First Lines for Women’s History Month

Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month with first lines from books by or about women of history. First Lines is a series of blog articles posted once a month.

The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

The cover of Isadora is a woman who appears to be immersed in water up to her nose but looks calm.

None of it turned out as he had imagined. He blamed this on his own distraction, which kept him from looking too closely at the details when his agent found the place.

Isadora by Amelia Grey, a 2017 NPR Great Read

Cover for the book The WOMAN they could not Silence shows a grainy & yellowed photo of an eighteenth century woman standing in front of a large institution on the top 1/4th of the book the rest of the cover is black with white and yellow text spelling out the title and the author.

It was the last day, but she didn’t know it.

In truth, we never do.

Not until it is too late.

She woke in a handsome maple bed, body covered by a snow-white counterpane.

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

This cover shows a photograph of four military women in bomber jackets and slacks carrying small backpacks and striding toward the camera.

In 1943, Mass Transportation magazine published an article entitled “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees.” It provided “insights” into the psyche of the working woman of the day…

From the Introduction to:The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: The Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II by Major General Mari K. Eder U.S. Army, Retired

The Lawbreaking Ladies cover is a black background with swirling lines in a goldish tone and in each corner illustrations of formidable looking ladies.

Sayyida al-Hurra was so revered that no one knows her real name. The name by which she is referred to is actually more of a title: al-Hurra means “free woman” and was often given to a woman in power, which she was.

Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Tales of Daring, Defiant, and Dangerous Women from History by Erika Owen


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Lines posts. Please take a moment to share in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it? Or recommend your favorite book about women from history.

Story Time Reviews: “Solemnity – Firing Blanks”

Story Time Reviews is a blog series that reviews stories both read and read aloud. Today’s post introduces you to “Solemnity – Firing Blanks” by Richard Noel. It’s a space opera short story, 22:44 minutes long, performed by Chris Herron on Tall Tale TV. 

Image is of the interior of a space ship looking down a track toward a cargo door. To the upper left of the door are two red lights and along the left side of the image are three half-round objects on a raised platform that one guess might be engine parts.

The Story

In a future space ship, in another galaxy, a crew works to keep their ship flying toward a interplanetary war. The ship carries machines that can make a huge difference in the war’s outcome. The point of view of this story comes from a crewman on this ship. While he has no strong opinion, his shipmates are disdainful and not at all compassion for these weapons. Genetically engineered machines, they are biological machines, warriors. 

The brief story’s themes touch on prejudice, discrimination, and the nature of programming machines versus what makes us human.

By the submission specifications of Tall Tale TV, this story is no more than 6,000 words long. Such a short story can’t devote many words to characterization and I found most of the characters to be flat. The narrator of the story has more dimension. 

The climax of the story is gruesome and heroic and offers food for thought on the serious social issues it touches upon. 

By the denouement, the narrator feels more natural and relatable. It is a bit too on-the-nose for me. Long before the story ended, I saw the line coming. 

The Author

I could not find a website, web bio, or other social media presence for the author. From the brief bio at the end of the performance, Richard Noel is from the United Kingdom. He enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy short stories as a hobby. 

The Voice Talent

Headshot of Christopher Herron, audiobook narrator. His face is partly turned to the left. He's lips are tight and somewhat downturned and one eyebrow is lowered and his eye squints. The total expression is somewhat skeptical.
Christopher Herron

Born in Arizona in 1983, Christopher Herron dabbled in writing and loved to read prior to becoming legally blind because of complications from type 1 diabetes. The sudden rupture of a blood vessel in his eye caused him to lose vision, to lose the ability to read, to escape into fiction. This loss caused him a lot of distress and depression. His wise wife took him to the library and helped him check out audiobooks and his new passion was born. 

Fortunately, he learned and changed his life. His vision stabilized, and after about nine months, he could read again. But his new passion had taken hold. He shifted his focus from writing to learning new skills and becoming an audiobook narrator.

Now he runs a YouTube channel and podcast, with a presence on various social media, called Tall Tale TV. He narrates short stories written by indie writers on his channel. Read his about me on his website. It is delightful and inspiring. Seriously, read it.

Image is the logo for tall tale tv website and shows a grainy, scratched metal tv box with red dials, a slide bar on the bottom and in the dark screen the words Tall Tale TV. The initials TV are inside a white drawing of an 50s style tv with antenna. White lettering spells the words Monday • Fridays in a black band across the bottom

The quality of the production is very good. Herron has a pleasant and expressive voice. His range is not large, at least in this story. There is some, but not a lot of tonal variation between most characters. That may be specific to this story, since the story has a narrator. Herron’s mechanical voice is recognizably different and appropriate. Overall, the lack of distinct tonal variations did not detract from my enjoying this story. 

My Opinion

The story kept my attention. In my humble opinion, keeping the audience’s attention is essential for a successful short story. Still, this is a flawed story.

Its brevity allows the author to do more telling that I customarily would like. The author’s style of writing often uses weak word choices that suggest simultaneity. And there are word choices that skate perilously close to cliché. Another flaw is that the story offers nothing new in the space opera realm. Finally, as mentioned above, the characters have little to no dimension. However, these flaws do not make the story unenjoyable because of two things: its brevity and its most successful scene. 

The most successful part of this story is the climax scene. The description is gruesome and compelling and horrifying. Because of the well-written climax, I downgraded the importance of flaws I listed above. 

Listen to the story yourself to see if you agree with my assessment.


If a story entertains, it has performed its primary function. This story kept my attention during multiple replays as I dissected it for this post. Therefore, I call it a successful story. And that’s enough for this lover of science fiction. 

Do you agree that if a story entertains, it is a successful story?

Image Credits:

Top: Image by Parker_West from Pixabay 

Second Image: Logo image for Tall Tale TV courtesy of the Tall Tale TV website.

Third Image: Headshot of Christopher Herron, an uncredited photo from  the Tall Tale TV website about me section 

First Lines for Black History Month

To celebrate black history month, I am sharing first lines from fantasy and science fiction stories by black authors from the 1800s to the 2020s.

First Line Friday

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?


the cover of Blake: or, The Huts of America by Martin R Delany shows a black man on the wooden deck of a ship dressed in a loin cloth with a broken chain dangling from his foot. He has a stick in his hands swung over head like a baseball bat.

On one of those exciting occasions, during a contest for the presidency of the United States, a number of gentlemen met in the city of Baltimore.”

Blake: or, The Huts of America
by Martin R. Delany © 1859 


He stood a moment on the steps of the bank, watching the human river that swirled down Broadway.”

The Comet by W.E.B. Du Bois © 1920 


At the same time as I entered into the bush I could not stop in one place as the noises of the guns were driving me farther and farther until I travelled about sixteen miles away from the road on which my brother left me.”

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
by Amos Tutuola © 1954 



The waves flung up against the purple glow of double sleeplessness. Along the piers the ships return; but sailing I would go through double rings of fire, double fears.”

 The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany ©1962


The cover of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison is a solid blue with Yellow script spelling out the title on a slant.

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior at three o’clock.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison ©1977


I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler ©1979 


One long time ago, Pretty Pearl yearned to come down from on high.

The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl
by Virginia Hamilton ©1986 

Willow Springs. Everybody knows but nobody talks about the legend of Sapphire Wade.

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor ©1988 


As soon as he entered the room, Baines blurted out, “We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast.” 

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nail Hopkinson ©1998 


In the verdant grasslands a brisk hour’s run from the coast, close enough for to spice the air with the ocean foam, thirteen solemn men sat circle, speaking of death.”

Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes ©2003

A mudslide on Walnut Lane last Saturday, brought about by heavy rains, has left eight families without homes as a “river of mud” swept whole houses from their foundations and smashed them to bits at midnight.”

The Good House by Tananarive Due ©2003 


My life fell apart when I was sixteen. Papa died.”

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor ©2010

I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart.”

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms 
by N.K. Jemisin ©2010 


The cover of the lesson has a black background. Behind the title which has red letters, there is a teal colored shell with multiple curvy lines coming out from it and twining over and through the letters of the title and the author's name.

Fifteen days before

After school, Patrice and Derrick rushed to beat mid-afternoon traffic.”

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull ©2020

My name doesn’t matter. All you  need to know is that I’m a phantom, a figment, a man who was mistaken for wait-staff twice that night—odd, given my outfit.”

We Cast a Shadow 
By Maurice Carlos Ruffin 2020


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Many thanks to Nisi Shawl, author and teacher, for posting her research into the history of science fiction written by people of color where I found many of these titles. I could not find the first lines of some books on her list and couldn’t list them here. Read her history and commentary about her complete list of books on her site

Do You Want to Read More?

If you enjoyed this, you might like previous First Line Friday posts.

Please take a moment to share in the comments below. Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it? If you’ve already read it, did you like it?

Exploring Mars Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow 

public domain image of Mars from space, Going to Mars book reviews,

I posted a series of book reviews titled, Going to Mars Word-by-Word, in September 2012. It was a fun exploration of the portrayal of Mars in classic to modern science fiction. In real life, we’ve been exploring Mars in new and better ways since then.

The number of launches to Mars is too long, international and complex for a single post by a space enthusiast with limited aerospace knowledge. We’ll focus on a few of the NASA missions. 


Mars Odyssey launched on April 7, 2001 and arrived on October 24, 2001. It is an orbiting spacecraft that studies Mars’ surface. Its mission is to detect water, shallow buried ice, and to study the radiation environment. 

It is still operational.

Spirit and Opportunity

Spirit was a Mars Exploration Rover launched by NASA on June 10, 2003. Its twin, Opportunity, launched on July 7, 2003. About the size of a golf cart, they carried the same scientific instruments. They landed on opposite sides of the planet on January 4 and 25 (UTC), 2004. 

They searched for and characterized a wide range of rocks and soil for clues about past water activity on Mars. Scientists planned for the rovers to drive up to 40 meters (approx. 44 yards) a day for up to 1 kilometer (about three quarters of a mile). 

These mechanical geologists exceeded their creators’s wildest dreams. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity worked for almost fifteen years. Scientists lost communication with it on June 10, 2018, during a planet-wide dust storm. It drove 45.16 kilometers (28.05 miles). The findings of the two rovers showed scientists that a very long time ago, Mars had salty seas and may have looked a lot like water on Earth.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) blasted off in 2005. On March 10, 2006, the orbiter reached Mars. Its scientific instruments studied the planet’s surface from orbit. The mission was to seek the history of water on Mars with extreme close-up photography. 

The MRO’s last communication came on December 31, 2010. 

Mars Phoenix

The Phoenix Mars Lander launched on August 4, 2007 (UTC) and landed on May 25, 2008. It studied the Martian arctic, searched for evidence of a habitable zone, and assessed the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.  

On July 31, 2008, NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander discovered water ice on Mars. The sample contained the same elements as water on earth. Elements we believe are important components of the building blocks for life. 

The Lander also observed snow falling from the clouds and found salts and minerals that suggest Mars ice had thawed in the distant past. The lander also exceeded its life expectancy. After five months, instead of 90 days, its mission ended November 2, 2008. NASA lost contact with the lander completely in 2010.


Artist's rendition of Curiosity Rover exploring Mars shows a collection of metal boxes on a platform with four wide all terrain wheels and a camera on a stalk above the over and a robotic arm extended to rock in front of the rover.

Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, is twice as long and three times as heavy as the twins, Spirit and Opportunity. Launched on November 26, 2011, it landed on Mars on August 6, 2012 using precision landing techniques similar to the way the Space shuttle landings on Earth. Its landing inspired me to launch my blog series, Going to Mars Word-by-word.

This rover’s mission was to study martian rocks and soil in greater detail to understand the geologic processes that formed them and to study the atmosphere. Its design and power supply gave it an expected lifetime of a full martian year (687 Earth days.)

As of June 2022, Curiosity is still active.

Exploring Mars Today

According to NASA, there are five missions exploring Mars at present: Perseverance, MAVEN, Ingenuity, InSight, and Curiosity.

Other countries and space agencies have current missions on Mars as well. Some of these Mars missions are multiple nations and space agencies’s cooperative efforts.

For an international list of missions to Mars, see’s post or its brief history of Mars missions.

Going to Mars Word-by-Word

Illustration of a spaceship approaching the red planet, Mars, by Robert W. Burrows © 2013 for the post Exploring Mars on author Lynette M. Burrows' website

There are eight book reviews in this series. The first one reviews A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the last one is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Wouldn’t itl be fun to explore the series to see if new information gained from exploring Mars changes my review?

What new information have you learned about Mars in the past ten years?

Image Credits

Middle image Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last image by Robert W. Burrows © 2013.

First Lines by Nebula Nominees

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These first lines by Nebula nominees represent the books and authors who are up for the 57th Annual Nebula Award® for best novel. The awards ceremony will be held later this month. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

The first book cover representing the first  lines by Nebula nominees is the Cover of the Unbroken with is in tones of brown, a person with a sword in its scabbard stands in an archway arms stretched out, each braced on pillar with some tall dark non-organic form behind them.

A sandstorm brewed dark and menacing against the Qazali horizon as Lieutenant Touraine and the rest of the Balladairian Colonial Brigade sailed into El-Wast, capital city of Qazali, foremost of Balladaire’s southern colonies.

The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost Book 1) by Cherae Clark

Second book cover representing the first lines by nebula nominees is A Master of Djinn with steampunk gears overhead beyond which is blue sky. Below is a lone figure walking up an opulent and middle eastern looking staircase.

Archibald James Portendorf disliked stairs. With their ludicrous lengths, ever leading up, as if in some jest.”

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark 

Third book cover for first lines by nebula nominees is the cover for Machinehood. with a bluish silver background with gears and lines as if it's a computer chip, in the fore ground is a white hairless humanoid robot with a feminine waist.

Welga stared a coffee the color of mud and contemplated the irony of the word smart.”

Machinehood by S.B. Divya 

The cover of A desolation called peace shows a massive triangular window with a diamond shaped framework and a lone man stading in the center looking out at a planet surrounded by a man-made space station-like structure

To think—not language. To not think language. To think we, and not have a  tongue-sound or cry for its crystalline depths.

A Desolation called Peace by Arkady Martine

The world fell flat. The world fell exhausted. The world fell to rainbow-colored static, which rang through Derena’s mind as she ran from her death.

Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

If you liked those first lines, I hope you’ll love this one:

Miranda Clarke guided her yacht, Lady Angelfish, alias Serenity, down the Illinois River, desperate to deliver the package on time.

If I Should Die by Lynette M. Burrows 

Pre-order now at your favorite online book seller.


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

Check out a previous First Line Fridays featuring science fiction books.

What do you think of these first lines by Nebula nominees? You’ll put an enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below—

Have you read any of these books? Which first lines spoke to you? Which ones are now on your TBR list?