Thursday, April 5, 2012

Will They Take Your Book Back to the Coffee Shop? by Guest Dan Walsh

It’s great to be back with you all (thanks again to Tina for the invitation). Seekerville is one of my favorite stops on the internet! Tina mentioned many of you participated in Speedbo (writing a book in a month). Can’t fathom how that’s possible, but congrats to all of you who made it (and lived to tell the tale).

I’m back again to celebrate the release of my new book, The Discovery (Revell). I was thrilled to learn it received a 4.5 Stars/Top Pick rating in RT Book Reviews magazine (April issue). Next week, the book will be on a Blog Tour, with about 70 bloggers reviewing it in the US and Canada (hope they’re as kind as RT).

I thought since you’ve all been so busy working on your Speedbo projects, you might appreciate a discussion about Self-Editing. I’m sure you’re hoping these books you’ve worked so hard to write will make it to the bookshelves (or become Ebook downloads). There are so many things we could address on the topic of self-editing. Let’s talk about the “Importance of a Great Beginning.” Or…another way to say it:

 Will They Take Your Book Back to the Coffee Shop?

The Discovery is my 6th published novel, but every time I write a book I keep this question in mind. Not only do I want all my return readers to anxiously anticipate my next release. I want to keep building my readership with every book. So I never take the importance of a great beginning for granted.

As I write, I picture someone who’s never heard of me picking up my book, then see them going through the same routine I always do in bookstores. That is, make a decision whether this book is gripping enough to earn that coveted place at my table back at the café (of course, with so many people shifting to Kindles, Nooks and other Ereaders, the idea of taking a book back to the café has really become something of a metaphor now).

So, let’s look at this in our time together today. Even if you’re not published yet, stay tuned in. Everything we’re talking about is just as relevant for you. Why? Because agents and editors are fanatical book readers. In fact, they may just care more how your book begins than anyone else (more on why later).

A Quick Update

Since my last visit in September, I’ve been writing my first novel in a four-book fiction series with Dr. Gary Smalley. We just finished it at the end of March and sent it in to our editor at Revell. It’s called, The Dance. Gary co-authored the Redemption Series with bestselling author Karen Kingsbury several years ago. It was a huge success (over 1.5 million books sold). Our books should resonate well with fans of that series; although Gary made it clear he wants me to write these stories the way I write, not try to imitate Karen. He said he picked me for this project because my writing impacted him emotionally, the same way Karen’s did (that blew me away). Gary’s been wonderful to work with, and I can’t wait for The Dance to come out next year.

I plan to start writing Book 2 in a week or so.

Back to Our Speedbo Topic – Great Beginnings

I’ll use my latest book as a guinea pig. Here’s the cover. That’s usually where the reader starts. Imagine you’re seeing this on the bookshelf (hopefully, face out).

Would you pick it up, turn it over, read the back cover? If so, we’re making progress.

Now obviously, authors don’t have a lot of control over the quality of our covers. But most publishers know readers really do judge books by their covers (at least in those first few seconds). Hopefully, you’ll get one that will help the cause.

On the back cover you see some endorsements by Gary Smalley and award-winning author Sarah Sundin. Then you read this:

When aspiring writer Michael Warner inherits his grandfather’s venerable Charleston estate, he settles in to write his first novel. But within the confines of the stately home, he discovers an unpublished manuscript that his grandfather, a literary giant whose novels sold in the millions, had kept hidden from everyone—but clearly intended Michael to find. As he delves deeper into the exciting tale about spies and sabotage, Michael discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well.

Laced with suspense and intrigue, The Discovery is a richly woven novel that explores the incredible sacrifices that must be made to forge the love of a lifetime. Author Dan Walsh delivers yet another unique and heartfelt story that will stick with readers long after they turn the last page.

Hmmm, you think. Am I intrigued? Is there enough here to get me to open the book to chapter one?

Again, like the cover, authors don’t have a whole lot of say in the content for these back covers. But I do work hard to come up with something to send in to my marketing folks. They do a great job making my long-winded summaries into something much more concise and effective.

Hopefully, at this point you are intrigued enough to open the first few pages and take a look. THIS is where our contribution as writers is CRITICAL. Of course, the book has to work as a whole. It has to tell a great story in a way that draws the reader in, causes them to care deeply about the characters, keeps their interest running high for 300 pages or more and then ends in a deeply satisfying way.

But the fact is, no one will ever see all that hard work if we don’t come up with a GREAT BEGINNING. If those first few sentences and first few paragraphs, followed by those first few pages don’t WOW the reader, guess what happens? The book doesn’t get invited back to the coffee shop; it goes back on the shelf. In the case of a proposal sent to an agent or editor, the situation is a little different. It gets worse. They set it aside in the rejection pile.

We only have, as the saying goes, one chance to make a great first impression.

The Ones That Got Away

Some years ago, my family went camping in the Florida Keys with some friends. The water is crystal clear and calm, like a huge swimming pool. My friend didn’t have a big boat, but we figured the water was calm enough to head out to the reef. Supposed to be great fishing out there. It took us over an hour to reach it, chugging along in his little motor. The reef was easy to find. Several other boats were hovering right on top of it.

We looked down and could actually see schools of fish swimming in an around the reef thirty feet below. Hundreds of them. We got out our gear and bait and began casting away. Instantly, we got strikes. But the fish we pulled in were these little pan fish called croakers. We tossed them back. We wanted those big guys swimming around down there, not these little croakers.

So we cast again. Wham! Instant strikes. Two more croakers, no bigger than 10 inches each. We through them back. Same thing happened, again and again, for several hours. Croakers. Nothing but croakers.

About 25 yards away on a bigger boat, guys were hauling in big beautiful pompano. That’s what we wanted. Sporting fish, each one a meal by itself. We could see the pompano swimming right below us, but they ignored our bait completely.

What were they…fish snobs?

We asked the guys on the happier boat what kind of bait they were using. “Live shrimp,” the guys yelled back. Rats. All we brought was frozen squid. Not calamari, just frozen squid.

Guess what kind of fish will eat even smelly frozen squid? That’s right, croakers. And that’s all we caught the whole time we were out there. Back on the beach, as we worked for hours cleaning up our bucket of croakers, all we talked about were those big, plump pompano that swam all around our boat that day.

The ones that got away.

Mixing My Metaphors

I do have a point here. To hook the big fish, you’ve got to have the right bait. The kind of bait big fish like to see on the end of that hook.

For fiction readers (including agents and editors), that bait is a great beginning for your book. And you need to set the hook with your very first line. I spend lots of time writing my first line. I go back and rewrite it at least a dozen times. I spend almost as much time writing those first few paragraphs.

And I rewrite my first chapter over and over, really till I’m almost sick of it.Trying to get it just right. Trying to set the hook.

The whole book does matter, very much. But these first words are the words that matter most, IF I hope to get the reader to take my book back to the coffee shop and give it a better look. Okay, I know, I’m mixing my metaphors now, coffee shops and fishing stories. But you get the idea.

Here are my first lines for The Discovery (it’s not in italics in the book): 

 I remember…I was supposed to be sad that day. 

Everyone was sad. It is always sad when a legend dies. Our family gathered in Charleston to read his will. 

Gerard Warner’s novels sold in the millions. He’d won the Pulitzer Prize. Past presidents quoted his words in speeches. Several of his books had become blockbuster movies. I remember reading interviews with some of the celebrities who’d starred in those movies. Talked as if they were friends with my grandfather.

I knew instantly they were lying. 

They didn’t know him. None of them did. He wouldn’t have let them. 

To his adoring fans, Gerard Warner remained an enigmatic, elusive figure his entire career. He wouldn’t even allow his picture on his own book covers. Every time a new novel came out, TV producers and talk show hosts made their appeals―again―wanting to be the first to interview him. He only said yes to print interviews. Even then, no pictures. And absolutely no questions about his personal life allowed. 

Still, Gerard Warner’s books flew off the shelves. They were that good.

I called him Gramps.

“You’re smiling, Michael.”

I looked over at my beautiful wife, holding tightly to my hand, her blonde hair lit up by the sun. “Can’t help it, Jenn. I love this place.” It’s hard not to love a slow walk down Broad Street in Charleston, especially in October. Pick any street in the old downtown area. I loved them all. The cobblestones of Chalmers, the courtyards along Queens. The iron gates and grand staircases on Church Street, the tilting townhomes on Tradd.

Would you read on from here? Or perhaps, grant my even greater wish…and take this book back to the coffee shop with you?

Maybe, maybe not. But that’s my goal as I write the opening lines for every book.

Let’s talk about this today. Great beginnings. How much time do you put into your opening lines and opening paragraphs? How have you “set the hook” in your Speedbo project or any other WIP? Take a moment and share it with us, or share some of the best opening lines you’ve ever read.

I’d love to see what you come up with. I’ll be checking in all day.

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 7 novels, published by Revell and Guideposts, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Discovery. For those who haven't read Dan's books, reviewers often compare them to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and CWG's Word Weavers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years and now writes fulltime. He and his wife Cindi have been married 35 years and have 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren. They live in Port Orange, FL where Dan is busy researching and writing his next novel. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, or read his blog. You can connect to these on his website at

Revell has kindly sent Seekerville a copy of The Discovery, hot off the presses for one Seekerville commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. Hi Dan:

    Thanks for being a friendly face in St. Louis in September. I enjoyed chatting with you.

    Yes, I do spend a lot of time on the beginnings. Rethink. Change. Rethink. Change back. Think some more... You get the picture.

    The coffee pot's ready.


  2. Dan is a nice normal guy isn't he?

    I always get the fun of reading his posts first because I put them up on the Seekerville blog. I loved this one!!

  3. Hi Dan, it's good to see you here again!

    I worked forever on the opening lines for my first WIP - and then in the last revision I changed it. Now I like it - and we'll see if anyone else does!

    For my current WIP I'm being more patient. I have an opening I like:

    "A Godsend. That’s what it was. From the moment she had seen the advertisement for a housekeeper in The Budget, Ruthy Mummert had known this was her chance.

    If she had to suffer the sight of her Elam with Rhoda Mast one more time…

    Ruthy bit her lip. Ne, not Rhoda Mast. She was Rhoda Nafziger now – Elam’s Rhoda."

    It's all right, and it's something I'll continue working with, but I'm not sure if it's perfect yet. Somewhere in the revision process I know it will click for me.

    One of my favorite openings is from Charlotte's Web: "Where's Papa going with that ax?" It takes you right into the story, doesn't it?

    And from Ruthy's Yuletide Hearts: "Complete and utter desolation." And as the opening continues Ruthy shows us just how many things that phrase encompasses.

    The opening lines of The Discovery? Beautiful. I want to read that book!

    Hot chocolate is in the pot for the rest of the late night crowd, along with some Snickerdoodles...unless my boys ate them all...I thought I left them right here on the kitchen counter...

  4. Congrats on your newest release, and I would so keep reading. I too work on beginnings until I can't stand the sight of them. That's usually when they're about right for me. =)

    These are my two, but the first will probably always be my favorite.

    My mother is a liar.

    Laelia Ricarri stared at a reflection she knew was there, but would never see again.

    Funny enough, my favorite opening comes from Nicole Krauss's The History of Love. It's a good book, though not CBA, so I'll clean it up to be able to post here in Seekerville. =) ...

    When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF JUNK.

    Yes Tina, Dan is great. I always enjoy seeing him in Seekerville. He should get honorary Captain status, just don't tell Jack ;-)

  5. Oh yes, I'd most definitely take "The Discovery" back to the Coffee Shop. Thank you for the interesting blog post, Dan.

    My favorite opening line is "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." The title of the book it comes from is just as intriguing--"Back When We Were Grownups" by Anne Tyler

  6. Nice to have another man join us here. Captain Jack surely welcomes some male company once in a while. :)

    Yes, I spend a lot of time reworking my beginnings. It's a complicated dance between dumping the reader right into the midst of action, and putting him in the neighbourhood where the action is happening. It's hard to know how much initiation the reader needs, given the kind of story it is.

    The opening of what I'm currently revising:
    “For cryin’ out loud, Becky, will you just pick one, so we can get going?” Todd snatched at his cap and hung onto it against the wind. “Laura says these three puppies are the ones with the most potential and I’ve told you which one I like, so what’s the problem?”

    “It’s not that simple,” I shot back at him. “Any one of them will fit your criteria for obedience training but I want it to have a good chance at a show career, too.”

    I pointed through the kennel’s chain link fencing at one playful ball of golden fur clambering over top of another pup to waddle towards the water bowl. “I like the structure of that one, but she could end up too small. I just don’t know.”

    I shoved my hands deep into my jacket pockets and shivered. The late afternoon was chilly, despite the weak sunshine, and Todd was right: we’d been standing here debating – no, arguing – for more than half an hour.

    “Then leave it for now. If we aren’t back at the show grounds in forty minutes I’m going to miss the group judging. I wouldn’t have come if I thought you were going to dawdle over the decision like this.” He turned away and headed for the van with long strides, splashing his way through a puddle.

    “Todd, we can’t just leave.” But he kept going, still clutching his cap, head bent into the wind.

    Not a lot of action, but provides what I think is necessary background for the greater conflict that's coming. An agent may not agree, but I haven't reached that point yet.

    I'll gratefully take a cup of Helen's coffee and one of Jan's Snickerdoodles and head back to my revising now.

  7. I just wanted to say that I am one of the "bloggers" that will be posting a review of The Discovery next week. I can tell you, it garnered a 5 star review from me. I have read all of Dan's books and The Discovery is absolutely his BEST yet!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  8. Good morning ladies (so far, it's ladies, right?) Thanks again, Tina, for being such a gracious host.

    Hey Helen, thanks for stopping in. Guess you did last night. Set that coffee pot on the timer? (not usually ready for it at 12:08am)

    That's a good beginning, Jan. I know what you mean about being patient. Sometimes, I'll go back and redo the opening lines after I'm well into the book. Sometimes they've come to me in a flash before I barely start. Like that faucet commercial, where the lady sets this faucet down in front of the architect and says, "Can you build a house around this?"

    Nancy, very gripping opening line. Instantly sets the hook.

    Ruth Ann, what a great first line. I'd kill for one like that (well, maybe not kill...)

    Carol, it's sometimes easier to come up with a great hook when writing suspense or thriller novels. I'm guessing your WIP is not. But I'd suggest thinking of an opening line that puts us in the main character's head vs starting with dialog. Maybe something like, "Who'd have ever thought picking out a puppy would ruin your day? Turned out, it almost ruined my life."

    Of course, I have no idea where you're going with this puppy conflict (may actually bless her life in a wonderful way) But try to set a stronger conflict upfront, something that foreshadows what's to come.

    Cindy, can't wait to read your review. Send me a note when it posts and I'll stop by. You can reach me at

    Off to a great start this morning. Looks like we've had a little break in the action. I'll grab some breakfast, have a little quiet time, and be back soon.


  9. Mornin' Dan.

    Enjoyed your previous post and celebrated your work with Dr. Smalley. Now, here ya are with this keeper!

    Thanks for sharing with us again.

    Beautiful cover, love the back, love your story line... Yep, it's a coffee-shopper for sure.

    Especially with this spies and sabotage - totally up my alley. We can say that since we're talking Charleston, right?!

    Here's my opening for the 2nd May the K9 Spy book (middle grade adventure):

    How’d I access such a small space? Sniff. Lost track of Edgrr’s scent too. Piffle.

    “When lost, stop. Assess the situation at paw.”

    Okay. What are my knowns? Timed solo exercise, infrared goggles on fritz, dashed past correct turn. Not good. But excellent practice for the mission to nab Rukan, whenever I’m ready. Soon I hope because boot camp is passing fast.

    After ten days (almost half-way!) I’m near the head of the pack and I really want to graduate Top Dog and make Miss Sandy and Sassy proud. So I need to earn some extra points. Like, completing this exercise… incognito!

    Righty-o, time to move. Sniff. Cool metal flooring gives with my weight. Best walk near one side. A breeze ruffles my whiskers. Snuffle. Everything here smells new up close – drywall, paint, linoleum. But there’s more. Paper, a copy machine, no other dogs. But here’s a faint human scent. Mr. Jim’s?

    I strain to listen. Quiet human voices below. I’m - somewhere above the renovated offices? Hey, maybe I’m inside an air duct.

    Comments welcome!!

    (LOVE Charlotte's Web first line. POWERFUL.)

    Thanks again for being with us, Dan. May the Lord continue to bless you and your work!!!

  10. If I had this in my hand at a bookstore, I would absolutely buy it.

    A co-worker is on vacation in Charleston this week. I told her to take time to walk the streets. Don't just do the touristy thing, but slow down and walk along the streets around the battery.

    I love Charleston.

    Here's my question. Do you write your entire story and then go back and rewrite the beginning? Or do you perfect the beginning and then write the story?

    If I don't win I think I'm going to buy all of your books to give my husband for his birthday, and of course I'll get to read them too.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today. I'm glad I've met you now and look forward to reading your books!

    Jackie L.

  11. Love your books! They are definitely the ones we await eagerly and devour with coffee!

    This is such an encouraging post because I find that I spend lots of time on my beginnings--first lines, first chapter . . . first several chapters, actually. I'm hoping that's a good thing.

    Here's an opening line I've never forgotten: "I come from a family with a lot of dead people."

    (from Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles)

  12. Good morning, Dan, and welcome back to Seekerville! This is yet another of your books I will be reading--based on the cover, the intriguing blurb, opening paragraph AND, most of all,the LAST book I read of yours that has me wanting to come back for more of what Dan Walsh has to offer! You develop characters and setting so well and touch a reader's heart with the depth of your stories.

  13. Welcome back, Dan! We're so glad to have you. Congrats on your RT Top Pick! The book sounds fantastic. I loved your opening. I want to know more about the grandfather!

  14. The book sounds WONDERFUL, Dan - I'd certainly buy it.

    Working (feverishly!) on my opening right now - and I have the same question as Jackie - do you work the intro over and over in the beginning, or wait until you're done to fix it?

    Please enter me.

  15. KC (and May), Interesting way to start, from the dog's POV. But I got it. That first sniffle was a clue. I'm somewhat tuned in to how dogs think. My wife's a dog trainer. She's reading a book right now where half the POV is in a dog's head.

    Jackie, good advice to your friend re Charleston. Some of the most fun we've had is just walking through these amazing neighborhoods, gawking (remember that word, it shows up in the book). We even love walking through the old cemeteries, trying to figure out the stories from the clues on the headstones.

    To answer your question, I've done it both ways. Sometimes the beginning comes to me, clear as a bell. Other times, I've changed it over and over as the rest of the story comes, and I get a better sense of what the stakes are for my main characters.

    Renee, that is a good thing. And I love that opening line.

    Thanks so much, Glynna and Missy, for the kind words.

  16. Dan, what a great post. I would definitely take your book to the coffee shop. :) It sounds great.

    I'd love to know how you "come up" with that first line. What do you use to craft it?

    One I'm playing with is:

    He’d have to pull his Super Man act to get to Anya’s party before it ended. Kevin’s tires screeched into the driveway of their Highlands Ranch home. He cranked off the engine. The Kolb project had consumed his attention and he’d lost track of the time. Maybe he could redeem himself with Anya if he arrived before the party ended. Snowflakes landed on the windshield while he took a deep breath. He opened his silver Ford Explorer door.

    Beneath the dim ring of light on the front porch, a figure swayed, a rocking boat on a rough ocean. Billy.

    Not tonight.

    I'm going to have to begin looking for your books. I confess (hangs head), I haven't read any yet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

  17. Interesting that RT reviewed you. Did they review your other books, Dan?

    That got me to wondering if your last book has more of a romantic element than the rest.

    What percent of romance to you think is in your books?

  18. My answer, Dan, is Yes. Yes I would take The Discovery back to the coffee shop. This fish is hooked!

    What hooked me? The promise of a past secret rewriting someone's present perception of himself or his family or situation. That gets me every time.

    And those Charleston streets. I've walked down them. I'd love to do so again in the pages of your book.

  19. Whoa, Dan, I love the cover, and the back cover copy is definitely intriguing…

    But you’re right. I want to see that first line, then the second. Then a paragraph. A chapter, before I make up my mind.

    And there it is, at the end of your post.

    [Be right back. I’m standing in the bookstore, reading The Discovery’s opening lines…]

    I’m Baaacccckkk….

    Oh, yeah, I’m hooked. I want to know why Gerard Warner wouldn’t let his picture be taken, or allow any questions about his family. I also want to know what’s in the manuscript Michael finds.

    I’m already trying to figure out what kind of fish I’ve got on the line.

    Or, rather, if I’m the FISH, I guess I’m trying to figure what kind of fisherman has hooked me! lol

    Off to do some fishing of my own...

  20. Joanne, I usually spend a good deal of time on the beginning, at the beginning. I sit and ponder the scene. I want no distractions. I try to "get in character" and see and feel what my main character is experiencing.

    I did that with my 3rd novel, The Deepest Waters, and this came to me (wound up keeping it and it's the opening line of the published book):

    >>Yesterday, when it had become a certainty their ship would sink, Laura and John Foster held hands, as they had on their wedding day three weeks ago, and made a vow: when that moment finally came they would leap into the sea together and slip beneath the waves. One quick inhale of water. It wouldn’t be suicide. God had already determined it to be their last day on earth.

    But that’s not what happened.<<

    With my last book, Remembering Christmas, I got a good beginning, but probably changed it 3-4 times as I wrote the book. Then I finally got the "hook" I wanted. It's such a subjective thing, though.

    Nice beginning, Jeanne. Very intriguing. I'd keep reading, and that's what you want.

    Tina, RT has reviewed all of my books (except the Guidepost one), and they've been extremely kind to me. They gave 3 of the 5 the 4.5/Top Pick rating. One a 4.5 stars (but no Top Pick) and one 4 stars.

    All of my books are either love stories, or have strong romance/love story subplots. I just like to include other elements to make the love story part stand out. So we'll have lots of suspense and other layers that come in and out but don't tie up until the ending. They're not traditional romances. More like the Nicholas Sparks genre (I get compared to him probably the most). I often include other subplots in my novels that will draw the reader's attention to "the things in life that matter most." That's a strong theme for me, getting us to think about things God wants us to care about, but often get ignored or set aside.

  21. DAN!!! One of my favorite people writing about one of my favorite subjects -- first lines!!

    I couldn't agree more about the first lines being a huge hook, not only for readers, but for editors and agents as well. And I'm of the mind you reallly have to make a first line do double duty. It doesn't just have to hook the reader, it has to give a sneak peek at the story, foreshadow in a single sentence a mystery about to be unraveled. You first line SO does that, and I love it!!!

    I tend to be set in my ways about first lines. One of my favorite ways to write them is with an opening thought by the character that hopefully not only hooks one into reading further, but gives a glimpse at the personality of the heroine and a hint at the troubles in store. Hopefully I accomplished this in A Passion Most Pure where the first lines are:

    Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it.

    And in the first line of my new series, Hearts of San Francisco, Love at any Cost:

    Sweet thunderation—deliver me from pretty men!

    Gosh, I just LOVE kicking a book off in the head of the heroine -- SO FUN!!

    I actually did a whole Seeker blog on first lines called: The Perfect Pickup Line ... Or How to Hook a Reader!, which was SO fun to do and includes lots of great first lines from CBA authors.

    And since I am convinced you cannot get enough of this fun subject, Casey Herringshaw also did a realllly fun blog on first lines a few weeks ago that you can check out here:
    The Writers Alley

    Anyway, GREAT BLOG today, Dan, and SUPER CONGRATS on the new release -- can't wait to get my mitts on it!! And WOWZERS on the 4.5 from RT AND the upcoming Gary Smalley series collaboration. Seriously, Dan, it couldn't happen to nicer guy!!


  22. Lori, what you said sums things up pretty well: "The promise of a past secret rewriting someone's present perception." We were actually just in Charleston (and Savannah) a couple of weeks ago, taking pictures of all the places Michael visits in the book. If anyone wants to see them, go to my FB author page, click on Photos. It's the first album at the top. FB link:

    Great comment, Pam. Loved the way you worked that fishing metaphor.

    Great to "see" you again, Julie. And folks, do yourself a favor and look up the links Julie mentioned in her comment. I just did. Some great stuff in there to help you get a bead on a great beginning.

  23. So, Dan, you spend many, many years, pastoring your church, writing on the side. Now this writing gig has exploded. Do you ever wake up and pinch yourself? Because you are frankly, living the dream.

  24. PS. Do you still have to take out the trash at your house?

  25. I have to get all my questions in before I go to work, lol.

    Dan, who reads your first lines for you? Do you have a critique group? A first reader? A spouse who gets it?

  26. Okay, first lines it is.

    New book, title to be determined. Working title. Welcome to Paradise.

    "Welcome to Paradise."

    Ben Rogers stared at the glossy white sign posted in front of a row of tall Colorado conifers.

    Paradise? Doubtful.

    Salvation? Possibly.

    At least he still had a sense of humor. That was pretty much all he’d taken with him from Denver, besides his leather medical bag and whatever fit in his Land Rover. His future lay beyond the welcome sign that boasted a population of seventeen hundred.

  27. what a pleasure to see that handsome face here in seekerville, and yes I love the cover and would turn it over and reading that excerpt has me hooked. I am a reader who vists seekerville often and love to see all the authors that I like to read.
    This is a book I will be looking for.
    thanks Dan

    Paula O(

  28. Hi Dan, Welcome back to Seekerville. It is great to see you and congrats on another super book out. I can hardly wait to read it.

    We met in Denver so it is always fun to hear from you.

    Have a super day.

  29. Tina, let's see if I can answer these (not sure if I got you before you had to head off to work).

    Q 1 - I am more surprised than anyone about how things have gone with my writing, and how quickly. Not quite living the dream just yet. In some ways I am, but the money part is still lagging behind :). That can change (praying it does). I'm making enough to live on, and Revell has definitely made a commitment to me that's made this possible. But things are still tight. Still working hard to grow that readership (so folks, tell your friends :).

    Q 2 - Still take the trash out, still mow the lawn. Hiring someone to do the weedwhacking and edging will be my first true "sign of success." Kills my back to do those (mowing is a breeze, have a John Deere ride-on).

    Q 3 - I definitely have a "spouse who gets it." Cindi is my first reader. Her advice is so spot-on that my editors at Revell don't even want to see my work till she's had a go at it. And now, I've added a Word Weaver's critique group, but that's just formed this past year, as I began writing my 8th book.

    Great beginning, Tina. See it, feel it.

    Thanks Paula for stopping by. If you don't win it, and buy it, drop me a line and let me know what you think!

  30. Dan,
    Nice cover, and wow, what a story. God has really opened some doors for you in writing. What an awesome opportunity.

    I was kicked out of a coffee shop once, I guess I was too obnoxious. Does that count.
    Actually, my book got the boot. I used to sell my books at a local coffee shop. Well, it changed owners and the new owners were more New Age and didn't like Christian books. Oh well.

    I am pulling out the first lines from four of my stories. I think they pique the interest.

    From Tamed By Mercy

    The Devil waited at the jail.
    Allan thoughts jarred his senses. His steps faltered, pulling him to a stop before he crossed the station landing. The wind was crisp, the day cool, but he felt like he'd stepped into Hades.
    A seasoned lawman, he didn't consider himself a coward. But, just now, his feet were planted to the worn wooden planks beneath his boots, gifting him with a strong desire to turn tail, get back on that train, and leave.
    What else was one to do when they had a date with the Devil?

    From Demon Chronicles

    He was back.
    Whoever he was. He looked like daddy, sounded like daddy. But it wasn't daddy.
    Mama told him to go away already. But here he was again. The rhythm of his pounding droned with the thunder cutting the night sky beyond the door.
    Mama pressed her face to the wooden door. I wanted her to make him go away, but the longer he stood there pounding, and calling, the more she waivered.
    "Let me in, Clarisse. Please. I love you. I really do. And I miss you. I miss us. Remember how good we were together. Come on, baby."
    Mama put her hand to the door and closed her eyes, trying it seemed to touch a whisper of memory.

    From Counting Tessa

    Strapped at her ankles and wrists; a prisoner in a birthing bed somewhere in the lowest corridor of a hospital with an unknown name, she lay panting.
    The lights sputtered and spit overhead, practically keeping time with the rhythm of her heart. A curse of life and death hung over her head. Life – the children in her womb. Death – her sentence when those children were born.

    From Portraits in Shades of Gray
    Dust in the Sunlight

    "Hello. Yes, you… I see you at the edge of my words. Will you venture into my story?
    You are hesitant to move. Does the antiseptic smell of sickness hold you at bay? Or do you fear opening your heart to a stranger?
    I can do nothing about the stench about me, but perhaps an introduction will soothe the latter. My name is David, David Paremen, and I'm dying.

    Well there you have some opening lines.


    Tina P.

  31. Thanks, Dan!!! That's encouraging.

    I love that Cindi wields that authority!@!! Go, Cindi!!

  32. Tina P, it's obvious you're getting the idea here. I especially like the middle two.

    Tina R, Cindi is an amazing partner, in far more ways than this. But I constantly thank God for the way she helps me here. I know few writers who have a spouse as genuinely supportive, let alone one that not only reads everything I write, but can actually offer editor-level advice. My books simply wouldn't be nearly as effective without her input.

  33. Dan, which of your books do you see as a movie? ala Nicholas Sparks. Any lead actors/actresses in mind?

  34. Loved this post, Dan---and Tina is right: You're a "nice, normal guy"*smile*. I have to confess I do spend a lot of time on my opening line (and first few paragraphs too). In my last completed ms I about drove myself crazy attempting to make it "perfect" and finally had to just STOP and be satisfied with what I'd written.~ Oh my! I would not only take your book to the coffee shop, I'd also take it to the cash register and then carry it home! Seriously, you've hooked me with your opening and that summary. (YES, Please enter me in the drawing!!). Thank you again for sharing with us today, Dan. And in the spirit of my Southern hospitality I've brought along a warm Georgia peach cobbler to share--Enjoy! ~ Blessings, Patti Jo

  35. Jeanne T, I just saw your opening is set in Highlands Ranch. Someone I know lives there. ME!

  36. Dan!!! So glad to see you here! I have to run at the moment, but I'll be back to check Discovery! :D

  37. Yes, I do spend a lot of time on the beginning.
    So far, my beginning:

    "Mr. Hunt," a reporter called out to the semi-clad man stomping across the parking lot of the Surrey RCMP Detachment, "do you know anything about the disappearance of Emilie Lankaster?"

  38. Love this post, Dan. My husband is a bass fisherman, nothing gripes him like bringing up a perch or a crappie instead of a big largemouth. :)

    Following is the current first paragraph of my WIP Give My Love to Rose. I don't often allow my writing to see the light of day, but previous versions of this story's beginning have benefited from Seeker advice, so I know I'm safe here

    Rose Carter stepped into the early autumn sunshine on the depot platform, an ear tuned to hear the whistle of the train that would arrive soon. Once that sound meant a letter from Stephen was coming. Rarely had a train rolled into town without one in the ten years he’d been in prison. The whistle of steam and the rattle of wheels on steel once held the promise that Stephen would come home in the flesh someday. No more.

    Okay, slice and dice. I can take it...I think?

  39. Andrea!! I read the first version. You have done an amazing job revising this!!! Awesome~~ congratulations~!~~

  40. Tina~ You critiqued this one most recently. Can you remember it? Is this opening any better?

  41. I never forget. Of course I remember. You have done an amazing job. Well done!!!

  42. Tina~

    Ha! You read my mind. Thank you for your very kind words.


    What a relief.

  43. I love the cover of The Discovery. Simply gorgeous!!

    I don't know if you remember or not...but I was the gal who ran down the hall of the ACFW hotel this last year and promised I was not a crazy fan...just a hostess who had forgotten her speech before hosting Julie Lessman's class. ;-)

    Congrats on the writing with Gary Smalley!

    I loved the picture that Robin Caroll posted the other day on FB when she was sitting in an airport and a gal across the way was reading her book. What a neat thing to happen to an author! I love it. :D

  44. I'd love to throw out a first line for feedback, but they're all in the Genesis contest so I better not.

    But one of my first lines was a big matter of debate with my crit group/chapter. I still don't know if I got it right. So I decided to leave it as is and finish the book. Sometimes you have to get to the end to know how to begin.

    Dan, your new book does sound great! I'll definitely read it.

  45. Dan, Dan, Dan....

    Welcome back, bud! And congrats on your successes, they truly couldn't happen to a nicer person.


    Except me.

    But that's a discussion for another day, Dan!!! ;)

    So first lines.

    My openings always change, because they start off as me, dipping my toes into story waters. Then I refine.

    Which makes it better! Much better!

    But here's my one-page prologue for a young adult novel....

    Stars hover longer over St. Elspy’s Mountain.

    The moon makes its fickle rise and fall every twenty-eight days, but the stars... they’re immutable. Unchangeable. Definitive.

    They stay where they are.

    Not many notice any more.

    They did, once. Seers and sages and people of old. They would watch and wonder, waiting.

    Always waiting.

    And then the time of horrors came, a time that left no window for star-gazing. No thought of romance or peace on Earth. No thought of anything but survival.

    Few made it through. And of those, scarce spoke of the short realm. Grizzled days, horrific nights. But every generation had a whisperer, one who passed the story along, warning those to come.

    As if there was something to be done.

    There wasn’t.

    Among the humans, that is.

  46. I love that Jan was up last night and offered hot chocolate AND Ruthy-words, lol! Thank you my newly-agented friend!

    And a Ruthy in your book! Falling on the floor, Laughing Out Loud Uproariously because that's such an honor!!! Bless you!!! Grinning in upstate!!!

  47. Ruth Ann, I love Ann Tyler. That's who I want to be when I grow up, a mix of LaVyrle Spencer, Deb Smith and Anne Tyler.

    What a wonderful group of authors.

    Dan, can you walk us through your schedule? Give us a clue about what's pulling you in multiple directions? AND I'M SO GLAD TO SEE YOU HEALTHY AGAIN! I know a lot of prayers were going up for you, including mine. May God our Lord and Savior continue to heal and bless you!

  48. Sandra, I remember meeting you in Denver. What a fun time that was.

    Tina, which books would I like to see turned into a Nicholas Sparks type movie? Oh my, all of them, any of them. I routinely get email saying they wish they'd be made into Hallmark movies, especially the 2 Christmas novels. I'd be thrilled if that happened, too (what writer wouldn't be)?

    Patti Jo, I could use a nice slice of that peach cobbler right now, with a cup of coffee too.

    Janet, that's a good start. If I could make a suggestion? Thin out the adjectives in these first lines, let that info come in a little later. Maybe something like this?

    >>"Mr. Hunt," a reporter called out to the man stomping across the parking lot, "do you know anything about the disappearance of Emilie Lankaster?"<<

  49. Welcome back, Dan! An absolutely stunning cover--and that back cover copy? This is a book I'd definitely pick up!

    My first indoctrination into the importance of a riveting first line came from Lauraine Snelling at a Mount Hermon conference back in . . . I think it was 1999. Ever since, I've always put a lot of thought into my opening lines. Not always as successfully as I'd hope, but at least I try.

    One I'm particularly proud of is from A Horseman's Heart:

    Saving Gem was by far the most beautiful work he'd ever done.
    Giving him up might be the hardest thing he'd ever do.

  50. Andrea, I love that opening.

    Seriously. I would use "once" only once....


    Okay, couldn't resist.

    And I would probably use "imprisoned" instead of 'in prison'...

    As long as you don't HATE ME for suggesting that, because my eager-to-please personality is very sensitive to other people's sensitivities.

    Except Mary's.

    And maybe Tina's.

    And Julie's. But she'll cry. Everybody THINKS Missy will cry, but she won't.

    She's a fooler.

  51. I don't live near any bookstores, but would certainly take yours to the cash register if I saw it! I loved The Unfinished Gift and The Homecoming. Very anxious to read all your others.
    Thanks for the chance to read The books about Charleston (where daughter lives).

  52. Andrea, I really like this. But like I said to Janet, I might thin out the details just a little more. Something like:

    >>Rose Carter stepped into the early autumn sunshine on the depot platform, an ear tuned to hear the train whistle. Once that sound meant a letter from Stephen. Rarely had a train rolled into town in the ten years he’d been in prison without bringing her one. That whistle and the rattle of wheels on steel once held the promise of seeing him step off that train himself someday.

    No more.<<

    Just a thought. What you wrote grabs at the heart. Good job.

    Casey, I do remember. And that thing with Robin. That would be neat. Something like that is on my author bucket list.

    Sally, hope you win. I'm one of the Genesis judges. But of course there's lots of us and hundreds of entries. I'm not surprised your critique group had differing opinions about your opening lines. Much of what we do is subjective. You may have read that 60 literary agents passed on The Help before one said yes. Some had even said, "No one wants to visit this subject anymore." Uh...think they got that one wrong.

    Ruthy that 1-page was fabulous, as is. Seriously.

    Walk through my schedule? Afraid it will sound like whining. No one likes a whiner.

    But to be honest, my writing life includes so much more these days than it did even a year ago. Amidst it all, I love 2 things the most. Writing itself and doing this, getting with people to talk about it.

    But to give you an example, over the last 2 weeks, I had writing tasks related to 4 book projects, all at different stages in the pipeline. It's not always that crazy. But I'm still not seeing the fantasy of being tucked away in a mountain cabin by the lake, left alone to write and ponder.

    Being fulltime allows me to make time for it all, but I like it better when my week is mostly doing the 2 things I mentioned. Thankfully, I get lots of weeks like that, too.

    And thanks so much for praying for me. Doing SO much better now. That trial went on from Sept through Feb.

  53. I'm back! :D Here are some opening lines for you:

    Surprised by Sarah:

    "Hey! Wait! Can you give me a hand, please?"

    Wyatt stopped and looked in every direction. Seeing no one, he shrugged and started back down the sidewalk.

    "Wait! Wyatt Crawford. Is that you? Please don't go. I need help down. Please?"

    Realizing the sweet, feminine voice floated from somewhere to his left, he glanced around the yard canopied by a huge oak tree and two smaller maples. “I’m Wyatt. I hear you but I don’t see you.” He stepped into the yard, his gaze bouncing around the old Parker place. She needed help down? He drew his brows together and stepped under the old oak tree.

    “I’m up here and I can’t get down.”
    He spotted a pair of jean clad legs with bare feet - the loveliest bare feet he'd ever seen with pearly pink toe nails. He stepped toward the dangling legs and peered up into their owner's face.

    Finding Beth:

    Beth Gallagher glanced down at her gas gauge and groaned. “Come on. Where is that station?” Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the steering wheel and took the curves on the little two-lane road. She hadn’t passed a single car in the last five miles. Creepy! She shivered. Her eyes bore a path down the road, begging the station to pop into view.

    The car shook. “No!”

    It sputtered. “Please! Not now!”

    It lurched.

    She glanced down and groaned again. The needle rested well below E. She pulled onto the narrow shoulder just as it sputtered its last. She thrust the car in park, dropped her head on to the steering wheel and moaned. Could things get any worse? The conversation she overheard in the restroom at church the night before churned like an oncoming hurricane:

    Loving Tiffany:

    If Tiffany Nash’s nerves wound any tighter, she’d snap like a guitar string. She followed Reece Carrington to his office bracing her self for – What?

    “Here we are. Please. Have a seat. Make yourself comfortable.” When he closed the door, her senses shifted to high alert. “Would you like a Coke? Sweet tea? Anything?”

    She faced him, her body so brittle the least little move and she just might shatter. And he wanted her to relax? Get comfortable? Ha! Like that was going to happen.

    He popped open a mini-frig that hadn’t been there with the last bank manager. Courtesy of his father the bank president, maybe? His brows raised, but he said nothing more.

    She cleared her throat. “Nothing for me, thanks.”

    He shrugged, grabbed a Coke and settled behind his desk. She pivoted just enough to face him, keeping the door in her periphery. He took a swig of soda, set the can down and cleared his throat.

    “I like what I see.” The intensity in his pale gray eyes unnerved her. She sucked in a breath and took an involuntary step back. He leaned forward, resting his chin in hand. “Since I’ve been here I’ve watched you train new CSR’s, assist the others in the transition of having a new boss, and run the schedule with precision… I’ve never heard a single complaint about scheduling and everyone actually gets along. I have to tell you, I’m very impressed.”

    She swallowed hard, clasped her hands in front of her and squeezed tight. “Really?” Was that her voice that sounded so small and… needy?

  54. Tina R--I thought of you when I posted my lines this morning. :)

  55. Ruthy, you're working on a YA? That's so cool!!!

    I'm (blessed to be/still prisoner)at the day job and everyone's already gone for the long weekend so I'm thankful to come back and read more openings.

  56. I have been struggling to get over here today. HELLO DAN!!!!!!!
    I'm so glad you're on Seekerville again and then I don't show up in until mid-afternoon. Great blog.
    Great beginnings. I believe in them so VIOLENTLY.

    Please, please, please don't start your book with your heroine driving somewhere musing about everything that has brought her to this point, this drive to her destiny/crisis/true love/whatever.

    NO! EXPLODE YOUR BEGINING! It doesn't have to be a real explosion, an emotional explosion works just as well, but honestly, I prefer if somethign really blows up. :)

    Be ruthless about cutting out ANY backstory from the beginning of the book. TRUST ME, you've got to write 60,000-90,000 words, you'll have plenty of time to weave that in later, after you've got your big fish hooked so hard they have to read on.

  57. Awesome cover for The Discovery, Dan. Looking forward to reading it. I change my first line frequently when writing. Usually about a third of the way through the first draft and then at the end and then again and probably again. :) Here's my first line from Chameleon. My second book releasing in May.

    London, 29 March 1818

    St. James Park loomed in front of them, shrouded in a heavy mist that created difficulty for horse and driver as the coach and four maneuvered its way into the park.

  58. Beginnings:
    Petticoat Ranch, man falls over a cliff, heroine rushes down the creek bank to pull him out of the path of oncoming flood water.
    Calico Canyon: The five horsemen of the Apocolypse road into class, late as usual. (no literal explosion there, but plenty of action.
    Gingham Mountain: Orphans being adopted by a single man, heroine tries to stop him.
    Montana Rose, Heroine watching hero dig the hole for her deceased husband's grave and gossiping about how worthless her husband was. She attacks and nearly falls into the open grave
    The Husband Tree, heroine digging the grave for her third dead husband (these are more emotional explosions than physical, right?)
    Wildflower Bride: A small group of Indians massacred, hero riding in and saving the heroine who is being kidnapped
    Doctor in Petticoats: runaway stagecoach
    Wrangler in Petticoats: Heroine being shot and falling over a cliff
    Sharpshooter in Petticoats: Hero climbing a cliff and grabbing the heroine and kidnapping her children to make her follow him as he takes her out of her self-imposed exile in the wilderness.

    Some variety there, but I write and re-write beginning many times trying to get them right. And when I finally quit I always know I could have done better.

  59. BTW Dan, I love the blurb for your book and the openings lines.

  60. RUTHY, I might fool with this opening line:
    Stars hover longer over St. Elspy’s Mountain.

    the first four words ending in R, the three ending in ER don't read smoothly.

    I don't know how I'd fix it and I LOVE THE REST OF IT. I can't wait to read it. AAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!

  61. The opening lines to
    OVER THE EDGE, Kincaid Brides Book #3 coming in August.

    Chapter One
    A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach, threading a needle to miss all four passengers.
    “It’s a hold-up!” Callie grabbed her rifle. “Get down!”
    The stage driver yelled and cracked his whip. More flying lead hit, higher on the stagecoach. The man riding shotgun got his rifle into action.
    “Get on the floor.” The woman sitting across from Callie was frozen with fear. That endangered Connor and it made Callie furious.
    The bullets came fast. They were going slow on a long uphill slope. With the driver's shout the stage picked up speed. From the roof came a steady volley of deafening return fire.
    Reaching across, Callie grabbed the woman by the ruffled front of her pink gingham dress and dragged her off the seat. The woman shrieked but didn’t put up a fight, which was smart of her. Callie would’ve won.

  62. I liked all of those Linette. You know it's working if you get to the end and want to keep reading.

    HELLO MARY!!! Welcome, at any time of day. Some great advice there and loved your examples. FOLKS LISTEN UP. Read Mary's comments. Great stuff there.

    Sounds interesting, Jillian. Love period pieces. What kind of book is it (besides historical)?

  63. As a rule, I have to admit, on occasion I will go thru my Keeper shelf and read first lines. Or read end of chapter hooks. Or just read chapter three hooks. I am trying to figure out what they did to hook me in.

    Of course I also am known to buy a second copy of a favorite book to mark up and analyze with markers as well.

    When I was studying Love Inspired (long before I had any Seeker roled models) I tore up Margaret Daley's. I loved them, but I had to know WHY!!!

  64. Tell me I'm not the only writer out there who has done this....

  65. Hi Dan,
    Chameleon is the second book in my Ravensmoore Chronicle Series. It's romance set during the Regency with mystery/suspense elements. I'm just thrilled to have this series published. It's taken a LONG TIME. :)

    The more I look at your cover the more I think I've been there. Do you know if it's taken from an area near Charleston?

  66. Tina, I've done this very thing. I even give this advice to new writers (when asked). Read great books, first as a reader, then go back and read them as a writer, making notes about what worked and why.

    And I do the same thing to stir my mind about opening lines and opening paragraphs. Especially if I'm stuck. Something about seeing it done well sharpens my own blade.

    Jillian, the cover pic is supposed to be from one of the garden plantations around Charleston, but not sure which one. We just visited Magnolia Plantation a few weeks ago, took some amazing pics (easy to do with such scenery).

    I had actually suggested they take a pic from one of the historic houses, since I spend more time in the city than on the plantations in the book. But after seeing the cover, it was easy to flex the point.

  67. Dan, that's it! Magnolia Gardens. It looks like the spot where they take your picture as you walk over the bridge. Awesome place. Very romantic spot and kind of mysterious too. Haven't been for years when the kiddos were little.

  68. No, Tina, you're not the only one who does that!

  69. Tina, I don't mark mine up, but I do analyze them something fierce.
    This is one of the reasons I still prefer print books over my e-reader when it comes to favorites. Especially when I want to reread my favorite scenes. So much easier to get to them. At least for me.

  70. Thought I'd throw something out here...

    I recently did a survey, preparing for a fiction class I'll be teaching, asking the question: "What are the Top 3 Things Readers Care About Most When Reading a Novel."

    Gave them 7 choices:

    A) A Beginning that Grabs You
    B) Characters You Care About
    C) Realistic Dialog
    D) Setting (Location and time period)
    E) The Story itself (Plot)
    F) The Pace of the Story (page-turner?)
    G) A Satisfying Ending

    What do you think the Top 3 answers were (or should be)?

  71. Dan, your opening not only made me want to read The Discovery, but made me desperately want to travel to Charleston. I loved the pictures on Facebook.

    Here is my beginning, I worked on it a lot yesterday, but I'm not loving it today....

    Trent had been working in the blistering sun all day. Now, he was seeing a vision. He thought he saw a lovely woman with a halo of flowers in her hair and a bouquet of wildflowers in her hand. She was wearing a flowing white dress. But why would a bride be running and playing with a group of children on her wedding day?

  72. For me:

    B) Characters you care about

    C) Realistic dialog

    E) The story itself (plot)

    If I could pick 4 it would have been
    G) A satisfying ending

  73. Your book excerpt had me wanting to read more, Dan! I'm curious now. And that cover--lovely. Makes me wish I was there.

    Working on beginning rewrites right now. How timely this post is!
    This is my third attempt at the first chapter, and so far I'm still not completely satisfied with it.

    First line:

    He couldn’t go in there. Not today. Maybe not ever.

    As for your top 3, that's hard. I keep trying to narrow to three, but always end up with four. A,B,C, and G. :)

  74. Donna, I loved what you said: "Here is my beginning, I worked on it a lot yesterday, but I'm not loving it today...."

    The writer's life, I'm afraid.

    This is a good beginning for your beginning. I might want to sharpen it up just a little.

    >> Trent had been working in the blistering sun all day. Now, he was seeing things. He thought he saw a lovely woman with a halo of flowers in her hair holding a bouquet, wearing a flowing white dress. But why would a bride be running and playing with a group of children?<<

    Just a suggestion.

    I'll hold off on giving the answers to the Reader Survey till the end of the evening. Though, really, there's no right or wrong here.

    Natalie, that's a great first line, as is, IMO.

  75. "What are the Top 3 Things Readers Care About Most When Reading a Novel."

    I'd love all seven. :) But my top 3 would have to be: B, D, F. And Charleston is on my D radar. Just after Regency England. :)

    Great getting to know you a bit, Dan. Look forward to the read.

  76. Congratulations on your new book!
    I first heard about it when Revell sent it in to The Wordsmith Journal as the first book to feature on their publisher page:

    It sounds like a great read!

    Good luck and God's blessings with it!

  77. Stopped back by to check in.
    Hey everyone!
    I've had a fairly good writing day, though lost over an hour's worth of work. Something about autosave being on the fritz. Sigh.

    I wondered what all these choices were. So!

    Sounds like a good class, Dan!

    Gracious - aren't they all important? Since it says "When reading" I'll cheat and assume we've not gotten to the ending. BWAA HAHAHA.

    Even so - just 3?

    A) A Beginning that Grabs You
    B) Characters You Care About
    E) The Story itself (Plot)

    That being said, I've thrown a book across the room more than once without G) A Satisfying Ending

    Well, more storms on the way here in beautiful middle Tennessee. Guess I'd better go back to writing while I can.

    Enjoyed meeting you in Seekerville today, Dan. BTW, May joined your FB page. She hopes you'll join hers when you have time! ;D

  78. Great meeting to, too. Jillian.

    Thanks for the link about Wordsmith, Pam T. That one got by me. Nice of my publisher to do that.

    The reason I asked for the Top 3 choices was...they've asked me to teach 3 Sessions, and I thought I'd rather spend a lot of time on a few things, then a little bit of time on everything.

    I'll check out May's page, KC. Stay safe. It's been crazy all these storms coming through tornado alley lately. Have family in the Dallas area. Thankfully, they were spared any of the damage we saw in the news.

    Did anyone see that clip of the semi-trailers flying through the air? Totally amazing, the awesome power of these things. Footage like that really brings it home.

  79. Great meeting to, too. Jillian??

    Who talks like that. See what happens when you rush? We were getting ready to eat dinner.

    I'll check back after. This is so much fun.

  80. Your new book sounds wonderful and I will definitely read it. The cover is so gorgeous I could never pass it by!

  81. You're a riot. Thoughts of dinner make my brain mushy too.

  82. Dan -- a few months ago I received a VISA rebate card on a purchase I made and it will run out soon. Sooo, on the way home I stopped by Barnes & Noble and now I have my very own copy of "The Discovery" for weekend reading!

    AND I took the liberty of turning the book face out on the shelf as well. Both yours and a book by our very own Seeker Mary Connealy were recipients that promo boost today. :)

  83. What a gorgeous cover. It reminds me of a Monet painting, so I’d be drawn to your book right away. And the back cover would entice me to check out the first page. There, your opening lines work just as you’d planned. I’d keep reading. Besides I love Charleston.

    It’s scary sometimes to think how quickly a book is judged, but I know if that very first line doesn’t grab me, I’m on to something else. I wonder how many good books I might have missed that way . . . There is so much is out there clamoring for notice that I fear my attention span has shrunk too much.

    My three daughters and I love to read and we have a couple of games we play. One, we take turns stating the opening line of a book, and, then, everyone tries to guess the title. Two, we come up with our own original opening lines and then everyone decides whether or not they’d read more. It’s actually a lot of fun and I have dozens of openings, some of which might actually lead to a story some day, but even if they don’t, it’s been great practice for me.

    One story I’ve been working on could open with:
    If given a choice, Kam Hardisty would have preferred handling snakes over talking to reporters.

    I enjoyed your posting. Your book sounds like the perfect read for me to take to Charleston this summer where my daughters and I will be vacationing.

    Please enter me in your drawing. Thank you.


  84. Thanks Cara.

    And Glynna...consider yourself hugged (from me and I'll throw one in for Mary).

  85. Whew. I finally made it here!

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing, Dan!

    I agree that the first few pages, the first line in particular, are crucial.

    I'd love to be entered in the draw.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  86. I've hard trouble getting on the internet today. And look at all the good things I missed.

    Here's what's important to me.

    B) Characters You Care About

    E) The Story itself
    And a Page Turner.


  87. Dan,Thank you! I love what you did with my opening!It is soooo much better!

    I've enjoyed reading everyone's work.

  88. First lines of my stories.

    1. Oh, Mama. I wish you were here to help me. Why did you have to die?
    (8 year old's pov)

    This one still needs work.

    2. She swallowed down a protest as a hairy arm tightened around her shoulder causing her to slide across the ripped vinyl seat of the Ford LTD and into Vinny Valducie’s smothering grasp.


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  90. Cara, I think it would be a blast to read The Discovery while actually in Charleston. Now I didn't mention (but should have) that the book starts in the present in Charleston, but then goes back in time to the Daytona Beach area during WW2 (where the family secrets/mystery part of the plot unfolds.

    I'm curious if this will cause any tourists to want to check out some of these places in Daytona (much more known for NASCAR and the beach). All of the places I wrote about are still there (although the stores have different names, like Woolworth's).

    Thanks for dropping by, Susan and Connie.

    And Connie, that Vinny with the hairy arms sounds like one scary dude.

    You are welcome, Donna. But don't feel you have to use it.

  91. It's been nearly an hour since anyone's responded. Guess we're wrapping up? I'll go ahead and give you the results of that survey.

    The top answer, getting 87% of the top 3 votes was B) Characters You Care About.

    2nd and 3rd place went to A) and G), a Beginning that Grabs You and a Satisfying Ending.

    So...Great Beginnings really do matter to fiction readers (came in 2nd on the survey). And I've thoroughly enjoyed talking about them with you all today.

    If you don't happen to win the copy of The Discovery here, feel free to go to my website or blog and sign up for my Newsletter (only comes out 4-5 times a year). But we're getting ready to do a 5-book giveaway in a week or so.

    All winners will get signed copies of The Discovery. Plus...they'll get to pick one of my other books, and I'll send them a signed copy of that too.

    If you don't want to wait for all that, feel free to buy one :)

    I'll check in tomorrow morning, in case we get any latecomers.



  92. Would I take this book back to the coffee shop with me? Nah ... I'd just buy it and take it home :-)

    I have a confession to make. Gulp. I rarely read the first line, paragraph or page before I buy a book. I open it to somewhere in the middle to find out if that holds my interest.

    One of my favorite first lines from a fiction book:
    This is about heroes, and what happens to them when they become real people.

    The first lines from one of my stories:
    Who on earth is ... was ... Uncle Walt? And *why* did he leave her a coffin shop?

    Congrats, Walt! And thank you for such a thought-provoking post.

    Nancy C

  93. Dan, thank you so much for being such an attentive and helpful guest. We look forward to your NEXT visit!

  94. So sorry I missed being in Seekerville today! The day got away from me, but this is a great post, Dan! Thanks! I love openings, but they are really hard to write. I always stew over mine. It takes me a long time to get it just right. And sometimes I'm never really happy with it, but ... eventually I have to move on!

  95. After leaving me original comment here I began thinking about the opening sentences and the hook this story needs. So when I came back and read your suggested line, Dan, I was delighted. It's perfect for this story! I doubt I could come up with anything better. I hope you won't mind if I borrow it???

  96. Carol, Melanie and Nancy,

    Thanks so much for stopping by. Carol, feel free to use it or change it. Happy to help, if even a little.

    Thanks SO much, Tina. See you in Sept with The Reunion (or maybe at ACFW in Dallas?

    Have a great weekend folks!