FOR BOOKLOVERS ONLY

I am sorry it has taken me so long to do a new blog, but it is never a good thing to anger a deadline dragon; they make awful roommates.    I am trying very hard to get back on track for The Land Beyond the Sea, not easy since I often have to deal with computer sabotage from the aptly-named Diablo; just last week, he suddenly made all the tool bars vanish in Word, right in the middle of a chapter.   To add insult to injury, he ignored all my efforts to restore them, and I finally had to contact the Geek Squad.  Never doubt that computers have a malicious sense of humor.
I was trying to think of a good blog topic, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to discuss opening lines in novels that we like.   I’m sure many of you have your favorites, too, and I’d love to hear about them.   I think my all-time favorite is the beginning of The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley:  “The past is a foreign country.   They do things differently there.”    Probably the most quoted first line is from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina:  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”   Below, in no particular order, are opening lines that caught my fancy—at least the ones that first popped into my head when I began this blog.
I am a huge fan of P.F. Chisholm’s marvelous Elizabethan mysteries which revolve around Sir Robert Carey, a cousin of the queen.   If you are not familiar with this series, you are in for a treat.   This is from Plague of Angels: “You could always tell when you were nearing a town from the bodies hanging on the gibbets by the main road, thought Sergeant Dodd.”
Another writer I love is Khaled Hosseini.  This is from The Kite Runner:   “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.”
Full disclosure:  I am a friend of Stephanie Churchill.  But I cannot imagine anyone reading the opening line of her novel The Scribe’s Daughter without wanting to continue reading.   “I never imagined my life would end this way.”
Here is the opening line of the first book of Diana Gabaldon’s celebrated Outlander series: “People disappear all the time.”
This next entry is also by a friend, Priscilla Royal, whose atmospheric mystery series set in thirteenth century England is also highly recommended.   This is the first line from the first book in her series, Wine of Violence:  “During the dark morning hours of a winter day in the year 1270, the aged prioress realized she was dying.”     How can you not want to know more?
I’ve always been partial to the opening of John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath: “To the red country and part of the grey country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”   The rest of the paragraph conjures up an unforgettable image of a dying land in the midst of a devastating drought.    Just in passing, I think his East of Eden is one of the best book titles ever.  That might make a good topic for a future blog, no?
One of my all-time favorite books is Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. I remember browbeating my mom into reading it, and for the first hundred pages or so, she kept complaining, “Are they ever going to get off that porch?”   When they finally did, it was “Fasten your seatbelts” time, with readers happily going along for the wild ride.   This is the opening sentence:  “When Augustus came out on the porch, the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake—a small one.”   This foreshadows so much—the humor, the sense of time and place, and even the violence; after all, that didn’t end well for the rattlesnake.
Another of my favorite novels is Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeeper, which I think is her finest novel, and considering the quality of her books, that is really saying something.   Here is the first sentence:   “We came like doves across the desert.”
Probably one of the most famous opening lines comes from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:   “Call me Ishmael.”    I have to confess, though, that Moby Dick is not a favorite of mine. I know it is a classic, but Master Melville told me more about whaling than I wanted to know.   I recently saw a spoof of great books, and had to laugh at the summary of the plot of Moby Dick: “Man vs Fish.   The fish wins.”
David Blixt is another writer friend of mine; I was completely captivated last year by his Star-Cross’d series set in 14th century Italy.   The line I am about to quote must be taken in context, for by itself, it does not seem all that startling.  But for readers of the first book, The Master of Verona, the opening sentence in the second book, Voice of the Falconer, was quite shocking:   “The greyhound is dead!”   The greyhound referred to one of the most intriguing and outrageous and compelling characters I’ve encountered in historical fiction, Francesco della Scalla, aka Cangrande.   I told David that Cangrande had quite a few traits in common with Richard the Lionheart, the same swagger, sardonic humor, utter fearlessness, and arrogance tempered by great ability.   I once used a wonderful line from a Johnny Cash song to describe Richard:  “He was a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.”   That phrase applies as well to Cangrande, a real-life medieval lord brought to unforgettable life in David’s series.   These books are filled with fascinating characters—the great poet, Dante, among others—yet Cangrande managed to overshadow them all.   So that opening line of the second novel caused me to gasp in surprise, followed by disappointment.   I’d not expected to lose Cangrande so soon.  But since David was writing of a man who actually lived, I understood that he was following a road map that was not of his making.  Historical novelists are fortunate in that we do get to start our books with these road maps; unfortunately, they often take us places we’d rather not go.   So I assumed this was the case with Cangrande.   I do not want to give away too much of the plot, so I can only say that things are not always as they seem, either in the real world or the realm of fiction.  A very unexpected twist lay ahead for the readers, all the more devilishly delightful because it was absolutely true.
I am going to quote the first two lines from Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight, for the second sentence deserves the highest praise one writer can give to another, a stab of envy and a wistful, “I wish I’d written that.”       The first sentence nicely sets the scene, too.  “In the dark hours before dawn, all the shutters in the great hall were closed against the evil vapors of the night.  Under the heavy curfew, the fire was a quenched dragon’s eye.”     See what I mean?
Some of you may not have heard yet of the recent death of Roberta Gellis, whose medieval-themed novels won her fans beyond counting over the years, including me.   She is perhaps best known for the Roselynde Chronicles, but I also enjoyed the series she wrote later, about an enigmatic, strong-willed woman who ran a high-class brothel in 12th century London.   This sentence begins the second book in that series, A Personal Demon.   “The woman was screaming again.”
I love the writing of Dana Stabenow.  She is amazingly prolific; in addition to her brilliant Kate Shugak mysteries, she has written stand-alones, another series set in Alaska, and a historical trilogy set in the 14th century which focuses upon the granddaughter of Marco Polo. Here is the opening line from one of the Kate Shugak mysteries, Though not Dead:   “The black death did not get to Alaska till November.”
This turned out to be more fun than I anticipated.  But since even I don’t want to write a blog that rivals a novel in length, I think I’d best end the fun here.   If I may, I’ll do that by revealing my favorite opening lines of my own books.   Writers spend a lot of time crafting the beginnings of our books, for they may determine whether a reader puts the book back on the shelf or buys it, so I am reasonably satisfied with all of the opening sentences of my novels.  I do have a special fondness for the beginning of Sunne, that being my first book:   “Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods.”    I also like the opening of Time and Chance:  “It began with a shipwreck on a bitter-cold November eve in God’s Year 1120.”   And the opening paragraph of When Christ and His Saints Slept:   “Stephen was never to forget his fifth birthday, for that was the day he lost his father.  In actual fact, that wasn’t precisely so.  But childhood memories are not woven from facts alone, and that was how he would remember it.”
I think openings are even more important for mysteries than for historical novels.  Here are the opening sentences of my four medieval mysteries.   The Queen’s Man: “Do you think the king is dead?”   Cruel as the Grave:  “They were intimate enemies, bound by blood.”   Dragon’s Lair:  “The English king was dying.  Despite the bone-biting chill of the dungeon, he was drenched in sweat and so gaunt and wasted that his brother barely recognized him.”  Lastly, at least until I can write another one, Prince of Darkness:   “They came together on a damp December evening in a pirate’s den.”    I think I’d choose that one as most likely to hook a new reader.  Do you agree?   Anyone who posts an opinion about one of my mysteries will be entered in a drawing, the winner to get a personalized copy of Prince of Darkness.
Now comes the best part.   Please let me know your own favorite first lines.   Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever resonates with you, including any of my books, she hints.
May 16, 2016

91 Responses to “FOR BOOKLOVERS ONLY”

  1. Jayne Says:

    Lymond is back !

    First line from Game of Kings by the wonderful Dorothy Dunnett.
    It drew me into the book wanting to know more and of course I then read the whole seriesc

  2. stewart dunn Says:

    Pls Sharon,hurry wiv land beyond the see

  3. Stephanie Says:

    “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens

  4. Vicki Bramble Says:

    “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

    I was hooked! I fell straight into Little Women, one of my favourite books ever. I have read & reread it & don’t think that I will ever tire of it. My daughter also loves it, altho she was dismayed when she found out her namesake died! My Beth is 16 now & I hope that one day her daughter will love the story as much as we do.

  5. Jeanne Behnke Says:

    My comment about your mysteries _ I love them (& Justin) and so want the series to continue!

    One of my favorite 1st lines_ from The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place.

  6. Sarah Says:

    “The sun was gentle in the first hour of its rising.” Alamut by Judith Tarr.

    “THEY DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back.” All creatures great and small by James Herriot.

    I so love writers and their wordcraft!

  7. Bruce Blagg Says:

    “Theirs was a land of awesome grandeur, a land of mountains and moorlands and cherished myths.” - “Here Be Dragons” by Sharon Kay Penman. (Honestly one of my most favorite opening lines. … A great opening to a great book, and a great series.)

  8. Lisa Adair Says:

    Off the top of my head, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

    I love all of your mysteries and Justin is one of my all time fictional characters!! I hope we get to meet up with Justin again one day on another adventure for the Queen!!

  9. Mary Says:

    I have two favorites: Mary Stuart’s letter home begins “Nothing ever happens to me,” in ‘My Brother Michael’; Robertson Davies begins with “I was never so amazed in my life as when the Sniffer drew his concealed weapon from its case and struck me to the ground, stone dead,” in ‘Murther and Walking Spirits.’

  10. patty Says:

    I think “they were intimate enemies, bound by blood” makes me want to know more.

    My favorite opening: Scarlet O’Hara was not beautiful.

  11. Debbie Lettieri Says:

    “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.” Ahab’s Wife or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund.

  12. Charolette Gould Brown Says:

    I know this is about opening lines; however, when you mentioned “The Grapes of Wrath” I instantly remembered the impact it had on me. I was about 18 years old at the time (now, 71 years) and I remember the ending still where a woman took another woman’s child to her breast and all the hardships of the whole story cause me to cry a river of tears.

  13. Deborah Says:

    Two of my favorite opening lines are from Deanna Raybourne’s books.

    From Silent in the Grave:

    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.”

    From A Spear of Summer Grass:

    “Don’t believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman’s husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn’t want taking.”

    And yes, please bring back Justin — I so miss him!!

  14. Pam Green Says:

    “On the day that his Grannie was killed by the English, Sir William Scott the younger of Beauchleugh was at Melrose Abbey, getting married to his aunt.”

    Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights

  15. Jo Says:

    The first line from Rebecca’s been mentioned. I’ve always loved it.

    I have too many beloved openers, so I’ll go back to my early reading years:

    “All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan, J.M. Barre

    “The first thing that I can well remember was a large and pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.” Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

  16. Thomas Greene Says:

    Darn! Stephanie took mine. Ok, my opinion about one of your mysteries? Write another one! Justin would be a good detective today. However, he is the Queen’s man and cannot be totally objective and impartial. But he is also a man of integrity and a sense of what Justice actually entails. I like Justin. If I could describe in one word how I feel after reading one of your mysteries it would be satisfied. They are feel good novels, which in these days of real life horrors taking place daily, maybe we need a hero who makes us feel good.

  17. Stefanie Magura Says:

    “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the tarleton twins were.”

    I know that’s more than the first line, but I don’t know if you can mention it without mentioning that whole sentence.

  18. Stefanie Magura Says:

    There’s also “Lymond is Back.” from The Game of Kings, the first in the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

  19. Sherri Rankin Says:

    One of my favorite opening lines is from Here Be Dragons, “He was ten years old and an alien in an unfriendly land, made an unwilling exile by his mother’s marriage to a Marcher border lord.” I was automatically a sympathetic reader. I had to know more about this little boy and his situation and as I read and learned his story, my heart broke for him, and then cheered for him.

    I love all the Justin mysteries and I can’t wait for another adventure. I think the opening line that grabs me the most is from Prince of Darkness as well but all the Justin mysteries were so much fun to read!

  20. Parto Barkhordari Says:

    Funny, the first line that came to mind was from REBECCA, but Lisa has already posted it above. So I’ll go with one of my favorite books - Orwell’s 1984:

    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

    looking forward to reading your mystery series!

  21. Susan Frager Says:

    “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 Sorcerer’s Stone.

    And all the other lines listed above!

  22. sara Says:

    I was also going to say the first line of Rebecca springs to mind. I must say that I keep rereading When Christ and His Saint Slept over and over so the first line is one of my favorite of all Sharon’s books. However, the first book of Sharon’s I ever read that led me to read ALL the rest was The Queen’s Man so that’s good too. The only book I haven’t read yet is the Prince of Darkness! It’s on my wishlist and I can’t wait to read it!
    Sharon, you recommended Dana Stabenow’s Alaska books to me and I haven’t gotten around to picking one up yet, but thanks for reminding me that that too is on my to-read list! So many good books to read!

  23. Kat Brown Says:

    When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.
    The Outsiders SE Hinton

  24. Kim morss Says:

    Although a mere fiction, Justin opened my eyes to the MA.

    Two roads diverged in a wood and I . . .

  25. Kat Brown Says:

    Goldmine of new books to read compliments of one of my very favorite authors! Thank you!

  26. Marci Cleveland Says:

    It has to be Pride and Prejudice, hands down. “IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, THAT A SINGLE MAN IN POSSESSION OF A GOOD FORTUNE, MUST BE IN WANT OF A WIFE.”

  27. Christine Says:

    I love talking about first lines! My favorite first line (or, at least, the one that has always stuck with me the most since I first read the book as a child) was from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders:

    “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

    Second to that for me, is the over-quoted but still delightful opening to Pride and Prejudice:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

  28. Val Raines Says:

    Although it has already been mentioned, I love the opening line of Rebecca;
    “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.” It just gives me goosebumps.

  29. April Hussong Says:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” ~Pride and Prejudice

    Sherri, that hooked me too!

    I have a crush on Justin ;) — and I love spending more time with Eleanor and others “behind the scenes,” as it were. I also admire how seamlessly they fit into the same timeline as the larger historicals.

  30. Theresa Says:

    “There once was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.”-

    From C S Lewis the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    Or another favourite “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

    Jane Eyre. Which I do prefer to Wuthering Heights….

  31. Chris Torrance Says:

    One of my favourite opening lines is from I Claudius, which, as it takes up a whole paragraph I’ll just quote the beginning: I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles)…..

    I love the Justin mysteries. Looking forward to another one at some point in the future.

  32. Kerry Flynn Says:

    “I am an old man now, but then I was already past my prime when Arthur was crowned King.”
    The opening from “The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart but so many favorites have already been mentioned. There are really just too many to mention!

  33. Valerie Bendavid Says:

    “In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages.”

    Perfume by Patrick Suskind.

    Best first page of any book. Ever. (sorry Sharon)

  34. Marsha Lambert Says:

    Wonderful post, Sharon! Of course my favorite first lines are novels you’ve mentioned such as Saints and Sunne, Elizabeth’s Marshal books, and our Stephanie’s.
    All of you lovely ladies have such a way with words I’m often left speechless with the beauty and poetry of your stories.
    Thank you for the many hours of enjoyment you’ve given with your novels and thank you for being so kind and gracious to your readers.
    Also, thanks for the chance to win a signed copy of Prince of Darkness!

  35. Bea Mohr Says:

    “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

    JD Salinger: Catcher in the Rye.

  36. Jacqueline Baird Says:

    “My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

    “I grew up slowly beside the tides and marshes of Colleton; my arms tawny and strong from working long days on the shrimp boat in the blazing South Carolina heat. Because I was a Wingo, I worked as soon as I could walk; I could pick a blue crab clean when I was five. I had killed my first deer by the age of seven, and at nine was regularly putting meat on my family’s table. I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders. As a boy I was happy about the channels, navigating a small boat between sandbars with their quiet nation of oysters exposed on the brown flats at the low watermark. I knew every shrimper by name, and they knew me and sounded their horns when they passed me fishing in the river.”

    The opening lines from The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, one of the most exquisitely written books I’ve ever devoured. It is truly haunting in its prose.

  37. Karen Says:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice, of course.

  38. Joanne Kelly Says:

    “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien) We all seem to know what hobbits are now, but when this book was read to me as a small child, that was a very big mystery! I’m a big fan of the Justin mysteries, and have lent mine to several friends (who fortunately have always returned them!). I have also thought that they’d make very interesting computer games - perhaps that would keep Diablo busy enough to let you work in peace, Sharon!

  39. Stephanie Says:

    Theresa named some I’d forgotten about, but she’s right! The lines from Jane Eyre (my all-time favorite book) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader… EXCELLENT starts! Oh, and sorry to beat you to it, Thomas. ;-)

  40. skpenman Says:

    These are such great opening lines, everyone. Thanks!

    May 18th was a day of historical happenings. The Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer Omar Khayyam, was born on May 18th, 1048. He is best known in the West for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated in the 19th century by Edward Fitz Gerald. Even those who’d not recognize his name would recognize this verse:
    The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

    On May 18, 1096, there was a bloody massacre of the Jews of Worms, Germany; whenever crusades were launched in the MA, men afire with crusading fervor turned their zealotry and wrath upon the “infidels” closer to home than the Saracens. The Bishop of Worms had tried to shelter the city’s Jews from the mob, but they broke into his palace and murdered at least 800 of the Jews they found there when they refused to accept baptism. Sadly, this would happen again after the Second and the Third Crusades were preached, and while I am not one of St Bernard of Clairvaux’s greatest fans, I do admire his response to these pogroms in 1146. When the Archbishops of Cologne and Mainz appealed for his aid in ending the violence against the Jews in their cities, he set out at once for Germany, and stopped the attacks that had been led by a fanatical French monk named Radulphe.

    Still on the subject of crusades, Richard Coeur de Lion had failed to recapture Jerusalem, which caused many—including Richard himself—to view the Third Crusade as a failure. But he had been able to give Acre one hundred more years of life as a Christian bastion. That came to an end, though, on May 18, 1291, when the city fell to the Sultan of Egypt, al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalil. Michael Jecks ‘s novel, Templar’s Acre, offers a dramatic and compelling account of this siege.

    But for me, May 18th will always be most significant for the wedding that took place in the cathedral of St Pierre in the city of Poitiers in 1152, a marriage that truly changed history, when the young Duke of Normandy, Henry Fitz Empress, took Eleanor, the former Queen of France and Duchess of Aquitaine, as his wife. Here is a brief scene from their wedding night in Saints, page 646, as they enjoy a late-night supper in bed and Eleanor regales Henry with tales of her infamous grandfather, the duke known as the first troubadour.
    * * *
    Henry brushed back her hair. “Tell me more,” he urged, and she shivered with pleasure as he kissed the hollow of her throat.
    “Well…Grandpapa Will painted an image of Dangereuse on his shield, saying he wanted to bear her in battle, just as she’d so often borne him in bed. He liked to joke that one day he’d establish his own nunnery—and fill it with ladies of easy virtue. And when he was rebuked for not praying as often as he ought, he composed a poem, ‘O Lord, let me live long enough to get my hands under her cloak.’”
    Henry gave a sputter of laughter. “Between the two of us, we’ve got a family tree rooted in Hell! Once Abbot Bernard learns of our marriage, he’ll have nary a doubt that our children will have horns and cloven hooves.”
    “The first one with a tail, we’ll name after the good abbot.” Eleanor reached for a dish of strawberries in sugared syrup, popping one neatly into his mouth. He fed her the next one, and when she licked the sugar from his fingers, as daintily as a cat, his body was suddenly suffused in heat. Dipping his finger in the syrup, he coated one of her nipples. She looked startled but intrigued, and when he lowered his mouth to her breast, she exhaled her breath in a drawn-out sigh. “Abbot Bernard preaches that sin is all around us,” she said throatily, “but I doubt that even he ever thought to warn against strawberries.”
    “He’d likely have an apoplectic seizure if he only knew what can be done with honey,” Henry predicted and Eleanor began to laugh.
    “I think,” she said, “that you and I are going to have a very interesting marriage.”
    Henry thought so, too. “I want you, Eleanor.”
    Her eyes reflected the candle flame, but brighter and hotter, making promises that would have provided Abbot Bernard with a full year of new sermons. “My lord duke,” she said, “tonight all of Aquitaine is yours for the taking.”
    * * *

  41. Cristina Beans Says:

    Off the top of my head two favourite beginnings spring to mind (not sure how accurate they are though):

    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” from The Hobbit (of course!) by Tolkien
    and
    “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” which begins a great intro to our four Little Women (LM Alcott)

  42. Theresa Says:

    Henry II and Eleanor did not a dull marriage that’s for sure.

    All those famous first lines from novels reminded me of famous misconceptions (a long stretch I know but I’ll get to the point soon enough)

    I think it was the opening page of Wuthering Heights where the naive Mr Lockwood describes his landlord Heathcliff as a “capital or amiable fellow”. This novel does not have (to my mind) much humour, but this observation always made me chuckle.

    Heathcliff was many things, but as to that…

  43. Rosemary Says:

    Sharon, I too loved all your Justin mysteries and agree you should write a few more! As for great first lines … “Women, how they do haunt this tale.” from Bernard Cornwell’s Excalibur. However, here is one I don’t think has been used yet and maybe I’ll use it one day … “It took all I could do to breathe.”

    Keep the blog’s coming and good luck with the deadline dragon!

  44. skpenman Says:

    Keep these first lines coming, folks! Very good ones are getting shared.

    May 19, 1102 was the day that Stephen, the Count of Blois, was slain at the battle of Ramleh. Stephen appears briefly in the prologue of Saints, as he tries to explain to his five year old son and namesake that his wife, the Countess Adela, daughter of the Conqueror, is insisting he return to the Holy Land to regain the honor she thinks he lost by abandoning the siege of Antioch. I found myself sympathizing with Stephen’s plight, both for being unfairly accused of cowardice and for being wed to Adela. She prevailed, as she usually did, and her husband redeemed his “lost honor” by his death at Ramleh. Here is a touching and very personal letter that Stephen wrote to his wife before the siege of Antioch.
    http://mw.mcmaster.ca/scriptorium/stephen.html
    I seem unable to keep the Tudors from crashing the party this month, for I have to mention that on May 19th, 1536, Anne Boleyn was murdered in the Tower of London by her husband, who went riding off to court Jane Seymour as soon as the canons sounded to assure him that his unwanted wife was no longer a hindrance to his plans for a third marriage.

  45. skpenman Says:

    Oops==that should read cannons, not canons. Sorry.

  46. Joan Says:

    What a fun post, not to mention I’ve jotted down a few more authors in my notebook. Great opening lines are like a first kiss with a new love, electrical! All of the above are fantastic.

    “On a winter’s day in 1413, just before Christmas, Nicholas Hook decided to commit murder.” Bernard Cornwell’s Azincourt

    “My fate was sealed in blood on the day of my birth. As I struggled to enter this twisted world, my mother resigned it, taking with her my chances of being a true daughter.” I had to incl the 2nd sentence by Nadia Hashimi in “When the Moon is Low”

    And then there are lines that cover us anew in goosebumps each time we read them…..”My lord duke, tonight all of Aquitaine is yours for the taking.”

    Had the most fun in Chapters today, meeting 2 interesting women, one a 20-something who is in awe of you, Sharon, & also reads other authors we hear about on your blog. I suggested she join your FB. The other lady extremely interested in the MA, devours books & now very excited to launch into your novels. I suggested she begin with Here Be Dragons. We could have chatted all afternoon.

  47. CHRISTINE ANDERSEN Says:

    “Leaning into the full-length mirror, and using a stick of stage makeup, Ty Cobb painted a jagged crimson line above his eyes of robin’s egg blue.” from Ty Cobb, a Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

    Another favorite: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice.

  48. Barbara Rose Says:

    The first line from The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls grabs you: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”

  49. Angie Says:

    The first line of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorites of all time, but the whole first paragraph is too gorgeous not to quote in its entirety…

    “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

  50. skpenman Says:

    I love these first lines; thanks, everyone, for adding to the fun.

    Here is EW’s recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. There are so many out there. Even the Wall Street Journal has joined the party. But I think EW’s recaps are the best, thanks to James Hibberd’s snarky sense of humor. I do think we need to urge GRRM to put dyrewolves on the Endangered Species List, though. http://www.ew.com/recap/game-of-thrones-door-hodor

  51. Linda DeMelis Says:

    How could we forget — Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by the sun of York.”

  52. skpenman Says:

    Good point, Linda!

    I am still trying to catch up on my Today in History Notes. These events occurred on May 24th.
    On May 24, 1153, David I, King of Scotland, uncle to the Empress Maude and a stalwart supporter of her claims, died.
    On May 24, 1444, Henry VI and Marguerite d’Anjou were betrothed; they would be wed the following April.
    And on this date in 1487, the pretender Lambert Simnel was crowned in Dublin. Not much is known of his background, but he is thought to have been of humble birth, the son of a carpenter or cobbler. He was about ten years old and at first it was claimed he was Edward IV’s second son Richard, Duke of York. But then it was contended he was actually Edward, Earl of Warwick, who’d supposedly escaped from confinement in the Tower of London. His claim was accepted by the Irish government and his cause was supported by Richard III and Edward IV’s sister Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Not surprisingly, this did not end well, and he was captured when the Yorkists were defeated at the Battle of Stoke Field; Richard’s actual nephew, the Earl of Lincoln, was slain on the field, but Francis Lovell escaped. At the time I wrote Sunne, I was not aware that he apparently reached Scotland and I accepted the belief that he drowned crossing the River Trent. There does not seem to be any truth in the later legend that he’d taken refuge at his manor at Minster Lovell and starved to death when he was somehow trapped in a secret room.
    Lambert Simnel, probably because of his youth, was not made to suffer for his part in the rebellion in a rare example of Tudor mercy, and was instead given a job as a scullion in the royal kitchens, which was also a shrewd way to emphasize his status as an imposter; Henry VII was nothing if not clever. Lambert later became a royal falconer and was therefore more fortunate than the man he’d impersonated, for the real Earl of Warwick, imprisoned in the Tower since the age of ten, would be executed by Henry VII at age 24; supposedly his death was the price demanded by King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile for agreeing to wed their daughter Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur. Gallons of ink would later be spilled over whether that marriage was ever consummated.
    The real victim of the Lambert Simnel conspiracy seems to have been a most unlikely one, Elizabeth Woodville, for in February of 1487 she was stripped of her dower lands and banished to Bermondsey Abbey. How likely is it that she would have conspired against her own daughter to put upon the English throne a boy whom she had to know was an imposter? When she died at Bermondsey in 1492, she had nothing to leave her daughters but her blessings.

  53. skpenman Says:

    I am beginning to feel like the Grim Reaper, for lately all I seem to do is write death and battle scenes. Unlike my other books, of course, which all had such happy-ever-after endings. I am playing hooky from the bloodshed long enough to wish my American friends and readers a happy Memorial Day. Do any other nations have a similar remembrance day for those who gave their lives for their country? I know you have Armistice Day in the UK, which is very similar to our Veteran’s Day. Canada? Down Under?
    Anyway, on May 28, 1265, the Lord Edward outsmarted his cousin Harry de Montfort, which does not seem to have been all that difficult. Edward had been held captive since the battle of Lewes the year before, but he was treated more as a guest than a prisoner or even a hostage, and on this May afternoon, he convinced Harry that it would be fun to hold races. Harry and his knights took turns racing one another, while Edward lamented that his new stallion had gone lame. You can see where this is going, can’t you? A pity Harry couldn’t. When Edward got the signal he’d been awaiting from a nearby hill, he vaulted into the saddle of his “lame” stallion and after a mocking salute to his de Montfort cousin, spurred toward freedom. Of course Harry and the other knights pursued him, but their horses soon shortened stride, no match for Edward’s fresh stallion. Roger de Mortimer and his men then rode out to meet him, and the scene was set for the battle of Evesham in August. This is another What If moment of history. If Simon had entrusted Edward into the custody of his son Guy instead of Harry, he’d not have been able to escape. Why am I so sure? Because when some of Edward’s supporters had tried to free him from Wallingford Castle that past November, Guy had threatened to send him out to them–via a mangonel. And there would have been no Evesham if Edward had remained Simon’s hostage. English history would have taken a dramatic detour—and so would Welsh history.

  54. Joan Says:

    Bad moves all round!! And this is another “truth is stranger than fiction” scenario. Would make for an exciting scene in film though, but that’s the only good thing we can say about it.

    We up here in Canada have Remembrance Day in November. For me, the most poignantly beautiful memorial will always be the ceramic poppies installment at the Tower of London.

  55. Kerry Molnar Says:

    When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all.

    Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

  56. cbonk34 Says:

    I’m so hoping to see more Justin de Quincy stories! I am rereading them right now.

    I think my favorite opening line is probably “in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” But I really love the Eustace Scrubbs line from “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” too. I’m a sucker for the beginnings of stories. :)

  57. Sharon K Penman Says:

    We have Veteran’s Day in November, Joan. I agree with you about the poppies.

    Just a quick note to assure everyone that I was not abducted by aliens or entered the Witness Protection program, although I may have to do that latter if I miss this deadline. I have been very busy setting up the downfall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which is actually more fun than it sounds. Meanwhile, here is your chance to out where you belong in Game of Thrones; I am going to live in the Kingdom of the Rock, to my surprise.
    http://www.medievalists.net/2016/05/29/which-of-the-seven-kingdoms-do-you-belong-to/

  58. skpenman Says:

    For some reason, over 30 of your comments were snagged as spam, and I just discovered that this weekend. I immediately set them all free–apologies for that.
    I am sorry I have not been able to post here very often this spring, but it has been due to circumstances beyond my control. Unfortunately, some of my body parts are no longer user-friendly and I have had to limit my time at the computer. But I love interacting with you all on Facebook, and will try my best to stop by more often as we slide into summer.
    Here is a post involving my favorite king, Henry II, and one of his rare political blunders. As I had Eleanor say in Devil’s Brood, “Harry and I have more in common than quick tempers. We rarely make mistakes, but when we do, they tend to be spectacular.”
    There were a few other historical happenings on June 3rd, ( the fall of Antioch, for one) but I am going to have to beg off from dealing with them, for real life has come to a screeching halt as I remain trapped in the deadline doldrums. So I’ll just focus on June 3rd, 1162, a day that would soon give Henry II considerable grief, for it was on this date that his great good friend, Thomas Becket, was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury, just one day after he’d been ordained as a priest. Henry was convinced theirs would be the perfect partnership. Rarely ever was he so wrong.
    I would also like to mention the passing of an icon. Very few people have the courage of their convictions; we all would like to think we do, but when the moment of truth comes, most of us compromise. I think it is human nature to do so. There are those, though, who are willing to make great sacrifices to honor a principle. Muhammad Ali was such a man. In honoring his courage, I am not talking of his feats in the ring; I have never been a boxing fan. But he took a moral stand even knowing that it could cost him his career, his liberty, his glowing future. At the time, I greatly admired him for that. And in his later years, I admired him for revealing he had Parkinson’s. Here is Michael J Fox discussing the impact that Muhammad Ali had. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/05/opinions/michael-j-fox-muhammad-ali-parkinsons/index.html
    I think it always helps for well-known individuals to be candid about illnesses. Today it is far more common, but I remember a time when people were secretive about disease, almost as if they were ashamed of being stricken. When Betty Ford spoke with candor about her fight against breast cancer, people were actually shocked that she was willing to go public with it. So when Muhammad Ali and Michael J Fox refused to hide their struggles with Parkinson’s, they were making life easier for others afflicted with this ailment or with other incapacitating diseases. In the same way, I am grateful to the Reagan family for shining a spotlight upon one of the most insidious of diseases and the terrible toll that it takes upon everyone, what Nancy Reagan so heartbreakingly and eloquently called “the long goodbye.”

  59. Malcolm Craig Says:

    When Allys and I were living in Brittany, the French Government was very secretive about President Pompidou’s illness. Our French friends were amused that we heard of his death on BBC 4 and had informed them before there was any mention of it on French media.

  60. Veronica Meenan Says:

    I remember seeing Muhammad Ali when he came over to Dublin in 2003 to attend the Special Olympics. I was in the choir for the Opening Ceremony and we were lining up to go out onto the stage when he went by in a golf buggy and gave us all a great wave!

  61. skpenman Says:

    I have had to stay off the computer this past week; it is just too painful. But I had to speak out after yet another mass killing. Fifty people murdered. It almost defies belief, or it would if it had not happened so often. This is the fifteenth time that President Obama has had to offer comfort to the nation after a murderous rampage—fifteen. Our only meager consolation is that such horrors bring out the best in people, too, who show great courage and compassion and empathy—the police officers who try to stop the killing, the survivors and bystanders who risk their own lives to help the injured. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the slain and wounded. Please pray for them. That seems to be all we are ever able to do.
    I see the orthopedist again next week, hope that he will be able to help as he did earlier in the spring. Wish me luck.

  62. joan Says:

    Sharon I’m sending energy your way for some relief from those persistent painful problems.

    And I’m with you in heartfelt sympathy for the loved ones of those slain & wounded.

  63. joan Says:

    I also meant to include this. If anyone didn’t watch the Tony awards last night, please go online to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda accept the award for Best Musical, Hamilton, a powerful emotional sonnet he composed, in view of yesterday’s horrific event.

  64. Theresa Says:

    Everyones thoughts goes out to those afflicted and their families. Saw a very insightful interview with Yoko Ono who said since her husband John Lennon was shot dead in December 1980, over one million Americans have been killed by guns in the USA.

    Times like this I wish people would take the words ‘Give Peace a Chance’ literally.

  65. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am so sorry that I’ve become such a stranger to Facebook, but I’ve been in too much pain to spend time at the computer and yes, that delights the Deadline Dragon greatly. I had a cortisone shot last week; it did not help, though. So we are trying a series of four injections which the orthopedist thinks will help, although he cautioned I probably won’t get relief until I’ve had all four shots. I’ve decided to believe him, as that beats the alternative.
    My deepest sympathies to the people suffering so much in the West VA flooding and in the California fires. Life has been turned upside down, too, in one of my favorite places—the UK. This has not been a good year for so many.
    I will try to stop by when I can. Meanwhile, here is the EW recap for last night’s jaw-dropping finale of Game of Thrones; it also offers some interesting interviews with various cast members. Anyone anticipate those serpentine plot twists? I sure did not. http://www.ew.com/recap/game-of-thrones-finale-winds-winter

  66. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sorry you are feeling so poorly, Sharon. A good friend here in Tallahassee, who is our age, is also having back woes right now. She is the one who inspired my late-found (2009) interest in opera. In my opinion, the British (actually English and Welsh) voted foolishly, for all the wrong reasons. If the more sensible Scots do decide to separate, they will have my sympathy this time. I think many Britons are now asking, “What in the world did I vote for?” My best wishes, whatever they may be worth, for you to soon get some relief.

  67. Mary Anne Thompson Says:

    To be honest, the opening paragraph of “Sunne….” is what hooked me on your writing. I cannot count the number of times I’ve read it to friends. What got me was that the description was so vivid I went back through my UK travel notes and realized that I recognized the locale from one of my trips! Since that first encounter I’ve had a ball comparing my travelogs with places in your books.
    When is your next book coming out?

  68. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Mac!

    I am sorry that I am still having to fly under the radar, but it remains too painful for me to spend time at the computer. Everything is riding now on that series of injections, which seems a more plausible recovery plan than praying for a miracle. I hope all my American friends and readers had a wonderful July 4th, one of my favorite holidays. I even considered writing a novel at one point about our Revolutionary War, but it did not work out. I also want to mention the loss of a great man, the writer and human rights activist and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel. His account of his horrific concentration camp experiences, Night, is one of the most memorable books of the 20th century.

  69. joan Says:

    Sharon, fingers crossed that the treatment will do the trick. My sympathy goes out to you & truly hope you will feel much better soon.

    What a novel that would have been, the Revolutionary War by Sharon Penman!! You once also mentioned you’d considered writing about Benjamin Franklin. What gems they would have been!!

    Major faux pas across the pond. Many who voted to leave didn’t even know what the EU was!! Then the rat king flees the sinking ship??? People aren’t getting smarter, stupid carries the day.

  70. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Which one was the rat king? There appear to be several candidates. Lib Dems may have a resurgence by campaigning to stay.

  71. Octavista Says:

    As a British person who voted to remain in the EU, I can still understand why many voted to leave. The biggest reason for many people was the issue of sovereignty and not being subject to unelected officials in Brussels. As Joan did say, many people didn’t know what they were voting for but the fact is that all anyone was voting for was to leave the EU- they didn’t actually vote for how or exactly what would happen afterwards.

  72. Theresa Says:

    Not too long ago two countries decided to invade a third on false information leading to many deaths and instability that we are all still paying for.

    It might be more important than a referendum which perhaps would not be honoured by their government.

  73. joan Says:

    Malcolm, I was referring to the leader of the UKIP, Mr “I’ve done my bit”. His resignation stunned me. That whole lot has earned the derision they set themselves up for. And the laughter. I haven’t laughed so hysterically for a long time (the only reprieve).

  74. Veronica Meenan Says:

    Brexit will cause many problems in Ireland, both economically and politically. One major concern is whether a hard border (with customs posts and guards) will be restored between the Republic and Northern Ireland with possible problems for the peace process. It seems a crazy decision - however at least Boris isn’t going to be Prime Minister! We should be grateful for small mercies!!!

  75. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Boris and Nigel won the vote partly by telling lies about its results. Now they are forcing someone else to pick up the sordid pieces.

  76. Theresa Says:

    There are more serious problems in the world than this Brexit.

    NATO missiles on the Russian border= Might be dangerous

    But at least the Yanks can laugh at the Brits for doing something dumb. Kind of how sections of the UK sneered at America for returning George W to power in 2004. (I refer to the front page of the Daily Mirror as an example)

  77. joan Says:

    PS…..I meant to say laughter at all the stuff that’s out there now…….Laughing Man on Brexit for one. Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal is great stuff. Love the clip on that Brit morning show with Farage sputtering & spluttering. Otherwise, the situation is not funny at all.

    Theresa, I agree with you. Actually this whole lunatic world is very very dangerous at the moment. All the more reason for hanging onto stability where we can find it.

  78. skpenman Says:

    I am finding it very frustrating to have to stay away from my computer for so long. But even if I’d been able to post on Facebook, there would have been no words for the week that our country endured.
    I will see if I can at least post brief comments now and then until the injections start to work; the power of positive thinking. Today is the French national holiday, Bastille Day, all the more significant in light of the cowardly assaults upon France by ISIS terrorists. Here is the best scene from Casablanca. Vive la France. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTsg9i6lvqU

  79. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Thank you for posting this link, Sharon. In early February 1965, a group of us who had just finished semester exams in Cambridge went to the Brattle Theater, to see “Casablanca” - my first time. We were in the proper mood to applaud loudly during this segment. I have loved it ever since.

  80. joan Says:

    I’m happy to see you back, Sharon, even if only briefly. We miss your positive stories as well, at times like this, you always seem to find something to lighten up the day. But what a horrific day today.

    Octavista, I must tell you that I fell in love with England on my first visit there a couple of years ago. My sisters & I felt so comfortable in that beautiful land & feel it is our 2nd home. We’re going back next year & will see some of Scotland as well. Can hardly wait!!! Hopefully Wales & Ireland another time.

  81. Moira Ford Says:

    I am s sorry bout hear about the death of Roberta Gellis. I have read her books and enjoyed them very much. Will miss her writing.

  82. skpenman Says:

    I agree, Moira. I was never able to meet her, but I enjoyed her books enormously. So many people seem to have a Casablanca story, Mac; yours is a good one! Thanks, Joan. I have missed being here. With a lot of luck, I may even finish a new blog before we are all too old to read it.:-)

    I am very relieved to report that I am now able to spend some time at the computer, so I ought to be able to visit with everyone again, even if in short bursts. It seems that whenever I am able to start posting again, there are so many tragedies and horrific events to mention. Here is a link to a story about the way the French illuminate the Eiffel Tower in honor of the latest victims of terrorism. After the appalling carnage in Nice, other countries also lit up their national monuments and landmarks to show solidarity with the victims. But it was so painful to read how many times the Eiffel Tower has been illuminated after a terrorist attack just in the past year; they honor victims of terror in other countries as well as in their own. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691545/The-world-lights-Nice-Buildings-illuminated-red-white-blue-French-flag-solidarity-victims-Bastille-Day-massacre.html
    I hope that all of my American friends and readers who are suffering under this latest deadly heat wave are managing to cope. I have been lighting candles to my new patron saint, Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning.
    It will probably take me years to catch up on all the Today in History posts that fell through the cracks while I was sidelined. But I have to mention the death of one of my favorite kings. On July 6, 1189, Henry II died in misery at Chinon Castle, feverishly murmuring “Shame upon a conquered king” after having been forced to make a humiliating surrender to his own son Richard and the young French king Philippe. He’d saved Philippe’s throne several times in the past, but Philippe did not hold gratitude to be a virtue. Henry probably died of septicemia, the result of a wound to his heel, although he had numerous other ailments by that time—as well a broken heart, having learned that his beloved son John had betrayed him.
    * * *
    Devil’s Brood, page 713. “Henry’s delirium soon returned, and he did not speak coherently again, dying the next day after a hemorrhage that stained his bedding with dark blood. He was fifty-six, had ruled almost thirty-five years as King of England and even longer as Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou.”
    * * *

  83. skpenman Says:

    Many of you have already read Stephanie Churchill’s novel, The Scribe’s Daughter. For those who have not, I have good news. Stephanie is offering it for free on Smashwords through July 31st; you need only use the code SFREE at checkout. Here is the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/564554
    And here is Stephanie’s description of the plot: “Usurped foreign thrones, vengeful noblemen, hardship, trauma and danger… Is information about Kassia’s past, about the mysteries of her family’s history, reward enough to face a future she doesn’t want? Only an unyielding inner strength will help her survive, and only then will she discover that contrary to her prior beliefs, she is not defined by external things, that she is worthy to be loved.”
    If we must fit The Scribe’s Daughter into a particular genre, it would be fantasy, but in some ways, Stephanie is breaking new ground. She creates a world of her own, as all the good fantasy writers do. But it will seem familiar to readers of historical fiction, for like George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels, hers is rooted in a gritty medieval reality. Since this is my favorite milieu, I consider that a definite plus! It was like reading about a medieval kingdom that I had not yet discovered. Her characters are three-dimensional, there are always surprises lurking around the next bend in the road, and readers will be hooked by the very first sentence: “I never imagined my life would end this way.”
    I think a book giveaway is a great way to introduce readers to new books. And of course social media like Facebook and Goodreads offer the same opportunities; I assume Twitter does, too, but I am still a Twitter holdout, at least for now. I love the way my readers recommend books to one another. That is pure fun and we find books we might otherwise have missed. Lastly, as a writer, I am grateful that so many of you post reviews on-line if you like a book. Some readers do not realize what an impact that can have. I have been told many times by readers that they were tempted to try one of my books simply because it had garnered so many favorable reviews on Amazon. I just wish all readers understood what power they wield! But on behalf of Stephanie and myself and writers everywhere, we thank you all for your continuing devotion to books in an age where there are so many competing distractions.

  84. Elaine Lee Says:

    I’m not good off the cuff and would have to go back and look. That said, I began with my daughter recommending Here Be Dragons and fell in love. I’ve read all of your books in that era. I can’t honestly remember if it was in one of your books or another of that era, but I learned that fireworks were sometimes set off at weddings. It made me think to have fireworks for our daughter’s recent wedding. It was a big hit! I, too, am having a hard time waiting for, The Land Beyond the Sea. I didn’t see what was wrong but am sorry you are not well enough to write and hope the problem gets resolved soon, first for your sake and then for ours.

  85. skpenman Says:

    On July 27, 1214 a highly significant battle occurred, the battle of Bouvines, which had severe consequences for King John and Otto, the Holy Roman Emperor. Otto was John and Richard’s nephew and was very close to his uncle Richard, as readers of Ransom may remember. John was not present at the battle; his brother William Longsword was taken prisoner and John was eventually able to ransom him. Renaud de Dammartin was not as fortunate. He was a minor character in Devil’s Brood and Here be Dragons, Count of Boulogne because he’d abducted the heiress and forced her to marry him. Philippe considered him a traitor and not only refused to ransom him, he had Renaud chained to a log in his dungeon cell and held him there till he died.
    It was never wise to get on the bad side of a vengeful king, as Simon de Montfort’s son Guy was later to learn, too. Edward I understandably bore him a grudge for the murder of his cousin Hal in Viterbo, which was dramatized in The Reckoning. That shocking killing—in a church during Mass like the murder this week of an elderly French priest as he said Mass in his church before it was invaded by evil—created a great scandal throughout Europe. It would destroy Guy’s brother Bran, who was already a lost soul, blaming himself for the deaths of his father and eldest brother at Evesham. But Guy was luckier and because he’d inherited some of Simon’s battlefield brilliance, he continued to prosper, for a good general can be forgiven much. He owed a debt, though, for Viterbo, and the day would come when he’d pay it in a Sicilian dungeon after being captured in a sea battle in 1187. His friends tried to ransom him, but the offers were always refused, and it was generally believed that this was Edward’s doing. You all know Edward is not one of my favorite kings, but I do understand his determination to see Guy punished for his crime. Of course Edward had contributed to the bitterness that led Guy to commit that murder by mutilating Simon’s body at Evesham. When we read of the cruelties people inflicted upon one another throughout history and then when we read about the horrors happening today, it is all too obvious that human nature has not changed much down through the centuries.

  86. skpenman Says:

    July 29, 1469 was not a good day for the House of York, for it was on this date that Edward was captured and taken as a prisoner to his cousin, the Earl of Warwick. However, I had great fun writing this scene and the succeeding scenes, as Edward showed he was more than a skilled battle commander and a playboy prince. He had a first-rate brain, too, and he was one of those rare men who were at their best when things were at their worst, although sadly he was at his worst when things were at their best. Warwick had always underestimated him, and that would prove to be a costly mistake. Writers usually have favorite chapters and Edward’s capture at Olney is one of mine. So, too, are the scenes with Warwick, so smugly sure he has the upper hand, while Edward smiles and complies with the demands made upon him and makes plans of his own. Plans that come to fruition when Warwick returns to Middleham and is shocked to discover that Edward has managed to summon the lords of the realm–and an army led by his young brother Richard and the loyal Will Hastings.
    The Sunne in Splendour, pages 152-153
    * * *
    The men were watching Warwick with expectant interest; several, like Jack Howard, were openly challenging. Warwick’s eyes moved from face to face, until at last he found the one he sought. Edward was standing with the Archbishop of York. The latter was resplendent in the jeweled miter and robes of a Prince of the Church, but as white of face as one being marched to the gallows. Edward had been laughing as Warwick entered the hall; he was flushed with triumph, looked surprisingly young and suddenly carefree.
    For a moment, time seemed to fragment, the intervening eight years seemed to disappear as if they’d never been, and Warwick was seeing again the jubilant nineteen year old youth who’d ridden beside him into London to deafening cheers on that long-ago February day that was to lead to the throne. And then the eerie illusion shattered and Warwick was facing a man who watched him with hard mocking eyes and a smile that promised not remembrance, but retribution.
    * * *
    July 29th was also the date in 1565 when Mary Queen of Scots made a mistake so monumental that it can be argued this was her first step on the road to the gallows at Fotheringhay Castle. I am not a fan of Mary’s, having always been a member of Team Elizabeth, but even I wish I could time-travel back to the day of her wedding to Lord Darnley and warn her not to marry him, not to fall into the trap Elizabeth had shrewdly set for her. Not that she’d have heeded me. Mary was never one for listening to good advice. I’d even go so far as to say she never met a bad decision she did not run to embrace.

  87. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I will finally be able to put up a new blog this weekend, at which time I will announce the winners of the mystery book giveaway. Meanwhile, here is today’s Facebook post.

    I had my final injection this past week, so now all I can do is wait to see how helpful it is; I do see some improvement. It is hard to remain an optimist at a time when the entire world seems to be in freefall, but I am trying to remain optimistic about this. And since we all are in need of comfort posts (like comfort food), here is a wonderful video about Pumpkin, a baby otter that was discovered abandoned soon after birth and taken to the Monterey Aquarium, where she recovered. She could not be returned to the wild, so she has a new life at Seaworld in San Diego. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O5ER2miIUU
    Also, I have a computer query for my Facebook friends and readers. I have always used the much -despised Internet Explorer as my browser, having tried Google Chrome and found it wanting. But IE has become so balky and frustrating that I have to look for another browser. I am exploring Foxfire and it seems promising. I have not yet made it my default browser, mainly because I am concerned that in doing that, I might lose my desktop shortcuts, all of which are used in my research. I am in the process of copying the desktop icons “just in case,” but I would be grateful if any of you with Foxfire experience let me know what you think of it. Thanks!

  88. Malcolm Craig Says:

    When our son Nicholas built my computer, he loaded Mozilla Firefox onto it. I have been happy with it. Though I am no expert, I would not be surprised if you had to reload or recreate your shortcuts.

  89. Jrumpire Says:

    Happy birthday Sharon. May you have a beautiful day.

  90. Beth Turner Says:

    More first lines:
    From Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond:
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    And from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Yeats of Solitude:
    Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

  91. mehong Says:

    awesome post!

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