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 fa├žade, 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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Prisoner of War"

New York Times bestselling author Michael P. Spradlin is the author of more than twenty books, primarily for teens and young adults. He is an Edgar Award nominee, winner of the Wrangler Award and his books have appeared on numerous state reading lists. His trilogy, The Youngest Templar, was an international bestseller. His newest novel, Prisoner of War, is historical fiction based on the true story of America’s youngest POW in World War II.

Spradlin applied the Page 69 Test to Prisoner of War and reported the following:
Page 69. A random number. A random page. It can be a whole page of dialogue, the beginning or end of a chapter, or several paragraphs building narrative tension. In the case of Prisoner of War, the protagonist, Henry Forrest, has lied his way into the Marine Corps and is now suffering through the first leg of the Bataan Death March as a Japanese captive.

Henry is only fifteen years old, having lied about his age to join up. Now he is witnessing some of the most evil and inhumane acts of human cruelty imaginable. And on page 69, he meets the man who will become his tormentor.
As my senses slowly returned, I scanned the crowd hoping to see Jamison, but could not locate him in the teeming mass of men. With nothing else to do but think, I was reminded again of all the reasons why I wished I’d never come to the Philippines. The air was thick with humidity, like a wet blanket constantly covering us. The breeze was miserably hot, and were it not for the pitiful shade of the palm tree, the sun would set our skin to sizzling like bacon on a grill.

But I’d made my choice when I’d lied and joined up. The Marine Corps was not a democracy. You got sent where you got sent. Right now, despite the unrelenting brightness of the sun, it felt as if I was in the darkest corner of the world.

I dozed with my back to the tree and had no idea how much time had passed. It must’ve been a few hours later when a Japanese staff car arrived, followed by a column of trucks filled with more Japanese soldiers. An officer emerged from the back of the car. He was dressed in an immaculate uniform, carrying a riding crop in his hand and wearing knee high leather boots.
This officer will test Henry to the limits of human endurance. Can he survive? Will he find a way to keep his humanity intact? Page 69. Onward.
Visit Michael P. Spradlin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Prisoner of War.

Writers Read: Michael P. Spradlin.

--Marshal Zeringue