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.
One of the things I love about self-publishing is the freedom to design my own book covers. Making the decision of how to present my books to the public is HUGE! Though my publishers have been good, there have been several of my covers over the years that have disappointed me. Those are the covers where I felt the publisher wasn’t considering the marketing of my book when they sent me the final draft. And unfortunately, after the initial paperwork, there is no changing a cover once the design department has finished with it. 🙁
So now, I’d like to share with you how I go about creating a book cover … or more accurately … how I share my vision with my cover artist.
Sometimes it’s hard to give something up. Especially when you’re totally in LOVE with it. For yeeeears I worked with a prologue to my latest romantic thriller release IN HIS EYES and though I REALLY wanted to keep it in, beta readers, writer friends and eventually my editor all told me … let it go Nina. So I did.
Though it didn’t make it into the book, I’d like to share it with you.
The wooden coffin rested eerily over the wounded earth, the deep hole as hollow as the hearts of the two mourners. The man stared past the spray of wild flowers adorning its lid to his stepmother cowered on the opposite side. The reptilian slit of his eyes and the malevolent smile communicated loathing—and power. The widow’s eyes, puffy and glazed from weariness, watched him with a melancholy sort of understanding. The corner of her mouth lifted in a tremulous smile of acceptance. There were no tears when her husband died, none came now, and none would fall later.
Though the heat rose in currents from the tar road nearby, the young widow shivered. Standing in the shade of the oaks, the minister was the sole witness to the exchange. Reading from the book of Psalms, he faltered only momentarily, but finished the ritual graveside prayers without acknowledging what had passed between them.
Perhaps the minister also imagined how things would unfold.
Her life had not been hers for a very long time—now it belonged to him. She deserved no more love than he doled out to her in meager portions. No one thought she was worthy of anything, least of all her. She believed her life—each wretched day she survived, right up to her last breath—was preordained by this path she’d chosen to walk years ago. The way it would end was also a foregone conclusion.
Just days after the funeral, he sold his father’s house and packed their meager possessions into the old Cadillac. Crisscrossing the country, they stayed in seedy apartments where no one looked them in the eye. It was easier to ignore their pain that way. No one asked any questions, provided the rent was on time each Friday. She had no idea where they were and didn’t really care as long as he kept the needles in the bedside table filled with liquid heaven. He was gone most days and used her in unfathomable ways long hours into the night. He’d learned from the best and added new tricks of his own. But she accepted it all as her lot in life.
Now, he no longer needed her. She’d outlived her usefulness. They both understood that. She’d taken him into her bed only to prolong the inevitable. She didn’t plead or cry out with fear. She was just numb—or perhaps relieved it was going to be finished. Maybe it was the sweet wash of drugs coursing through her veins. Whichever the case, she didn’t care.
From the moment his father had fallen ill, everything had been destined. She may have been four years older, but her stepson had the maturity of a man twice his years and he dominated their relationship in every sense of the word. There hadn’t been any questions when he replaced his father at her side.
During their time together, she accepted his beatings, the verbal and sexual abuse, and the neglect. It was all either of them knew. Somewhere, in the back of her brain, she understood this wasn’t love, but she didn’t know what was. She had no yardstick with which to measure her worth. They’d cut her off from the rest of mankind so long ago, she barely remembered anything existed outside the confines of the world where they held her prisoner. She had no immediate family, so there would be no one to miss her when this was finished. Only he knew she still walked this earth and after it was done, only he would know she no longer did.
On this day he’d roused the woman early. Bathing with her in the communal bathroom of the apartment building, he’d taken great care washing her hair and body. With touches so gentle, he’d acted as if he’d felt something for her. His skilled hands had pleasured her without pain. He’d held off his own need until they were back in their room on the soiled sheets. With a passion neither of them knew existed, he’d made love to her. Whispering into her ear, he’d apologized for all that had been and all that would come.
Mutely, she let him brush the black waves of her hair and masterfully massage lotion over the yellowed bruises his fists had left. She watched him tenderly put the needle into her arm. He held her while the liquid worked its magic on her body and mind, taking her to that blissful place of detachment. He took her again, more urgently, but still with great affection. That’s when she’d known for certain that it was finished. She would not live to see another sunrise, never again feel a gentle breeze caress her skin, nor feel the pain of brutality.
He dressed her and took only a few of his belongings. When they climbed into the car, she didn’t ask where they were going. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.
They traveled for hours, waiting for the blackness to cloak them in its secrets. She looked over at him now. In the green glow of the dashboard lights, his rugged features were contorted with grief. Turning from the road, he smiled at her. A heartrending smile filled with regret. Even in her drug induced fog, she could see the tears welling in his eyes.
They stopped somewhere. A city perhaps, but she couldn’t be sure. He’d fed her pills and alcohol for her last meal, so the edges of her reality were blurred. He lifted her from the car, carrying her like an infant into the darkness. He laid her down gently and her body melted into the lumpy surface. The stench curled around her nose and brought bile to her throat, but giving into the retching would displease him, so she swallowed it down. Hiking up her skirt, he removed her panties. He hacked off her hair with the knife he perpetually carried. Plastic rustled as he moved her. He’d laid her with the garbage. How appropriate. The cold sting of his tears fell upon her face as he pressed his lips to hers for the last time.
She wanted to touch him, to tell him she understood, but she couldn’t lift her hand or form the words on her lips. She was tired, so very tired.
His face was a smooth canvas of detachment when he pushed the final needle into her vein. With one last caress of her cheek, he left.
The cold rain continued to fall long after he turned his back on her, long after she slipped into oblivion.
I’m so glad you could make it. At the time of this post the northeast United States is being hit with the trifecta of winter elements: a blizzard with 12-18 inches of snow and record high tides that may cause flooding (thanks to the new moon) are expected where I live, and record low temperatures. It seems like the perfect time to share one of the chilling scenes from my newest release IN HIS EYES, a romantic thriller that just may give you a few more chills! The scene below will give you an idea of how creepy the villain really is!
It’s always wonderful to be noticed … or is it?
To those around her, Maggie Callaghan appears to have the perfect life…a handsome husband, three beautiful children, and her own business. But beneath her thin veneer lies a dark past and self-doubts. When evidence of her husband’s infidelity surfaces, Maggie leases a cottage on the Maine coast and prepares for her inevitable divorce. But a serial killer is on the hunt—and he’s marked Maggie as his next victim. Now her beachside retreat is the focus of an undercover FBI investigation targeting the murderer who’s left a trail of bodies across two states. As lies and secrets are revealed, Maggie realizes her life depends on knowing who’s protecting her—and who’s got her in his sights.
Like most nights, he sat in the alabaster sand, sifting grains slowly from hand to hand as if measuring time. Watching.
People rarely saw him, unless he chose for it to be so. And the woman meandering along the water’s edge was no exception. She had no idea he was admiring her. Appraising her. Measuring her.
With the tide so low, he’d been able to study the exotic creature whose hair rode the wind like black silk. She dragged her feet in the shallow surf, her eyes cast down as if the ebb and flow of the ocean could soothe away her troubles. The dip of her chin and the graceful arch of her neck spoke of a heavy burden.
She walked without a companion. Alone was good.
Lord, she was beautiful.
The sadness that curved her body in on itself made her that much more irresistible. He imagined he could hear the sweet strains of her loneliness carried on the evening breeze.
He didn’t know he was searching. Didn’t realize the moment had come again.
It had been a long time since he’d found someone who obviously hungered for the kind of solace only he could offer. He replayed the scene over and over again, long after she’d left the beach, long after the day had surrendered to the night. How serendipitous for her to be here on his beach.
He sat, quietly measuring time in handfuls of sand, thinking about the grace of her walk, the gentle swell of her hips and breasts, the lovely mane of hair—and he knew.
You are the one. I’ve been waiting for you.
In the solitude of the new moon, he sat for a long time committing to memory every detail of their encounter and formulating a plan to make the woman his own. Satisfied, he strolled back to his cottage—his heart and soul as dark as the murky shadows swallowing him.
**** CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED *****
Okay, so with all the cold and snow and wind I’m thinking I’d like to get away this weekend with a good book to one of my favorite warm-weather destinations … The Virgin Islands. I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in the sand and surf doing research while I was in college. It was amazing and beautiful.
If money were no issue, where would go … and it’s okay if you enjoy winter (brrrrr) and you’d like to go somewhere cold … and what book would you take with you? Curious minds want to know.
Anyone commenting on this post between now and SUNDAY, JANUARY 5 at 4:00pm EDT will be entered to win a prize pack including a $10 Amazon gift card, some IN HIS EYES goodies, a bookbag and a print book from my backlist. (Shipping to US or Canada only. An international winner will win a $25 Amazon gift card in lieu of prize pack.)
Thanks for visiting. Enjoy the rest of the hop!