Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Grace Note Update:  Due to my spending New Year's in the hospital, World Building, Part 2, will not be posted until Sunday, January 12.

~ * ~ 

In keeping with my practice of adding a bit of color to each blog (and for which I thank my daughter's Facebook page for most of the photos), below is what may be a "first."

Most people have attended a house closing at one time or another - formal atmosphere, conference table, big chairs, lots of paperwork, lots of signatures, etc. Well, on our way to the steam train in Tavares last week (mom, dad, three children & two grandmothers), we took a short detour to a title company, where we pulled up, and a young man ran out with paperwork which was completed on the hood of the SUV. Elapsed time: 5-7 minutes. (Guess that's what happens when you buy so many houses it becomes routine.)


ATTENTION, all authors: World-Building is for everyone!
This week I finished the first draft of The Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 in the Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. So it seemed a good time to blog about the intricacies of World Building. But before we get down to what I had to do for Blue Moon, let's talk about the kind of world-building all authors must do, even if they aren't writing a series or setting a book in an unknown world in some future time.

SETTING. Anyone who has ever entered a fiction contest has probably been scored on this category. And, believe me, it's not an also-ran. What would Downton Abbey be without its exotic setting? And every successful author of that oh-so-popular genre, Regency Historical, knows how much study is involved to get that setting right. Or let's say your setting is Medieval. Do you know your Book of Hours, that marriage must be on the church steps, not inside? Have you read about the persecution of women preached by men like St. Bernard? Do you understand the differences between the Medieval twelfth century and the Renaissance of the fourteenth century? The changes in culture, fashion, and politics, the enormous influence of religion? If you want to do it right, the challenges are many.

Whether your setting is the American Old West, the Scottish Highlands, the Old South, the streets of New York, Victorian London, or a small New England town, you need to incorporate a proper feel for the location into your novel. Your story won't come alive without all those little details about the people who live, love, and work in the place you chose for your setting.

Another example:  What would your classic "Cozy Mystery " be without details on all those small-town shops where the intrepid heroines manage a business and stick their noses into murder at the same time? Plus all those recipes, craft ideas, etc.,  that are featured in so many of them. For these books, setting is an integral part of the genre.

A personal example:  Even the simplest novel requires a well-described setting. In one of my first published books, a 50,000-word Precious Gem for Kensington, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is as much a character as my beleaguered lovers. (Now available as an e-book under the title Love At Your Own Risk)

Basically, every book needs "color." Just as our characters need to wear clothes, our books need to be dressed up with those details that proclaim: this author really knows the place he/she is writing about. For contemporary settings, if all else fails, try Google Earth and a street map. (I found these an enormous help when I couldn't get to Lyon, France, to take a good look at Interpol's headquarters.) And I have no idea how I'd have managed to contrive all my English settings without the maps and guidebooks I picked up on my many visits. 

But simple geography - knowing your way around - is not enough. You must create households (or lack thereof) that fit your characters lives. Put those dwelling places in the proper setting, which could be anything from an empty endless plain to a mountain village, a farming town, or a sophisticated city. Then you need to build layers on those initial bare facts, keeping at it until you can understand your characters' placement in their world. After that comes the really hard part - you have to describe that world so your readers can see what you see. In summary, expand your world from geography and bricks and mortar into jobs, life-styles, the everyday struggles, the humor, the dangers, whatever makes your world tick.

Sometimes the research necessary to build our worlds can be very demanding, so much so that many authors stick to one historical period. I still recall the staggering amount of research I did when I decided to do a twelfth century Medieval for Young Adults. After writing Regency for many years, I found myself challenged by a whole new universe. Different customs, different clothing, different religion, different wars, sports, games, and dances. Fortunately, I seem to have gotten it right, as it continues to be my best-selling book in England - a tough audience! (The Captive Heiress, suitable for age 12 to adult.)

Okay, I have to admit I think authors who create settings from the contemporary world around them have the easiest task. (At least, if they are observant.) Next come those who build their worlds from carefully recorded history. Third are those who build fantasy worlds from what already exists (such as those who write Contemporary Paranormal or Urban Fantasy). And then there are authors who must create worlds from scratch - worlds out of time and context, alien worlds with cultures far removed from what we know. I like to think my Blue Moon series comes somewhere between the last two - a future culture far, far away, but one that hasn't become detached from its roots. 

In a nutshell: the most successful authors create a detailed world around their characters in every book they write. (If they're fortunate enough to be writing a series, then they simply expand that same world with each new book.)  

Best advice: If you've been neglecting that all important thing called "Setting," adjust your thinking. Show your shining story against a backdrop it deserves.

Next week, a look at why I had to give up my time-honored practice of "winging it" (well, at least to some extent) when I set out to write a three-book series set in a time and place where everything had to be created from the imagination.

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What Grace is reading this week: 

I just happened to hit Laura Resnik's Christmas and New Year's paranormal mysteries at the exact right time of the year. Although I recommend her entire series, Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie are not to be missed. (You may never eat a fortune cookie again.)

And then I took an actual paperback off my shelf, one of my all-time favorites, First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Philips. A real treat, even the third time around (though I missed the ease of reading on my Kindle).

Thanks for stopping by.


Next week:  The enormous amount of work involved in creating a setting on a planet (or four or five) far, far away.

To view Grace's books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

To ask for a brochure for Edits by Best Foot Forward, click here.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Before I get to a true story dating back to World War II, here's a pic of the Tavares Steam Train. Seven of us took their "Santa Ride" this week, and I must say they do it well. Not only Santa and Mrs. Claus, but singing elves, a chorus of white-coated singing chefs, plus cocoa, cookies, and a ride past Lake Dora and lovely decorations on both sides of the tracks.  There is also an open wooden car with benches, plus a genuine caboose. A truly fun experience. (And a voucher for all of us for a free ride when the train isn't confined to a half-mile of track, due to repairs!)

Riley, a bit reluctant to give Santa a hug (with her "other" gramma looking on)
~* ~

A World War II Christmas Story

My husband loved to tell this tale - I even helped him write it up for a religious magazine a quarter century ago. He is no longer with us, but this is such a nice story, I'd like to keep it alive.

~ * ~

My husband was fortunate in his war experiences. Refusing officer training since all new officers were being sent to the Pacific and he wanted to see Europe, he ended up as the Staff Sergeant for the Colonel in charge of an Ordnance battalion, stationed near Bath, England (where he learned "change ringing"). The battalion's primary duty was preparing vehicles, especially tanks, for what would be the Normandy invasion. After the invasion, his battalion tagged along, keeping everything in good repair. 

On Christmas Eve they were bivouacked near a nameless French village. (The Germans had removed all mileage and town signs.) My husband and a friend decided to walk into town, and on the way they passed a small Catholic church. Since my husband was interested in both European architecture and organs, they tried the door, found it open, and went inside. And, lo and behold, there was an ancient pump organ. My husband immediately tried it but found it lifeless. (He was one of those gifted people who could play by ear.)

The two soldiers continued their walk and were invited into a French home and fed supper. While there, they attempted to ask about the organ, but the language barrier was total. On their way back to base, they entered the church once again, took the organ apart, laying each piece along the front benches of the church. They then spent the night repairing and putting it back together. (And perhaps not surprisingly considering they were in Ordnance, it worked.)

The only problem, no one came near them that entire time. They never found out the name of the village, never knew if the villagers discovered the organ was usable again. My husband always hoped, of course, that people in that French village considered it "the Christmas Eve miracle of the restoration of the organ."  

My husband was Elliott H. Kone, who later founded the Yale Audio-Visual Center and the Yale Guild of Carillioneurs. He was Jewish.

~ * ~

For those who missed this really unusual no-bake treat the last time I posted it:


1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups pastel miniature marshmallows**
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup flaked coconut

1. In a heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir a small amount into the beaten egg, then return all to pan. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl; let cool for 15 minutes. Gently stir in marshmallows and nuts. Chill for 30 minutes. (I stirred the chocolate mix into the marshmallow mix - no difference.)

2.  On a long sheet of waxed paper, shape dough into a 1½-inch-diameter log. Place coconut on another sheet of waxed paper. Gently roll log over coconut to coat sides. Wrap up tightly, twisting ends to seal. (I twisted & clipped with plastic clothes pins.)

3.  Freeze for 4 hours or overnight. Remove waxed paper. Cut into 1/4 - 3/8" slices. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

TIP: Stash a batch of cookies in a plastic container in the freezer for use anytime. They unfreeze very quickly.

*Originally, “Cathedral Cookies” - recipe from Taste of Home’s Best-Loved Cookies, December 2012.

** The only place I've found colored mini-marshmallows is in the baking section of a Super Wal-mart.

~ * ~
A Very Merry Christmas to my Christian readers
A Most Sincere Happy Holidays to those of other faiths
And may 2014 be kind to us all. 
Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, December 14, 2013


"Singing Trees" - The Creation, December 2013
One doesn't have to take the story of The Creation literally in order to enjoy the striking symbolism of the annual Singing Trees performance at First Baptist Orlando. (Long-time readers of Grace's Mosaic Moments may recall the hair-raising tale recounted in my first two blogs, detailing my attempt to drive my three grandchildren home from the Singing Trees performance of Christmas 2010!) This year's performance, told in song and dance, and with the aid of some very large animals and a sinuous snake, was a true spectacle. And the music, as always, was glorious. [Orlando area residents - consider putting it on your holiday schedule for next year.]

~ * ~


I was going to begin my World Building series this week, but a book I just read sent me into shock mode and a brief postponement of my plans. As we all know, it's close to impossible to publish a book without an error or three. Typos no one noticed, a missing word here or there. It's expected. Even the best old-time print publishers get caught by this publishing inevitability. But a book that looks like no one bothered to check it, let alone fix it? Now that's just downright unacceptable. I don't care whether you're a best-selling multi-published author or some high school student on his/her first publishing venture, there is no excuse for not presenting a well-polished book. (Exception: Authors writing for New York print publishers and royalty-paying e-publishers. They should turn in a clean, proof-read manuscript, but after that the publisher becomes responsible.) My words today are primarily addressed to those who are doing their own publishing.

Some suggestions:

Have a critique group read your book, making note of copy edits as well as story.
Have friends read your book - not as sycophants but as careful critics.
Have colleagues read it - again, with care, not a quick once-over. 
Have Mom, Dad, Aunt Susie. read it. (Well, one can always hope.)
Hire a professional editor and/or copy editor.

One of the above should work for you. Or, if you're like me, you simply edit and proof your own work until you truly believe it's as close to flawless as it's going to get.

And yet . . . just this week a friend e-mailed me about a couple of errors in my naughty novella, Belle. And yes, they were critical errors - the wrong name for the hero in one place and an incorrect pronoun that rendered a sentence senseless. I immediately found and fixed them and uploaded the corrected version to Amazon. (Since Belle is having some difficulty making it to B&N via Smashwords, it's the corrected version that will finally appear there.) Simply put, I make a real effort to present the nuts and bolts of my work with as much quality as I hope went into the writing. 

And I expect others to do the same.

Alas, this week I happily downloaded the latest in a series of books I have enjoyed over the past few years, only to discover the author seems to have skipped the proof-reading phase of this one. Because I do not want to make this personal, I will avoid specific examples, but here is what I found:

1.  Soundalike words used in place of the proper word. Quite a few of them.

2.  A totally incorrect soundalike word used over and over again, clearly indicating the author did not know the difference between the two.

3. Other incorrect words which might have been either author misconception or simply typos.

4.  Non sequiturs - words in the middle of a sentence that made no sense - probably meant for deletion but which never made it.

5.  In one place, an entire paragraph was displaced, completely mangling the end of a chapter.


It's possible some bad things may have been happening in the author's life when editing time came along. But the impression a reader gets is that the author has written so many successful indie-published books, she no longer has respect for her readers. "Just write it and upload it. Why bother to look it over?" That's the message I got. To say I was disappointed is putting it mildly. I just couldn't empathize with the characters as I had in the past.

The moral of this tale is one I'm sure you don't have to be told: For the sake of your book, for the sake of your readers, for the sake of pride in your accomplishment(s), EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK! 

~ * ~

Hmmm, that's two rants, almost back to back. I promise to get to World Building next time round - though that will likely be after Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, Dec. 17: For Nook owners, who might have been wondering if Belle was ever going to make it to Barnes and Noble, I'm happy to announce it is finally there. Here is the link:  Belle

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spain & Portugal 4

Before we finish off our trip to the Iberian Peninsula, here is a recipe which deserves to be passed along. Every year I put half a pound of Jimmy Dean sausage into my turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving and freeze the rest for cassoulet. Cassoulet might be called France's downhome recipe for everyday eating with delight. I've had this particular recipe for more years than I care to remember, and its piquant taste never fails. I've also added a few of my "extras" to an addendum at the end. 


½ lb. bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, sliced (½ cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lb. (1½ cups) cooked ham, cubed
2 tablespoons snipped parsley
1 bay leaf
2 15-oz. cans navy beans
¼ cup dry white wine
Dash ground cloves [don't overdo it!]

In skillet, cook sausage [breaking it into small pieces], onion, and garlic till meat is lightly browned and vegetables are tender; drain off excess fat. Add ham, parsley, and bay leaf; mix well. Stir in undrained beans, wine, and cloves. Pour into 1½-qt casserole.* Bake, covered, in 325° oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Serve in bowls. Makes 6 servings.

*I use a 2-2½-qt casserole.
I also add 4 or 5 whole green peppercorns and fresh garden herbs.
If desired, a drained can of chick peas may be substituted for one of the cans of beans. (Add a bit more wine.)
For the ham, I usually get a single slice of Black Forest ham, a half-inch thick, at the Publix Deli.

~ * ~

And now to finish off the travels of Tina, Nicki, and Grace through the Iberian Peninsula . . .

We crossed the border back into Portugal at its southern coast. Below, a look at the cliffs at Sagres.

We arrived at Villamouro, a coastal resort full of fancy hotels, beaches, boutiques, restaurants, and expensive boats in a U-shaped harbor.

The beach in front of our hotel

Our hotel's indoor pools

We decided to take a boat trip to see something called "the grottoes." One of our party took one look at the boat, started humming the theme from Gilligan's Island, and walked back down the dock. The rest of us decided it wasn't the Minnow and stayed on board. Ours is the one with brown stripe toward the back of the line-up below, a power boat, not sail.

A portion of the harbor - Villamouro, Portugal

Perched on a clifftop

Some people live really well, but swimming - not so much. Even if a small sand beach could be found, the climb down & back up would be daunting. One presumes that's a pool at the front of this mansion. The view, however, must be spectacular.

After many minutes of spectacular cliffs, an occasional town, and numerous resorts and private residences, we arrived at "the grottoes," where our boat plunged through humungous waves in order for us to get a good look at what we'd paid to see. Thoughts of S. S. Minnow chased through our heads. It seemed only splinters would be left if we got any closer.

One of several "grottoes"

Grotto close-up - note pass-thru to sandy beach

When we returned to Villamouro harbor at dusk, a fisherman had just laid out his catch for the day, a small shark.


And, finally, as our group headed back toward Lisbon and our flight home, we got to see cork trees. They can only be harvested every nine years. Below, an unharvested branch. And a harvested trunk.

Branch of a cork tree

Cork tree - bare
All I can say after our tour of Spain and Portugal is to urge more people to visit. The Iberian Peninsula is full of history, wondrous sights, and friendly people. Consider it for your next vacation.

Thanks for stopping by,


Coming soon: The Challenges of World Building

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Backseat Beauties - Thanksgiving week 2013

Hint for your next Thanksgiving: Riley, the one in the middle above, cut fancy shapes in a variety of fruits and skewered them, along with red grapes, for a light & delicious holiday dessert.

The Thanksgiving Food-shopping Train

~ * ~

Regular readers of Mosaic Moments will recall my rant from last year about Black Friday. This year it's worse, the only applicable term, Black Thursday. How certain members of the general public, as well as retailers, can so demean a holiday meant for remembering the founding of our nation and for giving thanks for the blessings in our lives is beyond my comprehension.

We sat down Thursday evening, fourteen at table, only three adults and three children with any measure of English ancestry (the place of origin of our Founding Fathers). But all gave thanks, and not one was planning on shopping in the next thirty-six hours. (And, no, I didn't bring up the subject - some of the men did.)

Having already expressed myself strongly on the subject of overeager shoppers and retailers encroaching on a precious national holiday for absolutely no reason as the goods will be there waiting at bargain rates just as well at 9:00 a.m. on Friday as they are at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. (Or 8:00 A.M. on Thanksgiving, as some stores offered this year!) The whole concept is absurd, a big put-on, mostly by big-box stores, designed by corporate executives with no soul, only greedy eyes on ways to tease the public away from family, friends, and tradition (whether turkey, football, or good old-fashioned conversation). It's wrong, it's mostly fake, and it appalls me to see people falling for the hype. But this morning's Orlando Sentinel featured an editorial more acerbic than anything I could come up with. The following excerpts are from a contribution by Jack A. Chambless, a professor of economics at Valencia College (Orlando) and a senior fellow with the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. [I have put all direct quotes from the professor in blue.]

Prof. Chambless begins his article by detailing the leisurely and pleasant activities he enjoyed last year on the day after Thanksgiving. He goes on to say:

What I did not do was join the total insanity that is called "Black Friday." Let me be clear ...

Living in American where people would just as soon shoot a gun or their middle finger at you on a normal day, is just about the last place in the world you want to be when Wal-Mart is having a sale on DVD players.

I saw on the news last year where a parent got arrested for leaving his infant in the car while he joined in the trampling and steep discounts at an electronics store. I saw other broadcasts showing hundreds of people storming into stores like the running of the bulls. In this case, it was the running of the credit cards.

Assuming there were very few atheists, Muslims, or Jews mingled in with the herds of shoppers, it would be safe to assume most of these folks were stomping on each other, kicking and screaming in preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth.

How painfully ironic, isn't it? The man who taught the world about modesty, giving, love and sacrifice now has to watch as Americans all over the place try to kill one another in order to save 22 percent on a doll dressed like a prostitute.

One horrible thing about Black Friday is that it gives people who hate capitalism (see Obama voters) some legitimacy to say, "See, these dirty, profit-grabbing, selfish, rich businesspeople are making their workers come into work on Thanksgiving and forcing people to leave their cranberry sauce early in order to fight like animals in the African plains to save money on Chinese pajamas."

Do they have a point?

 Prof. Chambless goes on to mention Say's Law – which states "supply creates demand." Which, in short, seems to put the blame on the "big box" executives whose attitude is:

So they open at 8 p.m., their $8-per hour workers leave their Thanksgiving dinner early, or eat it earlier, and customers (not me) prepare to stampede one another four hours earlier than last year. If it is a success, next year it will be 11 a.m. Twenty years from now, Black Friday will be a week before Halloween.  (Grace note: to me this would be a lot better than encroaching on Thanksgiving.)

The professor adds, clearly in an effort to be less biased, that certainly the stores have a right to open whenever they want, and workers don't have to stay with these stores - they could get a job elsewhere. (Grace note:  In this economy??) He also suggests customers have a responsibility to rise up and shout, "Enough!" But if they really love shopping more than eating, so be it. "Freedom, remember?" will never see me partake in this awful illustration of capitalism at its best/worst. I will be at home, relaxing and shaking my head at the maniac I saw on YouTube hitting someone with a chair in order to get the next kid's toy that he will give to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

And thank you, Professor Chambless, for joining my voice in the wilderness. What did I do on Black Friday? I wrote what I hope will be a zinger of a wedding scene for Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. I filled one dishwasher load after pretty much totaling my pots and pans for my contribution to the previous day's Feast. I worked on this blog. I played a game and did some puzzles from the Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar. It is now 4:30 p.m., and I'm still in my robe. In between chores I rested and read Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd. An absolutely lovely day. I hope your day went as well. My advice:  Shop online, shop catalogs, shop small boutique businesses. Ignore the soulless big boxes. That's the only way this madness is going to stop.
~ * ~
Thanks for stopping by,


Next week: Spain & Portugal, Part 4

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here
For Grace's editing service, click here

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BELLE, a Regency Darkside

Troop 1668 performing at the Orlando Museum of Art

For a bit of holiday cheer and a very special moment (and no, that's not just Gramma talking), click on the video link below.

From YouTube - my grandgirls doing "The Cookie Song" with Girl Scout Troop 1668 (Junior Scouts & Brownies) at the Orlando Museum of Art on Sunday, November 17. The cookie parody to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written by my daughter Susie, who also directs.

For "The Cookie Song" click here 

~ * ~

Special Note, added March 24, 2014: Belle has just become part of a Limited Special Edition, which features Book 2 in The Aphrodite Academy series, Cecilia. And "Rayne Lord" has been nixed in favor of Blair Bancroft. This special edition will be offered at a price reduction on Kindle Countdown.

I too have been busy this week, uploading a new genre under a new pseudonym. Belle is Book 1 in The Aphrodite Academy series. The new pseudonym is due to not wanting to shock any of my tried and true traditional Regency fans. For cover, blurb, and Author's Note, please see below.

While attempting to put on a good face for her first London Season, Lady Arabella Pierrepont goes home each night to endure the raucous attention of her father’s gaming partners. One evening, when Baron Pierrepont reaches a new low, offering his daughter’s virginity to the next winner, Gabriel, Viscount Ashford, helps Arabella escape. He takes her to The Aphrodite Academy, where she is given three choices: the respectable but dull life of a companion, a marriage well below her station in life, or training to become one of London’s finest courtesans. Since she has taken men in dislike and would like nothing better than to drain their purses dry, she chooses the scandalous life. But none of the armor she has thrown up can protect her when the highest bidder for her services is Lord Ashford, the one man she considers a hero. Both must grow wiser and listen to their hearts before Belle can put the abuse she suffered behind her and Gabriel can shed the casual sexual practices of the so-called Regency gentleman.

Author’s note: I think of The Aphrodite Academy series as “Regency Darkside,” stories that go beyond the usual Regency Historical to explore what might have happened to young women, from ladies to tavern wenches, for whom life was unkind—young women with no family or friends willing to help when their lives fall apart. In this series each girl will each find The Aphrodite Academy, or it will find them. The headmistress is a widowed baroness, left in charge of a remarkable fortune by a husband whose proclivities were as eclectic as they were enthusiastic. She has, perhaps not surprisingly, barred all males from the grounds of the Academy, where she offers academic classes, arranges suitable positions for some of her students, and offers training in the fine arts of the courtesan to those who wish it .

The language is saucy, the sex occasionally graphic. But the stories are driven by plot and character, not the sex scenes.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace, who now writes as Rayne Lord as well as Blair Bancroft

Rayne is sharing the BB website at:  click here

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Word Perfect to Indie Pub

This week's bit of color - this year it was Riley's turn to sing with the Deerwood Chorus at the Amway Arena. (Chorus in the red shirts & khaki pants)

The National Anthem before a Magic's game
  ~ * ~
I may be the only romance writer in existence who writes in Word Perfect, but I've been typing professionally since Noah built the Ark (or at least it seems that long) and when I saw my first word processing machine in 1981 (IBM - $10,000), I went absolutely wild. I had to have one. I'd been typing my mother's manuscripts since I took typing my freshman year in high school, I'd studied advanced typing (oh, wow, electric typewriters!) and shorthand before going to New York to audition for Broadway, knowing I would need a good-paying part-time job until I got a singing job. And it paid off - got the first job I applied for - in a legal office. And yet, for all my skill in English and shorthand, I  had to retype something like twelve pages of my first effort because I spelled "judgment" one way and my boss spelled "judgement" the other way! (But, oh joy, I went on tour with The National Company of The Sound of Music within three months of moving to New York City.)

Later, after I was married I began my first attempts at writing novels and discovered my mother might make only minor corrections here and there when writing her children's books. Not so with me. I simply tore apart my first drafts, which meant multiple retyping of every single page of four or five hundred pages (because, yes, I was long-winded too).

So when I saw the IBM Displaywriter, I thought it was the most awesome thing I'd ever seen. It had all of 250K memory, and it wrote in umpteen languages. All I had to do was switch keyboards (and, no, I don't remember how I did it, but suddenly my QUERTY keyboard was typing in French or Italian or Spanish with all the right accents - all I had to do was look at the pretty pictures in the instruction manual to figure out which key typed what. I even got a job from Yale transcribing a series of lectures in French. Looking back, the whole thing astounds me. But one thing I learned from all this was that IBM knew how to word process.  So when PCs began to join the computer scene (with 8K memory which you could pay to enhance to 16K), it was pretty easy to sneer at Microsoft. And even when they developed a word processing program, it couldn't hold a candle to the one I was already using. When I was absolutely forced to use my husband's PC, I'd just about tore my hair out attempting to make early versions of MS Word behave.

And then a company in Canada (Lotus?) created a really good word processing system that actually worked on PCs - and allowed graphics!  It was a major breakthrough. And of course both Microsoft and Corel found a way to mimic it, leaving the poor Canadian company by the wayside. (Or maybe one of them bought it, I don't know.)

But in the long run, MS Word never did catch up, its only triumph over Corel, the Track Changes editing program, which has become the standard for the publishing industry. The graphics I can produce with Word Perfect for promo materials are unsurpassed. If I hit "print," I don't get the whole darn manuscript instead of just the page I wanted. It makes gorgeous columns, etc. But nonetheless Microsoft rules the industry, so if you want to indie pub from Word Perfect (or programs other than MS Word), you're going to have to bend a little, work longer and harder . . .

So  here's what you need to do for Word Perfect. Hopefully, my suggestions can be adapted to other word processing programs as well.

Note 1: You will need a copy of MS Word - a version with "doc" available as an alternative to "docx." (At least my older copy of MS Word - with "doc" only - is the version recommended by Smashwords' very knowledgeable Mark Coker.)

Note 2: if your manuscript is divided into several documents, arrange them into one. (When creating, never, repeat never, use separate documents for each chapter. It's unnecessary and makes it tedious to put the documents into one long doc.) I personally do 5 chapters per doc as I write, but whatever method you use, be sure each chapter is separated from the next by a Hard Page End - Control+Enter.]  And be sure you use Auto Tabs, not Manual Tabs.)  Link to Tab Conversion instructions

From Word Perfect to Indie Pub - Step by Step

1.  Turn on View - Reveal Codes.

2.  Delete all codes at the beginning of your manuscript. (Since Times New Roman is the default, this should not affect your font. Bascially, you're getting rid of headers, page numbers and double spacing. If your Auto Tabs disappear, put them back in. [Format - Paragraph - Format - First Line Indent - .5]

3.  Keeping your attention on the Codes at the bottom of the screen, go through your manuscript for "wonky" codes and extra spaces. This is not a "quickie." It's tedious and time-consuming but will pay for your effort by getting rid of codes that could put glitches in your ms when it's published. The two codes I most frequently need to get rid of:  italics where no italics should be and manual tabs that creep in, even though you'd swear you'd never touched the tab key. You will also find two spaces between words or sentences where there should only be one. Sometimes there's an extra space at the beginning or end of a paragraph. Just keep scrolling down. You'll be surprised at what you find. (But don't stay at it too long at any one sitting - the brain begins to go numb.)

4.  When finished, turn off Reveal Codes.

5.  Save the entire manuscript to Rich Text Format (which has a lovely "W" indicating it is compatible with MS Word). Say bye-bye to Word Perfect.

6. Open MS Word. Bring up the RTF copy of your manuscript which is in Word Perfect.

7.  Save the document as a Word doc. Be sure you save it into MS Word; otherwise it will save itself right back into Word Perfect!  That's two changes in one step - change from RTF to Word doc. Then Save into Microsoft Word.

8.  Click on the ¶ symbol in the Tool Bar. This will turn on what few codes you can reveal in MS Word:  hard returns at the end of a paragraph, manual tabs (which should not exist in your ms as online publishing won't recognize them), and the spaces between words and sentences.

9.  At the top of the Word document, Select All - choose Format - Paragraph. Change the standard .5 indent to .3. [No sense in doing it earlier as the Auto Tab can revert back to .5 during translation from Word Perfect to RTF to MS Word.]

10.  Do a final complete edit of your manuscript with codes on, fixing manuscript errors as necessary, in addition to eliminating codes you don't want (manual tabs, extra spaces, etc.) [And, yes, for all that work in Word Perfect's Reveal Codes, you'll still find some codes that need fixing.] See also #s 11-13 below.

11.  As you go along, change all Chapter headings to 14-font (or 16 if you prefer). [Not a necessity - it simply looks better.]

12. At the same time, highlight the chapter title and change the paragraph indent from .3 to 0, and center

13. Highlight any Location & Date lines and change the paragraph indent from .3 to 0. These lines should end up flush left.  Turn off ¶.

14.  Don't forget to run a final spell check.

15.  Use Alt+F9 to check for a sneaky "1" that likes to insert itself at the very beginning of any manuscript converted from Word Perfect to Word.  Delete it! Turn off Alt+F9.

16. Don't forget to add something about yourself at the end of the book, plus info on other books you may have available.

Congratulations - you should be ready to upload to the online site(s) of your choice.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spain, Part 2

On to Madrid and the Palacio Reale. 

Below is a postcard, plus a personal photo, of the Royal Palace, where it's said guerrilla warfare was born when a thirteen-year-old prince refused to leave the palace when the French sent Mameluke guards to take him into exile—a move that incited ordinary citizens to revolt against their former allies. Although the revolt was swiftly put down, the spark lit in the Plaza de Oriente on May 2, 1808, would help turn the tide against Napoleon (and encourage Britain to send troops to the Peninsula), although it would be five long years before the French were finally driven back behind the Pyrenees into France.

Plaza de Oriente & Palacio Reale

Palacio Reale, Madrid - side view

The Prado, Madrid - one of the world's great art musuems

 Set on a mountaintop surrounded on three sides by the broad Tagus river, Toledo has remained almost unassailable through the centuries. It is the famed home of the Toledo blade and the Alcázar. The fortress was built in Roman times and nearly destroyed in a siege during the Spanish Civil War (1936). It has been rebuilt and is now a museum. And, yes, Toledo craftsmen still make swords and knives of every description.

Toledo - the Alcázar at the top
Ancient Bridge, Toledo

Below, the Venta Quixote, a 16th c. inn Cervantes used as a setting for Don Quixote. (Their pea soup was amazing!) And, yes, they still have windmills in the area, although they were too far away for a good photo. (And I do mean windmills, as in Don Quixote, not modern wind turbines, which we also saw all over Spain.)

Venta Quixote

Courtyard, Venta Quixote

The Alhambra, one of the great wonders of the world, is indescribable. I post here only a tantalizing bit of the whole, which includes many cats (our guide brought cat kibble to distribute to the grateful population). The only ugliness in the Alhambra are some great stone fortifications left from Medieval times when Crusaders occupied the Alhambra. (There was also some destruction when French soldiers in Napoleon's time attempted to blow up part of the sprawling palace.)

The palace fountains, pools and waterfalls are naturally fed from water on the hillside above. There are also extensive formal gardens on the hillside. (I did not attempt the climb.)

The harim, the Alhambra

One tiny portion of thousands of intricate details

The harim - inside

One of many garden & pool areas in the Alhambra


After leaving the Alhambra, we nagged our guide and driver to let us have a close-up of olives growing - olives are the main crop assigned to Spain by the European Union. And finally our bus sneaked off on a back road and we were given ten minutes to wander through the edge of someone's olive grove.

A carriage in Cordoba

 My favorite photo in Seville wasn't the cathedral or even the incredibly narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses. It was a garden I found by peeking through iron bars set in an open window - and discovering a fairyland, a private garden taking up all of a small courtyard in the center of a three-story residential building. It was exquisite - and carefully tended. I only wish I could have gotten a better angle through the bars to show more of it.

I even used this garden in a book (one not out yet).

And with a look inside Seville's great cathedral, we say goodbye to Spain - though not to the Iberian Peninsula.

The burial site of Christopher Columbus - inside Seville's cathedral

Thanks for stopping by,


Next week: probably Portugal 2 - the Mediterranean Coast

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here