Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 27, 2016



 As I've mentioned before, I am a long-time SyFy reader, beginning with Galaxy magazine while I was in high school. But I never tried to write it as I knew I didn't have the technical knowledge to carry it off. And then along came "Futuristics," a more romantic and less techie version of SyFy, and of course I said, "Why not?"

Except—sigh—so many Futuristics seemed to emphasize hot sex, and that definitely wasn't my cup of tea. So with two of my favorite authors in mind - Jane Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) and Linnea Sinclair - I set out to write a story  set in the future but with more emphasis on romance and less on technical details than most SyFy. Fixing my sights on a hopefully happy middle-of-the-road, I created a plot involving an aggressive warlike planet bent on establishing an empire and a small backwater planet of peace-loving people who had eschewed violence in order to develop powers of the mind. And Rebel Princess was born.

I was writing for Ellora's Cave Blush at the time, and my editor loved it, said she stayed up all night to finish it. I had a contract, a cover; we had finished first edits when Blush crashed. Not only no more submissions but new works, even those as far along as mine, would not be published.

In total shock, I left the manuscript mostly on the back shelf, though I submitted a couple of queries (I'd almost forgotten what that was like!) Nothing. Yet I was reluctant to go the indie route as I had with my backlist and more recent books. My Regency followers read a SyFy/Futuristic/Paranormal?? But when Kindle Scout invited me to submit, I thought, "Okay, maybe this is it." Maybe the power of Amazon will bring in readers for a Futuristic by an author mostly known for her Regencies! (That, of course, remains to be seen.)

I had planned to write one book for the sheer fun of it, but about three-quarters of the way through, I realized there was no way to conclude such a wide-ranging tale in one book. So Blue Moon, the book, became Blue Moon, the series, the number of volumes rapidly escalating from one to three to four. Yes, it was one of those stories that just wouldn't shut up, with a host of characters who kept insisting on starring roles. For example, I started out with one royal in mind and ended up with four! Projected titles are: Sorcerer's Bride, The Bastard Prince, and Royal Rebellion. I'm currently struggling through The Bastard Prince, which is a challenge as, like the heroine of Lady Silence, he doesn't talk.

Even if you've never read SyFy or Futuristic before, I hope you'll give Rebel Princess a try. The romance is as strong as the derring-do! The first review was just posted - five stars. I'd love to see a few more. Hint, hint!

The description below is an expanded version of what is available on Amazon.

The people of the peaceful planet Psyclid have spent a millennia cultivating skills of the mind, the people of the planet Regula Prime an equal amount of time developing their military might. Kass Kiolani, a Psyclid princess in disguise, is the first of her kind to attend the Regulon Space Academy. But when her new "friends" invade her homeworld, she is rescued from rape and possible medical experimentation only by the swift action of Tal Rigel, an honorable (and admiring) captain in the Regulon fleet. She spends the next four years in solitary confinement, where she dreams of her rescuer but has no idea she has inadvertently sparked a rebellion against the Regulon Empire.

When she is freed at last, she finds herself in the midst of a fight against the Empire, and thoroughly disoriented by the contrast between her fantasies and the actual Tal Rigel. She also must contend with Regulon rebels who fear her psychic powers, her fey younger brother who speaks only through illusions, her parents who believe in non-violence, and a fiancé who happens to be a sorcerer. The hope of toppling the Empire is a dim light at the end of a very long tunnel.

For Rebel Princess on Amazon, click here.  

(Rebel Princess is currently a Free Read for KindleUnlimited subscribers.)

For a "vocabulary" of some of the many words created for the world of the Blue Moon series, click here.

~ * ~ 

My Rebel Princess wasn't the only princess debuting in Florida this month. Here is a professional photo of Hailey during one of several solo appearances during the 3-day skating competition in Maitland.

~ * ~

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, February 20, 2016

Attitudes toward Point of View

This photo by Amazing Thoughts seems the perfect illustration for
 the poem below (even if the age is off by a few years).

There was a 3-day ice-skating competition in our area this week, involving skaters from as far away as Connecticut and the Mid-west. Hailey was a participant all three days. Which resulted in her mother posting the following to Facebook.

After a 3 day weekend, mostly filled with skating, last night Hailey finally discloses that she has to write a 'rant' poem for homework. Never heard of it so we looked it up. You just have to rant about something! Hers was supposed to be on some kind of social injustice which, honestly, she doesn't know much about yet. So I gave her several ideas, all of which she rejected. Finally at 1:30am I screamed her into bed! This morning I wrote her the following example of a 'rant' poem.... It's called 'My Tween'. Here's how it goes:

My daughter is a tween
Her choices aren't always keen
When asked to make her room clean
She either whines or just plain screams!

With her sisters she will fight
Off and on all day and night
Professing clearly with all her might
That 'they are wrong and she's right!!'

She LOVES to do her chores
Insisting that SHE gets to mop the floors!
Oh wait, just kidding! For real
she thinks chores are a miserable bore!

She doesn't mention her homework
to write a 'rant' poem till midnight! Help! Advice??
But she doesn't listen to what I offered
not once, not twice, but thrice!!

Sometimes she is amazing
A sweet, giggly skating queen
But mostly she is a pain in my a--
My first born, my Tween....

-- by Mommy Reale 2/16/16

~ * ~


I read constantly, and am always amazed at the authors who say they don't have time to read. How, I wonder, can they keep up with what's going on in their profession if they don't read other people's books? But there are treasures out there we all miss, and for me the works of Linda Castillo were among them. I am currently in the process of reading my way through the whole Kate Burkholder series. Wow! (Though her books are not for the faint of heart.) They did, however, inspire a new look at that old challenge of Point of View. 

Twenty-five years ago when I first began to write with serious consistency, the rules for romance were cut and dried, mostly set by Harlequin. Fortunately, as I've mentioned before, I wrote my first two books with no idea there were any rules at all. I remember having to ask what POV was when the acronym was used by a judge in a contest I entered.

My naivety didn't last long, however. I went to my first Romance Writers of America conference and discovered I was only supposed to use two points of view and stick to just one of those for an entire chapter before switching. I still remember raising my hand and saying that I'd just tossed a book where in Chapter 1 the heroine described a scene, and in Chapter 2 the hero described exactly the same scene from his Point of View. Something I considered ridiculous. The speaker was gracious enough to allow that that might be overdoing the concept a bit.

Truthfully, as I began to understand the narrow POV concept a bit better, I had to concede that if you're writing a 50,000-word category romance, anything more than two POVs could be hard to handle and perhaps tricky to read. But in longer works . . . I just couldn't see the restriction.

The "rules" eventually expanded to Hero, Heroine, and Villain. (I shake my head as I recall how many times I wrote that on contest entries, as I had now reached the stage of being a judge.)  And then, in awelike tones, I began to hear about authors who actually had four POVs and, oh wonder of wonders, even five. An agent told aspiring authors at another RWA conference that he had liked best a submission that had a dog's POV. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Gradually, one POV per chapter became one POV per scene. And authors like Nora Roberts, bless her, demonstrated that good writers could do as they pleased, causing no confusion in their readers' heads, even if they changed POV after a couple of paragraphs.  Unfortunately, not all good writers were blessed with finding flexible editors, and the POV strictures continued.

There had been one hold-out through all this, traditional Regencies where multiple POVs were intrinsic to the style. And then came the great crash The two major publishers who allowed multiple POVs, even occasional one-line snippets, in their traditional Regencies, closed their lines, putting authors like me out of work. 

A quick look at Mystery/Suspense, which is one of the many sub-genres of Romance.

I have always liked books written in first person, but many romance readers say they do not, usually because they want to see the story through the hero's eyes as well as the heroine's. Some authors, particularly those writing Mystery/Suspense, have solved this problem by inserting the third-person POV of the hero in between the heroine's first-person narration. Admittedly, the first author I encountered doing this was a mainstream mystery writer, James Lee Burke, in his Dave Robicheaux series. His main character narrates in first person, but he leaps seamlessly into the third-person narratives of both friends, victims, and villains. Linda Castillo, whose books inspired this week's blogs, does the same. Except she goes one step further. Her heroine narrates in first person present tense, while the other POVs from victims to villains to Kate's boyfriend tell their stories in traditional third-person.

So what are the POV rules now? And why did they change?
I attribute a lot of the broadening of the so-called rules of POV to the advent of the e-publishing industry. In indie publishing anything went, and although there were a lot of doubtful, badly presented stories at the beginning, there were also a lot of stories that broke all the rules and were highly successful, forcing a reevaluation across the board. 

It's also likely that authors chafing at the bit plus the inevitable inroads of time on tradition, such as PCs making Courier, 25-lines-per-page, and underlines to indicate italics concepts that should have died with the manual typewriter, even though they lingered on, quite incredibly, for another twenty years or so.

Whatever the reason, I became so indoctrinated to the narrow concept of POV that I've had to struggle to dig my way out. I write my Regency Gothics in first person only, because that is necessary to the style - a beleaguered heroine who considers herself alone in her fight against whatever evil is stalking her. But in my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising, I am beginning to get back the feel of what one reviewer, way back when, called my "slippery" POVs in Tarleton's Wife. (She gave it five stars just the same.) And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. The freedom to say what I want when I want to say it is marvelous. (Makes me cringe when I think of all the times I, as a judge, told a budding author, "You can't do that." Truth was, at that time they couldn't, not if they wanted to be published.)

So where does that leave us?
Attitudes toward POV are still going to vary. If you're print-published and your editor is old school, you're stuck with doing what he/she will accept. Mainstream books, whether contemporary or historical, are still more liberal about POV than category or traditional romance. I would advise a new author who is writing short "category" romance* to stick to the POV of hero, heroine & villain (if applicable) until your first book is accepted and you find out what your editor will allow. For all other sub-genres of romance, you can be more flexible these days. Don't be hamstrung by the old rules.

How often can you change POV?
As often as you can handle it without upsetting your readers. And that's saying a mouthful. Are you aiming at the sixth grade reading level newspapers supposedly target? Or are you aiming your plot and vocabulary at a higher level? How many POVs do you see in published works in the market you're targeting? How often do they switch? By chapter, by scene, by a page or two, or even as often as a paragraph or two? What is acceptable? And, most important, what works? I once read a mainstream book by a multi-published print author I'd been reading for years that bounced back and forth between POVs so fast my head spun. It was an excellent object lesson, however, demonstrating all too clearly why the "rule" against "head-hopping" was such a staple of the romance industry. So keep in mind that exaggerations of either approach to POV can be truly annoying. Keep to the middle of the road until you find your comfort zone, and your readers' comfort zones as well.

My personal recommendation is one POV per scene, but I'm now enjoying sneaking in occasional silent comments from other characters, as I did in my first two books. Nora Roberts has a zillion magnificent examples of switching POVs in the midst of a scene, and I admit I've done it as well. If you can do it seamlessly and without confusion about whose head you're in, then by all means, do it. And more power to you. 

Yes, the millennia has come. The "rules" have changed. HOWEVER, if making a POV switch, make sure the first line of the paragraph indicates whose head you're in, and take it from there.

*For those interested in writing category romance, Harlequin and Silhouette have descriptions of their many lines online. But always keep in mind those guidelines are just for H/S books, not a guide for all sub-genres of romance. For those, I recommend researching what is acceptable by reading, reading, reading books in whatever sub-genre you're targeting. Please! Don't be one of those authors who says, "I never have time to read"!

~ * ~

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, February 13, 2016

Running off at the Keyboard

How time flies!

Hailey, on patrol, 2013


Ready for skating competition, 2016

My Futuristic Paranormal Rebel Princess not only has a pub date at long last - February 23 - but is now on pre-order at Amazon. If you'd care to take a peek . . . here's the link.

~ * ~


Rant time again. I watched a perfectly good book go downhill fast this week as it went from a fine story of love and suspense to too much repetition, too many ponderous details, and a plot that belabored its denouement to the point of extinction. And it's not only indie authors without adequate content editing that are making this mistake. One of my all-time favorite authors, print-published by a major publisher, is also guilty of similar errors in her most recent works. In her case, perhaps her editor thought she was so well-known, her readers would swallow whatever she wrote. Well, this reader didn't. I flipped through the last sixty to eighty pages of her last two books just the way I did with the indie book I just finished.

But how to explain the fix needed? That's a tough one. Even as an experienced editor, as I read the book, I asked myself, "What would I tell this author to cut? How can I explain she's beating a dead horse, that a book has to keep moving forward? Once the action plot has been resolved, the villain exposed or the book's major challenge) resolved, then it's time to settle the romance and move into Happily Ever After. In the book that set me off on my rant, more than three-quarters of the book was a gripping story, unique and well told. And then it began to dither, evidently trying to be a 100,000-word book when 80,000 would have been enough. Similar scenes were repeated over and over, the story going nowhere. Details that had previously enhanced the story now seemed to bog down the pace just when it should be picking up, moving toward a conclusion. Emotion that originally captivated now poured off the pages in a flood, repetitive, unproductive. Signifying nothing. What was exciting became boring as the same old plot points were flogged across the page, again and again. 

Stories must constantly move forward. The hero and heroine solving problems, discovering new ones. Wading through the intricacies of a relationship. Floundering, moving on. The dialogue as fresh and innovative on page 250 as it was on page 25. But the writer has to be able to sense when the story needs winding up. When it's time to build toward the big action finale, after which the story should quickly ease into a resolution of the love story. (And, yes, it's always in that order. That's one of the unbending "rules" of romance.)

Going back for a moment to word count - never, ever, take a story that can be told, and told well, in 80,000 words and try to "pad" it to 100,000. Your readers' eyes will glaze, guaranteed! If you absolutely, positively believe your book must be 100,000 words, then you need to add enough action, sub-plots and secondary characters to sustain 100,000 words.  As previously stated, it's deadly to pad a story by finding new words to say the same thing twenty times over! So . . .

1.  Do not fall in love with your own words, spewing them out in an endless repetitive stream.

2.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because you write well, with emotion, color, and clever dialogue, you can get away with repeating yourself. Say what you have to say, say it well, then let go. Your readers are busy people, bright people. Don't waste their time belaboring a point.

3.  Do not reveal the villain (or whatever major revelation is the climax of your tale), then spend fifty-plus pages on a sub-plot with only an occasional vague reference to the story's main storyline.

4.  Do not write endless pages of emotion-filled rhetoric, which end up overwhelming and destroying what might have been a climactic moment. A moment now drowned under an avalanche of histrionics.

5.  Instead, write that Big Moment for all its worth. Pull out all the stops. Action, details, color, emotion. Wring every ounce of drama out of it. Then LET IT GO!  Move on to the quiet moments that come after—the relief, the explanations.

6.  And then comes that absolute "must" - the resolution of conflict between the hero and heroine (with optional sex scene and/or optional glimpse of the future).

Grace note:  There are many nuances to the above, but I hope you get the gist of it. "Running off at the Keyboard" is a kiss of death. Don't fall in love with sound of your own "voice." See your work as others see it. Tell readers what they need to know, tell it well, then "hands off!" Enough is enough, and any other clichĂ© you can think of to keep you from turning a lean, mean, fighting machine into a candidate for Extreme Weight Loss.

~ * ~

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, February 6, 2016

Character Development - 4

While Hailey, Riley, and Cassidy were rehearsing for a musical, Mommy had to be the Girl Scout selling cookies at her Real Estate Investors' meeting! Please note the double pony-tails & Scout bandolier.

My cousin in California shared this photo taken by Steph Ball on Highway 88 in California. Oh, the joy of living in Florida!

For the most stunning photo I've seen on Facebook in a long time, here's Sunset Through the Trees by Francis Broadrick.

The Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area and several other areas in the Everglades have been closed to the Python hunt due to high water levels. The hunt continues elsewhere. The count as of February 6, 2016, is 90.

For a video from the Python hunt's website, click on the link below, then click on the python photo.

Link to Python video


Grace note: this week I'm continuing examples of ways in which characters need to change and grow to keep them interesting. The characters are from my new SyFy series, Blue Moon Rising (Book 1, Rebel Princess, expected out soon from Kindle Scout).

K'kadi Amund.
K'kadi is the bastard half-brother of Kass from last week's blog (the princess turned rebel). When K'kadi is first seen, he's nineteen, definitely odd—in our century we'd probably consider him autistic. He speaks only through illusions which he creates out of thin air. He is easily distracted, unreliable, quicksilver when the rebellion needs steel. He loves to scatter smiley faces and fireworks over people's heads. In spite of Kass's efforts to teach him discipline, near the end of Rebel Princess, he disgraces himself by allowing compassion to overcome duty, dropping the invisibility cloak of a rebel shuttle right under the noses of the enemy. In Book 2, Sorcerer's Bride, K'kadi's powers begin to grow—resulting in not only bigger and more dramatic illusions but what appear to be visions of the future. The problem is, no one can be certain if he's displaying fact or fantasy. Matters are also complicated by his falling in love at first sight with his mental opposite, a female warrior who considers anyone with his kind of magic—even if only makes pretty pictures—a monster. Because his attitude toward the girl from the planet Herculon verges on stalking, his brother-in-law orders K'kadi to endure military-style basic training. The ruthless discipline helps, but it's only at the end of Book 2, with the near death of Psyclid's rebel leaders, including his half-sister M'lani, that K'kadi finally begins to get a grip.

However, Book 3, The Bastard Prince is his. Yes, K'kadi must share the pages with Tal and Kass, but late in Book 2 he has progressed to "silent speak," an abbreviated form of silent communication which is a dramatic step up from being forced to communicate solely through illusions. He is older, taller, stronger, and much more powerful. He experiments with different talents, perfecting Kass's own gift of telekinesis. He has learned to "cool" his passion for Alala, the warrior, even as he unashamedly uses his gifts to peek at Tal and Kass in bed. (Just so, you understand, he won't make a fool of himself when his day comes.) Although The Bastard Prince is a work in progress, it's easy enough to see that K'kadi has grown and changed a great deal. Hopefully readers will also anticipate that there's far more to come. (I need to remind myself to add hints that he's not infallible. Our boy just might slip up again sometime, because, after all, there's always Book 4.)

Princess M'lani, Kass's younger sister.
M'lani is much more the classic princess than Kass ever was. She never longs to leave home and explore the universe. She first appears at the end of Book 1, when she volunteers to stand in for Kass as bride of the Sorcerer Prime, Jagan Mondragon. Though she is hurt by his seeming indifference to her magnanimous gesture—which will keep Jagan in line to be the next king—she is always aware that she is making a marriage of convenience, a far cry from the love match between Tal and Kass. Unlike the other members of her family, M'lani has displayed no psychic talent of any kind. She is, however, a pacifist like her father. And yet after enduring five years of Reg occupation and learning about her sister's role in the rebellion, she does not balk at being drawn into Jagan's assignment to organize Psyclids against the Empire.

On the one hand, M'lani must struggle with her engagement to Jagan, whose prime assistant is his long-time mistress. On the other, she must cope with the dramatic appearance of a personal psychic talent that is diametrically opposed to her strict pacifist upbringing. She must also act as arbitrator between Jagan and the local rebel leader, who clash at every turn. All major challenges for the sheltered princess who has never been farther away from home than royal family's former vacation site, Blue Moon.

As M'lani is drawn further into the rebellion, on the night of her marriage, she uses her Gift of Destruction to help Psyclid hostages escape, killing ten Regs in the process. And breaking the strongest tenets of her upbringing. She is a torn soul. Even after being arrested and beaten by the Regs, she maintains her desire to take back Psyclid without shedding blood. Which eventually happens . . . except just as it's over and everyone is celebrating, it's M'lani's blood that is shed. Jagan's as well. And finally, in near death, they find each other. Neither a strong patriot to begin with, M'lani and Jagan are now the hero and heroine of Psyclid Freedom Day.

Jagan Mondragon, the Sorcerer Prime.
Jagan is the most difficult character in the series. He's arrogant, egotistical, and comes very close to being an abject coward when we first see him, as at the first sign of trouble on Psyclid, he ran as far as he could get. He has a mistress, but he's clung to notion of marrying Kass long after she's told him she has a different life in mind. We get the idea he's returning to Blue Moon only because Kass shames him into it. Gradually, Jagan redeems himself, proving his sorcery a major weapon for the rebellion, yet even when he becomes a main character in Book 2, he remains difficult—agreeing to marry M'lani out of expediency, quarreling with the local leader of the rebellion, his arrogance continually getting in the way of Happily Ever After, whether for M'lani and himself or for Psyclid. Yes, he's mellowed, he's discovered he's married to the right sister, but he's never going to be easy to understand. And that's okay. Change doesn't mean that your characters have to do a complete about-face.

B'aela Flammia.
(Hard to write about B'aela without a "reveal" that's a complete spoiler, but here goes . . .)
B'aela is a witch and a pragmatist—Jagan's chief assistant and long-time mistress. She is highly intelligent, worldly, and perfectly aware she will someday be replaced. After all, Jagan has been engaged to Kass since they teenagers. Although a minor character in Book 1, B'aela comes into her own in Book 2, becoming a weapon of war in more ways than one, taking a new lover, and just perhaps finding an attraction that may become more permanent. By the end of Book 2, we realize she has become a major player, although the resolution of her love life will take as long as the resolution of the rebellion. B'aela is a good example of a minor character who insists on blossoming into something far more than she was intended to be. (One of the reasons I'm an "out of the mist" author instead of tied to an outline.)

A Grace note on Secondary Characters.
For the most part, secondary characters are allowed to remain themselves. The wise old gramma, the grumpy grampa, the BFF, the best buddy, the good boss, the bad boss, the charming child, the whining child, etc. These come in many shapes and forms and mixed personalities. They provide color, contrast, and someone for the h/h to bounce dialogue off of. BUT keep in mind that making these characters too complex can result in them overshadowing your two main characters, so that's a no-no.  Concentrate on making them fulfill their roles, but keep the "growing & changing" to a minimum (unless it's an essential part of the plot).

Whatever kind of romance you're writing—Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal, Futuristic, Inspirational, etc.—creating three-dimensional, interesting main characters who change and grow is essential. The basic lesson remains the same: Introduce your most important characters with a strong "description" -  whether physical, mental, or both - and build from there. Make them characters your readers can love or hate, then show us why. Show us there's more to these people than we thought, that they're capable of learning, growing, stumbling, coming back from adversity to be something more than they were before. That's life, that's humanity. Without it, your characters are merely cardboard, not more fleshed out than a child's stick figure.

~ * ~

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.