Grace's Mosaic Moments


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Season for Love

What a long time for Blogspot to be down! I think Florida must have been on the bottom of the list to be restored. A Season for Love went up on Smashwords and Kindle nearly two weeks ago, and this is the first day I've been able to post. In other news, I've submitted Mistletoe Magic, a novella destined for an EC Cotillion Christmas anthology. As my first effort of less than 50,000 words, it was an interesting experience. And surprisingly satisfying for such a simple tale.

Below please find the lovely cover created by Delle Jacobs and a blurb for A Season for Love. The original Signet blurb failed to indicate this is a double love story. I hope I've managed to rectify that omission. Please tell me what you think.




The Duke of Longville, in need of an heir, is about to take a second wife—a sturdy young widow who followed the drum during Britain’s campaigns on the Peninsula and has proved her fertility by producing a child. But two weeks before the wedding, his long-estranged daughter arrives on his doorstep with a shocking announcement that tumbles all their lives into confusion.

The widowed Lady Eugenia Wharton, almost as strong-willed as her betrothed, has no illusions about why the Duke of Longville wishes to marry her. Unfortunately, that has not kept her from falling in love with him. Their future is destined for some memorable clashes, as she challenges his conviction that he is always right.

The duke’s daughter, Lady Caroline Carlington, has been raised in a home with egalitarian leanings. She does not want to make her come-out in London society, she does not approve of the ton, and she most particularly does not want a step-mother. And then one night in the duke’s bookroom, she meets exactly the type of useless nobleman she most abhors, a charming fribble named Anthony Norville. Caroline is startled by a sudden, if reluctant, attraction—until she discovers he is the brother of the woman who is about to become her despised step-mother. Which would make Tony Norville her uncle!

Anthony Norville, Viscount Frayne, is heir to an earldom. Resenting his father keeping him from the fight against Napoleon, he has retreated behind a fa├žade of airy charm. Until he is caught in the conflict between Lady Caroline and his sister, and the side effects of the war reach London, forcing him to discover new depths within himself.

It takes riot, ransom, and considerable mental readjustment before both pairs of Regency lovers are reconciled against the unrest in London at the time of Waterloo.

Review:

“In a delightful dance worthy of any Regency Ball, Ms. Bancroft interweaves her characters into one fresh and cohesive romance, letting each find their desires in an effortlessly smooth narrative. . . . Blair Bancroft has captured the Regency and has a firm grasp on its nuances and idiosyncrasies.” Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

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Coming soon: Part 2 of Writing 101 - Nuts & Bolts

Thanks for stopping by!

Grace

Monday, May 16, 2011

Writing 101 - Nuts & Bolts, Part 1

Welcome to the second in my series, Writing 101. Please note I have added “How to Find the Word Count” to last week’s Writing 101 - Formatting. The subject came up in an exchange with one of my editing clients, and Formatting seemed the best, if slightly off-topic, place to put it.

Helpful Books. Every author should own at least one good book on punctuation and grammar, as the oddest things rear their ugly heads when writing fiction. Not to mention the simpler ones, like compound sentences needing a comma between the clauses!

The following books do not always agree with each other, but they are the best I have found so far. (Other recommendations will be much appreciated.) And certain publishers have veered away from the some of the rules in all three of them! But the fact remains that even if you were an A student in English, questions come up in writing fiction that were never covered in the classroom.

1. The “publisher’s bible” is The Chicago Manual of Style, a huge, expensive tome that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Punctuation. But it covers every last little detail.

2. The simplest punctuation and grammar book, the one you can walk into B&N and buy over the counter, is Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. It’s small, easy to read, and covers most of the rock-bottom basics.

3. I was very enthusiastic about The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus until I found some doubtful advice on dashes and ellipses. But these symbols are on the more esoteric end of punctuation, and it’s quite possible her PC keyboard can do things mine can’t. (Specifics later, under Dashes and Ellipses.) Nonetheless, there are many excellent things in this book, including explanations of words whose meanings continually baffle their users. For example, affect/effect, eminent/imminent, farther/further, etc. She also includes quizzes so you can test yourself.

A Brief Note on Style in Romance. Yes, writing romance has a few conventions you should consider when writing. Though not quite “nuts & bolts,” I ‘m including them here, as newbies should not start a book without being aware of them.

1. Keep paragraphs short. But also keep in mind that one-sentence paragraphs should be used for emphasis only. Do not write page after page of one-sentence paragraphs.

2. Run-on sentences, even when well-punctuated, are frequently confusing to the modern reader, who wants to absorb things fast, fast, fast. In certain sub-genres, such as traditional Regencies, a limited amount of run-on sentences are part of the style, but most readers tend to heave a book at the wall (or hit delete on their e-readers) if a book forces them to keep re-reading previous sentences because they didn’t quite catch it the first time around.

3. Run-on paragraphs, same comment as above, only even more obvious at a glance. It’s quite possible a potential reader will take one look at all those no-white-space pages while browsing the bookstore, or reading a sample on the Net, and never buy the book at all.

4. Repeat from Formatting blog: Avoid academic formatting, such as 3-space indents, block format, or semi-colons. An Author’s Note on your research and/or your other books may be included at the beginning or end of the book, but absolutely, positively, NO footnotes.

More on the “style” aspects of writing romance in a later chapter of Writing 101.

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PUNCTUATION IN ROMANCE

Note: The examples below come from my own books, some from my traditional Regencies, some from my Romantic Suspense novels and a Futuristic.

COLONS AND SEMI-COLONS. As a general rule, avoid them in romance, substituting a period, comma, or dash. If you are writing historicals, you can get away with an occasional semi-colon. Colons in romance, however, are almost non-existent. Primary reason, I presume: both punctuation marks are considered too academic.

Example: Romance might be stalled, but one thing was now certain—Jeff’s goal stretched far beyond the confines of Ashley’s Choice.


PARENTHESES. For some reason, parentheses are also rare in romance. In most cases, parenthetical remarks are set off by dashes.

Example: Eager passengers—insanely eager passengers, Cass thought—thrust their hands high above their heads as the car paused on the brink of the downward plunge, heightening the tension.

DIALOGUE. The best, and most pleasant, way to learn how to punctuate dialogue is to read a lot of books by successful romance authors, forcing yourself to take a good look at the punctuation as you go along. But most dialogue is punctuated like the sample below.

Note: because Blogspot doesn't seem to recognize tabs, I was forced to use an extra space to indicate a new paragraph.

Example:

“You trained at Nav as well as Tac, Kiolani. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.” A hint of animation crossed her piquant face. “Navigation is my primary interest, captain. I spent a great deal of my time in the Archives perfecting my knowledge, not only of this sector but of our whole quadrant. I memorized coordinates for jumpgates that aren’t on Fleet maps, the location of dangerous meteor fields, black holes—” Kass broke off mid-sentence. “I beg your pardon, sir. I didn’t mean to babble.”

Tal nodded, thinking fast . . .

General comments on writing dialogue:

1. Start a new paragraph for each person speaking (see above). Try not to start a new paragraph in the middle of a character’s speech. This makes it difficult for a reader to know who is speaking. Exception: sometimes, if the character is talking at length, including moments of introspection, you need to paragraph within the speech just to keep it from looking like “too much black stuff” on the page! (Like those 19th c. classics you had to read in school.) If so, you do NOT CLOSE quotes at the end of the first paragraph, but you do OPEN quotes at the beginning of the next, as long as that person’s speech is continuous.

2. It is better to establish who is talking by some action or description at the beginning of the paragraph than constantly attach the “tags” of said, asked, replied, responded, etc., to every statement.

Example: Tal blew out a breath. “You know I have to take him with us? You understand that?”

3. Warning: Do not use full, stand-alone sentences for dialogue tags.

Wrong: “I knew you must be very brave,” Caroline spoke quietly to Emily’s bent head.
Right: “I knew you must be very brave.” Caroline spoke quietly to Emily’s bent head.

4. Dialogue must sound natural and fit the character who is speaking. (Okay, this isn’t punctuation, but it’s advice that can’t be said too often!)

COMMAS. To explore all the situations where you use commas, I refer you to the three books above. Below, you’ll find samples of the abuses I see the most when judging contest entries.

Compound sentences. If a sentence has two separate clauses (complete sentences that could stand alone by themselves), you need to put a comma before and, but, as (etc.).

Example: They were about to pick up a major client, and she and Michael Dillon would no longer be ships that passed in the night.

Exception: If the two clauses are very short, the comma may be left out.

Example: They had a mission, he needed to remember that.

BUT if a sentence has only one subject and two verbs; i.e., one person doing two different things, leave the comma out.

Example: She threw open the door to the spacious estate room and came to an abrupt halt.


DIRECT ADDRESS. For some inexplicable reason, I’ve been seeing a lot of manuscripts lately where only one of the two necessary commas is inserted around the name of the person being addressed. The samples below are correct.

Examples:

“Don’t you know me, Mrs. Jenks?”


“It is you, Caroline, is it not?”



SENTENCE FRAGMENTS. Sentence fragments—those bits lacking a proper subject and verb that your high school English teacher frowned upon—are common in romance. They are used for emphasis; also for keeping run-on sentences from being exactly that. As long as a sentence fragment fits with the full sentence before, there should be no problem.

Example: She could still hear Uncle Malcolm’s mocking words four years ago as he grudgingly granted her three small rooms at the far end of the corridor, overlooking the parking lot and the ugly industrial building next door. An organic foods subsidiary within the confines of Van Dyne Industries’ global food distribution business? Absurd.

Note: The words in green are the full sentence that sets up the fragments. The hot pink sentences are both fragments, even though one is much longer than the other.

P
aragraphing for Emphasis (can be a complete sentence or a fragment).

Example:

His head screamed, his body moaned, as he forced himself to turn toward the door, toward the IV drip, the bank of monitors. There was a sign on the back of the door. Big letters. Letters that danced before his eyes. He squinted, focused, discovered they were gibberish. As were the letters on the monitor, the manufacturers’ names on the machines themselves.

If he didn’t feel so damn bad, he’d be scared.


QUOTE MARKS. (Absolute rule: Do not break it!) Single quotation marks are only used inside double quote marks. If you want quotes around a word in a narrative paragraph, use double quotes.

Example: “And then,” Martin told them, “the sailor cried, ‘Ahoy, maties!’”

(See also the expression “rule of thumb” in the paragraph below.)


QUOTATIONS—Quote Marks or Italics? A general “rule of thumb” (something not set in stone) is that if a quotation is longer than three lines, you should use italics instead of quote marks. This may be stretched to include even a very short letter, as with the salutation and signature, you’re almost always going to have more than three lines. Also, for longer quotations in italics, you should indent the margin on either side of the quotation, usually by five spaces.

MORE ON ITALICS. In general, use italics sparingly or they lose their impact. Italics are used for 1) emphasis; 2) direct thoughts; 3) long quotes, and 4) foreign words.

Example 1: “Plush breeches,” he reiterated in accents of loathing, “with rosettes, and a driving coat with buttons the size of butter plates.”

Example 2: Did the hulk’s blue eyes flicker when he learned Hugh was her brother? Probably nothing more than a reflection of the Florida sunshine. Concentrate on the good stuff, Cass. You saved a child, you’re being invited to meet an Arab prince. All part of a day’s work in the life of a WIS agent.

Note: At the beginning of the paragraph above, Cass is thinking in what’s called Introspection. No italics needed. But she switches to talking directly to herself in second person. If you are writing in third person and switch to first or second person, you must use italics.

Example 3 - a long quote - should be indented five spaces on each side.

My dear Abigail,
After Mr. James Wetherby, I must grant you a simple task. Jeremy Tomkin, Viscount Granby, lives in Bath, an easy journey. He is a sweet, simple man from whom you have nothing to fear. (I trust James was not a problem, though you must now realize why I insist that Jared accompany you at all times.) Lord Granby and I share a secret, and I wish him to know I will take it to my grave.

Use italics for foreign words. For example, without italics, “ton” is just 2000 pounds.

Example 4: There were those who considered Viscount Frayne a useless fribble, nothing more than the topmost whorl in the tail of the ton’s array of strutting peacocks.”

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Apostrophes, Dashes, and Ellipses will be included in Part 2 of Writing 101 - Nuts & Bolts.

Come on back, and please pass this blog along to any newbies who could benefit.

Thanks for visiting Grace's Mosaic Moments!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing 101 - Formatting

Over the last fifteen years I have judged somewhere around four hundred contest entries for various chapters of the Romance Writers of America. I like to think I’m rather good at it. Unfortunately, in the past year I’ve noticed an abrupt decline in the presentation of the contest entries. No, I’m absolutely, positively, not one of those judges who believes you have to write in Courier at 25 lines to the page. Frankly, when I was entering contests twenty years ago, I always avoided those that specified anything so narrow. BUT, in order to put your best foot forward, you want to have an editor or agent absorbed in your story, not wincing over grammar, punctuation, spelling, or formatting. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by ignoring these aspects of crafting your manuscript.

Last fall, I encountered the results of an RWA chapter who decided that since most people were submitting to e-publishers, there was no need for formatting at all! (A shocking insult to e-pubs, by the way.) The results were entries with no headers, no page numbers, infinitesimal tab indents or block style, incorrect dialogue punctuation, etc. etc. Below is the article I attached to the score sheets of the entries I judged for that contest. Hopefully, other newbies will find it helpful.

More recently, I encountered a number of manuscripts that seemed to be first drafts - written but not edited by the author, and not proofread for errors the spell-checker can’t catch. My mind boggled. How could anyone who wanted to create a saleable manuscript be so careless? There will be more on editing in later chapters of Writing 101. Today’s blog deals almost exclusively with formatting.

Standard Manuscript Format

Although most print publishers, as well as e-publishers, are now accepting manuscripts via e-mail, it is essential that every author knows how to present a professional appearance. For example, formats used for college papers are not the impression you want to make. For the print market, you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do not present your work in traditional manuscript format. Even for the e-market—unless a publisher has specific guidelines to the contrary—you are still expected to use traditional format. With all the difficulties in getting someone to read your manuscript, don’t take any chances. (Picture a busy editor putting down the phone after a long call and not having a header on the page/screen to remind her what she was reading!) So . . .

Do NOT—repeat DO NOT—scream “Amateur” with the Editor/Agent’s first glance at your manuscript!

The “musts”

1. Set Top margin to .5

2. Set Left, Right & Bottom margins to 1"

3. Manuscript Title - set as Header, Flush Left

4. Set auto page number for Top Right margin
Note: Header & page number are usually set on “suppress” for the opening page.

5. Set line spacing to double (Some e-pubs allow 1.5, check guidelines)

6. Set auto indent to .5 (In both MS Word & Word Perfect - Format/Paragraph/Format)

7. Use Font 12 (or 14, if you prefer). Times New Roman is the new standard, with Courier (a 19th c. century font) finally beginning to fall by the wayside. But any clear font in 12- or 14-point is acceptable.

8. Italics may be used with TNR because they stand out clearly. So if you insist on using Courier, where italics are obscure, the old rules apply: use underline instead.

9. Center each Chapter Title 1/3 down the page. (Distance down can be less if you are submitting solely to e-publishers)

10. Hard Page End at the end of each chapter (Fastest method: Control+Enter)

11. Word Count. Knowing the correct word count of your manuscript is always important. To find the count in M S Word: File - Properties - Statistics. In Word Perfect: File - Properties - Word Count.


Warnings

1. Do not use the word “Page” with the page number

2. Do not center your book’s title on Page 1. The Title will appear in the Header (flush left)

2. Do not center Date & Location - these are set Flush Left & italicized (underlined in Courier)
(Highlight words to be set flush left, Format- Paragraph - Format - 0)

3. Do not fail to put in a Hard Page End at the end of a chapter.

4. EDIT YOUR WORK. (Most successful authors go over their mss 3-5 times before submitting)

5. PROOFREAD! We all make errors Spell Check can’t catch. You want readers to enjoy your work, not spend time puzzling over your mistakes.


Note: many agents require query excerpts to be included in the body of the e-mail. Read instructions carefully. When an attachment is allowed, be sure you send it in the requested format. Word Perfect users, in particular, need to be careful to Save your wpd doc in rtf. MS Word users - if the instructions are, “send in RTF,” then send in RTF, not DOC. It’s a simple switchover when you’re in the SAVE menu.

As someone who has judged close to 400 contest entries in the last fifteen years, I can guarantee that taking the above advice will let you present your manuscript in the best possible light.

Grace Kone, October 2010

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May, 2011 - I will be adding more chapters to my series entitled, Writing 101.

Thanks for stopping by - and please come back. Comments and questions are always welcome.