Guest Post: "First Lines" by Merry Jones, author of CHILD’S PLAY

I’m always thrilled and slightly amazed when an author agrees to visit my blog. Today is no different. I’m pleased to welcome Merry Jones, author of Child’s Play. Ms. Jones will be discussing the idea of first lines, where do they come from and how important are they. Thank you, Ms. Jones, for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts on first lines with us.



First Lines
Merry Jones

Sometimes, writing fiction seems a lot like trying to pick up a Hot Stranger in a bar: The opening line makes or breaks us.  

If we blow that first line in a bar, the Stranger turns off, never to find out what scintillating people we are. In a book, the reader stops, never to find out what scintillating prose awaits them on page two.  

In other words, if we don’t grab them immediately, it’s over.

Or so writers sometimes think. Of course, grabbing doesn’t have to involve a chokehold. But it does have to make readers (or Strangers) want to find out more. To engage them. Build curiosity. Create intrigue and draw them in.

Convinced about the importance of immediate grabbing, some writers sweat over these opening lines. Even talented, accomplished authors can find first lines daunting, getting intimidated, believing that these lines have to be perfect. Powerful. Strong. Meaningful. Dramatic. Unique. After all, these first sentences are supposed to set tone, establish style, lead readers into the world of the book—In short: hook them. 

So what is it, exactly, that makes a good opening line? Are there rules? Definitions? Does anyone really know?

Maybe looking at some will help. Of course, Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night” is unbeatable. But consider these:

“Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16-17th September—a Thursday.”  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie

“Last night I dreamt I was in Manderley again.”  Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

“Patsy sat by herself at the beginning of the evening, eating a melted chocolate bar.”  Moving On, by Larry McMurtry

“They’re out there.”  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

“I am ninety.”  Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.”  The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

“It was a Sunday morning at the peak of spring.”  The Judgment, by Franz Kafka

“It was a slow Sunday afternoon, the kind Walden loved.”  The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett



These opening lines are by iconic fiction writers. And, in a way, each sets a tone and presents key information. But, honestly, if you didn’t know where these sentences came from, would you think they were anything special? Please. “It was a slow Sunday afternoon…”? Or, “It was about eleven o’clock in the morning…”? 

No, to me, the opening sentence isn’t all that important. What’s important is all the sentences that follow it. Without a compelling story and appealing characters, these opening lines, even though by such distinguished authors, would be just—well, sentences.  

So here’s my theory: These iconic authors didn’t worry about the opening sentence; they just started telling their stories. There has to be a beginning. That beginning might indicate time and place, might introduce a character. Might reveal a thought. Present a fact. Drop into the middle of some ongoing event or action. Whatever starts the telling makes the first sentence. Just as whatever concludes the story will make the last.

Mickey Spillane supposedly said that the beginning sells the novel and the end sells the next one. But that gives the first and last lines a lot of responsibility, causes lots of pressure. For me, the advice of my wise third-grade teacher works just fine and doesn’t cause as much anxiety. Mrs. Kellen told her class, “The best way to start is to start.”

So that’s what I do. No pressure to create a perfect first sentence. No need for fancy phrasing or affected action. I just start.  

So far, that’s worked well in writing. I imagine it would also work in picking up Hot Strangers in a bar. If you try it, let me know?






Merry Jones
Meet the author:

Merry Jones is the author of some twenty critically acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been translated into seven languages. Her previous Elle Harrison novels have been The Trouble With Charlie and Elective Procedures. Jones lives with her husband in Philadelphia.


Catch Up with Merry online:


Website ,  Twitter , & Facebook 



Child's Play by Merry Jones

Child’s Play


Merry Jones


February 1-28, 2017 Tour





Synopsis:


Child's Play by Merry Jones

Since her husband’s murder two years earlier, life hasn’t been easy for Elle Harrison. Now, at the start of a new school year, the second grade teacher is determined to move on. She’s selling her house and delving into new experiences―like learning trapeze.


Just before the first day of school, Elle learns that a former student, Ty Evans, has been released from juvenile detention where he served time for killing his abusive father. Within days of his release, Elle’s school principal, who’d tormented Ty as a child, is brutally murdered. So is a teacher at the school. And Ty’s former girlfriend. All the victims have links to Ty.

Ty’s younger brother, Seth, is in Elle’s class. When Seth shows up at school beaten and bruised, Elle reports the abuse, and authorities remove Seth and his older sister, Katie, from their home. Is Ty the abuser?

Ty seeks Elle out, confiding that she’s the only adult he’s ever trusted. She tries to be open-minded, even wonders if he’s been wrongly condemned. But when she’s assaulted in the night, she suspects that Ty is her attacker. Is he a serial killer? Is she his next intended victim?

Before Elle discovers the truth, she’s caught in a deadly trap that challenges her deepest convictions about guilt and innocence, childhood and family. Pushed to her limits, she’s forced to face her fears and apply new skills in a deadly fight to survive.




Book Details:


Genre: Thriller, Suspsense
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date:  January 3rd 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1608091910 (ISBN13: 9781608091911)
Series: Elle Harrison Thriller #3 (Each can be read as a Stand Alone Novel)
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 



Tour Participants:

Don’t miss your chance to stop by these awesome sites for reviews, guest posts, interviews, & more great giveaways!






Oh, & Enter the Giveaway!



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for  Merry Jones. There will be 1 winner of one $15 Amazon.com Gift Cards AND 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Child’s Play by Merry Jones. The giveaway begins on January 26th and runs through March 3rd, 2017.


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Book Blast: CHILD’S PLAY by Merry Jones

Child's Play by Merry Jones


Child’s Play


Merry Jones


January 3 Book Blast


February 1-28, 2017 Tour





Synopsis:


Child's Play by Merry Jones

Since her husband’s murder two years earlier, life hasn’t been easy for Elle Harrison. Now, at the start of a new school year, the second grade teacher is determined to move on. She’s selling her house and delving into new experiences―like learning trapeze.


Just before the first day of school, Elle learns that a former student, Ty Evans, has been released from juvenile detention where he served time for killing his abusive father. Within days of his release, Elle’s school principal, who’d tormented Ty as a child, is brutally murdered. So is a teacher at the school. And Ty’s former girlfriend. All the victims have links to Ty.

Ty’s younger brother, Seth, is in Elle’s class. When Seth shows up at school beaten and bruised, Elle reports the abuse, and authorities remove Seth and his older sister, Katie, from their home. Is Ty the abuser?

Ty seeks Elle out, confiding that she’s the only adult he’s ever trusted. She tries to be open-minded, even wonders if he’s been wrongly condemned. But when she’s assaulted in the night, she suspects that Ty is her attacker. Is he a serial killer? Is she his next intended victim?

Before Elle discovers the truth, she’s caught in a deadly trap that challenges her deepest convictions about guilt and innocence, childhood and family. Pushed to her limits, she’s forced to face her fears and apply new skills in a deadly fight to survive.




Book Details:


Genre: Thriller, Suspsense
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date:  January 3rd 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1608091910 (ISBN13: 9781608091911)
Series: Elle Harrison Thriller #3 (Each can be read as a Stand Alone Novel)
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 


Read an excerpt:



I was the first one there.

The parking lot was empty, except for Stan’s pickup truck. Stan was the custodian, tall, hair thinning, face pock-marked from long ago acne. He moved silently, popped out of closets and appeared in corners, prowled the halls armed with a mop or a broom. In fourteen years, I couldn’t remember a single time when he’d looked me in the eye.

Wait—fourteen years? I’d been there that long? Faces of kids I’d taught swirled through my head. The oldest of them would now be, what? Twenty-one? Oh man. Soon I’d be one of those old school marms teaching the kids of my former students, a permanent fixture of the school like the faded picture of George Washington mounted outside the principal’s office. Hell, in a few months, I’d be forty. A middle-aged childless widow who taught second grade over and over again, year after year, repeating the cycle like a hamster on its wheel. Which reminded me: I had to pick up new hamsters. Tragically, last year’s hadn’t made it through the summer.

I told myself to stop dawdling. I had a classroom to organize, cubbies to decorate. On Monday, just three days from now, twenty-three glowing faces would show up for the first day of school, and I had to be ready. I climbed out of the car, pulled a box of supplies from the trunk, started for the building. And stopped.

My heart did triple time, as if responding to danger. But there was no danger. What alarmed me, what sent my heart racing was the school itself. But why? Did it look different? Had the windows been replaced, or the doors? Nothing looked new, but something seemed altered. Off balance. The place didn’t look like an elementary school. It looked like a giant factory. A prison.

God, no. It didn’t look like any of those things. The school was the same as it had always been, just a big brick building. It seemed cold and stark simply because it was unadorned by throngs of children. Except for wifi, Logan Elementary hadn’t changed in fifty years, unless you counted several new layers of soot on the bricks.

I stood in the parking lot, observing the school, seeing it fresh. I’d never paid much attention to it before. When it was filled with students, the building itself became all but invisible, just a structure, a backdrop. But now, empty, it was unable to hide behind the children, the smells of sunshine and peanut butter sandwiches, the sounds of chatter and small shoes pounding Stanley’s waxed tiles. The building stood exposed. I watched it, felt it watching me back. Threatening.

Seriously, what was wrong with me? The school was neither watching nor threatening me. It was a benign pile of bricks and steel. I was wasting time, needed to go in and get to work. But I didn’t take a single step. Go on, I told myself. What was I afraid of? Empty halls, vacant rooms? Blank walls? For a long moment, I stood motionless, eyes fixed on the façade. The carved letters: Logan School. The heavy double doors. The dark windows. Maybe I’d wait a while before going inside. Becky would arrive soon, after she picked up her classroom aquarium.

Other teachers would show up, too. I could go in with them, blend safely into their commotion. I hefted the box, turned back to the car. But no, what was I doing? I didn’t want to wait. I’d come early so I could get work done without interruption or distraction before the others arrived. The school wasn’t daring me, nor was I sensing some impending tragedy. I was just jittery about starting a new year.

I turned around again, faced its faded brown bricks. I steeled my shoulders, took a breath and started across the parking lot. With a reverberating metallic clank, the main doors flew open. Reflexively, I stepped back, half expecting a burst of flames or gunfire. Instead, Stan emerged. For the first time in fourteen years, I was glad to see him. Stan surveyed the parking lot, hitched up his pants. Looked in my direction. He didn’t wave or nod a greeting, didn’t follow social conventions. Even so, his presence grounded me, felt familiar.

I took a breath, reminded myself that the school was just a school. That I was prone to mental wandering and embellishing. And that children would stream into my classroom in just three days, whether I was ready or not.



Merry JonesAuthor Bio:

Merry Jones is the author of some twenty critically acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been translated into seven languages. Her previous Elle Harrison novels have been The Trouble With Charlie and Elective Procedures. Jones lives with her husband in Philadelphia.

Catch Up with Merry online:


Website ,  Twitter , & Facebook 

January 3, 2017 BLAST Participants:






Tour Participants:

Next Month Merry will be touring with her new book Child’s Play. The following sites, and more, will be hosting reviews, interviews, guest posts, and MORE Giveaways! Drop by to learn more about Merry and her great new book!






Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for  Merry Jones. There will be 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Child’s Play by Merry Jones. The giveaway begins on January 3rd and runs through January 9th, 2016.


a Rafflecopter giveaway