Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Survival of Civility

BIRTH OF A BOOK - the continuing saga

This week saw my proposed Regency Warrior 6 become The Notorious Countess.  (I can never get very far into a book without giving it a title.) I also named the villain (which required a brush-up on Russian patronymics), began my typed "Character List," and scribbled notes on other possible secondary characters. All this, while beginning a second "from the top" edit of The Ghosts of Rushton Court.

~ * ~

Two Christmas stories that are 
also lessons in civility.


This week's blog topic was not solely inspired by the passing of George H W Bush, although the remarks by commentators who alleged that the deaths of Bush and McCain marked the passing of a Kinder, Gentler Age really annoyed me. Even before Bush's death, I had planned to write once again about Civility and the examples of it I had seen recently in my life. And of my hope that although Civility has taken some dreadful blows in recent times, it still lives and will, I hope, eventually make a comeback in the lives of those who have been seduced into the realms of Lies, Rudeness, Hatred, and Disbelief in both Science and the Rule of Law.

While contemplating this week's blog topic, I realized it's quite possible that one of the reasons readers are drawn to the Regency period in England is the wondrous civility of that age. Despite a long war against France and unrest at home, Civility reigned. Later in the nineteenth century, under the long reign of Victoria, manners would become so stultified,so stiff and strict that they were barely rocked by two World Wars or the female revolution of the 1920s (short skirts, short hair). Not, in fact, until the Vietnam War and the advent of the so-called Flower Children did Civility begin to crumble. Why blame Vietnam and the so-very-peaceful Flower Children? Because that's when Hate crept into the American Dream. There were those who hated the war and took out their hate on the brave men who fought as their country asked them to do. And there were those who hated the very existence of "Flower Children," the young people who became society's dropouts and advocated Peace not War. Leaving us with the ugliness of Hate coming at us from both sides. With Civility and Good Manners being shoved farther and farther into the shadows.

Until, oh horrors, we reached the Crisis of 2016, when Hate triumphed, Isolation came back to slap us in the face, and our country did not simply slip from leadership of the world, but plunged with deliberate intent into the abyss of blind misrule. So, other than making sure we go to the polls, what can we do to begin the climb out of the pit of Hatred, Selfishness, and Greed?

Simple: Practice Civility, Kindness, and Generosity. Encourage, by example, others to do the same. Happily, I live in a community which never lost its Civility. Below are some examples of simple positive human interaction I have encountered in the last few weeks.

In the course of ordering Christmas gifts by phone, I had some delightful conversations with perfect strangers on the other end of line. (One woman had such a Tennessee twang I had trouble understanding her at first, but we were buddies by the time I finished my order.) Another, in Kansas, was just as pleasant, if a bit easier to understand. 

The grocery store this week, was almost as crowded as the week before Thanksgiving, yet almost everyone seemed to be smiling. Even the manager who explained to me with wry humor—I was obviously not the first to complain—that the foil on the Swanson Chicken Broth I had NOT used in my turkey stuffing was broken because Swanson had designed a closing where the cap, when twisted, broke the foil below. Huh? Not a good idea, Swanson, because I doubt any cook in the U.S. knew that, and when we found the foil pierced, we wouldn't use it. No way, no how. Thank goodness I had two cans of Swanson broth on my shelf, as it was Thanksgiving Day and the grocery stores were closed! But, please note, my complaint was treated with great Civility, and when I did not want a replacement, the manager insisted on giving me my money back. 

After finishing with the store manager, my grocery shopping was marked by several encounters with other shoppers, strangers all, who smiled, waited patiently while maneuvering through the crowded aisles, made cordial comments on the products we were looking at. There was even one who went into raptures over my rhinestone-studded ballcap. ("I want that hat!") The clerks, always polite at Publix, seemed chattier, more personal, than usual. (The Christmas spirit in play?)

Later in the week, I had occasion to go to Macy's and Penny's at our local shopping mall. I may have been in Longwood for over three years now, but in my mind I still see the layout of the Penny's in East Orlando where I used to live. So when I stepped off the elevator, I took a different turn and found myself lost. When I asked a passing clerk to point me toward the back parking lot, she walked with me until a straight line would take me to the correct exit.

Whether shopping in a grocery store or a department store, I should add that I saw no aggravated mothers or fathers, no crying children, no voices raised in argument. Yes, I'm sure it happens, but the General Rule in our area is Civility—our lives governed by the manners learned at our mother's knee.

And just last night—after I had finished a draft of this blog—I experienced yet another example of Civility. For my oldest granddaughter's concert at Lake Mary High, I had to park half way to football field. It was dark, only the road to walk on, and a zillion cars coming in all at once. Because of the distance and darkness, I was using my cane. I hadn't gone ten feet when a man stepped up, saying, "I'll walk with you." And he did, keeping on the incoming-cars side of me, making sure they saw me, and escorting me all the way into the auditorium lobby. How wonderful to know Good Samaritans still live!

On a more regular basis—during the afternoon rush hour it would be impossible for our residents to make a left turn out of my subdivision unless some driver on the main road took pity on us. Just yesterday, I was sitting there, waiting and waiting, when a car stopped, holding up the traffic behind him, and signaled for me to go in front of him. And—ah-hah!—I just looked out the window and saw that my neighbor had brought up my empty yard-waste container from the street where I left it for pick-up. 

The ladies in my Crochet Club bring in leftover yarn from their "stash" so others may use it. We help others learn to knit and crochet. The people in my church practice what is preached, not only being kind to each other but by bringing in donations of food for the needy on a year-round basis and veritable mountains of gifts and food for special requests.

When I attend special performances by the young people in our area, whether at church or at school, I see an outpouring of student effort and parental devotion that assures me family values are alive and well. (Which happened again at this week's Lake Mary High concert, which featured not only Jazz Band, Band, Chamber Choir, Wind & Brass Ensembles, but Theater Improv, an impressive display of three different kinds of rhythmic dancing (the Rockettes have nothing on these kids!), and chalk art on the sidewalk outside.)

Friday addition: I came out of Target, after barely getting a 6-qt. boxed Crock Pot (a gift) into my cart and wondering how I was going to get it out of the cart into my car when . . . a young woman spoke up from behind me asking, "Do you need help with that large package?" and promptly off-loaded the heavy boxed Crock Pot and the rest of my purchases into the trunk of my car. She also cautioned me to be sure I took my purse out of cart - which reminded me of a Christmas story from seven or eight years ago in East Orlando, when I DID leave my purse in the shopping cart after a trip to Jo-Ann's Fabrics. I had taken my keys out to offload my purchases, then got in the car and drove home, leaving my purse behind. When I got home & discovered what I'd done, I rushed back to Jo-Ann's and said, "I know this is probably futile, but did anyone turn in a purse?" And sure enough, it was tucked into Jo-Ann's safe and only needed retrieving. Talk about the Christmas spirit!

But I hasten to say that although my life is now centered around Longwood, Lake Mary, and Altamonte Springs, the Jo-Ann's story illustrates that this area is not a sole oasis of Civility. (Also, remember the ladies on the other end of my phone orders.) Basically, the people of the United States are a good people; this is a good country. If we stand up and fight hate-mongering, it will be even better. Not just at the polls but on a day-to-day basis. Slow down, take a deep breath, see the people around you:  those willing to help others, those needing help. All the people whose day will be brightened by a smile, a compliment, or just by seeing a pleasant, instead of scowling, face. (And don't forget Civility is not one-sided. The privileged and wealthy need smiles in their lives almost as much as the poor and needy. Think Scrooge!)

So go out and spread Civility—not just at the holidays but throughout the year. If we make this effort, surely the tide of positive interaction will spread. We will take our country back from the brink of Hate, Fear, Incivility, Ignorance, and It's mine!—you can't have it!

This is your chance to save the world. Begin today!

~ * ~
For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Birth of a Book

Contest Preview

I was planning to debut The Ghosts of Rushton Court before the end of the year, but somehow the holiday season doesn't seem the right time for a ghost story (Dickens excepted). But today I'm offering a peek at the contest I intend to run when Ghosts goes live. I have composed a list of questions about the book, which I will post here. The winner will have the choice of one of two handmade bargello purses. The second purse will go to the runner-up. Both purses are large enough to accommodate most cell phones. And yes, I designed and made each purse myself. Here's a peek at one of them. 


As I enter final edits for a book, I can never keep my mind from leaping forward to the next. And this time was no exception, even though the edits for The Ghosts of Rushton Court were more challenging than usual. (The witches in The Blackthorne Curse are as close as I've ever come to the supernatural.) So it seemed a good time to make some notes recording how the "new book" process works—at least for me. And also, the topic blends well with last week's comments about writing books "out of the mist."

What comes first?
Keeping in mind that every author must find his/her own path, here is how it happened for my next, as yet untitled, book.

1. Genre. Since my Regencies are my best sellers, and The Ghosts of Rushton Court is my seventh Regency Gothic, I decided my next book should be a Regency Historical; more specifically, Book 6 in my Regency Warrior series.

2.  Primary Characters. For me, characters are always the most important item in crafting a book. So the big question was: create new characters or go with the two people I set up for their own book in The Lady Takes a Risk? Not that I could remember their names, so I had to find my Character List for Lady and frown over it a while. Did I want to take on the challenge of a disabled hero? But, oh wow, I loved the name I had given the Russian countess. That grabbed me, sucked me in. Yes, it would be fun, as well as a challenge, to contrive a match between two such disparate characters.

3.  Secondary Characters.  No problem, I had a whole slew of those from previous Regency Warrior books, including Terence O'Rourke who was neglected in The Lady Takes a Risk and Jack Harding, both of whom were still unmarried in 1817. Ah ha! Now that offers some possible interesting twists on the Plot.

Except of course, I had no  Plot. Hmm . . .

4. Plot.  Well, let's face it, I'm an "out of the mist" author. All I know about this plot is that it's going to be darker than most of my books. My countess is attempting to survive in London by gaming, she is being stalked, and a whole bunch of would-be heroes come to her rescue. Beyond that . . . well, I may not start conjuring anything of substance until after I write the opening scenes. Something will turn up—it always does.

5. Setting. This was decided when I chose to use the Russian countess from The Lady Takes a Risk. At the end of the book, Lady Amelie sponsors the Countess Alexandrova into London society in order to get rid of the woman who had an eye on her husband! So London was a given.

6. Conflict. In addition to the conflicts found in the overall Plot (nonexistent as yet), the primary characters must have both Internal and External conflict. In other words, they must have conflicts that affect them alone. As an example of Internal Conflict, Major Randolph has grave doubts about any woman, let alone a woman of the countess's beauty and sophistication, being attracted to a man with one leg. External conflict refers to outside problems: the countess's stalker, for example. So I had at least a start on the requisite Conflict.

7. Research. I may have been writing Regencies for more than twenty years, but except for a scene here and there, my London-set books have been few and far between. I will have to renew a good deal of my knowledge, from the sights and sounds of the city to the ton's favorite play grounds, including the details of gaming of the period. (All things previously researched in depth but which are now only vague memories. Alas.)

That is all I have at the moment: a genre, the names of the Hero and Heroine and of characters from previous Regency Warrior books. An idea for at least one villain. A setting, and a start on Internal and External conflicts. But over the next few weeks, holiday or not, ideas will begin to gel, and hopefully, come January, the opening scene will roll off my fingertips, and after that, Regency Warrior 6 will be off and running.

~ * ~
Please don't forget my "holiday" books: A Lady Learns to Love and Mistletoe Moment. Both are tales of redemption for people very much in need of a second chance. They can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online vendors.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Writing Out of the Mist - Again

Found on Facebook & so very appropriate, not only for Thanksgiving week
but for every day of every year in our tumultuous age

Cassidy in front, Riley directly behind to the left
Cassidy, a mid-fielder, scored goals in their last two games.
Riley plays defense.

The girls are now faced with umpteen performances by the Citrus Singers for the holiday season. They are not, however, among the five girls for whom I made the capes. Here they are, debuting in the Citrus Singers' Christmas program at the Orlando Museum of Art on Sunday, Nov. 18.

I had to cut five inches off the cape (originally a tree skirt!)
for the wee one on the left.

~ * ~


I plunged into the first "from the top" edit* of my latest Regency Gothic this week, which inspired a  topic I come back to every now and again because I am determined that newbie authors not be intimidated into thinking they must compose ten- to thirty-page synopses or outlines before they write Word One. 

*Grace note: Please recall that this first "from the top" edit is actually a THIRD edit. I edit after every chapter and again after every five chapters.

There is no ONE way to write a book.  

 Alas, there are all too many so-called "experts" who try to tell you differently. Do not listen to them. Yes, you need to have an idea of your overall story. You need to create your major characters, if only in your head. You need to name them. You need to have a good concept of your setting, so you can paint a vivid picture of both characters and setting right up front. And you need to do whatever research is necessary to get plot, characters, and setting off the ground. BUT here is where various approaches to writing differ . . .

Writing style is highly personal. Every author needs to find the approach that works best for him or for her. Some people would feel lost if they did not know what was going to happen, right down to the last detail, before they begin. Some prefer to write separate scenes, tying them together later. Others, like me, want to be free to improvise as we go along. We want to build each scene on the events in the previous scene (which was only a vague idea until we sat down and typed it out). We do NOT want to know what is going to happen two chapters from now, let alone in the final chapters. We often don't even know who the villain is until the book is nearly done. If we plotted it all out to begin with, we'd be bored: Oh, that's what happened? Really? If I know that, why bother writing the book?

The problem is, unfortunately, that many advocates of lengthy, detailed synopses insist that is the only way to write. IT IS NOT!

I have previously cited the example of the speaker at one of our RWA chapter meetings who proclaimed with horror: "If you don't plot, you have to go back and add things!"

Uh . . . that's what I do with every book I write. I consider it a part of editing. All too frequently I leave out descriptions or do not make a point strong enough, or . . . whatever. Adding (in some cases, deleting) is a standard part of editing. Yes, sometimes I write myself into a situation requiring more drastic editing. In Shadowed Paradise, a Romantic Suspense, I created a really scary anonymous villain, but—oops—I realized about three-quarters of the way through the book that the character I had in mind for this role just wasn't "right." So I had to create a new character and insert him into the book. Which I did. And it worked. Shadowed Paradise is still one of my all-time favorite books.

Which brings me to why I've brought up this topic again this week. In The Ghosts of Rushton Court (a real ghost story, by the way, not a euphemism), I carefully laid out a number of possible villains with no idea which one was going to be the actual villain. I was, in fact, down to the final chapters before I made my decision. (I can see the "plotters" rolling in agony as they read this!) And, of course, when I did, I realized I had not done enough set-up for this villain. I needed to insert more details early on, a hint or two here and there. Which I am currently doing as I execute this first "from the top" edit. 

Do I mind? No, indeed. I'm happy to spot the people, ideas, and/or events that need a bit of tweaking. As I wrote the final chapters, I scribbled notes of what needed to be added earlier in the book, and there they were, legal pad notes paper-clipped together for my perusal before I started editing. (And yes, I edit hardcopy as that works for me. I often do some of my best work with pen in hand instead of fingers on the keyboard. However, if you prefer editing onscreen, that's fine. Do whatever gets the best results.)

In some cases, where a whole page or scene was added, I wrote them as separate documents and later found a place to insert them. And yes, I edit the inserts as severely as I edit the original manuscript. You must also be sure to revise the transition into your Insert and the transition out of it, so the chapter works as a whole and your Insert doesn't rear its head up like an intruder at the gates then disappear in a puff of smoke, with no relation to what went before or after.

Below is an example of the first version of an Insert, complete with edits:

Don't bother to attempt to read the above. It's intended to show only how much I edit my originals. And please note that I reminded myself to watch the Transition! And, oh yes, on a second edit, I expanded the above to one and a half pages. (And in a later edit, eliminated the entire addition in favor of a couple of  less "spoiler" paragraphs elsewhere.)

Word of the Day:  Never be afraid to revise, change, add, delete, even make up a new character when you're in the final chapters of your book. Enjoy tinkering, enjoy expanding. Revel in the opportunity to make your work better. Don't settle for the plodding simplicity of a story confined to putting all your carefully planned plot points together like a picture puzzle, when your story could soar out of the lines, out of the frame, exploding into far more than you thought it could—because you followed your characters' personalities and used your imagination to make your book so much more than the vague idea that began it all.

Don't settle for mediocrity when creative editing can make your book great!

~ * ~

If you're looking for Christmas stories that are something more than sweetness and light, take a peek at my novellas, Mistletoe Moment and A Lady Learns to Love


Both books can be found 
on Amazon, Smashwords, 
Barnes & Noble, Kobo,
and other online vendors

~ * ~ 

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Books in Need of Love

On Monday my daughter informed me that she needed Christmas capes for five of the Citrus Singers by Friday. Needless to say, that meant no new blog this week. So I am falling back on a bit of promo for four of my more unusual books. As regular readers know, I do not like to repeat myself over and over (unless I'm pushing editing!) Although I love writing novels set in the Regency era (c. 1795-1820), I have frequently paused to write other genres, including suspense, mystery, sci fi, medieval, pseudo-medieval, and just plain romance. Below are covers and blurbs for four books I'd like to see appear more frequently on my Amazon and Smashwords sales lists!

And please do not forget my two Christmas novellas, Mistletoe Moment and A Lady Learns to Love, as 'Tis the Season . . ." 

My all-time favorite cover

A tale of young love, set against the seething times of the dynamic Henry II and his feisty wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alecyn de Beauclaire, an orphaned heiress, is torn from her home at age nine, becoming the "ward" of an earl and later of King Henry. Her only friend during her long captivity is a penniless squire who cannot even afford a horse and armor. It does not seem possible that they will ever be together. (This story featuring many actual people and incidents, was written for Young Adults, but adult readers should also find it enjoyable.) 

My venture into Steampunk/Alternative History

Recently orphaned Araminta Galsworthy travels to the home of her new guardian, Baron Julian Rochefort, an inventor like her father, only to find herself hastily married, and attacked by evangelicals who consider her husband's airship a work of the devil. Add a rebellion on behalf of a young princess against the Duke of Wellington who has taken over the government, and well, you have Alternative History with a strong dash of Steampunk.

Medieval Times in Florida
Florida Knight is based on my years as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, an international Medieval-reenactment group with a whole slew of active chapters in Florida. And also on my years as "Roving Information" for the annual Medieval Fair at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. In addition, I was aided by advice from the husband of a friend of mine, a Florida State Trooper. And if you think the background in this is over the top, think again. The story may have come from my imagination. The Medieval-reenactment group if spot on.

A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida—the Medieval-reenactment group, the Lords & Ladies of Chivalry. He also finds a Lady Knight, fighting her way out of years of abuse. Michael Turco and Kate Knight both have a great deal to learn before they can solve a crime and lay each other's ghosts and preconceptions.

Based on my long-time love of Cape Cod
My father's first job after Harvard graduate school was Principal of the High School in Wellfleet, MA, on outer Cape Cod (just two town down from the tip of the Cape). I was only four years old, but even after we moved away, we went back every year, and many years later, my parents retired to the Cape. So my love of Cape Cod goes back more years than I care to admit to!

After winning a case she wished she'd lost (the defendant was a rapist), defense attorney Victoria Kent rushes off to her parents' vacation cottage on Cape Cod, only to find herself nose-to-nose with 9mm Glock. It seems the cottage is occupied. By John Paolillo, a homicide detective from New Haven who has been sentenced to two weeks' "rest"after hitting a defense attorney.

They end up not only sharing the cottage but exploring the outer Cape together and managing to fool themselves into thinking people with diametrically opposed views of the law can become a couple. But disaster strikes on the teeming streets of Provincetown, and it’s going to take more than physical attraction to find a way past the basic conflict that has split them apart.

~ * ~

For a link to my Christmas novella, A Lady Learns to Love, on Amazon Kindle, click here.
For a link to Smashwords, including a 20% free read, click here.

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, November 10, 2018

More on What's Next

This gem found on Facebook

For my foreign readers who might find this one a bit of a challenge: The word wanted is "retinal." 
"Rectal" refers to a part of the body—ah—somewhat south.

How anyone learns English, including Americans, is sometimes beyond comprehension.
~ * ~

Part 2

Okay, your manuscript has been polished until it shines, and now you're faced with the challenge of what to do with it. After my first post on What's Next, I was curious to find out how much the world of publishing has changed since I went indie in 2011.  The answer: A LOT. There has been a huge amalgamation among print publishers, so many of the well-known publishing houses are now divisions of the Big Five: Penguin Random House, Hatchette, Austin Macauley, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster. Some of these "biggies," however, have electronic publishing divisions that accept Direct Submission from authors. Below, I am going to attempt to pass along some of what I discovered, but in the end the research and decisions are up to you. Remember your choices: 1) the generally long-term effort to find an agent, who will then submit your manuscript to the publishers he or she thinks best-suited to your work; 2) submitting your work directly to an online publishing company which, if they accept your work, will take care of editing, cover, publishing, and marketing on their website; 3) preparing and uploading your manuscript yourself to Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, or other online VENDORS. Please note these are not "publishers." For #3, YOU are the publisher. You edit, provide a cover, and do the marketing. You also get a hefty share of the sales.

In Part 1 we talked about finding an agent and how to find guidelines for indie publishing. The information below is devoted to #2: how to find electronic publishers to whom you submit your work as you would to a print publisher. These e-publishers who will accept or reject your work, and if accepted, will act in the same capacity as a print publisher, taking over your rights and taking care of all the details. (Although additional marketing on your part will almost always help.)

Here is a link to a recently updated blog by Joan Edwards titled, "50 Publishers who accept Unagented Submissions":  To view, Click here. 

Here is a list of the online publishers I discovered that accept Direct Submission:

For Harlequin/Silhouette (print & e), click here.

For Avon's Impulse, click here. (Harper Collins)

For Kensington's Lyrical Press, click here. 

For Forever Yours, e-division of Grand Central, click here. (Hatchette)  

For Austin Macauley, click here.

Macmillan - see Austin Macauley  

Simon & Schuster appears to have established a division titled Archway, which aids in self-publishing (as in Amazon, Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, etc.) I.e., acting as a VENDOR not a publishing house.

I also found a link called, "How to Self-publish Poetry":  To view, click here. 

Independent Online Publishers:

For Entangled, see their blog. To view, click here.

For Soul Mate Publishing, click here.


Do NOT choose a publisher who asks for money upfront. Yes, if you are indie publishing, you will have to pay for a cover and possibly for editing, but no reputable online publisher should charge you for anything except buying copies of your own book (at cost).

 ~ * ~

That's the best I can do, friends. There are opportunities out there. All forms of publishing require research, work, and patience on your part, whether you are staying traditional, submitting to an online publisher, or going indie. Each has its own set of challenges. But whichever way you go . . .

1. Make sure you are submitting a highly polished manuscript.

2. Research publishers, research agents. Find the ones who publish or handle the genre you write.

3. Submit! I strongly advise every author to enter writing contests and submit to a variety of publishers before going indie. Get feedback if you can. Explore the market. Learn! Never think you got it right the first time!

4. After you've suffered through the learning curve, then - and only then - consider Do-it-yourself. 

~ * ~

For a link to my Christmas novella, A Lady Learns to Love, on Amazon Kindle, click here.
For a link to Smashwords, including a 20% free read, click here.

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,