Category Archives: As a Reader

Once Upon a Beginning

When you hang around writing forums, you read a lot, A LOT, about how to hook that agent, what makes you stand out from the all the other writers clambering for attention and one of the most common tips is to have a ‘kick butt’ opening sentence; something that forcibly grabs the reader and doesn’t let them go. It is said a lot of agents and publishers make their minds up about a manuscript in a split second, so you have to nail that first sentence.once-upon-a-time-719174_1280

Now, I have NEVER (ever, ever) stopped reading a book because the first sentence didn’t grab me. But I have the luxury of time on my side that agents don’t have and I can give a book as long as I like to decide whether I like it or not. And as for a magical opening sentence that captures me in some way – well, I can name only one occasion in the last few years, yes, count it, ONE, where I’ve even noticed how good an opening to a novel is.

“I always thought the next funeral I’d attend would be mine.” Simmering Season, Jenn J McLeod. Now that’s an opening that made want to read on.

Given this is the only example I can think of from the last five years of reading, I’m wondering, just how important is that first sentence?

Time for some (very scientific) research. To my bookshelf!

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling. A debut book that went on to be, well, I’m sure you all know how darn successful it went on to be. As an opening sentence, though, how does it rate? For me its only saving grace is the ‘thank you very much’, which hints at a style and humour I find appealing. But the rest of the sentence – meh.

“People disappear all the time.” Outlander, Diana Gabaldon. If you haven’t heard of Outlander, then you’ve been living under a rock. But what an average opening. “People disappear all the time” – yep, big whoop. Now if this was in front of an agent/publisher that made their mind up based on the first sentence alone, I reckon this would never have seen the light of day. The end of the opening passage, however, does hook the reader in, “…..Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.” That’s got me. If I’d quite after the first sentence, though, I never would have got to that bit.snoopy begin

“We have been lost to each other for so long.” From my favourite book of all time The Red Tent, Anita Diamant. What’s so special about that opening? Nothing, really. The rest of the prologue, (and I’d like to point out here that another tip we always see as beginner writers is NEVER start with a prologue), is beautifully, sublimely written, as is the rest of the book. Seriously beautifully written. But as a first sentence, while it’s ok, it’s hardly going to rock your world, though the book certainly will!

“Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer. Another of my all-time favourites. There is nothing particularly special about that opening – a letter, and a regular ol’ beginning of a letter. In fact, as I read on I panicked when I realised the whole book was written in letters, but I soldiered on – I had, after all, picked it for our book club, so I’d darn well better read it – and I LOVED it. I mean totally LOVED it. Imagine what I would have missed if I’d given up on this after the first sentence, or even the first few pages!

“When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed.” Me Before You, Jojo Moyes. Arguably the biggest thing in Women’s Fiction right now, totally taking the world by storm and the movie of this wonderful book is due out mid-year. But, as an opening sentence, how bland is that? And, she breaks the two biggest ‘rules’ for opening a novel. Never start with a prologue – this is a prologue. Never start with people waking up – this is people waking up. This isn’t Moyes’ first novel, and I guess once you’re established you can break any rule you want. After all, you have your agent and publisher and loyal following already. It certainly is her most successful so far, though, and I can’t help wondering if this hit an agent’s/publisher’s desk from a debut novelist, how many would simply say ‘no’ because of the opening?rules novel

I don’t think any of these examples are ‘kick butt’ sentences, yet they are some of the most successful novels in recent years. So where does that leave us?

I think I’ll turn the rest of the (very scientific) research over to you. What’s the best (or worst) opening line you’ve ever read in a novel? Was it indicative of how good (or bad) the novel was?


Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here:

First Time Festival Go-er

This weekend saw the end of the Sydney Writers’ festival. In previous years I haven’t been able to attend any of the festivities, but this year I was determined to make it. I mean, how can I call myself a writer if I’ve never been to the writers’ festival in my own back yard?

So, I booked into some author talks and went to the family day activities with my hubby and daughter. And it was wonderful! Every time I go to a course or an author talk, it cements in my mind that this is definitely the world I belong in.

I could spruik for pages and pages about everything I heard and learned, but seeing as I’m pushing a deadline on my WIP, I’ll let the authors themselves do the talking and share with you  some of my favourite quotes from their talks.

From James Patterson – biggest selling author of all time.patterson quote 2

From Helen Garner – author of The Spare Room, This House of Grief (and others)garner quote 2

Terry Hayes – author of I Am Pilgrimterry quote 2

Liane Moriarty – author of Big Little Lies (and 11 other novels)moriarty quote 2

Graeme Simsion – author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effectrosie quote 2

I mean it doesn’t get any more inspiring than that, right?

What a wonderful festival. I’ll definitely be going again next year, and one day, just maybe, I’ll be there as a guest. You never know.

Have you ever been to a writers’ festival? Do you have a favourite writer quote?


And as it’s the end of the month, I’m playing along with the wonderful Julie Valerie’s blog hop. Pop on over to discover what other writers/readers are up to. Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:




A Funny Take on the TBR Pile

A little while back I had a bit of an accident and tore a ligament, sustained some bruising and…cracked a rib! I’ve never cracked a rib before and it’s not something I’d recommend. OUCH!

During my recovery I had friends texting me “rib ticklers” to “crack me up” and lots of terrible puns. Great friends, huh! And one of my friends (Miss T) sent me this picture quiltswith this great suggestion. I thought of all your books and the categories you could put them in…e.g. waiting till I break a rib so I can read pile.  Why did I buy this?? pile. Not pretty enough cover to read yet pile. To read when not in pain anymore pile. What others tell me I should read pile, etc etc.”

I’ve introduced my TBR pile before, but I thought it might fun to try Miss T’s suggestion, so…

For When You Crack a Rib Pile : my bookclub read (because there are no excuses not to finish when you're bed ridden) and a light and happy read.

For When You Crack a Rib Pile : my bookclub read (because there are no excuses not to finish when you’re bed ridden) and a light and happy read.

When You're Hungry Pile :  books + food = perfection.

When You’re Hungry Pile : books + food = perfection.

Because You Think You Should Pile : but let's face it I probably won't ever get to them.

Because You Think You Should Pile : but let’s face it I probably won’t ever get to them.

Will Probably Never Finish Pile : started but could get into them...maybe one day.

Will Probably Never Finish Pile : started but couldn’t get into them…maybe one day.

complete with bookmarks left where I gave up. How cute is the giraffe bookmark??

complete with bookmarks left where I gave up. How cute is the giraffe bookmark??

So, my challenge to you, lovely readers, is to leave a suggestion for a TBR pile in the comments below. Best/Funniest suggestion gets a prize…My unyielding respect!  (because I’m not yet published and can’t give away a free book – but one day this will happen if you stick with me long enough…)

S 🙂

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

The Writing Reader Conundrum

School went back today after summer holidays (cue millions of smiling mums),

my happy dance looked a little like this (though not quite as graceful as Gene Kelly)

which for me means more time to write at my sparkly new desk (yippee) and a little less time to read (not so yippee). I did manage to finish two books over the holidays (I am the world’s slowest reader), and start another, which given my very poor track record over the last year and a half (which my book club can attest to), isn’t too bad. But I have a bit of a problem, and it’s this…

Ever since I got serious about this writing malarkey, I’ve not enjoyed reading nearly as much as I used to!

I don’t seem to be able to turn my writer brain off and I find myself picking stories to pieces, being overly critical about plot (well that was far too convenient a coincidence), character (there is nothing likeable about anyone in this story), pacing (too much exposition – get to the action), and so it goes on. Now, I know some people will say that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be a better writer it’s good to figure out what works and what doesn’t for those who’ve gone before you. Learn from them, learn what you like, what you don’t. As aspiring authors the most common piece of advice we’re giving is read, read, read. And that’s all true. But this type of critical analysis does kind of kill the magic a little and I don’t know how to turn that part of my brain off. How to just read and be swept away without thinking “what was the purpose of that scene?”

Maybe I’ve just been picking the wrong books. I mean, I’ve liked books I’ve read in the past 18 months, but I haven’t really like-liked any – you know, when you just have to tell everyone you know to get their hands on a copy or their lives won’t be worth living. Maybe I just haven’t found that next gem yet.

And that’s what makes me keep going. Being ever hopeful of finding the next story that sets up camp in my heart and never moves out. It’s happened before (as evident here and here) so surely it will happen again. Right? RIGHT??

I bought myself three new books for Christmas (one I’ve read and hated, two I haven’t got to yet – keeping fingers crossed), so I’m not about to give up. But I just long for that feeling again of falling in love with the words, the pages, the world I’m taken in to.

I know that feeling and I want it back!!!book hug

Somehow I need to turn writer-Sandie off and rediscover reader-Sandie. But how?

Maybe you can help me peeps. Any tips? Perhaps a recommendation for a book that will wrench me out of this reading slump?

Help me find the love again.


Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.


Faux Title Fun

The delightful E.G. Moore (who’s worth checking out here), has been playing along in a fun blog hop where you flip through your current manuscript and the first place your cursor lands, you need to take the phrase and that’s a new faux title for your book. That sounded like far too much fun not join in, so I did.

And here are the results. My random faux titles taken from my manuscript This Shadow Life.

  1. Only Half Listening (that could be a bio about my hubby)
  2. Until the Sirens
  3. The Sound of Clanging Pots
  4. The Awkward Moments (my own bio)
  5. Into the Chicken Mince (someone please write that book)
  6. Past the Trees
  7. Packing Shelves
  8. She Changed Her Burgers (I don’t even want to think…)

I might steal one or two of those for a future project. And I might just leave a few of them well enough alone. Would any of them work as an actual title for Shadow Life? No. 2 could possibly work. 6 perhaps.

So, to my writerly-type friends – I challenge you to join in the fun and let me know if you decide to play along.

To my readerly-type friends – Open the book you’re currently reading to a random page, close your eyes and swirl your finger round, count to three and point. And let me know the new title of the book you’re reading!

S 🙂

Julie Valerie Is hosting her monthly blog hop again, so check out some other bloggers out there. Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Seven Sins Blog Hop


I’ve been tagged by the lovely Krystal Jane (who’s awesome blog is here), in the Seven Deadly Sins blog hop. Here goes.

Greed – What is your most inexpensive book?

Well, probably something I picked up for $1 from the White Elephant Stall at my daughter’s school fair. I don’t tend to bargain shop for books very often. I don’t mind paying proper $$$ as they become my ‘precious things’ and I’m not the type to spend big on shoes or clothes or jewellery or anything so I figure it’s ok to spend on books.

Wrath – Who’s the author with whom you have a love/hate relationship with?Language-of-Flowers-677x1024

Authors I love, I love straight up. I don’t ‘hate’ authors – just don’t read them if they’re not my thing. But, the one author whose story I loved, but who made me want to throw their book across the room and break something into a thousand tiny pieces was Vanessa Diffenbaugh (you can read about it here).

Gluttony – What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

I don’t tend to re-read books. In fact I can’t think of any that I’ve read more than once. I think that’s because I’m worried if it’s a book I love that much I want to read it again, that if I do it will somehow lose its magic and I’ll be disappointed. I’d rather remember it in my mind as the beautiful read it was and not risk finding out it wasn’t as good as I thought.

Sloth – Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

pillars-of-the-earthWell, while there are massive piles of unread book spread throughout my house (pics here), they are mostly unread simply because I haven’t got round to them. But, there is one book I’ve been wanting to read for a while and I keep not picking it up because of the size, and that’s Pillars of the Earth.


Pride – What books do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

funny-educated-intelligent-animals-pics-5Given that I came to reading late in life and I haven’t really read any of the classics, I don’t really talk about books to sound intellectual. But, I do (guilty confession) talk about authors to try sound intelligent and all literary-like. Things like – “Oh yes, well he’s just won the Man Booker Prize for his latest novel…” and “She couldn’t get it published and was the first author to really self-promote before it was a thing and it took off in the Jewish community before finding its way into mainstream popularity…”

Lust – What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?

Hmmm… in a female I like a flawed character with intelligence and honesty. Someone like Victoria in The Language of Flowers. Characters like Bridget Jones just do my head in, so don’t give me anyone like her.

book botfriendAs for males, my first literary crush (and it endures today) was Gilbert Blythe. I like the quiet loyal type. Alpha males don’t do it for me. Unless you count Jamie Fraser from Outlander who combines Alpha male with vulnerability and a kilt. Hmmm…Gilbert Blythe in a kilt, brandishing a broad sword….

Envy – What book would you like to receive most as a gift?

I love, love, love receiving books as gifts, especially if the giver inscribes a little message for me. It wouldn’t matter what the book was, I would cherish it if it came from the heart. A first edition classic (Austen or the like) would probably make me faint, though. Hmmm…. A first edition Austen given to me by Gilbert Blythe wearing a kilt…

What a fun blog hop and I can tag as many or as few people as I want. So you’re it Kate Foster, Hayley Stone, Emily More.

I’d love to know some of your book sins. Pick a sin from above and leave a comment below.

S 🙂


Hiatus Means Time to Tackle the TBR Pile

Bright light – hurting eyes….I have this week emerged from the depths of the writing cave. I had to bury myself in my WIP (This Shadow Life) the last few weeks to meet a deadline that got brought forward and I’m now back in the sunlight and I’m going to take  two weeks off my WIP. Two weeks not even thinking about it, so I’m fresh and ready to attack what will hopefully be the last round of edits before I throw myself back into the query trenches.

So, what will I be doing with all this time on my hands? Well, this week is school hols in OZ, so that actually means no spare time. But, next week, when I’m “free” again during the day, I’m planning on getting some crafting done. I might even manage to get some Christmas cards made and I might actually get them sent off this year (OK, don’t hold your breath).

And the other momentous feat I’m hoping to achieve, is to make a dent in my To Be Read Pile (or more accurately, piles).

I have several TBR piles. This is the one beside my bed.

some light reading in bed

some light reading in bed

I’ve started Simmering Season by the lovely Jenn J McLeod (who lives in cyber space here)  and if I can get that one finished, I’ll be REALLY happy, because, you see I am THE slowest reader in the world. So to knock just one book off the pile will be an achievement.

There is also a TBR in the guest bedroom…

keeping guests comfortable

keeping guests comfortable

A bit of an eclectic mix. If you ever come visit, you’ll have plenty to choose from (especially if you include the already read piles and hubby’s collection of fantasy!)

And then there’s the TBR books in a cute little shelf unit in the living room…

shelf 2

shelf 1

shelf 1

shelf 2

Lord knows when I’ll get to them.

And that’s not including the ones on my bookshelf. Which is far too messy for me to share a photo of with you, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations for that one. A little something like this…

ok,  maybe not quite this bad...

ok, maybe not quite this bad, but you get the picture…

And of course, with any TBR pile, the biggest question is…

Which one is next?

How do you decide which book to read next???

S 🙂