Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Attention, Seniors, Potential Seniors

In need of a Covid Blues-chaser? A book chock-full of amazing characters, live and ephemeral? I invite you to try The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle.

 


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Alas, it's Friday morning, and I'm adding an addendum to this week's planned blog. In a story as ancient as time, yet fraught with the stresses of the twenty-first century, there was an incident at my granddaughters' high school on Wednesday.

I sat down as usual to watch the news after a morning of working on my latest book, and saw "BREAKING NEWS," an unusual trailer for our local TV news. Probably a bad car accident, a hospital overflowing with Covid patients . . . but no, they were showing police swarming a high school. Seminole High, where my granddaughters go to school. No details, just lots and lots of police cars. I called my daughter, who answered the phone with, "Yes, I know all about it. The students are all fine. Parents told not to come to the school." (This info via robocall.) But with all the awful school shooting incidents of the last few years, there was a lot of angst going around.

It was several hours before we learned that the 18-year-old quarterback of Seminole's outstanding football team had been shot 3 times - by a 16-year-old. Over a girl. And not until Thursday night was it revealed that he had been shot in the wrist and both legs in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to ruin any chance he might have of playing college football, or beyond. A truly diabolical vengeance that seems to come more from the mind of some sophisticated author of fiction than a 16-year-old student. 

Fortunately, one of my granddaughters was not in school that day, missing "lockdown," police swarming everywhere, dismissal being delayed, anxious parents in long traffic jams around the school, and goodness only knows the reaction of the students as they huddled in place inside. Our Cassidy, however, took it all in stride, assuring me she was far away (it's a huge campus) and she was not "traumatized" because she sees "stuff like that" all the time in her Police Explorers group. 

Cassidy's stoicism aside, the daily headlines are bad enough, but when violence comes so close to one's own . . . 

The world I grew up in—despite the shadow of WWII—was so different . . . Sitting on well-trodden wooden steps in the school's stairwell during Air Raid Drills is a far cry from a fellow student being shot on campus. Sigh.

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If you looked closely at the title of this week's blog, you should have realized that it can be translated as ATTENTION, ALL!

The marvelous bit below was found on Facebook and really resonated with me. The original was beautifully laid out with large type, lots of color and all caps here and there. It would not save that way, so please forgive if I only pretty it up a little. The philosophy of it is well worth reading, because, as I pointed out, if you are not a Senior Citizen, you will be. Apologies to the author, who was not cited on Facebook. The title is my own. And, sadly, for all the inherent humor, the words all too often reflect the startling changes illustrated by the incident this week at Seminole High.


     ODE TO SENIOR CITIZENS


            Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not blame others.

            HOWEVER, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was NOT the senior citizens who took
            The melody out of music,
            The pride out of appearance,
            The courtesy out of driving,
            The romance out of love,
            The commitment out of marriage,
            The responsibility out of parenthood,
            The togetherness out of the family,
            The learning out of education,
            The service out of patriotism,
            The Golden Rule from rulers,
            The nativity scene out of cities,
            The civility out of behavior,
            The refinement out of language,
            The dedication out of employment,
            The prudence out of spending,
            The ambition out of achievement or
            God out of government and school.
            And we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance from personal relationships and interactions with others!!

            And, we do understand the meaning of patriotism, and remember those who have fought and died for our country.

            Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts as they stand at attention with their hand over their hearts!

            YES, I'M A SENIOR CITIZEN!

            I'm the life of the party..... Even if it lasts until 8 p.m.
 
            I'm very good at opening childproof caps..... With a hammer.

            I'm awake many hours before my body allows me to get up.

            I'm smiling all the time because I can't hear a thing you're saying.

            I'm sure everything I can't find is in a safe secure place, somewhere.

            I'm wrinkled, saggy, lumpy, and that's just my left leg.

            I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.


            Yes, I'm a SENIOR CITIZEN and I think I am having the time of my life!


            Now if I could only remember who sent this to me, I wouldn't send it back to them, but I would send it to many more too!
            Spread the laughter - Share the cheer
            Let's be happy - While we're here.

 ~ * ~

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

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

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)



Saturday, January 15, 2022

What is "layering"?

A fairly lengthy photo gallery this week . . .

I don't know if the following photo is authentic—I suspect it's staged—but the situation is both plausible and funny.

 

As the person who posted the photo below to Facebook said: "I don't think I know how to 'pararllel' park."

 

My son just sent me the cat photos below. The first, his kitten Buffy. The second a photo Elon Musk never anticipated when he sent up all those Starlink satellites. Evidently, there's a built-in heater to keep snow from accumulating on a dish that has to be pointed skyward, and the dish owner's kitties, all five of them, discovered it was a great place to hang out on  snowy day.


Buffy, May 2021



Below, another gem from my son. This appears to be an authentic page from a phonebook back in the days when you could pay for additional listings. Look closely - this is a real gem. (I saved this page as "BatmanPhonebook," but the original title was: "No spotlight needed.")



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WHAT IS "LAYERING"?

Many, many years ago—at my very first Romance Writers conference—I learned of a small seminar being given in someone's hotel room. I don't recall what it was called, but I recognized that it was something that would be helpful. The presenter was Tami Hoag, who was just beginning to make a name for herself in what was then called "Mainstream" Romance; i.e., romance considerably more in depth than the romances published by Harlequin and Silhouette.

And it was there, in that crowded hotel room, where we sprawled anywhere we could, listening to Tami's bon mots, that I learned about "layering." Yes, I'd been doing it, but I didn't know that was what it was called. And—oh joy!—I learned there were other authors who wrote from "out of the mist," creating as they went along (which necessitates going back and adding all those little details that weren't on the tip of your fingers in the first draft). It is, in fact, the only way I can write. (If I had to plot all the details ahead of time, I'd be so bored with the subject, I'd never bother to actually write it.) And—sniff, sniff—there were actually other writers like me. (Some of my faithful blog readers may recall my saying that although I tried to write in the era of typewriters, I found it impossible, as adding or deleting anything required retyping the entire manuscript!)

So what is "layering"? 

Authors who practice layering are usually those who prefer to "wing" it; i.e., create their books on "a wing and a prayer" (an expression from WWII, by the way, re fighter & bomber pilots making it back home only on a wing and a prayer).

Basically, we create our main characters, have an idea of where and how we should begin, take a deep breath, and start to type. What we have at the end of our writing stint for the day is a rough first draft, which may have a lot of holes. In my case, it's often physical descriptions. Prior to writing, I have created a vague idea of my main characters' personalities, but I usually forget physical descriptions entirely. Also, I may be so immersed in writing snappy dialogue that I forget the background/setting descriptions so many readers treasure.

As the books grows, I may discover the all-important motive that was in my head never made it onto paper because, again, I was concentrating on what my characters were saying or thinking or doing, and not making it clear WHY they were doing it.

My writing needs to be spontaneous—frequently I sit down to write the scene I thought came next and find myself writing something altogether different. (I had jumped the gun in my planning, leaving out a scene necessary to the plot, to character development, etc., etc.)

All this means LAYERING—going back and adding more details, more color, more explanations, more controversy, more joy, more angst—whatever your book needs to rise above a series of ordinary declarative sentences and become a tale that will capture your readers' attention - and keep it right up to the very last page.

To illustrate what I mean, I chose a chapter of my current work-in-progress, a SciFi Adventure/Romance entitled The Crucible Kingdom. I made the following changes to the first draft of Chapter 32:

6 inserts longer than two sentences - long enough to required scribbling on a legal pad

49 shorter inserts or word changes - short enough to scribble on the page

5 deletions (4 of them short)

1 typo 

Among the inserts were bits of backstory, a more thorough look at the hero's character, and a more detailed look inside the heroine's head. As an example, here is a "before" and "after" of our heroine's thoughts:

Original:

Alora had done her homework on the rebellion.

Revision (minor expansion):

Alora had read every scrap of information she could find about the rebellion.

Original:

    Unfair. She knew her attitude was unfair. She had offered herself to Ryn. . . .

Revision (extensive expansion):

    Unfair. Many Regs had joined the rebellion. Correction:  a Reg had begun the rebellion. Talryn Rigel, the rebel leader, was distantly related to Emperor Darroch himself. His father, retired Admiral of the Fleet Vander Rigel, had died for the rebellion. Admiral Rand Kamal, designated heir to the Empire, had turned his back on the throne. Captain Alek Rybolt had gone over to the rebels, taking the Reg's newest battlecruiser and crew with him. The list of those the Empire called deserters or traitors was long. Ryn was in good company. If only she could forget that the Regs considered themselves the Master Race. And, let's face it, who had ended up on the throne? A Reg. With Rand Kamal, another Reg, heading the efforts to bring independence to the star systems that once comprised the Empire.
    Supposedly. Who could really trust a Reg?
    Alora's face crumpled into a grimace. She had offered herself to Ryn. . . . 
 
* * *
The revisions I made to Chapter 32—whether a single word or a whole paragraph—are just the beginning. When I finish Ch. 35, I will re-edit 30-35. And when I've written the final paragraph, I will re-edit from the top at least twice, constantly tweaking my words in an attempt to make it better. Among the many questions I must ask myself:  have I kept my characters consistent as well as interesting? Should I have placed more emphasis on the heroine's doubts about sleeping with the enemy? Do I need better explanations to help readers "suspend disbelief" in what is admittedly more fantasy than science fiction? Have I belabored some points and need to wield the Delete Key? And most of all, have I made my characters likable, even when they're being difficult?
 
As I've been saying for more years than I care to remember:  Edit, edit, edit, and edit again, until your work is clear, colorful, and full of characters and events people want to read about. Demand the best of yourself. Never settle for "good enough."  

 ~ * ~

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

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

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Editing Rant

Authors, in particular, will enjoy the list below, though the cleverness can be admired by all. (I would suggest, however, that the title should be BOOK REVIEWS - GLOSSARY OF TERMS.)

Credit:  Derrick Jensen, on Facebook


Over the many years of this blog, I frequently punctuated my advice on Writing and Editing with rants about problems I encountered in my own work and in books by others; on occasion, about problems that cropped up in the vast number of writing contests I judged. The rant below is from 2016, but the comments are timeless. Any author, including the best and most experienced, can go astray. For example, since I began writing in the early 90s, most of the editing of my own work consisted of adding layers—more descriptions, more colorful detail, more motivation, etc. Yet, lately, I find I have a tendency to obscure the impact of a sentence in too many words, and I find myself deleting instead of adding details. After fifty books, you'd think I'd know better, but  . . .

Which is the entire point of the article below. Newbies may make more mistakes, but every author has to stay eagle-eyed, keep himself/herself on track. No Running Off at the Keyboard. Pertinent details are good. Throwing in everything but the kitchen sink is not the answer to good writing. If you don't put your readers to sleep, you'll send them fleeing to Netflix or Acorn; perhaps even to yet another episode of NCIS! If you'll pardon an oldie but goody, STAY ON POINT! Whoever first said, "Less is More" knew what they were talking about.


February 13, 2016


RUNNING OFF AT THE KEYBOARD

 Rant time again. I watched a perfectly good book go downhill fast this week as it went from a fine story of love and suspense to too much repetition, too many ponderous details, and a plot that belabored its denouement to the point of extinction. And it's not only indie authors without adequate content editing who are making this mistake. One of my all-time favorite authors, print-published by a major publisher, is also guilty of similar errors in her most recent works. In her case, perhaps her editor thought she was so well-known, her readers would swallow whatever she wrote. Well, this reader didn't. I flipped through the last sixty to eighty pages of her last two books just the way I did with the indie book I just finished.

But how to explain the fix needed? That's a tough one. Even as an experienced editor, as I read the book, I asked myself, "What would I tell this author to cut? How can I explain she's beating a dead horse, that a book has to keep moving forward? Once the action plot has been resolved, the villain exposed or the book's major challenge resolved, then it's time to settle the romance and move into Happily Ever After. In the book that set me off on my rant, more than three-quarters of the book was a gripping story, unique and well told. And then it began to dither, evidently trying to be a 100,000-word book when 80,000 would have been enough. Similar scenes were repeated over and over, the story going nowhere. Details that had previously enhanced the story now seemed to bog down the pace, just when it should be picking up, moving toward a conclusion. Emotion that originally captivated now poured off the pages in a flood, repetitive, unproductive. Signifying nothing. What was exciting became boring as the same old plot points were flogged across the page, again and again.

 Stories must constantly move forward. The hero and heroine solving problems, discovering new ones. Wading through the intricacies of a relationship. Floundering, moving on. The dialogue as fresh and innovative on page 250 as it was on page 25. But the writer has to be able to sense when the story needs winding up. When it's time to build toward the big action finale, after which the story should quickly ease into a resolution of the love story. (And, yes, it's always in that order. That's one of the unbending "rules" of romance.)

 Going back for a moment to word count—never, ever, take a story that can be told, and told well, in 80,000 words and try to "pad" it to 100,000. Your readers' eyes will glaze, guaranteed! If you absolutely, positively believe your book must be 100,000 words, then you need to add more action, sub-plots, and secondary characters to sustain 100,000 words.  As previously stated, it's deadly to pad a story by finding new words to say the same thing twenty times over! So . . .

1.  Do not fall in love with your own words, spewing them out in an endless repetitive stream.

2.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because you write well, with emotion, color, and clever dialogue, you can get away with repeating yourself. Say what you have to say, say it well, then let go. Your readers are busy people, bright people. Don't waste their time belaboring a point.

3.  Do not reveal the villain (or whatever major revelation is the climax of your tale), then spend fifty-plus pages on a sub-plot with only an occasional vague reference to your book's main storyline.

4.  Do not write endless pages of emotion-filled rhetoric, which end up overwhelming and destroying what might have been a climactic moment. A moment now drowned under an avalanche of histrionics.

5.  Instead, write that Big Moment for all its worth. Pull out all the stops. Action, details, color, emotion. Wring every ounce of drama out of it. Then LET IT GO!  Move on to the quiet moments that come after—the relief, the explanations.

6.  And then comes that absolute "must" (in Romance, that is)—the resolution of conflict between the hero and heroine (with optional sex scene and/or glimpse of the future).

Grace note:  There are many nuances to the above, but I hope you get the gist of it. "Running off at the Keyboard" is a kiss of death. Don't fall in love with sound of your own voice. See your work as others see it. Tell readers what they need to know, tell it well, then "hands off!" Enough is enough, and any other cliché you can think of to keep you from turning a lean, mean, fighting machine into a candidate for Extreme Weight Loss.

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To my astonishment, Tarleton's Wife sold almost as many copies this month as The Ghosts of Rushton Court and The Vicar's Daughter, two of my most popular Regency Gothics. Why is that astonishing? Because Tarleton's Wife was first published in December 1999, exactly 22 years ago! If you haven't read it ...

 


Tarleton's Wife:  a war widow, a second chance & a resounding surprise
 
Available from Amazon, Smashwords & most ebook vendors.
 

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

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

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)