Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Use of Truth in Fiction



The photo above, taken from the newspaper, is not as sharp as I'd like, but I think it's enough for you to see the record-sized python caught in the Florida Everglades. The female python was 18 feet long, weighed 215 pounds, and had 122 eggs. This python is believed to be one of "founder" pythons that started the plague of pythons that is damaging South Florida's native wildlife.

For those unfamiliar with the story . . . many, many years ago, residents of South Florida, Miami in particular, needed a way to get rid of pet pythons that had grown too big for comfort. The solution? Dump them in the Everglades. The python population multiplied, finally becoming such a problem that the state inaugurated "The Great Python Hunt" once a year. It has now pretty much transitioned from a "macho" snake-hunt challenge to a task for professional hunters (as one can imagine from the size of the snake above.) And yes, it pays well, though only to brave and fearless.

FYI, although the above capture was in December 2021, the photo didn't make it to the Orlando Sentinel until this week. Guess pythons have become ho-hum news here in Florida.


Below, the "children" of my son and his wife on a truly creative Father's Day T-shirt.


The Use of Truth in Fiction

 "Write What You Know" - advice given to almost every beginning author, and although I often scoff at "rules," this is a really good one to remember. Drawing on personal experience - or the latest headlines from the news - can add drama you might never have thought of on your own. True details also add a strong touch of reality to the words you're crafting into a tale of Fiction.

Before beginning today's blog, I took a long look at my printed inventory of Blair's books. There are a lot of them, but how many of those could I use to illustrate today's topic?

I immediately ruled out the Historicals. Yes, I did enormous amounts of research; I really tried to get my facts straight in every last one, but today I want to concentrate on using personal experience and knowledge in Fiction. I also rejected my SciFi novels. As much as we like to envision the future through the eyes of Star Trek, Star Wars, the Galaxy Quest movies, or the words of SciFi's greatest authors, all varieties of futuristic fiction are born primarily from our imaginations.

So . . .  

Contemporary Fiction—Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense/Thrillers & Mystery

Let's take a look . . .

As I recall, my first Contemporary Romance was published by Kensington in August 2000.* Although I'd been living in Florida for years, Cape Cod (MA) was still vivid in my mind. I lived there for a year when I was four, and my family vacationed there every year after for more than thirty years. I knew the Outer Cape (Orleans, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown) almost as well as a native. And I put every ounce of my love for Cape Cod into that Kensington Romance. I also used a nod to the many years I lived in the New Haven (CT) and Boston areas, making those the home bases of my hero and heroine, and attempting to be true to the cultural background of both New England cities.

All this for a skinny little paperback that could be read in a day. But, believe me, I'm convinced "Write What You Know" was of immense help in getting my first print book published.

*The Kensingon paperback was published under the perfectly awful title of He Said, She Said. When I got my rights back, I went indie with the original title, Love At Your Own Risk, which Kensington's Marketing Department rejected, saying they didn't like "Risk" in the title!


My next Contemporary, the Romantic Suspense Shadowed Paradise, still takes the prize for how much of myself I put into it—not just the scenic background but an almost endless series of personal experiences and happenings in the area, plus a few headlines from greater Florida at that time. Most important to the book was the cultural shock I experienced when I moved from the Yale community in Connecticut to a quiet Old Florida town turned resort/retirement community. There is no way I could have created that heroine without giving her many of my own emotions and experiences at the time. The book's half-Russian hero came out of my many years of interest in Russia and my 10,000-miles of travel through the old Soviet Union. 

The washed-out bridge in Shadowed Paradise was real—I drove the mile or so from my house, saw it for myself. The serial killer was real, as was the threat to real estate agents. I was sitting Open Houses at the time, and I recall the warnings. The vast cattle ranch was real. (Florida raises more cattle than any state east of the Mississippi.) Also real, all those roads to nowhere. The grand house in the final scene was real. The restaurant/tavern along the jungle river was also real, one of my all-time favorite places. The airplane flying on and on, its pilot dead, until it crashed into the ocean, came out of Florida headlines at the time.

In Paradise Burning, a sequel to Shadowed Paradise, I also used contemporary headlines about human trafficking in Florida. In an odd twist, at the end of the book I conjured a huge wildfire that burned thousands of acres. And by the time the book was published, my tale had come true, burning acres and acres of pristine land that would take years to recover.

In Death by Marriage, a mystery, I used my three years' experience running a costume-rental business (for which I created about 75 percent of the costumes). In The Art of Evil, a mystery set in Sarasota, I used my years of experience as a volunteer tram driver at the John & Mable Ringling Museum (John Ringling, as in Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey). And in Orange Blossoms and Mayhem, more Suspense than Mystery, I not only used my experiences in that very special Gulf Coast area where I once felt like a fish out of water, but my spectacular Peruvian experiences in Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. And in Florida Knight, a book that's closer to Romance than Mystery (with more than a touch of the Medieval thrown in for good measure), I used my many years as a member of the Florida branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism (to which I donated my many costumes when I moved to Orlando in 2007. Yes, they have a chapter in the Orlando area, but I decided my camping days were over.)

After moving to Orlando, I used my experience of living in "Theme Park Land" to write Florida Wild. And in Limbo Man, a Suspense/Thriller, I used the darker issues of living on the edge of an old bombing range (where a child died and houses were constructed over live ordinance).* I also used the Thimble Islands, just off-shore from our old house in Branford (CT), where we lived for twenty years before moving to Florida. And again, my trip to the Soviet Union, which included a trip to Lake Baikal and Bratsk in Siberia. 

*For Orlando area residents, I'm talking about the old WWII Pine Castle Bombing Range, south and east of what is now Orlando International Airport. I received all the notices about the long-neglected clean-up because my house in East Orlando was on the outer fringes of the range.

 In short, you can call upon almost anything

 in your own experience to create a better book.

Warning:  be careful about using recognizably real people. You can, for example, give your villain a characteristic or two of the Person You Hate Most, but using a complete caricature of a real person, good or bad, could end up alienating someone who might actually have bought your book! (Let alone being downright rude.) 

There are many other instances I could mention, but I'm sure you get the idea: there's nothing like the truth to add drama and authenticity to your fiction. As the old saying goes, "Truth is stranger than Fiction," and I guarantee it can really perk up a book.

~ * ~

Below, a list of Blair's Contemporary novels:

Love At Your Own Risk (Cape Cod)
Florida Knight*
Romantic Suspense
Shadowed Paradise*
Paradise Burning*
Florida Wild (Orlando)
Suspense w/International Settings
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem*
Limbo Man
Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart
The Art of Evil (Sarasota)
Death by Marriage*

*Set (or partially set) in Golden Beach, the fictional name for the most delightful small town on Florida's Gulf Coast

~ * ~

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, June 18, 2022

A Tale from The Sound of Music


Susie, in South Carolina, reporting this is her idea of "having a great time"!


Below, Willow is being challenged for the "Cute Kitty" award.


Kitten on the Keyboard


And from Carol Kotilainen, daughter of my high school best friend . . .

Arizona Sunset

 A Tale from The Sound of Music

 While writing about my daughter's hopefully unique experience while performing "Maria" in West Side Story, I recalled a memorable theatrical moment of my own from way, way back in the 60s. 

I was in my first adult play at age six and somehow never got over the theatrical bug. After five years of teaching elementary school music in Connecticut, I finally took the plunge and moved to New York City, where I auditioned for musicals. To my surprise, I almost immediately landed a chorus job in the National Company of The Sound of Music. I was also engaged to play piano for rehearsals while on the road, train replacements, and direct the off-stage music performed by our sixteen "nuns." (A representative of the Rodgers & Hammerstein office took me to Local 802 in New York, where we sat at the boss's desk while he wrote out a check for my dues, so I could play piano with the Union's approval.)

When we went into rehearsal, the most challenging music we had to learn was an 8-part, all-female intricate contrapuntal chorale (in Latin) that opens the stage production of The Sound of Music. The Powers That Be wanted to have the "echo effect" of singing in a large cathedral, so we recorded the song in a studio in New York and never performed it "live" again.

We opened on a Saturday afternoon in Detroit. (FYI,we traveled the country by train, each cast member with his/her own Roomette.) I should add that a skeleton crew also  traveled with the cast. Stage Manager, Head Electrician and Assistant, Orchestra Director & First Violinist are the ones I recall. All other crew and musicians were hired locally.

We were in an immense auditorium in Detroit (sadly, I've heard it's now gone to ruin). All were excited; a few of the girls managed to peek through the curtain and reported that the auditorium was absolutely stuffed with families with children and, to our surprise, a great many nuns in full habit.

The opening scene of The Sound of Music is played before the curtain. Novices from the convent pantomime early morning chores while the ethereal music we recorded in New York plays over the speaker system. All went well; the last novice scurried off-stage. And Sammy, our Stage Manger, gave the signal to open the curtain.

Nothing happened. Again, Sammy gave the signal. The curtain didn't move. At which point, Sammy roared, "God damn it, open the curtain!" And of course the speakers used to broadcast our beautiful 8-part Latin song were still open, and Sammy's angry voice soared out to the matinee audience of children and nuns.

What a way to start our tour of the whole U. S. of A!

~ * ~

 I am happy to report that all four books of the Blue Moon Rising series are now available on Smashwords, as well as Amazon. Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, and The Bastard Prince are already available through Smashwords' many affiliates. Royal Rebellion should join them shortly.

In the final book of this SciFi Fantasy tale of Adventure and Romance, the children of a pacifist king and their gifted spouses come together to finally defeat an evil empire.

Grace note: The Crucible Kingdom is Book Five in the series, but is a spin-off, the plot only vaguely connected to the four-book saga of the fall of the Regulon Empire.

 ~ * ~

   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, June 11, 2022

A West Side Story Tale



Susie, almost unrecognizable with straight hair, 2014


I finally saw the new West Side Story, via Netflix, this week. Loved the updated take on Bernstein's version of Romeo and Juliet, particularly the fact that the cast was doing its own singing. But as the final scene approached, I was inevitably reminded of what happened at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota (FL) back in the 80s. And yes, this is a true tale. I was there.

My daughter Susie attended Booker Performing Arts High School in Sarasota, to which she was bused each morning from our home 20 miles away in Venice. Because she was almost constantly in rehearsal for something, her transportation home was usually via Mom's stationwagon, the bus having departed hours earlier. (The wagon was usually stuffed with other students who lived in the Venice/Nokomis area—long before the days when "seatbelt safety" was dinned into our heads.)  

As I recall, it was spring of Susie's junior year when she played Maria in West Side Story. Her older brother was in college at the time, but my middle son and I drove up to the Sarasota for a performance on a day when Sarasota County bused every high school student in the county to the Van Wezel. All 1736 seats were full.

As I'm sure most of you recall, the ending of West Side Story is highly dramatic. Tony, thinking Maria is dead, rushes out into the street, challenging her alleged killer, Chino. Just as Tony sees Maria coming toward him, Chino shoots him.

Maria rushes to Tony, picks up the gun Chino has dropped, and turns to face him, the gun pointed straight at him.

At that point, someone in the audience yelled, "Shoot him!" And the entire auditorium took up the chant:  "Shoot him, shoot him, shoot him!" and kept it up. I recall my son Stephen jumping up from his seat (near center front) and yelling for everyone to SHUT UP!!!

Meanwhile, on stage, Susie is somehow staying in character, holding her pose for the considerable amount of time it took the teachers to return the auditorium to quiet. And kudos to all the students on stage. They shook it off and finished the show as if nothing had happened. Susie performed Maria several times in several different venues, including the Bradenton Players, but I'll never forget that raucous moment at the Van Wezel. In all my time in the theater I've never witnessed anything like it.

Below, a "teen photo" of Susie that she probably wishes had gotten lost along the way. From the look on her face, I suspect that's Venice High behind her in the days before her transfer to Booker Performing Arts High, which she loved.

Performing in Miami, 1997

Director of The Citrus Singers, 2019 (in Santa hat)

Susie's Birthday - with Hailey, Cassidy, Riley - 2019

Susie with megalodon tooth, 2022

 ~ * ~

Blair's books set in Venice & Sarasota

Shadowed Paradise

Paradise Burning

Death by Marriage

Orange Blossoms & Mayhem

The Art of Evil

 ~ * ~

   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, June 4, 2022

Blair Books & Photo Gallery

 Blatant Promo

The Bastard Prince has joined Rebel Princess and Sorcerer's Bride on Smashwords and its many affiliates - B&N, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, etc. Hopefully, Book 4, Royal Rebellion, will be added before the end of June. (The entire Blue Moon series is currently available on Amazon.)

What to do with K'kadi Amund, the youngest of four royal children—the one who doesn't talk? The young man of almost twenty-one who can still lose himself in moments of beauty, or moments of disaster. "Unreliable" and "weird" are some of the kinder things said about him. So why does S'sorrokan, leader of the rebellion against the Regulon Empire, consider him one of his most vital assets? But even when K'kadi comes into his own and gets what was once his greatest desire, he discovers that growing up comes with a price.

Grace note:  Although this book gives K'kadi a starring role, he is a prominent character in all the Blue Moon books, including the recent spin-off, The Crucible Kingdom.




Doin' the Willow Twist


Below:  Special pics for those who find English both fascinating and frustrating; i.e., Authors, Editors, English Teachers, Beleaguered Students & Anyone Who Ever Learned English as a Foreign Language.

If you missed it, you're probably not cut out to be an editor.

I know people this fussy about English. Do you?

And below a very special quote for all authors out there, whether your genre is Fiction, Non-fiction, or Business.


The motto of "out of the mist" authors like me.


Below are three of an amazing selection of Facebook photos of a Public Bathroom in Australia. No city given, no explanation of how this came about, but there's no denying it's fabulous. (And likely unique.) If anyone can give more details about this work of art, please post to Comments.

Note the hot air balloon!

All I can say is, "Wow!"


And please don't forget . . .



On a planet far, far away, a starship captain and a widowed duchess—both strong-willed and accustomed to being boss—are forced to work together to save their world from a curse cast by an evil sorcerer.

 ~ * ~

   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)