Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 28, 2013


My brand new Regency Gothic, Brides of Falconfell, has just gone "live" on Amazon and Smashwords, with Barnes and Noble, Sony, and other online sources coming soon. Below is the cover, which so beautifully illustrates the gloom and lurking evil of a "Gothic" novel. (Which, hopefully, I've "tarted up" with bits of Regency humor here and there.)

Miss Serena Farnsworth, spinster, is a managing female, the general crutch for her extended family, for whom she functions as nurse, companion, and household organizer. In short, she lives a life of service devoid of romance. Until she is invited to attend an invalid at a gloomy Gothic-style estate in Northumberland, where she encounter two suspicious deaths, personal animosity, a needy child, and even needier father. Add witchcraft, poison, shake (sink) holes, Mid-summer Eve revels, and a variety of odd characters, as well as the certainty someone is trying to kill her, and Serena finds herself surrounded by a miasma of evil. The lord of the manor should be of help, but he, alas, is a prime suspect in the murder of the Brides of Falconfell.

Author's Note:  Brides of Falconfell is a tribute to the great era of Gothic novels, written by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phillis Whitney, and other talented authors of that time. The books—more Jane Eyre and Rebecca than Pride and Prejudice—have several common elements: they are told in first person, as both heroine and reader must be isolated, unable to know what the other characters are thinking. Frequently, the heroines are married and begin to suspect their husbands of murder. There is often a child, usually the hero's from a previous marriage. A large, gloomy mansion is a must, where murder, madness, and evil abound, with the heroine escaping death by the skin of her teeth. I have put all these conventions in Brides of Falconfell and chosen an isolated location at the very "top" of England as a setting. I hope you will enjoy my personal attempt at "Gothic Revival."

A 20% free read is available at Smashwordsclick here

                                                           Blair Bancroft (aka Grace)

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Thanks for stopping by.


Oct. 13: The final installment of my latest Editing series:  "Questions You Should Ask Yourself"

For a look at all Blair's books, covers & blurbs, please see Blair's Website

Sunday, September 22, 2013

UPDATED INDEX to Writing & Editing Posts

For "color" this week, we have Gatorland's prize white gator - photo from 2011
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INDEX to Grace's Writing & Editing Posts, 2011-2013


The Writing 101 series
1.  Formatting a Manuscript - May 9, 2011
2.  Nuts & Bolts, Part 1(grammar, punctuation) - May 16, 2011
3.  Tab conversion (from manual to auto) - June 5, 2011
4.  Nuts & Bolts, Part 2 - June 16, 2011
5.  I Ran Spell Check, I'm Done, Right? (self-editing) - July 5, 2011
6.  The Final Steps (self-editing) - July 14, 2011


1.  Intro to Self-editing - April 1, 2012
2.  Should you hire help? - April 28, 2012
3.  Manuscript Format for the 21st Century - May 6, 2012
4.  Writing No-No's - May 28, 2012
5.  Point of View - June 18, 2012
6.  Anatomy of an Edit, Part 1 - August 5, 2012
7.  Anatomy of an Edit, Part 2 - August 19, 2012

Part 1 - What you need to discover about your characters - October 15, 2012
Part 2 - More questions about your characters - October 29, 2012
Part 3 - The Rest of the story - November 5, 2012


DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS series (5 parts)  - February. 4 - April 7, 2013

REMINISCENCES OF CONTROVERSIES series (3 parts) - May 13 - May 26, 2013
    [a look at a number of “writing” controversies over the past decade or so]
EDITING series
Part 1 - Layering - June 30, 2013
Part 2 - Dangling Participles - July 7, 2013
Part 3 - Show vs Tell 1 - July 21, 2013
Part 4 - Show vs Tell 2 - July 28, 2013
Part 5 - Treacherous Words - August 11, 2013
Part 6 - The Difference a Word Makes - September 1, 2013
Part 7 - “Modern” Punctuation - September 15, 2013
Part 8 - Questions You Should Ask Yourself - October 13, 2013


1.  Guideposts for Critiquing - January 28, 2011
2.  Writing Mistakes, Near Misses & Just Plain Strange - March 4, 2011
3.  Shortcuts for Writers (ASCII codes) - March 18, 2011
4.  Rules for Romance - September 18, 2011
5.  More Rules for Romance - October 16, 2011
6.  How Not to Write a Book - December 20, 2012
7.  Branding - Bah, humbug! [writing multi-genre] - January 21, 2013
8.  How Does Your Novel Grow? - April 28, 2013
9.  Updated Index to Grace’s Writing & Editing series, 2011-2013 - September 22, 2013

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Grace Note:  Although there is one more post in the current Editing series, I needed to update the Index as a handout at the two-hour workshop I'm giving at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta. If any of my blog readers plan to attend, please come by and say, "Hi."

Thanks for stopping by. 


September 29:  BRIDES OF FALCONFELL, a Regency Gothic, debuted at Amazon & Smashwords on Saturday, Sept. 21, & will be featured on next week's blog.

October 13:  The final post in the recent Editing series: "Questions You Should Ask Yourself"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

EDITING - "Modern" Punctuation

Up close & personal with a frog at Chatfield Hollow State Park, CT

A quick trip to Connecticut last week - 
where Susie and I visited sites old & new.

Mailbox for the new "Fire Palace" in Branford, CT

While in New Haven, we stayed only a few blocks from the house used in the Adam's Family. Which has been bought refurbished, and expanded by Yale into a conference center.

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"Modern" Punctuation - for good or ill

As both a writer and an editor, over the past couple of years I have been attempting to adjust to the contemporary approach to punctuation, which is definitely not what I learned in English class way back when. Certain changes, I find, I can accept. Others? Forgetaboutit! Below are some of the changes I am trying to incorporate into my own writing and into the fiction edits I do for others. (I am talking about fiction only here - I am unsure if "modern" times have caught up with the academic world or not!)

Grace Note 1: The general trend is definitely toward "Less is More." The assumption is, we can use less punctuation and still write sentences readers can understand. Sentences that offend neither eye nor ear (for I suspect we all "hear" the poetry in good prose in our heads, even if we've never stopped to think about it before.) Sentences we don't have to stop and read a second time to understand the meaning. Clear sentences that warm our hearts, curl our hair, tickle our funny bones, or scare the daylights out of us. Clarity is all important. I will never be "modern" enough to believe in the philosophy that says: "If you can read a sentence without punctuation don't put any in." Aargh!

Grace Note 2:  I would suggest that "modern" punctuation is subjective; i.e., not mandatory. If you ignore it, however, don't be surprised when a copy editor makes changes. I also suggest that classic punctuation still seems appropriate for historical novels, though I make a conscious effort not to clutter a sentence with too many commas.


 New punctuation I can live with - most of the time:

1.  Most short compound sentences can do without a comma in the middle. Emphasis on short.

Betty walked down the street but John went the other way.

2.  Introductory phrases of 3 or 4 words can do without a comma at the end of the phrase. (I make subjective choices on these - the "new" rule doesn't work 100% of the time. 

Early next morning I dressed and went to work.

3.  Certain phrases at the end of a sentence can do without a comma dividing them from the main part of the sentence.  (Also a subjective call .)

It was raining hard as I ran down the street.

4.  Not so new (& true mostly of Romance genres):  Colons & semi-colons are rare - very likely considered too academic. The colon has been replaced by an M-dash or by using two separate sentences. Semi-colons have been replaced by simple commas (and, yes, that creates 2 separate sentences divided by a comma). You can also use a period, creating two separate sentences. Or use an M-dash.

It was dark and cold, the moon was rising. 

Grace Note 3:  Enjoying being contrary, I used both colons and semi-colons in my latest book, Brides of Falconfell.

5.  N-dash. I personally use the N-dash for stuttering dialogue. Other authors simply use a hyphen. The choice seems to vary from publisher to publisher.  

"I–I'm so c–cold my teeth are chattering."

Grace Note 4:  M- and N-dashes are found in Insert - Symbols, or, faster & easier, by using ASCII codes. M-dash = Alt +0151 on your keypad (Num Lock on). N-dash = Alt + 0150 on your keypad. [These numbers will not work on your QWERTY keyboard, only on the keypad.]

Some "oldies" that authors need to remember:

1.  Do NOT put a comma before "and, but, then, while, etc." if these conjunctions connect two compound verbs; i.e., ONE subject with two verbs that follow it.

 John played baseball in the afternoon but went to a nightclub that night.

Exception:  a comma may be inserted for clarity or for emphasis.

2.  A clause beginning with "even" does not need a comma before it. (Though I tend to do it every time.)

That's the last thing I'd ever do even if you paid me.

3.  Do NOT use a full sentence (subject & verb) as a dialogue tag. (He said, she replied, he asked, etc., are okay, but not a long sentence that can stand independently.)  

Wrong:  "You know something," John rubbed the side of his nose, "that's just plain crazy." 

Correct:  "You know something . . .? John rubbed the side of his nose. "That's just plain crazy."

or (though not all copy editors agree)
 "You know something"—John rubbed the side of his nose—"that's just plain crazy."

4.  I'm still seeing manuscripts without a Hard Page End at the end of every chapter. Don't "space" this - it's essential to every professional author. Hard Page End = Control+Enter. [One of my clients swore she'd done that on every chapter - turns out, she hadn't always held the two keys down at the same time.] 

5.  I'm also still seeing manuscripts with Manual Indents. These are an absolute no-no these days in both print and e-publishing. Set up Auto tabs. [For how to do it - or how to change a ms from manual to auto tabs, see my blog,  Tab Conversion

Some "changes" I reject - the choice, however, is up to you:

1.  Not adding an "s" to possessive names ending in S. For example:  Nicholas' instead of Nicholas's. You have only to pronounce the word to discover that leaving off the s is ridiculous as we pronounce it quite clearly when we say the name.

2.  Ellipses.  The trend is all toward using an ellipsis with no spaces, perhaps because the almighty god, Microsoft Word, made it an automated "built-in." Sigh. I don't like those three little side-by-side periods, which provide more of a hiccup than a proper space in the narration or dialogue. I don't like it even if a space is put on either side of those three miserable periods. I'll stick with the Chicago Manual of Style, thank you very much. Ellipses were designed to provide  a pause, and only . . . [space-period-space-period-space-period-space] does that.

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Thanks for stopping by,


Sept. 22: Updated Index to my Writing & Editing blogs

Sept. 29:  Brides of Falconfell, a Regency Gothic

Oct. 13:    The wind-up to this latest Editing series: "Questions you should ask yourself"

Blair's Website                              Editing Service



Sunday, September 1, 2013

EDITING - The Difference a Word Makes

Way down upon the Suwanee - Labor Day Weekend 2013

Self-portrait of a real estate investment broker on Labor Day weekend

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Update on What Grace is Reading:

I generally order a number of Kindle books at once, some on pre-order, so several weeks later it's not unusual to find some puzzles on my Index. Recently, I stared at a certain title, having no idea why I'd ordered it. The author's name struck no bell. But it seemed to be the only "unread" book on the list, so I opened it. Two pages in, I went back and checked the author's name, because even that little amount was all it took for me to realize this was no ordinary book, but one of a quality only a very few authors on my Kindle book list could boast. 

Author: Robert Galbraith. Huh? And then I remembered. Paying no attention to the title (as usual), I had ordered the first of a new mystery series by J. K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith. According to the publicity I read, when The Cuckoo's Calling didn't sell well, the news that Robert Galbraith was really J. K. Rowling was "leaked," and the sales skyrocketed. 

Is this a mystery worth reading? Frankly, it's amazing. As always, Rowling needs an editor, taking too many words to say what she has to say, but nonetheless each word is a gem . . . The characterizations are brilliant, leaping off the page, the plot intricate enough to satisfy any mystery fan. Our local Orlando reviewer wasn't far off in likening Rowling's style to a mix of Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie. Plus very few authors have the intimate knowledge of the world of fame and the famous which Rowling exhibits.

The Cuckoo's Calling is not for those who want a quick, fun read. It's about as far from a Cozy as one can get. But for those who enjoy long books with a stunning cast of characters, sensitive, detailed descriptions, plus a complex whodunit, this is the book for you. J. K. Rowling lives up her reputation, and then some. Like a kid waiting for the next Harry Potter, I can hardly wait for the next mystery in this series.


EDITING - The Difference a Word Makes

 Some time ago—I believe it was on one of RWA's chapter loops—someone made the statement that they just couldn't believe that certain famous authors took hours pondering the exact right word for a sentence. The commenter seemed to think it was ridiculous for an author to be so fussy. Since I was younger and less experienced at that time, I made no rebuttal. You could say, however, that today's blog is it. Yes, a single word—or sometimes a revision of only two or three words—can make a huge difference. Examples:

He took her by the arm. 
He grabbed her by the arm. 

She turned the baby onto his back. 
Gently, she turned the baby onto his back.

She cried. 
She burst into tears.

An actual edit from my very first New York print book:

Original: He was everyone’s idea of what a tough cop should be. Dirty Harry with straight black hair, hard brown eyes and a slash of a mouth that looked as if he didn’t know the meaning of the word smile.
Editor's version: He was every woman's fantasy of what a gorgeous cop should look like. Complete with straight black hair, hard brown eyes and a mouth which looked like he knew how to kiss.

Just a change of word, here and there, but what a difference! And, of course, because it was my first NY book, I didn't protest, but you can be sure that when Love at Your Own Risk went indie, the original version was back in place.  

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Below are some examples culled from my recent edits of Brides of Falconfell. And, no, there are no earth-shaking changes that might have warranted spending half a morning figuring each one out - I don't claim to be a great literary author. But hopefully the examples will be enough to give you an idea of how important very simple changes can be to every author's work. And why self-edits are so important. Examples:

I'd have to think about it tomorrow.
I'd think about it tomorrow.   ("Less is More" - shorter is more dramatic)

The demeanor of the perfect fell away.
The demeanor of the perfect housekeeper fell away. (why we all have to edit - sometimes it's simply a mistake)

She swung the shotgun with all the weight she must have put behind the blow to Fraser's head . . .
She swung the shotgun with all her considerable weight . . .  (less awkward, more drama)

Shot peppered the bottom of our hole . . .
Shot peppered the bottom of the shake hole . . .  (changed for clarity & drama)

It might have been a belated wedding night . . .
The Solstice might have been a belated wedding night . . . (clearer reference & better grammar)

When the dowager made such a pointed remark about when Justine would be leaving . . .
When the dowager made such a point of asking when Justine would be leaving . . .
(nearly as long but less awkward)

Justine and her problems had simply flown from my head.
Justine and her assertions had simply flown from my head.  (stronger)

...a wife to demonstrate that, truly, his amatory interests were not in his own kind.
...a wife to demonstrate that, truly, his amatory interests were not in his own gender.  (clarity - no doubt about what is meant)

I promised Fraser we would not go but a few feet . . .
I promised a frowning Fraser we would not go but a few feet . . . (more colorful)

I jumped up and nearly ran from the room.
I jumped up and dashed out of the room. (stronger & less awkward)

I stumbled to my feet with such haste, only the rapid footwork of one of the footmen saved my chair from falling over.
I stumbled to my feet with such haste, only quick thinking by one of the footmen saved my chair from falling over. (I really liked "rapid footwork but felt "feet, footwork & footmen" in one sentence was too much.)

I'd last seen Maud's maid sobbing in the kitchen . . .
I'd last seen Maud's elderly maid having hysterics in the kitchen . . . (stronger)

"She what?" I whispered, echoing Nettie's tone.
"She what?" I whispered.  (extra words diluted meaning*)
     *allowing too many words to detract from the impact of a big moment is something I see frequently in the books I edit.

After a moment's argument with my insatiable curiosity . . .
After a momentary tussle with my insatiable curiosity . . .  (more colorful)

He pointed in two nearly opposite directions in hollows between the hills . . .
He pointed toward two widely separated hollows between the hills . . . (less awkward)

Even though we entered through a little-used side door, I thought I hear the rustle . . .
Even though we entered through a little-used side door, I thought I heard the rustle . . .
    (Those typos will get you every time)

People who looked to me for guidance (even if hard-pressed to choke back their snickers). I was not supposed to be growing roots at the end of my chaise-longue.
People who looked to me for guidance. I was not supposed to be growing roots at the end of my chaise-longue.  ("snickers" is anachronistic & I ended up eliminating the entire thought)
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Thanks for stopping by,


Blair's Website                              Editing Service

Next Mosaic Moments - September 15, 2013