Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Survival of Civility

BIRTH OF A BOOK - the continuing saga

This week saw my proposed Regency Warrior 6 become The Notorious Countess.  (I can never get very far into a book without giving it a title.) I also named the villain (which required a brush-up on Russian patronymics), began my typed "Character List," and scribbled notes on other possible secondary characters. All this, while beginning a second "from the top" edit of The Ghosts of Rushton Court.

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Two Christmas stories that are 
also lessons in civility.












THE SURVIVAL OF CIVILITY

This week's blog topic was not solely inspired by the passing of George H W Bush, although the remarks by commentators who alleged that the deaths of Bush and McCain marked the passing of a Kinder, Gentler Age really annoyed me. Even before Bush's death, I had planned to write once again about Civility and the examples of it I had seen recently in my life. And of my hope that although Civility has taken some dreadful blows in recent times, it still lives and will, I hope, eventually make a comeback in the lives of those who have been seduced into the realms of Lies, Rudeness, Hatred, and Disbelief in both Science and the Rule of Law.

While contemplating this week's blog topic, I realized it's quite possible that one of the reasons readers are drawn to the Regency period in England is the wondrous civility of that age. Despite a long war against France and unrest at home, Civility reigned. Later in the nineteenth century, under the long reign of Victoria, manners would become so stultified,so stiff and strict that they were barely rocked by two World Wars or the female revolution of the 1920s (short skirts, short hair). Not, in fact, until the Vietnam War and the advent of the so-called Flower Children did Civility begin to crumble. Why blame Vietnam and the so-very-peaceful Flower Children? Because that's when Hate crept into the American Dream. There were those who hated the war and took out their hate on the brave men who fought as their country asked them to do. And there were those who hated the very existence of "Flower Children," the young people who became society's dropouts and advocated Peace not War. Leaving us with the ugliness of Hate coming at us from both sides. With Civility and Good Manners being shoved farther and farther into the shadows.

Until, oh horrors, we reached the Crisis of 2016, when Hate triumphed, Isolation came back to slap us in the face, and our country did not simply slip from leadership of the world, but plunged with deliberate intent into the abyss of blind misrule. So, other than making sure we go to the polls, what can we do to begin the climb out of the pit of Hatred, Selfishness, and Greed?

Simple: Practice Civility, Kindness, and Generosity. Encourage, by example, others to do the same. Happily, I live in a community which never lost its Civility. Below are some examples of simple positive human interaction I have encountered in the last few weeks.

In the course of ordering Christmas gifts by phone, I had some delightful conversations with perfect strangers on the other end of line. (One woman had such a Tennessee twang I had trouble understanding her at first, but we were buddies by the time I finished my order.) Another, in Kansas, was just as pleasant, if a bit easier to understand. 

The grocery store this week, was almost as crowded as the week before Thanksgiving, yet almost everyone seemed to be smiling. Even the manager who explained to me with wry humor—I was obviously not the first to complain—that the foil on the Swanson Chicken Broth I had NOT used in my turkey stuffing was broken because Swanson had designed a closing where the cap, when twisted, broke the foil below. Huh? Not a good idea, Swanson, because I doubt any cook in the U.S. knew that, and when we found the foil pierced, we wouldn't use it. No way, no how. Thank goodness I had two cans of Swanson broth on my shelf, as it was Thanksgiving Day and the grocery stores were closed! But, please note, my complaint was treated with great Civility, and when I did not want a replacement, the manager insisted on giving me my money back. 

After finishing with the store manager, my grocery shopping was marked by several encounters with other shoppers, strangers all, who smiled, waited patiently while maneuvering through the crowded aisles, made cordial comments on the products we were looking at. There was even one who went into raptures over my rhinestone-studded ballcap. ("I want that hat!") The clerks, always polite at Publix, seemed chattier, more personal, than usual. (The Christmas spirit in play?)

Later in the week, I had occasion to go to Macy's and Penny's at our local shopping mall. I may have been in Longwood for over three years now, but in my mind I still see the layout of the Penny's in East Orlando where I used to live. So when I stepped off the elevator, I took a different turn and found myself lost. When I asked a passing clerk to point me toward the back parking lot, she walked with me until a straight line would take me to the correct exit.

Whether shopping in a grocery store or a department store, I should add that I saw no aggravated mothers or fathers, no crying children, no voices raised in argument. Yes, I'm sure it happens, but the General Rule in our area is Civility—our lives governed by the manners learned at our mother's knee.

And just last night—after I had finished a draft of this blog—I experienced yet another example of Civility. For my oldest granddaughter's concert at Lake Mary High, I had to park half way to football field. It was dark, only the road to walk on, and a zillion cars coming in all at once. Because of the distance and darkness, I was using my cane. I hadn't gone ten feet when a man stepped up, saying, "I'll walk with you." And he did, keeping on the incoming-cars side of me, making sure they saw me, and escorting me all the way into the auditorium lobby. How wonderful to know Good Samaritans still live!

On a more regular basis—during the afternoon rush hour it would be impossible for our residents to make a left turn out of my subdivision unless some driver on the main road took pity on us. Just yesterday, I was sitting there, waiting and waiting, when a car stopped, holding up the traffic behind him, and signaled for me to go in front of him. And—ah-hah!—I just looked out the window and saw that my neighbor had brought up my empty yard-waste container from the street where I left it for pick-up. 

The ladies in my Crochet Club bring in leftover yarn from their "stash" so others may use it. We help others learn to knit and crochet. The people in my church practice what is preached, not only being kind to each other but by bringing in donations of food for the needy on a year-round basis and veritable mountains of gifts and food for special requests.

When I attend special performances by the young people in our area, whether at church or at school, I see an outpouring of student effort and parental devotion that assures me family values are alive and well. (Which happened again at this week's Lake Mary High concert, which featured not only Jazz Band, Band, Chamber Choir, Wind & Brass Ensembles, but Theater Improv, an impressive display of three different kinds of rhythmic dancing (the Rockettes have nothing on these kids!), and chalk art on the sidewalk outside.)

Friday addition: I came out of Target, after barely getting a 6-qt. boxed Crock Pot (a gift) into my cart and wondering how I was going to get it out of the cart into my car when . . . a young woman spoke up from behind me asking, "Do you need help with that large package?" and promptly off-loaded the heavy boxed Crock Pot and the rest of my purchases into the trunk of my car. She also cautioned me to be sure I took my purse out of cart - which reminded me of a Christmas story from seven or eight years ago in East Orlando, when I DID leave my purse in the shopping cart after a trip to Jo-Ann's Fabrics. I had taken my keys out to offload my purchases, then got in the car and drove home, leaving my purse behind. When I got home & discovered what I'd done, I rushed back to Jo-Ann's and said, "I know this is probably futile, but did anyone turn in a purse?" And sure enough, it was tucked into Jo-Ann's safe and only needed retrieving. Talk about the Christmas spirit!

But I hasten to say that although my life is now centered around Longwood, Lake Mary, and Altamonte Springs, the Jo-Ann's story illustrates that this area is not a sole oasis of Civility. (Also, remember the ladies on the other end of my phone orders.) Basically, the people of the United States are a good people; this is a good country. If we stand up and fight hate-mongering, it will be even better. Not just at the polls but on a day-to-day basis. Slow down, take a deep breath, see the people around you:  those willing to help others, those needing help. All the people whose day will be brightened by a smile, a compliment, or just by seeing a pleasant, instead of scowling, face. (And don't forget Civility is not one-sided. The privileged and wealthy need smiles in their lives almost as much as the poor and needy. Think Scrooge!)

So go out and spread Civility—not just at the holidays but throughout the year. If we make this effort, surely the tide of positive interaction will spread. We will take our country back from the brink of Hate, Fear, Incivility, Ignorance, and It's mine!—you can't have it!


This is your chance to save the world. Begin today!

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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 


For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace  


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Birth of a Book

Contest Preview

I was planning to debut The Ghosts of Rushton Court before the end of the year, but somehow the holiday season doesn't seem the right time for a ghost story (Dickens excepted). But today I'm offering a peek at the contest I intend to run when Ghosts goes live. I have composed a list of questions about the book, which I will post here. The winner will have the choice of one of two handmade bargello purses. The second purse will go to the runner-up. Both purses are large enough to accommodate most cell phones. And yes, I designed and made each purse myself. Here's a peek at one of them. 





 BIRTH OF A BOOK

As I enter final edits for a book, I can never keep my mind from leaping forward to the next. And this time was no exception, even though the edits for The Ghosts of Rushton Court were more challenging than usual. (The witches in The Blackthorne Curse are as close as I've ever come to the supernatural.) So it seemed a good time to make some notes recording how the "new book" process works—at least for me. And also, the topic blends well with last week's comments about writing books "out of the mist."

What comes first?
Keeping in mind that every author must find his/her own path, here is how it happened for my next, as yet untitled, book.

1. Genre. Since my Regencies are my best sellers, and The Ghosts of Rushton Court is my seventh Regency Gothic, I decided my next book should be a Regency Historical; more specifically, Book 6 in my Regency Warrior series.

2.  Primary Characters. For me, characters are always the most important item in crafting a book. So the big question was: create new characters or go with the two people I set up for their own book in The Lady Takes a Risk? Not that I could remember their names, so I had to find my Character List for Lady and frown over it a while. Did I want to take on the challenge of a disabled hero? But, oh wow, I loved the name I had given the Russian countess. That grabbed me, sucked me in. Yes, it would be fun, as well as a challenge, to contrive a match between two such disparate characters.

3.  Secondary Characters.  No problem, I had a whole slew of those from previous Regency Warrior books, including Terence O'Rourke who was neglected in The Lady Takes a Risk and Jack Harding, both of whom were still unmarried in 1817. Ah ha! Now that offers some possible interesting twists on the Plot.

Except of course, I had no  Plot. Hmm . . .

4. Plot.  Well, let's face it, I'm an "out of the mist" author. All I know about this plot is that it's going to be darker than most of my books. My countess is attempting to survive in London by gaming, she is being stalked, and a whole bunch of would-be heroes come to her rescue. Beyond that . . . well, I may not start conjuring anything of substance until after I write the opening scenes. Something will turn up—it always does.

5. Setting. This was decided when I chose to use the Russian countess from The Lady Takes a Risk. At the end of the book, Lady Amelie sponsors the Countess Alexandrova into London society in order to get rid of the woman who had an eye on her husband! So London was a given.

6. Conflict. In addition to the conflicts found in the overall Plot (nonexistent as yet), the primary characters must have both Internal and External conflict. In other words, they must have conflicts that affect them alone. As an example of Internal Conflict, Major Randolph has grave doubts about any woman, let alone a woman of the countess's beauty and sophistication, being attracted to a man with one leg. External conflict refers to outside problems: the countess's stalker, for example. So I had at least a start on the requisite Conflict.

7. Research. I may have been writing Regencies for more than twenty years, but except for a scene here and there, my London-set books have been few and far between. I will have to renew a good deal of my knowledge, from the sights and sounds of the city to the ton's favorite play grounds, including the details of gaming of the period. (All things previously researched in depth but which are now only vague memories. Alas.)

Summary. 
That is all I have at the moment: a genre, the names of the Hero and Heroine and of characters from previous Regency Warrior books. An idea for at least one villain. A setting, and a start on Internal and External conflicts. But over the next few weeks, holiday or not, ideas will begin to gel, and hopefully, come January, the opening scene will roll off my fingertips, and after that, Regency Warrior 6 will be off and running.

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Please don't forget my "holiday" books: A Lady Learns to Love and Mistletoe Moment. Both are tales of redemption for people very much in need of a second chance. They can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online vendors.

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

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 11/5/18, click here. 


For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

email: editsbyBFF@aol.com 
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace