Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 22, 2014


"Cover" of video shared on Facebook by Bradley Haines

Does the picture above look innocuous? Just a snow drift in someone's yard? Click on the link below and see what happens next. Scary! (Origin not given, but believed to be a lake in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I'm told the phenomenon is the result of ice thawing a bit and being blown by the wind. And that it's not uncommon. Yikes!)

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From last week - see Mosaic Moments, February 15, 2013.

1.  Forget the underline. 

Use italics for:

2.  Emphasis

3.  Foreign Words

4.  References 

New this week:

5.  The names of a very specific number of things:  The titles of books and magazines. Of theatrical works (a play, opera, ballet).  A long musical work or long poem. [An individual song, however, is enclosed in quotes, with no italics. Example:  She sang the "The Star Spangled Banner."] Also set in italics: the titles of movies, television and radio programs, even famous speeches.

Example:  the good ship Lollypop

Example:   The New York Times       But . . . the Orlando Sentinel*

Example:  I saw that dress in Vogue.

Example: the Fauré Requiem

Example:  Avatar is much more dramatic in 3-D.

*Italicize "the" in a newspaper title only if it is part of the newspaper's actual name, as is true with The New York Times.

Note:  Oddly enough, no italics are used for long sacred works, such as the Bible, the Koran. Also, the names of businesses, schools, sports teams, etc., are not italicized. 

6.  Date and Location lines.  Many authors, particularly authors of historical novels, use a Date & Location line above the body copy in various chapters of their books. Such lines should be Flush Left and italicized.  However, as with so many traditional publishing conventions, some e-publishers, and indies, are ignoring the Flush Left, indenting the Date and Location line just like a regular paragraph. The work involved to fix the auto indent for these lines is so minimal I find the concept absurd. My advice: keep with tradition by zapping the auto indent and resetting to zero for that line. [Highlight - Format Paragraph - Indent zero instead of .3 (or.5)]

Another wiggle from tradition: some indie authors are putting the Date and Location line in Bold instead of Italics. Bold stands out well on e-readers, and this is a change from tradition I find more acceptable than failing to adjust the auto indent.


London, 1817

 Note:  In Numbers 7 - 12 below, traditional rules and modern practice become murkier.  Please keep in mind that I am referring solely to the way things are done in contemporary fiction.

7.  Sounds.  Most publishers and authors, including myself, put sounds in italics. 


“You will never again say No to me.” Whack! Another fist to the ribs sent her crashing off the bed onto the floor. 

“I pay, you obey.” The marquess rounded the high bed and kicked her in the ribs.

9.  Dream Sequences. It's a common fictional device to put dream sequences in italics. This becomes annoying when it's a long dream, as italics are harder to read. And of course if you want to fool your readers into thinking it isn't a dream, you might want to skip the italics.

So, basically, use italics for dream scenes only if you want your readers to be aware it's a dream and you haven't said so in any other way. Also, when the dreamer is aware it's a dream, italics don't seem to be necessary. For example, the recurring nightmares in the J. D. Robb mysteries are never italicized.)

10.  Quotations.  The general rule as I learned it many years ago:  If the quotation is shorter than three lines, run it into the text and use quotation marks around it. If it is longer than that, indent the margin and use standard type. No italics.  (I was even taught to indent both sides of a block quote.) BUT in general usage in this new century, nearly all quotes longer than a line or two are put in italics, block indentation unnecessary. Which places Quotations in the same category as "Referencing"  (#4 above).  Basically, most long quotes in novels are from letters, and although a few publishers still indent long letters, it appears many do not. 

Just remember that you must use either quotation marks, italics, or block indentation to distinguish a letter, poem, or whatever is being quoted, from the body of the manuscript. In the following example, I chose to use italics even for a short quote so it would clearly be a reference and not look like dialogue. 


Scrawled orders came in a note on Cecy’s breakfast tray, delivered at five minutes short of noon: Carriage wear. Warm, inconspicuous. Boots. Be ready by one. NB

To which she promptly replied: Mr. Black. I must decline your gracious invitation. I own nothing inconspicuous. CL.

11.  Thoughts.  This is the trickiest one of all—even the mass-market publishers sometimes disagree on how to indicate a character's thoughts. I will attempt to convey the most common, and generally accepted, approach.  

Note:  Introspection is when a character is thinking, his/her thoughts most frequently recorded in third person (he/she). Introspection also occurs in books told in first-person (I, we).

If all thoughts required italics, then every first-person book would be chock full of them. Which they're not. 

Think of the last third-person book you read. Did it have italics every time the hero or heroine thought about something? No, it did not. Because Introspection is not italcized. 

If, however, you are writing in third person (he/she instead of I) and your character suddenly thinks in first person: I can't believe I said that!, that's the time for italics. However, that same thought could be expressed without italics in third person: She couldn't believe she'd said that!

In a first-person book, italics would be reserved for something like a sudden direct thought, such as, Yikes! What have I done?  

For all those who write in third person, a good rule of thumb is:  if it's a first- or second-person thought, use italics. But use them sparingly.  Often third-person works as well, if not better. (And never use quotation marks, thus making your main characters talk to themselves. That is a true sign of "amateur hour." Heroes and heroines do not talk to themselves!) 


Cecy winced. Oh dear God, and here I thought a bit of bright paint and colorful fabric might help. Yet not even the whole of Nick Black’s fortune . . .


No, of course not. Not in such a hideous cloak and bonnet. So, merciful heavens, what must the matron be thinking?

That you are what you are, a sinner in search of redemption.

Repeat: If the thought is not "direct"; i.e., simply a statement of what a character is thinking, that is Introspection and is not italicized. For example, I debated using italics for "merciful heavens" but decided it felt more like part of the longer thought rather than a sudden direct exclamation. See also the example below.

Example:  A party, Amelia thought, was a perfectly splendid idea.

12.  Epithets.  If a character thinks an epithet, rather than saying it out loud, many publishers and authors, including me, consider that direct thought rather than introspection and use italics.


Hell’s hounds! Why shouldn’t he use her? She worked for him, did she not? Cecilia Lilly was just another tool in his vast arsenal of useful people and clever tricks.  

**Quotes are from Cecilia, a Regency Darkside novella, currently in progress.

13.  Telepathy.  In a slightly different type of "thought," italics are used to indicate messages transmitted by telepathy.  The example below is from The Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising.


What? Kass turned to Tal, who was totally occupied, giving orders for a special team to check on the Tycho’s bridge officers.


Kass—eyes wide, mouth agape—focused on her brother,. Is that you, K’kadi? Did you speak? His skin turned as pink as a Pybbite, K’kadi studied his boots, shoulders slumped, as if he’d just been accused of some embarrassing social faux pas.

K’kadi Amund, from the moment of your birth, you have never spoken a word. And now we discover you can! Overcome by emotion, Kass spoke as K’kadi did, in silence.

Not speak. K’kadi’s words might be heard only in her head, but his defensiveness came through loud and clear.
Yes, speak! At least to those who can hear you.

K’kadi shrugged.

Kass’s anger evaporated. This was K’kadi, who for all his wondrous gift of creating illusions, could at last communicate, if only with those who could hear his thought-speak.

~ * ~

 I have been adding to this list of italics for several weeks now and hope I have caught most of the instances that need italics. If you have more to add, please don't hesitate to comment.  I'd like to feel this is a truly comprehensive list. (#13, Telepathy, was added  February 25, 2014, at the suggestion of one of my readers.)

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here. 


Saturday, February 15, 2014


Orlando Sunset, February 2014
(from Florida, the only state in all 50, incl. Hawaii, without snow on 2/13/14)

The other side of Florida - Frontal Boundary coming in on 2/12/14

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Not long ago an author on one of my e-loops asked a question about italics, and I was surprised because I'd been an editor for so long I'd forgotten some authors have never made the switch to the way manuscripts are typed in the Computer Age, when they can go directly from manuscript to published with only a few changes in format. I suppose I should have realized the problem, however, as I well recall the battle in the early nineties over formatting. I don't know about other book genres, but in Romance many diehard authors and editors refused to join the modern age—it was Courier, underlines for italics, and 250-words-per-page, or - @#$%$% - it wasn't a proper manuscript!)

Grand sigh . . . Shaking head . . . You've got to be kidding!

In the early nineties, when I began to write fiction, I had been using a word-processing machine with italic capability for ten years. Was I going to return to Courier, a typewriter font that had been around since the late 19th century?  And underlines? No way.  I approached this problem—which I simply couldn't take seriously—by submitting all my manuscripts in Times New Roman with italics, no matter what RWA (Romance Writers of America) said. This was before I realized their rules were strongly biased toward Harlequin/Silhouette short "category" romances, where word-count was a God worshipped by editors. (And, of course, the only time I was asked to change the manuscript to Courier and underlines was by a "category" editor who had not yet adjusted to counting the final number of pages in anything but Courier.) As for RWA contests, I simply didn't enter the ones that specified "Courier at 250-words-per-page." I figured that if that particular RWA chapter had not yet adjusted to the Computer Age, they weren't going to like any manuscript from me, as I tended to write "mainstream," not "category" aimed at H/S, as beginners were expected to do at that time.

But the whining during this transition period you wouldn't believe. The sobs, the screams - "Contestants submitting in TNR were getting more words to the page. Unfair!" I recall posting an e-mail stating I was also an editor and contest judge, and I could tell by the first page if a manuscript was any good or not, so what difference did a few extra words make?

Nearly twenty-five years have passed since those days, TNR has triumphed, electronic submissions are the norm, indie publishing is the phenomenon of the twenty-first century, and yet there still seem to authors out there who need to know more about about italics. So that will be the focus of this week's Mosaic Moments: the use of italics in manuscripts, which is now the same as the use of italics in both print- and e-books.

Basically - computers make it possible for authors to format books the same way a publisher does. (About the only time you might have a problem is if you think you absolutely have to have "dropped caps." My advice? You don't need to follow print format that slavishly. I've seen some really horrifying examples on my Kindle of what happens when even professional formatters tried adding a dropped cap to an opening word.)

In a nutshell - an author no longer has to underline in place of italics, because italics are readily available. An author can change a double-space manuscript to a single-spaced manuscript in the blink of an eye. (Well, maybe three blinks.) We can change a 5-space indent to a 3-space (publisher's) indent just as easily. And we can kick a manuscript into fully right justified. So where do we find the "rules" for twenty-first century manuscripts? The same place publishers have gone for book formatting for decades - in The Chicago Manual of Style. And, yes, there are some independent publishers out there doing their best to bend the "publishers' bible" to suit themselves, but my advice is to ignore them. Submit a manuscript that follows traditional publishers' book-formatting rules. If your manuscript is selected by a publisher who sets their own rules, then swallow their malarky and smile. That's how publishing works. I have some books where I simply hate my publisher's approach to punctuation, but did I grab up my manuscript and say, No, you can't have it? I did not. I like those monthly checks! 

Over the next two Mosaic Moments I'm going to try to present the rules of italics in manuscripts, whether you're formatting for submission to a publisher or for translation into an independently  published book. Hopefully, you'll find the list helpful.


1.  Forget you have an Underline icon on your computer. It's passé, useless except perhaps for complex non-fiction outlines.

2.  Emphasis. This is the one use of italics almost everyone understands. Some sentences simply don't read right unless you can show special emphasis on a certain word. 

Example:*  Maid:  “Perhaps ’tis just as well, miss. If you be going to the park, you’ll not want anyone to recognize you, particularly with that man. And if you be going to his part of town, then heaven forfend anyone should see your face.”

3.  Foreign words. The general rule: use italics for all foreign words unless they are common enough to be found in an English dictionary. Since dictionaries tend to vary, I sometimes use italics anyway. The latter is a subjective decision each author must make for her/himself. But there is no option for the vast majority of foreign words. They require italics.

Special note: it is expected that you will translate any foreign phrase, either directly or indirectly, as soon as you use it. Readers don't like to be left guessing. The era when French was everyone's second language are long gone. Beyond, si, oui, non, gracias, merci, señor, señora, mademoiselle, and monsieur, and maybe the Russian da and nyet, most foreign words need explanation.

Example:  Morituri te salutamus. We who are about to die salute you.

Example:* . . . as if a single glimpse of a courtesan might taint their eligibility for the ton.

Note:  In the second example, without italics,  ton, a derivative from the French, would just be 2000 pounds.

4.  Referencing. When you are referring to a word, phrase, or letter of the alphabet, not using it directly.

Example:* Nick: "Surely there must be satisfaction in flaunting yourself before him in the very carriage he gave you."

Cecilia: Flaunting? But the rest of the sentence put paid to her indignation. "What do you mean by the very carriage he gave me? Did you not sell it?"

Example:*  “Mr. Lovell says Nick’s a force of nature, and I reckon he’s right. Place seems empty without him.”

A force of nature. Yes, that description suited him.

*Dialogue from Cecilia, a Regency Darkside novella (in progress)

~ * ~

More on the use of italics next week.

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here. 


Saturday, February 8, 2014


Frozen alligators - photo from Polk County Sheriff's Department

It's been a while since I've been able to post a bizarre Florida tale, very unusual in this state where the bizarre is often a daily occurrence. But Friday's Orlando Sentinel (Feb. 7, 2014) published a beaut. The headline: Baby twins, frozen gators, meth, ammo discovered in Polk house. Evidently, the reporter is well aware of Florida's penchant for the strange because the story begins: "Only in Florida would deputies search a home and find two frozen alligators, meth in a box of baby wipes, a live bass in an aquarium, ammo and homemade drug pipes—all within reach of twin infants." The gators, the article continues, were a gift. The couple planned to stuff and display them. The gators' size was not stated, but the reporter estimates they were small enough to stuff into a plastic garbage bag (c. 3 feet?). The meth was allegedly for sale, the ammo were rounds for an AR-15 semi-automatic. Also found - a marijuana plant. The twins are now in state custody.

Actually, the above is a step up from some of the awfulness that's been rampant in Central Florida lately. On the one hand, we have the fantasy worlds created by our famous theme parks and the income from all the hotels, restaurants, and shops that go with them. On the other, senseless shootings, theft, road rage, human trafficking, people crashing cars through buildings, a toddler drowning in an open septic tank. So enjoy the bizarre story above for what it is: a true tale where nobody died or even got hurt. (Not counting landing in jail, of course.)

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Grace's reading - January & February, 2014

I always read a great deal, but over the past couple of months I've doubled or trebled the usual amount. And when I began to compile a list, the irony struck me. Almost all of them involved World Building. Not intentionally, but when I examined my list of both "new reads" and "old favorites," nearly every last one of them involved a look into a part of our own world not seen by most of us or a look at new and/or altered worlds that came out of authors' imaginations. Perhaps a surprising reading twist for an author who usually writes about the demandingly detailed, hopefully historically accurate, Regency era or about the Florida I see around me every day. Yet perhaps that's what we all do - look to books to provide us with something fresh and different from our daily lives.

Where did I turn first when I found myself pretty much confined to the house? I checked my Kindle and was delighted to discover my pre-order of Julie Hyzy's latest, Home of the Braised, had turned up. Oh joy! Her series about Olivia, the White House chef, who seems to spend more time embroiled in murder mysteries than in the kitchen, is always a delight. The background is not only authentic but a wonderful peek "below stairs" at the White House, not to mention all those equally delightful White House recipes.

And then there was Naomi Novik's Blood of Tyrants, the latest in her Temeraire series, a dramatic alternate history view of the Napoleonic Wars, not just in Europe but on the high seas, and in the far reaches of China, Australia, and South America. If you can let your imagination soar to talking dragons filling the Regency skies, don't miss Ms Novik's series. (But be sure to start at the beginning.) Her world, which combines classic attitudes and manners of the early nineteenth century with a world where opposing dragon squadrons fight battles in the sky, is truly remarkable. As are her characters, both dragon and human.

I also caught up on the last two Laura Resnick books in her Esther Diamond series: Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie—as luck would have it, reading the Christmas-set book over Christmas and the Chinese New Year book over that holiday. Ms Resnick never fails to please with her wacky version of a Jewish heroine teamed with an ancient mage to save present-day New York City from an endless variety of demons, ghosts, and other forms of paranormal evil. Ms Resnick's ability to create her special world by adding even more bizarre characters to NYC than it already has is not to be missed. (Picture our heroine as a Hanukkah elf in a department store Christmas display!)

After that, I delved into previously read favorites, retrieving all six books of the Soulless series from my Kindle archives. Gail Carriger should be awarded some kind of blue ribbon for world-building. In the very first paragraph of Soulless she moves her proper young heroine from conventional London society into a world of vampires, with a burly hero of a werewolf entering soon after. And then we discover we're sharing a steampunk world with an incredible cast of characters, including a highly pragmatic, soulless heroine, gay vampires, Scottish werewolves, a woman who dresses as a man, and villains who would like to see an end to all who aren't "human." 

Next I turned to old favorites on my bookshelves, first choosing Linnea Sinclair's Futuristic, Finders Keepers, which I absolutely love. Talk about a matched pair of strong, intelligent, super capable people - this hero and heroine take the prize. Action, adventure, and star-crossed love, all in one neat package. Loved it just as much the third time around. (Perhaps because I'm such a wimp myself.) For SciFi fans, the tech details are also superb. World Building at its best.

I feel almost as strongly about Jayne Castle's "Ghost" series. Again, probably because the heroines are all intelligent, independent, and feisty, and the heroes are "to die for." Swaggeringly Alpha, enough to make the most DIY girl willing to cry, "Oh thank God I don't have to handle this alone." And no, I'm not talking about Earth-types ghosts. Ms Castle's heroes all deal with nasty varieties of energy on an Earth-like planet far, far away. If you haven't encountered the world of "Harmony," I strongly recommend it. Warning to the guys: these books are Futuristics, with strong romance as well as adventure.

I've lost track of the number of times I've read Susan Elizabeth Phillip's First Lady. Every time I seem to get more out of it, perhaps because this time I'd also read the sequel, which came out some years later. This is a pip of a story, clever and heart-warming on at least a dozen different levels. Ms Phillip's creates an entire world inside the confines of an RV. A story not to be missed.

I suppose everyone has their favorite Nora Roberts. I've often thought mine was Carnal Innocence, but after re-reading Honest Illusions, I think that has to take my personal prize. I'm not usually a fan of heart-wrenching, but the vivid descriptions of magical illusions and the marvelous array of characters, larcenous though they are, are truly priceless, presenting the very special worlds of professional magic and jewelry theft, which I suspect few of us have attempted to delve into on our own. 

And then I discovered I'd somehow missed the grand finale to Lindsay Burkoker's Emperor's Edge series. I immediately downloaded it to Kindle and just finished the wind-up to these truly remarkable seven books. Ms Buroker's world began in an arctic-like climate with the discovery of alien technology, moved on to a harsh steampunk world of non-stop action and adventure, in which she took the young assassin/villain in Book 1 and made him the anti-hero of five of the remaining six books. (Now that's being creative!) And in Book 6 she took time out from mayhem to continue the love story of the couple in Book 1, now resident in a peaceful tropical climate, and thus set up the longed-for HEA in Book 7. Very skillfully done, though this is not a series for the faint of heart. The action is violent and sometimes hard to take. 

Back to another "old favorite." I'm currently working my way through Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Since I'd already re-read Books 1-4, I began with 5 and am now up to 8. The books are so saucy, clever, and imaginative, they simply take my breath away. (Though I admit to a strong preference for the ones who feature Ranger!) Ms Evanovich creates her special world out of modern-day Trenton, NJ, most particularly the section she calls "the Burg." Her descriptions of the world of the Burg and the characters in it are at least half her books' appeal. They are simply amazing. For those who might have missed this series - Stephanie is a struggling, and frequently inept, bounty hunter who succeeds through persistence, good intuition, and good luck, while besieged by non-stop disasters of every kind. If you enjoy humor with your mysteries, this series is for you.

Grace note:  I have a number of other favorite books and favorite series, but since they weren't read in the last six weeks or so, I'm not including them here.

Summary.   For many years now, when asked who my favorite author was, I'd answer: "Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich." More recently, I've added Gail Carriger. You might call her the Janet Evanovich of Steampunk. But I can guarantee all the authors mentioned above not only write great books, they also present them well. They are polished professionals, as are their editors and formatters. Mistakes are few and far between. 

I hope what you read here will encourage you to check out some great books you might have missed. Be brave, try something new!

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here. 


Saturday, February 1, 2014


Photo from the Jackson Gallery, shared on Facebook by Alice Orr

The above bit of art amply illustrates how I feel when I see a manuscript full of easily fixed mistakes, which any second reading would have caught, but the author just didn't give a @#$%.

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Welcome to the final segment of my series on World Building. 

So far we've created climate, cultures, governments, religions & traditions, and begun to build the many smaller details needed to let your readers share a world that is only in your imagination. Today, the many more details needed to paint the right picture.

Planets, Cities & Palaces. You may, or may not, need more than one planet in your story. In Blue Moon Rising I needed a whole slew of different places. Regulon-held planets, neutral planets, lawless planets. And each planet needed a major city or focal point. They ranged from the vast capital city of Titan on the planet Regula to a tavern on fun-loving Tatarus. I also ended up with three palaces, one each on Regula, Psyclid, and Blue Moon. Whatever you write, you need anchors, places your characters can call their own. Or places that represent goals they have yet to meet.  Never fail to establish a base for your important characters. 

Places & Other Peoples. In Rebel Princess, my heroine lives four years in the intensely solitary confinement of something called the Regulon Interplanetary Archives, a place that almost becomes a character in its own right. Many other places needed names as well: Nebulon Sector, Sebi Desert, Azulian Sea. And then there were those pesky aliens, foreign to both Regulons and Psyclids: the Nyx, Pybbites, Herculons, and Zylons. And never forget: when you invent a new word or phrase, write it down!

Transportation. Some things don't have to be different. (Most readers don't really want to learn to speak Klingon, just a few words here and there!) In addition to making something up out of thin air, you can stick to words most people will recognize, such as: hovercar, hovercycle, groundcar, tran (transport van). But if you don't make up at least a few names that are a bit exotic, readers are likely to go, "Ho-hum."  

Food & Drink. A few special names, particularly for various liquors, seemed essential for Blue Moon Rising. Well, perhaps not essential, but they felt right. For example, I enjoyed creating a blue liqueur called Lunelle, made only on Blue Moon.

Plants & Animals. From the Moonflower on Blue Moon (source of Lunelle) to a snake called the krall, to something called a fireflicker, I created a touch of the exotic for the non-two-legged creatures in Rebel Princess and Sorcerer's Bride. As long as you don't overdo it, these are just more of the many colorful details that turn your book from ordinary to special.

Epithets, Profanity & Expressions. This category was, perhaps, the most fun. Not wanting to offend with "Earth" profanity, I had a whale of a time creating words unique to the cultures of Regula and Pysclid. (With Psyclids occasionally stealing Reg profanity, as their own is so mild in comparison.) So far, both books are liberally sprinkled with words like: Pok, Dimi, Fyd, Fizzet & Fizzeting, as well as expressions such as "Altairian bottomfeeder," "Sirian slime snake," and the "Green Hells of Tantalus." All in good fun, I hope. (In spite of those contest judges who thought they were "typos"!)

And, of course, the General Vocabulary just grew and grew. From chrono and crystos, dushani and enlasé to plasti, meshug, portapad, ridó, and veriball. And, no, if I hadn't written down all three pages of them, I never would have been able to reproduce them here - or in Blue Moon Rising

~ * ~ 
Summary. What's that expression? The secret's in the details. Well, it certainly is when writing. Even more so when building a world from scratch. First, you paint the broad canvas, and then you start filling in the rest, pretty much in order of importance: main characters, secondary characters, their special gifts. Then layer in all the details of their world(s), the special things that spark the imagination. Consider every aspect of your worlds. Make the details believable. Make them shine in your readers' minds. Almost nothing is impossible if you present it in a plausible manner. Even a world where the peace-lovers finally band together and use the powers of their very special minds to get rid of those big, bad bosses from Regula Prime. 

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.