Great First Lines

They say that your first sentence, paragraph, page...should capture the reader's attention and make them want to read more. That made me curious about how some of my favorite authors start their books, so I've developed this quirky habit of checking out the first line of books when I'm in a bookstore.

Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock is one of my all-time favorite books. The first line of the book is...

"There's a question that haunts me in the blackest hours of night, when wasted moments crowd my dreams and mock the life I know."

Is that a great first line or what? You know you just have to find out what the question is that haunts this character and the rest of the book is just as intriguing as the first line. I highly recommend it.

(Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Win a FREE copy of my new book!

Writing Contest!

Like to write short stories? I'm holding a weekly writing contest and giving away one copy of my new book, Wake Up Your Muse each week.

All you have to do is write a 150-400 word short story based on one of the prompt from the book.  Come on over and join the fun!  GET THE DETAILS

Five Minute Flash Fiction

Today's Prompt was: They had only met once, but it was a meeting neither would ever forget.

Not a Chance Meeting

Photo courtesy  arinas74,
They had only met once, but it was a meeting neither would ever forget.

Jen stared out the window of the plane. It had been a difficult visit with her parents. They didn't understand the break up and couldn't comprehend that Dale would no longer be their son-in-law. In their eyes, he had been the perfect husband.

She hadn't been able to bring herself to tell them about the affair or that Dale had been fired from his job and that he blamed her. They wouldn't understand.

Tears slipped down her cheeks.

“Are you okay?” said the man in the seat next to her.

Jen brushed away the tears and shook her head.

“Not really”, she said.

“Want to talk?” he asked, “It's a long flight and I'm a good listener.”

She had no idea what made her spill everything. The long hours of work that had kept Dale away from home. The important events he had missed in the kids' lives, and the eventual breakup when Dale blamed her because his boss found out about the affair with his secretary .
The man listened quietly. That was all, but it was enough. Jen had needed to unload it all and a stranger was the perfect choice. She would forever be grateful that someone had cared enough to listen.

The plane landed and as they gathered their things the man reached out and gave her a hug.

“You just saved my marriage,” he said, then he stepped into the aisle and made his way to the front of the plane.

When he reached the concourse, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket, dialed a number and said, “Honey, I'm cutting my trip short. I'll be home on the next plane I can get out of here. What time is Timmy's birthday party?”

*This one took more like 12 minutes to write.

(Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Flash Fiction Friday - A Missed Opportunity

Flash Fiction - Start with a prompt, set the timer to 5 minutes and GO!
Today's Prompt: When he got there her desk was in disarray and the phone was off the hook.

A Missed Opportunity

Jack ignored the waiter's obvious stare and dialed Sylvia's number again. He had been trying to reach her for an hour, but all he got was her voice mail.

He fingered the ring in his pocket and thought again about the words he had rehearsed all week.

This wasn't like her. She always called if she was going to be late.

He finally gave up, paid for his drink and drove over to her apartment. When she didn't answer the door, he used his key.

When he got there her desk was in disarray and the phone was off the hook. The room looked like a war zone.

They had talked about this...what they should do if either one of them were ever found, but now that it had happened, all the plans they had made went right out the window. Jack was not going to leave town on the next plane, he was going to find her...and he was going to kill the man he should have killed three years ago!

 (Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Your turn - why not give it a whirl and then post your story as a comment.  I'd love to read it!

Wake Up Your Muse!

I’m so excited! I’ve just finished my latest book and I’m offering it as a PDF book online. Here’s the story behind the book…

As a writer there have been times when I’ve sat staring at a blank page, unable to think of a single word to write. I’m not sure if I buy into the whole “muse” thing – you know, a mythological being who whispers words of inspiration to you. But I do believe in an inner ability to write. I consider it a God-given gift and that’s what I call my muse.

Unfortunately, this gift didn’t come with an on/off switch. I find myself flooded with ideas and wishing I could get away and write when it’s most inconvenient (like when I’m supposed to be working or cleaning house) and unable to find any words to write when I finally get the time to practice my craft.

It’s at those times that I wonder if my “muse” is off somewhere taking a nap.

I know all it takes is an intriguing sentence or thought to get my creative juices flowing, so when I’m drawing a blank, I search online for a good writing prompt, only to come up with nothing but prompts for teachers to use with their students or prompts that just don’t make sense, like…”Write about a purple alien driving a Mercedes underwater.”


I realized that if I needed creative prompts to jump start my writing, there must be lots of other writers out there that needed them, too, and that’s how Wake Up Your Muse was born.

Sometimes all it takes is a little spark to ignite your creativity. With 1001 prompts, Wake Up Your Muse has enough ideas to keep you busy writing for a long time. In fact, if you used one prompt every day from Wake Up Your Muse, it would keep you writing for over 2 years!

(Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Flash Fiction Friday - Losing Lisa

Today's Prompt: I reached blindly for the phone. "At 3 am, either someone better be dead or this better be Lisa."

What I wrote:

Lisa had stormed out of the house right after dinner. All I had done this time is asked her to do the dishes. Lately anything I did sent my fourteen year old into a fit. We had words and before I knew what was happening, she was gone...again!

I called every friend of hers that I could think of and then jumped in the car. I had been driving around looking for her for the past seven hours. I finally gave up at 1:00 AM, and came home.

In the morning I would have to call my ex-husband and tell him that once again, I had lost total control of our daughter. I was not looking forward to that call.

I had just fallen into a fitful sleep when the phone rang. I looked at the clock.

I reached blindly for the phone. "At 3 am, either someone better be dead or this better be Lisa."

The truth is that I was afraid it might be someone calling me to say that it was Lisa who was dead.

(Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

I Took 3rd Place in the FaithWriters Monthly Challenge Contest

A while back I entered my first writing contest through and took 3rd place in the Advanced Category.  I was so excited because it validated my writing ability.  FaithWriters is a great Christian Writers' site. It's free to join, has tons of great writing and publishing info, monthly writing contests, and forums for getting to know other writers.  Check them out when you get a

Here's my winning story:

Death of the Spartan Seven

Truth or Dare – it’s a stupid game and why I had agreed to play it is beyond me. I could blame it on peer pressure, but that’s a crock. I’d never cared what others thought.

I’m not even sure how I wound up at a slumber party with the Spartan Seven, a chic clique of nauseating high-school fashionistas.

I’d never been part of that crowd…or any crowd, for that matter, but there I was, surrounded by cutesy girls in cutesy pajamas about to play the dumbest game ever invented.

Maybe it was the prospect of embarrassing the crud out of Jamie Lynn Walters or putting a few S.S. brats in their place that pulled me from the corner where I was sulking to the circle in the center of the floor. I don’t know, but it was about to get ugly.

Things started out pretty silly.

Did you ever…?
Would you ever…?
Have you ever…?

Blah, blah, blah.

A few answers, several dares and way too many giggles later, it was my turn. I looked directly at Jamie. I didn’t like her, never had. She was too perfect. Gorgeous hair, killer body, genius smarts and a great personality - yech.

Everyone liked Jamie Lynn. Everyone, including Jake, my next-door neighbor and best friend. Hanging out with Jake was the only decent part of my rotten life. At least it was until he fell head over heels for Jamie.

I’d heard the recent rumors. I knew they were lies, but I couldn’t resist.

“Jamie, truth or dare?” I asked.

Jamie Lynn giggled, “Truth, I guess.”

“Is it true that you had an abortion last year?” I challenged.

As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted them. Probably because I knew that Jamie Lynn would tell the truth. Any other person would lie through their teeth, but not Jamie.

While every girl in the room glared and wished me dead, Jamie lowered her head. Tears filled her eyes and dropped on her pretty pink pajamas.

Softly she said, “Yes, it’s true. I was raped while walking home from cheerleading practice. When I found out I was pregnant, my parents gave me no choice. They were afraid of what people would say and afraid of how it would mess up my life.”

“It was awful,” she continued, “and I can’t get it out of my mind. I killed a baby and I don’t know if God can ever forgive me.” Jamie sobbed.

The Spartan Seven closed ranks, surrounding Jamie in a soggy group hug that totally shut me out.

I said the only thing I could say – the one thing I swore that I would never say.

“Jamie, I’m sorry. I had an abortion, too and I know exactly how you feel.”

A collective gasp went up from the huddle. All eyes turned toward me and I wanted to throw up.

“Six months ago…only I wasn’t raped. I was just stupid and I thought it was the easy way out.”


I continued, “It wasn’t easy, though. I thought I could just go on like it never happened, but I couldn’t. I was so ashamed, I quit going to church. I couldn’t sit there, knowing that God probably hated me for what I’d done.”

Jamie broke free from her cocoon, put her arms around me and for the first time in six months, I cried. We all cried and when our tears were spent, Sarah Matthews spoke up.

“The truth is that we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of. We can’t change that, but isn’t that exactly why God sent Jesus? Isn’t that why Jesus died, to forgive sin?”

She paused. “So here’s the next dare, I dare us all to get real with each other and then get real with God.”

What followed was unbelievable. One by one, those girls I thought were so perfect began to share things that proved they were just like me. Young, confused and scared most of the time.

We talked, we cried, we hugged, and then we did something I had never done before with a group of girls. We knelt in a circle, held hands and asked God to forgive us.

The Spartan Seven no longer exists. It died the night we played Truth or Dare and in its place is a group of girls who will be friends for life…and I am a part of it all.

How amazing!

(Copyright© 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Call Me a Rebel

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. “ Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I have a favorite t-shirt that shows a fish swimming upstream. The shirt says, “Go against the flow.”

I've never been one to conform. In junior high school English class we read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The last sentence of that poem struck a chord in my heart...

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

I knew then that I would always take the road less traveled. I wanted to be different, to think for myself, to do what I thought right no matter what everyone else thought or did.

That resolve has taken many forms. It led me to buck the system, rebel, be adventurous, be independent...some of these things were good, some landed me in hot water, but I was always my own person.

When I came to Christ, I committed myself to him wholeheartedly. I fell in love with God and with His word. I wanted to live the rest of my life the way He wanted me to live it.

Unfortunately, in those early days of faith, I had no idea how God wanted me to live my life, so I decided I should probably conform to the model of Christianity I saw at church; first to the dress code of the church, then to the behavior of those in the church and finally to all the rules and regulations of the denomination.

I played the game, not understanding all the rules, but fully recognizing when I fell short by the looks of disdain on my fellow Christian's faces. I didn't really fit the part, didn't look the part and often didn't behave the part.

Just about the time I was ready to give up, I read this...

“continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-18 (NIV)

The King James Version says “ out your own salvation...”

This passage set me on the path to an exciting and adventurous life with Christ. First I noticed the words “your own salvation” and realized that I was on a personal journey. It was my walk with God, not someone else's and that I was to work things out between me and God, not follow the rest of the crowd.

And second, it taught me that it's God who works in me to bring me to the point that I want to behave according to His will and to want to follow His path for my life. I didn't have to do the work myself, I just had to stay plugged into Christ and obedient to His word and cooperate with Him as he made the necessary changes in me.

This brought me full-circle. Once again I find myself on an adventurous path, not worried about where the rest of the world wanted me to go, but following the road less traveled.

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

I don't want the well-traveled road, the wide gate and broad path that most of this world follows. I want the narrow gate...the one that few find...the road less traveled, for it's on that road that I walk with Jesus and find peace and joy for the journey.

So call me a rebel – I'm proud to be one.

(Copyright© 2010 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Flash Fiction Friday - Bait and Switch

Flash Fiction Friday (5 Minutes of frantic writing from a prompt.)
Today's prompt: The young executive stood in front of the large picture window, biting her nails.

The young executive stood in front of the large picture window, biting her nails  So far, no one was suspicious, but Jessica didn't know if she would be able to fool Robert.

Her twin sister, Cassie and Robert had been having a flirty little law clerk/boss relationship lately and he might see right through her.

Jessica and Cassie had switched places before, to fool a teacher, take a test for one another, things like that, but this was different. Cassie's call last week was a desperate plea for help. She had sounded terrified when she begged Jessica to fly to New York and take her place at the firm.

She wouldn't tell Jessica what was going on, but she had said it was a matter of life and death and that she would be back in a month and explain everything. They had spent the next hour or so going over things in the office. Cassie filled her in on who was who and what clients needed what, then she had said she had to go and hung up abruptly.

Jessica had caught the first plane out, to New York City, hoping to catch her sister before she left, but no such luck. Now she was on her own.

(Copyright© 2010 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)