Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Comments on a Mix of Books



Hailey, Riley & Cassidy at a local pumpkin patch

HURRICANE UPDATE.

The giant brush & log heaps are gradually being taken away, but not gone. Nothing is left of the oaks in the photos posted two weeks ago, except two mounds of roots & dirt. The tree that crashed two houses from me was finally carted away this week - the roof is undergoing repair. We've had enough rain that the St. John's remains flooded. The statistics are coming in: Damage to Florida agriculture - 2.5 billion dollars, 60% of that is our citrus crop.



Grace's Recent Reading - A Mixed Bag

SHOGUN by James Clavell - first published 1975

I manged to go more than forty years without reading this book, but when BookBub made me an offer I couldn't refuse . . .

The trouble is, I've been reading Shogun for six weeks or more and still am only little more half-way through. There's only so much torture, mayhem, death, complex conniving, and a shockingly wide culture gap that I can take at one time. (And being told how inferior Western culture is.) So periodically I take a break, sneaking off to lighter fare on my Kindle or paperbacks off my "favorites" shelf. 

Why do I continue to read this book? Because Shogun is a tour de force tale by a Westerner who immersed himself in Japanese culture well enough to portray it to people like me who never got much beyond Madame Butterfly. Are the details of 16th c. Japan correct? I can only assume so, or Shogun wouldn't have become a legend in the publishing world. (The portrayal of the influence of Spain and Portugal in a time when England was just discovering the Orient is also amazingly well done.) So the historian in me keeps reading, even as I wonder if it was really necessary to have almost every last character, minor as well as major, have his/her own Point of View.

I tell myself I'm going to grit my teeth and finish this book, but I'm not certain I will. I mean, do I really want to know the incredibly convoluted details of Japanese politics and battles 500 years before I was born? And read about brutality, savagery, and treachery that make Stephen King novels read like children's fairy tales? 

 
THE COLE TRILOGY—THE PHYSICIAN by Noah Gordon - first published 2012

When I bought this book for my Kindle, I had no idea what I was getting into. That, like Shogun, I would read and read and read, and only be at 11%.  So when I finished Part One, I took time out for lighter fare on this one too. I am, however, looking forward to finishing the whole saga. It's a remarkable tale of a time even farther back than Shogun - beginning in the year 1021 when Canute the Great was king of Norway, Denmark, and England; i.e., when a Viking ruled.  

Upon the death of his parents a boy in London is apprenticed to the 11th c. equivalent of a  huckster. A man who travels from town to town, performing magic tricks, selling "snake oil," and, astoundingly, healing the sick after the show is over. The boy gradually discovers he has "the gift," an aptitude for healing far beyond that of his mentor. And when his apprenticeship is over, he sets out for Persia, which, he is told, is the only place he can learn true medicine, not the travesties practiced by the so-called doctors in England. I am currently reading the part where he travels across France, Germany, and into Eastern Europe on roads built by the Roman Empire. That's as far as I've got, but the story is as well written as the plot is well thought out. Mr. Gordon's research is superb, bringing the era to life with amazing details. I am looking forward to reading the rest. 


DEAD STOP by Barbara Nickless

Okay, I suppose I can't call this lighter reading, except that it's standard book length, not an epic. And a contemporary mystery is a big break from two hefty historical novels. I discovered Ms Nickless not too long ago with her first book, Blood on the Tracks, and was delighted when Amazon let me know a second book was out. The heroine, Sydney Parnell, is an ex-marine with PTSD who you appears to be hiding in a role where she can use her military skills while attempting to deal with the dead people she sees and hears on a regular basis. The unique setting of the first two books is in and around railroad yards, where Sydney has become a railroad security cop. And she is so very good at it that at the end of Dead Stop it appears she will be moving on to the FBI or the city police. (I'll miss the train background, which was truly fascinating.) This is a series I cannot recommend too highly. Unless you only like your mysteries cozy. Ms. Nickless does not write cozy.


ROYALLY RUINED by Nora Flite

This is about as far from Shogun and The Cole Trilogy as one can get. Maybe not from Dead Stop, as there's quite a bit of violence or talk of violence in between the graphic sex scenes. But Ms Flite creates excellent characters and genuine plots, enough so that, like the books of Ruby Lionsdrake, I enjoy them even though the erotic is not my thing. I also like this series as its prime location is in Rhode Island, and I spent most of my growing up in Connecticut, within a few miles of the Rhode Island border. Which includes encountering mafia families first hand. My neighbor was a capo, and my children grew up so instilled with the rule of omerta (silence) that we were nearly three years in Florida before they told me about the bullet holes they'd seen in my neighbor's Cadillac. 

As far as the "Royally" series is concerned, I think I liked the first book (Royally Bad) better. The hero of Royally Ruined is the crime family's heir apparent, and frankly I expected a bit more for him. But Ms Flite's dialogue is as sassy as the sex is hot; in fact, I can't page over the sex scene, as I often do, because the quips are too good to miss! So if you're not easily offended, this is a fun series, definitely in the light reading category.


THE FIRST ADVENTURE OF SIR ERROL HYDE by Gay Hendricks

I researched the name  Gay Hendricks, because I felt the author simply had to be male. The total obliviousness to the female mind (deliberate), the badinage, the snark - no way did a woman write this. And yes, he is male and a PhD as well. 

This mystery, the first of a series, is hilarious. The fictional characters priceless, and the wonderfully placed hints about real characters of the early 20th c. both intriguing and nicely integrated into the plot. Because of my age, I recognized the historical characters at first hint but suspect that most will not, making the revelations that much more fun. Sir Errol Hyde is, it seems, a rival of Sherlock Holmes. And although our hero prides himself on being much more knowledgeable about women than Holmes, any female reader is going to be groaning loudly about his cluelessness. 

Basically, this book is well thought out, well written, and filled with humor, both raucous and wry. (It could have used a bit more copy editing, however.)  The intricate plot hinges on world affairs in a time leading up to World War I. I strongly recommend it to those who like their mysteries intelligent and humorous, with outstanding characterizations.

~ * ~
 
Hmm-mm - I suspect the above comments qualify me as someone with eclectic tastes. Or maybe just plain strange??


~ * ~
For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here. 
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Back to Basics 2 + LIMBO MAN



BACK TO BASICS - Addendum

It was pointed out that I omitted some examples from last week's post on Punctuating Dialogue. So here they are - illustrated by examples created by me.

 1. Exclamation points.

The punctuation depends on the sense of the sentence.

Examples:

I cried, "Help!"

I don't care how often you say, "sorry"!

In the first example, the exclamation point is only for "Help!"
In the second example, the exclamation point refers to the whole sentence

2.  Question marks.

Same approach as the exclamation point.

Examples:

I asked, "Where are you going?"

Do you know the origin of the saying, "All's well that ends well"? 

In the first example, the question mark is part of the dialogue.
In the second example,the question mark applies to the entire sentence.

3.  Colons, semi-colons

Basically - if you absolutely, positively have to use them in your work of fiction, the colon and semi-colon go OUTSIDE the quotation marks.

Examples:

We waited for the voice of the so-called "Oracle":  Hail, Wayward Sinners . . .

I never liked what my mom called "greens"; I ate them anyway.

4.  One speech extending over two paragraphs.

If one person's dialogue extends long enough for a new paragraph to be needed:  

Do NOT put quotation marks at the end of the dialogue in the first paragraph.

DO put quotation marks at the beginning of the next paragraph.

Example:

   The professor droned on and on, ending, "Most experts believe that if global warming continues melting the ice caps, the ocean will rise five or six feet over the next twenty years, resulting in severe flooding of most coastal areas.

   "However, there are people who do not believe that our climate is suffering from global warming."
-------------------------

If anyone can come up with other dialogue punctuation problems, please let me know. The only ones I found when I checked The Chicago Manual of Style were quotes within quotes within quotes. And, believe me, you better not do that if you're writing fiction!

 LIMBO MAN

Bah, humbug! to “branding.” Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a good thing, but not for authors who write in multiple genres. Without any intention on my part, I was branded a “Regency” author, and getting readers to look at my Mystery/Suspense books is like single-handedly pulling up a diver from forty fathoms deep! So in an effort to call attention to LIMBO MAN, a tale of international intrigue, I re-edited the entire book, line by line, and ordered a new cover. As of Friday the 13th, LIMBO MAN has been be re-incarnated: Same title, same plot, even the same blurb. But let’s see what a “hunk” on the cover will do. Plus some Twitter posts, a feature on my blog . . . You get the message.

I mean, really, LIMBO MAN deserves to shine. I’ve been to every international location used in the story, including Siberia and tried to re-create it faithfully. (Except Teheran—for that I had to rely on Google Earth!) And yes, a child was actually killed by bombs left on WWII’s Pine Castle bombing range. It was farther back in time than I used in the book, but it actually happened. In fact, the story of how thousands of people discovered they were living on top of live ammunition is worth repeating.
   
Decades after WWII, c. 4000 homes were built on top of the Pine Castle Bombing Range, with no disclosure to the owners. (Until I moved to Longwood two years ago, I lived in the farthest northeast corner of it and therefore received notices of all the meetings about the problem and updates on the progress of the clean-up. I attended one of those meetings, which was conducted in Spanish and English, in the presence of the Orange County mayor and at least one Councilman.) The @#$% hit the fan shortly after I moved from Venice to Orlando in 2007. As the months went by and the Army Corps of Engineers was called in to investigate, the situation grew from suspicious to dire.

All in all, over the next decade the Corps of Engineers removed 14 tons of bomb debris as well as 400 live bombs and rockets from ground that included Odyssey Middle School, numerous high-end homes and condos, plus office and commercial real estate. Except, of course, no one actually dug UNDER anyone’s home, so who knows what’s still there . . .

The above is an example of the personal research I did for LIMBO MAN. I’ve walked across the dam mentioned in the book. And motored around the Thimble Islands in Connecticut. And I’ve even been to Bratsk, Siberia, and seen the cabin built for President Eisenhower’s entertainment on the shores of Lake Baikal.

As for the book itself . . . the characters are great, if I do say so myself, and the plot has the authenticity of being sparked by a true tale of lost nuclear bombs told by a retired CIA agent. Yes, there’s a bit of whimsy here and there—particularly in the resolution of the romance. But, hey, romance is what we all like, right? And when you have not only the Montagues and the Capulets pulling at the hero but a powerful third party as well, you have to do some fancy footwork to contrive a happy ending.

So please take a peek at the updated LIMBO MAN - now live on Amazon and Smashwords. Below: new cover plus blurb.


FBI Special Agent Vee Frost does not care for Homeland Security's list of job qualifications when they ask to borrow her services. "An experienced agent with a proven track record" is good. "Fluent in Russian" hints of an assignment which is close to her heart. But "Attractive female, under thirty-five" sends up red flags. Obviously, DHS is asking for services above and beyond the call of duty. But a loan to Homeland Security would look great on her resumé, and it sounds as if they really need her . . .

But when Vee agrees to turn on the charm for Sergei Tokarev, an amnesiac Russian arms dealer with an agenda as hidden as the contents of his past, she never anticipates a chase after two nuclear bombs that will have her hopping around the world from Connecticut to Siberia to Iran. And no matter how strong a bond she and Sergei forge, it seems doubtful either will live long enough for a happy ending.

For LIMBO MAN at Amazon, click here.

For LIMBO MAN at Smashwords, click here.


~ * ~
For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here. 
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace





 

 




Saturday, October 7, 2017

Back to Basics - Punctuating Dialogue

IN MEMORIAM

The victims in Las Vegas 

-------------------------------------- 

 Hurricane Update

The "Low" in our area did not develop into "Nate," but it rained enough to send flood waters back up in low-lying areas. A storm in the Gulf of Mexico did grow into Nate and is poised to go ashore as a strong Cat 1 around the mouth of the Mississippi River around 7:00 p.m. tonight (Saturday). Harvey, Irma, Maria, Nate (and Katia which hit Mexico). Not a good hurricane season in North America.

In the Orlando area, three photos illustrating "low priority": 

If a tree isn't blocking a road, crushing a roof, truck, or car, then it's still lying there, three weeks after Irma, waiting until crews get around to cutting it up and carting it off. These two trees are down between a busy shopping center and a lake.(I'm going to keep track of how long it will be before anyone gets around to turning these magnificent live oaks into sawdust.)








BACK TO BASICS 

Punctuating Dialogue 

Examples are from The Blackthorne Curse 
(Blair Bancroft - online late fall 2017)

1. Actual words spoken are offset by double quotation marks (in books published in the U.S.).

Example:

“All my friends are having London come-outs,” I declared, struggling to keep my voice to a lady-like calm. “Even those who have long-standing betrothals are being allowed to gain a bit of town bronze before they marry.”
Grace note: The only place single quotes are used is within the body of another quote. When you need quotes while writing narration, double quotes must be used.
(Not finding an example of this, I made up a couple.)


Examples:
Mary sighed. "He said quite clearly, 'I will not do it.'"

The word "blithering" is late 19th c., not appropriate for the Regency period. 
[NOT 'blithering']
 
Repeat:  Do not use single quotes anywhere but within double quotes. 


1. Dialogue tags with commas, questions marks, and exclamation points. 

The "tag" following a comma (a), question mark (b), or exclamation point (c) begins with a lower case letter. 

Examples:

a.  “That you will not,” he roared back. “The whole county’d be up in arms. Passing over my own kith and kin to leave Blackthorne Hall to a bastard.”

b.  Grandfather and I stared at each other. “You remember?” he asked, his voice no more than a hoarse whisper. 

c.  “Now go on, scoot!” she added in a tone that reminded me all-too-sharply of Prudence Cogswell. “The Mister’ll be having an apoplexy.” 

2.  Punctuation within a continuous dialogue sentence.  

Commas are used to offset the tag within a continuous sentence.

Example:

“But now that you’re back,” Grandfather continued, “there’s but one solution." 



3. Tags before the quote.

 If a tag followed by a comma comes before the quotation marks, the initial letter of the dialogue must be capitalized, just as at the beginning of an ordinary sentence.

Example:

I looked him straight in the eye and declared, “Your promise was long ago, Clive."  


4.  Full sentence tags. 

If your tag is a full sentence, whether in front of the quote or behind, it must be separated from the dialogue by a period.

Examples:

Right:  “Indeed, my dear, I can show you the letter, if you wish.” Lady Talbert offered such a benign and understanding look that I burst into tears right there in the drawing room.  

Wrong:  “Indeed, my dear. I can show you the letter, if you wish,” Lady Talbert offered such a benign and understanding look that I burst into tears right there in the drawing room.  

5.  Inserts in Dialogue.

There are several ways to insert a comment into Dialogue. Two of the most common are: a dash (a) or ellipses with separated sentences (b).

Examples:

a.  “I only know I felt the push. Someone”—or possibly some thing—“was there, but I know not who.” 

Grace note: the above is my personal way of using the dash to insert dialogue; there are those who position the dash differently. 

b.  “I only know I felt the push. Someone . . .” Or possibly some thing. “. . . was there, but I know not who.”  


6.  Speaker Identification. 

When a single speech contains multiple sentences—particularly when there are more than two people present—the speaker must be identified in the first line. Do not write three or four sentences before you identify who is speaking.  

Example (three persons present):

“You may speak with Lord Rolfe, Miss Blackthorne,” Miss Marston decreed. “I shall, of course, remain. Any future calls by Lord Rolfe will be conducted in the parlor under the usual restrictions. I trust that is satisfactory to you both?”

Wrong:
“You may speak with Lord Rolfe, Miss Blackthorne. I shall, of course, remain. Any future calls by Lord Rolfe will be conducted in the parlor under the usual restrictions. I trust that is satisfactory to you both?” Miss Marston said.


7.  Keep action, introspection & dialogue together.

Although I have seen books where the dialogue is written on a separate line from the character's actions or thoughts, most people find that style confusing. Since change of paragraph usually indicates change of speaker, it can be very difficult to figure out who is speaking. I strongly advise keeping a character's dialogue in the same paragraph with his/her actions and/or thoughts. The only exception - if the speech is long and needs paragraphing to make it more readable.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here. 

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

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Tale of Irma, Part 2

The "spaghetti models" a couple of days before Irma struck Florida. We were rooting for the two on the right. The 7th & 8th from the right are closest to the path Irma finally took.
Before the 4x 4, my neighbor's fence was leaning at about a 45° angle. I like to think my vines helped keep it up when nearly all other wood fences in the area have been smashed to kindling.

When I went to my daughter's house on Monday night, Mike & girls had finished picking up branches and were relaying flagstones - or maybe just playing in the mud after a long, hard day

Although there was still some wind & rain on Monday morning, there were birds sitting on the wrought iron fence wondering what happened to their birdfeeder. So up it went, even before I made coffee on a Sterno stove. Shot taken through the screen to keep from frightening the birds - with neighbor's debris in the background.



THE TALE OF IRMA, Part 2

 Special note: I set out to write a personal story of what it was like when Central Florida was threatened by a major hurricane, and I am going to do just that. But with apologies to all those who lives were shattered so much more thoroughly elsewhere - from the floods in Houston, fires in the American west, earthquakes in Mexico, and the utter devastation in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean islands, most particularly Puerto Rico and St. Martin's. (Murmurs of the Apocalypse have been heard.) The personal pleas, day after day since Maria struck, have been agonizing as the large PR population in the Orlando area tried to contact friends and relatives and couldn't because not only was all the power out, all the cell towers were down. The latest wrinkle - seen on the noon news on Thursday, September 28 - there are hundreds of containers full of supplies sitting on the docks in San Juan, none of them being off-loaded! (Excuse: lack of gas for the necessary trucks to haul the goods where needed.)

~ * ~

Grace's Personal View of Irma

Monday evening, September 11:  My daughter had no power, but they had a generator for basics and an outdoor grill, and I was happy to accept an invitation to supper. But oops! It was dark and I hadn't gone half a mile when I saw cars from both directions slowing down, taking turns driving the middle of the road through a flooded area, maybe fifty yards long. No place to turn around, so I did what the others did, even though most of them were vehicles with better clearance than mine. Next obstacle - no light at the intersection. Fortunately, traffic was light and I made the turn without incident. But when I entered my daughter's neighborhood, I had to negotiate an obstacle course, with just a narrow path cleared between the piles of debris (cut logs & branches  on both sides of the road). 

My daughter, son-in-law, and the three grandgirls had worked nine straight hours that day clearing debris. Piles of tree limbs, mostly evergreens, rimmed their yard. They lost about a third of the screen panels in their pool cage. Supper, however, went off well, with about ten family refugees eating together - except every time Susie used the microwave to heat up side dishes, the generator blew, and someone had to run around turning off as many lights as possible so the generator would come back online. 

Later, when I tried to think of an alternate route home to avoid the flood, I was stymied, because both routes involved major roads with multiple traffic lights. None of which were working. I braved the flood, arriving home about as tired as I'd ever been in my life.  Stress, pure stress. My sympathy for people with severe damage was strong. I vowed I wasn't driving anywhere until the water was down, the traffic lights were back on

Tuesday afternoon: my daughter brought the girls over to clean up my yard - an easy job compared to their yard. Naively, I still thought my debris would be picked up on the usual Yard Waste day, Wednesday. It is now two weeks later, and everyone's debris is browning in front of their houses. One giant tree is down two houses east of mine. It may be weeks before our debris is gone.

Meanwhile, TV is doing 24-hour news coverage, and I learn the damage is extensive. Even if we didn't get the brunt of the storm. Central Florida is a land of lakes, lakes, and more lakes, with one major river, the St. John's, and many smaller ones. There were trees and power lines down everywhere, many blocking roads. Some houses had their roofs shattered by falling trees. The storm surge was less than expected on our Atlantic Coast since Irma went north closer to the west coast, but boats still suffered, many of them breaking their moorings, sinking, or being tossed everywhere from on land to miles away. 

And the inland flood problem was growing worse, as the 16-23" of rain we had in our area poured into the rivers and lakes, plus the rains from south Florida pouring into the St. John's, which flows north. People whose homes had survived the storm now had three feet of water on their floors. Roads and bridges washed out. Sinkholes began to open up, some just gaping holes in the ground, some swallowing houses and causing a new round of evacuation orders.

Thursday, September 14: I ventured out for the first time since Monday night, getting groceries at Publix, where the shelves were almost back to normal. There was still little traffic on the roads, but the stoplights, thank God, were working. I still had no phone or Internet, but since I had power, I wasn't complaining.

Sunday, September 17:  Church was held in the gym of the church school, since churches were low priority for power. (Not restored for 13 days). The lakes and rivers continued to rise, many well over flood stage.

Monday, September 18:  I'd been checking my Internet two or three times a day for the last eight days. At 3:30 that afternoon, to my astonishment, I discovered I was back on line. I lifted my phone, got a dial tone. Which meant my cell phone could now update without my leaving the house.

The flooding on the St. John's and other rivers and lakes was beginning to go down, but not by much more than an inch a day. As of today (the 29th), flood conditions are still in effect.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Lee turned north into the Atlantic. Maria did not. News of Florida and its problems was suddenly replaced by news of Hurricane Maria obliterating Puerto Rico and St. Martin's. And today they tell us a tropical low is forming just off our Atlantic Coast, and then it's likely to move west directly across the state, perhaps developing into "Nate." Sigh. I have not put my lanterns away, or my bottles of water. The porch is still bare and uninviting. The yard waste still lies out front, turning brown. But every time I think, "I'm really tired of this," I see pictures of what's happened in Puerto Rico and understand why Father Paul, on Sept. 17—only partly with tongue in cheek—absolved the congregation from "survivor guilt" for having come through the storm as well as most of did here in Longwood.

Sunday, Sept. 24:  Services back in church, but the church school gym where we met last week is closed due to enough rain leaking in that black mold is feared. So tarp on the roof, inspections, cleansing - it'll be a while before all is back to normal.

Tuesday, Sept. 26:  The Orlando Sentinel said that 176 trees came down in our local botanical gardens (Leu) and a large tree fell on Dr. Leu's historic home, causing water damage to one wing. It is indicative of the massive amount of damage in our area that the disaster to our beloved Leu Gardens—much like churches being at the bottom of the list for power—was not reported until more than two weeks after the storm. Which reminds me, there's an Eastern Orthodox church about two miles from me with a mound of browned debris (logs & limbs) about fifty feet long and six feet high.

Wednesday, Sept. 27:  The TV news reported that black mold is already settling in in every house and business that was flooded. 
The weatherman announced that the series of violent storms we suffered in September broke all previous weather records.  

Friday, Sept. 29: The news at noon today announced the closing of a five-story waterfront condominium in Titusville (home to the Space Program). The roof came off in Matthew last fall and again in Irma. The water damage has led to black mold, a severe health threat.

After the news, I had my hair cut and met the Irma disaster up close and personal. My hairdresser lives on the St. John's River and lost her house. Permanently. She was on the phone to FEMA for the umpteenth time just as I arrived. And no, the house isn't salvageable. Two trees fell on it during the storm, prompting her to rent a storage unit and call a truck to move her furniture out. (To the amusement of her neighbors who told her she was overreacting. Two days later, as the water rose to engulf her neighbors' homes, she was helping them pack up.) There was no flood insurance on the house. She is living in a rental. (But her furniture was saved.) FEMA is offering nothing more than a loan when her expenses have already soared sky high.


And, of course, you can multiply the story above by the thousands if you count Harvey, Irma, and Maria. I keep telling myself we re-built western Europe and Japan after World War II. We ought to be able to rebuild the damage from three hurricanes. It's just that this time, the devastation is closer to home. And no amount of political diplomacy can keep it from happening all over again. 

Friday evening news: 350,000 claims for hurricane damage have been submitted to FEMA in Central Florida.

Friday evening, 8:40 p.m.: Regular TV programming was interrupted while the weatherman detailed the movement of a tornado in south Brevard county - on the shoreline some 30-35 miles away. The new storm front, the one that wasn't supposed to be anything more than a rain event, was showing hurricane quirks, such as leading with a string of tornadoes. Enough, already! Yet they tell us this one will be with us through Monday. Sigh.

I'll shut up now, but not before expressing the hope that this is it for the year. That flooding from this new Low will be minimal and not afflict more pain on those who already have holes in the roof, ruined appliances, molding couches, etc. Survivor guilt again - I am so glad I live on top of one of Florida's excuses for a hill!

~ * ~

 Likely topic for next week: Back to Basics, a look at some of the most common writing mistakes.

If you missed the Citrus Singer's second video, the parody of "These Are a Few of my Favorite Things," here's a link.

For the Citrus Singers' new video, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Tale of Irma, Part 1





A surprise addition to this week's Mosaic Moments. The Citrus Singers have come up with another video, this one very much "off the cuff," as they wanted to coordinate with the Girl Scouts' current fund-raising campaign that will end in October. It's a parody of "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. No costumes, no studio with AC - just a whole day "street side" in the 90+ sun and heat following Irma's departure. (Ironically, hurricanes sweep all the moisture from the air, leaving days of bright sunshine behind.) The Hispanic couple (experienced performers) who were to play the roles of customers couldn't make it - their car wouldn't start. And when Susie (the director) still hadn't found the young man needed as another customer, the teenage deliveryman for a nearby pizza place was pressed into service, as were some of the girls' parents. My eldest granddaughter also appears as one of the "cool" customers, the one requesting food with "no calories." Anyway, you'll find a link below to another GS video, scripted by my daughter, with all three of my grandgirls performing.

The Citrus Singers meet a genuine Drill Sergeant

The "cool" crowd asks for GS items with "no calories"!

For the Citrus Singers' new video, click here.

~ * ~ 


Grace note: Residents of Florida and Texas can stop reading. Been there, done that. But there are a lot of people who have NO idea, so . . .



HURRICANE IRMA, Part 1

Most of us spent the last week of August and the first week of September being horrified by the news out of Texas. A Cat 4 hurricane, followed by record-breaking rainfall - in one place 51.2 inches! Flooding, a Dunkirk-like fleet of private boats rushing to help local first responders, some from states as far away as Florida. Homes and normal lives destroyed, but relatively few deaths due to excellent forecasting and lessons learned about shelters from the disaster in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

But oops! There was something else brewing in the Atlantic, a storm so big it became a hurricane shortly after it was born. Here in Florida we began getting daily bulletins about Irma. Our specially trained rescue workers and their air boats came back from Texas just in time for a couple of days rest before they had to do it all over again at home.

On Monday, September 11, word came: it looked like Irma, a Cat 5, was headed straight for Florida. When I went to the grocery store the next afternoon, there was already almost no water or bread left on the shelves. The evening news said the same of generators. And of course the rush became worse as the week progressed, stores struggling to restock and not quite managing. Peanut butter, jelly, cheese vanished. Along with every kind of battery and stoppers for bathtubs! (For those who don't know the drill, bathtubs have to be filled so toilets can be flushed when the water pumps shut down.) Three tankers made it into the port of Tampa, bringing much-needed gasoline, as of course there was a huge rush to fill up.  

Weather bulletin: Irma was 500 miles wide, its "eye"winds 185, with gusts to 200. I had grave doubts about my 1970s-built villa withstanding such ferocity.

The governor made numerous appearances on television, issuing warnings: residents on the barrier islands and those living in mobile homes must evacuate. Those living below the giant dike at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee as well. (The dike was expected to hold, but it was possible excessive rain and wind would whip water over the top. All tolls were suspended, so evacuation traffic would flow as smoothly as possible. Everybody else needed to stock up on food, water, lanterns, and flashlights, and hunker down. Frankly, I've never liked Florida's governor, but in this emergency he was superb. If he hadn't reached his term limit, he'd win the next election in a landslide.

On Tuesday, I moved all the container plants on my stone-walled embankment onto the ground, counting on the rise of land behind to shelter them. I uprooted down tall wrought iron plant holders, laid them flat, and put the flowers hanging from them onto the ground. (The birdfeeder I left up - not taking it down until after Sunday afternoon.) I stripped my porch, folded up tables, took tablecloths & decorations inside. Also, the cat climber (which Squeak never uses). I damaged my big begonia getting it through the opening in the sliding glass doors (narrowed by the cat door), but it spent the storm safely on my dining room table and is now back outside, still blooming happily when all my other plants were destroyed.

Wednesday Weather bulletin: Irma destroyed 90% of the Caribbean island of Barruda and was expected to skim north of Puerto Rico. After that . . . look out, Florida.

  On Thursday, when it looked as if Miami would take the brunt of the storm, the roads north were bumper to bumper with those trying to escape. Schools were canceled, beginning Friday, even in our area - not because the storm was imminent, but many schools needed to be prepared for use as shelters. On Friday afternoon, I baked up a big batch of scones. With those and the aid of my little Sterno stove, I would at least have my morning fix of coffee and something to nibble on.

Weather bulletin: Irma was angling more west - the so-called "spaghetti models" were shifting from Miami and the east coast to a track up the center of the state. Namely, Orlando. And Longwood (where I live). Yikes!

In the midst of all this the Episcopal Diocese in Orlando announced that the convocation ceremony for new deacons in Central Florida would go ahead as planned on Saturday morning at the downtown cathedral. Most of us in our choir, who had promised to sing, had an "You've got to be kidding" moment. Sunday services had been canceled, but not the convocation?? So there we were, driving a deserted I-4 into town at 9:30 a.m. (Everyone was supposed to be off the roads by 5:00 p.m., but most sensible people were already safely shut up at home.) Really strange to have a major superhighway almost to ourselves - and to discover that every billboard between Longwood and Orlando had been stripped down to its wooden frame. To save the advertisements, or to allow wind to pass through the boards, saving the frames? Truthfully, I have no idea.

As mentioned in a previous post, the convocation ran over two hours. Two choirs never made it all - one, the choir from Okeechobee - and another choir sang without robes, because when they went to pick them up, their church had already been sandbagged and they couldn't get in. Believe me, by the time I got home around two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, I can't ever remember being so tired. The strain was getting to me.

Sunday morning. Quiet - really strange, since I live only about forty feet from a busy road. Maybe five or six cars passed by between dawn and noon. Then . . . nothing.

Weather bulletin: Irma's track kept inching west - it was beginning to look like it was going to pass over Key West and go up Florida's west coast. A little better for Orlando but not good for my many friends who live in the Naples, Fort Meyers, Venice area. 

At the last minute, shortly before the power went out - and just as our area was beginning to breathe a bit easier - it was announced that Irma had shifted back to the east. She was going to travel INLAND, up the peninsula between Orlando and Tampa; i.e., CLOSER. The only good thing—going overland would reduce the storm's strength. 

Sunday, 2:00 p.m. The deluge came, the rain descending like a waterfall on steroids, making me very glad I live on top of what passes for a hill in Central Florida. The winds came later - but at minimal hurricane force - predicted for 75-90 mph in our area. I  think we ended up on the low end of that.

At 10:30 p.m. the power failed, but that was, of course, expected. The wind continued to howl against the east side of my house for several hours, but just as I was bracing for it to come from the other way, it began to fade. Amazingly, the eye passing over land had reduced Irma to a tropical storm. 

I went to bed, still expecting the storm to worsen, but it didn't. I woke to light rain, downed trellises, the neighbor's fence leaning into my yard, minor tree debris scattered over my lawn, and that was it. There were birds waiting on the wrought iron fence near where my birdfeeder usually sits. Even before making my coffee, I put the birdfeeder back up. 

Even more incredible, by 3:30 that afternoon, my power came back. Days before I expected it. No phone, no Internet, but I had power. Wow! Which meant not only light and stove but AC, computer, and TV - which made me aware of just how lucky our area was. I also had phone & text capability on my cellphone, thanks to AT&T, just no access to Internet services from home. but I had to use it sparingly as I had no way to recharge. (When I ventured out twol days later, my cellphone was able to update email and Facebook from wifi systems that were functioning.)

Monday, September 11: the curfew was lifted in Seminole County (where I live) at 11:00 a.m. All other counties kept their curfews in place until 7:00 p.m. The main problems: debris, including huge trees down, blocking the roads and lack of stoplights. Dramatic photos paraded across the TV screen 24/7. ranging from destruction in the Caribbean islands to Key West, the south Florida coast, and our own local pockets of disaster. 

Weather bulletin: Jose, following on Irma's heels, was predicted to turn north short of the Florida coast. The Carolinas and New England, however, should keep a close eye on Jose. Local joke as Jose turned north: "They wouldn't let him in." [Told to me by one of my half-Hispanic granddaughters.]

No way, Jose! But oh-oh! - Lee and Maria were coming off the African coast . . .

To be continued 

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Thanks for stopping by,

Grace