Saturday, June 24, 2017

"Death of a Bachelorette"

Laura Levine is a former sitcom writer whose credits include The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne & Shirley, The Jeffersons, The Love Boat, Three’s Company, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. As an advertising copywriter, she created Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals for General Mills. Her work has been published in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

In her latest (and favorite) incarnation as a mystery novelist, she has been an IMBA paperback bestseller and winner of the RT Book Reviews award for Most Humorous Mystery.

Levine applied the Page 69 Test to Death of a Bachelorette, her newest Jaine Austen Mystery, and reported the following:
First, full disclosure; I cheated. This is page 70 of Death of a Bachelorette, not page 69. It just seemed a lot livelier.

Now for the set up: My heroine, Jaine Austen, has taken a gig writing for a cheesy Bachelor show rip off being shot on a South Pacific island. The show, called Some Day My Prince Will Come, features a bevvy of bloodthirsty bachelorettes vying for the hand of a dimwitted British nobleman. Jaine has been hired to write dialogue for the dimwitted Brit. But she’s having trouble concentrating. It turns out she’s met a royal bachelor of her own she wants to pursue: a hunky native honey—and an island prince—named Tai.

Also, making cameo appearances on the page are Manny Kaminsky, the show’s cheapskate producer, and Justin, a newbie director just out of film school.

From page 70:
And I have to confess I was having a hard time concentrating. Instead my mind kept wandering back to my hunkalicious suitor, Prince Tai. Or, as I had come to think of him, “My Tai.”

What if the two of us hit it off and fell in love under the tropical stars? What if I wounded up an actual princess, like Grace Kelly or Queen Noor?

True, Paratito Island wasn’t exactly the cosmopolitan center of the universe, but who cared? I was sick of big city living, anyway. All the traffic in LA was enough to give the Dalai Lama ulcers.

How lovely it would be to live in a charming cottage by the sea, with a wraparound verandah, and banana trees in the yard. At last I’d get to dine on fresh fish and island fruits and drop twenty pounds in no time.

Before long I’d be frolicking along the beach in my string bikini, holding hands with My Tai, taking time out to toss off a novel or two while my bronzed god of a hubby did whatever Paratitan princes did. (Hopefully, topless.)

I was just settling into a particularly yummy fantasy of me and Tai lying side by side on the sand, the sea lapping at our feet, the sun warming our bodies, caressed by cool ocean breezes. Tai was running his finger along my washboard flat tummy and up to my chin, turning my face to his for a whopper of a kiss, when suddenly I was yanked back to reality.

Oh, crud. It was Mount Manny, erupting again.

“Are you crazy?” I heard him shout. “No way are you leaving this show.”

He and Justin had joined us poolside, Manny in a terry robe and flipflops, his face flushed with anger.

“I give you your first big break in show biz, hire you on the basis of that crummy little student film—”

“Crummy?” Justin cried, indignant. “Casserole of Broken Dreams just happened to win first prize at the West Covina Film Festival!”
Visit Laura Levine's website.

The Page 69 Test: Killing Cupid.

My Book, The Movie: Death by Tiara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Seek and Destroy"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than fifty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese. He also wrote the script for the Legion of the Damned game (i-Phone, i-Touch, & i-Pad) based on his book of the same name--and co-wrote SONY's Resistance: Burning Skies game for the PS Vita.

Dietz applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Seek and Destroy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
There was no warmth in Howard’s smile. “You read my file? Good on you. Well there were a shit load of rear echelon mother fuckers who went to Afghanistan and never fired a shot. How ‘bout you, missy? Did you kill anyone up close and personal? Or were you staring at a screen?”

Victoria didn’t like the way the conversation was going. Was there some sort of purpose behind the grilling? Or was Howard mind fucking her for the fun of it? “My activities in Afghanistan are classified,” Victoria told him. “As are many of yours.”

Howard reached inside his jacket and dragged a shiny revolver out into the light. Victoria felt a stab of fear. He was going to shoot her! And there was nothing she could do about it. “Maybe you worked for the dark side, and maybe you’re full of shit,” Howard said. “Let’s find out. Guards! Grab that girl!”

Howard’s left index finger was pointed at a girl with mousy brown hair. She had glasses and was dressed in one of the sack-style dresses that all of the female servants were required to wear. She uttered a shriek of fear and tried to run. Two men grabbed the teen and held her arms. She was sobbing by then--and a puddle of urine appeared between her feet.

Howard’s eyes were on Victoria. “If you’re the woman you say you are, then you know this is a Colt Python, and that it holds six rounds.”

As if to illustrate that fact Howard flipped the cylinder open—and dumped six shiny .357 cartridges onto the table next to him. He chose one of the bullets and held it up to the light as if inspecting it for flaws. Then he inserted the cartridge into an empty chamber, flipped the cylinder closed, and ran it along the outside surface of his left arm. Victoria heard a series of clicks.

“Here,” Howard said, as he offered the weapon butt first. “If you want an alliance with the horde, then aim the pistol at the girl and squeeze the trigger. Maybe the bullet will rotate in under the hammer, and maybe it won’t. But either way I will take you seriously from that point forward. Or you can run back to daddy. You chose.”

Victoria wanted to laugh. Howard thought he was talking to Robin! Or someone like Robin… And that was a mistake.

A dog growled as she unhooked the velvet rope, stepped forward, and accepted the Colt. She could have killed the Warlord of Warlords then, and his bodyguards knew it. At least six weapons were pointed at her.

Victoria smiled, pointed the barrel of the handgun up at the ceiling, and turned to the teenager. The men who stood to each side of her looked worried. What if the woman with the Colt missed? But orders were orders, and they had no choice. “Pull her arms straight out,” Victoria instructed.

The girl struggled but the men were too strong for her. Victoria held the revolver in a two-handed grip, took aim, and waited for Howard to stop her. He didn’t. She pulled the hammer back to full cock and squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell and the Colt bucked in her hands. The big slug hit the teen with such force that it passed through her chest and hit the wall beyond. The guards let go of the body and it slumped to the floor.

“Well, well,” Howard said, as Victoria handed the pistol to Jebe. “You are for real. Let’s have lunch… There’s a great deal to talk about.”
Seek And Destroy is the second novel in the America Rising trilogy, and begins where Into The Guns left off.

When meteors strike all around the planet, Washington D.C. takes a hit and the federal government is decimated. That leaves surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order as American society disintegrates. Meanwhile a group of oligarchs seize control of the south and create a government that they call “The New Confederacy.” The oligarchs plan to run it like a corporation, with themselves in control, and citizens as workers.

But bad as things are people like President Samuel T. Sloan, and army officer Robin Macintyre, are fighting to put the rightful government back together--and retake the south.

Meanwhile Robin’s sister Victoria is fighting for the New Confederacy, and is on a mission to form an alliance with a ruthless warlord named Robert Howard. But Howard doesn’t trust Victoria. Or anyone else for that matter, and subjects her to a test.
Visit William C. Dietz's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Guns.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Guns.

My Book, The Movie: Seek and Destroy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"The Asylum of Dr. Caligari"

James Morrow is the author of the World Fantasy Award–winning Towing Jehovah, the New York Times Notable Book Blameless in Abaddon, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award–winning Shambling Towards Hiroshima. His more recent novels include The Madonna and the Starship, The Last Witchfinder, hailed by the Washington Post as “literary magic,” and The Philosopher’s Apprentice, which received a rave review from Entertainment Weekly.

Morrow applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, and reported the following:
As a writer, I have always been as excited by the medium of theater as by prose fiction. Over the years I’ve composed quite a few one-act comedies, and I would perhaps call myself a playwright manqué. When I ponder my favorite non-Morrow novels, I’m content simply to revel in their existence, but when it comes to “the theater of ideas,” I find myself wishing I’d written Red Noses (Barnes), Angels in America (Kushner), Becket (Anouilh), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Shaffer), and Marat/Sade (Weiss).

Because theater is for me a road not taken, it’s not surprising that page 69 of my new novella is a dialogue exchange. The speakers are Francis Wyndham, an art therapist working at a mental institution during World War One, and his gifted student, Ilona Wessels, who invents abstract expressionism a generation before it actually comes on the scene—though she wants Francis to help her give the movement a theoretical foundation. Francis speaks the first line, the subject being his own effort to create a painting that is only about itself (the title alludes to Blake’s “The Tyger”).
“I’m reasonably happy with it.”

“Our theory, or your painting?”

“Both. I call it Fearful Symmetry.”

“Is it finished?”

“I don’t know.”

“This is not quite what I had in mind, young Francis, but you are stumbling in the right direction. It invites the spectator to engage with the painting’s Existenz by way of the tiger’s Nichtexistenz.”

I took a long swallow of Riesling. “Ilona, this is perhaps a crude and tasteless question—”

“I understand.”

“You do?”

“The doctors around here are always asking me crude and tasteless questions. Why should my art therapist be any different?”

“Did Herr Slevoght become your lover, too?”

“No.”

“I’m relieved.”

“He likes only men.”

“I see.”

“Evidently he and Conrad were the best of friends. But that isn’t why Caligari sent Herr Slevoght away. Dr. Verguin told me it was about philotopical differences—”

“Philosophical.”

“I suppose I loved Herr Slevoght, though not in the way I love you, and not in the way I hated my father.”
Ilona’s aesthetic experiments and her hatred of her father are both subplot elements. The main narrative line concerns an enchanted painting by the asylum’s director, Dr. Caligari—a work so hypnotic it compels entire regiments to rush headlong into battle. Military leaders on all sides pay the sorcerer to parade new recruits past the painting, making him the ultimate war profiteer.

That said, page 69 remains dear to my heart. In the course of workshopping the novella among three colleagues—my writer-friend Daryl Gregory, my editor Jill Roberts, and my in-house manuscript doctor, Kathryn Morrow—it became obvious that my treatment of Ilona was woefully inadequate.

Not only did she function essentially as a mere creature of the plot (like Caligari, Ilona has supernatural abilities, which means she can counter his masterpiece with a Guernica-like rejoinder), but her relationship with Francis defined primarily by sex. In subsequent drafts, I added a Freudian mystery element (concerning Ilona’s parricidal impulses), and the bond between my hero and heroine acquired dimensions of artistic collaboration and intellectual exploration. “How marvelous that we have both of them in our lives,” says Ilona on page 55. “Both of what?” asks Francis. “Theory and fucking. Reason and Eros.”
Visit James Morrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Philosopher’s Apprentice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Noumenon"

Nicky Drayden is the author of The Prey of Gods.

She applied the Page 69 Test to fellow novelist Marina J. Lostetter's forthcoming novel, Noumenon, and reported the following:
I got my hands on an ARC of Noumenon recently after working on an article about Artificial Intelligence with her. I had no idea I was in for such an expansive and mesmerizing adventure. Noumenon features a super-intelligent, sentient AI charged with overseeing the many needs of an interstellar convoy travelling to an anomalous star that appears to deny the laws of physics.

On page 69, we catch a glimpse of a crew member’s training prior to the ship’s departure as she learns about Earth-to-Convoy communications from a rather aloof mentor:
I was baffled, at first. And also a little insulted. Here was a man whose expertise in communications had landed him one of the most important tutoring positions in the world—he was training ambassadors to space (myself along with seven others—three on different convoys), and would be his students’ main connection to Earth once they left the ground—yet he couldn’t hold a normal conversation.

If anyone other than Mother or Father had brought Saul into my life I would have thought it a colossal joke.

But, like a good little soldier, I held in my doubts and accepted the training. As it turned out Saul was a capable teacher. He taught mostly through illustration and hyperbole rather than pontification, which I appreciated. And when it came to his work he was quick and accurate, but it wasn’t until I advanced to decoding on my own that I realized why he had the job.

While the man couldn’t’ smoothly string five words together in person, he was a whiz when it came to communicating long-distance. Without all of the physical cues to get in the way, with the words stripped bare, he was the most articulate man I’d ever met.
Page 69 is spot on in terms of representing the book, since communication is a critical element for the mission’s success. When the convoy sets out, communication with Earth is vital as this fledgling society learns to deal with the volatility of life in space. Generations will pass on the ships, and their only tether to Earth comes in the form of tiny comm packets sent through subspace. Due to time dilations from space travel, nearly a year passes for each month aboard the ship, so distance between Earth and the convoy becomes more than just the empty space that separates them. We get a sense of the speed of disconnect when Saul’s life speeds before our eyes. He gets engaged, gets married, has a kid who’s then off to college before his spacebound pupil can even find someone to settle down with. Then Saul is retiring only few years into ship time. Soon after that, the convoy is communicating with complete strangers, and after that...the messages from Earth mysteriously stop.

The convoy’s mission is to voyage to the anomalous star, and then return to Earth with their findings, but if they’re five years into a centuries-long mission, and everyone they know and love on Earth is already gone, you have to wonder what exactly they’ll return to, and what role communications will play so far into the future.
Visit Marina J. Lostetter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Grief Cottage"

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Grief Cottage, and reported the following:
Peculiarly fortuitous in the case of Grief Cottage. Because midway down this page the balance of who's taking care of whom shifts. Aunt Charlotte has fallen down drunk and broken her wrist and the Rescue Squad is carrying her out the door on a stretcher. Marcus thinks, "She was dying to go somewhere without me--even if it was only to the hospital in an ambulance." Then he goes out on the oceanside porch and considers the ghost he had seen earlier today. ("I wished he could be here with me, but probably he could only stay where he was. A further idea arose: if a dead person could make himself known to a living person, then why wouldn't the reverse apply?") Marcus decides to try to send an emanation of himself north to Grief Cottage to keep company with the ghost.
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Trumpet of Death"

Cynthia Riggs is the author of the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series and the guidebook Victoria Trumbull’s Martha’s Vineyard. She started writing the series while earning her MFA at Vermont College at age 68. Prior to becoming an author, she qualified for the 1948 Olympic fencing team, was the seventh woman to set foot on the South Pole, and crossed the Atlantic twice in a thirty-two-foot sailboat.

Riggs applied the Page 69 Test to Trumpet of Death, the 13th volume in the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series, and reported the following:
I turned to page 69 of Trumpet of Death and found my would be murderer, Zack, is trying to get off the Island in a hurry. However, the last ferry is about to leave and has no room for his car. The ticket agent says, “You can get over as a passenger, but you better hurry.” He looks out the window. “Nope. They’ve closed the doors. Too late.” Zack is convinced he has killed a half dozen people he hadn’t intended to kill, the intended victim is still alive, and the cops are after him.

By calling him “would be murderer,” I need to explain that Victoria Trumbull, my 92-year-old protagonist, has introduced Zack, a city boy from South Boston, to the highly prized, gourmet mushroom called black trumpet of death, warning him not to pick them because they are rare.

Zack, who wants to rid himself of his tiresome girlfriend, decides the mushrooms must be deadly. He gives the black trumpets to the girlfriend, who gives them to Daddy, who serves them at a dinner party and invites Zack, who flees when he sees what’s on the menu.

So that’s where we are on page 69. Is the page representative of the rest of the book? One word: yes.
Visit Cynthia Riggs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"The Whole Way Home"

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Whole Way Home and reported the following:
From page 69:
J.D. wondered if Nick knew that story, wondered what she’d chosen to share with him about Gatesville. Jo had it hard back there, harder than anybody ever deserved. His red-winged blackbird. Best skeet shooter he knew and best whiskey drinker too. No singer could harmonize with him the way she could, and he doubted any singer ever would.
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d find on page 69, but as soon as I opened it up, I said, “Oh yeah, that’s the book.” So on this page J.D. Gunn Google-stalks Jo Lover after he watches her perform at her Grand Ole Opry induction. He’s torturing himself by looking at all the photos of Jo and Nick after their recent engagement announcement. He thinks she looks happy (interpreted, of course, through this barrier of technology), but he can’t shake his conviction that Nick doesn’t know anything about Jo’s past. J.D. is certain the bond that started between them as children hasn’t yet died, despite all hurt they put each other through over the years. He wants her to be happy, but he also knows he loves her still. He thinks it’s possible she loves him still too. One of the major themes of this novel is the connection to childhood and home, and each of my main characters represents home to the other, especially in their high profile careers in Nashville.
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Shadow Man"

Alan Drew’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Gardens of Water, has been translated into ten languages and published in nearly two-dozen countries. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded a Teaching/Writing Fellowship. An Associate Professor of English at Villanova University where he directs the creative writing program, he lives near Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Drew applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Shadow Man, and reported the following:
From page 69:
But the itch inside grew, like animal nails clawing the cavity of his chest, like teeth gnawing the ridges of his skull; it grew until he felt raw inside, until he stabbed a pencil into his eye to get the itch out and they sent him to another place with deadbolts on the doors. Not like the basement, but with beds and painted walls and time in a courtyard with cooing doves in the trees. Here he learned to act like them, learned the right answers to the right questions, learned to smile and say things like, “It’s nice to see you” and “I feel fine” and “Please don’t do that”, and on the outside he seemed like them but he wasn’t. You are me, but I’m not you. He said this in his mind when talking to them. You are me, but I’m not you. There’s a black hole in me; he could feel it, gravity turned inside out, an ever-expanding implosion.
On page 69, the book reveals the horrific abuse the serial killer, Ricardo Martinez, suffered as a child. He was locked in a basement for four years by his father and made to do terrible things. This section chronicles his time in various homes and foster care placements after he was finally discovered in the basement and saved. The killer believes that some people in the neighborhood knew that his father was abusing him, yet they never said anything. This belief, in part, fuels his anger and his killing spree. Later in the novel, detective Ben Wade discovers that this is true; the woman who lived next door suspected something but never said a word. The killer likes to attack suburban neighborhoods similar to the one where he was abused, places where people feel safe, where they leave their doors unlocked and their windows open. Part of what I wanted to explore thematically in this book is the way a whole community of people can be complicit in, or at least live in denial of, the ugly things happening in their own neighborhoods. In places like Rancho Santa Elena, a master-planned community whose main commodity is safety and security, people need to believe the darker elements of human nature do not apply to their town, as though you can master plan away human ugliness. Ben has a dark secret of his own, one he’s cultivated a life to protect; yet some people in the town know his secret, have known his secret for years, and yet no one has done anything about it. Ben, as he continues to hunt down the killer, begins to feel a discomforting sympathy for Ricardo Martinez—at least the child that he was—and this feeling plus the death of a Mexican teenager, throws Ben into a crisis of his own.
Visit Alan Drew's website.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Man.

Writers Read: Alan Drew.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"What the Dead Leave Behind"

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, What the Dead Leave Behind, and reported the following:
Page 69, as coincidence will have it, is very pivotal in my novel What the Dead Leave Behind. It is on that page that the protagonist Rushmore McKenzie meets Mrs. Jonathan Szereto, the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Szereto Corporation. Szereto is just one of the many female characters in the books. The St. Paul Pioneer Press said “The plot is so interesting because almost everyone McKenzie interacts with is a woman and they are tough.”

This, however, is most decidedly not a coincidence. I deliberately set out to write about crime from a female perspective. How successful I was will be decided by the readers, of course. But from the reviews I’ve been getting it looks like I did a decent job.
Learn more about the book and author at David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Kind Word.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Kind Word.

The Page 69 Test: Stealing the Countess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"The Alice Network"

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Quinn and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Alice Network and reported the following:
From Page 69:
I don't know how long the Channel crossing took. Time stretched on forever when you spent it vomiting.

"Don't shut your eyes." Finn Kilgore's Scottish burr sounded behind me as I clung grimly to the railing. "Makes your stomach worse if you can't see which direction the swells are coming from."

I screwed my eyes shut tighter. "Please don't say that word."

"What word?"

"Swells."
Would a reader skipping to page 69 be tempted to read on? Maybe, if they get a chuckle out of the dialogue above. And actually, it's pretty representative of The Alice Network, which is about striking out from the familiar and the safe into the unknown and the dangerous...even if the thought makes you queasy! My heroine here is sailing into uncharted waters; she has no idea what dangers lie ahead or if she'll be ready to face them. But she's still there, grimly clinging to the railing and refusing to back down!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"Not A Sound"

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Not A Sound, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Now, just like I do every night before I go to sleep, I make sure my flashlight is in my bedside table drawer where it should be and make sure my cell phone is fully charged and within hand’s reach. My little ritual. Only now, with lights blazing and Stitch nearby am I able to close my eyes and rest.
There are only a few lines on Page 69 of Not a Sound and it shows a rare peek into Amelia’s more vulnerable side. She has had everything that is dear to her stripped away (mostly by her own doing): her family, her career, her hearing. It is so important for her to show the outside world how strong and independent, how brave she is, that the only time she lets down her guard is when she and Stitch are home alone at night.
Visit Heather Gudenkauf's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and Maxine.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & Lolo.

My Book, The Movie: Not A Sound.

Writers Read: Heather Gudenkauf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Touch"

Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novel I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, the new novel Touch, and the chapbook Notes from Mexico. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra.

Maum applied the Page 69 Test to Touch and reported the following:
It’s serendipitous that page 69 falls on one of my favorite scenes in Touch. The famous trend forecaster Sloane Jacobsen is in her mother’s house in Stamford, CT on a very early morning—she lives in Paris and is somewhat estranged from her family. It’s her first time seeing her mom in several years. This scene really exemplifies the quest for connection versus the temptation to avoid connection that runs throughout the book. On this page, we see Sloane actively desiring a more intimate exchange with her mother. She has things she wants to confess to her—among other failings in her personal life, her relationship with her life partner isn’t going well—but she can’t find the courage to have this conversation. She chooses not to have the home-cooked breakfast her mom is so desperately keen on. Chooses not to be vulnerable. She chooses avoidance.

In this novel, Sloane is tasked with predicting the next big things in tech for a giant company named Mammoth, and because she deals with technology, she’s always thinking and talking about connections, but because we’re talking about digital technology, the paradox is that the result of all this technology is actually more disconnection in people’s personal lives. It’s something Sloane is seeing more and more in the work she does, and it’s a failing that she’s seeing in her own life, too. Her own partner would rather have sex with her virtually than physically, and she’s become incapable of honest conversation with her family. She doesn’t have any real friends. In fact, in the book, her closest companion is her driverless car, an entity who doesn’t actually exist.

In my own life, I try to have the courage to have the tough conversations and the confrontations. I don’t like sweeping things under rugs. It gets very dirty, very fast there. Mostly, I want to avoid the terrific sense of guilt and disappointment that I imagine Sloane is feeling at the end of this scene, knowing she had the opportunity to improve things with her mother, and she chose the other road. I’ve been there before. And for me, disappointment is harder to live with then the momentary awkwardness of a tricky conversation.
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

Writers Read: Courtney Maum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2017

"The End of Temperance Dare"

Wendy Webb's novels include The Vanishing, The Fate of Mercy Alban, and The Tale of Halcyon Crane.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The End of Temperance Dare, and reported the following:
On page 69 in The End of Temperance Dare, our main character, Norrie, the new director of Cliffside Manor, is sitting on the veranda in the wee hours of the morning looking at the night sky and chatting with Nate Davidson, a doctor who lives on the property. This is their first meeting, and it starts out a little spooky and suspenseful for Norrie — who is this strange man wandering around the property at night, and why haven’t I met him before? Am I in danger here? — and then turns tentatively friendly and even a little flirty. That describes the book beautifully. It’s the scariest and most suspenseful book I’ve ever written, but there are sweet and flirty elements to it, too, many of them involving Nate and Norrie.
Learn more about the book and author at Wendy Webb's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tale of Halcyon Crane.

My Book, The Movie: The End of Temperance Dare.

Writers Read: Wendy Webb.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"The Stranger Inside"

USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Jaynes has always had a passion for writing, even if it took her a while to turn her passion into a career. After graduating from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and a minor in management, she made her living as a content manager, webmaster, news publisher, editor, and copywriter. Then everything changed in 2014 when her first novel, Never Smile at Strangers, topped bestseller lists at USA Today, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. At that point, there was no going back.

Since her debut, Jaynes has added two more novels to the Strangers Series.

Jaynes applied the Page 69 Test to her new stand-alone thriller, The Stranger Inside, and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Stranger Inside drops us into a scene where our killer is stalking one of his young (future) murder victims while she walks from a supermarket to her apartment building. The sun is going down, and she’s on a deserted bike path and has just noticed that he’s behind her.

Yes, I do feel that this page is representative of the rest of the book. Also, that it would do a good job at inclining a reader to read on. This killer’s motive is to gain power over a certain type of woman. To strike fear into them to relieve (at least for the short term) some of the rage that torments him … and he’s doing just that on this page.
Visit Jennifer Jaynes's website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Jaynes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Bow Wow"

Spencer Quinn is the pen name for Peter Abrahams, Quinn handling all the dog-narrated material, including the Chet and Bernie mysteries. He won an Edgar Allen Poe award for Reality Check, best young adult mystery, 2010, and an Agatha for Down the Rabbit Hole, best young adult mystery, 2006.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to Bow Wow, the second Bowser and Birdie novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Bow Wow is not the page I would have picked to show what the story is about, but it’s a special page in some ways. On page 68, Birdie and her friends Nola and Junior are swimming in the bayou when Bowser (the canine narrator of the Bowser and Birdie series – but not a talking dog!) starts to herd Junior back to shore. Nola explains that Bowser always herds the weakest swimmer. This gets Junior’s competitive juices flowing and they have a race to shore. “Nola won with me next, sort of on top of Birdie for some reason, and Junior last by plenty.” Junior tells Nola that her winning is a surprise.

First line of page 69 is Nola’s:
“Why is that?”

Junior shrugged. “Because, like swimming. You know what they say.”

It got very quiet down there by the swimming hole. “No, Junior, I don’t,” Nola said. “What do ‘they’ say?”

Junior tried to meet her gaze, but could not. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean that.”

“Then why did you say it?” Birdie said. Hey! She sounded real angry. That hardly ever happened with Birdie. Had Junior done something bad? I sidled over in his direction, just in case he had a mind to … I didn’t know what.”
What’s this about? It’s been implied earlier in the series that Nola is at least partly African-American. There’s a lot of identity politics in children’s literature these days, the kind of thing I stay away from. I stay away from all things didactic: nothing bothered me more when I was a kid reader. But this scene felt like a natural spot to bring up that old canard about black people not being good swimmers. Totally false, as I learned long ago during my spearfishing days in the Bahamas (where I learned – at close hand – about bull sharks, one of whom, Mr. Nice Guy, plays an important role in Bow Wow).

Junior apologizes abjectly, and in that apology we learn unsettling things about his home life.
Finally, Nola held up her hand. “Okay, okay,” she said.

Junior wiped his face with his sleeve, turned back into his usual self quite speedily. “Friends?” he said.

“Don’t push it,” Nola said.
Then comes a strange and enormous splash from out in the bayou. End of page 69.
Visit Chet the Dog's blog and Facebook page, and Spencer Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Audrey (September 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Pearl (August 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue