Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Shopping Story

Only a few weeks ago, I ranted against Black Friday on this blog. My opinion hasn't changed, but I discovered today that Christmas shopping can have very special moments that truly illustrate the meaning of the Season.

Not that I haven't enjoyed accumulating presents in my closet over the past few months, anticipating the looks on my grandchildren's faces over some particularly unexpected surprise. And I've enjoyed making Christmas cookies with the three little girls, showing them how to measure and mix, cut out, decorate . . . and granting them permission to eat the the last of the dough and a sampling of the cookies we're saving for Christmas dessert. But today, Saturday, December 17, 2011, was special, an emotional few moments that ranged from nightmare to miracle.

Ordinarily I wouldn't go near a store this near to Christmas, but I had to return a batch of colored markers to Staples at Waterford Lakes, because my oldest granddaughter was disappointed when the pink she chose turned out to be white (somehow it never got "inked"). After Staples, I braved Jo-Ann's fabrics because I had at least ten 40% off coupons burning a hole in my purse. A great opportunity to acquire yarn and craft items for the grandchildren. Plus 20% off on the whole order. For that, I would brave the Christmas crowds.

After being told I'd saved twenty-three dollars and some cents, I pushed my cart out to my car and put the bags in the trunk. While parking my cart so I could drive out frontwards, a woman asked me where the "bookstore" was. I gave her directions to Barnes & Nobles, got in my car and drove home.

But when I got home and went to put my car keys in my purse, there was no purse. I looked under my pile of Publix cloth bags, looked in the back seat, checked the trunk. No purse. My mind boggled. No purse, no driver's license, no credit cards, no debit card, no cell phone. No Macy's card, no membership cards to umpteen places. No extra car keys, no address book, no . . .

I must have been scammed, I decided. While I gave directions to Barnes & Noble, someone had grabbed my purse. But no . . . I'd swear no one else had been near, and yet . . .

Appalled, I drove back to Jo-Ann's, cataloging all the phone calls I was going to have to make. After what I knew was a hopeless check of the shopping carts in the lot, I went into the store. I stood at the counter at Customer Service, feeling like a complete idiot for even asking. I looked at the young man and said, "I know this is a stupid question, but did anyone find a purse?"

He looked at me and said, "It's not a stupid question, we did find a purse."

"You found a purse?"


"Was it silver?"

"Someone found it in a cart and turned it in. We have it locked up in our vault."

He made a call on the intercom, asking for the purse to be brought to the front of the store, while I burbled my thanks, feeling horrible that I wasn't able to thank the Good Samaritan who found my purse and turned it in. And, yes, I also thanked the good Lord for this small Christmas miracle that meant so much to me. This incident of less-than-an-hour in time that so amply illustrates the true meaning of Christmas. And of the Ten Commandments.

When you stop to think of our lousy economy, of how many people have so little . . . and yet my purse came back to me just as I left it, with everything intact.

If you've enjoyed this Christmas story, please pass it along. I can guarantee that the Christmas spirit lives at Waterford Lakes Mall in Orlando.

Grace, who is still shaking her head and saying thanks

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I wrote this blog right after Thanksgiving, and because it’s mostly a rant against Black Friday, I let it mellow a bit before I posted it. But, basically, my sentiments haven’t changed. If you agree with what I’ve written, I hope you’ll pass it along. It’s time for a grass-roots revolt against the incursion of crass commercialism into our most American holiday.

~ * ~

Grace's Reflections on Thanksgiving

Now that Thanksgiving is past, I feel the need to comment on the good and the bad of the holiday that is coming closer and closer to being trampled under the rush toward Christmas. Or should I say, under the rush toward greed and acquisition of material goods that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas?

My daughter and I, with the aid of some of our guests, fed nineteen for Thanksgiving this year. And, no, we weren’t volunteering at a homeless shelter. That was just our extended family here in Orlando. Thirteen of the sixteen adults present were native Spanish-speakers.

Two of our Hispanic guests just got their citizenship six weeks ago. So for more than just the three children, ages 5, 6, and 8, I took the time to explain a bit about the first Thanksgiving before we said grace. I read a passage in which the Pilgrim’s Governor Bradford wrote that although they had very little, they sat down [November 1621] and gave thanks. I told the children that was another way of saying that if we didn’t say thank-you for little things, it was all too easy to forget to say thank-you for big things. A lesson we all need to remember.

This was the largest Thanksgiving gathering I have ever participated in, and I’m happy to say it was a success. I felt we had been true to the spirit of Thanksgiving and, at the same time, been able to demonstrate the family traditions of Thanksgiving to people unfamiliar with this holiday. This year, for the first time, a few of them actually tried the cranberry sauce!

And yet, while we were sitting down to dinner, thousands of people across the country were waiting in line to storm the big box stores. One woman in our area was shown on television saying, yes, she knew this was a family holiday, and her whole family was with her in line—they were starting a new tradition. As I recall, I groaned out loud.

This year, not only did stores open at midnight on “Black Friday,” some actually opened on Thanksgiving Day. I was appalled, making a mental note not to patronize those stores for any of my Christmas shopping. Black Friday indeed—and nudging its way into Black Thursday. For shame!

And what did you think of the Black Friday ads this year? The prize for most tasteless and most insulting went to Target. I almost threw something at my TV every time it came on. That’s the ad with the brainless twit who was so excited about Black Friday she could only giggle insanely and present the absolute worst caricature of a female shopper. Totally nauseating, as well as a kick in the teeth for women in general. I swear that ad must have been written by a twenty-something New York ad guy who hated his mother. But that Target execs actually approved it . . .! Aargh! It was a slap in the face to every female I know.

I don’t think the Pilgrims braved the seas in three little boats, starved, and lost half their group that first winter so Americans could remember them by camping out for days in order to buy a TV at a bargain price. What our broken economy needs is more people with genuine values, people who respect God, home, and family. People who give thanks for the bounties we have, whether large or small. People who buy American, yes, but never forget to set aside time to give thanks that the Pilgrims set foot on this new world and were followed by thousands and thousands of others seeking freedom and a fresh start. (Otherwise none of would be here.)

What our ancestors did in coming to this country, whether 390 years ago or in 2011, is worth giving thanks for. Our country, no matter how troubled at the moment, is worth giving thanks for. And thanks for family, friends, a job, food on the table. And even if the job is iffy and the food sparse, we’re still lucky to be here and not in some more unstable part of the world. There’s always something to give thanks for, even if occasionally we have to look pretty hard to find it.

And to all those people, waiting in line to trample others on their way to the goodies: is your life really so shallow that shopping is all Thanksgiving and Christmas mean to you? You could at least take the time to be thankful you have the $200 instead of $2000 for a TV. After all, if you’re in line, you’re waiting to BUY, aren’t you? Which means you have a lot more than many of our citizens do at the moment. If only you were buying American . . . or giving that money to charity.

Ah well, I guess that’s too much to ask. But please, folks, however you do your Christmas shopping next year, please take the time on Thanksgiving Day to give thanks, true thanks for our blessings. (And it wouldn’t hurt to tell Wal-Mart and the other stores that opened on Thanksgiving this year that it’s time to Cease and Desist.)

I understand many of these same big box stores were quiet by the time normal business hours rolled around on Black Friday, which indicates the stores aren’t going to make any more money opening at 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day than if they open at midnight or, better yet, at a reasonable time on Friday morning, giving their employees time to enjoy both a proper Thanksgiving dinner and football.

If you agree with this article, I’d appreciate your passing it on.

Grace of Grace’s Mosaic Moments
Who writes as Blair Bancroft

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love At Your Own Risk

Love At Your Own Risk was my first print novel, part of Kensington's Precious Gem line way back in August 2000. The name, however, was changed to what I considered the overused generic, He Said, She Said. Why? Because the Marketing Department considered "risk" a no-no, a word that would put readers off. Sigh. Other editorial changes have also been put back to the original. For example, my line, "He had lips that looked like they never smiled" was changed to, "He had kissable lips." Aargh!

In any event, Love At Your Own Risk, is now available online from Kindle and Smashwords and should be available soon for Nook, Sony, Palm, and other e-readers. Blurb below.

Love At Your Own Risk

After winning a case she wished she'd lost (the defendant was a rapist), defense attorney Victoria Kent rushes off to her parents' vacation cottage on Cape Cod, only to find herself nose-to-nose with a 9mm Glock. It seems the cottage is rented. By John Paolillo, a homicide detective from New Haven who has been sentenced to two weeks' "rest" after hitting a defense attorney.

John offers to share—after all, the cottage has a separate basement apartment. Reluctantly, Vicki agrees. Alas, John has another problem—his car died. Inevitably, they end up exploring the outer Cape together and manage to fool themselves into thinking people with diametrically opposite views of the law can become a couple. Their relationship even survives a surprise visit from Vicki's alleged fiancé. But when they leave Cape Cod's less well-known byways to walk the teeming streets of Provincetown, disaster strikes.

Vicki rushes back to Boston. John returns to New Haven. They've reached a no hope situation. Unless some wise soul can find a way past the basic conflict that has split them apart.

Grace Note: My love of Cape Cod inspired this classic romance with the outer Cape as the most important secondary character. Hopefully, Love At Your Own Risk will inspire you to visit this very special place where the Pilgrims first set foot on our continent. And, yes, First Encounter Beach is included in the story.

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Coming next: Reflections on Thanksgiving

Thanks for stopping by. Grace

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mistletoe Moment

Wow! Something NEW. I've spent the last ten months uploading my backlist to Kindle and Smashwords, but here is something brand new. My very first novella. It is available solo or as part of Cotillion's Christmas anthology, Christmas Kisses. The link below is to the solo version. And if you look below the cover and blurb, you'll find my confession: the all-too-true story of where I got the idea for this story.Pamela Ashburton's dreams of a London Season meet with disaster at her very first ball. When her humiliation is exaggerated by the unfeeling attitude of her mother and sister, she abandons all hope of entering society and goes to live with an aunt in Worcestershire. Four years later, she is well on her way to spinsterhood.

Will Forsythe, a veteran of the Peninsular War, retreats to Worcestershire hoping a quiet, solitary life will heal more than his physical wounds. But it's Christmas season, and he finds himself faced with a damsel distressingly in need of help to gather mistletoe for her aunt's Twelfth Night Ball. As an officer and a gentleman, what else can he do?

~ * ~

The sad tale behind the Mistletoe Moment:

A number of years ago, I was on a tour designed specifically for authors of Regency novels. While in Bath, we were part of a Georgian dance evening at the Upper Assembly Rooms. The dancers were there to perform for us, and also to help us through the intricacies of the dance figures of the day. We were all costumed in Regency gowns. Knowing dancing was not one of my skills, I demurred, but when one of the charming, costumed Georgian gentlemen invited me to do the Grand March, how could I resist?

After a romp down the middle of the floor, we did a U-turn around a line chairs. Half-way back to the "top" of the dance, my feet went out from under me, and I in my gorgeous green gown went down splat on the floor. Of course everyone was appalled. My charming partner seated me on a chair, rushed off to get me water. The dancers assured me the floor was the most slippery they had encountered anywhere, etc., etc. But, believe me, I was able to put all my feelings that night into poor Pamela's plight. I was fortunate enough to have kindness shown. Poor Pamela was not. But I knew exactly what sent her flying to Worcestershire, for I sat out the remainder of the night, chatting with Mary Balogh's mother, while wanting to sink into that highly polished floor.

Out of such things are novels born—well, at least a novella. The link to Mistletoe Moment:

Coming soon: A Cape Cod romance from my backlist - Love at Your Own Risk

Grace, who writes as Blair Bancroft

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Sometime Bride

After two months of re-editing and formatting, all 144,763 words of The Sometime Bride are making their debut on Kindle and Smashwords (with Nook, Sony, Palm, & other e-readers in the near future). This is the book where I inadvertently broke all the rules of romance. But when I read it again, more than 15 years after I wrote it and 11 years since its first publication, I discovered The Sometime Bride still qualified as the best book I ever wrote. You can read 20% for free on Smashwords (link below), and I'd love to hear what you think. Does my rule-breaking offend? Or perhaps it isn't really noticeable? Or does it possibly add to the book's appeal?

Catherine Audley, the daughter of Britain's spymaster on the Iberian Peninsula, is far more sophisticated than most young women her age, which doesn't protect her from the machinations of her father, a husband of convenience, or the unrelenting demands of a long war. Over seven years of a first-hand, and highly personal, view of the Peninsular War, she matures into a woman who is finally able to go toe-to-toe with the enigmatic young man to whom she has given years of unquestioning devotion. Only to discover that love cannot compensate for betrayal of trust. Or can it?

While masquerading as an ox-cart driver, the young Englishman known as Blas the Bastard meets Catherine Audley, and his life is changed forever. It is 1807 and France is about to invade Portugal. To protect Cat's father, his gaming establishment in Lisbon, and the British spy network on the Peninsula, Blas proposes a "paper" marriage between himself and young Catherine. She is fourteen; he, twenty-one—both too young for the responsibilities they must assume. Blas is arrogant, dashing, occasionally reckless, totally bound up in the demands of the war, and oblivious to the looming disastrous conflict with his sometime wife.

When Cat finally discovers how badly Blas has deceived her, a monumental clash is inevitable. In no way does the triumph of allied troops in 1814 guarantee a happy ending for two people for whom the war was a personal disaster. Is she a sometime bride, the "widow" of a man who never existed? Is she Blas's well-rewarded, but discarded mistress? Or is she a beloved wife whose only rival is her husband's determined expediency in a time of war?

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The Sometime Bride is both an Historical Romance and a heavily researched Historical novel, detailing the seven years of the Peninsular War as seen through the eyes of our young hero and heroine. And of course it has an Epilogue about that most famous battle of all, Waterloo.

Below are the links to The Sometime Bride at Kindle and Smashwords. The Smashword's link allows a 20% free read.

Coming soon: my novella, Mistletoe Moment - due out November 10 from the Cotillion line of Ellora's Cave

Grace, who writes as Blair Bancrft

Monday, October 31, 2011

More on Mad as @#$%

Monday, October 31, 2011

Re: my letter of October 26, 2011, to Mr. Phillip Brown, Executive Director of OIA and the Executive Airport.

This morning I had a 20-minute phone call from the Customer Service Manager - Operations at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. She was appalled, she told me, as was Mr. Brown, by what happened curbside at Terminal A on Wednesday evening. Portions of my letter would be used in re-training sessions planned for the curbside parking attendants. She had already faxed my letter to their supervisors. She even asked me for physical descriptions of the two attendants mentioned in my letter.

We ended up discussing our children, my books, e-readers, etc., but of greatest importance was the fact that I felt there might be changes made. And perhaps the biggest moral of the story: don't accept rude behavior. We really don't have to "take it." Complain. And complain to the highest authority where it might do some good. The pen really can be mightier than the sword.


Next on Mosaic Moments: My latest online upload, The Sometime Bride & the novella Mistletoe Moment, due out November 10.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mad as @#$%

Do you recall the famous line in the movie Network, where the TV anchor yelled out the window, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more"? Well, that's how I felt last night at Orlando International Airport. I look at the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and wonder if it isn't time we did something similar with the airlines. They have made flying a nightmare—and I'm not talking about added security measures. I'm talking about attitude. Everything from baggage fees to the "don't give a damn" approach of many employees, from flight deck to parking attendants. Below, in a letter to the Executive Director of both local airports, you'll see an outline of my experiences at OIA Wednesday evening, October 26, 2011. I also e-mailed TSA and, incredibly, have already had a reply, claiming the jurisdiction is not theirs and I should contact the airport directly. (Interesting, I think, that both my son and I assumed that TSA employees would be nastier than those under local jurisdiction.) Since I'd already written to Mr. Brown, I feel I've done my best and wonder if I'll get a response.

If you have had a bad experience with an airline, don't just take it. Please find a way to complain. It's time we all got as "mad and hell" and refused to take it any more.

My letter of complaint:

Mr. Phillip Brown, Executive Director
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
One Airport Boulevard
Orlando, Florida 32827

October 26, 2011

Dear Mr. Brown:

On Wednesday evening, October 26, 2011, at a few minutes past 7:00 p.m., I arrived at OIA to pick up my son and a friend who had just flown in on JetBlue from Hartford. From long experience, my son called me when the plane landed, and I left my house, expecting to find them c. twenty minutes later standing on the sidewalk outside JetBlue Arrivals.

Only this time my son wasn’t there. A guard approached me, informing me that if my party hadn’t arrived in two minutes I would have to leave. When I looked woebegone, he went into the building and checked on the flight, returning to tell me it had arrived only ten minutes earlier at 6:58 (its scheduled time). He then politely told me I needed to circle around and hope they’d be there when I got back. I wasn’t happy as I’d never done this before, and at my age new things don’t sit well, but of course I did as I was told and found my way around the circle.

This time I drove slowly past JetBlue but still didn’t see my son and friend at #11. I pulled in at #13, which seemed to be quiet, and called my son. A guard came charging up, screaming, “Move, move!” I rolled down my window and explained that my son had just told me they were at #11 and were coming my way.

“Move on!”
“But they’re coming!”
“Move on or I’ll write you a ticket. It’s $30(?), and you don’t want that. Move on!”
I stared at him in disbelief.
He yelled, “Move on! I’m writing the ticket. I’m writing a ticket now!”

By this time my eyes were misted with tears, but I managed to pull out into traffic without hitting anything and made my second circle around, vowing this was my last pick-up at OIA. In my entire life, no one has ever spoken to me in that fashion. It was surreal. This guard is a Nazi in modern dress. He certainly shouldn’t have any contact with customers EVER. There is no excuse for his behavior. Obviously, a smidgeon of power has gone to his head.

By the way, my son and his friend were at #12 by the end of my exchange with the guard and witnessed his incredible behavior. My son and friend were as shocked as I was.

This is no way to run an airport. At this rate, the next great sit-in is likely to be in the lobby of OIA. Remember the famous movie line: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”? No, I won’t be among them. I’m a senior and long past sit-ins. But I am a writer, and I’m going to blog about this, maybe put something on Facebook too. I’m an elderly lady, a human being, and there is NO excuse for the way I was treated this evening at OIA.

I hope you will order re-training for parking guards who think they’re bootcamp sergeants.


Grace Ann Kone

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Inspiration for this blog:
The Sometime Bride, written c. 1993, e-published in 2000 by Starlight Writer Publications, soon to be uploaded to Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, Sony, Palm, etc.

As I plowed my way through The Sometime Bride, re-editing all 144,763 words of it, I made a mental list of things I now know not to do when writing a book. But the only things I actually changed were places where experience has given me a better insight into sentence structure. For example, making occasional sentences more active. I left all the other horrible beginner’s “mistakes”exactly as they were.


Because it’s still the best book I ever wrote.

What did I do “wrong”?

I wrote in the style of the books I had been reading for the previous forty years, not in the style dictated by romance how-to books (which I didn’t know existed).

The Sometime Bride is too long.

The heroine is too young.

Bride is too historical - it even offers historical news bulletins!

The hero and heroine are separated for long periods of time.

The hero and heroine have separate adventures.

Just about everybody has a point of view, which inevitably leads to head-hopping.

The hero commits adultery in the first few pages.

The hero takes the heroine to an herbalist for birth control information.

Foreign languages—Portuguese, Spanish & French—are not translated.

The expediency of war kicks romance to the gutter.

It’s still the best book I ever wrote - the true book of my heart.

I’m sure I’ve failed to mention other broken romance rules, but you get the idea. Bride is a long and challenging read. It’s also fun and fascinating, as we watch a young girl become a woman during the course of the Peninsular War. Cover & blurb will be featured on my next blog.

I hope to have The Sometime Bride ready for upload shortly after I get back from an RWA conference in St. Augustine. If I don’t get lost on the Ghost Tour!

Until then, enjoy the lovely month of October.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rules for Romance?


I started re-editing my very first book yesterday, and all the questions and doubts I’ve had about “rules” for romance came crashing back at me. I wrote The Sometime Bride when I knew nothing about rules. When I thought I was the only romance author on the Florida Gulf Coast. Beyond page numbering and double spacing, which I’d learned from typing manuscripts for my mother, a children’s book author, I knew nothing.

And yet, The Sometime Bride is the best book I ever wrote. Where did I learn, besides hearing about writing at my mother’s knee? I learned by reading, which is still the best writer’s primer around. And I learned from the disastrous novels I’d tried to write while my children were young. I simply couldn’t do it. (And I have great admiration for those who manage it!) They were so bad that even my loving mother suggested I might not be cut out to be an author. (And what a glorious moment a number of years later when she said, “You’re better than I ever was.”

And the book that followed, Tarleton’s Wife (with its own set of broken rules), is the second best book I ever wrote. After that . . . after that I began learning the “rules.” Not just by joining RWA, but by the harder lesson of Ballantine telling me they’d be interested in The Sometime Bride if the heroine age wasn’t fourteen. I refused (putting paid to a possibly glorious career), and I refused the same request from an e-publisher more than a decade later. I simply couldn’t do it. My heroine was who she was, a girl of fourteen who grows into a woman of twenty-one over the course of the Peninsular War.

Who published The Sometime Bride? In the early days of e-publishing a newly formed company, Starlight Writer Publications, requested Tarleton’s Wife, evidently after one of the editors read it as a contest judge. They also published Bride, not caring that it was 1) too long; 2) too historical; 3) a bit too literate; that 4) the heroine was fourteen; 5) there were too many POVs; 6) a touch of adultery; 7) head-hopping; and, oh yes, 8) continent hopping. Whatever heinous rule you can name, I broke it.

The Sometime Bride is still the best book I ever wrote. (Talk about the Book of my Heart!) But e-publishers have gone soft now. Who can blame them in this economy? No more chances on novels outside the box. No tolerance for anything but “He said, She said.” Just the romance, ma’am. That’s all we want. Told as simply as possible, but beef up the sex.

Yet the most amazing thing happened recently. A little book, set in the twelfth century, whose only recognition was a nomination for an Eppie, the “Oscar” of the e-book industry, suddenly blossomed when I changed its name and uploaded it to Kindle & Smashwords, being careful to list it under Historical as well as Historical Romance. The Captive Heiress has soared to #1 in two Kindle categories. It trails only The Temporary Earl as the most-downloaded of my nine indie-pubbed books. A true historical with many real characters. Heroine age nine at the beginning. No sex. Wow!

Encouraged by the sales of The Captive Heiress, I began re-editing The Sometime Bride for indie pub. Except I’m scarcely changing a word. It’s historical, it’s Regency, but a classic Regency Historical it’s defintely not. I simply shake my head as I read it and think, “Did I actually write that?” I hope to have it ready for upload as soon as I receive the cover art, promised for October. But it will still be the same book I wrote before I learned the rules, the book that works the way I wrote it. And would be ruined by imposing “rules” on it.

Career-wise, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d gone along with Ballantine’s request so many years ago. Who knows, I might be famous. And wealthy. But The Sometime Bride wouldn’t be the book I wrote way back in the early 90s. Did I cut off my nose to spite my face, as the saying goes? Very likely. And yet as I read it now, I know I was right. This is the way it was in Lisbon, London, and Paris from 1807 to 1815. And I thank indie publishing for giving me the opportunity to once again present Bride in its uncut, unadulterated form.

Your comments on your own experiences with—or opinions of—the “rules of romance” are greatly encouraged.


My books can be found on Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, Sony, Palm, and other e-readers. Please look for books by Blair Bancroft.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Amanda Armitage plays a vital role in her family’s international investigations agency. Great job, great salary, great heartache, as she lives her life, eyes on the computer screen, fingers on the keyboard. When she loses an agent, a friend, on her watch, she is forced to examine the joylessness of her narrow existence.

Mandy’s resistance is minimal when her bosses—her parents—send her on a special assignment as research assistant to a best-selling author in Florida. Acknowledging her burnout, she agrees to spend the winter season in paradise, working for Peter Pennington, who is writing a book about international trafficking in women and children. The same trafficking that just got her friend killed. The job will give her an opportunity to unwind while enjoying a season in paradise and still work against the scourge of trafficking. There is, however, a slight glitch. Peter Pennington is the husband she hasn’t seen in five years.

When Mandy arrives in Florida, trafficking becomes more up close and personal than anyone planned. Peter involves her in his research of local “working girls,” while Mandy accidentally stumbles on a houseful of captive women in the Florida outback. A house where a dark, and unlikely, romance is creeping reluctantly into life in the midst of an evil as old as time.

As Mandy and Peter juggle a rekindling romance with the dangers of international trafficking, the girl once known as Mandy Mouse metamorphoses into a dynamic, independent woman. Perhaps too much so, as the world around them literally goes up in flames, and Mandy, discovering how easily black and white can dissolve into shades of gray, is forced to make the second most difficult decision of her life.

Author’s Note: Although Paradise Burning, which features several cross-over characters from Shadowed Paradise, is a stand-alone story, I recommend reading Shadowed Paradise first.

Special Note: In the course of preparing these two books for indie publishing, I discovered it's much easier to update historicals than books set in the present day. I originally wrote these books in the mid-90s when cell phones were just coming in and recordings were done on tape, to mention only a couple of things which had to be updated. I can only hope I caught all the anachronisms!

Both books can be found on Kindle & Smashwords and will soon be available for Nook, Sony, Palm, and other e-readers. Link to Kindle:

Thanks for stopping by. Coming in October: The Sometime Bride


Sunday, August 21, 2011


When Claire Langdon’s affluent, near-fairytale life in New York is shattered by scandal, she and her eight-year-old son Jamie take refuge with her grandmother in Florida. Once a bright, confident young woman, Claire has been so badly hurt that when she stumbles onto a genuine downhome hero, learning to trust, to love again, seem beyond her reach. She is also forced to deal with the discovery that there are more serious dangers in Florida than alligators, snakes, spiders, and macho males. Like a serial killer, with her name on his list.

Brad Blue is the son of a Russian defector (from Cold War days); his mother, the daughter of one of Florida’s wealthiest cattle barons. (And, yes, Florida is the largest cattle-producing state east of the Mississippi.) Still under forty, Brad is retired from one of Uncle Sam’s many secretive “alphabet” agencies. He’s tough and lonely and more than ready to settle down to family life, but convincing Claire Langdon to marry him is one of his most difficult assignments. Almost as difficult as discovering the identity of the killer who is stalking female real estate agents in Calusa County, Florida.

From the moment Claire and Brad meet in the midst of a flooded bridge, cultural shock wars with romantic attraction. On top of that, they both have pasts that don’t bear close scrutiny. But when Brad offers Claire the job of “sitting” one of his model homes out back of beyond, she accepts. Which is just fine with the killer.

The killer plays a prominent, if anonymous, role throughout the book, gloating over his kills, attempting to justify them. And finally meeting Claire, face to face.


“Marvelously versatile, wondrously creative, intelligently written and sensuously inventive, Bancroft’s Shadowed Paradise adds new meaning to the term ‘romantic suspense.’ . . .as fresh as tomorrow and seriously scary. I loved it.”
Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

Shadowed Paradise contains all the elements I so enjoy in a book, excellent dialogue, great character development and fine descriptive scenes. The romance is steamy, the suspense is taut and exciting, and the result is a supremely satisfying, well-developed read, guaranteed to keep you glued throughout.”
Astrid Kinn, Romance Reviews Today

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Grace Note: Shadowed Paradise is the first of my Romantic Suspense backlist to be uploaded to Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, Sony, and other e-readers. The sequel, Paradise Burning, should follow by the end of August. And please remember that free reads of 20% of each of my books is available at Smashwords.

Thanks for stopping by!

Grace, who writes as Blair Bancroft

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekend at Nickolodeon

My guest blogger today is Hailey. She is eight years old and will be entering third grade later this month. When Hailey and her younger sisters returned home from a weekend at Nickolodeon Suites Resort, her mother, fearing the three girls might be too spoiled by living in the Orlando area to appreciate this rare treat, asked Hailey, the oldest, to write about their trip. This is what she wrote—unedited, except for an occasional bit of paragraphing.

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What I did this weekind was . . .

We went to the car and we’re driving to a suprise place and we have no idea were we’re going. We were driving for 20 minuts. Before that I said “How much longer.”

Mommy said “it’s eather 10 hrs or 10 mins. But she was trying to trick us. 5 sec later we were there. I said in my head what is this place when we were at the sign. When we were parking I said, “Were at the Nickhotel. I said “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

So we get out of the car and get our suitecace and we go to this place so we can get our wristbands and spend money to get a room. When all that was done, we were walking to the elevater but befor that we passed this amasing place. It was a waterpark, with a pool. Awsom slides, Jaccuzi, miny golf, Basketball, and slime. I said I want to go there.

We got to the elavater floor number 4. When we got up there are room number was 1240. We get the card and waved it around for 1 second. And then a green light went on and then we could open the door then we went inside and we ran into our room. There was a Spongebob room. But there were only 2 beds. So we all had to sleep sideways. [the three girls, ages 5, 6 & 8 in one bedroom of a 2-bedroom suite] We quick got our bathing suits on. And our shoes, and went to floor 1.

And we had to walk a long time around. Like 5 minuts. And then we found the entrance. So we put on sunscreen. And I went on the slide. They were water slides, and were so fun. I started going on every slide. I even get slimed. And we went into the pool. After the water part we took a bath. We got dry. We went to the Nickalodean Mall. I was in a show called Slimetime live. It’s a show where you are on eather the Red team or the Blue team. I was on the Red team with Mommy. We did trivea and games. The Blue team lost so the kids had to put pie on there face. My team won so I got slimed. There was a bunch of slime. One of the games I did was I had to get marshmellows into the cup. But you couldnt use your hands. Just your mouth. It was easy.

And after the show we sat in the lounge/Bar while mommy played video games. Then we walked a long time to the room and watched TV while mommy and daddy watched their TV show. Then they came to our room to turn off the TV so we could go to bed and we played a little bit of “Baby.”

The next day in the morning we got our bathing suits on and went straight to the waterpark like 12.00 in the morning. We played, and played at the waterpark. Then at 5.00 we got hungry so we ate a SlimJim.

[Grace note: At this point Hailey got tired of writing, as happens to us all. She finished the story by dictating it to me.]

And then Daddy came and he bought us burgers, and Cassidy got grilled cheese. And then we went back into the pool. Cassidy learned how to a dog paddle in the pool. And I wanted to go on the slides, and then after a few rides I went back in the pool with mommy and daddy and Riley and Cassidy.

We went to the Jacuzzi,* and right before we left we went into the mini golf area. After that we went back to our room to take a bath. We did a quick bath because we wanted to see the show that I was in, but I really wasn’t in it this time, I just saw it. We played at the arcade and got our tickets from the booth that has the prizes. We went into the bar again so mommy could play games, and daddy taught me a different kind of math. When mommy was done with her game, we left into the room, and we watched a couple of shows before bed, and we were packing a little bit. While we were packing, mommy and daddy were watching their show while they were packing. We went to bed for the last night.

The next morning we finished our packing and we were walking to the parking lot and we left. Then we were driving home, and we sat on the couch at our house and watched TV.

It was a great treat, and it was very fun.

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[*I typed Jacuzzi with a small j and Hailey asked why it had a red line under it. We spell-checked it and discovered it should be capitalized, something she’d actually done when writing “Jaccuzi” above.]

As you probably guessed, Hailey is my granddaughter, and I suspect someday she may walk in the footsteps of both Gramma and Great-gramma (Wilma Pitchford Hays) who wrote children’s books.

Thanks for stopping by. Next blog: the cover and blurb for my Romantic Suspense, Shadowed Paradise, which I plan to put online sometime in the next week.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Alecyn de Beauclaire, an orphaned heiress, is taken captive at age nine by the Earl of Rocheford who wants to enjoy the income from her estates. Her first friend in the strange new world at Castle Rocheford is Ranulf Mort à Mer, a descendant of Vikings and a penniless squire with no hope of ever being able to afford a horse and armor so he can become a knight. As the years go by, their friendship is unwavering, even when tested by the preaching of monks who declare that all women are evil and should be shunned.

When Alecyn is almost fourteen (a marriageable age in Medieval times) King Henry II makes Alecyn his ward. She is thrilled because she knows the king will want to keep her money for himself and, therefore, will not marry her off for several more years. Perhaps there is still time for Ranulf to become a knight and distinguish himself in battle.

In her position as companion/entertainer to the royal children and songstress to the royal court, Alecyn learns not only the epic romance of chivalry, but the dark side of romance as she witnesses the love/hate relationship between the king and queen. Ranulf, meanwhile, learns to fight side by side with a new friend, William Marshall. But even Ranulf’s eventual elevation to knighthood is not sufficient to qualify for the hand of an heiress to four fine estates.

Until, one day, Queen Eleanor goes for a hunt on her lands in the Aquitaine, and Ranulf and his friend, William Marshall, are among her escorts. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the three young people survive captivity by Eleanor’s rebellious knights, they may have a future after all. But which young knight will King Henry choose for Alecyn?

Special Note:

The Captive Heiress was written as a painless way for people from nine to ninety to learn about Medieval times, particularly the tumultuous twelfth century. In addition to a look at the dramatic lives of King Henry and Eleanor, readers will catch a glimpse of the early days of their many children, including Richard and John who became famous through the Robin Hood legend. Another very important character is William Marshall, often called the greatest knight who ever lived. Please see the “Whatever Happened to . . .” section at the back of the book for the rest of the story of the many real characters in The Captive Heiress.

Warning: marriages were often contracted at birth, and girls commonly married at age fourteen, so modern sensibilities need to be set aside. This is the way it was.

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My 8-year-old guest blogger - in a move reminiscent of some of her older counterparts! - has not yet finished her blog entry, so here's my latest DIY pub entry. (Some of you may remember the original, Roses in the Mist.) The Captive Heiress is available on Amazon's Kindle and in various formats on Smashwords. It should be available directly from Nook and Sony in the near future. Coming in late August: Shadowed Paradise & Paradise Burning, both contemporary romantic suspense from my backlist.

Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully, young Hailey's tale will be available soon . . .


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Courtesan's Letters

Abigail Todd, the very proper headmistress of an academy for young ladies in Boston, arrives in England to settle her grandmother’s estate, having no idea that her grandmother was la grande Clarisse, the most notorious courtesan of her day. Nor that in order to inherit the cottage, which is far grander than she had ever imagined, she must carry out a series of commissions, detailed in letters left by her grandmother. It is also stipulated in the Will that the estate’s executor must accompany Abby while she carries out the commissions.

The estate’s executor is Jared Verney, Earl of Langley. Not only is he a shining example of England’s ruling class, whom Abby despises, but his brother, a military man, helped burn Washington in the recent war. Not an auspicious way to begin a collaboration on eight commissions. To make matters worse, it was Jared’s grandfather who installed Abby’s grandmother in the cottage and frittered away his fortune showering her with gifts. Which means—oh horrors!—Abby and Jared may be cousins.

Only strict training in manners allows the stiff-necked American and the English aristocrat to move forward, carrying out Clarissa’s instructions. Over the course of the commissions, which range from sentimental to uncomfortable, threatening to a stunning surprise, the two antagonists begin to realize that Clarissa might have had an ulterior motive. Is it possible she hoped to achieve for Abby the wedding ring Clarissa was never offered by Jared’s grandfather? By the time Abby and Jared recognize the old courtesan’s scheme, it may be too late. Clarissa has bound them together as thoroughly as the ribbons around her packets of letters. But is it marriage the earl has in mind, or merely tumbling the proper Bostonian into her grandmother’s footsteps?


“This story flows like fine champagne, full of sparkle, zest and energy.”
Teresa Roebuck, Romantic Times

“The dialogue sparkles, the plot evolves at a brisk pace, and a diverse cast of secondary characters adds depth and texture to this well-written tale.”
Susan Lantz, Romance Reviews Today

“I was completely and utterly seduced by this book. . . . The plot is exquisite, a sparklingly innovative, perfectly executed piece of craftsmanship. . . . It is books like this that restore our faith in the Regency genre. . . .”
Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

Grace Notes: The Courtesan’s Letters (formerly titled, The Indifferent Earl) was a finalist for the RITA, the “Oscar” of the Romance Writers of America. It was also chosen as Regency of the Year by Romantic Times magazine.

Also, my special thanks, as always, to Delle Jacobs for the provocative cover. Since neither one of us could picture using the au naturel painting described in the book on a traditional Regency cover, we settled for the pose and leave the rest to your imagination . . .

Thanks for stopping by. Grace's next Mosaic Moment features as guest blogger a budding author, age 8.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writing 101 - the Final Steps

Welcome back to Writing 101. Today, in Self-editing, Part 2, we look at the “hard stuff.” Most of the problems below won’t jump out at you on your first edit. It takes time, tenacity, and an open mind to find them. That’s why there’s more to editing than checking each chapter as you go. How many times do you have to read the darn thing? Hopefully, until you’ve got it right. Most professional authors, I would estimate, average three edits per manuscript.

As for myself, I edit after each chapter. I edit again after every five chapters (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, etc.). And when I've finished the whole book, I go back to the beginning and read from the first word to the last. I’m still keeping an eye out for typos, continuity, etc., but primarily I’m looking for the “hard stuff,” the things mentioned below. And—sigh—if I make a lot of changes on this supposedly final edit (and sometimes that happens), I type in the revisions and go back and read the whole thing again to make sure it still flows smoothly with all the new additions and/or deletions.

Am I sick of it by then? Very likely. But I know I’m turning in the best possible manuscript I can provide without putting it away for a year and editing it again. Which I don’t do, or I’d never submit anything!

Attention: Contest Entrants. If you only have three chapters, you still need to go through all three editing steps: Easy, Harder, Hardest. (Easy & Harder can be found in "I ran Spell Check. I'm done, right?" (Self-Editing, Part 1) For the hardest things to look for, keep reading.


Plot. Have you made your plot clear? Or did you leave too many details in your head, causing the reader confusion about what is going on? This is very common, particularly with newbie writers. Please remember that readers never see a synopsis. Everything you want them to know must be in the pages of the manuscript itself.

Did you drop hints about your plot in the opening chapters? The primary plot line shouldn’t suddenly appear in Chapter 4 with no previous set-up. I have read contest entries where the pages I received (usually Chapters 1-3) seemed to have nothing to do with the plot outlined in the Synopsis. This is a no-no. There should be hints of the main plot from the very first chapter.

Do you have enough plot to carry your story? If you’re writing a simple 50,000-word boy-meets-girl category romance, you don’t need nearly as much plot as you do for a 100,000-word romantic suspense. For a longer book, you need sub-plots, a series of lesser goals, more action (which can range from a party to a high-speed car chase to murder).

Example of possible sub-plot: secondary characters have problems of their own.

Do you have so much plot that you’ve obscured the point of your story? Did you digress into too much history, into a side plot that does not move the story forward, perhaps into scenes that have clever dialogue, but again do not move the story forward. Do you have so many characters that the plot is lost behind a screen of talking heads?

Does your plot make sense, or did you throw a whole bucketful of events onto the pages, figuring something would make sense? Is your ending a downer, not acceptable in romance? Remember what you’re writing. Happily Ever After is a requirement.

Basically, your h/h need a major goal to achieve (not always the same goal). Readers must be able to understand why these goals are important to them (motivation). And there must be conflict that almost makes the goal(s) nearly impossible to reach.

Most importantly, never assume the readers know the story as well as you do. Make your plot clear, with enough hints early on that readers will understand the larger issues facing the hero and heroine.

Conflict. It’s all too easy to assume that bickering between the hero and heroine provides conflict. Not so. Yes, they can have surface conflict if it fits the story, but true conflict is much more serious. The hero and heroine need External conflict that keeps them apart. This is usually from outside forces that are trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do. (I recall one memorable book where the h/h feared to marry because madness ran in the heroine’s family.) External conflict can be as common as family pressure or something as serious as someone is trying to kill them. Whatever the External conflict, it should be strong, not simply banter between the h/h. Internal conflict is also very important. This is the angst suffered by both hero and heroine over some problem. For example, the separate reactions of both hero and heroine to the possibility of having to sacrifice something important so they can be together. In introspection (their private thoughts), they agonize over this problem. Or perhaps the Internal conflict is simply the heroine trying to decide between two men. Just keep in mind that books without true conflict don’t make it into print. Or e-pub.

Characterization. Did you give a physical description of your main characters and your important secondary characters? Did you identify them? (It’s so easy to forget readers don’t know these people the way you do.) Readers want to empathize with the main characters. They want you to get inside the hero’s and heroine’s heads and let them see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. They want to care about these characters. This is hard to do if you don’t give them enough description and background to go on. This can be done in just a few sentences, but when judging contests, I so often find that newbie writers forget that readers don’t know their characters the way they do. They simply don’t give us the information we need to understand and invest ourselves in these characters. It’s all right for the h/h to have flaws, but we need to get the feeling they are truly likable, and in the end they will learn to be better people.

Dialogue. Is your dialogue natural? Do your characters sound like real people? Do they sound like the individual characters you have created? Stilted dialogue stops a story dead. Each character should have his/her way of speaking and stick to that style. And, above all, do not write dialogue for the sake of dialogue or because it’s so much easier to write. Yes, dialogue can add color, but it needs to move the story forward, not wander off on a tangent unconnected with your main storyline. And have you punctuated the tags correctly? (No full sentences as dialogue tags.)

Narration. Have you added description and/or action to your dialogue? See example below from The Courtesan’s Letters by Blair Bancroft, showing the integration of narration into dialogue.

“That was the promise I made.” The Earl of Langley resumed his long strides toward Arbor Cottage.

Lunging forward, Captain Verney planted himself in his brother’s path. “But why?” he demanded.

Around them the woods shimmered in the late afternoon of one of summer’s longest days. Birds still twittered. Small creatures scurried through the underbrush, their passage marked only by a soft rustling of leaves and twigs. Jared Verney raised his pewter eyes to another set so like his own. “I’ve walked this path countless times,” he said. “I liked her. She was kind, generous, always willing to listen. Even after I was grown, I continued to visit. She was the one person who would listen—”

“Listen?” Is that what an old tart is reduced to? Listening?”

“It’s not a bad attribute,” Jared chided softly. “Looking back, I could have wished more of my chère amies had been so gifted.”

“Are your bones so ancient then, brother, that you’ve given up the muslin company?”

“Perhaps.” Jared took time to consider his reply. “I confess I found a certain ennui when looking over the fresh crop at Hetty Jamison’s establishment. As much, I dare say, as you found in the new bevy of maidens at Almack’s. And even if I could afford to stay in town, I could scarce sport the blunt to set up an opera dancer or even a ripe widow. So you may have the right of it. I am getting old.” Jared turned his back and strode off toward Arbor Cottage, leaving Myles to stare after him, wondering how his brotherly teasing had gone awry.
Have you included the thoughts (introspection) of the person whose viewpoint you’re in? Have you added color to your story by describing settings—locations, landscapes, room furnishings, etc.? Example below from The Courtesan’s Letters, illustrating setting and introspection.

Abby’s feet seemed stuck to the shimmering pastels of the Persian carpet. At least, now that she was alone, she could openly gawk. The room was huge, with two pink marble fireplaces. Floor-to-ceiling windows, arched at the top in Gothic style, lit the far end of the room on three sides where the bedchamber extended beyond the confines of the main structure. The windowed area was set up as a sitting room, with furniture upholstered in cream brocade and accented by throw cushions in rose and palest pink. The occasional tables and chests were decorated with the finest marqueterie. The bed . . . Abby swallowed, felt a quiver of something quite strange flutter her insides. Got the old earl to buy her the best of everything, she did. Oh my, yes. The bed was big enough to accommodate a dozen earls. The tester bed was walnut, at least seven feet long and six across, both canopy and posts elaborately carved. The scalloped valance skirting the wooden canopy was of heavy raw silk embroidered in a crewel design, as was the matching quilt. Rose silk hangings were tied back at each of the four corners by graceful ropes of metallic gold. The room’s remaining furnishings, the chests and wardrobes were chinoiserie. Museum pieces, Abby speculated, each elaborately painted in fantastic designs of a quality only Boston’s most wealthy Brahmins could afford to purchase from the cargos of its world-traveling merchant fleet. She had come these thousands of miles, expecting little but the adventure of it. And because an unknown woman, now deceased, had wished her to. Now came the startling surprise. Obviously, Arbor Cottage was worth far more than she had expected.

The mystery deepened. Who was Miss Clarissa Bivens?
Curiosity unglued Abby’s feet. She strode to the wall, pulled the cord on the silk curtain covering what Mrs. Deering had indicated was a painting of her former mistress. Dear God in heaven! Abby closed the curtains faster than she had opened them. She stood, quivering, fighting the good fight with a long array of Puritan and Pilgrim ancestors. Her father might have been born in England, but her mother’s forebears had stepped off the Mayflower itself.

Gingerly, she tugged on the cord, gradually reopening the pink silk curtain. Perhaps on second view it wouldn’t be so . . .

It was.

Setting. Did you put your characters against a well-described background (location, time, environment)? Or did you have them speaking & thinking against a blank canvas? Readers like to be able to picture scenes in their head. Be sure you give them something to go on. Are we in the city or country? New England or England? The Deep South or South Africa? Is it hot, cold, raining, snowing? Is it the nineteenth century or the twelfth? You’re the author; don’t leave the reader struggling to paint the backdrop for you.

Style. Did you make the drama dramatic enough, the comedy, funny enough? Did you make the scary parts scary enough? The love scenes as sweet, tender, hot, or erotic enough, according to the sub-genre you’re writing? Or were you rushing when a big moment came and sloughed it off with no more than a couple of sentences?

Did you indulge in what I call Unintentional Mystery? This means that you failed to give readers information they needed to know in order to understand the story. For example, the hero’s or heroine’s background. Or plot information you put in the Synopsis but left out of the manuscript. Are there secondary characters you failed to introduce? (You knew who they were, but the readers haven’t a clue.) Or any other vital information readers need to understand what is going on.

Did you Show, not Tell? (Write an Active story or a Passive one?) If there is one thing that will kill a story fast, it’s writing in “storyteller” mode. You are not the narrator sitting around a campfire telling a story. You are a writer who must get inside her main characters’ heads and let readers see the action from their Point of View. A simple example of Show vs. Tell (Active vs. Passive):

Active: A daunting sight met her eyes.
Passive: The sight which met her eyes was daunting.

Example of Active ("Show") from The Courtesan’s Letters:

Miss Abigail Todd, far from the scrutiny of her pupils in Miss Todd’s Academy for Young Ladies in Boston, peered out the window of the post chaise with unabashed curiosity. Now that the city of London had been left behind, the countryside was remarkably familiar. New England had been aptly named, she decided. Although the fields here were smaller and laid out in a fantasy maze of uneven shapes framed in hedgerows, the overall feel of the land was so similar she might have been traveling the post road from Boston to Providence. There were fewer acres of towering trees in this much older country, she conceded, but that was a boon, surely, for highwaymen could shelter in heavy woods, lying in wait for two lone women traveling the road to Bath.
Enough! A woman of eight and twenty, owner and headmistress of her own school, had long since learned not to ask for trouble. She would leave the conjuring of bogeymen to her wide-eyed thirteen-year-olds.

“I cannot like it,” declared a voice beside Abby for perhaps the twentieth time in the past two days. Mrs. Hannah Greaves, a lady of imposing angular shape that belied a heart as soft as butter, had been pressed into service as Miss Abigail Todd’s companion for the long journey to England. “That man was surely hiding something,” Mrs. Greaves continued her complaint. “And I fear to know what. Here we are, off to some unknown spot in the English countryside, just the two of us—”

“But it’s an adventure,” Abby teased, her usually solemn features dancing into a grin. “With Mr. Smallwood making the arrangements, for all we know we could be headed for Gretna Green or some Gothic castle with dark dungeons—”

“Abigail Todd!” Forgetting her own doubts, the older woman was shocked. “You cannot truly suspect Mr. Smallwood of such ah—treachery.”

Example of Passive - The opening of The Courtesan’s Letters, restructured as an example of “Tell, not Show,” with a dash of “Unintentional Mystery,”and cliché. Note: This is an example of how NOT to write your opening scene.

Abigail peered out the window of the post chaise. She was surprised to discover England looked so much like the countryside back home in New England. She was grateful, however, that this older country did not have so many woods that might shelter highwaymen. Foolishness, she thought. She was twenty-eight years old, headmistress of her own school. She would not let her imagination run away with her.

“I cannot like it,” Hannah said. “That man was surely hiding something.”

“But it’s an adventure,” Abby teased. “With Mr. Smallwood making the arrangements, we could end up anywhere, perhaps even some dark castle.”

“Surely not!” Hannah was shocked.


Overall Impression. Did you draw your h/h well enough that readers will be intrigued, no matter what they get up to? Did you truly say what you wanted to say, or are the best parts still in your head? Please remember that putting essential details into the Synopsis is not enough. Repeat: A reader never sees the synopsis. Everything you want the reader to know must be in the pages of the manuscript itself.
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This is the last installment of Writing 101, at least for now. I am considering expanding and polishing these articles into book form and would really appreciate your comments. For example:
What did I leave out? (Obviously, a ton of stuff.)
What should I add?
What did I get wrong? If so, please explain.
Were there sections you found unclear? (Don’t forget to say which ones!)
Any other comments that pop into your mind.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. The Courtesan’s Letters (formerly, The Indifferent Earl) will be available soon on Kindle and Smashwords, and c. a couple of weeks later on Nook, Sony, Palm, etc.

Come on back to Grace’s Mosaic Moments for some lighter fare next time around.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Available on Kindle & Smashwords - available soon on Nook, Sony & other e-readers

All Major Charles Tyrone wants to do is forget his soldiering days and concentrate on making a success of his new engineering company. But Fate has other plans. Although an obscure third in line as heir to the Earl of Wyverne, Charles is suddenly catapulted to head of the family when the old earl suffers a stroke, the heir is killed, and Julian, the heir’s only son, is in a coma from a curricle-racing accident.

As if that weren’t enough, the major is confronted by Lady Vanessa Rayne, a ward of the old earl, who has been running the household very well without his help, thank you very much. Animosity between Charles and Vanessa is further exacerbated by the earl’s determination that they shall marry.

The efforts to restore Julian to health are considerably hampered by a plethora of relatives, two of whom follow Charles in the line of succession. Mr. Ambrose Tyrone is the local vicar; his mother, a woman accustomed to ruling the roost. Mr. Godfrey Tyrone, a London dandy, arrives at Wyverne Abbey with his young sister, fluttery mother, and his mother’s latest “friend” in tow. Not exactly welcome visitors in a house with two bed-ridden patients.

When hints of murder and attempted murder begin to rear their ugly heads, Charles calls on the support of some of the soldiers once under his command, but even that isn’t enough to keep Julian, Charles, and even Vanessa from harm. Yet in spite of being caught in the midst of murder and mayhem, Charles and Vanessa begin to suspect that it truly is possible for the daughter of a duke and a lowly engineer to fall in love. If they live long enough to enjoy it.


“The very talented Blair Bancroft has added another diamond to the Regency treasure chest with the tightly plotted and delightfully executed The Major Meets His Match.”*
[* now titled The Temporary Earl] Teresa Roebuck, Romantic Times

“It’s a vibrant and fun-filled glimpse into a time long ago, and I highly recommend it to . . . any fan of romance. It has all the qualities that we look for, regardless of the time period. Don’t miss it. It’s a keeper!” Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

Next Blog - Writing 101 - Self-editing - the Hard Stuff

Thanks for stopping by, Grace

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I ran Spell Check. I'm done, right?

I began the Writing 101 blog series because a surprising number of the RWA contest entries sent to me for judging in the past year seem to have been written by people who were convinced the title of this blog is true.


Running Spell Check and saying, “That’s it,” is like putting on nothing but lipstick when you’re getting ready for a professional photo. What about foundation, blush, eye-shadow, mascara - maybe even eye liner. Your hair must be just so. And, oh yes, you plan your clothing with care, have your nails done, maybe even a pedicure, just in case the photographer wants full-length and you’re wearing sandals. You consider every last little detail.

The same approach applies to your manuscript. You’re attempting to create a professional submission. You want a publisher to pay you money for it. Well, duh . . . did you go to your last job interview in jeans and T-shirt, or maybe something as skimpy as a bathing suit? Did you throw on any old thing and charge out the door with no more than a glance in the mirror? Well, in this case, your manuscript is your clothing. Presentation is important. Remember, most editors were English majors in college. Mistakes stand out like a sore thumb. And if it looks like you cared so little you didn’t bother to proofread or edit your manuscript, then it looks as if you’re not serious about your writing career.

WHY ALL THE FUSS? Surely editors are going to see how brilliant my work is, even if I’ve made a mistake here and there. And there and here, and . . .

There are a very few authors who do it right the first time. My mother, the children’s book author, Wilma Pitchford Hays, was one of those - but then she wasn’t dealing with 100,000-word manuscripts. Most successful authors do, indeed, edit their work three or four times. That’s being professional. That’s presenting a manuscript that makes sense and won’t cost the publishing company a bundle for hours of editing and copy editing. And in this tight economy, that means a lot.


The methods listed below are the ones I use. Obviously, we are not all alike and do not approach problems in the same fashion. It’s perfectly all right to devise your own editing method, as long as you actually do it! What I’m trying to emphasize is that some form of self-editing is absolutely essential. All successful authors do it. Some of us go through our manuscripts three or more times before we feel it is ready for submission. Basically, if you’re not totally sick of it, you probably haven’t read it over enough times!

Special Note: Why I edit after each chapter.

1. Each chapter builds on the one before it. If I add a character, add some new bit of information, etc., I need to know that before I forge ahead.

2. Leaving editing until the end of a book turns the editing process into Mount Everest. Change one thing back near the beginning and you may have a colossal fix-it job to change the domino effect that follows. I can’t even imagine tackling first edits for an entire book in one fell swoop. If you edit as you go along, the read-through of the entire manuscript will not be as daunting.

Self-Editing, Step by Step

AFTER EACH CHAPTER (and sometimes even after a long scene, if it was particularly tricky to write):

1. Run Spell Check carefully, making sure the program doesn’t substitute something you never intended.

2. Read the entire chapter, looking for the easy stuff:

a. Typos, misused words, missing words, double words (the the)

b. Awkward sentences. (It might have made sense when you wrote it, but will it make sense to someone reading it cold?) Or maybe you just messed up the dialogue punctuation or substituted a totally ridiculous word for the one you intended. (Happens to the best of us.)

c. Too-long sentences. Run-on sentences are hard to read, and today’s reader wants to be able to absorb things fast, fast, fast. Run-on sentences also tend to slow down your story.

d. Too-long paragraphs. Same as above. They’re harder to read and slow the story down.

e. Continuity. Is the hero’s hair brown on page 4 and black on page 124?

f. Poor transitions. The action leaps too fast from one paragraph to the next, causing the reader to go, “Huh?”

Grace Note: Unfortunately, the above are merely the easy stuff. You also need to keep an eye out for things that are a bit harder to spot. Hopefully, you will find some of these on the first read-through, but this is why several more reads are necessary. It takes a while to find all the bits and pieces that need improvement.

3. The harder stuff:

a. Opening Hook. We’ve all heard about that marvelous hook needed to close your first chapter, or maybe the third. But the first line, the first paragraph, the first page of your manuscript are all-important. They must capture the reader’s attention immediately. Just like the horse that stumbles coming out of the gate is not going to be a winner (Secretariat excluded), you have to get it right from the very first sentence. This includes those historical prologues that tend toward vague and mystical meanderings that make readers grind their teeth. I’m not anti-prologue; I just think they should have meaning.

b. Less is more. Keep an eye out for places where you used twenty words when you could have used ten, making the sentence clearer and the story move forward at a more energetic clip.

Example: You wrote a lot of chatter in a tea shop, which was cute but did not move the story forward. Like a lot of girl talk, you had your characters saying everything twice.

c. Writing isn’t a race. Also look for the opposite of too many words—places where you moved too fast, not giving enough attention to significant events. This is surprisingly common as an author is always looking ahead, thinking of what comes next and sometimes doesn’t make the most of the marvelous moment directly in front of her/him.

Example: You tossed off a shooting with two sentences. You show the heroine running, but not how she felt about getting shot at - or her worry about other people who might have been with her.

d. Point of View. Look for places where you might have slipped into the Point of View of a character other than the Hero or Heroine. Villain POV is also okay, but newbies are cautioned against multiple POVs. And head-hopping - jumping from one person’s POV to another’s after only a paragraph or so - is very much frowned on.

Example: You are in the heroine’s Point of View, and suddenly you mention what her girlfriend is thinking. Definitely a no-no.
e. Tense. Tense has only recently become a problem. Traditionally, fiction is written in Past tense, Synopses in Present tense. But novels written in Present tense are becoming more common, so writers need to check that as well. Do you slip back and forth, some sentences in Present, some in Past? (I saw a contest entry just this week where that happened.)
~ * ~

Next Writing 101 blog: Self-editing the “hard stuff”—Plot, Characterization, Active/Passive, Setting + what happens after that. And, yes, there is an “after that”!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know if you found this blog helpful. If “Comments” doesn’t work for you, you can find me at


Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Harem Bride

Miss Penelope Blayne is furious. A highly competent, well-traveled young woman of twenty-six, she is shocked when the aunt with whom she has lived for most of her life names a male guardian for Penny’s considerable inheritance until she is thirty. And, worst of all, the guardian is Jason Lisbourne, Earl of Rocksley, a man she has not seen since a dramatic incident a decade earlier.

Penny arrives at the earl’s estate in the midst of an ice storm, only to find a drunken party in progress. Horrified and angry, she is totally unprepared for the earl’s proposal the following morning: that it is time they take seriously the vows made under duress in a sultan’s harem ten years earlier.

Penny and Jason each recall their days in Constantinople and the disastrous event that began their personal tangle. What if’s abound, but common sense now demands they make the best of the noble sacrifice Jason made to save Penny from Sultan Selim, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Also instrumental in Penny’s rescue is the British Ambassador, Lord Elgin, whose struggles to have his “marbles” accepted by the British Museum become part of the story of the Earl of Rocksley and his surprise bride.

Unfortunately, Penny’s debut as the Countess of Rocksley is marred by rumors of her time in the harem of the Topkapi palace and by Jason’s mistress, who just won’t take “no” for an answer. Penny’s attempts to fit into society, in both London and in Shropshire, come to naught, and she is the one who cuts the Gordian knot binding them together. Will Jason forge a more lasting tie? Does he want to? Or has he suffered enough for a youthful excess of heroism?

Author’s Note: The Harem Bride is a tad “warmer” than my other Regency romances, and perhaps not suitable for every reader.


“. . . The book also has an ambiance that is simply of a different flavor than that of a typical Regency. If you like daring and originality in your Regency authors, I suggest that you pick up all the Blair Bancroft titles you can get your hands on."
Barbara Hume, Rakehell

“Blair Bancroft does it again! . . . once again, she has offered us a tale rich with Regency settings, but unique in characters and plot. . . . Bravo, Ms. Bancroft, for not being afraid to shake the genre up a bit - I think the Prince Regent himself would have applauded your daring."
Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review


I'm happy to announce that The Harem Bride is now available on Kindle and Smashwords. And keep in mind that Smashwords offers a 20% free read of all my indie-published books. (search by title or Blair Bancroft) & - choose Kindle store. (Otherwise you get a postive plethora of old print & e-versions of my books, not the brand new, re-edited hot-off-cyberspace versions.)

Thanks for stopping by. Next blog: Okay, You've Run Spell-Check. Now What?

Grace, w. a. Blair Bancroft

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Writing 101 - Nuts & Bolts, Part 2

WELCOME to Part 2 of Writing 101 - Nuts & Bolts, otherwise known as a short course in punctuation for writers of fiction

If you haven’t read Nuts & Bolts 1 or my blog on manuscript formatting, I hope you’ll take a look before leaving Grace’s Mosaic Moments.

Helpful Books. A quick repeat from Writing - Nuts & Bolts 1:

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 - Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

3. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus - an excellent book, although it occasionally assumes everyone uses MS Word!

DASTARDLY DUOS. Any good book on punctuation and grammar will have a great many more examples than the three below, particularly Straus’s Blue Book, but the mistakes below are ones I see so frequently in contest entries that I felt I had to mention them.

1. Its is a possessive pronoun. That means it tells us who or what owns something.

Example: Read this book. Within its covers you’ll find some great advice.

It’s is a contraction of It is. Its only meaning is: It is. If your sentence doesn’t read right if you read it’s as it is, then don’t use it. (Notice the correct possessive use of its without an apostrophe at the beginning of the second sentence.)

2. Who vs. That. This violation of good grammar is truly annoying. If you’re writing a clause about a person, use “who.” If you’re writing about an animal or an inanimate object, use “that.” Very simple, yet writers seem to be depersonalizing humans almost constantly these days.

Repeat: People are “who.” Animals and things are “that.”

Right: Devil take all Scots, particularly those who wanted a bridge where nature never intended a bridge to go.

Wrong: Devil take all Scots, particularly those that wanted a bridge where nature never intended a bridge to go.

3. I/me, he/him & she/her - Correct grammar in these cases has become a losing battle. If you use these pronouns correctly, everyone will think you’re wrong, or else they’ll think you’re being snooty. The choice of right or wrong is up to you.

Example: “It’s me,” instead of the correct: “It’s I.”

Example: The woman was older than her, maybe seventy. Instead of the correct: “than she.”


Check the punctuation books. Rules have not changed, though some contemporary publishers are dropping the extra s in possessives for names.

Example - Correct: Nicholas’s horse
Variation used by some publishers - Nicholas’ horse*

*Since that’s not what we actually say, I am a strong advocate of keeping the extra s. If you have doubts, sound it out. We say: “Nik-o-las-es horse,” not Nik-o-las horse.”

Special Note: Apostrophe in a contraction before a word: Example: ‘Tis, ‘is (for his), etc.
For ordinary submissions to publishers, the apostrophe, as seen above, is okay. You can let a copy editor change it. But if you are formatting for indie publishing, you need to use a closing apostrophe [’], not the opening apostrophe [‘]. To fix this, type two apostrophes, arrow back, Backspace to delete initial apostrophe. The same applies to closing quotes at the end of a dash (see below). Type two quotes, arrow back and delete the first one (giving you a closing quote instead of an opening quote).

Example: ’Tis the scandal of Lower Wyverne, and I’ve no doubt it’s spread over the whole county by now,” Lady Horatia continued, much aggrieved.


Note: there are rules for both Dashes and Ellipses where the Blue Book disagrees with The Chicago Manual of Style, particularly in assuming certain auto functions occur in all word processing programs, when they do not. So it may be necessary to work out your own compromise and allow your publisher’s style sheet to have the final word.

In general, I use an em dash almost exclusively, saving en dashes for occasional “stuttering style” responses. The difference is very easy. An em dash is the width of an “m.” An en dash is the width of an “n.” Em dashes are the ones most frequently seen in romance. In most word processing programs, if you type the old double hyphen you were taught in school, you’ll likely get an auto-switch to an en dash. If you want an em dash, that’s not going to do you much good. You can go into the Symbols menu, or—faster and easier—simply type Alt+0151 on your keypad, and voilà, you’ve got an em dash. For an en dash—if you want someone stumbling over their words and an em dash looks too dramatic, use Alt+0150 (see example below).

Example - Narrative insert in dialogue:

“As you may have noticed”—Jason paused, cleared his throat while cursing the pixies still pounding anvils in his head—“I did not expect you before tomorrow at the earliest.”

Example - at the end of an interrupted sentence:

“It’s not fair, I tell you. It’s just not—”

Example - in place of a colon:

Romance might be stalled, but one thing was now certain—Jeff’s goal stretched far beyond the confines of Ashley’s Choice.
Example - Stumbling speech (en dash)

“He–we–well, ’tis plain to see what’s happening here, Relia. We know you’re in deep mourning, but we–I–want you to know you have friends. You can count on us.”


Ellipses have become a bone of contention in recent years. I use them more than most authors, possibly because of a theater background that makes me want to reproduce lines the way and actor might say them, with those infinitesimal pauses that make them more meaningful.

Academically, ellipses are used to indicate parts of quotes that have been deleted. We can completely ignore that in romance. Forgetaboutit!

How to write an ellipsis: The traditional ellipsis uses three periods with a space before, after, and in between each period. (See examples below.)

In recent years e-publishers and Harlequin have done away with the traditional ellipsis, substituting three periods in a row without any spaces. To my mind, this makes a pause so insignificant that we might as well not use it. Some now use the three periods with a space before and after [ ... ], which at least indicates more of a pause than just three periods [...] My advice: stick to the traditional ellipsis and let your copy editor change it to suit the publisher’s style sheet.

In fiction, particularly in romance, ellipses are used to indicate a slight pause, whether in dialogue or in introspection (what the POV character is thinking).

Example: It would take . . . it would take a Major Charles Tyrone.

Ellipses are also used when a person’s speech or thoughts simply trail away into silence.

Example: If he were Wyverne . . .

Please note the classic ellipsis spacing in the two examples above.

~ * ~

After a pause to blog about the latest resurrection on my backlist, The Harem Bride, I’ll be adding another blog to the Writing 101 series—essentially “Okay, I’ve run Spell Check. Am I Done?”

Thanks for stopping by. Grace, who writes as Blair Bancroft

Currently available on Kindle & Smashwords: Lady Silence, A Gamble on Love, A Season for Love, The Harem Bride. On Kindle: Steeplechase & Tarleton’s Wife