Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Show, Don't Tell - Warning Words

Only in Florida. Hard to believe, but that's an alligator riding a swim noodle.

If you're not sure what an oxymororn is, this chart ought to do it!

Grace note: Why English is a Challenge

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SHOW, DON'T TELL - WARNING WORDS

For the past eight years (the life of Grace's Mosaic Moments), I have refused to write a post about words that warn an author he/she is straying into "Tell" not "Show." But while struggling through the second book in the series that inspired my most recent rant against using Storyteller Mode, I found myself scribbling down a list of words that jumped out at me. So, after explaining why I've been reluctant to make a list, I'm finally going to do it—give you a partial list of the telltale signs that scream, "You're slipping into "Tell" Mode"!

THE DANGER OF CREATING SUCH A LIST.

Over the last twenty-plus years, I have judged over 450 writing contests, and the saddest entries I saw were from eager-to-please authors who had been told the verbs "was" and "were" were signs of "Tell not Show," and they were so terrified by this admonition that they left out those verbs completely, which sometimes meant they wrote full sentences without any verb at all—sentences with nothing but a big hiccup between the subject and the predicate. Painful to read, painful to judge. How to tell these authors that omitting "was" and "were" would not miraculously convert their work to "Show," that, in fact, they had shot themselves in the foot, creating work that was almost unintelligible?

So, right up front—DO NOT TAKE THE FOLLOWING LIST VERBATIM! It is nothing more than a guideline. Every good author uses these words. In fact, I wrote an entire post giving examples from a number of well-known authors in which they use "was" and "were" as they were intended to be used, creating marvelous descriptions of people and settings or using them in other vital ways ("To Be or Not to Be" - 5/27/17). The same is true of the other words listed below. Each has a time and place where it can be useful. DO NOT TAKE ONE LOOK AND SAY:  "Ooo, I have to eliminate every one of those words, never use them ever again, and then I'll be perfect, I'll be a best-selling author, I'll make oodles of money!"

IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!

An author must develop a "feel" for the concept of getting right inside the heads of the persons with the Point of View and letting them show the reader what they are seeing, what they are doing, what they are thinking. You, as author, must NOT stand on the outside and TELL us what your characters are doing. That is the heart of "Show, Don't Tell."

HOWEVER, if you find yourself using a lot of the words below on a regular basis, then you might want to read over what you've written with a critical eye. Are YOU telling this story? Or are you letting your characters tell the story. The first is passive and boring. The second is active and reader-grabbing.

Which is why I've called this a list of WARNING WORDS. Not no-no's to be avoided  at any cost—just words to flash a yellow light, saying "Watch out! Don't fall into Passive 'Tell' Mode."


WARNING WORDS

1.  Was, were.  Perfectly good verbs, if properly used. But if you find yourself writing a lot of
     There was . . .
     There were . . .
     It was . . . 
     Or sentences like: Betty was afraid . . . John was happy . . .
     
     Those are Warning Signs that you're staying OUTSIDE your characters' heads instead of getting right INSIDE and writing from the Character's Point of View, not yours.

2.  She/he thought . . .  Again do not TELL us what your character is thinking. Identify the character, then give that person's thoughts directly. Example:
TELL:  "She could not like him, Betty thought."
SHOW:  "Betty frowned at Nick. Well aware he was a cheat, she could not like him." (Also note the perfectly acceptable use of "was.")

3.  He/she felt . . .

4.  He/she knew . . .

5.  He/she realized . . .

Numbers 3-5 are similar to Number 2—all perfectly good on occasion, but if you find you're using them often, consider them Warning Words. You're on the outside again, looking in, rather than on the inside, looking out. You are TELLING us about your character, rather than have your character speak directly to the reader.

6.  Then . . . Yet another perfectly good word that becomes a Warning Word only when used too often. 

And no, I'm not just speaking to newbies. I stumble over these words nearly every time I sit down to write and have to ask myself:

Is this the best way to say what I want to say?

Is there a combination of words that will better express what I want to say? And do it more actively? In a way that will better resonate with my readers. A way that will keep them turning the pages rather than sigh and put it aside for another time?


In rebuttal - Acceptable Author Point of View

Yes, there are successful authors who use Author Point of View throughout their books. An example from recent times would be Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. But in general, most successful fiction authors of the new century are careful to keep Author POV to a minimum in order to give their stories a more active feel. I strongly encourage you to follow the advice of "Show, Don't Tell."

SUMMARY.

"Show" means getting inside your main characters' heads. Let your readers see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. But NEVER jump on those Warning Words and say: "Oo, I can't use these. I have to avoid them at all costs!"  "Was" and "Were," for example, are essentials of the English language. They cannot be dispensed with. Instead, understand the reasoning behind the admonition "Show, don't Tell." Understand that it is advice to keep your writing ACTIVE, not a wholesale ban against the infinitive "to be."

SHOW, DON'T TELL =  Keep your writing Active, not Passive. Use interesting details, not a dull recitation of facts. Give at least 90% of your writing the personal touch of your characters and not more than 10% of you*. (Well, of course you wrote the whole thing, but it shouldn't SOUND like it!)

*"ballpark" figures - again, not an absolute but a guideline.

NEVER FORGET:  Author (or Omniscient) Point of View is frequently used in physical descriptions of both people and settings, to summarize events in passage of time, and on variety of other occasions. But since Author POV is "passive," in order to capture your readers' attention, you need the majority of your sentences to be "active."

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 CONTEST - February 23, 2019

Get your copy of The Ghosts of Rushton Court now.

  


For a link to Ghosts on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Ghosts on Smashwords, click here.

Ghosts is also available from other online vendors.

~ * ~

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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on
the writing of Ghosts, click here. 


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


email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace  

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Examples of How Not to Write

February 16, 2019:  Show, Don't Tell - Warning Words

February 23, 2019: CONTEST - Questions about 
The Ghosts of Rushton Court 


  
Contest prizes:










EXAMPLES OF HOW NOT TO WRITE

As frequently happens, a book I just read inspired this week's topic. It had a unique plot, well-drawn and unusual characters, so why was I finding it slow-going? Why was I so willing to put it down? Why did I almost consign it to Archives by Chapter Five?

You would think that after all the articles I've written on Writing and Editing that I would have recognized the problem sooner, but I did not. I suspect this was because the book had so much going for it that the problem slid by, not quite recognizable for what it was: another case of a new author mistaking the ancient art of storytelling for what modern readers want in a book. A case of what spawned the expression: "Show, don't Tell."

The author of this book was telling the story from her point of view. Not from the points of view of her hero and heroine. Yes, she often teetered on the brink of getting it right, which is why I may read the next book in the series, but for the most part she told us what her characters were doing or thinking, instead of getting right inside their heads and letting them show us what they were doing and how they felt about it. 

Since I have expounded on Show vs. Tell several times in the past, I am going to add only a little today (Dates of previous blogs on this subject may be found below.) 

What is "Tell"?
An author "telling" a story instead of "showing" is like a storyteller of old but without an opportunity for inflection. No sign of emotion. No intriguing whispers, no sly looks, no sudden shouts to dramatize the tale. The words are, in fact, more like a Narrator for the Blind, describing the action in a TV series—monotone, droning on and on with no ups and downs.

What is "Show"?
When "showing" a story, the author gets inside the hero's and heroine's heads (perhaps the villain's as well), letting the characters reveal not only what they are saying but what they are doing, what they are thinking, what they are feeling. The AUTHOR does not tell us these things. The BOOK'S CHARACTERS do.

When is "Telling" acceptable?
"Tell" mode is frequently used in Prologues, even in some first chapters, as I did in Chapter 1 of The Notorious Countess*, posted last week. There are also places—brief places—within a book, particularly in Historical Novels, where Author Narration is used to catch up on a passage of time. Another excellent example, which I've used before, is Nora Roberts's opening description of Tucker Longstreet in the novel, Carnal Innocence. Even though this style is no longer advocated in Romance, it is one of the finest character descriptions ever written. And believing no "rule" should be absolute, I find myself sneaking in Author Point of View more freely these days. Nonetheless . . . Writing an entire book in Author POV is the deadly dull I warned about above.

For this week's examples, I selected two sections of my Regency Historical, The Lady Takes a Risk, and rewrote them with a variety of mistakes, hoping the extreme contrast would not only help authors understand what it means when someone says: "Show, don't Tell" but would display other writing no-no's. You will find a note at the bottom of both Bad Examples, pointing out some of the errors.

*FYI, The Notorious Countess is being renamed as someone just published a book with that title. Sigh.

Grace note - from the Archives:
     Show vs. Tell - 7/21/13 & 7/28/13
     Point of View - 6/8/12 & 12/9/17

***

BAD EXAMPLE 1
(rewritten from the opening paragraphs of The Lady Takes a Risk)
   
   Her father was a despot, Lady Amelie thought. Yes, there were likely many other nobles in England quite as despotic as her father, the Duke of Wentworth. But that was little comfort. The duke was forcing her into marriage with Cedric, Earl of Penhurst, and somehow she must find a way to stop it. Cedric might think himself God’s gift to women but he was, in fact, a vain, pretentious man who considered women nothing more than ornaments.
   Yet here she was, waltzing with him, her father’s angry words still ringing in her ears—the duke was determined to marry Lady Blanche Furnival, and Amelie must be gone from the house before the lady would consent to enter it.  Therefore, Amelie must marry Penhurst, a close neighbor who was in want of wife. Problem solved.
   As much as the thought of marriage to the earl appalled her, Amelie had no viable answer to the duke’s argument. So here she was, dancing with the Cedric when—
   With a final flourish, the orchestra stopped playing. “Shall we go in search of a breath of fresh air?” the earl asked.
   Although well aware of the dangers of wandering in the garden with a gentleman, Amelie agreed.

What is wrong with this Bad Example 1? 

 
Answer: Just about everything. More specifically, this is case of: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Yes, the classic plot is clearly laid out, but it’s all “tell.” There is nothing “active” about the writing. No colorful details, no perky sentence fragments. No “cleverness.” Just an age-old story told in the dullest possible terms.
                                           
Please contrast Bad Example 1 with the opening of the original manuscript.


 From Chapter 1 of The Lady Takes a Risk - told from the heroine's Point of View


   It is not easy to be the daughter of a despot duke. For that matter, Lady Amelie Sherbrooke was forced to concede, there were likely earls, barons, tavern-keepers, farmers, soldiers, sailors, tinkers, and tailors whose daughters considered them quite as despotic as the Duke of Wentworth. Which did her no good at all. Misery might love company, but as for finding a way to prevent her betrothal to most the most pretentious, fatuous, unbearable idiot in the ton . . .
   Just because his coffers rivaled King Midas . . .
   His face and figure put Adonis to shame . . .
   He set the fashion for gentlemen’s clothing . . .
   His manners were impeccable . . .
   But could he converse about anything beyond fashion, balls, routs, the latest on dits, and the dissection of fribbles of equal pretentiousness?
   Did he have any concept that some females—indeed, a great many females—were far cleverer than he?
   Did he, in truth, see females as anything more than ornaments . . . or walking, talking wombs?
   Lady Amelie very much doubted it.
   Yet here she was, waltzing with him, her father’s words still ringing in her ears: “I have indulged you far too long, young lady. I have been refusing offers for you since you were sixteen, but you no longer have a choice. I am marrying Lady Furnival, whether you like it or not. And she has no desire to share her household with the headstrong female who has been its chatelaine for the past seven years. An impossible situation, you must admit. Penhurst has an ancient title, more blunt than he knows what to do with. He is young, handsome, a scion of the ton. What more could you possibly wish?”
   What more indeed? Put that way, Amelie could only see herself as churlish. So here she was, feet flying to three-quarter time, while Cedric, Earl of Penhurst, imparted a running commentary—frequently derogatory—on each of the dancers, and more than a few chaperons, ranging from imposing dowagers to wilting lilies.
   No matter how waspish her suitor became, Lady Amelie kept her perfectly polished social smile firmly fixed in place. Cedric—a neighbor and childhood playmate—could not help being born to the most frivolous diamond of her day, or growing up without a father whose passion for hunting put him in his grave when Cedric was but four years old.
   And yet . . . Amelie fought back a sigh of despair.
   As the orchestra went into a final flourish, Lord Penhurst twirled his partner in a broad circle, forcing two waltzing couples into fast, and ungainly, footwork to avoid a collision. “My lord!” Amelie exclaimed.
   The earl, ever insouciant, ignored her concern. “Ah, my dear, I do believe the musicians are taking a rest. Shall we go in search of a breath of fresh air?”   Amelie, anxious to avoid the darkling looks being cast her way by the displaced couples, readily agreed, her customary cool and contained manner slipping slightly as she placed her fingers on Penhurst’s arm. Truth be told, it was she who rushed headlong toward the tall windows opening onto the terrace. Cedric, except when waltzing, never moved faster than an elegant meander.
   She was supposed to marry this heedless buffoon . . . ?

                                  --------------------

BAD EXAMPLE 2
(rewritten from Chapter 3 of The Lady Takes a Risk)
    
   Colonel Trevor leaned back in his chair. His face was rigidly immobile as he surveyed the proud duke’s daughter, a woman who had just given him such a surprise. He had sometimes dreamed of moments like this, but since he was an honorable man, he found himself about to reject this tempting opportunity.
   “Tell me, Lady Amelie,” he said, “what does the village say about my household?”
   After a swift glance, she said, “Many things, Colonel, and all rather strange. But I am sure you know that.”
   “Do they object to our not attending church?”
   “Of course,” the lady replied. “But I fear they are more disturbed by your all-male household.”
   “Mrs. Towner does not count?” the major asked.
   “Emily Towner has been housekeeper at Kirkwood Farm since before I was born, and I’m sure all agree it was good of you to keep her on. But how she manages in an all-male household without the support of another female is, I fear, the subject of considerable gossip. As, I might add, is the subject of your men.”
   “Explain,” the major said.
   Lady Amelie steepled her fingers in front of face and took a deep breath. “The majority nod wisely and blame your reclusiveness on the war. But other opinions are less sanguine, some even suggesting devil-worship or plotting revolution.”
   The colonel considered Lady Amelie’s words. “Lady Amelie, you should know that my household is not all male without a reason. The men here are soldiers all. Some are gentlemen, some boys from the country, others from the stews of London. Some once had perfect manners; some cannot even define the word. But all came back savages. And I include myself.”

What is wrong with Bad Example 2?

Among other things, the above is an example of Dialogue (rather than Narration) that is “Tell not Show.”  I.e., it is too pedantic, too colorless, contains too many “tags” (he said, she said). It recites the facts without bringing the scene to life. In short, it is dull and lifeless. In addition, some sentences are just plain awkward—first draft quality, out of place in a polished manuscript.


From Chapter 3 of The Lady Takes a Risk - told from Colonel Trevor's Point of View:

   Colonel Trevor leaned back in his chair, his face rigidly immobile, and surveyed the proud duke’s daughter, who had just surprised him straight down to the depths of his soul. The dreams he had indulged only in his weakest moments in the dead of night had burst into imminent reality, yet here he was, an honorable man, about to blow his dreams to Hell.
   “Tell me, Lady Amelie, what does the village say about the household at Kirkwood Farm?”
   She offered him a swift glance from under her lashes. “Many things, Colonel. Conflicting and fanciful. But I’m sure you already know that.”
   “That we roast and eat children for breakfast, no doubt.”
   The lady returned a rueful smile. “Not quite that bad, Colonel, but you must agree that an all-male household is most unusual, and therefore subject to . . . shall we say, the most dire imaginings?”
    “Mrs. Towner does not count?”
   “Emily Towner has been housekeeper at Kirkwood Farm since well before I was born—and all agree it was gracious of you to keep her on—though how she manages without any other female to support her no one can understand. I must admit the village finds it quite shocking.”
   “Ah.” Lord, she was like a queen sitting there, head high, shoulders straight. Defying him to find reason to turn her away, even though she must have heard most of the rumors about his  highly irregular household. “And the remainder of the residents at Kirkwood Farm, my lady?”
   “We know little of them, Colonel. But gossip has it that some of the men living here are gentleman; therefore, it seems odd that in a year and a half only you have ventured into society.”
   “And the opinions about that?”
   Lady Amelie shook her head. “Believe me, Colonel, you do not wish to know.”
   “Tell me.”
   Lady Amelie steepled her fingers in front of her face, shut her eyes, and took a deep breath before looking the colonel straight in the face. “The majority nod wisely and blame your reclusiveness on the war—which I suspect is the truth of it. But other opinions range from a nest of devil-worshipers to traitors stripped of their rank and exiled to the country, to anarchists planning a French-style revolution.”
   “Good God! I didn’t realize it was as bad as that.”
   “You might wish to coax your men into an occasional visit to church, Colonel.”
Bless her, but there was the voice of the autocratic duke’s daughter, born to tell everyone short of her father and the  royal princes what to do.
   Marcus softened his stoic soldier’s stance, head bent over clenched fists, his thumbs propping up his chin. Silence emphasized the awkwardness of the moment. This was it. He had to tell her. Had to risk sending her running for the door.
   “Lady Amelie, you should know that my household is not all male without reason. The men here are soldiers all. Some are gentlemen, some country boys, others from the stews of London. Some once had perfect manners; some cannot even define the word. But all—I emphasize all—came back savages. And I include myself.”

~ * ~ 

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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on
the writing of Ghosts, click here. 



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


email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace  




Saturday, January 26, 2019

More on Birth of a Book

A friend posted the photo below to Facebook. No source given, but it's surely one of those serendipitous moments. Love it.




MORE ON "BIRTH OF A BOOK"

On Thursday, I wrote the first chapter of the sixth book in my Regency Warrior series, the one that spawned my original "Birth of a Book" blog. So, time to catch up. What more did I have to do before I could sit down and write?

As mentioned in my blog of 12/8/18, I finally came up with a title: The Notorious Countess. I can, of course, change this at any time up to publication, but I've found that I rarely do.

After that, over the holidays and during the first weeks of January, there was a lot more "prep."

1.  More Names.  

All I had was a bare-bones Character List, with a Hero and Heroine, a bit on their extended families, plus characters from previous books in the Regency Warrior series. Which meant I had a long way to go. I needed to create and name at least two characters who would provide additional "color" to the plot. I needed to create and name a gaming house manager, a hardened gamester, a footman, my heroine's maid and housekeeper/cook. Only when my Character List popped over to a second page did I feel I had enough names to get started without having to resort to "blanks" here and there.

2.  Research. (More formidable than I'd anticipated since I've been studying the era for so long.)

     a.  The Year 1817.  I re-read the history of 1817, with particular emphasis on the first six months. (It was a more tumultuous time than I had recalled.)

     b.  I created a Timeline for the five previous Regency Warrior books, discovering that Jack Harding (Rogue's Destiny) had not yet met his significant other and Terence O'Rourke (O'Rourke's Heiress) was attempting to deal with the aftermath of murder and yet another estrangement from the love of his life; i.e., neither was married in the Winter of 1817.

    c.  I re-read all the Georgette Heyer books set in London (this would be the 4th or 5th time for most of them). There is nothing like Heyer for getting the Regency flavor, even if one is writing in a more serious genre than a Traditional Regency. 

   d.  And then the hardest research of all: I, who hate card games, had to learn the rules of piquet. Why?  Well, most authors, other than Heyer, do no more than mention that people are playing piquet. But I had a scene in which a hardened gamester was required to lose his temper, and I felt this required enough details to justify how this happened.  

3.  Character Problem to Solve.

Frankly, I did not realize I was attempting to drum up sympathy for the Countess, who was the "other woman" in The Lady Takes a Risk, until as I was beginning Chapter 2, I finally realized that sympathy was exactly what my "out of the mist" instincts told me Dasha needed to make her an acceptable heroine. Hopefully, Chapters 1 and 2 will do that. (Chapter 2 expands on who the countess is, what she's doing in England, etc.) Women of those days were at the mercy of the men in their lives, and any woman attempting to survive on her own needed all the help and sympathy she could get.

4.  Results.  I am copying below the first chapter of The Notorious Countess. It will undoubtedly undergo many more revisions, but here is how it stands during its first week of life. Comments are encouraged.

Grace note:  Previous posts on "Birth of a Book":  12/1/18 & 12/8/18


Chapter 1

London - Winter 1817
 
The flickering light of a branch of three candles, augmented by a similar branch standing on the mantelpiece, haloed the golden blonde hair of the woman seated at a gaming table for two, while at the same time casting shadows onto the saturnine features of the man seated opposite her. The lady, though no longer in the first blush of youth, glowed with the full bloom of womanhood; her figure, once merely promising, now as striking and elegant as the face that went with it. The gentleman was at least a decade her elder, his deft hands, shrewd dark eyes, and the barely restrained aura of a predator about to pounce proclaiming him a hardened gamester.

The lady’s remarkable violet eyes were cast down, seemingly fixed on the twelve cards in her hand; in actuality, making certain her opponent could catch no hint of her thoughts. They had just begun the fourth of six parties in a high-stakes game of piquet, the lady ahead two rounds to one, and with no intention of walking away the loser.

The two were the sole occupants of a small private parlor in a well-appointed house on Bennet Street, not far off St. James Square, an area known for discreet gaming clubs which allowed access only to “subscribers,” as many of the most intriguing games of chance were quite illegal. The police, in fact, not infrequently supplemented their salaries by raiding these “private” clubs and scooping up every coin in sight. (For to whom could club owners complain about the disappearance of their illegally-gotten gains?)
 
Carte blanche,” declared the Countess Dariya Alexandrova, indicating that she had no court cards in the hand just dealt, and thus gaining ten points before play even began.
 
Carte blanche indeed, the Honorable Bertram Lyttleton snarled to himself. He might be willing to offer carte blanche in its more salacious meaning to the elegant beauty with the oh-so-charming accent, but he’d be damned if he was going to let her beat him at a game he considered peculiarly his own. Devil a bit! His reputation was at stake.
 
The countess, with the casual elegance of an accomplished piquet player, discarded five of her twelve cards, choosing replacements from the eight-card talon, face down in the center of the table. After perusing her new array of cards, she raised her gaze to her opponent, and proffered a cat-that-ate-the-cream smile. The Honorable Mr. Lyttleton was startled by an inadvertent shiver that rippled his gamester’s calm façade.

Sixième,” declared the lady, indicating she now had six consecutive cards in one suit and gaining another sixteen points. The Honorable Bertram had not so much as a tierce to offer in response. The countess promptly followed with a declaration of a  quatorze of Aces, gaining another fourteen points, to which Mr. Lyttleton again had no response, giving the lady a repique and an additional sixty points. Mr. Lyttleton, although well aware that only cool heads prevailed in a tight situation, felt his temper flare. Clearly, Fate was against him. For it could not be possible that this female, this foreign female, was more skilled than he.
 
When the countess put the cap on her excellent start to the partie by winning all the subsequent tricks for a resounding capot, Lyttleton had to struggle to control his outrage. He sat down with her only to prove that the stories he’d heard of her skill at cards were patently false. Now here he was on the verge of defeat. He rang a handbell, conveniently situated on a side table, ordering Thomas, the bewigged footman stationed just outside the door, to produce a bottle of madeira and some biscuits. But when the footman returned, bearing the order on a silver tray, the Honorable Bertram barked, “What is that?”
 
“That,” said the Countess Alexandrova, “is my tea. The management here is kind enough to serve me in the Russian fashion.”
 
“Who ever heard of tea in a glass?” Mr. Lyttleton mocked.
 
“It is pretty, is it not, with the glass set in its silver holder? We Russians know how to drink tea—and not muddled about with milk, I might add.”
 
“Good God, that is barbaric!”
 
“To each his own,” the countess responded with a smile so charming, Mr. Lyttleton was forcefully reminded of his lascivious thoughts when the lady had declared “Carte blanche.”
Perhaps a flash of shame—he was raised a gentleman, after all—was enough to enable the Honorable Mr. Lyttleton to control his temper through the fifth partie, or mayhap it was merely the fact that his cards were heavily sprinkled with royalty, yet as they recorded their point totals, it became clear the lady was still ahead. Nonetheless, his luck had changed, he knew it.
 
Except, alas, the sixth partie was more like the fourth, the declarations a disaster, and if he heard that woman intone “Not good” and topping his card one more time, he was going to—
 
The Countess Alexandrova laid down her final card, taking the twelfth trick of the final hand. With her elegant features totally indifferent, as if she had not just won five hundred pounds, she declared, “I believe I have won, Mr. Lyttleton.”
 
That this foreign intruder could address him with all the sangfroid of a seasoned gamester was the final straw. The Honorable Bertram Lyttleton erupted from his chair with enough force that the games table overturned, scattering cards in every direction and catching the edge of the side table supporting the wine, tea, and plate of biscuits on the way down. The wine bottle remained intact but a river of red began to flow onto the Oriental carpet. The silver filigree tea holder, however, was insufficient protection for the glass and it shattered, the shards dotting the spreading stain on the carpet like glittering raindrops, while the biscuits seemed to be doing their best to soak up the wayward wine and tea.
 
The countess, though nimble, was unable to save her gown from the first splash of the wine and now stood, gazing in disgust at the ugly splotches on her rose silk gown—splotches that were promptly forgotten when she glanced up and saw the fury on her opponent’s face. Clearly, Mr. Lyttleton was well beyond acknowledging that his display of outrage was bad ton. His loss to a female, someone as outré as a Russian female, totally unacceptable.
 
“Cheat!” he hissed. “Doxy! You used your wiles to beguile me, turn my head. Those damned violet eyes—”   
 
“Mr. Lyttleton, you know that is not true. We have played a game of piquet, gamester to gamester, and tonight the cards were with me. I have won. That is the whole of it.”
 
She backed up hastily as he took a menacing step toward her, the menace in his dark eyes promising retribution.
 
“Mr. Lyttleton!” An authoritative voice, with only a hint of deference, came from a man who had just entered the room, closely followed by the footman, Thomas.
 
The countess’s breath whooshed out in a sigh of relief. The widow of a Russian diplomat, she had survived the siege of Moscow. She was an international traveler, an experienced gamester, and considered herself capable of dealing with most situations. But this was the first time she had come close to physical violence in a card room. Definitely an occasion when she was grateful for a man’s intervention.
 
Mr. James Wherry, manager of the discreet gaming establishment on Bennet Street, said in a softer tone and with all the aplomb of his trade, “Mr. Lyttleton, we have just made up a fine hot punch in the refreshment room, which you might care to try. A-ah, that’s the ticket,” Wherry breathed as Lyttleton’s shoulders slumped into a more natural position. “Thomas will escort you—as soon, that is, as you have given your note of hand to the countess. And then it’s a spot of punch, and we shall all forget what happened here.”
 
Now calm enough to realize he had committed a social solecism of the first order, the not-so-Honorable Mr. Lyttleton accepted the pen and paper handed to him by Mr. Wherry, scrawled his promissory note, and stalked out, the footman on his heels.
 
James Wherry promptly turned to the countess, who had just sunk into an upholstered chair in a corner of the room, her graceful fingers touching her brow. “Dasha,” he groaned, “I warned you not to play him. Lyttleton is known for a sore loser in every gaming club in town, and to lose to a female, a foreigner . . . My dear girl, you are mad, quite mad!”
 
“You see me chagrined.” Dasha Viktorovna, head in her hands, did not even look up.
 
Mr. Wherry heaved a sigh, strongly suspecting his words had fallen on deaf ears. “But five hundred pounds richer,” he noted. “I was reading over his shoulder.”
 
“And very helpful it will be.”
 
“Dasha . . . must I remind you I can protect you only so far. If Thomas had not brought me running at the first sign of trouble . . . If I had been even a moment later . . .”
 
The countess responded with nothing more than long moments of silence before asking, 
“James, would you be kind enough to see if my hack is waiting? Clearly, my evening is ended.”
 
Mr. Wherry shook his head but did as she asked, ascertaining that the countess’s faithful jarvey, who, five nights a week, waited for her between two and three in the morning, was indeed in place. Within ten minutes, the Countess Dariya Viktorovna Alexandrova, suitably cloaked and hooded, was on her way home. Though not as sanguine about her future in London as she had been at the start of the evening.


 ~ * ~


Please don't forget 

The Ghosts of Rushton Court




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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on
the writing of Ghosts, click here. 



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



email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace  


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Authors at War

Riley at All-State Chorus in Tampa - January 2019




Photo & make-up by Mom

Riley & Cassidy - May 2013
 How swiftly they grow up!

~ * ~


AUTHORS AT WAR

With all the truly terrible things going on in the world, I was gravely disappointed this week to discover that polarization, even hate, seems to have affected the last place I would expect: Authors of Romance. (It may be true of other genres as well, but what I saw was on an email loop designed for Romance authors.) 

I admit I tend to live in my own little tunnel. I write my books, write my blog, sing in the choir, enjoy Crochet Club, my Author's group, and back to my computer, where I write, write, write. Yes, I recently raised my eyebrows when a romance author tried to copyright a particular word, making it impossible for other authors to use it in a Title. (You've got to be kidding!??) But mostly I stick to my well-trod tunnel, blissfully unaware of any controversies among the many sub-genres in the field of Romance.

Until this week, that is, when I was totally shocked to hear of the treatment one of my fellow Regency authors received on an email loop devoted to Romance in general. Evidently, the controversy began with two articles in our Romance authors' magazine which seemed to imply that authors who did not include "Diversity" in their books, were white supremacists.  This came as a particular shock to authors of so-called Regency Romance, as the theme and setting for that particular sub-genre of Romance is primarily the English nobility c. 1795-1820. When one of our Regency authors attempted to explain the confines of our characters and plots, she was attacked so viciously that she dropped that particular loop. 

As it happened, I was publishing The Ghosts of Rushton Court when I first heard about this controversy. And since my a novel includes Diversity, I found myself appalled that someone would think I did it because I thought I should, not because that was just how the plot was for this particular book. I love the freedom of indie publishing that allows me write what I want to write and I often exercise that right to the full, but just as I want to feel free to write about an East meets West conflict in GHOSTS, I also want to feel free to write a book that only reflects the culture of its time. If that is white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, then so be it. I should not be criticized for that any more than an author should be criticized for writing LBGTQ romance, Mixed-race romance, or Romance between people of color, whether of African, Asian, or Hispanic ancestry.

"Romance" is one of the wonders of the world. It's all about LOVE. Yes, we add Conflict, and oftentimes complex plots including Mystery, Suspense, Paranormal, and Science Fiction, but LOVE is still a basic ingredient and Happily Ever After a requirement of our genre. So how can we allow Hate to poison our world? Hatred to the point of spewing it at other authors just because they do not actively promote the same concepts?

As I wrote in my blogs on Civility, I fear overreacting, seeing things only in black and white,is a symptom of our times . . . but in Romance???  Please, please, people, don't taint our genre by warring with each other. Let each of us feel free to write about the world we know (or the world we've spent eons researching). If you think some of us need a nudge toward broader thinking, then by all means say so, but do not turn a simple discussion into World War III. Turning on each other is a shocking action and does none of us any good. Such an attitude also demeans the Romance genre as a whole.

A final admonition: if we accept Hate, it will continue. Its reach will grow broader, permeating every aspect of our lives. If we do nothing, the result may be the same, though a bit slower. But if we protest hate-mongering, if we become advocates for Civility, for a kinder, gentler world, hopefully the World of Authors will return to an even keel, and perhaps add its bit toward smoothing out and stabilizing the more serious issues of our day.

~ * ~

Please don't forget about my newest Regency Gothic, 
The Ghosts of Rushton Court


~ * ~

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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on

the writing of Ghosts, click here. 



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


email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace