Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Update on Series

My neighbor's landlord still hasn't fixed the fence, but my flowers have made a comeback since Irma.
Actually, not fixing the fence is probably good, for if the landlord decides to replace the fence, it's bye-bye to the Black-eyed Susans and Passion Flower I've been growing for the past 2½ years. Sigh.

Table decoration

Fortunately, Squeak allowed the table to be set for Christmas dinner. No tromping on the plates or kicking over the wine glasses. Though the centerpiece has become fair game since we cleared the table.

My modest tree - downsized when I moved to Longwood - but it's full of memories, from an ornament I made at age 10 to those made by my children when little. Items bought all over the U.S., including the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, plus islands in the Caribbean, Harrods in London, and Tralee, Ireland. Also, ornaments acquired from Amway to the Orlando Art Museum's Festival of Trees. There's everything from hand-blown glass to hand-crocheted snowflakes. Butterflies from Key West, birds from ? And garlands from Target. Altogether a fun tree, and this year my granddaughter Hailey took over from her mother as the person designated to help Gramma "put up the tree" and "get the lights plugged in all the right sockets." First time we ever got it right on the first try! (Thanks to a 14-yr-old's sharp eyes.)

And yes, those are actual videotapes on the shelf in the background. The ones I wouldn't give up when I moved. And they still work.

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 I literally plunged into writing Royal Rebellion, Book 4 of my Blue Moon Rising series, about three weeks before Christmas—when I was in final formatting for The Blackthorne Curse. I had not intended to start it until January, but it simply insisted on coming into this world early. The result was "Interim," the introduction that tied Book 4 to the previous three books in the series. The Interim that I published to this blog as the short story, "The Witch and the Wolf."

And in the eleven chapters of Royal Rebellion that I've written since then, I discovered a confirmation of what was previously posted here about different kinds of series. If you write a romance series—say, featuring a group of friends, even loosely associated friends—each tale is new with characters from previous books putting in brief appearances here and there, oftentimes helping with a crisis at the end. The books of Mary Balogh are good examples of this kind of series. Also, Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick has written a whole slew of loosely connected stories of the paranormal, with characters ranging from Victorian times to their descendants on another planet far in the future.

And then there is the type of series—often mysteries—where a small core of characters play continuing central roles, but the story is new each time. The author has the advantage of having established characters to play with, but the challenge of coming up with new villains and varying plots each time.  The books of Jack Higgins and Linda Castillo are good examples of this.

Thirdly, there are authors like George R. R. Martin who has one long story arc, with a thousand characters and nearly as many offshoots of the main plot, with the action taking place over a period of years. This kind of series might be called "Epic"  or "Saga." Anne McCaffrey's classic Dragonrider series is also an example of this kind of series. (Although not a book series, the many Star Wars movies also fit this category.)

And, in my own modest way, that's what my Blue Moon Rising series is—an epic saga, featuring a huge cast of characters with a wide variety of Points of View, and action stretching over more than a decade. What I discovered when I approached the fourth and final book is this:

I had set up so many characters and situations in the first three books—some more complex than I'd realized at the time—that Book 4 is practically writing itself. The wry humor of some of the romantic situations practically leaps off the page. Plus the complexity of "What's the difference between a defector and a traitor?" (Depends on which side you're on.)  Who is friend, who is foe? Are we sure, sure, sure? As I begin Chapter 12, I'm certainly having a lot of fun with it. But how to avoid a high body count, as basically the planet hosting the rebel headquarters is strongly pacifist? Haven't figured that one out yet. (I am an "out of the mist" author, after all.)

What it comes down to is: Series are fun to write. You can do far more character development over a whole slew of books, while indulging in a greater variety of plots and sub-plots than one book allows. There's also that aspect we've mentioned before—readers like series, snapping up each new book to find out what is happening in the lives of their favorite characters. And that's money in the bank.

Recommendation:  If you haven't tried writing a series, give it serious consideration. If you already write series, keep those stories coming. I am an avid reader and just as addicted to that "next book" as everyone else.

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Hurricane Update

 Since Hurricane Maria, 215,000 Puerto Ricans have come to Florida. Only 45% of the power has been restored to the island. Here in the Orlando area, affordable housing has become a major problem, and the schools are struggling to cope with an influx of children who speak little English. This week was the last opportunity for Floridians with hurricane damage to file claims with FEMA. The 11-mile scenic drive around Lake Apopka just reopened after being heavily damaged during Irma. And, as seen above, not all fences have been repaired, although the debris piles are finally gone. Let's hope this year's storms are not a precursor of 2018!

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 
To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to my website above. See Menu on the right.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Greetings

A combination of music and photos to brighten the holiday season. 

Here is Susie singing "Ave Maria" against a backdrop of photos she took herself. (This video is two or three years old but well worth watching even if you've seen it before.

For Susie Kone Reale singing Schubert's "Ave Maria," click here.

For over a decade now our family has attended the Orlando Museum of Art's Festival of Trees, their major fund-raising event of the year (in early November). And for the past three or four years the Citrus Singers have performed as part of the entertainment. So . . . I've saved the photos for a "Christmas Special."

Susie & Singers on stage at the Art Museum

Oh, the wonderful gingerbread houses . . .



 And, of course, the many, many trees - these are just a few of my favorites.

A personal favorite

for a SPARKLING 2018!
 ~ * ~

Saturday, December 16:
What's that old expression? WE WUZ ROBBED! When it was time for the Citrus Singers to sing the National Anthem at the Cure Bowl today (on the CBS Sports Channel), the network cut to commercial! Would you believe? Everyone there said the girls did their usual great job, but really! That was not nice. We do, however, have a good picture of how they looked during rehearsal, courtesy of one of the parents:


Last but not least—please consider a little reading over the holiday - my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Moment, my Regency Gothic, The Blackthorne Curse, or my Regency Historical/Suspense, The Lady Takes a Risk. (Or one of my 30+ other books.)

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Point of View

Soccer 2010 - that's Hailey in the back with the big smile.
Soccer 2017 - Riley & Cassidy in action
When I went to post a photo from the last game of the 2017 soccer season, I found the 2010 photo and I realized I began taking Hailey to soccer skills class in East Orlando in the fall of 2007. So . . . a whole decade of soccer with the three grand girls. (And a lot of learning for me too, as I knew nothing about soccer until moving to Orlando.)

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I've been posting my thoughts on Writing and Editing to this blog since January 2011. In spite of a semi-annual Index, there are now so many posts that even I find it difficult to locate what I need (as happened when I was researching Point of View this week). I would very much like to hear your thoughts on my organizing all these posts into book form - perhaps one on Writing and one on Editing - and making them available (for a modest price) on Amazon and Smashwords. There are, however, so many how-to books that the thought may be ridiculous. So, PLEASE, take a moment to let me know what you think. I like to believe I provide a unique perspective - more personal and less academic than most - but who knows??

REPEAT! I really would appreciate your taking the time to comment on this question. (To express your thoughts on this subject, please scroll down to "Comments" at the very end.)

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A question about Point of View popped up on one of my Author email loops recently, and when I went back to see what I had written on POV before, I decided the subject could use a bit of updating.

What is Point of View?

Point of View refers to the thoughts, actions, reactions, and speech of the person narrating a scene. Are we seeing the scene through the eyes of the heroine? Are we seeing the scene through the eyes of the hero? Are we getting an insight to the villain's inner workings? Or, as sometimes happens, through the sharp eyes of a best friend, close relative, etc. Or, as done so often in classic novels of the past, is the Author acting as Narrator, giving us his/her Point of View? 

For a link to what I consider the finest modern bit of Author Point of View—a previously posted excerpt from Nora Roberts's Carnal Innocence— click here.

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Way, way back in Ages Dark (in the 1980s when the Romance market was pretty much only Harlequin/Silhouette), the rules at H/S stated there could be only one Point of View per scene. (Actually, as I think back to my early days writing Romance in the mid-90s, I believe it was only one Point of View per chapter.) Because H/S was there first, catering to readers who liked  their romance "easy to read," their rules flowed out, coloring what was expected by Romance editors, even in publishing houses catering to a majority of readers who preferred their "reads" more challenging. (And who presumably had read the classics with Author POV and shifts of POV within chapters, and even within scenes, and not found themselves hopelessly confused.)

Which brings up another rule of the time (probably also from H/S, although I can't say for sure). NO Author Point of View. Each scene had to be written from inside the head of the Hero, Heroine, or possibly - at a stretch - the Villain. And that was it. No exceptions. 

As a person who judged contests for a variety of RWA chapters, I wish I had a dollar for all the times I pointed out a violation of this absolute rule. Sigh. And somewhere - buried among all my Mosaic Moments blog posts - I have a post that reads in huge capital letters: DO NOT HEAD HOP! (Well, truthfully, head-hopping can be confusing, so if you're switching POVs in a scene, you have to be careful, but more on that later.)

What is head-hopping?

Head-hopping, to some, means any violation of the old H/S rule. But nowadays it's more likely to refer to changing the POV too many times within a scene. I.e., two paragraphs from the Hero's POV, one from the Heroine, back to Hero for his opinion of some dialogue, back to the Heroine's reaction to what he said . . . and oops! You begin to understand why H/S made that old rule for their authors.

So where's the porridge that's "just right"?

This depends entirely on the skill of the author. If you can handle multiple POVs from the git-go, then go for it. I still consider my first two books, The Sometime Bride and Tarleton's Wife my best work, partially because I wrote them before I ever heard about any "Rules of Romance." [I changed POVs. I had multiple POVs, not just the Hero and Heroine. I had the Hero and Heroine separated for great lengths of time. I included the serious topic of the Peninsular War and touched on Women's Rights, topics that were avoided at the time. The Sometime Bride ran to 140,000 words, etc., etc.]

But if you're tentative about your beginner's skill, there's nothing wrong with a strict one-scene-for-the-heroine, one-scene-for-the-hero style—as long as you keep the story moving forward, not standing at a dead halt while the same subject matter is rehashed from a different POV!. But you should also be aware that there's nothing wrong with switching POVs in a scene, as long as you make it clear in the very first line of the first paragraph of the switch which character is now doing the thinking. 

Here's a story that may clarify the dangers of "one POV per chapter":

 Back when I was just beginning to write Romance, I tried to read a wide variety of Romance novels. One so horrified me I bought it up at a POV workshop at my very first RWA conference. The author had written an entire chapter in the viewpoint of the Heroine. And then, in Chapter 2, proceeded to show the entire same scene from the viewpoint of the Hero! The story did not move forward. Nothing was new. As I recall, I did not go on to Chapter 3. And yes, the workshop presenter - RWA '95 or '96, as I recall - agreed that was a bit extreme, even for those times. So I felt a bit better. 

But when I got my first New York contract (Penguin Putnam's Signet), I knuckled under and followed the rules from then on (fortunately, switching POV mid-scene was allowed). The rules became so ingrained that I could ignore them only when writing Gothics, which have only one POV and more recently . . . when I sat down to write The Lady Takes a Risk, I said to myself, "I'm going to wipe out all the POV rules I've learned and make an effort to write the way I did in The Sometime Bride and Tarleton's Wife (albeit with the humor of my Trad Regencies). And I was so pleased by the result, I intend to continue that approach with any other third-person book I write.

Recommended Approach to Point of View:

Stick to the number of POVs you're comfortable with. Just be aware that readers need to know who's thinking what. If you can make it easy for them to be aware of a switch of POV, then having two POVs in a scene should not be a problem. I don't even frown at getting off a one-liner in another character's point of view if it adds to the story and there's no doubt about who is thinking that particular thought. (You can best get away with one-liners in the final sentence of a scene or chapter.)

In general, if you're going to switch in the middle of a scene, stay in the new POV for the rest of the scene. Yes, you can switch back if you feel it's absolutely necessary, but you have to make it very clear you've made the switch - right there in the first sentence of the new POV. 

And yes, Author POV can sneak in there occasionally. I particularly use it when covering a passage of time; sometimes, when introducing a new character. Keep in mind, however, that Author Point of View distances readers from the main characters who have the primary POVs. It's their story, and as much as possible, they should be the ones telling it. (Yes, authors, I know it's your story, but readers want to get inside the main characters' heads, see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. And since "thinking" and "feeling" can only be revealed by that character, let them have their moments of revelation. DO NOT stand back and narrate your story like a storyteller of old. Do not "tell" us what they're thinking. Let them tell us. Go with the Heroine's Point of View and the Hero's Point of View. Let us shiver with the Villain's Point of View. And if you feel a secondary character's POV will add to the story, by all means, use it. (Just don't let that secondary character detract from the primary focus on the Hero and Heroine.)

So I guess you could say I'm somewhere in the middle of the POV controversy. Romance, by the very nature of its subject, is more personal. It needs direct Point of View from the Hero and Heroine so we know what they're thinking. On that, Harlequin/Silhouette were totally correct. Even in all its sub-genres of Mystery, Suspense, Paranormal, SciFi, Young Adult, etc., Romance needs to keep the personal touch. (As opposed to some major opuses which seem to be written entirely in Author POV, with only occasional mention of how the main characters feel about what is going on.)

Now that I've thoroughly confused you . . .

Romance authors - it boils down to not being afraid to switch POVs within a scene. (Unless you have an editor who is still old-school enough to expressly forbid it.) Strict POV rules are from long ago and far, far away. Write what you feel, although you must be careful to make any switch immediately apparent. And give proper attribution to a one-liner in a new POV. It's your book. You have a right to say what you want to say without worrying about so-called "rules" that are decades out of date.

It was a 20-year battle to get entrenched authors and editors to replace the 19th c. font, Courier, and the 250-lines-per-page manuscript format for the "book look" of Times New Roman proportional type. And the "rules" on Point of View have been just as foolishly perpetuated. Time to join the modern world, friends. Point of View can be flexible. Not a rigid format with no exceptions.
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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Blackthorne Curse


 Those who compile statistics have come up with a figure for the storm damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey (Texas), Irma (Florida), and Maria (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands). An eye-raising $360 BILLION. And in Florida . . . as of this week, 7200 children from Puerto Rico have enrolled in schools here, 800 more in college. How many Puerto Ricans total now in Florida? I haven't seen the stats on that, but add parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, couples without children, etc., to 8000 and . . .? Note: we're told water has been restored to most of PR, but the electricity situation remains a disgrace. Besides the general destruction, no wonder so many have relocated!

My sixth Regency Gothic, The Blackthorne Curse, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. (As always, Smashwords allows a 20% free read.) Links below.

A little inside information: The plot of The Blackthorne Curse is based on a story told to me some years ago by a very upper class British lady about a curse in her own family. (Without the sad tale she told me, I don't think I ever would have thought of anything so bizarre, or the hope of escaping by moving to another country.) You'll find a provocative question on Blair's Facebook Author Page (link below).

Here's the blurb for The Blackthorne Curse

After the death of her father, young Serafina Blackthorne of New Haven, Connecticut, becomes a reverse immigrant, traveling from the New World to the Old. To her grandfather, who lives on Dartmoor, a place where eerie legends abound and where she discovers, to her horror, she is marked for death by the Blackthorne Curse. The more Serafina attempts to outmaneuver the Curse, the more she seems to jump from the frying pan into the fire. She finally has but one hope left. But does her childhood friend really want to save her, or is he destined to be her executioner?

Grace note:  This book is a Gothic novel set in the Regency period—a style of story where a young woman finds herself basically alone and battling threats to her life, some from humans, some from possibly supernatural sources. But in spite of all the angst, it is also a romance. I hope you will enjoy reading this tale in a style made famous by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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And since it is the "season to be jolly," I would like to call your attention to my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Moment. It's been around for a while, but if you haven't read it, it's a lovely little tale of two lonely people who find each other while hiding from the world.

A young lady, humiliated and hiding from the world, finds love under the mistletoe with a soldier wounded in both body and spirit.

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Links to Amazon and Smashwords are below. If you read The Blackthorne Curse, I would very much appreciate a review posted to Amazon, Goodreads, and/or Smashwords.

And don't forget the 20% free read offered by Smashwords.

For a link to The Blackthorne Curse at Amazon, click here.

For a link to The Blackthorne Curse at Smashwords, click here.

For a link to Mistletoe Moment at Amazon, click here.

For a link to Mistletoe Moment at Smashwords, click here.

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,