Thursday, May 20, 2010

Win a Copy of Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor!

Missy Tippens here. I hope you've been commenting on our blog this week! If you haven't yet, please be sure to leave a comment by Sunday night to be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of Jennifer's new release, Highland Blessings!

I want to talk about first lines today. And to start off, I'd like to share Jennifer's first lines from Highland Blessings. :)


Cedric MacPhearson knew he was going to die, but he glanced up at the low clouds brewing into a storm and raised a fist, determined he would last until one of his sons found him. The survival of his clan depended on it.

Okay, I don't know about you, but I'm hooked! I also couldn't put the book down--even though I was supposed to be writing this blog post. :) I went ahead and read on into the first chapter!

So what do you think makes for a great opening line? What draws you into a story?

I like catchy lines. Or humor. Or a hint of scariness. I also appreciate irony in those first lines. Or something that lets me learn an interesting tidbit about the main character.

One thing to make sure you don't do is start with something boring! It's best to use action or dialogue.

I remember the first book I ever submitted (that of course got rejected) had a woman driving home thinking about why she was going there. I thought it was great action and loved that it showed her motivation. But then later I heard more than one editor say not to open a book with a character driving and thinking! :) A sweet published author who had critiqued that manuscript had told me she thought the book should open with my second scene. But I didn't follow that advice. Big mistake! So now I try to make sure I write a multi-purpose, entertaining opening.

I liked the drama in Jenn's opening. The man is near death. And I think what really raises the stakes is that the survival of his clan depends on him living. That tells me this book has something big coming. And then the hero, Bryce, the dying man's son, appears at the end of the prologue. At Cedric's dying breath, Bryce reluctantly makes a promise to honor his father's word to a hated enemy clan--the MacKenzies. (And you can bet the heroine is a MacKenzie! :) ) Here's the closing line of the prologue:

Now, alone in the storm, a lad of ten and four, Bryce grieved for his loss and a promise he prayed he could keep.

Oh, we already ache for this boy! His father died in his arms, and he's just made a promise that seems impossible to keep. So Jenn really has us rooting for Bryce! And that's only in the prologue. :)

Would you share your favorite opening lines from a published book you've read? Or if you're really brave, share the first lines of one of your manuscripts?? :)

You can visit Jennifer to get more information on her book by clicking here.


  1. I agree, I love first lines. Jenn's got a great one!

  2. I like first lines that indicate the character/someone is in some kind of peril. Jenn's first line does pull you right in.

    I've gotten zinged on my opening lines not being catchy enough to keep the reader going. My last story ended up with this first line: On a corner sidewalk opposite the four-level parking deck, the man stood, watching.

    Not great, but better than my original. The first line in my current WIP is much better, and I'm getting lots of good feedback on it.

  3. I agree--first lines are everything. They set the tone of the story and hook the reader. Jenn did a great job on her opening, and her hook.
    The first line for the book I just sold is:

    They say fifty is the new thirty. So in two months when my mother turns fifty does that mean we'll be the same age? I certainly hope not.

    I remember reading an interview with Virginia Kantra (one of my fav authors!) She said when she starts a book she pulls out a Dick Francis book and reads his first lines for inspiration.

  4. Thank you all for sharing!

    Dianna, that line is nice and creepy. :)

    And Lindi, I've always loved that opening. It definitely sets up the humor of the book.

    And I love Virginia's advice, too.

  5. Now I have to rewrite the opening scene to my novel. I guess "It was a dark and stormy night" won't work. :)

    An Arkies Musings

  6. Hi Missy:

    I did the same thing!

    I read the first line of Highland Blessings and went on to read the whole chapter – even though I’m in the middle of two other books (that I’m reviewing). The whole first chapter of Highland Blessings is like a first line! Now the book is acting like a big magnet trying to draw my attention away from the books I’m currently reading. It may not be the best idea to read a new first line unless your intentions are honorable and you’re prepared to read the book right away!

    It may sound silly but below is an opening line I can’t get out of my head.

    Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones you never let you forget it.
    (A Passion Most Pure, Julie Lessman)

    This opening line sets the tone for three big books.

    There is a famous first line, in a book of literary merit, that is also the last line in the book -- but I can’t remember the book’s title. I can only remember that the author wanted to make a statement about eternal recurrence. In marketing this is called a ‘video vampire’: that’s when the ad is so cute that everyone remembers the ad but no one remembers what the product was. Maybe you can get too cute in your first line? Besides don’t still waters run deep?


  7. Believe me, that wasn't the first line at first. Like Dianna, I got zinged on mediocre first lines. I pulled out my favorite novels and studied their first lines for inspiration before I wrote rewrote that one for Highland Blessings.

    The first line of the sequel for Highland Sanctuary will be:

    The ordeal over, fragmented tremors still quaked through Evelina Brockerwick's body. She gazed down at her new daughter. Now, she'd finally have someone who would truly love her.

  8. I think with an opening like that there's no way you can not put this book on your to read list. I know I will.


  9. Wow! What a great opening Jennifer! I can't wait to read the book! It sounds like it could be made into a movie.

    (deep breath) Here's the opening of my WIP set in Scotland 1748. I would love to hear any comments on it:

    “I’ve missed this.” A man’s voice leaped out of the silence making Sheena whirl around so fast she lost her footing at the edge of the crag. Rocks thundered down the steep cliff as Sheena waved her arms frantically trying to gain her balance.

  10. LOL, Richies. I guess that one has been overdone a bit. :)

  11. Vince, I loved that opening line of Julie's! :)

    And I'm so glad you put a name to that effect of remembering the commercial but not the product. There have been a lot of cute beer commercials that have been that way for me!

  12. Jenn, I love the opening for the next book. That's one of those examples of seeing characterization. We know right off what's going to motivate this woman. And we feel for her!

  13. I hope you will, Lourdes! And you might even win it. :)

  14. Eva Maria, that's a great action opening! I would want to keep reading to find out if she falls. To see if the man rescues her. To figure out if he's the hero. Lots of good hooks! :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. By the way, Richard, I just read your "about Me" in your profile. So funny!! :)

  16. Openings are something I've been working on recently when none of my Genesis judges scored high on my opening hook. So guess what got reworked? Still don't know if I nailed it, but I hope I improved it.

    Vince, I loved that line from A Passion Most Pure. It also showed me hope important those openings are. I had peeked at that book only because I was studying first lines. I read the whole paragraph, then the first page. Next thing I knew I was on chapter three.

    Now I'm even more excited to read Highland Blessings.

  17. I think Mindy has a great new opening!! Very creepy. :)

    You know, only a suspense writer would take creepy as a compliment. LOL

  18. So long you're calling the opening creepy and not me, Missy :-)

  19. LOL! How creepy that you have a new opening! ;)

  20. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my opening line Missy! Somehow when you've read the same line over a billion times it becomes too familiar and it's great to see it through fresh eyes. Especially when those eyes belong to a published author. Thanks again!

  21. Thank you, Lourdes and Eva Maria! Highland Blessings was so much fun to write. I definitely learned lots. Hope you enjoy it!

  22. LOL, I misspelled my character's name it's actually Broderwick.

    Thanks, Missy.

    Eva Maria, I agree with Missy on your opening line.

  23. Dianna, Your opening line sounds very mysterious, and I love mystery and suspense.

  24. I love the cover of Missy's book!
    Her first line is very captivating.
    One first line that intrigued me
    is "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." It is the opening line of Anne Tyler's book called Back When WE Were Grownups.
    Many thanks, Cindi

  25. Cindi, I wish I could take credit! But it's Jennifer Hudson Taylor's book. :)

    I love that opening you shared! A nice hook. I know I would keep reading. :)

  26. Missy -- yep, Jennifer's first lines hooked me in too, so now I just HAVE to have the book, so please throw my hat in the ring.

    Jennifer, I love the cover and anything Scottish (or Irish), so you had me at "Highlands"!!

    Mindy and Vince, thanks SO much for your comments about the first line in A Passion Most Pure. I guess it rang true for me because I had nine sisters ... :)


  27. Congratulations on winning fourth place in the Genesis Contest Dianna!!

    Was the opening line that you shared here from that manuscript? If it is, I can see why you did so well :) I want to know why that guy is waiting there and what he's looking for.

    Enjoy your win!!

  28. I have friends who will give a book a chance on the first chapter. Others the first page. For me, the opening line better hit me write or I often put the book down. But for the life of me, I can't think of a one at this moment!

    Glad to have found your blog!

  29. Julie, Thanks so much! I love your books. With nine sisters, I can see how you came up with your first series. I have one sister. In some ways we are similar and in others as different as night and day.

  30. Julie, Thanks for stopping by. We hope you'll visit again.

  31. The opening line in Mary Connealy's book The Husband Tree grabbed me and pulled me into a wonderful story. "Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony's handsome, worthless face."
    After reading that, I had to know what came next!
    I'd love a chance to win Jennifer's book, please include me.

  32. I usually read 2 or 3 pages before I know if I will like the book