Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Click here for the final results of the 2013 Python Challenge.
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This blog post is primarily a photo essay for the young and the young at heart. Plus engineers, builders of all ages, and anyone who can appreciate the intricacy of Lego constructions. And then there are all those rollercoasters for people who are not faint of heart. (I do not number myself among them, but the other seven members of my family, including the six-year-old, enjoyed them immensely.) And if you're too far away to have  Legoland, Florida, in your future, I hope you will it enjoy it vicariously through these photos.

The family immediately headed for the Medieval area, which boasts a wooden rollercoaster. 

Having taken a good look at the Legoland map the night before, I hired a cart so I could take it easy while everyone else ran from one place to the next. (Yes, that's me hiding in the shadows. Loved that cart!)

A glimpse of the wooden coaster


Lego Pharoah outside a shooting gallery
The 3 grandgirls on the right

Amazingly real "elephants" on the Safari ride

Guarding the "Coastersaurus"

It looks like Legoland is going to run to more than one blog - I don't want to overload Blogger's system or strain the patience of those who prefer bon mots to photos! 
Look for the next Lego post after Dictionary for Writers, Part 3. It will include Lego versions of Star Wars, New York City, Vegas, the Space Shuttle & much, much more.  

Thanks for stopping by.


Click here for a list of Grace's books as Blair Bancroft

Sunday, February 17, 2013


For Part 1 of Dictionary for Writers, please see my blog of February 4, 2013.

A Few More Words Every Author Needs to Understand
Synopsis.  “Synopsis” is frequently preceded by “That dreaded.” It’s the narrative summary of your opus, written in present tense. Most editors prefer 3-5 double-spaced pages. A few editors want long, detailed synopses, with as many as 15-20 pages. (If I personally had to write a synopsis of that length, I would consider that I’d finished the book, I knew what was going to happen, and forgetaboutit! I'd lost all incentive to actually sit down and write it.) 

    Character Briefs.  Although not necessarily a part of a synopsis - if you have room, a few brief words on your major characters (and perhaps a couple of the most important secondary characters) are a good way to introduce your story.

Caution: do not make the mistake of thinking a reader is ever going to see your synopsis. An editor, agent, marketing personnel, possibly a cover artist, might see your synopsis. But that’s it. Everything you want the reader to know must be in the manuscript itself. Do not put information you want the reader to know in the synopsis, then fail to put it in your book.

Logline.  This is the TV guide version of your book. Two, possibly three sentences, which I would advise putting at the beginning of your synopsis, single-spaced. Preferably words with a hook to grab an editor/agent’s attention right up front. Learning to compress your book into a Logline is also an excellent exercise for any author. A revealing discipline. It also gives you something you can zip out of your head on a moment’s notice and “pitch” with intelligence to anyone willing to listen.

Outline.  “Outline” is what the name implies. Rather than a narrative summary of your book (as a synopsis is), an Outline contains a list of chapters with notes about what happens in each chapter.  Some mystery writers prefer this method of planning their books, but a Synopsis is more common in Romance.

Character List.  Strictly for author use. A “Who’s Who” of your book (which I consider a “must” for every book). You should include every single character (except perhaps the “tweeny” mentioned once in Chapter 14). I also list place names - houses, taverns, boats, etc. - any name that is used more than once, so I get it right each time.

Plotter.  So-called “plotters” tend to think they are the only ones who “plot” their books. It just ain’t so. Some of us simply do it in our heads rather than require storyboards, photos, cards, detailed synopses, outlines, etc., in order to write a book. Plotters feel the need to know exactly where their story is going before they begin. Other writers, like myself, would be bored to death if we knew in advance what was going to happen. This, obviously, is a matter of personality rather than a case of “right” or “wrong.” Some people work better one way; some, another. For the other side of the coin, please see “Pantser” below.

Pantser.  First of all, I absolutely hate this term for people who are not detailed plotters. The origin, however, makes sense. “Pantser” comes from the expression, “fly by the seat of your pants.” And, yes, that describes how we create our books rather well, but the word is ugly, ugly, ugly! I much prefer to be an “out of the mist” author. Yes, we invent main characters before we begin to write - but we might not have more than their names down on paper. (Maybe not even that.) We know how we want them to act, but we don’t put it down in black and white. After all, as we get to know him/her, we might find them saying things that don’t fit our original ideas at all. And since their character traits aren’t staring at us from some nicely typed outline, we feel freer to chuck our initial ideas and just let our characters run with their startling transformations. Makes for a more interesting manuscipt, I believe. But, again, to each his own.

However . . . please, call us something less ugly than “pantsers”!

Keywords.  These are the words various book distributors ask us to use to describe our books. Keywords also make good Twitter hashtags. There is supposedly a whole science of Keywords - an attempt to narrow a category until your book might actually have a chance of being in the Top Ten or Hundred in that group. For example: Instead of “Regency” or “Regency Historical,” you might use “Regency Historical Romance,” or “Historical Regency Romance” or Regency Romantic Mystery.” Note: Print authors don’t have to worry about this, but e-authors frequently do, and indie authors must deal Keywords for every book.

Sweet.  If there is a word I hate more than “Pantsers,” it’s “Sweet” as a description for romances that do not contain more than kisses and an occasional chaste bedroom scene between husband and wife. The reason I dislike having “sweet” applied to the traditional Regency romances I write is that so few of this sub-genre are “sweet.” They are “clever,” “witty,” “humorous,” “intelligent,” and often filled with action. In a proper Regency “sweet, starry-eyed heroines” appear only as “second bananas.” It also annoys me that authors can write completely sexless mysteries and never have their books called "sweet."  Aargh!

Please! Somebody find a better word for the less graphic romances than  “Sweet”!

Hot.  I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t know this definition as applied to a book, but since I wanted to include “Sweet,” “Hot” has to be here as well.  Frankly, I consider it grossly unfair that everyone understands “hot” while allowing “sweet” to be applied to books where sex happens behind closed doors. Sigh. I know some authors who write incredible scenes of sexual tension, which to me are far stronger than graphic descriptions of what part goes where.

Hot, however, comes in different levels, from the magnificently done love scenes written by authors such as Nora Roberts to the much more hard-hitting, super-hot sexual details of authors like Beatrice Small.

Erotica.  You could say that “Erotica” is super-hot sexual content carried to the extreme. The best books of erotica have a plot, but the emphasis is always on sexual details and can include almost every sexual aberration known to mankind, including Ménage à Trois, Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender activities.

Romantica.  A name coined by Ellora’s Cave Publishing to describe its brand of erotica, which emphasizes romance and happy endings, along with graphic sexual details, and does not include some of the more aberrant sexual behaviors, such as bestiality. EC is sensitive about the use of "Romantica" for books other than their own.
[To be continued]

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UPDATES on the Weird & Wonderful:

Python Challenge. The Python Challenge in the Everglades ended February 16, 2013. The total count was 68, the longest python caught, 14' 3". [When their website has been updated, I will post a link so you can see the photos and videos from this month-long event.]

My international thriller, LIMBO MAN, one of my personal favorites, will be free on Amazon Kindle on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

My Romantic Suspense, FLORIDA WILD, has just been accepted by Ellora’s Cave (Blush line). No pub date as yet. This one has an Orlando area setting, as opposed to my five suspense/mystery books set in the not-so-fictional Gulf Coast town of Golden Beach, Florida (see my blog of February 11, 2013).

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Brevard County (on the Space Coast) has just tied New Smyrna Beach for the dubious honor of “Shark Bite Capital of the World.” The only saving grace, the shark bites on Central Florida’s Atlantic beaches tend to be more like dog bites, and easily mended. Lifeguards are so accustomed to shark fin sightings that they simply close the affected beach for half an hour until the shark has moved off in search of better pickings.

Grace note: when my parents first moved to the Florida Gulf Coast in 1963, they were warned not to swim after four o’clock in the afternoon. A warning that soon succumbed to the great influx of snowbirds and tourists (mustn’t scare the paying customers!) That doesn’t keep it from being advice as sensible in 2013 as it was in 1963.

A Jaundiced View of Romance, as seen by a sports writer for The Orlando Sentinel (2/15/13):

Click here for "Romance meets NASCAR"

Lounging on the Suwanee - too cold to play outside!

Thanks for stopping by.


Coming soon: Legoland photos & Part 3 of Dictionary for Writers

Click here for a list of Grace's books as Blair Bancroft

Monday, February 11, 2013


When I downloaded my "recent" photos, I discovered they went all the way back to October 2012 and included views of the nostalgic journey my daughter's family and I made to the town where I lived for 25 years before moving to Orlando. The town—and, yes, the name remains a secret—is the site of all my Golden Beach books. The first set of photos is the model for "Bud's Fish Camp" in Shadowed Paradise. We drove off I-75 straight to "Bud's" for lunch and were horrified to discover it deserted, having lost its vendor. (Though how the State—who now owns it—couldn't find a vendor for a place as crowded as this riverside restaurant always was, is a complete mystery. Sigh. Maybe it just got to be too popular . . . scared vendors away.

The "Calusa" River

Yes, it's just what it looks like . . .
The trees are growing through the roof.

Ten miles due west of "Bud's"—down the exact same road—is the Gulf of Mexico and the resort-style inn we chose for our weekend visit. The beach was directly across the street. After checking in, we drove—starving by this time—to our favorite hot dog place, at the jetties. The jetties are the only direct access from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Gulf for twenty miles in either direction. The jetties are prominently featured in Death by Marriage.

At the jetties
Flying "Sharky" - a family tradition
All this & a pool too - Mommy & 2½ kidlets
A glimpse of "Main Street, Golden Beach"

The Golden Beach books:

Shadowed Paradise, Paradise Burning, Florida Knight, 
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem, Death by Marriage

Thanks for stopping by.

Coming soon:  Dictionary for Writers, Part 2 & Legoland photos

Tea, anyone? - the party begins, Sunday, February 10, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013


When I started compiling notes for a writer’s dictionary, it seemed a simple project. By the time I’d scribbled over three lined legal pages, I decided this project was going to take more than one blog. Why create a Dictionary for Writers? Well . . . many long years ago, when I was a newbie, I recall writing (snail mail) to a contest "chair," plaintively inquiring, “What’s a hook?” So for all the newbies out there—and maybe some not-so-newbie—, here is Part I of Grace’s Dictionary for Writers.

Manuscript Format. The double-spaced document you’re supposed to be creating - with title and page numbers as headers at the top of each page.  (Editors seem to have a definite expectation of finding the page numbers in the upper right corner, so don’t disappoint them.)  Be sure to p
resent your manuscript to an agent or editor in MANUSCRIPT FORMAT, not book format! See Grace’s Mosaic Moments -   Manuscript Formatting

Book Format. Unless you’re indie-publishing*, you have nothing to do with book format. You do NOT put the first paragraph of each chapter Flush Left. You do NOT use single space or 1.5 spaces between lines. You do not attempt dropped caps, etc.  Book formatting is for your publisher, print or e, to create in their preferred style.  

*Even if you’re indie-publishing, create your book in double space, which is easier to read, edit, and revise. 

Font.  The typeface you use to create your book. Courier used to be the font of choice because that’s all typewriters offered. But we’ve been in the home computer era for more than thirty years now, and Courier 10, a 19th c. font, should have been dead and gone long since. Times New Roman, size 12, is the current font of choice. Since even most print publishers, as well as agents, now seem to expect manuscripts to be presented electronically, you are strongly advised to stick to TNR. If you use anything else, the person receiving your manuscript might not have the correct font to reproduce your pet typeface.

Tabs.  In the past all tabs were manual; i.e., we had to hit the Tab bar at the beginning of each paragraph. In the last few years, Auto Tabs have become a “must.” They are expected by all publishers, especially e-publishers, and absolutely necessary for authors preparing their own work for indie pub. See Grace’s Mosaic Moments - Tab How-to's

        New York (NY) - refers to the big print publishers. Authors receive advances as well as royalties.

        E-publishers - refers to publishers who sell online, sometimes offering Print on Demand paperbacks, as well as downloads in a variety of PC & e-reader formats. Authors do not receive an advance but do receive royalties. Note: In general, I have found the editing at my three e-publishers to be more meticulous than the editing I received from New York.

    Indie Publishing - refers to a new branch of publishing, where  authors publish their own books, usually via Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Smashwords, Sony, or a variety of smaller companies offering “do it yourself” service. The cost to the author is minimal:  a cover, ISBN, (usually optional), and professional editing (also optional).

    Self-publishing - nowadays, the same as indie pub, but because of negative connotations from the past, the term  "indie pub" is generally preferred.

    Vanity publishing - a service provided by a number of companies, where the author PAYS to be published in print. This can be expensive and is not recommended unless an author has money to burn, as the results are seldom lucrative unless the author spends all his/her time marketing the book. Vanity publishing can also have negative connotations, while e-publishing independently is rapidly becoming an accepted method of publication.

Marketing. What modern authors do to sell their book, whether print, e, or vanity. (In my case, very little.) In some cases, particularly with authors who have only one or two books to sell, marketing becomes a full-time job. And, yes, it can pay off.  It depends on what’s important to you. I’d rather write another book than make a lot of money on the first one by being a full-time salesperson. It’s a personal decision. Do you want to spend your time on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, chatrooms, etcetera? Do you want to make a trailer, buy ads on the big Review sites? Great, maybe you’ll find yourself rich and famous. I’d go nuts. I have to write. I have to create. Which is why I blog, but do little else of a promotional nature. Blogging is writing, being creative. I enjoy it and don’t feel I’m wasting my time.  But chacun à son gout. Different strokes for different folks. Whatever the cliché, we each have to do what we feel is right for our babies, our precious creations.   

Editors.  The person employed by a publishing company to examine your baby and decide if it fits the criteria of their publishing house. If so, that person will make suggestions to improve your book - sometimes very little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes the editor will give you a list of things you need to revise and tell you to re-submit. This is iffy. You may make those revisions, even though you think they are wrong, yet the editor rejects you again. Ouch! And yet . . . if the offer was made by a senior editor in a major NY publishing house, I recommend going for it. It’s very likely worth the effort. If, however, the suggested changes decimate your book and are suggested by an editor of a minor publishing house, have a good, long think before you cave. But at the same time, ask yourself: Is this person right? Would I have a better book if I listened to his/her suggestions?  Having had the experience of refusing to compromise with a major New York publisher, I freely admit it was probably the biggest mistake of my writing career. So if an editor, particularly a senior editor, suggests a revision, take a long hard look before you say "No."

Copy editors. Junior on the publishing scale, often right out of college, copy editors look your book over for spelling, grammar, punctuation, continuity, and word usage. That’s all they do. They do not make suggestions to improve your book. In fact, they’ve been known to do things like add a decimal point before 9mm! Never hesitate to argue with a copy editor. Be grateful for their English expertise, but you likely know more about your subject than they do.

Agents.  There are literary agents and then there are those who pass themselves off as literary agents. My personal experience in this area has been extremely negative. In the past twenty years, I sold every last one of my books myself, even though I had a succession of three agents. Conversely, a good agent is a wonderful thing to have. Since I’m primarily writing this blog for newbies, let me caution you that not just any agent will do. Agents specialize, just as singers specialize, sports stars specialize. Some agents enjoy selling romance; others wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Even within the romance genre, some agents want only mainstream romance or romantic suspense,  stating emphatically they don’t accept “category” romance.  Or paranormal, or maybe Fantasy. My advice: research agents at the library, or buy a book like Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. Members of the Romance Writers of America can find Agent information on the RWA website.

In addition, try to discover if the agent you’re considering is primarily interested in selling your book, or does he/she fancy themselves a co-author, suggesting all sorts of revisions before agreeing to handle your book? Again, a matter of taste - perhaps you want an agent to make suggestions; perhaps the agent is experienced enough to make those suggestions valid. My personal opinion? Although I want an agent willing to mention anything that jars her/him as a reader, I don’t want my agent acting as an editor.

Frankly, it’s harder to get a good agent than it is to find an editor willing to look at your work. Sigh. Persistence is absolutely necessary.

A Short Vocabulary of Sometimes Obscure Writers' Jargon:

Hook - the last line in a chapter that keeps the reader turning the page. The sentence that “leaves readers hanging.” In the grand tradition of the heroine tied to the railroad tracks, announcement of a surprise pregnancy, a bad guy with a gun trained at our hero's head, etc.

Tag - the “he said, she said” of Dialogue, those few words that tell the reader who is speaking. They may include some description, as well as, “asked, inquired, demanded, exclaimed,” etc.

Blurb - the story summary found on the back cover (or front flap) of every print book or the description next to the cover photo for online books. Writing a good blurb is an art in itself and much harder than it looks. (As anyone who has ever been asked to describe their book to an editor, agent, or even a friend, has already discovered.) All authors should be prepared with a two- or three-sentence blurb they can offer at the drop of a hat!

Head-hopping - jumping from one Point of View to another within the space of a paragraph or two, occasionally even within the same paragraph. This is an absolute no-no!

Black Moment - the moment, usually fairly near the end of a book, when it looks as if there is no hope of resolution. In romance, this means no chance of the couple getting together. In suspense, it can be the moment when we think the hero, heroine, or both, just aren’t going to survive.

Hard Page End - the Required Page End you must put at the end of every chapter. The one that will not move, no matter what you add or subtract when editing.  Do NOT hit “Enter” to get to a new page!  To insert a Hard Page End, use Control+Enter or the Insert Menu.

Dangling Participle.  We all were supposed to learn about this insidious grammar mistake in high school, but sometimes . . .
The basic rule: an opening action clause must match the subject of the sentence. If it doesn’t, we can get remarkable mix-ups.  Examples: 

While flying a kite, the tree caught it. (The tree was not flying the kite.)
Running out into the street, the car hit him. (The car did not run out into the street.)

Identify.  One of the words I type most often in “Comment” while editing for Best Foot Forward. Characters need to be identified as they are introduced. “Mary” can’t suddenly jump in and start talking - no ID makes her a blank face against a blank background. Not at all the color, humor, or drama you want to convey.

Clarify.  Another word I use often.  Please remember that you may be very familiar with your characters, readers are not. You can’t put background in a synopsis and then expect the reader to know what you wrote. Readers never see a synopsis, only that itty bitty blurb. Everything you want the reader to know must be in the body of the manuscript itself.

Introspection.  What is going on inside your hero’s and/or heroine’s heads. Their thoughts, emotions—fear, pain, anguish, love, lust, etc. Without introspection a reader has a hard time identifying with, or empathizing with, the main characters. The Point of View (introspection) of a villain or other important characters may also be shown, depending on the book’s genre. (More on that in Part 2 of Dictionary for Writers.)

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For Python Challenge updates, see  Python Challenge

For Grace's (Blair Bancroft's) free book updates, see Free books
Coming soon:  

More word definitions
Definitions of Setting, Characterization, Point of View, etc.
Definitions of the various sub-genres of Romance - Category, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, etc. (Or at least I plan to make a stab at it.)

Thanks for stopping by.