Line by Line — Round 4 – VOTING!



We’re changing it up now, folks. Please read the directions to make sure that you’re getting your vote to count.

Going forward, you now have TWO votes. Only two. Yes. Two. Not that other number I won’t say bc someone will skim and see it and vote that many times and get their entry deleted… TWO.

You can vote one time, for two different entries. That’s it.

Remember this isn’t just voting for genres you read – this is voting for the best lines (collectively, not just what was added this week). I know it gets harder and harder to look at each entry fresh, but I know you guys can do it!

Also, a separate note: A few people asked if I was going to put a donate button or something on here because they know I’m not paying the bills and they want to say thank you for running the contest and getting such great prizes.

Response: Wow. Holy cow, thank you….but no. I don’t want this to be a pay-to-play contest, BUT, if you got anything out of this or had a ball doing it and it’s worth the cost of an iced tea…please buy or gift one of my books. That would make my day. Thank you for everyone who asked, but let’s not do a donate for this. 🙂

AND FINALLY, the comments winner from the last round is…. <drum roll> DIANA!

Diana, email me at briaquinlan AT and let me know if you want Finding Your Writer’s Voice, one of my YA or Rom Com ebooks, or a $5 GC for Amazon.



THE WESTERMAN AFFAIR, Non-Regency Historical Romance

Charles Westerman sipped his champagne and leaned against a yellow-veined marble column in the noisy and crowded foyer of Rutford House. He surveyed the guests in search of a familiar face—or, at least, an inviting one. Really, there should be halos of light above the people with whom he wanted to socialize so he could know them instantly in such a throng. Colorful waistcoats and ties—outrageous choices in evening wear—were one way to divine artistic tendencies.

AT FIRST BLUSH, Contemp Romance

The door to the Happy Clam Family Restaurant blew open, bringing in a gust of cold air and the haunting ghost from Hope Windward’s past. Confusion and suspicion swirled in her belly, working its way up her esophagus, nearly choking her with fright. No, not him. She flicked the beer tap back, her hand trembling as she slid the Sam Adam’s down the bar to her customer.


I opened the pantry to get a box of cereal, and my brother’s AK-47 fell over with a clang at my feet. I jerked out the magazine, pulled the bolt to check the chamber and popped out the round.
“Mom, Nicholas left his AK loaded again,” I said and set the weapon on the stainless steel counter.
Nicholas skidded into the kitchen, sliding on his socked feet.

HIS DARK TEMPTATION, Paranormal Romance

Dorran took a step into the hotel room situated above one of the taverns in the Temple Bar District and cursed every undying god he knew of.

He had been searching for his female, his mate, for almost a thousand years and she had been in this very room within the last twenty-four hours.

And he had missed her.

Roaring so that the generic decorations and frames on the walls rattled, he placed his palms flat against the door frame and hung his head, taking in deep breaths of the scent that electrified each and every hair on his body, that set fire to the blood rushing through his veins.

A COMPLEX SOLUTION, YA Romantic Suspense

Gripping the penknife in my pocket, I shuffled down the hall, my pulse racing. The heavy wooden doors thudded shut as the buzz of voices died away. I needed to do this. Quickly.

HELL’S PARADISE, Romance – other

Ghost had grown accustomed to the shadows.
Living in darkness had become a haven and a prison sentence.
His job was to stop bad things before they happened to good people. He protected the innocent, even if it meant sacrificing himself, even if that made him a not so nice person, even if it was the reason he was away from her.

BLINDFOLDED, Contemp Romance

“Another day, another date, another dollar, who shall I be today?” I smooth my dress and give the doorman a wink as I walk through the main door of the luxurious Titan Hotel. I feel the stares of strangers, but I’m only focused on finding the man whose photo was messaged to me only moments ago. My steps falter when my gaze lands on the most intriguing man I’ve seen.

KISMET, Romantic Suspense

“911, what is the address of your emergency?” He had been a dispatcher so long that the words just fell out of his mouth when answering the phone.
A female voice responded, hushed and sounding frightened, “I just… I think I just saw a man go into my neighbor’s window.” For some reason that address seemed familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite place his finger on it.


Goodbye dignity.
Hovering over a toilet in a stall with her borrowed cocktail dress squeezed between her knees to keep it from falling in had to be the final nail in Kate Vernon’s dignity. Normally she didn’t eavesdrop, but when juicy gossip paid the bills…
“I don’t know why you’re bothering with Mark Stanton,” the woman by the mirror said in a bored and jaded tone.

LIFE RIGHT NOW, YA Rom Com/Chick Lit

“Do you think you could squeeze an entire life into one day?”

It wasn’t the question that froze my brain–it was the girl. She was gorgeous, but it was her water drenched eyes that stopped the flip answer I’d had ready.

“I guess that depends on why you needed to,” I said, a little worried she was going to start a full on girl-cry thing right there on the plane.

MIDNIGHT’S BALANCE, Paranormal Romance

“If you take another Instagram snap, I’m going to feed you to the alligator.”

She didn’t acknowledge the threat, but waved glitter tipped fingers in my direction, and continued tapping her phone in a blaze of glory.

For the first time in 300 years, I was struck speechless by a familiar…on her first day no less.

I snatched the slim rose gold device from her palms, and a full two seconds passed before its absence registered.

UNCONTROLLED HOPE, Paranormal Romance

Beneath the inky black of a moonless night, Nyah Kendrick hiked through the dense Maine forest, her heart racing with anticipation of the hunt. The artic wind rattling the branches above her carried the clean scent of fresh snow mixed with the stench of the humans waiting to die.

Some of her clan, including a few she hunted with tonight, felt sympathy for these weak creatures—not Nyah. Humans had ripped apart the very fabric of her existence when they slaughtered everyone she loved and left her for dead.

RED, YA Paranormal Romance

I closed my eyes and raised my nose to the wind hoping for a scent of the girl. It was there, the cloying ballroom scent of lavender…and him.

Only instinct blocked my brothers’ familiar scents and the lightened tread of their boots on the hunt. And then, as the wind turned, it hit me–the blunt, iron scent of blood.

LOVE’S NO JOKE, Romance – other

The brunette inching up to the Blackjack table had the perfect mix of resting bitch face, obscenely short skirt, and red patent leather “f@#$ me” heels. Basically catnip to Mara Antonini.

“Look at her.” Mara paused by the row of nickel slots and locked her gaze on the brown-haired beauty.

UNTITLED #1, Paranormal Romance

One can hear the Earth in the absence of human noise.
Here, high in the jagged mountains, the valley far below and the empty sky above, Micah could hear it whispering to him.
Today, the Earth whispered, “you are no longer alone”; someone was coming up the mountain.
And even though the Earth wasn’t alive in the same sense he was, for just a moment, he felt the presence of another Elemental in those words.



  1. I’m noticing now, as I re-read these opening lines with each round, how imperative it is that the mood set in sentence #1, continues in sentence #2, etc. Those that don’t hit the mark for me either feel predictable in some way or a word or sentence don’t deliver the same tone or punch as the ones preceding. It drives home how important word choice and scene/tone setting are to the opening of a novel.

  2. Nicole Davis says

    This is fun! Its interesting seeing what ones I am bored of and which ones I would read again and again.

  3. J. Morgan says

    Only having 2 votes stinks! But, I feel like the ones I’ve liked from the beginning are consistently delivering in every line. Sadly, I can only vote for two of those. I feel pretty certain they will be in the finals though.

  4. The fourth line gave me a new favorite! Having only two votes made it very difficult to choose.

  5. This is an interesting exercise. With each round, I seem to read things differently, The first round it is that one sentence that packs a punch. A third line that didn’t appeal to me, now makes so much more sense, with the fourth line added. By this last round, I seem to be reading each word in each sentence. One word or phrase within a sentence can throw me off. One word or phrase can make the four sentences a winner. I usually read them through fast, then go back and pick then apart. So as a reader and a writer, I am learning something with this exercise. Thanks for running this contest! Maybe someday I’ll have to guts to participate. In the meantime, I learn what works.

  6. It is really interesting to see the development of a story line-by-line. There were two I loved with their first lines and then lost all interest by the third line. And now, adding the fourth line totally pulled me back in. Then one I fell in love with for the first time last round, totally fell flat for me this round. I actually went back to my favorites from the first round because they once again piqued my curiosity with their 4th line.

    I think we don’t usually feel this rollercoaster ride of up and down in the opening page of books because the author can build the tension/mood in paragraphs rather than lines. This really is an interesting contest. Thanks again, Bria for all your hard work hosting this.

    Off to buy one of your books …

  7. Renay Marsh says

    This round was the hardest yet. With most of my choices gone I was forced to read – then re-read in order to find two that really stood out to me. Good luck to all the authors. Wish all of you could win.

  8. One of my votes is an original choice, the second was one I chose last week. I’ve discovered that I like longer, more descriptive sentences that show emotion rather than the physical look of the character. It’s not the name or what they’re wearing that draws me in, although in my choices the author gave names. It also helps that there is some description of the world regardless of how small. Good choice of words is important here because I can see the world in my mind’s eye and I can feel the emotions of the people in it. These are the things that hook me and keep me reading. I have a feeling that the authors of my choices are writing about what they know. For the sake of being helpful rather than critical, there is one entry for which I’ve never voted (although it’s still here) because I think the author fell short on research and that’s really important to me.

  9. I love seeing the stories reveal themselves line by line. It’s amazing the impact of each sentence. For one, in particular, I’ve been in from the beginning, my other votes (now my other vote. Boo on only being able to pick two) continue to change with each round.

  10. Bria thank you so much for hosting this contest! Off to buy your book since that is a win-win for both of us 🙂

    Piggybacking off Cheri and D Noone- catching and building on those first couple of sentences is critical. Keeping the reader intrigued is hard work! Reading each line one at a time rather than as a whole makes a huge difference in the impact to the reader. I wonder how this would go if we went past 5 lines up to 20 or 25…

  11. I missed rounds 2 and 3 so it was interesting to see which ones survived. There were quite a few that intrigued me more with 4 lines than with just one. There’s really only one or two that don’t interest me at all, but they must interest someone since they’re still here. I know that wasn’t helpful at all. ?

  12. Stephanie says

    This is very cool. Never seen a contest like this before. Sucks that I missed voting for the second and third round. Found it very hard to choose only two story openings. There were four that were top contenders in my book 😀 Great job everyone!

  13. This exercise is helping me to define *why* I am drawn to certain books. The common thread for me seems to be humor, or at least the idea that the characters in the book have a sense of rootedness; of place. It makes me feel like I stick to several types of books because characters in those genres tend to have a self-deprecating quality that I appreciate.

  14. Each story, of course, becomes more intriguing line-by-line. I’m so glad this contest is a “thing.” It helps to look at each individual line with all the craft involved per word to make (or break) an idea, even within the span of a few sentences. I obviously have some faves, which I voted for, but these stories are developing wonderfully.

    Much love to all involved and all the time and effort and courage, to a degree, it takes to put into the open something so sacred to you for scrutiny and (possible) love. Can’t wait for the next rounds!!

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