The End of the Beginnings

Cat_243_dover_2 by Mary Jo

Almost all of the Wenches have blogged on beginnings by now, and we’re largely in agreement on the broad points:

–A beginning needs to grab readers.  Who among us hasn’t skimmed the first page of a possible purchase in the bookstore to see if we want to read this story?

–“Good beginnings” can vary greatly in tone and type.  Ideally, it suits the story while drawing readers in.

–And for us writer types, sometimes we know exactly where a story starts, and sometimes—NOT!  Starting a new book can open limitless vistas of possibility, or it can be a blank screen with a malevolently blinking cursor.  Or both at different times.

I’m lucky in that generally I know where the story starts because that’s how it comes to me.  That doesn’t mean the first pages won’t require fiddling to get Just Right.  But it’s not too often that I write more than one opening scene. 

Several of us Wenches were kicking around the Flashman books by George McDonald Fraser.  I’m going to be blogging about them on 1/23 (advert! <g>), and it was mentioned that his openings were always good.  So I pattered down to one of the walls of books in the basement and pulled out all my Flashmans.  And they were all great.  This from Flashman and the Redskins:

Flashman_and_the_redskins “I never did learn to speak Apache properly.  Mind you, it ain’t easy, mainly because the red brutes seldom stand still long enough—and if you’ve any sense, you don’t either, or you’re liable to find yourself studying their system of vowel pronunciation (which is unique, by the way) while hanging head-down over a slow fire or riding for dear life across the Jornada del Meurto with them howling at your heels and trying to stick lances in your liver.”

Doesn’t Flashman’s voice come through like blazing trumpets?  Woven in with historical detail and a foreshadowing of events that makes you want to keep reading?  I could quote all the Flashman beginnings with equal impact.

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly great at openings, so I was tickled when Nina P. mentioned in a comment that she really liked the opening of Dancing on the Wind:

Dotw_cover “After the funerals he was sent back to school. What else could be done with a boy, even one who had just become the wealthiest child in Great Britain?”

For the record, this is in a prologue, not Chapter 1.  No matter, it’s what readers will see first.  Personally, I adore prologues.  I believe I even blogged on them once, so I won’t bore you beyond saying that to me, a prologue is a great, economical, real-time way to show vital information about what makes a character the way he is (it’s almost always a “he” for me. <g> )  Makes the character come alive quickly, should produce empathy, and saves flashbacks. 

Though I’m not in the Flashman class, I looked at several of my books to see what I thought of the openings years after the writing–what I thought worked, or not.  The Dancing on the Wind opening Nina mentioned looks pretty good.  Here’s the opening of Shattered Rainbows.

Shattered_rainbows“She needed a husband, and she needed one fast.” 

This is grabby but misleading because the sentence is rather humorous and the book isn’t.  Fortunately, the second sentence reveals the heroine to be in near hysterics so balance is restored, but there is some dissonance there.

The only Western set story I ever wrote was a novella called, “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know,” and it starts with one of my better lines:

“He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” 

I thought that sounded suitable gritty and Western, and it certainly fit the story. 

This is a particular favorite of mine, from Silk and Shadows:

Silk_and_shadows “He called himself Peregrine, the wanderer, and he came to London for revenge.”

I don’t know if this was effective in a commercial sense because I’m told romance readers don’t like stories about revenge, but the book was absolutely about revenge and redemption, and the wanderer theme comes full circle in the last line of the book, so at least it was truth in advertising.

(Endings—now there’s a thought.  Maybe someday we should do a Wenchly cycle on endings.) 

Dragon_lovers I decided to look at more recent stories, and opened up Dragon Lovers to read the beginning of “The Dragon and the Dark Knight:”

“As a lad, Sir Kenrick of Rathbourne had thought that the life of a freelance knight would be a grand and glorious adventure.  It wasn’t.”

I think that works because of the contradictions built in.

Most recent of all is A Distant Magic:

“The two foreign gentlemen strolling through Valleta’s market square looked like they had pockets worth picking.”

As I look at all these openings, I’m seeing some common themes.  It’s good to have some emotion, preferably that draws us into a character.  Interesting actions implied.  Contradiction.  Even a little shock value, as in the last, which puts us into the point of a view of a young pickpocket, or the story about being hanged. 

Naturally, this got me to thinking about the WIP.  I’ve never before put material from an unfinished book out in public, but as Jo says, “It’s never too late to make a first impression until the book’s in print.”  Or at least, in production. 

So tell me what you think about the beginning of the current Regency historical, which has had some tweaking already:

“Late night visitors were never good news.  Lady Agnes Westerfield woke to banging on the door of her private wing of sprawling Westerfield Manor.  Hoping to stop the racket before it woke her students, she slid into her slippers and wrapped herself in a warm robe, then used her night candle to light her way down the stairs.  Soft, steady rain hissed against the windows, punctuated by three deep gongs from the hall clock. 
  Among the quiet hills of Kent, robbers were unlikely to knock on her front door, so she swung it open without qualms.  Her heart sank when she saw the three tall young men on her front steps. 
Randall, Kirkland, and Masterson had been part of her first class of students—her “lost lords” who needed special care and education.  There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers.  One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal.  Having three of the others show up with anguish in their eyes did not bode well.  “

So—does this draw you in?  Don’t be afraid to tell me it doesn’t!  There’s still time to change, which isn’t the case with the older books.

Personally I’ve always been rather fond of the atmospheric beginnings Edith mentioned, so I will admit freely that I once started a story with, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  It was done rather tongue in cheek, of course.  Can any of you say where I used this?  If so, you become eligible for a book giveaway drawing, either for that book, or another paperback of which I have sufficient copies.

Mary Jo, writing from Maryland where it is indeed a dark and stormy night…

100 thoughts on “The End of the Beginnings”

  1. “Late night visitors were never good news.” Strikes the heartstrings ill. Very unsettling. Love it, Mary Jo!
    And I love the “lost lords.” I can just see them standing there, wet beavers sagging, boots mud caked, greatcoats dripping with rain. From the opening, I’m imagining Lady Agnes is older.
    And, w/o copying from Jane, “It was a dark and story night” is Leo’s story in THE STARGAZER’S FAMILY, part of A Constellation of Cats
    Nina, glad we didn’t get snow.

    Reply
  2. “Late night visitors were never good news.” Strikes the heartstrings ill. Very unsettling. Love it, Mary Jo!
    And I love the “lost lords.” I can just see them standing there, wet beavers sagging, boots mud caked, greatcoats dripping with rain. From the opening, I’m imagining Lady Agnes is older.
    And, w/o copying from Jane, “It was a dark and story night” is Leo’s story in THE STARGAZER’S FAMILY, part of A Constellation of Cats
    Nina, glad we didn’t get snow.

    Reply
  3. “Late night visitors were never good news.” Strikes the heartstrings ill. Very unsettling. Love it, Mary Jo!
    And I love the “lost lords.” I can just see them standing there, wet beavers sagging, boots mud caked, greatcoats dripping with rain. From the opening, I’m imagining Lady Agnes is older.
    And, w/o copying from Jane, “It was a dark and story night” is Leo’s story in THE STARGAZER’S FAMILY, part of A Constellation of Cats
    Nina, glad we didn’t get snow.

    Reply
  4. “Late night visitors were never good news.” Strikes the heartstrings ill. Very unsettling. Love it, Mary Jo!
    And I love the “lost lords.” I can just see them standing there, wet beavers sagging, boots mud caked, greatcoats dripping with rain. From the opening, I’m imagining Lady Agnes is older.
    And, w/o copying from Jane, “It was a dark and story night” is Leo’s story in THE STARGAZER’S FAMILY, part of A Constellation of Cats
    Nina, glad we didn’t get snow.

    Reply
  5. “Late night visitors were never good news.” Strikes the heartstrings ill. Very unsettling. Love it, Mary Jo!
    And I love the “lost lords.” I can just see them standing there, wet beavers sagging, boots mud caked, greatcoats dripping with rain. From the opening, I’m imagining Lady Agnes is older.
    And, w/o copying from Jane, “It was a dark and story night” is Leo’s story in THE STARGAZER’S FAMILY, part of A Constellation of Cats
    Nina, glad we didn’t get snow.

    Reply
  6. Mary Jo,
    I love the beginning, and I can’t wait for the book — or books. I am a big fan of first lines, and wrote about that for this blog a long time ago–citing the first line of Scaramouche, I think. So, it was interesting for me to look back on a few of your books to see what drew me in. — in some it’s the way establish interesting
    relationships between characters in your first couple of pages. In others, voice, and the use of contradiction.
    I love the Jane Austen-like beginnings –which start of with thoughts about something that you use, for example in the beginning of “The Rake,(“When two gentlemen are closely related by blood they do not usually address each other with formality. In this case, however, the gentlemen in question were first cousins once removed, the younger had come from nowhere to inherit a title and fortune that the older had assumed would be his, and their relationship had been formally announced moments after they had come within a sword slice of killing one another.)
    YES! YES! YES! YES!– NICE LONG SENTENCES. THE HELL WITH STRUNK AND WHITE. Wonderful humorous voice- I love it.
    By now you must be tired of my raptures over your very earliest books. There is a similar use of voice in Chapter 1,(not the prologue) of The Marriage Spell. –the paragraph about the worthy uses of the telescope, then “Or one could use it to watch handsome young men during hunting season.”
    So, given that I like books that start with a thought, I am drawn in by “Late night visitors were never good news.”
    But enough of first lines,– it’s the complexity and psychological truth of the characters that stands out in your books– or the psychological truth of the relationships between characters. You seem to establish something interesting about character, or about the relationship between two characters early in your books (not necessarily between the hero and the heroine) I guess it’s obvious that, for me, plot is entirely secondary to character.
    The writing of fiction is such an amazing mystery to me. I can’t really grasp how any of you wenches manage to do it– much as I enjoy attempting to analyze it after the fact.
    Merry

    Reply
  7. Mary Jo,
    I love the beginning, and I can’t wait for the book — or books. I am a big fan of first lines, and wrote about that for this blog a long time ago–citing the first line of Scaramouche, I think. So, it was interesting for me to look back on a few of your books to see what drew me in. — in some it’s the way establish interesting
    relationships between characters in your first couple of pages. In others, voice, and the use of contradiction.
    I love the Jane Austen-like beginnings –which start of with thoughts about something that you use, for example in the beginning of “The Rake,(“When two gentlemen are closely related by blood they do not usually address each other with formality. In this case, however, the gentlemen in question were first cousins once removed, the younger had come from nowhere to inherit a title and fortune that the older had assumed would be his, and their relationship had been formally announced moments after they had come within a sword slice of killing one another.)
    YES! YES! YES! YES!– NICE LONG SENTENCES. THE HELL WITH STRUNK AND WHITE. Wonderful humorous voice- I love it.
    By now you must be tired of my raptures over your very earliest books. There is a similar use of voice in Chapter 1,(not the prologue) of The Marriage Spell. –the paragraph about the worthy uses of the telescope, then “Or one could use it to watch handsome young men during hunting season.”
    So, given that I like books that start with a thought, I am drawn in by “Late night visitors were never good news.”
    But enough of first lines,– it’s the complexity and psychological truth of the characters that stands out in your books– or the psychological truth of the relationships between characters. You seem to establish something interesting about character, or about the relationship between two characters early in your books (not necessarily between the hero and the heroine) I guess it’s obvious that, for me, plot is entirely secondary to character.
    The writing of fiction is such an amazing mystery to me. I can’t really grasp how any of you wenches manage to do it– much as I enjoy attempting to analyze it after the fact.
    Merry

    Reply
  8. Mary Jo,
    I love the beginning, and I can’t wait for the book — or books. I am a big fan of first lines, and wrote about that for this blog a long time ago–citing the first line of Scaramouche, I think. So, it was interesting for me to look back on a few of your books to see what drew me in. — in some it’s the way establish interesting
    relationships between characters in your first couple of pages. In others, voice, and the use of contradiction.
    I love the Jane Austen-like beginnings –which start of with thoughts about something that you use, for example in the beginning of “The Rake,(“When two gentlemen are closely related by blood they do not usually address each other with formality. In this case, however, the gentlemen in question were first cousins once removed, the younger had come from nowhere to inherit a title and fortune that the older had assumed would be his, and their relationship had been formally announced moments after they had come within a sword slice of killing one another.)
    YES! YES! YES! YES!– NICE LONG SENTENCES. THE HELL WITH STRUNK AND WHITE. Wonderful humorous voice- I love it.
    By now you must be tired of my raptures over your very earliest books. There is a similar use of voice in Chapter 1,(not the prologue) of The Marriage Spell. –the paragraph about the worthy uses of the telescope, then “Or one could use it to watch handsome young men during hunting season.”
    So, given that I like books that start with a thought, I am drawn in by “Late night visitors were never good news.”
    But enough of first lines,– it’s the complexity and psychological truth of the characters that stands out in your books– or the psychological truth of the relationships between characters. You seem to establish something interesting about character, or about the relationship between two characters early in your books (not necessarily between the hero and the heroine) I guess it’s obvious that, for me, plot is entirely secondary to character.
    The writing of fiction is such an amazing mystery to me. I can’t really grasp how any of you wenches manage to do it– much as I enjoy attempting to analyze it after the fact.
    Merry

    Reply
  9. Mary Jo,
    I love the beginning, and I can’t wait for the book — or books. I am a big fan of first lines, and wrote about that for this blog a long time ago–citing the first line of Scaramouche, I think. So, it was interesting for me to look back on a few of your books to see what drew me in. — in some it’s the way establish interesting
    relationships between characters in your first couple of pages. In others, voice, and the use of contradiction.
    I love the Jane Austen-like beginnings –which start of with thoughts about something that you use, for example in the beginning of “The Rake,(“When two gentlemen are closely related by blood they do not usually address each other with formality. In this case, however, the gentlemen in question were first cousins once removed, the younger had come from nowhere to inherit a title and fortune that the older had assumed would be his, and their relationship had been formally announced moments after they had come within a sword slice of killing one another.)
    YES! YES! YES! YES!– NICE LONG SENTENCES. THE HELL WITH STRUNK AND WHITE. Wonderful humorous voice- I love it.
    By now you must be tired of my raptures over your very earliest books. There is a similar use of voice in Chapter 1,(not the prologue) of The Marriage Spell. –the paragraph about the worthy uses of the telescope, then “Or one could use it to watch handsome young men during hunting season.”
    So, given that I like books that start with a thought, I am drawn in by “Late night visitors were never good news.”
    But enough of first lines,– it’s the complexity and psychological truth of the characters that stands out in your books– or the psychological truth of the relationships between characters. You seem to establish something interesting about character, or about the relationship between two characters early in your books (not necessarily between the hero and the heroine) I guess it’s obvious that, for me, plot is entirely secondary to character.
    The writing of fiction is such an amazing mystery to me. I can’t really grasp how any of you wenches manage to do it– much as I enjoy attempting to analyze it after the fact.
    Merry

    Reply
  10. Mary Jo,
    I love the beginning, and I can’t wait for the book — or books. I am a big fan of first lines, and wrote about that for this blog a long time ago–citing the first line of Scaramouche, I think. So, it was interesting for me to look back on a few of your books to see what drew me in. — in some it’s the way establish interesting
    relationships between characters in your first couple of pages. In others, voice, and the use of contradiction.
    I love the Jane Austen-like beginnings –which start of with thoughts about something that you use, for example in the beginning of “The Rake,(“When two gentlemen are closely related by blood they do not usually address each other with formality. In this case, however, the gentlemen in question were first cousins once removed, the younger had come from nowhere to inherit a title and fortune that the older had assumed would be his, and their relationship had been formally announced moments after they had come within a sword slice of killing one another.)
    YES! YES! YES! YES!– NICE LONG SENTENCES. THE HELL WITH STRUNK AND WHITE. Wonderful humorous voice- I love it.
    By now you must be tired of my raptures over your very earliest books. There is a similar use of voice in Chapter 1,(not the prologue) of The Marriage Spell. –the paragraph about the worthy uses of the telescope, then “Or one could use it to watch handsome young men during hunting season.”
    So, given that I like books that start with a thought, I am drawn in by “Late night visitors were never good news.”
    But enough of first lines,– it’s the complexity and psychological truth of the characters that stands out in your books– or the psychological truth of the relationships between characters. You seem to establish something interesting about character, or about the relationship between two characters early in your books (not necessarily between the hero and the heroine) I guess it’s obvious that, for me, plot is entirely secondary to character.
    The writing of fiction is such an amazing mystery to me. I can’t really grasp how any of you wenches manage to do it– much as I enjoy attempting to analyze it after the fact.
    Merry

    Reply
  11. I love the opening too, Mary Jo, and I’d love to see the Wenches take on the topic you mention of endings. Why am I often disappointed by romance endings, as if once the conflict/tension/uncertainty is resolved, the fun’s gone too and the writer hastens too quickly to bring the HEA together, with little wit or freshness. All too often the reader can skip the last few pages without losing anything.
    Are endings more difficult to write than beginnings? Are they particularly difficult in a romance, where the HEA is expected from the start? What ways have you Wenches found to make your endings as engaging as the beginnings?
    Love to hear you all on this. The “beginnings” series has been great.

    Reply
  12. I love the opening too, Mary Jo, and I’d love to see the Wenches take on the topic you mention of endings. Why am I often disappointed by romance endings, as if once the conflict/tension/uncertainty is resolved, the fun’s gone too and the writer hastens too quickly to bring the HEA together, with little wit or freshness. All too often the reader can skip the last few pages without losing anything.
    Are endings more difficult to write than beginnings? Are they particularly difficult in a romance, where the HEA is expected from the start? What ways have you Wenches found to make your endings as engaging as the beginnings?
    Love to hear you all on this. The “beginnings” series has been great.

    Reply
  13. I love the opening too, Mary Jo, and I’d love to see the Wenches take on the topic you mention of endings. Why am I often disappointed by romance endings, as if once the conflict/tension/uncertainty is resolved, the fun’s gone too and the writer hastens too quickly to bring the HEA together, with little wit or freshness. All too often the reader can skip the last few pages without losing anything.
    Are endings more difficult to write than beginnings? Are they particularly difficult in a romance, where the HEA is expected from the start? What ways have you Wenches found to make your endings as engaging as the beginnings?
    Love to hear you all on this. The “beginnings” series has been great.

    Reply
  14. I love the opening too, Mary Jo, and I’d love to see the Wenches take on the topic you mention of endings. Why am I often disappointed by romance endings, as if once the conflict/tension/uncertainty is resolved, the fun’s gone too and the writer hastens too quickly to bring the HEA together, with little wit or freshness. All too often the reader can skip the last few pages without losing anything.
    Are endings more difficult to write than beginnings? Are they particularly difficult in a romance, where the HEA is expected from the start? What ways have you Wenches found to make your endings as engaging as the beginnings?
    Love to hear you all on this. The “beginnings” series has been great.

    Reply
  15. I love the opening too, Mary Jo, and I’d love to see the Wenches take on the topic you mention of endings. Why am I often disappointed by romance endings, as if once the conflict/tension/uncertainty is resolved, the fun’s gone too and the writer hastens too quickly to bring the HEA together, with little wit or freshness. All too often the reader can skip the last few pages without losing anything.
    Are endings more difficult to write than beginnings? Are they particularly difficult in a romance, where the HEA is expected from the start? What ways have you Wenches found to make your endings as engaging as the beginnings?
    Love to hear you all on this. The “beginnings” series has been great.

    Reply
  16. Mary Jo, for someone who doesn’t consider herself “particularly great” at openings, those are mighty fine examples! *g*
    I can’t wait to read your tribute to the almighty Flashman later this month….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  17. Mary Jo, for someone who doesn’t consider herself “particularly great” at openings, those are mighty fine examples! *g*
    I can’t wait to read your tribute to the almighty Flashman later this month….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  18. Mary Jo, for someone who doesn’t consider herself “particularly great” at openings, those are mighty fine examples! *g*
    I can’t wait to read your tribute to the almighty Flashman later this month….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  19. Mary Jo, for someone who doesn’t consider herself “particularly great” at openings, those are mighty fine examples! *g*
    I can’t wait to read your tribute to the almighty Flashman later this month….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  20. Mary Jo, for someone who doesn’t consider herself “particularly great” at openings, those are mighty fine examples! *g*
    I can’t wait to read your tribute to the almighty Flashman later this month….
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  21. I like the first line. I want to read more to find out what the bad news is! This sounds like it’s going to be a story that I will like!
    The line is from The Stargazer’s Familiar in A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  22. I like the first line. I want to read more to find out what the bad news is! This sounds like it’s going to be a story that I will like!
    The line is from The Stargazer’s Familiar in A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  23. I like the first line. I want to read more to find out what the bad news is! This sounds like it’s going to be a story that I will like!
    The line is from The Stargazer’s Familiar in A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  24. I like the first line. I want to read more to find out what the bad news is! This sounds like it’s going to be a story that I will like!
    The line is from The Stargazer’s Familiar in A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  25. I like the first line. I want to read more to find out what the bad news is! This sounds like it’s going to be a story that I will like!
    The line is from The Stargazer’s Familiar in A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  26. From MJP:
    You guys are GOOD at knowing obscure stories!
    I’m also glad that the beginning of the WIP seems to be working for readers–though the fact you’re at Word Wenches surely skews the sample. But it is encouraging.
    Merry, I NEVER tire of people saying nice things about my books! I also enjoy the Austen/Heyer language, though I do less of it than I used to because of the changing market. That kind of voice is rather third person omniscient and often has irony and humor built it.
    Susan/Miranda, I’m glad you think those openings all work. I’m such an instinctive writer that I’m never really sure. I just chew on something until it ‘feels’ right, then move on. I guess it works most of the time, but it is not confidence inspiring. 🙂
    Mary Jo, wondering if any mere mortal can do Flashman justice

    Reply
  27. From MJP:
    You guys are GOOD at knowing obscure stories!
    I’m also glad that the beginning of the WIP seems to be working for readers–though the fact you’re at Word Wenches surely skews the sample. But it is encouraging.
    Merry, I NEVER tire of people saying nice things about my books! I also enjoy the Austen/Heyer language, though I do less of it than I used to because of the changing market. That kind of voice is rather third person omniscient and often has irony and humor built it.
    Susan/Miranda, I’m glad you think those openings all work. I’m such an instinctive writer that I’m never really sure. I just chew on something until it ‘feels’ right, then move on. I guess it works most of the time, but it is not confidence inspiring. 🙂
    Mary Jo, wondering if any mere mortal can do Flashman justice

    Reply
  28. From MJP:
    You guys are GOOD at knowing obscure stories!
    I’m also glad that the beginning of the WIP seems to be working for readers–though the fact you’re at Word Wenches surely skews the sample. But it is encouraging.
    Merry, I NEVER tire of people saying nice things about my books! I also enjoy the Austen/Heyer language, though I do less of it than I used to because of the changing market. That kind of voice is rather third person omniscient and often has irony and humor built it.
    Susan/Miranda, I’m glad you think those openings all work. I’m such an instinctive writer that I’m never really sure. I just chew on something until it ‘feels’ right, then move on. I guess it works most of the time, but it is not confidence inspiring. 🙂
    Mary Jo, wondering if any mere mortal can do Flashman justice

    Reply
  29. From MJP:
    You guys are GOOD at knowing obscure stories!
    I’m also glad that the beginning of the WIP seems to be working for readers–though the fact you’re at Word Wenches surely skews the sample. But it is encouraging.
    Merry, I NEVER tire of people saying nice things about my books! I also enjoy the Austen/Heyer language, though I do less of it than I used to because of the changing market. That kind of voice is rather third person omniscient and often has irony and humor built it.
    Susan/Miranda, I’m glad you think those openings all work. I’m such an instinctive writer that I’m never really sure. I just chew on something until it ‘feels’ right, then move on. I guess it works most of the time, but it is not confidence inspiring. 🙂
    Mary Jo, wondering if any mere mortal can do Flashman justice

    Reply
  30. From MJP:
    You guys are GOOD at knowing obscure stories!
    I’m also glad that the beginning of the WIP seems to be working for readers–though the fact you’re at Word Wenches surely skews the sample. But it is encouraging.
    Merry, I NEVER tire of people saying nice things about my books! I also enjoy the Austen/Heyer language, though I do less of it than I used to because of the changing market. That kind of voice is rather third person omniscient and often has irony and humor built it.
    Susan/Miranda, I’m glad you think those openings all work. I’m such an instinctive writer that I’m never really sure. I just chew on something until it ‘feels’ right, then move on. I guess it works most of the time, but it is not confidence inspiring. 🙂
    Mary Jo, wondering if any mere mortal can do Flashman justice

    Reply
  31. *preparing for chorus of boos*
    I liked the opening, I liked the ‘lost lords’ – but it was at the point when she opened the door that distracting questions started popping up in my brain that took me a bit out of the story. It went something like this: she has a private wing in a sprawling manor – wouldn’t that imply that the three door bangers would have had to be let in to the manor by some servant before getting to her section, and if so, wouldn’t that servant accompany them to her door to announce them? If on the other hand her wing has its own door to the outside of the manor(meaning a servant wouldn’t have had to let them in)wouldn’t it imply that she is at best impetuous and at worst not too bright (neither option very advisable in someone who educates children)if she simply opens the door without at least a cursory ‘Who’s there?’ question beforehand?
    just saying.

    Reply
  32. *preparing for chorus of boos*
    I liked the opening, I liked the ‘lost lords’ – but it was at the point when she opened the door that distracting questions started popping up in my brain that took me a bit out of the story. It went something like this: she has a private wing in a sprawling manor – wouldn’t that imply that the three door bangers would have had to be let in to the manor by some servant before getting to her section, and if so, wouldn’t that servant accompany them to her door to announce them? If on the other hand her wing has its own door to the outside of the manor(meaning a servant wouldn’t have had to let them in)wouldn’t it imply that she is at best impetuous and at worst not too bright (neither option very advisable in someone who educates children)if she simply opens the door without at least a cursory ‘Who’s there?’ question beforehand?
    just saying.

    Reply
  33. *preparing for chorus of boos*
    I liked the opening, I liked the ‘lost lords’ – but it was at the point when she opened the door that distracting questions started popping up in my brain that took me a bit out of the story. It went something like this: she has a private wing in a sprawling manor – wouldn’t that imply that the three door bangers would have had to be let in to the manor by some servant before getting to her section, and if so, wouldn’t that servant accompany them to her door to announce them? If on the other hand her wing has its own door to the outside of the manor(meaning a servant wouldn’t have had to let them in)wouldn’t it imply that she is at best impetuous and at worst not too bright (neither option very advisable in someone who educates children)if she simply opens the door without at least a cursory ‘Who’s there?’ question beforehand?
    just saying.

    Reply
  34. *preparing for chorus of boos*
    I liked the opening, I liked the ‘lost lords’ – but it was at the point when she opened the door that distracting questions started popping up in my brain that took me a bit out of the story. It went something like this: she has a private wing in a sprawling manor – wouldn’t that imply that the three door bangers would have had to be let in to the manor by some servant before getting to her section, and if so, wouldn’t that servant accompany them to her door to announce them? If on the other hand her wing has its own door to the outside of the manor(meaning a servant wouldn’t have had to let them in)wouldn’t it imply that she is at best impetuous and at worst not too bright (neither option very advisable in someone who educates children)if she simply opens the door without at least a cursory ‘Who’s there?’ question beforehand?
    just saying.

    Reply
  35. *preparing for chorus of boos*
    I liked the opening, I liked the ‘lost lords’ – but it was at the point when she opened the door that distracting questions started popping up in my brain that took me a bit out of the story. It went something like this: she has a private wing in a sprawling manor – wouldn’t that imply that the three door bangers would have had to be let in to the manor by some servant before getting to her section, and if so, wouldn’t that servant accompany them to her door to announce them? If on the other hand her wing has its own door to the outside of the manor(meaning a servant wouldn’t have had to let them in)wouldn’t it imply that she is at best impetuous and at worst not too bright (neither option very advisable in someone who educates children)if she simply opens the door without at least a cursory ‘Who’s there?’ question beforehand?
    just saying.

    Reply
  36. I do like your new opening. I am interested in who these young men are and what awful thing has happened. It was a dark and stormy night was the opening of “The Stargazer’s Familir” from A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  37. I do like your new opening. I am interested in who these young men are and what awful thing has happened. It was a dark and stormy night was the opening of “The Stargazer’s Familir” from A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  38. I do like your new opening. I am interested in who these young men are and what awful thing has happened. It was a dark and stormy night was the opening of “The Stargazer’s Familir” from A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  39. I do like your new opening. I am interested in who these young men are and what awful thing has happened. It was a dark and stormy night was the opening of “The Stargazer’s Familir” from A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  40. I do like your new opening. I am interested in who these young men are and what awful thing has happened. It was a dark and stormy night was the opening of “The Stargazer’s Familir” from A Constellation of Cats.

    Reply
  41. Mary Jo, I found your opening exceedingly interesting. It sucked me in, and it raised a whole bunch of questions that I want answers to: why did the three young men come to Lady Agnes’s PRIVATE wing instead of the main house entrance? Obviously, these young men hold Lady Agnes in some esteem and respect, or why else would they rouse her at the unseemly hour of 3 a.m. when in distress? Surely they must be turning to her for help. What is the cause of their distress, and why does it involve all 3 of them? I’m deeply intrigued by what you mean by “lost lords who needed special care and education.” What kind of care, and what caused them to be “lost”?
    You’ve set up a dandy beginning that would make me keep turning the pages as fast as I could read.

    Reply
  42. Mary Jo, I found your opening exceedingly interesting. It sucked me in, and it raised a whole bunch of questions that I want answers to: why did the three young men come to Lady Agnes’s PRIVATE wing instead of the main house entrance? Obviously, these young men hold Lady Agnes in some esteem and respect, or why else would they rouse her at the unseemly hour of 3 a.m. when in distress? Surely they must be turning to her for help. What is the cause of their distress, and why does it involve all 3 of them? I’m deeply intrigued by what you mean by “lost lords who needed special care and education.” What kind of care, and what caused them to be “lost”?
    You’ve set up a dandy beginning that would make me keep turning the pages as fast as I could read.

    Reply
  43. Mary Jo, I found your opening exceedingly interesting. It sucked me in, and it raised a whole bunch of questions that I want answers to: why did the three young men come to Lady Agnes’s PRIVATE wing instead of the main house entrance? Obviously, these young men hold Lady Agnes in some esteem and respect, or why else would they rouse her at the unseemly hour of 3 a.m. when in distress? Surely they must be turning to her for help. What is the cause of their distress, and why does it involve all 3 of them? I’m deeply intrigued by what you mean by “lost lords who needed special care and education.” What kind of care, and what caused them to be “lost”?
    You’ve set up a dandy beginning that would make me keep turning the pages as fast as I could read.

    Reply
  44. Mary Jo, I found your opening exceedingly interesting. It sucked me in, and it raised a whole bunch of questions that I want answers to: why did the three young men come to Lady Agnes’s PRIVATE wing instead of the main house entrance? Obviously, these young men hold Lady Agnes in some esteem and respect, or why else would they rouse her at the unseemly hour of 3 a.m. when in distress? Surely they must be turning to her for help. What is the cause of their distress, and why does it involve all 3 of them? I’m deeply intrigued by what you mean by “lost lords who needed special care and education.” What kind of care, and what caused them to be “lost”?
    You’ve set up a dandy beginning that would make me keep turning the pages as fast as I could read.

    Reply
  45. Mary Jo, I found your opening exceedingly interesting. It sucked me in, and it raised a whole bunch of questions that I want answers to: why did the three young men come to Lady Agnes’s PRIVATE wing instead of the main house entrance? Obviously, these young men hold Lady Agnes in some esteem and respect, or why else would they rouse her at the unseemly hour of 3 a.m. when in distress? Surely they must be turning to her for help. What is the cause of their distress, and why does it involve all 3 of them? I’m deeply intrigued by what you mean by “lost lords who needed special care and education.” What kind of care, and what caused them to be “lost”?
    You’ve set up a dandy beginning that would make me keep turning the pages as fast as I could read.

    Reply
  46. Alas, I’ll have to cheat too. . . so it’s “A Stargazer’s Familiar” in A Constellation of Cats. LOL I checked the books I have and alas, none had it. . . but I sure tried! 🙂
    And as for dark and stormy. . . they kept saying it would be like that here yesterday/night before, but we totally missed out on it all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  47. Alas, I’ll have to cheat too. . . so it’s “A Stargazer’s Familiar” in A Constellation of Cats. LOL I checked the books I have and alas, none had it. . . but I sure tried! 🙂
    And as for dark and stormy. . . they kept saying it would be like that here yesterday/night before, but we totally missed out on it all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  48. Alas, I’ll have to cheat too. . . so it’s “A Stargazer’s Familiar” in A Constellation of Cats. LOL I checked the books I have and alas, none had it. . . but I sure tried! 🙂
    And as for dark and stormy. . . they kept saying it would be like that here yesterday/night before, but we totally missed out on it all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  49. Alas, I’ll have to cheat too. . . so it’s “A Stargazer’s Familiar” in A Constellation of Cats. LOL I checked the books I have and alas, none had it. . . but I sure tried! 🙂
    And as for dark and stormy. . . they kept saying it would be like that here yesterday/night before, but we totally missed out on it all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  50. Alas, I’ll have to cheat too. . . so it’s “A Stargazer’s Familiar” in A Constellation of Cats. LOL I checked the books I have and alas, none had it. . . but I sure tried! 🙂
    And as for dark and stormy. . . they kept saying it would be like that here yesterday/night before, but we totally missed out on it all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  51. From MJP:
    You make some good points, Maya–some are answered just after the excerpt, but I might do some tweaking as well.
    Yes, Lady Agnes is older, and something of a mother figure to the young men who were her students. She was a wild woman and world traveler in her younger days, before she returned to England and decided to bend her considerable energies to taming wild boys who don’t quite fit into the normal system.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  52. From MJP:
    You make some good points, Maya–some are answered just after the excerpt, but I might do some tweaking as well.
    Yes, Lady Agnes is older, and something of a mother figure to the young men who were her students. She was a wild woman and world traveler in her younger days, before she returned to England and decided to bend her considerable energies to taming wild boys who don’t quite fit into the normal system.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  53. From MJP:
    You make some good points, Maya–some are answered just after the excerpt, but I might do some tweaking as well.
    Yes, Lady Agnes is older, and something of a mother figure to the young men who were her students. She was a wild woman and world traveler in her younger days, before she returned to England and decided to bend her considerable energies to taming wild boys who don’t quite fit into the normal system.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  54. From MJP:
    You make some good points, Maya–some are answered just after the excerpt, but I might do some tweaking as well.
    Yes, Lady Agnes is older, and something of a mother figure to the young men who were her students. She was a wild woman and world traveler in her younger days, before she returned to England and decided to bend her considerable energies to taming wild boys who don’t quite fit into the normal system.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  55. From MJP:
    You make some good points, Maya–some are answered just after the excerpt, but I might do some tweaking as well.
    Yes, Lady Agnes is older, and something of a mother figure to the young men who were her students. She was a wild woman and world traveler in her younger days, before she returned to England and decided to bend her considerable energies to taming wild boys who don’t quite fit into the normal system.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  56. “There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers. One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal. Having three of the others show up…”
    It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?

    Reply
  57. “There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers. One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal. Having three of the others show up…”
    It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?

    Reply
  58. “There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers. One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal. Having three of the others show up…”
    It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?

    Reply
  59. “There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers. One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal. Having three of the others show up…”
    It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?

    Reply
  60. “There had been six boys in that class, and they had become closer than brothers. One had been lost in the chaos of France, another was in Portugal. Having three of the others show up…”
    It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?

    Reply
  61. Loved the beginning of the new book.
    “there’s a “missing” lord!”
    And that would be a great title.
    Loved the other beginnings, too. I had forgotten that opening of The Rake, and will have to reread it. And put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.
    I used a prologue in a book once to show that the hero was redeemable. I knew he was going to come across as cold and nasty for quite a long time and that readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat. After that, no matter how boorishly he behaved, we’d seen that hidden side to him, and knew the heroine would reveal it eventually.

    Reply
  62. Loved the beginning of the new book.
    “there’s a “missing” lord!”
    And that would be a great title.
    Loved the other beginnings, too. I had forgotten that opening of The Rake, and will have to reread it. And put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.
    I used a prologue in a book once to show that the hero was redeemable. I knew he was going to come across as cold and nasty for quite a long time and that readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat. After that, no matter how boorishly he behaved, we’d seen that hidden side to him, and knew the heroine would reveal it eventually.

    Reply
  63. Loved the beginning of the new book.
    “there’s a “missing” lord!”
    And that would be a great title.
    Loved the other beginnings, too. I had forgotten that opening of The Rake, and will have to reread it. And put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.
    I used a prologue in a book once to show that the hero was redeemable. I knew he was going to come across as cold and nasty for quite a long time and that readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat. After that, no matter how boorishly he behaved, we’d seen that hidden side to him, and knew the heroine would reveal it eventually.

    Reply
  64. Loved the beginning of the new book.
    “there’s a “missing” lord!”
    And that would be a great title.
    Loved the other beginnings, too. I had forgotten that opening of The Rake, and will have to reread it. And put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.
    I used a prologue in a book once to show that the hero was redeemable. I knew he was going to come across as cold and nasty for quite a long time and that readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat. After that, no matter how boorishly he behaved, we’d seen that hidden side to him, and knew the heroine would reveal it eventually.

    Reply
  65. Loved the beginning of the new book.
    “there’s a “missing” lord!”
    And that would be a great title.
    Loved the other beginnings, too. I had forgotten that opening of The Rake, and will have to reread it. And put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.
    I used a prologue in a book once to show that the hero was redeemable. I knew he was going to come across as cold and nasty for quite a long time and that readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat. After that, no matter how boorishly he behaved, we’d seen that hidden side to him, and knew the heroine would reveal it eventually.

    Reply
  66. From MJP:
    From Nina: It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?”
    Yep. 🙂
    From Anne: “put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.”
    Anne, I suspect that’s exactly why some readers -don’t- like prologues. Romances are pretty linear, and I think some people don’t like wasting time in what seems like a wrong direction.
    Also from Anne: “…readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat.”
    LOL! That’s perfect, Anne. Loving dogs and kids is a great way to show that someone who seems like a total jerk has potential. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  67. From MJP:
    From Nina: It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?”
    Yep. 🙂
    From Anne: “put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.”
    Anne, I suspect that’s exactly why some readers -don’t- like prologues. Romances are pretty linear, and I think some people don’t like wasting time in what seems like a wrong direction.
    Also from Anne: “…readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat.”
    LOL! That’s perfect, Anne. Loving dogs and kids is a great way to show that someone who seems like a total jerk has potential. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  68. From MJP:
    From Nina: It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?”
    Yep. 🙂
    From Anne: “put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.”
    Anne, I suspect that’s exactly why some readers -don’t- like prologues. Romances are pretty linear, and I think some people don’t like wasting time in what seems like a wrong direction.
    Also from Anne: “…readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat.”
    LOL! That’s perfect, Anne. Loving dogs and kids is a great way to show that someone who seems like a total jerk has potential. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  69. From MJP:
    From Nina: It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?”
    Yep. 🙂
    From Anne: “put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.”
    Anne, I suspect that’s exactly why some readers -don’t- like prologues. Romances are pretty linear, and I think some people don’t like wasting time in what seems like a wrong direction.
    Also from Anne: “…readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat.”
    LOL! That’s perfect, Anne. Loving dogs and kids is a great way to show that someone who seems like a total jerk has potential. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  70. From MJP:
    From Nina: It took me a minute to figure this out… but there’s a “missing” lord! (One Lost In France + The One in Portugal + The three on the porch = 5) What a great way to create suspense, Mary Jo. Is the story about the “missing” lord?”
    Yep. 🙂
    From Anne: “put me down as someone who loved prologues too.
    I think showing a crucial incident ‘in the moment’ can be so much more effective than thoughts or memories or motivation explanations later on. And as a reader I love reading a prologue and then reading on, seeing no immediate relationship to the rest of the story, and then you get to the “aha” point in the book when it all starts to fit together.”
    Anne, I suspect that’s exactly why some readers -don’t- like prologues. Romances are pretty linear, and I think some people don’t like wasting time in what seems like a wrong direction.
    Also from Anne: “…readers wouldn’t like him at all. But in the prologue he met a designing toddler and was completely out of his depth — she had him wound around her little thumb in three minutes flat.”
    LOL! That’s perfect, Anne. Loving dogs and kids is a great way to show that someone who seems like a total jerk has potential. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  71. The opening to your WIP completely sucked me in! Can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get read what comes next *g*
    PS. Hopefully I’m not too late, but that opening line came from “The Stargazer’s Family”~

    Reply
  72. The opening to your WIP completely sucked me in! Can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get read what comes next *g*
    PS. Hopefully I’m not too late, but that opening line came from “The Stargazer’s Family”~

    Reply
  73. The opening to your WIP completely sucked me in! Can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get read what comes next *g*
    PS. Hopefully I’m not too late, but that opening line came from “The Stargazer’s Family”~

    Reply
  74. The opening to your WIP completely sucked me in! Can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get read what comes next *g*
    PS. Hopefully I’m not too late, but that opening line came from “The Stargazer’s Family”~

    Reply
  75. The opening to your WIP completely sucked me in! Can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get read what comes next *g*
    PS. Hopefully I’m not too late, but that opening line came from “The Stargazer’s Family”~

    Reply

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