Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Launching a book…how to make the opening GRAB and HOLD




I’ve said before here that the beginning of your book needs to explode!
And in this blog post about how to begin a book I talked about the basics.

Explode

Story

Anchor

Moment of Change


Cute Meet


But today I want to expand on the very most basic thing, the explosion.

Mary Connealy--giving orders AGAIN!!
To launch a book be thinking about the reader. Maybe flipping through your book in a bookstore. Maybe reading an excerpt on Amazon.

You need to grab that reader and HOLD THEM.
And this is important….when you’re an author think about the editor you’re pitching to. Think about how hard it is to catch someone’s interest who reads books all day every day. What you need to do to catch that editor’s attention is exactly what you need to do to catch the reader’s attention.

You need a first sentence that just BANG grabs them, makes them wonder what’s next. Makes them curious.

Now I know we can’t all be shooting people all the time. (I can maybe but not all of us).

My constant advice to ‘shoot somebody’, works perfectly to represent what you need. You need to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.

Something fascinating, something important, something that makes the reader be riveted to your pages, forget the clock and lose herself in the pages of a book.

Now seriously … each and every one of you. (Yes, you too, Ruthy, Miss Million Books in Print!!!) go look at the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page of your book.

Does it GRAB and HOLD. Not JUST grab, but also HOLD.

We all know not to start with the heroine driving and thinking about all that has brought her to this point in her life, right? WE KNOW THAT RIGHT???

This is basic training stuff. Go look at your beginning and please tell me if your book does that, you are going to GET RID OF IT.

It's free...have I mentioned that???
And don’t start with a backstory dump either.
No, the beginning needs to MOVE. At the very least the doorbell rings and GREAT BIG TROUBLE (in the form of an old boyfriend, or a deadly serious policeman, or maybe an angry, doorbell ringing rattle snake) is on your character’s porch with bad, bad, bad news.

If anyone is brave today, I’d like you to post the first few paragraphs. Look at them. Do they grab and hold. Do they explode? If not, why not? What can you do to fix them?

We can talk about them. We can revise if you need it or if you’ve really got something great, we can learn from you!


Trouble

If your book starts with a phone call to come to the hospital, your father had a heart attack, do NOT start with the phone call, start with the character sprinting into the hospital calling for help.

Gunfire

Heroine dangling by her fingernails from a cliff.
An explosion blows you out the fourth-floor window of your apartment.
A rabid dog lunges at your throat.

It doesn’t have to start on the first sentence, that should be a charmer all it’s own. But soon, the first paragraph, certainly the first page.

I’m going to list the openings of some of my books. Read them if you want, skim them or skip them, I just hunted around and tried to find books I think started really well. I’m actually a little dismayed at some I THOUGHT started well and realize now, as I read to select great openings, that some of them could’ve be faster, more explosive.


RELEASING TODAY!
No Way Up

The steep sides of the pass into the canyon pressed down on Heath Kincaid until he could hardly breathe. Though it was a blustery November day, a sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead. It surprised him because Heath knew mountains, and he knew tight places.
He rode behind Chance Boden, the owner of this vast New Mexico Territory Land Grant, and John Hightree, the foreman of the Cimarron Ranch, and two other men brought up the rear riding single-file, their aim to fetch the cattle that’d gone in here.
They passed the busted down gate Chance had put up to keep cattle out of this rugged, grassless canyon.
             “That fence was stronger than the backbone of the Rockies.” Chance looked in disgust at the gateposts that just yesterday blocked the entrance. “That cantankerous bull shouldn’t’ve been able to knock it down.”
He led his men around the splintered lumber. “Let’s make short work of getting ’em out!” “
Heath was just passing the ruins of the gate when he heard the rumble. Right overhead. Only one thing made that sound.
“Avalanche! Run!” Heath reined in his stallion so hard it reared.
In horror he looked up as he whirled his horse. He saw tumbling rocks knock debris loose. The rock slide grew, picked up speed. Those ugly, rolling stones, raining down the side of the narrow neck of the entrance to this canyon aimed right for them.

Click to Buy
Now and Forever 

Matt Tucker could take people for only so long and then he had to get up in the mountains, all the way up where he was more likely to run into a golden eagle than a man. He’d wander in the thin pure air for a week or two, to clear his thoughts. Forget the smell and behavior of men.
            He slung a haversack over his shoulder, it had everything in it he needed to live, and rambled up a trail that'd scare the hair off a mountain goat. He’d left his horse behind, wanting to travel light and go places even his tough gray mustang couldn’t.
This time it wasn't men driving him to the high-up peaks. This time it was a certain head full of dark curls and a pair of shining blue eyes. Not a man—though no one would admit it—which was so odd he almost turned around.
In fact he wanted to turn around so bad he walked faster.
            That hair, those eyes were why he wasn't paying attention, which was a good way to get a man killed in wild country.
            He scooted past a boulder on a trail as narrow as coal black lashes on bright blue eyes. Then rounded a curve as tight as dark curls—and stomped on the toe of a bear cub.
A squall drew his eyes down. A roar dragged them up. He looked into the gaping maw of an angry mama grizzly. He hadn’t heard her or smelled her. Honestly, that was so careless and stupid he almost deserved to die.
            She swung a massive paw and he had no time to dodge. She knocked him over the side of that mountain.

The hero of No Way Up is a little boy in Over the Edge
Over the Edge

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 reached across, Callie grabbed the woman by the ruffled front of her pink gingham dress and dragged her off the seat. Somewhat more gently, Callie picked Connor up from the seat beside her and set him on the woman’s lap. Eight-month-old Connor yelped, more a shout of anger than a cry. But crying would come soon enough. Her little wild man didn’t do anything quietly.
 “Can you shoot?” She shouted at the young man, hoping he’d snap out of whatever panic had seized him. He shook his head frantically. “Get on the floor.”
Callie used her whiplash voice and hoped it got the man moving. She threw herself across to the woman’s seat to face backward. With her Colt in her left hand and her Winchester in her right, she shoved the curtain aside.

Click to Buy for $1.99--here's a woman who could really shoot
Sharpshooter in Petticoats

Tom Linscott slid backward five feet before he caught a slender rock ledge and clawed at it to stop himself from plunging a hundred feet more.
            The rock was nearly sheer. He felt blood flowing from his fingertips. His grip was shaky already and now it was slippery. He clung to that ledge like a scared house cat, afraid to move, fighting to slow his slamming heart and steady his breathing. He’d been climbing a long time and he had a long way to fall if his grip didn’t hold.
            Then he did what any thinking man did when something scared him. He got mad.
So, he clung to the side of that stupid mountain, gathered his strength to go the last twenty-five or so feet, and fumed. He was a rancher not a mountain goat. He should not have had to climb up here.
No woman should be this hard to get.


I’m Not Kidding

Those first few words need to matter.They need to GRAB AND HOLD.

I’ve just re-read No Way Up and I really like the beginning of this book. I think it’s a grabber. 

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of
NO WAY UP!

Click to read a longer except from No Way Up

No Way Up
Cimarron Legacy book #1
Releasing today

New Western Romance Series from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy

When Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid saves him. Badly injured, maybe dying, on his way to a distant doctor, Chance demands that his Will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.


Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don't live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath's desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.


138 comments :

  1. It's still the Fourth of July here so HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!!
    I'm watching the HBO series John Adams right now and I just watched Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams debate the wording of the declaration.

    Absolutely riveting.

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  2. MARY~ Man, you are the queen of opening lines. Love them. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but the first book I wrote actually did start in the car with the heroine thinking about what had happened. LOL. Hopefully, I've learned my lesson.

    I don't like posting my WIP lines, because that's me. But I'm going to post the first few lines from my Feb. 2016 release, Interrupted Lullaby.


    "I know where Margaret Slade is."

    Lieutenant Dan Willis held the phone receiver away from his ear and stared at it, shocked. His colleagues Lieutenant Jace Tucker and Chief Paul Kennedy halted their lively discussion on the upcoming football game to watch him. Jace raised his eyebrows. Paul leaned forward. Dan pressed a button, putting the caller on speaker.

    "Margaret Slade, you said? You've seen her?" Dan nodded as Jace whistled silently. Maggie Slade had vanished more than eighteen months ago in suspicious circumstances. Although he had never stopped looking for her, he had all but giving up hope of ever finding her. Alive, anyway.

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  3. Thank you for this, MARY! Can't sleep because of neighbors fireworks, glad to see Seekerville is open! Love all your examples, but the opening of Swept Away is also a favorite: "The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Lucas Stone's head around." Love it!


    The first draft of my first book definitely didn't have a great opening (began with protagonist trying to get somewhere) and I've changed it at least a dozen times. I'm finally happy with it now.

    Here's the opening paragraph of my WIP: "The minute Elijah Blake saw the woman he knew she was in trouble. There were scratches on her face and hands, her long hair was tangled, and her feet, peeking out from the hem of a threadbare calico dress, were dirty and bare. But it was the bunched-up patchwork quilt in her arms that held his attention—the quilt she hugged closer to her breast whenever he stepped toward her."


    Thanks again! Love the doorbell ringing rattlesnake, LOL.

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  4. The last book I wrote started with a driving scene--CUT!

    Of course, I didn't do this before the contest in which it was submitted. Oh joy, I'm a smart one. R

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  5. Laura, I like your opening paragraph. It's visually interesting.

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  6. DANA AND Texas Teacher Anne, MINE STARTED THAT WAY TOO! My earlier books that is.
    And that's completely natural because a writer is trying to introduce her characters. So of course you'd start by having her/him thinking through stuff up to this moment.

    But you just have to look at that like an exercise. SAVE THAT. But in a separate file.

    This is all craft. If you love writing, you can learn the craft.

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  7. Dana, I love that opening. Cool. It's a grabber for sure and I want to read more!

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  8. Laura, you draw such a vivid picture with your words! It's cool. I can picture that woman and feel the TROUBLE, just like your hero can.

    Excellent!

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  9. Thank you, TexasTeacherAnne! I'm about a third of the way through the first draft and I'm making changes and corrections nearly every time I read a Seekerville post :-) Learning so much!

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  10. Dog-gone it, Mary, your intros are great.

    My fave:

    Sharpshooter in Petticoats

    Tom Linscott slid backward five feet before he caught a slender rock ledge and clawed at it to stop himself from plunging a hundred feet more.

    You have some stellar last lines too.

    You go girl! ---> She swung a massive paw and he had no time to dodge. She knocked him over the side of that mountain.

    This is a great line too. Funny. I wish I wrote it. ---> No woman should be this hard to get.

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  11. I consistently get feedback that my openings aren't strong enough. So here's the latest, from my current Camp Nanowrimo project:

    “What do you mean, you have to go to Alaska for three months? Next week? We’re supposed to be getting married in ten days.” I sounded like an overexcited primate as my calm and logical self was overtaken by a hitherto unknown emotional wreck.

    I needed to calm down.

    Behave myself.

    Think calm happy thoughts.

    My repressed emotional self told logical self to put a lid on it because postponing my wedding was a screechworthy subject.

    Sam picked up his spoon and toyed with his dessert, not appearing to notice my agitation.

    “It’s a big break for me, Cassandra,” he said in his too-calm voice. “I’ve been trying to get in with this client for almost two years, and it’s seasonal. It has to be now, over winter. Besides, wouldn’t you prefer a spring wedding?”

    I narrowed my eyes. He wasn’t going there, was he?


    Have at it, Seekervile ladies!

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  12. MARY....I've read all of your Kincaid brother's books and I can say for certain you both drew me in an held me prisoner like that stagecoach robber in "Over the Edge"! What a ride :-) I've no doubt "No Way Up" will do the same! I also do have "The Boden Birthright" waiting for me on my Kindle.

    As a reader, that explosive hook is what will keep me invested in your story. My rule of thumb, if I'm not into it by the first chapter, I'll quickly lose interest and move on. There's simply too many books for me to read (a good thing really) :-) Thankfully, I've not run into that too many times and have come to know quite a few authors who've proven to be my go-to for a great story. Those ones I know I'm in for a treat with when I pick up a book by them. At the same token, I will always give a new-to-me author a try, in fact I love to meet them! They are what help to expand my reading palate and help feed my voracious book appetite, lol!

    Great post today! I do love reading how an author ticks and some of the tricks of the trade, it makes me appreciate all your hard work and dedication even more. Keep on keeping on :-) Oh and please do put my name in the draw for a copy of "No Way Up"...thanks so much!

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  13. (off topic alert!)

    I finished "Ferocious Faith: A 40 Day Prayer" last week & we had our 1st meeting Sun night! And here's the Overwhelming, Amazing thing...

    We Ran Out of Books & are going to have to print MORE!!! Now 50 books is probably Nothing to yall, but I'm THRILLED! And I can Already see God's Power in this entire thing- the books, the meeting, the people, the timing, the prayer, and on & on!!

    That's just How Big God is!!!

    Thank you Everyone in Seekerville! I probably would not have had the guts to even try to write without yall!! And thanks for listening! I just had to tell someone & I thought yall would understand!!

    PA- This has absolutely nothing to do with me it is; it's totally God!!

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  14. Um... that should say PS instead of PA.
    Sorry. 3am here. Too exhausted & too excited to sleep.

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  15. If possible I do like to read the first page of a book before purchase. I want to be grabbed.

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  16. I'm with Mary Preston, I want to be grabbed and pulled into a book before I buy it. I usually read the blurb on the back and then migrate to the first page. If the first paragraph can get my attention I buy the book.

    Thank you for the great post Mary!

    Blessings to all!
    Cindy W.

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  17. Connealy, I need a character with a gun, sure as shootin'!!!!

    Dagnabbit.

    Here's the opening to "Home on the Range" coming out from Waterbrook on October 18th:

    Nick Stafford stared at the half-buried, round-roofed dwelling and realized he couldn’t go through with the elementary school principal’s edict. Not if it meant meeting with a hermit who lived in a toadstool shack tucked so deep in the forest that woodland mice couldn’t find it.

    A hobbit house. No way on God’s green earth was Nick Stafford about to risk his daughters’ mental health by having them counseled by a recluse who lived halfway to a mole hole. No matter what the girls’ principal said.

    What was next? A hollow tree?

    He did an about-face, ready to stride away, and came face to face with a dryad.

    Cool gray-green eyes appraised him from beneath a hooded cloak, Celtic friendly, except they weren’t in the lush green hills of Ireland. They were in the forestland of central Washington, and the thin spring leaves did little to protect him from today’s chill drizzle. Which made her hooded wrap more sensible than his bare head.

    I have to say, I had so much fun creating Nick's and Elsa's characters... and I got absolutely giddy when she threw him off her property...BIG GRIN!!!!

    Mary, what a delightful assignment, and great post. I still write too much at the beginning, then pare down because it helps me get to know my characters... But I've learned to enjoy the slice and dice because it makes the story so much better! Thank you for all of this!

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  18. Jana! I think that's awesome! Congratulations to you, yay!!!!!!

    Excitement wins the day. Unless your Billy Joel who once said he couldn't write great songs unless he was in the depths of despair...

    Oh, Billy!!!!!

    I bet you could if you tried, my friend!

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  19. Gals, I do that, too. I read the back and open the first page to check the style.

    Sometimes I buy it. Sometimes I set it back on the shelf.

    I think we're delightfully normal. That's why Amazon invented their "Look Inside" feature, because lots of us do that!

    But it makes perfect sense. Check out the goods!!!!

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  20. Thanks for the post. I love these inside looks into my favorite authors as well as their advice. And thanks for the giveaway!

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  21. Mary, congratulations on the new release!! I can't wait to read it!

    I'm the same way. I almost always read the excerpt of a book before buying. I love being able to either open and read at a bookstore or use the "look inside" feature online. I have to be sucked in to finish reading!

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  22. I love your advice!! Got to work on my opening lines to catch the reader's attention.

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  23. Jana, that is wonderful!! I'm so happy for you!

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  24. HAPPY RELEASE DAY MARY!!!! When I'm considering a book purchase, I peek at the first line. It has to IMPACT me. This is a great post!

    Please enter me for the drawing for a signed copy of NO WAY UP!

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  25. Congratulations on your release, Mary! Your books never fail to pack a punch from the start.
    I love the LOOK INSIDE feature on Amazon. Typically, I'll use that when purchasing online. In a book store, I'm usually sucked in by the cover, and then I'll read the first page.
    I'd love to be entered into the drawing.

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  26. MARY, the opening of your books grab and hold this reader. Great job and excellent examples!

    I opened my early stories with too much back story. I remember a contest judge telling me my story started like at page six. Or maybe it was sixteen. LOL The great part, we can revise.

    Janet

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  27. JANA, thanks for sharing your joy! Wonderful to see how God is using you.

    Janet

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  28. Texas Teacher Anne, I especially used the Sharpshooter in Petticoats opening...no woman should be this hard to get...because it's NOT a physical explosions.
    No one's shooting, jumping, running from an avalanche. (It is a cliffhanger in a sense because Tom is hanging off a cliff, but it's not the same if he climbed up there himself!)
    So you can explode a story with a scene that's funny and hold the reader that way.

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  29. Iola, your opening made me smile.
    It's a great set up for trouble. I'm already thinking of weddings and the complications of cancelling one. Very strong opening. I kinda want to shoot Sam but then that's how I roll!

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  30. Trixie, thanks. I really like the beginning of No Way Up.
    I always read my own books as soon as they come into the house in book form. By then I haven't seen them for a while and I'm always interested in how they strike me.
    And the beginning struck me a little like the beginning of Petticoat Ranch, which just unrolled, and dragged the reader along for a long time, before I let anyone breathe. :)
    In No Way Up first the avalanche, then saving Chance Boden, then desperate work to bind his wounds there where he was hurt, then a wild ride to get the children (all adults) and send them home, then an intense talk between Sadie and her dad (Chance) who's then whisked away to the doctor, then she has to tell her brothers about the will! Then Justin and Cole....well anyway, it's just really keeps building momentum.

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  31. Jana that is wonderful. Inspiring!
    Good for you. Ferocious Faith...what a great title. THAT'S a grabber.

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  32. Mary when you think about an editor and how they judge a book for purchase, it makes sense that THEY want to be grabbed, doesn't it?
    We sometimes feel that an editor doesn't give us enough of a chance, but they are using a pretty decent yardstick when you think of how a reader selects a book.

    Now if I have a fav author I will just grab whatever is new and I won't ask her/him to thrill me from word one...because I trust them to write a good book.

    But for someone starting out...and by extension honestly all of us...this is a good rule. GRAB and HOLD

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  33. Cindy W, that blurb is one of the biggest marketing tools. Once in a while I am not satisfied with one, but lots of times I'll read one of my own and think how well done they are, how the blurb writer GETS IT!

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  34. Mary, how did you know I was going to start editing my novella today? Thanks for these great tips. Here's me being brave. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    True love. Twenty-six-year-old Miranda Jordan studied the sun’s angle then positioned Jane Anne Jordan and Corey Hamilton by a Crepe Myrtle. The only pictures more fun to shoot than engagement pictures were wedding photographs. Nice that her niece had found the one man to spend the rest of her life with. “Okay now, act like you know each other.” It was a beautiful day at The Hamilton Resort on Bald Head Island.
    Miranda studied her subjects. Jane Anne looked happy, but her fiancé was distracted. He continued to check his phone. Too bad she couldn’t take the device away.
    Her niece laughed and scooted closer to Corey. “How’s this?”
    “Much better.” Laughter and squeals from the swimming pool faded into the background and Miranda snapped a few pictures before moving to another spot on the sidewalk. She zoomed the lens and captured the couple for a close up.
    Jane Anne leaned over and kissed Corey on the cheek.
    Click. His eyes lit up. Click. He bent closer and kissed the tip of her nose. Click.
    “Great. How about we walk over to the dogwood tree?”
    “Sure.” Jane Anne jumped up and grabbed Corey’s hand.
    Miranda bent down and retrieved her camera bag.
    “Hey, what’s going on?” The somewhat familiar voice caused her heart to skitter.
    Miranda stilled. Could it be? The voice was deeper than she remembered. No, surely not. Something in the tone triggered a memory though. Her imagination must’ve been playing tricks on her. Maybe Jane Anne’s wedding plans resurrected desires for a wedding of her own. And she’d only dreamed of marrying one guy. Logan Hamilton.
    “Logan! What are you doing here?” Corey strode from Jane Anne’s side to greet the man behind Miranda.
    No, no, no. It wasn’t her imagination. Miranda took a deep breath and concentrated on the contents of her bag. Extra camera, telephoto lens, memory card, back up batteries, tripod, and small reflector. She’d spent years dreaming of seeing Logan again. But not like this. She’d wanted to wow him by wearing a beautiful dress and having a fancy hairdo instead of this ponytail and khakis.
    “I’ve moved back to work at the resort.”
    Corey motioned to Jane Anne. “I hadn’t heard. Have you met my fiancé? Honey, come here.”
    Miranda tuned out their conversation and zipped the camera bag. Don’t cry. Another deep breath. Chin up. Shoulders back. She rose to her full five feet and seven inches. She could do this.
    Corey’s voice cut through her haze. “And this is her aunt, Miranda Jordan.”
    Heat crept up her neck as she turned and forced a smile. “Hello, Logan.”


    After reading your post, I started wondering if it'd be more powerful to have her spot him through the camera lens instead of hearing his voice. Thanks for your help.

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  35. Ruthy I can't wait for this book.
    Someone needs to shake some sense into over protective Nick Stafford...and your little woodland elf of a counselor is JUST the one to do it!

    (PS Counselor is one of those TOP TEN hard to spell words)

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  36. Ruthy is giving Billy Joel advice.
    Well, heaven knows SOMEONE needs to.

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  37. Mary, I'm excited to read this new series!

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  38. Kate thanks for leaving a comment! Seekerville shares 'inside looks' endlessly. LOL
    You're in the drawing!!!

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  39. Honestly, Missy, though I try new authors all the time, MOSTLY I choose books by author name alone.

    If Michael Connelly has a new release, I grab it. Same for Nevada Barr. Same for Lee Child.

    I read the blurbs to see if C.J. Box is going to finally let Joe Pickett have a quiet stretch, but mostly I'm reading it regardless.

    Here's a community question...do you think C.J. Box wishes he'd though of Nate Romanowsky and started with him rather than Joe Pickett? I think he likes Nate best.

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  40. Hi Immashutterbug. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  41. Caryl, IMPACT ME. I love the way you put that.
    I'm going to remember that.

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  42. Jill, writer's need to know this stuff. I think we do but do we always remember?
    Cover/Inside the book/First Page

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  43. Janet I used to get that too. Of course we did. To a writer, THAT is the beginning of the story, but the IMPACT isn't there. That's all part of learning the craft

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  44. Jackie, the camera lens might be good--because that's such an extension of your heroine's character. But this is good as it stands, too. I'm feeling what she's feeling. I am hoping Miranda can hold it together, turn and face Logan casually.

    I also know already that this is your love story. And I'm wondering why aren't they together.
    You also made me worry about Corey. Is he a bad choice for groom with that distracting phone.
    There's a lot going on here to grab and hold a reader.

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  45. Hi Nicole! Thanks for leaving a comment!!!

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  46. I found your post very interesting. I'm only just starting out as an author, but I have always found that if you want your book to do well you have to have a good beginning. As a reader I like to open up the book and if the first sentence does not interest me then I am less inclined to read it. Here are the first paragraphs of my second book (sequel to A Week of Werewolves, Faeries, and Fancy Dresses) that I hope to have finished soon:

    Going over a waterfall has never been very high on my list of things to do. Now I know why. Cause tumbling over a waterfall while already half drowning can really hurt. A lot.

    I groaned and opened my eyes.

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  47. Who was it who said, "Grab 'em by the throat and don't let them go!"

    Spot on post, Mary.

    I wish contemporary inspirational romances allowed more guns. My life would be so much simpler.

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  48. Hi Mary:

    Sometimes if you want to get attention, whisper. Like your opening to "Runaway Bride".

    Quiet, she had to be quiet.

    I also like the opening to "Clueless Cowboy". This book actually has more of an acute hero/heroine meeting than a cute meeting.

    Emily Johannson hadn’t had a spare minute in a month.

    Now, instead of a pleasant walk in the woods to unwind after spring planting, she was going to—she snagged a thick branch off the forest floor—run off some idiot.

    A man tugged an ax from the bark of the magnificent tree in the Barretts’ front yard. Muscles rippled under his sweat-soaked white T-shirt all the way to the narrow waistband of his blue jeans as he pulled the blade free. He hoisted the ax again.

    Emily couldn’t watch him hack away at that elm another second. She sprinted across the Barretts’ lawn. Reaching him as his ax swung back, she grabbed the ax and jerked, throwing it wide.

    The impact twisted him around, tipped him off balance, and dragged him over on top of her.

    Emily’s handy club flew as she fell. Her Stetson toppled off her head.

    His roar would have knocked her down even if he hadn’t fallen on her. His weight carried her flat onto her back and knocked a grunt out of her. The smell of a hard-working man and the ancient forest soaked into her head.

    “Get off me.” Her face, pressed against his chest, muffled the words.


    Then there's this opening from my favorite Connealy novella, "The Sweetest Gift" :

    Adelaide Snyder’s wedding was scheduled for this afternoon regardless of whether the man who stepped off that train appealed to her.

    Or whether she appealed to him.

    “You’re a lucky girl.” Papa fairly bounced as the train whistle blasted. He was so enthusiastic about all this she occasionally wanted to shake him, but of course that wouldn’t be proper. It was amazing how proper a lady could be on the outside while inside she’s a raving maniac.


    ****

    I think you can have the 'explosion' on the page or you can have it in the reader's mind as the reader visualizes unlimited story possibilites filling her mind like Fourth of July fireworks.

    As for your examples:

    "Over the Edge" Perfect!

    "Sharpshooter in Petticoats" Perfect!

    "No Way Up" -- Why didn't you start the book with:

    "Avalanche! Run!" ?

    "Now and Forever" -- Why didn't you start the book with the hero stepping on the cub's foot and getting smacked. To wit:

    The mama bear swung a massive paw and Matt Tucker had no time to dodge. She knocked him over the side of that mountain.

    "I really shouldn't have stepped on her cub's paw."
    (comment added).

    ****

    What do you think? Am I being more royal than the queen?

    Vince

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  49. Mary, thanks so much. I appreciate your comments and encouragement!

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  50. UH-OH ... guilty as charged ... Isle of Hope starts with a driving scene!! YIKES!! :|

    You said: "We all know not to start with the heroine driving and thinking about all that has brought her to this point in her life, right? WE KNOW THAT RIGHT??? This is basic training stuff. Go look at your beginning and please tell me if your book does that, you are going to GET RID OF IT."

    Whoops ... too late!

    BUT ... I do agree we need to start with action as much as possible, something I learned the hard way when my first book, A Passion Most Pure, was critiqued by an author, who wisely said, "Get the action up front." The action at the time was a kiss that originally came on page 7 after 6 pages of introspection. OUCH!! So I moved that kiss from page 7 to page 5, to page 3, and then finally to page 1, so lesson learned.

    I thought.

    But then I realized that although I have action on every first page now, I always start with a heroine's thought that I hope gives a sneak peek at both the story and the heroine's personality.

    In my defense, I do believe that action is critical in a first line/paragraph for suspense novels, humorous novels, and your novels, which, by the way, move faster on the first page than entire books by other authors. But I like to think there is some leeway with other types of openings that paint a scene with introspection. Or at least I hope so because I have twelve novels and five novellas that start with either the heroine's thought or her dialogue.

    You said: "If anyone is brave today, I’d like you to post the first few paragraphs. Look at them. Do they grab and hold."

    I think maybe the best job I did of this, getting the action up front, is in Love at Any Cost:

    Sweet thunderation—deliver me from pretty men! Twenty-two-year-old Cassidy McClare peered up beneath the wide feathered brim of her black velvetta hat, legs and luggage spread-eagle on the dirty platform of Oakland Pier train station.

    “Miss, forgive, please—are you okay?”

    Hair askew, Cassie blew a blonde curl from her eyes along with a broken feather now dangling over the rim of the “fashionable” hat Mama begged her to wear. Reining in her temper, she forced a smile at a man in a stylish straw boater who’d just swept her off her feet—literally.

    Okay, going back to my WIP right now and re-evaluating! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  51. Good morning, Mary! Looks like a fun day ahead talking about and sharing story openings!

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  52. Wise advice in a clever post, Mary! Must go take another look at my first lines.

    TINA said: "I wish contemporary inspirational romances allowed more guns. My life would be so much simpler."

    So true! Fortunately, the ms. I'm turning in this summer is a historical. I took a tip from Mary months ago and began it with the heroine aiming her Winchester at a thief.

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  53. Jana, I am thrilled for you. The Lord is good!

    Mary, I loved this post. I am in a bit of indecision as to where to go with a book where I finished the first draft in November. Since I have been perfecting and entering in contests. Some of the comments from judges after reading the first 5 to 15 pages depending on the contest have been that this is perhaps a women's fiction all though it does have romance just not the typical girl meets boy in first chapter. I do have someone who volunteered to edit the whole book. I am now getting it ready to send to her and trying to catch as much as I can.

    One of the judges said they couldn't get into the story at all. I am trying to decide whether to leave it as is and go with it being a women's fiction and not a romance. OR to jump into the last 1/4 of the book where she reunites with her hero after she is in the hospital having all most died from her villain. If I do that scenario, after I do the hooking scene Do I then say six months earlier and go back to the original first scene and the book.

    I am almost to the crisis in my editing this morning. When I get that accomplished, I will include the two hook and see what everyone thinks is the best.

    Ill pop back in later with my two hooks.

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  54. I just have to say that one of the best openings I've read lately as far as action in a contemporary romance is Ruthy's Back in the Saddle, which I LOVED!! Here are the first lines:

    The sharp metallic click meant one thing.
    Someone had a gun pointed in Cole Stafford's general direction.

    Grabbed me right out the gate, and the rest of the book kept me there!


    Hugs,
    Julie

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  55. Mary, thanks for the reminder of the necessity of launching a book in a way that draws the reader in. Your points, and your examples, are so good. I especially loved your opening from Over the Edge. That scene draws me in fast.

    Here are my first few paragraphs from a book I'm revamping. And I just realized, it's a drving scene. Yikes.

    Wind pushed at her red Camry as snow pelted the windshield.
    Tiana Emory had done it. With two young kids in tow. She’d purchased their first Christmas tree since Jarrod’s death. Almost three years without him, and Christmas still felt hollow.
    Her husband’s absence had shadowed her as they’d walked the rows of Christmas trees, as she’d breathed in the lingering scent of pine on her hands. She hadn’t chosen widowhood, but discovering what normal now looked like had to begin somewhere.
    The expressions on her children’s faces when they set up the Christmas tree tonight would make the day’s heartache worthwhile. As long as she could get the blasted thing home. And as long as she could keep their samoyed puppy, Buck, from knocking it over.
    “Mama!” three-and-a-half-year-old Zachary howled from his car seat. “Mandy threw her cup at me!”
    Tiana’s shoulders slumped. Correct or ignore?

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  56. Mary, great post. I am going to be brave and post the opening of my novel I am writing. I know it needs a lot of work, but I'm not sure exactly how to fix it. The novel is about a tornado that destroys a town, and a historic church in the town in particular. I am opening it on Easter Sunday because the story starts on Easter and ends on Easter a year later. This is not the day of the tornado that destroys the town, but there is a tornado warning that Rick, the meteorologist, misses forecasting. This requires him to spend even more time at work, further stressing his marriage.

    “Happy Easter,” Rick Montgomery hollered out as he bounded into the kitchen. “What a beautiful morning—just like my forecast predicted.”

    Beth stood at the kitchen counter, pouring a cup of coffee. Still in her pajamas and bathrobe, her hair sporting bed head, she made a marked contrast to Rick in his bright yellow shirt and gold and brown tie. “Morning,” she mumbled.

    Rick leaned in for a kiss, but Beth pulled away. “I need to take care of the twins. It’s almost time for their next tube feedings. I already have Hannah dressed so you can take her to church.”

    “I’m sorry you can’t go to Easter services today, honey,” Rick said. “I wish I could let you go instead, but you are much better at taking care of the babies.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Beth said as she left the room without another glance.
    Rick sighed as he poured his coffee. Ever since the twins had been born prematurely in January, he felt like he was walking on eggshells with Beth. He knew it was stressful for her. The babies were supposed to have been born the end of March. Emma had weighed 3 pounds 10 ounces and Jake was only 2 pounds 14 ounces. They had come home three weeks ago with SIDS monitors and feeding tubes. Jake still had to use oxygen as well. Since the monitors often went off by the simplest movement, Beth was racing into the nursery at all hours of the day and night to check on the babies. Rick tried to help, but Beth had become so capable handling all their medical needs, and he felt generally useless. Besides, Rick had a busy schedule as the chief meteorologist at Channel 12 TV, and this was the busy spring storm season in Nebraska. In fact, he had just finished a week of severe storm training sessions.

    “Hi, Daddy. I’m ready for church.” Six-year-old Hannah skipped into the kitchen in the frilly pink and white dress that Beth had ordered online since she hadn’t had the time this year to take Hannah shopping.

    “Good morning, sweetheart,” Rick said, kissing the top of her head. “Let’s go.”

    “By Mom,” Hannah hollered out. But one of the babies began to cry, drowning out any further conversation as they headed out the door.

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  57. I love reading these beginnings!

    Another great line is from Janet Dean's The Bounty Hunter Redemption, which I'm currently reading. It starts with:

    A woman should mourn the loss of her husband.



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  58. Oh boy, gulp...here goes Mary...first three paras:

    The man had been dead for at least a couple of days by AJ’s estimation. He lay face down with a single gunshot to the back of the head. A significant amount of blood pooled, creating a river of crimson from the exit wound. Even with her years of experience, she was still amazed at how a small entry could emanate such an exploding exit wound.

    “Alright, Detective Turner, what do you see?”

    The young detective’s baby faced cheeks reddened immediately at her quiz. His hands shook slightly when he pulled a small notebook from his shirt pocket. He stood across the room in the kitchen area. Annoyed at how easily flustered he became, she stormed toward him, her long legs taking only four strides. Face-to-face, AJ tried to force him to make eye contact.

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  59. Every now and then I wonder...could I write a book? The opening lines in a book truly let me know if it will be a ho-hum yarn or a book that can take me places I haven't been. Will it be a wild adventure to capture my attention or just a slow ride? The openings you've shared grab my attention. My creative gifts lay elsewhere and knowing that, I eagerly turn pages on the good works of authors such as yourself.

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  60. What fun to read all these openings!

    In the grand scheme of things, my external opening scenes sometimes feel like they're in slow motion, but the internal/dialogue thread is usually roiling with emotion and angst. Which is actually funny (as in odd) as I tend to plot from the external.

    Not always, of course. Sometimes my external is hopping....

    Castaway with the Cowboy (ship is exploding/sinking) and Stealing Jake (kid is nailed into a crate) both started with a whopper of an external explosion.

    Claiming Mariah, the external takes a back seat to the meeting of the hero & heroine, who don't know each other, but there's a lot of bad blood (more than either of them even realize) between their fathers, so right off the bat, there's major tension between these two.

    In my wip, Terms of Indenturement (coming Summer/Fall 2017), the hero is on the auction block as an indentured servant in 1790. The external is bad enough, but internally, Connor's a roiling mess, and when the gavel falls, he explodes... Internally, that is....

    “Sold.” Bloomfield’s gavel beat a death knoll against the table in front of him. “To Miss Isabella Bartholomew on behalf of Breeze Hill Plantation.”

    Cold dread swooshed up from Connor’s stomach and exploded in his chest.

    A woman.

    He’d been indentured to a woman.

    He closed his eyes.

    God help him.


    There's a reason this is bad...really, really bad. lol

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  61. Good Morning Mary and what a great post from the expert of "grab and hold" beginnings. Your books always grab and hold my attention which is difficult these days. smlle

    Thanks for the tips to keep in mind when writing our own wip.

    Have a great day.

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  62. Nicky you start your book with the heroine GOING OVER A WATERFALL???

    Oh I do love that!
    All I'd add to what you've written is, I can't HEAR the waterfall. You've told me... "Cause tumbling over a waterfall while already half drowning can really hurt. A lot."
    But you can make this waterfall experience crazy. Sucking water into your lungs. Fighting for the surface, for air, the roar, slamming into rocks.

    Get the five senses into this sight, sound, touch, scent, taste. Bring that awful, terrifying, painful experience more to life. Great way to start a book, girl.

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  63. Switch to suspense, Tina. Debby Giusti is always shooting people. (is that right? LOL)

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  64. Vince you are absolutely right that it does NOT need to be a real explosion. It does NOT need to be loud. You can shoot someone, or blow someone up metaphorically and authors do it all the time.

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  65. Ah, but Julie you do it brilliantly. And we KNOW trouble is coming (at least I do) because I trust you.

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  66. Hi Glynna!
    Myra this made ME take another look, too.
    I can lose my edge if I'm not careful.
    Several of my books I read were a disappointment.

    So I'm going to take my own advice!

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  67. Oh, and Julie, in Petticoat Ranch, the opening line is, "There was something coming, something more than rain."
    That line was originally on at LEAST page 3.
    In several contests I had comments on that line, that people loved it. And everytime I'd revise I'd move it up and up, until finally it was the beginning.

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  68. Wilani it is SO GREAT, so COOL, so inspiring that you have a finished book to revise.

    Yes, of course you need to work on it, but what an accomplishment.

    And taking judges comments and working with them is difficult, especially when they say DIFFERENT THINGS.

    A real struggle to know who to believe. :)

    Have you started another book?

    That's what I'd do now that this one is done. Do your best with the revisions then start another book.

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  69. Thanks for the input! I went back right away and added a bit more to my beginning! It didn't even cross my mind to add all that stuff so thanks a lot, Mary!

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  70. Julie, Ah yes, Ruthy's gun, oh yeah baby. Way to bring the fire iron into the story, Ruthy!!!

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  71. Oh I'm reading comments and see we're adding our own. Here's the start of my new anthology New Beginnings, that just released in our Summer Seeker Anthology LOVE WILL FIND A WAY.

    She rounded a bend and startled herself as much as the bear foraging in the middle of the trail. The huge animal lifted its head and snorted.
    Samantha stepped back, aware that the sandstone buttes towering behind could trap her.
    Drop down and pretend to be dead.
    Yeah right.
    Samantha took another step backwards.
    The bear stood on its hind legs and waved a paw the size of Samantha’s head. Black fur swayed with the violent slash of sharp claws. Teeth glistened when the beast bellowed, saliva spraying from the force of its roar. A strong musty animal smell overpowered the clean scent of grass and junipers Samantha had been enjoying seconds earlier.
    “Back up slowly toward me.”
    Samantha jumped at the sound of the male voice to the right of her.

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  72. Lot's of exciting starts here. You inspired us Miss Mary.

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  73. Now see Jeanne I don't think there's a thing wrong with this. She's not driving a car mulling over all that has come before, though there is some of that.
    She is fighting for her life against wicked weather while trying to keep her children safe and happy.

    You might cut JUST A BIT of the backstory, but not too much. I love the emotion.

    I love that last line, too...CORRECT OR IGNORE.

    Man how many mothers can relate to that???

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  74. Sandy I really like this.
    I can so FEEL this. That overstressed mother, the confused and busy father.
    It's excellent.

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  75. Dana, oh yeah, I loved the Bounty Hunter's Redemption.

    Excellent first line.

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  76. Really fascinating beginning, Sharee.
    I would definitely read on.
    I can imagine myself in that situation, the awful ugly scene, the pressure from his superior.
    Excellent

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  77. Hi Mardell.
    Hang around Seekerville for a while, you'll definitely be writing a book.
    How could anything else be THIS much fun!!!!
    Thank you for the kind words about my writing!

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  78. Pam I can't WAIT for this series.
    Great beginning. LOVE the calm exterior and boiling interior, this is a great example of how to explode a beginning with out a physical explosion. Although being sold on an auction block! Yikes! That's a really powerful emotional hook so an explosion in it's own way!

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  79. HI SANDRA!
    Wow, cool beginning. Exciting, scary.
    LOVE the man's voice jumping in, helping.

    Excellent, strong hook.

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  80. Thanks, Mary. I'm glad to know I'm on the right track. I have two other POV characters, and I begin their scenes in a similar way to introduce the issues they are facing.

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  81. Thank you Mary!!

    I love reading everyone's beginnings.

    Thanks for doing this today :)

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  82. Here is my new and improved begginning. Thanks again for the ideas!

    Going over a waterfall has never been very high on my list of things to do. Now I know why. Cause tumbling over a waterfall while already half drowning can really hurt. A lot.
    I don't know when I first regained consciousness, but it had to have been about halfway down the waterfall.

    My eyes shot open with panic and I struggled to keep my mouth shut. To keep my burning lungs from breathing in the icy cold water.

    I hit the water below with a mighty Splash!

    The icy water enveloped me and began somersaulting all around. Tossed about by the tiny eddies underneath the waterfall.

    I plummeted downward tumbling not knowing which side was up and which was down. My shoulder hit a water eroded rock and I began spiraling into another direction.

    One thought surfaced in the midst of my panic. I needed to surface. I needed to breathe!
    I tested my limbs to see if they would finally work. I managed to get my leg to make some short jerky motions, and tried to push my way to the surface. Now if only I could figure out which way was up…

    My face broke the surface and I took a gasping breath of water inhaling about as much water as air. The beating water of the waterfall above pushed me back under.
    I needed to get out from under this thing.

    I swam under water until the roar of the waterfall gradually grew fainter. Darkness began to darken the edges of my vision and I struggled back to the surface. I gasped for air and tried to cough out the burning water that had already infiltrated my lungs. I bobbed in the water, my face repeatedly ducking back underwater when my weak legs could not keep me afloat.

    I felt the last of my strength ebb from my exhausted body and took one last deep gulp of air before I sank below the surface once again.

    I floated downward staring up at the surface of the water wondering if I should just give in and stop fighting.

    My eyes began drifting shut as I used up the last of my stored oxygen to feebly try to kick to the surface. My legs barely twitched.

    So this is it? This is the end? I found myself surprisingly okay with that.

    The last thing I saw before the darkness claimed me was a figure standing by the bank of the river worriedly peering in, then everything went black…

    I groaned and opened my eyes.

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  83. I'm not brave enough to post any of mine, but I will be dissecting all your examples with new eyes. :)And yeah, for your newest release!

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  84. TOM LINSCOTT!!!!!

    I'm also way behind on my Mary-fic. I need to fix that.

    Off to check my beginnings, though I'm sure none are as good as those... /mutters about not being able to shoot at people as much in contemporary romance not set in the hood/

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  85. Thank you Mary, this is a good post and something we need to be reminded of. Mystery and suspense authors do this really well (the published ones, that is. Which is probably why they're published.)
    KB

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  86. TWO OF MINE:
    From "Trail, a Novel of the Oregon Trail":
    May 1846
    St. Joseph, Mo.

    Why him, why here, why now?
    Her heart felt like it could pound its way out of her, from deep under the layers of her camisole, crisp white blouse and light wool jacket. The world slowed around her, the commotion from the street, the murmur of voices in the hotel lobby. She was only dimly aware of wagon master Pace Williams’ blurted, “You know each other?”
    There was only him, Michael Moriarty, standing there bigger than life. But then he always had been.
    Michael. Six feet four, shoulders straining at his checked flannel shirt, black curls springy from a recent washing. The hard planes of his face the same, and those cobalt blue eyes, now staring at her in disbelief. “Caroline?”
    Someone had to get them out of this awkward situation. And for all Michael’s glibness, it looked like it was up to her. She drew on the manners from her Eastern childhood, swallowed once, and turned to Williams.
    “Mr. Moriarty and I knew each other back in Ohio. He was my husband’s best friend.” She smoothed her skirt, looked everywhere but at Michael. “Naturally, when I applied for the cook’s job, I had no idea he was your scout.”
    Three unadorned sentences. The best she could do. And they exhausted her.

    From the sequel, "Town, a Novel of the Oregon Settlement":
    January 1847
    Hall's Mill, The Oregon Country
    Well, this was different.
    In his career Pace Williams had confronted Mexican bandits, wagon train mutinies, white men's pistols, red men's tomahawks, and a man in the Canadian lumber camp who had gone berserk and charged the entire company with an axe. But he'd never been pushed into a water trough by a woman with a perfect face and eyes the color of a mountain stream.
    He struggled to his feet, shaking himself like a dog. Well, the water was cold enough. At least it wasn’t raining, the rain that dripped or pounded its way through every day of an Oregon Country winter. But the air was still damp, mixed with the odor of smoke struggling from the poorly-ventilated shacks and the heady smell of new-cut lumber from the mill. And the mud churned up by the teamsters’ wheels.
    This woman knew how to get a man's attention, he'd give her that. Although there must be easier ways...
    Beside him his best friend Michael Moriarty clambered out of the trough, with his wife Caroline clinging to him as though she could lift 200 pounds of muscled Irishman. Mike looked as sorry as Pace felt, with his denims and plaid shirt clinging to him. Their friends' and neighbors' laughter didn't help any. Mike leveled a glare at them before focusing it on the newcomer.
    “Moriarty, who is she?” someone from the crowd called out.
    “She's Oona Cathleen Moriarty, my sister. And she's supposed to be in a convent in Dublin, not pushing me into horses' troughs.”
    The woman matched him, scowl for scowl. “After what you did to me, 'tis lucky I didn't drown you. Putting me in a convent? Really, Michael.” Her voice was melodious, sweeter than her words or her expression, with Mike's Irish lilt.

    These were Hard Won and I tore up (metaphorically, I do use the delete key) dozens of other openings. I still haven't done one with a gun, but there's hope...

    KB

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  87. Here is the beginning of a second book I am working on. I switched up the beginning when I read this post so instead of being in a library reading a book at the beginning of this book my heroine was encountering an Infected (which is just my special name for zombie for anyone confused.

    I was dead. Or as good as.

    My only condolence was that my death would probably be swift and relatively painless- if you can call having human teeth rip into your flesh painless.
    I tried not to think to much on what was going to happen after my death. What I was going to become.

    I sure hoped that I didn't turn against my own family, I don't think I could live with myself if I did, even if I would already be dead.

    The Infected did not appear to have noticed me yet, which I found comforting, but how could I escape? I could not move for fear of my gown rustling and alerting him of my presence. But if I remained here he would detect me for sure.

    I remembered reading the latest scientific magazine that the Infected were becoming more adept at detecting humans. They were evolving, becoming better hunters. If I recalled correctly one of those improvements was a better sense of smell.

    I sniffed at my lavender perfume and grimaced.

    Oh, I was so certainly dead.

    The Infected began sniffing around from where he was nestled in our rose bush.
    I had to get out of here before he detected my lilac smell in the midst of all those roses!
    With shaking fingers I bunched up my skirts in my hands and lifted them slightly being careful to not let them rustle.

    I took a tiny step back. Toe to heel. Toe to heel. I managed a few more steps and my heart rate began to return to normal. Perhaps I would get out of this situation alive after all!

    I quickly realized that my relief and elation had been premature as the very next step I took landed on a hoe that had been left on the ground. I did not realize it until it was too late and the long stick side swung up and hit the back of my head with a loud resounding Crack!

    “Oh!” I exclaimed stumbling forward dazed.

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  88. Nicky that's excellent. Maybe that was all there before and you just didn't write far enough.

    One little thing that struck me was to use stronger words in a couple of places.
    Example:


    I hit the water below with a mighty Splash!

    Mary's version: I slammed into the water so hard it felt like concrete.
    or

    I saw churning water at the base of the falls and it was coming at me with the speed of a freight train. I slammed into it face first, with stunning force, and it closed over my head.

    (okay, I've rewritten this five times, I keep revising MYSELF!)
    Great opening, even the HOPE because someone is there to SAVE HER!!!

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  89. Sharee what do you think? Time for lunch?

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  90. Hi Megan, if you get brave later you could still toss that opening up here, to be read by the WHOLE SEEKER WORLD!!!!!
    :)

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  91. Carol, LOL that's why I love historical cowboys. Lots of action and gunfire. Ropin' and ridin'

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  92. kaybee, love BOTH of these openings.
    Pace has his own story now!!! YAY

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  93. Yikes, Nicky. WOW teeth ripping! So cool(<<< that sounds wrong!!!) Go Girl!

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  94. Okay - here's a couple:

    Hand-Me-Down Princess (yeah - heroine introspection...it worked at the time...)

    Nothing like being a hand-me-down Princess.

    The words mocked Jessabelle over and over as she stared at her reflection in the mirror.

    Hand-me-down.

    Passed over.

    Rejected.

    Unwanted.

    In less than an hour she would become Princess Jessabelle of Mevendia, wife of Prince Malachi, second in line for the throne. Not because he wanted to marry her, but because Crown Prince William had rejected her.

    Twice.

    Winning the Queen's Heart (My favorite)

    “Arrest him and throw him in the dungeon.” Queen Christiana Elizabeth Marissa Abigail the First stared as seven slightly different versions of herself in a cloud of white satin and tulle stared back from the multifaceted mirror. The satin hugged her curves in a way that made her uncomfortable. But it was the dress he had picked for her. And she wanted to make him happy.

    The man behind her nodded. “I will give the order, Your Majesty.” He bowed slightly at the waist and turned to walk out, but she called after him.

    “Alexander?”

    He stopped and turned, meeting her eyes in the mirrors. “Yes, ma’am?”

    “You are certain?”

    Alexander Bayfield nodded. “The assassination would be carried out on your honeymoon allowing your fiancé to claim his ‘rightful’ place as King of Ravenzario. The drugs were found in his possession.”

    Falling for Mr. Write (One of my favorite heroes - happy sigh - but it wouldn't let me put "for" in a link...how dumb is that?)

    Bethany Sheer plastered a smile on her face as she heard a car door slam in the driveway. When the doorbell rang, a moment later, she looked through the peephole. The smile slid away, replaced by recognition.

    Gavin Parmiggiano.

    The one male who had ever made her stomach flutter and a blush creep up her cheeks. What was he doing here? Taking a deep breath, she pulled the door open and fixed the smile back in place. “Can I help you?” Better to pretend she didn’t recognize him.

    He shoved his hands in his pockets then pulled them out. “I’m here for an interview.”

    She arched one eyebrow. “Interview?”

    The man shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “For the nanny position.”
    Her eyes flickered to his loafers then scanned up. Gavin had filled out since high school, but still not an ounce of spare flesh. His clothes spoke of quality. Why would he need a nanny job? And what made him qualified for one?

    “Can I come in?” Was he trying to contain a smirk?

    Her smile stayed rubber-cemented in place. “I’m sorry. The position is for women only.”

    He crossed his arms, the movement making her mouth dry as his biceps strained the fabric of his blue, collared shirt. “Isn’t that a bit sexist?”

    Bethany had to be careful. In high school, Gavin’s charm was legendary. He could charm anyone he wanted. Girls. Teachers. Administrators. Umpires. She couldn’t be one of them. Too much was at stake. “No.”

    Current WIP

    Movement in the woods to the left of the gate caught Jonathan’s eye.

    Seeing a wild animal there wasn’t unusual. He lived in the country. It went with the territory.

    But something about this shadow was different.

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  95. Thanks Mary Looks like you are having fun today.

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  96. Carol I liked all of those.

    This shadow was different.....

    Love that

    Love the poison and the fiance, yikes.
    The man nanny, the hand me down princess! All excellent starts. I don't think it counts as spending too much time thinking if an assistant is standing behind you talking about someone who is planning your murder.

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  97. We are having fun, Sandra! Thanks for getting involved!

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  98. Here is the kick-off to Long Time Gone, book #2 of the Cimarron Legacy.

    Long Time Gone
    Cimarron Legacy Bk #2
    Skull Gulch, New Mexico November 1880

    Chapter One
    Abandoning his sister to save his brother. Justin Boden felt as gut shot as Cole.
    He left someone behind to find Sadie, feeling like he was tearing himself in half to make that choice. But he had only minutes to get his big brother home to stop the bleeding and tend his wound.
    And that meant leaving his little sister Sadie behind, possibly in the hands of the man who’d shot Cole.
    Yes, he’d left someone behind to rescue her, but it went against everything he knew about caring for his family.
    “No.” Cole’s words were slurred. “Sadie.” He drooped forward until he almost lay on his horse’s neck.

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  99. Hello Mary! I loved that HBO series on John Adams! It was fantastic! My son got it for us a couple years ago and we enjoyed it very much - I'm a sucker for anything that has to do with American History!

    Your book sounds terrific, as usual! Put me in the drawing!
    Valri

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  100. Hey Mary,
    Looks like another winner.

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  101. Thanks for your words and your suggestion, Mary. I'm definitely going to revisit the backstory aspect. :)

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  102. Love this post and the examples everyone has been sharing and since I learn by example it is soooo helpful to me.

    I think my favourite Mary Connealy book is Cowboy Christmas -- shhh, we're not talking above a whisper because I don't want the other Connealy natives to get restless on my bookshelf. They are already a bit miffed because I pulled Cowboy Christmas off the shelf. This was the first book I ever read by you, Mary. I was new to Christian fiction and Cowboy Christmas was among the books I bought on my first buying spree at the Christian bookstore. (sob, moment of silence for the demise of said store.) Anyway, I went in armed with a ton of new-to-me author names and no clue what I was looking for so I made my purchasing decisions based on the first page:

    "You'll wear that dress, Songbird." Claude Leveque grabbed Annette Talbot's arm, lifted her to her toes, and shoved backward.

    Annie tripped over a chair and cried out as it toppled. The chair scraped her legs and back. Her head hit the wall of the tiny, windowless shack, and stars exploded in her eyes."

    I'd say you are the queen of explosive beginnings, Mary! And the thing I love most about your writing is that you keep the explosions coming. That's where I struggle -- keeping up the momentum as the story progresses.

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  103. Mary I have finished three books now and those are all in revision mode. I am writing a 4th book now as well as having 2 middle grade books.

    Life has thrown me some curves today--struggling through extreme vertigo.

    Here is my new opening hook What do you think. What I had before is the part after eight months earlier. Which do you think is better? Any suggestions?


    “Praying! Ha! Forget it.” Eric spat. “I'll never turn to God!” He broke free of the restraint just as Shawn gave him a shot. Eric grabbed hold of Dreama and dragged her over to the counter where he could grab a scalpel out of the drawer.

    “Move back! Anyone steps any closer and Dreama dies. She'll die anyway because I'll kill her tonight, but only after you get me a truck to leave. She's a piece of dirt. I hate her. She must pay for putting me in jail.”

    Dreama tried to get away. The scalpel slipped and cut her head. Shawn gasped. “Dreama, hold still. Let me help her, Eric. The police will work on getting the truck you want. You loved Dreama at one time. Do you really want her to die? Take me as your hostage instead.”

    “No way! Don't even try it.”

    Eight months earlier.

    Dressed only in her lacy, white slip, Grandma stood in the middle of the yard with a mop.

    “Grandma, you need to come back into the house. Now.”

    “I need to finish mopping the floor first.”

    “Grandma, please come inside. It's two in the morning.”

    “No, I won't.” Grandma stomped her foot.

    Dreama Bracket could see the headlines now: “Pastor Mathew Bracket's Mother Gives Grass a Good Mopping.” She raced through the door letting the screen slam behind her. Her bare feet sunk into the wet grass. The crickets chirped and the lightning bugs lit up the yard. She grabbed her grandmother's arm being careful not to bruise the delicate skin. No easy task considering her grandma's angry, determined, confused state.

    She refused to go to bed, slammed doors, and stomped her feet as she walked around the house.

    Grandma yelled, “You're so mean. Won't let me mop the floors. Love being with the lightning bugs. I hate you!” She stuck her tongue out.

    She was all right a couple hours ago. She was so kind and loving. Wonder what changed so fast.

    Finally, with Grandma in bed and the mop put away, Dreama collapsed into her own bed. Her tears refused to stop flowing.

    How much longer could she endure her grandmother's disease?

    In a few short hours, Dreama struggled to get out of bed when her alarm went off. She heard a pot bang and leaped into action. What was Grandma doing?

    She stood in front of the stove, stirring a big pot of oatmeal. The aroma of cinnamon filled the kitchen. Grandma was back to being so sweet and kind. It was as if nothing at all had happened last night. Grandma was in her right mind again. What a relief!

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  104. I want to go back to reading everyone's comments when my world stops spinning and tilting. They look great but it is rather difficult to read at the moment.

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  105. Valri it's on Amazon Prime right now!!!

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  106. Thanks, Jewel. Why don't we ever get together with our Iowa Nebraska Group??? :(

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  107. KAV I'm glad you liked that. And so do I. But it doesn't really shout MERRY CHRISTMAS now does it?

    I promise there's a tree and a roast turkey and some Christmas Carols....eventually!

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  108. DANA, you're sweet to mention the opening line of The Bounty Hunter's Redemption! I'd hoped that line made readers start asking mental questions.

    Janet

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  109. Wilani, wow, that's a whiplash.
    Riveting.
    And I've had a grandma with dementia and she lived with my folks. Your description is all too true.

    I'd never been held hostage so I'm not so sure about the other. :)
    But it's a great beginning!

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  110. I've been gone most of the day and look at all the fun you've had sharing all these great beginnings and getting Mary's input. Her books are excellent examples of staring with action!

    Janet

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  111. Love your excerpts, Mary!!! They bring back delightful memories of the books I so enjoyed! You always knock 'em dead...and that's a good thing!!!

    Just received your latest, NO WAY UP, in the mail. Eager to read!!! Thank you!!!

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  112. I loved reading everyone's examples and WIP's of opening lines! As a book reviewer I have to give the books I read more of a chance to grab my attention than just the first chapter, but I do find that the ones that GRAB and HOLD are the ones I end up rating high. I love books that start with action, humor, and compelling emotions or situations. Totally agree about avoiding the info dump! I'm far more intrigued when the backstory is revealed bits at a time, like unpeeling layers. Great post!

    Definitely include me in the drawing for your new book! :)

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  113. Hi Julie:

    Not every overture can open with a fanfare nor every symphony start with a dum, dum, dum....dum, like Beethoven's fifth.

    It's okay to start with someone driving a car and thinking...if that copy is captivating, rewarding, and holds the reader's attention making the reader want to read the next page. However, this is much harder to do than the typical violent scene so writers are correct in advising against this approach.

    There's nothing wrong with the opening of "Isle of Hope" because the driving is part of the action and the inciting incident. The heroine is not just driving to the food market like she has done a hundred times before. The heroine is driving into a new life!

    I had no problem whatsoever with the driving scene in "Isle of Hope" but I have had problems with most other driving and thinking scenes just as Mary mentions.

    It is always okay to break the rules, if you know why you are breaking them and you also know how to break them effectively. As for me, I'll stay with the guns and bombs.

    Vince

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  114. Mary, this post is great. I love revisiting all your story openings - all of them are memorable. Of course, I'm a tad biased too, since I love all your books. :)

    I've got a couple of opening lines from flash fiction I'm considering submitting to Flash contests or Splickety (if I can coordinate with their themes...)

    Flash open #1:
    I always thought my Mom was a certifiable nut case, right until the moment some dude threw a fireball from his hands and turned her into la femme flambé.

    Flash open #2: title: Dragonslayer

    After five hundred years dealing with humans, Zmerj figured he’d seen it all.

    Apparently not.

    His newly captured female stood defiantly before him, her virginal scent so potent Zmerj had to refrain from drooling. He hadn’t consumed a quality virgin in at least a decade.

    Flash #3:(sorta sam spade homage)
    I knew she was trouble the moment I laid eyes on her.

    No coffee stained waitress uniform could disguise she was a Lady visiting the wrong side of the tracks. Unfortunately, she’d replaced Peg, the only reason I frequent this diner. No one brews a better cuppa Joe.

    The Lady was a dish: large blue eyes framed by a halo of curly, auburn locks, an hourglass figure and gams a Rockette would kill for. She didn’t walk, she glided.

    "Coffee?"

    How could two syllables ignite fire in my veins? T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

    Not nearly as cool as the other stuff people have contributed, or your examples, MARY, but I hope I'm headed in the right direction. Flash fiction only really gives you one sentence to grab, I'm thinking...

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  115. Mary, thanks for your encouragement. I have to agree with you about Sam - I'm not convinced he's worthy of my heroine. Time will tell.

    Jackie - I loved your opening. Now I want to read the rest :)

    Now excuse me while I pop over to Amazon and check out some books ...

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  116. I need to read this every time I sit down to right! Thanks, Mary!

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  117. Janet, LOL I need an editor for my emails and blog comments SO BADLY!!!!!!!

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  118. MARY, thank you, you sweet thing, for the "brilliantly" comment, but as I recall, that was Natasha's phrase for YOU when she first talked about you to me at a conference! :)

    And, Vince, have I ever told you how much I love and admire you??? If not, I do. A LOT!! Thanks for your sweet comment.

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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  119. Hi Debbie G. You shoot people some don't you? See? Love Inspire Suspense...there can be shooting!!!

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  120. Heidi, compelling emotions is the real bottom line. Make the reader feel something!
    And an explosion does that.

    I probably need to get a bit more variety in my explosions.

    Thinking!!!!

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  121. Vince is exactly right. There is no one right way. And when I tell you there is, I'm probably full of it!!!

    Whatever way you choose can be done WELL. Pack in the emotion in a driving scene and it can work.

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  122. DebH you made me LAUGH OUT LOUD.
    He hadn’t consumed a quality virgin in at least a decade.

    Oh baby!

    Ah, Deb I loved them all. I especially like that they are DIFFERENT. The third one out of the fantasy realm. Good for you for stretching in the directions that interest you.

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  123. Vince I have to second what Julie said. I have your 'rewards per page' in my head now when I'm writing.
    And it is a GOOD reminder. I really appreciate it. You've taught me that.

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  124. DebH, I'm with Mary -- I loved them all, girlfriend, and I grinned ear-to-ear!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  125. Yay! I made MARY laugh out loud and JULIE smile. Bonus! That encourages me to do some subbing of flash fiction and hopefully start expanding to longer lengths. Work up to novella and then perhaps get verbose enough for a full length that contains sustainable conflict.

    Still, an awesome post Mary.

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  126. Thanks for the chance to win. Agree. . that first sentence mean a lot to a reader. I have put many a book down with a yawn. :-)

    Have a great week.
    Becky B

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  127. I am absolutely grinning after reading your openings, Mary. It made me want to read every one of your books...how great is that?! Yeah! Also, it made me want to reevaluate my openings. Wow. Hook, line, and sinker...you are such a talented writer and you make your point very clear. Hook'em!! Thank you!

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  128. I absolutely adore your books, Mary! You have brought me so much joy, it's hard to tell you just how much. My husband just looks at me when I burst out laughing at something in your books, which is pretty often. I'd love to win a copy of the new book. Thanks for the offer.

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  129. ohiohomeschool, this is such a SIMPLE and OBVIOUS writing skill and yet it seems to be something we all struggle with.
    Yawning during one of my books....that would be TRAGIC. (I know you didn't say mine, that came to me all on my own!)
    :)

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  130. Rebecca,k thanks. I'm glad you liked the openings and the blog.

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  131. Hi Susan! It's fun to see you here. I think of us as Facebook Buddies! But Seekerville is a great place to talk, too!

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  132. Thanks, Mary. You've made me rethink my opening for the novel I'm writing for Camp Nano :D

    Houses aren’t supposed to talk. I know its impossible. My rational brain says that talking houses are not normal. But as I stand in the rain outside of Madeleine’s place, I hear it again. Not a sentence; just my name in a whisper in the deepest place inside me. Am I mad? Maybe. I don’t dare tell anyone. They’ll think I’ve totally lost it this time and send me to a shrink. But I know it’s real.
    The wind blows and water splashes off my umbrella sending an icy tricky of water down my spine. I taste something salty and realise I’ve bitten my lip.
    The voice speaks again. ‘Chloe.’
    I can’t ignore it. ‘What do you want?’ I ask.
    Silence.
    I know what it wants.
    I need to find Jacques.

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  133. Mary, this was a great post! Sorry I'm late responding - a busy week this week!
    Although my current book is not fiction, but rather my memoir, I'd like to post the first few paragraphs to see if you, or anyone, has any suggestions/comments. It's being edited right now, and I will have one last chance to make changes if I want to.

    I had waited for this night for almost a year, counting days, hours, and sometimes in the dark of night, minutes and even seconds. Before that evening, my friends and family warned me that Peter might not tell me the words I desperately longed to hear. But I ignored their concerns and their messages. I was positive that I was right and they were wrong. I thought, My husband is coming home tonight, eleven long months after he left our children and me. Excitement rose in me so much I thought my heart would fail me. But it couldn’t—it dared not—fail me now.

    In anticipation of what he was about to say, I scooted to the edge of the red vinyl booth. Across from me sat a man whom I thought I knew better than I knew myself. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and he avoided looking at me, as if I had turned an ugly shade of green. His fingers drummed nervously on the table.

    My heart dropped to my stomach. I knew my friends were right. I wouldn’t hear the news for which I had hoped and prayed.

    Thanks for any input!

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  134. Fantastic post, Mary! And I thoroughly enjoy your books and would be thrilled to be entered in the drawing for a signed copy of "NO WAY UP!" May God bless you and all of Seekervill!

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