Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author — but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit?
She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.
Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her.
She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face, or if it was just her imagination.
Nope. She wasn’t scared before.
She was now.
It took time to become afraid of those things, and time was all she had, stretching out in front of her without end.
She blamed herself. Blamed her friends. Blamed him. She shouldn’t be there, and someone was to blame for that.
Had to be.
from Dead Gone by Luca Veste
This tells you so much about the victim, her life and what’s about to happen to her (and who’s behind what’s about to happen) — such a good opening.
If you like page 69, buy it
(inspired by barbtaub.com)
Danny knew Omar was right; he was about to black out. He could sense the sun setting, even though it was the middle of the day. And he could hear Harvey singing the last verses of “Danny Boy.”
And if you come, and all the flowers are dying, If I am dead, as dead I well may be, I pray you’ll find the place where I am lying, And kneel and say an Ave there for me,”
I’m going now, Danny thought, but something happened split seconds before he lost consciousness, something he knew was important in spite of the singing dwarf and the giant choking the air out of him. It was the thing that was wrong with the room, the odd thing, the offbeat and out-of-tune thing.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me, And all my grave will warm and sweeter be, And then you’ll kneel and whisper that you love me, And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”
It was the fern on the bamboo coffee table, the dehydrated-dry-and-shriveled-brown dead fern that Jenny Stone had taken in her hands and breathed on. He was looking straight down right at it. Alive, he said in his head, it’s alive. And then everything went black.
Note: I love this Page 69 Challenge idea — thanks so much, Laugh Riot, for introducing me to this.
Donald the Dentist
It was Wednesday noon. Donald the Dentist only worked a half-day (one to five), which was a good thing because he had been up all night doing cocaine in his office after Detective Shuler had handed over the garbage bag holding his dead dog. He couldn’t bear going to bed and listening to Carol cry herself to sleep.
He had finally dozed off somewhere around six and was awakened by the sound of music—literally; The Sound of Music was blasting in the living room—Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and all the various Von Trapps singing “So Long, Farewell” as they slipped into the night and across the border.
He rubbed his index finger through the white dust on the mirror on the coffee table, ran the finger across his gums, got out of the armchair, picked up the garbage bag that held Chachi’s carcass, and walked out of his office. He went down the hall, intending to grab a shovel from the garage so he could dig a hole in the backyard behind the trees beyond the pool and bury the bag, but he arrived at the large living room just in time to see his wife kick the chair away from her feet—the chair she was standing on, so she could hang herself with the rope she had looped over the rafters that spanned the room beneath the twenty-foot, tongue-in-groove, cathedral ceiling painted Dr. Seuss red.
Meet Jenny Stone
“I’m Danny Miller,” he said, taking the chair next to her, “President of Miller Talent Agency.” There was a bamboo reception desk, a wicker loveseat, the two chairs, the big mirror, and a fan that made a dying animal noise. There was no receptionist.
She was sitting, but Danny thought she might be five foot five or so. She had straight-as-string brown hair that was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her skin was smooth and clear and white, as if she never went out into the Southern California sunshine. She wore zero makeup. No gloss, no eye shadow, no blush. She wore thick black glasses. She was thin, he thought, but he couldn’t really tell what was happening under her blousy blue shirt and gray Catholic-school skirt. She wore knee socks and sensible shoes. She had brown eyes that made him think of coffee. She was younger than him, late twenties. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. She was unadorned in every regard. It was as if she were trying not to be here—or anywhere—trying to be unnoticed by any and all. There was no guessing what kind of talent she thought she had.
“I’m Jenny Stone,” she said in soft voice void of confidence, a voice that in and of itself was trying to be unnoticed. “What do you do, Jenny Stone?” Danny said, putting his hand out.
She shook his hand and said, “I bring dead people back to life.”
No new piece today, Dadding takes priority (usually). So, I’ll just share this clip that I’m going to be quoting for a long time…
As part of Reader’s Legacy’s Rowling celebration, they’ve provided me with a few Guest Posts to draw attention to their Sale (through 4/30!) and a Grant Program created in order to give away 1 million physical books in support of literacy programs — be sure to check those out!
The votes are in, and in a remarkable landslide, J.K. Rowling has been identified as the top author of Reader’s Legacy! To celebrate Ms. Rowling’s literary triumph, we looked into our Goblet of Fire and pulled these out 10 magical phrases; sure to guarantee any Potterhead the Hogwarts acceptance letter they’ve been waiting for!
- “It’s no good crying over spilt potion.” – Meaning there is no use in worrying about events that have already taken place, and that cannot be undone.
- “In the name of Merlin.” – An expression of bewilderment. EX: “What in the name of Merlin, are you doing?”
- “Like bowtuckles on doxy eggs.” – Meaning to stick to someone or something, incredibly close. Used in a sentence, “She took to potions like bowtuckles on doxyeggs.”
- “I’ll take Cadogan’s Pony.” – Meaning to make light of a dark situation.
- “The fire’s lit but the cauldron’s empty.” – Meaning someone seemingly functions in a proper manner, but is actually socially inept.
- “The tip of the dungheap.” – Synonymous to the muggle idiom, ‘Tip of the Iceberg’, it symbolizes a smaller piece of a larger picture.
- “To have a hairy heart.” – Meaning, someone bitter. To have a cold and unforgiving way about you.
- “Don’t count your owls before they are delivered.” – Meaning to not plan on anything expected to happen in the future, as said to Harry Potter by Dumbledore in ‘The Half-Blood Prince’.
- “Hanged for a dragon as an egg.” – A larger punishment for a minor offence in order to bring the point across stronger to the offender.
As an added perk of Reader’s Legacy’s Rowling celebration, we will be holding a special 20% off sale for each of her novels from April 25th to April 30th – ReadersLegacy.com/JKRowling.
We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book.
Deep in darkness, far from warmth and sun and moons, I lie, quiet as the stone that surrounds me, imprisoning my hunched body in a dreadful womb. I cannot stand. Cannot stretch. I can only curl in a ball, a withered fossil of the man that was. Hands cuffed behind my back. Naked on cold rock.
All alone with the dark.
It seems months, years, millennia since my knees have unbent, since my spine has straightened from its crooked pose. The ache is madness. My joints fuse like rusted iron. How much time has passed since I saw my Golden friends bleeding out into the grass? Since I felt gentle Roque kiss my cheek as he broke my heart?
Time is no river.
In this tomb, time is the stone. It is the darkness, permanent and unyielding, its only measure the twin pendulums of life — breath and the beating of my heart.
In. Buh . . . bump. Buh . . . bump.
Out. Buh . . . bump. Buh . . . bump.
In. Buh . . . bump. Buh . . . bump.
And forever it repeats.
from Morning Star by Pierce Brown