As I’m ringing in another, hoping there are still plenty of “firsts” ahead of me, I thought I’d share with you some of the first lines in my books. Every author knows that we have one line, one paragraph and if we’re lucky–one page to grab you, the reader and keep you turning pages. I can spend days tweaking and reworking the beginning of my stories. When you look at them individually what do you think? Does the line make you want to keep reading or not so much?
1. Jahara Khateri’s life was over. As she stared out the windows of the crowded helo-train, she knew nothing could change the course of her life. She felt the hollow reality as obvious as the barren expanse of the desert stretching between her and the horizon.
2. Nicholas Gradin III splashed three more finger of thirty-year-old scotch into the crystal tumbler sitting on the antique desk, not bothering to add ice. He didn’t need some watered-down version of liquid courage. At this moment, he needed straight up, balls-to-the-walls confidence that everything would work out in his favor.
3. Margaret Callaghan hid her heartache behind dark sunglasses and the Starbuck’s double-double mocha latte she carried like a shield. The steaming coffee hadn’t helped dislodge the hot coal of despair burning her throat or soothe the quiver of her bottom lip. Mercifully, the front receptionist’s desk of Summit Rehabilitation and Wellness Clinic was empty at this hour of the morning, giving her hope that she just might be able to reach her office and pull herself together before anyone could question her misery.
4. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”
How could this have happened to someone so young? Julie Tilling dabbed at the tears ruining the makeup she’d meticulously applied to her rounded cheeks. She stared at the coffin suspended eerily over the marred earth of the cemetery, not sure what to make of this farce.
5. Sara Lancaster had definitely made the wrong decision. Less than twenty-four hours ago she was sure this weekend was just what she needed. Eight hours ago, excitement had fluttered in her stomach as she’d left Boston, overjoyed to accept the invitation. Hell, just two hours ago she’d been giddy with anticipation as she’d collected her bags at the Key West airport and caught a taxi to the boat landing. But her tiny apartment and the bungalow where she currently stood weren’t merely thousands of miles apart—a whole world separated the comfortable life she’d finally made for herself and the fantasy she was standing in.
6. It wasn’t much of a noise, just an inconsequential thump in the night that was enough to rouse Professor Paul Morgan from his dreamless slumber. Still cradled in the gentle arms of sleep, his blood thick with sleeping medication, he wasn’t sure if he’d simply imagined the sound. But when another muffled bang was followed by a whoosh of air—he had no doubt the commotion coming from the first floor had nothing to do with his mischievous tabby, Zeus.
* UNCONTROLLED BURN *
7. Meghan Tilling’s body quaked with fear and the bone-chilling thirty-eight degrees of the cooler where she was trapped. She pressed her forehead against the icy metal of the door, her palm caressing its pebbled surface, trying to fight the panic lurking like a sinister shadow and threatening to overwhelm her in despair. How ironic that the annoyance of driving in a Maine snowstorm had kept her at Tilling Gardens and Plants, the business she co-owned with her two sisters. Finishing the shop’s holiday arrangements and festive decorations had seemed a better alternative to a white-knuckled drive home in the heart of a nor’easter. Except now, instead of being stranded in a ditch on the side of the road with a chance of being rescued, she was going to freeze to death alone in the walk-in cooler that was the lifeblood of her business.
8. Jesus. Even though Jonathon Brierton wasn’t particularly religious he prayed for Divine intervention. Not that he wanted any lightning strikes or halos of light illuminating the shadowed corner of the club where he’d hidden himself, but a little more help in the patience department would certainly go a long way at the moment. It went against his baser nature to sit back and wait rather than walking over and convincing the copper-haired beauty leaning over the railing across the way to put on his collar and join him in one of the private dungeons below.
9. Lilly D’Angelo wasn’t expecting a trip down memory lane when she sauntered into the dingy tavern, but the acrid stench and gruff hum of the Friday night crowd carried her back to one of the seedier establishments on Chicago’s south side nonetheless. Except for the clientele, the owner had managed to replicate nearly every detail right down to the blue haze of cigarette smoke and the soft crooning of a jazz band on the corner stage.
* A TOUCH OF LILLY (An All Romance Ebook BESTSELLER!) *
10. Deirdre Tilling slammed the spade into the soil. Her booted foot thumped down on its metal edge, driving it deeper and transferring her frustration to the wounded earth. She’d been working the flowerbeds around her farmhouse since noon. And though the sun stretched the shadows of the maples long across her lawn, painting their leaves a deeper crimson, the hours of heavy labor hadn’t helped ease the pain of loneliness.
This week I’m jumping into the fourth book in the Darynda Jones “Grave” series, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet. I love this series. Why? One word … characters. Ms. Jones has created a cast of characters that I have completely fallen in love with and can’t wait to see what happens next in their lives. Of course creating memorable characters that readers fall in love with is the goal of every writer who puts fingers to keyboard. Anyway, this got me thinking about characters over the years that were so strong/handsome/kick-ass that I still think about them. In no particular order …
1. Meggie Cleary (The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough) This feisty redhead knew what she wanted and went after it even when it wasn’t proper. When she couldn’t have the man she loved, she tried her darnedest to love the man she was with.
2. Burke Basile (Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown) – This gruff detective is sure he just wants revenge. In typical Brown storytelling of course he finds love is much sweeter.
3. Ayla (The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel) – Wow, what can be said about this heroine. She just keeps on keeping on. Surviving in the wild, she learns to communicate with animals. She names her horse “Whinnie”, not the name … the sound.
4. Nell Channing (Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts) – She is from the first in the “Three Sister’s Island” trilogy. I love these witches, but this first sister doesn’t know she’s a witch and that’s why I think I love her all the more.
5. Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle) – A boy who travels through time and space… what’s not to love?
6. Charlie Gordon (Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes) – This character just breaks my heart. A mentally disabled man that is given a cure and becomes a genius. But when it begins to slip away it’s heartbreaking to watch him decline.
7. Charlie Davidson (First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones) – Not only is she a detective … but the Grim Reaper. Yeah, who would have thought that the Grim Reaper could be one hell of a heroine. But there you have it!
8. Kristin Bjorson (Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey) – Another kick-ass heroine that you can’t help but loving. Kidnapped from Earth and transported to another planet, she steps up to help lead a ragtag band of victims to create a new settlement. Of course she finds the alien of her dreams in Zainal.
9. Eliza Flyte (The Horsemaster’s Daughter by Susan Wiggs) – Fiercely independent, she lives alone on an island. When a plantation owner brings a wounded horse to her to heal, it seems more than one heart mends.
10. Brenimyn (Garden of Serenity by Nina Pierce) – Oh come on, you’ve gotta give me one! LOL! Bren is the hero from the first novel that I published. I think he’s so memorable because I rolled all my favorite heroes into this one hunky guy.
So there are a few of mine. What about you? What characters can you just not get out of your head … or heart?
This was a fun little Valentine writing exercise. I used a WORD GENERATOR to pick some words that I had to use in a romance story. A roll of the dice and we’re given three characters, mine were a BANKER, A COWBOY, and A BASEBALL PLAYER. I need to work in the adjectives PICKY, FAMOUS and ANGRY. And the whole scene needs to take place in a TAXI CAB. Well, okay, here’s my Valentine’s story writtene especially for my visitors. Please enjoy …
The taxi driver set the gray-haired woman’s two oversized suitcases on the sidewalk of the Plaza hotel and handed the happy chihuahua’s leash to the doorman. She folded two bucks in his hand with a wink and a smile as if the five percent tip were an overpayment. He bent and kissed her on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day Mrs. Bozeman. I hope you enjoy your second honeymoon with your beau.”
A sweet blush crawled up her cheeks. “Forty-seven years ago today Mr. Bozeman asked me to be his girl. Pinned me right there in the hallway before he went on to win the high school state basketball championship.”
I love the magic of this time of year. The wonder sparking in a child’s eye warms my heart every time. A life time ago I was a teacher and I got all choked up when the little ones would tell me about their Christmas wishes. There’s something magical about Kris Kringle and his elves.
My own children wrote letters to Santa every year. They lovingly laid out Christmas cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer. They believed in the magic.
*** HOLIDAY SPOILER ALERT AHEAD ***
But why wouldn’t they? (Here it comes …) I left messy crumbs behind and cotton on the glass as Santa’s beard. (Yes, I said it … Santa never showed up at our house to deliver presents … it was all me and Mr. Nina … don’t be sad.) I used different wrapping paper on the “Santa” gifts. It was all very magical. And I loved it.
Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, words are my livelihood. But trust me when I say they aren’t the be all end of all of my existence.
There are so many things that just don’t matter to me. A turn of phrase that’s just not right Like when my friend says “It’s water under the dam.” Yes of course it’s water under the bridge or over the dam, but I get her meaning. Whatever she’s talking about is done and let’s move on. (Now, don’t get me wrong, if Mr. Nina said that I’d be all over him like flies on rice … or something like that. *g*)
My point is, there are things that just don’t matter to me. They’re not worth fighting about or in some cases even getting flustrated. (Oookay, that is one of my pet peaves when someone mispronounces frustrated … but I digress) The point is I’m not going to scour the newspaper, magazines or other people’s blogs looking for errors. Lord knows, when it comes to this blog, the number, of errant, commas would probably, drive an editor insane. I refuse to throw stones or cast aspersions that may possible bring someone here screaming that I’ve masacred the English language. I do it every day. If not publically on my blog, then quietly as I pound out my next story. I’m terrible with “your” and “their”. Not because I don’t know how/when to use them, but I don’t always see when I’ve used them wrong. (Sometimes my heart aches for my hardworking editors. I love every single one of them!)
Still, there are people like Gene Weingarten who lament that the English language is dying a quiet, agonizing death at the hands of newspapers who are cutting back on the use of copy editors. Half the mistakes he pointed out would not cause me to hesitate … but then … that’s his point.
This week while I’m taking a break from all the reconstruction (I think I actually can see the end coming very soon), I thought I’d share one of my favorite lists, this time from Andy Rooney. Here are some quotes of his that I found and thought they were very sage advice.
1. I’ve learned…. That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
2. I’ve learned… That when you’re in love, it shows.
3. I’ve learned…. That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
4. I’ve learned…. That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
5. I’ve learned…. That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
6. I’ve learned… That we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.
7. I’ve learned…. That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
8. I’ve learned…. That love, not time, heals all wounds.
9. I’ve learned…. That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
10. I’ve learned…. That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
11. I’ve learned…. That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
12. I’ve learned…. That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way.
13, I’ve learned …. that nobody’s perfect until you fall in love with them. (And sometimes we fall in love because they’re perfect!)
Over the years I’ve had numerous jobs. And when I say numerous … I mean like over 50. Really. I’m the female version of George Plimpton. (Only he was into sports. And a writer. And he made TONS of money … but you know… kinda like him.)
Anyway, I started working when I was 15 at the local Micky D’s. This was the beginning of drive-throughs and when we used to make shakes the old-fashioned way, with a mixer. A squirt of flavoring and ice cream, then blend. That stupid machine and I didn’t get along. I can’t tell you how many times it exploded all over me. But my most memorable moment was when a container of strawberry topping slipped from my hand to the floor. It hit the tiles flat on it’s bottom which caused the most interesting eruption of strawberry sauce, easily 5 feet in the air. How do I know this? When it was done, it was dripping off my face and the brim of my hat, and down the front of my uniform. And all of this happened in slow motion in front of a lobby filled with the lunch crowd. FULL! Oh, yeah, that was a fun job.
Let’s see, I’ve worked at a jean store, a mortgage company, an aquarium, a frame store, a processing plant, an overnight summer camp, and a daycare. I’ve been a waitress, a “gofer” for a game warden, a science teacher, a lab assistant, a janitor, an ed tech, a tutor, a resident assistant, a substitute teacher, and a secretary at a job recruiter and a real estate office.
Some of those jobs I didn’t really like. Being a janitor in a girls’ dormitory wasn’t really something I enjoyed. I’m not even going into the whole bathroom situation. Nor the job working second shift at a processing plant for computer components. I spent the summer straightening wire leads with plyers and boiling components in oil to watch for bubbles. *shudders* Those were long days. But the summer I worked on an island off the coast of Maine at an overnight camp was awesome. Working as a lab assistant, teaching physics labs in college was pretty cool as well. And I didn’t really suffer when I worked as a waitress. All those people to visit with … yeah, it was fun.
This is our new bundle of joy … Indiana Jones, Indie for short. It took us a couple of days to name this little guy, but after watching him bounce around the house and fly (yes, that’s the right word) off the furniture we figured his name fit his adventuresome nature.
This little guy was the runt of the litter, but what he didn’t get in size he more than makes up for in spirit. He has learned to scale a human (back or front) in 2 seconds flat (a bad habit that we can’t stop at the moment because it’s too darn cute). He can jump at least three feet both vertically and horizontally to reach sleeping spots. And has no problem taking on our older cat (who is easily five times his size) in knock-down-drag-out wrestling matches that make me wonder if he has all his marbles. And he has most definitely wiggled his way into our hearts.
And just watching him has made me think about how I approach life and more specifically, my writing. There are so many new things Indie encounters every day, yet I haven’t seen him shy away from any of them. He fearlessly goes through his day with a cocky arrogance that makes me laugh … and I totally admire. Which made me think that I should approach my writing that way.
When I first began this adventure I didn’t know enough to stop my muse from playing gleefully. We romped around wherever the spirit led us. But then I learned some “rules” and well … started to worry more about whether the story I was writing would be good enough. And the more I write and learn, the more cautious I become. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve floundered because I was overthinking a particular scene, too worried about how the readers (and reviewers) might not like a particular approach.
I want to boldly write my book and shut off my internal editor. I’d love to jump into scenes with both feet, eyes closed and land where I may. I keep working on it. Perhaps some day I’ll be able to achieve that goal and get back to when writing was a joyfully journey into new settings and characters.
How about you? How do you approach life? Do you feel (like me) that more experiences seem to make you more cautious … in everything.
This is the third installment of my self-publishing series. This week I’ll cover formatting and cover art.
To check out information on traditional publishing vs self publishing, click HERE and my post on editing and proofreading can be found HERE. And now that you’ve got that manuscript polished and ready, it’s time to put the package together and formatted for uploading. Many authors choose to do their own formatting. I always tell authors … if you typed the manuscript, you can do your own formatting for upload.
Before your manuscript is ready for formatting, you will need to add the FRONT MATTER for the digital book. Following is information I include on its own page.
- REVIEWS: Many authors choose to include reviews of the current novel or prior published novels
- DEDICATION and/or acknowledgments
An acknowledgment is a special thank you to anyone who may have helped you with your novel, whether it’s a professional who helped with research, a critique group who helped in development or a special nod to your editor or cover artist. That would be included in the acknowledgment section.
Hello, my name is Nina. I am the world’s worst speller. I will be suffering from this until the day I die … or stop writing … whichever comes first. My family thinks it’s hysterical that I went into this line of work.
But that’s not what this post is about.
When I was in 7th grade we had an assignment to make a list of as many homonyms as we could discover. (Words that sound alike, but are spelled differently). I am a competitive cuss and I went through the dictionary scouring for words that sounded the same. I had a reeeeally long list when I went into school the next morning proudly passing in my homework, confident I’d have the most. But it wasn’t to be … David Zobel had the most! How dare he? Of course he was the state spelling bee champion that year, perhaps that had something to do with it. He had a humungus vocabulary. I came in second. Man, did that stick in my craw!