Tag Archive | Romantic Times

Susana’s Author Pals: Blair Bancroft

Susana read many of Blair Bancroft’s Regency romances in print and digital form long before she joined the Central Florida Romance Writers and met her in person. That was when she discovered some of Blair’s other outstanding talents: singing, acting, directing, and piano, in addition to blogging and editing. Blair (Grace) has shown herself to be very kind, supportive, and helpful to new authors in both the CFRW and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA. Having been a caregiver herself, she understands the challenges Susana faces during her winter sojourn in Florida when she cares for her dad.

About Blair Bancroft (Grace Ann Kone)

Blair came to writing late, partly because she had a desire to pursue a singing career and partly because her mother was a highly successful children’s book author, and it never occurred to Blair it was possible to have two such exotic creatures as an author in one family. So music was the order of the day. During college years at Brown and Boston University’s School of Music, Blair was fortunate enough to participate in operas under the direction of Sarah Caldwell and also find time for BU’s theater productions, musical and non-musical.

After five years of teaching music to elementary school students in Connecticut, Blair finally set out for New York City, where she became one of the nuns in the National Company of The Sound of Music (with Florence Henderson starring as Maria von Trapp). She also directed off-stage choruses, played piano for on-road rehearsals, and trained all replacements.

But teaching—and the lure of home and family—drew her back to New England, where she taught music in Newton, Massachusetts, and directed a production of The King and I at Newton High School. Then it was back to Connecticut for marriage, three children, and confining her performing to church. She also branched out into a new field—becoming editor of an educational publishing company, a job that lasted for the next twenty years. After moving to Florida in the 80s, she worked at a variety of jobs, from real estate to church secretary, while doing a huge amount of transportation for a daughter who was following in her footsteps as a soloist. Only after Blair’s youngest went off to college did she get one last crack at the theater, playing Mrs. Peachum in a Sarasota production of The Threepenny Opera.

Blair greatly admires women who seem to be able to do it all: handle a job, husband, children, and still find time to write. She could not. Although she “dabbled” in writing a time or two, she did not do any serious writing until her husband of twenty-five years had a stroke and she became a full-time caregiver—for the next nine years.

It took eight of those to find a publisher. Well, actually, the publisher (the now defunct Starlight Writer Publications) found her. The editor had been a judge in a contest Blair entered and requested Tarleton’s Wife as one of the initial offerings of their new company (December 1999). (Tarleton’s Wife , Blair’s Golden Heart winner, is now on its fifth incarnation and is still selling, after nearly twenty years. It also won a Best Romance award from the Florida Writers Association.)

And just that quickly, Blair’s luck changed. She was offered a contract by Kensington’s Precious Gem line and within the same year sold her first Regency to Signet (Penguin Putnam), for whom she wrote five more before the line was closed. That first Regency, titled by Signet The Indifferent Earl, won Romantic Time’s Best Regency award. (It is now available online under its original title: The Courtesan’s Letters.)

After Signet shut down their traditional Regency (think Jane Austen) line, Blair went back to where she started: epublishing, working for two different epublishers before going independent in 2011 and publishing subsequent books through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. Blair is a strong advocate for independent publishing, for being your own boss. In addition to continually expanding her inventory to a variety of genres, she has been offering Writing and Editing tips on her blog, Grace’s Mosaic Moments, since January 2011—where she enjoys sharing all she’s learned since she started typing her mother’s manuscripts when she was a freshman in high school!

Blair reports that when she finishes Book 4 of her Blue Moon rising series, and if she counts two previously published books awaiting indie pub, she has written 40 books since the mid 90s. She is also working on organizing seven-plus years of blogs on Writing and Editing into book form, which she hopes to make available by Fall 2018.

Blair has not forgotten her musical training, singing regularly—and sometimes soloing—in the choir of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, Florida.

She may have come to writing late, but Blair doesn’t hesitate to say she loves it. As an “out of the mist” author, Blair’s favorite comment on her writing is: “I can hardly wait to get up each morning and find out what my characters are going to do today.”

March 18, 2018

Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart

Destroyed crops in Florida and Spain. Acts of terror? Corporate warfare? Or simply businesses held to ransom? Whatever the motive, Ashley van Dyne, president of an organic foods business, needs the tough Hispanic entrepreneur, Rafe Guererro, to help her put a stop to the damaging sabotage. The resulting cultural clash of both business and romance resounds across two continents. And, as if the problem weren’t big enough already, they both have teenage relatives caught up in the ongoing disaster.


The Blackthorne Curse

After the death of her father, young Serafina Blackthorne of New Haven, Connecticut, becomes a reverse immigrant, traveling from the New World to the Old. To her grandfather, who lives on Dartmoor, a place where eerie legends abound and where she discovers, to her horror, she is marked for death by the Blackthorne Curse. The more Serafina attempts to outmaneuver the Curse, the more she seems to jump from the frying pan into the fire. She finally has but one hope left. But does her childhood friend really want to save her, or is he destined to be her executioner?

Author’s Note: This book is a Gothic novel set in the Regency period—a style of story where a young woman finds herself basically alone and battling threats to her life, some from humans, some from possibly supernatural sources. But in spite of all the angst, it is also a romance. I hope you will enjoy reading this tale in a style made famous by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney as much as I enjoyed writing it.


The Dress: Episode #3

In Kansas City at the Romantic Times Convention!

We did it!

The dress and coat are both done, no thanks to me since I got sick the last couple of days and couldn’t even help with the handwork. The best I could do was show up for fittings, pose for pictures, and eventually, pack up the car for the 1200-mile trip from the Florida retirement community to Kansas City. I still feel a bit like the wicked stepsister, taking off for the ball while leaving Cinderella at home to prepare two houses (mine and hers) for the summer while we head back to Ohio. I seriously owe you, Mom!

gown427-4My mom’s a genius! Not only did she do a fantastic job on both garments, but she sewed on hanger loops and outfitted me with a needle and thread in case something goes wrong. She really deserves to be here at RT on Wednesday night when I wear it to the Ellora’s Cave disco party (not going to do any disco dancing, however) and the 30th Anniversary Ball on Thursday. I’ve promised photos, and they’ll be posted here as well.

Observations on the entire process

  • This is not a project for an amateur. I could never have done this myself, and I do have some sewing experience. The fitted bodice required a LOT of pattern alterations, since we couldn’t use any sort of stretchy fabric and still remain anywhere close to authentic.
  • The gown my sister had made had two separate drawstrings in the bodice to make it more fitted, since she was not available for fittings. That turned out well, but I’m not sure that would have worked well with the pattern we used.
  • We had to fudge on the back closings, since we could not get the eyehole punch to work through two layers of fabric and interfacing. In the end, we used hooks and eyes and snaps, and yes, I do need a lady’s maid to help me into it. (Any volunteers?)

How much did I spend on this project?

  • As to that, I’m not sure I really want to know. The most costly trip to Jo-Ann’s was $143, and that was mostly for the fabric and lining (for both the gown and the coat). The price for the trim and lace was another $100 or so (and totally worth it, I think you will agree), and there were several other trips to Jo-Ann’s in various towns for things like interfacing and other sewing notions. A few things (like the eyehole punch) got returned too, so I can’t tell you the final cost. But I would guess it was at least $350, and that does NOT include the hours and hours my mother put into it. But that’s not all! I also invested a considerable sum in accessories, including:
  • Regency slippers with “diamond” clips, plus clockwork stockings, from American Duchess
  • ringlet hairpiece
  • three different tiaras (couldn’t make up my mind)
  • long white gloves
  • brooch to wear with the coat
  • special “undies” (not authentic, but who’s going to know?)

gown_detailBut it’s not about the money.

It’s never been about the money.

It started with my friend Ellen’s idea for promoting Susana Ellis the author at conferences like this one (although I suspect that I will not be the only one in costume here.) But it became so much more than that. I never could have guessed how much my mother and I bonded during this process—from the first days of discussing the project to the difficult decisions about fabric choice (would you believe we originally intended the blue satin to be the gown and the cream pintuck taffeta to be the coat?) and many setbacks (like when the sleeve had to be redone and then we had to abandon the project for a few days to head north for a funeral) and wondering if it was possible to finish both garments in time for the conference.

Surprisingly, even my father became invested in this project. During the times when he seemed to have some health setbacks himself and Mom started worrying about having to head north earlier than planned and not being able to finish the coat, he told her to quit worrying about him and just finish it! He wanted to see the final product as much as we did, and thus, he started working harder at his physical therapy exercises (he has Parkinson’s).

Today’s the day!

I’m writing this on Wednesday, so by the time this goes live, the first event (the Ellora’s Cave disco party) will be over and hopefully I will have some photos to post. I’m planning to wear the gown for a Club RT appearance at 3:30, and then comes the stage walk with the Ellora’s Cave caveman. Oh yeah!

Click here for the video of the walk across the stage!

coat427-3On Thursday I’ll be wearing it for the Expo from 4-6 and then the RT ball in the evening. On Friday morning I have another appearance at Club RT. By then I’m sure it’ll be ready for the dry cleaner’s and the next opportunity, probably the RWA Conference in Atlanta.

If you are going to be at any of these events, please come up and chat with me and check out the gown in person. I’m looking forward to making lots of reader-author friends while I’m here, and I do hope you will be one of them! Warning: don’t be surprised if I ask you to be “lady’s maid” for me! Regency ball gowns were generally worn by well-off young ladies with abigails to assist them in dressing, and unfortunately, my first choice in lady’s maids—my sister Gloria—had to stay home with her cat. Where is a hunky Ellora’s Cave caveman when you need one?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Mom is NOT interested in taking this up as a profession or a hobby. Being retired in itself is a very time-consuming activity. Once is enough…and I’m the lucky one!

The Dress: Episode #1

The Dress: Episode #2