Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Lines

There are about a million and one blog posts that talk about the importance of having a great first line for your book. Today a friend posted in our writing group another of these posts, and while I agreed with the bloggers point, I wanted more examples.

Ok, ok, I was procrastinating writing and editing. 

Instead of being long-winded about something readers either love or hate, I'm just going to post my favorites. The first lines hooked me enough that I bought the book. (to be fair, I have other books just because I love the cover art.) I wish to be able to wordsmith like this. Agree? Disagree? Have your own favorites? Do tell!

From the top of the large boulder he sat on, Ensign Tom Davis looked across the expanse of the cave toward Captain Lucius Abernathy, Science Officer Q'eeng and Chief Engineer Paul West perched on a second, larger boulder, and thought, Well this sucks. 
--REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi

I was born with the war.
--FOR THOSE I LOVED by Martin Gray

Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable.
--THE ENCHANTED FOREST by Patricia Wrede

"I'm ten years old, my whole life you've called me Vanya. My name is on the school records, on government papers as Ivan Petrovich Smetski. Now you tell me I'm really Itzak Shlomo. What am I, a Jewish secret agent?"
--ENCHANTMENT by Orson Scott Card

Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true. I have lived most of my thirteen years in Bybanks, Kentucky, which is not much more than a caboodle of houses roosting in a green spot alongside the Ohio River."
--WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech

It had been over four years since I'd really slept, and I suspected it was killing me. 
-- INSOMNIA by J.R. Johansson

In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unfathomable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
--DUNE by Frank Herbert

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

How many times I have wondered what my fate might have been had I accompanied my parents that rainy spring morning. Such musings, I recognize, are more than a trifle insane, for envisioning what might have been has no more connection to our own true reality than a lunatic has to a lemon.
--PRINCESS BEN by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
--PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES  by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

The stork glided to a landing before Stunk's residence and squawked for attention. "No, it can't be!" the goblin cried in panic, "I'm not even married!" 
--NIGHT MARE by Piers Anthony

[Inscription on the god doll: Be silent, I am talking]
My people, lay down your stones. Before you stone this Annakey Rainsayer, you know it is the law and her right to have her story told.
--THE DOLL MAGE by Martine Leavitt

It was a September morning, hazy with late summer, and now with all the years between.
--A YEAR DOWN YONDER by Richard Peck.

There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is a just a dry, flat wasteland.
--HOLES by Louis Sachar

They had tried to destroy the Will, but that proved to be beyond their power. So they broke it, in two ways. It was broken physically, torn apart, with the fragments of heavy parchment scattered across both space and time. It was broken in spirit because not one clause of it had been fulfilled.
--MISTER MONDAY by Garth Nix

"Ida B," Mama said to me on one of those days that start just right and just keep heading toward perfect until you go to sleep, "When you're done with the dishes, you can go play. Daddy and I are going to be working until dinner."
--IDA B by Katherine Hannigan

Corporal Carrot, Ankh-Morpork City Guard (Night Watch), sat down in his nightshirt, took up his pencil, sucked the end for a moment, and then wrote:
     'Dearest Mume and Dad, Well, here is another fine Turnup for the books, for I have been made a Corporal!!'

--MEN AT ARMS by Terry Pratchett.

Dear Lord, if it is not too much to ask, could you please send less wind and fewer turnips?
--GIRL IN A CAGE by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris

That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift.
--ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine

Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity. 
--ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson

My first superbeing was an accident. Literally and figuratively.

Sabira Lyet d'Deneith toyed with the glass in her hand as she watched her quarry from the far end of the Wavecrest Tavern's semicircular bar. 
--DnD ONLINE: THE SHARD AXE by Marsheila Rockwell

Ambassador Sara Bair knew that when the captain of the Polk had invited her to the bridge to view the skip to the Davanar system, protocol strongly suggested that she turn down the invitation.

Lilly's lamp blew out as she bolted down the hallway. She threw the lamp aside, splashing oil across the painted wall and fine rug. The liquid glistened in the moonlight.
--THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

They came in the night. Once, families fought them, neighbors coming to their aid. But now that peace has been established, and the looms proven, girls pray to be retrieved. They still come at night, but now it’s to avoid the masses with eager hands.
--CREWEL by Gennifer Albin

Let’s just get this right out of the way – This book has 275 things to “know” about writing. Not 250. I know. I know. Believe it or not, I can count. Even though I am not a registered mathologist, or even a certified addition accounting therapist, I can still add up numbers without the use of my fingers and toes. In fact, I have a lovely abacus over here. His name is “Steve.”

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

I balanced on my surfboard, right thigh burning and salt water stinging my eyes, while the best wave of the early morning carried me like a goddess on a pedestal to shore. 
--PERCEPTION by Lee and Elle Strauss

I dare you to check your own favorites, see how that author strung words together to hook you. And if you're a writer, check and double check your own first lines.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Daughters and Dogs

Sibling rivalry is a constant in our house. I didn't think it was possible for my 13 year old to talk to my 9 year old in anything but a sarcastic tone of voice. Until this morning.

What changed? Two additions to the family. Meet Lucy and Bella. Lucy's the one wearing the pink harness upside down. Bella's the one licking Princess Q's face. These two sisters joined our family last night. They came to us from a friend who's family is being deployed (?? Is this even the right term?) to Spain in a couple of months.

It was hard to take the dogs from a loving family and watch their tears at the separation. I still feel a little guilty for being the cause of pain. But here we are, teaching the kids how to use leashes, brushes, pooper-scoopers, how and when to feed and how much, and mostly learning new personalities.

Now, it's only day one of dogs. We made it through the first night after I learned that they don't like sleeping upstairs in their kennel. Once midnight hit, the growling and barking started. They reminded me more of kittens waking up than dogs. I let them outside in case maybe my husband had put them in the kennel too early and they needed a potty break, but that didn't solve anything.

So I moved their kennel to the basement, and it was like magic! Everyone slept well, dogs and humans both.

This morning an amazing thing happened. My 13 year old was letting the dogs outside for their morning potty break, but couldn't get Lucy to come up the stairs. So she and my nine year old worked together to carry/encourage Lucy up the stairs. The way my daughters interacted over solving this problem was amazing to me. I observed the kids working together to take care of animals they'd just met, and realized that these children of mine are pretty fantastically awesome. Not a drop of sarcasm as they talked and problem solved. There were even a couple of giggles!! *gasp*

These dogs seem to be the needed glue to help my girls bond. And apparently develop a love for yardwork. Honest, this morning the kids were up before my alarm clock so they could clean the back patio so the dogs would enjoy running around outside more. /blink/ They were ready for school in a heartbeat, and spent the rest of their morning playing with the dogs and sweeping up cherry blossoms.

I find this amazingly interesting, since I got the dogs with two things in mind: my son needed company during the day that have as much energy as he does, and my nine-year old needed something to love her just as much as she loves it in only the way a pet can. I had no idea there would be all these other benefits.

Granted, it's only day one of dog ownership. I'm sure there will be bumps in the road. The newness of scooping poo and walking dogs will wear off. Nor do I expect all sarcasm to be gone from my 13 year-old and that she'll now be best friends with her younger sister. She IS thirteen, after all. But so far I'm liking this road we're on, and am extremely glad we made the decision to add the beagles to our family.

Friday, May 10, 2013

College Isn't Hard, Self Control Is

I have a small beef. People keep telling my daughter that college is hard. She can’t quantify what is hard about it, just EVERYTHING!!!!!!  AAAAAAGGGHHH!!!  aaaand, off she goes screaming again. Stop that!!

College is not some tentacular nebulous vortex of doom that we survive like a right of passage.  There are no gangs of pretty or sporty people leaving trails of glitter, lipstick, and danced-upon footballs in their wake of lesser peons.

College is a learning experience that can be filled with all kinds of good and all kinds of bad, just like anything else in life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesdays: Haiku

My mistake, it's Feb 1, 2013. Ooops.
Writing Prompt Wednesday. This week the prompt is from Chuck Wendig's Feb 3, 2013 blog challenge. There are a lot of great submissions there, I recommend checking it out.

I'm just doing my thing to the beat of my own erratic drummer, so I wrote mine today.

For a list of the writing prompts I share, please see my Writing Prompt page :) 

A story in three Haiku:

Conversations lost.
Phasing in and phasing out:

To have some control:
The one goal of my lifetime.
Yet I phase.

To shift time and life,
My lonely gift of travel.
I am nine.

Background: My daughter cannot follow conversations. A typical conversation with her is something like: 
12yo: "Hey, I think you'd really love this book."
9yo: "Why? Because you're allergic to cotton?"
12yo: "Why do I even talk to you?"

I decided she must shift through dimensions. So these haiku were about trying to see it through her eyes. I think it'd make a fabulous story if I can figure out some great powers and things going on that cause it to happen. 

Edit: Wow, boy did I do this wrong. Not only can I not read dates properly, I got the haiku syllable count wrong, too. It was supposed to be 5/7/5. Well. I'm leaving it as is for now, but doing a might powerful /facepalm.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I am not the world's greatest yard keeper. The owners of the house we rent have tried to do beautiful things with this yard, and I struggle with feeling guilty that I just don't take good enough care of it. I did a horrible job last year, and am trying to do better this year.

My solution is to take Sandra Tayler's advice and be a turtle about it. (Seriously, go read her article. Her panel at LTUE was awesome.) I'm doing a little bit at a time. I spend a specific amount of time raking and pruning and trying to do maintenance in a yard that is so healthy everything grows too fast.

Today I mowed and raked. And thankfully my daughter came and raked with me. It was much like brushing a horse after they begin shedding their winter coat. Felt like we were either building nests of our own or that my grass really needs to be "brushed" more often. Wow.

Part of the lawn got done today. Part of the lawn will get done tomorrow. And I will keep doing parts until it is time to circle around and come back to it. But this way I'm not exhausted, and I feel encouraged because *something* got done. Even if it wasn't everything.