Bay Area Book Festival

Yesterday I had a table at the Bay Area Book Festival. It was only their third year of operation, and I think they may still be struggling with organizing themselves and figuring out what kind of festival they really want to be, but over all it was a good time. Well, except really windy. I couldn’t lay out all my swag because of the wind, and the umbrella I rented for shade was useless because when I tried to open it, it kept taking flight and attempting to decapitate people. So most of us authors—at least on my stretch—caught some sun.

Ah, well. I had a nice time and I’m glad I went. The entire week leading up to the event I had a sense of dread about the whole thing. This is typical for me, though. I’m always nervous to the point of feeling sick when it comes to this stuff. I like meeting people and chatting, so I don’t know what the psychological speed bump is that tells me, every time, that it’s going to be terrible and awful and no good and very bad.

I had great table neighbors at least. On my right were Papa Mike and his merry crew. He has a children’s book about a sailor and a mermaid that’s actually an Irish chanty. He would sing the song for kids when they stopped by. On my left were D.L. Dugger and her husband, and I really enjoyed chatting with them. I must also thank both them and Papa Mike’s folks for seeing me through by getting me sandwiches and offering water.

Papa Mike entertaining a young reader. His illustrator Amy is dressed as a pirate.

Thanks, too, to screenwriting fellow Paul for taking time to swing by and show his support. It felt good to see a friendly face in the crowds.

As for foot traffic, it varied. The first half of the day had a lot of young families but not many people looking for the kinds of books I write. After lunch, however, I garnered more interest from passers-by. Gave away a lot of swag that I hope means people will be looking me up. Received many compliments on my purple hair. (But when people saw my business card they were confused, which tells me I definitely need a new author photo!) Sold three books, which doesn’t sound like much but it’s better than nothing and on par with what other tables around me were selling. So I counted the day a modest success. Any time you get your name and information out there into the hands of readers, that’s something. I just think maybe this particular festival did not draw as many serious readers as it did young families and curious wanderers.

However, I had many an author come chat about my journey through self-publishing and small presses, and I’m always happy to answer questions. (I hesitate to give advice, though, because I can only testify to my personal experience.) Usually I point people at a number of sites and organizations that have helped me as an author.

Would I do this event again? I might wait until it grew a little more and better defined itself and figured out what it really is. I think there’s definite potential, but it’s still in the gangly, awkward stage. But I’m always grateful for opportunities, especially when they allow me to meet fellow authors and make new friends.

(Not So) Famous First Lines

Really, just my first lines. Because I’m curious to see the progression of them over time.

First lines are pretty important. They’re often referred to in writing as “the hook.” That is, they need to grab the reader. So I began to wonder: Do mine do that?

The World Ends at Five and Other Stories

I put out this anthology in 2008 then reissued it in 2012. Since it’s a series of stories, it’s really the first line of each story that matters. But let’s look at the first line of the first story, which is titled “Aerwyth, born Beverly.”

I remember seeing her in person when I was six years old.

Eh. Okay. It invites a question that may or may not cause the reader to keep reading. “Seeing her in person” . . . Who? Someone famous? One expects the story of this chance meeting now, and so might be intrigued enough to follow through.

Meanwhile, the title story has this opening line:

“Fifteen minutes until the end of the world,” she announced as she sailed by.

That is, I think, more interesting. And this story gets a lot more praise from my readers, too.

The K-Pro

You can actually read the entire first chapter of this book right here on this site (see menu at the top of the page). But it’s kind of a fib because there’s actually a *gasp* prologue. So the first sentence (and it’s rather long) is:

The torch is the only light in a sea of darkness, and the goddess holding it stands in its glow, beautiful and terrible in the way of goddesses, her hair the same gold as the flame, her dress a marvelous white.

Not bad. Paints a picture for the reader. Makes them want to know, perhaps, which goddess this is and what she is doing there.

The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller

So the first line in this novel is a line of dialogue, which is a no-no, and wasn’t originally the first line at all. In fact, this line didn’t exist in the first draft, but an agent wanted rewrites and this became the first line when I revised per his feedback:

“Get him out or take him out.”

I don’t love it as a first line, but I’ll admit it stays with me. I remember it.

And it’s punchier than the original first line:

There were more people than Peter had expected, clusters of them milling and gossiping, everyone with a drink in his or her hand.

Which sets the scene but isn’t all that interesting. What do you think?

Changers: Manifesting Destiny

Only family could stand in the circle during the Relinquishing.

Hmm. I still struggle a bit with the whole opening scene of this book, and it’s been out for almost a year now. It’s an important scene for setting up the world but the first line feels very “generic fantasy” to me. I suppose in truth the first line is actually the little pull-out at the top:

Upon first transformation, the Placement Officer will be immediately notified to contact the Clan of Origin and arrange for Relinquishing.

I actually love that I began each chapter with a pull from the various laws and codes of conduct and whatnot. That was fun.

Brynnde

Again, you can read the whole first chapter right here on the site. But here’s the first line:

Brynnde’s thoroughbred kicked up dust as she spurred him up the tree-lined carriageway.

Starts with action at least.

The New Sherlock Holmes Adventures

Well, again these are three stories collected under one cover. The first story is “The Monumental Horror” which begins thusly:

I had not long been living at 221B Baker Street when one morning as I exited my room, I discovered Mr. Sherlock Holmes seated at the breakfast table with a traveling valise beside his chair.

Again, the line begs the question of why the valise, etc. And we know Watson will end up roped into whatever is about to take place.

Hamlette

A work in progress, but I do enjoy the first line:

I didn’t even make it home for Dad’s funeral, which sucked enough without everything that came after.

Faebourne

Another WIP, and I strove to begin in the style of Austen to some degree:

Duncan Oliver was in every respect an unremarkable gentleman.

Changers: The Great Divide

Have I done any better than the first book? You decide.

Annice took an involuntary step back from the window.

(You will need to have read Manifesting Destiny to understand why we’re picking up with Annice and the window.)

So there are a handful of first lines. Thoughts? Comments? Which opening lines in literature really grab you? Do any stick with you? I always remember Watership Down: “The primroses were over.” Richard Adams does a lovely job of bringing his novel full circle, as I recall the book ends with the primroses beginning to bloom. Maybe I’ll do a post on last lines sometime.