Friday, August 14, 2015

Off to Lake Tahoe and FIRST LINES!

Next Wednesday, I'm packing my bags, hopping in my old jalopy (aka, my old, beat-up car -- Prayers that it doesn't break down would be appreciated!)  And heading to beautiful Lake Tahoe. There, in a gorgeous cabin by the lake, I'll be co-teaching a writer's retreat with my good friend and fellow author Susanne Lakin!  There are 8 attendees, along with some spouses hitching along for the ride.

Susanne and her husband used to run a bed and breakfast so they know how to make everyone comfortable and she's hired a chef to cook gourmet meals!   I'm excited and it should be a lot of fun and I hope and pray I will be able to help these writers with their craft.

One of the things Susanne and I hope to discuss is how to grab a reader in the first ten pages.  So often I read novels and manuscripts where I literally have to force myself to finish at least five chapters. If I'm not interested by then, I will put the book down. It may very well end up to be a fabulous novel, but for me, I simply don't have time to keep reading and find out. Let's face it, there are a ton of other books out there to try.

I believe this is just a reflection of our busy, fast, mind-accelerating culture where most people can do ten things at once and hop from one thing to another without reflection. Just pick up an old classic like The Three Musketeers or one of Hemmingway's books, and I guarantee you'll wonder why they were so popular in the day. Well, not only are the authors fabulous, but honestly, people had a ton more patience 50 years to 100 years ago. Life was slower. No TV in every home and no TV at all until around the 1930s-40s. People actually talked to each other rather then stared at their iphones. Moms stayed home for the most part. Things of quality were made instead of mass produced, and there was no such thing as fast food. Plus people read. They read a lot.

But these days a writer has to grab a reader's attention sometimes as early as the first line or two or chances are something else will grab them away. How to do that in such limited space is the trick. I don't believe I've perfected it yet, but I have learned much over the years.  I thought you'd like to read some of the first lines I'm going to use as examples.  I have the authors' permission to post these. In fact, if the first line grabs you, why not go and order the book!
 Cruising the sparkling aisles of Catalano's Supermarket, I lost my sanity buying frozen apple juice.  Christa Allan WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS

The first time Jeremy heard God sing, we were in the old Ford, rocking back and forth with the wind, snow pounding at the window to get inside, where it wasn’t much better than out there.”  THE SILENCE OF MURDER, Knopf/Random House, winner of 2012 Edgar Award  Dandi Mackall

There once was a girl who’d been praying for a husband since the fourth grade. - MY STUBBORN HEART, Becky Wade

The moment his wife set a steaming bowl of chicken and dumplings on the dinner table, Al Richardson knew she was up to something.” – THE ROOM WITH THE SECOND-BEST VIEW, Virginia Smith

The nun hit me in the mouth and said, "Get out of my house." - TRY DARKNESS, James Scott Bell

April 1865
Delia ran as hard as she could.
All the while, terror nipped at her heels.
Had Massuh set the hounds on her?
God will punish you!
Plantation voices screamed in her head, but she ran anyway.
Nothing in her hand. Nothing in her pockets. Nothing in her heart but fear. Nothing in her head but blind determination never to be beaten again. Never to be spit on. Never to have her hair torn out by a vicious young mistress.  THEN CAME HOPE, Louise M. Gouge

If there was one thing Josie Miller knew, it was the smell of a rich man. And whoever had just walked into the diner smelled like Fort Knox. HER UNLIKELY FAMILY Missy Tippens

Even I would have killed for thee.  DREAMSPELL, Tamara Leigh

Isabelle was neither slave nor free, with no past save the one she invented for herself during her daytime musings and nighttime dreams.    —  BELOVED CASTAWAY, Kathleen Y'Barbo

The cool metal of the Morgan silver dollar warmed as it rolled over Gabe’s knuckles and between his fingers. One thing he’d learned in the last nine years was how to read people, and the cocky cowpoke at the bar looked ripe for the picking.  GABRIEL'S ATONEMENT, Vickie McDonough

Charity had killed her husband  CHARITY'S CROSS,  MaryLu Tyndall

So, what do you all think ??  Thoughts on first lines?



  1. I agree that the first lines of a book need to grab the reader's attention. There's nothing better than diving into a great book instead of just tipping your toe in - so to speak. Even if the opening doesn't start off with a bang, I do try to give the book a chance, but if my attention is not being held a couple of chapters in, I'm done. I burst out laughing when I read Missy Tippens opening line and Vickie McDonough's caught my attention as well. Will definitely be checking these two books out. I wish Tamara Leigh's books came in hard copy format, as I've heard great things about her writing. Unfortunately, I do not own an e-reader, so fingers crossed she'll eventually have them in print. The teaser you listed for "Charity's Cross" is fantastic. Five little words and I'm immediately drawn in and that's what make you such a great author.

    1. Hi Amy, some of these first lines are really great, aren't they?? Thank you for your kind words about Charity's Cross. :-)

  2. Love these first lines - I'm one of those people who hates to start a book and not finish it, however, there have been times when I have. There are so many wonderful Christian Fiction authors now, it's seldom I find a book I don't enjoy - let's just say I enjoy some more than others, lol!! I generally pick books by authors whose work I've enjoyed previously, and those highly rated by friends who have similar taste (have been so blessed since yours were recommended to me). I don't have nearly as much time to read for pleasure as I'd like, due to reading/reviewing for various authors - the hard part of coming across a book that's not your favorite, is having to write a review on them. Fortunately, there's usually some redeeming points to include. Everyone has a personal taste in reading - no book can please everyone, but each deserves acknowledgment. Great first lines are a wonderful way to hook readers unfamiliar with one's writing.

    Enjoy the writer's retreat!! Love, prayers, & hugs - MaryLu!!!!

    1. I don't envy you your job of book reviewing. It's tough! You have to finish a book regardless of whether you are enjoying it.. but then again, you're right, there's usually something good to comment on. Thanks so much, Bonnie... prayers sent back to you too! :-)

  3. Jealous! Praying for safe travels and that you have a great time.
    Great first lines, especially Charity's Cross.

  4. Jealous! Praying for safe travels and that you have a great time.
    Great first lines, especially Charity's Cross.

  5. Mon 17th,
    Hey there MaryLu.
    Just returned from six days away, visiting with my sister and brother-in-law. I "tried" to leave a comment .... but believe me, it was a MAJOR rig-a-ma-roll, and did not work for me ! So ... I'm now here to say - have a wonderful time co-teaching a writer's retreat, with Susanne, in Lake Tahoe ! Praying that the vehicle will hold up, and that "all" of you gals will have a blessed and productive time !
    Enjoyed the "first lines" ... and yes, a story has to catch me pretty quickly, to remain reading the book, and being entertained. I can 'generally' tell in the first few paragraphs, whether or not I'm going to stick with it.
    Again ... wishing you all a great week. Thanks for sharing.
    Take care, and, God Bless, In Him, Brenda

  6. Loved all those tantalizing first lines. Quite a fun read! Praying you will have a great retreat with Susanne. Please, please consider doing it again next year. I would love to be involved in 2016!!