Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"Fox Hunter"

Zoë Sharp is the author of fourteen novels so far, either in the Charlie Fox crime thriller series, standalones or collaborations, as well as moonlighting as an international pet-sitter and yacht crew. When she’s not doing that, she dabbles in self-defence and house renovation. (If she visits don’t tell her to make herself at home or she’s liable to start knocking walls out.)

Sharp applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Fox Hunter, and reported the following:
From page 69:

The blow stunned me only for a moment. Just long enough for the senior officer to drag me bodily out of the back seat of the cruiser. The thump as I hit the concrete floor brought me out of it.


He had me by the back of my collar and was dragging me towards the men with the Cadillac. I grabbed his hand, dug thumb and forefinger viciously deep into pressure points I could find in my sleep.

He yowled, whirled with his nightstick raised. I swivelled on my backside as if break-dancing, hooked one leg behind his and scissored the heel of my boot into his kneecap as hard as I could manage.

He’d clearly received some kind of unarmed combat instruction as part of his training, but either that was a long time ago or he’d been a very poor student.
Page 69 of Fox Hunter is the start of chapter thirteen, so in reality it’s only half a page. Because I have a tendency to write in short chapters, and break in the middle of a scene, it hits the ground (quite literally in this case) with its legs still pumping from the end of chapter twelve. Yes, it’s fairly representative of the book, in that my narrator—bodyguard Charlie Fox—is a capable fighter, so when she has no other choice she fights without any quarter expected or given.

But in other ways this section doesn’t clue the reader in to the quieter, more reflective moments. The sorrow of an Iraqi woman attacked and left for dead, who tells her story to Charlie, via an interpreter, earlier in the story. Nor the later agony of a father forced to make an impossible choice concerning his son. So, I hope readers might take page 69 as an indication of a fast-paced story with a protagonist who can more than hold her own, and then be pleasantly surprised by other hidden depths in characters and situations described elsewhere.
Learn more about the author and her work at Zoë Sharp’s website, blog, and find her on Facebook or Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Fox Hunter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Call of Fire"

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Her newest novel is Call of Fire. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

Cato applied the Page 69 Test to Call of Fire and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Papa? Papa!” A girl’s voice screeched from above. By the time Ingrid glanced up, all she spied was a blur of movement. Feet pounded down the stairs. The girl leaped to a stop before them. She was young with creamy brown skin, a stick figure in calico and stained white stockings. A mismatched bow in kimono fabric was almost bigger than her head.

“Oh.” The girl stared at Ingrid. “You’re a woman. Up there, I saw the top of your head, and your skin, and I thought...”

Ingrid didn’t know what to think.

A nearby door squawked as it swung open. “Mirabelle, what fuss you causing?” The woman carried a damp rag and a scowl that could stop a galloping horse. She looked between Ingrid and the girl and stood even straighter. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. You. You’re Ingrid Carmichael.”
This latter half of page 69 is at the very end of a chapter, and in the few lines that follow, Ingrid is about to get quite a shock about the identities of these two strangers. My Blood of Earth trilogy features an alternate history of 1906, with the United States and Japan allied as a world power. Japanese influences, therefore, are quite evident in everyday America, from food to speech to clothes. Even in these few lines, there's mention of scrap kimono fabric being used as a bow. Worldbuilding often comes in small dribbles of details like this.
Visit Beth Cato's website.

The Page 69 Test: Breath of Earth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"The Authentics"

Abdi Nazemian is a screenwriter, director, and author.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut YA novel, The Authentics, and reported the following:
This page of The Authentics ends with the lead character, Daria, stating that she has the illusion of being in control, while never feeling more out of control. That sentiment is in many ways representative of her journey. Daria is passionate, opinionated, and thinks she has figured out a way to make sense of the world and of her place in it. But circumstances challenge her, and much of her journey is one of learning to let go and be open to feeling out of control. It's a state of mind I can certainly relate to, and I hope many readers will as well, so hopefully they'll be intrigued enough to turn the page to see what page 70 has to offer.
Visit Abdi Nazemian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 18, 2017


James Abel is the pseudonym for Bob Reiss, an accomplished author and journalist who has written extensively on the Arctic. He lives and works in New York City.

Abel applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Vector, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Vector comes from the point of view of a bad guy...except...in a researched novel based on science...this particular bad guy is not human. It is something many people see every day, regarded as not usually dangerous, yet something responsible for millions of deaths around the world each year. It has no idea it is a bad guy, hijacked by others with mayhem in mind.
Visit James Abel's website.

My Book, The Movie: Vector.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Dead, to Begin With"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Dead, to Begin With, the 24th Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
I’ve been doing this for years now, and every year I swear I’m going to have something really exciting happen on page 69 in my next book. But what we have in Dead, to Begin With is two men arguing over a brown paper bag at a garage sale:
Rhodes looked at the sack. It an ordinary brown paper bad, not a very big one, and Rhodes could see that someone had written “$1" on the side with a black marker.

“Are you armed, Ted?” Rhodes asked.

“I got a license.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Yeah, I’m carrying. It’s in a holster in the small of my back.”

Ted wore a brown nylon jacket that zipped up the front. It hung several inches below his waist and easily concealed the weapon.

“I’m going to come take the sack,” Rhodes said. “Don’t reach for the pistol.”
Okay, so it’s not an explosion or a knife fight, but it’s something that would make you curious, right? Will Ted try anything? What’s in the bag? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, Half in Love with Artful Death, Between the Living and the Dead, and Survivors Will Be Shot Again.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

Writers Read: Bill Crider.

--Marshal Zeringue

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


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