Grace's Mosaic Moments

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Hazards of Flying Kites

I wasn’t going to blog this Friday, since now that I have a cover, I’m hard at work on the final stages of uploading my first effort to Smashwords, Kindle, and Nook. I chose Lady Silence, by the way. Although the last of my six Signet Regencies, I felt it might—with its “soap opera” ending (not a dry eye in the house)—have an appeal beyond the lovers of traditional Regencies.

BUT - yesterday afternoon, while taking the grandchildren picnicking at the Orlando area’s largest woodland park, an incident occurred that deserves to be recorded. Let’s face it, on the homefront as well as the world-wide scene, TV and newspapers regale us with disaster after disaster. (For example, just this week the husband of the city manager of the upscale Orlando suburb where Tiger Woods lives, attacked the town’s mayor at a meeting, knocking him out. And a sixteen-year-old tried to rape a girl in the backseat of a schoolbus!) Sometimes, one can only wish we’d hear more about good deeds. So here’s the story of what happened when the little girls and I tried to fly kites at Moss Park.

I’d planned only an after-school picnic with my three grandchildren, aged almost 8, 6, and 4. But the wind was so blustery it was scaling the plates right off the table, so the girls asked if we could get the kites out. But we weren’t having much luck as the wind was gusty, one minute grabbing the kites, the next plunging them into the ground. Even our strongest “high wind” kite had trouble staying up. Part of the problem: we were in an open field ringed by tall trees, and I didn’t dare let out a lot of string.

The girls ran off to the playground nearby, and I thought I’d give the big kite one last try. As I picked it up, a man came over and asked if I’d like some help. (He was around thirty, and he and his wife had been watching their children play in the playground.) I said, “Sure,” and of course he had that kite up and flying a hundred feet off the ground in less than a minute. He warned me about the tug on the line and then handed it over. (His family was waiting in the car, ready to go home.) Talk about wind! It all but lifted me off the ground. I immediately started to reel in, as the hazard of that much line around trees was obvious. Because the pull was so great, I had my eyes on the winder, not on the kite, trying to keep the line from tangling, and OH-OH, the kite lodged in the top of a live oak.

For those who live in the south and know live oaks, I hasten to say this one was young, maybe only thirty feet tall, but as far as I was concerned, it might as well have been sixty. Our successful kite-launcher came loping back, and I asked if he had a knife to cut the line. (I wanted to save the expensive winder.) He said, “What for?” and promptly launched himself into the tree.

I stood with mouth agape as he climbed and climbed. There were so many leaves I couldn’t actually see him well - and I sincerely hoped his wife couldn’t see what he was doing. In no time at all he was 25-30 feet up, trying to dislodge the kite. It was stubborn, but he took the time to untie all the knots I’d put in it, separating the kite from the string. Then he wrestled the kite loose and dropped it down, where it stuck on a branch only about nine feet off the ground.

He descended, crawled out on the lower branch, and dropped the kite to the ground. Meanwhile, I had reeled in all the line. The three little girls had come back from the playground by this time and witnessed the last of this gallant rescue. I was nearly speechless when our hero dropped back to earth. I shook his hand, stammered out my most sincere thanks, and off he went, back to his waiting family.

I took the little girls down to a lakefront beach and let them wade for a while after that, while I smiled to myself and thought about the passing encounter that served to remind me that there are some very nice people in this world.

A salute to nice guys everywhere!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Welcome to Grace's Mosaic Moments!

I’ve been busy transplanting roses this week—and, believe me, if you’ve never done it, that’s a LOT of work. I also had to learn a new skill, the cordless electric power drill, in order to deal with the huge new plastic planters that come with molded words on the bottom: “Drill holes for drainage”! Which is why I’m posting a code list, long on my web site, instead of coming up with something new today. Hopefully, there are a few of you out there who haven’t seen this list before.

The original is 2 columns at 1.5 spacing. If you would like a compact, printable copy, please e-mail me at

“Way, way back in ages dark”—I believe that’s how the old song goes—in this case back in early computer days, when IBM’s dedicated word processing machine cost $10,000 and boasted 256K of memory (when my son’s first PC had 16K), programmers built in certain codes to help users around the world type characters that weren’t on the QWERTY keyboard. My IBM word processor, I must add, could actually change keyboards, typing in a multitude of languages from around the world. But poor little PCs couldn’t.

And as PCs grew and grew and grew, those codes stayed in place in the programming. You could say they were “grandfathered in.” Some are obsolete, like lines for painstakingly building a “box.” Some are still obviously with us—you see them on the right-hand side of every Windows menu. Others, very useful, are more elusive. For example:

PAGE END. I only recently discovered that many people don’t know how to make a quick Page End that will stay through every format. Perhaps that’s the reason some people are still making a separate document for each chapter, a major time-waster when you try to put it all together. Plus the difficulty of searching for something in the manuscript you need to know, such as, “What color did I say his eyes were?”

Ctrl + Enter. That’s all your need. You can take a manuscript from Word Perfect to RTF to MS Word (or the reverse), and that Page End will still be right where you put it. And you don’t have to go into a Windows Menu to do it.

Below is a list of some of the old codes I’ve found particularly handy. Yes, you can get most of these through a Windows Menu, but the codes are faster, and there are a few below you won’t find anywhere else. Hopefully, you’ll discover something in there that’s helpful.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.



Note: To make these codes work, use your Keypad with “Num Lock” ON.
Press Alt + the number.

20 ¶

21 §

37 %

60 <>

128 Ç

129 ü

130 é

131 â

132 ä

133 à

134 å

0227 ã

135 ç

136 ê

137 ë

138 è

139 ï

140 î

141 ì

142 Ä

143 Å

144 É

145 æ

146 Æ

147 ô

148 ö

149 ò

150 û

151 ù

152 ÿ

153 Ö

154 Ü

155 ¢

156 £

160 á

161 í

162 ó

163 ú

164 ñ

165 Ñ

168 ¿

171 ½

172 ¼

0190 ¾

173 ¡

174 «

175 »

241 ±

246 ÷

0215 ×

248 °

0150 –

0151 —

0153 ™

0169 ©

0174 ®

0178 ²

0179 ³

0192 À

0193 Á

0194 Â

0195 Ã

0196 Ä

0197 Å

0200 È

0201 É

0202 Ê

0203 Ë

0204 Ì

0205 Í

0206 Î

0207 Ï

0210 Ò

0211 Ó

0212 Ô

0213 Õ

0214 Ö

0217 Ù

0218 Ú

0219 Û

0220 Ü

There are many more 2-4 digit codes, but most are alphabet, borders, math, Greek, etc. Undoubtedly, anyone taking the time to experiment can find a whole slew more.

Grace, who writes as Blair Bancroft and Daryn Parke &

Friday, March 11, 2011


I named my blog Grace’s Mosaic Moments so I could have free rein to write about anything and everything—carefully planned writing topics, ridiculous incidents, journeys to distant places, or unexpected moments that simply tumble into your life and make a difference. Today’s blog is the latter. A surprise moment in time, not only enjoyable in itself, but one that brought back a very special memory.

I’ve been in theatrical productions since I was six years old, and for some years I was a professional musician. In addition to solo and choral work, I managed to earn an Actor’s Equity card. A few years later, sometime in the early ‘70s as I recall, my husband was Chairman of the Performing Arts Council in New Haven, Connecticut. One day, he said to me, “There’s a summer theater group that wants to open a professional theater in New Haven. They’re playing in Clinton. (About 25 miles down the shoreline from our home in Branford). “Let’s go take a look.” We saw the play, decided we should encourage the director’s idea. My husband ended up giving them an office, a secretary, and a phone for somewhere around a year before the idea finally came to fruition. He also allowed the director, Jon Jory, to “cry on his shoulder,” as my husband put it, every Thursday night until the Long Wharf Theater was born. I’m happy to say, though it was situated in a meat-packing warehouse along New Haven harbor, it opened to critical success, and is still hale and hearty in 2011.

Pride and Prejudice - the Performance
On Wednesday evening of this week I attended a performance of Pride and Prejudice in play form. I wasn’t expecting much as the Orlando Shakespeare Theater is a long way from the superior professional theater I enjoyed while living in New Haven and, later, in the Sarasota area. But how could I not go to see yet another version of P&P?

But from the opening moment, I could feel they’d nailed it. The production sparkled. Using the device of characters speaking directly to the audience, they managed to squeeze in most of Jane Austen’s story and do it with style. One amusing incident, hopefully unique to last night’s performance: “Kitty” was ill, evidently with no understudy, leaving the Bennett’s with only four daughters. Some of the actors coped better than others. Mrs. Bennett still alleged that she had five daughters, while Elizabeth Bennett, when asked how many sisters she had, returned, “three at present.” In the dance sequence Mr. Bennett heroically danced alone, and one line promenaded with three, instead of four, across. I can only presume Lydia and Mary spoke Kitty's lines as well as their own. All in all, adroitly done, and a compliment to the cast.

Only Charles Bingley came off rather badly, his passive nature exaggerated to the point of stupidity, not helped by a few added phrases that smacked of turn of the 20th century. (“Smashing!” for example.) But I was possibly the only one there who would spot an anachronism like that. All the other characters came right off the pages of the book. They were amazingly “right” for their parts.

The staging of the dance sequences—and there were more than a few—was particularly well done, with a variety of circle, line, and quad dances that were sometimes the center of focus, sometimes only a few dancers gracefully performing as a backdrop for dialogue and action downstage. On one occasion, the dancers performed behind a scrim curtain, a shadow accompaniment to the action on stage.

The setting used one two-story mansion to represent all the homes from Longbourne to Mr. Collins’s vicarage to Pemberly. A width-of-the-house balcony provided extra space for action and re-actions. For example, when Elizabeth was reading Darcy’s letter, he appeared on the balcony, taking over the reading of portions of the letter. This device worked well in a number of scenes. The only furnishings were straight-backed white wrought iron chairs, which cast members constantly rearranged to provide “furniture” for each setting. Even “pianofortes.”

As someone who has helped costume theater productions since I was “knee high to a grasshopper,” I’ve frequently criticized the costumes at Orlando “Shakes.” Last night was another nice surprise. The elders were costumed in late 18th c. garb, the younger cast members in Regency dress. Lady Catherine’s outfit was magnificent, though I was amused to see that her skirt had been made from someone’s wedding gown.

To solve the constant change of scene problem, cast members wore the same garb throughout, no matter if they were at a ball or wandering the grounds. But, I hasten to mention another clever touch. When they were “outside,” birds twitted in the background.

One more aside: last night, the center portion of the three-sided theater was mostly taken by a special group. Evidently, many of them were not as familiar with P&P as those of us along the sides. They roared with laughter over lines the rest of greeted more like old friends. Nice to know Jane Austen was delighting a new audience as well as Austen buffs like me.

Between acts it finally dawned on me that I was seeing the result of a brilliant adaptation of Austen’s novel - no wonder the actors were so comfortable with it - and I should look at the program to find the name of the person who wrote it. And, oops, the past came back and hit me in the face. The adaptor: Jon Jory, founder of the Long Wharf Theater. To be certain it was the same person, I asked the House Manager after the performance, and he confirmed it. I only wished my husband were alive to know that Jon was still using his theatrical gifts to create great theater, even after all these years.

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Thanks for viewing Grace's Mosaic Moments. Hope to see you again next week.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing Mistakes, Near-Misses & Just Plain Strange

Sorry to be late posting, but AT&T messed things up, with all phone and Internet service out from early morning until I went off to Friday night soccer with the three grandchildren. I suspect it's because they're putting in concrete poles three times the size of the old wooden ones. Certifiably hurricane-proof. Sigh.

The following is a "confession" of sorts. Mistakes I've made which I hope may help others to avoid similar pitfalls.
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I’ve always admired those who could juggle family, birthday parties, soccer, and PTA, and still find time to write. I made some efforts during my children’s growing years, but they were pretty pathetic. My mother, a highly successful children’s book author, told me, gently, that perhaps writing wasn’t for me. (It was a real thrill some years later when she changed her mind.) But, believe me, wisdom didn’t come easily. Below are some of the pitfalls I encountered.

Shooting Myself in the Foot.
There was a business downturn in the early ‘90s that prompted me to give up my costuming business and become a full-time caretaker for my husband, who had suffered a massive stroke. Retiring from the costume business also allowed me time for writing. At last. There were no author groups, particularly not romance groups, in my area, so I plunged in blind. And made Mistake Number One. The Sometime Bride came to 140,000 words. But these were the days when an author could still submit directly to almost any New York publishing house, so I blithely sent it off to Ballantine. Mistake Number Two: when I received a letter from a senior editor stating they were interested in Bride if only I’d make the heroine older, I stood on my high horse and responded that my heroine had to be that age. The book simply didn’t work otherwise.

It was the early days of e-books, and fortunately Starlight Writer Publications didn’t feel the heroine was too young. In August 2000, The Sometime Bride came out to reviews I still cherish. But later, after the demise of that early e-publisher, I found homes for other books, but not for Bride. Evidently, Editors have been so sensitized by the publicity on twenty-first century pedophilia that they wouldn’t take a chance on a heroine whose marriage age was not unusual for her time. Morals of both Mistakes: if a publisher asks you to make changes, even if you feel strongly about it, be open-minded. Try to work with it. Such a great opportunity may never come again. Also: modern sensibilities do affect historical novels, so think before you write. It’s easier to avoid writing something that might not play well with readers than give up a scene or two you absolutely love.

On another tack, you often hear editors say, “Write the book of your heart.” Well, that’s what I’ve always done, and I discovered the book of my heart often wasn’t the book of the editor’s heart. Some authors seem to have a natural feel for what romance readers want. I, on the contrary, tend to write what I want to write, and the “books of my heart” tend to be too long, too literary, too much story, not enough romance. Question: Do you want to please yourself, or do you want to make money? Some authors seem born to write romance; others of us have to work at it. Moral of this story: Steep yourself in romance: read, read, read. Get the feel of it, then try to come up with a new twist, if possible. Yet not too many new twists, because today’s readers don’t want to cope with overly complex situations, new words, etc. They’re often reading on the run, multi-tasking like mad, and don’t want to have to think too hard while being entertained.

A story to illustrate this last point: I recently won an RWA chapter contest with a Futuristic Paranormal. The editor-judge commented that I should make the various terms more clear. I thought they were glaringly obvious, but I forgot not everyone reads SF, watches SF movies, etc. The agent/judge said that he would have requested the book, except the niche market for this sub-genre was so small. Moral: If you want to be saleable, you need to appeal to a broad market.

Pleasing myself, as opposed to readers, brings up another writing problem, that old bugaboo, Point of View. Most of the novels I read over the years had multiple points of view. (No, not head-hopping from person to person, but points of view from more than the hero and heroine.) That’s probably why I ended up writing traditional Regencies for Signet, because the style of that sub-genre included multiple points of view. Which, I’m afraid, is among the reasons trads fell by the wayside, being dumped by both Signet and Zebra within a year of each other. But I had been writing that way for so long that it was almost impossible to adapt. But over the last year or two, when even e-publishers began demanding simpler POV, I had to force myself to stricter discipline. POV Advice: stick to the tried and true for both print- and e-publishers. Hero, heroine, and possibly a villain. Publishers’ sales figures are showing them what modern readers like, and in these difficult economic times, publishers have to be very careful to give readers what they want.

Another common problem: cross-genre. E-publishers deserve halos for giving cross-genre novels a home when the marketing departments of New York print publishers balked, wailing, “How are we going to tell the bookstores where to shelve it?” No problem with e-pubs. They simply list it under both genres. Moral here: just be aware of the problem.

And now, my biggest near-disaster. I do a lot of research, and not just for my historical novels. But as I approached my fourth Regency for Signet, The Harem Bride, I must have gotten a bit cocky. I was writing about a girl visiting the British Embassy in Constantinople for an evening affair. She has a brief meeting with the ambassador, for whom I made up a name. Simple. Who could possibly know, or care, who was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1803? But as I was editing that chapter, something nagged at me. Maybe I ought to check and see if the name of the ambassador was on record. I googled, “British Ambassador, Constantinople, early 19th c.” And page after page after page began to roll across my screen. The ambassador was Lord Elgin of Elgin Marble fame. That is how he was able to obtain a firman to “acquire” the friezes from the Acropolis. (Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire at that time.)

Needless to say, I not only choked and replaced my made-up name with Lord Elgin’s. I made him and his problems getting the government to buy his marbles part of the plot. The moral of this tale is obvious: check your facts. Take care with your research. Don’t end up with egg on your face.

Tripped Up by Fate.
I’ll end with the “just plain strange” portion of mistakes I have made. This comes under Circumstances That Can’t Be Helped, such as having publishers’ “lines” close on you. (It’s happened to me three times!) The following incident was worse. I tell it because it is so unusual and because it illustrates that sometimes bad things happen, even when we’ve done everything right.

A number of years ago, I was surprised to see a youngish Arab walking down my street in South Venice on Central Florida’s Gulf Coast. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I saw him twice. He was noticeable because he was truly “foreign,” not an American of Arab descent. And it was rare to see anyone walking down our street. We were a car, truck, motorcycle, bike community. There was also something special about him—a determined stride, a pulsing energy that was apparent even to someone passing by in a car. This was a man who walked with purpose. I remember wondering if he had escaped from a government safehouse, as ours was just the kind of sleepy, out-of-the-way community the FBI might use to hide someone.

I ended up making the man I’d seen the not-quite-villain of one of my books, and I came to like my fictional character well enough that I had my heroine help him get away at the end. And then came 9/11, and the FBI swarming our little town, shutting down two flight schools, confiscating all the library’s computers. Horrified, the town discovered that two of the 9/11 terrorists—one the coordinator, Muhammad Atta—had lived among us, training to fly at our airport. And, yes, they briefly lived on my street, before their host family threw them out for not respecting the wife of the household. And, yes, both times I saw my Arab, he was walking toward the airport. The aura that surrounded him was fanaticism, though of course none of us recognized it at the time.

I put my book away. I simply couldn’t face that I’d made an almost-good-guy out of one of the 9/11 terrorists. Maybe one day I’ll try to find a home for it, but . . .

I hope you begin to see how easy it is to go astray, sometimes because you haven’t been flexible enough, sometimes out of sheer ignorance, sometimes through carelessness, and sometimes through the machinations of Fate. Hopefully, one of the above tales will help you avoid a pitfall or two.

Thanks for stopping by Grace’s Mosaic Moments. Hope to see you here next week. And please remember comments and questions are always welcome.

Grace, who also writes as Blair Bancroft & Daryn Parke

And who, by the way, runs an editing service. If you’d like to know more about Best Foot Forward, please request a PDF brochure from