Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recommended Reading


This photo was just posted to Facebook by Rodney Bailey in Westchase, Florida. It appears to be a genuine Florida panther, an animal so rare naturalists have to set up hidden cameras to catch a glimpse of one. Yet this one might as well be posing. What a sight to find on your front porch!

What Grace is Reading

I've read three fascinating sagas this past month, two set in lands "down under" and one in ancient Rome. Walk About by Aaron Fletcher, In the Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark, and The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith.  

Walk About is an amazing tale of a young boy who survives the Australian outback only because he is "adopted" by an aborigine, and also about the boy's family members who spend years searching for him, only to be reunited when he is fully grown. The background rings with authenticity.

 Perhaps the most amazing thing about In the Land of the Long White Cloud is that it also rings with authenticity, yet it was written by a German author living in Spain and required translation into English. It is the story of two young woman of very different backgrounds who become friends when they travel from England to New Zealand on the same boat. Their struggles over the next twenty years are epic. (This is Book 1 in a 3-book series.)

The Daughters of the Palatine Hill is the story of the only child of Augustus Caesar and the only surviving daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. Their lives are also the story of the Roman Empire at that time. The research is impeccable, the saga truly riveting. Not the Happily Ever After of Romance but the drama of truth, skillfully embellished for the fiction market. 

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And while I'm recommending books, I'd like to add one of my own. I consider The Art of Evil my best mystery - after all, I spent three years as a volunteer tram driver at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota before writing this book, so it can also claim a great deal of authenticity. Below are the cover and blurb as they appear on Amazon.

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 do 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.

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 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 in hardcover under the pseudonym, Daryn Parke. It is being published as an e-book under my better-known writing name of Blair Bancroft.


"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 a terrific heroine struggling to regain her sea legs. . . ."
                                                                                       Harriet Klausner

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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 19, 2016

Playing with Tags

Susie - grilling for the first-time ever
How is that possible, you ask? Because the men in the family do the grilling. But it was Tuesday night, with Mike at soccer practice with the girls and the other two family grillers equally occupied elsewhere. But Susie had organized an impromptu "election results" party, so it was DIY or not eat. I watched, expecting to be blown up any minute, as she turned on the gas and nothing happened. She finally had to call her husband's cousin for advice! The burgers were great, the primary election results not so much. I could tell Rubio was delivering his swan song even before he announced he was dropping out. His "concession" speech was long, impassioned, and left no doubt he was already running for the next election. Too bad he didn't speak that well during the campaign. But I'm among those who fault him for going to Washington and concentrating far more on campaigning for president than working for the people of Florida. But perhaps with maturity . . . He's certainly a far better man than Trump, the bully. It's a crying shame we have so many good-old-boys here in Florida who actually admire Trump's bombastic rhetoric.

~ * ~


Going back to that old bugaboo, "Harlequin rules." Most of the so-called rules of romance were created by Harlequin/Silhouette back in the '80s and '90s. And among them was one I always found particularly odd. An author should confine dialogue "tags" to said, asked, and thought. Anything else was considered "intrusive."


All the colorful, expressive verbs out there, and nothing but said, asked, and thought??? Fortunately, as I've said before, I had begun to write trad Regencies for Signet, and they emphasized a broad and creative use of language. By the time Signet and Zebra shut down their Regency lines, the strong influence of H/S on romance was fading, their hard and fast rules along with it.

I thought of all this as I was editing the other day, changing a "said" to "mused." And, yes, I had to ask myself, "Is that a viable edit? Would a starship captain 'muse'?" I decided he would, but reserve the right to change my mind on the final edit. Selecting just the right word is a basic part of writing, almost as important as it is in writing poetry. Does the sentence you wrote "sing"? Or does it fall flat, plain old words put together in a plain old way?

Yes, it's possible to overdo colorful, or unique, language. I've edited books for those who stretched the point a bit too far. Ask yourself: Would my hero/heroine actually say this? Think this? Or have you conjured up a word that doesn't fit either their personality or the world they live in?

Without peeking at a manuscript, I'm going to attempt to list the tags I use the most. Do I overuse them? Sometimes. I try to keep an eye out when editing, making sure the use of a particular tag is scattered throughout a chapter. For example, I make an effort to avoid more than one "declared" or "roared" over, say, at least three or four pages.

So . . .
declared, offered, roared, shouted, whispered, murmured, returned, continued, replied, groaned, growled, grumbled, spat out, shot back, countered, inquired . . .

And after peeking through about 8 pages of 2 different manuscripts . . .
asserted, huffed, challenged, mumbled, demanded, crowed, tossed back, protested, insisted, muttered . . .

From some of the books on my shelves . . .
agreed, called, called out, explained, exclaimed, went on, wondered, announced, responded, spat out . . .

Grace Note:  There are countless other colorful verbs that can be used in place of "said" to add clarity and interest to your dialogue. Just be sure they fit the situation and the personality of the person speaking.

And, yes, "said" is still very acceptable - just not all the time. It can even be used when asking a question, but mostly when trying to avoid using "asked" too often. 

As for "thought" - I try to avoid the word as much as possible, preferring to write introspection well enough that using the tag of he/she thought is not necessary. But if you feel your have to use it, then by all means do so. 

No Dialogue Tag Needed:
I once edited a manuscript in which I swear I must have deleted a thousand "saids." Please keep in mind that if you have written narration that makes it clear who is speaking, no tag is needed

Also, if the scene is a conversation between only two people, simple paragraphing can distinguish who is speaking. EXCEPT . . . I've read too many books where the author overdid this, and I've lost track, finally dragging to a halt and saying to myself, "Okay, that character would never say that!" And back I go, re-tracing dialogue until I can figure out who is saying what to whom. Not good. Don't aggravate readers by going in search of snappy dialogue and ending up with a mystery you never intended. 

Dialogue Tags Required:
Any scene with more than two speakers requires a tag for each speaker. There is no other way for readers to understand what is going on.

Avoid using as a tag:
sighed - although commonly used as a tag, it is impossible to sigh and talk at the same time. Therefore "He/she sighed." should come as a separate sentence before or after the dialogue. Example:  "Oh darn." She sighed.

smiled, laughed, giggled, grinned, etc. Same problem as "sighed"

shrugged - although you can shrug and speak at the same time, using "shrugged" as a tag just doesn't work. Example:  "I don't know," he shrugged.  That's just plain bad English. The correct version is: "I don't know." He shrugged. 
greeted - "greeted" makes a poor tag. Example: "How do you do?" he greeted. It's flat-out iffy English. "He greeted her cordially" is an acceptable use of the word, but as a dialogue tag, no way. 

The Ideal Mix:

The best approach to tags is to intersperse them with narration that makes their use unnecessary.

An example from my current Work in Progress, The Bastard Prince.

Kass’s eyes closed; she drew a deep breath, murmured a prayer of thanks. And then she looked for her brother, who was sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up, head down, the ultimate picture of defeat. “K’kadi, you saved our lives. You’re a hero. Again.”

Grace Note: By adding Kass's dialogue at the end of her actions, without paragraphing, I am showing that she is the speaker. I don't have to use a tag.

Example of a passive tag, plus a dialogue exchange that is clear without further tags.

“It’s just a crease,” he heard a med tech say. “Looks worse than it is. Believe me, Highness, the captain has a hard head. He should come out of this all right.”

“How long . . . ?”

“Hard to tell, Highness. He could wake in an hour. Tonight. Tomorrow. Depends on the swelling, but S’sorrokan die from this? I doubt it.” 

Example of faster-moving dialogue with enough tags for clarity.

“But love, family? Don’t you hope for . . . more?” Anneli asked. “You’ve certainly earned the right to happiness.”

“You are kind,” B’aela murmured. “Am I blushing? Fizzet! I thought I was long past such a schoolgirl reaction.”

“So there is someone?”

“Only he doesn’t know it.”

“And Tal has snatched you away at the critical moment!”

B’aela managed a small secretive smile. “You know the saying. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’”


1.  The best approach to good dialogue is to indicate in the narration (description, action . . . whatever) who is speaking. No tag necessary. 

2.  If writing short & sharp dialogue between only two people, use only enough tags to keep readers from being confused.

3.  If you are writing dialogue between three or more people, you must use a tag for each speaker.

4.  If you do use a tag, be sure it's the best one for that sentence. (Does the tag fit the character speaking? The situation?) Colorful and expressive verbs are good, but like anything else, they can be overdone. Using them sparingly will add to your story, but avoid repetition of a colorful verb for at least three or four pages. You can't sneak in a colorful verb the same way you can those old standbys, said, asked, and thought.

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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 12, 2016

"Soc" it to 'em!

Evidently, this marvelous imitation of Donald Trump's BS was written by George Takei, and it's right on. It is beyond my comprehension how so many Americans can be taken in by this kind of #%$@.

Grace Note: I saw something that made my heart sing last night. I was driving on an overpass over I-4 on my way to the grandgirls' soccer game when my attention was caught by something truly unusual. Please note it was rush hour on a Friday night. And there was a perfectly ordinary looking woman of middle age standing on the overpass. Beside her, draped over the high fence and inward-turned barbed wire was a bedsheet with large hand-painted letters. Letters big enough to be read by drivers zipping by beneath. I had to read them backwards, but I'm pretty sure they said, STOP TRUMP! 

Her action gave me hope that the average American is beginning to wake up to the threat of this new kind of fascism.  But that this woman, all alone, cared enough to make such an effort . . . I could only hope that her protest - and mine - are multiplied by the thousands, the millions, proving that thinking citizens will finally stand up and say - before it is too late - NO, THIS IS NOT AMERICA, THIS IS NOT US. Our country was founded on religious freedom, not religious hate. How can we forget: "Give us your tired, your poor, your struggling masses yearning to breathe free."

Think about your ancestors. Irish, Italian, Chinese, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew. Trump would never have let them off the boat. He probably would have set a foot-wide chain across the mouth of New York Harbor. Maybe set out a few mines. Trump is appealing to a basic human fear: suspicion of anything, anyone "different." Hitler parlayed that into the Holocaust. Don't let it happen here.
~ * ~ 

On a lighter note:
From the archives - when only Hailey was playing soccer - taken at the Rio Pinar Country Club
(where I used to vote before moving to Seminole country)

 Orlando's professional soccer team started its second season last Sunday afternoon. Their only goal was disqualified, and they were down 2-0 throughout most of the game. Fans were leaving, the clock into the last of four added minutes at the end of the game when . . . a miracle occurred. Mike Bianchi, sports columnist for The Orlando Sentinel, wrote it up so well that I just had to pass it along. (As a writer, I appreciate any writer who does his/her job well!)

   The mayor had already left the stadium.
   That's right, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer had just been interviewed by a local TV station about Orlando City's, ahem, season-opening loss.
   The TV reporter and the mayor both thought it was over.
   So did you.
   So did I.
   So did the 60,000 or so fans who filled the Citrus Bowl.
   So did everybody.
   Except the Orlando City Lions.
   Or should we call them the Orlando Gritty Lions?
   Unbelievably, inconceivably, amazingly and hair-raisingly, they tied the game. And won the day.
   Orlando City 2, Real Salt Lake, 2.
   You thought last year's 1-1 tie in Orlando City's inaugural game was thrilling after Kak√° scored on a free kick in the 91st minute?
   This one was 10 times more historically and euphorically thrilling.  
   You've heard of the Miracle on Ice" This was the Miracle Done Twice. Two goals—one by Cyle Larin and the qualizer on the ensuing kickoff by Adrian Winter—in the 94th and final minute of stoppage time. This was like seeing back-to-back buzzer beaters.
   The Immaculate Deflections.
   "That's what you see in video games," Larin said. "You don't see that in actual soccer, but we brought it to real life."
   Said Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar:  "I don't recall ever seeing anything like that and I hope I never do again."
. . . .  (several paragraphs omitted)
   When the tying goal was scored, fans who had begun to funnel out of the Citrus Bowl, turned around and made a mad rush back into the stadium where they chanted and cheered, danced and sang, waved flags and banged drums for 30 minutes after the game.
. . . . (The article continues with two more columns of general background on Orlando City's immense fan success here in Orlando.)

Grace note:  Input from my daughter's Argentinian in-laws—plus watching the grandgirls play soccer year after year—has not exactly made me a soccer expert, but at least I have learned a bit about the game. So I watched the whole match on TV last Sunday, and there was one thing Bianchi did not state in so many words but which the announcers kept repeating (nearly shouting) at the time. The Lions scored two goals in 30 seconds! I too had given up and gone out to water my plants but was lucky enough to come back just in time to see both goals. As everyone keeps saying, this was a tie that came off as a win. Wow! 

Update:  The second game of the season on Friday night was a 1-1 tie, but was pronounced nowhere near as thrilling as Sunday's dramatic comeback. 

~ * ~
I will likely get back to Writing & Editing topics next week. Probably sounding off on the subject of "tags."

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.


Sunday, March 6, 2016


I had just finished writing today's blog when I went to my daughter's Facebook page and found this perfect illustration.

Original post by Young Americans for Liberty


The total from this year's Florida Python Hunt was 106, far exceeding the total two years ago. Among the prizes awarded were:

Most pythons by one team - 33
Most pythons by a single hunter - 13
Longest python - 15 feet

Note:  The possibly thousands of pythons in the Florida Everglades are attributed to pet owners discovering their slithery little pets had become HUGE and dumping them into the Florida wilderness. Or maybe the cost of feeding them just became excessive. In any event, exotic species are a real threat to Florida's native animals.

~ * ~


BULLETIN - heard on CNN, Sunday, March 6, 1:25 p.m. 

A friend of the late Nancy Reagan gave this quote on CNN. Of this year's politics, Mrs. Reagan said, "Do you believe this?" 
I could not agree more! 

Saturday, March 5, 2016:

I have been voting in presidential elections for longer than I care to remember. And every time I was able to say of the man I did not vote for, "He's a good man. I just liked the other guy better." But this year I'm totally terrified. The Republican Party seems to have gone mad, presenting us with a bunch of squabbling, potty-mouthed children, none of them fit to hold the highest office in the land. (Yes, there were three intelligent, competent "gentlemen" among the candidates, but somehow they got left by the wayside.) OMG, how did this happen? The Republicans, waking up too late, are handing the Democrats the election on a silver platter. I keep reading explanations of how this disaster happened, but it's still hard to comprehend. Below is what I wrote earlier this week. I hope you will take the time to read it, ponder, and do your bit to DUMP THE TRUMP. (And pray the Republicans come up with something better than Cruz or Rubio as an alternative.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016:

The nation's presidential primaries and caucuses are moving forward, with Florida's almost upon us. Frankly, I don't understand how we got to this system of nominating presidential candidates. I can remember sitting on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, as votes were cast on the convention floor. Vote after vote until a majority was reached. Now conventions are just rubber stamps for what has already happened, and the electorate has had to suffer through month after month of rhetoric, political pundits, debates, and you name it. I'm already sick of it, and it's only March!

How dare anyone tell me Trump is going to be the Republican nominee when the voters in only a small minority of states have expressed their opinion? And yes, there's a shock in discovering the Republicans are so powerless they're letting a megalomaniac run away with the nomination, ensuring a win by the Democratic nominee. It's like the whole country - or at least the registered Republicans - have gone mad.

I suspect the truth is that the quote from the movie Network has infected the land. In the movie, the hero sticks his head out a city window and yells: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" There's no doubt that this is where Trump is getting his followers. There are just too many people so angry with the system that they're applauding Trump for sticking it to absolutely everyone and everything, rather than paying attention to what the actuality of a Trump presidency might mean.

As an aside, I am more disappointed with Chris Christie than I am with Donald Trump, who has been openly obnoxious, and unrepentant, from Day 1. Christie's endorsement of Trump was a shocker. I can only presume he sold out for a promise of the Vice-Presidency. Which lowers him to zero in my opinion. I'd thought him a better man.

As for Trump, Gary Trudeau, in Doonesbury (Feb. 16, 2016), illustrated the problem very well. In the dialogue below the college friend/minister/priest, a long-time Doonesbury character, speaking to Mike Doonesbury and his wife. (The "bolds" are from the original.) 

Minister:  "So can you explain Trump's evangelical supporters to me? What are they thinking? Trump's a twice-divorced non-churchgoing ex-casino operator - the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins! Pride? Greed? Heck, those are core brand values! Envy? He attacks his betters every day! 

Lust? He's a womanizer who says he wants to date his own daughter! Gluttony? He's all about bloat! Wrath? No one is angrier! I mean, when you think about it, is there any difference between Trump and the devil himself?

Mike:  Sloth. You forgot one.

Wife:  Right. Satan is pretty low-energy.

Minister:  So one for seven? That's the bar now?

~ * ~
From an Op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, Wednesday, March 2, 2016:

"I was going to write about how the Republican presidential campaign has become gutter politics, but given Donald Trump's horrid statements, the gutter would be step up, because things have descended into the sewer."

On Thursday, March 3, 2016, the front page of the Local/State section of the Orlando Sentinel featured a special framed box with the columnist's color photo prominently displayed above a color photo of Trump at a podium. To further catch the readers' attention, the words "Dear Donald Trump" were written in bold 32-point cursive, something you never see in your daily paper.     
The gist of the 4-column article was that Trump better take a good look at the audience when he visits the University of Central Florida this week. Angering blacks, women, and our large Hispanic population, is not the way to win votes. The article ends: "So, when you arrive at UCF, look around. You said on Super Tuesday that you want to be a "unifier." Central Florida would be a lot more impressed if you could live up to that promise."

Grace's personal opinion: The Donald will live up to that promise on the Twelfth of Never.

Friday, March 4, 2016: 

It was with great relief that I watched Mitt Romney take on Donald Trump yesterday. (Though how the mainstream Republicans could have waited so long for damage control I can't imagine. Perhaps the impossibility of believing the electorate could be fooled into mistaking bombast for competency?) After the disastrous behavior of not just Trump but several of the front-running Republican candidates, seeing and hearing Romney was like a breath of fresh air. Here was presidential material of the quality we expect in a President of the United States. OMG, sanity at last! Without name-calling, vulgarity, bombast, vitriol, and lies. 

From the Orlando Sentinel Op-ed page, Saturday, March 5, 2016:
"Donald Trump plays on racial fears and animosities in an ugly, deliberate and dangerous way. This dance with bigotry goes far beyond his temporary amnesia about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

"Trump speaks as if he considers whiteness the norm and sees people of color as somehow alien and suspect. He is the only major American political figure in many decades to display such an antediluvian worldview so openly. Trump doesn't tweet dog whistles, he blasts foghorns."  

From the Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, March 6, 2016:

Donald Trump was at UCF yesterday, and even I, obviously not a Trump fan, was shocked by a couple of items in the news report. Evidently, all too many Trump supporters are drawn to him by his incivility. Each time the audience spotted a protester in the crowd, they'd scream until they got Trump's attention, and he would order Security to toss the person out, adding in his inimitable mocking style, "Go home to mommy!" 

The reporter went ahead to mention that another Trump staple, guaranteed to get roars from the crowd, is mocking the media.  Yesterday he asked everyone in the arena to look at the camera operators and then told the silent camera crew: "You all are the most dishonest group of people."

Basically, what this tells us is that Trump is grinding the First Amendment into the dirt. Again, I ask, How did we get to the place where someone like this can run for the highest office in the land?
~ * ~

From Grace's personal opinion:

I'm not old enough to remember the wild, bombastic speeches made by the greatest megalomaniac of the 20th century, but I remember the war that came after very well. The speech-maker was Adolf Hitler; the war, World War II. It took every resource we had to win that one. The sacrifices were like nothing we've seen since. And now, for the first time since the 1930s and 40s, we are being faced with similar hate-filled bombast, embellished by vulgarity and profanity. The time to stop this juggernaut is now. Before we put our nuclear codes into the hands of a man with a hair-trigger temper, a man who seems to love to hate. It is our duty and our privilege to save this country from a megalomaniac of this century.

It's time for a new slogan to sweep the country:


 (If you prefer, a simple DUMP TRUMP! will do. )

 If you agree, pass either slogan along. I'd love to see them go viral.

*I was delighted to see this slogan on the evening news. It was displayed on a sign held by a protester outside the UCF arena on Saturday, March 5. 

~ * ~

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.