And The Winner Is …

The title of this post is a little misleading because no one is actually winning anything. However, I did want to share the results of the “It’s All In The Opening” poll since I mentioned it with some frequency last week, either here or at other social media venues. According to those who voted, there was a clear front runner and a solid second place, with the other four books lagging behind.

Not only do I want to give you the results, I want to do the Big Reveal: who wrote each of those excerpts. In other words, who did you all end up voting for based solely on the writing of their first one hundred or so words?

So, after 90 votes and an unknown number of abstentions, here are the books, the authors, and the results in the order in which they appeared in the poll.

– – – – –

Choice A The Opposite Of Art by Athol Dickson (Howard Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster), *9% of the vote.

Sirens called him from his dreams. When the racket stopped, he rose and crossed the little bedroom of his hotel suite to lean out into the night, trusting his life to the freezing wrought iron railing just beyond the window so he could gaze down into the alley where a couple of New York City’s finest had thrown some guy against the bricks. Even from five floors up, even in the dark, Ridler recognized the lust for violence and the fear down there, but that was nothing compared to the play of the police car’s lights on the wall across the alley.

– – – – –

Choice B The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead (Thomas Nelson), 10% of the vote.

“And I say that you’re a fool, Addison Fletcher!” the brawny man declared, striking his ale mug against the bare wooden table for emphasis.

“God smite me where I sit if I tell a lie, Coll Dawson!” Addison protested, his eyes flicking heavenward for the briefest of moments.

“Ah, but — did you not say,” declared Coll, cocking an eyebrow and pointing a finger. “Did you not say that you got this account from another –”

“From Rob Fuller,”piped a voice from the end of the table.

“Aye, from Rob Fuller. And who’s to say that a tale told by Rob Fuller is true or false? Swearing oaths upon secondhand tales is not wise.”

– – – – –

Choice C The Monster In The Hollows by Andrew Peterson (Rabbit Room Press), 39% of the vote.

It wasn’t a sound that woke Janner Igiby. It was a silence.

Something was wrong.

He strained into a sitting position, wincing at the pain in his neck, shoulders, and thighs. Every time he moved he was reminded of the claws and teeth that had caused his wounds.

He expected to see the bearer of those claws and teeth asleep in the bunk beside him, but his brother was gone. Sunlight fell through the porthole and slid to and fro across the empty mattress like a pendulum, keeping time with the rocking of the boat. The other bunk’s bedclothes were in a heap on the floor, which was typical; Kalmar never made his bed back in Glipwood, either. What wasn’t typical was his absence.

– – – – –

Choice D The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead (Thomas Nelson), 8% of the vote.

From a snug in the corner of the Museum Tavern, Douglas Flinders-Petrie dipped a sop of bread into the gravy of his steak and kidney pudding and watched the entrance to the British Museum across the street. The great edifice was dark, the building closed to the public for over three hours. The employees had gone home, the charwomen had finished their cleaning, and the high iron gates were locked behind them. The courtyard was empty and, outside the gates, there were fewer people on the street now than an hour ago. He felt no sense of urgency: only keen anticipation, which he savoured as he took another draught of London Pride. He had spent most of the afternoon in the museum, once more marking the doors and exits, the blind spots, the rooms where a person might hide and remain unseen by the night watchmen, of which there were but three to cover the entire acreage of the sprawling institution.

– – – – –

Choice E The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak (unpublished manuscript), 20% of the vote.

The lantern, dangling from Repentance Atwater’s upstretched hand, cast a pool of yellow light around the village midwife, as she stooped beside Joy Springside’s sleeping mat. The rest of the cave lay in darkness.

“Push, now, Joy!” the midwife commanded.

Joy, her face scrunched with the effort, pushed.

The baby came finally, all purple-skinned and slick with blood and screaming his protest at the world.

Screaming his protest.

A boy!

It wasn’t fair! Lantern light splashed up and down the walls as Repentance’s hand shook.

She grimaced, as the babe’s squalling bounced off hard stone walls and bruised her raw nerves. She should never have agreed to this.

– – – – –

Choice F Pattern Of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand (Bethany House), 12% of the vote.

A uniform named Nguyen is on the tape tonight. The flashing lights bounce off the reflective strips on his slicker. He cocks his head at my ID and gives me a sideways smile.

“Detective March,” he says, adding my name to his log.

“I know you, don’t I? You worked the Thomson scene last year.”

“That was me.”

“Good work, if I remember. You got a line on this one yet?”

“I haven’t even been inside.” He nods at the house over his shoulder. A faux Tuscan villa on Brompton in West University, just a couple of blocks away from the Rice village. “Nice, huh? Not the first place I’d expect to be called out to.”

“You think death cares where you live?”

“I guess not. Answer me one thing: why the monkey suit?”

– – – – –

So what I’m wondering … after seeing the book covers and learning who the authors are, would you change your vote?

Something to think about.

* Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.


  1. I would not change my votes (C & E). The Wingfeather Saga is now on the top of my TBR list, and I’m hoping the other I voted for will soon be published. I’m not impressed by established names or fancy covers. If I find myself thinking about the text and how I would have said it differently (A, B, D, & F), and not immediately pulled into a story where the printed words fade to the background and living characters take their place in the fore, then I will not likely make it past the first page- no matter how pretty the cover is.


  2. I voted for C, but after reading the write up on Amazon (, I’d have to read a little more. AND I’ve never met a Stephen Lawhead novel that I did not like, so I’d probably give D a shot. (Is Ross related?) Have you read “Byzantium”?


  3. I’m so thrilled that you slipped my opening in here, Becky. It was a fascinating study for me. As soon as I saw my opening up there, I thought, “Hmm. I could have done a better job with that.”

    Since I was just testing that opening out as a new opening for my novel, the reactions were really helpful to me.


  4. Sally, when I read this brief opening here I had already read your previous opening in the form that it was shared on Novel Rocket. To me this was a more comfortable place to come into the story. The POV’s tensions aren’t quite so high, important back story is brought to life (or what would have been back story to the previous start point), and I felt drawn into the story with more curiosity than confusion. In the other opening you were already talking about traditions of a culture I am unfamiliar with and so I come in feeling like I need to catch up- get some education to understand. But, in the opening here odd traditions are only hinted at, and the unique setting is still in the background, letting me ease into this setting at a point more familiar to me- the birth of a child. Whatever you decide for your final version I’m sure it will be great. Just thought the perspective of someone who read the other opening first might be helpful.


  5. I found it interesting that I as just a reader (having never written a story) picked C & E. I will look forward to reading your book Sally when it comes out! And I think I will try to get the Monster Hollows book also. Thanks Becky for giving those openings.


  6. Thanks for that feedback, Patrick. That’s valuable to me. I agree with you on this, and I’m just waiting now to hear from me agent to see if she sees it this way, too.

    Rae, thanks for the encouraging words.


  7. I picked D as my favorite. I haven’t read a Stephen Lawhead novel in many years, His books are long and deep, as I recall, and tend to be heavy on narrative. I think I need to pick up this one!
    This was a very interesting poll, Becky.


  8. […] (and completely unplanned), considering that it is this same book that 39% of those voting in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll chose as the one that caught their interest and made them want to read more. I definitely concur […]


  9. I’ve thought about this some. I think I do let the author affect my choice of books. When I’ve read something else that the author has written, and really liked it, then I’m much more patient if the beginning of a particular book doesn’t grab me.

    Lord of the Rings is a perfect example. I loved The Hobbit but when I started Fellowship of the Ring I thought it was a little slow, what with Bilbo’s birthday party and all. And then it became apparent that this would be about Frodo who I didn’t even know … well, I kept at it despite my initial reaction simply because I trusted Tolkien since he’d proved to be such an able storyteller in the first book I’d read.

    Covers, now they don’t affect me much. I sometimes don’t notice them until after the fact. If I love a book, I’ll spend extra time after I’ve finished, studying cover, reading acknowledgments, perusing maps or tables of contents or glossaries or whatever the author may have included. If I love a book, there can’t be enough, but generally that cover art doesn’t hook me into reading a book.

    Thanks to each of you for making this poll such a great experience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all the reactions to the excerpts.



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