Grace's Mosaic Moments


Friday, June 17, 2016

ORLANDO WEEPS


Memorial at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Monday & Friday (below)






The Friday night news showed people there at midnight, with many candles burning. 
 
Orlando Weeps

Orlando Strong!


 This has been a week that will stick in our minds forever. Like where we were on 9/11. And to add to the grief and disbelief, the 49 who died at Pulse nightclub were not the only tragedies here in the last seven days. 

Tragedy Number 1:  Last Friday night, June 10, 2016, a man I can only describe as a "nutjob" drove from St. Petersburg, FL, to Orlando for the express purpose of killing singer, Christina Grimmie. And while she was signing autographs at the Plaza in East Orlando (where I have attended a number of performances, including those by family members), he did just that. He shot and killed her. 

Tragedy Number 2: The killing of Christina Grimmie would have been the featured headline for several days, except on Saturday night (early Sunday morning), something worse occurred. Something so heinous, so inexplicable that we're still trying to plow our way through all the ramifications. But when I went to church on Sunday morning, I hadn't heard the news. Members of the choir passed along the information that "20" were known dead in a massacre at a nightclub. I asked, "Where?" and was totally shocked when the answer was, "Downtown." 

Here? In Orlando? Yes, we knew Orlando, the resort capital of the world was a top target, but that meant the theme parks, sporting events at the Amway Center or the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium), not a gay nightclub in the heart of downtown Orlando. The attack truly came "out of the blue."

By the time church was over, the death toll was 50 - soon reduced to 49, as no one wanted to count the shooter. (Several days later the newspaper revealed that his body had been kept separate from the victims even in the morgue. Not because of any orders or protocol, but because it seemed the right thing to do.)  

On Sunday afternoon people waited in lines four hours long to give blood. So many, in fact, that some were asked to come back in a month. All told, 3500 units of blood were donated. Police, fire,EMTs, doctors, nurses were all superb. And the 53 wounded were also aided by the fact that our number one regional trauma hospital was practically across the street. The media also deserve special mention. Local TV and newspapers did an incredible job, receiving many compliments for the way they handled the challenge. My favorite local TV station was "live" for around 20 hours from the time the news first broke, and The Orlando Sentinel has put out a special section every day this week, providing the many details that TV can't provide. It's safe to say that everyone involved stood up and met the challenge, and I'm proud to call this area home.

As detailed news reports began to come in later in the week, we learned that police went into that dark club, filled with bodies lying in blood, calling out, "Who's alive?" And dragged out everyone who answered, even while the shooter was barricaded in a bathroom, until the police used a tank to ram through a wall, shooting Omar Mateen while managing not to shoot the hostages he was holding there.  

All in all, we are doing our best to remember not just the victims but all the heroes among the survivors and first responders.  Most of us are doing our best not to remember the hateful man who shot 103 people. And yet . . .

On Wednesday of this week I attended a memorial service at my church here in Longwood, twenty miles north of downtown Orlando.  The priest (Episcopal) delivered an emotional memorial - he actually cried, and then we took turns reading the names of the dead. There was music, including "Amazing Grace," and just as the service ended, the priest said, "I apologize for leaving out one name. Omar Mateen." All I can say for myself - and I expect for others as well - is that I admired him for practicing the forgiveness he preaches, but it was hard, really hard, to accept. I could only hope that hate-filled Mateen was aware that he was being remembered in a Christian, Protestant church service! And that if he weren't already dead, he'd choke on it! 

On Thursday, President Obama and Vice-president Biden came to Orlando and spoke to all the relatives of the dead. They laid 49 white roses on the memorial that's sprung up on the grass in front of the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center. The Florida governor, the Orange County mayor, and the Orlando mayor were also present. On the same day, the first funeral was held. 

Tragedy Number 3:  As if we hadn't had enough sorrow, on Sunday night, a two-year-old boy, Lane Graves from Nebraska, was wading in ankle-deep water in Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon when an alligator dragged him into the water and drowned him. His body wasn't found until the next day. This was a preventable accident. Disney is now posting alligator warning signs, which should have been in place since Disneyworld opened. Every Floridian knows not to go into fresh water in Florida at night. But people come here from all over the world who haven't the slightest idea that alligators live in every body of fresh water in Florida, and that they are most active at night when it's feeding time. So shame on Disney for not wanting to scare the tourists!

Although sorrow grips us for all for these tragic deaths, our heads are high, our determination strong.  We embrace love, not hate. (Well, at least we hold our heads high and try not to return hate with hate, but I'm afraid most of us are having a hard time stifling the anger.) There's no doubt, however, that we remain

ORLANDO STRONG! 

~* ~


My apologies for my blog not being updated on schedule. Major computer problems kept me offline for the last two weeks. Hopefully, now resolved by a new computer, where we're very much in the first stages of getting to know each other! Hopefully, next week my semi-annual index to all my Writing & Editing blogs since 2011.

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace 





Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why I Love E-books 2

Grace Note:  Amazon has placed Rebel Princess on sale at $1.99 until June 24th.
For direct link to Rebel Princess, click here.


A VERY SPECIAL LONGWOOD, FLORIDA, MOMENT:

We saw very little of my daughter's close neighbor, Jeff Coffey, when our extended families cruised to the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago. At the time it was a big secret, but Jeff spent most of the cruise locked in his cabin studying 22 songs so he could become the temporary lead singer and bass guitarist for Chicago. That's right THE Chicago. At the time it wasn't absolutely certain he had the job, so until opening night - May 22nd - we all kept the secret. But now . . .

MAJOR CONGRATULATIONS to Jeff for a dream come true!

Here's a link to his opening night You Tube video. Jeff's the blond in the gray shirt.

For Jeff's debut, click here. 

Quote from The Metal Files review, Austin TX, May 27, 2016:

"Jeff Coffey was the highlight for me. For as good as Scheff is, Coffey was nailing Cetera's vocal and bass parts effortlessly. I was really blown away. I'd be ok if he became a permanent member." 

~ * ~

The Girl Scout Citrus Chorus sang at the Seminole Harley Davidson Memorial Day Event. Below, Susie and the girls with ???? 






WHY I LOVE E-BOOKS - the Big Picture


E-books now cover the complete gamut - from the latest work by best-selling print-published authors (think Nora Roberts & Tom Clancy) to books published by independent e-publishers, including Amazon itself. And from authors publishing their print backlists online to authors writing brand new works that have never caught a whiff of paper in their lives. 

What does this mean?

There are those who moan that indie-publishing is ruining the market, degrading the language, killing punctuation, and sponsoring unique spelling. And, yes, some of this is true. But as in all new things, there are always mistakes at the beginning. I've ranted on this blog about e-authors I would never read again as they clearly didn't care that they were kicking their readers in the teeth by presenting their meanderings without editing for content, grammar, or punctuation. (I hope they enjoyed the profits of their first books, because most of us would never buy from those authors again.) But, frankly, these days, ignorant authors are few and far between. I am constantly amazed at the incredible variety of work available. (I didn't even know Amazon invited publication of short stories and non-fiction until I recently looked it up for a friend.) 

Do some of the books run on too long? Do they need major editing? Well, sometimes I've thought so. But consider Harry Potter. So-called experts said those 700-page behemoths should be edited, but were readers paying any attention? I'm currently reading my way through a series so complex and detailed, a major-publisher editor would have struck down a good third of the book. And yes, sometimes I find myself skimming. But what a rich tapestry the author has woven. So fascinating that I've been neglecting all but my own writing to just keep reading. 

Indie-publishing has given people a way to present their visions as they see fit. The way their creativity says they should be. Does this mean, Write it, upload it, I create perfection on the first draft? Of course not! As I've said over and over, every work must be gone over with the proverbial fine tooth comb, licked into shape, polished to perfection, or whatever cliché strikes your fancy. But in the end, you, the author, are boss. This, above all, is why e-publishing matters to those of us who tend to write outside the box.

Among the many author-friendly sites out there, I particularly want to mention Smashwords. It's been there from the very beginning, and what would any of us have done with Mark Coker's incredibly clear Style Guide (how to e-publish), available free at Smashwords.com? He's the only techie I know who can write so ordinary people can understand his instructions. In my early days with Smashwords, he sometimes answered my questions in person. So three cheers for Smashwords. Amazon isn't the only e-publishing giant among us.

The possibilities for online self-expression are endless, absolutely stunning in the available variety and ease of Do-It-Yourself. Slightly (okay, some highly) off-beat books that had absolutely no chance of being published by New York print publishers now have an outlet. Accustomed to mostly browsing the Historical Romance section of my local bookstore, I found I suddenly had a way of discovering great new voices in Science Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, and yes, even Romance. I've read about worlds far in the future, plunged back to the Roman Empire in a brilliant historically accurate book not to be compared to a Roman-era book I once attempted to read, which was nothing but sex on every page. I've seen Australia and New Zealand through the eyes of early settlers. I've learned about magic. I've thrilled to adventures intended for Young Adults. And I, who can't stand fairies, found Fantasy series that took my breath way. Paranormal too, surprise, surprise. Grace, love a series about werewolves or ghosts? You've got to be kidding! 

And, of course, as mentioned last week, New York finally woke up and established their own e-departments, although they still can't seem to present their e-versions at anything less than exorbitant prices. Come on, New York, those of us who publish on KDP know how little it costs!

The major New York publishers also began to offer their print books online - oh happy day! It's so easy to find the latest work by favorite authors, and on my Kindle I can take them anywhere, any time. I flipped through my Kindle just now, and among the "experimental" downloads (affordable through Kindle Unlimited), I found on my "active" list (just push Select and there it is) books by the following print-published authors:  Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krenty, Jayne Castle, Amanda Quick, Linda Castillo, Catherine Lloyd, Rhys Bowen, Victoria Laurie, Julie Jyzy, Tasha Alexander, Randy Wayne White, Jack Higgins, Robert Galbraith, and on and on. (And that's not counting what's available through my Kindle archives.) 

 So, again, what does this surge of e-publishing mean? Most importantly, I believe, it means e-publishing has sent a strong wind of fresh air through the publishing industry. It's given an outlet for something more than same-old, same-old. It's encouraged individual creativity in a time when it sometimes feels as if mass communication is smoothing the edges of our "differences," making us too much the same. DIY publishing, in particular, is giving voice to people with wonderful tales that never could have been told without the modern marvel of e-publishing. 

Do we have to do it well? Do we have a responsibility to our readers? Absolutely! That's pretty much what Mosaic Moments has been emphasizing since January 2011. That doesn't mean our manuscripts will be one hundred percent perfect. Even New York never manages that. But we have an obligation to turn out the most perfect manuscripts we can. An obligation to go over each one line by line until it's the best we can make it. To add, subtract, clarify, identify, fix grammar and punctuation until we can't stand the sight of the darn thing another moment.

 Way, way back, somewhere around 2001, I wrote an article about the Internet and E-publishing. Here are a few excerpts:
 
    Thirty years ago when Gene Roddenberry created the world of Star Trek, he envisioned a future where all information was retrieved from computers.  Whether displayed on a monitor screen, a hand-held device, or spoken aloud, information on paper had become obsolete.  Classic printed books were treasured artifacts.    Viewers watched; imaginations caught fire.  A generation weaned on Star Trek set about making Roddenberry’s vision a reality.  Yet I doubt if anyone expected the changeover to all-electronic information to gain a serious foothold in our lifetime.

    But it’s happening.  Here and now in the earliest days of the twenty-first century.

    Bill Gates, in his 1995 book The Road Ahead, declared that the Internet--the Information Highway, as he called it–would become a dominant force in our lives.  Not in the negative sense of Big Brother, but as a connector to a vast world of information, services, and communication.   If you’re reading this article, you are “online.”  You are already part of the Information Highway, the World Wide Web–the Internet.  Would you give it up?   Lose your ability to have instant communication with distant children, parents, your old school buddies?  Lose your instant ability to check the sports scores, research clothing in Medieval Times, print a map, order a gift basket for Aunt Tillie, download a book to read, chat with someone in New Zealand, even Antarctica?

    In 1997 a group of experts got together to predict the dollar amount which would be generated by the Internet in 1998.  They decided on a figure of eight billion ($8,000,000,000).   When the numbers were totaled at the end of 1998, the actual figure was one hundred two billion ($102,000,000,000).  In other words, the experts missed it by a mile.  And the Net continues to grow at an ever-increasing speed.

. . . .

Will the Star Trek world come true?   Yes, I think so–but it is still very much in the future.  At the moment we are in the Interim period, the very beginning of the changeover to a world where print books will have become precious artifacts to be treasured in museums.  We are in the difficult period where we must all learn to adapt to the new concept of electronic information.  To quote Bill Gates once again:

We are watching something historic happen, and it will affect the world seismically, rocking us the same way the discovery of the scientific method, the invention of printing, and the arrival of the Industrial Age did. . . .  Some people will seize upon the setbacks and proclaim that the [information] highway never really was more than hype.  But on the highway, the early failures will just be learning experiences.  The highway is going to happen.


Grace Note: I think we can now safely  say, "It's happened."

~ * ~ 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  
  




 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why I Love E-books


We had a couple of those "Florida moments" this week. A small nurse shark bit a young woman in Boca Raton and wouldn't let go. She was transported to the hospital with the shark still attached! And in my much-beloved Venice on the Gulf Coast, close to where I frequently got on I-75, comes a photo of another kind of Florida wildlife.




 
Later - Girl & friends with shark in plastic


4-lane access road to I-75 ( in the background)


~ * ~

 Breaking Archeological News:

Grace Note: For twenty years I lived near a spring on Florida's Gulf Coast where finding artifacts 12,000-13,000 years old was routine. But the following significant archeological moment turned up in this morning's newspaper -
 
Summary of an article in The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, May 22, 2016 - 
Archeologists have uncovered a stone knife in a sinkhole near Tallahassee that dates back 14,550 years. This places people in North America nearly fifteen hundred years earlier than previously believed. The evidence is deemed "unassailable." 

~ * ~ 
 
 

WHY I LOVE E-BOOKS


E-books from an Author's Viewpoint:

Way, way back in 2010, I'd been e-published since December of 1999, so I was no stranger to e-books. I'd already owned two e-readers and absolutely loved them, particularly the first one, which of course was bought up by a larger company and put out of business! But in 2010 my writing life made a sudden change for the worse. I'd been creating two Regencies a year for Signet (Penguin Putnam), everything seemed on track for many more years of the same, and then erotica swept in, overwhelming the romance market and leaving squeaky clean books gasping by the wayside. Oops.

Signet shut down their traditional Regency line (think Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer), and I was out of a job. Oh, I was invited to write biographies of famous women—I nearly choked! Or I could sit home and twiddle my thumbs. I could, of course, attempt to join the flood to hot sex - I even tried it once - but it quickly became apparent I was much too devoted to complex characterizations and plots to ever settle to writing a book that was devoted to "in the moment" sex. So . . . what now?

As I've mentioned, I found a home for my last Regency with Ellora's Cave, which was making so much money on erotica at that time that they could afford to be generous and pick up the Regency slack. For which I was truly grateful. Their Blush line also published other non-erotic romances, I had a wonderful editor there, but what about all the books to which I now owned the rights? 

So in late fall of 2010, I bought my Kindle and set out to explore the grand new world of Amazon. It was a case of instant love. Except for old favorites off my shelf, I haven't read a book on anything but my Kindle since. (The same Kindle, by the way, knock on wood.) And early in 2011 I got valuable advice and encouragement from Delle Jacobs, an author who had already made the plunge into Kindle Direct Publishing. At those early days, authors were offering their books at 99 cents each and racking up sales right and left. In 2011 alone, I made far more money than my books had made since their original publication, beginning in 1999.

Yes, Amazon's KDP soon grew crowded, making our books harder to sell. At the same time, however, it became apparent that we were making a dent in the print market, forcing the big publishing houses to establish e-book departments of their own. That's a "Wow!", by the way. Score one for the power of e-publishing, whether by an online publishers or by DIY via Amazon, Smashwords, or B&N.

In 2016 DIY publishers have become the powerhouse publishers of the world. (But more on that next week.) [For those who, like myself, hate to be confronted by acronyms they don't know - DIY = Do It Yourself.]


E-Books from a Reader's Viewpoint:

OMG, it's so much easier to read a book on Kindle! You can adjust the size of the type. The pages flip forward or back at the touch of a finger. It always reboots to exactly where you left off. Mine has a built-in dictionary. I can actually look up words, as necessary. Or search for a certain word, etc. I could even order more books on it, but it's the Kindle vanilla model, b&w, so I prefer to order in full color on my computer.

And just imagine! (This has happened to me countless times as I'm a nightowl.) It's midnight, I've finished a book, I'm not ready to go to sleep, but oh horrors, there's nothing new on my Kindle. I zip to my computer, usually searching by favorite authors (of which I keep a list).I don't have to wander down an aisle, prying books out of stacks in order to read the blurb. Everything is there, right in front of me.  I read the descriptions at leisure, sitting in my comfortable chair. I order one, maybe two or three new books, walk back to the bedroom, turn on my Kindle, and the books pop up on my index list. Just that fast. Love it!

And there's the easy portability of an e-reader. At the moment I have 187 active books on my Kindle, with 469 in the Archives. Any time I'm traveling, all I have to do is make sure I've downloaded a few new books, pack my charger (and adapter if I'm traveling out of the country), and I have reading matter for weeks! During our long trip last summer I went back to the beginning of several favorite series and enjoyed them all over again. Picture packing 187 books next time you're flying to Europe, South America, or Asia! And wouldn't I love to see the look on the counter clerk's face if you tried to check in a trunk full of books destined for New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. They'd probably cart you off to the loony bin!

Okay, you've probably gotten the message by now that I find people who cite the smell and feel of paper as essential to their reading pleasure a little weird. Yes, I treasure ancient manuscripts - I'm in awe of Yale's Beineke Library - I mean, they have a copy of the Gutenberg Bible! I used an archive of ancient print manuscripts as a benign prison for the heroine of Rebel Princess. And I recall with fondness the very special gift of an actual print book (Moby Dick, as I recall) that Bones gave to Captain Kirk. But having respect and finding print books "convenient" (particularly huge hardcovers) are two entirely different things. They look good on the coffee table. That's about it.

Hey, people, the millennia came. It's time to move on.

~ * ~
 
Next Week: Part 2 - The Significance of the Rise of E-books

 
Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.