Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shortcut Codes for Writers

After ten straight days of rain - a new record - the sun came out and my back garden perked up. The tall plants are Gloriosa Lilies, perennial, once-a-year bloomers just beginning to flower when the deluge started. And now we're promised a weekend of rain from Alberto, the first tropical depression of the Hurricane Season (which doesn't officially begin until June 1).


Many of you will recall my posts about the Great Florida Python Hunt, which was an annual event for several years, until the state realized that amateur hunters were never going to be able to rid the Everglades of its python problem. (Background: too many pet owners decided to ditch their overgrown pets in the Everglades, and the huge snakes have reached the point of disrupting the ecosystem by eating the creatures that crocodiles, alligators, panthers, and other native animals feed on.)

So for the last couple of years, the state has employed 25 professional hunters to cut down on the python problem. An article in the Orlando Sentinel (May 25, 2018) announced the demise of the one thousandth python. Average length: 9 feet. Longest: 18 feet. Sadly, the problem continues. One hunter said: "You used to drive in the Everglades and you would see, easily, 20, 30, 40 rabbits on any given morning. I've only seen one since starting this program—one, and he looked scared."

~ * ~


Way back in March of 2011, I posted a list of ASCII codes I found helpful in my writing. Today I'm going to repeat a few of those and add a list of the most helpful shortcut codes in Microsoft Word. Windows menus are great—I recall the world of computers before Windows!—but using shortcuts is even faster. I hope you will find the ones listed below as much help as I have over the years.
Control + Enter.  While I'm at it, here's an important code that works across all word processing programs. It's the shortcut for Hard Page End, the requirement for the end of every chapter. (While editing and judging contests, I've been astonished by the number of people who don't seem to know this basic of Fiction and non-Fiction writing.)

ASCII CODES - These shortcuts have been around as long as computers. They were built in before word processing programs even existed, and they have stayed, "grandfathered in" for any and all who know enough to use them. They seem to work anywhere, any time—in word processing, in email, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. Try it, you'll like it!

Grace note: If you would like a longer list, please see Archives, March 18, 2011. Or you can google ASCII Codes and find a list that goes into 4 digits.

To make ASCII codes work, use your Keypad with “Num Lock” ON. Press Alt + the number. (Sorry, I don't believe there's any way to use ASCII codes if you don't have a keypad.)

20 ¶

21 §

37 %

60 <>

129 ü

130 é

131 â

132 ä

133 à

135 ç

136 ê

137 ë

138 è

147 ô

148 ö

149 ò

150 û

151 ù

155 ¢

156 £

160 á

162 ó

163 ú

164 ñ

165 Ñ

168 ¿

171 ½

172 ¼

0190 ¾

173 ¡

241 ±

246 ÷

0215 ×

248 °

0150 –

0151 —

0153 ™

0169 ©

0174 ®

0178 ²

0179 ³

~ * ~

Shortcuts in Microsoft Word 

Grace note:  for a complete list of MS Word codes, click here. 

You will also note that in most cases there is a correlation between alphabet & action, making the codes easier to remember.

Ctrl+A = Select All

Ctrl+B = Bold highlighted text

Ctrl+C = Copy selected text

Ctrl+E = Center selected text

Ctrl+F = Find

Ctrl+G = Go to

Ctrl+I = Italicize highlighted text 

Ctrl+N = Open new window

Ctrl+P = Print

Ctrl+S = Save  (Also, Shift+F12)

Ctrl+U = Underline selected text

Ctrl+V = Paste

Ctrl+X = Cut selected text 

Ctrl+Z = Undo last action

As noted, the list above is merely the tip of the iceberg. If you're interested, the list stretches on ad infinitum.

~ * ~

ROYAL REBELLION, the final book of my Blue Moon Rising series, is now on Pre-order at Amazon. Click here. Books 2 & 3, SORCERER'S BRIDE & THE BASTARD PRINCE went on Kindle Countdown May 25 (beginning price - 99¢). [My apologies, but Book 1, REBEL PRINCESS, is published by Kindle Scout and I have no control over when they put it on sale.]

For background info on ROYAL REBELLION, please see my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

And here's a peek at the social media ad created for ROYAL REBELLION, which goes live on June 14:

 Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rocket & Recipes

The debut of the Falcon 9, Block 5 - May 11,2018
My apologies for nothing better than a scan of a newspaper photo, but I was too busy urging, "Go, go, go! to take a photo when I watched the launch on television, and the enlargement of my "live" photo taken outside moments later refused to transmit as anything but the original vague squiggle, so I was reduced to this. The moment, however, was significant, as the Block 5 can be reused 10 times without maintenance and up to 300 times overall. (And yes, it landed on a barge in the Atlantic and is already back at Cape Canaveral.) Even more important, it will be capable of manned spaceflight, something that hasn't happened here since the shuttles were retired. So this launch was a big thing here on the Space Coast and bodes well for the future. Elon Musk is a true hero to the Space Industry.


As my regular readers know, I am a recipe freak, constantly gathering new recipes from newspapers, online, and those fancy recipe magazines they sell at the grocery store. But lately, alas, the recipes I've tried have not been ones I wanted to pass along. (A few were truly "Ugh!") So this week I went back to a book on my shelf hand-lettered, "THE Cookbook." I put it together at least 20 years ago for the girls in the family at that time: my daughter, daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law's sister, and my elder son's significant other of the moment.

Here are three old-time favorites from that book:


Grace note:  Susie has taught her girls to make these & still serves the chestnut version at almost every party.

1 lb. bacon
Water chestnuts (canned)
Green olives (large, pitted)

Cut bacon strips in half crosswise. Wrap chestnuts and olives in half strip bacon each. Fasten each with a wooden cocktail toothpick (not plastic). Place wrapped chestnuts & olives on broiler pan and broil until bacon is cooked. Turn when top is done, broil the other side.

Alternate cooking instructions:  Use 1/3 slice of bacon. Place on cookie sheet & bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

Note:  Broiler pan allows bacon fat to fall into bottom of pan.


20-25 Lorna Doone cookies*
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling

* a square vanilla cookie

Break cookies into fine pieces (I use a rolling pin). Melt butter & pour into crumbs; mix. Spread mixture in bottom of 8" square cake pan; press evenly. Mix eggs, sugar, cream cheese & vanilla. Beat with electric mixer about ten minutes. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Top with cherry pie filling (or whatever fruit topping desired). 

Cheesecake keeps well as long as it is refrigerated, so it is a good "make ahead" for a company dessert. 


1 lb ground beef
1½ cups chopped onion
1½ cups milk
3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
3 eggs
½ teaspoon salt 
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded Cheddar

Heat oven to 400°. Grease 10" x 1½" pie plate or 8" square pan. Cook & stir beef and onion over medium heat until beef is brown; drain. Spread in plate. Beat milk, baking mix, eggs, salt & pepper until smooth, 15 seconds in blender or 1 minute with hand beater.  Pour into plate. Bake 25 minutes (longer for 8" square pan). Top with tomatoes; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean - 5 to 8 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serves 6-8.

~ * ~
Grace note:  more "comfort food" recipes from THE Cookbook later this year.

~ * ~ 

ROYAL REBELLION, the final book of my Blue Moon Rising series, is now on Pre-order at Amazon.Click here. Books 2 & 3, SORCERER'S BRIDE & THE BASTARD PRINCE will go on Kindle Countdown sale May 25. (Sorry, but Book 1, REBEL PRINCESS, is published by Kindle Scout and I have no control over when they put it on sale.)

For a link to the Amazon Pre-order page, click here.

For background info on ROYAL REBELLION, please see my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

And here's a peek at the social media ad just created for ROYAL REBELLION, which goes live on June 14:

 Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Misused Pronouns

My Front Garden, weeds & all - Back Garden is bigger but not better.

No doubt why these are called Gloriosa Lilies

Hailey with family cat Pos
Hailey, 15-years later

 How time flies!

~ * ~

Last week's post on Character Identification really seemed to hit a nerve, world-wide, so here are the dates of previous posts on Character Development. (If I ever get my posts organized into a book, hunting around for "character" posts will be a lot easier!)

From the Archives:  

Character Development series:  Nov. 7, 2015, Dec. 5, 2015, Jan. 30, 2016, Feb. 6, 2016, Aug. 20, 2016.

How to Develop Characters series:  Oct. 15, 2012, Oct. 29, 2012, Nov. 5, 2012. 

Writing Workshop # 6 - Characters+:  Feb. 7, 2015

~ * ~


In work I edit for others, in contests I judge, sometimes even in my own work, I find the Narration slipping into pronouns (he/she, his/hers, her/him, they/them, theirs,etc.). Often to the detriment of the sense of the sentence. (When the "He" at the beginning of the sentence is not the same person as the "him" in the second half of the sentence, we have a problem.) 

More importantly, readers cannot get a "fix" on the characters if they are constantly referred to as "he" and "she," "him" and "her." These pronouns are not only confusing, they give no sense of character, no feeling for the very real person behind those measly two & three letters. It is very important to introduce your characters by their full names, with their position in life, if you can work it in. An English title is easy enough to add, as is mentioning that Jacob Smythe works for Silicon Tech. Just something for a reader to hang his/her hat on until you reveal more details.

Yes, there are instances where you want a sense of anonymity, a technique frequently used in Prologues; for example that "killer" in the murder scene that often begins a Mystery. I made use of pronouns in the Interim that begins Royal Rebellion, the last book of my SciFi Saga, Blue Moon Rising. Regular readers of Mosaic Moments have already seen "The Witch and the Wolf," which is a complete short story in itself, but for purposes of illustrating a proper use of pronouns used in place of the full names I so love . . .

No, I don't go a long time without a name—I've underlined the place where I sneak it in—but I hope I've achieved the "feeling" I wanted for the opening of Royal Rebellion.

The ballroom, Crystalia, the Psyclid royal palace
Two Blue Moon cycles after the Battle of Psyclid

   The music flourished to a close, the women’s skirts flaring in a final kaleidoscope of color before settling to hug their bodies close as they dipped into curtsies. Their partners bowed, the men’s bright tunics competing with the women for which gender would add the most brilliance and sparkle to the evening.
   All but one, that is—a man slunk into the shadows behind a marble pillar, his back against the wall. Although he wore the required tight white hose, his tunic of black velvet fell well below his knees, his sole concession to fashion the borders of intricate gold embroidery decorating the hems of the sleeves and tunic. Embroidery he could not reject because his sister had created the garment with her very own hands, so what was a man to do?
  Except hide.
  He should not be here. This was a night for celebrating the completion of Psyclid’s ridó.
  A full two Blue Moon cycles after it was needed.
  He had failed. Men had died, ships were lost because there was a gap in the force field intended to protect Psyclid from the Regs. From the revenge of a mighty Empire on a pacifist planet that asked only to be left in peace.
  He, T’kal Killiri, had been tasked with getting the job done, and he’d fallen short. He was here tonight only because King Ryal had ordered it. And if there was one thing the Pysclid engineer was, it was loyal to the crown.

But, as mentioned last week, in most cases it is vital to get all the necessary information in right up front so readers can get a feel for your characters, understand who and what they are, and begin to empathize with them.

Unfortunately, sometimes authors do no more than casually mention a first name in the first couple of paragraphs and then switch to pronouns—a practice that not only fails to identify the characters properly but frequently causes confusion about which character is speaking or thinking or walking or driving, etc., etc.

This can happen through carelessness, but I suspect a good part of the problem is that authors have read about "deep POV" and seem to think that using a character's actual name in the narration means they've dropped into "author POV." Sigh.

I've struggled with this issue myself, as I try to practice what I preach: Get inside your characters' heads. Let readers see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Yet when you suddenly drop the character's name into the mix, it's like referring to yourself in Third Person. 

Nonetheless, you have get the names in there. You can't go on page after page, saying "he" did this, "she" did that; "he" thought, "she cried" . . .

Believe me, if you use too many pronouns, confusion reigns. In addition to the fact that "he" and "she" are too vague for your readers to develop an attachment to your characters,, "he" and "she" could be anybody. Certainly not a hero or heroine you want to cheer on to Happily Ever After.


 I looked around for a paragraph I could massacre as an example and came up with a "backshelf" book, which I wrote right after I moved from Venice, Florida, to Orlando. A highly traumatic move, as I'd lived in a really big house for 25 years, and it was packed with not only my things, my deceased husband's things, but "stuff" belonging to all three children. In short, I should have taken a vacation from writing for about six months . . . Sigh. So I'm giving the opening paragraph its first airing below:

Brazil, February 1804
    “Hoy-y!”  Slowly, Tomás Freeman lowered his machete, raising his ebony face toward the source of the thundering sound of falling water just revealed by his last vicious slash at the tangled greenery. His companion, Justin Renshaw, said nothing at all as he stepped into a clearing around a large pool of water and lifted his square, uncompromising chin up, up, then up again until his eyes, almost as dark as his companion’s, found the top of the spectacular waterfall.       

   “A thousand feet?” Freeman asked. 

Rewritten to demonstrate how confusing a lack of names can be:

   "Hoy-y!" The man lowered his machete and raised his ebony face toward the source of the thundering sound of falling water just revealed by his last vicious slash at the tangled greenery. His companion said nothing at all as he stepped into a clearing around a large pool of water and lifted his square, uncompromising chin up, up, then up again until his eyes, almost as dark as his companion's found the top of the spectacular waterfall.
   "A thousand feet?" he asked.

Hopefully, you get the point. And no, I'm not saying "Forget pronouns." Pronouns are great, useful; they give us an alternative to saying the same name over and over. But they can be also be confusing. Examine what you've written. Can readers understand which "he, she, him, her" you're talking about? Never hesitate to replace an ambiguous pronoun with a name. Or rewrite the sentence completely, if necessary. Clarity is all-important. Readers do not like to be left frowning over who said that, or who did what to whom!

Final example. Here's the opening of Florida Wild, as published by Ellora's Cave Blush and now on hiatus until the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando fades enough for people to be more open-minded about Muslims. (As it was during the years before Pulse when I wrote this fairly light-hearted look at American-Arab relations.)

I have substituted pronouns for the original text, now offset by brackets. If you read the excerpt twice, once with the inserted pronouns and once with the names (as originally written), I believe you will find the message clear.

   “That,” Cass declared, “is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”             
   “For once, kid,” her brother drawled, “you may be right.”They [Cass and Hugh Wilder] raised nearly matching determined chins and velvet brown eyes to the brilliant March sunshine, staring up at the newest addition to the Central Florida entertainment corridor.  The great wooden hump of the highest point of the Close Call Coaster rose twenty feet above a solid forest of ninety-foot pines and towering live oaks.  The only other visible sections of the rollercoaster were its loading platform and the final thirty feet of flat track after it exited the trees.  The rest of the ride wound its way through dense forest, its ups, downs, twists, turns, and multiple surprises hidden from a preview by passengers daring enough to play dodge-‘em with tree trunks.
   “This is a test, isn’t it?” she [Cass] demanded.  “Ride this a couple of times and maybe you guys will let me out of the office.”
   He [Her brother] flashed a broad grin.  “Maybe.  But if we let you into ops, who’s going to answer the phone?”
   “There has to be some reason you wanted me to come with you instead of Doug or Alec.  I mean, it’s the business that got the Preview invitation, so why you and me?  You all know I’m not a coaster fan.” Which was putting it mildly.
Screams echoed around them as a car loaded with passengers splashed down into a stream, sending a double wave of spray that doused the riders with water.  His [Hugh’s] eyes gleamed. “Well now, we might have had something like that in mind.  In our line of work we have to deal with a lot of things we don’t like, so Doug thought—”
   “This was Doug’s idea?”  Her [Cass’s] voice rose above the babble of eager customers waiting to board the Close Call Coaster. 
   “He’s the boss, kid.  He calls the shots.  I’m just the lowly peon who does what he’s told.  Basically, he [Doug] figured if a rollercoaster freaks you out, what good are you going to be when there’s real danger?  Gotta conquer your fears, babe, or how can anyone trust you when the chips are down.”
Well, hot damn.  Wasn’t this just the fate of a girl who worked with trio of relatives—two older brothers and a cousin—who put a new shine on the description macho Alpha male?  Her [Cass’s] eyes narrowed, her chin squared.  “So bring it on.  I’m sick of repeating, ‘Halliday and Wilder, Security and Private Inquiries, how may I help you?’”
   “Which means you’ve got to be good enough to bring in the cash to pay someone else to say it.  Wilder Investigations is just beginning to break out of the red—”
   “I keep the books, remember?”
   He [Hugh] pounced on that one.  “Another problem,” he crowed.  “If you go into the field, we’ll have to hire an accountant.”
   “Are we doing this or not?” she [Cass] demanded.  She walked toward the loading platform with all the swagger she could manage, taking care to keep her face turned away from her brother as she watched a coaster car rise above the tree tops, inching its way toward the summit.  Eager passengers—insanely eager passengers, she [Cass] thought—thrust their hands high above their heads as the car paused on the brink of the downward plunge, heightening the tension. She [Cass] winced. Her stomach churned. She absolutely hated rollercoasters, and he [Doug] and the brothers knew it.  And, just to rub it in, with ninety-five percent of the coaster’s layout hidden behind a wall of trees and dense Florida underbrush, there was no way to anticipate the surprises, no way to steel herself for the promised “close calls.” 
   The [Her brothers] couldn’t have devised a more diabolical test.
She could do this, she really could, she [Cass] assured herself.  She had a sudden ridiculous vision of herself as The Little Engine That Could, puffing valiantly up the steep hill to deliver toys to good little boys and girls.  Yeah, well, the valiant little train only had to go up, not plunge down into a black hole full of trees and who knew what. 
   He [Hugh] snagged the coaster car’s front seat.  Of course he did, she [Cass] thought as she settled beside him, still trying to resign herself to the inevitable.  Her brothers, known as the Wild and Wooly Wilders, had such an anathema for nine to five, they’d leaped at the opportunity to join their cousin [Doug Halliday,] when he abandoned a career in some secret government acronym to start a PI business in Orlando. Fortunately, the need for investigations and bodyguards in Orlando, resort capital of the world, was constant.  Halliday & Wilder was still struggling, but the future held more than a little promise.

Identify, identify, identify. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. Make sure your readers know who your characters, primary and secondary, are. Use their names. Use pronouns only if you're absolutely certain there can be no doubt which character you're referring to. In short, you're going for both elegance and clarity. Fix those characters, rock solid, in your readers' heads. 

~ * ~ 

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

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page (May 12, 2018), click here.
(New Post features inside info on Royal Rebellion)

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, May 5, 2018

Character Identification

I am not feeling very clever today, having spent an entire cruise to the Bahamas (for my son-in-law's 50th birthday) in my cabin, accompanied solely by my Kindle. Sigh. Some unknown malady struck me down just as we were leaving Longwood, but I was certain it would go away. It didn't. So there I was, feeling too miserable to even edit the chapters of Royal Rebellion I brought with me. Fortunately, the ship (just 2 weeks into a new run from Palm Beach to Freeport) was excellent, the food to match, the weather perfect, and I enjoyed the trip vicariously from my daughter's photos. Including her tale of being propositioned by a would-be gigolo in broad daylight while shell-hunting on the beach! 

I've been back 48 hours now, but I confess to composing an "easy" blog this week! Below the photos I will make an effort to demonstrate something I've touched on in the past but which needs repeating as, time and time again, when I judge contests or edit other people's work, I have to write: "Identify, identify, identify!"

~ * ~ 


Just before we left on our cruise, we enjoyed seeing Hailey play several different parts in Mary Poppins. She soloed as Birdwoman (below). Wore a pretty gown in several London street scenes. And tap-danced as a chimney-sweep.

Susie's photos from our Paradise Classica cruise:

Mike & Susie with West Palm Beach in the background

Mike & Susie in Freeport, Bahamas
Susie has several walls of her house decorated with framed flower photos, sand and seashells from every beach we've ever been to, including our old home on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. These will be the newest additions:

On a beach that was disappointingly shell-free, she finally stumbled on this. A true Wow!

Much fatter & more 3-D than U.S. Sand Dollars
 ~ * ~


I am a great advocate of using Names—not just first names but Last Names, Middle Names, Titles, the names of Places & Things—when writing Fiction. If you'd like to see what I've written on this subject before, please see Archives, 3/18/17. Basically, I consider Names a vital part of Character Development. And yet, so often I find this message simply doesn't get through to newbies to the art of writing. For example: 
All too frequently in contests I judge, I find authors beginning a manuscript talking about, say, someone named Rafe. Rafe does this, Rafe thinks that, but not until maybe page 15 or later comes the grand revelation that he is Rafael, Duke of Baringham! Oh wow! In Regency culture, almost no one, with the possible exception of a mother or wife in a private moment, would ever think of him as anything but Baringham. Readers have gone all those pages without a clue to his identity! BAD. Don't do it! 

Cardinal Rule: Unless your opening demands otherwise, always give your characters full names and some other form of identification when they are introduced. And then repeat that name in one form or another so he/she comes alive in the readers' heads and allows them to empathize with him/her. Do NOT say the name once then switch to he/she, him/her! For our duke, you could alter the way you refer to him by using: "The duke" or "His Grace" or "Baringham," using "he" only when there is absolutely no doubt about who "he" is.

Grace Note: All book quotes below were intended to be in Times New Roman, but Blogger keeps switching some back to Helvetica. Sorry about that.

Here are the opening lines of The Lady Takes a Risk. In this short paragraph Lady Amelie is introduced with her full name, we learn she is the daughter of the Duke of Wentworth and that she is having romantic difficulties. Her name, either as Lady Amelie or Amelie, is repeated at least twenty more times in the course of the first chapter. By the end of the chapter readers should have her fixed firmly in their mind and, hopefully, will be sympathetic with her problems.

It is not easy to be the daughter of a despot duke. For that matter, Lady Amelie Sherbrooke was forced to concede, there were likely earls, barons, tavern-keepers, farmers, soldiers, sailors, tinkers, and tailors whose daughters considered them quite as despotic as the Duke of Wentworth. Which did her no good at all. Misery might love company, but as for finding a way to prevent her betrothal to most the most pretentious, fatuous, unbearable idiot in the ton . . .
Here is the introduction of the hero near the end of Chapter 1. In this brief introduction, readers are left in no doubt about who he is and little doubt about what kind of man he is. We know his full name, his rank, and his regiment. Ah! An officer and a gentleman.
(FYI, the "earl" is the Earl of Penhurst, her father's candidate for fiancé.)

    “May I be of assistance, Lady Amelie?”
   As the smooth baritone voice penetrated the darkness, the two figures on the marble bench froze.       
   “Go away,” the earl declared. “Your presence is not wanted.”
   Amelie weighed the horror of being compromised into marriage with the earl against her need to escape him, and seized the lesser of two evils. Standing, she said to the dark silhouette of a man, “If you would be kind of enough to escort me back to the house?”
   “I say!” Penhurst protested. “The lady is my fiancée—” He broke off as the tall shadow approached, a recognizable face materializing out of the night. “Trevor! This is none of your business, Colonel. Kindly take yourself off.”
   Colonel Marcus Trevor, lately of the 10th Hussars, ignored him. “Lady Amelie?” He offered his arm.
   Gratefully, she linked her arm with his and set off for the house, leaving the Earl of Penhurst sputtering behind them. 

In The Blackthorne Curse, it takes a bit longer to get to the heroine's name—lesser characters get full-named first, but I believe the opening has enough information not to confuse readers before Abigail is revealed in full. (It's harder to work in the heroine's name when writing in First Person!)

New Haven, Connecticut, February 1816
   Thump. Thump. Thump. The brass knocker on the front door of the snug little house just north of the New Haven Green sounded my doom—Fate knocking at my door in the form of the Reverend Silas Maltby and his wife. I knew because I had peeked out the window minutes earlier and seen them advancing up Church Street, two upright figures marching through a dusting of snow, their cloaks—one black, one gray—billowing about them in a brisk west wind. The overcast skies echoed their drab garments, yet the righteousness of the Lord shimmered about them with every step.
Sadly, I was not pleased with the Lord. Not since he took my Papa from me. Half a year before his fortieth birthday.
   So after my glimpse of the inexorable approach of the Maltbys, I fled to the kitchen, huddling on a three-legged stool in front of the dancing flames in the granite fireplace, where a black teakettle hung from the hob. Papa would have chided me—gently— for being a coward, but he was no longer here.     
    Just as this white clapboard house, the only home I had ever known, was no longer mine.
   As, it seemed possible, the fledgling United States of America might no longer be mine.
   “Miss Abigail? Reverend Maltby and the missus are here.” Our long-time housekeeper, Prudence Cogswell, stood in the kitchen door. “You cannot keep them waiting, Miss Abby. They have only your best interests in mind.”
   Though I could hear a modicum of sympathy in her voice, my shoulders hunched, my head dipped lower. “I don’t care!” I cried.
   Papa’s voice, crying “Shame, shame” echoed through my head. I winced, curling myself into an even tighter ball.
   “Abigail Blackthorne, you are no longer a child. You cannot afford to be. Time to grow up and take your place in the world. Your father would expect you to hold your head high and face what you must. The dead are gone. The living must survive as best they can.”

This opening to Brides of Falconfell also takes a little longer to get to the heroine's full name, but again, that is typical of a book written in First Person.

   “How dare she?”
    Accustomed as I was to my sister Cressida’s gasps of outrage over any action which deviated from what she thought proper, I did not even look up from mending the flounce on my second-best petticoat.
   “Such effrontery! Poor little Edmund but a babe of three months, and she thinks to steal you away from me.”
   At that, I straightened, crumpling my stitching in my lap. “May I inquire who has put you in such a pet, and over what?”
   “Our dear cousin Tess,” Cressida informed me with considerable venom. “It seems her mother’s health is not all it should be, and she has taken it into her head that you might care for a change of scenery. Imagine her putting it like that when ’tis obvious she wishes you to take over the burden of her mother’s care.” My sister punctuated her words with a huff of disgust.
   “If she wishes my help, I would think she might have written to me,” I returned in as mild a tone as I could manage, not wishing to encourage Cressida’s indignation, which could rise to theatrical heights.
   “She knows quite well how much I need you here at Laytham Hall. I daresay she wishes to turn me up sweet before daring to approach you.”
   Myriad thoughts chased through my head, jostling, shoving, trampling each other, as I fought to keep them contained, to keep them from reflecting on my face. The simple truth was that I, Serena Emilia Farnborough, was sitting in the drawing room of my sister’s home in Wiltshire, where I had resided off and on since I refused a second Season as London’s most neglected wallflower and declared my intention of living out my life as no more than aunt to the children of my two brothers and my sister. I had not expected to end up the family nurse, summoned from house to house for birthings and dyings, with many a serious illness between those moments of joy and sorrow. But that is what I had become, with no one to blame but myself. 

And here's the opening to Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Blue Moon Rising series. Note that in the first six or seven lines readers are told not only who Jagan is but where he is, and given an idea of the problem he faces.

Blue Moon
   How had he gotten himself into such a fydding mess?
   Jagan Mondragon, Sorcerer Prime of the planet Psyclid, stood at a high window in the Round Tower at Veranelle—once the summer retreat of the royal family—and scowled at the glowing orb of his home planet hanging low in the night sky. A few hours ago he had been down there, witnessing without protest his betrothed’s marriage to the leader of a hopeless rebellion. There she was, his woman, smiling, turning up her face to be kissed by a fydding Reg.  

And in Steeplechase, a Trad Regency written long ago but which keeps right on selling, it is again the hero who is introduced first. We learn his name, his friend's name, where they are, and what his problem is in the first two paragraphs.

   “That’s the lot of them,” Mr. Adrian Chumley declared, scanning a scrawled list of names lying on the scarred table beneath his fingertips. He jabbed his quill into the inkpot provided by the landlord of the George Inn and shook his head. “If none of the chits will do, Davenham, you will simply have to stagger along on the income from Chesterton until Marchmont shuffles off this mortal coil.”
   Harlan Dawnay, Viscount Davenham, raised his dark head from his hands long enough to skewer his friend with a pair of blue eyes a susceptible society matron had once pronounced a lethal weapon. “We will leave my father out of this discussion, if you please. Not his fault my Aunt Portia’s an old Tartar.” 

You've probably been told not to ply readers with backstory at the beginning of a book, but it is absolutely essential you give them enough information to begin building a rapport with your characters. You want readers to know who your characters are (both in temperament and position), what their problems are, and how they feel about the world they're in and the people they know. Calling your main characters, even your secondary characters, by nothing more than their first names, ignoring their background, ignoring descriptions of both people and setting, makes your characters "ghosts." Blank faces against a blank canvas. Nonentities with whom your readers cannot build empathy. Don't do it! Give them full names, tell us who they are, and if possible, give at least a hint of what their problem is. And do it as soon as each character is introduced, particularly your main characters. 

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Next week: Misused pronouns (an offshoot of Lack of Identification)

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

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Thanks for stopping by, Grace