Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Agony of Final Edits

After a long hot summer, bear season is back. (I wonder where they all went during the hot weather.) For a video my daughter took on Thursday, October 27, click here.

I consider this one of Delle Jacob's all-time great covers. Absolutely love it!

The Agony of Final Edits

The last thing I ever planned was to be in final edits and formatting for two different books at the same time. This is not supposed to happen. And now, on top of that, I've realized I have to get busy polishing the Christmas novella I plan to republish for the holiday season. (It was originally published by the Cotillion division of Ellora's Cave.)

And that makes THREE, side by side, and back to back. Aargh!

It looks like Regency Gothic #5, Tangled Destinies, will make it online first. If I can straighten out all the kinks that weren't meant to be kinky! But even before that, I plan to have Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of the Blue Moon Rising series, ready to upload to Kindle Scout. That process takes a while - and may or may not work out. In either case, I suspect it will be the first of the year before it makes it online. As soon as Tangled is uploaded, I'll turn my attention to re-editing Mistletoe Moment. In spite of all the agonies of so many final edits, I will get this poignant Christmas tale back online in time for the holiday season. So please keep a look-out for the announcement about this story of two people who have, with considerable bitterness, withdrawn from the polished manners and mores of society.

Down to the Nitty-Gritty . . .

After many years of listening to all the horror stories about not being able to use most of my well-loved and expensive programs if I upgraded to Windows 10, my poor old Dell (XP) and its Windows 7 successor both succumbed within months of each other, and there I was, stuck. No choice. New computer. New programs. No-o-o-o! 

Incredibly, my Geek Squad guy, well aware of my fears, was quite smug about presenting me with a Lenovo* Windows 10 loaded with every last one of my old programs, including Word Perfect 5, and even Word 2003, which I had used to successfully upload every last one of my books to Amazon and Smashwords. He had to fight to get my Oxford English Dictionary to work, but he managed it. Yeah, hurray, Geek Squad! I've continued to do my professional (outside) editing work in Word 2003, but I'm doing final edits of Sorcerer's Bride in Word 2016 and expect I will soon feel comfortable with Track Changes there as well. All in all, a much better experience with Windows 10 than I had been led to anticipate.

*Grace note: the keyboard of the Lenovo model I chose was totally unacceptable. I purchased a separate wireless keyboard and mouse to go with the new computer. A keyboard whose layout was similar to the keyboards I had been using since 1981 and not some dinky little "shortcut" model that looked like it was designed for people who could only type with two fingers!

The biggest editing challenge:

One of the many reasons I write in Word Perfect is its "Reveal Codes" function. It may seem unutterably boring to go through your book line by line, looking for wonky codes, but I always feel it's worth it. Inevitably, I find stray Italics codes, Left Tabs that shouldn't be there, and those pesky extra spaces that inevitably creep in. In Sorcerer's Bride I even found one or two Required Page Ends that had mysteriously disappeared. (The page ends & extra spaces would have been caught in Word with codes on. The others would not.)

Alas, I also found the editing pane chock-full of italics codes that did belong there. I had not realized how many times I used italics in Bride until I saw the manuscript with Reveal Codes turned on. And every last one was necessary. A few were used for emphasis, but most were for other reasons. 1) I invented a new language for Sorcerer's Bride, and every "foreign" word had to be set in italics. 2) There are a lot of spaceships in Bride; the name of every one of them had to be in italics. 3) There is a great deal of "thought-speak" in Sorcerer's Bride, which is set on a planet where people are psychically gifted. Each bit of silent dialogue had to be in italics. 4) Almost all my books tend to have saucy inner voices that give the heroine or hero a hard time (in present tense). These, too, need italics. So, all in all, Sorcerer's Bride is likely a strong candidate for "Most Italics Used in a Single Novel."

The next step:

After going through Sorcerer's Bride line by line, looking only at codes, I saved it into RTF. I then went to my brand new Word 2016 and played with a few chapters of Tangled Destinies until I could find the necessary editing menus. (They are, I admit, after the initial struggle, an improvement on good old 2003 - just harder to find.) After that, at last, I opened the RTF copy of Sorcerer's Bride in Word 2016, turned on what few codes Word shows by clicking ¶ in the Tool Bar, and settled down to reading the entire manuscript from top to bottom. True agony, as I've now been through it so many times I'm ready to scream. 

Yet, incredibly, I'm still finding things I want to change. Even on this last time through. That's what good writing is—it includes editing. Making your work the best you possibly can before foisting it on an unsuspecting world.

Ah, if only more of us were willing to suffer for our art. 

I ran into an author not long ago who begged for my help with her book, and then rejected every bit of advice I gave her, after I struggled through the longest, hardest, most difficult bit of editing plus critique that I have ever done. An attitude like this is self-defeating. I doubt even her friends will be willing to plow their way through that particular manuscript. So wake up, authors. Don't shoot yourself in foot. As I've said so often before, don't insist you're perfect. Don't insist you never make mistakes. Don't insist you never leave things out. Don't insist you never go on and on over something that is best deleted. Don't close your mind to enlightenment. Don't be so arrogant you can't at least consider expert advice. 

Repeat: Do not shoot yourself in the foot. Your friends and relatives may read your first book, but will they read your second? Will anyone?

~ * ~

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, October 22, 2016

Mystery vs. Gothic

Hailey as a skeleton (after Gramma made the top smaller)

Halloween Spiders - photo from 2012 but we make them each year

Ingredients: double-stuffed oreos, mini oreos, pretzel sticks - snapped in half, white chocolate drops & diamonds cut from fruit roll-ups. All glued together with melted chocolate.


The Difference Between Mystery and Gothic

I don't check my reviews very often, but when I did this week, one thing leaped out at me. (Besides the reviewer who forced a loud burst of laughter (appreciative laughter) out of me because she was so angry with the hero of The Welshman's Bride—fully involved in her indignation of his treatment of the heroine.) 

But the reviewer of one of my other Regency Gothics said something that made me stop and think. He/she was not happy because the villain was not kept a big secret until the final revelation. And that got me to thinking, Hmm, I think I know the feel of a Gothic as opposed to a Mystery - mostly because I've read so many of them, but obviously, it's not so clear to others. And who knows, perhaps the genres have so much cross-over, it really is difficult to tell them apart. Certainly, very few of any fiction genre's rules are set in stone any more. But today I'm going to attempt to list the differences as I see them.

1. First person or third?  
Mysteries can be written in either first person or third. Some are written in both - the hero or heroine's viewpoint in first person, other viewpoints in third.

A Gothic is written in first person only. This is because Gothic novels emphasize the main character's vulnerability. She is alone, on her own. Readers can't be allowed to see into other people's heads and find out if they're good guys or bad guys. 
2. Male or Female Point of View.
The main character in a mystery can be either male or female, occasionally a couple (m/f, m/m, f/f) working as partners.  

The main character in a Gothic has to be female. A lone female, without the support of friends or family. A vulnerable, threatened male just doesn't cut it.

3.  Murder or Attempted Murder.
The whole point to a mystery is that there is a murder(s) to solve - a puzzle if you will - questions to be asked, clever detecting, etc. Mysteries are "who done it's" in the classic sense.

The whole point to a Gothic novel is that a murder(s) may happen, but attempted murder, the threat of murder, even an imagined threat, is more important than solving an actual murder. The ambiance, the atmosphere on every page is more important than solving the question of who did what to whom.

4. Drama or Comedy.
As anyone who's ever read Janet Evanovich knows, mysteries can be either drama, comedy, or both. 

Gothics by their very nature are drama, sometimes melodrama. Dark, drear, threatening, scary. Hard to get any humor in there, although I try. 

Mysteries vary in the amount of action they show. From, say, James Lee Burke, with lots of action, "onstage" murders, and the hero up to his neck in mayhem to Cozy Mysteries, where murders occur "offstage" and the action is usually muted to accommodate those who like to keep well away from blood and gore.

Gothics often have both kinds of action. "Onstage" attempted murder, "Offstage" murder(s), and finally a dramatic "onstage" crisis involving the heroine, who somehow always manages to survive.

A mystery can be set almost anywhere and in any time period.

Gothic novels of the 18th & 19th c. were primarily set in dark and eerie castles or gloomy mansions. Today, as long as the author gets the dark & eerie ambiance correct, the setting can be almost anywhere—even, as in my current Regency Gothic, Tangled Destinies, a fine country home nestled in the beauty of the Cotswolds. 

Modern Gothics can be contemporary or historical, although most Gothic historicals are set in the 19th c. Many consider the Victorian era THE period for Gothic novels—the classic example, the novels of Victoria Holt. For classic examples of contemporary Gothics, you can't do better than the works of Mary Stewart. 

I personally prefer the early 19th c., which is why I call mine "Regency Gothics." Can you set a Gothic in another time period? Of course . . . but will readers accept it? Who knows? Tradition is a funny thing. 

In a mystery almost anything goes, as long as there is a murder to be solved. The main character/detective, can be an amateur or a professional (law enforcement or private eye). A great many questions must be asked, convoluted paths followed, perhaps another death or two. If the main character is an amateur detective, there is usually a professional lurking in the background, offering criticism, and sometimes help.

In a Gothic, the struggling heroine attempts to figure out things on her own. She is alone, no backup. Her romantic interest is frequently the person who looks most guilty, the person she dare not trust. She may have a lot of questions and doubts running through her head, but few, if any, people she can rely on. The solution to the disasters that are happening around her are important, but not as important as the general feeling of imminent threat - to herself and/or to a child.*

*Most Gothics use the device of an innocent child in one way or another. Not a "rule," but a common thread. In my current Regency Gothic, the threatened child is a baby.

Grace note:  For the benefit of my foreign readers, "onstage" is a term borrowed from the theater, indicating that an action is described in detail, happening "live" in the pages of the book. "Offstage" indicates that certain actions, such as a murder, are mentioned in the book, but readers are only told about the event. It is not described in gory detail, either at the time it happens or when the detective investigates the scene of the crime. 

Romance is optional in Mystery. 

Romance is essential to a Gothic novel, although the road is rocky, as the heroine suspecting the hero of villainy is one of the primary themes of a Gothic. 

Mystery - a puzzle—almost always a murder(s)—to be solved through meticulous investigation - sometimes clever, sometimes just plain dogged.

Gothic - a dark, threatening atmosphere combined with murder, attempted murder, and/or other dangers (real or imagined). The general ambiance, the continuing threat-level are more important than "who done it."

~ * ~

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, October 15, 2016

The Difference a Word (or two) Makes

Hurricane update:

Although the greater Orlando area wasn't hit as hard as we had feared, the shoreline counties north of here, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas took a beating. Flooding is still a problem in the Carolinas, including a burst dam. As for the Florida shoreline, school did not reopen until almost a week after the storm hit, and some are still without power as I write this on Friday, October 14th.

Addendum:  And then Nicole came along - I suspect it swallowed the remnants of Matthew, and even though it was headed north, well out to sea, it grew so large, the outer bands are affecting us, producing five straight days of clouds and spitting rain. Strange weather for October, one of Florida's most idyllic months.

~ * ~

A sneak preview of the lovely cover Delle Jacobs did for  
Tangled Destinies, my fifth Regency Gothic.
(Hopefully out in November.)

~ * ~


When offering Writing & Editing examples, I have to admit I don't spend a lot of time on research. I usually just borrow my examples from whatever I'm working on at the moment. Or, as in the past few weeks, I get ideas from books I'm editing for other authors. (These books, of course, are never used for exact examples, as I do not reveal what is in anyone else's book.)

I will, however, reveal that once upon a time I ran across a book where it was obvious the author had never even run spell check, let alone done any self-editing. This resulted in a great deal of extra work when the Track Changes edits came back, as the author had to "accept" a whole slew of changes to typos and duplicate words that would have been caught in a simple spell check.

As my regular readers know, I am a strong advocate of self-editing—adding, subtracting, clarifying, etc. There may be a few geniuses in the world who get it right the first time, but most of us don't. We have to slog through, and slog through again, line by line, finding ways to make things better. Sometimes it's only a single word - or the deletion of a word - that makes that sentence zing instead of fall flat. And yes, you doubters out there, a single word can make a difference. So go ahead, fuss! Get it right. Don't just write, write, write, sit back, say, "Whew!" and send it off without another look. 

And, believe me, having judged at least 450 RWA chapter contest entries, as well as being a professional editor for more than a quarter of a century, there are authors who do exactly that. Is their work any good? Sometimes, but poor presentation shoots them in the foot, the end result—not a winner. 

So, listen up! Read over your work. Find those missing words. Find the awkward phrases. Find the places where you thought you said one thing, but it came out something else entirely. Find the meager descriptions. Find the places where you ran on and on about something that didn't affect your story one way or another. (Get rid of it! Or that pesky secondary character who's intruding on the primary plot!)

Below are some examples of the kinds of things you might change on a second or third edit (after you've made all the big, obvious changes). These are seldom earth-shattering, just the last little tweaks that make your sentences more clear, more dramatic. Or simply because they sound better. And sometimes it's just to avoid duplicating a word used in a previous sentence. All picky little things, but if you really care . . ., you'll take the time to get it right!

All examples are from my Work-in-Progress, Regency Gothic #5, Tangled Destinies.
Additions shown in hot pink. Deletions in blue.

Yet somehow life went on, although I admit to a few twinges of the heart when I received a succession of letters . . .

Yet somehow life went on, although I admit to more than a few twinges of the heart when I received a succession of letters . . . .

"When Lord Thornbury returns, please tell him I must speak to him at once."
"When Lord Thornbury returns, please tell him I must speak with him at once." 

Nell!—sleeping while he was being whisked away to God alone knew where. Or why.
Nell!—sleeping while her charge was being whisked away to God alone knew where. Or why. 

So he did know.
My last doubt disappeared.

Searching for Nell Scarlett would be fruitless.
A search for Nell Scarlett would quickly reveal that no such person existed . . .

Yet he was there, I knew he was. Hunting.
Yet he was there, I knew he was. Stalking me.

. . . ten-foot walls of yew, no matter which direction I looked. No-o-o!
. . . ten-foot walls of yew. No matter which direction I looked, dead ends.

Dear Flora, what a Godsend she'd been.
Dear Flora, what a Godsend she'd turned out to be.

Nonetheless, perhaps it was guilt that caused me to wake later that night.
Nonetheless, perhaps it was nagging guilt that caused me to wake later that night.

"Ye c'n practically see the steam rising, like one of them pump engines on the canal."
"Ye c'n practically see the steam rising. Not like a tea kettle, miss. More like one of them pump engines on the canal."

Totally chagrined, I begged his pardon.
Chagrined, I begged his pardon.
(Grace note:  There are a number of words, particularly adverbs, that we all overuse. "Suddenly" is also a good example. When you see an "-ly" word, ask yourself if you really need it. Would your sentence sound better, fresher, without it?)

My voice rose to a height unbecoming enough to paint my cheeks scarlet. I could feel the hot flush.
My voice rose to a height unbecoming enough to be called a shriek

Though fear demanded I slow my footsteps to a crawl, I forced myself to a steady pace.
Fear demanded I slow my footsteps to a crawl, but somehow I forced myself to a steady pace. 

I clamped my lips tight over the words of response that were exploding in my head.
I clamped my lips tight over the angry words exploding in my head.

. . . although my nerves did not begin to settle until I heard the snick of the bolt behind me.
. . . although my nerves did not begin to settle until I'd snicked the bolt closed behind me. 
(Grace note: # 2 more active)

Getting rid of him quietly made sense.
Getting rid of my poor Nick quietly made sense. 

My dressmaker had been adding a good two inches of fabric to my tops since I was sixteen.
My dressmaker had been adding a good two inches of fabric to my bodices since I was sixteen.
(Grace note: more correct Regency language)  
With the uncertain aid of the rocker's arm, . . .
With the uncertain aid of the rocking chair's arm, . . . 

Now that I'd bloodied my brother-in-law, delivered a baby, and ended up in the country seat of the heir to a marquisate, albeit in the attics . . .

Now that I'd bloodied my brother-in-law, delivered a baby, and ended up in the country seat of a marquess, albeit in the attics . . .

Aunt Trevor had paid me a visit shortly before the dinner bell the previous day.
Shortly before the dinner bell the previous day, Aunt Trevor had paid me a visit.

I could, of course, think of highly legitimate reasons why he was not. 
An absurdity easily destroyed by reason.

Not even feeding would satisfy him.
Not even a feed would satisfy him.  (Grace note: more Brit-sounding)  

 . . . worse were the words chasing through their minds.
. . . worse were the words chasing through the congregation's minds. 

. . . where I plopped into the upholstered chair near the window and forced my whirling thoughts . . .
. . . where I plopped into my favorite chair near the window and forced my whirling thoughts . . .
"Hermione, balked of her quarry, is capable of wrecking havoc wherever she can."
"Hermione, balked of her quarry, seems bent on wrecking havoc wherever she can."

The "but" that was coming screamed at me.
The "but" that was undoubtedly coming screamed at me.

Good advice, but not easy to follow, except those times when I held Nick in my arms . . .
Advice not easy to follow, except for those times when I held Nick in my arms . . .

The dawning horror on his face as I described Nick and the wagon sailing off the ha-ha was almost worth all the fear and doubt that had gone before.

 Horror dawned on his face as I described Nick and the wagon sailing off the ha-ha.

Lady Winterbourne treated me with some ambiguity.
Lady Winterbourne continued to treat me with some ambiguity. 

. . . my right shoulder, which reminded me daily of the knocks it had taken on coach and stairs.
. . . my right shoulder, which reminded me daily of the knocks it had taken in the coach accident and on the stairs.  (Grace note: original too "shorthand")

. . . and were almost to the copse nearest the house when I heard a commotion behind me.

. . . and were almost to the cluster of trees nearest the house when I heard a commotion behind me.

(Grace note: changed to avoid repetition of "copse" & to give an explanation for those not well acquainted with Brit-speak.)

~ * ~

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, October 8, 2016

Matthew, Agnes, and No-Name

Matthew's Wrath - Downtown Charlotte, South Carolina

The Orlando area lucked out. The coast did not fare as well. Since no one was allowed back on the barrier islands until today, Saturday, photos are just beginning to come in of washed-out roads and smashed beachfront homes. Nor is there any power. And coastal areas to the north - Daytona, St. Augustine, Jacksonville - were hit even harder as Matthew arrived at high tide.

Below are two videos I found on Facebook.

Here's a Weather Channel video taken at Paradise Island in the Bahamas, demonstrating what we were expecting here in our area, except Matthew calmed a bit before grinding up the Florida Coast
To view a weatherman attempting to stand and deliver during hurricane-force winds, click here.

For video from Jacksonville Beach, click here.

~ * ~ 

I learned what a hurricane was when I was only five years old. An indelible memory. We were living in Mansfield, Massachusetts at the time. I also experienced some brutes while living in Connecticut. We lived on Long Island Sound, and one hurricane (Agnes, my son tells me) came in with a tornado at 6:30 a.m., twisting a rose hedge in circles, dropping a tree onto our porch, and ripping the electrical panel off the far side of the house. I recall that it seemed the noise of the wind would never stop. I can't remember how long we were without power, but I know we lost all the frozen food that had just been stocked in our cellar freezer - we hauled out trash bag after trash bag. I also recall our very staid neighbor, a Yale professor, on about the fourth day after the storm (still no power), standing on his rear deck and screaming his frustration out over the salt marsh below.

So - compared to the Connecticut storm and the one when I was five, which killed 700 along the southern New England coast and washed away every house built on the barrier islands, Matthew turned out to be a pussy cat. But that was only lower & mid Central Florida. After days of moving toward the west, Matthew took a last-minute jog east and spared the area where I live from nothing more than tropical storm winds and 10" of rain. Many still lost power - 40,000 here in Seminole County alone - but I lucked out. I was not among them. My daughter and her family were not so lucky. They had to dig out a generator not used since 2007. 

Along the coast north of here, St. Augustine in particular, the storm hit much harder, as it came in at high tide. There was quite a bit of damage, although nothing compared to the devastation in Haiti.  

Seminole County was under curfew from Thursday night to Friday at 5:00 pm. The result was an amazing silence. My house backs up to a busy road and to realize not a single car or truck was going by . . . Wow! The curfew was lifted early, at 2:00 p.m. Friday, but I didn't venture out until today (Saturday). No fun driving without working stoplights or having to deal with debris in the road.

Prior to Matthew's arrival, we were barraged with constant warnings from the governor on down. Mandatory evacuation orders for the barrier islands. Warnings from the various Sheriffs that if you don't evacuate, we're not coming to get you! (Besides, they closed all the bridges at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.) 

The best one-liner, however, came from the head of Orange County Emergency Management. At the end of his warning, he said: "If you live in a mobile home and you have not gone to a shelter, please call 311 and give them the name of your next of kin!"

But if you're one of those who thinks the warnings were too loud for too long, here's the story of what happened when I was five. (I remember it like yesterday - much too dramatic to forget.)

GRACE'S REMINISCENCE - Or what happens when there is no storm warning.

 Re: the hurricane that hit New England when I was five. 

It was my father's birthday. Must have been a Saturday as he was a high school principal and he had the whole day off. To celebrate, we were driving into Providence, Rhode Island, to go shopping, have lunch, and see a movie. A big treat for all of us. 

My father had been brought up on a a farm in Nebraska and was always very conscious of the weather. If there had been any indication of a storm, we would not have left home that day. But we had barely arrived in Providence when my father started sniffing the air and saying, "If this was Nebraska, I'd think there was a tornado coming." We went shopping - I think we had lunch. And then my father suddenly declared we were going home. I remember bursting into tears because I really wanted to go to the promised movie. No. We're going home. (From what happened next, though I don't remember it, I think the wind must have started to pick up.)

As we retrieved our car from a parking lot and started to drive out of town, green balls of fire were jumping out of the electrical wires in Providence's downtown. I was ordered to lie flat on the floor in the rear of the car. So I saw nothing after that until my parents' comments had me peeking out the window. We were out in the country, and a rather roly-polly police officer was standing with his hand against a great tree and motioning all cars to drive out into a field to avoid it. The whole sight was so pathetic (and no, that's not a word I knew at the time), because there was no way in this world he could hold up that tree if it decided to topple.

The next time I looked, we'd made it home, and I was devastated to see the giant tree in a lot across the street was down. We were all so ignorant about hurricanes that one of the local shop-owners ventured out during the quiet of the eye and was killed when the storm roared back from the other direction.

As for what happened back in Providence . . . we found out that 20 minutes after we left town, storm surge (called a "tidal wave" at that time) struck the city - which is quite a ways upriver - and there was 12 feet of water where our car had been.

As mentioned above, because there was absolutely no warning of any kind, 700 people died that day. The barrier islands along the Rhode Island shore were wiped clean. Many years later I heard the following true story about one incident in that area:

My mother's best friend and her husband bought a cottage on the Rhode Island shore (Mesquamicut, I think). And were told its history. It seems their cottage replaced a house that had been there on the day of the infamous hurricane. That house had been swept up by the storm surge and deposited almost a mile inland. The owners bought the land and left the house where it dropped. The house our friends bought (built on the original site) was not on the barrier island but on land directly behind it. (The houses on the barrier island were nothing more than kindling.) The way the story went is that the electrical wires did NOT break. Therefore, the original cottage must have gone OVER the wires, not under them. In any event, the story of the two houses is absolutely true. I've seen the one, stayed in the other. The tale of just how high the storm surge was . . . well, I've often wondered about that. I suspect the wires may have surged up as well, allowing the house to scoot under. 

The moral of this tale: Never complain about, or scoff at, all the effort the weather forecasters put into informing us about storms. Without the work they do, our hurricane death tolls could be more like that No-name storm in New England when I was five.
~ * ~

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.