Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Third Person vs First

Naturally, proud Gramma had to include this one!
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When I was growing up, the Gothic novels of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney were the reads for female fiction-lovers. The prolific number of books by these authors were all written in first person, with the heroine telling the story from her point of view only. I was also a great fan of the Johnson Johnson mystery series by Dorothy Dunnett, also written in first person. These were highly unusual mysteries, as they were not told from the hero's point of view but always from the POV of another character. We saw Johnson Johnson only through the eyes of others.

And then one day when I picked up Ms Dunnett's latest, it didn't have the right feel. It wasn't as wickedly clever or downright hilarious. Huh? And then I realized it was written in third person. Oh no! I'd heard of the trend toward third-person books, but how could an editor or publisher demand such a change from an author of Ms Dunnett's stature? Her two historical series, alone, put her in the upper echelons of world-class authors. Perhaps from proper Scots stubbornness, or possibly due to failing health, that was the last Johnson Johnson mystery. Satisfaction came only after Ms Dunnett's death, as I discovered when I bought the book for my Kindle and saw that it had been reissued in first person.

So what on earth is the problem with first person? My mother put me through college, after all, writing first-person stories for Modern Romances.

I think it may have been the Harlequin/Silhouette mindset and their enormous influence on the romance market. Somehow the word went out - perhaps the result of some romance editors' luncheon? - that readers would enjoy a romance more if they could see into the hero's head as well as the heroine's. My opinion is pure speculation, but the transformation happened, and happened so well that I have known romance authors, as well as readers, to declare: "I hate first person," or "I never read first person." How very sad, as well as narrow-minded.

And yet this attitude was so ingrained by the time I began to write that anything but third person never occurred to me. But one day I decided to write a mystery - and in spite of Ms Dunnett's experience, many mysteries still "allowed" first person - and, lo and behold, I discovered I loved it. Somehow I could be more witty, more clever, more sarcastic, more . . . everything. And the plot twists inherent in what the heroine (and consequently the readers) did not know were legion.

And one day not long ago, freed from the tyranny of other people's preconceptions by the miracle of Do-It-Yourself Publishing, I decided to write my own first-person Gothic. Not contemporary like Mary Stewart or Phyllis Whitney, nor Victorian like Victorian Holt. But one which would stick to the period I knew best - Regency England - while incorporating all the conventions of the classic Gothic novel. The most important criteria - the reader sees the story only through the heroine's eyes. Any or all of those around her could be the enemy. The "hero" is often a possible villain, and as far as our heroine is concerned, there is no one to help her but herself. 

Amazingly, Brides of Falconfell is outselling all my other books combined. So naturally I'm happily writing another Regency Gothic, The Mists of Moorhead Manor. Are we simply rounding the far bend of a circle of inevitable change? Or is the new freedom of the DIY market allowing readers to choose what New York would have rejected? And creating new markets on their own?

As part of this commentary, I shouldn't leave out those books that are written in third person but show us only one point of view. Recently, I've been re-reading a series where that happens, and now that my editing skills have become more sharply honed, what I accepted on a first read now jumps out at me as something odd. In this particular series, the author occasionally tells us what other characters are thinking, but almost all the introspection belongs to the heroine. In other words these books have the classic first-person approach of never letting either the heroine or the reader know what the hero is thinking. Maybe that's why this series is still on my shelf. I like the uncertainty, the mystery of it. Though I have to admit I can see why someone, somewhere decided readers had a right to know what the hero was thinking. There were times in those one-sided books I just wanted to give the hero a crack upside the head, for the there was absolutely no way to discover a motive for his seeming indifference, recalcitrance, admiration of other woman, etc.

My personal opinion is that if you're going to write a book with a single point of view, then write it in first person. But the way some editors and readers have been indoctrinated to feel about first person, well, maybe you need to take that into account. That said, my advice is, that a book written in third person should give us the hero's point of view as well as the heroine's. And if you're writing from just one person's viewpoint, the best, more intimate, results come from the use of first person.

What is right for you? If you're writing Young Adult or New Adult, you may already be writing a bright and breezy first person, and using present tense as well. And first person is generally okay for mysteries, both classic and cozy. But for romance and its many permutations, you'll have to play it by ear. For example, what does your editor have to say about a Romantic Suspense in first person? The reaction may be a major cringe.

But if you're indie-pubbing, I'd like to see you give first person a try. Certainly, the market seems to be trending back that way. If you find you like it, go for it. Discover all those wonderful nuances that third person can't quite manage. Enjoy the mystery, the secrets possible when the story is seen through only one pair of eyes.

Will third person, in turn, go out of style? Of course not. In a nice juicy Historical Romance, for example, we all want to know what that gorgeous but naughty hero is thinking. But if you want your heroine to dominate, "fill the screen," so to speak, give first person a try. You just might like it.

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Thanks for stopping by.


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

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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why Read Romance?

For "color" this week - my most romantic cover

Many years ago, the first article I wrote for my website - long before the era of "blogs" - was entitled "Why Read Romance?" A few months ago, I updated it for the Blush Blog at Ellora's Cave and am posting it this week to Mosaic Moments as something you can wave in front of the noses of all those people, both male and female, who scorn the romance genre. I hope you enjoy it.


Have you ever had someone glance at the paperback you were reading and declare scornfully, “I never read romance!” Or perhaps you’re an author sitting hopefully at a book-signing, eager to show off your baby, and someone says exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, it’s worse than rude. It’s downright cutting.

But, Romance Lovers, don’t rush out to buy a book cover or turn to reading exclusively on electronic devices (to hide your habit). Hold your head high and know you are among the majority of readers and/or authors in the country. Romance is Big Business, outselling all other genres rolled into one.

My personal response to those who ask why I write Romance is that I have always liked Happily Ever After endings. There is so much angst in the world, including in my own life, that my inner self absolutely requires a pick-me-up, and that’s what Romance does. It plunges the characters into major conflicts then drags them out again, reassuring us that life can be beautiful—even if we are still struggling to get to that point.

More than a decade ago, I wrote my first version of  “Why Read Romance” (an article posted to my very first website). Through the years I’ve updated it a time or two, but very little of the article you see below has changed. The joys of Romance remain the same, whether we’re indulging in Contemporary Romance, Romantic Mystery/Suspense, Historical Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Futuristic (Romantic SciFi), or any of the other sub-genres of Romance. Whether you’re reading a 40,000-word novella or a 100,000-word “Mainstream.”

Men indulge in sports, tinkering with machines, and a variety of other hobbies, to get away from the stresses of daily life. I suggest that women read Romance for the same reason. We find pleasure in it, and it takes our minds off our personal problems. I’d go so far as to say, reading Romance is a prescription for improved mental health!

If you need an argument for the die-hard skeptics, however, let’s take a moment to analyze the situation. Here’s how I saw it long ago, and nothing since has changed my mind.

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First of all, whoever said “Love makes the world go round” wasn’t lying. Real Women aren’t afraid to admit it, while so-called Real Men are generally terrified of it. Real Women read Romance because that prized quality called “Heart” lies at the basis of every relationship. We want it, we seek it, we grasp it. We hang on for dear life. For the world would be a cold, dark place with out Love.

Admittedly, women’s approach to Love could be likened to a rifle. Men . . . well, maybe a shotgun comes closer to the mark. Women like to read about Love. Men would rather do it, thank you very much. Nonetheless, the emotions on both sides of the gender gap are powerful. I would suggest, however, that gentlemen could learn a thing or two from reading Romance.

Big question: Does Love work for everyone? Does it stay new-minted, bright and shiny, dazzling in its intensity?

Probably not. But for many, new love settles into a stronger, more lasting emotion, into warmth, companionship, and respect that lasts a lifetime. Yet women fortunate enough to be part of that relationship still enjoy the nostalgia of reading about those precious first moments, those early days when love was uncertain, agonizing, or downright disastrous. Or when it was a sea of fresh discoveries, exquisite torture of the senses.

And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, live without vivid memories of love’s halcyon days. For them reading Romance provides glimpses of the intense moments they missed  and inspires hope that those special moments are still to come.

For the rest—those who lost their beloved partners through death, divorce, or desertion. For them, reading Romance can bring back the beauty of when Love was new or, like those who never knew Love, inspire hope for the future. Failing all else, reading a book that ends with Happily Ever After can provide pleasure even for those who know Love will not come to them again.

Love—or reading about it—can perk up a day faster than a bowl of ice cream - with fudge topping.

For some reason—probably the eons-long domination of writing by Men, all the so-called Great Romances are tragedies. (As in Romeo & Juliet, Arthur & Guinevere, Tristan & Isolde, not to mention some contemporary novels, mislabeled “romance” and also written by men.) But finally, in the last two decades, women have begun to write the stories they want to read. And now there are thousands of books about women who learned to cope with conflict, come out on the other side of personal difficulties, and do what had to be done to find the right person to share their lives.

These are the people we should praise. Forget Romeo and Julie, who mismanaged things badly and never made it out of their teens. To me, that’s not Romance. I look to Jane and Joe Schmo who survived.  And raised their children to be able to love and be loved. Jane and Joe who paid the Mortgage and Dental Bills. Taxes. College. The next generation’s Weddings.

No wonder Jane wants to put her feet up and settle down with a good Romance! Yes, sometimes we all need reminding of those first bright days of love when Joe wasn’t quite so devoted to golfing, fishing, or couch-potatoing. We open a book . . . and there before us is that marvelous Regency gentleman with his impeccable manners . . . or the dashing and untamed Scottish chieftain. We sigh over that pillar of rugged individualism, the American cowboy. Hunky cops and daring men of the Special Forces. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, and businessmen as well. And we just might get an idea or three about putting Romance back in our lives.

As for the women who say they never read Romance—ah, ladies, you have no idea what you’re missing. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax, and try on a Romance. Who knows, a good Romance just might inspire Mellow where it would do the most good.

The many Romances available range from Short & Sweet to Sexy & Sassy. From Thrillers and Suspense to Vampires, Fairies, and Outer Space. From Comedy to Drama and every nuance in between. But they have one thing in common: a happy ending.

As I always tell people, “There are enough problems in this world. I don’t want to read about them when reading for pleasure. I write books with happy endings and I want to read books with happy endings. These books buoy up my day, my week, my year, my life. No matter how dark the world around me, they keep me going. My heart tells me it’s not all fiction.

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Thanks for stopping by.


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

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Mother's Day 2014 - four mothers & Riley in Mount Dora 

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About twice a year I like to make an index available, listing all the Writing and Editing blogs I've posted since 2011. I hope you find the list helpful.

to Grace's Writing & Editing Blogs
May 2014


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

More Nuts & Bolts
Using Capitals 1 - April 12, 2014
Using Capitals 2 - April 19, 2014
Using Italics 1 - February 15, 2014
Using Italics 2 - February 22, 2014


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

(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 to Ask Yourself - October 13, 2013


WORLD BUILDING series (4 parts) - December 28, 2013 - February 1, 2014

Editing Scold - December 14, 2013
More on Editing - May 3, 2014 (including more on Show vs. Tell)


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.  Word Perfect to Indie Pub - November 17, 2013
10. Questions Fiction Writers Should Ask Themselves - October 13, 2013

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Thanks for stopping by.


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

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

Friday, May 9, 2014


Author's Note:  Although I have changed the names of certain people and places, the setting of The Art of Evil is an accurate depiction of The John and Mable Ringling Museum complex on Sarasota Bay in the last year before the bulldozers moved in for the great building boom that followed. All events in this book are fiction, but the beauty of the sixty-six acres and the buildings on it remain. If you're ever on the West Coast of Florida, don't miss it!

Special Note:  The Art of Evil was originally published under the pseudonym, Daryn Parke. It is being published as an e-book under my better-known writing name of Blair Bancroft.

The mystery:

Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art scattered over the museum's sixty-six tropical acres, the creation of famed circus entrepreneur and art connoisseur, Richard Bellman. FBI Special Agent Aurora "Rory" Travis is visiting her grandmother in Florida while recuperating from a three-story fall that killed her partner and lover. Although broken in spirit as well as body, Rory volunteers as a tram driver on the tranquil museum grounds, ignoring the outside world, until a friend becomes a murder suspect and she feels obligated to a bit of private sleuthing.

As the first ripples of a possible suicide, compounded by a series of odd pranks, stir the serenity of the Bellman complex, Josh Thomas, a man of mystery, hops onto Rory's tram to a clap of thunder. Josh is dangerous, Josh is ruthless. Josh has not come into her life by accident, of that Rory is certain.

As the pranks at the museum escalate to murder, Detective Ken Parrish is added to Rory's life. Steady, reliable, a good cop—everything a wounded warrior could want. Except when he is forced to add Rory to his suspect list. And only one of the two new men in her life is there, watching her back, when Rory is forced to confront her worst fears as she goes one-on-one with the villain.


"This is an engaging Florida investigative thriller starring a likable cast to include eccentric seniors especially Aunt Hy, polar opposite sleuths with an in-common interest in Rory, and terrific heroine struggling to regain her sea legs. . . ."
                                                                                         Harriet Klausner

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Those who would like to know more about the Ringling Museum complex and all it offers, click here.

Thanks for stopping by.


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

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

Saturday, May 3, 2014


The result of a storm in Tennessee. I call it "Retribution."  Posted to Facebook by Judy Gwinn.

Over the last couple of weeks I've run across a book that made me gnash my teeth and one that totally surprised me. I've also been horrified when I went to edit a certain chapter in one of my own books and discovered that Grace, who preaches the how-to's of Writing and Editing, totally messed up.

First, the teeth-gnashing. I try to avoid specifics when using other people's books as examples because I have no wish to hurt anyone's feelings, but I finally had to send a Medieval to the trash heap only partly read when the heroine kept saying things like, "Yike!" and "Cripes!" and I encountered phrases such as "the percs of the job."  The use of modern language was so egregious, in fact, that I decided it was deliberate. The author had decided to write the book her own way and to @#$% with the anyone who might consider her choice of language odd. The problem is, the author has talent, including an ability to write sensual scenes with consummate skill. So why would she shoot herself in the foot by using words not in use until more than a thousand years in the future of her selected time period? Particularly when she has the potential to develop into a best-selling author? No, we don't want so much authenticity our work becomes unintelligible (say written in Chaucer-spelling), but I do NOT recommend emulating this particular author's approach to historical writing.

On the bright side, I encountered a book I simply loved—City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn. It was intelligent, well-researched, with excellent characters, narration, dialogue, and action. What totally shocked me came at the end when I discovered it was a Harlequin imprint! Harlequin Mira, to be exact. Although Harlequin is a romance giant worldwide, they rarely publish books of the type I personally enjoy. I now stand corrected. And I'm happy to add that the book was flawless in its presentation. No writing or editing errors allowed.

As for my own mistake, stupidity, bad day—whatever you want to call it—when I went to edit Chapter 7 of my new Regency Gothic, Mists of Moorhead Manor, I could only wrinkle my nose and go, "Huh?"

I edit from hardcopy, using a pencil for minor corrections and revisions, and a legal pad and pen to write lengthier inserts. In the case of Chapter 7, I ended up revising almost the entire chapter (by hand), with one insert filling three legal pad pages. Below you will find a small portion of the original, with the revision of that section following. I believe you will find the improvement self-evident.

Original draft excerpt from Chapter 7, The Mists of Moorhead Manor - unfortunately, a sample of "telling, not showing" and just plain rushing through the scene without enough attention to active dialogue or to detail:

Dinner was a solemn affair, with little more than an occasional clink of silverware on porcelain plates to disturb the stillness. Huntley had stopped by on his way back to the cliffs to inform us that low tide had revealed Nell Ridgeway’s body crumpled on the rocks. The Ridgeways, father and son, and two of their farmworkers were on their way with a wagon, but the climb down the cliff by lantern light would be devilish, the ascent back up with the body rising to nightmare proportions.

And, oddly, in that instant I knew who would be leading the dangerous climb. As difficult as it was to picture that frivolous flirt, Exmere, doing anything even remotely heroic, he was the heir, his father’s representative. And down he would go, hopefully calling on well-remembered childhood exploits on those very cliffs to keep him safe.

Lady Vanessa had not joined us the previous night since she was without David Tremaine’s services to carry her downstairs. Nor had she joined us tonight, due to his late return from the search for Nell. Her problems, therefore, were far from my mind when a footman burst into the dining room to relay a message from Miss Scruggs. David Tremaine, it seems, had expressed his desire to join the recovery efforts on the cliffs and Lady Vanessa had gone into one of her hysterical fits. Tremaine had gone anyway, and Miss Scruggs was begging my immediate aid. Pushing back my chair so fast it nearly toppled over, I rushed upstairs.

Oh dear God, I could hear her screams and sobs from the first floor landing. They fair stood my hair on end. I had no idea . . . 

Was she quite sane? Or was this display to be expected from an overindulged invalid frustrated by the vision of endless days tied to her chair?

Revised version of the same section (which will undoubtedly be further revised in the future - only two sentences were salvaged from the original):

Although Mr. Carewe joined us for dinner, our meal was even more strained than the night before. We all felt it—the scythe of the grim reaper hanging over our heads. The turmoil in my stomach intensified as I heard the tramp of boots coming toward the dining room. I ceased pushing food around on my plate and stared as Huntley entered the room—damp, dishelved, and struggling to keep the expected stiff upper lip.

“They’ve found her,” he said. “The tide went out and there she was . . .” He shuddered, visibly gathered himself before continuing. “They’re bringing her up now—a stiff climb down and far worse coming back up. I went for Ridgeway and Tom . . . they’re bringing a wagon . . .” He gulped and added distractedly, “I must go back now to help.” With that he plunged back out the door and was gone.

A whimper of sound forced my stunned gaze to Lady Emmaline, noting a steady stream of tears running down her pale cheeks. I excused myself, coaxed her up from her chair, and escorted her to her bedchamber, where I left her in the competent care of her maid. Ignoring my duty to look in on Lady Vanessa, I settled onto the window-seat in my room and stared out toward the sea, which I could hear but barely see.

The climb down the cliff by lantern light would be devilish, the ascent back up with the body rising to nightmare proportions. And I knew who would be leading the dangerous trek. As difficult as it was to picture that frivolous flirt, Exmere, doing anything even remotely heroic, he was the heir, his father’s representative. And down he would go, hopefully calling on well-remembered childhood exploits on those very cliffs to keep him safe.

My mind formed such a vivid picture of the struggle back up the cliff with the battered body of Nell Ridgeway that for several minutes my prayers were shockingly selfish. Keep him safe, dear Lord, keep him safe. Then, thoroughly ashamed, I whispered aloud, “Forgive me, Lord,” and amended my prayers to include the other rescuers and, most importantly, Nell and her grieving family. My guilt was so great, my prayers so fervent, I didn’t hear the pounding on my door until it reached a thunderous pitch.

“Come quickly,” Maud Scruggs gasped. “My lady has worked herself up to one of her hysterical fits.” She grabbed me by the hand, tugging me across the corridor. The screams and sobs from Lady Vanessa’s bedchamber were so loud I could only wonder I had not heard them earlier. Once again, shame struck me like a blow. My thoughts had been with Rob—with the tragedy on the cliffs when my duty lay but a few feet away.

“She was furious when David left her again—dashing off the moment he heard the gentlemen were off to search the cliffs," Maud declared, bristling with righteous indignation. "Threw her fork at me when I tried to get her to eat and been working herself up ever since.”

By this time we’d passed through the sitting room into Vanessa’s bedchamber, where she sat before her dressing table, pounding her fists against the arms of her chair. Pieces of her looking glass lay shattered on the table and carpet, her carved and gilded hairbrush lying, a likely culprit, among the debris. Her screams continued, unabated, except for an occasional hiccup to catch her breath. How she could keep up the effort without collapsing from exhaustion was a mystery.

“Oh, my lady,” Maud cried, staring at the broken glass. “For shame!”

I heartily agreed. Hastily, I found a small towel to protect my hands and began picking up the shards before Vanessa could get any worse notions into her head. Miss Scruggs evidently had the same idea as she quickly moved Vanessa’s chair to the far side of the room. I could not help but wonder as I dropped potentially lethal bits of glass into a wicker basket, if Lady Vanessa was quite sane. Perhaps this display was to be expected from an overindulged invalid frustrated by the vision of endless days tied to her chair, but I was shaken, wondering if I would ever be able to do any good in such an unpromising situation.

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Grace Note:  And, yes, the rest of the chapter required almost as much revision as the excerpt above. And I continued to revise it, even as I posted it here. The moral of this story: Anyone who clings to the original version of an idea, with no thought that it could be improved, is indulging in a particularly blind form of egotism. Pride gone amuck.  I will edit this section again at the end of Chapter 10, and again when I go through the entire book from beginning to end. With final tweaks even as I format it for upload. Words may be golden, but seldom are they the first ones out of our mouth or the first on screen.

Thanks for stopping by.


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

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