Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Disaster of Not Editing

 Family photo of the week - The Capital Room Bar. Only Cassidy missing, as she is under 18 and not allowed to work in the family's new enterprise in downtown Sanford, Florida. (Currently in "soft opening" stage.)

Left to right:  Lionel (Mike's cousin & creative genius behind The Capital Room), Hailey, Susie, Mike, & Riley. Both grandgirls will be servers for the "exotic drinks & tapas" bar.



Below, a truly remarkable pic. 




This is far from the first time I've expounded on this topic, and it likely won't be the last. But I've been reading a series by an author who is new to me, and wincing and shaking my head while I do it. Yes, the characters are outstanding, the descriptions way above average, the plots intriguing enough to keep me reading (with an "aw-come-on" here and there). But . . .

The day I came across an entire paragraph repeated with but one new paragraph between them, I shook my head and decided it was time to rant and rave. For there is no way even the most cursory reading of the story from top to bottom would not have alerted the author that something was wrong. 

I am not going to mention "typos" or missing words below. Every author, even the most diligent at editing, misses a few along the way. The "rule", back when my husband and I were running an educational publishing company well before the days of epub, was:  "No matter how carefully a book is edited, it will still go to print with a least three typos."

So what am I talking about?

1.  Using a sound-alike word in place of the word that should have been used. A mistake that, when repeated enough times, forces me to suspect the author's interpretation of the words is at fault, and therefore presents the serious problem of inadequate education more than scrambled fingers. (A good example of this occurred on the noon news this week—a TV announcer using "eminent" when she should have said "imminent.")

2.  Leaving the "ly" off adverbs, giving the characters in historical novels the distinct flavor of 21st century ghetto-speak.

3.  Paragraphing in the middle of someone's dialogue, giving the impression that a new speaker has the floor. Note:  if a single person's words are lengthy enough to go to a new paragraph, it must immediately be established the same person is speaking. For example, inserting a simple "Mary (or whoever) continued" in the first sentence.

4. Perfectly awful punctuation, to the point of confusion.

5. Perfectly awful sentence structure, to the point of confusion.

In short, the author of this series has a great imagination but does not have the education to edit his/her own work. He/she needs to hire an English expert to keep from massacring the English language. 

Special Grace note:  Pardon my inability to adapt to "they/them" for a single person.

Why is following the basic rules of writing important? Because a careless disregard for the language is an insult to the reader. Yes, I understand the author wants to write as fast as possible in order to turn out as many books as possible, and get paid! And, most certainly, authors wince at the cost of hiring an editor. But in the long run, it's worth it to know that not only did you get it right but that if you don't, readers will get tired of wincing over your mistakes and look elsewhere for their reading material. (I recall abandoning a SciFi series because it had so many errors I simply couldn't tolerate it.) In the case of this particular author, I'm hanging in there, hoping someone he/she knows will tell it like it is:  YOU NEED AN EDITOR!

In many, many blogs of the past, I have emphasized Do-it-Yourself editing, but every once in a while an author comes along who is truly unable to do that. If you are one of those, then please, pretty please, find someone to check your manuscript so you're not thumbing your nose at the many readers who were paying attention in English class. (Hopefully, you have a friend who might be willing to do it just for the pleasure of reading your book - but not someone who was also snoozing during class.)

Final Grumble:  What astonishes me is that in a series that is now several books long, no one seems to have warned the author about the flawed work he/she is presenting to readers; i.e., there has been little improvement. Nobody spoke up? The author simply doesn't care? Or am I merely the fuddy-duddy from another Age who believes the rules of English are there to make better writers of us all? To allow us to write sentences that make sense. To write sentences that sound like the historical period of our setting. To write dialogue that is not confusing. Dialogue where there is no mistake about who is saying what, and when.

Okay, that's it. But if you're a writer and see yourself in the paragraphs above . . . Or a writer who is not confident he/she understands the vocabulary and rules of our language, perhaps it's time to take a closer look . . .

Do. Not. Shoot. Yourself. In. The. Foot.  Have respect for what you've written. For your readers and for the future of reading itself. Do not make yourself look foolish by ignoring the rules of the road. Keep in mind the end result could be Crash & Burn.

* * *


Quite a few years ago, I developed an interest in England's extensive canal network, once the shipping lifeline of the nation, falling into disuse only after World War II. And finally resurrected, with enormous effort, for recreational boating by a determined band of enthusiasts. Narrowboats can now be found along most of the old canals, including those in the heart of London. Some are permanent homes; most are used for weekend meandering. I was fortunate to travel on a narrowboat for a week at the speedy rate of 3 mph, immersing myself in the beauty of the English countryside and feathered wildlife, as well as the fascination of the infinitely slow process of filling or draining a lock. (There were even occasional glimpses of ancient gun emplacements from the 40s.)

My hardcover research was also extensive. I have umpteen canal books & maps on my research shelves. (I even recall e-mailing the Kennett & Avon canal office with a question. Which was promptly answered.) Although I've used this research in several books, I could not have written Lady of the Lock without it. So that is this week's featured novel, a classic Regency set almost entirely on the Kennett & Avon Canal.


The daughter of a canal engineer and a marquess? Heaven forfend! Against the backdrop of digging the Kennett & Avon canal, a young woman struggles with a decades-long, and quite impossible, dream of love.

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

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)




Saturday, August 12, 2023

The Changes in My Lifetime, Part 3

 Next Mosaic Moments - August 26


Before the final entry in my "Changes" series, a gallery of random photos I've been accumulating over the last few weeks.


A spring flowing out of a tree


 Below, the tallest bridge in the world - completed 2004:

Millau Viaduct, Southern France

 ADDENDUM to Changes, Parts 1 & 2:

Probably because it did not affect me personally (I was far from working age when the war ended), I forgot a truly seminal change brought about by WWII: Women working outside the home. Women who took over men's jobs, including factory assembly lines, during the war, did not all return home with a sigh of relief. In fact, many discovered they liked getting paid for their hard work! This was a truly significant change in our culture. Sorry I missed it the first time around. By the time I was married in the early Sixties, I was providing most of the after-school transportation for our neighborhood because I was just about the only mother at home (where I worked part-time as editor for the educational publishing company my husband ran,  in addition being head of the Audio-Visual Department at Yale).



The Sixties - with a peek at the Seventies

 In 1947, after skimping on fabric during the war years, Paris designers plunged hemlines to calf-length, where they stayed until the advent of that era of rebellion, the Sixties. Just as the Twenties had seen women hike skirt-lengths and cut hair that had been worn long for millennia, so now came the great rebellion against the innocence of the Fifties. Against the conservative attitudes, conservative dress, conservative speech. The need for peace that my generation had embraced was scorned by those only a decade younger, those with no memory of living through a War. As for me . . .

 1. On Tour with The Sound of Music. In the fall of 1960, I had my own small rebellion, giving up my music teaching position to move to NYC and audition for musicals. I was among the lucky ones, being chosen almost immediately for the National Company of The Sound of Music, with Florence Henderson starring in the role made famous by Mary Martin. Imagine, two months in NYC and I was employed by Rodgers & Hammerstein, and about to go on the road, traveling across the country by train, each of us with our own roomette, our hotel accommodations also paid by R&H! As was my entry fee into Musicians Local 802 (NYC) as, in addition to singing in the chorus, I directed off-stage music, played piano for on-the-road rehearsals, and trained replacements. In short, an experience I will never forget.

2. Marriage. In December 1962, I gave it all up for marriage, a choice every performer has to make at some time or other. I never regretted my decision, though I was very glad I had dared to try for the upper echelons of the music  profession and truly enjoyed being part of it.

3. Mini-skirts. Skirts kept getting shorter and shorter, until they finally bared more anatomy than had been seen anywhere but on a South Sea island. There was also a growing tendency to flout the family values that had been so important for so long, a tendency which somehow led to the free-spirited Flower Children of the Seventies finding their way to a different kind of rebellion. And sadly, becoming forever notorious because of their rabid opposition to the Vietnam War. 

4.  The Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was begun the same year I was married. The Russian Bear was on the rise and demonstrating its might. "The Cold War" became a term known to everyone.

5. Assassination. I was alone in our apartment in downtown New Haven when Walter Cronkite announced that John F. Kennedy had been shot. I will never forget the moment he took off his glasses, laid them down, and informed us that Kennedy had died, plunging the country into a period of mourning even more intense than the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the waning days of WWII.

6.  Diapers.  As any mother of three children in three years knows, I lost around five years of my life in the mid-sixties, but if there's one thing that stands out in my mind, it's washing diapers - yes, genuine cloth diapers. "Pampers" did not make their appearance until my youngest was about two. A change instantly embraced by mothers (& fathers) everywhere. You cannot imagine the struggle necessary to carry a full diaper pail, dump the disgusting water in the toilet, then get the diapers into the washing machine. (At least we had washing machines and were not forced to wash them all by hand, as was true for eons in the past.)

7. The Vietnam War. Although we first sent troops to the long-running Vietnam War c. 1964, the horror of this far-distant war did not seem to truly affect the general public until the Seventies. Perhaps we had simply come to accept our role as Policeman to the World; and sadly, the myth of our infallibility.             

8.  The Moon Landing (1969). The Sixties ended on a truly spectacular note. Although we were likely spurred on by our rivalry with Russia, who had launched a satellite (Sputnik) into orbit before we did, it was worth every bit of effort put into it. The entire world sat transfixed as the capsule descended those last few feet before settling on the surface of the moon. Wow! Just talking about it still gives me the shivers. It is sad, sad, sad that we were spooked into giving it all up. More than fifty years have passed, and we still haven't made it back to the surface of the moon.

The Seventies 

I was going to stop with the Sixties, but the horror of the Vietnam War should never go unspoken. Or the disgrace of many of our citizens who condemned the men who fought instead of the government officials who sent them into the jungles to fight, die, or return home to be reviled by their own countrymen.

The Vietnam War - Rest in Peace

May God Forgive Us All  & Grant Rest to Our Troops, so many of whom suffered wounds that have lasted a lifetime.

On the Happier Side of the Seventies . . .

Travel - USSR. In the early 70s I traveled 10,000 miles in the USSR, from Moscow to Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan & Kazhakstan including the fabled Samarkand), and on to Irkurtsk on Lake Baikal in Siberia, then north by bush plane to Bratsk, almost on the Arctic Circle. And finally, back to St. Petersburg, which was still called Leningrad at that time. 

Travel - Peru.  Only a year or so later, I was off to Peru with a group of Yalies, touring all the best-known archeological sites of the time, including, of course, Machu Picchu. (Where we stayed in the inn directly on site. Just roll out of bed and climb the path to one of the greatest archeological sites in the world—discovered in 1911 by a Yalie, of course.) A year later I went back to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, this time with my husband as I didn't want him to miss these special wonders of Peru.

Finale.  The Sorrowful Seventies gave way to the gaudy hedonism of the Eighties—another diametrical switch, as so frequently happens in history. (And yes, this was the beginning of the Computer Age for the average citizen. I had my first word processor in 1981; PCs with 8 K appeared c. 1982.)

The Seventies do not deserve to be remembered except by historians, and since most of my readers have some recollection of the Eighties, this seems a good place to stop.

Thanks for sticking with these moments of nostalgia. I'll end as did the movie cartoons of my childhood, with Porky Pig saying,

"That's All, Folks!" 

* * *

Featured this week - a Thriller in Need of More Love:

Mention of my trips to Peru reminded me of a favorite book of mine that never caught the attention of most of my readers. Yes, it's more Thriller than Mystery, and about as far from Regency England as you can get, but, hey, Peru is such a great setting, not to mention Europe and good old Florida. So if anyone would like to take a vicarious adventure on the Inca Trail with a Floridian Miss Fixit and an intriguing international colleague . . .


Weddings and murder do not mix well. When things begin to go wrong for her family's Fantasy Wedding & Vacation business, trouble-shooter Laine Halliday gets more of a challenge than she bargained for, even with the aid of a mystery man she finds on the Inca Trail in Peru.

Author's Note: Only a few of my Golden Beach books have cross-over characters, but all share the idyllic setting of an actual Gulf Coast community, whose residents would prefer to keep its real name a secret.

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

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, August 5, 2023

The Changes in My Lifetime, Part 2


Proud parents at Cassidy's graduation from Flight School

Below:  Friday afternoon, at 4:00 pm, we got the word. Cassidy passed her final Checkflight, and has received her Private Pilot's License. (That's her instructor on the right.)

Yay, hurray!

 With time running down to a 2-day cruise planned for this weekend, Cassidy's flight instructor flew her to the commercial airport, taxiing her right up to her gate. When boarding her American Airlines flight, Cassidy mentioned that she had just gotten her pilot'
s license that morning, and lo & behold, they invited her to sit up front!


 We're all feeling the heat these days, but maybe not as much as in Las Vegas . . .



(including Comments on the State of the World & Hints of Events to Come)

Addendum to Part 1:

 Rationing. When mentioning my child's-eye view of WWII, I forgot Gas & Food Rationing. Yes, both. My mother had "coupons" for nearly everything. Meat, in particular, was in short supply. The US was not only feeding a hugely increased military, but we were providing emergency rations for our allies, particularly Russia, with convoys of supplies to Murmansk the most dangerous naval assignment, not just for the Navy but for the merchant sailors on the supply ships they were escorting. (One of them was among the 11 Americans who toured Russia with me a quarter century after WWII. All he had to do, even so long after the war, was mention "Murmansk," and he was an instant friend to every Russian we met!) 

A personal note on Gas Rationing. My father had a Master's Degree from Harvard and wanted to get a Doctorate from Yale, so we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut in the summer of 1941, just months before Pearl Harbor. Since our new home was about a 90-minute drive from New Haven, forgetaboutit. By the time the war was over, my father decided to let his dream of a Yale degree go.

Post-War - Special Note                                     

High school days were about as idyllic as it gets, though I recall a moment in 8th grade that presaged what was to come. (Reminder:  throughout WWII the Russians were our allies, attacking the Germans from east as the rest of the Allies attacked from the west. Russia as an ally was the world I had grown up in.) And yet . . .

My father, who had just become Superintendent of Schools after a number of years as Principal of the High School, noticed my interest in a school library book called Timur and His Gang - about a boy in the USSR. I really don't recall my father saying much, but by the next day, the book was gone, never to be seen again. So even directly after a long war with Russia as our allies, my father wanted no hint of Communism in our schools. (I try to remember that "other side of the coin" when being horrified by many censorship attempts down through the years, to which I am adamantly opposed.)  [Clearly, this incident was significant to me or I would not have recalled the title of the book after more than 70 years!]

The World, post World War II (1945- ). Most of the world basked in euphoria. Our fighting men were home, anxious to embrace wives, children, and sweethearts, something resulting in a new term—"housing developments," spurred by the need of men who had fought and won a war, while keeping alive to the vision of a home with picket fence all their own. The Russians, who had suffered terribly during the war, were a menace only to those tasked with analyzing potential threats. It should be noted that Germany and Japan, though humiliated by defeat, were not stomped into the earth but swamped with aid to rebuild (US aid, of course.) The UN was born, everyone wanting to believe it would forever end the need for war.

Grace note:  although I did not read this story until I was studying history in college, it's a good indication of how primitive conditions were in Russia at that time. It seems that when the Allies stood back and allowed the Russians to take Berlin (as compensation for all their country had suffered)*, naturally, Russian troops ran rampant through the city, many of them with backgrounds so primitive they had no idea what a toilet was and used them to wash their potatoes!

*Russia lost just under 8,700,000 people, military & civilians, in WWII.

Some Local Notes from the Post-War period

As with previous decades, locking doors was still a rarity. Hats and gloves were mandatory for a female when leaving the house. Even after the family moved to the New Haven area in 1952, I recall my mother getting "all dolled up" to take the train into the city to consult with her editor. A trip that always included going "upstairs" for a brief chat with one of the Dell brothers (who clearly had an eye for a good-looking woman).

It should be noted that although rayon had been invented, our clothes were almost exclusively made of natural fibers:  wool, silk, cotton, and linen. Every girl learned to iron!

My first job (age 14?) was reading to an elderly shut-in for an hour each week. For which I was paid 10¢. And, oh yes, at our new house there was a large bamboo plant just outside my bedroom window. Every time my teenage temper soared, I seized the loppers and attacked those branches. Believe me, that bamboo was well trimmed!

Wariness of a recovering Russia was rumbling into life, but Nuclear War? After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who would be that insane? It was, after all, the US of A that dropped those bombs, the first perhaps justified as a clearly defeated Japan had refused to negotiate and "the bomb" brought long years of war to a halt within a week. The second bomb, however, (Nagasaki) would be forever to our shame. (Our Intelligence analysis of the total devastation of Hiroshima did not come in until it was too late to call off the second strike.) Nonetheless, the US of A was now king of the world (for WWII couldn't have been won without us), and naturally we set about helping the entire world, enemies as well as friends, recover.

Wow! The war was over, my generation no more than witnesses to the carnage our parents experienced, as they moved almost directly from the Great Depression to World War. They suffered so we could enjoy the halcyon post-war days. (Despite all those Newsreels, we youngsters were so-o-o innocent!)

College. We met new people, were challenged by new ideas, new experiences, still with no credible threats on the horizon. Until . . . somewhere around 1954 a Senator named McCarthy reared his ugly, narrow-minded head. His rabid anti-Communism spread so far, so fast, that colleges that had been independent since their founding were obligated to see that both faculty and students took a "Loyalty Oath" to the country that had been founded on Freedom of Speech. I vividly recall all of us at the Boston University School of Music being herded into an auditorium, where the oath was administered. For college students who had just been doing what college students do, it was bewildering. McCarthy? Who was this weirdo? It would be years before sanity once again ruled, and Senator McCarthy faded into obscurity.

My college years also saw the arrival of TELEVISION. We did not have a set at home because my father refused to have the ugliness of an antenna on his roof. But I recall TV must have arrived sometime during my last two years of college, while I was living in the 7-story BU dorm in Back Bay. Because every Friday night at 9:00, I was among the contingent of upperclassmen descending on the lounge and taking over the TV so we could watch Dragnet. (Loved that show.)

And then, suddenly, our long, wonderful indulgence in Peace was over. Communists were kicking up a fuss in some previously unheard of place called Korea, and since our sterling performance in WWII had somehow made us Policeman to the World, we were plunged back into war, and this time it was my generation being drafted. (Somewhat mitigated by word filtering back from our musician friends at Camp Lejeune. They had all been accepted into the band, and thus were exempt from fighting a war on the other side of the world.)

My First Adult Job.

My first job was a music teacher in Junior High School in New Haven, CT. I am tempted to say the salary was $1500 year, but perhaps my memory is faulty. Let's call it the magnificent sum of $2500/yr. But living at home in East Haven, I still managed to save enough money ($600) to go on a concert tour with the "All-America Chorus" in what was now, in the summer of 1956,  being referred to as "Western Europe." I still recall taking the bus to work, sharing the old Tomlinson bridge with locomotives* shunting freight from one side of New Haven harbor to the other, while watching the construction of the new bridge (now also replaced) high above. [Hmm - I really think it was $1500/yr, bumping up to $2500/yr the next year when I moved to teaching in the wealthy suburb of North Haven.]

*That's right - RR tracks ran straight down the center of the bridge. You could be driving over it, look in the rear-view, and discover a giant diesel engine behind your car!

And if the Koren War wasn't enough to burst our euphoric bubble, then came . . . The Sixties.                        

"Changes" will continue next week.

~ * ~

This week's blatant promo:

In my fifty-plus novels one character has appeared in more books than any other. When I created Jack Harding for Tarleton's Wife, I never dreamed he would be so long-lasting. I even abandoned him for more than a decade after condemning him to not get the girl. Twice. But he insisted on resurrecting himself, demanding his right to Happily Ever After. And Rogue's Destiny was born. And never doubt that Jack is a rogue, as well as a vigilante, mercenary, genuine hero, and, of course, oh-so-charming. Jack appears in the following:  (Until I started counting, even I didn't realize the list was so long.)

Tarleton's Wife
O'Rourke's Heiress
Rogue's Destiny
The Lady Takes a Risk
The Abominable Major
The Making of Matthew Wolfe
Matthew Wolfe - the Adventures Begin
Matthew Wolfe - Revelations

In previous books in the Regency Warrior series, Jack Harding has suffered a broken heart, a close brush with the hangman, and continued his uncertain history with females by letting yet another woman slip through his fingers—this time to his employer, Terence O'Rourke. It would appear Jack is never to know the joy of true love—until he meets a feisty young French Canadian heiress in need of a knight in shining armor. A role at which Jack excels.

WARNING: Although the story in Rogue's Destiny is stand-alone, it contains major spoilers for the previous books in the Regency Warrior series: The Sometime Bride, Tarleton's Wife, and O'Rourke's Heiress.
~ * ~
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)