Grace's Mosaic Moments


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rockets, Tea Party & "Oh my!"



Delta IV launch - taken from Victory, July 28, 2014

Somehow launches never get "old."  No matter that most of us have seen them time and time again and that there were no humans aboard, we still turn out to watch. This time from the advantage of being about ten miles from the launch site, on board the casino ship, Victory, and headed out to "gambling" water, three miles offshore.

Hopefully, the link below will connect you to my son-in-law's video from ignition up into the heavens.

Click here for Delta IV launch from Cape Canaveral

More on our experiences aboard Victory a bit later. 

Our big excitement from the day before was an event I host only every eighteen months to two years - a really fancy children's tea party with "old-fashioned" games, such as Button Button, Hokey-Pokey, In and Out the Window, and Tug of War. The grandgirls made and decorated fancy candies and cupcakes and helped me make elegant cookies in various colors and shapes. My daughter and I also made the traditional tiny tea sandwiches, plus including special requests for deviled eggs and "baby hot dogs"! Each girl received a sandalwood fan with a pink sheet listing "The Language of the Fan." A big hit. As was another tea party tradition - pouring boiling water on a tiny tea ball in a transparent pot and watching it blossom into a "flower" about 4" wide. And this year a number of the girls were adventurous enough to actually try the resultant tea!
































The girls enjoying their fans

~ * ~

Aboard Victory:

Why I have children who enjoy a bit of gambling now and then remains a mystery when neither my husband nor I, nor any member of the family I know of, enjoy it. Nonetheless, on Monday night our party of seven headed off to Port Canaveral (just south of the Kennedy Space Center) to board the casino ship, Victory. Most of our group had gone gambling the previous Monday, and my daughter was chosen as a finalist in their high-prize karaoke contest, so I joined them for a night out on the Atlantic. That it looked like a previously delayed launch was actually going to happen while we were there made the evening out all the more attractive.


And except for an encounter with an idiot my mother would have described as having "no couth," it was a great night. Even if you don't care to gamble - the trip is worth the price. The food is good, the karaoke lounge comfortable, and the open lounge on the top-deck a great place to have a drink, look at the stars, and enjoy the seabreeze. In fact, we got an unexpected bonus when a series of thunderstorms out in the Atlantic provided an incredible light show all the way back to port.

Note: If you book online, you get a voucher that covers your food, two drinks, and a start on your gambling. And to top that, the staff was gracious and friendly. As for the the idiot mentioned above, he went home with his tail between his legs after a near silent encounter with three highly incensed males in our party. A "wow" moment I hadn't anticipated when, over supper, I recounted the details of my experience with a modern-day Neanderthal. (It took the rest of the trip, but they found him!)

And, no, I don't get a special discount for touting the Victory. It truly is a fun way to spend an evening. 

~ * ~ 

FREEBIES

Cecilia and Belle, packaged as a two-fer under "Cecilia," will be a free download from August 1-5 from Amazon Kindle. These novellas are a look at the seamier side of Regency London, frank but not erotic.


Special Note: I'll be at a booksigning, with nineteen other romance authors, at the Mount Dora Library this Saturday, August 2,10-1. For more info, here's the link. Click here.


Next week, I'll likely be starting a new Editing series. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Eventful Week!

Friday the 11th -Hailey finished up "Skate Camp" with a performance as Anna from "Frozen"
with Mom Susie, otherwise known as my official photographer!




Sunday - a dozen of us at Señor Frogs on I-Drive for a wild afternoon of World Cup soccer (more below)



Tuesday - a double rainbow over Orlando - taken with ipod as the Smartphone died!









Thursday - Birthday Girl - Cassidy turned 8.





Friday the 18th - a visit to Winter the Dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium


 
Riley at Clearwater Beach - the Gulf Coast is SO much nicer than the Atlantic!
Hmm - remind me why I left my home within a mile of the Gulf of Mexico to move to Orlando - 
oh yes, that's right, all four reasons are in the photos above.




More on Watching the World Cup in Orlando

Could we stay home and watch the World Cup in comfort? And in English? (Not that the snarkiness of the ESPN announcer doesn't make me cringe!) Oh no, we had to drive to what is locally known as "the attractions," the heart of Orlando's tourist corridor (next to Universal Studios & about 5 miles from Disney) and watch the game at something called Señor Frogs. And in Spanish! Not that anyone could hear what was being said as the noise level was off the scale.

For those not familiar with Orlando, International Drive is where the tourists without small children stay. Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and I-Drive are the grown-up versions of Disneyworld. An Orlando version of the London Eye is currently under construction. We drove by the base of it, which already towers over the whole area.

We had reserved a table for 15 at Señor Frogs, and close to that many showed up - all wearing blue and white, waving Argentinian flags, and certain Argentina was going to win. The atmosphere was electric - we could only locate three German supporters among the sea of blue and white. There were Argentinian supporters chanting and doing snake dances through the aisles. And tables of all girls screaming their hearts out for their heros. Plus a DJ determined to split every eardrum in the house - before, after, and at half-time.   

But I have to admit it was fun. Some of the outfits were amazing, including a lady wearing blue and white "wings" sticking out from the side of her head and a German supporter who had a tall fake fur hat in black and red with three small soccer balls nesting in the top. At the end of the game my daughter ended up kneeling on the table taking photos of him and his celebrating friends with each of their cameras. Now there's a magnanimous gesture for you!

And all those commercials in Spanish were fun, even if the outcome of the game wasn't what we'd hoped. It was a mad month of soccer and, frankly, I'm ready for some good old American football after a steady diet of "futbol." (We had one new immigrant from Colombia at the table, by the way, and I swear she screamed louder than all the rest of us put together. And, believe me, that was pretty hard to do.)

Since we saw so few German supporters at Señor Frogs, I was surprised when so many cheers broke out when Germany won. I suspect it was our many Brazilian tourists who wouldn't root for Argentina if their lives depended it. (This was explained to me very kindly by my son-in-law, the Argentinian who refused to root for Brazil against the Netherlands.)

Oh yes - I don't know what ESPN showed, but Telemundo, without saying anything, panned over a well-known face in the audience. Vladimir Putin. 

And to finish out the week, today - Saturday - is my birthday. I planned on NO photographs of me - the grandchildren are much cuter - but . . .

Saturday the 19th - Enjoying lunch at Spice on Lake Eola


Baked brie en croute - Yum!

Slight Accident - Cassidy kicked over the cake box - I understand it had pink roses and "Happy Birthday, Gramma," around the base. But after Susie put one of the layers back in place and remolded the pink frosting into a heart (hands on), it tasted just as good, and was far more memorable than just your same old-same old birthday cake!
More years ago than I care to remember my mother used to take me on the Swan Boats on Boston Common. This was my first Swan Boat ride since - incredible views of downtown Orlando, but was it hot!

Cassidy and I have been sharing birthday fun ever since she was born - though we didn't quite expect her to kick over the cake!
~ * ~

Next Mosaic Moments - c. August 1st - hopefully with a pub date 
for The Mists of Moorhead Manor


Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

FLORIDA WILD REDUX




Somehow I managed to be in the hospital when Florida Wild was released. Not good for either me or the book. So now that I've finally finished my latest Regency Gothic, The Mists of Moorhead Manor, I'm able to lift my head and say, "Whoa, what happened to poor Florida Wild? I haven't given it proper attention. So here's a "summer re-run."

Florida Wild is loosely connected to my Golden Beach books, set on Florida's Central Gulf Coast, as Doug, the heroine's cousin in Florida Wild, is the older brother of the heroine in Orange Blossoms & Mayhem and also appears as a character in that book.

The blurb remains the same as when first posted here on January 18:

Log line: A fledgling PI finds herself in the midst of an international incident with only an oversize mystery man to help her through a maze of Middle-eastern politics, Florida rednecks, and all-too-elusive love.

Cass Wilder is looking for excitement, both on the job and in her personal life, a wish that is more than fulfilled when she saves an Arab child at a theme park and is plunged into international intrigue, her sole companion a man whose motives might be questionable.

Michael Dillon, a here-today, gone-tomorrow government agent, is forced to turn to a fledgling PI for help in a very personal chase that takes them from the UCF campus to the Florida backwoods, where he not only regains his kidnapped sister but loses his heart.

~ * ~ 


While searching for reviews of Florida Wild, I came across something on a foreign-language site (Livraria Cultura) that I don't recall seeing before. But, obviously, I feel compelled to reproduce it here!


"Blair Bancroft can always be counted on to deliver exceptional characters and/or settings, historical accuracy, unusual plots, and flawless writing.”

Wow! That made my day. (And honest, I swear I don't know who wrote it, and I didn't pay them a cent.)


Review Excerpts - Florida Wild:

Night Owl Romance Reviews:

“This book is a great read and keeps your interest. You will enjoy the great characters as well as the exciting drama. We also have great chemistry between our main characters and I was glad to see a happy ending. I recommend Florida Wild to any romance or suspense reader or someone who enjoys both together. Florida Wild is a great coaster ride!"


Fallen Angel Reviews:

"Readers! If you are looking for an exciting, thrilling read that will have you eagerly turning page after page, then Blair Bancroft’s Florida Wild is just what the doctor ordered. From the start, there was suspenseful action that caught my attention and held it until the very end.”

~ * ~

For link to Ellora's Cave Blush, click here. 

For link to Amazon Kindle,  click here

For link to B&N Nook, click here.


Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.




Saturday, July 5, 2014

RULE-BREAKING 101, Part 3

Taken when we were all still smiling while watching the U.S. play Belgium

Classic Florida weather - sun on one side of the road, deluge on the other



RULE-BREAKING 101, Part 3

There are so many breathless "how to" words out there that qualify for shelving under "Old Wives' Tales" that I'll never get to them all. But hopefully with this final installment of "Rule-Breaking 101" you'll begin to get the message, which is: when it comes to "how to write," question everything except "professional presentation" (grammar, spelling & general layout) and in romance, a happy ending; in mystery, solving the crime. 

For Questionable Rules # 1-3, please see Rule-Breaking 101, Parts 1 & 2.


4. Backstory kills a book. Forgetaboutit!

I don't deny writing ten pages of backstory at the beginning of your book will likely have readers tossing it at the wall - or consigning it to "Archives," unread. But over the years I have judged countless contest entries where intimidated authors were so afraid of backstory that they failed to make even basic identifications of the main characters, leaving readers scratching their heads - not only about who each person was, but about what was happening in the opening pages. Uh - why are those two men fighting a duel? Why is she sitting in a car in front of someone's house in the middle of the night?  

It is absolutely essential that an author give out enough information in those first few pages so that readers can understand what they're reading. Readers never see your synopsis. Nor are they psychics who can look inside your head and figure out the plot and motivations you did not tell them about. No, of course, you don't lay everything out up front, but it is absolutely essential that you give your readers enough information that they understand what is happening in those all-important opening pages. Otherwise, you've lost them. 

If you're terrified of "backstory, call it "identifcation of characters and motives." But don't forget to include essential information at the beginning of your manuscript.
 

5. Never use the verbs "was" and "were."

Nonsense! Of course you can use "was" and "were." Yet you would not believe the incredibly awkward sentences I've read when judging or editing because it was obvious the author was trying to adhere to this incredibly stupid "rule." All the best authors use "was" and "were," particularly when describing a new character. 

Yes, "was" and "were" can be passive. If you, as author, are standing on the sidelines telling your story instead of actively getting inside your main characters' heads and letting us see the story through their eyes, then you're probably peppering your story with umpteen repetitions of  "was" and "were" and committing the mistake that first gave rise to this nonsensical rule. So don't use more of these essential tenses of the verb "to be" than you have to. But for Heaven's sake, don't believe you have to eliminate them from your vocabulary.  (I actually know authors who had contest judges go through their work and circle every was and were as if use of those verbs was some ultimate sin!) I did a quick check of the first chapter of my current Work-in-Progress and found "was" 46 times and "were" 6 times. And I defy anyone to call this "bad writing."


6.  You must follow an exact story arc - as laid out in someone's "how to" book or workshop.

My answer to this one is, "Why?" The only possible reason I can see for Rule # 5 is:  If that story arc—that chart of the ebb and flow, the up's and down's, of a story—helps you frame your book, then that's great. Otherwise, it's a ball and chain. Never believe there is only one way to write a story. There are as many approaches as there are authors. Just be aware that a story must indeed have an ebb and flow. For example, great happiness has more impact if it comes after great sorrow. Or vice versa. Tragedy hits twice as hard when it follows a moment when everything seems to be perfect. The one thing that remains constant near the end of most romances is "the black moment" - the point where everything looks bleak, from romance to business to whatever. Readers should feel certain there is no way out. Yet that, too, is just a case of contrast, making the final resolution all the sweeter. 

So, yes, stories must ebb and flow, must have their quiet moments as well as action, but the where and when of it should be "author's choice." Do not let anyone dictate an exact "arc" you must follow, willy nilly. It's your story. Feel the flow. Go for it!


7.  The more Dialogue, the better.

What people are thinking is not always what they are saying. And only good "old-fashioned" Narration will show readers the truth. Dialogue can be cute, clever, and colorful. It also moves a story along. But it cannot tell a reader what your characters look like. It cannot tell us how they feel, deep down inside. It cannot describe the depths of sorrow, the hectic action of a chase, the horror of a murder. Page after page of dialogue is relatively easy to write, but it can never plumb the depths of emotion most readers are looking for. Think of Dialogue as the frosting, while Narration encompasses the whole cake.


8.  The Hero and Heroine must meet in the first chapter.

This is a rule from Category romance, and not a bad one to follow if you're writing a novel of less than 60,000 words. Otherwise, it's another of those "rules" that mean nothing. During the years I was trying to conform, I often advised authors that if their hero and heroine didn't meet early in the book, they could insert scenes of their separate activities, so that both have been introduced to readers, if not to each other. This still seems a sensible compromise, but authors must also have enough confidence to feel they can deviate from this approach, if their book warrants it. 

That is exactly what happens in my latest, The Mists of Moorhead Manor. The h/h do not meet for the first time until near the end of Chapter 5. I can envision the story no other way. And just as I stubbornly refused to make the heroine of The Sometime Bride older than fourteen at the beginning of that book, I can only hope romance readers will not be offended by the long wait for Mr. Right to appear in my latest Regency Gothic. 

Summary: 

My point for the "Rules" above is the same as for the other "rules" mentioned over previous weeks. Do not hesitate to use the rules that work for you, but never fail to question the rules that don't. Authors should not be slaves to anyone else's ideas. We should never be intimidated by "rules," that are ephemeral at best. Like the ubiquitous "they," these rules hover around us, original source unknown, leaving us with no one person we can blame for trying to dictate to authors how they should write. 

Keep in mind that the least talented among us can set down a "rule," no matter how didactic or absurd it might be. We authors, however, are the creative ones. Therefore, we must march to our own drummer, speak to our own muse, fashion our own tunes. (If you'll pardon my clichés, used because they are phrases we all readily understand.) We must write what resonates with us, thumbing our noses at the fearful Nellies who demand rules, rules, and more rules, because they seem to need the confinement of structure and are afraid to soar.

Now don't take my words as advice to go all James Joyce. His work might have been a literary phenomenon, but it was @#$% hard to read, and should not be taken as an inspiration to authors who would like to make money from their writing.  So keep your head, strive for color and emotion, while placing clarity near the top of your "must" list. 

That caution given, don't be afraid to write from your soul, and make your readers like it! 

~ * ~


Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


 

 

  









Sunday, June 29, 2014

RULE-BREAKING 101, Part 2

How to survive while Mommy looks at paint samples - for the umpteenth time . . .

RULE-BREAKING 101, Part 2

Do you remember that "rule" about all manuscripts must be Courier 12 at 25 lines per page? And any word we wanted in italics should be underlined? These relics of the Typewriter Age should have been obsolete by the time I began to write seriously circa 1992. They should, in fact, have been obsolete within in a few years of the dawn of the PC with its ability to produce manuscripts in that most common proportional book font, Times New Roman, and produce actual italic type with the click of the mouse. And yet, oh horrors, this "rule" was so sacrosanct that some authors got positively hysterical if it was broken. Some RWA chapters would not even accept TNR manuscripts as contest entries - the excuse given that the authors could actually get more words to the page, and that just wasn't fair!

Sigh. I solved this problem by submitting contest entries only to chapters that did not specify "Courier 12 at 25 lines per page." It wasn't just that I was determined to fight City Hall; I knew I tended to write outside the box, and any chapter that was bound by obsolete "rules" simply wasn't going to "get" my manuscript anyway.

Those who are new to writing are likely incredulous at the above, as almost all manuscripts are now written and submitted in TNR 12 at however many lines per page a 1" margin all around allows.  And of course we use italics! [Ah . . . but do you use auto tabs? Those, I hasten to say, are not a rule, but a technical issue, something needed to accommodate our Computer Age.] And of course manuscripts are submitted electronically, edited electronically, and/or judged electronically (if entered in a contest). But it's downright embarrassing how long this change has taken. I bought my first computer in 1981 and it's now 2014. So we're talking about close to a quarter century. You know, that's really sad. How fortunate reading electronically did not lag nearly so far behind. E-publishing and e-reading have outstripped all initial growth estimates to become the great revolution of our times. And I love it. Yet although I was writing articles predicting the success of the e-book industry way back c. 2000, I never anticipated the indie-pub explosion. It has brought opportunities for fresh ideas, fresh approaches, across the board. I doubt even Amazon would have become such a powerhouse if not for the thousands of authors who swept away the New York cobwebs and expressed themselves as they had never had a chance to do before.

So "Hats Off" to Smashwords, Amazon, and all the other e-distributors and e-publishers out there. They broke just about every rule of publishing and made New York conform to them. (For the most part, that is - most NY publishers are still setting outrageous prices on e-versions of books they had to have their noses tweaked in order to produce in the first place.)

~ * ~

To continue the list of questionable rules begun in RULE-BREAKING 101, Part 1 . . .

3.  Strict Point of View - Use only the POV of the Hero, the Heroine, and possibly a Villain (if applicable).
 
 I can understand this requirement in a 50,000-word "Category" romance - keep it simple. And yet I recently re-read a whole shelf of short romances I valued enough to keep when I moved from Connecticut to the Florida Gulf Coast and again when I moved to Orlando seven years ago this month. Obviously, it had been quite a while since I'd last read them - maybe not since I learned the "rules" of romance writing - and I got quite a shock, discovering something I had simply never noticed before. These books not only had Multiple Points of View, they contained a lot of Author Intrusion, and - would you believe? - Head-hopping? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Did I have trouble understanding these books? Did the "jumping around" put me off? Not at all. As I mentioned, on first reading I didn't even notice it. On second reading, however, I admit to cringing at the archaic attitudes in stories written back when "feminism" was a mere gleam in the eye.  But being told what a secondary character was thinking, even a very minor secondary character didn't put me off a bit. I found these "asides" (mostly from the Author's POV) added to my enjoyment of the story.

And yet to this day, even in the e-world, some publishers still specify exactly how many POVs a story can have.  Sigh. I hasten to add there is a genuine reason for publishers being leery of multiple POVs. Unless an author is very good at it - such as Nora Roberts, who does it all the time - inserting the POVs of secondary characters can kill a story, diminishing the impact of the Hero and Heroine and of the romance itself. I have seen this over and over again in contests I have judged and manuscripts I have edited. The secondary characters end up telling us the story by  "observing" the interaction between the Hero and Heroine when readers want to experience that interaction up close and personal, through the Main Characters' eyes only. So, yes, there is a reason for this "rule," particularly for newbies, but I would like to see a return to the era when an author can insert information that does not originate solely from the heads of the Hero and Heroine and not be villified for it. My all-time favorite example of this being Nora Robert's incredibly well done description of the hero in Carnal Innocence, which I have previously quoted in this blog. A description seen through no one's eyes but the author's.

Summary.  If you can use the Points of View of certain secondary characters to add depth to your story . . . If you can give these characters brief POVs without letting them overshadow the Hero and Heroine, then I would like to see authors feel free to go for it.  Warning: even the most liberal-minded reader tends to find "head-hopping" a bit twitchy, but perhaps that's because it's been anathema for so long. Certainly, I never batted an eye at the swift POV changes in those romances mentioned above. (And that's what "Head-hopping" is - jumping quickly from one person's POV to another's, say, within the space of a paragraph or two.) How many times I've I pointed out this "fault" when judging contests - yet is it really wrong? Unfortunately, as things currently stand, it's "wrong" if the editor or agent you're submitting your book to thinks it's wrong! Although I've known authors who wrote multiple POV with brilliance the first time out (Karen Rose, for example), even Nora Roberts wrote a lot of books with strict POV before she broke out into the style for which she's become famous. So keep in mind that all I'm saying is that I would like to see a more liberal approach to POVs. And way less horror when an author breaks the death grip of Hero/Heroine/Villain only.

~ * ~ 

 There's quite a bit more to come. If you have a pet "rule" you'd like to see bent or broken, please share with us. I'm still struggling to complete my list of all the "preaching" I've encountered over my years as a romance/mystery author.

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.