Beginnings

Sherry in northern Virginia where summer isn’t over yet, thankfully (but I wouldn’t mind if the humidity turned down a notch or two!)

ALL MURDERS FINAL mech.inddI’ve thought a lot about beginnings over the summer. I turned in All Murders Final, the third in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, on June 3rd. Shortly after that I turned a proposal in for more books. And then I waited. It gave me time to think about what I would do if the series wasn’t renewed. What would I work on? Start something new or revisit my unsold series that is set in Seattle and features a gemologist? My agent and I tossed around ideas for a new series but haven’t hit on something we both believed in.

Last Thursday morning at 5:15 the beginning of book four woke me up. I didn’t know whether to start writing or put the thoughts aside. Around ten that morning I emailed a few friends to see if they could have lunch on Friday. About fifteen minutes after I sent the email my agent called saying Kensington wanted two more Sarah books. Lunch the next day turned into a celebration.

Lots of writers celebrate writing The End. But I like to celebrate The Beginning. I cleaned my office over the weekend. This morning I opened a new computer file titled Buy Another Day — the working title. There is something so thrilling about starting, endless possibilities, surprises waiting to happen, and hard work. Hard Work!

I recently talked about the opening of Tagged for Death on Debra H. Goldstein’s blog, It’s Not Always a Mystery. You can read it here: https://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/guest-blogger-sherry-harris-openings/

I searched the Wicked Cozy blog to see what we’d written about beginnings and found this excellent post by John Dufresne. It was an excellent time to rediscover it. I love this line: Don’t begin with an idea. Ideas are abstract; fiction exists in images, like dreams. (If you ever get the chance to take one of his classes do it — he’s amazing.)

IMG_5157After an early morning walk, I opened a new file and wrote the first lines:

“You’re going to sell my Pyrex for so little? You might as well give it away.” Not only did Mrs. Spencer’s voice shake but her whole body did too. She snatched the Pyrex dish out of my hand and thrust it at the startled woman standing in front of me.

It starts with conflict and an image. I’m not sure these lines will stay the first lines, or it will stay a piece of Pyrex, or Mrs. Spencer’s name will stay the same. But it’s a beginning.

Readers: I asked this question over on Debra’s blog — do you have a book with a favorite beginning?

27 thoughts on “Beginnings

  1. I love that first paragraph, Sherry. You’ve definitely taken me by the shoulders, as John Dusfresne said, and made it clear you have an urgent story to tell.

    Here’s a good one, from Julia Spencer-Fleming’s I SHALL NOT WANT: “When she saw the glint of the revolver barrel through the broken glass in the window, Hadley Knox thought, I’m going to die for sixteen bucks an hour.

  2. Snoopy typing on his typewriter….It was a dark and stormy night”. What grabbed me …… Wrecked introduced me to Carol Higgins Clark. I liked the opening scene. A violent thunderstorm on the beach.

  3. Margaret Turkovich beat m e to my latest favorite, Julia Spencer-Fleming. Opening lines are the hardest part of writing (for me). Love your little snippet. I can see it happening!

  4. I’m celebrating your beginnings for 2 new books plus the one you recently turned in. Having read your first ones, can’t wait to read more……you hooked me with your beginnings – a point you made well for all authors when you blogged for “It’s Not Always A Mystery” (thanks for mentioning your great post there on beginnings). Look forward to many new beginnings in your future.

  5. Congrats again on that wonderful news!!!

    As I’m sure is no surprise since I run the First Line Monday group on Facebook (which is open to everyone to post the first line of whatever they are reading [end shameless plug]), I love well crafted first lines. It appears yours is a winner.

    A few of my favorites.

    Taste of Victory by Sandy Dengler: “Nothing. Nothing but nothing. She turned in a small circle. Everywhere she looked – absolutely everywhere – she saw nothing.”

    Shoes to Die For by Laura Levine: “There are two kinds of people in LA. Those who do lunch. And those who eat lunch. Those who do lunch talk to their agents and order things like ahi tuna and Chinese chicken salad. Those who eat lunch talk to a clown and order extra ketchup for their fries.”

    But in my mind, one of the best at producing opening lines is middle grade author Stuart Gibbs. Here are two of his best.

    The Last Musketeer: Clinging to the prison wall, Greg Rich realized how much he hated time travel.

    Poached: I would never have been accused of stealing the koala if Vance Jessup hadn’t made me drop a human arm in the shark tank.

  6. One of my favorites is the opening line from Kylie Logan’s MAYHEM AT THE ORIENT EXPRESS: If it weren’t for Jerry Garcia peeing on my pansies, I never would have joined the League of Literary Ladies.

  7. Hi, Sherry! I love your story about receiving your latest book news. Congratulations!!! First lines are critical to me (as an author and as a reader). I like them to set the tone for the entire book. I don’t have a favorite beginning, but Mark’s example from Laura Levine is great. She’s hilarious.

  8. Hi, Sherry — A big congratulations on getting a contract for two more books in your series. That’s great news.

  9. Wow, Sherry! This post was special for me. I too found myself “between Kensington contracts” this summer. The third in my Witch City Mystery series will be released in late October. Would there be a #4? I don’t have an agent to bounce ideas on, but fooled around with writing a romance while I waited. Florida and the romance each grew hotter. Time passed. But Yea me! Contract for books 4, 5 and 6 has arrived. Have tried a couple of beginnings–need to get conflict up front like you did. I’ll let you know when I settle on one!
    Carol

  10. Congrats on the renewal! It’s a great series. Getting the opening line right is crucial to whether the author hooks the reader or not–and yours is great! There is a huge amount of information and setup contained in those few lines. P.S., I love vintage Pyrex. Reminds me of my mom and grandmas so always makes me nostalgic.

    • Thanks, Jane! Pyrex is really hot in the vintage world right now. My mom still has the set of bowls where the largest one was yellow. She broke the smallest blue one but I found a replacement for her.

      • I love Pyrex too. My mother had the same set. I have three, but my sister demanded the blue one. I also buy Pyrex cups whenever I find them, because I really prefer the old handles to the new ones. I think I have five squirreled around the house.

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