Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, November 19, 2016


The difference a decade makes:

Hailey, Cassidy, Riley

Riley, Hailey, Cassidy

 ~ * ~

About five years ago I wrote a Christmas novella for an anthology published by Ellora's Cave Cotillion. This year I got my rights back and have just re-published it under the same title: Mistletoe Moment. (I'd wanted to call it Mistletoe Magic, but there were too many other books of the same name!) Mistletoe Moment is a classic heartwarming tale of two wounded people getting a second chance at happiness. One has been wounded only by the slings and arrows of society, the other by the horrors of war. Both have retreated from the world, only to stumble upon each other in the winter countryside.

After suffering social disaster at her very first ball—severely aggravated by the nastiness of an unfeeling family—Miss Pamela Ashburton hides herself in the country, expecting to live out her life as a spinster. Major Will Forsythe, injured in body and spirit at Waterloo, comes to the country to escape the concern of well-meaning relatives. Privacy, peace and quiet—that's all he wants. Until he meets a holiday sprite in search of mistletoe. And the Christmas spirit, in the form of a cluster of white berries, gives them both a second chance.

For a link to Mistletoe Moment on Amazon, click here.

For a 20% free read of Mistletoe Moment on Smashwords, click here.

  ~ * ~

And please don't forget the 5000-word free read of Sorcerer's Bride available at Kindle Scout. If the book is accepted, all those who recommended Sorcerer's Bride get a free e-book. For a link to Sorcerer's Scout Campaign, 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, November 12, 2016

Blatant Promo

A truly remarkable week. On Monday I submitted Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising, to Kindle Scout. On Friday, I uploaded Tangled Destinies, my fifth Regency Gothic, to Amazon and Smashwords. And by the end of next week I hope to have re-launched my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Moment, first published by Ellora's Cave Cotillion.

Sorcerer's Bride is involved in what Kindle Scout calls a "campaign" for nominations for inclusion in the KS program. I would, therefore, be extremely grateful if you would take a moment to follow the link below and choose "Nominate." No, you don't have to do it on faith. Scout provides the first 5000 words for you to read. For a link to Sorcerer's Bride,click here.

Miss Lucinda Neville has more than a few problems. She has felled her importunate brother-in-law, become a surrogate mother to a foreigner's baby, a keeper of dangerous secrets, and staunch defender of a child someone seems to want gone from this earth. And then she finds herself under attack as well. The person with the most motive? The rakish son of a marquess who just happens to have the best reason for doing away with both Lucinda and the babe.

Author's Note:
Tangled Destinies is the fifth in my series of Regency Gothics in the grand tradition of the Victorian and contemporary Gothics of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. I would like to thank my readers for showing so much interest in my books, which are set in the early 19th century period known as the Regency. I truly love creating them.

For a link to Amazon Kindle, click here.  ("Look Inside" available)

For a link to a 20% free read on Smashwords, 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, November 5, 2016

More Thoughts on Final Edits

Cassidy, Halloween 2016
If anyone can figure out how this photo happened, unintentionally, please don't hesitate to say!

My daughter took the photo in the bed of the trailer 10-15 children were riding in for Trick or Treating in their neighborhood, where the houses are widely spaced. She thinks it has something to do with trying for a panorama, but it's WAY spooky. Particularly on Halloween night with what appears to be a cloaked figure lurking in the background. It reminds me of the time her father took a photo of Cassidy steering a tour boat in Boston Harbor, and she came out as a double image, something we didn't think possible on a cellphone photo. Hmmm.


When I heard that Microsoft had bought Corel, the parent company of Word Perfect, beyond my initial groan at the possibility of losing Word Perfect, I could only hope MS would incorporate the best of Word Perfect, finally making Word the outstanding word processing program it claims to be. Admittedly, I'm prejudiced since the early days of Word when it was light years away from being as good as Word Perfect. Yes,it's made progress, but its only true claim to excellence is Track Changes.

A few more things I've learned this week . . . 
While struggling with the final formatting of Sorcerer's Bride in Word 2016, I shook my head over the number of blue "squiggles" under the lines. A few made sense, but others were a total mystery. It was as if whoever programmed the grammar-check portion of the program had grown up reading and writing a different language. If authors actually took all those squiggles seriously, we'd not only end up with stilted sentences or a mish-mash of unintelligible garbage, we'd have a break-down before we made it half-way through. Maybe the squiggles are programmed for business speak and not for fiction? Whatever. I strongly suggest taking them with a grain of salt.

One thing I really appreciate is the little box in Word 2016 that says: Pick up where you left off. For years I've been using Post-it notes to remind me where I left off. To have the program remember is a marvelous touch. Love it.

As I began a final run-through of Tangled Destinies in Word Perfect with Reveal Codes on - the original written on a computer with Windows 7 - I found the copy so much cleaner than Sorcerer's Bride, which was written in XP. So, sigh, I guess age matters. I whipped through 10 chapters of Tangled in a hour this morning. Best time ever. (That's just looking for code glitches, not editing for content.)

Grace Note: my Windows 10 continues to perform really well. (Love the constant parade of surprise screen-savers.) I think whoever said 10 only gives trouble when put onto older computers was likely right.

The Nitty-Gritty.

I've gone into this process before, but it can't hurt to repeat it, as so many authors are going DIY these days. To do final edits & formatting:

1.  Put all your book's documents into ONE.

Grace note: I usually have my manuscript divided into 5 or 6 sections of 5 chapters each. So before final editing, the first thing I have to do is put these documents together. In the case of Tangled Destinies, I saved "Tangled1" as "TangledDestinies2016" and proceeded from there. (We'll call "TD2016" the "Editing Document" in the instructions below.)

2.  At the end of the Doc 1, enter a Required Page End.

3.  Open Doc 2, Select all, Copy. Switch to Editing Document, paste Doc 2 at the end of Doc 1.

Grace Note:  Those of you who make each chapter a separate doc are in for a LOT of work - which is why I don't recommend that approach. You also have to make sure a Required Page End is inserted after every chapter. (Fastest method:  Ctrl + Enter)

4.  Proceed in a similar manner until the entire manuscript is in the Editing Document.

Insert for Word Perfect users, turn on Reveal Codes if you have them, and delete the formatting at the beginning of the document - all but "Paragraph Indent."  Arrow through the document, looking for wonky codes (see last week's Mosaic Moments). When finished, save document to rtf. Open Word, then open the rtf copy of your book from Word Perfect. Save as a Word doc or docx.

  5. If you have not already done so, Select All and . . .
    a.  delete page numbering
    b.  change to single space
    c.  change auto paragraph indent to .3
    d.  select Justified

6.  Turn on Word's version of "Reveal Codes," the ¶ in the Tool Bar. Proceed to read through your entire manuscript for content, copy edits, and at the same time format the chapter headings and Date & Locations lines (see below).

7.  In general, chapter headings are usually centered and often set in larger type than the manuscript. So . . . you need to do the following:

    Highlight the chapter heading and . . .
    a.  select font size
    b.  select Bold, if desired
         Under "Paragraph":
    c.  select Alignment Centered
    d.  make Auto Indent "0"

8.  Date & Location lines are traditionally Flush Left.

    Highlight the line and under "Paragraph" . . .
    a. select Alignment Left
    b. make Auto Indent "0"

9Run Spell Check one last time. 

Grace note:  You should have been running Spell Check after every chapter, at the end of every section, at the end of a first overall edit, and any subsequent edits! It's not a reflection on your spelling but a way to find typos, double words, etc. It's a "MUST"! 

Yes, the steps above are meticulous and time consuming, but do you want your work to look like a real book or not?

What I do not do.
I don't do the Flush Left for opening paragraphs of new sections. It's fine if you want to do it, but I feel e-publishing is its own new genre. Writing a good book is important, as is getting the grammar and punctuation right. But slavishly copying paper print styles? I'm not comfortable with that. This, however, is a subjective decision each author must make for her/himself.

Dropped caps?  Forgetaboutit. They either come out completely bollixed up, looking ridiculous, or they indicate somebody cared more about imitating New York print books than about the content of their own creation.

Nor do I see any reason to create an "index" with links to chapters. My Kindle comes back to wherever I left off, and I presume other e-readers do the same. And who on earth remembers enough details about a book to say, "Oh, I want to go back and re-read that scene in Chapter 6?" If someone can enlighten me about what I consider foolishness, please don't hesitate to do so. This oddity, by the way, is new to e-pub. Did you ever see a Chapter Index in any work of fiction? Definitely an innovation we can do without.

I feel the same way about all the rest of the junk publishers, mostly New York print pubs, insist on putting "upfront" in a book, including page after page in which the author thanks everyone including his/her dog or cat. When I open my Kindle, I want to see "Chapter 1." I don't want to have to go flip-flip-flip-where does the blasted book begin?"

Oh yes, one more thing I do not do: struggle to format my book in a bunch of different e-formats. Amazon accepts Word docs, docx, & rtf. (And possibly one or two others I've forgotten.) Smashwords will happily take your Word doc and translate it to every format known to mankind for a very minimal cut of your selling price. So why bother? Are a few cents worth it?
E-pub is not only a new way of publishing, it is the future of publishing. We need to break from convention and establish our own way of doing things. (As long as we still respect the English language!) What really matters is—and pardon me for saying this for the umpteenth time

1.  Edit the blasted book!
     a.  Self-edit, self-edit, self-edit.
     b.  Self-edit, self-edit, hire a professional.

2.  Format your book so it immediately catches a reader's eye.
     a. DIY
     b. Hire a pro - and be sure they do it the way you want it, not in some "precious" format that smacks of past centuries.  

Okay, that's my two cents on getting a book ready for that final upload. (And the editing part applies to "print" authors as well. NEVER send your editor a manuscript full of errors you could easily have fixed yourself!) 

~ * ~ 

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, October 29, 2016

The Agony of Final Edits

After a long hot summer, bear season is back. (I wonder where they all went during the hot weather.) For a video my daughter took on Thursday, October 27, click here.

I consider this one of Delle Jacob's all-time great covers. Absolutely love it!

The Agony of Final Edits

The last thing I ever planned was to be in final edits and formatting for two different books at the same time. This is not supposed to happen. And now, on top of that, I've realized I have to get busy polishing the Christmas novella I plan to republish for the holiday season. (It was originally published by the Cotillion division of Ellora's Cave.)

And that makes THREE, side by side, and back to back. Aargh!

It looks like Regency Gothic #5, Tangled Destinies, will make it online first. If I can straighten out all the kinks that weren't meant to be kinky! But even before that, I plan to have Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of the Blue Moon Rising series, ready to upload to Kindle Scout. That process takes a while - and may or may not work out. In either case, I suspect it will be the first of the year before it makes it online. As soon as Tangled is uploaded, I'll turn my attention to re-editing Mistletoe Moment. In spite of all the agonies of so many final edits, I will get this poignant Christmas tale back online in time for the holiday season. So please keep a look-out for the announcement about this story of two people who have, with considerable bitterness, withdrawn from the polished manners and mores of society.

Down to the Nitty-Gritty . . .

After many years of listening to all the horror stories about not being able to use most of my well-loved and expensive programs if I upgraded to Windows 10, my poor old Dell (XP) and its Windows 7 successor both succumbed within months of each other, and there I was, stuck. No choice. New computer. New programs. No-o-o-o! 

Incredibly, my Geek Squad guy, well aware of my fears, was quite smug about presenting me with a Lenovo* Windows 10 loaded with every last one of my old programs, including Word Perfect 5, and even Word 2003, which I had used to successfully upload every last one of my books to Amazon and Smashwords. He had to fight to get my Oxford English Dictionary to work, but he managed it. Yeah, hurray, Geek Squad! I've continued to do my professional (outside) editing work in Word 2003, but I'm doing final edits of Sorcerer's Bride in Word 2016 and expect I will soon feel comfortable with Track Changes there as well. All in all, a much better experience with Windows 10 than I had been led to anticipate.

*Grace note: the keyboard of the Lenovo model I chose was totally unacceptable. I purchased a separate wireless keyboard and mouse to go with the new computer. A keyboard whose layout was similar to the keyboards I had been using since 1981 and not some dinky little "shortcut" model that looked like it was designed for people who could only type with two fingers!

The biggest editing challenge:

One of the many reasons I write in Word Perfect is its "Reveal Codes" function. It may seem unutterably boring to go through your book line by line, looking for wonky codes, but I always feel it's worth it. Inevitably, I find stray Italics codes, Left Tabs that shouldn't be there, and those pesky extra spaces that inevitably creep in. In Sorcerer's Bride I even found one or two Required Page Ends that had mysteriously disappeared. (The page ends & extra spaces would have been caught in Word with codes on. The others would not.)

Alas, I also found the editing pane chock-full of italics codes that did belong there. I had not realized how many times I used italics in Bride until I saw the manuscript with Reveal Codes turned on. And every last one was necessary. A few were used for emphasis, but most were for other reasons. 1) I invented a new language for Sorcerer's Bride, and every "foreign" word had to be set in italics. 2) There are a lot of spaceships in Bride; the name of every one of them had to be in italics. 3) There is a great deal of "thought-speak" in Sorcerer's Bride, which is set on a planet where people are psychically gifted. Each bit of silent dialogue had to be in italics. 4) Almost all my books tend to have saucy inner voices that give the heroine or hero a hard time (in present tense). These, too, need italics. So, all in all, Sorcerer's Bride is likely a strong candidate for "Most Italics Used in a Single Novel."

The next step:

After going through Sorcerer's Bride line by line, looking only at codes, I saved it into RTF. I then went to my brand new Word 2016 and played with a few chapters of Tangled Destinies until I could find the necessary editing menus. (They are, I admit, after the initial struggle, an improvement on good old 2003 - just harder to find.) After that, at last, I opened the RTF copy of Sorcerer's Bride in Word 2016, turned on what few codes Word shows by clicking ¶ in the Tool Bar, and settled down to reading the entire manuscript from top to bottom. True agony, as I've now been through it so many times I'm ready to scream. 

Yet, incredibly, I'm still finding things I want to change. Even on this last time through. That's what good writing is—it includes editing. Making your work the best you possibly can before foisting it on an unsuspecting world.

Ah, if only more of us were willing to suffer for our art. 

I ran into an author not long ago who begged for my help with her book, and then rejected every bit of advice I gave her, after I struggled through the longest, hardest, most difficult bit of editing plus critique that I have ever done. An attitude like this is self-defeating. I doubt even her friends will be willing to plow their way through that particular manuscript. So wake up, authors. Don't shoot yourself in foot. As I've said so often before, don't insist you're perfect. Don't insist you never make mistakes. Don't insist you never leave things out. Don't insist you never go on and on over something that is best deleted. Don't close your mind to enlightenment. Don't be so arrogant you can't at least consider expert advice. 

Repeat: Do not shoot yourself in the foot. Your friends and relatives may read your first book, but will they read your second? Will anyone?

~ * ~

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, October 22, 2016

Mystery vs. Gothic

Hailey as a skeleton (after Gramma made the top smaller)

Halloween Spiders - photo from 2012 but we make them each year

Ingredients: double-stuffed oreos, mini oreos, pretzel sticks - snapped in half, white chocolate drops & diamonds cut from fruit roll-ups. All glued together with melted chocolate.


The Difference Between Mystery and Gothic

I don't check my reviews very often, but when I did this week, one thing leaped out at me. (Besides the reviewer who forced a loud burst of laughter (appreciative laughter) out of me because she was so angry with the hero of The Welshman's Bride—fully involved in her indignation of his treatment of the heroine.) 

But the reviewer of one of my other Regency Gothics said something that made me stop and think. He/she was not happy because the villain was not kept a big secret until the final revelation. And that got me to thinking, Hmm, I think I know the feel of a Gothic as opposed to a Mystery - mostly because I've read so many of them, but obviously, it's not so clear to others. And who knows, perhaps the genres have so much cross-over, it really is difficult to tell them apart. Certainly, very few of any fiction genre's rules are set in stone any more. But today I'm going to attempt to list the differences as I see them.

1. First person or third?  
Mysteries can be written in either first person or third. Some are written in both - the hero or heroine's viewpoint in first person, other viewpoints in third.

A Gothic is written in first person only. This is because Gothic novels emphasize the main character's vulnerability. She is alone, on her own. Readers can't be allowed to see into other people's heads and find out if they're good guys or bad guys. 
2. Male or Female Point of View.
The main character in a mystery can be either male or female, occasionally a couple (m/f, m/m, f/f) working as partners.  

The main character in a Gothic has to be female. A lone female, without the support of friends or family. A vulnerable, threatened male just doesn't cut it.

3.  Murder or Attempted Murder.
The whole point to a mystery is that there is a murder(s) to solve - a puzzle if you will - questions to be asked, clever detecting, etc. Mysteries are "who done it's" in the classic sense.

The whole point to a Gothic novel is that a murder(s) may happen, but attempted murder, the threat of murder, even an imagined threat, is more important than solving an actual murder. The ambiance, the atmosphere on every page is more important than solving the question of who did what to whom.

4. Drama or Comedy.
As anyone who's ever read Janet Evanovich knows, mysteries can be either drama, comedy, or both. 

Gothics by their very nature are drama, sometimes melodrama. Dark, drear, threatening, scary. Hard to get any humor in there, although I try. 

Mysteries vary in the amount of action they show. From, say, James Lee Burke, with lots of action, "onstage" murders, and the hero up to his neck in mayhem to Cozy Mysteries, where murders occur "offstage" and the action is usually muted to accommodate those who like to keep well away from blood and gore.

Gothics often have both kinds of action. "Onstage" attempted murder, "Offstage" murder(s), and finally a dramatic "onstage" crisis involving the heroine, who somehow always manages to survive.

A mystery can be set almost anywhere and in any time period.

Gothic novels of the 18th & 19th c. were primarily set in dark and eerie castles or gloomy mansions. Today, as long as the author gets the dark & eerie ambiance correct, the setting can be almost anywhere—even, as in my current Regency Gothic, Tangled Destinies, a fine country home nestled in the beauty of the Cotswolds. 

Modern Gothics can be contemporary or historical, although most Gothic historicals are set in the 19th c. Many consider the Victorian era THE period for Gothic novels—the classic example, the novels of Victoria Holt. For classic examples of contemporary Gothics, you can't do better than the works of Mary Stewart. 

I personally prefer the early 19th c., which is why I call mine "Regency Gothics." Can you set a Gothic in another time period? Of course . . . but will readers accept it? Who knows? Tradition is a funny thing. 

In a mystery almost anything goes, as long as there is a murder to be solved. The main character/detective, can be an amateur or a professional (law enforcement or private eye). A great many questions must be asked, convoluted paths followed, perhaps another death or two. If the main character is an amateur detective, there is usually a professional lurking in the background, offering criticism, and sometimes help.

In a Gothic, the struggling heroine attempts to figure out things on her own. She is alone, no backup. Her romantic interest is frequently the person who looks most guilty, the person she dare not trust. She may have a lot of questions and doubts running through her head, but few, if any, people she can rely on. The solution to the disasters that are happening around her are important, but not as important as the general feeling of imminent threat - to herself and/or to a child.*

*Most Gothics use the device of an innocent child in one way or another. Not a "rule," but a common thread. In my current Regency Gothic, the threatened child is a baby.

Grace note:  For the benefit of my foreign readers, "onstage" is a term borrowed from the theater, indicating that an action is described in detail, happening "live" in the pages of the book. "Offstage" indicates that certain actions, such as a murder, are mentioned in the book, but readers are only told about the event. It is not described in gory detail, either at the time it happens or when the detective investigates the scene of the crime. 

Romance is optional in Mystery. 

Romance is essential to a Gothic novel, although the road is rocky, as the heroine suspecting the hero of villainy is one of the primary themes of a Gothic. 

Mystery - a puzzle—almost always a murder(s)—to be solved through meticulous investigation - sometimes clever, sometimes just plain dogged.

Gothic - a dark, threatening atmosphere combined with murder, attempted murder, and/or other dangers (real or imagined). The general ambiance, the continuing threat-level are more important than "who done it."

~ * ~

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.