Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A Family Triumph - one First & two Seconds in the Girl Scout Derby

Rockin' Riley, Winner, Brownie Division
Hailey's Comet - Second, Junior Division

SeeSaw - Second, Brownie Division (Cassidy's car)

And a big "muchas gracias" to Daddy who oversaw design, cutting, sanding, painting, balancing, et al!


 I was reminded by an author friend on Florida's Gulf Coast about the little matter of those vital words, north, south, east, and west. So let's tackle that first, quickly adding the caveat that different publishers have different style sheets, and this one can vary. But in general . . .

Directions.  Ask yourself: Am I describing movement, giving driving directions? If so, then it's lower case. But if you're writing about a particular part of the country, then you use an initial cap.

There's a gas station just east of here. You can't miss it.

The ladies in the movie Steel Magnolias are examples of the strength of women from the South.
Canada is the country north of the United States.
I was born in the Mid-West but have lived most of my life in the East.
Here in Florida we see a lot of Snowbirds from Up North.  

Titles of Works 
 Books, Magazines & Newspapers. These items have initial caps and are italicized.
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, Arabella by Georgette Heyer
I used to subscribe to Vogue. My son prefers to read Time magazine. 
I read the Orlando Sentinel every day.  BUT

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
She reads only fashion magazines. Ed prefers getting the news from television rather than reading it in the newspaper.

Musical Compositions.  The names of musical compositions require initial caps for all words but minor articles and prepostions. If a long composition has a specific name attached, it is also italicized. Short pieces, however, such as a single song, are set off by quotation marks, no italics. If, however, you are simply referring to a piece of music, such as a sonata or symphony by its number or key, only initial caps are used.  (A bit tricky, I admit.)

Madame Butterfly, Jesus Christ Superstar 
Beethoven's Sonata op. 8 is more commonly known as the  Pathétique
She belted out the high note in "O Holy Night." 
Sonata in D Minor   BUT

I attended the opera last night.  
The quartet played some sonata I never heard of. 
I could have done without the soprano's last song.

Note:  The Chicago Manual of Style uses lower case for both number and opus - no. & op. 

Plays, Movies, Television Programs. These titles also use initial caps and italics.
A Long Day's Journey Into Night, As You Like It, The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Avatar, The Princess Diaries,The Silence of the Lambs
NCIS, Scandal, Person of Interest

Note:  The characters in these dramas, however, must settle for initial caps only, both for their stage names and for the characters they are portraying.

Paintings & Sculpture. These too have initial caps, but only the name of the work is italicized.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is the world's most famous painting, while Michelangelo's David is likely the most famous statue. A close second might  be Rodin's The Thinker.  

He gazed at the painting for a long time but couldn't figure out how anyone would pay a million dollars for it.
I couldn't believe how many sculptures there were in Lord Elgin's collection of "marbles" on display in the British Museum.

There are, of course, many other places where capital letters are used, but hopefully those in the two parts of "Using Capital Letters" cover most of information needed for authors of Fiction.

If you think of other uses of capital letters that are essential to fiction-writing, please use Comments (below) to let me know. (I keep promising myself I'm going to organize all these Writing & Editing blogs into a book someday.)

~ * ~

SPECIAL NOTE:  My naughty novellas, Cecilia (with Belle) will be available as a "twofer" on Kindle Countdown, beginning Thursday, April 24.
For link to Amazon, click here.

Thanks for stopping by.


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, April 12, 2014


Sandhill Cranes - parents & "preteens" - photographed at The Villages, Central Florida

The Sometimes Peculiar Use of Capital Letters

I never thought I'd see the day when I would sit down and actually remind my readers that the pronoun "I" is capitalized or that each sentence starts with a capital letter. But e-mails, and most particularly texting, seem determined to reduce our language to a mere semblance of its former self. For the purpose of this blog—aimed, as always, at authors writing fiction—let's pass over the most well-known uses of capital letters as quickly as possible and get down to the ones so many find tricky. 

Use initial caps for:

1. Names. (People, Places, Businesses, and Organizations) John Doe, Omaha, Nebraska, New York City, East Oshkosh, Brazil, Africa, the Pacific, Lake Baikal, General Motors, the Girl Scouts of America, the Blue Angels, etc.

2.  Titles. President, Chairman, Duke, Duchess . . . BUT only when they are combined with a person's name. Otherwise, they are lower case.

Example:   the President of the United States, President Obama  BUT
                The president sat at his desk. 
                The duke rode his horse each morning.

Grace note: Just to complicate things, the publishers' "bible", The Chicago Manual of Style, disagrees with the general publisher usage of English titles.  It states: "the duke of Marlborough" is correct when most publishers go with "the Duke of Marlborough." I personally recommend capitalizing the title (duke, earl, viscount, etc.) when it is directly associated with the proper name of the title  (William, Duke of Cambridge).

3. Personification. In writing Fiction, we sometimes give people names derived from their appearance. In one of my recent novellas, for example, I referred to two ladies of the evening as Shocking Pink and Scarlet. Basically, any time you take an ordinary word and personify it, use initial caps.

4.  Initials & Acronyms.  I often refer to myself as GAK. We hire a DJ to play at a party. But if you need a Medical Examiner, for some reason periods are usually inserted (M.E.) - probably because it comes out as ME and looks more than a little egotistical.  You can, of course, earn a PhD, and many of us couldn't do without a CPA to help with our taxes or our businesses. And then there are all those government and military alphabet soups, the FBI, CIA, DOD, DHS. In Florida we have the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement). And OCLS (Orange County Library System). Acronyms have become a way of life. And Heaven help any poor e-mailer or texter who can't read them. 

5.  Emphasis. Authors of Non-fiction or Literary Fiction (note the initial caps) will likely cringe at this one, but it's a legitimate use of caps for most Fiction authors. In a manner similar to the use of Shocking Pink and Scarlet mentioned above, a character might be described as "Hot" or a "Hottie." (Italics, of course, can also be used for emphasis, but somehow the effect is not quite the same.) This kind of capitalization should be used sparingly, but it is permissible in most Fiction, particularly Romance.

Elaboration on the above:

1. Titles used in place of names in Direct Address.   
          Aye, aye, Captain, I'll do that right away.
          Of course, Your Grace.
          Would you repeat that, Sergeant?
          BUT for some reason modern publishing makes an exception for:
          Are you sure you know where you're going, miss?
          I'm so sorry, sir.

Grace note:  No matter what approach you take, you'll probably run into a publisher with a different style sheet!

2.  Religious Titles work the same way as noble and military titles. 
           Pope John Paul II
           The pope delivered an Easter blessing.

3.  Epithets & Honorifics.  
         the Iron Duke
         His Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu
         Your Honor, Judge Perry   BUT
         The cardinal disagreed, to the bishop's dismay.
         The judge, looking down from the high bench, frowned.

4.  Nationalities, Tribes.  In a manner similar to that cited in #2 above, Scotland is capitalized, but scotch whiskey is not. Kentucky is capitalized but bourbon is not (unless you're referring to a specific named bourbon or it's part of a name on a label!) 
Basically, if you're talking about a specific name, it's capitalized. If you're using the word generically, it is not.

5.  Historical Periods. the Middle Ages, the Georgian Era, the Jazz Age, etc.  

6.  Events. Festival of Trees, Reign of Terror, the Kentucky Derby, The Florida State Fair

7.  Holidays. Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, etc.

8.  Deities.  God, Yahweh, Allah, Holy Ghost, the Trinity, Prince of Peace, etc. Also ancient gods, such as Apollo, Venus, Zeus, etc.

9.  Religious Services.  Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, High Mass (with generic exceptions).  There will be a high mass at one o'clock.  The cathedral offers four masses daily, six on Sunday.

Other exceptions:  generic terms such as morning prayer, bar mitzvah, sun dance, vespers, etc.  Also ark, mandala, rosary, shofar, stations of the cross, etc.

10.  Military.  The names of military forces are capitalized; for example, Army Corps of Engineers, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Royal Air Force.  Again, the exceptions are generic: Wellington's army besieged Badajoz.  A navy task force sailed for the South Pacific.

Battles, Campaigns, and Theaters of War are also capitalized, as are the names of medals.
Examples:  the Civil War, Battle of the Bulge, World War I, Purple Heart, Silver Star, etc.

11.  Transportation. The names of ships, trains, aircraft & spacecraft are capitalized. (They are also italicized.) Victory, Arizona, EnterpriseChallenger, etc. The different models are merely capitalized:  Nike, Camry, Concorde, Silver Meteor, etc.

12.  Astronomical Terms are capitalized: the Big Dipper, Andromeda, the North Star, Southern Cross, etc.

13.  Radiation. Although I'm a great believer in using a capital X in X-ray, The Chicago Manual of Style says it can be written with a lower case x as well (x-ray). Other rays, however, are all lower case, whether, beta, gamma, cosmic, or ultraviolet.

~ * ~

The next section, Titles of Works, is such a biggie, I'm going to leave it for next week.  Don't forget to come back for Part 2 of "Using Capital Letters."

Grace note:  A huge thank you to The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, for providing the solid backup for this list. (I did my best, however, not to steal their examples!) 

Thanks for stopping by.


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, March 29, 2014


Blog Update - the next new Mosaic Moments 
will be April 13, 2014 - The Use of Capital Letters

Blair's Not-so-traditional Regencies

Grace Note:  Please take the time to scroll down to Cecilia, Book 2 of The Aphrodite Academy series, which can be found at the bottom of this list. Cecilia is currently being offered as a Limited Edition Special with Belle. This "twofer" novella package will go on Kindle's Countdown pricing on April 24, 2014.

Above is the newest incarnation of my very first book, which appeared 
as an e-book in December 1999 and has had a second e-edition, 
plus two different print editions. Though not consciously 
intended as "feminist" literature, it could easily qualify, as a 
young widow attempts to save her husband's property 
in the midst of a growing Luddite-style rebellion. But just 
as she thinks she's found a new love, her husband returns 
home from the Peninsular War  - with a fiancée at his side.  
Book 1 of The Regency Warrior series 

A seven-year saga in which a very young lady marries to save her 
father, the family home, the family business, and protect Britain's spy 
network on the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately, no one gives her
the key to the mystery man she marries, which leads to a war 
on the homefront almost as dramatic as the war with France.
Book 2 of The Regency Warrior series

 The mysterious Deus ex machina from Tarleton's Wife loses his 
life-long love to her father's overweening ambition to acquire a title 
for his daughter. It takes a good deal of high drama in Louisiana, 
Dartmoor, and London before his life finally comes right again.
Book 3 of The Regency Warrior series

The also-ran "other man" in Tarleton's Wife and O'Rourke's Heiress 
finally meets his match in a Canadian heiress in fear for her life. 
(I wrote Tarleton's Wife quite a few years before it was finally
published, so you could say it took nearly twenty years to 
find a girl for Jack. Believe me, this was a book I felt I had to write!)
Book 4 of The Regency Warrior series

 Brides of Falconfell is a Regency Gothic - with all the elements
 of the Victorian Gothics so many of us enjoyed reading in the past. 
A gloomy mansion, odd characters, unexplained deaths, a small 
child, a wife who fears her husband may be murderer. 
Fun to write, it seems to be attracting a surprising number of readers.

Though set in 1840 and not technically a "Regency," if you take
away all the strange and wonderful machines, Airborne reads like
a Regency, and is almost as squeaky clean as a trad.

A young woman makes a marriage of convenience, only to find 
herself caught up in an effort to restore a Hanover - 
namely, Princess Victoria - to England's throne.

Blair's Regency Darkside Books

In 2013 I inaugurated a new Regency series, The Aphrodite Academy, because I wanted to explore the problems of the young women of that era who were not as fortunate as the young ladies we read about in traditional Regency novels, and even worse off than the young women in most Regency Historicals. Basically, I wanted to explore the "dark side" of the Regency, taking a look at what might have happened to the young women whose plights are usually ignored in Romance literature.

I have enjoyed this change of pace but admit to making a big mistake when, in an effort to spare my faithful readers' blushes, I created a new pseudonym so they would know this was a real departure from my usual work. I quickly discovered, as J. K. Rowling did before me, that a second pseudonym can backfire, cutting you off from faithful readers. So Rayne Lord got the axe. Below please find a sneak peek at Belle's new cover. But you won't see it online right away as Belle is currently repackaged with Cecilia, Book 2 of The Aphrodite Academy series, and Amazon only allows ONE cover even though there are two books in the Cecilia download. Sorry about that.

 After continuing abuse at the hands of her father and his 
cronies, a young lady takes refuge at The Aphrodite Academy, 
a school where a wealthy baroness trains her students 
with all the skills necessary to become a courtesan 
of the first stare. Belle's problem - the one man she 
still admires, the one who helped her escape, 
is the high bidder for her services.

When Cecilia, Belle's headstrong classmate, discovers she has made 
a poor choice of protector, she is rescued, broken in body and spirit, 
by the notorious and powerful Nick Black, who is still working 
on rising above his reputation in London's Underworld. 

Grace note:

Hopefully, Holly and Juliana will have their own books over the course of the next eighteen months.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


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, March 22, 2014

Independence - Childhood's Great Loss

Shared on Facebook, source unknown - hopefully it adds a bit of humor to a serious post

Grace Note: The following post is the result of a conversation my daughter and I had as we returned from an outstanding lecture on Communication (interaction with others) by a Brown professor.

Needed:  Room to Roam

A great sickness has come upon the land. One never conceived of when the dream of Suburbia became reality after World War II. (And, yes, even though the words "suburb" and "suburbia" have been around since the fourteenth century, they took on new meaning with the great sprawl of tract housing in the 1950s.) I keep telling myself there must still be small towns somewhere where life hasn't changed much. And I suspect children growing up in the inner city have likely been hedged about by restrictions for centuries, but . . .

Most of us live somewhere in the middle, in small towns grown large or in vast suburban tracts, usually divided into enclaves surrounded by walls and, in many instances, barricaded by gates and/or guardhouses.

A few years ago when I spent a whole day at the FBI's training facility in Quantico, one of the lecturers we were privileged to hear told us that the FBI was having difficulty recruiting agents with "street smarts." I.e., men and women who were accustomed to interacting with the world around them. They attributed this failing to the Computer Age. I suggest that it's more complex than that. That the FBI was beginning to see the result of the first generation of "helicopter" parenting. Of parents who found themselves in a world more inimical than the one they grew up in. Or at least it certainly seems so. But whether this problem is due to better communication, the anonymity of urban sprawl, the increasing lack of moral teaching, or a too liberal justice system is beyond my capacity to judge. It simply is, and we must learn to cope with it without binding our children so tightly to our apron strings that they cannot function on their own.

There is also the problem of parents who have become terrifyingly ambitious, thinking to control every aspect of their children's lives, not only to protect them but to see that they do only the "right" things so they can have the "right" friends, get into the "right" schools, etc. Plus the parents who wallow in the litigious age, ready to take umbrage over anything and everything. Or the ultra liberal parents who think every child should make the sports team, be able to hit the ball, catch the ball, make a home run, or whatever.

For heaven's sake, people, be real! Stop trying to live your children's lives for them and let them learn to do it themselves.

Being careful of your child's welfare is one thing. Pushing this concept to extremes, another thing altogether. A few examples:

I write books. How did I get started? I created my first stories to entertain myself while walking home a mile-plus after school each day when I was seven. I was also allowed out of the house to play in the neighborhood all by myself. That was considered normal. Yes, this freedom can backfire. Reliable weather reports were nonexistent in those days. One day I started home from school, only to discover I was in the midst of a blizzard, with the snow already 8-10" deep. Fortunately, I had to pass the high school where my father was principal and one of the high school boys rescued me, carrying me to my father's office. But no fuss was made about it. This was life. Children learned to be independent, even if meant running into trouble occasionally. 

When my own children were growing up, we lived on Long Island Sound. Did I worry they were going to run into water and drown? I did not. They learned about water from the moment they were born, took swim classes at the Y, and there never was a bit of trouble. (And no, they did not swim unsupervised.) Did I panic about them climbing on the rocks above the water? I did not. That too was part of the adventure of growing up. We lived at the edge of a seaside community, with a woods and large salt marsh between us and the next community. My children and the other children in the neighborhood ran free in this area, crossing the salt marsh to a candy store on the far side of the marsh, placing pennies to be flattened by freight trains bringing trap rock to barges at a dock less than a mile from our home. We were near the Amtrak tracks as well. And again there was the potential for disaster, one I would have spared my daughter if I could. But the only way to do that would have been to tell her she could never leave the yard without me. One day she and a friend were out for a walk with our St. Bernard. They jumped off the Amtrak tracks when they heard a train coming. Our St. Bernard decided she had to defend the girls from this roaring enemy and stood her ground. After thirty-some years It's still a topic we try to avoid, and yet if I had it to do over, I can't imagine denying my children the freedom to roam. And to experience life, even when it turned on them.

But the present generation is being stifled. And, truth to tell, I wish I knew how to change it. How many children do you know who actually walk to and/or from from school? Yet who can blame parents for picking up their children when the news media bombards us with statistics on sexual predators in our neighborhoods? But do we have to carry the school pickup to extremes? For example, every school in Florida has covered outdoor waiting areas to protect children from our hot sun and our frequent rains. And yet, with two steps from shelter to car, a monitor is there with an umbrella for fear the child might experience a drop or two in transit. Worse yet, if there's so much as a distant thunder rumble, children are kept inside until parents come in and sign a release form before taking their child to the car. And if there is active thunder and lightning, the school goes on lockdown while the parents sit in their cars and seethe. Is this what our litigious age has wrought? Or is it simply the ultra-anxiety of outspoken "helicopter" parents, who seem to feed on imagining the worst and think they are "protecting" their children by controlling every aspect of their lives?

Grace note:  if you aren't familiar with the term, "helicopter moms" refers to mothers who hover over their children, scheduling every hour of their days, leaving little room for independence, creativity, making mistakes, etc. 

School is just the tip of the iceberg. That has always been organized - or so we hope. But what about "home" time? Many children are now in "extended day," the after-school activities that look after children in the hours between the close of school and their parents getting out of work. This is a wonderful service, but, still, it's "organized." 

If not in "extended day," children's lives are carefully controlled by arranged "playdates," organized sports activities, dance classes, karate classes organized club meetings, elaborately orchestrated birthday parties, etcetera. By now the message should be pretty clear. Today's children are suffering from:

1.  Loss of Independence
2.  Loss of Initiative
3.  Loss of Creativity
4.  Lack of "Street Smarts" - interaction with outsiders & new situations  
5.  Loss of the Opportunity to Fail
6.  Loss of the Opportunity to Think Their Way Out of Failure or a "Tight" Situation

 I suggest the possible results of the above losses could be:

1.  Lack of a common sense approach to coping with the unexpected or with adversity
2.  A tendency to "follow" instead of "lead"
        or perhaps the opposite . . .
3.  Overreacting to constant control by rebellion of the worst kind

Below is a link my daughter found on the Internet which beautifully illustrates what today's children are missing. Please take a look.

Click here for the problem in a nutshell

What is the solution? Don't I wish I knew! Acknowledging the problem is a start. 

If we can consciously try to find ways to let children have less structure, more time to be themselves, more time to be creative . . . 

If we can do this with minimal risks to safety, instead of citing the most remote dire possibility as an excuse for bringing on the Black Hawks to hover over our children 24/7 . . .

Our goal should be to teach our children how to live in this world, good or bad, not protect them so stringently from life that they have no idea how to get by on their own. We need to give our children the tools to cope with life, not hedge them around so tightly they live in a solitary bubble, turning ever more inward for fulfillment, or busting out of confinement into the underbelly of the world we thought we were "protecting" them from.

Do not rely on schools to build strong minds. Their job is academics. It's your job to teach your child how to cope with the rest of the world. And that's a big challenge. One many of us are failing at the moment. We must not live our children's lives for them! (Shades of bad sportsmanship by parents at Little League games, or the father in the Orlando area who jumped in and finished his son's fight against a 16-year-old!) We must give our children the freedom to find their own way, develop their own thoughts, stand on their own two feet, and be able to face what comes their way.

Parents should not be helicopters - or even umbrellas. Hopefully, we're the founts of wisdom, good moral examples, reliable back-up when absolutely needed, and providers of a nurturing environment. BUT - repeat - it is not our job to function as some giant plastic bubble that shuts out the world, making sure our children have absolutely no opportunity to discover that the world consists of bad as well as good.

Please, find a way to give your child Room to Roam!

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by. I would really appreciate it if you would pass this post along to every parent and grandparent you know with the request for suggestions on how to solve this modern-day problem.


Next week: Blair's Not-so-Traditional Regency novels

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, March 15, 2014


Suitable for all ages

A very young lady must go to extremes to find
a safe haven. Years later, it takes a soap opera
ending to bring her saga to a happy conclusion. 
Lady Silence was my last Regency before Signet 
ended the line - and, interestingly, became my
most popular e-book. Perhaps readers are 
intrigued by the idea of a woman 
who can keep her mouth shut!

Two romances for the price of 
one. A Peninsular widow makes 
a marriage of convenience with
 a duke, while her brother 
falls in love with the duke's 
estranged daughter, who arrives
 on her father's doorstep with 
a surprising petit paquet.

An engineer and Peninsular War 
veteran just wants to build 
things, but a series of 
disasters force him to become 
a "temporary" earl. And to 
make matters worse, he has 
to deal with the uppity 
daughter of a duke. 

Signet title: 
The Major Meets His Match

A beleaguered young lady is 
forced to hire a solicitor to 
find her a husband, with 
results she never anticipated, 
including becoming a 
"campaign" wife.

Signet title: The Lady and the Cit

A very proper New England 
school mistress is shocked 
to discover her grandmother 
was a famous courtesan - 
and has left her a series 
of commissions to carry 
out before she can inherit 
a country cottage in England.

Signet title: The Indifferent Earl
(Marketing thought "courtesan" wouldn't 
play well in the Heartland!)

A young nobleman offers marriage to save a new acquaintance
from the harem of the Topkapi Palace, only to be warned off 
his bride by those who "know better." Fast forward ten years, 
and the problem has festered until Happily Ever After 
seems nothing more than an irretrievable myth.

A young couple experiences 
the hazards of a marriage 
of convenience when 
neither is experienced 
enough to make the 
necessary adjustments.

A big thank-you to Ellora's Cave
 for taking up the slack when 
Signet and Zebra canceled 
theirtraditional Regency lines.

A heart-warming Christmas 
novella about two emotionally 
damaged people brought together 
by a "mistletoe moment."

A young woman almost allows a 
series of disasters to ruin her life 
and the lives of her sisters, 
until the Christmas holidays 
help her find her way back 
to life and love. 

The daughter of a canal engineer and a young marquess 
establish a life-long friendship at an early age, only to be 
torn apart by the realities of the Regency world. 
(Includes authentic details on the building 
of the Kennet & Avon Canal.)

~ * ~

Grace note: All the above books are in the Jane Austen tradition, suitable for reading by anyone who enjoys emphasis on a wide variety of characters, plus tales of star-crossed romance. Age 14 and up.

Thanks for stopping by.


Next week: I planned on continuing my inventory of books by listing "Blair's Not-so-traditional Regencies," but I named this blog Mosaic Moments so I could be flexible, and an issue came up this week that takes precedence. So next week's blog topic will be something along the lines of : How Can Children Learn Independence in the Era of Helicopter Parenthood?

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

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