Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Lines

There you are sitting at your desk in front of your computer, staring at the blank, stark white screen before you. Finally you lift your fingers to the keyboard and type in your name, address, and email address in the upper left hand corner, single spaced. You come down the page, type the title and your name. Then you move to the next page and type CHAPTER ONE.

Again there is a long pause as you contemplate the first line to your story. You see your heroine in your mind. What is she doing? Where is she?

You type a sentence, erase it, and begin again. You know it has to draw the reader in, make them want to keep reading. This first line is crucial. It has to motivate the reader to read on.

Most people will tell you when they are in the bookstore and they are searching for something great to read, they first look at the cover, then the back cover blurb, then they read the first line. Covers by their beauty can capture the readers imagination, and the back cover blurb give them a little taste of what the book is about. But that first line or two will be what cinches a sale. If it is dull, if it doesn't give the reader a strong visual image, they will like put it back on the shelf.

So how does a writer come up with a great first line? Here are some tips.

1. As you begin, close your eyes and visualize your character, where they are, and what they are doing. Write what you see in your mind's eye.

2. Use strong verbs to bring out the action.

3. Do not write a rambling sentence that goes on and on.

4. Go back later and read your first line, and ask yourself would you buy this book.

If you want your reader to be emotionally involved in your character, the opening lines are the key because it is the introduction between your heroine and your reader.

Here are a few first lines from the Daughters of the Potomac Series I am writing for Abingdon Press. Which make you want to keep reading and why? Which do not?

From 'Beyond the Scarlet Dawn', Book 1.
Eliza Bloome woke from the tattered high-backed chair when the front door downstairs slammed shut.

From 'Beside Two Rivers', Book 2

It had been her favorite place to retreat since she was nine, when she had discovered it one summer twilight while trekking with her cousins over the ridge that shadowed the Potomac.

From 'Beyond the Valley', Book 2

Sarah Carr would never look at the moon in the same way again.

Do you have a first line you'd like to share? Post it in the comments. Comment to some of the others poster's lines. Let us know, if you'd buy this book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can you imagine this being printed in the newspaper today? It was printed in the Frederick News Post 100 years ago on September 17, 1910.

'Troubles in the family of Mr. Lewis Tomlin, West South street, resulted in a fight between Mr. and Mrs. Tomlin last night. The scrape it is alleged, resulted in Mrs. Tomlin getting the best of the bargain, as Mr. Tomlin is said to have received a bad cut on his wrist, which bled profusely and which required the services of a physician.'

I guess nothing is new under the sun. We read all kinds of terrible things in the newspapers . . .things much worse than this. But the wording of the clip is what got me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paige Turner's Book Club

I've a new blog spot to tell everyone about. Please pass the word. Fictional character and lover of all things literature, Paige Turner has a site listing some great novels.

Hope you check it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Deeper Look into Surrender the Wind

~ When an American patriot of the Revolution inherits his grandfather’s estate in faraway England, he inherits more than an isolated manor house. He discovers Juleah’s love and a plot that leads to kidnapping, murder, and betrayal, in this stirring tale of fidelity and forgiveness. ~

Instead of answering interview questions, I’m commenting on some quotes from reviewers to give my readers a deeper glimpse into the storyline in Surrender the Wind.

* * *

From author Marylu Tyndall ~ Ms. Gerlach's historic research is evident throughout the story, and her attention to detail and literary descriptions of scenes placed me right in the middle of the action.

If a writer wishes to write a historical novel, research is a vital, essential part of developing a great story. When I began Surrender the Wind, I read numerous accountants of the Battle of Yorktown where the book opens in the prologue. I researched uniforms, dress, weaponry, food, and culture.

As the book moves forward into Chapter 1, the reader is taken to England, to a crumbling manor house in Devonshire. The historical research from this point on had to be in the details. I wanted my reader to see in their mind the scene, outdoors and indoors. Everything from a tallow candle in the socket of a brass candlestick, to the blue and white pitcher and bowl on the heroine’s washing table, adds strong visual imagery. My editor told me once that a place can become a character in a book. I feel that is true for Ten Width Manor. It's walls hold secrets of lives past and present in the story. Because it is the ancestral home of the Braxtons, Ten Width has a stronghold on those living in it.

Then there are the historical cultural markings in a book that make up the characters. Dress. Etiquette. Traditional family life. I studied 18th century wills and marriage customs, the fashions of the period, and how the classes interacted with each other.

* * *

From author Linda Clare ~ The American Revolutionary period comes to life as Gerlach explores themes of patriotism with a faith element.

In America today there is a resurgence of patriotism. We are returning to our roots, our Constitution, and faith. In the 18th century faith played a major role in the lives of people in both the Colonies and United Kingdom. In Surrender the Wind, I bring faith into the story as a lifestyle. It is delicately woven into the characters' personalities. One thing I did not want to do is write a ‘religious novel’. My goal was to write a novel where readers would become immersed into the characters by relating to the struggles they faced which bring about spiritual breakthroughs.

* * *

From Annette Temple ~ A Well-Watered Garden Blog' This book is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. The passion and love that is poetically described between Seth and Juleah was rousing.

I am so grateful to Annette for this comment. She helped me realize that I achieved my goal. Most of us ladies want a bit of romance in our stories, don’t we? We want a hero that is tough with the world, but tender with his lady. And a heroine that is strong in the face of tribulation, but swept away by the love of a man. Romance in a novel, in my opinion, is the most intriguing when what is written is just enough to leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination. In Christian fiction a writer brings out romance deftly, love that goes beyond the material, but deeper into the heart and spirit of the characters.

I’ll close here with a romantic excerpt from Surrender the Wind . It is Seth and Juleah’s wedding night. I hope you will consider reading my novel, and keep an eye out for the release of book 1 in a new series, Daughters of the Potomac, coming out in May, 2012, entitled ‘Before the Scarlet Dawn’.

* * * * * *

In his bedchamber, which they now shared, Juleah slipped on her silk nightdress. Thin white ribbons laced the front. She sat at the dressing table brushing her hair. Tinted with the golden splendor of the candles, she smoothed it over her shoulder and ran her fingers down its length. Excitement filled her, tripped over her skin along with desire. She glanced around the room. How masculine it appeared. A fresh coat of paint would improve its appearance, and white curtains over the windows would bring it warmth and light.

She set the candlestick on the table next to their bed. The brass clock on the mantelpiece chimed out the hour. She paused to listen to the musical sound it made, while she pulled down the coverlet. The door drifted open. Seth came inside, shut it, and proceeded to pull off his waistcoat.

“Ah, have you seen the moon?” She opened the drapes wide to let the moonlight pour in. It bathed the room soft blue. “Is it not lovely, Seth?”

He joined her at the window. Wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist, he stood close behind her. His breath brushed against her neck and she sighed.

He whispered in her ear. “Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.”

It pleased her that he, a Virginian rebel, had memorized the beauty of Shakespeare’s verses. Melting with longing, she turned to him. He took her into his arms. She reached up and pushed back a lock of hair that fell over his brow. “I will never doubt your love, not for anything in the world.”

He brought his lips to hers and she strained against him. Love rose within each heart. He lifted her, and her feet dangled above the floor. Holding her, he kissed her, turned with Juleah toward their bed, and took his bride away from the window.

* * * * * *

Read Chapter One:

Rita’s Website:

Surrender the Wind is available wherever books are sold. Kindle additions available from

Cokesbury Bookstore is having an amazing sale.

Note: If you would like to post this on your blog, please do. Let me know. And many, many thanks!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Getaway

It always sounded so glamorous to me. The writer going off to some secluded place to write. Well, I can tell you it is wonderful. Today's blog is written from beautiful western Maryland at the Wisp Resort, a ski resort in the mountains. Naturally there is no snow on the slopes, just green grass and lush trees. Since it is off season no one is here. It appears we have the entire place to ourselves. Not a sound.

We stopped at Swallow Falls State Park to see the waterfall in the Muddy Creek. To get there we hiked along a path through a dark hemlock forest. Some of the trees are over 300 years old. So quiet as we paused and listened to the water tumbling over the shale cliff in the distance.

Paul will be fly fishing, while I'm secluded in the room or the restaurant to finish book 1 of the Daughters of the Potomac Series, Beyond the Scarlet Dawn. I am in the homestretch, and with a word count to meet, I am wondering how I'm going to put everything in my head into the last 25,000 words. I'm confident I'll do it.

I prayed the other day as I was working for the chance to have a few days uninterrupted to finish. God answered. I'm here now, in a beautiful room - no phone, and no emails.

I'll let you know how it is going.