Grace's Mosaic Moments

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Gamble on Love

I absolutely love the look on the heroine's face, above. She perfectly fits the daring, if desperate, young heroine in A Gamble on Love, previously published as The Lady and the Cit. When Delle Jacobs found this image, I liked it so much that I changed Miss Amelia's Trevor's hair color to match! I also tweaked a number of other things, including adding a definition of "Cit," as I hope the indie versions of my Regency novels will appeal to an audience broader than our loyal Regency aficionados.

Interesting sidenote: I uploaded Gamble on Wednesday, April 27, but soon discovered we indie authors may have been too enthusiastic about our brave new world. When I uploaded Lady Silence to Smashwords, I was #12 in line for being "smashed"; i. e., translated to various e-formats. Last Wednesday, to my horror, I was told Gamble was #3026! So it may take a while before it pops up on the Smashwords list. However, on Friday night I got "the call" from Kindle (via e-mail, of course). A Gamble on Love had made it to the Kindle store. Yay, hurray, two Regencies down and four more to go.

Below is the blurb for A Gamble on Love. The reviews are for the February 2005 Signet publication of The Lady and the Cit.

* * *

Miss Aurelia Trevor has a problem. Until she reaches the age of twenty-five, she will have no control over her beloved Pevensey Park, and by that time her unscrupulous uncle will have run the property into the ground. Marriage to someone other than her uncle’s leering son is her only way out, but, one by one, she rejects the men on her list of suitors. In desperation, Aurelia does the unthinkable. She hires a solicitor to find her a husband strong enough to stand up to both her uncle and her cousin. And soon learns the truth of that old adage: Be careful what you wish for.

Thomas Lanning is a man of City. Unlike Aurelia, who stands to inherit vast land and wealth, he has made his own place in the world. He is not at all tempted by the suggestion of marriage to an heiress, but other considerations, such as a power base for a seat in Parliament, tweak his interest. Plus an unexpected twinge of chivalry when he hears the full extent of Miss Trevor’s difficulties with her uncle and his family.

Aurelia, who only wants to live in peace on her acres, finds she has acquired a ready-made family in Thomas’s younger sister and brother, as well as a head-strong husband whose campagin for MP fills her household with a shockingly odd assortment of characters. It seems her marriage of convenience is fast becoming a marriage of inconvenience. Just how far will this strong- willed pair bend to accommodate each other? And will they do it before it’s too late?


“Blair Bancroft’s warm and tender [novel] boasts a great heroine in Aurelia: She’s attractive, courageous, vulnerable and intelligent.” Robin Taylor, Romantic Times

“Reading how they gradually learn to like and eventually love each other is wonderful. Blair Bancroft is now definitely one of my favorite traditional Regency authors and this book is a prime example of why.” Nicole Hulst, Romance Junkies

“Set against a backdrop of rural politics (and a fascinating look at the early world of “buying” votes) this is a story that entrances, enlightens and endears.” Celia at A Romance Review

* * *

Thanks so much for stopping by. A recent spate of contest-judging has led me to a blog next week I'm thinking of titling, "Writing 101." Come on back.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Brave New World - Indie Publishing

WELCOME to the Brave New World of Independent Publishing! Below is a nutshell view of what I learned as I formatted and uploaded Lady Silence from my Signet backlist. Hopefully, it will be helpful to other authors who would like to take their backlist out of mothballs. And also help newbies who are asking themselves, "Should I?"

Independent publishing is sweeping through the Internet with the momentum of the seminal changes in the music industry. No sense arguing the pros and cons, because indie publishing is here to stay. It’s not going away.

Do I recommend it for an unpublished, unknown author? Only if you’re going to spend full-time marketing that one book on every media and social network available. (And most of us want to keep writing far too much to get trapped long-term in the whirlpool of marketing.)

But I heartily recommend that published authors with a backlist seriously consider independent publishing. The first book’s a bit of a chore, but as more and more of us take the plunge, there will be a growing list of “experts” willing to pass along their new-found knowledge. Which is what I’m attempting to begin with today’s blog.

Yes, you can offer your backlist to one of several royalty-paying e-publishers. (Been there, done that.) But when I heard how well a friend of mine had done with her backlist on Kindle - way better than my current e-royalties - I thought, “Well, heck, why not try it?” Only time will tell, of course, if I made the right decision. But at the moment it feels good. And my low-priced e-Regencies will, I hope, encourage people to consider buying the higher-priced ones from my e-publisher.

How to take the plunge.

First, be sure you have the rights to your book. If you don't, call your print publisher and the main switchboard will direct you to the correct person for rights reversion. For e-pubs, a simple e-mail will do. And then be patient. For Penguin Putnam, it took perhaps two months. For my e-pub, less than a week.

Re-editing is your decision. You can use your original manuscript, as is, or you can choose to re-read and revise, line by line. I chose the latter. I’ve now ploughed my way through three of my six Signet Regencies, making deletions and additions. The result: hopefully, a more polished book, based on what I’ve learned in the years since I wrote the originals.

To learn the ropes of formatting and uploading your manuscript, Smashwords is the place to begin, because Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide gives detailed instructions on how to format your book to an MS Word doc that is acceptable not only to Smashwords, but to Kindle and Nook (even if their instructions don’t say so). I read the Style Guide on HTML. I e-mailed a Mobi version of it to my Kindle and read it again, taking copious notes. And when I finished all my formatting, I re-read the most pertinent parts for uploading again. Coker covers everything, including how to fill out the form so you can get paid! And once you’ve conquererd Smashwords, Kindle is relatively easy. Amazon’s Kindle mentions only HTML in its instructions, but you can use that same Word doc you formatted for Smashwords (minus the front page) for uploading to Kindle.

Warning Note: Do not copy the Smashwords License Agreement as it is laid out in the Style Guide. Not wanting to make any mistakes, I did exactly that, centering just as Mark Coker laid it out. And ten days later I was told I to revise the front page so that there were no Hard Page Ends within the body copy of the agreement (those page ends necessary to format the agreement exactly as Coker wrote it). Sigh.

Further Warning: There are dire warnings in the Style Guide about translating Word Perfect to MS Word for successful e-formatting. Needless to say, I was worried. For Word Perfect users who would like to know how I did it, please e-mail me at

ISBNs. I made the decision to buy a list of ten ISBNs, even though they are not required by Smashwords or Kindle. They are, however, required by Nook. It’s an expense, but I wanted to give Lady Silence every opportunity for distribution.

Nook’s PubIt will also accept an MS Word doc (according to their Support Center), but I found their instructions far less indie friendly than Smashwords or Kindle. At the moment, I admit, anyone wanting to read LADY SILENCE on Nook needs to download the EPub version at Smashwords. (For which Smashwords offers directions!)

An interesting sidenote: when I questioned PubIt’s requirement that biographical material be sent THREE MONTHS in advance, Support didn’t answer me, but the “three-months” instantly disappeared from the PubIt vendor requirements.)

Moral of this story: Am I still submitting original material to royalty-paying publishers and e-publishers? Absolutely. Will I continue to format my backlist for indie pub? Yes, yes, and yes. As fast as my fingers can format and I can get cover artists to do their thing. And, if all goes well, I may even consider uploading that book New York never quite understood. And the one that had too many points of view for a couple of e-publishers. Books of my heart, but not of the editor’s heart.

Important repeat: If your name is already known in the publishing world (p- or e-pub), your indie offering is more likely to have a decent chance of success. And your less expensive indie backlist may increase the sales of your more expensive works.

Brave New World
It’s all yours, so come join me and the other indie authors who have taken the plunge.

Thanks for stopping by. Comments are always welcome.
Grace Kone, writing as Blair Bancroft & Daryn Parke

P.S. I also offer editing, copy editing, and Beta reads at Best Foot Forward. For a brochure, e-mail me at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lady Silence

A waif taken in by the household staff of Colonel Damon Farr grows into a stunning, accomplished beauty by the time he returns from more than six years of war, wanting only to shut himself up in Farr Park and leave the world behind. The girl has a problem, however: she doesn't talk. Though highly suspicious of her origins, Damon allows his mother to persuade him to use Katy Snow as a part-time secretary. And discovers danger has followed him home. For an officer and a gentleman, propinquity can be almost as deadly as a French bullet.

Katy has adored Damon Farr since his decidedly hungover assent to keeping her at Farr Park. Though war has soured his disposition, she takes on the role of Damon's secretary with spunk and efficiency, until their idyll is shattered by an unexpected inheritance, two overly zealous junior officers, greedy relatives, an impostor, and a missing fortune. Is "the girl the cat dragged in" Damon Farr's Sinful Temptation or his Salvation? Katy and Damon walk a rocky road before the answer is clear.

* * * *

Yes, I'm happy to say I fought the good fight and finally made it to Kindle and Smashwords with the first of my Signet backlist. Lady Silence is the closest I've ever come to writing soap opera, and, truthfully, I enjoyed re-editing and polishing it for the brave new world of indie publishing.

At the time I wrote it, I had not seen the point where the Kennet & Avon canal intersects with Sydney Gardens in Bath. (I later discovered I'd turned back about fifteen feet short of my goal.) But this time around, after my narrowboat journey from Newbury to Bath, I was able to give a more definitive description. And, more importantly, I emphasized more strongly what we'd now call a mild version of PTSD suffered by Colonel Farr. Although it's what I had in mind when I wrote the original Lady Silence, I later realized that I had been through more wars than most of my readers (for example, a neighbor of mine came home from Vietnam and hanged himself in his basement), and perhaps I needed to make more clear the problems suffered by soldiers returning from long years at war. I hope I've done that in this version of Lady Silence. Also, I think our years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan have made more people aware of this serious issue.

The ending is still the super soggy, not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house soap opera mentioned above. And remains unchanged. The moments of humor also remain.

The cover was created by Delle Jacobs, God bless! And we're hard at work on the next: A Gamble on Love (formerly, The Lady and the Cit).

Thanks for stopping by. Next week: what I learned in the course of formatting and publishing a book for the brave new world of independent publishing.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where Brits Vacation, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of
"Where Brits Vacation"

Wilton House.

Centered above, a rear view of Wilton House. To the left, a view of Wilton's water garden.

A long time ago, at a Romantic Times convention in Houston, I met Miss Mary McRae, a true English gentlewoman of the old school, who had traveled all the way to Texas because she loved to read romance. I met Miss Mary again at a convention in Orlando, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder and I took her sightseeing in the Sarasota area when she was in Florida. Miss Mary is no longer with us, but I recall with pleasure how much she enjoyed Myakka State Park with its wide variety of wild life from herons and roseate spoonbills to alligators. We also took her to lunch at a downhome-style outdoor restaurant right on the Intracoastal Waterway. So naturally I was thrilled when Miss Mary joined Sally and me for an afternoon at Wilton, home of Earls of Pembroke, near Salisbury in Wiltshire. Since we had all been to Wilton before, we confined our tour to the extensive gardens that day. My apologies for the b&w photo of Wilton’s famous Palladian bridge. No way could I convince my scanner to reproduce any of my bridge photos in color. (It doesn’t like Palladian bridges?)

Interesting sidenote: as an extra added attraction that day, we had to drive past Stonehenge going and coming. Also, while driving through Salisbury Plain (home of Stonehenge), we passed road signs saying, “Warning, Tank Crossing.” If they hadn’t had a picture of an actual military tank on them, I wouldn’t have believed it. Sally said to me, rather plaintively, “We’re a small country. We have to make use of every bit of land we have.” It seems the army trains on Salisbury Plain. Sorry, I was too busy driving on the left to stop for a photo.

Littlecote House - from Roman ruins to Tudor ghosts.

Photo above is an airview of the Tudor country house, Littlecote, now expanded into a resort.

As mentioned earlier, I left the arrangements for my second week without an American in sight to Sally Roberts, whom some of you may remember as our local guide on the 2003 Regency Author Tour. So after two nights at Manor Farm, we drove to Littlecote, neither of us having the slightest idea of the scope of the place Sally had picked for our next four nights. Littlecote is, in fact, mind-boggling. Picture the largest cruise ship and then spread its activities out over somewhere around one square mile.

The original Littlecote is an elegant Tudor mansion, complete with giant oak table in the center of a medieval-style "hall." It has resident ghosts, taken very seriously, and is now kept alive by being turned into a resort. The house itself remains pristine, with only a few of the very wealthy actually staying beneath its roof. (See helicopter photo below.) The rest of us poor working slobs stay in well-appointed motel-like accommodations built within easy walking distance of both the mansion and a 20th c. building containing a lounge, dining areas, theater with live performances, gift shop, etc. Seating in the dining room is like a cruise ship - you are assigned a table. The wait staff seemed to consist of young people from all over Europe.

In addition to these facilities, Littlecote offers gardens, a falconry barn (with demonstrations), tennis courts, an archery field, a bowling green, a giant outdoor chess set, and a fitness center and beauty salon in the old stables.

The most significant site, at least to me, were the Roman ruins, including the entire mosaic floor of what is believed to be a temple. It was difficult to photograph because it is enclosed in an open-sided building to protect it from the elements, but I did my best. Next to the amazing mosiac floor are the remains of a Roman villa, including the hippocaust. Amazing stuff. (Roman photos are at the end of this blog.)

The funniest moment at Littlecote was when the falcon took off on his own, perched in a tree, and refused to come down, no matter how hard his trainer coaxed!

The most eerie moment, besides the stories of ghost-sightings in the hallways, was a tale told by the guide at the Tudor mansion. There is a small casket that always rests in the chapel at Littlecote. Supposedly, it contains an ancient religious relic. And with it goes a legend that says if the casket should ever leave the chapel at Littlecote, disaster will follow.

The day came, sometime in the late 20th c., when Littlecote was sold and some of its contents put up for auction. When family members noticed the casket was no longer in the chapel, they rushed to the auctioneer, explained the legend, and the casket was returned to its proper place, where it still remains. One can only assume Littlecote's present success as a resort was thus assured!

Although visitors to Littlecote seemed to be primarily middle-class Brits, I can heartily recommend it to Americans who have seen all the famous sights and would like to experience something off the beaten track. Littlecote was beautiful, historical, peaceful, and the food was good. Also, there's something both intriguing and educational about being the only American in a sea of Brits. If you'd care to know more, the website is:

Only as I flew back to Orlando on British Airways did I realize I had spent sixteen days without seeing, or speaking to, another American. A truly unique experience.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to look below for four photos of the extensive Roman ruins at Littlecote.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Where Brits Vacation

Welcome to Grace's Mosaic Moments. Today I'm telling the story of the week following my journey by canalboat.

My trip by narrowboat from Newbury to Bath was only the first half of my sixteen days in Britain without seeing another American. The second half was nearly as unique, as my very English friend, Sally Roberts, and I traveled to places where ordinary, average Brits go for enjoyment, both for day trips and for extended stays. I asked Sally to arrange this part of the trip, specifying only that I wanted to see at least one English garden.

Our canalboat captain called in a fleet of taxies on his cell phone, and saw all his passengers off to their various destinations. For Sally and me, it was Alamo Car Rental on the far side of Bath. (I will not attempt to describe my first experience driving “lefty” in the heart of Bath. Suffice it to say, we made it. Sally, who drives as little as possible, assumed the role of navigator - and reminding me about all the esoteric rules governing roundabouts. I suspect it’s much easier for Americans drivers who drive Brit roads completely ignorant of the rules!)

I soon discovered that, just as we flock to our National Parks, Brits flock to National Trust gardens and historic sites. The “car parks” were jammed, and the crowds vast at Abbey Gardens, Avebury, and the Uffington White Horse; not quite as crowded at Wilton, some distance to the south. Sally, also in charge of reading any literature available, informed me, as we approached Abbey Gardens, that we should keep a sharp eye out for the owners who were known to occasionally garden in the nude. (Alas, we only saw other gawkers like ourselves and acres of flowers.)

As some of you know, I carry a cane when in Britain and Europe, as all the years in Florida without stairs have made it a bit uncertain for me to handle stairs without handrails. The car park for Abbey Gardens is in a ravine probably fifty feet below the gardens. We were about half-way up the necessary long flight of stairs when Sally noticed one of my walking shoes was untied. A fiftyish British couple was descending the stairs toward us. Evidently noticing my cane, the man said something to the effect of, “Here, love, let me do it,” then he knelt on the stairs and tied my shoe. Definitely one of those random acts of kindness one never forgets. Photos of Abbey Gardens below.

We stayed two nights at Manor Farm, a marvelous B&B, where our rooms had been constructed in a fourteenth century hayloft. And our host cooked a lamb roast, which we ate family style at the huge oak table in the kitchen.

We drove on to Avebury, one of those marvelous historic sites with a stone circle and henge (ditch) in the style of Stongehenge. This site is particularly amazing as people still live in the small village in the center of the ring. (The airview photo is a postcard, of course.)
Below, the central village and a close-up of some of the stones.

I have always been fascinated by the creatures carved into the chalk cliffs in England. The Uffington White Horse is one of the most spectacular. Notice it’s remarkably “modern” design. Every seven years the people nearby hold a “scouring festival” and clean weeds, dirt, and other encroachments so the horse remains on the hillside as it has for a thousand years or more. (Another postcard photo.)

Next week: a look at a Tudor-era resort where Brits enjoy overnight stays with all the amenities, sort of like a giant cruise ship spread over a square mile of land. Except this one has genuine Roman ruins!

Thanks for stopping by!