Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Cliff-hanger" series

Python Update:

In the latest move to cut down on the explosion of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades, the Florida Wildlife Commission has hired a pair of python hunters from the southern India Irula tribe. In three weeks the two men have captured fourteen pythons. There will also be a repeat of Great Florida Python Hunt, which is open to the public.

For a video of a python eating an alligator - a big one! - click here.

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"Cliff-hanger" Series

 I thought I'd tackle series in which individual books feel "unfinished" first, as Regency Reader commented about not liking this type of series. My feelings? It depends on how the "unfinished" feel is handled. In many of Nora Roberts's 3-book series, particularly the ones with paranormal elements, I feel a sense of frustration, because no matter how well written the book (and Nora is always good), the books are so focused on the solving the final goal (leaving the first two books in cliff-hanger mode) that I end up grinding my teeth. They are definitely not among my favorite reads.

Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series, even her Fallen Empire series, are birds of a different feather. Even though they have a long-term problem to solve, each book has a satisfying completion to the adventures of the moment. It's necessary, of course, in a long-running series with the same characters to provide an impediment to any romance between the two main characters. In the Emperor's Edge series Ms Buroker manages to go all the way to the final pages of the 9th book before she allows the hero and heroine to do more than talk about the possibility of a future together. Nine books? Let's just say that Buroker is a master of writing action, and lots of it, keeping her characters too busy for much else. In her Fallen Empire series, the problem is mechanical - her cyborg hero needs surgery before he can . . . well, use your imagination.

In her Temeraire series Naomi Novik carries her hero and his talking dragon through a series of startling adventures that span the world during an alternative history version of the Napoleonic wars. But every adventure is so complex, so intricately delineated, that I doubt readers mind that the hero remains an outcast at home, and sex happens more among the dragons than with the hero. Is there a long-term solution to his problems? Well, there's another 9-book series you should read. To emphasize my point: each book can be read as a "single title," and the author does not leave you hanging by undue emphasis on the problems that remain to be solved.

Speaking of dragons, Anne McCaffrey's Pern series is at 21 and counting. These books provide examples of both "finished" and "unfinished" endings. All the earlier books (written by McCaffrey herself) have satisfactory finished endings, even though the threat of "thread" permeates them all. More recent books, written by Ms McCaffrey's son and aimed at a younger age group, tend toward cliff-hanger endings. I find myself not so eager to read them. (And I am a long-time Pern fan.) This does, however, raise the question of whether or not a younger audience deals better with "unfinished" endings.

As long as we're talking about fantasy . . . what about the Harry Potter series? There's a lot of room for action in 700 pages times 8 books (!), and J. K. Rowling milks every page for all its worth. In general, I think it's safe to say that she gives each of Harry's adventures a satisfactory ending. She does not leave you in suspense except for the final resolution of the long battle against Valdemort. 

Meljean Brook in her 8-book Iron Seas series provides an excellent example of a series with a single driving theme that still manages to deliver a satisfactory ending for each adventure. (Well, perhaps not in the romance department. Naturally, she had to find an impediment to keep the hero and heroine apart until Book 8.) 

And then there's George R. Martin and Game of Thrones. Nothing is ever settled at the end of his books - the "game" and its cast of thousands goes on - yet somehow each book manages a satisfactory ending to that particular set of adventures. (And if you have only seen the series on television, I strongly recommend reading the books. Within the first chapter of Book 1, I found  answers to questions that had been plaguing me throughout all the years of the TV series!)

Summary: Most series with continuing main characters emphasize plot and action over romance for the obvious reason that a Happily Ever After ending precludes further books! Within this type of series, there are two styles of writing: 1) books that have endings without a resolution to the hero's or heroine's problems; and 2) books that provide a satisfactory resolution to the hero's and heroine's adventures in that particular book, leaving the overall problem hanging but not spoiling the resolution of the individual book.

My personal opinion is that I strongly prefer series in which each book comes to a satisfactory conclusion, not leaving me hanging and often annoyed. 

Next week: Authors whose series read more like single (stand alone) titles.

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Reminder: Tarleton's Wife is on Pre-order at 99¢. Pub date:  February 6, 2017 
For link to the Pre-order page, click here.

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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, January 21, 2017

Why write a series?


So many awful things have happened in the Orlando area this past year, I'm delighted to be able to offer a "fun" video posted to YouTube this past week. The incident happened in the neighboring county of Lakeland. Please note that everyone is standing there, taking pictures, instead of running! The alligator is estimated at a whopping 12-14 feet. For a look at this giant crossing a trail, click here.


My Historical Romance, Tarleton's Wife, first published in 1999—and my all-tiime best-seller—is now available for Pre-order on Amazon at 99¢. This brand new cover is the work of Delle Jacobs and is the first to show that TW has TWO heroes! For more details on Tarleton's Wife, click here.
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This past week someone asked me if I had done a blog about writing a series. And I replied, I didn't think so as I hadn't written many. But it was certainly a good idea for my blog, as I've read a lot of them. So what is it about series?

I'm the idiot who has always written exactly what she wanted to write (except when I was trying to please New York (Signet & Kensington), and I guess I didn't operate in series mode. But if I'd been putting my career first and foremost, I certainly would have paid more attention to series. Above all else, series are money-makers. Readers come back again and again and again, snapping up every volume as soon as they hear it's ready. I had only to look through my Kindle (and on my bookshelves for older series) to see that most of my reading is of series written by favorite authors. 

I found Regency Romance, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller, SyFy, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Steampunk, all by authors writing series that ranged up to more than twenty volumes each. (More on individual authors laters.)

Series come in two types:

1.  Stories, usually mystery or suspense, with the same hero/heroine & many of the same secondary characters. In each book they confront a new problem. And to keep things fresh, new characters are added as the series goes along.

2.  Book 1 of the series, usually one that emphasizes romance, concentrates on a single couple but introduces several well-drawn secondary characters. Each succeeding book in the series tells the story of the problems and romance of one of these characters. It is common for them to encounter couples from previous books as their story progresses. Yet another "draw" for faithful readers of the series.

A series of either type requires outstanding characterizations, central figures that draw you in, make you care about them. But there can be no doubt that if you keep the same main characters, book after book, you may have the ease of knowing your characters, but you also have to find ways to add new twists and fresh faces to keep interest high. The author must continually find ways to keep readers panting after what's going to happen next to people who are already familiar. Are they ever going to find happiness for themselves? Are they going to live through the series, or be killed off, as has happened in the past, to the great chagrin of thousands of devoted fans. And heaven forbid the main characters should do anything "out of character," anything contrary to behavior readers have come to know and love! 

Examples of authors who write series with the same main character in each book are: Janet Evanovich, [J. K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith],Jack Higgins, James Lee Burke, Rhys Bowen, Gail Carriger, Lindsay Buroker, George R. Martin, Linda Castillo, Naomi Novik, Tasha Alexander, Ashley Gardner, Julie Huzy, Catherine Lloyd, Randy Wayne White, Kim Harrison.

I'm inclined to think series where the main characters are spin-offs from Book 1 are easier to write. You have a head start on their characters, merely having to flesh out their descriptions, plus the opportunity to create new secondary characters and an entirely different plot from the first book, etc., etc. I have written only three series, and they are all of this second kind. 

Examples of authors who write series with heros and heroines who are spin-offs from Book 1 are: Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, [Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle], Ruby Lionsdrake (Lindsay Buroker), Anne McCaffrey.

Examples of authors who have done both:  Meljean Brook, Shelley Adina, & Kady Cross.

Special note: Nora Roberts, the Queen of Romance, writes series only when she's emphasizing romance instead of plot. Her more serious works are stand-alone novels (often called single-title).

The authors listed above are chosen from my personal reading list. There are, of course, many, many more. As previously stated, Series pay! Writing a series is definitely the way to enhance your sales.

So while I'm at it, here are my modest contributions to series writing:

Blue Moon Rising series. A planned 4-book series which I call SyFy with Romance or Futuristic Paranormal. (Although my books are not chockful of hot sex as are some Futuristics! I always emphasize character and plot instead.) Rebel Princess and Sorcerer's Bride are currently available on Amazon. The Bastard Prince will follow in mid-2017. Royal Rebellion is still a gleam in the eye. Blue Moon Rising follows the adventures of four royal children as they attempt to overthrow the traditional evil empire.

The Aphrodite Academy series. Four books which I describe as Regency Darkside. These are stories of girls whose lives were not easy, who had to suffer for their Happily Ever After. Belle, Cecilia, Holly, Juliana. Warning: these books are a frank depiction of the underbelly of Regency times.

The Regency Warrior series. This was an unintended series, but when a duchess from The Sometime Bride made an appearance in Tarleton's Wife, and Terence O'Rourke, who was destined for the hero in another book, also popped up in Tarleton's Wife, and Jack Harding simply refused to go away, I ended up - over a span of twenty years - adding O'Rourke's Heiress and Rogue's Destiny (Jack gets the girl at last!), and labeling the four books, The Regency Warrior series

Next week's Mosaic Moments will likely be an expansion on some of the series I have known and loved. And an attempt to explain why.

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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, January 14, 2017

The Varied Faces of Indie Pub

Squeak sacked out on her favorite furry throw. Sheer bliss.
Cassidy diverging from kneading to create a doughy heart.

Odd Political Note:

Being totally stunned by last fall's election, I did not notice how shell-shocked everyone looked until I was in the grocery store shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and saw the first smiles on people's faces since that fateful day in early November. Nobody, but nobody, expected the results of that election. And now . . . cracks are beginning to appear everywhere as reality approaches with frightening inevitablity.

During the overly long campaign for President (and since), the Op-Ed pages of the Orlando Sentinel featured columnists of two opposing opinions. Today (1/14/17) my eyes popped when I read the headline of the pro-Trump columnist: "Trump wears out welcome, and hasn't even taken office". Huh? Needless to say, I read the entire article. Although Mr. Krauthammer gets in a final punch at Barack Obama, he spent ninety percent of the column delineating all the things Trump has done wrong since winning the election. Wow! My own opinion is that we should all pray for a conversion like the one on the road to Tarsus that changed Saul to Paul.
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I have been enjoying indie publishing since 2011, but only over the past year have I had books that were exclusive to Amazon's Kindle Scout or to Kindle Direct Publishing. After struggling to comprehend the differences, and after overhearing some misinformation being passed along one day, I felt this might be a good time to share some of what I've learned over the last six years.


Yes, and yes, and yes! There is no way I can adequately express what it has meant to me since Signet shut down its traditional Regency line and put their authors "out to pasture," because hot sex was becoming all the rage in romance long before the unsuspecting public ever heard of Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, I've enjoyed the extra income, faithfully relayed to me monthly by Amazon and quarterly by Smashwords, but the most important factor has been the outlet for my creativity, the chance to still be able to share the products of my imagination with the world.

I was helped into the world of indie publishing by Delle Jacobs, and have helped many others in turn. I cannot recommend too highly this opportunity to publish your book the way you want it, without a New York publisher's marketing department hovering anxiously, saying, "Oh no, you can't do that!" For example, the title of my first book had to be changed from Love at Your Own Risk to the bland He Said, She Said, because "risk" was not an acceptable word! The same for my first Regency for Signet - The Courtesan's Letters (wouldn't play well in the Mid-west) became the vague and inaccurate, The Indifferent Earl. Both are now online under their original titles.

So absolutely yes. Enjoy the satisfaction of writing what you want to write and getting a far larger royalty than New York will pay.

First and foremost, for all I appreciate Amazon and what it's done for my books, Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide remains the best introduction to indie publishing, bar none. Coker is the only techie I know who can write directions for computer that ordinary mortals can understand. Do not attempt to upload an indie book without reading the pertinent parts of his instructions. (Way, way back when I first began uploading my books to Smashwords and Amazon, I recall being amazed when Mark Coker himself answered several of my "Contact Us" questions.) 

What does Smashwords do? Exactly as the name implies. It takes your Word Doc and transforms it into all the different formats used by the various e-readers out there. Why on earth struggle to do it yourself when Smashwords will do it for you for a very modest cut of the royalty? (And no, I don't get any kickbacks for my opinion.) Smashwords and I have gone round & round on a thing or two, but in general for six long years they've done well for me. (That I upload separately to Amazon is the result of ignorance on my part when I first got started, but Amazon's record-keeping is so precise and up-to-date, I have kept the practice of uploading my books twice - once to Amazon, once to Smashwords.)  

Mark Coker's Style Guide is FREE. For a link to the Smashwords Style Guide, click here.

For more details on publishing with Smashwords, click here.


Amazon's KDP - Kindle Direct Publishing 

KDP is what I have used for all my books until the Blue Moon Rising series. As stated above, I upload to KDP, add the front page required for Smashwords and then upload there as well, which covers all the other e-book formats, including Barnes and Noble's Nook. KDP pays a 35% royalty for books under $2.99, a 70% royalty for books $2.99 & up. Their record-keeping is spectacular - you can view sales on close to an hourly basis. Payment is once a month (90 days in arrears) by direct deposit to the bank account of your choice. Their reach is world-wide - I receive royalties from Europe to Australia. For details on KDP, click here.

Amazon's Kindle Select

This is relatively new to me, but I'll try to get it correct. If you publish with Select, you are agreeing to have your book distributed exclusively by Amazon. There are privileges that go with this. Your book will be offered on Kindle's "Unlimited" program (a monthly reader subscription service). Evidently, in addition to your royalty this makes you eligible for a bonus from Amazon's Global fund (which is heavily weighted toward books that sell a lot of copies). You can also purchase Amazon advertising to enhance your other promotional efforts. For a more detailed explanation of Kindle Select, click here.
Amazon's Kindle Scout

Kindle Scout is a relatively new publishing program. You submit your book, it goes through a vetting process, and if it passes, you are asked to get readers to "nominate" your book (from a 5000-word sample). My own experience would seem to indicate that there is a certain amount of editorial selection; i.e., a book that gets the most votes might not be selected over one of better quality. If selected, the author receives that rare thing in e-publishing, an advance on royalties ($1500). You will be placed on a KS Facebook loop, where you can ask questions to your heart's content. Your book will receive a thorough but once-over editing, and a fairly decent amount of marketing after it goes live. This is a publishing option worth considering. For more details, click here.

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Never submit your book to one of those fly-by-night so-called "publishers" who e-mail you about their willingness to publish your book. Stick to the tried and true, the proven, known entities, like Amazon and Smashwords. 


My only costs for publishing my books are my cover and an ISBN number (I buy them 10 at a time from (Yes, there are freebies available, but I don't want to feel beholden to any one company.) If you are not comfortable with self-editing and formatting, or too impatient, then you may have to shell out money for those services as well. You must edit! So if you're not up to doing it yourself, add that service to your budget.


I have no experience with print books beyond my books published long ago by Signet and Kensington, plus those published by several e-publishers over the years, so I don't feel qualified to comment. I do know, however, that many use Amazon's CreateSpace. (Be careful you are not fooled by companies with a similar name.) The one with a good reputation is a branch of Amazon.] I personally have accepted the digital age and don't feel inclined to go to all the formatting work for print books that may sell only a few copies. I feel print books in a digital age are anachronistic. (Get over feeling the need!) But that's just me. Amazon's CreateSpace has a good reputation. The cost, I'm told, is minimal if you do your own formatting. But again, beware the many ill-qualified "let us print your book" scammers out there. Get recommendations from people you know before putting your baby into some unknown print publisher's hands.

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And there it is, a miniscule summary of a huge subject. I hope you find the info and links helpful.

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.