Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Travelogue - Dubai & Singapore


I posted this story to Facebook last night but thought my blog readers might enjoy it as well. Unless you live in the Far East, it isn't every day you know someone who's traveling to Dubai and Singapore, particularly not members of your very own family. The background to this tale:  my son-in-law is doing tech for a conference in Singapore, flying over with both crew and equipment, as he did two years ago (and last year, in London). But this time the whole family, including my three grandgirls, went with him. (Even their schools thought the experience worth a bit of catching up when they got back.)

App - Life360

About six months ago, my daughter put an app on my phone called Life360. She called it, and rightly so, a "stalker app." Seven families members are listed, and when I touch the app, it tells me where each of them is (including me). It's been particularly handy when meeting Cassidy's bus. Is it still on its way, or did it arrive early and Cassidy is already trudging the mile home from the bus stop to her house? I tried it out when Susie & Mike were in NYC in June, and to my surprise, it told me Mike was "moving" near such and such street, while Susie had been stationery for two hours near Times Square. (I figured she was at the theater.) Amazing, right? 

Well, tonight I tested the system to the max. With the family on the far side of the world, 12 time zones from home, I pressed Life360 and waited to see what would happen. It seemed to be hung up, sent me a "Not Responding, do you want to wait?" I said yes. And then . . . it informed me that all five Reales were at the Marina Bay Sands (Singapore). Wow! I tried again about 20 minutes later and was told, "Moving near Bayfront Ave., Singapore." Frankly, I find that totally amazing - that kind of tracking seems like something government agents have in spy movies, not an app anyone can download for family use. So if you want to keep track of where your loved ones are . . .

~ * ~

A few weeks ago, while Susie and I were sitting in the doctor's office, waiting on X-rays of my broken foot, she chortled and revealed she was texting Dubai, arranging for camel rides in the desert! Huh? And sure enough, the entire group ended up enjoying camel rides and a visit to the world's tallest building during a 9-hour layover in Dubai before going on to Singapore. So not surprisingly, this week's blog is a gallery of photos from both cities.

Mike, Cassidy, Hailey, Riley, Susie

Tech crew + (hamming it up in the desert)

More camel than Cassidy

View from hotel room

Food Court in mall adjacent to hotel

I absolutely LOVE this bench.

Grace note:  The family has another week in Singapore, so I suspect there will be more photos to come.

 ~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.  

Background information on The Abominable Major can be found on my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, October 13, 2019

New Approach to Mystery?

Found on Facebook - Children in Kentucky rejoicing!


Not long ago I ranted about a mystery where I felt the author had gone overboard on points of view, giving almost every character, even the most minor, a point of view. And yet the book was so well written that despite all those POVs, it never lost track of the protagonist (a detective). I chalked up the "too many points of view" to a newbie's mistake and looked forward to what I hoped would be fewer POVs in the next book in the series.

This week, however, I realized I had stumbled across a whole new style of mystery (or at least to me). And from an experienced author who, I suspect, was eager to try a new approach. When I read the author's first book in this new series, I merely frowned over it, not taking the time to analyze why it was a bit of a disappointment from a favorite author. When the second book in the series gave me the same vibe, however, I realized I had to figure out what was causing me problems.

Brief Review of Mystery Styles

Grace note:  In general, with the exception of # 1 below, there is more Author POV in Mysteries than in Romance.

1.  Mysteries told solely in First Person. (One POV)
     Example:  Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series

2.  Mysteries told in First & Third Person (Protagonist POV + Limited Third Person POVs)
     Examples:  James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series, Linda Castillo's Amish series

3.  Mysteries in Limited Multiple POV (showing both Public & Law Enforcement)
     Example: the mysteries of P. D. James

4.  Cozy Mysteries in the Agatha Christie style (First Person and/or Third)

5.  Mysteries with Unlimited Multiple POV (but emphasis still on the protagonist)
     Example:  the mystery mentioned Paragraph One above.

And now the new one:

6.  A Mystery told from nearly every view point except that of the person who solves the mystery. (Yes, the protagonist has a POV, but it's relatively minor.)

Okay, first of all . . . 

1.  Kudos to the author for wanting to try something new.

2. Kudos to the author for carrying out the intricate puzzle so well.

BUT . . .

As much as I admire the challenge to an author of writing in a style that reveals the details of what each character does leading up to the obligatory murder—including red herrings, of course—and still not give away "who dun it," I found it frustrating that the protagonist stands by, an onlooker with nothing more than a few moments of POV here and there, and yet somehow, miraculously, ends up explaining what no one else can figure out. Too "in your face" for my taste. 

In other words, in most mysteries at least one murder comes early in the book, and the details of what happened are revealed after the fact. In this mystery style I'm describing as new, the murder comes much later than normal, with a whole slew of minute details about what a multitude of characters were doing prior to the murder. So many characters, in fact, that I had difficulty keeping them straight—yet another disappointment with this particular style.

So . . . is it just me? I would appreciate hearing from others, both authors and readers, about your opinion of mysteries with the "protagonist" (the one who solves the mystery) as a minor character. 

 ~ * ~

A peek at a few of Blair's "oldies but goodies" (from 15-20 years ago):

A simple "category" romance set in one of my most favorite places on earth - Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We moved there when I was four (my father's first job after getting his Masters in Education from Harvard). And even after moving away, we visited the Cape every summer. Many years later, my parents retired there. So the Cape is dear to my heart. I also lived in both Boston and New Haven, so naturally they are included in this, my very first print book (for Kensington, August 2000).

Can a homicide detective and a defense attorney, both hovering on the edge of burnout, find happiness with each other?


My only Steampunk/Alternative History - but I really enjoyed putting it together. The research took me into a whole new realm of the imagination.

Our heroine helps a sheltered young woman named Victoria assume the throne after it has been usurped by that great British hero, the Duke of Wellington.


Intended for the Young Adult market, this is a meticulously researched Medieval that should be interesting for any age (unless you only like your Historicals rife with hot sex). Many of the characters and incidents are real. (Henry II, his wife Eleanore of Aquitaine, some of their many children, including those princes of legend, Richard and John. Also, William Marshall, whom most historians consider the greatest knight who ever lived.) 

One of my all-time favorite covers
A very young heiress has an opportunity to peek into the lives of Henry II and his contentious family, while falling in love with a young squire too poor to purchase the horse and armor necessary for becoming a knight.

~ * ~

 For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.  

Background information on The Abominable Major can be found on my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, October 5, 2019

Index to Grace's Blog Book

Found on Facebook
~ * ~

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been struggling for nearly two years to organize all my blog posts on Writing and Editing into book form. The purpose? It has simply become too difficult to find a specific topic in the deluge of posts from January 2011 until now. And I hope putting all my "down to earth" advice and frequently frank comments—admittedly, some repetitive over the course of nearly nine years!—will make it easier for authors, particularly struggling "newbies," to find the advice they need.

So below, please find the Index to Making Magic With Words. When it finally makes it online, each post in the Index will be linked to the proper page. Today, without dates, finding any one post still requires a search through the Archives, but hopefully I'm down to the final stretch and the book will be available before the end of the year.


Writing, Editing, & Random Thoughts
from Grace's Mosaic Moments

So You Want to Write a Book . . .


On Being a Writer
Writing Workshop 1 - Getting Started
Writing Workshop 2 - Next Steps
Writing Workshop 3 - Hook
Writing Workshop 4 - Plot
Writing Workshop 5 - Other “Musts”
Writing Workshop 6 - Characters+
Writing Workshop 7 - Narration
Writing Workshop 8 - Dialogue
Writing Workshop 9 - Transitions
The Routine of Writing
Know Your Genre
Where Do You Get Your Ideas? - 1
Where Do You Get Your Ideas? - 2
Birth of a Book
More on Birth of a Book
Adding Color to Your Work
Advice for Newbie Authors
Advice - What’s Next?
Too Many Characters, Too Much Plot
When Suspended Disbelief Doesn’t Work

Vital Puzzle Pieces
How to Develop Characters - Names
How to Develop Characters - Creating Personalties
How to Develop Characters - Showing Personalities
Character Development - Character Changes 1
Character Development - Character Changes 2
Character Development - Character Changes 3
Character Development - Character Changes 4
Character Development - The Unexpected 1
Character Development - The Unexpected 2
What’s in a Name?
Nitty Gritty of Names
Creating a Hero
Creating a Heroine
Creating Secondary Characters 1
Creating Secondary Characters 2
More on Characterization & POV
Point of View
Third Person vs. First 1
Third Person vs. First 2
Intricacies of Point of View
Attitudes Toward POV
Multiple POVs
More on POV
Approaches to POV
Show vs. Tell 1
Show vs. Tell 2
Show vs. Tell - Warning Words
Show vs. Tell - Examples
Notes on Writing Dialogue
Organizing the Out of the Mist Author
Out of the Mist Oops
Out of the Mist Again
Transforming Truth into Fiction
Setting - Examples
The Difference a Word Makes (2016)
The Sound of Silence


Writing No-No’s
How to Write a Bad Book
How to Write a Mediocre Book
Running Off at the Keyboard - Bad Book
Signs of Amateur Writing
How Not to Write a Book - Mistakes 1
How Not to Write a Book - Mistakes 2
Rant - Lack of Punctuation
Ranting on Subtleties
Rants - Old & New
Writing Mistakes
Misused Words 1
Misused Words 2

Nuts & Bolts
Writing 101 - Formatting
Writing 101 - Punctuation 1
Writing 101 - Punctuation 2
Writing 101 - Tab Conversion
Writing 101 - Self-Editing 1
Writing 101 - Self-Editing 2
Varying Sentence Structure
Writing Fragments
To Be or Not to Be
Don’t Be a Rule Slave (Adverbs)
Adverbs Are Not Anathema
How to Punctuate Dialogue 1
How to Punctuate Dialogue 2
Dangling Participles
Modern Punctuation
The Colon is Down but not Out
Playing with Tags
Capitals 1
Capitals 2
Italics 1
Italics 2
The Difference a Word Makes (2013)
Treacherous Words
Shortcut Codes - ASCII
Shortcut Cods - Microsoft

Writing a Series
Why Write a Series?
Cliff-hanger Series
Single-title Series
Mixed Approach Series
Series Summary
Series Update

World Building Series
World Building 1- Setting
World Building 2 - World from Scratch
World Building 3 - Adding Details
World Building 4 - More on Details

Women’s Fiction
What is Women’s Fiction?
Women’s Fiction Update
More on Women’s Fiction

Dictionary for Writers
     (not alphabetical)
Dictionary for Writers 1
Dictionary for Writers 2
Dictionary for Writers 3
Dictionary for Writers 4
Dictionary for Writers 5

Rules & Rule-Breaking

Rules for Romance 1
Rules for Romance 2
Rule-Breaking 101 - 1
Rule-Breaking 101 - 2
Rule-Breaking 101 - 3



Introduction to Editing
I Ran Spell Check, I’m Done, Right?
Questions Authors Should Ask
The Routine of Writing
Tackling Major Edits (2014)
Dealing With Major Edits (2019)
Editing Basics
Layering - a Writing Technique
More on Layering
Working With an Editor
Making Changes to Published Works
Author Oops
Trick to Track Changes
Taming Word 2016 Track Changes

Edit the Blasted Book

Handbook for Indie Authors
Editor or Copy Editor?
Manuscript Format for the 21st Century
Writing No-No’s
Point of View
Anatomy of an Edit 1
Anatomy of an Edit 2

Copyediting Challenges
 (grammar & punctuation)
Copyediting Challenges - 1
Copyediting Challenges - 2
Copyediting Challenges - 3
Copyediting Challenges - 4
Copyediting Challenges - 5
Copyediting Challenges - 6
Copyediting Challenges - 7

Editing Scold
Tale of Three Books
Old Bugaboo - Editing
Cultural Confusion

Editing Again
More on Editing
Editing Examples - 1
Editing Examples - 2
Editing Examples - 3
The Agony of Final Edits - 1
The Agony of Final Edits  - 2
Editing Examples 2019 - 1
Editing Examples 2019 - 2


Why Read Romance?
Pen Power
Guideposts to Critiquing
How Does Your Novel Grow?
What’s the Fasination with Fairy Tales?
Fairy Tales & Romance
Mystery vs. Gothic
Word Perfect to Indie Pub
Twisted Times
Reminiscences of Controversies 1
Reminiscences of Controversies 2
Why Writers Must Read
Writing Mistakes - Personal
Creating an ARC


~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.   

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, September 28, 2019

RANTS - Old & New

This cake is just the "teaser." For the pi├Ęce de resistance, see below.

The creation* on the video below was made by Riley's dad Mike, his cousin Lionel (chief designer), and Riley's younger sister, Cassidy. Under the "sand mounds" was real cake, one strawberry, one chocolate. (Don't miss the airplanes on the runway.)

For a video of what has to be one of the world's most unusual 15th birthday cakes, click here.

*For my many foreign readers, Area 51 is allegedly where the remains of a spaceship and aliens that crashed in the desert in 1947 are kept. It's become something of a joke—a tongue-in-cheek "raid" was planned for 9/20/19. But when it became plain the government was not amused, the raid became a desert "party." The fact remains that Area 51 is very much a "secret" base. I, for one, believe the facts that made it to the newspaper when I was child—before the government turned the whole incident into a "weather balloon."

~ * ~


I scarcely know where to begin on this one! How to critique a book that has so much going for it? How to separate a flaw that was not the author's fault from those that, to my eyes, were?

This week I read a book by a new-to-me author, a book I suspect was the author's first novel. I came close to archiving it in the first chapter, but the setting was fascinating and I plowed on through the heavily "tell" manuscript, only to be shocked by anachronisms that fairly flew off the page, hitting me in the face. Huh? I put the book aside, selected Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge, Book 5, and read a good quarter of it before forcing myself back to the newbie's book.

Fortunately, the style of the book became less "heavy," less academic, as it went along, and proved to be a well-thought-out "who dun' it" with a wide variety of refreshingly different characters. I ended up liking it enough to be willing to read another book by this author, though I hope he/she learns from the mistakes of the first before tackling a second.

So why was this book such a hard read?

Granted, I have spent a good many years studying the styles of U.S. and U.K. authors, particularly in the genres of Romance, Mystery, and Suspense. And it's possible these more "modern" styles are not popular in other European countries. For example, I may do enormous amounts of research on Regency England (the setting for so many of my books); I may work hard to get everything RIGHT from the language and clothing of the times to the mores and general atmosphere, but when I sit down to write, I do not write in the style prevalent in the 19th century. I try to keep my work "active." I make every effort to "show" my stories from the viewpoint of a few main characters, instead of acting as a storyteller of old and "telling" the story from the author's viewpoint.

Basically, in the U.S. and U. K. these days, even Historical novels are written in modern mode, not in the storyteller style so common in works of fiction until the mid 20th century. "Modern" style means that the action is seen through the eyes of the main characters, not told to us by a narrator standing on the sidelines. What I suspect happened with the novel I'm using as an example this week is that it is the work of an academic, very well versed in the time period of the novel, but not well enough versed in the demands of fiction. Here is what happened—at least from my point of view.

1. Style. The book I read this week was excruciatingly "tell." It only became "active" during scenes heavily laced with dialogue. There were times, later in the book, where the hero's introspection began to perk up, becoming more his thoughts rather than the author telling us about his thoughts. But all in all, this book was a perfect example of a novel told from the viewpoint of the Author, a book that did not take the readers inside the heads of the Main Characters and allow us to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel.

2. Point of View - everyone but the kitchen sink. As regular readers of this blog know, I am an advocate of multiple POV, as long as the author can handle it well; i.e., make it clear whose eyes we're looking through at any given moment. But I also advocate not overdoing it. The hero, the heroine, a villain, maybe a best friend or two. Perhaps a one-liner here and there by a minor character. But that's it. More than that becomes confusing and tends to distract from both plot and main characters.

This book, however, gave readers the viewpoint of just about every last character in the book. With great care the Author told us what each person was thinking, right down to the most minor character. The equivalent of using a shotgun when a rifle would have done the job so much more cleanly. A blatant case of "head-hopping" distracting from the flow of the story.

3.  History Dump.  The book in question was clearly written by a serious scholar of the period, the facts, the descriptions wonderfully done. But there were "information dumps" - long paragraphs of history that the Author clearly loved but which did not move the book forward. An absolute no-no for authors writing fiction in time periods not our own. 

4.  Story Arc.  There were many, many outstanding descriptions in this book, but the Author failed to recognize where the end should be. Yes, the Action ended before the Romance, bringing the book to a satisfactory conclusion. But, alas, the book did not end there. It went on and on, dumping page after page of exotic description that would have added greatly if inserted earlier in the book, but which, as a tag-on, was positively teeth-gnashing, bringing the book to a slow, stumbling finish instead of a triumphant end.

5.  Translation Problems. Here we have a problem that no author can do anything about. In general, the translation of this book seemed to be excellent. But every once in a while—evidently in an effort to be truly idiomatic—the translator inserted language of the modern age into a setting several hundred years in the past. Each instance was a slap in the face - but then I'm fussy about such things. (I hasten to add that being able to translate an entire work of fiction is a remarkable feat, and I probably shouldn't be so demanding.)  

Regular readers of Mosaic Moments will note that Numbers 1-4 above have been frequent topics over the years. All are beginner mistakes. This book had so much going for it that I hope readers will do what I did and plow through the out-of-fashion style to find the "meat" of the story. I also hope that the author will get past the necessity of imparting Too Much Information, peeking inside too many heads, and learn to plunge readers into the thoughts and inner feelings of just a few main characters, rather than use a scatter-gun effect that never allows readers to truly empathize with the main characters.

Above all, I hope the author will avoid the deadly lure of telling the story entirely from the Author's Point of View and adopt the modern style of allowing the main characters to tell the story from their points of view.

I suspect this book was Number One in a series, and I look forward to seeing if the author grows into a more modern style in the next book.

~ * ~

 Two Bargains

The boxed sets of The Aphrodite Academy 
and the SciFi Saga, Blue Moon Rising

For a link to Amazon, click here.

For a link to Amazon, click here.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.   

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? - 2

Swan Inn, Bilbury, Gloucestershire
Posted to Facebook by Regina Jeffers


To continue last week's themes - Travel.
Traveling certainly helps spawn ideas right and left—as well as filling in all those pesky details you can't see on Google Earth. I don't know how I would have managed all the Regency novels I've written without my travels through England, Wales, Scotland, and both Irelands. (Although the one night I spent in Belfast was proof that the "troubles" weren't over. I wouldn't even venture out of the hotel far enough to visit the intriguing-looking pub across the street. And as we were leaving town the next day, our guide informed us we'd just spent the night in the "most bombed" hotel in Northern Ireland! Believe me, I breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed the border. Seeing tall walls topped with barbed wire around elementary schools—as well as learning of the drive-by shooting of an innocent child in her bed the night I was there—was enough to make me understand why my father's family—Scottish emigrants to the U. S. after a brief sojourn in Northern Ireland were agnostics for a hundred-plus years.)

My two trips to Peru, followed by a good deal of online research about the Inca Trail, were used in my tale of Suspense, Orange Blossoms & Mayhem. Believe me, that book is authentic, even though I've never developed the readership for my Mystery/Suspense that my Regencies have. 

FYI, I have reason to believe I may have started the hiking craze for the Inca Trail. Yale anthropologist Mike Coe—the expert on our Yale tour— and I ended up at the top of Machu Picchu at the same time one afternoon, discovering we were at what was once the main entrance to the city—an arched gateway high above the ruins. Mike explained that the Incas traveled from city to city along the mountaintops, rather than along the Urubamba River far below (where the train now runs). After the arrival of the Spanish, the Incas "cut" the trail so the Spanish would not find the city, believed to have been a religious haven. Mike and I idly wondered if the trail could be restored, if people could once again hike all the way to Machu Picchu. A fascinating topic we brought up to the group at supper that night. And, lo & behold, the very next year, our tour guide led the first hiking tour along the Inca Trail. A hike that became a "must" for hikers everywhere—so much so, hikers had to get a permit and make reservations! 

Grace note:  The trail from Cuzco has not been restored. Modern hikers join the Inca Trail at neighboring Ollantaytambo, one of the way stations between the two ancient cities of Cuzco and Machu Picchu.)

So where else do ideas come from?

Movies, without a doubt. For example, the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars have permeated our lives, changed our vocabularies, become the guideposts for the far away worlds we write about. 
Books. Of course, we get ideas from other people's books. From Jules Verne to Anne McCaffrey. From Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer. From a small "read" that only a few people found to blockbusters like the Harry Potter series.
Plays & Musicals. What would we do without Shakespeare? Or Rodgers & Hammerstein? The drama, love, tragedy, the glorious sounds—all have the power to inspire.
Music. Perhaps, oddly enough, because I have a degree in Music, I have seldom looked to music for inspiration. But my love of folk music and my study of the vocal classics have certainly come in handy in a number of my novels.
Newspapers & TV news.  Although newspaper readership is diminishing, this is still the best place to find those news tidbits that don't make it to TV—the minor headlines that spark your imagination and make you say, "What if . . ."
Pictures (like the one above) - paintings, photos, cartoons, etc., can easily inspire an idea. Just give them a chance.
People-Watching. Not everyone can be the handsome hero and beautiful heroine of your dreams. Every book needs a lot of support from those Secondary Characters, and there's a whole world of inspiration around you. Take you blinders off and see what's right there before you.

And . . . back to Sheer Imagination.

Sometimes it just comes pouring out—the setting, characters, plot & action bursting out of some misty cloud of pure imagination.  That's okay too. 
All of which leads us back to my Stock Answer:  Everywhere.

From inside your head to the world around you, Ideas are everywhere. Some are subtle; some so strong, they stand up and scream, "Use me, use me!" 

Just this week in Central Florida:  a 3-year-old boy from my own town of Longwood was found 1200 miles from home, curled up in a box on a stranger's front porch in Buffalo, NY. All he could say was: "Car. Fire." And sure enough, a car suspected of being his parents' was found totally burned out not far away (with bodies inside, ID pending). If that doesn't inspire a thousand questions and more than one book, I don't know what would. In a second story, a man in the second county west of here killed his wife and four children and drove their bodies around in his car for the last six weeks, before he was caught in a routine traffic stop in Georgia (when he immediately poured out a confession). Now there's a challenge for those who write about the darker mysteries of life! (And yes, both those stories are from this week's Central Florida news—admittedly top headlines, not obscure news from page 10.)

On a vastly smaller scale, I was thinking just today that if I'd broken my foot before writing The Abominable Major, I'm almost certain I would have had even greater empathy for a man with one leg! 

So keep your wits about you. I believe it was Shakespeare who said, "All the world's a stage." From tiny nothings to in-your-face headlines, from coping with a broken foot to the loss of a loved one, from listening to your favorite song to tearing up over the heart-warming tale newscasters save to close their broadcasts, from the child who comes hungry to school to the canned goods provided by local churches and food pantries to assuage that need, Ideas are all around us. We only have to put out our hand and grab the brass ring.

~ * ~

Blair's Mystery/Suspense Books

Shadowed Paradise
Paradise Burning
The Art of Evil
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem
Death by Marriage
Limbo Man
Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart
Florida Wild (late 2019)

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.  

Background information on The Abominable Major can be found on my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,