Sunday, August 31, 2008

Comedy and Crime

The only session I attended at the Writers' Festival this year (apart from schools sessions with children's and YA writers) was listed as a spotlight on Mark Billingham. I've enjoyed his crime novels, featuring Tom Thorne as the main character, although I was a bit disappointed in the latest, In the Dark. It's a stand-alone, and uses several viewpoint characters. About halfway through, it starts to zero in on two main characters, but for a while it seemed a bit aimless and all over the place. Still, I imagine any series character needs a rest now and then.

The session actually turned out to be on comedy and crime (was this the MC's idea, perhaps?) and also featured Michael Robotham, and Billingham's UK editor who looked a bit nonplussed at being on the stage. Billingham has been a standup comedian for a few years, and was obviously used to performing. Part of his talk consisted of reading out emails he has received from various odd people over the years (odd being an understatement), and was very funny. However, MR didn't let the topic faze him at all, and proceeded to tell stories about his days as a journalist.

Both of them did a great job of talking about comedy vs crime, horror vs humour, and why a funny line in the midst of tragedy works so well. And there was nothing academic about it at all. It was an entertaining hour of storytelling. There certainly is a knack to pleasing the crowd, I think - mostly they are readers, and if they've read your books, they're not going to be interested in a re-hash of the plots, or a publicity plug (which I have seen many writers do over the years, to audience disappointment). If you have given many such talks, like Emily Rodda has, it must be hard to find new topics. You end up hoping the audience is new and won't have heard your anecdotes before.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Melbourne Writers' Festival 08

Last year I went a bit berserk. I went to twelve sessions. A wide range from poetry to crime to short fiction - all sorts. This year? I searched through the program, found maybe five things I was interested in and booked ... one. The program seemed laden with worthy sessions on issues and politics and topics I felt I should be keen on, but couldn't really be bothered. It all felt a bit academic and D&M. On any day there were two things of interest, they were at opposite ends of the day. Even I can't waste five hours drinking coffee and wandering through the bookshop, trying to keep my credit card in my pocket. So instead I had a look at the schools program for the festival, a challenge in itself since it's all on the website and is like trying to grapple with a many-headed monster.

I booked four school sessions, and attended three today (luckily you don't have to be a student or a teacher - anyone can go). There was I, and some teachers and a few hundred school kids from Grade 6 through to ... bigger teens, maybe Year 10 or so. Session 1: I've never read anything by Joseph Delaney (and neither had 99% of the audience, funnily enough) but I'd heard of his series which begins with The Spook's Apprentice. As soon as JD sussed out that hardly any of us had read his books, he quickly gave us a tidy summary of the characters and plot that sounded pretty good, and then talked a lot about background, characters, dialogue, research, all in a lovely Lancashire accent (he mentioned lads a lot, which made me laugh).

He was a teacher for many years before selling his first novel and eventually turning to writing full-time, and it showed. He talked fast, but had lots of interesting anecdotes and examples, and kept everyone focused. He had multiple rejections for adult novels before turning to fantasy for kids, and has found his niche, if you can call having books published in 20 countries a niche.

The second session was Melina Marchetta and Rachel Cohn, talking about characters, but for me, this session never really gelled. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because they talked about characters in that vague way that writers sometimes do (the characters talked to me and told me what to write) and the audience seemed a bit sceptical about it all. The joint reading was very, very fast, hard to follow at times, and the woman up the top giving the wind-up signal didn't help. A teacher standing next to me in the coffee queue had been to another session where a writer dropped the F word, which apparently didn't go down very well.

The third session was Emily Rodda, and many of the kids in the audience were Grade 6 or Year 7, and were clearly big fans. Emily got applause just for walking onto the stage! She talked about ideas, and the questions she often gets asked. She said many kids ask her where she gets her ideas from, but only one has ever asked how she makes her stories so believable. She said it's because she herself totally believes in the worlds and the characters she creates, and it just naturally comes through in the storytelling. Question time showed dozens of hands raised, with only a few able to be answered - a very popular session.

Afterwards, I thought more about that concept of believing in the world you have created, and I think she is absolutely right. The two novels I have really struggled with have both been ones that I have felt I never entered into entirely, heart and soul. Yet with others, like the Tracey Binns stories, I can see that school, those kids and teachers, as if they are real, and it feels so easy to dive into that world and write from within it. There are stories and novels I have written where I have felt that same experience, and even though some have been rejected and may never get published, I doubt I will ever give up on them. They have been "real" writing experiences, and I have to hope that one day I'll find an editor who will engage with that story world in the same way.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lu Rees Archives in Canberra

One of the interesting places in Canberra for children's writers (and students and readers too) is the Lu Rees Archives, which are in the University of Canberra Library building. Among other things, the Archives holds drafts of manuscripts and illustrations, as well as books of historical interest.
These are all books by Ethel Turner, who wrote, among other books, Seven Little Australians. It's now considered an Australian children's classic.
And this is Margaret Wild, who donated many of her papers to the Archives last week. Here, she is standing in front of a display of her picture book, Fox, illustrated by Ron Brooks. It's one of my favourite books, and has won many awards.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Canberra at Minus 4 Degrees

Frosty football field!
Three days in Canberra whizzed by. I did ten sessions, covering six different schools (at one school I did three writing workshops in one day) and had a great time. Everything is amazingly well-organised, with volunteers to ferry the writers and illustrators around (unless you are foolish enough to venture out on your own - Canberra is pretty spread out, and it's easy to misjudge travel times). The kids were all great, and I had a range from Grade 2 up to Grade 6.

On Tuesday evening we all went to the Lu Rees Archives for a donation event. Margaret Wild handed over a lot of her papers - drafts, manuscripts, etc - and also someone who had bought an illustration from Lucy Goosey by Ann James then donated it to the Archives. We were given a tour of the Archives, which are in the University of Canberra Library, and it struck me how much they are managing to cram into what seems like a very small space. It'd be great if the uni could find another 2oo square metres or so for them!

After an exciting Friday last week (the CBCA Awards where I didn't have to make a speech, thank goodness - I was focusing on not tripping over when I went up for my Honour certificate), I spent the weekend with my family who had flown in for the occasion. Then off to Canberra. Trying to be healthy and remove some of the sludge in my system, I went for early morning walks each day (hi, Craig!). The first morning there was a frost, the second morning there was an even bigger frost. Unfortunately, my photos don't do the icy ground justice. My fingers may have been freezing but I did enjoy the VERY crisp air.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Awards are Announced!

On Friday the CBCA Awards for 2008 were announced, and I'm now allowed to tell everyone that my book (above) won an Honour Book award in the Younger Readers category.
Full awards list here.
Only the winners had to make a speech, but Aaron Blabey brought the house down when he showed us his first draft of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley - written on a long strip of toilet paper because that was the only paper he could find when the full idea hit him (first notes were on the back of his boarding pass for his plane trip)!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fear of Success

A few years ago, I had a great day in San Antonio with two writer friends, talking books and writing, and how do you cram writing into a jam-packed day - all that stuff that writers share and complain about, when they're not eating cakes to celebrate each other's successes (well, it was San Antonio so we ate burritos instead). One of the things we looked at was an exercise in a writing book about what do you anticipate and fear most about achieving your writing dreams. In other words, when you have plenty of books published and are (maybe) making a living from your writing, what will you be happy about and what do you think the down sides are going to be.

It was very interesting, not least because each of us had entirely different ideas on the subject. The exercise, by the way, is in Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers. He calls it Pig Will and Pig Won't, and as you can guess, I have just found all my notes from that day, which got me thinking. We talked about what it might be like to be J.K. Rowling, who now can't go to the supermarket in peace. But she is the exception. However, as a successful writer, there are other things to fear. Like being signed up for a two or three book contract and not being able to deliver. Or writing a second novel after a very successful first, and it gets terrible reviews and your publisher hates you.

I often hear people say, "Oh, when you get published, all your problems are over." No, you just get a different set of problems! But one thing that no one talks about much is the fear of getting published. As long as you are writing only for you, you can do whatever you like. You can walk around all day in your PJs or trackie pants, you can ignore your personal grooming, you can let your fear of public speaking rule the roost and never have to confront it. You can choose to write, or not to write. Nobody is waiting for your book. Nobody cares except you.

But once you send it out, and it gets accepted, the rules change. You need to be presentable, you need to grit your teeth and work with an editor, you need to do publicity stuff - and these days, you can't kid yourself you can get away with being a recluse or a grunge eccentric. It's in your contract that you do publicity and they expect you to do it well. So there's a lot of pay-off in just writing and rewriting your book, year after year, believing that one day it will be ready. One day you'll be ready. Just not yet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Branding or Blanding?

A few years ago, series for kids started to get "hot". We'd had the Babysitters' Club and Saddle Club for a long while, and my daughter had other series on her bookshelves (usually the theme was either animals or diaries/penpals). But then series started to become the thing. We moved from books to collectibles, with the idea that a kid who had two or three would want the whole lot, or as many as Mum or Dad would buy them. Kind of like bubblegum cards, but it was books.

Some of the early series writers, like R.L. Stine and Ann Martin, had to give way to books that had no "name" author. It was the brand that counted. Or the concept. After years of telling us that fairies were old-hat, suddenly fairies and pixies and elves were spilling off the shelves in all kinds of colours and glittery bits. The current bling series is Go Girls, but if you move up a notch, age-wise, you'll get Gossip Girls and the like.

One of my favourite series is Junie B. Jones, bad (intentionally) grammar and all. The Magic Tree House is immensely popular with kids, and I can see why. It's history and magic all tied together, for 6-8 year olds. I've read quite a few series books over the past few years, more out of curiosity than anything else. As a writer, you can't help but wonder: a) what the attraction is for kids, b) what the quality of writing is like, and c) could I come up with something like this?

I did try. I came up with what I thought was a good concept, some interesting characters, and the first book - all great stuff to show an editor, who was interested at the time. Her eventual response? Bland. I'd played it way too safe, trying to either emulate what was already out there or stick too close to what had already been done. That's the thing about publishing - the good editors are looking for the next new/different thing, and the editors who just want more of the same aren't who you want to work with, mostly.

So what is a series? Mostly - it's about branding, I think. It's why you get series with a bunch of different author names on it and no one cares. Penguin have several chapter book series and none of the authors get their "name" from being published in them. The kids recognise the distinctive die-cut covers first, then they say, "Oh, you wrote that!" R.L. Stine is a very distinctive name in series fiction for kids, but any kid will immediately equate his name with horror - scary stuff. If he ever tried to write, say, nice horse books, his readers would be greatly disappointed. They're ready for blood and guts (but not actual death).

We hear a lot about branding these days. I teach it to students - gee, I even have a Powerpoint on it! And I've done a couple of seminars on branding for writers. Has any of that led me to developing my own brand? Nup. Wish it had. But I'm caught in my own loop - I'd like some kind of recognisable "thing" about my books, but I want to be free to write whatever I want. That means everything from picture books for toddlers to edgy YA. I've had both published. It's a bit hard to find a brand for myself that covers both of those areas, let alone chapter books about very small pirates and award-winning verse novels!

I look at children's writers like Morris Gleitzman and Andy Griffiths, both of whom write very recognisable books aimed at (mostly) 10-12 year old boys. That's their thing, and they are doing very well at it. Sonya Hartnett writes very literary novels for readers 16+ and adults. While she has been complaining for years that she doesn't earn enough from them, winning the Astrid Lindgren recently should be enough to make her happy. And the thing is, the one book she did write out of her "zone" was an erotic novel for adults that sparked a lot of publicity, mostly bad.

So branding can be both good and bad. It can garner you a loyal following, sometimes that will spread into million-seller books. I love Ian Rankin's books, and I always enjoy reading about his character, Rebus. Would I read a Rankin book that wasn't about Rebus? If it was crime, probably. If it was romance, probably not. Writers who write the same kind of book, over and over, will grow a fan base. One that could well turn on them if they step out of their chosen field. Or produce a book that the fans don't like. I was interested to read, for example, of the backlash against Stephanie Meyer's latest book in her vampire series.

I think the biggest problem that writers face with branding is not so much being forced to stay in their recognised genre and type of book, but that in finding themselves there, they end up writing stuff that is sub-standard in order to feed the mob. And for new writers, the danger is what I encountered - writing "safe" in order to try and break in. In this time of "hot and new", editors don't want safe - they want innovative and different. That means taking risks and hoping someone loves what you're trying to do (and lying awake, night after night, coming up with ideas and throwing them away because they've been done already).

I have two series now, both accidental. One is the chapter book series about The Littlest Pirate, the other is about a character called Tracey Binns. My biggest challenge is to keep the characters fresh and new for me, before anyone else. Then it's about maintaining the voice, developing the character a little more in each story, and most importantly, trying to make each new book better than the last. It helps when you love your characters - it helps a lot! But as neither of these set out to be series when I wrote the first one, I backtrack a lot to keep it all together and make sure things are consistent. And most of all, I try very hard to stay away from bland.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Great Beginnings at an End

Thanks to Paperback Writer, who set all this up over on her blog, and provided the links so we could all do a dozen or more workshops last week (or, if you're like me, copy and paste the info for reading later - there was a heap of good stuff going on). Millions of thanks too, to the people who read this blog in the past week, and the people who bravely put their beginnings up for comment - and of course those who commented.

It's been a very interesting experience for me. I'm used to standing up in a classroom and going "Blah blah blah" and drawing diagrams on the board and getting instant responses to questions. Having to put my ideas and theories and information here on a daily basis should've been easy (especially since I've written material for a couple of online units) but it was a different kind of format. It got me thinking all over again about beginnings, and looking at a range of examples.

I did promise book prizes, so I put everyone's name in the hat and this is who fell out:
natalie hatch
Can you email me at the kidsbooks addy with your postal address please, so I can mail something to you? (Hope you have kids!)

Next week, things start to heat up around my place - the CBCA Awards are announced on 15 August, I'm off to Canberra for Children's Book Week, and then in September I am going to France (to research, write, take photos, create a book or two, and immerse myself in a different country). Apart from reading the print off my Lonely Planet and DK guides, I'm also having a revision week this week. It's hard to imagine, but I think I have spent eight hours, on and off, on the last three sentences of one story. Maybe next year I'll do a blog workshop on endings ... No, bad idea. Because every ending depends entirely on the beginning, the middle, the set up, the pay off, the theme ...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One Last 200 words

This came a little late, but I thought I'd post it anyway and see if you would like to add comments:
*The Fire Dying*

He fought with all he knew but he didn't know enough.
They claimed immortality and they claimed Longnight -
that the sun would shine for but a few hours each day,
and then they would reign, unchecked.
Cyran believed them. He was the last man standing.
Cyran stood naked before the assembly, the red blood of a lashing and
the black ink of his marking both stark against the pale flesh of his back.
He was too weak to cover himself, too weak to keep his eyes open to the
mages who sat before him on high seats in the shadowed room. Fear gave way
long ago to emptiness.
"Will you join us or not?" Bodris, their leader, sounded bored.
He had killed or ruined every mage who had joined him. "The power
of the dark can be yours. You can train just as you had -
on the magics of the night."
His men were brought in now, chained. They grunted to
conceal the pain of their bondage. Cyran heard a lash fall against
Ladvic and hid his cringe.
"If that is your answer?" Bodris did not let him respond. He
turned to the other mages. "Death for this one as well? And the
"Kill me and spare me your evil," Cyran mumbled, but they heard

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Opening No. 9

For the thousandth time, Isabel wished Jared had sent someone else to 
cover this story. Taking a deep breath, she composed a professional
expression on her face and followed the mother up the stairs.

Isabel paused at the threshold of the girl's room. Sera Campbell's ashen
face and blond hair stood out against the oppressively cheerful pink
bedspread. Pink curtains filtered the afternoon sun, filling the room
with pastel light.

"Sweetie? This is Ms. Jepsen, the reporter I told you about. Remember?"

The girl's eyes were open in a fixed stare.

Isabel perched on the edge of a wicker rocking chair next to the bed.
Turning her tablet to record, she leaned close to the girl. "Sera, can
you hear me?"

The child's slow breathing never changed its cadence. Isabel reached out
with her full senses and felt nothing. She shivered. Even mindblinds had
an echo, but Sera was like a life sized hollow doll. Isabel forced
herself to swallow against a rising tide of nausea.


Opening No. 8

The blacked out windows of the Rockhampton National
Dance Hall might hide the light, but any passing invader
could find it by sound. Cares and inhibitions were thrown
away for just a short time. Some lights could be
seen twinkling as bodies jumped and swung past the
open entrance. People were already milling around
outside trying to cool off. A few couples
were trying very hard to find a more romantic place
in order to spend time together.

Heather knew some of those girls would be
getting themselves into hot water pretty soon, and
once Beatrice Price knew,
then so would whole district. Rockhampton's
small town society ostracized those who didn't
conform to their rules. It helped her
determination to not succumb to
any stupid behaviour.

Jeeps started arriving with loads of sexed-up
American GIs whooping and hollering up the street.
It was sure to upset the locals, who were
sitting down to listen to their favourite radio show.
One thing was for certain, the boys were here
for a good time, if not a long one.

They were a conglomeration of khaki suits with slicked
back hair, big smiles and big plans for the evening.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Opening No. 7

In Living Color

From the moment the handler pulled the gate, Duke knew he was going
to die.
The Brahma bull beneath him rocketed into the arena,
scattering dust and
slinging spit and jarring Duke to the bone every
time it flung its one-ton
body into the air and landed stiff-legged
in the dirt again. All he could do
was hang on for dear life and
hope the folks in the emergency room wouldn't

do anything heroic.

All in all, he had to admit this time around hadn't been so bad.
Not at all
like the last trip, which ended more ignominiously
than most. The previous
jaunt would have been humorous
if it hadn't been so, well, bizarre. Who knew

pianos really could fall from twelfth-story windows and crush
bystanders while the world watched in horrified
amazement? The experience
still registered like something
out of a Saturday-morning cartoon. "There I

was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I looked
up and a piano
was headed straight for me." Who would
believe a story like that? Duke
wasn't sure he believed it
himself, even though he had seen it with his own

eyes - up close and in living color.

Opening No. 6

I realise some of these are spreading across the page - it's hard to judge where the lines should end as I copy and paste. On to the next!
"Bump in the Night" by B.L.Borowetz

Sometimes life hands you lemon slices, and I guess the
smart thing to do would be make Gin Tonics . But when
your cosmic surprise turns out to be a slug clinging to your
clothing, the best thing to do is go back to bed and
stay there.

I so need to listen to my own advice.

I'd been up all night, out in the city fulfilling my destiny, saving
mankind. It's a great gig most days, but plays hell on the
wardrobe. First thing I noticed when I woke was the clothing
on the floor, where I'd stripped down as the sun had been
coming up. My favorite pair of leather pants were totally
shredded, and the suede designer jacket hadn't fared much

Now I can handle monsters of the dark making a grab for
me with their numerous stinging tentacles, or poisonous
venom spewed my way is all in a day's work. If some bitch
from the demon realm wants to go all chick-fit in
a fight and starts pulling hair, I can deal. But the loss of
favorite pants and jacket on the same night, due to some
crack-head knife-wielding psycho that I'd inadvertently
bumped into while getting a soda at the corner 7-11
really pissed me off.

Opening No. 5

My legs stretched as far as they could, carrying me across the forest path.
Rocks and roots pressed against my bare feet - my slippers had shredded
and fallen off long ago - but I did not care. I just had to run. I even could
not quite remember what I was running from. All I remembered was sharp,
shiny weapons of destruction.
They had destroyed the life that I had peacefully led for the past few years.
They were likely to destroy any peace that I had in this life. The only way
that I would be able to have any peace would be in death. Even there,
I doubted that they would not continue to hound me. The High King's
Myrmidon were persistent, to say the least.
The fatigue was starting to soak into my muscles. It clouded my mind;
my defences fell away and my pain immunity faded. I slowed, jogging
along the path, and then completely stopped. I bent over double as dizziness
assaulted me. My stomach heaved, but there was nothing left to throw up.
I smacked my lips, wishing for water to clear the bitter taste from my mouth. I
wiped my hand along my mouth, wincing as all the scratches protested.


Opening No. 4

I shake my head in disbelief it's him. Ethan, right in front of me, walking towards the
water. I would know his walk and frame anywhere, even after thirty years. I fight the urge
to run up to him and say, "I can't believe you're here! I never stopped loving
you! Why aren't you dead? And why are you in New Hampshire?"

"Whoa, hold on. Don't you think you should look at his face?" The small voice
in my head speaks, overpowering the throbbing sounds that rise through my throat and into my
ears. I turn and see Jennifer; she's getting ready to leave.

I feel like shouting, "Jennifer the love of my life came back from the dead, and
he's here, on the beach. We can't leave." I fear she'll think I'm nuts.
We haven't known each other long and Jen is not used to my idiosyncrasies.

"Jennifer, you getting ready to go?" Nothing like asking the obvious.

"I'm a bit tired and I want to be awake driving home. Do you mind?"

"Not if I can take another dip." I really don't feel like swimming, but he is
in the water and I need to see his face.


Opening No. 3

 I think I broke a lot of your rules for dangerous beginnings here.  Prologue. Not the
main character (though he is A main character as villain).

The body lay on the bed in a pool of rose petals. Pure crimson. The color
of love. Of desire. Of death. Rigor mortis had come and gone, leaving her
as easy to manipulate and pose as a doll. He dressed his doll in the satin
nightgown he'd found among Mackensie's things. The shoes she'd kicked off
upon her return from the wedding lay discarded near the doorway. The dress
she'd changed out of and so carefully draped over the footboard was now
artfully pooled in the floor. It had been a last minute addition to the
plan�a stroke of inspiration to dress the body in Mackensie's clothes, to
set the stage as if she were waiting for the lover she'd taken here so many
years ago.

His lips curved in perverse delight. He'd been waiting so long for this
opportunity�for her to come back to the hometown she'd cut and run from
twelve years before. And who would have thought she would deliberately stay
*here* in this cabin, where things had gone so dramatically wrong for her?
What a delightful bonus to begin the game here. Oh, how he wished he could
see the look on her face when she returned to find his carefully constructed

Kathleen Gresham

Opening No. 2

A knock at the door startled Vera's packing. She grabbed some gowns and
dumped them over her travel case.

She opened the door a crack. It was Grey. Even with his mouth twisted into a
tight line of disapproval, the dark strands of his hair falling across his
face made Vera's heart do double back-flips. Vera schooled herself. This was
not the time to indulge her crush.

"Yes?" she said, injecting a note of irritation into her voice.

"What are you up to?" he asked, arching an eyebrow at her. He pushed the
door all the way open and strode into her room.

"Excuse me!" Vera drew herself up to her full height and placed her hands on
her hips.

He ignored her, tugging her travel case from out under the pile of clothes.
"Really Vera. What would your parents say?"

"My parents," Vera repeated, choking a little bit on the words. She blinked
and swallowed. "They would..." She took a deep breath. "They'd want me to
leave; they didn't want me to end up serving that man."

"That man? I assume you mean the king?" He frowned at her. "And just where
are you planning on going?"

Opening No. 1

Life is sorrow. Lynn Hana Alexander balanced on one leg, eyes closed, and pretended
to be a tree. Her grandmother always said a calm mind could conquer anything. She focused on
the white noise of Houston traffic seeping into her apartment and imagined her outstretched
arms as strong branches reaching toward light. All her sorrows and worries dropped one by
one like dead leaves, spun and fluttered as the wind of her will tossed them far, far away.

The shrill ring of the phone startled her into planting both feet on the meditation mat. Her
aching arms sagged to her sides. Who on earth would be calling her at seven a.m. on a
Sunday? She should have turned the phone off.

Lynn inhaled deeply, and exhaled listening to the second ring. Probably her mom calling to
discuss table centerpieces or some other wedding related matter. She groaned. The last
person she wanted to talk to and the last topic on earth she wanted to discuss.

A third ring. Mommy dearest could leave a message. She closed her eyes and focused on the
First Noble Truth: Life is sorrow.

Fourth ring. Hope leapt in her heart and her eyes flew open. Maybe Rob had come
to his senses.


Great Beginnings - Day Five

Here we are - it's time to look at your 200 words. I'm going to concentrate on posting them first - individually - and then I will come back and put my comments in.

What would be great is if you all comment too, and here are the key things I think you should look for:
* As the reader, do you understand what is going on? Who is in the story? Where and when it's taking place? In other words, are you "situated"?
* Do you think the tone is clear? Do you know what kind of book it's going to be?
* Are there plenty of hooks and story questions? Do you want to keep reading?
* If there is anything that didn't work for you, please tell us why (this is your job as a writer, as well as a reader - to understand why something didn't work for you).

Remember, too, that we all like different kinds of stories, so don't let your dislike of a certain genre stop you from considering these openings in terms of craft and key elements.
And I will try not to be too snarky!!