Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Settings - Addendum

A bit of nostalgia . March 12 would have been my Stephen's forty-ninth birthday. If a Charlotte County Deputy hadn't been driving on the wrong side of the road. (He later claimed he swerved because someone pulled out of a side road in front of him.) Below are two treasures my daughter found while sorting photos for our coming move to Longwood (about 20 miles north of 

In Memoriam

Left to right: Susie, neighbor Karin, Steve - at my mother's in Guilford, CT


Steve, front & center in the striped shirt, Susie on the right - her high school graduation party, I believe

Settings - Addendum

 I intended to end the Settings series last week, but it occurred to me that The Demons of Fenley Marsh was a good example of opening a book with a Dialogue setting, followed sometime later by a physical description setting. (And when quoting my own work, I can feel easy about using more than an snippet.) So here is the opening of Demons. Please note there is no physical setting - evidently I deemed an employment office unworthy of detailed description. Instead, I let the dialogue - and the minimal narration and introspection that go with it - reveal the location, a bit about the speakers' personalities, a hint of mystery, and hopefully a forewarning of the plot.

 Chapter 1

   “You have a what?”
   I sat, stiff and belligerent in my chair, as Miss Emily Brightwell—an imposing woman on the far side of fifty and owner of one of London’s finest employment agencies for females—stared at me from the far side of her desk. “I beg your pardon, Mrs. Tyrell,” she continued, “but I must have misheard.”
   Losing a brief bout with my better judgment, I stared right back, making no effort to hide my annoyance. “I am a widow, Miss Brightwell. Surely there is nothing surprising about a widow having a child.” 
   “A widow may have a child, Mrs. Tyrell. A governess does not.”
   This time I bit back the hot words that demanded to be said, ordering my all-too-arrogant temper to lie dormant beneath a fragile fa├žade of calm. “I do not expect to find a position in London, Miss Brightwell, nor in one of the great country houses of the aristocracy. But somewhere in this realm there must be someone in need who does not mind the addition of one small boy to the schoolroom. A house with several children, perhaps, hopefully one of them of an age with my Chas. I am, after all, willing to work for a mere pittance as long as my son may be accommodated as well.”
   Miss Brightwell flashed a glance that could almost be called pitying. “My dear Mrs. Tyrell, all governesses work for a mere pittance. Adding a child of your own to the mix is unheard of, a solecism of the first order. And a boy at that.” Miss Brightwell, in all fairness, paused to consider the matter. “A sweet young girl, perhaps . . . but a boy—so rumbustious, are they not? No, no, it would never do. I would risk the reputation of my agency if I even suggested such a thing.”
   I could not, would not, accept Miss Brightwell’s verdict. How dare she tell me I was unemployable? Every instinct urged me to bid Miss Emily Brightwell an icy farewell, deliver a biting apology for wasting her time, and stalk out of the office in high dudgeon. And yet I suspected that my reception at London’s other employment agencies would be similar. The truth was, I had married for love only to discover that happily-ever-after could be cut shockingly short, leaving me alone and unprotected when help was most needed. My dearest Avery, a neck-or-nothing rider, had taken one rasper too many, and now, two years later,  I faced a situation that required me to flee into obscurity. And surely little could be more obscure than the role of governess in a rural household.
   I could advertise for a position on my own, of course, but common sense dictated that Miss Brightwell had the far-reaching resources and experience which would ensure I was taking Chas to a place that offered the comforts and safety of a gentleman’s household. So, through jaws stiff with frustration, I admitted, “I fear I have burned my bridges, Miss Brightwell. I have leased our property in Kent and am currently staying with my Godmother on Bruton Street. A position is imperative. I simply have no choice. “The lease money,” I added hastily, “is to be set aside for my son’s education. Hence my need for a position.”
   Miss Brightwell’s gray eyes sharpened. “But surely your husband provided for you and the child?”
   “We lived quietly on a modest amount of acres,” I said, making an uncharacteristic show of diffidence.
   “We were a runaway match, you see, rejected by both families.”
   “Even in your present circumstances?” Miss Brightwell’s skepticism was all too clear.
   “I informed my husband’s parents of their son’s death. I heard no word in return. My own family had already left no doubt I was dead to them.”
   Miss Brightwell skewered me with a look that could have withered a rock. “I have run this agency for many years, Mrs. Tyrell, and heard many stories. Enough to suspect you are not telling me the whole. And I cannot possibly recommend you without understanding more fully why you have taken the drastic step of leaving a perfectly good home in Kent and undertaking the role of governess, particularly when I suspect you have no more aptitude for subservience than I.”
   My stomach roiled. Clearly, I should have prepared a better story. Another partial truth would have to do. "Let us say merely,” I offered, “that I am avoiding unwanted attentions.”
   “Ah, I see.” Miss Brightwell examined me more closely and nodded. “You are indeed a comely young woman, Mrs. Tyrell, yet another problem for someone seeking a position in a gentleman’s household.”
   Once again I bristled, even though I knew perfectly well she was right. Nicely arranged features marked by sky blue eyes and framed by waves of golden hair tended to attract gentlemen like flies to honey. Though that was not at all the reason Chas and I had abandoned our home in Kent.
   To my astonishment, Miss Brightwell’s posture suddenly deflated from autocratic disdain to something closer to sympathetic. “My dear girl, what a coil. Did you not realize that a woman with a child was unemployable?”
   Now that I’d found a crack in Miss Brightwell’s armor, I allowed myself a small sigh. “I was aware it was unusual, ma’am. I did not think it impossible.” I fixed a hopeful, and suitably modest, look on my face and waited.
   Miss Brightwell drummed her fingers on her desk, gazed frowningly at a considerable stack of papers—hopefully, letters from clients in search of a governess or companion. “There may be a possibility, Mrs. Tyrell, though I warn you it is possible I am doing you a grave disservice. Give me your direction, and I will see what I can manage.”
   When I stood to express my thanks and make my bow, I found my legs so wobbly I had to grasp the back of the chair. Dear God, I’d thought myself made of sterner stuff. But the looming possibility of no home, no place to go, short of begging the dubious charity of relations who had cast me off long since, was a more dire specter than I had anticipated. Whatever position Miss Brightwell offered, I must accept. Chas and I needed a home. A safe home.
   Fortunately, a rush of pride stiffened my legs. Thrusting up my chin, I thanked Miss Brightwell for deigning to consider my problem. At the least, I would be able to face Chas’s anxious gaze with some slim hope for our future.

Grace Note: The story does not come to a classic physical description of a setting until the opening of Chapter 2.

Chapter 2

   Naturally, after such revelations—even though I knew they must be nine-tenths rumor, if not outright slander—I fully expected Lunsford Hall to be Gothic and gloomy, a pile of dark stone rising in monolithic manner out of the flat green plain of Lincolnshire. It was, instead, a four-square, unimaginative structure of red brick with multi-paned windows framed in white. An unpretentious pediment topped the front door, which was unprotected by any semblance of a portico. A solid house, not unwelcoming. And yet . . .
   There were but three marble steps from ground to threshold, and as I ascended them, clutching Chas by the hand, my skin pricked as if eyes lurked behind every one of those multitude of windows. Curious eyes or inimical? No! I would not succumb to gossip. This was not some threatening ruin out of one of Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels. Lunsford Hall was the home of a gentleman. Ordinarily, I would hesitate to send one of my ladies to a bachelor establishment, Miss Brightwell had said, but with Lady Kempton and her mother in residence, I am confident there will be no nonsense.
   As if I would ever countenance such a thing! Yet Lunsford Hall seemed far more isolated than the houses in Kent. Though we had passed through a village a mile or so before the crossroads where the carriage from Lunsford had been waiting, it seemed little more than a few cottages clustered around a small stone church. And yet, in spite of Miss Brightwell’s hints that young Nicholas was the problem, could it be the master of Lunsford who was the actual threat, preying on the young women he hired?

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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, March 21, 2015

More on Settings

Riley, Cassidy & baby gator
We had a grand time last Saturday afternoon fulfilling a long-promised birthday present to Riley. We went airboating on the St. John's River, which included not only gators but two half-grown bald eagles, a myriad other birds, including egrets, great blue herons, and gallinules. There was also an amazing number of cows and calves grazing along the flood plain. We also visited a cypress swamp, a surprise as I had not known we had one here in Central Florida. All in all, a real treat. And, oh yes, Midway Airboat Rides (about ten miles west of the Kennedy Space Center) also has its own "zoo," including a pet pig named Porkchop who simply lay on the screen porch doing his best to keep visitors from closing the door without hitting his snout. As an extra added attraction, in the distance we could see the Blue Angels performing somewhere along the coastline near Titusville.

More Examples of Settings That Work

Grace Note:  All examples below are opening paragraphs.

 From Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne:

    The end of her own particular world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, wrapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blog of red wax. She found it at the bottom of the pile of the morning's mail.
   She sat at her desk in the library, pleasantly full of breakfast, opening letters, ready to be brisk with the contents. Camille Leyland—Cami—dutiful niece, British subject, codebreaker, French spy, read to deal with the morning post.
   The Fluffy Aunts didn't believe in opening mail at the breakfast table. "A barbarous custom," Aunt Lily called it.
   Books filled the room she sat in and most of the rest of the substantial cottage. They ran floor to ceiling along every wall of the front parlor, the entry hall, the back parlor, what had originally been a bedroom, and this little study at the back of the house. Books, plump with pages of notes and bristling with bookmarks, stuffed the shelves two deep and wedged in every available space on top.

 So what do we learn from the above? The author could have said merely that Camille Leyland, who lived with two ladies she called "the Fluffy Aunts," encountered her doom while opening the morning mail. A fairly dramatic opening without all the embellishment. But instead Ms Bourne brings the scene to life by mentioning such details as it being a Tuesday morning, how the item was wrapped & where she found it. She then introduces the main character by name and by revealing in just a few terse words that this is no ordinary heroine. And then a dash of dialogue from "the Fluffy aunts." Followed by a description that leaves no doubt that Camille is not the only intellectual in the house. Ah-ha. It would seem the aunts might not be so fluffy after all. Colorful description and character introduction - and all in four very short paragraphs. 

And let's not forget the Paranormal. 

From No Ghouls Allowed by Victoria Laurie: 

   "This is where you grew up?" my boyfriend, Heath, asked me as our van came to a stop.
   I stared up at the large plantation home of my childhood and tried to see it through Heath's eyes. The stately six-bedroom, five-bath home sat atop a large hill that I used to roll down when I was little. I had found such joy rolling down that hill. And the grand, ancient sixty-foot oak tree that dominated the far right side of the yard, where I'd had a swing that I used to ride for hours. And the long wraparound porch where I'd spent lazy summer days cuddled up with a good book and glass after glass of pink lemonade.
   Of course all of that was before my mother died. Before all the joy went right out of my life and right out of that house.

Here we have a classic house description, yet it doesn't linger on details - just enough to paint a picture of a plantation house not much different from everyone's vision of Tara. We learn that our heroine has a boyfriend, she had a happy childhood, and then the zinger about her mother makes it clear this is not a simple romance and that her mother may possibly play an important role in this tale of the paranormal. In addition, those who have read the previous books in this series instantly recognize that her boyfriend could also be a problem as he comes from a much more humble background. An amazing amount of information in six sentences.

From T's Trial by Kay Sisk:

   It was the music. Always the music. It started somewhere deep in his soul and coursed through his body in a mad rush to explode on the surface. He had felt it as a small child, this urgent need to touch the piano keys, to hear the notes, to reach inside the old upright in his grandmother's parlor, close his eyes and feel the strings and make the vibrations. To release the music from within himself and then take it back inside, remold it and start all over again.
   He felt it now. Eyes closed, hands splayed on a keyboard, his foot pumped, his head moved, his body swayed. He felt the music, was the music and both started and stopped with the music. Smoke, lights, crowd, video screens, revolving stage—all enhanced his music, helped others feel it. But no one knew the music as he did. No one was the music as he was. 

This is a different kind of Setting. A Character Introduction that is also the Set-up for the Plot and the Set-up for an entire Series.  In the next few paragraphs things go rapidly downhill, projecting "T" and readers into one of my favorite series, tales of a Rock Band vs. a downhome Texas town, stories rife with humor, anguish, and love. 

Although the opening rock concert setting above is not used again, the powerful description of how much music means to "T" is the driving force behind the book. Therefore those opening paragraphs set the tone for the book, making them a different kind of "Setting."

From The Hot Zone by Jayne Castle*:
   *aka Jane Ann Krentz

    The dust bunny was back.
   Sedona heard the soft, muffled chortle and rushed to the barred door of the small, windowless chamber. The lab was deserted for the night but there was ample illumination. The Aliens had vanished a few thousand years ago but they had built their maze of underworld catacombs to last. And they had left the lights on. The quartz walls of the small cell and the chamber that housed Dr. Blankenship's research equipment glowed with an acid-green radiance.
   Because of the constant light it was impossible to tell whether it was day or night up on the surface, but she was pretty sure it was night because Blankenship's two seriously bulked-up assistants had left a while ago, talking about dinner.

In these opening lines of yet another book in her Ghost Hunter/Rainshadow/Arcane series, Ms Castle immediately mentions one of the series' favorite characters, a dust bunny, catching readers' attention whether they know what a dust bunny is or not. She then offers hints that our heroine might be in trouble, while at the same time sketching in a brief background of the far away planet now inhabited by humans that has been the setting for her multiple SF series.  And as in T's Trial, this opening scene is highly significant to the plot. And again, Ms Castle does all this in just a few sentences.


As you've seen in the two blogs on Setting, a Setting can be more than a simple description. My editing clients and those whose contests I've judged already know that I'm a great believer in Identification, in making sure you give your readers the classic Who, What, Where, and When right up front. (You can, however, take the rest of the book to explain the Why.)

Below is a list of four types of opening Settings. There are more, of course, such as the all-action-explain everything-later scene and the all-dialogue-explain-everything-later scene. Frankly, most of the time these openings make me gnash my teeth in frustration. I don't like not having the slightest idea what is going on, not knowing who these formless people are, etc. Use these opening approaches only if you can do it really well and don't drag the confusion out too long. Personally, I recommend one of the following Settings to open your book.

1.  Paint a Picture. This covers the WHERE and WHEN. Using color and style, offer readers enough description to intrigue their interest but not overwhelm them.

Note:  This kind of description can also occur anywhere in a book where added color will enhance the story without slowing it to a crawl.

2.  Setting with Character Introduction.  This is the WHO, an absolutely vital ingredient in any story. Ideally, the opening paragraphs of a book provide both physical setting and at least a peek into the personality of one of the main characters. 

Note: Opening a book in the Point of View of a secondary character almost always leads to disaster.

3.  Setting with Plot Hint.  This is the WHAT.  You see an example of this in Ms Laurie's No Ghouls Allowed

Note:  The best openings usually include a combination of 1 and 2 or 1 and 3. (Or as in the Jack Higgins' example from Settings #1, all three of the above.

4.  Setting with Ambiance (Atmosphere).  This is also a WHO. In the case of T's Trial, we see straight into the hero's soul. Though the description is amorphous, it provides an atmosphere intriguing enough to inspire readers to keep going in search of more concrete details. In only a few paragraphs, this scene sets up everything that happens, not only in this book but in the rest of the books in the series.

So what does an author need to do to create a good Setting? 

Create the Setting that feels right for you, but as you do it, ask yourself: 

Have I  identified where my characters are, and indicated when? (Painted a colorful but not lengthy sketch of the backdrop & set it into the proper time-frame.)

Have I identified who my characters are? (No talking heads against a blank backdrop, please.)

Have I given a hint of personality about at least one main character?  (More Who.)

Have I given a hint of the plot? (Not absolutely necessary to include the What in the opening paragraphs, but great if you can get it in there.)

Have I written a great action scene but left my readers totally confused without so much as a hint of Who, What, Where, and When?

Have I written a lot of clever dialogue but left my readers totally confused about the W-W-W-W?

~ * ~

I hope these two blogs on Setting have been helpful. If you have any questions (or arguments), please don't hesitate to Comment.

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, March 14, 2015


A couple of years ago, when looking around for a new twist for my next book, I decided to hark back to the Gothics of the mid-20th century for inspiration. To the Victorian-set novels of Victoria Holt and the contemporary novels of Mary Stewart. Both presented dramatic tales of suspense from the sole point of view of intelligent, courageous, but beleaguered heroines. The result was Brides of Falconfell, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing. And which, fortunately, readers seemed to enjoy reading. Naturally, this prompted a second Regency Gothic, The Mists of Moorhead Manor, and now number three, The Demons of Fenley Marsh. Demons was, however, the easiest setting to write about, as southern Lincolnshire bears a surprising resemblance to my old stomping ground, Cape Cod, and the concept of low-lying flat land and drainage ditches was very familiar from right here in Florida. (There are drainage ditches within a half mile of my house, to both west and north. Much of Florida, from Orlando south, would be "Everglades" if it weren't for the drainage ditches. The water system for South Florida's famed Everglades begins in the lakes and marshlands of Central Florida.)

Below are the cover and blurb for The Demons of Fenley Marsh. Amazon has its usual "peek" inside the book, and a 20% free read can be found on Smashwords.

When the widowed Miranda Tyrell escapes a dire situation in Kent by accepting a position as governess in Lincolnshire, taking her young son with her, she never dreams she is jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Instead of peace and safety, Miranda discovers the flat agricultural plains and salt marshes are rife with tales of mysterious fires, gutted animals, strange sights and sounds in the night. Her new charge is a disturbed nine-year-old known as the Demon Child. In addition, rumors supported by the local curate claim that her employer, a badly scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, is a demon. And those are only the beginnings of her troubles as she attempts to teach two fatherless boys and deal with her wayward heart, which she swore would never love again.

Grace Note: The heroine of Demons has a few more flaws than your classic Gothic heroine. I hope you'll like her anyway. 

Demons on Amazon                        Demons on Smashwords

~ * ~

Next week: More examples of well-done Settings.

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, March 7, 2015

Settings & More

Scanned from The Orlando Sentinel, March 5, 2015
I'm sure most of you are wondering why an Orlando newspaper would post a picture from Texas. Well, that's because long before Disney discovered Central Florida, it was a rural area of orange groves and cattle ranches. A bad freeze in the '80s put paid to most of the orange groves (I recall the horror of driving I-4 and seeing mile after mile of dead trees). But the cattle ranches still thrive. They've just become overshadowed as Orlando transformed from a sleepy cow town to the resort capital of the world. The photo above is of a father and sons whose family has been working a Brahmin cattle ranch here in Central Florida since the 1930s. And are still at it. 

While we're on the subject, the Deseret Ranch (southeast of Orlando and owned by the Mormon church), is the largest cattle ranch in the United States. (According to Wikipedia.) When I was growing up, I was told the largest was the King ranch in Texas, followed by the Parker Ranch in Hawaii.) Whichever way you count, ranching is alive and well in Central Florida. We even have rodeos!


 A few weeks ago, Regency Researcher made a comment about Settings that set me to thinking the topic needed elaboration, so I'm going to attempt to make sense out of something that is approached so differently now than in the past. Not an easy task as I hadn't really stopped to think about it beyond recognizing that we can no longer start books with page after page of description, no matter how well done it might be. Modern readers want to plunge straight into the story, just as our Kindles open to Chapter One instead of having to plow through page after page of Copyright, Reviews, Acknowledgments, and (most idiotic of all) an index of chapters. (A few publishers still haven't got the message - they should see my scowl as I page through all that junk trying to find Chapter One!) So, yes, I'm as impatient as all the rest.

Setting the Scene at the Opening of a Book:

Amazingly, within a day or so of Regency Researcher's plaintive comment, I began a book by Jack Higgins that did everything an author should do when starting a book. And because the book was part of long-running series, he also managed to re-introduce some of his main characters - an absolute "must" for series authors.  I am going to reproduce the opening below as an example of both Setting and Character Introduction. Please note he begins with a Location line.

From The Judas Gate by Jack Higgins:

Washington, D.C. 
The Oval Office

    The Washington day in August had been almost subtropical, but by late evening an unexpected shower had cooled things.
    The Hay-Adams Hotel was only a short walk from the White House, and outside the bar two men sat at a small table on the terrace, a canopy protecting them against the rain. The elder had an authoritative mustache and thick hair touched with silver, and wore a dark blue suit and Guards tie. He was General Charles Ferguson, Commander of the British Prime Minister's private hit squad, which was an unfortunate necessity in the era of international terrorism.
    His companion, Major Harry Miller, was forty-seven, just under six feet, with gray eyes, a shrapnel scar on one cheek, and a calm and confident manner. A Member of Parliament, he served the Prime Minister as a general troubleshooter and bore the rank of Under Secretary of State. He had proven he could handle anything from the politicians at the United Nations to the hell of Afghanistan.
    Just now, he was saying to Ferguson, "Are you sure the President will be seeing us?"
   Ferguson nodded. "Blake was quite certain. The President said he'd make sure to clear time for us."
    Sean Dillon stepped out onto the terrace, glass in hand, and joined them, his fair hair tousled and his shirt and velvet cord suit black as usual.
    "So there you are."
    Before Ferguson could reply, Blake Johnson appeared from the bar and found them.
    He wore a light trench coat draped over his shoulders to protect a tweed country suit. He was fifty-nine, his black hair flecked with gray. As a boy, he'd lied about his age and when he'd stopped out of the plane to start his first touch of Vietnam, he'd been only eighteen. . . .

For other examples I went no further than the current pages of my Kindle. As a direct contrast to the Thriller pages above, here is the opening of a Regency Romance.

From  The Mudlark by Delle Jacobs:

    When the sun came out from beneath dense clouds, Izzy Daventry threw her shawl over her shoulders and set off from the manor across meadows that were slick from the last downpour. Within moments, the collection of children commonly known as Izzy's Urchins gathered around her, warbling like the first larks of spring, eager to see what adventure she had prepared for the day.
    She had plenty of time before her father arrived from Town. Even though he was expected by supper, Izzy knew her miscreant parent well. At his best, he wouldn't arrive before midnight. And even at that, he would need no more than the mere mention of Arthurian manuscript unearthed in Wales, and he would be off in that direction, forgetting he had ever meant to come home.
    Today, she proclaimed to her followers, was the first day of polliwog season. With the practiced eye of an expert polliwog hunter, Izzy paced along the bank, searching for a quiet pool with the characteristics for the proper breeding of tadpoles. Finding her spot, she set the children to searching the water.

Grace Notes:
I believe, in both cases above, you can see how the author uses bits of description to add color to the scene. In Judas Gate - the hotel, small table, canopy protecting against the rain, personal descriptions, etc. In Mudlark - sun, children, warbling, father's idiosyncrasies, polliwogs, quiet pool.
All the above work together to build a picture that creates a Setting. Little bits and pieces that fit together to make a portrait readers can visualize, rather than simply reading dialogue and action set against a blank canvas. (No hotel, no canopy, no children, no polliwogs, etc.) Without these descriptions, The Judas Gate would open with nothing more interesting than a group of men discussing a potential visit to the White House. We wouldn't know who they are or where they were. 

If the opening of The Mudlark had been less skilled, we might have assumed the girl was sitting quietly in a drawing room, wondering when her father was coming home. There would be no indication of either the father's whimsical nature or her own. In short, the scene would be dull as ditchwater instead of offering readers an intriguing look at an unconventional heroine, as well as giving us a peek into her father's temperament.

Did either author go on at length about Washington or about the country setting in England? No, but they got in enough essentials to draw a sketch that helped readers see the scene. Just a sketch, mind, not a full watercolor or some heavily framed 19th c. oil painting. Just enough to spark readers' imaginations and let them "see" that Setting. Yes, each reader will probably see something a bit different, but that's okay. 

A Setting within the body of a book: 

There are also moments within a story where an author can add to the overall impact of the book by including a bit of description not directly related to the plot. Enough to paint a colorful picture for the reader without bringing the story to a standstill or straying too far from action that moves the story forward. 

While doing a final edit on The Demons of Fenley Marsh this morning, I encountered the following passage, which I realized was a good example for this blog. 

Grace Note: the story is being told by a young widow, the mother of Chas, age eight. Nicholas, allegedly a "demon child," is nine.) 

From Chapter Four of The Demons of Fenley Marsh by Blair Bancroft:

    On such a remarkably fine day in late June, it was impossible to find even a hint of the sinister at Lunsford Hall. Nicholas began our tour of the park by leading us out a door on the west side of the house, past the kitchen garden, through a door in a sheltering brick wall, and into a garden where I simply had to stop and stare. In full bloom, it was magnificent, the borders and beds glowing under the summer sun, the sweet scent filling the air around us. Iris, lupine, poppies, peonies, delphinium, dianthus, roses of every variety and color, as well as flowers I could not name if my life depended on it. Though relatively small, it was simply glorious, far better than anything I had managed in Kent.
    Nicholas, with something between a sneer and an apology, addressed a remark to Chas out of the side of his mouth. “Ladies always like this sort of thing.”
    Chas, his face puckered in the guise of wise old man, stuck out his lower lip and nodded. To me, Nicholas added rather grandly, “Lunsford has tolerable gardeners. They do it all, you know. Mama and Grandmama don’t know one flower from another.” I had to turn my face away to hide my amusement. So far, the only wicked thing about Viscount Kempton was his unruly tongue.
    With a vague wave of his hand, Nicholas indicated that the stables and other outbuildings lurked behind a thin stand of middling-sized trees on the far side of the garden. And just beyond that, he warned, was a deep drainage ditch, straight as a die, leading to the salt marsh on the south. As we circumnavigated the house and walked along the great loop of the front drive, Nicholas pointed out a much broader ditch that ran parallel to the road that led to the village. We turned south toward the marsh, the hard-packed sand of the road soon dwindling into nothing more than a path. Lunsford Hall, it seemed marked the end of local civilization.
    To our right, however, was a low line of brilliant color, although we had to walk a good fifty yards, the path gradually descending toward the great salt marsh, before I could identify the source. The long splash of color came from a low-lying barricade of lethally spined wild roses which seemed to extend the entire southern width of the park, their single-layer blooms in red, rose, and white set against an impenetrable hedge of dark green leaves. When I finally raised my gaze from the colorful sight, nothing but salt marsh stretched out before me, with a thin blue line in the distance that might have been the sea, but which blended so well with the horizon that it was difficult to tell.
    I assumed this was the end of our tour, but Nicholas motioned us forward, plunging down a path so narrow between the short, sharp spines of the wild rose branches that we were forced to walk single-file. The sand softened, giving way with each step, our feet leaving great amorphous gouges as we plowed through it. And there it was—a vast expanse of sea grass and sand, marked by rivulets of water, some even broad enough to be called channels. Myriad small creatures scuttled across the exposed patches of sand. Tiny mounds of excavated grains marked dark holes where miniature crabs, and who knew what else, made their homes. Chas stared, eyes wide, mouth agape, clearly fascinated by this new world.

Grace Note:  Please note that in spite of fairly detailed descriptions of the garden and the salt marsh, the narration doesn't stray far from the story. We have dialogue from the boys, introspection from the heroine, and a picture of an area (the salt marsh) that is going to play an important part in the plot.

~ * ~
More setting examples in two weeks - after Mosaic Moments features the cover and blurb for The Demons of Fenley Marsh (March 14). 

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.