made a man of him and yet he is still a child. He wants to be a resistance fighter like his missing brother and yet has no real comprehension of what that means.
Janek wandered back, pinging his cigarette stub into the grass and then stepping up on to one of the stumps, and then from that on to another and to another, having to jump sometimes, barely crossing the gap. He suddenly appeared on the same stump as Owen, behind him, his toe kicking at Owen’s backside. He peered over Owen’s shoulder at what he was doing before leaping off on to the next.
The scene holds a rare moment of conciliation between them, but they will soon be joined by another character and everything is turned on its head.
Visit Jason Hewitt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Devastation Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Unraveling"

Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a Disney-style castle. Today, she is a winner of the ECPA Christian Book Award for her debut novel Unblemished, which released to magical applause: “a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections” (RT Book Reviews). Sara spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After Is Never Far Away.”

Ella applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Unraveling, and reported the following:
This test is always a fun one, and fortunately for me, so far, my page 69s always fall at the opening of a chapter. Go, Pub Team! You make this easy.

Chapter openings are always my faves. Don’t get me wrong, middles and endings are great too, but openings are the icing on the cake, the topping that makes you want to dig into the substance underneath. When I write an opening I ask myself, “How can I begin this in a way that will entice the reader to, well, keep reading?”

Page 69 in Unraveling, the second book in my Unblemished trilogy, brings us to the opening of Chapter 11 which is entitled "Change." I love this chapter because I know exactly what’s going to happen. I know who my main character, Eliyana, will meet and what she will discover. But you don’t, so it’s my job to make sure you’ll want to find out. So, here goes...
Chapter 11 ~ Change

If I wasn’t in my right mind I’d chuck this blasted mirrorglass crown off the hill. What good does it do me? No one looks to me. Listens. They still think of Joshua as their leader. And can I blame them? One look at him and people think, Noble. Worthy. King. What do they think when they look at me? Imposter? Intruder? Wannabe?

“Don’t be ridiculous, Em. This insecurity is the old you. You know better. The Verity chose—”

“Just leave me alone.” The smallest burst of Verity burns in my gut. As if it’s staging a silent protest to my words. I tug at the ends of my hair. Regret my harsh tone. None of this is Ky’s fault. “I’m sorry.”

I know. It’s fine.” Though his words reassure, his voice in my head reveals a pinch of hurt.

Ugh. This sucks. Joshua and I are at odds—again—and now I’ve hurt Ky? Maybe. I don’t know. He’s probably not even real. Of course he’s not.

Or is he?

I’d like to scream my head off now if you don’t mind. Okay, thanks.

Anxiety revs my nerves as I enter the door leading into the kitchens. Old memories lift from storage. I take them out, dust them off, and see them anew. The frame around a not-so-long- ago...
What?! A not so long ago what?! Would you turn the page to keep reading? I hope so. For those #TeamKy fans out there, I’m pretty sure you can tell this is leading somewhere that has to do with him. I won’t say too much more about that, but let’s just say the farther you read, the closer you’ll get to discovering what in the world is going on. El can hear Ky’s voice in her head? How is that even possible?

And what is this about a mirrorglass crown? And why is El having her doubts? For those who read Unblemished, you know all the awesomeness she’s capable of. For those who didn’t, you’re probably wondering what the Verity is and why this girl is doubting herself so much. Good. If you’re new to the series and couldn’t care less about this Ky person, hopefully I’ve confused you enough to make you turn the page. I really hope you’ll want answers. And if you do?

Just keep reading...
Visit Sara Ella's website.

The Page 69 Test: Unblemished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Dead Is Good"

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 latest novel, Dead is Good, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Rose and I osmose through the closed door, watch Grace pay the driver and take a photograph of him—unsmiling out of the driver’s side window as per her directions--with her iPhone camera.

The cab driver is a passionate man. He shouted into the speaker of his cell phone in Russian during the way-above-the-speed-limit ride from the hospital to this three-story brick apartment-turned condo building on Fountain Avenue in West Hollywood.

I never visited this place in life.

When Grace and I were together, I had a studio apartment in Hollywood––right off Hollywood Boulevard on Cahuenga––and she lived in Santa Monica where she had a studio filled with large canvases and wire sculptures.

The morning sky is clear with an almost-transparent and full moon suspended like a bubble in the eastern sky.

A wind I cannot feel scatters shadows of a flowering tree on the sidewalk.

Don’t expect me to tell you what time it is.

Someone took my watch and my cell phone when I died.

What I know about the living world I see with my two dead eyes and hear with my two dead ears--thank you very goddamn much.
Page 69 above is representative of Dead Is Good in that it is a first-person narration by Charles Stone, a ghost who cannot be seen or heard in the living world and who cannot directly effect the living in any way. Rose is his canine companion in death--which the reader probably wouldn't realize from reading this page--and who suffers the same limitations as Charles (silent invisibility). Right now Charles is observing the one woman he truly loves returning to her apartment after she's jumped from the Santa Monica Pier (and for which she was briefly hospitalized).

This brief passage allows the reader to learn a little about Charles––he's dead,rueful, and sweary––and about the relationship he once had with Grace, an artist in a phase of life that is alien to Charles.

What the reader wouldn't know is that Grace's sister has killed herself, that Grace is in danger, and that Charles loves Grace more deeply than ever. Still, I hope that Rose, the woman getting out the cab, and the ghostly narrator would prove interesting or mysterious enough to keep the reader reading. A lot is going to happen after page 69.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

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

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls"

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series and several adult mysteries. Her books have heroes and bad guys, action and messy situations. An avid reader, she once missed her subway stop and rode the train all the way to Brooklyn because the book she was reading was that good. She lives in Northern California with her family, two cats and a parakeet named Zeus, who is sick of the cats eyeballing him like he’s dinner.

McMullen applied the Page 69 Test to Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls and reported the following:
From page 69:
Toby regroups and stands up straighter.

“Okay,” he says. “Pay attention. When you go back to school, act normal. Say nothing about what you’ve heard here today to anyone. That includes all those girls you hang around with.”

Well, that’s easy. Because I’m never talking to those girls again. None of this would be happening if they hadn’t blabbed about my escape.
This is the moment when Abby Hunter finds out that her boarding school sits atop a secret training facility for young spies. While trying to escape, she comes up against a mysterious man who tries to kidnap her. Fortunately, Toby was on to her and a rescue arrived just in time. But things are going to get much more complicated. Unbeknownst to Abby, her mother is a spy, too.
Visit Beth McMullen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Watch Me Disappear"

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, This Is Where We Live, and the newly released Watch Me Disappear.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Watch Me Disappear and reported the following:
Page 69 of Watch Me Disappear lands perfectly at the first page of chapter 4, which just happens to be the chapter where the story starts to take off.

Watch Me Disappear is the story of Olive and Jonathan Flanagan, who have been struggling to cope after Billie Flanagan – wife of Jonathan, mother to teenage Olive – disappears on a solo hiking trip in Desolation Wilderness. It’s been a year since Billie vanished from the trail and was declared dead (her cell phone and a hiking boot were found, but not her body); but without a death certificate or any kind of real closure, Jonathan and Olive still haven’t quite accepted that she’s gone.

In fact, Olive has started to experience strange hallucinations – she calls them “visions” – in which her mother seemingly insists that she’s still alive and wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan is (rightfully) worried that his daughter is emotionally unstable; and so, in chapter 4, he decides that it’s finally time to start getting rid of his wife’s belongings, so that they both can move forward with their lives:
Jonathan sits on the floor of his bedroom closet, sorting through sixteen years of his wife’s existence. Stacks of musty sweaters and grass-stained running shoes; socks missing their mates, holes at the heels; silk scarves received as Christmas gifts from Jonathan’s mother and rarely worn. Bowls full of unidentified buttons, a dusty stack of old Outside magazines, a box stuffed full of Olive’s preschool artwork.

A growing line of shopping bags stands sentry outside the closet, scrawled with Sharpie instructions: Save - Discard - Donate - Give to Olive.

He’s already tackled the vanity and the overflowing master bathroom drawers. Billie’s hairbrush, still woven with dark threads: Into the trash. The oxycodone she’d been prescribed after a biking accident, but had never taken: Put aside for recycling. Her jewelry box, filled with tangled chains: Save for Olive. Congealing bottles of expensive hand lotion, yellowing packets of holiday novelty tissues, four different kinds of sport sunscreen. Flotsam of little importance – just stuff -- and yet together it somehow adds up to a human being; each worn-out sandal or solitary earring a moment, a decision, a reflection of taste and opinion.
As Jonathan undergoes this emotional purging, however, he discovers some alarming things about his wife that he hadn’t expected, outright lies that make him wonder who his wife really was; and, even more disturbing, whether she’s even dead. All those memories, all those sentimental sandals and earrings – how much do they really tell him about Billie, after all? Were any of his memories real?

So this is a critical moment in the book! It introduces the theme that we sometimes see only what we want to see about the people we love; that we construct neat little family narratives and try to fit our loved ones inside, even if it’s all an illusion.
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Death On Delos"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates.

The author lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, two daughters, two ducks, two budgerigars, and a brush turkey that is almost as irritating as Socrates.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the Athenian Mystery series, Death on Delos, and reported the following:
I always enjoy this challenge, because I'm very firmly of the view that every page must add something to a story. Every time I'm asked to do one of these I immediately worry about what's on page 69. One of these days I'm going to write a book that is specifically engineered to have something weird and wonderful on page 69.

My latest, seventh(!) book of the Athenian Mysteries is called Death On Delos. Delos was the holy isle of the ancient Greeks. It was the birthplace of two gods: Apollo the Sun God and Artemis the Huntress. A strange but true fact is that in ancient times it was illegal to either die or be born upon Delos. Which makes it all the more tricky when a pregnant Diotima, my heroine and the detective of our tale, arrives and is required to solve a murder.

Page 69 sees Diotima start work. The revelation that his wife has been assigned to the case comes to my hero Nico on the page before. He has no problems with that. What disturbs him slightly more is discovering that he's the prime suspect.
"Of course, I’ll have to interview you first,” said my wife. “You’re the prime suspect.”

“Me?” I said, horrified. “I expected that sort of response from Anaxinos, but not from my own wife.”

“Well, you were the one standing over the victim’s body,” she pointed out. “Face it, Nico, if you were in my position, you’d be insisting that you did it, and demanding that we learn more about your dubious past.”

“I like to think you’re already familiar with my dubious past,” I said bitterly. “You contributed to a lot of it.”
So I had a lot of fun with this! Diotima is on her way as the lead detective, with an inordinate number of disasters, revelations, twists, turns and brilliant deductions to get them to the end.
Visit Gary Corby's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death on Delos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Another Man's Ground"

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. The Branson Beauty, featuring Sheriff Hank Worth, is her first novel.

Booth applied the Page 69 Test to Another Man's Ground, the second Sheriff Hank Worth Mystery, and reported the following:
A critical chapter ends on page 69 with these last five lines. It’s a text conversation between the two main characters. Sheila Turley is the chief deputy of the Branson County Sheriff’s Department and she’s at a crime scene. She texts her boss, Sheriff Hank Worth, while he’s stuck at a campaign luncheon.
At John Doe site in the woods.

He pretended to drop his napkin and texted her back as he bent to retrieve it.

Another what?

He straightened and waited for her response.

Body. It’s a kid.
What’s revealed in this conversation is a key turning point in the novel. Crime intrudes on Hank’s campaign for sheriff, and it’s an election he has to win or else he’ll be out of law enforcement job all together. But he hates politics and he’s been looking for any excuse to get out of campaigning, so he seizes on Sheila’s text and the impossibly difficult criminal investigation that follows. With his attention split between the two tasks, will he succeed at either one?
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: Another Man's Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Tornado Weather"

Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has worked as both a reporter and editor, and also holds a Master's in Fiction Writing and English Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Kennedy applied the Page 69 Test to Tornado Weather, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When Shannon was a girl, she used to love to visit her grandmother's stately home on Peach Street, to get lost in the upstairs bedroom while Granny made a pie or ironed Grandpa's shirts. Granny always left her alone to wander the house, to go from room to room, picking up knick knacks and making up stories. Back then she didn't like to share Granny or her house with anyone if she could help it, not even Rhae Anne. The only time she remembered playing with another person at Granny's was the summer Camila lived with them and her memory of those days was sketchy. Mostly she recalled walking with the beautiful girl through the back hall where the linoleum – yellow roses on a silver background – echoed their steps back at them. And their breathy version of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” Together they traced the chains of flowers from doorway to doorway, their feet kicking up dust motes in the half-light of the hall like disturbed spirits. At one point, Camila whispered, “I want to stay here forever.”

“Forever,” Shannon whispered back.
On page 69 of Tornado Weather, Shannon Washburn – grieving the loss of her mother and trapped in a toxic relationship and dead-end job – is visiting with her grandmother following a race-fueled dust-up at the laundromat where she works. Shannon drops in on her grandmother as often as she can to keep the old woman company and do light housework, but it's been too long since her last visit and Shannon's conscience smotes her. While helping Granny to some angel food cake, she is reminded of a different time, when visiting her grandmother was less of a burden and more of a joy. Readers who start on this page would probably think they were in for a rather sad ride, but one page later they would encounter Johnny Carson, Granny's battery-powered parrot shrieking “Land Ho!” and they'd have a better idea of the general tone of the book. Heartfelt, I'd say, but always on the lookout for the absurdity of human existence.
Follow Deborah E. Kennedy on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Tornado Weather.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Tomorrow's Kin"

Nancy Kress is the bestselling author of multiple science-fiction and fantasy novels, including Beggars in Spain, Probability Space, and Steal Across the Sky. Her SF has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Kin, an expansion of the Nebula-winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which takes the story forward several generations. Her fiction has been translated into multiple languages, including Klingon.

Kress applied the Page 69 Test to Tomorrow's Kin and reported the following:
How representative does a single book page have to be to count as “representative”? Page 69 of Tomorrow’s Kin depicts part of a confrontation between Noah Jenner, wayward son of protagonist Marianne Jenner, and an alien. Only the alien isn’t, exactly—he’s the descendent of humans taken from Earth 140,000 years ago by unknown beings. DNA analysis has verified this. Noah feels a shock of recognition, however, that goes beyond the 6,000-generation-ago family tie. The shock has to do with something going on in Noah’s brain caused by his heavy use of a drug called sugarcane. The recognition will have major plot consequences. So—I guess that page 69 is, if not representative, at least heavily congressional.

Tomorrow’s Kin is based on my Nebula-winning novella, “Yesterday’s Kin,” and extends the story for ten more years. It is the first of a trilogy, all of which are written, because the novella turned out to be only the start of a complex story that I very much wanted to tell. It involves two planets, three global disasters, and four generations. They get around, those Jenners. And in doing it, they alter the course of human history.
Follow Nancy Kress on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Girl on the Leeside"

Kathleen Anne Kenney is an author, freelance writer, and playwright. Her writing has appeared in Big River, Coulee Region Women, and Ireland of the Welcomes, as well as other publications. She has had numerous short plays presented in Minnesota theaters and has published the play The Ghost of an Idea, a one-actor piece about Charles Dickens. Her play New Menu was a winner in the 2012 Rochester Repertory Theatre’s national short-play competition. She is currently at work on a novel based on her 2014 stage play, The Bootleg Blues.

Kenney applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Girl on the Leeside, and reported the following:
This is really intriguing! Page 69 doesn’t include the main character, Siobhan, but two secondary characters discussing her:
There was a pause, then Tim said, “You know them well.” His voice held an unconscious hint of envy.

Maura smiled. “I’ve been friends with Siobhan since we were five and met at school. My favorite stories had always been those about fairies and kelpies and sprites, and, I thought, here one was! For the longest time I was convinced she was only temporarily in human form, and would be disappearing back into her fairy mound one day.”

“I’ve gotten that feeling, too,” Tim admitted.

“I’m not surprised. But she’s real. Just in her own world. Unfortunately. She was so full of stories as a child, always full of stories. Even by the age of eight or nine she was an expert in ancient tales and legends. When she was telling one of those it was the only time she really came alive, came out of herself. It’s almost the same today.” Maura’s voice was a little sad.

It was a relief to Tim that someone else, someone who knew her so well, also saw Siobhan as being too secluded.

“Has she never been away from here?” he asked.

“Oh, sure. Keenan has taken her on a few day trips, to Iona, Wexford, and such. Always, of course, to visit the ancient stones and ring forts and dolmens and that. I remember once our family was going on holiday to Scotland for a week, and I was desperate for Siobhan to come along. My da said it would be all right. Siobhan didn’t even really want to come but I was determined to make her. We were both about ten, I think. I got up my courage to ask Kee. He said no.”

“Do you think he’s still overprotective of her?”

Maura hesitated and Tim felt he’d gotten too personal. Maura studied his face for a moment before she answered.

“Yes. Although he doesn’t have to be. She’s an expert at it herself.”
I do think this passage reflects the fact that most of the characters in the novel think about Siobhan quite a bit, and that the story moves ahead because of their interaction with and reaction to her as the protagonist. It also gives a glimpse into what kind of person she is: overly protected and withdrawn.
Visit Kathleen Anne Kenney's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girl on the Leeside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"A Merciful Truth"

Kendra Elliot is the award-winning author of numerous books, including the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series. Elliot won the 2015 and 2014 Daphne du Maurier awards for Best Romantic Suspense, and she was an International Thriller Writers finalist for Best Paperback Original and a Romantic Times finalist for Best Romantic Suspense.

Elliot applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Merciful Truth, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Merciful Truth touches on one of the primary internal conflicts in the entire series. At the age of eighteen, my character Mercy Kilpatrick was cast out by her survivalist parents and now she’s returned to town as FBI agent. She is a law enforcement officer for the government, a profession that will never be respected by her anti-government father.

On page 69, she is interviewing an arson victim when she realizes he is a friend of her father. The young victim makes the connection at the same time and says, “I’ve met your siblings…I don’t recall your father mentioning an FBI agent in the family.”

“He wouldn’t bring it up,” is Mercy’s reply.

She’s hurt and stunned. This young man, new to the community, has been accepted into her father’s inner circle of survivalists, yet he continues to reject his daughter. Mercy and her father are both proud and stubborn; she clearly carries his genes.

A Merciful Truth is the second book in the series. In the first book, Mercy strives to patch her relationship with some of her siblings, but her father and oldest brother are still holdouts in Truth. This eats away at her pride and her inner child. No one can emotionally hurt her in the way her family does. She puts up a tough façade, pretending that the last fifteen years of estrangement have been a cakewalk, but deep down she wants acceptance.

Throughout the series, she vacillates between wanting her father’s approval and telling him to go to hell. To compensate for his rejection, she works hard to continue the prepping lifestyle she was raised in, telling no one that she secretly prepares for the end of the world. It’s her way of following her father’s expectations, but she hides her accomplishments, unwilling to let him know.
Visit Kendra Elliot's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Hum If You Don’t Know the Words"

Bianca Marais holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto’s SCS, and her work has been published in World Enough and Crime. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband.

Marais applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, and reported the following:
I was curious to see what page 69 from Hum If You Don’t Know the Words would reveal about the novel, and was surprised to discover that it contained a really important scene containing a plot twist. I hate spoilers so I won’t reveal too much, except to say that it centers around one of the protagonists, Robin, a nine-year-old girl whose parents have just been murdered. As she waits at the police station for her aunt to come fetch her, she’s frantic about her twin sister, Cat, who got left behind at their home when the police arrived in the middle of the night. The scene explains a lot about Robin’s psyche and the coping mechanisms she has developed in order to become the child she thought her parents wanted her to be. It’s a great snapshot that very representative of the book which deals with weighty subject matter and has quite a few twists and turns along the way.
Visit Bianca Marais's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"The Lightkeeper’s Daughters"

Jean E. Pendziwol is an award winning Canadian author. Born and raised in northwestern Ontario, she draws on the culture, history and geography of the region for inspiration for her stories.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters, her debut adult novel, is an affecting story of family, identity, and art that involves a decades-old mystery. Vividly drawn, Lake Superior is almost a character in itself, changeable yet constant, its shores providing both safety and isolation.

Pendziwol applied the Page 69 Test to The Lightkeeper’s Daughters and reported the following:
I feel a little disadvantaged in that page 69 of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters is at the end of a chapter and is only a couple of paragraphs long, but on the other hand, it contains all the elements integral to the story – the relationship between the two main characters, Elizabeth, who is an elderly blind woman, raised on a remote island on Lake Superior where her father was the lighthouse keeper, and Morgan, a sixteen year-old delinquent teen completing community service hours at the home where Elizabeth lives; art and music, both consistent themes throughout the novel; and the influencing presence of nature.

There is a connection between Elizabeth and Morgan, first revealed in the painting of a dragonfly that inspired Morgan’s graffiti piece and led to her presence at the senior home. The dragonfly also sits framed on Elizabeth’s dresser, one of few personal possessions in an old lady’s room. On page 69, Elizabeth and Morgan forge an agreement whereby Morgan agrees to read the faded pages of the lightkeeper’s recently discovered journals in exchange for one of Elizabeth’s paintings. The reader knows which one she wants, but Elizabeth has no idea which one, or why. The novel toggles between the perspectives of Elizabeth and Morgan, and page 69 was written from Elizabeth’s point of view.
I can hear her grinding the cigarette beneath the heel of her boot, but she is silent, She must have removed one of her earbuds, as the strains of Epica are more easily discernible, mingling with the chattering of sparrows and the rustling of the wind through they hydrangea.

“Can I pick which one?”

It is an interesting response. there are three sketches. One is a dragonfly, the other a hummingbird, and the last a detailed study of beach peas. Common themes repeatedly transcribed from various angles. Some critics suggest that a series of the same subject could almost be compiled to create a three dimensional image, as though each interpretation adds a layer that expresses a slightly different perspective, yet immediately associates with the others. Even as sketches, they are each worth a tidy sum. But I don’t think that is the appeal to her. What does she see in one of those pictures?

“Yes.”

“All right then. Let’s get started.”
And it is here that the journey of Elizabeth and Morgan begins in earnest.
Visit Jean E. Pendziwol's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"UNSUB"

Edgar-winning novelist Meg Gardiner writes thrillers. Fast-paced and full of twists, her books have been called “Hitchcockian” (USA Today) and “nailbiting and moving” (Guardian). They have been bestsellers in the U.S. and internationally and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Gardiner  applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel UNSUB, the first book in a series featuring homicide investigator Caitlin Hendrix, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m calling about the baby found abandoned during a police raid two nights ago. This is the officer who brought her out of the house.”

A minute later she felt lighter. Relieved and with a loosening in her chest. The little girl, Baby Doe, had gotten a clean bill of health and was in temporary placement with a foster family.

The little fighter was safe, and warm, and being cared for. Yes, she was in psychological peril. Abandoned. But she was in hands that wouldn’t leave her in a crank house full of drugs and knives and gunfire. Caitlin pictured her wondrous wide eyes, held close to her own shoulder.

“Thank you. That’s good news.”

Take it when you can get it.


Behind Sequoia High School, past the football practice field, down the hill beyond the avocado orchard, was the concrete flood control channel that skateboarders called the Drain. The cyclone fence didn’t keep them out, not even on a blustery afternoon after a sad day at school, the weird vibe. Mr. Ackerman dead. Half a dozen kids were hanging there, a few taking advantage of the slopes and curves, the culverts and bends—not as good as a half pipe or empty swimming pool, but their spot—skating and sitting and talking about the freakiness of it all. Substitute teacher in Algebra, looking like a rabbit in the headlights. Like the classroom was poisoned. News vans on the street outside.

The Prophet. The actual, no-shit serial-killer who carved devil’s horns into his victims.
This excerpt captures the vibe and the rhythm of UNSUB. It gives a sense of the chaos that has invaded the world of the story. In the first section, the heroine, Caitlin Hendrix, tries to find out if a baby she rescued from a crank house is safe and well. In the second, teenagers at a suburban high school face the reality that their beloved teacher has been murdered by an infamous serial killer. The kids try to hold it together, but everything they’ve assumed about the safety of their lives has been turned inside out. Shortly after this moment, they literally stumble into a message from the killer.

Page 69 captures the tone and unsettling atmosphere of the book. Things are off kilter, and even the language reflects that. In the first section, Caitlin attempts to hang onto the “normal” life of a police detective. She’s trying to find positive news, something warm and hopeful, in her work day, as the serial murder case slowly swallows her life and swamps the Bay Area. The second section shows how the terror of the case is playing out: The killer is dominating the minds and emotions of the high school students. He has murdered their math teacher, and will soon draw these kids further into his world. UNSUB is a psychological thriller, and the killer plays mind games with the cops, the media, and the public. The high school skateboarders are about to discover exactly how that happens, as he draws them into his orbit and toys with them.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 7, 2017

"The Harbors of the Sun"

Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins, and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Edge of Worlds (2016) and the newly released The Harbors of the Sun, the last book in The Books of the Raksura series.

Wells applied the Page 69 Test to The Harbors of the Sun and reported the following:
From page 69:
They were flying far too close together. Jade bared her teeth. "They don't think much of the half-Fell." Bunching like that might be a good tactic for approaching groundlings, but not for fighting in the air. Perhaps they were relying on surprise; Fell weren't good scent hunters, and if Malachite and Jade hadn't been here, the half-Fell flight might have been taken unawares.

Malachite moved one spine. "They wouldn't. The progenitors and the rulers think of these half-Fell as something to be used against us. It's a mistake." She spared Jade a glance. "Perhaps their penultimate mistake."

This time when Malachite crouched to leap, Jade matched her and they burst into the air together.
I think this page does capture one of the main themes of the books. These two characters are queens of the Raksura, a culture where queen is the most physically and politically powerful position. Jade is younger, the sister queen to reigning queen Pearl of the Indigo Cloud court, and Malachite is older, reigning queen of Opal Night and the most feared and respected queen of the western Reaches. When the two characters first met in an earlier novel in the series, they were in conflict. Jade had taken Moon, Malachite's long-lost son, as her consort, without Malachite's permission. But they've slowly started to overcome their differences as they work together to protect their people from attack.

While Moon is the main character of the series, the female characters and the relationships between them are vitally important throughout. It's the queens who lead the Raksuran courts, and Moon, who was born a Raksuran consort, has to learn to work with them and navigate their sometimes dangerous politics to be able to help protect his new family.
Visit Martha Wells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue