Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 13, 2018

More on Characters & Point of View

My son-in-law is currently in London, with a crew & lots of equipment, doing Tech for a convention. He flew out of Orlando Wednesday night - this photo and his comments taken from Facebook:

"So, having an oatmeal stout beer at an English pub, eating a greasy smoky bacon cheeseburger, while listening to Mexican music, with a Halal restaurant right next door.
Quite the gastro-cultural experience!" 

My daughter will join him on the 13th, to do a bit of exploring on her own - undoubtedly including return visits to Harrods and Camden Market (to which she is drawn like a magnet). And when Mike is free, they'll be celebrating a big 20th wedding anniversary.

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 As my regular readers know, I often base my blogs on what I happen to be reading at the time, whether for my editing business or for pleasure. This week I went back to the beginning of a favorite series and started reading straight through, one book after the other, finding it fascinating to revisit the birth of characters who have become old friends after something like eight books. The series: Lindsay Buroker's The Emperor's Edge. 

Looking at the series from the viewpoint of Mosaic Moments, I realized there's a lot to be learned from Ms Buroker's approach to these books. Also, that her approach to her characters, main and secondary, tends to differ from that of many other series authors. As an aside, I want to add that Ms Buroker's strong point is writing action—totally incredible, over-the-top action, so much so that she goes through something like seven books with the heroine and hero exchanging no more than one kiss and an occasional hug. Yes, some of the secondary characters talk about sex, but that's it. Ms Buroker also does a great job creating her fantasy version of a steampunk world far, far away. And this is the series that stole its hero/anti-hero and "alien" touches from a previous book. Never think you can't steal a good idea or two from yourself and run with it!

Brief background on The Emperor's Edge:

A female "enforcer" (the police of this fantasy setting) is forced to go rogue in an effort to protect her country's young emperor. She puts together an oddball team of five men: a disgraced nobleman, an alcoholic professor, a scarred veteran of the fighting pits (who can't talk), a teenager who longs to practice magic, and the country's most feared assassin, raised for the role from birth by his own government. They call themselves "The Emperor's Edge" and set out help the emperor and get themselves back on the right side of the law.

So why is The Emperor's Edge series different?

As previously mentioned, in most long-running series there is a single main character or a Hero/Heroine situation. Also as previously mentioned, it's important not to let your Secondary Characters overshadow your Main Characters. Therefore you need to be very careful about who is allowed a Point of View. In The Emperor's Edge, Ms Buroker gives each member of the team a Point of View, often a lengthy one. Yes, Amaranthe, the heroine, is primary, definitely the boss of the book as well as of the team, but each of the team's men gets to reveal his background, thoughts, fears, and hopes for the future. Each one is a person in his own right. EXCEPT the Anti-hero, the assassin, Sicarius. Why? Because he has to remain the mystery man. Readers are allowed only to know what Amaranthe and other team members think or know about him. He remains forever aloof. Cold, hard, unrelenting . . .

And yet, here is another point of interest about Ms Buroker's characterizations: she allows her characters to grow and change. In so many series the characters remain "stock." The hero, the heroine, their buddies, the people they work with, are the same, book in and book out. Yes, readers like to know what they're getting, but is it really likely that these characters go for years without any changes in their lives or in their attitudes?

As an exercise, let's look at each of the characters in the team called The Emperor's Edge.

Amaranthe - she begins as a "by the book" corporal, just doing her job patrolling her small part of the city. Then shortly into the first book she is propelled into an entirely new existence, struggling with finding herself on the wrong side of the law and all because the young emperor smiled at her. But she copes, she finds allies—interestingly, all men in a male-dominant society who recognize that she's the one with the ideas, a natural-born leader, and agree to follow her (though each with his own unique reason for doing so).

Maldynado - an outcast from his high-born family, Maldynado changes the least during the series. He is the clown, the complainer, the devil-may-care type. But although he does his best to play the fool, he is intelligent and fights hard.

"Books" - a has-been, alcoholic professor, Books is truly down and out when Amaranthe recruits him for his ability at research. He'll never be a true fighter, but over the course of the the team's demanding training and the many challenges he has to conquer, "Books" becomes an indispensable member of the team.

Akstyr - an 18-year-old gang member with no morals, no past kindness in his life, he realizes he has the gift for magic and will do anything to learn more about it in a country where magic is forbidden. Akstyr also has a great deal to learn about loyalty and responsibility, concepts foreign to him. He makes mistakes, to the point of betrayal, is amazed when the team forgives him. Akstyr takes longer than Books to settle into a dependable member of the team.

Basilard - a man from a pacifist country, enslaved and forced to fight to the death in an arena. He is badly scarred, his throat damaged so badly he can't talk. He can't go home, can't see the daughter left behind, because he is forever tainted by using violence (no excuses accepted). An outcast, and ugly, he is a strong member of the team - except he has to struggle with unremitting hate for another, even more vital, team member, the assassin, Sicarius.

Sicarius - Raised from birth to be what he is - unbeatable, determined, deadly, unemotional, hard as nails - he is one of those special characters who capture the imagination. When he agrees to follow Amaranthe, he becomes the person who has to change the most. She wants to preserve not only the Emperor's life but the lives of absolutely everybody, even the villains. We are only allowed to see what Sicarius thinks about this from the outside - from the observations and fears of the other members of the team. But there is no doubt he has the greatest adjustments to make. (Not always successfully. Like the scorpion in the tale of the Scorpion and the Frog, he bites because he is, after all, a scorpion.) Just when we are led to believe he's got the message, he reverts to type.  But there's no doubt that without him Amaranthe would have been dead several times over. We are finally allowed inside Sicarius's head in Book 6, when he has changed enough that a few "human" traits are beginning to kick in. An omission of POV that is, in itself, a powerful bit of characterization.

Returning to Amaranthe - her goal is to save the Emperor and have her team returned to the list of "good guys." To do that, she breaks just about every law, tradition, and commandment imaginable. The adjustments she has to make to her staunch principles are likely the greatest changes of all. Sicarius only has to learn not to kill everyone who so much as looks at him askance, while Amaranthe schemes and plans an endless series of adventures far outside the law. And, in the process, turns Sicarius into a Superhero.

Dialogue note:

In any book, series or not, it is important to give your characters their own style of dialogue. A reader should be able to look at a bit of dialogue (beyond a word or two) and recognize which character is speaking.  The Emperor's Edge is excellent example.

Amaranthe is always the boss (except sometimes privately with Sicarius). She gives the orders. She also tends to be impetuous at times, so determined to succeed that she takes really serious risks.

Maldynado is always the wise guy, full of quips, complaints, talk of sex; full of himself, etc.

"Books" falls into the pedantic at the drop of a hat. On and on until someone shuts him up.

Akstyr is always the street kid, the hopeful worker of magic, never quite one with the team. Sullen, hanging back from work, not as well spoken as the others.

Basilard "signs," his words in italics. Except on a few occasions when he resorts to pen and paper.

Sicarius speaks only when necessary, and then as few words as possible. Always the silent but deadly partner, doing what has to be done, including being a harsh taskmaster for the team's training. If he says a hundred words in each book, that's a lot for him. He participates through action, not communication. Social interaction is unheard of; even Amaranthe, who loves him, suffers from never knowing what he's thinking. Until Book 6, that is, when we are allowed into his head at last and see his struggle to understand the most basic human emotions, a struggle made so much stronger because the revelation has taken so long.

1. As emphasized previously, variety (distinctly different personalties) are an important part of creating Secondary Characters.
2.  Some series are more "team efforts" than others. In these cases, allowing Secondary Characters lengthy Points of View is part of the style. 
Grace note:  #2 above does not apply to books that are primarily Romance!)
3.  Each character should have his/her unique dialogue style. (Which does NOT mean you can leave off the dialogue "tag"!)
4.  It is possible to have a "hero" (or other important character) without a Point of View. (As in Gothic novels written in First Person.)
5.  Although Plots are important, it is CHARACTERS who make a book. And it's more interesting if they change and grow over the course of a series. If their "good guy" attitude occasionally wavers; if they have doubts and fears, endure considerable suffering before their final triumph (which in The Emperor's Edge series takes eight books). 

Grace note:  Even if your books do not go to the extremes of Ms Buroker's series, the concept of change still applies. Keep your characters interesting; don't let them go static. Keep readers wondering what they'll do next, not going "Ho-hum, same old, same old—able to leap tall buildings at a single bound." (If you saw Black Panther, you will recall that he loses his super powers after drinking a ceremonial potion. Just as Superman is adversely affected by Kryptonite.) These "gimmicks" are long-established ways to make characters vulnerable, for where's the suspense if the Good Guy/Gal wins every challenge?

WARNING: Read # 2, plus Note again. Only in series that are "team efforts" can you allow lengthy POVs from Secondary Characters. In most books and most series, it's vitally important to keep in mind the rule I've stated so many times before: Never let your Secondary Characters overshadow your Main Characters. Even in The Emperor's Edge series we are never allowed to lose sight of the fact that Amaranthe and Sicarius are the Main Characters, although in one of the books Maldynado's POV occupies fifty to sixty percent of the pages and Sicarius disappears for a great portion of the book. This is what makes a good writer—someone who can allow multiple Points of View but never stray from the overall point of the series. 
I should add, that Ms Buroker waited until Book Five to give a Secondary Character an extended Point of View. It's not something you can do until your Main Characters are very sell established in readers' minds.  

So . . . HANDLE POINTS OF VIEW WITH CARE. Watch what you're doing like the proverbial hawk. Are Points of View from Secondary Characters suitable to the genre you're writing? Are they making your book better—giving it more depth, more color, perhaps more action? Or are they drawing readers' attention too far from your Main Character(s), turning the focus in too many directions, bringing momentum to a skidding halt?

That's the whole point of these articles on Secondary Characters: How to use them to enhance your book, not detract. I hope I've helped.

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 Another example of a series using multiple POVs, my Sci Fi Saga, Blue Moon Rising, particularly the final book, Royal Rebellion.

 For a link to Royal Rebellion on Amazon, click here.

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

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, click here.

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


Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Recipe Time

Sneak Peek at the cover for my new Regency Gothic (late fall 2018?)

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For a video of a family of deer crossing the road 
near my daughter's house, click here.

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 I am happy to report that if you make the changes noted in my post of 9/15/18, they remain in place. You do not have to go through all that for each document.

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It's been a while since Mosaic Moments presented recipes, so here are three recent discoveries I hope you'll enjoy. Sorry, no photos. I was too eager to eat them!

From Publix:

Great American Burger Stromboli (Log Roll)

I'm fascinated by this one because of all the possibilities it presents. It could be made with Deli ham slices, turkey or chicken slices. With whatever cheese strikes your fancy. With as many pickles as you want. Or maybe spinach. And perhaps Ranch dressing instead of Thousand Island. Your imagination is the limit. I'm looking forward to being creative with this one.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 refrigerated pizza dough* 
6 slices American cheese** 
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
12 dill pickle chips
Aluminum foil

* I used regular Pizza dough, not Thin Crust
** I used Swiss slices instead of American

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with foil. Preheat large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high 1-2 minutes. Brown meat 4-5 minutes, stirring to crumble, and until no pink remains. Drain fat. Combine meat and dressing in large bowl.

Unroll dough onto lined baking sheet and stretch into a 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Place meat mixture lengthwise down center of dough, spreading evenly, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with pickles and cheese. Roll one LONG side tightly around filling; press edges to seal.

Bake stromboli 18-20 minutes or until brown. Let stand 5 minutes to cool. Slice, Serve with additional dressing, if desired.

Warning: if you slice the "log" too soon after baking, the "rounds" tend to squish!

Grace note: I froze half the loaf, uncut; a week later, I thawed it, cut slices, and reheated them on a foil-lined sheet pan at 375° for c. 9 minutes. 

Note 2: If you prefer a bit more spice, you can present the slices with Chili Lime sauce, ketchup, or other favorite.

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Orange Chicken

I believe this recipe (scribbled on a legal pad) came from Facebook. It's simple and very tasty.

1 cup barbecue sauce*
1 jar Sweet Orange Marmalade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 chicken boneless chicken breasts, cubed to c. 1"

*I used Sweet & Spicy

Note: The recipe did not call for "browning" the chicken first, but I did it anyway. Just lightly enough to turn it opaque white. 

Mix the marmalade and soy sauce. Set aside. Brown chicken lightly, add marmalade sauce and sauté. (No time given in original recipe - you have to "play it by ear." I let it simmer until the flavors were mixed and I was certain the chicken was cooked.)

Serve over rice or couscous. 

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 From a "Muffin Pan" recipe book:

BBQ Chicken Pizza Cups

1 refrigerated pizza dough*
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped**
½ cup barbecue sauce
1½ cups mozzarella, shredded
¼ red onion, cut into strips
Cilantro, chopped

*I used Regular, not Thin Crust
**I bought Perdue packaged cooked chicken

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray two muffin pans.
Note: I felt that the ingredients were only enough for 12 muffins, so I used only one 12-hole pan.

Original instructions:

Leaving the pizza dough rolled up like a log, slice into 16 rounds. Place the rounds in the cups and bake for 8 minutes.

While they bake, mix together chicken and barbecue sauce in a bowl.

Remove muffin pans from oven and press dough down. Divide chicken and onions among the 16 cups. Top with cheese.

Place muffin pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 15-18 minutes,* or until cheese is bubbly. Top with cilantro and serve warm.

*13-14 minutes might be enough.

Grace note:  Although these were tasty right out of the oven, they held together better as leftovers reheated the next day in the microwave. From "knife & fork" food, they turned into "finger food," particularly fun for kids or for a sports party.

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

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page (updated 9/14/18), click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Creating Secondary Characters, Part 2

 "Way back when," The Last Surprise was published in both print and e as part of a Christmas anthology. I always felt it needed more words than an anthology allows to give this poignant tale of three orphaned sisters the rich texture it deserves. So over the last few months, A Lady Learns to Love has been given a new title, expanded by ten thousand words, and revised, line by line, in an effort to more thoroughly portray Lady Christine Ashworth and her struggle to overcome a series of disasters that have left her incapable of appreciating the blessings right under her nose.

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SPECIAL NOTE:  Next Mosaic Moments - October 6, 2018

As mentioned in Part One of "Creating Secondary Characters, there are very few "rules." You can be as creative as you like when crafting the characters around your Protagonist(s). But there are one or two things that that are mandatory. 

1. NEVER allow your Secondary Characters to overwhelm your Main Character(s). Think of this as the Cardinal Rule of writing Secondary Characters. They are there to provide color and contrast, a sounding board for the hero or heroine. Sometimes they are a pivotal part of the plot, but be extremely sparing about allowing them a Point of View. Do not use them to "tell" us about the Main Characters. Secondary Characters can be wonderful, but they must remain SECONDARY. Do not let them seize the bit and run with away with your story. If you have a Secondary Character you like that much, do what so many other authors have done in the past—give that person his/her own book.

2.  IDENTIFY. Secondary Characters, like Main Characters, need to be identified when they are first introduced. This does not mean you go into a detailed description which brings the story to a dead halt. [Vic's sister, Jane. Mrs. Knightly, my next-door neighbor. She'd known Ben since third grade. He served with Tim in Afghanistan.]

3. SECONDARY CHARACTERS IN ROMANCE. It is even more essential in Romance that you never, ever allow the Secondary Characters to detract from the Hero and Heroine. They can add color, aggravation, and/or comedy to your story, but keep them in their place. Readers want to see the one-on-one relationship between the Hero and Heroine, not a whole slew of distractions. Which means that the use of Secondary Characters tends to be less in Romance than in other genres.

4.  SECONDARY CHARACTERS IN MYSTERY & SUSPENSE. Here, the role of Secondary Characters is a bit more murky. Do the person or persons who meet with disaster in the opening scene count as Secondary Characters or are they merely Victims? I'd say that depends on the author. In some books, particularly well-crafted mysteries, the detective— whether law enforcement or private—gradually uncovers so much information about the victim that that person becomes a true Secondary Character, even though he/she died in Chapter One. In other books, the Victim never rises to the true definition of a Secondary Character. But RULE ONE still applies. Never let any Secondary Character, no matter how interesting, distract the focus of your story from the Main Character(s).

A few more examples:

I am currently reading Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. What a magnificent panoply of Secondary Characters! Yet there is never the slightest doubt that the story revolves around Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin.

And then there's Janet Evanovich. What an incredible string of Secondary Characters she has crafted through 20+ books in her Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie Plum series, hmm. That means Joe, Ranger, Lulu and Gramma Mazur are Secondary Characters. (Ranger & Lulu very much so in the early books.) Yes, they've become favorites, with actual "rooting sections" for Joe vs. Ranger, but the books are still Stephanie's. She's the Main Character in every last one, and Ms Evanovich never lets her readers forget it. YOU mustn't forget either, always keeping your Main Character(s) to the forefront and keeping those pesky Secondary Characters for window dressing.

If you'd prefer more classical references . . .
When it comes to Secondary Characters, you can't do better than Shakespeare. His plays are peopled with veritable hosts of Secondary Characters, even his darkest tragedies alleviated by contrasting comic scenes. Where would Hamlet be without Polonius or Rosencrantz and Gildenstern? Romeo and Juliet without Mercutio or the Nurse?

In addition to those already mentioned in this series, here are a few more authors who do an excellent job of writing Secondary Characters while combining Romance with Mystery, Suspense, Sci Fi, or Paranormal: C. S. Harris, Catherine Lloyd, Rhys Bowen, Tasha Alexander, Kim Harrison, Linnea Sinclair, Susan Elizabeth Philips.  

Exceptions to the "Rules":

As much as Regency authors like myself are devoted to Georgette Heyer, she has a couple of books that make me grind my teeth. They are books where she features a Secondary Character over what I consider the "heroine" of the story. In these books the Hero, being a hero, is attempting to help some silly little twit throughout the entire course of the book, while the Hero's intended languishes in obscurity. Frankly, I just want to grab up these silly flibbertigibbets and give them a good spanking for embroiling the poor hero in their stupidity. And yet, the first, or even the second, time I read these books, I believe I enjoyed them at their face value, agonizing over all the impediments that cropped up to defy a happy ending. No more. I've grown too wise to the "whys" and "hows" of writing a book. But that doesn't make them bad books. Just examples of what a highly successful author can get away with—but definitely not recommended unless you already have a devoted following.

Gothic novels:

I realized as I wrote these two articles on Secondary Characters that Gothic novels, such as my Regency Gothics, also violate the "rules" for Secondary Characters. They are considered Romance, and yet they are written like Mystery or Suspense with a single Main Character, relegating the Hero to the role of Secondary Character. An inevitability with books written in First Person. And also part of the "aloneness" demanded of the Heroine of a Gothic tale. The threatening atmosphere, the suspense, the deaths are the primary ingredients of these stories. And the Heroine is primary. The Hero, of necessity, must remain somewhat in the shadows, both heroine and reader never quite certain of his love or loyalty. (That said, I'm about to violate that in my latest, The Ghosts of Rushton Court—or maybe not—I haven't quite gotten that far yet. Being an "out of the mist" author, who knows what will happen when I actually begin to type?)

Examples from TV and the Movies:

In the examples above, I hope everyone found at least one author whose work was familiar. If not, here are examples from the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars.

Incredible as it may seem, Mr. Spock started out as a Secondary Character. So did the rest of the bridge crew of the Enterprise, but they ended up as the best known ensemble in the history of television or the movies. I suppose that doesn't make them all Main Characters, but they took their characters far beyond their initial characterizations. Secondary Characters on steroids.

Luke Skywalker started out as the young hero of Star Wars but gradually became a Secondary Character as the long-time series progressed, possibly due to the scriptwriter's plans, or perhaps more because Han Solo and Darth Vader stole the limelight. And what about Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO, surely some of the best-known Secondary Characters of all time?

Secondary Characters are wonderful, providing support, sounding boards, color, comedy, heartbreak . . . whatever your imagination can think up. But DO NOT ever allow them to overshadow your Main Character(s). They are there to support and defend, not take over the story. Does your genre allow a Secondary Character to have a Point of View? Make sure you know that before you sit down to write. In Romance, probably not. In Mystery, Suspense, Sci Fi, and other genres, the rules are more flexible, but never waver on Rule One: Secondary Characters must remain Secondary Characters. Do not let yourself become so fascinated by these people you've created that you let them detract from your focus on your Main Characters or on your Plot.

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page (updated 9/14/18), click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Track Changes & The Aphrodite Academy

Another gem for my collection
(and proving I'm not the only fuss-budget out there)

Again, my apologies for changing the announced topic - more on Secondary Characters next week - but two things came up that took precedence: the publication of my first "boxed set" and—Wow!—I finally tamed Track Changes in Word 2016. I felt the Track Changes miracle (after two years of off-again, on-again struggles) was well worth shoving everything else aside, so I could reveal my breakthrough.

It's possible I'm the only dinosaur out there, that everyone thinks the Word 2016 version of Track Changes is just wonderful . . . but I hated it so much—finding it not only difficult to work with but impossible to decipher in a welter of strikeouts & keeping deletions on the same line with additions—that I simply threw up my hands and continued to edit in an older version of Word. 

But what were my editing clients seeing when I sent the manuscript back? Were they getting the clean lines of the old version of Track Changes, or were they getting the jumbled-up mess with strikeouts? So this week I sat down yet again, determined to figure out how to clean up the edits in Word 2016. Below is what I finally discovered, and if you hate strikeouts as much as I do, you can make these changes and find it much easier to distinguish what was deleted from the original and what was added by the editor. This, of course, is a matter of personal choice, but for those who are like-minded . . .

Here is what I wrote for my own information, as well as to send to my clients when I return a manuscript: (Please pardon the repetition from the paragraphs above.)

Revising the Look of Track Changes in Word 2016 - 

 a special primer for those who prefer the old 
Track Changes (before Word 2016)

Call me a dinosaur, but for two years after I bought a new computer with Word 2016, I was so appalled by what I saw when I tried to use Track Changes that I continued to do all my editing* in an earlier version of Word. (I kept my old Word program, as all my downloads to Amazon were there, and I didn’t want to take a chance on losing them.)

But this week, after several previous attempts, I figured out how to keep an edited manuscript from looking like an unintelligible bunch of chicken tracks (inline strikeouts of deleted material littering the page instead of popping neatly into an on-the-right “editing” column, along with editor’s Comments). The old way worked. The new Track Changes was a total mish-mash.

*(Grace note): I am referring to the editing work I do on other authors’ manuscripts, not self-editing. But, if you would like to view what your editor says with the clarity of the old Track Changes, here’s the way to do it. (If you like strikeouts, lack of color, and general confusion, well, you can skip the following.)

After much grinding of teeth and trial and error, by George, I think I’ve got it!  Here’s what I recorded for myself and for those who might be interested:   

1.  Click on Review in the menu bar.

2.  Except WAIT - there is NO place in the Review Menu to make these changes. (That I had already discovered.)  But . . .

3. In the SEARCH bar ("Tell me what you want to do"), type: Track Changes Options

4.  Change the Balloons line to “Revisions” 

5.  Reviewing pane - Off

6.  Click on Advanced Track Changes Options.

7.  Insertions - “Colors only”

8.  Deletions  -  “Hidden”

9.  Changed lines - select “Right border”

If you’re lucky, you will find you have converted Track Changes to the cleaner, more legible style in the older versions of TC. (Microsoft made these menus extremely hard to find, but they are still there.)

Please note:
The above directions are what I wrote for myself. Although I do not use the Reviewing Pane when editing, but you may find it helpful when viewing what your editor said. That’s personal choice. I prefer the old way of Deletions and Comments in a single column on the right.

Hopefully, these instructions will help. (Your Comments welcome.)

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Stories from the Regency Darkside. The Aphrodite Academy series features four young women who desperately need second chances. Belle, Cecilia, Holly, and Juliana come from varying backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: life has not been kind. The language of the books is frank and saucy, but the stories are driven by character and plot, not sexual content. If you would like a peek at the other side of sweetness and light while still having confidence in a Happily Ever After ending, these might be the Regency romances for you.


After her father offers her as a gaming prize, Lady Arabella Pierrepont runs away. She is aided by one of the gamesters, who takes her to the Aphrodite Academy, an all-female establishment where young women are trained in academic and—ah—other subjects. There, Belle is given three choices: the respectable but dull life of a companion, a marriage well below her station, or training for the life of a courtesan. Unfortunately, none of her choices include her savior, Gabriel, Viscount Ashford.


Cecilia Lily’s greatest desire is to become the mistress of a titled gentleman. But when the Marquess of Longmere becomes her protector, she learns the truth of the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Yet even after suffering a severe beating, Cecilia finds it difficult to adjust her rigidly formed views of class when help comes in the form of the alleged lord of London’s Underworld. No matter what Nicholas Black offers, she cannot see past his guttersnipe origins. Cecilia has many realities to face before her world comes right.


Holly Hammond, an independent, sharp-tongued former tavern wench, has reached the pinnacle of her ambition, flying high as a sparkling London courtesan—until she finds herself out on the street, pregnant with twins. But Holly, a graduate of the Aphrodite Academy, is not alone. Out of the blue, she receives an offer of marriage from merchant captain Royce Kincade, who snatches at the bribe offered—his very own ship—without considering his bride’s determined independence, her babies’ natural father, or the possible outrage of his relatives. Not surprisingly, Happily Ever After teeters on the brink of extinction.


Juliana, Baroness Rivenhall, is headmistress of The Aphrodite Academy. Once an innocent bride, she married a charming, insouciant gentleman who promptly taught her aspects of love not generally practiced in Regency bedchambers. Even going so far as to include Darius Wolfe, his man of business, in a ménage à trois. With Darius Juliana learns the true meaning of love. But when her husband is killed in a duel and she is free at last, she is so horrified by events endured during her marriage that she turns from Darius, setting up the Aphrodite Academy to help other young women who have found themselves in dire situations. Six years go by before Juliana’s friends band together to push her toward the happy ending she has provided for so many others.

 For a link to The Aphrodite Academyclick here.

More on The Aphrodite Academy on my updated Facebook Author Page. See link below.

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page (updated 9/14/18), click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Creating Secondary Characters

Now available - Boxed Set of my Aphrodite Academy series

A look at what I call the Regency Darkside. These novellas feature the stories of four young women from different backgrounds who have one thing in common: life has not been kind. The language of the books is frank and saucy—my only books marked "18+"—but the stories are driven by character and plot, not by sexual content. If you would like a peek at the other side of Regency sweetness and light while still having confidence in a Happily Ever After Ending, these might be the books for you.

For a link to The Aphrodite Academy Boxed Set, click here.

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Grace Note:  I sat down and scribbled off four pages of notes about Secondary Characters in less than a half an hour before I wrote Word One of this week's post,so I already know there will be more than one entry on this topic.

What is a Secondary Character?

Hmm - now that's a harder question than I thought. Many books have a single main character—the central figure in the story, male or female. Romances and many tales of Mystery and Suspense feature two main characters, a Hero and a Heroine. But that's it. Unless your story revolves around your Villain in a tale told primarily from the Villain's Point of View, that Villain is a Secondary Character. (Scrooge jumps to mind as a Villain who is a main character, although unlike most villains, he gets a Happily Ever After following his dramatic Comeuppance.) 

Needless to say, your Villain can be anyone, anywhere, his/her sins great or small. The variety of villains, the quantity and quality of their sins is limited only by your imagination. On a list of unusual Secondary Characters, you might include Nana, the St. Bernard in Peter Pan. Tinker Belle too, although I'm ambivalent about Moby Dick. The whale may get the book title—and one can't deny the story revolves around him—but I can't get my head around calling him the Main Character. By default, that makes him a Secondary Character. (Comments from those who disagree are welcome.)

Secondary Characters are frequently the most fun to write, as they are allowed more freedom in what they do and say. Minor faults are tolerated in Heroes and Heroines, but for the most part they must remain likable, sympathetic, people readers can root for. Secondary Characters, however, can have a multitude of sins or be true blue. (Some, like Hawk in Robert Parker's Spenser series, are both.) Secondary characters can be loyal, back-stabbing, supporting, snarky, overly talkative flibbertigebbets . . . or maybe a dragon. They  can be the Main Character's outspoken best buddy, the nasty person next door or at the office, the cliché of the nagging mother or mother-in-law, the little kid who puts a rock through the heroine's window. The list goes on ad infinitum. Two widely varying Secondary Characters come to mind: Mrs. Bennett from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Tiny Tim from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. We all love Elizabeth and Darcy, but who do we remember, wincing, but Mama, who puts her foot in it every time she opens her mouth. And then there are Mr. Bennett, Elizabeth's sisters, and all the other characters drawn with a pen that bites. Pride and Prejudice overflows with marvelous Secondary Characters. No wonder it's survived the test of time.

Action/Suspense author Jack Higgins writes villains I find fascinating. They are always in-depth, even the most evil displaying love of family or other redeeming qualities. In fact, he made a Nazi submarine captain so appealing that after killing him off, he was forced to "resurrect" him for another book! And not too long after that, he took an Irish assassin and turned him into the long-running hero of an almost infinite series of books. Lindsay Buroker does something similar in her Emperor's Edge series, taking a young assassin with a very short role in Book 1 and turning him into the hero—well, anti-hero—of nearly all the remaining books in what turned out to be a very long series.

So yes, Secondary Characters can graduate to having their own books. WARNING: But do not let them shine so brightly when they're secondary that they overwhelm the Solo Protagonist or Hero and Heroine.

I've never had any interest in vampires and werewolves. Until, that is, I picked up the first book in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. A gay vampire? Multiple gay vampires? On top of what has to be the most macho werewolf in the kingdom? And a Heroine without a Soul? I was hooked. And as if that weren't enough, as the series progresses, a highly effeminate vampire ends up as—oh horrors—a werewolf, eventually Alpha of the pack, and gets a touching love story of his own. Another Secondary Character making his mark. And I admit to succumbing to the temptation to make one of the characters in my Sci Fi Saga, Blue Moon Rising, a werewolf.

In Anne McCaffrey's lengthy Dragonriders of Pern series, the list of Secondary Characters is almost infinite, traveling back through the centuries as the series expands. I have always felt that the first books were the strongest, however, the ones where telepathic dragons are among the many striking secondary characters.

To wind up this week's post—primarily an introduction to how varied Secondary Characters can be—I offer Temeraire, from Naomi Novik's Alternative Napoleonic history, which includes a fighting (and talking) dragon. Although Temeraire would tell you he's not "secondary" to anyone!

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Next week: A few more examples, plus some generalities about what you have to keep in mind when "casting" your array of supporting players.

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