Thursday, February 23, 2017

"A Criminal Defense"

Bill Myers is a trial attorney. For the past thirty years, he’s tried cases in state and federal courts up and down the East Coast. When he was only 36, he had the rare honor of arguing before the United States Supreme Court. Myers lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife, Lisa.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Criminal Defense, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jennifer Yamura’s white teeth were flawlessly aligned, and the overall effect of her face was so striking that she could’ve been featured in one of those Korean Air TV commercials—except that her ancestry was Japanese.

She had planted herself in front of us and greeted Jack. “How have you been?”

“Well enough,” Jack answered coolly.

“And you’re Mr. McFarland, one of the rising stars of the criminal-defense bar.” Yamura said this with just enough irony to make it more cutting than complimentary.

“I’ve tried a few cases,” I said.

“Bet you have some good stories.” She smiled.

“Is that why you’re here?” I asked. “Looking for a story?”

“I’m here to support the cause. But, of course, I’m always looking for a story. You have one you want to share?”

I tried to think of something glib but fell flat.

Yamura persisted, asking questions about my practice. The inquiries seemed innocuous enough, but I got the distinct impression I was being studied, probed. Evaluated for my potential usefulness.

Jack turned to me after Jennifer Yamura had walked away. “That one’s radioactive,” he said. “She glows real pretty. Just don’t get too close.”
A Criminal Defense tells the story of a defense attorney–Mick McFarland—struggling to defend a former friend accused of murdering a beautiful young reporter, Jennifer Yamura. Page 69 is the only place we see Jennifer alive, and one of only two times, Mick met her before her death. The passage above, and the lines that follow (“She seems to be everywhere, all the time,” Jack said. “On the hunt, trying to bag the big scoop that will land her in the anchor’s chair”), demonstrate Jennifer’s ambition. Mick’s observation at the bottom of the page (“I looked across the room to see Jennifer Yamura talking to the mayor. She touched his wrists, laughing at something he said.”) hints that her primary investigative talent is the manipulation of men. And in the end, for Jennifer, it is her seductive skill that brings about her undoing. She plays the wrong man, setting into motion the events that will lead to her death, which ensnares Mick in a web whose unwinding requires him to construct a criminal defense based on deceit, blackmail and perjury. A criminal defense that is, itself, criminal.
Learn more about A Criminal Defense.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"The Second Mrs. Hockaday"

Susan Rivers holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, where she was awarded a Regional Artist Grant from the Arts and Sciences Council for her fiction. As a playwright, she received the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the New York Drama League Award, worked as an NEA Writer-in-Residence in San Francisco, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for British and American Women Playwrights. She is a veteran of both the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and has crossed the country, from Seattle to St. Louis, working on professional productions of her plays.

Rivers and her husband currently live in a small town in rural South Carolina. She teaches English at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.

Rivers applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Second Mrs. Hockaday, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He was thinner than I remembered from the day before. More careworn. It reminded me that he had lost his wife less than three months earlier and had nearly buried his baby son. In addition, he had been far from home, fighting a war. His face was unshaven and his uniform, I noticed, looked shabby in the morning light, as if he had tumbled it with a bag of rocks before donning it to call upon my father and stepmother. He was as strange to me as a manatee, dear Cousin. Or an Indian chief. And yet I recognized that he was fully at ease with the man who stood gazing at me from across the carpet: he was open, authentic, concealing nothing -- not even the diminution of strength and spirits he was feeling, considering his troubles. The scant value he placed on appearances was also evident in the way he looked at me. Since my sixteenth birthday I have been conscious of how certain men, especially those who lack good breeding, study me with their eyes, as if I were a confection being wheeled past on a cart. A gleam of appetite sparks in their eyes as they take in my face; their gaze moves to the rest of me and evaluates the substantive components along with the decorative ones, weighs the whole, and then returns to my face with the eyes now veiled by a scrim of pretense (easily penetrated, if they only knew!) that attempts to feign mild admiration not yet linked to acquisition. The major's black eyes, however, did not rove. They fixed on my face and remained there, as if plumbing a body of clear water for its depths. Because their lucent focus was fully unfiltered, I was able to detect the slightest quality of apprehension fluttering there: not as if he feared to be revealed to me, but as if he doubted his right to engage my commitment on the same spartan terms of self-disclosure.

I cannot explain the impossible sensation that stole over me of knowing this man in the deepest recesses of his spirit, of knowing him as intimately as if I were him. Or him me. The thought made me blush, but I did not question it, any more than I had questioned the honeybee in my closed fist. Perhaps he read this in the smile I ventured to offer, for he stepped inside the wreath of vines I occupied on the carpet and ducked his head to look into my face.

I am not wealthy, he said at last. Or handsome. And I'm a long way from 'refined.' In other words, I am not the husband you deserve, Miss Fincher. But this is what I know: to wake up beside the person you cherish and who cherishes you in return... there is no better refuge from the world than that. Whatever hardships may come. And they do come. They will.
My novel seems to conform to the Page 69 rule pretty solidly, and in fact, pages 69-70 is one of the sections I frequently read at appearances. It falls in the middle of a letter my protagonist, Placidia Hockaday, is writing to her cousin and confidante, Mildred Jones in September, 1865. Placidia has been in jail, arrested for concealing the death of the issue of her body, but is now on bail. Since her husband, lately returned from a Union prison, has refused to take her back to live on their farm, she's staying with a sympathetic neighbor while she awaits trial. Mildred has been trying to wrest the truth out of her, hoping to build a defense for her cousin, but Placidia isn't giving her much. Mildred fumes that considering Major Hockaday's "extreme asperity in this matter," she doesn't understand why her cousin married him on such short acquaintance, and asks her to explain her decision. Placidia offers an account of their meeting in her father's study shortly after Gryffth Hockaday had asked her father for her hand in marriage.
Visit Susan Rivers's website.

Writers Read: Susan Rivers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"To Catch a Killer"

Sheryl Scarborough is an award-winning writer for children’s television. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Washington state, and has always had an obsession with forensics. When she was twelve, her home was the target of a Peeping Tom. Scarborough diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same.

Scarborough applied the Page 69 Test to To Catch a Killer, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Her door is closed, no light shining from under the crack. I press my ear to the wood. At first it’s silent, like a tomb. And then I hear rustling and creaking floorboards. The hinge on her balcony door howls.

I fling her door open wide in time to catch a tall shadow lurking on her balcony.

I scream, and the shadow clatters down the stairs.
 Rachel leaps out of bed and grabs me.
“There’s a man on your balcony. Right there. Right there.”

I’m pointing frantically.
 Rachel barely glances outside. Instead she pulls me into the hall, even though I resist. “Rachel, you’re not listening to me.”

She takes me by the shoulders and steers me to the kitchen.

“Shhhh. Calm down.” She’s using her soothing voice. “There’s no one out there. It’s just a nightmare. Is that a knife? Give me that. Now sit down; I’ll make some hot chocolate.”

“It wasn’t a nightmare. I’m fully awake. Seriously, Rachel, call Sydney. Get the police out here. I saw someone. I know it.”

She empties a couple of chocolate packets into cups and waits for the water to boil. “Just breathe,” she says. “What you’ve been through would give anyone nightmares. Everything’s okay. I promise.”
Does it pass the test?

I wasn’t sure about this test until I went back to read page 69. In To Catch A Killer, Erin, the main character, is very secretive and somewhat of an unreliable narrator, we can’t always trust her view of things.

Just prior to this scene, Erin awakens to irrefutable evidence that someone had been in her bedroom while she was asleep. Since there’s already been one murder of someone she was close to, she suddenly fears her guardian could become a victim, too. Terrified, she slips down the stairs to her guardian’s bedroom to check on her. This scene on page 69 picks up with Erin right outside her guardian’s bedroom door. This scene opens a question about the guardian which, as the story progresses, will trigger Erin’s trust issues. So, I would say, yes. To Catch A Killer definitely passes the page 69 test.
Visit Sheryl Scarborough's website.

My Book, The Movie: To Catch a Killer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Die for You"

Amy Fellner Dominy is a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion. Her novels for teens and tweens include Die For You; A Matter of Heart; Audition & Subtraction; and OyMG, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Dominy’s first picture book, Cookiesaurus Rex, will be published by Disney, Fall 2017. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, various pets and two children who occasionally stop by for free meals.

Dominy applied the Page 69 Test to Die For You, and reported the following:
An excerpt pieced together from sections of page 69:
I lift my tank. I’m wearing a new lacy push-up bra in Dillon’s favorite color, blue. I bought it yesterday with this moment in mind.

His breath hisses out with a groan. “Oh, hell.”

I smile. The bra is worth every penny I spent. He slides off his shorts and boxers and I slip off my shorts and then, more slowly, my underwear. A blush prickles over my chest and neck. I don’t know why I suddenly feel shy, though this is still pretty new for us. (…)

“Don’t,” he says.

I blink. “What?”

He slides one finger beneath a bra strap and pulls me close. “Don’t be shy with me.”

“I don’t mean to be.”

“It’s because we were apart.” His gaze is full of love but there’s also a hint of pain in the tired puffiness beneath his eyes.
After reading the excerpt of page 69, you probably expect a steamy romance for teens. In fact, this is a novel for teens about a loving relationship that begins to twist into something dark. Something dangerous.

Emma and Dillon are seniors in high school, very much in love, but Emma has just found out about an internship that will take her abroad for a year. In this scene, Dillon has been gone for a week’s vacation with his mom and he’s missed Emma so much that already he’s beginning to feel desperate. She can’t leave him—certainly not for a whole year. He would rather die than be without her.

This scene on page 69 is a moment of closeness and connection, but laced with the fear and obsession that will lead Dillon to prove to Emma that dying for her isn’t merely words.

The story shines a light on emotional abuse, which has become a silent epidemic among teens. It’s a reminder never to sacrifice who you are for anyone or anything.

(And, for those of you wondering if this book is appropriate for your teen, this section is as x-rated as it gets. The actual sex happens off the page.)
Visit Amy Fellner Dominy's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Amy Fellner Dominy & Riley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Buried in the Country"

Carola Dunn is the author of twenty Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, four Cornish mysteries, and over 30 Regencies.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Buried in the Country, the fourth Cornish mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
[Sir Edward] took the decanter back to the tray and stopped to talk to Tariro and Gina, who had parted the curtains to look out at the storm. Meanwhile, Norton popped in again to beg for a word with her ladyship. Payne started towards Eleanor and Nontando, but Eleanor gave him a look that he correctly interpreted as "Stay away."

"Have you met Tariro before, Miss Nontando?" she asked. "Something gave me that impression."

"Something like his walking away before we could be introduced?" Nontando said dryly. "Yes, we met in Oxford. We both did our A-levels at Oxford Tech, so we could hardly help getting to know each other."

"I imagine it was a relief, in a strange country, to know someone from home."

"It was. In fact, we...went out together."

Lived together? Eleanor wondered. "Then he stayed in Oxford and you went to London."

"He was offered places at both Oxford and LSE. He could have chosen London," Nontando said resentfully. "He wanted me to give up my education, marry him, and get a job. To support him. Typical Shona. Though, to be fair, Ndebele men are just as bad. If you know Zimbabwe, you know women count for nothing."

So much for Sir Edward's peace conference!
Eleanor's task is to keep the peace between the participants. As page 69 demonstrates, it's clearly going to be a job worthy of the talents of the retired global aid worker.

Meanwhile, her niece, DSI Megan Pencarrow, is providing security, watching out for spies. Page 69 gives no hint of this side of the story, nor of the two villainous men who may have followed her to the isolated hotel where the conference takes place. She's also looking for a local solicitor who's gone missing.

All these threads come together when a murder occurs. It leads to a wild car chase, in an attempt to prevent further deaths, followed by a full-scale manhunt on foggy Bodmin Moor at night. Eleanor, with her knowledge of the moors and her diplomatic skills, plus a few tricks she's picked up on her travels, emerges with the solution to the mystery.
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Manna from Hades (the 1st Cornish Mystery).

The Page 69 Test: A Colourful Death (the 2d Cornish Mystery).

The Page 69 Test: The Valley of the Shadow (the 3d Cornish Mystery).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2017


Kim Garcia is the author of The Brighter House, winner of the 2015 White Pine Press Poetry Prize, DRONE, winner of the 2015 Backwaters Prize, and Madonna Magdalene, released by Turning Point Books in 2006. Her chapbook Tales of the Sisters won the 2015 Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Mississippi Review, Nimrod and Subtropics, and her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Recipient of the 2014 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize, an AWP Intro Writing Award, a Hambidge Fellowship and an Oregon Individual Artist Grant, Garcia teaches creative writing at Boston College.

She applied the Page 69 Test to DRONE and reported the following:
From page 69:

The hand at work, heart’s drone,
map-dance in honeycomb. The path

of flower, clover song, sweet magnetic
north, nectar cooled in flight. River

rocks’ remembered wash, a karst of blue.
A sky mountainous with frowning cloud,

stars slipping the city’s hot gaze, fastening
their new eyes over fresh yearnings—home

drawn up along the lines of the old ache
like desert seed, fashioning green tongues.
At first look “Kindred” is very different from many of the poems in DRONE, a book that meditates on the terrifying repercussions and temptations of a weapon that changes military rules of engagement, what a war zone is, and even how we think of the sky. But this poem speaks to two thematic threads that weave DRONE together—the longing for peace, despite every challenge created by these slippery, powerful new weapons, and the state of belonging which we all share as a ground of our being. Warfare quickly devolves into total war, unending war, without keeping these two realities present, even under tremendous conflicting pressures. Drones have made possible a level of surveillance, and therefore responsibility, never before experienced. We need all our collective human wisdom to respond in policy, poetry, and procedure. We are in truth “Kindred.”
Visit Kim Garcia's website.

The Page 69 Test: Madonna Magdalene.

The Page 69 Test: The Brighter House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"I Liked My Life"

After graduating from The Taft School in 1998 and Babson College in 2002, Abby Fabiaschi climbed the corporate ladder in high technology. When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned to pursue writing.

Fabiaschi applied the Page 69 Test to I Liked My Life, her debut upmarket women’s fiction novel, and reported the following:
I Liked My Life explores what happens to Brady, a workaholic father, and Eve, his rebellious teenage daughter, after Maddy, their seemingly devoted matriarch, commits suicide. Looking down at the family she left behind, Maddy tries to make things right.

As it turns out, page sixty-nine is quite telling. It’s Eve’s seventeenth birthday and Maddy fears Brady will screw it up, the way he has so many parenting moments since her death. “I’m nervous for them,” she says to an audience who can’t hear her. “I watch the scene play out as I imagine a writer finishes a chapter, hopeful the conclusion complements the rising action, but unsure it will.”

The reader also gets a glimpse into the emerging relationship between Brady and Rory, the woman Maddy hopes will become a liaison between her husband and daughter, as she once was.
Visit Abby Fabiaschi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"The Skill of Our Hands"

Steven Brust is the bestselling author of Issola, Dragon, The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and many others. Skyler White is the author of And Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin, along with co-authoring The Incrementalist series with Steven Brust.

White applied the Page 69 Test to The Skill of Our Hands, the second volume in The Incrementalist series, and reported the following:
I’m a believer.

After I agreed to write this post, before I checked for what was on The Skill of Our Hand’s 69th page, I set myself a little test: to prove the rule, the page would need to reference immigration, and it would need to include one of Oskar’s asides to the audience. It didn’t do either.

But in yet another instance where books know their authors better than we know ourselves (ask Steve about Teckla sometime) the rule proved itself right, and me wrong. In my mind, Skill is Oskar’s book. He is, in fact, on stage on page 69, but the scene is written from his point of view, and he doesn’t interrupt himself quite as often as he does his fellow Incrementalists, so no asides. And yes, the book is centrally about brutal race-based laws now and in the 1850’s, but it’s also about the militarization of the civilian police force, and which weapons — guns, sex, data mining, magic — are fair to use in those fights, and which backfire. The book is about those questions, but it’s about these people — the Incrementalists. The scene on page 69 (and onto 70, sorry) is between Oskar, Irina, another Incrementalist, and Jane, who isn’t one of the group:
"We know pretty much everything, about everyone. Or we can with a little work."


"Your cat's name was Satha because when you got her you couldn't pronounce Samantha. Your big brother has a small white scar over his left eye where you pushed him into the edge of the piano when he wouldn't stop poking you. Your favorite dessert is blueberries with sugar and half and half. You became a Wiccan in college because you like the people, the community, and the attitude, but you’re not sure you really believe it all. You kept your last name when you married because you had it legally changed from ‘Rossi’ to 'Astarte' two years before, and you didn’t want to look fickle.”

Jane was staring at Oskar, her eyes widening. When he stopped speaking, she stood up abruptly, and stepped back a little. "Okay," she said. "This is creepy."

"Yeah," he said. "I know. Sorry."

"Way to be reassuring, Oskar," said Irina.

"Go fuck yourself," Oskar appeased, and turned back to Jane. "We are kind of creepy," he admitted. "But our intentions are good."

"Who’s we?"

"That's a difficult question to answer. We're a small group of people who try to make things better."
Oskar is telling Jane about herself to show her who he is, and who they are. Which, in the best of worlds, is what this book, maybe all books, are really all about.

So yeah, I’m a believer. But I’m not obedient. I’m going to cheat a little again and sneak Oskar’s last aside in here at the end, because he ought to get a chance to talk right to you: “Get involved. Make things better. I’ve taken a big step here, and maybe it’s just jumping up and down plus waving. Maybe it covers all the distance from a gunshot to an invitation. And if you accept it, from Look to Be. Yours are the hands on those machines. Think for a minute about what that means.”
Visit Steven Brust's website and Skyler White's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"The Breakout"

Ryan David Jahn is the author of the novels Acts of Violence, which won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Dagger, Low Life, The Dispatcher, which was long-listed for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, The Last Tomorrow, and the newly released The Breakout.

Jahn applied the Page 69 Test to The Breakout and reported the following:
From page 69:
While the phone rang in his ear, he lit a Camel, took a deep drag, and spat a fleck of tobacco off the end of his tongue.

“George Rankin.”


“What’s the news?”

“Got some paperwork for you at the dead drop.”

“What kind?”

“Bank transfers, phone records, that kind of thing.”
Above is the first twenty percent of the sixty-ninth page of The Breakout, and while it presents a higher ratio of dialogue to action than the book as a whole, I also think it’s fairly representative, especially if you understand that the two men talking, George Rankin and Gael Morales, are DEA agents, the latter working undercover. The Breakout is a thriller about a Marine who travels to Mexico to kill the man responsible for his sister’s death and ends up in prison on trumped-up drug charges; it’s a thriller about the men in his platoon attempting to break him out. But that only explains the premise. On a different level the book is about the morality of violence and lies, those we tell others and those we tell ourselves to justify our actions. Gael Morales, the undercover agent leaving paperwork at the dead drop above, is living a double life, working for the head of a drug cartel he’s also trying to bring down, and because of this double life, he must lie to himself (and others) constantly. He must live as two men, both criminal and cop, and shift from being one person to another at a moment’s notice. Like other characters in the book, he finds ways to justify his own violence as being necessary for the greater good. In the brief excerpt above he is simply a DEA agent doing his job, but very few of the characters in The Breakout are exactly what they present themselves to be.
Visit Ryan David Jahn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 13, 2017

"The Brighter House"

Kim Garcia is the author of The Brighter House, winner of the 2015 White Pine Press Poetry Prize, DRONE, winner of the 2015 Backwaters Prize, and Madonna Magdalene, released by Turning Point Books in 2006. Her chapbook Tales of the Sisters won the 2015 Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Mississippi Review, Nimrod and Subtropics, and her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Recipient of the 2014 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize, an AWP Intro Writing Award, a Hambidge Fellowship and an Oregon Individual Artist Grant, Garcia teaches creative writing at Boston College.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Brighter House and reported the following:
From page 69:
the mystic crucifixion by Tintoretto

has become a Nativity. A curator’s x-ray reveals the bishop below
the shepherd, hands folded over his heart. The woman
with her arms flung wide has not lost her son, but received
him—suffering at both ends of the frame, worn
canvas sewn together. A chicken scratches
in the dirt. Over the hill the Magi arrive, impossibly clean
like a cavalry of peace. They have left their arms
at the palace, hands clasped around enthusiasm already
brimming the small vessel that must contain it. His
swaddling is whiter than the lamb
that sniffs at its fold. To work this miracle the legs of Christ
are severed, painted over. An angel is chopped in half. Clouds
become rocks. Everything heavier as the glory settles
like sediment in a glass. A camel spits.
Crickets stitch in the straw. It is always the first day.
Sometimes at public readings, I lead with this poem since The Brighter House is a collection of just such attempts at spiritual reconstruction. I imagine the painter Tintoretto’s decision to take a crucifixion and remake it as nativity (something revealed in the last decade when curators x-rayed the canvas) as responding to a practical need—not wasting canvas and work—but rich with evocative suggestion. Each figure must play a new role, imagined beyond the grief in which they were originally conceived.

I wrote the poems in The Brighter House after my father’s death, and at first I wrote for my sisters, to give them words for experiences that hurt to speak. How to understand our dilemma when he lived and then when he died? How to reimagine life after the violence was well and truly over? I wanted to be, as the title suggests, a “brighter house,” but how to build this new architecture? I let the urgency of that question come into the poems themselves through myth and fairytale, beyond autobiographical details. I wanted the poems as a whole to speak to anyone who is trying to move from suffering—material, political, spiritual—to tenderness and trust.

Imagining ourselves into such a frame costs something. The work is hard and asks parts of ourselves to give up what they do naturally and reactively, to lay down our arms, to witness something new, to open our arms to life as a new birth. What I want to say, on page 69 or any page, to anyone doing such work is: It is always the first day.
Visit Kim Garcia's website.

The Page 69 Test: Madonna Magdalene.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars"

Martine Murray studied law at Melbourne University, then pursued painting and joined a circus before starting a dance company called Bird on a Wire. After an injury, she began writing and illustrating books for children and young adults. Her novels, including The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, have won several awards in Australia. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages. She lives in Castlemaine, Australia, with her daughter and dog.

Murray applied the Page 69 Test to latest novel, Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars, and reported the following:
Weirdly I would say page 69 of Molly and Pim is a turning point moment when Molly first speaks to Pim, and the only time she tells anyone of her terrible secret. This is the moment that brings Pim into the adventure that has overtaken her life and so it is when they join forces so to speak; their friendship begins and Pim is inculcated into the magic of Molly’s world. Through his acceptance of it, she also begins to embrace what is particular and different about her and her life.
Visit Martine Murray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2017

"The Chosen Maiden"

Eva Stachniak is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels. The Winter Palace was a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year and made The Washington Post’s most notable fiction list in 2012. She holds a PhD in literature from McGill University. Born and raised in Poland, she moved to Canada in 1981, and lives in Toronto.

Stachniak applied the Page 69 Test to her newly released fifth novel, The Chosen Maiden, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I visit Vaslav every free moment I have. I read to him from his favourite books: Krylov’s fables, Tales of The Thousand and One Nights, Pushkin’s Onegin and Tolstoy’s Childhood. We play games and I let him beat me in chess—which is not easy, for Vaslav makes many rash moves I do not anticipate. I repeat to him all the praises I’ve heard about his dancing, of his lightness, his force, his dedication to perfecting every move. “Who said that?” he asks. Fokine? Cecchetti? Soon he is allowed to sit up then walk, and the doctors confirm that—in a month or two—he will be allowed to dance.

“Tell me what really happened?” I ask him a few times, but Vaslav shrugs off my question and says he doesn’t remember. Or that it is not important. Or that I wouldn’t understand anyway. When once I repeat the rumours that Bourman and Rosai smeared the floor with soap and then raised the music stand too high the moment he wasn’t looking, Vaslav’s cheeks turn white with rage.

“That’s a vicious lie, Bronia,” he screams. “It’s only stupid people who say such things.”

“How can you be so sure?”

But Vaslav doesn’t want to listen. He fixes me with his eyes and says, “I forbid you to ever mention it again.”
I wrote The Chosen Maiden because, after two novels about Catherine the Great, I wanted to re-live the end of Catherine’s Russia. What better subject than the imperial ballet artists who dazzled Paris and St. Petersburg and changed the course of modern dance? Especially the Nijinsky siblings: Vaslav—the God of Dance—and his sister Bronislava (Bronia) who, to prove her talent, had to free herself from her brother’s extraordinary fame. Having survived the tumultuous upheavals of the early decades of the 20th century, she’ll become not just a renowned dancer and teacher but also a groundbreaking choreographer, whose visions will secure her a firm place in the history of modern dance.

The novel, carefully researched, is written in Bronia’s voice and takes a reader on an intimate and dramatic journey. Bronia will dance in Paris, London, Monte Carlo. She will live through WWI and Russian Revolution, escape from Bolshevik Kiev, and choreograph for famous Ballets Russes, before the onset of WWII will force her to leave Europe for good.

Page 69 catches my heroine at a dramatic moment of her life. Bronia is a student in the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg where her older brother, Vaslav, is universally hailed as a rising star of Russian ballet. A few days before, however, Vaslav had been a victim of a vicious student prank which almost killed him. As the future God of the Dance is recuperating, his “so called friends” complicit in the accident come to visit. Bronia—younger but in many ways more mature and realistic than her brother—realizes how vulnerable Vaslav is, how fragile.

Future events will prove how significant this realization is.
Learn more about the book and author at Eva Stachniak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue