Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Varying Sentence Structure

Grace Note:  Due to multiple choir rehearsals and services for Holy Week, 
the next new Mosaic Moments will be posted on Saturday night, April 7, 2018.

Playing hookey? (Photo by Susie)

Sunset on Caspersen Beach. Photo by Riley.

(Clearly, her Mom is not the only one to inherit the gift of photography 
from Elliott H. Kone, founder of the Yale Audio-Visual Center.)

From The Orlando Sentinel, March 9, 2018


 I decided to use the two most recent chapters in Royal Rebellion as examples, because they are primarily action scenes with very little dialogue, meaning they need to be kept alive with plenty of varied sentence structure. The chapters will undergo many more edits before being ready for publication, but hopefully they will provide some good examples. (If not, it's major revision time!)

Example 1:
(Declarative sentences in blue.)

Kass stared at the icons on her comp screen—black for rebels, red for Regs. The black icons were growing larger, more menacing. Beyond the surprisingly thin black line—clearly, the Hercs had done their part in drawing the Reg fleet away from Titan—was Kraslenka. And Darroch. The goddess alone knew how this day would end. Kass said a silent prayer and waited for Tal’s signal to engage.


Although there are four declarative sentences (in blue)—meaning the subject of the sentence comes first, followed by the verb—the sentences are not all alike. One has a dash; one has double adjectives separated by a comma; one begins with "And"; and one as a double verb. (I'm using "double" in place of the term we learned in school, as I suspect "compound," makes most people's eyes begin to cross.) 

"And Darroch" is, of course, a fragment, used for emphasis. The other sentence begins with—if you'll pardon the jargon—a "prepositional phrase"; i.e., the sentence begins with words that follow a preposition. To clarify what a preposition is, here's a list of some of the most common ones: with, at, from, into, of, to, in, for, on, by, about, like, through, over, before, between, but, up, out, after, above.

Example 2:

The Psy “freeze” team came next—twenty of the best from the days of the Psyclid Occupation. Men and women who, with the aid of enlasĂ©, could immobilize both soldiers and weapons with nothing more than the power of the mind. While they were disembarking, K’kadi and M’lani climbed up to hatch in Archer’s roof. From there, M’lani would have a clear line of sight over the heads of the Herc troops to Reg line of defense. She would also, when the cloak was dropped, be highly vulnerable, but not as much as those on the ground.


Sentence 1:  Declarative sentence varied with the dash.
Sentence 2:  Fragment
Sentence 3:  Prepositional phrase
Sentence 4:  Short prepositional phrase
Sentence 5:  Declarative sentence varied with a inserted prepositional phrase

Example 3:

M’lani crouched on the top step of the ladder that led up to the hatch. Reconnaissance complete, targets spotted, this, at long last, was her moment. The one she dreaded. The one she exulted in. It was up to her to make the way easier for the enlasĂ© teams, and for the Herc ground troops.  


Sentence 1:  Declarative sentence varied by explanatory clause at end of sentence.
Sentence 2:  Opening non-prepositional phrase
Sentence 3:  Fragment
Sentence 4:  An "almost" fragment
Sentence 5:  Declarative sentence with prepositional phrases at the end*
    *comma added between the phrases because I was trying to emphasize the Herc involvement 
Example 4:

Gritting her teeth, shutting out years of pacifist conditioning, M’lani began with the towering T-bot on the left. Moving swiftly down the line, she took out all four giant war machines placed at precise intervals between the armored vehicles and stalwart Reg troops. One minute the towering bots were there; the next they were gone. Nothing but dust. 


Sentence 1:  Sentence beginning with a double gerund (a word ending in -ing)
Sentence 2:  Declarative sentence which ends with a prepositional phrase
Sentence 3:  Another sentence beginning with an "ing" word & ending with a prepositional phrase.
Sentence 4:  Short opening phrase, plus two declarative sentences separated by a semi-colon. (Comma after "minute" optional.)

Sentence 5Fragment

Example 5:

The men inside the armored vehicles, seemingly unaware of the loss, concentrated their fire on the advancing Herc troops. Once again targeting from left to right, M’lani disintegrated the vehicles that had appeared so menacing only moments earlier, though not before the final two managed to locate M’lani’s perch, firing their cannons only seconds before they too turned to dust. One shell was too high; the other plowed into the space where M’lani’s head had been but a second earlier—before she threw herself down the hatch, where her bodyguards caught her with ease. Being strafed by Tau-15s on Psyclid had been enough hone her reflexes for life. Never again would she be foolish enough to believe her special gift could keep her safe. 


Sentence 1:  Declarative sentence with inserted parenthetical statement
Sentence 2:  Sentence beginning with and adverb and an "ing" word and ending with a prepositional phrase
Sentence 3:  Two declarative sentences joined by semi-colon, plus additional prepositional phrases at the end
Sentence 4:  Sentence beginning with gerund (-ing word)
Sentence 5:  Inverted declarative sentence with split verb & beginning with an adverb. 

Until I began to choose paragraphs for this blog, I could not guarantee that I had used varying sentence structure, but it would appear that I did. I had a lot of source material to choose from. To make two chapters that were almost entirely narration interesting, I also used one-sentence paragraphs a time or two. Basically, it is essential to good writing that you mix up the way you say things.  Paragraph after paragraph of nothing but simple declarative sentences rapidly becomes dull as dishwater. So mix your sentence structure—make it attention-getting. Make it interesting. Don't be afraid to try different ways of saying the same thing. Some will work; some won't. Many a time I've left off the subject of a sentence, only to have to put it back in when I read over what I'd written. Nothing is set in stone. Be critical. Have your "short cuts" made your work move forward? Or will they make a reader frown, go back and have to read the sentence again?

In other words, be creative, but don't hesitate to fix something that doesn't work!

~ * ~

Kindle Scout is putting Rebel Princess, Book 1 of my Blue Moon Rising series, on sale for 99¢ from March 24 to March 31. The series is a SciFi Adventure with Romance, with more emphasis on plot, characters, and action than romance or tech talk.

For a link to Rebel Princess on Amazon, click here.

~ * ~

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 Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Blair's Contemporary Novels

Maybe they just didn't have enough N's & U's. Sigh

With Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart free this past week on Kindle, I decided to take advantage of all the copies downloaded and do one of my periodic promos of my contemporary novels. 

Of the following books, only Shadowed Paradise and Paradise Burning have crossover characters, but Death by Marriage and Orange Blossoms and Mayhem have the same general setting as the Paradise books, the supposedly fictional town of "Golden Beach." As does Florida Knight, although it ranges over other parts of rural Florida as well. The Art of Evil is set just 20 miles north of "Golden Beach" at the very real, and thinly disguised, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The setting for Love at Your Own Risk, however, is some 1200 miles from Florida in one of my favorite spots on earth: outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

All books below are available on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, except Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart, which is currently available only on Kindle. 

Two burnouts—a defense attorney and a homicide detective—discover that, no matter how hard they struggle, opposites do attract. [A Cape Cod story.]

A Florida Highway Patrol officer finds a bizarre new world, not to mention love, as he goes undercover inside a Medieval Reenactment group to investigate his brother's injury in a tournament. [A Florida Gulf Coast story, based on the activities of the Society for Creative Anachronisms.]

A Florida cracker and a New England widow meet with a resounding cultural clash against the backdrop of a serial killer stalking real estate agents in a resort community. [A Florida Gulf Coast story.]


When Amanda Armitage agrees to do research for the husband she hasn't seen in seven years, she discovers his book about international trafficking in women and children is being lived out in an old line shack right across the river. [A Florida Gulf Coast story.]

An FBI agent, recovering from severe injuries as well as the death of her lover, attempts to discover who is killing people at the Bellman Museum in Sarasota, Florida. [A Florida Gulf Coast story set in Sarasota]

A costume designer flees the big city, only to turn sleuth when she discovers bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community. [A Florida Gulf Coast story.]

Laine Halliday, troubleshooter for her family's wedding planning business, takes on far more than she bargained for when she encounters a mystery man on the Inca Trail in Peru and discovers a client back home is a Russian mob boss. [An international tale, primarily set on Florida's Gulf Coast.]

A Russian mystery man and an American FBI agent become strangely matched partners in a search for two antique nuclear bombs. [An international tale set in NYC, Connecticut, Wyoming, New Jersey, Florida, Russia, and Iran.]

Two strong, arrogant people from vastly different backgrounds are forced to work together to discover who is poisoning food crops on both sides of the Atlantic. [An international tale set in the U.S., Portugal, and Spain.]

~ * ~

Next week, as promised: more on sentence structure


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

New Facebook Author Page, posted 3/10/18.
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 Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by, Grace

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Writing Fragments

Thanks to a friend's share on Facebook
Study the above carefully. I find another "goodie" each time I do.

FREE on Amazon, March 11-15
See link to Facebook Author Page below.


I was startled recently when someone asked me about "fragments," as they've become so much a part of my writing style that it never occurred to me anyone still believed every sentence in fiction should be complete with subject and verb, just as we were taught in English class in school. But since this blog has, from the beginning, been dedicated to those just starting the process of writing fiction, I guess it's time I addressed "fragments" with more than a paragraph or two. So . . .

Some authors confine their use of fragments to dialogue. And that's fine. Some romance lines, such as the shorter, more simplistic books published by Harlequin/Silhouette, seem to require what I call "schoolgirl" English. Short, easy-to-read sentences with classic subject and verb, even keeping opening prepositional phrases to a minimum. More sophisticated books, however, are considerably more flexible. Here are some examples from the work of my alter ego, Blair Bancroft. Fragments marked in red.

From The Lady Takes a Risk:

   Or until she married. Ah-ha!  Surely excellent bait for catching a husband of her own choosing.
   If she gave up her dream of marrying for love.
   If she settled for a man venal enough to marry her for her money.

   Anyone was better than Cedric! And at least the choice would be hers.
   But who? Amelie frowned. She had already rejected a goodly portion of the most eligible gentlemen in the ton. Nor did any of them look more appealing upon second reflection. Someone handy, someone in the neighborhood? Dullards all. Besides, Cedric, there was naught but a widowed baron with five children, and a knight who had already gone through three wives.
   Except . . .
   Ah! Delicious.
Papa would have an apoplexy if she married a farmer. A hops farmer, at that. The duke would raise such a fuss the roof of Wentworth Priory would blow straight up to the heavens.
Or some beggar in the street. That’s what Papa had said. And she would not hesitate to remind him of those ill-chosen words.
   But live at Kirkwood Farm after twenty-three years as the pampered daughter of a duke?
   She could. Truly she could. Anything was better than being married to a man who cared more for the fit of his coat than his wife. A man who had to force himself on a woman with all the finesse of a blundering bear.
   Tomorrow she would do it. Early, before she lost her nerve.
But eons of convention loomed over her, every mother, grandmother, nurse, and governess through the ages looking down from the heavens and crying, “You cannot do that! It’s unthinkable. ’Ware!”
But she would. Tomorrow she would ride to Kirkwood Farm and ask its owner to marry her.
To hammer my point home, I considered rewriting the above in full sentences and decided it would be too painful. I just couldn't do it. Instead, I'll try to analyze why I used fragments. 
Mostly, I believe, because fragments are the natural way we think or talk. We do not converse with a neighbor over the backyard fence in perfectly formed sentences. Nor with the clerk at the grocery store. Or with our children. FICTION needs to be natural, in both narration and dialogue. The thoughts and speech of our characters need to match their personalities. Even when I'm writing about characters who live 200 years in the past, I try to make them sound and feel natural. This is even more important when writing contemporary or futuristic fiction. So let's find an example in my newest tale of Suspense and Romance, Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart (see cover & caption at top of page).

   For a fleeting moment guilt nibbled at her satisfaction. What had she done to deserve all this, except be born a Van Dyne?
   She’d worked hard. Damned hard! And suffered enough slings and arrows from Uncle Malcolm to arm both sides in a tribal war. If only her father were still CEO . . .
With a vehement snap of her finger Ashley flipped the light switch.
   One more day of Ashley’s Choice.
   One more day of sticking it to Van Dyne Industries.

The above segment illustrates another reason to use fragments. They emphasize; punctuate, if you will. Just as we use one-line paragraphs for emphasis, we use fragments to make words stand out. Using them both together, as in the last two lines, adds to the emphasis.

 Here's an example from my work-in-progress, the SciFi adventure, Royal Rebellion:

   “And you need to finish the quote, which goes on to say: ‘Great men are almost always bad men.’ Is that what you are, Admiral? And what about your son? Or mine? Will they end up like us? Like Darroch? Headstrong despots, determined to have their own way, no matter how many die?
   Vander Rigel straightened to his full height. “I have never been a despot, not even when I was Admiral of the Fleet.”
   Rogan clicked his tongue. “Altruistic, kind-hearted Vander Rigel, savior of supposedly innocent females, Hero of the Empire, murderer of thousands on the prime planets of five—or was it six?—star systems. Banker to the Rebellion. Father of the Empire’s worst enemy."
   “And proud of it.” Vander met Rogan’s knowing gaze, eye to eye. No more secrets. S’sorrokan, legendary leader of the rebellion, was a Reg. More precisely, Talryn Rigel, his elder son.

It is very common for authors to confine themselves to using fragments only in dialogue. It is, in fact, absolutely essential to use fragments to keep your dialogue sounding natural. Other authors, like myself, want our narration, particularly introspection (thoughts) to sound natural, so we use fragments there also. If you're an indie author, the choice is up to you. If you are aiming at the New York print market, it's necessary to study the style of the books published by the companies you're aiming at. Whatever your genre, however, make sure you are not confining yourself to endless declarative sentences (as most of us were taught in school). Except in the most simplistic books, a variety of sentence styles is absolutely necessary to keep modern readers' interest. Do not get caught in an endless round of: Subject first, then the verb (Dick ran.) Or Subject, verb, & what comes after. (Dick ran to the store). 

Pardon me for ending with that well-worn but oh-so-true quote:

Variety is the spice of life.*

*An excellent example of a declarative sentence. We just don't want to read books with one right after the other in endless plodding succession!

~ * ~

Next week: more on sentence structure


For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
New Facebook Author Page, posted 3/10/18.
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 Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Call for Mr. Rogers

My daughter had a problem this week - two birds flew into her house. This one chose the perfect spot to perch. (Flower photos are by daughter Susie—all, as I recall, taken on a spring trip we made back to Connecticut a couple of years ago. She kept stopping the car to take photos along the Branford/Pine Orchard shoreline, as we hadn't seen any spring flowers since we moved south in 1982.)

 We all learned that old rule in school:  "I before E except after C." But, as I keep saying in this blog, there are exceptions to every rule, and some very clever person drove that point home on this great mug shot.

~ * ~


For the benefit of my foreign readers, "Mr. Rogers" is a beloved figure in American television programs for children. Alas, "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" is no longer with us (it aired from 1968 to 2001). Nor is Fred Rogers, who died in 2003. But I am grateful that my own children benefited from knowing Mr. Rogers during their formative years. (My grandchildren—sigh—did not have that privilege. When we took a boat tour in Winter Park and the guide pointed out the house Mr. Rogers lived in while a student at Rollins College, my youngest grandchild said, "Who?" I'm deeply sorry none of them ever knew Mr. Rogers.)

Fred Rogers came from a wealthy family—hence the lakefront home with room for his grand piano when other college students were confined to dorm rooms. But after graduating with a degree in music composition, he entered the world of making children's lives brighter by presenting them with a loving, caring, soft-spoken person who not only taught them about the world "out there," but loved every one of them, just as they were, while he did it. He wore cardigan sweaters, spoke directly to the children, and never raised his voice. And that was what prompted the editorial in last Sunday's (2/25/18) Orlando Sentinel by Scott Maxwell. The headline:  These days, we could all use more Mr. Rogers.

And in the year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the debut of "Mr. Rogers," I could not agree more.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Maxwell's article:

   The world could use a little more Mr. Rogers right now.
   Today's headlines are a cacophony of death and division. Shootings, shutdowns, walls and wars.
   There was none of that in "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood."
   There, the amiable host told us we were special—perfect even—just the way we were.
   So, with darkness dominating the headlines . . . .  

Mr. Maxwell goes ahead to describe taking the Mr. Rogers Walking Tour set up by Rollins College for this 50th anniversary year. Then he goes on to say:

     I admit to being a parent who feared coddling my kids, especially my son. Raise 'em to be tough. Teach 'em that not everyone's a winner and that life just isn't fair sometimes.
    Mr. Rogers, however, showered children with unconditional support. And in an age of bullying, shootings and teen angst that too often turns violent, I can't help but think that Rogers—an ordained Presbyterian minister—had it right.
   Kids are drowning in insecurities and anxiety that handheld devices foster and flame 24 hours a day.
   Mr. Rogers said something that Snapchat and Instagram often don't:  "I like you just the way you are."
Mr. Maxwell points out that Mr. Rogers was the first kids' show to feature a black man in a recurring role. The actor playing the role, who was also gay, calls Mr. Roger's treatment of him and his character an overwhelming experience, "Biblical even." 

Those who knew Fred Rogers say his personality was the same in person as it was on the show. Calm. Kind. Interested. A quote from Rogers: "Kids can spot a phony a mile away."

The point to all this, of course, is that our world desperately needs more people like Mr. Rogers. For themselves, and for their ability to spread their world of kindness and goodwill to others. 

We live in desperate times. Yes, many prior generations have thought the same. But the capability of countries to destroy each other has never been so extreme, and sadly we seem to have childish playground bullies with their fingers on the trigger.

Mr. Rogers, we need you. We need calm consideration, thoughtfulness, caring about people's lives—ALL peoples, not just "our own." We need to cast out hate, renew the good inside ourselves, and practice whatever version of the Golden Rule your religion embraces. In mine, it's: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 

Some people still growl when they hear the word "Hippie," but their best-known slogan of 70s still rings true.


~ * ~
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 Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,