Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Authors Gone Astray



This week's Ganesh fix


Susie's latest polished rock

The only credit I could find for the absolutely incredible photo below (found on Facebook) is "@rsvn." Its title:  Melting Moon



Grace note:  although the following essay is aimed at authors, readers may also find it interesting - a suggestion of why some series, as well as single titles, by the same author are better than others.


Regular readers of Mosaic Moments are aware that, although I never name names, I often rant about newbie authors who should have waited a bit longer before hitting the Upload button on their precious "first effort." Today, however—inspired by a Perfectly Awful series by an established author—I'm going to turn my attention to how easy it is to go wrong even when you've already proved you have a true gift for writing.

Yes, of course I know that no author can hit a high note every time, myself most definitely included. But how is it that some authors can write an absolutely brilliant series then follow-up with a series that, at best, can be termed mediocre?  In the example that set me off on this rant, while taking it easy after a medical procedure, I spent the past ten days reading some "oldies" off my Kindle. While browsing, I encountered a name I knew well, an author whose first series I had enjoyed immensely, but Book One in this new series didn't ring a bell, even though I had obviously read it. And, stupid me, even though I found the second time around barely worth the effort, I ordered the two succeeding books, thinking surely they would be more scintillating. But, OMG, by Book 3 I was wondering how I could be so masochistic as to keep plowing my way through this sorry excuse for a book.

So what happened?  Two possibilities: this series was from the author's early days and was now being published because his/her name had become known. Or the author had not been able to overcome a severe case of Writer's Block but went ahead and published anyway. Whatever the cause, I decided to flip through my Kindle again, this time looking for other favorite authors whose output was decidedly uneven. To my surprise, the list was longer than I expected.

One I mentioned not long ago—a world-famous author who obscured his/her latest mystery in so many side trips to nowhere that if I'd been reading paper instead of my precious Kindle, I'd likely have tossed the book against the wall. No self-respecting editor should have allowed the story to wallow in half again as many words as it needed, but when an author is really, really famous . . . I guess anything goes.

A favorite historical author is guilty of a similar overuse of words, though not to such an egregious extent, frequently descending into an avalanche of introspection toward the end of a book, just when most readers expect the story to be speeding toward Happily Ever After. Yes, a Romance needs a Black Moment, but the term is "moment," not page after page after page until the reader feels beaten over the head with the hero's or heroine's torment.

Another favorite author freely admits he/she suffered from Burn-out after a spectacular First Series, followed by a second series that, admittedly, could never rival the first. But since this author's "not quite as good" is better than 90 percent of other authors, I still read every last book.

Further Kindle search revealed three more favorite authors—two mystery writers and one fantasy—who should be added to my "rocky series" list. But again, all three are so expert that I read every word of every series. There are simply some of their many series that I don't read twice. 

Looking into the past, I won't hesitate to name one of the great names of Fiction:  Dorothy Dunnett. I recall, a couple of chapters into one of her later mysteries, wondering why I wasn't finding this book as clever or amusing as her earlier mysteries. And then it dawned on me. Someone had persuaded her to write in Third Person instead of First. (This was the era when, for some odd reason, First Person seemed to be out of fashion.) I read the books, because I loved Dunnett, no matter what, and because I loved the characters, but it just wasn't the same. Third Person simply did not suit the Johnson Johnson series. (I believe these books were later reissued in First Person, but only after Dunnett's death.) [FYI, just to be really different, the First Person Point of View in each of Dunnett's mysteries was always someone other than the hero of the series.]

And then there are two "mainstream," absolutely brilliant series that went far astray from their initial promise. No, they were never meant to be lighthearted or romantic, but they were marvelously detailed and complex. I was truly impressed, until they nose-dived into a darkness that completely turned me off. I find no entertainment (or enlightenment) in reading books that leave me totally depressed. To top off my disgust, the heroine in one series was so oblivious to the romance right under her nose that I just wanted to pick her up and shake her!

But you wail:  "We can't be brilliant every time around" or "Everyone gets Writer's Block. We're told to write our way through it."

As for being brilliant 24/7, I can only agree, but it's important never to rest on our laurels, thinking "anything goes." As for Writer's Block, believe me, there's a big difference between "writing your way through it" and "publishing something that should be lost forever  in the depths of your hard drive." (And yes, big publishing companies seem to be almost as guilty of this as indie authors.) So what do you do?

It's true you need to keep going, write whatever you can manage. But you need to go back and work on that painful effort until it begins to shine. Then work on the shine until it sparkles. Please, I beg you, do not think just because your first series, or your first book, was a success that your readers will settle for mediocre. It just ain't so. Yes, we'll buy Book One of that second series, but will we buy Book Two? And yes, as an author myself, I'm inclined to give favorites the benefit of the doubt, but your sales figures will likely tell you, most readers aren't. 

Excuses for falling down on the job? There's a whole slew of them, of course. Classic burn-out (just plain exhaustion from pushing yourself too hard), poor health, the stress of family members' problems, death, divorce, as well as that capricious devil, Writer's Block, that can crop up anywhere, any time.  Goodness knows, I've encountered more than a few of these. Actually, I should add "moving" to the list above. The book I wrote right after moving from Venice, Florida, to Orlando is still "waiting." I doubt it will ever see the light of day, and I really liked that idea too (the beginning of a whole new series. Sigh). Ah well, at least I had sense enough to keep it hidden.

I guess it could be said that it's a miracle any good books get written at all. But happily, they do. Just take the time for that extra amount of "spit and polish" to be sure your book is one of them! And if it ain't fit to see the light of day . . .

1.  Ask someone else to read it (someone willing to tell you the truth!). It may be better than you think.

2. If not, be strong enough to resist publishing something that is a waste of your readers' time.

3.  Or the book may not be up to par but is worth salvaging. In that case, take the time to revise from the top, adding all the rich tapestry of words, the detailed panorama of characters, the intricacies of plot that you failed to include the first time around.


Few authors can manage a great series, or even a great book, each and every time. But we should make an effort to be honest with ourselves and not foist a true dud onto our readers. In most cases judicious editing can to fix our lesser efforts. If not, resist the temptation to publish. (If you're New York-published, I admit this is not your option.) A really bad book, like the one that sparked today's rant, spoils your reputation forever. It simply isn't worth whatever it might bring in. 

Granted, we're all egotistical enough to perhaps not recognize our latest effort isn't worthy. But I urge you to try. To consider that poor sad book as the toll it took to get past whatever obstacle distracted you while you were writing it. Accept that book as the price you paid to get back on top of your game. Your dues, if you will, to the demanding club of authors who turn out good book after good book. 

Can the doldrums happen more than once? Hopefully not, but it's possible. But like the current Pandemic, this too shall pass. That idea will come. Fabulous characters will suddenly pop into your head. A colorful setting. Dastardly villains, etc., etc. Hang in there! But please, I beg of you, spare yourself the horror of allowing a "lemon" to see the light of day.

~ * ~

  Debuting later this week:



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

For Blair's website, click here. 


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft) 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Joys of Editing

Next Mosaic Moments - February 27, 2021 


This week's smile-makers . . .


Ganesh, playing statue


Susie & friends went fossicking by kayak last week . . .


All this from along the upper reaches of the Peace River; i.e., sharks' teeth in the middle of the state! (Clearly proving the whole of Florida was once under water.)


Florida February sunset - photo by Susie



As I tackled the final edits of Book 2 of the Matthew Wolfe series, I was once again reminded how much I enjoy editing. Yes, I love the initial creation of all those characters, their personalities, the situations I drop them into. But I get so carried away, I often forget to describe what they look like. I ignore the necessity of painting a vivid picture of the setting for their activities. I am so caught up in what's coming next that I leap from one scene to the next without proper set-up. I leave motivation to the reader's imagination. And all too often my fingers type one word when I mean another. (Just this morning I found a "grown" in place of "groan." Sigh.)

Which is why I love editing. It gives me a chance to fix all these things - including the complete non sequitur that I can't even imagine how it made its way onto the page. Seriously, there are some authors (like Nora Roberts and Lindsay Buroker) who are so prolific they must get their work 99% correct on the first try, but most of us have to work a lot harder to make our work sing.

Since publishing Making Magic With Words, I have been very sparing of my Writing and Editing advice, but some things are worth repeating as many times as it takes to jam the point home. 

Cardinal Rule - Before editing, do not fail to use that technical miracle, Spell Check. (I often forget to mention this as it's so basic. (I run Spell Check after every chapter, again after every edit.) It constantly amazes me that some authors fail to do this.

Edit hard copy or online? Being old school, I do my best work editing hard copy with a pencil, writing Inserts with a pen. But that's just me. (Interestingly, I edit other people's work online with no difficulty.) Do whatever works best for you - as long as you edit!

Most important of all -  We must accept that our first draft is not perfect. Each word from our fingers is NOT sacrosanct.

Here are a few things to look for.

1.  (a) Some write too little and need to embellish their work; (b) others obscure their story in too much detail or by taking unnecessary side trips. Example:  As an (a) author, each time I edit, I add far more words than I subtract. 

2.  You need to edit line by line, never skipping a scene even though you're certain it was perfect the moment it came off your hot little fingers. 

3.  Did you include enough set-up for the scene you just wrote? Do your readers know who your characters are, where they are, and why?

 4. Did you move too abruptly from one scene to the next, leaving your readers going, "Huh?" Something as simple as a one-line transition can fix that.

5.  Use a foreign phrase or two? Did you check to see if you got it right?

6.  Oh wow, you used some actual history in your historical novel. But are you sure it was accurate, or is it something you took out of someone else's work of fiction? (Definitely a no-no.)

7.  You're on Chapter 20 and you can't recall if a secondary character has blue eyes or brown? And darn, what was the name of the hero's country house? Hmm - I suspect you failed to create a Character List (covered in last week's Mosaic Moments). 

8.  Perhaps you tend toward Dangling Participles? NOT a grammatical error to be ignored, as you don't want to be humiliated by your heroine's eyes running down the street or ale pouring itself into a mug.

9.  Or maybe you go on and on about a certain theme to the point it becomes tedious. Judicious editing will have you sticking a contrasting scene in there, so your plot doesn't turn stale. (No one demonstrates this better than Shakespeare who inserted comedy scenes into even his most dramatic Tragedies.)

10.  Plot. You can be forgiven a great deal as long as you are careful about explaining motivations (no matter if they require "suspended disbelief"!) Do not do what one author did - book archived before Chapter 2 - give away the entire plot in the first two pages!

11.  The Biggie. Did you make your hero and heroine likeable? If you do that, they can mess up right and left, and readers will still love them. Over the years, I've read, and edited, far too many novels where I could not like one of the main characters. (I recall one where the heroine was just plain snarky - I did not finish the book.) 

The above are only a few guidelines for self-editing. A great deal more can be found in the Editing section of Making Magic With Words. Or hunted down in the Archives of this blog.

~ * ~

 A reminder that all my Writing and Editing blogs from 2011 to 2020 can be found in my 200,000+ word book, Making Magic With Words. Unlike the Archives of this blog, all the posts on Characterization, Writing a Series, and umpteen other topics, are grouped by category and easily accessed by links in the Index. Also included are many esoteric topics from How to Turn a Word Perfect doc into a format suitable for upload to KDP and Smashwords to a list of extremely handy ASCII and Microsoft codes.


 For a link to Making Magic on Amazon, click here.

 Making Magic With Words is FREE to members of Kindle Unlimited.

 For a link to Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, February 6, 2021

MASKS - Updated

 A sneak peek at the cover for the Matthew Wolfe series, Book Two:



 MASKS - Updated

Late last spring, when Florida's governor grandly declared the re-opening of almost all our businesses, I remember feeling like the Voice in the Wilderness when I kept telling people Reopening was all the more reason to wear masks, not decide that times had miraculously returned to normal! (As soaring Covid rates soon proved.) 

And now, all these months later, I feel a second wave of false relief as vaccines - God bless them! - become more available. And yet again I say, WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS! We are, in fact, even farther from normality than ever, as variants of Covid-19 rear their ugly heads right and left. At this moment, we are not even close to vaccinating all our seniors or even all our vital services providers. ALL RESPONSIBLE CITIZENS, INCLUDING THE VACCINATED, SHOULD BE WEARING MASKS FOR MONTHS TO COME.

Do I want to go back to spending my days making masks? I do not. I want to continue my Matthew Wolfe series to its Happily Ever After ending. But we too deserve an HEA ending, and we vastly improve our chances of that—and the chances of our friends, acquaintances, and chance-met strangers—by wearing a mask! Therefore, I am updating my Masks for Sale site in this week's blog. Times, thank goodness, have changed, with masks now readily available everywhere - and many of them stunning. But mine remained priced at $5.00 for pick-up, $6.50 for those shipped within in the U.S.

All Grace masks now come with nose wire and sliding buttons on the elastic that make them easily adjustable for all adults. (Smaller masks are available for children under ten.) All masks are Machine Wash & Dry.

For orders or further information, please email me at: 


Close-up of adjustable elastic:


Special Note:  No additional charge for ordering a different fabric for each side.


The following fabrics are currently available, newest ones at the top:











Music Staffs





























Fall Garden






























Pink Flowers








Red Polka Dot








Teal Bandana







Yellow Flowers








Yellow Diamond*














*The center seam masks (above) are available in all fabrics, but with plastic instead of aluminum nose wire.

**Masks have metallic touches in silver or gold.

REPEAT: Some of the above are old photos from a time when elastic was impossible to buy. ALL masks now come with adjustable black or white elastic, as seen in the photo at the top of the page.

 ~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)