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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

"We Shall Not All Sleep"

Estep Nagy began writing his first novel, We Shall Not All Sleep, in 2005. His fiction and other writing have appeared in Southwest Review, The Believer, Paper, Box Office, and elsewhere. He wrote and directed the independent feature film The Broken Giant (1998), which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His plays have been produced and developed at theaters across the country, including at Actors Theater of Louisville and the Source Festival in Washington, DC. He attended Yale University.

Nagy applied the Page 69 Test to We Shall Not All Sleep and reported the following:
From page 69:
18

Catta stood at the top of the Indian Head cliffs and watched a gull attempt to fly while suspended in a strong headwind. He was so close that he could have leapt into the open air and touched it. He shouted and the gull turned and looked at him, and then went back to his struggle with the wind. Soon the gull worked free, dove downward into the shear, and then he was gone.

Through the hole where the bird had been, Catta saw the flat, red metallic barge, passing the bellbuoy and then turning to traverse the longest edge of the island toward the lonely corner of Seven that lay farthest from the clearing. Penny had stopped following him a little way into the woods and now she sat at the very front of the barge, her feet dangling in the whitecaps. Catta laughed out loud and shouted as loud as he could. They would never hear him, not at this height and distance, not against the wind and the motor. And then Penny’s head spun around. She waved enormously with her whole arm, like someone drown- ing, and Catta was suddenly happy. He shouted again, and then he waved and Penny waved and Edward Peck waved, too. The barge disappeared around the corner, and Catta turned and hurried home for lunch, taking the trails for better speed.
I learn so much in novels from a character’s relationship to nature. When I think of writers I love, Proust, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, even The Hunger Games, how a character experiences and interprets the natural world is one of the most important things a novelist can tell the reader. So in that sense, I hope page 69 here begins to open a window into that essential part of Catta’s soul.

We Shall Not All Sleep has several threads, but its beating heart is the self-discovery of 12-year-old Catta Hillsinger. On page 69 he’s on a hike, something he does every day on the Maine island his family visits each summer. Soon after this, Catta's father puts him on a nearby island wilderness as a sort of test, but here, he’s trying to teach himself everything about the woods so that, eventually, he’s able to hike without a map, a compass, without anything. He unexpectedly gets that opportunity a few pages later, and so much in the book flows into and out of that moment.
Visit Estep Nagy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"Before Everything"

Victoria Redel is the author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Before Everything, and reported the following:
Before Everything is a novel where the narrative point of view shifts and keeps shifting because I wanted readers to feel how one character’s, Anna, choice to stop medical treatment impacts on the lives of those who love her. While most of the novel is seen through the perspective of five women friends who have known one another since childhood, Page 69 is interesting because we’re seeing through the eyes of Reuben the ex-but-still-married husband of Anna. Reuben is thinking about when he and Anna told their grown children that she’d decided to stop treatment and enter hospice. I love this scene because I truly love the character of Reuben. While much of the novel is about enduring friendship, Reuben is, in many ways, the quiet hero of the book: “He was the go-to guy. Conversations with Kate from hospice. Every two seconds family, friends checking in, ‘What’s the plan?’” The novel isn’t about idealized perfect relationships; it’s about how we manage (or don’t) complicated, messy, real relationships. Reuben reckons with how a marriage can fail but two people still are intertwined as parents and loyal partners of a deep shared history. In this scene, Reuben keeps that unified parental front: “Reuben looked right past the etch of panic on each their faces and said, “We all need to agree. This is mom’s choice.” As the scene unfolds, he admires Anna as she nimbly shifts away from any grim focus on her. “Okay enough. Each of you tell me something,” Anna insisted that Sunday after they’d all had a massive family cry. “Something good about your lives, your work. Let’s just have no more big feelings for a little bit.” I also like this scene on page 69 because even though it doesn’t shy away from the serious stuff of life there’s a good dose of humor. This was what I tried to balance throughout the novel. People in this book are intense, quirky, funny and devastating—for better or worse, aren’t all the people we love best?
Visit Victoria Redel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"The Outer Cape"

Patrick Dacey holds an MFA from Syracuse University. He has taught English at several universities in the U.S. and Mexico, and has worked as a reporter, landscaper, door-to-door salesman, and most recently on the overnight staff at a homeless shelter and detox center. His stories have been featured in The Paris Review, Zoetrope All-Story,Guernica, Bomb magazine, and Salt Hill among other publications. Dacey is the author of The Outer Cape and We've Already Gone This Far.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Outer Cape and reported the following:
The scene that begins on page 69 is one of my favorites. I hope it showcases how difficult it is to be a father, as well as how difficult it is for a kid to understand what your father is thinking and feeling. Basically, here, Robert wants to have a moment with his kids, Nathan and Andrew. He brings them down to a spot under a short bridge where he used to sit when he was a kid and tells them how much he loves them, but the kids are cold and hungry and confused.
They sit under the bridge with their backs against a slab of sloped stone. It’s cold, still spring, and Andrew shivers with his knees pressed up against his chest. Nathan squats by the mouth of the river, looking like a hunchback, flicking broken bits of gravel into the water. Robert smokes and the smoke drifts over the river like a fog.

“What’re we don’t down here?” Andrew asks.

“Taking some time,” Robert says. “When do I get the two of you to myself for longer than ten minutes?”

“I don’t know.”

Nathan, come over here. Sit beside your brother.”

Nathan lumbers over, cavemen-like, and leans back against the stone. In a few years he’ll be as tall as Robert, maybe taller. He’ll have to get used to dipping his head down in public places.

“I have something I want to say to the two of you.”

“What is it, Dad?” Andrew asks.

“It’s a delicate issue.”
So Robert starts to resent them, feels as though the kids don’t appreciate him, and he walks back up to the road and takes the youngest, Andrew, and hangs him over the bridge rail. If they won’t understand how much he loves them, they’ll understand how much they need him.
Follow Patrick Dacey on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Every Last Lie"

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry and the newly released Every Last Lie.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Every Last Lie and reported the following:
From page 69:
“The bad man!” she yowls in a piercing voice, and then, straight on the heels of the first desperate declaration, “The bad man is after us!” she shrieks as my heart begins to dash.
She in the text refers to Maisie, the four-year-old daughter of the chapter’s narrator, Clara. Maisie, in bed beside Clara, has just awoken from a nightmare. The quote represents the novel quite well, as does the entire page. Though not the first time Maisie dreams about or references the bad man in the book – an unknown man Clara soon comes to believe is to blame for killing her husband in a car crash, though police already deemed the crash to be an accident thanks to Nick’s speed – we see Maisie’s fear intensifying. On the page, Clara is quickly becoming unstrung in the days after Nick’s death, grieving the loss of her husband and trying to survive as a single parent to a four-year-old daughter and a days old son. We see Clara’s desperation on page 69 in tandem with Maisie’s fear, and in the pages to come, Clara bypasses the police and launches her own investigation to find the individual who killed her husband.

Is it the same bad man who is haunting Maisie’s dreams?
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

Writers Read: Mary Kubica.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Soldier Boy"

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua. She has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar, the founder of the international charity Friends of Orphans who was a child soldier in Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

Hutton applied the Page 69 Test to Soldier Boy and reported the following:
From page 69:
With the adults and children secured in the school, the wild man closed the door.

Ricky was already braced for what came next. Grabbing a bundle of burning grass from a rebel, the wild man tossed the torch onto the roof. Within seconds, fire engulfed the dried spear grass of the thatch and smoke billowed from the windows. Armed rebels encircled the hut, their weapons aimed at the door and windows. If the fire did not claim the villagers, their bullets would.

Disbelief, a dull and heavy anesthetic, filled Ricky’s mind and body as he watched the fire spread.

When the fire and smoke silenced the villagers’ screams, the rebels forced the eleven abductees to their feet. In single file, they trudged down the road leading away from the burning school.
Page 69 follows Ricky’s and his brother’s traumatic abduction by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. After being forced to witness the brutal attack on their home, the brothers are taken to the village school, where the LRA rebels continue their assault on the village. Page 69 captures the heartbreaking horrors Ricky and thousands of Ugandan children faced during the decades-long civil war that gripped their country, but at its core, Soldier Boy is about the unrelenting strength of the human spirit to find hope in the darkest corners of hell, to escape captivity despite insurmountable odds, and to hold onto humanity when all else is lost.
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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